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The Life of Napoleon I (Volume 1 of 2) by Rose

Of her cruelly rare and meagre replies


With

him was his mother, also his brothers, Joseph and Louis, whom he was rapidly advancing to fortune. There, too, were his sisters; Elise, proud and self-contained, who at this period married a noble but somewhat boorish Corsican, Bacciocchi; and Pauline, a charming girl of sixteen, whose hand the all-powerful brother offered to Marmont, to be by him unaccountably refused, owing, it would seem, to a prior attachment. This lively and luxurious young creature was not long to remain unwedded. The adjutant-general, Leclerc, became her suitor; and, despite his obscure birth and meagre talents, speedily gained her as his bride. Bonaparte granted her 40,000 francs as her dowry; and--significant fact--the nuptials were privately blessed by a priest in the chapel of the Palace of Montebello.

There, too, at Montebello was Josephine.

Certainly the Bonapartes were not happy in their loves: the one dark side to the young conqueror's life, all through this brilliant campaign, was the cruelty of his bride. From her side he had in March, 1796, torn himself away, distracted between his almost insane love for her and his determination to crush the chief enemy of France: to her he had written long and tender letters even amidst the superhuman activities of his campaign. Ten long despatches a day had not prevented him covering as many sheets of paper with protestations of devotion to her and with entreaties that she would likewise

pour out her heart to him. Then came complaints, some tenderly pleading, others passionately bitter, of her cruelly rare and meagre replies. The sad truth, that Josephine cares much for his fame and little for him himself, that she delays coming to Italy, these and other afflicting details rend his heart. At last she comes to Milan, after a passionate outburst of weeping--at leaving her beloved Paris. In Italy she shows herself scarcely more than affectionate to her doting spouse. Marlborough's letters to his peevish duchess during the Blenheim campaign are not more crowded with maudlin curiosities than those of the fierce scourge of the Austrians to his heartless fair. He writes to her agonizingly, begging her to be less lovely, less gracious, less good--apparently in order that he may love her less madly: but she is never to be jealous, and, above all, never to weep: for her tears burn his blood: and he concludes by sending millions of kisses, and also to her dog! And this mad effusion came from the man whom the outside world took to be of steel-like coldness: yet his nature had this fevered, passionate side, just as the moon, where she faces the outer void, is compact of ice, but turns a front of molten granite to her blinding, all-compelling luminary.

Undoubtedly this blazing passion helped to spur on the lover to that terrific energy which makes the Italian campaign unique even amidst the Napoleonic wars. Beaulieu, Wuermser, and Alvintzy were not rivals in war; they were tiresome hindrances to his unsated love. On the eve of one of his greatest triumphs he penned to her the following rhapsody:

"I am far from you, I seem to be surrounded by the blackest night: I need the lurid light of the thunder-bolts which we are about to hurl on our enemies to dispel the darkness into which your absence has plunged me. Josephine, you wept when we parted: you wept! At that thought all my being trembles. But be consoled! Wuermser shall pay dearly for the tears which I have seen you shed."


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