However disastrous might be the news brought to headquarters, the Emperor wished to verify its truth in person, and on his return from Saint-Dizier made a detour to Vitry, in order to assure himself of the march of the allies on Paris; and all his doubts were dissipated by what he saw. Could Paris hold out long enough for him to crush the enemy against its walls? Thereafter this was his sole and engrossing thought. He immediately placed himself at the head of his army, and we marched on Paris by the road to Troyes. At Doulencourt he received a courier from King Joseph, who announced to him the march of the allies on Paris. That very moment he sent General Dejean in haste to his brother to inform him of his speedy arrival. If he could defend himself for two days, only two days, the allied armies would enter Paris, only to find there a tomb. In what a state of anxiety the Emperor then was! He set out with his headquarters squadrons. I accompanied him, and left him for the first time at Troyes, on the morning of the 30th, as will be seen in the following chapter.
What a time was this! How sad the period and events of which I have now to recall the sad memory! I have now arrived at the fatal day when the combined armies of Europe were to sully the soil of Paris, of that capital, free for so many years from the presence of the invader. What a blow to the Emperor! And what cruel expiation his great soul now made for his triumphant entries into Vienna and Berlin! It was, then, all in vain that he had displayed such incredible activity during the admirable campaign of France, in which his genius had displayed itself as brilliantly as during his Italian campaign. The first time I saw him on the day after a battle was at Marengo; and what a contrast his attitude of dejection presented when I saw him again on the 31st of March at Fontainebleau.
Having accompanied His Majesty everywhere, I was near him at Troyes on the morning of the 30th of March.
The Emperor set out at ten o’clock, accompanied only by the grand marshal and the Duke of Vicenza. It was then known at headquarters that the allied troops were advancing on Paris; but we were far from suspecting that at the very moment of the Emperor’s hurried departure the battle before Paris was being most bitterly waged. At least I had heard nothing to lead me to believe it. I received an order to move to Essonne, and, as means of transportation had become scarce and hard to obtain, did not arrive there until the morning of the 31st, and had been there only a short time when the courier brought me an order to repair to Fontainebleau, which I immediately did. It was then I learned that the Emperor had gone from Troyes to Montereau in two hours, having made the journey of ten leagues in that short space of time. I also learned that the Emperor and his small suite had been obliged to make use of a chaise on the road to Paris, between Essonne and Villejuif. He advanced as far as the Cour de France with the intention of marching on Paris; but there, verifying the news and the cruel certainty of the surrender of Paris, had sent to me the courier whom I mentioned above.