VI. Napoleon's Departure from Dresden

The brilliant court ball ended, and Napoleon retired to his cabinet. He seemed more careworn than he had ever allowed any of his attendants to notice. He was slowly walking his room, casting an occasional glance on the map marked with the positions of the various corps now near the frontiers of Russia. "Narbonne has not yet arrived," he muttered to himself. "Alexander seems really to hesitate whether to make peace or not. My four hundred thousand men, who have reached the Niemen, will frighten him, and he will submit as all the others. He will not dare to bid me defiance! He will yield! He--" Suddenly Napoleon paused and stepped hastily to the window on which he had happened to fix his eyes. A strange spectacle presented itself. The large square directly in front of his windows, which on the day of his arrival had been so splendidly lit up, was dark and silent; but, on the other side of the river, the Neustadt was now in a flood of light, and it seemed to him as if he heard cheers. He opened the window, and, leaning out, saw the houses illuminated--even the residences of the neighboring Palace Street. These houses, like those in the other parts of the city, had given previously no token of joy, and remained in darkness. The emperor shut the window angrily and rang the bell. "Tell the grand marshal I wish to see him," he said to the footman.

A few minutes afterward Duroc entered. "Duroc," exclaimed the emperor, in an angry voice, and pointing his arm at the window, "what is the meaning of that illumination? In whose honor is it?"

"Sire," said Duroc, slowly, "I suppose it is in honor of the King of Prussia, who arrived to-day."

The emperor stamped on the floor, and his eyes flashed. "The inhabitants of Dresden are rebels, and ought to be brought to their senses by bomb-shells!" he shouted, in a thundering voice. "What does the King of Prussia concern them? And why do they show him this honor?"

"Sire," said Duroc, smiling, "the people, as the King of Prussia said to-day, know but little of etiquette, and are not so wise as courtiers."

"'People!'" growled Napoleon. "There are no 'people;' there are only subjects, and they ought to be punished with fire and sword if they think of playing the part of 'the people.' Did I not issue orders to-day to the effect that all demonstrations should be prohibited? Why were my orders disobeyed?"

"Sire, they were obeyed so far as it was in our power. The police managed to prevent the populace from gathering and shouting in the street, but they are unable forcibly to enter the houses, because the inmates, without making any further demonstration, placed a few lights at their windows. Our agents, nevertheless, went to the proprietors of some of the houses, and asked for the reason of this sudden and unexpected demonstration. They replied that it was in honor of the Emperor Napoleon, the guest of their king."

"The villains! They dare to falsify!" exclaimed Napoleon. "The facts are against them. On the day when they were to illuminate in honor of my arrival, all the houses were gloomy as the grave, on account of hostility to me. The same feeling is the reason of to-day's illumination. It seems, then, that the king of Prussia is exceedingly popular in Saxony?"

"Yes, sire. The king, as I positively know, had instructed the inhabitants of the Prussian places through which he had to pass on his journey to Dresden, not to receive him in any formal manner whatever; but, of course, he was unable to issue such orders in regard to the cities and villages of Saxony. Well, so soon as he crossed the Saxon frontier, he was everywhere received in the most ardent manner. All the bells were rung in the towns of Juterbogk and Grossenhayn on his arrival, and the whole population, headed by the municipal authorities, and all the other functionaries, came to meet him on the outskirts of the towns, and cheered him in the most jubilant manner."

"And how did he receive these honors?"

"He thanked the citizens, in plain and simple words, for the disinterested respect they were good enough to pay to a German prince."

"A German prince?" repeated Napoleon, vehemently; "ah, this little King of Prussia still braves me! I was too generous at Tilsit! I must cut his wings still shorter! I will show him what the French emperor can do with a German prince, when he dares to bid me defiance!"

"Sire," said Duroc, in a suppliant voice, "I beseech your majesty not to go too far! The King of Prussia is backed by the sympathies of the whole German nation. His misfortunes cause the people to look on him as a martyr. They also believe that he participates but reluctantly in this Russian war, and this increases the love with which they regard him, for I venture to say to your majesty that this nation is opposed to the war."

"I have not appointed the German nation my secretary of war," exclaimed Napoleon, "and I have not asked my grand marshal to give me his advice. Carry out my orders, and do your duty. Tell Berthier to come to me!"

Duroc hung his head mournfully, and turned toward the door. The flaming eyes of Napoleon followed him. Just as the grand marshal opened the door, he heard the emperor calling him. "Sire?" he asked, turning, and standing at the door. There was now beaming so much love and mildness in the emperor's face, that Duroc was unable to resist, and. as if attracted by a magnetic power, returned.

"Duroc, my old friend," said Napoleon, offering him his hand, "I thank you for your good advice, for, though I did not ask it, it was well meant. I know full well that the so-called German people, as well as their princes, however they may cajole me, are opposed to this war. Oh, I know those treacherous princes! I know that those who flatter me today in the most abject manner, are only watching for an opportunity to avenge themselves for their sycophancy; but I have chained them to me with iron bands, and extracted their teeth, so that they are unable to bite--their teeth, that is to say, their soldiers, whom I am taking with me into this last and decisive war. For I tell you, Duroc, it will be our last campaign. On the ruins of Moscow I will compel Alexander to submit, and then peace will bo restored to Europe for years to come. And who knows, it may not be necessary to go so far? Perhaps it may be sufficient for me to march my army as far as the Niemen, to awaken Alexander from his reveries, and bring him to his senses."

"Alas, sire!" said Duroc, sighing, "Alexander has loved your majesty too tenderly not to feel irritated in the highest degree."

"Is it I, then, who broke this friendship?" exclaimed Napoleon, vehemently. "Is it I who brought about this war? Have I not rather resorted to all means in order to avoid it? Have I not twice sent Lauriston to Alexander, and offered him peace in case he should fulfil my conditions: to shut his ports against British ships, to lay an embargo upon British goods, and give up commercial intercourse with England? But, emboldened by his victories over the Turks, the Emperor of Russia takes the liberty of dictating conditions to me! He asks me to give him an indemnity for confiscating the states of his brother-in-law, the Prince of Oldenburg; he demands that I should not engage to reestablish the kingdom of Poland! He wants to impose on me the terms by which peace is to be maintained! Conditions! I am the man to make them, but not to accept any! That would be a humiliation I could not submit to! You see, therefore, Duroc, I have been compelled to enter upon this war; I did not seek it, but I cannot avoid it. You see the justice of it, do you not? You know that I desired, and am still desiring peace, and that it is with a heavy heart I shed the blood of my brave soldiers."

"Sire," said Duroc, with a faint smile, "I see at least that it is too late now to speak of peace, inasmuch as an army of four hundred thousand men is waiting on the Niemen for the arrival of your majesty."

"Let Alexander speak; let him accept my terms, and it will not be too late," exclaimed Napoleon. "I am looking for Narbonne, who may arrive at any moment. He will bring us either peace or war, for he will have Alexander's final reply. As soon as he arrives he must be admitted, no matter whether I am asleep or awake. Go, now, Duroc! Tell Berthier to come to me!"

When Berthier entered, the emperor was standing at the window, and looking over to the Neustadt, which was still in a blaze of light. The marshal remained respectfully at the door, waiting to be addressed. A long pause ensued. Suddenly Napoleon turned his pale countenance to Berthier, and exclaimed: "Berthier, you will set out immediately. Go to Berlin, and convey my order to the Duke de Belluno. Tell him that I recommend the utmost vigilance, and that it is his task to maintain order in Prussia. The population of that country are very seditious. They are constantly ready to conspire and rise in rebellion, and who knows whether Frederick William will not make common cause with the insurgents? This ought to be prevented by all means; war is at hand; hence we must redouble our firmness and vigilance, that no revolution may annoy us in our rear. You will repeat all this to the duke, and take him my instructions."

"Sire," said Berthier, "if your majesty has no further orders, I shall set out immediately."

"You will tell the Duke de Belluno that it is my will that no Prussian general or officer shall command at Berlin, and that the French general alone must give all necessary orders. Sit down; I will dictate to you the other instructions."

Berthier took a seat at the desk, and waited, pen in hand, for the emperor's words. Casting again a glance on the city honoring the King of Prussia, he dictated: "Special care is to be taken that neither at Berlin nor in its vicinity shall there be a depot of small-arms or cannon, which the populace might take possession of. No Prussian troops whatever shall be left at Berlin, and what few regular soldiers remain at the capital shall exclusively perform the military service at the palace. The French troops at Berlin shall not be lodged with the citizens, but take up their quarters at the barracks, and, if these should be insufficient for their accommodation, encamp in the open field. You will constantly keep some field-pieces ready for immediate use, in order to suppress any seditious movements that might take place. Every insult heaped upon a Frenchman will be punished by a court-martial according to the laws of war. Besides, it is necessary that the governor-general of Berlin should organize a secret police, that he may know what is going on, and have a vigilant eye on all dangerous attempts at disturbing the public peace. You will inform the Duke de Belluno that the administration of the country will be entirely left to the king's ministers, but that the surveillance of the newspapers, as well as all other publications, and the whole organization of the police, must be in the duke's hands, that nothing may give a dangerous impulse to the people, and that they may have no opportunities of entering into a rebellion. Prussia must be kept down by all means at our command. You will tell the Duke de Belluno that I have given orders that three or four well-informed French officers should stay at Colberg and Graudenz. The right of having a Prussian garrison was reserved only to Colberg, and Potsdam is the only city through which the French troops are not allowed to pass; but the inhabitants of Potsdam should be accustomed to see many French officers in their midst. The latter must frequently stop there overnight on the pretext of seeing the city, and, if their own curiosity should not impel them to do so, their commander should induce them to pursue the course I have indicated. The duke shall, under all circumstances, show the greatest deference to the King of Prussia, and even to affectation at festivals and on all public occasions. He shall, besides, frequently invite to his table the Prussian ministers, and what few Prussian officers will be left at Berlin, and always treat them in the most polite and obliging manner. But at all hours a vigilant eye must be had on the king as well as on the authorities and the people, and the duke ought always to be ready to put down the slightest demonstration or disorder. I have done," said Napoleon. "Go, Berthier, and comply carefully with my instructions. No confidence can be reposed in Frederick William or in his people. We have subjugated Prussia, but it may perhaps be necessary to crush her. At the slightest provocation this must be done; if she will not be an honest ally, I will prove to her that I am an honest enemy, and, to give her this proof, put an end to her existence. Go, Berthier; set out immediately."

Berthier withdrew, while Napoleon returned to the window with a triumphant air. "Ah, my little King of Prussia," he said, scornfully, "they kindle lights here under my eyes in honor of your petty majesty, but my breath can extinguish them and leave you in a profound darkness. Another such provocation, and your throne breaks down. Another--"

The door of the antechamber was hastily opened, and Roustan appeared. "Sire," he said, "his excellency Count de Narbonne requests an audience."

"Narbonne!" ejaculated Napoleon, joyously. "Come in, Narbonne, come in!" And he hastened to meet the count, who entered the cabinet, and, as an experienced cavalier of the court of Louis XVI., made his bows in strict accordance with etiquette.

"Omit these unnecessary ceremonies," said Napoleon, quivering with impatience and anxiety. "I have been looking for you a long time. What results do you bring me?"

"Sire," said the count, with his imperturbable, diplomatic smile, "I am afraid the result of my mission will be war."

"What!" exclaimed Napoleon, eagerly, and, for a moment, a faint blush tinged his cheeks. "What! The Emperor Alexander will not yield? He refuses to comply with my conditions?"

"Sire, your majesty will permit me to repeat to you the emperor's own words," said the count, with composure. "When I had laid your propositions before his majesty, and told him that if the czar should shut his ports against British ships, continue the war with England, lay an embargo on all British goods, and give up all direct and indirect commercial intercourse with England, your majesty then would make peace with Russia, the Emperor Alexander exclaimed vehemently, 'Such a peace I would accept only after having been forced into the interior of Siberia!'" [Footnote: Alexander's own words.--Vide "Memoires d'un Homme d'Etat," vol. xiii., p. 375.]

"Ah," exclaimed Napoleon, "I will give him the pleasure of that journey. He will become acquainted with Siberia, and there I mean to dictate terms of peace, unless I prefer to leave him there forever. Did you bring any other dispatches?"

"I did, sire. Here is the official reply of Minister Count Romanzoff to the letter of the Duke de Bassano, of which I was the bearer. It is nothing but a repetition of the phrases which the Russian ambassador at Paris made to us up to the day of his departure. Here is Romanzoff's letter. Will your majesty be so gracious as to read it?"

Napoleon took the paper and glanced over it. "You are right," he said, flinging the paper contemptuously on the table. "Nothing but the same phrase: 'Alexander wants peace, but is unable to fulfil my conditions.' Well, then, he shall have war! The first shot discharged at my soldiers will be answered by a thousand cannon, and they will announce to the world that Napoleon is expelling the barbarians from Europe."

"Sire," said Narbonne, smiling, "if your majesty intends to wait until the Russians fire the first gun, there will be no war, and may it be so! The Emperor Alexander has made up his mind not to take the initiative. Only when the armies of your majesty have crossed the frontier of Russia, when you have forcibly entered his states, will Alexander look upon the war as begun, but he will not carry it beyond the boundaries of his country: he will not meet the enemy, whom he would still like so much to call his friend, outside the frontiers of his empire."

"Ah, I knew well that Alexander is hesitating," exclaimed Napoleon, triumphantly. "He dares not attack me, and his vacillation will give me time to complete my preparations, and surround him so closely that he cannot escape. While he is still dreaming at the Kremlin of the possibility of peace, I shall be at the gates, and ask him in the thunder of my cannon whether he will submit, or bury himself beneath the ruins of his throne."

"He will choose the latter," exclaimed Narbonne, quickly.

"He will not!" said Napoleon, proudly. "He will submit! A terrible blow struck in the heart of the empire, Moscow--holy Moscow-- delivers Russia into my hands. I know Alexander; I exerted formerly great influence over him. I must dazzle his imagination by boldness and energy, and he will return to my friendship."

"Heaven grant that it may be so!" said Narbonne, sighing.

"It is so!" said Napoleon, confidently, walking with rapid steps and proud head; "yes, it is so! Fate has intrusted me with the mission of ridding Europe of the barbarians. The logic of events necessitates this war, and even family ties, such as we proposed to form at our interview at Erfurt, would not have prevented it. The barbarism of Russia is threatening the whole of Europe. Think of Suwarrow and his Tartars in Italy! Our reply ought to be, to hurl them back beyond Moscow; and when would Europe be able to do so, unless now and through me." [Footnote: Napoleon's own words.--Vide "Souvenirs du Comte Villemain," vol. i., p. 168] "But, sire, Europe, in the madness of her hatred, would prefer to make common cause with Russia. Suppose she should offer her hand to the Tartars and Cossacks, to deliver herself from the yoke which the glory and greatness of Napoleon have imposed upon her neck? Sire, at this decisive hour you must permit me to tell you the truth: I am afraid the hatred, the cunning malice and rage of your enemies, will this time be stronger than the military skill of your majesty, and the bravery of the hundreds of thousands who have followed you with such enthusiasm. Your majesty says that Alexander is hesitating, and that may, perhaps, be true; but his people are the more resolute, and so is the emperor's suite. They are bent on having war, and with the whole strength of mortal hatred and patriotic fanaticism. The people, instigated by their venomous and impassioned priests, regard this as a holy war, commanded by God Himself. Their priests have told them that the Emperor of the French is coming with his armies to devastate Russia, to destroy the altars and images of the saints, and to dethrone the czar, in order to place himself on the throne. The Russian people, who, in their childlike innocence, believe to be true whatever their priests tell them, feel themselves profoundly wounded in their most sacred sympathies: love for the fatherland, the church, and the czar, and they are rising to a man to save them. Sire, this war which your majesty is about to commence is no ordinary war: the enemy will not oppose you in the open field; like the Parthian, he will seemingly flee from his pursuer; he will decoy you forward, but in the thicket or ravine he will conceal himself, and when you pass by will have you at an advantage. He will never allow you to fight him in a pitched battle, but every village and cottage will be an obstacle, a rampart obstructing your route. Every peasant will regard himself a soldier, and believe it his bounden duty to fight, however sure he may be to die. Sire, the terrible scenes in Spain may be renewed in Russia, for all Russia will be a vast Saragossa; women, children, and old men, will participate in this struggle; they will die eating poisoned bread with the enemy, rather than give him wholesome food."

"You are exaggerating!" exclaimed Napoleon, sneeringly. "In truth, it is mere imagination to compare the Russian serf--the blood in whose veins is frozen by Siberian cold, and whose back is cut up and bowed by the knout--with the Spaniard, passionate and free beneath a torrid sun, and who in his rags still feels himself noble and a grandee. But these exaggerations shall not influence me! The die is cast: I cannot recede! Great Heaven! this tedious old Europe! I will bring from Russia the keys to unlock a new world. Or do you believe, you short-sighted little men, that I have undertaken, merely for the sake of Russia, this greatest expedition that military history will ever engrave upon its tablets? No; Moscow is to me but the gate of Asia! My route to India passes that way. Alexander the Great had as long a route to the Ganges as I shall have from Moscow, and yet he reached his destination. Should I shrink from what he succeeded in accomplishing? Since the days of St. Jean d'Acre I have thought of this scheme; if it had not been for the discontinuance of the siege and the plague, I should at that time have conquered one-half of Asia, and have thence returned to Europe for the thrones of Germany and Italy. Do not look at me so wonderingly, Narbonne. I tell you nothing but my real schemes. They shall be carried into effect, and then you and the world will have to acknowledge that my words are oracles, my actions miracles, and every day a new one! [Footnote: Napoleon's own words.--Vide Villemain, "Souvenirs," vol. i, p. 180.] In the morning I set out early and repair to the headquarters of my army. Do not say a word, Narbonne! I leave Dresden early in the morning. The fate of Russia is decided! Go!" He waved his hand toward the door, and turned his back to Narbonne.

The count left the imperial cabinet with a sigh. In the corridor outside he met Berthier and Duroc, who seemed to await him. "Well," both of them asked eagerly, "were your representations successful? Will the emperor, at the eleventh hour, make peace?"

Narbonne shook his head sadly. "It was all in vain," he replied. "He wishes war, and you do not even dream how far he means to carry it. When listening to him, one believes him to be either a demigod, to whom temples should be built, or a lunatic, who should be sent to Bedlam!" [Footnote: Count Louis de Narbonne's own words.--Vide "Souvenir," vol. i.]

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches Napoleon and Blücher