Sigh of time
Soult never thought of this day. In fact, as the French minister of the July Monarchy, he has many things to do, to negotiate with the cunning British, to organize the excursion to northern Africa, to appease the anxious France, and of course, fight against Guizot and Thiers and HIS nephew Louis Bonaparte. He has to fight, not in the battlefield, but in the luxurious Tuileries. Sometimes, he almost forgets life in the shadowy old days.
When Thiers advised to fetch him back from Saint Helena, Soult says nothing. Actually, it means that France has to compromise in Egypt. A body and a piece of land, the British always picks the best choice, he thinks. Even though the situation is ok at the moment, Soult feels that there’s something beneath the abysmal Paris. The government is feeble just like Louis XVIII’s time, and the French people are tired of it. They don’t want compromise any more, but France has to do it. In fact, he is against the proposal from the bottom of heart, but he just keeps silent.
Prince Renville left Toulon in June. In December, they come back. In December 20th, the pretty belle came back to Le Harve. Since the fierce cabinet conflicts badly troubled Soult, he is almost jealous of Wellington. Oh, Wellington, he sighs slightly.
All the senior ministers and captains of the government come to the harbor today. Astute as he is, Soult has already made full preparation for the arrival of coffin. At 12 a.m. He comes back. When the coffin gradually fell down from the ship, the atmosphere becomes extremely solemn. Everyone’s eyes are fixed on the coffin. Soult stares at the coffin. He can’t help recalling the old days.
——He didn’t meet the First Consul until 1799. Massena recommended him to Bonaparte. He can remember the day exactly. The First Consul’s sight is so captivating that he cannot escape it. He knows he has to obey him, follow him and pursue a bright future, like all of his colleagues. But he also remembers Moreau. As a clever man, he has made up the right choice when he leaves Tuileries.
Since then, he has established a special relationship with Consul Bonaparte, or you can say, Emperor Napoleon. He has never been his close friend like Lannes, or the relatives of the empire, like Murat. But he is among the core captains of France, he has been awarded the Duke of Dalmatia (he hates Dalmatia), the general governor of Spain (though at the end of 1813), his wife Louis is Royal female officer, and for himself, life is totally different from that of a greffier in southern France. Often, he stands in the second rows of the marshals. He also enjoys the life without Napoleon, with his family indeed. However, he is confident that Napoleon always believes him, even though he has quarrel with Joseph in Spain. Their relationship is insipid but solid. Soult hates extreme enthusiasm and he doesn’t like Lannes and Ney. Thank goodness, they all died… He tries to sweep away these thoughts, but he cannot. He feels pity and melancholy, as time passes, what he can do is only to remember. The sun in Austerliz, the snow in Elyau, the arid air in Andalusia, and of course the blood in Waterloo, the old days never go away. Actually, they are vivid, like a nightmare. Glory and dream is an excuse of death and nightmare. Through 40 years, France has never changed.
Soult stands before all the ministers, just behind Louis Philippe, with a walking stick. His hair is snow-white, but the complexion is ruddy. His expression is elusory, like the deepest billows of Atlantics. The coffin is covered with a curtain decorated with golden bees. Just like thirty years ago, the empereur sits in the Tuileries, and he stands in the second row, staring at him. Forever in the battlefield and in the history, in the glory time of France. It makes people sentimental, but it’s unreversed.
“Vive la empereur” a veteran hails in the crowd.
His tears drops. Half of performance, half of heartbreak.
Sigh of time