“Let Bonaparte know that Bartolomeo di Piombo wishes to speak with him,” said the Italian to the captain on duty.
In vain the officer represented to Bartolomeo that he could not see the First Consul without having previously requested an audience in writing; the Italian insisted that the soldier should go to Bonaparte. The officer stated the rules of the post, and refused to comply with the order of this singular visitor. Bartolomeo frowned heavily, casting a terrible look at the captain, as if he made him responsible for the misfortunes that this refusal might occasion. Then he kept silence, folded his arms tightly across his breast, and took up his station under the portico which serves as an avenue of communication between the garden and the court-yard of the Tuileries. Persons who will things intensely are very apt to be helped by chance. At the moment when Bartolomeo di Piombo seated himself on one of the stone posts which was near the entrance, a carriage drew up, from which Lucien Bonaparte, minister of the interior, issued.
“Ah, Loucian, it is lucky for me I have met you!” cried the stranger.
These words, said in the Corsican patois, stopped Lucien at the moment when he was springing under the portico. He looked at his compatriot, and recognized him. At the first word that Bartolomeo said in his ear, he took the Corsican away with him.
Murat, Lannes, and Rapp were at that moment in the cabinet of the First Consul. As Lucien entered, followed by a man so singular in appearance as Piombo, the conversation ceased. Lucien took Napoleon by the arm and led him into the recess of a window. After exchanging a few words with his brother, the First Consul made a sign with his hand, which Murat and Lannes obeyed by retiring. Rapp pretended not to have seen it, in order to remain where he was. Bonaparte then spoke to him sharply, and the aide-de-camp, with evident unwillingness, left the room. The First Consul, who listened for Rapp’s step in the adjoining salon, opened the door suddenly, and found his aide-de-camp close to the wall of the cabinet.
“Do you choose not to understand me?” said the First Consul. “I wish to be alone with my compatriot.”
“A Corsican!” replied the aide-de-camp. “I distrust those fellows too much to—”
The First Consul could not restrain a smile as he pushed his faithful officer by the shoulders.
“Well, what has brought you here, my poor Bartolomeo?” said Napoleon.
“To ask asylum and protection from you, if you are a true Corsican,” replied Bartolomeo, roughly.
“What ill fortune drove you from the island? You were the richest, the most—”
“I have killed all the Portas,” replied the Corsican, in a deep voice, frowning heavily.
The First Consul took two steps backward in surprise.
“Do you mean to betray me?” cried Bartolomeo, with a darkling look at Bonaparte. “Do you know that there are still four Piombos in Corsica?”