網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

have been fatal to his future schemes of heard that that bird was worshipped by the empire. How might the sternness of pur- Egyptians. I asked him if it were not so. pose by which he subjugated his daring compeers of the revolution have been shaken, and his giant ambition thwarted by a trivial sickness. The mind of even a Napoleon might have been prostrated, and his mighty will enfeebled by a few days' fever.

The successful leader of a revolution especially ought to be exempt from the evils to which flesh is heir. His very absence from the arena for a few days is enough to ruin him. Depreciating reports are spread, the prestige vanishes, and he is pushed from his stool by some more vigorous and more fortunate competitor.

The emperor possessed a splendid set of china of the Sèvres manufacture, which had been executed at an enormous cost, and presented to him by the City of Paris. They were now unpacking, and he sent for us to see them. They were painted by the first artists in Paris, and were most lovely. Each plate cost twenty-five Napoleons. The subjects all bore reference to his paigns, or to some period of his early life. Many of them were battle pieces, in which the most striking incidents were portrayed with the utmost spirit and fidelity. Others were landscapes, representing scenery connected with his victories and triumphs.

cam

One, I remember, made a great impression on me. It was a drawing of Napoleon on the bridge of Arcola. A slim youthstanding almost alone, with none near but the dead and dying, who had fallen around him-was cheering on his more distant comrades to the assault. The spirit and energy of his figure particularly attract ed my admiration. The emperor seemed pleased at my admiring it, and putting his hand to his side, exclaimed, laughing,

"I was rather more slender then than I am now."

The battle of Leipsic was one of the sub jects depicted on the china. Napoleon's figure was happily done, and an admirable likeness; but one feels rather surprised at the selection of such a subject for a complimentary present. I believe the battle of Leipsic is considered to have been one of the most disastrous defeats on record; but probably the good citizens of Paris were not so well aware of this at the time the china was presented to him as they are now.

His campaign in Egypt furnished subjects for some of the illustrations. The stork was introduced in several of these Egyptian scenes, and I happened to have

He smiled, and entered into a long narration of some of his adventures with the army in Egypt; advising me never to go there, or I should catch the ophthalmia, and spoil my eyes!

I had also heard that he had professed Mahometanism when there; and I had been prompted by some one to catechise him on the subject. I at once came out with the question in my English French.

66

Pourquoi avez vous tourné Turque." He did not at first understand me, and I was obliged to explain that tourné Turque meant changing his religion.

He laughed and said,

"What is that to you? fighting is a soldier's religion; I never changed that. The other is the affair of women and priests,-au reste; I always adopt the religion of the country I am in."

At a later period some Italian ecclesiastics arrived at St. Helena, and were attached to Napoleon's suite.

Amongst the emperor's domestics at the Briars, was a very droll character; his lamplighter, a sort of Leporello, a most ingenious little fellow in making toys, and other amusing mechanical contrivances. Napoleon would often send for the scaramouch to amuse my brothers, who were infinitely delighted with his tricks and buffooneries. Sometimes he constructed balloons, which were inflated and sent up amidst the acclamations of the whole party. One day he contrived to harness four mice to a small carriage, but the poor little animals were so terrified that he could not get them to move, and after many ineffectual attempts, my brothers entreated the emperor to interfere. Napoleon told him to pinch the tails of the two leaders, and when they started the others would follow. This he did, 'and immediately the whole four scampered off to our great amusementNapoleon enjoying the fun as much as any of us, and delighted with the extravagant glee of my two brothers.

I had often entreated the emperor to give a ball before he left the Briars in the large room occupied by him, which had been built by my father for that purpose.

He had promised me faithfully he would, but when I pressed him urgently for the ful. filment of his promise, he only laughed at me, telling me he wondered I could be so silly as to think such a thing possible.

But I never ceased reproaching him for his breach of faith, and teased him so that at last, to escape my importunities, he said,

that as the ball was out of the question, he would consent, by way of amende honorable, to any thing I chose to demand to console me for my disappointment.

"Tell me, que veux-tu que je fassé, Mademoislle Betsee, pour te consoler." I replied instantly.

"If you will play a game of 'blind man's buff,' which you have so often promised me, I will forgive you the ball, and never ask for it again." Not knowing the French term (if there is any) for blind man's buff. I had explained before to the emperor the nature of the operation to be gone through.

He laughed at my choice, and tried to persuade me to choose something else, but was inexorable, and seeing his fate inevitable, he resigned himself to it with a good grace, proposing that we should begin at once.

My sister and myself, and the son of either General Bertrand or some other of the emperor's suite, formed the party. Napoleon said we should draw lots who should be blindfolded first, and he would distribute the tickets.

"I have got you-I have got you-now you shall be blindfolded!"

But to my great mortification it proved to be my sister, under cover of whom Napoleon had advanced, stretching his hand over her head.

We then recommenced, the emperor saying, that as I had named the wrong person, I must continue blindfolded. He teased and quizzed me about my mistake, and bantered me in every possible way; eluding at the same time with the greatest dexterity, my endeavors to catch him.

At last when the fun was growing "fast and furious," and the uproar was at its height, it was announced that some one desired an audience of the emperor; and to my great annoyance, as I had set my heart on catching him, and insisting on his being blindfolded, our game came to a conclusion.

The emperor having returned from seeing his visitor, and his dinner-hour approaching, he invited us to dine with him. We told him we had already dined.

"Then come and see me eat," he added; and when his dinner was announced by Cipriani we accompanied him into his marSome slips of paper were prepared, on one quee. When at table he desired Narane to of which was writen the fatal word "la mort," bring some creams for me; I declined them as and the rest were blanks. Whether accident- I had dined, but I had unfortunately told him ally or by Napoleon's contrivance I know once before that I was very fond of creams, not, but I was the first victim, and the emper- and though I begged in vain to be excused, or taking a cambric handkerchief out of his repeating a thousand times that I had dined, pocket, tied it tightly over my eyes, asking and could not eat any more, he pressed me if I could see. and insisted so strongly, that I was at last obliged to comply, and with some difficulty managed to eat half a cream.

"I cannot see you," I replied, but a faint gleam of light did certainly escape through one corner, making my darkness a little less visible.

Napoleon than taking his hat waved it suddenly before my eyes; and the shadow and the wind it made startling me, I drew back my head.

"Ah, leetle monkee," he exclaimed in English, "you can see pretty well."

He then proceeded to tie another handkerchief over the first, which completely excluded every ray of light.

I was then placed in the middle of the room and the game began.

The emperor commenced by creeping stealthily up to me and giving my nose a very sharp twinge. I knowing it was him both from the act itself and his footsteps. I darted forward and very nearly succeeded in catching him, but bounding actively away, he eluded my grasp. I then groped about and advancing again, he this time took hold of my ear and pulled it. I stretched out my hands instantly, and in the exultation of the moment screamed out,

But although I was satisfied, Napoleon was not; and when I left off eating, he commenced feeding me like a baby, calling me his little bambina, and laughing violently at my rueful countenance. At last I could bear it no longer, and scampered out of the tent, the emperor calling after me,

"Stop, Miss Betsee; do stay, and eat another cream; you know you told me you liked them."

The next day he sent in a quantity of bon-bons by Marchand, with some creams; desiring his compliments to Miss Betsee and the creams were for her.

The emperor possessed among his suite the most accomplished confiseur in the world. M. Piron daily supplied his table with the most elaborate, and really sometimes the most elegant designs in patisserie, spun sugar, &c. Triumphal arches, and amber palaces, glittering with prismatic tints, looked as if they had been built for the queen of the fairies, after her majesty's own designs.

Napoleon often sent us in some of the pret- | snuff box, on the lid of which was a miniatiest of these architectural delicacies; and ture of Madame Montholon. It certainly I shall always continue to think the bon- was like her, and very beautiful. He told bons from the atelier of Monsieur Piron me it was what she had been when young. "more exquisite still" than any thing I He then recurred again to Miss C— have ever since tasted. and said Gourgaud spoke in raptures of her, and had sketched her portrait from memory. He produced the drawing, and wished to know if I thought it a good like

But I suppose I must grant with a sigh, that early youth threw its couleur de rose tints over Piron's bon-bons, as well as over the more intellectual joys of that happyness. I told him she was infinitely more period.

The emperor sometimes added sugared words to make these sweet things sweeter. On New Year's day a deputation consisting of the son of General Bertrand, Henri, and Tristram, Madame Montholon's little boy, arrived with a selection of bonbons for us, and Napoleon observed that he had sent his cupidons to the graces. The bon-bons were placed in crystal baskets, covered with white satin napkins on Sèvres plates. The plates I kept till lately, when I presented them to a lady who had shown my mother and myself many very kind attentions. And this was the last I possessed of Napoleon's many little gifts to me, with the exception of a lock of his hair, which I still retain, and which might be mistaken for the hair of an infant from its extreme softness and silkiness.

Napoleon was fond of sending these little presents to ladies, and generally courteous and attentive in his demeanor towards them. He always gave me the impression of being fond of ladies' society; and as Mr. O'Meara remarks, when alluding to my sister and myself dining one day with him, "His conversation was the perfection of causerie, and very entertaining." He was perhaps rather too fond of using direct compliments, but this was very pardonable in one of his rank and country.

lovely, and that it bore no trace of resemblance to her. I mentioned also that she was very clever and amiable. Napoleon said I was very enthusiastic in her favor, and had made him long to see her.

Mesdames Montholon and Bertrand, and the rest of his suite, often came to see him at the Briars, and remained the day. It was quite delightful to witness the deference and respect with which he was treated by them all. To them he was still "le grand empereur." His every look was watched, and each wish anticipated as if he had still been on the throne of Charlemagne.

On one of these occasions Madame Bertrand produced a miniature of the Empress Josephine, which she showed to Napoleon. He gazed at it with the greatest emotion for a considerable time without speaking. At last he exclaimed it was the most perfect likeness he had ever seen of her, and told Madame Bertrand he would keep it, which he did until his death. He has often looked at my mother for a length of time very earnestly, and then apologized, saying, that she reminded him so much of Josephine. Her memory appeared to be idolized by him, and he was never weary of dwelling on her sweetness of disposition and the grace of her movements. He said she was the most truly feminine of any woman he had ever known.

He possessed several portraits of her. They were not very attractive, and were seen to disadvantage when contrasted, as they generally were, with his own handsome and intellectual-looking family.

He remarked once, that he had heard a Napoleon afterwards spoke of the Emgreat deal of the beauty and elegance of press Marie Louise with great kindness the governor's daughter, and asked me who and affection. He said she would have folI thought the most beautiful woman in the lowed him to St. Helena if she had been alisland. I told him I thought Madame Ber-lowed: and that she was an amiable creatrand superior beyond all comparison to ture, and a very good wife. any one I had ever seen before. My father had been greatly struck with her majestic appearance on board the Northumberland: and I always thought every one else sank into insignificance when she appeared. And yet her features were not regular, and The emperor retired early this evening. she had no strict pretension to beauty; but He had been in low spirits since his audithe expression of her face was very intel- ence of his visitor; and after the portraits lectual, and her bearing queen-like and of the Empress Josephine and Marie Louise dignified. had been produced, he appeared absorbed Napoleon asked me if I did not consider in mournful reflection, and was still more Madame Montholon pretty. I said, no. He melancholy and dejected for the rest of the then desired Marchand to bring down al evening. His visitor proved to be a Count

Piontkowski, a Polish officer, who had formed Napoleon that Longwood smelt so
formerly held a commission in "la grande ar- strongly of paint, that it was unfit to go
mée," and had landed in the morning, having into.
with great difficulty obtained permission to
follow his master into exile, "to share with
him his vulture and his rock." He called
at the Briars, and requesting an audience,
information had been sent to the emperor
of his arrival. A long interview took place
between them, which apparently excited
painful reminiscences in the mind of the
emperor. I asked him afterwards about
his visitor. He seemed to have little per-
sonal recollection of him, but seemed grati-
fied with his devotion, and said he had
proved himself a faithful servant by follow-
ing him into exile.

The emperor's English, of which he sometimes spoke a few words, was the oddest in the world. He had formed an exaggerated idea of the quantity of wine drunk by English gentlemen, and used always to ask me, after we had had a party, how many bottles of wine my father drank; and then laughing and counting on his fingers generally made the number up to five. One day to annoy me, he said that my country-women drank gin and brandy; and then added in English,

"You laike veree mosh dreenk, mees; somtaimes brandee, jeen."

Though I could hardly help laughing at his way of saying this, I felt most indignant at the accusation, and assured him that the ladies of England had the utmost horror of drinking spirits, and that they were even fastidious in the refinement of their ideas and their general habits. He seemed amused at my earnestness, and quoted the instance of a Mrs. B., who had, in fact, paid him a visit once in a state of intoxication. It was singular, indeed, that one of the few English ladies he had ever been presented to, should have been addicted to this habit. At last, he confessed, laughing, that he had made the accusation only to tease me; but when I was going away he repeated,

"You like dreenk, Mees Betsee; dreenk, dreenk."

As the time drew near for Napoleon's removal to Longwood, he would come into our drawing-room oftener, and stay longer.

He said he should have preferred altogether remaining at the Briars. That he beguiled the hours with us better than he ever thought it possible he could do on such a horrible rock as St. Helena.

A day or two before his departure, General Bertrand came to the Briars, and in

I shall never forget the fury of the emperor. He walked up and down the lawn, gesticulating in the wildest manner. His rage was so great that it almost choked him. He declared that the smell of paint was so obnoxious to him that he would never inhabit a house where it existed; and that if the grand marshal's report was true he should send down to the admiral, and refuse to enter Longwood. He ordered Las Cases to set off early the next morning to examine the house, and report if the information of General Bertrand was correct.

At this time I went out to him on the lawn, and inquired the cause of his anger. The instant I joined him he changed his manner, and in a calm tone mentioned the reason of his annoyance. I was perfectly amazed at the power of control he evinced over his temper. In one moment, from the most awful state of fury, he subdued his irritated manner into perfect gentleness and composure.

Las Cases set off at daylight the next morning, and returned before twelve o'clock. He informed the emperor that. the smell of paint was so slight as to be scarcely perceptible, and that a few hours would remove it altogether. The grand marshal was sharply reprimanded, as I afterwards learned, for making an exaggerated report.

It was arranged that he should leave the Briars two days afterwards for Longwood, which was now quite ready for him. On the appointed morning, which to me was a most melancholy one, Sir G. Cockburn, accompanied by the emperor's suite, came to the Briars to escort him to his new abode. I was crying bitterly, and he came up and said,

"You must not cry, Mademoiselle Betsee; you must come and see me very often at Longwood; when will you ride up?"

I told him that depended on my father. He turned round to papa and said,

"Balcombe, you must bring Missee Jane and Betsee to see me next week, and very often."

My father promised he would, and kept his word. He asked where mamma was, and I said she desired her kind regards to the emperor, and regretted not being able to see him before his departure, as she was ill in bed.

"I will go up and see her."

And upstairs he darted, before we had time to tell my mother of his approach.

[ocr errors]

He seated himself on the bed, and expressed on a larger scale. The emperor condehis regret at hearing she was unwell.

He was warm in his acknowledgments of her attentions to him, and said he would have preferred staying altogether at the Briars, if they would have permitted him. He then presented my mother with a gold snuff-box, and begged she would give it to my father as a mark of his friendship. He gave me a beautiful little bonbonier, which I had often admired, and said,

"You can give it as a gage d'amour to le petit Las Cases."

I burst into tears, and ran out of the

room.

I went to a window from which I could see his departure, but my heart was too full to look at him leaving us, and throwing my self on the bed I cried bitterly for a long time. When my father returned we asked him how the emperor liked his new residence. He said that he appeared out of spirits, and, retiring to his dressing-room, had shut himself up for the remainder of the day.

With Napoleon's departure from the Briars my personal recollection of him may be said to have come to a conclusion. From my father being the emperor's purveyor we had a general order to visit him, and we seldom allowed a week to elapse without seeing him. On those occasions we generally arrived in time to breakfast with him at one, and returned in the even ing.

He was more subject to depression than when at the Briars; but still gleams of his former playfulness shone out at times. On one occasion we found him firing at a mark with pistols. He put one into my hand loaded, I believe with powder, and in great trepidation I fired it off: he often called me afterwards "La petite tirailleure," and said he would form a corps of sharpshooters of which I should be the captain. He then went into the house, and he took me into the billiard-room, a table having been just set up at Longwood. I remember thinking it too childish for men, and very like marbles

scended to teach me how to play, but I made very little progress, and amused myself with trying to hit his imperial fingers with the balls, instead of making cannons and hazards.

Napoleon's health and activity began to decline soon after his arrival at Longwood. In consequence of the unfortunate disputes with the governor, Sir Hudson Lowe, he refused to take the exercise his constitution required, and his health became visibly impaired. He was unable, consequently, to enjoy the buoyancy of spirits which probably had been the chief cause of his allowing me to be so often in his society, and distinguishing me with so much of his regard. But he never failed to treat me with the greatest tenderness and kindness.

Some months after his departure I was attacked with an alarming illness. Mr. O'Meara attended me, and at one time despaired of my recovery. The emperor's kindness in making inquiries after me, and his other attentions I can never forget. He ordered his confiseur when I became convalescent to supply me daily from his own table with every delicacy to tempt my appetite, and restore my strength.

In concluding my brief record of Napoleon I will spare my readers any lengthened expression of my own opinion of his character. I have placed before them the greater part of what occurred while I was in his society, and have thus given them, as far as I am able, the same means of judging of him as I possess myself. But yet, in a personal intercourse, incidents occur of too trivial or subtle a nature to be communi cated to others, but which are still the truest indications of character, from being the results of impulse, and unpremeditated.

Even a look, a tone of the voice, a gesture, in an unreserved moment, will give an insight into the real disposition which years of a more formal intercourse would fail to convey; and this is particularly the case in the association of a person of mature age with very young people. There is generally a confiding candor and openness about * I trust I may be forgiven the insertion of the them which invites confidence in return, and following extracts from Mr. O'Meara's "Voice which tempts a man of the world to throw The Briars is the name of an estate romantic-off the iron mask of reserve and caution, ally situated, about a mile and a half from James- and be once more as a little child. This at town, comprising a few acres of highly-cultivated least took place in my intercourse with fully supplied with water, with many delightful Napoleon, and I may therefore perhaps shady walks, and long celebrated for the genuine venture to say a few words on the general old English hospitality of the proprietor, Mr. Bal-impression he left on my mind, after three months daily communication with him. The point of character which has more than any other been a subject of dispute

from St. Helena."

land, excellent fruit and kitchen-gardens, plenti

combe.

46

Nothing was left undone by this worthy family that could contribute to lessen the inconveniences of his (Napoleon's) situation."

« 上一頁繼續 »