IV. KING JEROME.
There entered my drawing-room in the Place Royale one morning in March, 1848, a man of medium height, about sixty-five or sixty-six years of age, dressed in black, a red and blue ribbon in his buttonhole, and wearing patent-leather boots and white gloves. He was Jerome Napoleon, King of Westphalia.
He had a very gentle voice, a charming though somewhat timid smile, straight hair turning grey, and something of the profile of the Emperor.
He came to thank me for the permission that had been accorded to him to return to France, which he attributed to me, and begged me to get him appointed Governor of the Invalides. He told me that M. Cr»mieux, one of the members of the Provisional Government, had said to him the previous day:
"If Victor Hugo asks Lamartine to do it, it will be done. Formerly everything depended upon an interview between two emperors; now everything depends upon an interview between two poets."
"Tell M. Cr»mieux that it is he who is the poet," I replied to King Jerome with a smile.
In November, 1848, the King of Westphalia lived on the first floor above the entresol at No. 3, Rue d'Alger. It was a small apartment with mahogany furniture and woollen velvet upholstering.
The wall paper of the drawing-room was grey. The room was lighted by two lamps and ornamented by a heavy clock in the Empire style and two not very authentic pictures, although the frame of one bore the name: "Titiens," and the frame of the other the name: "Rembrandt." On the mantelpiece was a bronze bust of Napoleon, one of those familiar and inevitable busts that the Empire bequeathed us.
The only vestiges of his royal existence that remained to the prince were his silverware and dinner service, which were ornamented with royal crowns richly engraved and gilded.
Jerome at that time was only sixty-four years old, and did not look his age. His eyes were bright, his smile benevolent and charming, and his hands small and still shapely. He was habitually attired in black with a gold chain in his buttonhole from which hung three crosses, the Legion of Honour, the Iron Crown, and his Order of Westphalia created by him in imitation of the Iron Crown.
Jerome talked well, with grace always and often with wit. He was full of reminiscences and spoke of the Emperor with a mingled respect and affection that was touching. A little vanity was perceptible; I would have preferred pride.
Moreover he received with bonhomie all the varied qualifications which were brought upon him by his strange position of a man who was no longer king, no longer proscribed, and yet was not a citizen. Everybody addressed him as he pleased. Louis Philippe called him "Highness," M. Boulay de la Meurthe "Sire" or "Your Majesty," Alexandre Dumas "Monseigneur," I addressed him as "Prince," and my wife called him "Monsieur." On his card he wrote "General Bonaparte." In his place I would have understood his position. King or nothing.
RELATED BY KING JEROME.
In the evening of the day following that on which Jerome, recalled from exile, returned to Paris, he had vainly waited for his secretary, and feeling bored and lonely, went out. It was at the end of summer (1847). He was staying at the house of his daughter, Princess Demidoff, which was off the Champs-Elys»es.
He crossed the Place de la Concorde, looking about him at the statues, obelisk and fountains, which were new to the exile who had not seen Paris for thirty-two years. He continued along the Quai des Tuileries. I know not what reverie took possession of his soul. Arrived at the Pavillon de Flore, he entered the gate, turned to the left, and began to walk up a flight of stairs under the arch. He had gone up two or three steps when he felt himself seized by the arm. It was the gatekeeper who had run after him.
"Hi! Monsieur, monsieur, where are you going?"
Jerome gazed at him in astonishment and replied:
"Why, to my apartments, of course!"
Hardly had he uttered the words, however, when he awoke from his dream. The past had bewitched him for a moment. In recounting the incident to me he said:
"I went away shamefacedly, and apologizing to the porter."