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Recollections of Marshall Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum
Chapter XXXIX


To return to my story. After seeing the King cross the Lys and enter Menin, I returned with the escort along the road we had come. At about one-third of our journey I called a halt, to give the horses time to breathe, and then galloped back to Lille. I was summoned to the Duke of Orleans, where I found all the authorities, generals, and commanding officers. I was surrounded by people wishing for details as to the King's journey, which I gave.

During the night the Duke of Orleans and his excellent and lovable sister started for Tournai; they embraced us warmly. Marshal Mortier invited me to stay with him next day; I had need of rest, and accepted his invitation, and after dinner went to bed.

I have omitted to say that before the departure of the Duke of Orleans I asked him if he knew whether the King had informed Monsieur of his determination to leave Lille. The Prince said he had probably not done so. I begged him to write to Monsieur, but he preferred that I should undertake it, as, from my not having quitted the King, I was in a better position to give a detailed account. The Duke of Orleans read and approved my letter, so I wrote a second copy, and sent one by - each road, namely, by Arras and Béthune. We charged the Commissary-General of the King's Household, who had brought Monsieur's despatch, dated from Beauvais, with one of the letters, another person who had arrived at the same time was entrusted with the other, and both were strongly urged to lose no time in acquitting themselves of so important a mission, which concerned the safety of the Princes and the Military Household.

I awoke very late next morning, and sent my apologies to the Marshal Duke of Treviso for not being able to come to breakfast. I promised, however, to dine with him, and meanwhile begged him to let me know the news, and to send me the paper. I never was so amazed in my life as when I received a message from him that he could not entertain me at dinner, as he had received orders to leave for Paris immediately, and to make over his command to Count d'Erlon. On receiving this extraordinary intelligence I hardly knew whether I was awake or dreaming, so surprised was I. Nevertheless, I went straight to the Marshal, who confirmed the message he had sent, and told me that he had already made over his command. I blamed him for his precipitation, as I feared for the Princes who were bringing up the King's Household to Lille. The garrison had already adopted the tricoloured cockade, whether by order or spontaneously I know not.

General d'Erlon, who, I believe, commanded the division before the arrival of Marshal Mortier, had taken part with Napoleon, and had even made some attempt in his favour previous to the announcement of his landing. As this act of hostility to the Royal Government had failed, he had hidden himself, but was now quite ready to take over the command. Seeing that the Marshal was determined to start in a few hours, I returned home, sent for a passport and some horses, entered my carriage, and drove off on the way to Bethune, so as to avoid the delays which would be occasioned along the direct road followed by Marshal Mortier.

The gates were closed, or at any rate that leading to Béthune was, the staff in Lille having forgotten to give orders that it should be opened for me. An officer on duty there obstinately refused to allow me to pass, notwithstanding my rank and my passport, which I showed him. I reprimanded him very severely, and threatened him with the future weight of my resentment, but at the second Restoration I voluntarily forgot all about the matter. A good many of the privates, however, took up my cause, while I sent notice to the Commandant. At length another officer arrived and opened the gate.

On reaching the post-house at La Bassée I found no horses. I wished to push on with those I had, but they were dead-heat, and I had to give .them a rest. While waiting in the inn I heard my name pronounced in a neighbouring room. Nobody knew who I was, but as I wished to find out what was the matter I walked in and made myself known. A tall young man said he had two letters of mine—they were franked with my name. He showed them to me, and I recognised them as those I had written the previous evening to Monsieur.

'By what accident,' I inquired, 'did those letters fall into your hands?'

He answered that the Commissary-General, to whom I had given them, and who was a great friend of his, had asked him to follow one or other of the two roads on the chance of meeting Monsieur, while he went off to visit a friend in the neighbourhood. It was evident that he cared very little for what might happen to his Royal Highness. I took possession of the letters, and, my horses being ready, pursued my journey.

It was eight or nine o'clock at night when I reached Béthune. The gates were closed, and I had great difficulty in getting them opened. A portion of the King's Household was on the watch there, as a detachment of the garrison of Arras, apparently hostile, had presented themselves, and demanded admittance. The Duc de Berry, perhaps imprudently, had gone out and forced them to retreat; but there was reason to fear that they might come back at night in larger numbers.

Monsieur had learned, I know not how, that the King had quitted hue the previous morning. He determined to go and join him by the shortest road with all the available troops. Notwithstanding advice to the contrary, they took abominable cross-country roads, where many carriages and guns remained fast in the mud, instead of following the high-road to La Basse, whence, by another-good road, they could have reached Bailleul; but they were frightened by the sight of the Arras detachment, and dreading lest they should meet another from the garrison at Lille, they prepared to go across country. I heard that, before starting, Monsieur had decided to disband the remainder of the Household.

As soon as my arrival in the town became known, a large number of Generals and superior officers carne-to me for advice. As they were not in a position to defend themselves, I told them to put into execution the orders they had, to send notice to Lille and Arras so as t& prevent hostilities, lay down their arms, distribute the funds remaining to each company, or give up a few months' pay, in order that everyone might be enabled to procure plain clothes; for in uniform, and travelling singly, they ran the risk of being attacked at every step.

General Dessole was also at Béthune; he was in command of the National Guard at Paris, but, as he was also Secretary of State, he had started to rejoin the King at Lille. On hearing of his departure, he would neither follow him abroad nor return to Paris; he begged me to accom- pany him to Amiens, and we travelled together. The town of Doullens was crowded with cavalry, at the head of whom was General Excelmans, hastening after the King's House- hold. I had stopped to breakfast, and he came to see me, looking rather uneasy. He had had cause of complaint against the Royal Government, and had consequently warmly embraced Napoleon's cause.

'What!' I exclaimed, 'do you mean to say that you would have the heart to fall, sword in hand, upon a few brave men who have remained true to their oaths? Why don't you arrest me? for I tell you I have kept mine, too, and will never serve the cause you have embraced. Think what you are doing. Sooner or later you must certainly be entangled in the meshes of the vengeance that cannot fail to overtake you. All the great Powers-are marching towards our frontiers; tremble at the results of a reaction!'

These observations had little effect upon General Excel. mans, because he was excited and embittered. He was an excellent man at heart, very brave, but excitable; he would have done his duty well had he been employed. He promised me, however, that he would slacken his speed and respect the liberty of individuals.

At the next stage an advance-courier met mine. He belonged to Marshal Ney, and there was, consequently, no hope of avoiding him. We were then serving very different sides. Just as our carriages were passing, he ordered his to stop.

'You are going to Paris?' he cried. 'You will he well received. The Emperor will welcome you.'

'I will spare him that trouble,' I replied. 'I shall not see him, neither shall I join his party.'

With these words we parted. My determination was fixed only to stop in Paris just long enough to attend to some business, to see no one, and to start again immediately for Courcelles. A few days were sufficient for me.

General J)essole would not remain in Amiens; he could not remember the name of a single friend in the town, and did not consider himself in safety there. He preferred to push on to the neighbourhood of Paris, and only enter it after nightfall. I stopped at Ecouen. I underwent a close examination at the barrier, but my passport was in order, and we were allowed to enter. Poor Dessole's memory again completely deserted him. He was much disturbed, and very anxious as to what might happen to him. Napoleon did not like him. I told him that at the end of the Rue de Clichy I should leave my carriage, and go in search of news. He fancied that we were followed; I did not care if we were. We separated, he still in doubt as to what he would do or where he would go, and not daring to return home.

I went to the house of your sister De Massa, but found no one at home, and had no better success at the houses of several other friends. I then decided to go home. Madame de Sérnonville, who knew that my return was expected, was waiting for me, and I was much surprised at finding General 1)essole with her. He told me that, when we separated, he had observed that our carriages were watched; he had therefore jumped into mine, and on entering my courtyard had found the same spies there. In answer to my porter, who asked what they wanted, they replied that they had orders to be there, but they had eventually taken their departure. I do not know whither Dessole had sent his carriage. I offered him a bed, which he refused, though he did not know where to betake himself, and was in terror of being arrested. For my own part, I feared nothing personally; I was guaranteed by the services I had rendered to Napoleon at the time of his abdication at Fontainebleau. I had also heard from General Ricard, who had come from Vienna to Lille, bearing to the King the resolution passed by the Congress on March i, that he had read a little pamphlet upon a visit to Elba, in which Napoleon had spoken of me in laudatory terms. General Ricard promised to give me this little publication, but I never received it.

In order to induce General I)essole to do something, I suggested to Madame de Séinonville that she should take him in her carriage and drive very fast through different quarters of the town, so as to put any spies off the scent. The advice was followed, they started, and I heard next day that Dessole had safely reached the country.

I gave my porter the strictest orders to admit no one but my family or a few friends whose names I mentioned to him. I sent my carriages to Courcelles, intending to follow them very shortly, and hastened to settle my business, when, at the moment that I least expected it, the porter announced Marshal Davocit, the Minister of War. He had been foolish enough to believe that my orders could not be applicable to so important a personage. In order to avoid the unpleasantness of this interview, I told him to say that I was unwell, and not able to see him. While I was uttering the words, the Marshal, who overheard them, entered.

'Too late!' said Davocit; 'I have to speak to you on very important matters.'

I had no choice but to listen. When we were alone, the Prince of Echmühl began with some ordinary remarks then, coming to Napoleon, he said that he was sent by him to reiterate to me the expression of his gratitude for the course I had pursued during the last agony of the Empire; that he wished to thank me himself, and that he offered me an interview, which should he either private or public, as I wished.

I had no hesitation in refusing. I answered that I had been faithful to his cause and his person until the last moment; that I had now undertaken other engagements, which I should carry out with the same fidelity; that I felt sure that Napoleon knew me too well to imagine that I could be seduced by temptation of fortune, title, or brilliant employment; that my determination was firm, and my mind made up, and that insistence was useless. I added, in a decided voice, that a continuance of this conversation, painful as it was to both of us, would be an outrage upon my honour, my feelings, and my pride.

'You appear, Macdonald,' said the Minister, 'to have tried and condemned us all very summarily! Speaking for myself, I entered into no engagement whatever with the Bourbons. I was in command at Hamburg when Napoleon fell; they permitted me to be attacked in scurrilous pamphlets, to which I replied. I have never even seen the King, nor have I received anything at his hands. I am, therefore, free, and I embrace the cause of liberty, which I have long defended.'

'No doubt,' I answered, 'liberty and Napoleon are synonymous terms. These liberties will end by putting chains on our necks. We shall see Europe raised against us, drunk with revenge and resentment, from which, hitherto, France has been preserved merely by the Czar's authority. Did not the Charter ensure us all the liberty and independence we could desire? The institutions would have secured to us these two great bases of the social edifice. No doubt the Royal Government has committed grave errors; but consider the immensity of the peril into which we are about to be dragged, and judge for yourself whether these errors were of such a nature as to render a complete overturn necessary, and to call for an inquiry. I am wrong,' I added warmly; 'there will be no inquiry. Can France, divided as she is to-day, resist a coalition of foreigners and their armies?'

'But,' he argued, 'the Emperor assures us that Austria is on our side.'

'Either he deceives himself or he is deceiving you. Have you seen the declaration of the Congress of Vienna?'

'No.'

'Read it.'

'Is this an authentic copy?'

'It was sent to the King by Monsieur de Talleyrand. General Ricard brought it to Lille, where it was immediately printed, published, and advertized. I am surprised that it did not reach you by courier.'

'The deuce! This alters the case. May I take it with me?'

'You may; I have several copies.'

He retired. Although it was clear to me that he was shaken, he continued in the occupation of his post, and eventually had reason to repent of having done so. I was then able to render him considerable service.

I reiterated my orders to my porter, which were thenceforward carried out rigorously. General Mathieu Dumas, who had been chief of my staff when I commanded the Army of the Grisons, came to see me. He was refused admission. He was intimate with Marshal Davout, whom he had recently served in the same capacity as he had me. I suspected that he was charged by Napoleon and the Marshal with a mission of the same nature; nor was I mistaken, for, finding that he could not see me, he wrote to me upon the subject, and added that he begged me to consent to an interview or else to go to the Tuileries. I answered so strongly, and giving such reasons for my refusal, as at length to secure my being left in peace. I was on very good terms with Mathieu Dumas. I was sorry not to see him; but, in our respective positions, I should have been wrong to receive him.

During my work at Lille, and since my return, I experienced every now and then a difficulty in breathing, which occasioned me some inconvenience. It was a premonitory symptom of an attack of gout, which laid me up on the very day preceding that fixed for my departure. The attack was very severe. I should have been choked had they not succeeded in drawing it down to my feet. It caused me tortures, and lasted three months, so I was compelled to postpone my departure.

As soon as I was well enough I started, but stopped at a distance of six leagues from Paris to rest for a day. While there I heard of the disaster at WATERLOO. As this catastrophe put the finishing stroke to Napoleon's political career, I renounced my intention of continuing my journey, thinking that I might assist in hastening the return of the King—our one hope of preventing anarchy.


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