Since Napoleon’s star had grown pale, and himself compelled to leave France as an exile, life seemed to Josephine also to be enveloped in a gloomy mourning-veil; she felt that her sun had set, and night come upon her. But she kept this feeling a profound secret, and never allowed a complaint or sigh to betray her grief to her tenderly-beloved daughter. Her complaints were for the emperor, her sighs for the fate of her children and grandchildren. She seemed to have forgotten herself; her wishes were all for others. With the pleasing address and grace of which age could not deprive her, she did the honors of her house to the foreign sovereigns in Malmaison, and assumed a forced composure, in which her soul had no share. She would have preferred to withdraw with her grief to the retirement of her chambers, but she thought it her duty to make this sacrifice for the welfare of her daughter and grandchildren; and she, the loving mother, could do what Hortense’s pride would not permit—she could entreat the Emperor Alexander to take pity on her daughter’s fate.
When, therefore, the czar had finally succeeded in establishing her future, and had received the letters-patent which secured to the queen the duchy of St. Leu Alexander hastened to Malmaison, to communicate this good news to the Empress Josephine.
She did not reward him with words, but with gushing tears, as she extended to the emperor both hands. She then begged him, with touching earnestness, to accept from her a remembrance of this hour.
The emperor pointed to a cup, on which a portrait of Josephine was painted, and begged her to give him that.
“No, sire,” said she; “such a cup can be bought anywhere. But I wish to give you something that cannot be had anywhere else in the world, and that will sometimes remind you of me. It is a present that I received from Pope Pius VII., on the day of my coronation. I present you with this token in commemoration of the day on which you bring my daughter the ducal crown, in order that it may remind you of mother and daughter alike—of the dethroned empress and of the dethroned queen.”
This present, which she now extended to the emperor with a charming smile, was an antique cameo, of immense size, and so wondrously-well executed that the empress could well say its equal was nowhere to be found in the world. On this cameo the heads of Alexander the Great and of his father, Philip of Macedonia, were portrayed, side by side; and the beauty of the workmanship, as well as the size of the stone, made this cameo a gem of inestimable value. And for this reason the emperor at first refused to accept this truly imperial present, and he yielded only when he perceived that his refusal would offend the empress, who seemed to be more pale and irritable than usual.
Josephine was, in reality, sadder than usual, for the royal family of the Bourbons had on this day caused her heart to bleed anew. Josephine had read an article in the journals, in which, in the most contemptuous and cruel terms, attention was called to the fact that the eldest son of the Queen of Holland had been interred in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, and that the Minister Blacas had now issued an order to have the coffin removed from its resting-place, and buried in an ordinary grave-yard.