Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

ended gloriously for our arms, the army was also deprived of your presence."

• The Prince started, his eyes flashed with scornful emotion. He stepped towards the Marshal. His lips opened, but only hissing sounds of breath came from them. He appeared to seek for the word that he would hurl forth.

· The Marshal stood still and immovable. The iron repose of his features did not change for a second, only his clear blue eyes looked at the Prince coldly and haughtily, as he trembled in passionate excitement.'

The Emperor put an end to this scene, and advised his cousin to leave the army since he had no faith in the operations about to be undertaken, and bespoke his good offices in Italy with the King Victor Emmanuel—and the two cousins parted never, we believe, to meet again.

Marshal MacMahon then began that disastrous march, which conducted the army to the north-east frontier of France, left the way open to the enemy to Paris, and gave over the capital, with the Empress and the Government, to the protection of General Trochu and his army, composed of the young mobiles and raw inexperienced troops, fresh from the plough and the workshops.

The Emperor during the last days in Chalons had remained bunk for the most part in deep silence. Scarcely a word passed his lips; he remained almost the whole day in his room bent over the maps and endeavouring to get a notion of the position and movements of the enemy by patching together the informations which reached him from scattered bodies of soldiers and from private fugitives.

Certain at last was the intelligence which arrived that Bazaine was beaten, that the line of his retreat cut off, and that he was thrown back on Metz. Nevertheless, since every despatch from Paris urged the necessity of the liberation of Bazaine, of a junction with Bazaine, and since the Emperor refused either to withdraw from the Regency its full powers or to take upon himself the command, Marshal MacMahon, in obedience to orders, began his march northwards. As he went he received almost every hour despatches from Paris in which the Minister of War assured him that his plan was succeeding excellently well. Nevertheless on the 31st of August. the Marshal was aware that hostile hosts were closing him in on every side, and he telegraphed to the Minister that he was compelled to make a stand at Sedan--and this was the last communication which passed between Marshal MacMahon and the Government in Paris.

a

The Marshal, the Emperor, and the army were thus enveveloped in a ring of foes, and the next intelligence of them which reached the capital was, that the Emperor and his whole army had been taken prisoners of war. The

young Prince at the commencement of the march had been despatched with his tutor to Mezières, with directions to pass over to Belgium in case of necessity. The parting between the Emperor and his son was of a most touching character. After it was over, melancholy indeed was his aspect as he stepped into his carriage; in the corner he sat crouching and smoking his cigarette, with a dull passionless look as he passed by the marching troops--few of whom raised the old cry of Vive l'Empereur '--and thus in sorrowful wise he reached Sedan.

The description of the eventful day which succeeded the Emperor's arrival at Sedan provides matter of which Herr Meding has not unsuccessfully availed himself.

• After an unquiet night, more wearied than refreshed by a halfsleep full of unquiet dreams, which had scarcely let him forget for a moment the anxiety and painfulness of his situation, the Emperor Napoleon arose from his couch on which he had laid himself down half-dressed. Soon after six in the morning General Reille came into his room with the announcement that the French corps d'armée at Bazeilles was engaged

"For nearly an hour the Emperor found himself in the hands of Doctor Conneau and of his surgeon. He appeared to have some sense of alleviation of his sorrows. His looks became a little animated, his sunken features became somewhat fresher and more cheerful; he allowed himself to have his clothes put on, and he prepared his tea carefully on the small silver apparatus, while his servant handed him the blue undress coat of a general's uniform.

The Emperor, with a certain laborious difficulty, drew on his.uniform, with the great silver star of the Legion of Honour and the medal for the Italian campaign on his breast.

The sword of the Swedish Order of the Sword,” he gave orders to his servant, while he lit a small cigarette at the taper which was burning on the table, and blew forth the light clouds with as much pleasure and enjoyment as though he found himself in his cabinet at the Tuileries. It seemed as though this Oriental source of enjoyment restored to his spirit that fatalistic repose of the people of the East, which during his whole life had formed a prominent trait of his character, and had never deserted him in the most difficult and most decisive moments of his career. His attendant entered again with the sword emblem of the Swedish Order, and attached it to the uniform of the Emperor under the star of the Legion of Honour.

• The Emperor looked contemplatingly down on his breast. ceived this military decoration of the warlike nation of Gustavus Adolphus and Charles XII. for the battle of Solferino, which brought

6

[ocr errors]

"I reme to

66

a

my
height of

power

and influence. How short is the time since then, and yet what an abyss lies between this time and that,” said he, sighing deeply. May the sword which followed then upon fortune and victory conduct me back to-day to fortune and victory." He let himself sink down slowly and painfully in his arm-chair, and drank a cup of the tea he had just prepared, whose fragrant aroma filled the room.

* The general adjutants, the Prince de la Moskowa, Reille and Vaubert entered his room.

“ Has any news come from the Marshal ? ” asked the Emperor.

"" The battle has commenced at Bazeilles," answered General Reille, “ where a Bavarian corps advances against our positions, and the battle begins now to extend itself along the whole line. The Marshal is full of hope, and our troops behave excellently."

The Emperor determined to visit the field of battle.

““I will go out," he said ; " the place of the Emperor on a decisive day like the present is in the middle of his troops. Let us try," he added, with a faint smile, “whether the star of my house still hovers over my head, and whether its glowing beam will bring victory to my eagles. Let the horses be brought to the door.”

Napoleon buckled on his sword, put on his red gold-laced cap, and with a sorrowful sigh threw a look back on the room in which the painful hours of his long night had been passed; then he laid his arm in that of the Prince de la Moskowa, and stepped slowly down stairs, swaying as he went from side to side. The square in front of the mairie was empty. Before the door of the house the Generals Castelnau and Vaubert were waiting, and also the other officers of the staff of the Emperor. Napoleon saluted them lightly with his hand, then stepped to his horse, and carefully examined the saddle, which was provided with a special contrivance in order to lessen its pressure, and to make his being on horseback for a long time together more endurable. Then he set his foot in the stirrup and lifted himself up on his steed with a certain effort, but yet still with a lightness of motion which recalled his early days, and he rode at a walk followed by the officers of his suite, and by a division of the cent gardes, through the streets of the town, in which only a few groups of individuals were to be seen in anxious conversation, while terrified faces appeared at the windows, listening with disturbed aspect to the thunder of the cannon and to the roar of the battle, which were continually increasing.

• The Emperor, looking down to the ground, over the head of his horse, rode out of the town through the Porte Balan.

• A view of the battle-field opened itself out over the plain behind the Meuse. The thunders of the cannon sounded nearer and nearer. The positions of the troops were still distant, and the Emperor of warlike France, who bore the name of the victor of Austerlitz and Marengo, whose flags had waved triumphantly above the walls of Sebastopol, and whose arms had broken the might of Austria in Italy, rode almost in solitude along the road, and only at times a train of flying country people, who were endeavouring to take refuge in the

[ocr errors]

6

their lips.

fortress, passed by him shyly and nervously, and often with subdued curses

upon • Then there appeared suddenly at a corner of the road which had been hidden by projecting bushes, a division of cuirassiers, coming towards the Emperor at a slow pace and riding in the direction of Sedan.

"The Emperor reined in his horse, and stood still in astonishment, looking on this small group, which rode along the deserted road in the midst of the raging conflict as though in the profoundest peace.

' The appearance of these splendid, fine cavaliers in their shining helmets, on their strong dark horses, was sorrowful and dark. When they observed the Emperor, who had halted in the middle of the road and awaited their arrival, the foremost troop opened itself, and in the midst of the small procession there appeared a wooden stretcher borne by soldiers, on which there lay stretched a man, with a gold-laced kepi covered with a cloak, with the upper part of his body raised and resting on his arm.

“ My God!” cried the Prince de la Moskowa, in a tone of the greatest horror, “it is Marshal MacMahon-he is wounded—what a misfortune !"

* The Emperor also had recognised the Marshal; his eye directed a look of sorrowful reproof towards heaven-he touched the flanks of his horse with the spurs, and with two bounds of the noble beast he was beside the bier.

6. What a heavy blow!” he cried, bending down to the wounded man, who was supported by the Colonel Marquis d'Abzac, the adjutant of the Marshal, who lay his arm about his shoulder; "what a heavy blow, my dear duke! but by all appearances there is no danger."

The interview between the wounded Marshal and the broken-down Emperor, who had so often stood side by side in prosperity, amid the splendour and glory of camp and court, was necessarily a painful one to both. They separated with a touching but despairing farewell; the Marshal was borne along on his stretcher to Sedan, while the Emperor turned his horse in the opposite direction towards Balan.

• Napoleon approached nearer and nearer to the troops who were engaged in fighting. He was almost arrived at the village of Balan, when out of the nearest houses of this place the French troops came in flight, with terror on their countenances, the greater part without arms, and rushing along with faces streaming with blood.

* The Prince de la Moskowa leapt forward and reined in his horse with a sudden check before a group of fugitives, so that they were compelled to stop themselves before the hoofs of the rearing steed.

"“Whence came you? What has happened ? ” cried the General.

6 " All is lost,” replied the soldiers, speaking and screeching wildly all together. “Bazeilles is taken-our corps is defeated—the enemy will soon be here—they are too strong in artillery. There is no resisting their cannon, they mow down whole bodies of us at once.”

* The Emperor looked steadily and silently forwards. The noise of

the battle drew continually nearer towards Balan, the clattering of the fire of musketry, and the thud of the heavy cannon.

"“Hold !” exclaimed the Prince de la Moskowa; “shall French soldiers abandon victory in hasty, cowardly flight because the enemy has pressed forward for a moment. Halt? back to your corps, it is important to defend this village."

. But his words were in vain. The fugitives passed by bis horse, through the group of the generals, through the foot guards, on the way towards Sedan with the cry,

«“Everyone for himself ! All is lost ! All is finished ! Down with the Emperor-down with the generals who have betrayed us ! On, on!”

* The cent gardes rode up. The generals surrounded the Emperor, who sat bowed down upon his horse, with his hand lightly weighing on the pummel of the saddle, and looking stedfastly with an expressionless stare on the fugitives who shouted curses at him.'

We pass over the rest of the details of this unexampled rout: the vain attempts to rally the French soldiers, the interview with General Wimpfen, who now took the command, the return of the Emperor to Sedan, the hoisting of the white flag at his command within the fortress, the Emperor's vain attempt on the next morning by a personal visit to Count Bismarck to obtain better terms of capitulation for his officers and troops, and, as a last example of the dramatic power of the author, give the description of the interview between the Emperor and the King of Prussia.

The interview took place in the modest maison de campagne of a manufacturer of the name of Amour, in which the Emperor, now a prisoner of war, had been lodged by the care of Count Bismarck; and here the King of Prussia visited him with his staff.

* The Emperor stepped out of the salon and advanced towards the King. He wore the blue undress coat of a French general's uniform, the red military forage cap, and, as on yesterday's field of battle, the medal for the Italian campaign and the sword of the Swedish Order of the Sword, by the side of the star of the Legion of Honour.

' As soon as the Emperor had reached the King he took off his military cap, the King stretched out his right hand towards him. The Emperor, who held his cap in his right hand, seized the hand of the King with his left, and stood for a moment in agitation and lightly shuddering; then he greeted the Crown Prince, who remained behind in an ante-room, while he went alone with the Emperor into an inner apartment, of which the Crown Prince shut the door.

The two monarchs, the victorious King and the vanquished, captive Emperor, remained for a moment opposite in silence.

I am sorry, Sire,” said the King softly, without any harshness in his voice, “ that it has come to this point, that we stand thus face to

6

[ocr errors]
« EdellinenJatka »