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Empress Josephine
by [?]

First he would try to get her back, and the pistol should be held in reserve in case of failure.

Josephine forgave and came back; for a good woman forgives to seventy times seven.

Beauharnais met her with all the tenderness a lover could command. The ceremony of marriage was again sacredly solemnized. They retired to the country and with their two children lived three of the happiest months Josephine ever knew; at least Josephine said so, and the fact that she made the same remark about several other occasions is no reason for doubting her sincerity. Then they moved back to Paris.

Beauharnais sobered his ambitions, and kept good hours. He was a soldier in the employ of the king, but his sympathies were with the people. He was a Republican with a Royalist bias, but some said he was a Royalist with a Republican bias.

Josephine looked after her household, educated her children, did much charitable work, and knew what was going on in the State.

But those were troublous times. Murder was in the air and revolution was rife. That mob of a hundred thousand women had tramped out to Versailles and brought the king back to Paris. He had been beheaded, and Marie Antoinette had followed him. The people were in power and Beauharnais had labored to temper their wrath with reason. He had even been Chairman of the Third Convention. He called himself Citizen. But the fact that he was of noble birth was remembered, and in September of Seventeen Hundred Ninety-three, three men called at his house. When Josephine looked out of the window, she saw by the wan light of the moon a file of soldiers standing stiff and motionless.

She knew the time had come. They marched Citizen Beauharnais to the Luxembourg.

In a few feverish months, they came back for his wife. Her they placed in the nunnery of the Carmelites–that prison where, but a few months before, a mob relieved the keepers of their vigils by killing all their charges.

Robespierre was supreme. Now, Robespierre had come into power by undoing Danton. Danton had helped lug in the Revolution, but when he touched a match to the hay he did not really mean to start a conflagration, only a bonfire.

He tried to dampen the blaze, and Robespierre said he was a traitor and led him to the guillotine. Robespierre worked the guillotine until the bearings grew hot. Still, the people who rode in the death-tumbrel did not seem so very miserable. Despair pushed far enough completes the circle and becomes peace–a peace like unto security. It is the last stage: hope is gone, but the comforting thought of heroic death and an eternal sleep takes its place.

When Josephine at the nunnery of the Carmelites received from the Luxembourg prison a package containing a generous lock of her husband’s hair, she knew it had been purchased from the executioner.

Now the prison of the Carmelites was unfortunately rather crowded. In fact, it was full to the roof-tile. Five ladies were obliged to occupy one little cell. One of these ladies in the cell with Josephine was Madame Fontenay. Now Madame Fontenay was fondly loved by Citizen Tallien, who was a member of the Assembly over which Citizen Robespierre presided. Citizen Tallien did not explain his love for Madame to the public, because Madame chanced to be the wife of another. So how could Robespierre know that when he imprisoned Madame he was touching the tenderest tie that bound his friend Tallien to earth?

Robespierre sent word to the prison of the Carmelites that Madame Fontenay and Madame Beauharnais should prepare for death–they were guilty of plotting against the people.

Now, Tallien came daily to the prison of the Carmelites, not to visit of course, but to see that the prisoners were properly restrained. A cabbage-stalk was thrown out of a cell-window, and Tallien found in the stalk a note from his ladylove to this effect: “I am to die in two days; to save me you must overthrow Robespierre.”