Изображения страниц


It is not known in France, either, what was or what is the situation of a General Officer commanding a province in Algiers; he is a second Providence. Absolute master of the Arab country, his will domineers, everything yields before his orders ; and his authority and influence among Europeans is not less powerful; in many cases his decision has the force of law; his recommendation has always the greatest weight, and on him depend that peace and security, which can alone guarantee the welfare of those who come to try their fortune in a new country. Thus the commandant of a province has not merely military matters to occupy his mind—every new project is submitted to his examination; and he must take the lead in all things, originating and encouraging every measure he may deem essential to the prosperity of the country. At the same time a man of war and of peace, accessible to all, his hours passed in incessant labours, he leaves the council table only to mount on horseback, and ascertain that all is going on right, either by visiting the Arab country, and communicating with officers in charge of posts, or by receiving the complaints of the native chiefs, or by superintending and encouraging the works of the colonists.

It was General Lamoriciere's purpose, as soon as he had got some urgent business off his hands, thus to visit the whole province of Oran. Crossing first the plain of the Sig, and a new village, his plan was to proceed to Mascara, and thence to Mostaganem, and to return to Oran, along the sea-side, by Arzew, the Salines, and the Prussian villages of the mountains of Lions. Afterwards, on a second tour, his intention was to make a like visit to the whole west of the provinces. Meantime, not being yet in readiness for these excursions, we found plenty of occupation at Chateau Neuf.

Chateau Neuf, which is called by the Arabs the Red Fort, or Bordj-el-Hameur, has the form of a vast triangle, with its base on the north, towards the sea, whilst on the east it overlooks the country, and on the west the city. In this immense inclosure, buildings, magazines, and barracks have been erected, either by us or by the Spaniards; and there, as in all places, where that people have formed establishments, there are traces of grandeur to be seen which recall the time of their proud dominion. At the extremity of the loftiest point of the triangle is the Bordj-elHameur, properly so called, the former residence of

the Beys, and the abode of the General. To reach this building one must ascend a rather steep slope, and pass under a vaulted gateway in a narrow court, shadowed by mulberry trees. At the bottom of the court an arched gallery of Moorish architecture leads to the grand saloon, which the Beys constructed after they had taken possession of the city. Under the arches to the right, a low door opens on a little garden, sheltered from the west wind by a wall of garden trellises. Here beautiful flowers and creeping and climbing plants, of all sorts, shed their odours over the Kiosque, where the Pachas had been wont to come, to enjoy the repose they so delight in, contemplating at the same time the whole city, stretched out on wavy hillocks beneath them. On the same side as the little garden gate, there is a trellis of vines running up the side of a building, the interior court of which, being surrounded by the arches of a narrow gallery, has quite the appearance of an ancient cloister. It was there that the staff had their bureau, and the officers of the ordnance were lodged. At rare intervals of leisure, these officers might walk on a vast vaulted terrace, underneath which we had established a barrack. From this terrace might be seen the shores of the bay, its caverns doing duty as custom-house magazines, Merz-el-Kebir, and the open ocean. The whole scene had the mixed Arab and Spanish character strongly impressed upon it; and now French activity was giving it an additional new aspect. For, indeed, no time was wasted at Bordjel-Hameur; the General set the example, and the night was often far advanced when we retired to rest.

According as our turn of service came round, we received those who came to speak to the General, to whom, from press of business, he could not give audience. Everyone had his particular occupation. Mine was usually that of writing from dictation. In the morning General de Lamoriciere gave his orders; then we met again at breakfast, where many took their place, who had come on particular affairs to Chateau Neuf; for the General's table was always ready to receive as many guests as fortune might send him. After breakfast, we passed into the immense Moorish saloon, of arched and sculptured marble ; and whilst smoking cigars, without end, the General would here converse with the commanding officers, who had anything to communicate to him. The chief of the staff, Colonel Martinprey,


would then present himself. No one in the whole army was more respected than the Colonel. His uprightness, his courage, and his benevolent heart, which was as firm as it was kind, had gained him the affection of all. It was pleasant to hear his grave words, which were always listened to with deference. He was one of those grand figures that recall the warriors of past times. When the General had dismissed his staff, he examined the manifold questions that were put before him, or wrote out or discussed projects, which either he himself had proposed, or which had been proposed to him. He then sometimes mounted on horseback, for an hour's gallop. In the evenings, when not on duty, we thought ourselves free to indulge in any little private escapade; but we often reckoned without our host, and were kept at work till midnight, finishing some memoir, or getting some project in readiness for trial.

Such was the life that was called the repose of Oran. But thanks to this incessant activity, and to the prompt rapidity of his intellect, General Lamoriciere, whose line of conduct was at this time well marked out, executed, or put in course of preparation many useful projects. He gathered


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »