“For what?” returned her escort.
“Why, are you blind? It’s so remarkable that you surely must see it.”
Pauline was beginning to lose her self-composure. She flushed and looked wildly about, wondering what was meant. Then she heard Mme. Coutades say:
“Why, her ears. If I had such ears as those I would cut them off!”
Pauline gave one great gasp and fainted dead away. As a matter of fact, her ears were not so bad. They were simply very flat and colorless, forming a contrast with the rosy tints of her face. But from that moment no one could see anything but these ears; and thereafter the princess wore her hair low enough to cover them.
This may be seen in the statue of her by Canova. It was considered a very daring thing for her to pose for him in the nude, for only a bit of drapery is thrown over her lower limbs. Yet it is true that this statue is absolutely classical in its conception and execution, and its interest is heightened by the fact that its model was what she afterward styled herself, with true Napoleonic pride—“a sister of Bonaparte.”
Pauline detested Josephine and was pleased when Napoleon divorced her; but she also disliked the Austrian archduchess, Marie Louise, who was Josephine’s successor. On one occasion, at a great court function, she got behind the empress and ran out her tongue at her, in full view of all the nobles and distinguished persons present. Napoleon’s eagle eye flashed upon Pauline and blazed like fire upon ice. She actually took to her heels, rushed out of the ball, and never visited the court again.
It would require much time to tell of her other eccentricities, of her intrigues, which were innumerable, of her quarrel with her husband, and of the minor breaches of decorum with which she startled Paris. One of these was her choice of a huge negro to bathe her every morning. When some one ventured to protest, she answered, naively:
“What! Do you call that thing a man?”
And she compromised by compelling her black servitor to go out and marry some one at once, so that he might continue his ministrations with propriety!
To her Napoleon showed himself far more severe than with either Caroline or Elise. He gave her a marriage dowry of half a million francs when she became the Princess Borghese, but after that he was continually checking her extravagances. Yet in 1814, when the downfall came and Napoleon was sent into exile at Elba, Pauline was the only one of all his relatives to visit him and spend her time with him. His wife fell away and went back to her Austrian relatives. Of all the Bonapartes only Pauline and Mme. Mere remained faithful to the emperor.