BESIDE BOLIVAR: The Edecán Demarquet
DEMARQUET'S ROLE IN THE STRUGGLE: Manuela
Mentions of Demarquet are rare for the first half of 1827.
On May 8, 1827, from Quito, in a communication for the Secretary of State, he transcribed an official letter of General Juan José Florès with important news.
He and his family had now settled in Quito, in the neighborhood near the cathedral. They had their fourth child in July. Jorge Moreno Egas, Vecinos de la Catedral de Quito bautizados entre 1801 y 1831, 1984 69-70 Such domestic concerns may explain why, at some point in this year, he seems to have once again retired:
We believe that... since 1827 he had left the army, as in the following year he petitioned General Juan José Florez [sic], leader of the South, for a job and made it known to his friend and boss Bolivar, who answered with the utmost kindness See letter of January 29, 1829.
In a letter to Florès on October 14 of this year, Bolivar wrote of “my dear Demarquet, who each day is more a good man.” Claude Lara Brozzesi, Un Viajero y Cronista Frances del Siglo XIX Totalmente Desconocido, 85 As it happened, he was about to call on this “good man” for a very special mission.
In the fall of 1827, Bolivar summoned (albeit with honeyed, lover's words) Manuela Saenz to Bogotá from Quito. The choice of her escort must have been obvious on two points: not only was Demarquet now one of Bolivar's most trusted aides, but he was her near-relation by marriage.
In Quito's close, closed society, Demarquet and his wife would have known the Saenz's as a matter of course, even had José Maria Saenz not been married to Mme. Demarquet's sister. As it is, that relationship was close enough that several years later Saenz would stand godfather to their youngest daughter. Years later, their oldest son would marry his granddaughter and live in what, at this time, was still the Saenz's house.
The Demarquets certainly would have known Manuela, though probably not the husband she had left in 1822. What did they think of Manuela's public and unapologetic adultery? Probably Demarquet, a Parisian and himself a child of divorce, was less scandalized by it than his wife, raised in a devoutly Catholic, provincial society. Too, the fact that her lover was the Liberator might have erased all moral scruples; after all, like her, Demarquet was devoted to Bolivar.
In the event, Manuela's escort was not only a trusted aide, but someone from her own social circle. If Demarquet was retired at that point, this would have also have freed him for what was not, after all, a military mission.
She planned to leave at the start of December:
Nature offered an omen of the challenges that awaited her. On November 15, 1827, some two weeks before the anticipated start of her journey, an earthquake hit New Granada. The quake rattled cities, towns, and villages; it severely damaged several churches and houses in Bogotá. Saenz nevertheless proceeded with her plans to leave in December, heading northward...
Her request [later on the journey] for fourteen mules-"eight for baggage and six for riding"-suggests the size of her entourage.
S. Murray, Fredrick B. Pike,
Van Hagen's description of that trip purports to be history; there is at least enough of that in this highly colored account for the reader to learn what conditions then, and Manuela, were like:
So she left, as she had promised. And with a familiar retinue: a squadron of lancers to guard her, much of Bolivar's personal equipment that he had left behind in the rapidity of his movements, the strongboxes of his private archives which she stiffly guarded like a Pandora's box, the mules loaded with the traveling trunks of her wardrobe, and the slaves and the servants....
It was a long and frightful journey. It would have been bad enough in its thousand miles when the roads had been the King's Highway, paved with stone, its bridges kept in repair, and its taverns operating under royal license. Now it was a small hell-journey. There was little or no food; bridges destroyed during the war remained unrepaired; gangs of discharged soldiers infested the highways, waylaying any who did not take the precaution to go well armed.
Murray and Pike point out another danger for the expedition: their first destination was Pasto:
Long a royalist redoubt, the Pasto Province as a whole had been conquered-indeed, bludgeoned into submission-by Bolivar's army. Its surviving inhabitants no doubt still burned with the memory of the cruelties they had endured, and it is unlikely they would have been particularly pleased to learn of Bolivar's mistress among them. Saenz must have been mindful of this and may well have chosen to travel in disguise. She was in the city of Pasto itself, in any case, by the fifth of January.
Van Hagen continues:
All along the way General Bolivar had alerted his officers to be on watch for the caravan of Manuela. More than that: for when she reached the verdant Cauca valley on her way to the small colonial city of Popayan, a letter of encouragement, in his own hand, awaited her.
So it went on day after day, through the verdant valleys, up the sides of the Andes, down again into the gorges of rushing rivers. Christmas of 1827 came and went. Nothing marked it but the steady fall of rain, a rain which had usurped the place of the sun. The climate and the sullenness of the people had a depressing effect on everyone. Manuela must have wondered about the strange alchemy of love. For love and love alone sustained her; the feeling of being wanted was an elixir in her that gave her courage to go on. Simon's letter, read and reread, lay under her military pelisse: “ . . . your love revives a life that is expiring. I cannot live without you. Come. Come to me. Come now.”
One month and nine days after leaving Quito - a few days beyond the New Year of 1828 - the mule caravan came to the flat environs of Bogotá. The animals, mud-splattered and weary, galled by saddle sores from the long ride, seemed to sense the end of the journey. At Cuatro Esquinas - The Four Corners - the caravan came to the stone-paved road, here still called the King's Highway. A little settlement strung out along the road, thick mud walls and dun-colored., windowless houses thatched with straw, huddled among the agave plants.
The lancers unwound their legs from the saddle pommels, swung their feet into stirrups, straightened their jaguar-skin shakos and lifted up their steel-tipped bamboo shafts, on which hung limply the gonfalons of the Republic; they prepared for their entrance into the capital. Still the pattern of their reception did not change. People emerged briefly from their houses and looked at the squadron, then quickly, sullenly, went back inside and barricaded the doors.
The earth, too, was unsmiling. The light of a rainy sky trembled on the willows, shedding verdurous gloom over the green savannahs. Even the chattering Jonotas, who usually could extract humor from the most terrible of moments, had fallen silent....
The narrow streets of Bogotá were empty as they entered. The sun, breaking through the heavy mist, glistened moistly on the wet cobblestones; for a moment it highlighted the squat color-splashed buildings; then it disappeared, and its place was usurped by the mist. Manuela, who had lived amidst the gay Sevillian architecture of Lima, was depressed by her first view of the capital of Gran Colombia. She could hardly believe that it had a population of twenty thousand. The streets were so narrow that if one were sufficiently long-armed he might meet the hand of his neighbor stretched out from the other side. The buildings had nothing of the airy gayness of Lima, they were box-like, heavy, of thick-walled adobe construction easily converted into massive fortresses once the great doors were closed. The windows, heavily barred or grilled, were without glass; the cold Bogota air (as well as the curiosity of the passers-by) was met by screens of thickly starched muslin.
Bogotá lay at the foot of mountains that reared up behind the city. Its principal street, the Gale de Comercio, ran with an un-erring straightness through its heart; and along it was a monotonous line of buildings the stores all barred with grills as if they were barracks. Of God, Bogotá had a divine sufficiency. The principal buildings were churches or convents six for monks, four for nuns, and two (the College of the Holy Rosary was the most famed) for schools of higher learning. Bogotá, as Manuela was soon to learn forcibly, was intensely religious; despite twenty years of war, one third of the real estate in the capital was still in the hands of the Church.
The squadron, with Colonel Demarquet in the lead position, emerged from the winding Calle de Florian and clattered in the great plaza, scattering on its way a few Indians who had braved the sharp cold rain to draw water from the fountain in the center. The plaza was the amphitheater of Bogotá; markets were held there on Fridays, religious processions when the divine calendar decreed it, and bullfights when bulls could be found. And now as the reign of terror gripped the land, it was the arena for public executions. The Cathedral, stately and massive, was at one end; governmental buildings, not in the least different from any of the other one-storied structures of the capital, flanked the other sides.
Colonel Demarquet summoned with his mutilated left hand one of the Indians. The man snatched the sodden hat from his head, pulled at the rug-like ruana draped across his shoulders, and in proper humility listened to the questions. Did he know where the Liberator, General Bolivar, was staying at this moment? Was he at his manor house the Quinta or was he at the Palace of San Carlos? The Indian suggested he must be living at the Quinta, for the Colonel could see that Bogota had been rocked only recently by a terrible earthquake, which had left many of the churches topless and the governmental palace in partial ruins.
Manuela would have preferred to go to the Palace, anywhere other than the Quinta. After the long journey, she had need of the ministry of Jonotas - to be bathed and perfumed with verbena water, to have her artful pastel make-up applied, to slip out of her riding clothes and be enfolded into some cashmere affair that would give her body grace and poise. It was - need the Colonel be reminded? - almost two years since she had been seen by the General.
Demarquet was a soldier. He had his orders; and the orders were to bring Manuela to his General at once on arrival. While he was, as a Frenchman, delighted to be taking some part in an affaire de coeur, he would in this instance follow exactly his commands from Bolivar. To the Quinta!
With night hanging its blue veils over the streets of Bogotá, the squadron went on its way. The stores were closed, the narrow sidewalks silent and deserted; only a few of the streets were pallidly lit by small candles which flickered behind glass globes. People who ventured abroad were accompanied by a servant, who led the way with a small light to break a darkness as black as a wolf's mouth.
The villa of Bolivar - the Quinta - lay north of the city. The squadron clattered along the cobblestones, the while raising a regiment of barking dogs, crossed the Carmen Bridge which spanned the San Agustin River, and made for the suburbs.
On a rise of ground partially enveloped in mist was the Quinta, It lay at the base of a gigantic mountain, at the mouth of the Boqueron. Through this gap in the mountains, heavy, moisture-laden fog clouds drifted in to bank the city. Ribands of fog drifted through the cedars, the oaks, the stately cypresses. The trees were covered with aerial parasites that verdured their host plants in gray-green color; these gathered the mist and gave it off as tinkling rain. Buried in the mass of foliage was the villa, brilliant with lights. Sounds of laughter drifted across the night, joining the croaking of the frogs.
The voice of the sentry cut across the night like a whip slashing the air.
And soldiers, rifles at ready, poured out of the guardhouse near the gate. They surrounded the squadron.
“Who lives?" queried a disembodied voice, as shadows became men and men became bayonet-tipped guns.
The officer of the guard moved forward, waved his lamp in Colonel Dernarquet's face. There was instant recognition. And a salute. He moved around to the others, examined their papers. He then held his light up to Manuela.
The startled officer saw a self-possessed woman in her thirties looking down on him with a strange, enigmatic smile. She was dressed in a hussar's uniform, blood-red pants, skintight and braided in black arabesques, a military pelisse, and black military jackboots, whose golden spurs gave out, as the horse stirred restlessly, a sound like the tinking of a small golden bell. A brace of brass Turkish pistols, cocked and ready for use, was at her knees. And, as if her attractive face did not suggest that she was indeed woman, coral earrings dropped from her ears. A woman, dressed like a hussar, riding at night - the officer was almost ready to begin a lengthy questioning when Colonel Demarquet, having enjoyed the moment long enough, leaned from his horse and said, in a confidential tone, “This, Sefior Capitan, is La Saenz.”
Von Hagen, The Four Loves of Manuela
A few weeks later Demarquet was back in Quito. Whatever gratitude Bolivar felt for his accompanying Saenz was probably expressed in person and does not appear in their correspondence. But the warmth between them is particularly apparent in a very unusual note from Bolivar which references Demarquet's contacts with Florès.
Bogotá, January 29, 1828
To Colonel Carlos Eloy Demarquet
My dear Demarquet:
I am answering your kind letter which I received the day before yesterday together with a copy of the official letter which you sent in answer to Florès. I certainly appreciate the deference which Florès has shown regarding the destiny of my aide-de-camp; I also must say I have not planned any yet, because I do not know what employment you desire to have in this department where you have established your residence; but with you too this is so: today I leave aside what you asked yesterday, I have not decided anything without knowing from you yourself. Tell me what destiny I can give you that is within my power.
I am very happy to know you are satisfied with the choice of General Florès.
Repeat to them my order with respect to the deputies to the big convention: let them come and as soon as possible.
Please give a thousand tendernesses to your family, to your good mother-in-law, whom I never forget, and believe me your friend.
This is one of the first direct hints that Demarquet, now past 30, was beginning to think about his own future. Others were to come.