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dream of the days which had been and of the days which were coming, when
he would regain his glory and his emperor's crown.

Amid the agonies, cares, and humiliations of his present situation,
Napoleon thought of the woman whom he had once named the "angel of his
happiness," and who he well knew would readily and gladly be the angel
of his misfortune. Before leaving Fontainebleau to retire to the island
of Elba, Napoleon wrote to Josephine a farewell letter, telling her
of the fate reserved for him, and assuring her of his never-ending
friendship and affection. He sent this letter to the castle of Navarra
by M. de Maussion, and the messenger of evil tidings arrived there in
the middle of the night.

Josephine had given orders that she should be awakened as soon as any
one brought news for her. She immediately arose from her bed, threw a
mantle over her shoulders, and bade M. de Maussion come in.

"Does the emperor live?" cried she, as he approached. "Only answer me
this: does the emperor live?"

Then, when she had received this assurance, after reading Napoleon's
letter, and learning all the sad, humiliating news, pale, and trembling
in all her limbs, she hastened to her daughter Hortense.

"Ah, Hortense," exclaimed she, overcome and falling into an arm-chair
near her daughter's bed, "ah, Hortense, the unfortunate Napoleon! They
are sending him to the island of Elba! Now he is unhappy, abandoned,
and I am not near him! Were I not his wife I would go to him and
exile myself with him! Oh, why cannot I be with him?" [Footnote: Mlle.
Cochelet, "Memoires," vol. ii.]

But she dared not! Napoleon, knowing her heart and her love, had
commissioned the Duke de Bassano expressly to tell the Empress Josephine
to make no attempt to follow him, and "to respect the rights of
another."

This other, however, had not been pleased to claim the right which
Josephine was to respect. Napoleon left Fontainebleau on the 21st of
April, 1814, to go to the island of Elba. It was his wish to meet there
his wife and his son. But Maria Louisa did not come; she did not obey
her husband's call; she descended from the imperial throne, and was
satisfied to be again an archduchess of Austria, and to see the little
King of Rome dispossessed of country, rank, father, and even name. The
poor little Napoleon was now called Frank - he was but the son of the
Archduchess Maria Louisa; he dared not ask for his father, and yet
memory ever and ever re-echoed through his heart the sounds of other
days; this memory caused the death of the Duke de Reichstadt, the son of
Napoleon.

Napoleon had gone to Elba, and there he waited in vain for Maria Louisa,
to fill whose place Josephine would have gladly poured her heart's
blood.

But she dared not! she submitted faithfully and devotedly to Napoleon's
will. To her he was, though banished, humiliated, and conquered, still
the emperor and the sovereign; and her tearful eyes gazed toward the
solitary island which to her would have been a paradise could she but
have lived there by the side of her Napoleon!

But she had to remain in France; she had sacred duties to perform; she
had to save out of the wreck of the empire at least something for her
children! For herself she wanted nothing, she desired nothing; but the
future of her children had to be secured.

Therefore, Josephine gathered all her courage; she pressed her hands on
the mortal wounds of her heart, and kept it still alive, for it must not
yet bleed to death; her children yet claimed her care.

Josephine, therefore, left the castle of Navarra for that of Malmaison,
thus fulfilling the wishes of the Emperor Alexander, who desired to know
Josephine's wishes in reference to herself and to her children, and who
sincerely wished to become acquainted with her, that he might offer her
his homage, and transfer to her the friendship he once cherished for
Napoleon.

Josephine received in Malmaison the first visit of Alexander, and
from this time he came every day, to the great grief of the returned
Bourbons, who felt bitterly hurt at the homage thus publicly offered
before all the world by the conqueror of Napoleon to the divorced
Empress Josephine, who, in the eyes of the proud Bourbons, was but the
widow of General de Beauharnais.

Notwithstanding this, the rest of the princes of the victorious allies
followed the example of Alexander. They all came to Malmaison to visit
the Empress Josephine; so that again, as in the days of her imperial
glory, she received at her residence the conquerors of Europe, and saw
around her emperors and kings. The Emperor Alexander, with his brothers;
the King Frederick William, with his sons; the Duke of Coburg, and
many others of the little German princes, were guests at her table,
and endeavored, through the respect they manifested to her, and the
expressions of their esteem and devotedness, to turn away from her the
sad fate which had come upon all the Bonapartes.

But her heart was mortally wounded. "I cannot overcome the fearful
sadness which has seized me," said she to Mlle. Cochelet, the friend
of her daughter Hortense; "I do all I can to hide my cares from my
children, but I suffer only the more." [Footnote: Mlle. Cochelet.
"Memoires," vol. ii.]

"You will see," said she to the Duchess d'Abrantes, who had visited her
at Malmaison, "you will see that Napoleon's misfortune will cause my
death. My heart is broken - it will not be healed." [Footnote: Abrantes,
"Memoires," vol. xvii.]

She was right, her heart was broken, it would not be healed! It seemed
at first but merely an indisposition which seized the empress, and which
obliged her to decline the announced visit of the Emperor Alexander,
nothing but a slight inflammation of the neck, accompanied by a little
fever. But the disease increased hour after hour. On the 27th of May,
Josephine was obliged to keep her bed; on the 29th her sufferings in
the neck were so serious that she nearly suffocated, and her fever had
become so intense that she had but few moments of consciousness. In her
fancy she often called aloud for Napoleon, and the last word which her
dying lips uttered was his name.

Josephine died on the 29th of May, 1814. That love which had illumined
her life occasioned her death, and will sanctify her name for ever as
with a saintly halo.

She was buried on the 2d of June in the church at Rueil. It was a solemn
funeral procession, to which all the kings and princes assembled in
Paris sent their substitutes in their carriages; but the most beautiful
mourning procession which followed her to the grave were the tears,
the sighs of the poor, the suffering of the unfortunate, for all whom
Josephine had been a benefactress, a good angel, and who lost in her a
comforter, a mother.

In the church of Rueil, Eugene and Hortense erected a monument to their
mother; and when in 1837 Queen Hortense, the mother of the Emperor
Napoleon III., died at Arenenberg, her corpse was, according to her last
wishes, brought to Rueil and laid at her mother's side. Her son erected
there a monument to her; and this son, the grandchild of Josephine, is
now the Emperor of the French, Napoleon III. Josephine's sacrifice has been in vain. Napoleon's dynasty, for
whose sake she sacrificed happiness, love, and a crown, has not been
perpetuated through the woman to whom Josephine was sacrificed - not
through Maria Louisa, who gave to France and to the emperor a son, but
through the daughter of Josephine, who gave to Napoleon more than a son,
her love, her heart, and her life!

Providence is just! Upon the throne from which the childless empress was
rejected, sits now the grandchild of Josephine, and his very existence
demonstrates how vain are all man's calculations and desires, and how
like withered leaves they are carried away and tossed about by the
breath of destiny!

It was not the emperor's daughter who perpetuated Napoleon's dynasty,
but the widow of General Beauharnais, Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie.

Josephine, therefore, is avenged in history; she was also avenged
in Napoleon's heart, for he bitterly lamented that he had ever been
separated from her. "I ought not to have allowed myself to be separated
from Josephine," said he, a short time before his death in St.
Helena, "no, I ought not to have been divorced from her; that was my
misfortune!"



THE END











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