Josephine did not accompany him. She remained behind in Paris; but she needed consolation and encouragement to enable her to sustain this separation, which Bonaparte himself had confessed to her might be just as likely to last six years as six months. And what could afford better consolation to a heart so tender as Josephine’s than the presence of her beloved daughter? She had willingly given up her son to her husband, and he had accompanied the latter to Egypt, but her daughter remained, and her she would not give up to any one, not even to Madame Campan’s boarding-school.
Besides, the education of Hortense was now completed. She who had come to St. Germain as a child, left the boarding-school, after two years’ stay, a handsome, blooming young lady, adorned with all the charms of innocence, youth, grace, and refinement.
Although she was now a young lady of nearly sixteen, she had retained the thoughts and ways of her childhood. Her heart was as a white sheet of paper, on which no profane hand had ventured to write a mortal name. She loved nothing beyond her mother, her brother, the fine arts, and flowers. She entertained a profound but speechless veneration for her young step-father. His burning gaze made her uneasy and timorous; his commanding voice made her heart throb anxiously; in fine, she reverenced him with adoring but too agitated an impression of awe to find it possible to love him. He was for her at all times the hero, the lord and master, the father to whom she owed implicit obedience, but she dared not love him; she could only look up to and honor him from a distance.
Hortense loved nothing but her mother, her brother, the fine arts, and flowers. She still looked out, with the expectant eyes of a child, upon the world which seemed so beautiful and inviting to her, and from which she hoped yet to obtain some grand dazzling piece of good fortune without having any accurate idea in what it was to consist. She still loved all mankind, and believed in their truth and rectitude. No thorn had yet wounded her heart; no disenchantment, no bright illusion dashed to pieces, had yet left its shadow on that clear, lofty brow of transparent whiteness. The expression of her large blue eyes was still radiant and undimmed, and her laugh was so clear and ringing, that it almost made her mother sad to hear it, for it sounded to her like the last echo of some sweet, enchanting song of childhood, and she but too well knew that it would soon be hushed.
But Hortense still laughed, still sang with the birds, rivalling their melodies; the world still lay before her like an early morning dream, and she still hoped for the rising of the sun.
Such was Hortense when her mother took her from Madame Campan’s boarding-school, to accompany her to the baths of Plombieres. But there it was that Hortense came near experiencing the greatest sorrow of her life, in nearly losing her mother.