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When a Cobbler Ruled a King By Augusta Huiell Seaman Characters: 17219

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Jean speedily availed himself of the invitation from Bonaparte to visit him. A few evenings after June twentieth, he went to the Rue Cléry, ascended to a room over the tobacconist's shop, and found Bonaparte reading by the light of a single candle. The room was empty of all but the barest necessities, and it was evident that its occupant was having a hard struggle to make ends meet. But Bonaparte seemed pleased at the visit of his new friend, and the two were soon engaged in lively conversation.

That night Jean heard the story of this young man's life. He told the eager, sympathetic lad how he had been born of a fine family in Corsica; how his father had lost all in the vain struggle for Corsican liberty; how he, Napoleon, a poor shy, proud boy had been sent to the military school at Brienne where he suffered agonies of wounded pride among his richer classmates; how at fifteen he had spent a year at the military school of Paris, suffering similar humiliation because of his poverty, and at sixteen was appointed second lieutenant of a regiment of artillery at Valence; how, soon after, his father died, leaving practically on his shoulders the responsibility of a mother, four brothers and three sisters! how he left the army and for a time devoted himself to straightening out his family affairs; how he had returned to the army, but encouraged by the breaking out of the Revolution in 1789, he had again attempted to aid in freeing Corsica, and for this reason had lost his place in the French army. Now he was hoping to regain it, but in the present disturbed condition of affairs, could obtain little attention from the authorities. In the meantime he was struggling along, poor as a church mouse, making the barest kind of a living by doing a little writing. All this information was not imparted at once, but came out by degrees in the course of their conversation. Jean drank it in with intense interest.

"But the tide will turn!" ended Bonaparte. "Something tells me that I was born under a fortunate star. Things will be different some day!" And catching the proud flash from his wonderful eyes, Jean had no doubt of it!

As the days went on, Jean was drawn by an irresistible fascination more and more into the society of "the thin young man," as he often spoke of him to Mère Clouet and Yvonne. One evening, as he ran up the stairs of Rue Cléry, number 548, Napoleon's first greeting was:

"I've something to tell you that will interest you, Jean! I've been to the Jacobins again. There's a bloody insurrection planned for August tenth! They are going to mob the palace, dethrone the King, seize the Dauphin, and make all the royal family prisoners. Santerre is at the head of it, and Danton, of course, at the bottom! You'd better look sharp for your royal friends!"

"Oh!" said Jean thankfully, "I'm so glad you warned me. I shall be there, at least, and see what I can do to help them! I can't of course do much, but-who knows!"

"But, see here, my lad," answered Bonaparte, laying his hand on the boy's shoulder, "you must not go alone! You are hardly more than a child yet, and these are perilous times. I'd be anxious for your safety. Promise me that you will not go without me! Together, we may be a protection for each other." Jean gave his word, deeply touched that his new friend should exhibit such thoughtfulness for his welfare.

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Meanwhile, gloomy days had ensued for Louis Charles, royal Dauphin of France. His little garden where he longed to dig among the flower-beds and romp with Moufflet was forbidden him. Once only since the hateful day of June twentieth, he had gone there accompanied by his mother. But the shouts and threats of the crowd behind the fence, quickly drove them into the palace again for safety.

Distrust and suspicion were in the very air! For the people of Paris, like a sullen, angry dog that has obtained a bone only to have it snatched away again, felt that they had been defeated of their purpose on the day they besieged the Tuileries. They were laying dark plans to repeat the expedition, which this time, they vowed, should not fail. Just at present they were only lying in wait till the time should be fully ripe.

The Dauphin roamed from room to room in the castle, pressed his face to the windows and gazed with envy at the Park, brilliant with sunshine, and at the throngs of common people who were free to come and go as they pleased. He wondered whether Jean and Yvonne ever came to the garden now. Once he thought he distinguished the boy among the strolling crowds but he could not be sure. The King and Queen were preoccupied and sad. His aunt, Madame Elizabeth, was much with them, and had little time to give to his amusement. Even his sister sometimes forgot to romp and frolic with him as had been her wont. To all it was a season of breathless suspense.

And then the fatal day arrived. On the night of August ninth, after his supper, the Queen went to the Dauphin's room where he was being put to bed, to kiss him good-night. Tears stood in her eyes as she clasped him more closely than usual.

"But, Mother, you are crying!" he exclaimed. "Is anything the matter?"

"There is some danger, we have heard, but perhaps not immediate. You would not understand if I explained it, little son!"

"But can you not stay with me this evening?" he begged. "I am so lonesome, and everyone is so sad!"

"That I would love to do, but I must be with your father. He needs me most. Do not be afraid, for we shall be near you."

For a long time the boy lay sleepless, pondering his mother's words. What did it all mean, anyway! His childish mind strove in vain to comprehend why the French people should hate his parents so. There must certainly be something very wrong somewhere! Sleep refused to come to his tired little brain, and the hours passed slowly by.

Suddenly he was startled by the strokes of a bell sounding far across the city. It was the great tocsin of the Cordeliers Club, striking the general alarm. Immediately it was answered by bells from all sections, mingled with cannon-shots and the hoarse cries of an infuriated mob. Nearer and nearer came the racket, and then the tumult became general both within and without the palace. The Dauphin was hurriedly dressed, and joined his parents, sister and aunt in another room. The King alone seemed calm.

"Come," said he, "we must all visit the soldiers who are defending the palace and encourage them! Are you afraid, my son?"

"Indeed no, Father!" answered the boy. "Let us go at once!" and he seized the King's hand in his own. Down the stairs and from room to room they passed, the King, calm and gentle as ever, speaking words of encouragement to the few defenders who remained with them. The grand gallery of the palace was filled with the troops of the Swiss Guard. As the royal family passed, the captain snatched up the Dauphin, lifted the child high above his head, and shouted:

"Long live the King and the King's son!" Wild huzzas broke from every throat, but their enthusiasm was short-lived. For without was approaching a sinister clamour. Horrible cries, chiefly "The Crown or the King's head!" "Deposition or Death!" resounded on all sides. At that moment there burst into the room the procureur-general, who approached the king crying:

"Sire, the danger is beyond all expression! All Paris is in arms! Resistance is impossible! They demand that you resign the throne! It is death to you and yours if you refuse!" Louis XVI gave one last despairing look about him. He feared nothing for his own life, but he refused to risk those of his loved ones.

"It is done!" he said gravely. "I make the last sacrifice! Do with me what you will!" And so fell the ancient monarchy of France!

"Come!" commanded an officer. "You must leave the palace!"

It was quarter past six in the morning, when the sad procession wended its way from the abode of its ancestors forever. Louis XVI went first with Madame Elizabeth. Marie Antoinette followed, leading her two children by the hand. The Dauphin looked back constantly, dragging at his mother's hand.

"What is it, son," she said at last, "that you are looking back for?"

"Oh, Mother, can I not wait and find Moufflet?" he pleaded. "I must not leave him behind! I know just where he is!"

"No, no!" she exclaimed. "You would be killed if you went back! Be a brave boy and make up your mind to part with Moufflet!" Tears stood in the little fellow's eyes, and he struggled hard to keep them from falling. A few trickled down, however, and he dashed them awa

y, lest someone should think them caused by fear. "My poor Moufflet!" he thought, when he saw the mob forcing its entrance into the Tuileries. Could he have known that in the midst of the bloodthirsty rabble was his little friend Jean, he would have been both amazed and sorely troubled.

But how did Jean get there! All the evening of August ninth, he had been uneasy, and found it almost unendurable to stay quietly at home with Mère Clouet and Yvonne. Excitement was in the air! A great event was about to occur, and when the tocsin of the Cordeliers sounded the first stroke, he was off like a rocket to the Rue Cléry.

"Citizen Bonaparte!" he clamoured, hammering on that young man's closed door. "Come! come! They are about to assault the Tuileries! Here I am as I promised!" Bonaparte came out dressed, after what seemed an age to Jean, and the two hurried into the street and were instantly carried almost off their feet in the swirling human current sweeping toward the Tuileries. Men, women and children, chiefly of the lowest scum of Paris, carried pikes, knives, hatchets, bludgeons,-anything that might serve as a weapon of offence. "Death to the King!" "Down with the Austrian Wolf!" "To the guillotine with Royalty!" were the predominating cries.

Into the Rue St. Honoré, through the Pont Neuf and the Pont Royal they poured, ever increasing in numbers and ferocity. Almost without volition on their part, Bonaparte and Jean were carried along by the throng that swept through the Rue St. Honoré, and in the first faint dawn of morning, they, with the crowds, drove through the ill-guarded palace gates, and stood before the long windows. Pressed close to the wall of the palace, the two friends witnessed the departure of the royal family, and Jean even guessed at the meaning of the little Dauphin's despairing, backward looks.

"Citizen Bonaparte," he whispered, "I see plainly that we can do nothing now to help the royal ones, since they have placed themselves in the care of the National Assembly, and will probably be safe. But I would like to save that poor little fellow's pet, if it be possible. What do you think?"

Before Bonaparte could reply, there was an exchange of volleying shots between the outside mob, and the inner defenders. With a roar of exasperation, the rabble flung itself at the doors and windows using the hatchets, and when these gave way, the throng poured into the palace. For a moment Jean and Bonaparte were hurried along in the rush, and then at some sudden obstruction were forcibly separated, and Jean found himself alone amid a scene of indescribable confusion and danger.

The mob, first inhumanly butchered the Swiss Guard who had remained to defend the palace, then turned its attention to pillaging and destroying, with ruthless indiscrimination, the carefully hoarded treasures of this kingly mansion, and when this grew wearisome, attempted to set fire to different parts of the building. In such a reign of confusion, members of the mob frequently failed to discriminate among their victims, and often turned their weapons upon their own numbers.

Now Jean saw no reason for uselessly exposing himself to murder, and he looked about for the safest and most convenient place to hide. It occurred to him that the closet where he had placed Moufflet on that memorable twentieth of June, would afford the best shelter. Making his way through the crush with the greatest difficulty, he at last reached the room, and managed to slip unobserved into this retreat, closing the door and locking it on the inside. The space was small, and no sooner had he crouched down in the farthest corner, than he felt something warm and soft under his hand. For a moment it startled him, and then, with a stifled cry, he clasped the fluffy mass to his heart.

"Moufflet!" he breathed, and the dog licked his face in an ecstasy of delighted recognition. Then he realised that the Dauphin must have placed him once more in this retreat, when the first alarm was heard. He felt almost happy. Here was half his plan accomplished! Now if he could only find Bonaparte, and they could get away unharmed, all would be well. He was just about to emerge from his hiding-place with Moufflet under his coat, when horrible shouts filled the room, and he quickly decided to remain where he was.

"Search this room! Search this room!" shrieked hoarse voices. "There may be aristocrats hiding here!" Then someone pulled at the door of his retreat. "Here's a locked door!" called a rough fellow. "A hatchet,-quick!" The splintered wood fell in with a crash, and shrieking with delight, they dragged Jean out of the closet. Thirsting for blood, the ruffians cared not, by this time, whether he was an aristocrat or one of their own number. He was hiding!-that was enough! A bloody hand grasped his collar, and another with a meat-axe was raised over his head. Jean was too paralysed with terror to do anything but wonder just how long it would take that axe to descend, when suddenly he saw it dashed from his assailant's hand, and a well-known voice shouted:

"Fool! Don't you know a good sans-culotte when you see one? I believe you'd murder your own brother!" The ruffian backed away, apologised sheepishly, and darted off into the crowd. And with a glad cry of recognition, Jean found himself in the arms of Bonaparte!

"A close one for you, lad!" was all his rescuer had time to say. To the end of his days, Jean could never tell just how they two struggled out of that palace of horrors, nor how he managed to keep his grip on the frightened, shivering, squirming Moufflet. But at last they found themselves beyond the walls, and near the bank of the Seine. In sheer exhaustion they dropped to the ground and lay there in the sultry morning sun for over an hour, happy merely to be alive and whole, after the experiences of that dreadful day.

And elsewhere the hours of this memorable day wore on, filled with a series of confused events through which the Dauphin and his family moved, as through some horrible nightmare. The child knew not their meaning, and could only occasionally grasp at the import of the drama. Three long, terribly uncomfortable days were passed in the great hall of the Assembly filled with representatives of the people. During all this time the royal family was crowded into a tiny hot room at the side where they were nearly stifled by the intense heat and discomfort, their hearts constantly trembling at the horrible sounds made by the mob raging without the building. Three weary nights were passed in the tiny cells in another building where they were taken to sleep.

The Assembly seemed to have great difficulty in deciding what to do with their superfluous ex-monarch! Some,-they were the fiercest,-wanted him killed immediately, as that would save them all further trouble and expense. Some thought that he and his family should be sent out of the country into exile. This was opposed because they said he might raise an army, march back and regain his throne. Others were in favour of allowing him to live in retirement at the Luxembourg, a smaller palace than the Tuileries. This too was frowned down, because they thought it too luxurious and comfortable, and besides had underground passages to other parts of the city, through which he might escape. Finally they grew weary of the discussion.

"Oh, let us send him to the old Temple Tower, and keep him there! That is good enough for him!" And so it was decided. Two large carriages were procured, and the King, his family, and a few faithful servants were driven across the city, through the pitiless, mocking crowds, to the gloomy prison where they were to pass so many weary months and even years. The Dauphin, seated on his father's knee, looked out at the mob, shouting its frenzy of joy at their monarch's abasement.

"Are they not very wicked, Father?" he asked.

"No, dear son," answered the forgiving Louis XVI. "They are not wicked,-only mistaken!"

When at last the courtyard of the Temple was reached, the carriages halted and the occupants stepped out. The yard was filled with soldiers commanded by Santerre (but yesterday made a general!) yet no one helped them to alight. As they walked to the entrance, no man removed his hat, and when Santerre addressed the King, he forgot to say "Your Majesty," or "Sire." At the doorway they paused a second, but they did not look back. The crowd shouted "Vive la Nation!" They passed inside, and the door was shut on the humiliation of the dethroned monarch!

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