The Duke of Otranto, now once more the faithful Fouche of the empire, was also to have been arrested, but he managed to effect his escape. General Lavalette—who was aware that the dwelling of the Duchess of St. Leu was no longer watched by the police, who had discovered that the duchess was no longer there—Lavalette took advantage of this circumstance, and concealed himself in her dwelling, and M. de Dandre, the chief of police, who had vainly endeavored to catch the so-called conspirators, exclaimed in anguish: “It is impossible to find any one; it has been so much noised about that these Bonapartists were to be arrested, that they are now all hidden away.”
Like a bombshell the news suddenly burst upon the anxious and doubting capital: “The emperor has been received by the people in Grenoble with exultation, and the troops that were to have been led against him have, together with their chieftain, Charles de Labedoyere, gone over to the emperor. The gates of the city were thrown open, and the people advanced to meet him with shouts of welcome and applause; and now Napoleon stood no longer at the head of a little body of troops, but at the head of a small army that was increasing with every hour.”
The government still endeavored, through its officials and through the public press, to make the Parisians disbelieve this intelligence.
But the government had lost faith in itself. It heard the old, the hated cry, “Vive l’empereur!” resounding through the air; it heard the fluttering of the victorious battle-flags of Marengo, Arcola, Jena, and Austerlitz! The Emperor Napoleon was still the conquering hero, who swayed destiny and compelled it to declare for him.
A perfect frenzy of dismay took possession of the royalists; and when they learned that Napoleon had already arrived in Lyons, that its inhabitants had received him with enthusiasm, and that its garrison had also declared for him, their panic knew no bounds.
The royalist leaders assembled at the house of Count de la Pere, for the purpose of holding a last great discussion and consultation. The most eminent persons, men and women, differing widely on other subjects, but a unit on this point, assembled here with the same feelings of patriotic horror, and with the same desire to promote the general welfare. There were Madame de Stael, Benjamin Constant, Count Laine, and Chateaubriand; there were the Duke de Nemours, and Count de la Pere, and around them gathered the whole troop of anxious royalists, expecting and hoping that the eloquent lips of these celebrated personages who stood in their midst would give them consolation and new life.
Benjamin Constant spoke first. He said that, to Napoleon, that is, to force, force must be opposed. Bonaparte was armed with the love of the soldiers, they must arm themselves with the love of the citizens. His appearance was imposing, like the visage of Caesar; it would be necessary to oppose to him an equally sublime countenance. Lafayette should, therefore, be made commander-in-chief of the French army.