‘Have you no feeling then?’ sobbed the Empress.
’A great man is not made for feeling. It is for him to decide what he shall do, and then to do it without interference from anyone. It is your place, Josephine, to submit to all my fancies, and you should think it quite natural that I should allow myself some latitude.’
It was a favourite device of the Emperor’s, when he was in the wrong upon one point, to turn the conversation round so as to get upon some other one on which he was in the right. Having worked off the first explosion of his passion he now assumed the offensive, for in argument, as in war, his instinct was always to attack.
‘I have been looking over Lenormand’s accounts, Josephine,’ said he. ’Are you aware how many dresses you have had last year? You have had a hundred and forty—no less—and many of them cost as much as twenty-five thousand livres. I am told that you have six hundred dresses in your wardrobes, many of which have hardly ever been used. Madame de Remusat knows that what I say is true. She cannot deny it.’
‘You like me to dress well, Napoleon.’
’I will not have such monstrous extravagance. I could have two regiments of cuirassiers, or a fleet of frigates, with the money which you squander upon foolish silks and furs. It might turn the fortunes of a campaign. Then again, Josephine, who gave you permission to order that parure of diamonds and sapphires from Lefebvre? The bill has been sent to me and I have refused to pay for it. If he applies again, I shall have him marched to prison between a file of grenadiers, and your milliner shall accompany him there.’
The Emperor’s fits of anger, although tempestuous, were never very prolonged. The curious convulsive wriggle of one of his arms, which always showed when he was excited, gradually died away, and after looking for some time at the papers of de Meneval—who had written away like an automaton during all this uproar—he came across to the fire with a smile upon his lips, and a brow from which the shadow had departed.
‘You have no excuse for extravagance, Josephine,’ said he, laying his hand upon her shoulder. ’Diamonds and fine dresses are very necessary to an ugly woman in order to make her attractive, but you cannot need them for such a purpose. You had no fine dresses when first I saw you in the Rue Chautereine, and yet there was no woman in the world who ever attracted me so. Why will you vex me, Josephine, and make me say things which seem unkind? Drive back, little one, to Pont de Briques, and see that you do not catch cold.’
‘You will come to the salon, Napoleon?’ asked the Empress, whose bitterest resentment seemed to vanish in an instant at the first kindly touch from his hand. She still held her handkerchief before her eyes, but it was chiefly, I think, to conceal the effect which her tears had had upon her cheeks.