"Then go, with God's blessing," said the commissioner, shaking hands with the washerwoman as if she were an old acquaintance." Go, with God's blessing, and may He protect you from all calamity, and bless you with happiness and joy!"
He spoke loudly, as if this was intended for the ear of some person besides the washerwoman. And another had heard the words of Toulan, and a soft and tremulous voice called: "Farewell, Fidele; I thank you, dear Toulan."
The wagon was at once in motion, and drove quickly down the street through the rows of small houses in the suburbs. The two men stood and looked after it till the washerwoman's carriage disappeared in a cloud of dust.
Toulan raised his eyes slowly to heaven, and a pious expression illumined his good, energetic countenance.
"Thou lookest down upon me, my queen and mistress," he said, softly and inaudibly." I feel the glance of thy heavenly eyes, and it rests like a hallowed blessing upon my thankful heart. I know, my queen, that thou art satisfied with me this hour, and it seems to me as if thy loved voice were whispering above me in the air the word Fidele. Give me now thy blessing, that I may end my work, and rescue the daughter and the sister as I have rescued the son. My life is devoted to thy service, and I shall save all thy dear ones or die!"
"Well, Toulan," said Simon, softly, "I have kept my word, and little Capet is released. Are you going to keep yours?"
"Certainly I shall," said Toulan, whose glance slowly fell from heaven, and whose face still glowed like one in a trance. "Yes, Simon, I shall keep my word to you as you have yours to me. Come into your house, that I may pay you."
He withdrew quickly from the gate and entered the house which thereafter was to be the house of the collector Simon. All was going on busily there, for Jeanne Marie had impressed into her service not only the sub-collector but some of the curious spectators, and she scolded her husband, who was just coming in with Toulan, for talking too long with the washerwoman instead of helping her.
"Do you two take the heavy mattresses and carry them into the next room."
The two men quickly obeyed, and bore the mattresses into the chamber. Then they locked themselves in.
Toulan took several rolls from the great waistcoat which he wore under his blue blouse, broke them asunder, and let the gold-pieces fall out upon the mattress.
"Count them, Simon," he said, "to see that there are exactly two hundred and fifty double gold-pieces, all bearing the exalted symbols of 'he one, great, and indivisible republic.' May they bring you joy, and be a reward for the great good fortune which you have brought to me, and to all who love the king and his house."
"But will no one reveal me?" asked Simon, anxiously, while busily engaged in collecting the gold-pieces, and hiding them between the mattresses. "Say, Toulan, will no one divulge and report me to the authorities?"
"Be quiet, Simon, and fear nothing. To betray you, would be at the same time to betray the great cause which we serve, and to surrender the young king to the persecution of his enemies. But no one knows, excepting me, that of your own free will you have helped save the king. With express reference to your safety, I have made all the other allies believe that I have deceived you, and that you know nothing of the concealment of the child. So be entirely without concern. Only Toulan knows your secret, and Toulan is silent as the grave. But let us go out now and help your wife bring the things into the house, and afterward you can let me go without any further leave-taking. Farewell, citizen; may you be entirely successful in your new field of labor."
He nodded with a friendly air to Simon, and as Jeanne Marie just then called the commissioner with a loud voice, Toulan hastily opened the door and hurried to her.
Simon followed him with a long, dark look. Then he slowly shook his head, and his eye kindled.
"It must be," he said to himself, softly. "I should otherwise have no rest day or night, and it would be worse than in the Temple. He said so himself: only Toulan knows my secret. So if Toulan dies, my secret dies with Toulan, and is buried with him, and I cart then enjoy my life, and shall not need to live in anxiety, and in perpetual fear of being betrayed. But," he continued, after a brief pause, "what is done, must be done quickly, otherwise I may fall into the very pit I have digged for Toulan! If the little Capet is fairly carried to a place of safety, and escapes out of the republic, Toulan can avenge himself by reporting the whole story and bringing me to misfortune. I must, therefore, while I am secure, take away from the fellow the means of betraying me. Yes, yes, it must be so; Toulan must die, that Simon may live. Look out for your own self first, and then your neighbors."
With a decided step, Simon left the room, and entered the chamber, where Toulan was busy with Jeanne Marie in arranging the furniture.
"I am glad to find you here still," said Simon, nodding to him; "for I had entirely forgotten to tell you that I have a present for you, which will certainly please you, and which I have saved and laid away expressly for you."
"What is it, Simon? What kind of a present have you for me?"
"A very precious one, at least such as you and your like will consider so, I think. I have the long, yellow locks which Jeanne Marie cut yesterday from little Capet's head."
"And will you give them to me?" asked Toulan, eagerly.
"Yes, that will I, and it is for that purpose that I have brought them along. They are lying, with all the letters, in my work-box. But I cannot get at them to-day in all the confusion, for they are at the very bottom of the box. But come to-morrow morning, and you shall receive your costly treasure. If you like, you can come about nine o'clock; and if I should happen to have any thing to do, and not be here, I will give the hair to Jeanne Marie, and she will hand it to you."
"Be sure that I shall come," said Toulan, earnestly. "Give me your hand, and let me thank you for your delicate act of kindness. I certainly did you a wrong, for I did not hold you capable of such a deed. I thank you, Simon, I thank you from my heart; and to-morrow morning, punctually at nine, I shall be here to receive my precious possession. Farewell till then, Simon! I have no quiet now, but must run around and see whether every thing seems as usual in the Temple, and our secret undiscovered." He hastened away, and disappeared around the corner.
The whole day Simon was busy with his own thoughts, and engaged in arranging the furniture, with his mind clearly not on his work. In the afternoon he declared that he must go to the Temple again, because in the upper corridor he had left a chest with some utensils in it which were his.
"It seems to me, husband, you are homesick for the Temple," said Jeanne Marie jestingly, "and you are sad because you are no longer in the old, black walls."
"Yes, I am homesick for the Temple," replied Simon, "and that is why I go there."
But he did not take the way to the Temple, but to the city hall, and rang the bell so violently that the porter dashed to the door to open it.
"It is you, citizen," he ejaculated. "I thought something must have happened."
"Something has happened, and I have come to inform the Committee of Safety," answered Simon, impetuously.
"Has it met?"
"Yes, it is in the little council-chamber. You will find an officer at the door, and can let him announce you."
Simon strode forward and found the sentinel before the door, who asked him what his business there was.
"Go in, citizen, and announce that Simon is here, and brings important news, of great peril to the state."
A minute later, Simon was ushered into the hall in which the Safety Committee were assembled. All those stern-faced men of the republic knew Simon as a faithful and zealous republican, upon whose devotion they could reckon, and whose fidelity was immovable.
"I am come," said Simon, slowly, "I am come to bring an accusation against a certain person as a conspirator against the republic, and a traitor to our liberties."
"Who is it, and what has he done?" asked the chairman, with a cold smile.
"What has he done? He means to do something, and I mean to prevent him. He means to release the wolf's whelp from the Temple. Who knows but he may have done so already, for when I left the Temple this morning, my successor had not come, and little Capet was alone. Who is it that is able to release the boy and the two ladies? It is Toulan, the traitor, the royalist Toulan!"
"Toulan!" replied Petion, with a shrug. "We know very well that Toulan is a traitor, and that the republic can expect only the worst from him that he can do. He was accused once, but escaped merited punishment by flight, and he has unquestionably gone to Coblentz to join the tyrant's brothers there. Our police are watchful, and have discovered not a trace of him."
"Then allow me to put the police on his track," said Simon, laughing. "Be so good as to send a couple of officers to me tomorrow, and I will deliver Toulan, the traitor, into their hands."
The next morning, at the stroke of nine, Toulan, in the garb of a commissioner, entered the house of the new collector at the Macon gate. Simon received him at the door, and conducted him into the sitting-room.
"You see," said Toulan, "that I am punctual, and I must tell you that I have been almost too impatient to wait. I hope you do not regret your promise, and that you mean to give me the noble present that you promised me."
"Unfortunately I can not," answered Simon, with a shrug. "My wife insisted on giving you the hair with her own hands, and she has just gone out. You will have to wait for her, if you really are anxious to possess the hair of little Capet."
"Yes, I am anxious to own it," replied Toulan. "The hair of my dear young king will be my most cherished possession, and—"
"Come, come," interrupted Simon, "there you exaggerate. The gold salt's-bottle, which the Austrian gave you, is a great deal dearer to you, is it not? You still have that, have you not?"
"Still have it?" cried Toulan. "I would sooner part with my life than with this remembrancer of Marie Antoinette!"
"Well, then, see which you would rather keep, your life, or the bottle the Austrian gave you," said Simon, with a laugh, as he sprang toward the door and opened it Two officials of the Safety Committee, followed by armed men, entered.
"Have you heard every thing?" asked Simon, triumphantly.
"Yes, we have heard every thing, and we arrest you, Toulan, as a traitor. Take him to the Conciergerie. The authorities will decide what shall be done with him further."
"Well," said Toulan, calmly, "the authorities will, perhaps, do me the honor of letting me go the same way that my king—and my queen have taken, and I shall follow the example of the noble sufferers, and die for the hallowed cause of royalty. Let us go, that I may not longer breathe the air which the blasphemer and traitor Simon has poisoned. Woe upon you, Simon! In your dying hour think of me, and of what I say to you now: You are sending me to death, that you may live in peace. But you will find no peace on earth, and if no man accuses you, your conscience will. On your dying bed you will see me before you, and on the day of judgment you will hear my voice, accusing you before the throne of God as a betrayer and murderer. May my blood come on your head, Simon!"
Simon lived to enjoy his freedom and his money only a short time. At the expiration of a year he fell into lunacy, which soon made him attempt his own life. He died in the Asylum of Bicetre. His wife lived till 1821, in a hospital at Paris, and in her dying hour asserted that little Capet was released in the way above related.
On the next day, there was a great excitement within the Temple, and the Safety Committee repaired thither in a body. The lamplighter, who made his rounds on the evening of the day on which Simon left the Temple, had asserted that the child that lay upon the mattress was not the little Capet. "He must know this," he said, "for he had seen the child daily when he lighted the lamp in the boy's room."
The new keeper, Augustus Lasne, was very much excited at the communication of the lamplighter, and at dawn of the next day repaired to the city hall to report the statement. The Safety Committee resolved on an immediate investigation of the Temple, after pledging one another to the deepest secrecy, and enjoining the same on all the servants at the Temple.
The officials found on the mattress a moaning, feverish boy, in the garments of the dauphin. These they recognized as the ones which the republic had had made a month before for little Capet, but no one could say whether this child, with a body covered with sores, a swollen face, and sunken, lustreless eyes, was really little Capet or not; no one knew whether sickness had so changed his looks that this stupid, idiotic boy was the one whom they had all known when he was well, as they saw him joyously flitting around. First of all they summoned Doctor Naudin, the director of Hotel Dieu, to examine the boy. He appeared without delay, and declared solemnly and decidedly that this was the same boy whom he had seen there some days before when he visited Simon's wife, only the English sickness which afflicted the child had distorted his limbs, while the cutting off of his hair gave him a changed look, and it was no wonder that the lamplighter failed to recognize him.
Simon, who was summoned to give evidence, asserted the same thing, and affirmed that he recognized little Capet in the sick boy, and that his wife had cut off his hair only the day before. He brought the hair as a complete proof of the identity, and it was seen to agree perfectly with that of the sick child.
Yet some of the officials still doubted, and their doubts were increased when on the same day the servant of Count Frotte reported to the Safety Committee that his master had made a sudden and secret journey, accompanied by a boy, whom the count had treated with great deference.
This boy might be the dauphin, whom Count Frotte, in conjunction with Toulan, might have spirited out of the Temple in some secret way, and who must be followed at all hazards. At the same time the government were informed that the Count de St. Prix had left Paris in company with a boy, and had taken the road to Germany.
Chazel, a member of the Convention, was sent secretly to Puy to arrest Frotte and the boy there; and Chauvaine, another member, was ordered to follow the road to Germany, and, if possible, to bring back Count St. Prix.
After a while both of them returned, with nothing accomplished. Chazel had, indeed, arrested Count Frotte and the boy in Puy, but the count had given such undeniable proofs that the boy was not the dauphin—he had summoned so many unimpeachable witnesses from Paris, who recognized the boy as the son of M. de Gueriviere, who was in Coblentz with the princes, that nothing more remained but to release the count and his comrade.
Chauvaine had not been able to arrest the Count de St. Prix, and had only learned that in company with a boy he had crossed the Rhine and entered Germany.
It was of no use, therefore, to undertake farther investigations, and the conclusion must be firmly held to that the boy in the Temple, whose sickness increased from day to day, was the real Capet, the son of Louis XVI. The suspicion which had been aroused must be kept a deep secret, that the royalists should not take renewed courage from the possibility that the King of France had been rescued. [Footnote: Later investigations in the archives of Paris have brought to light, among other important papers relative to the flight of the prince, a decree of the National Convention, dated Prairial 26 (June 14), 1704, which gave all the authorities orders "to follow the young Capet in all directions." The boy who remained a prisoner in the Temple, died there June 8, 1798, a complete idiot.]
But the secret investigations, and the efforts to draw something from Toulan, caused the authorities to postpone his fate from week to week, from month to month. On the 20th of January he was arrested and taken to the Conciergerie, and not till the month of May did the Convention sentence him to death. The charge was this: that he had accepted presents from the Widow Capet, in particular the gold salt's-bottle, and had made frequent plans to release the Capet family from prison.
On the same day Madame Elizabeth, the sister of Louis XVI., was sentenced to death, on the charge of conducting a correspondence with her brothers, through the agency of Toulan, having for its end the release of the royal family.
When the sentence was read to Madame Elizabeth, she smiled. "I thank my judges that they allow me to go to those I love, and whom I shall find in the presence of God."
Toulan received his sentence with perfect composure. "The one, indivisible, and exalted republic is just as magnanimous, is it not, as the monarchy was in old times, and it will grant a last favor to one who has been condemned to death, will it not?"
"Yes, it will do that, provided it is nothing impossible. It will gladly grant you a last request."
"Well," said Toulan, "then I ask that I may be executed the same day and the same hour as Madame Elizabeth, the sister of the king, and that I may be allowed to remain by her side at her execution."
"Then you have only till to-morrow to live, Citizen Toulan," replied the presiding officer of the court, "for Elizabeth Capet will be executed to-morrow."
Early the next morning three cars drove away from the Conciergerie. In each of these cars sat eight persons, men and women of the highest aristocracy. They had put on their most brilliant court attire for that day, and arranged themselves as for a holiday. Over the great crinoline the ladies wore the richest silks, adorned with silver and gold lace; they had had their hair dressed and decorated with flowers and ribbons, and carried elegant fans in their hands. The gentlemen wore velvet coats, brilliant with gold and silver, while cuffs of the finest lace encompassed their white hands. Their heads were uncovered, and they carried the little three-cornered hat under the arm, as they had done at court in presence of the royal family.
All the aristocrats imprisoned in cells at the Conciergerie had begged for the high honor of being executed on that day, and every one whose request had been granted, had expressed his thanks for it as for a favor.
"What we celebrate to-day is the last court festival," said the prisoners, as they ascended the cars to be carried to the guillotine. "We have the great good fortune of being present at the last great levee, and we will show ourselves worthy of the honor." All faces were smiling, all eyes beaming, and when the twenty-four condemned persons dismounted from their cars at the foot of the scaffold, one would believe that he saw twenty-four happy people preparing to go to a wedding. No one would have suspected that it was death to whom they were to be united.
There were only two persons in this brilliant and select society who were less elegantly adorned than the others. One was the young girl, with the pale angel face, who sat between the sister of Malesherbes and the wife of the former minister, Montmorin, in a neat white robe, with a simple muslin veil, that surrounded her like a white cloud on which she was floating to heaven. The other was the man who sat behind her, whose firm, defiant countenance gave no token that an hour before he had wept hot, bitter tears as he took leave of his wife and only child. But this was all past, and on that lofty, thoughtful brow not the slightest trace remained of earthly sorrow. The pains of each had been surmounted, and, even in death, Toulan would do honor to the name which that woman had given him—whom he had loved most sacredly on earth-and he would die as Fidele.
The ladies and gentlemen of this unwontedly solemn company, who were collected here in view of the scaffold, had dismounted from the cars. Above stood the glistening instrument of death, and near it the executioners. They were all left free to decide in what order they would ascend and place the head beneath the axe. The Convention had made the simple order that Madame Elizabeth should be the last but one, and that Toulan should follow her.
Joyous and bright was the countenance of the princess; joyous and bright was the aspect of the improvised court, whose master of ceremonies was Death.
The gentlemen had begged the favor of preceding the ladies upon the scaffold. One after another they ascended the staircase, and in passing by they greeted the princess with the same deep bow that would have been given at court. And Madame Elizabeth thanked them with a smile that was not of this world.
When the heads of the twelve gentlemen had fallen, the bodies laid on one side, and the scaffold cleansed a little from blood, the ladies' turn came. Every one of them asked the favor of embracing Princess Elizabeth, and, with the kiss which she pressed upon their lips, a heavenly joy seemed to spring up in their hearts. With smiles they ascended the scaffold, with smiles they placed their heads beneath the axe.
The last of the ladies, the Marchioness de Crussol d'Amboise, had received the parting kiss and ascended the steps of the guillotine. Only Elizabeth and Toulan now remained at the foot. "Fidele," whispered Elizabeth in gentle tones, "I shall soon be with my brother and my sister. Give me your hand, my brother. You shall conduct me to death, and I will give you my hand above, at the opening of the new life, and conduct you to Marie Antoinette. 'Sister,' I will say to her, 'this is the one true and good heart which beat on earth for you, and I bring it to you that you may rejoice in it in heaven.' Toulan, there is only one title of honor for all men, and that is Fidele. It is sanctioned even by the word of God: 'Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.'"
Just at that moment the axe rattled, there was a muffled sound, and the head of the Marchioness Crussol d'Amboise fell into the basket.
"Elizabeth Capet, it is your turn—come up!"
She ascended the scaffold. Arrayed, as she was, in this white robe, her transparent face was like that of an angel. It seemed to Toulan as if her foot no longer rested on the earth. He followed her to the scaffold; and as she was about to ascend the steps, he laid his hand upon her arm.
"Princess, I have a secret to impart to you. I have promised with a solemn oath that my lips should disclose it to no mortal; but you, Elizabeth, belong already to the immortals, the peace of God illumines your brow, and I want you to have one last joy before you ascend into heaven. This is my secret: The boy who is confined in the Temple is not the dauphin. I have fulfilled the promise which I gave the queen. I have saved the dauphin, and he is now in Vendee, under the safe care of Prince de Conde."
"Elizabeth Capet, come up, or we must bring you by force."
"I am coming. Farewell, Fidele! you have spoken the truth; you have given me a last joy! I thank you; now kiss my lips; give your sister a parting kiss, Fidele. Farewell, my brother!"
He touched the lips that were illumined with a sad smile—"Farewell, my sister!"
She ascended the steps, and, reaching the scaffold, she calmly laid aside the veil, and prepared her toilet for death.
At the foot of the scaffold Toulan remained upon his knees; his great eyes, which had been directed to Elizabeth, beamed with rapture, and in his heart there were words written with a finger of diamond—words hallowed and comforting, that Toulan read in meditation and prayer: "Love vanquishes death; love is victorious even over life; love, which is the highest friendship, and friendship, which is the highest love, rise so far above every thing earthly, that thou must surrender every thing for them, every thing which thou hast valued upon earth, every thing which has stood to thee in the most tender relations. In this love thou hast lived, and in this love thou shalt die and ascend into heaven."
"Toulan, come up! Do you not hear us calling you? Do you not see that Elizabeth Capet has made place for you?"
He had not seen when the noble head of the princess fell into the basket, he had not heard the executioner call him; he had only read in his heart the revelation of love.
He ascended the steps, and his countenance beamed with the same light of rapture which had surrounded Elizabeth's brow.
A piercing scream came from the crowd, as a young wife fell senseless into the arms of her neighbors, while the boy who stood near her extended his hands to the scaffold, and called, loudly, "Father, dear father!"
Toulan did not turn to them. No earthly sorrow had place in this soul, which had overcome pain, and received eternal joy into itself.
Calmly he laid his head beneath the axe. "God is love," he said, aloud. "He that abideth in love, abideth in God, and God—"
The axe descended, and left Toulan's last words unspoken.
WITHOUT NAME AND RANK.
The Prince de Conde was walking with quick steps up and down his apartment. His brow was cloudy, his eyes wore a sad look, and at times he raised his hand, as if he would remove a veil that darkened his sight.
"It must he," he said, decisively, after a while. "Yes, it must be; I see no other means of saving him from the snares of his enemies and friends. He must leave, and that at once."
He walked hastily to the table, pulled the bell violently, and ordered the servant who came in to bring the boy who came yesterday to him.
A few minutes later, the door opened, and a boy of ten. or twelve years, with great blue eyes, fair hair, graceful form, and delicate complexion, came into the room. At his appearance the Prince de Conde seemed deeply moved. He hastened with open arms to meet the boy, pressed him closely to his heart, and kissed his fair hair and eyes.
"Welcome, a thousand times welcome!" he said, with trembling voice. "How long have I desired to see this moment, and how happy I am that it has come at last! You are saved, yon are restored to freedom, to life, and there is in store for you, I hope, a great and brilliant future!"
"Then I shall have to thank you for it, my cousin," said the boy, with his sweet, resonant voice. "You have released me from the dreadful prison, and I thank you for life. I am glad, too, that I see you at last, for I wanted so much to express my thanks, and every evening I have prayed to God to grant me the happiness of greeting my dear cousin, the Prince de Conde."
The joyous light had long since faded from the face of the prince, and a cloud was gathering on his brow, as, with a timid, searching look, he glanced around, as if he feared that some one besides himself might hear the words of the boy.
"Do not call me your cousin," he said, softly; and even his voice was changed, and became cold and husky.
The boy fixed his great blue eyes with an expression of astonishment on the gloomy countenance of the Prince de Conde.
"You are no longer glad to see me here? Is it disagreeable to you for me to call you my cousin?"
The prince made no answer at once, but walked up and down with great strides, and then stood still before the boy, who had calmly observed his impatient motions.
"Let us sit down," said the Prince de Conde—" let us sit down and talk."
He gave his hand to the boy, led him to the divan, and took his own place upon an easy-chair, directly opposite to the child.
"Let us talk," he repeated. "I should like to know, in the first place, whether you have a good memory, for I have been told that your head has suffered, and that you have no recollection of the past."
A gentle, sad smile played around the lips of the boy.
"I have been silent about the past, as I have been commanded to," he said, "but I have not forgotten it."
"Do you remember your mother?" asked the prince.
The boy trembled convulsively, a glowing red passed over his cheeks, and a deep paleness followed.
"Monsieur," he asked, with a tremulous voice, "would it be possible for me to forget my dear mamma queen?—my mamma queen who loved her little Louis Charles so much? Ah, sir, you would not have asked that if you had known how much pain you give me."
"I beg your pardon," said the prince, embarrassed. "I see you remember. But let me try you once more. Will you tell me what happened to you after being taken away from your cruel foster- parents? What were those people's names, and what were they?"
"My foster-parents, or my tormentors rather, were called Mr. and Mistress Simon. The man had been a cobbler, but afterward he was superintendent and turnkey in the Temple, and when I was taken away from my mamma, sister, and aunt, I had to live with these dreadful people."
"Did you fare badly there?"
"Very badly, sir; I was scolded and ill-treated, and the worst of all was that they wanted to compel me to sing ribald songs about my mamma queen."
"But you did not sing these songs?" asked the Prince de Conde.
The eyes of the boy flamed. "No," he said, proudly, "I did not sing them. They might have beaten me to death. I would rather have died than have done it,"
The prince nodded approvingly. "And how did you escape from these people?" he asked.
"You know, Prince de Conde," answered the boy, smiling. "It is you who helped me escape."
"Tell me about this matter a little," said the prince, "and how you have fared since then. I contributed, as you suppose, to your release, but I was not present In person. How did you escape from the Temple?"
"I was put into a basket with soiled clothes, which Mistress Simon was taking away with her from the Temple. This basket she gave to a washerwoman who was waiting for us at the Macon gate. She had a little donkey-cart in readiness there, the basket was put into it, and went on to a village, the name of which I do not know. There we stopped; I was taken out of the basket and carried into a house, where we remained a few hours to rest and change our clothes."
"We? Whom do you mean by we?"
"Me and the supposed washerwoman," replied the boy. "This woman was, however, no other than M. de Jarjayes, whom I knew long ago, and who, with Fidele—I should say, with Toulan—had thought out and executed the plan of my escape. M. de Jarjayes changed his clothes, as did I also, and after remaining concealed in the house all day, in the evening we took a carriage and rode all night. On the next day we remained concealed in some house, and in the night we continued our journey."
"Did he tell you where you were going?"
"Jarjayes told me that the Prince de Conde was my protector and deliverer, that the magnanimous prince had furnished the necessary money, and that I should remain concealed in one of his palaces till the time should arrive to acknowledge me publicly. Till then, said M. de Jarjayes to me, I was never to speak of the past, nor disclose—single word about any thing that concerned myself or my family. He told me that if I did not follow his instructions literally, I should not only be brought back to Simon, but I should have to bear the blame of causing the death of my sister Therese and my aunt Elizabeth. You can understand, my prince, that after that I was dumb."
"Yes. I understand. Where did M. de Jarjayes carry you?"
"To one of the palaces of the Prince de Conde in loyal and beautiful Vendee. Ah, it was very delightful there, and there were very pleasant people about me. The story was that I was a nephew of the prince, and that on account of impaired health, I was obliged to go into the country and must be tended with great care. I had a preceptor there who gave me instruction, and sometimes the brave General Charette came to the palace on a visit. He was always very polite to me, and showed me all kinds of attention. One day he asked me to walk with him in the park. I did so, of course, and just as we entered a dark allee he fell upon his knees, called me majesty, said he knew very well that I was the King of France, and that the noble and loyal Prince de Conde had rescued me from prison."
"The devil!" muttered the prince to himself, "our dear friends are always our worst enemies."
The boy paid no attention to the words of Conde, and went on: "The general conjured me to confess to him that I was the son of King Louis, and I should follow him, remain with his little army, which would acknowledge me at once, and proclaim me King of France."
"And what did you answer?" asked Conde, eagerly.
"My lord," replied the boy, with proud, grave mien, "I told you that, I gave my word to M. de Jarjayes to divulge nothing till you should tell me that the right time had arrived. I could therefore confess nothing to Charette, and told him that he had fallen into a great error, and that I have and can lay claim to no other honor than of being the nephew of the Prince de Conde."
"You said that?" asked Conde, in amazement.
The boy raised his head with a quick movement, and something of the proud and fiery nature of Louis XIV. flashed in his eyes.
"I did not know then," he replied, "that my relationship to the Prince de Conde was not agreeable to him."
The prince looked troubled and perplexed, and dropped his eyes before the piercing gaze of the boy. "Go on, if I may venture to ask you," he said, softly. "What did General Charette do when you repelled him?"
"First he implored, and wept, and conjured me to trust him, and to lay aside my incognito before him, the truest and best of royalists. But as I continued steadfast, and disclosed nothing, he became angry at length, pushed me away from him, threatened me with his fist, swore he would have his revenge on those who had deceived him, and declared that I was no Bourbon, for the son of my fathers would not be so weak and cowardly as to conceal his name and lineage."
"And you kept silent, in spite of this demand?"
"Yes, my lord, I kept silent; and, notwithstanding his pain and grief, I left him in the belief that he had deceived himself, or rather, that he had been deceived."
"Oh!" cried Conde, "it is plain that you have been steeled in the school of suffering, and that the years of misfortune like yours must each be reckoned double, for, in spite of your twelve years, you have acted like a man!"
"My lord," replied the boy, proudly, "the Bourbons attain their majority at fifteen, and at that age they may, according to the law of France, become independent sovereigns. They ought, therefore, to begin to learn young. That was the opinion of Queen Marie Antoinette, who taught me to read in my fifth year. You, my lord, have, in your magnanimity, done every thing to make me able to conform to the laws of my house, if it shall please God that the son of my dear unfortunate father should one day ascend the vacant throne of the Bourbons. Daring these two years which I have spent in concealment in your palace in Vendee, you have laid a strong and firm foundation, on which the superstructure of my life may rest. I have, thanks to the excellent teachers you have given me, had an opportunity to learn much, and to recall much which I had forgotten during the years before my release from imprisonment."
"Your teachers inform me that your industry was unceasing, and that you learned more in months than some do in years. You are familiar with several languages, and, besides, have been instructed, as I desired, in the art of war and in mathematics."
"In the studies of kings and soldiers," replied the boy, with a proud smile.
"I fear that you will prove not to have prosecuted those studies with a view to their use among soldiers," said Conde, with a sigh. "Your prospects are very dark—yes, darker even than when you left the Temple. These two years have made your condition more perilous. It was fortunate that you could spend them in solitude and secrecy, and be able to finish your education, and it would be a great blessing to you to be able to go on with your quiet studies for some years longer. But your enemies had sought you without rest; they were on your track, and had I left you there any longer, you would have been found some day stabbed or shot in the park. The steward informed me that all kinds of suspicious people had gathered in the neighborhood of the palace and the garden, and I conjecture that they were the emissaries of your enemies. On this I took you away from that place, and have brought you here for your greater safety. Now allow me one question. Do you know who your enemies are?"
"I think I know them," replied Louis Charles, with a sad smile. "My enemies are the self-same men who brought my father and my mother to the scaffold, destroyed the throne, and in its place gave Prance a red cap. My enemies are the republicans, who now rule in this land, and whose great object must, of course, be to put me out of the way, for my life is their death! France will one day be tired of the red cap, and will restore the throne to him to whom it belongs, so soon as it is certain that he who is entitled to the crown, is living to wear it."
"And who do you suppose is justified in wearing the crown of France?"
"You ask as if you did not know that I am the only son and heir of the murdered King of France."
"The only son, but not the only heir. Your inheritance will be contested; and even if France should transform herself from a republic to a monarchy, every attempt possible will be made to drive you, the son of Louis XVI., from the throne, and put the crown on the head of another."
"Sir, if monarchy is uppermost again, the crown belongs to me. Who, in that case, would venture to contend with me for it?"
"Your enemies! Not those whom you have just named, but the other half of your enemies, of whose existence you have no suspicion, it seems-your enemies, the royalists."
"How so?" cried Louis Charles, in amazement. "Do you call the royalists my enemies?"
"Yes, and they are so, your powerful, defiant, and untiring enemies. Do you not see that even here in this room I do not dare to give you the title that is your due, for fear that the walls may have ears and increase the danger which threatens you? I will now name to you the greatest of your enemies—the Count de Provence."
"How! my uncle, the brother of my father, he my enemy?"
"He is your enemy, as he was the enemy of your mother. Believe me, young man, it is not the people who have made the revolution in France; it is the princes who have done it. The Count de Provence, the Count d'Artois, and the Duke d'Orleans—they are the chief revolutionists; they it is who have put fire to the throne; they it is who have sown the libels and lampoons broadcast over France, and made the name of Marie Antoinette odious. They did it out of hate, out of revenge, and out of ambition. Queen Marie Antoinette had won her husband over to the policy of Austria, and in this way had set herself in opposition to the Count de Provence, and the whole royal family. The count never forgave her for this, and he will never forgive you for being the son of your mother. The Count de Provence, as he now styles himself, is your sworn enemy, and will do all he can to bring you to ruin; he is ambitious, and his goal is, to be the King of France!"
"King of France? The Count de Provence, the brother of the king, wants to be his successor, when I, the son of the king, am alive and demand my inheritance ?"
"Your demand will not be acknowledged: they will declare that you are an impostor and a deceiver. Ah, the Count de Provence is a selfish and a hard character. He means to make his own way, and if you put hinderances in it, he will put you out of his path, without compassion and without remorse; trust me for knowing this, who for three years have been in the immediate neighborhood of the prince. I was afraid to impart the plan of your escape to the princes, and, after you were released, I was silent, for a secret is only safe when a very few are conscious of it. But after the news came last year from Paris, that the boy who had been placed as your substitute in the Temple had died, after a long sickness, I ventured to inform the Count de Lille about the real facts. I told him that I believed that information I had received might be relied upon, that King Louis XVII. had been released from the Temple by true and devoted servants, and was then in a place of safety. Would you like to know what reply the count made?"
"I pray you, tell me," responded Louis Charles, with a sigh.
"He answered me, 'I advise you, cousin, not to put any confidence in such idle stories, and not to be duped by any sly rogues. My unfortunate little nephew died in the Temple—that is a fact acknowledged by the republic, universally believed, and denied by no one. After long sufferings the son has fallen as a new victim to the bloodthirsty republicans, and we are still wearing mourning for our deceased nephew, King Louis XVII. And should any wise-head happen on the thought of making the dead boy come to life again, I will be the first to disown him and hold him as an impostor.' Those were the words of the count, and you will now confess that I am right in calling him your enemy, and in not daring to communicate to him the secret of your release?"
"I grant you," replied the prince, sadly, "I would rather bury the secret forever."
"Now, hear me further. A few weeks ago the prince summoned me, and I saw on his sinister face and in his flashing eyes that he must have received some unwelcome tidings. He did not make me wait long for the confirmation of my conjectures. With a sharp, cutting voice he asked me what kind of a nephew of mine that was whom I was educating at my palace in Vendee. General de Charette had given him information through one of his emissaries sending him word that the report was current in Vendee that this alleged nephew of mine was the rescued King Louis XVII., whom I had helped release from the Temple. He, General Charette, had believed it at first. He had therefore (so the prince went on to say) visited my palace recently, for the purpose of discovering the supposed young king. There he convinced himself that the boy bore no resemblance to the little Louis Charles—whom he had once seen at the Tuileries—and that he certainly was not the son of Louis XVI."
"He told me only too truly that he would have his revenge," whispered the young prince.
"He has kept his oath, for he has loudly and publicly declared his belief that Louis XVII. died in the Temple, and he has therefore administered to his army an oath in favor of King Louis XVIII.—that is, the Count de Provence. The count himself informed me of this, and then added, threateningly, 'I advise, you, cousin, either to acknowledge your young nephew, and treat him openly, or else put him out of the way. I advise you further, not to let yourself be imposed upon by adventurers and impostors. It is known that you were among the most active adherents of Queen Marie Antoinette, and there may be people who would work on your credulity and make you believe that the poor little Louis Charles was really released from the Temple. Do not deny that you parted with much money at that time, and believed that it was wanted for the purpose of setting the young King of France free. It was a trap, set in view of your loyalty and devotion, and you fell into it. But you gave your money to no effect, the poor, pitiable king could not be saved, and died in the Temple as a prisoner of the republic. Take care how you trust any idle stories, for, I tell you, you would never bring me to put confidence in them. I am now the rightful King of France—I am Louis XVIII.—and I am resolved not only to declare every pretender who claims to be Louis XVII. an impostor, but to bring him to punishment as a traitor. Mark this well, and therefore warn this mysterious nephew of yours not to venture on playing out his comedy, for it will assuredly change into tragedy, and end with his death.' These were the words of the Count de Lille, and now you understand why I have brought you so suddenly, and so secretly, away from my solitary palace and have you here."
"I understand every thing," said Louis Charles, with a sigh; "I understand, that it would have been better if you had never released me, and I had died like my father and mother."
"We must postpone the accomplishment of our hopes," said Conde, sadly, "for I confess to you, there is little to expect from the present, and there is no place where you are safe from the persecutions and the daggers of your enemies. The republicans desire your death as much as the royalists. In France, two parties threaten you, and would I now risk every thing, carry you to some European court and acquaint the sovereign of your arrival, and ask for his assistance, I should have no credence, for, not the French republic alone, but the Count de Lille would protest against it, and disavow you before all Europe. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary, in order to secure you against your enemies, that you should disappear for a season, and that we patiently await the time which shall permit us to bring you back upon the scenes."
"Do you believe that time will ever come?" asked the little prince, with a shake of the head.
"I believe it, and, above every thing, I hope it," replied Conde, quickly. "The greatest difficulty is to find a place for you to remain where you may not be suspected, and where yon may be safe from assault. To my great regret I cannot entertain you here, for my family are too well known for me to suddenly acknowledge a legitimate nephew of your age, and the Count de Lille would be the last to believe it. I confess that it has cost me a great deal of disquiet and anxious thought to find a secure asylum for you."
"And do you think you have found one at last?" asked Louis Charles, indifferently.
"Yes, I believe so, or rather, I know that I have found one. You must be taken to a place which no one can suspect as that where you would be likely to be."
"And what place is this?"
"It is called Mayence."
The boy, who had sat with downcast eyes, perhaps in order not to let some tears be seen, looked quickly up, and the greatest astonishment was depicted in his expressive features.
"Mayence?" he asked. "Is not that a fortress on the Rhine which the troops of the French republic have taken possession of?"
"Yes; and the commandant of Mayence, the head of the troops, is General Kleber, one of the bravest and noblest soldiers of the French republic."
"And you, you want to send me to this General Kleber? Ah, my prince, that would be thrusting me, for the purpose of rescuing me from persecution, into the very crater of the volcano."
"It is not so bad as you suppose, my young friend. General Kleber is at heart a good and true royalist, and although he serves the republic, he does so because he is first of all a soldier, a soldier of his country, and because his country now has pressing need of soldiers to defend the honor and glory of France. I have sent a trustworthy man to General Kleber to impart this secret to him, and to ask him for protection, and a place of refuge for you. General Kleber is ready to grant both, and he has sent his adjutant to Coblentz to escort his nephew to Mayence. You are that nephew, and if you give your consent, you will set out at once and go to Mayence."
"And if I do not give my consent?" asked Louis Charles, with a proud, flashing look.
"I confess," said Conde, with a shrug—"I confess that I am not prepared for that contingency, and cannot on the instant grasp all the unfortunate results which would ensue on your refusal."
"Be calmed, Conde, I do not refuse. I have only this one thing to care for, to cause no danger, and bring nothing disagreeable to you, for I see that they are in store for you if I do not disappear again from view. The son of the king vanished from sight, to appear as the nephew of Conde; and now the nephew of Conde is to vanish, to emerge as the nephew of General Kleber. Ah,—who knows but I may yet be the nephew of Simon the cobbler, preparatory to my last appearance on the guillotine?"
"I hope, on the contrary, that on the day when France shall rise again, you will rise too, the acknowledged son of Louis XVI., and the heir of the throne of France. At present the republic has sway, and there is no hope of an immediate change. But that will not last always; and in the decisive hour, when the monarchy and the republic come to their last great battle for existence—at that hour you must appear upon the field, must lift the lilies high in the air, and summon the royalists to your side in the name of God, and of the king your father."
"And what if my uncle, the Count de Provence, then declares me to be an impostor?"
"Then you must publicly and solemnly appeal to France, lay the proofs of your lineage before the nation, summon unimpeachable witnesses, and demand your throne of the French nation. And believe me, if the heart of France is compelled to choose between you and the Count de Provence, it will not choose him, for the count has never possessed the heart of the people, and God is just."
"God is just," replied Louis Charles, sadly—"God is just, and yet the King and Queen of France have perished on the guillotine, and their brother calls himself King of France, while the son of Louis XVI. must find shelter with a general of that French republic which was the enemy of my parents."
"It is true," said Conde, with a sigh, "it is very difficult at times to see the justice of God, but we must always hope to see it, and at length it will reveal itself in all its glory. And the hour of judgment will come for you. Await it steadfastly and with patience, and when it is come, call on me, and I will not neglect your summons, but will support you, and will give you my recognition. I have all the documents which relate to your flight, all the testimony given by those who were engaged in assisting you, and besides this, a detailed account of your flight, subscribed with my name, and stamped with my seal. I have further the testimony of the teachers who gave yon instruction at my palace of Chambord, and the keeper of the palace recorded the day on which you arrived. I am ready to give you these papers, if you will swear to me that you will not misuse them, but give them to General Kleber, that he may preserve them for you."
"I swear to you that I will do so," said the prince, solemnly.
Conde handed to him a small and closely-rolled package of papers. "This contains your future," he said, "and out of these papers I hope a crown will grow for you. Till then let the republic preserve them for you. General Kleber is expecting you, and his adjutant is waiting for you in the next room. Permit me to give you one more piece of advice: remain steadfast, resist all tempters who would beguile you with pleasant words to acknowledge yourself King of France. For be persuaded these tempters are the emissaries of your enemies, and if you should acknowledge to them that you are King Louis XVII., you would be writing your own death-warrant. The balls which I trust will spare the nephew of General Kleber would certainly pierce the heart of the nephew of Count de Lille. Continue to deny it as you denied it to General Charette. Swear to me that you will faithfully keep the secret of your lineage till I release you from the oath by which I now close your lips, and tell you that the hour of action and of disclosures is come; swear it to me, in view of the fidelity which I have shown to you, and which I shall always be ready to show."
"You have saved my life," said Louis Charles, solemnly. "My life, therefore, belongs to you, and I give it into your hands in swearing, by the memory of my dear parents, and especially my noble and proud-spirited mother, Queen Marie Antoinette, that I will faithfully and truly keep the secret of my parentage, and not feel myself justified in revealing it to the world, till you, the Prince de Conde, shall have given me permission, and empowered me to do so."
"I thank you," said Conde, "for I am now unconcerned about your immediate future. General Kleber and the French republic will protect you, for the present, from the dangerous pretender, Count Lille, and, in God's providence, I trust there will come a day when France will be prepared to raise the son of its kings to the throne which belongs to him. Let us hope for this day, and be persuaded that I shall neglect nothing which will help bring it about. And now, as we part, I bow my knee to you, my young king; I now acknowledge you solemnly as the son of my well-beloved cousin, King Louis XVI., and the rightful heir of the throne of the lilies. May the spirits of the murdered royal couple, may God and the ear of my king take note of the oath which I now pronounce. I swear that I will never acknowledge any other prince as King of France, so long as you, King Louis XVII., are among the living. I swear that if I ever break this vow, and acknowledge another King of France, you, Louis XVII., may accuse me of high-treason, and condemn me to the death which a traitor deserves. I swear that I will subject myself to this death-penalty without opposition and complaint. And this I swear by Almighty God, and by the memory of your royal parents, whose spirits are with us at this hour."
"And I, Prince de Conde, I accept your oath," said Louis Charles, gravely. "I go away now into exile, but I carry your oath with me as my hope for the future, and may God grant that I shall never be compelled to remind you of it, but that you will faithfully and truly keep it. Fare you well! My crown rests in your heart."
"And in these papers, sire. Deliver them to the brave General Kleber, and he will preserve them as his most sacred and cherished possession."
He kissed the hand of the prince, which was reached out for the papers, and then hastened to summon the officer, who was waiting in the adjoining room for the nephew of General Kleber, having no suspicion what an important mission was intrusted to him.
But General Kleber knew the secret better, and although not a word and not an action disclosed it, yet the gentle friendliness, the mild look, the subdued smile with which the general received his young nephew in Mayence, testified that he was familiar with the secret, and knew how to guard it.
In Mayence, under the care of General Kleber, his nephew, Louis, as he called him, remained during the subsequent time, and very soon gained the heart of his uncle, and was his inseparable friend by day and by night. They slept in one room, they ate at one table. The nephew accompanied his uncle at all parades and military exercises; and, in order to make his favorite a skilful soldier, the general undertook the duties of teacher, gave him instruction in the art of war, and taught him the more familiar duties of a soldier's life. The nephew comprehended readily, and pursued zealously the studies which his uncle assigned him. The pains and sorrows of the past were forgotten, and only the recollections of his happy child-hood rested silently at the bottom of his heart like pearls at the bottom of the sea.
"When shall I arise from this estate? When will the crown of the future be linked with these pleasant recollections of the past?" These were the questions which the growing boy repeated to himself every morning and every evening. But his lips never uttered them; he never gave the slightest indication that he was any thing else than the nephew of General Kleber. The French garrison of Mayence considered him to be so and no one thought of asking whether he bore any other name. It sufficed that he was the nephew of the noble, valiant, and heroic General Kleber. That was the name and rank of the little prince.
THE BARON DE EICHEMONT.
Thus passed weeks, months, and even years, and on the gloomy horizon of France arose a new constellation, and from the blood-spotted, corpse-strewn soil of the French republic sprang an armed warrior—a solitary one!—but one to whom millions were soon to bow, and who, like the divinity of battles, was to control the destinies of nations and of princes. This one solitary man was General Bonaparte, the same young man who in the first bloody days of the French Revolution beheld the storm at the Tuileries, and expressed his regret to his companion—the actor Talma—that the king did not command his soldiers to mow down the canaille with grape-shot. The young lieutenant of that day, who had been the friend of the actor, dividing his loaf and his dinner with him, had now become General Bonaparte. And this general was serving the same people which as a lieutenant he had wanted to mow down with grape-shot. At the siege of Toulon, in the close contests with the allies against the republic and in the Italian campaign of 1794, Bonaparte has so distinguished himself that the eyes of the French government were already directed to him, and no one could be surprised at the action of General Beauharnais' widow, the fair Josephine, in giving her hand to the young and extraordinary man. This marriage had not only brought happiness to Bonaparte, but it satisfied his ambition. Josephine was the friend of Barras and Tallien, the chief magistrates of the republic at that time, and through her influence the young Bonaparte was sent to Italy to assume the chief command of the French army there. A general of twenty-six years to have the direction of an army, whose four corps were commanded by Generals Massena, Augereau, Serrurier, and La Harpe! The father of Junot, the late Duke de Abrantes, wrote at that time to his son, who was with the French army in Italy: "Who is this General Bonaparte? Where has he served? Does anybody know any thing about him?" And Junot, who was then the faithful friend and the admirer of Bonaparte, replied to his father: "You ask me who General Bonaparte is. I might answer, in order to know who he is, you must be he. I can only say to you that, so far as I am able to judge him, he is one of those men with whom Nature groans, and only brings forth in a century."
Had Junot not replied to his father, the deeds of the young general would soon have done so. Presently, in all France, in all Italy, yes, in all Europe, there was not a man who could ask, "Who is General Bonaparte?" His name was in every mouth, and the soldiers adored the man who had stood victoriously at their head at Lodi and Milan, and borne the banner forward amid the murderous shower of balls at the bridge of Arcoli. Diplomatists and statesmen wondered at him who had taken Venice, and compelled proud and hated Austria to make peace with the French republic, which had brought Marie Antoinette to the scaffold. The republicans and the Directory of the republic feared Bonaparte, because they recognized an enemy of the republic in him, and dreaded his growing power and increasing renown.
On this account General Bonaparte was recalled from the Italian army after peace had been made with Austria, and he returned to Paris. Still he was so feared that the Directory of the republic, in order to remove him, and at the same time to give occupation to his active spirit and his splendid abilities, proposed to Bonaparte to go with an army to Egypt, and extend the glory of France to the distant East.
Bonaparte entered with all his fiery nature into this idea which Barras and Talleyrand had sought to inveigle him into, and all his time, his thoughts, and his energies were directed to the one purpose, to fit himself out with every thing that should be needful to bring to a victorious end a long and stubborn war in a foreign land. A strong fleet was collected, and Bonaparte, as the commander of the many thousands who were to go to Egypt under him, called to his aid the most skilful, valiant, and renowned generals of the French army.
It could not fail that one of the first and most eminent of these was General Kleber, and, of course, his young adjutant and nephew Louis accompanied him.
On the 19th of April, 1798, the French fleet left the harbor of Toulon, and sailed toward the East, for, as Bonaparte said, "Only in the Orient are great realms and great deeds—in the Orient, where six hundred millions of men live."
But these six hundred millions have no army such as the French is, no commander like Bonaparte, no generals like Murat, Junot, Desaix, and, above all, Kleber.
Kleber was the second in command. He shared his perils, he shared his victories, and with him was united his nephew Louis, a youth of fourteen years, who, from his tall, slim figure, his gravity, and his ready understanding, would have passed at least for a youth of eighteen, and who, trained in the school of misfortune, belonged to those early-matured natures which destiny has steeled, that they may courageously contend with and gain the victory over destruction.
It was on the morning of the 3d of July. The French army had disembarked, and stood not far from Alexandria, on the ancient sacred soil of Egypt. Whatever was done must be done quickly, for Nelson was approaching with a fleet, prepared to contend with the French for the possession of Alexandria. Should the city not be taken before the arrival of the English fleet, the victory would be doubtful. Bonaparte knew this well. "Fortune gives us three days' time at the most," cried he, "and if we do not use them we are lost!"
But he did use them! With fearful rapidity the disembarkation of the troops was effected; with fearful rapidity the French army arranged itself on Egyptian soil in three divisions, under Morand, Bon, and Kleber. Above them all was he whose head had conceived the gigantic undertaking, he whose heroic spirit comprehended the whole. This was Bonaparte.
After inspecting all the army and issuing his orders, he rode up the hill in company with his staff to the pillar of Pompey, in order to observe from that point the course of events. The army was advancing impetuously, and soon the city built by Alexander the Great must open its gates to his successor, Bonaparte the Great.
After a short respite, the army advanced farther into the land of the pyramids. "Remember," cried Bonaparte to his soldiers, pointing to those monuments—"remember that forty centuries look down upon you."
And the pyramids of the great plain of Cairo beheld the glorious deeds and victories of the French army, beheld the overthrow of the Egyptian host. The Nile murmured with its blood-red waves the death- song of the brave Mamelukes, and the "forty centuries" which looked down from the pyramids were obliterated by the glorious victories that Bonaparte gained at the foot of those sacred monuments. A new epoch was to begin. The old epoch was buried for Egypt, and out of the ruins of past centuries a new Egypt was to be born, an Egypt which was to serve France and be tributary to it as a vassal.
This was Bonaparte's plan, and he did every thing to bring it to completion. He passed from battle to battle, from victory to victory, and after conquering Egypt and taking up his residence in Cairo, he at once began to organize the newly-won country, and to introduce to the idle and listless East the culture of the earnest and progressive West. But Egypt would not accept the treasures of culture at the hand of its conqueror. It rose again and again in rebellion against the power that held it down, and hurled its flaming torches of revenge against the hated enemy. A token of this may be seen in the dreadful revolt at Cairo, which began in the night of the 20th of October, and, after days of violence, ended with the cruel cutting down of six thousand Mamelukes. A proof of it may be seen in the constantly renewed attacks of swarms of Bedouins and Mamelukes on the French army. These hordes advanced even to the gates of Cairo, and terrified the population, which had at last taken refuge beneath the foot of the conqueror. But Bonaparte succeeded in subjugating the hostile Bedouin tribes, as he had already subjugated the population of the cities. He sent one of his adjutants, General Croisier, with a corps of brave soldiers, into the desert to meet the emir of the hostile tribes, and Croisier won respect for the commands of his general. He succeeded in taking captive the whole body. A fearful sentence was inflicted on them. Before the eyes of their wives, their children, and their mothers, all the men of the tribe, more than five hundred in number, were killed and their heads put into sacks. The howling and weeping women and children were driven to Cairo. Many perished of hunger on the road, or died beneath the sabre-blows of their enemies; but more than a thousand succeeded in reaching Cairo. They were obliged to encamp upon the great square El Bekir, in the heart of Cairo, till the donkeys arrived which bore the dreadful spoils of victory in blood-dripping bags upon their backs. The whole population of Cairo was summoned to this gigantic square, and was obliged to look on while the sacks were opened and the bloody heads rolled out upon the sacred soil of Egypt.
After this time quiet reigned for a season. Horror had brought the conquered into subjection, and Bonaparte could continue his victorious course. He withdrew to Syria, taking with him Kleber and Kleber's young adjutant, the little Louis. He saw the horrors of war; he was there, the son of the Kings of France, when the army of the republic conquered the cities El Arish and Gaza; he took part by the side of Kleber in the storming of Jaffa. He was there when the captured Jaffa had to open its gates to the victors. He was there when, in the great caravansary, four thousand Turkish soldiers grounded their arms and surrendered themselves as prisoners, after receiving the promise that their lives should be spared. He was there, too, the son of Marie Antoinette, when the unfortunates were driven down to the sea-coast and shot, in order that their enemies might be rid of them. He was there, the son of Louis XVI., when Bonaparte visited the pest-house in Jaffa; he walked through the sick-rooms at the side of his uncle Kleber, who noticed how the face of the young man, which had so often been calm in meeting death on the battle-field or in the storm of assault, now quivered, and the paleness of death swept over his cheeks.
"What was the matter, my son?" asked Kleber, as he returned home from this celebrated visit to the pest-house. "Why did you turn pale all at once, Louis?"
"General," responded Louis, perplexed, "I know not how to answer."
"You ought not to have gone with me to the hospital," said Kleber, shaking his head. "You know I did not want you to go at first; but you insisted on it, and begged and implored so long that at last I had to yield and let you accompany us. But, I confess it myself, it was a dreadful sight, these sick people with their swollen bodies covered with blood and running sores. I understand now why you trembled and turned pale—you were afraid of this dreadful sickness?"
"No, general," answered Louis, softly—"no, I have no fear. Did you not notice that I sprang forward and assisted General Bonaparte, when he lifted up the poor sick man who lay on the floor before the door, and that I helped carry him into the room?"
"I saw it, Louis, and I was much pleased with your courage, and was therefore surprised afterward when you turned pale and trembled, and I saw tears in your eyes. What agitated you all at once so much?"
The young man slowly raised his head and looked at Kleber with his great blue eyes. "General," he said, softly, "I myself do not know what agitated me so much. We were both standing before the bed of a sick man, to whom I handed a pitcher of water which he begged for earnestly. He fixed his great eyes upon me, and his quivering lips murmured: 'God bless you! all saints and angels protect you!' As he spoke these words, there resounded in my heart the echo of a time long since past. It seemed to me as if suddenly a dark curtain parted, and I looked as in a dream at a wondrous, brilliant spectacle. I saw a beautiful and dignified woman of princely figure, of noble, majestic nature. With her I saw two children, a girl and a boy, whom she led by the hand, and with whom she walked through a long hall which was filled with rows of beds. And as she walked there, it seemed as if the sun lightened up the dismal hall, and illumined the pale faces of the sick ones. They raised themselves up in their beds and extended their thin, emaciated hands to the tall lady, and thanked her with earnest blessings for her visit and her comforting words. There was only one of the patients who did not rise, but lay stiff upon his bed and moaned and sighed and whispered unintelligible words, which no one heeded, because the attention of all was fixed upon the great visitor. But the boy who was walking by the side of the tall lady had understood the sobs of the sick one. He left his mother, took the jug which stood upon a table between two beds, filled a glass with water from it, and held it to the dry, quivering lips of the sick one. He drank greedily, and then fixed his eyes upon the boy and lisped the words: 'God bless you! all saints and angels protect you!' And all the people repeated aloud: 'God bless you, all saints and angels protect you!' The dignified lady stooped with a heavenly smile to her son, pressed a tender kiss upon his golden locks, and repeated the same words aloud. This, general, was the fantasy which suddenly appeared before my eyes when the patient spoke those words to-day. It seemed to me as if I perceived all at once a long-silent song of home. I heard the wonderful voice of the exalted lady who spoke those words. It seemed to me as if I felt the kiss which she then imprinted on the head of the five-year-old boy, felt it to my inmost heart, and it glowed there with the fire of an undying love, and shook my whole being, and filled my eyes with tears. You will not chide me for that, general, for those were the lips of my mother who pressed that kiss of blessing on her unhappy son."
He ceased, tears choked his utterance, and, as if ashamed of his deep emotion, he hid his face in his hands.
General Kleber turned away too, and put his hand over his eyes, as though a film had come over them. Then, after a long pause he gently laid his hand upon the shoulder of the young man, who was still sitting with covered face.
"Such memories are holy," he said, "and I honor them, my dear, faithful son. May the blessing which then fell from the lips of a woman whom I too knew and honored, but whose name may never be spoken between us, may it be fulfilled to you! May angels and saints protect you when men shall no longer have the power, and when fate shall separate you from those who have devoted their love and fidelity to you!"
The youth let his hands fall from his face, and looked at the general with a startled, searching glance.
"What do you mean, uncle? You do not mean to say that—"
"That we must part? Yes, my dear nephew, that is what I must say," interrupted Kleber, sadly. "This word has long been burning in my soul, and it is necessary that I speak it. Yes, we must part, Louis."
"Why, oh why?" asked Louis, bitterly. "Why will you too drive me away? You, the only one who loves me a little!"
"Exactly because I love you—exactly for that reason must I separate myself from you. Since we came to Egypt you have been sickly, your cheeks have become pale. The fulness of your limbs has gone, and the dry and hard cough that troubles you every morning has long made me anxious, as you know. On that account, after all the appliances of my physician failed, I applied, as you know, to the physician of the commanding general, to Corvisart, and he has subjected you to a thorough examination."
"It is true," said Louis, thoughtfully, "he has investigated me with the carefulness of a merchant who is about to buy a slave and means to test him. He made a hearing-trumpet of his ear and laid it on my breast, and listened while I had to breathe as if I were a volcano. He put his ear to my heart, he told me that his father had been physician at the French court, and that the murdered queen had a great deal of confidence in him, and then he wondered that my heart beat so violently while he told me this."
"And the result of all these investigations is, that you must return to Europe, Louis," said Kleber, sadly. "Corvisart had declared it an unavoidable necessity for your constitution, and the command of the physician must be obeyed as if it were the command of God. You cannot endure the climate of Egypt, so says Corvisart, and if your life is not to be shortened and you to be made a perpetual invalid, you must return to Europe as quickly as possible, for only there will you recover and grow strong. You see therefore, Louis, that I must separate from you, although it is a sore thing for me to do, for I love you as my own son, and I have no one in the world who is nearly related to me."
"And I, whom else have I in the world?" asked Louis, bitterly. "Who has interest in me excepting you? Ah, general, do not drive me from you. Believe me, it is better for me if for a few short and happy years I live at your side, and then breathe my last sigh in your faithful and tender arms, than if I have to wander solitary and friendless through the strange, cold world, where no one loves me, and where I shall always be surrounded by enemies, or by those who are indifferent. It may be that my body will gain health and strength in the air of Europe, but my heart will always be sick there, for it will lose its home when it shall have lost you, my fatherly friend."
General Kleber slowly shook his head. "In youth one sorrows and forgets it quickly."
"General, do you say that to me, after seeing me weep in the hospital because the word of a dying man called back the recollection of my earliest childhood? Oh, believe me, my heart forgets its sorrows never, and if I must return to France, to Paris, it will seem to me as if I had always to be climbing the hill of Calvary with bloody feet to reach the top where I might perish on the cross. For, believe me, general, my whole life will be nothing but such a wandering through scenes of pain if you drive me from the refuge that your love has offered me. Leave me here, let me live in secrecy and silence beneath the pinions of your love, and do not believe what the physicians tell you. Man's life lies in the hands of God, and if He will sustain it, it is as safe in the deserts of Egypt as in Paris, the capital of the world."
"Because God will sustain your life, Louis, for that very reason, He instructs me, through the voice of the physician, what my duty is, bids me conquer my own grief, and send the son of my heart to his distant home. No, Louis, it is a decided thing, we must part; you must return to France."
"And if it is true," asked Louis, bitterly, "if I am then really to return to France, why must we part? Why must I return without you? Why, if you really love me, do you not accompany me? I heard you say yesterday that several ships, with a part of our troops, were to return to France. Why, then, can you not go back with me?"
"Why?" asked Kleber, sadly. "I will tell you, Louis: because Bonaparte will not allow it. Listen, my son, I will communicate a secret to you: there has news come within the last few days, the first that we have received for ten months. The newspapers which have arrived bring very unwelcome intelligence; they inform us that all the advantages gained in Italy by the French army have been lost—that France is arrayed against Austria, Spain, and all the European powers—that the French Government is threatened by internal factions, which threaten to bring back the reign of terror. I watched Bonaparte's face as he read these papers, and I saw there what he was resolved to do. He will, as soon as he shall gain one more great victory, leave Egypt and return to France."
"He will not return without you, the faithfulest and boldest of his generals. You know well that you are called the right-hand man of Bonaparte."
"Bonaparte means to show the world that he is not only the head, but the right arm too, the heart, the foot, the soul of the French army! And because he means to show this, he will return alone to France; only a few of his faithful subordinates will accompany him; the men who might even oppose him, and put hinderances in the path of his growing ambition, will remain here. Now do you believe that Bonaparte will select me to accompany him?"
The young man let his head fall slowly on his breast. "No," he said, softly, "no, I do not believe he will."
"And I know he will not," replied Kleber. "I shall remain here in Egypt, and die here! Hush! Do not contradict me; there are presentiments which do not mislead us, and which God sends to us, that we may shape our course by them, and set our house in order. My house is set in order—my will is made; I have given it to Bonaparte, and he has solemnly sworn to carry it into execution in all respects. Only one care is left me—to provide for your immediate future, and to arrange that yon may reach France."
"You adhere to this?" asked Louis, sadly.
"Yes, I abide by this; you must not run away from your own future, and this will, I trust, be a brilliant one. All tokens indicate that France is wearied with the republic, and that it is perhaps nearly ready to restore the throne of the Lilies. Young man, shall this reestablished throne fall into the hands of that man who contributed so much to its downfall—who was the calumniator, the secret enemy of Queen Marie Antoinette? Would you consent that the Count de Provence should be King of France?"
"No, never!" cried Louis, with blazing eyes and naming face. "That never can be; for, before the brother of Louis XVI. can ascend the throne as Louis XVIII., his rightful predecessor, Louis XVII., must have died."
"He has died, and the French government has placed in its archives the certificate of the death of Louis Charles Capet, signed by the physicians and the servants of the Temple. My son, in order to prevent the Count de Provence acknowledging this certificate as genuine, you must be prepared to place before him and the world other testimonials that Louis XVII. is not dead. This is a sacred offering which you must make to the manes of the unfortunate Marie Antoinette, even if the stake were not a throne and a crown!"
"You are right," cried Louis, with enthusiasm, "my whole life shall be devoted to this sacred trust; it shall have no other aim than this: to avenge Marie Antoinette of the most cruel of her enemies, the Count de Provence, and to place the son, whom, after the death of her husband, she acknowledged as King of France, on the throne which really belongs to him, and not to the Count de Provence! You are right, general, I must return to Europe; I must carry to Prance the papers which show that Louis XVII. did not die in the Temple, but was released. I am ready to go, and to endure the pain of parting from you."
"May God grant that we may both be compensated for this pain!" replied Kleber, embracing the young man tenderly. "There remain to us a few weeks to be together. Let us use them so that they shall afford us many cheerful recollections. Bonaparte will not leave Egypt before adding one more glory to his reputation. He does not mean to return to France as the conquered, but as the conqueror!"
General Kleber was right. He knew Bonaparte sufficiently well to be able to read his countenance; he understood the dumb speech of the Caesar of the age.
Bonaparte wanted to gain one great battle, in order to return to Europe with glory. He gained it at Aboukir, winning the day in a contest with the united Turks and English—one of the most signal victories that he had ever won. Eight thousand prisoners were taken on that 21st of July, 1799. Four thousand lay dead upon the battle- field, and as many were sunk in the captured and destroyed ships of the English. On the day after the battle the foam of the waves was tipped with blood along the shore.
Bonaparte himself conducted the whole battle, and personally gained the victory. At the moment when the contest seemed doubtful, he assumed command of a cavalry regiment, advanced upon the Turkish pacha, and by his heroic courage kindled all the army afresh. Even General Kleber could not disguise his admiration of the hero of Aboukir; and when, at the close of the battle, he met Bonaparte on the field, he embraced him with passionate tenderness. "General," he cried, with enthusiasm, "you are as great as the world; but the world is not great enough for you!" [Footnote: Denon, Mtooires, vol. i., p. 349.]
The victory that Bonaparte desired was thus won, and he could return with honor to Prance. He made secret preparations for his journey thither, fitting up two ships, which were to carry him and his companions. The army was to hear of his departure only after he had gone; but, much as he desired to keep the thing secret, there were some who had to know of it, and among them, happily, was General Kleber. Bonaparte had chosen him as his successor, and therefore he must be informed respecting the condition of affairs before the head of the army should withdraw. On the same day when this communication took place, Kleber repaired to General Desaix, who was his intimate friend, and from whom he learned that he was to be one of Bonaparte's companions on the return. The two generals had a prolonged secret interview, and at the close of it they both went to Kleber's house, and entered the room of his adjutant Louis. General Desaix bowed with great deference to the young man, who, blushing at the honor which so distinguished a general paid him, extended his hand to him. Desaix pressed a kiss upon it, and from his eyes, unused to tears, there fell a drop upon the young man's hand.
"General," cried Louis, in amazement, "what are you doing?"
"I am paying my homage to misfortune and to the past," said Desaix, solemnly, "and the tear which I drop on your hand is the seal of my fidelity and silence in the future. Young man, I swear to you that I will cherish your secret in my heart as a hallowed treasure, and will defend with my life's blood the papers which your uncle, General Kleber, has intrusted to my care this day. I am a soldier of the republic, I have pledged my fidelity to her, and must and shall keep it. I cannot become a partisan; but I shall always be the protector of misfortune, and a helper in time of need. Trust me in this, and accept me as your friend."
"I do accept you, general," said Louis, gently, "and if I do not promise to love you just as tenderly as I love my uncle, General Kleber, who has been to me father, brother, and protector, and to whom I owe every thing, yet, I can assure you, that, after him, there is no one whom I will love as I shall you, and there is no one in Europe who can contend with you for my love. I am very poor in friends, and yet I feel that my heart is rich in love that no one desires now."
"Preserve that possession well, my son," said Kleber, as he took leave of his son, and laid his hand on the head of the young man. "Preserve your heart tender and loving, for if Fate is just, it may one day be for the advantage of a whole nation that you are so, and the heart of the man be the mediator between the people and its king! Farewell, my son; we see each other to-day for the last time, for in this very hour you will go to your ship with Desaix. It may be that the ships will sail this very night, and if so, well! A quick and unlooked-for separation mitigates the pains of parting. You will soon have overcome them, and when you reach Paris, the past will sink behind you into the sea."
"Never, oh, never!" cried Louis, with emotion. "I shall never forget my benefactor, my second father!"
"My son, one easily forgets in Paris, and especially when he goes thither for the purpose of creating a new future out of the ruins of the past! But I shall never forget you; and if my presentiment should not deceive me, and I should soon die, you will learn after my death that I have loved you as a son. Now go, and I say to you, as another loved voice once said to you, and as the sick and the dying once repeated it to you, 'God bless you! All saints and angels protect you!'"
They remained locked in their tender embrace, and then parted—never to meet again!
That very night, before the morning began to dawn, General Desaix started, accompanied by his adjutant Louis, and a few servants. Their first goal was Alexandria, whither the command of General Bonaparte summoned them and a few others.
The proposed journey of the commanding general was still a carefully concealed secret, and the divan in Cairo had merely been informed that Bonaparte was planning to undertake a short journey in the Delta.
On the 22d of August, 1799, an hour after midnight, two French frigates left the harbor of Alexandria. On board of one of them was Bonaparte, the emperor of the future;—on the other was Louis Charles, the king of the past. Nameless and unknown, the descendant of the monarchs of France, with his sixteen years, returned to France —to France, that seemed no longer to remember its past, its kings, and to have no thoughts, no love, no admiration for aught excepting that new, brilliant constellation which had arisen over France-Bonaparte.
He had returned from Egypt to regain Italy, but he found other work awaiting him in Paris. This he brought to completion with the energy and boldness which characterized all his dealings. By a prompt stroke he put an end to the constitution which had prevailed till then, abrogated the Convention and the Council of Five Hundred, and gave the French republic a new constitution, putting at the head of the government three consuls, Sieyes, Roger Ducos, and himself. But these three consuls were intended to be a mere transition, a mere step forward in the victorious march of Bonaparte. After a few weeks they were superseded, and Bonaparte became the First Consul and the head of France.
On the 25th of December, 1799, France hailed General Bonaparte as the First Consul of the French republic. A new century was dawning, and with the beginning of this new century the gates of the Tuileries, the deserted palace of kings, opened to a new possessor. Bonaparte, the First Consul, took up his residence there; and in the first spring of the new century the consul, accompanied by Josephine, removed to St. Cloud for summer quarters. The park of Queen Marie Antoinette was given by the French nation to the First Consul; and in the apartments where the queen with her son Louis Charles and her daughter Theresa once dwelt, Josephine, with her son Eugene and her daughter Hortense, now abode.
"I would I had remained in Egypt," sighed the dauphin often, when in the silence and solitude of his apartment he surrendered himself to his recollections and dreams. "It had been better to die young in a foreign land, while all the stars of hope were beaming above me, than to protract a miserable, obscure life here, and see all the stars fade out one by one!"
Yes, the stars of hope were paling one by one for the son of King Louis. No one thought of him, no one believed in him. He had died in the Temple, that was all that any one wanted to know. The dead was lamented by all, the living would have been unwelcome to any. He had died and been buried, little King Louis XVII., and no one spoke of him more.
The only subject of men's talk was the glory and greatness of the First Consul. The beauty and grace of Josephine were celebrated in the same halls which had once resounded with the praises of fair Queen Marie Antoinette. The half million lovers who had once bowed to Marie were now devoted to Josephine, and paid their homage to her with the same enthusiasm with which they had before worshipped the queen. The son of the general who once had given the oath of fidelity to King Louis XVI., the son of General Beauharnais, is now the adopted son of the ruler of France; while the son of the king must secrete himself and remain without name, rank, and title. It is his good fortune that Desaix is there to pity the forsaken one, and to give him a place in his home and his heart. No one else knows him; he is the adjutant of General Desaix, that is his only rank and title.
But he still remained the nephew of General Kleber, who had been left in Egypt, and who, at the end of the century, gained a decisive victory at Heliopolis over the Turks and Mamelukes. He remained the nephew of General Kleber, and at the end of the year 1800 the frigate l'Aigle, on its return from Egypt, brought a great packet for General Desaix. It contained many papers of value, many rolls of gold-pieces, besides gems and pearls. But; it also contained a sealed black document directed to the adjutant of General Desaix. This document contained the will of Kleber, commander-in-chief of the French army in Egypt. He had given it to General Menou, together with his papers and valuables, with the intimation that directly after his death they should all be sent to General Desaix in France. General Menou followed this instruction, for Kleber was dead. The murderous bullet of a Mameluke killed him on the 14th of June, 1800. His will was the last evidence of his love for his nephew Louis, whom he designated as his only heir, and Kleber was rich through inherited wealth as well as the spoils of war.