The orchestra was composed of musicians from twenty regiments, who played in turn. But on the opening of the ball the entire orchestra executed a triumphal march, during which the aides-de-Camp, most elegantly attired, received the ladies invited, and presented them with bouquets.
In order to be admitted to this ball, it was necessary to have at least the rank of commandant. It is, impossible to give an idea of the scene presented by this multitude of uniforms, each vying in brilliancy with the other. The fifty or sixty generals who gave the ball had ordered from Paris magnificently embroidered uniforms, and the group they formed around his Majesty as he entered glittered with gold and diamonds. The Emperor remained an hour at this fete, and danced the Boulanyere with Madame Bertrand. He wore the uniform of colonel-general of the cavalry of the guard.
The wife of Marshal Soult was queen of the ball. She wore a black velvet dress besprinkled with the kind of diamonds called rhinestones.
At midnight a splendid supper was served, the preparation of which General Bisson had superintended, which is equivalent to saying that nothing was wanting thereto.
The ladies of Boulogne, who had never attended such a fete, were filled with amazement, and when supper was served advised each other to fill up their reticules with dainties and sweets. They would have carried away, I think, the hall, with the musicians and dancers; and for more than a month this ball was the only subject of their conversation.
About this time his Majesty was riding on horseback near his barracks, when a pretty young girl of fifteen or sixteen, dressed in white, her face bathed in tears, threw herself on her knees in his path. The Emperor immediately alighted from his horse, and assisted her to rise, asking most compassionately what he could do for her. The poor girl had come to entreat the pardon of her father, a storekeeper in the commissary department, who had been condemned to the galleys for grave crimes. His Majesty could not resist the many charms of the youthful suppliant, and the pardon was granted.
At Boulogne, as everywhere else, the Emperor well knew how to win all hearts by his moderation, his justice, and the generous grace with which he acknowledged the least service. All the inhabitants of Boulogne, even all the peasants of the suburbs, would have died for him, and the smallest particulars relating to him were constantly repeated. One day, however, his conduct gave rise to serious complaints, and he was unanimously blamed; for his injustice was the cause of a terrible tragedy. I will now relate this sad event, an authentic account of which I have never seen in print.