The Boy Life of Napoleon
Part 2 out of 3
So Napoleon, in disgrace, left the schoolroom, and pacing down his
favorite walk, the pleasant avenue of chestnut-trees that lined the
path from one of the schoolhouse doors, he sought his one retreat and
hermitage,--his loved and bravely defended garden.
That garden was a regular Napoleonic idea. I must tell you about it.
IN NAPOLEON'S GARDEN.
One of the rules of Brienne school was that each pupil should know
something about agriculture. To illustrate this study, each one of the
one hundred and fifty boys had a little garden-spot set aside for him to
cultivate and keep in order.
Some of the boys did this from choice, and because they loved to watch
things grow; but many of them were careless, and had no love for fruit
or flowers; so while some of the garden-plots were well kept, others
Napoleon was glad of this garden-plot, for it gave him something which
he could call his own. He cared for it faithfully; but he wished to make
it even more secluded. He remembered his dear grotto at Ajaccio, and
studied over a plan to make his garden-plot just such a real retreat.
But it was not large enough for this. He looked about him. The boys to
whom belonged the garden-plots on either side of him were careless and
neglectful. Their gardens received no attention; they were overgrown
with weeds; their hedges were full of gaps and holes.
"I will take them," said Napoleon; "what one cannot care for, another
So the boy went systematically to work to "annex" his neighbors'
kingdoms, and make from the three plots one ample retreat for himself.
He cut down the separating borders; he trimmed and trained and filled
in the stout outside hedge, until it completely surrounded his enlarged
domain; and, in the centre of the paths and flower-beds and hedges, he
put up a seat and a little summer-bower for his pleasure and protection.
It took some time to get this into shape, of course. When he had
completed it, and was beginning to enjoy it, the owners of the plots
he had confiscated awoke to a sense of their loss and the excellent
garden-spot this young Corsican had made for them. "For of course," they
said, "the garden-plots are ours. Straw Nose has improved them at his
own risk. What he has made we will keep for our own pleasure." So they
attempted to occupy their property; but with Napoleon there was force in
the old saying, "Possession is nine points of the law."
When the dispossessed boys demanded their property, he refused it; when
they spoke of their rights, he laughed at them; and when they attempted
to enter the garden by force, he fell upon them, drove them flying from
the field, and pommelled them so soundly that they judged discretion to
be the better part of valor, and made no further attempt to disturb the
The other boys did attempt it, however, simply to tease and annoy the
fiery Corsican. But it always resulted in their own damage; for Napoleon
become so attached to his garden citadel, that he would grow furiously
angry whenever he was disturbed. Rushing out, he would rout his
assailants completely; until at last it was understood that it was
safest to let him alone.
As he sought his garden on this day of disgrace to which I have
referred, he was full of bitter thoughts against the unfriendly boys and
the unsympathetic teachers amid whom his lot was cast. Like most boys,
he determined to do something that should free him from this tyranny;
then, like many boys, he decided to run away. Where or how he could go
he did not know; for he had no friends in France who would help him
along, and he had no money in his pocket to enable him to help himself.
"I will run away to sea," he said. For the sea, you know, is the first
thought of boys who determine to be runaways.
But Napoleon had a strong love for his family; he held high notions
in regard to the honor of the family name; above all else, he was
determined to do something that should help his family out of its sore
straits, and become one element of its support.
"If I should run away to sea," he thought, "I should bring discredit and
shame to my family: I should annoy my father, and seriously interfere
with my own plans. For, should I run away from Brienne, my father, who
has been at such pains to place me here, would be distressed, and
perhaps injured. No; I will brave it out. But I will write to my father,
asking him to take me away, and place me in some school where I shall
feel less like an outcast, where poverty would not be held as a crime,
and where I shall have more agreeable surroundings. So he went into his
garden fortress; he stretched himself at full length on his bench, and,
using the cover of his favorite book, Plutarch's "Lives," as a desk, he
wrote this letter to his father:--
[Illustration: _Napoleon writing to his father_.]
"MY FATHER,--If you or my protectors cannot give me the means of
sustaining myself more honorably in the house where I am, please summon
me home, and as soon as possible. I am tired of poverty, and of the
smiles of the insolent scholars who are superior to me only in their
fortune; for there is not one among them who feels one-hundredth part
of the noble sentiments by which I am animated. Must your son, sir,
continually be the butt of these boobies, who, vain of the luxuries
which they enjoy, insult me with their laughter at the privations I am
forced to endure? No, father; No! If fortune refuses to smile upon me,
take me from Brienne, and make me, if you will, a mechanic. From these
words you may judge of my despair. This letter, sir, please believe, is
not dictated by a vain desire to enjoy expensive amusements. I have no
such wish. I feel simply that it is necessary to show my companions that
I can procure them as well as they, if I wish to do so.
"Your respectful and affectionate son,
It took some time to write this letter; for, with Napoleon,
letter-writing was always a detested task.
When he had written and directed it, he felt better. We always do feel
relieved, you know, if we speak out or write down our feelings. Then he
read a chapter in Plutarch about Alexander the Great. This set him to
thinking and planning how he would win a battle if he should ever become
a leader and commander. He had a notion that he knew just what he would
do; and, to prove that his plan was good, he threw himself on the garden
walk, and gathering a lot of pebbles, he began to set them in array,
as if they were soldiers, and to make all the moves and marches and
counter-marches of a furious battle. He indicated the generals and chief
officers in this army of stone by the larger pebbles; and you may be
sure that the largest pebble of all represented the commander-in-chief
--and that was Napoleon himself.
As he marshalled his pebble army, under the lead of his generals and
officers, shifting some, advancing others, rearranging certain of them
in squares, and massing others as if to resist an attack, Napoleon was
conscious of a snickering sort of laugh from somewhere above him.
He looked up, and caught sight of a mocking face looking down at him
from the top of the hedge that bordered his garden.
"Ho, ho! Straw-nose!" the spy cried out; "and what is the baby doing?
Is it playing with the pretty pebbles? Is it making mud-pies? It was a
sweet child, so it was."
Napoleon flushed with anger, enraged both at the intrusion and the
"Pig! imbecile!" he cried; "get down from my hedge, or I will make you!"
"Ho! hear the infant!" came back the taunting answer. "He will make me--
this pretty Corsican baby who plays with pebbles. He will make me! That
is good! I laugh; I--Oh, help! help! the Corsican has killed me!"
[Illustration: "_'Get down from my hedge' cried Napoleon_"]
For a moment Napoleon thought indeed he had; for a moment, too, I am
afraid, he did not care. For so enraged was he at the boy's insults and
actions, that he had caught up his biggest pebble, which happened to
be Napoleon the general, and flung it at the intruder. It struck him
squarely between the eyes, and so stunned him that he fell back from the
hedge, and lay, first howling, and then terribly quiet, in the space
outside Napoleon's garden. At once there was a hue and cry; Napoleon was
summoned from his retreat, and dragged before his teacher.
"Ah, miserable one!" cried the master. "And is it you again? You have
perhaps killed your fellow-student. You will yet end in the Bastille, or
on the block. Take him away, until we see what shall be the result of
the last ill-doing of this wicked one."
"When one plays the spy and the bully one must expect retribution," said
Napoleon loftily. "This Bouquet is a rascal who will be more likely to
end in the Bastille than I, who did but defend my own."
This language, of course, did not help matters; so into the school-cage,
or punishment "lock-up" for the school-boy offenders, young Napoleon was
at once hurried, without an opportunity for explanation or protest.
FRIENDS AND FOES.
Napoleon, the prisoner in the school "lock-up," raged for a while like
a caged lion. Then he calmed down into the sulks, returned to his
determination to run away, concluded again that he would go to sea,
thought of his family and his duties once more, and at last concluded to
take his punishment without a word, though he knew that the boy who had
mocked him into anger deserved the punishment fully as much as did he
who had been the insulted one.
"But then," he reasoned, "he paid well for his taunts and teasing. I
wonder how he is now?"
His schoolmate, the English boy, Lawley, was on duty outside the
"lock-up" door, as a sort of monitor.
"Say, you Lawley!" Napoleon called out, "and how is that brute of a
"None the better for seeing you, little one," replied the good-natured
English boy, who had that love of fair play that is supposed to belong
to all Englishmen, and, therefore, felt that young Bonaparte was
suffering unjustly. Then he added:
"Bouquet will no doubt die, and then what will you do?"
"I will plead self-defence, my friend," said Napoleon. "Did not you tell
me that an English judge did once declare that a man's home was his
castle, which he was pledged to defend from invasion and assault. What
else is my garden? That brute of a Bouquet came spying about my castle,
and I did but defend myself. Is it not so?"
"It may be so to you, young Bonaparte," Lawley replied; "but not to your
judges. No, little one, you're in for it now; they'll make you smart for
this, whatever happens to old Bouquet."
For, like all English boys, this young Lawley mingled with his love of
justice an equal love for teasing: and like most of the boys at Brienne
school, he declared it to be "great fun to get the little Corsican mad."
"Then must you help me to get away from here," Napoleon declared. "Look
you, Lawley!" and the boy in great secrecy pulled a paper from his
pocket; "see now what I have written."
The English boy took the paper, ran his eye over it, and laughed as
loudly as he dared while on duty.
"My eye!" he said, "it's in English, and pretty fair English too. A
letter to the British Admiralty? Permission to enter the British navy as
a midshipman, eh? Well, you Bonaparte, you are a cool one. A Frenchman
in the British navy! Fancy now!"
"No, sir; a Corsican," replied Napoleon. "Why should it not be so? What
have I received but scorn and insult from these Frenchmen? You English
are more fair, and England is the friend of Corsica. Why should I not
become a midshipman in your navy? The only difficulty, I am afraid, will
be my religion."
"Your religion!" cried Lawley, with a laugh; "why, you young rascal! I
don't believe you have any religion at all."
"But my family have," Napoleon protested. "My mother's race, the
Ramolini" (and the boy rolled out the name as if that respectable farmer
family were dukes or emperors at least), "are very strict. I should
be disinherited if I showed any signs of becoming a heretic like you
English; and if I joined the British navy, would I not be compelled to
become a heretic, like you, Lawley?"
Lawley burst into such a loud laugh over the boy's religious scruples,
of which he had never before seen evidence, that he aroused one of the
teachers with his noise, and had to scud away, for fear of being caught,
and punished for neglect of duty.
But he kept Napoleon's letter of application. He must have sent it,
either in fun, or with some desire to befriend this badgered Corsican
boy; for to-day Napoleon's letter still exists in the crowded English
department, wherein are filed the archives of the British Admiralty.
At last, by the interest of certain of the friends whom the boy's
misfortune, if not his pluck, had made for him--such lads as Lawley, the
English boy, Bourrienne, Lauriston, and Father Patrault, the teacher of
mathematics,--Napoleon was liberated with a reprimand; while the boy who
had caused all the trouble went unpunished, save for the headache that
Napoleon's well-aimed stone had given him and the scar the blow had
But the boy could not long stay out of trouble. The next time it came
about, friendship, and not vindictiveness, was the cause.
Napoleon did not forget the good offices of his friends. Indeed,
Napoleon never forgot a benefit. His final fall from his great power
came, largely, because of the very men whom he had honored and enriched,
out of friendship or appreciation for services performed in his behalf.
One day young Lauriston, who was on duty as a sort of sentry in the
chestnut avenue that was one of Napoleon's favorite walks, left his
post, and joining Napoleon, begged him to help him in a problem in
mathematics which he had been too lazy or too stupid to solve.
"We will go to your garden, Straw-nose," said Lauriston; for both friend
and foe, after the manner of boys, used the nicknames that had by common
consent been fastened upon their schoolfellows.
"We will not, then," Napoleon returned. For, as you know, his garden was
sacred, and not even his friends were allowed entrance. "See, we will
go beyond, to the seat under the big chestnut. But are you not on duty
Lauriston snapped his fingers and shrugged his shoulders in contempt of
duty. "That for duty!" he exclaimed. "My duty now is to get out this pig
of a problem."
Under the big chestnut, which was another of Napoleon's favorite
resorts, the two boys put their heads together over Lauriston's problem,
and it was soon made clear to the lad; for Napoleon was always good at
But the time spent over the problem exhausted Lauriston's limit of
duty; and when the teacher came to relieve him at his post, the boy was
nowhere to be seen.
Now, at Brienne, military instruction was on military rules; and no
crime against military discipline is much greater than "absence without
So when, at last, young Lauriston was found in Napoleon's company, away
from his post of duty, and beneath the big chestnut-tree, the boy was in
a "pretty mess." But Napoleon never deserted his friends.
"Sir," he said to the teacher, "the fault is mine. I led young Lauriston
away to"--he stopped: it would scarcely help his friend's cause to say
that he had been helping him at his lessons; thus he continued, "to show
him my lists"--which was not an untruth, for he had shown the copy to
"Your lists, unruly one," said the teacher--one of Napoleon's chief
persecutors. "And what lists, pray?"
"My lists of the possessions of England, here in my copy-book," said
Napoleon, drawing the badly scrawled blank-book from his pocket.
He handed it to the teacher.
"Ah, what handwriting! It is vilely done, young Bonaparte. Even I can
scarcely read it," he said. "What is this? You would draw my portrait in
your copy-book? Wretched one! have you no manners? So! Possessions of
the English, is it? Would that the English possessed you! None then
would be happier than I." Thereupon the teacher read through the list,
making sarcastic comments on each entry, until he came to the end.
"'Cabo Corso in Guinea, a pretty strong fort on the sea side of Fort
Royal, a defence of sixteen cannons.' Bad spelling, worse writing, this!
and the last, 'Saint Helena, a little island;' and where might it be,
that Saint Helena, young Bonaparte?"
"In the South Atlantic, well off the African coast," replied Napoleon.
"Would you were there too, young malcontent!" said the teacher, "luring
boys from their duty. This is worse than treason. See! you shall to the
lockup once more. And you are no longer battalion captain."
Young Lauriston would have protested against this injustice, and
declared that he was at fault; but, like too many boys under similar
circumstances, he was afraid, and accepted anything that should save him
from punishment. Moreover, a glance at Napoleon's masterful eyes held
his tongue mute, and he saw his friend borne away to the punishment that
should have been his.
"'Tis Saint Helena's fault, and not yours, my Lauriston," Napoleon
whispered in his ear. "Bad writing is never forgiven."
So, as if in a prophecy of the future, Napoleon suffered unjust disgrace
in connection with Saint Helena's name; and to-day, in the splendid
exhibition-room of the historical library at Florence, jealously guarded
beneath a glass case, is Napoleon's blue paper copybook, the very last
line of which reads, by the strangest of all strange coincidences,
"Saint Helena, a little island."
The boy's willingness to suffer for his friends, and, even more than
this, the unjust taking away of his office in the school battalion, of
which he was quite proud, turned the tide in young Napoleon's favor, so
far as his schoolmates were concerned.
"Little Straw-nose is a plucky one, is he not, though?" the boys
declared; and when he came on the field again, they welcomed him with
cheers, and made him leader for the day in their sports.
They had great fun. Napoleon, full of his readings in Plutarch's
"Lives," divided the boys into two camps; one camp was to be the
Persians, the other the Greeks and Macedonians. Napoleon, of course, was
Alexander; and, like the great Macedonian, he wrought such havoc on the
Persians, that the school hall in which the battle was waged was filled
with the uproar, and all the teachers at Brienne rushed pell-mell to the
place, to quell what they were certain must be a school riot, led on by
"that miserable Corsican."
Day by day, however, "that miserable Corsican" made more and more
friends among his schoolfellows. For boys grow tired at last of plaguing
one who has both spirit and pluck; and these Napoleon certainly
possessed. He had come to the school "a little savage," so the polished
French boys declared.
"I was in Brienne," he said years afterwards, as he thought over his
school-days, "the poorest of all my schoolfellows. They always had money
in their pockets; I, never. I was proud, and was most careful that
nobody should perceive this. I could neither laugh nor amuse myself like
the others. I was not one of them. I could not be popular."
[Illustration: _Napoleon at the School
of Brienne (From the Painting by M R Dumas_)]
So he had to go through the same hard training that other poor boys at
boarding-school have undergone. He, however was petulant, high-spirited,
proud, and had something of that Corsican love of retaliation that has
made that rocky island famous for its feuds and family rows, or
"vendettas" as they are called.
He showed the boys at last that they could not impose upon him; that
he had plenty of spirit; that he was kind-hearted to those who showed
themselves friendly; and, above all, that he was fitted to lead them in
their sports, and could, in fact, help them toward having a jolly good
So, gradually, they began to side with and follow him. They left him in
undisturbed possession of his fortified garden, they asked his help over
hard points in mathematics, until at last he began even to grow a little
popular. And then, to crown all, came the great Snow-ball Fight.
THE GREAT SNOW-BALL FIGHT AT BRIENNE SCHOOL.
That Snow-ball Fight is now famous. It was in the winter of 1783.
Snow fell heavily; drifts piled up in the schoolyard at Brienne. The
schoolboys marvelled and exclaimed; for such a snow-fall was rare in
France. Then they began to shiver and grumble. They shivered at the
cold, to which they were not accustomed; they grumbled at the snow
which, by covering their playground, kept them from their usual
out-of-door sports, and held them for a time prisoners within the dark
Suddenly Napoleon had an inspiration.
"What is snow for, my brothers," he exclaimed, "if not to be used? Let
us use it. What say you to a snow fort and a siege? Who will join me?"
It was a novel idea; and, with all the boyish love for something new and
exciting, the boys of Brienne entered into the plan at once. "The fort,
the fort, young Straw-nose!" they cried. "Show us what to do! Let us
build it at once!"
With Napoleon as director, they straightway set to work. The boy had an
excellent head for such things; and his mathematical knowledge, together
with the preparatory study in fortifications he had already pursued in
the school, did him good service.
He was not satisfied with simply piling up mounds of snow. He built
regular works on a scientific plan. The snow "packed well," and the
boys worked like beavers. With spades and brooms and hands and homemade
wooden shovels, they built under Napoleon's directions a snow fort that
set all Brienne wondering and admiring. There were intrenchments and
redoubts, bastions and ramparts, and all the parts and divisions and
defences that make up a real fort.
It took some days to build this wonderful fort. For the boys could only
work in their hours of recess. But at last, when all was ready, Napoleon
divided the schoolboys into two unequal portions. The smaller number
was to hold the fort as defenders; the larger number was to form the
besieging force. At the head of the besiegers was Napoleon. Who was
captain of the fort I do not know. His name has not come down to us.
But the story of the Snow-ball Fight has. For days the battle raged. At
every recess hour the forces gathered for the exciting sport. The rule
was that when once the fort was captured, the besiegers were to become
its possessors, and were, in turn, to defend it from its late occupants,
who were now the attacking army, increased to the required number by
certain of the less skilful fighters in the successful army.
Napoleon was in his element. He was an impetuous leader; but he was
skilful too; he never lost his head.
[Illustration: "_As leader of the storming-party
he would direct the attack_"]
Again and again, as leader of the storming-party, he would direct
the attack; and at just the right moment, in the face of a shower
of snow-balls, he would dash from his post of observation, head the
assaulting army, and scaling the walls with the fire of victory in his
eye and the shout of encouragement on his lips, would lead his soldiers
over the ramparts, and with a last dash drive the defeated
defenders out from the fortification.
The snow held for nearly ten days; the fight kept up as long as the snow
walls, often repaired and strengthened, would hold together.
The thaw, that relentless enemy of all snow sports, came to the
attack at last, and gradually dismantled the fortifications; snow for
ammunition grew thin and poor, and gravel became more and more a part of
the snow-ball manufacture.
Napoleon tried to prevent this, for he knew the danger from such
missiles. But often, in the heat of battle, his commands were
disregarded. One boy especially--the same Bouquet who had scaled his
hedge and brought him into trouble--was careless or vindictive in this
On the last day of the snow, Napoleon saw young Bouquet packing
snow-balls with dirt and gravel, and commanded him to stop. But Bouquet
only flung out a hot "I won't!" at the commander, and launched his
gravel snow-ball against the decaying fort.
Napoleon was just about to head the grand assault. "To the rear with
you! to the rear, Bouquet! You are disqualified!" he cried.
But Bouquet was insubordinate. He did not intend to be cheated out of
his fun by any orders that "Straw-nose" should give him. Instead of
obeying his commander, he sang out a contemptuous refusal, and dashed
ahead, as if to supplant his general in the post of leader of the
Napoleon had no patience with disobedience. The insubordination and
insolence of Bouquet angered him; and darting forward, he collared his
rebellious subordinate, and flung him backward down the slushy rampart.
"Imbecile!" he cried. "Learn to obey! Drag him to the rear, Lauriston."
The fort was carried. But "General Thaw" was too strong for the young
soldiers; and that night, a rain setting in, finished the destruction of
the now historic snow-fort of Brienne School.
Bouquet, smarting under what he considered the disgrace that had been
put upon him before his playmates, accosted Napoleon that night in the
hall. "Bah, then, smarty Straw-nose!" he cried; "you are a beast. How
dare you lay hands on me, a Frenchman?"
"Because you would not obey orders," Napoleon replied. "Was not I in
"You!" sneered Bouquet; "and who are you to command? A runaway Corsican,
a brigand, and the son of a brigand, like all Corsicans."
"My father is not a brigand," returned Napoleon. "He is a
gentleman--which you are not."
"I am no gentleman, say you?" cried the enraged French boy. "Why, young
Straw-nose, my ancestors were gentlemen under great King Louis when
yours were tending sheep on your Corsican hills. My father is an officer
of France; yours is"--
"Well, sir, and what is mine?" said Napoleon defiantly.
"Yours," Bouquet laughed with a mocking and cruel sneer, "yours is but a
lackey, a beggar in livery, a miserable tip-staff!"
Napoleon flung himself at the insulter of his father in a fury; but he
was caught back by those standing by, and saved from the disgrace of
again breaking the rules by fighting in the school-hall.
All night, however, he brooded over Bouquet's taunting words, and the
desire for revenge grew hot within him.
The boy had said his father was no gentleman. No gentleman, indeed!
Bouquet should see that he knew how gentlemen should act. He would not
fall upon him, and beat him as he deserved. He would conduct himself
as all gentlemen did. He would challenge to a duel the insulter of his
This was the custom. The refuge of all gentlemen who felt themselves
insulted, disgraced, or persecuted in those days, was to seek vengeance
in a personal encounter with deadly weapons, called a duel. It is a
foolish and savage way of seeking redress; but even today it is resorted
to by those who feel themselves ill treated by their "equals." So
Napoleon felt that he was doing the only wise and gentlemanly thing
But, even then duelling was against the law. It was punished when men
were caught at it; for schoolboys, it was considered an unheard-of
[Illustration: _Napoleon sends his Challenge_.]
Still, though against the law, all men felt that it was the only way
to salve their wounded honor. Napoleon felt it would be the only manly
course open to him; so, early next morning, he despatched his friend
Bourrienne with a note to Bouquet. That note was a "cartel," or
challenge. It demanded that Mr. Bouquet should meet Mr. Bonaparte at
such time and place as their seconds might select, there to fight with
swords until the insult that Mr. Bouquet had put upon Mr. Bonaparte
should be wiped out in blood.
There was ferocity for you! But it was the fashion.
"Mr. Bouquet," however, had no desire to meet the fiery young Corsican
at swords' points. So, instead of meeting his adversary, he sneaked off
to one of the teachers, who, as we know, most disliked Napoleon, and
complained that the Corsican, Bonaparte, was seeking his life, and meant
to kill him.
At once Napoleon was summoned before the indignant instructor.
"So, sir!" cried the teacher, "is this the way you seek to become a
gentleman and officer of your king? You would murder a schoolmate; you
would force him to a duel! No denial, sir; no explanation. Is this so,
or not so?"
Once more Napoleon saw that words or remonstrances would be in vain.
"It is so," he replied. "Can we, then, never work out your Corsican
brutality?" said the teacher. "Go, sir! you are to be imprisoned until
fitting sentence for your crime can be considered."
And once again poor Napoleon went into the school lock-up, while
Bouquet, who was the most at fault, went free.
There was almost a rebellion in school over the imprisonment of the
successful general who had so bravely fought the battles of the
Napoleon passed a day in the lock-up; then he was again summoned before
the teacher who had thus punished him.
"You are an incorrigible, young Bonaparte," said the teacher.
"Imprisonment can never cure you. Through it, too, you go free from your
studies and tasks. I have considered the proper punishment. It is this:
you are to put on to-day the penitent's woollen gown; you are to kneel
during dinner-time at the door of the dining-room, where all may see
your disgrace and take warning therefrom; you are to eat your dinner on
your knees. Thereafter, in presence of your schoolmates assembled in the
dining-room, you are to apologize to Mr. Bouquet, and ask pardon from
me, as representing the school, for thus breaking the laws and acting as
a bully and a murderer. Go, sir, to your room, and assume the penitent's
Napoleon, as I have told you, was a high-spirited boy, and keenly felt
disgrace. This sentence was as humiliating and mortifying as anything
that could be put upon him. Rebel at it as he might, he knew that he
would be forced to do it; and, distressed beyond measure at thought of
what he must go through, he sought his room, and flung himself on his
bed in an agony of tears. He actually had what in these days we call a
fit of hysterics.
While thus "broken up," his room door opened. Supposing that the
teacher, or one of the monitors, had come to prepare him for the
dreadful sentence, he refused to move.
Then a voice, that certainly was not the one he expected, called to him.
He raised a flushed and tearful face from the bed, and met the inquiring
eyes of his father's old friend, and the "protector" of the Bonaparte
family, General Marbeuf, formerly the French commander in Corsica.
"Why, Napoleon, boy! what does all this mean?" inquired the general.
"Have you been in mischief? What is the trouble?"
The visit came as a climax to a most exciting event. In it Napoleon saw
escape from the disgrace he so feared, and the injustice against which
he so rebelled. With a joyful shout he flung himself impulsively at his
friend's feet, clasped his knees, and begged for his protection. The
boy, you see, was still unnerved and over-wrought, and was not as cool
or self-possessed as usual.
Gradually, however, he calmed down, and told General Marbeuf the whole
The general was indignant at the sentence. But he laughed heartily at
the idea of this fourteen-year-old boy challenging another to a duel.
"Why, what a fire-eater it is!" he cried. "But you had provocation,
boy. This Bouquet is a sneak, and your teacher is a tyrant. But we will
change it all; see, now! I will seek out the principal. I will explain
it all. He shall see it rightly, and you shall not be thus disgraced.
No, sir! not if I, General Marbeuf, intrench myself alone with you
behind what is left of your slushy snow-fort yonder, and fight all
Brienne school in your behalf--teachers and all. So cheer up, lad! we
will make it right."
RECOMMENDED FOR PROMOTION.
General Marbeuf did make it all right. Bouquet was called to account;
the teacher who had so often made it unpleasant for Napoleon was sharply
reprimanded; and the principal, having his attention drawn to the
persistent persecution of this boy from Corsica, consented to his
release from imprisonment, while sternly lecturing him on the sin of
The general also chimed in with the principal's lecture; although I am
afraid, being a soldier, he was more in sympathy with Napoleon than he
should have been.
"A bad business this duelling, my son," he said, "a bad business--though
I must say this rascal Bouquet deserved a good beating for his
insolence. But a beating is hardly the thing between gentlemen."
"And you have fought a duel, my General?" inquired Napoleon. "Have I?
why, scores" the bluff soldier admitted.
[Illustration: "_'And you have fought a duel, my General'? inquired
"Let me see--I have fought one--two--four--why, when I was scarcely more
than your age, my friend, I"--and then the general suddenly stopped.
For he saw how his reminiscences would grow into admissions that would
scarcely be a correction.
So, with a hem and a haw, General Marbeuf wisely changed the subject,
and began to inquire into the reasons for Napoleon's unpleasant
experiences at Brienne. He speedily discovered that the cause lay in the
pocket. As you have already learned from Napoleon's letter to his father
and his own later reflections, the boy's poverty made him dissatisfied
with his lot, while his companions, heedless and blundering as boys are
apt to be in such matters, did not try to smooth over the difference
between their plenty and this boy's need, but rather increased his
bitterness by their thoughtless speech and action.
"Brains do not lie in the pocket, Napoleon, boy," he said. "You have as
much intelligence as any of your fellows, you should not be so touchy
because you do not happen to have their spending-money. You must learn
to be more charitable. Do not take offence so easily; remember that
all boys admire ability, and look kindly on good fellowship in a
comrade, whether he have much or little in his purse. Learn to be more
companionable; accept things as they come; and if you are ever hard
pushed for money,--call on me. I'll see you through."
Any boy will take a lecture with so agreeable an ending, and Napoleon
did not resent his good friend's advice.
The general also introduced the boy to the great lady who lived in the
big château near by--the Lady of Brienne. She interested herself in the
lad's doings, gave him many a "tip," invited him to her home, and, by
kindly words and motherly deeds, brought the boy out of his nervousness
and solitude into something more like good manners and gentlemanly ways.
So the school--life at Brienne went on more agreeably as the months
passed by. Napoleon studied hard. He made good progress in mathematics
and history, though he disliked the languages, and never wrote a good
hand. He was always an "old boy" for his years; and, in time, many of
his teachers became interested in him, and even grew fond of him.
But he always kept his family in mind. He was continually planning how
he might help his mother, and give his brothers and sisters a chance to
get an education.
He even treated Joseph as if he himself were the elder, and Joseph the
younger brother. There is a letter in existence which he wrote to his
father in 1783, in which he tries to arrange for Joseph's future, as
that rather heavy boy had decided not to become a priest.
"Joseph," so Napoleon wrote from Brienne to his father, "can come here
to school. The principal says he can be received here; and Father
Patrault, the teacher of mathematics, says he will be glad to undertake
Joseph's instruction, and that, if he will work, we may both of us go
together for our artillery examination. Never mind me. I can get along.
But you must do something for Joseph. Good-by, my dear father. I hope
you will decide to send Joseph here to Brienne, rather than to Metz. It
will be a pleasure for us to be together; and, as Joseph knows nothing
of mathematics, if you send him to Metz, he will have to begin with the
little children; and that, I know, will disgust him. I hope, therefore,
that before the end of October I shall embrace Joseph."
That is a nice, brotherly letter, is it not? It does not sound like the
boy who was always ready to quarrel and fight with brother Joseph,
nor does it seem to be from a sulky, disagreeable boy. This spirit of
looking out for his family was one of the traits of Napoleon's character
that was noticeable alike in the boy, the soldier, the commander, and
Indeed, the very spirit of self-denial in which this letter, an extract
from which you have just read, was written, was not only characteristic
of this remarkable man of whose boy-life this story tells, but it led in
his school-days at Brienne to a change that affected his whole life.
One day there came to the school the Chevalier de Keralio, inspector of
military schools--a sort of committee man as you would say in America.
It was the duty of the inspector to look into the record, and arrange
for the promotions, of "the king's wards," as the boys and girls were
called who were educated at the expense of the state. He was, in some
way, attracted to this sober, silent, and sad-eyed little Corsican, and
inquired into his history. He rather liked the boy's appearance, odd as
it was. He took quite a fancy to the young Napoleon, talked with him,
questioned him, and outlined to the teachers at Brienne what he thought
should be the future course of the lad.
Charles Bonaparte had some thought of placing Napoleon in the naval
service of France. The boy told Inspector Keralio this; but the
chevalier declared that he intended to recommend the boy for promotion
to the military school at Paris, and then have him assigned for service
at Toulon. This was the nearest port to Corsica, and would place
Napoleon nearer to his much-loved family home.
The teachers objected to this.
"There are other boys in the school much better fitted for such an honor
than this young Bonaparte," they said.
But the inspector thought otherwise.
"I know boys," he said. "I know what I am doing."
"But he is not ready yet," said the principal. "To do as you advise
would be to change all the rules set down for promotion."
"Well, what if it does?" replied the inspector.
"But why should you favor this boy and his family? They are Corsicans."
"I do not care anything about his family," the inspector declared. "If I
put aside the rules in this case, it is not to do the Bonaparte family a
favor. I do not know them. But I have studied this boy. It is because of
him that I propose this action. I see a spark in him that cannot be too
early cultivated. It shall not be extinguished if I can help it. This
young Bonaparte will make his mark if he has a chance, and I shall give
him that chance."
So before he left Brienne the inspector wrote this strong recommendation
of the boy whom he desired to befriend and put forward:--
"Monsieur de Bonaparte (Napoleon), born August 15, 1769. Height,
four feet, ten inches. Of good constitution, excellent health, mild
disposition. Has finished the fourth form: is straightforward and
obliging. His conduct has been most satisfactory. He has been
distinguished for his application to mathematics; is fairly acquainted
with history and geography; is weak in all accomplishments,--drawing,
dancing, music, and the like. This boy would make an excellent sailor.
He deserves promotion to the school in Paris."
Napoleon had gained a powerful friend. His favor would put the boy well
forward in his career. He felt quite elated. But, unfortunately for
the plans proposed, the Inspector de Keralio died suddenly, before his
recommendation could he acted upon; and with so many other applications
that were backed up by influence, for boys with better opportunities,
Napoleon's desired assignment to the naval service did not receive
action by the government, and he was passed by in favor of less able but
better befriended boys.
So, when the examination--days came, the new Inspector, who came in
place of the lad's friend Chevalier de Keralio, decided that young
Napoleon Bonaparte was fitted for the artillery service; and at the age
of fifteen the boy left the school at Brienne, and was ordered to enter
upon a higher course of study at the military school at Paris. Nothing
more was said about preparing him for the naval service, for which
Inspector de Keralio had recommended him. And in the certificate
which he carried from Brienne to Paris, Napoleon was described as a
"masterful, impetuous and headstrong boy." Evidently the opinion of
Napoleon's teachers was adopted, rather than the prophetic report of his
dead friend, Inspector de Keralio.
In after-years Napoleon forgot all the worries and troubles of his
school-days at Brienne, and remembered only the pleasant times there.
Once, when he was a man, he heard some bells chiming musically. He
stopped, listened, and said to his old schoolmate, whom he had made his
"Ah, Bourrienne! that reminds me of my first years at Brienne; we were
happy there, were we not?"
To the chaplain who had prepared him for that most important occasion in
the lives of all French children, his first communion, and who had taken
a fatherly interest in him, Napoleon, when powerful and great, wrote:
"I can never forget that to your virtuous example and wise lessons I am
indebted for the great fortune that has come to me. Without religion, no
happiness, no future, is possible. My dear friend, remember me in your
Even his old adversary, Bouquet, whose mean ways had brought Napoleon
into so many scrapes, was not forgotten. Bouquet was a bad fellow. Years
after, he was caught doing some great mischief; and Napoleon, as his
superior officer, would have been obliged to punish him. But when he
heard that Bouquet had escaped from prison, he really felt relieved.
"Bouquet was my old schoolfellow at Brienne," he said. "I am glad I did
not have to punish him."
Whenever he had the chance, after he had risen to honor and power, he
would do his old schoolmates and teachers at Brienne school a service.
Bourrienne and Lauriston were both advanced and honored. To one teacher
he gave the post of palace librarian; another was appointed the head of
the School of Fine Arts; Father Patrault, who had been his friend and
had taught him mathematics, was made one of his secretaries; other
teachers he helped with pensions or positions; and even the porter of
the school was made porter of one of the palaces when Napoleon became an
At last, as I have told you, when the opportunity came, Napoleon said
good-by to Brienne school. He left before his time was up, in order to
give his younger brother, Lucien, the chance for a scholarship in
the school; he put aside with regret, but without complaining, the
wished-for assignment to the naval service. He decided to become an
artillery officer; and on October 17, in the year 1784, he started for
Paris to enter upon his "king's scholarship" in the military school. He
had been a schoolboy at Brienne five years and a half. He was now a boy
NAPOLEON GOES TO PARIS.
Some boys at fifteen are older than other boys at fifteen. Napoleon, as
I have told you, was always an "old boy." So when, on that October day
in 1784, he arrived at the capital to enter upon the king's scholarship
which he had received, he was no longer a child, even though under-sized
and somewhat "spindling."
Here, however, as at Autun and Brienne, his appearance was against him,
and created an unfavorable impression.
As he got out of the Brienne coach, he ran almost into the arms of one
of the boys he had known at Corsica--young Demetrius Compeno.
"What, Demetrius! you here?" he cried, a smile of pleasure at sight of a
familiar face lighting up his sallow features.
"And why not, young Bonaparte," Demetrius laughed back in reply. "You
did not suppose I was going to let you fall right into the lion's mouth,
undefended. Why, you are so fresh and green looking, the beast would
take you for Corsican grass, and eat you at once."
Although Napoleon was inclined to resent this pleasantry, he was too
delighted to meet an old friend to say much. And, the truth is, the
great city did surprise him. For, even though he had been five years
at Brienne school, he was still a country boy, and walked the streets
gaping and staring at everything he saw, like a boy at his first circus.
"Why, boy! if I were not with you," said Demetrius, with the superior
air of the boy who knows city ways, "I don't know what snare you would
not fall into. While you were staring at the City Hall, or the Soldier's
Home, or that big statue of King Henry on the bridge, one of those
street-boys who is laughing at you yonder would have picked your
pockets, snatched your satchel, or perhaps (who knows?) cut your throat.
Oh, yes! they do such things in Paris. You must learn to look out for
"I think I am big enough for that," cried Napoleon.
"You big! why, you are but a child, young Bonaparte!" Demetrius
exclaimed. "But we'll make a man of you at the Paris school."
The boys at the Paris Military School--the West Point of France in those
days--proceeded at once to try to "make a man" of Napoleon in the same
way that all boys seem ever ready to do; as, indeed, the boys at Autun
and Brienne had done--by poking fun at the new cadet, mimicking
his manners, ridiculing his appearance, and making life generally
But Napoleon had learned one thing by his bitter experiences at the
other schools he had attended,--he had learned to control his temper,
and take things as they came, with less of revenge and sullenness.
The kindly criticism of his friends, General Marbeuf and Inspector de
Keralio, had left their effect upon him; and besides the companionship
of his fellow-countryman, Demetrius Comneno, he had the good fortune to
make his first really boy-friend in his roommate at the military school.
This was young Alexander des Mazes, a fine lad of his own age, "a noble
by birth and nature," who conceived a liking for Napoleon at once, and
was his friend for many years.
In Paris, too, he had the advantage of the friendship of a fine Corsican
family,--the Permous, relatives of Demetrius, and old acquaintances of
the Bonaparte family. His sister Eliza was also at school at the girls'
academy of St. Cyr; and Napoleon visited her frequently, and talked over
home matters and other mutual interests. For Napoleon had long since
forgiven and forgotten the trouble into which Eliza had once plunged him
because of her love for the fruit of their uncle, the canon; and the
brother and sister could now laugh over that childish experience, while
Eliza dearly loved Napoleon, in spite of her selfishness, and even
because of his so uncomplainingly bearing her punishment.
Napoleon, though "an odd child," as people called him, was wide awake
and critical. He observed everything, and thought much. He was not long
in noticing one thing: that was, the recklessness, the extravagance, and
the indifference of the boys who were being educated at the king's
expense in the king's military school.
Most of these boys were of high birth, accustomed to having their own
way, and with extravagant tastes and notions. Napoleon spoke of this
frequently to the friends he made; but both Demetrius and Alexander
laughed at him, and said, "Well, what of it? Would you have us all digs
and hermits--like you? Here is the chance to have a good time, to live
high, and to let the king pay for it--the king or our fathers. Why
shouldn't we do as we please?"
"But, Demetrius!" Napoleon protested, "that is not the way to make
soldiers. Do you think those fellows will be good officers, if they
never know what it is to deny themselves, or to do the work that is
their duty, but which they leave for servants to do?" For Napoleon, you
see, had many of the saving ways of his practical mother, and rebelled
at the unconcern of these luxury-loving and careless boys, who were
supposed to be learning the discipline of soldiers in their Paris
Demetrius only snapped his fingers, as Alexander shrugged his shoulders,
in contempt of what they considered Napoleon's countrified way.
But all this show of pomp and luxury really troubled this boy, who had
long before learned the value of money and the need of self-denial.
Indeed, it worried him so much that one day he sat down and wrote a
letter which he intended to send as a protest to the minister of war,
actually lecturing that high and mighty officer, and "giving him points"
on the proper way to educate boys in the French military schools.
Fortunately for him, he sent the letter first to his old instructor, the
principal of the Brienne school. And the instructor--even though he,
perhaps, agreed with this boy-critic--saw how foolish and hurtful for
Napoleon's interest it would be to send such a surprising letter; and
he promptly suppressed it. But the letter still exists; and a curious
epistle it is for a fifteen-year-old boy to write. Here is a part of it:
"The king's scholars," so Napoleon wrote to the minister, "could only
learn in this school, in place of qualities of the heart, feelings of
vanity and self-satisfaction to such an extent, that, on returning to
their own homes, they would be far from sharing gladly in the simple
comfort of their families, and would perhaps blush for their fathers
and mothers, and despise their modest country surroundings. Instead of
maintaining a large staff of servants for these pupils, and giving them
every day meals of several courses, and keeping up an expensive stable
full of horses and grooms, would it not be better, Mr. Minister--of
course without interrupting their studies--to compel them to look after
their own wants themselves? That is to say, without compelling them
to really do their own cooking, would it not be wise to have them eat
soldiers' bread or something no better, to accustom them to beat and
brush their own clothes, to clean their own boots and shoes, and
do other things equally useful and self-helpful? If they were thus
accustomed to a sober life, and to be particular about their appearance,
they would become healthier and stronger; they could support with
courage the hardships of war, and inspire with respect and blind
devotion the soldiers who would have to serve under their orders." How
do you think the grand minister of war would have felt to get such a
lecturing on discipline from a boy at school? and what do you imagine
the boys would have done had they heard that one of their schoolmates
had written a letter, suggesting that they be deprived of their
pleasures and pamperings? It was lucky for young Napoleon that the
principal at Brienne got hold of the letter before it was forwarded to
the war minister.
But then, as you have heard before, Napoleon was an odd boy. He thought
so himself when he grew to be a man, and he laughed at the recollection
of his manners. He laid it all, however, to the responsibility he had
felt, even from the day when he was a little fellow, because of the
needs of his hard-pushed family in Corsica. "All these cares," he once
said, looking back over his boy-life, "spoiled my early years; they
influenced my temper, and made me grave before my time."
Even if he did not send that critical and most unwise letter for a boy
of his standing, the insight he gained into the expensive ways of the
pupils at the military school had its effect upon him; and the very
criticisms of that remarkable letter were used for their original
purpose when Napoleon came to authority and power. For, when he was
emperor of France, he gave to the minister who had the military
schools in charge this order: "No pupil is to cost the state more than
twenty-five cents a day. These pupils are sons either of soldiers or
of working-men; it is absolutely contrary to my intention to give them
habits of life which can only be hurtful to them."
If Napoleon was so critical as to the ways and style of his schoolmates,
he certainly set the lesson in economy for himself that he suggested for
To be sure, he had no money to waste or to spend; but he might have been
hail-fellow with the other boys, and joined in their luxuries, had he
but been willing to borrow, as did the rest of them. But Napoleon
had always a horror of debt. He had acquired this from his mother's
teachings and his father's spendthrift ways. Even as a boy, however,
his will was so strong, his power of self-denial was so great, that
he continued in what he considered the path of duty, unmindful of
the boyish charges of "mean fellow" and "pauper" that the spoiled
spendthrifts of the school had no hesitation in casting at him.
At last, however, these culminated almost in an open row; and Napoleon
found himself called upon either to explain his position, or become both
unpopular and an "outcast" because of what his schoolmates considered
his stinginess and parsimony.
It was this way--But I had better tell you the story in a new chapter.
A TROUBLE OVER POCKET MONEY.
It was the twelfth of June in the year 1785 that a group of scholars was
standing, during the recess hour, in a corner of the military school of
They were all boys; but they assumed the manners and gave themselves the
airs of princes of the blood.
"Gentlemen," said one who seemed to be most prominent in the group, "I
have called you together on a most important matter. Tomorrow is old
Bauer's birthday. I propose that, as is our custom, we take some notice
of it. What do you say to giving him a little supper, in the name of the
"A good idea; a capital idea, d'Hebonville!" exclaimed most of the boys,
in ready acquiescence.
"A gluttonous idea, I call it; and an expensive one," said one upon the
outer edge of the circle, in a sharply critical tone. "Ah. our little
joker has a word to say," exclaimed one of the boys sarcastically,
drawing back, and pushing the speaker to the front; "hear him."
"Oh, now, Napoleon! don't object," young Alexander des Mazes said. "Did
you not hear why d'Hebonville proposed the supper? It is to honor the
German teacher's birthday."
"Oh, he heard it fast enough, des Mazes," rejoined d'Hebonville. "That
is what makes him so cross."
"Why do you say that?" Napoleon demanded.
"You do not like the plan because it is to honor old Bauer; for you do
not like him," d'Hebonville replied. "If, now, it were a supper to the
history teacher, you would agree, I am sure. For de l'Equille praises
you on 'the profundity of your reflections and the sagacity of your
judgment.' Oh, I've read his notes; or you would agree if it were
Domaisen, the rhetoric teacher, who is much impressed--those are
his very words, are they not, gentlemen?--with 'your powers of
generalization, which' he says, are even 'as granite heated at a
volcano.' But as it is only dear old Bauer"--and d'Hebonville shrugged
his shoulders significantly. "Well, and what about 'dear old Bauer,' as
you call him?" cried Napoleon; "finish, sir; finish, I say."
"I will tell you what Father Bauer says of you, Napoleon," said des
Mazes laughingly, as he laid his arm familiarly about Napoleon's neck;
"he says he does not think much of you, because you make no progress in
your German; and as old Bauer thinks the world moves only for Germans,
he has nothing good to say of one who makes no mark in his dear
language. 'Ach!' says old Bauer, 'your Napoleon Bonaparte will never be
anything but a fool. He knows no German.'"
The boys laughed loudly at des Mazes's mimicry of the German teacher's
manner and speech. But Napoleon smiled with the air of one who felt
himself superior to the teacher of German.
"Now, I should say," said Philip Mabille, "that here is the very reason
why Napoleon should not refuse to join us. It will be--what are the
words?--'heaping coals of fire' on old Bauer's head."
"That might be so," Napoleon agreed, in a better humor. "But why give
him a feast? Let us--I'll tell you--let us give him a spectacle. A
"In which you should be a general, I suppose, as you were in that
snow--ball fight at Brienne, of which we have heard once or twice," said
"And why not?" asked Napoleon haughtily.
"Or the death of Caesar, like the tableaux we arranged at Brienne,"
suggested Demetrius Comneno enthusiastically.
"In which your great Napoleon played Brutus, I suppose," said
d'Hebonville. "No, no; the birthday of old Bauer is not a solemn
occasion to demand a battle or a spectacle; something much more simple
will do for a professor of German. Let us make it a good collation.
There are fifteen of us in his class. If each one of us contributes five
dollars, we could get up quite a feast."
"Oh, see here, d'Hebonville!" cried Mabille; "think a little. Five
dollars is a good deal for some of us. Not all of the fifteen can
afford so much. I don't believe I could; nor you, Napoleon, could you?"
Napoleon's face grew sober, but he said nothing.
"Oh, well! let only those pay then who can," said d'Hebonville.
"Who, then, will take part in your feast?" demanded Napoleon.
"Why, all of us, of course," replied d'Hebonville.
"At the feast, or in giving the money," queried Mabille.
"At the feast, to be sure," d'Hebonville answered.
"Come, now; we should have no feeling in this matter," cried des Mazes.
"We will decide for you, Mabille."
"Old Bauer must not dream that there are any of his class who do not
share in the matter," said Comneno. "That would be showing a preference,
and a preference is never fair."
"And do you wish, then," said Mabille, "that old Bauer should be under
obligation to me, for example, who can pay little or nothing toward the
"Certainly; to you as much as to the richest among us," said
"Bah!" cried Napoleon. "That would imply a sentiment of gratitude toward
my masters; and I, for one, have none to this Professor Bauer."
"Some one to see Napoleon Bonaparte," said a porter of the school,
appearing at the door of the schoolroom. "He waits in the parlor."
Without a word Napoleon left his school-fellows; but they looked after
him with faces expressive of disapproval or disappointment.
The disagreeable impression produced by the discussion in which he had
been taking part still remained with Napoleon as he entered the parlor
to meet his visitor. It was the friend of his family, Monsieur de
Napoleon, indeed, was scarce able to greet his visitor pleasantly. But
Monsieur de Permon, without appearing to notice the boy's ill-humor,
greeted him pleasantly, and said,--
"Madame de Permon and I are on our way to the Academy of St. Cyr, to see
your sister Eliza. Would you not like to go with us, Napoleon? I have
permission for you to be absent"
Napoleon brightened at this invitation, and gladly accepted it. The two
proceeded to the carriage, in which Madame Permon was awaiting them; and
the three were soon on the road to the school of St. Cyr, in which, as I
have told you, Eliza Bonaparte was a scholar.
They were ushered into the parlor, and Eliza was summoned. She soon
appeared; but she entered the room slowly and disconsolately; her eyes
were red with crying. Eliza was evidently in trouble.
"Why, Eliza, my dear child, what is the matter?" Madame Permon
exclaimed, drawing the girl toward her. "You have been crying. Have they
been scolding you here?"
"No, madame," Eliza replied in a low tone.
"Are you afraid they may? Have you trouble with your lessons?" persisted
With the same dejected air, Eliza answered as before, "No, madame."
"But what, then, is the matter, my dear?" cried Madame Permon; "such red
eyes mean much crying."
Eliza was silent.
"Come, Eliza!" Napoleon demanded with an elder brother's authority;
"speak! answer Madame here What is the matter?"
But even to her brother, Eliza made no reply.
[Illustration: _"'Come, Eliza! What is the matter?' demanded
Then Madame Permon, as tenderly as if she had been the girl's mother,
led her aside; and finding a remote seat in a corner, she drew the child
into her lap.
"Eliza," she said with gracious kindliness, "I must know why you are in
sorrow. Think of me as your mother, dear; as one who must act in her
place until you return to her. Speak to me as to your mother. Let me
have your love and confidence. Tell me, my child, what troubles you."
The tender solicitude of her mother's friend quite vanquished Eliza's
stubbornness. Her tears burst out afresh; and between the sobs she
"You know, Madame, that Lucie de Montluc leaves the school in eight
"I did not know it, Eliza," Madame Permon said, keeping back a smile;
"but if that so overcomes you, then am I sorry too."
"Oh, no, Madame'" Eliza said, just a bit indignant at being
misunderstood; "it is not her leaving that makes me cry; but, you see,
on the day she goes away her class will give her a good--by supper."
"What! and you are not invited?" exclaimed Madame Permon. "Ah, that is
the trouble, Madame," cried Eliza, the tears gathering again. "I am
"And yet you cry?"
"It is because each girl is to contribute towards the supper; and I,
Madame, can give nothing. My allowance is gone."
"So!" Madame Permon whispered, glad to have at last reached the real
cause of the trouble, "that is the matter. And you have nothing left?"
"Only a dollar, Madame," replied Eliza. "But if I give that, I shall
have no more money; and my allowance does not come to me for six weeks.
Indeed, what I have is not enough for my needs until the six weeks are
over. Am I not miserable?"
Napoleon, who had gradually drawn nearer the corner, thrust his hand
into his pocket as he heard Eliza's complaint. But he drew it out as
quickly. His pocket was empty. Mortified and angry, he stamped his foot
in despair. But no one noticed this pantomime.
"How much, my dear, is necessary to quiet this great sorrow?" Madame
Permon asked of Eliza with a smile. Eliza looked into her good friend's
"Oh, Madame! it is an immense sum," she replied,
"Let me know the worst," Madame Permon said, with affected distress.
"How much is it?"
"Two dollars!" confessed Eliza in despair.
"Two dollars!" exclaimed Madame Permon; "what extravagant ladies we are
at St. Cyr!" Then she hugged Eliza to her; and, as she did so, she slyly
slipped a five-dollar piece into the girl's hand. "Hush! take it, and
say nothing," she said; for, above all, she did not wish her action to
be seen by Napoleon. For Madame Permon well knew the sensitive pride of
the Bonaparte children.
Soon after they left the school; and when once they were within the
carriage Napoleon's ill-humor burst forth, in spite of himself.
"Was ever anything more humiliating?" he cried; "was ever anything more
unjust? See how it is with that poor child. The rich and poor are
placed together, and the poor must suffer or be pensioners. Is it not
abominable, the way these schools of St. Cyr and the Paris military are
run? Two dollars for a scholars' picnic in a place where no child is
supposed to have money. It is enormous!"
His friends made no reply to this boyish outburst; but, when the
military school was reached, Monsieur Permon followed Napoleon into the
"Napoleon," he said, "at your age one is not furious against the world
unless he has particular reason."
"And are not my sister's tears a reason, sir, when I cannot remedy their
cause?" Napoleon answered with emotion.
"But when I came here for you," said Monsieur Permon, "you, too,
appeared angry, as if some trouble had occurred between yourself and
"I am unfortunate, sir, not to be able to conceal my feelings," said
Napoleon; "but it does seem as if the boys here delighted in making me
feel my poverty. They live in an insolent luxury; and whoever cannot
imitate them,"--here Napoleon dashed a hand to his forehead,--"Oh, it is
to die of humiliation!"
"At your age, my Napoleon, one submits and blames no one," said Monsieur
Permon, smiling, in spite of himself, at the boy's desperation.
"At my age' yes, sir," Napoleon rejoined, as if keeping back some
great thought. "But later--ah, if, some day, I should ever be master!
However"--and the French shrug that is so eloquent completed the
"However,"--Monsieur Permon took up his words--"while waiting, one may
now and then find a friend. And you take your part here with the boys,
do you not?"
Napoleon was silent; and Monsieur Permon, remembering the trouble that
had weighed Eliza down, concluded also that some such trial might be a
part of Napoleon's school-life.
"Let me help you, my boy," he said.
At this unexpected proposition Napoleon flushed deeply; then the red
tinge paled into the sallow one again, and he responded, "I thank you,
sir, but I do not need it."
"Napoleon," said Monsieur Permon, "your mother is my wife's dearest
friend; your father has long been my good comrade. Is it right for
sons to refuse the love of their fathers, or for boys to reject the
friendships of their elders? Pride is excellent; but even pride may
sometimes be pernicious. It is pride that sets a barrier between you and
your companions. Do not permit it. Regard friendship as of more value
than self-consideration; and, for my sake, let me help you to join in
these occasions that may mean so much to you in the way of friendship."
Thus deftly did good Monseiur Permon smooth over the bitterness that
inequality in pocket allowances so often stirs between those who have
little and those who have much.
Napoleon fixed upon his father's friend one of his piercing looks, and
taking his proffered money, said:--
"I accept it, sir, as if it came from my father, as you wish me to
consider it. But if it came as a loan, I could not receive it. My people
have too many charges already; and I ought not to increase them by
expenses which, as is often the case here, are put upon me by the folly
of my schoolfellows."
The Permons proved good friends to the Bonaparte children; and it
was to their house at Montpellier that, in the spring of 1785, Charles
Bonaparte was brought to die.
For ill health and misfortune proved too much for this disheartened
Corsican gentleman; and, before his boys were grown to manhood, he gave
up his unsuccessful struggle for place and fortune. He had worked hard
to do his best for his boys and girls; he had done much that the world
considers unmanly; he had changed and shifted, sought favors from the
great and rich, and taken service that he neither loved nor approved.
But he had done all this that his children might be advanced in the
world; and though he died in debt, leaving his family almost penniless,
still he had spent himself in their behalf; and his children loved and
honored his memory, and never forgot the struggles their father had
made in their behalf. In fact, much of his spirit of family devotion
descended to his famous son Napoleon, the schoolboy.
Napoleon returned to his studies after his father's death, poorer than
ever in pocket, and greatly distressed over his mother's condition.
For Charles Bonaparte's death had taken away from the family its main
support. The income of their uncle, the canon, was hardly sufficient
for the family's needs. Joseph gave up his endeavors, and returned
to Corsica to help his mother. But Napoleon remained at the military
school; for his future depended upon his completing his studies, and
securing a position in the army.
How much the boy had his mother in his thoughts, you may judge from this
letter which he wrote her a month after his father's death:
MY DEAR MOTHER,--Now that time has begun to soften the first transports
of my sorrow. I hasten to express to you the gratitude I feel for all
the kindness you have always displayed toward us. Console yourself, dear
mother, circumstances require that you should. We will redouble our care
and our gratitude, happy if, by our obedience, we can make up to you in
the smallest degree for the inestimable loss of a cherished husband I
finish, dear mother,--my grief compels it--by praying you to calm yours.
My health is perfect, and my daily prayer is that Heaven may grant you
the same. Convey my respects to my Aunt Gertrude, to Nurse Saveria, and
to my Aunt Fesch.
Your very humble and affectionate son,
At the same time he wrote to his kind old uncle, the Canon Lucien,
saying: "It would be useless to tell you how deeply I have felt the blow
that has just fallen upon us. We have lost a father; and God alone knows
what a father, and what were his attachment and devotion to us. Alas!
everything taught us to look to him as the support of our youth. But the
will of God is unalterable. He alone can console us."
These letters from a boy of sixteen would scarcely give one the idea
that Napoleon was the selfish and sullen youth that his enemies are
forever picturing; they rather show him as he was,--quiet, reserved,
reticent, but with a heart that could feel for others, and a sympathy
that strove to lessen, for the mother he loved, the burden of sorrow and
That the death of his father, and the "hard times" that came upon the
Bonapartes through the loss of their chief bread-winner, did sober the
boy Napoleon, and made him even more retiring and reserved, there is no
doubt. His old friend, General Marbeuf, was no longer in condition to
help him; and, indeed, Napoleon's pride would not permit him to receive
aid from friends, even when it was forced upon him.
"I am too poor to run into debt," he declared.
So he became again a hermit, as in the early days at Brienne school. He
applied himself to his studies, read much, and longed for the day when
he should be transferred from the school to the army.
The day came sooner than even he expected. He had scarcely been a
year at the Paris school when he was ordered to appear for his final
examination. Whether it was because his teachers pitied his poverty, and
wished him to have a chance for himself, or whether because, as some
would have us believe, they wished to be rid of a scholar who criticised
their methods, and was fault-finding, unsocial, and "exasperating," it
is at least certain that the boy took his examinations, and passed them
satisfactorily, standing number forty in a class of fifty-eight.
"You are a lucky boy, my Napoleon," said his roommate, Alexander des
Mazes; "see! you are ahead of me. I am number fifty-six; pretty near to
the foot that, eh?"
"Near enough, Alexander," Napoleon replied; "but I love you fifty-six
times better than any of the other boys; and what would you have, my
friend? Are not we two of the six selected for the artillery? That is
some compensation. Now let us apply for an appointment in the same
They did so, and secured each a lieutenancy in an artillery regiment.
This, however, was not hard to secure; for the artillery service was
considered the hardest in the army; and the lazy young nobles and
gentlemen of the Paris military school had no desire for real work.
The certificate given to Napoleon upon his graduation read thus:--"This
young man is reserved and studious, he prefers study to any amusement,
and enjoys reading the best authors, applies himself earnestly to the
abstract sciences, cares little for anything else. He is silent, and
loves solitude. He is capricious, haughty, and excessively egotisical,
talks little, but is quick and energetic in his replies, prompt and
severe in his repartees, has great pride and ambition, aspiring to any
thing. The young man is worthy of patronage."
And upon the margin of the report one of the examining officers wrote this
"A Corsican by character and by birth. If favored by circumstances, this
young man will rise high."
Napoleon's school-life was over. On the first of September, 1785, he
received the papers appointing him second-lieutenant in the artillery
regiment, named La Fère (or "the sword"), and was ordered to report at
the garrison at Valence. His room-mate and friend, Alexander des Mazes,
was appointed to the same regiment.
It was a proud day for the boy of sixteen. At last his school-life was
at an end. He was to go into the world as a man and a soldier.
I am afraid he did not look very much like a man, even if he felt that
he was one. But he put on his uniform of lieutenant, and in high spirits
set off to visit his friends, the Permons.
They lived in a house on one of the river streets--Monsieur and Madame
Permon, and their two daughters, Cecilia and Laura.
Now, both these daughters were little girls, and as ready to see the
funny side of things as little girls usually are.
So when Lieutenant Napoleon Bonaparte, aged sixteen, came into the room,
proud of his new uniform, and feeling that he looked very smart, Laura
glanced at Cecilia, and Cecilia smiled at Laura, and then both girls
began to laugh.
Madam Permon glanced at them reprovingly, while welcoming the young
lieutenant with pleasant words.
But the boy felt that the girls were laughing at him, and he turned to
look at himself in the mirror to see what was wrong.
Nothing was wrong. It was simply Napoleon; but Napoleon just then
was not a handsome boy. Longhaired, large-headed, sallow-faced,
stiff-stocked, and feeling very new in his new uniform (which could not
be very gorgeous, however, because the boy's pocket would not admit of
any extras in the way of adornment on decoration), he was, I expect,
rather a pinched-looking, queer-looking boy; and, moreover, his boots
were so big, and his legs were so thin, that the legs appeared lost in
As he glanced at himself in the mirror, the girls giggled again, and
their mother said,--
"Silly ones, why do you laugh? Is our new uniform so marvellous a change
that you do not recognize Lieutenant Bonaparte?"
"Lieutenant Bonaparte, mamma!" cried fun-loving Laura. "No, no! not
that. See! is not Napoleon for all the world like--like Lieutenant
Whereupon they laughed yet more merrily, and Napoleon laughed with them.
"My boots are big, indeed," he said; "too big, perhaps; but I hope to
grow into them. How was it with Puss-in-Boots, girls? He filled his well
at last, did he not? You will be sorry you laughed at me, some day, when
I march into your house, a big, fat general. Come, let us go and see
Eliza. They may go with me, eh, Madame?"
"Yes; go with the lieutenant, children," said Madame Permon.
[Illustration: _"Like--like Lieutenant Puss-in-Boots!"_]
So they all went to call on Eliza, at the school of St. Cyr, and you may
be sure that she admired her brother, the new lieutenant, boots and all.
And as they came home, Napoleon took the little girls into a toy-store,
and bought for them a toy-carriage, in which he placed a doll dressed as
"It is the carriage of the Marquis of Carabas, my children," he said, as
they went to the Permons' house by the river. "And when I am at Valence,
you will look at this, and think again of your friend, Lieutenant
But between the date of his commission and his orders to join his
regiment at Valence a whole month passed, in which time Napoleon's funds
ran very low. Indeed, he was so completely penniless, that, when the
orders did come, Napoleon had nothing; and his friend Alexander had just
enough to get them both to Lyons.
"What shall we do? I have nothing left, Napoleon," said Alexander; "and
Valence is still miles away."
"We can walk, Alexander," said Napoleon.
"But one must eat, my friend," Alexander replied ruefully. For boys of
sixteen have good appetites, and do not like to go hungry.
"True, one must eat," said Napoleon. "Ah, I have it! We will call upon
Monsieur Barlet." Now, Monsieur Barlet was a friend of the Bonapartes,
and had once lived in Corsica. So both boys hunted him up, and Napoleon
told their story.
"Well, my valiant soldiers of the king," laughed Monsieur Barlet, "what
is the best way out? Come; fall back on your training at the military
school. What line of conduct, my Napoleon, would you adopt, if you were
besieged in a fortress and were destitute of provisions?"
"My faith, sir," answered Napoleon promptly, "so long as there were any
provisions in the enemy's camp I would never go hungry."
Monsieur Barlet laughed heartily.
"By which you mean," he said, "that I am the enemy's camp, and you
propose to forage on me for provisions, eh? Good, very good, that! See,
then, I surrender. Accept, most noble warriors, a tribute from the
And with that he gave the boys a little money, and a letter of
introduction to his friend at Valence, the Abbe (or Reverend) Saint
But Lyons is a pleasant city, where there is much to see and plenty
to do. So, when the boys left Lyons, they had spent most of Monsieur
Barlet's "tip"; and, to keep the balance for future use, they fell
back on their original intention, and walked all the way from Lyons to
Thus it was that Napoleon joined his regiment; and on the fifth of
November 1785, he and Alexander, foot-sore, but full of boyish spirits,
entered the old garrison-town of Valence in Southern France, and were
warmly welcomed by Alexander's older brother, Captain Gabriel des Mazes,
of the La Fère regiment, who at once took the boys in charge, and
introduced them to their new life as soldiers of the garrison of
It does not take boys and girls long to find out that realization is not
always equal to anticipation. Especially is this so with thoughtful,
sober-minded boys like the young Napoleon.
At first, on his arrival at Valence, as lieutenant in his regiment, he
set out to have a good time.
He took lodging with an old maid who let out rooms to young officers,
in a house on Grand Street, in the town of Valence. Her name was
Mademoiselle Bon. She kept a restaurant and billiard--room; and
Napoleon's room was on the first floor, fronting the street, and next to
the noisy billiard--room. This was not a particularly favorable place
for a boy to pursue his studies; and at first Napoleon seem disposed to
make the most of what boys would call his "freedom." He went to balls
and parties; became a "great talker;" took dancing lessons of Professor
Dautre, and tried to become what is called a "society man."
But it suited neither his tastes nor his desires, and made a large hole
in his small pay as lieutenant. Indeed, after paying for his board and
lodging, he had left only about seven dollars a month to spend for
clothes and "fun." So he soon tired of this attempt to keep up
appearances on a little money. He took to his books again, studying
philosophy, geography, history, and mathematics. He thought he might
make a living by his pen, and concluded to become an author. So he began
writing a history of his native island--Corsica.
He even tried a novel, but boys of seventeen are not very well fitted
for real literary work, and his first attempts were but poor affairs.
His reading in history and geography drew his attention to Asia; and he
always had a boyish dream of what he should like to attempt and achieve
in the half-fabled land of India, where he believed great success and
vast riches were to be secured by an ambitious young man, who had
knowledge of military affairs, and the taste for leadership. At last he
was ordered away on active service; first to suppress what was known as
the "Two-cent Rebellion" in Lyons, and after that to the town of Douay
If was while there that bad news came to him from Corsica. His family
was again in trouble. His mother had tried silkworm raising, and failed;
his uncle the canon was very sick; his good friend and the patron of the
family, General Marbeuf, was dead; his brothers were unsuccessful in
getting positions or employment; and something must be done to help
matters in the big bare house in Ajaccio.
Worried over the news, Napoleon tried to get leave of absence, so as to
go to Corsica and see what he could do. But this favor was not granted
him. His anxiety made him low-spirited; this brought on an attack of
fever. The leave of absence was granted him because he was sick; and
early in 1787 he went home to Corsica.
He had been absent from home for eight years. At once he tried to set
matters on a better footing. He fixed up the little house at Melilli,
which had belonged to his mother's father; tried to help his mother in
her attempts at mulberry-growing for the silkworms; saw that his brother
Joseph was enabled to go into the oil-trade; brightened up his uncle the
canon with his political discussions and a correspondence with a famous
French physician as to the cure for his uncle's gout; and finally, being
recalled to his regiment, went back to Paris, and joined his regiment at
While in garrison at this place, he lodged with Professor Lombard, a
teacher of mathematics, whom he sometimes assisted in his classes. He
worked hard, kept out of debt, ate little, and was "poor, but proud." He
gained the esteem of his superiors; for in a letter to Joey Fesch, who
was now a priest, he wrote:
"The general here thinks very well of me; so much so, that he has
ordered me to construct a polygon,--works for which great calculations
are necessary,--and I am hard at work at the head of two hundred men.
This unheard-of mark of favor has somewhat irritated the captains
against me; they declare it is insulting to them that a lieutenant
should be intrusted with so important a work, and that, when more than
thirty men are employed, one of them should not have been sent out
also. My comrades also have shown some jealousy, but it will pass.
What troubles me is my health, which does not seem to me very good."
Indeed, it was not very good. He was just at the age when a young fellow
needs all the good food, healthful exercise, and restful sleep that are
possible; and these Napoleon did not permit himself. The doctor of his
regiment told him he must take better care of himself; but that he did
not, we know from this scrap from a letter to his mother:--
"I have no resources but work. I dress but once in eight days, for the
Sunday parade. I sleep but little since my illness; it is incredible. I
go to bed at ten o'clock, and get up at four in the morning. I take but
one meal a day, at three o'clock. But that is good for my health."
The boy probably added that last line to keep his mother from feeling
anxious. But it was not true. Such a life for a growing boy is very
bad for his health. Again Napoleon fell ill, obtained six months' sick
leave, and went again to Corsica. This visit was a much longer one than
the first. In fact, he overstayed his leave; got into trouble with the
authorities because of this; smoothed it over; regained his health;
wrote and worked; mixed himself up in Corsican politics; became a fiery
young advocate of liberty; and at last, after a year's absence from
France, returned to join his regiment at Auxonne, taking with him his
young brother, Louis, whom he had agreed to support and educate.
It was quite a burden for this young man of twenty to assume. But
Napoleon undertook it cheerfully, he was glad to be able to do anything
that should lighten his mother's burdens.
The brothers did not have a particularly pleasant home at Auxonne. They
lived in a bare room in the regimental barracks, "Number 16," up
one flight of stairs. It was wretchedly furnished. It contained an
uncurtained bed, a table, two chairs, and an old wooden box, which the
boys used, both as bureau and bookcase. Louis slept on a little cot-bed
near his brother; and how they lived on sixty cents a day--paying out of
that for food, lodging, clothes, and books--is one of the mysteries.
[Illustration: "_'I dreamed that I was a king,' said Louis_"]
In fact, they nearly starved themselves. Napoleon made the broth;
brushed and mended their clothes; sometimes had only dry bread for a
meal; and, as Napoleon said later, "bolted the door on his poverty."
That is to say, they went nowhere, and saw no one.
It was hard on the young lieutenant; it was perhaps even harder on the
One morning, after Napoleon had dressed himself and was preparing their
poor breakfast, he knocked on the floor with his cane to arouse his
brother and call him to breakfast and studies.
Little Louis awoke so slowly that Napoleon was obliged to arouse him a
"Come, come, my Louis," he cried; "what is the matter this morning? It
seems to me that you are very lazy."
"Oh, brother!" answered the half-awaked child, "I was having such a
"And what did you dream?" asked Napoleon.
The little Louis sat upright on the edge of his cot. "I dreamed that I
was a king," he replied.
"A king! Well, well!" exclaimed his brother, laughing. Then he glanced
around at the bare and poverty-stricken room. "And what, then, your
Majesty, was I, your brother,--an emperor perhaps?" Then he shrugged his
shoulders, and pinched his brother's ear.
"Well, kings and emperors must eat and work," he said, "the same as
lieutenants and schoolboys. Come, then, King Louis; some broth, and then
to your duty."
This was Napoleon at twenty,--a poverty-pinched, self-sacrificing,
hard-working boy, a man before his time; knowing very little of fun and
comfort, and very much of toil and trouble.
He was an ill-proportioned young man, not yet having outgrown the
"spindling" appearance of his boyhood, but even then he possessed
certain of the remarkable features familiar to every boy and girl who
has studied the portraits of Napoleon the emperor. His head was large
and finely shaped, with a wide forehead, large mouth, and straight nose,
a projecting chin, and large, steel-blue eyes, that were full of fire
and power. His face was sallow, his hair brown and stringy, his cheeks
lean from not too much over-feeding. His body and lees were thin and
small, but his chest was broad, and his neck short and thick. His step
was firm and steady, with nothing of the "wobbly" gait we often see in
people who are not well-proportioned. His character was undoubtedly that
of a young man who had the desire to get ahead faster than his
opportunities would permit. Solitude had made him uncommunicative and
secretive; anxiety and privation had made him self-helpful and self-
reliant; lack of sympathy had made him calculating; but doing for others
had made him kind-hearted and generous. His reading and study had made
him ambitious; his knowledge that when he knew a thing he really knew
it, made him masterful and desirous of leadership. He had few of the
vices, and sowed but a small crop of what is called the "wild oats" of
youth; he abhorred debt, and scarcely ever owed a penny, even when in
sorest straits; and, while not a bright nor a great scholar, what he had
learned he was able to store away in his brain, to be drawn upon for use
when, in later years, this knowledge could be used to advantage.
[Illustration: _Lieutenant Napoleon Bonaparte Aged 22 (from the
portrait by Jean Baptiste Greuse, in the Museum at
Such at twenty years of age was Napoleon Bonaparte. Such he remained
through the years of his young manhood, meeting all sorts of
discouragements, facing the hardest poverty, becoming disgusted with
many things that occurred in those changing days, when liberty was
replacing tyranny, and the lesson of free America was being read and
committed by the world.
He saw the turmoil and terrors of the French Revolution--that season of
blood, when a long-suffering people struck a blow at tyranny, murdered
their king, and tried to build on the ruins of an overturned kingdom an
You will understand all this better when you come to read the history of
France, and see through how many noble but mistaken efforts that fair
European land struggled from tyranny to freedom. In these efforts
Napoleon had a share; and it was his boyhood of privation and his youth
of discouragement that made him a man of purpose, of persistence and
endeavor, raising him step by step, in the days when men needed leaders
but found none, until this one finally proved himself a leader indeed,
and, grasping the reins of command, advanced steadily from the barracks
to a throne. All this is history; it is the story of the development and
progress of the most remarkable man of modern times. You can read the
story in countless books; for now, after Napoleon has been dead for over
seventy years, the world is learning to sift the truth from all the
chaff of falsehood and fable that so long surrounded him; it is
endeavoring to place this marvellous leader of men in the place he
should rightly occupy--that of a great man, led by ambition and swayed
by selfishness, but moved also by a desire to do noble things for the
nation that he had raised to greatness, and the men who looked to him
for guidance and direction.
Our story of his boyhood ends here. For years after he came to young
manhood fate seemed against him, and privation held him down. But he
broke loose from all entanglements; he surmounted all obstacles; he
conquered all adverse circumstances. He rose to power by his own
abilities. He led the armies of France to marvellous victories. He
became the idol of his soldiers, the hero of the people, the chief man
in the nation, the controlling power in Europe; and on the second of
December, in the year 1804, he was crowned in the great church of
Notre Dame, in Paris, Emperor of the French. "Straw-nose," the
poverty-stricken little Corsican, had become the foremost man in all the
But through all his marvellous career he never forgot his family. The
same love and devotion that he bestowed upon them when a poor boy and
a struggling lieutenant, he lavished upon them as general, consul,
and emperor. Indeed, to them was due, to a certain extent, his later
misfortunes, and his fall from power. The more generous he became, the
more selfish did his brothers and sisters grow. For their interests he
neglected his own safety and the welfare of France. His unselfishness
was, indeed, his greatest selfishness; and the boy who uncomplainingly
took his sister's punishment for the theft of the basket of fruit,
stood also as the scapegoat for all the mistakes and stupidities and
wrong-doings that were due to his self-seeking brothers and sisters, the
Bonaparte children of Ajaccio in Corsica.
BY THE WALL OF THE SOLDIERS' HOME.
The Emperor Napoleon had long been dead. A wasting disease and English
indignities had worn his life away upon his prison-rock of St. Helena;
and, after many years, his body had been brought back to France, and
placed beneath a mighty monument in the splendid Home for Invalid
Soldiers, in the beautiful city of Paris which he had loved so much, and
where his days of greatness and power had been spent.
There, beneath the dome, surrounded by all the life and brilliancy of
the great city, he rests. His last wish has been gratified--the wish he
expressed in the will he wrote on his prison-rock, so many miles away:
"I desire that my ashes shall rest by the banks of the Seine, in the
midst of the French people I have loved so well."
That Home for Invalid Soldiers, in which now stands the tomb of
Napoleon, has long been, as its name implies, a home for the maimed and
aged veterans who have fought in the armies of France, and received as
their portion, wounds, illness,--and glory.
The sun shines brightly upon the walls of the great home; and the
war-worn veterans dearly love to bask in its life-giving rays, or to
rest in the shade of its towering walls.
It was on a certain morning, many years ago, that I who write these
lines--Eugenie Foa, friend to all the boys and girls who love to read of
glorious and heroic deeds--was resting upon one of the seats near to the
shade-giving walls of the Soldiers' Home. As I sat there, several of
the old soldiers placed themselves on the adjoining seat. There were a
half-dozen of them--all veterans, grizzled and gray, and ranging from
the young veteran of fifty to the patriarch of ninety years.
As is always the case with these scarred old fellows, their talk
speedily turned upon the feats at arms at which they had assisted. And
this dialogue was so enlivening, so picturesque, so full of the hero-
spirit that lingers ever about the walls of that noble building which is
a hero's resting-place, that I gladly listened to their talk, and try
now to repeat it to you.
"But those Egyptians whom Father Nonesuch, here, helped to conquer," one
old fellow said,--"ah, they were great story-tellers! I have read of
some of them in a mightily fine book. It was called the 'Tales of the
Thousand and One Nights.'"
"Bah!" cried the eldest of the group. "Bah! I say. Your 'Thousand and
One Nights,' your fairy stories, all the wonders of nature,"--here he
waved his trembling old hand excitedly,--"all these are but as nothing
compared with what I have seen."
"Hear him!" exclaimed the young fellow of fifty; "hear old Father
Nonesuch, will you, comrades? He thinks, because he has seen the
republic, the consulate, the empire, the hundred days, the kingdom"--
"And is not that enough, youngster?" interrupted the old veteran they
called Father Nonesuch.
 Perhaps the correct rendering of this nickname would be
"The Remnant," and it applies to the battered veteran even
better than "Nonesuch."]
He certainly merited the nickname given him by his comrades; for I saw,
by glancing at him, that the old veteran had but one leg, one arm, and
"Enough?" echoed the one called "the youngster," whose grizzled locks
showed him to be at least fifty years old, "Enough? Well, perhaps--for
you. But, my faith! I cannot see that they were finer than the 'Thousand
and one Nights.'"
"Bah!" again cried old Nonesuch contemptuously; "but those were fairy
stories, I tell you, youngster,--untrue stories,--pagan stories.
But when one can tell, as can I, of stories that are true,--of
history--history this--history that--true histories every one--bah!"
and, shrugging his shoulders, old Nonesuch tapped upon his neighbor's
snuff-box, and, with his only hand, drew out a mighty pinch by way of
"Well, what say thou, Nonesuch,--you and your histories?" persisted the
young admirer of the "Arabian Nights."
"As for me,--my faith! I like only marvellous."
[Illustration: "Beneath the great dome
he rests"--The Hotel des Invalides (The 'Soldiers' Home' in Paris,
containing the Tomb of Napoleon)]
"And I tell you this, youngster," the old veteran cried, while his voice
cracked into a tremble in his excitement, "there is more of the
marvellous in the one little finger of my history than in all the
characters you can crowd together in your 'Thousand and One Nights.'
Bah!--Stephen, boy; light my pipe."
"And what is your history, Father Nonesuch?" demanded "the youngster,"
while two-armed Stephen, a gray old "boy" of seventy, filled and lighted
the old veteran's pipe.
"My history?" cried old Nonesuch, struggling to his feet,--or rather to
his foot,--and removing his hat, "it is, my son, that of the Emperor
And at the word, each old soldier sprang also to his feet, and removed
his hat silently and in reverence.
"Why, youngster!" old Father Nonesuch continued, dropping again to the
bench, "if one wished to relate about my emperor a thousand and one
stories a thousand and one nights; to see even a thousand and one days
increased by a thousand and one battles, adding to that a thousand and
one victories, one would have a thousand and a million million things
--fine, glorious, delightful, to hear. For, remember, comrades," and the
old man well-nigh exploded with his mathematical calculation, and the
grandeur of his own recollections, "remember you this: I never left the
"Ah, yes," another aged veteran chimed in; "ah, yes; he was a great
Old Nonesuch clapped his hand to his ear.
"Pardon me, comrade the Corsican," he said, with the air of one who had
not heard aright; "excuse my question, but would you kindly tell me whom
you call a great man?"
"Whom, old deaf ears? Why, the Emperor Napoleon, of course," replied the
Old Nonesuch burst out laughing, and pounded the pavement with his heavy
"To call the emperor a man!" he exclaimed; "and what, then, will you
"You? why, what should we?" said the Corsican veteran; "old Father
Nonesuch, old 'Not Entire,' otherwise, Corporal Francis Haut of
"Ah, bah!" cried the persistent veteran; "I do not mean my name, stupid!
I mean my quality, my--my title, my--well--my sex,--indeed, what am I?"
"Well, what is left of you, I suppose," laughed the Corsican, "we might
call a man."
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