XXXII. Bad News

A moment of repose had interrupted the great contest. Napoleon had offered an armistice to the allies prior to the battle of Bautzen; they rejected it, full of confidence in their strength. After the battle of Bautzen, the offer was repeated, and accepted. Time was needed for levying additional troops, organizing new regiments, and concentrating new corps. But Napoleon, deceived by his victories, relying on his good luck, and on the mistakes of his enemies, was fully satisfied that this armistice was but the forerunner of peace; and that the allies, warned by the two lost battles, would be eager to accept any peace not altogether dishonorable. The negotiations were opened at Prague. France, Prussia, and Russia, sent their plenipotentiaries to that city; and Austria, having taken upon herself the part of a mediator, instructed her envoy, Minister Metternich, to participate in the congress. The armistice was from the 4th of June to the 24th of July--time enough for agreeing on a peace equally advantageous to both sides--time enough, too, in case it should not be concluded, to concentrate the armies and bring reinforcements from France.

So soon as the armistice was signed, Napoleon returned to Dresden, to await there the result of the negotiations. At the Marcolini Palace the emperor again established his headquarters; but no brilliant festivals were given, as previous to his expedition to Russia; the kings and princes of Germany did not gather round the powerful conqueror. The Emperor of Austria remained quietly but sullenly at Vienna; the King of Prussia was at Reichenbach, and was now the enemy of Napoleon, and all the princes of the German Confederation of the Rhine, who, but a year before, were humble courtiers of Napoleon, kept aloof in morose silence, or refused obedience to their former master, and raised difficulties when called upon to furnish new troops and open additional resources. None of them came to offer homage to him whom they had just feared as the most powerful ruler in the world. Only the old, feeble King of Saxony (who, at the commencement of the war had fled with his millions, and the diamonds of the Green Vault, to Plauen, in the most remote corner of his territories), [Footnote: Lebensbilder, "vol. iii., p. 466."] returned at the rather imperious request of Napoleon to Dresden. The emperor dined with him sometimes, but only in the most intimate family circle, and without any outward splendor; at night he went to the French theatre, which had been ordered to Dresden during the armistice. Sometimes, his favorites, the ladies Mars and Georges, and the great Talma, were allowed to sup with the emperor after the performance, and the beautiful Mars, the impassioned fervor of the gifted Georges, and the conversation of the no less genial than adroit Talma, succeeded in dispelling the emperor's discontent. But no sooner was he alone with his thoughts, his labors, his plans, than his countenance assumed its sombre expression. Thus days and weeks elapsed, and the congress was still assembled at Prague; the end of the armistice was drawing nigh, and the plenipotentiaries had not yet been able to agree on the conditions of peace.

It was on the morning of the 28th of June. Napoleon had just finished his breakfast, and entered his map-room to conceive there the plans of future campaigns, when the door of the reception-room opened, and Minister Maret, Duke de Bassano, came in. Maret belonged to the few men in whom his master placed implicit confidence, and whose fidelity he never doubted; to those who had at all times free access to him, and were permitted to enter his apartments without being announced. Nevertheless, his arrival seemed to surprise Napoleon. Never before had the duke entered his room at so early an hour, for he knew well that the emperor, engaged in examining his maps and devising plans, did not like to be disturbed. It was undoubtedly something unusual that induced the Duke de Bassano to come to him at such a time.

Napoleon cast a quick glance on Maret's face. Standing up beside the map-table, and leaning his hand upon it, he asked, vehemently, "Well, Maret, what is it?"

"Sire, I have come only to deliver to your majesty a few letters which the courier has just brought from Paris," said the duke, handing him some sealed packages.

"Is a letter from the empress among them?" asked Napoleon, hastily.

"Yes, sire."

The emperor had already found it, and, throwing the others upon the table, he hastily opened the one from his wife and read it. His face, which until then had been so stern and gloomy, gradually assumed a milder and kindlier expression.

"Ah, dear Louisa," he said, when he had read it, "how affectionately she writes, how she is yearning for me, and how well she knows how to tell me of the King of Rome, who is constantly inquiring for his father, and every night, when he goes to bed, calls aloud, 'Dear papa emperor come back soon!'"

"A call, sire, in which, I am satisfied, all France joins," said Maret, quickly.

"Ah!" exclaimed the emperor, contemptuously shrugging his shoulders, "I know well that France--that even my marshals join in it, not from any devotion to myself, but because they want peace. The little King of Rome, however, is longing for me, and the empress, too, is wishing for my return, without caring much whether there is war or peace. These two love me! Ah, what a happy family would we three be if a lasting peace could be established! I am tired of war; like all of you, I am yearning to return home, and to enjoy a little the fruits of our numerous victories."

"Sire," said Maret, in a low, entreating voice, "it is easy for your majesty to do so, and to restore peace to Europe."

"Do you wish also to join in the nonsense asserted by the fools?" asked Napoleon, sharply. "Always the same air--the same strain! You at least, Maret, ought not to sing it, for you alone are aware of the proposals and negotiations between me and my enemies, and should know that it does not depend on me alone to restore peace, but that I shall, perhaps, only be he who must receive it."

"Still, sire, a few concessions on the part of your majesty would be sufficient to bring about peace," Maret ventured to say.

"What do you mean?" inquired Napoleon, whose voice now assumed an angry tone. "Do you intend to intimate, by your longing for concessions, that I should submit to the disgraceful and humiliating terms on which Austria gives me hopes of her further friendship and alliance? She dares ask of me the restoration of Illyria and the territory annexed to the grand-duchy of Warsaw; she demands for Prussia the evacuation of her fortresses, the restitution of Dantzic, and the restoration of the whole sea-shore of Northern Germany. And Austria, in making these proposals to me, in her equivocal part as mediator, does not do so with the friendliness of an ally, but she dares to threaten me, to say to me, 'If France does not accept, Austria will be obliged to side with the enemies of France, and make common cause with them.' I am ready to make peace, but I shall die sword in hand rather than sign conditions forced upon me. I will negotiate, but will not allow them to dictate laws to me." [Footnote: Napoleon's words.--Vide Beitzke, vol. i., p. 560.]

"Sire, none would dare dictate laws to your majesty. On the contrary, Austria will be glad if you merely declare that you are ready to negotiate, and she will not have much to ask. She will be content if you restore Illyria to her; and I am convinced of it, never will the Emperor Francis ally himself seriously with the enemies of his son-in-law."

"But the Emperor Francis is not his cabinet," exclaimed Napoleon. "I might, perhaps, repose confidence in the personal attachment of my father-in-law, but this could not blind me to the policy of his cabinet. This policy never changes. Treaties of alliance and marriages may somewhat retard its course, but never deflect it. Austria never renounces what she was compelled to cede. When she is weaker than her enemy, she resorts to peace, but this is always only an armistice for her, and, in signing it, she thinks of a new war. Such has been her conduct during the long series of years during which I have been fighting and negotiating with her. When closely pressed, she always accepted peace, and offered me her hand for the conclusion of an alliance; but whenever a reverse befell me, she withdrew her hand and broke the alliance. Now believing that she sees her own interest, she immediately resumes a hostile attitude toward me. She will open the passes of Bohemia to the allies, and thereby permit them to turn the positions of the French army, attack us in the rear, and cut us off from France. In a word, Austria ia unable to forget any thing! She will remain our enemy, not only so long as she has losses to make up, but so long as the power of France might threaten her with new humiliations. This instinct of jealousy is more powerful than her attachment; she will always strive to aggrandize herself and to weaken France, and if I should grant her Illyria to-day, she would, perhaps, to-morrow claim the whole of Lombardy, and her former provinces in the Netherlands. [Footnote: Napoleon's words.--Vide "The Emperor Francis and Metternich," p. 80.] Do not deceive yourself about it, Maret, and do not think that Austria wants peace with us because the Emperor Francis is my father-in-law. I must dictate peace to them sword in hand, and then they will hasten to remind me that I am the son-in- law of the emperor, and in consideration of this relationship they will ask of me favorable terms."

"But this, it seems to me, is the very situation in which your majesty is placed now," exclaimed Maret. "Your majesty has recently achieved two new victories."

"But what victories!" said Napoleon, gloomily; "they have cost me as many soldiers as the enemy, and procured me no advantages. I had hoped to gain many trophies; but in the battles of Lutzen and Bautzen not a cannon, not a flag, but a few insignificant prisoners fell into our hands. After two dreadful massacres, we have obtained no results whatever--and those men have not left me a single nail to pick up. [Footnote: Napoleon's words.--Constant, vol. v.] They are no longer the soldiers of Jena, you may be sure of it, Maret; another spirit animates them and their commanders. The Prussians fought like lions in those battles, and their commander, General Blücher, is like a chieftain in the Illiad. He is at the same time a general and a private soldier, a madcap and a Ulysses. The army loves him, and the king confides in him. He hates me, and has an excellent memory for his defeats of Auerstadt and Lubeck, and wants to take revenge for them."

"But it is unnecessary for Russia to take revenge," said Maret.

"Yes," murmured Napoleon, gloomily. "On her snow-fields I lost my army, and perhaps also my luck. But, no matter; I shall struggle on to the end, and compel Fortune to become again my friend, that I may do without other allies. She surely owes me attachment and fidelity, for have I not again paid her a heavy tribute? was it not necessary for me to act like Polycrates to keep out of bad luck? He sacrificed only a ring to the gods, while I sacrificed two friends to Fortune, and one of them my best friend--Duroc. The victory of Lutzen cost me Bessieres; that of Bautzen, Duroc. It was a heavy sacrifice, Maret; my heart is still bleeding in consequence of it, and this wound will never heal."

Maret made no reply, but turned his head aside, and his face had a strange expression of uneasiness and embarrassment.

Napoleon noticed it, and slightly shrugged his shoulders. "You think that I grow sentimental, duke," he said, rudely, "and you mean that my long military experience should have rendered me insensible to such accidents. You are right; let us refer to them no more. Let us rather read what the courier has brought."

He stretched out his hand for the other letters, and took up the first one without looking at it. When he saw the superscription, his face brightened, and, fixing a quick, reproachful glance upon Maret, he said: "Fate is less rigorous than you are, Maret. It reminds me that faithful friends still remain, and that all the companions of my youth are not yet dead. There is a letter from Junot! He is one of my faithful friends!" Opening it, he read hastily, and his face darkened. "Maret," he cried, in an angry voice, "read--see what Junot dares write to me!" He handed the letter to Maret. "Read it aloud," he cried, "otherwise I shall be afraid lest my eyes deceive me, and I mistake his words. Not the commencement, but the last page is what I want to hear."

Maret read in a tremulous voice: "'I, who love your majesty with the fervor which the savage feels for the sun--I, who belong to you with body and soul--must tell you the truth; and this is: we must wage an eternal war for you, BUT _I_ WILL DO SO NO MORE! I want peace! I want at length to be able to rest my weary head and aching limbs in my house, in the midst of my family, to enjoy their devotion, and no longer to be a stranger to them--to enjoy what I have purchased with a treasure that is more precious than all the riches of India--with my blood, with the blood of a man of honor, a good Frenchman, a true patriot. Well, then, I ask--I demand--the repose that I have purchased by twenty-two years of active service, and by seventeen wounds, from which my blood has welled, first for my country, and then for your glory. It is enough!--my country needs repose, and your glory is as radiant as the sun. I repeat, therefore, I want peace. I speak in the name of all your marshals and generals, in the name of your army, in the name of all France: WE DEMAND PEACE; give it to us, then!--JUNOT, Duke d'Abrantes.'" [Footnote: "Memoirs of the Duchess d'Abrantes," b. xvi., p. 323.]

"Well!" inquired Napoleon, when Maret had read the letter, "what do you think of this impudence?"

"Sire," said Maret, in a low, tremulous voice, "your majesty knows well that the Duke d'Abrantes is very dangerously ill, and that he is said to be subject to frequent fits of insanity."

"It is true, it is the language of a madman, but one who knows very well what he says. For he is right; he dares utter what all my marshals are thinking, and gives utterance to their thoughts, because he imagines that my friendship for him gives him that right. The fool! I shall prove to him that I am, first and above all, the emperor, and that the emperor will, without regard to the person, punish the man who is so audacious as to threaten him. Oh, I am glad that it is Junot who has made himself the mouth-piece of my generals and marshals! I shall punish him with inexorable rigor, and that will silence the others forever. They will not dare that which not even Junot was permitted to do with impunity; they will obey when my first anger has crushed this traitor Junot. For he is a traitor, a-- "

"Oh, sire, I implore you, do not proceed!" interposed Maret; "have mercy upon him who stands already before a higher Judge, to receive his sentence!"

"What do you mean?" asked Napoleon.

"I mean, sire," replied Maret, solemnly, "that I came to bring you a sad message, and that your majesty, therefore, just now did me injustice. Sire, when you deplored the death of your lamented friend, the Duke de Frioul, I was silent and embarrassed, not because I deemed such regrets unbecoming, but because I was filled with unbounded grief at the thought that I had come to communicate a similar affliction. The courier brought me also a letter from M. Albert de Comminges, Junot's brother-in-law. He requests me therein to inform your majesty of a melancholy occurrence--the Duke d'Abrantes is dead! Here is a letter from M. de Comminges to your majesty."

The emperor made no reply, but his face, which generally seemed immovable, commenced quivering, and his lips trembled. He took the letter in silence, and, opening it with a hasty hand, began to read it. But suddenly he dropped it, and, pressing both his hands to his forehead, he groaned aloud. Then he quickly stooped down, picked up the letter and read it through. "Junot!" he then cried in a tone of profound woe--"Junot!" He crumpled the letter in his hands, and, with an expression from the depths of his heart, he repeated, "Junot! Oh, my God, Junot, too!"

At this moment his wandering eye fell upon Maret, who was gazing at him, pale and filled with profound compassion. Napoleon started and concealed the tears which came to his eyes. Before an observer he was not accustomed to show himself a man overcome by grief. He smiled, but with an indescribably mournful expression, and said in a firm voice, "Another brave soldier gone! The third victim that the war has required of me, Maret! It takes the very men who were indispensable to me, because they set so shining an example of bravery and fidelity to the whole army. That is the only reason why I complain!"

"Your majesty has a twofold right to complain," said Maret, in his calm voice; "Junot loved your majesty with the obedience of a servant, the submissiveness of a child, the enthusiasm of a pupil, the ardor of a friend. He would have gone through fire for you, and he was justified in saying that he loved your majesty with the love the savage feels for the sun. Your majesty was his sun!"

"Yes, he loved me," said Napoleon, in a low voice, dropping his head on his breast, "and I could count upon his fidelity. We had spent our youth together, had overcome together a thousand dangers, and courageously braved the vicissitudes of fate. His star had risen with mine. Will not mine sink with his? Oh, Junot, how could you leave me now, when you knew that I stood so greatly in need of you? Junot, this is the first time that you desert me, and forget your plighted faith. I am on the eve of a great and doubtful war, surrounded by enemies--and my friends are deserting me and escaping into the grave!" He paused, bowing his head lower upon his breast, and wrinkling his forehead in his grief. A sad silence ensued, which Maret dared not interrupt, by a motion or a word. At length, the emperor raised his, face again, resuming his usual coldness and indifference. "Maret," he said, in a firm voice, "I have no one in Illyria now, since Junot, governor of that province, has died. I must send another governor. But whom?"

"Sire," said Maret, in a timid voice, "will you not take the proposals of Austria into consideration? She demands nothing but Illyria as the price of her alliance and friendship. Fate itself seems to give us a sign to grant this demand, for it has removed the governor of Illyria."

"Fate!" cried Napoleon, shrugging his shoulders, "you only acknowledge its hints when it suits your purposes; you deny its existence when it would seem to be contrary to your wishes. Fate caused the governor of Illyria to die, because, as you yourself said, he was subject to fits of insanity; it has thereby given me an opportunity to place a sensible and prudent man in Junot's stead, a man who will not dare tell me such impudent things as you read to me from his letter. Well, then, I will obey the hint of Fate. Write immediately to Fouche. He is at Naples; tell him to set out at once and come to Dresden. I intend to appoint him governor of Illyria.

Dispatch a courier with the letter. But wait! I have not yet read all the dispatches brought from Paris."

He stepped back to the table, and took one of the letters from it. "A letter from the Duke de Rovigo," he said, in a contemptuous tone, "from the police minister of Paris! He will tell me a great many stories; he will pretend to have seen many evil spirits, and, after all, not know half of what he ought to know, and what Fouche would have known if he still held that position. There, read it, Maret, and communicate the most important passages to me." He threw himself into the chair that stood in front of his desk, and, taking a penknife, commenced whittling the wooden side-arm, while Maret unfolded the dispatch and quickly glanced over its contents.

"Sire," he said, "this dispatch contains surprising news. It speaks of a new enemy who might rise against your majesty."

"Well," said Napoleon, who was just cutting a large splinter from the chair, "what new enemy is it?"

"Sire," said Maret, shrugging his shoulders, "it is Louis XVIII."

Napoleon started, and looked at his minister with a flash of anger. "What do you mean?" he asked, sternly. "Who is Louis XVIII.? Where is the country over which he rules?"

"Sire, I merely intended to designate the brother of the unfortunate King Louis XVI."

"My uncle!" said Napoleon, with a proud smile, driving his knife again into the back of the chair. "Well, what then? Whereby has the Count de Lille surprised the world with the news of his existence?"

"Sire, by a proclamation addressed to the French, and in which he implores them to return to their legitimate lord and king, making them many promises, which, however, do not contain any thing but what the French possess already by the grace of your majesty."

Napoleon shrugged his shoulders. "Savary, then, has at length seen a copy of the English newspapers which published this proclamation," he said. "I read it several weeks ago."

"No, sire, it seems that the proclamation has not only appeared in the English newspapers, but is circulating throughout France. The Duke de Rovigo reports that secret agents of the Count de Lille are actively at work in France. They are scattering every day thousands of printed copies of the proclamation among the people. They are circulated at night in the streets, secretly pushed under the doors into the houses and rooms so that the police agents are unable to take them away. These copies, it appears, are printed on hand- presses, for their lines are often irregular and slanting, and indicate an unpractised hand, but those who receive them try to decipher them, and deliver them to the police only after having read them." [Footnote: "Memoires du Duc Kovigo," vol. vi., p. 351.]

Napoleon said nothing; he was still whittling the back of his chair, and did not once look up to his minister, who stood before him in reverential silence. "I thought I had crashed this serpent of legitimacy under my foot," he murmured at last to himself, "but it still lives, and tries again to rise against me. Ah, I despise it, and I have reason to do so. I alone am now the legitimate ruler of France; the fifty battles in which I have fought and conquered for France are my ancestors; the will of the French people has made me emperor, and the voice of all the sovereign princes of Europe has recognized my throne. The daughter of an emperor is my partner; and the King of Rome, the future emperor of the French, will be more of a legitimate ruler than any other prince, for the battles of his father and the ancestors of the Hapsburgs form his pedigree. Let the Count de Lille, then, flood France with copies of his proclamation, I shall in the mean time win battles for France, and with the bulletins of my victories drive his proclamations from the field. I- -"

At this moment the door opened, and Roustan's black face looked in. "Sire, the Duke de Vicenza requests an audience," he said.

"Caulaincourt!" exclaimed Napoleon, surprised, rising and throwing the penknife on the floor. "Caulaincourt! Let him come in!"

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches Napoleon and Blücher