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accepted.

The aristocrats were tracked in their most secret recesses, and not
only were they punished, but also those who dared screen them from the
avenging hand of the republic. The officers were recognized under
every disguise, and the very fact that they had disguised themselves or
remained silent as to their true character was a crime great enough to
be punished with the guillotine.

More than twenty generals were imprisoned during the last months of the
year 1793, and many more paid with their lives for crimes which they had
never committed, and which had existence only in the heated imagination
of their accusers. Thus had General Houchard fallen; he was followed
in the first days of the new year of 1794 by the Generals Luckner and
Biron.

Alexandre de Beauharnais had served under Luckner, he had been Biron's
adjutant, he had been united with General Houchard in the unfortunate
attempt to relieve Mayence. It was therefore natural that he should be
noticed and espied. Besides which, he was an aristocrat, a relative of
many of the emigres, the brother of the Count de Beauharnais, who was
now residing in Coblentz with the Count d'Artois, and it had not been
forgotten what an important part Alexandre de Beauharnais had played
in the National Assembly; it was well known that he belonged to the
moderate party, that he had been the friend of the Girondists.

Had the Convention wished to forget it, the informers were there to
remind them of it. Alexandre de Beauharnais was denounced as suspected,
and this denunciation was followed, in the first days of January, by an
arrest. He was taken to Paris, and at first shut up in the Luxemburg,
where already many of his companions-in-arms were incarcerated.

Josephine was not in Ferte-Beauharnais when the emissaries of the
republic came to arrest her husband. She was just then in Paris, whither
she had gone to seek protection and assistance for Alexandre at the
hands of influential acquaintances; in Paris she learned the arrest of
her husband.

The misfortune, which she had so long expected and foreseen, was now
upon her and ready to crush her and the future of her children. Her
husband was arrested - that is to say, he was condemned to die.

At this thought Josephine rose up like a lioness; the indolence, the
dreamy quietude of the creole, had suddenly vanished, and Josephine was
now a resolute, energetic woman, anxious to risk every thing, to try
every thing, so as to save her husband, the father of her children. She
now knew no timidity, no trembling, no fear, no horror; every thing
in her was decision of purpose; keen, daring action. Letters, visits,
petitions, and even personal supplications, every thing was tried; there
was no humiliation before which she shrank. For long hours she sat in
the anterooms of the tribunal of the revolution, of the ministers who,
however much they despised the aristocrats, imitated their manners,
and made the people wait in the vestibule, even as the ministers of
the tyrant had done; with tears, with all the eloquence of love, she
entreated those men of blood and terror to give her back her husband, or
at least not to condemn him before he had been accused, and to furnish
him with the means of defence.

But those new lords and rulers of France had no heart for compassion;
Robespierre, Marat, Danton, could not be moved by the tears which a wife
could shed for an accused husband. They had already witnessed so much
weeping, listened to so many complaints, to so many cries of distress,
their eyes were not open for such things, their ears heard not.

France was diseased, and only by drawing away the bad blood could she
be restored to health, could she be made sound, could she rise up again
with the strength of youth! And Marat, Danton, Robespierre, were the
physicians who were healing France, who were restoring her to health
by thus horribly opening her veins. Marat and Danton murdered from
bloodthirsty hatred, from misanthropy and vengeance; Robespierre
murdered through principle, from the settled fanatical conviction, that
France was lost if all the old corrupt blood was not cleansed away from
her veins, so as to replenish them with youthful, vitalizing blood.

Robespierre was therefore inexorable, and Robespierre now ruled over
France! He was the dictator to whom every thing had to bow; he was at
the head of the tribunal of revolution; he daily signed hundreds of
death-warrants; and this selfsame man, who once in Arras had resigned
his office of judge because his hand could not be induced to sign
the death-warrant of a convicted criminal [Footnote: See "Maximilian
Robespierre," by Theodore Mundt, vol. i.] - this man, who shed tears over
a tame dove which the shot of a hunter had killed, could, with heart
unmoved, with composed look, sit for long hours near the guillotine on
the tribune of the revolution, and gaze with undimmed eyes on the heads
of his victims falling under the axe.

He was now at the summit of his power; France lay bleeding, trembling
at his feet; fear had silenced even his enemies; no one dared touch
the dreaded man whose mere contact was death; whose look, when coldly,
calmly fixed on the face of any man, benumbed his heart as if he had
read his sentence of death in the blue eyes of Robespierre.

At the side of Robespierre sat the terrorists Fouquier-Tinville and
Marat, to whom murder was a delight, blood-shedding a joy, who with
sarcastic pleasure listened unmoved to the cries, to the tearful prayers
of mothers, wives, children, of those sentenced to death, and who fed on
their tears and on their despair.

With such men at the head of affairs it was natural that the reign of
terror should still be increasing in power, and that with it the number
of the captives in the prisons should increase.

In the month of January, 1794, the list of the incarcerated within the
prisons of Paris ran up to the number of 4,659; in the month of February
the number rose up to 5,892; in the beginning of April to 7,541; and at
the end of the same month it was reckoned that there were in Paris
eight thousand prisoners. [Footnote: Thiers, "Histoire de la Revolution
Francaise," vol. vi., p. 41]

The greater the number of prisoners, the more zealous was the tribunal
of the revolution to get rid of them; and with satisfaction these judges
of blood saw the new improvements made in the guillotine, and which not
only caused the machine to work faster, but also prevented the axe from
losing its edge too soon by the sundering of so many necks.

"It works well," exclaimed Fouquier-Tinville, triumphantly; "to-day we
have fifty sentenced. The heads fall like poppy-heads!"

And these fifty heads falling like poppy-heads, were not enough for his
bloodthirstiness.

"It must work better still," cried he; "in the next decade, I must have
at least four hundred and fifty poppy-heads!"

And then, as if inspired by a joyous and happy thought, his gloomy
countenance became radiant with a grinning laughter, and, rubbing his
hands with delight, he continued: "Yes, I must have four hundred and
fifty! Then, if we work on so perseveringly, we will soon write over
our prison-gates, 'House to let!'" [Footnote: "Histoire de l'Imperatrice
Josephine."]

They worked on perseveringly, and the vehicles which carried the
condemned to execution rolled every morning with a fresh freight through
the streets of Paris, where the guillotine, with its glaring axe,
awaited them.

The month of April, as already said, had brought the number of prisoners
in Paris to eight thousand; the month of April had therefore more
executions to engrave with its bloody pen into the annals of history.
On the 20th of April fell on the Place de la Revolution the heads of
fourteen members of the ex-Parliament of Paris; the next day followed
the Duke de Villeroy, the Admiral d'Estaing, the former Minister of War
Latour du Pin, the Count de Bethune, the President de Nicolai. One day
after, the well-laden wagon drove from the Conciergerie to the Place de
la Revolution; in it were three members of the Constituent Assembly,
and to have belonged to it was the only crime they were accused of. Near
these three sat the aged Malesherbes, with his sister; the Marquis de
Chateaubriand, with his wife; the Duchess de Grammont, and Du Chatelet.
It will be seen that the turn for women had now come; for those women
who were now led to the execution had committed no other crime than to
be the wives or the relatives of emigrants or of accused persons, than
to bear names which had shone for centuries in the history of France.

Josephine also had an ancient aristocratic name; she also was related
to the migrated ones, the wife of an accused, of a prisoner! And she
wearied the tribunal of the revolution constantly with petitions, with
visits, with complaints. They were tired of these molestations, and it
was so easy, so convenient to shield one's self against them! There was
nothing else to do but to arrest Josephine; for once a prisoner, she
could no longer - in anterooms, where she would wait for hours; in the
street before the house-door, where she would stand, despite rains and
winds - she could no longer trouble the rulers of France, and beseech
them with tears and prayers for her husband's freedom. The prisoner
could no more write petitions, or move heaven and earth for her
husband's sake.

The Viscountess de Beauharnais was arrested. On the 20th of April, as
she happened to be at the proper authority's office to obtain a pass
according to the new law, which ordered all ci-devants to leave Paris
in ten days, Josephine was arrested and led into the Convent of the
Carmelites, which for two years had served as a prison for the bloody
republic, and from which so many of its victims had issued to mount the
wagon which led them to the guillotine.

Amid this wretchedness there was one sweet joy. Alexandre de Beauharnais
had no sooner heard of the arrest of his wife, than he asked as a favor
from the tribunal of the revolution to be removed into the same prison
where his wife was. In an incomprehensible fit of merciful humor his
prayer was granted; he was transferred to the Convent of the Carmelites,
and if the husband and wife could not share the same cell, yet they were
within the same walls, and could daily (through the turnkeys, who had to
be bribed by all manner of means, by promises, by gold, as much as could
be gathered together among the prisoners) hear the news.

Josephine was united to her husband. She received daily from him news
and messages; she could often, in the hours when the prisoners in
separate detachments made their promenades in the yard and in the
garden, meet Alexandre, reach him her hand, whisper low words of trust,
of hope, and speak with him of Eugene and Hortense, of these dear
children who, now deserted by their parents, could hope for protection
and safety only from the faithfulness and love of their governess,
Madame Lanoy. The thought of these darling ones of her heart excited
and troubled Josephine, and all the pride and courage with which she had
armed her heart melted into tears of anxiety and into longings for her
deserted children.

But Madame Lanoy with the most faithful solicitude watched over the
abandoned ones; she had once sworn to Josephine that if the calamity,
which Josephine had constantly anticipated, should fall upon her and
upon her husband, she would be to Hortense and Eugene a second mother;
she would care for them and protect them as if they were her own
children. And Madame Lanoy kept her promise.

To place them beyond the dangers which their very name made imminent,
and also perhaps to give by means of the children evidence of the
patriotic sentiments of the parents, Madame Lanoy left with the children
the viscount's house, where they had hitherto resided, and occupied
with both of them a small shabby house, where she established herself
as seamstress. The little eleven-year-old Hortense, the daughter of the
Citizeness Beauharnais, was now the assistant of the Citizeness Lanoy,
at the trade of seamstress. Eugene was apprenticed to a cabinet-maker;
a leather apron was put on, and then with a plank under his arm,
and carrying a plane in his hand, he went through the streets to the
workshop of the cabinet-maker, and every one lauded the patriotic
sentiments of the Citizeness Lanoy, who tried to educate the brood of
the ex-aristocrats into orderly and moral beings.

Eugene and Hortense fell rapidly and understandingly into the plan of
their faithful governess; they transformed themselves in their language,
in their dress, in their whole being and appearance, into little
republicans, full of genuine patriotism. Like their cousin, Emile de
Beauharnais, whose mother (the wife of the elder brother of the Viscount
de Beauharnais) had already for a long time languished in prison, they
attended the festivals which had for its object the glorification of the
republic, and, alongside of the Citizeness Lanoy, the little milliner
Hortense followed the procession of her quarter of the city, perhaps
to awaken thereby the good-will of the authorities in favor of her
imprisoned parents.

Then, when Madame Lanoy thought this good-will had been gained, she
made a step further, and undertook to have the children present to the
Convention a petition for their parents. This petition ran thus:

"Two innocent children appeal to you, fellow-citizens, for the freedom
of their dear mother - their mother against whom no reproach can be
made but the misfortune of being born in a class from which, as she has
proven, she ever felt completely estranged, for she has ever surrounded
herself with the best patriots, the most distinguished men of the
Mountain. After she had on the 26th of Germinal requested a pass in
order to obey the law, she was arrested on the evening of that day
without knowing the cause. Citizen representatives, you cannot be
guilty of oppressing innocence, patriotism, and virtue. Give back to
us unfortunate children our life. Our youth is not made for suffering."
Signed: EUGENE BEAUHARNAIS, aged twelve years, and HORTENSE BEAUHARNAIS,
aged eleven years. [Footnote: "Histoire de l'Imperatrice Josephine," par
Aubenas.]

To this complaint of two deserted children no more attention was paid
than to the cries of the dove which the hawk carries away in its claws,
but perhaps the innocent touching words of the petition had awakened
compassion in the heart of some father.

It is true no answer was given to the petition of the children, but the
Citizeness Lanoy was allowed to take the children of the accused twice
a week into the reception-room of the Carmelite Convent, that there they
might see and speak to their mother.

This was a sweet comfort, an unhoped-for joy, as well to Josephine as to
her husband; for if he was not permitted to come into the lower room and
see the children, yet he now saw them through the eyes of his wife, and
through her he received the wishes of their tender affection.

What happiness for Josephine, who loved her children with all the
unrestrained fondness of a Creole! what happiness to see her Eugene, her
Hortense, and to be permitted to speak to them! How much they had to say
one to another, how much to communicate one to the other!

It is true much had to be passed in silence if they would not excite
the anger of the turnkey, who was always present at the meeting of the
children with their mother. Strict orders had been given that Josephine
should never whisper one word to the children, or speak to them of the
events of the day, of what was going on beyond the prison walls. The
least infringement of this rule was to be punished by debarring the
children from having any further conversation with their mother.

And yet they had so much to say; they needed her advice so much, so as
to know what future steps they might take to accomplish their mother's
freedom! They had so much to tell to Josephine about relatives and
friends, and above all so much to say about what was going on outside
of the prison! But how bring her news? how speak to their mother? how
receive her message in such a way that the jailer's ears could not know
what was said?

Love is full of invention. It turns every thing into subserviency to
its end. Love once turned the dove into a carrier; love made Josephine's
children find out a new mail-carrier - it made them invent the lapdog
mail.

Josephine, like all Creoles, had, besides her love for flowers, botany,
and birds, a great fondness for dogs. Never since the earliest days of
her childhood had Josephine been seen in her room, at the promenade, or
in her carriage, without one of these faithful friends and companions of
man, which share with the lords of creation all their good qualities
and virtues, without being burdened with their failings. The love,
the faithfulness, the cunningness of dogs are virtues, wherewith they
successfully rival man, and the dogs boast only of one quality which
amongst men is considered a despicable vice, namely, the canine
humbleness which these animals practise, without egotism, without
calculation, whilst man practises it only when his interest and his
selfishness make it seem advantageous.

Two years before, a friend of Josephine had given her a small, young
model of the then fashionable breed of dogs, a small lapdog, and at
once Josephine had made a pet of the little animal, which had been
recommended to her as the progeny of a rare and genuine race of lapdogs.
It is true the little Fortune had not fulfilled what had been promised;
he had not grown up exactly into a model of beauty and loveliness.
With small feet, a long body of a pale yellow rather than red, a thick,
double, flat nose, this lapdog had nothing of its race but the black
face, and the tail in the shape of a corkscrew. Besides all this, he was
undoubtedly of a surly, quarrelsome disposition, and he preferred the
indolent and ease of his cushion to either a promenade with Josephine or
to a game with her children.

But since Josephine was no more there, since her beautiful hands no more
presented him his food, a change had come over Fortune's character;
he had awakened from the effeminacy of happiness to full activity. The
children had but to say, "We are going to mamma," and at once Fortune
would spring up from his cushion with a cheerful bark, and run out into
the streets, describing circles and performing joyous leaps. Fortune,
as soon as the reception-room of the prison was opened, was always the
first to rush in, barking loudly at the jailer; then, when his spite
was over, to run with all the signs of passionate tenderness toward his
mistress; then he would surround her with caresses, and leap, bark, and
whine, until she noticed him, until she should have kissed and embraced
the children, and then taken him up in her arms.

But one day, as the door of the reception-room opened, and Eugene and
Hortense entered with Madame Lanoy, Fortune's loud barking trumpet
sounded not, and he sprang not forward toward Josephine. He walked on
gravely with measured steps at the side of Madame Lanoy, who led him
with a string which she had fastened to his collar. With important,
thoughtful mien, he gazed resignedly and gravely at his mistress, and
even for his hated foe the jailer he had but a dull growl, which he soon
repressed.

Josephine was somewhat alarmed at this change in Fortune's demeanor,
and after she had welcomed, taken to her bosom and kissed her darling
children, after she had saluted the good Madame Lanoy, she inquired why
Fortune was so sad and why he was led as a captive.

"Because he is so wild and unruly, mamma," said Eugene, with a peculiar
smile, "because he wants always to be the first to salute you, and
because he barks so loud that we cannot possibly for some time hear what
our dear mamma has to say."

"And then, in the street, he is so wicked and troublesome," cried
Hortense, with eagerness, "and he always begins quarrelling and fighting
with every dog which passes by, and we must stand there and wait for him
when we are so anxious to see our dear mamma."

"For all these reasons," resumed Madame Lanoy, with slow, solemn
intonation, "for all these reasons we have thought it necessary to chain
Fortune and to tighten up his collar."

"And you have done quite well, citizeness," growled the turnkey, "for
I had already thought of silencing forever the abominable lapdog if he
again barked at me so."

Josephine said nothing, but the peculiar smile she had noticed on
her children's face had passed, at the words of Madame Lanoy, over
Josephine's radiant countenance, and she now with her pet names called
Fortune to her, to press him to her heart, to pat him, and by all these
caresses to make amends for his having his collar somewhat tightened.

But whilst thus petting him, and tenderly smoothing down his sleek fur,
her slim fingers quickly and cautiously passed under the wide collar of
Fortune. Then her eyes were rapidly directed toward the jailer. He was
engaged in animated conversation with Madame Lanoy, who knew how to make
him talk, by inquiring after the health of his little sick daughter.

A second time Josephine's fingers were passed under Fortune's
collar - for she had well understood the words of Madame Lanoy - with a
woman's keen instinct she understood why Fortune's collar had been drawn
closer about him. She had felt the thin, closely-folded paper, which
was tied up with the string in the dog's collar, and she drew it out
rapidly, adroitly to hide it in her hand. She then called Hortense and
Eugene, and whilst she talked with them, she slowly and carefully, under
pretext of adjusting more closely the kerchief round her neck, secreted
the paper in her bosom.

The jailer had seen nothing; he was telling Madame Lanoy, with all the
pride of a kind father, that all the prisoners were anxious about his
little Eugenie; that all, more than once a day, inquired how it fared
with the little one; that she was the pet of the prisoners, who were so
delighted to have the child with them, and for long hours to jest and
play with her. Unfortunate captives, who nattered the child, and feigned
love for it, so as to move the father's heart, and instil into it a
little compassion for their misfortune!

When Eugene and Hortense came the next time with their faithful Lanoy,
Fortune was again led by the string as a prisoner, and this time
Josephine was still more affectionate than before. She not only welcomed
him at his entrance, and lifted him up in her arms, but she was yet,
if possible, more affectionate toward him at the time of departure,
and embraced him, and tried if the collar had not been buckled on too
tightly, if the string which was tied round it did not hurt him too
much. And whilst she examined this, Eugene was telling the jailer that
he was now a worthy apprentice of a cabinet-maker, and that he hoped one
day to be a useful citizen of the republic. The jailer was listening to
him with a complacent smile, and had no suspicion that at this moment
Josephine's cunning fingers were making sure with the string under the
collar the note in which she gave an answer to the other note that she
had before found under the collar of Fortune. [Footnote: "Souvenirs d'un
Sexagenaire," par M.L. Arnould, vol. iii., p. 3.]

From this day, Josephine knew every thing of importance in Paris; from
this time she could point out to her children the means to pursue so as
to win to their parents influential and powerful friends, so that they
might one day be delivered from their captivity. Fortune was love's
messenger between Josephine and her children; a beam of happiness
had penetrated both cells, where lived Alexandre de Beauharnais and
Josephine, and they owed this gleam only to the lapdog mail.




CHAPTER XIV. IN PRISON.


Since France had become a democratic republic, since the differences
in rank were abolished, and liberty, equality, and fraternity alone
prevailed, the aristocracy was either beyond the frontiers of France
or else in the prisons. Outside of the prison were but citoyens and
citoyennes; inside of the prison were yet dukes and duchesses, counts
and countesses, viscounts and viscountesses; there, behind locks
and bars, the aristocracy was represented in its most glorious and
high-sounding names.

And there also, within these walls, was the proud, strict dame, whom
Marie Antoinette had once, to her misfortune, driven away from the
Tuileries, and who had not been permitted to possess a single foot of
ground in all France - there, within the prison with the aristocrats,



Online LibraryL. MühlbachEmpress Josephine → online text (page 13 of 40)