By a strange chance, it was at the “Hotel de Hollande” that the former Queen of Holland descended from her carriage, and took up her residence, holding thus, in a measure, her entrance into Paris, under the fluttering banner of the past. In the little Hotel de Hollande, the Queen of Holland took possession of the apartments of the first floor, which commanded a view of the boulevard and the column of the Place Vendome. “Say to the column on the Place Vendome that I am dying, because I cannot embrace it,” the Duke de Reichstadt once wrote in the album of a French nobleman, who had succeeded, in spite of the watchful spies, who surrounded the emperor’s son, in speaking to him of his father and of the empire. This happiness, vainly longed for by the emperor’s son, was at least to be enjoyed by his nephew.
Louis Napoleon could venture to show himself. In Paris he was entirely unknown, and could therefore be betrayed by no one. He could go down into the square and hasten to the foot of the Vendome column, and in thought at least kneel down before the monument that immortalized the renown and grandeur of the emperor. Hortense remained behind, in order to perform a sacred duty, imposed on her, as she believed, by her own honor and dignity.
She was not willing to sojourn secretly, like a fugitive criminal, in the city that in the exercise of its free will had chosen itself a king, but not a Bonaparte. She was not willing to partake of French hospitality and enjoy French protection by stealth; she was not willing to go about in disguise, deceiving the government with a false pass and a borrowed name. She had the courage of truth and sincerity, and she resolved to say to the King of France that she had come, not to defy his decree of banishment by her presence, not for the purpose of intriguing against his new crown, by arousing the Bonapartists from their sleep of forgetfulness by her appearance, but solely because there was no other means of saving her son; because she must pass through France with him in order to reach England.
Revolution, which so strangely intermingles the destinies of men, had surrounded the new king almost entirely with the friends and servants of the emperor and of the Duchess of St. Leu. But, in order not to excite suspicion against these, Hortense now addressed herself to him with whom she had the slightest acquaintance and whose devotion to the Orleans family was too well known to be called in doubt by her undertaking. Hortense therefore addressed herself to M. de Houdetot, the adjutant of the king, or rather, she caused her friend Mlle. de Massuyer to write to him. She was instructed to inform the count that she had come to Paris with an English family, and was the bearer of a commission from the Duchess of St. Leu to M. de Houdetot.
M. de Houdetot responded to her request, and came to the Hotel de Hollande to see Mlle. Massuyer. With surprise and emotion, he recognized in the supposititious English lady the Duchess of St. Leu, who was believed by all the world to be on the way to Malta, and for whom her friends (who feared the fatigue of so long a journey would be too much for Hortense in her weak state of health) had already taken steps to obtain for her permission to pass through France on her way to England.