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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. 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
discretion and apparent casualness. In vain; Bernadotte did not want to be "permanent" minister of war. "Evidently," remarked Talleyrand, "he wants to be that king-pin of which I am to be king-pin." Bernadotte was not acquainted with the plot.
But it was all ticklish business, this stealing a government, so ticklish, in fact, that Talleyrand and Napoleon, two nights before the event, had quite a scare. They were seated in the former abbé's study when suddenly they heard shouts without and a pounding at the door. Discovery? Arrest? Again the guillotine? Talleyrand blanched though he preserved his smile. Napoleon did not blanch, but he felt none too comfortable. They snuffed the candles, stole to the window. Bah! a crowd of rowdies around a broken-down carriage! The cause was saved, but Napoleon was chagrined. It was too much like burlesque. He had appeared to better advantage on the battle-field.
So the day set, the eighteenth of Brumaire (appropriately named the month of fog) arrived. In the Council of the Ancients, Sieyès had his men in hand, and Lucien his in the Council of the Five Hundred. It was a great moment for Lucien!
Also Fouché had his police stationed at critical points in the purlieus, while several army battalions lounged on their muskets in the environs of the palace. Others, too, were near at hand. Not to-day would the Sections march on the Tuileries; the odds were too hopeless. Besides they knew little of what was afoot. None the less the resolution was introduced and passed, the resolution to move the seat of govern
ment away from the "hysterical populace of Paris to the safer sanctuary of St.-Cloud"! General Bonaparte was directed to command the escorting troops; and the Directors were caught napping.
Meantime Napoleon had risen, long before the sun. He had issued an innocent invitation, the night before, to a number of the generals to take an early breakfast with him in the morning. Already several were here, Murat, Lannes, and the loyal conspirators in the preponderant majority, but also a few of the disaffected. Bernadotte, a tall Béarnais with a complexion as swarthy as a Moor's, and a raven lock of hair falling over his coal-black eyes, had gone upstairs, by special invitation, to his chief's study. The rest basked in the radiance of Madame la Générale's smile.
"You, General Lefebvre here; General Bernonville there, s'il vous plaît; and General Bourrienne by my side." So, like a true helpmeet, she placed the reluctant.
"General Bernadotte will be down directly. He is up with le général en chef in his cabinet." Then, aside to Bourrienne: "See if you can't bring them down. He can do nothing with him." Which was as much as to say, she might.
Ascending the stairs, he could hear his chief hectoring the fiery Moor.
"Why," came that rapid voice, "are you not in uniform?”
"I only wear my uniform when I am on duty," in sullen tones.
"Que diable! You shall have duty enough this morning!" and to Bourrienne as he opened the door, “He might as well have come in slippers!"
He composed himself, however,
when later they sat down at the table; and so agreeable was Napoleon, so delightful Josephine's throaty voice, with its modulations as sweetly variable as the undulations of her body, that the disgruntled generals did not notice that many officers had been arriving, also many civic celebrities. The entry outside, the staircase, were crowded, and they had overflowed into the little garden.
Suddenly Bernadotte discovered it, and rising to his full height-a splendid figure of a man-at the same time upsetting his coffee, he exclaimed:
"Ah! I see it all now. This military club meeting is the cover for another coup d'état!"
"No matter, general," said Josephine, trying her best to be helpful. "It will come out. What a good thing it isn't your uniform!"
And now Napoleon was speaking, with all the old impetuous vibrance the Moor remembered from many a battle-field.
"If so, what of it, Citizen General? But no, we will away with the if. Our cards lie on the table. This morning we ride to establish a new government. France has too long been the prey of spoilers.'
"That, I do not admit," responded the sullen Moor.
At once there was a hubbub from Junot, Murat, all the loyal aides, who growled angrily as they surrounded Bernadotte.
"Silence!" and their chief's eyes blazed. "I will handle this situation, gentlemen." Then he softened, wore once more his old smile, with its charm not untouched with melancholy and reproach.
you served under me in Italy. Think
remember! Then when you have recalled the dangers we have shared together, throw in your fortunes with us for France!"
The Moor remained silent.
"You will desert us then? But the army is with me. See for yourself." And seizing his little round hat and greatcoat, he strode into the garden to a salvo of cheers.
"You see, Bernadotte? Others trust me. Why not you and you, Lefebvre, and Bernonville? Ah, excellent, Lefebvre. I knew you would not desert me at the pinch.'
So, surrounded on all sides by the loyal staff, Bernadotte shrugged his shoulders and yielded in so far as to promise "to await events" at the Rue Rocher with Joseph, as Bonaparte had adroitly suggested.
And just as this last and most formidable enemy was removed, into the garden bright with late blooming flowers and the gay uniforms, came the messengers of the Assembly.
"Citoyen le Général en Chef, the Council of Ancients requests your presence to take the oath and escort them to the Palace of St.-Cloud."
The play was on; and, at the cue, Murat's dragoons rode up the street, brave in their array of green coats, white epaulets, and shining casques with red pompoms, gilt chin-straps, and black mare's-tail plumes streaming in the crisp morning breeze.
The citizens of Paris, now on their way to work, had seldom seen, even at a review, so many famous soldiers gathered together. There were exclamations clamations of astonishment, but many more cheers, particularly for "Bernadotte, my old comrade, the little man at the head, as the