« AnteriorContinuar »
fortune in the field. He first distinguished himself at the siege of Toulon, where his intrepid conduct made such an impression on his comrades, that they unanimously and with acclamation proclaimed him their sergeant, for Junot had begun his military life as a private soldier. The following anecdote displays his sense of honour and the boldness of his valour:
“About this time Junot was one day stationed at a battery, when an artillery officer, who had just come from Paris to take the command of the siege, asked an officer on duty if he was acquainted with any person amongst the subalterns who could be relied on for his bravery and intelligence. The lieutenant instantly called La Tempête, and Junot presented himself. “Put off your uniform,” said the artillery officer, surveying him with a searching eye, “and carry this order there,” pointing with his hand to a particular direction. The young sergeant blushed deeply, and his eyes brightened. “I am not a spy, sir,” said he, “and you must look out for some one else to execute your orders.” “What!” said the officer, in a severe tone, “you refuse to obey orders? Do you know what you expose yourself to ?” “I am ready,” replied Junot, “to obey orders—but if I go at all with this message I will go with my uniform on—I am sure it is paying compliment enough to these English.” The officer, smiling, said, “But they will kill you, man.” “That's no affair of yours; you do not know me sufficiently to care about me—and as for myself it is all equal to me. Come, I will proceed as I am—shall I not. I am mistaken if, with this good sabre in my hand, I shall let the conversation flag, should these folks be inclined to talk with me.” And off he went, singing. As soon as he was gone the officer inquired the name of the young man, and when informed of it he remarked, “that lad will make his way,” and he made a memorandum in his tablets. This affair was of the greatest consequence to Junot, for the reader will have already anticipated that the superior officer was Napoleon.
‘A few days after this incident Buonaparte, approaching the very same battery, inquired for some person who could write a good hand. Junot stepped forward, and was immediately recognized by his officer, who did not fail to say some kind and encouraging things to him. Buonaparte then desired him to write what he was about to dictate; and Junot, for the purpose, squatted himself on the demi-bastion of the battery. The letter was scarcely finished, when a shell, which had been thrown by the English, exploded at a distance of about ten steps from where they were, and covered Junot and the letter with earth. “Very well,” exclaimed Junot, laughing, “we had no sand to dry the ink.” Buonaparte was struck at the coolness and firmness of the young sergeant. This circumstance decided his fortune. He left his corps and attached himself to Napoleon; and when the town was afterwards taken, he asked no other promotion than that of being aid-de-camp to Buonaparte, although he was entitled to a higher rank.’—pp. 189—192.
The subsequent conduct of Junot uniformly shows the strength and perseverance of his attachment to Napoleon, with whom he shared the glory of many of those splendid victories, which render the early life of the great conqueror so illustrious. A letter from Buonaparte to Junot, when the former was about to make a secret departure from Egypt, is full of affection. ‘ I am leaving Egypt,” he writes, “my dear Junot. You are too far from the place of embarkation to accompany me; but I leave an order with Kleber to enable you to depart in the course of October. In conclusion, wherever I am, and in whatever situation I may be placed, you may certainly count upon receiving from me positive proof of the affectionate friendship I bear to you.’ Junot was at this time
commanding a division at Suez. His ultimate departure was
attended by very inauspicious circumstances. A report was spread amongst the troops, that Junot was about to take home the treasures which were said to have been discovered in the pyramids by Napoleon. The soldiers were so worked upon by this rumour, that a party of them took the opportunity, before Junot's embarkation, of boarding the vessel in which he was to sail, and of breaking open every box and case they found. But their violent search was fruitless, and Junot appears to have felt more on account of the mean suspicions that were entertained of him and his friend, than he did for the outrage that was committed on his property. The Duchess is exceedingly indignant that the English should have believed this story of her husband, and that too so implicitly, as to send a ship of war to cruise before Alexandria, and to intercept the vessel in which Junot was transporting the money. This was the Theseus, then commanded by captain Steels, a gentleman whom she is pleased to set down as one of the most impertinent fellows in existence. The captain had the indelicacy to capture the French vessel which had Junot and his suite on board, just as she came out of port, and no doubt he highly offended that distinguished officer by telling him, in the plain bluff manner of a British tar, “we were just waiting for you.” After four months of captivity on board the English vessel, during which we are told that the sufferings of Junot and his companions were very great, captain Steels directed his course to Jaffa, to deliver up the prisoners to Sir Sidney Smith. This gallant sailor behaved with great civility to the prisoners, and sent them in the Vaillant to Cyprus, whence they were to be conveyed to Toulon. It was, however, necessary that an English officer should be dispatched to Palermo, to take orders from Nelson, who was there at that time with Lady Hamilton. We shall give the sequel from the Duchess's own description. “The morning after the Vaillant had anchored in the port of Palermo, a beautiful barge with twelve oars, and most luxuriously ornamented, was rowed in the direction of the ship. Junot, who was then in his berth, was surprized by the appearance of the captain of the Vaillant, who presented himself in a most arrogant manner, and addressed Junot and his friends in the following words: “Gentlemen, get upon deck, the great admiral Nelson, our hero, wishes to see the French prisoners.” Junot looked at the officer for a moment, and then turned his head about as if it had been somebody near him that was spoken to; then, after a pause, he said, “Oh, I see it is me that you address—aye, it is the general you are
speaking to.” The captain nodded in the affirmative. “And you have the fortitude,” added Junot, “to execute your commission with so much impertinence. Now, sir, take back this answer, at least so far as I and my officers are concerned—go and tell your admiral Nelson, who is to me certainly neither a hero nor a great man, that I am not his prisoner, but the prisoner of his government, and that were I ever so much in his custody, I would not submit to an order conveyed to me with the brutality that is only used to those curious beasts which you have brought from Egypt, and to which you would very properly fill the office of groom. If admiral Nelson has any wish to see me he knows where I am. I have to add this: he is my superior, his rank is above mine—let him but intimate in a courteous manner that he wishes to see me, and I will instantly repair to him. But now the insult has been offered, and he cannot undo it.” The truth is, that it was his anger that made Junot say what he did of Nelson, for he admired that hero, and did not conceal what he thought. It is to be presumed, besides, that the conduct of Junot was understood by Nelson: for the same evening he sent the prisoners a large basket of fruit and syrups, with some bottles of Bourdeaux wine. Lady Hamilton added some oranges to the present. However, Nelson annulled the orders given by Sidney Smith, and the prisoners, instead of returning to France, were sent to Mahon, to await the judgment of the Admiralty. That judgment was not very doubtful; still it might be delayed, and for the prisoners to remain any longer under the power of the captain of the frigate was more than human patience could endure. ‘Commodore Sidney Smith appeared to Junot, under an aspect which was not very favourable to his hopes of enjoying with that officer such a social and agreeable intercourse, as ought to subsist between gentlemen so circumstanced. General Buonaparte was not deceived in attributing the evils which resulted from the protracted resistance of St. Jean d’Acre to the quarter he did. Sidney Smith and those calamities could never be dissociated in his mind. Those who were immediately about him, and who so easily sympathized with his hatreds and his friendships, could see in Sidney Smith only a man whom Buonaparte could not love, and whom therefore they could no longer regard. Notwithstanding this, Junot declared to me one day, that the Emperor always thought Sidney Smith was an honourable man, and that he acknowledged it. He believed, however, that Smith was insane, for he could not imagine how any man in his senses would undertake such irrational enterprizes as he did. It happened, therefore, that the first hours of intercourse between Junot and Smith were unpleasant. But this state of things did not last long—they very soon became well acquainted, and inspired each other with a mutual and profound esteem. Junot used to say of Sidney that he was chivalry personi. fied in all its valour and fealty. They spent two months together, which appeared to Junot very short ones—but he was desirous of returning to France. Every other anxiety, indeed, was merged in that one, which ultimately became a real maladie du pays. Sidney observed it, and did as much as he could do for a brother, to promote his wishes in that respect. In fine, it was to the active interference of Sir Sidney Smith that Junot was indebted for the privilege of being liberated by an exchange of pri
soners... I may remark that for Junot ten persons were exchanged:pp. 226—233. From all that we have read and heard ourselves respecting the astonishment that was excited throughout France by the sudden appearance of Buonaparte in Paris, when everybody supposed that he was still in Egypt, we can well imagine the state of consternation into which his more immediate friends and relatives were of thrown by such an event. Madame Junot gives a very lively description of the manner in which the news was received in her domestic circle.
‘On the night of the 18th Wendemiaire we had a party at my mother's. We were all sitting round an immense table, playing a loto-dauphin, a game of which my mother was extremely fond. . We were all very merry, when our attention was arrested by the arrival of a cabriolet, which seemed to have approached with the utmost rapidity. Some one ascended the staircase in two jumps. It proved to be my brother Albert, who exclaimed, “who will guess the news?” As we were all very cheerful, and as he appeared to be so too, we supposed that he might guess who could imagine the greatest absurdity possible. Albert shook his head. My mother told him that she was tired of holding the bag of little balls, and that upon an occasion when a change of the republic was agitated, he was no longer serious. “Upon my word, mother,” replied Albert, “you must know that what you have said in jest will very soon happen in downright earnest— Buonaparte is in France.” At the moment that these words were uttered, every person in the room became stock still, as if they had been struck with a magic wand. “Buonaparte in France 1" exclaimed my mother, “how can that be Your news is contrary to common sense. I only saw Madame Buonaparte at five o'clock this evening, and I could remark nothing in her conduct which led me to suppose that she expected his return.”— “But my intelligence is certain,” rejoined Albert, “for I was at the house of Brunetiere when he was sent for by Gohier. As the Luxembourg is quite close to his house he requested me to wait for him, and in about half an hour he returned with the tidings that Buonaparte arrived the day before at Frejus. Brunetiere informed me that he found Madame Josephine Buonaparte at Gohier's, where she had dined, and heard the first announcement of this important intelligence. It appeared to him (and this my brother spoke in a low tone of voice to my mother) that she was not as pleased with the news as she ought to have been.” “Bah,” exclaimed the old Marquis d'Hautefort, “she knows how to put on her wedding mask when she sees him—but let her take care—it is a sharp subject she has to deal with, and she—she is nothing but a fool.” My mother, who was sunk in a deep reverie, now rose, and pushing back her chair with some force, asked what o'clock it was. Eleven was the hour. “It is too late,” she muttered to herself. “Where do you purpose to go?” inquired the Marquis d'Hautefort. My mother replied, “I want to find out if the news be true.” Albert on the instant started off to Joseph and Lucien Buonaparte, and in a very short time returned with a confirmation of the news.’—pp. 337–340.
The suggestion which is made in the above extract, with reference to the ill-fated Josephine, is developed in a more ample and satisfactory manner afterwards. Indeed it must be confessed, that there is manifested by the Duchess of Abrantes a strong disposition
to inculpate the character and conduct of Josephine; the least criminal excuse for such evidently-unjust accusations being the strength of the Duchess's attachment to the memory of Napoleon, and her consequent anxiety to diminish, as much as she could, the guilt which he incurred by his cruel repudiation of that excellent woman. We shall give the passage to which we allude, as it appears to throw some new light on one of the most striking events of Buonaparte's life.
“Madame Buonaparte had griefs of her own, which she felt very sensibly, and for which there was undoubtedly adequate provocation. Whether it was on the score of mere imprudence, or for some real fault, certain it is, that before the tribunal of the Buonaparte family she stood in the character of an accused party, and everybody talked of a divorce.
“Madame Buonaparte, when her husband returned from Egypt, had been for some time engaged in an intimacy with Gohier and his wife. The only reason which the family could give for this intimacy was, that Madame Buonaparte was looking to secure to herself an asylum, in case Napoleon should cast her off, in consequence of what his sisters might tell him. The 18th Brumaire had certainly justified the hatred of Gohier for Buonaparte, but he entertained this animosity long before. One of the great faults of Madame Buonaparte at this epoch was, that she neglected to seek an asylum in the very bosom of danger itself. It was obviously from her mother-inlaw that she ought to have sought protection against those who wanted to destroy her, and who did effectually destroy her only eight years later; for it must not be concealed, that the divorce of 1809 was the result of the incessant efforts of all the members of the Buonaparte family, as well as of those confidential servants whom, when she was Madame and when she was Empress, Josephine too fatally neglected to attach to her. She perceived, at length, that she ran much risk in not having the support of any portion of that family to which she was allied by ties whose strength no circumstance could diminish.
“Accordingly, when Buonaparte arrived on the morning of the 24th Wendemiaire, at his little house in the rue Chantereine, he found no one there, for neither Louis Buonaparte nor Madame had returned from their unnecessary journey. (Louis and Madame had left Paris a few days before for the south, in order to meet Napoleon.) Immediately, however, after his arrival, Buonaparte was surrounded by his mother, sisters, and sisters-in-law, and indeed all the family. The impression which he received on finding his home so perfect a solitude as it was, especially when he saw that it was abandoned by her who was naturally its head, was terrible and profound. He spoke of it long afterwards to Junot, and what was still more remarkable, nine years later, when his wife was involved in the most distressing circumstances of her life, he did not forget it. He naturally concluded that, when he did not find her in the midst of his family, surrounded by his sisters, and presented by his mother, she must have felt that she was unworthy of that protection, and that she fled from the presence of him whom she had outraged. The mistake which she made as to the road that Buonaparte took from Frejus to Paris, appeared to him only a pretext. He was deeply wounded, and, in a heart like his, such a calamity was calculated to work with the most disastrous effects.