She feared that the exiled, the homeless ones who had been driven from their country, and were not permitted to serve it, would devote their services to those who were unhappy and who suffered like themselves. She feared the enthusiasm, the generous courage, the energy of her sons, and she knew that, if a revolution should break out in Italy, it would gladly adorn itself with the name of Napoleon.
Hortense, therefore, conjured her sons to hold themselves aloof from all dangerous undertakings, and not to follow those who might appeal to them with the old word of magic power, “liberty;” that, in spite of the tears and blood it has already caused mankind, can never lose its wondrous power.
Her two sons promised compliance; and, much relieved, Hortense left Florence, and went, with her younger son, Louis Napoleon, to Rome.
But Rome, otherwise so aristocratic and solemn, assumed an unusual, an entirely new, physiognomy this winter. In society the topics of conversation were no longer art and poetry, the Pantheon and St. Peter, or what the newest amusement should be; but politics and the French Revolution were the all-engrossing topics, and the populace listened anxiously for the signal that should announce that the revolution in Italy had at last begun.
Even the populace of Rome, usually addicted to lying so harmlessly in the sunshine, now assembled in dense groups on the streets, and strange words were heard when the police cautiously approached these groups for the purpose of listening. But they now lacked the courage to arrest those who uttered those words; they felt that such a provocation might suffice to tear away the veil behind which the revolution still concealed itself.
The whole energy and watchfulness of the Roman government was therefore employed in endeavoring to avert the revolution, if possible; not, however, by removing the cause and occasion, but by depriving the people of the means. The son of Hortense, Louis Napoleon, seemed to the government a means which the revolution might use for its purposes, and it was therefore determined that he should be removed.
His name, and even the three-colored saddle-blanket of his horse, with which he rode through the streets of Rome, were exciting to the populace, in whose veins the fever of revolution was already throbbing. Louis Napoleon must therefore be removed.
The Governor of Rome first addressed the prince’s great-uncle, Cardinal Fesch, requesting him to advise the Duchess of St. Leu to remove the young prince from Rome for a few weeks.
But the cardinal indignantly declared that his nephew, who had done nothing, should not be compelled to leave Rome merely on account of his name and his saddle-blanket, and that he would never advise the Duchess of St. Leu to do anything of the kind.
The Roman government therefore determined to adopt energetic means. It caused the dwelling of the duchess to be surrounded by soldiers, while a papal office presented himself before Hortense, and announced that he had received orders to remove Prince Louis from the city at once, and to conduct him without the papal territory.