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Verona were seen the light troops of Austria.

Even a serious skirmish at the outposts took place, and Josephine,
against her will, had to be the witness of this horrible, cannibal
murder, which we are pleased to call war.

Bonaparte, who had preceded his army, was forced to retreat from Verona,
and went with Josephine to Castel Nuovo, where the majority of his
troops were stationed. But it was a fearful journey, beset with dangers.
Everywhere on the road lay the dying and the wounded who had remained
behind after the different conflicts, and who with difficulty were
crawling along to meet the army. Josephine's sensitive heart was
painfully moved by the spectacle of these sufferings and these bleeding
wounds. Napoleon noticed it on her pale cheeks and trembling lips, and
in the tears which stood in her eyes. Besides which, a great battle
was at hand, threatening her with new horrors. To guard her from them,
Bonaparte made another sacrifice to his love, and resolved to part from

She was to return to Brescia, while Napoleon, with his army, would meet
the foe. With a thousand assurances of love, and the most tender vows,
he took leave of Josephine, and she mastered herself so as to repress
her anxiety and timidity, and to appear collected and brave. With
a smile on her lip she bade him farewell, and began the journey,
accompanied by a few well-armed horsemen, whom Bonaparte, in the most
stringent terms, commanded not to leave his wife's carriage for an
instant, and in case of attack to defend her with their lives.

At first the journey was attended with no danger, and Josephine's heart
began to beat with less anxiety; she already believed herself in safety.
Suddenly, from a neighboring coppice, there rushed out a division of the
enemy's cavalry; already were distinctly heard the shouts and cries with
which they dashed toward the advancing carriage. To oppose this vast
number of assailants was not to be thought of; only the most rapid
flight could save them.

The carriage was turned; the driver jumped upon the horses, and, in a
mad gallop, onward it sped. To the swiftness of the horses Josephine
owed her escape. She reached headquarters safely, and was received by
Bonaparte with loud demonstrations of joy at her unexpected return.

But Josephine had not the strength to conceal the anxiety of her heart,
her fears and alarms. These horrible scenes of war, the sight of the
wounded, the dangers she had lately incurred, the fearful preparations
for fresh murders and massacres - all this troubled her mind so violently
that she lost at once all courage and composure. A nervous trembling
agitated her whole frame, and, not being able to control her agony, she
broke into loud weeping.

Bonaparte embraced her tenderly, and as he kissed the tears from her
cheeks, he cried out, with a threatening flash in his eyes, "Wurmser
will pay dearly for the tears he has caused!" [Footnote: Bonaparte's
words. - "Memorial de Ste. Helene," vol. i., p. 174.]

It was, however, a fortunate accident that the enemy's cavalry had
hindered Josephine from reaching Brescia. A quarter of an hour after her
return to headquarters the news arrived that the Austrians had advanced
into Brescia. Meanwhile Josephine had already regained all her courage
and steadfastness; she declared herself ready to abide by her husband,
to bear with him the dangers and the fatigues of the campaign; that she
wished to be with him, as it behooved the wife of a soldier.

But Bonaparte felt that her company would cripple his courage and
embarrass his movements. Josephine once more had to leave him, so that
the tender lover might not disturb the keen commanding general, and that
his head and not his heart might decide the necessary measures.

He persuaded Josephine to leave him, and to retire into one of the
central cities of Italy. She acceded to his wishes, and travelled away
toward Florence. But, to reach that city, it was necessary to pass
Mantua, which the French were investing. Her road passed near the walls
of the besieged city, and one of the balls, which were whizzing around
the carriage, struck one of the soldiers of her escort and wounded
him mortally. It was a dangerous, fearful journey - war's confusion
everywhere, wild shouts, fleeing, complaining farmers, constant cries of
distress, anxiety, and want.

But Josephine had armed her heart with great courage and resolution; she
shrank from no danger, she overcame it all; she already had an undaunted
confidence in her husband's destiny, and believed in the star of his

And this star led her on happily through all dangers, and protected
her throughout this reckless and daring journey. Through Bologna and
Ferrara, she came at last to Lucca; there to rest a few days from her
hardships and anxieties. There, in Lucca, she was to experience the
proud satisfaction of being witness of the deep confidence which had
struck root in the heart of the Italians, in reference to the success
of the French commander-in-chief. Though it was well known that Wurmser,
with a superior force, was advancing against General Bonaparte, and
his hungry, tattered troops, and that they were on the eve of a battle
which, according to all appearances, promised to Napoleon a complete
defeat, and to the Austrians a decisive victory, the town of Lucca
was not afraid to give to the wife of Bonaparte a grand and public
reception. The senate of Lucca received her with all the marks of
distinction shown only to princesses; the senate came to her in official
ceremony, and brought her as a gift of honor, in costly gold flasks, the
produce of their land, the fine oil of Lucca.

Josephine received these marks of honor with that grace and amiability
with which she won all hearts, and, with her enchanting smile, thanking
the senators, she told them, with all the confidence of a lover, that
her victorious husband would, for the magnificent hospitality thus shown
her, manifest his gratitude to the town of Lucca by the prosperity and
liberty which he was ready to conquer for Italy.

This confidence was shortly to be justified. No sooner had Josephine
arrived in Florence, whither she had come from Lucca, than the news of
the victory of the French army, commanded by her husband, reached there

Suddenly abandoning the siege of Mantua, Bonaparte had gathered together
all his forces, and with them he dealt blow after blow upon the three
divisions of the army corps of Wurmser, until he had completely defeated
them. The battles of Lonato and Castiglione were the fresh trophies of
his fame. On the 10th of August Bonaparte made his victorious entry into
Brescia, which only twelve days before he had been suddenly obliged to
abandon with his Josephine, to whom he had then been barely reunited,
and was still luxuriating in the bliss of her presence.

Bonaparte had fulfilled his word: he had revenged Josephine, and Wurmser
had indeed paid dearly for the tears which he had caused Josephine to

But after these days of storm and danger, the two lovers were to enjoy a
few weeks of mutual happiness and of splendid triumphs.

Josephine had returned from Florence to Milan, and thither Bonaparte
came also in the middle of August, to rest in her arms after his battles
and victories.


The days of armistice which Bonaparte passed in Milan were accompanied
by festivities, enjoyments, and triumphs of all kinds. All Milan and
Lombardy streamed forth to present their homage to the deliverer of
Italy and to his charming, gracious wife; to give feasts in their
honor, to praise them in enthusiastic songs, to celebrate their fame in
concerts, serenades, and illuminations.

The palace Serbelloni served Italy's deliverer once more as a residence,
and it was well calculated for this on account of its vastness and
elegance. This was one of the most beautiful buildings among the palaces
of Milan. Over its massive lower structure, and its rez-de chaussee of
red granite, sparkling in the sun with its play of many colors, arose
bold and steep its light and graceful facade. The interior of this
beautiful palace of the Dukes of Serbelloni was adorned with all the
splendors which sculpture and painting gathered into the palaces of the
Italian nobility.

In those halls, whose roofs were richly decorated and gilded, and
supported by white columns of marble, and whose walls were covered with
those splendid and enormous mirrors which the republic of Venice alone
then manufactured; and from whose tall windows hung down in long, heavy
folds curtains of purple velvet, embroidered with gold, the work of the
famous artisans of Milan - in those brilliant halls the happy couple,
Bonaparte and Josephine, received the deputies of applauding Italy and
the high aristocracy of all Lombardy.

An eye-witness thus describes a reception-evening in the Serbelloni
palace: "The hall in which the general received his visitors was a long
gallery divided by marble columns into three smaller rooms; the two
extreme divisions formed two large drawing-rooms, perfectly square, and
the middle partition formed a long and wide promenade apartment. In the
drawing-room, into which I entered, was Madame Bonaparte, the beautiful
Madame Visconti, Madame Leopold Berthier, and Madame Ivan. Under the
arches, at the entrance of the middle room, stood the general;
around him, but at a distance, the chiefs of the war department,
the magistrates of the city, with a few ministers of the Italian
governments, all in respectful attitude before him. Nothing seemed to be
more striking than the bearing of this little man among the dignitaries
overawed by his character. His attitude had nothing of pride, but it had
the dignity of a man conscious of his worth, and who feels that he is in
the right place. Bonaparte tried not to increase his stature, so as to
be on the same level with those around him; they already spared him that
trouble, and bowed to him. None of those who conversed with him appeared
taller than he. Berthier, Silmaine, Clarke, Augerean, awaited silently
till he should address them, an honor which this evening was not
conferred upon all. Never were headquarters so much like a court: they
were the prelude to the Tuileries." [Footnote: Arnold, "Souvenirs d'un
Sexagenaire," vol. iii., p. 10.]

To Milan came the ambassadors of princes, of the free cities, and of
the Italian republics. They all claimed Bonaparte's assistance and
protection; they came bearers of good-will, of utterances of hope and
fear, and expecting from him help and succor. The princes trembled for
their thrones; the cities and republics for their independence; they
wanted to conciliate by their submission the general whose sword could
either threaten them all or give them ample protection. Bonaparte
received this homage with the composure of a protector, and sometimes
also with the proud reserve of a conqueror.

He granted to the Duke of Parma the protection which he had sought, and
permitted him to remain on his territory as prince and ruler, though the
strongest expostulations had been made to Bonaparte on that point.

"He is a Bourbon," they said; "he must no longer rule."

"He is an unfortunate man," replied Bonaparte, proudly; "it is not worth
while to attack him. If we leave him on his lands, he will rule only in
our name; if we drive him away, he will be weaving intrigues everywhere.
Let him remain where he is, I wish him no wrong; his presence can be
useful, his absence would surely he hurtful."

"But he is a Bourbon, citizen general, a Bourbon!" exclaimed Augereau,
with animation.

Bonaparte's countenance darkened, and his brow was overspread with
frowns. "Well, then," cried he, with threatening tone, "he is a Bourbon!
Is he therefore by nature of so despicable a family? Because three
Bourbons have been killed in France, must we therefore hunt down all the
others? I cannot approve of proscriptions which thus fall upon a whole
family, a whole class of people. An absurd law has prohibited all the
nobles from serving the republic, and yet Barras is in the Directory,
and I am at the head of the army in Italy. We are consequently liable
to punishment in virtue of your absurd and cruel system! Hunt down those
who do wrong, but not masses who are innocent. Can you punish Paris
and France for the crimes of the sans-culottes? The Bourbons are, it is
said, the enemies of freedom; they have been led to the scaffold under
the action of a right which I do not acknowledge. The Duke of Parma is
weak, and a poltroon, - he will not stir. His people seem to love him,
for we are here, and they rise not, they utter no complaint. Let him,
then, continue to rule as long as he pays all that I exact from him."
[Footnote: Napoleon's words. - See Hazlitt, "Histoire de Napoleon," vol.
v., p. 1.]

Thanks to the good-will and protection of the republican general, the
Duke of Parma remained on his little throne - on the same throne which
was one day to be to Napoleon's second wife a compensation for her lost
imperial crown. The Empress of France was to become a Duchess of Parma;
and now to her husband, the present general of the republic, the actual
Duke of Parma was indebted that his little dukedom was not converted
into a republic.

It is true that the duke had to pay dearly for the protection which
Bonaparte granted. He had to pay a war-subsidy of two million francs,
and, besides, give from his collection his most beautiful painting,
that of St. Jerome by Correggio, for the Museum of the Louvre in Paris.
[Footnote: This splendid picture is now in the Vatican at Rome.] The
duke, as a lover of art, was more distressed at the loss of this picture
than at the enormous contribution he had to pay; for he soon caused the
proposition to be made to General Bonaparte, to redeem from the French
government that painting, for the sum of two hundred thousand francs, a
proposition which Bonaparte, without any further consultation with the
authorities in Paris, rejected with some degree of irritation.

The Duke of Parma remained therefore the sovereign of his duchy, because
it so pleased Bonaparte; but Bonaparte was led into error when he
thought that, as his people rebelled not, they therefore loved their
duke, and were satisfied with him. The women and the priests controlled
entirely the feeble duke; and not only the people, but the better
classes and the aristocracy, submitted to all this with great
unwillingness. Once, when Joseph Bonaparte, whom the French republic had
sent to give assurance of protection and recognition to the little Duke
of Parma, was walking with a few cavaliers in the gardens around the
duke's palace in Colorno, he expressed his admiration at the symmetry
and beauty of the buildings.

"That is true," was the answer, "but just look at the buildings of the
neighboring cloister! do you not see how superior that dwelling is
to that of the sovereign? Wretched is the country where this can take
place!" [Footnote: "Memoires du Roi Joseph," vol. i., p. 65.]

Even the representatives of the republic of Venice came to Bonaparte.
They came not only to secure his friendship, but also to complain that
the French army, in its advance upon Brescia, had done injury to the
neutral territory of Venice.

Bonaparte directed at them a look of imperious severity, and, instead
of laying stress on their neutrality, he asked in a sharp tone, "Are you
for us, or against us?"

"Signor, we are neutral, and - "

"Do not be neutral," interrupted Bonaparte, with vehemence, "be strong,
otherwise your friendship is useful to none."

And, with imperious tone, he reproached them for the vacillating,
perfidious conduct which, since 1792, had been the policy of Venice,
and he threatened to punish and destroy that republic if she did not
immediately prove herself to be the loyal friend of the French.

While Bonaparte used the few short weeks of rest to bring Italy more and
more under the yoke of France, it was Josephine's privilege to draw to
herself and toward her husband the minds of the Italians, to win their
hearts to her husband, and through him to the French republic, which
he represented. She did this with all the grace and affability, all
the genial tact and large-heartedness of a noble heart, which were the
attributes of her beautiful and amiable person. She was unwearied
in well-doing, in listening to all the petitions with which she was
approached; she had for every complaint and every request an open ear;
she not only promised to every applicant her intercession, but she made
him presents, and was ever ready, by solicitations, flatteries, and
expostulations, and, if necessary, even with tears, to entreat from her
husband a mitigation of the punishment and sentence which he had decided
upon in his just severity; and seldom had Bonaparte the courage to
oppose her wishes. These were for Josephine glorious days of love and
triumph. She depicts them herself in a letter to her aunt in plain,
short words.

"The Duke de Serbelloni," writes she, "will tell you, my dear aunt, how
I have been received in Italy; how, wherever I passed, they celebrated
my arrival; how all the Italian princes, even the Duke of Tuscany, the
emperor's brother, gave festivities in my honor. Well, then, I would
prefer to live as a plain citizeness of France. I like not the honorable
distinctions of this country. They weary me. It is true, my health
inclines me to be sad. I often feel very ill. If fate would bring me
good health, then I should be entirely happy. I possess the most amiable
husband that can be found. I have no occasion to desire anything. My
wishes are his. The whole day he is worshipping me as if I were a
deity; it is impossible to find a better husband. He writes often to
my children - he loves them much. He sent to Hortense, through M.
Serbelloni, a beautiful enamelled repeating watch, ornamented with fine
pearls; to Eugene he sent also a fine gold watch." [Footnote: Aubenas,
"Histoire de l'Imperatrice Josephine," vol. i., p. 349.]

But soon these days of quietness and happiness were to be broken;
the armistice was drawing to a close, when, with redoubled energy,
Bonaparte, who had received from the government the wished-for
re-enforcements, longed to resume the war with Austria, which on her
side had sent another army into Italy, under General Alvinzi, to relieve
Mantua, and to deliver Wurmser from his peril.

On the 13th of August Bonaparte left Milan and returned to Brescia,
where he established his headquarters, and where, with all the speed and
restlessness of a warrior longing for victory, he made his preparations
for the coming conflict.

But amid the anxieties, the cares, the chances of this new campaign,
his heart remained behind in Milan with his Josephine; when the
general began to rest, the lover began to breathe. No sooner were
the battle-plans, the fight, the preparations and the dispositions
accomplished, than all his thoughts returned to Josephine, and he had
again recourse to his written correspondence with his adored wife; for
although he longed so much to have her with him, yet he was unwilling to
occasion her so much inconvenience and so many privations.

Bonaparte's letters are again way-marks during his glorious path of
victory and triumph, while he was over-running Italy with wondrous
rapidity - but, instead of relating these conquests, we turn to his
letters to Josephine. Already, on his way to Brescia, he had written her
several times. The very day after reaching there, after having made the
necessary military arrangements, Bonaparte wrote to her:

"BRESCIA, the 14th Fructidor, Year IV. (August 31, 1795).

"I am leaving for Verona. I have hoped in vain to receive a letter from
you; this makes me wretched and restless. At the time of my departure,
you were somewhat suffering; I pray you, do not leave me in such a state
of disquietude. You had promised me a greater punctuality; your tongue,
then, chimed in with your heart...; you, whom Nature has gifted with a
sweet disposition, with joyousness, and every thing which is agreeable,
how can you forget him who loves you so warmly? Three days without
a letter from you! I have during that time written to you several.
Separation is horrible; the nights are long, tiresome, and insipid; the
days are monotonous."

"To-day, alone with thoughts, works, men, and their destructive schemes,
I have not received from you a single note that I can press to my

"Headquarters are broken up; I leave in one hour. I have this night
received expresses from Paris; there was nothing for you but the
enclosed letter, which will afford you some pleasure."

"Think on me; live for me; be often with your beloved, and believe that
there is for him but one sorrow; that he shrinks only from this - to be
no more loved by his Josephine. A thousand right sweet kisses, right
tender, right exclusive kisses."


Three days after he tells her that he is now in the midst of war
operations; that hostilities have begun again, and that he hopes in a
few days to advance upon Trieste. But this occupied his mind less than
his solicitude for Josephine. After a short paragraph on his military
affairs, he continues:

"No letter from you yet; I am really anxious; but I am assured that you
are well, and that you have made an excursion on the Como Lake. Every
day I wait impatiently for the courier who is to bring me news from you;
you know how precious this is to me. I live no longer when away from
you; the joy of my life is to be near my sweet Josephine. Think of me;
write often, very often; this is the only remedy for separation; it is
cruel, but I trust it will soon be over."


Meanwhile this separation was to last longer than Bonaparte had
imagined. War held him entangled in its web so fast, that he had not
time even to write to Josephine. In the next two letters he could only
tell her, in a few lines, what had happened at the theatre of war; that
he had again defeated Wurmser, and had surrounded him, and that he
hopes to take Mantua. Even for his constant complaint about Josephine's
slothfullness in writing, he finds no room in these short letters. In
the next letter, however, it appears the more violently. He has no
time to give her, as was his usual practice, any account of the war.
He begins at once with the main object, which is - "Josephine has not

"VERONA, 1st day of Complementaires in Year V," "(September 17, 1796).

"I write to you often, my beloved one, but you write seldom to me. You
are wicked and hateful, very hateful - as hateful as you are inconstant.
It is indeed faithlessness to deceive a wretched man, a tender lover!
Must he lose his rights because he is away, burdened with hardship and
labor? Without his Josephine, without the certainty of her love, what is
there on earth for him? What would he do here?

"We had yesterday a very bloody affair; the enemy has lost many men, and
is well beaten. We have taken his advanced works before Mantua.

"Farewell, adored Josephine! One of these nights the doors will open
with a loud crash: as a jealous man, I am in your arms!

"A thousand dear kisses! BONAPARTE."

But the doors were not to be opened on any of the following nights for
the jealous one! The events of war were to keep him away a long time
from his Josephine. The Austrian Generals Wurmser and Alvinzi, with
their two armies, demanded all the energy and activity of Bonaparte.
Meanwhile, as he was preparing for the great battles which were to
decide the fate of Italy, his thoughts were always turned to his
Josephine; his deep longings grew day by day, still he had no longer
cause to complain that Josephine did not write, that she had forgotten
him! Contrariwise, Josephine did write; she had, while he was writing
her angry letters about her silence, written several times, for
Bonaparte in the following letter says that he has received many
letters from her, which, probably on account of the difficulties of
communication, had been delayed. He had received them with the highest
delight, and pressed them to his lips and heart. But no sooner had he
rejoiced over them, than he complains that they are cold, reserved, and
old. No word, no expression, satisfies his ardent love. He complains
that her letters are cold, and then, when she dips her pen in the fire
of tender love, he complains again that her glowing letters "turn
his blood into fire, and stir up his whole being." Love, with all its
wantonness and all its pains, holds him captive in its hands, and the
general has no means of appeasing the lover.

Online LibraryL. MühlbachEmpress Josephine → online text (page 23 of 40)