She read in his excited, quivering features the struggle that moved his soul, but she also read in them that her hour was come!
As he now approached her, his outstretched hand trembled, and Josephine shudderingly recoiled.
Napoleon took her hand in his, and laid it on his heart, regarding her with a long and sorrowful farewell-glance.
“Josephine,” said he, his voice trembling with emotion, “my good Josephine, you know that I have loved you! To you, and to you alone, do I owe the only moments of happiness I have enjoyed in this world. Josephine, my destiny is stronger than my will. My dearest desires must yield to the interests of France.”
[Footnote 17: The emperor’s own words. See Bourrienne, vol. iii., p. 344.]
“Speak no further,” cried Josephine, withdrawing her hand angrily—“no, speak no further. I understand you, and I expected this, but the blow is not the less deadly.”
She could speak no further, her voice failed. A feeling of despair came over her; the long-repressed storm of agony at last broke forth. She wept, she wrung her hands; groans escaped her heaving breast, and a loud cry of anguish burst from her lips. She at last fainted away, and was thus relieved from a consciousness of her sufferings.
When she awoke she found herself on her bed, and Hortense and her physician Corvisart at her side. Josephine stretched out her trembling arms toward her daughter, who threw herself on her mother’s heart, sobbing bitterly. Corvisart silently withdrew, feeling that he could be of no further assistance. It had only been in his power to recall Josephine to a consciousness of her misery; but for her misery itself he had no medicine; he knew that her tears and her daughter’s sympathy could alone give relief.
Josephine lay weeping in her daughter’s arms, when Napoleon came in to inquire after her condition. As he seated himself at her bedside, she shrank back with a feeling of horror, her tears ceased to flow, and her usually so mild and joyous eyes now shot glances of anger and offended love at the emperor. But love soon conquered anger. She extended her tremulous hand to Napoleon; the sad, sweet smile, peculiar to woman, trembled on her lips, and, in a gentle, touching voice, she said: “Was I not right, my friend, when I shrank back in terror from the thought of becoming an empress?”
[Footnote 18: Josephine’s own narrative. See Bourrienne, vol. iii., p. 342, et seq.]
Napoleon made no reply. He turned away and wept. But these farewell tears of his love could not change Josephine’s fate; the emperor had already determined it irrevocably. His demand of the hand of the Archduchess Marie Louise had already been acceded to in Vienna. Nothing now remained to be done but to remove Josephine from the throne, and elevate a new, a legitimate empress, to the vacant place!
The emperor could not and would not retrace his steps. He assembled about him all his brothers, all the kings, dukes, and princes, created by his mighty will, and in the state-chambers of the Tuileries, in the presence of his court and the Senate, the emperor appeared; at his side the empress, arrayed for the last time in all the insignia of the dignity she was about to lay aside forever.