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and the love of liberty – determined him to tempt once more Fortune, and what he called his star. His resolution was not taken till the beginning of February. Strangers were, from that time, forbidden to land, under pretence of annoyance from their importunate curiosity; and preparations for the expedition were secretly begun. The chief want was that of funds. Loans were obtained from Italian bankers, through his sister Caroline, queen of Naples. He confided his design to her, with severe injunctions that she should not impart it to her husband; and she kept the secret from one whose levity and moral weakness she knew and despised. His sister, the princess Pauline Borghese, blended, with rare art, the fascinations of beauty and the graces with a restless spirit of ambition and enterprise, and a generous devotion to the glory of her brother. She sold her jewels for his use. Napoleon's whole naval means of transport consisted in a brig of war of twenty-six guns, bearing the Elbese flag. There appeared some difficulty in engaging, or danger in trusting, the captain of the brig; the princess Borghese invited herself to breakfast on board his vessel, and, by the magic of her manners and beauty, soon secured his fidelity and zeal. She got rid of the troublesome presence of colonel Campbell, the British commissioner, by another display of the genius of the sex. Aware of the relations of gallantry or sentiment between the colonel and madame Bartoli, a lady of Leghorn, she contrived that an intimation should reach him of the flight of his countess to receive the homage of a rival at Florence. Colonel Campbeli
went immediately to Leghorn, where he found madame Bartoli; and was too agreeably surprised to return immediately to his post as commissioner. Tickets were issued for a court ball at the imperial residence of Porto Ferrajo on the 26th of February. The emperor's early retirement from the drawingroom excited some surprise. The princess Borghese explained that it was the imperial usage of the Tuilleries, and did the honours of the evening. Next morning it was found that the emperor had disappeared with his 400 guards, 100 Polish lancers, and about 200 Italian and Corsican adventurers, enrolled as light troops, on board the brig and three vessels accidentally in the harbour, upon which an embargo was laid. The favourable south wind was succeeded by a calm, and daylight over. took the expedition, still between the Elbese coast and Capria. The marine officers would return to Porto Ferrajo ; but Napoleon commanded the expedition to proceed. Two French frigates appeared in view. Happily, they did not descry the miniature fleet of Elba. A third vessel of war coming in the opposite direction. It was a French brig. Napoleon ordered his grenadiers to take off their caps and lie down upon the deck; and the two brigs passed each other after an interchange of civilities, the Elbese brig asking if the other had any commands for Genoa.
At five o'clock in the evening of the 1st of March the illustrious adventurer landed at Cannes, near Frejus; exclaimed, on touching French ground, “ Voilà le congrès dissous !” bivouacked on the seashore until the moon had risen ; advanced on foot
at the head of his brave little band; was received by the peasants and villagers with enthusiasm ; and, making his way rapidly through the mountain passes, approached Grenoble on the fifth day. That city was strongly garrisoned. The commandant, general Marchand, sent out a detachment to oppose him. The soldiers of the garrison, as they came nearer to the vanguard of the advancing column of Elba, strained their eyes to obtain a view of their old chief, and soon recognised his person and grey frock. General Cambronne went forward, attempted a parley, and could not obtain a hearing. The commanding officer, distrusting the force or dispositions of his detachment, fell back. The men retired with lingering steps and reverting eyes. Napoleon gained ground rapidly, and made a second attempt to hold communication with them by sending forward an orderly officer. They would not hear him; and their commander gave the order to make ready as the Elbese column advanced. The men obeyed, — so strong is the mechanical control of military discipline. “Who knows," says Savary, " what would have happened, if Napoleon had not anticipated the perilous monosyllable -« fire,” — by walking up to the men with a careless and commanding step, and addressing them in his usual tone,
“ Well, how are you all in the fifth regiment ? “ Quite well, sire,” — “I am come again to see you. Is there one amongst you who wishes to kill me ? Now is his time!” They answered with the old cry of “ Vive l'empéreur!” and embraced their Elbese comrades.
Still this was rather a good omen than a material accession of strength. General Marchand ordered the garrison of Grenoble to arms, and the artillery on the ramparts to be charged. The gunners obeyed; but, in charging, put in the shot before the powder*, whilst the gallant and unfortunate Labédoyère, colonel of the seventh regiment of the line, marched out at the head of his corps, with drums beating, and the old eagle colours of the regiment flying, to salute and join the emperor.
This first great impulse decided the conduct of the army, and the success of the enterprise. Napoleon presented himself before Grenoble. The gates were closed ; but the cry of « Vive l'empereur !” from without was soon repeated from within; and he was received by the soldiers and citizens with delirious joy.
The startling news had now reached Paris. Louis XVIII. proclaimed Napoleon Bonaparte a “traitor and rebel,” and set a price upon his head. Lyons was the next important stage; and Napoleon pushed on by forced marches with the garrison and artillery of Grenoble.
The first intelligence reached the congress of Vienna from lord Burghersh, the British minister at Florence. Prince Metternich announced it at a court ball in a tone of gaiety, with his cheek pale, and his lip quivering. Talleyrand smiled, and did not tremble. It was evident that he was not taken by surprise. His fidelity to the Bourbons was suspected; but the suspicion was erroneous. He thought it a manœuvre of his confederate, Fouché,
* Memoirs of Savary.
to draw Napoleon into an ambuscade, which should cost him his liberty or life. *
Louis XVIII., finding the matter grow serious, convoked the chambers, abjured his errors, and .made vows of reformation, as the devil did of religion, in his fears. Marshal Soult was removed from the ministry of war, and succeeded by general Clarke, duke of Feltre. The count d'Artois and the duke of Orleans, with marshal Macdonald as major-general, were sent to Lyons. On the morning of the 10th of March an officer of the king's household, waving his hat from the balcony of the Tuilleries, announced that the “ brave and beloved princes had attacked and completely routed the traitor and his band ;” the two Lallements and Lefebre-Desnouettes, who had marched their regiments from Lille, and attempted to surprise La Fère, were wholly discomfited; and there were no bounds to the effusions of Parisian loyalty and joy. But, in the course of that very day, the victorious princes returned to Paris, with the dismal news that they had the greatest difficulty in saving themselves by flight.
Marshal Ney, who had the command at Besançon, took leave of Louis XVIII. with expressions of blind confidence and brutal zeal. He pledged himself to bring his former sovereign, benefactor, and comrade enclosed, like a wild beast, in an iron cage. Napoleon caused general Bertrand to address a letter to Ney, intimating the certain success of the enterprise, and making him responsible for
* Memoirs of Savary.