Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

O

receiving the ambassadors with the ceremonious She treated me with entire confidence, and I etiquette known among crowned heads, appear- felt toward her a genuine attachment. Before ing in public always surrounded by a numerous long she imparted to me all her secrets, which guard, while he allowed his colleagues only two I received and guarded with entire discretion, grenadiers before their carriages, and had finally although I might have been her daughter.* I begun to give to his wife a certain rank in the often had it in my power to give her good adgovernment.

vice, because the habits formed during my quiet In the beginning we found ourselves in a po- domestic youth made me take a serious view of life. sition which, although extremely delicate, was We were soon, my husband and myself, in a connot without its advantages. Military distinctions, spicuous position, to which we attained by deand the rights they gave, appealed strongly to grees, all the time continuing to preserve entire the generals and the aides-de-camp which sur- simplicity in our manners, and avoiding anything rounded Bonaparte. They had come to believe which could enable any one to think that we that all honors belonged exclusively to them- wished to ground any assumptions on the favors selves. Meanwhile the Consul, who appreciated we received. all conquests, and who had formed a secret plan to gain over to him all classes of society, was It was in the autumn of 1802 that I estabconsiderably annoyed by the ideas of his people lished myself first at Saint-Cloud, where the First of the sword, whenever he wished to attract peo- Consul then was. Four ladiest passed each of ple of other avocations toward him by showing us a week in succession with Madame Bonaparte. them certain favors.

It was the same with all those who came under Consequently, Monsieur de Rémusat, clever, the head of the service of the préfets du palais brilliant, and learned, understanding himself and the generals of the Guard and the aides-deothers very thoroughly, and vastly superior in his camp. The governor of the palace, Duroc, conversational abilities to any of his colleagues, lived at Saint-Cloud; his house was maintained was promptly distinguished by his master, who with extreme order; we dined with him. The was certainly wonderfully clear-sighted in discov- Consul and his wife took their meals alone. ering what individuals he could best utilize. Twice each week he invited government officials;

Bonaparte liked those persons, moreover, who once in the month he gave a great dinner in the knew just those things of which he was ignorant. Galerie de Diane to a hundred persons, after He found in my husband a knowledge of certain which a reception was given to all who held less usages which he desired to reëstablish, perfect important positions, civil or military. Strangers tact and familiarity with the manners and customs of distinction were also to be met there. During of good society; he indicated his wishes prompt- the winter of 1803 we were at peace with Engty, was heard and understood immediately, and land, and a large number of English were in was as promptly served.

Paris and excited much curiosity, as we were not This gave considerable umbrage to the sole in the habit of seeing them. diers about him: they foresaw that the day was Extreme luxury was displayed at these enternear at hand when they would not be sole favor- tainments. Bonaparte liked to see women much ites, and that they would, moreover, be soon and well dressed, and excited his wife and sisters called upon to correct that roughness and infor- to emulate each other. Madame Bonaparte and mality of manner which they had acquired on Mesdames Bacciochi and Murat (Madame Lefields of battle ; our presence disturbed them. I clerc, afterward the Princess Pauline, was in 1802 was young, but more formed in character than at Saint Domingo) were resplendent. Each their wives; the most of my companions were corps had its own costume, the uniforms were ignorant of the world, silent and timid, and were rich, and this pomp, which succeeded a time never comfortable in the presence of the First when an affectation of disgusting uncleanliness Consul. I, as I have before said, was keenly open was combined with that of an incendiary civism, to impressions, easily moved by novelty, and with seemed in itself a guarantee against the return of a certain amount of cleverness, and kept my eyes the melancholy régime the recollection of which wide open to enjoy the spectacle afforded me by still weighed upon us. this crowd of unknown personages. I found no It seems to me that Bonaparte's costume at difficulty in pleasing my new sovereign, because I really found pleasure in listening to her.

* The Empress Josephine was born at Martinique in Madame Bonaparte saw in me the woman of 1763. She had married Monsieur de Beauharnais in her choice; she was flattered, moreover, by hav- 1779, and had separated from him in 1783. After her ing conquered my mother, whose value, as be. husband's death she married, civilement, General Bona

parte on March 9, 1796. longing to a family of consideration, she fully es

† Madame Talhouet, Madame de Luçay, Madame timated.

Lauriston, and I.

this epoch deserves to be recorded. He wore on his cabinet. At Paris he joined her often for ordinary occasions the uniform of some corps in breakfast; at Saint-Cloud he breakfasted alone, his Guards; but he had ordained for himself and often on the terrace which opened from his and his two colleagues that on days of ceremo- cabinet. During breakfast he received artists ny they should all three wear scarlet coats, em- and actors. He talked with some volubility and broidered in gold-of velvet in winter, of cloth pleasantly at that hour. Then he was occupied in summer.

with public affairs until six o'clock. Madame The two Consuls, Cambacérès and Lebrun, Bonaparte remained within, and received any middle-aged, powdered, and erect, wore this number of visits, generally women whose husbrilliant coat with laces and a sword, as in bands held positions under the Governmentother days they had worn their dress - suits. others belonging to what was called the ancien Bonaparte, who was uncomfortable in this cos-régime—who did not desire to have, or did not tume, got out of it whenever he could. His wish to seem to have, relations with the First hair was cut short, laid flat to his head, and was Consul, but who were trying to obtain, through badly combed. With this scarlet and gold coat his wife, certain favors—names to be struck from he kept on his black cravat, a jabot of lace from the list of émigrés, or restoration of property. beneath, and no cuffs; sometimes a white vest, Madame Bonaparte received everybody with embroidered with silver, oftener his uniform vest, charming grace, she promised all that was asked, as well as his uniform sword, and breeches, silk and sent every one away highly pleased. The stockings, and boots. This toilet, and his in- petitions left with her were sometimes mislaid, significant height, gave him the oddest possible but others were brought in their stead, and she look, at which, however, no one ventured to take never seemed tired of listening. exception.

At six o'clock in Paris they dined ; at SaintWhen he became Emperor, his habit de céré- Cloud they went to drive-the Consul alone in monie, with a small mantle and a plumed hat, a calèche with his wife, and the rest of us in othwas very becoming to him. To these he added er carriages. Bonaparte's brothers, Eugène Beaua magnificent collar of the Order of the Legion, harnais, and his sisters, could one and all present all in diamonds; but on ordinary occasions he themselves at dinner if they pleased. Madame wore only the silver cross.

Louis came sometimes, but she never slept at I remember that, the evening before his coro- Saint-Cloud. Her husband's excessive jealousy nation, the new marshals he had shortly before and her own extreme diffidence made her very created came to pay their respects to him, all unhappy at this time. They sent little Napoleon superbly dressed. Their showy costumes were —who subsequently died in Holland-once or in such strong contrast to the simple uniform twice each week. Bonaparte seemed to love this which he wore, that he smiled. I was standing child, and had certainly hung his hopes upon him. very near him, and, when he saw that I also Perhaps this was the sole reason why he cared smiled, he said in a low voice :

for the child, for Monsieur de Talleyrand told me “The right of being simply dressed does not that when the news of his death reached Berlin belong to everybody!'

Bonaparte was so little moved that, when he was A few moments later the marshals of his army about to appear in public, Monsieur de Talleyrand were wrangling on some question of precedence, hurriedly whispered to him: “You forget that a and finally came to the Emperor to ask him to great misfortune has just befallen your family. settle the order of their rank in the ceremonies You should assume an air of sadness." of the next day.

It does not amuse me," answered BonaThese pretensions were unanswerable, since parte, “ to think of dead people!” each of them enumerated his victories. Bona- It would be somewhat curious to compare parte listened, and amused himself with another these words with the discourse of Monsieur de glance at me.

Fontanes, who, called upon at this same time to "It seems to me,” I said to him, “that you make an address on the occasion of the Prussian have stamped your foot to-day on France, and flags being brought to the Invalides, took occasaid, “Let all these vanities rise from the earth!'”sion to describe the majestic grief of a conqueror,

“That is true,” he answered,“ but it is easier forgetting his glorious victories to weep over the to rule the French through their vanity than in death of a child ! any other way.”

After the Consul had dined, we were notified But, to return. The first months of my duties, that we could enter the salon. Conversation was sometimes at Saint-Cloud, sometimes at Paris, prolonged according to the humor he was in ; during that winter, I found very agreeable. The then he disappeared, and was not often seen mornings were spent very uniformly. At eight again that evening. He went to his work, gave o'clock Bonaparte left his wife's room and entered some especial audiences, received some minis

6

ter, and went to bed at a very good hour. Ma- Bonaparte was unwilling to hear any one utdame Bonaparte finished the evening with a ter a word of praise of anything that in any way game of cards. Between ten and eleven the fol- appertained to the English. We argued for a lowing announcement was made: “Madame, the little while. I said nothing in any way extraorFirst Consul has retired."

dinary. But I had mentioned Shakespeare; I She then dismissed us. In her rooms there had held my own against the First Consul; I was never any mention of public affairs. Duroc, had praised an English author. What audacity! Maret, then Secretary of State, and all the sec- what a prodigy of erudition !-and I was comretaries, were impenetrable. Most of the mili- pelled to maintain a profound silence for several tary men, I believe, abstained from thinking in days, to do away with the effects of a superiority order to avoid speaking, and there was little ex- which I had never supposed could be acquired at penditure of brain or wit in that circle.

such small expense. As I had never had any of the terror with When I left the palace, and went home to my which Bonaparte had for some time inspired mother's, I generally found there a number of those about him, I never experienced in his pres- charming, cultivated women and men of distincence the embarrassment felt by many others, tion, who talked most agreeably, and I smiled to and had never conceived it to be my duty to myself at the difference between their conversasubmit to the system of monosyllables, which tion and that of the court of which I formed a was religiously and possibly prudently adopted portion. throughout the house.

This habit of almost complete silence preThis made me noticed and ridiculed in a way served us, at all events, from that which was that I did not at first suspect, which then amused then called in society les caquets. The women me, and which I finally sought to avoid. Let me were without coquetry, the men were usually here describe one scene which took place on a occupied in the duties of their various positions ; certain evening when, Bonaparte speaking of the and Bonaparte, who dared not then abandon talent of Monsieur Portalis, the father, who was himself to all his fancies, and who believed that then at work on the Code Civil, Monsieur de the appearance of regularity would be useful to Rémusat said that it was more especially the him, lived at that time in a way to deceive me study of Montesquieu that had formed Monsieur entirely in regard to his morals. He seemed to Portalis, whose model he had been, who had love his wife ; she appeared to satisfy him. Nevread and learned him as one would a catechism. ertheless, I discovered in her great uneasiness, Bonaparte, turning to one of my companions, which amazed me. She was very jealous by nasaid, with a laugh, “I would be willing to wager ture ; love was not, I think, the primary cause of that you do not know who Montesquieu is." this jealousy.

" Pardon me,” she answered ; "who does To her it was a grave misfortune that she not know . Le Temple de Gnide?'

could bear her husband no children; he someAt this Bonaparte burst out laughing, and I times evinced his chagrin, and then she trembled could not restrain a smile. He looked at me, for her future. The family of the Consul, who and said, “ And you, madame ? "

were always bitter against the Beauharnais, made I answered quietly that I did not know the constant allusions to this, which led to many stormy “Temple de Gnide,” that I had read the

Con- passages.

Sometimes I found Madame Bonasidérations sur les Romains,” but that I did not parte in tears, and then she would burst forth believe either of these works was the catechism into complaints against her brothers-in-law of which Monsieur de Rémụsat spoke.

against Madame Murat and Murat himself, who “The devil take it !" said Bonaparte; “are sought to strengthen themselves with the Consul you a savante?"

by arousing in him certain passing fancies which This epithet embarrassed me, and I felt that they would then countenance and favor. the risk I ran was very great that it would adhere I entreated her to be calm and moderate, It to me. A moment later Madame Bonaparte was easy for me to see that if Bonaparte loved spoke of some tragedy I have forgotten. The his wife it was that her gentleness gave him a First Consul passed in review all living authors, sense of repose when he was with her, and that and spoke of Ducis with little admiration. He she would lose her empire by becoming excited, deplored the mediocrity of our tragic poets, and During the first year that I was attached to said that he would gladly bestow any reward on this court, the light altercations which took place the author of a fine drama. I ventured to say between Madame Bonaparte and her husband that Ducis had spoiled Shakespeare's “Othello.” were invariably followed by satisfactory explanaThis long English word uttered by my lips had tions and renewed affection. an extraordinary effect on our audience of epaulets, who were silent and attentive.

At the time of which I speak, Monsieur de

a

Talleyrand was in great favor-all the most in- plain, but with talents which had won for her volved questions of politics passed through his the approbation of the public; the other was hands. Not only did he manage all foreign af- not so good an actress, but wonderfully beautifairs and determine as he did, just at this time, ful. The Parisian public wavered between the the new state constitutions to be given to Ger- two, but talent outweighed beauty finally. Bomany—which was the sort of work that laid the naparte, however, thought most of the latter; foundation of his immense fortune—but he had and Madame Bonaparte speedily learned, through also long and daily conversations with Bonaparte, the espionage of her valets, that Mademoiselle when he impelled the First Consul to all the Georges had been secretly introduced, on several measures which could establish his power on a occasions, to a small apartment slightly apart satisfactory basis.

from the château. This discovery was a sore Even at this time I am quite certain that grief to her. She spoke of it with extreme emothey had many discussions as to the expediency tion, and shed more tears than it seemed to me of reëstablishing a monarchical form of govern- such a passing fancy demanded. I believed it ment, which Monsieur de Talleyrand always to be my duty to represent to her that sweetness believed to be the only one fitted for France. and patience were her sole remedies for a sorrow Besides, under such a government he would re- which time would surely bring to an end; and it sume all the habits of his early life, and replace was in the conversations which we had at this himself on familiar ground.

time that she gave me many new ideas in regard The advantages and abuses which spring to her husband. The discontent that she showed from courts offered him great opportunities of induced me to believe, however, that there was power and of credit.

more or less exaggeration in the bitterness of her I did not know Monsieur de Talleyrand, and complaints. This was what she said : " He had all that I had heard of him prejudiced me strong- not the smallest moral principle; he concealed ly against him. But I was always struck by his vices merely because he found that they the elegance of his manners, so strongly con- would do him harm; but if he were allowed, and trasting with the rough soldiers by whom I was no complaint was made, it would be seen how surrounded. He stood out from among them quickly he would abandon himself to the most with the air of a grand seigneur. He was impos- shameless passions. . . . Did he not think himself ing from his disdainful silence, by his patronizing placed in the world merely to gratify all his fanpoliteness, against which no one could arm him- cies? And then, too, would not his family profit self. He arrogated to himself the right of ridi- by her weakness to induce him to relinquish the culing those persons whom the subtilty and deli- domestic life he had hitherto led and to alienate cacy of his jests terrified. Monsieur de Talley- him from her? Would not the consequence of rand, more imitative than can well be imagined, this or a similar act be the divorce which she made up an apparently natural character out of saw always suspended over her head, and of a series of habits carefully formed; he preserved which there had already been some question?" them in every possible situation, as if they were • It is the greatest misfortune in the world for absolutely a part of himself. His light manner me,” she added, “that I have given no son to of treating the most important things has often Bonaparte. Then no hatred, however venomous, been useful to him, but it frequently injured that could have troubled my repose.” which he did.

“But, madame," I answered, “it seems to I was many years without having any rela- me that your daughter's child repairs this misfortions with him ; I vaguely distrusted him, but I tune; the First Consul loves him, and will probliked to hear him talk, and I liked to watch the ably end by adopting him.” charming ease with which he did everything, and “ Alas !" she replied, “would that this might the peculiar grace of his manners, which in any be so; but Louis Bonaparte's jealous and suspione else would have been called affectation. cious character forbids the realization of this

hope. His family have malignantly informed Meanwhile Paris, and more especially the him of all the outrageous gossip which they have Tuileries, seemed given over to pleasure and themselves put in circulation in regard to my gayety. The château was quiet until one day daughter's conduct and the birth of her child. the First Consul's fancy for a young and beau- Hatred gives this child to Bonaparte, and this is tiful actress of the Théâtre Français disturbed reason enough for Louis never to give his consent Madame Bonaparte, and gave rise to many to any arrangement in regard to the boy. You scenes.

see how he keeps himself aloof, and how excesTwo remarkable actresses, Mademoiselles sively guarded my daughter is compelled to be Duchesnois and Georges, had made their debut in her every act. Besides, independent of the about the same time in tragedy: one was very higher considerations which will not allow me to

[ocr errors]

1

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

endure with patience these infidelities on the part dame Bonaparte, more jealous even than usual, of my husband, they are always the signal for a kept me with her, and spoke with bitterness of thousand annoyances against which I am com- all she suffered. It was one o'clock in the mornpelled to arm myself, and which I can only sum- ing ; absolute silence pervaded the Tuileries. mon all my patience to endure.”

Suddenly she started up. And, in fact, I have always noticed that as “ I can not endure it !" she exclaimed. Ma. soon as the First Consul occupied himself with demoiselle is certainly up stairs. I will go and another woman, whether from the despotism of surprise them." his character, which induced him to think it very Considerably disturbed by this sudden anstrange that his wife would not quietly submit to nouncement, I did what I could to induce her to this exercise of the independence which he al- give up the project; but I could produce no efways carefully preserved, or from the fact that fect

upon

her.” Nature had endowed him with so small a power Come with me," she said ; we will go toof loving that it was absorbed by the person gether.” momentarily preferred, leaving him without even I represented to her that such espionage, ordinary kindliness for any other—be this as it while admissible on her part, would be utterly may, it is certain that he was hard, violent, and inexcusable in me; and, in case she made the pitiless toward his wife as soon as he had a mis- discovery she feared, that I should be entirely de tress.

trop in the scene which would follow. He forced the knowledge upon her without She would not listen to one word I said. She delay, and showed a surprise that was almost reproached me vehemently with abandoning her savage that she did not approve his abandoning in her troubles, and urged me with such entreaty himself to these distractions which he demon- of word and voice that I could not refuse to accede strated mathematically, so to speak, as being al- to the repugnance I felt. I consoled myself, howlowable and necessary.

ever, with the thought that our enterprise would I am not a man like other men,” he would amount to nothing, as undoubtedly adequate say, “and laws of morality and propriety were precautions against a surprise were taken on the never made for me."

next floor. Such declarations naturally excited the dis- Imagine us stepping softly after each other. content, tears, and complaints of Madame Bona- Madame Bonaparte went first, in a state of great parte, to which her husband frequently responded excitement, and I followed. We crept up a priby violence, the details of which I should not vate staircase which led to Bonaparte's cabinet, dare give. This went on until his last fancy sud- I being very much ashamed of the part I played. denly evaporated, and his affection for his wife Half way up we heard a noise. Madame sprang once more into being. Then he was Bonaparte stood still and whispered in my ear: touched by her grief, and his caresses were as "It is probably Rustan, Bonaparte's Mameunrestrained as had been his violence. She, nat- luke, who guards the door. The creature is quite urally of an aimable and trusting disposition, was capable of strangling us both!” soon reassured.

At these words I was overwhelmed with such But, as long as the storm lasted, I was con- mortal terror, which was undoubtedly ridiculous, stantly embarrassed by the strange confidences that I waited to hear no more, but turned and fled, of which I was the recipient, and even some- and, without thinking that I left Madame Bonatimes by the steps which she compelled me to parte in complete darkness, carried off the candle take. I remember one especial evening when I with me. I hurried back to the salon as fast as had a terrible fright, at which I have often laughed my feet could take me. She followed as quickly since.

as the darkness would permit. When she saw my That winter Bonaparte had not relinquished frightened face she began to laugh, as I did in a the habit of coming every night to his wife's bed. moment or two, and we relinquished our underShe had had the address to persuade him that taking. I left her, saying I was glad that I had his personal safety demanded this.

yielded to my impulse-glad that she had frightShe said she “slept lightly, and, if any noc- ened me. turnal attack should be made upon him, she This jealousy, which affected Madame Bonawould be there to call for help.”

parte's naturally sweet temper, was not a mysShe never retired until she was informed that tery to any one. She placed me in the embarBonaparte was in bed. But, when he was under rassing position of a confidante whose advice had the influence of his passion for Mademoiselle no weight, and gave me the air of sharing the Georges, he received her very late, after his work displeasure I witnessed. Bonaparte at first bewas completed, and did not come to his wife's lieved that one woman necessarily enters into the room until toward morning. One evening Ma- feelings of another, and he showed excessive ill

« AnkstesnisTęsti »