Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte Part 105
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But the slight activity of mind that now remained to him was soon to be exchanged for the languor and gloom of sickness, with but few intervals between positive suffering and the most distressing lowness of spirits.
Towards the end of the year 1820 he walked with difficulty, and required assistance even to reach a chair in his garden. He became nearly incapable of the slightest action; his legs swelled; the pains in his side and back were increased; he was troubled with nausea, profuse sweats, loss of appetite, and was subject to frequent faintings. "Here I am, Doctor," said he one day, "at my last cast. No more energy and strength left: I bend under the load . . . I am going. I feel that my hour is come."
Some days after, as he lay on his couch, he feelingly expressed to Antommarchi the vast change which had taken place within him. He recalled for a few moments the vivid recollection of past times, and compared his former energy with the weakness which he was then sinking under.
The news of the death of his sister Elisa also affected him deeply.
After a struggle with his feelings, which had nearly overpowered him, he rose, supported himself on Antommarchi's arm; and regarding him steadfastly, said, "Well, Doctor! you see Elisa has just shown me the way. Death, which seemed to have forgotten my family, has begun to strike it; my turn cannot be far off. What think you?"--"Your Majesty is in no danger: you are still reserved for some glorious enterprise."-- "Ah, Doctor! I have neither strength nor activity nor energy; I am no longer Napoleon. You strive in vain to give me hopes, to recall life ready to expire. Your care can do nothing in spite of fate: it is immovable: there is no appeal from its decisions. The next person of our family who will follow Elisa to the tomb is that great Napoleon who hardly exists, who bends under the yoke, and who still, nevertheless keeps Europe in alarm. Behold, my good friend, how I look on my situation! As for me, all is over: I repeat it to you, my days will soon close on this miserable rock."--"We returned," says Antommarchi, "into his chamber. Napoleon lay down' in bed. 'Close my windows,' he said; leave me to myself; I will send for you by-and-by. What a delightful thing rest is! I would not exchange it for all the thrones in the world!
What an alteration! How I am fallen! I, whose activity was boundless, whose mind never slumbered, am now plunged into a lethargic stupor, so that it requires an effort even to raise my eyelids. I sometimes dictated to four or five secretaries, who wrote as fast as words could be uttered, but then I was NAPOLEON--now I am no longer anything. My strength--my faculties forsake me. I do not live--I merely exist.'"
From this period the existence of Napoleon was evidently drawing to a close his days were counted. Whole hours, and even days, were either passed in gloomy silence or spent in pain, accompanied by distressing coughs, and all the melancholy signs of the approach of death. He made a last effort to ride a few miles round Longwood on the 22d of January 1821, but it exhausted his strength, and from that time his only exercise was in the calash. Even that slight motion soon became too fatiguing.
He now kept his room, and no longer stirred out. His disorder and his weakness increased upon him. He still was able to eat something, but very little, and with a worse appetite than ever. "Ah! doctor," he exclaimed, "how I suffer! Why did the cannon-balls spare me only to die in this deplorable manner? I that was so active, so alert, can now scarcely raise my eyelids!"
His last airing was on the 17th of March. The disease increased, and Antommarchi, who was much alarmed, obtained with some difficulty permission to see an English physician. He held a consultation, on the 26th of March, with Dr. Arnott of the 20th Regiment; but Napoleon still refused to take medicine, and often repeated his favourite saying: "Everything that must happen is written down our hour is marked, and it is not in our power to take from time a portion which nature refuses us."
He continued to grow worse, and at last consented to see Dr. Arnott, whose first visit was on the 1st of April He was introduced into the chamber of the patient, which was darkened, and into which Napoleon did not suffer any light to be brought, examined his pulse and the other symptoms, and was requested to repeat his visit the next day. Napoleon was now within a month of his death, and although he occasionally spoke with the eloquence and vehemence he had so often exhibited, his mind was evidently giving way. The reported appearance of a comet was taken as a token of his death. He was excited, and exclaimed with emotion, "A comet! that was the precursor of the death of Caesar."
On the 3d of April the symptoms of the disorder had become so alarming that Antommarchi informed Bertrand and Montholon he thought Napoleon's danger imminent, and that Napoleon ought to take steps to put his affairs in order. He was now attacked by fever and by violent thirst, which often interrupted his sleep in the night. On the 14th Napoleon found himself in better spirits, and talked with Dr. Arnott on the merits of Marlborough, whose Campaigns he desired him to present to the 20th Regiment, learning that they did not, possess a copy in their library.
On the 15th of April Napoleon's doors were closed to all but Montholon and Marchand, and it appeared that he had been making his Will. On the 19th he was better, was free from pain, sat up, and ate a little. He was in good spirits, and wished them to read to him. As General Montholon with the others expressed his satisfaction at this improvement he smiled gently, and said, "You deceive yourselves, my friends: I am, it is true, somewhat better, but I feel no less that my end draws near. When I am dead you will have the agreeable consolation of returning to Europe. One will meet his relations, another his friends; and as for me, I shall behold my brave companions-in-arms in the Elysian Fields. Yes," he went on, raising his voice, "Kleber, Desaix, Bessieres, Duroc, Ney, Murat, Massena, Berthier, all will come to greet me: they will talk to me of what we have done together. I will recount to them the latest events of my life. On seeing me they will become once more intoxicated with enthusiasm and glory. We will discourse of our wars with the Scipios, Hannibal, Caesar, and Frederick--there will be a satisfaction in that: unless," he added, laughing bitterly, "they should be alarmed below to see so many warriors assembled together!"
He addressed Dr. Arnott, who came in while he was speaking, on the treatment he had received from England said that she had violated every sacred right in making him prisoner, that he should have been much better treated in Russia, Austria, or even Prussia; that he was sent to the horrible rock of St. Helena on purpose to die; that he had been purposely placed on the most uninhabitable spot of that inhospitable island, and kept six years a close prisoner, and that Sir Hudson Lowe was his executioner. He concluded with these words: "You will end like the proud republic of Venice; and I, dying upon this dreary rock, away from those I hold dear, and deprived of everything, bequeath the opprobrium and horror of my death to the reigning family of England."
On the 21st Napoleon gave directions to the priest who was in attendance as to the manner in which he would be placed to lie in state after his death; and finding his religious attendant had never officiated in such a solemnity he gave the most minute instructions for the mode of conducting it. He afterwards declared that he would die, as he was born a Catholic, and desired that mass should be said by his body, and the customary ceremonies should be performed every day until his burial. The expression of his face was earnest and convulsive; he saw Antommarchi watching the contractions which he underwent, when his eye caught some indication that displeased him. "You are above these weaknesses; but what would you have? I am neither philosopher nor physician. I believe in God; I am of the religion of my fathers; every one cannot be an atheist who pleases." Then turning to the priest--"I was born in the Catholic religion. I wish to fulfil the duties which it imposes, and to receive the succour which it administers. You will say mass every day in the adjoining chapel, and you will expose the Holy Sacrament for forty hours. After I am dead you will place your altar at my head in the funeral chamber; you will continue to celebrate mass, and perform all the customary ceremonies; you will not cease till I am laid in the ground."
The Abbe (Vignale) withdrew; Napoleon reproved his fellow-countryman for his supposed incredulity. "Can you carry it to this point? Can you disbelieve in God? Everything proclaims His existence; and, besides, the greatest minds have thought so."--"But, Sire, I have never called it in question. I was attending to the progress of the fever: your Majesty fancied you saw in my features an expression which they had not."-- "You are a physician, Doctor," he replied laughingly; "these folks," he added, half to himself, "are conversant only with matter; they will believe in nothing beyond."
In the afternoon of the 25th he was better; but being left alone, a sudden fancy possessed him to eat. He called for fruits, wine, tried a biscuit, then swallowed some champagne, seized a bunch of grapes, and burst into a fit of laughter as soon as he saw Antommarchi return. The physician ordered away the dessert, and found fault with the maitre d'hotel; but the mischief was done, the fever returned and became violent. The Emperor was now on his death-bed, but he testified concern for every one. He asked Antommarchi if 500 guineas would satisfy the English physician, and if he himself would like to serve Maria Louisa in quality of a physician? "She is my wife, the first Princess in Europe, and after me you should serve no one else." Antommarchi expressed his acknowledgments. The fever continued unabated, with violent thirst and cold in the feet. On the 27th he determined to remove from the small chamber into the salon. They were preparing to carry him. "No," he said, "not until I am dead; for the present it will be sufficient if you support me."
Between the 27th and 28th the Emperor passed a very bad night; the fever increased, coldness spread over his limbs, his strength was quite gone.
He spoke a few words of encouragement to Antommarchi; then in a tone of perfect calmness and composure he delivered to him the following instructions: "After my death, which cannot be far off, I wish you to open my body: I wish also, nay, I require, that you will not suffer any English physician to touch me. If, however, you find it indispensable to have some one to assist you, Dr. Arnott is the only one I am willing you should employ. I am desirous, further, that you should take out my heart, that you put it in spirits of wine, and that you carry it to Parma to my dear Maria Louisa: you will tell her how tenderly I have loved her, that I have never ceased to love her; and you will report to her all that you have witnessed, all that relates to my situation and my death. I recommend you, above all, carefully to examine my stomach, to make an exact detailed report of it, which you will convey to my son. The vomitings which succeed each other without intermission lead me to suppose that the stomach is the one of my organs which is the most deranged, and I am inclined to believe that it is affected with the disease which conducted my father to the grave,--I mean a cancer in the lower stomach. What think you?" His physician hesitating, he continued--"I have not doubted this since I found the sickness become frequent and obstinate. It is nevertheless well worthy of remark that I have always had a stomach of iron, that I have felt no inconvenience from this organ till latterly, and that whereas my father was fond of high-seasoned dishes and spirituous liquors, I have never been able to make use of them. Be it as it may, I entreat, I charge you to neglect nothing in such an examination, in order that when you see my son you may communicate the result of your observations to him, and point out the most suitable remedies. When I am no more you will repair to Rome; you will find out my mother and my family. You will give them an account of all you have observed relative to my situation, my disorder, and my death on this remote and miserable rock; you will tell them that the great Napoleon expired in the most deplorable state, wanting everything, abandoned to himself and his glory." It was ten in the forenoon; after this the fever abated, and he fell into a sort of doze.
The Emperor passed a very bad night, and could not sleep. He grew light-headed and talked incoherently; still the fever had abated in its violence. Towards morning the hiccough began to torment him, the fever increased, and he became quite delirious. He spoke of his complaint, and called upon Baxter (the Governor's physician) to appear, to come and see the truth of his reports. Then all at once fancying O'Meara present, he imagined a dialogue between them, throwing a weight of odium on the English policy. The fever having subsided, his hearing became distinct; he grew calm, and entered into some further conversation on what was to be done after his death. He felt thirsty, and drank a large quantity of cold water. "If fate should determine that I shall recover, I would raise a monument on the spot where this water gushes out: I would crown the fountain in memory of the comfort which it has afforded me. If I die, and they should not proscribe my remains as they have proscribed my person, I should desire to be buried with my ancestors in the cathedral of Ajaccio, in Corsica. But if I am not allowed to repose where I was born, why, then, let them bury me at the spot where this fine and refreshing water flows." This request was afterwards complied with.
He remained nearly in the same state for some days. On the 1st of May he was delirious nearly all day, and suffered dreadful vomitings. He took two small biscuits and a few drops of red wine. On the 2d he was rather quieter, and the alarming symptoms diminished a little. At 2 P.M., however, he had a paroxysm of fever, and became again delirious. He talked to himself of France, of his dear son, of some of his old companions-in-arms. At times he was evidently in imagination on the field of battle. "Stengel!" he cried; "Desaix! Massena! Ah! victory is declaring itself! run--rush forward--press the charge!--they are ours!"
"I was listening," says Dr. Antommarchi, "and following the progress of that painful agony in the deepest distress, when Napoleon, suddenly collecting his strength, jumped on the floor, and would absolutely go down into the garden to take a walk. I ran to receive him in my arms, but his legs bent under the weight of his body; he fell backwards, and I had the mortification of being unable to prevent his falling. We raised him up and entreated him to get into bed again; but he did not recognise anybody, and began to storm and fall into a violent passion. He was unconscious, and anxiously desired to walk in the garden. In the course of the day, however, he became more collected, and again spoke of his disease, and the precise anatomical examination he wished to be made of his body after death. He had a fancy that this might be useful to his son." "The physicians of Montpelier," he said to Antommarchi, "announced that the scirrhosis in the pylorus would be hereditary in my family; their report is, I believe, in the hands of my brother Louis; ask for it and compare it with your own observations on my case, in order that my son may be saved from this cruel disease. You will see him, Doctor, and you will point out to him what is best to do, and will save him from the cruel sufferings I now experience. This is the last service I ask of you." Later in the day he said, "Doctor, I am very ill--I feel that I am going to die."
The last time Napoleon spoke, except to utter a few short unconnected words, was on the 3d of May. It was in the afternoon, and he had requested his attendants, in case of his losing consciousness, not to allow any English physician to approach him except Dr. Arnott. "I am going to die," said he, "and you to return to Europe; I must give you some advice as to the line of conduct you are to pursue. You have shared my exile, you will be faithful to my memory, and will not do anything that may injure it. I have sanctioned all proper principles, and infused them into my laws and acts; I have not omitted a single one.
Unfortunately, however, the circumstances in which I was placed were arduous, and I was obliged to act with severity, and to postpone the execution of my plans. Our reverses occurred; I could not unbend the bow; and France has been deprived of the liberal institutions I intended to give her. She judges me with indulgence; she feels grateful for my intentions; she cherishes my name and my victories. Imitate her example, be faithful to the opinions we have defended, and to the glory we have acquired: any other course can only lead to shame and confusion."
From this moment it does not appear that Napoleon showed any signs of understanding what was going forward around him. His weakness increased every moment, and a harassing hiccough continued until death took place.
The day before that event a fearful tempest threatened to destroy everything about Longwood. The plantations were torn up by the roots, and it was particularly remarked that a willow, under which Napoleon usually sat to enjoy the fresh air, had fallen. "It seemed," says Antommarchi, "as if none of the things the Emperor valued were to survive him." On the day of his death Madame Bertrand, who had not left his bedside, sent for her children to take a last farewell of Napoleon. The scene which ensued was affecting: the children ran to the bed, kissed the hands of Napoleon, and covered them with tears. One of the children fainted, and all had to be carried from the spot. "We all," says Antommarchi, "mixed our lamentations with theirs: we all felt the same anguish, the same cruel foreboding of the approach of the fatal instant, which every minute accelerated." The favourite valet, Noverraz, who had been for some time very ill, when he heard of the state in which Napoleon was, caused himself to be carried downstairs, and entered the apartment in tears. He was with great difficulty prevailed upon to leave the room: he was in a delirious state, and he fancied his master was threatened with danger, and was calling upon him for assistance: he said he would not leave him but would fight and die for him. But Napoleon was now insensible to the tears of his servants; he had scarcely spoken for two days; early in the morning he articulated a few broken sentences, among which the only words distinguishable were, "tete d'armee," the last that ever left his lips, and which indicated the tenor of his fancies. The day passed in convulsive movements and low moanings, with occasionally a loud shriek, and the dismal scene closed just before six in the evening.
A slight froth covered his lips, and he was no more.
After he had been dead about six hours Antommarchi had the body carefully washed and laid out on another bed. The executors then proceeded to examine two codicils which were directed to be opened immediately after the Emperor's decease. The one related to the gratuities which he intended out of his private purse for the different individuals of his household, and to the alms which he wished to be distributed among the poor of St. Helena; the other contained his last wish that "his ashes should repose on the banks of the Seine, in the midst of the French people whom he had loved so well." The executors notified this request to the Governor, who stated that his orders were that the body was to, remain on the island. On the next day, after taking a plaster cast of the face of Napoleon, Antommarchi proceeded to open the body in the presence of Sir Thomas Reade, some staff officers, and eight medical men.
The Emperor had intended his hair (which was of a chestnut colour) for presents to the different members of his family, and it was cut off and kept for this purpose.
He had grown considerably thinner in person during the last few months.
After his death his face and body were pale, but without alteration or anything of a cadaverous appearance. His physiognomy was fine, the eyes fast closed, and you would have said that the Emperor was not dead, but in a profound sleep. His mouth retained its expression of sweetness, though one side was contracted into a bitter smile. Several scars were seen on his body. On opening it it was found that the liver was not affected, but that there was that cancer of the stomach which he had himself suspected, and of which his father and two of his sisters died.
This painful examination having been completed, Antommarchi took out the heart and placed it in a silver vase filled with spirits of wine; he then directed the valet de chambre to dress the body as he had been accustomed in the Emperor's lifetime, with the grand cordon of the Legion of Honour across the breast, in the green uniform of a colonel of the Chasseurs of the Guard, decorated with the orders of the Legion of Honour and of the Iron Crown, long boots with little spurs, finally, his three cornered hat. Thus habited, Napoleon was removed in the afternoon of the 6th out of the hall, into which the crowd rushed immediately. The linen which had been employed in the dissection of the body, though stained with blood, was eagerly seized, torn in pieces, and distributed among the bystanders.
Napoleon lay in state in his little bedroom which had been converted into a funeral chamber. It was hung with black cloth brought from the town.
This circumstance first apprised the inhabitants of his death. The corpse, which had not been embalmed, and which was of an extraordinary whiteness, was placed on one of the campbeds, surrounded with little white curtains, which served for a sarcophagus. The blue cloak which Napoleon had worn at the battle of Marengo covered it. The feet and the hands were free; the sword on the left side, and a crucifix on the breast. At some distance was the silver vase containing the heart and stomach, which were not allowed to be removed. At the back of the head was an altar, where the priest in his stole and surplice recited the customary prayers. All the individuals of Napoleon's suite, officers and domestics, dressed in mourning, remained standing on the left. Dr.
Arnott had been charged to see that no attempt was made to convey away the body.
For some-hours the crowd had besieged the doors; they were admitted, and beheld the inanimate remains of Napoleon in respectful silence. The officers of the 20th and 66th Regiments were admitted first, then the others. The following day (the 7th) the throng was greater. Antommarchi was not allowed to take the heart of Napoleon to Europe with him; he deposited that and the stomach in two vases, filled with alcohol and hermetically sealed, in the corners of the coffin in which the corpse was laid. This was a shell of zinc lined with white satin, in which was a mattress furnished with a pillow. There not being room for the hat to remain on his head, it was placed at his feet, with some eagles, pieces of French money coined during his reign, a plate engraved with his arms, etc. The coffin was closed, carefully soldered up, and then fixed in another case of mahogany, which was enclosed in a third made of lead, which last was fastened in a fourth of mahogany, which was sealed up and fastened with screws. The coffin was exhibited in the same place as the body had been, and was also covered with the cloak that Napoleon had worn at the battle of Marengo. The funeral was ordered for the morrow, 8th May, and the troops were to attend in the morning by break of day.
This took place accordingly: the Governor arrived first, the Rear-Admiral soon after, and shortly all the authorities, civil and military, were assembled at Longwood. The day was fine, the people crowded the roads, music resounded from the heights; never had spectacle so sad and solemn been witnessed in these remote regions. At half-past twelve the grenadiers took hold of the coffin, lifted it with difficulty, and succeeded in removing it into the great walk in the garden, where the hearse awaited them. It was placed in the carriage, covered with a pall of violet-coloured velvet, and with the cloak which the hero wore at Marengo. The Emperor's household were in mourning. The cavalcade was arranged by order of the Governor in the following manner: The Abbe Vignale in his sacerdotal robes, with young Henry Bertrand at his side, bearing an aspersorium; Doctors Arnott and Antommarchi, the persons entrusted with the superintendence of the hearse, drawn by four horses, led by grooms, and escorted by twelve grenadiers without arms, on each side; these last were to carry the coffin on their shoulders as soon as the ruggedness of the road prevented the hearse from advancing; young Napoleon Bertrand, and Marchand, both on foot, and by the side of the hearse; Counts Bertrand and Montholon on horseback close behind the hearse; a part of the household of the Emperor; Countess Bertrand with her daughter Hortense, in a calash drawn by two horses led by hand by her domestics, who walked by the side of the precipice; the Emperor's horse led by his piqueur Archambaud; the officers of marine on horseback and on foot; the officers of the staff on horse-back; the members of the council of the island in like manner; General Coffin and the Marquis Montchenu on horseback; the Rear-Admiral and the Governor on horseback; the inhabitants of the island.
The train set out in this order from Longwood, passed by the barracks, and was met by the garrison, about 2500 in number, drawn up on the left of the road as far as Hut's Gate. Military bands placed at different distances added still more, by the mournful airs which they played, to the striking solemnity of the occasion. When the train had passed the troops followed and accompanied it to the burying-place. The dragoons marched first. Then came the 20th Regiment of infantry, the marines, the 66th, the volunteers of St. Helena, and lastly, the company of Royal Artillery, with fifteen pieces of cannon. Lady Lowe and her daughter were at the roadside at Hut's Gate, in an open carriage drawn by two horses. They were attended by some domestics in mourning, and followed the procession at a distance. The fifteen pieces of artillery were ranged along the road, and the gunners were at their posts ready to fire.
Having advanced about a quarter of a mile beyond Hut's Gate the hearse stopped, the troops halted and drew up in line of battle by the roadside.
The grenadiers then raised the coffin on their shoulders and bore it thus to the place of interment, by the new route which had been made on purpose on the declivity of the mountain. All the attendants alighted, the ladies descended from their carriages, and the procession followed the corpse without observing any regular order.
Counts Bertrand and Montholon, Marchand and young Napoleon Bertrand, carried the four corners of the pall. The coffin was laid down at the side of the tomb, which was hung with black. Near were seen the cords and pulleys which were to lower it into the earth. The coffin was then uncovered, the Abbe Vignale repeated the usual prayers, and the body was let down into the grave with the feet to the east. The artillery then fired three salutes in succession of fifteen discharges each. The Admiral's vessel had fired during the procession twenty-five minute guns from time to time. A huge stone, which was to have been employed in the building of the new house of the Emperor, was now used to close his grave, and was lowered till it rested on a strong stone wall so as not to touch the coffin. While the grave was closed the crowd seized upon the willows, which the former presence of Napoleon had already rendered objects of veneration. Every one was ambitious to possess a branch or some leaves of these trees which were henceforth to shadow the tomb of this great man, and to preserve them as a precious relic of so memorable a scene. The Governor and Admiral endeavoured to prevent this outrage, but in vain. The Governor, however, surrounded the spot afterwards with a barricade, where he placed a guard to keep off all intruders. The tomb of the Emperor was about a league from Longwood. It was of a quadrangular shape, wider at top than at bottom; the depth about twelve feet. The coffin was placed on two strong pieces of wood, and was detached in its whole circumference.
The companions of Napoleon returned to France, and the island gradually resumed its former quiet state, while the willows weeping over the grave guarded the ashes of the man for whom Europe had been all too small.
Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte Part 105
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