CHAPTER III. LOUIS NAPOLEON'S EARLY CAREER. - STRASBURG, BOULOGNE, HAM.

Napoleon was very fond of Hortense's little boys, though in 1811 he had completed his divorce, had married the Austrian archduchess, and had a son of his own.

Louis Napoleon has left us some fragmentary reminiscences of his childhood, which have a curious interest.

"My earliest recollections," he says, "go back to my baptism, and I hasten to remark that I was three years old when I was baptized, in 1810, in the chapel at Fontainebleau. The emperor was my godfather, and the Empress Marie Louise was my godmother. Then my memory carries me back to Malmaison. I can still see my grandmother, the Empress Josephine, in her salon, on the ground floor, covering me with her caresses, and, even then, flattering my vanity by the care with which she retailed my bons mots; for my grandmother spoiled me in every particular, whereas my mother, from my tenderest years, tried to correct my faults and to develop my good qualities. I remember that once arrived at Malmaison, my brother and I were masters to do as we pleased. The empress, who passionately loved flowers and conservatories, allowed us to cut her sugar-canes, that we might suck them, and she always told us to ask for anything we might want.

"One day, when she wished to know as usual, what we would like best, my brother, who was three years older than I, and consequently more full of sentiment, asked for a watch, with a portrait of our mother; but I, when the empress said: 'Louis, ask for whatever will give you the greatest pleasure,' begged to be allowed to go out and paddle in the gutter with the little boys in the street. Indeed, until I was seven years old it was a great grief to me to have to ride always in a carriage with four or six horses. When, in 1815, just before the arrival of the allied army in Paris, we were hurried by our tutor to a hiding-place, and passed on foot along the Boulevards, I felt the keenest sensations of happiness within my recollection. Like all children, though perhaps even more than most children, soldiers fixed my attention. Whenever at Malmaison I could escape from the salon, I was off to the great gates, where there were always grenadiers of the Garde Imperiale. One day, from a ground-floor window I entered into conversation with one of these old grognards who was on duty. He answered me laughing. I called out: 'I know my drill. I have a little musket!' Then the grenadier asked me to put him through his drill, and thus we were found, I shouting, 'Present arms! Carry arms! Attention!' the old grenadier obeying, to please me. Imagine my happiness! I often went with my brother to breakfast with the emperor. When he entered the room, he would come up to us, take our heads in his hands, and so lift us on the table. This frightened my mother very much, Dr. Corvisart having told her that such treatment was very bad for children."

The day before the Emperor Napoleon left Paris for the campaign of Waterloo, Hortense carried her boys to the Tuileries to take leave of him. Little Louis Napoleon contrived to run alone to his uncle's cabinet, where he was closeted with Marshal Soult. As soon as the boy saw the emotion in the emperor's face, he ran up to him, and burying his head in his lap, sobbed out: "Our governess says you are going to the wars, - don't go; don't go, Uncle." "And why not, Louis? I shall soon come back." "Oh, Uncle, those wicked allies will kill you! Let me go with you." The emperor took the boy upon his knee and kissed him. Then, turning to Soult, who was moved by the little scene, he said, "Here, Marshal, kiss him; he will have a tender heart and a lofty spirit; he is perhaps the hope of my race."

After Waterloo, the emperor, who passed one night in Paris, kissed the children at the last moment, with his foot upon the step of the carriage that was to carry him the first stage of his journey to St. Helena.

After this, Hortense and her boys were not allowed to live in France. Protected by an aide-de-camp of Prince Schwartzenberg, they reached Lake Constance, on the farthest limits of Switzerland. There, after a while, Queen Hortense converted a gloomy old country seat into a refined and beautiful home. A great trial, however, awaited her. King Louis demanded the custody of their eldest son, and little Napoleon was taken from his mother, leaving her only Louis. Louis had always been a "mother's boy," frail in health, thoughtful, grave, loving, and full of sentiment.

Hortense's life at Arenenberg was varied in the winter by visits to Rome. Her husband lived in Florence, and they corresponded about their boys. But though they met once again in after years, they were husband and wife no more. Indeed, charming as Hortense was to all the circle that surrounded her, tender as a mother, and devoted as a friend, her conduct as a wife was not free from reproach. She was a coquette by nature, and it is undeniable that more than one man claimed to have been her lover.

After a while her son Louis went for four years to college at Heidelberg. Mother and son never forget the possibilities that might lie before them. When the Italian revolution broke out, in 1832, Hortense went to Rome, both her sons being at that time in Florence with their father. Although the elder was newly married to his cousin, the daughter of King Joseph, both he and Louis were full of restlessness, and caught the revolutionary fervor. They contrived to escape from their father's house and to join the insurgents, to the great displeasure of both father and mother; but they were fired by enthusiasm for Italian liberty, and took the oaths as Carbonari.