Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/411

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perience of Decaen, that he possessed "the character of having a good heart, though too hasty and violent."

Decaen's military capacity was much higher than his historical reputation might lead one to suppose. During the fierce wars of the Napoleonic empire, whilst Ney, Oudinot, Murat, Junot, Augereau, Soult, St. Cyr, Davoust, Lannes, Marmont, Massena and Suchet, were rendering brilliant service under the eye of the great captain, and were being converted into dukes and princes, Decaen was shut up in a far-off isle in the Indian Ocean, where there was nothing to do but hold on under difficulties, and wait in vain for the turn of a tide that never floated a French fleet towards the coveted India. Colonel Picard, than whom there is hardly a better judge, is of opinion that had Decaen fought with the Grand Army in Europe, his military talents would have designated him for the dignity of a marshal of the Empire. On his return he did become a Comte, but then the Napoleonic regime was tottering to its fall.

Such then was the man—stubborn, strong-willed, brusque, honest, irritable, ill-tempered, but by no means a bad man at heart—with whom Matthew Flinders had to do. We may now follow what occurred.