NAPOLEON AND BLUCHER
Part 10 out of 12
the war to the best of our power."
Blucher uttered a cry of joy, and lifting up his large eyes, he
exclaimed: "Good Heaven, I thank Thee, with all my heart; for the
day is dawning now, and we shall soon see how the sun shines in
"You did not wish to be commander-in-chief of the retreating army,"
said the king, kindly; "let us appoint you, then, second general-in-
chief of the advancing army."
"How so? I do not understand that," said Blucher, bewildered. "That
is to say, I remain general-in-chief of my Silesian army?"
"Yes, but with enlarged power and independence, and with a greater
number of troops. Your corps has suffered a great deal; on your
victorious fields of Mockern and Leipsic you lost many brave
soldiers. Your ranks need filling up, in order that you may act
vigorously and energetically. Therefore, three new corps will be
added to your forces [Footnote: Varnhagen von Ense, "Biography of
Prince Blucher of Wahlstatt," p. 205.]--a Prussian corps under
General Kleist, a Hessian corps under the crown prince of Hesse, and
a mixed corps under the Duke of Saxe-Coburg, the whole amounting to
about fifty thousand fresh soldiers. With these reenforcements,
added to your own eighty-five thousand men, you will be at the head
of an army with which great things may be accomplished, and with
which I believe you may gather your laurels in France."
"Moreover," said Alexander, kindly, "you will hereafter not be
responsible to any other commander. We shall consider jointly with
you all operations of the war, and the whole plan of the campaign,
and lay before you all general communications. Prince Schwartzenberg
will always keep you well instructed of the movements of the grand
army, and only REQUEST you to inform him of those you deem it best
for the Silesian army to make in cooperation with the former.
[Footnote: Varuhagen von Euse, "Biography of Prince Blucher of
Wahlstatt," p. 205.] You will, therefore, be entirely at liberty to
carry your own plans into execution, and will have only to report to
Schwartzenberg and to us what you are doing. Are you now content,
"Do you still demand your discharge as a birthday present?" inquired
"You ask me whether I am content, or demand my discharge?" cried
Blucher, cheerfully. "Now that we advance, I would not take my
discharge, and should your majesty give it to me, to punish me for
my unseemly conduct, I would secretly accompany the army and fight
in the ranks; for you ought to know that I do not advocate a
vigorous prosecution of the war on account of the honor it might
reflect on me, but for the rights of all Germany; and for this
reason I am not only content, but I thank Heaven, my king, and the
Emperor Alexander, from the bottom of my heart; and especially for
the great confidence you place in me. This is the most flattering of
all the honors you have lavished upon me, and I shall endeavor with
head and arm to render myself worthy of it. I shall always remember
that my king intrusted me with the sacred mission of blotting out
the disgrace of Jena, and of causing our angel, Queen Louisa, who
shed so many tears for us on earth, to rejoice in heaven over our
deeds--and--" his words choked his utterance, his eyes grew dim;
pressing his hand to them with a quivering movement, he said, in a
stifled voice, "I believe--may God forgive me!--I believe I am
weeping! But my tears are tears of joy; they do my heart good, and
your majesties will forgive them!--Well, now I am all right again,"
he added, after a pause. "I request your majesties to give me
instructions, and tell me what is to be done, and when we shall
cross the Rhine."
Toward nightfall Blucher returned from Frankfort to Hochst. In front
of his door he was met by General Gneisenau, Colonel Muffling, and
several other gentlemen of his staff. Blucher made a very wry face,
receiving them with loud grumbling. "Oh, it is all very well," he
said, alighting from his carriage. "I can now communicate bad news
to you. We shall lie still here, like lazy bears, during the whole
winter; we shall neither advance nor retreat. The diplomatists have
hatched out the idea, and I am sure they will arrange a pretty
treaty of peace for us! Well, I do not care; I will try to suppress
my grief, and lead a happy life. If we are inactive, we shall at
least try to kill time in as pleasant a manner as possible. I shall
commence diverting myself this very day, and, despite the apostles
of peace, show that they have not ruffled my temper. The officers of
York's corps will give a ball at Wiesbaden to-night. I will go,
immediately setting out for Wiesbaden, and conveying the tidings to
old York. Well, gentlemen, prepare to accompany me; and you, General
Gneisenau, be so kind as to go with me to my room for a minute or
two. I wish to tell you something." He saluted the officers, and
stepped quickly into the house. Followed by Gneisenau, he entered
the room, and carefully locked the door. The wrinkles now
disappeared from his forehead, and an expression of happiness beamed
in his face. "Gneisenau," he said, encircling the tall form of his
friend in his arms, "now listen to what I have to say. What I told
you about peace was not true. We are to advance--ay, to advance! and
it seems to me as if I hear Bonaparte's throne giving way!"
"What, your excellency!" exclaimed Gneisenau, joyfully, "we are
going to advance--to march into France?"
Blucher hastily pressed his hand on his mouth. "Hush, general!" he
whispered. "At present no one must hear it; it is a secret, and we
must try to conceal our movements as much as possible. We ought to
do our best to mislead the enemy--that is my plan. We must make him
believe that the whole offensive force of the allies is turning
toward Switzerland, and that the Silesian army is to remain on the
Rhine as a mere corps of observation. Napoleon will make his
dispositions accordingly: he will leave but a small force on the
bank of the Rhine opposite us, and on passing over to the other side
we shall meet with little resistance."
"That is again a plan altogether worthy of my Ulysses," said
Gneisenau, smiling. "It is all-important now for us to let every
one, and above all Napoleon, know as soon as possible that we stay
"I will swear and rave so loudly that he will certainly hear it in
Paris," said Blucher. "Let us curse the necessity imposed on us, and
secretly make all necessary dispositions, inform the commanders, and
issue the orders, so that we may all cross the Rhine at midnight on
the 31st of December."
"What! The passage is to take place at midnight on the 31st of
December?" asked Gneisenau.
"Yes, general. Let us begin the new year with a great deed, that we
may end it with one."
"But will that be possible, field-marshal? Can all our troops be
prepared at so short a notice?"
"That is your task, Gneisenau; ideas are your province, execution is
mine. You are my head, I am your arm; and these two, I believe,
ought jointly to enable us to cross the Rhine at midnight on the
31st of December, as the holy army of vengeance, which God Himself
sends to Bonaparte as a New-Year's gift. But come, Gneisenau, let us
ride to the ball. I must dance! Joy is in my legs, and I must allow
it to get out of them. I shall ask old York to dance, and, while we
two are hopping around, I must tell him what is to be done. We are
Blucher's resolutions were carried into effect. All dispositions
were made in a quiet and efficient manner; and while the field-
marshal scolded vehemently at the inactivity of the winter, General
Gneisenau secretly took steps to prepare for the passage of the
Rhine. Napoleon's spies at Frankfort and on the Rhine heard only the
grumbling of Blucher, but they did not see the preparations of
On the 26th of December orders were dispatched to the commanders of
the different corps of the great Silesian army, communicating the
time and place of crossing the Rhine, and on the 31st every soldier
of that army stood on the bank ready for the passage. This was to be
effected at three different points--Mannheim, Caub, and Coblentz.
The grand, all-important moment had come; midnight was at hand.
It was a clear and beautiful night; the deep-blue sky was spangled
with stars, and the air cold and bracing. None saw the blank columns
moving toward the Rhine. The French, on the opposite side, were
asleep; they did not perceive Field-Marshal Blucher, who, at Caub,
on the bank of the river, was halting on horse back by the side of
his faithful Gneisenau, apparently listening in breathless suspense.
Suddenly, the stillness was interrupted by the chime of a
neighboring church-clock; another struck, and, like echoes, their
notes resounded down the Rhine, in all cities and villages,
proclaiming that the old year was past, and a new one begun.
Blucher took off his gray forage-cap, and, holding it before his
face, uttered a low, fervent prayer. "And now, forward!" he said, in
a resolute tone. "Let us in person convey our 'happy New-Year' to
the French!--And Thou, great God, behold Thy German children, who
are shaking off the thraldom of long years, and who have become
again brave men! Heavenly Father, bless our undertaking! Bless the
Rhine, that it may flow to the ocean again as a free German river
for German freeman!--And now, boys, forward! Build your bridges, for
Heaven sends us to France to punish Bonaparte, and sing him a song
of the Rhine! Forward!"
It was early on the morning of the 1st of January. Napoleon was
angrily pacing his cabinet, while the police-minister, Duke de
Rovigo, was standing by the emperor's desk, and waiting, as if
afraid to look at his master, lest his anger burst upon his head.
"Why did you not tell me so yesterday, Savary?" asked Napoleon, with
his flaming eyes on the police-minister. "Why did you not inform me,
immediately after the close of the meeting of the Chamber of
Deputies, of the seditious and refractory spirit of the speeches
which certain members dared to deliver?"
"Sire, I had no proofs of their guilt. Speeches, it is true, had
been made, but they vanish, and offer no solid grounds for
convicting men of crime. As I have not the honor of being a member
of the committee which your majesty has appointed to take the
condition of France into consideration, I was unable to hear the
speeches delivered at the meeting. I had to obtain palpable
evidence. I knew, not only that the commission of the Chamber of
Deputies had resolved to have an address to your majesty published,
but that the opposition speaker of the committee, M. Raynouard,
intended to have his speech printed and circulated, in order to
prove to France that the committee of the Chamber had done every
thing to give peace to the nation."
"As if that were the task of those gentlemen--as if they had to give
me advice, or could influence me!" cried Napoleon, vehemently. "They
have never dared raise their voices against me; but now that we are
surrounded by enemies--now that it is all-important for France to
startle the world by her energy and the unanimity of her will, these
men dare oppose me! You allowed, then, their addresses to be sent to
the printing-office, Savary?"
"Yes, sire. But I had the printing-office surrounded by my police-
agents, and waited until the composition was completed and the
printing commenced. Then they entered the press-room, seized the
copies already printed, knocked the types into pi, and burned the
manuscripts, [Footnote: "Memoires d'un Homme d'Etat," vol. xii., p.
294.] as well as the proofs, except this one, which I have the honor
of bringing to your majesty."
The emperor, with an impetuous movement, took up the printed sheet
lying on the table by the side of the duke, and glanced over it.
"Savary," he said, pointing out a passage on the paper, "read this
to me. Read the conclusion of Raynouard's speech. Read it aloud!" He
handed the paper to the duke, and pointed out the passage.
Savary read as follows: "'Let us attempt no dissimulation--our evils
are at their height; the country is menaced on the frontiers at all
points; commerce is annihilated, agriculture languishes, industry is
expiring; there is no Frenchman who has not, in his family or his
fortune, some cruel wound to heal. The facts are notorious, and can
never be sufficiently enforced. Agriculture, for the last five
years, has gained nothing; it barely exists, and the fruit of its
toil is annually dissipated by the treasury, which unceasingly
devours every thing to satisfy the cravings of ruined and famished
armies. The conscription has become, for all France, a frightful
scourge, because it has always been driven to extremities in its
execution. For the last three years the harvest of death has been
reaped three times a year! A barbarous war, without object, swallows
up the youth torn from their education, from agriculture, commerce,
and the arts. Have the tears of mothers and the blood of whole
generations thus become the patrimony of kings? It is fit that
nations should have a moment's breathing-time; the period has
arrived when they should cease to tear out each other's entrails; it
is time that thrones should be consolidated, and that our enemies be
deprived of the plea that we are forever striving to carry into the
world the torch of revolution. . . . To prevent the country from
becoming the prey of foreigners, it is indispensable to nationalize
the war; and this cannot be done unless the nation and its monarch
bo united by closer bonds. It has become indispensable to give a
satisfactory answer to our enemies' acensations of aggrandizement:
there would be real magnanimity in a formal declaration that the
independence of the French people and the integrity of its territory
are all that we contend for. It is for the government to propose
measures which may promptly repel the euemy, and secure peace on a
durable basis. Those measures would be at once efficacious, if the
French people were persuaded that the government in good faith
aspired only to the glory of peace, and that their blood would no
longer be shed but to defend our country, and secure the protection
of the laws. But these words of 'peace' and 'country' will resound
in vain, if the institutions are not guaranteed which secure those
blessings. It appears, therefore, to the commission, to be
indispensable that, at the same time that the government proposes
the most prompt and efficacious measures for the security of the
country, his majesty should be supplicated to maintain entire the
execution of the laws which guarantee to the French the rights of
liberty and security, and to the nation the free exercise of its
political rights." [Footnote: "Memoires d'un Homme d'Etat," vol.
xii., p. 208.]
"Well," cried the emperor, impetuously, "what do you think of that?
Does it not sound like the first note of the tocsin by which the
people are to be called upon to rise in rebellion?"
"Sire, it is the language of treason!" replied Savary. "The conduct
of the members of this committee would justify your majesty to have
them shot as traitors." [Footnote: Ibid., p. 294.]
The emperor made no reply, but bowed his head on his breast, and,
with his hands folded behind him, paced the room for a few moments.
"Savary," he then said, "it is sufficient for us to be at war with
our foreign enemies; let us not get into difficulty with our
domestic adversaries. This is not the time for doing so. If we
conquer our foreign enemies, the domestic ones will of themselves be
silent; but if we succumb, every thing will be different. Those
gentlemen have acted both foolishly and ungenerously (at a moment
when it is all-important that France should act and think as one
man), to stir up political partisan feeling; and it is ungrateful to
oppose me at a time when, overwhelmed with care and work, I need my
whole energy to maintain my position. Let us leave it to fate to
punish the traitors. They will not have long to wait!"
"And those haughty members of the Chamber of Deputies do not even
feel that they are deserving of punishment," exclaimed the duke,
indignantly. "The whole committee, and M. Raynouard with them, have
accompanied me to the Tuileries, and repaired to the throne-hall in
order to offer your majesty their congratulations for the new year."
"Ah, it is true, to-day is New-Year's-day," said Napoleon; "I had
almost forgotten it, for the cares and anxiety of the old year have,
as a most faithful suite, followed me into the new year. But I am
glad you remind me of it! I will go to the throne-hall and receive
the congratulations of my faithful subjects, or those who call
themselves so. Follow me!"
In the throne-hall were assembled, as on every New-Year's-day, the
dignitaries of France and the most prominent authorities of the
government; but for the first time, since the establishment of the
empire, the representatives of the foreign powers and the
ambassadors of the European princes failed to appear at the
reception in the Tuileries. In former years they had hastened to
present their congratulations; to-day not one of those
representatives was present, not even the ambassador of the Emperor
of Austria, Napoleon's father-in-law--not even the ambassador of the
King of Naples, his brother-in-law! The troops of the Emperor
Francis had invaded France; the troops of King Murat had returned to
Naples, and he had informed his brother-in-law that the welfare of
his own country rendered it necessary for him to forsake France. The
very princes of the Confederation of the Rhine, hitherto the most
sycophantic flatterers of the emperor, had likewise turned away from
him; all the allies, adulators, and friends of his days of
prosperity had left him, as rats desert the sinking ship. No one was
in the throne-hall except the dignitaries and officers of France,
and one-half of these came, perhaps, because the duties of their
offices rendered it incumbent on them--because the events of the
future could not be positively foreseen, and the emperor, thanks to
his lucky star, might finally conquer his enemies.
The emperor entered with his usual proud and careless indifference.
His quick glance swept past the ranks of the assembly, and rested
for a moment on the place where the ambassadors of the foreign
governments formerly stood beside the throne, and where no one was
to be seen to-day. But not a feature changed; he was still calm and
grave. With a gentle nod he turned toward the ministers who were on
the left, and addressed each of them a few kind words; he then
quickly ascended the steps of the throne. Under the canopy, he
turned his eyes toward the side where were the members of the senate
and the legislature.
Napoleon's eyes flashed down the silent assembly with an expression
of terrible anger. When he spoke, his voice rolled like thunder
through the hall, and echoed in the trembling hearts of those who
were conscious of their guilt, and who hung their heads under the
outburst of their sovereign's wrath. "Gentlemen of the legislature,"
he said, "you come to greet me. I accept your greetings, and will
tell you what you ought to hear. You have it in your power to do
much good, and you have done nothing but mischief. Eleven-twelfths
of you are patriotic, the rest are factious. What do you hope by
putting yourselves in opposition? To gain possession of power? But
what are your means? Are you the representatives of the people? I
am. Four times I have been invoked by the nation, and have had the
votes of four millions of men. I have a title to supreme authority,
which you have not. You are nothing but the representatives of the
departments. Your report is drawn up with an astute and perfidious
spirit, of the effects of which you are well aware. Two battles lost
in Champagne would not have done me so much mischief. I have
sacrificed my passions, my pride, my ambition, to the good of
France. I was in expectation that you would appreciate my motives,
and not urge me to what is inconsistent with the honor of the
nation. Far from that, in your report you mingle irony with
reproach: you tell me that adversity has given me salutary counsels.
How can you reproach me with my misfortunes? I have supported them
with honor, because I have received from nature a sturdy temper; and
if I had not possessed it, I would never have raised myself to the
first throne in the world. Nevertheless, I have need of consolation,
and I expected it from you: so far from receiving it, you have
endeavored to depreciate me; but I am one of those whom you may
kill, but cannot dishonor. Is it by such reproaches that you expect
to restore the lustre of the throne? What is the throne? Four pieces
of gilded wood, covered with a piece of velvet. The real throne has
its seat in the heart of the nation. You cannot separate the two
without mutual injury; for it has more need of me than I have of it.
What could the nation do without a chief? When the question was, how
we could repel the enemy, you demand institutions as if we had them
not! Are you not content with the constitution? If you are not, you
should have told me so four years ago, or postponed your demand to
two years after a general peace. Is this the moment to insist on
such a demand? You wish to imitate the Constituent Assembly, and
commence a revolution? Be it so. You will find I will not imitate
Louis XVI.: I would rather abandon the throne, I would prefer making
part of the sovereign people, to being an enslaved king. I am sprung
from the people; I know the obligations I contracted when I ascended
the throne. You have done much mischief; you would have done me
still more, if I had allowed your report to be printed.--You speak
of abuses, of vexations. I know, as well as you, that such have
existed; they arose from circumstances, and the misfortunes of the
times. But was it necessary to let all Europe into our secrets? Is
it fitting to wash our dirty linen in public? In what you say there
is some truth and some falsehood. What, then, was your obvious duty?
To have confidentially made known your grounds of complaint to me,
by whom they would have been thankfully received. I do not, any more
than yourselves, love those who have oppressed you. In three months
we shall have peace: the enemy will be driven from our territory, or
I shall be dead. We have greater resources than you imagine: our
enemies have never conquered us--never will. They will be pursued
over the frontier more quickly than they crossed it. Go!" [Footnote:
Bucher et Roux, "Histoire Parl. de France," vol. xxxix., pp. 460,
The last words of the speech were still resounding through the hall
when the deputies, with pale faces, bowing timidly and silently
before the throne, turned and walked toward the door. All eyes were
riveted on them, and it was felt that the men whom the emperor
dismissed with such a strain of vehement invective were twenty new
enemies whom Napoleon sent into the provinces, and who would bring a
new hostile army--public opinion--into the field against him. Many
hoped that the emperor, perceiving his blunder, would call back the
deputies by some pleasant word, in order to bring about a
reconciliation between him and those who, whatever the emperor might
say, represented in the throne-hall the opinion of the people.
But Napoleon did not call them back; standing on his throne, haughty
and defiant, he looked after the disappearing deputies in anger; and
only when the door of the anteroom closed, did he turn his eyes
toward those who surrounded him. As if by a magician's wand his face
resumed its former expression of august calmness. He slowly left the
throne, and, dropping here and there a few condescending words,
crossed the hall. Suddenly he noticed Baron Fontaine, the architect
of the imperial palaces. "Ah," exclaimed Napoleon, quickly advancing
toward him, "you are here, Fontaine? I intended to send for you to-
day. Did you bring your plans with you?"
"Well, then, come; and you, ministers, Duke de Rovigo, Duke de
Vicenza, Duke de Bassano, pray follow me into my cabinet."
The officers and cavaliers who remained in the hall looked after the
emperor with anxious glances. "A cabinet meeting on this holiday!
and at which the imperial architect has to be present!" they
whispered. "What means this? Will the emperor commission M. de
Fontaine to transform the Tuileries into a fortress, and construct
ramparts and ditches? Are we, if all should be lost, to defend
ourselves? Or will the emperor convert Paris into a fortress? Is M.
de Fontaine to erect outworks and fortifications? Or will the
emperor have a new Bastile built for the purpose of confining the
traitorous legislature and several hundreds of these new-fangled
royalists who are now springing up like mushrooms?"
But the emperor did not think of all this when, followed by the
three ministers and Baron Fontaine, he entered his cabinet. An
expression of affability overspread his features, and round his lips
played the sunny smile which appeared so irresistible to all who had
ever seen it. "Come hither, gentlemen," he said, merrily, "let us
act here as judges. Fontaine brings us plans for a palace for the
King of Rome. It is high time for me to think of building one for
the heir-apparent, and this idea has engrossed my mind for a long
period. If the times had not been so unfavorable, it would already
have been completed. I will begin now, in order to prove to the
foreign powers how great is the confidence felt by France and her
emperor in their ability to withstand the attacks of the allies;
for, while their armies are fighting the enemy, they are
constructing a palace for their future emperor.--Now let me see your
plans, Fontaine; unroll them!"
Fontaine spread out on the table the papers which he had brought
with him from the anteroom. The emperor bent over them, and asked
the architect to explain to him the different lines and figures. The
three ministers stood beside them, grave and silent, and their
furtive glances seemed to ask whether this really was not a scene
intentionally contrived by the emperor--whether he really could
think of building a palace for the King of Rome at a moment, when
France was hemmed in on all sides, and menaced by enemies,
endangering the existence of the imperial throne!
But Napoleon really seemed to be quite sincere. With his magic
energy he appeared to have banished all gloomy thoughts, and to be
engrossed only in plans for a serene future. "See here,
Caulaincourt," he said, pointing to one of the plans, "what do you
think of this? It is a sort of castle or fort, and looks well, does
"Very, indeed," replied Caulaincourt. "It reminds me of the palace
at Oranienbaum, which Paul I. built. The towers at the corners, the
bastions, and ditches, are similar; and the interior had not only
many rooms, but secret staircases, doors, and hidden passages."
"And yet Paul I. was assassinated in that palace!" cried the
emperor, whose face suddenly darkened. "The doors and passages did
not protect him from murderers.--Well, Maret and Savary, what do you
think of it? Do you deem it best that I should build the palace for
the King of Rome in the style of a fortress, like that of
"Sire," exclaimed Savary, eagerly, "so precious a head cannot be
sufficiently protected. In building a palace for the king, less
attention should be paid to an attractive appearance than to safety
"Is that your opinion, too, Maret?"
The Duke de Bassano was silent for a moment, and closely examined
the plan. "No, sire," he then said, looking at the emperor, with a
polite yet somewhat singular smile--"no, sire. I believe we should
avoid the semblance of a fortress built for the heir-apparent, just
as though he should ever need such a place of refuge against his own
subjects, and in the middle of his capital! People would say your
majesty intended to reconstruct for your successor the old Bastile."
"Maret is right," exclaimed the emperor. "No fortress! The
confidence, love, and attachment of his people should be the only
safeguard of a monarch. Ramparts did not save Paul I.; the greatest
precautions, locked and guarded doors, did not protect the sultan
from the scimitars of the Janizaries; every one falls when his hour
has struck; it will strike for me, too, and my life will belong to
him who is willing to give up his life for mine! But I shall teach
my son to govern the Parisians without fortresses, and make them
love him. [Footnote: Napoleon's words.--Vide "Memoirs of the Duchess
d'Abrantes."] It is true, however, there will always be malicious
men to frustrate our efforts, and sow the seeds of discord between
me and my people."
"Sire," said Fontaine, anxious to turn the emperor's thoughts into a
different channel, "here is another plan. The former was in the old
feudal style; this would look more like a villa."
"That is the very thing I want," exclaimed the emperor, eagerly. "A
villa in the grandest possible style--a palace magnificent enough to
be mentioned after the Louvre, but still with all the peculiarities
of a villa. For the palace of the King of Rome, after all, will be
only a sort of villa in Paris; as a winter residence the Tuileries,
or the Louvre, would be preferred. But, though I want the building
to be large and brilliant, the total cost must not exceed ten
million francs. I do not want a chimera, but something real,
substantial, and practical, for myself and the king, and not a
fanciful structure merely gratifying to the architect. The
completion of the Louvre will give glory enough to the architect. As
to the palace of the King of Rome, he may forget his personal
interest, and think only of rendering the structure as convenient as
possible. It is to become a sort of Sans-Souci, where one is merry,
forgets care, enjoys the sunshine in the apartments, and the shade
in the garden, and may combine the simplicity of rural life with the
comforts of a great city. Imagine you were building a commodious
residence for a rich private citizen, a convalescent who has need of
comfort, repose, and diversion. There must be, therefore, a small
theatre, a small chapel, a concert-hall, a ball-room, a billiard-
room, and a library; fish-ponds, and shady groves in the garden--in
short, a genuine villa." [Footnote: Napoleon's words.--Vide
Constant, "Memoires," vol. v., p. 184.]
"I believe your majesty will find all that you wish for united in
this," said the Duke de Bassano, who had carefully examined the
second plan. "It is a villa in grand style, and surely worthy of a
"Ah," said the emperor, with a profound sigh, "would it were already
finished, and I could live in it with my son! I--"
At this moment the folding-doors of the cabinet were thrown open,
and the usher's voice shouted, "His majesty the King of Rome!"
THE KING OF ROME.
The emperor, with a joyful exclamation, turned toward the door. On
its threshold stood a boy of remarkable beauty, such as Correggio or
Murillo would have selected as a cherub model. His slender but
vigorous form was clothed in sky-blue velvet, embroidered with
silver, and his fairy-like feet wore shoes of the same color. His
dimpled arms were bare, and a fleece of golden ringlets fell on his
fair neck and shoulders. An ingenuousness, undeformed by bad
training, increased the charm of his natural beauty. There was
nothing affected in his blooming face; and, while a happy temper
played about his lips, there was a light in his large blue eyes,
reminding the beholder of his great father, from whom he also
inherited a forehead which, when the attractions of his childhood
had passed away, would at once assert his manly gravity and thought.
Behind the boy appeared the dignified form of Madame de Montesquiou,
his governess, who seemed to take pains to keep back the boy, and,
seizing his hand, hastily whispered a few words to him. But he
forcibly disengaged himself, and, without noticing any one but the
emperor, rushed toward him with open arms. "Papa," he cried, in an
imploring tone--"papa, have you not given me permission to come to
you at any time?"
"Yes, sire," said the emperor, tenderly, lifting him into his arms,
"and the proof of it is that you are here."
"Well, dear 'Quiou," asked the boy, in a triumphant tone, turning
toward Madame de Montesquiou--"did I not tell you so?--The usher
would not admit me, papa, though I told him I am the King of Rome!"
"He ran away from me," said the governess, "in the first anteroom,
and so fast that I could not follow him."
"It was because I wanted to see my dear papa emperor," cried the
child, fixing his eyes with an expression of indescribable
tenderness on his father.
"But that was the reason, sire," said the governess, "why the usher
would not immediately open the door to you. He did not know whether
he was allowed to do so, and waited, therefore, until I came."
"But why did he not know that he was allowed to do so?" cried the
little king, impetuously. "Did I not tell him, 'I WILL it, I am the
King of Rome?' Pray tell me, papa emperor, do not the ushers obey
you either when you say, 'I will it?'"
The emperor laughed as loudly and merrily as he had done in the days
of his prosperity, and the ministers and Baron Fontaine joined
heartily in his mirth; even Madame de Montesquiou could not suppress
a faint smile. The boy saw it, and asked hastily, "Why do you laugh,
'Quiou? Did I say any thing ridiculous?"
"No, rather something charming," said the emperor, smiling, laying
his hand on the blond head of his child, and pressing it closer to
his breast. With the child still in his arms, he seated himself in
an easy-chair, and, placing the little fair-haired king on his knee,
gazed at him with joyful eyes. His whole countenance was changed,
and beaming with mildness; even his voice assumed another tone, and
seemed incapable of command or threat.
"Sire," said the emperor, "we were just speaking of you."
"Ah," cried the child, with an arch smile, "I know what it was! My
papa emperor was thinking of a New-Year's present!"
"But, sire," exclaimed the governess, sharply, "it is unseemly to
ask for presents."
A blush suffused the child's face, and seemed reflected on the pale
cheeks of the emperor, who felt almost pained at seeing him so much
ashamed of himself.
"Madame," he said, turning hastily to the governess, "I have to ask
a favor of you: pray leave the King of Rome here with me for a time.
I myself will take him back to you, and I promise to watch carefully
over his majesty."
Madame de Montesquiou made a ceremonious obeisance; the little king
kissed his hand to her, and she then left the cabinet. No sooner had
the door closed than the boy, with a smile, encircled the emperor's
neck with his arms, and cried, "Now we are alone, papa emperor!"
"Oh, no!" said the emperor, smiling, "did you not yet see these
"No," said the child, looking round in surprise, "I saw only you,
Never had the lips of the most beautiful woman uttered words that
gladdened his heart so much as these. But before his ministers he
was almost ashamed of his sensitiveness, and, therefore, he forced
himself to assume a graver air. "Sire," he said, "above all, you
must greet these gentlemen; they are my ministers, and very dear
friends of mine."
"Ah, then they are friends of mine, too," cried the boy, with that
politeness which comes from the heart. Quickly descending from his
father's knee to the carpet on the floor, the little King of Rome
walked several steps toward the gentlemen, and bowed so deeply to
them that his blond ringlets rolled down over his face. "Pardon me,
gentlemen," he said, "if I did not see and greet you! I came to my
papa emperor because to-day is a holiday, and I desired to wish him
a happy New-Year. I see you now, gentlemen, and, if you will permit
me, I wish you all, too, a happy New-Year."
The gentlemen bowed, and looked with an expression of gentle
sympathy and emotion on the lovely child, as if imploring the
blessing of Heaven upon him. The emperor probably read this in their
eyes, for he greeted the gentlemen with a pleasant smile, and nodded
to them with the triumphant air of a happy father.
"Papa emperor," exclaimed the child, turning once more to his
father, "my dear Madame 'Quiou says that France has now need of
prosperity, and that I, therefore, ought to pray the good God to
grant us His favor."
"Well, and did you do so?" inquired the emperor.
"Yes," replied the child, "I did, from the bottom of my heart."
"How did you pray? Let me hear, sire; it can do no harm if you pray
to God once more to grant us His favor. What did you say?"
The child assumed a grave air, and knelt down. He then raised his
clasped hands, and, leaning back his head, lifted up his large blue
eyes. "Good God," he said aloud, "I pray to Thee for France and for
These words, uttered in so clear and melodious a voice, sounding
like an angel's greeting in the solemn cabinet of the emperor, made
a wonderful impression. The gentlemen averted their heads, to
conceal their emotion from Napoleon. But he paid no attention to
them; his eyes rested on his child with an expression of profound
affection; a veil seemed to overspread them, and as it perhaps
prevented the emperor from seeing his kneeling child distinctly, he
quickly moved his hand across his eyes. The veil disappeared, but
the hand that had drawn it aside was moist.
The boy jumped up and hastened back to his father, who clasped him
tenderly in his arms, and then, as if to apologize, turned toward
his ministers. "Well, gentlemen," he said, gayly, "do you believe
that the voice of the King of Rome is strong enough to reach to
heaven, and bring prosperity to France and to myself?"
"Sire, I do," said the Duke de Bassano, in a trembling voice.
"And I feel convinced of it," said the Duke de Rovigo. "If any
prayer can reach heaven, this must."
"It will bless France and her august emperor," said the Duke de
Vicenza. "Sire, permit me to ask a favor of you. Give to France as a
New-Year's present of your love, the picture of the King of Rome
praying for France and his father. Your majesty, send for Isabey,
and have him represent the king in this charming attitude. He will
paint such a picture both with his hand and his heart, and within a
month it must be circulated as a copperplate throughout France.
Sire, I venture to assert that this engraving will win all hearts,
and the members of the legislature cannot excite half as much hatred
in the provinces as this picture will produce love."
"You are right," said the emperor, "that is an excellent idea.
France shall learn that my son prays, first for it, and then for
me.--Maret, see to it that Isabey come to-morrow. The plate must be
ready for distribution in the course of a month. [Footnote: This
copperplate really appeared shortly after; it is a sweet and
beautiful portrait of the little King of Rome.] And now," added the
emperor, putting the child again on his knee, "now tell me what do
you want me to give you as a New-Year's present?"
"Oh," cried the little king, smiling, "I know something, dear papa
emperor, but I dare not say what it is."
"Ah, you may," said the emperor. "I pledge you my word that I will
fulfil your wish, if it be possible. Speak, then."
"Sire," asked little Napoleon, nodding toward the ministers, "sire,
will these gentlemen not betray me to Madame de Montesquieu?"
"I warrant you they will not," said the emperor, gravely. "Let me
hear what you want."
"Well, then, papa emperor," said the boy, leaning his head on his
father's breast, and looking up to him, "I feel a great wish that I
could run just once all alone into the street, and play in the mud
and the gutter, as other children do." [Footnote: Bausset, "Memoires
sur Intterieur du Palais Imperial," vol. ii.]
The emperor burst into loud laughter, in which the others did not
fail to join. "Ah, you see, gentlemen," exclaimed the emperor, "this
is a new rendering of Lafontaine's celebrated 'Toujours perdrix!'
The King of Rome, being able to command all that is beautiful and
agreeable to his heart's content, is longing for the gutter.--Be
patient, sire, I cannot immediately fulfil your wish, but I shall
have a palace for you, and in its court-yard you shall have a
gutter, too. Sire, look at those plans which Baron Fontaine has
drawn up for a palace destined for you alone."
"What! For me alone?" asked the child, in dismay. "You will not live
with me in the palace?"
"No, sire. The King of Rome must have a palace of his own where he
will reside with his court."
"Papa emperor, I thank you for your New-Year's gift," said the boy,
sullenly; "I thank you, but do not accept it. I do not want a palace
of my own. I thank your majesty, but prefer remaining at the
"But, sire, just think of it--a splendid palace belonging to you
"I do not want to live alone!"
"Well, sire, then you will request your beautiful mother, the
empress, to live with you. Will that be sufficient?"
The boy glanced quickly and anxiously around the room, as if to
satisfy himself that neither the empress nor Madame de Montesquiou
was present; he then threw both his arms round the emperor's neck,
and exclaimed, "I want to be where you are, papa!"
Napoleon pressed his lips with passionate tenderness on his son's
head. "Well, sire," he said, in a voice tremulous with love, "I
believe your wishes will have to be complied with. As soon as your
palace is completed I shall live with you. Do you accept your palace
on this condition?"
"Yes, my dear papa emperor," exclaimed the prince, joyously, "now I
accept it, and thank you for it."
"Well, you hear that, Fontaine," said Napoleon, turning toward his
architect. "You may begin the construction of the palace; the King
of Rome accepts it. I sanction this second plan. Build a magnificent
villa, and it must be completed in two years. In two years--"
Suddenly the emperor paused, and his face darkened. "Ah," he said,
gloomily, putting his hand on the prince's head, "ah, we purpose
building you a palace, but if they conquer me you will not even
possess a cabin!" [Footnote: Napoleon's words.--Vide "Memoirs of the
Duchess d'Abrantes."] The emperor's head dropped on his breast, and
a pause ensued, which the child, usually so vivacious, did not
venture to interrupt.
At length Napoleon said: "Go, Fontaine, and take your plans along; I
will confer further about the matter. And you, ministers, come, we
have to settle some questions of importance. But, first, I must take
the king back to his governess."
The boy clung with almost anxious tenderness to his father. "Ah,
dear, dear papa emperor," he begged, "let me stay here! I will be
quiet--oh, so very quiet! I will only sit on your knee, lean my head
on your breast, and not disturb you at all."
"Well, you may stay then," said Napoleon. "We shall see whether you
really can be quiet and not disturb us."
The little child kept his word. Sitting quietly on the emperor's
knee, and leaning his little head on his father's breast, he did not
interrupt in the least the important conference of Napoleon and his
ministers. An hour afterward the conference was over, and the dukes
"Now, sire," said Napoleon, turning toward the child, now "let us
But the little king, who always received these words with
exultation, remained silent, and when the emperor bent over him, he
saw that he had fallen asleep. "Happy king!" murmured Napoleon,
"happy king! who can fall asleep in the midst of state business!"
Softly and cautiously drawing the boy closer to his breast, and
taking pains not to disturb his slumber, he sat still and
motionless, scarcely breathing, although sad thoughts oppressed his
mind. It was an interesting spectacle--this lovely boy leaning his
head in smiling dreams on the breast of his father, who was looking
down on him with grave and tender eyes.
The emperor sat thus a long time. Strange and wonderful thoughts
stole upon him--thoughts of past happiness, of past love. He thought
of how long he had yearned to possess a son, and how many tears his
first consort shed--how ardently he had been loved by the noble and
beautiful Josephine, whom, in his pride, which demanded an heir-
apparent, he had thrust into solitude. Providence had given
Bonaparte all that his heart had longed for--a beautiful young wife,
who loved him, and who was the daughter of an emperor; and a sweet,
lovely child that was to be the heir of his imperial throne. But
Providence, by giving him all, had taken all from Josephine--the
heart and hand of her husband, her dignity and authority as an
empress and sovereign. She was now nothing but a deserted and
unhappy lady, who had only tears for her past, no joy in the
present, no hopes for the future.
All this was on account of the child adored by his father, and
hailed by France; and yet, despite all the mischief this little boy
had done her and the fact that he was the child of another woman,
Josephine loved him, and often implored the emperor to let her see
and embrace the little King of Rome. He had always refused to grant
this request, in order not to stir up the jealousy of his young
wife, but, at this quiet hour, when he was alone with his sleeping
child, Napoleon thought of Josephine with melancholy tenderness.
Amid the profound silence which surrounded him, his recollections
spoke to him. They pointed him to Josephine in the imperishable
splendor of her love, her grace, and goodness; he thought he saw her
sweet lips, which had always a smile for him; her brilliant eyes,
which had ever looked tenderly on him, and which had learned to read
his most secret thoughts.
"Poor Josephine!" he murmured, "poor Josephine! she loved me
ardently, and many things might be different now if she were still
by my side. She was my guardian angel, and with her my success has
departed. She sacrificed her happiness to me and my ambition; and
while formerly all hastened to offer congratulations on this day and
pay homage to the empress, she now sits lonely and deserted at
Malmaison.--No," he then said aloud, "no, she shall not be lonely
and deserted! I surely owe it to her to occasion her a moment of
joy. She shall see my son--I myself will take him to her." He
cautiously lifted up the boy in his arms and rose. The prince awoke
and looked smilingly up to his father, who carried him to the sofa
and laid him with tender care on the cushions. But little Napoleon
jumped up, and said laughingly. "I am no longer tired. The dukes are
gone now, and let us play, papa!"
"No, sire," said the emperor, "not now, I have business to attend
to. But listen to me: at noon to-day I will take a ride with yon,
all alone--that is to be my New-Year's present."
The boy uttered a cry of joy. "All alone, papa emperor? Oh, that
will be splendid!"
"But now go to Madame de Montesquiou, sire," said the emperor.--
"Constant!" When the valet de chambre entered the room, he ordered
Constant, "Pray conduct his majesty the King of Rome to Madame de
Montesquiou, and tell her I shall call for him in a few hours in
order to take a ride with him alone, without any attendants
whatever.--Adieu, Sire, in a few hours we shall meet again."
But the boy stood and looked at the emperor with grave and sullen
glances. "Sire," he said, "my dear Madame 'Quiou tells me often a
king ought to keep his word. Now I ask you must an emperor not keep
his word also?"
"Well, then, your majesty, take me to Madame 'Quiou," cried the boy,
joyously; "you told her you would do so. Come, papa!"
"Ah," exclaimed the emperor, smiling, "you are right--an emperor
must fulfil his word, though he has pledged it only to a king. Come,
sire, I will conduct you to Madame de Montesquiou. Constant, await
A few minutes afterward, the emperor returned to his cabinet.
"Constant," he said, in a low voice, "I know you loved the Empress
Josephine, and have not forgotten her, I suppose?"
"Sire, the empress was my benefactress; I owe to her all that I am,
and she was always kind to me."
"More so than the present empress, you mean to say?" asked the
emperor, casting a searching glance on his valet de chambre; and, as
Constant was silent, Napoleon added, "It is true, the young empress
is less condescending than my first consort. But that is, Constant,
because she was brought up as the daughter of an emperor, and her
feelings were restrained by the narrow limits of etiquette.
Josephine forgot too much that she was an empress, Maria Louisa
forgets it too little; but her heart is good and gentle, and she
would never wish to grieve me. So, Constant, you have not yet
forgotten the Empress Josephine?"
"Sire, none that ever knew the Empress Josephine could help
remembering her. For my own part, I can never forget her."
"Ah, what a fripon you are, to give me such a reply! Well, I will
prove to you, M. Fripon, that I have not forgotten Josephine,
either. This is New-Year's-day. Would you not like to offer your
congratulations to the Empress Josephine at Malmaison?"
"Sire, if so humble and low a servant as I am may dare, I should
certainly be very happy to lay my congratulations at her feet."
"Go, I permit you to do so, and the empress will surely receive you
"Particularly, sire, if I had a message from his majesty the emperor
"Fripon, I believe you take the liberty of guessing my thoughts!
Yes, I will give you a message. Hasten to the Empress Josephine,
take her my greetings, but see that the empress receives you without
witnesses.--Do you hear, Constant--without witnesses? Then tell her
to have her carriage immediately brought to the door, and, on the
pretext of being alone with her mournful New-Year's meditations, to
take a ride without attendants. But when she is at a considerable
distance from Malmaison, she is to order the coachman to drive to
the little castle of La Bagatelle. She must be there precisely at
four o'clock. I shall be there, and tell her majesty I shall not
come alone. Now make haste, Constant! Recommend entire reticence to
the empress. As to yourself, pray do not forget that, if any one
shall hear of this affair, you must be held responsible. Go!"
Just as the clock struck four, the carriage of the Empress Josephine
wheeled into the courtyard of the little castle of La Bagatelle. She
inquired of the castellan, in a tremulous voice, whether any one had
arrived there, and she breathed more freely when he replied in the
negative. She left the carriage with youthful alacrity and entered
the castle, followed by the castellan, who gazed in amazement at
this empress without court or suite, who arrived stealthily and
tremblingly, like a maiden to meet her lover for the first time. She
hurried through the well-known apartments of the castle, and entered
the hall in which, during the days of her happiness, she had so
often received the foreign princes and ambassadors, or the
dignitaries of France. The hall was now empty; no one was there to
receive the deserted empress; but bright, merry fires were burning
in the fireplaces, and every thing was in readiness for the
reception of distinguished guests.
"You knew, then, that I was to come?" inquired the empress of the
"Your majesty," he replied, in a low and reverential voice, "M.
Constant was here, and gave orders to have the rooms in readiness.
If your majesty wishes refreshments, you will find every thing
served up in the dining-room."
"No, no, I thank you," cried the empress, hastily. "But tell me is
my dressing-room--my former dressing-room," she corrected herself
falteringly--"is that heated, too?"
"Your majesty will find all your rooms comfortable, just as though
you still condescended to reside here."
"Well, then, I will go to that room. If any one comes, I shall
notice it through the opened doors; it is unnecessary for you to
inform me; I will go then at once to the reception-room."
The castellan withdrew, and Josephine hastened through the adjoining
apartment into the dressing-room. With a long, painful sigh she
glanced around the room which had so often witnessed her happiness
and her triumphs. Here, surrounded by her ladies in front of this
mirror, she had had her hair dressed, and the emperor had almost
always made his appearance at that hour to chat with her, look at
her toilet, and delight her heart by a smile, a glance, that was
more transporting to her than all the homage and flattery paid her
by all her other admirers. Now she was here again, but alone, and
with a mournful sigh she stepped to the mirror which had so often
reflected her charming portrait, radiant with happiness, and
sparkling with diamonds.
And what did she see now in this mirror? A woman with a pale, grief-
stricken face, features growing old, and a desponding exhaustion
which only a good and pleasant life can disguise when the vigor of
youth has faded.
"Oh, I have become old!" sighed Josephine; "the years of tears and
solitude count double, for one consumes then in days the strength of
many years. I have grown old because I have wept for HIM, and
because I have felt his misfortunes. Oh, how will he look? Will his
cheeks be even paler and his eyes gloomier than formerly? I have not
seen him since his return from his disastrous campaign; if I read
the history of his sufferings on his face, my grief will kill me.
But no," she encouraged herself, "I will not weep, nor trouble him
with my tears. I will be serene, and suppress my emotions. He will
not come alone; but whom will he bring with him? I hope not the
woman who is my rival--to whom I had to yield my throne!--No, I know
Bonaparte's heart, I know that he would be incapable of such
cruelty. She, young, beautiful, the reigning empress--I, old,
sorrowful, faded, the deserted empress! I--ah, there is a carriage
rolling into the courtyard! He comes!" Her whole form trembled, and,
breathless, her face suffused with deep blushes, she sank into an
easy-chair. "I love him still," she murmured; "my heart does not
forget!" A low knocking at the small side-door leading to the inner
corridor, was heard, and Constant entered. Josephine rose hastily,
and with quivering lips asked, "Constant, is he there?"
"Yes, your majesty. The emperor requests you to repair to the
reception-room. He will be there in a moment."
"And who is accompanying him?"
"His majesty has commissioned me to tell you that it would afford
him great satisfaction to prepare a little surprise for your
majesty, and that he has, therefore, fulfilled a wish which you have
felt for a long time."
"Constant!" exclaimed Josephine, joyfully, "the emperor brings the
King of Rome to me?"
"Yes, your majesty."
"Ah, her child!" cried the empress, with an emotion of jealousy,
burying her face in her hands.
"The emperor requests your majesty to be so gracious as not to let
the little king suspect whom he has the honor to approach,"
"Ah, she is not to suspect that her child has come to me!" murmured
Josephine, while fresh tears trickled down her cheeks.
"The emperor, besides, implores your majesty not to frighten the
prince by a sadness which your majesty, in the generosity and
kindness of your heart, has so often overcome."
"Yes," said the empress, removing her hands from her face, and
hastily drying her tears with her handkerchief, "I will not weep. It
is true, I have often begged that I might see the King of Rome--the
child for whom I have suffered so much, and to read in his face
whether he is worthy of my sacrifice. The emperor is so kind as to
fulfil my wish; tell him that I am profoundly grateful to him, that
I will restrain my emotion and not make the prince suspect who I am.
Tell him that I shall not weep when I see the child of the present
empress. No, do not tell him that, Constant; it would grieve him--
tell him only that I thank him, and that he shall not be displeased
with me. Go! I am ready, and shall be happy to see the boy. It is
not HER child, but HIS that I am to embrace." And greeting Constant
with that inimitable smile of grace and kindness peculiar to her,
she walked toward the reception-room. "How my heart throbs!" she
murmured; "it is as if my limbs were failing me--as if I should
die." Nearly fainting, she slowly glided through the adjoining
apartment, and entered the reception-room. "Courage, my heart! for
it is HIS child that I am to greet." Sitting down on an easy-chair
near the window, she looked in anxiety and suspense toward the large
At length the emperor appeared. Josephine had not seen him for
nearly a year, and at first her eyes beheld only him. She read in
his pallid and furrowed face the secret history of his sorrows,
which he had not, perhaps, communicated to any one, but which he
could not conceal from the eye of love. Unutterable sympathy and
tender compassion for him filled her soul. And now she almost
timidly looked upon the child that Napoleon led by the hand.
How charming was this child! How proud of him was his father!
Josephine felt this, and she said almost exultingly to herself "I
have not, been sacrificed in vain! This child is an ample indemnity
for my tears. I am the boy's real mother, for I have suffered,
sorrowed, and prayed for him!" Rejoicing in this sentiment, which
seemed to restore the beauty of former days, Josephine stretched out
her arms toward the child.
"Go, my son, and embrace the lady," said Napoleon, dropping the hand
of the prince. He advanced, while his father stood at the table in
the middle of the room, supporting his right hand on the marble
slab. He looked gravely but kindly upon the empress, from whom he
felt separated, by the presence of his child, as by an impassable
The little prince offered his hand to the empress with a smile, and
Josephine drew him into her arms, pressing his head to her bosom. A
sigh, in spite of herself, came from the depths of her heart. She
slowly bent back the boy's head and gazed at him with a mournful but
loving expression. Then her glance fell upon the emperor, and, with
an indescribable look of love and tenderness, she said: "Sire, he is
like you; God bless him for it!"
There was something so touching and heartfelt in these words--in the
tone of her voice, and the glance of her eyes, that the emperor was
profoundly moved, and responded only by a silent nod, not venturing
to speak lest the tremor of his words should betray his emotion.
Even the little king seemed to understand the excellent heart of
this lady. He clung to her and said in a sweet voice, "I love you,
madame, and want you to love me, too!"
"I love you, sire," cried Josephine, "and shall pray God every day
to preserve you to your father--to your parents," she corrected
herself with the self-abnegation of a true woman. "You will one day
confer happiness on France and your people, for you undoubtedly wish
to become as good, great, and wise, as your father."
"Oh, yes, my papa emperor is very good, and I love him dearly!"
exclaimed the boy, looking toward his father. "But, papa, why do you
not come to us? Why do you not shake hands with this dear lady, who
is so good and loves me so well?"
"The emperor is generous," said Josephine, gently; "he wished me to
have you a moment by yourself, sire; he has you every day, but I
have never had you before."
"Why did you not come and see me?" asked the child. "You live near
Paris; and, if you loved me, you would often come and see how the
little King of Rome is getting on. The emperor told me you were a
dear and kind-hearted lady, and that every one loved you."
"Did he tell you so, sire?" exclaimed the empress, drawing the boy
into her arms. "Oh, tell the emperor that I shall always be grateful
to him for it, and that these words will forever silence my grief."
Her eyes glanced in gratitude to the emperor, who softly laid his
finger on his mouth, to admonish her to be silent and calm.
The little prince had now, with the facility with which children
pass from one subject to another, turned his attention to a large
diamond brooch fastened to Josephine's golden sash. "How beautiful
it is!" he exclaimed--"how it is flashing as though it were a star
fallen from heaven, and fastened to your breast, because it loves
you, madame, and because you are so good! And what fine ornaments
you have on your watch! Ah, look here, papa emperor; see those
pretty things! Come, papa, and look at them!"
"No, sire," said the emperor, with a strange and mournful smile,
"let me remain here. I can see all those pretty things quite
"They are very beautiful, are they not?" cried the child. "And if--"
"Well, sire," asked Josephine, "why do you pause? Pray speak!"
The boy had suddenly assumed a grave air, and gazed upon the
ornaments of the empress. "I was just thinking--but you will be
angry if I tell you what, madame."
"Certainly not, sire; tell me what you thought."
"It occurred to my mind that we met in the forest on our way a poor
man who looked haggard and wretched, and begged us to give him
something. But papa and I could not, for we had already distributed
all our money among the unfortunate persons whom we had previously
met. Why are there so many poor people, madame?--why does my papa
emperor not order all men to be happy and rich?"
"Because it is impossible for him to do so, sire," said Josephine.
"And because, in order to be able to make others happy, we must
ourselves be rich!" exclaimed the emperor, smiling. "Now you said
yourself, sire, we could not give the poor man in the forest any
thing, for we had nothing to give him."
"Yes, and I was very sorry," said the boy, "And now I was thinking
if we sent for the poor man, and you, madame, gave him your watch
and your diamonds, and he sold them, he would have a great deal of
money, and be very rich and happy."
Josephine pressed the boy tenderly to her heart. "Sire," she said,
"I promise you that I will send for your poor man and give him so
much money that he will never again be wretched."
"Oh!" exclaimed the prince, encircling the lady's neck with his
arms, "how good you are, madame, and how I love you!"
Josephine pressed his head to her bosom. "Oh, you may certainly love
me a little," she replied, with a touching smile; "I have really
deserved it of you."
"Sire," said the emperor, advancing a few steps, "now bid the lady
farewell. We must go."
"Papa!" cried the boy, joyously--"papa, we must take the dear lady
with us; she is so good, and I love her. Let her live with us in the
Tuileries, and always stay with us. I want her to do so, and you,
too, papa, do you not?"
Josephine's eyes filled with tears, and she looked at the emperor
with an expression of unutterable woe. He immediately averted his
face, perhaps to prevent Josephine from noticing his emotion. "Come,
sire," he said imperiously, "it is high time; it is growing dark.
Take leave of madame!"
"Oh, no; I will not take leave of her!" cried the boy, vehemently.
"I say to her rather--Come with us to the Tuileries!"
"It cannot be, sire," said Josephine, smiling amidst her tears.
"Why?" cried the boy, impatiently, and throwing back his head.
"Come; you may accompany the emperor, and I want you to do so!"
Napoleon, painfully moved by this scene, quickly advanced to the
prince, and took his hand. "Come, sire," he said in a tone so grave
that the boy dared no longer resist. Submitting to his father's
will, he stepped back, and, pleasantly bowing, took leave of the
"We shall meet again," said Josephine, and, turning her tearful eyes
to Napoleon, she asked, "We shall meet again, sire, shall we not?"
"Yes," said Napoleon, gravely, "we shall meet again." He then took
leave of her with an affectionate look, which fell as a sunbeam upon
her desolate heart, and, leading the boy by the hand, turned quickly
toward the door. She looked after them in silence and with clasped
hands. As the door opened, the emperor turned again with a parting
but melancholy glance.
Josephine was again alone. With a groan she fell on her knees, and
lifting her face toward heaven, she cried, "My God, protect--
preserve him! Whatever I may suffer, oh, let him be happy!"
For a week the emperor had scarcely left his cabinet; bending over
his maps, he anxiously examined the position of his army, and that
of the constantly advancing allies. Every day couriers with news of
fresh disasters arrived at Paris; rumors of invading armies
terrified the citizens, and disturbed the emperor's temper. It was
impossible for the government to conceal the misfortunes which had
befallen France from the beginning of the new year. The people knew
that Blucher had crossed the Rhine, and, victoriously penetrating
France, on the 16th of January had taken up his quarters at Nancy.
It was publicly known that a still larger army of the allies,
commanded by Prince Schwartzenberg, had advanced through
Switzerland, Lorraine, and Alsace, taken the fortresses, overcome
all resistance, and that both generals had sworn to appear in front
of Paris by February, and conquer the capital. All Paris knew this,
and longed for peace as the only way to put an end to the sufferings
of the nation. The strength and the superiority of the allied army
could not be concealed, and it was felt to be impossible to expel
the powerful invaders.
Napoleon himself at length saw the necessity of peace, and,
conquering his proud heart, he sent the Duke de Vicenza, his
faithful friend Caulaincourt, to the headquarters of the allies, to
request them to send plenipotentiaries to a peace congress. The
allies accepted this proposition, but they declared that, despite
the peace congress, the course of the war could not in the least be
interrupted; that the operations in the field must be vigorously
continued. Napoleon responded to this by decreeing a new
conscription, ordering all able-bodied men in France to be enrolled
in the national armies. The terrors of war were, therefore,
approaching, and yet Paris was in hope that peace would be
concluded; Caulaincourt was still at the headquarters of the allies,
treating with them about the congress.
Early on the morning of the 23d of January, another dispatch from
Caulaincourt to Maret was received at Paris, and the minister
immediately repaired to the Tuileries, to communicate it to the
emperor. This dispatch confirmed all the disastrous tidings which
had arrived from day to day, and convinced Napoleon and his minister
that the vast superiority of the allied armies rendered it
impossible for the emperor to rid his country of the formidable
"Maret," said Napoleon, gloomily, "come and look at this map. What
do you see here?"
"Sire, a number of colored pins extending in all directions."
"And a small number of white pins. Well these are my troops; the
colored pins designate the armies of my enemies. They are allied;
but I--I have no longer a single ally at this hour; I stand alone,
and have to meet eight different armies. See here, Maret: there is,
in the first place, the grand army of the Russians, Austrians,
Bavarians, and Wurtembergers, commanded by Prince Schwartzenberg,
and accompanied by the allied monarchs; next, there is the grand
Prussian army, with the Russian and Saxon corps, under the command
of Blucher, the hussar; here stand the Swedes under Bernadotte,
reenforced by Russian and English corps, and the German troops of
the Confederation of the Rhine; there comes the Anglo-Batavian army;
here, farther to the South, is Wellington's army, composed of
English, Spaniards, and Portuguese; there, in Italy, is an Austrian
corps under Bellegarde; at no great distance from it, the Neapolitan
corps under the King of Naples; and, finally, here at Lyons, is
another Austrian corps under Bubna. The armies of Schwartzenberg,
Blucher, and Bernadotte, are about six hundred thousand strong. And
now see what forces I have--I cannot call them armies! Augereau's
corps is stationed near Lyons; Ney, Marmont, and Mortier, are with
their corps here between the Meuse and the Seine; Sebastiani and
Macdonald are with the remnants of their corps on the frontier of
the Netherlands. Maret, my troops are hardly one hundred thousand;
the allies, therefore, are six to one."
"Sire," said Maret, "even a military genius like that of your
majesty, will be unable to cope with such odds, and it reflects no
dishonor on the bravest to submit to the decrees of Fate."
"It is true," murmured Napoleon, throwing himself into his easy-
chair, with his arm leaning on the desk, and his head bent forward--
"it is true, I have no sufficient force to oppose them; their armies
are six times as strong as mine, and, unless fortune greatly favors
me, I must yield!"
"But fortune has forsaken us, sire, and we have no strength left.
Yield, therefore, sire; submit to a stern necessity; comply with the
anxious demand of France; restore peace to your people--to the
world! Do not endanger, without prospect of success, your precious
life, which is necessary to France--your throne, threatened by
foreign and domestic foes. All is at stake. Save France, save the
throne! Make peace at any cost!"
While Maret was speaking, Napoleon slowly raised his head, and sent
a flaming glance on his minister. Now that Maret was silent, the
emperor quickly took up an open book from his desk and handed it to
Maret. "I will not answer you, duke," said Napoleon, "but Marmontel
shall. Read this. Read it aloud."
Maret read: "'I know of nothing more sublime than the resolution
taken by a monarch living in our times, who would be buried under
the ruins of his throne rather than accept terms to which a king
should not listen; he was possessed of too proud a soul to descend
lower than unavoidable misfortune. He knew full well that courage
may restore strength and lustre to a crown, but that cowardice and
dishonor never can.'" [Footnote: Marmontel, "Grandeur et Decadence
des Romains," ch. v.]
"That is my reply, Maret," exclaimed Napoleon. "The example of Louis
XIV. shall teach me to perish rather than humiliate myself."
"Sire," said Maret, solemnly, "Marmontel is wrong; there is
something more sublime than to be buried under the ruins of a
throne--a king sacrificing his own greatness to the welfare of a
state that must perish with him."
"Never!" exclaimed the emperor, impetuously. "I can die beneath the
ruins of my throne, but I cannot sign my own humiliation! Maret, I
have made up my mind: I will continue this struggle to the last: I
will conquer or die! Tomorrow I set out for the army. Ah, I want to
see whether that drunken general of hussars, Blucher, shall not
yield to me, notwithstanding his crazy cavalry tricks; whether
Schwartzenberg, my faithless pupil, who had learned the art of war
from me, will meet me in a pitched battle; and whether Bernadotte,
my rebellious subject, dare look me in the face. Maret, the decisive
struggle is at hand. I will take the field, save Paris, and conquer
the enemy. I must call upon all the men of France to defend the
sacred soil of our country, and convert every house into a castle,
every village into a fortress, so that my enemies shall have to
wrest every inch of ground from us at a vast sacrifice. Not another
word about peace! Every thing is ready. Troops are hurrying forward
from Spain to fill up my army; in a few days they will be here.
Between the Seine and the Marne all my forces will unite and put a
stop to the advance of the allies upon Paris. We shall occupy a
position by which it will be easy for us to divide, disperse, and
crush the enemy. Here, in the plain between these rivers, I shall
march along the Aube, scatter the allied army, hurl most of my
troops at one of its wings, and, by skilful manoeuvres, compel the
other wing to fall back. The enemy must retreat; I shall profit by
it, and when I have gained a great battle over him, I can impose my
own terms; I have then conquered an HONORABLE peace for France--one
that we can subscribe to without blushing. Ah, I see a brilliant
future! It is time to begin. My eagles are ascending; they are not
ravens or bats--they are soaring to the sun." As the emperor uttered
these words his soul illuminated his face; he was again the
conqueror, confiding in his star.
Maret looked anxiously, but admiringly, at Napoleon's face, in which
great resolutions were beaming, and he read there an assurance and
determination that nothing could change. "You have made up your
mind, then, sire: the war is to go on, and the peace congress is not
"On the contrary," exclaimed Napoleon, smiling, "let it meet, if the
allies wish it. While Caulaincourt, Metternich, and Hardenberg, are
dictating terms of peace with their pens, we shall do so with our
swords, and we shall soon see which will make the more progress. But
let us now commence with some movements of peace. We must be on good
terms with Spain and Rome. Let Ferdinand return as King to Spain,
and as such become my ally. I shall also open the doors of Pope
Pius's prison at Fontainebleau; let him return as pope to Rome, and,
as God's vicegerent, be on my side. Maret, here are already two
allies. In order to conquer, but one is wanting; and it is for you,
Maret, to procure it."
"Sire, what is the name of this ally?" asked the Duke de Bassano, in
"Money! money! and, for the third time, money! Procure me five
millions in cash, and I can add one hundred thousand men to my
"Ah, sire, our chests are empty!" sighed Maret.
"But I must have money," replied Napoleon, vehemently. "Without it
no war can be waged--no victory gained. Five millions, Maret; I need
them; I must have them!"
Maret looked thoughtful. Suddenly his face kindled, and his whole
frame shook with joy. "Sire, your majesty asks for five millions?"
"Yes, five millions, to begin with."
"Well, then, sire, I can tell you where to find them, and perhaps
"Sire, will you pledge me your imperial word not to betray that it
was I who told you where to find this money?"
"Listen, sire; but permit me to whisper what I do not wish even the
walls to hear." He bent close to the emperor's ear.
Napoleon listened with breathless attention, and nodded repeatedly.
"You really believe this to be true, Maret?" he then asked, eagerly.
"Sire, I affirm it to be true. It is a secret known only to three
persons! It was betrayed to me to gain me over by an act of
treachery--but that is altogether another matter; the fact is
"And this fact is, that I shall find with my mother the millions
that I need?" said the emperor. "Maret, if that is so, I shall have
them this very day."
"Your majesty believes so? Madame Letitia--"
"My mother is avaricious, you wish to say? It is true, her extreme
economy has often vexed me; to-day it gladdens my heart; for, thanks
to her parsimony, I shall find with her what I need for my army. She
will deny these millions to me, to be sure; but you told me where to
look for them, and I pledge you my word I know how to find and take
them! Hush, not another word! I shall have what I want within an
hour. Go now, Maret. You will meet the Prince de Benevento in the
antechamber. Send him to me. I have to address a few parting words
to M. de Talleyrand."
The emperor stood in the middle of the magnificently furnished
cabinet when the Prince de Benevento slowly opened the door and
entered. The prince bore the emperor's piercing look with a
perfectly composed air. Not a feature of his aristocratic
countenance expressed any anxiety and his smile did not for an
instant vanish from his lips. With a sort of careless bearing he
approached the emperor, who allowed him to come near him, still
watching every expression of his countenance.
"I wished to see you," he said, "in order to tell you that I shall
set out for the army the day after to-morrow." Talleyrand bowed, but
made no reply. "Do you desire to accompany me?" asked the emperor,
"Sire, what should I do at the headquarters of the army?" said
Talleyrand, shrugging his shoulders. "Your majesty knows well that I
could be of very little service in the army--that I am able only to
wield the pen."
"And the tongue!" added Napoleon. "But before leaving Paris I will
give you some wholesome advice; bridle both your tongue and your pen
a little better than you have done of late. I know that you will not
shrink from any treachery, and that you are the first rat that will
desert the sinking ship; but consider what you are doing. The ship
is not yet in danger, and, spreading her sails, she will move
proudly on her way."
"I hope she will have favorable winds and deep water," said
Talleyrand, bowing carelessly.
Napoleon looked at him with hatred and rage. These equivocal words--
the calm, cold tone in which they were uttered, disturbed the
emperor, and his blood boiled. "I believe in the sincerity of your
wish," he said, "although there are many who assert that you are a
traitor. I have given you fair warning; now prove to those who are
accusing you, that they are doing you injustice. No intrigues! You
will be closely watched. Beware!" Talleyrand bowed again, and his
face still retained its indifferent, smiling expression. "Listen now
to what I have to say," added Napoleon. "Prior to my departure I
desire to put an end to the dissensions with Rome and Spain. The
pope will leave Fontainebleau to-morrow and return to Rome. The
Infante of Spain, too, is at liberty to return to his country and
ascend the throne of his ancestors. Go to-morrow to Valencay. It was
you who conveyed Ferdinand thither; you must, therefore, open the
doors of his prison that you locked."
"Sire, I thank your majesty for the favor which you desire to confer
on me," said Talleyrand, gravely. "But it was not I who arrested the
sacred person of the legitimate King of Spain; it was not I who
dared to deprive him of his rights--nay, his very liberty. I acted
only as the obedient servant of my master, for your majesty's orders
made me the jailer of the Infante of Spain."
Napoleon approached Talleyrand, and his flaming eyes seemed to
pierce his soul. "What!" he shouted, in a loud voice. "You wish to
give yourself now the semblance of innocence in this affair? What!
You only executed my orders, and I made you the jailer of the
infante! Who was it, then, that urged me to do this? Who was it that
told me it was indispensable for me to crush the head of this
Spanish hydra? Who wished even to persuade me to more energetic
measures than imprisonment, in order to get rid of the royal family
of Spain? Who told me at that time that it would be wiser and better
for the welfare of Europe to cut the Gordian knot instead of untying
it? Do you remember who did all this?"
Talleyrand made no reply. His countenance still exhibiting the same
indifferent composure, he seemed scarcely to have heard the rebukes
of the emperor. His head slightly bent forward, his eyes half
closed, his lips compressed, he stood leaning with one hand on the
back of a chair, and with the other playing with his lace-frill.
This conduct greatly augmented the emperor's anger. "Will you reply
to me?" thundered Napoleon, stamping the floor, and so near to
Talleyrand's foot that the prince softly drew it back. "Will you
reply to me?"
Talleyrand looked at the emperor with immovable calmness. "Sire," he
said, slowly, "I do not know what your majesty means."
"You do not know what I mean?" echoed Napoleon. "If you do not,
listen!" Unable longer to overcome his anger, he advanced toward
Talleyrand, and the prince drew back. As if beside himself, the
emperor raised his clinched fists, and held them toward the prince's
face, moving through the large room, while Talleyrand, looking the
emperor full in the face, retreated, taking care to get nearer the
"I will tell you that you are a traitor," cried Napoleon, rushing
forward--"a traitor who would like to deny to-day what he did
yesterday, because he believes that another era is dawning, and that
he must betray his master before the cock crows for the first time.
You wish to deny that it was you who urged me to imprison the
Spanish prince? You are impudent enough to tell me that to my face?"
So saying, the emperor's clinched fists almost touched the cheek of
the prince, who was still receding, and now noticed with a feeling
of relief that he had reached the end of his dangerous promenade.
"Do you really dare deny your past in so barefaced a manner?" cried
Napoleon, still holding his fist so close to Talleyrand's cheek that
he almost felt it.
The prince softly put his hand behind his back, and fortunately
succeeded in seizing the door-knob. He opened the door with a hasty
jerk so wide that the gentlemen assembled in the anteroom enjoyed
the spectacle of Napoleon with uplifted fists threatening his
"Sire," said Talleyrand, in a calm voice, "I shall not dare say any
thing; for I know of no reply to what your majesty has said." The
prince pointed with a sarcastic smile to the clinched fists of the
emperor, and, without complying with the requirements of usual
ceremony, he hastened, more rapidly than his lame foot generally
permitted him to do, through the antechamber, saluting the gentlemen
as he passed with a wave of his hand and a smile. On stepping into
the outer room he accelerated his pace, gliding down-stairs as
softly as a cat, and hurrying across the hall to his carriage.
"Home," he said aloud, "at a gallop!" When the horses started,
Talleyrand leaned back, and said to himself, "This was our last
adieu! I shall take good care not to meet Napoleon again, provided
he is stupid enough to give me time for making my dispositions."
The emperor in the mean time, half ashamed of himself, reentered the
cabinet, and locked the door. Angry as a lion in his cage, he paced
to and fro with quick steps, when suddenly a gentle voice behind him
said, "Sire, pray be so gracious as to listen to me!"
The emperor turned with an angry gesture, and saw the Duke do Rovigo
standing near the open door of the antechamber. "Well, Savary, what
do yo want?" he asked in a faint voice. "Shut the door, and come
here. Speak! What do you want?"
"Sire, to implore you to be on your guard," said the duke. "Your
majesty has just had a violent scene with the Prince de Benevento."
"Who told you so?"
"Sire, we could distinctly hear your majesty's voice in the
antechamber; and, when the prince opened the door, the rest, like
myself, saw your threatening attitude. In an hour all Paris will
"Sire, the Prince de Benevento is not the man to forgot an insult,
and it will mortify him doubly that the world will hear of it."
"Let it mortify him!" cried Napoleon. "All of you have insinuated to
me that Talleyrand is a traitor, deserving punishment. I have
chastised him; that is all."
"Sire, the chastisement was either too severe, or not severe
enough," said Savary, gravely. "Had it been too severe, the generous
heart of your majesty would think of offering him some satisfaction;
but I know Talleyrand, and am firmly convinced of the truth of my
statement--I pronounce him a plotter of dangerous intrigues. Your
majesty therefore cannot chastise him too severely; and, having gone
so far, you must now go still farther."
"How so? What do you mean?"
"Sire, I mean that your majesty, instead of allowing the Prince de
Benevento to return home, ought to send him to Vincennes, and
recommend him to the special care of your friend General Daumesnil."
"Ah, I ought to have him arrested!" cried Napoleon, shrugging his
shoulders. "I ought to make a martyr out of a traitor!"
"No, sire, punish a traitor, neither more nor less! I know that
Talleyrand is one. He is in secret communication with the
legitimists, corresponding with the Bourbons, through other hands;
at his house, meetings of malcontents and secret royalists are held
every day; there the fires are kindled that will soon burst into
devouring energy, unless your majesty extinguish them in time. You
have disdained to regain Talleyrand by promises or honors. You have
insulted him, and he will revenge himself, if the power of doing so
be left him. Sire, I venture to remind your majesty of Machiavel,
'One ought never to make half an enemy.'"
"It is true," murmured Napoleon to himself, thoughtfully, "nothing
is more dangerous than such half enmities. Under the mask of
friendship they betray us the more surely."
"Hence, sire, pray tear this mask from Talleyrand's treacherous
face. Meet him as an open enemy. Then either his enmity will be
destroyed by terror, or he will betray his intentions."
"I lack proof to convict him," said Napoleon, in a hesitating and
"Well, yes," exclaimed Savary, "you have no proof, but there cannot
be the least doubt as to the intrigues which he is bold enough to
plot. The opportunity is too favorable that he should not endeavor
to embrace it. Sire, I should like to urge the example of the great
police-minister of Louis XV. Whenever M. de Sartines was on the eve
of a festival, or any great public ceremony, he sent for all
suspicious persons to whom his attention was particularly directed,
and said to them, 'I have no charge against you at present, but to-
morrow it may be different. Habit you know has power over you, and
you are unlikely to resist temptation. It would be incumbent upon me
to treat you with extreme rigor. For your sake, as well as mine, be
kind enough therefore to repair for a few days to a prison, the
choice of which I leave to yourselves.' The suspected persons
willingly complied with his request, and no arrests were made."
"You may be right; M. de Sartines was undoubtedly a sagacious
police-minister," said the emperor, musingly. "His precaution is
good for those who are afraid; but I am not! If I conquer my
enemies, I thereby trample in the dust this vile serpent, too, that
would sting me, and then would crawl as a worm at my feet. If I
yield to my enemies, let the structure which I have built fall upon
me. It will not matter then whether Talleyrand's hand, too, broke
off a piece of the wall or not; it would have fallen without him.
Not another word about it, Savary! My carriage--I will ride to my
On the evening of the same day, the Prince de Benevento left his
palace, entered a hackney-coach, and was driven to one of the remote
streets of the Faubourg St. Germain. He stopped in front of a small,
mean-looking house; and, when the coach had gone, the prince knocked
three times in a peculiar manner at the street door. It opened, and
he cautiously entered. No one was to be seen in the lighted hall;
but Talleyrand seemed perfectly familiar with the locality; and
crossing, without hesitation, a long passage, he ascended the
thickly-carpeted staircase. Here was another locked door, beside
which was a bell, which the prince rang three times. The door was
opened, and he walked through a long corridor. The passage widened,
and the prince was now in a brilliant hall, decorated with paintings
and gildings. The entrance through the small house was plainly but a
circuitous road to one of the palaces of the Faubourg St. Germain
where the royalists were plotting mischief. At the end of this hall
was a portiere, in front of which was a richly-liveried footman.
Talleyrand whispered a few words; the servant bowed and opened the
door. The prince now entered a saloon, furnished in the most
magnificent and tasteful style, where another liveried attendant was
waiting. "The Countess du Cayla?" asked the Prince de Benevento.
"She is in her cabinet. Shall I announce your highness?"
"It is unnecessary."
He quickly approached and knocked softly at the door of the cabinet.
A sweet voice bade him come in. Before him stood a young lady who
welcomed him with a charming smile, but with an air of ill-concealed
amazement. "Oh, the Prince de Benevento!" she exclaimed, merrily.
"You come to me to-day; but yesterday, when I went to you to bring
you greetings from our august master, King Louis XVIII., you feigned
not to understand whom I wished to speak of, and imposed silence."
"To-day I come to make amends for what I did yesterday, countess,"
said Talleyrand, with his graceful kindness. "Be good enough to
inform his majesty King Louis XVIII. that he may henceforth count
upon my services and my zealous devotedness. I shall assist him in
opening the road to Paris, and do all I can that his majesty may
soon be able to make his entrance into the capital of his kingdom."
"Then you have forsaken Napoleon openly and unreservedly!" exclaimed
the Countess du Cayla, the zealous agent of the Count de Lille, whom
at that time none but the royalists secretly called King Louis
XVIII. "You are, then, one of us, now and forever?"
"Yes, I consider myself a member of your party," said Talleyrand,
"and at heart I was always one of the most faithful and zealous
servants of the king. I can prove it, for it was I who led Napoleon,
step by step, frequently even in spite of his reluctance, to the
brink of ruin, on which he is standing now, and I am ready to give
him a last thrust to plunge him into the abyss. The emperor has been
guilty of great folly to-day. He ought to have had me arrested, but
he failed to do so. For this mistake I shall punish him by profiting
by my liberty in the service of his majesty the king. Let us
consider, therefore, countess, what we ought to do for the speedy
return of King Louis XVIII. to Paris."
"Yes, let us consider that," exclaimed the countess; "and if you
have no objection, prince, we shall allow the faithful friends of
his majesty to participate in the consultation. Upward of one
hundred friends are already assembled in the large saloon, and they
are doubtless astonished at my prolonged absence. Come, prince! You
will meet an old friend among your new friends."
"Who is it, countess?"
"The Duke d'Otranto!"
"What? Is he here? Has he dared to return?"
"He has, with the emperor's sister, the Princess Eliza Bacciochi;
and he is believed to be with her in the south of France, in order
to await the course of events. But he has secretly and in disguise
come to Paris, in order, like you, to offer his services to King
Louis. Late events seem to have converted him into a very zealous
royalist, and he openly admits his conversion. He boasts of having
said to the Princess Eliza: 'Madame, there is but one way of
salvation: the emperor must be killed on the spot.'" [Footnote:
"Memoires du Duo de Rovigo," vol. vi., p. 352.]
"In truth, he is right," said Talleyrand, smiling; "that would
speedily put an end to all embarrassments. Well, the emperor intends
to join the army; perhaps, a hostile bullet may become our ally, and
save us further trouble. If not, we shall speak of the matter
hereafter. Permit me, countess, to conduct you to the saloon."
Profound silence reigned in the palace of "Madame Mere." It was
noonday, and the male and female servants, as well as the ladies of
honor of the emperor's mother, had left the palace to take elsewhere
the dinner which Madame Letitia refused to give them, and for which
she paid them every month a ridiculously small sum; only the two
cooks, whom madame, notwithstanding her objections, had to keep, in
compliance with the express orders of the emperor, were in the
kitchen, but under the vigilant supervision of old Cordelia, the
faithful servant who had accompanied madame from Corsica to France,
and who, since then, notwithstanding all vicissitudes, had remained
her companion. Cordelia not only watched the cooks and gave them
what was needed for preparing the meals, but, as soon as the dishes
were handed to the servant who was to carry them to the table, she
hastened after him in order to prevent him from putting anything
aside. When Cordelia went with the servant, she opened, with an air
of self-importance, a cupboard fixed in the wall of the corridor,
near the dining-room, of which she alone possessed the key, and, as
soon as the servant returned with the fragments of the dinner, she
locked them in this cupboard with the wine and bread; only on
Sundays did the dinner-table of Madame Mere provide any thing for
To-day, however, was not Sunday, and hence Madame Cordelia herself
had placed a bottle, half filled with wine remaining from
yesterday's dinner, on the table, at which no one but Madame Letitia
was to seat herself, one of the ladies of honor, who always dined
with her, having been excused on account of indisposition. Madame
Letitia was therefore alone to-day; it was unnecessary for her to
submit to the restraint of etiquette, and she yielded with genuine
relief to an unwonted freedom. She was in her sitting-room, busily
engaged in taking from a large basket, the plebeian appearance of
which contrasted strangely with the magnificent Turkish carpet on
which it stood, the folded clothes which the washerwoman had just
delivered. The appearance of Madame Mere herself was also in some
contrast with the gorgeous surroundings amid which she moved.
The room was furnished with princely magnificence, the walls being
hung with heavy satin, and curtains of the same description, adorned
with gold embroideries, suspended on both sides of the high windows;
the richly-carved chairs and sofas were covered with purple velvet,
and the tables had marble slabs of Florentine workmanship. A
chandelier of rock-crystal hung in solid gold chains from the
ceiling; masterly paintings in broad, rich frames were on the silken
walls; Japan vases stood on gilded consoles, and numerous costly
ornaments added to the splendor of the aristocratic apartment.
Madame Letitia, standing beside the wash-basket, presented a marked
contrast with all this. Her tall figure was wrapped in a light white
muslin dress trimmed below with rosettes, and from which protruded a
rather large foot, covered with a cotton stocking, and encased in a
coarse, worn-out shoe. A sash of rose-colored silk, with faded
embroidery, encircled her waist; a lace shawl, crossed over her
bosom, and tied in a careless knot on her back, enveloped her neck
and full shoulders. Her hair, falling down in heavy gray ringlets,
was surmounted by a sort of turban, and a large bouquet of
artificial roses, fastened above her forehead, was her only
There was nothing therefore imposing in the appearance of the
emperor's mother; but still there was something noble about her, and
that was her face. It was of imperishable beauty; its outlines were
classic and of great dignity, and her eyes, which were of the deep,
incomparable color which she had bequeathed to her son the emperor,
possessed still the lustre of youth; her lips were fresh, and her
teeth faultless; not a single wrinkle furrowed her forehead, and her
finely-curved nose added to the imperious expression of her
features. The whole bearing of Madame Letitia indicated a lofty and
yet a gentle spirit. He who beheld only this form, with its strange
dress, could not refrain from smiling; but a glance at the beautiful
and dignified face filled the beholder with feelings of reverence
Madame Letitia, as we have said, was engaged in unpacking the
clothes just returned by the laundress. This was an occupation which
she never intrusted to any of her attendants, but in which she could
generally engage only secretly and at night, after she had dismissed
them; for the emperor made it incumbent on his mother's ladies of
honor to observe the strictest etiquette, and forbade her to occupy
herself with affairs improper for the mother of an emperor. Hence,
Madame Letitia was obliged, for the most part, to lead the life of
an aristocratic lady, embroider a little, ride out, have her
companions read to her, receive visitors, and pass the day in ennui.
Only at night, when the ladies left the palace--when etiquette
permitted Madame Letitia to retire with her maid Cordelia into her
bedroom--only then commenced her active life. At that time madame
conversed with her confidantes about her household affairs; she
decided what dishes should be prepared for the following day. and,
when all were asleep and she was sure of being watched by no one,
she proceeded with her faithful Cordelia to the cupboard of the
corridor to examine the remnants saved from dinner, and to decide
whether they might not be served up again.
On this day she was free from the restraints of etiquette. The lady
on service had been taken ill; and her second lady of honor, not
anticipating such an event, had obtained leave to take a trip to
Versailles. Madame Letitia, therefore, was at liberty to dispose of
her time as she pleased; she could fearlessly indulge in occupations
entirely contrary to etiquette, and she embraced this rare
opportunity in the course of the forenoon of examining the clothes,
which otherwise would have had this honor only after nightfall. But
the consequence was, that the usually serene forehead of Madame
Letitia grew dark, because she was by no means satisfied with the
performance of her laundress. Just as her busy hands took up another
piece from the basket and unfolded it, the door behind her opened.
She heard it, but did not turn, knowing very well that it was
Cordelia who entered her room, for no one else had the right of
taking such a liberty without being duly and formally announced.
"Cordelia," she exclaimed, "Cordelia, come and look at these towels
of the cook; all of them are already threadbare, and it is but a
year since I bought them. You ought to tell the cook very
emphatically that she should be more careful and not ruin my towels.
Do you hear, Cordelia?"
"Cordelia is not here," said a grave, angry voice behind her. Madame
Letitia started, and a deep blush suffused her cheeks. Close behind
her stood the emperor, fixing his stern eyes on his mother.
"The emperor!" she murmured, yielding to the first movement of
terror, and sinking back on her chair.
"Yes, the emperor!" said Napoleon, approaching and casting angry
glances on the clothes spread out on the table. "The emperor pays a
visit to his mother, and finds to his amazement that little respect
is felt here for his orders, and that it is deemed unnecessary to
comply with his wishes. Ah, madame, how can the emperor expect the
people to obey him everywhere and unconditionally, when his own
family set an example of disobedience, and openly show that the
emperor's orders are indifferent to them?"
"When have I shown indifference to them?" asked Madame Letitia,
casting a despairing glance on the basket.
"You show it at this very hour," said the emperor, sternly, "and
every thing proves that you are in the habit of disobeying my
wishes. I met with no footmen in the outer antechamber; I did not
see the chamberlain of your imperial highness in the adjoining
"It is noonday, and they have gone to dinner."
"Ah, it is true, your imperial highness directs your court to take
their meals at other houses," exclaimed the emperor, with a
sarcastic smile. "You are paying board-money to the chamberlain, the
valet de chambre, and the footman, so that it is unnecessary for you
to feed them. But where is your waiting-lady, madame? Did I not
issue orders that etiquette should be observed at my mother's
palace, and that your imperial highness should always have your lady
of honor with you?"
"The Duchess d'Abrantes was suddenly taken sick this morning, and
had to return to her house."
"In that case the second lady of honor ought to have taken her
"Yesterday I gave permission to the Countess de Castries to go to a
family-festival to be celebrated at Versailles, and she went early
"Every thing, then, is here just as it ought to be!" cried the
emperor, indignantly, thrusting the basket with his foot. "It is in
strict accordance with my wishes that your house is empty, that you
are so occupied, that you are alone, and that there was no one to
announce my visit?"
"But Cordelia certainly was there, and quite ready to attend to
"Yes, she was," cried the emperor, "and it is true she wished to do
me that honor. But I would not allow her, and preferred coming to
you without being announced. In truth, it would be too ludicrous if
the old Sibyl had served the emperor as mistress of ceremonies."
"She formerly did him far greater and more difficult service," said
Madame Letitia, in a firm and calm voice, for she had fully
recovered her presence of mind, and, rising from her easy-chair,
proudly bridled herself up and turned toward the emperor her face,
which now had resumed its expression of noble dignity and composure.
"When I first saw your countenance," she said, calmly, "I was
frightened, and greeted you in my terror as the emperor. Pardon me
for it! I ought to have remembered that when the emperor crosses the
threshold of this house, he ceases to be emperor, and is simply
Napoleon Bonaparte, who, as it behooves a son, comes to pay his
respects to his mother. Hence, I ought to have greeted you at once
as my son, and if I did not, it was because I was frightened, for I
am not accustomed to see anyone enter here without being announced.
Now, I have overcome my terror, I bid you welcome with all my heart,
my dear son!" She offered her hand to Napoleon so proudly that the
emperor, scarcely aware of what he did, pressed the small white hand
of his mother to his lips.
A gentle smile lit up the beautiful face of Madame Letitia. "I
forgive you also your vehement words, my son," she said; "and how
could I be angry with you for forgetting for a moment that you are
here only my son, when I myself remembered only that you are the
emperor? Let us, therefore, make peace again. Napoleon, my son, I
bid you welcome once more with all my heart."
"Even, my mother, if I should come to ask my dinner of you?"
inquired the emperor, smiling.
Madame Letitia was silent for a moment. "Even then!" she said, after
a pause. "My son will be content with what I am able to give, and he
will pardon an old woman, who attaches little value to the pleasures
of the table, if she has, on account of her health, but a very plain
"That is to say, we shall have the national dish of Corsica--rice
dumplings baked in oil!" exclaimed the emperor, laughing.
"So it is," said madame, merrily. "Ah, I see my son has not
forgotten his native Corsica; then he will also have a kind look for
poor old Cordelia, who, both in good and evil days, has been the
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