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Russia and Austria under Suwarrow and the Archduke Charles, who were
now advancing upon France, which was on every side surrounded by the
revengeful enemies of the republic.

No sooner had Bonaparte read this news than his decision was taken.
Berthier was called into his tent, and under the seal of silence
Bonaparte communicated to him his unwavering resolution of going
immediately to France, but that this was to remain a secret to his
whole army as well as all the generals. Berthier, Gautheaume, Eugene
Beauharnais, Monge, and Bourrienne, were alone to accompany him, but the
last two were not to be made acquainted with their departure for Europe
before they had left Cairo with Bonaparte. As he noticed gleams of joy
in Berthier's face at the news of returning to France, Bonaparte once
more impressed upon him the duty of preserving silence and not to betray
the secret by word or deed, and to do nothing which might induce friends
or acquaintances to believe that a voyage was contemplated. The secret
was indeed faithfully kept, and the few confidants intrusted with it
took great care to divulge nothing, for fear he might punish them by
leaving them in Egypt.

Bonaparte himself maintained the most absolute secrecy; neither his
beloved, the beautiful Pauline Foures, nor General Kleber, whom he had
chosen to be his successor in the chief command of the army of Egypt,
suspected any thing.

To his beloved, Bonaparte said he was leaving Cairo for the sake of
making a tour through the Delta, and that in a few weeks he would be
with her again. The news he had received from Europe had suddenly cooled
the glow of his passion, and, at the thought of returning to France,
rose up again before his mind the image of Josephine in all her grace
and loveliness. For a long time, while she was not at his side, he had
been unfaithful to her, but he did not wish, for his own sake, to add
scandal to faithlessness. He did not wish to bring to France with him,
as sole booty from Egypt, a mistress.

Pauline Foures, therefore, suspected as little of his plans as General
Kleber. It was only after Bonaparte, with his small suite of five
confidants and the Mameluke Roustan, had embarked at Alexandria, that
Pauline learned that he had deserted - that he had abandoned her. In
a short note which his master of the stall, Vigogne, handed to her,
Bonaparte took leave of her, and made her a present of every thing he
left behind in Cairo, including the house he occupied, with all its
costly and luxurious furniture. [Footnote: The departure of Bonaparte
made Madame Foures comfortless, and she now watched for an opportunity
to hasten back to him in France. Touched by her tears and prayers,
Junot furnished her with an opportunity, and Pauline reached Paris in
November, 1799. But Bonaparte would no longer see her; he now sacrificed
the mistress to the wife, as he had nearly sacrificed the wife to the
mistress. Pauline received orders to leave Paris immediately; at the
same time Bonaparte sent her a large sum of money, which he afterward
repeated. - See Saint Elsne, "Les Amours et Galanteries des Rois de
France," vol. ii., p. 320.]

General Kleber learned Bonaparte's departure, only through the orders
sent to him by the latter to assume the chief command of the army; his
troops learned his absence by the order of the day, in which Bonaparte
bade them farewell.

After four weeks of a long voyage against tempestuous and contrary
winds, the two frigates, upon one of which Bonaparte and Eugene and his
other followers had embarked, touched at Ajaccio. The whole population
had no sooner learned that Bonaparte was in the harbor, than they rushed
out to see him, and to salute him with enthusiastic demonstrations;
and it was in vain that their attention was drawn to the fact that both
frigates had come directly from Egypt, and had to observe quarantine
before any communication with the population could be allowed.

"Pestilence sooner than the Austrians!" shouted the people, and hundreds
and hundreds of boats surrounded the French vessels. Every one wanted
to see the general, their famous countryman, Bonaparte. But Bonaparte's
heart was sorrowful amid the general rejoicing, for in Ajaccio he had
learned of the great battle of Novi, where the Austrians had gained the
victory, and which had cost General Joubert's life.

"It is too great an evil," said he, with a sigh; "there is no help for
it." But as he gave up Italy, all his thoughts were more strongly bent
upon Paris, and his desire to be there as soon as possible increased
more and more.

After a short stay in Ajaccio, the voyage to France, despite all
quarantine regulations, was continued, and the star of fortune, which
had hitherto protected him, still guided Bonaparte safely into the
harbor of Frejus, though the English fleet had watched and pursued the
French vessels. A courier was at once dispatched to the Directory in
Paris to announce the arrival of Bonaparte, and that he would, without
any delay, come to Paris.

Josephine was at a dinner at Gohier's, one of the five directors, when
this courier arrived, and with a shout of joy she received the news of
her husband's coming. Her longing was such that she could not wait for
him in Paris, in her house of the Rue de la Victoire. She resolved to
meet him, and to be the first to bid him welcome, and to show him her
unutterable love.

No sooner was this resolution taken than it was carried out. She began
her journey with the expectation of meeting her husband at Lyons, for
in his letter to the Directory he stated that he would come by way of
Lyons. In great haste, without rest or delay, Josephine travelled the
road to that city, her heart beating, her luminous eyes gazing onward,
looking with inexpressible expectancy at every approaching carriage, for
it might bring her the husband so long absent from her!

She little suspected that while she was hastening toward Lyons,
Bonaparte had already arrived in Paris. He had changed the plan of
his journey, and, entirely controlled by his impatient desires, he
had driven to Paris by the shortest route. Josephine was not there to
receive him in her house; she was not there to welcome the returning
one - and the old serpent of jealousy and mistrust awoke again within
him. To add to this, his brothers and sisters had seized the occasion to
give vent to their ill-will by suspicions and accusations against their
unwelcome sister-in-law. Bonaparte, full of sad apprehension at her
absence, perhaps secretly wishing to find her guilty, listened to the
whisperings of her enemies.

He therefore did not go to meet Josephine the next day on her return
from her unsuccessful journey. A few hours after, he opened his closed
doors and went to see her. She advanced toward him with looks full of
love and tenderness, and opened her arms to him, and wanted to press him
closely to her heart.

But he coldly held her back, and with deliberate severity and an
expression of the highest indifference, he saluted her, and asked if she
had returned happy and satisfied from her pleasure excursion with her
light-haired friend.

Josephine's tears gushed forth, and, as if annihilated, she sank down,
but she had not a word of defence or of justification against the cruel
accusation. Her heart had been too deeply wounded, her love too
much insulted, to allow her to defend herself. Her tearful eyes only
responded to Bonaparte's cruel question, and then in silence she retired
to her apartments.

For three days they did not see each other. Josephine remained in her
rooms and wept. Bonaparte remained in his rooms and complained. To
Bourrienne, who then was not only his private secretary but also his
confidant, he complained bitterly of the faithlessness and inconstancy
of Josephine, of the unheard-of indifference that she should undertake
a pleasure-journey when she knew that he was soon to be in Paris. It
was in vain that Bourrienne assured him that Josephine had undertaken no
pleasure-excursion, that she had left Paris only to meet him, and to
be the first to bid him welcome. He would not believe him, for in the
melancholy gloominess of his jealousy he believed in the slanders which
Josephine's enemies, and his brothers and sisters, had whispered in his
ear, that Josephine had left Paris for a parti de plaisir with Charles
Botot, the beautiful blondin whom Bonaparte so deeply hated. How
profound his sadness was, may be seen by a letter which at this time he
wrote to his brother Joseph, and in which he says:

"I have a great deal of domestic sorrow ... your friendship to me is
very dear; to become a misanthrope, there was nothing further needed
than to lose her and to be betrayed by you. It is a sad situation indeed
to have in one single heart all these emotions for the same person.

"I will purchase a country residence either near Paris or in Burgundy;
I am thinking of passing the winter there and of shutting myself up;
I feel weary with human nature; I need solitude; I want to be alone;
grandeur oppresses me, my feelings are distorted. Fame appears insipid
at my twenty-nine years; I have tried every thing; nothing remains but
to become an egotist." [Footnote: "Memoires du Roi Joseph." vol. i., p.

But, according to himself, "he cherished in his heart, at the same
time; all manner of emotions for the same person;" that is, he hated and
detested Josephine, but he also loved and admired her; was angry with
her, and yet longed for her; he found her frivolous and faithless, and
yet something in his heart ever spoke in her favor, and assured him that
she was a noble and faithful being.

Fortunately, there was one who confirmed into full conviction these low
whisperings of his heart; fortunately, Bourrienne ceased not to argue
against this jealousy of Bonaparte, and to assure him again and again
that Josephine was innocent, that she had committed nothing to excite
his anger.

Finally, after three days of complaints and dreary accusations, love
conquered in the heart of Bonaparte. He went to Josephine. She advanced
to meet him with tears in her eyes, but with a soft, tender smile. The
sight of her gracious appearance, her blanched cheeks, moved him, and,
instead of explanations and mutual recriminations, he opened his arms to
her, and she threw herself on his breast with a loud cry of exultation.

Then came the explanations. He now believed that she had left Paris
hurriedly for the sake of meeting him; and, as regarded the dangerous
"blond," the private secretary of Barras, M. Charles Botot, Josephine
smilingly handed to her husband a letter she had received from him a
few days before. In this letter Charles Botot acknowledged his
long-cherished affection for her daughter Hortense, and he claimed her
hand in due form.

"And you have doubtless accepted his offer?" asked Bonaparte, his face
overcast again. "Since, unfortunately, you are married yourself, and he
cannot be your husband, then of course he must marry the daughter, so
as to be always near the mother. M. Charles Botot is no doubt to be your
son-in-law? You have accepted his hand?"

"No," said she, softly, "we have refused it, for Hortense does not love
him, and she will follow her mother's example, and marry only through
love. Besides," continued Josephine, with a sweet smile, "I wanted him
no longer."

"You wanted him no longer! How is this?" asked General Bonaparte,

"Barras has sent him his dismissal," said she, looking at her husband
with an expression of cunning roguery. "M. Botot could no longer, as he
has hitherto been - without, however, being conscious of it - be my spy in
the Directory; I could no longer learn from him what the Directory were
undertaking against my Bonaparte, against the hero whom they envy and
caluminate so much, nor in what new snares they wished to entangle him!
What had I to do with Botot, since he could not furnish me news of the
intrigues of your enemies, nor afford me the chance of counteracting
them? Charles Botot was nothing more to me than a mere lemon, which I
squeezed for your sake; when there was nothing left in it I threw it

"And is such the truth?" asked Bonaparte, eagerly. "This is no invention
to raise my hopes, only to be cast down again?"

Josephine smiled. "I have daily taken notes of what Charles Botot
brought me," said she, gently; "I always hoped to find a safe
opportunity to send this diary to you in Egypt, that you might be
informed of what the Directory thought, and what was the public opinion,
so that you might take your measures accordingly. But, for the last
eight months, I knew not where you were, and so I have kept my diary:
here it is."

She gave the diary to Bonaparte, who, with impatient looks, ran over the
pages, and was fully convinced of her devotedness and care. Josephine
had well served his interests, and closely watched over his affairs.
Then, ashamed and repentant, he looked at her, who, in return, smiled at
him with gracious complacency.

"Josephine," asked he, quietly, "can you forgive me? I have been
foolish, but I swear to you that never again will I mistrust you, I will
believe no one but you. Can you forgive me?"

She embraced him in her arms, and tenderly said: "Love me, Bonaparte; I
well deserve it!"

Peace, therefore, was re-established, and Josephine's enemies had the
bitter disappointment to see that their efforts had all been in vain;
that again the most perfect unanimity and affection existed between
them; that the cloud which their enmity had conjured up, had brought
forth but a few tear-drops, a few thunderings; and that the love which
Bonaparte carried in his heart for Josephine was not scattered into

The cloud had passed away; the sun of happiness had reappeared; but it
had yet some spots which were never to fade away. The word "separation"
which Bonaparte, so often in Egypt, and now in Paris, had launched
against Josephine, was to be henceforth the sword of Damocles, ever
suspended over her head: like a dark, shadowy spectre it was to follow
her everywhere; even amid scenes of happiness, joy, and glory, it was
to be there to terrify her by its sinister presence, and by its gloomy
warnings of the past!


Bonaparte's journey from Frejus to Paris, on his return from Egypt, had
been a continued triumph. All France had applauded him. Everywhere he
had been welcomed as a deliverer and savior; everywhere he had been
hailed as the hope of the future, as the man from whom was to be
expected assistance in distress, the restoration of peace, help, and

For France was alarmed; she stood on the edge of a precipice, from which
only the strong hand of a hero could save her. In the interior, anarchy
prevailed amongst the authorities as well as the people. In La Vendee
civil war raged, with all its sanguinary horrors, and the authorities
endeavored to protect themselves against it by tyrannical laws, by
despotic measures, which threatened both property and freedom. There
existed no security either for person or for property, and a horrible,
fanatical party-spirit penetrated all classes of society. The royalists
had been defeated on the 18th Fructidor, but that very fact had again
given the vantage-ground to the most decided opponents of the royalists,
the red republicans, the terrorists of the past, who now intrigued and
formed plots and counterplots, even as the royalists had done. They
sought to create enmity and bitterness amongst the people, and hoped
to re-establish on the ruins of the present administration the days of
terror and of the guillotine.

These red republicans, ever ready for the struggle, organized themselves
into clubs and "constitutional circles," where the ruin of the actual
state of things, and the severe and bloody republic of Robespierre,
formed the substance of their harangues; and their numbers were
constantly increased by new members being sworn in.

The ballot in May, 1799, had been in favor of the Directory, and
unfavorable to the moderate party, for only fanatical republicans had
been elected to the Council of Five Hundred.

Against these factions and republican clubs the Directory had to make a
perpetual war: but their power and means failed to give them the victory
in the strife. It was a constant oscillation and vacillation, a
constant compromising and capitulating with all parties - and the natural
consequence was, that these parties, as soon as they had secured the
ear of the Directory, and gained an advantage, strove hard to obtain the
ruling authority. Corruption and mistrust universally prevailed.
Every thing had the appearance of dissolution and disorder. Highwaymen
rendered the roads unsafe; and the authorities, instead of carrying out
the severity of the law, were so corrupt and avaricious as to sell their
silence and indulgence. The upright citizen sighed under the weight
of tyrannical laws from which the thief and the seditious knew how to

The nation, reduced to despair by this arbitrary rule and corruption,
longed for some one to deliver it from this dreadful state of
dissolution; and the enthusiasm which was manifested at the return of
General Bonaparte, was a confession that in him the people foresaw and
recognized a deliverer. Exhausted and wearied, France sought for a man
who would restore to her peace again - who would crush the foes within,
and drive away the enemy from without.

Bonaparte appeared to the people with all the prestige of his former and
recent victories; he had planted the victorious French tricolor upon the
summit of the capitol, and of the pyramids; he had given to France the
most acceptable of presents, "glory;" he had adorned her brow with so
many laurels, that he himself seemed to the people as if radiant with
glory. All felt the need of a hero, of a dictator, to put an end to the
prevailing anarchy and disturbances, and they knew that Bonaparte was
the only one who could achieve this gigantic work.

Bonaparte understood but too well these applauding and welcoming voices
of the people, and his own breast responded favorably to them. The
secret thoughts of his heart were now to be turned into deeds, and the
ambitious dreams of his earlier days were to become realities. All
that he had hitherto wanted was a bridge to throw over the abyss which
separated the republicans, the defenders of liberty, equality, and
fraternity, from rule, power, and dictatorship. Anarchy and exhaustion
laid down this bridge, and on the 18th Brumaire, General Bonaparte, the
hero of "liberal ideas," passed over it to exalt himself into dictator,
consul, emperor, and tyrant of France.

But the Directory also understood the voices of the applauding people;
they also saw in him the man who had come to deprive them of power and
to assume their authority. This was secretly yet violently discussed by
the Directory, the Council of the Elders, and of the Five Hundred.

One day, at a dinner given to a few friends by the Abbe Sieyes, one of
the members of the Directory, the abbe, Cabanis, and Joseph Bonaparte,
were conversing together, standing on the side of the drawing-room, near
the chimney. It was conceded that undoubtedly a crisis was near at hand,
that the republic had now reached its limit, and that, instead of five
directors, only three would be elected, and that, without any doubt,
Bonaparte would be one of the three.

"Yes," cried Sieyes, with animation, "I am for General Bonaparte, for of
all military men he is the most civil; but then I know very well what
is in reserve for me: once elected, the general, casting aside his two
colleagues, will do as I do now." And Sieyes, standing between Canabis
and Joseph, placed his two arms on their shoulders, then, pushing them
with a powerful jerk, he leaped forward and bounded into the middle
of the room, to the great astonishment of his guests, who knew not the
cause of this gymnastic performance of the abbe. [Footnote: "Memoires du
Roi Joseph," vol. i., p. 77.]

The other directors were also conscious of this movement of Bonaparte,
and they secretly resolved to save themselves by causing his ruin.
Either the Directory or Bonaparte had to fall! One had to perish, that
the other might have the power! In order that the Directory might exist,
Bonaparte must fall.

The Directory had secretly come to this conclusion on Bonaparte's
return. They were fully aware that a daring act alone could save them,
and they were determined not to shrink from it.

The deed was to take place on the 2d Brumaire. On that day he was to be
arrested, and accused of having premeditated a coup d'etat against the
Directory. Indeed, one M. de Mounier had come to Director Gohier and had
denounced Bonaparte, whom he positively knew was conspiring to destroy
the existing government. Gohier received these accusations with much
gravity, and sent at once for the other directors to hasten to him,
but only one, Moulins, was then in Paris to answer Gohier's summons. He
came, and after a long conference both directors agreed that the next
day they would have Bonaparte arrested on his return to Paris from
Malmaison, where they knew he was to give a large banquet that day. They
sent for the chief of police, and quietly gave him the order to station
himself the next day with twelve resolute men on the road to Malmaison,
and to arrest Bonaparte as he should drive that evening toward Paris.

On this very day Josephine, who did not wish to be present at the
banquet of gentlemen in Malmaison, had come to Paris to attend a party
at the house of one of her friends. The conversation went on; they
talked and jested, when a gentleman near Josephine told a friend that
some striking event would probably take place that day in Paris, for he
had just now met a friend who held an important office in the police. He
had invited him to go to the theatre, but he declined, stating that he
was to be on duty this evening, as some important affair was about being
transacted - the arrest, as he thought, of some influential personage.

Josephine's heart trembled with horrible misgivings at these words.
Love's instinct convinced her that her husband was the one to be
arrested, and she thought within herself that it was Destiny itself
which sent her this intelligence, that she might save her husband from
the fearful blow which awaited him. Thus persuaded, she gathered all her
strength and presence of mind, and determined to act with energy,
and battle against the enemies of her husband. Without betraying the
slightest emotion, or exciting any suspicion that she had heard or
noticed what was said, Josephine rose from her seat with a cheerful
and composed countenance, and pleasantly took leave of the lady of the
house. But once past the threshold of the house, once in her carriage,
her anxious nature woke up again, and she began to act with energy and
resolution. She pulled the string, to give her directions to the driver.
As fast as the horses could speed, he was to drive his mistress to
Colonel Perrin, the commanding officer of the guards of the Directory.
In ten minutes she was there, and knowing well how devoted a guard he
and all his soldiers would be to Bonaparte, she communicated to him her
fears, and requested from him immediate and speedy assistance to remove
the danger.

Colonel Perrin was prepared to enter into her plans, and he promised to
send to Malmaison a company of grenadiers, provided she would, as
soon as possible, have General Murat send him an order to that effect.
Josephine at once went to one of her true, reliable friends, who
belonged to the Council of the Elders, and, making him acquainted with
the danger which threatened her husband, requested him to gather a few
devoted friends, and to attend to the orders which Murat would send

After having made all these preparations, Josephine drove in full gallop
toward Malmaison.

The dinner, to which Bonaparte had invited gentlemen from all classes
of society, was just over, and the guests were scattered, some in the
drawing-rooms, and some in the garden, where Bonaparte was walking up
and down in animated conversation with the secretary, Roger Ducos.

At this moment the carriage of Josephine drove into the yard; and Murat,
who, with a few gentlemen, stood under the porch, hastened to offer his
hand so as to help Josephine to alight. An eye-witness who was present
at this scene relates as follows:

"'Where is the general?' asked Josephine, hastily, of General Murat.

"'I do not know,' was the answer; 'he is gone with Roger, but Lucien is

Online LibraryL. MühlbachEmpress Josephine → online text (page 29 of 40)