Now the Grand Cophta laid both hands on the child’s head and cried in a loud voice, “Open your eyes and look!”
The child turned pale and shuddered as it fixed its gaze on the decanter.
“What do you see?” asked the Grand Cophta, “I want you to look into the prison of General Beauharnais. What do you see?”
“I see a little room,” said the child with vivacity. “On a cot lies a young man who sleeps; at his side stands another man, writing on a sheet of paper that lies on a large book.”
“Can you read?”
“No, citizen. Now the man cuts off his hair, and folds it in the paper.”
“The one who sleeps?”
“No, the one who was just now writing. He is now writing something on the back of the paper in which he wrapped the hair; now he opens a little red pocket-book, and takes papers out of it; they are assignats, he counts them and then puts them back in the pocket-book. Now he rises and walks softly, softly.”
“What do you mean by softly? You have not heard the slightest noise as yet, have you?”
“No, but he walks through the room on tiptoe.”
“What do you see now?”
“He now covers his face with his hands and seems to be weeping.”
“But what did he do with his pocket-book?”
“Ah, he has put the pocket book and the package with the hair in the pocket of the coat that lies on the sleeping man’s bed.”
“Of what color is this coat?”
“I cannot see, exactly; it is red or brown, lined with blue silk and covered with shining buttons.”
“That will do,” said the Grand Cophta; “you can go to bed, child.”
He stooped down over the child and breathed on her forehead. The little girl seemed to awaken as from a trance, and hurried to her parents, who led her from the hall.
“General Beauharnais still lives!” said the Grand Cophta, addressing Josephine.
“Yes, he still lives,” cried she, sadly, “but he is preparing for death.”
[Footnote 1: This scene is exactly as represented by the Marquise de Crequi, who was present and relates it in her memoirs, vol. vi., p. 238.]
Josephine was right. A few days later Duchess d’Anville received a package and a letter. It was sent to her by a prisoner in La Force, named De Legrois. He had occupied the same cell with General Beauharnais and had found the package and the letter, addressed to the duchess, in his pocket on the morning of the execution of the general.
In this letter the general conjured Duchess D’Anville to deliver to Josephine the package which contained his hair and his last adieus to wife and children.
This was the only inheritance which General Beauharnais could bequeath to his Josephine and her unhappy children!
Josephine was so agitated by the sight of her husband’s hair and his last fond words of adieu, that she fainted away, a stream of blood gushing from her mouth.