The little Louis Napoleon regarded the tall figures of those princes thoughtfully for a moment, by no means impressed by their imposing titles. He was so accustomed to see his mother surrounded by kings, and these kings had always been his uncles.
“Mademoiselle,” said the little Louis Napoleon, after a short pause, “are these two new gentlemen, the emperor and the king, also our uncles, like all the others and must we call them so?”
“No, Louis, you must simply call them ‘sire.’”
“But,” said the boy, after a moment’s reflection, “why is it that they are not our uncles?”
The governess withdrew with the two children to the back of the parlor, and explained to them, in a low voice, that the emperors and kings then in Paris, far from being their uncles, were their vanquishers.
“Then,” exclaimed the elder boy, Napoleon Louis, his face flushing with anger, “then they are the enemies of my uncle, the emperor! Why did this Emperor of Russia embrace us?”
“Because he is a noble and generous enemy, who is endeavoring to serve you and your mother in your present misfortune. Without him you would possess nothing more in the world, and the fate of your uncle, the emperor, would be much sadder than it already is.”
“Then we ought to love this emperor very dearly?” said the little Louis Napoleon.
“Certainly; for you owe him many thanks.”
The young prince regarded the emperor, who was conversing with the empress Josephine, long and thoughtfully.
When the emperor returned to Malmaison on the following day, and while he was sitting at his mother’s side in the garden-house, little Louis Napoleon, walking on tiptoe, noiselessly approached the emperor from behind, laid a small glittering object in his hand, and ran away.
The queen called him back, and demanded with earnest severity to know what he had done.
The little prince returned reluctantly, hanging his head with embarrassment, and said, blushing deeply: “Ah, maman, it is the ring Uncle Eugene gave me. I wished to give it to the emperor, because he is so good to my maman!”
Deeply touched, the emperor took the boy in his arms, seated him on his knees, and kissed him tenderly.
Then, in order to give the little prince an immediate reward, he attached the ring to his watch-chain, and swore that he would wear the token as long as he lived.
[Footnote 28: Cochelet, vol. i., p. 355.]
DEATH OF THE EMPRESS JOSEPHINE.