Слике страница

violence of her emotions, she fell to the ground. Beauharnais was moved-he addressed her tenderly, and she softened and forgave him; but the scene plunged her in profound grief for many days, and she was attacked by a dangerous malady that threatened her life. Her youth triumphed over her disease, but she had to mourn over the sweet illusion that her husband had restored to her his affection and confidence.

She was residing at his country seat at Croissy where she saw no company that she could avoid, and where she heavily passed her time in the education of her children, Eugene and Hortense. But even of this pleasure she was soon deprived, for her son was, in spite of her tears, taken from her and sent out to board, though so young that he required the constant attention of a mother. For some weeks she was inconsolable, and it may be supposed that it did not tend to her alleviation to hear that her husband had determined to apply to the court for a separation. She wrote to request him to consent to a voluntary one, deprecating the publicity of the course he was about pursuing. Hc, however, listened only to his jealousy, and returned her a dry refusal. Josephine then removed to the Abbey of Panthemont, where she had boarded before her marriage. The society of her little daughter was her only remaining consolation, “except the study,” says Miss Le Normand, “of Young's Night Thoughts,' •Hervey's Meditations,' and the · History of Mankind.'” In the mean time, the law suit went on, and Beauharnais, to insure his success and destroy his wife's reputation, undertook a voyage to Martinique to examine all the negroes and mulattoes who knew Josephine in her infancy, that he might collect evidence to impeach her purity. The attempt was fruitless, for the testimony was in her favour. The suit was now, by the friendly assistance of Madame L-, transferred to the parliament of Paris, and it being clearly proved that the accusation was unfounded, Beauharnais lost his cause. He was adjudged to take back his wife, if she desired it, or pay her an annuity of 10,000 francs, and liberty was given her to live apart from him.

From this time to within a short period of her death, the narrative flows from the pen of Josephine herself, as we are told; but laden with notes by Miss Le Normand, and others. She says, so far from regarding herself as triumphant, she courted solitude, and would have sunk under her afflictions if she had not been assisted to support them by her friends and children. She delighted to roam through the shades of the "petit Trianon," and amuse herself with botany; and on one of these occasions she was surprised by the Queen, who kindly requested her not to abridge her visit, but to note down what she regarded

as remarkable; little imagining, says Josephine, that she was addressing one destined to become the wife of a general who would one day place on her head the crown of the Kings of France. In obedience to the Queen's order, she took a memorandum of what she ihought worthy of observation, and in a few days waited on the Queen with it. At this visit both the King and Queen received her kindly, the former promising her a commission for her son, aud the latter placing around her neck her own necklace with the King's picture attached.

Shortly after this period she received letters from her parents imploring her to return to them, and she prepared to do so. She requested Beauharnais to permit Eugene to accompany her, but he formally refused. She sailed with her little Hortense, and after encountering an ordinary peril or two, arrived safely at Martinique in 1787. On this event she launches forth in the following words, which we give as a specimen of her style, if it is her's.

“Oh! que l'homme entraîné loin du toit paternel, rentre en luimême, et cherche au fond de son cæur le principe d'un trouble delicieux qui l'agite, lorsque, apres avoir long-tems erré dans l'univers, il revoit enfin l'heureux berceau de son enfance; c'est alors qu'il sentira que la nature, qui fit tout pour ses ingrats enfans, en nous liant à la patrie par les chaînes de l'habitude, par les souvenirs toujours si cher du premier âge, semble avoir posé des bornes eternelles a l'insatiable ambition de bonheur qui nous devore sans jamais nous satisfaire. En vain la dure expérience nous le dit chaque jour; en vain la colombe voyageuse, déchirée et palpitante, vient tomber et se debattre à nos pieds, l'impression passagére que'elle fait naître en nous, est bientôt effacée par le mouvement rapide et tumulteux des fantômes que nos passions ne cessent de produire.”

In the bosom of her family, refreshed by her natal air, Jose-, phine began to recover her tranquillity. The scenes of her infancy were to her still full of charms, and she avers she would cheerfully have resigned the luxuries of Europe for the recovery of her liberty in the colonies. She, notwithstanding, deeply deplored the loss of her husband and her son; and after three years of peaceful retirement, she felt the hope revive in her heart, that Beauharnais would now see the injustice of his conduct, and a reconciliation perhaps be effected. Her letters from France gave rise to these speculations; and when she thought of Eugene, she flattered herself that by his means this desirable event might be brought about : but if the chances were against her, at least her duty to her children urged her to return. It was in vain her friends opposed her wishes-she had resolved. Before, however, she sailed, she had another interview with

old Euphemia, the fortune-teller. As soon as Josephine entered her cabin, she recognized her. She told Euphemia that her predictions had not been realized, and that from the time she had yielded to her curiosity, she had known nothing but misfortune. “Patience," said the ancient Sybil, examining her, “patience! Your husband will raise himself by his merit; but his enemies will one day attempt his life, and he will finally perish by the sword.” She refused to answer any more questions, saying, “I always persist in the same system ; and when you depart there will not be renewed the same wonder you saw the first time you left us, but cruel and perfidious enemies seem only to await your departure to carry fire and sword among us, and again ravage the colony.” The sang-froid with which she uttered these fearful words, struck Josephine with surprise. 'About a month afterwards, she set sail. Her voyage was an unquiet one, for three times the ship caught fire: this, however, she thought a favourable omen! Happy, indeed, is that superstition which can extract comfort from such awful occurrences! The sight of the French shores created in her bosom a lively emotion. She tried to persuade herself that the father of her children was, perhaps, the innocent and involuntary cause of her misfortunes, which she attributed to the perfidious Madame Vass—, and she wished, she says, to prove to her husband


Qu'un jugement trop prompt est souvent sans justice
Toujours dans ses pareils il se faut respecter.
Trop de sévérité tient de la tyrannie.”

Shortly after her arrival, she received intelligence of the horrible rebellion that broke out in Martinique, immediately after she had sailed, confirining Euphemia's prediction.

Josephine took lodgings in Paris, and Madame Montmorin, wife of the Governor of Fontainbleau, undertook to bring about a reconciliation with her husband. She was powerfully seconded by his father, who loved Josephine. A very animated explication ensued between the parties. Eugene and Hortense threw themselves into the arms of their father. Nature gained the mastery, and he pressed to his heart, in turn, the children and their mother. A formal treaty of oblivion, moistened with tears, was passed and solemnly ratified, and Josephine once more enjoyed connubial felicity.

Among the persons with whom she became intimate, was Madame la Contesse de Montesson, at whose house she again met William de K-, who had recently married : but his

affection for Josephine still continued. He, however, honoured his wife, if he could not love her. Being obliged to go to England on business, he left her and his infant daughter with Jose·phine; a mark of friendship which touched Beauharnais; but alas! the child so much resembled the father, that it brought his figure incessantly before Josephine's eyes, and need we add, unsettled her feelings. These, however, she innocently indulged in the exhibition of affection for the child, who soon felt that she had two mothers that equally loved her. William remained in England for many months, and at length wrote to Beaubarnais that it was possible he might go to India with the troops to be sent against Tippoo-Saib, in which case, he begged him to continue his kind protection to his wife and child. He also transmitted him his papers to enable him to carry on a claim he had against the French Government, for the repayment of a loan made to Louis XIV. by an ancestor of the person

whose fortune had been left to him. The King ordered its liquidation, but its payment was prevented by the Revolution.

That event was now approaching with frightful rapidity. Beauharnais, though one of the moderates, and attached to the monarchy, took his share in the new order of things, and was deputed to the States-General. This threw Josephine into the society of the most distinguished of the early revolutionists, as the Abbé Maury, de Bergasse, de Cazalès, Mirabeau, and others. Beauharnais was soon after nominated President of the National Assembly, which reminded his wife of the prediction of Euphemia. Upon the King's being brought back after the flight to Varennes, Beauharnais visited him secretly, and from the conversation they had together, he became convinced that the throne would be subverted. From that moment he resolved to withdraw from the democratic crowd; for in the overthrow of the monarchy, he saw the destruction both of its supporters and their most zealous antagonists. Josephine represents her husband as loving the king, and though intoxicated with fine name of liberty, his views were pure and honest. He sought no place in the State, for the career of arms alone suited him; and when war was declared against Germany, he resigned his civil office, and obtained the command of the army of the Alps, where he acquired great reputation. When the storm thickened, he firmly resisted the entreaties of his friends to emigrate; he declared that his place was in France, in array against the enemies of the State, and that he never would bear arms against his country. He, of course, became an object of suspicion; but this did not prevent his raising his voice against the execrable crime committed in the execution of the king. He

would then have abandoned the service, but the war, which immediately broke out on all sides, rendered it impossible to do so with honor. The enemies of France must be opposed, and he remained at his post. During the reign of terror, when no man's life was safe, he boldly swore an eternal hatred to the factions by which France was torn, and openly uttered such patriotic sentiments that he was soon arrested. His wife attended on him in prison with great affection, and personally solicited the prominent demagogues in his favour. They turned a deaf ear to her entreaties, and to relieve themselves from her importunities, caused her also to be arrested. Beauharnais rendered himself remarkable, whilst in prison, by acts of generosity to his fellow-sufferers, who were of all ranks. He endeavoured to inspire them with courage, both by precept and example. Since his re-union with Josephine, he had behaved towards her as an affectionate husband, but she now, to her surprise, discovered from himself that he had been also very affectionate to a certain Madame de C; and when they led him forth to the tribunal, he solicited Josephine's protection and kindness to the unborn offspring of this illicit attachment; a task, which, though of no pleasing nature to a wife, she fulfilled with all the benevolence by which she was characterized; and the daughter of Madame de C-, ly Josephine's protection, prospered in life, and is now the wife of a distinguished man of rank.

Beauharnais and his wife were several months in prison. During this period, Josephine was again desirous, as we are told, of looking into futurity, and hearing that Miss Le Normand had been arrested for predicting the fall of Robespierre, Saint-Just and Lafosse, and was much consulted, she found means to submit to her in writing, certain interrogatories with the astrological requisites. The oracle returned this response"She should survive her husband who would perish by a violent death. Her second marriage would be with a warrior, who would become, at the same time, the admiration of France, and the ruler of the world. She should be called to the highest dignities, and would reign over many countries !” And a postscript was added, “the second husband may become faithless towards you, and if so, in twenty years your happiness will be destroyed forever.” Josephine frankly avows (it' it is not an interpolation of her biographer, as we suspect) that she put great confidence in the prediction!

During her hard captivity, she used to read the daily papers. to the prisoners; and the first intelligence she had of her husband's condemnation, was her finding his name in the columus

« ПретходнаНастави »