“Sire, all Paris is regretting your absence,” answered Beausset, as in duty bound. But though Napoleon knew Beausset was bound to say this or something like it, though at his lucid moments he knew it was all false, he was glad to hear this from him. He condescended to pinch his ear again.

“I am very sorry to have made you to travel so far,” he said.

“Sire, I expected to find you at least at the gates of Moscow,” said Beausset.

Napoleon smiled, and lifting his head absently looked round to the right. An adjutant approached obsequiously with a gold snuffbox and offered it. Napoleon took it.

“Yes, it’s a happy chance for you,” he said, putting the open snuffbox to his nose. “You are fond of travelling, and in three days you will see Moscow. You probably did not expect to see the Asiatic capital. You will have a delightful journey.”

Beausset bowed with gratitude for this interest in his tastes for travel (of which he had till that moment been unaware).

“Ah! what’s this?” said Napoleon, observing that all the courtiers were gazing at something concealed under a covering. Beausset with courtier-like agility retired two steps with a half turn, not showing his back, and at the same moment twitched off the covering, saying: “A present to your majesty from the Empress.”

It was a portrait, painted in brilliant colours by Gérard, of the child of Napoleon and the daughter of the Austrian Emperor, the little boy whom every one for some unknown reason called the King of Rome.

The very pretty, curly-headed child, with eyes like the Christ with the Sistine Madonna, had been portrayed playing cup and ball. The ball represented the terrestrial globe and the cup in the other hand was a sceptre.

Though it was not altogether clear what the painter had intended to express by representing the so- called King of Rome tossing the terrestrial globe on a sceptre, the allegory apparently seemed to Napoleon, as it had to every one who had seen it in Paris, quite clear and extremely pleasing.

“The King of Rome!” he said, pointing with a graceful gesture to the portrait. “Admirable!” With the characteristic Italian facility for changing his expression at will, he went up to the portrait and assumed an air of pensive tenderness. He felt that what he might say or do at that moment would be historical. And it struck him that the best line he could take at that moment, at the height of his grandeur—so great that his child was playing cup and ball with the earth—would be to display, in contrast with that grandeur, the simplest, fatherly tenderness. His eyes were veiled by emotion; he moved up, looked round for a chair (a chair seemed to spring up under him), and sat down, facing the portrait. At a single gesture from him all withdrew on tip-toe, leaving the great man to himself and his feelings. After sitting there a little while and passing his fingers, he could not have said why, over the rough surface of the painting, he got up and again sent for Beausset and the officer on duty. He gave orders for the portrait to be carried out in front of his tent, so that the Old Guard, standing about his tent, might not be deprived of the happiness of seeing the King of Rome, the son and heir of their adored Emperor.

While he sat at breakfast with M. de Beausset—whom he had honoured by an invitation to join him—he heard, as he had expected, enthusiastic shouts from the soldiers and officers of the Old Guard, who had run up to see the portrait.

Vive l’Empereur! Vive le roi de Rome! Vive l’Empereur!” shouted enthusiastic voices.

After breakfast, in Beausset’s presence, Napoleon dictated his proclamation to the army.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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