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But a space was still left to fill on the grave-
stone ; a place was still left to take beneath it.
Zulma was not long in following her sister and
adding another to complete the inscriptions : —





— to which the stone-cutter's chisel added the
finishing touch : —




Thus Ldon was left the solitary survivor, to face
the law proceedings arising out of the division of
his mother's property. While these were still un-
completed and Zulma's interests still in litigation,

came the Emperor's fall, and the Commune raised


its red flag in blazing Paris. L^on gave up his
rooms in Paris and escaped to London. There he
took up his abode in modest London lodgings at
Camden Town, and, to pay his way, set about selling
the last remaining Imperial relics in his possession.
It was under these circumstances he disposed of a
portrait-bust of Mme Mere to Madame Tussaud's
Collection. After the Peace he returned to France
and went to live at Toulouse. This was in 1875.
The Empire was gone, the Emperor gone, — and
with them his income. He had still by him
some miniature paintings in handsome ornamental
cases. They were erotic subjects, and he attributed
them, I cannot say with what degree of probability,
to Titian and Correggio. He said they came from
Napoleon, but though the cases bore the Imperial
arms, he failed to find a collector to buy them for
his "special" cabinet. Old and sickly, he was
on the direct road to the depths of destitution.
His creditors had left off summoning him before the
Courts save now and then to settle old accounts for
the most part irrecoverable through lapse of time.
So, on May 13, 1874, his name came to the fore for
the last time in the Civil Courts, when a Mme
Tourillon, a dressmaker, sued him for payment of
the balance of a bill of 6373 francs.

He was living like a hermit now at Pontoise,
which he had chosen as the last but one of his
innumerable dwelling-places. Of all these, whether

Count Leon in Old Age.


the homes of his early splendour or the haunts of
his subsequent misery, it is well-nigh impossible to
frame a list. Beginning with 1832, when he dwelt
in the Rue Saint-Honor^, No. 370, we find him : in
1836, living in the Rue Taitbout, No. 15 ; in 1845,
in the Rue Joubert, No. 3 ; in 1848, at No. 9 of the
same street, from which he removes to No. 63 Rue
de Provence, in the Cite d'Antin. In 1849 he
dates his letters from No. 10 Rue Saint-Thomas-
du- Louvre and No. 9 Boulevard des Italiens ; in
1850 he is playing the lord and master on his
property on the Ile-Saint-Denis, Quai de Sevres,
No. 18 1 ; in 1857 he has decamped to the Rue
Saint- Antoine, No. 163 ; in 1861 he has climbed
to Montmartre, Rue de l'Empereur, No. 31. It
is next door to impossible to track him down and
follow him through all these chops and changes till
the day when he finally settles at Pontoise, at the
Villa Davenport in the Rue de 1' Hermitage. Even
there he is only a flying visitor, very soon removing
to the Rue de Beaujon, to a house belonging to a
M. Fleury, who lives himself at Vallangoujard.

This is his last stage. The room that he makes
his final refuge is adorned with four portraits of
Napoleon, — " my glorious father ! " — with a painting
showing Eleonore in all the brilliancy of her youth-

1 This property was sold by order of the Court in 1872. —
Interm'ediaire des chercheurs et des curieux ; 10 decembre 1891 ;
col. 972.


ful beauty, and a picture where he is represented,
he, Leon, with waving cloak and bold, laughing
looks, a romantic and picturesque figure. Before
the chimney-piece he sets a screen of tapestry, the
work of Eteonore's fair hands, — all that was left him
of his mother's heritage. Such is the home where,
for a few months more, he is condemned to the
torments of memory in atonement for his sins.
" When I was a dandy with curled locks ! . . . "
sighed Lord Byron in his days of decadence, — and
Leon may well have made the same lament at sight
of the gay and sprightly image of what he once
was. He is old and broken ; his seventy-five years
weigh heavy on his shoulders. Yet it is this hour
Nature has chosen to impress most strongly on his
pale and faded features the likeness to the prisoner
of St. Helena. The finger of eld accentuates the
resemblance, and the nearer approaches the term
of his existence, the more noticeable does the
Napoleonic cast of the features become. This wreck
of humanity grows half majestic with its white locks ;
his past is all a thing of the past, — its follies, its
shady manoeuvres, its dubious contrivances ; he
is the Emperor's son. But to what depths he has
fallen ! The old man's shirts are in rags ; he cannot
afford clean linen, he must forgo tobacco ! Yes, he
pays a cruel price for the escapades of other days !
As he sits beside his dying fire, what pictures
memory calls up in the ashes ! But not for long,


not for long ! The hour is come for him too to
begone, to rejoin the dead of his line, to vanish from
the earth and close the romance of his illustrious

On April 14, 1 881, at ten in the morning, he
died of a bowel complaint. At the Mairie, where
his son Gaston and Fleury, his landlord, go to
notify his decease, the official puts him down as
"gentleman," and describes him as the "sieur Le
Comte (L^on)." His birth certificate was a strange
one enough, and his death certificate is equally
curious. Without pomp or ceremony he was laid
in a pauper's grave among the poor and needy.
His only memorial was a grassy mound and a little
black wooden cross that soon rotted and fell to
pieces. Presently came a day when his unremem-
bered bones were robbed of their six feet of earth
to make room for others more fortunate. For a dozen
years the Comte Leon's grave has been unrecog-
nizable. Who ever dreamed of making pious
pilgrimage thither? His relatives? Not likely!
On the morrow of his death, his widow, in the direst
straits of poverty, became sick-nurse and house-
keeper with a Mme Dulauri, once cook in the
household of Pidtri, Prefect of Police under the
Empire. The compassion of a neighbour, Mme
Greffe, wife of an insurance agent, guaranteed her
against the horrors of starvation. As for the sons,
Charles and Gaston, they had long ago gone to


push their fortunes elsewhere. Charles, Corporal
in the 16th Regiment of Mounted Chasseurs at
Venddme in 1875, married seven years after his
father's death, on December 27, 1888, at Saint-
Germain-en- Laye, the Baronne d'Elegert. Going
out to Venezuela to exploit some iron mines, he died
at Caraccas in August 1894. Gaston, settled as
Commercial Agent at La Rochelle, canvassed in
1890 the suffrages of the Paris electors, under the
patronage of M. Maurice Barres. " For our part,"
says the author of Un Ennemi des lois, "we can
remember having made strong representations to
General Boulanger in favour of a candidate recom-
mended, not to mention other qualifications, by the
fabulous splendour of his origin." But M. Gaston
Ldon was no more fortunate with the electors of
Paris than his father had formerly been with those
of Saint-Denis. Ldon ? What did the name mean
to the Paris of 1890?

Besides these two sons, born previously to his
marriage with Mile Jonet, the Comte Ldon had
subsequently had two other children, — Fernand,
who went off to America and came back to
France a few years ago as chief man of the
Buffalo Bills, and Charlotte, born in 1867, who
married M. Mesnard. After her father's death,
on the recommendation of the Curd of Pontoise,
M. Driot, and of a charitable lady devoted to good
works, Mile de Boisbrenay, Charlotte Ldon was


brought up at the Convent of the " Dames de la
Compassion." The training she there received
enabled her to enter the teaching profession and
begin her career as mistress of the Communal
Girls' School at Boghari in Algeria. Her mother,
the Comtesse L6on, lived with her and accompanied
her back to France when she was recalled to take
up a similar post at Vitz-sur-Authie in the Depart-
ment of the Somme. It was there the daughter
of the Belgian gardener, and later daughter-in-law of
Napoleon the Great, died on March 12, 1899, at
four in the morning. Eventually Mme Mesnard
was appointed to duties nearer the capital, and after
teaching for a while at Bry-sur-Marne, was given
a post in Paris. The Bonapartes always showed
an interest in this granddaughter of the Emperor,
and the expenses of her children's education were
defrayed by Prince Roland Bonaparte.

Here ends the wonderful and woeful history of
the Emperor's "unknown son."

Nay, humble cemetery of Pontoise, I will not
visit thee to wander among thy modest graves
and thy lowly dead ; I will not trample thy dust
to seek the phantom of him whose ashes are
mingled with thy soil. His name, if cried within
thy walls, would rouse no echo ; the grey shadows
of thy pleasant country greenery are sacred to such
as have passed away less unfortunately. His death


formed the climax of a grim atonement ; it was
twice wretched, — wretched in its circumstances and
wretched in the sepulture that followed it. To this
everlasting wanderer, this restless hot-head, this
insatiable adventurer, was denied the repose of
eternity in an inviolate corner of God's acre. I
marvel at the ways of fate. The graveyard was
for him what the two Empires of the two
Napoleons were for them, — a promised land from
which he was driven forth almost ere he had
entered it. Heraldry rejected from her blazons
this coat charged with the bar sinister of bastards of
high degree ; thou, O Death, over this dishonoured
corse, didst trace the bar of thy reprobation. Nay,
lonely, rustic cemetery, I will not visit thee, for
here, in Paris, I know where to find the tall,
rustling yew that trembles in the clear air above
the tomb of the tender, amorous Eleonore.






Itdar «abve


Iand sipplementary





In an earlier chapter (Bk. I. Ch. IV.), I have shown how
Revel found means to claim an allowance from the funds
settled by the Emperor on the Comte L^on. I have
named the grounds on which the rogue of Year XIII relied to
demand a share in Napoleon's generosity. These grounds
are so extraordinary and unlikely, that it is well for the
historian to supplement the account of this improbable
adventure with the original documents that form the
evidence. No more cruel revelation of Revel's mentality
can well be. These documents form a little collection
apart found among Meneval's papers. The first is a letter
addressed to Napoleon's Secretary by Revel at the moment
when, sentenced by every Penal and nonsuited in every
Civil Court, he was endeavouring to make something out
of his silence, which he offered to sell, and which already
on a preceding occasion Leon's first guardian, the Baron
de Mauvieres, had not assessed at a very high figure. I
repeat, the document in question is a veritable curiosity ;
in it we find nothing more nor less than Revel actually
posing as the moral legatee of the exile of St. Helena.
We have seen him already as sharper, peculator, and
betrayed husband ; let us now consider him in this new
incarnation, the most amazing of all those wherein he
shone with so brilliant a versatility.


" To M. de Meneval.

" Monsieur le Baron, — I have signed the withdrawal
of my appeal, and a declaration which you will look upon,
no doubt, as very important, since it guarantees to L^on
the position in which you desire him to remain, and which
his mother herself will now never be able to have fixed on
another footing, as it is her design to do. M. Gillet x has
been able to assure you that this declaration was an act of
pure devotion on my part. I made it to help carry out
your intentions, viz., to keep Ldon in independence of two
families which covet his fortune, and which have already
laid hands on his person.

" My behaviour under these circumstances has not been
disinterested, nor ought it to be. It is unquestioned that
the Emperor made my wife his mistress; that from his
intercourse with her was born L^on, whose guardian you
are. The husband of this wife, stripped of all his property,
could not be reduced to die of hunger; by endowing the
child, the Emperor has implied that the mother's husband
should be given his daily bread. You are the executor of
this mental codicil ; allow me to appeal to your conscience
to give it effect.

" The Baron de Mauvieres, your father-in-law, felt that
compensation was due to me, and granted me 1200 francs
a year from the minor's revenues. I need not recall to
your memory an unfortunate dispute which arose in con-
nexion with an advance of 300 francs to be made on the
last quarter's payment for the year then current. I was
at that period in danger of being turned out of my lodging ;
the loan I asked was simply an absolute necessity ; it was
barbarously refused me. The eviction was carried out,
and had not Heaven opened a refuge to me at Neuilly, I

1 The Baron de Meneval's notary.


should have had for habitation the airy vault, and for food
the grass of the field. This state of distress was the more
frightful, as my daughter shared it. Despair can only
have its source in such situations ; I could not save myself
therefrom, and that is why I persisted in my remonstrances
with M. de Mauvieres, whom you have replaced. You
have won the case which I initiated only with the purpose
of losing it ; but to obtain this result it has been necessary
to tear up the pages of the Code. On appeal, I should
not have lost again ; I had no delusions on that point. In
the Court of Cassation my plea would have been regretted.
. . . But I had a right to do as I am doing, — to write
this letter, and to sell my freedom of action in order
to live.

" Still, this resource was only open to me at the expense
of reputations I had no wish and no call to injure. I am
well assured that M. de Mauvieres, you, and the members
of the Council of Administration are only the religious
executors of a purpose that deserves all respect. You
have been in the Emperor's service ; you guard the interests
of his natural son ; you fulfil a praiseworthy function which
I cannot justly find fault with. But on your side, Monsieur
le Baron, do you not deem it just to allow that I ought not
to die of hunger ? The manes of Napoleon demand deeds
of generosity ; they disavow and repudiate acts of petty
meanness. M. Gillet has only paid me 350 francs. I had
confined myself to asking the continuance of the allow-
ance of 1200 francs and the payment of arrears, pending
a more favourable arrangement being dictated by your
conscience. He dare not take the responsibility, and
advises me to refer my claim to you.

" I began by surrendering. I am in your power, but
you will never treat your prisoner as the English treated
the Great Man who threw himself confidingly into their
arms. I have lately lost my son, whom I had brought up
as a surveyor, and who would have been the prop of my


old age. I have a daughter left, a girl attractive and
solidly educated, of unstained character, and highly
thought of wherever I live. My industry, enormous I
may call it, is hindered at every step for lack of money. I
had founded a business office at Neuilly ; it was prospering ;
it is on the road to ruin. A quite pretty lot of furniture
I had acquired is about to be confiscated for rent ; sundry
household debts are killing me.

u I only ask a little relief. You are too great-hearted
to refuse it. You will not be stopped by a momentary
ebullition of temper which my wounded self - respect
justified, but which I now see was wrong, because it
is impossible for me not to admit that the insults that
occasioned it cannot reasonably be imputed to their
supposed author.

"Your guardianship is a stormy one, and may well
become more so through the machinations of the
Denuelle and Luxbourg families. But I will maintain
the course of action I have taken. Count on me, sir;
I have no motive to wish you ill. It is not so with the
Denuelles, who have reduced me to beggary. I will be
your auxiliary whenever you judge it fitting I should be.
Meantime, I am with the highest esteem . . .

"Paris, 10 June 1823."

The manes of Napoleon demand deeds of generosity ?
. . . Revel a prisoner, — whose prisoner ? Meneval's ! —
comparing himself with the Emperor in the hands of
the English ! . . . A touch of art like this is beyond
improvement !


However, not content with thus making his submission
to Meneval, Revel thought fit to crave the charity of the
members of the new Family Council appointed to look
after Leon's affairs, and three days after the epistle above,


we find him sending off this supplementary begging-
letter :—

■ To M. le Comte de Lavalette, the Comte Las-Cases,
and the Baron Denon.

" Gentlemen, — I have put an end to the suit in
disproof of paternity of the boy Leon which I was
bringing against you in your capacity as members of
the family council of the said minor; a deed cancel-
ling the appeal lodged by me against two judgments
delivered by the Civil Tribunal of the Seine, and a
declaration to the effect that I am convinced no affinity,
actual or putative, exists between this child and my
marriage, are deposited at the office of M. Gillet, notary.
M. de Meneval is informed of the existence of these two
documents, which I have executed spontaneously and
which will, without doubt, earn me, Gentlemen, a share
in your benevolence.

"You are aware of the agreement I entered into
in 1 82 1 with M. le Baron de Mauvieres, at that time
Leon's guardian, whereby I consented to suspend my
action in disproof of paternity till the date of his ward's
majority, in consideration of an allowance of 1200 francs
a year. This sum, out of all proportion to the fortune I
was saving from the hands of the Denuelle and Luxbourg
families, should have been raised to at least triple its
actual amount, and in all probability it would have been
largely increased if at that time, as now, I had been willing
to discontinue my action altogether. It is only natural
to suppose that, if for a mere suspension of legal action
1200 francs were allowed me, a definite discontinuance
would have inspired much more ample indemnities. I
have applied for an augmentation to M. de Meneval,
but he doubtless will refer my demand to the Council,
and it is under these circumstances that I take the
liberty of writing to you to beg you to be favourably


disposed. The manes of the Emperor, as I told M.
de Meneval, demand acts of generosity towards me.
I have faithfully served Napoleon, in spite of my
domestic grievances with which I had to reproach
him. My rectitude deserved something better than
to be forgotten. It is for you to contribute to the
ending of that under which I suffer by co-operating
to give adequate peace of mind to an old officer, father
of a family, the victim of an act of injustice he has
now consented to cover with a veil. — I am, etc. . . .
"Paris, 11 June 1823."

Another superb touch: / have faithfully served
Napoleon. ... It is a sheer impossibility to better such
naive professions as we have here.


Nevertheless, all these fine phrases failed to touch
either Meneval or Lavalette or Las-Cases, not to mention
Denon ; all four observed a judicious silence. But Revel
was not a patient mortal, and without even giving them
time to answer, he set to work on another appeal to a
fifth correspondent, M. Lerat de Magnitot, Juge de Paix
of the 2nd Arrondissement of Paris. It was under
this Lerat de Magnitot's auspices that Leon's second
Family Council had been constituted, and on this ground
he was invited to preside over it. He now received
from Revel the following cry of distress, embodied in
a letter which forms the third of this amazing series : —

" To M. Lerat de Magnitot, Juge de Paix of the
2nd Arrondissement of Paris.

" Monsieur le Juge de Paix, — The most sincere
homage a litigant can render to the judge who tries
his case is to appeal with a sense of confidence to his
public and private virtues. You are not ignorant of


my misfortunes. I have lost at one blow my wife and my
fortune by a stroke of despotism unheard of in history.
You will perceive by this opening that I speak of the
cruel misadventure whereby the child L^on saw the light.

" Weary of fruitless appeals to law, sinking ever
deeper into the slough of poverty in proportion to the
efforts I made to escape it, I addressed myself some
days ago to M. Gillet, notary, to inform him of the resolu-
tion I had taken to abandon my domestic claims on L£on,
to restore to the Council that has the administration of
Leon's interests a security which I could disturb, if I
would, for a long time yet, and to put an end to the con-
siderable expenses our suit was costing it.

" This proposal was not at first without success. M.
Gillet consented to let the allowance of twelve hundred
francs a year be renewed, the same which M. de Mauvieres
had agreed to in 1821, and the only point left in suspense
was the payment of arrears ; then M. Gillet communicated
my proposals under this head to M. de Meneval, Leon's
guardian at the present time. As a result of their con-
sultation I received 350 francs instead of 1800 francs
which are due. I continued for several days to entertain
hopes of obtaining the balance of the amount ; and to put
an end to the suspicions with which they unjustly regard
me, I signed a deed undertaking to desist from the action,
and a declaration of such a sort as to make any reopening
of the question impossible on my part.

" Following the advice of M. Gillet, I wrote a letter
to M. de Meneval in which my good faith is manifest in
every line, and which M. Gillet approved. On presenting
myself at the latter's office with the idea of receiving
through him the answer it was only reasonable to expect,
I heard nothing but ambiguous talk. I am not allowed
even to hope for a reply from M. de Meneval; in other
words, my correspondents take a cruel pleasure in keeping
me in an unhappy position and insulting my self-respect.


They think I ought to consider myself rich on 1000 francs
a month, the payment of which has no sanction in writing.
If I explain that a quite pretty set of furniture, bought
out of my earnings, is about to be confiscated for the rent
of my lodgings, which the payment of the arrears of an
allowance originally fixed at a pitiful figure would enable
me to settle, I am told it is so much the worse for me, and
that there is nothing they can do.

"Afflicted by this state of things, I endeavoured to
interest the Counts de La Valette and Las-Cases and
Baron Denon in my favour. I take the liberty of append-
ing a copy of my circular letter to those gentlemen. If
I am so unfortunate as to find that the language of my
heart is misconstrued, I shall possess, at any rate, the con-
solation of having acted with the simple faith of a man
confiding in the virtues which he supposes his fellow-
creatures to possess.

"I repeat, Monsieur le Juge de Paix, it is as a homage
to your merits that I address to you this confidential
appeal. As President of the Council of Administration
of the minor Leon's interests, and exercising a preponde-
rating influence, both legal and moral, over the decisions
of the other members of the Council, you will, I am
persuaded, use these fine advantages to render less of
an object of pity a man who deserves, I say it again, to
escape the cruel talons of adversity.

" I am, with profound respect, Monsieur le Juge de
Paix, your very humble and very obedient servant,

" Revel,

" Captain {retired).
" Rue Saint-Honor^, No. 318,

(a Baker's House),
Paris, this Sunday, i$fune 1823."


Did M. Lerat de Magnitot reply to this appeal? I

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Online LibraryHector FleischmannAn unknown son of Napoleon → online text (page 14 of 17)