« AnkstesnisTęsti »
and would not be consoled.
of interviews with the Directors, to her room, threw herself on the bed, Barras, the Abbé Sieyès, Gohier, Moulin, and Roger Ducos, with other celebrities, Caulaincourt, Cambacérès, Rèal, Admiral Bruix, and hordes of staff-officers. The halls were full of swallowtails, swords, and bright sashes.
At night he tossed in his room, got up to go into hers, looked into her closets, running his hands gently through the perfumed things hanging there, then wearily returned to his bed, to lie sleepless, listening for returning wheels. Despite the bright eyes of Madame Fourés the old wound had been opened again-for the last time.
In the morning he heard the wheels turning slowly, almost wearily, as if to symbolize the passenger's own fatigue and fear.
He did not go down to say futilely like any other husband, "Where, madame, have you been?" He turned the key in his door, and received Barras instead. So she had to wait, sitting on the bed with the arms of Hortense around her. Eugène bending over her, consternation on his handsome ingenuous face.
She did not dare to enter while Barras was there. Within a halfhour Barras left, glancing in at the three, with a cynical look of malice that suggested the rake supplanted in a lady's affections, or perhaps persistently rebuffed. When he had disappeared she knocked at the door of Napoleon's room-timidly. No answer-louder this time-and still no response.
"Napoleon-Napoleon," she cried brokenly. The man within shuddered but did not stir. Tears streaming from her eyes, she returned
Another half-hour passed. She tried it again-listened-only the scratching of his pen. He was going on determinedly with his writingand making a botch of it.
And again tears and the prostrate figure on the bed. "What have I done?" she wailed "-only wantedto have a happy time. That was not wrong, was it, Eugène?”
"Of course not, mother."
"They have gossiped about me— lied about me-his sisters-mother-" "Hush," said Hortense.
At last she brightened with hope and raised her head.
"You go to him-both of you, my dear ones. He loves you; perhaps he will listen to you.'
Napoleon's anger had never been for the boy, except on that fearful day in Joppa-then only for the moment. And Eugène was valiant. Nevertheless he approached the cabinet with apprehension, pulling his sister by the hand, Josephine stationing herself on the stairs.
"It is I, Eugène," the youth said, knocking. "Will you not open to me, mon général?”
The lonely man within the room tore up his notes-the first so treated in years. He appeared in the doorway. The storm seemed over, for he glanced, not sternly, but mournfully at the two. "Ah, Eugène, Hortense!" Tenderly he embraced them.
Out of the corner of her eye Josephine was glancing at him. Not so angry, she thought, and looking very well. His figure scarcely less thin but more sinewy and harder, and straight as an arrow.
Then she was not so sure, for he looked down on her. The handkerchief she held concealed her face, all but the chestnut coils and the olive forehead so sweet in its contour. But he caught sight of the eye peeping out of the corner of the handkerchief. Appraising him, eh? Dramatics again—diable! she could give lessons at the Odéon. A curse almost escaped him, but he stifled it, as Hortense placed a hand on his arm and called him "father." He tried to think back. Yes, it was the first time.
He studied the girl's face with its wide sea-blue eyes, framed by its flaxen hair like wind-blown floss. All frankness; no play-acting here. None of the abominable tricks and histrionics of her mother.
"Father," she repeated, "do not break our hearts."
"Give me a minute," he said, turned on his heel, and closed the door. Up sprang Josephine, triumphant, and went to repair the damage of the freshets.
For that minute he slammed himself down at his desk. He did not blame himself or his masterfulness. Never in all his life did he think of that as a possible cause of dissensions in his relationships. With all his vision he could not turn round and see the back of his head. But, truth to tell, his masterfulness had had very little to do with Josephine's conduct. She was made that way, loving pleasure at perhaps too dear a price. He thought of it and cursed her environment-Barras, Therezia, the convent of the Carmelites, the Revolution, everything.
And what could he do? Divorce was out of the question. That he
could get, of course, though the circumstantial evidence-so painful to one who loved-could never, beyond doubt, prove infidelity. And she would go down, lying charmingly about it, to the grave. But he could not wholly forget his passion, even though she had made herself and him unpleasantly conspicuous, even ridiculous.
Then there was his career-oh, yes, such practical considerations will intrude themselves at emotional moments-and Hortense-Eugène! How could he tell the girl of the conduct of her mother? Or the boy? He had not told him, to defend himself, back in Cairo. There are things even a conqueror cannot do.
Wearily he turned to the door, called them. They led her in.
With outstretched arms, she came, relying for the moment on the spell her charms had always woven. saw each one; memories tugged at his heartstrings; then in bitterness he recoiled. Wisely she fell back on being what she was, a naturally affectionate and now very unhappy woman; and her distress melted him where the physical had failed. That nobler expression with which he had once gazed on the slain del Sarra at the altar, on his mother, looking up at her on the stairs, in the old home, now totally changed the admirably cast, but too often relentless, features. He took her in his arms. The others stole out.
"How can I understand you, Josephine?" he asked, sadly looking down at her. "First you trample on my heart; then you make me the laughing-stock of all Paris by allowing others to make love to you."
"No, not that," she temporized.
The old century meantime was dying. With the new, Josephine turned over a leaf.
News of the reconciliation reached in due course the house on the Rue Rocher. The girls were furious, but Letizia said nothing, except once to Fesch:
"United again! What difference can that make except to avert scandal? He unlocked his heart to her; she locked hers up. And there is the trouble. Now he will retire but the further within himself and draw the bars. This incorrigible self-reliance of his will ruin him."
Already, on his arrival at the port of Fréjus, he had been pretty well aware of conditions; and Joseph and Lucien had further informed him on the way up from Lyons. The old oligarchical Directorate, the corrupt Barras and Moulin, the inefficient Gohier, Roger Ducos, and Merlin,
had lost the greater part of Italy and plunged France into a desperate financial condition, with climbing prices, unjust laws, high taxes, and an electorate correspondingly low in spirit. In spite of all the Liberté, Egalité, et Fraternité inscribed on their pillars and altars, Frenchmen had never really wanted the republic
only what they vaguely guessed as Liberté. They had done away with the old régime, owned their little plots, were free of torture and lettres de cachet; now they longed for freedom from taxes, from constant upheaval, and from fear of foreign invasion; in short, to be policed.
But the wish was almost unwhispered, for this combination police chief and Messiah could only come through a miracle. And since God had been pretty well left out of the churches, they could not hope for a miracle. It was therefore almost unconsciously that all eyes in France began to turn toward the East, all ears to listen for the march of Napoleon's returning legions. He had not guessed so badly when he had prophesied that his absence would make all this quite clear. And as he rode up from the port of Fréjus, it was as though the veil had been suddenly lifted. While the populace shouted its vivas, pulled his horses from the shafts, or ran along the road ahead of him with myriad torches, they knew that at last they hailed their savior. It need not take vainglory and ambition to accept the rôle, when already one has had such abundant proof of others' incompetence.
There was, too, as Joseph told him, a wise old priest ready to play a part. He rather fancied that of
Moses the lawgiver; did not count on Napoleon and his brothers making him John the Baptist instead. This was the famous Abbé Sieyès, the only hold-over of the men who ran things in '89, and recently elected a Director in Merlin's place.
"The abbé," explained Joseph, "has at last finished that constitution of his on which he has been working for the past ten years, and purposes overthrowing Barras and the other Directors to put it into effect."
"And he is looking for a general," further explained Lucien; "Moreau, Masséna, or Jourdan. Bernadotte is also a possibility. He cannot accomplish his coup d'état without the military. To-morrow," he added, "I shall bring Sieyès to my house. You can talk things over."
"Not so fast," Napoleon had said, still in the coach, riding northward. "I must not go to him, even at your house. You must bring him to me." "That can be easily arranged," answered Lucien, now quite tractable, with the glorious prospects in view.
"Not yet. I must study the situation, see where I am. For the time I shall stand aloof. That will but make me the more desired.
"And one thing is certain," he went on decisively. "I will not head any one faction. If we are to judge from that"-he waved toward the torches that made a lane of light through which they rode "all France is for me. And I must be the united choice of all France."
The brothers, Joseph gravely, Lucien exultantly, assured him that he
"But they are as unstable as their own torches. We shall have to put
hurricane-shields around them so that they burn steadily."
Still, it was with no ignoble satisfaction that he surveyed those flickering torches-and the prospect. All the old ardor for the principles that had illumined his youth had returned to him. He had been disillusioned about the Revolution, the capacity of men for self-government. Never mind; like Charlemagne, he would bring security, freedom, an enlightened rule to his adopted country.
But there were ways and means to be thought of. It takes machinery, manipulation, intrigue, if you will, to bring about even a temporary millennium. Accordingly he set to work, shortly after his return.
In his calls on the Directors, who were to be unhorsed, he was affable, self-effacing, letting his victories speak for him. He met Sieyès at Gohier's, and rather ignored him. It worked. The abbé had a mind that ran smoothly in its narrow grooves. He could devise a constitution that would serve theoretically until Napoleon had given it iron. But in spite of his position, to be avoided aroused the feminine in him. He ran after Napoleon.
And still Napoleon affected an indifference. And when the abbe's eagerness showed itself all too plainly on his parchment face lined with innumerable wrinkles as thin as drawn wire, the general said to Lucien:
"Now you may bring him to your house. I, by chance, shall be there." It fell out as planned; and Sieyès broached his constitution, also the little coup d'état. Napoleon showed just the right amount of detached
interest. Affairs were in bad shape, the Directors inept, he admitted. Yes, a strong hand was needed to support the statecraft of the abbé. "Why not Moreau? Or is he too dilatory? Bernadotte, Augereau, if they were not so hot-headed."
"Yourself, general," said Sieyès, in an agitated whisper, quite as if no one but himself had thought of it before.
"You flatter me, abbé; but I will not be your man, nor any man's man. It must be the voice of France that speaks.'
"Who can doubt that?" said the abbé; then he paused as he wondered just what that meant. But Napoleon merely answered, "I shall think it over."
Meanwhile he said little about the abbé's pet constitution except in praise, not, however, committing himself on any specified points. Later he would put in the blood and iron, when he was in the saddle. So he left Sieyès, like John the Baptist, to prepare the way. Completely deceived, the statesman lined up his conspirators in the Council of the Assembly, the Council of the Ancients, and that of the Five Hundred.
Napoleon had another suggestion when the abbé sought him out again -with Lucien.
"You need," he said, "a new president in the lower chamber, some one of known republican principles, no erratic Jacobin and eloquent, also fiery, since the members are all young men." He did not glance at brother Lucien as he spoke; nevertheless the thought was conveyed. Brother Lucien was made president of the Council of the Five Hundred. Now there were conferences with
Fouché. Still Napoleon stalked the boards, like Cincinnatus, firm in his integrity and love of country. The wily Fouché was not fooled by this apparent indifference; but it paid him to appear to be fooled.
"They say, general, that you are the man."
"Not I," replied Napoleon. “It is Sieyès's mess. But it would pay you, Fouché, to side with them. If he doesn't succeed, some one else will. Your portfolio might become permanent.”
The sandy-haired death's-head had his answer. his answer. The police could be counted on.
Talleyrand too. He had been minister of foreign affairs; had lost the office because of his peculations, particularly a round two hundred thousand dollars he had got from the envoys of the American republic. But he was invaluable.
"You are necessary to save France," vouchsafed the general; "the king-pin of the new government."
"The king-pin's king-pin,” replied Talleyrand, taking snuff.
"Possibly," replied Napoleon, looking a little annoyed. “But I can think of less distinguished and— less lucrative offices!" And this time, too, nobody was fooled.
Cambacérès, Lebrun, Caulaincourt, it was found, could also be counted on; and Admiral Bruix of the Marines, and most of the ranking generals of the army. Only Lefebvre, Bernonville, and Bernadotte in especial, held aloof, despite the most diplomatic soundings-out and advances. Thus Sieyès and his two brothers reported; so Napoleon himself undertook the work, with great