Charles Major.

The little king : a story of the childhood of Louis XIV, king of France online

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On Christmas mornings he was compelled to sit up in his great bed
of state, while gorgeous courtiers knelt beside him offering rich


A Story of the

Childhood of Louis

King of France


Charles Major

Author of "When Knighthood was in Flower", "Dorothy Vernon'
"The Bears of Blue River", etc.








Set up and electrotyped. Published Norember, 1910. Reprintei
September, 1915.

Co @P Wife




I. How Christmas Came to The Little King . . 3

II. Sweet Mam'selle's Rosary 39

III. Two Smiles and a Duel 70

IV. The Little King Lost in Paris .... zoo


V. A Jew Three Thousand Years Old .... 137

VI. The Old Cloister House 157

VII. The King and The Jew . .... 383

VIII. Black Magic 206

IX. Blackest Magic 339



THE Little King, destined to become the
great King, Louis Le Grand, of France,
had always found Christmas a dull day.
Even at the age of eight he had begun to realize
that every day was dull, and though he had
heard a great deal about the joys of Christmas,
he had found it the dullest of them all, and
did not understand why other folks pretended to
love it.

On Christmas mornings he was compelled to
sit up in his great bed of state, while gorgeous
courtiers knelt beside him offering rich gifts for
which he did not care a fig. After breakfast,
to mass, which was easily endured, because every
one remained quiet and the low, rolling voice



of the priest was soothing. But after mass he
had to sit in stiff, insufferable robes while gifts
of which he knew nothing were distributed in
his name to courtiers for whom he cared nothing.

After the distribution of the presents, the tired
Little King stood on the royal dais in one of
the state chambers receiving guests till near noon,
when he dined in solitary grandeur. Christmas
Days to the Little King were but blurred mem-
ories of a desire to cry, suppressed only by
almost superchildish effort.

Every day Christmas included the King had
a few hours of rest after dinner. Usually this
lax time was devoted to a nap in his private
bedroom adjoining the boudoir of his nurse, the
Sweet Mam'selle, a name the King had given her
and by which she was known throughout the court.

Frequently on pleasant days, after his nap, the
King went with his nurse to walk in the little
hedged garden beneath his window, set apart in
the beautiful court of the Palais Royal for the
King's exclusive use.

One day Sweet Mam'selle opened a private
door called the King's Postern, to which she car-


ried the key, and the two passed through a
tunnel-like hallway, unlocked the outer door and
were in the street. That was a glorious adven-
ture for the Little King, and afterwards, when
he felt tired and blue, and life seemed a failure,
he would say:

"Let us go out into the street, Sweet Mam-

But it was a delight seldom to be enjoyed. If
the Queen Regent or Cardinal Mazarin were to
learn that Mam'selle had exposed the King to
the gaze and mayhap the touch of the common
people on the street, she would surely receive a
reprimand, probably would be dismissed and might
be imprisoned. But the Little King's unhappiness
was so real, and his joy in these excursions was
so keen that Sweet Mam'selle could not always
resist the child's pleadings.

On a certain Christmas Day, the eighth year
of the Little King's life and the third of his
reign, his royal duties seemed especially irksome,
and when dinner was finished, he hurried with
Sweet Mam'selle to his bedroom, longing above
all things to give vent to his weariness in tears.


But he was a manly, kingly little fellow, sedate
and thoughtful beyond his years, so he held back
his tears, as a real king should, and bore his
troubles stolidly, as a real man will.

With Sweet Mam'selle's help the stiff brocades,
the rare laces and the costly jewels fell from the
Little King to the floor, and he lay down on his
low, soft bed for a nap. Mam'selle, busy with
her needlework, stood leaning against the window
shelf; for no one in France save the Queen
Mother was permitted to sit in the King's

Presently Mam'selle heard a sob, and turning
toward the King, saw him sitting on the edge
of the bed. Drowsiness had broken the back of
kingliness; so exercising a tired child's privilege,
Louis XIV was whimpering softly, pathetically.

Mam'selle ran to the dais and knelt beside
the King, who put his arm about her neck, rested
his cheek against hers, and enjoyed the luxury
of a good cry. What the King needed above
all else was a mother, but Anne of Austria's
motherhood consisted chiefly of title. Fortunately
Mam'selle was a sweet and loving substitute, but


there is no place where a child can be so delight-
fully miserable as on his mother's breast.

"What is it, my King?" asked Sweet Mam-
'selle, tenderly.

"I don't know," answered the Little King. "I
just want to to cry. I I don't want to stay
here. Isn't there some place we can go? I'm
so tired."

"Yes, yes, my King. I know, I know," whis-
pered Sweet Mam'selle, caressingly. Her sym-
pathy of course set the tears flowing afresh and
soon her eyes, too, were moist.

The King, seeing Mam'selle's tears, brushed
them away with his hand, saying:

"Are you, too, tired, Sweet Mam'selle?"

"No, no, my King. I weep because you are
tired. Because you are denied the divine right
of being a child. My poor King! My sweet

"Then we are both unhappy when I'm un-
happy?" asked the King, brushing away his own
tears in a desire to save Mam'selle,

"Yes, yes, my sweet King. I am unhappy
because you because you "


"But I am the King. I am Louis XIV,"
interrupted the Little King, trying with poor
success to stay his sobs and to live up to the
demands of royalty.

After a minute or two of silence, a smile broke
through the royal tears, as the sun shines through
an April shower, and a fair bow of promise
lighted up the Little King's sorrowful face.

"I know how we may both be happy!" he
cried, clapping his hands delightedly.

"How, my King?" asked Sweet Mam'selle.

"Let us go to the garden, and when no one

is watching, we'll escape through the little door

and go for a walk. We'll walk 'way down past

the Louvre 'way, 'way further than we have

ever gone, Sweet Mam'selle; oh, so far, because

this has been such a hard Christmas Day; and

oh, Sweet Mam'selle, we'll go over where the

poor people live. Of course we dare not go

down among the shops. That would be too

much for a Little King to expect. But maybe

we can go as far as the river, the dark, murky,

beautiful river back of Notre Dame where so

many poor people live. Oh, come, come, Sweet


Mam'selle! Oh, I love you so dearly!" He
kissed her tenderly by way of bribe and continued
rapidly: "Fetch me my plainest, darkest suit, and
after all, this Christmas Day won't be so so horrid.'*

"Oh, I dare not, I dare not," answered Mam-
'selle, pleadingly.

"Oh, please, Sweet Mam'selle. You are so
beautiful and so good. There now, I kiss your
eyes to stop the tears. I did try so hard to be
good all morning."

"Yes, yes, my King, you were good. You
were perfect a perfect King. But I dare not
take you to walk in the street to-day."

"Please, Sweet Mam'selle. I am the King
and I might say 'You shall take me, Mam'selle.*
But I love you so dearly that I say 'Please take
me, Sweet Mam'selle.' Oh, I do so want to go,
for I am so tired. Your King kneels to you,
Sweet Mam'selle, and begs "

The Little King fell to his knees beside her
and Mam'selle, frightened at the thought of
kneeling royalty, exclaimed:

"Rise, my King, rise! You must kneel to
none but Godl"


"I'll not rise till you promise to take me t(
the river," answered the King, pleadingly thougl

Mam'selle could resist no longer, so sb

"I'll take you, my King, if I die for it."

So amid a great deal of suppressed laughter
hushed whispering and joyous dancing, the Lit
tie King donned his plainest suit and Mam
'selle, going to her boudoir put on her plaines

When both were ready, and very nervous
Mam'selle unlocked the door, at the top of th<
narrow stairway leading to the King's garden anc
the adventurers hurried down. Softly the outei
door was opened; still more softly they rar
toward the King's Postern, seeking the cover oi
the evergreens and hedges as they went. With
beating hearts they opened the little door with
Mam'selle's magic key, and hurried through the
dark, narrow hallway to the street door. Ther
followed the thrilling moment of escape and n
delicious breath of the sweet street air.

The Little King wanted to do something tc



express his joy, but his whole life had been so
artificial that he did not know how. Had he
been "just boy" he would have known that his
longing was nature calling him to shout, to run,
to jump and to walk in the mud, where he
might accumulate
enough sweet luxurious
dirt to drive his mother
if he had had a real'''!
one temporarily wild.
But cruel fate had de-
nied him the sweet
knowledge of things
that are really worth
while doing and he was
forced to content him-

self with clinging to Mam'selle's hand, skipping
in a stiff kingly fashion by her side and draw-
ing in great breaths of the sweet forbidden air.
Mam'selle hugged the wall of the Palais Royal
and hurried across the open space between the
Louvre and the Garden of the Tuileries. When
they reached the street, since called Quai du
Louvre, they turned and walked close to the wall


of the Louvre until they reached the lower end
of the long palace. Then she said:

"Shall we turn back, my King?"

"No, no," pleaded little Majesty. "You prom-
ised to take me to the river and perhaps down
the rivage a little way down back of Notre
Dame where the poor people live."

"Alas, the poor people live everywhere in
Paris, my King," she answered. "But I did not
promise to take you to the river. I "

"You did promise, Mam'selle," returned the
King, with an amusing touch of kingly anger.
"You did promise and for you to say that you
did not is to contradict your King. That would
be a sin and would make most kings angry. But
I am a good king and I love you, so if you
promise never to do so again, I'll forgive you."

Mam'selle smiled and drew the King to her
side. "If I did promise, my King "

"If?" cried the King. "That is as much as
to say that the King did not tell the truth when
he said you did promise. It is well for you,
Mam'selle, that I am a good king and that I
love you so dearly."


Mam'selle had to shape another course in sail-
ing through the winding channels and between
the rocks and shoals of royal whims and priv-

"Then I shall say 'though I did make the
promise,' my King, I must not keep it. We must
turn back."

"I've always thought there was one person I
could trust. I thought you loved me and would
keep your promise," said the King, mournfully.
"You are so beautiful and I was going to marry
you when I grew up. But if I'm wrong I'll go
back with you. I thought we were going to
have such a good time."

Mam'selle glanced down to the King and saw
a flood of unregal tears gathering in his eyes.
Again her tender heart came to his rescue, and
she said:

"We'll go to the river, back of Notre Dame,
my King, and we'll not return till you give the
word. I'm going to trust you. If we are dis-
covered, woe is me, for I believe the Cardinal
would have me beheaded."

"Do this for me, Sweet Mam'selle," pleaded


the King, taking her hand. "I shall protect you
for I am the King and when I grow up I'll make
you a duchess and I'll marry you, too."

So, far past the Louvre, the Little King and
Mam'selle wandered till they reached the wharf
of the Old Red Ferry, beyond the Bridge of
Our Lady back of the great dark Church of
Notre Dame. Then the King, leading Mam-
'selle by the hand, crossed the quai and following
the bend of the river, walked on the rivage very
close to the "dark, murky, beautiful" water.

At times the King had the great happiness to
step right in the water, much to Mam'selle's
horror, but he seemed to have mastered her and
she gave him his way in everything. Once or
twice the King actually brushed against the rough
garbed gens de riviere, who smiled at the beautiful
Mam'selle for she was as fair as a rosy dawn and
looked with kindly glances on the handsome child.

It was all so delightfully strange to the King
that his joy was beyond expression save in signifi-
cant squeezes of Mam'selle's hand, expressive
glances up to her face and deep, long drawn
breaths of sheer ecstasy.


After walking a long way down the river it-
seemed a very long way to Mam'selle they came
to a little girl sitting on a log near the water's
edge. The King had passed several clusters of
begrimed and ragged children who were far more
attractive to him than were the little Count de
Bourbon, the little Mam'selle la Duchesse de
Conde or the other bejeweled children with whom
he sometimes played and he longed to speak to
them. But they frightened him and he was unable
to screw his courage to the talking place until
he found the little girl sitting alone, tenderly
nursing a rag doll. Though poorly dressed, she
was cleaner than the others and her childish
beauty was far too assertive to be hidden by

The King stepped boldly up to her and stood
gazing in unfeigned admiration. For one brief
moment the girl's great brown eyes gave back
his admiring glances with usury. Then the long
lashes fell, and she gazed with ostentatious
motherly love upon the rag doll resting on her
lap. She remained seated, wholly unmindful and
apparently unconscious of any other presence, and



continued to smile lovingly into the doll's face.
Presently she made it comfortable on the bend
of her elbow, crossed her knees, swung her foot
gently up and down, swayed her body from side
to side and hummed a lullaby in tones so soft
and sweet that the King thought he had never
before heard so soothing a song. Added to her
lullaby was always this refrain:

"We thank dear St. Nicholas for all that we

But we are more blessed, far more blessed when

we give."

Meantime the Little King stood silently watch-
ing her, though
after her first
glance she gave no
sign that she knew
he was there. So
early does the
flower of coquetry
bloom in the femi-
nine heart and so
complete a mastery
has it over the self-
proud heart of


man that the King thought the little beauty's
acting was real and supposed she had forgotten
that he and Mam'selle stood before her.

Presently the Little King coughed deferentially
to remind her that he, Louis XIV, was awaiting
her pleasure and was willing to be gracious. But
she had no time for frivolities. Baby needed
her attention; it was baby's sleepy time.

This indifference to his august presence was a
new and not altogether unattractive phase of life
to the King. Never had he dreamed that any
one could ignore him, nor did he know that it
was possible for a subject of France to sit in
the presence of France's King. But the new con-
dition interested him so much that he gazed,
admired, smiled broadly and after a time, said:

"Why don't you rise, Mam'selle? Why do
you remain seated?"

No answer came save in the gentle swaying of
the body and the crooning of the lullaby, so the
King again asked:

"Why do you remain seated?"

"Sh h h h," she answered, holding up her
hand to enjoin silence and whispering softly. "I


am singing my baby to sleep. You know it spoils
them to walk them to sleep."

All Greek to the Little King, far worse than
Greek, for he had a slight knowledge of the
olden tongue, but what he knew about babies
could have been written on his smallest finger nail.

The King again was silent and stood for a
minute or more enjoying the lullaby which was
being sung to him quite as much as to the doll.
He looked up to Sweet Mam'selle with a puzzled
expression. She answered with a smile and the
Little King, turning to the child with a manner
as if to say "I'm enjoying this very much,"
remarked :

"Do you know, you are the only person except
the Queen Mother that has ever remained seated
in my presence? The Count de Bourbon and
Mam'selle la Duchess de Conde, even the Car-
dinal and my brother, Monsieur, all remain

All Greek to the little girl, so she answered
without deigning to give a glance to the Little
King: "I don't know those folks," and again
took up the broken lullaby.


The Little King's smile broadened to a hugh.
Christmas, after all, was not so bad a day. He
was determined to talk to the little girl and to
make her talk to him, so presently he asked:

"What is your name, Mam'selle ?"

"Louise Jarbeau. What's yours?" she answered
in accents softly spoken out of respect to baby's
sleepiness, then immediately resumed her crooning.

After a long, delicious pause, the King answered:

"My name is Louis."

Another long pause ensued.

"Louis what?" she asked between notes.

"Louis what?" repeated the King. Louise
failing to answer he looked up to Sweet Mam-
'selle and asked: "What does she mean?"

"I mean what is your other name besides
Louis," said the girl, answering for Mam'selle
in tones plainly showing that the King was inter-
fering with her motherly duties.

"Oh! Louis Fourteen. I am the King," he

Mam'selle gave his hand an admonitory squeeze.
The King shrugged his shoulders and laughed
softly as if to say, "Too late now. The cat's out."


The King's statement evidently amused the lit-
tle mother, for she looked up to Sweet Mam-
'selle with a smile which seemed to say, "To us
older folks his childish jests are amusing," and
again turned her eyes to the baby, now evidently
almost asleep. She was at least two years younger
than his Majesty.

The King was about to speak, but the little
mother held up her hand warningly, whispered
"Sh h h h" to enjoin siknce for one mo-
ment longer, swayed her body more gently, sung
more softly, watched the baby's face more intently
and after a moment of sweet pantomime, breathed
a sigh of relief as baby reached the shores of

"Now she is asleep and we may .talk without
waking her if we speak softly softly, you know,
as the fairies talk." She laid the baby gently
on the log, covered it tenderly with an old piece
of sail cloth, gazed at the sleeping infant for a
moment, sighed, crossed herself and said:

"Thank Jesu at last!"

She tiptoed to the other end of the log, sat
down, beckoned Mam'selle and the King to a


place beside her and drew in her ragged little
skirts so that they might sit very close. He at
once accepted the invitation but Mam'selle remained

"You sit down, too, on the other side of me,"
said Louise, smiling up to Mam'selle, "and we'll
talk. I'll tell you how St. Nicholas brought
Babette Babette is my baby to me only this

"I prefer standing," said Mam'selle, "and
should like very much to hear the story of

"Please sit down, Sweet Mam'selle, on the
other side of Louise," pleaded the Little King,
grasping Mam'selle's hand and drawing her toward
the log. So Mam'selle, for the first and last
time in all her life, sat in the presence of the
King of France, with Louise Jarbeau between her
and august Majesty.

At first the conversation seemed to halt, so
Louise, feeling that the burden of hostess rested
on her little shoulders, asked:

"What is your father's name and what does
he do?"


"He is dead," answered the King, "but his
name, too, was Louis."

"But his his other name, what was it?" asked

The King laughed and said: "I don't know."

Louise's eyes opened in wonder, but she made
no comment on the remarkable situation, fearing
to offend, for perhaps it was not the little boy's
fault that he did not know his father's name.

To the Little King the fact that his father
was dead was not a source, of grief. The late
Louis XIII was simply a link in the kingship
of France, a mere number in French history.

A long pause followed during which Louise
was trying to formulate suitable expressions of
sympathy for the King's fatherless and nameless
condition, but he sadly disturbed her mental proc-
esses by saying:

"My father was called Thirteen and I am

A smile came to Louise's face despite her
effort not to seem amused and she said:

"There must have been a lot of children in
your family to have to give them numbers instead


of names." Then the smile seemed to transfer
itself to the King's face and hers bore a touch of
sadness as she continued: "That's the way they
do in prison. My Father Pierre's number is too
large for me to know because I can't count more
than one hundred, so my Mother Louise puts it
down on a piece of paper when she sends me
with a basket of bread to the Prison Sur le

Louise sighed and with an air of wishing to
get away from a disagreeable topic, went back
to the subject of names:

"It is so funny. Your father with a number
for a name and you, too." Again she paused,
looked dreamily out over the river, turned again
to the King and continued softly, tenderly: "I'm
sorry he is dead because he can't be good to
you and buy things for you, and you can't be
sorry and cry if if they take him to prison
and your mother can't cry every night because
he is in prison. But maybe she cries because
he's dead, does she?"

The thought was entirely new to the Little
King, so he answered truthfully:


"I don't know, but I heard Madame de Longue-
ville say that the Queen left off rouge when the
King died. But why should she cry?'

Louise was dimly conscious of a feeling that
of course his mother would cry, but the King's
manner made her suspect that perhaps something
was wrong with either her premise or her conclu-
sion. The subject was too deep for Louise, so
she backed away from it saying :

"My mother's name is the same as mine. Her
name is Louise too Mother Louise. I am Baby
Louise. What what is your mother's name?"
There was doubt in the question; it was danger-
ous ground.

"I don't know," stammered the King, who
had inherited along with his crown his father's
tendency to stammer when slightly confused.

The science of nomenclature, so simple to
Louise, was too deep for Louis.

"What tithe Queen's name?" he asked, leaning
forward and speaking across Louise to Mam-

"Her Majesty's name is Anne," answered


Louise sat in open-eyed expectancy, hoping to
hear a second name.

"Yes, Anne," said the King, turning to Louise
and taking evident delight in the fact that his
mother had a name. "My mother's name is
Anne." A short pause filled with faltering cer-
tainty: "The Queen is my real mother, is she
not, Sweet Mam'selle?"

Mam'selle answered: "Yes."

Louise smiled in default of words. This con-
dition of affairs was startling. Here was a boy
older than she who did not know his mother's
name, and seemed not to be entirely clear about
his own. He seemed, too, to be a little foggy
concerning his mother's very existence and the
family name appeared to be a series of numbers.
Words were useless thought Louise; but silence
was embarrassing, so she was driven to speech:

"Does she have to work very hard?"

"Yes," responded the King, delighted to be
able to answer a question intelligibly. He felt
that he and the little girl were once more on
mutually understandable ground. But he was
wrong, for respecting the definition of the word


"work," they were further apart than ever.
"She holds a council of state on Mondays and
Thursdays, and every day with the Cardinal.

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Online LibraryCharles MajorThe little king : a story of the childhood of Louis XIV, king of France → online text (page 1 of 10)