One day, Voltaire’s tragedy, “The Death of Caesar,” was exhibited. Napoleon had the post of honor of a first lieutenant for this festivity, and with grave earnestness he filled the duties of his office.
Suddenly at the entrance of the garden arose a loud noise and vehement recriminations of threatening and abusive voices.
It was Margaret Haute, the porter’s wife, who wanted to come in, though she had no card of admission. She was well known to all the students, for at the gate of the institution she had a little stall of fruits, eggs, milk, and cakes, and all the boys purchased from her every day, and liked to jest and joke with the pleasant and obliging woman.
Margaret Haute had therefore considered it of no importance to procure a card of admission, which thing she considered to be superfluous for such an important and well-known personage as herself. The greater was her astonishment and anger when admission was refused, and she therefore began to clamor loudly, hoping by this means to attract some of the scholars, who would recognize her and procure her admittance. Meanwhile the post guardian dared not act without superior orders, and the inferior officer hastened to communicate the important event to the first lieutenant, Napoleon de Bonaparte, and receive his decision.
Napoleon, who ordinarily was kind to the fruit-vender, and gladly jested with the humorous and coarse woman, listened to the report of the lieutenant with furrowed brow and dark countenance, and with severe dignity gave his orders: “Remove that woman, who takes upon herself to introduce licentiousness into the camp.” [Footnote: Afterward, when First Consul, Napoleon sent for this woman and her husband to come to Paris, and he gave them the lucrative position of porter at the castle of Malmaison, which charge they retained unto their death.]
The unhappy marriage.
While the boy Napoleon de Bonaparte pursued his studies as a student in Brienne, she, who was one day to share his greatness and his fame, had already appeared on the world’s stage as the wife of another. Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie was already received in the highest society of Paris as the Viscountess de Beauharnais.
Every thing seemed to promise to the young couple a happy, secure future, free from care. They were both young, wealthy, of good family, and though the parents had planned this marriage and joined together the hands of the young couple, yet it was their good fortune that love should tie and strengthen the bond which mere expediency had formed.
Yes, they loved one another, these young married people of sixteen and eighteen. How could it have been otherwise, when they both met each other with the candid and honest desire to make one another happy; when each of them had been so well adapted to the other that their brilliant, good, and beautiful qualities were so prominent that their eyes were blinded to the possibility of imperfections and vices which perchance remained in the obscure background of their virtue and of their amiableness?