The house of Madame Tascher de la Pagerie was one of the abodes in which these firebrands fell.
One night Josephine was awakened by the blinding light of the flames, which had already penetrated to her chamber. With a shriek of terror, she sprang from her bed, caught up little Hortense in her arms from the couch where the child lay quietly slumbering, wrapped her in the bedclothes, and rushed, in her night-attire, from the house. She burst, with the lion-like courage of a mother, through the shouting, fighting crowds of soldiers and blacks outside, and fled, with all the speed of mortal terror, toward the harbor. There lay a French vessel, just ready to weigh anchor. An officer, who at that moment was stepping into the small boat that was to convey him to the departing ship, saw this young woman, as, holding her child tightly to her bosom, she sank down, with one last despairing cry, half inanimate, upon the beach. Filled with the deepest compassion, he hastened to her, and, raising both mother and child in his arms, he bore them to his boat, which then instantly put out from land, and bounded away over the billows with its lovely burden.
The ship was soon reached, and Josephine, still tightly clasping her child to her breast, and happy in having saved this only jewel, climbed up the unsteady ladder to the ship’s decks. Until this moment all her thoughts remained concentrated upon her child, and it was only when she had seen her little Hortense safely put to bed in the cabin and free from all danger—only after she had fulfilled all the duties of a mother, that the woman revived in her breast, and she cast shamed and frightened glances around her. Only half-clad, in light, fluttering night-clothes, without any other covering to her beautiful neck and bosom than her superb, luxuriant hair, which fell around her and partly hid them, like a thick black veil, stood the young Viscountess Josephine de Beauharnais, in the midst of a group of gazing men!
However, some of the ladies on the ship came to her aid, and, so soon as her toilet had been sufficiently improved, Josephine eagerly requested to be taken back to land, in order that she might fly to her mother’s assistance.