Madame Bonaparte now rode with her daughter through the streets of Paris in a richly-gilded coach, under a military escort, and wherever the populace caught a glimpse of them they greeted the wife and daughter of the first consul with applauding shouts.
Bonaparte’s coachmen and servants had now a livery, and made their appearance in green coats with gold embroidery and galloons. There were chamberlains and lackeys, grooms and outriders; splendid dinners and evening parties were given, and the ambassadors of foreign powers were received in solemn audience; for, now, all the European states had recognized the French Republic under the consulate, and, as Bonaparte had concluded peace with England and Austria, these two great powers also sent envoys to the court of the mighty consul.
Instead of warlike struggles, the Tuileries now witnessed contentions of the toilet, and powder or no powder was one of the great questions of etiquette in which Josephine gave the casting vote when she said that “every one should dress as seemed best and most becoming to each, but yet endeavor to let good taste pervade the selection.”
For some time, meanwhile, Hortense had participated with less zest than formerly in the amusements and parties of the day; for some time she had seemed to prefer being alone more than in previous years, and held herself aloof in the quiet retirement of her own apartments, where the melancholy, tender, and touching melodies which she drew from her harp in those lonely hours seemed to hold her better converse than all the gay and flattering remarks that she was accustomed to hear in her mother’s grand saloons.
Hortense sought solitude, for to solitude alone could she confide what was weighing on her heart; to it alone could she venture to confess that she was in love, and with all the innocent energy, all the warmth and absolute devotion of a first attachment. How blissful were those hours of reverie, of expectant peering into the future, which seemed to promise the rising of another sun of happiness to her beaming gaze! For this young girl’s passion had the secret approbation of her mother and her step-father, and both of them smilingly pretended not to be, in the least degree, aware of the tender understanding that subsisted between Hortense and General Duroc, Bonaparte’s chief adjutant; only that, while Josephine took it to be the first tender fluttering of a young girl’s heart awaking to the world, Bonaparte ascribed a more serious meaning to it, and bestowed earnest thought upon the idea of a union between Hortense and his friend. He was anxious, above all other things, to give Duroc a more important and imposing status, and therefore sent him as ambassador to St. Petersburg, to convey to the Emperor Alexander, who had just ascended his father’s throne, the congratulations and good wishes of the First Consul of France.