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Napoleon’s Nightmare

From: New England Review
Volume 34, Number 2, 2013
pp. 181-186 | 10.1353/ner.2013.0068

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The Emperor Alexander never tired of showing his regard for actors by presents and compliments; and as for actresses, I have told before how far he would have gone with one of them if Napoleon had not deterred him. Each day the Grand Duke Constantine got up parties of pleasure with Murat and other distinguished persons, at which no expense was spared, and some of these ladies did the honors. And what furs and diamonds they carried away from Erfurt! The two Emperors were not ignorant of all this, and were much amused thereby; and it was the favorite subject of conversation in the morning. Constantine had conceived an especial affection for King Jérôme; and the king even carried his affection so far as to tutoy him, and wished him to do the same. “Is it because I am a king,” he said one day, “that you are afraid to say thou to me? Come, now, is there any need of formality between friends?” They performed all sorts of college pranks together, even running through the streets at night, knocking and ringing at every door, much delighted when they had waked up some honest bourgeois . As the Emperor was leaving, King Jérôme said to the grand duke: “Come, tell me what you wish me to send you from Paris.”—“Nothing whatever,” replied the grand duke: “your brother has presented me with a magnificent sword; I am satisfied, and desire nothing more.”—“But I wish to send you something, so tell me what would give you pleasure.”—“Well, send me six demoiselles from the Palais Royal.”

The play at Erfurt usually began at seven o’clock; but the two Emperors, who always came together, never arrived till half-past seven. At their entrance, all the pit of kings rose to do them honor, and the first piece immediately commenced.

At the representation of Cinna , the Emperor feared that the Czar, who was placed by his side in a box facing the stage, and on the first tier, might not hear very well, as he was somewhat deaf; and consequently gave orders to M. de Rémusat, first chamberlain, that a platform should be raised on the floor of the orchestra, and armchairs placed there for Alexander and himself; and on the right and left four handsomely decorated chairs for the King of Saxony and the other sovereigns of the Confederation, while the princes took possession of the box abandoned by their Majesties. By this arrangement the two Emperors found themselves in such a conspicuous position that it was impossible for them to make a movement without being seen by every one. On the 3d of October Œedipus was presented. “All the sovereigns,” as the Emperor called them, were present at this representation; and just as the actor pronounced these words in the first scene:—the Czar arose, and held out his hand with much grace to the Emperor; and immediately acclamations, which the presence of the sovereigns could not restrain, burst forth from every part of the hall.

On the evening of this same day I prepared the Emperor for bed as usual. All the doors which opened into his sleeping-room were carefully closed, as well as the shutters and windows; and there was consequently no means of entering his Majesty’s room except through the chamber in which I slept with Roustan, and a sentinel was also stationed at the foot of the staircase. Every night I slept very calmly, knowing that it was impossible any one could reach Napoleon without waking me; but that night, about two o’clock, while I was sleeping soundly, a strange noise woke me with a start. I rubbed my eyes, and listened with the greatest attention, and, hearing nothing whatever, thought this noise the illusion of a dream, and was just dropping to sleep again, when my ear was struck by low, smothered screams, such as a man might utter who was being strangled. I heard them repeated twice, and in an instant was sitting up straight in bed, my hair on end, and my limbs covered with a cold sweat. Suddenly it occurred to...



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