My sister-in-law had been reared in the same boarding-school as Mademoiselle Josephine Tallien, god-daughter of the Empress, who has since married M. Pelet de la Lozere, and another daughter of Madame Tallien, Mademoiselle Clemence Cabarus. The school was conducted by Madame Vigogne, widow of the colonel of that name, and an old friend of the Empress, who had advised her to take a boarding-school, and promised to procure for her as many pupils as she could. This institution prospered under the direction of this lady, who was distinguished for her intelligence and culture; and she frequently brought to the Empress these protegees, with other young persons who by good conduct had earned this reward; and this was made a powerful means of exciting the emulation of these children, whom her Majesty overwhelmed with caresses, and presented with little gifts.
One morning just as Madame Vigogne was about to visit the Empress, and was descending the staircase to enter her carriage, she heard piercing cries in one of the schoolrooms, and, hastening to the spot, saw a young girl with her clothing on fire. With a presence of mind worthy of a mother, Madame Vigogne wrapped her pupil in the long train of her dress, and thus extinguished the flames, not, however, until the hands of the courageous instructress had been most painfully burned. She made the visit to her Majesty in this condition, and related to her the sad accident which had occurred; while her Majesty, who was easily moved by everything noble and generous, overwhelmed her with praises for her courage, and was so deeply touched that she wept with admiration, and ordered, her private physician to give his best services to Madame Vigogne and her young pupil.
The Empress Josephine was of medium height, with an exquisite figure; and in all her movements there was an airiness and grace which gave to her walk something ethereal, without detracting from the majesty of the sovereign. Her expressive countenance portrayed all the emotions of her soul, while retaining the charming sweetness which was its ruling expression. In pleasure, as in grief, she was beautiful, and even against your will you would smile when she smiled; if she was sad, you would be also. Never did a woman justify better than she the expression that the eyes are the mirror of the soul. Hers were of a deep blue, and nearly always half closed by her long lids, which were slightly arched, and fringed with the most beautiful lashes in the world; in regarding her you felt yourself drawn to her by an irresistible power. It must have been difficult for the Empress to give severity to that seductive look; but she could do this, and well knew how to render it imposing when necessary. Her hair was very beautiful, long and silken, its nut-brown tint contrasting exquisitely with the dazzling whiteness of her fine fresh complexion. At the commencement of her supreme power, the Empress still liked to adorn her head in the morning with a red madras handkerchief, which gave her a most piquant Creole air, and rendered her still more charming.