“For the breakfast which Marshal Davoust gave me in his tent, the grenadiers had been preparing to entertain us with several songs, and came forward to sing them with the bashfulness of young girls. In the most embarrassed and timid manner, they sang a song full of the fiercest and most daring threats against England.
“From the emperor’s parlor we often saw the soldiers of his guard assemble on the grass-plot before the castle; one of them would play the violin and instruct his comrades in dancing. The beginners would study the ‘jetes’ and ‘assembles’ with the closest attention; the more advanced ones would execute a whole contredance. From behind the window-blinds we watched them with the greatest pleasure. The emperor, who often surprised us at this occupation, would laugh with us and rejoice at the innocent amusements of his soldiers.
“Was this project of a landing in England really intended? Or was it the emperor’s purpose by these enormous preparations to divert attention from other points, and fix it on this one only? Even to-day this is a question which I cannot venture to decide; here, as elsewhere, I only report what I have seen.
“Madame Ney also gave me a brilliant festival at Montreuil, where her husband the marshal was in command. During the forenoon the troops were manoeuvred before me, in the evening a ball took place. But this was suddenly interrupted by the intelligence that the emperor had just embarked.
“A number of young officers, who had been present at the ball, rushed out on the road to Boulogne; I followed them with the rapidity of lightning, escorted as usual by General Defrance, who burned with impatience to be again at the emperor’s side. I myself felt unutterable emotion at the prospect of witnessing so great an occurrence. I imagined myself observing the battle from the summit of the tower that stood near the emperor’s tent; beholding our fleet advance and sink down into the waves, I shuddered in anticipation.
“At last I arrived. I inquired after the emperor, and learned that he had actually attended the embarkation of all his troops during the night, but that he had just returned to his villa.
“I did not see him until dinner, at which he asked Prince Joseph, who was then colonel of a regiment, whether he had believed in this pretended embarkation, and what effect it had had on the soldiers. Joseph said that he, like all the world, had believed that a departure was really intended, and that the soldiers had doubted it so little that they had sold their watches. The emperor also often asked if the telegraph had not yet announced the approach of the French squadron; his adjutant, Lauriston, was with the squadron, and the emperor seemed only to be awaiting Lauriston’s arrival and a favorable wind, in order to set sail.
“The eight days’ absence accorded me by my husband had expired, and I took leave of the emperor. I journeyed through Calais and Dunkirk. I saw troops defiling before me everywhere; and with regret and fear I left this magnificent army, thinking that they might perhaps in a few days be exposed to the greatest dangers.