The new pope trembled in the Quirinal, the old cardinals lost courage, and in dismay recoiled a step at every advancing stride of the insurgents. Gregory felt that the papal crown he had just achieved was already on the point of falling from his head, to be trodden in the dust by the victorious populace; he turned to Austria, and solicited help and assistance.
But young Italy, the Italy of enthusiasm, of liberty, and of hope, looked to France for support. Old Italy had turned to Austria for help; young Italy looked for assistance to the free, newly-arisen France, in which the revolution had just celebrated a glorious victory. But France denied its Italian brother, and denied its own origin; scarcely had the revolution seated itself on the newly-erected kingly throne and invested itself with the crown and purple robe, when, for its own safety, it became reactionary, and denied itself.
With all Italy, Rome was resolved to shake off the yoke of oppression; the whole people espoused this cause with enthusiasm; and in the streets of Rome—at other times filled with priests and monks and holy processions—in these streets, now alive with the triumphant youth of Rome, resounded exultant songs of freedom.
The strangers, terrified by this change, now quitted the holy city in crowds, and hastened to their homes. Hortense desired to remain; she knew that she had nothing to fear from the people, for all the evil that had hitherto overtaken her, had come, not from the people, but always from the princes only. However, letters suddenly arrived from her sons, conjuring her to leave Rome and announcing that they would leave Florence within the hour, in order to hasten forward to meet their mother.
[Footnote 59: La Reine Hortense, p. 63.]
Upon reading this, Hortense cried aloud with terror—she, who knew and desired no other happiness on earth than the happiness of her children, she whose only prayer to God had ever been, that her children might prosper and that she might die before them, now felt that a fearful danger threatened her sons, and that they were now about to be swept into the vortex of the revolution.
They had left Florence, and their father, and were now on the way to Rome, that is, on the way to the revolution that would welcome them with joy, and inscribe the name Napoleon on its standards!
But it was perhaps still time to save them; with her prayers and entreaties she might still succeed in arresting them on the verge of the abyss into which they were hastening in the intoxication of their enthusiasm. As this thought occurred to her, Hortense felt herself strong, determined, and courageous; and, on the same day on which she had received the letters, she left Rome, and hurried forward to meet her sons. She still hoped to be in time to save them; she fancied she saw her sons in every approaching carriage—but in vain!
They had written that they would meet her on the road, but they were not there!