But Marie Louise was, after all, a woman, and she followed the guidance of her heart. To her Napoleon was still the man who had met her amid the rain-storm at Courcelles, and had from the first moment when he touched her violated all the instincts of a virgin. Later he had in his way tried to make amends; but the horror of that first night had never wholly left her memory. Napoleon had unrolled before her the drama of sensuality, but her heart had not been given to him. She had been his empress. In a sense it might be more true to say that she had been his mistress. But she had never been duly wooed and won and made his wife—an experience which is the right of every woman. And so this Neipperg, with his deferential manners, his soothing voice, his magnetic touch, his ardor, and his devotion, appeased that craving which the master of a hundred legions could not satisfy.
In less than the six months of which Neipperg had spoken the psychological moment had arrived. In the dim twilight she listened to his words of love; and then, drawn by that irresistible power which masters pride and woman’s will, she sank into her lover’s arms, yielding to his caresses, and knowing that she would be parted from him no more except by death.
From that moment he was bound to her by the closest ties and lived with her at the petty court of Parma. His prediction came true to the very letter. Teresa Pola died, and then Napoleon died, and after this Marie Louise and Neipperg were united in a morganatic marriage. Three children were born to them before his death in 1829.
It is interesting to note how much of an impression was made upon her by the final exile of her imperial husband to St. Helena. When the news was brought her she observed, casually:
“Thanks. By the way, I should like to ride this morning to Markenstein. Do you think the weather is good enough to risk it?”
Napoleon, on his side, passed through agonies of doubt and longing when no letters came to him from Marie Louise. She was constantly in his thoughts during his exile at St. Helena. “When his faithful friend and constant companion at St. Helena, the Count Las Casas, was ordered by Sir Hudson Lowe to depart from St. Helena, Napoleon wrote to him:
“Should you see, some day, my wife and son, embrace them. For two years I have, neither directly nor indirectly, heard from them. There has been on this island for six months a German botanist, who has seen them in the garden of Schoenbrunn a few months before his departure. The barbarians (meaning the English authorities at St. Helena) have carefully prevented him from coming to give me any news respecting them.”
At last the truth was told him, and he received it with that high magnanimity, or it may be fatalism, which at times he was capable of showing. Never in all his days of exile did he say one word against her. Possibly in searching his own soul he found excuses such as we may find. In his will he spoke of her with great affection, and shortly before his death he said to his physician, Antommarchi: