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When a Cobbler Ruled a King By Augusta Huiell Seaman Characters: 14997

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

"Hurry along, Yvonne! Why do you lag behind so!"

"Oh, Jean! I am doing my best, but your legs are so long, and you take such great strides that I can scarcely keep up!"

Two children, a well-grown, long-limbed boy of twelve, and a little girl of scarcely more than seven, were hurrying hand-in-hand along the Rue St. Honoré, on a brilliant May morning in the year 1792. Paris on that day resembled, more than anything else, a great bee-hive whose swarming population buzzed hither and thither under the influence of angry excitement and general unrest. The two youngsters were bubbling over with the same eager restlessness that agitated their elders. They pushed their way through throngs of men in red liberty-caps, soldiers in uniforms of the National Guard, and women in tri-coloured skirts and bodices. Poor little Yvonne, panting and tired, struggled to keep up with the striding gait of her larger companion.

"If you don't hurry," said Jean, "we shall not see the little 'Wolf-Cub' out for his walk, and I want a look at him!"

"Is he very dreadful to look at?" queried Yvonne, innocently.

"I don't know,-I've never seen him," answered Jean, "but he must be pretty ugly if he's the son of a monster,-and that's what they call our Citizen King!"

They turned into a narrow lane with but few houses on either side. At one end stood the church of St. Roch, and at the other lay the park of the Tuileries, in the centre of which rose the royal palace.

"This is called the Rue du Dauphin because the little monster comes through it when he goes to church," remarked Jean.

"Well, I think he can't be so very dreadful if he goes to church," protested Yvonne.

"Oh, he only pretends to be good to deceive us!" answered Jean, carelessly.

When they reached the park, they turned and ran along the edge till they came to the side flanked by the river Seine. Here they were stopped by a low wooden fence decorated with festoons of tri-coloured ribbons and bunting. In a small plot of ground behind this fence, a little boy could be seen digging up the ground about some flower-beds. He was a really beautiful child and his age evidently did not much exceed seven years. Great blue eyes looked out of a face whose expression was one of charming attractiveness. His silky golden-brown hair fell in curls about his shoulders, and he was dressed in the uniform of a tiny National Guard, with a small jewelled sword hanging at his side. About his feet a handsome, coal-black spaniel romped, shaking his long ears that almost trailed on the ground, barking and biting at the spade in his master's hand.

Jean stopped and looked over the fence. His snapping black eyes grew soft at the sight of the group within. What boyish heart does not yearn toward a dog!

"That's a fine little spaniel you have there, Citizen Boy!" he remarked. "What do you call him?" The child inside the fence looked up with a pleased smile.

"His name is Moufflet. Isn't he a beauty? Don't you want to pet him?" The little boy lifted the wriggling animal to the fence while Jean put out his hand and stroked the long, curly ears.

"Jean! Jean! lift me up! I want to see him too!" begged Yvonne who was so short that her head barely came to the top of the fence. Jean reached down, and with his strong arms swung her to a seat on his shoulder.

"Oh, you beautiful thing!" she exclaimed. "And what a pretty little boy, too! I like you, boy!" The little fellow laughed with pleasure.

"And I like you also!" he declared. "Don't you want some flowers? I gathered some for my mother this morning, but I think there are enough left to make you a nice bouquet." Dropping the dog, he ran hither and thither gathering from one bush and another, till he had collected quite a large mass of blossoms. These he handed to the little girl, saying:

"And won't you tell me your name?"

"I am Yvonne Marie Clouet," she answered, burying her face in the fragrant bunch, "and I thank you!"

Jean, however, was growing restless. This was all very pleasant, but it was not that for which he had stolen a holiday from the services of the Citizeness Clouet, risking thereby the prospect of certain punishment, and had hurried through two miles of hot streets to see. He leaned across the fence toward the boy, and spoke in a half-whisper:

"I say, Citizen Boy, do you happen to know whereabouts we can get a sight of the little 'Wolf-Cub'?" The child looked startled.

"I don't know what you mean!" he replied.

"Why, you must know!-the son of that monster, the Citizen King!" The little fellow drew back proudly. His blue eyes grew dark with anger, and he laid his hand on the hilt of his sword.

"I am the Dauphin of France! And my father the King is not a monster! He is a good man!" Jean was so astonished that he let go his hold of Yvonne, who all but toppled from her perch on his shoulder.

"But-but-" he stammered, "you are not a bit like what they said! What does all this mean? I-I like you! I don't care if you are the Dauphin! Say, will you forgive me, little Citizen Prince?" The generous heart of the royal child was as quick to forgive as it was to take offence, and he held out his hand with a charming smile. Jean took it, glanced furtively around, and shook it heartily.

"I hope no one sees me doing this!" he muttered. The Dauphin, now all restored to good humour, seated himself on an upturned box and nursed his knees with his clasped hands.

"Let us talk awhile!" he begged. "I do not see any children now, except my sister, and I'm often very lonely. Please tell me your name."

"I am called Jean Dominique Mettot," answered his new friend. "That is the name they gave me in the Foundling Hospital from which the Citizeness Clouet took me."

"Oh, did you come from the Foundling Hospital?" eagerly replied the Dauphin. "Why, I used to go there often with the Queen, my mother. We brought food and money for the sick children. I loved to go there! I never wanted to come away!"

"Did the Citizeness Queen really go there?" marvelled Jean. "Why, she can't be such a bad one, after all!" The Dauphin's face grew sad.

"Do you know," he said, "I believe that people say a great many false things about my father and mother because they do not know the truth,-they do not know how really good they are!"

"Oh, they say bad enough things!" remarked Jean, cheerfully. "You ought to hear a man they call Citizen Marat! He gets up on a bench in our street and tells the people that the king and queen are starving them just for the pastime of hearing them howl for bread,-that they like that kind of music!"

"It is not true! It is not true!" repeated the Dauphin with tears in his eyes. "Oh, if you could only see my father, you would not think so!" Then, glancing over his shoulder he exclaimed gladly, "Why, here he is now!" Jean made a movement to put down Yvonne and take to his heels, but the Dauphin begged him to stay. They all stood silent, watching the approach of a large, stout man who walked slowly with his hands clasped behind him. His face was gentle, thoughtful and kindly. Across his coat were stretched the ribbons of several royal orders.

"Father!" called the Dauphin when the King drew near enough. "These are my little new friends, Yvonne and Jean. Won't you speak to them?" The King smiled at his son and came over to the fence.

"Good-morning, my children!" he said kindly, laying a hand on Jean's shoulder. "I am glad to know and greet the f

riends of my son." Jean looked up into the fatherly eyes, and noticed the sad lines about the gentle mouth. He was sorely puzzled in his boyish heart. Certainly this was not the horrible monster such as he had heard the King described in the Faubourg St. Antoine. The boy was thoroughly in sympathy with the downtrodden people who were rising at last to claim their liberty and a few other inalienable human rights. But there was something wrong somewhere! At any rate, this royal gentleman had that about him which compelled his reverence and trust. Snatching off his red liberty-cap, Jean bent his knee and kissed the hand of Louis XVI of France!

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"Yvonne," remarked Jean, as they strolled homeward, "we-at least I will have to pay for this little holiday!"

"Oh, Jean, I'm sorry! I ought to take part of the punishment, for I made you take me," sympathised Yvonne.

"Mother Clouet won't beat you, you can warrant, but this is the day when I should have carried the wash to the Rue du Bac," explained her companion. "Oh, well! I have had my dance, now I must pay the fiddler!" It was evident that this was not Jean's first attempt at playing truant. Then a new thought struck him and he stopped short.

"Yvonne, what do you think of the poor little Citizen Dauphin?"

"I love him!" she answered simply.

"Well, I do too, and yet I suppose I ought not, if I am to be a good citizen of the Nation. Kings are wrong! We've had enough kings, and they've trodden us under foot and robbed us of our rights for centuries. And yet this little fellow might make a good one. Who knows! And there's his father, too-the Citizen King. How did you like him?"

"He seemed very, very kind," answered Yvonne, "and very sad. I felt sorry for him. And I don't believe all the things they say about him, either. Why did you kiss his hand, Jean?"

"I don't know! Something made me. Perhaps it's because he is so different from what we thought. But, see here, Yvonne! Let me tell you that if anyone finds out how we feel, or that I kissed his hand, our heads won't be safe on our shoulders! Do you know that?" The child made a frightened gesture of assent.

"Then keep it to yourself!" said Jean, shortly. They walked on in silence, and with dragging steps. It was plain that they were in no hurry to get home.

"Shall we go to see the little prince again?" inquired Yvonne.

"I'd certainly like to. We will try to go soon,-as soon as I can make up my mind to another beating!" answered Jean, whimsically. Then in a more sober manner:

"He's lonesome, poor little fellow! It's a shame for the people to take away his liberty and keep him cooped up in that palace without any little friends, I say!"

They turned at length into the Rue de Lille, a narrow, dirty street, rather deserted at the time, since most of the inhabitants were off at the Place de la Révolution, singing the "Marseillaise," shouting for Danton, or dancing the Carmagnole. At the door of the house numbered "670," stood a woman in a short cotton dress and wooden shoes. She was shading her eyes and looking far up the street, in the direction opposite to that from which the children were approaching.

"There's Mère Clouet now!" whispered Jean. Suddenly the woman turned, caught sight of the pair, and made a dash at Jean who ducked, slid aside and came out unharmed quite behind the enraged laundress. But Mère Clouet was agile, and moreover well acquainted with Jean's system of man?uvres!

"Ah, you rascal!" she shouted, catching him deftly by the collar. "You will run away for the whole day, and leave me to carry home the wash myself! You will entrap my little Yvonne and force her to accompany you, scaring her good mother almost beyond her wits lest the child come to harm! To bed you go this night with never a bite or a sup, and lucky you'll be if there's a whole bone in your lazy, idle body!"

With her great, muscular arms she shook Jean till his teeth clicked together, dropping him only when sheer exhaustion compelled her. Poor Yvonne stood by, trembling, wide-eyed and frightened. Citizeness Clouet having temporarily disposed of Jean, turned her attention to her daughter.

"And as for thee, naughty little mouse!-" Then her eyes fell for the first time on the flowers.

"But by all the saints, where did you get that magnificent bouquet, child? Never since I was a girl in Normandy have I seen such blossoms, except on the altars in the churches at Eastertide!"

"Why, Mother, the dear little Citizen Dauphin gave them to me!" exclaimed Yvonne. Then she cast a frightened glance at Jean, remembering too late his warning on the way home. Jean himself trembled, and expected that Mère Clouet would break into a torrent of abuse and invective against the little prince. But to their astonishment she replied:

"The poor little fellow! Well do I remember how his mother brought him to the great church of Notre Dame when he was but a tiny baby. You, Yvonne, were also but a few months old, and I carried you out with me to see the sight. The Queen in her carriage held him up that all the people might see him, and how the crowds sang and shouted for joy! Who would have thought that in seven years they would be keeping him a prisoner in his own palace and calling him names! These are marvellous times! But tell me how you came to see him. 'Tis quite a jaunt from here to the Tuileries."

Encouraged by her mother's relenting mood, Yvonne told the story of their morning, described the Dauphin, the King and even Moufflet. Jean too forgot that he was in disgrace, and added his say to the tale at frequent intervals. Then Yvonne cast all caution to the winds.

"Mother," she ended, "I love the little Citizen Dauphin, and I'm sorry for his father the Citizen King, and I don't care if you do know it! So does Jean!"

"Hush, hush, precious one!" exclaimed her mother in alarm. "The walls may have ears! Never say that thought aloud if you do not wish us all to be made acquainted with the sharp edge of La Guillotine! But tell me, what else said the little lad?"

"He said, Citizeness Clouet," broke in Jean, "just when we were coming away, that if we were ever in need or trouble, his good parents the King and Queen would help us out if they could. Do you know, I believe that if you were to ask them, they would give you the money to pay the taxes that you said would be due next month, and that you could never pay. Then we would not be turned out of the house. Why don't you ask it?" But Mère Clouet was incredulous.

"The little Prince is all very well," she remarked scornfully, "but his father and mother are a different matter. They have ground the poor under their heel for many years, and they only do an act of charity when there may be a crowd around to see and applaud it. Trust me, Jean and Yvonne, the King and Queen would set the soldiery upon us were we to come and demand money!" But Jean was far from convinced.

"If you would only try!" he begged. "They seemed so kind to-day. Come with us to-morrow, and see the little fellow! At least it can do no harm!"

"Well, we shall see!" she conceded. "But tell no one about this, or,-" and she made a sign indicative of the instability of their heads. "And now, sit you down to your supper, Yvonne. And you, idle good-for-nothing, sit you down also, since you have paid with your chattering tongue for your day's wickedness!"

And so Jean sat down!

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