Doctor Saunier knocked softly three times with a slight interval between, and cried three times with a loud voice,
"The two physicians are come to see the patient."
A bolt was withdrawn on the inside, the door opened, and a tall man's figure appeared and motioned to the gentlemen to come in.
"Are we alone?" whispered Doctor Saunier, as they entered the inner room.
"Yes, entirely alone," answered the other. "There in the chamber lies my poor sick boy, and you know well that he can betray no one, and that he knows nothing of what is going on around him."
"Yes, unfortunately, I know that," answered Doctor Saunier sadly. "I promised you that I would bring you the most celebrated and skilful physician in Paris, and you see I keep my word, for I have brought you Doctor Naudin, the director of the Hotel Dieu and—the friend and devoted servant of the royal family, to whom we have both sworn allegiance until death. Doctor Naudin, I have not given you the name of the gentleman to whom I was taking you. It is a secret which only the possessor is able to divulge to you."
"I divulge it," said the other, smiling, "Doctor Naudin, I am the Marquis Jarjayes."
"Jarjayes, who made the plan for the escape of the royal family in the Temple?" asked Naudin eagerly.
"Marquis Jarjayes, who lost his property in the service of the queen, risked his life in her deliverance, and perhaps escaped the guillotine merely by emigrating and putting himself beyond the reach of Robespierre. Are you that loyal, courageous Marquis de Jarjayes?"
"I am Jarjayes, and I thank you for the praises you have given me, but I cannot accept them in the presence of him who merits them all much more than I do, and who is more worthy of praise than any one else. No, I can receive no commendation in the presence of Toulan, the most loyal, the bravest, the most prudent of us all; for Toulan is the soul of every thing, and our martyr queen confessed it in giving him the highest of all titles of honor, in calling him Fidele, a title which will remain for centuries."
"Yes, you are right," said Dr. Naudin, laying his hand on the shoulder of Dr. Saunier. "He is the noblest, most loyal, and bravest of us all. On that account, when he came to me a few days ago and showed me the golden salt* bottle of the queen in confirmation of his statement that he was Toulan, I was ready to do every thing that he might desire of me and to enter into all his plans, for Toulan's magnanimity and fidelity are contagious, and excite every one to emulate him."
"I beg you, gentlemen," said Toulan softly, "do not praise me nor think that to be heroism which is merely natural. I have devoted to Queen Marie Antoinette my life, my thought, my heart. I swore upon her hand that so long as I lived I would be true to her and her family, and to keep my vow is simple enough. Queen Marie Antoinette is no more. I was not able to save her, but perhaps she looks down from the heavenly heights upon us, and is satisfied with us, if she sees that we are now trying to do for her son what, unfortunately, we were not able to accomplish for her. This is my hope, and this spurs rue on to attempt every thing, in order to bring about the last wish of my queen—the freeing of her son. God in His grace has willed that I should not be alone in this effort, and that I should have the cooperation of noble men. He visibly blesses our plans, for is it not a manifest sign of His blessing that, exactly in those days when we are trying to find a means of approaching the unhappy, imprisoned son of the queen, accident affords us this means? Exactly at the hour when I went to Dr. Naudin and disclosed myself to him, the porter of the Temple came and desired in behalf of Simon's wife that Dr. Naudin should go to the Temple."
"Yes, indeed, it was a wonderful occurrence," said Naudin, thoughtfully. "I am not over-blessed with sensibility, but when I saw the son of the queen in his sorrow and humiliation, I sank on my knee before the poor little king, and in my heart I swore that Toulan should find in me a faithful coadjutor in his plan, and that I would do every thing to set him free."
"And so have I too sworn," cried Jarjayes, with enthusiasm. "The queen is dead, but our fidelity to her lives and shall renew itself to her son, King Louis XVII. I know well that the police are watching me, that they know who is secreting himself here under the name of Citizen Orage, that they follow every one of my steps and perhaps suffer me to be free only for the purpose of seeing with whom I have relations, in order to arrest and destroy me at one fell swoop, with all my friends at the same time. But we must use the time. I have come here with the firm determination of delivering the unhappy young king from the hands of his tormentors, and I will now confess every thing to you, my friends. I have gained for our undertaking the assistance and protection of a rich and noble patron, a true servant of the deceased king. The Prince de Conde, with whom I have lived in Vendee for the past few months, has furnished me with ample means, and is prepared to support us to any extent in our undertaking. If we succeed in saving the young king, the latter will find in Vendee a safe asylum with the prince, and will live there securely, surrounded by his faithful subjects. The immense difficulty, or, as I should have said a few days ago, the impossibility, is the release of the young prince from the Temple. But now that I have succeeded in discovering Toulan and uniting myself with him, I no longer say it is impossible, but only it is difficult."
"And," cried Toulan, "since I am sure of the assistance of the noble Doctor Naudin, I say, we will free him, the son of our Queen Marie Antoinette, the young King Louis XVII. The plan is entirely ready in my head, and in order to make its execution possible, I went a few days ago to see Doctor Naudin at the Hotel Dieu, in order to beg him to visit the sick boy that the marquis has here, and just at that moment Simon's messenger came to the Temple. Doctor Naudin is now here, and first of all it is necessary that he give us his last, decisive judgment on the patient. So take us to him, marquis, for upon Naudin's decision depends the fate of the young King of France."
The marquis nodded silently, and conducted the gentlemen into the next room. There, carefully propped up by mattresses and pillows, lay a child of perhaps ten years—a poor, unfortunate boy, with pale, sunken cheeks, fixed blue eyes, short fair hair, and a stupid, idiotic expression on his features. As the three gentlemen came to him he fixed his eyes upon them in a cold, indifferent way, and not a quiver in his face disclosed any interest in them. Motionless and pale as death the boy lay upon his bed, and only the breath that came hot and in gasps from his breast disclosed that there was still life in this poor shattered frame.
Doctor Naudin stooped down to the boy and looked at him a long time with the utmost attention.
"This boy is perfectly deaf!" he then said, raising himself up and looking at the marquis inquiringly.
"Yes, doctor, your sharp eye has correctly discerned it; he is perfectly deaf."
"Is it your son?"
"No, doctor, he is the son of my sister, the Baroness of Tardif, who was guillotined together with her husband. I undertook the care of this unfortunate child, and at my removal from Paris gave him to some faithful servants of my family to be cared for. On my return I learned that the good people had both been guillotined, and find the poor boy, who before had been at least sound in body, utterly neglected, and living on the sympathy of the people who had taken him on the death of his foster-parents. I brought the child at once to this house, which I had hired for myself under the name of Citizen Orage, and Toulan undertook to procure the help of a physician. It has now come in the person of the celebrated Doctor Naudin, and I beg you to have pity on the poor unfortunate child, and to receive him into the Hotel Dieu."
"Let me first examine the child, in order to tell you what is the nature of his disorder."
And Doctor Naudin stooped down again to the boy, examined his eyes, his chest, his whole form, listened to his breathing, the action of his heart, and felt his pulse. The patient was entirely apathetic during all this, now and then merely whining and groaning, when a movement of the doctor's hand caused him pain.
After the careful investigation had been ended, the doctor called the two gentlemen who had withdrawn to the window to the bed again.
"Marquis," said he, "this unfortunate child will never recover, and the least painful thing that could happen to him would be a speedy release from his miserable lot. Yet I do not believe that this will occur, but consider it possible that the boy will protract his unfortunate life a full year after his mind has entirely passed away, and nothing is left of him but his body. The boy, if you can regard such a poor creature as a human being, is suffering from an incurable form of scrofula, which will by and by consume his limbs, and convert him into an idiot; he is now deaf; he will be a mere stupid beast. If it were permitted to substitute the hand of science in place of the hand of God, I should say we ought to kill this poor creature that is no man and no beast, and has nothing more to expect of life than pain and torture, having no more consciousness of any thing than the dog has when he does not get a bone with which to quiet his hunger."
"Poor, unhappy creature!" sighed the marquis. "Now, I thank God that He released my sister from the pain of seeing her dear child in this condition.
"Doctor Naudin," said Toulan, solemnly, "is it your fixed conviction that this sick person will never recover?"
"My firm and undoubted conviction, which every physician who should see him would share with me."
"Are you of the opinion that this child has nothing in life to lose, and that death would be a gain to it?"
"Yes; that is my belief. Death would be a release for the poor creature, for life is only a burden to it as well as to others."
"Then," cried Toulan, solemnly, "I will give this poor sick child a higher and a fairer mission. I will make its life an advantage to others, and its death a hallowed sacrifice. Marquis of Jarjayes, in the name of King Louis XVI., in the name of the exalted martyr to whom we have all sworn fidelity unto death, Queen Marie Antoinette, I demand and desire of you that you would intrust to me this unhappy creature, and give his life into my hands. In the name of Marie Antoinette, I demand of the Marquis of Jarjayes that he deliver to me the son of his sister, that he do what every one of us is joyfully prepared to do if our holy cause demands it, that this boy may give his life for his king, the imprisoned Louis XVII."
While Toulan was speaking with his earnest, solemn voice, Jarjayes knelt before the bed of the poor sobbing child, and, hiding his face in his hands, he prayed softly.
Then, after a long pause, he rose and laid his hand on the feverish brow of the boy. "You have addressed me," he said, "in the name of Queen Marie Antoinette. You demand of me as the guardian of this poor creature that I give him to you, that he may give his life for his king. The sons and daughters of my house have always been ready and glad to devote their possessions, their happiness, their lives, to the service of their kings, and I speak simply in the spirit of my sister—who ascended the scaffold to seal her fidelity to the royal family with her death—I speak in the spirit of all my ancestors when I say, here is the last off-spring of the Baroness of Tardif, here is the son of my sister; take him and let him live or die for his king, Louis XVII., the prisoner at the Temple."
During the night which followed the second visit of Doctor Naudin, Jeanne Marie Simon had a long and earnest conversation with her husband. The first words which the wife uttered, spoken in a whisper though they were, excited the cobbler so much that he threatened her with his clinched fist. She looked him calmly in the face, however, and said to him softly, "And so you mean to stay perpetually in this hateful prison? You want to remain shut up here like a criminal, and get no more satisfaction out of life than what comes from tormenting this poor, half-witted boy to death?"
Simon let his hand fall, and said, "If there were a means of escaping from this infernal prison, it would certainly be most welcome to me, for I am heartily tired of being a prisoner here, after having prayed for freedom so long, and worked for it so much. So, if there is a means—"
"There is such a means," interrupted his wife. "Listen to me!"
And Simon did listen, and the moving and eloquent words of his wife at length found a willing ear. Simon's face gradually lightened up, and it seemed to him that he was now able to release his wife from an oppressive, burdensome load.
"If it succeeds," he muttered—"if it succeeds, I shall be free from the mountainous weight which presses upon me day and night and shall become a healthy man again."
"And if it does not succeed," whispered Jeanne Marie, "the worst that can happen to us is what has happened to thousands before us. We shall merely feed the machine, and our heads will tumble into the basket, with this difference, that I shall not be able to make any mark in my stocking. I would rather die all at once on the guillotine and have it over, than be dying here day after day, and hour after hour, having nothing to expect from life but pain and ennui."
"And I, too," said Simon, decidedly. "Rather die, than go on leading such a dog's life. Let your doctor come to me to-morrow morning. I will talk with him!"
Early the next day the doctor came in his long, black cloak, and with his peruke, to visit the sick Mistress Simon. The guards at the gate leading to the outer court quietly let him pass in, and did not notice that another face appeared in the peruke from that which had been seen the day before. The two official guards above, who had just completed their duties in the upper story, and met the doctor on the tower stairs, did not take any offence at his figure. The director of the Hotel Dieu was not personally known to them, and they were familiar with but little about him, excepting that he took the liberty of going about in his old-fashioned cloak, without giving offence to the authorities, and that he had permission from those authorities to come to the Temple for the purpose of visiting the wife of Simon.
"You will find two patients to-day up there," said one of the officials as he passed by. "We empower you, doctor, to take the second one, little Capet, under your charge. The boy appears to be really sick, or else he is obstinate and mulish. He answers no questions, and he has taken no nourishment, Simon tells us, since yesterday noon. Examine into the case, doctor, and then tell us what your opinion is. We will wait for you down in the council-room. So make as much haste as possible."
They passed on, and the doctor did really make haste to ascend the staircase. At the open door which led to the apartment of the little Capet and his "guardian," he found Simon.
"Did you hear, citizen?" asked the doctor. "The officials are waiting for me below."
"Yes, I heard, doctor," whispered Simon. "We have not much time. Come!"
He motioned to the physician to pass along the corridor and to enter the room, while he bolted and locked the outer door. As the doctor entered, Mistress Simon lay upon her bed and looked at the new-comer with curious, glowing eyes.
"Who are you?" she asked, rising quickly from her bed. "You are not Doctor Naudin whom I expected, and I do not know you!"
Meantime the doctor walked in silence to her bed, and stooped over Jeanne Marie, who sank back upon the pillow.
"I am the one who is to help you escape from the Temple," he whispered. "Doctor Naudin has sent me, to work in union with him and you in effecting your release and that of the unfortunate Capet."
"Husband," cried Jeanne Marie to the cobbler, who was just coming in, "this is the man who is going to deliver us from this hell!"
"That is to say," said the doctor, with a firm, penetrating voice, "I will free you if you will help me free the dauphin."
"Speak softly, for God's sake, speak softly," said Simon anxiously. "If any one should hear you, we are all lost! We will do every thing that you demand of us, provided that we can in that way escape from this miserable, good-for-nothing place. The air here is like poison, and to have to stay here is like being buried alive."
"And then the dreams, the frightful dreams," muttered Jeanne Marie, with a shudder. "I cannot sleep any more in this dreadful prison, for that pale, fearful woman, with great, fixed eyes, goes walking about through the Temple every night, and listens at the doors to see whether her children are alive yet, and whether we are not killing them. Lately, she has not only listened at the doors, but she has come into my room, and passed my bed, and gone into the chamber of little Capet. Simon was asleep, and did not see her. I sprang up, however, and stole softly to the door; for I thought somebody had crept in here in disguise, possibly Citizen Toulan, who had already twice made the attempt to release the Austrian and her children, and whom I then denounced at headquarters. There I saw— although it was entirely dark in the hall—there I saw little Capet lying asleep on his mattress, his hands folded over his breast, and with an expression of countenance more happy, altogether more happy, than it ever is when he is awake. Near the mattress kneeled the figure in white, and it seemed as if a radiance streamed out from it that filled the whole room. Its face was pale and white, just like a lily, and it seemed as if the fragrance of a lily was in the apartment. Her two arms were raised, as if she would utter a benediction, over her sleeping boy; around her half-opened lips played a sweet smile, and her great eyes, which had the aspect of stars, looked up toward heaven. But while I was there in a maze, and watched the figure in a, transport of delight, there occurred, all at once, something wonderful, something dreadful. The figure rose from its knees, dropped its arms, turned itself around, and advanced straight toward me. The eyes, which had been turned so purely heavenward before, were directed to me, with a look which pierced my breast like the thrust of a knife. I recognized that look-that sad, reproachful glance. It was the same that Marie Antoinette gave me, when she stood on the scaffold. I was sitting in the front row of the knitters, and I was just going to make the double stitch for her in my stocking, when that look met me; those great, sad eyes were turned toward me, and I felt that she had recognized me, and her eyes bored into my breast, and followed me even after the axe had taken off her head. The eyes did not fall into the basket, they were not buried, bat they remain in my breast; they have been piercing me ever since, and burning me like glowing coals. But that night I saw them again, as in life—those dreadful eyes; and as the figure advanced toward me, it raised its hand and threatened me, and its eyes spoke to me, and it seemed as if a curse of God were going through my brain, for those eyes said to me—'Murder!'—spoke it so loudly, so horribly, that it appeared as if my head would burst, and I could not cry, and could not move, and had to look at it, till, at last, I became unconscious."
"There, see there, doctor," cried Simon, in alarm, as his wife fell back upon the pillow with a loud cry, and quivered in all her limbs; " now she has convulsions again, and then she will be, for a day or two, out of her mind, and will talk strangely about the pale woman with dreadful eyes; and when she goes on so, she makes even me sad, and anxious, and timid, and I grow afraid of the white ghost that she says is always with us. Ah! doctor, help us! See, now, how the poor woman suffers and twists!"
The doctor drew a bottle from his breast-pocket, and rubbed a few drops upon the temples of the sick woman.
"Those are probably the famous soothing-drops of Doctor Naudin?" asked Simon, in astonishment, when he saw how quiet his wife became, and that her spasms and groans ceased.
"Yes," answered the doctor, "and the eminent physician sends them as a present to your wife. They are very costly, and rich people have to pay a louis-d'or for every drop. But Doctor Naudin. gives them to you, for he wishes Jeanne Marie long to enjoy good health. How is it with you now?"
"I feel well, completely well," she said, as the doctor rubbed some drops a second time on her temple. "I feel easier than I have felt for a long time."
"Give me your hand," said the doctor. "Rise up, for you are well. Let us go into the chamber of the poor boy, for I have to speak with you there."
He walked toward the chamber-door, leading Jeanne Marie by the hand, while Simon followed them. Softly and silently they entered the dark room, and went to the mattress on which the child lay.
The boy stared at them with great, wide-opened eyes, but they were without expression and life, and only the breath, as it came slowly and heavily from the half-opened lips, showed that there was vitality still in this poor, little, shrunken form.
The doctor kneeled down beside the bed, and, bending over it, pressed a long, fervent kiss on the delicate, hot hand of the child. But Charles Louis remained motionless; he merely slowly dropped his lids and closed his eyes.
"You see, doctor, he neither hears nor sees," said Simon, in a low, growling voice. "He cares for nothing, and does not know any thing about what is going on around him. It is a week since he spoke a word."
"Not since the day when you wanted to compel the child to sing the song that makes sport of his mother."
"He did not sing it?" asked the doctor, with a tremulous voice.
"He is a mulish little toad," cried Simon, angrily. "I begged him at first, then I threatened, and when prayers and threats were of no use I punished him, as a naughty boy deserves when he will not do what his foster-father bids him do. But even blows did not bring him to it; the obstinate youngster would not sing the merry song with me, and since then he has not spoken a word. [Footnote: Historical.- -See Beauehesne'a "Histoirede Louis XVII.," vol. ii.] He seems as if he had grown deaf and dumb as a punishment for not obeying his good foster-father."
"He is neither deaf nor dumb," said the doctor, solemnly. "He is simply a good son, who would not sing the song which made sport of his noble and unfortunate mother. See whether I am not right: see these tears which run from his closed eyes. He has heard us, he has understood us, and he answers us with his tears! Oh, sire," he continued passionately, "by the sacred remembrance of your father and your mother, I swear devotion to you until death; I swear that I have come to set you free, to die for you. Look up, my king and my darling one! I intrust to you and to both these witnesses my whole secret; I let the mask fall to show myself to you in my true form, that you may confide in me, and know that the most devoted of your servants is kneeling before you, and that he dedicates his life to you. Open your eyes, Louis of France, and see whether you know me!"
He sprang up, threw off the great peruke, and the long black cloak, and stood before them in the uniform of an official guard.
"Thunder and guns!" cried Simon, with a loud laugh. "it is—"
"Hush!" interrupted the other—"hush! He alone shall declare who I am! Oh, look at me, my king; convince these unbelieving ones here that your mind is clear and strong, and that you are conscious of what is going on around you. Look at me, and if you know me, speak my name!"
And with folded hands, in unspeakable emotion, he leaned over the bed of the child, that still lay with closed eyes.
"I knew that he could hear nothing, and that he was deaf," growled Simon, while his wife folded her trembling hands, and with tearful eyes whispered a prayer.
A deep silence ensued, and with anxious expectation each looked at the boy. At length he slowly raised the heavy, reddened eyelids, and looked with a timid, anxious glance around himself. Then his gaze fixed itself upon the eloquent, speaking face of the man whose tears were falling like warm dew-drops upon his pale, sunken features.
A quiver passed over the coutenance of the boy, a beam of joy lighted up his eyes, and something like a smile played around his trembling lips.
"Do you know me? Do you know my name?"
The child raised his hand in salutation, and said, in a clear, distinct voice: "Toulan! Fidele!"
Toulan fell on his knees again and covered the little thin hand of the boy with his tears and his kisses.
"Yes, Fidele," he sobbed. "That is the title of honor which your royal mother gave me—that is the name that she wrote on the bit of paper which she put into the gold smelling-bottle that she gave me. That little bottle, which a queen once carried, is my most precious possession, and yet I would part with that if I could save the life of her son, happy if I could but retain the hallowed paper on which the queen's hand wrote the word 'Fidele.' Yes, you poor, pitiable son of kings, I am Fidele, I am Toulan, at whom you have so often laughed when he played with you in your prison."
A flash like the sunlight passed over the face of the child, and a smile illumined his features.
"She used to laugh, too," he whispered—"she, too, my mamma queen."
"Yes, she too laughed at our jests," said Toulan, with a voice choked with tears; "and, believe me, she looks down from heaven upon us and smiles her blessing, for she knows that Toulan has come to free her dear son, and to deliver him from the executioner's hands. Tell me now, my king and my dearly-loved lord, will you trust me, will you give to your most devoted servant and subject the privilege of releasing you? Do you consent to accept freedom at the hands of your Fidele?"
The child threw a timid, anxious glance at Simon and his wife, and then, with a shudder, turned his head to one side.
"You make no answer, sire," said Toulan, imploringly. "Oh! speak, my king, may I set you free?"
The boy spoke a few words in reply, but so softly that Toulan could not understand him. He stooped down nearer to him, and put his ear close to the lips of the child. He then could hear the words, inaudible to all but him,
"He will disclose you; take care, Toulan. But do not say any thing, else he will beat me to death!"
Toulan made no reply; he only impressed a long, tender kiss upon the trembling hand of the child.
"Did he speak?" asked Simon. "Did you understand, citizen, what he said?"
"Yes, I understood him," answered Toulan. "He consents; he allows me to make every attempt to free him, and is prepared to do every thing that we ask of him. And now I ask you too, are you prepared to help me release the prince?"
"You know already, Toulan," said Simon, quickly, "that we are prepared for every thing, provided that our conditions are fulfilled. Give me a tolerable position outside of the Temple; give me a good bit of money, so that I may live free from care, and if the new place should not suit me, that I could go into the country, and not have to work at all; give my Jeanne Marie her health and cheerfulness again, and I will help you set young Capet free."
"Through my assistance, and that of Doctor Naudin, you shall have a good place outside of the Temple," answered Toulan, eagerly. "Besides this, at the moment when you deliver the prince into my hands, outside of this prison, I will pay you in ready money the sum of twenty thousand francs; and as for the third condition, that about restoring her health to Jeanne Marie, I am sure that I can fulfil this condition too. Do you not know, Simon, what your wife is suffering from? Do you not know what her sickness is?"
"No, truly not. I am no doctor. How should I know what her sickness is?"
"Then I will tell you, Citizen Simon. Your wife is suffering from the worst of all complaints, a bad conscience! Yes, it is a bad conscience that robs her of her sleep and rest; it is that which makes her see the white, pale form of the martyred queen in the night, and read the word 'murderer' in her eyes."
"He is right!-oh, he is right!" groaned Jeanne Marie, falling on her knees. "I am to blame for her death, for I denounced Toulan to the authorities just when he was on the point of saving her. I tortured her!—oh, cruelly tortured her, and I laughed when she ascended the scaffold, and I laughed too, even when she gave me that dreadful look. But I have bitterly regretted it since, and now she gnaws at me like a scorpion. I wanted to drive her away from me at first, and therefore I was cruel to her son, for I wanted to put an end to the fearful remorse that was tormenting me. But it grew even more powerful within me. The more I beat the boy, the more his tears moved me, and often I thought I should die when I heard him cry and moan. Yes, yes, it is a bad conscience that has made me sick and miserable! But I will do right after this. I repent—oh, I repent! Here I lay my hand on the heart of this child and swear to his murdered mother I will do right again! I swear that I will free her son! I swear by all that is sacred in heaven and on earth that I will die myself, unless we succeed in freeing this child! I* swear to you, Marie Antoinette, that I will free him. But will you forgive me even then? Will you have rest in your poor grave, and not come to my bedside and condemn me and accuse me with your sad, dreadful eyes?"
"Free her son, Jeanne Marie," said Toulan, solemnly, "and his mother will forgive you, and her hallowed shade will no longer disturb your sleep, for you will then have restored to her the peace of the grave! But you, Citizen Simon, will you too not swear that you will faithfully assist in releasing the royal prince? Do you not know that conscience is awake in your heart too, and compels you to have compassion on the poor boy?"
"I know it, yes, I know it," muttered Simon, confused. "His gentle eyes and his sad bearing have made me as weak and as soft as an old woman. It is high time that I should be rid of the youngster, else it will be with me just as it is with my wife, and I shall have convulsions and see ghosts with daggers in their eyes. And so, in order to remain a strong man and have a good conscience and a brave heart, I must be rid of the boy, and must know that I have done him some service, and have been his deliverer. And so I swear by the sacred republic, and by our hallowed freedom, that I will help you and do all that in me lies to release little Capet and get him away from here. I hope you will be satisfied with my oath, Toulan, for there is nothing for me more sacred than the republic and freedom."
"I am satisfied, Simon, and I trust you. And now let us talk it all over and consider it, my dear allies. The whole plan of the escape is formed in my head, all the preparations are made, and if you will faithfully follow all that I bid you, in one week's time you will be free and happy."
"So soon as a week!" cried Simon, delightedly. "Yes, in a week, for it happens fortunately that one of the officials of the Public Safety service is dangerously sick and has been carried to the Hotel Dien. Doctor Naudin says that he can live but three days longer, and then the post will be vacant. We must be active, therefore, and take measures for you to gain the place. Now listen to me, and mark my words."
They had a long conversation by the bedside of the little prince, and they saw that he perfectly understood the whole plan which Toulan unfolded in eloquent words, for his looks took on a great deal of expression; he fixed his eyes constantly on Toulan, and a smile played about his lips.
Simon and Simon's wife were also perfectly satisfied with Toulan's communication, and repeated their readiness to do every thing to further the release of the prince, if they in return could only be removed from the Temple.
"I will at once take the steps necessary to the success of my plan," said Toulan, taking his leave with a friendly nod, and kissing the boy's hand respectfully.
"Fidele," whispered Louis, "Fidele, do you believe that I shall be saved?"
"I am sure of it, my dear prince. The grace of God and the blessing of your exalted parents will be our helpers in bringing this good work to a completion. Farewell, and preserve as long as you remain here the same mood that I found you in. Show little interest in what goes on, and appear numb and stupid. I shall not come again, for after this I must work for you outside of the prison. But Doctor Naudin will come every day to see you, and on the day of your flight I shall be by your side. Till then, God bless you, my dear prince!"
Toulan left the prison of the little Capet and repaired at once to the H6tel Dieu, where he had a long conversation with Doctor Naudin. At the end of it, the director of the hospital entered his carriage and drove to the city hall, in whose largest chamber a committee of the Public Safety officials were holding a public meeting. With earnest and urgent words the revered and universally valued physician gave the report about the visits which he had made at the Temple for some days at the command of the authorities, and about the condition of affairs there. Petion the elder, the presiding officer of the committee, listened to the report with a grave repose, and the picture of the low health of the "little Capet," while he paid the most marked attention to that part of the report which concerned the Simons.
"Citizen Simon has deserved much of the country, and he is one of the most faithful supporters of the one and indivisible republic," said Petion, when Doctor Naudin ended his report. "The republic must, like a grateful mother, show gratitude to her loyal sons, and care for them tenderly. So tell us, Citizen Naudin, what must be done in order to restore health to Citizen Simon and his wife."
"They are both sick from the same cause, and, therefore, they both require the same remedy. That remedy is, a change of air and a change of location. Let Simon have another post, where he shall be allowed to exercise freely out of doors, and where he shall not be compelled to breathe only the confined air of a cell; and let his wife not be forced to listen to the whining and the groaning of the little sick Capet. In one word, give to them both liberty to move around, and the free air, and they will, without any doubt, and within a short time, regain their health."
"It is true," said Petion, "the poor people lead a sad life in the Temple, and are compelled to breathe the air that the last scions of tyranny have contaminated with their poisonous breaths. We owe it to them to release them from this bad atmosphere, in consideration of their faithful and zealous service to the country. Citizen Simon has always taken pains to repair the great neglect in Capet's education, and to make the worthless boy prove some day a worthy son of the republic."
"But even if Simon should remain in the Temple, he would not be able to go on much longer with the education of the boy," said the hospital director, with a shrug.
"What do you mean by that, citizen doctor?" asked Petion, with a pleasant lighting up of his eyes.
"I mean that the boy has not a long time to live, for he is suffering at once from consumption and softening of the brain, and the latter disease will soon reduce him to an idiot, and render him incapable of receiving instruction."
"You are convinced that the son of the tyrants will not recover?" asked Petion, with a strained, eager glance.
"My careful examination of his case has convinced me that he has but a short time to live, and that he will spend the larger part of this time in an idiotic state. On this account Simon ought to be removed from the Temple, in order that his enemies may not be able to circulate a report about this zealous and worthy servant of the republic, that he is guilty of the death of little Capet—that Simon's method of bringing him up killed him. And besides, in order that the same charge should not be laid to the one and great republic, and it be accused of cruelty to a poor sick child, kindly attentions should be bestowed on him."
Petion's countenance clouded, and his eyes rested on the physician with a sinister, searching expression.
"You have a great deal of sensibility, doctor, and you appear to forget that the boy is a criminal by birth, and that the republic can have no special sympathy with him."
"For me," answered Naudin, with simplicity, "every sick person at whose bed I am called to stand, is a poor, pitiable Iranian being, and I never stop to think whether be is a criminal or not, but merely that he is a sufferer, and then I endeavor to discover the means to assist him. The hallowed and indivisible republic, however, is an altogether too magnanimous and exalted mother of all her children not to have pity on those who are reduced to idiocy, and in sore sickness. The republic is like the sun, which pours its beams even into the dungeon of the criminal, and shines upon the just and unjust alike."
"And what do you desire that the republic should do for the offspring of tyrants?" asked Petion, peevishly.
"I desire not much," answered Naudin, with a smile. "Let me be permitted to visit the sick child from time to time, and in his hopeless condition to procure him a little relief from his sufferings at least, and let him be treated like the child he is. Let a little diversion be allowed him. If it is not possible or practicable for him to play with children of his age, let him at least have some playthings for his amusement."
"Do you demand in earnest that the republic should condescend to provide playthings for her imprisoned criminals?" asked Petion, with a scornful laugh.
"You have commanded me to visit the sick boy in the Temple, to examine his condition, and to prescribe the necessary remedies for his recovery. I can offer no hope of recovery to the patient, but I can afford him some relief from his sufferings. Some of my medicines are called playthings! It lies with you to decide whether the republic will refuse these medicines to the sick one."
"And you say that the little Capet is incurable?" asked Petion, eagerly.
"Incurable, citizen representative."
"Well, then," said Petion, with a cold smile, "the republic can afford to provide the last of the Capets with toys. They have for centuries toyed fearlessly with the happiness of the people, and the last thing which the people of France give back to the tyrants is some toy with which they may amuse themselves on the way to eternity. Citizen doctor, your demands shall be complied with. The first place which shall become vacant shall be given to Citizen Simon, that he may be released from prison and enjoy his freedom. The little Capet will be provided with playthings, and, besides, you are empowered to give him all needful remedies for his relief. It is your duty to care for the sick child until its death."
In accordance with the instructions of Petion, playthings were procured and carried into the gloomy chamber of the prince on the very next day, and set by the side of the sick boy. But Mistress Simon labored in vain trying to amuse the little Louis with them. The men danced, the wooden cocks crowed, the dogs barked, and to all these sounds the child paid no heed; it did not once open its eyes, nor care in the least for the many-colored things which the officials had brought him.
"We must try something else," said the compassionate officer. "Do you know any plaything which would be likely to please little Louis Capet?"
"Give him a riding-horse," cried Simon, with a coarse laugh. "I am convinced if the obstinate youngster should hear that there was a riding-horse outside, and that he might ride through Paris, he would be well on the spot and get up. It is pure deceit, his lying there so pale and without interest in any thing about him."
"You are very cruel, citizen," muttered the official, with a compassionate glance at the child.
"Cruel? Yes, I am cruel!" said Simon, grimly. "But it is the cursed prison air that has made me so. If I stay here a week longer, Jeanne Marie will die, and I shall become crazy. The director of the hospital told us this, and you know, citizen, that he is the most clever doctor in all France. See if you would not be cruel if you had such an idea as that in your head!"
"Well, citizen, you have at least the satisfaction of knowing that it will not last long," answered the officer, consolingly. "The first vacancy is to be given to you."
"Well, I hope it will come soon, then," said Simon, with a sigh. "I will take a vow to you. If, in a week, I shall be released from this place, and get a good situation, I will give little Capet a horse to remember me by. That is, not a horse on which he might ride out of prison, but a wooden one, on which he can ride in prison. Say, little Capet," called Simon, stooping over the bed of the child, "would you not like to have a nice wooden horse to play with?"
Over the pale lips of the boy played the faint tint of a smile, and he opened his eyes. "Yes," he said, softly" yes; I should like to have a wooden horse, and I should have a good time with it."
"Come, citizen," said Simon, solemnly, "I take you to witness my vow. If I receive another place, I give a hobby-horse to little Capet. You grant me the privilege, citizen?"
"I allow you, Citizen Simon, and I will report the matter to the Public Welfare Committee, that it shall surprise no one by and by, and I am sure no one will gainsay you in your praiseworthy offer. For it certainly is praiseworthy to prepare a pleasure for a sick child; and the great republic, which is the gracious mother of all Frenchmen, will pity the poor child, too. I wish you success, citizen, in the fulfilment of all your hopes, and trust that you will speedily be released from your trying imprisonment."
And, in fact, this release did not have to be waited for long. A few days brought the accomplishment of Doctor Naudin's prophecy, and the official guard, who was then sick at the Hotel Dieu, died. The director of the hospital hastened to inform the authorities of this event, and on the same day Simon was appointed his successor. The same official who had brought the sick prince the playthings, came again to inform Simon, of his release, and was delighted at the stormy outbreak of rapturous joy with which the tidings were received.
"We will be off directly," cried Simon. "Our things have all been packed for three days, and every thing is ready."
"But you must wait patiently till to-morrow, my friends," said the official, with a smile. "Your successor cannot enter upon his duties here in the Temple before tomorrow morning at ten o'clock, and till then you must be content to wait quietly."
"That is sad," sighed Simon. "The time between now and ten o'clock to-morrow morning, will lie like lead upon my shoulders. I assure you, citizen, the Temple could get along without me for one night. The two Misses Capet above stairs are locked up, and as for the little Capet down here, it is not necessary to lock him up, for he will not run away, but lie quietly here upon his mattress."
"So the child is really very sick?" asked the officer, with feeling.
"Not exactly very sick," answered Simon, indifferently; "but Doctor Naudin, who visits him every day. thinks that the youngster might not be all right in the head, and he has ordered, on this account, that his long thick hair should be cut off, that his head might be a little cooler. So Jeanne Marie is going to cut it off, and that will probably be the last service that she will have to do for him. We are going to clear out of this—we are going to clear out of this!"
"And have you really nothing more to do for the little Capet, than merely to cut off his hair?" asked the officer with a fixed, searching look.
"No," answered Simon, with a laugh; "nothing but that. Oh! yes, there is something else. I did not think of that. My vow to you! I forgot that. I swore that, if I were to get away from here, I would give little Capet a hobby-horse."
"I am glad, Citizen Simon, that you remember your promise," said the officer, gravely. "I must tell you that the Public Welfare Committee, to which I communicated your intention, was very curious to know whether Citizen Simon would remember to carry it into effect. It is on this account that I was instructed to inform you of your transfer, and to report to them whether you intended to keep your promise. Your superiors will rejoice to learn that you are a man of honor, with whom it is a sacred duty to keep his word; and who, in prosperous days, does not forget to do what he promised to do in less propitious times. So, go and buy for little Capet the promised hobby-horse, and I will inform the Welfare Committee that it was not necessary for me to remind you of your vow, and that you are not only a good citizen, but a good man as well. Go and buy the plaything, and make your arrangements to leave the Temple to-morrow morning at ten o'clock, and to enter upon your new duties as collector of customs at Porte Macon."
"The great bell of Notre Dame will not have growled out its ten strokes to-morrow morning, before Jeanne Marie and I, with our goods, will have left the place," replied Simon, with a laugh. "And now I will run and fulfil my promise." He clapped his red-flannel cap upon his black, thick hair, and left the Temple with a hurried step. As the porter opened the door of the court which led to the street, for the worthy citizen and "man of honor," Simon stopped a moment to chat, telling him of his new situation, and of the vow which he was about to discharge.
"Do not wonder, therefore, citizen," he said, "if you see me come back, by-and-by, with a horse—with this distinction, that it will not be the horse that carries me, but that it will be I that will carry the horse. I was such a fool as to promise little Capet a horse, and I must keep my word, particularly as the Committee of Safety allows it."
"Well, if that is so," said the porter, with mock gravity, "I shall let you in, even if you do not make your appearance until night. With the permission of the Safety Committee, every thing; without it, nothing—for I want to keep my head a little longer on my shoulders."
"And I do not grudge you the privilege," said Simon, with a broad grin. "We know very little about what we have here, but much less about the place where the dear machine takes us. But, if you like, you can ask Roger, the official guard, whether I have permission to bring the wooden horse into the Temple. He is inside, and will probably be there when I come back."
He nodded to the porter, and went out into the street. As the door closed behind him, Simon stopped a moment, and cast a quick glance up and down the street. Above, at the corner of the little cross- street, stood quietly a young commissioner in his blouse, apparently waiting for some one to employ him. Simon crossed the street and went up to him.
"Well," asked the latter aloud, "have you any thing for me to do, citizen?"
"Yes," answered Simon, softly and quickly. "Yes, Toulan, I am all ready for you. To-morrow morning, at ten o'clock, I leave the Temple."
"I know it," whispered Toulan. "But speak loudly. There stands a man who seems to be watching us."
"Come," cried Simon, loudly. "I want you to accompany me to a store where they sell playthings, and afterward you must help carry back what I buy, for it will be too large and too heavy for me alone."
Toulan followed him without replying, and the two went quietly and with an air of indifference through the busy crowd of men. At the corner of a neighboring street the commissioner came in gentle contact with another, who was standing on the curbstone, and was looking earnestly down the street.
"Beg pardon, citizen," said Toulan, loudly, and then added, softly, "to-morrow morning, at ten o'clock. The washerwomen will take charge of the dirty linen at the door. At exactly ten the wagons and the boys must start. The hobby-horse will be filled."
"Yes, it shall be filled," and, with an indifferent air, he passed by the two, and walked down the Helder street. The farther he went the more rapid became his steps, and when he at last entered a narrow, solitary alley, where he might hope to be less observed, his quick walk became a run, which he continued till he reached the Rue Vivienne. He then moderated his pace, and went quietly into a toy- shop, whose attractive windows and open door were directed to the street. The clerk, who stood behind the counter, asked, with a quiet air, what he desired.
"First, allow me to sit down, citizen," answered the commissioner, as he sank upon the rush-chair which stood before the counter. "There, and now, if you want to do me a service, just give me a glass of water."
"Halloo, John," cried the clerk to the errand-boy, who was standing in the hack part of the store. "Bring a glass of water from the well! Hasten!"
The boy took a glass and sprang out of the door into the street.
"In a quarter of an hour they will be here," said the commissioner, quickly. "Inform the marquis, if you please."
"The cabinet-maker, Lamber, you mean," whispered the clerk. "He is not as far away as you; he lives directly opposite, and he has been standing all day at the house-door waiting for the sign."
"Then give it to him, dear baron," said the commissioner; and as the boy came in just then with the water, he hastily seized the glass, and took a swallow so immense as to perfectly satisfy the boy, who was looking at him.
The clerk had, in the mean time, gone to the shop-door, and looking across at the opposite house, he drew a blue handkerchief, with a red border, from his pocket, and slowly raised it to his face.
The man in the blouse, standing at the door of the low house across the street, nodded slightly, and stepped back out of sight.
"Well," cried the commissioner, "now that I have taken breath, and have had a good drink, I will tell you why I have run so. I have directed a citizen to you who wants to buy some playthings, and something very fine, I suppose, as he brings a commissioner along with him to carry the things home. Now I want to know what per cent, of the profit you get from him you are willing to give me, for you cannot expect, citizen, that I should give my recommendation gratis."
"I am not the owner of the store," replied the clerk, with a shrug. "I have been here only a week, and manage the business merely while the owner is absent for a short time on a necessary journey. So I can give no fees. But ask the boy whether in such cases Mr. Duval has paid money. He has been here longer than I."
"Mr. Duval has paid every commissioner, who has brought him such news, two centums on the franc," said the boy, with an important air.
"Well, then, I will give you two centums on the franc, provided that the citizen buys more than a franc's worth."
"Aha! there comes the man," cried the commissioner, pointing at Simon, who just then entered the store with Toulan. "Well, citizen, now make a very handsome purchase, for the more you buy, the better I shall like it."
"Yes, I believe you," replied Simon, laughing; "that is the way in all stores. I want something nice; I want to buy a hobby-horse. But mind you, citizen, show me one of your best ones, a real blood- horse, for I tell you that he who is to ride it is of real blood himself."
"We happen unfortunately to have a limited supply of the article," said the clerk, with a shrug. "They do not come exactly in our line. But there has been so much demand for hobby-horses of late that we have ordered some, and if you will wait a few days, citizen—"
"A few days!" interrupted Simon, angrily. "Not a few hours, not a few minutes will I wait. If you have no hobby-horses, tell me, and I will go elsewhere to make my purchases."
He turned to go, but the clerk held him back. "Wait only a minute," he said. "I should not like to lose your custom, and I think it possible that I can procure you a fine horse. The cabinet-maker, who makes our horses, lives just opposite, and he has promised to deliver them tomorrow. The boy shall go over and see if they are not ready."
"We would rather go over with him, citizen. If we find what is wanted, we shall need to go no farther."
"It is true, that will be the best course," said Simon. "Come, commissioner."
"I will go along to have the business all rightly done," said the clerk. "Here, John, take my place behind the counter while I am gone."
Simon had already crossed the street by the side of Toulan. The clerk followed with the second commissioner.
"Why have you not got rid of the boy, Count St. Prix?" asked the latter.
"It was impossible, Count Frotte" answered the former in a whisper. "Duval is a very nervous man, and he supposed that it would excite suspicion if the boy, who is well known in the neighborhood, should disappear at just the time when he should be away. He is right, perhaps, and at any rate the thing is unavoidable. The sly chore-boy has noticed nothing, I hope, and we shall reach our goal without any hindrance. You are going to London tomorrow morning?"
"Yes, count. And you? what is your direction?"
"To Coblentz, to the royal princes," replied Count St. Prix. "Only I suspect that we shall not both of us reach the end of our journeys."
"At any rate not with the children that we shall take with us," whispered the other, as they entered the house of the cabinet-maker.
They found Simon and Toulan in the large workshop busily engaged in bargaining with the cabinet-maker, who had shown them six tolerably large hobby-horses, and was descanting on their beauties.
"It seems tome they all look very much alike," said Simon. "Tell me, commissioner, which of these race-horses pleases you best."
"This with the red flanks," said Toulan, laying his hand upon the largest one.
"It is an immense creature," said Simon, with a laugh. "Still, the red flanks are pretty, and if we can agree about the price I will buy the animal."
They did agree, and after Simon had gravely paid the twenty francs, he and Toulan took the horse on their shoulders and marched down the street.
"Do all those people know about our secret?" asked Simon, as they strode forward.
"No, only the cabinet-maker knows about it, and he will leave Paris to-morrow and carry the prince to a place of safety."
"For God's sake, do not speak so loudly!" whispered Simon, casting an anxious look around. "But why do you yourself not go away with the boy and leave Paris, where you are constantly in danger?"
"I cannot," answered Toulan, solemnly.
"Cannot! what forbids you?"
"The vow that I gave to Marie Antoinette, to rescue her children from the Temple or to die."
"Well, but to-morrow you hope to fulfil your vow, and then you can go."
"I shall fulfil to-morrow but the half of my vow. I shall, if you help me, and my plan succeeds, release the son of the queen, but the daughter will remain behind in prison. You see, therefore, that I cannot leave Paris, for the daughter and sister-in-law of the queen are still prisoners, and I must release them."
"But I should rather that you would go away with the boy, and never come back to Paris," said Simon, thoughtfully.
"How so? Do you not trust me?"
"I trust no one," replied Simon, gloomily. "You might some day, when it might suit your humor, or in order to save yourself, betray me, and report me to the Committee of Safety."
"What, I! And ought I not to fear too? Could not you betray me as well?"
"You know very well that I shall take care not to disclose a word of this whole history, for to disclose it would be to write my own death-warrant. But hush, now; hush! there is the Temple, and it seems to me as if the very walls looked at me maliciously, as if they wanted to say, 'There comes a traitor!' Ah, Toulan, it is a bad thing to have an accusing conscience!"
"Help me faithfully to save the prince, Simon, and you will have a good conscience all the rest of your life, for you will have done a grand and noble deed."
"In your eyes," whispered Simon, "but not in those of the Convention, and when they learn about it—but here we are, and our talk and reconsideration are too late."
He struck three times with his fist against the closed gate of the outer court. The porter opened, and let the two men in, only saying that the guard had given his special consent to the bringing in of the hobhy-horse.
"But about the commissioner whom you bring with you," said the porter, reflectively, "he did not make any mention, and I can only allow him to take your plaything into the second court. He must not go into the Temple."
"It is no particular wish of mine to go into a prison," answered the commissioner, carelessly. "It is a good deal easier to get in than to get out again. Well, take hold, Citizen Simon; forward!"
They walked on to the second court. "Now, then," whispered Toulan, "for caution and thoughtfulness! Tomorrow at ten o'clock I will be standing before the door, and you will call me in to help you in your moving."
"I wish it were all over," groaned Simon. "It seems to me as if my head were shaking on my shoulders, and my heart beats as if I were a young girl."
"Courage, Simon, only courage! Remember that tomorrow you are to be a free and a rich man. Then, as soon as you give your basket to the washerwoman at the Macon gate, I will pay you the promised twenty thousand francs. And—"
"Halt!" cried the sentinel at the entrance to the Temple. "No one can go in here without a pass."
"You do not want a pass for my rocking-horse, brother citizen, do you?" asked Simon, with a laugh.
"Nonsense! I am speaking about the commissioner."
"He is going of himself, and does not want to go in. But look him square in the face, for he will come to-morrow morning again. I have secured him in advance, to help me in moving out. Bring a wagon along, commissioner, for the things will be too heavy to carry without one. And now help put the horse on my shoulders. So! Well, then, to-morrow morning at ten, commissioner."
"To-morrow morning at ten," replied Toulan, nodding to Simon, and slowly sauntering through the court. He stopped at the outer gate, told the porter that he was going to assist Simon in his moving on the morrow, and then asked in an indifferent tone whether Simon's successor at the Temple was appointed.
"Why, would you like the place?" asked the porter, gruffly.
"No, indeed, not I! I have no taste for such work. It must be an awful air in the prison."
"It is that," replied the porter. "And so after Simon has moved out, they are going to cleanse the place a little, and give it an airing, and the successor will move in about noon."
"Well, I don't envy the man who moves in," said Toulan, with a laugh. "Good-by, citizen, we shall see each other to-morrow."
He went out into the street, and slowly sauntered along. At the end of it he stopped and gave a trifle to a beggar who, supported by a crutch, was leaning against a house.
"Is it all right thus far?"
"Yes, marquis, thank God, thus far every thing has gone on well. The horse is in the Temple, and nothing is discovered."
"May the grace of God stand by us to-morrow!" whispered the beggar. "You are sure that all the arrangements are carefully attended to?"
"Entirely sure, M. de Jarjayes. While you are leaving Paris in the garb of a washerwoman, our two allies will both be driving out of two other gates, with the boy, in stylish carriages."
"And it will be you, Toulan, who will have saved the King of France," whispered the beggar. "Oh! be sure that all France will thank you for it some day, and give you the title of savior of your country!"
"Baron," said Toulan, shaking his head, "for me there is but one title of honor, that which the Queen of France gave me. I am called Fidele, and I want no other name. But this one I will maintain so long as I live. Good-by till we meet to-morrow at the Porte Macon!"
Little Prince Louis Charles received the hobby-horse, which Simon carried into the chamber, with a little more interest than in the case of the other playthings. He even raised himself up a little on his mattress, and directed a long, searching gaze at the tall, handsome wooden creature.
"Well," asked the official, who had gone with Simon into the dungeon, and had watched the effect of the toy, "well, how does your horse please you, little Capet?"
The boy nodded slowly, but made no reply; he only reached out his long, thin, right hand, and made a motion as if he wanted to rise.
"To-morrow, little Capet," cried Jeanne Marie, holding him back. "To-day you must keep entirely still, so the doctor said, and I will cut your hair off directly, as the doctor ordered. But I should like to have you here, citizen, and oversee the operation. The boy will look much changed, when his long, yellow hair is cut off, and afterward it might be supposed—"
"Yes, certainly," interrupted Simon, with a laugh, "afterward it might be supposed that it is not the stupid youngster who has troubled us so long, that out of pure tenderness and love we had taken him along with us."
"No one would consider the republican Simon capable of such a thing," replied the official, "and besides, the boy will stay here, and no substitute for him can fall out of the clouds. Be free from care, Simon. I myself shall recognize the boy to-morrow, and if he should look changed in appearance, I shall know how it comes."
"Yes, he will know how it comes," said Simon, with a grin, as he watched the retreating form of the official, now leaving the prison.
"Lock the door, Simon," whispered Jeanne Marie. "We must let the boy out of this if he is not to be stifled!"
"No, no," said Simon, motioning his wife to retreat from the hobby- horse which she was approaching. "He will not be stifled, for beneath the saddle-cloth there are nothing but air-holes, and he can endure it a good while. We must above all things be cautious and prepared for every thing. It would be a fine thing, would it not, if the officials who are on guard in the Temple should conceive the idea of making the rounds a second time for the purpose of inspection. He cannot be carried out before it strikes ten from Notre Dame. We will, however, give him a little more air."
He removed the saddle with care, which was let into the back of the wooden horse, and listened at the opening.
"He breathes very peacefully and evenly," he then said, softly. "He seems to be asleep. Jeanne Marie, hold the saddle in your hand, and at the least approach fit it again in its place. I will now take hold and pack our things."
When the night came, and the last rounds had been made past the closed doors of Simon's rooms, and the officials had withdrawn into the great hall, where they stayed during the night-watch, there was an unusual stir within Simon's apartments. Jeanne Marie, who had thrown herself in her clothes upon the bed, slipped out from beneath the coverlet. Simon, who was standing near the door listening, advanced to the little prince, and bade him in a whisper to get up.
The child, which now seemed to have recovered from its indifference and stupidity, rose at once, and at Simon's further command made an effort to remove his clothes, and to put on in their place the coarse woollen suit and the linen trousers which Simon drew out of his bed and handed to him.
The toilet was soon completed, and the little prince looked with a timid, inquiring glance at Simon, who was regarding him with a searching eye.
"And the stockings, master?" he asked. "Do not I have any stockings?"
"No," growled Simon—"no, the son of a washerwoman wants no stockings. There are some wooden shoes which will be laid for you in the basket, and you put them on afterward, if we are fortunate in getting away. But you must cut his hair, Jeanne Marie. With long hair he will not look like a boy from the people."
Jeanne Marie shuddered. "I cannot," she whispered; "it would seem to me as if I were cutting off his head, and the woman in white would stand behind, and pierce me through with her great eyes."
"Come, come, that old story again!" growled Simon. "Give me the scissors, then; I will take care of it, for the boy must part with his hair before he goes into the basket. Come, come, do not shrink and curl up so; I was not speaking of the guillotine-basket, but of your dirty-clothes basket. Come, Capet, I want to cut your hair."
He took the great shears from the work-basket, and sat down on a stool by the side of the table, on which burned a dim tallow candle, throwing an uncertain light through the apartment. "Come, Capet!"
The boy stole up with an insecure step, and shrank together when Simon seized him and drew him between his knees.
"Do not hurt him, Simon. Be careful of him," whispered Jeanne Marie, sinking on the floor and folding her hands. "Remember, husband, that she is here, and that she is looking at you, and that she bores into my head with her eyes when you do any harm to the child."
Simon looked around with a shy and anxious glance. "It is high time that we were away from here," he growled—"high time, if I am not to be crazy as well as you. Stoop down, Capet, so that I can cut your hair off." The child let his head fall; but a faint, carefully suppressed sob came from his breast, while Simon's shears went clashing through his locks, severing them from his head.
"What are you crying for, Capet?" asked Simon, zealously going forward with his work.
"I am so sorry, master, to have my locks cut off."
"You probably suppose, you vain monkey, that your locks are particularly beautiful?"
"Oh, no, master! It is only," sighed the boy with his eyes full of tears—" it is only because her hand has rested on them, and because she kissed them when I saw her the last time."
"Who is she?" asked Simon, roughly.
"My mamma queen," replied Louis with such a tone of tenderness as to bring tears into the eyes of Jeanne Marie, and even to move the cobbler himself.
"Hush!" he said, softly. "Hush! you must never call your mother by such a name. After to-morrow morning you are to be the son of a washerwoman. Remember that, and now be still! There, your hair is done now. Pick up the locks from the floor and lay them on the table, Jeanne Marie. We must leave them here, that the officer may find them in the morning, and not wonder if he does not recognize the urchin. Now we will bring the wash-basket, and see whether young Capet will go into it. "
He brought out of the chamber a high, covered basket, grasped the boy, thrust him in, and ordered him to lie down on the bottom of the basket.
"He exactly fits!" said Simon to his wife. "We will now throw some dirty clothes over him, and he can spend the night in the basket. We must be ready for any thing; for there are many distrustful officials, and it would not be the first time that they have made examinations in the night. Little Capet must remain in the basket, and now we will take his substitute out of the horse."
He went to the hobby-horse, took out some screws which ran along the edges of the upholstery, and then carefully removed the upper part of the animal from the lower. In the hollow thus brought to light, lay a pale, sick boy, with closed eyes—the nephew of the Marquis de Jarjayes, the last descendant of the Baroness de Tarclif, now, as all his ancestors had done, to give his life for his king.
Jeanne Marie rose from her knees, took a light from the table, and approached the child, which was lying in its confined space as in a coffin.
The little prince had raised himself up in his basket, and his pale face was visible as he looked, out of his large blue eyes, with curiosity and amazement at the sick child.
"He does not look like the king's son," whispered Jeanne Marie, after a long, searching study of the pale, bloated face of the idiot.
"We will put his clothes on at once, then he will look all right, for clothes make the man. Stand up, little one, you need to get up. You are not to stay any longer in your curious prison."
"He does not understand you," said Jeanne Marie. "Do not you remember that Toulan told us that the boy is perfectly deaf and dumb?"
"True; I had forgotten it, and yet it is fortunate for us, for a deaf and dumb person cannot disclose any dangerous secrets. Come, Jeanne Marie, give me the clothes; we will dress up the little mute like a prince."
They put upon him the velvet jacket, the short trowsers of black cloth, the shoes and stockings of the prince, who still was looking out of his basket at the pale, softly-moaning child, which was now placed by Simon and his wife on the mattress.
"There," said Simon, throwing the coverlet over the boy, "there, the royal prince is ready, and we can say, as they used to do at St. Denis, when they brought a new occupant into the royal vault, 'Le roi est mort, vive le roi! ' Lie quietly in your basket, Capet, for you see you are deposed, and your successor has your throne."
"Master," whispered Louis, anxiously and timidly, "master, may I ask you a question?"
"Well, yes, you may, you little nameless toad. What is it?"
"Master, will the sick child have to die, if I am saved?"
"What do you mean, youngster? What are you at?"
"I only mean, master—I only wanted to say that if the poor boy must die, if he takes my place, why—I should rather stay here. For—"
"Well, go on, stupid! what do you mean by your 'for?' You would rather remain here?"
"Yes, master, if another is to die and be beaten and tortured, for blows hurt so much, and I should not like to have another boy receive them instead of me. That would be wicked in me, and—"
"And you are a stupid fellow, and do not know any thing you are talking about," said Simon, shaking his fist at him. " Just put on airs, and speak another such a foolish word, and I will not only beat you to death, but I will beat this miserable, whining youngster to death too, and then you will certainly be to blame for it. Down with you into the basket, and if you venture to put your head up again, and if to-morrow you are not obedient and do just what we bid you, I will beat you and him, both of you, to pieces, and pack you into the clothes-basket, and carry you away. Down into the basket!"
The boy sank down out of sight; and when, after a little while, Jeanne Marie cautiously looked to see whether he had fallen asleep, she saw that Louis Charles was kneeling on the bottom of the basket, and raising his folded hands up to heaven.
"Simon," she whispered—" Simon, do not laugh at me and scold me. You say, I know, that there is no God, and the republic has done away with Deity, and the Church, and the priests. But let me once kneel down and pray to Him with whom little Louis Charles is talking now, and to whom the Austrian spoke on the scaffold."
Without waiting for Simon's answer, Jeanne Marie sank upon her knees. Folding her hands, she leaned her forehead on the rim of the basket, and softly whispered, "Louis Charles, do you hear me?"
"Yes," lisped the child, "I hear you."
"I ask your forgiveness," whispered Jeanne Marie. "I have sinned dreadfully against you, but remorse has taken hold of my heart, and tears it in pieces and gives me no rest day or night. Oh, forgive me, son of the queen, and when you pray, implore your mother to forgive me the evil that I have done her."
"I will pray to my dear mamma queen for you, and I know she will forgive you, for she was so very good, and she always said to me that we must forgive our enemies; and I had to swear to my dear papa that I would forget and forgive all the wrong that men should do to me. And so I forgive you, and I will forget all the bad things that Master Simon has done to me, for my papa and my mamma wished me to."
Jeanne Marie let her head sink lower, and pressed her hands firmly against her lips to repress the outcries which her remorseful conscience prompted. Simon seemed to understand nothing of this soft whispering; he was busily engaged in packing up his things, and no one saw him hastily draw his hand over his eyes, as if he wanted to wipe away the dust which suddenly prevented his seeing.
Gradually it grew still in the gloomy room. The whispering in the basket ceased. Jeanne Marie had retired to her bed, and had wept herself to sleep. Upon the mattress lay the sick, sobbing child, the substitute of King Louis XVII., who was in the basket.
Simon was the only one who was awake, and there must have been dismal thoughts that busied him. He sat upon the stool near the candle, which was nearly burned out, his forehead was corrugated and clouded, his lips were closely pressed together, and the little, flashing eyes looked out into the empty space full of anger and threatenings.
"It must be," he muttered at last, "it must be. I should otherwise not have a moment's peace, and always feel the knife at my throat. One of us must be away from here, in order that he may disclose the other. I will not be that one, it must be Toulan."
He stood up with the air of one who had made a fixed, unchangeable resolve, and stretched his bony, crooked limbs. Then he threw one last look at the stranger-child, that lay moaning and groaning on his mattress, fell upon his bed, and soon his long-drawn, sonorous breathing disclosed the fact that Master Simon was asleep.
On the next morning there reigned in the lower stories of the Temple a busy, stirring life. Master Simon was preparing to move, and all his household goods were set out in the court, in order to be transferred to the wagon that Commissioner Toulan had ordered. Close to the wagon stood one of the officials of the Public Safety, and examined every article of furniture that was put into it, opening even the bandboxes and pillows to look into them. Not, as he said, the Welfare Committee doubted the honesty of the faithful and zealous servant of the republic, but only to satisfy the forms, and to comply with the laws, which demanded that the authorities should have a watchful eye on every thing that was at all connected with the family of the tyrants.
"And you will do me a great pleasure if you will examine every thing with the utmost care. In the republic we are all alike, and I do not see why I should not be served to-day as another would be on the morrow. You know, probably, that I have been appointed collector at Porte Macon, and after to-morrow I shall have to inspect the goods of other people. It is all fair that I should have my turn to-day. Besides, you will not have much more to examine, we are almost through; I believe there is only a basket with the soiled clothes yet to come. That is the sacred possession of my wife, and she was going to bring it out herself, with the commissioner's help. Yes, there they come."
At that moment, Jeanne Marie appeared in the court, followed by Toulan. They brought along, by two ropes which served as handles, a large and longish basket, whose half-opened cover brought to view all kinds of women's clothes.
"Room there," cried Simon, with a laugh, "room for the Citoyenne Simon and her costly dowry!"
"Come, no joking, Simon," said his wife, threatening him with her fist and laughing. "If my dowry is not costly enough, I will only ask you to provide me with better things."
"Your dowry is magnificent," said Simon, "and there is not a single article lacking to make it complete. Come, I will help the commissioner put the basket in the wagon, for it is too heavy for you, my fairest one!"
He took hold of the basket with his strong arm, and helped the commissioner swing it into the wagon.
"But let me look first into the basket, as my duty demands," said the official. "You are too quick! You know, citizen, that I must examine all your goods. The law compels me to."
"Then I beg you to climb up into the wagon and open the basket," said Simon, calmly. "You cannot want us to take the heavy thing down again for you to examine it."
"I do not ask that, citizen, but I must examine the basket."
The official sprang into the wagon, but Jeanne Marie was quicker than he, and stood close by the basket, whose cover was partly opened.
"Look in, citizen," she said, with dignity. "Convince yourself that only the clothing of a woman is in it, and then tell the republic that you found it necessary to examine the basket of the famous knitter of the guillotine, as if Jeanne Marie was a disguised duchess, who wanted to fly from the hand of justice."
"I beg your pardon," said the official, "every one knows and honors the knitter of the guillotine, but—"
"But you are curious, and want to see some of my clothes. Well, look at them!" She raised those which lay at the top, and held them up to the official with a laugh.
"And down below? What is farther down in the basket?"
"Farther down," replied Jeanne Marie, with an expression of the greatest indignation and the most outraged modesty, "farther down are my dirty clothes, and I hope the republic will not consider it necessary to examine these too. I would at least oppose it, and call every female friend I have to my help." [Footnote: Madame Simon's own words, reported from her own account, which she gave in the year 1810 to the Sisters of Mercy who cared for her in her last sickness. The sisterhood of the female hospital in the rue Sevres publicly repeated, in the year 1851, this statement of Jeanne Marie Simon, who died there in 1819. It was in the civil process brought against the Duke de Normandy, who was accused of giving himself out falsely as King Louis XVII., and who could not be proved not to be he.]
"Oh! you will not have to do that," replied the official, with a friendly nod of the head. "It would be presumptuous to go farther with the examination of your goods, and the republic regards with respect the mysteries of an honorable wife."
He jumped down from the wagon, while Jeanne Marie, still wearing an angry look, laid the clothes back into the basket, and shut the cover down.
"Can we go now?" she asked, taking her seat on a low stool which happened to be near the great basket.
"Yes, if the official has nothing against it, we can go," answered Simon. "Our goods are all loaded."
"Then go on, I have nothing against it, and I wish you and your wife much happiness and joy in your new career."
The official waved them a last gracious adieu with the hand, and the wagon started. Alongside of the great, hard-mouthed and long-haired horse that drew the cart, walked the commissioner, in order, once in a while, when they had to turn a corner, to seize the bridle and give it a powerful jerk. At the side of the wagon strode Simon, keeping a watchful eye upon his possessions, and carefully setting every thing aright which was in danger of being shaken off upon the pavement. Above in the carriage near the great basket sat Jeanne Marie, the former knitter of the guillotine. Her naked brown arm rested upon the basket, on whose bottom, covered with dirty linen and Mistress Simon's clothes, was the son of Marie Antoinette, King Louis XVII., making his entrance into the world which should have for him only sufferings and illusions, shattered hopes and dethroned ideals.
This happened on the 19th of January, 1794, and on the very day in which the unhappy King Louis XVII. was leaving the Temple, his sister Theresa, who was still living with her Aunt Elizabeth in the upper rooms, wrote in her diary (known subsequently by the title "Recit des evenements arrives au Temple, par Madame Royale") the following words: "On the 19th of January my aunt and I heard beneath us, in the room of my brother, a great noise which made us suspect that my brother was leaving the Temple.
We were convinced of it when, looking through the keyhole of the door, we saw goods carried away. On the following day we heard the door of the room, in which my brother had been, opened, and recognized the steps of men walking around, which confirmed us in the belief that he had been carried away."
The pitiful wagon, which gave its hospitality to the knitter of the revolution, as well as to a king, drove slowly and carefully through the streets, unnoticed by the people who hastily passed by. Now and then they encountered a commissioner who came up to Toulan, greeted him as an acquaintance, and asked after his welfare. Toulan nodded to them confidentially and answered them loudly that he was very well, and that he was helping Simon move out of the Temple and going with him to Porte Macon.
The commissioners then wished him a pleasant journey, and went their way; but the farther they were from the wagon, the quicker were their steps, and here and there they met other commissioners, to whom they repeated Toulan's words, and who then went from there and again told them over to their friends in the streets, in quiet, hidden chambers, and in brilliant palaces. In one such palace the tidings caused a singular commotion. Count Frotte, who lived there, and whom the public permitted to live in Paris, ordered his travelling carriage to be brought out at once. The postilion, with four swift horses, had already stood in the court below half an hour, waiting for this order. The horses were quickly harnessed to the carriage, which was well filled with trunks; and scarcely had it reached the front door, when the count hurried down the grand staircase, thickly wrapped in his riding-furs. At his right sat a little boy of scarcely ten years, a velvet cap, trimmed with fur, upon his short, fair hair; the slender, graceful form concealed with a long velvet cloak, that fell down as far as the shoes with golden, jewelled buckles.
Count Frotte seemed to bestow special care and attention upon this boy, for he not only had him sit on his right, but remained standing near the door, to give precedence to the boy, and then hastened to follow him. He pressed the servants back who stood near the open door, bowed respectfully, and gave his hand to the lad to assist him in ascending. The youth received these tokens of respect quietly, and seemed to take it as a matter of course that Count Frotte should carefully put furs around his feet and body, in order to protect him from every draft. As soon as this was done, the count entered the carriage, and took his place at the left of the boy. The servant closed the carriage-door with a loud slam, and the steward advanced with respectful mien, and asked whither the count would order to go.
"The road to Puy," said the count, with a loud voice, and the steward repeated to the postilion just as loudly and clearly, "The road to Puy."
The carriage drove thunderingly out of the court-door, and the servant looked after it till it disappeared, and then followed the house-steward, who motioned him to come into the cabinet.
"I have something to tell you, citizen," said the steward, with a weighty air, "but first I must beg you to make me a solemn promise that you will continue a faithful and obedient servant of the count, and prove in no way false to your oath and your duty."
The servant pledged himself solemnly, and the steward continued: "The count has undertaken a journey which is not to be spoken of, and is to remain, if possible, a secret. I demand of you, therefore, that if any one asks where the count has gone, you answer that you do not know. But above all things, you are not to say that the count is not travelling alone, but in company with the young-gentleman, whose name and rank I know just as little about as you. Will you promise to faithfully heed my words?"
The servant asserted it with solemn oaths and an expression of deep reverence. The steward beckoned to him to go, and then looked at him for a long time, and with a singular expression as he withdrew.
"He is a spy of the Safety Committee," he whispered to himself. "I am convinced that he is so, and he will certainly go at once and report to the authorities, and they will break their heads thinking what the count has to do in Puy, and who the boy is who accompanies my lord. Well, that is exactly what we want: to put the bloodhounds and murderers on a false scent. That is just the object of the count, and for that purpose M. Morin de Gueriviere has lent his only son, for all that we have and are, our lives, our children, and every thing else, belong to our king and lord. I hope, therefore, that the count's plan will succeed, and the Safety Committee be put on a false scent."
Meanwhile the pitiful carriage containing Simon's goods had slowly taken its way through the streets and halted at its goal, the custom-house near Porte Macon. Before the building stood a woman in the neat and tasteful costume of the washerwomen from the village of Vannes, which then, as now, was the abode of the washerwomen of Paris.
"Well," cried the woman, with a loud laugh, helping Mistress Simon dismount from the wagon—" well, you have come at last. For two hours I have been waiting for you, for you ordered me to be here at eleven, and now it is one. What will my husband and my little boy say about my coming home so late?"
"I beg your pardon," said Jeanne Marie, with a kindly voice. "Our ride was a good deal slower than I thought, for the things were packed only loosely, and if we had ridden faster they would easily have been injured. But, I will not detain you longer, and you shall have my wash at once. There are a great many clothes this time, and I have therefore thrown them all at once into the basket; so you can put the basket right upon your wagon and bring the things back in it. Halloa, Simon, and you, commissioner, take hold and lift the basket down, and carry it out to the washerwoman's wagon that is standing near the gate."
The two men immediately lifted the great basket out, and carried it to the open cart which stood there, in which lay arranged in regular order great bundles of dirty linen. Near the gate stood the sub- collector, whose superior Simon now was, and it therefore did not occur to him to examine the basket which his new chief was putting in the washerwoman's wagon. Some busybodies who stood around turned their whole attention to the wagon which contained the furniture and goods of the new collector, who was, of course, a very important person in this remote quarter, and Jeanne Marie endeavored with her loud words and choleric gesticulations to fasten the attention of the idlers upon herself. Nobody regarded the two men, who had just put the basket into the washerwoman's cart, and no one heard the words that they softly spoke together.
The washerwoman had raised the cover, and was rolling around the clothes, as if she wanted to examine the contents of the basket.
"Sire," she whispered, softly, as she did so—"sire, do you hear me?"
A weak, faint voice replied, "I hear you."
"And shall you be able to bear it, if you stay a little longer in your hiding-place?"
"Oh yes, I shall be able to bear it; but I am anxious, and I should like to be away from here."
The washerwoman closed the cover of the basket, and sprang down from the wagon. "Every thing is in order," she said, "and it is high time that I should be off. I have a long way to go, and my husband and child are expecting me."