Queen Hortense eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 285 pages of information about Queen Hortense.

[Footnote 20:  Memoires d’une contemporaine, vol. iv., p. 377.]

CHAPTER X.

JUNOT, THE DUKE D’ABRANTES.

While the faithful were rallying around Napoleon to render assistance to the hero in his hour of peril—­while even his brother Louis, forgetting the mortifications and injuries he had sustained at the emperor’s hands, hastened to his side, there was one of the most devoted kept away from him by fate—­one upon whom the emperor could otherwise have depended in life and death.

This one was his friend and comrade-in-arms, Junot, who, descended from an humble family, had by his merit and heroism elevated himself to the rank of a Duke d’Abrantes.  He alone failed to respond when the ominous roll of the war-drum recalled all Napoleon’s generals to Paris.  But it was not his will, but fate, that kept him away.

Junot—­the hero of so many battles, the chevalier without fear and without reproach, the former governor of Madrid, the present governor of Istria and Illyria—­Junot was suffering from a visitation of the most fearful of all diseases—­his brain was affected!  The scars that covered his head and forehead, and testified so eloquently to his gallantry, announced at the same time the source of his disease.  His head, furrowed by sabre-strokes, was outwardly healed, but the wounds had affected his brain.

The hero of so many battles was transported into a madman.  And yet, this madman was still the all-powerful, despotic ruler of Istria and Illyria.  Napoleon, in appointing him governor of these provinces, had invested him with truly royal authority.  Knowing the noble disposition, fidelity, and devotion of his brother-in-arms, he had conferred upon him sovereign power to rule in his stead.  There was, therefore, no one who could take the sceptre from his hand, and depose him from his high position.  Napoleon had placed this sceptre in his hand, and he alone could demand it of him.  Even the Viceroy of Italy—­to whom the Chambers of Istria appealed for help in their anxiety—­even Eugene, could afford them no relief.  He could only say to them:  “Send a courier to the emperor, and await his reply.”

But at that time it was not so easy a matter to send couriers a distance of a thousand miles; then there were no railroads, no telegraphs.  The Illyrians immediately sent a courier to the emperor, with an entreaty for their relief, but the Russian proverb, “Heaven is high, and the emperor distant,” applied to them also!  Weeks must elapse before the courier could return with the emperor’s reply; until then, there was no relief; and until then, there was no authority to obey but the Duke d’Abrantes, the poor madman!

No other authority, no institution, had the right to place itself in his stead, or to assume his prerogatives for an instant even, without violating the seal of sovereignty that Napoleon had impressed on the brow of his governor!

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Queen Hortense from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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