I am pleased to announce the first in a series of short pieces focussing on famous people through history and their ordeals with kidney stones.
* * *
– Emperor Napoleon III
– Dr. Henry Conneau, Napoleon’s personal physician.
– Marshall MacMahon, an eccentric fellow, (62 y.o.) quoted as saying, “Typhoid fever is a terrible sickness. Either you die from it or you become an idiot. And I know what I’m talking about, I had it!”
– General Ducrot
Sedan, France. September 1st, 1870.
After being caught and bested by the 3rd Prussian Army at Beaumont, the French Army of Chalons withdrew to Sedan, hoping to rest and resupply there.
Chateau de Sedan, Chamber room’s ante-room (Morning)
MacMahon: I say, one good thing about this turn; bivouacking in a Chateau’s a bit more comfortable than tents.
Ducrot: I would agree with you if we hadn’t spent the entire night sitting in this wretched little room.
[Dr.Conneau enters from the chamber room proper.]
MacMahon: Well Doctor, how is the old boy?
Conneau: No better I’m afraid. The stone moves slowly.
[Faint moaning emanates from the next room.]
MacMahon: I say, what’s that?
[Marshall MacMahon, spritely for his age, hops up, whiskers bristling and opens the connecting door but doesn’t look in.]
MacMahon: What are your orders, Emperor?
[Napoleon, still only heard but not seen.]
Napoleon: Oooh Gawwwd… you sort it out.
[MacMahon closes the door.]
MacMahon: Very well then. Where’s my man? Prepare my horse! I’m off to the field.
[MacMahon marches out. Ducrot facepalms.]
Ducrot: When can we expect the Emperor back on his feet?
Conneau: It’s difficult to say. He experiences great pain when passing water and the gravel by all accounts has not yet moved through the kidney organ.
[Several hours pass. Ducrot waits in the anti-chamber. The doctor passes in and out of the room from time to time.
Suddenly much louder wailing and moaning comes form the other room.]
Napoleon: OOOOHHHH! God in heaven have mercy on me!
[Napoleon is heard stumbling about, followed by the sounds of strenuous vomiting and wrenching. Durcot, dismayed, goes to the door, opens it and looks in. Emperor Napoleon III, his breeches down around his knees, is crumpled over the hollow wooden seat that serves as a toilet. The doctor stands beside him, hand on shoulder, looking concerned.
Marshall MacMahon abruptly bursts into the the antechamber, dirty and dishevelled. He is dragging himself on one leg but heads straight for the chamber room door.]
MacMahon: By Jove! What is this devilry, Doctor?
Conneau: The gravel is moving.
Ducrot: What news from the field, Marshall? Good God, look at your leg man. What happened?
MacMahon: Got us from both sides they have, Ducrot. Prong manoeuvre! I don’t like our chances.
Conneau: Marshall, you better let me take a look at that leg.
MacMahon: What this? It’s just a flesh wound.
[The wound is now bleeding steadily.]
MacMahon: However, I do believe I’ll lie down and have a glass of brandy. General Ducrot I’m putting you in charge.
Ducrott & Conneau: [simultaneously] What?
MacMahon: Oh? You like to have a stab at it Doctor?
General Ducrot: We are in a chamber pot, and we’re going to be shit on.
[The wrenching in the other room turns back to moaning. Several minutes later the Prussian Army bursts into the Chateau amid the hysterical wailing of Napoleon III finally passing his stone.]
… and the rest is history.