“Good God!” exclaimed Bonaparte one day to Bourrienne, “how seldom one meets men in the world! In Italy there are eighteen millions of inhabitants, but I have found only two men among them all—Dandolo and Melzi.”
[Footnote 6: Bourrienne, vol. i., p. 139.]
But, while Bonaparte was despairing of men, in the very midst of his victories, he cherished the warmest, most impassioned love for his wife, to whom he almost daily wrote the tenderest and most ardent letters, the answers to which he awaited with the most impatient longing.
Josephine’s letters formed the sole exception to a very unusual and singular system that Bonaparte had adopted during a part of his campaign in Italy. This was to leave a11 written communications, excepting such as came to him by special couriers, unread for three weeks. He threw them all into a large basket, and opened them only on the twenty-first day thereafter. Still, General Bonaparte was more considerate than Cardinal Dubois, who immediately consigned all the communications he received to the flames, unread, and—while the fire on his hearth was consuming the paper on which, perchance, was written the despairing appeal of a mother, imploring pardon for her son; of a disconsolate wife, beseeching pity for her husband; or the application of an ambitious statesman, desiring promotion—would point to them with a sardonic smile, and say, “There’s my correspondence!” Bonaparte, at least, gave the letters a perusal, three weeks after they reached him, indeed; but those three weeks saved him and his secretary, Bourrienne, much time and labor, for, when they finally went to work on them, time and circumstances had already disposed of four fifths of them, and thus only one fifth required answers—a result that made Bonaparte laugh heartily, and filled him with justifiable pride in what he termed his “happy idea.”
Josephine’s letters, however, had not an hour or a minute to wait ere they were read. Bonaparte always received them with his heart bounding with delight, and invariably answered them, in such impassioned, glowing language as only his warm southern temperament could suggest, and contrasted with which even Josephine’s missives seemed a little cool and passionless.