Picturegoer, 1938 "Napoleon's Greatest Romance" cont'd
A fortnight later,  
in the Poniatowski Palace, Warsaw, destiny decreed Marie's meeting with Napoleon as guest of honour.
  Standing for a moment at the top of a flight of stairs leading into the ballroom, accompanied by officers, he made an impressive entry.  
He passed along the line of guests and, prompted by his host's introductions, spoke to each in turn, bowing over a lady's hand here, complimenting some uniformed dignitary there. Marie's eyes took in every detail as he spoke to her husband.
  She calmly prepared to partner the Emperor in the quadrille. He continued to dance with her after the measure had finished, thus throwing the other couples into confusion.
"You're attracting attention, Sire!" she protested.
"Well, it's not for the first time. Will you come and see me tomorrow, Countess?"
"Why, no, Sire."
"But you came to see me the other night."
"Not to be seen, Sire. That evening I obeyed an impulse of hero worship. Now I can only feel that impulse from afar."
"Meaning you're disillusioned?"
 "No, Sire, only afraid of being so."
"You are discourteous."

"I don't mean to be...Please -- I am not accustomed to this -- it is my first visit to Warsaw."
"Mine, too. A charming coincidence. Tomorrow we shall compare impressions. Duroc shall come to escort you to my quarters."
"I have a husband, Sire."
"Four times your age!"
"He has his dignity and pride; so have I. Permit me to withdraw, Sire." She was aware of his frown as she curtsied.
The conqueror, disdaining failure to conquer, returned to his dais and shortly left the ballroom.
Immediately, Marie found herself the centre of an eager crowd only too anxious to support the statement of the Duc de Talleyrand that in Madame Walewska was Poland's greatest ambassador.

As the weeks went by, talk at the Walewska estate veered to the same theme. Napoleon's letters of entreaty that Marie should visit him, his gifts of flowers, could not be concealed.
One evening a special deputation gathered around Marie. The elderly Count Malachowski came into the open regarding his mission. As Napoleon's mouthpiece, he explained, Talleyrand could not guarantee Poland's independence.
On the other hand, the Emperor demanded of the Poles horses, cannon, and equipment. His alliance with the hated Russia was dreaded. In short, Poland was lost unless something could be done that neither politicians nor the military could achieve.
"You are a woman, Marie," the old man continued, bowing over her hand. "Perhaps you have been made beautiful that Poland might be free. Were you to see the Emperor, he might grant what you ask without asking anything in return."
Marie saw her ever-courteous husband angry for the first time, as he demanded to know which of his so-called friends was responsible for this present visit, so that he might challenge him.
When the delegation had awkwardly broken up, the Count joined Marie at the wide window with the emphatic assurance: "If Poland is to be saved, you'll not save it this way, my dear."
A moment later, Marie was looking at three lines from her last letter from the Emperor. It seemed the strong handwriting shook a little under the intensity of the writer's feeling. "I dream only of you, Marie. I shall think more affectionately of your country if you take pity on my loneliness."                                                                   


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