The Companions of Jehu
20. The Guests Of General Bonaparte
Josephine, in spite of her thirty-four years, or possibly because of them (that
enchanting age when woman hovers between her passing youth and her corning
age), Josephine, always beautiful, more graceful than ever, was still the
charming woman we all know. An imprudent remark of Junot's, at the time of her
husband's return, had produced a slight coolness between them. But three days
had sufficed to restore to the enchantress her full power over the victor of Rivoli
and the Pyramids.
She was doing the honors of her salon, when Roland entered the room. Always
incapable, like the true Creole she was, of controlling her emotions, she gave a
cry of joy, and held out her hand to him. She knew that Roland was devoted to
her husband; she knew his reckless bravery, knew that if the young man had
twenty lives he would willingly have given them all for Bonaparte. Roland eagerly
took the hand she offered him, and kissed it respectfully. Josephine had known
Roland's mother in Martinique; and she never failed, whenever she saw Roland,
to speak to him of his maternal grandfather, M. de la Clémencière, in whose
magnificent garden as a child she was wont to gather those wonderful fruits
which are unknown in our colder climates.
A subject of conversation was therefore ready at hand. She inquired tenderly
after Madame de Montrevel's health, and that of her daughter and little Edouard.
Then, the information given, she said: "My dear Roland, I must now pay attention
to my other guests; but try to remain after the other guests, or else let me see
you alone to-morrow. I want to talk to you about him" (she glanced at Bonaparte)
"and have a thousand things to tell you." Then, pressing the young man's hand
with a sigh, she added, "No matter what happens, you will never leave him, will
"What do you mean?" asked Roland, amazed.
"I know what I mean," said Josephine, "and when you have talked ten minutes
with Bonaparte you will, I am sure, understand me. In the meantime watch, and
listen, and keep silence."
Roland bowed and drew aside, resolved, as Josephine had advised, to play the
part of observer.
But what was there to observe? Three principal groups occupied the salon. The
first, gathered around Madame Bonaparte, the only woman present, was more a
flux and reflux than a group. The second, surrounding Talma, was composed of
Arnault, Parseval-Grandmaison, Monge, Berthollet, and two or three other
members of the Institute. The third, which Bonaparte had just joined, counted in
its circle Talleyrand, Barras, Lucien, Admiral Bruix, [Footnote: AUTHOR'S
NOTE.--Not to be confounded with Rear-Admiral de Brueys, who was killed at
Aboukir, August 1, 1798. Admiral Bruix, the negotiator with Talleyrand of the 18th
Brumaire, did not die until 1805.] Roederer, Regnaud de Saint-Jean-d'Angely,
Fouché, Réal, and two or three generals, among whom was Lefebvre.
In the first group they talked of fashions, music, the theatre; in the second,
literature, science, dramatic art; in the third, they talked of everything except that