BOY LIFE OF NAPOLEON
Afterwards Emperor Of The French
Adapted And Extended For American Boys And Girls From The French Of
Madame Eugenie Foa
Author Of "Little Princes And Princesses Young Warriors,"
"Little Robinson," Etc.
Illustrated By Vesper L George
The name of Madame Eugenie Foa has been a familiar one in French homes for more than a generation. Forty years ago she was the most popular writer of historical stories and sketches, especially designed for the boys and girls of France. Her tone is pure, her morals are high, her teachings are direct and effective. She has, besides, historical accuracy and dramatic action; and her twenty books for children have found welcome and entrance into the most exclusive of French homes. The publishers of this American adaptation take pleasure in introducing Madame Foa's work to American boys and girls, and in this Napoleonic renaissance are particularly favored in being able to reproduce her excellent story of the boy Napoleon.
The French original has been adapted and enlarged in the light of recent research, and all possible sources have been drawn upon to make a complete and rounded story of Napoleon's boyhood upon the basis furnished by Madame Foa's sketch. If this glimpse of the boy Napoleon shall lead young readers to the study of the later career of this marvellous man, unbiased by partisanship, and swayed neither by hatred nor hero worship, the publishers will feel that this presentation of the opening chapters of his life will not have been in vain.
In Napoleon's Grotto
The Canon's Pears
Bread and Water
A Wrong Righted
The Battle with the Shepherd Boys
Good-bye to Corsica
At the Preparatory School
The Lonely School-Boy
In Napoleon's Garden
Friends and Foes CHAPTER TWELVE.
The Great Snow-tall Fight at Brienne School
Recommended for Promotion
Napoleon goes to Parts
A Trouble over Pocket Money
By the Wall of the Soldiers' Home
The Little Corporal
"Long Live the Emperor!"
THE BOY LIFE OF NAPOLEON.
IN NAPOLEON'S GROTTO.
On a certain August day, in the year 1776, two little girls were strolling hand in hand along the pleasant promenade that leads from the queer little town of Ajaccio out into the open country.
The town of Ajaccio is on the western side of the beautiful island of Corsica, in the Mediterranean Sea. Back of it rise the great mountains, white with snowy tops; below it sparkles the Mediterranean, bluest of blue water. There are trees everywhere; there are flowers all about; the air is fragrant with the odor of fruit and foliage; and it was through this scented air, and amid these beautiful flowers, that these two little girls were wandering idly, picking here and there to add to their big bouquets, that August day so many years ago.
Every now and then the little girls would stop their flower-picking to cool off; for, though the August sun was hot, the western breezes came fresh across the wide Gulf of Ajaccio, down to whose shores ran broad and beautiful avenues of chestnut-trees, through which one could catch a glimpse, like a beautiful picture, of the little island of Sanguinarie, three miles away from shore.
As they came out from the shadow of the chestnut-trees, one of the little girls suddenly caught her companion's arm, and, pointing at an opening in a pile of rocks that overlooked the sea, she said,—
"Oh, what is this, Eliza?—an oven?"
"An oven, silly! Why, what do you mean?" Eliza answered. "Who would build an oven here, tell me?"
"But it opens like an oven," her friend declared. "See, it has a great mouth, as if to swallow one. Perhaps some of the black elves live there, that Nurse Camilla told us of. Do you think so, Eliza?"
"What a baby you are, Panoria!" Eliza replied, with the superior air of one who knows all about things. "That is no oven; nor is it a black elf's house. It is Napoleon's grotto."
"Napoleon's!" cried Panoria. "And who gave it to him, then? Your great uncle, the Canon Lucien?"
"No one gave it to him, child," Eliza replied. "Napoleon found it in the rocks, and teased Uncle Joey Fesch to fix it up for him. Uncle Joey did so, and Napoleon comes here so often now that we call it Napoleon's grotto."
"Does he come here all alone?" asked Panoria.
"Alone? Of course," answered Eliza. "Why should he not? He is big enough."
"No; I mean does he not let any of you come here with him?"
"That he will not!" replied Eliza. "Napoleon is such an odd boy! He will have no one but Uncle Joey Fesch come into his grotto, and that is only when he wishes Uncle Joey to teach him the primer. Brother Joseph tried to come in here one day, and Napoleon beat him and bit him, until Joseph was glad to run out, and has never since gone into the grotto."
"What if we should go in there, Eliza?" queried Panoria.
"Oh, never think of it!" cried Eliza. "Napoleon would never forgive us, and his nails are sharp."
"And what does he do in his grotto?" asked the inquisitive Panoria.
"Oh, he talks to himself," Eliza replied.
"My! but that is foolish," cried Panoria; "and stupid too."
"Then, so are you to say so," Eliza retorted. "I tell you what is true. My brother Napoleon comes here every day. He stays in his grotto for hours. He talks to himself. I know what I am saying for I have come here lots and lots of times just to listen. But I do not let him see me, or he would drive me away."
"Is he in there now?" inquired Panoria with curiosity.
"I suppose so; he always is," replied Eliza.
"Let us hide and listen, then," suggested Panoria. "I should like to know what he can say when he talks to himself. Boys are bad enough, anyway; but a boy who just talks to himself must be crazy."
Eliza was hardly ready to agree to her little friend's theory, so she said, "Wait here, Panoria, and I will go and peep into the grotto to see if Napoleon is there."
"Yes, do so," assented Panoria; "and I will run down to that garden and pick more flowers. See, there are many there."
"Oh, no, you must not," Eliza objected; "that is my uncle the Canon Lucien's garden."
"Well, and is your uncle the canon's garden more sacred than any one else's garden?" questioned Panoria flippantly.
"What a goosie you are to ask that! Of course it is," declared Eliza.
"But why?" Panoria persisted.
"Why?" echoed Eliza; "just because it is. It is the garden of my great uncle the Canon Lucien; that is why."
"It is, because it is! That is nothing," Panoria protested. "If I could not give a better reason"—"It is not my reason, Panoria," Eliza broke in. "It is Mamma Letitia's; therefore it must be right."
"Well, I don't care," Panoria declared; "even if it is your mamma's, it is—but how is it your mamma's?" she asked, changing protest to inquiry.
"Why, we hear it whenever we do anything," replied Eliza. "If they wish to stop our play, they say, 'Stop! you will give your uncle the headache.' If we handle anything we should not, they say, 'Hands off! that belongs to your uncle the canon.' If we ask for a peach, they tell us, 'No! it is from the garden of your uncle the canon.' If they give us a hug or a kiss, when we have done well, they say, 'Oh, your uncle the canon will be so pleased with you!' Was I not right? Is not our uncle the canon beyond all others?"
"Yes; to worry one," declared Panoria rebelliously. "But why? Is it because he is canon of the cathedral here at Ajaccio that they are all so afraid of him?"
"Afraid of him!" exclaimed Eliza indignantly. "Who is afraid of him? We are not. But, you see, Papa Charles is not rich enough to do for us what he would like. If he could but have the great estates in this island which are his by right, he would be rich enough to do everything for us. But some bad people have taken the land; and even though Papa Charles is a count, he is not rich enough to send us all to school; so our uncle, the Canon Lucien, teaches us many lessons. He is not cross, let me tell you, Panoria; but he is—well, a little severe."
"What, then, does he whip you?" asked Panoria.
"No, he does not; but if he says we should be whipped, then Mamma Letitia hands us over to Nurse Mina Saveria; and she, I promise you, does not let us off from the whipping."
All this Eliza admitted as if with vivid recollections of the vigor of Nurse Saveria's arm.
Panoria glanced toward the grotto amid the rocks.
"Does he—Napoleon—ever get whipped?" she asked.
"Indeed he does not," Eliza grumbled; "or not as often as the rest of us," she added. "And when he is whipped he does not even cry. You should hear Joseph, though. Joseph is the boy to cry; and so is Lucien. I'd be ashamed to cry as they do. Why, if you touch those boys just with your little finger, they go running to Mamma Letitia, crying that we've scratched the skin off."
Panoria had her idea of such "cry-babies" of boys; but Napoleon interested her most.
"But, Eliza," she said, "what does he say—Napoleon—when he talks to himself in his grotto over there?"
"You shall hear," Eliza replied. "Let me go and peep in, to see if he is there. But no; hush! See, here he comes! Come; we will hide behind the lilac-bush, and hear what Napoleon says."
"But will not your nurse, Saveria, come to look for us?" asked Panoria, who had not forgotten Eliza's reference to the nurse's heavy hand.
"Why, no; Saveria will be busy for an hour yet, picking fruit for our table from my uncle the canon's garden. We have time," Eliza explained.
So the two little girls hid themselves behind the lilac-bushes that grew beside the rocks in which was the little cave which they called Napoleon's grotto. The bush concealed them from view; two pairs of wide-open black eyes peering curiously between the lilac-leaves were the only signs of the mischievous young eavesdroppers.
The boy who was walking thoughtfully toward the grotto did not notice the little girls. He was about seven years old. In fact, he was seven that very day. For he was born in the big, bare house in Ajaccio, which was his home, on the fifteenth of August, 1776.
He was an odd-looking boy. He was almost elf-like in appearance. His head was big, his body small, his arms and legs were thin and spindling. His long, dark hair fell about his face; his dress was careless and disordered; his stockings had tumbled down over his shoes, and he looked much like an untidy boy. But one scarcely noticed the dress of this boy. It was his face that held the attention.
It was an Italian face; for this boy's ancestors had come, not so many generations before, from the Tuscan town of Sarzana, on the Gulf of Genoa—the very town from which "the brave Lord of Luna," of whom you may read in Macaulay's splendid poem of "Horatius," came to the sack of Rome. Save for his odd appearance, with his big head and his little body, there was nothing to particularly distinguish the boy Napoleon Bonaparte from other children of his own age.
Now and then, indeed, his face would show all the shifting emotions of ambition, passion, and determination; and his eyes, though not beautiful, had in them a piercing and commanding gleam that, with a glance, could influence and attract his companions.
Whatever happened, these wonderful eyes—even in the boy—never lost the power of control which they gave to their owner over those about him. With a look through those eyes, Napoleon would appear to conceal his own thoughts and learn those of others. They could flash in anger if need be, or smile in approval; but, before their fixed and piercing glance, even the boldest and most inquisitive of other eyes lowered their lids.
Of course this eye-power, as we might call it, grew as the boy grew; but even as a little fellow in his Corsican home, this attraction asserted itself, as many a playfellow and foeman could testify, from Joey Fesch, his boy-uncle, to whom he was much attached, to Joseph his older brother, with whom he was always quarrelling, and Giacommetta, the little black-eyed girl, about whom the boys of Ajaccio teased him.
The little girls behind the lilac-bush watched the boy curiously.
"Why does he walk like that?" asked Panoria, as she noted Napoleon's advance. He came slowly, his eyes fixed on the sea, his hands clasped behind his back.
"Our uncle the canon," whispered Eliza; "he walks just that way, and Napoleon copies him."
"My, he looks about fifty!" said Panoria. "What do you suppose he is thinking about?"
"Not about us, be sure," Eliza declared.
"I believe he's dreaming," said mischievous Panoria; "let us scream out, and see if we can frighten him."
"Silly! you can't frighten Napoleon," Eliza asserted, clapping a hand over her companion's mouth. "But he could frighten you. I have tried it."
Napoleon stood a moment looking seaward, and tossed back his long hair, as if to bathe his forehead in the cooling breezes. Then entering the grotto, he flung himself on its rocky floor, and, leaning his head upon his hand, seemed as lost in meditation as any gray old hermit of the hills, all unconscious of the four black eyes which, filled with curiosity and fun, were watching him from behind the lilac-bush.
"Here, at least," the boy said, speaking aloud, as if he wished the broad sea to share his thoughts, "here I am master, here I am alone; here no one can command or control me. I am seven years old to-day. One is not a man at seven; that I know. But neither is one a child when he has my desires. Our uncle, the Canon Lucien, tells me that Spartan boys were taken away from the women when they were seven years old, and trained by men. I wish I were a Spartan. There are too many here to say what I may and may not do,—Mamma Letitia, our uncle the canon, Papa Charles, Nurse Saveria, Nurse Camilla, to say nothing of my boy-uncle Fesch, my brother Joseph, and sister Eliza; Uncle Joey Fesch is but four years older than I, my brother Joseph is but a year older, and Eliza is a year younger! Even little Pauline has her word to put in against me. Bah! why should they? If now I were but the master at home, as I am here"—
"Well, hermit! and what if you were the master?" cried Eliza from the lilac-bush.
The two girls had kept silence as long as they could; and now, to keep Panoria from speaking out, Eliza had interrupted with her question.
With that, they both ran into the grotto.
Napoleon was silent a moment, as if protesting against this invasion of his privacy. Then he said,—"If I were the master, Eliza, I would make you both do penance for listening at doors;" for it especially mortified this boy to be overheard talking to himself.
"But here are no doors, Napoleon!" cried Eliza, whirling about in the grotto.
"So much the worse, then," Napoleon returned hotly. "When there are no doors, one should be even more careful about intruding."
"Pho! hear the little lord," teased Eliza. "One would think he was the Emperor what's his name, or the Grand Turk."
Napoleon was about to respond still more sharply, when just then a shrill voice rang through the grotto.
"Eliza; Panoria! Panoria; Eliza!" the call came. "Where are you, runaways? Where are you hidden?"
"Here we are, Saveria," Eliza cried in reply, but making no move to retire.
Napoleon would have put the girls out, but the next moment a tall and stout young woman appeared at the entrance of the grotto. She was dressed in black, with a black shawl draped over her high hair, and held by a silver pin. On her arm she carried a large basket filled with fine fruit,—pears, grapes, and figs. "So here you are, in Napoleon's grotto!" exclaimed Saveria the nurse, dropping with her basket on the ground. "Why did you run from me, naughty ones?"
Napoleon noted the basket's luscious contents.
"Oh, a pear! Give me a pear, Saveria!" he cried, springing toward the nurse, and thrusting a hand into the basket.
But Nurse Saveria hastily drew away the basket.
"Why, child, child! what are you doing?" she exclaimed. "These are your uncle the canon's."
Napoleon withdrew his hand as sharply as if a bee amid the fruit had stung him.
"Ah, is it so?" he cried; but Panoria, not having before her eyes the fear of the Bonapartes' bugbear, "their uncle the canon," laughed loudly.
"What funny people you all are!" she exclaimed. "One needs but to cry, 'Your uncle the canon,' and down you all tumble like a house of cards. What! is Saveria, too, afraid of him?"
"No more than I am," said Napoleon stoutly.
"No more than you!" laughed Panoria. "Why, Napoleon, you did not dare to even touch the pears of your uncle the canon."
"Because I did not wish to, Panoria," replied Napoleon.
"Did not dare to," corrected Panoria.
"Did not wish to," insisted Napoleon.
"Well, wish it! I dare you to wish it!" cried Panoria, while Eliza looked on horrified at her little friend's suggestion.
By this time Saveria had led the children from the grotto, and, walking on ahead, was returning toward their home. She did not hear Panoria's "dare."
"You may dare me," Napoleon replied to the challenge of Panoria; "but if I do not wish it, you gain nothing by daring me."
"Ho! you are afraid, little boy!" cried Panoria.
"I afraid?" and Napoleon turned his piercing glance upon the little girl, so that she quailed before it.
But Panoria was an obstinate child, and she returned to the charge.
"But if you did wish it, would you do it, Napoleon?" she asked. "Of course," the boy replied.
"Oh, it is easy to brag," said Panoria; "but when your great man, your uncle the canon, is around, you are no braver, I'll be bound, than little Pauline, or even Eliza here."
By this time Eliza, too, had grown brave; and she said stoutly to her friend, "What! I am not brave, you say? You shall see."
Then as Saveria, turning, bade them hurry on, Eliza caught Panoria's hand, and ran toward the nurse; but as she did so, she said to Panoria, boastingly and rashly,—
"Come into our house! If I do not eat some of those very pears out of that very basket of our uncle the canon's, then you may call me a coward, Panoria!"
"Would you then dare?" cried Panoria. "I'll not believe it unless I see you."
Eliza was "in for it" now. "Then you shall see me!" she declared. "Come to my house. Mamma Letitia is away visiting, and I shall have the best chance. I promise you; you shall see."
"Hurry, then," said Panoria. "It is better than braving the black elves, this that you are to do, Eliza. For truly I think your uncle the canon must be an ogre."
"You shall see," Eliza declared again; and, running after Nurse Saveria, they were soon in the narrow street in which, standing across the way from a little park, was the big, bare, yellowish-gray, four-story house in which lived the Bonaparte family, always hard pushed for money, and having but few of the fine things which so large a house seemed to call for. Indeed, they would have had scarcely anything to live on had it not been for this same important relative, "our uncle, the Canon Lucien," who spent much of his yearly salary of fifteen hundred dollars upon this family of his nephew, "Papa Charles," one of whom was now about to make a raid upon his picked and particular pears.
THE CANON'S PEARS,
When the little girls had left him, Napoleon remained for some moments standing in the mouth of his grotto. His hands were clasped behind his back, his head was bent, his eyes were fixed upon the sea.
This, as I have told you, was a favorite attitude of the little boy, copied from his uncle the canon; it remained his favorite attitude through life, as almost any picture of this remarkable man will convince you.
The boy was always thoughtful. But this day he was especially so. For he knew that it was his birthday; and while not so much notice was taken of children's birthdays when Napoleon was a boy as is now the custom, still a birthday was a birthday.
So the day set the little fellow to thinking; and, young as he was, he had yet much to remember.
He felt that he ought to be as rich and important as the other boys whom he knew round about Ajaccio There were Andrew Pozzo and Charles Abbatucci, for example. They had everything they wished, their fathers were rich and powerful; and they made fun of him, calling him "little frowsy head," and "down at the heel," just because his mother could not always look after his clothes, and keep him neat and clean.
Napoleon could not see why they should be better off than was he. His father, Charles Bonaparte, was, he had heard them say at home, a count, but of what good was it to be a count, or a duke, if one had not palaces and treasure to show for it?
Napoleon knew that the big and bare four-story house in which he lived was by no means a palace; and so far from having any treasures to spend, he knew, instead, that if it were not for the help of their uncle, the Canon Lucien, they would often go hungry in the big house on the little park.
But there was one consolation. If he was badly off, so, too, were many other boys and girls in that Mediterranean island. For when Napoleon Bonaparte was a boy, there was much trouble in Corsica. That rocky, sea-washed, forest-crowned island of mountains and valleys, queer customs and brave people, had been in rebellion, against its masters—first, the republic of Genoa, and then against France.
Napoleon's father, Charles Bonaparte, had been a Corsican politician and patriot, a follower of the great Corsican leader, Paoli, who had spent many years of a glorious life in trying to lead his fellow-Corsicans to liberty and self-government. But the attempt had been a failure; and three months before the baby Napoleon was born, Charles Bonaparte had, with other Corsican leaders, given up the struggle. He submitted to the French power, took the oath of allegiance, and became a French citizen. And thus it came to pass that little Napoleon Bonaparte, though an Italian by blood and family, was really by birth a French citizen.
Still, all that did not help him much, if, indeed, he thought anything about it as he stood in his grotto looking out to sea. He was thinking of other things,—of how he would like to be great and strong and rich, so that he could be a leader of other boys, rather than be teased by them; for little Napoleon Bonaparte did not take kindly to being teased, but would get very angry at his tormentors, and would bite and scratch and fight like any little savage. He had, as a child, what is known as an ungovernable temper, although he was able to keep it under control until the moment came when he could both say and do to his own satisfaction. He loved his father and mother; he loved his brothers and sisters; he loved his uncle, the Canon Lucien; he loved, more than all his other playmates and companions, his boy-uncle, fat, twelve-year-old Joey Fesch, who had taught him his letters, and been his admirer and follower from babyhood.
But though he loved them all, he loved his own way best; and he was bound to have it, however much his father might talk, his mother chide, or his uncle the canon correct him. So, as he stood in the grotto, remembering that on that day he was seven years old, he determined to let all his family see that he knew what he wished to become and do. He would show them, he declared, that he was a little boy, a baby, no longer; they should know that he was a boy who would be a man long before other boys grew up, and would then show his family that they had never really understood him.
At last he turned away and walked slowly toward home. The Bonaparte house was, as I have told you, a big, bare, four-story, yellow-gray house. It stood on a little narrow street, now called, after Napoleon's mother, Letitia Place, in the town of Ajaccio. The street was not over eight or ten feet wide; but opposite to the house was a little park that allowed the Bonapartes to get both light and air—something that would otherwise be hard to obtain in a street only ten feet wide.
Tired and thirsty from his walk through the sunshine of the hot August afternoon, the boy started for the dining-room for a drink of water. As he opened the door in his quick, impetuous way, he heard a noise as of some one startled and fleeing. The swinging sash of the long French window opposite him shut with a bang, and Napoleon had a glimpse of a bit of white skirt, caught for an instant on the window-fastening.
"Ah, ha! it was not a bird, then, that fluttering," he said. "It was a girl. One of my sisters. Now, which one, I wonder? and why did she run? I do not care to catch her. It is no sport playing with girls."
So little curiosity did he have in the matter, that he did not follow on the track of the fugitive, nor even go to the window to look out; but, walking up to the sideboard, he opened it to take the water-pitcher and get a drink.
As he did so, he started. There stood the basket of fruit which Saveria had filled so carefully with fruit for his uncle the canon. But now the basket was only half filled. Who had taken the fruit?
He clapped his hands together in surprise; for the fruit of his uncle the canon was something no one in the house dared to touch. Punishment swift and sure would descend upon the culprit.
"But, look!" he said half-aloud; "who has dared to touch the fruit of my uncle the canon? Touch it? My faith! they have taken half of it. Ah, that skirt! Could it have been—it must have been one of my sisters. But which one?"
As he stood thus wondering, his eyes still fixed upon the rifled basket of fruit, he heard behind him a voice that tried to be harsh and stern, calling his name.
"Napoleon!" cried the new-comer, "what are you doing at the sideboard? and why have you opened it? You know we have forbidden you to take anything to eat before mealtime. What have you done?"
It was the voice of his uncle, the Canon Lucien. Napoleon, turning at the question, met the glance of his uncle fastened upon him. The Canon Lucien Bonaparte was a funny looking, fat little man, as bald as he was good-natured,—and that was very bald,—and with a smooth, ordinary-appearing face, only remarkable for the same sharp, eagle-like look that marked his nephew Napoleon when he, too, became a man.
Napoleon looked at his uncle the canon with indignation and denial on his face. "Why, my uncle, I have taken nothing!" he declared.
Then suddenly he remembered how he had been discovered by his uncle standing before the half-emptied basket of fruit. Could it be that the old gentleman suspected him of pilfering? Would he dare accuse him of the crime?
At the thought his face flushed red and hot. For you must know, boys and girls, that sometimes the fear of being suspected of a misdeed, even when one is absolutely innocent, brings to the face the flush that is considered a sign of guilt, and thus people are misunderstood and wrongfully accused. When one is high-spirited this is more liable to occur. It was so, at this moment, with the little Napoleon. His confused air, his flushed face, even his look of indignant denial, joined as evidence against him so strongly that his uncle the canon said sharply, "Come, you, Napoleon! do not lie to me now."
At that remark all the boy's pride was on fire.
"I never lie, uncle; you know I never lie!" he cried hotly.
But Uncle Lucien was so certain of the boy's guilt that he mistook his pride for impudence. And yet he was such a good-natured old fellow, and loved his nieces and nephews so dearly, that he tried to soften and belittle the theft of his precious fruit.
"No harm is done," he said, "if you but tell me what you have done. The fruit can be replaced, and I will say nothing, though you know you are forbidden to meddle with my fruit. But I do not love to see you doing wrong. I will not tolerate a lie. I do not know just what you have done; but if you will tell me the truth, I will—of course I will—pardon you. Why did you take my fruit?"
"I took nothing, uncle," the boy declared. "It was"—then he stopped. Suppose it had been taken by one of his sisters, or by Panoria, their guest? The flutter of the departing skirt, as he came into the room, assured him it was one of these. But which one? And why should he accuse the little girls? It was not manly, and he wished to be a man.
More than this, he was angry to think that he had been suspected, more angry yet to think he had been accused by good Uncle Lucien, and furiously angry to think that his word was doubted; so he said nothing further.
"Ah, so! It was—you, then," the canon said, shaking his head in sorrowful belief.
"No; I did not say so!" exclaimed Napoleon. "It was not I."
"Take care, take care, my son," the canon said, very nearly losing his temper over what he considered Napoleon's insincerity. "You cannot deceive me. See! look at yourself in the glass. Your face betrays you. It is red with shame."
"Then is my color a liar, uncle; but I am not," Napoleon insisted.
"What were you doing here, all alone?" asked his uncle.
"I was thirsty," replied the nephew. "I did but come for a drink of water."
"That perhaps is so," said Uncle Lucien. "There is no harm in that. You came for a drink of water; but, how was it after that,—eh, my friend?"
"That is all, uncle," replied Napoleon.
"And the water? Have you taken a drink of it, yet?"
"No, uncle; not yet."
The canon again shook his head doubtingly.
"See, then," he declared, "you came for a drink of water. You took no drink; the sideboard stands open; my fruit has disappeared. Napoleon, this is not right. You have done a wrong. Come, tell me the truth. If it is not as you say, if you have lied to me, much as I love you, I will have you punished. It is wicked in you, and I will not be merciful."
As the canon said this with raised voice and warning finger, Napoleon's father, "Papa Charles," entered the room. With him came Napoleon's brother Joseph, two years older than he, and his twelve-year-old uncle-Joey Fesch. Joey was Mamma Letitia's half-brother, a Swiss-Corsican boy. He was, as I have told you, Napoleon's firm supporter.
They looked in surprise at Uncle Lucien and Napoleon, and would have inquired as to the meaning of the attitude of the two. But the fact was, Napoleon had so many such moments of rebellion, that they gave it no immediate thought; and just then Charles Bonaparte had a serious political question which he wished to refer to the Canon Lucien.
The two men at once began talking; the two boys saw through the open window something that engaged their attention, and Napoleon was unnoticed. But still the little boy stood, too proud to move away, too angry to speak, and so filled with a sense of the injustice that was done him, that he remained with downcast eyes, almost rooted to the spot, while still the sideboard stood open, and the tell-tale basket stood despoiled within it. The door opened again, and Saveria entered hastily. She went to the sideboard, took out the basket of fruit, and then you may be sure there was an exclamation that attracted the attention of all in the room.
"For mercy's sake!" she cried. "Who has taken the canon's fruit?"
"Ah, yes, who?" echoed Uncle Lucien, wheeling about, and laying his hand upon Napoleon's shoulder. "Behold, Saveria! here is the culprit. He has taken my fruit."
Napoleon pushed away his uncle's hand.
"It is not so!" he said; but he grew pale as he spoke. "I have not touched it."
"But some one has. Hear me, Saveria!" the canon commanded; for in that house he had quite as much to say as the Father and Mother Bonaparte. "Call in the other children. We will soon settle this."
All were soon in the room,—the two little girls, Joseph, and Uncle Joey Fesch, even baby Lucien, who was named for his uncle the canon. The children made a charming group; but they looked at Napoleon with curiosity and surprise, wondering into what new trouble he had fallen. For the solemn manner in which they had been called together, the grave looks of Papa Charles, of Uncle Lucien, and of Nurse Saveria, led them all to believe that something really serious had happened in the Bonaparte household.
"Now, then, children, listen to me, and answer, he who is the guilty one," Charles Bonaparte said, facing the group of children. "Who is it that has taken the fruit from the basket of your uncle the canon?"
Each child declared his or her innocence, though one might imagine that Eliza's voice was not so outspoken as the others.
"And what do you say, Napoleon?" asked Papa Charles, turning toward the suspected one.
"I have already said, Papa Charles, that it was not I," Napoleon answered, this time calmly and coolly; for his composure had returned.
"That is a lie, Napoleon!" exclaimed Nurse Saveria, who, as the trusted servant of the Bonaparte family, spoke just as she wished, and said precisely what she meant, while no one questioned her freedom. "That is a lie, Napoleon, and you know it!" The boy sprang toward the nurse in a rage, and, lifting his hand threateningly, cried, "Saveria! if you were not a woman, I would"—and he simply shook his little fist at her, too angry even to complete his threat.
"How now, Napoleon! what would you do?" his father exclaimed.
But Saveria only laughed scornfully. "It must have been you, Napoleon," she said. "I have not left the pantry since I placed the basket of fruit in this sideboard. No one has come in through the door except you and your uncle the canon. Who else, then, could have taken the fruit? You will not say"—and here she laughed again—"that it is your uncle the canon who has stolen his own fruit?"
"Ah, but I wish it had been I," said Uncle Lucien, smiling sadly; for it sorely disturbed his good-nature to have such a scene, and to be a witness of what he believed to be Napoleon's obstinacy and untruthfulness. "I would surely say so, even if I had to go without my supper for the disobedient act."
"But," suggested Napoleon, in a broken voice, touched with the shame of appearing to be a tell-tale, "it is possible for some one to come in here through the window."
"Bah!" cried Saveria. "Do not be a silly too. No one has come through the window. You are the thief, Napoleon. You have taken the fruit. Come, I will punish you doubly—first for thieving, and then for lying."
But as she crossed as if to seize the boy, Napoleon sprang toward his uncle for refuge.
"Uncle Lucien! I did not do it!" he cried. "They must not punish me!"
"Tell the truth, Napoleon," his father said. "That is better than lying."
"Yes, tell the truth, Napoleon," repeated his uncle; "only by confession can you escape punishment."
"Ah, yes; punishment—how does that sound, Napoleon?" whispered Joseph in his ear. "You had better tell the truth. Saveria's whip hurts."
"And so does my hand, rascal!" cried Napoleon, enraged at the taunts of his brother. And he sprang upon Joseph, and beat and bit him so sharply that the elder boy howled for help, and Uncle Joey Fesch was obliged to pull the brothers apart. For Joseph and Napoleon were forever quarrelling; and Uncle Joey Fesch was kept busy separating them, or smoothing over their squabbles.
As Uncle Joey Fesch drew Napoleon away, he said, "Tell them you took the fruit, and they will pardon you. Is it not so, Uncle Lucien?" he added, turning to the canon.
"Assuredly, Joey Fesch," the Canon Lucien replied. "Sin confessed is half forgiven."
But Napoleon only stamped his foot. "Why should I confess?" he cried. "What should I confess? I should lie if I did so. I will not lie! I tell you I did not take any of my uncle's fruit!"
"Confess," urged Joseph.
"'Fess," lisped baby Lucien.
"Confess, dear Napoleon," sister Pauline begged.
Only Eliza remained quiet.
"Napoleon," said the Canon Lucien, who, as head of the Bonaparte family, and who, especially because he was its main support, was given leadership in all home affairs, "we waste time with you; for you are but an obstinate boy. At first I felt sorry for you, and would have excused you, but now I can do so no longer. See, now; I give you five minutes by my watch in which to confess your wrong-doing. You ask for my protection. I am certain of your guilt. But I open a door of escape. It is the door to pardon; it is confession. Profit by it. See, again,"—here the canon took out his watch,—"it is now five minutes before seven. If, when the clock strikes seven, you have not confessed, Saveria shall give you a whipping. Am I right, brother Charles?"
"You are right, Canon," replied Papa Charles. "If within five minutes by your watch Napoleon has not confessed, Saveria shall give him the whip."
"The whip is for horses and dogs, but not for boys," Napoleon declared, upon whom this threat of the whip always had an extraordinary effect. "I am not a beast."
"The whip is for liars, Napoleon," returned Papa Charles; "for liars and children who disobey."
"Then, you are cruel to lay it over me; you are cruel and unjust," declared the boy. "For I am not a liar; I am not disobedient. I will not be whipped!"
As he spoke, the boy's eyes flashed defiance. He crossed his arms on his breast, lifted his head proudly, planted himself sturdily on his feet, and flung at them all a look of mingled indignation and determination.
Supper was ready; and the family, all save Napoleon, seated themselves at the table. The five minutes granted him by the canon had run into a longer time, when little Pauline, distressed at sight of her brother standing pale and grave in front of the open sideboard and the despoiled basket of fruit, rose from her chair; approaching him, she whispered, "Poor boy! they will give you the whip. I am sure of it. Hear me! While they are not looking, run away. See! the window is open."
"Run away? Not I!" came Napoleon's answer in an indignant whisper. "I am not afraid."
"But I am," said Pauline. "I do not wish them to whip you. I shall cry. Run, Napoleon! run away!"
The perspiration stood in beads on the boy's sallow forehead; but he said nothing. "Ask Uncle Lucien's pardon, Napoleon; ask Papa Charles's pardon, if you will not run away," Pauline next whispered; "or let me. Come! may I not do it for you?"
Napoleon's hand dropped upon Pauline's shoulder, as if to keep her back from such an action; but he said nothing.
"Pauline, leave your brother," Charles Bonaparte said. "He is a stubborn and undutiful boy. I forbid you to speak to him."
Then turning to his son, he said, "Napoleon, we have given you more than the time offered you for reflection. Now, sir, come and ask pardon for your misdeed, and all will be over."
"Yes, come," said Uncle Lucien.
Napoleon remained silent.
"Do you not hear me, Napoleon?" his father said.
"Yes, papa," replied the boy.
Pauline pushed her brother; but he would not move. "Go! do go!" she said. Instead, Napoleon drew away from her. Uncle Joey Fesch took Napoleon by the arm, and sought to draw him toward the table. Even Joseph rose and beckoned him to come. But the boy made no motion toward the proffered pardon.
"Stupid boy! Obstinate pig!" cried Joseph; "why do you not ask pardon?"
"Because I have done no evil," replied Napoleon. "You are the stupid one; you are the pig, I say. Did I not tell you I did not touch the fruit?"
"Still obstinate!" exclaimed "Papa Charles," turning away from his son. "He does not wish for pardon. He is wicked. Saveria! take this headstrong boy to the kitchen, and lay the whip upon him well, do you hear? He has deserved it."
Napoleon fled to the corner, and stood at bay. Uncle Joey Fesch joined him, as if to protect and defend him. But when big and strong Nurse Saveria bore down upon them both, Uncle Joey, after an unsuccessful attempt to drag Napoleon with him, turned from the enemy, and sprang through the open window.
Then Saveria flung her arms about the little Napoleon, and, in spite of his kickings and scratchings, bore him from the room, while all laughed except Pauline. She stuffed her fingers into her ears to shut out the sound of her brother's cries. But she had no need to do this. No sound came from the punishment chamber. For not a sound, not a cry, not even a sigh, escaped from the boy who was bearing an unmerited punishment.
BREAD AND WATER.
You will, no doubt, wonder what Napoleon's mother was doing while her little son was undergoing his unjust punishment. Perhaps if she had been at home things would not have turned out so badly with the boy; for "Mamma Letitia," as the Bonaparte children called their beautiful mother, had a way about her that none of them could resist. She had much more will and spirit, she saw things clearer and better, than did "Papa Charles."
Indeed, Napoleon said when he was a man, recalling the days of his boyhood in Ajaccio, "I had to be quick when I wished to do anything naughty, for my Mamma Letitia would always restrain my warlike temper; she would not put up with my defiance and petulance. Her tenderness was severe, meting out punishment and reward with equal justice,—merit and demerit, she took both into account."
So, you see, she would probably have understood that Napoleon spoke the truth, and that it was some one else who had taken the fruit from the basket of their uncle the canon. But Mamma Letitia was not at home. She had gone to Melilli, in the country beyond Ajaccio, to visit her mother and step-father—the father and mother of her half-brother, "Uncle Joey Fesch," as the Bonaparte children called him. Melilli was in the midst of fields and forests and luscious vineyards, and it was a great treat for the children to go there to visit their grandmother.
Sometimes their mother would take one or two of the children with her; but on this visit she had gone alone. That very evening her husband was to join her, and there had been great contention among the children as to which of them should accompany their father.
Before leaving the supper-table "Papa Charles" announced that their Uncle Santa's carriage would be at the door in half an hour; that Uncle Joey Fesch would drive; and that Joseph and Lucien and Eliza—"the good children," as he called them—should go with him to Melilli to visit their Grandmother Fesch, and bring back Mamma Letitia. Joseph exulted loudly; Eliza said nothing; and baby Lucien crowed his delight. But Pauline slipped out into the pantry where Napoleon stood silent and still defiant. "I am to stay with you, brother," she said. "Will you be good to me?"
Napoleon slipped his arm about his little sister's neck; but just then his father came from the dining-room, and the boy drew up again, haughty and hard.
"Well, Napoleon," said his father, stopping an instant before the boy, "I hope you are sorry and subdued. Will you now ask your Uncle Lucien's pardon?"
Napoleon looked his father full in the face. "I did not take that fruit, papa," he said.
"What! stubborn still?" his father cried. "See, then; it shall not be said in my home that an obstinate little fellow like you can rule the house. Since the whip has not conquered you, we will try what starving will do. Listen! I am to go to Melilli for Mamma Letitia. Joseph, Eliza, and Lucien, our three good ones, shall go with me; we shall be gone for three days. As for you, Napoleon, you shall remain here, and shall have only bread and water, unless, indeed, before our return you ask pardon from your uncle the canon."
Pauline looked sadly at Napoleon, and caught his hand. Then she asked her father, "But he may have a little cheese with his bread, may he not, papa?"
"Well—yes"—her father yielded. "But only common cheese, Pauline; not broccio."
Now, broccio was the favorite cheese of the Corsican children, and Pauline protested.
"Oh, yes, papa! let him have broccio, papa," she said. "Why, broccio is the best cheese in Corsica!"
"And that is why Napoleon shall not have it," replied her father. "Broccio is for good boys and girls; and Napoleon is not good."
As he said this he glanced at Napoleon sharply, as if he really hoped for and expected a word of repentance, a look of entreaty. But Napoleon said nothing. He looked even more haughty and unyielding than ever; and his father, with a word of farewell only to Pauline, left the room.
"Poor Napoleon," said Pauline pityingly, as their father closed the door. "See, I will stay by you. But why will you not ask for pardon?"
"Because pardon is for the guilty, Pauline," Napoleon replied; "and I am not guilty."
"And will you never ask it?"
"Never," her brother said firmly.
"But, O Napoleon!" cried the little girl, "what if they should always give you just bread and water and cheese?"
"And if they should, I would not give in," Napoleon answered. "What can I do? I am not master here."
Pauline gave a great sigh of sympathy. The thought of never having anything to eat but bread and water and a little cheese was too much for her courage.
"I could confess anything, rather," she said. "I would ask pardon three times a day."
"And I would not," said Napoleon. "But then, I am a man."
Just then the three children who were to accompany their father to Milelli, passed through the pantry, for they had been to bid Nurse Saveria good-by. Joseph caught the last word.
"A man, are you!" he cried. "Then, why not be a man, and not a baby?"
"Bah, rascal! and who is the greater baby?" his brother responded. "It is he who cries the loudest when things go wrong; and I never cry."
Joseph said nothing further except, "Good-by, obstinate one!"
"Good-by," lisped baby Lucien.
But Eliza said nothing. She did not even glance at Napoleon as she passed him; and he simply looked at her, without a word of accusation or farewell.
The three days passed quietly, though hungrily, for Napoleon. Uncle Lucien said nothing to influence the boy, though he looked sadly, and sometimes wistfully, at him; and Pauline tried to sweeten the bread and water and cheese as much as possible by her sympathy and companionship.
Of this last, however, Napoleon did not wish much. He spent much of the time in his grotto, brooding over his wrongs, and thinking how he would act if people tried to treat him thus when he became a man.
The second day he dragged his toy cannon to his grotto, and made believe he was a Corsican patriot, intrenched in his fortifications, and holding the whole French army at bay; for though Corsica was a French possession, the people were still smarting under their wrongs, and hated their French oppressors, as they termed them. Some years after, when he was a young man, Napoleon, talking about the home of his boyhood and the troubles of Corsica, said, "I was born while my country was dying. Thirty thousand French thrown upon our shores, drowning the throne of liberty in blood—such was the horrid sight that first met my view. The cries of the dying, the groans of the oppressed, tears of despair, surrounded my cradle at my birth."
It was not quite as bad as all that. But Napoleon liked to use big words and dramatic phrases. It had been, in fact, very much like this before Napoleon was born. He had heard all the stories of French tyranny and Corsican courage, and, like a true Corsican, was hot with wrath against the enslavers of his country, as he called the French. So he found an especial pleasure in bombarding all France with his toy gun from his grotto; and as he then felt very bitter indeed because of his treatment at home, you may be sure the French army was horribly butchered in the boy's make-believe battle before Napoleon's grotto.
Then he went back for his bread and water.
As he approached the house, he found that he was beginning to rebel at the bread and water diet.
Bread and water alone, with just a little cheese, begin to grow monotonous to a healthy boy with a good appetite, after two or three days.
Suddenly Napoleon had a brilliant idea. "The shepherd boys!" he exclaimed.
He hurried to the house, took from Saveria the bread she had put aside for him, and was speedily out of the house again.
This time he took his way to the grazing-lands, where, upon the slopes of the grand mountains that wall in the town of Ajaccio, the shepherd boys were tending their scattered herds.
"Who will exchange chestnut bread for the best town bread in Ajaccio?" he demanded. "I will give piece for piece."
Those shepherd boys led a lonely sort of life, and welcomed anything that was novel. Then, too, they were as tired of their bread, made from pounded chestnuts, as was Napoleon of Saveria's wheat bread.
So Napoleon found a ready response to his offer.
"Here! I'll do it!"—"and I"—"and I"—"and I"—came the answers, in such numbers that Napoleon saw that his little stock would soon be exhausted; and, indeed, he was not overfond of chestnut bread.
So he improved on his idea.
"Piece for piece, I will exchange, as I offered," he announced. "But there are too many of you. See! he who will give me the biggest slice of broccio shall have first choice for the bread, and the next biggest, the next."
This put a different face on the transaction, but it added spice to the operation; and Napoleon actually succeeded in getting for his stale home bread, goodly sized pieces of fresh chestnut bread, and enough of the much-loved broccio, and bunches of luscious grapes, "to boot," to provide him with a generous meal. But the next day the shepherd boys rebelled; they told Napoleon that his bread was stale, and not good. They preferred their chestnut bread.
"But if you will look after our sheep while we go into the town," said one of them, "we will give you some of our bread."
This, however, did not suit Napoleon. "I am not one to tend sheep," he answered. "Keep your bread. It is not so good that one wishes to eat it twice; and—here, I pity you for having always to eat that stuff. Take mine!" With that, he tossed his store of dry bread to the shepherd boys, and, walking back to town, ran in to visit his foster mother; that is, the woman who had been his nurse when he was a baby.
Nurse Camilla, as he called her, or sometimes "foster-mamma Camilla," was now the widow Ilari; but since her husband had been killed in one of those terrible family quarrels known as a Corsican vendetta, she had lived in a little house on one of the narrow streets of Ajaccio, not far from the Bonapartes.
She was very fond of her baby, as she called Napoleon; and when he told her of his disgrace at home, she said,—
"Bah! the sillies! Do they not know a truth-teller when they see one? And so they would keep you on bread and water? Not if Nurse Camilla can prevent it. See, now! here is a plenty to eat, and just what my own boy likes, does he not? Eat, eat, my son, and never mind the stale bread of that stingy Saveria."
Then she petted and caressed the boy she so adored; she gave him the best her house afforded, and sent him away to his own home satisfied and filled, but especially jubilant, I fear, because he had got the best, as he termed it, of the home tyranny, and shown how he was able to do for himself even when he was driven to extremities.
It was this ability to use all the conditions of life for his own benefit, and to turn even privation and defeat into victory, that gave to Napoleon, when he became a man, that genius of mastery that made this neglected boy of Corsica the foremost man of all the world.
A WRONG RIGHTED.
It was the third day of the family's absence from the Bonaparte house. Napoleon had been at his favorite resort,—the grotto that overlooked the sea. He had been brooding over his fancied wrongs, as well as his real ones; he had wished he could be a man to do as he pleased. He would free Corsica from French tyranny, make his father rich, and his mother free from worry, and, in fact, accomplish all those impossible things that every boy of spirit and ambition is certain he could do if he might but have the chance.
As he approached his home, he saw little Panoria swinging on the gate. She was waiting for her friend Eliza; for she had learned from Pauline that the absent ones were to return that evening from their visit to Melilli.
Panoria, as you have learned, was a bright little girl, who spoke her mind, and had no great awe for the Bonapartes—not even for the mighty Canon Lucien, the all-powerful Nurse Saveria, nor the masterful little Napoleon.
In fact, Napoleon stood more in awe of Panoria than she did of him. For the boy was, as boys and girls say today, "sweet on" the little Panoria, to whom he gave the pet name "La Giacommetta." Many a battle royal he had fought because of her with the fun-loving boys of Ajaccio, who found that it enraged Napoleon to tease him about the little girl, and therefore never let the opportunity slip to tease and torment him.
"Ah, Napoleon, it is you!" cried Panoria, as the boy approached her. "And what great stories have you been telling yourself today in your grotto?"
"I tell no great stories to myself, little one," Napoleon replied with rather a lordly air. "I do but talk truth with myself."
"Then should you talk truth with me, boy," the little lady replied, a trifle haughty also. "I am not to be called 'little one' by such a mite as you. See! I am taller than you!"
"Yes; when one stands on a gate, one is taller than he who stands on the ground," Napoleon admitted. "But when we stand back to back, who then is the taller? See! Call Pauline! She shall tell us!"
"That shall she not, then," said the little girl, who loved to tease quite as well as most girls. "It would be better to go and make yourself look fine, than to stand here saying how big you are. Go look in the glass. Your stockings are tumbling over your shoes, and your jacket is all awry. How will your Mamma Letitia like that? Run, then! I hear the carriage wheels! In with you, little Down-at-the-heel!"
Smarting under the girl's teasing, and all the more because it came from her, Napoleon sulked into the house.
But Panoria still swung on the gate. When the carriage stopped before the house, she ran to welcome her friend Eliza, and, with the returned family, entered the house.
In the doorway the fat little canon, Uncle Lucien, received them.
"Back again, uncle!" cried Mamma Letitia in welcome. "And how do you all? Where is Napoleon? Where is Pauline?" The woman who spoke was Madame Letitia Bonaparte, the mother of Napoleon. She was a remarkable woman—remarkable for beauty, for ability, and for position. Born a peasant, she became the mother of kings and queens; reared in poverty, she became the mistress of millions. In her Corsican home she was house-mother and care-taker; and when, made great by her great son, she had every comfort and every luxury, she still remained house-mother and care-taker, looking after her own household, and refusing to spend the money with which her son provided her, for fear that some day she or her family might need it. In all the troubles in Corsica she accompanied her husband to the mountain-retreat and the battle-field, encouraging him by her bravery, and urging him to patriotic purpose, until the end came, and Corsica was defeated and conquered. She carried all the worries and bore all the responsibilities of the Bonaparte household; and it was only by her management and carefulness that the family was kept from absolute poverty.
Her children loved her; but they feared her too, and never thought of going contrary to her desires or commands. Late in life Napoleon once told a boy of whom he was fond the consequences of the only time he ever dared make fun of "Mamma Letitia."
"Pauline and I tried it," he said; "but it was a great mistake on our part. It was the only time in my life that my mother herself ever whipped me. I don't believe Pauline ever forgot it. I never did."
So it was Mamma Letitia who first spoke on the arrival at home; and her first question was as to the children who had remained behind.
"Where is Napoleon? Where is Pauline?" she asked.
Little Pauline sprang from behind her uncle the canon.
"I am here, mamma," she said, and threw herself in her mother's arms.
"But where is Napoleon?"
"He has not been good, mamma," Pauline replied. "See! he is there, behind the door. He dare not come out. He pouts."
"It is not so, mamma," said Napoleon, coming forward; "I do dare. I am sad; but I do not pout."
"And is he obstinate still, Uncle Lucien?" Papa Charles asked. "Has he confessed, or asked your pardon?"
"He has done neither," Uncle Lucien replied. "I have never seen, in any child, such obstinacy as his."
"Napoleon! Obstinacy!" exclaimed Mamma Letitia. "Why, tell me; what has the boy done?"
Then Uncle Lucien told the story of the rifled basket of fruit, excusing the lad as much as he could, although it must be confessed that the kind of canon was considerably "put out" by the reason of what he called Napoleon's obstinacy.
When, however, he reached the part of his story that described how he wished Napoleon to confess his misdeed, little Panoria, having, as I have told you, none of that awe of the Canon Lucien that his grand nephews and nieces had, burst in upon him,—
"Why, then!" she cried, "I should not think Napoleon would confess. Poor boy! He did not eat your fruit, Canon Lucien."
"How, child! What do you say?" the canon exclaimed. "He did not? Who did, then?"
"Why, I did—and Eliza," Panoria replied
"You—and Eliza!"—"Eliza!"—"Why, she said nothing!" These were the exclamations of surprise and query that came from all present.
"Why, surely!" said Panoria; "and was it wrong? Fruit is free to all here in Corsica. But Eliza was so afraid of her uncle the canon's fruit that I dared her to take some; and we did. Napoleon never touched it. He knew nothing of it."
"My poor boy my good child!" said the Canon Lucien, taking Napoleon in his arms. "Why did you not tell me this?"
"I thought it might have been Eliza who did it," replied the boy; "but I am no tattle-tale, uncle. Besides, I would have said nothing on Panoria's account. She did not lie."
"No more did Eliza," said Joseph.
"Bah, imbecile!" said Napoleon, turning on his brother. "Where, then, is the difference between telling a lie and acting one by keeping quiet, if both mislead?"
You can readily believe that Napoleon was made much of by all his family because of his action. "That is the stuff that makes brave soldiers, leaders, and patriots, my son," his "Mamma Letitia" said. "Would that we all had more of it!"
For Madame Bonaparte knew that there was but little of the heroic in her handsome husband, "Papa Charles." He would flame out with wrath, and tell every one how much he meant to do against tyranny and wrong; he would even act with courage for a while; but at last his love of ease and his dislike of trouble would get the better of his valor, and he would give up the struggle, bow before his opponents, and seek to gain by subserviency their favor and patronage.
As for Eliza, she received a merited punishment—first, for her disobedience in taking what she had been told never to touch; next, for her bravado in daring to act insolently toward her uncle, the canon; then for her gluttony in eating so much of the fruit; and finally, for her "bad heart," as her mother called it, for allowing her brother to suffer in her stead, and be punished for the wrong that she had committed.
As for Napoleon, I fear that this little incident in his life made him feel more important than ever. He assumed a yet more masterful tone toward his companions and playmates, lorded it over Joseph, his brother, and made repeated demands for loyalty upon Uncle Joey Fesch.
But he did feel grateful toward Panoria for her timely word and generous conduct. He became more fond than ever of "La Giacommeta;" and he brought her fruit and flowers, told her of all the great things he meant to do "when he was a man," and even invited her into his much loved and jealously guarded grotto; and that, you may be sure, was a very great favor for Napoleon to grant. For his grotto was his own private and exclusive hermitage.
THE BATTLE WITH THE SHEPHERD BOYS.
The relations between Napoleon and the shepherd boys of the Ajaccio hillsides were not improved by his unsatisfactory food-trade during his bread-and-water days.
Whenever he took his walks abroad in their direction, the belligerent shepherd boys made haste to annoy and attack him. They had no special love for the town boys; there was, in fact, a long-standing rivalry and quarrel between them, as there often is between boys of different sections, or between boys of the country and the town.
So you may be sure that Napoleon's solitary tramps along the hillsides were often disturbed and made unpleasant.
At last he determined upon the punishment or discomfiture of the shepherd boys. He roused his playmates to action; and one day they sallied forth in a body, to surprise and attack the shepherd boys. But there must have been a traitor in the camp of the town boys; for, when they reached the hill pastures, they not only found the shepherd boys prepared for them, but they found them arrayed in force. Before the town boys could rush to the attack, the shepherd boys, eager for the fray, "took the initiative," as the war records say, and making a dash upon the town boys, drove them ignominiously from the field.
Napoleon disliked a check. Discomfited and mortified, he turned on big Andrew Pozzo, the leader of the town boys.
"Why, you are no general!" he cried. "You should have massed us all together, and held up firm against the shepherds. But, instead, you scattered us all; and as for you—you ran faster than any of us!"
"Ho! little gamecock! little boaster!" answered Pozzo hotly. "You know it all, do you not? You'd better try it yourself, Captain Down-at-the-heel."
"And I will, then!" cried Napoleon. "Come, boys, try it again! Shall we be whipped by a lot of shepherd boys, garlic lovers, eaters of chestnut bread? Never! Follow me!" But the town boys had received all they wished, for one day. Only a portion of them followed Napoleon's lead; and they turned about and fled before they even met the shepherd boys, so formidable seemed the array of those warriors of the hills.
"Why, this will never do!" Napoleon exclaimed. "It must not be said that we town boys have been whipped into slavery by these miserable ones of the mountains. At them again! What! You will not? Then let us arrange a careful plan of attack, and try them another day. Will you do so?"
The boys promised; for it is always easy to agree to do a thing at some later day. But Napoleon did not intend that the matter should be given up or postponed. He went to his grotto, and carefully thought out a plan of campaign.
The next day he gathered his forces about him, and endeavored to fire their hearts by a little theatrical effect.
"What say you, boys, to a cartel?" he said.
"Yes; a challenge to those miserable ones of the hill, daring them to battle."
"But those hill dwellers cannot read; do you not know that, you silly?" Andrew Pozzo cried. "How, then, can you send a challenge?"
"How but by word of mouth?" replied Napoleon. "See, here are Uncle Joey Fesch and big Ilari; they shall go with their sticks, and stand before those shepherd boys, and shall cry aloud"—
"Shall we, then?" broke in big Ilari. "I will do no crying."
Napoleon said nothing. He simply looked at the big fellow—looked at him—and went on as if there had been no interruption,—
"And shall cry aloud, 'Holo, miserable ones! holo, rascal shepherds! The town boys dare you to fight them. Are you cowards, or will you meet them in battle?' This shall Uncle Joey Fesch cry out. He has a mighty voice."
"And of course they will fight," sneered Andrew Pozzo. "Did you think they would not? But shall we?"
"Shall we not, then?" answered Napoleon. "And if you will but follow and obey me, we will conquer those hill boys, as you never could if Pozzo led you on. For I will show you the trick of mastery. Of mastery, do you hear? And those miserable boys of the sheep pastures shall never more play the victor over us boys of the town."
It was worth trying, and the boys of that day and time were accustomed to give and take hard knocks.
So Uncle Joey Fesch and big Tony Ilari, the bearers of the challenge, set off for the hill pastures; and while they were gone Napoleon directed the preparations of his forces.
The heralds returned with an answer of defiance from the hill boys.
"So! they boast, do they?" little Napoleon said. "We will show them how skill is better than strength. Remember my orders: stones in your pockets, the stick in your hand. Attention! In order! March!"
In excellent order the little army set out for the hills. In the pastures where they had met defeat the day before they saw the straggling forces of the shepherd boys awaiting them.
"Halt!" commanded the Captain Napoleon.
"Let the challengers go forward again," he directed. "Summon them to surrender, and pass under the yoke. Tell them we will be masters in Ajaccio."
The big boy challengers obeyed the little leader's command; and as they departed on their mission Napoleon ordered his soldiers to quietly drop the stones they carried in their pockets, in a line where they stood. Then he planted a stick in the ground as a guide-post.
The challengers came rushing back, followed by the jeers and sticks of the hill boys.
"So! they will not yield? Then will we conquer them," Napoleon cried. "In order! Charge!"
And up the slope, brandishing their sticks, charged the town boys.
The hill boys were ready for them. They were bigger and stronger than the town boys, and they expected to conquer by force.
The two parties met. There was a brief rattle of stick against stick. But the hill boys were the stronger, and Napoleon gave the order to retreat.
Down the hill rushed the town boys. After them, pell-mell, came the hill boys, flushed with victory and careless of consequences. Suddenly, as Napoleon reached his guide-post, he shouted in his shrill little voice, "Halt!" And his army, knowing his intentions, instantly obeyed.
"Stones!" he cried, and they scooped up their supply of ammunition.
"About!" They faced the oncoming foe.
"Fire!" came his final order; and, so fast and furious fell the shower of stones upon the surprised and unprepared hill boys, that their victorious columns halted, wavered, turned, broke, and fled.
"Now! upon them! follow them! drive them!" rang out the little Captain Napoleon's swiftly given orders.
They followed his lead. The hill boys, utterly routed, scattered in dismay. One-half of them were captured and held as prisoners, until Napoleon's two big challengers, now acting as commissioners of conquest, received from the hill boys an unconditional surrender, an acknowledgment of the superiority of the town boys, and the humble promise to molest them no more.
This was Napoleon's first taste of victorious war. But ever after he was an acknowledged leader of the boys of Ajaccio. Andrew Pozzo was unceremoniously deposed from his self-assumed post of commander in all street feuds and forays. The old rivalry was a sore point with him, however; and throughout his life he was the bitter and determined opponent of his famous fellow-Corsican, Napoleon. But you may be sure big Tony Ilari and the other boys paid court to the little Bonaparte's ability; while as for Uncle Joey Fesch, he was prouder than ever of his nine-year-old nephew and commander.
GOOD-BYE TO CORSICA.
Meantime things were going from bad to worse in the Bonaparte home.
Careless "Papa Charles" made but little money, and saved none; all the economy and planning of thrifty "Mamma Letitia" did not keep things from falling behind, and even the help of Uncle Lucien the canon was not sufficient.
Charles Bonaparte had gained but little by his submission to the French. The people in power flattered him, and gave him office and titles, but these brought in no money; and yet, because of his position, he was forced to entertain and be hospitable to the French officers in Corsica.
Now, this all took money; and there was but little money in the Bonaparte house to take. So, at last, after much discussion between the father and mother,—the father urging and the mother objecting,—the Bonapartes decided to sell a field to raise money; and you can scarcely understand how bitter a thing this is to a Corsican. To part with a piece of land is, to him, like cutting off an arm. It hurts.
Napoleon heard all of these discussions, and was sadly aware of the poverty of his home. He worried over it; he wished he could know how to help his mother in her struggles; and he looked forward, more earnestly than ever, to the day when he should be a man, or should at least be able to do something toward helping out in his home.
At last things took a turn. Old King Louis of France was dead; young King Louis—the sixteenth of the name—sat on the throne. There was trouble in the kingdom. There was a struggle between the men who wished to better things and those who wished things to stay as they were. Among these latter were the governors of the French provinces or departments. In order to have things fixed to suit themselves, they selected men to represent them in the nation's assembly at Paris.
The governor of Corsica was one of these men; and by flattery and promises he won over to his side Papa Charles Bonaparte, and had him sent to Paris (or rather to Versailles, where the assembly met, not far from Paris) as a delegate from the nobility of Corsica. This sounded very fine; but the truth is, "Papa Charles" was simply nothing more than "the governor's man," to do as he told him, and to work in his interests.
One result of this, however, was that it made things a little easier for the Bonapartes; and it gave them the opportunity of giving to the two older boys, Joseph and Napoleon, an education in France at the expense of the state.
So when Charles Bonaparte was ready to sail to his duties in France, it was arranged that he should take with him Joseph, Napoleon, and Uncle Joey Fesch. Joseph was now eleven years old; Napoleon was nine, and Uncle Joey was fifteen.
Joseph and Uncle Joey were to be educated as priests; Napoleon was to go to the military school at Brienne. But, at first, both the brothers were sent to a sort of preparatory school at Autun.
Napoleon was delighted. He was to go out into the world. He was to be a man; and yet, when the time came, he hated to leave his home. He was fond of his family; indeed, his life was largely given up to remembering and helping his mother and brothers and sisters. He regretted leaving his dear grotto; he was sorry to say good-by to Panoria—his favorite "La Giacommetta." But his future had been decided upon by his father and mother, and he promised to do great things for them when he was old enough to be a captain in the army—even if it were the army of France. For, you see, he was still so earnest a Corsican patriot, that he wished rather to free Corsica than to defend France.
"Who knows?" he boasted one day to Panoria; "perhaps I will become a colonel, and come back here and be a greater man than Paoli. Perhaps I may free Corsica. What would you think of that, Panoria?"
"I should think it funny for a boy who went to school in France to come away and fight France," said practical Panoria.
But Napoleon would not see it in this way. He dreamed of glory, and believed he would yet be able to strike a blow for the freedom of Corsica. At last the day of departure arrived. There was a lingering leave-taking and a sorrowful one. For the first time, the Bonaparte boys were leaving their mother and their home.
"Be good boys," she said to them; "learn all you can, and try to be a credit to your family. Upon you we look for help in the future. Be thrifty, be saving, do not get sick, and remember that, upon your work now, will depend your success in life."
"Good-bye!" cried Nurse Saveria. "When you come back I will have for you the biggest basket of fruit we can pick in the garden of your uncle the canon."
"That you shall, boy," said Uncle Lucien, slipping his last piece of pocket-money into Napoleon's hand. "And take you this, for luck. You will do your best, I know you will, and you'll come back to us a great man. Don't forget your Uncle Lucien, you boy, when you are famous, will you?"
Napoleon smiled through his tears, and made a laughing promise in reply to his uncle's laughing demand. But, for all the fun of the remark, there was yet a strong groundwork of belief beneath this assertion of the Canon Lucien Bonaparte; the old man was a shrewd observer. His friendship for the little Napoleon was strong. And in spite of all the boy's faults,—his temper, his ambition, his sullenness, his carelessness, and his selfishness,—Uncle Lucien still recognized in this nine-year-old nephew an ability that would carry him forward as he grew older.
"Napoleon has his faults," he said, in talking over family matters with Mamma Letitia and Papa Charles the night before the departure for France; "the boy is not perfect—what child is? But those very faults will grow into action as he becomes acquainted with the world. I expect great things of the boy; and mark my words, Letitia and Charles, it is of no use for you to think on Napoleon's fortune or his future. He will make them for himself, and you will look to him for assistance, rather than he to you. Joseph is the eldest son; but, of this I am sure, Napoleon will be the head of this family. Remember what I say; for, though I may not live to see it, some of you will—and will profit by it."
They were all on the dock as the vessel sailed away, bearing Papa Charles, Uncle Joey Fesch, and the two Bonaparte boys, from Ajaccio to Florence.
Mamma Letitia was there, tearful, but smiling, with Eliza, and Pauline, and Baby Lucien; so were Uncle Lucien the canon, and Aunt Manuccia, who had been their mother's housekeeper, with Nurse Saveria, and Nurse Ilaria, whom Napoleon called foster-mother, and even little Panoria, to whom Napoleon cried "Good-by, Giacommeta mia! I'll come back some day."
Then the vessel moved out into the harbor, and sailed away for Italy, while the tearful group on the dock and the tearful group on the deck threw kisses to one another until they could no longer make out faces or forms.
The home tie was broken; and Napoleon Bonaparte, a boy of nine and a half years, was launched upon life—a life the world was never to forget.
AT THE PREPARATORY SCHOOL.
The Bonaparte boys and their father stopped a while in Florence, so that Charles Bonaparte could procure the proper papers to prove that he was of what is called noble birth. For it seems that only the children of nobles could enter the French military school at Brienne.
He procured these at last, and also a letter of introduction to the French queen, Marie Antoinette whose sad story you all know so well.
Then they set out for Autun, and reached that quaint old town on the last day of the year 1778. On New Year's Day, 1779, Napoleon was entered as a pupil in the preparatory school at Autun.
Autun has been a school town tor hundreds of years. The old Druids had a school there, and so did the Romans. It is one of the oldest of French towns; and you will find it on your map of France, about one hundred and fifty miles south-east of Paris. It is a picturesque old town, placed on a sloping hillside, that runs down to the Arroux River. There is a cathedral in the town over nine hundred years old; and there, too, Napoleon found a college and a seminary, a museum and a library, with plenty of ruins, walls, and gateways, and such things, that told of its great age and old-time grandeur.
It was a fine place in which to go to school, and the Bonaparte boys must have found it quite a change from their Corsican home. The bishop of Autun, who had charge of the cathedral and the schools, was the nephew of a friend of Charles Bonaparte, and he promised to look after the boys.
Napoleon did not stay long in the school at Autun. His father went to Paris to enter upon his duties as delegate to the Assembly, intending, while there, to make arrangements for getting Napoleon into the military school at Brienne.
But there was much need of the preparatory work at Autun. For you must know that, being a Corsican, Napoleon knew scarcely a word of French. The Corsicans speak Italian, and this would never do for a French schoolboy. So, for three months, Napoleon was drilled in French.
He did not take kindly to it. But he did his best. For, you see, his journey from Florence to Marseilles, and on to Autun, had opened his eyes. He saw, for the first time, cities larger than Ajaccio, and learned that there were other places in the world besides Corsica.
But he never really lost his Ajaccio tongue, and for most of his life he talked French with an Italian accent.
It was a queer-looking little Italian boy who was thus studying French at Autun school. You would scarcely have looked at him twice; for his figure was small, his appearance insignificant, his face sober and solemn, his hair stiff and stringy, and his complexion sallow. The boys made fun of the way in which he talked, as boys are apt to make sport of those who do not talk as they do.
"What is your name, new boy?" the big boy of Autun school called out to Napoleon, as on that first day of the new year, which was, as I have said, his first day at school, the Bonaparte brothers wandered about the schoolyard, strangers and shy.
"Na-polle-o-nay!" answered the little new-comer, giving the Corsican pronunciation to his name of Napoleon.
"Oho! so!" cried the big boy, mimicking him. "Na-pailli-au-nez, is it? See, fellows, see! this is Mr. Straw-Nose!"
For, you see, the way Napoleon pronounced his name sounded very much like the French words that mean "the nose of straw." That, of course, gave the boys at the school a rare chance to nickname; and so poor Napoleon was called "Mr. Straw-Nose" all the time he was at that school.
This was not very long, however; for in three months he had made sufficient progress in his study of French to permit him to pass into the military school at Brienne, into which his father was at last able to procure his admission.
But, while he was at Autun, Napoleon seems to have been a favorite with his teachers. One of them, the Abbe Chardon, spoke of him as "a sober, thoughtful child." He wished very much to get into the military school; so he worked hard, learned quickly, and was proud of what he called his ability.
But when the boys tried to plague him, or to twit him for being a Corsican, the boy was ready enough to talk back.
The French boys knew but little about Corsica, and had a certain contempt for the little island which, so they declared, was the home of robbers, and which France had one day gone across and conquered.
"Bah, Corsican!" one of the big boys called out to the new scholar, "and what is Corsica? Just an island of cowards. Just see how we Frenchmen whipped you out of your boots!"
Napoleon clinched his little fist, and turned hotly on his tormentor. But he was already learning the lesson of self-control.
"And how did you do it, Frenchman?" he replied. "By numbers. If you had been but four to one against us, you would never have conquered us. But, behold! you were ten to one! That is too much to struggle against."
"And yet you boast of your general—your leader," said the other boy. "You say he is a fine commander—this—how do you call him?—this Paoli."
"I say so; yes, sir," Napoleon replied sadly. Then, as if his ambition led him on, he added, "I would like to be like him. What could I not do then!"
This feeling of being a Corsican, an outsider at the school, made the boy quiet and retiring. He kept by himself, just as he had at home when things did not suit him; he walked out alone, and played with no one. To be sure, he was more or less with his brother Joseph, who loved his ease and comfort, did not fire up when the other boys teased him, and smoothed over many a quarrel between them and his brother.
Napoleon would often find fault with Joseph's lack of spirit, as he called it; but Joseph, all through life, liked to take things easy, and hated to face trouble. Most of us do, you know; but it was the readiness of Napoleon to boldly face danger, and to attempt what appeared to be the impossible, that made him the self-reliant boy, the successful man, the conqueror, the emperor, the hero.
THE LONELY SCHOOL-BOY
While Napoleon was at Autun school, studying French, and preparing for entrance into the military academy, his father, Charles Bonaparte, was at Versailles, trying to get a little more money from the king, in return for his services as Corsica's delegate to France.
At the same time he was working to complete the arrangements which should permit him to enter Napoleon at the military school, at the expense of the state. This he finally accomplished; and on the twenty-third of April, in the year 1779, Napoleon entered the royal military school at Brienne.
There were ten of these military schools in France. They were started as training-schools for boys who were to become officers in the French army. The one at Brienne was a bare and ugly-looking lot of buildings in the midst of trees and gardens, looking down toward the little River Aube, and near to the fine old chateau, or nobleman's house, built, a hundred years before Napoleon's day, by the last Count of Brienne.
There were a hundred and fifty boys at Brienne school, although there was scarcely room enough for a hundred and twenty.
The new-comer was therefore crowded in with the others; and you may be sure that the old boys did not make life pleasant and easy for the new boy.
Although he had learned to write and speak French during his three months' schooling at Autun, he could not, of course, speak it very well; so the boys plagued him for that. And when he told them his name, they, too, made fun of his pronunciation of Na-po-le-one, and at once nicknamed him, "straw-nose," just as the Autun boys had done.