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Chapter 19

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. Crémieux, 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. Crémieux 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.

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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-Elysées.

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."


Victor Hugo