The little games with which the diplomatic Metternich occupied himself during the hundred days at the imperial court at Paris, were, it appears, of the most innocent and harmless nature.
NAPOLEON’S LAST ADIEU.
The storm, of the approach of which Queen Hortense had so long had a foreboding, was preparing to burst over France. All the princes of Europe who had once been Napoleon’s allies had now declared against him. They all refused to acknowledge Napoleon as emperor, or to treat with him as one having any authority.
“No peace, no reconciliation with this man,” wrote the Emperor Alexander to Pozzo di Borgo; “all Europe is of the same opinion concerning him. With the exception of this man, any thing they may demand; no preference for any one; no war after this man shall have been set aside.”
[Footnote 51: Cochelet, vol. iii., p. 90.]
But, in order to “set this man aside,” war was necessary. The allied armies therefore advanced toward the boundaries of France; the great powers declared war against France, or rather against the Emperor Napoleon; and France, which had so long desired peace, and had only accepted the Bourbons because it hoped to obtain it of them, France was now compelled to take up the gauntlet.
On the 12th of June the emperor left Paris with his army, in order to meet the advancing enemy. Napoleon himself, who had hitherto gone into battle, his countenance beaming with an assurance of victory, now looked gloomy and dejected, for he well knew that on the fate of his army now depended his own, and the fate of France.
This time it was not a question of making conquests, but of saving the national independence, and it was the mother-earth, red with the blood of her children, that was now to be defended.
Paris, that for eighty days had been the scene of splendor and festivity, now put on its mourning attire. All rejoicings were at an end, and every one listened hopefully to catch the first tones of the thunder of a victorious battle.
But the days of victory were over; the cannon thundered, the battle was fought, but instead of a triumph it was an overthrow.
At Waterloo, the eagles that had been consecrated on the first of June, on the Champ de Mai, sank in the dust; the emperor returned to Paris, a fugitive, and broken down in spirit, while the victorious allies were approaching the capital.
At the first intelligence of his return, Hortense hastened to the Elysee, where he had taken up his residence, to greet him. During the last few days she had been a prey to gloomy thoughts; now that the danger had come, now when all were despairing, she was composed, resolute, and ready to stand at the emperor’s side to the last.
Napoleon was lost, and Hortense knew it; but he now had most need of friends, and she remained true, while so many of his nearest friends and relatives were deserting him.