Napoleon, whose crown was already trembling on his head, who was already so near his own fall, still possessed such gigantic power that its reflection sufficed to protect, at a distance of a thousand miles from the boundaries of France, the inviolability of a man who had lost his reason, and no longer had the power of reflection and volition.
How handsome, how amiable, how chivalrous, had Junot been in his earlier days! How well he had known how to charm beautiful women in the drawing-rooms, soldiers on the battle-field, and knights at the tourney! In all knightly accomplishments he was the master—always and everywhere the undisputed victor and hero. These accomplishments had won the heart of Mademoiselle de Premont. The daughter of the proud baroness of the Faubourg St. Germain had joyfully determined, in spite of her mother’s dismay, to become the wife of the soldier of the republic, of Napoleon’s comrade-in-arms. Although Junot had no possession but his pay, and no nobility but his sword and his renown, this nevertheless sufficed to win him the favor of the daughter of this aristocratic mother—of the daughter who was yet so proud of being the last descendant of the Comneni. Napoleon, who loved to see matrimonial alliances consummated between his generals and his nobility and the old legitimist nobility of France, rewarded the daughter of the Faubourg St. Germain richly for the sacrifice she had made for his comrade-in-arms, in giving up her illustrious name, and her coat-of-arms, to become the wife of a general without ancestors and without fortune. He made his friend a duke, and the Duchess d’Abrantes had no longer cause to be ashamed of her title; the descendant of the Comneni could content herself with the homage done her as the wife of the governor of Lisbon, contented with the laurels that adorned her husband’s brow—laurels to which he added a new branch, but also new wounds, on every battle-field.
The consequences of these wounds had veiled the hero’s laurels with mourning-crape, and destroyed the domestic happiness of the poor duchess forever. She had first discovered her husband’s sad condition, but she had known how to keep it a secret from the rest of the world. She had, however, refused to accompany the duke to Illyria, and had remained in Paris, still hoping that the change of climate and associations might restore him to health.
But her hopes were not to be realized. The attacks of madness, that had hitherto occurred at long intervals only, now became more frequent, and were soon no longer a secret. All Illyria knew that its governor was a madman, and yet no one dared to oppose his will, or to refuse to obey his commands; all still bowed to his will, in humility and silent submissiveness, hopefully awaiting the return of the courier who had been dispatched to Napoleon at Paris.
“But heaven is high, and the emperor distant!” And much evil could happen, and did happen, before the courier returned to Trieste, where Junot resided. The poor duke’s condition grew worse daily; his attacks of madness became more frequent and more dangerous, and broke out on the slightest provocation.