Fate seemed at last weary of persecuting the poor Duchess of St. Leu. It at least accorded her a few peaceful years of repose and comfort; it at least permitted her to rest from the weariness of the past on the bosom of Nature, and to forget her disappointments and sorrows. The Canton of Thurgau had had the courage to extend permission to the duchess to take up her residence within its borders, at the very moment when the Grand-duke of Baden, who had been urged to the step by Germany and France, had peremptorily ordered Hortense to leave Constance and his grand-duchy without delay.
Hortense had thankfully accepted the offer of the Swiss canton, and had purchased, on the Swiss side of the Lake of Constance, an estate, whose beautiful situation on the summit of a mountain, immediately on the banks of the lake, with its magnificent view of the surrounding country, and its glittering glaciers on the distant horizon, made it a most delightful place of sojourn. Hortense now caused the furniture of her dwelling in Paris, that had been sold, to be sent to her. The sight of these evidences of her former grandeur awakened sweet and bitter emotions in her heart, as they were one after another taken out of the cases in which they had been packed—these sofas, chairs, divans, carpets, chandeliers, mirrors, and all the other ornaments of the parlors in which Hortense had been accustomed to receive kings and emperors, and which were now to adorn the Swiss villa that was outwardly so beautiful because of the vicinity, and inwardly so plain and simple.
But Hortense knew how to make an elegant and tasteful disposition of all these articles; she herself arranged every thing in her house, and took true feminine delight in her task. And when all was at last arranged—when she walked, with her son at her side, through the suite of rooms, in which every ornament and piece of furniture reminded her of the past—when these things recalled the proud days of state when so many friends, relatives, and servants, had surrounded her—a feeling of unutterable loneliness, of painful desolation, came over her, and she sank down on a sofa and wept bitterly. But there was nevertheless a consolation in having these familiar articles in her possession once more; these mute friends often awakened in the solitary queen’s heart memories that served to entertain and console her. Arenenberg was a perfect temple of memory; every chair, every table, every article of furniture, had its history, and this history spoke of Napoleon, of Josephine, and the great days of the empire.
In Arenenberg Hortense had at last found a permanent home, and there she passed the greater part of the year; and it was only when the autumnal storms began to howl through her open and lightly-constructed villa, that Hortense repaired to Rome, to pass the winter months in a more genial climate, while her son Louis Napoleon was pursuing his studies at the artillery school at Thun.