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An Awkward Rencontre.
beheld advancing towards the house who, but the Emperor himself. He rang at a back door, usually appropriated to the servants, and entered. He was I think ac
companied by Berthier. Here was a rencontre! .... It was Scylla and Carybdis! I might perhaps have feigned not to recognise the Emperor, but, with a most imperative gesture, he beckoned me to him. I therefore turned to the right about, and, leaving the Princess to find her way to the drawing-room unattended, I hurried to the Emperor.
"Prince,' said he, as soon as I was in his presence, 'I know that my sister wishes to speak with you. Shew me into an adjoining room, where I may hear her break her thunderbolts. Say what you can to appease her, but do not pledge me for any thing.... Go to her quickly. She will never forgive you for keeping her waiting."
"I thought of the fatal position of Germanicus with Nero in Racine's tragedy, in the scene in which Junie complains to the former of the cruelty of the latter. I had prepared myself for a most violent reception, but all my expectations fell short of the reality. The Princess, as soon as she saw me, taxed me with my want of respect, and complained of not having found me waiting to receive her at the door of my hotel. This first ebullition of ill humour being exhausted, I said:
"Madam, if your Imperial Highness had been pleased to give me notice of your intention to confer on me this honour, I should undoubtedly have observed the due etiquette. But as I am not endowed with prescience, it was only a few minutes ago that I learned, from my servants, that the sister of our august monarch was in my house." "His sister, Sir! rather say an unfortunate, a forsaken, a miserable slave!'
"Is it possible, Madam, that, enjoying as you do, the favour of his Imperial Majesty, you can have any cause of complaint?"
"His favour! What a mockery! Does he show his favour by degrading me?'
"No, Madam, but by having elevated you to the dignity of an Imperial Princess, by having conferred on you the Duchy of Guastalla, and united you to a Roman Prince!
"A brilliant marriage, truly! ... . An illustrious rank!
I have, indeed, reason to congratulate myself when I see Caroline a Queen, my sister-in-law a Queen, and then Josephine's daughter a Queen, or on the point of becoming one: and I suppose there is a kingdom in store for Jerome's wife!.... Eliza, too, will be crowned by and bye; whilst I am nothing. Hear me, Prince Cambacérès....Go immediately to Bonaparte, and tell him, that if he does not raise me to the dignity of Queen, I have a terrible vengeance in reserve for him.'
"But which your sisterly affection will not permit you to inflict."
"My affection! . . I hate him . . . . he is a monster!' "Hush! Princess! I exclaimed with some alarm. Know that in France walls have ears."
"I care not. ... I defy his police. . . . and I would tell him all I have said to his face.... I will seek refuge in England, or he shall perish by my hand.'
"I became more and more alarmed, and I was about to reply, when the Emperor saved me the trouble. He opened the door, and presented himself to the astonished Princess. "Maniac!" he exclaimed, you shall not go to England, but to Charenton.'
"Ah! so you have followed me,' she said. Then you thought I really intended to throw myself into the Seine as I threatened! I have come here to request Prince Cambacérès to intercede for me. . . . Now, my dear Napoleon, I must have a crown.. ... I don't care where it is.. Make me Queen of Portugal,—or Denmark, what you will I would even reign in Switzerland or Corfu . . . . no matter where .... but a crown I must have.... Am I to be the only one of the family who does not wear one? ... Oh, Napoleon! your unkindness will kill me!'
"With these words, she burst into a flood of tears . . . The capricious beauty had changed her imperious_tone to one of supplication, and tender reproach. The Princess Pauline was certainly a most fascinating woman; but, at that moment, she appeared to me more charming than ever. I could not wonder at the ascendancy she gained over the Emperor. He was at first in a violent rage; but his anger was gradually soothed, and, when Pauline stopped short
in her appeal to him and burst into tears, he advanced to her, and said affectionately:
"My dear sister, why are you not satisfied? I am doing all I can for you. ... Kingdoms cannot be created at my will. Besides, your husband is not a Frenchman.' "Let me have a divorce, then.'
"I will be a Queen, or I will go to London.' "You shall go to Vincennes.'
"I defy you!.. I will strangle myself as I enter.'
"I know not what circumstance was recalled to Napoleon's mind by this threat; but his brow lowered, his eyes flashed, and he bit his lips till he almost drew blood; and then, in a voice faultering with emotion, he exclaimed:
"So much the better, Madam! You will rid me of a termagant, whom I find more difficult to govern than all Europe together! . . . . I see that you are only to be ruled by a rod of iron. I therefore command you to go immediately to Madame Mère, and there await the orders which: the Prince Arch-Chancellor shall deliver to you from me.' "Then will you make me a Queen? . -I must be crowned.'
"Really, Pauline, to hear you, one would imagine that I had wronged you of your right of succession to the late King our father.'
"I had never before known the Emperor to have recourse to this sort of pleasantry, but I often afterwards heard him employ similar language. On the occasion which I have first been describing, this good-humoured touch of satire, had an excellent effect. Pauline blushed, and a rapid glance at the past reminded her of her humble origin, contrasted as it was with the high rank to which her brother. had raised her. A sudden change was effected in her feelings. She hung down her head, and was evidently mortified and ashamed. Napoleon asked her whether she had come alone. She named one of her ladies, I do not recollect whom, and said she was waiting in another apartment.
"Let her come in,' said the Emperor.
"I rang,—the order was given, and the lady appeared.
Baptism of the Sword.
The Emperor directed her not to lose sight of the Princess Borghese, and then turning to me, he added:
"Let us retire to your cabinet.'
"I am at Your Majesty's disposal, replied I; but permit me first to observe the ceremony due to the Princess. "Well, well! only be quick!"
"He proceeded to my cabinet, and I escorted the Princess to her carriage. As soon as I had got rid of her, I flew to wait on the Emperor. I found him walking about the room with hurried steps.
"Well, Prince!' said he, as soon as I entered, 'this is one of the thousand disagreeable scenes which tyrant, as they say I am, I am compelled to endure. This morning Pauline came to me, commenced an altercation, assumed an imperative tone, and ended by threatening to drown herself. Seeing the excited state she was in, and knowing her violent temper, I became alarmed. She left me; I followed her, and, as soon as she stepped into her carriage, I took possession of the first cabriolet I saw standing in the court-yard of the Tuileries. She drove across the bridges; I suspected she was coming to you,-I entered by your back door and you know the rest... A crown for a Borghese!.... Such a proposition would excite an insurrection in the army?.... The Borghesi are of pure blood royal, I know; but kings of my creation must be of my own blood, and must have received the baptism of the sword. However, I am anxious to soothe Pauline. Her husband shall be made Governor of Piedmont. Tell her this from me; and, moreover, that I will give her a million francs to clear off her debts and reset her diamonds . . . . A million francs! .... What a sum!.... How much happiness it would diffuse if distributed! Ah Prince! What a cross is a numerous family to a man like me! I have always envied the happiness of Melchisedech, who never knew father, mother, brother, and, above all, sisters!'
"The Emperor explained to me his intentions and returned to the Tuileries. I proceeded to the residence of Madame Mère. That venerable and dignified matron was depreciated only by those who did not know her. I who knew her well, am enabled to say that there never was a better mother or a more estimable woman. The last time
I saw her, which was during the events which terminated in the fall of her son, she said to me:
"Whatever may be the issue of all this, I shall not complain, provided Napoleon retires without any compromise of honour. To fall is nothing when we fall nobly; but death is a thousand times preferable to any mean concession.' As she uttered these words, she raised her fine classical head, and looked like the bust of Agrippina.
"She had heard of the misunderstanding between the Emperor and the Princess. Whenever any of her children rebelled against Napoleon, she always reproved them, saying: My husband transmitted his power to Napoleon. You must all obey him, for he is your father.' On this principle, she had already remonstrated with her beautiful and refractory daughter, Pauline. Madame Mère received me with all the courtly ceremony which her lady of honour, the Countess de Fontanges, knew so well how to maintain. I was received by the ci-devant Duke de Brissac, then a Count, a senator, and Madame Letitia's gentlemen in waiting."
"I have spoken to the Princess,' said Madame Letitia, as soon as I was ushered into her presence, ‘and she is convinced of her mistake.' I repeated the Emperor's words. When Madame Borghese heard them, she frowned most superbly, and, foreseeing that some warm words would probably ensue between the mother and daughter, I beat a retreat, and hurried back to the Tuileries to inform the Emperor that I had obeyed his orders.
"Is she grateful?' he inquired. I told him candidly how his message had been received.
"Ah!" said the Emperor, 'she will not easily give up her point. I well know her resolute disposition. She has set her heart on a crown; but she shall never have one.””
There was always some curious anecdote to be gathered from the conversation of Prince Cambacérès. In one of my evening visits to him, he related the following story: "One day when the Emperor had detained me longer than usual, the Minister of the Police (the Duke of Otranto) sent to request an immediate audience.
"What can he want,' said the Emperor. Stay, Prince. Cambacérès, I like to have a witness when he is with me.'