The Empress Josephine
Part 7 out of 10
But Bonaparte himself was weary of all this useless repose, and he
resolved with a daring blow to cut into shreds those diplomatic
knots of so many thousand interwoven threads.
The instrument with which he was to give the blow was not the sword-
-it was not that which Alexander had used, but it was a cup. This
cup, at a dejeuner given to him by the Count von Coblentz, where was
displayed the costly porcelain service presented to him by the
Empress Catharine, was dashed at the feet of the Count von Coblentz
by Bonaparte, who, with a thundering voice, exclaimed: "In fourteen
days I will dash to pieces the Austrian monarchy as I now break
The Count von Coblentz, infuriated at this, was still staring in
bewilderment at the fragments of the imperial gift, when Bonaparte
left the room, to enter his carriage. With a loud voice he called to
one of the officers of his suite, and gave him orders to go at once
to the camp of the Archduke Charles, and to tell him, in the name of
General Bonaparte, that the peace negotiations were broken, and that
hostilities would be resumed next day.
But as Bonaparte was going toward his carriage, he met the Marquis
de Gallo, who besought him to re-enter the room; he assured him that
it had been resolved to accept Bonaparte's ultimatum--that is to
say, to renounce all claims to the fortress of Mantua.
On the next day [Footnote: The 17th of October, 1797.] the treaty of
peace between Austria and France was signed. It had been decided
that the ceremony of signing it should take place in the village of
Campo Formio, which for this reason was declared to be neutral
ground. It lay midway between Udine and Passeriano; and Bonaparte
sent his adjutant, Marmont, into the village to select a house where
the ceremony might take place. But there was not a single building
which was in any way fitted to receive such distinguished guests.
The Austrian diplomats, therefore, consented to come to Passeriano
to ratify the terms of peace, provided, it should be named after the
neutral territory of Campo Formio.
The Count von Coblentz and the Marquis de Gallo passed the whole day
at Passeriano, in the company of Bonaparte and Josephine. In
Josephine's drawing-room each abandoned himself to the most cheerful
and unaffected conversation, while at the same time the secretaries
of both the Austrian and French embassies were in the cabinet of the
French general, writing two copies of the mutual agreements of peace
which were to be signed by Bonaparte and by the Austrian
During the whole day Bonaparte was in high spirits. He had reached
his aim: the strife was over; diplomatic bickerings were at rest;
the small as well as the great war was ended; peace was gained at
last! Bonaparte had, not only on the battle-field, but also at the
green-table, been victorious; he had not only overcome Austria, but
also the Directory. During the whole day he remained in the drawing-
room with Josephine and his Austrian guests, and without any
affectation he took his part in the conversation. It was so pleasant
to him to be thus in confidential intercourse, that, as the evening
came on, he would not allow lights to be brought into the drawing-
room. As if they were in a sociable family circle, in some old
remote castle, they amused themselves in relating ghost-stories, and
here, too, Bonaparte won a victory. His story surpassed all others
in horrors and thrilling fears, and the dramatic mode of its
delivery increased its effect. Josephine became excited as if by
some living reality; and while Bonaparte, with an affrighted,
trembling voice, was describing how the door opened, how the blood-
stained ghost with hollow eyes entered, she screamed aloud, and
tremblingly clung to his arm.
At this moment it was announced that the secretaries had prepared
the documents of the treaty, and that nothing was wanting to make it
operative but the signatures.
Bonaparte laughingly thanked his Josephine with a kiss for the
flattering effect produced by his ghost-story, and then he hastened
into his cabinet to attach his signature to the peace of Campo
Formio. [Footnote: Lavalette, "Memoires," vol. i., p. 250.]
This peace gave to France the left bank of the Rhine, with the
fortress of Mayence: it delivered Italy from the rule of Austria,
but it repaid Austria by giving her possession of the beautiful city
of the lagoons, Venice, which made Austria mistress of the Adriatic
Peace was concluded, and now Bonaparte, with his laurels and
victories, could return to Paris; now he could hope that he had
swept away, from the memory even of his adversaries, the sad success
of the 13th Vendemiaire, by the series of brilliant victories and
conquests which he had obtained in the name of their common country.
Bonaparte prepared himself therefore to return home to France. But
the Emperor of Germany, full of admiration for the hero of Arcola,
and of joy at a peace which had given him Venice, and which gave to
France little more than the captured cannon, standards, and
prisoners, but undying glory, wished to show himself thankful to
Bonaparte. He offered to the general millions of treasure, and,
still more, a magnificent estate, and promised him the title of
But Bonaparte refused alike the money and the title. As a simple
French general he wished to return to France, and, though in future
days he created at his will many dukes, he now disdained to become a
duke by the grace of the Emperor of Germany. He accepted nothing out
of all the offered presents, but six splendid gray horses which the
Emperor Francis had sent him from his own stalls. Bonaparte had won
too many victories, to need the title of a German duke; he had
obtained a sufficiently ample share of the war-booty not to need the
wealth and the treasures of sovereign gifts. He was no longer the
poor general, of whom his enemies could say that he had married the
widow of General de Beauharnais on account of her riches and of her
influence; he now, besides fame, possessed a few millions of francs,
which, as a small portion of his share of the victory's rewards, he
brought home with him.
His work in Italy was accomplished; and in Milan, whither Bonaparte
had returned with Josephine, they bade each other farewell: they
wished to return to Paris by different routes.
Bonaparte desired first to go to Rastadt, there to attend the great
peace congress of Germany and France. His journey thither was a
complete triumph. He was everywhere received with enthusiasm;
everywhere the people applauded the conqueror of so many battles,
the hero who, only twenty-eight years old, had, by his series of
victories, gained immortality. His reception in Berne, especially,
was enthusiastic and flattering; both sides of his pathway were
lined with brilliant equipages, and the beautiful, richly apparelled
ladies who sat in them threw him kisses, crowns of flowers and
bouquets, shouting, "Long live the peace-maker!"
He travelled over Mount Cenis to Rastadt, where he found in the
crowd of German and French diplomats many generals and learned men,
who had come there to see the man whom his very enemies admired,
amongst whom he was nearly as popular as with his friends. However,
Bonaparte remained but a few days there; for, after having attended
the opening of the Congress, he pursued his journey to Paris, where
he arrived on the 6th of December.
Josephine, as we have already said, did not accompany her husband to
Paris. Before leaving Italy, she desired to accomplish two objects
of her heart. She wished to see Rome, the everlasting city of fame
and of arts, the city of the ancient gods, and of the seat of St.
Peter; and she wished also to embrace her son Eugene, who was there
as an attache of Joseph Bonaparte, the ambassador of the French
republic. Wherever she went, she was received with enthusiasm, not
only as the wife of Italy's deliverer, but also on account of her
personal merits. Through her affability, her amiableness, and her
sweet disposition, which shunned every haughty exaltation, and yet
was never lacking in dignity or in reserve--through the goodness of
her heart, which was ever ready to help the unfortunate--through all
those exquisite and praiseworthy qualities which adorned and
beautified her, she had won the love and admiration of all Italy;
and long afterward, when the deliverer of Italy had become her lord
and her oppressor, when she had no longer cause to love Bonaparte,
but only to curse him, Italy preserved for Josephine a memory full
of admiration and love.
DAYS OF TRIUMPH.
On the 5th of December, 1797, Bonaparte returned to Paris; and, a
few days after, Josephine arrived also. In her little hotel, in the
Street Chautereine, where she had passed so many bright and happy
days, she hoped, after so many storms and hardships, to enjoy again
new and cheerful sunny days of domestic enjoyments--she hoped to
rest from all those triumphs which had accompanied at each step both
her and her husband.
This hope, however, was not to be realized, for greater triumphs
still than those she had enjoyed in Italy awaited Bonaparte in
Paris. The days of quietude, and the pleasures of home, which
Josephine so much loved, and which she so well understood how to
embellish with friendships and joys, were now forever past away.
Placed at the side of a hero whose fame already filled all Europe,
she could no longer calculate upon living in modest retirement, as
she would have wished to do: it was her lot to share his burden of
glory, as she also was illumined by its beams.
From this moment nothing of former days remained; all was changed,
all was altered by Bonaparte's laurels and victories. He was no more
the servant of the republic, he was nearly its master; he had not
only defeated Austria in Italy, but he had also defeated in France
the Directory, which had sent him as its general to Italy, and which
now saw him return home as the master of the five monarchs of
Every thing now, as already said, assumed a new shape: even the
house in which they lived, the street in which this house stood, had
to be changed. Hitherto this street had been called "Rue
Chautereine;" since Bonaparte's return the municipality of Paris
gave it the name "Rue de la Victoire," and now to this Street of
Victory the people of Paris streamed forth to see the conqueror; to
stand there patiently for hours before the little hotel, and watch
for the moment when at one of the windows the pale countenance of
Bonaparte, with his long, smooth hair, might appear.
Even the little hotel was to be altered. Bonaparte--who, in earlier
days, had described, as his dream of happiness, the possession of a
house, of a cabriolet, and to have at his table the company of a few
friends, with his Josephine--now found that the little house in the
Rue de la Victoire was too small for him; that it must be altered
even as the street had been. The modest and tasteful arrangements
which had sufficed the Widow Josephine de Beauharnais, appeared now
to her young husband as insufficient; the little saloon, in which at
one time he had felt so happy at the side of the viscountess, was no
longer suited to his actual wants. Large reception-rooms and
vestibules were needed, magnificent furniture was necessary, for the
residence of the conqueror of Italy, in the Rue de la Victoire.
Architects were engaged to enlarge and transform the small house
into a large hotel, and it was left to Josephine's taste to convert
the hitherto elegant private dwelling into a magnificent residence
for the renowned general who had to be daily in readiness to receive
official visits, delegations of welcome from the authorities, and
the institutions of Paris, and from the other cities of France.
For France was desirous to pay her homage to the hero of Arcola, and
to celebrate his genius--to wish him prosperity, and to applaud him.
The Directory had to adapt themselves to the universal sentiment; to
pay their respects to the general with a cheerful mien and with
friendly alacrity, while at heart they looked on him with vexation
and envy. Bonaparte's popularity filled them with anxiety and
But it was necessary to submit to this; the public sentiment
required those festivities in honor of the general of the republic,
and the five directors in the Luxemburg had no longer the power to
guillotine the public sentiment, the true king of Paris, as once
they had guillotined King Louis.
The directors, therefore, inaugurated brilliant festivities; they
received the conqueror of Italy in the Luxemburg with great
demonstrations of solemnity, in which the Parisians took a part. In
the immense court in front of the residence of the directors this
celebration took place. In the midst of the open place a lofty
platform was erected; it was the country's altar, on which the
gigantic statues of Freedom, Equality, and of Peace, were lifted up.
Around this altar was a second platform, with seats for the five
hundred, the deputies, and the authorities; the standards conquered
in the Italian war formed over the seats of the five directors a
sort of canopy: they were, however, to them as the sword of
Damocles, ready to fall upon them at any moment and destroy them.
The directors, dressed in brilliant antique robes, created no
impression, notwithstanding their theatrical splendor, in comparison
with the sensation produced by the simple, unaffected appearance of
General Bonaparte. He wore the plain green uniform which he had worn
at Arcola and Lodi; his suite was limited to a few officers only,
who, like himself, appeared in their ordinary uniforms, which they
had worn on the battle-field. The two generals, Andreossy and
Joubert, carried the standards which the Legislative Assembly, two
years before, had presented to the army of Italy, and upon which
could now be read the names of sixty-seven battles won.
At one of the windows of the palace of the Luxemburg, Josephine
watched this strange celebration, the splendors of which made her
heart beat with delight, and filled her eyes with tears of joy. Near
her was her daughter Hortense, lately withdrawn from Madame Campan's
institution, to be with her mother, who, full of ecstasy and pride,
gazed at the charming maiden at her side, just blooming into a young
lady; and then beyond, at that pale young man with pensive eyes
standing near yonder altar, and before whom all the authorities of
Paris bowed--who was her husband, her Bonaparte, everywhere
conqueror! Before her only was he the conquered! She listened with a
happy smile to the long speech with which Talleyrand saluted
Bonaparte in the name of his country; she heard how Barras,
concealing within himself his jealousy and his envy, welcomed him;
how with admiration he praised him; how he said that Nature, in one
of her most exalted and greatest moments, had resolved to produce a
masterpiece, and had given to the wondering world Bonaparte!
And then, after this affected harangue, Josephine saw how Barras,
with tears of emotion, embraced Bonaparte, and how the other
Directors of France followed his example. A slight sarcastic smile
for a moment played on Josephine's lips, for she well knew how
little this friendship and this love of the Directory were to be
trusted, how little sincerity was contained in the sentiments which
they so publicly manifested toward the conqueror.
With love's anxiety and a woman's instinct, she watched over her
hero; she was ever busy to track out the meandering paths of his
foes, to destroy the nets wherein they wished to entangle his feet.
She had even braved the jealous wrath of Bonaparte when it was
necessary to ferret out some intrigue of the Directory. The special
spy, whom Barras had sent to Italy to watch the movements of
Bonaparte, and to give him early reports of every word, Botot, had
been received by Josephine with a friendly smile and with great
attention; she manifested toward him a confiding friendship, and
thus succeeded in discovering his secret, and behind the seeming
friend to unveil the cunning spy of Bonaparte's enemies. She could
therefore meet Bonaparte's anger with serene brow and pure
conscience; and when he accused her of frivolity and unfaithfulness,
she justified herself before him by unveiling the secret schemes and
machinations of his foes. And these foes were chiefly the five
directors. He therefore knew very well what he was to expect from
the embraces, the tears, the kisses of Barras; and the flattering
words which he spoke to him in the presence of the Parisians made no
impression whatever on Bonaparte's heart.
But the applause with which the people of Paris received him was not
deceitful, like that of the Directory; the respect they paid him was
not forced, and their applause therefore filled the hearts of
Josephine and Bonaparte with joy. Wherever he appeared, he was
greeted with loud demonstrations of joy; the poets praised him in
their songs, the musicians sang hymns in his honor, and the men of
science brought to him proofs of their esteem. The Institute of
Sciences named him one of their members in the place of Carnot; the
painters and architects paid him homage with their works. The
renowned painter David requested the honor of taking Bonaparte's
portrait, and the general acceded to his wishes because Josephine
had promised that the painter's request should be granted. David
desired to paint him on horseback near the bridge of Lodi or of
Arcola, and he placed before him a sketch he had made for this
picture. But Bonaparte rejected it.
"No," said he, "I was not there alone, I conquered only with the
whole army. Place me there, quiet and calm, seated upon a fiery
What did Bonaparte mean by this "fiery horse"? Are his words to be
understood in all their beauty and simplicity? or did he, by the
restless horse, which he so calmly reins in, already think of the
republic which, under the guidance of his masterly hand, was one day
to be converted into an empire? Who could read the depths of this
man's heart, which screened itself so carefully, and whose secrets
in regard to the future he dared not divulge even to his beloved
The first few weeks after their return from Italy were passed away
amid festivities and demonstrations of respect. Josephine abandoned
herself to this pomp with a high spirit, and with a deep love for
enjoyment. Her whole being was thoroughly interpenetrated with the
warmth of this new sun, which had risen over her in so wondrous a
light, and surrounded her with its lustrous rays. All these
festivities, banquets, representations at the grand opera, and at
the Theatre Francais, these public ovations which accompanied
Bonaparte at every step, at every promenade, at every attendance at
the theatre,--all these marks of honor elated Josephine, filling her
with an enthusiastic pride for the hero, the man whom she now loved
with all the excitability of a woman's heart, and over whom fame
rested as a halo, and which made him appear to Josephine still
greater and more exalted. To him alone now belonged her whole heart
and being; and now for the first time she experienced those nervous
spasms of jealousy which at a later date were to mix so many bitter
drops of gall in the golden cup of her greatness.
At the ovations, the tokens of affection on the part of gentlemen
delighted her, but she had no thanks for the ladies when, with their
enthusiasm, brilliant eyes, bewitching smiles, and flattering words,
they endeavored to manifest their adoration and gratitude to the
hero of Italy; she could barely keep back her tears when, at the
reception which Talleyrand, the minister of foreign affairs, gave to
Bonaparte, the beautiful songstress Grassini appeared, and, with her
entrancing voice, sang the fame of the conqueror who had bound
captive to his triumphal car, as the most precious booty, the proud
The Directory, however, would have gladly allowed the ladies to take
part in this enthusiasm if the men had taken no share in it; but the
admiration which they had everywhere manifested so strongly for
Bonaparte, had completely overshadowed their own greatness and
importance. They were no longer the monarchs of France--Bonaparte
alone seemed to be its ruler--and their envious jealousy told them
that it would require but a sign from his hand to impart to the
French government a new form, to disenthrone the five directors, and
to place himself in their position. The sole aim was, therefore, to
remove Bonaparte as soon as practicable from Paris, and if possible
from France, so as to check his popularity, and to oppose his ever-
Bonaparte was but little inclined to meet these views of the
Directory, and to accept the propositions made to him. He declined
at once to go to Rastadt, there to attend to the discussions of the
congress, with as much resolution as he had refused to go to Rome to
punish the papal government for the enmity it had shown to Prance.
He left it to diplomats to prattle in Rastadt over the green-table,
and to General Berthier to punish the papal government, and to drive
Pius out of the Eternal City, the seat of St. Peter, and erect there
the altar of the republic of Rome.
There were greater and loftier aims which Bonaparte now sought--and
fame, which he loved quite as much as Josephine did, and was soon to
love even more, was enticing him on to paths yet untrodden, where no
hero of past ages had sought for it.
In Egypt, near the pyramids of four thousand years, he desired to
gather fresh laurels; from thence the astonished world was to hear
the wondrous recitals of his victories. His lively fancy already
imagined his name written on those gigantic monuments of past ages,
the only earthly creations which have in themselves nearly the
character of immortality. With his mighty deeds he wished to surpass
all the heroes of modern times; he desired to rival Caesar and
Caesar had won fifty battles, Bonaparte wanted to win a hundred.
Alexander had gone from Macedonia to the temple of Jupiter Ammon,
Bonaparte wished to leave Paris to obtain victories at the cataracts
of the Nile.
The bitterness which existed between the Directory and Bonaparte was
increasing more and more. He no longer spoke to the five monarchs as
an obedient, submissive son of the republic; he spoke as their lord
and master; he threatened when his will was not obeyed; he was wroth
when he met with opposition. And the Directory had not the courage
to reproach him for his undutiful conduct, or to enter the lists
with him to dispute for the sovereignty, for they well knew that
public sentiment would declare itself in his favor, that Paris would
side with the general if matters were to come to a crisis between
them. It was therefore better and wiser to avoid this strife, and,
under some good pretext, remove Bonaparte and open to him some
distant pathway to fame, so as to be rid of him.
Egypt was far enough from Paris to give to the Directory guaranties
of security, and it fell in with Bonaparte's plans. It was resolved
therefore to send an expedition to Egypt, and he was appointed its
Bonaparte had directed his eyes to the East when in Passeriano he
was making peace with Austria. In Egypt were the battle-fields which
were to surround his name with a fresh halo of glory.
Josephine learned this resolution of Bonaparte with fear and
anxiety, but she dared not betray this to any one, since this
expedition was to remain a secret to all the world. Only in private
could her tears flow, only before Bonaparte could she complain.
Once, as she encircled him convulsively with her arms, her mind full
of misgivings and her eyes of tears she asked him how many years he
thought of remaining in Egypt.
She had put this question only in a jesting form. He took it in full
earnestness, and answered:
"Either a few months or six years. All depends upon circumstances. I
must win Egypt to civilization. I will gather there artists, learned
men, mechanics of all trades, even women--dancers, songstresses, and
actresses. I want to mould Egypt into a second France. One can do a
great deal in six years. I am now twenty-nine years old, I shall be
thirty-five when I return--that is not old. But I shall want more
than six years if I go to India." [Footnote: Bourrienne, vol. ii.,
Josephine cried aloud with anguish and horror, and, embracing him in
her arms, implored him with all the delicate tenderness of her
anxious affection not to thrust her aside, but to allow her to
accompany him to Egypt.
But Bonaparte refused, and this time her tears, which he had never
before denied, were fruitless. He felt that Josephine's presence
would damp his ardent courage, retard his onward march, and that he
would not have the necessary fearless energy to incur risks and
perils if Josephine were to be threatened by their consequences. He
could not expose her to the privations and restless wanderings of a
campaign, and his burning love for her was too real for him to yield
to her wishes.
Josephine, meanwhile, was not silenced by his refusal; she
persevered in her supplications, and Bonaparte, at last softened by
her prayers, was obliged to come to terms. It was decided that
Josephine should follow him to Egypt, that he would select a place
of residence and prepare every thing for her reception there, so
that she might without danger or too much inconvenience undertake
But before commencing such an undertaking, Josephine's health needed
recruiting; she was to go to the baths of Plombieres, and Bonaparte
was to hold a ship in readiness in Toulon to bring her to Egypt.
The ship which was chosen to transport her was the Pomona, the same
in which, when only sixteen years old, she had come from Martinique
to France. Then she had gone forth to an unknown world and to an
unknown husband; now she was on the same ship to undertake a journey
to an unknown world, but it was a beloved husband whom she was going
to meet, and love gave her the strength to do so.
Josephine, full of the sweetest confidence that she was soon to
follow Bonaparte, and hereafter to see him again, accompanied him to
Toulon. She had the strength to repress her tears as she bade him
farewell, and to smile as he entreated her to keep her heart
faithful to him.
She showed herself at this separation stronger than Bonaparte
himself, for while her eyes were bright with joyous love, his were
sad and obscured by tears.
The difference was this: Bonaparte knew that he was bidding farewell
to Josephine for long years; she trusted that in a few months she
would be reunited to him.
Bonaparte imprinted a last kiss on the lips of Josephine. She
embraced him tenderly in her arms, and, to shield herself against
the deep anguish of the separation, she cried aloud:
"In three months we meet again! The Pomona, which brought me to
France, will bear me back to my hero, to my Achilles! In three
months I shall be with you again. You have often called me the star
of your fortune. How could this star abandon you when you are going
to fight against your foes?"
He gazed at her with a look at once full of deep love and sorrow:
"Josephine," said he, solemnly, "my enemies are neither in Asia nor
in Africa, but they are all in France. I leave you behind me in
their midst, for you to watch them, and to unravel their schemes.
Think of this, and be my strong and prudent wife." [Footnote:
Bonaparte's words.--See Le Normand, vol. i., p. 278.]
Deeply moved, he turned away, and hastened from her to the boat that
was to bear him to the flag-ship, which was waiting only for the
commanding general to come aboard before weighing anchor.
THE EMPRESS AND THE DIVORCED.
PLOMBIERES AND HALMAISON.
While Bonaparte with the French fleet was sailing toward the East,
there, in the wide valley of the Nile, to win a new fame, Josephine
started for Plombieres, where she had requested her daughter
Hortense to meet her. The splendid scenery and pleasant quietude of
Plombieres offered at least some comfort and satisfaction to
Josephine, whose heart was not yet healed from the anguish of
separation. Her greatest consolation was the thought that in a few
months she would go to her husband; that the Pomona would bear her
to him who now possessed her whole soul, and surrounded her whole
being with an enchantment which was to cease only with her life.
She counted the days, the weeks, which separated her from the
wished-for journey; she waited with impatient longing for the news
that the Pomona, which needed a few repairs, was ready and all
prepared for the distant but welcome voyage.
Her sole recreation consisted in the company of, and in the cordial
fellowship with Hortense, now grown up a young lady, and the
companionship of a few intimate ladies who had followed her to
Plombieres. Surrounded by these, she either sat in her drawing-room,
busy with some manual labor, or else, followed by a single servant,
she and Hortense made long walks in the wonderfully romantic
vicinity of Plombieres.
One morning she was in the drawing-room with her friends, working
with the needle, conversing, and finding recreation in stepping
through the wide-open folding-doors upon the balcony, from which a
most enchanting view could be had of the lovely valley, and the
mountains which stood round about it. While there, busily
embroidering a rose, one of her friends, who had gone to the
balcony, called her to come quickly to admire a remarkably small
greyhound which was passing down the street. Josephine, whose love
for dogs had made Napoleon pass many a restless hour, hastened to
obey her friend's call, and went out upon the balcony, whither the
rest of the ladies followed her, all curious to see the greyhound
which had set Madame de Cambis into such an excitement. But the
weight of these six ladies, gathered close together on the balcony,
was too heavy for the plank and joist-work loosely put together. A
fearful crash was heard; and as Hortense, who had remained in the
drawing-room, busy with her painting, looked out, she saw neither
the ladies nor the balcony. All had disappeared--nothing but a cloud
of dust arose from the street, amidst a confusion of cries of
distress, of shouts for help, and groans of pain.
The balcony, with the ladies, had been precipitated into the street,
and all those who were on it were more or less severely injured.
Josephine recognized it as a providential protection that she had
not paid with broken limbs, like her friends, for the curiosity of
seeing the beautiful little greyhound, but had only received violent
contusions and sprained joints. For weeks she had to suffer from the
consequences of this fall, and was confined to her bed, not being
able to lift herself up, nor with her bruised, swollen hands to
bring the food to her mouth during this time. Hortense had to wait
upon her mother as she had waited upon her when she was only a
small, helpless child.
While Josephine was thus for these weeks suffering, the Pomona,
fully equipped, was sent to sea, for she was intrusted with
important instructions for the commanding general Bonaparte, and
could not possibly be detained for Josephine's recovery. She
received this news with bitter tears, and resolutely declared that
no sooner should she be recovered than she would sail for Egypt in
any kind of vessel; that she was firmly decided to follow her
husband and share his dangers.
She had, however, twice received letters from Bonaparte. In the
first of these he had, full of tender solicitude, entreated her not
to undertake the fatiguing and dangerous voyage; in the second he
had commanded her with all the earnestness of love to give up the
enterprise, and requested as a proof of her affection and
faithfulness, that she would listen to reason, remain in Paris, and
watch over his interests, and be his guardian angel.
Josephine read this last letter with a sorrowful smile, and, as she
handed it to her friend Madame de Chateau-Renaud, she said, sighing:
"The days of happiness are over. While in Italy, Bonaparte required
that I should bid defiance to all dangers, so as to be at his side,
for his letters then demanded my presence. Now he orders me to avoid
dangers, and to remain quietly at home."
"But it is out of pure love he does this!" exclaimed her friend.
"See how affectionate and how tender his letter is! Certainly no man
can love his wife more warmly than Bonaparte loves you."
"Oh, yes," sighed Josephine, "he loves me yet, but I am no longer
absolutely necessary--he can live without me; once love ruled over
his reason, now his reason rules over his love. It will be as I
fear: I shall day by day love him more fondly and more passionately,
for he is my last love, but he will every day love me less, for
perhaps I am his first love, and his heart will be young long after
he reads upon my face that I am six years older than he."
However, she conformed to the wishes of her husband; she was
resigned, and gave up the thought of going to Egypt. At first she
did it only with tears, but soon after there came news which made
her accept her husband's wishes as the commands of Fate.
The Pomona, the vessel which had once brought her from Martinique to
France, and on board of which she was to go to Egypt, had been
captured by an English man-of-war, and all her passengers sent as
prisoners to England.
The fall from the balcony had therefore saved Josephine from being
carried into captivity to England. To this fall she owed her
liberty! With all the levity and superstition of a creole, Josephine
looked upon this fortunate mishap as a warning from Fate, and it
seemed to her as if this had taken place to hinder her journey to
Egypt. She therefore dried her tears and submitted to the orders
alike of Fate and of her husband.
She remained in France, and accepted her mission to watch, as a true
friend and beloved one, over the interests of her husband, to
observe his friends and foes, and to send him news of every thing
which it was important for him to know.
Once her fate decided, and she resolved to remain in France, she
determined to make her life comfortable and pleasant; she wished to
prepare for herself and her children a joyous existence, and procure
also for her returning husband a gift which she knew would meet a
long-cherished wish of his.
She bought a residence, situated not far from Paris, the Castle
Malmaison, if the name of castle can be properly given to a pretty,
tastefully-built country residence, tolerably large and plain, but
surrounded by a beautiful park.
Their wishes and wants were yet simple, and the country residence,
Malmaison, was amply sufficient to receive the family and the
friends of General Bonaparte and his wife; it became too small and
too narrow only when it had to accommodate the Emperor Napoleon, the
empress, and their court-attendants and suite.
But if the Castle Malmaison was not large, the park which surrounded
it was all the larger and handsomer, and, with its shady walks, its
wondrous beds of flowers, its majestic avenues, its splendid groves
and lawns, it had for Josephine pleasures and joys ever new and
fresh; and it furnished her, moreover, with the welcome opportunity
of following the inclinations of her youth amidst the flowers,
birds, trees, and plants.
Josephine loved botany; it was natural that she should endeavor to
collect together in Malmaison the most beautiful plants and flowers,
and to arrange them in this her little earthly paradise. She
enlisted the most able architects and the most skilful gardeners,
and, under their direction, with the hands of hundreds of workmen,
there soon arose one of the most beautiful hot-houses, wherein all
these glories of earth, splendid flowers, and fruits of distant
climes, would find a home!
Josephine herself, with her fine taste and her deep knowledge of
botany, directed all these arrangements and improvements; the
builders as well as the gardeners had to submit their plans for her
approbation, and it was not seldom that her keen, practised eye
discovered in them defects which her ingenuity at once found means
In Malmaison, Josephine created around her a new world, a quiet
paradise of happiness, where she could dream, with blissful
cheerfulness and with all the youthful energy of her heart, of a
peaceful future, of delightful contentment, in the quiet enjoyment
of Nature and of home.
But the old world outside did not cease its own march; it fought its
battles, spun its intrigues, and continued its hostilities.
Josephine could not withdraw herself from this old world; she dared
not place the paradise of Malmaison as a wall of partition between
her and the wild stir and tumult of Paris; she had to rush away from
the world of innocence, from this country-life, into the whirlpool
of the agitated, restless life of Paris.
Bonaparte had made it a duty for her to watch his friends as well as
his foes, and there were then happening in Paris events which
appeared to the wife of General Bonaparte worthy of close
observation. His long absence had diminished the number of his
friends, and at the same time gave strength to and increased his
enemies, who were ever busy to defame and vilify his heroic deeds,
and to turn them into a crime; they represented that the expedition
to Egypt, notwithstanding the glorious exploits of the French army,
should have had more striking results, and the louder they cried
out, the more feeble and timid were the voices of his friends. The
latter daily found their position becoming more precarious, for they
were the moderate republicans, the supporters of the actual order of
things, and of the constitution which France had adopted. Against
this constitution arose, with loud cries, two hostile parties, which
increased every day, and assumed toward it a more and more
These parties were, on the one hand, the royalists, who saw their
hopes increase every day, because the armies of the European powers,
allied against France, were approaching nearer and nearer the French
frontiers; and, on the other, the republicans of the past, who hoped
to re-establish the old days of the Convention and of the red
Both parties tried to undermine society and the existing
authorities; they organized conspiracies, seditions, and tumults,
and were constantly inventing new intrigues, so as to destroy the
government, and set themselves up in its place.
The royalists trusted to the combined powers of the princes of
Europe, with whom the exiled Bourbons were approaching; and in La
Vendee the guerilla warfare had already begun against the republic.
The red republicans dreamed of re-establishing the guillotine, which
was to restore France to health by delivering her from all the
adversaries of the republic and bring back the glorious days of
1793; they left nothing untried to excite the people into
dissatisfaction and open rebellion.
Against both parties stood the Directory, who in these days of
tumult and sedition, were themselves feeble and without energy,
seeking only to prolong their existence. They were satisfied to live
on day by day, and shrank from every decided action which might
increase the wrath of the parties or destroy the brilliant present
of the mighty directors, in whose ears the title of "the five
monarchs" sounded so sweetly.
In the interior of France, anarchy, with all its horrors and
confusion, prevailed, and, on the frontier, its enemies were taking
advantage of this anarchy to give to the republic its mortal stroke.
Turkey, Russia, the Kings of Sardinia, Naples, and Sweden, were
allied with Austria, England, and Prussia, and they had begun to
make immense preparations. A Russian army, led by Suwarrow, was
marching toward Italy, to the help of Austria--to reconquer
Lombardy. The Rastadt congress, from which a universal peace had
been expected, had dissolved, and the only result was an increased
enmity between Germany and France, the deputies of the latter, as
they were returning home, being shamefully murdered in the open
street, immediately before the gates of Rastadt, at the instigation
of the Austrian Count Lehrbach.
The murder of these ambassadors became the signal for the renewal of
war, which was now to be prosecuted with increased bitterness.
At this important, critical moment, when all Europe was buckling on
its armor against France, which so much needed the guidance of her
victorious general--at this moment, Bonaparte was not only away from
Paris, but no news had been received from him for some months. Only
a vague rumor was spread through Paris: "Bonaparte had fallen at the
desperate attack on Acre," and this sufficed to discourage entirely
his friends, and to make his enemies still more audacious and
At first Josephine was entirely cast down by the terrible news; but
afterward came the reflection, the doubt, the hope, that all this
might be a rumor spread by his enemies. She hastened to Paris to
obtain information from the Directory, so as to find out if there
were any foundation for the report of Bonaparte's death. But the
Directory had as uncertain news as Josephine herself, and the
absence of information seemed to confirm its truth.
As she came one day to Barras to ask him if there were any news from
the army, she heard him say to Rewbell, one of the five directors:
"Here comes the wife of that hypocrite Bonaparte! If he is not dead
to Europe, he is at least dead to France."
This expression proved to her that Barras himself did not believe in
his death, and gave to Josephine all her energy and presence of
mind. She busied herself in endeavoring to find a clew to this
horrible rumor; and she found that Bonaparte's enemies had spread
it, and that only those to whom his death would be welcome, and his
return be objectionable, had circulated this report.
Her heart again beat with hope; she now felt, in the blissful joy
which penetrated her whole being, that Bonaparte was not dead; that
he lived still; that he would return home, to her great delight and
to the terror of his foes. A cheerful assurance sustained her whole
nature. While all those, who in the days of her happiness had
rivalled each other in assuring her of their friendship and
devotedness, the Directory, the ministers, the majority of the
generals, turned away from her, cold and indifferent; and her few
true friends, low-spirited and depressed, bowed their heads, while
her foes and those of Bonaparte scornfully said in their joy, "Now
the new King of Jerusalem and Cyprus has fallen under the blows of a
new savage Omar." While every thing was against her, Josephine alone
was cheerful, and confidingly looked into the future, for she felt
and knew that the future would soon bring back her husband, her
THE FIRST FAITHLESSNESS.
Josephines prophetic heart had not deceived her. Bonaparte lived!
But his was a life of danger, of constantly renewed battles and
hardships--a life in which he had constantly to guard against not
only enemies, but also against sickness.
Bonaparte had traversed the deserts with his army, visited the
pyramids, conquered Cairo, and, in warmly-contested and fearful
combats, had defeated and subdued the Mussulman. But these numerous
victories had been followed by some defeats, and all his successes
were more than counterbalanced by the fruitless storming of the
impregnable Acre, and the failure to conquer Syria. The English
admiral, Sidney Smith, with his vessels, anchored in the harbor of
Acre, protected the besieged, and constantly provided them with
provisions and ammunition, and so efficiently supported the pacha
and his mercenary European soldiers, that Bonaparte, after two
months of fruitless efforts, abandoned the siege on the 10th of May,
1799, and retreated into Egypt.
This is not, however, the place to recall the stupendous enterprises
of Bonaparte, which remind one of the deeds of the heroes and demi-
gods of ancient Greece, or the nursery tales of extraordinary
His heroic deeds are engraven on history's page: there can be read
the wondrous events of his Egyptian campaign, of his march through
the wilderness, of the capture of Cairo, of his successful battles
of Aboukir and Tabor, which led the heroic General Kleber,
forgetting all rivalry, to embrace Bonaparte, exclaiming: "General
Bonaparte, you are as great as the world, but the world is too small
There, also, one can read of the cruel massacre of three thousand
captive Mussulmen, of the revolt of Cairo; there are depicted the
blood-stained laurels which Bonaparte won in this expedition, the
original plan of which seems to have been conceived in the brain of
one who was at once a demi-god and an adventurer.
We leave, therefore, to history the exclusive privilege of narrating
Bonaparte's career as a warrior; our task is with something
superior--with his thoughts, feelings, and sufferings, in the days
of his Egyptian campaign. It is not with the soldier, the captain,
or his plans of battle, that we have to do, but with the man, and
especially with the husband of Josephine--the woman who for his sake
suffered, was full of solicitude, contended for him, and struggled
with love and loyalty, while he fought only with sword and cannon.
It is true, Bonaparte also had to suffer, and his anxieties for the
success of his plans did not alone hang heavily on his heart, while
with his army he besieged the impregnable Acre. At this very time
his heart received a deep wound from his friend and confidant Junot,
who drove the sting of jealousy into his sensitive heart. It is the
privilege of friendship to pass by in silence nothing which calumny
or ill-will may imagine or circulate, but truly to make known to our
friend every thing which the public says of him, without regard to
the sufferings which such communications may entail upon his heart.
Junot made full use of this privilege. Bourrienne in his memoirs
relates as follows:
"While we were in the vicinity of the springs of Messoudiah, I saw
one day Bonaparte, with his friend Junot, pacing to and fro, as he
often did. I was not very far from them, and I know not why during
this conversation my eyes were fixed on him. The face of the general
was paler than usual, though I knew not the cause. There was a
strange nervousness; his eyes seemed bewildered, and he often struck
his head with his hand.
"After a quarter of an hour, he left Junot and came toward me. I had
noticed his angry, thoughtful expression. I went to meet him, and as
I stood before him, Bonaparte, with a harsh and severe tone,
exclaimed: 'You have no affection for me. The women! ... Josephine!
... Had you any affection for me, you would long ago have given me
the information which Junot has now told me: he is a true friend!
Josephine! ... and I am six hundred miles away! ... You ought to
have told me! ... Josephine! ... so to deceive me! ... You! ... "Woe
to you all! I will uproot that detestable race of seducers and
blondins! As regards her--separation!--yes: divorce, public
separation before the eyes of all! ... I must write! I know every
thing! ... It is her fault, Bourrienne! You ought to have told me.'
"These vehement, broken utterances, the strange expression on his
face, and his excited tone of voice, revealed only too clearly what
had been the subject of the conversation he had had with Junot. I
saw that Junot had been drawn into a fatal indiscretion, and that if
he had really believed that charges could be made against Madame
Bonaparte, he had exaggerated them in an unpardonable manner. My
situation was one of extreme delicacy: I had, however, the good
fortune to remain cool, and as soon as his first excitement had
subsided, I began to tell him that I knew nothing about what Junot
had told him; that if even such rumors, which often were circulated
only by slander, had reached me, and if I had thought it my duty to
communicate them to him, I should certainly not have chosen the
moment when he was six hundred miles away from France to do so. I
did not hesitate to tell him how blameworthy Junot's conduct
appeared to me, and how ungenerous it was to accuse a woman
thoughtlessly, when she was not present to justify or to defend
herself; I told him that it was no proof of affection for Junot to
add domestic troubles to the grave anxieties which already
overburdened him. Notwithstanding my observations, to which,
however, he listened with composure, the word 'separation' fell
often from his lips, and one must understand to what a pitch the
excitement of his feelings could carry him, to be able to imagine
how Bonaparte appeared during this painful scene. I did not,
however, give up the point; I came back to what I had said. I
reminded him with what carelessness men received and circulated such
reckless stories, suited only to the idle curiosity of gossips, and
unworthy the attention of strong minds. I spoke to him of his fame:
'My fame?' cried he, 'ah, I know not what I would give if what Junot
has told me is not true--so much do I love this woman ... if
Josephine is guilty, I must be divorced from her forever. ... I will
not be the ridicule of the idle babblers of Paris! I must write to
Joseph to procure this separation.'
"Though he was still much excited, yet he was somewhat more quiet. I
took advantage of a moment's pause to combat this idea of separation
which seemed to overrule him. I called his attention to the
unreasonableness it would be, on such vague and probably false
rumors, to write to his brother. 'If you send a letter,' said I, 'it
will bear the impress of the excitement which has dictated it; as
regards a separation, it will be time, after mature consideration,
to speak of it.'
"These last words made an impression on him which I had not expected
so soon to see; he became perfectly calm, and listened to me as if
he felt the need of receiving words of encouragement, and after this
conversation he never again alluded to the subject. Fourteen days
after, before Acre, he manifested to me the most violent displeasure
against Junot, complained of the sufferings which such indiscreet
revelations had caused him, and which he now considered as purely an
invention of malice. I afterward noticed that he did not forgive
Junot this stupidity. It is easy to understand why Josephine, when
she learned from Napoleon this conduct of Junot, never could feel
for him a very warm interest, or intercede in his favor." [Footnote:
Bourrienne, "Memoires," vol. ii., p. 212.]
It will be seen that the very sensitive heart of Bonaparte had again
been kindled into jealousy, as it so often had happened before in
Italy. Absence--a momentary separation--was enough to enkindle these
flames. We have seen in the letters which Bonaparte wrote to
Josephine during the Italian campaign, how her silence--the least
delay in her answering his letters--was enough for him to
incriminate her, on account of his jealous affections; how, because
she does not constantly write, he threatens to rush in some night
unexpectedly, and with the rage of jealousy force the doors open,
and murder "the young lover of eighteen, and curse Josephine because
he must love her without bounds."
Now he swears to root out this detestable race of seducers and
blondins who have beguiled from him the heart of his Josephine. Full
of passion and jealousy, he believes in the calumnies which Junot,
with all the cruel inconsiderateness of a trusty friend, has
whispered to him, and at once Josephine is guilty! She has had a
love-correspondence with Charles Botot, the blond private secretary
of Barras, for Charles Botot comes sometimes to Malmaison, and has
often been seen near Josephine and her daughter Hortense in her
loge! But by degrees comes reflection, and a fortnight after he
believes that malice alone can have invented these calumnies. This
noble conviction, however, was soon to be shaken by the enemy, for
Josephine had enemies quite near Bonaparte, who longed to draw away
from her a husband's heart and to drive him into a divorce.
First of all there were the whole family of Bonaparte, who had seen
with unwillingness Napoleon's marriage, for he was thereby much less
under their influence, and they had wished that he would at all
events have married Desiree Clary, the sister of Joseph's wife, and
thus have been more closely united to the family.
But, while he was in Egypt, another powerful enemy had been added to
these. This was a young and beautiful woman, Madame Foures, the
beloved of the ardent general.
While Bonaparte, with all the madness of jealousy at a mere
groundless calumny, which had come across the sea distorted and
magnified, wished to be divorced from Josephine; while he complained
of woman's faithlessness, frivolity, and inconstancy; while he
cursed all women as coquettes, he himself was guilty of
faithlessness. Forgetting his vows and his protestations of love for
his wife, he had abandoned himself to a new affection without any
regard to public opinion, and even made no secret of his intrigues.
Unfortunate Josephine! The fears she had anticipated and dreaded
before accepting Bonaparte's proffered hand were too soon to be
realized. His heart began to grow cold while her love increased
every day with deeper intensity; he had perchance already read in
her amiable countenance the first signs of age, and he thought it
might well be allowed to the young general not to maintain so strict
a fealty to that faithfulness which he claimed from her.
But Bonaparte still loved Josephine, although he was unfaithful to
her. Surely this new love might well bear the guilt of the
credulousness with which he judged Josephine, and the word of
separation might thus easily come upon his lips, because the newly-
loved one, amid the vows of her affection, might have whispered it
in his ear.
Madame Foures had an immense advantage over Josephine; she was
barely twenty years old, was bewitchingly beautiful, was a coquette,
and--she was there in Bonaparte's immediate presence, while the
Mediterranean separated him from Josephine.
Bonaparte abandoned himself to this new love with all his passionate
nature. Not only did the whole army in Egypt know this, but his foes
also became acquainted with it; and Sir Sidney Smith made use of
this fact to attack his enemy in a way little known to the annals of
warfare. Bonaparte had removed from the Egyptian army Madame Foures'
injured husband, who held there the rank of a cavalry officer, by
sending him with a message to the Directory. But the vessel in which
he had sailed for France was captured by the English, and Admiral
Sidney Smith undertook, with all the careless, open manner of an
Englishman, to make him fully acquainted with the relations existing
between his wife and General Bonaparte.
He then gave to M. Foures, who was beside himself with anger and
wrath, and who threatened bloody vengeance, his freedom, and
exhibited his good-will toward him so far as to have him landed near
Cairo, where Bonaparte then was with his beautiful mistress.
Enraged with jealousy, M. Foures rushed to his wife, to make to her
the most violent demonstrations. Perhaps too weak to part with an
adored, beautiful wife, he simply ordered her to return with him to
But Madame Foures made resistance. She called her mighty lover to
her help; she claimed a separation; and the war-commissioner Duprat,
who in the army was invested with the functions of a civil
magistrate, pronounced, at the request of Madame Foures and at the
order of Bonaparte, the decree of separation.
Madame Foures was free, but this did not satisfy the secret wishes
of her heart. The most important point was, that Bonaparte should be
free also, that he also should desire to be divorced. Josephine must
be removed from him and thrust aside, so that the beautiful Pauline
Foures might take her place.
No means, either of coquetry, tears, flatteries, or promises of
enduring love, remained untried to induce Bonaparte to take the
decisive step. Sometimes Pauline would pout; sometimes her eyes shed
the tears of repentance over her own faithlessness, and she vowed
she would take refuge in a cloister if Bonaparte would not restore
her to honor by exalting her to the position of being his wife;
sometimes she sought by her cheerful humor, her genial abandonment,
to bind him to her, to amuse him; and sometimes, when dressed as a
general, on a fiery horse, and surrounded by a vast number of
adjutants, she would ride up to him and win by her smiles and
flatteries friends, who calumniated Josephine, and represented to
him the necessity of a separation from his inconstant wife.
But, notwithstanding all the calumnies, and all the deceiving arts
of his beloved, there existed in Bonaparte's heart something which
spoke in favor of the poor, slandered, and forgotten Josephine; and,
amid the exciting pleasures of his new passion, he remembered with
longing, sorrowful heart the charming, gracious woman whom he once
had tenderly loved, and whom he still so loved that he could not
sacrifice her to his beautiful mistress. Still he persevered in
showing to the latter the deepest, most tender, and undivided
attention; and when the chances of war kept him away from her for a
long time, when he went to Syria and left her in Cairo, Bonaparte
wrote to her every day the most touching letters, which were
forwarded by a special courier.
This was occurring at the same time that Josephine in Paris was
hoping in vain with painful longing for letters from her husband,
and was watching over his interests with the kindest attention,
while his enemies were spreading news of his death.
Bonaparte had now no time to write to his wife, for the beautiful
Pauline Foures laid claim to the little leisure which remained to
the commanding general, and to her he addressed warm and glowing
words of love, such as while in Italy he had addressed to Josephine
when he swore to her never to love another woman.
Meanwhile Fate rendered fruitless all the efforts of the beautiful
Madame Foures to draw Bonaparte into a separation; Fate came to
Josephine's rescue, and, strange to say, it came in the shape of the
The victorious battle of Aboukir, which Bonaparte, on the 25th of
July, 1799, had with his army won over the enemy, gave occasion to
parleying negotiations between the French commander-in-chief and the
English admiral, Sidney Smith. Bonaparte sent a commissioner on
board the English flag-ship, and Sir Sidney Smith was cunning enough
to send through this commissioner to the French general a few
newspapers recently received from Europe. For ten months the French
army and Bonaparte were without news from France, and this present
of the English admiral was received by Bonaparte and his generals
with the deepest joy and curiosity.
Among these papers was a copy of the Journal de Frankfort of the
10th of June, 1799. This was the first newspaper which furnished
Bonaparte with news from France for ten long months, and the natural
consequence was that he glanced over it with the most inquisitive
impatience. Suddenly he uttered a cry; the pallor of death
overspread his face, and, fixing his flaming eyes on Bourrienne, who
at this moment was alone with him--"My presentiments have not
deceived me," exclaimed Bonaparte. "Italy is lost! The wretched
creatures! All the results of our victories have vanished! I must go
to France at once--this very moment!" [Footnote: Bourrienne,
"Memoires," vol. ii., p. 305.]
This newspaper informed Bonaparte of the late events in France. It
told him that the French Directory had experienced a change, that
only one of them, Barras, had remained in it, and that four new
directors--Sieyes, Grohier, Moulins, and Ducos--were now its
members. It told him much more--that the French army in Italy had
suffered the most disastrous reverses; that all Italy had been
reconquered by the combined armies of Russia and Austria under
Suwarrow and the Archduke Charles, who were now advancing upon
France, which was on every side surrounded by the revengeful enemies
of the republic.
No sooner had Bonaparte read this news than his decision was taken.
Berthier was called into his tent, and under the seal of silence
Bonaparte communicated to him his unwavering resolution of going
immediately to France, but that this was to remain a secret to his
whole army as well as all the generals. Berthier, Gautheaume, Eugene
Beauharnais, Monge, and Bourrienne, were alone to accompany him, but
the last two were not to be made acquainted with their departure for
Europe before they had left Cairo with Bonaparte. As he noticed
gleams of joy in Berthier's face at the news of returning to France,
Bonaparte once more impressed upon him the duty of preserving
silence and not to betray the secret by word or deed, and to do
nothing which might induce friends or acquaintances to believe that
a voyage was contemplated. The secret was indeed faithfully kept,
and the few confidants intrusted with it took great care to divulge
nothing, for fear he might punish them by leaving them in Egypt.
Bonaparte himself maintained the most absolute secrecy; neither his
beloved, the beautiful Pauline Foures, nor General Kleber, whom he
had chosen to be his successor in the chief command of the army of
Egypt, suspected any thing.
To his beloved, Bonaparte said he was leaving Cairo for the sake of
making a tour through the Delta, and that in a few weeks he would be
with her again. The news he had received from Europe had suddenly
cooled the glow of his passion, and, at the thought of returning to
France, rose up again before his mind the image of Josephine in all
her grace and loveliness. For a long time, while she was not at his
side, he had been unfaithful to her, but he did not wish, for his
own sake, to add scandal to faithlessness. He did not wish to bring
to France with him, as sole booty from Egypt, a mistress.
Pauline Foures, therefore, suspected as little of his plans as
General Kleber. It was only after Bonaparte, with his small suite of
five confidants and the Mameluke Roustan, had embarked at
Alexandria, that Pauline learned that he had deserted--that he had
abandoned her. In a short note which his master of the stall,
Vigogne, handed to her, Bonaparte took leave of her, and made her a
present of every thing he left behind in Cairo, including the house
he occupied, with all its costly and luxurious furniture. [Footnote:
The departure of Bonaparte made Madame Foures comfortless, and she
now watched for an opportunity to hasten back to him in France.
Touched by her tears and prayers, Junot furnished her with an
opportunity, and Pauline reached Paris in November, 1799. But
Bonaparte would no longer see her; he now sacrificed the mistress to
the wife, as he had nearly sacrificed the wife to the mistress.
Pauline received orders to leave Paris immediately; at the same time
Bonaparte sent her a large sum of money, which he afterward
repeated.--See Saint Elsne, "Les Amours et Galanteries des Rois de
France," vol. ii., p. 320.]
General Kleber learned Bonaparte's departure, only through the
orders sent to him by the latter to assume the chief command of the
army; his troops learned his absence by the order of the day, in
which Bonaparte bade them farewell.
After four weeks of a long voyage against tempestuous and contrary
winds, the two frigates, upon one of which Bonaparte and Eugene and
his other followers had embarked, touched at Ajaccio. The whole
population had no sooner learned that Bonaparte was in the harbor,
than they rushed out to see him, and to salute him with enthusiastic
demonstrations; and it was in vain that their attention was drawn to
the fact that both frigates had come directly from Egypt, and had to
observe quarantine before any communication with the population
could be allowed.
"Pestilence sooner than the Austrians!" shouted the people, and
hundreds and hundreds of boats surrounded the French vessels. Every
one wanted to see the general, their famous countryman, Bonaparte.
But Bonaparte's heart was sorrowful amid the general rejoicing, for
in Ajaccio he had learned of the great battle of Novi, where the
Austrians had gained the victory, and which had cost General
"It is too great an evil," said he, with a sigh; "there is no help
for it." But as he gave up Italy, all his thoughts were more
strongly bent upon Paris, and his desire to be there as soon as
possible increased more and more.
After a short stay in Ajaccio, the voyage to France, despite all
quarantine regulations, was continued, and the star of fortune,
which had hitherto protected him, still guided Bonaparte safely into
the harbor of Frejus, though the English fleet had watched and
pursued the French vessels. A courier was at once dispatched to the
Directory in Paris to announce the arrival of Bonaparte, and that he
would, without any delay, come to Paris.
Josephine was at a dinner at Gohier's, one of the five directors,
when this courier arrived, and with a shout of joy she received the
news of her husband's coming. Her longing was such that she could
not wait for him in Paris, in her house of the Rue de la Victoire.
She resolved to meet him, and to be the first to bid him welcome,
and to show him her unutterable love.
No sooner was this resolution taken than it was carried out. She
began her journey with the expectation of meeting her husband at
Lyons, for in his letter to the Directory he stated that he would
come by way of Lyons. In great haste, without rest or delay,
Josephine travelled the road to that city, her heart beating, her
luminous eyes gazing onward, looking with inexpressible expectancy
at every approaching carriage, for it might bring her the husband so
long absent from her!
She little suspected that while she was hastening toward Lyons,
Bonaparte had already arrived in Paris. He had changed the plan of
his journey, and, entirely controlled by his impatient desires, he
had driven to Paris by the shortest route. Josephine was not there
to receive him in her house; she was not there to welcome the
returning one--and the old serpent of jealousy and mistrust awoke
again within him. To add to this, his brothers and sisters had
seized the occasion to give vent to their ill-will by suspicions and
accusations against their unwelcome sister-in-law. Bonaparte, full
of sad apprehension at her absence, perhaps secretly wishing to find
her guilty, listened to the whisperings of her enemies.
He therefore did not go to meet Josephine the next day on her return
from her unsuccessful journey. A few hours after, he opened his
closed doors and went to see her. She advanced toward him with looks
full of love and tenderness, and opened her arms to him, and wanted
to press him closely to her heart.
But he coldly held her back, and with deliberate severity and an
expression of the highest indifference, he saluted her, and asked if
she had returned happy and satisfied from her pleasure excursion
with her light-haired friend.
Josephine's tears gushed forth, and, as if annihilated, she sank
down, but she had not a word of defence or of justification against
the cruel accusation. Her heart had been too deeply wounded, her
love too much insulted, to allow her to defend herself. Her tearful
eyes only responded to Bonaparte's cruel question, and then in
silence she retired to her apartments.
For three days they did not see each other. Josephine remained in
her rooms and wept. Bonaparte remained in his rooms and complained.
To Bourrienne, who then was not only his private secretary but also
his confidant, he complained bitterly of the faithlessness and
inconstancy of Josephine, of the unheard-of indifference that she
should undertake a pleasure-journey when she knew that he was soon
to be in Paris. It was in vain that Bourrienne assured him that
Josephine had undertaken no pleasure-excursion, that she had left
Paris only to meet him, and to be the first to bid him welcome. He
would not believe him, for in the melancholy gloominess of his
jealousy he believed in the slanders which Josephine's enemies, and
his brothers and sisters, had whispered in his ear, that Josephine
had left Paris for a parti de plaisir with Charles Botot, the
beautiful blondin whom Bonaparte so deeply hated. How profound his
sadness was, may be seen by a letter which at this time he wrote to
his brother Joseph, and in which he says:
"I have a great deal of domestic sorrow ... your friendship to me is
very dear; to become a misanthrope, there was nothing further needed
than to lose her and to be betrayed by you. It is a sad situation
indeed to have in one single heart all these emotions for the same
"I will purchase a country residence either near Paris or in
Burgundy; I am thinking of passing the winter there and of shutting
myself up; I feel weary with human nature; I need solitude; I want
to be alone; grandeur oppresses me, my feelings are distorted. Fame
appears insipid at my twenty-nine years; I have tried every thing;
nothing remains but to become an egotist." [Footnote: "Memoires du
Roi Joseph." vol. i., p. 189.]
But, according to himself, "he cherished in his heart, at the same
time; all manner of emotions for the same person;" that is, he hated
and detested Josephine, but he also loved and admired her; was angry
with her, and yet longed for her; he found her frivolous and
faithless, and yet something in his heart ever spoke in her favor,
and assured him that she was a noble and faithful being.
Fortunately, there was one who confirmed into full conviction these
low whisperings of his heart; fortunately, Bourrienne ceased not to
argue against this jealousy of Bonaparte, and to assure him again
and again that Josephine was innocent, that she had committed
nothing to excite his anger.
Finally, after three days of complaints and dreary accusations, love
conquered in the heart of Bonaparte. He went to Josephine. She
advanced to meet him with tears in her eyes, but with a soft, tender
smile. The sight of her gracious appearance, her blanched cheeks,
moved him, and, instead of explanations and mutual recriminations,
he opened his arms to her, and she threw herself on his breast with
a loud cry of exultation.
Then came the explanations. He now believed that she had left Paris
hurriedly for the sake of meeting him; and, as regarded the
dangerous "blond," the private secretary of Barras, M. Charles
Botot, Josephine smilingly handed to her husband a letter she had
received from him a few days before. In this letter Charles Botot
acknowledged his long-cherished affection for her daughter Hortense,
and he claimed her hand in due form.
"And you have doubtless accepted his offer?" asked Bonaparte, his
face overcast again. "Since, unfortunately, you are married
yourself, and he cannot be your husband, then of course he must
marry the daughter, so as to be always near the mother. M. Charles
Botot is no doubt to be your son-in-law? You have accepted his
"No," said she, softly, "we have refused it, for Hortense does not
love him, and she will follow her mother's example, and marry only
through love. Besides," continued Josephine, with a sweet smile, "I
wanted him no longer."
"You wanted him no longer! How is this?" asked General Bonaparte,
"Barras has sent him his dismissal," said she, looking at her
husband with an expression of cunning roguery. "M. Botot could no
longer, as he has hitherto been--without, however, being conscious
of it--be my spy in the Directory; I could no longer learn from him
what the Directory were undertaking against my Bonaparte, against
the hero whom they envy and caluminate so much, nor in what new
snares they wished to entangle him! What had I to do with Botot,
since he could not furnish me news of the intrigues of your enemies,
nor afford me the chance of counteracting them? Charles Botot was
nothing more to me than a mere lemon, which I squeezed for your
sake; when there was nothing left in it I threw it away."
"And is such the truth?" asked Bonaparte, eagerly. "This is no
invention to raise my hopes, only to be cast down again?"
Josephine smiled. "I have daily taken notes of what Charles Botot
brought me," said she, gently; "I always hoped to find a safe
opportunity to send this diary to you in Egypt, that you might be
informed of what the Directory thought, and what was the public
opinion, so that you might take your measures accordingly. But, for
the last eight months, I knew not where you were, and so I have kept
my diary: here it is."
She gave the diary to Bonaparte, who, with impatient looks, ran over
the pages, and was fully convinced of her devotedness and care.
Josephine had well served his interests, and closely watched over
his affairs. Then, ashamed and repentant, he looked at her, who, in
return, smiled at him with gracious complacency.
"Josephine," asked he, quietly, "can you forgive me? I have been
foolish, but I swear to you that never again will I mistrust you, I
will believe no one but you. Can you forgive me?"
She embraced him in her arms, and tenderly said: "Love me,
Bonaparte; I well deserve it!"
Peace, therefore, was re-established, and Josephine's enemies had
the bitter disappointment to see that their efforts had all been in
vain; that again the most perfect unanimity and affection existed
between them; that the cloud which their enmity had conjured up, had
brought forth but a few tear-drops, a few thunderings; and that the
love which Bonaparte carried in his heart for Josephine was not
scattered into atoms.
The cloud had passed away; the sun of happiness had reappeared; but
it had yet some spots which were never to fade away. The word
"separation" which Bonaparte, so often in Egypt, and now in Paris,
had launched against Josephine, was to be henceforth the sword of
Damocles, ever suspended over her head: like a dark, shadowy spectre
it was to follow her everywhere; even amid scenes of happiness, joy,
and glory, it was to be there to terrify her by its sinister
presence, and by its gloomy warnings of the past!
THE EIGHTEENTH BRUMAIRE.
Bonaparte's journey from Frejus to Paris, on his return from Egypt,
had been a continued triumph. All France had applauded him.
Everywhere he had been welcomed as a deliverer and savior;
everywhere he had been hailed as the hope of the future, as the man
from whom was to be expected assistance in distress, the restoration
of peace, help, and salvation.
For France was alarmed; she stood on the edge of a precipice, from
which only the strong hand of a hero could save her. In the
interior, anarchy prevailed amongst the authorities as well as the
people. In La Vendee civil war raged, with all its sanguinary
horrors, and the authorities endeavored to protect themselves
against it by tyrannical laws, by despotic measures, which
threatened both property and freedom. There existed no security
either for person or for property, and a horrible, fanatical party-
spirit penetrated all classes of society. The royalists had been
defeated on the 18th Fructidor, but that very fact had again given
the vantage-ground to the most decided opponents of the royalists,
the red republicans, the terrorists of the past, who now intrigued
and formed plots and counterplots, even as the royalists had done.
They sought to create enmity and bitterness amongst the people, and
hoped to re-establish on the ruins of the present administration the
days of terror and of the guillotine.
These red republicans, ever ready for the struggle, organized
themselves into clubs and "constitutional circles," where the ruin
of the actual state of things, and the severe and bloody republic of
Robespierre, formed the substance of their harangues; and their
numbers were constantly increased by new members being sworn in.
The ballot in May, 1799, had been in favor of the Directory, and
unfavorable to the moderate party, for only fanatical republicans
had been elected to the Council of Five Hundred.
Against these factions and republican clubs the Directory had to
make a perpetual war: but their power and means failed to give them
the victory in the strife. It was a constant oscillation and
vacillation, a constant compromising and capitulating with all
parties--and the natural consequence was, that these parties, as
soon as they had secured the ear of the Directory, and gained an
advantage, strove hard to obtain the ruling authority. Corruption
and mistrust universally prevailed. Every thing had the appearance
of dissolution and disorder. Highwaymen rendered the roads unsafe;
and the authorities, instead of carrying out the severity of the
law, were so corrupt and avaricious as to sell their silence and
indulgence. The upright citizen sighed under the weight of
tyrannical laws from which the thief and the seditious knew how to
The nation, reduced to despair by this arbitrary rule and
corruption, longed for some one to deliver it from this dreadful
state of dissolution; and the enthusiasm which was manifested at the
return of General Bonaparte, was a confession that in him the people
foresaw and recognized a deliverer. Exhausted and wearied, France
sought for a man who would restore to her peace again--who would
crush the foes within, and drive away the enemy from without.
Bonaparte appeared to the people with all the prestige of his former
and recent victories; he had planted the victorious French tricolor
upon the summit of the capitol, and of the pyramids; he had given to
France the most acceptable of presents, "glory;" he had adorned her
brow with so many laurels, that he himself seemed to the people as
if radiant with glory. All felt the need of a hero, of a dictator,
to put an end to the prevailing anarchy and disturbances, and they
knew that Bonaparte was the only one who could achieve this gigantic
Bonaparte understood but too well these applauding and welcoming
voices of the people, and his own breast responded favorably to
them. The secret thoughts of his heart were now to be turned into
deeds, and the ambitious dreams of his earlier days were to become
realities. All that he had hitherto wanted was a bridge to throw
over the abyss which separated the republicans, the defenders of
liberty, equality, and fraternity, from rule, power, and
dictatorship. Anarchy and exhaustion laid down this bridge, and on
the 18th Brumaire, General Bonaparte, the hero of "liberal ideas,"
passed over it to exalt himself into dictator, consul, emperor, and
tyrant of France.
But the Directory also understood the voices of the applauding
people; they also saw in him the man who had come to deprive them of
power and to assume their authority. This was secretly yet violently
discussed by the Directory, the Council of the Elders, and of the
One day, at a dinner given to a few friends by the Abbe Sieyes, one
of the members of the Directory, the abbe, Cabanis, and Joseph
Bonaparte, were conversing together, standing on the side of the
drawing-room, near the chimney. It was conceded that undoubtedly a
crisis was near at hand, that the republic had now reached its
limit, and that, instead of five directors, only three would be
elected, and that, without any doubt, Bonaparte would be one of the
"Yes," cried Sieyes, with animation, "I am for General Bonaparte,
for of all military men he is the most civil; but then I know very
well what is in reserve for me: once elected, the general, casting
aside his two colleagues, will do as I do now." And Sieyes, standing
between Canabis and Joseph, placed his two arms on their shoulders,
then, pushing them with a powerful jerk, he leaped forward and
bounded into the middle of the room, to the great astonishment of
his guests, who knew not the cause of this gymnastic performance of
the abbe. [Footnote: "Memoires du Roi Joseph," vol. i., p. 77.]
The other directors were also conscious of this movement of
Bonaparte, and they secretly resolved to save themselves by causing
his ruin. Either the Directory or Bonaparte had to fall! One had to
perish, that the other might have the power! In order that the
Directory might exist, Bonaparte must fall.
The Directory had secretly come to this conclusion on Bonaparte's
return. They were fully aware that a daring act alone could save
them, and they were determined not to shrink from it.
The deed was to take place on the 2d Brumaire. On that day he was to
be arrested, and accused of having premeditated a coup d'etat
against the Directory. Indeed, one M. de Mounier had come to
Director Gohier and had denounced Bonaparte, whom he positively knew
was conspiring to destroy the existing government. Gohier received
these accusations with much gravity, and sent at once for the other
directors to hasten to him, but only one, Moulins, was then in Paris
to answer Gohier's summons. He came, and after a long conference
both directors agreed that the next day they would have Bonaparte
arrested on his return to Paris from Malmaison, where they knew he
was to give a large banquet that day. They sent for the chief of
police, and quietly gave him the order to station himself the next
day with twelve resolute men on the road to Malmaison, and to arrest
Bonaparte as he should drive that evening toward Paris.
On this very day Josephine, who did not wish to be present at the
banquet of gentlemen in Malmaison, had come to Paris to attend a
party at the house of one of her friends. The conversation went on;
they talked and jested, when a gentleman near Josephine told a
friend that some striking event would probably take place that day
in Paris, for he had just now met a friend who held an important
office in the police. He had invited him to go to the theatre, but
he declined, stating that he was to be on duty this evening, as some
important affair was about being transacted--the arrest, as he
thought, of some influential personage.
Josephine's heart trembled with horrible misgivings at these words.
Love's instinct convinced her that her husband was the one to be
arrested, and she thought within herself that it was Destiny itself
which sent her this intelligence, that she might save her husband
from the fearful blow which awaited him. Thus persuaded, she
gathered all her strength and presence of mind, and determined to
act with energy, and battle against the enemies of her husband.
Without betraying the slightest emotion, or exciting any suspicion
that she had heard or noticed what was said, Josephine rose from her
seat with a cheerful and composed countenance, and pleasantly took
leave of the lady of the house. But once past the threshold of the
house, once in her carriage, her anxious nature woke up again, and
she began to act with energy and resolution. She pulled the string,
to give her directions to the driver. As fast as the horses could
speed, he was to drive his mistress to Colonel Perrin, the
commanding officer of the guards of the Directory. In ten minutes
she was there, and knowing well how devoted a guard he and all his
soldiers would be to Bonaparte, she communicated to him her fears,
and requested from him immediate and speedy assistance to remove the
Colonel Perrin was prepared to enter into her plans, and he promised
to send to Malmaison a company of grenadiers, provided she would, as
soon as possible, have General Murat send him an order to that
effect. Josephine at once went to one of her true, reliable friends,
who belonged to the Council of the Elders, and, making him
acquainted with the danger which threatened her husband, requested
him to gather a few devoted friends, and to attend to the orders
which Murat would send them.
After having made all these preparations, Josephine drove in full
gallop toward Malmaison.
The dinner, to which Bonaparte had invited gentlemen from all
classes of society, was just over, and the guests were scattered,
some in the drawing-rooms, and some in the garden, where Bonaparte
was walking up and down in animated conversation with the secretary,
At this moment the carriage of Josephine drove into the yard; and
Murat, who, with a few gentlemen, stood under the porch, hastened to
offer his hand so as to help Josephine to alight. An eye-witness who
was present at this scene relates as follows:
"'Where is the general?' asked Josephine, hastily, of General Murat.
" I do not know,' was the answer; 'he is gone with Roger, but Lucien
"'Look at once for the general!' exclaimed Josephine, breathless, 'I
must speak to him immediately.'
"I approached her and said that he was in the garden. She ran--she
flew! I placed myself at a window in the first story, from which I
could easily see into the garden-walks. My expectations had not
"No sooner did Bonaparte see Josephine approach, than he left Roger
Ducos and hurried to meet her. Both then walked into a path near by.
I could see them well. Josephine spoke with animation; the general
walked on; now and then she held him back. At last they took the
path leading to the castle. I went down to meet them on the steps
near the door.
"Madame Bonaparte held her husband by the left hand. Her animated,
expressive features had a bewitching pride and softness; it was a
most delightful admixture of tenderness and heroism. Bonaparte
looked around, pale and grave, but his eyes ever rested with
pleasure on his wife. She refused to enter into the large hall, and
retired to her room. Bonaparte called for Roger, and entered the
saloon with him. His guests were awaiting his arrival, to take their
leave. The carriages drove up, and the gentlemen left Malmaison to
return to Paris. Only Lucien and Murat remained with Bonaparte;
Madame Bonaparte joined them as they entered the vestibule. When she
saw Murat, she exclaimed:
"'How, general, you still here!--Do you not consider,' continued
she, turning to Bonaparte, 'that Murat ought to be already in Paris
with Perrin?--Away! quick! to horse, to the Rue Varennes, or I drive
"Murat laughed; but four minutes after he was riding at a gallop on
the road to the city. The three others returned to their rooms. I
was curious to know what was the conversation; but as I had nothing
more to do in the castle, I was about leaping on my horse to ride to
Paris, when I saw a detachment of infantry marching toward the
"I thought it my duty to announce them to the general; he sat
between his wife and his brother. 'How!' cried he, as he rose up
"'What of them?' answered Madame Bonaparte, smiling. 'Your company
has left you, now comes mine. It is a rendezvous; but be comforted--
they are not too many.'
"All three walked into the yard, where the troops were placing
themselves in line without the sound of a drum.
"'You are an extraordinary man, sir,' said Madame Bonaparte to the
captain. 'Nearly as soon as I?'
"'Madame,' replied the officer, 'we have been ready for the march
these four hours.'
"The officers followed the general into the drawing-room, and
refreshments were distributed to the soldiers; it was a company of
"At nine o'clock in the evening, a courier arrived, bearing
dispatches to Bonaparte. At once he, his wife, and his brother,
drove to Paris. The grenadiers were ordered to follow immediately
and in silence." [Footnote: "Memoires secretes," vol. i., p. 26.]
These dispatches, which Bonaparte had received from Paris, brought
him the news that this time the danger was over--that the directors
had abandoned their plan. Some fortunate accident may have warned
them, even as Josephine herself had been warned. The spies who
everywhere tracked Josephine, as well as Bonaparte, had carried to
Gohier intelligence of all the strange movements of the wife of
Bonaparte, and the director at once perceived that she was informed
of the danger which threatened her husband, and that she was bent
upon preventing it.
But now that the plan of the directors had been unveiled, danger
threatened them in their turn, and they immediately adopted measures
to face this new peril. In place of Bonaparte, they must find some
one whom they could arrest, without withdrawing their orders. They
found a substitute in a wealthy merchant from Hamburg, who now
resided in Paris. Gohier had him arrested, and accused him of having
had relations with the enemies of France.
Bonaparte assumed the appearance of having no doubts as to the
sincerity of Gohier, of suspecting nothing as to his own arrest,
which had been prevented by the timely and energetic action of
Josephine. He thanked her with increased tenderness for her love and
faithfulness, and as he pressed her affectionately to his breast, he
swore to her that he would never again doubt her; that he would, by
the most unreserved confidence, share with her his schemes and
designs, and that henceforth he would look upon her as the good
angel who watched over the pathway of his life.
And Bonaparte kept his word. From this day his Josephine was not
only his wife, but his confidante, his friend, who knew all his
plans, and who could assist him with her advice and her exquisite
practical tact. She it was who brought about a reconciliation with
Moreau and Bernadotte; and by her amiable nature, attractive and
dignified manner, and great social talents, she bound even his
friends closer to Bonaparte; or with a smile, a kind word, some
flattering observation, or some of those little attentions which
often-times tell more effectually with those who receive them than
great services, she would often win over to him his foes and
"It is known but to few persons," says the author of the "Memoires
secretes," "that Bonaparte always consulted his wife in civil
matters, even when they were of the highest importance. This fact is
entirely true, but Bonaparte would have been extremely mortified had
he known that those around him suspected it. Had it been possible
for me to divide my being, with what delight I should have followed
this noble woman! I would relate a few traits of hers if I did not
know that M. D. B., who is much better acquainted with her than I,
is to write a biography. [Footnote: The "Memoires secretes" appeared
in 1815. The biography spoken of by the author is probably that of
Madame Ducrest, and which appeared in 1818.] I know not what were
the events of the first years of Madame de Beauharnais, but if they
were like those of her last fifteen years, we should have the
history of a perfect woman. She has known but little of me, and
therefore no interested motive guides my pen, no other sentiment
than that of truth." [Footnote: "Memoires secretes," vol. i., p.
The 2d Brumaire afforded sufficient reasons for Bonaparte to put
into execution his resolutions. He now knew the enmity of the
Directory; he knew he must cause their downfall if he himself did
not wish to be destroyed by them. He knew that, during his last
triumphal journey through France, he had heard sufficient to
convince him that the voice of the people was for him, that every
one longed for a change, that France was heartily wearied of
revolutionary commotions, and above all things craved for rest and
peace; that it wished to lay aside all political strife, and, like
him, preferred to have nothing more to do with a republican
"Every one desires a more central government," said Napoleon to his
brother Joseph. "Our dreams of a republic are the illusions of
youth. Since the 9th Thermidor the republican party has dwindled
away more and more; the efforts of the Bourbons and the foreigners,
coupled with the memories of '93, have called forth against the
republican system an imposing majority. If it had not been for the
13th Vendemiaire and the 18th Fructidor, this majority would long
ago have won the ascendency; the weaknesses, the imperiousness of
the Directory, have done the rest. To-day the people are turning
their hopes toward me, to-morrow it will be toward some one else."
Bonaparte did not wish to wait until to-morrow. He had made all his
preparations; he had made sure of his generals and officers; he knew
also that the soldiers were for him, and that it required but a
signal from him to bring about the catastrophe.
He gave the signal by inviting on the 18th Brumaire, to a dejeuner
in his house, all his confidants and friends, all the generals and
superior officers, and also the commanding general of the National
Guards. Nearly all of them came at this invitation; only General
Bernadotte kept aloof, as he perceived that the breakfast had other
objects than to converse and to eat. Sieyes and Ducos were the only
directors who made their appearance; Gohier, that morning, had sent
to Bonaparte an invitation to dinner, so as to deceive the more
securely him whom he knew was his enemy; Barras and Moulins,
suspecting Bonaparte's schemes, remained in the background, silently
awaiting the result.
While the guests were assembling in Bonaparte's house, and filling
all the space in it, a friend and confidant of Bonaparte, in the
Council of the Elders, made the following motion: "In consideration
of the intense political excitement which prevails in Paris, it is
necessary to remove the sessions to St. Cloud, and to give to
General Bonaparte the supreme command of the troops."
After a violent debate, the motion was suddenly adopted; and, when
it was brought to Bonaparte, he saw that the moment for action had
He told all those about him that at last the time was at hand to
restore to France rest and peace, that he was decided to do this,
and he called upon them to follow him. Every one was ready, and,
surrounded by a brilliant suite, Bonaparte went first to the Council
of the Elders, to express his thanks for his nomination, and
solemnly to swear that he would adopt every measure necessary to
save the country.
Immediately after this he went to the Tuileries to hold a review of
the troops stationed there. The soldiers and the people, who had
streamed thither in masses to see him, received him with loud
acclamations, assuring him of their loyalty and devotedness.
No one this day rose in favor of the deputies, no one seemed to
desire that their sittings should as heretofore take place in Paris,
nor to think that force would have to be used to remove them.
The palace of Luxemburg, in which their sittings had hitherto taken
place, and St. Cloud, in which they were to meet in the future, were
both, by orders of Bonaparte, surrounded with troops, and the
deputies as well as the Council of the Elders adjourned that very
day to St. Cloud.
Moulins and Gohier alone had the courage to offer opposition, and,
in a letter to the Council of the Elders, to describe Bonaparte as a
criminal, who threatened the republic, and to demand of them his
arrest; and also that they should immediately decree that the
republic was in danger, and that it must be defended with all
energy. But this letter fell into Bonaparte's hands; and the
directors, when they saw that their request was unheeded, resigned,
as Barras had done.
The republic now had but two legitimate rulers, Sieyes and Ducos;
and at their side stood Bonaparte, soon to exalt himself above them.
The following day, the 19th Brumaire, was actually the decisive day.
The Five Hundred, who now, like the Council of the Elders, held
their deliberations in St. Cloud, were discussing under great
excitement the abdication of the Directory and the necessity of a
new election. The debates were so vehement and so full of passion
that the president, Lucien Bonaparte, could not command order. A
wild uproar arose, and at this moment Napoleon entered the hall.
Every one rushed at him with wild frenzy; and the most violent
recriminations were launched at him. "He is a traitor!" they cried
out. "He is a Cromwell, who wants to seize the sovereign power!"
What Bonaparte had never experienced on the battle-field, in the
thickest of the fight, he now felt. He became bewildered by this
violent strife of words, by this hailstorm of accusations which
whizzed around his ears. He tried to speak; he tried to address the
audience, but he could not--he could merely give utterance to a few
broken sentences; he made charges against the Directory, with
assurances of his own loyalty and devotedness, which the audience
received with loud murmurs, and then with wild shouts. Bonaparte
became more embarrassed and bewildered. Suddenly turning toward the
door of the hall, he exclaimed, "Who loves me, let him follow me!"
and he walked out hastily.
The soldiers outside received him with great cheers, and this
brought back Bonaparte's presence of mind. "General," whispered
Augereau, as they mounted their horses, "you are in a critical
"Think of Arcola," replied Bonaparte, calmly. "There the position
seemed still more critical. Have patience for half an hour, and you
will see how things change."
Bonaparte made good use of this half hour. At its expiration he re-
entered the hall of deliberation of the Five Hundred, surrounded by
his officers, at the very moment when, on a motion of a member, they
were renewing their oaths to the constitution. Again they received
him with shouts: "Down with the tyrant!--down with the dictator! The
sanctity of the law is violated! Death to the tyrant who brings
soldiers here to do us violence!"
One of the deputies rushed upon Bonaparte and seized him, but at
that instant the grenadiers also entered the room, delivered their
general, and carried him in triumph out of the hall.
After his departure, the waves of wrath and political frenzy rose
higher and higher. Shouts and imprecations filled the room with
confusion; reproaches fell on all sides upon the president, Lucien
Bonaparte, for not having immediately ordered the arrest of the
traitor, who by his appearance, as well as by his armed escort, had
insulted the assembly. When Lucien endeavored to defend Napoleon's
conduct, he was interrupted by the cries: "He is a stain on the
republic! He has tarnished his reputation!" Louder and wilder rose
the cry to declare Napoleon an outlaw. [Footnote: "Memoires du Roi
Lucien refused, and, as they urged their demand with increasing
violence, he left the presidential chair, and with deep emotion put
off the insignia of his office--his mantle and his sash--and was at
the point of making for himself an outlet through the wild crowd
pressing in frenzy around him, when the doors opened, and a company
of grenadiers rushed in, who by main force carried him away out of
Lucien, whom Napoleon awaited outside with his troops, immediately
mounted his horse, and in this moment of deepest danger kept his
presence of mind, being fully aware that he must now be decided to
save himself and his brother or perish with him. He turned to the
troops, and ordered them to protect the president of the Five
Hundred, to defend the constitution attacked by a few fanatics, and
to obey General Bonaparte, who was empowered by the Council of the
Elders to arrest the seditious, and to protect the republic and its
The soldiers answered him with the acclamation, "Long live
Bonaparte!" But a certain shudder was visible. A few warning voices
were lifted up; they thought it strange that weapons should be
directed against the representatives of the country.
By a dramatic action Lucien brought the matter to a close, though it
was at the time meant by him in all sincerity. He drew his sword,
and, directing its point toward Napoleon's breast, he exclaimed: "I
swear to pierce even my brother's heart if he ever dares touch the
liberty of France!"
These words had an electric effect; every one felt inspired, lifted
up, and swore to obey Bonaparte, and to remain loyal to him even
unto death. At a sign from Napoleon, Murat, with his grenadiers,
dashed into the hall and drove away the assembly of the Five
Hundred. At ten o'clock that evening St. Cloud was vacant; only a
few deputies, like homeless night-birds, wandered around the palace
out of which they had been so violently ejected.
In the interior of St. Cloud, Bonaparte was busy preparing for the
people of Paris a proclamation, in which he justified his deed, and
repeated the sacred assurance "that he would protect liberty and the
republic against all her enemies at home as well as abroad." When
this was done, it was necessary to think of giving to the French
people a new government, instead of the one which had been broken
up. Napoleon had been in conference until the dawn of day with
Talleyrand, Roderer, and Sieyes. Meanwhile Lucien had gathered
around him in a room the members of the Five Hundred who were
devoted to him, and had resumed the presidential chair; Napoleon's
friends among the members of the Council of the Elders also gathered
together, and both assemblies issued a decree, in which they
declared there was no longer a Directory, and in which they excluded
from the assembly as rebellious and factious a vast number of
deputies. And more, they decreed the nomination of a provisional
commission, and decided that it should consist of three members, who
should bear the title of Consuls of the Republic, and they appointed
as consuls Sieyes, Ducos, and Bonaparte.
At three o'clock in the morning every thing was ready, and Napoleon,
accompanied by Bourrienne, went to Paris. He had reached his goal;
he was at the head of the administration, but his countenance
betrayed no joyous excitement; he was taciturn and pensive, and
during the whole journey to Paris he spoke not a word, but quietly
leaned in a corner of the carriage. Perhaps he dreamed of a great
and brilliant future; perhaps he was busy with the thought how he
could ascend higher on this ladder to a throne, whose first step he
had now ascended, since he had exalted himself into a consul of the
Not till he arrived at his residence in the Rue de la Victoire did
Bonaparte's cheerfulness return, when, with countenance beaming with
joy, and followed by Bourrienne, he hastened to Josephine, who,
exhausted by anxiety and care during this day full of danger, had
finally gone to rest. Near her bed Bonaparte sank into an arm-chair,
and, gazing at her and seizing her hand, he turned smilingly to
"Is it not true," said he--"I said many foolish things?"
"Well, yes, general, that cannot be denied," replied Bourrienne,
shrugging his shoulders, while Josephine broke out into loud, joyous
"I would sooner speak to soldiers than to lawyers," said Bonaparte,
cheerfully. "These honorable fools made me timid. I am not
accustomed to speak to an audience--but that will come in time."
With affectionate sympathy Josephine requested him to relate in
detail all the events of the day; and she listened with breathless
attention to the descriptions which Bonaparte made in his own terse,
brief, and lucid manner.
"And Gohier?" said she, at last--"you know I love his wife, and when
you were in Egypt he was ever kind and attentive to me. You will not
touch him, will you, mon ami?"
Bonaparte shrugged his shoulders. "What of it, my love?" said he;
"it is not my fault if he is pushed aside. Why has he not wished it
otherwise? He is a good-natured man, but a blockhead. He does not
understand me.... I would do much better to have him transported. He
wrote against me to the Council of the Elders, but his letter fell
into my hands, and the council has heard nothing of it. The
unfortunate man!....Yesterday he expected me to dinner....And that
is called statesmanship.... Let us speak no more of this matter."
[Footnote: Bonaparte's own words.--See Bourrienne, vol. iii., p.
Then he began to relate to his Josephine how Bernadotte had acted,
refusing to take any part in the events of the day, and how, when
Bonaparte had requested him at least to undertake nothing against
him, he answered: "As a citizen, I will keep quiet; but if the
Directory gives me the order to act, I will fight against every
disturber of the peace and every conspirator, whoever he may be."
Bonaparte then suddenly turned to Bourrienne to dismiss him, that he
might himself take some rest; and when he extended his hand to bid
him farewell, he added, carelessly:
"Apropos, to-morrow we sleep in the Luxemburg." It was decided!--the
long-premeditated deed was done! With the 18th Brumaire, Bonaparte
had made an important step forward on the path of fame and power
whose end was seen by him alone.
Bonaparte was no longer a general receiving orders from a superior
authority; he was no longer the servant of the Directory; but he was
now the one who would give orders--he was the master and ruler; he
stood at the head of the French nation; he made the laws, and his
deep, clear eye looked far beyond both consuls who stood at his
side, into that future when he alone would be at the head of France;
when, instead of the uprooted throne of the lilies, he would sit in
the Tuileries, in the chair of the First Consul, this chair of a
Caesar, which could so easily become an emperor's throne!
On the 20th Brumaire, Napoleon occupied the residence of the
Directory in the palace of the Luxemburg, after he had, through his
brother Louis, made Gohier prisoner, the only one of the directors
who still lingered there, and whom he afterward released.
Josephine's intercession procured the liberty of the husband of her
friend, and this generous pardon of the furious letter which Gohier
had written against him was the thank-offering which Bonaparte
presented to the gods as he made his entrance into the Luxemburg.
The Luxemburg itself was, however, but a relay for a change of
horses in the wondrous journey which Bonaparte had to travel from
the lawyer's house on the island of Corsica to the throne-room of
the Bourbons in the palace of the Tuileries.
In simple equipage, he with Josephine made his entrance into the
Luxemburg, but after the rest of a few weeks he left this station,
to make his entrance into the Tuileries in a magnificent carriage,
drawn by the six splendid grays which the Emperor of Austria had
presented to General Bonaparte in Campo Formio. For already another
change had taken place in the government of France, and the trefoil-
leaf of the consuls had assumed another form.
The two consuls, who had stood at the side of Bonaparte, invested
with equal powers, had been set aside by the new constitution of the
year VIII., which the people had adopted on the 17th of February,
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