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of his father. The poor child in his simplicity thought, and in-
deed said, " They will not do any harm to papa ; for papa never
did them any harm." The 20th of January 1793 came, and sen-
tence of death was passed on Louis XVI. When it was announced
to him, he asked to see his family. This request was granted.
The interview took place at eight o'clock in the evening. The
queen, holding the dauphin by the hand, Madame Elizabeth,
and Marie Therese, rushed sobbing' into the arms of Louis XVI.
During the first moments it was but a scene of confusion and
despair. At length tears ceased to flow, the conversation became
more calm, and the king' tried to console his heart-broken family.
While the dauphin stood between his father's knees gazing on
his face, scarcely conscious of the full extent of the loss he was
so soon to sustain, the public criers suddenly proclaimed under
the tower the sentence of death, and the hour for the execution.
The half- distracted boy tore himself from his father's arms,
rushed from the apartment, and endeavoured to force his way
through the guards. " Where are you going so fast ?" asked



THE LITTLE CAPTIVE KIXG.

one of them, rudely repelling" the poor child. " To speak to the
people, g-entlemen ; to implore them not to kill papa. Oh, do
let me pass ! " All was in vain, and Louis-Charles had to retrace
his steps, crying-, " Papa, papa ; oh do not kill papa !" as if his
heart were like to burst.

The king led his family to entertain the hope of a last inter-
view in the morning" ; but on consideration he thoug-ht it better
that such should not take place. At an early hour, the roll of
the drums announced that the unfortunate husband and father
was led out to execution. The particulars of that dreadful event
are too painful to be minutely dwelt upon. At the scaffold he
addressed a few words to the people, saying in a firm voice that
he died innocent of the crimes imputed to him ; that he for-
gave the authors of his death, and prayed that his blood might
not fall on France. He would have continued, but the drums
were instantly ordered to beat, and their rolling drowned the
voice of the king. In a few moments all was over. As
soon as the deed was perpetrated, furious wretches dipped their
pikes and their handkerchiefs in the blood, spread themselves
throughout Paris, and with shouts even went to the gates of
the Temple to display that brutal and factious joy which the
rabble manifests at the birth, the accession, and the fall of
princes.*

Such was the fate of the unfortunate Louis XVI., a man of
almost unexampled benevolence of disposition, who ever endea-
voured to act on his favourite maxim, that " king's exist only to
make nations happy by their government, and virtuous by their
example." Now called on to expiate the political errors of his
dissolute predecessors, an angry word never escaped him in the
depth of his misfortunes. In his will, written December 25,
1792, he says — "I forgive, from my whole heart, those who have
conducted themselves towards me as enemies, without my g-iving*
them the least cause, and I pray God to forgive them. And I
exhort my son, if he should ever have the misfortune to reign^
to forget all hatred and enmity, and especially my misfortunes
and sufferings. I recommend to him always to consider that it
is the duty of man to devote himself entirely to the happiness of
his fellow-men ; that he will promote the happiness of his subjects
only when he governs according to the laws ; and that the king
can make the laws respected, and attain his object, only when he
possesses the necessary authority." In the same spirit, on the
day before his condemnation, he sent to his faithful servants,
who were ready to risk all for him, this message — '•' I should
never forgive you if a single drop of blood were shed on my
account. I refused to suffer any to be shed when, perhaps, it
might have preserved to me my crown and my life ; but I da
not repent : no, I do not repent."

* Thiers.
20-



THE LITTLE CAPTIVE KING.

VII.

SEPARATION OF THE YOUNG KING FROBI HIS FAMILY.

Marie Antoinette was now a widow, and her children orphans.
The prince was acknowledged throug-hout Europe to be king",
"under the title of Louis XVII. But, alas ! this honour only
aggravated the suffering's of this unfortunate child. A short
time after the execution of her husband, the queen was forcibly
separated from her son. The scene of her parting with her dear
hoy, for whose sake alone she had consented to endure the
burden of existence, was so touching-, so heart-rending, that the
very jailers who witnessed it could not refrain from tears.

The revolutionary tribunal, which had no little difficulty in
finding pleas ag'ainst Louis XVI. and his queen, was greatly em-
barrassed in its treatment of their infant son. Only eig'ht years
of age, he was too young to be either tried or guillotined. Not
that the wish was wanting- to put him to death along with the
other members of his family ; but the spectacle of a child under
the hands of the executioner mig'ht have formed a somewhat
dangerous provocative to public indignation. There was one
thing, therefore, which the monsters who assumed the character
of judges in that dreadful period durst not do : they durst not
openly put an innocent and fair-haired child to a bloody death.
Undetermined as to what should be done with this youthful de-
scendant of a hundred kings, they readily yielded to the request
of Hebert, who proposed that it would be highly expedient for
the nation to give Louis Capet, as he called him, a sound sans-
■cidotte education ; that he should receive thorough notions of
liberty and equality, and be at the same time taught a handi-
craft, whereby he mig'ht gain an honest livelihood. The means
of instruction, he said, were already at hand. Simon, a shoe-
maker and a good Jacobin, was quite the man to undertake this
weighty charge. Hebert's proposal met with a ready assent,
and the young- prince was consigned to Simon and his wife, both
of whom went to reside in the Temple, for the purpose of con-
ducting their new duties.

From anything which can be gathered from history, it does
not appear that Simon was to be in any respect accountable for
his treatment of the poor boy handed over to his care ; and from
his conduct, it might reasonably be inferred, that the greater his
cruelty, the greater would be his merit in the eyes of the Con-
vention. The most correct mode of describing- Simon would be
to speak of him as an utter blackg*uard, a man lost to all sense of
decency — ignorant, brutal, and habitually intemperate. Torn
from the arms of his mother, and committed to the charge of
such a personage, the youthful king was made to drain even to
the dregs the martyr's bitter cup.

21



THE LITTLE CAPTIVE KING.

The whole course of life of Louis-Charles was now altered.
Simon hated books, and tore and trampled in pieces those of his
prisoner, substituting- for them, as his only recreation, the perusal
of a placard entitled the Rights of Man. Simon hated exercise,
and therefore would not permit the young king" to walk any more
in the garden attached to the prison. Simon hated birds, and
therefore took away from his little captive two tame canaries
which his aunt, Madame Elizabeth, had reared for him. Simon
hated religion, and therefore expressly forbade his young charge
ever to say his prayers ; and one night having surprised the child
kneeling with uplifted hands beside his flock-bed, he flew at him,
crying, " What are you about there, Capet ; tell me or I will be
the death of you 1 " The child confessed that he was repeating a
little prayer which his mamma had taught him. Simon instantly
seized the child by the arm, and flung him into a dark dungeon,
where for several days he was allowed only bread and water.

But there was one thing which Simon did not hate, and that
was — drink ; and whenever he sat down to it, he used to hold out
his glass, crying, " Here, Capet, wine here ; hand me some wine,
I say." Hard was it for the child to brook such an office to such
a being ; but the slightest murmur was so severely punished, that
he was obliged to submit to be a servant to Simon, and to leam
the duties of his new situation from the cruelties of this tyranni-
cal supporter of equality and the rights of man. Nor was his
merry moods less trying to the little sufferer ; for then he began
to sing, and as he would not sing alone, and as he knew only
those horrible choruses howled around the guillotine, the child
had to choose between joining in them and being severely beaten ;
and often did he suffer himself to be felled to the earth sooner
than comply. Not even at night had he respite from his tor-
mentor. Several times he was awakened by this Simon calling
out, " Capet, are you asleep ? Where are you ? Come here till
I look at you." The poor little victim used to start from his
sleep, jump out of bed, and run almost naked to his tyrant, who
suffered him to approach till near enough to be kicked back to
bed.

The wife of ^mon, however, at times felt some touch of pity
for the sufferingi of the unhappy child, and tried, without the
knowledge of her husband, to procure him some indulgences.
She once ventured to remonstrate with his terrible jailer, repre-
senting to him the cruelty of not giving the little Capet a single
plaything. " You are quite right," answered Simon ; " children
ought to be amused ; he shall have a plaything to-morrow."

On the morrow he brought him a little model of a guillotine r
the child, in horror, hid his face in his hands, crying, " I will die-
rather than touch it." Simon rushed upon him, poker in hand ;
and had it not been for the interposition of M. Naudin, the sur-
geon, who came in at that moment to see Simon's wife, who was-
ill, the helpless victim would for ever have escaped the brutal

22



THE LITTLE CAPTIVE KING.

rage of his tonnentor, who, however, when the surgeon had lefty
handed to the boy, as if shamed into indulgence, two pears irt
addition to his usual scanty supper. The child took them, and-
laid them aside for a purpose not to be discovered by such a
mind as that of Simon, and began to eat his bread, which he held
in one hand, while with the other he added another storey to the-
card-edifice he was raising. Seeing the caution with which the
young prisoner was placing each card, Simon bent over the
table and blew upon the castle, which instantly fell.

" Eh, Capet, what do you say to my breath ? " said he, with a.
savage laugh.

'' I say that the breath of God is more mighty still," answered
the child.

vni.

MORE PRISON SCENES.

The next day the surgeon repeated his visit : but let us for a
moment try to realise the scene which the prisoner's apartment,
presented. It was one of two compartments, the first of which^
served as an antechamber, communicating with the next by an
aperture in the partition ; its only furniture a stove. In the
second, which was lighted by a window secured with thick iron
bars, were a large table, a small square one, some straw chairs,
and two beds without curtains, in one of which lay the sick wife~
of Simon.

Several men were smoking and drinking round the larger-
table, and were already intoxicated. A poor little child, pale and
haggard, was seated near the window at the smallest table. With
his weak emaciated hands he was building a castle of cards, but
his tearful eyes hardly followed the movement of each card as it
rose or fell. His pallid countenance had but one expression, that
of sorrow, and at times terror. Alas ! who could have recognised
in this miserable little creature the once charming child — so gay,
so mirthful, so delicately neat, so graceful? Not only had his
mourning, which he had worn since his father's death, been
taken off him, but his hair, his beautiful fair hair, whose cluster-
ing curls had been so often fondly stroked and carefully arranged
by a mother's hand, had fallen under the pitiless scissors of the
woman who deemed she was thus depriving him of the last
remaining relic of royalty. A woollen shirt, a coat and trousers
of coarse red cloth, had replaced the silk and velvet, the cambric
and lace, of days gone by.

" Well, Citizen Naudin," said one of the municipals, as the
surgeon, with an involuntaiy stolen glance towards the place
where the young king was seated, approached the sick woman's
bed — " Well, Citizen Naudin, any news to-day ? "

"You might have learned that from the cannonading," re-
plied the doctor.

23



THE LITTLE CAPTIVE KING.

*'Ah, citizen, a republic is a fine thing- — always something-
stirring/' said Simon, now so drunk as to be scarcely able to
stand. " Apropos — is there any news of the ex-queen, the she-
wolf?"

" She was removed from the Temple to the Conciergerie the
2d of this month," was the answer.

The name of his mother having instantly brought the child to
Simon's side in the hope of hearing- something of her fate, he
said to him, " Do you remember your mother, Capet ? "

" Remember her ! " exclaimed he, tears springing to his eyes —
" remember her ! I see her now : I have her before me yet, my
poor mother. I hear her saying, as they were tearing- me from
her arms, ' Forget not, my child, forget not a mother who loves
you better than life. Be prudent, gentle, and virtuous.' Simon,"
continued the child of Marie Antoinette, the hot tears falling
from his eyes — " Simon, you may beat me, you may kick me ; I
will do anything you wish; I will love you, if you will only
speak to me of my mother. You never speak to me of her."

" I would desire nothing better, Capet," answered Simon ;
" and as a beginning I will sing you a song that the Sans-
Culottes have just made upon her." Then, with a hoarse discor-
dant voice, he began to roar out a couplet, every word of which
was a vile slander upon the unhappy queen. The poor child re-
coiled with horror. But holding- him fast by the coat, Simon
continued — " What ! you little cub, you ask me news of your
mother, and now you refuse to listen. You shall not only listen,
but sing too."

"Never; no, never. You shall kill me first," said the child,
struggling to escape from his grasp.

"Well, if you will not sing, jou shall join in a toast. Citizens,
iill your glasses ; it must be a bumper ;" and as he spoke he
iilled his own glass and those of his companions. " The republic
for ever ! "

" The republic for ever ! " shouted every voice but that of the
•child, who was now weeping bitterly.

" Capet," said Simon, the moment he observed his silence ;
" Capet, cry ' the republic for ever.' Come, let us have it."

" No," said the child in a low but firm tone.

" Oh, if you please, Capet." Louis made no answer.

" I command you, Capet." The same silence on the part of the
boy.

"Will j'-ou obey, wolf-cub?" cried Simon, in a paroxysm of
fury. " If you do not instantly cry ' the republic for ever,' I
will knock you down, Capet ; I will knock you down."

Without appearing the least intimidated by Simon's preparing
to suit the action to the word, the young victim dried his tears,
and gazing calmly and steadfastly upon his persecutor, said,
" You may do what you please, sir ; but never will I utter those
words." Immediately a piercing cry re-echoed through the

24



THE LITTLE CAPTIVE KING.

vaults of the dung-eon. Simon had seized the unhappy child by
the hair, and was holding" him up by it, crying-, " Miserable
viper, I know not what hinders me from dashing- you against
the wall!*'

"Scoundrel! what are you about?" cried Monsieur Naudin,
indig-nantly ; and once more rescuing the child from him, he
placed him g-ently on his chair, whispering- in his ear some little
soothing and caressing words. " Sir," said the child, " you
showed yesterday also much kind interest in me, and I was
thankful. Will you do me the favour to accept those two pears ?
They were given me for my supper last night. I have no other
way of showing that I am not ungrateful to you." Deeply
affected, Monsieur Naudin took the fruit ; and as he respectfully
kissed the hand of the little prisoner, his tears fell upon it.

" The citizen Naudin must always have his joke," said Simon,
sullenly. " I meant the child no harm."

But neither suffering nor constant intercourse with these rude
men had as yet had power to alter the noble disposition of the
child.

" If the Vendeans were to set you at liberty," asked Simon one
day, " what would jou. do ? "

" I would pardon you," was the instant reply.

Could the most determined party-spirit — that spirit which has
been well termed " a species of mental vitriol which men keep to
let fly at others ; but which, in the meantime, injures and cor-
rodes the mind that harbours it" — could the most determined
party-spirit behold this poor child, and hinder its tears from
falling ?

IX.

MARIE ANTOINETTE — THE SIGNATURE.

The queen survived her husband nine months, and they were
months of the deepest sorrow. Separated from her son in
the Temple, and afterwards conveyed to the Conciergerie, a
prison of meaner pretensions, she there was made to endure the
greatest indignities. Lodg-ed in an apartment unwholesome
from its dampness and impure odours, she was waited on by a
spy — a man of horrible countenance, and hollow sepulchral voice.
This wretch, whose name was Barassin, was a robber and mur-
derer by profession. Such was the attendant chosen of the queeu
of France. A few days before her trial he was removed, and a
gendarme placed in her chamber, who watched over her night
and day, and from whom she was not separated, even when in
bed, but by a ragged curtain. In this melancholy abode Marie
Antoinette had no other dress than an old black gown, stockings
with holes, which she was forced to mend frequently, and she
was utterly destitute of shoes.

To relieve the difficulty of substantiating charges against the

25



THE LITTLE CAPTIVE KING.

queen at her trial, Hebert conceived the infamous idea of wrino -
ing" from her son revelations which would criminate his mother.
As the boy was too young- to admit of his appearing* as a witness
before the tribunal, and as it would have been impossible to
Tnake him charg-e his mother with imaginary crimes while in
possession of his senses, it was resolved by Hebert and Simon to
induce him to drink by a show of kindness, and to effect their
purpose when he should become intoxicated. This diabolical
scheme was forthwith put in execution. A deposition full of
the most revolting confessions and accusations was carefully
prepared and brought to the Temple. All that was necessary to
complete it as an instrument to be laid before the tribunal, was
the signature of the little captive king.

On the morning of the 5th of October 1793, Simon and Hebert,
with two municipal officers, were breakfasting together in the
prison in the company of the prince, from whose thick and
rapid utterance, unusual loquacity, and flushed features, it was
easy to perceive they had succeeded in intoxicating him. "When
it was thought he was sufficiently stupified by liquor, Simon
opened a large paper, and giving him a pen dipped in ink, he
said — " Come, Capet, my boy ; let us see whether you can write.
Just try if you can put your name at the bottom of this paper."

" Let me read it first," replied the child, speaking quite thick
;and hardly able to lift his head.

" Sign it first and read it after ; but you must have a little
more to drink. Here, take this one glass of Malaga."

"You make me drink too much, Simon," said he, putting up
his hand to his burning brow ; " it disagrees with me, and be-
sides I do not like wine — you know I do not."

" It is well to be accustomed to everything. Come, my boy,
this one little glass of wine, and then you can write your name."

" I would rather do it than drink any more," replied the child,
taking the pen and writing Louis-Charles of France at the bot-
tom of the sheet that lay open before him ; then letting his head
fall heavily on the table, he was carried to bed by Simon, where
he lay for some hours in a heavy slumber.

Fortified by the instrument so basely fabricated and subscribed,
the revolutionary tribunal proceeded to try Marie Antoinette.
The accusations were so odious that the Jacobin audience, bad as
it was, was disgusted. Urged to answer if she had not attempted
to pollute the mind of her son, the queen said with extraordinary
-emotion, " I thought that human nature would excuse me from
answering such an imputation ; but I appeal from it to the heart
•of every mother present." This noble and simple reply affected
all who heard it. To the general charges of interfering in politi-
cal affairs, she showed that there was no precise fact against her,
and that, as the wife of Louis XVI., she was not answerable for
any acts of his reign. All was unavailing ; it had been deter-
mined to put her to death, and she was accordingly condemned.

26



THE LITTLE CAPTIVE KING.

Being" taken back to prison, she there passed in tolerable com-
posure the nig-ht preceding her execution, and on the morning' of
the following- day, October 16, she was conducted to the scaflbld.
Her long" hair, now white as snow, she had cut off with her
own hands. She was dressed in white ; and thoug-h depressed
with a thousand conflicting" emotions, she had an air*which still
■commanded the admiration of all who beheld her ; and she
ascended the scaffold with a step as firm and dig"nified as if she
had been about to take her place on a throne by the side of her
husband. With the same nobility of soul did this much injured
woman submit herself to the hands of the executioner and endure
the stroke which deprived her of existence.

The intellig"ence of the condemnation of his mother was not
communicated to Louis-Charles, nor did he know of her death
till some hours after it had taken place. On the morning- of the
execution he rose earlier than usual, for, depressed with melan-
choly, he had spent a wretched night ; and dressing- himself, he
sat do^Ti to wait the entrance of his keeper, who was later than
usual at his post. Simon at last appeared with breakfast. As
the door opened to admit him, the boy perceived a Savoyard
with his back to the door smoking-; and at the moment Simon
called to the man, " Citizen, will you help me to put this room
in order?'"'

" Willingly, citizen, I was looking for a job," said the man
with an air of affected indifference ; and taking the offered
broom, he began to sweep.

" Simon," said the prisoner to his jailer, '^ I cannot eat any
breakfast ; I am not hungry."

There seemed to be something extraordinary about Simon him-
self this day ; a half-expression of remorse seemed to have taken
place of the usually unvarying harshness of his countenance, and
he carefully avoided meeting" the restless glance of his victim.

"^yhat is the matter with you?" asked Simon in a more
softened tone than he had ever yet been heard to use. " Are you
ill this morning ? "

" No," said the young king, " but I have had such a horrid
•dream ; it is the second time I have dreamt it. The night before
they took me from my mother, I dreamt that I was in the midst
of a troop of wild beasts which wanted to tear me to pieces. I
dreamt it again last night."

" Oh, you must not mind dreams," replied Simon.

" That may be ; but, Simon, pray listen to me. I am so
frightened — I know not why — but I am terrified ; take me to your
shop, teach me to make shoes, I will pass for your son ; for
I know," continued he, in a timid faltering voice, " oh, I know
they will not spare me any more than my poor father. They
will kill me."

Simon made no answer, but went out abruptly, slamming the
door after him.

27



THE LITTLE CAPTIVE KING.

As Simon closed the door, Louis dragged his failing limbs to
his usual seat in the window. The poor child already felt the
symptoms of the malady which carried him oiF. He now per-
ceived that the man introduced by Simon, instead of sweeping,
was from time to time gazing at him, and manifestly with tears
in his eyes.

" You weep as you look at me," said he, making an effort to go
to him, but again falling back upon his seat — " you weep. Who
can you be ? No one here has any pity for me."

" A friend," replied the man in the low tones of caution.

" And are you come to tell me of my mother ? Oh where is
she ? What is become of her ? "

" Unhappy prince ! " said the pretended Savoyard with gasp-
ing sobs.

" Oh speak, sir, speak ! Is she ill ? "

" They have killed her," said the man.

" My mother ! — killed her ! " repeated the child with a cry of



Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 26 of 59)