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Empress Josephine
by [?]

Occasionally, visitors came to the island and were received at the old rambling mansion where Josephine’s aunt lived. From them the girl learned about the great, outside world with its politics and society and strife and rivalry; and when the visitor went away Josephine had gotten from him all he knew. So the young woman became wise without school and learned without books. A year after the memorable year of Seventeen Hundred Seventy-six, there came to the island, Vicomte Alexander Beauharnais. He had come direct from America, where he had fought on the side of the Colonies against the British. He was full of Republican principles. Paradoxically, he was also rich and idle and somewhat of an adventurer.

He called at the old aunt’s, Madame Renaudin’s, and called often. He fell violently in love with Josephine. I say violently, for that was the kind of man he was. He was thirty, she was fifteen. His voice was rough and guttural, so I do not think he had much inward grace. Josephine’s fine instincts rebelled at thought of accepting his proffered affection. She explained that she was betrothed to another, a neighboring youth of about her own age, whose thoughts and feelings matched hers.

Beauharnais said that was nothing to him, and appealed to the old folks, displaying his title, submitting an inventory of his estate; and the old folks agreed to look into the matter. They did so and explained to Josephine that she should not longer hold out against the wishes of those who had done so much for her.

And so Josephine relented and they were married, although it can not truthfully be said that they lived happily ever afterward. They started for France, on their wedding-tour. In six weeks they arrived in Paris. Returned soldiers and famed travelers are eagerly welcomed by society; especially is this so when the traveler brings a Creole wife from the Equator. The couple supplied a new thrill, and society in Paris is always eager for a new thrill.

Vicomte Beauharnais and his wife became quite the rage. It was expected that the Creole lady would be beautiful but dull; instead, she was not so very beautiful, but very clever. She dropped into all the graceful ways of polite society intuitively.

In a year, domestic life slightly interfered with society’s claims–a son was born. They called his name Eugene.

Two more years and a daughter was born. They called her name Hortense.

Josephine was only twenty, but the tropics and social experience and maternity had given ripeness to her life. She became thoughtful and inclined rather to stay at home with her babies than chase fashion’s butterflies.

Beauharnais chased fashion’s butterflies, and caught them, too, for he came home late and quarreled with his wife–a sure sign.

He drank a little, gamed more, sought excitement, and talked politics needlessly loud in underground cafes.

Men who are woefully lax in their marriage relations are very apt to regard their wives with suspicion. If Beauharnais had been weighed in the balances he would have been found wanton. He instituted proceedings against Josephine for divorce.

And Josephine packed up a few scanty effects and taking her two children started for her old home in the West Indies. It took all the money she had to pay passage.

It was the old, old story–a few years of gay life in the great city, then cruelty too great for endurance, tears, shut white lips, a firm resolve–and back to the old farm where homely, loyal hearts await, and outstretched arms welcome the sorrowful, yet glad return.

Beauharnais failed to get his divorce. The court said “no cause for action.” He awoke, stared stupidly about, felt the need of sympathy in his hour of undoing, and looked for–Josephine.

She was gone.

He tried absinthe, gambling, hot dissipation; but he could not forget. He had sent away his granary and storehouse; his wand of wealth and heart’s desire. Two ways opened for peace, only two: a loaded pistol–or get her back.