The general looked with wondering admiration at this young and beautiful woman, who claimed to be the mother of a lad grown up to manhood. Her enchanting face beamed with youth and beauty, and a sea of warmth and passion streamed from her large, dark eyes, while the gentle, love-enticing smile that played around her mouth revealed the tender feminine gentleness and amiability of her disposition. Bonaparte had never mastered the art of flattering women in the light, frivolous style of the fashionable coxcomb; and when he attempted it his compliments were frequently of so unusual and startling a character that they might just as well contain an affront as a tribute of eulogy.
“Ah! ah! How striking that looks!” he once said, while he was emperor, to the charming Duchess de Chevreuse. “What remarkable red hair you have!”
“Possibly so, sire,” she replied, “but this is the first time that a man ever told me so.”
And the duchess was right; for her hair was not red, but of a very handsome blond.
[Footnote 3: The Duchess de Chevreuse was shortly afterward banished to Tours, because she refused to serve us a lady of honor to the Queen of Spain.]
To another lady, whose round, white arms pleased him, he once said: “Ah, good Heavens, what red arms you have!” Then, again, to another: “What beautiful hair you have; but what an ugly head-dress that is! Who could have put it up for you in such ridiculous style?”
Bonaparte, as I have said, did not know how to compliment women with words; but Josephine well understood the flattering language that his eyes addressed to her. She knew that she had, in that very hour, conquered the bold young lion, and she felt proud and happy at the thought; for the unusually imposing appearance of the young hero had awakened her own heart, which she had thought was dead, to livelier palpitations.
From that time forth they saw each other more frequently, and, ere long, Josephine heard from Bonaparte’s own lips the glowing confession of his love. She reciprocated it, and promised him her hand. In vain her powerful friends, Tallien and Barras, endeavored to dissuade her from marrying this young, penniless general; in vain did they remind her that he might be killed in the very next battle, and that she might thus again be left a reduced widow. Josephine shook her handsome curls with a peculiar smile. Perhaps she was thinking of the prophecy of the negress at Martinique; perhaps she had read in the fiery glances of Bonaparte’s eye, and on his broad, thoughtful brow, that he might be the very man to bring that prophecy to its consummation; perhaps she loved him ardently enough to prefer an humble lot, when shared with him, to any richer or more brilliant alliance. The representations of her friends did not frighten her away, and she remained firm in her determination to become the wife of the young general, poor as he was. Their wedding-day was fixed, and both hastened with joyous impatience to make their modest little preparations for their new housekeeping establishment. Yet Bonaparte had not been able to complete his dream of happiness; he possessed neither house nor carriage, and Josephine, too, was without an equipage.