1938 "Napoleon's Greatest Romance" cont'd
Patriotism and fear, tinged with curiosity, veiled the woman in Marie, even as the dark veil attached to her hat covered her face when, a week later, Duroc ushered her into the Emperor's library. She saw him dictating at a desk. Behind him on the wall spread a map of Europe. Presently he dismissed his secretaries. They were alone.
"Why didn't you come after my first letter?" he reproved. "You've made me woo you for a week, a week which might have been filled with hours of happiness for us both. Do you realize you are the only woman for whose favours I have ever begged?"
"I understand it must be hard for you to beg, Sire." Already he was helping her out of her coat, lifting her hat with its veil. Already he tried to take her face in his hands, to bend her mouth to his.
"Sire!" she cried. "I have only one love -- my country. Help us. We are in your hands. Don't let a proud people ask for what is rightfully theirs ---"
"You're lovely, Marie Walewska."
"Please listen to me as a messenger from a broken nation."
"Sire, your letters made it clear that you understood the one purpose that would bring me here. If I can't move you to be just, can't I move you to pity?"
"Pity is for the contemptible, Marie. You and I do not deal with them." She was in his arms. Overcome by the unequal struggle, she yielded to his wishes.
The clock in
the entryway at the Walewska home stood at three in the morning as
she left her sleigh and stood in the open doorway to find the Count
looking down at her, a candle in his fine, wrinkled hand.