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these unchivalrous, if not precisely mean, actions. That moment of reflection during the dictation may, after all, have been a pregnant and significant if not a critical one.
Still, there were other and sterner problems that engaged him now, as he came to Joppa by the Sea, where once Peter had seen a great sheet let down from heaven with its cargo of unclean beasts.
With but thirteen thousand of his troops he had marched up into Syria, leaving Kléber behind to hold North Egypt, Desaix and Lasalle to conquer the wandering tribes. And with this handful he planned to open a way to India, rousing the Christians to a new crusade as he went. An absurd expedition; but with him nothing was absurd. He had an odd way of turning a vaporous fancy into a granite fact. The higher the wall, the greater his determination to climb it; a superb audacity which would lead him surely to deeds of glory but also perhaps to that fall which Letizia feared for him. Nevertheless men loved him for it.
So he stormed Joppa recklessly and put it along with so many other storied cities in his pocket. since it had been taken by assault, his legionaries were putting the inhabitants to the sword. It was a rule of warfare; also the especial custom of the country; and to be respected one must observe the customs of the country.
Still, he himself had little stomach for wanton slaughter. A soldier trained to arms, with the tradition of countless generations of soldiers, may look with sorrow, but without remorse, on the human débris of a
battle-field, if it be a victorious battle-field. In 1799, at least, warfare was the normal way of life; it was still a fine thing to show courage, sweet to die for one's country. Massacre, however, though justified by precept and example, and, too, quite necessary, since those spared would only arm themselves to fight again, was to him abhorrent. And he sent two of his aides-de-camp, his stepson Eugène and young Croissier, to stop the slaughter.
So they were brought before him, three thousand of the rescued. There they sat on the sands without the walls, squatted on their haunches, with their hands bound behind them, and quite impassive except for the glittering eyes in the dark faces. But there was no hope in them. Gentle sometimes may be the night breezes of the Orient, dulcet the soft voices of its doves, pitying the oases and palm-guarded wells; but there the heart of man knows no pity. It is as arid and dry as the hard-baked sands, as vengeful as Cleopatra's asp. "The Sultan Kabir" must have his little whim; he was but meditating on some new and ingenious cruelty by which they might be lingeringly destroyed.
Never before had he or any merciful conqueror known such a moment. He looked, with steel in his face, but compassion in his heart, on the wretches; then strode up and down, striking his boot with his riding-whip. At last he turned on his young men.
"Why in the devil's name have you served me so?"
"But, citizen general, you sent us to spare them!"
"Yes, fool, the women, old men,
and children-but not these dirty ruffians. What does your ingenious fancy suggest that I do with them? Am I to let them go, only to arm themselves and harry our rear; to escape and hotfoot it to Acre, there to swell the defending forces; or shall I use up precious battalions to guard them?
And where is the
bread to feed them? Already we ourselves are on half-rations. But there, you have done it. Pass out the bread."
So the biscuits were given to the prisoners while the hungry soldiers swore and grumbled. And for three nights he kept the pack under guard while councils of war were held in his tent. "It means mutiny, general," said Jourdan.
"That none of us will ever get back to France," added Junot. "Already the troops are suffering from wounds and privations; you have lost many with plague; the rest will not stand starvation.'
Inwardly Napoleon cursed himself. It had been a foolish gesture. For what profited it to spare them from death in the compensating heat of conflict, only to shoot them down in cold blood? And that, as he had foreseen, the minute after he had sent off Eugène and Croissier, he eventually would have to do. Compunction had cost him dear, would blacken his name for generations!
So for three nights he tossed in his tent and paced the sands by day, looking seaward and hoping for a sail that would take some of the wretches to France. Truly his was a more unpalatable mess than that which had been set before Peter. And he would get no sainthood for eating it!
With the fourth dawn, he turned from the shore and approached his generals, through the murmuring ranks of his soldiers.
"Have it your own way," he said bitterly. "Take them to the shore anywhere so long as they are out of my sight!"
The prisoners were roused from their slumber, pricked with the bayonet's point down to the sea, then lined up-assassins, many of them, but still human beings! He ordered the bugler to sound the march as volley after volley rattled in the rear. Looking back, one might have seen the rising tide washing the black figures farther up on the sands. But he did not look back.
He refused, however, any longer to play the rôle of Pilate.
"Such are the facts," he wrote to Joseph-for publication. "I gave the order, and I could not have acted otherwise. acted otherwise. A parent cannot toss his children's meat to the wolves or let loose the wolves from the trap to devour them. And my soldiers are in my charge. I am a father to them.
"Eugène did not realize the predicament he got me into," he went on, for Joseph's eye alone. "I shall be damned for the ages. That I knew, the second he brought them in; and for once in my life I postponed a decision for three days, I who act so quickly! He and Croissier might have foreseen the trouble
disobeyed my order-let it go for a gesture, for which, however, I did not intend it. Still, I should not blame them. Eugène is a good boy. It is fate. Let the English use it as they will!"
It was at this most propitious mo
ment that Junot, brave, handsome, but scatter-brained, chose to acquaint his chief with certain little incidents in which Josephine had figured in Paris. There on the sands, at the end of the day's march from Joppa, he told him, hinting at, if not directly charging, adultery.
Enraged at the opening of an old wound, Napoleon turned his back on the bewildered Junot, who had but thought to do him a kindness, and confronted his secretary.
"And you, Bourrienne, are no friend, either," he declared with an understandable lack of logic. "You also knew, everybody knew, yet none of you would tell me." Then, with the vision of the black-haired young grocer's clerk, he broke his riding-whip in two and flung the pieces on the sand. "God damn them! When I return, I shall exterminate all that breed of fops and puppies in Paris!"
"But, general, you must not think of divorce," said Bourrienne, trying hard to be tactful. "It would ruin you. Think of your glory!"
"My glory! God in heaven, what would I not give to believe that that which Junot tells me is a lie!" Then he added brokenly, "So much did I love her!"
So he disappeared into his tent to another sleepless night, and, a few days later, came upon the towers. and ditches of St.-Jean d'Acre. For eight weeks he assaulted the city with shot and scaling-ladder, now and then dashing from his trenches to defeat with one of his masterstrokes the hordes of reinforcements coming down from the north. And these he held off, sometimes at odds of ten to one. But food and ammu
nition now gave out. Of the thirteen thousand men he brought north with him, plague and wounds had taken six. Then came the message from Paris saying that Italy had been lost.
"I had a presentiment of this," he told Junot. "First Joppa, then your tales of Josephine, now Acre; and, as if that were not enough, the fools have lost Italy. I shall sail at once. Kléber has the troops to hold Egypt and colonize it. Later I shall send him reinforcements. My place now is at home."
Thus it was that, after one more victory on the shores of Aboukir, to leave behind a last taste of his prowess, and with a special admonition to Kléber to look after the little Fourès, he set sail in a frigate and in October, 1799, was chased by the prowling English fleet into the harbor of Ajaccio.
Once again he saw the blue waters of the gulf, the ancient walls and gates of the town, the familiar belfries of San Giovanni Battista, the green hills and old Monte Rotondo sparkling in the distant sunshine. And as they dropped anchor the bells of the convent came to him over the waters.
On the quai the townspeople who had driven him away now gathered to greet him. For the time at least they were proud of him. But this pride was embarrassing, for half of the town claimed kinship with him; the other half held up their offspring to be kissed and blessed as his godchildren. Now, in Egypt he had exacted some twelve millions of tribute; but this he had scrupulously preserved for France, only sixteen thousand francs going into his
pocket, scarcely enough for transportation. On this fund considerable inroads were made by the godchildren. These francs, of course, were in the form of strange Turkish sequins; but Uncle Fesch, who had returned to Corsica, changed them for him at the bank.
It was with some feeling of sadness that Napoleon found only this one of his more immediate family still dwelling in the old town. With him he visited the house on the Via Malerbe, now restored after the pillage, lingered for a while in the coop in the attic and in the summerhouse he had built on the terrace. Also they went to the altar of the cathedral, where the murdered del Sarra had lain, and walked by the shore where loomed above-ground the stone houses of the dead, and where now dwelt the old archdeacon.
In a way it was a happy interlude, though tinged with melancholy. Almost he wished he might stay there in Ajaccio, but while he might long for peace in the brief hour of an autumn twilight, in the bright daylight he was restless. Not only did Duty call him, but he had asked, too, a question of Fesch-about his wife. Before his gaze the broad placid face had looked uncomfortable. The abbé had no mind to interfere in this family quarrel; but his answers had not been reassuring.
As the English frigates had now disappeared, Napoleon embarked in the morning and sailed out of the blue waters of the gulf. He was never to see it again.
Within a few hours he landed at the port of Fréjus.
Word of his coming had preceded
him to Paris, by courier and letter and in other and mysterious fashions. And as usual such news of him stirred things up, among the Directors and the various members of his family who were now residing in Paris. At once the brothers and sisters, with their kinspeople, repaired to Joseph's cozy home in the Rue Rocher, where Letizia stayed. They had much to say.
Meantime word passed from lip to lip, on the boulevards, at the outdoor tables of the little cafés; while in the theaters few gave heed to the performance.
"Bonaparte is on his way—is here he came last night, is in seclusion diable, no, he will be here tomorrow". -so ran the news around Paris.
And all the way on the road up they were opening the gates of the cities, bevies of beautiful maidens, tricolor-clad, welcomed him, and portly mayors read their tiresome speeches; while horsemen dashed on to the neighboring towns eager to herald his arrival.
So he rode north, a still frail figure, with face as brown as an Arab's from the Egyptian suns, and eyes somber and brooding when they did not have to smile at the citizens crowding around his carriage.
Josephine, when she got the word, was instructing the gay guests of the Luxembourg Palace in the new game of creps which she had introduced from the tropics. She was casting dice; but when she impulsively decided to drive down and meet her husband, her fortune deserted her. Unlucky Josephine! She took the wrong road.
(To be continued)
TWO SONNETS BY ROSTAND
Translated by BRIAN HOOKER
ou could so move your body as to reveal
How poets made their measure, grave or gay— To march with Molière, run with Beaumarchais, Dance with Regnard, or gesture with Banville;
You made your spirit musical, to feel
The virtue of great spirits, and obey,
As the strings take the bow, what passions they Laid up like treasure for the common weal.
You displayed honor; having seen you live
When insult speaks what answer we shall give.
Your voice of golden bronze resounded so
As when you played the true man, the brave friend.
In these days without beauty, you remain
A queen of grace, a princess of disdain.
In these times without folly, you complain
Bid soul and flesh lay one white bosom bare,
Greedy of grief, you make our tears your own;
All sorrows in all hearts hidden alone?
Of Shakspere, while you speak his fantasies,