Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon— Complete

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Author: Louis Constant Wairy

Chapter XVII.

During his stay at Schoenbrunn the Emperor was constantly engaged in gallant adventures. He was one day promenading on the Prater in Vienna, with a very numerous suite (the Prater is a handsome promenade situated in the Faubourg Leopold), when a young German, widow of a rich merchant, saw him, and exclaimed involuntarily to the ladies promenading with her, "It is he!" This exclamation was overheard by his Majesty, who stopped short, and bowed to the ladies with a smile, while the one who had spoken blushed crimson; the Emperor comprehended this unequivocal sign, looked at her steadfastly, and then continued his walk.

For sovereigns there are neither long attacks nor great difficulties, and this new conquest of his Majesty was not less rapid than the others. In order not to be separated from her illustrious lover, Madame B---- followed the army to Bavaria, and afterwards came to him at Paris, where she died in 1812.

His Majesty’s attention was attracted by a charming young person one morning in the suburbs of Schoenbrunn; and some one was ordered to see this young lady, and arrange for a rendezvous at the chateau the following evening. Fortune favored his Majesty on this occasion. The eclat of so illustrious a name, and the renown of his victories, had produced a deep impression on the mind of the young girl, and had disposed her to listen favorably to the propositions made to her. She therefore eagerly consented to meet him at the chateau; and at the appointed hour the person of whom I have spoken came for her, and I received her on her arrival, and introduced her to his Majesty. She did not speak French, but she knew Italian well, and it was consequently easy for the Emperor to converse with her; and he soon learned with astonishment that this charming young lady belonged to a very honorable family of Vienna, and that in coming to him that evening she was inspired alone by a desire to express to him her sincere admiration. The Emperor respected the innocence of the young girl, had her reconducted to her parents’ residence, and gave orders that a marriage should be arranged for her, and that it should be rendered more advantageous by means of a considerable dowry.

At Schoenbrunn, as at Paris, his Majesty dined habitually at six o’clock; but since he worked sometimes very far into the night, care was taken to prepare every evening a light supper, which was placed in a little locked basket covered with oil-cloth. There were two keys to this basket; one of which the steward kept, and I the other. The care of this basket belonged to me alone; and as his Majesty was extremely busy, he hardly ever asked for supper. One evening Roustan, who had been busily occupied all day in his master’s service, was in a little room next to the Emperor’s, and meeting me just after I had assisted in putting his Majesty to bed, said to me in his bad French, looking at the basket with an envious eye, "I could eat a chicken wing myself; I am very hungry." I refused at first; but finally, as I knew that the Emperor had gone to bed, and had no idea he would take a fancy to ask me for supper that evening, I let Roustan have it. He, much delighted, began with a leg, and next took a wing; and I do not know if any of the chicken would have been left had I not suddenly heard the bell ring sharply. I entered the room, and was shocked to hear the Emperor say to me, "Constant, my chicken." My embarrassment may be imagined. I had no other chicken; and by what means, at such an hour, could I procure one! At last I decided what to do. It was best to cut up the fowl, as thus I would be able to conceal the absence of the two limbs Roustan had eaten; so I entered proudly with the chicken replaced on the dish Roustan following me, for I was very willing, if there were any reproaches, to share them with him. I picked up the remaining wing, and presented it to the Emperor; but he refused it, saying to me, "Give me the chicken; I will choose for myself." This time there was no means of saving ourselves, for the dismembered chicken must pass under his Majesty’s eyes. "See here," said he, "since when did chickens begin to have only one wing and one leg? That is fine; it seems that I must eat what others leave. Who, then, eats half of my supper?" I looked at Roustan, who in confusion replied, "I was very hungry, Sire, and I ate a wing and leg."—"What, you idiot! so it was you, was it?"

"Ah, I will punish you for it." And without another word the Emperor ate the remaining leg and wing.

The next day at his toilet he summoned the grand marshal for some purpose, and during the conversation said, "I leave you to guess what I ate last night for my supper. The scraps which M. Roustan left. Yes, the wretch took a notion to eat half of my chicken." Roustan entered at that moment. "Come here, you idiot," continued the Emperor; "and the next time this happens, be sure you will pay for it." Saying this, he seized him by the ears and laughed heartily.

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Chicago: Louis Constant Wairy, "Chapter XVII.," Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon— Complete, ed. Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853 and trans. Clark, Walter, 1846-1924 in Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon—Complete (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed June 9, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L4TKXJW6UCQHC54.

MLA: Wairy, Louis Constant. "Chapter XVII." Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon— Complete, edited by Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853, and translated by Clark, Walter, 1846-1924, in Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon—Complete, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 9 Jun. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L4TKXJW6UCQHC54.

Harvard: Wairy, LC, 'Chapter XVII.' in Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon— Complete, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon—Complete, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 9 June 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L4TKXJW6UCQHC54.