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When a Cobbler Ruled a King By Augusta Huiell Seaman Characters: 12757

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Meantime, Jean in the tavern had not been idle. His quick eyes, keen ears and alert wits were ever on the watch. During the past month he had made a friend, and hatched a little scheme of his own. The friend was Citizen Barelle, one of the many and ever-changing commissaries of the Tower. Barelle often came into the little tavern after his duties for the day were over, and not infrequently Jean heard him speak with sincere regret of the present condition of the wretched little monarch and his brutal tutor. These remarks made Jean feel certain that Barelle possessed not only a kindly heart and quickly aroused sympathies, but that he would also be easily disposed to render the necessary help. He resolved to take this man at least partially into his confidence.

Therefore when a favourable opportunity presented itself one afternoon, and he had Barelle to himself in the little eating-room, he opened the subject cautiously.

"Citizen Barelle, I see you are a friend of the little fellow over yonder! So am I!" Barelle showed some astonishment at this disclosure. He replied:

"If you are, my lad, you had best say little about it in public! But why do you speak of it to me?" Then Jean told him how the queen had once rendered them help in their distress, and how they had grieved at the misfortune of their royal benefactors. He said nothing of his determination to aid them to escape if he could, but he did suggest this:

"Mère Clouet would be very glad to do the laundry work for the Tower. I see that the position is vacant since Citizeness Pataud left here last week. Perhaps you could have her appointed. And then, would it not be possible, when she and little Yvonne come with the clothes, to have Yvonne taken up to play with the little fellow once in a while? You say he is so lonely, and has no pleasures. There could surely be no harm in that!" Barelle considered for a while, gravely.

"You are a kind little chap!" he said at last, "and a grateful one too! Yes, we need a laundress badly, and no doubt they will be glad to have found one so soon. I will use what influence I have. But about the little Yvonne,-we must see later!" The next week it was all settled. Mère Clouet was notified of her appointment as laundress to the Tower, and Barelle whispered to Jean that he thought they could manage it about Yvonne.

Jean was ecstatic at the success of his scheme! So was the good Mère Clouet, and as for Yvonne,-she never slept a wink the night before she went for the first time, so excited was she over the prospect! Jean gave her a long list of instructions early that morning, before he departed for Père Lefèvre's. Among them, these were the principal ones:

"Don't let anyone see by your words or actions that you know him or have seen him before! And don't let anyone overhear what you tell him!" Yvonne promised, understanding thoroughly the necessity for the utmost caution. She and her mother packed the clothes in a great basket, hired a carriage for a franc, and were driven to the Temple. At the outer courtyard the carriage was stopped by a sentry on duty, and they were obliged to carry the heavy basket across to the door of the inner courtyard. Yvonne saw Jean standing in the doorway of the tavern, but, with a prudence beyond her years, she refrained from noticing him in any way, as likewise did her mother.

At the inner gate they were again halted. Here Citizeness Clouet must stop, as she was allowed to go no further. Every article of clothes must be taken from the basket and minutely examined to see that they contained no hidden writing or messages from the outer world. This was a long and tiresome process. While it was being completed, Citizen Barelle called to Yvonne:

"Come with me and romp with the little fellow upstairs awhile! You are not afraid, are you?"

"I think not!" she replied, putting her hand in his. And they climbed the gloomy, guarded stairs together. At the door of the room on the second floor Barelle gave a command to the sentry, the clanking bolts and chains were drawn, the door opened, and they stood in the presence of Louis XVII of France! Yvonne could scarcely believe her eyes! Had she not known whom she was going to see, she would never have recognised him. Remembering the beautiful boy in the Tuileries garden, the laughing, dimpled face, the long curls of golden-brown, the round graceful limbs, the sweet trusting blue eyes, she shrank back and drew in her breath with almost a sob.

On a chair in a corner sat the unhappy monarch. His little body, grown thin and wasted by captivity and ill-treatment, was clad in a startling red suit. On his shorn, jagged hair rested a liberty-cap. His cheeks were sunken and pale, and his eyes red with weeping. Over him towered the burly form of the cobbler.

"Sing that song about the 'Austrian Wolf,' you wretched little cub, or I'll throttle you!" he threatened.

"I will never sing such a thing about my mother, if you should beat me to death!" answered the child, quietly but firmly. Simon put out his great, hairy hand to grasp the boy's collar.

"There, there, Simon!" interposed Barelle. "Leave off your instructions for a while, and have a game of billiards with me. See, I've brought this little youngster to play with the boy, and give you some freedom! You don't have much leisure time now." Simon, exceedingly flattered by what he deemed Barelle's thoughtfulness for him, acquiesced at once. The two men went to a billiard-table at the other end of the room, leaving the children together.

"You're right about my time!" grumbled the cobbler as they chalked their cues. "I don't have a moment to myself. I'm tied to that cub every minute of the day, and I'm just as much a prisoner as he is. I tell you I can't stand it very long! It's bad for my health! It's driving me crazy! Why, look you! I could not go to Marat's funeral, and I even missed the great anniversary fête in the Champ de Mars on August tenth! I'm tired of it!"

But how fared it with Yvonne and the little king? For a moment after Simon left him, the child remained motionless, his head sunk on his breast, sobs only half under control heaving his chest. Then he raised his head and looked at Yvonne. He gave a great start of recognition and delight, and would have uttered a glad cry, had not Yvonne laid her finger on her lips, glance

d at the two men, and shaken her head. The boy understood the action. His adversity had taught him only too well, the necessity for caution. Yvonne boldly took the initiative. Stepping up to him, and speaking so that she could be heard by the cobbler, she said:

"Little Capet, don't you want to play a game of tag with me? You shall try to catch me. I do not think you can!" She sprang away from him, and he jumped from his chair with a new and unaccustomed lightness, to chase her round and round the room. Presently she allowed herself to be caught. Under cover of much loud shouting and laughter, she managed to whisper:

"I have something to tell you! Do you remember Moufflet?"

"Yes," he replied. "He is lost,-dead!" Yvonne noticed that the cobbler was eyeing them suspiciously.

"Now I'll catch you!" she called loudly. And Louis Charles obediently broke into a run, she following, till they were both breathless. Then she caught him.

"Moufflet is not dead!" she murmured. "Jean found him in the Tuileries the night you left it." Question after question crowded to the boy's lips, but he dared not satisfy his curiosity at once.

"Have you not some other game we can play?" asked Yvonne. "Ah! here is a checker-board. I'm tired of running so let us play this!" They arranged the board on a chair and commenced to move the pieces, quarrelling loudly with each other every moment or two. Under cover of this noisy talk, Yvonne, in short scraps of sentences told the boy the story of how Jean rescued Moufflet from the Tuileries, how La Souris had wrongfully taken him away, and how he had since returned. She assured the child that they were keeping the little animal with the hope of some day returning him to his master. She also told him how Jean worked in the tavern in order to be nearby, how her mother did the laundry-work for the royal prisoners, and how she was to be allowed to come and play with him once in a while, through the kindness of Citizen Barelle.

The little, heart-sick boy grew radiant with a delight which he dared not exhibit, lest it be discovered by his watchful tormentor. In the short time he asked many questions about his mother, sister and aunt. These Yvonne answered by smiling and pointing to the room above to indicate that all was well with them. He inquired after Jean and his beloved dog, and sent many messages to his faithful friend. But the time was all too short.

"Come, we must be going!" warned Barelle.

"A moment!-only a moment, till we finish this game!" implored Louis Charles. The good-natured commissary agreed, and turned once more to engage Simon's attention.

"Yvonne," whispered the boy, "I love you and Jean and your mother. Tell them so for me, and that I thank them!" Yvonne signified that she would, and pressed a little packet into his hand.

"Hide it!" she commanded. "'Tis a curl of Moufflet's hair. I thought you would like to have it, perhaps." He slipped it inside his blouse with a grateful look.

"I'll hide it in my mattress, and I do thank you for it. Good-bye, Yvonne! Oh, come again soon!"

"I will," she promised, "as soon as they will let me. Good-bye, poor little King!" And as Barelle led her away, she called back: "Good-bye, Little Capet!" But the child heard only her last whispered, "poor little King," and he gratefully pressed the packet of Moufflet's hair to his heart.

Four weeks had passed in which Marie Antoinette had heard not a word concerning the welfare of her little son,-weeks of fear, uncertainty, and foreboding, terrible in their dragging length. Each day she eagerly questioned the visiting municipals, but they answered merely that he was well and studying with a tutor.

At length circumstances favoured her, and help arrived from an unexpected quarter. This was nothing less than the astonishing change of disposition in the spy Tison and his wife. Madame Tison fell suddenly very ill, and in her sickness begged the Queen's pardon for all her former meanness and spite. Marie Antoinette forgave her freely, but the poor woman's mind had become so unsettled through remorse, that she had to be moved from the Tower to a hospital. Then Tison himself entreated the Queen's forgiveness:

"I never knew you till you came here. I never dreamed what noble, true characters you all were, till I was set to act as a spy upon you! Oh, forgive me also!" Tison it was then, who came to the Queen's aid in her hour of need. Making himself acquainted with all that he could gather about her son's welfare, he gave her daily accounts of all that he thought would interest her. More than this, he showed her a loophole in the wall, tiny it is true, but through which she could sometime catch a glimpse of her boy as he passed up the stairs daily to take the air on the turret.

She was deeply shocked when she learned in whose care her tender child had been placed, and horrified when she saw his appearance through her loophole, clad in the red suit of the Commune. But once as he passed, she heard him humming softly the air of a little cradle-song she used to sing him:

"Sleep, my child, and cease thy weeping!

Sleep, my child! my heart is sad."

By this she knew that his thoughts were still with her, and her heart was a trifle comforted.

But a great change was to come. At two o'clock in the morning, on the first of August, 1793, the Queen was awakened and told that she must prepare to leave the Temple Tower. She was transferred to the prison of La Conciergerie where she was kept two months and a half in a small, damp cell. After that she was obliged to undergo a trial that was even more of a flimsy mockery than the one accorded to Louis XVI. "Anything, anything to be rid of her!" was the one idea of this terrible tribunal. The end, like her husband's, was a foregone conclusion. On the sixteenth of October, she bravely, calmly, proudly gave up her life, happy in being reunited at last with her beloved husband, regretting only that she must leave her children to so uncertain a fate.

In the Tower of the Temple wept and waited poor Madame Elizabeth and Marie-Thérèse, all in ignorance of the Queen's fate. And on the floor below, also waited the persecuted child, who did not even know that his mother was gone from the room above, where he loved to think of her as watching over him.

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