"You must live," said Fouche, "for your death would bring joy to those who were the bitter enemies of Queen Marie Antoinette, and who would be your mocking heirs. Will you grant to the Count de Lille the uncontested right of calling himself Louis XVIII.?—the Count de Lille, who caused Marie Antoinette to shed so many tears."
The prince flamed up at this, and his eyes flashed.
"No," he cried, "the Count de Lille shall not have this joy. He shall not rest his curse-laden head upon the pillow with the calm consciousness that he will be the king of the future. My vision shall disturb his sleep, and the possibility that I shall return and demand my own again, shall be the terror that shall keep peace far from him. You are right, madame, I must live. The spirit of Marie Antoinette hovers over me, and demands that I live, and by my life avenge her of her most bitter enemy. Let it be so, then. Tell me, Fouche, whither shall I go? Where shall the poor criminal hide himself, whose only offence lies in this, that he is alive, and that he is the son of his father? Where is there a cave in which the poor hunted game can hide himself from the hounds?"
"Sire, you must away, away into foreign lands. The arm of the First Consul is powerful, and his eagle eye scans all Europe, and would discover you at any point."
"You must for the present find a home beyond the sea," said Fouche, approaching nearer. "I have already taken measures which will allow you to do so. There are ships sailing southward from Marseilles every day, and in one of these you must go to America. America is the land of freedom, of adventures, and of great deeds. You will there find sufficient occupation for your spirit and for your love of work."
"It is true," said Louis, with a bitter smile; "I will go to America. I will find a refuge with the savages. Perhaps they will appoint me as their chieftain, and adorn my head with a crown of feathers instead of the crown of gold. Yes, I will go to America, In the primeval forests, with the children of nature, there will be a home for the exile, the homeless one. Madame, I thank you for your sympathy and your goodness, and my thanks shall consist in this, that I subject myself wholly to your will. You loved Queen Marie Antoinette. A blessing on you, and all who love you."
He extended both his hands to Josephine, and, as she was about to press them to her lips, he stooped toward her with a sad smile.
"Madame, bless my poor brow with the touch of those lips which once kissed the hand of my mother."
Josephine did as she was asked, and a tear fell from her eyes upon his fair hair.
"Go, sire," she said, "and may God bless and protect you! If you ever need my help, call upon me, and be sure that I will never neglect your voice."
An hour later the wife of the First Consul drove out to St. Cloud. At the corner of the Rue St. Honore a second carriage joined her own, and a young man who sat in it greeted Josephine deferentially as she leaned far out of the carriage to return his salute.
At the barriers the carriage stopped, for the gates of the city were still closed. But Josephine beckoned the officer of the guard to her carriage, and, fortunately, he knew the wife of the First Consul.
"It is not necessary," said Josephine, with a charming smile, "it is not necessary that I should procure a permit from the First Consul to allow myself and my escort to pass the gate? You do not suppose that I and my secretary, who sits in the next carriage, belong to the villains who threaten the life of my husband?"
The officer, enchanted with the grace of Josephine, bowed low, and commanded the guard instantly to open the gate and allow the two carriages to pass.
And so the son of the queen was saved. For the second time he left Paris, to go forth as an exile and an adventurer to meet his fate.
AFTER LONG WANDERINGS.
For the city of Paris the 16th of February, 1804, was a day of terror. The gates remained closed the whole day, military patrols passed through the streets, at whose corners the proclamations were posted, by which Murat, the governor of Paris, announced to the city that fifty assassins were within the walls, intent on taking the life of the First Consul.
The condemned surgeon, Querolle, had, meantime, made his confession, and named the heads of the conspiracy and their accomplices, and, only after all the persons mentioned by him were arrested, were the gates of the city opened.
A great trial then commenced of the men who had been sent by the Bourbons for this nefarious purpose. Among the accused were General Pichegru, the abettor of Georges, and General Moreau, the most prominent of all.
The history of this trial was enveloped in obscurity, and it was faintly whispered that Pichegru had taken his own life in prison, and more faintly yet was it rumored that he was secretly dispatched in prison. And then, on one of these days, there were to be seen through all Paris only pale, sad faces, and a murmur of horror ran through all the streets and all the houses.
The story was current that the Duke d'Enghien, the grandson of the Prince de Conde, had been arrested by French soldiers at Baden, beyond the frontier, and had been brought to Vincennes; that he was accused there that same night of being an accomplice in a plot to take the life of the First Consul, and to disturb the peace of the republic; that he was quickly condemned by a court-martial, and shot before morning within the fortress of Vincennes.
The report was only too true. Bonaparte had kept his word; he had sacrificed a royal victim to the threatened cause of the republic; he would, by one deed of horror, fill the conspirators with fear, and cause them to abandon their bloody plans.
The means employed were cruel, but the end was reached which Bonaparte hoped to attain, and thenceforth there were no more conspiracies against the life of the First Consul, who, on the 18th of May, that same year, declared himself emperor.
A few days after this, the public trial of the accused began, which Fouche attended as the reinstalled minister of police, and over which Regnier presided in his new capacity of chief judge.
Seventeen of those indicted were condemned to death, others to years of imprisonment, and among these was General Moreau. But the popular voice declared itself so loudly and energetically for the brave general of the republic, that it was considered expedient to heed it. Moreau was released from prison, and went to the Spanish frontier, whence he sailed to North America.
On the 25th of June, twelve of the conspirators, Georges at their head, were executed; the other five, who had been condemned to death, had their sentence commuted to banishment.
The gentle, kind-hearted Josephine viewed all these things with sadness, for her power over the heart of her husband was waning, and the sun of her glory had set. Her prayers and tears had no longer a prevailing influence over Bonaparte, and she had not been able to avert the death of the Duke d'Enghien.
"I have tried all means," she said, with tears, to Bourrienne, the chief secretary of the emperor; "I wanted at any cost to turn him aside from his dreadful intention. He had not apprised me of it, but you know in what way I learned it. At my request he confessed to me his purpose, but he was steeled against my prayers. I clang to him, I fell on my knees before him. 'Do not meddle with what is none of your business!' he cried, angrily, as he pushed me away from him. 'These are not women's affairs—leave me in peace.' And so I had to let the worst come, and could do nothing to hinder it. But afterward, when all was over, Bonaparte was deeply affected, and for several days he remained sad and silent, and scolded me no more when he found me in tears." [Footnote: Bourrienne, "Memoires du Consulat et de l'Empire."]
The days passed by, the days of splendor, and then followed for Josephine the days of misery and grief. Repelled by Napoleon, she mourned four years over her spurned love and her ruined fortunes; but then, when Napoleon's star went down, when he was robbed of his imperial crown and compelled to leave France, Josephine's heart broke, and she hid herself in her grave, in order not to witness Napoleon's humiliation.
And thus the empire was abolished, and the Count de Lille called back by foreign potentates, and not by the French nation, in order, as Louis XVIII., to reerect the throne of the Lilies.
And where, all this time, was the son of Queen Marie Antoinette? Where was Louis XVII.?
He had kept his word which he gave to Josephine. He had gone to the primeval forests and to the savages, and they had given him a crown of feathers and made him their king.[Footnote: "Memoires du Due de Normandie," pp. 89-102.] For years he lived among them, honored as their king, loved as their hero. Then a longing for his country seized him, and going to Brazil in the service of his people, he made use of the opportunity to enter into a contract with Don Juan, and not return to his copper-colored tribe. The precious treasure which he possessed, his papers, he had been able to preserve during all the journeys and amid all the perils of his life, and these papers procured him a hospitable and honorable reception with Don Juan. From him the king without name or inheritance learned the changes that had meanwhile taken place in France, and, at the first opportunity which offered, he returned to Europe, arriving at Paris in the middle of the year 1816.
The Prince de Conde, now the Duke de Bourbon, received the wanderer with tenderness, but with deep regret, for now it was too late, and his hope for a restoration of the returning prince could rest on no basis. The Count de Provence was now King Louis XVIII., and never would he descend from his throne to give back to the son of Marie Antoinette that crown which he wore with so much satisfaction and pride.
Much more simple and easy was it to treat the pretender as a lunatic or as an adventurer, and to set his claims aside forever. Useless were all the letters which the Baron de Richemont, the name that Louis still bore, addressed to his uncle the king, to his sister the Duchess de Angouleme, imploring them for an interview. No answer was received. No audience was granted to this adventurer, whose claims could not be recognized without dethroning Louis XVIII., and destroying the prospects of the crown for the duchess's son, the Duke de Berri. Louis XVII. had died and he could not return to the living. He saw it, he knew it, and a deep sorrow took possession of him. But he rose above it—he would not die; he would live, a terror and an avenger to his cruel relatives.
But it was a restless life that the son of the queen must lead, in order to protect himself from the daggers of his powerful enemies. The Prince de Conde conjured him to secure himself against the attacks which were made more than once upon the Baron de Richemont, and Louis gave heed to his requests and tears. He travelled abroad; but after returning in two years from a journey in Asia and Africa, on landing on the Italian coast, he was arrested in 1818, at the instigation of the Austrian ambassador at Mantua, and confined in the prison of Milan.
Seven years the unhappy prince spent in the Austrian prison, without once being summoned before a judge—seven years of solitude, of darkness, and of want. But the son of Marie Antoinette had learned in his youth to bear these things, and his prison-life in Milan was not so cruel as that in the Temple under Simon. Here there were at least sympathizing souls who pitied him; even the turnkeys of the prison were courteous and kind when they entered the cell of the "King of France;" and one day, beyond the wall of his apartment, was heard a voice singing, in gentle, melodious tones, a romanza which Louis had composed, and written on the wall when he occupied the neighboring cell.
This voice, which sounded like a greeting from the world, was that of Silvio Pellico. The celebrated author of "Le Mie Prigioni," relates in touching words this salutation of his neighbor:
"My bed was carried," he said, "into the new cell that was prepared for me, and as soon as the inspectors had left me alone, my first care was to examine the walls. There were to be seen there some words, recollections of the past, written with chalk, with pencil, or with a sharp tool. I found there also two pretty French lines, which I am sorry I did not copy. I began to sing them to my melody of 'The Poor Mugdalen,' when a voice near me responded with another air. When the singer ended, I called out, 'Bravo!' He replied with a polite salutation, and asked me if I was French.
"'No, I am Italian, and am called Silvio Pellico.'
"'The author of Francesca da Rimini?'
"'Yes, the same.'
"And now there followed a courtly compliment, with the usual regrets for my imprisonment. He asked in what part of Italy I was born, and when I told him in Saluzzo, in Piedmont, he awarded the Piedmontese some words of high praise, and spoko particularly of Bodoni (a celebrated printer, director of the national printing establishment at Parma). His compliments were brief and discriminating, and disclosed a finely cultivated mind.
"'And now, sir,' said I, 'allow me to ask you who you are.'
"'You were just singing a song that I wrote.'
"'These pretty verses here upon the wall, are they yours?'
"'Yes, they are.'
"'You are therefore—'
"'The Duke de Normandie.'
"The watchman was just then walking past my window and so I was still. After some time we resumed our conversation. When I asked whether he was Louis XVII., he responded in the affirmative, and began to declaim hotly against Louis XVIII. his uncle, the usurper of his rights.
"I implored him to give me his history in brief outlines. He did so, and related to me all the details connected with the life of Louis XVII., which I knew only in part. He told me how he had been imprisoned with Simon the cobbler, been compelled to sign a calumniating charge against his mother, etc. He then related to me the story of his escape and his flight to America, of his return to reclaim the throne of his fathers, and his arrest in Mantua.
"He portrayed his history with extraordinary life. All the incidents of the French Revolution were present before him; he spoke with natural eloquence, and wove in piquant anecdotes very apropos. His manner of expression smacked once in a while of the soldier, but there was no lack of the elegance that disclosed his intercourse with good society.
"'Will you allow me,' I asked him, 'to treat you as a friend and leave off all titles?'
"'I want exactly that, 'he answered. 'Misfortune has taught me the good lesson to despise all the vanities of earth. Believe me, my pride does not lie in this, that I am a king, but that I am a man.'
"After this we had long conversations mornings and evenings, and I recognized in him a noble, beautiful soul, sensitive to all that is good. He knew how to win hearts, and even the turnkeys were kind to him. One of them said to me on coming from the cell of my neighbor: 'I have strong hopes that he will make me chief porter when he is king; I have had the boldness to ask him for the position, and he has promised it.'
"To the veneration of the turnkeys for the king of the future I owe it that one day when I was led to trial, and had to pass by his cell, they opened the doors that I might see my illustrious friend. He was of medium size, from forty to forty-five years of age, somewhat embonpoint, and had a thoroughly Bourbon physiognomy." [Footnote: Silvio Pellico, "Le Mie Prigioni," p. 51 et seq. An examination of Silvio Pellico's work will convince the reader that Silvio Pellico was by no means a believer in the genuineness of his companion's claims. Miss Muhlbach seems to have been scarcely just in leaving the impression conveyed in the text.-TB.]
After seven years of imprisonment, the gates opened at last for the Baron de Richemont; and he who had been placed there without the sentence of a judge, was released with as little show of authority. The son of the queen was free again; the death of King Louis XVIII. had restored him to the walks of men. But another King of France assumed his place at once; the Count d'Artois ascended the throne under the title of Charles X.
The poor Baron de Richemont bore his sorrows and his humiliation into the valleys of Switzerland. But when, in the year 1830, King Charles X. abdicated the throne, the son of Marie Antoinette again came forth from his solitude, issued a proclamation to the French people, and, in the presence of all Europe, demanded his inheritance.
Yet, amid the clash of weapons and the roar of revolutions, the voice of the unfortunate prince was overborne. He had no soldiers, no cannon, to enforce silence and make himself be heard. But the Duke d'Orleans, Louis Philippe, had soldiers and cannon; and the arms of his dependants, and the magic of his wealth, placed him upon the throne in July, 1830. [Footnote: It was the 9th of August.—Tr.]
The poor Baron de Richemont, the son of kings, the last of the Bourbons in France, had now a single friend, who, perhaps, would receive him. This friend was the Duke de Bourbon—Conde, now an old man of eighty years. One day, some weeks after the accession of Louis Philippe, the Duke de Bourbon received at his palace of St. Leu a gentleman whom nobody knew, who announced himself as the Baron de Richemont.
The duke went out into the anteroom, greeted his guest with the greatest deference, and led him into his cabinet. There the two gentlemen carried on a long and earnest conversation, and the secretary of the duke, who was at work in the library hard by, distinctly heard his master say, with trembling tones: "Sire, I implore you, forgive me. The circumstances were stronger than my will. Sire, go not into judgment with me—forgive me."
To this an angry voice replied: "No, I will not forgive you, for you have dealt perfidiously with the son, as you did once with the mother! You have not redeemed the oath that you once gave me. I leave you. May God be gracious to you, and pardon you. Take care that He does not punish you for the treachery that you have shown to me. You swore that you would acknowledge no other king but me, and yet you have taken your oath to the third king. Farewell! May the Almighty protect you! We shall see each other, perhaps, in a better world, and there you will have to give your account to a Judge whom nothing can mitigate. Be happy, and may the dead sleep in peace!" [Footnote: The very words of Richemont.—See "Memoires du Duc de Normandie," p. 243.]
The secretary then heard the forcible closing of a door, and all became still. After an hour he entered the duke's cabinet, because the silence troubled him. The old duke sat in his arm-chair, pale, and gazing with constant looks at the door through which the stranger had departed. He was reticent the whole day, and in the night following his valet heard him softly praying and weeping. On the next morning, August 27th, 1830, on entering the sleeping-room of his master, he found him dead and already rigid. The duke had hanged himself at the window of his own room.
The last dependant of the unhappy king, who still bore the name of the pretender, was dead, as were all his relations, including his sister, the Duchess d'Angouleme.
But from the dead there came a greeting. She had ordered a large sum to be paid yearly to the Baron de Richemont, and the report was that she had wished to recognize him on her death-bed as her brother. But her confessor had counselled her that such a recognition would introduce new contentions among the Bourbons, and give the pretender Henry V. equal claims with Louis XVII.
Yet the Duke de Normandie was not silent; he spoke so loudly of his rights that Louis Philippe at last held it advisable to arrest him and bring him to trial. The preliminary investigation continued fifteen months; then he was brought before the court, and accused of conspiracy against the safety of the state.
The Gazette des Tribunaux of the 3d, 4th, and 5th of November, 1834, gave the details of this trial. Spectators poured in from all sides, and also, in an unexpected manner, witnesses who declared themselves ready to prove the identity of the Baron de Richemont with the Duke de Normandie, son of Louis XVI. The accused appeared entirely calm and dignified before the bar, and when the counsel for the government accused him of appropriating a name that did not belong to him, he asked quietly,
"Gentlemen, if I am not Louis XVII., will you tell me who I am?"
No one knew how to reply to this question; but many eminent legitimists had come to solemnly declare that the accused was in truth their king, and that he was the rescued orphan of the Temple.
Even the president of the court seemed to be convinced of this, and his closing words in addressing the jury were these: "Gentlemen, who is the accused who stands before you to-day? What is his name, his lineage, his family? What are his antecedents, his whole history? Is he an instrument of the enemies of France, or is he, much more, an unfortunate who has miraculously escaped the horrors of a bloody revolution, and, laid under bans by his birth, has now no name and no refuge for his head?"
The jury, however, were not called upon to answer this question; they had simply to reply to the question whether the accused was guilty of a conspiracy against the state. This they answered with a "Guilty," and condemned the accused to an imprisonment of twelve years.
The Duke de Normandie, or King Louis Charles, as we may choose to call him, was taken to St. Pelagic; but during the next year, through the assistance of powerful friends, which his trial had gained over to him, he was released from prison, and again spent some quiet years in Switzerland.
Then came the year 1848, the year of revolutions, whose storm-waves drove Louis Philippe to England, never to ascend again the throne of France.
Again Louis Charles issued from his solitude, and this time not alone. A swarm of rich and powerful legitimists thronged around him, a journal—L'Iflexible—was secured to the interests of the Duke do Normandie, and La Vendee, with a thousand loyal voices, summoned King Louis XVII. to herself. There, as he was on the point of hastening to his faithful ones, God laid his hand upon him and held him back; a stroke of paralysis crippled his limbs. After recovering from this attack, the strength of his mind was taken away, and the decided, fiery, indefatigable pretender became a gentle, pious monk, who fasted and prayed, and wandered to Rome to have an interview with Pope Pius IX., and received absolution from him for all his sins.
The pope met the Duke de Normandie at Gaeta on the 20th of February, 1849, and had a long and secret conversation with him; and, when Louis Charles withdrew, it was as a quiet, pious, smiling man, who never denied his high extraction, but who had no longer a wish to be restored to the inheritance of his fathers. More and more he withdrew from the world, and lived only in the circle of a few noble-born legitimists, who never addressed him excepting as "sire." He accepted the title as one that was his due, and never refused it even when approached by many adherents of the new Napoleonic dynasty. At that time he wrote to his friends:
"You ask me what I wish, what the end of my struggle is, which has now lasted more than a half century? I will tell you. You do not suppose, I trust, that I am still determined to ascend the throne of France: to do this would be a great misfortune for me, but it would certainly be a greater one for France, and it would rightly be said of both of us that we merit our misfortune; still less do I hope to attain to wealth and high station by being recognized. You know that I need very little for my support, and that this little is amply provided for. What else should I strive for? To avenge myself? My friend, I am at an age when the blood flows slower through the veins, and when one finds an inexpressible charm in forgiving. What, then, do I wish? What could I have? Why do I incessantly strive? This is the reason, my friend: I should like, before my death, to convince all who have disinterestedly believed in me, that it is not a political adventurer, but the royal 'orphan of the Temple,' who owes them his friendship, and gives them his gratitude."
And this last goal of his life was within his reach. The friends and legitimists who surrounded him believed in him, and when he died his dependants and servants mourned for him as for a departed king. They bore him with solemn pomp to his grave, at the dead of night.
Some fifty persons followed his coffin, and a priest went before it. He was buried in the churchyard of Villefranche, and his tombstone bears the following inscription:
Here rests Louis Charles of France Born at Versailles, March 27, 1785. Died in the Chateau of Vaux-Renaud, August 10, 1858.