The action takes place from 19 to 26 March 1815 in France, during the last before Easter of the week, in the Catholic calendar called passionate. The novel is based on historical events connected with the return of Napoleon Bonaparte to Paris, who fled from the island of Elba, where he was in exile. The main character of this multifaceted novel-epic is a young artist Theodore Gericault. In 1811, his father, Georges Gericault, with the consent of his son, who hates the war, hired a recruit to serve in Napoleon’s army. And for several years, Theodore quietly engaged in painting. However, in 1815 he was suddenly identified in the gray musketeers of King Louis XVIII and thus included in the dramatic events that engulfed France.
In the barracks
Meanwhile time goes by, and the king does not appear. Rumors of betrayals, of the flight of aristocrats, of Bonaparte on the outskirts of Paris, of the indecision of the king are stirring the minds of the French. The military does not say anything, but they suddenly see the carriage of the king. At high speed, it moves away from the Louvre. So, the monarch flees, but where, in what direction?
However, his feet carry him not home, but to friends-musketeers who, together with other troops, leave Paris and, after having already left in the middle of the night the king and his escort, retreat to the north of the country. But where exactly, on what route – no one knows, even the king’s nephew, the Duke of Berry, delayed for a while with his beloved Virginie, who gave birth to his other son the other day. The king appointed Marshal Meson as commander-in-chief, but the latter can not organize anything either – generals act as they themselves think is necessary. It is not known where the headquarters is located, but it is known that on March 19 in the evening the whole of its staff appeared in the chancery, demanded a salary and disappeared. No sooner had the royal troops departed from Paris, as part of them had already turned back: in Saint-Denis, General Axelmans, who had gone over to Bonaparte’s side, lured them. Devoted to the king of March 20 in bad weather and impassable dirt reached the city of Beauvais, from where the king and his retinue just left. But where? In Calais, and then in England? You can only guess. And what is destined for them – will there be a battle, or will the retreat continue? Residents of Beauvais are afraid of the return of Bonaparte. After all, then again begin recruit fees, bloody tribute to the war, and their city is already almost completely destroyed. And production will suffer, who will then need their textiles? and their city is already almost completely destroyed. And production will suffer, who will then need their textiles? and their city is already almost completely destroyed. And production will suffer, who will then need their textiles?
In Beauvais Gericault stopped for the night in the house of widow-grocer Duran. Her daughter, sixteen-year-old Denise, told Theodore that a year ago they had a young officer, Alphonse de Pra, who was reading her poetry and describing Italy beautifully. Later, Theodore learned that it was Lamartine. And on the same night, at dawn, the city’s suprefect was brought news that Emperor Bonaparte had solemnly settled in the Louvre of Paris. In Beauvais the commanders and the princes who arrived there in the morning can not hide their confusion: the troops to the city have not yet fully recovered, and General Axelmans, who has gone to catch up with them, is about to impose a fight. So you need to buy horses, without any regrets, buy horses, as soon as possible to reach the port of Dieppe and sail to England, even without direct instructions from the king, who still does not make itself felt.
In the number sent for the horses is also Gericault. The conversation with the owner of the herd is not easy, but the musketeers still manage, thanks to their assertiveness, to buy the best horses. Among the horses stands one, a black suit with a white spot on the back leg. With such “stalks” you have to be careful, they are very nerovists. This horse-handsome Gericault gives Friend Mark-Antoine, who on the way to Beauvais lost his favorite horse. But the gift turns out to be fatal: two days later the horse, frightened by an unexpected shot, carried a new master, who could not free his foot from the stirrup. The rider is in serious condition left in the care of a poor peasant family, and his further fate remains unclear.
At the entrance to the city of Pua, Theodore had to go to the smithy to shoe his Tricot. He spent the night at the blacksmith Mueller, to which came two men – old Joubert and young driver Bernard. Müller is married to Sophie, to whom the tender feelings of Bernard and the helper of the blacksmith Firman feed. Over dinner, Theodore’s sharp look caught the signs of the drama playing in this house. The company hates Bernard, feeling that Sophie is secretly carried away by this regularly appearing guest at the blacksmith. Firmman patiently waits for the right moment to deal with the opponent. At midnight, Firmin enters the room to Theodore and calls him to go with him, following Bernard and Joubert, to a secret meeting of the conspirators. Firmman hopes that the royal musketeer Zheriko, hearing the anti-royal speeches of the conspirators, will report to Bernard, and thus he will be freed from the hated rival. About twenty people gathered in the meadow near the cemetery. They are excitedly discussing the causes of the plight of the people, blame it primarily on the aristocrats and the king, scold Bonaparte for endless wars and ruin. How many people, so many opinions. Theodore, hiding behind a tree, seems to be in the theater and watching some unfamiliar drama. It turns out that the price of bread can excite and even disturb somebody, some settlement books cause curses among workers, and these same workers hope with hope about some “workers’ unions”. Some of them argue that the people should no longer believe anyone, others argue that Bonaparte can be what the people will do if the people give him the right direction, and he will unite. Gericault feels that something is changing in him. This wave of human passions carries him and brings him purely physical pain. He came here unintentionally, but now he will always be on the side of these people, who previously knew practically nothing. And when Firmen persistently asks Theodore to return to the city and told the royal authorities who will arrest the rioters, Theodore throws Fyrmin in fury and hits him in the face.
News of Excellmans’ cavalry is being driven by princes and counts for the English Channel, but Theodore Gericault does not even think about emigration. In Pua, the word “homeland” was enriched for him with a new meaning, now he could not part with France, leave needy and suffering people. But the king hurries to leave France: first, one can not fall into the hands of Bonaparte, and secondly, even relatives who dream of taking possession of his crown are dangerous. Louis XVIII wants to outwit them all – after some time to return with the allies and protect themselves from all the applicants. Meanwhile, among the king’s soldiers, rumors spread that in the Lille the Guard can connect with foreign armies standing on the border. So the Duke of Orleans, who assured the army two days ago that the king would never ask foreigners for help and call them to the French land, lied.
In the army riots riot. Before some generals this problem arises with the same severity. For example, Marshal McDonald openly declares to the king that the border will not pass. The moment of choice has come: loyalty to the king or loyalty to the motherland. And the king himself, never reaching the port on the English Channel, decided to quickly cross the Franco-Belgian border into Meneno. In the squares of French cities, instead of “Long live the king!” everywhere shout “Long live the emperor!”, and on a passionate Friday they go to the cathedral for the liturgy. But Theodore is not up to religious rites: he has not yet found an answer for himself, on whose side to stand up. It is already clear that not on the side of the king, stained with a shame of betrayal. But the Better Bonaparte? After all, he somehow said that he did not want to be emperor of the mob. He does not care that the people are dying of hunger, and the army and the countless police keep him in awe. Or maybe that young speaker who called on the royalists and Republicans to rally against the tyrant-emperor is right? In all this remains to be seen. And now Theodore Gericault, who has already visited the limits of the possible, at this hour of Easter Matins, you just want to live, paint, peer into people’s faces, love them. He wants to become a true painter of the world that surrounds him.