Hortense, now a girl of twelve years, lived with her mother, who was scarcely thirty years old, in the sweet companionship of an elder and younger sister. They were inseparable companions; Nature had given Hortense beauty with a lavish hand; her mother gave to this beauty grace and dignity. Competent teachers instructed her daughter’s intellect, while the mother cultivated her heart. Early accustomed to care and want, this child had not the giddy, thoughtless disposition usually characteristic of girls of her age. She had too early gained an insight into the uncertainty and emptiness of all earthly magnificence, not to appreciate the littleness of those things upon which young girls usually place so high an estimate. Her thoughts were not occupied with the adornment of her person, and she did not bend her young head beneath the yoke of capricious fashion: for her, there were higher and nobler enjoyments, and Hortense was never happier than when her mother dispensed with her attendance at the entertainments at the house of Madame Tallien or Madame Barras, and permitted her to remain at home, to amuse herself with her books and harp in a better and more useful, if not in a more agreeable manner, than she could have done in the brilliant parlors to which her mother had repaired. Early matured in the school of experience and suffering, the girl of twelve had acquired a womanly earnestness and resolution, and yet her noble and chaste features still wore the impress of childhood, and in her large blue eyes reposed a whole heaven of innocence and peace. When she sat with her harp at the window in the evening twilight, the last rays of the setting sun gilding her sweet countenance, and surrounding as with a halo her beautiful blond hair, Josephine imagined she saw before her one of those angel-forms of innocence and love which the poet and painter portray. In a kind of trance she listened to the sweet sounds and melodies which Hortense lured from her harp, and accompanied with the silvery tones of her voice, in words composed by herself, half-childish prayer, half rhapsody of love, and revealing the most secret thoughts of the fair young being who stood on the threshold of womanhood, bidding adieu to childhood with a blissful smile, and dreaming of the future.
While Josephine de Beauharnais, after the trials of these long and stormy years, was enjoying blissful days of quiet happiness and repose, the gusts of revolution kept bursting forth from time to time in fits of fury, and tranquillity continued far from being permanently restored. The clubs, those hot-beds of the revolution, still exercised their pestilential influence over the populace of Paris, and stirred the rude masses incessantly to fresh paroxysms of discontent and disorder.
But already the man had been found who was to crush those wild masses in his iron grasp, and dash the speakers of the clubs down into the dust with the flashing master-glance of his resistless eye.