The Empress Josephine
Part 2 out of 10
The marquis, her father-in-law, turned smilingly to Josephine.
"Do you see, my daughter," said he, "what a triumph you enjoy, and
how much you are beloved and recognized?"
Josephine bent down toward the little Hortense and kissed her.
"Ah," said she, in a low voice, "we are returning home, but the
father of my children will not bid us welcome. For a pressure of his
hand, for a kind word from him, I would gladly give the lofty
triumph of this hour."
No, Alexandre de Beauharnais did not bid welcome to Josephine in his
father's house, which they had occupied together. Ashamed and
irritated, he had sped away from Paris, and returned to his regiment
On the arm of the Marquis de Beauharnais, Josephine traversed the
apartments in which she had lived with her husband, and which she
now saw again as a widow, whom not death but life had separated from
her husband. Her father-in-law saw the tears standing in her eyes,
and, with the refined sympathy of a sensitive mind, he understood
the painful thoughts which agitated the soul of the young wife.
He fondly folded her in his arms, and laid his blessing hand on the
head of the little Hortense.
"I have lost my son Alexandre," said he, "but I have found in his
stead a daughter. Yes, Josephine, you are and will remain my
daughter, and to you and to your children I will be a true father.
My son has parted from us, but we remain together in harmony and
love, and as long as I live my daughter Josephine will never want a
TRIANON AND MARIE ANTOINETTE.
Whilst the Viscountess Josephine de Beauharnais, the empress of the
future, was living in enforced widowhood, the life of Marie
Antoinette, the queen of the present, resembled a serene, golden,
sunny dream; her countenance, beaming with youth, beauty, and grace,
had never yet been darkened with a cloud; her large blue eyes had
not yet been dimmed with tears.
In Fontainebleau, whither Josephine had retired with her father-in-
law, who through unfortunate events had lost the greatest part of
his fortune--in Fontainebleau lived the future Empress of France in
sad monotony; in Versailles, in Trianon, lived the present Queen of
France in the dazzling splendor of her glory, of her youth, and of
her beauty. In Trianon--this first gift of love from the king to his
wife--the Queen of France dreamed life away in a pleasant idyl, in a
joyous pastoral amusement; there, she tried to forget that she was
queen, that is to say, that she was the slave of etiquette; there
she tried to indemnify herself for the tediousness, the emptiness,
the heartlessness of the great festivals in the Tuileries and in
In Trianon, Marie Antoinette desired to be the domestic wife, the
pleasant, youthful woman, as in the Tuileries and at Versailles she
was the proud and lofty queen. Marie Antoinette felt her days
obscured by the splendors of royalty; the crown weighed heavily on
her beautiful head, which seemed made for a crown of myrtle and
roses; life's earnestness had not yet cast its breath on those rosy
cheeks and robbed of youth's charm the smile on those crimson lips.
And why should not Marie Antoinette have smiled and been joyous?
Every thing shone round about her; every thing seemed to promise an
enduring harvest of felicity, for the surface of France was calm and
bright, and the queen's vision had not yet been made keen enough by
experience to penetrate below this shining surface and see the
precipices already hidden underneath.
These precipices were yet covered with flowers, and the skies
floating above them seemed yet cloudless. The French people appeared
to retain yet for the royal family that enthusiastic devotedness
which they had manifested for centuries; they fondly proclaimed to
the queen, whenever she appeared, their affection, their admiration;
they were not weary with the expressions of their rapture and their
worship, and Marie Antoinette was not weary of listening to these
jubilant manifestations with which she was received in the theatre,
on the streets, in the gardens of the Tuileries, on the terraces of
Versailles; she was not weary of returning thanks with a friendly
nod or with a gracious smile.
All the Parisians seemed still to be, as once, at the arrival of the
Dauphin, they had been called by the Baron de Vesenval, "the queen's
lovers," and also to rival one another in manifesting their
Even the fish-women of Paris shared the general enthusiasm; and
when, in 1781, the queen had given to her husband a son, and to his
people a future monarch, the ladies of "the Halls" were amongst the
most enthusiastic friends of the queen. They even came to Versailles
to congratulate the royal couple on the dauphin's birth, to salute
the young dauphin as the heir to the crown of France, and to sing
under the window of the king some songs, one of which so pleased the
king that oftentimes afterward, in his quiet and happy hours, he
used to sing a verse of it with a smile on his lip. This Terse,
which even Marie Antoinette sang, ran thus:
"Ne craignez pas, cher papa,
D' voir augmenter vot' famille,
Le bon Dieu z'y pourvoira:
Faits-en taut qu' Versailles en fourmille;
Yeut-il cent Bourbons cheu nos
Ya du pain, du laurier pour tous."
[Footnote: Madaine ile Carapan, "Histoire de Marie Antoinette," vol.
i., p. 218.]
In Trianon, Marie Antoinette passed her happiest hours and days;
there, the queen changed herself into a shepherdess; there, vanished
from her the empty splendors of purple and ermine, of etiquette and
ceremonial; there, she enjoyed life in its purity, in its innocency,
in its naturalness; such was the ideal Marie Antoinette wished to
realize in Trianon.
A simple dress of white muslin, a light kerchief of gauze, a straw
hat with a gayly-colored ribbon, such was the attire of the queen
and of the princesses whom Marie Antoinette invited. For the only
etiquette which prevailed at Trianon was this: that no one from the
court, even princes or princesses, should come to Trianon without
having received an invitation from the queen to that effect. Even
the king submitted to this ceremonial, and had expressly promised
his consort never to come to Trianon without an invitation, and, so
as to please the queen, no sooner did she announce her intention of
retiring to her country-residence, than he was always the first who
hastened to obtain the favor of an invitation.
In Trianon, Louis ceased to be king as well as Marie Antoinette
ceased to be queen. There Louis XVI. was but the farmer of the lady
of the castle; the Count d'Artois was the miller, and the learned
Count de Provence, the schoolmaster. For each of them had been
erected in the gardens of Trianon a separate house suited to their
The farmer Louis had his farm-house built in Swiss style, with a
balcony of finely-carved wood at the gable-end, and with stalls
attached to the house, and where bellowed the stately red cows of
Switzerland; behind the house was a small garden in which the
variegated convolvulus and the daisy shed their fragrance.
The Count d'Artois had, near the stream which flowed through the
park, his miller's house, with an enormous wheel, made of wooden
spokes joined together, and which moved lustily in the water, and
adorned the clear brook with wavelets of foam.
The Count de Provence had, under the shadow of a mulberry-tree, his
house, with a large school-room in it; and oftentimes the whole
court-society were converted into scholars of both sexes, who took
their seats on the benches of the school-room, whilst the Count de
Provence, in a long coat with lead buttons and with an immense rod
in his hand, ascended the cathedra and delivered to his school-
children a humorous and piquant lecture, all sparkling with wit.
The princesses also had in this "grove of Paradise," as Marie
Antoinette called the woods of Trianon, their cottages, where they
milked cows, made butter, and searched for eggs in the hens' nests.
In the midst of all these cottages and Swiss houses stood the
cottage of the farming Marie Antoinette; it was the finest and the
most beautiful one of all, adorned with vases full of fragrant
blossoms and surrounded by flowering plants and by cozy bowers of
verdure. This cottage was the highest delight of the queen's life,
the enchanting toy of her happiness. Even the little castle of
Trianon, however simple and modest, seemed too splendid for the
taste of the pastoral queen. For in Trianon one was always reminded
that the lady of this castle was a queen; there, servants were in
livery; there, officials and names and titles were to be found, even
when etiquette was forbidden entrance into the halls of the little
castle of Trianon. Marie Antoinette was no more queen there, it is
true, but she was the lady of the palace to whom the highest respect
was shown, and who therefore had been constrained expressly and
strictly to order that at her entrance into the drawing-rooms the
ladies would not interrupt the piece begun on the piano, nor stand
up if seated at their embroidery, and that the gentlemen would keep
on undisturbed their billiard-party or their game at trictrac.
But in her cottage all rank disappeared; there, was no distinction;
there, ceased the glory of name and title, and no sooner was the
castle abandoned for the cottages than each named the other with
some Arcadic, pastoral appellation, and each busied himself with his
rural avocations. How lustily the laughter, how merrily the song
sounded from these cottages amid these bowers and groves; how the
countenance of the farming-lady was lighted up with happiness and
joy; with what delight rested upon her the eye of the farmer Louis,
who in his blue blouse, with a straw hat on his head, with a rosy,
fleshy, good-natured face, was exactly fitted for his part, and who
found it no difficult task to hide under the farmer's garment the
purple of the king!
How often was Marie Antoinette seen in her simple white dress, her
glowing countenance shaded by a straw hat, bounding through the
garden as light as a gazelle, and going from the barn to the milk-
room, followed by the company she had invited to drink of her milk
and eat of her fresh eggs! How often, when the farmer Louis had
secreted himself in a grove for the sake of reading, how often was
he discovered there by the queen, torn away from his book and drawn
to a dejeuner on the grass! When that was over, and Louis had gone
back to his book, Marie Antoinette hastened to her cows to see them
milked, or she went into the rocking-boat to fish, or else reposed
on the lawn, busy as a peasant, with her spindle.
But this quiet occupation detained not long the lively, spirited
farming-lady; with a loud voice, she called to her maids or
companions from the cottages, and then began those merry,
unrestrained amusements which the queen had introduced into society,
and which since then have been introduced not only into the drawing-
rooms of the upper classes, but also into the more austere circles
of the wealthy burghers.
Then the queen with her court played at blindman's bluff, at pampam,
or at a game invented by the Duke de Chartres, the future Duke
Philippe d'Orleans, Egalite, and which game was called "descamper,"
a sort of hide-and-seek amusement, in which the ladies hid
themselves in the shady bushes and groves, to be there discovered by
the gentlemen, and then to endeavor by flight to save themselves,
for if once caught and seized they had to purchase their liberty
with a kiss.
When evening came all left the cottages for the little castle, and
the pastoral recreations gave way to the higher enjoyments of
refined society. Marie Antoinette was not in the castle of Trianon
queen again, but she was not either the simple lady of the farm, she
was the lady of the castle, and--the first amateur in the theatrical
company which twice a week exhibited their pieces in the theatre of
These theatrical performances were quite as much the queen's delight
as her pastoral occupations in her farm cottages, and Marie
Antoinette was unwearied in learning and studying her parts. She had
chosen for teachers two pensioned actors, Caillot and Dazincourt,
who had to come every day to Trianon to teach to the noble group of
actors the small operas, vaudevilles, and dramas, which had been
chosen for representation, and in which the queen naturally always
played the part of first amateur, while the princesses, the wives of
the Counts de Provence and Artois, the two Countesses de Polignac,
undertook the other parts, even those of gentlemen, when the two
brothers of the king, the only male members of this theatrical
company, could not assume all the gentlemen's parts.
At first the audience at these representations was very limited.
Only the king, the princes and the princesses of the royal
household, not engaged in the performance, constituted the audience;
but afterward it was found that to encourage the actors a little, a
larger audience was needed; then the boxes were filled with the
governesses of the princesses, the queen's waiting-women, whose
sisters and daughters with a few other select ladies had been
It was natural that those who had been thus preferred, and who
enjoyed the privilege of seeing the Queen of France, the princes and
princesses, appear as actors, should be full of admiration and
applause at the talents displayed by the royal troupe; and as they
alone formed the select audience, whose presence had for object to
animate the artistes, they had also assumed the duty to excite and
to vitalise the zeal and the fire of the players by their enthusiasm
and by their liberal praises.
This applause of a grateful public blinded the royal actors as to
their real merits, and excited in them the ambition to exhibit their
artistic talents before a larger audience and to be admired.
Consequently, the queen granted to the officers of the lifeguard and
to the masters of the king's stalls and to their brothers,
admittance into the theatre; the gentlemen and ladies of the court
had seats in the gilt boxes; a larger number of ladies were invited,
and soon from all sides came requests for tickets of admission to
the theatrical performances in the Trianon.
The same privileges which had been allowed to a few could not be,
and it was not desirable that they should be, granted to all; those
who were purposely refused revenged themselves of this refusal by an
unsparing criticism on the performers and by bitter sarcasm at the
Queen of France, who so far forgot her dignity as to play comedies
before her subjects, and who played her part not always in such a
manner as to give to a sharp criticism no reason for blame.
The queen possessed, it is true, the desire, but not the ability, to
be an actress or a songstress. When she played the part of a
comedian, no one felt tempted to laugh; but contrariwise it might
often happen that, when her part was tragical, impressive and
touching even to tears, the faces of her auditors brightened with
Once even it happened that a person from the audience, when the
queen had not yet left the stage, cried aloud, and perhaps with the
intention of being heard by her: "One must confess that royal acting
is bad acting!"
Though she understood the words, yet the smile on her lips vanished
not away; and as the Countess Diana de Polignac wished to persuade
her to allow the impertinent one who had spoken these words, to be
sought out and punished, the queen, shrugging her shoulders
answered: "My friend, I say as Madame de Maintenon: 'I am upon the
stage, and must therefore be willing to be applauded or hissed.'"
Yes, she had to endure the applause or the hissing. Unfortunately,
the number of those who hissed grew every day. The queen had
provoked public expression since she bade it defiance. On the day
she banished etiquette from its watchful duty at the apartments of
the Queen of France, the public expression with its train of
slanders and maliciousness entered in through the open portals. The
queen was blamed for her theatricals as well as for her simple,
unadorned toilet, yet she was imitated in these two things, as even
before the costly and luxurious toilet, the high head-gears of the
queen, and also blindman's buff and descamper, had been imitated.
Every woman now wanted such a simple negligee, such a headdress,
such a feather as Marie Antoinette. As once before, Madame Bertin,
the celebrated milliner of the queen, had been circumvented to
furnish a pattern of the queen's coiffure, so now all the ladies
rushed upon her in flocks to procure the small caps, fichus, and
mantelets, after the queen's model. The robes with long trains, the
court-dresses of heavy silk, jewels and gold ornaments, were on a
sudden despised; every thing which could add brilliancy and dignity
to the toilet was banished, the greatest simplicity and nonchalance
were now the fashion; every lady strove, if possible, to resemble a
shepherdess of Watteau, and it was soon impossible to distinguish a
duchess from an actress.
Not only the ladies but also the gentlemen were carried away by this
flood of novelty. They gave up the boots with red heels, the
embroidered garments, as already before they had given up laces,
bandelets, gold fringes, and diamond buttons on the hats; they put
on simple coats of cloth as the burgher and the man of the people
wore; they abandoned their equipages, with their brilliant armorial
trappings and the golden liveries, and found satisfaction in
promenading the streets, with cane in hand, and with boots instead
of buckled shoes.
It is true these street promenadings of the nobility were not
oftentimes without inconvenience and molestation. As without the
insignia of their rank and position they mixed with the society of
the streets, entered into taverns and cafes, the people took them
for what they seemed to be, for their equals, and instead of
respectfully making way for them, the people claimed as much
attention from them as they themselves were willing to give. Often
enough disputes and scuffles took place between the disguised
nobleman and the man of the people, the laborer, or the
commissionnaire, and at such experiments of hand to hand the victory
was not to the nobleman, but to the fist of the man, of the people.
The novelty of such scenes excited the fastidious aristocracy; it
became a sort of passion to mix with the people, to frequent the
cabarets, to strike some bargain at trade, to be the hero of a fist-
fight, even if it ended by the stout workmen throwing down the
aristocrats who had despised them. To be thrown down was no more
considered by the nobility as a disgrace, and they applauded these
affrays as once they had applauded duelling.
The aristocracy mixed with the people, adopted their manners and
usages, even much of their mode of thinking, of their democratic
opinions, and, by divesting themselves of their external dignity, of
their halo, the nobility threw down the barrier of separation which
stood between them and the democracy; that respect and esteem which
the man of the people had hitherto maintained toward the nobleman
The principle of equality, which was to have such fatal consequences
for France, arose from the folly of the aristocracy; and Marie
Antoinette was the one who, with her taste for simplicity, with her
opposition to etiquette and ceremony, had called this principle into
Not only was the queen imitated in her simplicity, she was also
imitated in her love of comedy. These theatrical amusements of the
queen were a subject of reproach, and yet these private recreations
of Marie Antoinette were the fashion of the day. The taste for
theatrical representations made its way into all classes of society;
soon there was no nobleman, no banker, not even a respectable, well-
to-do merchant, who had not in his house a small theatre, and who,
with his family and friends, endeavored not to emulate on his own
narrow stage the manners of the celebrated actors.
Before these days, a nobleman would have considered himself insulted
and dishonored if he had been supposed to have become a comedian, or
even to have assumed a comedian's garb, were it but in the home-
circle. The queen by her example had now destroyed this
prepossession, and it was now so much bon ton to act a comedy that
even men of gravity, even the first magistrate of Paris, could so
much forget the dignity of position as to commit to memory and even
to act some of the parts of a buffoon. [Footnote: Montjoie,
"Histoire de Marie Antoinette, Reine de France."]
It was also soon considered to be highly fashionable to set one's
self against the prejudice which had been hitherto fostered against
actors; and, whereas the queen took lessons in singing from Garat,
the opera-singer, and even sang duets with her, she threw down the
wall of partition which had hitherto separated the artistes of the
stage from good society.
Unfortunate queen, who, with the best qualities of the heart, was
preparing her own ruin; who understood not that the freedom and
license which she herself granted, would soon throw on the roof of
the Tuileries the firebrand which reduced to dust and ashes the
throne of the Bourbons!--unfortunate queen, who in her modesty would
so gladly forget her exaltation and her majesty, and who thereby
taught her subjects to make light of majesty and to despise the
She saw not yet the abyss opening under her feet; the flowers of
Trianon hid it from her view! She heard not the distant mutterings
of the public mind, which, like the raging wave of the storm,
swelled up nearer and nearer the throne to crush it one day under
the howling thunders of the unshackled elements of the unloosed rage
of the people!
The skies, arching over the fragrant blossoms of the charming
Trianon, and over the cottages of the farming queen, were yet serene
and cloudless, and the voice of public opinion was yet drowned in
the joyous laughter which echoed from the cottages of Trianon, or in
the sweet harmonies which waved in the concert-hall, when the queen,
with Garat, or with the Baron de Vaudreuil, the most welcome
favorite of the ladies, and the most accomplished courtier of his
day, sang her duets.
Repose and peace prevailed yet in Trianon, and the loyal subjects of
the King of France made their pilgrimages to Trianon, there to
admire the idyls of the queen and to watch for the favorable
opportunity of espying the queen, Marie Antoinette, in her rustic
costume, with a basket of eggs on her arm, or the spindle in hand,
and to be greeted by her with a salutation, a friendly word. For
Marie Antoinette in Trianon was only the lady of the mansion, or the
farming-lady--so much so, that she had allowed the very last duties
of etiquette, which separated the subject from the queen, to be
abandoned, that even when with her gay company she was in Trianon,
the gates of the park and of the castle were not closed to visitors,
but were opened to any one who had secured from the keeper a card of
admission; the benefit arising from these cards was applied by order
of the queen to the relief of the poor of Versailles. It is true,
one condition of small importance was attached, "by order of the
queen," to the obtaining of such a card. It was necessary to belong
to the nobility, or to the higher magistracy, so as to be entitled
to purchase a card of admission into the Trianon, and this sole
insignificant condition contained the germ of much evil and of
bitter hatred. The merchant, the spicier, was conscious of a bitter
insult in this order, which banished him from Trianon, which made it
impossible for him to satisfy his curiosity, and to see the queen as
a shepherdess, and the king as a farmer. This order only whetted
more and more the hatred and the contempt for the preferred classes,
for the aristocrats, and turned the most important class of the
population, the burgesses, into enemies of the queen. For it was the
queen who had given this order which kept away from Trianon the
tradesmen; it was the queen alone who ruled in Trianon: and, to vent
vengeance on the queen's order, she was blamed for assuming a right
belonging only to the King of France. Only he, the king, was
entitled to give laws to France, only he could set on the very front
of the law this seal: "DE PAR LE ROI."
And now the queen wanted to assume this privilege. In the castles of
pleasure presented by the king to the queen, in Trianon as well as
in St. Cloud, was seen at the entrance of the gardens a tablet,
containing the regulations under which admission was granted to the
public, and these two tablets began with the formula, "DE PAR LA
HEINE!" This unfortunate expression excited the ill-will and the
anger of all France; every one felt himself injured, every one was
satisfied to see therein an attack on the integrity of the monarchy,
on the sovereignty of the king.
"It is no more the king alone who enacts laws," they said, "but the
queen also assumes this right; she makes use of the formalities of
the state, she issues laws without the approbation of the
Parliament. The queen wants to place our king aside and despoil us
of our rights, so as to take the king's place!"
And these complaints, these reproaches became so vehement, so loud,
that their echoes resounded in the chambers of the king, so that
even one of the ministers could make observations to the king on
that subject, and say: "It is certainly immoral and impolitic for a
queen of France to own castles for her own private use" [Footnote:
Campan, "Memoires," vol. i., p. 274.]
The good Louis therefore ventured to speak to his consort on this
subject, and to ask of her to remove this expression which gave so
much offence, and which had so violently excited the public
But the pure heart of Marie Antoinette rebelled against such a
supposition; her pride was stirred up that she, a queen, the
daughter of the Caesars, should make concession to public opinion;
that she should submit to this imaginary and invisible power, which
dared despise her as a queen, which she recognized not and would not
This power, the public opinion, stood yet behind Marie Antoinette as
an invisible, an unobserved phantom, which soon was to be
transformed into a cruel monster, whose giant hand would pitilessly
crush the happiness and the peace of the queen.
The prayers and expostulations of the king were in vain. Marie
Antoinette would not bow to the public sentiment; she would not
depart from her regulations, she would not strike off her "De par la
reine" for the sake of "De par le peuple"
"My name is there in its right place," said she, with a countenance
beaming with resolution and pride; "these gardens and castles are my
property, and I can very well issue orders in them, without
interfering with state rights."
And the "De par la reine" remained on the regulation-tablets in
Trianon as well as in St. Cloud; and the people, who, through birth
or through official position, were not entitled to enter Trianon,
came thither at least to read the tablets of rules at the gate of
entrance, and to fill up their hearts with scorn and contempt, and
to utter loud curses against this presumptuous and daring "De par la
And this woman, whose pride and imperiousness kept away and scorned
away the burgesses from the gates of Trianon, came to Trianon there
to rest from the unbending majesty of her sovereignty, and she
herself used to say to her ladies, with her own enchanting smile,
"To forget that she was queen."
The numberless fairy-tales related about the enchanted castle of the
queen had found their way to Fontainebleau, and had been re-echoed
in the quiet, lonely house where lived the Marquis de Beauharnais
and his family. The marquis, always extremely attentive to procure
for his beloved daughter-in-law some distraction and some
recreation, proposed to Josephine to visit this Trianon, which
furnished so much material for admiration and slander, and to make
thither with a few friends a pleasure excursion.
Josephine gladly accepted the invitation; she longed for diversion
and society. Her young, glowing heart had been healed and
strengthened after the deep wound which the ever-beloved husband had
inflicted; she had submitted to her fate; she was a divorced woman,
but Parliament had by its judgment kept her honor free from every
shadow; public opinion had pronounced itself in her favor; the love
of her parents, of the father of him who had so shamefully accused
her, so cruelly deserted her, endeavored to make compensation for
what she had lost. Josephine could not trouble, with her sorrows,
with her sad longings of soul, those who so much busied themselves
in cheering her up. She had, therefore, so mastered herself as to
appear content, as to dry here tears; and her youth, the freshness
and elasticity of her mind, had come to the help of her efforts. She
had at first smiled through effort, she soon did it from the force
of youthful pleasure; she had at first repressed her tears by the
power of her will, soon her tears were dried up and her eyes
irradiated again the fire of youth and hope, of the hope once more
to win her husband's heart, to return her two graceful and beloved
children to their father, whom their youth needed, for whom every
evening she raised to the God of love the prayers which their mother
with low, trembling voice and tears in her eyes made them say after
Josephine, then, in company with her aunt Madame de Renaudin and
with her father-in-law the Marquis de Beauharnais, undertook this
pleasure-excursion to Trianon. The sight of these glorious parks,
these gardens so artistically laid out, charmed her and filled her
with the sweet reminiscences of the loved home, of the beautiful
gardens in Martinique, which she herself with her slaves had
cultivated, in which she had planted those beautiful flowers whose
liveliness of color and whose fragrance of blossom were here in hot-
houses so much praised. The love of plants and flowers had ever
remained fresh amid the storms and sorrows which in the last years
had passed over her heart, and oftentimes she had sought in the
study of botany forgetfulness and refreshment. With a vivacity and a
joyfulness such as had not been seen in her for a long time,
Josephine wandered about this beautiful park, these hot-houses and
gardens, and, transported with joy and admiration, she exclaimed:
"Oh, how happy must the queen be to call this paradise her own!"
The sound of approaching voices interrupted her in her observations
and in her admiration, which, perchance, was not entirely free from
envy. Through the foliage of the trees was seen a large company
approaching the queen's farm-house, before which stood Josephine
with her escort. At the curve of the path near the grove where
Josephine stood, appeared a woman. A white muslin dress, not
expanded by the stiff, ceremonious hoop-petticoat, but falling down
in ample folds, wrapped up her tall, noble figure, a small lace
kerchief covered the beautiful neck, and in part the splendid
shoulders. The deep-blond unpowdered hair hung in heavy, curly locks
on either side of the rosy cheeks; the head was covered with a
large, round straw hat, adorned with long, streaming silk ribbons;
on the arm, partly covered with a black knit glove, hung an
ornamented woven basket, which was completely filled with eggs.
"The queen!" murmured Josephine, trembling within herself, and,
frightened at this unexpected meeting, she wanted to withdraw behind
the grove, in the hope of being unnoticed by the farmer's wife
But Marie Antoinette had already seen her, and on her beautiful,
smiling countenance was not for a moment expressed either surprise
or concern at this unexpected meeting with uninvited strangers. She
was so accustomed to see curiosity-seekers in her lovely Trianon,
and to meet them, disturbed not in the least her unaffected
serenity. A moment only she stood still, to allow her followers, the
Duchesses de Polignac, the Princess de Lamballe, and the two Counts
de Coigny, to draw near; then lightly and smilingly she walked
toward the house near which Josephine bewildered and blushing stood,
whilst the marquis bowed profoundly and reverentially.
The queen, who was about to pass by and enter into the house, stood
still. Her large dark-blue eye was for a moment fixed with
questioning expression upon Josephine, then a smile illumined her
beautiful countenance. She had recognized the Viscountess de
Beauharnais, though she had seen her only twice. Although, through
her husband's rank and station, Josephine was entitled to appear at
court, yet she had always, with all the retreating anxiety of
inexperienced youth, endeavored to evade the solemnity of an
official presentation. The young, lively, unaffected Creole had
cherished an invincible horror for the stiff court-etiquette, for
the ceremonial court-dress of gold brocade, with the court-mantle
strictly embroidered after the established pattern, and which
terminated in a long, heavy train, for the majestic head-gear of
feathers, flowers, laces, and veils, all towering up nearly a yard
high, and, above all things, for those rules and laws which
regulated and fixed every word, every step, every movement, at a
solemn presentation at court.
Marie Antoinette had had compassion on the timidity of the young
Creole, and to spare her the solemnity of a rigid presentation had
twice received at a private audience the young Viscountess de
Beauharnais, and had then received also her homage. [Footnote: Le
Normand, "Histoire de l'Imperatrice Josephine," vol. i., p. 97.]
The youthful, charming appearance of Josephine, her peculiar and at
the same time ingenuous and graceful attitude, had not been without
impression on the queen; and with the most sympathizing interest,
she had heard of the sad disturbances which had clouded the
matrimonial happiness of the young Creole.
No longer, as before, had Marie Antoinette requested the Viscount de
Beauharnais, the beautiful dancer of Versailles, to dance with her;
and when Parliament had given its sentence, and openly and solemnly
had proclaimed the innocency of Josephine, the accused wife, the
queen also had loudly expressed her satisfaction at this judgment,
and the Viscount de Beauharnais was no more invited to the court
About to enter into the house, the queen had recognized the young
viscountess, and with a friendly movement of the head she beckoned
her to approach, welcomed the marquis, whom her short-sightedness
had not at once recognized, to her beloved Trianon, and she
requested them both to visit her little kingdom as often as they
would wish, and to examine every thing attentively.
In the goodness and generosity of her heart, the queen gladly
desired to make amends to the young, timid woman, who, embarrassed
and blushing, stood before her, for the sufferings she had endured,
for the disgrace under which she had had to bow her head; she wanted
to give the accused innocent one a reparation of honor such as
Parliament and public sentiment had already done.
She was consequently all goodness, all condescension, all
confidence; she spoke to Josephine, not as a queen to her favored
subjects, but as a young woman to a young woman, as to her equal.
With sympathetic friendliness she made inquiries concerning the
welfare of the viscountess and her family; she invited her to come
often to Trianon, and, with a flattering allusion to the vast
knowledge of the viscountess in botany, she asked her if she was
satisfied with the arrangements of garden and hot-houses.
Josephine, with the sensitiveness and fine tact natural to her, felt
that the trivial flattery of a courtier would but be a wretched and
inappropriate return for so much goodness and loving-kindness; she
felt that frankness and truth were the thanks due to the queen's
She therefore answered the queen's questions with impartial
sincerity, and, encouraged by the kindness of the queen, she openly
and clearly gave her opinion concerning the arrangement of the hot-
houses, and drew the attention of the queen to some precious and
choice plants which she had noticed in the hot-houses.
Marie Antoinette listened to her with lively interest, and at
parting extended to her in a friendly manner her beautiful hand.
"Come soon again, viscountess," said she, with that beautiful smile
which ever won her true hearts; "you are worthy to enjoy the beauty
of my beloved Trianon, for you have eyes and sense for the
beautiful. Examine everything closely, and when we see one another
again, tell me what you have observed and what has pleased you. It
will ever be a pleasure to see you." [Footnote: The very words of
the queen.--See Le Normand, "Histoire," &c., vol. i., p. 135.]
But Josephine was no more to see the beautiful queen, so worthy of
compassion; and these kind words which Marie Antoinette had spoken
to her were the last which Josephine was ever to hear from her lips.
A few days after this visit to Trianon, Josephine received from her
parents in Martinique letters which had for their object to persuade
her with the tenderness of love, with all the reasons of wisdom, to
return to her home, to the house of her parents, to withdraw with
bold resolution from all the inconveniences and humiliations of her
precarious and dangerous situation, and, instead of living in humble
solitude as a divorced, despised woman, sooner to come to
Martinique, and there in her parents' home be again the beloved and
Josephine hesitated still. She could not come to the resolution of
abandoning the hope of a reunion with Alexandre de Beauharnais; she
dreamt yet of the happiness of seeing the beloved wanderer return to
his wife, to his children.
But her aunt and her father-in-law knew better than she that there
was no prospect of such an event; they knew that the viscount was
still the impassioned lover of the beautiful Madame de Gisard; that
she held him too tightly in her web to look for a possibility of his
returning to his legitimate affection.
If any thing could rouse him from this love-spell, and bring him
back to duty and reason, it would be that sudden, unexpected
departure; it would be the conviction which would necessarily be
impressed upon him, that Josephine desired to be forever separated
from him; that she was conscious of being divorced from him forever,
and that, in the pride of her insulted womanhood, she wished to
withdraw herself and her daughter from his approaches, and from the
scandal which his passion for Madame de Gisard was giving.
Such were the reasons with which her relatives, even the grandfather
of her two children, sought to persuade her to a voyage to
Martinique--bitter though the anguish would be for them to be
deprived of the presence of the gentle, lovely young woman, whose
youthful freshness and grace had like sunshine cheered the lonely
house in Fontainebleau; to see also part from them the little
Hortense, whose joyous voice of childhood had now and then recalled
the faithless son to the father's house, and which was still a bond
which united Josephine with her husband and with his family.
Josephine had to give way before these arguments, however much her
heart bled. She had long felt how much of impropriety and of danger
there was in the situation of a young woman divorced from her
husband, and how much more dignified and expedient it would be for
her to return to her father's home and to the bosom of her family.
She therefore took a decided resolution; she tore herself away from
her relatives, from her beloved son, whom she could not take with
her, for he belonged to the father. With a stream of painful tears
she bade farewell to the love of youth, to the joys of youth, from
which naught remained but the wounds of a despised heart, and the
children who gazed at her with the beloved eyes of their father.
In the month of July of the year 1788, Josephine, with her little
five-year-old daughter Hortense, left Fontainebleau, went to Havre,
whence she embarked for Martinique.
LIEUTENANT NAPOLEON BONAPARTE.
While the Viscountess Josephine de Beauharnais was, during long
years of resignation, enduring all the anguish, humiliations, and
agonies of an unhappy marriage, the first pain and sorrow had also
clouded the days of the young Corsican boy who, in the same year as
Josephine, had embarked from his native land for France.
In the beginning of the year 1785, Napoleon Bonaparte had lost his
father. In Montpellier, whither he had come for the cure of his
diseased breast, he died, away from home, from his Letitia and his
children. Only his eldest son Joseph stood near his dying couch,
and, moreover, a fortunate accident had brought to pass that the
poor, lonely sufferer should meet there a friendly home, where he
was received with the most considerate affection. Letitia's
companion of youth, the beautiful Panonia Comnene, now Madame de
Permont, resided in Montpellier with her husband, who was settled
there, and with all the faithfulness and friendship of a Corsican,
she nursed the sick husband of her Letitia.
But neither the skill of the renowned physicians of Montpellier, nor
the tender care of friends, nor the tears of the son, could keep
alive the unfortunate Charles de Bonaparte. For three days long he
struggled with death; for three days long his youth, his manhood's
powers, resisted the mighty foe, which already held him in its
chains; then he had to submit to the conqueror. Exhausted with
death's pallor, Charles de Bonaparte sank back on his couch, and as
Death threw his dark shadows on his face bathed in cold
perspiration, Charles de Bonaparte, with stammering tongue, in the
last paroxysms of fancy, exclaimed: "It is in vain! Nothing can save
me! Even Napoleon's sword, which one day is to triumph over ail
Europe, even that sword cannot frighten away the dragon of death
which crouches on my breast!" [Footnote: See "Memoires du Roi
Joseph," vol. i., p. 29.]
Wonderful vision of a dying man! The dimmed eye of the dying father
saw his son Napoleon's sword, "which one day was to triumph over all
Europe;" as he prophesied its power, he sighed at the same time over
the impotency which holds all mankind in its bands, and leaves even
the hero as a powerless child in the hands of fate. The sword which
was to be a yoke to all Europe could not terrify from the breast of
his father the dragon of death!
Napoleon received the news of his father's decease whilst at the
military school of Paris, where he had been placed for the last six
months, to the joy and satisfaction of his teachers as well as to
that of his schoolmates in Brienne. For the reserved, taciturn,
proud boy, who, rugged and blunt, stood aloof from his comrades, who
even dared speak rude and bitter words against his teachers and
against the whole military institution at Brienne, was oftentimes an
inconvenience and a burden as well to teachers as to schoolmates;
and all felt relieved, as from a depressing weight, when they no
more feared the naming eyes of the boy who observed every thing, who
criticised every thing, and passed judgment upon every thing.
But if he was not loved, it was impossible to refuse esteem to his
capacity, to his desire for learning; and the testimony which
Monsieur de Heralio, the principal of the institution of Brienne,
sent with the young Napoleon to Paris, was a tribute of respect and
an acknowledgment of merit. He portrayed him "as having an extremely
capacious head, especially skilled in mathematics, and of great
powers and talents." As to his character, one of the professors of
the institution had in the testimonial written the remark: "A
Corsican by birth and character. He will do great things, if
circumstances are favorable."
But circumstances did not appear favorable/but contrariwise seemed
to bo roused in enmity against the poor Corsican boy. He had been
scarcely half a year in Paris when he lost his father, and this
grief, of which not a murmur escaped, which he kept within,
devouring his heart, as every thing else which affected him, made
his existence still more reserved, still more retired, and isolated
him more and more. Moreover, death had not only taken away the
father, but also the support which Napoleon received from him. The
means of the Bonaparte family were very meagre, and barely sufficed
to the support of Signora Letitia and her seven children. Napoleon
could not and dared not require or accept any help from his mother,
on whom and on his brother Joseph it became incumbent to educate and
support the young family. He had to be satisfied to live upon the
bounty which the royal treasury furnished to the young men at the
But these limited means were to the ambitious boy a source of
humiliation and pain. The majority of his comrades consisted of
young aristocrats, who, provided with ample means, led a gay,
luxurious, dissipated life, had horses, servants, equipages, kept up
one with another expensive dinner-parties and dejeuners, and seized
every opportunity to organize a festivity or a pleasure-party. Every
departure, every admission of a scholar, was celebrated with
brilliant display; every birthday furnished the opportunity of a
feast, and every holiday became the welcomed occasion for a pleasure
excursion which the young men on horseback, and followed by their
servants in livery, made in the vicinity of Paris.
Napoleon could take no part in all these feastings and dissipations;
and as his proud heart could not acknowledge his poverty, he put on
the mask of a stoic, who, with contemptuous disregard, cast away
vain pleasures and amusements, and scorned those who with
unrestrained zest abandoned themselves to them.
He had scarcely been half a year in the military school when he gave
loud expression to his jealousy and envy; the young Napoleon, nearly
sixteen years old, undertook boldly to censure in the very presence
of the teachers the regulations of the institution. In a memorial
which he had composed, and which he presented to the second director
of the establishment, M. Berton, he gave utterance to his own views
in the most energetic and daring manner, imposing upon the
professors the duty of making a complete change in the institution;
of limiting the number of servants, so that the military pupils
might learn to wait upon themselves; of simplifying the noonday
meal, so as to accustom them to moderation; of forbidding banquets,
dejeuners, and pleasure-excursions, so that they might not become
inured to a frivolous, extravagant mode of life.
This mask of a censuring stoic, which he put on in the presence of
teachers and school-mates, he retained also with his few friends.
Madame de Permont, a short time after the death of Napoleon's
father, came with her family to Paris, where her husband had
obtained an important and lucrative office; her son Albert attended
the military school and was soon the friend of Napoleon, as much as
a friendship could be formed between the young, lively M. de
Permont, the son of wealthy and distinguished parents, and the
reserved, proud Napoleon Bonaparte, the son of a poor, lonely widow.
However, Napoleon this time acquiesced in the wishes of his true
friend, and condescended to pass his holidays with Albert in the
house of Madame de Permont, the friend of his mother; and oftentimes
his whole countenance would brighten into a smile, when speaking
with her of the distant home, of the mother, and of the family. But
as many times also that countenance would darken when, gazing round,
he tacitly compared this costly, tastefully decorated mansion with
the poor and sparingly furnished house in which his noble and
beautiful mother lived with her six orphans, and who in her
household duties had to wait upon herself; when again he noticed
with what solicitude and love Madame de Permont had her children
educated by masters from the court, by governesses and by teachers
at enormous salaries, whilst her friend Letitia had to content
herself with the very deficient institutions of learning to be found
in Corsica, because her means were not sufficient to bring to Paris,
to the educational establishment of St. Cyr, her young daughters,
like the parents of the beautiful Pauline.
The young Napoleon hated luxury, because he himself had not the
means of procuring it; he spoke contemptuously of servants, for his
position allowed him not to maintain them; he spoke against the
expensive noonday meal, because he had to be content with less; he
scorned the amusements of his school-mates, because, when they
arranged their picnics and festivities, his purse allowed him not to
take a part in them.
One day in the military school, as one of the teachers was to bid it
farewell, the scholars organized a festivity, toward which each of
them was to contribute a tolerably large sum. It was perhaps not all
accident that precisely on that day M. de Permont, the father of
Albert, came to the military school to visit his son, and Napoleon,
his son's friend.
He found all the scholars in joyous excitement and motion; his son
Albert was, like the rest, intently busy with the preparations of
the feast, which was to take place in the garden, and to end in a
great display of fireworks. All faces beamed with delight, all eyes
were illumined, and the whole park re-echoed with jubilant cries and
But Napoleon Bonaparte was not among the gay company. M. de Permont
found him in a remote, lonesome path. He was walking up and down
with head bent low, his hands folded behind his back; as he saw M.
de Permont, his face became paler and gloomier, and a look nearly
scornful met the unwelcomed disturber.
"My young friend," said M. de Permont, with a friendly smile, "I
come to bring you the small sum which you need to enable you to take
a part in the festivity. Here it is; take it, I pray you."
But Napoleon, with a vehement movement of the hand, waved back the
offered money, a burning redness for a moment covered his face, then
his cheeks assumed that yellowish whiteness which in the child had
always indicated a violent emotion.
"No," cried he, vehemently, "no, I have nothing to do with this
meaningless festivity. I thank you--I receive no alms."
M. de Permont gazed with emotions of sympathizing sorrow in the pale
face of the poor young man for whom poverty was preparing so many
griefs, and in the generosity of his heart he had recourse to a
"This is no alms I offer you, Napoleon," said he, gently, "but this
money belongs to you, it comes from your father. At his dying hour
he confided to me a small sum of money, with the express charge to
keep it for you and to give you a portion of it in pressing
circumstances, when your personal honor required it. I therefore
bring you to-day the fourth part of this sum, and retain the rest
for another pressing occasion."
With a penetrating, searching look. Napoleon gazed into the face of
the speaker, and the slight motions of a sarcastic smile played for
an instant around his thin, compressed lips.
"Well, then," said he, after a pause, "since this money comes from
my father, I can use it; but had you simply wished to lend it to me,
I could not have received it. My mother has already too much
responsibility and care; I cannot increase them by an outlay,
especially when such an outlay is imposed upon me by the sheer folly
of my schoolmates." [Footnote: Napoleon's words.--See "Memoires de
la Duchesse d'Abrantes," vol. i., p. 81.]
He then took the offered sum for which, as he thought, he was
indebted to no man, and hastened to pay his contribution to the
festivity. But, in respect to his principles, he took no part in the
festivity, but declaimed all the louder, and in a more biting tone,
against the criminal propensities for pleasure in the young men who,
instead of turning their attention to their studies, lavished away
their precious time in dissipation and frivolities.
These anxieties and humiliations of poverty Napoleon had doubly to
endure, not only for himself, but also for his sister Marianne (who
afterward called herself Elise). She had been, as already said, at
her father's intercession and application, received in the royal
educational institute of St. Cyr, and there enjoyed the solid and
brilliant education of the pupils of the king. But the spirit of
luxury and the desire for pleasure had also penetrated into this
institution, founded by the pious and high-minded Madame de
Maintenon, and the young ladies of St. Cyr had among themselves
picnics and festivals, as well as the young men of the military
Napoleon, whose means, as long as he was in Brienne, never allowed
him to visit his beloved sister at St. Cyr, had now frequent
opportunities of seeing her, for Madame de Permont, in her royal
friendship to the Bonaparte family, took as lively an interest in
the daughter as in the son of her friend Letitia, and often drove to
St. Cyr to visit the young and beautiful Marianne.
A few days after the festival in the military school, a short
vacation had followed, and Napoleon passed it with his friend Albert
in the house of the family of Permont. To please young Napoleon, it
was decided to go to St. Cyr, and the glowing cheeks and the lively
manner with which Napoleon, during the journey, conversed with M.
and Madame de Permont, proved what satisfaction he anticipated in
meeting his sister.
But Marianne Bonaparte did not seem to share this satisfaction. With
downcast countenance and sad mien she entered the reception-room and
saluted M. and Madame Permont, and even her brother, with a gloomy,
despairing look. As she was questioned about the cause of her
sadness, she broke into tears, and threw herself with vehement
emotion into the arms of Madame de Permont.
Vain were the prayers and expostulations of her mother's friend to
have her reveal the cause of her sadness. Marianne only shook her
head in a negative manner, and ever a fresh flow of tears started
from her eyes, but she remained silent.
Napoleon, who at first, pale and silent, had looked on this outbreak
of sorrow, now excitedly approached his sister, and, laying his hand
upon her arm, said in angry tones: "Since you cry, you must also
confess the cause of your tears, or else we are afraid that you weep
over some wrong of which you are guilty. But woe to you if it is so!
I am here in the name of our father, and I will be without pity!"
[Footnote: "Memoires de la Duehesse d'Abrantes."]
Marianne trembled, and cast a timid, anxious look upon her young
brother, whose voice had assumed such a peculiar, imperious
expression--whose eyes shone with the expression of a proud, angry
"I am in no wise guilty, my brother," murmured she, "and yet I am
sad and unhappy."
And blushing, trembling, with broken words, interrupted by tears and
sighs, Marianne related that next day, a farewell festival was to
take place in the institution in honor of one of the pupils about to
leave. The whole class was taking a part in it, and each of the
young ladies had already paid her contribution.
"But I only am not able," exclaimed Marianne, with a loud burst of
anguish, "I have but six francs; if I give them, nothing is left me,
and my pension is not paid until six weeks. But even were I to give
all I have, my miserable six francs would not be enough."
Very unwillingly indeed had Napoleon, whilst Marianne thus spoke,
put his hand into his pocket, as if to draw out the money which his
sorrowing sister needed, but remembering his own poverty, his hand
dropped at his side; a deep glow of anger overspread his cheeks, and
wildly stamping down with the foot he turned away and walked to the
window, perhaps to allow none to notice the nervous agitation of his
countenance and his tears of vexation and shame.
But what Napoleon could not do, that did Madame de Permont. She gave
to the weeping young girl the twelve francs she needed to take a
part in the festivity, and Marianne, less proud and less disdainful
than her brother, accepted gladly, without opposition and without
the need of a falsehood, the little sum offered.
Napoleon allowed this to take place without contradiction, and
hindered not his sister to receive from Madame de Permont the alms
which he himself had so arrogantly refused.
But they had barely left the reception-room and entered the
carriage, than his suffering heart burst into a sarcastic philippic
against the contemptible administration of such royal establishments
as St. Cyr and the military school.
M. de Permont, who had at first patiently and with a smile listened
to these raving invectives, felt himself at last wounded by them;
and the supercilious and presumptuous manner in which the young man
of barely seventeen years spoke of the highest offices of the state,
and of the king himself, excited his anger.
"Hush, Napoleon!" said he, reluctantly. "It does not beseem you, who
are educated upon the king's bounty, to speak thus."
Napoleon shrank within himself as if he had been bitten by a
serpent, and a deadly pallor overspread his cheeks.
"I am not the pupil of the king, but of the state!" exclaimed he, in
a boisterous voice, trembling with passion.
"Ah, that is indeed a fine distinction which you have made there,
Napoleon," said M. de Permont, laughing. "It is all the same whether
you are the pupil of the state or of the king; moreover, is not the
king the state also? However it may be, it beseems you not to speak
of your benefactor in such inappropriate terms."
Napoleon concentrated all his efforts into self-control, and
mastered himself into a grave, quiet countenance.
"I will be silent," said he, with an appearance of composure; "I
will no more say what might excite your displeasure. Only allow me
to say, were I master here, had I to decide upon the regulations of
these institutions, I would have them very different, and for the
good of all."
"Were I master here!" The pupil of the military school, for whom
poverty was preparing so much humiliation, who had just now
experienced a fresh humiliation through his sister in the reception-
room of St. Cyr, was already thinking what he would do were he the
ruler of France; and, strange enough, these words seemed natural to
his lips, and no one thought of sneering or laughing at him when he
Meanwhile his harsh and repulsive behavior, his constant fault-
finding and censoriousness were by no means conducive to the
friendship and affection of those around him; he was a burden to
all, he was an inconvenience to all; and the teachers as well as the
pupils of the military school were all anxious to get rid of his
As nothing else could be said to his reproach; as there was no
denying his assiduity, his capacities, and progress, there was but
one means of removing him from the institution--he had to be
promoted. It was necessary to recognize the young pupil of the
military school as competent to enter into the practical, active
military service; it was necessary to make a lieutenant out of the
Scarcely had one year passed since Napoleon had been received into
the military school of Paris, when he was nominated by the
authorities of the school for a vacancy in the rank of lieutenant,
and he was promoted to it in the artillery regiment of La Fere, then
stationed at Valence.
In the year 1786 Napoleon left the military school to serve his
country and his king as second lieutenant, and to take the oath of
Radiant with happiness and joy, proud alike of his promotion and of
his uniform, the young lieutenant went to the house of M. de Permont
to show himself to his friends in his new dignity and in his new
splendors, and, at their invitation, to pass a few days in their
house before leaving for Valence.
But, alas! his appearance realized not the wished-for result. As he
entered the saloon of Madame de Permont the whole family was
gathered there, and at the sight of Napoleon the two daughters,
girls of six and thirteen years, broke out into loud laughter. None
are more alive than children to the impression of what is
ridiculous, and there was indeed in the appearance of the young
lieutenant something which well might excite the laughing
propensities of the lively little maidens. The uniform appeared much
too long and wide for the little meagre figure of Napoleon, and his
slender legs vanished in boots of such height and breadth that he
seemed more to swim than to walk with them.
These boots especially had excited the laughter of the little
maidens; and at every step which Napoleon, embarrassed as he was by
the terrible cannon-boots, made forward, the laughter only
increased, so that the expostulations and reproaches of Madame de
Permont could not procure silence.
Napoleon, who had entered the drawing-room with a face radiant with
joy, felt wounded by the children's joyousness at his own cost. To
be the subject of scorn or sarcasm was then, as it was afterward,
entirely unbearable to him, and when he himself also tried to jest
he knew not how to receive the jests directed at him. After having
saluted M. and Madame de Permont, Napoleon turned to the eldest
daughter Cecilia, who, a few days before, had come from the
boarding-school to remain a short time at home, and who, laughing,
had placed herself right before monsieur the lieutenant.
"I find your laughter very silly and childish," said he, eagerly.
The young maid, however, continued to laugh.
"M. Lieutenant," said she, "since you carry such a mighty sword, you
no doubt wish to carry it as a lady's knight, and therefore you must
consider it an honor when ladies jest with you."
Napoleon gave a contemptuous shrug of the shoulders.
"It is evident," said he, scornfully, "that you are but a little
These sarcastic words wounded the vanity of the young maiden, and
brought a glow of anger on her face.
"Well, yes," cries she, angrily, "I am a school-girl, but you--you
are nothing else than a puss in boots!"
A general laugh followed; even Madame de Permont, ordinarily so good
and so considerate, could not suppress laughter. The witty words of
the little school-girl were too keen and too applicable that she
should be subjected to reproach.
Napoleon's wrath was indescribable. His visage was overspread with a
yellow-greenish pallor, his lips were contracted nervously, and
already opened for a word of anger. But he suppressed that word with
an effort; for though not yet familiar with all the forms and usages
of society, his fine tact and the instinct of what was becoming told
him that when the conversation ran into personalities the best plan
was to be silent, and that he must not return personal remarks,
since his opponent was one of the fair sex. He therefore remained
silent, and so controlled himself as to join in the general laughter
and to show himself heartily amused at the unfortunate nickname of
the little Cecilia.
And that every one might be convinced how much he himself had been
amused at this little scene, he brought, a few days afterward, to
the youngest daughter of Madame de Permont, a charming little toy
which he had had made purposely for her. This toy consisted of a
small gilt and richly-ornamented carriage of papier-mache, before
which leaped along a very lovely puss in boots.
To this present for the little Lolotte (afterward Duchess
d'Abrantes), was added for Cecilia an elegant and interesting
edition of the tales of "Puss in Boots," and when Napoleon politely
presented it to the young maid he begged her to receive kindly this
small souvenir from him.
"That is too much," said Madame de Permont, shaking her head. "The
toy for Loulou would have been quite enough. But this present to
Cecilia shows that you took her jest in earnest, and were hurt by
Napoleon, however, affirmed that he had not taken the jest in
earnest, that he had been no wise hurt by it; that he himself when
he put on his uniform had to laugh at the nickname of "puss in
boots" which dear Cecilia had given him.
He had, however, endeavored no more to deserve this nickname, and
the unlucky boots were replaced by much smaller and closer-fitting
A few days after this little incident the young second lieutenant
left Paris and went to meet his regiment La Fere at Valence.
A life of labor and study, of hopes and dreams, now began for the
young lieutenant. He gave himself up entirely to his military
service, and pursued earnest, scientific studies in regard to it.
Mathematics, the science of war, geometry, and finally politics,
were the objects of his zeal; but alongside of these he read and
studied earnestly the works of Voltaire, Corneille, Racine,
Montaigne, the Abbe Raynal, and, above all, the works of Jean
Jacques Rousseau, whose passionate and enthusiastic disciple
Napoleon Bonaparte was at that time. [Footnote: "Memoires du Roi
Joseph," vol. i., p. 33.]
Amid so many grave occupations of the mind it would seem that the
heart with all its claims had to remain in the background. The
smiling boy Cupid, with his gracious raillery and his smarting
griefs, seemed to make no impression on that pale, grave, and
taciturn artillery lieutenant, and not to dare shoot an arrow toward
that bosom which had mailed itself in an impenetrable cuirass of
misanthropy, stoicism, and learning.
But yet between the links of this coat-of-mail an arrow must have
glided, for the young lieutenant suddenly became conscious that
there in his bosom a heart did beat, and that it was going in the
midst of his studies to interrupt his dreams of misanthropy. Yes. it
had come to this, that he abandoned his study to pay his court to a
young lady, that at her side he lost his gravity of mien, his gloomy
taciturnity, and became joyous, talkative, and merry, as beseemed a
young man of his age.
The young lady who exercised so powerful an influence upon the young
Bonaparte was the daughter of the commanding officer at Valence, M.
de Colombier. He loved her, but his lips were yet too timid to
confess it, and of what need were words to these young people to
understand one another and to know what the one felt for the other?
In the morning they took long walks through the beautiful park; they
spoke one to another of their childhood, of their brothers and
sisters, and when the young maid with tears in her eyes listened to
the descriptions which Napoleon made to her of his country, of his
father's house, and, above all things, of his mother--when she with
animation and enthusiasm declared that Letitia was a heroine greater
than whom antiquity had never seen, then Napoleon would take her two
hands in his and thank her with tremulous voice for the love which
she consecrated to his noble mother.
If in the morning they had to separate, as an indemnification an
evening walk in the light of the moon was agreed upon, and the young
maid promised heroically to come without uncertainty, however
imperative was her mother's prohibition. And truly, when her mother
was asleep, she glided down into the park, and Napoleon welcomed her
with a happy smile, and arm in arm, happy as children, they wandered
through the paths, laughing at their own shadows, which the light of
the moon in wondrous distortion made to dance before them. They
entered into a small bower, which stood in the shadow of trees, and
there the young Napoleon had prepared for the young maid a very
pleasing surprise. There on the table was a basket full of her
favorite fruit--full of the sweetest, finest cherries. Louise
thanked her young lover with a hand-pressure for the tender
attention, but she declared that she would touch none of the
cherries unless Napoleon enjoyed them with her, and to please his
beloved he had to obey.
They sat down on the seat before the bower and enjoyed the golden
light of the moon, the night air amid the lime-trees, the joy of
being thus secretly together, and with infinite delight they ate of
the sweet juicy cherries. But when the last cherry was eaten, the
moon became darkened, a rude night breeze shook the trees, and made
the young maid tremble with cold. She must not remain from home any
longer, she must not expose herself to the dangerous night air; thus
argued the considerate tenderness of the young lieutenant, and,
kissing her hand, he bade farewell to Louise, and watched until the
tender ethereal figure had vanished behind the little door which led
from the park into the house. [Footnote: "Memorial de St. Helene,"
The sweet idyl of his first love had, however, come to a sudden and
unexpected end. The young Second-Lieutenant Bonaparte was ordered to
Lyons with his regiment, and the first innocent romance of his heart
But he never forgot the young maid, whom he then had so tenderly
loved, and in the later days of his grandeur he remembered her, and
when he learned that she had lost her husband, a M. de Bracieux, and
lived in very depressing circumstances, he appointed her maid of
honor to his sister Elise, and secured her a very handsome
The dream of his first love had been dreamed away; and, perhaps to
forget it, Napoleon again in Lyons gave himself up with deepest
earnestness to study. The Academy of Sciences in Lyons had offered a
prize for the answer to the question: "What are the sentiments and
emotions which are to be instilled into men, so as to make them
Napoleon entered the lists for this prize, and, if his work did not
receive the prize, it furnished the occasion for the Abbe Raynal,
who had answered the question successfully, to become acquainted
with the young author, and to encourage him to persevere in his
literary pursuits, for which he had exhibited so much talent.
Napoleon then, with all the fire of his soul, began a new work, the
history of the revolutions in Corsica; and, in order to make
accurate researches in the archives of Ajaccio, he obtained leave of
absence to go thither. In the year 1788, Napoleon returned to his
native isle to his mother, to his brothers and sisters, all of whom
he had not seen for nine years, and was welcomed by them with the
But the joys of the family could draw away the young man but little
from his studies and researches; and, however much he loved his
mother, brothers and sisters, now much grown up, yet he preferred
being alone with his elder brother Joseph, making long walks with
him, and in solemn exchange of thoughts and sentiments,
communicating to him his studies, his hopes, his dreams for the
To acquire distinction, fame, reputation with the actual world, and
immortality with the future--such was the object on which all the
wishes, all the hopes of Napoleon were concentrated; and in long
hours of conversation with Joseph he spoke of the lofty glory to
carve out an immortal name, to accomplish deeds before which
admiring posterity would bow.
Did Napoleon then think of purchasing for himself an immortal name
as writer, as historian? At least he studied very earnestly the
archives of Ajaccio, and sent a preliminary essay of his history of
the revolutions of Corsica to Raynal for examination. This renowned
savant of his day warmly congratulated the young author on his work,
and asked him to send a copy that he might show it to Mirabeau.
Napoleon complied with these wishes; and when, a few weeks after, he
received a letter from Raynal, after reading it, he, with radiant
eyes and a bright smile, handed it to his brother Joseph.
In this letter of Raynal were found these words: "Monsieur de
Mirabeau has in this little essay found traits which announce a
genius of the first rank. He entreats the young author to come to
him in Paris." [Footnote: "Memoires du Roi Joseph," vol. i., p. 33.]
But the young author could not at once obey the call of the Count de
Mirabeau. A sad family bereavement delayed him at the time in
Corsica. The brother of his grandfather, the aged Archdeacon Lucian,
the faithful counsellor and friend of Letitia and of her young
family, was seized with a mortal disease; the gout, which for years
had tormented him, was now to give him the fatal blow, and the whole
family of the Bonapartes was called to the bedside of the old man to
receive his parting words.
Weeping, they all stood around his couch; weeping, Letitia bent over
the aged man, whose countenance was already signed with the hand of
death. Around kneeled the younger children of Letitia, for their
great-uncle had long been to them a kind father and protector; and
on the other side of the couch, facing Letitia and her brother, the
Abbe Fesch, stood Joseph and Napoleon, gazing with sad looks on
His large, already obscured eyes wandered with a deep, searching
glance upon all the members of the Bonaparte family, and then at
last remained fixed with a wondrous brilliancy of expression on the
pale, grave face of Napoleon.
At this moment, the Abbe Fesch, with a voice trembling with emotion
and full of holy zeal, began to intone the prayers for the dead. But
the old priest ordered him with a voice full of impatience to be
"I have prayed long enough in my life," said he; "I have now but a
few moments to live, and I must give them to my family."
The loud sobbings of Letitia and of her children interrupted him,
and called forth a last genial smile upon the already stiffening
"Letitia," said he, in a loud, friendly tone, "Letitia, cease to
shed tears; I die happy, for I see you surrounded by all your
children. My life is no longer necessary to the children of my dear
Charles; I can therefore die. Joseph is at the head of the
administration of the country, and he will know how to take care of
what belongs to his family. You, Napoleon," continued he, with a
louder voice, "you will be a great and exalted man." [Footnote: "Tu
poi. Napoleon, serai unomone" such were the words of the dying man,
assures us King Joseph in his memoirs; whilst Las Casas, in his
memorial of St. Helena, makes Napoleon relate that his uncle had
told him, "You, Napoleon, will be the head of the family."]
His eyes turned on Napoleon, he sank back on the cushions, and his
dying lips murmured yet once more, "Tu serai unomone!"
After the body of the worthy great-uncle had been laid in the grave,
Napoleon left Corsica to return to France and to his regiment, for
the time of his leave of absence had expired.
For the second time the lips of a dying man had prophesied him a
great and brilliant future. His dying father had said that one day
the sword of his son Napoleon would make all Europe bow under the
yoke; his great-uncle had prophesied he would be a great and exalted
To these prophecies of the dying is to be added Mirabeau's judgment,
which called Napoleon a genius of the first stamp.
But this great and glorious future was yet screened under dark
clouds from the eyes of the young lieutenant of artillery, and the
blood-dripping hand of the Revolution was first needed to tear away
these clouds and to convert the king's lieutenant of artillery into
the Emperor of France!
A PAGE FROM HISTORY.
The dark clouds which hung yet over the future of Napoleon
Bonaparte, the lieutenant of artillery, were gathering in heavier
and heavier masses over all France, and already were overshadowing
the throne of the lilies.
Marie Antoinette had already abandoned the paradise of innocency in
Trianon, and when she came there now it was to weep in silence, to
cast away the mask from her face, and under the garb of the proud,
imperious, ambitious queen to exhibit the pallid, anxious
countenance of the woman.
Alas! they were passed away, those days of festivity, those innocent
joys of Trianon; the royal farmer's wife had no more the heart to
carry the spindle, to gather eggs from the hens' nests, and to
perform with her friends the joyous idyls of a pastoral life.
The queen had procured for herself a few years of freedom and
license by banishing from Versailles and from the Tuileries the
burdensome Madame Etiquette, who hitherto had watched over every
step of a Queen of France, but in her place Madame Politique had
entered into the palace, and Marie Antoinette could not drive her
away as she had done with Madame Etiquette.
For Madame Politique came into the queen's apartments, ushered in by
a powerful and irresistible suite. The failure of the crops
throughout the land, want, the cries of distress from a famishing
people, the disordered finances of the state--such was the suite
which accompanied Politique before the queen; pamphlets,
pasquinades, sarcastic songs on Marie Antoinette, whom no more the
people called their queen, but already the foreigner,
L'Autrichienne--such were the gifts which Politique brought for the
The beautiful and innocent days of Trianon were gone, no longer
could Marie Antoinette forget that she was a queen! The burden of
her lofty position pressed upon her always; and, if now and then she
sought to adorn her head with roses, her crown pressed their thorns
with deeper pain into her brow.
Unfortunate queen! Even the circle of friends she had gathered round
her person only urged her on more and more into the circle which
politics had traced around her. In her innocency and thoughtlessness
of heart she imagined that, to a queen as to any other woman, it
might be allowed to have about her friends and confidants, to enjoy
the pleasures of society, and to amuse one another! But now she had
to learn that a queen dare not have confidants, friends, or social
Her friends, in whose disinterestedness she had trusted, approached
her with demands, with prayers; they claimed power, influence, and
distinctions; they all wanted to rule through the queen; they all
wanted through her to impose laws to king and state; they wanted to
name and to depose ministers; they wanted their friendship to be
rewarded with embassies, ministerial offices, decorations, and
And when Marie Antoinette refused compliance with their wishes, her
beautiful friends, the Duchesses de Polignac, wept, and her friends,
Messieurs Vesenval, Vaudreuil, Coigny, and Polignac, dared be angry
and murmur at her.
But when Marie Antoinette consented--when she used her influence
with the king, to satisfy the wishes of her friends, and to make
ministers of her facon--then the queen's enemies, with loud, mad-dog
cry, lifted up the voice and complained and clamored that it was no
more the king but the queen who reigned; that she was the one who
precipitated the nation into wretchedness and want; that she gave
millions to her friends, whilst the people were perishing with
hunger; that she sent millions to her brother, the Emperor of
Austria, whilst the country was only able to pay the interest of her
enormous debt; that she, in unrestrained appetite and
licentiousness, lived only for pleasure and festivities, whilst
France was depressed under misery and want.
And the queen's enemies were mightier, more numerous, and more loyal
one to another than the queen's friends, who were ever ready to pass
into the camp of her foes as soon as Marie Antoinette gratified not
their wishes and would not satisfy their political claims.
At the head of these enemies was the king's brother, the Count de
Provence, who never forgave the queen for being an Austrian
princess; there were also the king's aunts, who could never forgive
her that the king loved her, that by means of this love to his wife
they should lose the influence which these aunts, and especially
Madame Adelaide, had before exercised over him; there was the Duke
d'Orleans, who had to revenge himself for the disgust and dislike
which Marie Antoinette publicly expressed against this vicious and
wild prince; there was the Cardinal Prince de Rohan, whose criminal
passion the queen had repelled with contemptuous disgust, and who
had paid for this passion one million francs, with imprisonment,
shame, and ridicule. For this passion for the queen had blinded the
cardinal, and made him believe in the possibility of a return. In
his blindness he had placed confidence in the whisperings and false
promises of the insidious intriguer Madame de la Motte-Valois, who,
in the queen's name, asked from him a loan of a million for the
purchase of a jewelled ornament which highly pleased the queen, and
which she, notwithstanding her exhausted coffers, was resolved to
Yes, love had blinded Cardinal de Rohan, and with blind eyes he had
accepted as letters from the queen those which Madame de la Motte
brought him; and he could not see that the person who gave him a
rendezvous in the gardens of Versailles was not the queen, but only
a common, vicious woman, who had been clothed in the queen's
The queen had been travestied into a wench, and the highest
ecclesiastical dignitary of the land was the one who took this wench
for his queen, was the one who, with a rendezvous, a kiss on the
hand, and a rose, was rewarded for the million he had given to the
jeweller for a necklace of diamonds!
It is true, the deception was discovered; it is true, it was Marie
Antoinette herself who asked for a strict investigation, who with
tears of anger required from her consort that this horrible intrigue
which had been woven round her person should be investigated and
judged publicly before the Parliament; that the Cardinal de Rohan
should be punished for the criminal insult offered by him to the
queen, since he thought her capable of granting him a rendezvous, of
exchanging with him letters of tender passion, and of accepting
gifts from him!
But the Parliament, which recognized the guilt of Madame de la
Motte, which ordered her to be whipped, branded, and driven out of
the country as an impostor and a thief, the Parliament declared the
Cardinal de Rohan innocent; all punishments were removed from him,
and he was re-established in all his dignities and rights. And the
people, who in enormous masses had besieged the Parliament
buildings, welcomed this decision of the judges with loud
demonstrations and shouts of joy, and carried the cardinal in
triumph through the streets, and honored and glorified him as a
martyr and a saint.
This triumph of the cardinal was an affecting defeat to the queen;
it was the first awful testimony, spoken loudly and openly, by the
Hitherto her enemies had worked against her quietly, and in the
darkness of night; but now, in open day, they dared launch against
her their terrible accusations, and represent her imprudence as a
crime, her errors as shameful and premeditated wickedness. No one
believed in the queen's innocency in this necklace transaction; and
whereas Cardinal de Rohan had been made a martyr, whereas Parliament
had declared him innocent, the queen consequently must be the guilty
one, to whose cupidity the cardinal and the unfortunate Madame de la
Motte and also the beautiful D'Olivia, who in this horrible farce
had played the part of the queen, had been sacrificed.
The name, the character, the reputation of the queen, had been
trodden down in the dust, and the Count de Provence, who himself
composed sarcastic songs and pasquinades against his royal sister-
in-law, and had copies of them circulated through the court,
reflected not that in calumniating the queen and exposing her to the
scorn and ridicule of the world he thereby shook the throne itself,
and imperilled the awe and respect which the people should have had
for the monarchy. And all the other mighty dignitaries and foes of
Marie Antoinette did not calculate that in exciting the storm of
calumny against the Queen of France, they also attacked the king and
the aristocracy, and tore down the barrier which hitherto had stood
between the people and the nobility.
Hitherto pamphlets and sarcastic songs only had been directed
against the queen; but now, in the year 1787, all France was to re-
echo a pamphlet launched against the nobility and the whole
This pamphlet was "The Wedding of Figaro," by Beaumarchais. The
habits of the aristocracy, of the higher classes, were in this drama
castigated and thrown to the scorn, ridicule, and laughter of all
France. Every thing which the people hitherto had held sacred, was
laughed at in this drama; all the laws of manners, of rank, of
morality, were scorned at, hissed at; and, under this hissing,
appeared in full view and with fearful veracity the rotten and
poisoned condition of the so-called upper classes of society.
It was in vain that the censor declared the publication illegal, and
prohibited the representation of "The Wedding of Figaro." The
opposition took advantage of this measure, and since it could not be
published, hundreds of copies were circulated; and, if it could not
be represented, its reading was listened to. It soon became
fashionable to attend at the readings of "Figaro's Wedding" and to
possess a copy of the drama. Even in the queen's social circle, in
the circle of the Polignacs, this dangerous drama was patronized,
and even the queen was requested to use her influence upon the king
for its representation.
This general clamor, this tempest of the public opinion, excited
even the king's curiosity; and as everybody attended the readings of
Beaumarchais' drama, the crowned heads had also to bow to the
fashion. Madame de Campan had to read before the king and the queen
this renowned "Wedding of Figaro," so that the king might give his
decision. The good-natured countenance of the king darkened more and
more, and during Figaro's monologue, in which the different
institutions of the state are ridiculed, especially when, with words
full of poison and scorn, the author alludes to state-prisons, the
king rose angrily from his seat.
"It is a contemptible thing," cried he, vehemently. "The Bastile
must be destroyed before the representation of this piece would not
appear as a dangerous inconsequence. This man ridicules every thing
which in a state ought to be esteemed and respected."
"This piece will not then be represented?" asked Marie Antoinette,
at the close of the reading.
"No, certainly not!" exclaimed Louis, "you can be convinced of it;
this piece will not be represented."
But the clamor, the longings for this representation were more and
more loudly expressed, and more and more pressing. It was in vain
that the king by his decree forbade its already-announced
representation in the theatre of the menus plaisirs. Beaumarchais
cried aloud to the murmuring audience, who complained very loudly
against this tyranny, against this oppression of the king, the
consoling words: "Well, sirs, the king desires that my drama be not
represented here, but I swear that it will be represented, perhaps
even in the chancel of Notre Dame."
It was soon apparent that Beaumarchais' words and the wishes of the
public opinion were stronger than the words and the wishes of the
king and of his highest officers. The king himself felt it and
acknowledged it soon; he shrugged his shoulders compassionately when
the chancellor of the seal, adhering still to his opposition, would
by no means consent to the performance of the drama.
"You will see," said Louis, with his own soft, good-natured smile--
"you will see that Beaumarchais' credit is better than that of the
great-seal bearer." [Footnote: "Memoires de Madame de Campan," vol.
i., p. 279.]
The king's prophecy was correct--Beaumarchais had more credit than
the chancellor! His powerful patrons in high places, and all those
who made opposition to the king and queen, and at their head the
Count de Provence, banded together to have this piece publicly
represented. The king's consent was elicited from him by the
assurance made public that Beaumarchais had stricken out of his
drama all the offensive and captious parts, and that it was now a
mere innocent and somewhat tedious piece.
The king gave his consent, and "The Wedding of Figaro" was
represented at the Theatre Francais.
The effect of this drama on the public was a thing unheard of; so
enthusiastic that Beaumarchais himself laughingly said: "There is
something yet more foolhardy than my piece, and that is, its
result"--that the renowned actress Sophie Arnold, in allusion to
this, that the opponents of this drama had prophesied that it would
fall through, exclaimed: "The piece will fall through to-day more
than fifty times one after another!"
But even this prophecy of the actress did not reach the full result,
and the sixtieth representation was as crowded as the first. All
Paris wanted to see it, so as to hiss the government, the nobility,
clergy, morality. There was a rush from the provinces to Paris for
the sake of attending the representation of "Figaro's Wedding;" and
even those who hitherto had opposed the performance, pressed forward
to see it.
One day Beaumarchais received a letter from the Duke de Villequier,
asking of him as a favor to give up for that evening his trellised
box in behalf of some ladies of the court, who desired to see
"Figaro" without being seen.
Beaumarchais answered: "My lord duke, I have no respect for ladies
who desire to see a performance which they consider improper, and
who wish to see it under cover. I cannot stoop to such fancies. I
have given my piece to the public to amuse and not to instruct them,
not to procure to tamed wenches (begueules mitigees) the
satisfaction of thinking well of the piece in a small trellised box,
and then to say all manner of evil against it in public. The
pleasure of vice and the honors of virtue, that is what the prudery
of our age demands. My piece is not double-faced. It must be
accepted or repelled. I salute you, my lord duke, and keep my box."
[Footnote: "Correspondance de Diderot et Grimm avec un Souverain."]
All Paris chuckled over this letter, which was circulated in
hundreds of copies, as the drama itself had circulated at first.
Every one was convinced that it was the queen who wanted to attend
the representation of "Figaro" in the trellised box; for it, was
well known that the queen, angry at monsieur for having been present
with all his suite at a representation in the box reserved for the
court, had openly declared: "Could she come to the conclusion of
seeing this drama, she would only see it through a small trellised
box, and that without any ceremony."
In laughing at the letter of Beaumarchais, the ridicule was directed
against the queen, who had been refused in so shameful a manner. But
Marie Antoinette did not wish to be laughed at. She still hoped to
overcome her enemies, and to win the public sentiment. She requested
an investigation, she insisted that the Duke de Villequier should
openly acknowledge for whom among the ladies of the court he had
asked for the box; that Beaumarchais should publicly confess that he
had not dared suppose his words were directed against the queen.
The whole matter was brought to an end by an arbitrary decree.
Beaumarchais was compelled publicly to acknowledge that his famous
letter was directed neither to a duke nor to a peer, but to one of
his friends, whose strange request he had thus answered in the first
flush of anger. But it is evident no one believed in this
explanation, and every one felt pleasure in referring to the queen
the expression of "begueule mitigee."
Paris, which for a whole winter had laughed at a theatrical piece,
and was satiated with it, was now to assist at the first scene of a
drama whose tragical power and force were to tear France asunder,
and whose continuance was to be marked by blood and tears.
This important drama, whose opening followed closely Beaumarchais'
drama, exhibited its first scene at Versailles at the opening of the
States-General on the 5th of May, 1789. All Paris, all France
watched this event as the rise of a new sun, of a new era which was
to break upon France and bring her happiness, salvation, and
strength. A new, an unsuspected power entered with it upon the
scene, the Tiers Etat; the third class was, at the opening of the
States-General, solemnly recognized as a third power, alongside of
the nobility and clergy. 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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