Josephine triumphed. “Duroc gets back to-day from his journey,” she replied, “and in three days more I will give you the proof that he does not love you, but the family alliance which you present.”
Hortense had heard only the first of her mother’s words: “Duroc returns to-day.” What cared she for all the rest? She should see him again—she should read consolation and love’s assurance in his handsome manly face; not that she needed this to confirm her confidence, for she believed in him, and not the shadow of a doubt obscured her blissful greeting.
Meanwhile, Josephine’s pretty hands were busy drawing the meshes of this intrigue tighter every moment. She absolutely required a supporting ally in the family, against the family itself; and for this reason Louis must become the husband of Hortense.
Bonaparte himself was against this union, and was quite resolved to marry Duroc to his step-daughter. But Josephine managed to shake his resolve, by means of entreaties, representations, caresses, and little endearments, and even succeeded in such eloquent argument to show that Duroc did not cherish any love whatever for Hortense, but wanted to make an ambitious speculation out of her, that Bonaparte resolved, at least, to put his friend to the test, and, if Josephine turned out to be right, to marry Hortense to his own brother.
After this last interview with Josephine, Bonaparte went back into his office, where he found Bourrienne, as ever, at the writing-desk.
“Where is Duroc?” he hastily asked.
“He has gone out—to the opera, I think.”
“So soon as he returns tell him that I have promised him Hortense—that he shall marry her. But I want the wedding to take place in two days, at the farthest. I give Hortense five hundred thousand francs, and I appoint Duroc to the command of the eighth military division. On the day after his wedding he shall start with his wife for Toulon, and we shall live apart. I will not have a son-in-law in my house; and, as I want to see these matters brought to an end, at last, let me know to-day whether Duroc accepts my propositions.”
“I don’t think that he will, general.”
“Very good! Then, in that case, Hortense shall marry my brother Louis.”
“Will she consent?”
“She will have to consent, Bourrienne.”
Duroc came in at a late hour that evening, and Bourrienne told him, word for word, the ultimatum of the first consul.
Duroc listened to him attentively; but, as Bourrienne went on with his communication, his countenance grew darker and darker.
“If such be the case,” he exclaimed at last, when Bourrienne had got through, “if Bonaparte will do nothing more than that for his son-in-law, I must forego a marriage with Hortense, however painful it may be to do so: and then, instead of going to Toulon, I can remain in Paris.” And, as he ceased to speak, Duroc took up his hat, without a trace of excitement or concern, and departed.