“Do you realize that once he didn’t leave Longwood for nearly two years! He was pro¬testing against the way there were soldiers everywhere with telescopes, watching him. And Lowe had decided there were only a few little parts of the island where he could ride by himself; the rest of the time he had to be escorted by a British officer.
” ‘Rather than do that,’ he said, ‘I would rather stay indoors.’ And when he didn’t go out, Lowe decided he had to show himself to an officer twice a day. Like a prisoner. He said no. He locked the doors and said, ‘I will not allow them to come inside my house.’ For the last two years not an Englishman went into that house, not one except for the doctors assigned to treat him.
“No doubt, there was deterioration by loneliness. I think that he gave up at the end. The body was opened. They found a little hole the size of a finger in his stomach. I don’t know if it was an ulcer or a cancer.”
And so Napoleon died on May 5,1821; his last words, “France . . . armee . . . tete d’ar¬mee . . Josephine.” He was buried on the island. In 1840, at the request of the French government, his remains were transported to Paris, where they lie today in that great tomb in the Invalides.
There on May 5 each year, the anniversa¬ry of his death, there is a memorial Mass, the roll of drums, men with bemedaled chests. Gathered are the descendants of the Bona¬partes and admirers-of Napoleon.
There is Prince Napoleon, descendant of Jerome, tall, stately, head of the Bonaparte family today, a veteran of the Foreign Le¬gion and the French Resistance; there is
Count Walewski, direct descendant of Na¬poleon and Polish beauty Marie Walewska, an electrical engineer, rumpled, kindly; there is Prince Napoleon Murat, descendant of Caroline and Murat, a film producer, as spirited and elegantly tailored as his cavalry forebear.
There, in the adjacent museum, lie the weapons and trophies of the Grande Armee, and personal things of Napoleon.
But I had felt closer to Napoleon on St. Helena. I would remember the hill with the cottage close by Longwood: the trees bent by the wind, the red and yellow birds, and how when the rain came the hibiscus would close; and the mist, cutting off the moun¬tains and the sea; and then the murmur of the wind through the scrubwood. Napoleon had said: “A great reputation is like a great sound. . . . Laws, institutions, monuments, nations perish, but the sound endures and echoes down the generations.”
I liked to walk that hill, to find some soli¬tary place and look down on the sea that stretched on and on until it met the sky. “I feel the infinite in myself,” Napoleon said.
Indeed, his achievements were stagger¬ing. “He has given us the example of all that man can do with force, and everything he may dare with genius,” an old enemy con¬ceded. “The mightiest breath of life which ever animated human clay,” another said.
He had carried the ideas of the French Revolution throughout Europe, given
France its structure of government, stirred nationalism, promoted liberalism, devel¬oped mass armies, ruled most of the Con¬tinent for a decade. He had envisioned a Eu¬rope united under one law, one rule, “com¬posed of one and the same family.”
Following Napoleon, I had liked him at first, disliked his later actions, finally felt pity. In those early letters, when he and all about him seemed young, he had written: “What is the future? What is the past? What are we? What magic liquid is it that shuts us in, and hides from us the things that we ought most to know? We move and live and die in the midst of miracles.”
The greatest miracles are life and love: It was a pity he turned his back on both.