With an assuring smile, the emperor extended his hand to the queen. “Leave that to me,” said he. “It is, then, understood, you are to remain in France?”
“Sire, you have convinced me that the future of my sons requires it. I shall therefore remain.”
THE NEW UNCLES.
Malmaison, to which place Hortense had returned after a short stay in Paris, and where the Empress Josephine was also sojourning, was a kind of focus for social amusement and relaxation for the sovereigns assembled in Paris. Each of these kings and princes wished to pay his homage to the Empress Josephine and her daughter, and thereby, in a measure, show the last honors to the dethroned emperor.
On one occasion, when the King of Prussia, with his two sons, Prince Frederick William (the late king) and William, had come to Malmaison, and announced their desire to call on the empress, she sent them an invitation to a family dinner, at which she also invited the Emperor of Russia and his two brothers to attend.
The emperor accepted this invitation, and on entering, with the young archdukes, the parlor in which the Duchess de St. Leu was sitting, he took his two brothers by the hand and conducted them to Hortense.
“Madame,” said he, “I confide my brothers to your keeping. They are now making their debut in society. My mother fears their heads may be turned by the beauties of France; and in bringing them to Malmaison, where so many charming persons are assembled, I am certainly fulfilling my promise to preserve them from such a fate but poorly.”
“Reassure yourself, sire,” replied the queen, gravely; “I will be their mentor, and I promise you a motherly surveillance.”
The emperor laughed, and, pointing to Hortense’s two sons, who had just been brought in, he said: “Ah, madame, it would be much less dangerous for my brothers if they were of the age of these boys.”
He approached the two boys with extended hands, and while conversing with them in a kindly and affectionate manner, addressed them with the titles “monseigneur” and “imperial highness.”
The children regarded him wonderingly, for the Russian emperor was the first to address the little Napoleon and his younger brother, Louis Napoleon, with these imposing titles. The queen had never allowed them to be called by any but their own names. She wished to preserve them from vain pride, and teach them to depend on their own intrinsic merit.
Shortly afterward the King of Prussia and his sons were announced, and the emperor and his brothers left the young princes, and advanced to meet the king.
While the emperor and the king were exchanging salutations, Hortense’s two sons inquired of their governess the names of the gentlemen who had just entered.
“It is the King of Prussia,” whispered the governess; “and the gentleman who has just spoken with you is the Emperor of Russia.”