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Mr. Bonaparte of Corsica
by John Kendrick Bangs
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This etext was produced from the 1902 Harper and Brothers edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk



MR. BONAPARTE OF CORSICA

by John Kendrick Bangs



CHAPTER I: CORSICA TO BRIENNE 1769-1779



Napoleon's father, Charles Bonaparte, was the honored progenitor of thirteen children, of whom the man who subsequently became the Emperor of the French, by some curious provision of fate, was the second. That the infant Napoleon should have followed rather than led the procession is so foreign to the nature of the man that many worthy persons unfamiliar with the true facts of history have believed that Joseph was a purely apocryphal infant, or, as some have suggested, merely an adopted child; but that Napoleon did upon this occasion content himself with second place is an incontrovertible fact. Nor is it entirely unaccountable. It is hardly to be supposed that a true military genius, such as Napoleon is universally conceded to have been, would plunge into the midst of a great battle without first having acquainted himself with the possibilities of the future. A reconnoitre of the field of action is the first duty of a successful commander; and hence it was that Napoleon, not wishing to rush wholly unprepared into the battle of life, assigned to his brother Joseph the arduous task of first entering into the world to see how the land lay. Joseph having found everything to his satisfaction, Napoleon made his appearance in the little island of Corsica, recently come under French domination the 15th day August, 1769. Had he been born two months earlier, we are told, he would have been an Italian. Had he been born a hundred years later, it is difficult to say what he would have been. As it was, he was born a Frenchman. It is not pleasant to contemplate what the man's future would have been had he been born an Italian, nor is it easy to picture that future with any confidence born of certainty. Since the days of Caesar, Italy had not produced any great military commander, and it is not likely that the powers would have changed their scheme, confirmed by sixteen centuries of observance, in Napoleon's behalf—a fact which Napoleon himself realized, for he often said in his latter days, with a shudder: "I hate to think how inglorious I should have become had I been born two months earlier and entered the world as an Italian. I should have been another Joseph—not that Joseph is not a good man, but he is not a great man. Ah! Bourrienne, we cannot be too careful in the selection of our birthdays."

It is the testimony of all who knew him in his infancy that Napoleon was a good child. He was obedient and respectful to his mother, and sometimes at night when, on account of some indigestible quality of his food or other cause, it was necessary for his father to make a series of forced marches up and down the spacious nursery in the beautiful home at Ajaccio, holding the infant warrior in his arms, certain premonitions of his son's future career dawned upon the parent. His anguish was voiced in commanding tones; his wails, like his subsequent addresses to his soldiers, were short, sharp, clear, and decisive, nor would he brook the slightest halt in these midnight marches until the difficulties which stood in his path had been overcome. His confidence in himself at this early period was remarkable. Quick to make up his mind, he was tenacious of his purpose to the very end.

It is related that when barely seven months old, while sitting in his nurse's lap, by means of signs which she could not fail to comprehend, he expressed the desire, which, indeed, is characteristic of most healthy Children of that age, to possess the whole of the outside world, not to mention the moon and other celestial bodies. Reaching his little hands out in the direction of the Continent, lying not far distant over the waters of the Mediterranean, he made this demand; and while, of course, his desire was not granted upon the instant, it is the testimony of history that he never lost sight of that cherished object.

After providing Napoleon with eleven other brothers and sisters, Charles Bonaparte died, and left his good and faithful wife Letitia to care for the future greatness of his family, a task rendered somewhat the more arduous than it might otherwise have been by the lack of income; but the good woman, who had much of Napoleon's nature in her make-up, was equal to the occasion. She had her sons to help her, and was constantly buoyed up by the expressed determination of her second child to place her beyond the reach of want in that future day when the whole world lay grovelling at his feet.

"Do not worry, mother," Napoleon said. "Let Joseph and Lucien and Louis and Jerome and the girls be educated; as for me, I can take care of myself. I, who at the age of three have mastered the Italian language, have a future before me. I will go to France, and then—"

"Well! what then?" his mother asked.

"Nous verrons!" Napoleon replied, turning on his heel and walking out of the house whistling a military march.

From this it will be seen that even in his in fancy Napoleon had his ideas as to his future course. Another anecdote, which is taken from the unpublished memoirs of the grandson of one of his Corsican nurses, illustrates in an equally vivid manner how, while a mere infant in arms, he had a passion for and a knowledge of military terms. Early one morning the silence was broken by the incipient Emperor calling loudly for assistance. His nurse, rushing to him, discovered that the point of a pin was sticking into his back. Hastily removing the cause of the disturbance, she endeavored to comfort him:

"Never mind, sweetheart," she said, "it's only a nasty pin."

"Nasty pin!" roared Napoleon. "By the revered name of Paoli, I swear I thought it was a bayonet!"

It was, no doubt, this early realization of the conspicuous part he was to play in the history of his time that made the youthful Bonaparte reserved of manner, gloomy, and taciturn, and prone to irritability. He felt within him the germ of future greatness, and so became impatient of restraint. He completely dominated the household. Joseph, his elder brother, became entirely subject to the imperious will of the future Emperor; and when in fancy Napoleon dreamed of those battles to come, Joseph was always summoned to take an active part in the imaginary fight. Now he was the bridge of Lodi, and, lying flat on his back, was forced to permit his bloodthirsty brother to gallop across him, shouting words of inspiration to a band of imaginary followers; again he was forced to pose as a snow-clad Alp for Napoleon to climb, followed laboriously by Lucien and Jerome and the other children. It cannot be supposed that this was always pleasing to Joseph, but he never faltered when the demand was made that he should act, because he did not dare.

"You bring up the girls, mother," Napoleon had said. "Leave the boys to me and I'll make kings of them all, if I have to send them over to the United States, where all men will soon be potentates, and their rulers merely servants—chosen to do their bidding."

Once, Joseph venturing to assert himself as the eldest son, Napoleon smiled grimly.

"And what, pray, does that mean?" he asked, scornfully.

"That I and not you am the head of the family," replied Joseph.

"Very well," said Napoleon, rushing behind him, and, by a rapidly conceived flank movement, giving Joseph a good sound kick. "How does the head of the family like the foot of the family? Don't ever prate of accidents of birth to me."

From that time on Joseph never murmured again, but obeyed blindly his brother's slightest behest. He would have permitted Napoleon to mow him down with grape-shot without complaint rather than rebel and incur the wrath which he knew would then fall upon his head.

At school the same defiance of restraint and contempt for superior strength characterized Napoleon. Here, too, his taciturn nature helped him much. If he were asked a question which he could not answer, he would decline to speak, so that his instructors were unable to state whether or not he was in ignorance as to the point under discussion, and could mark him down conscientiously as contumelious only. Hence it was that he stood well in his studies, but was never remarkable for deportment. His favorite plaything, barring his brother Joseph, was a small brass cannon that weighed some thirty odd pounds, and which is still to be seen on the island of Corsica. Of this he once said: "I'd rather hear its report than listen to a German band; though if I could get them both playing at the same time there'd be one German band less in the world."

This remark found its parallel later on when, placed by Barras in command of the defenders of the Convention against the attacks of the Sectionists, Napoleon was asked the chairman of the Assembly to send them occasional reports as to how matters progressed. His reply was terse.

"Legislators," he said, "you ask me for an occasional report. If you listen you will hear the report of my cannon. That is all you'll get, and it will be all you need. I am here. I will save you."

"It is a poor time for jokes," said a representative.

"It is a worse time for paper reports," retorted Napoleon. "It would take me longer to write out a legislative report than it will to clean out the mob. Besides, I want it understood at this end of my career that autograph-hunters are going to get left."

As he turned, Barras asked him as to his intentions.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"To make a noise in the world," cried Napoleon; "au revoir."

That he had implanted in him the essential elements of a great fighter his school-companions were not long in finding out.

When not more than five years of age he fell in love with a little schoolmate, and, being jeered at for his openly avowed sentiments, he threatened to thrash the whole school, adding to the little maiden that he would thrash her as well unless she returned his love, a line of argument which completely won her heart, particularly in view of the fact that he proved his sincerity by fulfilling that part of his assumed obligations which referred to the subjugation of the rest of the school. It was upon this occasion that in reference to his carelessness of dress, his schoolmates composed the rhyme,

"Napoleon di mezza calzetta Fa l'amore a Giacominetta."

which, liberally translated, means,

"Hi! Look at Nap! His socks down of his shin, Is making love to little Giacomin."

To this Napoleon, on the authority of the Memoirs of his Father's Hired Man, retorted:

"I would advise you, be not indiscreet, Or I will yank YOUR socks right of your feet."

All of which goes to show that at no time in his youth was he to be trifled with. In poetry or a pitched battle he was quite equal to any emergency, and his companions were not long in finding it out.

So passed the infancy of Mr. Bonaparte, of Corsica. It was, after all, much like the extreme youth of most other children. In everything he undertook he was facile princeps, and in nothing that he said or did is there evidence that he failed to appreciate what lay before him. A visitor to the family once ventured the remark, "I am sorry, Napoleon, for you little Corsicans. You have no Fourth of July or Guy Fawkes Day to celebrate."

"Oh, as for that," said Napoleon, "I for one do not mind. I will make national holidays when I get to be a man, and at present I can get along without them. What's the use of Fourth of July when you can shoot off fireworks everyday?"

It was a pertinent question, the visitor departed much impressed with the boy's precocity, which was rendered doubly memorable by Napoleon's humor in discharging fifteen pounds of wadding from his cannon into the visitor's back as he went out of the front gate.

At the age of six Napoleon put aside all infantile pleasures, and at eight assumed all the dignity of that age. He announced his intention to cease playing war with his brother Joseph.

"I am no longer a child, Joseph," he said; "I shall no longer thrash you in play. Here-after I shall do it in sober earnest."

Which no doubt is why, in 1779, Napoleon having stuck faithfully to his promise, Joseph heartily seconded his younger brother's demand that he should leave Corsica and take a course of military instruction at Brienne.

"I shall no doubt miss my dear brother Napoleon," Joseph said to his mother; "but I would not stand in the way of his advancement. Let him go, even though by his departure I am deprived of all opportunity to assist him in his pleasing games of war."



CHAPTER II: BRIENNE 1779-1785



As we have seen, the young Corsican was only ten years of age when, through the influence of Count Marboeuf, an old friend of the Bonaparte family, he was admitted to the military school at Brienne. Those who were present at the hour of his departure from home say that Napoleon would have wept like any other child had he yielded to the impulses of his heart, and had be not detected a smile of satisfaction upon the lips of his brother Joseph. It was this smile that drove all tender emotions from his breast. Taking Joseph to one side, he requested to know the cause of his mirth.

"I was thinking of something funny," said Joseph, paling slightly as he observed the stern expression of Napoleon's face.

"Oh, indeed," said Napoleon; "and what was that something? I'd like to smile myself."

"H'm!—ah—why," faltered Joseph, "it may not strike you as funny, you know. What is a joke for one man is apt to be a serious matter for another, particularly when that other is of a taciturn and irritable disposition."

"Very likely," said Napoleon, dryly; "and sometimes what is a joke for the man of mirth is likewise in the end a serious matter for that same humorous person. This may turn out to be the case in the present emergency. What was the joke? If I do not find it a humorous joke, I'll give you a parting caress which you won't forget in a hurry."

"I was only thinking," said Joseph, uneasily, "that it is a very good thing for that little ferry-boat you are going away on that you are going on it."

Here Joseph smiled weakly, but Napoleon was grim as ever.

"Well," he said, impatiently, "what of that?"

"Why," returned Joseph, "it seemed to me that such a tireless little worker as the boat is would find it very restful to take a Nap."

For an instant Napoleon was silent.

"Joseph," said he, as he gazed solemnly out of the window, "I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this. I had had regrets at leaving home. A moment ago I was ready to break down for the sorrow of parting from my favorite Alp, from my home, from my mother, and my little brass cannon; but now—now I can go with a heart steeled against emotion. If you are going in for humor of that kind, I'm glad I'm going away. Farewell."

With this, picking Joseph up in his arms and concealing him beneath the sofa cushions, Napoleon imprinted a kiss upon his mother's cheek, rushed aboard the craft that was to bear him to fame, and was soon but a memory in the little house at Ajaccio. "Parting is such sweet sorrow," murmured Joseph, as he watched the little vessel bounding over the turquoise waters of the imprisoned sea. "I shall miss him; but there are those who wax fat on grief, and, if I know myself, I am of that brand."

Arrived at Paris, Napoleon was naturally awe-stricken by the splendors of that wonderful city.

"I shall never forget the first sight I had of Paris," he said, years later, when speaking of his boyhood to Madame Junot, with whom he was enjoying a tete-a-tete in the palace at Versailles. "I wondered if I hadn't died of sea-sickness on the way over, as I had several times wished I might, and got to heaven. I didn't know how like the other place it was at that time, you see. It was like an enchanted land, a World's Fair forever, and the prices I had to pay for things quite carried out the World's Fair idea. They were enormous. Weary with walking, for instance, I hired a fiacre and drove about the city for an hour, and it cost me fifty francs; but I fell in with pleasant enough people, one of whom gave me a ten-franc ticket entitling me to a seat on a park bench—for five francs."

Madame Junot laughed.

"And yet they claim that bunco is a purely American institution," she said.

"Dame!" cried Napoleon, rising from the throne, and walking excitedly up and down the palace floor, "I never realized until this moment that I had been swindled! Bourrienne, send Fouche to me. I remember the man distinctly, and if he lives he has yet to die."

Calming down, he walked to Madame Junot's side, and, taking her by the hand, continued:

"And then the theatres! What revelations of delight they were! I used to go to the Theatre Francais whenever I could sneak away and had the money to seat me with the gods in the galleries. Bernhardt was then playing juvenile parts, and Coquelin had not been heard of. Ah! my dear Madame Junot," he added, giving her ear a delicate pinch, "those were the days when life seemed worth the living—when one of a taciturn nature and prone to irritability could find real pleasure in existence. Oh to be unknown again!"

And then, Madame Junot's husband having entered the room, the Emperor once more relapsed into a moody silence.

But to return to Brienne. Napoleon soon found that there is a gulf measurable by no calculable distance between existence as the dominating force of a family and life as a new boy at a boarding- school. He found his position reversed, and he began for the first time in his life to appreciate the virtues of his brother Joseph. He who had been the victorious general crossing the Alps now found himself the Alp, with a dozen victorious generals crossing him; he who had been the gunner was now the target, and his present inability to express his feelings in language which his tormentors could understand, for he had not yet mastered the French tongue, kept him in a state of being which may well be termed volcanic.

"I simply raged within in those days," Napoleon once said to Las Casas. "I could have swallowed my food raw and it would have been cooked on its way down, I boiled so. They took me for a snow-clad Alp, when, as a matter of fact, I was a small Vesuvius, with a temperature that would have made Tabasco sauce seem like iced water by contrast."

His treatment at the hands of his fellow-students did much to increase his irritability, but he kept himself well in hand, biding the time when he could repay their insults with interest. They jeered him because he was short—short of stature and short of funds; they twitted him on being an alien, calling him an Italian, and asking him why he did not seek out a position in the street-cleaning bureau instead of endeavoring to associate with gentlemen. To this the boy made a spirited reply.

"I am fitting myself for that," he said. "I'll sweep your Parisian streets some day, and some of you particles will go with the rest of the dust before my broom."

He little guessed how prophetic were these words.

Again, they tormented Napoleon on being the son of a lawyer, and asked him who his tailor was, and whether or not his garments were the lost suits of his father's clients, the result of which was that, though born of an aristocratic family, the boy became a pronounced Republican, and swore eternal enmity to the high-born. Another result of this attitude towards him was that he retired from the companionship of all save his books, and he became intimate with Homer and Ossian and Plutarch—familiar with the rise and fall of emperors and empires. Challenged to fight a duel with one of his classmates for a supposititious insult, he accepted, and, having the choice in weapons, chose an examination in mathematics, the one first failing in a demonstration to blow his brains out. "That is the safer for you," he said to his adversary. "You are sure to lose; but the after-effects will not be fatal, because you have no brains to blow out, so you can blow out a candle instead."

Whatever came of the duel we are not informed; but it is to be presumed that it did not result fatally for young Bonaparte, for he lived many years after the incident, as most of our readers are probably aware. Had he not done so, this biography would have had to stop here, and countless readers of our own day would have been deprived of much entertaining fiction that is even now being scattered broadcast over the world with Napoleon as its hero. His love of books combined with his fondness for military life was never more beautifully expressed than when he wrote to his mother: "With my sword at my side and my Homer in my pocket, I hope to carve my way through the world."

The beauty and simplicity of this statement is not at all affected by Joseph's flippant suggestion that by this Napoleon probably meant that he would read his enemies to sleep with his Homer, and then use his sword to cut their heads off. Joseph, as we have already seen, had been completely subjugated by his younger brother, and it is not to be wondered at, perhaps, that, with his younger brother at a safe distance, he should manifest some jealousy, and affect to treat his sentiments with an unwarranted levity.

For Napoleon's self-imposed solitude everything at Brienne arranged itself propitiously. Each of the students was provided with a small patch of ground which he could do with as he pleased, and Napoleon's use of his allotted share was characteristic. He converted it into a fortified garden, surrounded by trees and palisades.

"Now I can mope in peace," he said—and he did.

It has been supposed by historians that it was here that Napoleon did all of his thinking, mapping out his future career, and some of them have told us what he thought. He dreamed of future glory always, one of them states; but whether upon the authority of a palisade or a tiger-lily is not mentioned. Others have given us his soliloquies as he passed to and fro in this little retreat alone, and heard only by the stars at night; but for ourselves, we must be accurate, and it is due to the reader at this point that we should confess—having no stars in our confidence—our entire ignorance as to what Napoleon Bonaparte said, did, or thought when sitting in solitude in his fortified bower; though if our candid impression is desired we have no hesitation in saying that we believe him to have been in Paris enjoying the sights of the great city during those periods of solitude. Boys are boys in all lands, and a knowledge of that peculiar species of human beings, the boarding-school boy, is convincing that, given a prospect of five or six hours of uninterrupted solitude, no youth of proper spirit would fail to avail himself of the opportunities thus offered to see life, particularly with a city like Paris within easy "hooky" distance.

It must also be remembered that the French had at this time abolished the hereafter, along with the idea of a Deity and all pertaining thereto, so that there was nothing beyond a purely temporal discipline and lack of funds to interfere with Bonaparte's enjoyment of all the pleasures which Paris could give. Of temporal discipline he need have had no fear, since, it was perforce relaxed while he was master of his solitude; as for the lack of funds, history has shown that this never interfered with the fulfilment of Napoleon's hopes, and hence the belief that the beautiful pictures, drawn by historians and painted by masters of the brush, of Napoleon in solitude should be revised to include a few accessories, drawn from such portions of Parisian life as will readily suggest themselves.

In his studies, however, Napoleon ranked high. His mathematical abilities were so marked that it was stated that he could square the circle with his eyes closed and both hands tied behind his back.

"The only circle I could not square at that time," said he, "was the family circle, being insufficiently provided with income to do so. I might have succeeded better had not Joseph's appetite grown too fast for the strength of my pocket; that was the only respect, however, in which I ever had any difficulty in keeping up with my dear elder brother." It was here, too, that he learned the inestimably important military fact that the shortest distance between two points is in a straight line; and that he had fully mastered that fact was often painfully evident to such of his schoolmates as seemed to force him to measure with his right arm the distance between his shoulder and the ends of their noses. Nor was he utterly without wit. Asked by a cribbing comrade in examination what a corollary was, Napoleon scornfully whispered back:

"A mathematical camel with two humps."

In German only was he deficient, much to the irritation of his instructor.

"Will you ever learn anything?" asked M. Bouer, the German teacher.

"Certainly," said Napoleon; "but no more German. I know the only word I need in that language."

"And what, pray, is that?"

"Surrender; that's all I'll ever wish to say to the Germans. But lest I get it wrong, pray tell me the imperative form of surrender in your native tongue."

M. Bouer's reply is not known to history, but it was probably not one which the Master of Etiquette at Brienne could have entirely commended.

So he lived at Brienne, thoroughly mastering the science of war; acquiring a military spirit; making no friends, but commanding ultimately the fearsome respect of his school-mates. One or two private interviews with little aristocrats who jeered at him for his ancestry convinced them that while he might not have had illustrious ancestors, it was not unlikely that he would in time develop illustrious descendants, and the jeerings and sneerings soon ceased. The climax of Bonaparte's career at Brienne was in 1784, when he directed a snowball fight between two evenly divided branches of the school with such effect that one boy had his skull cracked and the rest were laid up for weeks from their wounds.

"It was a wonderful fight," remarked Napoleon, during his campaign in Egypt. "I took good care that an occasional missent ball should bowl off the hat of M. Bouer, and whenever any particularly aristocratic aristocrat's head showed itself above the ramparts, an avalanche fell upon his facade with a dull, sickening thud. I have never seen an American college football game, but from all I can learn from accounts in the Paris editions of the American newspapers the effects physical in our fight and that game are about the same."

In 1784, shortly after this episode, Napoleon left Brienne, having learned all that those in authority there could teach him, and in 1785 he applied for and received admission to the regular army, much to the relief of Joseph.

"If he had flunked and come back to Corsica to live," said Joseph, "I think I should have emigrated. I love him dearly, but I'm fonder of myself, and Corsica, large as it is, is too small to contain Napoleon Bonaparte and his brother Joseph simultaneously, particularly as Joseph is distinctly weary of being used as an understudy for a gory battle-field."



CHAPTER III: PARIS—VALENCE—LYONS—CORSICA 1785-1793



The feeling among the larger boys at Brienne at Napoleon's departure was much the same as that experienced by Joseph when his soon to-be- famous brother departed from Corsica. The smaller boys regretted his departure, since it had been one of their greatest pleasures to watch Napoleon disciplining the upper classmen, but Bonaparte was as glad to go as the elders were to have him.

"Brienne is good enough in its way," said he; "but what's the use of fighting children? It's merely a waste of time cracking a youngster's skull with a snowball when you can go out into the real world and let daylight into a man's whole system with a few ounces of grape-shot."

He had watched developments at Paris, too, with the keenest interest, and was sufficiently far-seeing to know that the troubles of the King and Queen and their aristocratic friends boded well for a man fond of a military life who had sense enough to be on the right side. That it took an abnormal degree of intelligence to know which was the right side in those troublous days he also realized, and hence he cultivated that taciturnity and proneness to irritability which we have already mentioned.

"If it had not been for my taciturnity, Talleyrand," he observed, when in the height of his power, "I should have got it in the neck."

"Got what in the neck?" asked Talleyrand.

"The guillotine," rejoined the Emperor. "It was the freedom of speech which people of those sanguinary days allowed themselves that landed many a fine head in the basket. As for me, I simply held my tongue with both hands, and when I wearied of that I called some one in to hold it for me. If I had filled the newspapers with 'Interviews with Napoleon Bonaparte,' and articles on 'Where is France at?' with monographs in the leading reviews every month on 'Why I am what I am,' and all such stuff as that, I'd have condensed my career into one or two years, and ended by having my head divorced from my shoulders in a most commonplace fashion. Taciturnity is a big thing when you know how to work it, and so is proneness to irritability. The latter keeps you from making friends, and I didn't want any friends just then. They were luxuries which I couldn't afford. You have to lend money to friends; you have to give them dinners and cigars, and send bonbons to their sisters. A friend in those days would have meant bankruptcy of the worst sort. Furthermore, friends embarrass you when you get into public office, and try to make you conspicuous when you'd infinitely prefer to saw wood and say nothing. I took my loneliness straight, and that is one of the reasons why I am now the Emperor of France, and your master."

Before entering the army a year at a Parisian military school kept Bonaparte busy. There, as at Brienne, he made his influence felt. He found his fellow-pupils at Paris living in a state of luxury that was not in accord with his ideas as to what a soldier should have. Whether or not his new school-mates, after the time-honored custom, tossed him in a blanket on the first night of his arrival, history does not say, but Bonaparte had hardly been at the school a week when he complained to the authorities that there was too much luxury in their system for him.

"Cadets do not need feather-beds and eider-down quilts," he said; "and as for the sumptuous viands we have served at mealtime, they are utterly inappropriate. I'd rather have a plate of Boston baked beans or steaming buckwheat cakes to put my mind into that state which should characterize the thinking apparatus of a soldier than a dozen of the bouchees financieres and lobster Newburgs and other made- dishes which you have on your menu. Made-dishes and delicate beverages make one mellow and genial of disposition. What we need is the kind of food that will destroy our amiability and put us in a frame of mind calculated to make willing to kill our best friends— nay, our own brothers and sisters—if occasion arises, with a smiling face. Look at me. I could kill my brother Joseph, dear as he is to me, and never shed a tear, and it's buckwheat-cakes and waffles that have done it!"

Likewise he abhorred dancing.

"Away with dancing men!" he cried, impatiently, at one time when in the height of his power, to his Minister of War. "Suppose when I was crossing the Alps my soldiers had been of your dancing sort. How far would I have got if every time the band played a two-step my grenadiers had dropped their guns to pirouette over those snow-white wastes? Let the diplomats do the dancing. For soldiers give me men to whom the polka is a closed book and the waltz an abomination."

Holding these views, he naturally failed to win the sympathy of his fellows at the Paris school who, young nobles for the most part, could not understand his point of view. So, having nothing else to do, he applied himself solely to his studies and to reflection, and it was the happiest moment of his life up to that time when, having passed his examinations for entrance to the regular army, he received his commission as a second lieutenant.

"Now we're off!" he said to himself, as he surveyed himself in the mirror, after donning his uniform.

"It does not set very well in the back," remarked one of the maids of the pension in which he lived, glancing in at the door.

"It does not matter," returned Bonaparte, loftily. "As long as it sets well in front I'm satisfied; for you should know, madame, that a true soldier never shows his back, and that is the kind of a military person I am. A false front would do for me. I am no tin soldier, which in after-years it will interest you to remember. When you are writing your memoirs this will make an interesting anecdote."

From this it is to be inferred that at this time he had no thought of Moscow. Immediately after his appointment Bonaparte repaired to Valence, where his regiment was stationed and where he formed a strong attachment for the young daughter of Madame du Colombier, with whom, history records, he ate cherries before breakfast. This was his sole dissipation at that time, but his felicity was soon to be interrupted. His regiment was ordered to Lyons, and Bonaparte and his love were parted.

"Duty calls me, my dear," he said, on leaving her. "I would stay if I could, but I can't, and, on the whole, it is just as well. If I stayed I should marry you, and that would never do. You cannot support me, nor I you. We cannot live on cherries, and as yet my allowance is an ingrowing one—which is to say that it goes from me to my parent, and not from my parent to me. Therefore, my only love, farewell. Marry some one else. There are plenty of men who are fond of cherries before breakfast, and there is no reason why one so attractive as you should not find a lover."

The unhappy girl was silent for a moment. Then, with an ill- suppressed sob, she bade him go.

"You are right, Napoleon," she said. "Go. Go where duty calls you, and if you get tired of Lyons—"

"Yes?" he interrupted, eagerly.

"Try leopards!" she cried, rushing from his embrace into the house.

Bonaparte never forgave this exhibition of flippancy, though many years after, when he learned that his former love, who had married, as he had bade her do, and suffered, was face to face with starvation, it is said, on the authority of one of his ex-valet's memoirs, that he sent her a box of candied cherries from one of the most expensive confectionery-shops of Paris.

After a brief sojourn at Lyons, Napoleon was summoned with his regiment to quell certain popular tumults at Auxonne. There he distinguished himself as a handler of mobs, and learned a few things that were of inestimable advantage to him later. Speaking of it in after-years, he observed: "It is my opinion, my dear Emperor Joseph, that grape-shot is the only proper medicine for a mob. Some people prefer to turn the hose on them, but none of that for me. They fear water as they do death, but they get over water. Death is more permanent. I've seen many a rioter, made respectable by a good soaking, return to the fray after he had dried out, but in all my experience I have never known a man who was once punctured by a discharge of grape-shot who took any further interest in rioting."

About this time he began to regulate his taciturnity. On occasions he had opinions which he expressed most forcibly. In 1790, having gone to an evening reception at Madame Neckar's, he electrified his hostess and her guests by making a speech of some five hundred words in length, too long to be quoted here in full, but so full of import and delivered with such an air of authority that La Fayette, who was present, paled visibly, and Mirabeau, drawing Madame de Stael to one side, whispered, trembling with emotion, "Who is that young person?"

Whether this newly acquired tendency to break in upon the reserve which had hitherto been the salient feature of his speech had anything to do with it or not we are not aware, but shortly afterwards Napoleon deemed it wise to leave his regiment for a while, and to return to his Corsican home on furlough. Of course an affecting scene was enacted by himself and his family when they were at last reunited. Letitia, his fond mother, wept tears of joy, and Joseph, shaking him by the hand, rushed, overcome with emotion, from the house. Napoleon shortly after found him weeping in the garden.

"Why so sad, Joseph?" he inquired. "Are you sorry I have returned?"

"No, dear Napoleon," said Joseph, turning away his head to hide his tears, "it is not that. I was only weeping because—because, in the nature of things, you will have to go away again, and—the—the idea of parting from you has for the moment upset my equilibrium."

"Then we must proceed to restore it," said Napoleon, and, taking Joseph by the right arm, he twisted it until Joseph said that he felt quite recovered.

Napoleon's stay at Corsica was quite uneventful. Fearing lest by giving way to love of family, and sitting and talking with them in the luxuriously appointed parlor below-stairs, he should imbibe too strong a love for comfort and ease, and thus weaken his soldierly instincts, as well as break in upon that taciturnity which, as we have seen, was the keynote of his character, he had set apart for himself a small room on the attic floor, where he spent most of his time undisturbed, and at the same time made Joseph somewhat easier in his mind.

"When he's up-stairs I am comparatively safe," said Joseph. "If he stayed below with us I fear I should have a return of my nervous prostration."

Meantime, Napoleon was promoted to a first lieutenancy, and shortly after, during the Reign of Terror in Paris, having once more for the moment yielded to an impulse to speak out in meeting, he denounced anarchy in unmeasured terms, and was arrested and taken to Paris.

"It was a fortunate arrest for me," he said. "There I was in Corsica with barely enough money to pay my way back to the capital. Arrested, the State had to pay my fare, and I got back to active political scenes on a free pass. As for the trial, it was a farce, and I was triumphantly acquitted. The jury was out only fifteen minutes. I had so little to say for myself that the judges began to doubt if I had any ideas on any subject—or, as one of them said, having no head to mention, it would be useless to try and cut it off. Hence my acquittal and my feeling that taciturnity is the mother of safety."

Then came the terrible attack of the mob upon the Tuileries on the 20th of June, 1792. Napoleon was walking in the street with Bourrienne when the attack began.

"There's nothing like a lamp-post for an occasion like this, it broadens one's views so," he said, rapidly climbing up a convenient post, from which he could see all that went on. "I didn't know that this was the royal family's reception-day. Do you want to know what I think?"

"Mumm is the word," whispered Bourrienne. "This is no time to have opinions."

"Mumm may be the word, but water is the beverage. Mumm is too dry. What this crowd needs is a good wetting down," retorted Bonaparte. "If I were Louis XVI. I'd turn the hose on these tramps, and keep them at bay until I could get my little brass cannon loaded. When I had that loaded, I'd let them have a few balls hot from the bat. This is what comes of being a born king. Louis doesn't know how to talk to the people. He's all right for a state-dinner, but when it comes to a mass-meeting he is not in it."

And then as the King, to gratify the mob, put the red cap of Jacobinism upon his head, the man who was destined before many years to occupy the throne of France let fall an ejaculation of wrath.

"The wretches!" he cried. "How little they know! They've only given him another hat to talk through! They'll have to do their work all over again, unless Louis takes my advice and travels abroad for his health."

These words were prophetic, for barely two months later the second and most terrible and portentous attack upon the palace took place— an attack which Napoleon witnessed, as he had witnessed the first, from a convenient lamp-post, and which filled him with disgust and shame; and it was upon that night of riot and bloodshed that he gave utterance to one of his most famous sayings.

"Bourrienne," said he, as with his faithful companions he laboriously climbed the five flights of stairs leading to his humble apartment, "I hate the aristocrats, as you know; and to-day has made me hate the populace as well. What is there left to like?"

"Alas! lieutenant, I cannot say," said Bourrienne, shaking his head sadly.

"What," continued Napoleon, "is the good of anything?"

"I give it up," returned Bourrienne, with a sigh. "I never was good at riddles. What IS the good of anything?"

"Nothing!" said Napoleon, laconically, as he took off his uniform and went to bed.



CHAPTER IV: SARDINIA—TOULON—NICE—PARIS—BARRAS—JOSEPHINE 1793-1796



Greatness now began to dawn for Napoleon. Practically penniless, in a great and heartless city, even the lower classes began to perceive that here was one before whom there lay a brilliant future. Restaurateurs, laundresses, confectioners—all trusted him. An instance of the regard people were beginning to have for him is shown in the pathetic interview between Napoleon and Madame Sans Gene, his laundress.

"Here is your wash, lieutenant," said she, after climbing five flights of stairs, basket in hand, to the miserable lodging of the future Emperor.

Napoleon looked up from his books and counted the clothes.

"There is one sock missing," said he, sternly.

"No," returned Sans Gene. "Half of each sock was washed away, and I sewed the remaining halves into one. One good sock is better than two bad ones. If you ever lose a leg in battle you may find the odd one handy."

"How can I ever repay you?" cried Napoleon, touched by her friendly act.

"I'm sure I don't know," returned Madame Sans Gene, demurely, "unless you will escort me to the Charity Ball—I'll buy the tickets."

"And, pray, what good will that do?" asked Bonaparte.

"It will make Lefebvre jealous," said Madame Sans Gene, "and maybe that will bring him to the point. I want to marry him, but, encourage him as I will, he does not propose, and as in revising the calendar the government has abolished leap-year, I really don't know what to do."

"I cannot go to the ball," said Napoleon, sadly. "I don't dance, and, besides, I have loaned my dress-suit to Bourrienne. But I will flirt with you on the street if you wish, and perhaps that will suffice."

It is hardly necessary to tell the reader that the ruse was successful, and that Lefebvre, thus brought to the point, married Madame Sans Gene, and subsequently, through his own advancement, made her the Duchess of Dantzig. The anecdote suffices to show how wretchedly poor and yet how full of interest and useful to those about him Napoleon was at the time.

In February, 1793, a change for the better in his fortunes occurred. Bonaparte, in cooperation with Admiral Turget, was ordered to make a descent upon Sardinia. What immediately followed can best be told in Bonaparte's own words. "My descent was all right," he said afterwards, "and I had the Sardines all ready to put in boxes, when Turget had a fit of sea-sickness, lost his bearings, and left me in the lurch. There was nothing left for me but to go back to Corsica and take it out of Joseph, which I did, much to Joseph's unhappiness. It was well for the family that I did so, for hardly had I arrived at Ajaccio when I found my old friend Paoli wrapping Corsica up in a brown-paper bundle to send to the King of England with his compliments. This I resisted, with the result that our whole family was banished, and those fools of Corsicans broke into our house and smashed all of our furniture. They little knew that that furniture, if in existence to-day, would bring millions of francs as curios if sold at auction. It was thus that the family came to move to France and that I became in fact what I had been by birth—a Frenchman. If I had remained a Corsican, Paoli's treachery would have made me an Englishman, to which I should never have become reconciled, although had I been an Englishman I should have taken more real pleasure out of the battle of Waterloo than I got.

"After this I was ordered to Toulon. The French forces here were commanded by General Cartaux, who had learned the science of war painting portraits in Paris. He ought to have been called General Cartoon. He besieged Toulon in a most impressionistic fashion. He'd bombard and bombard and bombard, and then leave the public to guess at the result. It's all well enough to be an impressionist in painting, but when it comes to war the public want more decided effects. When I got there, as a brigadier-general, I saw that Cartaux was wasting his time and ammunition. His idea seemed to be that by firing cannon all day he could so deafen the enemy that at night the French army could sneak into Toulon unheard and capture the city, which was, to say the least, unscientific. I saw at once that Cartaux must go, and I soon managed to make life so unbearable for him that he resigned, and a man named Doppet, a physician, was placed in command. Doppet was worse than Cartaux. Whenever anybody got hurt he'd stop the war and prescribe for the injured man. If he could have prescribed for the enemy they'd have died in greater numbers I have no doubt, but, like the idiot he was, he practised on his own forces. Besides, he was more interested in surgery than in capturing Toulon. He always gave the ambulance corps the right of line, and I believe to this day that his plan of routing the English involved a sudden rush upon them, taking them by surprise, and the subsequent amputation of their legs. The worst feature of the situation, as I found it, was that these two men, falling back upon their rights as my superior officers, refused to take orders from me. I called their attention to the fact that rank had been abolished, and that in France one man was now as good as another; but they were stubborn, so I wrote to Paris and had them removed. Then came Dugommier, who backed me up in my plans, and Toulon as a consequence immediately fell with a dull, sickening thud."

It was during this siege that Bonaparte first encountered Junot. Having occasion to write a note while under fire from the enemy's batteries, Napoleon called for a stenographer. Junot came to him.

"Do you know shorthand?" asked the general, as a bomb exploded at his feet.

"Slightly," said Junot, calmly.

"Take this message," returned the general, coolly, dictating.

Junot took down Bonaparte's words, but just as he finished another bomb exploded near by, scattering dust and earth and sand all over the paper.

"Confounded boors, interrupting a gentleman at his correspondence!" said Bonaparte, with an angry glance at the hostile gunners. "I'll have to dictate that message all over again."

"Yes, general," returned Junot, quickly, "but you needn't mind that. There will be no extra charge. It's really my fault. I should have brought an umbrella."

"You are a noble fellow," said Napoleon, grasping his hand and squeezing it warmly. "In the heyday of my prosperity, if my prosperity ever goes a-haying, I shall remember you. Your name?"

"Junot, General," was the reply.

Bonaparte frowned. "Ha! ha!" he laughed, acridly. "You jest, eh? Well, Junot, when I am Jupiter I'll reward you."

Later on, discovering his error, Bonaparte made a memorandum concerning Junot, which was the first link in the chain which ultimately bound the stenographer to fame as a marshal of France.

There have been various other versions of this anecdote, but this is the only correct one, and is now published for the first time on the authority of M. le Comte de B—, whose grandfather was the bass drummer upon whose drum Junot was writing the now famous letter, and who was afterwards ennobled by Napoleon for his services in Egypt, where, one dark, drizzly night, he frightened away from Bonaparte's tent a fierce band of hungry lions by pounding vigorously upon his instrument.

About this time Napoleon, who had been spelling his name in various ways, and particularly with a "u," as Buonaparte, decided to settle finally upon one form of designation.

"People are beginning to bother the life out of me with requests for my autograph," he said to Bourrienne, "and it is just as well that I should settle on one. If I don't, they'll want me to write out a complete set of them, and I haven't time to do that."

"Buonaparte is a good-looking name," suggested Bourrienne. "It is better than Bona Parte, as you sometimes call yourself. If you settle on Bona Parte, you'd have really three names; and as you don't write society verse for the comic papers, what's the use? Newspaper reporters will refer to you as Napoleon B. Parte or N. Bona Parte, and the public hates a man who parts his name in the middle. Parte is a good name in its way, but it's too short and abrupt. Few men with short, sharp, decisive names like that ever make their mark. Let it be Buonaparte, which is sort of high-sounding—it makes a mouthful, as it were."

"If I drop the 'u' the autograph will be shorter, and I'll gain time writing it," said Napoleon. "It shall be Bonaparte without 'u.'"

"Humph!" ejaculated Bourrienne. "Bonaparte without me! I like that. Might as well talk of Dr. Johnson without Boswell."

Bonaparte now went to Nice as chief of batallion in the army of Italy; but having incurred the displeasure of a suspicious home government, he was shortly superseded, and lived in retirement with his family at Marseilles for a brief time. Here he fell in love again, and would have married Mademoiselle Clery, whom he afterwards made Queen of Sweden, had he not been so wretchedly poor.

"This, my dear," he said, sadly, to Mademoiselle Clery, "is the beastly part of being the original ancestor of a family instead of a descendant. I've got to make the fortune which will enrich posterity, while I'd infinitely prefer having a rich uncle somewhere who'd have the kindness to die and leave me a million. There's Joseph—lucky man. He's gone and got married. He can afford it. He has me to fall back on, but I—I haven't anybody to fall back on, and so, for the second time in my life, must give up the only girl I ever loved."

With these words Napoleon left Mademoiselle Clery, and returned to Paris in search of employment.

"If there's nothing else to do, I can disguise myself as a Chinaman and get employment in Madame Sans Gene's laundry," he said. "There's no disgrace in washing, and in that way I may be able to provide myself with decent linen, anyhow. Then I shall belong to the laundered aristocracy, as the English have it."

But greater things than this awaited Napoleon at Paris. Falling in with Barras, a member of the Convention which ruled France at this time, he learned that the feeling for the restoration of the monarchy was daily growing stronger, and that the royalists of Paris were a great menace to the Convention.

"They'll mob us the first thing we know," said Barras. "The members look to me to save them in case of attack, but I must confess I'd like to sublet the contract."

"Give it to me, then. I'm temporarily out of a job," said Napoleon, "and the life I'm leading is killing me. If it weren't for Talma's kindness in letting me lead his armies on the stage at the Odeon, with a turn at scene-shifting when they are not playing war dramas, I don't know what I'd do for my meals; and even when I do get a sandwich ahead occasionally I have to send it to Marseilles to my mother. Give me your contract, and if I don't save your Convention you needn't pay me a red franc. I hate aristocrats, and I hate mobs; and this being an aristocratic mob, I'll go into the work with enthusiasm."

"You!" cried Barras. "A man of your size, or lack of it, save the Convention from a mob of fifty thousand? Nonsense!"

"Did you ever hear that little slang phrase so much in vogue in America," queried Napoleon, coldly fixing his eye on Barras—"a phrase which in French runs, 'Petit, mais O Moi'—or, as they have it, 'Little, but O My'? Well, that is me. {1} Besides, if I am small, there is less chance of my being killed, which will make me more courageous in the face of fire than one of your bigger men would be."

"I will put my mind on it," said Barras, somewhat won over by Napoleon's self-confidence.

"Thanks," said Napoleon; "and now come into the cafe and have dinner with me."

"Save your money, Bonaparte," said Barras. "You can't afford to pay for your own dinner, much less mine."

"That's precisely why I want you to dine with me," returned Napoleon. "If I go alone, they won't serve me because they know I can't pay. If I go in with you, they'll give me everything they've got on the supposition that you will pay the bill. Come! En avant!"

"Vous etes un bouchonnier, vraiment!" said Barras, with a laugh.

"A what?" asked Napoleon, not familiar with the idiom.

"A corker!" explained Barras.

"Very good," said Napoleon, his face lighting up. "If you'll order a bottle of Burgundy with the bird I will show you that I am likewise something of an uncorker."

This readiness on Napoleon's part in the face of difficulty completely captured Barras, and as a result the young adventurer had his first real chance to make an impression on Paris, where, on the 13th Vendemiaire (or October 4, 1795), he literally obliterated the forces of the Sectionists, whose success in their attack upon the Convention would have meant the restoration of the Bourbons to the throne of France. Placed in command of the defenders of the Convention, Napoleon with his cannon swept the mob from the four broad avenues leading to the palace in which the legislators sat.

"Don't fire over their heads," said he to his gunners, as the mob approached. "Bring our arguments right down to their comprehension, and remember that the comprehension of a royalist is largely affected by his digestion. Therefore, gunners, let them have it there. If these assassins would escape appendicitis they would better avoid the grape I send them."

The result is too well known to need detailed description here. Suffice it to say that Bonaparte's attentions to the digestive apparatus of the rioters were so effective that, in token of their appreciation of his services, the Convention soon afterwards placed him in command of the Army of the Interior.

Holding now the chief military position in Paris, Bonaparte was much courted by every one, but he continued his simple manner of living as of yore, overlooking his laundry and other bills as unostentatiously as when he had been a poor and insignificant subaltern, and daily waxing more taciturn and prone to irritability.

"You are becoming gloomy, General," said Barras one morning, as the two men breakfasted. "It is time for you to marry and become a family man."

"Peste!" said Napoleon, "man of family! It takes too long—it is tedious. Families are delightful when the children are grown up; but I could not endure them in a state of infancy."

"Ah!" smiled Barras, significantly. "But suppose I told you of a place where you could find a family ready made?"

Napoleon at once became interested.

"I should marry it," he said, "for truly I do need some one to look after my clothing, particularly now that, as a man of high rank, my uniforms hold so many buttons."

Thus it happened that Barras took the young hero to a reception at the house of Madame Tallien, where he introduced him to the lovely widow, Josephine de Beauharnais, and her two beautiful children.

"There you are, Bonaparte," he whispered, as they entered the room; "there is the family complete—one wife, one son, one daughter. What more could you want? It will be yours if you ask for it, for Madame de Beauharnais is very much in love with you."

"Ha!" said Napoleon. "How do you know that?"

"She told me so," returned Barras.

"Very well," said Napoleon, making up his mind on the instant. "I will see if I can involve her in a military engagement."

Which, as the world knows, he did; and on the 9th of March, 1796, Napoleon and Josephine were united, and the happy groom, writing to his mother, announcing his marriage to "the only woman he ever loved," said: "She is ten years older than I, but I can soon overcome that. The opportunities for a fast life in Paris are unequalled, and I have an idea that I can catch up with her in six months if the Convention will increase my salary."



CHAPTER V: ITALY—MILAN—VIENNA—VENICE 1796-1797



After a honeymoon of ten days Napoleon returned to work. Assuming command of the army of Italy, he said: "I am at last in business for myself. Keep your eyes on me, Bourrienne, and you'll wear blue goggles. You'll have to, you'll be so dazzled. We will set off at once for Italy. The army is in wretched shape. It lacks shoes, clothes, food. It lacks everything. I don't think it even has sense. If it had it would strike for lower wages."

"Lower wages?" queried Bourrienne. "You mean higher, don't you?"

"Not I," said Bonaparte. "They couldn't collect higher wages, but if their pay was reduced they might get it once in a while. We can change all this, however, by invading Italy. Italy has all things to burn, from statuary to Leghorn hats. In three months we shall be at Milan. There we can at least provide ourselves with fine collections of oil-paintings. Meantime let the army feed on hope and wrap themselves in meditation. It's poor stuff, but there's plenty of it, and it's cheap. On holidays give the poor fellows extra rations, and if hope does not sustain them, cheer them up with promises of drink. Tell them when we get to Italy they can drink in the scenery in unstinted measure, and meanwhile keep the band playing merrily. There's nothing like music to drive away hunger. I understand that the lamented king's appetite was seriously affected by the Marseillaise."

To his soldiers he spoke with equal vigor.

"Soldiers," he said, "sartorially speaking, you are a poor lot; but France does not want a tailor-made army at this juncture. We are not about to go on dress parade, but into grim-visaged war, and the patches on your trousers, if you present a bold front to the enemy, need never be seen. You are also hungry, but so am I. I have had no breakfast for four hours. The Republic owes you much; but money is scarce, and you must whistle for your pay. The emigres have gone abroad with all the circulating medium they could lay their hands on, and the Government has much difficulty in maintaining the gold reserve. For my part, I prefer fighting for glory to whistling for money. Fighting is the better profession. You are men. Leave whistling to boys. Follow me into Italy, where there are fertile plains—plains from whose pregnant soil the olive springs at the rate of a million bottles a year, plains through whose lovely lengths there flow rivers of Chianti. Follow me to Italy, where there are opulent towns with clothing-stores on every block, and churches galore, with their poor-boxes bursting with gold. Soldiers, can you resist the alluring prospect?"

"Vive l'Empereur!" cried the army, with one voice.

Napoleon frowned.

"Soldiers!" he cried, "Remember this: you are making history; therefore, pray be accurate. I am not yet Emperor, and you are guilty of an anachronism of a most embarrassing sort. Some men make history in a warm room with pen and ink, aided by guide-books and collections of anecdotes. Leave anachronisms and inaccuracies to them. For ourselves, we must carve it out with our swords and cannon; we must rubricate our pages with our gore, and punctuate our periods with our bayonets. Let it not be said by future ages that we held our responsibilities lightly and were careless of facts, and to that end don't refer to me as Emperor until you are more familiar with dates. When we have finished with Italy I'll take you to the land where dates grow. Meanwhile, restez tranquille, as they say in French, and breathe all the air you want. France can afford you that in unstinted measure."

"Vive Bonaparte!" cried the army, taking the rebuke in good part.

"Now you're shouting," said Napoleon, with a smile. "You're a good army, and if you stick by me you'll wear diamonds."

"We have forgotten one thing," said Barras a few days later, on the eve of Napoleon's departure. "We haven't any casus belli."

"What's that?" said Napoleon, who had been so busy with his preparations that he had forgotten most of his Greek and Latin.

"Cause for war," said Barras. "Where were you educated? If you are going to fight the Italians you've got to have some principle to fight for."

"That's precisely what we are going to fight for," said Napoleon. "We're a bankrupt people. We're going to get some principal to set us up in business. We may be able to float some bonds in Venice."

"True," returned Barras; "but that, after all, is mere highway robbery."

"Well, all I've got to say," retorted Napoleon, with a sneer—"all I've got to say is that if your Directory can't find something in the attitude of Italy towards the Republic to take offence at, the sooner it goes out of business the better. I'll leave that question entirely to you fellows at Paris. I can't do everything. You look after the casus, and I'll take care of the belli."

This plan was adopted. The Directory, after discussing various causes for action, finally decided that an attack on Italy was necessary for three reasons. First, because the alliance between the kings of Sardinia and Austria was a menace to the Republic, and must therefore be broken. Second, the Austrians were too near the Rhine for France's comfort, and must be diverted before they had drunk all the wine of the country, of which the French were very fond; and, third, His Holiness the Pope had taken little interest in the now infidel France, and must therefore be humiliated. These were the reasons for the war settled upon by the government, and as they were as satisfactory to Napoleon as any others, he gave the order which set the army of Italy in motion.

"How shall we go, General?" asked Augereau, one of his subordinates. "Over the Alps?"

"Not this time," returned Napoleon. "It is too cold. The army has no ear-tabs. We'll skirt the Alps, and maybe the skirt will make them warmer."

This the army proceeded at once to do, and within a month the first object of the war was accomplished.

The Sardinian king was crushed, and the army found itself in possession of food, drink, and clothes to a surfeit. Bonaparte's pride at his success was great but not over-weening.

"Soldiers!" he cried, "you have done well. So have I. Hannibal crossed the Alps. We didn't; but we got here just the same. You have provided yourselves with food and clothes, and declared a dividend for the Treasury of France which will enable the Directory to buy itself a new hat through which to address the people. You have reason to be proud of yourselves. Pat yourselves on your backs with my compliments, but remember one thing. Our tickets are to Milan, and no stop-overs are allowed. Therefore, do not as yet relax your efforts. Milan is an imperial city. The guide-books tell us that its cathedral is a beauty, the place is full of pictures, and the opera-house finished in 1779 is the largest in the world. It can be done in two days, and the hotels are good. Can you, therefore, sleep here?"

"No, no!" cried the army.

"Then," cried Napoleon, tightening his reins and lifting his horse on to its hind-legs and holding his sword aloft, "A Milan!"

"How like a statue he looks," said Lannes, admiringly.

"Yes," replied Augereau, "you'd think he was solid brass."

The Austrian troops were now concentrated behind the Po, but Napoleon soon outgeneralled their leaders, drove them back to the Adda, and himself pushed on to the Bridge of Lodi, which connected the east and west branches of that river.

"When I set out for the P. O. P. E.," said Napoleon, "I'm not going to stop halfway and turn back at the P. O. We've got the Austrians over the Adda, and that's just where we want them. I had a dream once about the Bridge of Lodi, and it's coming true now or never. We'll take a few of our long divisions, cross the Adda, and subtract a few fractions of the remainder now left the Austrians. This will destroy their enthusiasm, and Milan will be ours."

The words were prophetic, for on the 10th of May the French did precisely what their commander had said they would do, and on the fourteenth day of May the victorious French entered Milan, the wealthy capital of Lombardy.

"Curious fact," said Napoleon. "In times of peace if a man needs a tonic you give him iron, and it builds him up; but in war if you give the troops iron it bowls 'em down. Look at those Austrians; they've got nervous prostration of the worst sort."

"They got too much iron," said Lannes.

"Too much tonic is worse than none. A man can stand ten or twenty grains of iron, but forty pounds is rather upsetting."

"True," acquiesced Napoleon. "Well, it was a great fight, and I have only one regret. I do wish you'd had a Kodak to take a few snap- shots of me at that Bridge of Lodi. I'd like to send some home to the family. It would have reminded brother Joseph of old times to see me dashing over that bridge, prodding its planks with my heels until it fairly creaked with pain. It would have made a good frontispiece for Bourrienne's book too. And now, my dear Lannes, what shall we do with ourselves for the next five days? Get out your Baedecker and let us see this imperial city of the Lombards."

"There's one matter we must arrange first," said Augereau; "we haven't any stable accommodations to speak of."

"What's the matter with the stalls at the opera-house?" suggested Napoleon. "As I told the troops the other day, it's the biggest theatre in the world. You ought to be able to stable the horses there and lodge the men in the boxes."

"The horses would look well sitting in orchestra chairs, wouldn't they?" said Augereau. "It's not feasible. As for the boxes, they're mostly held by subscribers."

"Then stable them in the picture-galleries," said the general. "It will be good discipline."

"The people will call that sacrilege," returned Augereau.

"Not if we remove the pictures," said Bonaparte. "We'll send the pictures to Paris."

Accordingly this was done, and the galleries of France were thereby much enriched. We mention these details at length, because Napoleon has been severely criticised for thus impoverishing Italy, as well as for his so-called contempt of art—a criticism which, in the face of this accurate version, must fall to the ground. The pictures were sent by him to Paris merely to preserve them, and, as he himself said, a propos of the famous Da Vinci, beneath which horses and men alike were quartered: "I'd have sent that too, but to do it I'd have had to send the whole chapel or scrape the picture off the wall. These Italians should rather thank than condemn me for leaving it where it was. Mine was not an army of destruction, but a Salvation Army of the highest type."

"You made mighty few converts for a Salvation Army," said Talleyrand, to whom this remark was addressed.

"That's where you are wrong," said Napoleon. "I made angels of innumerable Austrians, and converted quite a deal of Italian into French territory."

It was hardly to be doubted that Napoleon's successes would arouse jealousies in Paris, and the Directory, fearing the hold the victorious general was acquiring upon the people, took steps to limit his powers. Bonaparte instantly resigned his command and threatened to return to Paris, which so frightened the government that they refused to accept his resignation.

From this time on for nearly a year Napoleon's career was a succession of victories. He invaded the Papal States, and acquired millions of francs and hundreds of pictures. He chastised all who opposed his sway, and, after pursuing the Austrians as far as Leoben, within sight of Vienna, he humbled the haughty Emperor Joseph.

"I'll recognize your Republic," said the Emperor at last, finding that there was nothing else to be done.

"Thanks," said Napoleon—"I thought you would; but I don't know whether the Republic will recognize you. She doesn't even know you by sight."

"Is that all you want?" asked the Emperor, anxiously.

"For the present, yes. Some day I may come back for something else," returned Napoleon, significantly. "And, by-the-way, when you are sending your card to the French people just enclose a small remittance of a few million francs, not necessarily for publication, but as a guarantee of good faith. Don't send all you've got, but just enough. You may want to marry off one of your daughters some day, and it will be well to save something for her dowry."

It was in little acts of this nature that Napoleon showed his wonderful foresight. One would almost incline to believe from this particular incident that Bonaparte foresaw the Marie-Louise episode in his future career.

The Austrians humbled, Napoleon turned his attention to Venice. Venice had been behaving in a most exasperating fashion, and the conqueror felt that the time had come to take the proud City of the Sea in hand.

"If the Venetians have any brains," said he to Bourrienne, who joined him about this time, secretly representing, it is said, a newspaper- syndicate service, "they'll put on all the sail they've got and take their old city out to sea. They're in for the worst ducking they ever got."

"I'm afraid you'll find them hard to get at," said Bourrienne. "That lagoon is a wet place."

"Oh, as for that," said Bonaparte, "a little water will do the army good. We've been fighting so hard it's been months since they've had a good tubbing, and a swim won't hurt them. Send Lannes here." In a few minutes Lannes entered Bonaparte's tent.

"Lannes, we're off for Venice. Provide the army with overshoes, and have our luggage checked through," said Bonaparte.

"Yes, General."

"Can Augereau swim?"

"I don't know, General."

"Well, find out, and if he can't we'll get him a balloon."

Thus, taking every precaution for the comfort of his men and the safety of his officers, Napoleon set out. Venice, hearing of his approach, was filled with consternation, and endeavored to temporize. The Doges offered millions if Bonaparte would turn his attention to others, to which Napoleon made this spirited reply: "Venetians, tell the Doges, with my compliments, that I am coming. The wealth of the Indies couldn't change my mind. They offer me stocks and bonds; well, I believe their stocks and bonds to be as badly watered as their haughty city, and I'll have none of them. I'll bring my stocks with me, and your Doges will sit in them. I'll bring my bonds, and your nobles shall put them on and make them clank. You've been drowning Frenchmen every chance you've had. It will now be my pleasing duty to make you do a little gurgling on your own account. You'll find out for the first time in your lives what it is to be in the swim. Put on your bathing-suits and prepare for the avenger. The lions of St. Marc must lick the dust."

"We have no dust, General," said one of the messengers.

"Then you'd better get some," retorted Napoleon, "for you will have to come down with it to the tune of millions."

True to his promise, Napoleon appeared at the lagoon on the 31st of May, and the hitherto haughty Venice fell with a splash that could be heard for miles, first having sent five ships of war, 3,000,000 francs, as many more in naval stores, twenty of her best pictures, the bronze horses of the famous church, five hundred manuscripts, and one apology to the French Republic as the terms of peace. The bronze horses were subsequently returned, but what became of the manuscripts we do not know. They probably would have been returned also—a large portion of them, at least—if postage-stamps had been enclosed. This is mere theory, of course; but it is rendered reasonable by the fact that this is the usual fate of most manuscripts; nor is there any record of their having been published in the Moniteur, the only periodical which the French government was printing at that time.

As for Bonaparte, it was as balm to his soul to humble the haughty Doges, whose attitude towards him had always been characterized by a superciliousness which filled him with resentment.

"It did me good," he said, many years after, with a laugh, "to see those Doges swimming up and down the Grand Canal in their state robes, trying to look dignified, while I stood on the sidewalk and asked them why they didn't come in out of the wet."



CHAPTER VI: MONTEBELLO—PARIS—EGYPT 1797-1799



Josephine now deemed it well to join her lord at Milan. There had been so many only women he had ever loved that she was not satisfied to remain at Paris while he was conducting garden-parties at the Castle of Montebello. Furthermore, Bonaparte himself wished her to be present.

"This Montebello life is, after all, little else than a dress rehearsal for what is to come," he said, confidentially, to Bourrienne, "and Josephine can't afford to be absent. It's a great business, this being a Dictator and having a court of your own, and I'm inclined to think I shall follow it up as my regular profession after I've conquered a little more of the earth."

Surrounded by every luxury, and in receipt for the first time in his life of a steady income, Bonaparte carried things with a high hand. He made treaties with various powers without consulting the Directory, for whom every day he felt a growing contempt.

"What is the use of my consulting the Directory, anyhow?" he asked. "If it were an Elite Directory it might be worth while, but it isn't. I shall, therefore, do as I please, and if they don't like what I do I'll ratify it myself."

Ambassadors waited upon him as though he were a king, and when one ventured to disagree with the future Emperor he wished he hadn't. Cobentzel, the envoy of the Austrian ruler, soon discovered this.

"I refuse to accept your ultimatum," said he one day to Napoleon, after a protracted conference.

"You do, eh?"—said Napoleon, picking up a vase of delicate workmanship. "Do you see this jug?"

"Yes," said Cobentzel.

"Well," continued Napoleon, dropping it to the floor, where it was shattered into a thousand pieces, "do you see it now?"

"I do," said Cobentzel; "what then?"

"It has a mate," said Napoleon, significantly; "and if you do not accept my ultimatum I'll smash the other one upon your plain but honest countenance."

Cobentzel accepted the ultimatum.

Bonaparte's contempt for the Directory was beginning to be shared by a great many of the French, and, to save themselves, the "Five Sires of the Luxembourg," as the Directory were called, resolved on a brilliant stroke, which involved no less a venture than the invasion of England. Bonaparte, hearing of this, and anxious to see London, of which he had heard much, left Italy and returned to Paris.

"If there's a free tour of England to be had, Josephine," said he, "I am the man to have it. Besides, this climate of Italy is getting pretty hot for an honest man. I've refused twenty million francs in bribes in two weeks. If they'd offered another sou I'm afraid I'd have taken it. I will therefore go to Paris, secure the command of the army of England, and pay a few of my respects to George Third, Esq. I hear a great many English drop their h's; I'll see if I can't make 'em drop their l. s. d.'s as well."

Arrived in Paris, Bonaparte was much courted by everybody.

"I have arrived," he said, with a grim smile. "Even my creditors are glad to see me, and I'll show them that I have not forgotten them by running up a few more bills."

This he did, going to the same tradesmen that he had patronized in his days of poverty. To his hatter, whom he owed for his last five hats, he said:

"They call me haughty here; they say I am cold. Well, I am cold. I've shivered on the Alps several times since I was here last, and it has chilled my nature. It has given me the grip, so to speak, and when I lose my grip the weather will be even colder. Give me a hat, my friend."

"What size?" asked the hatter.

"The same," said Bonaparte, with a frown. "Why do you ask?"

"I was told your head had swelled," returned the hatter, meekly.

"They shall pay for this," murmured Napoleon, angrily.

"I am glad," said the hatter, with a sigh. "I was wondering who'd pay for it."

"Oh, you were, eh?" said Napoleon. "Well, wonder no more. Get out your books."

The hatter did so.

"Now charge it," said Napoleon.

"To whom?" asked the hatter.

"Those eminent financiers, Profit & Loss," said Napoleon, with a laugh, as he left the shop. "That's what I call a most successful hat-talk," he added, as he told Bourrienne of the incident later in the day.

"How jealous they all are!" said Bourrienne. "The idea of your having a swelled head is ridiculous."

"Of course," said Napoleon; "all I've got is a proper realization of 'Whom I Am,' as they say in Boston. But wait, my boy, wait. When I put a crown on my head—"

What Bonaparte would have said will never be known, for at that moment the general's servant announced Mme. Sans Gene, his former laundress, and that celebrated woman, unconventional as ever, stalked into the room. Napoleon looked at her coldly.

"You are—?" he queried.

"Your former laundress," she replied.

"Ah, and you want—?"

"My pay," she retorted.

"I am sorry, madame," said the General, "but the expenses of my Italian tour have been very great, and I am penniless. I will, however, assist you to the full extent of my power. Here are three collars and a dress-shirt. If you will launder them I will wear them to the state ball to-morrow evening, and will tell all my rich and influential friends who did them up, and if you wish I will send you a letter saying that I patronized your laundry once two years ago, and have since used no other."

These anecdotes, unimportant in themselves, are valuable in that they refute the charges made against General Bonaparte at this time— first, that he returned from Egypt with a fortune, and, second, that he carried himself with a hauteur which rendered him unapproachable.

For various reasons the projected invasion of England was abandoned, and the expedition to Egypt was substituted. This pleased Napoleon equally as well.

"I wasn't stuck on the English invasion, anyhow," he said, in writing to Joseph. "In the first place, they wanted me to go in October, when the London season doesn't commence until spring, and, in the second place, I hate fogs and mutton-chops. Egypt is more to my taste. England would enervate me. Egypt, with the Desert of Sahara in its backyard, will give me plenty of sand, and if you knew what projects I have in mind—which, of course, you don't, for you never knew anything, my dear Joseph—you'd see how much of that I need."

The Directory were quite as glad to have Napoleon go to Egypt as he was to be sent. Their jealousy of him was becoming more painful to witness every day.

"If he goes to England," said Barras, "he'll conquer it, sure as fate; and it will be near enough for excursion steamers to take the French people over to see him do it. If that happens we are lost."

"He'll conquer Egypt, though, and he'll tell about it in such a way that he will appear twice as great," suggested Carnot. "Seems to me we'd better sell out at once and be done with it."

"Not so," said Moulin. "Let him go to Egypt. Very likely he'll fall off a pyramid there and break his neck."

"Or get sunstruck," suggested Barras.

"There's no question about it in my mind," said Gohier. "Egypt is the place. If he escapes the pyramids or sunstroke, there are still the lions and the simoon, not to mention the rapid tides of the Red Sea. Why, he just simply can't get back alive. I vote for Egypt."

Thus it happened that on the 19th day of May, 1798, with an army of forty thousand men and a magnificant staff of picked officers, Napoleon embarked for Egypt.

"I'm glad we're off," said he to the sailor who had charge of his steamer-chair. "I've got to hurry up and gain some more victories or these French will forget me. A man has to make a three-ringed circus of himself to keep his name before the public these days."

"What are you fightin' for this time, sir?" asked the sailor, who had not heard that war had been declared—"ile paintin's or pyramids?"

"I am going to free the people of the East from the oppressor," said Napoleon, loftily.

"And it's a noble work, your honor," said the sailor. "Who is it that's oppressin' these people down East?"

"You'll have to consult the Directory," said Napoleon, coldly. "Leave me; I have other things to think of."

On the 10th of June Malta was reached, and the Knights of St. John, long disused to labor of any sort, like many other knights of more modern sort, surrendered in most hospitable fashion, inviting Napoleon to come ashore and accept the freedom of the island or anything else he might happen to want. His reply was characteristic:

"Tell the Knights of Malta to attend to their cats. I'm after continents, not islands," said he; and with this, leaving a detachment of troops to guard his new acquisition, he proceeded to Alexandria, which he reached on the 1st of July. Here, in the midst of a terrible storm and surf, Napoleon landed his forces, and immediately made a proclamation to the people.

"Fellahs!" he cried, "I have come. The newspapers say to destroy your religion. As usual, they prevaricate. I have come to free you. All you who have yokes to shed prepare to shed them now. I come with the olive-branch in my hand. Greet me with outstretched palms. Do not fight me for I am come to save you, and I shall utterly obliterate any man, be he fellah, Moujik, or even the great Marmalade himself, who prefers fighting to being saved. We may not look it, but we are true Mussulmen. If you doubt it, feel our muscle. We have it to burn. Desert the Mamelukes and be saved. The Pappylukes are here."

On reading this proclamation Alexandria immediately fell, and Bonaparte, using the Koran as a guide-book, proceeded on his way up the Nile. The army suffered greatly from the glare and burning of the sun-scorched sand, and from the myriads of pestiferous insects that infested the country; but Napoleon cheered them on. "Soldiers!" he cried, when they complained, "if this were a summer resort, and you were paying five dollars a day for a room at a bad hotel, you'd think yourselves in luck, and you'd recommend your friends to come here for a rest. Why not imagine this to be the case now? Brace up. We'll soon reach the pyramids, and it's a mighty poor pyramid that hasn't a shady side. On to Cairo!"

"It's easy enough for you to talk," murmured one. "You've got a camel to ride on and we have to walk."

"Well, Heaven knows," retorted Napoleon, pointing to his camel, "camel riding isn't like falling off a log. At first I was carried away with it, but for the last two days it has made me so sea-sick I can hardly see that hump."

After this there was no more murmuring, but Bonaparte did not for an instant relax his good-humor.

"The water is vile," said Dessaix, one morning.

"Why not drink milk, then?" asked the commander.

"Milk! I'd love to," returned Dessaix; "but where shall I find milk?"

"At the dairy," said Napoleon, with a twinkle in his eye.

"What dairy?" asked Dessaix, not observing the twinkle.

"The dromedary," said Napoleon, with a roar.

Little incidents like this served to keep the army in good spirits until the 21st of July, when they came in sight of the pyramids. Instantly Napoleon called a halt, and the army rested. The next day, drawing them up in line, the General addressed them. "Soldiers!" he cried, pointing to the pyramids, "from the summits of those pyramids forty centuries look down upon you. You can't see them, but they are there. No one should look down upon the French, not even a century. Therefore, I ask you, shall we allow the forces of the Bey, his fellahs and his Tommylukes, to drive us into the desert of Sahara, bag and baggage, to subsist on a sea-less seashore for the balance of our days, particularly when they haven't any wheels on their cannon?"

"No, no!" cried the army.

"Then up sail and away!" cried Bonaparte. "This is to be no naval affair, but the army of the Bey awaits us."

"Tell the band to play a Wagner march," he whispered, hastily, to his aide-de-camp. "It'll make the army mad, and what we need now is wrath."

So began the battle of the Pyramids. The result is too well known to readers of contemporary history to need detailed statement here. All day long it raged, and when night fell Cairo came with it. Napoleon, worn out with fatigue, threw himself down on a pyramid to rest.

"Ah!" he said, as he breathed a sigh of relief, "what a glorious day! We've beat 'em! Won't the Directory be glad? M. Barras will be more M. Barrassed than ever." Then, turning and tapping on the door of the massive pile, he whispered, softly: "Ah! Ptolemy, my man, it's a pity you've no windows in this tomb. You'd have seen a pretty sight this day. Kleber," he added, turning to that general, "do you know why Ptolemy inside this pyramid and I outside of it are alike?"

"I cannot guess, General," said Kleber. "Why?"

"We're both 'in it'!" returned Napoleon, retiring to his tent.

Later on in the evening, summoning Bourrienne, the victor said to him:

"Mr. Secretary, I have a new autograph. If Ptolemy can spell his name with a 'p,' why shouldn't I? I'm not going to have history say that a dead mummy could do things I couldn't. Pnapoleon would look well on a state paper."

"No doubt," said Bourrienne; "but every one now says that you copy Caesar. Why give them the chance to call you an imitator of Ptolemy also?"

"True, my friend, true," returned Napoleon, in a tone of disappointment. "I had not thought of that. When you write my autographs for the children of these Jennylukes—"

"Mamelukes, General," corrected Bourrienne.

"Ah, yes—I always get mixed in these matters—for the children of these Mamelukes, you may stick to the old form. Good-night."

And with that the conqueror went to sleep as peacefully as a little child.

Had Bonaparte now returned to France he would have saved himself much misery. King of fire though he had become in the eyes of the vanquished, his bed was far from being one of roses.

"In a climate like that," he observed, sadly, many years after, "I'd rather have been an ice baron. Africa got entirely too hot to cut any ice with me. Ten days after I had made my friend Ptolemy turn over in his grave, Admiral Nelson came along with an English fleet and challenged our Admiral Brueys to a shooting-match for the championship of Aboukir Bay. Brueys, having heard of what magazine writers call the ships of the desert in my control, supposing them to be frigates and not camels, imagined himself living in Easy Street, and accepted the challenge. He expected me to sail around to the other side of Nelson, and so have him between two fires. Well, I don't go to sea on camels, as you know, and the result was that after a twenty-four-hour match the camels were the only ships we had left. Nelson had won the championship, laid the corner-stone of monuments to himself all over English territory, cut me off from France, and added three thousand sea-lubbers to my force, for that number of French sailors managed to swim ashore during the fight. I manned the camels with them immediately, but it took them months to get their land legs on, and the amount of grog they demanded would have made a quick-sand of the Desert of Sahara, all of which was embarrassing."

But Napoleon did not show his embarrassment to those about him. He took upon himself the government of Egypt, opened canals, and undertook to behave like a peaceable citizen for a while.

"I needed rest, and I got it," he said. "Sitting on the apex of the pyramids, I could see the whole world at my feet, and whatever others may say to the contrary, it was there that I began to get a clear view of my future. It seemed to me that from that lofty altitude, chumming, as I was, with the forty centuries I have already alluded to, I could see two ways at once, that every glance could penetrate eternity; but I realize now that what I really got was only a bird's- eye view of the future. I didn't see that speck of a St. Helena. If I had, in the height of my power I should have despatched an expedition of sappers and miners to blow it up."

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