Chapter 4

THE COMMOTION among the peoples begins to subside. The waves of the great tempest begin to abate, and eddies begin to be formed about the calmer surface where diplomatists are busy, fancying the calm is their work.

But all at once the quiet sea is convulsed again. The diplomatists imagine that they, their disagreements, are the cause of this fresh disturbance; they look for wars between their sovereigns; the position seems insoluble. But the storm they feel brewing does not come from the quarter where they look for it. It rises again from the same starting point—Paris. The last backwash of the westward movement follows—the backwash which was to solve the seemingly inextricable diplomatic difficulties, and to put an end to the military unrest of the period.

The man who has devastated France comes back to France alone, with no project, and no soldiers. Any policeman can arrest him; but by a strange freak of chance no one does seize him, but all meet with enthusiasm the man they have been cursing but a day before, and will curse again within a month.

That man is needed for the last act winding up the drama.

The act is performed.

The last part is played. The actor is bidden to undress, and wash off his powder and paint; he will be needed no more.

And for several years this man, in solitude on his island, plays his pitiful farce to himself, intrigues and lies, justifying his conduct when a justification is no longer needed, and shows all the world what the thing was men took for power when an unseen hand guided it.

The stage manager, when the drama was over, and the puppet stripped, showed him to us.

‘‘Look what you believed in! Here he is! Do you see now that it was not he but I that moved you?’’

But blinded by the force of the movement men for long could not perceive that.

Even more coherence and inevitability is to be seen in the life of Alexander I., the personage who stood at the head of the counter-movement from east westward.

What was needed for the man who, to the exclusion of others, should stand at the head of that movement from the east westward?

There was needed a sense of justice, an interest in the affairs of Europe, but a remote one, not obscured by petty interests, a moral preeminence over his peers—the sovereigns of the time; there was needed a gentle and attractive personal character; there was needed too a personal grievance against Napoleon. And all that is to be seen in Alexander I.; it was all prepared beforehand by the innumerable so-called chance circumstances of his previous life, by his education and the liberalism of the beginning of his reign, and the counsellors around, and Austerlitz, and Tilsit, and Erfurt.

During the war in defence of the country this personage is inactive; he is not needed. But as soon as a general European war becomes inevitable, at the given moment, he is in his place, and bringing the European peoples together he leads them to the goal.

The goal is reached. After the last war of 1815 Alexander finds himself at the highest possible pinnacle of human power. How does he use it?

While Napoleon in his exile was drawing up childish and lying schemes of the blessings he would have showered on humanity if he had had the power, Alexander, the pacifier of Europe, the man who, from his youth up, had striven for nothing but the good of the people, the first champion of liberal reforms in his country, now when he seemed to possess the greatest possible power, and consequent possibility of

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