Like storm-birds, desirous to be the first to announce to Paris the triumph of the populace, and impatient of the slow progress of the royal train, these heralds of victory, bearing their bloody banner, hastened on in advance of the procession to Paris. In Sevres they made a halt—not to rest, or wait for the oncoming train—but to have the hair of the two heads dressed by friseurs, in order, as Jourdan announced with fiendish laughter to the yelling mob, that they might make their entrance into the city as fine gentlemen.
While before them and behind them these awful cries, loud singing and laughing resounded, within the carriage that conveyed the royal family there was unbroken silence. The king sat leaning back in the corner, with his eyes closed, in order not to see the horrid forms which from time to time approached the window of the carriage, to stare in with curious looks, or with mocking laughter and equivoques, to heap misery on the unfortunate family.
The queen, however, sat erect, with proud, dignified bearing, courageously looking the horrors of the day in the face, and not a quiver of the eyelids, nor a sigh, betraying the pain that tortured her soul.
"No, better die than grant to this triumphing rabble the pleasure of seeing what I suffer! Better sink with exhaustion than complain."
Not a murmur, not a sigh, came from her lips; and yet, when the dauphin, after four hours of this sad journey, turned with a supplicatory expression to his mother, and said to her with his sweet voice, "Mamma queen, I am hungry," the proud expression withdrew from the features of the queen, and two great tears slowly ran down over her cheeks.
At last, after a ride of eight hours, the frightful train reached Paris. Not a window in all the streets through which the royal procession went was empty. In amazement and terror the people of the middle class gazed at this hitherto unseen spectacle—the King and the Queen of France brought in triumph to the capital by the lowest people in the city! A dumb fear took possession of those who hitherto had tried to ignore the revolution, and supposed that every thing would subside again into the old, wonted forms. Now, no one could entertain this hope longer; now, the most timid must confess that a revolution had indeed come, and that people must accustom themselves to look at it eye to eye.
Slowly the train moved forward—slowly down the quay which extends along by the garden of the Tuileries. The loungers who were in the garden hurried to the fence, which then bordered the park on the side of the quay, in order to watch this frightful procession from this point: to see an unbridled populace dash in pieces the prescriptive royalty of ages.
Scorn and the love of destruction were written on most of the faces of these observers, but many were pale, and many quivered with anger and grief. In the front ranks of the spectators stood two young men, one of them in simple civilian's costume, the other in the uniform of a sub-lieutenant. The face of the young officer was pale, but it lightened up with rare energy; and with his noble, antique profile, and flaming eyes, it enchanted every look, and fixed the attention of every one who observed him.
As the howling, roaring mob passed him, the young officer turned to his companion with an expression of fiery indignation. "0 God," he cried, "how is this possible? Has the king no cannon to destroy this canaille? " [Footnote: His own words.—See Beauchesne, vol. i.,p. 85.]
"My friend," answered the young man, smiling, "remember the words of our great poet Corneille: 'The people give the king his purple and take it back when they please. The beggar, king only by the people's grace, simply gives back his purple to the people.' "
"Ah!" cried the young lieutenant, smiling, "what once has been received should be firmly held. I, at least, if I had once received the purple by the people's grace, would not give it back. But come, let us go on, it angers me to see this canaille, upon which you bestow the fine name of 'the people.'" He hastily grasped the arm of his friend, and turned to a more solitary part of the garden of the Tuileries.
This young sub-lieutenant, who saw with such indignation this revolutionary procession pass him, and whom destiny had appointed one day to bring this revolution to an end—this young lieutenant's name was Napoleon Bonaparte.
The young man who walked at his side, and whom, too, destiny had appointed to work a revolution, although only in the theatrical world, to recreate the drama—this young man's name was Talma.
"Every thing passes over, every thing has an end; one must only have courage and think of that," said Marie Antoinette, with a gentle smile, as on the morning after her arrival in Paris, she had risen from her bed and drunk her chocolate in the improvised sitting-room. "Here we are installed in the Tuileries, and have slept, while we yesterday were thinking we were lost, and that only death could give us rest and peace again."
"It was a fearful day," said Madame de Campan, with a sigh, "but your majesty went through it like a heroine."
"Ah, Campan," said the queen, sadly, "I have not the ambition to want to be a heroine, and I should be very thankful if it were allowed me from this time on to be a wife and mother, if it is no longer allowed me to be a queen."
At this instant the door opened; the little dauphin, followed by his teacher, the Abbe Davout, ran in and flew with extended arms to Marie Antoinette.
"Oh, mamma queen!" cried he, with winning voice, "let us go back again to our beautiful palace; it is dreadful here in this great, dark house."
"Hush, my child, hush!" said the queen, pressing the boy close to her. "You must not say so; you must accustom yourself to be contented everywhere."
"Mamma queen," whispered the child, tenderly nestling close to his mother, "it is true it is dreadful here, but I will always say it so low that nobody except you can hear. But tell me, who owns this hateful house? And why do we want to stay here, when we have such a fine palace and a beautiful garden in Versailles?"
"My son," answered the queen with a sigh, "this house belongs to us, and it is a beautiful and famous palace. You ought not to say that it does not please you, for your renowned great-grandfather, the great Louis XIV., lived here, and made this palace celebrated all over Europe."
"Yet I wish that we were away from here," whispered the dauphin, casting his large blue eyes with a prolonged and timid glance through the wide, desolate room, which was decorated sparingly with old-fashioned, faded furniture.
"I wish so, too," sighed Marie Antoinette, to herself; but softly as she had spoken the words, the sensitive ear of the child had caught them.
"You, too, want to go?" asked Louis Charles, in amazement. "Are you not queen now, and can you not do what you want to?"
The queen, pierced to the very heart by the innocent question of the child, burst into tears.
"My prince," said the Abbe Davout, turning to the dauphin, "you see that you trouble the queen, and her majesty needs rest. Come, we will take a walk."
But Marie Antoinette put both her arms around the child and pressed its head with its light locks to her breast.
"No," she said, "no, he does not trouble me. Let me weep. Tears do me good. One is only unfortunate when she can no longer weep; when— but what is that?" she eagerly asked, rising from her easy-chair. "What does that noise mean?"
And in very fact in the street there were loud shouting and crying, and intermingled curses and threats.
"Mamma," cried the dauphin, nestling close up to the queen, "is to- day going to be just like yesterday?" [Footnote: The very words of the dauphin.—See Beauchesne, vol. i.]
The door was hastily opened, and the king entered.
"Sire," asked Marie, eagerly advancing toward him, "are they going to renew the dreadful scenes of yesterday?"
"On the contrary, Marie, they are going to bring to their reckoning those who occasioned the scenes of yesterday," answered the king. "A deputation from the Court of Chatelet have come to the Tuileries, and desire of me an authorization to bring to trial those who are guilty, and of you any information which you can give about what has taken place. The mob have accompanied the deputation hither, and hence arise these cries. I am come to ask you, Marie, to receive the deputation of Chatelet."
"As if there were any choice left us to refuse to see them," answered Marie Antoinette, sighing. "The populace who are howling and crying without are now the master of the men who come to us with a sneer, and ask us whether we will grant them an audience. We must submit!"
The king did not answer, but shrugged his shoulders, and opened the door of the antechamber. "Let them enter," he said to the chamberlains there.
The two folding doors were now thrown open, and the loud voice of an officer announced, "The honorable judges of Chatelet!"
Slowly, with respectful mien and bowed head, the gentlemen, arrayed in their long black robes, entered the room, and remained humbly standing near the door.
Marie Antoinette had advanced a few steps. Not a trace of grief and disquiet was longer to be seen in her face. Her figure was erect, her glance was proud and full of fire, and the expression of her countenance noble and majestic. She was still the queen, though not surrounded by the solemn pomp which attended the public audiences at Versailles. She did not stand on the purple-carpeted step of the throne, no gold-embroidered canopy arched over her, no crowd of brilliant courtiers surrounded her, only her husband stood near her; her son clung to her side, and his teacher, the Abbe Davout, timidly withdrew into the background. These formed all her suite. But Marie Antoinette did not need external pomp to be a queen; she was so in her bearing, in every look, in every gesture. With commanding dignity she allowed the deputation to approach her, and to speak with her. She listened with calm attention to the words of the speaker, who, in the name of the court, gave utterance to the deep horror with which the treasonable actions of the day before had filled him. He then humbly begged the queen to give such names of the rioters as might be known to her, that they might be arrested, but Marie Antoinette interrupted him in his address.
"No, sir," she cried, "no, never will I be an informer against the subjects of the king." [Footnote: Marie Antoinette's own words.—See Goncourt, "Marie Antoinette," pp. 196, 197.]
The speaker bowed respectfully. "Then let me at least beg of you, in the name of the High-Court of the Chatelet, to give us your order to bring the guilty parties to trial, for without such a charge we cannot prosecute the criminals who have been engaged in these acts."
"Nor do I wish you to bring any one to trial," cried the queen, with dignity. "I have seen all, known all, and forgotten all! Go, gentlemen, go! My heart knows no vengeance; it has forgiven all those who have wounded me. Go!" [Footnote: Ibid]
With a commanding gesture of her hand, and a gentle nod of her head, she dismissed the deputation, who silently withdrew.
"Marie," said the king, grasping the hand of his wife with unwonted eagerness, and pressing it tenderly to his lips, "Marie, I thank you in the name of all my subjects. You have acted this hour not only as a queen, but as the mother of my people."
"Ah, sir," replied the queen, with a sad smile, "only that the children will not believe in the love of their mother—only that your subjects do not consider me their mother, but their enemy."
"They have been misguided," said the king. "Evil-minded men have deceived them, but I hope we shall succeed in bringing the people back from their error."
"Sire," sighed Marie Antoinette, "I hope for nothing more; but," added she, with still firmer voice, "I also fear nothing more. The worst may break over me—it shall find me armed!"
The side-door now opened, and Madame de Campan entered.
"Your majesty," said she, bowing low, "a great number of ladies from the Faubourg St. Germain are in the small reception-room. They wish to testily their devotion to your majesty."
"I will receive them at once," cried Marie Antoinette, with an almost joyful tone. "Ah, only see, husband, the consolations which misfortune brings. These ladies of the Faubourg St. Germain formerly cut me; they could not forget that I was an Austrian. To-day they feel that I am the Queen of France, and that I belong to them. Pardon me, sire, for leaving you."
She hastened away with a rapid step. The king looked after her with an expression of pain. "Poor queen," he whispered to himself, "how much she is misjudged, how wrongly she is calumniated! And I cannot change it, and must let it be."
He sank with a deep sigh, which seemed much like a groan, into an arm-chair, and was lost in painful recollections. A gentle touch on his hand, which rested on the side-arm of the chair, restored him to consciousness. Before him stood the dauphin, and looked gravely and thoughtfully out of his large blue eyes up into his father's face.
"Ah, is it you, my little Louis Charles?" said the king, nodding to him. "What do you want of me, my child?"
"Papa king," answered the boy, timidly, "I should like to ask you something—something really serious!"
"Something really serious!" replied the king. "Well, what is it? Let me hear!"
"Sire," replied the dauphin, with a weighty and thoughtful air, "sire, Madame de Tourzel has always told me that I must love the people of France very much, and treat every one very friendly, because the people of France love my papa and my mamma so much, and I ought to be very grateful for it. How comes it then, sire, that the French people are now so bad to you, and that they do not love mamma any longer? What have you both done to make the people so angry, because I have been told that the people are subject to your majesty, and that they owe you obedience and respect? But they were not obedient yesterday, and not at all respectful, your subjects, were they? How is this, papa?"
The king drew the little prince to his knee, and put his arm around the slight form of the boy. "I will explain it to you, my son," he said, "and listen carefully to what I say to you."
"I will, sire," answered the boy eagerly, "I at least am an obedient subject of my king, for the Abbe Davout has told me that I am nothing but a subject of your majesty, and that, as a son and a subject, I must give a good example to the French people, how to love and obey the king. And I love you very much, papa, and I am just as obedient as I can be. But it seems as though my good example had made no difference with the other subjects. How comes that about, papa king?"
"My son," answered Louis, "that comes because there are bad men who have told the people that I do not love them. We have had to have great wars, and wars cost a deal of money. And so I asked money of my people—just as my ancestors always did."
"But, papa," cried the dauphin, "why did you do that? Why did you not take my purse, and pay out of that? You know that I receive every day my purse all filled with new francs, and—but then," he interrupted himself, "there would be nothing left for the poor children, to whom I always give money on my walks. And, oh! there are so many poor children, so very many, that my purse is empty every day, when I return from my walk, and yet I give to each child only one poor franc-piece. So your people have money, more money than you yourself?"
"My child, kings receive all that they have from their people, but they give it all back to the people again; the king is the one appointed by God to govern his people, and the people owe respect and obedience to the king, and have to pay taxes to him. And so, if he needs money, he is justified in asking his subjects for it, and so does what is called 'laying taxes' upon them. Do you understand me?"
"Oh! yes, papa," cried the child, who had listened with open eyes and breathless attention, "I understand all very well. But I don't like it. It seems to me that if a man is king, every thing belongs to him, and that the king ought to have all the money so as to give it to the people. They ought to ask HIM, and not he THEM!"
"In former and more happy times it was so," said the king, with a sigh. "But many kings have misused their power and authority, and now the king cannot pay out money unless the people understand all about it and consent!"
"Have you given out money, papa, without asking the people's leave? Was that the reason they came to Versailles yesterday, and were so wicked, ah! so very wicked? For those bad men-they were the people, were they not?"
"No, my son," answered Louis, "I hope they were not the people. The people cannot come to me in such great masses; they must have their representatives. The representatives of the people I have myself called to me; they are the States-General, which I assembled at Versailles. I asked of them money for the outlays which I had to make for the people, but they asked things of me that I could not grant, either for my own sake, or for yours, my son, who are some day to be my successor. Then wicked men came and stirred up the people, and told them that I did not love the people any more, and that I wanted to trouble my subjects. And the poor people have believed what these evil advisers and slanderers have told them, and have been led astray into making the riot against me. But every thing will come out right again, and my subjects will see that I love them, and am ready to share every thing with them. That is the reason I have come to Paris, to live here among my people. It is certainly not so pleasant as in Versailles; our rooms are not so fine and convenient, and we do not have the beautiful gardens here that we had there. But we must learn to be contented here, and put up with what we have. We must remember that there is no one in Paris better than we, and that the Parisians must acknowledge that the king loves them, for he has given up his beautiful Versailles, in order to live with them, and share all their need, and all the disagreeable things which they have to bear."
"Papa king, I have understood every thing, and I am very much ashamed that I have complained before. I promise you, sire," he continued, with earnest mien, and laying his hand upon his breast, "yes, sire, I promise you, that I will take pains to give the people a good example, and to be really good and kind. I will never complain again that we are living in Paris, and I will take pains to be happy and contented here."
And the dauphin kept his word. He took pains to be contented; he said not another word about the old pleasant life at Versailles, but appeared to have forgotten all about ever having been anywhere but in this great, desolate palace, with its halls filled with faded tapestry; stately, solemn furniture, their golden adornments having grown dim, and their upholstery hard; he seemed never to have known any garden but this, only one little corner of which was set apart for the royal family, and through the iron gate of which threatening words were often heard, and spiteful faces seen.
One day, when the dauphin heard such words, and saw such faces beyond the paling, he shrank back, and ran to his mother, earnestly imploring her with trembling voice to leave the garden, and go into the palace. But Marie Antoinette led him farther into the garden, instead of complying with his wish. In the little pavilion which stood at the corner of the enclosure on the side of the quay, she sat down, and lifting her boy up in her arms, set him before her on the marble table, wiped away his tears with her handkerchief, and tenderly implored him not to weep or feel badly any more.
"If you weep, my child," she said, sadly, as the dauphin could not control his tears, "if you weep, I shall have no courage left, and it will be as dark and dreary to me as if the sun had gone down. If you weep, I should want to weep with you; and you see, my son, that it would not be becoming for a queen to weep. The wicked people, who want to hurt our feelings, they find pleasure in it, and therefore we must be altogether too proud to let them see what we suffer. I have this pride, but when I see you suffer it takes away all my strength. You remember our ride from Versailles here, my son? How the bad men who surrounded us, mocked at me and said foul things to me! I was cold and calm, but I could not help weeping, my child, when you complained of being hungry."
"Mamma," cried the child, with flashing eyes, "I will never complain again, and the bad men shall never have the pleasure of seeing me weep."
"But good men, my child, you must always treat kindly, and behave very prettily to them."
"I will do so," answered the dauphin, thoughtfully. "But, mamma queen, tell me who the good men are!"
"You must believe, Louis, that all men are good, and therefore you must be kind to all. If then they despise your goodness or friendliness, and cast it from them, it will not be your fault, and our heavenly Father and your parents will be pleased with you."
"But, mamma," cried the prince, and a shadow passed over his pure, beautiful child's face, "but, mamma, I cannot see that all men are good. When they were abusing us, and cursing us, and speaking bad words at us in the carriage, and were talking so angrily at you, dear mamma, the men were not good, and I never could treat them friendly if they should come again."
"They will not come again, Louis. No, we will hope that the bad men will not come again, and that those who come to see us here are good men; so be very kind and polite to everybody, that all may love you, and see that their future king is good and polite, even while a child."
"Good?" cried the boy, spiritedly. "I will be good and polite to everybody, that you may be satisfied with me. Yes, just for that will I be so."
Marie Antoinette pressed the pretty boy to herself, and kissed his lips. Just then an officer entered and announced General Lafayette and Bailly, the mayor of Paris.
"Mamma," whispered the prince, as the two gentlemen entered—" mamma, that is the general that was at Versailles, then. I can never be kind to him, for he belongs to the bad men."
"Hush! my child-hush!" whispered the queen. "For God's sake, do not let anybody hear that. No, no, General Lafayette does not belong to our enemies, he means well toward us. Treat him kindly, very kindly, my child."
And Marie Antoinette took her son by the hand, and, with a smile upon her lips, went to meet the two gentlemen, in order to inquire the reason for their appearing at this unwonted time and place.
"Madame," said General Lafayette, "I have come to ask your majesty whether you will not have the goodness to let me know the hours in which you may wish to visit the park and the garden, that I may make my arrangements accordingly."
"That means, general," cried the queen, "that it is not to depend upon my free-will when and at what times I am to walk in the park, but it will be allowed me only at certain hours, just as prisoners are allowed to take their walks at certain hours."
"I beg your pardon, madame," said the general, with great respect; "your majesty will graciously believe, that to me, the peace and security of your exalted person is sacred above every thing, and that I regard it as my first duty to protect you against every insult, and every thing that may be disagreeable."
"And so it has come to that," cried Marie Antoinette, angrily. "The Queen of France must be protected against insults and disagreeable things. She is not to go out when she will into her park, because she has to fear that, if General Lafayette has not previously made his special preparations, the people will insult her. But if this is so, sir, why do you not close the gates of the park? It is royal property, and it probably will be allowed to the king to defend his private property from the brutality of the rabble. I will myself, general, see to it that I be protected from insults, and that, at any time when it pleases me, I may go into the park and the inner gardens. I will ask his majesty the king to allow the gates of the park and. the promenade on the quay to be closed. That will close every thing, and we shall at least gain the freedom thereby of being able to take walks at any time, without first sending information to General Lafayette."
"Madame, I expected that you would answer me so," said Lafayette, sadly, "and I have therefore brought M. de Bailly with me, that he might join me in supplicating your majesty to graciously abstain from taking measures of violence, and not to further stir up the feelings of the people, already so exasperated."
"And so you are of this opinion, sir?" asked Marie Antoinette, turning to M. Bailly. "You, too, regard it as a compulsory measure, for the king to claim his own right, and to keep out of his property those who insult him."
"Your majesty, the king is, unfortunately, not free to make use of this right, as you call it."
"You will not say, sir, that if it pleases the king not to allow evil-disposed persons to enter the park of the Tuileries, he has not the right to close the gates?"
"Madame, I must indeed take the privilege of saying so," answered M. de Bailly, with a gentle obeisance. "King Henry IV. gave the Parisians the perpetual privilege of having the park of the Tuileries open to them always, and free to be used in their walks. The palace of the Tuileries was, as your majesty knows, originally built by Queen Catherine de Medicis, after the death of her husband, for the home of her widowhood. All sorts of stories were then current about the uncanny things which were said to occur in the park of the Tuileries. They told about laboratories in which Queen Catherine prepared her poisons; of a pavilion in which there was a martyr's chamber; of subterranean cells for those who had been buried alive; and all these dreadful stories made such an impression that no one dared approach this place of horrors after sunset. But when Queen Catherine had left Paris, and King Henry IV. resided in the Louvre, he had this dreaded Tuileries garden, with all its horrors, opened to the Parisians, and out of the queen's garden he made one for the people, in order that the curse which rested upon it might be changed into a blessing."
"And now you suppose, Mr. Mayor, that it would change the blessing into a curse again, if we should want to close the gates that Henry IV. opened?"
"I do fear it, madame, and therefore venture to ask that the right to enter the Tuileries gardens may not be taken from the people, nor their enjoyment interfered with."
"Not the people's enjoyment, only ours, is to be interfered with," cried Marie Antoinette, bitterly. "They are doubtless right who call the people now the real king of France, but they forget that this new king has usurped the throne only by treachery, rebellion, and murder, and that the wrath of God and the justice of man 'will one day hurl him down into the dust at our feet. In this day I hope, and until then I will bear in patience and with unshaken courage what fate may lay upon me. The wickedness and brutality of men shall at least not intimidate me, and fear shall not humiliate me to the state of a prisoner who takes her walks under the protection of M. de Lafayette, the general of the people, at appointed hours."
"Your majesty," cried Lafayette, turning pale.
"What is your pleasure?" interrupted the queen, with a proud movement of her head. "You were a gentleman, and knew the customs and. mode of our court before you went to America. Has the want of manners there so disturbed your memory that you do not know that it is not permitted to speak in the presence of the queen without being asked or permitted by her to do so?"
"General," cried the dauphin, at this instant, with loud, eager voice, running forward to Lafayette, and extending to him his little hand—" general, I should like to salute you. Mamma told me that I must be kind to all those who are good to us and love us, and just as you were coming in with this gentleman, mamma told me that General Lafayette does not belong to our enemies, but means well to us. Let me, therefore, greet you kindly and give you my hand." And while saying so and smiling kindly at the general, he raised his great blue eyes to the face of his mother an instant with a supplicatory expression.
Lafayette took the extended hand of the prince, and a flush of deep emotion passed over his face that was just before kindling with anger. As if touched with reverence and astonishment, he bent his knee before this child, whose countenance beamed with innocence, love, and goodness, and pressed to his lips the little hand that rested in his own.
"My prince," said be, deeply moved, "you have just spoken to me with the tongue of an angel, and I swear to you, and to your exalted royal mother, that I will never forget this moment; that I will remember it so long as I live. The kiss which I have impressed upon the hand of my future king is at once the seal of the solemn vow, and the oath of unchangeable fidelity and devotion which I consecrate to my king and to the whole royal family, and in which nothing shall make me waver; nothing, not even the anger and the want of favor of my exalted queen. Dauphin of France, you have to- day gained a soldier for your throne who is prepared to shed his last drop of blood for you and your house, and on whose fidelity and devotion you may continually count."
With tears in his eyes, his brave, noble face quivering with emotion, Lafayette looked at the child that with cheeks all aglow and with a pleasant smile was gazing with great, thoughtful child's eyes up to the strong man, who placed himself so humbly and devotedly at his feet. Behind him stood M. de Bailly, with bended head and folded hands, listening with solemn thoughtfulness to the words of the general, upon whose strong shoulders the fate of the monarchy rested, and who, at this time, was the mightiest and most conspicuous man in France, because the National Guard of Paris was still obedient to him, and followed his commands.
Close by the dauphin stood the queen, in her old, proud attitude, but upon her face a striking change had taken place. The expression of anger and suspicion which it had before displayed had not completely disappeared. The cloud which had gathered upon her lofty forehead was dissipated, and her face shone out bright and clear. The large, grayish-blue eyes, which before had shot angry darts, now glowed with mild fire, and around her lips played an instant that fair, pleasant smile which, in her happier days, had often moved the favorites of the queen to verses of praise, and which her enemies had so often made a reproach to her.
When the general ceased there was silence—that eloquent, solemn silence which accompanies those moments in which the Genius of History hovers over the heads of men, and, touching them with its pinions, ties their tongues and opens the eyes of the spirit, so that they can look into the future, and, with presaging horror, read all the secrets of coming time as by a flash of lightning.
Such a critical moment in history was that in which Lafayette, at the feet of the dauphin, swore eternal fidelity to the monarchy of France in the presence of the unfortunate mayor of Paris, who was soon to seal his loyalty with his own blood, and in presence of the queen, whose lofty character was soon to make her a martyr.
The moments passed by, then Marie Antoinette bowed to Lafayette with her gracious smile.
"Rise, general," she said, in gentle tones, "God has heard your oath, and I accept it in the name of the French monarchy, my husband, my son, and myself. I shall always continue mindful of it, and I hope that you will also. And I beg you, too," she continued, in a low voice, and with a deep flush upon her face, "I beg you to forgive me if I have hitherto cast unworthy reproaches upon you. I have lived through so many sad and dreadful days, that it will be set down to my favor if my nerves are agitated and easily excited. I shall probably learn to accept evil days with calmness, and to bow my head patiently beneath the yoke which my enemies are laying upon me! But still I feel the injury, and the proud habits of my birth and life war against it. But only wait, and I shall become accustomed to it."
While saying this she stooped down to the dauphin and kissed his golden hair. A tear fell from her eyes upon the forehead of her son, and glittered there like a star fallen from heaven. Marie Antoinette did not see it, did not know that the tear which she was trying to conceal was now glistening on the brow of her son—on that brow which was never to wear any other diadem than the one that the tears of love placed on his innocent head.
"Heaven defend your majesty ever being compelled to become accustomed to insult!" cried Lafayette, deeply moved. "I hope we have seen our worst days, and that after the tempest there will be sunshine and bright weather again. The people will look back with shame and regret upon the wild and stormy scenes to which they have allowed themselves to be drawn by unprincipled agitators; they will bow in love and obedience before the royal couple who, with so much confidence and devotion, leave their beautiful, retired home at Versailles, in order to comply with the wish of the people and come to Paris. Will your majesty have the goodness to ask the mayor of Paris, and he will tell you, madame, how deeply moved all the good citizens of Paris are at the truly noble spirit which prompted you to refuse to initiate an investigation respecting the night of horrors at Versailles, and to bring the ringleaders to justice."
"Is it true, M. de Bailly?" asked the queen, eagerly. "Was my decision approved? Have I friends still among the people of Paris?"
"Your majesty," answered M. de Bailly, bowing low, "all good citizens of Paris have seen with deep emotion the noble resolve of your majesty, and in all noble and true hearts the royal words are recorded imperishably, which your majesty spoke to the judges of the Chatelet, 'I have heard all, seen all, and forgotten all!' With tears of deep feeling, with a hallowed joy, they are repeated through all Paris; they have become the watchword of all the well- inclined and faithful, the evangel of love and forgiveness for all women, of fidelity and devotion for all men! It has been seen and confessed that the throne of France is the possessor not only of goodness and beauty, but of forgiveness and gentleness, and that your majesty bears rightly the title of the Most Christian Queen. These nine words which your majesty has uttered, have become the sacred banner of all true souls, and they will cause the golden days to come back, as they once dawned upon Paris when the Dauphin of France made his entry into the capital, and it could be said with truth to the future queen, Marie Antoinette, 'Here are a hundred thousand lovers of your person.'"
The queen was no longer able to master her deep emotion. She who had had the courage to display a proud and defiant mien to her enemies and assailants, could not conceal the intensity of her feeling when hearing words of such devotion, and uttered a cry, then choked with emotion, and at length burst into a torrent of tears. Equally astonished and ashamed, she covered her face with her hands, but the tears gushed out between her white tapering fingers, and would not be withheld. They had been so long repressed behind those proud eyelids, that now, despite the queen's will, they forced their way with double power and intensity.
But only for a moment did the proud-spirited queen allow herself to be overcome by the gentle and deeply-moved woman; she quickly collected herself and raised her head.
"I thank you, sir, I thank you," she said, breathing more freely, "you have done me good, and these tears, though not the first which grief and anger have extorted, are the first for a long time which have sprung from what is almost joy. Who knows whether I shall ever be able to shed such tears again! And who knows," she continued, with a deep sigh, "whether I do not owe these tears more to your wish to do me good, than to true and real gains? I bethink me now— you say all good citizens of Paris repeat my words, all the well- disposed are satisfied with my decision. But, ah! I fear that the number of these is very small, and that the golden days of the past will never return! And is not your appearance here to-day a proof of this? Did you not come here because the people insult and calumniate me, and because you considered it needful to throw around me your protection, which is now mightier than the royal purple and the lilies of the throne of France?"
"Madame, time must be granted to the misguided people to return to the right way," said Lafayette, almost with a supplicating air. "They must be dealt with as we deal with defiant, naughty children, which can be brought back to obedience and submission better by gentle speech and apparent concession than by rigidity and severity. On this account I ventured to ask your majesty to intrust me for a little while with the care of your sacred person, and, in order that I may satisfy my duty, that you would graciously appoint the time when your majesty will take your walks here in the park and garden, so that I can make my arrangements accordingly."
"In order to make a fence out of your National Guards, protected by which the Queen of France may not become visible to the hate of the people, and behind which she may be secure against the attacks of her enemies!" cried Marie Antoinette. "No, sir, I cannot accept this! It shall at least be seen that I am no coward, and that I will not hide myself from those who come to attack me!"
"Your majesty," said Bailly, "I conjure you, do this out of compassion for us, for all your faithful servants who tremble for the peace and security of your majesty, and allow M. de Lafayette to keep the brutality of the people away from you, and protect you in your walks."
"Sufficient, gentlemen," cried Marie Antoinette, impatiently. "You now know my fixed resolve, and it is not necessary to discuss it further. I will not hide myself from the people, and I will confront them under the simple protection of God. Defended by Him, and sustained by the conviction that I have not merited the hate with which I am pursued, I will continue to meet the subjects of the king fearlessly, with an unveiled head, and only God and my fate shall judge between me and them! I thank you, gentlemen, for your zeal and your care, and you may be sure that I shall never forget it. But now farewell, gentlemen! It is growing cold, and I should like to return to the palace."
"Will your majesty not have the kindness to allow us both to mingle with your train, and accompany you to the palace?" asked Lafayette.
"I came hither, attended by only two lackeys, who are waiting outside the pavilion," answered the queen. "You know that I have laid aside the court etiquette which used to attend the queen upon her walks, and which do not allow the free enjoyment of nature. My enemies charge me with this as an offence, and consider it improper that the Queen of France should take a walk without a brilliant train of courtiers, and like any other human being. But I think that the people ought not to be angry at this, and they may take it as a sign that I am not so proud and unapproachable as I am generally believed to be. And so farewell, gentlemen!"
She graciously waved her hand toward the door, and, with a gentle inclination of her head, dismissed the two gentlemen, who, with a sad bearing, withdrew, and left the pavilion.
"Come, my son," said the queen, "we will return to the palace."
"By the same way that we came, shall we not, mamma?" asked the dauphin, taking the extended hand of the queen, and pressing it to his lips.
"You will not weep again if the people shout and laugh?" asked Marie Antoinette. "You will not be afraid any more?"
"No, I will not be afraid any more. Oh, you shall be satisfied with me, mamma queen! I have paid close attention to all that you said to the two gentlemen, and I am very glad that you did not allow M. de Lafayette to walk behind us. The people would then have believed that we are afraid, and now they shall see that we are not so at all."
"Well, come, my child, let us go," said Marie Antoinette, giving her hand to her son, and preparing to leave the pavilion.
But on the threshold the dauphin stopped, and looked imploringly up into the face of his mother.
"I should like to ask you something, mamma queen."
"Well, what is it, my little Louis? What do you wish?"
"I should like to have you allow me to go alone, else the people would believe that I am afraid and want you to lead me. And I want to be like the Chevalier Bayard, about whom the Abbe talked with me to-day. I want to be sans peur et sans reproche, like Bayard."
"Very well, chevalier," said the queen, with a smile, "then walk alone and free by my side."
"No, mamma, if you will allow me, I will walk before you. The knights always walk in advance of the ladies, so as to ward off any danger which may be in the way. And I am your knight, mamma, and I want to be as long as I live. Will you allow it, my royal lady?"
"I allow it! So go in front, Chevalier Louis Charles! We will take the same way back by which we came."
The dauphin sprang over the little square in front of the pavilion, and down the alley which led to the Arcadia Walk along the side of the quay.
Before the little staircase which led up to this walk, he stopped and turned his pretty head round to the queen, who, followed by the two lackeys, was walking slowly and quietly along.
"Well, Chevalier Bayard," asked the queen, with a smile, "what are you stopping for?"
"I am only waiting for your majesty," replied the child, gravely. "Here is where my knightly service commences, for here it is that danger begins."
"It is true," said the queen, as she stopped at the foot of the steps and listened to the loud shouting which now became audible. "One would think that a storm had been Sweeping over the ocean, there is such a thundering sound. But you know, my son, that the storms lie in God's hand, and that He protects those who trust in Him. Think of that, my child, and do not be afraid!"
"Oh, I am not afraid!" cried the boy, and he sprang up the stairs like a gazelle.
The queen quickened her steps a little, and seemed to be giving her whole attention to her son, who went before her with such a happy flow of spirits, and appeared to hear nothing of what was passing around her. And yet, behind the fence which ran along the left side of the Arcadia Walk all the way to the quay, was a dense mass of people, head behind head, and all their blazing eyes were directed at the queen, and words of hate, malediction, and threatening followed her every step which she took forward.
"See, see," cried a woman, with dishevelled hair, which streamed out from her round cap, and fell down over her red, angry face—" see, that is the baker's woman, and the monkey that jumps in front of her is the apprentice-boy! They can dress themselves up and be fine, for all is well with them, and they can eat cakes, while we have to go hungry. But wait, only wait! times will be different by and by, and we shall see the baker-woman as hungry as we. But when we have the bread, we will give her none—no, we will give her none!"
"No, indeed, we will give her none!" roared, and cried, and laughed, and howled the mob. And they all pressed closer up to the fence, and naked arms and clinched fists were thrust through the palings, and threatened the queen, and the dauphin, who walked in front of his mother.
"Will he be able to bear it? Will my poor boy not weep with fear and anxiety? "That was the only thought of the queen, as she walked on past the angry roars of the crowd. To the dauphin alone all her looks were directed; not once did she glance at the fence, behind which the populace roared like a pack of lions.
All at once the breath of the queen stopped, and her heart ceased beating, with horror. She saw directly at the place where the path turned and ran away from the fence, but where, before making the turn, it ran very near the fence, the bare arm of a man extended through the paling as far as possible, and stretching in fact half- way across the path, as if it were a turnpike-bar stopping the way. The eyes of the queen, when they fell upon this dreadful, powerful arm, turned at once in deep alarm to the dauphin. She saw him hesitate a little in his hurried course, and then go slowly forward. The queen quickened her steps in order to come up with the dauphin before he should reach the danger which confronted him. The people outside of the fence, when they saw the manoeuvre of the man who was forcing his arm still farther in, stopped their shouting and lapsed into a breathless, eager silence, as sometimes is the case in a storm, between the successive bursts of wind and thunder.
Every one felt that the touch of that threatening arm and that little child might be like the contact of steel and flint, and elicit sparks which should kindle the fires of another revolution. It was this feeling which made the crowd silent; the same feeling compelled the queen to quicken her steps, so that she was close to the dauphin before he had reached this terrible turnpike-bar.
"Come here, my son," cried the queen, "give me your hand!"
But before she had time to grasp the hand of the little prince, he sprang forward and stood directly in front of the outstretched arm.
"My God! what will he do?" whispered the queen to herself.
At the same instant, there resounded from behind the fence a loud, mighty bravo, and a thousand voices took it up and cried, "Bravo! bravo!"
The dauphin had stretched up his little white hand and laid it upon the brown, clinched fist that was stretched out toward him, and nodded pleasantly at the man who looked down so fiercely upon him.
"Good-day, sir!" he said, with a loud voice—"good-day!"
And he took hold with his little hand of the great hand of the man and shook it a little, as in friendly salutation. "Little knirps," roared the man, "what do you mean, and how dare you lay your little paw on the claws of the lion?"
"Sir," said the boy, smiling, "I thought you were stretching out your hand to reach me with it, and so I give you mine, and say, 'Good-day, sir!'"
"And if I wanted, I could crush your hand in my fist as if it were in a vise," cried the man, holding the little hand firmly.
"You shall not do it," cried hundreds and hundreds of voices in the crowd. "No, Simon, you shall not hurt the child."
"Who of you could hinder me if I wanted to?" asked the man, with a laugh. "See here, I hold the hand of the future King of France in my fist, and I can break it if I want to, and make it so that it can never lift the sceptre of France. The little monkey thought he would take hold of my hand and make me draw it back, and now my hand has got his and holds it fast. And mark this, boy, the time is past when kings seized us and trod us down; now we seize them and hold them fast, and do not let them go unless we will."
"Sir!" cried the queen, motioning back with a commanding gesture the two lackeys who were hurrying up to release the dauphin from the hand of the man, "sir, I beg you to withdraw your hand, and not to hinder us in our walk."
"Ah! you are there, too, madame, the baker's wife, are you?" cried the man, with a horrid laugh. "We meet once more, and the eyes of our most beautiful queen fall again upon the dirty, pitiable face of such a poor, wretched creature as, in your heavenly eyes, the cobbler Simon is!"
"Are you Simon the cobbler?" asked Marie Antoinette.
"It is true, I bethink me now, I have spoken with you once before. It was when I carried the prince here, for the first time, to Notre Dame, that God would bless him, and that the people might see him. You stood then by my carriage, sir!"
"Yes, it is true," answered Simon, visibly flattered. "You have, at least, a good memory, queen. But you ought to have paid attention to what I said to you. I am no 'sir,' I am a simple cobbler, and earn my poor bit of bread in the sweat of my brow, while you strut about in your glory and happiness, and cheat God out of daylight. Then I held the hand of your daughter in my fist, and she cried out for fear, merely because a poor fellow like me touched her."
"But, Mr. Simon, you see very plainly that I do not cry out," said the dauphin, with a smile. "I know that you do not want to do me any harm, and I ask you to be so good as to take away your arm, that my mamma can go on in her walk."
"But, suppose that I do not do as you want me to?" asked the cobbler, defiantly. "I suppose it would come that your mamma would dictate to me, and perhaps call some soldiers, and order them to shoot the dreadful people?"
"You know, Master Simon, that I give no such command, and never gave any such," said the queen, quickly.
"The king and I love our people, and never would give orders to our soldiers to fire upon them."
"Because you would not be sure, madame, that the soldiers would obey your commands, if you should," laughed Simon. "Since we got rid of the Swiss guards, there are no soldiers left who would let themselves be torn in pieces for their king and queen; and you know well that if the soldiers should fire the first shot at us, the people would tear the soldiers in pieces afterward. Yes, yes, the fine days at Versailles are past; here, in Paris, you must accustom yourself to ask, instead of command, and the arm of a single man of the people is enough to stop the Queen and the Dauphin of France."
"You are mistaken, sir," said the queen, whose proud heart could no longer be restrained, and allow her to take this humble stand; "the Queen of France and her son will no longer be detained by you in their walk."
And with a quick movement she caught the dauphin, struck back at the same moment the fist of the cobbler, snatched the boy away like lightning, and passed by before Simon had time to put his arm back.
The people, delighted with this energetic and courageous action of the queen—the people, who would have howled with rage, if the queen had ordered her lackeys to push the cobbler back, now roared with admiration and with pleasure, to see the proud-hearted woman have the boldness to repel the assailant, and to free herself from him. They applauded, they laughed, they shouted from thousands upon thousands of throats, "Long live the queen! Long live the dauphin!" and the cry passed along like wildfire through the whole mass of spectators behind the fence, and all eyes followed the tall and proud figure of the queen as she walked away.
Only the eyes of Simon pursued her with a malicious glare, and his clinched fists threatened her behind her back.
"She shall pay for this!" he muttered, with a withering curse. "She has struck back my hand to-day, but the day will come when she will feel it upon her neck, and when I will squeeze the hand of the little rascal so that he shall cry out with pain! I believe now, what Marat has so often told me, that the time of vengeance is come, and that we must bring the crown down and tread it under our feet, that the people may rule! I will have my share in it. I will help bring it down, and tread it under foot. I hate the handsome Austrian woman, who perks up her nose, and thinks herself better than my wife; and if the golden time has come of which Marat speaks, when the people are the master, and the king is the servant, Marie Antoinette shall be my waiting-maid, and her son shall be my choreboy, and his buckle shall make acquaintance with my shoe- straps!"
And while Master Simon was muttering this to himself, he was making a way through the crowd with those great elbows of his, a slipping along the fence, to be able to follow as long as possible the tall figure of the queen, who was now leading the dauphin by the hand, traversing the Arcadian Walk. At the end of it was the fence which led into the little garden reserved for the royal family. Through the iron gate, hard by, adorned with the arms of the kings of France, Marie Antoinette entered an asylum, which had been saved to the crown, free from the intrusion of the people, and she drew a free breath when one of the lackeys closed the gate, and she heard the key grate in the lock.
She stood still a moment to regain her composure, and then she felt that her feet were trembling, and that she scarcely had the power to go farther. It would have been a relief to her to have fallen there upon her knees, and poured all her sorrows and trials into the ear of God. But there were the lackeys behind her; there was her little son, looking up to her with his great eyes; and there was that dreadful cry coming up from the quay like the roaring of the sea.
The queen could not utter a word of grief or sorrow, she could not sink to the ground in her weakness; she had to show a cheerful face to her son, and a proud brow to her servants. God only could look into her heart and see the tears which glowed there like burning coals. Yet in all her sadness she had a feeling of triumph, of proud satisfaction. She had preserved her freedom, her independence; she was not Lafayette's prisoner! No, the Queen of France had not put herself under the protection of the people's general; she had not given him the power of watching her with his hated National Guard, and of saying to them: "At this or that hour the queen takes her walks, and, that she may recreate herself, we will protect her against the rage of the people!"
No, she had defended herself, she had remained the queen all the while, the free queen, and she had gained a victory over the people by showing them that she did not fear them.
"Mamma," cried the dauphin, interrupting her in her painful and proud thought—" mamma, there comes the king, there comes my papa! Oh, he will be glad to hear that I was so courageous!"
The queen quickly stooped down and kissed him. "Yes, truly, my little Bayard, yon have done honor to your great exemplar, and you have really been a little chevalier sans peur et sans reproche. But, my child, true bravery does not glory in its great deeds, and does not desire others to admire them, but keeps silent and leaves it to others to talk about them!"
"Mamma, I will be silent, too," cried the boy, with glowing eyes. "Oh, you shall see that I can be silent, and not talk at all about myself."
The king meanwhile, followed by some gentlemen and servants, was coming forward with unaccustomed haste, and, in his eagerness to reach his wife, he had not noticed the beds, but was treading under foot the last fading flowers of autumn.
"You are here at last, Marie," said he, when he was near enough to speak. "I wanted to go to meet you, to conduct you hither out of the park. You were gone very long, and I worried about you."
"Why worried, sire?" asked the queen. "What danger could threaten me in our garden?"
"Do not seek to hide any thing from me, Marie," said Louis, with a sigh. "I know every thing! The hate of the people denies us any longer the enjoyment of the open air! Lafayette and Bailly were with me after they were dismissed by you. They told me that you had given no favor to their united request, and that you would not grant to General Lafayette the right to protect you while you are taking your walks."
"I hope your majesty is satisfied with me," answered Marie Antoinette. "You feel, like me, that it is a new humiliation for us if we are to allow our very enjoyment of nature to be under the control of the people's general, and if even the air is no longer to be the free air for us!"
"I have only thought that in such unguarded walks you would be threatened with danger," answered the king, perplexed. "Lafayette has painted to me in such dark and dreadful colors, and I have so painfully had to confess that he speaks the truth, that I could only think of your safety, and take no other point of view than to see you sheltered from the attacks of your enemies, and from the rage of these factions. I have therefore approved Lafayette's proposal, and allowed him to protect your majesty on your walks."
"But you have not fixed definite hours for my walks? You have not done that, sire, have you?"
"I have indeed done that," answered the king, gently. "I am familiar with your habits, and know that in autumn and winter you usually take your walks between twelve and two, and in summer afternoons between five and seven. I have therefore named these hours to General Lafayette."
The queen heaved a deep sigh. "Sire," she said, softly, "you yourself are binding tighter and tighter the chains of our imprisonment. To-day you limit our freedom to two poor hours, and that will be a precedent for others to continue what you have begun. We shall after this walk for two hours daily under the protection of M. de Lafayette, but there will come a time when this protection will not suffice, and no security will be great enough for us. For the royal authority which shows itself weak and dependent, and which does not draw power from itself—the royalty which suffers its crown to be borne up for it by the hands of others, confesses thereby that it is too weak to bear the burden itself. Oh, sire, I would rather you had let me break away from the rage of the people, while I might be walking unguarded, than be permitted to take my daily walks under the protection of M. de Lafayette!"
"You see every thing in too dark and sad a light," cried the king. "Every thing will come out right if we are only wise and carefully conform to circumstances, and by well-timed concessions and admissions propitiate this hate and bring this enmity to silence."
The queen did not reply; she stooped down to the dauphin, and, pressing a kiss upon his locks, whispered: "Now yon may tell every thing, Louis. It is not longer necessary to keep silent about any thing, for silence were useless! So tell of your heroism, my son!"
"Is it of heroism that you talk?" said the king, whose nice ear had caught the words of the queen.
"Yes, of heroism, sire," answered Marie Antoinette. "But it is with us as with Don Quixote; we believed that we were fighting for our honor and our throne; now we must confess that we only fought against windmills. I beg you now, sire, to inform General Lafayette that it is not necessary to call out his National Guards on my account, I shall not walk again!"
And the queen kept her word. Never again during the winter did she go down into the gardens and park of the Tuileries. She never gave Lafayette occasion to protect her, but she at least gained thereby what Lafayette wanted to reach by his National Guard—she held the populace away from the Tuileries. At first they stood in dense masses day after day along the fence of the park and the royal garden, but when they saw that Marie Antoinette would no more expose herself to their curious and evil glances, they grew tired of waiting for her, and withdrew from the neighborhood of the Tuileries,—but only to repair to their clubs and listen to the raving speeches which Marat, Santerre, and other officers, hurled like poisoned arrows at the queen-only to go into the National Assembly and hear Mirabeau and Robespierre, Danton, Chenier, Petion, and all the rest, the assembled representatives of the nation, launch their thundering philippics against a royalty appointed by the grace of God, and causing the people to believe that it was a royalty appointed by the wrath of God.
IN ST. CLOUD.
The winter was passed—a sad dismal winter for the royal family, and for Marie Antoinette in particular! None of those festivities, those diversions, those simple and innocent joys, which are wont to adorn the life of a woman and of a queen!
Marie Antoinette is no more a queen who commands, who sees around her a throng of respectful courtiers, zealously listening to every word that falls from her lips; Marie Antoinette is a grave solitary woman, who works much, thinks much, makes many plans for saving the kingdom and the throne, and sees all these plans shipwrecks on the indecision and weakness of her husband.
Far away from the queen lay those happy times when every day brought new joys and new diversions; when the dawn of a summer morning made the queen happy, because it promised her a delightful evening, and one of those charming idyls at Trianon. The brothers of the king, the schoolmaster and mayor of Trianon, had left France and had located themselves at Coblentz on the Rhine; the Polignacs had fled to England; the Princess Lamballe, too, had, at the wish of the queen, gone to negotiate with Pitt, in order to implore the all- powerful minister of George III. to give to the oppressed French crown more material and effectual support than was afforded by the angry and bitter words which he hurled in Parliament against the riotous and rebellious French nation. The Counts de Besenval and Coigny, the Marquis de Lauzun, and Baron d'Adhemar, all the privileged friends of the summer days at Trianon and the winter days of Versailles, all, all, were gone.
They had fled to Coblentz, and were at the court of the French princes. There they spun their intrigues, sought to excite a European war against France; from there they hurled their flaming torches into France, their calumnies against Queen Marie Antoinette, the Austrian woman. She alone was accountable for all the misfortunes and the disturbances of France, she alone had given occasion for the distrust now felt against royalty. On her head fell the curse and the burden of all the faults and sins which the French court had for a hundred years committed. There must be a sacrificial lamb, to be thrown into the arms glistening with spears and daggers, of a revolution which thirsted for blood and vengeance, and Marie Antoinette had to be the victim. In her bleeding heart the spirits glowing with hate might cool themselves, and there the evil which her predecessors had done, was to be atoned for. Many a wrong had been done, and the French nation had, no doubt, a right to be angry and to rage as does the lion for a long time kept in subjection, when at last, touched too much by the iron of its keeper, it rises in its wildness, and with withering greed, tears him in pieces from whom it has suffered so long and so much. The French people rose just as the incensed lion does, and determined to wreak their vengeance on their keepers, on those whom they had so long called their lords and rulers.
To pacify the lion some prey must be thrown to him, and to him who thirsts for vengeance and blood, a human offering must be brought to propitiate him.
Marie Antoinette had to be the offering to the lion! Her blood had to flow for the sins of the Bourbons! On her all the anger, the exasperation, the rage of the people must concentrate! She must bear the blame of all the miseries and the needs of France! She must satisfy the hunger for vengeance, in order that when the lion is appeased it can be made placable and patient again, the chains put on which he has broken in his rage—the chains, however, to which, when his rage is past, he must again submit.
The queen, the queen is to blame for all! Marie Antoinette has brought royalty into discredit; the Austrian woman has brought the hatred of the French nation upon herself, and she must atone for it, she alone!
Libels and calumnies are forged against the queen by those who were once the friends and cavaliers of the queen—cavaliers no longer, but cavillers now; the poisoned arrows are sent to France to be directed against the head of the queen, to destroy first her honor and good name, and then to make her a prey for scorn and contempt.
If the lion stills his rage and cools his hate with Marie Antoinette as his victim, he will relax again and bow to his king, for it is time for these royal princes to return to France and their loved Paris once more.
The Count do Provence is the implacable enemy of the queen; he can never forgive her for gaining the heart of the king her husband, and leaving no influence for his wise, clever brother. The Count de Provence is avaricious and crafty. He sees that an abyss has opened before the throne of the lilies, and that it will not close again! It must, therefore, be filled up! A reconciliation will not be possible in a natural way, and artificial methods must be found to accomplish it. Louis XVI. will not be saved, and Marie Antoinette shall not be! The two, perhaps, can fill up the abyss that yawns between the throne of the lilies and the French people. They, perhaps, may fill it up, and then a way may be made for the Count de Provence, the successor of his brother.
The Count d'Artois was once the friend of the queen, the only one of the royal family who wished her well, and who defended her sometimes against the hatred of the royal aunts and sisters-in-law, and the crafty brother. But while living in Coblentz, the Count d'Artois had become the embittered enemy of Marie Antoinette. He had heard it so often said on all sides that the queen by her levity, her extravagance, and her intrigues, was the cause of all, that she alone had brought about the revolution, that he at last believed it, and turned angrily against the royal woman, whose worst offence in the eyes of the prince lay in this, that she had been the occasion of his enforced exile to Coblentz.
And Marie Antoinette knew all these intrigues which were forged by the prince in Coblentz against herself—knew about all the calumnies that were set in circulation there; she read the libels and pamphlets which the storm-wind of revolution shook from the dry tree of monarchy like withered autumn leaves, and scattered through all France, that they might be everywhere found and read.
"They will kill me," she would often say, with a sigh, after reading these pamphlets steeped with hate, and written in blood—" yes, they will kill me, but with me they will kill the king and the monarchy too. The revolution will triumph over us all, and hurl us all together down into the grave."
But still she would make efforts to control the revolution and restore the monarchy again out of its humiliations. The Emperor Joseph II., brother of the queen, once said of himself, "I am a royalist, because that is my business." Marie Antoinette was a royalist not because it was her business; she was a royalist by conviction, a royalist in her soul, her mind, and her inmost nature. For this she would defend the monarchy; for this she would contend against the revolution, until she should either constrain it to terms or be swallowed up in it.
All her efforts, all her cares, were directed only to this, to kindle in the king the same courage that animated her, to stir him with the same fire that burned in her soul. But alas! Louis XVI. was no doubt a good man and a kind father, but he was no king. He had no doubt the wish to restore the monarchy, but he lacked the requisite energy and strong will. Instead of controlling the revolution with a fiery spirit, he sought to conciliate it by concession and mild measures; and instead of checking it, he himself went down before it.
But Marie Antoinette could not and would not give up hope. As the king would not act, she would act for him; as he would not take part in politics, she would do so for him. With glowing zeal she plunged into business, spent many hours each day with the ministers and dependants of the court, corresponded with foreign lands, with her brother the Emperor Leopold, and her sister, Queen Caroline of Naples, wrote to them in a cipher intelligible only to them, and sent the letters through the hands of secret agents, imploring of them assistance and help for the monarchy.
In earnest labor, in unrelieved care and business, the queen's days now passed; she sang, she laughed no more; dress had no longer charms for her; she had no more conferences with Mademoiselle Bertin, her milliner; her hairdresser, M. Leonard, had no more calls upon his genius for new coiffures for her fair hair; a simple, dark dress, that was the toilet of the queen, a lace handkerchief round the neck, and a feather was her only head-dress.
Once she had rejoiced in her beauty, and smiled at the flatteries which her mirror told her when it reflected her face; now she looked with indifference at her pale, worn face, with its sharp grave features, and it awoke no wonder within her when the mirror told her that the queen of France, in spite of her thirty-six years, was old; that the roses on her cheeks had withered, and that care had drawn upon her brow those lines which age could not yet have done. She did not grieve over her lost beauty; she looked with complacency at that matron of six-and-thirty years whose beautiful hair showed the traces of that dreadful night in October. She had her picture painted, in order to send it to London, to the truest of her friends, the Princess Lamballe, and with her own hands she wrote beneath it the words: "Your sorrows have whitened your hair."
And yet in this life full of cares, full of work, full of pain and humiliation—in these sad days of trouble and resignation, there were single gleams of sunshine, scattered moments of happiness.
It was a ray of sunshine when this sad winter in the Tuileries was past, and the States-General allowed the royal family to go to St. Cloud and spend the summer there. Certainly it was a new humiliation for the king to receive permission to reside in his own summer palace of St. Cloud. But the States-General called themselves the pillars of the throne, and the king who sat upon this shaking throne was very dependent upon its support.
In St. Cloud there was at least a little freedom, a little solitude and stillness. The birds sang in the foliage, the sun lighted up the broad halls of the palace, in which a few faithful ones gathered around the queen and recalled at least a touch of the past happiness to her brow. In St. Cloud she was again the queen, she held her court there. But how different was this from the court of former days.
No merry laughter, no cheerful singing resounded through these spacious halls; no pleasant ladies, in light, airy, summer costume swept through the fragrant apartments; M. d'Adhemar no longer sits at the spinet, and sings with his rich voice the beautiful arias from the opera "Richard of the Lion Heart," in which royalty had its apotheosis, and in which the singer Garat had excited all Paris to the wildest demonstrations of delight! And not all Paris, but Versailles as well, and in Versailles the royal court!
Louis XVI. himself had been in rapture at the aria which Garat sang with his flexible tenor voice in so enchanting a manner—"Oh, Richard! oh, mon roi!"—an aria which had once procured him a triumph in the very theatre. For when Garat began this air with his full voice, and every countenance was directed to the box where the royal family were sitting, the whole theatre rose, and the hundreds upon hundreds present had joined in the loud, jubilant strains—"Oh, Richard! oh, mon roi!" Louis XVI. was grateful to the spirited singer, who, in that stormy time, had the courage to publicly offer him homage, and he had therefore acceded to the request of the queen, that Garat should be invited to the private concerts of the queen at Versailles, and give her instruction on those occasions in the art of singing.
Marie Antoinette thought of those pleasant days of the past, as she sat in the still, deserted music-room, where the instruments stood silent by the wall—where there were no hands to entice the cheerful melodies from the strings, as there had once been.
"I wish that I had never sung duets with Garat," whispered the queen to herself. "The king allowed me, but yet I ought not to have done it. A queen has no right to be free, merry, and happy. A queen can practise the fine arts only alone, and in the silence of her own apartments. I would I had never sung with Garat." [Footnote: The queen's own words.—See "Memoires de Madame de Campan," vol. ii.]
She sat down before the spinet and opened it. Her fingers glided softly over the keys, and for the first time, in long months of silence, the room resounded with the tones of music.
But, alas! it was no cheerful music which the fingers of the queen drew from the keys; it was only the notes of pain, only cries of grief; and yet they recalled the happy by-gone times—those golden, blessed days, when the Queen of France was the friend of the arts, and when she received her early teacher, the great maestro and chevalier, Gluck, in Versailles; when she took sides for him against the Italian maestro Lully, and when all Paris divided into two parties, the Gluckists and Lullyists, waging a bloodless war against each other. Happy Paris! At that time the interests of art alone busied all spirits, and the battle of opinions was conducted only with the pen. Gluck owed it to the mighty influence of the queen that his opera "Alcestes" was brought upon the stage; but at its first representation the Lullyists gained the victory, and condemned it. In despair, Gluck left the opera-house, driven by hisses into the dark street. A friend followed him and detained him, as he was hurrying away, and spoke in the gentlest tones. But Gluck interrupted him with wild violence: "Oh, my friend!" cried he, falling on the neck of him who was expressing his kindly sympathy, "'Alcestes' has fallen!" But his friend pressed his hand, and said, "Fallen? Yes, 'Alcestes' has fallen! It has fallen from heaven!"
The queen thought of this as she sat before the spinet—thought how moved Gluck was when he related this answer of his friend, and that he, who had been so kind, was the Duke d'Adhemar.
She had thanked him for this gracious word by giving him her hand to kiss, and Adhemar, kneeling, had pressed his lips to her hand. And that was the same Baron Adhemar who was now at Coblentz assisting the prince to forge libels against herself, and who was himself the author of that shameless lampoon which ridiculed the musical studies of the queen, and even the duet which she had sung with Garat!
Softly glided her fingers over the keys, softly flowed over her pale, sunken cheeks two great tears—tears which she shed as she thought of the past—tears full of bitterness and pain! But no, no, she would not weep; she shook the tears from her eyes, and struck the keys with a more vigorous touch. Away, away, those recollections of ingratitude and faithlessness! Art shall engage her thoughts in the music-room, and to Gluck and "Alcestes" the hour belongs!
The queen struck the keys more firmly, and began to play the noble "Love's Complaint," of Gluck's opera. Unconsciously her lips opened, and with loud voice and intense passionate expression, she sang the words, "Oh, crudel, non posso in vere, tu lo sui, senza dite!"
At the first notes of this fine voice the door in the rear of the room had lightly opened—the one leading to the garden—and the curly head of the dauphin was thrust in. Behind him were Madame de Tourzel and Madame Elizabeth, who, like the prince, were listening in breathless silence to the singing of the queen.
As she ended, and when the voice of Marie Antoinette was choked in a sigh, the dauphin flew with, extended arms across the hall to his mother, "Mamma queen," cried he, beaming with joy, "are you singing again? I thought my dear mamma had forgotten how to sing. But she has begun to sing again, and we are all happy once more."
Marie Antoinette folded the little fellow in her arms, and did not contradict him, and nodded smilingly to the two ladies, who now approached and begged the queen's pardon for yielding to the pressing desires of the dauphin, and entering without permission.
"Oh, mamma, my dear mamma queen," said the prince, in the most caressing way, "I have been very industrious to-day; the abbe was satisfied with me, and praised me, because I wrote well and learned my arithmetic well. Won't you give me a reward for that, mamma queen?"
"What sort of a reward do you want, my child?" asked the queen, smiling.
"Say, first, that you will give it."
"Well, yes, I will give it, my little Louis; now tell me what it is."
"Mamma queen, I want you to sing your little Louis a song; and," he added, nodding at the two ladies, "that you allow these friends of mine to hear it."
"Well, my child, I will sing for you," answered Marie Antoinette, "and our good friends shall hear it."
The countenance of the boy beamed with pleasure; with alacrity he rolled an easy-chair up to the piano, and took his seat in it in the most dignified manner.
Madame Elizabeth seated herself near him on a tabouret, and Madame de Tourzel leaned on the back of the dauphin's chair.
"Now sing, mamma, now sing," asked the dauphin.
Marie Antoinette played a prelude, and as her eyes fell upon the group they lighted up with joy, and then turned upward to God with a look of thankfulness.
A few minutes before she had felt alone and sad: she had thought of absent friends in bitter pain, and now, as if fate would remind her of the happiness which still remained to her, it sent her the son and the sister-in-law, both of whom loved her so tenderly, and the gentle and affectionate Madame de Tourzel, whom Marie Antoinette knew to be faithful and constant unto death.
The flatterers and courtiers, the court ladies and cavaliers, are no longer in the music-room; the enraptured praises no longer accompany the songs of the queen; but, out of the easy-chair, in which the Duchess de Polignac had sat so often, now looks the beautiful blond face of her son, and his beaming countenance speaks more eloquently to her than the flatteries of friends. On the tabouret, now occupied by her sister-in-law, Madame Elizabeth, De Dillon has often sat—the handsome Dillon, and his glowing, admiring looks have often, perhaps, in spite of his own will, said more to the queen than she allowed herself to understand, as her heart thrilled in sweet pain and secret raptures under those glances! How pure and innocent is the face which now looks out from this chair—the face of an angel who bears God in his heart and on his countenance.
"Pray for me; pray that God may let me drink of Lethe, that I may forget all that has ever been! Pray that I may be satisfied with what remains, and that my heart may how in humility and patience!"
Thus thought the queen as she began to sing, not one of her great arias which she had studied with Garat, and which the court used to applaud, but one of those lovely little songs, full of feeling and melody, which did not carry one away in admiration, but which filled the heart with joy and deep emotion.
With suspended breath, and great eyes directed fixedly to Marie Antoinette, the dauphin listened, but gradually his eyes fell, and motionless and with grave face the child sat in his arm-chair.
Marie Antoinette saw it, and began to sing one of those cradle-songs of the "Children's Friend," which Berquin had written, and Gretry had set to music so charmingly.
How still was it in the music-room, how full and touching was the voice of the queen as she began the last verse:
"Oh, sleep, my child, now so to sleep. Thy crying grieves my heart; Thy mother, child, has cause to weep, But sleep and feel no smart." [Footnote: "Dors, mon enfant, clos ta paupiere, Tes cris me dechirent la coeur; Dors, mon enfant, ta pauvre more A bien assez de sa douleur."]
All was still in the music-room when the last words were sung; motionless, with downcast eyes, sat the dauphin long after the sad voice of the queen had ceased.
"Ah, see," cried Madame Elizabeth, with a smile, "I believe now our Louis has fallen asleep."
But the child quickly raised his head and looked at the smiling young princess with a reproachful glance.
"Ah, my dear aunt," cried he, reprovingly, "how could any one sleep when mamma sings?" [Footnote: The dauphin's own words.—See Beauchesne, vol. i., p. 27.]
Marie Antoinette drew the child within her arms, and her countenance beamed with delight. Never had the queen received so grateful a compliment from the most flattering courtier as these words of her fair-haired boy conveyed, who threw his arms around her neck and nestled up to her.
The Queen of France is still a rich, enviable woman, for she has children who love her; the Queen of France ought not to look without courage into the future, for the future belongs to her son. The throne which now is so tottering and insecure, shall one day belong to him, the darling of her heart, and therefore must his mother struggle with all her power, and with all the means at her command contend for the throne for the Dauphin of France, that he may receive the inheritance of his father intact, and that his throne may not in the future plunge down into the abyss which the revolution has opened.
No, the dauphin, Louis Charles, shall not then think reproachfully of his parents; he shall not have cause to complain that through want of spirit and energy they have imperilled or lost the sacred heritage of his fathers.
No, Queen Marie Antoinette may not halt and lose courage,—not even when her husband has done so, and when he is prepared to humbly bow his sacred head beneath that yoke of revolution, which the heroes and orators selected by the nation have wished to put upon his neck in the name of France.
This makes hers a double duty, to be active, to plan, and work; to keep her head erect, and look with searching eye in all directions to see whence help and deliverance are to come.
Not from without can they come, not from foreign monarchs, nor from the exiled princes. Foreign armies which might march into the country would place the king, who had summoned them to fight with his own people, in the light of a traitor; and the moment that they should pass the frontiers of France, the wrath of the nation would annihilate the royal couple.
Only from those who had called down the danger could help come. The chiefs of the revolution, the men who had raised their threatening voices against the royal couple, must be won over to become the advocates of royalty. And who was more powerful, who more conspicuous among all these chiefs of the revolution, and all the orators of the National Assembly, than Count Mirabeau!
When he ascended the Speaker's tribune of the National Assembly all were silent, and even his opponents listened with respectful attention to his words, which found an echo through all France; when he spoke, when from his lips the thunder of his speeches resounded, the lightning flashed in his eyes, and his head was like the head of a lion, who, with the shaking of his mane and the power of his anger, destroyed every thing which dared to put itself in his way. And the French nation loved this lion, and listened in reverential silence to the thunder of his speech, and the throne shook before him. And the excitable populace shouted with admiration whenever they saw the lion, and deified that Count Mirabeau, who, with his powerul, lace-cuffed hand, had thrust these words into the face of his own caste: "They have done nothing more than to give themselves the trouble to be born."
The people loved this aristocrat, who was abhorred by his family and the men of his own rank; this count whom, the nobility hated because the Third Estate loved him.
"Count Mirabeau must be won over," Count de la Marck ventured to say one day to Marie Antoinette. "Count Mirabeau is now the mightiest man in France, and he alone is able to bring the nation back again to the throne."
"It is he," replied the queen, with a glow, "who is most to blame for alienating the nation from the throne. Never will the renegade count be forgiven! Never can the king stoop so low as to pardon this apostate, who frivolously professes the new religion of 'liberty,' and disowns the faith of his fathers."
"Your majesty," replied Count de la Marck, with a sigh, "it may be that in the hand of this renegade lies the future of your son."
The queen trembled, and the proud expression on her features was softened.
"The future of my son?" said she. "What do you mean by that? What has Count Mirabeau to do with the dauphin? His wrath follows us only, his hatred rests upon us alone! I grant that at present he is powerful, but over the future he has no sway. I hope, on the contrary, that the future will avenge the evil that Mirabeau does to us in the present."
"But how does it help, madame, if vengeance hurries him on?" asked Count de la Marck, sadly. "The temple which Samson pulled down was not built again, that Samson might be taken from its ruins; it remained in its dust and fragments, and its glory was gone forever. Oh, I beseech your majesty, do not listen to the voice of your righteous indignation, but only to the voice of prudence. Master your noble, royal heart, and seek to reconcile your adversaries, not to punish them!"
"What do you desire of me?" asked Marie Antoinette, in amazement. "What shall I do?"
"Your majesty must chain the lion," whispered the count. "Your majesty must have the grace to change Mirabeau the enemy into Mirabeau the devoted ally and friend!"
"Impossible, it is impossible!" cried the queen, in horror. "I cannot descend to this. I never can view with friendly looks this monster who is accountable for the horrors of those October days. I can only speak of this man, who has created his reputation out of his crimes, who is a faithless son, a faithless husband, a faithless lover, a faithless aristocrat, and a faithless royalist—I can only speak of him in words of loathing, scorn, and horror! No, rather die than accept assistance from Count Mirabeau! Do you not know, count, that he honors me his queen with his enmity and his contempt? Is it not Mirabeau who caused the States-General to accept the words 'the person of the king is inviolable,' and to reject the words 'and that of the queen?' Was it not Mirabeau who once, when my friends exhorted him to moderation, and besought him to soften his words about the Queen of France, had the grace to answer with a shrug, 'Well, she may keep her life!' Was it not Mirabeau who was to blame for the October days? Was it not Mirabeau who publicly said: 'The king and the queen are lost. The people hate them so, that they would even destroy their corpses?'" [Footnote: The queen's own words.—See Goncourt, "Marie Antoinette," p. 305.]
"Your majesty, Mirabeau said that, not as a threat, but out of pity, and deep concern and sympathy."
"Sympathy!" repeated the queen, "Mirabeau, who hates us!"
"No, your majesty, Mirabeau, who honors his queen, who is ready to give his life for you and for the monarchy, if your majesty will forgive him and receive him as a defender of the throne!"
The queen shuddered, and looked in astonishment and terror at the excited face of Count de la Marck. "Are you speaking of Mirabeau, the tribune of the people," she asked, "the fiery orator of the National Assembly?"
"I am speaking of Count Mirabeau, who yesterday was the enemy of the throne, and who to-day will be a zealous defender, if your majesty will only have it so—if your majesty will only speak a gracious word to him."
"It is impossible, it is impossible!" whispered the queen.
De la Marck continued: "Since he has frequently seen your majesty— since he has had occasion to observe your proud spirit and lofty resignation—a change has taken place in the character of Mirabeau. He is subdued as the lion is subdued, when the beaming eye of a pure soul looks it in the face. He might be of service again, he might be reconciled! He writes, he speaks of his exalted queen with admiration, with enthusiasm; he glows with a longing desire to confess his sins at the feet of your majesty, and to receive your forgiveness."