But the captain opposed this request, as he was unwilling to give the young fugitive over to the tender mercies of the assassins who were burning and massacring ashore, and whose murderous yells could be distinctly heard on board of the vessel. The entire coast, so far as the eye could reach, looked like another sea—a sea, though, of flame and smoke, which shot up its leaping billows in long tongues of fire far against the sky. It was a terrible, an appalling spectacle; and Josephine fled from it to the bedside of her little sleeping daughter. Then, kneeling there by the couch of her child, she uplifted to heaven her face, down which the tears were streaming, and implored God to spare her mother.
But, meanwhile, the ship weighed anchor, and sped farther and farther away from this blazing coast.
Josephine stood on the deck and gazed back at her mother’s burning home, which gradually grew less to her sight, then glimmered only like a tiny star on the distant horizon, and finally vanished altogether. With that last ray her childhood and past life had sunk forever in the sea, and a new world and a new life opened for both mother and child. The past was, like the ships of Cortez, burned behind her; yet it threw a magic light far away over into her future, and as Josephine stood there with her little Hortense in her arms, and sent her last farewell to the island where her early days had been spent, she bethought her of the old mulatto-woman who had whispered in her ear one day:
“You will go back to France, and, ere long after that, all France will be at your feet. You will be greater there than a queen.”
It was toward the close of the year 1790 that Josephine, with her little daughter, Hortense, arrived in Paris and took up her residence in a small dwelling. There she soon received the intelligence of the rescue of her mother, and of the re-establishment of peace in Martinique. In France, however, the revolution and the guillotine still raged, and the banner of the Reign of Terror—the red flag—still cast its bloody shadow over Paris. Its inhabitants were terror-stricken; no one knew in the evening that he would still be at liberty on the following day, or that he would live to see another sunset. Death lay in wait at every door, and reaped its dread harvest in every house and in every family. In the face of these horrors, Josephine forgot all her earlier griefs, all the insults and humiliations to which she had been subjected by her husband; the old love revived in her breast, and, as it might well be that on the morrow death would come knocking at her own door, she wished to devote the present moment to a reconciliation with her husband, and a reunion with her son.