But I had been expressly desired to carry forbearance to its furthest possible limit, and in case of our being obliged to take action to let it be known in the most public manner that we had no idea of conquest. Above all, I was carefully to avoid anything that might possibly wound international feelings. And herein lay the difficulty of my task, for these same feelings were excessively tender. I need hardly say that this was especially so in the case of England. We had driven away her trade when we conquered Algeria, and she did not want her commercial relations with Morocco to meet the same fate. Gibraltar, being in a state of perpetual semi-blockade on the Spanish side, is obliged to draw all the necessary supplies for its huge garrison and its smuggling population from Morocco; and this has gone on for such a length of time that Englishmen have got into the habit of looking on Tangier as being an indispensable dependency belonging to that proud citadel on the Rock, which keeps watch and ward over the gates of the Mediterranean. Add to this a certain national feeling among the English that the sea is their special domain, and their consequent jealousy whenever naval action is taken by any other fleet than theirs, and some idea of the inflammable elements with which I was about to be surrounded will be gained. The very announcement of the despatch of my squadron to Morocco brought forth a demonstration of the national sensitiveness in the British Parliament. A former minister, Lord Minto, was the first to echo it in the House of Lords, where he went so far as to do me the honour of complaining that I should have been entrusted with the command of the squadron It was decided that ships should be sent to watch us. Admiral Owen, Commander-in-Chief of the British Mediterranean Squadron, was ordered to hasten to Gibraltar without delay, and the Press, as may well be imagined, was not slow to take its share in all this agitation.
Meanwhile I was busily organising my little squadron at Toulon. Twelve hundred troops, or thereabouts, for disembarkation if necessary, had been sent me, and as fast as I got my ships ready I sent them on to Oran, where we were to muster. Just as we were starting a slight accident occurred, which if I had been superstitiously inclined might have cast a gloom over the first days of my command. We had towed the ship Triton, with a body of marines on board, outside the port, one lovely evening. There we met a steamboat coming from Montpellier with a company of engineers, under Captain Coffinieres, who were also to be attached to the expedition. By some mistake in steering the ships collided. The Triton was slightly damaged; but the steamboat lost her funnel and spars, and had her bulwarks stove in. There was no damage to life and limb, beyond an unintentional dip I took, by falling into the sea while getting alongside the two vessels to judge for myself whether the collision was a serious one or not. I recollect, as a small matter of detail, that while we were coming back into Toulon at night, on board the tug from which I had seen the accident, we made experiments with the electric light, and that when we turned it on an American corvette lying in the port, her watch bolted in every direction, blinded by the dazzling light darted on them suddenly, they knew not whence. More than forty years elapsed before these experiments received any practical application. Such is the power of routine!
But I must get back to my ships. Having mustered them all at Oran, and opened communications with General Bugeaud, I went straight to Gibraltar, to confer with the English authorities before I did anything else; and resolved to be the first to offer in the clearest and frankest way any explanation they might desire of my intentions as to peace or war, and the part we expected neutral powers to play. Let me say at once, that from the very first day till the end of the campaign, I never had occasion to speak otherwise than in terms of the highest satisfaction of all my relations with the officers holding command in the British naval force, and more especially with Admiral Owen, Captain Lockyer, and Captain Provo Wallis. Our intercourse was always frank, cordial, "straightforward," as English people call it, and very pleasant in consequence. This was not the case when I had to do with General Sir Robert Wilson, Governor of Gibraltar, a bitter enemy to France. In the earliest beginning of his career he had been attached to the staff of the Russian army, had been through the campaign of 1812, and borne his part in inflicting the disasters which befell us during the terrible retreat from Moscow, He played a very active part as British commissioner with the Allied Armies in 1813, behaving with great personal valour both at Dresden and Leipsic, and doing us frequent mischief by the advice he gave to the Allies. Often, in his very interesting Memoirs, he will be found complacently reckoning up the losses that we should have suffered if his counsels had been acted upon. Sir Robert afterwards acquired a certain notoriety in Paris by acting as the principal agent in the escape of M. de Lavalette in 1815. A man of occasional chivalrous impulses, but passionate and restless, to the extent of being incapable of keeping quiet, he looked on his position as Governor of Gibraltar not as a great military command alone, but as an active political post, and he had directed all this activity, through Morocco, against our conquered Province of Algeria, and so against France herself. His goings to and fro betwixt Gibraltar and the opposite coast were a matter of common knowledge, and his newspaper, the Gibraltar Chronicle, edited by his Colonial Secretary, repeated every statement likely to lower French influence, make little of our arms, or stir up public feeling against us. Arms and war material were openly exported to Tetuan and other towns in Morocco under his very eyes. And, in short, it was easy to trace a great part of the confidence in their impunity which made Muley Abderrahman and his government so hostile on our frontier-line, and so insolent in its replies to our diplomatic agents, to his behaviour.
Such then was the principal personage with whom I had to deal from the very outset of my mission. He was the object of my first overture. As soon as I arrived, I proceeded to the Convent, as his official residence is called, in full uniform, with all the captains belonging to my squadron. He received me with a politeness that bordered on the obsequious, and at once began to talk of the danger he apprehended from the presence of my squadron on that coast and before the Moorish towns; the danger to peace in general, on account of the conflicts likely to be provoked; the danger of still further exciting the warlike passions of the Mussulman population; the danger to the safety of the Christian natives, the European residents, and the consuls in Morocco; and, finally, the danger to Mr. Hay, the British Consul-General, who had just started to give personal counsels of moderation to the Emperor Muley Abderrahman.
"But indeed, General," I replied, "I shall be too glad not to take my ships to Tangier, nor to any other point on the Morocco coast, during the negotiations. We are tired of the state of things caused by the insolence and hostility of the Moors along our frontier. We are going to present an ultimatum to put an end to it. We will allow them a certain interval to reply in, and when that is up, we shall go to Tangier, either to punish or to forgive them. UNTIL THEN we shall be very glad of any efforts that may be made to calm public feeling and facilitate the acceptance of our just demands. UNTIL THEN I am quite prepared not to take my squadron to the coast of Morocco; but on one condition only— that the British ships do not go there either. We cannot allow our dispute to be discussed under the guns of a foreign fleet, nor that there should be any question of protection or intimidation in the matter. If you, and the naval authorities with you, will promise that your ships shall not go to Tangier, I will take mine to Cadiz, without touching there either, and await the reply to our ultimatum. Of course I have nothing to say about your small vessels going to Tangier to protect your fellow-countrymen, and mine will do the same thing."
That ended my lecture, and I was about to take my leave, but Sir Robert kept up a conversation on various subjects, till all at once he started and said:
"Why, I was forgetting the time! The gates will be shut. If you want to get back to the port, gentlemen, you must start at once. Hurry up! you haven't a moment to lose."
I always thought that little scene was a got up thing: not indeed for the sake of the absurd sight of the French admiral and his captains tearing breathlessly along in full uniform like people who are afraid of missing a train, but to give us an idea of the strictness of the regulations under that particular governorship. Of which strictness we had another proof on the following evening.
A boat coming ashore from the "Jemappes" to take off the officers, who had been dining on shore, at the postern gate known as the Ragged Staff, which had been left open for their convenience, made a mistake in the darkness, and came alongside of another landing stage, the guard of which turned out and fired a volley, which luckily did not hit anybody.
The proposal I made during my first visit to Sir Robert was carried out. I was given a promise that no English ship should appear at Tangier; and I, on my side, took my squadron to Cadiz, while M. de Nion, our consul- general, presented our ultimatum to Muley Abderrahman. Then came a long period of uncertainty. Warships arrived at Tangier direct from England. As soon as I heard of it I set sail to follow them; but on my arrival, finding the authorities at Gibraltar had already recalled them, I returned to Cadiz.
When the answer to our ultimatum did come, it was most unsatisfactory. The Moorish Government refused to disperse the assemblage of troops massed on General Bugeaud's front; and even went so far as to demand that he should be punished for having violated their frontier more than once, in his pursuit of the bands that had attacked him. And there was not one word concerning the chief subject of our complaints, Abd-el- Kadir.
We might have taken immediate steps, on the reception of this news, but it was indispensable that the safety of our consuls, and our fellow- countrymen resident in Tangier, whom the first cannon-shot would expose to all the violence of Mussulman fanaticism, should be ensured first of all. Then there was the presence of the British Consul-General at the Emperor's court to be considered. If his mission was not actually official, it was semi-official at all events; and we were obliged to await his return. To give some colour to our delay, M. de Nion sent a fresh summons to Sidi Bousselam, pasha of Larrache, a clear-sighted and intelligent man, whom the Sultan had deputed to negotiate with us. A fresh extension of time was granted. I took advantage of it to get our consuls withdrawn, and went myself to Tangier to see to the sudden removal of our consul-general and his family. If this had been attempted a few minutes later, the Moors would have tried to prevent it. All the other French subjects and people under our protection, who had put off going on board our ships, were stopped, except one Jew, who rushed up at full speed, threw himself into the sea, and managed to come up with my boat. I should add, that owing to the energetic remonstrances of all the other foreign representatives, and in particular the Neapolitan Consul, M. de Martino—a clever and courageous young man who has since risen to the highest positions in Italy, and who had undertaken to look after our interests after our consuls had been withdrawn—the embargo thus laid on our fellow-countrymen's movements was of very short duration.
The departure of the French consuls made a considerable impression both on the Moorish leaders and on the foreign representatives, who took alarm at once. The roadstead at Tangier was soon covered, in answer to their appeals, with foreign warships, Spanish, Danish, Swedish, &c. The English men-of-war returned, and I brought back my own squadron.
But still the time went by, and Mr. Hay did not appear. General Bugeaud, away on the frontier, was losing patience, and wrote me letter after letter, complaining of my tergiversation!" To which I replied, "Well, General, fire off your guns! If you will begin the fighting I'll follow your example at once." But the general turned a deaf ear to that. He answered that pacific overtures which he could not well ignore were being made him on the frontier side, but that things could not go on as they were, that his troops were suffering from the heat, that they were fretting under their enforced inaction. The long and the short of it was that he would not take the responsibility of the international complications that might arise out of overt hostilities in Morocco, and yet he was burning with the desire to throw himself upon the army lying in front of him and inflict a signal defeat on it. While he neither urged me on nor tried to check me, diplomacy did its utmost to restrain my ardour. The French charge d'affaires in London wrote to point out "the capital importance attached in this country (England) to the business you have in hand. If it were to come to a blockade, an occupation of ports and of the coast, &c., I feel quite convinced that the relations between your Royal Highness and the British cruisers would keep the peace of the world in general in constant peril." And the tide kept rising and rising, higher and higher! In other words, time was going by—in inaction. And some people were inclined to take inaction for impotence.
At last, on the 4th of August, M. de Nion received an answer, and not an acceptable one, to his last note, still harping on "the punishment of the general." We had had enough of that sort of thing. On the 5th a despatch-boat brought me news of the safety of Mr. Hay, the British Plenipotentiary, on board an English ship, and of the failure of his mission. On the 6th I attacked the fortifications of Tangier in the presence of ships of war of every nation, British battleships, and Spanish frigates. The object of our demonstration was eminently clear. We were proving to the Moors, whom we chastised, as to the foreigners who were looking on, that France intended to ensure her Algerian frontier being respected, and that no foreign protection would save those who violated it from punishment.
The shelling of Tangier was much more of a political act than of an act of warfare. Though eighty pieces of artillery replied to our first shots, their fire was swiftly silenced by the admirable practice made by our capital gunners. Not a shot went wide of the enemy's embrasures, nor did a single one fall on the dwelling-houses, nor on the consular quarter of the town. Our loss was insignificant I have not the figures by me, but I do not think we had more than fifteen or twenty men disabled. No damage was done to the fleet. My ship, the Suffren, had not more than fifty shots in her hull and spars.
General Bugeaud, with whom I at once communicated, wrote to me soon afterwards as follows:
I told you on the 11th, that the army would lose no time about honouring the draft the navy had drawn on it. By the enclosed copy of a telegram to his Excellency the Minister of War you will see it has kept its word.
The despatch in question contained the report of the battle of Isly, which had just been fought; and the letter was dated from the battlefield itself, on August 14th. On that same 14th of August I was before Mogador with the squadron. Having sent out three very intelligent officers, Colonel Chauchard, and Captain Coffinieres of the Engineers, and a post-captain, the heir to a glorious name, Vicomte Duquesne, to reconnoitre, I had resolved, on their information, to choose this particular town and its port, as offering the best chance of a successful attack. Another consideration too had weighed with me—the customs duties at Mogador supplied the greater part of Muley Abderrahman's revenue. We had dissipated his illusions at Tangier, and while the general was lowering his pride on the battlefield of Isly, I was going to make a hole in his purse.
Bad weather, rough seas, serious damage to chains, and anchors broken on the inhospitable rocks, gave us a world of trouble. At last, on the 15th of August, the sea was calmer, and with a favourable breeze we were able to take up our attacking position opposite Mogador. The town, being strongly fortified, heavily armed, and having besides had time to prepare for us, made a much tougher defence than Tangier. But we mastered it at last, and the fire from the citadel having been silenced by the guns of the Suffren, Jetnmapes, Triton, and the Belle-Poule frigate, I took the flotilla into the channel, and landed five hundred men on the island which forms the port. This was done under a very hot musketry fire, but it was performed in the boldest and smartest manner, the men who were wounded in the boats being among the first to spring on shore. The batteries were carried at the double, and the whole garrison of the island, about four hundred men, were either killed, drowned, or driven at nightfall into a large mosque, which they surrendered the next morning.
There never was a more picturesque sight than the close of that fight, under a sunset like the one I saw Horace Vernet paint in his fine picture of the battle of Montmirail. The Moors in their brilliant dresses were retiring, firing as they went, towards the mosque, whose great towers rose tall against the sky; while our small craft, running along the shore on a golden summer sea, supported our soldiers on land by their fire. I recollect finding myself just at that moment beside a young sub-lieutenant, fresh from St. Cyr, M. Martin des Pallieres, whom I had permitted, at his own urgent request, to land as a volunteer, although his company was not detailed for service. He proudly showed me his arm, smashed by a ball, saying:
"You see, sir, you did well to let me come!"
The whole of the assault of this island was very well led by Colonel Chauchard and Captain Duquesne, who was wounded in the engagement.
My first care, the next day, was to send some of my prisoners back to the pasha of Mogador, with an intimation that if he touched a hair on the heads of the British Consul and his family, and a few other Europeans whom he had refused to allow to depart before the attack, I would take reprisals by putting all the rest of my prisoners to death. I had the satisfaction of receiving the consul and his belongings on board my ship, and of transferring them to the English frigate Warspite, which had been present as a spectator during all our operations. It was none too soon, for the Arabs and Kabyles from the neighbouring country were already pouring into the town to sack and plunder it. The pasha, overwhelmed by their numbers and no longer able to maintain order, was obliged to take to flight himself, and no Christian could have remained in the town without running the gravest risk.
We soon landed in the town of Mogador to complete the work of destruction begun the day before, spike the guns, smash up the gun- carriages, and destroy all the munitions of war in the shore batteries— all of which was performed without a shadow of opposition being offered. Then I put a garrison on the island, providing it with heavy guns, to awe the town, which we did not care to occupy, and I declared the port to be in a state of blockade.
When all this was settled, I sent back the bulk of the squadron to Cadiz to revictual, and get ready to recommence operations, if necessary. During the whole of this campaign the only staff I had to help me to direct sailing and fighting operations, and above all to supply a naval force numbering seventeen sail, not reckoning my disembarkation craft, with food, coal, and munitions of war, was one first lieutenant, who acted as chief of the staff, aide-de-camp, &c., one second class cadet to go messages and keep the look out, and the purser of my own ship, the Suffren.
It is true all these were first-rate men. The two officers have both become admirals—one is Admiral Touchard and the other Admiral Pierre. The purser's name was Roumo. I merely mention this detail because, with the present mania for large staffs, things would be less simply managed nowadays. I should like to add that I found my best assistance in the goodwill, pluck, intelligence, and devotion to their country's interests invariably shown by everybody, without distinction of rank. In short, the behaviour of the naval force I had the honour of commanding was even better than I could have expected of it. The service still bears the same good character, and will continue to bear it so long as no one lays a sacrilegious hand on an organisation the value of which has been thoroughly tested, and which now rests on long and splendid traditions.
But one misfortune befell us. The Groenland, a large transport, was wrecked some way south of Larrache. By some miscalculation or other she ran aground, going nine knots an hour, at high water, on a spring tide, at the foot of a cliff as high as those of the English Channel. When the fog cleared, some Arabs, very few fortunately, on the top of the rocks, saw her, and poured their fire into her with perfect impunity.
One of our despatch-boats, the Vedette, becoming aware of the catastrophe, hurried to the trooper's assistance; but she was almost powerless, her engines not being strong enough to tow off a big ship stranded in such a deplorable position. The shots fired from below at the Arabs on the summit of the cliff only attracted more of them to the spot. But at all events they were useful in so far as they made me aware of the disaster.
I was passing by, out at sea, on board the Pluton, on my way to Cadiz, when the sound of the guns, which was very unexpected thereabouts, attracted my attention, and steering towards the noise I soon caught sight of the unlucky Greenland lying close ashore, while the rifle-shots flashed from the top of the cliff. It was just getting dark when I reached the spot. I boarded the ship at once, no easy matter, for a heavy surf was breaking on her stern, the only part of her which was at all accessible. But they threw me a rope and hoisted me on board.
The unlucky officer in command, Captain Besson, had done everything in his power after the vessel had gone ashore. He had laid out anchors, lightened the ship, and cut down her masts and spars. Then, in the pluckiest way, he had tried to go about, under the full fire of the Arabs. Fourteen of his men had been killed or wounded at the capstan bars. But the cables gave way, and the only result of lightening the ship was that the swell carried her closer in shore. I went down to the engine-room, which was full of water. It was clear to my mind that her side was stove in. It was out of the question to make any attempt to float such a large vessel—a difficult enough job on a friendly coast— under the rifle-fire of the thousands of Arabs who were sure to gather on the cliff at daybreak.
If the sea rose, the ship would not only go to pieces, but it would be impossible to rescue her passengers and crew. I therefore settled to proceed at once to the removal of the wounded, in the first place, and then of the rest of the soldiers and sailors on board. This was carried out without any accident. Captain Besson was the last man to leave his ship, having first, at my request, set her on fire, so as to leave nothing in the way of a trophy in the enemy's hands.
On my arrival at Cadiz, besides letters from the Minister for Naval Affairs, Admiral de Mackau, signifying the approval of his Majesty's Government of what I had done, I found one from General Bugeaud (who had been created a marshal), in which he said:
I have just received your despatch of lyth August, which has caused me the greatest joy. In spite of the great distance between them, the harmony between our military and naval operations has been complete The Moorish army was defeated on the 14th, and Mogador was shelled and captured on the 15th.
Between the two victories, the Princesse de Joinville has made you a happy father. It seems to me that the young Princess ought certainly to receive the name of Victoria.
I am very happy to assure you that you cannot be more pleased with your fleet than the army is with both it and you.
I was busy revictualling and refitting, and reorganising my squadron, when M. de Martino sent word that Muley Abdurrahman was sueing for peace, and had given Sidi Bousselam full powers for the purpose.
There was a regular congress of diplomats at Cadiz. M. Guizot had associated young Decazes—known to all the world in later days as Marshal MacMahon's Foreign Minister—with M. de Nion, our decharge d'affaires at Tangier. And then, behind the diplomatic curtain, there was the British Minister in Spain, Mr. Bulwer, who took the deepest interest in our proceedings, and like his chief, Lord Aberdeen, sincerely desired to see the Morocco question dead and buried. Everybody was eager to draw up protocols. But I thought it much better to let ourselves be pressed a little, and make the Moors feel a little keener anxiety to get rid of the blockade on Mogador, which practically cut off all their supplies. I therefore suggested sending the interpreter of the fleet, Dr. Warnier—a brave and clever man, one of the Frenchmen who, with General Daumas, Leon Roche, and others, had, formerly followed the fortunes of Abd-el-Kadir, and quite capable of detecting all the tricks of Arab diplomacy—to meet Bousselam, with orders to ask whether he really was invested with full powers from the Emperor, and to request him, in that case, to produce an official document in proof of his assertion. In the event of the reply being in the affirmative, the squadron to return to Tangier, bringing the French plenipotentiaries, and with them a treaty ready drawn up, containing the conditions imposed by France, to be signed within twenty-four hours.
So matters were settled.
And what were the stipulations of the treaty?
Not very many. But it gave the deathblow to Abdel-Kadir, whom the Emperor of Morocco undertook to proclaim an outlaw. The real treaty of peace had been signed at Tangier, at Isly, and at Mogador. We had no object, once we had gained those victories, in imposing too severe conditions, which would have weakened and even destroyed his authority, on the Moorish Sovereign. It was far better to have a ruler on our frontier who had experience both of our armed strength and of our generosity, and to whose interest it consequently was to live on friendly terms with us, than to have to keep up a struggle with Mussulman anarchy, which might end in opening the door to international intervention.
The treaty inspired by these considerations was duly signed, and the order to evacuate the Island of Mogador and raise the blockade was forthwith given. The flag was hoisted once more over the French consulate, and saluted both on shore and by our ships in port. The Morocco dispute was closed.
In the result, Abd-el-Kadir, hemmed in in Morocco as he had formerly been in Algeria, was forced, in 1847, after a short period of wandering and helplessness, to make his submission to my brother Aumale. From the date of the signing of the treaty of Tangier up to the present day, no serious misunderstanding has ever arisen between ourselves and the Empire of Morocco.
The signature of peace was the signal for the dispersal of the squadron under my orders. I myself returned to Paris by Havre, where I learnt that a public reception, which I was not sorry to escape, had been prepared for me at Toulon. Feeling conscious, as I did, of having done my country good service during my four months of campaigning, praise and blame alike were equally indifferent to me.
There were great festivities at Naples, towards the end of 1854, in honour of the marriage of my brother Aumale and his cousin, the charming daughter of the Prince of Salerno. During the civil marriage, which took place at the palace, the King never left off tormenting the syndic of Naples, who figured in a full black Spanish suit in seventeenth-century style, and a wig with long floating curls. At the religious ceremony, numbers of lovely women in court dress, and men bearing great and historic names—such as the Marquis de Pescaire del Vasto, the Princes Colonna and Campo Reale, the Dukes of Ascoli and San Cesarea, and many others—gathered round the Royal Family. France was represented by Admiral de Parseval and the officers of the squadron, and by General Durosnel, who was aide-de-camp to my father, after having served Napoleon in the same capacity. He was an old soldier, the very personification of honour, with a memory stored with most interesting recollections. The French Embassy, placed beside these gentlemen, made a fine figure with the Due and Duchesse de Montebello at its head, accompanied by M. Lutteroth and his wife, the sister of that Count Batthyani who was executed in Hungary under such heartrending circumstances in the year 1848. The general public of France was represented among the spectators by M. Glais-Bizoin, who made a less fine effect, as those who have known the triumvir of Tours in 1870 will readily believe. He was one of the ugliest men in creation
Then there was the whole diplomatic body, and foremost among its members the Austrian Minister, Prince Felix von Schwarzenberg, whose acquaintance I was very glad to make. He was an exceedingly pleasant man, the very type of a distinguished aristocrat, with a splendid head, clever and proud-looking at once, and a tall slight figure. He looked magnificent in his white uniform, that of an Austrian general, and turned all the ladies' heads. His love affairs were endless, and some of them have become celebrated, such as his elopement with a great lady in English society, who, when he left her, ended her days under the tent of an Arab chief, near Palmyra, described by Edmond About in Le Roi des Montagnes.
When once his passion was roused, he allowed no obstacle to stand in his way, and I never saw any man beset a woman with his addresses, in public, whatever her position might be, with such magnificent indifference to what people said, or to the consequences which might possibly ensue. And indeed his audacity generally paid. Later on he carried it into politics, and with equal success. My readers may know that he came into power in 1848, when the affairs of the House of Austria were at their lowest ebb, Vienna in revolution, Hungary in rebellion, and Lombardy invaded.
Full of confidence in the strength of the dynastic principle in the country, he induced two incapable emperors to abdicate, himself took young Francis Joseph to be solemnly invested with his sovereignty at Santa Lucia, among Radetsky's riflemen, just before the battle of Novara, made the alliance with Russia which forced Hungary into submission, and having thus snatched his country from the jaws of revolution and ruin, died on his feet, just after keeping an assignation. He was the man who made the well-known and characteristic remark, "You can do everything with bayonets—except sit on them!"
We had a constant succession of merry-makings. There was a state performance at the San Carlo, with a ballet danced by very pretty figurantes, whose tights were pink to below their knees only, the rest was apple-green. This detail was insisted on to spare the modesty of the management. I am not aware whether the genuine article profited in any way by the rule. When the San Carlo was over, we had San Carlino or Pulcinella. This character, peculiar to the local stage (who is supposed to have originated in Acerra, as Arlequino did in Bergamo), supported by his inseparable companion Pancrazio, poked fun to his heart's content, and in the raciest of burlesque, at all the latest Neapolitan occurrences and fashions, in a piece entitled Pulcinella alia Strada Ferrata.
There were balls to go to, when the theatres were over, at the palace, at the academy, and at our embassy. In the daytime there were shooting parties at Capo di Monte or Caserta. Those Neapolitan shooting parties are a thing of the past. I have heard my brother-in-law, King Leopold, tell how once, when he had been invited by the King to a shoot of large and small game at Mondragone, at which, in the course of a few days, three thousand woodcock had been killed, besides other game, he stayed on for a day longer than the other sportsmen, and in one morning he brought down sixty woodcock put up by his dog, on the very ground that had just been shot over.
To wind up our stay at Naples we christened one of the Due de Montebello's sons. The ceremony was performed after the Italian fashion in a drawing-room belonging to the Prince of Salerno, himself a thorough Neapolitan, with his wit and exaggerated drolleries, and the uproar he made and caused wherever he betook himself. This same uproar had already terrified the baby, when out of a sort of cupboard chapel a worthy chaplain, an old friend of my mother's, Monsignore Corbi, was seen to advance. The monsignore, who was exceedingly ugly, and very short in stature, had a huge mitre on his head, and looked so diabolical altogether that the child writhed in terror at the sight, and screamed in the most unearthly manner, while to quiet it the dignitary yelled in a squeaky voice, Bello, bello! ("Pretty, pretty!"), which only terrified it all the more.
On our way back from Naples we were caught in a violent gale outside the Straits of Bonifacio, which did some damage to the ship and demoralised the ladies. In consequence of this, instead of going straight to Marseilles, where a brilliant reception was awaiting the Duchesse d'Aumale, we put in at Toulon. There the Duchesse landed and went on to Marseilles by land, while I went round by sea.
But this did not suit the official masters of the ceremonies, and put out all their preparations for an ovation. The arrival had been planned to be by sea, and by sea it must be, or everything would be spoilt. So the poor Duchesse was taken quietly by a roundabout road to the old wet dock, where she was put on board, and after a slight detour, she arrived in approved nautical fashion, and disembarked at the foot of the Cannebiere "amidst a scene of indescribable enthusiasm," as the official descriptions would say.
The only recollections I have of those Marseilles fetes are musical ones. First of all that of King Rene's band, with tabour, pipes, and tambourines, escorting the "prud' hommes" fishermen dressed in Henri Quatre costumes. And secondly, that of a violoncello solo, admirably played by Offenbach, who was then quite young, and a musician in heart and soul, but who had not yet shown his great talent as a composer.
I tore myself, however, from all these rejoicings, which bored me very much, to go and see the haven of Bouc, the Martigues, and the pool of Berre, where but very little is required to complete a matchless piece of Nature's work and turn it into the finest port in the whole world I was deeply interested in all I saw, in company with Admiral Baudin and engineers, both military and naval, who had brought all the plans with them. But our trade still goes to Marseilles and our warships to Toulon, and the two habits have taken such deep root that it is hopeless to fight against them. And the conclusion we came to was that, save as regarded deepening the entrance to the haven of Bouc (which has since been done), matters were not likely to alter to any very great extent. I seem yet to hear a young engineer des ponts et chaussees, who was a member of our party, grumbling between his teeth, as he rolled up his plans, that there were a good many other things in Provence that nobody could alter—notably the purity of outline of the Arlesian girls. He pronounced purete badly, and it sounded like durete. He may have done it out of mischief, for when he looked at me he burst out laughing.
All this coming and going between Morocco and Naples had kept me far away enough from Paris and the battlefield of politics. When I got back, in the winter of 1845, the July Monarchy had still three years of life before it, but an odour of sickliness hung about it already.
The St. Vitus's dance of parliamentary politics gave no satisfaction to anybody except the Jerome-Paturots, to whom it gave a social standing. But how many envious individuals were there to every one who was content? Parliament gave no strength then to the Government, which was the object of almost unanimous attack on the part of the Press; and, by a strange contradiction, the chief reproach cast at an order of things which every one was striving to discredit and overthrow was its want of energy. How often, since that time, have I heard that cry "Be strong," which is the invariable death-knell of governments in extremities!
While the love of destruction—which is the essence of the revolutionary spirit, aided by democratic jealousies, and political speculators—was openly pursuing its destructive work, unopposed and unfettered save by empty verbiage and futile restrictions, the healthy appearance of the daily social life of the capital seemed unchanged. The peaceful regime of 1830, which had been fortunate enough to endow France with her first railways, and which was extending them with wise activity, was soon to see the dawn of one of the most fruitful discoveries in science—the electric telegraph, the first practical application of which dates from 1845. The fine arts shone brilliantly under the encouragement of an enlightened ruler. Eugene Delacroix sent splendid canvases, the Entree des Croises a Constantinople, among others, to the Versailles Museum, the generous and personal creation of King Louis Philippe. Meissonier's masterpieces were spreading his reputation far and wide, and near him clustered a swarm of great landscape painters—Corot, Jules Dupre, Rousseau, Troyon. Henriquel Dupont, that prince of engravers, was sending out wonderful proofs, such as Gustavus Vasa and the Hemicycle. And what actors there were on the boards! Not to mention the Theatre Italieri, with that incomparable trio Grisi, Lablache, and Mario— Parisians by adoption—and then in the heyday of their talent; the Francais, the Porte-Saint-Martin, and the Gymnase, all offered us representations which approached very nearly to perfection.
The recollection of Le Menteur, as played in the Tuileries Theatre by Firmin, Samson, and Regnier, with Mdmes. Plessy, Anai's, and Augustine Brohan, is constantly with me. At the Porte-Saint-Martin were Frederic Lemaltre and Madame Dorval, startling in their poignant truthfulness and dramatic power in that terrible drama Trente Ans, oil la Vie d'un Joueur. And at the Gymnase we had Rose Cheri.
If I talk so much about theatres, it must be remembered that the theatre is one of our glories. What other country has a Comedie Franchise—an institution two centuries old, miraculously respected, so far, amidst all our ruins, by the hammer of the revolutionary destroyer.
I talk of theatres, too, because I spent many an evening in them. The rest passed peacefully away in the "family drawing-room," which well deserved its name, for we all met there, old and young, big and little, after the evening meal, which was always partaken of in common.
In that drawing-room, on the first floor of the Tuileries, between the Pavilion de Flore and the Pavilion de l'Horloge, my mother used to sit doing her fancy work at a round table lighted by shaded candles, with my aunt Adelaide, the young princesses, and the ladies-in-waiting near her. The King sat on a window seat in the billiard-room adjoining the drawing-room, and there received the despatches brought him by his secretary, Baron Fain, and read the Times, the only newspaper he was in the habit of reading daily. It was there the gentlemen visitors, chiefly diplomats, who wanted to speak to him, joined him; while the lady visitors sat round the Queen's table, at which the conversation was general, if occasionally soporific. It used to brighten up again with the arrival of any ladies whose wit or beauty attracted the men who had scattered about the drawing-room. This was always the case on the appearance of Mesdames de St. Aulaire and de Castellane, of some charming members of the corps diplomatique, the Princess de Ligne, Mesdames Firmin Rogier and de Stockhausen, or again of three sisters, daughters of M. de Laborde, Mesdames Delessert, Bocher, and Odier. Three magnificent Englishwomen, the Sheridan sisters, had formerly caused a great sensation. Now it was the turn of Princesse Mathilde, then at the height of her beauty; and there were many others besides.
Among the gentlemen, a strong contingent of our visitors was furnished by the foreigners passing through Paris—Prince Paul of Wurtemberg, Prince Max of Bavaria, Prince Paul Esterhazy. Amongst the English were Disraeli, Bear Ellis, Charles Fox, Monckton Milnes, &c., &c. There were numbers of Spaniards. Sometimes M. von Humboldt would give us a reading, not invariably amusing. However, to make up for that, I have heard Prince Belgiojoso, the husband of the beautiful deep-eyed Trivulce, sing, with a voice that was exquisite. But the catalogue of visitors would be an endless one. Yet I cannot pass on without mentioning among our most constant habitues, at that time Marshal Sebastiani, one of a circle of intimate friends presided over by my aunt Adelaide.
This little gathering, of which M. de Talleyrand had been an assiduous member, and where Marshal Gerard, M. Dupin, Flahaut, a certain General de Lavcestine (who downright toadied my aunt, her valet de chambre, and her very parrot), and a few other faithful friends were in the habit of meeting, took place in the morning, in that charming set of rooms on the ground-floor of the Pavilion de Flore, the windows of which looked on the corner of the Pont Royal and on the gate into the Tuileries gardens. From these windows the quaintest sights were to be seen, not the least entertaining of which were the Homeric struggles of the sentries of the National Guard, absolute slaves to their orders, to prevent dogs which were not led by a string from following their owners into the Tuileries gardens, in which struggles the bold city guard, in spite of prodigies of valour, not unfrequently got beaten.
My good aunt Adelaide started, towards springtime in 1845, to pay her first visit to an estate she owned at Arc-en-Barrois, in the Haute- Marne, and as she intended leaving it to me in her will she took me with her. The property in question, originally belonging to Vitry, the Captain of the Guard under Louis XIII., who killed the Marechal d'Ancre, had afterwards passed into the hands of the Penthievre family, and then into the possession of mine, like all the rest of the Penthievre inheritance. My great-grandfather, the Due de Penthievre, had lived there a good deal in a fine house, which was of course plundered and destroyed during the Revolution, notwithstanding the fact that the good prince had done a great deal of good in that country, where his name is still venerated.
All the local authorities flocked around to pay their respects on the occasion of that first visit, and amongst others the prefect of the department, M. Romieu, who had made himself some celebrity in his youth by reason of a variety of carnival pranks performed in the company of a well-known band of boon companions. I recollect them perfectly well. Among them was Lord Henry Seymour, who paraded the boulevards, surrounded by ladies in the most elegant costumes, in a carriage and four, with powdered and beribboned postilions, stopping at the public squares to harangue the crowd in flowery language, to delighted shouts of Vive milord l'Arsouille! (Long live the blackguard lord!). And then there was another Englishman, Lord Clanricarde, the most inimitable of Pierrots, in a black skull-cap, with his melancholy face whitened, playing a series of nocturnal jokes, with the roof of a fiacre for his platform. Count d'Alton, too, M. de Chateauvillard, and others, were the authors of all kinds of witty fooling. Romieu's best-known exploit was his having laid a friend, who had been indulging too freely, one fine night, in the middle of the street, with a lighted lantern laid on his chest to save him from being run over.
But our prefect was not fond of that particular story, for I remember a very indirect allusion to it which I was unlucky enough to make in familiar conversation, during a shooting-party, at which he appeared in a blue blouse and leather cap, was strongly resented by him. Drawing himself up, he thus apostrophised me:
"I beg your Royal Highness will give me credit for being a very serious prefect."
I took the hint, and only talked to him about the damage done by cockchafers, and the difficulty of getting hard enough stone for the macadam roads, thenceforward. The poor gentleman, after having played a certain part in the reaction after the Revolution of 1848, by the publication of a sensational pamphlet entitled Le Spectre Rouge, died of grief at the death of a son who was killed at Sevastopol.
I was obliged to make a cure at Vichy during the summer, the successive fevers I had suffered from in hot climates having affected my liver. For this purpose I went to the Chateau de Randan, where I endured cruel anguish of mind, for my daughter fell dangerously ill. She made a happy recovery, thanks to the care of a young military doctor, at once a clever physician and one of the kindest of men, named Alphonse Pasquier. He was murdered by the Communards after the siege of Paris.
From Randan I went to Eu, for a second visit from Queen Victoria, which was favoured by splendid weather, and was as simple and affectionate in its nature as her first.
The year 1845 came to an end, and the first recollection that comes back to me in 1846 is that of a hunting-party, which was marked by a fresh attempt on my father's life. It was on the 15th of August. We were all at Fontainebleau, whither the King was fond of going, to watch the progress of the splendid restoration of the galleries of Francis the First and Henri II., which he was having carried out. I was boar-hunting that day with Henri Greffulhe's pack.
During a check we had met the King, who had got out of his carriage at the cross roads at the Monts de Fays and was amusing himself in a somewhat Yankee fashion of his by whittling small sticks with his penknife.
"The quarry is over there, away in the country," he said with the chaffing air he always took on when there was any question of hunting, which he detested. He had a way, when the sport was mentioned before him, of defining it thus:
"A nice sort of amusement, indeed! I used to hunt once upon a time, to please my father! You get fifty horsemen together. Everybody is got up in the smartest style. First of all there is a general kicking of horses all round. All at once somebody shouts 'Found!' and in one minute every soul is covered with mud from head to foot. You tear along as hard as your horse can go for two hours without seeing a single thing. Then there is another whoop, and every soul goes home completely knocked up— a very fine amusement indeed!"
We left the King to his little sticks, we killed our boar, and we were on our way home, when, as we were going down the hill from Franchard, a Hussar officer came galloping up to us, and called out:
"The King has been fired at. He's not hit."
If Providence ever watched over a man it did so that day. The would-be assassin, Lecomte, a royal forester who had resigned his place, angry because he had not been given the capital sum producing his pension, instead of the pension itself, of which he was in receipt, and overexcited as well by the calumny, abuse, attacks, and threats of all kinds with which the daily press overwhelmed the King, had determined to kill his Majesty.
He was an excellent shot, and he went and built himself a platform behind the wall of the Parquet d'Avon, by which he knew the King's char a banes must pass. When the carriage went by, at a slow trot, ten paces from his ambush, he rested his rifle on the wall, and fired. But at the very instant of the crime his hand must have trembled, for nobody was touched, neither the orderly officer on duty, Captain Brahaut, who was riding between the King and the wall, nor Montalivet, who was sitting talking to my father, on the front seat of the carriage, nor my mother, the Duchesse de Nemours, my aunt Adelaide, and the Prince and Princess of Salerno, who were on the other seats. All the bullet did was to cut the fringe of a sort of awning, which covered the carriage, just above the King's head.
At the sound of the shot, the intended effect of which nobody mistook, the two orderly officers, Brahaut and de Labadie, followed by Colonel Berryer, and several Hussar officers who were in attendance on the royal party, dashed off at a gallop to surround the enclosure, before Lecomte could escape from it. At the same moment, one of the grooms named Millet, who had brought his horse up against the wall, and stood up on his saddle, saw the assassin making off. He sprang boldly after him, and had a fearful struggle with him till the officers came up to his assistance.
When I got back to my father and the Princesses, I found them much distressed at this fresh attempt at regicide, but calm and self- possessed to an extent which was far from being my own case. So true is it that our sharpest anxieties are caused by the suffering, and dangers of those we love!
About this period I was restored to active duty, being called to command our evolutionary squadron in the Mediterranean. During the two years' duration of this command, I only had to follow in the footsteps of my predecessors, so far as the organisation and instruction of the ships' crews were concerned, and the maintenance of that spirit of discipline, devotion, and obedience to superiors which still constitutes their chief excellence.
But a new duty was cast upon me by the addition, now made for the first time, of a certain number of steamships to the squadron. I had sailed already with several squadrons. Whatever the number of ships composing them, the manoeuvring of the vessels and their tactics, both in sailing and in action, all depended on one and the same element for all alike— viz., the strength and direction of the wind And these tactics, which were the result of centuries of experience, we all of us had put into practice, and we had them at the tips of our fingers. We knew them as well as our catechism, in fact. But this new art of simultaneously navigating ships for whom the laws of wind did not exist, and which could move in any direction, and with great swiftness, according to the will and fancy of their captains, without allowing them to collide, was in its earliest infancy.
My duty then was to make experiments, so as to begin to regulate this new form of navigation. At once I set about making numerous test manoeuvres, drawing on the tactics of the ancient galleys, and also on cavalry movements, at the slow march and at the gallop, for my inspiration. Then we tried towing in every form. First of all we harnessed a steamboat to every two warships. In the second year of my command each floating citadel had her own "spare horse." From that time out calms and light breezes were vanquished, and the celerity of naval operations correspondingly increased. Yet, the more we tried it, the more obviously did the dangers and difficulties caused, especially at night, by fastening two ships together, one of whom is necessarily a passive agent, stare us in the face. The union of the tug and the "towed" was not far distant. The advent of the war steamer, the swift battleship, independent alike of wind and sea, was close at hand.
The creation of such a ship had preoccupied M. Dupuy de Lome for a long time past. He had gone to England to see and study everything there— both in the State dockyards and the building yards at Liverpool and on the Clyde. We had often talked the whole thing over together, and our views on the subject were in perfect agreement. At last, during an interval of leave from my command, he came to me one morning with a great roll containing two complete designs under his arm. The first for an armed frigate, BUILT ENTIRELY OF IRON, the second for a wooden line of battle ship—both to be exceedingly swift. The first design, for the iron frigate, was Dupuy de Lome's pet scheme.
"Iron-built ships will be the ships of the future," he used to say, and he was quite right.
But the experiments we had been making at Lorient upon iron plates had been disastrous. The damage done by oblique firing on them was terrible. Experiments were indeed being made at the same time, with a view to armour-plating the hulls of ships, but all that was still in the dimmest and mistiest future. How were we ever to induce naval committees, as timid as they were, undoubtedly, all powerful, to assent to the building of a steam frigate every single detail about which was to be new and improved?
"The very utmost we shall get," said I to Dupuy, "will be leave to build your wooden ship. The introduction of the submerged steam propeller will be their concession to the innovators, and the old- fashioned wooden hull and spars and gundecks will satisfy the supporters of the old traditions."
"Very well," he replied, "I'll go and propose my wooden ship."
He did, and he failed. They gave him plenty of smooth words and compliments, but refused to order his ship to be put on the stocks. The poor fellow came back to me in despair, and we were mingling our sorrows, and casting about as to how we had better return to the charge, when a lucky ministerial crisis threw the Ministry for Naval Affairs, ad interim, into the hands of M. Guizot. There we saw our chance.
I want to see him and told him all our story—explaining to him how a real and material step in naval progress was being adjourned on mere questions of form; and how the outgoing minister had not dared, in spite of his own good-will, to shake himself free of administrative procrastination in this particular.
M. Guizot heard me out, and then asked me what had better be done.
"Why, simply take your own line, and the whole navy will applaud you. You have full right to do it, so pray sign an order to put a steamship after M. Dupuy de Lome's designs on the stocks."
He did it, forthwith, and that step gained, our first war steamer was at once begun. Though Dupuy had a right to all the honours of paternity, I might have claimed those of the ship's godfather. But she was still unnamed when the Revolution of 1848 broke out, and christened her le 24 Fevner, which name was swiftly exchanged for that of Napoleon—a notion that makes me laugh even yet.
I must now return to my personal recollections of my command, which began, as usual, with a sojourn at the Salins d'Hyeres, to knock the crews into shape a bit. Thence I was expected to take the squadron to Tunis, thus following the usual custom.
These two anchorages, Hyeres and Tunis, had been for a considerable period the only ports in which the squadron was allowed to lie. It oscillated between the two; a most tiresome bit of navigation it was. In the open roads at Tunis, too, we could only lie and roll, a long way from shore, with no possibility of giving our crews any relaxation whatsoever. I do not hesitate to say that I objected to being tied to this rigorously circumscribed field of operations, beyond which it looked as if we dared not go.
"Crews," said I to the minister, "are like schoolboys. If you want them to work well you must divert their minds, and give them something to think about and look at. Give me leave to fight ennui, and the despondency it brings with it, by taking the squadron about, showing fresh ground to my young fellows, and taking them into ports where I shall be able to send them ashore to amuse themselves, and thus break the enervating monotony of life on board ship."
I gained my point, and we went first of all to the Golfe Jouan. Will it be believed that our squadrons never went near that excellent anchorage and lovely spot? They used to be at the Islands of Hyeres. They used to go out to drill in the open sea, and every Saturday they went straight back to those same islands, so as to let the married men in the squadron get back to Toulon to their family duties on the Sunday. I was the first admiral to break through this rule.
The Golfe Jouan and Cannes, and all that lovely country, were not at that time what they now are. There was only one single villa at Cannes, the Villa Eleonore, built by Lord Brougham, the Christopher Columbus of the locality. He always came to the Tuileries on his way backwards and forwards between his villa and England; and he invariably sang the praises of that exquisite coast to us. One evening he made a sketch of his villa for my mother, which I still possess.
The only gaieties at Cannes in those days consisted in village festivals, which are known in Provence as Romerages, the equivalent of the Pardons in Brittany. People went to them on foot, there not being a carriage in the country I remember I went to the Romerage at Valauris. The little Provencales in their short petticoats and brown stockings, and their broad-brimmed black hats, enjoyed themselves to their hearts' content in the shade to the sound of the galoubet, while my eyes wandered between the umbrella pines across the wide sea horizon, of that lapis-blue peculiar to the Mediterranean. It was more primitive then than it is nowadays, but not a whit less lovely.
From Cannes we were obliged to go to Tunis, but we put in, on our way, at the Balearic Islands, and at Palma in Majorca, where the Spanish authorities gave us an excellent reception, and granted me permission, with the best of grace, to practise some very interesting disembarkation drill. The captain-general who authorised me to do this bore the name of Tacon, and had received the title of Duqtie de la Union de Cuba in recognition of the services he had rendered as governor-general in that island.
He was a very superior man, under whose most enlightened, but at the same time most absolute, of governments, the colony rose to the highest degree of prosperity. Some difficulties with the Home Government had led to his recall, and he was at Majorca in a state of semi-disgrace. No longer a young man, he wore a wig of the deepest black, which, so local tradition affirmed, was made out of the hair of a lady friend whom he had had shaved in a fit of jealousy.
The King of Aragon, Don Jaime, is buried in the fine cathedral of Palma His body rests in the sacristy, in the drawer of a kind of press, in which I saw it lying, while one of the canons, to impress me with a sense of its perfect preservation, drummed with his fingers on the stomach of the corpse!
On our way to the Balearic Islands we fulfilled a pious duty. After the unhappy capitulation of Baylen and its shameful violation, our unfortunate soldiers, victims of this piece of weakness and disloyalty, were cast upon an island called Cabrera, a bare and desert spot, where most of them died of hunger, abandoned and forgotten by the whole world. Having heard that their bones were lying scattered about unburied on the isle, I had them laid in consecrated soil, and over them, through the agency of our consul, M. Cabarrus, we raised a monument, subscribed for by the whole squadron, with this inscription:
TO THE MEMORY OF THE FRENCH SOLDIERS WHO DIED AT CABRERA.
ERECTED BY THE EVOLUTIONARY SQUADRON, 1847.
We made a short stay at the inevitable Tunis, and left it under a shower of presents, from the Order of the Nicham in diamonds to six thousand dozens of eggs. But the shortness in duration of our visit was new, and requires some explanation.
One of our first cares, after the completion of our conquest of Algeria, had been to insure tranquillity on its Moorish frontier to the west, and its Tunisian boundary on the east. On the Morocco side we had been forced to have recourse to heavy ordnance for this purpose. On the Tunisian frontier, where the population is both less fanatical and less warlike, we had followed a different course of procedure. We had gained the Bey's friendship by promising to support his power against the Forte's claim to suzerainty over him. Still, year after year the Sultan made as though he were fitting out a naval force to send to Tripoli and exercise this same suzerainty by deposing the Bey; and every year our squadron used to proceed to Tunis, and stay there wasting its time while the Turkish ministry and those diplomats who were hostile to our influence amused themselves by waving the Capitan Pasha's attack before us like a scarecrow.
This annual repetition of a sham attack by the Turkish fleet and of the sudden despatch of our squadron, and its subsequent spell of idleness in Tunisian waters, had degenerated into a farce in which the ridiculous part fell to our share. So that when I took over the command of the squadron, with the prospect of seeing it undergo the same course of humbug again, I could not resist making some representations on the subject to M. Guizot, a resolute and large-minded man, as solicitous for his country's honour as for his own. That very year, as it happened, the Bey of Tunis had had to complain of intrigues and disturbances stirred up on his eastern frontier by the Turkish pasha, who was governor of Tripoli.
"Instead of leaving the squadron to dance attendance at Tunis," I said to M. Guizot, "send it to Tripoli. Its appearance will cause surprise, for foreign powers never send their squadrons there. I will pay a visit to the pasha, and speak to him very plainly. The characters in the play will change hands, and I fancy we shall be rid of all this Turko- Diplomatic teasing about Tunis for the future."
M. Guizot approved my view. I was given secret orders to go to Tripoli, and we left Tunis, to the delight of the whole squadron.
Long before the coast of Tripoli is in sight, its whereabouts is denoted by the gloomy red reflection it casts upon the sky. Soon a few clumps of date-palms seem to rise out of the water, and at last a dreary strip of land appears, the uniform straightness of which is broken only by the mass of white houses and terraces, the minarets and fortifications, of the town of Tripoli. A few reefs form a far from safe anchorage, fit for small craft only, and remarkable for the extraordinary clearness of the water in it. The smallest details of submarine life are easily followed in a depth of ten to twelve fathoms.
Our ships, which all drew a great deal of water, had to anchor at sea, opposite the town, tossed about on the swell from a storm somewhere to the north, which did not actually reach them. Our sudden, unexpected, and very unusual apparition made a certain sensation both at the consulates and in the pasha's palace, and all sorts of people hastened on board, very civil all of them, but also very anxious to know the meaning of the visit of a complete naval squadron. The pasha's deputy presented himself with a flood of the honeyed expressions demanded by Oriental politeness, accompanied by the classical diffa. He did not bring us six thousand dozens of eggs, like the Tunis people; indeed they would have been hard to get, I think, in that little favoured spot, but he brought a very respectable contingent of cackling hens and of very sea-sick sheep. Our acceptance of these creatures, an earnest of our pacific intentions, gave him evident satisfaction, and I caused him to be told that I should ask for an interview with his master, through our consul.
I set forth, as soon as the said interview had been arranged, with a large number of officers. The streets through which we had to pass were narrow, dirty, and wretched-looking, and did not give one at all the idea of belonging to a town enriched by the commerce of Fezzan and of Central Africa, of which commerce Tripoli is the chief emporium. They were crowded, as we passed along, by curious lookers on, consisting principally of the three thousand idlers who formed the garrison, Albanian Arnauts most of them, splendid fellows, blue-eyed, with long fair moustaches, dressed in the fustanella and the rest of the picturesque palikare costume. I will not go so far as to say the glances they cast at us were absolutely friendly, but they were perfectly well behaved.
We climbed up numerous staircases to the pasha's house or Konak, and were shown into a huge apartment that was almostlike the open air, with large windows looking on the sea, which admitted a cool refreshing breeze. The pasha made me sit down beside him on a wide divan, and after the usual interchange of compliments, pipes, coffee, and preserves were ceremoniously handed round by numerous servants.
These preliminaries over, I desired the dragoman to request the pasha's earnest attention to what I was about to say to him. Immediately there was a general silence, all our officers, who filled one half of the room, and all the Turkish officers and secretaries, who filled the other half, pricked up their ears. My speech was very short.
We had come to Tripoli, I said, to salute the representative of our ancient ally, the Sultan of Turkey. But it was ESSENTIAL, if this friendship was to be undisturbed, that no act of hostility, direct or indirect, should be committed against the Bey of Tunis, who was also our ally, and that nothing should occur on either side to compromise friendly relations. We had just been impressing this fact at Tunis, and had come to clo the same thing at Tripoli. The perfectly amicable nature of our visit proved the value we set on maintaining friendly relations between the two Regencies, and therefore between France and the Sultan's Government.
I said no more. When I ceased speaking, the pasha, who, I need scarcely say, had preserved the most Oriental imperturbability of countenance during my oration, bowed to me, with his hand on his breast, looking fixedly at me the while. He had understood me; and I thought I saw a look of relief flash across his face. It may be that his conscience had made him fear worse things. He sent a vessel to Malta with despatches for Constantinople. I gave an account of my proceedings to M. Guizot, and also informed our ambassador to the Porte, M. de Bourqueney; but we never had to do sentry duty at Tunis again.
I put to sea at once with the squadron. The tiresome thing about our visit to Tripoli was the quarantine it entailed on us when we got back to civilised coasts. With the object of utilising the period of our enforced sequestration, I requested the governor of Malta to put health officers on board us, and to allow me to count the ten days I proposed spending under their surveillance, cruising about within sight of the island, as quarantine.
This arrangement was accepted by the English authorities, with their usual friendliness and practical good sense. The ten days were spent in drill and manoeuvres of all sorts; and then the squadron went to seek relaxation on the coasts of Sicily and Naples.
We made most agreeable stays in the ports of Syracuse, Augusta, and Messina, before going to Naples. I took advantage of them to gratify my passion for mountaineering, and made the ascent of Etna, to the description of which by Alexandre Dumas I refer my readers.
When we reached the summit, during the night, we saw the immense crater at our feet, several thousand yards round, full of fire and smoke, out of which huge stone monoliths towered, of every shade of colour, black and green and red and yellow. Then the rising sun fell on us, leaving all the horizon around us in darkness, and when at last its light had spread everywhere, save on the giant shadow of the mountain itself, we saw all Sicily and Calabria lying at our feet like a great map, with the blue sea surrounding it on every side. It was a grand and striking spectacle.
We descended the mountain rapidly, ten yards at a jump, down the crumbly pumice slopes of the Val de Bove, to Giarre, where one of the steamers of the squadron was to take us on board; and while we waited for her we took a delicious sea bath. We swam out to meet the ship, and I was much tickled by the astonishment of the commander, enthroned upon his bridge, when he heard himself hailed out of the sea by a well-known voice, telling him to stop.
The squadron happened to be at Messina on the 15th of August, the day of the Barra Festival, which takes place in honour both of the Assumption of the Virgin and of the entry of Count Roger into Messina, after he had defeated the Saracens. As far as concerned beauty and local colour, the festival, which in those particulars yields to none save that of St. Rosalia at Palermo, was most interesting. But one detail there was which filled me with horror—the sight of an immense car, dragged along by a crowd of, wild enthusiasts, laden from top to bottom with saints, virgins, and angels, represented, for the nonce, by young people of both sexes, the whole thing surmounted, at a great height above it, by a huge sun with gilded rays. So far there was nothing to complain of. But when the car moved along, the rays of the sun, by an ingenious mechanism, turned as well; and at the end of each of these rays a poor little brat, dressed like a cherub, and crowned with roses, had been hung, in a sort of fireman's belt, by its barbarous parents. The tortures of the poor little creatures, hanging thus by their middles, under a burning sun, and shaken up by every jolt the machine gave as it turned, may be imagined.
By the time the abominable thing came past my window, amidst singing and band-playing and cheering, most of the poor children were swinging unconscious from the rays of the great sun which jolted heavily at every turn it made. It was a disgusting sight; but we were the only people to notice it and be shocked by it.
While at Naples, I was ordered to go to Rome to congratulate the new Pope, Pius the Ninth, whose election had just taken place, in the name of France. I started off at once, by Civita Vecchia, and reached the palace of our embassy at Rome at night. At dawn a great noise made me hastily open my window, anxious to know the reason of the uproar, and also to get a first look at the Eternal City, where I was for the first time in my life. It was raining, and the inhabitants of all the adjacent houses, as well as the soldiers in the barracks over the way, were all shouting at the top of their voices Acqua! Acqua! Acqua! It sounded as if every cockatoo in Australia had settled upon the papal city.
The rain had been long in its coming, it appears. But my first impression of Rome was not a very inspiring one. And, indeed, I had little opportunity of getting any others.
To mark the fact that I had come to the city solely on the Pope's account, I only stayed two days, so that I saw nothing except the Pope himself, or I rushed by everything else I was shown so hurriedly, that it came to the same thing. During those forty-eight hours I was the sole property of our embassy, and I could not have been in better hands. We had representatives who were worthy of the name, in those days,—real diplomats.
The ambassador was M. Rossi, my former teacher, a man of generous feeling and high intelligence, who was soon to be the victim of one of the most cowardly crimes ever perpetrated by the revolutionary tribe. The secretary to the embassy was the present Due de Broglie. By these two gentlemen I was conducted into the Pope's presence. Being very ignorant of the proper ceremonial to follow, I asked M. Rossi what I was to call his Holiness.
"Tres chaint Pere, ou cha Chaintete," he answered, with an accent which I took good care not to imitate.
Having gone past the fine Swiss Guard, in their sixteenth-century dress, and their officer in helmet and cuirass, and then past the Guardia Nobile, and a huge staff of ecclesiastics in violet robes, I bent low before the sovereign pontiff, and kissed his ring with deep emotion. Raising my eyes, I saw a handsome old man, tall in stature, with a kind face, dressed all in white, to whom I delivered the message of which I was the bearer. At that moment I had a glimpse of a fair dream, which M. Rossi endeavoured to realise at a later date. It was to make a close alliance between France and a Confederation of all the Italian States— our allies already by relationship between the reigning families, or by community of interest of all kinds—under the protectorate of the Pope, at once our devoted friend and the head of the Catholic religion all over the whole world. But the fair dream was never to come true. Its patriotic promoter, M. Rossi, fell under the assassin's hand, and every passion—revolutionary, anti-religious, and anti-French—joined hands to make it fail. In its place we have Italian unity and a dethroned Pope.
After a pleasant evening at the embassy, with Cardinal Gizzi, Monsignore de Falloux, the Princes and Princesses of the Massimo family, and a very charming young lady, Princess Rospigliosi, sister to a naval cadet attached to my staff, named Champagny, who afterwards became the Due de Cadore, I returned to Naples by the Pontine Marshes and Terracina, where the strains of Auber's Fra Diavolo kept springing to my lips.
The squadron remained in Neapolitan waters until the festival of Pie di Grotta, on which occasion the King took me with him to a great review he held—a very noisy and lively scene it was—in the Toledo, the great artery of the town, with its picturesque vistas on to Vesuvius. The National Guard was of modern growth, and lamentable at that. Then came the regular army, and especially four Swiss regiments with their artillery, a magnificent division of troops. As long as they are here, I said to myself, there need be no fear of revolutions. But just because their valour and fidelity promised a reception little to the taste of the sedition-mongers, those prudent modern condottieri were waving their warlike pens, and loudly demanding the disembodiment of these very regiments. It pained me to notice the icy reception given to the brave fellows as they marched past, and I could not help feeling a gloomy foreboding.
That sheet anchor of the Neapolitan Monarchy was destroyed before long by one of those compromises with rebellion so frequent in these days— disastrous proceedings, which inevitably lead the way by their evil and demoralising example, to other compromises, infinitely more lamentable, alas!—I mean compromise with a foreign enemy.
At the time when I bore the King company at that review it was not his Swiss regiments alone who were the object of the agitators' fury, but his government and his own person as well. A sort of general conspiracy against them was brewing, fomented for the most part by foreign agents, some of them actually diplomats, who thus openly abused the immunity their functions gave them; and it was propagated by means of the secret societies which are an endemic plague in Italian countries. King and Government alike fought as best they could against the current of revolution, and they did so rightly, in the general interest, for revolution brings nothing but ruin in its train.
But beside the adventurers who shrank from no crime, and who preached assassination and plunder, there stood many honourable and enlightened Neapolitans, who desired the reform of abuses (and God knows there were plenty of them!) and the progressive amelioration of the moral and material conditions of existence. Unhappily it was on these men, whose sole offence lay in their opinions, that the brutality, and I might add the horrors, of the repressive measures adopted seemed by preference to fall. The prisons of those days, in which they were confined, were perfect dens, and I greatly fear they are much the same all over Italy even now. I doubt, for instance, that the convict prison at Pescara would yield in the matter of abominations to the convict prison at Nisida, some forty years ago.
When peoples who have long lived in a state of backwardness, have a sudden fit of cleanliness, in imitation of more advanced nations, they are apt to clean the outside walls only, and to leave all their accustomed filth hidden behind them. I mention these terrible prisons because, during the visit of the squadron to Naples, I was guilty of snatching two distinguished men, both much sought after by the police on account of the offensive opinions I have already spoken of, from their clutches. M. Lutteroth, the secretary to our embassy, went and fetched them at night from their hiding-place, and I put them on board one of my ships, which was sailing at once for Tunis. I have no recollection of their names. And indeed that was not the only instance in which we saved people compromised in Italian politics, out of sheer humanity. Long after the incident of which I speak, a Piedmontese officer, who performed brilliant services in our African army, side by side with my brothers, begged Aumale to put him into communication with our mother. He then conjured her, as a woman and a Neapolitan, to save a prisoner, who was seriously compromised (whether his relative or his friend I no longer recollect), from the gallows, and my mother wrote a most pressing letter to King Ferdinand at his request. The King, who had always preserved the tenderest and most respectful affection for his aunt, and glad also, I make no doubt (for he was a kind man), to have an opportunity of setting mercy above arguments of state, granted my mother the pardon she craved. The name of the man thus spared was Nicotera.
This taken for granted, as they say in mathematics, I hie me back to my squadron at Spezzia, a splendid bay, which at that time we were the only people to use as an anchorage, but in which the Italians have now established a great naval arsenal. The bay is very safe and convenient for drill and practice. But I have one fault to find with it. I never took my ships there without an epidemic of influenza colds breaking out, and affecting three or four hundred men in each crew. These outbreaks are due, in my opinion, to the high wooded mountains which shadow the bay on the western side, and to its sudden transitions from the most scorching sunshine to very cool shade. Our ships attracted several tourists, and one morning I saw a party appear on board, consisting, amongst other people, of the Marquis de Boissy, a witty and restless French peer, married to the Comtesse Giuccioli, of Byronian memory, and of the Marquis Oldoini, accompanied by an exquisite young lady, his daughter, who afterwards became that superb beauty, the Comtesse de Castiglione.
M. de Boissy tried to talk politics to me and to reiterate the famous phrase "Be strong." But whenever anybody began to talk to me about questions of home politics, with which I had nothing to do, my partial deafness always became complete.
More cruising and manoeuvring carried the squadron over to Algiers, which it reached in June, 1847, just when Marshal Bugeaud was giving up his position as governor-general of the colony. We rendered him viceregal honours at his departure, and I can still see his grand white head, as he stood uncovered on the bridge of the ship which bore him away, and passed slowly between the lines of warships, with their cannon thundering, drums rolling, bands playing the Marseillaise, and crews cheering wildly. He left that Algerian territory, which he had so largely contributed to acquire to France, with a sad heart, and for ever. But the European horizon was darkening, serious events were evidently pending, and if war was to result fiom them, France would have had, in the person of the soldier we were thus saluting, a general whom all, without exception, would have served with equal devotion and absolute confidence. To us Frenchmen, this confidence in our leader, which emboldens every one, and suppresses all doubt and hesitation, is half the battle. It was possessed, and completely, not by Bugeaud himself alone—all his lieutenants had acquired it. During fifteen years of fighting and of detached expeditions, in which they had all, turn about, held independent commands, both officers and soldiers had been able to gauge their valour, their intelligence, and that capacity for bearing the weight of undivided responsibility, which is the great test of a commander-in-chief. The advantage thus gained was immense. But are we sure the country got the benefit of all the services which this band of soldiers, consecrated already by the opinion of their military compeers, might have rendered her? Was it not rather scattered to the winds by the ruinous action of political forces?
I took advantage of the squadron's visit to Algiers to make an excursion to Boghar, on the desert frontier. This expedition was both interesting and amusing. My first day's stage took me to Blidah, into which place I made the quaintest entry, surrounded by all the authorities, who had come out as far as the monument to Sergeant Blandan to meet me I had not travelled a hundred paces among these gentlemen before the frankest cordiality began to exist between me and them. Colonel Claparede, on my right, with whom this meeting was my first, was asking me if I had ever been fool enough to fall in love; Colonel Baville, of the Chasseurs d'Afrique, on my left, whose face was also a new one to me, was inquiring whether I did not agree with him that children were born with extraordinary rapidity in the African climate, while Bourbaki, the secretary of the Arab office, was performing the wildest fantasia in front of us at the head of the Hadjout Goum.
At Medeah, whither I went by the Mouzai'a Pass, so as to see the scene of the fights in which my brothers had played such a noble part, I had another reception, and another fantasia was performed (but this time it was on foot), by the Coulouglis and the Beni Mzab, wearing great hats with ostrich feathers in them. Then came a grotesque imitation of the fantasia, performed by the colonial militia, all drunk, who fired their pistols off under my nose and blackened my face with powder. General Marey, commanding at Medeah, owned the Romance vintage in Burgundy, and gave us some to drink at dinner, which did not diminish the general cordiality. Ah, well! a glass of good French wine, drunk far from home and the dissensions of the mother country, among comrades ready to give their lives for her at any moment, is a thing worth remembering!
Boghar, hideous and scorchingly hot as it is. would be downright uninhabitable if it were not washed by the waters of the Cheliff. The necessities arising from our conquest of the country had made it a revictualling post for our columns, and a trial had just been made there of a new sort of provision, described as rations maigres. These consisted of biscuit and dried cod, and not having been issued within the period reckoned for, they were beginning to go bad. To avoid financial loss, a pretty numerous garrison had been at once despatched to Boghar to perform the far from pleasant duty of consuming them. Thanks to the exertions of the officer in command, M. de Monet, who afterwards attained the rank of general, and lost both his arms in the Crimea, the spirit of his men was admirable, but their sanitary condition was quite deplorable. And when I received the officers, one of them, a captain of Engineers, with the tacit assent of his chief, acted as the mouthpiece of the rest in begging me to raise my voice to put an end to their cruel sufferings. He represented to me that the unhealthiness of the place was aggravated by a process of poisoning. The troops had been sent up simply to eat damaged biscuit and stinking cod. There was no other food issued for the men, and as the neighbourhood produced nothing whatever, it was impossible to vary it in any way. Everybody was more or less ill in consequence, and if this state of things went on they must all die. A distinguished officer, M. de Cissey, who had been detailed as my aide-de-camp during my trip, took the poor fellows' case in hand, and undertook to lay their complaint before the general.
I saw something else at Boghar which was not so depressing—another fantasia, a huge one, performed by thousands of Arabs, who had hastened in from all quarters. At the very height of the show, another tribe, the most picturesque of them all, the Ouled-Nails, arrived on the scene, having travelled thirty leagues to do homage to me as the "son of the Sultan." There were 1,500 horsemen and their wives, who were carried by something like a hundred camels in a kind of palanquin, covered with gaudy stuffs, which they call "atatich." When they arrived, the excitement of the fantasia rose to madness. The horsemen from the south, in their splendid dresses, showed off all their skill, and whenever one of them performed any specially brilliant feat, the deafening "you-you" of the women rose from the circle of palanquins as from the benches of a circus.
The background of this eminently picturesque scene, under the blazing eastern sun, was the wide horizon of the mountains of Bou Cada and Taguin, amongst which my brother Aumale captured Abd-el-Kadir's smalah.
On my way back from Boghar I paid a visit to the military works at the Chiffa Gorge, where the 33rd Regiment of the Line was building a wonderful road, under circumstances of the utmost danger and difficulty; and I returned from my tour in Africa feeling deeper admiration and respect than ever for our soldiers, who are as patient under hardship, and as plucky when they have to work in dangerous places, as they are brave in actual battle.
Leaving Algiers, the squadron continued its cruise. We were a great deal at sea, much more than is feasible nowadays, when it costs something considerable in fuel to go the smallest distance. We anchored one evening in a Sardinian bay, where nobody ever stopped by any chance, but which offered a pleasant resting-place for the night at that fine season.
After dinner, I gave the officers leave to go ashore. They found a perfect desert, and any houses they came upon barricaded; but though human inhabitants were lacking, there was an incredible amount of game. Hares swarmed upon the ground. At last one inhabitant turned up, and then some others, and friendly relations were established.
The population, it appeared, had fled at our approach, taking us (I am not joking, truly) for Barbary Moors, coming to make a raid for slaves. Information travels slowly in those parts.
We went to Cagliari, Palermo, Leghorn, Spezzia, and Genoa in succession, and then the squadron returned to winter at Toulon. The period of my command had run out save for these winter months. Being much overworked, and far from well, I applied to be relieved of my functions, and on the 26th November I made them over to Admiral Trehouard, who had commanded one of the divisions under my orders. Trehouard was a brave Breton, who had performed a splendid feat during an action at Obligado in La Plata, where he commanded the French portion of an Anglo-French flotilla, sent to force its way up the river, which was blocked by a boom and defended by a number of forts. The little fleet met with an energetic and obstinate resistance. Several ships had been put hors de combat, including Trehouard's own, which was disabled and had half her crew on shore. The struggle lasted on still, and threatened to end in our defeat, when Captain Hope, commanding the English contingent, ordered out his boats, and went and cut through the boom under a hail of bullets, while Trehouard boarded the last ship he had that was able to move, and ordered her commander, M. de Miniac, who lost his leg at St. Juan d'Ulloa, to run her ashore close to the enemy's principal battery.
After a momentary struggle, and in spite of the Argentine officers' shouts of "Fuego al pelo blanco!" (Fire at the white head!), (Trehouard was prematurely gray), on the quarterdeck; the moral and physical result of the hand-to-hand struggle ended in a complete rout of the enemy. Trehouard was made a rear-admiral, and no man ever deserved his step better.
A young officer was killed beside him that day whose name was Hello. His father, a friend of mine, had put him under my wing when he left the Naval College, and I had watched over his career with sincere affection for several years. Every time I pass one of the commonplace statues placed in our public squares in memory of political chatterers who have died quietly in their beds, I think of all those brave fellows who have died obscurely for their country, with no funeral oration but the tears of their broken-hearted families, but who have carried away to their eternal dwelling-place the proud consolation of duty performed.
I returned to Paris. What a state of things was there! Politics had overwhelmed everything else. To the lovers of order, who had already found their condition oppressive, the state of affairs was soon to become fatal. The makers of sedition, on the other hand, found it most blessed. But to the country at large, as events have too surely proved, it was disastrous.