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had done, and took no further notice of her.

But the emperor soon undeceived the latter, manifesting his
dissatisfaction by his cold demeanor and repelling indifference toward
them, whilst he loudly praised all those who had exercised their
gratitude by visiting Malmaison, and in expressing their devotedness to
the empress.

He himself went beyond his whole court in showing attention and respect
to Josephine. The very next day after their separation, the emperor went
to Malmaison to visit her, and to take with her a long walk through the
park. During the following days he came again, and once invited her and
the ladies of her new court to a dinner in Trianon.

Josephine might have imagined that nothing had been altered in her
situation, and that she was still Napoleon's wife. But there were
wanting in their intercourse those little, inexpressible shades of
confidence which her exquisite tact and her instinctive feelings felt
yet more deeply than the more important and visible changes.

When Napoleon came or went, he no longer embraced her, but merely
pressed her hand in a friendly manner, and often called her "madame"
and "you;" he was more formal, more polite to her than he had ever been
before.

And then his daily visits ceased; in their place came his letters, it is
true, but they were only the letters of a friend, who tried to comfort
her in her misfortune, but took no sympathetic interest in her distress.

Soon these letters became more rare, and when they did come they were
shorter. The emperor had to busy himself with other matters than with
the solitary, rejected woman in Malmaison; he had now to occupy his
thoughts with his young and beautiful bride - with Maria Louisa, the
daughter of the Emperor of Austria, who was soon to enter Paris as the
wife of Napoleon, the Emperor of France.

Bitter and painful indeed were those first days of resignation for
Josephine; harsh and unsparing were the conflicts she had to fight with
her own heart, before its wounds could be closed, and its pains and its
humiliations cease to torment her!

But Josephine had a brave heart, a strong will, and a resolute
determination to control herself. She conquered herself into rest and
resignation; she did not wish that the emperor, the happy bridegroom,
should ever hear of her red, weeping eyes, of her lamentations and
sighs; she did not wish that, in the golden cup which the husband of
the emperor's young daughter was drinking in the full joyousness of a
conqueror, her tears should commingle therein as drops of gall.

She controlled herself so far as to be able with smiling calmness
to have related to her how Paris was celebrating the new marriage
festivities, how the new Empress of the French was everywhere received
with enthusiasm. She was even able to inquire, with an expression of
friendly sympathy, after Maria Louisa, the young wife of sixteen,
who had taken the place of the woman of forty-eight, and from whom
Josephine, in the sincerity of her love, required but one thing, namely,
to make Napoleon happy.

When she was told that Napoleon loved Maria Louisa with all the passion
of a fiery lover, Josephine conquered herself so as to smile and thank
God that she had accepted her sacrifice and thus secured Napoleon's
happiness.

But the emperor, however much he might be enamored of his young wife,
never forgot the bride of the past, the beloved one of his youth, of
whom he had been not only captivated, but whom he had loved from the
very depths of his soul. He surrounded her, though from a distance, with
attentions and tokens of affection; he would often write to her; and at
times, when his heart was burdened and full of cares, he would come to
Malmaison, and visit this woman who understood how to read in his face
the thoughts of his heart, this woman whose soft, gracious, and amiable
disposition - even as a tranquillizing and invigorating breeze after
a sultry day - could quiet his excited soul; to this woman he came for
refreshment, for a little repose, and sweet communion.

It is true those visits of the emperor to his divorced wife were made
secretly and privately, for his second wife was jealous of the affection
which Napoleon still retained for Josephine; she listened with gloomy
attention to the descriptions which were made to her of the amiableness,
of the unwithered beauty of Josephine; and one day, after hearing that
the emperor had visited her in Malmaison, Maria Louisa broke out into
tears, and complained bitterly of this mortification caused by her
husband.

Napoleon had to spare this jealous disposition of his young wife, for
Maria Louisa was now in that situation which France and its emperor had
expected and hoped from this marriage; she was approaching the time when
the object for which Napoleon had married her was to be accomplished,
when she was to give to France and the Bonaparte dynasty a legitimate
heir. It was necessary, therefore, to be cautious with the young
empress, and, on account of her interesting situation, it was expedient
to avoid the gloomy sulkiness of jealousy.

By the emperor's orders, and under pain of the punishment of his wrath,
no one dared speak to Maria Louisa of the divorced empress, and Napoleon
avoided designedly to give her an occasion of complaint. He went no
longer to Malmaison; he even ceased corresponding with his former wife.

Only once during this period he had not been able to resist the longing
of visiting Josephine, who, as he had heard, was sick. The emperor,
accompanied only by one horseman, rode from Trianon to Malmaison. At the
back gate of the garden he dismounted from his horse, and, without being
announced, walked through the park to the castle. No one had seen him,
and he was about passing from the front-room into the cabinet of
the empress by a side-door, when the folding-doors leading from this
front-room into the cabinet opened, and Spontini walked out.

Napoleon, agitated and vexed at having been surprised, advanced with
imperious mien toward the renowned maestro, who was quietly approaching
him.

"What are you doing here, sir?" cried Napoleon, with choleric
impatience.

Spontini, however, returned the emperor's haughty look, and, measuring
him with a deep, flaming glance, asked, With a lofty assurance: "Sire,
what are you doing here?"

The emperor answered not - a terrible glance fell upon the bold
maestro, without, however, annihilating him: then Napoleon entered into
Josephine's cabinet, and Spontini walked away slowly and with uplifted
head.

Spontini, the famous composer of the "Vestals," whose score he had
dedicated to the Empress Josephine, remained after her divorce a true
and devoted admirer of the empress; and in Malmaison, as well as in the
castle of Navarra, he showed himself as faithful, as ready to serve, as
submissive, as he had once been in the Tuileries, or at St. Cloud, in
the days of Josephine's glory. He often passed whole weeks in Navarra,
and even undertook to teach the ladies and gentlemen of the court the
choruses of the "Vestals," which the empress so much liked.

Josephine had, therefore, for the renowned maestro a heart-felt
friendship, and she took pleasure in boasting of the gratitude and
loyalty of Spontini, in contrast with the sad experiences she had made
of man's ingratitude. [Footnote: Memoires sur l'Imperatrice Josephine,"
par Mlle. Ducrest," vol. i., p. 287.]

The emperor, as already said, avoided to trouble his young wife by
exciting her jealousy; and though he did not visit Malmaison, though
for a time he did not write to Josephine, yet he was acquainted with the
most minute details of her life, and with all the little events of her
home; and he took care that around her every thing was done according
to the strictest rules of etiquette, and that she was surrounded by the
same splendor and the same ceremonies as when she was empress.

At last the moment had come which was to give to Josephine her most
sacred and glorious reward. The cannon of the Invalides, with their one
hundred and one thunders, announced that Maria Louisa had given birth
to a son, and Prince Eugene was the first who brought this news to his
mother in Navarra.

Josephine's countenance beamed with satisfaction and joy when she
learned from the lips of her son this news of the birth of the King of
Rome; she called her whole court together to communicate herself
this news to the ladies and gentlemen, and to have them listen to the
descriptions which Eugene, with all heartiness, was making of the
scenes which had taken place in the imperial family circle during the
mysterious hours of suspense and expectation.

But when Eugene repeated the words of Napoleon's message which he sent
through him to Josephine, her countenance was illumined with joy and
satisfaction, and tears started from her eyes - tears of purest joy, of
most sacred love!

Napoleon had said: "Eugene, go to your mother; tell her that I am
convinced no one will be more pleased with my happiness than she. I
would have written to her, but I should have had to give up the pleasure
of gazing at my son. I part from him only to attend to inexorable
duties. But this evening I will accomplish the most agreeable of all
duties - I will write to Josephine." [Footnote: Ducrest, vol. i., p.
236.]

The emperor kept his word. The same evening there came to Malmaison an
imperial page, with an autograph letter from Napoleon to Josephine.
The empress rewarded this messenger of glad tidings with a costly
diamond-pin, and then she called her ladies together, to show them the
letter which had brought so much happiness to her heart, and which also
had obscured her eyes with tears.

It was an autograph letter of Napoleon; it contained six or eight lines,
written with a rapid hand; the pen, too hastily filled, had dropped
large blots of ink on the paper. In these lines Napoleon announced to
Josephine the birth of the King of Rome, and concluded with these words:
"This child, in concert with our Eugene, will secure the happiness of
France, and mine also."

These last words were to Josephine full of delight. "Is it, then,
possible," exclaimed she, joyously, "to be more amiable and more tender,
thus to sweeten what this moment might have of bitterness if I did not
love the emperor so much? To place my son alongside of his is an act
worthy of the man who, when he will, can be the most enchanting of men."
[Footnote: Ducrest, vol. i., p. 238.]

And this child, for which so much suffering had been endured, for which
she had offered her own life in sacrifice, was by Josephine loved even
as if it were her own. She was always asking news from the little King
of Rome, and no deeper joy could be brought to her heart than to speak
to her of the amiableness, the beauty, the liveliness of this little
prince, who appeared to her as the visible reward of the sacrifice which
she had made to God and to the emperor.

One intense, craving wish did Josephine cherish during all these
years - she longed to see Napoleon's son; she longed to press to her
heart this child who was making her former husband so happy, and on
which rested all the hopes of France.

Finally Napoleon granted her desire. Privately, and in all secrecy, for
Maria Louisa's jealousy was ever on the watch, and she would never have
consented to allow her son to go to her rival; without pomp, without
suite, the emperor took a drive with the little three-year-old King of
Rome to the pleasure-castle of Bagatelle, whither he had invited the
Empress Josephine through his trusty chamberlain Constant.

Josephine herself has described her interview with the little King of
Rome in a very touching and affecting letter which she addressed the
next day to the emperor, and which contains full and interesting details
of the brief interview she had with the son of Maria Louisa. We cannot,
therefore, abridge this letter, nor deny ourselves the pleasure of
transcribing it:

"Sire, although deeply moved by our interview of yesterday, and
preoccupied with the beautiful and lovely child you brought me,
penetrated with gratitude for the step taken by you for my sake, and
whose unpleasant consequences, I may well imagine, could fall only upon
you; I felt the most pressing desire to converse with you, to assure
you of my joy, which was too great to be at once exhibited in a suitable
manner. You, who to meet my wishes exposed yourself to the danger of
having your peace disturbed, will fully understand why I thus long to
acknowledge to you all the happiness your inestimable favor has produced
within me.

"Truly, it was not out of mere curiosity that I wished to see the
King of Rome; his face was not unknown to me, for I had seen striking
portraits of him. Sire, I wanted to examine the expression of his
features, listen to the tone of his voice, which is so much like yours;
I wanted to see you - how you would caress the child, and then I longed
also to return to him the caresses which my son Eugene received from
you. If I recall to your remembrance how deaf my son was once to you,
it is that you should not be surprised at the partiality which I cherish
for the son of another, for it is your son, and you will find neither
insincerity nor exaggeration in feelings which you fully appreciate,
since you yourself have nurtured similar ones.

"The moment I saw you enter with the little Napoleon in your hand
was undoubtedly one of the happiest of my eventful life. That moment
surpassed all the preceding ones, for never have I received from you a
stronger proof of your affection to me. It was no passionate love
which induced you to fulfil my wishes, but it was a sincere esteem
and affection, and these feelings are unchangeable, and this thought
completes my happiness.

"It was not without trembling that I thought of the dissolution of our
marriage-ties, for it was reasonable for me to apprehend that a young,
beautiful wife, endowed also with the most enviable gifts, would soon
make you forget one who lacks all these advantages, and who then would
be far away from you. When I called to mind all the amiable qualities
possessed by Maria Louisa, I could not but tremble at the thought that
I should soon be indifferent to you, but surely I was then ignoring the
loftiness and generosity of your soul, which still preserves the memory
of its extraordinary devotedness, and of its tenderness toward me, a
devotedness and tenderness whose superabundance was proportioned to
those eminent qualities which have surprised Europe, and which cause you
to be admired by all those who come near you, and which even constrain
your enemies to render you justice!

"Yes, I acknowledge to you, sire, you have once more found the means of
astonishing me, and to fill me with admiration, accustomed as I am to
admire you; and your whole conduct, so well suited to my position, the
solicitude with which you surround me, and finally the step you took
yesterday in my behalf, prove to me that you have far surpassed all the
favorable and charming impressions which I have ever cherished for you.

"With what fondness I pressed the young prince to my heart! How his
face, radiant with health, filled me with delight, and how happy I was
to see him so amused and so contented as he watched us both! In fact, I
entirely forgot I was a stranger to this child; I forgot that I was not
his mother while partaking his sweet caresses. I then envied no man's
happiness; mine seemed far above all bliss granted to poor mortals
here below. And when the time came to part from him, when I had to tear
myself from this little being whom I had barely learned to know, I felt
in me a deep anguish, as deep as if all the sorrows of humanity had
pierced me through.

"Have you, as I did, closely noticed the little commanding tone of your
son when he made known to me his wish that he wanted me to be in the
Tuileries with him? And then his little pouting mien when I answered
that this could not be?

"'Why,' exclaimed he, in his own way, 'why, since papa and I wish it?'

"Yes, this already reveals that he will understand how to command, and
I heartily rejoice to discern traits of character which, in a private
individual, might be pregnant with evil consequences, but which are
becoming to a prince who is destined to rule in a time that is so near a
long and terrible revolution. For after the downfall of all order, such
as we have outlived, a sovereign cannot hope to maintain peace in his
kingdom merely through mildness and goodness. The nation over which he
rules, and which yet stands on the hot soil of a volcano, must have the
assurance that crime no sooner lifts its head than swift punishment will
reach it. As you yourself have told me a thousand times: 'When once fear
has been instilled, one must not by arbitrariness, but through strict
impartiality, strive to be loved.'

"You have often used your privilege of granting pardon, but you have
more frequently proved that you would not tolerate a violation of the
laws enacted by you. Thus you have subdued and mastered the Jacobins,
quieted the royalists, and satisfied the party of moderation. Your son
will now have your example before him, and, happier than you, will be
able to go further in manifesting clemency toward the guilty.

"I had with him a conversation which establishes the deep sensitiveness
of his heart.

"He was delighted with my charivari, and then he said to me:

"'Ah, how beautiful that is! but if it were given to a poor man he would
be rich, would he not, madame?'

"'Certainly he would,' I replied. "'Well, then,' said he, 'I have seen
in the woods a poor man; allow me to send for him. I have no money
myself, and he needs a good coat.'

"'The emperor,' I replied, 'will find a pleasure in gratifying your
wishes. Why does not your imperial highness ask him for his purse?'

"'I have asked him already, madame. He gave it to me when we left Paris,
and we have given all away. But as you look so good, I thought you would
do what was so natural.'

"I promised to be useful to that poor man, and I will certainly keep my
word. I have given orders to my courier to find the unfortunate person,
and bring him to-morrow to Malmaison, where we will see what can be
done for him. For it will indeed be sweet for me to perform a good work
counselled by a child three years old. Tell him, I pray you, sire, that
this poor man is no longer poor!

"I have thought you would be pleased to gather these details from a
conversation which passed between us in a low voice, while you were busy
at the other end of the drawing-room, examining an atlas. You will also
perceive by this, how fortunate it is for the King of Rome to have
a governess, who knows how to inspire him with such feelings of
compassion, the more touching that they are seldom found in princes. For
princes in general have been accustomed to a constant flattery, which
induces them to imagine that every thing in the world is for them, and
that they can entirely dismiss the duty of thinking about others. In
fact the eminent qualities of Madame de Montesquiou make her worthy of
the important and responsible charge you have committed to her care, and
the sentiments of the prince justify the choice you have made. Will
he not be good and benevolent, who is brought up by goodness and
benevolence themselves?

"I am, however, afraid that his imperial highness, notwithstanding the
orders made to him by you, has spoken of this interview, which was to
remain secret. I recommended him not to open his mouth, and I assured
him that if any one knew that he had come to Bagatelle it would be
impossible for him to come here again.

"'Oh, then, madame,' replied he, 'be not alarmed, I will say nothing,
for I love you; promise me, however, if I am obedient, to come soon and
visit me.'

"Ah! I assured him, that I desired this more than he did himself, and I
have never spoken more truly.

"Meanwhile, I am conscious that those interviews, which fill me with
extreme joy, cannot often be repeated, and I must not abuse your
goodness toward me by claiming your presence too often. The sacrifice
which I make to your mental quietude is another proof of my intense
desire to render you happy. This thought will comfort me while waiting
to be able to embrace my adopted son. Do you not find this exchange of
children very sweet? As regards myself, sire, what distresses me is,
that I can only give to your son this name, without being able to be
useful to him! And, again, how different is my position from that which
you held toward Eugene! The longer, the kinder you are to him, the less
can I show you my gratitude! However, I rely upon the vice-king that he
will be a comfort to you, amid the sorrows which your family causes you.
If, unfortunately, what you surmise about the King of Naples were to
happen, then Eugene would become still more useful to you than ever, and
I dare trust he would prove worthy of you by his conduct in war as well
as by his sincere devotedness to your service.

"You have now received quite a long letter from me! The sentiment of
delight in talking about our two sons has carried me away, and this
sentiment will make me excusable for having so long intruded upon you.
As sorrow needs concentration, so joy needs expansion. This, sire,
explains this letter, long as a volume, and which I cannot close
with-out once more expressing my deepest gratitude.

"JOSEPHINE." [Footnote: Ducrest, "Memoires," vol. iii., p. 294.]




CHAPTER XLIV. DEATH.


Happy the man to whom it is granted to close a beautiful and worthy life
with a beautiful and worthy death! Happy Josephine, for whom it was not
reserved like the rest of the Bonapartes to wander about Europe seeking
for a refuge where they might hide themselves from the persecutions and
hatred of the princes and people! To her alone, of all the Napoleonic
race, was reserved the enviable fate to die under the ruins of the
imperial throne, whose fragments fell so heavily upon her heart as to
break it.

For France the days of fear had come, for Napoleon the days of
vengeance. The nations of Europe had at last risen with the strength of
the lion that breaks his chains and is determined to obtain liberty by
devouring those who deprived him of it, and so those irritated nations
had with the power of their wrath forced their princes, who had been so
obediently submissive to Napoleon, to declare war and to fight against
him for life or death.

The conflicts, battles, and endless victories of the constantly defeated
Austrians, Prussians, Russians, and English, belong to history - this
everlasting tribunal where the deeds of men are judged, and where they
are written on its pages to be for ages to come as lessons and examples
of warning and encouragement.

Josephine, the lonely and rejected one, had nothing to do with those
fearful events which shook France; she played no active part in the
great drama which was performed before the walls of Paris, and which
closed with the fall of the hero whom she had so warmly and so truly
loved.

Josephine, during those days of horror and of decisive conflicts, was in
her pleasure-castle of Navarra. Her daughter, Queen Hortense, with her
two sons, Napoleon Louis and Louis Napoleon, was with her. There she
learned the treachery of the marshals, the capitulation of Marmont, the
surrender of Paris, and the entrance of the foreign foe into the capital
of France.

But where was Napoleon? Where was the emperor? Did Josephine know
anything of him? Why did he not come to the rescue of his capital, and
drive the foe away?

Such were the questions which afflicted Josephine's heart, and to
which the news, finally re-echoed through Paris, gave her the fearful
response.

Napoleon had come too late, and when he had arrived in Fontainebleau
with the remnants of the army defeated by Blucher, he learned there that
Marmont had capitulated, and that the allies had already entered Paris,
and all was lost.

The deputies of the senate and Napoleon's faithless marshals came from
Paris to Fontainebleau to require from him that he should resign his
crown, and that he should save France by the sacrifice of himself
and his imperial dignity. These men, lately the most humble, devoted
courtiers and flatterers of Napoleon, who owed to him everything - name,
position, fortune, and rank - had now the courage to approach him with
lofty demeanor and to request of him to depart into exile.

Napoleon, overcome by all this misfortune and treachery which fell upon
him, did what they required of him. He abdicated in favor of his son,
and left Paris, left France, to go to the small island of Elba, there to



Online LibraryL. MühlbachEmpress Josephine → online text (page 39 of 40)