Day had hardly dawned. In the first carriage sat the duchess, with a lady companion, and in front, on the box, her son, as a servant, at the side of the postilion; in the second carriage her maid, behind her the young Marquis Zappi.
As the sun arose and shone down upon the beautiful Easter day, Ancona was already far behind, and Hortense knelt down at the side of Louis Napoleon to thank God tearfully for having permitted her to succeed so far in rescuing her son, and to entreat Him to be merciful in the future. But there were still many dangers to be overcome; the slightest accident might still betray them. The danger consisted not only in having to pass through all the places where the Austrian troops were stationed; General Geppert’s pass was a sufficient protection against any thing that might threaten them from this quarter.
The greatest danger was to be apprehended from their friends—from some one who might accidentally recognize her son, and unintentionally betray them.
They must pass through the grand-duchy of Tuscany, and there the greatest danger menaced, for there her son was known to every one, and every one might betray them. This part of the journey must therefore be made, as far as possible, by night. The courier whom they had dispatched in advance had everywhere ordered the necessary relays of horses; their dismay was, therefore, great when they found no horses at the station Camoscia, on the boundary of Tuscany, and were informed that several hours must elapse before they could obtain any!
These hours of expectation and anxiety were fearful. Hortense passed them in her carriage, breathlessly listening to the slightest noise that broke upon the air.
Her son Louis had descended from the carriage, and seated himself on a stone bench that stood in front of the miserable little station-house. Worn out by grief and still weak from disease, indifferent to the dangers that menaced from all sides, heedless of the night wind that swept, with its icy breath, over his face, the prince sank down upon this stone bench, and went to sleep.
Thus they passed the night. Hortense, once a queen, in a half-open carriage; Louis Napoleon, the present Emperor of France, on a stone bench, that served him as a couch!
Heaven took pity on the agony of the unhappy Duchess of St. Leu. It heard the prayer of her anxious mother’s heart, and permitted mother and son to escape the dangers that menaced them at every step in Italy.
At Antibes they succeeded in crossing the French boundary without being recognized. They were now in their own country—in la belle France, which they still loved and proudly called their mother, although it had forsaken and discarded them. The death-penalty threatened the Bonapartes who should dare to set foot on French soil. But what cared they for that? Neither Hortense nor her son thought of it. They only knew that they were in their own country. They inhaled with delight the air that seemed to them better and purer than any other; with hearts throbbing with joy, they listened to the music of this beautiful language that greeted them with the sweet native melodies.