Hortense informed Count Houdetot of the last strokes of destiny that had fallen upon her, and expressed her desire to see the king, in order to speak with him in person about the future of her son.
M. de Houdetot undertook to acquaint the king with her desire, and came on the following day to inform the duchess of the result of his mission. He told the duchess that the king had loudly lamented her boldness in coming to France, and the impossibility of his seeing her. He told her, moreover, that, as the king had a responsible ministry at his side, he had been compelled to inform the premier of her arrival, and that Minister Casimir Perrier would call on her during the day.
A few hours later, Louis Philippe’s celebrated minister arrived. He came with an air of earnest severity, as it were to sit in judgment upon the accused duchess, but her artless sincerity and her gentle dignity disarmed him, and soon caused him to assume a more delicate and polite bearing.
“I well know,” said Hortense in the course of the conversation, “I well know that I have broken a law, by coming hither; I fully appreciate the gravity of this offence; you have the right to cause me to be arrested, and it would be perfectly just in you to do so!”—Casimir Perrier shook his head slowly, and replied: “Just, no! Lawful, yes!”
[Footnote 63: La Reine Hortense: Voyage en Italie, etc., p. 110.]
LOUIS PHILIIPE AND THE DUCHESS OF ST. LEU.
The visit which Casimir Perrier had paid the duchess seemed to have convinced him that the fears which the king and his ministry had entertained had really been groundless, that the step-daughter of Napoleon had not come to Paris to conspire and to claim the still somewhat unstable throne of France for the Duke de Reichstadt or for Louis Napoleon, but that she had only chosen the way through France, in the anxiety of maternal love in order to rescue her son.
In accordance with this conviction, Louis Philippe no longer considered it impossible to see the Duchess of St. Leu, but now requested her to call. Perhaps the king, who had so fine a memory for figures and money-matters, remembered that it had been Hortense (then still Queen of Holland) who, during the hundred days of the empire in 1815, had procured for the Duchess Orleans-Penthievre, from the emperor, permission to remain in Paris and a pension of two hundred thousand francs per annum; that it had been Hortense who had done the same for the aunt of the present king, the Duchess of Orleans-Bourbon. Then, in their joy over an assured and brilliant future, these ladies had written the duchess the most affectionate and devoted letters; then they had assured Hortense of their eternal and imperishable gratitude. Perhaps Louis Philippe remembered this, and was desirous of rewarding Hortense for her services to his mother and his aunt.