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lived also Madame Etiquette. She had to leave the Tuileries with the
nobility, and with the nobility she had entered into the prisons of the
Conciergerie and of the Carmelite Convent. There she ruled with the same
authority and with the same gravity as once in happier days she had done
in the king's palace.

The republic had mixed together the prisoners without any distinction,
and in the hall, where every morning they gathered together to attend to
the roll-call of the condemned who were to report for the guillotine; in
the narrow rooms and cells, where they passed the rest of the day,
the republic had made no distinction between all these inmates of the
prison, dukes and simple knights, duchesses and baronesses, princesses
of the blood and country nobility of inferior degree. But etiquette
was there to remedy this unseemliness of fate and to re-establish the
natural order of things - etiquette, which had enacted rules and laws for
the halls of kings, enforced them also in the halls of prisons. Only for
the ladies of the most ancient nobility, the duchesses and princesses of
the blood, in the prison-rooms, as once in the king's halls, the small
stool (tabouret) was reserved, and they were privileged to occupy the
rush-bottomed seats which were in the prisons, and which now replaced
the tabouret. No lady of inferior rank would consent to sit down in
their presence unless these ladies of superior rank had expressly
requested and entitled their inferior companions of misfortune to do so.
When, at the appointed hour, the halls were abandoned for the general
promenade in the yards of the Conciergerie, or in the small cloistered
gardens of the Carmelites, this recreation was preceded by a ceremony
which shortened its already short hour by at least ten minutes: the
ladies and the gentlemen, according to their order, rank, and nobility,
placed themselves in two rows on either side of the outer door, and
between them passed on first in ceremonial order of rank, as at a
court-festival, the ladies and gentlemen who at court were entitled
to the high and small levees, as well as to the tabouret, and to the
kissing of the queen's hand. As they passed, each bowed low, and then,
with the same due observance of rank, as was customary at court, the
ladies and gentlemen of inferior titles followed two by two, when the
higher nobility had passed. [Footnote: "Souvenirs de la Marquise de
Crequi," vol. v].

It was yet the court-society which was assembled here in the rooms and
cells of the prison; only this court-society, this aristocracy, had no
more King Louis to do homage unto, but they served another king, they
bowed low before another queen! This king to whom the nobility of France
belonged was Death; this queen to which proud heads bowed low was the

It was King Death who now summoned the aristocrats to his court; the
scaffold was the hall of festivity where solemn homage was made to this
king. It would therefore have been against all etiquette to crowd into
this hall of festivity with beclouded countenance; this would have
diminished the respect due to King Death, if he had not been approached
with full-court ceremonial, and with the serene, easy smile of a
courtier. To die, to meet death was now a distinction, an honor for
which each almost envied the other. When at ten o'clock in the morning
the gathering took place in the large room, the conversation was of the
most cheerful and unaffected easiness; they joked, they laughed, they
speculated on politics, though it was well known that in a few minutes
yonder door was to open, and that on its threshold the jailer would
appear, list in hand; that from this list he would call out with his
loud, croaking voice, as Death's harbinger, the names of those whose
death-warrants had been yesterday signed by Robespierre, and who would
have immediately to leave the hall, to mount the wagons which were
already waiting at the prison's gate to drive them to the guillotine.

While the jailer read his list, suspense and excitement were visible on
all faces, but no one would have so deeply lowered himself as to betray
fear or anguish when his name fell from the lips of the jailer. The
smile remained on the lip, friends and acquaintances were bidden
farewell with a cheerful salutation, and with easy, unaffected demeanor
they quitted the hall to mount the fatal vehicle.

To die gracefully was now considered as much bon ton as it had been once
fashionable gracefully to enter the ballroom and do obeisance to
the king; contempt and scorn would have followed him who might have
exhibited a sorrowful mien, hesitation, or fear.

One morning the jailer had read his list, and sixteen gentlemen and
ladies of the aristocracy had consequently to leave the hall of the
Conciergerie to enter both wagons now ready at the gate. As they were
starting for the fatal journey a second turnkey appeared, to say
that through some accident only one of the wagons was ready, and that
consequently only eight of the sentenced ones could be driven to the
guillotine. This meant that the accident nullified eight death-warrants
and saved the lives of eight sentenced persons. For it was not
probable that these eight persons would next morning be honored with
an execution. Their warrants were signed, their names had been called;
neither the tribunal of the revolution nor the jailer could pay special
attention whether their heads had fallen or not. The next day would
bring on new condemnations, new lists, new distinctions for the wagons,
new heads for the guillotine. Whoever, on the day appointed for the
execution, missed the guillotine, could safely reckon that his life
was saved; that henceforth he was amongst the forgotten ones, of whom a
great number filled the prisons, and who expected their freedom through
some favorable accident.

To-day, therefore, only eight of the sixteen condemned were to mount the
wagon. But who were to be the favored ones? The two turnkeys, with cold
indifference, left the choice to the condemned. Only eight could be
accommodated in the wagon, they said, and it was the same who went or
who remained. "Make your choice!"

A strife arose among the sixteen condemned ones - not as to who might
remain behind, but as to those who might mount into the wagon.

The ladies declared that, according to the rules of common politeness,
which allowed ladies to go first, the choice belonged to them; the
gentlemen objected to this motion of the ladies on the plea that to
reach the guillotine steps had to be ascended, and as etiquette required
that in going up-stairs the gentlemen should always precede the ladies,
they were also now entitled to go first and to mount the steps of the
scaffold before the ladies. At last all had to give way to the claims of
the Duchess de Grammont, who declared that at this festival as at every
other the order of rank was to be observed, and that she, as well as all
the gentlemen and ladies of superior rank, had the undisputed privilege
now, as at all other celebrations, to take the precedency.

No one ventured to oppose this decision, and the Duchess de Grammont,
proud of the victory won, was the first to leave the room and mount the

Another time the turnkey began to read the list: every one listened
with grave attention, and at every call a clear, cheerful "Here I am!"

But after the jailer, with wearied voice, had many times repeated a name
from his list, the accustomed answer failed. No one came forward, no one
seemed to be there to lay claim to that name and to the execution.
The jailer stopped a few minutes, and as all were dumb, he continued,
indifferent and unmoved, to call out the names.

"We will then have only fifteen heads to deliver to-day," said he, after
reading the list, "for there must have been a mistake. One of the
names is false, or else the person to whom it belongs has already been

"It is probably but a blunder of the pen!" exclaimed a handsome young
man who, smiling, stepped out of the crowd of listeners and passed on to
the side where the victims stood. "You read Chapetolle. There is no
such name here. The hand of the writer was probably tired of writing the
numerous lists of those who are sentenced to death, and he has therefore
written the letters wrong. My name is Chapelotte, and I am the one meant
by Chapetolle."

"I do not know," said the jailer, "but it is certain that sixteen
sentenced ones ought to go into the wagons, and that only fifteen have
reported themselves in a legal way."

"Well, then, add me in an illegal manner to your fifteen," said the
young man, smiling. "Without doubt it is my name they intended to write.
I do not wish to save my life through a blunder in writing, and who
knows if another time I may find such good company as to-day in your
chariot? Allow me then to journey on with my friends."

The jailer had no reason to refuse him this journey, and he had the
satisfaction besides of being thus able to deliver sixteen sentenced
prisoners to the guillotine.

Such was the society of the aristocrats, among whom Josephine lived the
long, dreary days of her imprisonment. The cell she occupied was
shared by two companions of misfortune, the Duchess de Aguillon and the
beautiful Madame de Fontenay, who afterward became Madame Tallien, so
distinguished and renowned for her beauty and wit. Therese de Fontenay
knew, and every one knew, that she was already sentenced, even if her
sentence was not yet written down and countersigned. It was recorded in
the heart of Robespierre. He had sentenced her, without any concealment.
She had but a few weeks more to endure the martyrdom, the anguish of
hope and of expectation. She was his secure victim; Robespierre needed
not hasten the fall of this beautiful head, which was the admiration of
all who saw it. This beauty was the very crime which Robespierre wanted
to punish, for with this beauty, Therese de Fontenay, who then resided
in Bordeaux with her husband, had captivated the old friend and
associate in sentiments of Robespierre, the fanatical Tallien; with
this beauty she had converted the man of blood and terror into a
soft, compassionate being, inclined to pardon and to mercy toward his

Tallien had been sent as commissionnaire from the Convention to
Bordeaux, and there with inexorable severity he had raged against the
unfortunate merchants, from whom he exacted enormous assessments, and
whom he sentenced to the guillotine if they refused, or were unable to
pay. But suddenly love changed the bloodthirsty tiger into a sensitive
being, and the beautiful Madame de Fontenay, who had become acquainted
with Tallien in the prison of Bordeaux, had worked a complete change in
his whole being. For the first time this man, who unmoved had condemned
to death King Louis and the Girondists, found on his lips the word
"pardon;" for the first time the hand which had signed so many
death-warrants wrote the order to let a prisoner go free.

This prisoner was Therese de Fontenay, the daughter of the Spanish
banker Cabarrus, and she rewarded him for the gift of her life with
a smile which forever made him her captive. From this time the
death-warrants were converted into pardons from his lips, and for every
pardon Therese thanked him with a sweet smile, with a glowing look of

But this leniency was looked upon as criminal by the tribunal of
terror in Paris. They recalled the culprit who dared pardon instead of
punishing; and if Robespierre did not think himself powerful enough
to send Tallien as a traitor and as an apostate to the scaffold,
he punished him for his leniency by separating from him Therese de
Fontenay, who had abandoned the husband forced upon her, and who had
followed Tallien to Paris, and Robespierre had sent her to prison.

There, at the Carmelites', was Therese de Fontenay; she occupied the
same cell as Josephine; the same misfortune had made them companions and
friends. They communicated one to the other their hopes and fears;
and when Josephine, with tears in her eyes, spoke to her friend of her
children, of her deep anguish, for they were alone and abandoned in the
world outside of the prison walls, whilst their unfortunate pitiable
mother languished in prison, Therese comforted and encouraged her.

"So long as one lives there is hope," said Therese, with her enchanting
smile. "Myself, who in the eyes of you all am sentenced to death,
hope - no, I hope not - I am convinced that I will soon obtain my freedom.
And I swear that, as soon as I am free, I will stir heaven and earth to
procure the liberty of my dear friend Josephine and of her husband the
Viscount de Beauharnais, and to give back to the poor orphaned children
their parents."

Josephine answered with an incredulous smile, and a shrugging of the
shoulders; and then Therese's very expressive countenance glowed, and
her large, black eyes flashed deeper gleams.

"You have no faith in me, Josephine," she said, vehemently; "but I
repeat to you, I will soon obtain my freedom, and then I will procure
your liberty and that of your husband."

"But how will you obtain that?" asked Josephine, shaking her head.

"I will ruin Robespierre," said Therese, gravely.

"In what do your means of ruining him consist?"

"In this letter here," said Therese, as she drew out of her bosom a
small paper folded up. "See, this sheet of paper; it consists but of a
few lines which, since they would not furnish me with writing-materials,
I have written with my blood on this sheet of paper, which I found
yesterday in the garden during the promenade. The turnkey will give this
letter to-day to Tallien. He has given me his word, and I have promised
him that Tallien will recompense him magnificently for it. This letter
will ruin Robespierre and make me free, and then I will procure the
freedom of the Viscount and of the Viscountess de Beauharnais."

"What then, in that letter is the magic word which is to work out such

Therese handed the paper to her friend.

"Read," said she, smiling.

Josephine read: "Therese of Fontenay to the citizen Tallien. Either in
eight days I am free and the wife of my deliverer, the noble and brave
Tallien, who will have freed the world from the monster Robespierre, or
else, in eight days, I mount the scaffold; and my last thought will be
a curse for the cowardly, heartless man who has not had the courage to
risk his life for her he loved, and who suffers for his sake, for his
sake meets death - who had not the mind to consider that with daring deed
he must destroy the bloodthirsty fiend or be ruined by him. Therese de
Fontenay will ever love her Tallien if he delivers her; she will
hate him, even in death, if he sacrifices her to Robespierre's

"If, through mishap, Robespierre should receive this letter, then you
and Tallien are lost," sighed Josephine.

"But Tallien, and not Robespierre, will receive it, and I am saved,"
exclaimed Therese. "Therefore, my friend, take courage and be bold. Wait
but eight days patiently. Let us wait and hope."

"Yes, let us wait and hope," sighed Josephine. "Hope and patience are
the only companions of the captive."


Meanwhile the patience of the unfortunate prisoners of the Carmelite
convent were to be subjected to a severe trial; and the very next day
after this conversation with Therese de Fontenay, Josephine believed
that there was no more hope for her, that she was irrevocably lost, as
her husband was lost. For three days she had not seen the viscount, nor
received any news from him. Only a vague report had reached her that the
viscount was no longer in the Carmelite convent, but that he had been
transferred to the Conciergerie.

This report told the truth. Alexandre de Beauharnais had once more been
denounced, and this second accusation was his sentence of death. For
some time past the fanatical Jacobins had invented a new means to find
guilty ones for the guillotine, and to keep the veins bleeding, so as
to restore France to health. They sent emissaries into the prisons to
instigate conspiracies among the prisoners, and to find out men wretched
enough to purchase their life by accusing their prison companions, and
by delivering them over to the executioner's axe. Such a spy had been
sent into that portion of the prison where Beauharnais was, and he had
begun his horrible work, for he had kindled discord and strife among the
prisoners, and had won a few to his sinister projects. But Beauharnais's
keen eye had discovered the traitor, and he had loudly and openly
denounced him to his fellow-prisoners. The next day, the spy disappeared
from the prison, but as he went he swore bloody vengeance on General de
Beauharnais. [Footnote: "Memoires du Comte de Lavalette," vol. i., p.

And he kept his word; the next morning De Beauharnais was summoned
for trial, and the gloomy, hateful faces of his judges, their hostile
questions and reproaches, the capital crimes they accused him of, led
him to conclude that his death was decided upon, and that he was doomed
to the guillotine.

In the night which followed his trial, Alexandre de Beauharnais wrote to
his wife a letter, in which he communicated to her his sad forebodings,
and bade her farewell for this life. The next day he was transferred to
the Conciergerie - that is to say, into the vestibule of the scaffold.

This letter of her husband, received by Josephine the next day after her
conversation with Therese de Fontenay, ran thus:

"The fourth Thermidor, in the second year of the republic. All the signs
of a kind of trial, to which I and other prisoners have been subjected
this day, tell me that I am the victim of the treacherous calumny of a
few aristocrats, patriots so called, of this house. The mere conjecture
that this hellish machination will follow me to the tribunal of the
revolution gives me no hope to see you again, my friend, no more
to embrace you or our children. I speak not of my sorrow: my tender
solicitude for you, the heartfelt affection which unites me to you,
cannot leave you in doubt of the sentiments with which I leave this

"I am also sorry to have to part with my country, which I love, for
which I would a thousand times have laid down my life, and which I
no more can serve, but which beholds me now quit her bosom, since she
considers me to be a bad citizen. This heart-rending thought does not
allow me to commend my memory to you; labor, then, to make it pure
in proving that a life which has been devoted to the service of the
country, and to the triumph of liberty and equality, must punish that
abominable slanderer, especially when he comes from a suspicious
class of men. But this labor must be postponed; for in the storms of
revolution, a great people, struggling to reduce its chains to dust,
must of necessity surround itself with suspicion, and be more afraid to
forget a guilty man than to put an innocent one to death.

"I will die with that calmness which allows man to feel emotion at the
thought of his dearest inclinations - I will die with that courage which
is the distinctive feature of a free man, of a clear conscience, of an
exalted soul, whose highest wishes are the prosperity and growth of the

"Farewell, my friend; gather consolation from my children; derive
comfort in educating them, in teaching them that, by their virtues
and their devotion to their country, they obliterate the memory of my
execution, and recall to national gratitude my services and my claims.
Farewell to those I love: you know them! Be their consolation, and
through your solicitude for them prolong my life in their hearts!
Farewell! for the last time in this life I press you and my children to

Josephine had read this letter with a thousand tears, but she hoped
still; she believed still in the possibility that the gloomy forebodings
of her husband would not be realized; that some fortunate circumstance
would save him or at least retard his death.

But this hope was not to be fulfilled. A few hours after receiving
this letter the turnkey brought to the prisoners the bulletin of the
executions of the preceding day. It was that day Josephine's turn to
read this bulletin to her companions. She therefore began her sad task;
and, as slowly and thoughtfully she let fall name after name from her
lips, here and there the faces of her hearers were blanched, and their
eyes filled with tears.

Suddenly Josephine uttered a piercing cry, and sprang up with the
movement of madness toward the door, shook it in her deathly sorrow, as
if her life hung upon the opening of that door, and then she sank down

Unfortunate Josephine! she had seen in the list of those who had been
executed the name of General Beauharnais, and in the first excitement
of horror she wanted to rush out to see him, or at least to give to his
body the parting kiss.

On the sixth Thermidor, in the year II., that is, on the 24th of
July, 1794, fell on the scaffold the head of the General Viscount de
Beauharnais. With quiet, composed coolness he had ascended the scaffold,
and his last cry, as he laid his head on the block, was, "Long live the

In the wagon which drove him to the scaffold, he had found again a
friend, the Prince de Salm-Kirbourg, who was now on his way to the
guillotine, and who had risked his life in bringing back to Paris the
children of Josephine.

His bloodthirsty enemies had not enough of the head of General
Beauharnais; his wife's head also should fall, and the name of the
traitor of his country was to be extinguished forever.

Two days after the execution of her husband, the turnkey brought to
Josephine the writ of her accusation, and the summons to appear before
the tribunal of the revolution - a summons which then had all the
significancy of a death-warrant.

Josephine heard the summons of the jailer with a quiet, easy smile; she
had not even a look for the fatal paper which lay on her bed. Near this
bed stood the physician, whom the compassionate republic, which would
not leave its prisoners to die on a sick-bed, but only on the scaffold,
had sent to Josephine to inquire into her illness and afford her relief.

With indignation he eagerly snatched the paper from the bed, and,
returning it back to the jailer, exclaimed: "Tell the tribunal of the
revolution that it has nothing more to do with this woman! Disease will
bring on justice here, and leave nothing to do for the guillotine. In
eight days Citoyenne Beauharnais is dead!" [Footnote: Aubenas, "Histoire
de l'Imperatrice Josephine," vol. i., p. 235.]

This decision of the physician was transmitted to the tribunal, which
resolved that the trial of Madame Beauharnais would be postponed for
eight days, and that the tribunal would wait and see if truly death
would save her from the guillotine.

Meanwhile, during these eight days, events were to pass which were to
give a very different form to the state of things, and impart to the
young republic a new, unexpected attitude.

Robespierre ruled yet, he was the feared dictator of France! But Tallien
had received the note of his beautiful, fondly-loved Therese, and he
swore to himself that she should not ascend the scaffold, that she
should not curse him, that he would possess her, that he would win her
love, and destroy the fiend who stood in the way of his happiness, whose
blood-streaming hands were every day ready to sign her death-warrant.

On the very same day in which he received the letter of Therese,
he conversed with a few trusty friends, men whom he knew detested
Robespierre as much as himself, and who all longed for an occasion to
destroy him. They planned a scheme of attack against the dictator who
imperilled the life of all, and from whom it was consequently necessary
to take away life and power, so as to be sure of one's life. It was
decided to launch an accusation against him before the whole Convention,
to incriminate him as striving after dominion, as desirous of breaking
the republic with his bloody hands, and ambitious to exalt himself into
dictator and sovereign. Tallien undertook to fulminate this accusation
against him, and they all agreed to wait yet a few days so as to gain
amongst the deputies in the Convention some members who would support
the accusation and give countenance to the conspirators. On the ninth
Thermidor this scheme was to be carried out; on the ninth Thermidor,
Tallien was to thunder forth the accusation against Robespierre and move
his punishment!

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