Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

turn away

a

in order that if you are compelled to make peace, you may possess immediately an instrument for annihilating the fermenting elements of insurrection in Paris. Let your Majesty be convinced that the Imperial flag will wave wherever I am; and though Paris and all France

from you, yet I, at the head of my army, will win back for you Paris and France."

* The Emperor held out his hand to the Marshal, who seized it, while his features, usually so cold and indifferent, showed a deep emotion.

"“I beg you, M. le Maréchal,” said he,“ to send my equipages to the railway station, and to let my carriages be brought to the door. I will start."

The Emperor then has a long soliloquy, after which he remains silent, with his look directed upwards, and sitting in his chair. Then he raised himself painfully, and rang a little bell for his physicians, as he does with great frequency throughout the story. After a short conversation about his intended journey, he retires with them into his bedchamber, and then for some time through the closed door there were heard ‘sorrow"ful cries, the moaning hard and full of anguish, of the

suffering Emperor, whose body was shaken by sickness, while · his throne began to totter under him.'

He then, as we know, with his son, escaped hurriedly through the closing hosts of the Germans to Verdun.

The Emperor Napoleon, accompanied by his aides-de-camp-inwaiting; has arrived at Verdun. He had betaken himself for a moment to the mairie, in order to say a few words of encouragement to the maire of the town. Then he had immediately gone to the railway in order to continue his way to Chalons, for the columns of the Prussian army were already drawn so near that he must needs have fears of being taken prisoner by a bold coup de main of the cavalry which swarmed in advance.

• Already at Longueville, where he had slept for some hours, in the dawn of the fête Napoleon, which had formerly been celebrated in Paris and in all France with magnificent fêtes, the Prussian balls had whistled over the house in which the Emperor and the Imperial Prince had taken up their quarters; and the generals had urged a continuation of his journey in order that they might not be hindered in their operations by the presence of their sovereign.

• The carriages of the Emperor were not yet arrived, and he besought the adjutant on service to follow with them as soon as possible. He drove with the Imperial Prince out of the town to the railway station in a carriage which the maire provided for him. There was the greatest disorder and excitement; numerous travellers, some travelling homewards, some escaping from the dangers of war, ever growing more and more immediate, stood on the platform, and waited in turn for means of getting forwards; since the numerous military trains had made such

a

6

calls on the locomotives and the resources of the railway, that twentyfour hours had passed without any passenger train being started.

• The Emperor came with his son on the platform without any attendance. The few persons who were collected there soon recognised him. A large circle was formed around him, and all looks were directed to this man, as he passed along so feebly with a sunken down head and with unsteady tottering step, scarcely holding himself upright, yet giving his arm to the trembling and pale boy, who was dropping to the ground with exhaustion, seeing all the hopes for which he had been reared founder together in these fearful days. “My God!” cried various voices. "All is lost! The Emperor is flying! The poor

Prince !” was heard here and there. * The Emperor heard these words; he lifted up his head, let his weary look wander over those who stood near to him, and touched his hat in salute.

"“All will be yet recovered," said he with a weary voice, to which he sought in vain to give a deep and sonorous tone; “the army is before the enemy-it will throw him back and make amends for our first attacks of bad fortune.”

“ Long live the Emperor ! " cried a few voices. "Long live the Army! long live France !” others joined in, while at the same time a hissing and grumbling sounded from other groups.

'.The Emperor turned himself away and stepped towards the stationmaster, who had been apprised of his arrival, and who hastened quickly to him in order to salute the Emperor, and to ask after his commands.

6"I want a train immediately to Chalons; a locomotive and coupé is sufficient for me. In half an hour my carriages will arrive, and I beg you will send them on immediately. And send at once a telegram to Marshal MacMahon in Chalons which shall apprise him of my arrival."

" Sire,” said the station-master, “I have still a few locomotives, but nothing more than third-class carriages. I will, however, telegraph to the nearest station, and ask if any coupés are still there."

6 "Never mind, sir, never mind,” said the Emperor ; me a train with a locomotive and a third-class carriage. We are soldiers, and are in war; so long as we get on, and get on quickly, it is indifferent in what way."

• The station-master gave the necessary orders, and conducted the Emperor into his room of service, in which, on account of the mass of business through the continuous movement of troops, there prevailed the most confused disorder.

6"I will send a locomotive forward for your Majesty in order to secure a quiet passage as far as Mourmelon. In a few minutes your Majesty's carriage will be ready,” said the station-master, as he again, after a short absence, entered into the room, before the door of which the

passengers who were waiting for places were collected.

The Imperial Prince was exhausted and sank down on a stool, and said, while he looked at the station-master, “I am so hungry, sir; would it be possible to get some refreshment ?"

[ocr errors]

prepare for

[ocr errors]

"" Mon Dieu," said the Emperor, “why did you not say that in the town? There they would have given us something to eat."

• “You were speaking to the maire, papa," answered the Prince, while he looked at his father with an amiable smile. "I did not like to interrupt you in so solemn a moment with my wishes and with my childish desires. I hoped to overcome hunger and exhaustion-our brave soldiers must overcome them too, but can really not endure it more,” he added ; at the same time he laid his hand on his breast by way of asseveration, and looked at the station-master with a glance in which he seemed to pray for pardon that his nature had not been strong enough to obey his will.

With deep emotion the official looked on the exhausted boy, while the Emperor turned himself away and passed his hand over his eyes.

6"I am extremely sorry,” said the station-master, “to be obliged to tell your Imperial Highness that it would be impossible for me, though I should search the whole station through, to find anything more than a yesterday's roll and a bottle of wine; that is what I have been able to keep back for myself since the troops in passing by have devoured everything that there was; we must send to the town."

""O no, no,” said the Prince Imperial, “ that would keep us waiting, and all the generals have said that papa must get as quickly as possible to Chalons. Have the goodness, will you, Monsieur ? " said he with a certain confusion in his tone, " to give me a little of your bread and wine—that will satisfy me.

• The station-master pushed some boxes and packages on one side, opened a cupboard which was in the corner of the room, and took from it a small roll and a flask of red wine already uncorked, and a glass. He was obliged to take his great pocket-knife in order to divide the bread, which had become almost as hard as stone in the heat; then he filled the glass and handed it to the Prince with a slice of bread.

" The Prince steeped the bread in the wine, let it soften, ate it, and emptied the glass. His pale cheeks acquired a deeper colour, and his dull eyes had a freer and more cheerful look.

• “Would your Majesty also honour me?" said the station-master to the Emperor, who had seen with a happy cheerful look how his son had refreshed himself; “ would your Majesty do me the honour to take a little of the mean refreshment which I can offer you ? "

* The Emperor bowed his head in a friendly way, took the glass which the inspector handed to him, and said, with an amiable smile, Your good health, Monsieur.”

The sick Emperor and his weary son departed at length for the camp at Chalons, the head-quarters of Marshal MacMahon, where the undisciplined and riotous condition of the troops there assembled is well described. The arrival of the Emperor with the Prince, and his descent from a third-class carriage, had naturally caused a strange movement among the officers who were on the platform when he arrived at the Mourmelon station. VOL, CXLV. NO. CCXCVIII.

N N

[ocr errors]

a

6

[ocr errors]

6

• The nearest group of officers seemed to mistrust their eyes, and drew slowly nearer as though they would test the reality of this strange appearance; when they no longer could preserve any doubt about its being really the Emperor, they assumed military attitudes and took off their kepis.

• The mob who were there became attentive and stood still, greeting the Emperor, who also took off his kepi and bowed his head on all sides.

Formerly, when he stepped out at this place from the splendid saloon of the Imperial carriage, crashes of trumpets and cries of exultation had greeted him. To-day he was received with a severe, cold silence, and the looks of all these officers were directed darkly and in part hostilely upon him. The crown of laurels had fallen from the head of the Emperor, the sword had fallen from his hand.

* Single soldiers now had their attention excited by the movement among the group of officers, and for a moment they looked silently at the Emperor; then there was heard a scornful laugh and a voice cries, “ Badinguet ! There's Badinguet-Badinguet! père et fils." The sound spread far and wide among the soldiery, who, excited by the cry, came nearer; louder and louder grew the scornful laugh, and more frequent the cries which repeated the nickname of the Emperor.

Shrill whistles pierced the air; groans, hisses, threatening voices were heard on all sides. The excited soldiery pressed nearer and nearer; they were only a few paces distant from the Emperor, and men cried on all sides almost into his ears, Badinguet! à bas Badingruet!"

"The Emperor became pale as death; he raised himself up from his bent posture; his eyes sent forth flashes against these undisciplined soldiery, who wore his uniform and had sworn fidelity to his eagles. He moved a step back, while he laid his arm on the shoulder of the Prince, who trembling pressed against him as though seeking assistance.

*A grey-headed officer in a colonel's uniform stepped out of the nearest group, and placed himself before the Emperor.

Back !" he cried with a firm voice to the soldiers. “Forget not your duty to discipline and to the honour of the army."

The arrival of Marshal MacMahon at the head of a guard of cuirassiers put an end to this disgraceful scene, and the Emperor was escorted to the pavilion of honour of the camp. On the next day was held the fatal council of war, presided over by the Marshal, consisting of General Castelnau, General Reille, the Prince de la Moskowa, and General Vauberg de Genlis, at which the Emperor and Prince Napoleon also were present.

At this council it was resolved, according to the author, that Marshal MacMahon should bring the army of Chalons back to Paris, subject, however, to the approval of the council of the Regent, the Empress. An interview, however, with General Trochu, who had just arrived from Paris and was acquainted with the views of the ministry-shook the concurrence of the Emperor in this resolution, which he had indeed consented to with great unwillingness. Trochu too, accord

ing to these pages, was the true originator of the idea of the fatal march to Sedan-an assertion which we entirely disbelieve. But Herr Meding asserts that, inflated with conceit of his own capacity for the organisation of the defence and for uniting in harmonious and patriotic action the discordant factions of the capital, he managed to bring the Emperor over to his views and obtain the appointment of Governor of Paris. A despatch from Paris from the Comte Palikao settled the question. The

march back to Paris could not be approved of either from strategical or political reasons.' While the Marshal and the Emperor were discussing the despatch Prince Napoleon joined them.

6

9

Violently the door was opened, and Prince Napoleon with glaring look, and his visage red with excitement, burst into the room.

"" Now," he cried, hastening close up to the Emperor, “is the answer come from Paris ? What say the great strategists of the Regency ? "

6 . They condemn the retreat to Paris as critical," answered the Emperor calmly, “and desire that the army should march northwards."

• The Prince lifted his clenched fist upwards, and shook it in the air, while he directed his look to the ceiling.

««Then is France," he cried with a voice trembling with scorn, “ France and our dynasty given over to the destinies! Thus is all our careful and prudent counsel thrown away. And what will you do ?” he asked. “Will you sacrifice your fate, and the fate of all of us—the fate of the country and of the army—to these foolish dreamers in Paris, who move round and round in their narrow circle ? "

""My dear cousin," said the Emperor, with an expression of amiable and mild reproof, “ those to whom I have given over the government of France and its responsibility, and who at this moment are in the best position for reviewing the necessities of the whole situation, appear to me at least to have as much right as yourself to hold their judgment as the proper one. If we go against their opinion, and things take a bad turn, there will be a cry of accusation and condemnation raised against us through the whole land.”—“There was no need of asking questions, or of discussion ; action was the thing wanted, and we should have acted—acted like our enemies, who press forward continually, while we lose our time in tiresome considerings and questionings and replyings. Well,” said the Prince, while he suppressed one of those attacks of nervous quivering to which he was subject, “ if you will insist on taking the way which has been recognised as prejudicial, I will not be at least witness of the miserable and shameful catastrophe which will end all. I leave the army! I leave France, and give over to you and to the Marshal the responsibility for all which may happen."

6“ I will bear the responsibility,” replied the Marshal coldly ; " and if your Imperial Highness will quit the army, you will at least follow the traditions of your military past; since I remember that at another eventful time, which truly was not so serious or dangerous, and which

6

« EdellinenJatka »