Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon — Complete eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 887 pages of information about Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon Complete.
rose, approached the coffin, and walked around it slowly in silence; then stopping and letting her folded hands fall by her side, she remained for some time immovable, regarding the inanimate figure of her husband, and watering it with her tears.  At last she in a measure regained her self-control and exclaimed in stifled tones through her sobs, Mon Dieu, mon Dieu! how he is changed!’ I made a sign to M. Cretu that it was time to retire; but we could drag the duchess away only by promising her to bring her back next day,—­a promise which could not be kept.  I closed the door quickly, and gave my arm to the duchess, which she gratefully accepted.  When we left the mayoralty I took leave of her; but she insisted on my entering her carriage, and gave orders to carry me to my residence.  In this short ride she shed a torrent of tears; and when the carriage stopped, said to me with inexpressible kindness, ’I shall never forget, Monsieur, the important service you have just rendered me.’”

Long after this the Emperor and Empress Marie Louise visited together the manufacture of Sevres porcelain, and the Duchess of Montebello accompanied the Empress as lady of honor.  The Emperor, seeing a fine bust of the marshal, in bisque, exquisitely made, paused, and, not noticing the pallor which overspread the countenance of the duchess, asked her what she thought of this bust, and if it was a good likeness.  The widow felt as if her old wound was reopened; she could not reply, and retired, bathed in tears, and it was several days before she reappeared at court.  Apart from the fact that this unexpected question renewed her grief, the inconceivable thoughtlessness the Emperor had shown wounded her so deeply that, her friends had much difficulty in persuading her to resume her duties near the Empress.

CHAPTER XIX.

The battle of Essling was disastrous in every respect.  Twelve thousand Frenchmen were slain; and the source of all this trouble was the destruction of the bridges, which could have been prevented, it seems to me, for the same accident had occurred two or three days before the battle.  The soldiers complained loudly, and several corps of the infantry cried out to the generals to dismount and fight in their midst; but this ill humor in no wise affected their courage or patience, for regiments remained five hours under arms, exposed to the most terrible fire.  Three times during the evening the Emperor sent to inquire of General Massena if he could hold his position; and the brave captain, who that day saw his son on the field of battle for the first time, and his friends and his bravest officers falling by dozens around him, held it till night closed in.  “I will not fall back,” said he, “while there is light.  Those rascally Austrians would be too glad.”  The constancy of the marshal saved the day; but, as he himself said, he was always blessed with good luck.  In the beginning of the battle, seeing that one of his stirrups was too long, he called a soldier to shorten it, and during this operation placed his leg on his horse’s neck; a cannon-ball whizzed by, killed the soldier, and cut off the stirrup, without touching the marshal or his horse.  “There,” said he, “now I shall have to get down and change my saddle;” which observation the marshal made in a jesting tone.

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Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon — Complete from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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