The Red Man
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
I have sent you the following strange account of Buonaparte's interview with his Genius, as it has made its way into several public prints, with a view of inviting your enlightened and unprejudiced readers to a candid discussion of the probability of supernatural beings making their appearances to individuals, for the purpose of animating them in the performance of great exploits ; for such, it must be allowed, Buonaparte has performed.
" After the retreat of the ci-devant Emperor Napoleon across the Rhine, and his return to his capital, a visible change was observed in his habits and his conduct. Instead of wearing the livery of woe for the discomfiture of his plans of ambition, and the loss of his second grand army, he dismissed his usual thoughtfulness. Smiles played on his lips, and cheerfulness sat on his brow. His manners became light and easy, and his conversation lively. Business seemed to have lost its charms for him; he sought for amusement and pleasure! Balls and entertainments succeeded each other ; and the Parisians began to fancy that either Napoleon was certain of making an advantageous peace with the allies whenever he thought proper, or was convinced that his downfall was at hand, and therefore wished to spend the last weeks of his imperial dignity in enjoyment and ease. Another conscription had been ordered, and the legislative body had been dismissed ; but these were signs of his existence, not of his activity. He remained buried in pleasure, whilst the invaders crossed the Rhine, and, rapidly approaching Paris, threatened to destroy at once his throne and the metropolis. On a sudden, his conduct experienced a second change ; his face resumed its deep and habitual thoughtful gloom ; his attention was engrossed by the cares due to his armies ; and every day witnessed new reviews of regiments in the Place of the Carrousel. Sleep could no longer seal his wakeful eyes; and his wonted activity, in which no other mortal perhaps ever equalled him, was displayed with more energy than ever. All the time he could spare from his armies and his cabinet he bestowed on his state council. So striking an opposition between his present and his past conduct could not fail to excite a powerful agitation in the minds of the Parisians, and to make them strive to trace up a change so abrupt in the manners of their emperor to its true cause. Precisely at this time, to the still greater astonishment of the whole city, the report of an interview of Napoleon with his Genius, under the shape of a mysterious Red Man, transpired.
" The 1st of January, 1814, early in the morning, Napoleon shut himself up in his cabinet ; bidding Count Molé (then Counsellor of State, and since made Grand Judge of the Empire) to remain in the next room, and to hinder any person from troubling him whilst he was occupied in his cabinet. He looked more thoughtful than usual. He had not long retired to his study, when a tall man, dressed all in red, applied to Molé, pretending that he wanted to speak to the Emperor. He was answered that it was not possible. ' I must speak to him,' said he ; ' go, and tell him that it is the Red Man who wants him, and he will admit me.' Awed by the imperious and commanding tone of that strange personage, Molé obeyed reluctantly, and, trembling, executed his dangerous errand. ' Let him in,' said Buonaparte sternly.
" Prompted by curiosity, Molé listened at the door, and overheard the following curious conversation :
" The Red Man said, ' This is my third appearance before you. The first we met was in Egypt, at the battle of the Pyramids. The second, after the battle of Wagram. I then granted you four years more, to terminate the conquest of Europe, or to make a general peace ; threatening you that, if you did not perform one of those two things, I would withdraw my protection from you. Now I am come, for the third and last time, to warn you that you have now but three months to complete the execution of your designs, or to comply with the proposals of peace offered you by the allies: if you do not achieve the one, or accede to the other, all will be over with you—so remember it well.'
" Napoleon then expostulated with him, to obtain more time, on the plea that it was impossible in so short a space to reconquer what he had lost, or to make peace on honourable terms.
"' Do as you please,' said the Red Man; ' but my resolution is not to be shaken by entreaties, nor otherwise ; and I go.'
" He opened the door. The Emperor followed, entreating him, but to no purpose. The Red Man would not stop any longer ; he went away, casting on his imperial majesty a contemptuous look, an d repeating in a stern voice, ' Three months, no longer !'
"Napoleon made no reply, but his fiery eyes darted fury; and he returned sullenly into his cabinet, which he did not leave the whole day.
"Such were the reports that were spread in Paris three months before the fall of Napoleon Buonaparte, where they caused an unusual sensation, and created a belief that he had dealings with infernal spirits, and was bound to fulfil their will or perish. What is more remarkable is, that in three months the last wonderful events justified the Red Man's words completely; more unfortunate than Caesar, or Henry IV. of France, these presages did but foretell his ruin, and not his death.
" Who the Red Man really was, has never been known ; but that such a person obtained an interview with him seems to have been placed beyond a doubt. Even the French papers, when Buonaparte was deposed, recurred to the fact, and remarked that his mysterious visitant's prophetic threat had been accomplished."