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the street had been. The modest and tasteful arrangements which had
sufficed the Widow Josephine de Beauharnais, appeared now to her young
husband as insufficient; the little saloon, in which at one time he had
felt so happy at the side of the viscountess, was no longer suited to
his actual wants. Large reception-rooms and vestibules were needed,
magnificent furniture was necessary, for the residence of the conqueror
of Italy, in the Rue de la Victoire.

Architects were engaged to enlarge and transform the small house into
a large hotel, and it was left to Josephine's taste to convert the
hitherto elegant private dwelling into a magnificent residence for the
renowned general who had to be daily in readiness to receive
official visits, delegations of welcome from the authorities, and the
institutions of Paris, and from the other cities of France.

For France was desirous to pay her homage to the hero of Arcola, and to
celebrate his genius - to wish him prosperity, and to applaud him. The
Directory had to adapt themselves to the universal sentiment; to pay
their respects to the general with a cheerful mien and with friendly
alacrity, while at heart they looked on him with vexation and envy.
Bonaparte's popularity filled them with anxiety and fearful misgivings.

But it was necessary to submit to this; the public sentiment required
those festivities in honor of the general of the republic, and the five
directors in the Luxemburg had no longer the power to guillotine the
public sentiment, the true king of Paris, as once they had guillotined
King Louis.

The directors, therefore, inaugurated brilliant festivities;
they received the conqueror of Italy in the Luxemburg with great
demonstrations of solemnity, in which the Parisians took a part. In
the immense court in front of the residence of the directors this
celebration took place. In the midst of the open place a lofty platform
was erected; it was the country's altar, on which the gigantic statues
of Freedom, Equality, and of Peace, were lifted up. Around this altar
was a second platform, with seats for the five hundred, the deputies,
and the authorities; the standards conquered in the Italian war formed
over the seats of the five directors a sort of canopy: they were,
however, to them as the sword of Damocles, ready to fall upon them at
any moment and destroy them.

The directors, dressed in brilliant antique robes, created no
impression, notwithstanding their theatrical splendor, in comparison
with the sensation produced by the simple, unaffected appearance of
General Bonaparte. He wore the plain green uniform which he had worn at
Arcola and Lodi; his suite was limited to a few officers only, who, like
himself, appeared in their ordinary uniforms, which they had worn on
the battle-field. The two generals, Andreossy and Joubert, carried
the standards which the Legislative Assembly, two years before, had
presented to the army of Italy, and upon which could now be read the
names of sixty-seven battles won.

At one of the windows of the palace of the Luxemburg, Josephine watched
this strange celebration, the splendors of which made her heart beat
with delight, and filled her eyes with tears of joy. Near her was her
daughter Hortense, lately withdrawn from Madame Campan's institution,
to be with her mother, who, full of ecstasy and pride, gazed at the
charming maiden at her side, just blooming into a young lady; and then
beyond, at that pale young man with pensive eyes standing near yonder
altar, and before whom all the authorities of Paris bowed - who was her
husband, her Bonaparte, everywhere conqueror! Before her only was he the
conquered! She listened with a happy smile to the long speech with which
Talleyrand saluted Bonaparte in the name of his country; she heard how
Barras, concealing within himself his jealousy and his envy, welcomed
him; how with admiration he praised him; how he said that Nature, in
one of her most exalted and greatest moments, had resolved to produce a
masterpiece, and had given to the wondering world Bonaparte!

And then, after this affected harangue, Josephine saw how Barras, with
tears of emotion, embraced Bonaparte, and how the other Directors of
France followed his example. A slight sarcastic smile for a moment
played on Josephine's lips, for she well knew how little this friendship
and this love of the Directory were to be trusted, how little sincerity
was contained in the sentiments which they so publicly manifested toward
the conqueror.

With love's anxiety and a woman's instinct, she watched over her hero;
she was ever busy to track out the meandering paths of his foes, to
destroy the nets wherein they wished to entangle his feet. She had even
braved the jealous wrath of Bonaparte when it was necessary to ferret
out some intrigue of the Directory. The special spy, whom Barras had
sent to Italy to watch the movements of Bonaparte, and to give him early
reports of every word, Botot, had been received by Josephine with a
friendly smile and with great attention; she manifested toward him a
confiding friendship, and thus succeeded in discovering his secret,
and behind the seeming friend to unveil the cunning spy of Bonaparte's
enemies. She could therefore meet Bonaparte's anger with serene brow
and pure conscience; and when he accused her of frivolity and
unfaithfulness, she justified herself before him by unveiling the secret
schemes and machinations of his foes. And these foes were chiefly the
five directors. He therefore knew very well what he was to expect from
the embraces, the tears, the kisses of Barras; and the flattering
words which he spoke to him in the presence of the Parisians made no
impression whatever on Bonaparte's heart.

But the applause with which the people of Paris received him was not
deceitful, like that of the Directory; the respect they paid him was not
forced, and their applause therefore filled the hearts of Josephine
and Bonaparte with joy. Wherever he appeared, he was greeted with
loud demonstrations of joy; the poets praised him in their songs, the
musicians sang hymns in his honor, and the men of science brought to him
proofs of their esteem. The Institute of Sciences named him one of their
members in the place of Carnot; the painters and architects paid him
homage with their works. The renowned painter David requested the honor
of taking Bonaparte's portrait, and the general acceded to his wishes
because Josephine had promised that the painter's request should be
granted. David desired to paint him on horseback near the bridge of Lodi
or of Arcola, and he placed before him a sketch he had made for this
picture. But Bonaparte rejected it.

"No," said he, "I was not there alone, I conquered only with the whole
army. Place me there, quiet and calm, seated upon a fiery horse."

What did Bonaparte mean by this "fiery horse"? Are his words to be
understood in all their beauty and simplicity? or did he, by the
restless horse, which he so calmly reins in, already think of the
republic which, under the guidance of his masterly hand, was one day
to be converted into an empire? Who could read the depths of this man's
heart, which screened itself so carefully, and whose secrets in regard
to the future he dared not divulge even to his beloved Josephine?

The first few weeks after their return from Italy were passed away amid
festivities and demonstrations of respect. Josephine abandoned herself
to this pomp with a high spirit, and with a deep love for enjoyment. Her
whole being was thoroughly interpenetrated with the warmth of this new
sun, which had risen over her in so wondrous a light, and surrounded her
with its lustrous rays. All these festivities, banquets, representations
at the grand opera, and at the Theatre Francais, these public ovations
which accompanied Bonaparte at every step, at every promenade, at every
attendance at the theatre, - all these marks of honor elated Josephine,
filling her with an enthusiastic pride for the hero, the man whom she
now loved with all the excitability of a woman's heart, and over whom
fame rested as a halo, and which made him appear to Josephine still
greater and more exalted. To him alone now belonged her whole heart and
being; and now for the first time she experienced those nervous spasms
of jealousy which at a later date were to mix so many bitter drops of
gall in the golden cup of her greatness.

At the ovations, the tokens of affection on the part of gentlemen
delighted her, but she had no thanks for the ladies when, with their
enthusiasm, brilliant eyes, bewitching smiles, and flattering words,
they endeavored to manifest their adoration and gratitude to the hero of
Italy; she could barely keep back her tears when, at the reception which
Talleyrand, the minister of foreign affairs, gave to Bonaparte, the
beautiful songstress Grassini appeared, and, with her entrancing voice,
sang the fame of the conqueror who had bound captive to his triumphal
car, as the most precious booty, the proud songstress herself.

The Directory, however, would have gladly allowed the ladies to take
part in this enthusiasm if the men had taken no share in it; but
the admiration which they had everywhere manifested so strongly
for Bonaparte, had completely overshadowed their own greatness and
importance. They were no longer the monarchs of France - Bonaparte alone
seemed to be its ruler - and their envious jealousy told them that
it would require but a sign from his hand to impart to the French
government a new form, to disenthrone the five directors, and to place
himself in their position. The sole aim was, therefore, to remove
Bonaparte as soon as practicable from Paris, and if possible from
France, so as to check his popularity, and to oppose his ever-growing

Bonaparte was but little inclined to meet these views of the Directory,
and to accept the propositions made to him. He declined at once to go
to Rastadt, there to attend to the discussions of the congress, with
as much resolution as he had refused to go to Rome to punish the
papal government for the enmity it had shown to Prance. He left it to
diplomats to prattle in Rastadt over the green-table, and to General
Berthier to punish the papal government, and to drive Pius out of the
Eternal City, the seat of St. Peter, and erect there the altar of the
republic of Rome.

There were greater and loftier aims which Bonaparte now sought - and
fame, which he loved quite as much as Josephine did, and was soon to
love even more, was enticing him on to paths yet untrodden, where no
hero of past ages had sought for it.

In Egypt, near the pyramids of four thousand years, he desired to gather
fresh laurels; from thence the astonished world was to hear the wondrous
recitals of his victories. His lively fancy already imagined his name
written on those gigantic monuments of past ages, the only earthly
creations which have in themselves nearly the character of immortality.
With his mighty deeds he wished to surpass all the heroes of modern
times; he desired to rival Caesar and Alexander.

Caesar had won fifty battles, Bonaparte wanted to win a hundred.
Alexander had gone from Macedonia to the temple of Jupiter Ammon,
Bonaparte wished to leave Paris to obtain victories at the cataracts of
the Nile.

The bitterness which existed between the Directory and Bonaparte was
increasing more and more. He no longer spoke to the five monarchs as
an obedient, submissive son of the republic; he spoke as their lord and
master; he threatened when his will was not obeyed; he was wroth when he
met with opposition. And the Directory had not the courage to reproach
him for his undutiful conduct, or to enter the lists with him to dispute
for the sovereignty, for they well knew that public sentiment would
declare itself in his favor, that Paris would side with the general if
matters were to come to a crisis between them. It was therefore better
and wiser to avoid this strife, and, under some good pretext, remove
Bonaparte and open to him some distant pathway to fame, so as to be rid
of him.

Egypt was far enough from Paris to give to the Directory guaranties
of security, and it fell in with Bonaparte's plans. It was resolved
therefore to send an expedition to Egypt, and he was appointed its

Bonaparte had directed his eyes to the East when in Passeriano he was
making peace with Austria. In Egypt were the battle-fields which were to
surround his name with a fresh halo of glory.

Josephine learned this resolution of Bonaparte with fear and anxiety,
but she dared not betray this to any one, since this expedition was to
remain a secret to all the world. Only in private could her tears flow,
only before Bonaparte could she complain. Once, as she encircled him
convulsively with her arms, her mind full of misgivings and her eyes of
tears she asked him how many years he thought of remaining in Egypt.

She had put this question only in a jesting form. He took it in full
earnestness, and answered:

"Either a few months or six years. All depends upon circumstances. I
must win Egypt to civilization. I will gather there artists, learned
men, mechanics of all trades, even women - dancers, songstresses, and
actresses. I want to mould Egypt into a second France. One can do a
great deal in six years. I am now twenty-nine years old, I shall be
thirty-five when I return - that is not old. But I shall want more than
six years if I go to India." [Footnote: Bourrienne, vol. ii., p. 49.]

Josephine cried aloud with anguish and horror, and, embracing him in
her arms, implored him with all the delicate tenderness of her anxious
affection not to thrust her aside, but to allow her to accompany him to

But Bonaparte refused, and this time her tears, which he had never
before denied, were fruitless. He felt that Josephine's presence would
damp his ardent courage, retard his onward march, and that he would
not have the necessary fearless energy to incur risks and perils if
Josephine were to be threatened by their consequences. He could not
expose her to the privations and restless wanderings of a campaign, and
his burning love for her was too real for him to yield to her wishes.

Josephine, meanwhile, was not silenced by his refusal; she persevered in
her supplications, and Bonaparte, at last softened by her prayers, was
obliged to come to terms. It was decided that Josephine should follow
him to Egypt, that he would select a place of residence and prepare
every thing for her reception there, so that she might without danger or
too much inconvenience undertake the journey.

But before commencing such an undertaking, Josephine's health needed
recruiting; she was to go to the baths of Plombieres, and Bonaparte was
to hold a ship in readiness in Toulon to bring her to Egypt.

The ship which was chosen to transport her was the Pomona, the same
in which, when only sixteen years old, she had come from Martinique to
France. Then she had gone forth to an unknown world and to an unknown
husband; now she was on the same ship to undertake a journey to an
unknown world, but it was a beloved husband whom she was going to meet,
and love gave her the strength to do so.

Josephine, full of the sweetest confidence that she was soon to follow
Bonaparte, and hereafter to see him again, accompanied him to Toulon.
She had the strength to repress her tears as she bade him farewell, and
to smile as he entreated her to keep her heart faithful to him.

She showed herself at this separation stronger than Bonaparte himself,
for while her eyes were bright with joyous love, his were sad and
obscured by tears.

The difference was this: Bonaparte knew that he was bidding farewell to
Josephine for long years; she trusted that in a few months she would be
reunited to him.

Bonaparte imprinted a last kiss on the lips of Josephine. She embraced
him tenderly in her arms, and, to shield herself against the deep
anguish of the separation, she cried aloud:

"In three months we meet again! The Pomona, which brought me to France,
will bear me back to my hero, to my Achilles! In three months I shall be
with you again. You have often called me the star of your fortune. How
could this star abandon you when you are going to fight against your

He gazed at her with a look at once full of deep love and sorrow:

"Josephine," said he, solemnly, "my enemies are neither in Asia nor
in Africa, but they are all in France. I leave you behind me in their
midst, for you to watch them, and to unravel their schemes. Think
of this, and be my strong and prudent wife." [Footnote: Bonaparte's
words. - See Le Normand, vol. i., p. 278.]

Deeply moved, he turned away, and hastened from her to the boat that was
to bear him to the flag-ship, which was waiting only for the commanding
general to come aboard before weighing anchor.



While Bonaparte with the French fleet was sailing toward the East,
there, in the wide valley of the Nile, to win a new fame, Josephine
started for Plombieres, where she had requested her daughter Hortense
to meet her. The splendid scenery and pleasant quietude of Plombieres
offered at least some comfort and satisfaction to Josephine, whose
heart was not yet healed from the anguish of separation. Her greatest
consolation was the thought that in a few months she would go to her
husband; that the Pomona would bear her to him who now possessed her
whole soul, and surrounded her whole being with an enchantment which was
to cease only with her life.

She counted the days, the weeks, which separated her from the wished-for
journey; she waited with impatient longing for the news that the Pomona,
which needed a few repairs, was ready and all prepared for the distant
but welcome voyage.

Her sole recreation consisted in the company of, and in the cordial
fellowship with Hortense, now grown up a young lady, and the
companionship of a few intimate ladies who had followed her to
Plombieres. Surrounded by these, she either sat in her drawing-room,
busy with some manual labor, or else, followed by a single servant, she
and Hortense made long walks in the wonderfully romantic vicinity of

One morning she was in the drawing-room with her friends, working with
the needle, conversing, and finding recreation in stepping through the
wide-open folding-doors upon the balcony, from which a most enchanting
view could be had of the lovely valley, and the mountains which stood
round about it. While there, busily embroidering a rose, one of her
friends, who had gone to the balcony, called her to come quickly to
admire a remarkably small greyhound which was passing down the street.
Josephine, whose love for dogs had made Napoleon pass many a restless
hour, hastened to obey her friend's call, and went out upon the balcony,
whither the rest of the ladies followed her, all curious to see the
greyhound which had set Madame de Cambis into such an excitement. But
the weight of these six ladies, gathered close together on the balcony,
was too heavy for the plank and joist-work loosely put together. A
fearful crash was heard; and as Hortense, who had remained in the
drawing-room, busy with her painting, looked out, she saw neither the
ladies nor the balcony. All had disappeared - nothing but a cloud of
dust arose from the street, amidst a confusion of cries of distress, of
shouts for help, and groans of pain.

The balcony, with the ladies, had been precipitated into the street, and
all those who were on it were more or less severely injured. Josephine
recognized it as a providential protection that she had not paid
with broken limbs, like her friends, for the curiosity of seeing the
beautiful little greyhound, but had only received violent contusions and
sprained joints. For weeks she had to suffer from the consequences of
this fall, and was confined to her bed, not being able to lift herself
up, nor with her bruised, swollen hands to bring the food to her mouth
during this time. Hortense had to wait upon her mother as she had waited
upon her when she was only a small, helpless child.

While Josephine was thus for these weeks suffering, the Pomona,
fully equipped, was sent to sea, for she was intrusted with important
instructions for the commanding general Bonaparte, and could not
possibly be detained for Josephine's recovery. She received this news
with bitter tears, and resolutely declared that no sooner should she be
recovered than she would sail for Egypt in any kind of vessel; that she
was firmly decided to follow her husband and share his dangers.

She had, however, twice received letters from Bonaparte. In the first of
these he had, full of tender solicitude, entreated her not to undertake
the fatiguing and dangerous voyage; in the second he had commanded
her with all the earnestness of love to give up the enterprise, and
requested as a proof of her affection and faithfulness, that she would
listen to reason, remain in Paris, and watch over his interests, and be
his guardian angel.

Josephine read this last letter with a sorrowful smile, and, as she
handed it to her friend Madame de Chateau-Renaud, she said, sighing:

"The days of happiness are over. While in Italy, Bonaparte required that
I should bid defiance to all dangers, so as to be at his side, for his
letters then demanded my presence. Now he orders me to avoid dangers,
and to remain quietly at home."

"But it is out of pure love he does this!" exclaimed her friend. "See
how affectionate and how tender his letter is! Certainly no man can love
his wife more warmly than Bonaparte loves you."

"Oh, yes," sighed Josephine, "he loves me yet, but I am no longer
absolutely necessary - he can live without me; once love ruled over his
reason, now his reason rules over his love. It will be as I fear: I
shall day by day love him more fondly and more passionately, for he is
my last love, but he will every day love me less, for perhaps I am his
first love, and his heart will be young long after he reads upon my face
that I am six years older than he."

However, she conformed to the wishes of her husband; she was resigned,
and gave up the thought of going to Egypt. At first she did it only
with tears, but soon after there came news which made her accept her
husband's wishes as the commands of Fate.

The Pomona, the vessel which had once brought her from Martinique to
France, and on board of which she was to go to Egypt, had been captured
by an English man-of-war, and all her passengers sent as prisoners to

The fall from the balcony had therefore saved Josephine from being
carried into captivity to England. To this fall she owed her liberty!
With all the levity and superstition of a creole, Josephine looked upon
this fortunate mishap as a warning from Fate, and it seemed to her as if
this had taken place to hinder her journey to Egypt. She therefore dried
her tears and submitted to the orders alike of Fate and of her husband.

She remained in France, and accepted her mission to watch, as a true
friend and beloved one, over the interests of her husband, to observe
his friends and foes, and to send him news of every thing which it was
important for him to know.

Once her fate decided, and she resolved to remain in France, she
determined to make her life comfortable and pleasant; she wished to
prepare for herself and her children a joyous existence, and procure
also for her returning husband a gift which she knew would meet a
long-cherished wish of his.

She bought a residence, situated not far from Paris, the Castle
Malmaison, if the name of castle can be properly given to a pretty,
tastefully-built country residence, tolerably large and plain, but
surrounded by a beautiful park.

Their wishes and wants were yet simple, and the country residence,
Malmaison, was amply sufficient to receive the family and the friends of
General Bonaparte and his wife; it became too small and too narrow only
when it had to accommodate the Emperor Napoleon, the empress, and their
court-attendants and suite.

But if the Castle Malmaison was not large, the park which surrounded
it was all the larger and handsomer, and, with its shady walks, its
wondrous beds of flowers, its majestic avenues, its splendid groves and
lawns, it had for Josephine pleasures and joys ever new and fresh; and
it furnished her, moreover, with the welcome opportunity of following
the inclinations of her youth amidst the flowers, birds, trees, and

Josephine loved botany; it was natural that she should endeavor to

Online LibraryL. MühlbachEmpress Josephine → online text (page 27 of 40)