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.Then Louis came in from another room: he is seventeen and very fat.He listened apathetically.I was interrupted by loud howls; the door flew open, and little Jerome, Napoleone’s ten-year-old brother, burst in; behind him ran twelve-year-old Caroline, shouting at him the most picturesque quayside curses and trying to get something he was cramming into his mouth.Madame Buonaparte gave Jerome a box on the ear, and screamed at Caroline in Italian.She took away Jerome’s tit-bit.It proved to be a stick of marzipan; she broke it into two and gave half each to the combatants.Then she shouted:‘Quiet! We have a visitor!’That drew Caroline’s attention to me, and she exclaimed:‘Oh la, la, one of the rich Clarys!’She came up to the table and sat on Lucien’s knee.‘What a dreadful family,’ I said to myself, and then I was sorry for saying it.They cannot help being so many or so poor.And they have nothing but their kitchen to live in.Joseph asked question after question.‘Who arrested Napoleone? Were they really soldiers? Not police?’‘No, soldiers,’ I replied.‘Then he won’t be in prison, but under military arrest somewhere,’ said Joseph.‘What difference does that make?’ groaned Madame Buonaparte.‘A tremendous difference,’ Joseph explained.‘The military authorities will not let a General be simply executed; first they will court-martial him.’‘You have no idea, Signorina,’ said Madame Buonaparte, ‘how dreadful this is for us.’ She brought a kitchen stool and sat down close to me, and put her damp work-worn hand on my arm.‘Napoleone is the only one of us who is earning regularly, and he always worked so hard, and saved every centime and gave me half his pay for the other children.It is dreadful, dreadful.’‘Anyhow, now he can’t make me go into the army,’ growled fat Louis.He was quite triumphant.‘Shut your mouth,’ Lucien shouted.The fat boy was now seventeen, and he had never done any work.Napoleone wanted to make him a soldier, so that there should be at least one mouth less for his mother to feed.I cannot imagine how Louis could march with his flat feet, but perhaps Napoleone meant to put him into the cavalry.‘But why,’ Madame Buonaparte asked, ‘why have they arrested him?’‘Napoleone knew Robespierre,’ Joseph murmured.‘And he had let his plans be transmitted to the Minister of War by Robespierre.’‘Always those politics,’ Madame Buonoparte complained.‘I tell you, Signorina, politics have been the ruin of my family! My children’s poor papa was always mixed up with politics, and he was always losing his clients’ cases, and he left us nothing but debts.And what did my sons talk about all day long? About getting acquainted with prominent people, getting to know Robespierre, getting an introduction to Barras – they go on like that all the time.And look at the result!’ She banged the table in vexation.I looked down.‘Your son Napoleone, Madame, is a genius,’ I said.‘Yes – unluckily,’ she retorted, looking at the flickering candle.I looked up at her and Joseph.‘We must find out where Napoleone is,’ I said, ‘and then we must try to help him.’‘But we are so poor, and we don’t know anybody with influence,’ Madame Buonaparte moaned.‘The Military Commandant of Marseilles,’ said Lucien, ‘must know where Napoleone has been taken.’ The family look upon Lucien as a poet and an unpractical dreamer, but it was from him that the first useful suggestion came.‘Who is the Commandant of Marseilles?’ I asked.‘Colonel Lefabre,’ said Joseph.‘And he cannot bear Napoleone.Quite recently Napoleone told the old Colonel what he thought about the fortifications here: they are in shocking disrepair.’‘To-morrow,’ I heard myself saying, ‘I’ll go to see him.Madame Buonaparte, would you get together some underclothing, and perhaps some food, and do it up into a parcel and send it to me early to-morrow? I’ll ask the Colonel to give it to Napoleone.And then—’‘Thank you so much, Signorina,’ said Madame Buonaparte excitedly, ‘tante grazie!’At that moment we heard a splash, a shriek and a long howl, and Caroline cried out happily, ‘Mama, Jerome has fallen into the wash-tub.’As Madame Buonaparte lifted the boy out of the tub and cuffed him, I got up to go.Joseph disappeared to get his coat and see me home.Lucien murmured, ‘It is very good of you, Mademoiselle Eugenie; we shall never forget it.’I felt rather frightened at the prospect of going to see that Colonel.As I said good-bye to Madame Buonaparte, she told me that she would send Polette to me with the parcel next morning.She started at the name.‘Polette!’ she said.‘Where is she? She went out with Eliza to a friend over the way, and was going to be back in half an hour.And the two girls have been out the whole evening!’I remembered Eliza’s rouged face.No doubt she was enjoying herself with her partner in some tavern.But what about Polette? She is just my age.Joseph and I went silently through the town.I was thinking of the evening when he first saw me home.Was that really four months ago? That was when it all began.Until then I had been a child, although I thought I was grown up.To-day I know that you are not really grown up till you fall in love.‘They can’t possibly guillotine him,’ said Joseph, as we came to the villa.‘The most they will do is to shoot him.’‘Joseph!’So that was what he had been thinking about on our long silent walk.‘He doesn’t love him,’ I said to myself, ‘he actually hates him.’‘But we belong together,’ he said, ‘Napoleone and I and the others.We stick together.’‘Good night, Joseph!’‘Good night, Eugenie!’I slipped in without being noticed.Julie was in bed already, but the candle was burning on her bedside table.She had been waiting for me.‘I suppose you were with the Buonapartes!’ she said.‘Yes,’ I replied, as I undressed.‘They live in a cellar, and Madame Letitia was washing shirts at that late hour, and Jerome, that dreadful imp, fell into the wash-tub.It looks as if the two girls, Eliza and Polette, go out at night with men.Good night, Julie – sleep well!’At breakfast Etienne told us that Julie must put off her wedding, as he was not going to have a prisoner’s brother as a brother-in-law.It would be a humiliation for the family, and very bad for the firm’s reputation.‘I’ll never let my wedding be postponed!’ said Julie, in tears.Then she locked herself in our room.Nobody spoke to me about the affair, because nobody but Julie has any idea that I belong to Napoleone.Except Marie; I feel sure she knows everything.After breakfast Marie came into the dining-room and beckoned to me, and I followed her into the kitchen.Polette was there with the parcel.‘Quick, let’s go before anybody sees us,’ I said to her.Etienne would have had a fit if he had known I was going with a parcel for Napoleone.I have lived all my life in Marseilles, and Polette only came here a year ago, but she knows her way about much better than I do.She knew exactly where to go to find the Colonel Commandant.She talked all the way [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]