The victory of Marengo had rendered the conquest of Italy certain. Therefore the First Consul, thinking his presence more necessary at Paris than at the head of his army, gave the command in chief to General Massena, and made preparations to repass the mountains. On our return to Milan, the First Consul was received with even more enthusiasm than on his first visit.
The establishment of a republic was in accordance with the wishes of a large number of the Milanese; and they called the First Consul their Savior, since he had delivered them from the yoke of the Austrians. There was, however, a party who detested equally these changes, the French army which was the instrument of them, and the young chief who was the author. In this party figured a celebrated artist, the singer Marchesi.
During our former visit, the First Consul had sent for him; and the musician had waited to be entreated, acting as if he were much inconvenienced, and at last presented himself with all the importance of a man whose dignity had been offended. The very simple costume of the First Consul, his short stature, thin visage, and poor figure were not calculated to make much of an impression on the hero of the theater; and after the general-in-chief had welcomed him cordially, and very politely asked him to sing an air, he replied by this poor pun, uttered in a tone the impertinence of which was aggravated by his Italian accent: “Signor General, if it is a good air which you desire, you will find an excellent one in making a little tour of the garden.” The Signor Marchesi was for this fine speech immediately put out of the door, and the same evening an order was sent committing the singer to prison. On our return the First Consul, whose resentment against Marchesi the cannon of Marengo had doubtless assuaged, and who thought besides that the penance of the musician for a poor joke had been sufficiently long, sent for him again, and asked him once more to sing; Marchesi this time was modest and polite, and sang in a charming manner. After the concert the First Consul approached him, pressed his hand warmly, and complimented him in the most affectionate manner; and from that moment peace was concluded between the two powers, and Marchesi sang only praises of the First Consul.
At this same concert the First Consul was struck with the beauty of a famous singer, Madame Grassini. He found her by no means cruel, and at the end of a few hours the conqueror of Italy counted one conquest more.
The following day she breakfasted with the First Consul and General Berthier in the chamber of the First Consul. General Berthier was ordered to provide for the journey of Madame Grassini, who was carried to Paris, and attached to the concert-room of the court.