We went ashore as in his time: Launches brought us to the stone steps of the landing, waited, bobbing, until the sea paused at just the right level; then we stepped ashore. Half the island seemed there, along with a band. They laughed when Major Michael, in tril¬by hat and clutching a cane, bobbled slightly on the wet landing. Queen Mum, for safety’s sake, was fitted into a harness and swung ashore by crane.
The new governor was installed that very day. He wore a white uniform, plumed sun helmet; was sworn in by the chief justice in wig and scarlet robes. Then, to the music of two tiny bands, he reviewed his troops: island policemen, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, church groups, saluting each in pukka fash¬ion. I had to think of Lowe, the governor in Napoleon’s time and his jailer. He too repre¬sented the crown, was a stickler for detail.
My host was M. Gilbert Martineau, a French diplomat, author of books on Napo¬leon, and custodian of the French property on the island. He lives in Longwood, the house that Napoleon occupied. I had a cot¬tage nearby.
“I spend six or seven months a year on the island,” he told me. “A person without an interest in Napoleon would not like the job. St. Helena is part of the past. But all my life I’ve thought of Napoleon as a hero. When I was a boy, there were huge paintings in my bedroom with scenes of his life. I knew everything about Napoleon. My great-grandfather served in his wars.
“I do my writing, do my work, take a walk in the garden by moonlight. I have to answer letters from all over the world; 100 to 150 let¬ters every mail. There is always a student doing a thesis who writes to me for informa¬tion. I also receive love letters from wom¬en—to Napoleon. I’m like a spider in the middle of a web.”
He spoke of Napoleon’s exile from an admirer’s point of view. “They gave him a house, they gave him servants; but it’s not a house, it’s a hall, a shack. Full of rats in those days. On the most unhealthy part of the island. Windy, wet. Money became so short he had to sell his silverware to pay his expenses. Conditions were frightful. One toilet for 30 persons. No water facilities; it was carried in buckets. The meat came up from Jamestown, the port; sometimes it arrived rotten.
“During the first years he worked rather well, writing, dictating. Then he became bored so that he seldom worked. The wor¬ries, certainly, made things worse.