“All is lost,” said she, sadly. “Yes, all is lost. The empress has determined to leave Paris. She lightly abandons France and the emperor. She is about to depart.”
“If she does that,” exclaimed General Lavalette, in despair, “then all is really lost, and yet her firmness and courage might now save the emperor, who is advancing toward Paris by forced marches. After all this weighing and deliberating, they have elected to take the worst course they could choose! But, as this has finally been determined on, what course will your majesty now pursue?”
“I remain in Paris,” said the queen, resolutely; “as I am permitted to be mistress of my own actions, I am resolved to remain here and share the fortunes of the Parisians, be they good or evil! This is at least a better and worthier course than to incur the risk of being made a prisoner on the public highway.”
Now that she had come to a decision, the queen exhibited a joyous determination, and her mind recovered from its depression. She hastened to dispatch a courier to Malmaison to the Empress Josephine, now forgotten and neglected by all, to conjure her to leave for Novara at once. She then retired to her bedchamber to seek the rest she so much needed after so many hours of excitement.
But at midnight she was aroused from her repose to a sad awakening. Her husband, with whom she had held no kind of intercourse since his return, had now, in the hour of danger, determined to assert his marital authority over his wife and children. He wrote the queen a letter, requiring her to leave Paris with her children, and follow the empress.
Hortense replied with a decided refusal. A second categoric message from her husband was the response. He declared that if she should not at once conform to his will, and follow the empress with her children, he would immediately take his children into his own custody, by virtue of his authority as husband and father.
At this threat, the queen sprang up like an enraged lioness from her lair. With glowing cheeks and sparkling eyes she commanded that her children should be at once brought to her, and then, pressing her two boys to her heart with passionate tenderness, she exclaimed: “Tell the king that I shall leave the city within the hour!”
THE ALLIES IN PARIS.
The anxiety of motherly love had effected what neither the departure of the empress nor the news of the approach of the Cossacks could do. Hortense had taken her departure. She had quitted Paris, with her children and suite, which had already begun to grow sensibly smaller, and arrived, after a hurried flight, endangered by bands of marauding Cossacks, in Novara, where the Empress Josephine, with tears of sorrow and of joy alike, pressed her daughter to her heart. Although her own happiness and grandeur were gone, and although the misfortunes of the Emperor Napoleon—whom she still dearly loved—oppressed her heart, Josephine now had her daughter and dearest friend at her side, and that was a sweet consolation in the midst of all these misfortunes and cares.