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VI-Napoleon Entertains at Montebello


PALACE of Montebello was the effect in a full-length mirror.

Talight. The illumination from From a desk in the cabinet adjoining

doorways and lofty windows streamed down through miles of terraces and vistas, over gleaming statues and lines of guarding soldiers to the valley and the far-off spires of Milan.

The Bonapartes, once more gathered together under one roof-all but Lucien were scattered through the various apartments of the palace. They had come quite a way from the shabby lodgings of the Rue Pavillon -even from the house on the Via Malerbe, though that had not been without its dignity. No longer was life a question of shoes and hats for the girls, sixty-centime dinners for Napoleon, or for Lucien the signing of vouchers and shooing rats from a wine-barrel. Now there were robes and banquets quite imperial in splendor. Never outside of fairytale had there been so swift a climb and all due to a much criticized brother a little man who would have been lost in any crowd, except for the fact that crowds had a way of opening up for him.

It was eight o'clock. Josephine's maid had disappeared; and she herself was clasping ornaments with enameled gold and black lions at wrists and shoulders and surveying

came the rapid scratch of a quill pen; but Napoleon looked up between the paragraphs that marched at doublequick across the pages. On his moody face, as he glanced through the doorway at the loveliness of upturned arms and bust and shoulder, was an expression of tenderness mingled with bitterness and despair. But Josephine, unconscious, only hummed an air that carried echoes of Gipsies, of far-off tropical isles, of voodoo women of Martinique. There lovely women were accustomed to dancing on volcanoes; and there were volcanoes smoldering in the eyes of the man who sat with poised pen in the next room. the next room. Yet when the quill dipped in the ink-well again, the letter to the Directors had all the usual vigor and despatch. In the lines one might have caught his own incisive stride, each word an echo of his boot-heel. The Directors, rulers of France, muddling things up there in Paris, should have heard and trembled. Strange dual nature that could burn with such devouring passion, yet drive the spur and crack the whip with such merciless precision.

Josephine, however, did not tremble, though for the moment her new position had lost something of its

fascination. She was surrounded by Bonapartes-Joseph -Joseph and Louis on the floor below; Jerome above; Eliza and Pauline, with their newly won husbands, in an adjoining wing; and Letizia with the budding Caroline just a turn to the right and one to the left down the hall. And all, she felt, were sitting in judgment on her; and the verdict was not at all favorable. She did not show her exasperation, as she reflected, by pouting prettily like Paulette: she was too sweetly gracious for that; her eyes grew misty instead.

She came to the door of the cabinet. "Your mother is handsome and your sister Paulette très charmante,' she began tremulously and by way of propitiation; then: "But no, no, Napoleon, you cannot tell me. They do not like me."

"It is wise now to keep unhealed the breach they themselves opened; so we can extract the tribute you ask and gain advantage when the time comes for settlement"-thus scratched the quill, referring not to the Bonapartes but to the Venetians -then the quill stopped.

"You distress yourself unnecessarily, my beloved. Fear of this sort brings about the very thing feared. You show your apprehension and distrust too plainly in your manner. This prevents your coming together. My mother and sisters differ from you in race and temperament; but they will learn to love you as you will them, if you are patient. Each should give in a trifle. Come, my Come, my darling, will you not try?"

But the beautiful eyes, so near to tears before, were shedding them now. He embraced her.

"Only have patience," he re

peated; "but there, dry them"-he did that for her. "You must look beautiful for the reception to-night. There will be many there."

The statement had a magical effect. The tears stopped; and Napoleon finished the despatch, and handed it, sealed, to an aide, then hurriedly made the turn to the right and the one to the left, down the hall to his mother's apartment. Quite characteristically, since crowds and doors opened so readily before him, he forgot to knock and entered with something of the manner he described in a letter to Josephine as "bursting in."

Letizia, though stately and handsome as of old, felt a little out of place in all this new splendor. She had just thrown around her shoulders a valuable Cashmere shawl and arranged on the still chestnut curls the jeweled head-dress, both gifts of Napoleon. Her only regret was that he had not let her do her own buying. Then she might have looked well enough and still have put away a part of the money against a rainy day, inevitable even to those who had climbed to palaces.

Paulette had come in, a few moments before, to see about the hang of her skirt, for, much to her disgust, Napoleon had not yet allowed her a personal maid.

"Still, it's almost like being a princess," she said, as her mother bent over the rebellious flounce, "to be entertained in a castle by one's conquering brother. Right now, maman”—she was affecting French terms-"we're as good as royalty!"

"It does not pay," answered Letizia, as well as she could, with a gold pin in her mouth, "to boast, or spend too soon."

Napoleon, entering, caught the words. "That is foolishness, signora," he broke out. "If not for yourself, you must look well for me." He turned to his sister. "I wish to speak with your mother alone, Pauline."

With a moue Pauline swept out of the room. This young Corsican might have all Italy and France at his feet, but not his family. Nevertheless she loved him and was beginning, just a little, to fear him.

"Signora," he began, once the door had closed behind the train, "you should not treat my wife so haughtily. She has her faults, but they are trifling. And her virtues are magnificent. These you should recognize; remember that she is a joyous creature, sensitive, and easily hurt; that she fights single-handed, and there are many of us in the family descended like devouring locusts upon her; also that you are older than she. It is you that should make the advances."

The fine eyes sparkled, and she drew herself to her full stature in a way that made it seem greater than it was. "In my day, my son, the old were not required to make advances to the younger." It was a skilful use It was a skilful use of the comparative, for Josephine, at thirty-five, was but twelve years her junior. "Nor, Napoleon, did a son speak to his mother as king to subject!" Nettled, Napoleon turned.

"There are two Napoleons now, mother: one the son from whom you can always claim respect; the other the representative of France whom you in turn must respect."

She looked at him searchingly. Here was something, not known before, though perhaps foreseen something for his own sake to fear.

"I shall do my best," she answered, not with submission but with patience, "to win the affection of my daughter-in-law." She paused, and her voice trembled a little. "If only, my son, I could be sure she will make you happy!"

Without a word, Napoleon turned and left, pleased neither with himself nor with his family. Something like the distinction he had just made may before have found lodgment in his head; but the actual utterance of it, the opening of a gulf between himself and his mother whom he adored, left him vexed and not a little ashamed.


But now the halls below were filled with gay uniforms and even gayer gowns; and the music of hautboy, flute, and violin floated through the corridors. It was the telling moment for the family to descend the grand staircase, from the youngest to the oldest, and at last the conqueror himself, with his bride, radiant on his arm.

They took their places, the family ranged in proper order near him, Napoleon and Josephine, not on a dais

yet-but in a central bay that for the present served. Here they received, with all respect for courtly precedence, dukes from Piedmont, Parma, and Modena; suave mitered legates from Rome; Austrian envoys trying hard to hide their truculence and hate of this island upstart; ambassadors from the newly carved Cisalpine and Ligurian republics; owlish professors; savants with faces like their own parchments; ruddy Swiss; and olive-cheeked nobles, with their perfumed ladies, from Ferrara and Verona, from Vincenza, Bologna,

Mantua, and Milan, from Bergamo, Brescia, Bassano, Naples and Venice, and Sardinia and the Ionian Isles-a long line come to kiss the sword that had conquered them. If so, why not doubly conquered through Josephine's eyes, though, to do her justice, she cared not so much for conquest as to be liked, admired, and, by a creditable group, discreetly loved.

To Josephine it was the wine of life. She dressed superbly; and she made an appealing picture in a cloud of muslin caught up with those prettily incongruous gold and black lions at her shoulders, others at her wrists. As she acknowledged the salutation of bishop or ambassador with that ever graceful bend of her neck or lent her hand to be grazed by the fierce mustachios of old grizzled veteran or pressed by some handsome subaltern, she smiled-perhaps a little more sweetly on the last, still sweetly on all.

As for the young conqueror, no longer did his boots smell of grease, an epaulet hitch up on one shoulder, or a bit of shirt show between waistcoat and breeches, as sometimes it had, in spite of his love of order and personal cleanliness. Josephine had "polished him up"; and Letizia, who stood a pace to the left and the rear, gave her credit at least for that.

A group of diplomats now approached, their correct wigs in symbolic contrast with the hair of the republican generals, which was left au naturel.

They came to plead against the dismemberment of Venice, for already this young general was carving up his kingdoms; and resentment, as much at being forced to supplicate

a young island upstart as at any injustice, characterized their manner.

"Venice," said they, "heir of all the ages, should not be torn limb from limb!"

"The Directors of France have made their decision, citizens of Venice. I will forward your memorial to them; but I fear the time for compromise is past. And you must admit that the conduct of the Venetians has not earned it."

He had been admirably self-controlled, but to his mother it seemed as if the spasm that had contracted his features at the first indictment came not so much from anger as from violence he was doing to something deep within. But Dandolo, a Jew of persuasive voice yet dignified bearing, was speaking again.

"But your Excellency," he said, "the Directors will listen to you. Indeed, if without offense I may be permitted to say it, it is the brilliant conqueror of Italy who not only wins victories but makes the treaties. A word from you-your moral force-"

But the "brilliant conqueror" knew these wily Venetians. It was not for nothing that they had chosen this public place for their presentation rather than the sanctity of his cabinet. Knowing their cause to be almost hopeless, they planned to gain sympathy or to discredit him. So he broke angrily forth:

"And if I make them, Citizen Dandolo, I do not ask the conquered for advice. Nor will I use this moral force to keep in power your senile Senate. Already I have shed the best blood of France to carry freedom and republican institutions to Venice as well as all Italy. By the

terms of peace Austria has agreed to the partition. The glory of Venice long ago departed, and you will be happier with your cities secure under stronger rule than you are now in their decay, as you dream of your vanished splendor. So think you I will start more wars to bring your doddering doges back?

"And let me ask you something, Dandolo. Which of all the Italian peoples has most mistreated us, for years scoffed at us, and boasted of Italy as "The Graveyard of the French'? Recently, for once, you did more than boast. You fired on our frigates in times of truce, and at Easter you turned on our soldiers walking peacefully in Verona, stabbed them in the back, filled the streets with the murdered. Then, not satisfied with that, your brave soldiery rushed into the hospitals and slew the wounded in their cots.

"So much for France, Dandolo; and since you have asked me to bring my personal word to the Directors, now for myself." He bent forward, boring in with his eyes. "Who was it, friend Dandolo, that rode out of Venice at night to bribe the Directors to abjure my treaties?" Now his eyes swept the whole group. "Know, citizens of Venice, that the Directors of France are not to be bribed!

"Yet so you would have dishonored me before the world. And you ask me now to beg clemency of the Directors for perfidious Venice! Be thankful, Dandolo, that I do not clap you in chains but let you go free!" He finished, then, with an angry gesture, turned to his aide-de-camp, Marmont: "On with the dance!"

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clerc, née Bonaparte, who was much taken with that irrepressible young officer, "you should have seen him when we met the Austrian envoys in the Tyrol. Old Heavyfoot Cobenzl, their chief, swore your brother was drunk. But he wasn't, not he, though he hadn't slept for three nights; and, under the circumstances, those two glasses of punch should have gone to his head. They would have, to any other man's. Anyway, he gave old Heavyfoot three hours to consent to his terms; then he seized a priceless vase, one Amorous Kate of Russia had sent the emperor. 'If you do not sign,' he said, 'I will smash you like this! And crash, he drops the vase, shattering it into a thousand pieces.

"Nor had he lost his sense of humor, either, for a moment later, when he noticed an empty dais in the room, he asked, 'For whom is that?' 'For the emperor, who is absent, but here in spirit,' replies old Cobenzl. 'You had best take it out,' says your brother, quite to the point, 'for I never see a seat higher than mine without wanting to get in it!""

By now most of the gaily clad throng had passed, blithely chattering or swaying, in anticipation, toward the music in the adjoining room. Napoleon did not dance; and Josephine passed in on the arm of the Duke of Modena. The most adroit foreign minister, eager for alliances, could not have found fault with her choice of partners for the next few dances. Not so discreet, however, were the glances she exchanged with the black-haired Hippolyte Charles, who hung in constant attendance near her chair, or on the words she whispered to him from behind her

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