Cagliostro was similarly acquitted. He had conducted his own case, and with a skill that deceived the magistrates and the public alike. Madame de La Motte alone was convicted. She was sentenced to be whipped, branded on each shoulder with the letter V (for voleuse, "thief"), and to be imprisoned for life. Her husband, who was in England, was sentenced in his absence to the galleys for life. A minor participant in this business, the girl who had personated the queen, escaped unpunished.
So ended this disgraceful affair. The queen was greatly cast down by the result. "Condole with me," she said, in a broken voice, to Madame Campan; "the intriguer who wanted to ruin me, or procure money by using my name and forging my signature, has just been fully acquitted." But it was due, she declared, to bribery on the part of some and to political passion on that of others, with an audacity towards authority which such people loved to display. The king entered as she was speaking.
"You find the queen in great affliction," he said to Madame Campan; "she has much reason to be. But what then? They would not see in this business anything save a prince of the Church and the Prince of Rohan, whereas it is only the case of a man in want of money, and a mere trick for raising cash, wherein the cardinal has been swindled in his turn. Nothing is easier to understand, and it needs no Alexander to cut this Gordian knot."
Cardinal Rohan was exiled to his abbey of Chaise-Dieu, guilty in the king's opinion, a dupe in the judgment of history, evidently a credulous profligate who had mistaken his vocation. The queen was the true victim of the whole affair. It doubled the hostility of the people to her, and had its share in that final sentence which brought her head to the block.
THE FALL OF THE BASTILLE.
"To the Bastille! to the Bastille!" was the cry. Paris surged with an ungovernable mob. Month by month, week by week, day by day, since the meeting of the States-General,—called into being chiefly to provide money for the king and kept in being to provide government for the people,—the revolutionary feeling had grown, alike among the delegates and among the citizens. Now the population of Paris was aroused, the unruly element of the city was in the streets, their wrath directed against the prison-fortress, the bulwark of feudalism, the stronghold of oppression, the infamous keeper of the dark secrets of the kings of France. The people had always feared, always hated it, and now against its sullen walls was directed the torrent of their wrath.
The surging throng besieged the Hotel de Ville, demanding arms. Gaining no satisfaction there, they rushed to the Invalides, where they knew that arms were stored. The governor wished to parley. "He asks for time to make us lose ours!" cried a voice in the crowd. A rush was made, the iron gates gave way, the cellar-doors were forced open, and in a short time thirty thousand guns were distributed among the people.
Minute by minute the tumult increased. Messengers came with threatening tidings. "The troops are marching to attack the Faubourgs; Paris is about to be put to fire and sword; the cannon of the Bastille are about to open fire upon us," were the startling cries. The people grew wild with rage.
This scene was the first of those frightful outbreaks of mob violence of which Paris was in the coming years to see so many. It was the 14th of July, 1789. As yet no man dreamed of the horrors which the near future was to bring forth. The Third Estate was at war with the king, and fancied itself the power in France. But beneath it, unseen by it, almost undreamed of by it, was rousing from sleep the wild beast of popular fury and revenge. Centuries of oppression were about to be repaid by years of a wild carnival of slaughter.
The Bastille was the visible emblem of that oppression. It was an armed fortress threatening Paris. The cannon on its walls frowned defiance to the people. Momentarily the wrath of the multitude grew stronger. The electors of the Third Estate sent a message to Delaunay, governor of the Bastille, asking him to withdraw the cannons, the sight of which infuriated the people, and promising, if he would do this, to restrain the mob.
The advice was wise; the governor was not. The messengers were long absent; the electors grew uneasy; the tumult in the street increased. At length the deputation returned, bringing word that the governor pledged himself not to fire on the people, unless forced to do so in self-defence. This message the electors communicated to the crowd around the Hotel de Ville, hoping that it would satisfy them. Their words were interrupted by a startling sound, the roar of a cannon,—even while they were reporting the governor's evasive message the cannon of the Bastille were roaring defiance to the people of Paris! An attack had been made by the people on the fortress and this was the governor's response.
That shot was fatal to Delaunay. The citizens heard it with rage. "Treason!" was the cry. "To the Bastille! to the Bastille!" again rose the shout. Surging onward in an irresistible mass, the furious crowd poured through the streets, and soon surrounded the towering walls of the detested prison-fortress. A few bold men had already cut the chains of the first drawbridge, and let it fall. Across it rushed the multitude to attack the second bridge.
The fortress was feebly garrisoned, having but thirty Swiss soldiers and eighty invalids for its defence. But its walls were massive; it was well provided; it had resisted many attacks in the past; this disorderly and badly-armed mass seemed likely to beat in vain against those century-old bulwarks and towers. Yet there come times in which indignation grows strong, even with bare hands, oppression waxes weak behind its walls of might, and this was one of those times.
A chance shot was fired from the crowd; the soldiers answered with a volley; several men were wounded; other shots came from the people; the governor gave orders to fire the cannon; the struggle had begun.
It proved a short one. Companies of the National Guard were brought up to restrain the mob,—the soldiers broke from their ranks and joined it. Two of their sub-officers, Elie and Hullin by name, put themselves at the head of the furious crowd and led the people to the assault on the fortress. The fire of the garrison swept through their dense ranks; many of them fell; one hundred and fifty were killed or wounded; but now several pieces of cannon were dragged up by hand and their threatening muzzles turned against the gates.
The assault was progressing; Delaunay waited for succor which did not arrive; the small garrison could not withstand that mighty mob; in the excitement of the moment the governor attempted to blow up the powder magazine, and would have done so had not one of his attendants held his arms by force.
And now deputations arrived from the electors, two of them in succession, demanding that the fortress should be given up to the citizen guard. Delaunay proposed to capitulate, saying that he would yield if he and his men were allowed to march out with arms and honor. The proposition was received with shouts of sarcastic laughter.
"Life and safety are all we can promise you," answered Elie. "This I engage on the word of an officer."
Delaunay at this ordered the second drawbridge to be lowered and the gates to be opened. In poured the mass, precipitating themselves in fury upon that hated fortress, rushing madly through all its halls and passages, breaking its cell-doors with hammer blows, releasing captives some of whom had been held there in hopeless misery for half a lifetime, unearthing secrets which added to their revengeful rage.
Elie and Hullin had promised the governor his life. They miscalculated their power over their savage followers. Before they had gone far they were fighting hand to hand with the multitude for the safety of their prisoner. At the Place de Greve, Hullin seized the governor in his strong arms and covered his bare head with a hat, with the hope of concealing his features from the people. In a moment more he was hurled down and trodden under foot, and on struggling to his feet saw the head of Delaunay carried on a pike. The major and lieutenant were similarly massacred. Flesselles, the mayor of Paris, shared their fate. The other prisoners were saved by the soldiers, who surrounded and protected them from the fury of the mob.
The fall of the Bastille was celebrated by two processions that moved through the streets; one blood-stained and horrible, carrying the heads of the victims on pikes; the other triumphant and pathetic, bearing on their shoulders the prisoners released from its cells. Of these, two had been incarcerated so long that they were imbecile, and no one could tell whence they came. On the pathway of this procession flowers and ribbons were scattered. The spectators looked on with silent horror at the other.
Meanwhile, the king was at Versailles, in ignorance of what was taking place at Paris. The courts were full of soldiers, drinking and singing; wine had been distributed among them; there were courtiers and court intrigues still; the lowering cloud of ruin had yet scarcely cast a shadow on the palace. Louis XVI. went to bed and to sleep, in blissful ignorance of what had taken place. The Duke of Lioncourt entered and had him awakened, and informed him of the momentous event.
"But that is a revolt!" exclaimed the king, with startled face, sitting up on his couch.
"No, sire," replied the duke; "it is a revolution!"
That was the true word. It was a revolution. With the taking of the Bastille the Revolution of France was fairly inaugurated. As for that detested fortress, its demolition began on the next day, amid the thunder of cannon and the singing of the Te Deum. It had dominated Paris, and served as a state-prison for four hundred years. Its site was henceforward to be kept as a monument to liberty.
THE STORY OF THE SAINTE AMPOULE.
Sad years were they for kings and potentates in France—now a century ago—when the cup of civilization was turned upside-down and the dregs rose to the top. For once in the history of mankind the anarchist was lord—and a frightful use he made of his privileges. Not only living kings were at a discount, but the very bones of kings were scattered to the winds, and the sacred oil, the "Sainte Ampoule," which for many centuries had been used at the coronation of the kings of France, became an object of detestation, and was treated with the same lack of ceremony and consideration as the royal family itself.
Thereby hangs a tale. But before telling what desecration came to the Sainte Ampoule through the impious hands of the new lords of France, it may be well to trace briefly the earlier history of this precious oil. Christianity came to France when Clovis, its first king, was baptized. And although we cannot say much for the Christian virtues of the worthy king Clovis, we are given to understand that Heaven smiled on his conversion, for the story goes that a dove came down from the realm of the blessed, bearing a small vial of holy oil, which was placed in the hands of St. Remy to be used in anointing the king at his coronation. Afterwards the saint placed this vial in his own tomb, where it was after many years discovered by miracle. It is true, St. Remy tells us none of this. Our authority for it is Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, who flourished four centuries after Clovis and his converter had been gathered to their fathers. But as Hincmar defied those who doubted the story of the dove and the vial to prove the contrary, and produced a vial of oil from the saint's tomb in further proof of his statement, no reasonable person—at that day—could longer deny it, though the first mention of it is by a chronicler who lived a century and a half after the saint.
From the days of Hincmar forward the monarchs of France, at their coronation, were anointed with this holy oil. And as the dove was said to have descended at Rheims, and St. Remy was buried there, this became the city of the coronation. An order of knighthood was founded to take part in the coronation,—the "Knights of the Sainte Ampoule,"—but the worthy incumbents held their office for a day only,—that of the crowning of the king. They were created for that purpose, received the precious vial from the archbishop, and after the ceremony returned it to that high dignitary of the church and saw it restored to its abiding-place. This done, they ceased to exist as knights of the holy oil, the order dying while the king lived.
But these short-lived chevaliers made the most of their opportunity, and crowded all the splendor and dignity into their one day that it would well bear. The sacred vial was kept in the abbey of St. Remy, and from that place to the cathedral they moved in a stately procession that almost threw the cortege of the king into the shade. The Grand Prior of St. Remy bore the vial, in its case or shrine, which hung from his neck by a golden chain. He rode always on a white horse, being covered by a magnificent canopy, upheld by the knights of the Sainte Ampoule. The cathedral reached, the prior placed the vial in the hands of the archbishop, who pledged himself by a solemn oath to restore it at the end of the ceremony. And to make this doubly sure a number of barons were given to the knights as hostages, the restoration of the vial to be their ransom. The ceremony over, back to the abbey they went, through streets adorned with rich tapestries, and surrounded by throngs of admiring lookers-on, to whom the vial was of as much interest as the king's crown.
For many centuries this honor came at intervals to the city of Rheims, and the St. Remy vial figured as an indispensable element of every kingly coronation. It figured thus in the mission of Joan of Arc, whose purpose was to drive the English from Orleans and open the way to Rheims, that the new king might be crowned with the old ceremony. The holy oil continued to play a leading part in the coronation of the kings until the reign of Louis XVI. Then came the Revolution, that mighty overturner of all things sacred and time-honored, and a new chapter was written in the story of the Sainte Ampoule. It is this chapter which we have now to give.
The Revolution had gone on, desecrating things sacred and beheading things royal, through years of terror, and now had arrived the 6th of October, 1793, a day fatal in the history of the holy oil. On that day Citizen Rhul, one of the new sovereigns of France, entered the room of Philippe Hourelle, chief marguillier of the Cathedral of Rheims, and demanded of him the vial of coronation oil of which he had charge. Horror seized Monsieur Philippe; but Master Rhul was imperative, and the guillotine stood in the near perspective. There was nothing to do but to obey.
"It is not in my care," declared the trembling Philippe. "It is in the keeping of the cure, Monsieur Seraine. I will instantly apply to him for it."
"And make haste," said Citizen Rhul. "Bring pomatum and all," thus irreverently designating the age-thickened oil.
"May I ask what you will do with it?" ventured Philippe.
"Grease the knife of the guillotine, mayhap, that it may the easier slip through your neck, if you waste any time in your errand."
As may be imagined, Philippe Hourelle lost no time in seeking the cure, and giving him his startling message. M. Seraine heard him with horror. Had the desecration of sans-culottisme proceeded so far as this? But an idea sprang to the quick wit of the cure.
"We can save some of it," he exclaimed.
A minute sufficed to extract a portion of the unguent-like substance. Then, with a sigh of regret, the cure handed the vial to Philippe, who, with another sigh of regret, delivered it to Citizen Rhul, who, without a sigh of regret, carried it to the front of the cathedral, and at the foot of the statue of Louis XV. hammered the vial to powder, and trod what remained of the precious ointment under foot until it was completely mingled with the mud of the street.
"So we put an end to princes and pomatum," said this irascible republican, with a laugh of triumph, as he ground the remnants of the vial under his irreverent heel.
Not quite an end to either, as it proved. The portion of the sacred oil which M. Seraine had saved was divided into two portions, one kept by himself, the other placed in the care of Philippe Hourelle, to be kept until the reign of anarchy should come to an end and a king reign again in France. And had Citizen Rhul dreamed of all that lay in the future every hair on his democratic head would have stood erect in horror and dismay.
In truth, not many years had passed before the age of princes came again to France, and a demand for St. Remy's vial arose, Napoleon was to be crowned emperor at Notre Dame. Little did this usurper of royalty care for the holy oil, but there were those around him with more reverence for the past, men who would have greatly liked to act as knights of the Sainte Ampoule. But the unguent was not forthcoming, and the emperor was crowned without its aid.
Then came the end of the imperial dynasty, and the return of the Bourbons. To them the precious ointment was an important essential of legitimate kingship. Could St. Remy's vial be found, or had it and its contents vanished in the whirlpool of the Revolution? That was to be learned. A worthy magistrate of Rheims, Monsieur de Chevrieres, took in hand the task of discovery. He searched diligently but unsuccessfully, until one day, in the early months of 1819, when three gentlemen, sons of Philippe Hourelle, called upon him, and told the story which we have just transcribed. A portion of the holy oil of coronation, they declared, had been in their father's care, preserved and transmitted through M. Seraine's wit and promptitude. Their father was dead, but he had left it to his widow, who long kept it as a priceless treasure. They were interrupted at this point in their story by M. de Chevrieres.
"This is fortunate," he exclaimed. "She must pass it over to me. Her name will become historic for her loyal spirit."
"I wish she could," said one of the visitors. "But, alas! it is lost. Our house was plundered during the invasion, and among other things taken was this precious relic. It is irretrievably gone."
That seemed to end the matter; but not so, there was more of the consecration oil in existence than could have been imagined. The visit of the Hourelles was followed after an interval by a call from a Judge Lecomte, who brought what he affirmed was a portion of the holy ointment which had been given him by the widow Hourelle. Unluckily, it was of microscopic dimensions, far from enough to impart the full flavor of kingship to his majesty Louis XVIII.
It seemed as if this worthy monarch of the Restoration would have to wear his crown without anointment, when, fortunately, a new and interesting item of news was made public. It was declared by a number of ecclesiastics that the cure, M. Seraine, had given only a part of the oil to Philippe Hourelle, and had himself kept the remainder. He had told them so, but, as it proved, not a man of them all knew what he had done with it. He had died, and the secret with him. Months passed away; spring vanished; summer came; then new tidings bloomed. A priest of Berry-au-Bac, M. Boure by name, sought M. de Chevrieres, and gladdened his heart with the announcement that the missing relic was in his possession, having been consigned to him by M. Seraine. It was rendered doubly precious by being wrapped in a portion of the winding sheet of the blessed St. Remy himself.
Nor was this all. Within a week another portion of the lost treasure was brought forward. It had been preserved in a manner almost miraculous. Its possessor was a gentleman named M. Champagne Provotian, who had the following interesting story to tell. He had, a quarter of a century before, in 1793, been standing near Citizen Rhul when that scion of the Revolution destroyed the vial of St. Remy, at the foot of the statue of Louis XV., in front of the Cathedral of Rheims. When he struck the vial he did so with such force that fragments of it flew right and left, some of them falling on the coat-sleeve of the young man beside him, M. Champagne. These he dexterously concealed from the iconoclastic citizen, took home, and preserved. He now produced them.
Here were three separate portions of the precious ointment. A commission was appointed to examine them. They were pronounced genuine, oil and glass alike. Enough had been saved to crown a king.
"There is nothing now to obstruct the coronation of your Majesty," said an officer of the court to Louis XVIII.
His majesty laughed incredulously. He was an unbeliever as regarded legend and a democrat as regarded ceremony, and gave the gentleman to understand that he was content to reign without being anointed.
"What shall be done with the ointment?" asked the disappointed official.
"Lock it up in the vestry and say no more about it," replied the king.
This was done, and the precious relics were restored to the tomb of St. Remy, whence they originally came; being placed there in a silver reliquary lined with white silk, and enclosed in a metal case, with three locks. And there they lay till 1825, when a new king came to the throne, in the person of Charles X.
Now, for the last time, the old ceremony was revived, the knights of the Sainte Ampoule being created, and their office duly performed. With such dignity as he could assume and such grandeur as he could display, Charles entered the choir of the cathedral and advanced to the grand altar, at whose foot he knelt. On rising, he was led to the centre of the sanctuary, and took his seat in a throne-like chair, placed there to receive him. In a semi-circle round him stood a richly-dressed group of nobles and courtiers.
Then came forward in stately procession the chevaliers of the Sainte Ampoule, bearing the minute remnants of that sacred oil which was claimed to have been first used in the anointing of Clovis, thirteen hundred years before. An imposing group of churchmen stood ready to receive the ointment, including three prelates, an archbishop, and two bishops. These dignitaries carried the precious relic to the high altar, consecrated it, and anointed the king with a solemn ceremony highly edifying to the observers, and greatly gratifying to the vanity of the new monarch.
It cannot be said that this ceremonious proceeding appealed to the people of France. It was the nineteenth century, and the Revolution lay between the new and the old age. All men of wit laughed at the pompous affair, and five years afterwards the people of Paris dispensed with Charles X. as their king, despite the flavor of coronation that hung about him. The dynasty of the Bourbons was at an end, and the knights of the Saint Ampoule had been created for the last time.
In conclusion, there is a story connected with the coronation ceremony which may be of interest. Legend or history tells us that at one time the English took the city of Rheims, plundered it, and, as part of their plunder, carried off the Saint Ampoule, which their desecrating hands had stolen from the tomb of St. Remy. The people of the suburb of Chene la Populeux pursued the invaders, fell upon them and recovered this precious treasure. From that time, in memory of their deed, the inhabitants of Chene claimed the right to walk in the procession of the Sainte Ampoule, and to fall heir to the horse ridden by the Grand Prior. This horse was furnished by the government, and was claimed by the prior as the property of the abbey, in recompense for his services. He denied the claim of the people of Chene, said that their story was a fable, and that at the best they were but low-born rogues. As a result of all this, hot blood existed between the rival claimants to the white horse of the coronation.
At the crowning of Louis XIV. the monks and the people of Chene came to blows, in support of their respective claims. The villagers pulled the prior from his horse, pummelled the monks who came to his aid, thrashed the knights out of every semblance of dignity, tore the canopy into shreds, and led off the white horse in triumph. Law followed blows; the cost of a dozen horses was wasted on the lawyers; in the end the monks won, and the people of Chene had to restore the four-footed prize to the prior.
At the subsequent coronations of Louis XV. and Louis XVI. they renewed their claim, and violence was again threatened. The trouble was overcome by special decrees, which prohibited the people of Chene from meddling with the claim of the prior. By the time of the coronation of Charles X., all such mediaeval folly was at an end, and the stately old ceremony had become a matter of popular ridicule.
The story of the Sainte Ampoule is not without its interest in showing the growth of ideas. At the end of the ninth century, a bishop could gravely state, and a nation unquestionably accept his statement, that a dove had flown down from heaven bearing a vial of holy oil for the anointment of its kings. At the end of the nineteenth century the same nation has lost its last vestige of reverence for the "divinity which doth hedge a king," and has no longer any use for divinely-commissioned potentates or heaven-sent ointments.
THE FLIGHT OF THE KING.
At midnight of the 22d of June, 1791, a heavy and lumbering carriage rolled slowly into the town of Varennes, situated in the department of Meuse, in northeastern France. It had set out from Paris at an early hour of the preceding day, and had now left that turbulent capital more than a hundred and fifty miles behind it, pursuing a direct route towards the nearest frontier of the kingdom.
There were in this clumsy vehicle several plainly-dressed ladies, a man attired as a servant, and a half-grown boy. They all seemed in the best of spirits, and felicitated themselves on having come so far without question or obstruction. As they neared Varennes, however, an alarming sound was borne on the midnight air to their ears,—that of a clanging bell, ringing quickly, as if in alarm. They entered the town and drove to the post-house.
"Let us have horses at once," was the demand of the outriders; "we must go forward without delay."
"There are no horses ready," was the reply. "Have you your passports?"
The papers were presented and taken to M. Sausse, the public officer of the commune, a timid little shop-keeper, sadly incompetent to deal with any matter that needed bold decision. He cast his eye over the passports, which shook in his trembling hand. Yet they appeared to be all right, being made out in the name of Baron Korf, the man in the carriage being named as a valet de chambre to the baron.
But the disturbed little commune officer knew better than that. A young man named Drouet, son of the postmaster at St. Menehould, had, a half-hour or so before, ridden at furious speed into the town, giving startling information to such of the citizens as he found awake. There quickly followed that ringing of the alarm-bell which had pealed trouble into the ears of the approaching travellers.
M. Sausse approached the carriage, and bowed with the deepest respect before the seeming servant within.
"Will you not enter my house?" he asked. "There is a rumor abroad that we are so fortunate as to have our king in our midst. If you remain in the carriage, while the municipal authorities are in council, your Majesty might be exposed to insult."
The secret was out; it was the king of France who was thus masquerading in the dress of a lackey and speeding with all haste towards the frontier. The town was alarmed: a group of armed men stood at the shopkeeper's door as the traveller entered; some of them told him rudely that they knew him to be the king.
"If you recognize him," sharply answered the lady who followed, "speak to him with the respect you owe your king."
It was Marie Antoinette, though her dress was rather that of a waiting-maid than a queen. The ladies who followed her were Madame Elizabeth, the princess, and the governess of the royal children. The boy was the dauphin of France.
This flight had been undertaken under the management of General Bouille, who had done all in his power to make it successful, by stationing relays of soldiers along the road, procuring passports, and other necessary details. But those intrusted with its execution had, aside from keeping the project a secret, clumsily managed its details. The carriage procured was of great size, and loaded like a furniture van with luggage. There was a day's delay in the start. Even the setting out was awkwardly managed; the queen leaving the palace on foot, losing her way, and keeping her companions perilously waiting. The detachments of troops on the road were sure to attract attention. Careful precautions for the defeat of the enterprise seemed to have been taken.
Yet all went well until St. Menehould was reached, though the king was recognized by more than one person on the road. "We passed through the large town of Chalons-sur-Marne," wrote the young princess, "where we were quite recognized. Many people praised God at seeing the king, and made vows for his escape."
All France had not yet reached the republican virulence of Paris. "All goes well, Francois," said the queen in a glad tone to Valory, her courier. "If we were to have been stopped, it would have taken place already."
At St. Menehould, however, they found the people in a different temper. The king was recognized, and though his carriage was not stopped, a detachment of dragoons, who had followed him at a distance, was not suffered to proceed, the people cutting the girths of the horses. Young Drouet, of whom we have already spoken, sprang on horseback and rode hurriedly on towards Varennes, preceding the carriage.
The soldiers who had been posted at Varennes were in no condition to assist the king. The son of Marquis Bouille, who had accompanied the royal party, found them helplessly intoxicated, and rode off at full speed to inform his father of the alarming condition of affairs.
Meanwhile, the king, who had taken refuge in the shop of the grocer Sausse, awaited the municipal authorities in no small perturbation of spirits. They presented themselves at length before him, bowing with great show of respect, and humbly asking his orders.
"Have the horses put to my carriage without delay," he said, with no further attempt at concealment, "that I may start for Montmedy."
They continued respectful, but were provided with various reasons why they could not obey: the horses were at a distance; those in the stables were not in condition to travel; pretext after pretext was advanced for delay. In truth, no pretext was needed; the adjoining street was filled with armed revolutionists, and in no case would the carriage have been suffered to proceed.
As daybreak approached a detachment of dragoons rode into the town. They were those who had been posted near Chalons, and who had ridden on towards Montmedy after the king's passage. Missing him, they had returned. Choiseul, their commander, pushed through the people and entered the shop.
"You are environed here," he said to the king. "We are not strong enough to take the carriage through; but if you will mount on horseback we can force a passage through the crowd."
"If I were alone I should try it," said Louis. "I cannot do it as matters stand. I am waiting for daylight; they do not refuse to let me go on; moreover, M. de Bouille will soon be here."
He did not recognize the danger of delay. The crowd in the streets was increasing; the bridge was barricaded; the authorities had sent a messenger in haste to Paris to tell what had happened and ask orders from the National Assembly.
"Tell M. de Bouille that I am a prisoner," said the king to Captain Deslon, the commander of a detachment, who had just reached him. "I suspect that he cannot do anything for me, but I desire him to do what he can."
The queen meanwhile was urgently entreating Madame Sausse to use her influence with her husband and procure an order for the king's release. She found the good woman by no means inclined to favor her.
"You are thinking of the king," she said; "I am thinking of M. Sausse; each is for her own husband."
By this time the throng in the streets was growing impatient and violent. "To Paris! to Paris!" shouted the people. The king grew frightened. Bouille had failed to appear. There was no indication of his approach. The excitement grew momentarily greater.
During this anxious interval two officers rode rapidly up on the road from Paris, and presented themselves before the king. They were aides-de-camp of General Lafayette, commander of the National Guard. One of them, Romeuf by name, handed Louis a decree of the assembly ordering pursuit and return of the king. It cited an act which forbade any public functionary to remove himself more than twenty leagues from his post.
"I never sanctioned that," cried the king, angrily, flinging the paper on the bed where the dauphin lay.
The queen snatched it up hastily, exclaiming that the bed of her children should not be soiled by such a document.
"Madame," said Romeuf, warningly, "do you wish that other eyes than mine should witness your anger?"
The queen blushed, and recovered with an effort the composure which she had suffered herself to lose.
A messenger now arrived from Bouille bringing word that the detachments he had posted were moving towards Varennes, and that he himself was on the way thither. But the tumult in the streets had grown hour by hour; the people were becoming furious at the delay; it seemed certain that the arrival of the troops would be the signal for a battle with the armed populace, who had strongly barricaded the town. Utterly disheartened, the king gave orders for the carriage; he had decided to return to Paris.
An hour afterwards Bouille, breathless from a long and hurried ride, arrived within sight of Varennes. Its barricades met his eyes. He was told that the king had set out on his return an hour before. The game was up; Louis had lost his last hope of escape; the loyal general took the road for Stenay, and that same evening crossed the French frontier.
The king's carriage made its way back to Paris through a throng that lined the roads, and which became dense when the city was reached. The National Guards held their arms reversed; none of the spectators uncovered their heads; the flight of the king had put an end to his authority and to the respect of the people. It was a sad procession that slowly made its way, in the evening light, along the boulevards towards the Tuileries. When the king and queen entered the palace the doors were closed behind them, and armed guards stationed to prevent egress. The palace had become a prison; Louis XVI. had ceased to reign; the National Assembly was now the governing power in France.
What followed a few words may tell. In the succeeding year the Reign of Terror began, and Louis was taken from the Tuileries to the Temple, a true prison. In December he was tried for treason and condemned to death, and on January 21, 1793, his head fell under the knife of the guillotine. In October of the same year his unhappy queen shared his fate.
THE END OF THE TERROR.
No period of equal length in the whole era of history yields us such a succession of exciting and startling events as those few years between the convening of the States-General in France and the rise of Napoleon to power, and particularly that portion of the Revolution known as the Reign of Terror. A volume of thrilling stories might have been made from its incidents alone; but it would have been a volume so full of tales of blood and woe, of misery and massacre, of the dominance of those wild-beast passions which civilization seeks to subdue in man, that we may well be spared the telling. As with the fall of the Bastille began the long dominion of the populace, so with the fall of Robespierre it ended, and civil order returned to unhappy France. We have told the story of the one; we shall conclude with that of the other.
Three men dominated the Terror,—Danton, Marat, and Robespierre; the first named best deserving the title of man, for he possessed certain qualities of manliness not shown by his brutal colleagues. As Lamartine says, "Nothing was wanting to make Danton a great man except virtue." He had too much manliness, as it seems, for the purposes of Robespierre, and was brought by him to the guillotine on April 5, 1794.
The triumvirate of the Reign of Terror was broken by his death and that of Marat, who had fallen under the avenging knife of Charlotte Corday in July, 1793. Robespierre was left sole director of the Revolution, being president of the Committee of Public Safety, leader of the Jacobin Club, favorite of the extreme terrorists, and lord and master of the Convention, whose members were held in subjection by his violence and their fears.
His dominion was not to be of long continuance. It was signalized by such a frightful activity of the guillotine, in which multitudes of innocent persons daily perished, that the terror which he produced was quickly followed by indignation, and a combination of many of the leading spirits of the Convention was formed against him. One after another he had vanquished all his enemies, and stood alone. But he stood on such a ghastly pyramid of the dead that he could not hope to maintain his dangerous elevation. The voice of vengeance, long choked by terror, at length began to rise against this wholesale executioner.
The outbreak was precipitated by a demand of Saint-Just, the most prominent supporter of Robespierre, that a dictatorship should be established in France, and that the "virtuous and inflexible, as well as incorruptible citizen," Robespierre, should be made Dictator. It was a declaration of war. Many of the members of the Convention knew that it meant their death. Once give their terrible foe the extreme power which this demand indicated, and every known enemy of Robespierre in France would be doomed. Yet to oppose it was to oppose the Jacobins and the revolutionary sections, the controlling powers in Paris. The boldest members of the Convention might well pause and tremble before assailing their seemingly impregnable foe. But the rule of Robespierre had been opposed in committee; it had ceased to be a secret that he had enemies in the Convention; as yet the sentiment against him had spoken only in the dark, but the time was rapidly approaching when an open struggle could no longer be avoided.
Robespierre himself began the battle. He said to a deputation from Aisne, "In the situation in which it now is, gangrened by corruption, and without power to remedy it, the Convention can no longer save the republic; both will perish together."
He repeated this accusation before the Convention itself, in a threatening speech, in which he declared that there was in its midst a conspiracy against public liberty; there were traitors in the national councils; the Convention must be purged and purified; the conspirators must be punished. His words were listened to in sullen silence. When he had ceased no word was spoken, except in whispers from member to member. The glove of defiance had been cast into their midst; were there none among them with the courage to take it up, or must they all yield themselves as the slaves or the victims of this merciless autocrat? No; there were men of courage and patriotism left. Three delegates rose simultaneously, three voices struggled for precedence in the right to attack the tyrant and dare the worst.
"The man who has made himself master of everything, the man who paralyzes our will, is he who has just spoken—Robespierre!" cried Cambon, in ringing tones of defiance.
"It is Robespierre! It is Robespierre," came from other unsealed voices. "Let him give an account of the crimes of the members whose death he demanded from the Jacobins."
The attack was so unexpected and so vehement that Robespierre hesitated to reply.
"You who pretend to have the courage of virtue, have the courage of truth," cried Charlier; "name the individuals you accuse."
Tumult and confusion followed these daring words. Robespierre, unable to gain the ear of the assembly, which now seemed filled with his enemies, and finding the feeling against him rapidly spreading, left the hall and took refuge with the Jacobins, where he repeated his address, this time to applauding hearers. Violent councils followed. Henriot, commandant of the troops, proposed to march on the Convention and put an end to its existence. "Name thy enemies," shouted the members to Robespierre; "we will deliver them to thee." Yet there was hesitation and doubt among the leaders; they feared the result of violent measures, and felt inclined to temporize and wait.
The Convention met the next day. It met inspired with a new spirit. Courage animated the members. They had crossed the Rubicon, and felt that there was no return. During the interval since the last session their forces had been organized, their plans considered. Saint-Just appeared and sought to speak. He was interrupted and his words drowned by the voices of indignant members.
"I see here," cried Billaud-Varennes, who stood beside him, "one of the men who yesterday, at the Jacobins, promised the massacre of the National Convention; let him be arrested."
The officers obeyed this order. Saint-Just was in custody. Billaud continued his remarks, declaring that the members were in danger of massacre, denouncing Robespierre and his supporters, bidding them to be firm and resolute. His boldness infected the assembly; the deputies stood up and waved their hats, shouting their approval. In the midst of this scene Robespierre appeared, livid with rage, his eyes flashing with the fury which inspired him.
"I demand liberty to speak," he exclaimed.
"Down with the tyrant!" rose in a roar from a hundred voices.
Tallien, the leader of the opposition, sprang into the tribune.
"I demand that the veil be torn away instantly," he exclaimed. "The work is done, the conspirators are unmasked. Yesterday, at the Jacobins, I saw the army of the new Cromwell formed, and I have come here armed with a dagger to pierce his heart if the Assembly dares not decree his accusation. I demand the arrest of Henriot and his staff."
The debate went on, growing more violent minute by minute. Several times Robespierre strove to speak, but each time his voice was drowned in cries of "Down with the tyrant!" Pale with rage and fear, he turned from his opponents towards his former supporters, both hands nervously clutching the tribune.
"It is to you, pure and virtuous men," he said, "that I address myself. I do not talk with scoundrels."
"Down with the tyrant!" was the response of the members addressed. Evidently the whole assembly had turned against him.
Henriot, the president, rang his bell for order.
"President of assassins," cried Robespierre, in a voice that grew feebler, "I once more demand liberty to speak."
"The blood of Danton is choking him!" cried Garnier de l'Aude.
"Shall this man longer remain master of the Convention?" asked Charles Duval.
"Let us make an end! A decree! a decree!" shouted Lasseau.
"A tyrant is hard to strike down!" exclaimed Freron.
Robespierre stood in the midst of his circle of enemies, assailed on all sides, nervously turning in his hands an open knife.
"Send me to death!" he ejaculated.
"You have merited it a thousand times," cried his foes. "Down with the tyrant!"
In the midst of the tumult a decree for his arrest was offered and carried. In it were included the names of his brother, of Couthon, and of Saint-Just. Henriot proclaimed the decree, while wild acclamations of triumph shook the room.
"Long live liberty! Long live the republic! Down with the tyrants! To the bar with the accused!" came from the lips of those who the day before had not dared to speak. The floodgates were down and the torrent of long repressed fury was rushing on the accused. The exciting scene ended in the removal of the prisoners, who were taken to separate prisons.
Tidings of what had taken place in the Convention ran like wildfire through Paris. Thousands of households were inspired with hope. The terrorists were filled with fury and dismay. The Commune and the Jacobins swore to support Robespierre. The tocsin peal rang out; the people gathered; the gates of Paris were closed; Henriot, half drunk, galloped along the streets, crying out that the representatives of the people were being massacred; an insurrection against the Convention was rapidly organized, headed by desperate men, among them Robespierre himself, who was again free, having been taken from the hands of the officers.
All was in peril. The Convention had assembled again, but had taken no steps in self-defence. Startling tidings were brought to the members in quick succession. It was said that the National Guard was coming with artillery, to direct it against the hall. The roar of the insurrection filled street and building. For the time it looked as if Robespierre had conquered, and all was at an end.
"I propose," cried Elie Lacoste, "that Henriot be outlawed."
As he spoke these words, the man named stood in the street without, ordering the artillerists, whose cannon were trained upon the Convention hall, to fire. The gunners hesitated. It was a critical moment. The fate of France hung in the balance. A group of the deputies came hastily from the hall and faced Henriot and his men.
"What are you doing, soldiers?" they exclaimed. "That man is a rebel, who has just been outlawed."
The gunners lowered their matches. The Convention was saved. The National Guard had deserted Robespierre. Henriot put spurs to his horse, and fled at full gallop.
"Outlaw all who shall take arms against the Convention, or who shall oppose its decrees," said Barere; "as well as those who have defied it by eluding arrest."
This decree, repeated to the insurgents, completed their discomfiture. Rapidly they dispersed. Public opinion had changed; the Convention had triumphed. The gunners who had marched with the insurrection deserted their pieces; and a few hours afterwards returned to them, to protect the Convention.
The members of the Convention had run a serious risk in not taking active steps to assemble their friends, and in thus giving so perilous an opportunity to their enemies. This error was now retrieved; a section of their supporters came together, commanded by Leonard Bourdon and a gendarme named Meda. They reached the Hotel de Ville without opposition. Meda entered it, crying, probably as a strategem, "Long live Robespierre!" He reached the hall where the Jacobin leaders were gathered in silent dismay around the fallen dictator. Robespierre sat at a table, his head resting on his hand. Meda stepped towards him, pistols in hand.
"Surrender, traitor!" he exclaimed.
"It is you who are a traitor," retorted Robespierre, "and I will have you shot."
His words were barely spoken when Meda fired, his bullet shattering Robespierre's lower jaw. It is well to state here, however, that in the belief of many Robespierre shot himself.
This decided action created consternation in the room. The younger Robespierre leaped from a window, receiving mortal injury from the fall. Saint-Just turned towards Lebas and said to him, "Kill me."
"I have something better to do," answered Lebas, shooting himself through the head.
A report from the stairway quickly followed. Meda with his second pistol had shot Couthon and badly wounded him. The hall had suddenly become a place of blood and death. The Jacobin chiefs, lately all-powerful, now condemned, dead, or dying, presented a frightful spectacle. Two days had changed the course of events in France. The Reign of Terror was at an end.
Robespierre lay on a table, his head supported by a small deal box. The blood flowed slowly from his mouth. He was silent, giving no sign of pain or feeling. He was taken to the Conciergerie, whither other prisoners of his faction were being brought. Saint-Just and Couthon were already there.
Five o'clock came. The carts had drawn up as usual at the gate of the prison, waiting for the condemned. This time there was a new spectacle for the people, who had become wearied with executions, but were on the alert for the fresh sensation promised them. It was no time to temporize. The Convention had ordered the immediate execution of its foes. As Robespierre, with a blood-stained cloth round his face, entered the cart, there was a shout of joy and triumph from the assembled crowd. The late all-powerful man had not a friend left.
On the scaffold the executioner tore the cloth from Robespierre's wounded face. A terrible cry of pain followed, the first sign of suffering he had given. In a minute more his head had fallen into the gory basket, and France was avenged. It was the 28th of July, 1794, less than four months after the death of Danton had left all the power in his hands. In that and the following days one hundred and three executions sealed the fate of the defeated enemies of the Convention. Justice had been done; the Terror was at an end.
THE BURNING OF MOSCOW.
From west to east across Europe had marched the army of the great conqueror, no nation daring to draw a hostile sword, none venturing to place an obstacle in its path. Across Russia it had marched almost as triumphantly, breaking irresistibly through the dams of armed men in its way, sweeping onward with the strength and majesty of fate. At length it had reached the heart of the empire of the czars, and before it lay displayed the ancient capital of the Muscovite kings, time-honored Moscow.
This great city was revealed to the eyes of the weary soldiers with the suddenness of a mirage in the desert. Throughout that day an interminable outreach of level country had seemed to spread before them, dreary, uninviting, disheartening. Now, from the summit of a hill, their triumphant eyes gazed suddenly upon the roofs and spires of a mighty city, splendid, far-reaching, stretching far across the plain that lay revealed before their eyes. It seemed to them truly as if the hand of a magician had touched the desert, and caused this city to spring up across their path.
It was a remarkable spectacle that met their gaze. Here were visible what seemed hundreds of gilded domes and shining spires, thousands of habitations rich with varied colors, a strange compound of palaces and cottages, churches and bell-towers, woods and lakes, Western and Oriental architecture, the Gothic arches and spires of Europe mingled with the strange forms of Byzantine and Asiatic edifices. Outwardly, a line of monasteries flanked with towers appeared to encircle the city. Centrally, crowning an eminence, rose a great citadel, from whose towers one could look down on columned temples and imperial palaces, embattled walls crowned with majestic domes, from whose summits, above the reversed crescent, rose the cross, Russia's emblem of conquest over the fanatical sectaries of the East. It was the Kremlin which they here beheld, the sacred centre of the Russian empire, the ancient dwelling-place and citadel of the czars.
A wild cry of wonder and triumph burst from the soldiers who had first reached the summit of the hill. "Moscow! Moscow!" they shouted, their imaginations strongly excited by the magnificent spectacle. This cry lent wings to those behind them. In crowding hosts the eager soldiers rushed up the long slope, all ranks mingling in their burning desire to gaze upon that great city which was the goal of their far-extended march. Deep were the emotions, intense the joy, with which they gazed on this dazzling vision, with all its domes and spires burning in the warm rays of the sun. Napoleon himself, who hastened to the spot, was struck with admiration, and new dreams of glory doubtless sprang up in his soul as he stood gazing with deep emotion on what must have seemed to him the key of the East, the gateway to conquests never yet surpassed by man. Little did he dream that it was ruin upon which he gazed, the fatal turning-point in his long career of victory. Still certain of his genius, still confident in his good fortune, he looked forward to new conquests which would throw those of the past into the shade, and as his eyes rested on that mighty city of the czars, the intoxication of glory filled his soul.
The conqueror gave but little time to these dreams. The steps to realize them must be taken. Murat was bidden to march forward quickly and to repress all disorders which might break out in the city. Denniee was ordered to hasten and arrange for the food and lodging of the soldiers. Durosnel received orders to communicate with the authorities, to calm their fears, and to lead them to the conqueror, that he might receive their homage. Fancying that the inhabitants awaited his coming in trembling fear, Napoleon halted until these preliminaries should be arranged, before making his triumphant entry into the conquered capital of Muscovy.
Murat, at the head of the light cavalry, galloped rapidly forward, quickly reaching the bridge over the Moskowa. Here he found a rear-guard of the Russian army, in rapid retreat. The meeting was not a hostile one; Murat rode to the Russian line, and asked if there was an officer among them who spoke French. A young Russian immediately presented himself, and asked him what he wanted.
"Who is the commander of this rear-guard?" he asked.
The Russian pointed to a white-haired officer, who wore a long cloak of fur. Murat advanced and held out his hand. The officer took and pressed it warmly.
"Do you know me?" asked the Frenchman.
"Yes," answered the Russian, courteously; "we have seen enough of you under fire to know you."
A short colloquy succeeded, during which Murat could not keep his eyes from the officer's fur cloak, which looked as if it would be very comfortable in a winter bivouac. The Russian, noticing his looks, took off the mantle and offered it to him, begging him to accept it as a present from an admiring foe. Murat courteously accepted it, and in return presented the officer with a beautiful and valuable watch, which was accepted in the same spirit of courteous good-will.
The Russian officer now joined his men, who were filing rapidly away, and Murat rode onward into the streets of the captured city, his staff and a detachment of cavalry accompanying him. Through street after street he passed, here finding himself moving between rows of narrow wooden houses, there through avenues bordered by palatial residences, which rose from rich and ample gardens, but all silent and seemingly deserted.
The city was there, but where were the people? Solitude surrounded him. Not an inhabitant was to be seen. It seemed a city of the dead. Into Berlin, Vienna, and other capitals had the French army entered, but never had it seen anything like this utter solitude. The inhabitants, so the surprised soldiers fancied, must be cowering in terror within their houses. This desolation could not continue. Moscow was known as one of the most bustling cities in Europe. As soon as the people learned that no harm was meant them, the streets would again swarm with busy life. Hugging this flattering opinion to his soul, Murat rode on, threading the silent city.
Ah! here were some of the people. A few distracted individuals had appeared in the streets. Murat rode up to them, to find that they were French, belonging to the foreign colony of Moscow. They begged piteously for protection from the robbers, who, they said, had become masters of the town. They told Murat more than this, destroying the pleasant picture of a submissive and contented population with which he had solaced his mind. The population had fled, they said; no one was left in the city except a few strangers and some Russians who knew the ways of the French and did not fear them. In their place was a crew of thieves and bandits whom the Count of Rostopchin had let loose on deserted Moscow, emptying the prisons and setting these convicts free to ravage the city at their will.
Further evidence of this disheartening story was soon forthcoming. When the French approached the Kremlin they were saluted by a discharge of musketry. Some of the villanous crew had invaded the capitol, seized on the guns in the arsenal, and were firing on the invaders. A few minutes settled this last effort in the defence of Moscow. The citadel was entered at a charge, several of the villanous crew were sabred, and the others put to flight. The French had the town, but it was an empty one, its only inmates being thieves and strangers.
The next morning, September 15, 1812, Napoleon made his triumphal march into Moscow, at the head of his conquering legions. But for the first time in his career of victory he found himself in the streets of a deserted city, advancing through empty avenues, to whose windows the tread of marching feet called not an eye to witness the triumph of France. It was a gloomy and threatening impression which was experienced by the grand army in its progress through those silent and lifeless streets. The ancient city of the czars seemed a body without a soul.
But if the people were gone, their dwellings remained. Moscow was taken, with all its palaces and treasures. It was a signal conquest. Napoleon hastened to the Kremlin, mounted to the top of the lofty tower of Ivan, and from its height looked with eyes of pride on the far-extending city. It was grand, that vision of palatial mansions, but it was mournful in its silence and gloom, the tramp of soldiery its only sound, the flutter of multitudes of birds—ravens and crows, which haunted the city in thousands—its only sign of life. Two days before Moscow had been one of the busiest cities in the world. Now it was the most silent. But the conqueror had this satisfaction, that while abandoned like other Russian towns, it was not burned like them, he might find here winter-quarters for his army and by mild measures lure the frightened people back to their homes again. Comforted with this hopeful view, Napoleon descended the stairs again, filled with confidence and triumph.
His confidence was misplaced. Disaster lowered upon the devoted city. On the day succeeding his entrance a column of flame suddenly appeared, rising from a large building in which was stored an abundant supply of spirits. The soldiers ran thither without thought of alarm, fancying that this was due to some imprudence on the part of their own men. In a short time the fire was mastered, and a feeling of confidence returned.
But immediately afterwards a new fire broke out in a great collection of buildings called the Bazaar, in which were the richest shops of the city, filled with costly goods, the beautiful fabrics of Persia and India, and rare and precious commodities from all quarters of the world. Here the flames spread with extraordinary rapidity, consuming the inflammable goods with frightful haste, despite the frantic efforts of the soldiers to arrest their progress. Despairing of success, they strove to save something from the vast riches of the establishment, carrying out furs, costly wines, valuable tissues, and other precious treasures. Such as remained of the people of the town aided in these efforts, in the natural desire to save something from the flames.
Until now all this seemed ordinary accident, and no one dreamed that these fires were the result of hostile design. They were soon to learn more of the unconquerable determination of the Russians. During the following night the wind rose suddenly, and carried the flames of the burning Bazaar along several of the most beautiful streets of Moscow, the fire spreading rapidly among the wooden buildings, and consuming them with alarming rapidity.
But this was not the most disturbing indication. Rockets were seen in the distance, ascending into the air, and immediately afterwards fire broke out in a dozen quarters, and hired bandits were seen carrying combustibles at the end of long poles, and seeking to extend the empire of the flames. A number of these were arrested, and under threat of death revealed a frightful secret. The Count of Rostopchin had ordered that the great city of Moscow should be set on fire and burned, with as little heed for the immense loss involved as he would have had in ordering the burning of a wayside village.
The news filled the whole army with consternation. Waiting till the wind had risen, the ferocious count had sent up his signal-rockets to order the work to begin. He had done more. On running to the pumps to obtain water to extinguish the flames, there were none to be found. They had been removed and the fire-extinguishing apparatus destroyed in preparation for this incendiary work.
Napoleon, alarmed and incensed, ordered that all caught in the act of firing buildings should be executed on the spot. The army was directed to use every effort to extinguish the flames. But the high wind set all their efforts at defiance. It increased in fury and varied in direction, carrying the conflagration over new quarters. From the Kremlin could be seen vast columns of fire, shooting from building to building, wrapping the wooden structures in lurid sheets of flame, sweeping destruction forward at frightful speed. The roar of the flames, the explosions that from time to time took place, the burning fragments which filled the air, borne on the wings of the wind, all went to make a scene as grand and fearful as human eye has ever gazed upon. To Napoleon and his men, who saw their hopes of safe and pleasant winter-quarters thus vanishing in flame, it must have been a most alarming and disquieting spectacle.
After blowing for some hours from the north-west, the wind shifted to the south-west, and the conflagration invaded new regions of the city. The Kremlin, hitherto out of the range of the flames, was now in danger. Fiery sparks, borne by the wind, fell on its roof and in its court-yard. The most frightful danger of the whole night now threatened the imperilled army. In the court-yards of the Kremlin had been placed more than four hundred wagons of ammunition; in its arsenal were a hundred thousand pounds of powder. Should the flames reach these, Napoleon and his guards would be blown into the air.
All who were near him pressed him to hasten from this imminent peril. General Lariboisiere begged him to fly, as a duty which he owed to his army. Officers who came in from the streets reported that it was almost impossible to pass through the avenues of the town, and that delay would increase the danger. To remain where they were much longer might render escape impossible.
Napoleon, convinced by these words, left the Kremlin, after some twenty-four hours' possession of this old palace of the czars, and descended to the quay of the Moskowa, where he found his horses awaiting him. Mounting, he rode through the fire-invaded streets towards the north-west, but with no little difficulty and danger, for the flames from the other quarters of the city were now spreading here.
The wind seemed steadily to increase in violence, torrents of smoke, cinders, and sparks were driven down into the streets; sheets of flame seemed to bend downward as if to sweep the ground; on every side the troops were flying for their lives, on every side the conflagration pursued them; it was through imminent peril that the grand army, which on the morning before had marched so triumphantly into that abandoned city, now succeeded in gaining a safe location outside, whence they could look back in despair on that hell of flames in which their dearest hopes were being consumed.
A small number of the inhabitants who had remained concealed in their houses now came out, carrying away with them what treasures they most esteemed; in some cases, women their children, men their aged parents; many of them barely saving their clothes, and disputing the possession of even these with the band of robbers whom Rostopchin had let loose, and who, like spirits of evil, danced with glee in the midst of the terrible conflagration which had been kindled by their hands.
So ended one of the most startling events in history,—the burning of a great city to dispossess a victorious foe. It proved successful. When Napoleon left the Kremlin on that fearful night he began his downward career. The conflagration, it is true, did not drive him at once from Moscow. He lingered for more than a month amid its ruins, in the vain hope that the czar would ask him for terms of peace. But the czar kept silent, the city was untenable for winter-quarters, and retreat became imperative. When, at length, the grand army marched, winter marched with it,—a winter such as even Russia had rarely seen. Napoleon had delayed too long. The north gathered its forces and swooped upon his shivering ranks, with death in its blasts. The Russians, recovering from their losses, rushed upon his freezing columns, pouring destruction upon them as they marched. All was at an end. The great victor's tide of success had definitely turned. He had entered Russia with nearly half a million of men; hardly a tenth part of this great army followed him from that fatal land.
NAPOLEON'S RETURN FROM ELBA.
All was quiet in Elba. Nothing was talked of at Porto-Ferrajo but the ball to be given by Pauline, the sister of Napoleon, who had exchanged his imperial dominion over half Europe for kingship over that little Mediterranean island. Evening came. The fete was a brilliant one. Napoleon was present, gay, cheerful, easy, to all appearance fully satisfied with his little kingdom, and without thought of wider empire or heavier cares. He stayed till a late hour, and went home with two of his old generals, Bertrand and Drouet, to tell them the news which had come to him from the continent. This news was not altogether to his liking. The Congress at Vienna had decreed his transportation to the Azores. Elba was too near France.
Such was the state of affairs on the night of February 25, 1815. At sunset of the next day there might have been seen a small flotilla moving before a south wind along the shores of Elba. It consisted of a brig, the Inconstant by name, a schooner, and five smaller vessels. The brig evidently carried guns. The decks of the other vessels were crowded with men in uniform. On the deck of the Inconstant stood Napoleon, his face filled with hope and joy, his hand waving an adieu to his sister Pauline, who watched him from the chateau windows, on the island shore.
The next day came. The sea was motionless. Not a breath of wind could be felt. The island was still close at hand. At a distance might be seen the French and English cruisers which guarded that side of the island, now moveless upon a moveless sea. It was doubtful if the flotilla had not better return. But the wind rose again, and their progress was resumed.
Four in the afternoon found them off the heights of Leghorn. Five leagues to leeward lay one frigate; near the shores of Corsica was another; to windward could be seen a third, making its way towards the flotilla. It was the Zephyr, of the French navy, commanded by Captain Andrieux. Now had come a vital moment in the enterprise. Should the Emperor declare himself and seek to gain over Andrieux? It was too dangerous a venture; he bade the grenadiers on the deck to conceal themselves; it was a situation in which strategy seemed better than boldness. At six the two vessels were close together. Lieutenant Taillade of the Inconstant knew and saluted Captain Andrieux. A speaking-trumpet colloquy followed.
"Where are you bound?" asked Taillade.
"To Leghorn. And you?"
"To Genoa. Have you any commissions I can execute there?"
"Thanks, not any. How is the Emperor?"
"So much the better."
The two vessels moved on, and soon lost sight of each other in the growing darkness. The other frigates had disappeared.
The next day dawned. There was visible a large frigate in the distance, but it was not moving towards the flotilla. No danger was to be feared from this source. But the vessel's head had been turned to the southward, to Taillade's surprise.
"Gentlemen," he called to the officers on the bridge, "are we bound for Spain or for Africa?"
Napoleon, who had perceived the same thing, summoned Taillade from his conference with the officers.
"Where are we?" he asked.
"Sire, we are headed for Africa."
"I don't wish to go there. Take me to France."
"Your Majesty shall be there before noon to-morrow."
The face of Napoleon beamed on hearing these words. He turned to the soldiers of the Old Guard who accompanied him, and said,—
"Yes, grenadiers, we are going to France, to Paris." Enthusiastic "vivas" followed his announcement, which told a tale of future glory to those war-hardened veterans. They had fought for the Emperor on many a mighty field. They were ready to dare new dangers in the hope of new triumphs.
On the morning of Wednesday, March 1, the shores of France were visible from the vessel's deck. At three in the afternoon anchor was dropped in the Bay of Juan. Cheers and salvos of artillery greeted those welcome shores; the boats were quickly dropped, and by five o'clock the whole expedition was on shore. The soldiers made their bivouac in an olive grove on the borders of the bay.
"Happy omen!" said Napoleon; "the olive is the emblem of peace."
He plucked some violets, and then sat down and consulted his maps, which were spread on a table before him. There were two routes which might be taken; an easy one through Provence, and a difficult one over the snowy mountains of Dauphiny. But on the former he could not count on the loyalty of the people; on the latter he could: the difficult route was chosen.
It proved a cold and wearying journey. The men were obliged to march in single file along narrow roads which bordered precipices. Several mules, one of them laden with gold, lost their footing and were plunged down the cliff. Napoleon was forced to dismount and go on foot to keep warm. For a short time he rested beside the brush-wood fire of a cabin whose only tenant was an old woman.
"Have you any news from Paris?" he asked her. "Do you know what the king is doing?"
"The king? You mean the Emperor," answered the old woman. "He is always down yonder."
So, here was a Frenchwoman who had not heard a word of the last year's doings. Was this the stuff of glory? Napoleon looked at General Drouet, and said, in pensive tones, "Do you hear this, Drouet? What, after all, is the good of troubling the world in order to fill it with our name?"
We cannot follow their progress step by step. That small army of a thousand men was marching to conquer a kingdom, but for days it had only the mountains and the snows to overcome. As yet not a soldier had been encountered, and they had been a week on shore. But the news of the landing had now spread far and wide, and soldiers were marching to stop the advance of the "Brigand of Elba," as the royalists in Paris called Napoleon. How would they receive him,—with volleys or acclamations? That was soon to be learned. The troops in that part of France were concentrated at Grenoble and its vicinity. The Emperor was approaching them. The problem would soon be solved.
At nine o'clock of March 7 Napoleon separated his small force into three divisions, himself taking station in the midst of the advance-guard, on horseback, wearing his famous gray overcoat and the broad ribbon of the Legion of Honor. About one o'clock the small battalion approached a regiment of the troops of the king, who were drawn up in line across the road. Napoleon dismounted.
"Colonel Mallet," he said, "tell the soldiers to put their weapons under their left arms, points down."
"Sire," said the colonel, "is it not dangerous to act thus in presence of troops whose sentiments we do not know, and whose first fire may be so fatal?"
"Mallet, tell them to put the weapons under their arms," repeated Napoleon.
The order was obeyed. The two battalions faced each other, at short pistol-shot, in absolute silence. Napoleon advanced alone towards the royal troops.
"Present arms!" he commanded.
They obeyed, levelling their guns at their old commander. He advanced slowly, with impassive face. Reaching their front, he touched his cap and saluted.
"Soldiers of the Fifth," he cried, loudly, "do you recognize me?"
"Yes, yes," came from some voices, filled with barely-repressed enthusiasm.
"Soldiers, behold your general; behold your emperor," he continued. "Let any of you who wishes to kill him, fire."
Fire?—Their guns went to the earth; they flung themselves on their knees before him, called him father, shed tears, shouted as if in frenzy, waved their shakos on their bayonets and sabres.
"All is over," said Napoleon to Bertrand and Drouet. "In ten days we shall be in the Tuileries."
In a brief time the Emperor moved on, the king's regiment, now wearing the tricolor cockade, following with his former troop. As they drew near Grenoble throngs of peasantry gathered, with enthusiastic cheers. Another regiment approached, the seventh of the line, commanded by Colonel de Labedoyere. He had taken the eagle of the regiment from a chest, brandished his sword, and crying "Long live the Emperor! Those who love me follow me!" led the way from Grenoble. The whole regiment followed. Meeting Napoleon, the colonel and the Emperor sprang from their horses and warmly embraced.
"Colonel," said Napoleon, "it is you who will replace me on the throne."
It was night when they reached Grenoble. The royalist authorities had closed the gates, but the ramparts were thronged with men. The darkness was profound, but Labedoyere called out loudly,—
"Soldiers, it is I, Labedoyere, colonel of the Seventh. We bring you Napoleon. He is yonder. It is for you to receive him and to repeat with us the rallying-cry of the former conquerors of Europe: Live the Emperor!"
His words were followed by a ringing shout from the ramparts. Many ran to the gates. Finding them closed and barred they furiously attacked them with axes, while the peasants outside hammered on them as fiercely. Thus doubly assailed they soon gave way, and the stream of new-comers rushed in, torches and flambeaux illuminating the scene. Napoleon had no little difficulty in making his way through the crowd, which was delirious with joy, and reaching an inn, the Three Dauphins, where he designed to pass the night.
On the 9th he left Grenoble, followed by six thousand of his old soldiers. His march was an ovation. He reached Lyons on the 10th. Several regiments had been collected here to oppose him, but they all trampled the white cockade of the king underfoot, assumed the tricolor, and fraternized with the Emperor's troops.
Marshal Ney was the only hope left to the royalists. He had, they said, promised Louis XVIII. to bring back Napoleon in an iron cage. This hope vanished when Ney issued a proclamation beginning, "The cause of the Bourbons is lost forever;" which was followed, on March 18, by his embracing the Emperor openly at Auxerre.
All was over for Louis XVIII. Near midnight of March 19 some travelling carriages rolled away from the court-yard of the Touileries in a torrent of rain, and amid a furious wind-storm that extinguished the carriage lights. It was Louis XVIII. going into exile. On the 20th, at nine o'clock in the evening, the Emperor Napoleon drove through the streets of Paris towards the abandoned palace through hosts of shouting soldiers and a population that was wild with joy. The officers tore him from his carriage and carried him on their arms, kissing his hands, embracing his old gray overcoat, not letting his feet touch ground till they had borne him to the foot of the grand stairway of the Tuileries.
It was twenty days since he had landed, and France was his, the people, the soldiers, alike mad with delight, none, to all appearance, dreaming of what renewed miseries this ill-omened return of their worshipped emperor meant.
It meant, as we now know, bloodshed, slaughter, and ruin; it meant Waterloo and St. Helena; it meant a hundred days of renewed empire, and then the final end of the power of the great conqueror. On August 7, less than five months from the date of the triumphant entry to the Tuileries, Napoleon stepped on board the British frigate Northumberland, to be borne to the far-off isle of St. Helena, his future home.
Twenty-five years after the date of these events Napoleon returned again to France, but under very different auspices from those described. On the 29th of November, 1840, there anchored at Cherbourg, amid the salutes of forts and ships, a French war-vessel called the Belle Poule, on which were the mortal remains of the great conqueror, long since conquered by death, and now brought back to the land over which he had so long reigned. On December 8 the coffin was transferred to the steamer Normandie, amid a salute of two thousand guns, and taken by it to the Seine. On December 15 the coffin, placed on a splendid car drawn by sixteen horses, moved in solemn procession through the streets of Paris, attended by the noblest escort the city could provide, and passing through avenues thronged with adoring multitudes, who forgot the injuries the great soldier had done to France and remembered only his fame. The funeral train was received by King Louis Philippe, the royal family, and all the high dignitaries of the government at the Church of the Invalides, in which a noble and worthy final resting-place had been prepared for the corpse of the once mighty emperor. "Napoleon," says Bourrienne, "had again and finally conquered. While every throne in Europe was shaking, the Great Conqueror came to claim and receive from posterity the crown for which he had sacrificed so much. In the Invalides the Emperor had at last found a resting-place, 'by the banks of the Seine, among the French people whom he had loved so well.'"
THE PRUSSIAN WAR AND THE PARIS COMMUNE.
There have been two critical periods in the story of France in which history was made at a rate of rapidity rarely equalled in the history of the world. The first of these was the era of the Revolution and the Napoleonic regime, which has no parallel among human events in the rapidity and momentous gravity of its changes. The second was the period from August, 1870, to the summer of 1871, less than a year in length, yet crowded with important events to an unprecedented degree.
Within that year was fought a great war between France and Germany, in which the military power of France, in an incredibly brief period, was utterly overthrown, and that nation left at the mercy of its opponent. Within the same period the second empire of France came to a sudden and disastrous end, and a republic, the third in French history, was built upon its ruins. Simultaneously a new and powerful empire was founded, that of Germany, the palace at Versailles being the scene of this highly important change in the political conditions of Europe. During this period also a political revolution took place in Italy, in consequence of the French war, and Paris sustained two sieges; the first by the German army; the second and most bitter by the French themselves, fighting against a mob of fanatical revolutionists and ending in a frightful saturnalia of murder, ruin and revenge.
Has there ever been a year in the world's history more crowded with momentous events? Within that year the political status of France, Germany, and Italy was transformed, the late emperor of France suddenly found himself a throneless fugitive, and the people of Paris passed through an experience unparalleled in the diversified history of that ancient city. Of all the sieges to which Paris has been subjected, far the strangest was that in which the scum of the city, miscalled the commune, fought with tiger-like ferocity against the forces of the newly-formed republic, filled with the revengeful and murderous spirit which had inspired the masses in the first revolution.
It is the story of this tragic interlude which we propose here to tell, premising with a brief resume of the events which led up to it.
Louis Napoleon, posing as Emperor Napoleon III. of France, a position which he had been enabled to gain through the glamour of the name of his famous uncle, was infected throughout his reign with the desire to emulate the deeds of the great Napoleon. He hoped to shine as one of the military stars of Europe, and was encouraged by the success of the war which he fomented in Italy. His second effort in this direction was the invasion of Mexico and the attempt to establish an empire, under his tutelage, upon American soil. In this he ran counter to the Monroe Doctrine and the power of the United States and was forced to retire with his feathers scorched and his prestige sadly diminished.
But what he probably proposed to make the great military triumph of his reign came in 1870, when, on a flimsy pretence, a misunderstanding which called only for diplomatic adjustment, he suddenly declared war against Germany and rashly put his armies into the field to cope with that powerful rival. Never had there been a more unwise or suicidal proceeding. In shameful ignorance of the real condition of the army, which he was made to believe was "five times ready," "ready to the last gaiter button," he marshalled against the thoroughly prepared military power of Germany an army ill-organized, ill-supplied, without proper reserves, and led by commanders of appalling incapacity. Maps and plans were bad; strategy was an unknown quantity; no study had been made of the use of the railway in war; almost everything except courage was lacking, and courage without leadership was hopeless against the thoroughly drilled and supplied German army and the science of Yon Moltke, the great German strategist.
Had it been the first Napoleon, he would have made himself sure personally as to "the last gaiter button" and all other details, but with sublime self-satisfaction and inane blindness the Second Napoleon put himself at the head of this unready army, inspired apparently with the "on to Berlin" confidence of the cheering Parisian mob.
He was to be awakened suddenly and painfully from his dream of victory and military fame. The first collision of the two armies took place on August 2. On September 2, just one month later, the derelict emperor was a prisoner of war in the hands of the King of Prussia, together with his army of more than 80,000 men. He had proved an utter failure as a commander, a mere encumbrance, without a plan of campaign, a conception of leadership, or an idea of strategic movements. Recognizing, when too late, his incapacity, he had resigned the general command to Marshal Bazaine, who withdrew with a large army into Metz, and subsequently, in a northward movement for Bazaine's relief, he found himself surrounded at Sedan by an irresistible force and was obliged to surrender to save his army from impending annihilation.
Such was the first act in this lugubrious drama. Two days later, on September 4, France was proclaimed a republic. Before the end of October Bazaine surrendered Metz to the Germans and his great army of 180,000 men was lost to France. The military force of France was vanishing with alarming rapidity. Another event of the period, of interest in this connection, was the loss of the temporal power of the pope, above alluded to. The papacy had been defended by Napoleon III. against the Italian revolutionists, and the withdrawal of the French force from Rome left that city open to the army of Victor Emmanuel. It was occupied in September and became the capital of the new kingdom of Italy. In December another important event took place, the King of Prussia being proclaimed at Versailles the head of a new empire of Germany, which embraced all the German states except Austria.
Events of great moment, as may be seen, were occurring with startling rapidity. Before the surrender of Bazaine the advance of the German army had appeared before Paris and on September 19 the siege of that city began. Soon it was so closely invested that food could not enter and the only way out was by balloon. The German bombardment did little damage to the great city, which was defended obstinately. But the Germans had a powerful ally within, where the grisly demon of famine threatened the defenders.
Meanwhile Gambetta, the most ardent patriot left to France, was seeking with nervous energy to raise fresh armies in the south; Garibaldi, his sword free from duty in Italy, had come to the aid of France; all patriots were called to the ranks and a struggle of some importance took place. But all this practically ceased on the 28th of January, 1871, when an armistice brought the hopeless resistance of Paris to an end. Almost at once the war died out on all sides, the Germans occupied all the forts around Paris, and France lay at the mercy of Germany, after a struggle of six months' duration.
The first siege of Paris had terminated; a second and more desperately contested one was at hand. On March 13 the German army around Paris, which had been given the triumph of a march into the conquered city, set out on its return home and the authorities of the new republic prepared to take possession of their freed capital.
They were to find the task one of unlooked-for difficulty. On March 18 the revolutionary element of the city rose en masse, organized under the name of the Commune, took possession of Paris, and prepared to defend it to the death against the leaders of the new-formed government, whom they contemned as aristocrats.
The story of the Commune is a shameful and terrible one. Beginning in a fraternization of the National Guard with the mob, its advent was sealed with murder. In a contest on the 18th for the possession of some cannon General Lecomte ordered his men to fire on the insurgents. They refused. A gentleman standing in a crowd of angry men on the street corner said: "General Lecomte is right." He was immediately seized and quickly recognised as General Clement Thomas, a brave officer who had done gallant service during the siege. This sufficed him nothing with the mob. He and General Lecomte were at once dragged away to prison. At 4 o'clock that same day they were brought out by a party of the insurgent National Guards, and after a mock trial were taken to a walled enclosure and shot down in cold blood. They were the first victims of the mob, which had early begun to burn its bridges behind it.
On the following day the leaders of the outbreak met at the Hotel-de-Ville. They all belonged to the International, a secret society formed for the abolition of property, religion, rulers, government, and the upper classes, and the reduction of the community to a state of anarchy or something resembling it. They called upon the citizens to meet in their sections and elect a commune—the new form of government advocated by the Anarchists, in which destruction of all existing institutions was to precede reconstruction from the bottom upwards.
Events now moved rapidly. A delegation from the few men of note left in Paris proceeded to Versailles, where the government of the republic was in session, and demanded that special municipal rights should be given to the people of Paris. The refusal of this request precipitated the insurrection. The furious people at once elected a revolutionary government, choosing the most extreme of the revolutionists, who organized what was called the Council of the Commune. This consisted of eighty members, of varied nationality, seventy of them never having been heard of in Paris before. They had risen from the bottom of the deep sea of anarchy to assume control.
On the 3d of April the civil war broke out—Paris against Versailles, the army under the Assembly of the republic against the National Guard in sympathy with the Commune. The Germans, who still held two of the forts in the vicinity of Paris, looked grimly on at the tragedy about to be played upon the stage which their hands had erected.
The war began with murder. Dr. Pasquier, a distinguished surgeon, bearing a flag of truce, met two National Guards on the bridge of Courbevoie, near Neuilly, where the body of Napoleon had been brought ashore thirty years before. After a brief debate one of the soldiers ended the colloquy by blowing out the doctor's brains. As soon as General Vinoy, in command of the army of order, heard of this murderous act he ordered the guns of Fort Varelien to be turned upon the city.
On the following morning five columns of the troops of the Commune marched out to take the fort, lured by the confident impression that the soldiers under Vinoy would fraternize with them. They were mistaken. The guns of Fort Varelien hurled death-dealing missiles into their columns and they were quickly in full retreat. Flourens, a scientist of fame who had joined their ranks, fell dead. Duval, one of their generals, was captured and was quickly shot as a traitor. The other leaders were at once sent to prison by the angry Council on their return and the Commune ordered that Paris should be filled with barricades.