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Thanks to these fifty thousand francs, the monks would
be abundantly provided with the refreshments necessary
for an army of fifty thousand men during a day's halt.

Consequently, towards the end of April, all the artillery
was started towards Lauzanne, Villeneuve, Martigny, and
St.-Pierre. General Marmont, who commanded the artil-
lery, had been sent forward in advance, to watch the trans-
port of the pieces. The transportation of the cannon was
almost an impracticability ; however, it had to be done.
There was no precedent to which to refer ; Hannibal with

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his elephants, his Numidians and his Gauls, and Charle-
magne with his Francs liad had nothing like this dittiiulty
to suumount. Since the first campaign in Italy, in 1796,
the armies, instead of crossing the Alj)s, h;id gone around
tliem ; they had gone from Nice to (lierasco by the
Corniche road. This time a truly gigantic task was to be

It was first necessary to make sure that the mountain
was not occupied by the enemy; the mountain without
the Austrians was difficult enough in itself. Lannes was
sent forward with a whole division ; he went through
the pass of the St.- Bernard, without artillery or baggage,
and took possession of Chatillon. The Austrians had left
nothing in Piedmont except some cavalry at the depots
and at a few outposts ; there were therefore no other ob-
stacles than those of Nature to overcome. They began
operations. They had made sledges to carry the cannon,
but it was soon found that they were too wide to go on
the path. They had to think of some other means. Tliey
hollowed out the trunks of pine-trees and put the
cannon in them ; at the upper end they fastened a chain
with which to draw them* and at the lower end a lever
to use as a rudder. Twenty grenadiers took hold of the
cliain, and twenty others carried, together with their own
baggage, the baggage of those who were drawing the
cannon. An artilleryman commanded each detachment,
and was given absolute autliority, if necessary, even over
life and death. Metal, under these circumstances, was
more precious than human flesh !

Before starting, each man received a pair of new shoes
and twenty biscuits. They put on the shoes, and hung
the biscuits around their necks. The First Consul, sta-
tioned at the foot of the mountain, gave to each division the
signal to start. One must have crossed the same paths as

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a simple tourist, on foot or mule-back, and have looked
down these same precipices, in order to have any idea of this
undertaking ; always climbing up steep slopes, over rmrrow
paths, on pebbles which cut first the shoes and then the
leet ! From time to time they stopped to take breath,
and then went on again uncomplainingly. They finally
reached the glaciers. Before they went upon them the
men received more shoes ; those that ^vere new in the
morning were in shreds ; then they ate a little biscuit and
drank some brandy and water, and started on again.
They had no idea how far they were going to ascend ;
some of tliem asked how many more days it would take,
and others wondered if they would be permitted to stup
for a moment at the moon. At last they reached tiie
eternal snows. There the work was easier; the pines
sHpped over the snow, and they went more quickly.

A single example will show the measure of power given
to the artillerymen in charge. General Chamberlhac
was passing along ; he thought that some of the men
were not going quickly enough, and wishing to hasten
their steps, he apju-oached the artilleryman in charge and
spoke to him in a tone of authority.

" You do not command here," replied the man ; " I do.
I am responsible for the piece, and 1 direct it ; you will
please mind your own business ! "

The general stepped towards him as if to take him by
tlie collar; but the latter, taking a step backward, said ;
*' General, do not touch me, or I will knock you down
and throw you over the precipice.'*

The general said no more.

After unheard-of efforts they reached the foot of the
slope at whose summit was the monastery. There thry
found traces of the passage of Lannes and his division.
As the slope was very steep, his soldiers had constructed


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a sort of gigantic staircase. They went up the stairs. The
monks of St.-Bernard were waiting at the top. They
guided each division in succession to the monastery.
Tables were spread in the long corridors, and upon them
were bread, cheese, and wine. When the soldiers left the
convent they shook hands with the monks and embraced
the dogs.

It seemed at first as if the descent would be easier
than the ascent ; some of the oflficers, therefore, declared
that they would take their turn in drawing the cannon.
But this time the cannon drew the men, and some of them
descended more rapidly than they liked. General Lannes,
with his division, was still in advance. He descended
first into the valley ; he reached Aoste, and was under
orders to advance to Tvr^e, at the entrance to the plains
of Piedmont. But there he met with an obstacle which
had not been foreseen ; it was the fortress of Bard.

The village of Bard is situated eight leagues from
Aoste ; in descending the road to Ivr^e, a little way be-
hind the village a low hill almost hermetically shuts in
the valley ; the Doire flows between this hill and the
mountain on the right. The river, or rather the torrent,
fills all the intervening space. The mountain on the right
presents much the same appearance, only, instead of the
river, a road is there. On this side was the fortress of
Bard ; it was built on the summit of the hill, and extended
half way down its side.

How had it happened that no one had thought of this
obstacle, which was simply insurmountable ] There was
no means of taking it by assault from the bottom of the
valley, and it was impossible to climb the rocks which
commanded it. However, they succeeded in finding a
path, which they levelled, and over which the cavalry and
infantry could pass ; but they in vain tried to drag up


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the artillery, even by dismounting it as they had done at
St.-Bernard. Bonaparte had two pieces of artillery set
up on the road, and opened fire against the fort ; but they
soon found that it was without effect ; besides, a shell
from the fort struck and destroyed one of the cannon.
The First Consul ordered an assault by scaling. The
columns formed in the village, and, provided with ladders,
hastened up the slope and presented themselves at several
points. Celerity and silence were both necessary to suc-
cess ; it was needful to surprise the garrison. But instead
of that, Colonel Dufour, who commanded one of the
columns, caused his drums to beat, and marched bravely
to the assault. The column was repulsed, and the com-
mander received a ball through his body. Then they
chose the best sharpshooters, provided them with food
and cartridges, and sent them to glide among the rocks to
a place from which they could command the fort. From
this place they discovered another, less elevated, which
commanded the fort equally well ; with great difficulty
they pulled two pieces of artillery up to it, and formed a
battery. These two pieces on the one side, and the sharp-
shooters on the other, began to give the enemy some

In the mean time General Marmont proposed a plan to the
First Consul, which was so bold that the enemy would be
sure not to suspect it. It was, simply, to take the artillery
along the road by night, in spite of the proximity of the
fort. They spread manure on the road, and wool from all
the mattresses that they could find in the village ; then they
wrapped pieces of hay around the wheels, the chains, and
all parts of the carriages which could make any noise.
Finally, they unharnessed the horses, and replaced them
by fifty men for each cannon, in single file. This offered
considerable advantages over the other method : in the first


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place, the horses might neigh, while the men had every
reason for preserving the strictest silence ; then again, a dead
horse would delay the whole procession, while a dead man,
not heing harnessed to the carriage, could be pushed one
side and replaced by another, without causing any delay at
all. At the head of each gun-carriage were put an officer
and a sub-officer of artillery, with the promise of six
hundred francs for every carriage that they took beyond
reach of the fort. General Marmont, who had proposed
the plan, himself superintended its first operation.

Fortunately, a storm had made the night still darker.
The first six pieces of artillery, with their carriages,
reached their destination without attracting a single shot
from the fort. The men returned over the road on tiptoe,
in single file ; but this time the enemy heard some sound,
and wishing to know tlie cause, they threw some small
bombs. Fortunately they fell on the other side of the
road. Why did these men return, after having once
passed in safety 1 To get their guns and baggage. They
might have been spared this trouble and danger, if the
things had been placed on the gun-carriages ; but men
cannot think of everything, — a proof of which is found
in the fact that the fort itself had not been thought of.

When once it was proved that the passage of the artil-
lery was a possibility, it became merely a duty, like any
other ; but now that the enemy were warned, it was more
dangerous. The fort seemed to be a volcano, vomiting
forth flames and smoke ; but from the vertical direction
in which the enemy were obliged to fire, there was
more noise than mischief. They lost five or six men,
perhaps, for each carriage, — about a tenth of each detach-
ment of fifty ; but the artillery had passed, and the fate
of the campaign hung upon that fact. They afterwards
found that the pass of the little St.-Bernard was practi-


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cable, and that they might have brought all the artillery
over it without dismounting a single piece. It is true the
passage would have been less brilliant, being less difficult.

They finally found themselves upon the magnificent
plains of Piedmont. On the Tessiu they met twelve
thousand men detached from the army of the Rhine by
Moreau, who, after his two victories, could spare them to
the army in Italy; they had come by way of the St.
Gothard pass, and, reinforced by them, the First Consul
entered Milan without striking a blow.

By the way, how did the First Consul, in spite of the
article to the contrary in the Constitution, succeed in leav-
ing France and putting himself at the head of his army 1
We will see. On the night before the day when he had
planned to leave Paris, being the 5th of May, he had sum-
moned to his house the two other consuls and the minis-
ters, and had said to Lucien, " Prepare a circular to the
prefects for to-morrow." Then to Fouch^ he had said :
" You will cause this circular to be published in the jour-
nals. It will state that I have gone to Dijon, where I am
to inspect the reserve army. You will add, but not au-
thoritatively, that I shall perhaps go as far as Geneva ; in
any case, you will say that I will not be absent more than
a fortnight. If anything important should occur, I shall
return at once. I confide the great interests of France to
you all ; I hope soon to be talked about, both in Vienna
and London." And on the 6th he had started.

Even then his intention had been to go down to the
plains of Piedmont, and fight a great battle there ; and
then, as he did not doubt that he should win, he could
reply, as Scipio did to those who accused him of violat-
ing the Constitution : " On such a day, such an hour, I
conquered the Carthaginians ; let us go up to the Capitol
and return thanks to the gods." He left Paris on the 6th


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of May, and on the 26th of the same month he encamped
with his army between Turin and Casal. It had rained
all day ; towards evening the storm had ceased, and, as
often happens in Italy, the sky had passed in a few mo-
ments from the darkest hues to the most beautiful azure,
in which the stars shone brilliantly.

The First Consul made a sign to Roland to follow him ;
they left the little town of Chivasso and went along the
border of the river. A hundred feet beyond the last
houses a tree, which had been blown down by the tem-
pest, afiforded a seat for them. Bonaparte sat down upon it,
and made a sign to Roland to sit beside him. The gen-
eral-in-chief evidently had something confidential to say
to his aide-de-camp. They were both silent for a moment.

Bonaparte was the first to speak. " Do you remember,
Roland," he said, " a conversation which we had at the
Luxembourg ] "

"General," replied Roland, laughing, "we have had a
great many conversations at tlie Luxembourg, — one in
particular, in which you told me that you were going to
Italy in the spring, and that we should fight General
Melas at Torre di Garofolo or San Giuliano. Are you still
of the same mind % "

" Yes ; but that is not the conversation of which I wish
to speak."

" Will you give me a hint. General 1 "

" It was about marriage."

" Ah, yes, my sister's marriage. That must be accom-
plished by this time, General."

" Not your sister's marriage, Roland, but your own."

" Ah," said Roland, smiling bitterly, " I thought that
question was settled between us, General ; " and he made
a -movement as if to rise.

Bonaparte held him by the arm. " When I spoke to


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you of it, Roland," he said in a serious tone, which
showed that he desired Roland's attention, " do you know
whom I had in my mind for you?"

" No, General."

" It was my sister Caroline."

" Your sister ! "

" Yes ; does that surprise you 1 "

" I could never have believed that you would dream of
doing me such an honor."

" You are ungrateful, Roland, or else you do not say
what you think. You know that I love you."

" Oh, General ! " cried Roland ; and he took the Con-
sul's hands in his, and pressed them gratefully.

" Well, I should like to have you for a brother-in-law."

"Your sister and Murat love each other, General," said
Roland. " It will therefore be much better that your
plan should not be realized. Besides," he added in a low
voice, " I thought I had already told you, General, that
I should never marry."

Bonaparte smiled. ''Perhaps you will tell mo next
that you are going to turn monk," he said.

" Upon my word, General," returned Roland, *' if you
will re-establish the convents and take away my chances
for getting killed, — which, thank God ! will be plentiful
enough before long, — I should like to do it ; and perhaps
you have guessed the manner in which I shall end my

" Is it some heart sorrow, some woman's infidelity 1 "

" Ah," said Roland, " so you thinlt me lovesick ! That
was all I needed in order to have a high place in your

** Do you complain of the place which you occupy in it,
— you, to whom I wanted to give my sister] "

"But unfortunately the thing is impossible I Your


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three sisters are married, General, — the youngest to Gen-
eral Leclerc, the second to Prince Bacciocchi, and the eld-
est to Miirat."

" And so," sjiid Bonaparte, laughing, " your* mind is
quite at ease, since you think there is no danger of an
alliance with mel"

" Oh, General ! " began Roland.

" Then you are not ambitious 1 "

" General, permit me to love you for the favors which
you have already shown me, and not for those which you
would bestow upon me.'*

" And suppose I had selfish reasons for desiring to bind
you to me, not only with the bonds of friendship, but
still more so with those of relationship 1 Suppose I said
to you that in my plans for the future I count but little
on my brothers, while I never could doubt you for an

*' As far as my heart is concerned, you are right."

** As far as everything is concerned I What could I do
with Leclerc, a commonplace man ; or with Bacciocchi,
who is not even a Frenchman; or with Murat, who has
the heart of a lion, but the head of a fool ] Some day,
however, I shall have to make them princes, since they
will be my sisters' husbands. In the mean time what
shall I do for you ? "

" You can make me a marshal of France."

" And afterwards 1 "

" What do you mean by afterwards 1 I think that is
quite enough."

*^ And then you will be one of twelve, instead of being
a unit ! "

** Let me remain simply your friend ; let me always tell
you the truth, and I assure you that you will have done
me good service."


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** Perhaps that is enough for you, Roland, but it is not
enough for me," insisted Bonaparte. Then, as Roland
was silent, he added : " It is true that I have no more
sisters; but I have dreamed of something better still for
you than to be my brother." Roland was still silent
" There exists somewhere in the world, Roland, a charming
girl whom I love like my own daughter. She is seven-
teen years old, and you are twenty-six. You are already
a general of brigade, and before the end of the campaign
you will be a general of division. Well, Roland, at the
end of the campaign we will return to Paris, and you will
marry — "

" General," interrupted Roland, " I think Bourrienne is
coming to look for you." And, in fact, the First Consul's
secretary was close to them.

" Is that you, Bourrienne 1 " asked Bonaparte, im-

" Yes, General. A messenger from France."


" And a letter from Mme. Bonaparte."

" Good I " said the First Consul, quickly ; " give it to
me." And he almost snatched away the letter.

" And nothing for me.1 " asked Roland.

" Nothing."

" That is strange," said the young man, thoughtfully.

The moon had risen, and by its brilliant light Bonaparte
read his letter. For the first two pages his face was per-
fectly serene. Bonaparte adored his wife; the letters
published by Queen Hortense bear witness to that. But
towards the end of the letter his face darkened, he frowned
heavily, and glanced askance at Roland.

" Ah," said the young man, ** that letter seems to con-
cern me I "

Bonaparte did not reply, but continued his reading.


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When he had finished, he folded the letter and put it in
his coat pocket ; then, turning to Bouraenne, he said :
" Very well, we will come back ; I shall probably send oflF
a messenger. While you are waiting for me, cut me some

Bourrienne saluted and went back.

Bonaparte then approached Holand, and putting his
hand on his shoulder, said : " I am not fortunate in the
marriages I desire.'^

" Why 1 " asked Roland.

" Your sister's marriage has fallen through."

"Has she refused V

" No, not she."

" What ! It cannot be Lord Tanlay ] "


" He has refused to marry my sister after having asked
me, my mother, you, and herself for her! "

" Come, don't get excited ; try to understand that there
is some mystery about it."

" I do not see any mystery ; I only see an insult."

" Ah, there you go ! I see now why neither your
mother nor your sister cared to write to you ; but Jose-
phine thought you ought to be informed of it. She there-
fore told me the news, asking me to tell it to you if I
thought best. As you see, I did not hesitate."

"I thank you sincerely, General. Did Lord Tanlay
give any reason for his refusal ? "

*' A reason which cannot be a true one.''

''What is it r*

** It cannot be the real one."

"But what is it?"

" One only has to see the man and talk with him for
five minutes, to know that."

" But, General, what reason did he give for breaking
his word 1 "


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'* That your sister is not as rich as he had thought."

Roland laughed, in the nervous Avay which betokened
with him great agitation. " Ah," he said, " that was the
very first thing I told him."

"What was?"

" That my sister did not have a sou. Are we rich, —
we, the children of a republican general 1 "

" And what did he reply]"

" That he was rich enough for two."

" You see, then, that that cannot be the true motive for
his refusal."

" And you think that one of your aides-de-camp may
receive an insult in the person of his sister without resent-
ing it]"

" In these matters, my dear Roland, it is for the person
who has received the offence to weigh the reasons for and

" General, how long do you think it will be before we
have a decisive battle ] "

Bonaparte calculated. " Not for two or three weeks,"
he replied.

'* General, I ask leave for a fortnight."

" On one condition."

''What is it]"

"It is that you will go to Bourg and question your
sister, to find out from her who was to blame for the

" That was my intention."

" In that case you have not a moment to lose."

" You will see that I shall not lose a moment ; " and
the young man took a few steps towards the village.

"Wait a moment; you will take charge of my de-
spatches for Paris, will you not ] "

" I understand ; I am the courier of whom jou spoke
just now to Bourrienne]"


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" Then, come."

" Wait a moment more ; those young men whom you
arrested — "

" The companions of Jehu 1 "

" Yes. Well, it seems they all belong to noble families ;
they are fanatics rather than criminals. It seems that
your mother, falling into some trap or other which the
judge laid for her, testified at their trial, and was the
cause of their condemnation."

" Possibly. My mother, as you know, was stopped by
them, and saw the face of their chief."

"Well; your mother begs me, through Josephine, to
have mercy upon the poor fanatics, — that is the term
which Josephine uses. They have appealed. You will
arrive before the appeal can be rejected, and if you think
best you may tell the judge from me to grant them a re-
prieve. When you return, we will see what can be defi-
nitely arranged."

" Thanks, General. Have you nothing else to say to

** Xo, unless it is to tell you to reflect upon the conver-
sation which we have just had."

"On what subject 1"

" On the subject of marriage."


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"Well, I will say to you as you said to me just
now, — we will speak of this upon my return, if I do

"Oh," said Bonaparte, "you will kill him as you have
killed the others ; but I confess that if you do kill him I
shall be sorry for it."

" If you regret it as much as that, General, it would be
very easy to kill me in his place."

" Don't be stupid 1 " said the First Consul ; " I should
regret you still more."

" In truth. General," said Roland, with his bitter laugh,
"you are the most difficult man to please that I ever
knew." And then he took the road to Chivasso, and the
general no longer sought to retain him.

Half an hour afterwards Roland was upon the Ivrde
road in a postchaise. He was to travel thus as far as
Aoste, where he was to take a mule, cross the St.-Bernard,
go down the Martigny, and by way of Geneva reach Bourg
and then Paris.

While Roland is hastening along, let us see what has
taken place in France, and thus throw light upon those
points which may have seemed a little obscure to our
readers in the conversation which we have just repeated
between Bonaparte and his aide-de-camp.


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The prisoners that Roland had taken in the cave at
Ceyzeriat had passed only one night in the prison of Bourg,
and had then been immediately transferred to that of
BesanQon, where they were to appear before a court-
martial. It will be remembered that two of these pris-
oners had been so badly Avounded that they had to be
carried upon litters. One of them died that same night ;
and the other, three days after reaching Besan^on. The
number of prisoners was therefore reduced to four, —
Morgan, who had returned voluntarily, and was safe and
sound ; and Montbar, Adler, and D'Assas, who had been
more or less wounded in the fight, but not danger-
ously. Tlieir four pseudonyms concealed, as will be re-
membered, the names of the Baron of Sainte-Herniine,

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Online LibraryAlexandre DumasThe companions of Jehu → online text (page 19 of 24)