Hortense alone took no part in the universal delight of the imperialists. Her soul was filled with profound sadness and dark forebodings. “I lament this step,” said she; “I would have sacrificed every thing to prevent his return to France, because I am of the belief that no good can come of it. Many will declare for, and many against him, and we shall have a civil war, of which the emperor himself may be the victim.”
[Footnote 46: Cochelet, vol. ii., p. 348.]
In the meanwhile the general excitement was continually increasing; it took possession of every one, and at this time none would have been capable of giving cool and sensible advice.
Great numbers of the emperor’s friends came to the Duchess of St. Leu, and demanded of her counsel, assistance, and encouragement, accusing her of indifference and want of sympathy, because she did not share their hopes, and was sad instead of rejoicing with them.
But the spies of the still ruling government, who lay in wait around the queen’s dwelling, did not hear her words; they only saw that the emperor’s former generals and advisers were in the habit of repairing to her parlors, and that was sufficient to stamp Hortense as the head of the conspiracy which had for its object the return of Napoleon to France.
The queen perceived the danger of her situation, but she bowed her head to receive the blows of Fate in silent resignation. “I am environed by torments and perplexities,” said she, “but I see no means of avoiding them. There is no resource for me but to arm myself with courage, and that I will do.”
The royal government, however, still hoped to be able to stem the advancing tide, and compel the waves of insurrection to surge backward and destroy those who had set them in motion.
They proposed to treat the great event which made France glow with new pulsations, as a mere insurrection, that had been discovered in good time, and could therefore be easily repressed. They therefore determined, above all, to seize and render harmless the “conspirators,” that is to say, all those of whom it was known that they had remained faithful to the emperor in their hearts.
Spies surrounded the houses of all the generals, dukes, and princes of the empire, and it was only in disguise and by the greatest dexterity that they could evade the vigilance of the police.
The Duchess of St. Leu was at last also compelled to yield to the urgent entreaties of her friends, and seek an asylum during these days of uncertainty and danger. She quitted her dwelling in disguise, and, penetrating through the army of spies who lay in wait around the house and in the street in which she resided, she happily succeeded in reaching the hiding-place prepared for her by a faithful servant of her mother. She had already confided her children to another servant who had remained true to her in her time of trouble.