Several hours passed. In the early morning, before daylight, there came a knock at the door.
“Already?” said Napoleon. “Well, my plaintive dove, go home and rest. You must not fear the eagle. In time you will come to love him, and in all things you shall command him.”
Then he led her to the door, but said that he would not open it unless she promised to see him the next day—a promise which she gave the more readily because he had treated her with such respect.
On the following morning her faithful maid came to her bedside with a cluster of beautiful violets, a letter, and several daintily made morocco cases. When these were opened there leaped out strings and necklaces of exquisite diamonds, blazing in the morning sunlight. Mme. Walewska seized the jewels and flung them across the room with an order that they should be taken back at once to the imperial giver; but the letter, which was in the same romantic strain as the others, she retained.
On that same evening there was another dinner, given to the emperor by the nobles, and Marie Walewska attended it, but of course without the diamonds, which she had returned. Nor did she wear the flowers which had accompanied the diamonds.
When Napoleon met her he frowned upon her and made her tremble with the cold glances that shot from his eyes of steel. He scarcely spoke to her throughout the meal, but those who sat beside her were earnest in their pleading.
Again she waited until the guests had gone away, and with a lighter heart, since she felt that she had nothing to fear. But when she met Napoleon in his private cabinet, alone, his mood was very different from that which he had shown before. Instead of gentleness and consideration he was the Napoleon of camps, and not of courts. He greeted her bruskly.
“I scarcely expected to see you again,” said he. “Why did you refuse my diamonds and my flowers? Why did you avoid my eyes at dinner? Your coldness is an insult which I shall not brook.” Then he raised his voice to that rasping, almost blood-curdling tone which even his hardiest soldiers dreaded: “I will have you know that I mean to conquer you. You shall—yes, I repeat it, you shall love me! I have restored the name of your country. It owes its very existence to me.”
Then he resorted to a trick which he had played years before in dealing with the Austrians at Campo Formio.
“See this watch which I am holding in my hand. Just as I dash it to fragments before you, so will I shatter Poland if you drive me to desperation by rejecting my heart and refusing me your own.”
As he spoke he hurled the watch against the opposite wall with terrific force, dashing it to pieces. In terror, Mme. Walewska fainted. When she resumed consciousness there was Napoleon wiping away her tears with the tenderness of a woman and with words of self-reproach.