The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Little Dauphin (Life Stories for Young
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Title: The Little Dauphin (Life Stories for Young People)
Author: Franz Hoffman
Translator: George P. Upton
Release Date: July 15, 2020 [EBook #62650]
Character set encoding: UTF-8
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A. C. McClurg & Co.
Published September 16, 1905
THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.
The story of Louis Charles, second son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, is one of the most pathetic in the history of royalty, and has an added interest because of the attempts of many romancers and some historical writers to raise doubts as to his fate. The brief space of the little Dauphin’s life is measured by the awful period of the French Revolution and Reign of Terror. Franz Hoffmann, the writer of the original (which was published under the title of “Ein Königssohn,” or, “A King’s Son”), follows the ordinarily accepted version that the Dauphin was separated from the King and Queen and confined in the Temple, and that after their execution he was deliberately and cruelly allowed to waste away in body and become the victim of hopeless disease, remaining thus until death ended his sufferings and the inhuman barbarity of his keepers. In the course of his narrative the author touches upon the most striking events of the Revolution, that “dreadful remedy for a dreadful disease,” as it has been called, and brings out in strong relief the character of the well-meaning but weak King and imperious Queen, as well as that of the brutal cobbler Simon, the Dauphin’s keeper; but the principal interest centres in the pathetic figure of the little prince. The historic doubts raised as to the Dauphin’s fate also lend interest to the tale. One of these has to do with the identity of Naundorff, who passed himself off as the Duke of Normandy, the Dauphin’s title, and the other with the Rev. Eleazar Williams of Green Bay, Wisconsin, missionary among the Indians. The claims put forth by friends of Williams attracted widespread attention and provoked much discussion in this country and France, half a century ago, because of the extraordinary coincidences attaching to the alleged identity. It is the generally accepted verdict of history, however, that the Dauphin was the victim of the Revolution and died in the Temple in 1795, and as such he appears in these pages. The details of his fate can never be stated with accuracy, so involved and uncertain is the tragic mystery, but Hoffmann’s narrative is undoubtedly correct in its general outlines. There are almost as many different versions as there are histories of that thrilling period.
G. P. U.
The Little Dauphin
Within the grounds of the Tuileries,—that splendid palace of the King of France,—at the end of a terrace overlooking the water, there was, in 1790, a small garden surrounded by a neat trellis and adjoining a pavilion occupied by the Abbé Daveaux, tutor of the Dauphin, or Crown Prince, Louis Charles.12
On a certain bright July morning in that year a handsome, graceful boy about five years old entered this garden. He was richly and carefully dressed, and was accompanied by a small detachment of soldiers in the uniform of the National Guard, who followed him on foot to the gate in the trellis and stationed themselves there as sentinels. The boy bowed courteously to them and said, smiling: “I am sorry, gentlemen, my garden is so small I cannot have the pleasure of receiving you in it, but I will do the best I can,” and quickly gathering a handful of flowers, he proceeded to distribute them among his escort with such winning sweetness that the bearded soldiers could scarcely restrain their emotion.
After busying himself for some time in this way, the boy took from a corner one of the small but handsomely finished garden tools that had evidently been specially adapted to his use, and went industriously to work removing the weeds which had sprung up among the flowers, and spading the soil of a small bed to prepare it for setting out some young plants which he had brought with him in a pretty little basket. He worked with such energy and absorption that beads of perspiration stood on his forehead, and he did not observe that his tutor, the Abbé Daveaux, had entered the little garden and was watching his labors with loving interest.13
“That will do, my Prince,” said the Abbé, finally. “You must not fatigue yourself too much or you will not be able to give proper attention to your lessons.”
The boy immediately laid down his tool and with a bright smile greeted his tutor, who gently brushed the clustering curls from his flushed face. As he stood there, glowing with health and breathless from the exercise which had brought a bright color to his cheeks, with the frank, fearless glance of his great blue eyes shaded by dark lashes, the wide, fair brow, the fresh red lips, the dimple in his rounded chin, and the almost angelic expression of innocence on his face—it would have been hard to find a lovelier child. His figure was slender and delicate, his motions full of grace and vivacity, while in his manner and bearing there was something noticeably distinguished, combined with a confiding trustfulness that won all hearts.14
Universally admired for his beauty and beloved for his nobility of mind, his tender heart, and the sweet friendliness he showed to all with whom he came in contact, this boy was Louis Charles, Dauphin of France, destined in the ordinary course of events to be the future ruler of one of the mightiest kingdoms of the world. Tenderly beloved by his parents, the unfortunate King Louis the Sixteenth and the imperious Grand Duchess Marie Antoinette; surrounded by all the pomp and splendor of a kingdom, and sheltered with loving solicitude from every shadow of evil, as yet he had known only the sunny days of happy, careless childhood; but already above him were gathering the dark clouds which were to eclipse the sunshine of his life evermore and transform the serene happiness of his parents into bitter trouble and untold misery. Alas! what a cruel fate had destiny reserved for this beautiful boy whose blue eyes looked out so bravely and trustfully upon the world! But of all this he had little foreboding as he gave himself up to the full enjoyment of his innocent happiness with all the light-hearted unconsciousness of a child.
“Just see, M. Abbé, how busy I have been this morning!” said the boy, after he had given the usual morning greetings to his tutor. “I have taken out all the weeds and planted this bed with fine asters, which will please my mother very much when they blossom. You know, M. Abbé, how much she loves flowers!”15
“I do, indeed, my Prince,” answered M. Daveaux, “and it is very nice and thoughtful of you to take her a nosegay every morning; but I cannot understand why you exert yourself to do all that digging, weeding, watering, and planting when a gardener would do it for you in a few moments.”
The little Prince shook his head earnestly. “No, no, M. Abbé,” he replied after a moment’s reflection; “my father gave me this garden so that I should have the care of it. And besides,” he added with a charming smile, “I must make these flowers grow myself, because mamma would not like them half so well if anyone else had done it.”
“You are right, my Prince,” said the Abbé, surprised and touched by the boy’s remark, which showed so much affection for his mother. “Go on planting your flowers, and I hope they may thrive entirely to your satisfaction.”16
“Oh, they are growing finely, M. Daveaux,” answered the Prince, proudly. “You will see what a large bunch I can pick in just a moment”; and with a zeal and energy inspired by his love for his mother he examined all the flowers in his little garden, selected the largest and freshest blossoms, and bound them into a bouquet which he arranged with much care and taste.
“Look, M. Abbé,” said he, holding out his nosegay with childish triumph, “do you not think my mother will be pleased with this? It makes me very unhappy when the weather is bad and I cannot work in my garden, for how can I be happy, M. Abbé, when I have not earned mamma’s first kiss with my bouquet? But now I must go and feed my rabbits, and then hurry to her with the flowers.”
In a corner of the garden there was a small enclosure walled in with bricks, where some pretty tame rabbits were kept by the Prince. They recognized him with evident pleasure, and came quickly at his call as he bountifully distributed among them fresh cabbage leaves and carrots provided for the purpose. After this visit to his pets, the Dauphin turned back toward the palace to make his usual morning call on his mother, but once more he was detained.17
Before the iron railings that separated the garden from the open street stood a poor woman, who was gazing at the Prince with longing eyes, but had not ventured to address him. Perceiving instantly that she seemed to be in trouble, he approached her and asked kindly: “What is the matter, my good woman? Can I do anything for you?”
The woman burst into tears. “Oh, my Prince,” she stammered, “I am very poor and have a sick child at home,—it is a boy, my Prince, and just as old as you,—and he is waiting anxiously for my return. But I cannot bear to go back to him with empty hands!”
“Wait a moment,” replied the Prince, after he had convinced himself that the woman was really poor and needy. “I am going to see my mother, and will be back directly.”
With hasty steps he ran on, and disappeared in the palace; but in less than ten minutes he was back again with a beaming face.
“Here, my good woman,” he said in his gentle voice, as he handed her a bright new gold piece through the railings, “that is from my mother. And this,” he added, snatching one of the finest roses from his garden, “this is from me for your sick boy. I hope he will soon be well again”; and before the astonished woman could utter her thanks the little Dauphin had vanished again, hardly hearing the loud acclamations of the crowd which had gathered outside the palings and witnessed his generous deed.18
At no time was the young Prince gayer or more charming than with his mother, whom he adored above all the world. As she did not wish his mind overtaxed with learning during his tender years, she taught him herself the rudiments of his education before giving him into the hands of his tutor, and nothing could equal the motherly care and solicitude she bestowed on the task. If the boy became weary, the Queen would seat herself at the piano or harp and play for him little melodies, full of expression, which she had either learned or composed herself, observing with pleasure that his ear was very sensitive to the charm of melody; or she would sometimes read to him fairy tales, fables, or stories from history, to which the little Prince listened with the liveliest interest. Every emotion aroused by these appeals to his imagination showed itself on his sensitive, animated features. Exclamations of wonder or excitement occasionally escaped him at the recital of stirring events or adventures which his mind could readily grasp; but whenever anything escaped his comprehension or was not clear to him, his brow clouded, and a stream of questions immediately followed. Nor was he satisfied until he fully understood. At such times he often astonished those about him with observations and reflections that awakened the liveliest hopes for the future of the royal child,—hopes unhappily doomed to be so soon blasted!19
After the little Dauphin had made the poor woman happy with his gift, he returned for a moment to his mother to thank her again for the gold piece, and then went to give the King his morning greetings.
“What is this I hear, my dear Charles?” said the King, smiling and shaking his finger at the Prince. “M. Hue has been telling me strange things of you.” M. Hue was one of the Prince’s attendants.
“What things, papa?” asked the boy. “I don’t remember doing anything bad.”
“No? Think well, Charles. Yesterday, while you were reciting your lesson, you began to whistle. Did you not deserve a rebuke for that?”
The Prince colored. Then he answered quietly: “Yes, papa, I remember. I repeated my lesson so badly that I whistled to myself.”20
“Nevertheless you see it was heard,” replied the King. “You may be forgiven for that, however, but we have not come to the end yet. Afterwards you were in such high spirits that you tried to run away and dash through the rose-bushes in the garden. M. Hue warned you, and said, ‘Monseigneur, a single one of those thorns might wound your face badly, or even put out your eye!’ And what answer did Monseigneur make?”
Somewhat abashed, the Prince lowered his eyes. “I said: ‘It is the thorny path that leads to glory!’ And is not that true, papa?”
The King’s face assumed a more serious expression. “Yes, yes, the principle is right,” he answered, “but you have misapplied it, my child. There is no glory in risking your eyesight merely to gratify a mischievous impulse. If it had been a question of killing a dangerous beast, of rescuing a human being from peril, in short, if you had risked your life to save another, that might have been called glory; but your act, Charles, was simply thoughtless and imprudent. Beside, child, you had better wait and not talk of glory until you are able to read the history of your ancestors and our French heroes like Guesclin, Bayard, Turenne, and many others who have defended our crown with their blood.”21
This mild but earnest exhortation made a deep impression on the heart of the young Prince. He seized his father’s hand, kissed it, and said in a low voice, “Very well, dear papa, after this I will find my glory in following your counsels and in obeying you.”
“Then we are good friends again,” answered the King; “and now we will look over your exercises for a few moments, so that M. Hue and M. Daveaux may be pleased with you.”
The King, as well as the Queen, observed with pride the talents of his son, and it afforded him much pleasure to be present during the lesson hours and examine the exercises and copy-books. He frequently instructed the Prince himself, and by his praise or censure encouraged in the boy a habit of diligence and attention to what was being impressed upon his mind. Together with his wife he guided the education of the young Prince, and even continued the practice in later and less happy days, when, deprived of his crown, he had to accustom himself to the gloom of a prison cell.22
Soon the Abbé Daveaux appeared, and the usual instruction in religion, reading, history, and geography began. The Prince was particularly attentive on this day, for his father’s gentle admonition had sunk deep into his heart and spurred his zeal to the utmost.
“You have been very bright and industrious to-day, my Prince,” said M. Daveaux, when study-time was over, “and I am glad, therefore, that I have a pleasant piece of news for you.”
“What news?” asked the Prince, quickly.
“This,—that a company of small soldiers has been formed in Paris under the name of ‘Regiment of the Dauphin,’ which wishes to have you for its Colonel. I am sure you will accept this post of honor with pleasure.”
“Yes, indeed, if papa will allow me!” replied the Prince, with sparkling eyes.
“Your papa,” answered the King himself, “has not only already given his consent, but is willing for you to receive the young gentlemen who have come to pay their respects to their new Colonel.”
“Come already? Where shall I find them?” asked the Prince, eagerly.
“In your garden,” replied the King. “M. Daveaux will be good enough to accompany you.”23
Beaming with joy, the Crown Prince hastened with his tutor to the garden, where he greeted the little deputation, most of whom were not more than four or five years older than himself, with graceful courtesy and announced his readiness to accept the post of Colonel of their regiment.
“Now it will be adieu to your flowers and the nosegays for your mamma, I suppose?” said the Abbé.
“Oh, no!” returned the Dauphin, gayly, “reviewing my Grenadiers will not prevent me from taking care of my flowers. Some of these young soldiers have little gardens of their own; they will love the Queen, too, like their Colonel, and in the future, instead of a single one, mamma will receive a whole regiment of bouquets every day.”
The little soldiers loudly applauded their new commander’s speech, and the best relations were at once established between them and continued without a break for several weeks. His small Guards afforded the Prince the greatest pleasure, until they were dispersed in the stormy times which soon followed.24
By this time the day was considerably advanced, and the Abbé was obliged to remind his pupil that his mother would be waiting for him and he must dismiss the envoys of the Regiment of the Dauphin. The Prince gave his hand courteously to his little comrades and followed his tutor to the Queen’s apartment. His reception, however, was by no means such as he expected. His mother greeted him with a very serious face and gave him only her cheek to kiss instead of the usual embrace. Prince Louis Charles, who was acutely sensitive, perceived at once that something was amiss and looked at his mother timidly and somewhat perplexed.
“What fault have I committed now, mamma?” he asked.
“Ah, the young gentleman’s conscience troubles him already,” replied the Queen. “Perhaps he can tell me about the trick that was played on the page who attended him yesterday on the terrace. I hope he will not attempt to deny it!”
The Prince’s delicate face grew crimson, for he remembered very well to what his mother referred. The day before, while they were walking together, he had mischievously taken a flute from his companion’s pocket and hidden it in a fir-tree on the terrace. In a faltering voice he confessed his guilt.25
“Very good,” said the Queen; “your confession mitigates your fault somewhat, but nevertheless such pranks cannot be passed over without punishment. It is out of the question, of course, to imprison the newly appointed Colonel of a regiment, but there is Mouflet! Mouflet was with you at the time. He was in a way the accomplice of his master, and since that master may not be punished, Mouflet must suffer for him. Let Mouflet be called and placed in arrest for two hours!”
Mouflet was a pretty little dog, dearly loved by the Prince, and on this affection the Queen relied in her punishment of the Dauphin. Nor was she mistaken as to its effect.
Confined in a dark little cabinet, deprived alike of his freedom and the sight of his young master, poor Mouflet began to whine dolefully, to scratch at the door, and finally to howl with all his might. His lamentations found an echo in the tender heart of the real culprit and filled it with pity and remorse. Weeping, he hastened to his mother and tearfully kissed her hand.
“But, mamma,” said he, “Mouflet is not the one who has done wrong. Why should the poor dog be punished? Oh, please set him free and put me in his place!”26
Delighted as the Queen was at this proof of the Prince’s sense of justice, and gladly as she would have pardoned him, she felt that for the sake of discipline she must not yield to her feelings, and replied gravely: “Very well, since you feel that you deserve the punishment, I will not prevent you from enduring it. You may release poor Mouflet and be locked up in his place for an hour.”
Rejoiced at this decision, the Prince accepted his sentence at once and even extended it beyond the allotted time. But this was not all. In the solitude of his prison he began to reflect upon his behavior, and told himself that even though he had atoned for his fault the wrong had not yet been righted. He resolved that as soon as he was at liberty he would go to the garden, get the flute from its hiding-place, and give it back to his playmate with a request for forgiveness. A loving glance, a tender caress from his mother, were the rewards of his victory over himself; and these signs that he was forgiven made the little Prince so happy and contented that for the rest of the day he was the most polite and well-behaved of boys and gave not the slightest occasion for a word or even a look of reproof.27
Some days later, on the fourteenth of July, 1790, a great fête was held on the Champ de Mars in Paris, as in all the other cities of France, to celebrate the inauguration of the new régime. The storm of the Revolution which had broken out in the previous year seemed to have passed away with this celebration, and there was a general feeling of hope and cheerful expectancy even among the opponents of the new order of things. All the people, without distinction of rank or class, had contributed to the erection of a huge amphitheatre-like structure built around the Champ de Mars, and in its construction had treated one another like members of one great family. Even the heavy gusts of rain which ushered in the long-talked-of day failed to dampen the ardor of the deputies and the vast throng of people assembled there. The endless processions followed each other in perfect order; and at last the sun burst forth triumphantly from the mists and rain clouds. First, Lafayette mounted the steps of the high altar erected under the open sky, where Talleyrand, Bishop of Autun, with sixty priests, read the Mass and consecrated the banners of the eighty-three districts of France, and swore, with the colors of Paris in his hand, in the name of the National Guard and the army of France, to be true to the law and the King; then the President of the National Assembly, rising from his seat at the right of the King, took the same oath; and finally the King himself arose and swore with uplifted arms to use all the power bestowed on him by the law and the new Constitution for their maintenance. At this instant, while cannon thundered and trumpets blared, loud shouts arose. The Queen, who was on a raised dais beside the throne, carried away by the excitement of the moment, lifted her son, the Dauphin, high in her arms to show him to the people and also to let him share in the oaths. The lovely child, smiling and radiant, stretched out his innocent arms as though to invoke a blessing from Heaven upon France, whereat the multitude that witnessed the charming sight broke forth into cheers and deafening huzzas that rent the ragged clouds and penetrated to the heavens above.29
The envoys of the people thronged about the little Dauphin to offer him their loyalty and homage, which the Prince received with such grace and childish dignity that the enthusiasm broke out afresh, and thousands of hearts vowed unswerving allegiance to this child whose innocent breast seemed to harbor no thoughts but those of peace and good-will to men. The King and Queen embraced each other, many eyes were filled with tears, and a general reconciliation seemed to have closed forever the abyss of the Revolution which had threatened to engulf unhappy France.
These were still sunny days; but, alas! they were the last to shine upon the well-meaning King and his unfortunate consort. Fate had doomed them to misfortune, and “misfortune travels swiftly.”
The Night of Varennes
Soon after the celebration of the new régime, the Hydra of the Revolution, which had been for a short time trodden into the dust, again lifted its poisonous head. Those evil geniuses of France, Robespierre, Marat, and Danton, vied with one another in their efforts to disturb the peace of the country which had been secured with such difficulty, and by calumnies against the King to sow the seeds of hatred and distrust of him among the people.
They succeeded only too well. The National Assembly issued an unprecedented order to the effect that the King should not absent himself from Paris for more than twenty-four hours; and if he should leave the kingdom, and not return at the request of the Assembly, he should be deposed.31
Notwithstanding this order, the King determined on a journey to St. Cloud. At eleven o’clock in the morning he attempted to start, but his carriage was immediately surrounded by a dense throng of people. A troop of mutinous soldiers locked the doors of the palace, and with threats and shouts levelled their bayonets at the breasts of the horses. All Lafayette’s efforts to appease the tumult were in vain, and after two hours of struggle and dispute, during which the King was forced to bear the grossest insults and abuse, he was obliged to return to his apartments.
The little Dauphin, who had been eagerly looking forward to the journey and making a thousand plans for his sojourn in St. Cloud, was much grieved over this failure of his hopes. To divert his mind from the disappointment, after he had returned to his room the Abbé Daveaux gave him a volume of “The Children’s Friend,” by Berquin, to look at. The Prince opened it at random, and cried in astonishment: “Just see, M. Abbé! what a curious thing! Look at this title, ‘The Little Captive’! How strange!”32
The child had foretold only too well in applying the name of little captive to himself. He, as well as his parents, was in fact a prisoner of the people and the National Assembly, and their numerous jailers behaved so rudely and disrespectfully to them that the situation soon became unbearable. The unvarying kindness and patience of the King served only to multiply the complaints and calumnies of his enemies. Even the Queen could no longer appear at her window without exposing herself to insults and invectives. At last the yoke became so heavy that nothing remained but to escape, or break it by force. The kindly heart of the King shrank from the latter course, which could not be accomplished without bloodshed, so the necessary preparations were made for flight—the only recourse left him. It was determined to seek a refuge in some frontier town and from there to carry on negotiations with the arrogant Assembly.33
The King was not entirely without loyal friends. By means of a secret correspondence, an arrangement was made with the Marquis de Bouillé, a lieutenant-general at the head of an important army corps. The troops in Champagne, Alsace, and Lorraine were placed under his command, and he also guarded the frontier from Switzerland to the Moselle and the Sambre. It was arranged between him and the King that the latter should go to Montmédy, a strong post situated conveniently near the frontier. The Marquis proposed, in order to lessen the danger, that the party should separate, the Queen with the Dauphin going first; but the King answered: “If we are to be saved, it must be together or not at all.”34
On the 29th of April, 1791, the King wrote to M. Bouillé to procure a coach for the journey, large enough to accommodate himself and his entire family; but the general tried to persuade him to take, instead, two small, light English travelling-carriages, such as were used at that time, which would not attract attention. The King unfortunately would not listen to this suggestion, a seemingly trivial circumstance, which brought about disastrous results. Before he left Paris, he wished to relieve the Marquis from any responsibility in the matter, and sent him therefore a written order to station troops along the road from Châlons to Montmédy, for the purpose of guarding the safety of the persons of the King and his family.
Their departure was fixed for the night of June nineteenth, but was deferred at the last moment by an unfortunate occurrence. One of the Queen’s waiting-women, who, it was feared, might betray the plan if she had the least suspicion of it, was dismissed from her service that very day, so the journey was postponed for twenty-four hours. We shall soon see how this fact also contributed to the failure of the ill-fated undertaking.35
Haste was imperative. The plan had already begun to excite suspicion; for it had become necessary to take several persons into the secret, who did not guard it with proper care. Even the lower domestics in the Tuileries whispered of it among themselves, and the rumor, spreading abroad, excited the populace to such a degree that the police were formally notified. This report naturally resulted in the maintenance of a still stricter surveillance over the palace. The royal family was constantly watched in the most offensive way; the people even became so bold as to lock the King and Queen in their own apartments at night; and mattresses were placed before the doors for the guards to sleep on, so that no one could leave the rooms without stepping over the bodies of their jailers. This difficulty, however, had been foreseen, and an effort made to surmount it. Some months before this, a door had been so skilfully cut in the woodwork of the chamber occupied by the King’s sister, Madame Élisabeth, that only the closest scrutiny could discover it. This door opened on a small staircase, which led to a vaulted passage separating this room from that of the Queen. A similar door had been made in the royal apartment, and both fitted with keys which turned so easily they could be opened instantly, without noise or delay. Finally, the precaution had been taken to conceal them by means of large cupboards or presses, that opened on both sides and hid the secret doors without preventing passage through them. In this way one room could be easily reached from the other, and by means of the passage, access gained to the interior of the palace, from whence it would be easy to reach the open air and freedom.36
On the twentieth of June, at ten o’clock in the morning, the little Dauphin was working in his garden at the end of the Tuileries; at eleven, the Queen went to hear mass with her attendants, and on her return from the chapel ordered her carriage to be in readiness at five in the afternoon. The day passed as usual; but the elder sister of the Dauphin noticed that her parents seemed anxious and agitated, and confided this observation to her brother. At five o’clock the Queen took a little drive with her children, and seized this opportunity to impress upon them that they must not be alarmed at anything that might occur in the course of the evening or night. The children were clever enough to perceive their mother’s meaning, and the little Prince assured her she might be quite easy with regard to him.37
After the King and his family had eaten their evening meal at the usual hour, all retired to their apartments. The Dauphin was put to bed at nine o’clock, the Princess, his sister, at ten; the Queen retired at half-past ten, and the King a few moments later. The servants were given the seemingly necessary orders for the following morning; the doors were locked, the sentries took their usual precautions, and at Madame Élisabeth’s door the guard was doubled. But scarcely had the serving-people withdrawn, when the King, the Queen, and Madame Élisabeth carefully arose, dressed themselves quickly, and in a few moments were ready for the journey. The Queen went into her daughter’s room to awaken her and her waiting-woman, Madame Brunier. She acquainted the latter with the plan for escape, informed her that she and Madame de Neuville had been chosen to accompany them, and requested her finally to dress the Princess as quickly as possible and bring her into the Dauphin’s chamber. The clothes had been already prepared. The dress for the little Princess was of cheap brown stuff and very simply made, in order that the rank of the fugitive might not be suspected, while the Dauphin was dressed as a girl, and looked most charming in his new costume. But, aroused from his first sleep at eleven o’clock at night, he could not understand what was going on about him, and fell asleep again immediately. His sister awoke him once more, and whispered:38
“Charles, Charles! what do you think of all this?”
To which he replied sleepily, and with half-closed eyes, “I think it is a comedy we are going to act, because we are dressed up so strangely.”
At the time fixed for departure, both children were taken out into the passage, where they were joined a moment later by the Queen. She took them by the hand and led the way, Madame de Neuville, Madame Brunier, and Madame de Tourzel, the Dauphin’s governess, following. They descended a staircase, hurried through several dark corridors to a door in the farthest corner of the courtyard, which had been left unguarded, and near which a hackney-coach was standing. It had been agreed they should not all leave the palace together, for fear of attracting the attention of the sentries, so the Queen lifted her children into the coach, entrusted them to the care of Madame de Tourzel, and returned to the palace. The driver was Count Axel Fersen—a Swedish gentleman who, next to M. de Bouillé, enjoyed the highest favor at court. He drove out of the courtyard, took a roundabout way through the quarter to elude observation, and then came back to the Petit Carrousel, where he was to wait for the rest of the party. While they stood there, Lafayette’s carriage drove by, surrounded by torch bearers; he was on his way to the Tuileries, but recognized no one and observed nothing; for that matter, the Dauphin was in the bottom of the coach, hiding under his governess’s skirt.39
An hour passed, but no one came. Finally Madame Élisabeth arrived, and not long after her the King appeared. The Queen was only a short distance behind him, but she caught sight of Lafayette’s carriage again approaching, and, afraid of being discovered, hurried down one of the narrow streets near by. Confused by the labyrinth of alleys, she lost her way, and dared not ask it of anyone so near the palace. Thus another precious half-hour was lost before she found the coach again. At last they started, and reached the new Barrier of the suburb St. Martin, without further mishap, where they found the large travelling-coach awaiting them, drawn by five strong horses, although it was fully two hours past the time agreed on.40
It was the shortest night of the year, and the first faint light of dawn was already visible in the sky, as, shortly after two o’clock, the carriage containing the royal family rattled up. The change to the waiting travelling-coach was made without delay, and Count Fersen swung himself onto the box beside his coachman, Balthasar Sapel.
“Drive on, quickly!” he ordered. “Make haste!” They started forward. Their rôles were distributed as follows: Madame de Tourzel was to appear as the Baroness von Korff; the Princess and the Dauphin as her daughters Amalie and Algan; the Queen passed as the children’s governess, Madame Rochet; Madame Élisabeth personated the waiting-woman called Rosalie; the King took the part of valet-de-chambre under the name of Durand; and three officers of the bodyguard who accompanied them, Messieurs de Maldent, de Moustier, and de Valory, passed for servants and couriers. All were suitably dressed.41
Count Fersen, on the coachman’s box in front, constantly cracked the whip and urged the driver on. “Faster! faster! Balthasar!” he called to him. “Do not spare the horses—they will have time enough to rest when we are safe with the regiment.” The horses almost flew, but their furious speed seemed slow to the anxious impatience of the Count, who realized but too well the dangers of the enterprise. Bondy was reached in half an hour, and here, through the forethought of M. de Valory, six fresh horses were waiting for them, while he himself rode on in advance to Claye to take the same precaution there. At Bondy, Count Fersen took leave of them with reluctance, and returned to Paris, to escape as soon as possible to Belgium.42
At Claye the travellers found the waiting-maids, Brunier and de Neuville, who had left Paris a little before them in a postchaise. It was important to continue their journey without delay, but the new travelling-coach already needed some repairs, and again invaluable time was lost. At the village of Étoges, between Montmirail and Châlons, they had an anxious moment, fearing themselves recognized. The King, with his usual carelessness, allowed himself to be seen too often. He descended from the coach more than once, walked up one or two of the long hills with the children, and even talked with some peasants they met. At Châlons, where they arrived about noon, they were indeed recognized by the postmaster and some other persons who had seen the King; but they were shrewd and loyal, and did all in their power to aid the fugitives, harnessing the horses themselves and urging the postilions to depart. The travellers were amply supplied with provisions, and nowhere was a stop made for meals. At the bridge in Sommevesle, the first post-station after Châlons, they should have found a detachment of hussars to act as escort on the road to Montmédy; but when they reached there at six o’clock, not a hussar was to be seen. It was discovered afterward that six hours earlier the troops had been at their post, according to orders; but, having already waited some hours, a longer stay was deemed imprudent, owing to the suspicious attitude of the people. M. de Choiseul, the commander of the hussars, fearful of arousing fresh disturbances in Ste. Menehould, had then given orders to avoid that town in their retreat, and make their way by cross-roads; and hence the travellers missed them altogether. Again the unfortunate consequences of these delays were felt; but even worse results were to follow. At Ste. Menehould an escort of the King’s dragoons should have been waiting; but their leader, Captain d’Andoins, had been forced to go to the town hall to account for the presence of his troops, which had alarmed the now excited populace, and was held there virtually a prisoner, while his troopers unsaddled their horses and dispersed.43
It was here that the King, uneasy over the failure of their plans, and putting his head out of the coach window, was recognized by the postmaster Drouet. The sight of the King struck the fellow with amazement; he compared the head of the traveller with that of the King stamped on an assignat (the paper money used at that time), and his malignant expression betrayed his thoughts. The Queen caught his evil smile and felt her heart sink; but they passed on without hindrance, and she gradually forgot her fears. The traitor Drouet, however, lost no time in profiting by his discovery. He communicated it at once to the town council, and the whole village was in commotion. At that moment a special messenger arrived from Châlons, confirming the news of the King’s escape. It was resolved that Drouet, accompanied by a former dragoon of the Queen’s regiment, should start instantly in pursuit of the fugitives, and, in case he succeeded in overtaking them, place them under arrest. In hot haste they mounted, and set off at furious speed in the direction taken by the royal party.44
Meanwhile M. de Damas, with a company of dragoons, had arrived at Clermont the previous afternoon, at five o’clock, with orders to wait there for the King, and as soon as he had passed to follow him along the road to Varennes. They remained at their post till nightfall, when Damas ordered his troopers’ horses to be unsaddled and allowed the men to disperse. Half an hour later the coach arrived, and continued on its way without stopping. M. de Damas, who saw it pass, sent an officer to summon the dragoons in haste from their quarters. The town was soon in great excitement; the council was disturbed; discussions grew more and more heated. When Damas finally gave the signal to mount, the troopers refused to obey, and it was with the greatest difficulty he persuaded them to follow him—another link in the chain of fatalities!45
The King’s coach had scarcely left Clermont when Drouet himself arrived, obtained a fresh mount, and set off again in hot pursuit. One of the King’s bodyguard was riding in advance of the coach as courier, another behind it as rear guard. Beside these, Damas, when he saw Drouet ride off, had sent one of his officers to overtake and stop him. This man had almost succeeded in his attempt, when, favored by the darkness, the traitor turned off into by-ways known only to himself, and, thoroughly familiar with the country, reached Varennes shortly after eleven o’clock, fully an hour before the King and his family arrived there.46
Varennes was a secluded little village and had no post-house, but a place in the outskirts of the town, where he might obtain a change of horses, had been so carefully described to the King that he had no difficulty in finding it. Here they stopped, expecting to get the horses, but nothing was to be seen of them. In vain the King knocked on the door; no one answered. As a matter of fact, the plan had been changed at the last moment, owing to the disturbances existing all over the country, and the horses had been sent to an inn on the other side of the river; but, through more misunderstandings and errors, someone had neglected to notify the King. Lights were still visible in the house, and the Queen herself alighted from the coach and tried to obtain some response from the inmates; but her hope of obtaining information by some chance was not realized, and half an hour was lost. Drouet knew how to make the most of the time. When at last the travellers were forced to abandon the attempt and re-enter the coach, the postilions refused to go any farther, pretending that their horses were too exhausted to continue the journey. Just then the courier returned, bringing with him a man in a dressing-gown and with a nightcap on his head. As he approached the royal couple they demanded impatiently: “Where are our horses, fellow? Tell us at once!”
“Your horses!” he shouted, flinging himself almost inside the vehicle. “That I cannot say; but I know another secret I will not tell you.”47
“Do you know Frau von Korff?” asked Madame de Tourzel.
“No,” said he, “but I know something better than that”; and with these words he disappeared again. At the Queen’s entreaties, the postilions finally consented to drive the coach at least through the town. The travellers now believed themselves safe; they attributed this incident, like the other mishaps of their journey, to some error or miscalculation, and, full of hope, saw themselves already under the protection of Bouillé’s loyal troops. But alas! matters were soon to assume a different aspect.48
Rightly to understand what follows, it should be explained that Varennes is built on the side of a hill, and consists of an upper and lower town connected by a bridge across the Aire, which flows between. At that time the town was approached from Clermont, not as now by way of a fine square, but through a narrow street ending in an arched passageway, guarded by a heavy gate which could be closed at will. This archway was built under a tower, which is still standing; on one side was a church, long since destroyed, and on the other a small inn called the Bras d’Or, kept by the Le Blanc family. The gateway was used as entrance to the town in time of peace, and the inn served as a sort of watch-house. Beyond the passage was the bridge, and it was here that Drouet had placed the ambuscade which was to prevent the King’s farther progress. The host of the Golden Arm tavern was also an officer of the National Guard. Aroused by Drouet, he ran to call up the mayor of the town, M. Sance; then he and his brother armed themselves, and, summoning several of the National Guard, stationed themselves before the entrance to the archway. Sance meanwhile had hastened to alarm the town, and sent out messengers to the nearest villages. His son Georges, a captain of grenadiers, took command of the guard, and while his other children were running through the town at their father’s command, shouting “Fire! Fire!” M. Drouet, accompanied by a notary called Regnier and some of the townspeople, brought up a loaded wagon, which they placed diagonally across the bridge to obstruct its passage. All the preparations were complete, when the expected vehicle was heard approaching. It passed through the upper town without interruption, the houses apparently all dark and silent, and came rapidly on, until, just as it reached the dark archway under the tower, the horses were brought to a sudden standstill by the barricade. At the same instant there sounded from all sides the cry, “Halt, there! Halt!”—a cry issuing from the rough throats of ten armed men, who now emerged from the darkness. They threw themselves upon the horses, seized the postilions, sprang to both doors of the coach, and harshly demanded of the travellers who they were.49
“Frau von Korff, with her family!” came the answer.
“That may be,” returned a voice, “but you will have to prove it!”
At the first shout and the first gleam of weapons, the officers of the bodyguard had leaped from their places with their hands on their concealed knives, ready at a signal from the King to make use of them. But Louis the Sixteenth nobly forbade them to use force, and the hostile musket barrels remained pointing toward the coach. Drouet seized a light, held it up to the King’s face, and, without calling him by name, ordered him to alight and show his passport to the mayor. The King, still clinging to the hope that he had not been recognized, descended from the coach, his family following him.50
As the party passed up the street, they saw some hussars arriving; it was M. de Choiseul’s force, which should have waited at the bridge in Sommevesle. The National Guard, whose numbers had increased, allowed them to pass, but were ready nevertheless to resist any attempt at rescue. By this time the malicious activity of Drouet had produced its results. The alarm bell was rung, the drums beat, all Varennes was astir. Thousands of peasants came flocking in from neighboring towns, and the villages through which the King had passed were thrown into wild excitement by the news of his flight.
The mayor’s house, whither the royal family was conducted, contained two rooms on the upper floor, reached by a spiral staircase. One of them overlooked the street, the other the garden. The King was lodged in the back room, but, as there was a connecting door between, he could see all that passed in the street. A dense throng of people had gathered there, and increased every moment. Sance at first pretended not to recognize his illustrious guests, and, treating them as ordinary travellers, explained that the horses could go no farther, and besought them to remain and rest until fresh relays could be obtained. But this mask of hypocrisy was soon thrown aside, and he as well as Drouet began to overwhelm the King with cruel taunts and bitter invectives. They accused him directly of intending to escape to foreign lands for the purpose of joining and assisting in an invasion of France by her enemies. In vain the King attempted to deny his rank and claim the liberty accorded to all travellers. They declared flatly that he and his family were recognized, and continued their jeers and abuse.51
“Very well, then,” suddenly said the Queen, with dignity—she had not hitherto spoken a word—“since you recognize him as your King, then see that you treat him as such!”
These words induced the King to resume his natural frankness of manner, which he had with difficulty concealed. He explained freely the motives which had prompted him to take this journey; spoke of his earnest desire to learn the real needs of the people whose welfare was dear to him; resolutely denied the false report that he wished to escape from France and make his home in a foreign land, and even offered to entrust himself to the National Guard of Varennes, and let them accompany him to Montmédy or any other place in the kingdom where his personal freedom might be assured.52
The naturally warm and candid eloquence of the King did not fail in its effect. Sance was almost ready to give way, and if it had depended only on him they might have been allowed to proceed. But Drouet had no idea of allowing his prey to escape him now; he became still more violent, and declared that his own head might answer for it if the King were not sent back to Paris. At this moment, too, an incident occurred in the street which decided the fate of the royal fugitives. A conflict arose between the officers who were on the King’s side and the National Guard. M. de Goguelat crowded his horse against the leader of the Guard and drew his sword; the Major discharged his pistol at Goguelat and wounded him in the shoulder, causing his horse to rear and throw him. M. de Choiseul’s hussars looked on, but made no motion to interfere, and it was evident that they could no longer be depended on. All hope was now lost; the King’s only chance lay in the possible arrival of Bouillé and his soldiers, but Bouillé did not appear. Instead, fresh reënforcements of the National Guard came pouring in from all sides to assist their comrades, and the ever increasing throngs overflowed the little town—a town destined from this night to claim a melancholy place in history.53
Between six and seven o’clock in the morning, two messengers arrived from the National Assembly, M. de Romeuf, Lafayette’s aide-de-camp, and Bayon, an officer of the National Guard in Paris. They brought a decree of the Assembly, ordering the King to be taken back to his capital wherever he might be found. Bayon entered alone. Fatigue and excitement had given a still darker cast to his naturally gloomy expression. With tangled hair and disordered attire, he approached the King, and stammered confusedly:
“Sire, you are aware … all Paris is in arms … our wives and children even now perhaps are being massacred … you will not go any farther away…. Sire, the welfare of the country … yes, Sire … our wives and children….”
At these words, the Queen with a sudden movement seized his hands and, pointing to the sleeping children on the bed, exclaimed:
“Sir, am I not also a mother!”
“What is your business here?” demanded the King.54
“Sire, a decree of the Assembly.”
“Where is it?”
“My comrade has it.”
With these words, he opened the door and disclosed M. de Romeuf, who, overcome with emotion, was leaning against a window in the front room. His face was wet with tears. He approached with downcast eyes, holding out a paper, which the King took from him and glanced through rapidly.
“Now,” he said, “there is no longer a King in France!”
The children had awakened by this time, and the little Dauphin became the object of special interest. Some admired his beauty, and others asked him questions about his journey and the Tuileries, to which the sleepy child scarcely responded, but only gazed at his mother.
“Ah, Charles,” his sister whispered to him, “you were mistaken, this is no comedy!”
“I knew that long ago!” returned the poor child, shrugging his shoulders.55
Meanwhile, the crowd, excited almost to frenzy by Drouet, were demanding the King’s departure, and their shouts and cries came surging upward from the street. Some of the most violent even tried to break into the house and bring him out by force, while above all the tumult arose a scream of “Drag him out! Drag him into his coach! We will have him!”
The King attempted to appease them by appearing at the window, seeking to gain time, in the faint hope that any moment might bring Bouillé and rescue. As a last resort, one of the waiting-women declared she was violently ill, and the King and Queen refused to desert her. But all their efforts were of no avail, and the King realized at last that further resistance was hopeless. He requested to be left alone with his family for a moment, and, after a brief and sorrowful consultation, he yielded and announced himself ready to depart. The royal mother took her son in her arms and carried him herself to the coach. It was half-past seven when they started on their return journey—alas! just a quarter of an hour too early!56
Only a few moments after they had gone, a body of troops appeared on the heights overlooking Varennes in the direction of Verdun. It was the son of M. de Bouillé with the cavalry. He tried to cross the river by a ford, the bridge being defended, but was unable to accomplish it, and thus the last chance of saving the King was lost. General Bouillé arrived soon after at the head of his Royal German Regiment, in full gallop, only to learn when he reached Mouza that the King had left Varennes and that he was too late. Broken-hearted, he turned his horse’s head, and with his faithful and now dejected troops began his retreat to the frontier.
The royal party was already far from Varennes. Surrounded by five or six thousand infuriated peasants, the King was a prisoner in the same vehicle that was to have borne him to safety and freedom. It was only allowed to proceed at a foot-pace, and a whole hour was consumed in reaching Clermont. This town, like all the others through which they passed, was filled to overflowing. Everywhere the shops were closed, the people beside themselves with excitement, and hundreds of frantic voices yelled denunciations against the King, his nobles, and his officers.57
At three in the afternoon Ste. Menehould was reached, and the mayor, Furci, a brave and honest man, invited the Queen to partake of some refreshment in the town hall. The weary travellers would gladly have remained here some hours to rest, for the little Prince, exhausted by his seven-hours’ journey in the heat and dust, was suffering from an attack of fever; but Bayon, the cruel commander of this sad expedition, refused to gratify their desire, and the unfortunate royal family were obliged to continue their journey. Here the National Guard of Varennes and Clermont left them, and their place was taken by the Guard of Ste. Menehould, who were relieved in their turn by those of the next town.
One dreadful occurrence struck terror to the hearts of the poor fugitives, and gave them a chill foreboding of the horrors in store for them. On a hillside near the village of Han, a brave nobleman, the Marquis de Dampierre, rode up to greet the King as he passed. Louis conversed with him for some moments, and, as they parted with mutual good wishes, M. de Dampierre bowed low and reverently kissed the hand of his unhappy sovereign. This token of respect was his death-warrant, for scarcely had the loyal noble left the coach door when savage voices shouted to him to halt, and as he unsuspectingly obeyed, the mob fell upon him in a fury, tore him from his horse, and slaughtered him without pity before the eyes of the royal family. His head was cut off and carried on the end of a spear for some distance in front of their coach, as a trophy.58
In the midst of such atrocities, it is gratifying to hear of one instance which proves there were still pure and noble hearts even in those frightful times.
Young Cazotte was the commander of the National Guard in the village of Piercy, and it was his duty to receive the King at Épernay, where a stop was to be made at the Hotel Rohan. Cazotte’s men guarded the entrance to this palace, and he exacted a solemn promise from them to allow no one but the authorities to enter. Scarcely were these measures taken when the King’s coach arrived, almost borne along by the waves of people. The prisoners alighted amid a storm of curses, jeers, and insults, directed especially against the Queen.
“Ignore this madness, madame; God is over all!” said Cazotte to her in German.59
A grateful glance was her only answer as she stepped forward, followed by her daughter, Madame Élisabeth, and Madame de Tourzel, the crowd pressing close behind them. The little Dauphin was carried by one of the soldiers. He was crying and calling for his mother, who was out of sight. Cazotte took him in his arms and tried to soothe him, but his tears did not cease to flow until he was carried into the room where the Queen had been taken. Cazotte’s delicate solicitude for the royal family did not end even here; regardless of what the consequences might be, he found a seamstress to repair their clothing, which had been torn and trampled on by the mob, furnished them with refreshments and such conveniences as he was able to obtain, and did all in his power to add to their comfort till their departure put an end to his unselfish and kindly service.60
Between Épernay and Dormans they met the commission sent out by the National Assembly, consisting of Barnave, Pétion, and the Marquis de Latour-Maubourg. They took their places in the coach, but Pétion and Latour-Maubourg only remained inside a short time, leaving Barnave alone with the travellers. Barnave was one of the minor deputies of the people, who amid all the tumult and violence of the Assembly had preserved his nobility and tenderness of heart. He felt sincere pity for the unfortunate royal family, and, no longer restrained by the presence of his colleague, Pétion, freely offered his sympathy. The Queen was touched by his considerate behavior, and joined in the conversation. Barnave, on the other hand, to whom the Queen had been painted in the most odious colors, was astonished to find her so different from what he had expected, and soon began to honor and respect those he had been taught to hate and despise. When the conversation ceased after a time, he took the little Prince on his knee and talked with the child, whose quick and lively, yet gentle, answers impressed him deeply.
“Are you not sorry to go back to Paris?” he asked.
“Oh, I am happy everywhere,” answered the Dauphin, “as long as I have my father and mamma with me, and my aunt, my sister, and Madame de Tourzel, too.”
“Ah, sir,” said the King to Barnave, “this is indeed a sad journey for me and for my children!”61
The mournful tone in which these words were spoken moved the Dauphin deeply, and he took his father’s hand and kissed it. The King took him in his arms and pressed him to his heart.
“Do not be unhappy, dear papa,” said the child, his eyes full of tears. “Some other time we will have a pleasanter journey!”
At every change of post-horses, the other commissioners came up to see what was passing inside the coach. Surprised to find the heir to the throne generally seated on Barnave’s lap, Pétion finally remarked in a spiteful tone, loud enough to be heard by the travellers:
“You see, Latour-Maubourg, Barnave is decidedly the prop of future royalty!”
Unhappy Barnave! He was forced ere long to atone with his life for his newly won devotion to the royal house and perish on the guillotine!
The remainder of the journey passed without further incident. Sullen crowds gathered everywhere to watch the King pass, but no one spoke or showed any sign of good-will or favor toward him. At Ferté-sous-Jouarre, however, the royal family found one hearty welcome from the Regnards, at whose house they dined. Although Madame Regnard wore an apron to avoid recognition, Marie Antoinette guessed her position at once, and approached her, saying:62
“You are the lady of the house, are you not?”
“I was that only until your Majesty entered it,” answered Madame Regnard; a reply which pleased the Queen and did full honor to the gracious mistress of the house. When they were leaving, the Queen said to the Dauphin:
“My son, thank the lady for her kindness, and tell her we shall never forget it.”
The little Prince immediately obeyed. “Mamma thanks you for your attention,” said the child, “and I—I love you very much because you have given her pleasure.”
When the coach arrived at Meaux a great tumult arose; a priest nearly lost his life as the poor Marquis had done, but Barnave rescued him, calling out to the people in thundering tones:
“Frenchmen, would you become a pack of assassins?” Whereupon Pétion turned to Latour-Maubourg and remarked with a sneer:
“It appears that our colleague’s mission is not only to protect royalty, but also the clergy!”63
After Barnave’s humane action, the Dauphin willingly seated himself again on his knee and talked to him until they reached Bossuet. At eleven o’clock that evening, after his colleagues were asleep, Barnave was summoned to the King’s chamber, where he had a long conference with the royal couple in regard to their situation.
“Evidently,” said the Queen, at the end of it, “we have been deceived as to the real state of public feeling in France.”
They thanked Barnave warmly for his counsel, and it was agreed that he should meet them secretly in the Tuileries. From this time Barnave inwardly swore allegiance to the throne, and kept his vow faithfully to the end.
On the twenty-fifth of June, at seven in the evening, the royal party arrived in Paris and entered the Tuileries, before the gates of which a vast throng had assembled, drunk with wine and fury and with difficulty restrained from violence by the National Guard. M. Hue lifted the little Dauphin from the coach and carried him into his own apartment, where he was soon in bed. The child was restless, however, and his sleep very uneasy. In the morning when he awoke, he said to his tutor, in a voice loud enough to be heard distinctly by the guards stationed in the room:64
“Oh, M. Hue, I have had such a horrible dream! I thought there were wolves and tigers and all kinds of wild beasts around me all night long, waiting to tear me to pieces!”
M. Hue merely shrugged his shoulders, and made no reply. The guards looked at each other in astonishment, but no one ventured to reprove the little Prince for his prophetic dream.
In the Temple
The French Revolution pursued its terrible course, and war with Austria was finally added to the internal disorders that distracted the unhappy country. The people, kept in a constant tumult by the false reports and incessant assaults of the bloody Jacobins, hated the King more than ever. Not content with depriving him of his liberty and his throne, and subjecting him to the deepest humiliations, the brutal mob also demanded his life.
The first step toward this dreadful dénouement of the tragedy was the formal arrest of the royal family and their imprisonment in the Temple. On the thirteenth of August, 1792, they were taken to this prison, the gates of which closed behind the King, never to open for him again till he went forth to lay his head under the guillotine.66
The Temple was originally the residence of the Grand Priors of the Knights Templars, and in the thirteenth century occupied an extensive area, acquired by the purchase of surrounding lands. In the year 1792, however, little remained of it but the so-called Tower of the Temple, a dark square structure whose massive, frowning walls were flanked by turrets at each corner. The Tower had four stories. On the ground floor there was but one large room, and a kitchen which was unused. The first story consisted of an antechamber and a dining-room, which communicated with a small closet in one of the turrets. The second floor also contained an anteroom and two apartments, one of which the Queen and her daughter used as a bedchamber, others being occupied by the Dauphin, Madame Élisabeth, and Madame de Tourzel. The third floor was similar to the second, and here at first the King was lodged with his attendants, M. Hue and M. Chamilly.67
A few faithful and devoted friends had chosen to share the royal family’s imprisonment, but this consolation was not long permitted them. On the nineteenth of August, two officers made their appearance with an order from the Commune to remove all persons not belonging to the Capet family. In vain the Queen opposed the departure of the Princess de Lamballe, on the ground that she was a relative. Their parting was most affecting; both the royal children mingled their tears with those of their elders, until the Princess and Madame de Tourzel were forcibly separated from them and carried away. Not a single attendant was left to the unfortunate prisoners, except M. Hue, who, much to his surprise, was permitted to remain.68
Their life in the Tower of the Temple was very sad and monotonous. The King arose every morning between six and seven, and employed himself with his devotions in his little oratory in the turret until nine o’clock, while M. Hue set the room in order, laid the table for breakfast, and then went down to the Queen. Marie Antoinette was up even before the King, dressed herself and her son, and heard him say his prayers. She kept her door closed, however, until M. Hue appeared, in order to prevent the officers, sent by the Commune to remain in her room during the day, from entering any earlier. At nine she went with her children and Madame Élisabeth to breakfast with the King, and M. Hue took this opportunity to clean their rooms and light the fires. At ten the whole family returned to the Queen’s room, where they remained for the rest of the day. The King devoted himself to his son’s instruction, and the Queen heard the Princess recite her lessons, while Madame Élisabeth taught them ciphering and drawing.69
At one o’clock, when the weather was fine and Santerre, the commander of the guards, was present, the whole family walked in the little garden of the Temple, and the Dauphin amused himself with childish sports and games. At two they had dinner, after which came an hour of recreation, when the children’s amusements and laughter somewhat enlivened the customary gloom. About four the King would often take a short nap in his arm-chair, while the Princesses sat by with a book or some needlework, and the little Prince studied his lessons or applied himself to his drawing and copy-book. M. Hue superintended his work, and after it was finished took him into the other room, where they played ball or shuttlecock together.
At seven the family gathered around the table, and read aloud from some religious or historical work that would interest and instruct the children. At eight M. Hue gave the Dauphin his supper in Madame Élisabeth’s room; his parents were usually present, and the King would often give him little easy riddles to guess, the solution of which occupied and diverted the child. After supper he was undressed and said his evening prayer, which usually was as follows:
“Almighty God, who hast created and redeemed me, to Thee I pray. Preserve the life of the King, my father, and watch over the days of my family also. Protect us from our enemies! Grant to Madame de Tourzel strength to bear the sorrows she is enduring on our behalf.”70
After his prayer the Queen put him to bed, and she and Madame Élisabeth remained with him in turn. As soon as the family supper was over, the King came to say good-night to his son. After a few moments’ talk, he pressed the hand of his wife and sister, received the caresses of his children, and returned to his own room, retiring at once to his oratory, where he remained till midnight.
The Princesses sat together some time later, often making use of this quiet hour to mend the family clothing; and the King rarely composed himself to sleep until after the guard was changed at midnight. This was the daily routine as long as the King remained a prisoner. The days passed in sadness and humiliation, and there was scarcely an hour in which they were not exposed to some fresh insult or indignity.71
At this time the little Dauphin was seven and a half years of age. Through all their troubles, he showed a courage and sweetness of disposition seldom found even in the happiest natures. Sometimes the seriousness of his thoughts would betray itself by word or look; but he never failed to respond to his parents’ affected cheerfulness with all a child’s unquestioning light-heartedness. Apparently he thought no more of past greatness; he was glad to be alive, and the only thing that made him unhappy was his mother’s tears. He never spoke of his former amusements and pleasures, showed no regrets, and seemed to have forgotten all the joys of happier days. He applied himself diligently to his studies, and with the aid of a good memory he was far more advanced than most children of his age. Through all this time of sorrow and trouble, the poor little Prince had possessed one unfailing consolation—his parents’ love and care. But alas! the time was soon to come when he would be deprived of this, too, and lose, first, his father, then his mother.
The hard school of adversity developed all the purity and nobility of the boy’s nature, already so richly endowed with warm affections and tender sensibilities. Still a child in all his acts and feelings, he was old enough at the same time to be able to comprehend the misfortunes of the family, and seemed to feel that he owed his parents even more respect and attention than formerly, though his lively fancies often made him forget their cruel situation. He realized that they were prisoners, and was discreet and prudent in his speech and behavior. Never a syllable escaped him that could have caused a painful memory or regret in his mother’s heart. How affectionate and yet how thoughtful and quick-witted he was, one or two incidents will show.72
A stone-mason was at work one day on the wall of the King’s anteroom, making a place for heavier bolts to be put on the door. While the workman was eating his breakfast, the little Prince amused himself by playing with his tools. The King took the chisel and hammer from his son’s hand to show him how to use them, and worked at the wall himself for a few moments. The mason, moved by a sudden feeling of pity, said to him:
“After you have gone away from here, you can say you have worked on your own prison!”
“Alas!” answered the King, “when and how shall I get away from here?”
Scarcely had he spoken the words, when the little Dauphin threw himself into his father’s arms and burst into tears. The King dropped the hammer and chisel: he, too, was much affected, and paced up and down the room for some moments, struggling with his emotions.
On another occasion the Prince had not shown a coarse fellow named Mercereau all the respect to which he considered himself entitled, whereupon he addressed the child roughly with:73
“Hey, boy! don’t you know that liberty has made us all equal?”
“Equal, as much as you please,” answered the Dauphin with a glance at his father, “but you will find it hard to make us believe that liberty has made us free!”
And now the time was approaching which was to separate the King from his loved ones forever. After so many crimes committed by the French people in the first intoxication and frenzy of their power, there remained only the King’s death to be accomplished. Louis the Sixteenth, the mildest and most just of kings, who had committed no crime but that of loving his people too well, was summoned before the blood-thirsty Convention which had boldly set itself up to judge him. For several days previously the treatment of the royal prisoners had been even harsher than before. They were deprived of every means of employment; even the ladies’ needles were taken away from them, so that they could no longer find distraction in their feminine occupations, and to Louis these added brutalities indicated but too plainly the issue of his trial. Indeed, he was quite prepared for the worst; but what troubled him most was the separation from his family. During the session of the Convention he had not been permitted to see them, and it was only with the greatest difficulty and by the most ingenious expedients that he was able to obtain news of them or communicate with them.74
At last the death sentence was pronounced, to be executed on the following morning, and the King was granted a final interview with his family. At half-past eight in the evening his door was opened. The Queen came first, leading the little Dauphin by the hand; then her daughter, Marie Thérèse, and Madame Élisabeth. They threw themselves into the arms of the King, and for some moments a sorrowful silence prevailed, broken only by sobs. The Queen made a motion to her husband to take them into his bedchamber.
“Not there,” said the King, “we will go into the dining-room; that is the only place where I can see you.”75
They stepped into the adjoining room, which was divided from the antechamber by a glass partition, and the guards closed the door. The King sat down with his wife and sister on either side; the Princess knelt before him, and the Dauphin remained standing between his father’s knees. They all leaned towards him and frequently embraced him, while the King told them about his trial, and tried to excuse those who had condemned him. He then gave some religious admonitions to his children; charged them to forgive those who were the cause of his death, and bestowed his blessing upon them. The Queen expressed her earnest desire that they might all spend the night together, but he refused, saying that he much needed to rest and compose his thoughts. This melancholy scene lasted nearly two hours. As the time drew near when it must end, the King turned to his children again, and made them give him a solemn promise never to be revenged on his enemies. Then, taking the Dauphin on his knee, he impressed upon him the fulfilment of his last wishes, and concluded with these words:
“My son, you have heard all that I have said, but since an oath is more sacred than words, swear with uplifted hand that you will obey the last wishes of your father.”76
The little Prince obeyed and took the oath with streaming eyes. The others, too, wept bitterly, for the touching nobility of the King only intensified their grief. And now for more than a quarter of an hour not a word was spoken; only heart-rending sounds of anguish filled the room, while the whole family mingled their tears until exhausted by sorrow. At length Louis rose, and the others followed his example. A faithful servant, named Cléry, who had managed to gain admittance to the prison so as to be near the King, opened the door. Louis supported his wife and held their son’s hand, while the Princess clasped her arms tightly about her father and Madame Élisabeth clung to his arm. They took several steps toward the outer door, and again heart-breaking sobs burst forth.
“Be calm!” said the King; “I will see you again in the morning at eight o’clock.”
“You promise?” they all cried.
“Yes, I promise!”
“But why not at seven?” asked the Queen.
“Well, at seven, then,” replied the King. “Adieu!”
This farewell was spoken in such a touching tone that their grief became once more uncontrollable. The Princess sank senseless at her father’s feet, and Cléry assisted Madame Élisabeth to support her. The King, to put an end to this distressing scene, clasped them all once more in his arms most tenderly, and tore himself from their embraces.
“Farewell! Farewell!” he said again with a breaking heart, as he returned to his room.
The good King, the loving father, had seen his dear ones for the last time on earth. To save them from another such trial, he nobly resolved to deprive himself of the sad consolation of pressing them once more to his heart, and went to his execution without a last farewell. His last words, spoken from the scaffold to the people, were:
“I die innocent of all the crimes of which I am accused. I forgive all those who are the cause of my death, and pray God that the blood you are about to shed may assure the happiness of France. And you, unhappy people….”78
The rest was drowned in the roll of drums. His noble head fell—the head of a martyr, the head of one of the best and most merciful kings who ever ruled in France.
Separation from his Mother
After the sad parting, the Queen had scarcely strength enough left to undress her children, and as soon as they were asleep she flung herself, dressed, upon her bed, where she passed the night shivering with cold and trembling with apprehension. The Princess and Madame Élisabeth slept in the same room on a mattress.
The next morning the royal family arose before daybreak, waiting for a last sight of him whom, alas! they were never to see again. In all quarters of Paris the drums were beating, and the noise penetrated even into the Tower. At a quarter-past six the door opened, and some one came in to get a book, which was wanted for the mass about to be read to the King. The anxious women regarded this trifling occurrence as a hopeful sign, and expected a speedy summons to the promised interview. But they were soon undeceived. Each moment seemed an hour, and still the time slipped by without bringing the fulfilment of their last sorrowful hope.80
Suddenly a louder roll of drums announced the moment of the King’s departure. No words can describe the scene that followed. The heart-broken women, with tears and sobs, made fruitless attempts to excite the compassion of their pitiless jailers. The little Prince sprang from his mother’s arms, and, beside himself with grief and terror, ran from one to another of the guards, clasping their knees, pressing their hands, and crying wildly:
“Let me go, messieurs! Let me go!”
“Where do you wish to go?” they asked him.
“To my father! I will speak to the people—I will beg them not to kill my papa! In the name of God, messieurs, let me go!”
The guards were deaf to his childish appeals; fear for their own heads compelled them to be, but history does not tell us that they were inhuman enough to jeer at the child or make sport of his innocent prayer for his father’s life. Even harder hearts must have been touched by the sight of such sorrow.81
About ten o’clock the Queen wished the children to have some breakfast; but they could not eat, and the food was sent away untouched. A moment later cries and yells were heard, mingled with the discharge of firearms. Madame Élisabeth raised her eyes to heaven, and, carried away by the bitterness of her grief, exclaimed:
“Oh, the monsters! They are glad!…”
At these words the Princess Marie Thérèse uttered a piercing scream; the little Dauphin burst into tears; while the Queen, with drooping head and staring eyes, seemed sunk in a stupor almost like death. The shouts of a crier in the street soon informed them yet more plainly that all was over.
For the rest of the day, the poor little Prince hardly stirred from his mother’s side. He kissed her hands, often wet with his tears, and overwhelmed her with sweet childish caresses, which he seemed to feel would comfort her more than words.
“Alas! the tears of an innocent child, they may never cease to flow!” said the Queen, bitterly. “Death is harder for those who survive than for the ones who are gone!”82
During the afternoon she asked permission to see Cléry, who had remained with his royal master in the Tower till the last moment. She felt that she must hear the last words and farewells of her martyred husband and treasure them as a precious legacy, and for more than an hour the faithful valet was with her, both absorbed in sorrowful discourse.
The long day passed in tears and wretchedness, and night brought no respite. The prisoners had been placed in charge of two jailers, a married couple named Tison, coarse creatures, from whose intrusions they were never free. Thus the inflexible hate of an infuriated populace pursued them even in the sanctity of their grief.
It was two o’clock at night, and more than an hour since the tearfully ended prayers had announced the time for rest; but rest was still far from the three unhappy women. In obedience to the Queen’s wishes, the Princess Marie Thérèse had indeed gone to bed, but she could not close her eyes. Her royal mother and her aunt, who were sitting near the bed of the Dauphin, talked of their sorrow and wept together in uncontrollable anguish. The sleeping child smiled, and there was such an expression of angelic sweetness and purity on his innocent face that the Queen could not refrain from saying sadly:83
“He is now just as old as his brother was when he died at Meudon. Happy are those of our family who have been the first to go; at least they have not lived to see the downfall of our house!”
Madame Tison, who had been listening at the door, heard these words, or at least the sound of the Queen’s voice. Devoid of respect for a sorrow that must find relief in words or become unbearable, the heartless woman knocked on the door and harshly demanded the cause of this nocturnal conversation. As if this were not enough, her husband and some municipal guards even opened the door and attempted to force their way into the room, when Madame Élisabeth, turning her pale face toward them, said with quiet dignity:
“I pray you, allow us at least to weep in peace!”
These simple words, spoken in such a tone, disarmed even these wretches. They drew back in confusion, and did not venture again to intrude on the sanctity of so profound a grief. The next morning the Queen took her son in her arms and said to him:
“My child, we must put our trust in the dear God!”84
“Oh, yes, mamma,” answered the little Prince, “I do trust the dear God, but whenever I fold my hands and try to pray, the image of my father comes before my eyes.”
Sadly and wearily the days passed. Weakened by sorrow and exhausted by sleepless nights, the Queen almost succumbed to her troubles, and seemed to be indifferent whether she lived or died. Sometimes her companions would find her eyes fixed on them with such an expression of profound pity, it almost made them shudder. A deathly stillness prevailed; they all seemed to be holding their breaths, save when their grief found vent in half-smothered sobs or paroxysms of tears. It was almost a boon to the wretched women when the Princess Marie Thérèse really fell ill. In the duties of a mother, Marie Antoinette found some mitigation of her grief for the loss of her husband. She spent all her time at her daughter’s bedside, and the care and anxiety afforded her a wholesome distraction and roused her benumbed faculties. The Princess soon recovered from her illness, and from that time the Queen devoted herself wholly to her children.85
The little Dauphin sang very sweetly, and his mother found much pleasure in teaching him little songs, but especially in having him continue the studies he had begun. Thus absorbed, she even thanked Heaven for the peace granted her by her enemies, which enabled her to perform these maternal tasks. Madame Élisabeth was her devoted assistant, and their love for the children afforded them some relief from sorrows which were constantly being sharpened by fresh trials. But even this last faint semblance of happiness was at last taken from them.
Some faithful friends of the Queen and the royal house, brave, noble hearts who gladly risked their lives in the hope of rescuing the prisoners from the shameful brutalities of their jailers, had devised a plan for their escape. Owing to an unlucky combination of circumstances, the attempt failed, and the tyrants of the Convention, who then held despotic sway over wretched France, issued the following decree:
“The Committee of Public Safety orders that the son of Capet shall be separated from his mother and delivered into the hands of a governor, the choice of whom shall rest with the General Council of the Commune.”
On the third of July, 1793, this cruel and infamous order was put into execution.86
It was almost ten o’clock on that evening; the little Prince was in bed and sleeping peacefully and soundly, with a smile on his pale but still lovely face. The bed had no curtains, but his mother had ingeniously arranged a shawl to keep the light from falling on his closed eyelids and disturbing his rest.
The Queen, Madame Élisabeth, and the Princess Marie Thérèse were sitting up somewhat later than usual, the elder ladies busy with some mending and the Princess reading aloud to them. She had finished several chapters from some historical work, and now had a book of devotions called “Passion Week,” which Madame Élisabeth had succeeded in obtaining only a short time before. Whenever the Princess paused to turn a page, or at the end of a chapter in the history or of a psalm in the book of prayers, the Queen would raise her head, let her work fall in her lap, and gaze lovingly at the sleeping boy or listen to his quiet breathing. Suddenly the sound of heavy footsteps was heard on the stairs. The bolts were drawn with a rattle, the door opened, and six municipal guards entered.87
“We come,” said one of them roughly to the terrified Princesses, “to inform you that the Committee of Public Safety has ordered the son of Capet to be separated from his mother and his family.”
The Queen started to her feet, struck to the heart by the suddenness of this blow.
“Take my child away from me?” she cried, white with terror,—“no—no—it cannot be possible!”
Marie Thérèse stood beside her mother trembling, while Madame Élisabeth, with both hands on the prayer-book, listened and looked on, paralyzed with terror and unable to stir.
“Messieurs,” continued the Queen in a tremulous voice, and struggling to control the ague fit that shook her from head to foot, “it is impossible; the Council cannot think of such a thing as to separate me from my son! He is so young, he is so delicate—my care is so necessary to him! No—no—it cannot be!”
“It is the decree of the Committee,” replied the officer harshly, unmoved by the deadly pallor of the Queen; “the Convention has decided on the measure, and we are sent to carry it into immediate execution.”88
“Oh, I can never submit to it!” cried the unhappy mother. “In the name of Heaven, I beseech you, do not demand this cruel sacrifice of me!”
Both her companions joined their entreaties to hers. All three had instinctively placed themselves before the child’s bed, as if to defend it against the approach of the officers; they wept, they prayed, they exhausted themselves in the humblest and most touching supplications. Such distress might have softened the hardest heart; but to these pitiless tools of the villanous Convention, they appealed in vain.
“What is the use of all this outburst?” they demanded at length. “Your child is not going to be killed. You had better give him to us without any more trouble, or we shall find other means of getting him.”
In fact, they began to use force against the desperate mother. In the struggle, the improvised bed-curtain was torn down and fell on the head of the sleeping Prince. He awoke, saw at a glance what was happening, and flung himself into his mother’s arms.
“Mamma, dear mamma!” he cried, shaking with fright, “do not leave me!”89
The Queen clasped him close to her breast, as if to protect him, and clung with all her strength to the bedposts.
“Pah! We do not fight with women,” said one of the deputies who had not spoken before. “Citizens, let us call up the guard!”
“Do not do that!” said Madame Élisabeth, “in the name of Heaven, do not do that! We must submit to forcible demands, but grant us at least time to prepare ourselves. This poor child needs his sleep, and he will not be able to sleep anywhere but here. Let him at least spend the night in this room, and he shall be delivered into your hands early in the morning.”
To this touching appeal there was no reply.
“Promise me, at least,” said the Queen in a hollow voice, “that he shall remain within the walls of this Tower, and that I shall be permitted to see him every day, if only at meal times.”
“We are not obliged to account to you for what we do,” snarled one of the rough fellows, ferociously; “neither is it for you to question the acts of the country. Just because your child is taken from you, why should you act like a fool? Are not our sons marching toward the frontier every day, to have their heads shot off by the enemy you enticed there?”90
“Oh, I did not entice them there,” replied the Queen; “and you see that my son is much too young to serve his country yet. Some day, God willing, I hope he will be proud to devote his life to France.”
The threatening manner of the officers showed the poor mother plainly enough that all her prayers were useless, and she must yield to her cruel fate. With trembling hands she dressed the little Prince, and, although both Princesses assisted her, it took her longer than ever before. Every garment, before it was put on the child, was turned in and out, passed from hand to hand, and wet with bitter tears. In every possible way they strove to defer the dreadful moment of parting, but the officers soon began to lose patience.
“Make haste!” they cried. “We can wait no longer!”
With a breaking heart, the Queen submitted. Summoning all her fortitude, she seated herself on a chair, laid both her thin white hands on the shoulders of the unhappy child, and, forcing herself to be calm, said to him in a solemn, earnest voice:91
“My child, we must part. Remember your oath when I am no longer with you to remind you of it. Never forget the dear God who has sent you this trial, nor the dear mother who loves you. Be prudent, brave, and patient, and your father will look down from Heaven and bless you.”
So speaking, she pressed a last kiss on his forehead, clasped him once more to her tortured heart, and gave him to his jailers. The poor child sprang away from them, rushed to his mother again, and clung desperately to her dress, clasping her knees. She tried to soothe his distress.
“You must obey, my child, you must!” she said.
“Yes, and I hope you have no more instructions to give him,” added one of the deputies. “You have abused our patience enough already.”
“As it is, you might have saved yourself the trouble of giving him any,” said another, dragging the Prince forcibly out of the room.
A third, somewhat more humane than the others, added, “You need not have any further anxiety; the great and generous country will care for him.”92
Heaven was witness what tears of anguish, what cries of despair, followed this distressing scene. In the extremity of her sufferings, the unfortunate mother writhed upon the bed where her son had just been sleeping. She had succeeded in maintaining her courage and a feigned composure in the presence of the merciless wretches who had robbed her of her child, but this unnatural strength, this superhuman exertion, had exhausted all the powers of her being and almost deprived her of reason. Never was there a greater despair than that of this most unhappy Queen and her companions. The three prisoners gazed at one another in speechless agony, and could find no words of consolation. The only comfort of their wretched life was gone. The little Dauphin had been the one ray of sunlight in the darkness of their imprisonment, and that now had been extinguished. What more could follow? Alas! even worse was yet to come, for the resources of inhumanity are boundless!
The Cobbler Simon
Guarded by six deputies and a turnkey, the young Prince, or rather King, since he was the only and lawful heir to the throne, was taken to that part of the Tower formerly occupied by his father. There a guardian was awaiting him, a cruel, tyrannical master, the cobbler Simon. The room was poorly lighted. After conversing with this man for some time in an undertone, the deputies gave him some final instructions and withdrew, and the child found himself alone with Simon, whose slouching gait, rough and violent language, and arrogant manner, easily proclaimed him the future master of the unfortunate Prince.94
The cobbler Simon was fifty-seven years old, of more than medium height, powerfully built, with a swarthy skin and a shock of stiff black hair falling over his eyebrows. His features were heavy, and he wore large mustaches. His wife was about the same age, but very short and stout; she was dark and ill-favored, like her husband, and usually wore a cap with red ribbons, and a blue apron. This worthy pair were given absolute control over the Dauphin, the descendant of so many kings, torn from his royal mother’s arms to be delivered into such hands as these! The very refinement of cruelty could scarcely have conceived a greater infamy! The poor child, confused and bewildered by having been awakened so suddenly from a sound sleep, remained for hours sitting on a stool in the farthest corner of the room and weeping pitifully. Simon plied him with rude questions, plentifully sprinkled with curses and blasphemies, as he smoked his pipe, but only succeeded in extracting short answers from his victim.
For the first two or three days the little Prince was in such despair at being parted from his mother that he could swallow nothing but a few mouthfuls of broth. Soon, however, he began to rebel inwardly; gleams of indignation shone through his tears, and his anger broke forth at last in passionate words:95
“I want to know,” he cried imperiously to the municipal officers who were visiting Simon, “what law gives you the right to take me from my mother and keep me shut up here? Show me this law! I will see it!”
The officers were amazed at this child of nine years, who dared to question their power and address them in such a kingly tone. But their worthy comrade came to their aid. He harshly ordered his charge to be silent, saying:
“Hold your tongue, Capet! you are only a chatterer.”
The little prisoner’s sad and longing gaze was continually fixed upon the door, although he knew he could never pass its threshold without permission from his jailers. He often wept, but seemed at last to resign himself to his fate, and mutely obeyed the commands of his tormentors. He would not speak, however.
“Oho, little Capet!” said the cobbler to him one day; “so you are dumb! Well, I am going to teach you to talk, to sing the ‘Carmagnole,’ and shout ‘Vive la Republique!’ Oh, yes, you are dumb, are you?”96
“If I said all I thought,” returned the poor child, with a touch of his old spirit, “you would call me mad. I am silent because I am afraid of saying too much.”
“Ho! so Monsieur Capet has much to say!” shouted the cobbler with a malicious laugh. “That sounds very aristocratic, but it won’t do with me, do you hear? You are still young, and some allowance should be made for you on that account; but I am your master, and cannot allow such ignorance. I must teach you to understand progress and the new ideas. So, look here! I am going to give you a jews-harp. Your she-wolf of a mother and your dog of an aunt play the piano, you must learn the jews-harp.”
A gleam of anger flashed in the boy’s beautiful blue eyes, and he refused to take the jews-harp, declaring that he never would play on it.
“Never?” cried the cobbler, furiously. “Never? Play on it this moment!”
The child persisted in his determination, and the cobbler—the pen almost refuses to write it—the cobbler seized the defenceless child and beat him most cruelly, but without being able to conquer his will.97
“You can punish me if I do wrong,” cried the poor little Prince, “but you must not strike me; do you understand? For you are stronger than I am.”
“I am here to command you, you beast!” roared the cobbler. “I can do what I like! Long live Liberty and Equality!”
On Sunday, the 17th of July, 1793, a report spread through Paris that the Dauphin had been carried off. In order to refute this rumor, which had already begun to create disturbances among the lower classes, a deputation was sent to the Temple by the Committee of Public Safety, with orders that the son of the tyrant should be brought down into the garden where he might be seen. The cobbler obeyed, and unceremoniously demanded of the deputies what the real intentions of the Committee were in regard to little Capet.
“What have they decided to do with the young wolf? He has been taught to be insolent, and I will see that he is tamed. If he rebels, so much the worse for him, I warrant you! But what is to be done with him in the end? Send him out of the country? No! Kill him? No! Poison him? No! Well, what then?”98
“We must get rid of him!” was the significant reply.
Such, indeed, was the real purpose of the inhuman leaders of the Revolution. They did not want to put the unfortunate Prince to death, they only wished to get rid of him; that is to say, to torture him to death by slow degrees, without anyone being able to say that he had been poisoned, strangled, hanged, or beheaded!
As soon as the Dauphin found himself in the garden, he began to call to his mother as loudly as he could. Some of the guards tried to quiet him; but he answered indignantly, pointing to Simon and the deputies:
“They will not, they cannot, show me the law that orders me to be separated from my mother.”
Astonished at his firmness and moved by his childish affection, one of the guards asked the cobbler whether no one could help the little fellow; but Simon replied sharply:99
“The young wolf does not submit to the muzzle easily; he might know the law as well as you do, but he is always asking for the reasons of things—as if people were obliged to give him reasons! Now, Capet, keep still, or I will show the citizens how I beat you when you deserve it!”
The poor little prisoner turned to the deputies as if to appeal to their compassion, but they coldly turned their backs on him. He was to be got rid of! How could this be possible if he were left to the tender care of his mother?
Henceforth Simon’s cruelties toward his victim were redoubled. He understood at last what was expected of him, and wished to do credit to his task. The youth, the innocence, the indescribable charm of the little Prince, did not in the least diminish the ferocity of his jailer. On the contrary, it seemed as though the child’s delicate face, his clear eyes, his slender little hands, the nobility of his demeanor, only served to inflame the brutal passions of Simon and his wife. They felt the Prince’s refinement and delicacy, in contrast with their own uncouthness, as a personal affront; and their jealous rage, their implacable hatred, made them take a savage pleasure in attempting to degrade their charge to their own level and extinguishing in this scion of a royal house all recollection of his illustrious family and of his early education.100
Still another circumstance added to Simon’s abuse of the Prince. Marat, that bloody and ferocious hyena of the Revolution, died at last by the knife of Charlotte Corday. Marat had been a patron of Simon’s, and was largely responsible for the appointment of the cobbler as the Dauphin’s keeper—a position which carried with it a considerable income—and his sudden death threw Simon into a sort of frenzy. When he heard the news, he deserted his prisoner for the first time, and returned in a state of excitement and irritation that relieved itself in abuse and blasphemy. He drank quantities of wine and brandy, and then, inflamed with the liquor, his brain on fire, he dragged his wife and the Prince up to the platform of the Tower, where he smoked his pipe and tried to catch an echo of the far-away lamentations for his friend Marat.101
“Do you hear that noise down there, Capet?” he shouted to the Prince. “It is the voice of the people, lamenting the loss of their friend. You wear black clothes for your father; I was going to make you take them off to-morrow, but now you shall wear them still longer. Capet shall put on mourning for Marat! But, accursed one, you do not seem much grieved about it! Perhaps you are glad that he is dead?”
With these words, furious with rage, he shook the boy, threatened him with his fist, and pushed him violently away.
“I do not know the man who is dead,” returned the child, “and you should not say that I am glad. We never wish for the death of anyone.”
“Ah, we? ‘We wish?’ We?” roared the cobbler. “Are you presuming to say we, like those tyrants, your forefathers?”
“Oh, no,” answered the Prince, “I say we, in the plural, meaning myself and my family.”
Somewhat appeased by this apology, the cobbler strode up and down, puffing great clouds of smoke from his mouth and laughing to himself as he repeated: “Capet shall put on mourning for Marat!”102
Marat was buried on the following morning, and Simon’s resentment at not being able to attend the funeral ceremonies made him furious. All day long he paced the floor of his room like a caged tiger, sparing the innocent Prince neither blows nor curses.
Some days later, news came of a crushing defeat of the Republican army at Saumur, and again the poor child had to suffer from his master’s rage and spite.
“It is your friends who are doing this!” shouted Simon to him.
In vain the little Prince cried, “Indeed it is not my fault!” The infamous wretch furiously rushed at him, and shook him with the ferocity of a maddened beast. The child bore it all in silence; great tears rolled down his cheeks, but he allowed no cry of pain to escape him, for fear his mother might hear it and be distressed about him. This fear gave him strength, and enabled him to bear his sufferings with the courage of a hero. Joy had long since been banished from his heart, the roses of health from his cheeks, but they had not succeeded yet in extinguishing his love of truth and purity.103
In accordance with the orders he had received, Simon allowed his prisoner to go down into the garden every day, and sometimes took him with him when he went up on the roof of the Tower to breathe the air and smoke his pipe undisturbed. The boy followed him with hanging head, like a whipped dog; he never ventured to raise his eyes to his master’s face, knowing he should meet only hatred and abuse.
Naturally there was no further mention of any kind of instruction for the Prince. Simon made him listen to revolutionary or so-called patriotic songs, and filled his ears with the vilest oaths and blasphemies; but he did not think it necessary to occupy young Capet’s time otherwise. He forced the child to wait on him and perform the most menial duties; he took away his suit of mourning, and gave him instead a coat of orange-colored cloth, with breeches of the same color, and a red cap, which was the notorious uniform of the Jacobins.
“If I allow you to take off black for Marat,” he said, “at least you shall wear his livery and honor his memory in that way!”104
The Prince put on the clothes without protest, but nothing could induce him to wear the Jacobin cap; and Simon was powerless, even by the cruellest treatment, to overcome his resistance. He had become the slave of his jailers, he had submitted to a thousand insults and indignities, but he would not allow the badge of his father’s murderers to be placed upon his head. Weary with his efforts, the cobbler finally desisted from the attempt, at the intercession of his wife. To tell the truth, this was not the first time this woman had taken the part of the unfortunate child, for she, indeed, had good reason to be satisfied with him.
“He is an amiable being, and a nice child,” she remarked one day to another woman. “He cleans and polishes my shoes, and makes the fire for me when I get up,” for these were also his duties now. Alas! what a change from the days when every morning he had brought his adored mother a nosegay from his garden, picked and arranged with his own hands! Now, the drudge of a shoemaker’s wife—poor, lovely, high-born little Prince!
A systematic effort was made to debase the child in every way, morally and physically; no pains were spared to vitiate his pure innocent mind and make him familiar with the most revolting infamies. Madame Simon cut off his beautiful hair for no other reason than because it had been his mother’s delight. As it happened, some guards and deputies witnessed the act, and one of them, a good-natured fellow named Meunier, cried out:105
“Oh, what have you slashed off all his pretty hair for?”
“What for?” retorted Madame Simon. “Why, don’t you see, citizen, we were playing the part of dethroned King, here!” And all, with the exception of Meunier, burst into shouts of laughter over the shorn lamb, who bent his poor little disfigured head upon his breast in mute despair. Not content with this outrage, that same evening the brutal wretches forced the child to drink large quantities of wine, which he detested; and when they had succeeded in making him drunk, so that he did not know what he was doing, Simon put the red cap on his head.106
“At last I see you a Jacobin!” cried the villain, triumphantly, as the Revolutionary emblem nodded on the brow of the unhappy descendant of Louis the Fourteenth, the proudest King of Christendom! They had broken the child’s noble pride at last—one shudders to think by what terrible means; and from this time a few blows or curses sufficed to make him put on the new head-covering. Thus far the wretched child’s unhappy fate had remained unknown to his mother, although she had never ceased to implore the guards or deputies for news of him. They all assured her that she need not be uneasy about her son—that he was in good hands and well cared for; but all these protestations failed to soothe her maternal anxiety and but too well-founded distrust.
At last, on the thirteenth of July, through the assistance of Tison, who, at first a bitter enemy, had since changed and become friendly to her, she succeeded in obtaining a sight of her poor little son. But alas! this happiness, so long yearned for, so besought from Heaven, was granted her only to her sorrow. The little Prince indeed passed before the eyes of his mother, who bent her anxious, searching gaze upon him. He had laid aside the mourning for his father; the red cap was on his head, his brutal jailer beside him. Unluckily, moreover, just at that moment Simon fell into one of the outbursts of fury that usually vented themselves upon his wretched charge. The poor Queen, struck by this terrible sight as if by lightning, grasped her sister-in-law for support, and both quickly drew the Princess Marie Thérèse away from their place of concealment (whither she had hastened for a glimpse of her brother), at the same time reassuring themselves by a glance that she had seen nothing and remained in blissful ignorance of the Dauphin’s fate.107
“It is useless to wait any longer,” said the Queen; “he will not come now.”
After a few moments, her tears began to flow; she turned away to hide them, and came back again, hoping for another sight of her son. A little later she did see him again. He passed by in silence, with bowed head; his tyrant was no longer cursing him. She heard no words, but this silence was almost as terrible to her as Simon’s invectives. Mute and motionless, she remained as if rooted to the spot till Tison came for her.
“Oh, God!” she cried bitterly to him, “you have been deceiving me!”
“No, madame,” he replied; “I merely did not tell you everything, so you would not be troubled. But now that you know all, in the future I will conceal nothing from you that I may chance to discover.”108
The knowledge of the pitiable condition of her son reduced the Queen to the apathy of despair, and she would sit for hours in silent misery. To know that her child was suffering and not be able to tend or care for him, to know that he was unhappy and not be able to comfort him, to know that he was in danger and not be able to protect him—what tortures could compare with the martyrdom of this poor mother? It turned her beautiful dark hair as white as snow, and made her indifferent to her own fate. The Convention had issued a decree that the Queen should be removed from the Temple to the Conciergerie, and on the second of August, at two o’clock in the morning, the Princesses were roused from their sleep to hear this order. The Queen listened quietly and without a word as it was read to them, then rose immediately and made her preparations to follow the officers, who first searched her roughly, and even took everything out of her pockets. Before she went, she embraced her daughter and sister-in-law, and exhorted them to be brave and steadfast. As she passed through the low doorway, she forgot to stoop, and struck her head a sharp blow against it. One of the men asked her if she was hurt, and she replied:
“Nothing can hurt me now.”109
But ah! with what feelings must she have left that Tower! With what lingering glances at the door of the room where the Dauphin was confined! She knew she was leaving never to return; knew that never again should she clasp her child to her breast; knew that he was in the clutches of a tiger. Poor ill-fated, unhappy Queen and mother!
Meanwhile, Simon continued by every vile means in his power to maltreat the child committed to his guardianship. On the seventh of August, Madame Simon went to the theatre to see a low play performed, entitled “Brutus,” and returned full of enthusiasm. She described the piece, the plot of which was directed against royalty, and Simon listened eagerly and attentively. Suddenly he perceived that the little Prince had turned away his head, as if to avoid hearing it.
“You accursed young wolf,” he cried furiously, “so you do not want to listen to the citoyenne—to be improved and enlightened! You would like to remain a blockhead and the son of a tyrant!”
“Everyone has relatives that he should honor,” replied the boy with angelic calmness and filial affection.110
This very calmness and composure only seemed to enrage Simon the more. He could not forgive the child for honoring his father and mother, and, seizing him roughly, he threw him across the room and down to the floor, with a volley of oaths and abusive epithets. Nor was this the worst of which the monster was guilty. If a rising occurred anywhere in France, against the Revolution and its crimes, he vented his rage and spite upon his victim. On the sixth of August, Montbrison rose in arms, with the cry, “God save King Louis the Seventeenth!” Three or four days later the news reached the Temple, and Simon immediately pounced upon the Prince.
“Here, madame,” said he, jeeringly, “allow me to present to you the King of Montbrison, and”—he continued, taking off the boy’s Jacobin cap—“I will anoint him at once and burn incense to him!” Whereupon he rubbed the poor child’s head and ears roughly with his hard hands, blew tobacco smoke from his pipe into his face, and finally flung him over to his wife, that she in her turn might do homage to “His Majesty.” On the tenth of August, the Convention gave a fête for the people, and Simon awakened the Prince from his morning sleep and commanded him to shout, “Long live the Republic!” The child did not seem to understand at first; he arose, and began to put on his clothes in silence, when Simon, who was standing before him with folded arms, repeated imperiously:111
“Make haste, Capet! This is a great day; you must shout ‘Vive la Republique!’”
The boy made no answer, but went on with his dressing.
“Hey! Who am I talking to here?” cried the cobbler, furiously. “Accursed King of Montbrison, will you shout ‘Vive la Republique!’ quickly—or—” and he made a significant gesture with his clenched fist.
The Prince raised his head with a resolute expression, and, looking full at his tormentor, replied in a clear, firm voice: “You may do what you choose with me, but I will never cry, ‘Vive la Republique!’”
He spoke so proudly and nobly that even this hardened villain gave way before him, and for once did not venture to do him any violence.
“Good, good!” said Simon with a sneer, to cover his discomfiture; “I will see that your behavior is made known.” And indeed he did repeat the whole incident to everyone in the Temple; but no one blamed the Prince, and some even praised him for his strength of character.112
The next morning the cobbler seemed to have repented of his weakness. He procured an account of the fête of the preceding day, and forced the boy to stand and listen while he read it aloud. The Prince obeyed; but at one part, which contained a gross insult to his father, he could no longer control his rebellious feelings, and retired to one of the window recesses to hide his face and his tears. Simon hurried after him, dragged him roughly back by the hair to the table, and ordered him, under pain of a beating, to stand there and listen quietly and attentively. Then he resumed his reading, and laid particular emphasis on the words: “Let us swear to defend the Constitution unto death; the Republic shall live forever!”
“Do you hear that, Capet?” he shouted; “the Republic shall live forever!”
The child made no reply, and did not even raise his head; his face was hidden in his hands.
“You cursed young wolf!” roared Simon, choking with passion, “yesterday you would not shout ‘Vive la Republique!’ but you see now, blockhead, that the Republic shall live forever! You shall say with us, ‘The Republic shall live forever!’”113
As he spoke, he seized the Dauphin by both shoulders and shook him with all his strength, as if to force the words from his mouth. After exhausting his fury, the cobbler paced up and down the floor for some time, then stopped beside the bed of the weeping child and said gruffly:
“It is your own fault, fool; you well deserved your treatment.”
“Let him alone, Simon,” said his wife; “he is blind, the little one. He was brought up on lies and deception, and knows no better.” And, somewhat disconcerted, the cobbler turned away.
Not long after this, the police scattered through the streets of the city low songs and scurrilous rhymes against the “Austrian she-wolf,” as the unfortunate Marie Antoinette was called, and Simon procured some of these sheets.
“Come, Capet,” said he one day to the little Prince, holding out to him some abominable verses about his mother, “here is a new song you must sing for me.”
The boy glanced at the song, and threw it indignantly on the table. Simon immediately flew into a rage, and said threateningly:
“I believe I said you should sing, and you shall sing!”114
“I will never sing such a song as that!” replied the boy, with a firm determination against which the cobbler’s rage was powerless.
“I tell you, I will strike you dead if you do not sing!” he shouted, seizing an iron grating from the chimney-place.
“Never!” retorted the Prince, and the furious brute actually hurled the heavy iron at the boy’s head, and would certainly have killed him if he had not been quick enough to dodge the missile.
Scenes like this were of daily occurrence in the cruel prison of the Temple. Simon left nothing undone to accomplish his terrible purpose and rid the Convention of the unfortunate child. He kept his prisoner on an irregular diet, forcing him one day to eat and drink to excess, and the next leaving him to suffer from hunger. With diabolical calculation, he did everything possible to undermine the health of the Dauphin, and succeeded only too well. He gradually sickened, and an attack of fever helped to reduce his strength. He slowly recovered, it is true; but his old vigor of mind and body never returned. They took advantage of his illness to make him sign a deposition against his mother; and this false statement, extorted from him while he was too weak to resist, was used by the bloodthirsty Convention to bring the Queen’s head to the scaffold. The rising in La Vendée also brought fresh abuse upon the Prince. The Vendeans had proclaimed him King, and Simon made merry, with some of his friends who were visiting him, over the “King of La Vendée.”115
“For all that,” said one of them, “there are signs of change in the air, and it would be curious if this monkey should be a King sometime!”
“At least, citizen,” returned Simon, “he will never be King of Paris—trust me for that!”
The Prince, crouching at the foot of his bed, had been obliged to overhear all this, with other cruel and bloodthirsty jests about the son of “Louis the Shortened.” After the guests had finally departed, Simon remained some time longer in the room, quarrelling with his wife, who did not attempt to conceal her fears for the future. The little Prince had not dared to leave his place, and heard Simon say:
“If the Vendeans should ever advance as far as Paris, I will throttle the young wolf before I will give him up to them.”116
He kept as still as he could, fearing that the least sound or movement would bring down on his head the storm that seemed ready to burst. Suddenly Simon came up to him, seized him by the ear, and led him to the table in the middle of the room.
“Capet,” said he, “if the Vendeans should set you free, what would you do with me?”
“I would forgive you,” replied the child, calmly. Such an answer might have softened the hardest heart, but it only increased the cobbler’s hatred for him. Poor helpless, forsaken child! They had robbed him of his mother, too, now, for the Queen had been dragged to the guillotine on the sixteenth of October, though, happily, of this he knew nothing.117
The poor little Prince had become sadly changed. The face that had been so fresh and smiling was deeply lined, and bore the marks of sorrow and suffering; the once clear, rosy complexion had grown dull and sallow; his limbs looked too long and thin for his size, and his back was bent a little, as if with the weight of his trouble. Since he had found that all his actions, and even his words, brought abuse or derision upon him he remained silent, scarcely daring to answer the simplest question with “yes” or “no.” He was like a deaf-mute, and at last his mind began to be confused. He scarcely seemed to remember his past life or realize his present situation. Now that he no longer afforded Simon any excuse for beating him, that foul wretch found himself compelled to devise other means of venting his brutality and hastening the end of his victim.118
Yet the Dauphin was not entirely destitute of friends and sympathizers. One of the turnkeys, named Gourlet, and Meunier, a servant in the Temple, ventured upon the dangerous attempt to provide him with a little diversion. The child had expressed a desire for some birds, and Meunier immediately exerted himself to obtain some canaries. He went to several families whose devotion to the royal house was known to him, and, on his stating his purpose, they hastened to place their birds at his disposal. He returned to the Temple with ten or twelve canaries, all of which were well tamed and trained. Their gay chirping and flutterings brought life and cheerfulness into the gloomy prison, and, full of delight, the little Prince caught them one after another, and kissed them. There was one of the winged band he noticed particularly. It was tamer and more affectionate than all the rest, and would come flying to him at the softest call, to perch on his outstretched finger, seeming to enjoy the caresses he bestowed on it. For this bird, the little Prince soon conceived an especial affection; he spent much time with it, fed it millet seed from his hand or his mouth, and, in order to be able to distinguish it more readily from the others, he fastened a little red ribbon on one of its feet. Whenever he called, the tiny creature would come to him instantly, alight first on his head, then hop to his shoulder, and finally settle itself upon his finger.
These playmates made the poor little prisoner very happy; but it was too pleasant, too sweet, to last long. On the nineteenth of December a visit of inspection was made, and when the officers entered, the Prince’s yellow favorite was trilling its clear, shrill notes in a burst of song.119
“What is the meaning of this?” cried one of the deputies, roughly. “The bird there is wearing a red ribbon like an order! That savors too much of aristocracy, and signifies a distinction that no good republican should tolerate.”
With these words he seized the poor little songster, tore the ribbon from its foot, and hurled it against the wall. Happily, the bird used its wings, and saved itself from being killed; it fell to the floor indeed, but soon started up again and mingled with its companions, uttering soft, plaintive notes.
The little Prince, horror-stricken, could not take his eyes from his feathered friend. He had not been able to repress a cry at the cruel act, but did not dare to show any concern or sympathy, for fear of making matters worse. Poor child! as a result of this unlucky visit, all the birds that had afforded him so much innocent pleasure were ruthlessly taken away from him. It had been indeed too pleasant to last! Simon’s fear that he might be blamed for allowing the creatures in the prison increased his resentment against the Dauphin, and he nursed his wrath until he could find an outlet for it. The opportunity soon came.120
The next day he happened to take a foot-bath, and, as it was very agreeable to him to be waited on by a King’s son, he ordered the boy to warm the linen for drying his feet. Trembling with fear of his brutal jailer, the poor child obeyed with more haste than dexterity, and in his agitation dropped a towel into the fire. The cobbler’s feet were in the water, and, foaming with rage at his inability to reach the child, he hurled the most frightful imprecations at him. After a few moments, the Dauphin, thinking his master’s fury had passed, knelt down to dry Simon’s feet, and the monster profited by this opportunity to give him a kick that sent him half across the room and stretched him on the floor. As if stunned by the shock, the poor child lay there motionless; but, not content with this, the cobbler beat and kicked him, overwhelming him at the same time with the vilest epithets until his breath gave out. Then, seeing that his victim was still conscious and able to move, he ordered him to stand up; and the poor little Prince was obliged to rise and drag himself into a corner, where he was suffered to remain, weeping piteously.
The jailer grew more vindictive every day, his passions more malignant; and his temper was not improved when his wife became so dangerously ill that the services of a physician were required. A surgeon named Nautin, a worthy, respectable man, was called in, prescribed a remedy, and promised to come again the next day. As he was leaving, he passed through the room where Simon sat with his charge and some of the municipal officers. The boy had refused to sing a licentious song as Simon had ordered, and, just as the surgeon entered, the cobbler flung himself upon the child, lifted him up by the hair and shook him, shouting furiously:
“Accursed viper! I have a mind to dash you to pieces against the wall!”
The doctor hastened to the spot and snatched the Dauphin from Simon’s grasp, crying angrily:
“Villain, what are you doing?”
Taken aback by this interference, Simon recoiled without a word, and for the time being did not venture to maltreat the Prince any further. On the following day the surgeon again visited his patient, and was greatly surprised and touched when suddenly, as he was passing through the room where the Dauphin was confined, the little prisoner seized his hand and offered him two pears which he had saved from his own meal.122
“Take them, please, dear sir,” he said in his touching voice; “yesterday you showed that you have an interest in me. I thank you for it, but have no way of proving my gratitude. Will you not take these pears, then? It will make me very happy!”
The old man pressed the child’s hand kindly, but did not speak. He accepted the present, and a tear that rolled down his cheek betrayed the emotion he could not find words to express.
So noble was the nature of this royal child that even the terrible treatment he had received had not entirely destroyed his sensibilities—at the slightest touch of kindness or sympathy they sprang to life again. Never had he forgotten his mother’s admonitions. Sometimes he even recalled them in his dreams; and once it happened that Simon overheard him when, in his sleep, he knelt with folded hands and prayed fervently to God. Unmoved by this touching sight, the cobbler awakened his wife to look at the strange dreamer; then, seizing a pitcher of water, he suddenly dashed it over the little bowed head, regardless of the danger that the shock of such an ice-cold shower-bath on a January night might kill the child. Instantly seized with a chill, the Prince threw himself back on his bed without uttering a sound. But the dampness of his couch allowed him no rest. He got up again and sought refuge on the floor with his pillow—the only part of his bed that had escaped the deluge. As he crouched there, his teeth chattering with cold, Simon sprang up again in spite of his wife’s efforts to detain him, grasped the child with both hands, and shook him violently, crying:123
“I will teach you to get up in the night to recite your paternosters, like a Trappist!” Then as if in a frenzy he rushed at the boy with such a malignant expression upon his cruel face that the poor little Prince caught at the arms of his ferocious jailer and cried:
“Oh, what have I done that you should want to murder me?”
“Murder you! As if that was what I wanted! Don’t you know that, if I wished to murder you, I could take you by the throat and stop your noise in no time?”124
So speaking, he flung the boy roughly back into his bed, which had been turned into a veritable pond. Without a word, he sank down on his wretched cot, shivering with cold and terror, while the cobbler retired to his own rest filled with savage satisfaction. After this dreadful night the poor little Dauphin fell into a state of utter despair and apathy. Even his tearful glances no longer appealed to his brutal keeper. His eyes were always fixed on the floor. The last remnants of his courage were gone; he had finally succumbed to his fate.
Nevertheless, the terrible Simon was not to enjoy the triumph of seeing his victim expire at his feet. The municipal council had decreed that for the future the prisoner was to be guarded by four of its members, who were to serve as deputies, and on the nineteenth of January, 1794, Simon and his wife were removed from the Temple. The parting words of the cobbler to the innocent child he had tortured so barbarously were quite in keeping with his character. His wife had said:
“Capet, I do not know whether I shall ever see you again!” And Simon added: “Oh! he is not crushed yet; but he will never get out of this prison—not if all the saints of heaven moved in his behalf!”125
A last blow accompanied these words, which the poor little Prince, who stood before him with downcast eyes, received meekly and apathetically, without even a glance at his departing jailer. But Simon did not escape the vengeance of Heaven. The cruel cobbler perished on the scaffold on the twenty-eighth of July, 1794, together with Robespierre and other monsters of the Revolution.
The End of Sorrows
The removal of Simon released the Dauphin from actual physical abuse, but on the whole there was not much change for the better in his situation. The leaders of the Revolution felt no pity for the royal child; and instead of appointing a successor to the cobbler, they doomed him to solitary confinement. The door of communication between his prison and the anteroom was securely fastened with nails and screws, and crossed from top to bottom with iron bars. Three or four feet from the floor there was a small opening over a little shelf, covered by a movable iron grating, which was secured by a padlock. Through this opening or wicket little Capet was supplied with food and water, and when he had eaten he replaced the empty vessels on the shelf. They allowed him neither light nor fire. His room was heated only by the flue from a stove in the antechamber, and lighted only by a lamp which hung opposite the wicket. Here the poor child spent the terrible days and nights, his only way of reckoning time; for years, months, weeks, days, were all one in his confused brain. Time, like a stagnant pool, had ceased to flow for him. There was nothing but suffering to mark the hours, hence they were indistinguishable.127
We will pass quickly over this period—one long monotonous round of misery and wretchedness, that lasted without intermission for more than six months. During all that time the air of heaven did not once penetrate to this barred cell, and only a faint glimmer of daylight pierced the grating and the close, heavy shutters. The little prisoner never saw the guards who thrust his scanty meals to him through the wicket; he heard no sound but the creaking of bolts and a harsh voice, which at the close of day ordered him to go to bed, since there was no light for him. The solitude and loneliness lay upon his spirit like a leaden weight. Without work, without play, without diversion or occupation of any kind, how endless must the days have been! And then the night and darkness, with its vague phantoms, its indefinable terrors, chilling the child’s blood with fear!128
Many such days and nights passed, but no word, no sound of complaint, escaped from the dark cell. The wicket was opened every day, but the little Prince never sought for pity or compassion. He had given up all hope of human sympathy, and trusted only to the mercy of God; hoped only for a speedy death and for everlasting peace beyond.
The deputies, whose duty it was to guard the Dauphin, were cruel and unfeeling—if not naturally so, then because they feared to be otherwise. At nightfall they would go up to the den of the “young wolf” to assure themselves that he was alive and had not escaped. If he did not answer their harsh summons at once, they would open the wicket with a great clattering and shout:
“Capet, Capet! Are you asleep? Where are you? Get up, viper!”
The child, so rudely aroused, would drag himself with trembling limbs from his wretched bed to the grating, his feet colder than the damp floor on which he trod, to answer gently:
“Here I am!”
“Come nearer, then, so we can see you!” they would cry, holding up a lantern to light the cell.129
“Very good! Go to bed again!”
Two hours later there would be another rattling of bolts, other deputies would appear, and again the Prince would be roused from his sleep and compelled, half-naked and shivering with cold and terror, to answer the questions of his jailers. This persecution soon exhausted him mentally and physically. The lack of fresh air, the darkness and solitude, benumbed all his faculties. He no longer wept. His feeble hands could scarcely lift the earthen plate or jug in which his food and water were brought. He had ceased to try to clean his room; he no longer had even the strength to shake up the sack of straw that formed his bed, or to turn the mattress. The bedclothes were never changed, and his pillow was in tatters; he could not get clean linen or mend his ragged clothes; he had not resolution enough to wash and clean himself, but lay patiently on his bed most of the time, his dull eyes staring into vacancy.
How often must he have prayed to God, “When, oh! when, will my sufferings end?” How long—how long it must have seemed before the Almighty listened to the feeble voice and sent the blessed release of death. But at last the petition was heard, and a gleam of human pity brightened the last days of this innocent victim of man’s cruelty.130
After the execution of Robespierre and his associates in the Reign of Terror, better days dawned for the little Prince. The new government sent him a jailer named Laurent, who was kind and humane, and dared to show his pity for his prisoner. He had the barred door opened, and, horror-stricken at the sight disclosed, at once took measures to relieve the poor child, whom he found cowering on a filthy bed, clothed in rags, his back bent as if with age, his little body covered with sores. The once lovely child showed scarcely a trace of his former beauty. His face was yellow and emaciated, his eyes dim and sunken; he was ill, and the bright and vigorous mind was no longer active. “I want to die! I want to die!” were the only words Laurent was able to draw from him at his first visit.131
The kindly jailer lost no time in bettering his situation as far as he could. The barred door with the wicket was removed, the shutters taken down from the windows to admit the light and air freely, and the cell thoroughly cleaned. One of his first cares was to have the boy bathed, cleaned, and placed in another bed. He also sent for a physician, and ordered a tailor to make some new clothes for his charge. At first the poor little Prince could not understand these expressions of sympathy and kindness. He had suffered so much and so deeply from the inhumanity of men, that his crushed sensibilities were slow in starting to life again.
“Why do you trouble yourself about me?” he asked one day, and when Laurent made some kindly answer, added, with a swelling heart, “I thought no one cared for me any more!” while he tried to hide his tears.
Simon had introduced the custom of addressing the Prince simply as “Capet”; Laurent changed this, and called him by his first name, “M. Charles.” He also obtained permission for him to walk on the platform of the Tower whenever he chose, and enjoy the blue sky and the sunshine again after his long, sad imprisonment. Here, one day, he found some little yellow flowers that were trying to live in the seams and crevices of the crumbling stone. He gathered them eagerly, and tied them into a little nosegay, recalling, perhaps, the sunny days of his early childhood.132
On the ninth of November, 1794, a second jailer arrived—a man named Gomin, who, like Laurent, was kind and tender-hearted. It was settled between them that they should share the same room, an arrangement which suited Laurent very well, since it gave him more freedom; and both men exerted themselves to make their little captive’s dull days as cheerful as possible. They would have done even more for him had they not been restrained by the presence of a deputy, who was required to share their guard over the Dauphin. These deputies were frequently changed. If the choice of their superiors happened to fall on a man who was friendly and obliging, Laurent and Gomin could usually obtain small favors from him. Thus, on the third day after his arrival in the Temple, Gomin made use of the good-will of a deputy named Bresson to obtain for the Prince four plants in pots, all in full bloom. The sight of these flowers was a most wonderful surprise to the poor child, and his eyes filled with tears of joy and happiness. He went around and around them, as if intoxicated with delight, clasped them in his arms, and inhaled their fragrance. He devoured them with his eyes, examined every blossom, and finally picked one. Then he looked at Gomin with a troubled expression; an innocent, childish memory trembled in his heart. He thought of his mother! Alas, poor child! For her no more should earthly flowers bloom, nor wert thou ever to be permitted to lay a blossom on her grave!133
Soon after this, a deputy named Delboy came to the Temple. He was coarse and uncouth in appearance, and had a gruff, harsh voice. With an air of brutality, he opened all the prison doors, and behaved in a rude and boorish manner; but under this rough exterior was concealed a softness of heart and highmindedness that greatly surprised the little prisoner.
“Why this miserable food?” he said one day, glancing at the Dauphin’s scanty meal. “If he were in the Tuileries, we might question what he had to eat—but here in our hands! We should be merciful to him; the nation is magnanimous! What are these shutters for? Under the government of the people, the sun shines for all, and this child is entitled to his share of it. Why should a brother be prevented from seeing his sister? Our watchword is fraternity!”134
The Prince gazed at him in open-eyed astonishment, and followed every movement of this rough stranger, whose friendly words were such a contrast to his forbidding aspect.
“Is it not so, my boy,” continued the deputy; “would you not be very happy if you could play with your sister? I do not see why the nation should remember your origin if you forget it.”
Then, turning to Laurent and Gomin, he added: “It is not his fault that he is the son of a King. He is only a child—an unfortunate one, too—and should not be treated so harshly. He is, at least, a human being; and is not France the mother of all her children?”135
After his departure, Gomin hastened to procure more comforts for the Prince, and took pains to see that he had a light in his room at night, for which the poor child was very grateful. He was not allowed to see his sister, Marie Thérèse, however, as the government had strictly forbidden it. But all the care and attention of his jailers could not save him from being attacked by a bad fever, and unfortunately the deputies were not all so considerate as the rough but kindly Delboy. Some of them terrified him by harsh threats and insults, which by no means improved his condition. One man, named Careaux, to whom Gomin applied for permission to send for a physician for the sick child, had the heartless insolence to reply:
“Pah! never mind him. There are plenty of children dying all the time who are of more consequence than he!”
A day or two afterward, Gomin was painfully surprised to hear the poor boy, muttering to himself, repeat the words, “Many children die who are of more consequence!” and from this time he sank into a state of the deepest melancholy and failed rapidly. It was with difficulty that Gomin could induce him to go up to the roof of the Tower, even when he had the strength; and soon, indeed, his feet could no longer support him, and his jailers were obliged to carry him up in their arms. The disease made such terrible progress in a few days that the government finally felt it necessary to send a deputation to the Temple to inquire into the condition of the prisoner. Nothing came of it, however. No physician was summoned, no remedies applied, and the Dauphin was left to sink slowly into the grave. It was plain that his death had been determined on by the government, and disease was allowed to finish the work which that unspeakable wretch, the cobbler Simon, had begun so well.136
Gomin still had hope, nevertheless, and used every means in his power to add to the child’s small pleasures and recreations. He found some books, which the Prince read eagerly; and, through an acquaintance named Debierne, obtained a turtle-dove for him, but it did not live long. They often played draughts together; the Prince did not understand the game very well, but the kind-hearted jailer always contrived to let his small opponent win. Shuttlecock, too, was a favorite amusement when the child’s strength permitted, and at this he proved very skilful. His eye was sure, his hand quick, and he always rested the left one lightly on his hip while the right was busy with the battledore.137
On the twenty-ninth of March, 1795, Laurent left the Temple, and was replaced by Etienne Lasne, a house painter and soldier of the Guard. The Prince thereby lost one friend, but gained another, for Lasne from the beginning showed the heartiest good-will toward him, and soon learned how to win his affection. He would spend hours playing with him, sing lively songs while Gomin joined in with his violin, or entertain him with humorous fancies; and his devotion so won the child’s love and confidence that the Dauphin always used the familiar “thou” in speaking to him, although such had never been his custom.
All this time the condition of the little Dauphin had been growing worse so steadily that finally, at the urgent demands of the jailers, a physician was sent for. M. Desault treated him and prescribed some remedies, though he gave Gomin to understand from the first that he had little hope of the boy’s recovery. They moved him into a room that was more light and sunny, but he was very weak, and the change did little to check the progress of the disease. Though his kind friend often carried him up to the platform on the Tower, the slight improvement wrought by breathing the fresh air scarcely compensated for the fatigue the effort cost him.138
In the course of centuries, the rain had hollowed out a sort of little basin on the battlements of the platform, where the water would remain for several days, and as there were frequent rains in the spring of 1795, this reservoir was never empty. Every time the Prince was carried to the roof, he saw a number of sparrows that came daily to the little pool to drink and bathe in it. At first they would fly away at his approach, but after a time they became accustomed to seeing him, and only took flight when he came too close. They were always the same ones, and he learned to know them. Perhaps they, like himself, had grown familiar with the old Tower. He called them his birds. As soon as the door was opened, his first glance would be toward the little basin, and the sparrows were always there. When he approached, they would all rise in the air, fluttering and chirping; but after he had passed, they would settle down again at once. Supported by his jailer’s arm and leaning against the wall, he would often stand perfectly motionless for a long time, watching the birds alight and dip their little beaks in the water, then their breasts, fluttering their wings and shaking the drops off their feathers, while the poor little invalid would clasp his keeper’s arm tightly, as if to say: “Alas! I cannot do that!” Sometimes, with this support, he would take several steps forward, till he was so near he could almost touch them with his outstretched arm. This was his greatest pleasure; he loved their cheerful twittering and quick, alert motions.
The physician, M. Desault, came every morning at nine o’clock to see his patient, and often remained with him for some time. The Prince was very fond of the good old man, and showed his gratitude both in words and looks. Suddenly, however, his visits ceased, and they learned that he had died unexpectedly on the thirty-first of May. The little Prince wept when he was told of it, and mourned sincerely for his kind friend. The chief surgeon, M. Pelletan, took his place; but he, too, had no hope of being able to prolong the life of the child, who, like a delicate plant deprived of light and air, gradually drooped and faded. Yet he bore his sufferings without a murmur or complaint. The plant was dying; its bright colors were gone, but its sweet fragrance remained to the last.140
M. Pelletan, who realized only too well his dangerous condition, had requested from the government the advice and assistance of another physician, and on the seventh of June M. Dumaugin was sent to accompany him to the Temple. The Prince’s weakness had increased alarmingly, and that morning, after having taken his medicine and been rubbed as usual, he had sunk into a sort of swoon, which made the jailers fear the end was near. He revived a little, however, when the physicians arrived; but they saw plainly it was useless to attempt to check the malady. They ordered a glass of sweetened water to be given to him, to cool his dry, parched mouth, if he should wish to drink, and withdrew with a painful sense of their helplessness. M. Pelletan was of the opinion that the little Prince would not live through another day, but his colleague did not think the end would come so soon. It was agreed that M. Pelletan should make his visit at eight o’clock the next morning, and M. Dumaugin was to come at eleven.
When Gomin entered the room that evening with the Dauphin’s supper, he was pleasantly surprised to find the sick child a little improved. His color was better, his eyes brighter, his voice stronger.
“Oh, it is you!” he said at once to his jailer, with evident pleasure at seeing him.
“You are not suffering so much now?” asked Gomin.
“Not so much,” answered the Prince softly.
“You must thank this room for that,” said Gomin. “Here there is at least fresh air to breathe, and plenty of light; the good doctors come to see you, and you should find a little comfort in all this.”141
At these words the Prince looked up at his jailer with an expression of deepest sadness. His eyes grew dim, then shone suddenly bright again, as a tear trickled through his lashes and rolled down his cheek.
“Alone—always alone!” was his answer. “And my mother has been over there, in that other Tower, all this time!”
He did not know that she, as well as his aunt, Madame Élisabeth, had long since been dragged to the guillotine, and all the warmth and tenderness of which the poor child’s heart was still capable of feeling were fixed on the mother from whose arms he had been so cruelly torn. This childish affection had survived through everything; it was as strong as his will, as deep as his nature. “Love,” says the Holy Scriptures, “is stronger than death,” and this child confirmed the saying. Now, when his mind was dwelling on memories of the past and the recollection of his sufferings, every other thought was forgotten, and his tried and tortured heart had room for no other image than that of his dearly and tenderly beloved mother.142
“It is true you are often alone here, and that is sad, to be sure,” continued Gomin; “but then you no longer have the sight of so many bad men around you, or the example of so many wicked actions.”
“Oh, I have seen enough of them,” murmured the child; “but,” he added in a gentler tone, laying his hand on the arm of his kindly jailer and raising his eyes to his face, “I see good people also, and they keep me from being angry with those who are not.”
At this, Gomin said suddenly: “That wicked Careaux you have seen here so often, as deputy, has been arrested, and is now in prison himself.”
The Prince started.
“Careaux?” he repeated. “He did not treat me well. But I am sorry. Is he here?”
“No, in La Force, in the Quartier St. Antoine.”
An ordinary nature would have harbored some feeling of revenge, but this royal child had the greatness of soul to pity his persecutor.
“I am very sorry for him; he is more unhappy than we, for he deserves his misfortunes!”143
Words so simple and yet so noble, on the lips of a child scarcely ten years old, may be wondered at; nevertheless, they were actually spoken by the Dauphin, and the words themselves did not impress Gomin so much as the sincere and touching tone in which they were spoken. Without doubt, misfortune and suffering had matured the child’s mind prematurely, and he may have been inspired by some invisible presence from above, such as God often sends to the bedside of the suffering and dying.
Night came on—the last night the poor little prisoner was to spend in solitude and loneliness, with only those old companions, misery of mind and body. He had always been left alone at night, even during his illness; and not until eight o’clock in the morning were his jailers allowed to go to him. We do not know how the Prince passed that last night, or whether he waked or slept; but in either case death was hovering close beside his pillow. The next morning, Monday, the eighth of June, Lasne entered the room between seven and eight o’clock, Gomin not daring to go first for fear he should not find their charge alive. But by the time M. Pelletan arrived the Prince was sitting up, and Lasne thought he had even improved somewhat since the day before, though the physician’s more experienced eye told him there was no change for the better. Indeed, the poor little invalid, whose feet felt strangely heavy, soon wanted to lie down again.144
When M. Dumaugin came at eleven o’clock, the Prince was in bed; but he welcomed him with the unvarying gentleness and sweetness that had never deserted him through all his troubles, and to which the physician himself testified later on. He shrugged his shoulders over the patient’s condition, and felt that the end was not far off. After he had taken his leave, Gomin replaced Lasne in the sick room. He seated himself near the bed, but, fearing to rouse or disturb the child, did not speak. The Prince never began a conversation, and was silent likewise, gazing mournfully at his friend.
“How unhappy it makes me to see you suffer so much!” said Gomin at last.
“Never mind,” answered the child softly, “I shall not always suffer.”
Gomin knelt down by the bed to be nearer him, and the affectionate child seized his keeper’s hand and pressed it to his lips. At this, Gomin gave way to his emotion, and his heart went out in prayer—the prayer that man in his deepest sorrow sends up to the all-merciful Father; while the Prince, still clasping the faithful hand in his, raised his eyes to heaven with a look of angelic peace and holiness impossible to describe. After a time, Gomin, seeing that he lay quiet and motionless, said to him:145
“I hope you do not suffer now?”
“Oh, yes, I still suffer,” whispered the Prince, “but much less—the music is so beautiful!”
Now, there was no music in or near the Temple at this solemn moment; no noise of any kind from outside entered the room where the soul of the little martyr was preparing for flight. Gomin, much surprised, therefore, asked him:
“Where does the music come from?”
“From above there!” replied the child.
“Is it long that you have heard it?”
“Since you knelt down by me and prayed. Have you not heard it? Listen—listen now!”
With a quick motion he held up his feeble hand, his blue eyes shining with rapture, while Gomin, not wishing to dispel this last sweet illusion of the dying child, made a pious effort to hear what could not be heard, and pretended to be listening to the music. In a few moments the Prince raised himself suddenly and cried out in an ecstasy of joy:146
“Oh! among all those voices I can hear my mother’s!” and as this holy name escaped the orphan’s lips, all his pain and sorrow seemed to disappear. His eyebrows, drawn with suffering, relaxed and his eyes sparkled with the light of victory and freedom. But the radiance of his glance was soon dimmed; the old worn look came back to his face and he sank back, his hands crossed meekly on his breast. Gomin watched him closely and followed all his movements with anxious eyes. His breathing was not more difficult, but his eyes wandered about vacantly and absently, and were often fixed on the window. Gomin asked if anything troubled him, but he did not seem to hear even when the question was repeated, and made no reply. Lasne came soon after to relieve Gomin, who left his little friend with a heavy heart, although he did not realize the end was so near. Lasne sat by the bed for a long time in silence, the Prince gazing at him sorrowfully; but when he moved a little, Lasne asked him how he felt and whether he wanted anything. Instead of replying, he asked abruptly:
“Do you think my sister could hear the music? It would make her so happy!”
Lasne could not answer this. The yearning eyes of the dying boy, dark with the anguish of death, were turned toward the window. Suddenly a cry of joy escaped him; then, turning to Lasne, he said:147
“I have something to tell you.”
The jailer took his hand—the little head drooped upon his breast—he listened, but in vain. The last word had been spoken! God had spared the little Dauphin the last agonizing death-struggle, and in a last dream of joy and rapture had taken him to His loving arms!
Lasne laid his hand gently on the child’s heart, but it no longer beat. That troubled heart was quiet now. The little Dauphin had exchanged his sorrowful earthly dwelling for the eternal peace and happiness of Heaven—had found his loved ones and his God.
* * * * * * * *
Only a few more words, gentle reader. I have unrolled a sad picture before you, and, however much it may have excited your sympathy, it could not be softened, for from beginning to end it is the truth and only the truth. The little Dauphin, Louis Charles, the son of a King and a King himself, really bore all these sorrows; he lived, suffered, and died as has been described in these pages. A conscientious and reliable investigator, M. de Beauchesne, has with untold zeal and patience collected all the incidents here recounted; and the facts have been corroborated by Lasne and Gomin, the two worthy men who tried to brighten the last days of the unfortunate little Prince.148
And now, should you ask what moral is to be drawn from this true narrative, I would answer: Learn from the perusal of this child’s life to be submissive under affliction and trouble. God keep you from pain and sorrow; but, should they one day fall to your lot, then remember the little Dauphin and King of France, and endure, as he endured, suffering and heart-break with calmness and patience, with humility and submission to the will of the Lord, before whose mysterious and inscrutable decrees weak mortality must bow without repining.
The following is a chronological statement of the most important events mentioned in this volume, as well as of those directly connected with the French Revolution:
|August 23, 1754||Birth of Louis XVI.|
|1770||Marriage of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.|
|1774||Louis XVI ascends the throne.|
|March 27, 1785||Birth of Louis XVII.|
|1789||Louis XVII becomes Dauphin.|
|May 5, 1789||Meeting of States General. Revolutionary agitations.|
|June 17, 1789||Third Estate takes the name of Constituent Assembly.|
|July 14, 1789||Storming of the Bastille.|
|July 14, 1790||The “Feast of the Pikes” on the Champ de Mars, and the oath of Federation.|
|June 20, 1791||Flight of the Royal Family to Varennes.|
|June 25, 1791||Brought back to Paris as captives.|
|September, 1791||Constitution adopted.|
|April, 1792||War with Prussia and Austria.|
|September 21, 1792||Proclamation of the Republic.|
|January 21, 1793||Execution of Louis XVI.|
|March, 1793||Establishment of Revolutionary Tribunal.|
|April, 1793||Establishment of Committee of Public Safety.|
|July 3, 1793||Imprisonment of the Dauphin in the Temple.|
|July 13, 1793||Assassination of Marat.|
|October 16, 1793||Execution of Marie Antoinette.|
|1793-94||Reign of Terror.|
|April 6, 1794||Execution of Danton.|
|July 27, 1794||Execution of Robespierre.|
|June 8, 1795||Death of the Dauphin in the Temple.|
|October 5, 1795||Victory of Buonaparte over the Sections.|
|1796||Beginning of the Napoleonic Wars.|
|November, 1799||Beginning of the Consulate.|
|1802||Napoleon made Life Consul.|
|March 18, 1804||Establishment of the Empire.|