Paris, 16th August 1869
An ordinance for sewer improvements in Marseilles. Extra provision for maintenance facilities on the Paris-Lyon railway. Paperwork is almost never an exciting activity by any stretch of the imagination, but every day, the mounds of paperwork seemed duller than ever for the Emperor of the French.
He was once a young man full of ideas and ambition, though Louis Napoleon had been worn down by almost two decades of governance. The almost permanent sullen look in his eyes was only the beginning of his physical ailments, as the gallstones which afflicted him took their toll, making the already severe strains of his life almost pure agony at times.
As if the physical problems which dogged him were not enough to produce misery in his life, the very process of government had begun to affect him adversely as things had not gone according to plan. The failure of his Mexican adventure was merely the first major blow to him, but far more severe was Sadowa. Even the mention of the name was enough to make him groan audibly, and had produced in him a fear of just what his previously little neighbour to the North East may have been planning next.
Though on the 13th of August, 1869, not all of the news that Napoleon III received would be negative. A rather gangly young man with an awkward manner and some important news was admitted to Napoleon’s office rather late in the day. A few moments after knocking on the doors of the office, he opened the doors and admitted himself to the room. Napoleon was slouched by his desk in a chair, visibly hurt from the pain of his gallstones. “You have come so late in the day. I was just preparing to retire…”
The young man bowed, unsure as to whether it was an appropriate way, though his manner became less uptight as he could see the Emperor was unconcerned with how he presented himself. He cleared his throat and spoke. “My Emperor, I was sent from the hospital. And I am most pleased to inform you that monsieur Niel seems to be recovering rather well from the surgery of the past week. Indeed, the doctors think that the problem of his gallstones may have been resolved entirely for the time being”
The Emperor did not seem to visibly react to the news, some weak nodding of his head aside. However, the news brought a great relief to Napoleon. “I could not afford to lose someone as vital as him. Not at this stage”
The young man continued to wait for the Emperor to reply to his words. After several seconds of an awkward silence, he finally spoke out again. “You wish me to take a message to monsieur Niel?”
The Emperor nodded, slightly more vigorously than the last time. “Just send my regards. Wish him well in his recovery and all of that. And perhaps ask some of the doctors about the feasibility of this surgery for me”. Napoleon forced a weak smile on his face.
The young man bowed again in acknowledgement. “At once, my Emperor”. And with that, he left the room, leaving Napoleon alone to close his office for the day. The mind that was usually drugged now raced with ideas that seemed to be within grasp now. The completion of the military reforms which France desperately needed if she was to have a chance when dealing with the upstart Prussians. He was certain that Niel would have a key role in the coming months and years, and in his efforts to secure the Napoleonic dynasty’s place in France.