Bacchante, by Fredrick Leighton; Emperor Justinian I, Unknown; Napoleon on his Imperial Throne, Ingres
A sunny afternoon in 1815, the Bacchante began swirling around Napoleon, rhythmically shaking her tambourine and whispering to him as if it were a grand Californian seduction, “I’ve been wanting to tell you something. Last night I met a genie and I used my only wish to your benefit. I’ll give you one guess at what it is. But I will tell you this: it’s worth more than that golden crown of laurel leaves you treasure so much.”
“Ahh my little court jesteress, come hither!” Napoleon squeaked to the his young mistress.
“I am not a jesteress, and I’m not joking! See my leopard sheet? Does that not alone prove the gravity of my words? She paused, ”
“When are we going to create this Fourth Reich you promised me?”
“Just as soon as I find out just who that man in the Byzantine mosaic is.” He stared into its piercing gaze for a short while before continuing. “He should be our symbol. Hmm yes, one of levity, and yet seriousness. He is perfect–just look at his flower broche! Not as good as I look in red, though. Brings out the pallor of my skin.”
“I’m sorry for troubling you. I shall have the court historian find out. Why don’t we go for a picnic in Waterloo. I hear the weather is nice this time of year.”
“No…Does this gift glow in the dark? Please say yes.”
“No. It’s just…”
“Out with it!”
“I have the secret to military glory.”
They put their heads together, conspiring. When they emerged again Napoleon had a thin layer of sweat on his face.
“Let me say this slowly and carefully. You are saying that I must first arrive in Waterloo with your doe as my new aide-de-camp to avoid the soldiers’ suspicion, and that I, like Caesar, have had a great dream in which I dined on bread and fish with my men before the battle as the enemy camp loads their guns. Then, we win a grand victory.”
“Yes, that is what I imply, but you leave out one detail.”
“What might that be?”
“My kiss” and she leaned over and kissed him on the tip of his nose before looking at him in the eyes. “I implore you to do as I say. ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is the finest of all military strategies known to man. You shall not fail.”
Napoleon promised her that he would.