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The Man of Destiny
by [?]

NAPOLEON. And govern for all; fight for all; be everybody’s servant under cover of being everybody’s master: Giuseppe.

GIUSEPPE (at the sideboard). Excellency.

NAPOLEON. I forbid you to talk to me about myself.

GIUSEPPE (coming to the foot of the couch). Pardon. Your excellency is so unlike other great men. It is the subject they like best.

NAPOLEON. Well, talk to me about the subject they like next best, whatever that may be.

GIUSEPPE (unabashed). Willingly, your excellency. Has your excellency by any chance caught a glimpse of the lady upstairs?

(Napoleon promptly sits up and looks at him with an interest which entirely justifies the implied epigram.)

NAPOLEON. How old is she?

GIUSEPPE. The right age, excellency.

NAPOLEON. Do you mean seventeen or thirty?

GIUSEPPE. Thirty, excellency.

NAPOLEON. Goodlooking?

GIUSEPPE. I cannot see with your excellency’s eyes: every man must judge that for himself. In my opinion, excellency, a fine figure of a lady. (Slyly.) Shall I lay the table for her collation here?

NAPOLEON (brusquely, rising). No: lay nothing here until the officer for whom I am waiting comes back. (He looks at his watch, and takes to walking to and fro between the fireplace and the vineyard.)

GIUSEPPE (with conviction). Excellency: believe me, he has been captured by the accursed Austrians. He dare not keep you waiting if he were at liberty.

NAPOLEON (turning at the edge of the shadow of the veranda). Giuseppe: if that turns out to be true, it will put me into such a temper that nothing short of hanging you and your whole household, including the lady upstairs, will satisfy me.

GIUSEPPE. We are all cheerfully at your excellency’s disposal, except the lady. I cannot answer for her; but no lady could resist you, General.

NAPOLEON (sourly, resuming his march). Hm! You will never be hanged. There is no satisfaction in hanging a man who does not object to it.

GIUSEPPE (sympathetically). Not the least in the world, excellency: is there? (Napoleon again looks at his watch, evidently growing anxious.) Ah, one can see that you are a great man, General: you know how to wait. If it were a corporal now, or a sub-lieutenant, at the end of three minutes he would be swearing, fuming, threatening, pulling the house about our ears.

NAPOLEON. Giuseppe: your flatteries are insufferable. Go and talk outside. (He sits down again at the table, with his jaws in his hands, and his elbows propped on the map, poring over it with a troubled expression.)

GIUSEPPE. Willingly, your excellency. You shall not be disturbed. (He takes up the tray and prepares to withdraw.)

NAPOLEON. The moment he comes back, send him to me.

GIUSEPPE. Instantaneously, your excellency.

A LADY’S VOICE (calling from some distant part of the inn). Giusep-pe! (The voice is very musical, and the two final notes make an ascending interval.)

NAPOLEON (startled). What’s that? What’s that?

GIUSEPPE (resting the end of his tray on the table and leaning over to speak the more confidentially). The lady, excellency.

NAPOLEON (absently). Yes. What lady? Whose lady?

GIUSEPPE. The strange lady, excellency.

NAPOLEON. What strange lady?

GIUSEPPE (with a shrug). Who knows? She arrived here half an hour before you in a hired carriage belonging to the Golden Eagle at Borghetto. Actually by herself, excellency. No servants. A dressing bag and a trunk: that is all. The postillion says she left a horse–a charger, with military trappings, at the Golden Eagle.

NAPOLEON. A woman with a charger! That’s extraordinary.

THE LADY’S VOICE (the two final notes now making a peremptory descending interval). Giuseppe!

NAPOLEON (rising to listen). That’s an interesting voice.

GIUSEPPE. She is an interesting lady, excellency. (Calling.) Coming, lady, coming. (He makes for the inner door.)

NAPOLEON (arresting him with a strong hand on his shoulder). Stop. Let her come.

VOICE. Giuseppe!! (Impatiently.)

GIUSEPPE (pleadingly). Let me go, excellency. It is my point of honor as an innkeeper to come when I am called. I appeal to you as a soldier.

A MAN’s VOICE (outside, at the inn door, shouting). Here, someone. Hello! Landlord. Where are you? (Somebody raps vigorously with a whip handle on a bench in the passage.)