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When a Cobbler Ruled a King By Augusta Huiell Seaman Characters: 13523

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

There is nothing in this world so fickle as a Parisian mob! A breath, a word, a gesture even, can often turn it aside from its most murderous purpose, and bring it worshipping to the very feet of those it sought but a moment before to destroy!

The great palace of the Tuileries was crowded to suffocation. Hordes of savage men, women, and even children from the poorest quarters of Paris, thronged, jostled and fought one another to get a sight of their hated sovereigns. A small company of soldiers strove in vain to clear the rooms and defend the royalty from the taunts and insults of the populace. Outside the palace, a still greater section of the mob, unable to force an entrance, shrieked for something spectacular, even to demanding the heads of the royal family. It was a wild, turbulent scene!

Jean had kept his word. Throughout the four hours' march along the Rue St. Honoré, on that memorable twentieth of June, he had stayed closely by that great giant of a Santerre, who finally gave him his heavy pike to carry. At the palace gate the mob forced the doors with a rush, and Jean, by virtue of being in the van with the brewer, entered among the first. Up the Grand Staircase they hurried, pell-mell, dragging a piece of cannon with them, and using hatchets, commenced to force the door behind which it was rumoured that the King was hiding. Doubtless the mob expected to find him cowering in terror behind a few faithful soldiers. What then was their amazement when the panels of the door fell in, to behold him standing directly before them, calm and unmoved!

"Here I am!" announced Louis XVI. "Had you waited but a moment, you might have entered the door without destroying it. What do you wish with me?" The rabble fell back a pace, in enforced respect. Jean crept behind some of the tallest, not wishing the King to perceive him and misinterpret his intentions.

"We have here a decree concerning the rights of the people!" announced one, Legendre, a butcher, who had constituted himself their spokesman. "We wish you to sanction it!"

"This," said the King quietly, "is neither the place nor the time for me to do that. You know that I will do all which your new Constitution requires of me!" His kingly dignity quite changed the attitude of the turbulent throng.

"Vive la nation!" suddenly shouted his assailants in response.

"Yes," answered the King, "shout for the nation! I am its best friend!"

"Well, prove it then!" demanded a bold voice, and its owner handed the King a red cap on the point of a pike. Jean held his breath, wondering what the monarch would do now. But Louis XVI deemed this neither the time nor the place to resist what was after all but a symbol. He lifted the cap, and with a dignified gesture, placed it on his head. Further than that, he even poured some liquor from a bottle offered to him, and drank to the nation, though there were a thousand chances that he had been presented with poison. After that he was loudly applauded, and there was plainly no reason to fear an attack upon his person.

But now Jean became anxious for the safety of the little prince, and pushed his way from the room to ascertain what he could concerning the other members of the royal family. At the door of the council hall he heard it said that within could be seen the "Austrian Wolf," as they called the Queen. Truly enough, there she was at the end of the room. Jean's heart gave a bound at the sight of the group. Fenced in by a long table stood Marie Antoinette, her head high, her great eyes flashing, her cheeks deathly pale. On one side of her stood young Marie-Thérèse, pale also, but brave and unflinching, her hand clasped in her mother's. And on the table, supported by his mother's arm, stood the Dauphin. In his face was mingled astonishment and fright, and he turned his eyes constantly toward his mother, as if to read in her countenance the meaning of this amazing invasion.

For a time nothing but confusion reigned. Cries of "Down with the Austrian Wolf!" mingled with shouts of "Vive Santerre!" "Vivent les Sans-culottes!" "Vive le Faubourg St. Antoine!" Then suddenly there was silence. A huge woman pushed her way through the crowd, threw her red woollen liberty-cap on the table and cried:

"If thou art so fond of the nation, thou Austrian Wolf, let thy son wear the red cap of liberty!"

"Yes, yes!" shrieked the crowd. "Crown the little Wolf-Cub with the red cap, and give him some tri-coloured ribbons to wear!" Someone threw down the ribbons beside the cap. The Queen turned to one of the guards standing close by.

"Place the cap on his head!" she commanded, and the grenadier did so, setting it on the boy's brown curls; then he tied the ribbons in his button-hole. The little fellow, hardly comprehending whether this might be in sport or insult, smiled uncertainly. The multitude shouted and applauded, and more confusion ensued. Jean, taking advantage of the racket, slipped to the front, and placed himself directly before the Dauphin. The little prince at once recognised him, but before he should show that he did, Jean leaned across the table and shouted "Vive la nation!" and then in an undertone whispered: "I am only here to help you! What can I do?" The Dauphin's face lit up with a smile of understanding, and without an instant's hesitation he murmured:

"Find Moufflet!" Comprehending well the boy's anxiety for his pet, Jean passed on, melted into the crowd and quickly scurried away, darting here and there, in and out of all the rooms to which he could find admittance. But it was like hunting for a needle in a haystack. Chance alone finally favoured him. As he passed a thickly-packed group in one of the corridors, he thought he distinguished a faint yelp. In another moment he knew that he was not mistaken. Hating anything that was royal property, a crowd of rough sans-culottes had surrounded the poor shivering animal, for lack of being able to get any nearer its master.

"Here, Jacques!" called one ruffian, "give me your pike and I'll finish him!" He was just about to spear the frightened, yelping ball of fluff, when Jean broke madly through the crowd.

"Give him to me!" he commanded. "He's just the kind of a dog I want! I'll teach him to bark for Liberty, Equality and Fraternity!" The crowd laughed, patted Jean's head approvingly, and handing Moufflet over to his protection, hurried off to seek other prey. The dog whined his recognition of a former friend, and tried to hide under the boy's jacket.

But Jean could not carry the little thing around in his arms, and at the same time restore him to his master, that was plain. Where could he place him so that the little animal might remain in safety? He looked about him in des

pair. There was not a corner or the smallest cubby-hole where it would be secure. Suddenly he remembered that in one of the rooms now deserted, he had opened a door of what seemed to be a large closet. He hurried to the spot and found just the hiding-place he needed. Thrusting Moufflet into the darkness, he commanded:

"You be a good dog! Lie down and be quiet!" As if comprehending the situation completely, the dog crawled into a far corner, curled up and lay shivering and silent. Jean closed the door, turned the key, and ran back to the council-hall. Meanwhile, what had taken place in his absence?

For many minutes the Dauphin stood crowned with the heavy woollen cap, while the crowd hooted, laughed and jeered. The day was very hot, and the perspiration streamed down his face and dampened his curls. His mother pressed him closer to her, whispering him to be brave a little longer. As she did so, a young woman in front called out:

"How proud and haughty that Austrian is! How she hates us!" The girl was pretty, and her expression mild and gentle. The Queen wondered at the contrast between her appearance and her words. For the first time that day, she opened her lips and answered:

"I do not hate you, my friend! Why should I? But I am afraid that you hate me, though I have done you no wrong!" The young woman began to feel a little ashamed.

"No, no! I do not mean that you hate me," she replied, "but the nation. You love only Austria from whence you came!"

"You poor child!" answered the Queen. "They have told you that and you believe it, but it is not true! I came from Austria when I was a very young girl, to marry the King. But since then I have forgotten the land of my birth. I love only France! Why, see! am I not the mother of your future king?" and she pointed to the Dauphin. "I love all my French people, and I only wish them to be happy!" The girl was so touched by the Queen's gentle, reproachful manner, that the tears came into her eyes.

"Oh, pardon me, Madame! I did not know you!" she begged. "I see now that you are not as wicked as they said!" It was then that the humour of the mob changed. Women and men who had been the fiercest, wept at the grief in the Queen's words and looks. They pressed about the table, admiring the bravery of Marie Antoinette and the beauty of her children. Cries of "Down with the Queen!" gave place to words of praise and admiration for her courage. Even the big, brutal Santerre was touched.

"Take off that cap from the little fellow's head!" he ordered. "Don't you see how hot he is?" And then to the Queen he whispered: "Have no fear, Madame! I will send away the people in peace!"

It was then that Jean returned to the room, amazed at the changed aspect of affairs. Under Santerre's direction the throng began to file out past the royal family, contenting themselves with kindly looks and words, or rough ones, as their changeable tempers dictated. Jean was among the last to leave, and he had only time to whisper in a very low voice as he passed the prince,

"It's all right! The closet in the next room!" But by the grateful smile of his little Highness, Jean knew that the Dauphin had both heard and understood.

Outside, on the terrace of the Tuileries, other events of interest appeared to be happening, and Jean lingered to witness them. A man standing on an armchair at a window in the palace, was addressing the crowds below. It proved to be Pétion, the Mayor of Paris, and he was bidding the mob disperse peaceably now that the King had been interviewed. While Jean was looking up, he felt himself clapped on the shoulder, and a voice exclaimed:

"Well, if here is not my young friend the catapult!" and turning, he found himself face to face with the thin young man. "And what may you be doing here? Helping to mob the King?" Now Jean could scarcely have explained why, but something about this young man both invited and compelled his confidence, and he had the instinctive feeling that confidence in him would not be misplaced. So he boldly declared:

"No, Citizen Bonaparte, indeed I have been far from mobbing the King. I am not a royalist, and I wish to be a true patriot, but I feel that the people are not dealing rightly with the King, and that they will yet allow the rabble to do him an ill turn!"

"Well said!" agreed the young man, heartily. "My opinion to a dot! My friend, I am a Corsican by birth, and I have aided in the unsuccessful fight for Corsica's liberty, but now I believe I will adopt a new country and become a French patriot. The situation in this land appeals to me. My heart thrills when I see an oppressed people rising to throw off the yoke of the oppressor! And you are right when you say that, groping in the twilight of their first new liberties, the people are not dealing justly with their king. But, look you, my friend! Their king means well, only he is making the biggest mistake a monarch ever made! He is yet their monarch! He should show it! The people bow to force, to power, and to that alone. See him now!" and he pointed to a window where Louis XVI, still crowned with the red cap, was surveying the throng below.

"Never should he have allowed them to put on him that emblem!" continued Bonaparte vehemently. "Never should he have countenanced this invasion of his palace! It was madness! Had he turned a few cannon upon them, and blown a hundred or more of this rabble to pieces, the rest would have taken to their heels and fled with respect for him in their hearts! As it is now, they have none! Mark my words!-worse will come, and he will live to regret his forbearance!"

Jean marvelled at the fire that flashed from those grey eyes. Instinct told him that here was a man born to command, and he felt drawn to the stranger by a feeling of intense admiration.

"I came here to-day through curiosity," he continued, "but what did you in the palace, my young friend?" And Jean, in his new trust, told the whole story of his attachment to the little Dauphin, and the debt of gratitude the Clouets owed to the Queen. When he had finished his auditor remarked:

"You are a faithful soul, my little friend, and I admire your spirit of gratitude. I too am genuinely sorry for the royal family. But I fear you have set yourself a hard road to travel, between your patriotism and your friendship for royalty. Beware of the many pitfalls that beset you! I am staying at the Rue Cléry, number 548, over the tobacconist's. Come and see me sometimes. Fortune is not dealing with me so very lavishly just at present, and I should be grateful for your bright companionship while I am far from my family and friends!"

And Jean gladly promised to come.

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