It is true Josephine’s sorrow was bitter, and the first night of solitude in Malmaison was especially distressing and horrible. But even in these hours of painful struggle the empress maintained her gentleness and mildness of character. Mademoiselle d’Avrillon, one of the ladies in waiting, has given her testimony to that effect:
“I was with the empress during the greater part of the night,” writes she; “sleep was impossible, and time passed away in conversation. The empress was moved to the very depth of her heart; it is true, she complained of her fate, but in expressions so gentle, in so resigned a manner, that tears would come to her eyes. There was no bitterness in her words, not even during this first night when the blow which destroyed her, had fallen upon her; she spoke of the emperor with the same love, with the same respect, as she had always done. Her grief was most acute: she suffered as a wife, as a mother, and with all the wounded sensitiveness of a woman, but she endured her affliction with courage, and remained unchanged in gentleness, love, and goodness.” [Footnote: Avrillon, “Memoires,” vol. ii., p. 166.]
Josephine had accepted her fate, and, descending from the imperial throne whose ornament she had long been, retired into the solitude and quietness of private life.
But the love and admiration of the French nation followed the empress to Malmaison, where she had retreated from the world, and where the regard and friendship, if not the love of Napoleon himself, endeavored to alleviate the sufferings of her solitude. During the first days after her divorce, the road from Paris to Malmaison presented as animated a scene of equipages as in days gone by, when the emperor resided there with his wife. All those whose position justified it, hastened to Malmaison to pay their respects to Josephine, and through the expressions of their sympathy to soften the asperities of her sorrow. Doubtless many came also through curiosity, to observe how the empress, once so much honored, endured the humiliation of her present situation. Others, believing they would exhibit their devotedness to the emperor if they should follow their master’s example, abandoned the empress, as he had done, and took no further notice of her.
But the emperor soon undeceived the latter, manifesting his dissatisfaction by his cold demeanor and repelling indifference toward them, whilst he loudly praised all those who had exercised their gratitude by visiting Malmaison, and in expressing their devotedness to the empress.
He himself went beyond his whole court in showing attention and respect to Josephine. The very next day after their separation, the emperor went to Malmaison to visit her, and to take with her a long walk through the park. During the following days he came again, and once invited her and the ladies of her new court to a dinner in Trianon.