His Majesty was accustomed to say that one could always tell an honorable man by his conduct to his wife, his children, and his servants; and I hope it will appear from these memoirs that the Emperor conducted himself as an honorable man, according to his own definition. He said, moreover, that immorality was the most dangerous vice of a sovereign, because of the evil example it set to his subjects. What he meant by immorality was doubtless a scandalous publicity given to liaisons which might otherwise have remained secret; for, as regards these liaisons themselves, he withstood women no more than any other man when they threw themselves at his head. Perhaps another man, surrounded by seductions, attacks, and advances of all kinds, would have resisted these temptations still less. Nevertheless, please God, I do not propose to defend his Majesty in this respect. I will even admit, if you wish, that his conduct did not offer an example in the most perfect accord with the morality of his discourses; but it must be admitted also that it was somewhat to the credit of a sovereign that he concealed, with the most scrupulous care, his frailties from the public, lest they should be a subject of scandal, or, what is worse, of imitation; and from his wife, to whom it would have been a source of the deepest grief.
On this delicate subject I recall two or three occurrences which took place, I think, about the period which my narrative has now reached.
The Empress Josephine was jealous, and, notwithstanding the prudence which the Emperor exercised in his secret liaisons, could not remain in entire ignorance of what was passing.
The Emperor had known at Genoa Madame Gazani, the daughter of an Italian dancer, whom he continued to receive at Paris; and one day, having an appointment with her in his private apartments, ordered me to remain in his room, and to reply to whoever asked for him, even if it was her Majesty the Empress herself, that he was engaged in his cabinet with a minister.
The place of the interview was the apartment formerly occupied by Bourrienne, communicating by a staircase which opened on his Majesty’s bedroom. This room had been arranged and decorated very plainly, and had a second exit on the staircase called the black staircase, because it was dark and badly lighted, and it was through this that Madame Gazani entered, while the Emperor came in by the other door. They had been together only a few moments when the Empress entered the Emperor’s room, and asked me what her husband was doing. “Madame, the Emperor is very busy just now; he is working in his cabinet with a minister.”—“Constant, I wish to enter.”—“That is impossible, Madame. I have received a formal order not to disturb his Majesty, not even for her Majesty the Empress;” whereupon she went away dissatisfied and somewhat irritated, and at the end of half an hour returned; and, renewing her demand, I was obliged to repeat my reply, and,