Page images
PDF
EPUB

progress downwards, and as soon as the air began to act upon it, the superficies lost its whiteness; becoming first red, and afterwards of a darker hue, until, lower down, black scoriæ began to form upon its surface. Above the arched chasm, there was a natural chimney, about four feet in height, throwing up occasionally stones, attended with detonations. The author approached near enough to this aperture to gather from the lips of it some incrustations of pure sulphur, the fumes of which were so suffocating, that it was with dif. ficulty and only at intervals a sight could be obtained of what was passing below. It was evident, however, that the current of lava, with the same indescribable splendour, was flowing rapidly at the bottom of this chimney towards the mouth of the chasm ; and, had it not been for this vent, it is probable the party now mentioned could never have been able to approach so nearly as they had done to the source of the lava. The eruptions from the crater increased with such violence, that it was necessary to use all possible expedition in making the remaining observations.

“The eruptions from the crater were now without intermission, and the danger of remaining any longer near this place was alarmingly conspicuous. A huge mass, cast to an immense height in the air, seemed to be falling in a direction so fatally perpendicular, that there was not one of the party present who did not expect to be crushed by it; fortunately it fell beyond the spot on which they stood, where it was shattered into a thousand pieces ; and these rolling onwards, were carried with great velocity into the valley below.”

“ In these and other descriptions,” resumed Egeria, “ if the pleasure arises from the contemplation of the exercise of power, what shall we say of those narratives of which the subjects are the enormities of man? Miot's account, for example, of the massacre of the Turks at Jaffa by Buonaparte, is neither so vigorously written in the original, nor so susceptible of vigour in any translation, as to awaken pleasurable emotions, in so far as the power of the author is concerned, and yet the vastness of the crime makes the impression almost as awful as that of many descriptions which are considered and felt to be sublime. Let me read it to you.”

[ocr errors]

A MASSACRE.

“ Here it is that I must make a most painful recital. The frankness, I will venture to say the candour, which may be observed in these memoirs, make it a duty that I should not pass over in silence the event which I am about to relate, and of which I was witness. If I have pledged myself in writing this work not to judge the actions of the man who will be judged by posterity, I have also pledged myself to reveal every thing which may enlighten opinion concerning him. It is just, therefore, that I should repeat the motives which were enforced at the time, to authorise a determination so cruel as that which decided the fate of the prisoners at Jaffa. Behold then the considerations which seem to have provoked it.

“ The army, already weakened by its loss at the sieges of El Arish and of Jaffa, was still more so by diseases, whose ravages became from day to day more alarming. It had great difficulties in maintaining itself, and the soldier rarely received his full ration. This difficulty of subsistence would augment in consequence of the evil disposition of the inhabitants towards us. To feed the Jaffa prisoners while we kept them with us, was not only to increase our wants, but also constantly

gould, without re the possibility ove been left to

to encumber our own movements; to confine them at Jaffa would, without removing the first inconvenience, have created another--the possibility of a revolt, considering the small force that could have been left to garrison the place; to send them into Egypt would have been obliging ourselves to dismiss a considerable detachment, which would greatly reduce the force of the expedition; to set them at liberty upon their parole, notwithstanding all the engagements into which they could have entered, would have been sending them to increase the strength of our enemies, and particularly the garrison of St John d’Acre; for Djezzar was not a man to respect promises made by his soldiers, men also little religious themselves as to a point of honour of which they knew not the force. There remained then only one course which reconciled every thing: it was a frightful one; however it appears to have been believed to be necessary.

“ On the 20th Ventose (March 10), in the afternoon, the Jaffa prisoners were put in motion in the midst of a vast square battalion formed by the troops of General Bon's division. A dark rumour of the fate which was prepared for them determined me, as well as many other persons, to mount on horseback, and follow this silent column of victims, to satisfy myself whether what had been told me was well-founded. The Turks, marching pell-mell, already foresaw their fate: they shed no tears; they uttered no cries; they were resigned. Some, who were wounded, and could not march so fast as the rest, were bayonetted on the way. Some others went about the crowd, and appeared to be giving salutary advice in this imminent danger. Perhaps the boldest might have thought that it would not be impossible for them to break through the battalion which surrounded them: perhaps they hoped that, in dispersing themselves over the plains which they were crossing, a certain number might escape death. Every means had been taken to prevent this, and the Turks made no attempt to escape. Having reached the sand-hills to the south-west of Jaffa, they were halted near a pool of stagnant water. Then the officer who commanded the troops had the mass divided into small bodies; and these being led to many different parts, were there fusilladed. This horrible operation required much time, notwithstanding the number of troops employed in this dreadful sacrifice: I owe it to these troops to declare, that they did not without extreme repugnance submit to the abominable service which was required from their victorious hands. There was a group of prisoners near the pool of water; among whom were some old chiefs of a noble and resolute courage, and one young man whose courage was dreadfully shaken. At so tender an age he must have believed himself innocent, and that feeling hurried him on to an action which appeared to shock those about him. He threw himself at the feet of the horse which the chief of the French troops rode, and embraced the knees of that officer, imploring him to spare his life, and exclaiming, “Of what am I guilty? What evil have I done?' His tears, his affecting cries, were unavailing ; they could not change the fatal sentence pronounced upon his lot. With the exception of this young man, all the other Turks made their ablutions calmly in the stagnant water of which I have spoken ; then taking each other's hand, after having laid it upon the heart and the lips, according to the manner of salutation, they gave and received an eternal adieu. Their courageous spirits appeared to defy death ; you saw in their tranguillity the confidence which in these last moments was inspired by their religion, and the hope of a happy hereafter. They seemed to say, I quit this world to go and enjoy with Mahommed a lasting happiness. Thus the reward after this life which the Koran promises, sup

within this any other handvej; doubtless

ported the Mussulman, conquered indeed, but still proud in his adversity.

“ I saw a respectable old man, whose tone and manners announced a superior rank. I saw him coolly order a hole to be made before him in the loose sand, deep enough to bury him alive; doubtless he did not choose to die by any other hands than those of his own people: within this protecting and dolorous grave he laid himself upon his back; and his comrades addressing their supplicatory prayers to God, covered him presently with sand, and trampled afterwards upon the soil which served him for a winding-sheet, probably with the idea of accelerating the end of his sufferings. This spectacle, which makes my heart palpitate, and which I paint but too feebly, took place during the execution of the parties distributed about the sand-hills. At length there remained no more of all the prisoners than those who were placed near the pool of water. Our soldiers had exhausted their cartridges, and it was necessary to destroy them with the bayonet and the sword. I could not support this horrible sight, but hastened away, pale and almost fainting. Some officers informed me in the evening, that these unhappy men, yielding to that irresistible impulse of nature which makes us shrink from death even when we have no longer a hope of escaping it, strove to get one behind another, and received in their limbs the blows aimed at the heart, which would at once have terminated their wretched lives. Then was there formed, since it must be related, a dreadful pyramid of the dead and of the dying streaming with blood; and it was necessary to drag away the bodies of those who had already expired, in order to finish the wretches who, under cover of this frightful and shocking rampart, had not yet been reached. This picture is exact and faithful; and the recollection makes my hand tremble, though the whole horror is not described.”

« PreviousContinue »