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With the third class, the people and the yeomen entered into the king's
palace; one-half of the people were to make the laws instead of having
to submit to them.

It was Marie Antoinette who had endeavored with all her influence on the
king that the third class, hitherto barely recognized, barely
tolerated, should appear in a two-fold stronger representation at the
States-General; it was the queen also who had requested Necker's recall.
Unfortunate woman, who bowed both pride and will to the wishes of public
opinion, who yet hoped to succeed in winning again the people's love,
since she endeavored to meet the wishes of the people!

But this love had turned away from her forever; and whatever Marie
Antoinette might now do to exhibit her candid wishes, her devotedness
was not trusted in by the people, who looked upon her as an enemy, no
longer Queen of France, but simply an Austrian.

Even on this day of universal joy, on the day of the opening of the
States-General, there was no desire to hide from the queen the hatred
felt against her, but there was the resolve to show her that France,
even in her hour of happiness, ceased not to make opposition to her.

The opening of the States-General was to be preceded in Versailles
by divine service. In solemn procession the deputies arrived; and the
people who had streamed from Paris and from the whole region round
about, and who in compact masses filled the immense square in front of
the palace, and the whole street leading to the Church of St. Louis,
received the deputies with loud, unbroken shouts, and met the princes
and the king with applause. But no sooner was the queen in sight, than
the people remained dumb; and then, after this appalling pause, which
petrified the heart of the queen, the women with their true instinct of
hatred began to cry out, "Long live the Duke d'Orleans! Long live the
people's friend, the good Duke d'Orleans!"

The name of the duke thus derisively thrown in the face of the
queen - for it was well known that she hated him, that she had forbidden
him to enter into her apartments - this name at this hour, thrown at
her by the people, struck the queen's heart as the blow of a dagger;
a deathly pallor overspread her cheeks, and nearly fainting she had to
throw herself into the arms of the Princess de Lamballe, so as not to
sink down. [Footnote: See "Count Mirabeau," by Theodore Mundt. Second
edition, vol. iii., p. 234.]

With the opening of the States-General, as already said, began the first
act of the great drama which France was going to represent before
the eyes of Europe terrified and horrified: with the opening of the
States-General the revolution had begun. Every one felt it; every
one knew it; the first man who had the courage to express it was
Mirabeau - Mirabeau, the deputy of the Third Estate, the count who was at
enmity with all those of his rank, who had solemnly parted with them to
devote himself to the people's service and to liberty!

On the day of the opening, as he entered the hall in which the
States-General were convened, he gazed with scrutinizing and flaming
eyes on the representatives of the nobility, on those brilliant and
proud lords who, though his equals in rank, were now his inveterate
enemies. A proud, disdainful smile fluttered athwart his lips, which
ordinarily were pressed together with a sarcastic and contemptuous
expression. He then crossed the hall with the bearing of a conqueror,
and took his seat upon those benches from which was launched the
thunderbolt which was to dash to pieces the throne of the lilies.

A long-tried friend, who was also a friend of the government and of the
nobility, had seen this look of hatred and anger which Mirabeau had
cast upon the gallery of the aristocrats; he now approached Mirabeau
to salute him, and perhaps to pave a way of reconciliation between the
prodigal Count de Mirabeau and his associates in rank.

"Think," said he, "my friend, that society is not to be won by threats,
but by flatteries; that, when once injured, it is difficult to effect a
reconciliation. You have been unjust toward society, and if you look
for forgiveness you must not be obstinate, but you must stoop to ask for
pardon."

Mirabeau had listened with impatience, but at the word "pardon," his
anger broke with terrible force. He sprang up, stamped violently on the
floor with his feet; his hair which, like a lion's mane, mantled his
head, seemed to bristle up, his little eyes darted flashes, and his lips
were blanched and trembling, and with a thundering voice he exclaimed:
"I am not here to implore pardon for myself, but that others should sue
for mercy."

Was Mirabeau himself willing to grant pardon? Had he come with a
reconciling heart into this assembly, where people and king were to
measure their rights one against the other?

As the good King Louis this day entered the hall, in all the pomp of
his royal dignity, to welcome the States-General with a solemn address,
Mirabeau's eyes were fixed on him: "Behold the victim," said he.
[Footnote: Theodore Mundt: "Graf Mirabeau," vol. iv., p. 15.]

From this day the struggle began - the struggle of the monarchy against
the revolution, of the liberal party against the reaction, the struggle
of the people against the aristocracy, against every thing which
hitherto had been legitimate, welcomed, and sacred!

A new day had broken in, and the prophetic mind of the queen understood
that with it came the storm which was to scatter into fragments her
happiness and her peace.




CHAPTER IX. JOSEPHINE'S RETURN.


To rest! - to forget! This was what Josephine sought for in Martinique,
and what she found in the circle of her friends. She wanted to rest from
the pains and struggles which had agitated the last years of her life.
She wanted to forget that she still loved the Viscount de Beauharnais,
though rejected and accused, though he had treacherously abandoned her
for the sake of another woman.

But he was the father of her children, and there was Hortense with her
large blue eyes and her noble, lovely countenance to remind Josephine
of the father to whom Hortense bore so close a resemblance. Josephine's
tender-heartedness would not suffer the innocent, childish heart of
Hortense to become alienated from her father, or to forget the esteem
and respect which as a daughter she owed to him. Josephine therefore
never allowed any one to utter a word of blame against her husband in
the presence of her daughter; she even imposed silence on her mother
when, in the just resentment of a parent who sees her child suffer, she
accused the man who had brought wretchedness on her Josephine, who at so
early an age had taught her life's sorrows.

How joyous, beautiful, happy had her Josephine nearly ten years ago
left her home, her country, her family, to go to a foreign land which
attracted her with every thing which can charm a young girl - with the
love of a young and beautiful husband - with the luxury, the pleasures
and festivities of Paris!

And now after ten years Josephine returned to her father's home, lonely,
abandoned, unhappy, blighted with the mildew which ever deteriorates the
character of a divorced woman; yet so young, with so many ruined hopes,
with so many wounds in the heart!

Josephine's mother could not pardon him all this, and her countenance
became clouded whenever the little Hortense spoke of her father. And
the child spoke of him so often - for each evening and morning she had to
pray God in his behalf - and when she asked her mother where her brother
Eugene was, why he had not come with them to Martinique; Josephine
answered her, he had remained with his father, who loved him so much,
and who must have at least one of his children with him.

"Why then can he not, with Eugene, be with us?" asked the little
Hortense, thoughtfully. "Why does he remain in that hateful, stony
Paris, whilst he could live with us in the beautiful garden where so
many charming flowers and so many large trees are to be found? Why is
papa not with us, mamma?"

"Because he has occupations - because he cannot leave his regiment, my
child," answered Josephine, carefully hiding her tears.

"If he cannot come to us, mamma, then let us go to him," cried the
loving child. "Come, mamma, let us go on board a ship, and let us go to
our dear papa, and to my dear brother Eugene."

"We must wait until your father sends for us, until he writes that we
must come," said Josephine, with a sad smile. "Pray to God, my child,
that he may soon do it!"

And from this time the child prayed God every evening that her father
would soon send for her mother and for herself; and whenever she saw her
mother receive a letter she said: "Is it a letter from my papa? Does he
write for us to travel and to come to him?"

One day Josephine was enabled to answer this question to her daughter
with a proud and joyous yes.

Yes, the Viscount de Beauharnais had begged his wife to forget the past,
and to come back to him. He had, with all the contrition of penitence,
with the glow of an awakening love, prayed for pardon; he requested from
her large-heartedness to be once more reunited to him who had despised,
calumniated, and rejected her; he swore with sacred oaths to love her
alone, and to keep to her in unbroken faithfulness.

At first Josephine received these vows with a suspicious, sorrowful
smile; the wounds of her heart were not yet healed, the bitter
experiences of the past were yet too fresh in her mind; and Madame de la
Pagerie, Josephine's mother, repelled with earnestness every thought
of reconciliation and reunion. She did not wish to lose her daughter a
second time, and see her go to meet a dubious and dangerous happiness;
she did not wish that Josephine, barely returned to the haven of rest
and peace, should once more risk herself on the open, tempestuous ocean
of life.

But the letters of the viscount were more and more pressing, more and
more tender. He had completely and forever broken with Madame de Gisard;
he did not wish to see her again, and henceforth he desired to be the
true, devoted husband of his Josephine.

Josephine read these assurances, these vows of love, with a joyous
smile, with a beating heart: all the crushed flowers of her youth raised
up their blossoms again in her heart; she began again to hope, to trust,
to believe once more in the possibility of happiness; she was ready to
listen to her husband's call, and to hasten to him.

But her mother held her back. She believed not, she trusted not. Her
insulted maternal heart could not forget the humiliations and the
sufferings which this man who now called for Josephine had inflicted
upon her daughter. She could not pardon the viscount for having deserted
his young wife, and that for the sake of a coquette! She therefore
sought to inspire Josephine with mistrust; she told her that these vows
of the viscount were not to be relied upon; that he had not given up his
paramour to come back to Josephine, but that he was forsaken by her and
abandoned by her. Madame de Gisard had regretted to be only the paramour
of the Viscount de Beauharnais, and, as she could never hope to be his
legitimate wife, she had abandoned him, to marry a wealthy Englishman,
with whom she had left France to go with him to Italy.

At this news Josephine's head would sink down, and, with tears in her
eyes and sorrow in her heart, she promised her mother no more to listen
to the voice of a faithless husband; no more to value the assurances of
a love which only returned to her because it was rejected elsewhere.

Meanwhile, not only the Viscount de Beauharnais prayed Josephine to
return, but also his father the marquis claimed this from his beloved
daughter-in-law; even Madame de Renaudin confirmed the entire conversion
of Alexandre, and conjured Josephine to hesitate no longer once more to
take possession of a heart which beat with so burning a sorrow and so
longing a love toward her. She pictured to her, besides, how necessary
she was to him; how much in these troublous and stormy days which had
just begun, he was in need of a quiet haven of domestic life, there to
rest after the labors and the conflicts of politics and of public life;
how many dangers surrounded him, and how soon it might happen that he
would need not only a household refuge but also a nurse who would bind
his wounds and keep watch near the bed of sickness.

For the times of quietness were gone; the brand which the States-General
had flung over France had lit a fire everywhere, in every city, in every
house, in every head; and the flaming speeches of the deputies of the
Third Estate only fanned the fire into higher flames.

The revolution was there, and nothing could keep back the torrent
of blood, fire, enthusiasm, and hatred. Already the Third Estate had
solemnly proclaimed its separation from Old France, from the ancient
monarchy of the lilies, since that monarchy had abandoned the large
assembly-hall where the States-General held their sessions, and in which
the nobility and the clergy still imagined they were able to maintain
the balance of power against the despised Third Estate. The Tiers Etat
had, in the ballroom, converted itself into the National Assembly, and
with enthusiasm had all these deputies of the third class sworn on the
17th of June, 1789, "never to part one from the other until they had
given a constitution to France."

Alexandre de Beauharnais, deputy from Blois, had passed with his
colleagues into the ballroom, had with them taken the fatal oath; in
the decisive night of the 4th of August he, with burning enthusiasm,
had renounced all the privileges of the nobility, all his feudal rights;
and, breaking with the past, with all its family traditions and customs,
had passed, with all the passion and zest of his nine-and-twenty years,
into the hostile camp of the people and of liberty.

The revolution, which moved onward with such rash and destructive
strides, had drawn Alexandre de Beauharnais more and more into its
flood. It had converted the king's major into an enthusiastic speaker
of the Jacobins, then into the secretary of the National Assembly, and
finally into its president.

The monarchy was not yet powerless; it fought still with all the
bitterness of despair, of the pains of death, against its foes; it still
found defenders in the National Assembly, in the faithful regiments of
the Swiss and of the guards, and in the hearts of a large portion of the
people. The passions of parties were let loose one against another; and
Alexandre de Beauharnais, the president of the National Assembly, stood
naturally in the first rank of those who were threatened by the attacks
of the royalists.

Yes, Alexandre de Beauharnais was in danger! Since Josephine knew this,
there was for her but one place which belonged to her, to which she
could lay claim - the place at her husband's side.

How could she then have withstood his appeals, his prayers? How could
she then have remained in the solitude and stillness of Martinique, when
her husband was now in the fight, in the very struggle? She had, now
that fate claimed it, either to share her husband's triumphs, or to
bring him comfort if he fell.

The intercessions of her family, even the tears of her mother, could no
longer retain Josephine; at the side of her husband, the father of her
two children, there was her place! No one could deprive her of it, if
she herself wished to occupy it.

She was entitled to it, she was still the wife of the Viscount de
Beauharnais. The Parliament, which had pronounced its verdict against
the demands of a divorce from the viscount, had, in declaring Josephine
innocent, condemned her husband to receive into his house his wife, if
she desired it; or else, in case she waived this right, to pay her a
fixed annual income.

Josephine had parted voluntarily from her husband, since she had not
returned to him, but had exiled herself with her father-in-law and her
aunt in Fontainebleau; but she had never laid claims to nor received the
income which Parliament had appointed. She had never assumed the rights
of a divorced wife, but she retained still all the privileges of a
married woman, who at God's altar had bound herself to her husband for a
whole life, in a wedlock which, being performed according to the laws of
the Catholic Church, was indissoluble.

Now the viscount claimed his wife, and who dared keep her back if she
wished to follow this call? Who could stand between husband and wife,
when their hearts claimed and longed for this reunion?

The tears of Madame de la Pagerie had attempted it, but had not
succeeded! The soft, patient, pliant Josephine had suddenly become a
strong-minded, joyous, courageous woman; the inconveniences of a long
sea-voyage, the perils of the revolution, into whose open crater she
was to enter, affrighted her not. All the energies of her being began to
develop themselves under the first sunbeams of a renewed love! The years
of sorrow had passed away. Life, love called Josephine again, and she
listened to the call, jubilant and full of friendly trust of undimmed
hope!

In the first days of September, 1790, Josephine, with the little
Hortense, embarked from Martinique, and after a short, favorable
passage, landed in France, in the middle of October. [Footnote: If,
in the work "Queen Hortense, an Historical Sketch from the Days of
Napoleon," I have given a few different details of Josephine's return to
France and to her husband, I have followed the error common to all the
historians of that time, who represent Josephine returning despite her
husband's will, who receives her into his house, and recognizes her as
his wife, only at the instant supplication of his family, and
especially of his children. It is only of late that all this has been
satisfactorily refuted, and that it has been proved that Josephine
returned only at the instance of her husband's pressing demands. See
Aubenas, "Histoire de l'Imperatrice Josephine," vol. i., p. 164. - L. M.]

Again a prophecy accompanied Josephine to France, and perhaps this
prophecy is to be blamed for her sudden departure and her unwavering
resolution to leave Martinique. The old negro woman who, once before
Josephine's departure, had prophesied that she would wear a crown and be
more than a Queen of France - the old Euphemia was still living, and
was still considered as an infallible oracle. A few days before her
departure, Josephine, with all the superstitious faith of a Creole, went
to ask the old prophetess if her journey would be propitious.

The old Euphemia stared long and fixedly into Josephine's smiling
countenance; then, as if overcome by a sudden thought, she exclaimed:
"Go! go as fast as possible, for death and danger threaten you! Already
are on the watch wicked and bloodthirsty fiends, who every moment are
ready to rush among us with fire and sword, and to destroy the colony in
their cruel wrath!"

"And shall I safely arrive in France?" asked Josephine. "Shall I again
see my husband?"

"You will see him again," exclaimed the prophetess, "but hasten to go to
him."

"Is he threatened with any danger?" demanded Josephine.

"Not yet! - not at once!" said the old negress. "They now applaud your
husband and recognize his services. But he has powerful enemies, and one
day they will threaten his life, and will lead him to the scaffold and
murder him!"

Before Josephine left Martinique, a portion of these prophecies of
the old negro woman were to be fulfilled. The wicked and bloodthirsty
fiends, of whom she said they were ready with fire and sword to rush
upon the colony - those fiends did light the firebrand and destroy the
peace of Martinique.

The resounding cries for freedom uttered in the National Assembly, and
which shook the whole continent, had rushed along across the ocean to
Martinique. The storm-wind of the revolution had on its wings borne the
wondrous story to Martinique - the wondrous story of man's sacred rights,
which Lafayette had proclaimed in the National Assembly, the wondrous
story that man was born free, that he ought to remain free, that there
were to be no more slaves in the land of liberty, in France, and in her
colonies.

The storm-wind which brought this great news across the ocean to
Martinique scattered it into the negro-cabins, and at first they
listened to it with wondrous delight. Then the delirium of joy came over
them; jubilant they broke their chains, and in wild madness anticipated
their human rights, their personal freedom.

The revolution, with its terrible consequences of blood and horrors,
broke loose in Martinique, and, exulting in freedom, the slaves threw
the firebrand on the roof of their former masters, rushed with war's
wild cry into their dwellings, and, in freedom's name, punished those
who so long had punished them in tyranny's name.

Amid the barbaric shouts of those dark free men, Josephine embarked on
board the ship which was to carry her and her little Hortense to France;
and the flames which rose from the roofs of the houses as so many
way-marks of fire for the new era, were Josephine's last, sad farewell
from the home which she was never to see again. [Footnote: Le Normand,
"Memoires de l'Imperatrice Josephine," vol. i., p. 147]




CHAPTER X. THE DAYS OF THE REVOLUTION.


Happiness had once more penetrated into the heart of Josephine. Love
again threw her sun-gleams upon her existence, and filled her whole
being with animation and joy. She was once more united to her husband,
who, with tears of joy and repentance, had again taken her to his heart.
She was once more with her relatives, who, in the day of distress, had
shown her so much love and faithfulness, and finally she had also her
son, her own dear Eugene, from whom she had been separated during the
sad years of their matrimonial disagreements.

How different was the husband she now found from him she had quitted! He
was now a man, an earnest, thoughtful man, with a fiery determination,
with decidedness of purpose, and yet thoughtful, following only what
reason approved, even if the heart had been the mover. The passions
of youth had died away. The excitable, thoughtless, pleasure-seeking
officer of the king had become a grave, industrious, indefatigable,
moral, austere servant of the people and of liberty. The songs of joy,
of equivocal jesting, of political satire, had died away on those lips
which only opened now in the clubs, in the National Assembly, to utter
inspired words in regard to liberty, fraternity, and equality.

The most beautiful dancer of Versailles had become the president of the
National Assembly, which made so many tears run, and awoke so much anger
and hatred in the king's palace of Versailles. He at least belonged to
the constitutional fraction of the National Assembly; he was the
friend and guest of Mirabeau and of Lafayette; he was the opponent of
Robespierre, Marat, and Danton, and of all the fanatics of the Mountain
party, who already announced their bloody views, and claimed a republic
as the object of their conflicts.

Alexandre de Beauharnais was no republican, however enthusiastic he
might have been in favor of America's struggle for freedom, however
deeply he had longed to go like Lafayette to America, for the sake of
assisting the Americans to break the chains which yoked them to England,
so as to build a republic for themselves. The enthusiasm of that
day, the enthusiasm for France had driven him upon the path of the
opposition; but while desiring freedom for the people, he still hoped
that the people's freedom was compatible with the power and dignity of
the crown; that at the head of constitutional France the throne of a
constitutional king would be maintained. To bring to pass this reunion,
this balance of right between the monarchy and the people, such was the
object of the wishes of Alexandre de Beauharnais; this was the ultimate
aim of his struggles and longings.

Josephine looked upon these tumultuous conflicts of parties, upon this
wild storm of politics, with wondering, sad looks. With all the tact of
tender womanhood she held herself aloof from every personal interference
in these political party strifes. At the bottom of her heart a true and
zealous royalist, she guarded herself carefully from endeavoring to keep
her husband back from his chosen path, and to bring into her house and
family the party strifes of the political arena. She wanted and longed
for peace, unity, and rest, and in his home at least her husband would
have no debates to go through, no sentiments to fight against.




Online LibraryL. MühlbachEmpress Josephine → online text (page 9 of 40)