The king was therefore composed, self-possessed, and resolute, when suddenly his brother, the Count d’Artois, and the Duke of Orleans, who, according to the king’s belief, occupied Lyons as a victor, arrived in Paris alone, as fugitives, abandoned by their soldiers and servants, and informed Louis that Lyons had received the emperor with open arms, and that no resource had been left them but to betake themselves to flight.
And a second, and still more terrible, item of intelligence followed the first. Ney, the king’s hope, the last support of his tottering throne, Ney had not had the heart to maintain a hostile position toward his old companion in arms. Ney had gone over to the emperor, and his army had followed him with exultation.
The king’s eyes were now opened, he now saw the truth, and learned how greatly he had been deceived.
“Alas,” cried he, sadly, “Bonaparte fell because he would not listen to the truth, and I shall fall because they would not tell me the truth!”
At this moment, and while the king was eloquently appealing to his brothers and relatives, and to the gentlemen of his court who surrounded him, to tell him the whole truth, the door opened, and the Minister Blacas, until then so complacent, so confident of victory, now stepped in pale and trembling.
The truth, which he had so long concealed from the king, was now plainly impressed on his pale, terrified countenance. The king had desired to hear the truth; it stood before him in his trembling minister.
A short interval of profound silence occurred; the eyes of all were fastened on the count, and, in the midst of the general silence, he was heard to say, in a voice choked with emotion: “Sire, all is lost; the army, as well as the people, betray your majesty. It will be necessary for your majesty to leave Paris.”
The king staggered backward for an instant, and then fastened an inquiring glance on the faces of all who were present. No one dared to return his gaze with a glance of hope. They all looked down sorrowfully.
The king understood this mute reply, and a deep sigh escaped his breast.
“The tree bears its fruit,” said he, with a bitter smile; “heretofore it has been your purpose to make me govern for you, hereafter I shall govern for no one. If I shall, however, return to the throne of my fathers once more, you will be made to understand that I will profit by the experience you have given me!”
[Footnote 48: The king’s own words. Memoires d’une Femme de Qualite, vol. i. p. 156.]
A few hours later, at nightfall, supported on the arm of Count Blacas, without any suite, and preceded by a single lackey bearing a torch, the king left the once more desolate and solitary Tuileries, and fled to Holland.
Twenty-four hours later, on the evening of the 20th of March, Napoleon entered the Tuileries, accompanied by the exulting shouts of the people, and the thundering “Vive l’empereur” of the troops. On the same place where the white flag of the Bourbons had but yesterday fluttered, the tricolore of the empire now flung out its folds to the breeze.