Bonaparte smiled at this solicitude of his tender friend, yet he listened to his pressing alarms, and, instead of opening and reading the letter, he passed it to Junot.
“Read it yourself, if you have the courage to do so,” said be, familiarly shaking his head.
Junot rapidly broke the black seal and tore the red paper. Then, fixing his eyes on it, he threw it aside, and broke into loud, merry laughter.
“Well,” asked Bonaparte, “what does the letter contain?”
“A mystery, my general—nothing more than a mystery,” cried Junot, presenting the letter to Bonaparte.
The letter contained but these words:
“Macbeth, you will be king.
“The red man.”
Junot laughed over this mysterious note, but Bonaparte shared not in his merriment. With compressed lips and frowning brow he looked at these strange, prophetic words, as if in their characters he wanted to discover the features of him who had dared to look into the most hidden recesses of his soul; then he threw the paper into the chimney-fire, and slowly and thoughtfully paced the room, while in a low voice he murmured, “Macbeth, you will be king.”
At last the conqueror of Toulon conquered also the heart of the young widow who had so anxiously struggled against him; at last Josephine overcame all her fears, all her terror, and, with joyous trust in the future, was betrothed to General Bonaparte. But even then, after having taken this decisive step, after love had cast away fear, even then she had not the courage to reveal to her children that she had contracted a new marriage-tie, that she was going to give to the orphans of the Viscount de Beauharnais a new father. Ashamed and timid as a young maid, she could not force herself into acknowledging to the children of her deceased husband that a new love had grown in her heart—that the mourning widow was to become again a happy woman.
Josephine, therefore, commissioned Madame de Campan to communicate this news to her Eugene and Hortense; to tell them that she desired not only to have a husband, but also to give to her children a faithful, loving father, who had promised to their mother with sacred oaths to regard, love, and protect them as his own children.
The children of General Beauharnais received this news with tears in their eyes; they complained loudly and sorrowfully that their mother was giving up the name of their father and changing it for another; that the memory of their father would be forever lost in their mother’s heart. But, through pure love for their mother, they soon dried up these tears; and when next day Josephine, accompanied by General Bonaparte, came to St. Germain, to visit Madame de Campan’s institution, she met there her daughter and son, who both embraced her with the most tender affection, and, smiling under their tears, offered their hands to General Bonaparte, who, with all the sincerity and honesty of a deep, heart-felt emotion, embraced them in his arms, and solemnly promised to treat them as a father and a friend.