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Louis Seventeenth Of France: 
The Boy King Who Never Reigned

By Kate Dickinson Sweetser

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It was the early morning of a bright June day, and the famous gardens surrounding the palace at Versailles were bright with bloom and heavy with scents as rare as was the morning. King Louis Sixteenth of France looked from a window out over the terraces in their vary-coloured beauty, and saw among the blossoms, a little figure busy with spade and rake, and although the King's heart was heavy with sorrow because of the death of his elder son, the Dauphin, as the eldest son of the King of France, and heir to the throne, was always called, yet he was filled too with pride as he looked out at the little Louis Charles, to whom only three short hours before had descended the titles and honours which had belonged to his brother.

The King's long and earnest glance at the little Dauphin attracted the child's attention, and dropping his tools, he waved frantically towards the window, crying out:

"Papa, see the beautiful flowers. I am pleased with myself. I shall deserve mamma's first kiss to-day, I shall have a bouquet for her dressing-table. May I come and show it to you?"

Everyone Can Learn To Read

The king bowed his head in answer and smiled a sad smile as he turned to the queen, Marie Antoinette, who even then stood beside him, weeping bitterly for the other son who had gone from her for ever.

So absorbed was King Louis in his attempt to comfort her, that he forgot the new little Dauphin, until the door opened softly, and he saw the small figure standing just inside the door, holding tightly in his hand a bouquet of violets and roses. Charming in his childish grace and beauty was little Louis as he stood there, watching his father and then his mother, with grave concern at their evident sadness, and quickly he held up his flowers to his mother and said with sweet grace:

"Mamma, I have picked you some flowers from my garden."

Still Marie Antoinette could not speak, but the king caught the child up in his arms, saying:

"Marie, he too is our son. He is the Dauphin of France."

Slowly Marie Antoinette turned, clasped his bright, lovely face in her two hands, and stooping, kissed him tenderly on his forehead.

"I had forgotten," she said. "God bless and protect you, Dauphin of France. I only pray that the storm clouds which now darken our sky may be long past, when you ascend the throne of your fathers!"

Little Louis' forehead was wrinkled with perplexity.

"But, mamma," he asked timidly--"why is it you all call me Dauphin to-day, when I am just your little Louis, who is called the Duke of Normandy?"

"My son," said the King, solemnly, "each day differs from the last, and this new day has brought you a new name and a new position. Your poor dear brother has left us for ever. He has gone to God, and you are now in his place, the Dauphin of France."

"And is that why mamma is crying, and will Louis never come back?"

"No, dear, he will never come back, and so your mamma is grieving."

Quickly little Louis' arms went around her neck.

"Oh," he cried, "poor, dear mamma! I don't see how anyone can leave you, and not come back? I will never leave you, never, never!"

"God grant it!" sighed the queen, pressing him tenderly to her. "May He grant it--oh, my precious child!" and then with his face close to hers, and a little hand held tight in the big one of his father, whose arm was around them both, Louis continued:

"If it is mine now, please tell me what it means--that name, the Dauphin."

The king answered:"My son, this is what it means. You are now the eldest son of the King of France, and some day you will be the king, and to you belong now the titles and honours that were your brother's. Do you understand?"Instead of showing appreciation, Louis' blue eyes looked entreatingly at the Queen, and his lips quivered.

"Mamma," he whispered, "I like being Duke of Normandy best. Will you love me any better if I am called the Dauphin?"

"No, dear child," answered the Queen tenderly, "I shall not love you better, but you are no longer the Duke of Normandy. You are the Dauphin now, the future King of France!" A sob choked the words as Marie Antoinette turned hastily away to hide her grief, and in doing so, she put her foot on the flowers which little Louis had brought her. His face clouded as he saw this, then with a bright smile he looked into the Queen's face, saying quickly:

"Mamma, I wish you always walked on flowers I picked for you."

Without a word Marie Antoinette turned, and clasping him in her arms, was comforted. Then, reminded of state duties to be done, she was about to release him when he whispered:

"Did my poor dear brother only leave me his title? Oh, mamma, I do not want it. But there is something of his that I do want to have very, very much now that I am the Dauphin."

The King looked bewildered, but the Queen smiled through her tears.

"I think I can guess what it is," she said, "see if I can, little Louis," and putting him down, she softly left the room, and when she came back there ran and frisked about her, jumping for joy of comradeship, a tiny black dog who rushed up to Louis, and jumped on him over and over again, and the child clasped it in his arms, while the dog put its paws on Louis' shoulders and licked his rosy cheeks with frantic affection.

"Now, my Louis," asked the Queen, "did I guess right? Wasn't that what you wanted so much?"

"Oh, yes it was! It was!" exclaimed the boy, his eyes shining with joy. "Is he really mine now? Does he belong to my inheritance?"

The Queen could not answer, but the King spoke sadly.

"Yes, my son, he belongs to your inheritance."

The Dauphin shouted with joy.

"He is mine! He is mine!" and as he held the little dog close to him, the picture was a pretty one, the boy with his round rosy face, dimpled chin and deep blue eyes shaded by long, dark lashes, with his high forehead, and heavy golden hair, all the delicacy of his colouring and features thrown into relief by the dark blue velvet of his suit, all the charm of his expressive face shone in his joy over the new treasure which he was clasping tight. What to the little Dauphin was the silver star embroidered on his left shoulder, which showed his princely rank and removed him from the rank and file of other boys? What was a crown, a title--even the throne itself? They were less than nothing to him in comparison with the little dog nestling in his arms and licking his face, and while the King and Queen watched the pretty picture they sighed for the simple joys of childhood, and Marie Antoinette, looking into her husband's face murmured:

"God keep him in His care!"

The Little Dauphin

Although the little Louis' new title was of such small value to him, yet the possession of it changed the whole of his life, and as soon as he became the Dauphin, his education and training were of the gravest importance, for he would some day rule in his father's place.

Accordingly, every possible advantage that could be given him was secured, and while his father saw to it that he should have enough out-of-door exercise to keep him sturdy and strong, his mother superintended his lessons, as well as those of his sister, Therese. Although Marie Antoinette was young and pleasure-loving and was often called frivolous because of the spontaneous gaiety into which her nature often led her, yet she was a devoted mother, and every morning at ten o'clock, Therese, the Dauphin, and their teachers went to the queen's rooms, and there learned and recited lessons.

The little Dauphin was a brilliant scholar and said such bright things that all the courtiers took great pleasure in asking him questions, that they might hear his answers. One day while saying his lessons, he began to hiss loudly, for which his mother reproved him.

"I was only hissing at myself," he said, "because I just said my lesson so badly."

On the evening before the queen's birthday the king told the Dauphin that he would buy him a handsome bouquet to give his mother for a birthday present, but that he wanted him to write a letter of congratulation to go with it. To his surprise the Dauphin did not show as much pleasure as he expected at this and finally on questioning him he discovered the truth.

"I have got a beautiful everlasting in my garden," Louis said, "I want to give it to her, please, papa, it will be my bouquet and my letter all together, for when I give it to mamma I shall say, 'I hope mamma, that you will be like this flower.'"

The idea was so pretty and the boy so eager, that he had his way, and King Louis' pride in this clever child was great.

He was no prig, no saintly child, this little King Louis Seventeenth to be, he was just a sensitive, affectionate boy, whose winning manner and charm of person attracted all to him, and made him an especial pet of the older people from whose conversation he gathered much information which they never thought he understood.

One day when playing in the garden, full of excited vigour, he was just going to rush through a hedge of roses, when an attendant stopped him and warned him, saying:

"Monseigneur, one of those thorns might blind you or tear your face."

But the Dauphin persisted, and when halfway through the hedge, called back:

"Thorny paths lead to glory"--a phrase so ominous of the poor little Dauphin's future that it has ever been remembered as one of the most remarkable of his sayings.

For some time, the Dauphin who was quick to respond to joy or sadness in those around him noticed many signs of distress, not only in the faces of his father and mother, but in those of others whom he saw daily, and many an hour when no one knew it, his childish mind spent in wondering about the situation, trying to understand the heated words he heard, the tears he saw, and sometimes he would creep up to Marie Antoinette and pat her smooth cheek reassuringly, and kiss her lovingly, and though this comforted, it added to the pain of the Queen, who feared for the happiness of the future King of France.

The Reign Of Terror

The Reign of Terror was at hand. The Revolutionists, fierce and strong in their murderous frenzy had risen, risen to kill monarchs and monarchy. Louis Sixteenth was on the throne--therefore Louis Sixteenth must go; Marie Antoinette was his wife; she had danced, and spent money like water while they, the people had needed bread, so they said--and Marie Antoinette must go. Little Louis was heir to the throne--that throne whose power must be overthrown, and so Louis the Dauphin must go.

The rulers of France had for generations proved so false to their trust and to their kingly responsibility that the love of the people had at last been changed into hate. Louis Fourteenth and Louis Fifteenth had sinned so deeply against those whom their oath of office bound them to protect, that now at last there was no feeling but revenge and hatred in the hearts of the subjects of the King of France, and on the heads of the reigning sovereigns, Louis Sixteenth and Marie Antoinette fell the horrors of the Reign of Terror, which was now reaching a point where only torture and bloodshed could appease the fiends who were rapidly becoming all-powerful. It was claimed that the taxes collected from the people for the expenses of war and government were being misused for the extravagances and frivolities of the royal family. It was even claimed that the people were starving for bread while the King and Queen were living in luxury, and this because the fiends of the revolution had caused all bake-shops to stop baking bread, so that the cry of starvation might be raised among the people, who could then be incited to storm the palace and demand bread of the royal family.

The very scum of civilization, the dregs of the population of France, were roused in fierce and unjust revolt against the royal family; yes, in revolt and in power, and on a day of early October, 1789, a howling mob of frenzied men, women and children swept up the peaceful avenues of Versailles, shrieking their fiendish cries for vengeance on the royal family, and then they invaded and took possession of the royal apartments. Aghast at the outrages committed in the name of the French people, the King and Queen tried in every way to restore the mob to peace, but in vain. The leaders of the rebellion demanded the immediate appearance in Paris, which was the seat of the revolution, of King Louis and his family, where they could be closely watched by their enemies, describing in alarming terms, the danger to his majesty if he did not comply with the request. Accordingly, after hours of indescribable horrors and humiliation and anguish, the king was obliged to give his consent to the plan, and the royal family made ready for their departure from Versailles.

During their seven hours' journey to Paris, they were followed by a rabble of such human fiends as had invaded the palace at Versailles, and although throughout the whole terrible trip, Marie Antoinette and the King bore themselves with sad and dignified composure, yet the strain on them both was almost too great to be borne. Through all the agony and excitement, the Dauphin frightened though he was, seeing his mother's tears, tried to smile courageously into her face, and to keep back words of complaint, and the sight of his courage almost broke his mother's heart. What would this all mean to him, the future king of France? Alas, poor little Dauphin!

Held Prisoner

At last they reached the Tuileries, the royal palace in Paris, where no French King had lived since Louis Fifteenth was a young man. There had been no preparations made for the coming of the royal family. The palace, so long uninhabited was in a state of dilapidation, and there were no comforts in it, and very few necessities. But the travellers were too much exhausted to heed anything but that they had reached a temporary shelter and were relieved that death, which the day before had seemed so imminent, had been, for the present, put aside.

Exhausted to the breaking point, Marie Antoinette slept soundly that night, and on the next morning as she sipped her chocolate in a room which had been hastily transformed into a sitting-room for her, she was thinking sadly of life and its changes when the door opened and the Dauphin ran in and flung himself into her arms.

"Oh, mamma," he cried, "please let us go back to our beautiful palace at home. This big house frightens me with its shadows. Why have we come here, mamma, when we have such a lovely palace and garden of our own?"

The queen sighed.

"My son," she said, "this palace belongs to us too, as well as Versailles, and it is considered a beautiful palace. It is where the great Louis Fourteenth lived, you know."

"Well, I don't like it at all and I wish we could go away," whispered the Dauphin, casting a homesick look around the great bare room, furnished so meagrely with faded furniture.

"I wish so too." The queen scarcely breathed the words, but the sensitive child's ears caught them, and he answered eagerly.

"Then why do we have to stay? I thought a queen could always do what she wanted to do."

In answer the poor, sore-hearted queen burst into tears, whereupon the Dauphin's tutor tried to take the child from her, saying severely:

"My prince, you see you trouble the queen, and her majesty sorely needs a rest. Come with me for a walk."

But Marie Antoinette shook her head and clung to the child whose hand was now gently stroking her cheek, and whose tears were mingled with her own.

Then from the street came the dreaded sound of loud shouts and cries and threats, and the Dauphin clung more tightly to his mother, both shivering with dread but both brave.

"Mamma," asked the Dauphin, "is to-day going to be just like yesterday?"

His question was answered by the king himself, who entered the room just then and flung himself into a chair, telling the queen that those who had aided the mob in their violent acts were about to be brought to trial for them, and he added his request that the queen should receive the committee who had come to judge the people for their violence.

In stately dignity, Marie Antoinette then left the room to receive other subjects, who still considered her the queen of France, and after her going, King Louis and his little son were left alone.

The king, exhausted in body and mind, closed his eyes and lay back in his chair, ready to sink into a light doze, when he was roused by a gentle touch on his arm.

Beside him stood the Dauphin, his great blue eyes full of grave thoughtfulness. When he saw the King's eyes open, he spoke.

"Papa," he said, hesitatingly, "I should like to ask you something--something really serious!"

"Something really serious!" replied the King, smiling in spite of himself. "Well, what is it? Let me hear."

"Papa," answered the Dauphin, with an air of one who has thought deeply on a subject. "My governess has always told me I must love the people of France and treat them kindly, because they love you and mama so much. But if they do, papa, then why do the people act so badly to you? And oh, papa, I have been told that your people owe you obedience and respect, but they were not obedient nor respectful yesterday and they said dreadful things I never heard before. What does it mean, papa?"

The king drew the child on to his knee and put an arm around the grave little questioner, telling him that he would explain it to him, but that he would have to listen carefully if he wished to understand such grave matters.

"Oh, I will, I will," answered the Dauphin eagerly. "I know that I am one of your subjects, and that as your son and a subject too, I must give a good example to the French people of loving and obeying the king. But it seems that my example has not done any good at all yet. How does that happen, papa?"

In answer, the King told him that wicked men had said to the people that he did not love them, that they had listened and believed this, that France had had great wars, and wars cost a great deal. And so, because he was the King, he had asked money of his subjects, just as had always been done by other Kings.

"Oh, but papa," cried the Dauphin, "why did you do that? Why did you not take my purse and pay out of that? You know that I receive every day my purse filled with bright new francs and I could have helped you easily. And, oh papa, do your people have more money than you have yourself?"

King Louis answered that a king receives all his money from the people, but gives it all back to them again, that he governs those people, and they owe him respect and obedience and have to pay taxes to him, and so if he needs money he raises it by laying extra taxes upon them. Then he asked, "do you understand that, little Louis?"

"Oh, yes, indeed!" The Dauphin was breathless with interest now, "I have been told about that, but I don't like it. It seems to me that if a man is the king, he ought to have all the money and give it to the people when they need it. They ought to ask him for it, not he ask them."

To this the king agreed, but added with a sigh, that kings had so misused their power and authority that the people no longer trusted them, and that now a king could not pay out money unless the people knew what it was to be used for, and were willing.

"Have you used people's money, papa, without asking their leave?" cried Louis eagerly. "Was that why they came to Versailles yesterday and were so wicked to us? For those bad men and women were the people, weren't they?"

King Louis shook his head. "No, my son," he said. "The people can not come to me in such great masses. They have to send representatives. Those representatives I called to me at Versailles and asked of them money for the outlays I had to make, but they asked things in return, of me which I could not grant, either for my own sake or for yours, my son, who are some day to be my successor. Then the people were led to believe that I did not love them, but I am determined to show them that I do love them and am ready to share everything with them. That is why we have left lovely Versailles and come to live here, where we have to do without so much that we enjoy. And we must try to be contented here and share all the disagreeable things that the people have to bear, which is what a true King should do."

The Dauphin had sat like an old man, listening, and now as his father stopped speaking, the boy laid a hand on his breast, saying solemnly:

"Papa, I have understood everything, and I am very much ashamed that I complained at all. And I promise you I will take pains to give everybody a good example. I will be happy and contented here."

The Brave Dauphin

And the Dauphin kept his word; he took pains to be contented, and never said another word about Versailles, but tried to get all the pleasure he could from the dreary old palace and its garden, so different from that at Versailles, where the Dauphin had so much ground in which to work. Here in the garden, there was only one small corner set aside for the use of the royal family. This was surrounded by iron palings, through which faces full of hate and malice would often peer at the little Dauphin while he was busy gardening. One day he heard such words and saw such threatening faces that he shrank back and ran to his mother, who comforted him as best she could and said that he must be brave and strong, or she would cry too, and that she must not do this because it was exactly what the men who were trying to hurt their feelings, wanted to see her do.

The boy's eyes flashed.

"I will never complain again," he cried, "and they shall never again have the pleasure of seeing you or me cry if I can help it. But, mamma, tell me--are there no good men in the world?"

"Yes, Louis," answered the queen. "You must believe that all men are good and treat them courteously, until you have proved the contrary. If they refuse your friendly kindness, it will not be your fault, and you will have done what is right, no matter what others do."

A shadow passed over the child's lovely face.

"But, mamma," he said, "all men are not good. The men who abused and cursed us so were not good, and I could never be friendly to them, never!"

"We will hope that we shall never see them again," said the queen, "and I wish you to be so kind and polite to everyone who comes here, that all men may admire and respect their future king, even though he is still a child."

"I will be," cried the boy with spirit, "so that you may be satisfied with me, mamma. Just for that I will be so!"

As Marie Antoinette was kissing the pretty boy who was her comforter, the mayor of Paris and General Lafayette were announced, and the Dauphin whispered to his mother:

"That general was at Versailles with the bad men. I can never be kind to him."

"Hush," whispered the Queen--"For God's sake, do not let anybody hear that. No--no--he does not belong to our enemies. He wishes us well. Treat him kindly, my child."

And then Marie Antoinette took her son by the hand, and together they met their distinguished guests, who had come with the unwelcome news that, according to the old custom of the days of Henry the Fourth, the people wished to have free access to the gardens of the Tuileries, which freedom had been denied them since the coming of King Louis and his family.

The queen was bitterly opposed to this, for it meant that, for her own comfort and protection, she must only walk in the garden at certain times and under escort, and she was speaking with proud and angry fearlessness to the general about the matter, when the Dauphin left her side and running forward, extended his hand to Lafayette, crying:

"General, I should like to salute you. Mamma told me I must be polite and kind to all who are good to us, and she said that you wish us well. Let me, therefore, greet you kindly, and give you my hand."

As he spoke, he raised his blue eyes and looked smilingly and trustingly into those of the general and then at his mother; and his hearer, whose heart had just kindled with anger against Marie Antoinette and her rebellious words, felt anger melt into admiration, together with reverence and astonishment at the words of the manly little Dauphin. Bending his knee, in stately grace, he pressed the Dauphin's small hand to his lips and said gravely as to a comrade:

"My prince, you have spoken as with the tongue of an angel, and I swear to you and to your royal mother that I will never forget this moment. The kiss I have impressed upon the hand of my future king is at once the seal of a solemn vow and the oath of unchangeable fidelity and devotion to my king and the royal family. Dauphin of France, you have to-day gained a soldier for your throne who is prepared to shed his last drop of blood for you and your house, and on whose loyalty you may always count."

General Lafayette had tears in his eyes, and his noble face glowed with emotion, while the child before him looked at him with wistful eyes and a happy smile. Close by stood Marie Antoinette, her air of proud defiance turned to one of gentle sweetness. She knew what that moment meant in the history of France, and her heart thrilled with pride in her little son, the Dauphin. Stooping, she kissed his golden hair, and then, without an attempt to conceal the emotion, she finished her conversation with the general and mayor, and then, making her adieus to them beckoned to the Dauphin to go with her from the pavilion in which the interview had taken place, and to return to the palace.

Instead of walking beside her, the Dauphin paused and asked:

"Mamma, please let me walk alone. I want the people to see I am not afraid, as they may think if I let you lead me. I want to be like the Chevalier Bayard, that the Abbe talked to me about the other day. I want to be like Bayard."

The queen smiled through tears.

"Very well, my chevalier," she said. "You shall walk alone."

The Dauphin Becomes A Knight

"And before you, please. The knights always walk in advance of the ladies, to protect them from danger. I am your knight, mamma, and I want to be, as long as I live." And he added with a pretty, playful bow, "Will you allow it, my royal lady?"

"I allow it! So go in front, chevalier, little Louis. We will take the same way we came."

The Dauphin sprang along the path for quite a distance, when he stopped suddenly and turned round to the queen, who with her two footmen was walking quietly behind him.

"Well, Chevalier Bayard, what are you stopping for?" asked the queen with a smile.

"I am waiting for you," he said gravely, "because this is where my knightly service commences, for it is here that danger begins."

"It is true," said the Queen, and even as she spoke, there came to her ears a sound of shouting as loud as the booming of cannon. "Oh, my child," cried Marie Antoinette, "the sound is like the thundering of a storm at sea! But such storms lie in God's hand and He protects those who trust Him. Think of that, little Louis, and do not be afraid!"

"Oh, I am not afraid!" cried Louis, running happily on. And yet, outside the fence behind which they were walking, was a dense mass of angry people muttering curses on the queen and the Dauphin.

All at once, the mother's heart almost stopped beating from fright and horror. A man had extended his bare, powerful arm through the paling of the fence, to bar the Dauphin's way when he should try to pass it.

The boy saw the arm, hesitated a little, then went bravely forward. The queen hurried that she might be near him when he reached the danger point. On walked the Dauphin in proud courage. On hurried the queen and as she reached him, she cried:

"Come here, my son. Give me your hand."

But instead of responding to her cry, the little prince sprang forward and stood directly in front of the outstretched arm, and reaching out his small white hand, laid it on the brown clenched fist that had been ready to clutch him as in a vice, while a chorus of cheers at his courage went up from outside the wall.

"Good-day sir," he said in a loud voice, "Good-day!" As he spoke he took hold of the great rough hand and shook it.

"Little fool," roared the man, "what do you mean, and how dare you lay your puny paw in the claws of a lion?"

The Dauphin smiled. "Sir, I thought you were stretching out your hand to reach me with it, and so I give you mine and say good-day, sir!"

"And if I wanted, I could crush your fingers with my fist," cried the man, still holding the little hand firmly.

But from a hundred throats outside the fence came the cry "You shall not do it, Simon. You shall not hurt the boy!"

"Who can hinder me if I choose to do it?" asked the cobbler, whose name was Simon, with a coarse laugh. "See, I hold the hand of the future King of France, and I can break it if I choose, and make it so it can never lift the sceptre of France. The little monkey thought he would take hold of my hand and make me draw it back, but now my hand has got hold of his, and holds it fast. And mark this, boy, the time is past when kings seized us and trod us down, now we seize them, and do not let them go unless we will."

"But, Mr. Simon," said Louis, "you see very plainly that I do not want to do any harm, and I know you do not want to do me any harm, and I ask you to be so good as to take away your arm, that my mamma can go on with her walk."

"But suppose I do not do as you want me to?" asked the man defiantly. "I suppose then your mamma would dictate to me, and perhaps call some soldiers and order them to shoot the dreadful people?"

"You know, Master Simon, that I give no such commands and never gave such," said the queen quickly. "The king and I love our people and never would give our soldiers orders to fire on them, and now, sir--the Queen of France and her son will no longer be detained!" With a quick movement she struck back the arm of the cobbler, Simon, snatched the Dauphin away like lightning and passed by before Simon had time to put his arm back.

The crowd watching were filled with enthusiasm by the courage of the queen. They applauded, laughed and shouted, while the cries, "Long live the Queen! Long live the Dauphin!" passed like wildfire among the throng behind the fence, and although in the eyes of Simon whose evil design had been frustrated by a little child, there still shone hatred, Marie Antoinette, who was now hand in hand with the Dauphin, reached in safety the little garden reserved for the use of the royal family. Once within its iron gate, decorated with the arms of the kings of France, she felt as if all power had gone from her, and she could no longer hide her fear and grief, but, no, she must be cheerful for her son's sake, and her servants must not see her brow clouded, and so, with head erect and flashing eyes, she walked on.

"Mamma," cried the Dauphin, interrupting her thoughts. "There comes the king, my father. He will be glad to hear I was so courageous."

The queen quickly stooped and kissed him. "Yes, truly my little Bayard," she said, "you have done honour to your great example and been really a little chevalier, but remember, Louis, true bravery does not glory in its great deeds and does not wish others to admire them, but keeps silent and leaves others to talk of them!"

"Yes, and I will be silent too," cried Louis, with sparkling eyes. "You will see that I can be silent too," and child though he was, he showed from that moment a quick understanding and appreciation of the humility necessary to real greatness.

Time Goes On

That winter in the Tuileries was a dismal one indeed, for the royal family had none of the gaiety and freedom which had been part of the happy life at Versailles, and even when the King wished to go to his summer palace at St. Cloud for rest and change, this was not allowed. At last, weary of the insults and restraints heaped upon them, the royal family attempted to escape secretly from Paris, but the plot was discovered, their carriages stopped, and they were escorted back to the Tuileries by a shouting shrieking mob of men and women who were fiendishly glad of their capture. After that the King and Queen and the Dauphin were always treated as prisoners in their own palace, with guards set over them to watch their every movement, and the poor little Dauphin could not go out nor play freely and happily as could the poorest peasant child in France. After some months had passed, however, the fury of the people grew somewhat less, and they were allowed to close the doors of their rooms when they wished, and to walk out in the gardens once more. It even seemed for some time as if what King Louis had done to win back the trust of his people had been successful, and that the throne of France might regain its dignity and power before that time when Louis the Dauphin, should come into his inheritance.

He, meanwhile, was filling this period of calm with such affairs as interested and amused him, and his greatest joy was that he was again allowed to work in his garden. Although it was so small in comparison to that at Versailles, it was yet a bit of paradise to him, and as soon as his study hours were over, he always hurried out to dig his ground, and water and pick his blossoms, and it was the great delight of those subjects who loved the manly little fellow, to stand outside the fence and watch him as he worked. The Dauphin was generally accompanied, when he went outside the palace, by several soldiers from the detachment of the National Guard, who were on duty at the Tuileries, and the boy himself, who was now having military drills, generally wore the uniform of the National Guard, and so charming and so manly was this little National Guardsman of six years, that he became the idol of Paris. Fans and lockets were decorated with his picture, which society women wore, and everywhere the beauty and wit of the little fellow were talked of.

The boys of Paris shared the enthusiasm of their elders, and formed themselves into a regiment, which was called the Regiment of the Dauphin, which, with the king's permission, marched to the Tuileries to parade before the Dauphin. As usual, he was found in his garden, and was anxious to show his treasures to them even before he answered their request that he become Colonel of their regiment. When he accepted the honour urged upon him, one of the officers said:

"But that will mean giving up gathering flowers for your mamma."

"Oh, no," said the Dauphin, quickly, "that will not prevent me from taking care of my flowers. Many of these gentlemen tell me that they, too, have little gardens, and if they love the queen as much as their colonel loves her, mamma will have whole regiments of bouquets every day."

A cheer showed the boys' appreciation of their little colonel's sentiment, and the regiment of the Dauphin became one of the most popular organizations in Paris. Their uniform was a miniature copy of the French guards, with their three-cornered hats and white jackets, and whenever they marched through the Place de la Carousel, the people crowded to see the army of sturdy boys with their handsome little colonel.

So great was the boys' love for the Dauphin that the officers of the regiment came to the palace one day to make him a present, in the name of the whole regiment, and they were enthusiastically received by their colonel.

"Welcome, my comrades," he cried. "My mamma tells me you have brought me a present. But it gives me such pleasure to see you that nothing more is needed."

"But Colonel, you will not refuse our gift?" said a little officer named Palloy, and he added proudly:

"We bring you a set of dominoes made entirely out of the ruins of the Bastile." [The Bastile was the national prison, which had been entirely destroyed by the Revolutionists.]

Taking the wrapper from the white marble box, bound with gold, he gave it to the Dauphin, at the same time reciting the following lines:

"Those glowing walls that once woke our fear
Are changed into the toy we offer here
And when with joyful face the gift you view
Think what the people's love can do."

Joyfully the Dauphin received the beautiful present and listened eagerly to the explanation of how to play the new game. On the back of each domino, in the black marble, was a gold letter, and when the whole set of dominoes was arranged in regular order, they formed this sentence, Vive le Roi, Vive la Reine, et Vive le Dauphin (Long live the King, the Queen and the Dauphin). The marble of the box was taken from the altar-slab in the chapel of the Bastile, and in the middle, in gold relief, was a picture of King Louis.

"That is my papa!" cried Louis joyfully, when he saw it.

"Yes," said Palloy. "Every one of us bears him in his heart. And like the King, you will live for the happiness of all, and like him, you will be the idol of France. We who shall one day be French soldiers and citizens, bring to you, who will then be our commander-in-chief and king, our homage as the future supporters of the throne which is destined for you and which the wisdom of your father has placed under the unshakable power of law. The gift which we offer you is small, but each one of us adds his heart to it."

"And I give you all of my heart in return for it," cried the Dauphin, joyfully, "and I shall take great pains to do my lessons well so I may be allowed to amuse myself playing dominoes."

The delight of the Dauphin was so evident that his comrades who had brought him the present felt a keener affection even than before for their little Colonel, and the Queen who had been present during the whole scene spoke in friendly words of thanks to the boys, who then withdrew, escorted by the king and the Dauphin, who had no knowledge, child of destiny that he was, of the omen contained in that present. But Marie Antoinette knew only too well, and her heart was heavy when she saw the present made from the stones of the Bastile. But of this she gave no sign, and from that day attempted more than ever to endear herself and her son to the people who had so little trust in her. One day when a crowd of fiendish women behind the fence called out cruel things about the Queen, the Dauphin could be no longer silent.

"You lie, oh, you lie!" he cried angrily. "My mamma is not a wicked woman, and she does not hate the people. She is good. She is so good that--that----" tears choked him, and ashamed to show such signs of weakness, he dashed out of the garden into the palace, but as he reached the queen's apartments he choked back the tears, saying, "I will not cry any more, for that will only trouble mamma and I can see she has trouble enough without that. I will laugh and sing and jump about, and then she may smile a little instead of crying, as I often find her doing."

His tutor, the Abbe Davout, heartily approved of this, and the Dauphin sprang into his mother's presence with a merry smile which gladdened the queen's heart and made her forget her sorrows for awhile. This pleased the Dauphin greatly, and he re-doubled his efforts to be merry, making the little dog stand on its hind legs, while Louis put on its black head a paper cap which he had made, painted with red stripes, like those worn by the Jacobins or Revolutionists and cried:

"Monsieur Jacobi, behave respectfully. Make your salutations to her majesty, the Queen!"

He was rewarded by a hug and a kiss from the Queen and then ran off with the dog barking at his heels.

Little Louis was, as we have seen, an eager and brilliant scholar and one day he begged the Abbe to give him lessons in grammar which he had begun to learn some time before.

"Gladly," answered the Abbe, "your last lesson, if I remember rightly, was upon the three degrees of comparison--the positive, the comparative and the superlative. But you must have forgotten all that."

"You are mistaken," answered the Dauphin, "and I will prove it to you. Listen:--the positive is when I say, 'my Abbe is a kind Abbe'; the comparative is when I say 'my Abbe is kinder than another Abbe,' and the superlative," he continued, looking at the Queen who was listening--"is when I say, 'mamma is the kindest and most amiable of all mammas!'"

The retort was so clever, the manner of saying it so charming, that the Abbe and Marie Antoinette exchanged glances of amusement and pride, but the little prince was unconscious of having said or done anything unusual.

Besides grammar, Louis studied Italian, which he could speak and read fluently; he also studied Latin, and some of the sentences he translated have been preserved, such as "True friends are useful to princes." "I know a prince who easily flies into a passion." "Flatterers are very dangerous to princes." From these sentences it is evident that the Abbe was trying to teach his clever little scholar more than one thing at a time. Louis was also taught arithmetic, geometry and geography, this last by means of a huge hollow globe lit by a lantern, which had been invented for the special use of the Dauphin, by a celebrated professor in the University of Paris. Louis also was trained in all sorts of athletic sports and when he was seven years old was sturdy of body and far more mature of mind than many older boys. At seven, according to the court custom of France, he was obliged to be given into the care of a governor. The people wished to choose this governor and named several candidates who were utterly unworthy of the position, but they were obliged to set aside their wishes and accept a man named by the king, who also himself continued to superintend his son's education.

At this time the clouds of political disaster were again hanging over the palace, and even the Dauphin could see and feel the uneasiness that surrounded him.

The Attack

On June 20, 1792, King Louis refused to sign two decrees which the people wished him to sign, and with his refusal the storm of riot and revolution burst forth again. An immense mob of shrieking, howling people stormed the Tuileries, where no measures had been taken in defence, and the king gave orders that the doors of the palace be flung open and the people be allowed to pass in unhindered. In a few minutes every inch of space in rooms and corridors and halls was filled with the dense crowd. Only one room was locked, and in that room were the king and queen, the Dauphin and his sister, Therese with a few loyal friends. Therese was terrified and would have screamed with fright, but the manly little Dauphin watching her, held back his own tears and kept her terror under control by his words and manner, acting with the dignity of a grown-up guardian.

Breathlessly, the little company gathered there listened to the sound of an axe, doors were being battered down, the door of the royal apartment was opened, and an officer of the National Guard knelt before the King, beseeching him to show himself to the frenzied mob. The expression on all faces, the sounds from without were too much for the Dauphin's self-control. He burst into sobs and begged the queen to take him to his room, and while Marie Antoinette was comforting him as best she could, the king went out and stood in the middle of the hall, surrounded by the rabble, speaking in quiet words, of his love for his people. The crowd was delighted at this, but in the meantime, the still greater crowd outside the palace surged through the hall and into the room where the queen and her children were. The National Guards quickly rolled a table up between the queen and the mob, and stood at either side, ready to defend them. Only a table now separated the queen from her enemies, but she was calm and courageous and stood proudly erect with a child on either side of her, wide-eyed at the sights they saw. Suddenly, the queen trembled with a deathly fear. Before her stood the man whose brawny arm had reached through the paling to grasp the Dauphin. Simon, the cobbler, stood there, hatred and desire for revenge on his face, and Marie Antoinette knew with a quick instinct that this man would bring no good to her child. Then the cries of the Jacobins rent the air and they surged into the room with the fury of wild beasts sure of their prey.

The queen lifted the Dauphin up and set him on a table and whispered to him that he must not grieve or fear or cry, but be a man now, and the child smiled and kissed her hand. Just then a drunken woman flung a red cap--the cap worn by the Jacobins--on the table, and commanded the queen, on pain of death, to put it on.

Calmly, the queen turned to a general standing beside her and told him to place it on her head.

The general, pale with rage at the insult, obeyed in silence and the woman howled with pleasure. But in a moment, the general took the cap off the queen's hair and laid it on the table.

Ever since the King had vetoed the bills, the people had called the King, Monsieur Veto; Marie Antoinette, Madame Veto, and the Dauphin, Little Veto, and now from all sides burst forth the cry, "The red cap for the Dauphin! The tri-colour for little Veto!"

"If you love the nation," cried the woman to the Queen, "put the red cap on your son."

The Queen motioned to one of the ladies to put the red cap on the child, and he, not understanding whether it was a joke or not, stood there in easy grace, as handsome a little prince as ever a nation had.

One of the revolutionary leaders, who had looked complacently at the scene, now stood near the queen, and as her eyes met his in calm defiance, he felt a thrill of pity for her and for the little Dauphin, and when he saw the perspiration rolling down the boy's forehead from under the thick woollen cap, he called out roughly:

"Take that cap off the child--don't you see how he sweats?"

The queen's gratified glance thanked him, as she took the cap herself from the Dauphin's head. While this was occurring, the Mayor of Paris had entered the outer hall and was quieting the mob, bidding them disband and leave the palace at once, which they did.

The King sank into a chair, exhausted and agonized, and cried out:

"Where is the queen? Where are the children?" and in a moment the royal victims were together.

The Dauphin's spirits were never long cast down and now he was bubbling over with joy.

"Papa," he cried. "Give me a kiss! I deserve it, for I was truly brave and did not cry or even speak when the people put the red cap on my head."

The king stooped with a dignity which was almost reverent, kissed the boy's broad forehead and pushed back his thick golden hair, then turned to answer a question put by one of the representatives of the people; several of whom were in the room. And all at once these men gathered around the little Dauphin, of whose brilliant mind they had heard so much, and began to question him eagerly on all kinds of subjects, especially about the boundaries of France, and its division into departments and districts, and every question he answered quickly. After each answer he glanced up at his mother inquiringly, and when her face showed that he had answered correctly, his face beamed with pleasure, and he enjoyed seeing the astonishment on those faces crowding around him. One of those present asked:

"Do you sing, too, Prince?"

The Dauphin glanced again at the queen.

"Mamma," he asked, "shall I sing the prayer I sang this morning?"

Marie Antoinette nodded assent and the Dauphin knelt beside her, and folding his hands and looking up with a sweet look of reverence in his blue eyes, sang in a clear voice:

"Oh heaven, accept the prayer
I offer here,
Unto his subjects spare
My father dear."

There was absolute silence in the room, while those faces, before so hard and stern, softened. Then with a single glance at the lovely boy, who was still kneeling, with a look on his face as if in a happy dream, one by one, those revolutionists silently left the room. But even the prayer and the faith of the Dauphin could not longer save the royal family from their fate.

Torn From Family

The people, inflamed to fury by every desire of which the revolutionists could make use, now demanded the dethronement of the King, and the giving of the crown to the Dauphin, in whose name, as he was not yet of age, they intended to govern by means of a committee chosen by themselves. To this the King naturally would not give his consent, and amid scenes and sounds terrible beyond all description, the royal family were declared prisoners of the people, and told that they were to thereafter live in the Temple, which was now the royal prison. As the Tuileries had already been pillaged by the mob, the royal family found themselves without food or clothing, except what they wore. The Dauphin was entirely destitute, but fortunately the Duchess of Sutherland had a small son the age of the Dauphin, and she sent the young prince what he needed in the way of clothing for their departure. On August 13, 1792, the sad procession of royalty left the Tuileries in the late afternoon and were escorted by a great mob of frenzied men and women who acted more like wild beasts than like human beings. At night-fall the carriage reached the Temple and the royal prisoners were taken to that part of the building called "the palace," where they found no comforts or necessities of any kind, and torn sheets even had to be used on the Dauphin's bed. Later while the furies who had the prisoners in their power, were converting the principal tower of the building, not only into a prison, but into the worst one imaginable, the king and his family continued to remain in the palace during the day time, but at night, they were all shut up in the small tower--in four cells whose doors were guarded by soldiers. Two men who had been for years in the service of the king, were allowed to remain with him, and they and their sovereigns passed the time in such occupations as were possible. The King found his principal pleasure in superintending the Dauphin's education, giving him lessons every morning, then at one o'clock if the weather was fine, the royal family would all go into the garden, and the Dauphin would play ball or quoits or run races, as was suitable for his age and activity of body. At two o'clock dinner was served, and afterwards, the Dauphin again had a play hour while the king enjoyed a nap. As soon as he awoke, Clery, who had been with the Dauphin for several years, would give him writing and arithmetic lessons, and then he would play ball or battledore-and-shuttlecock for awhile, and then there would be reading aloud until it was time for the Dauphin's supper, after which the king would amuse his children with all sorts of riddles and puzzles and games, and then the Dauphin went to bed.

Little Louis was seven and a half years old when he was first shut up in the Temple, and in those months the king taught him to recite poetry, to draw maps and to make use of arithmetic, but his lessons in arithmetic had to be discontinued because an ignorant guard noticed the multiplication tables that the Prince was learning and reported that he was being taught to speak and write in cipher. One of the king's men was removed from the Temple because it was said that he had used hieroglyphics in order to make secret correspondence between the king and queen easier, and even his explanation that the figures he had made use of were only arithmetic tables which he laid by the Dauphin's bedside every night before retiring, that the young prince might prepare his lesson before breakfast, did not pacify his accusers. So little Louis Charles was taught no more arithmetic, but he continued to learn eagerly all that was offered his quick retentive mind to assimilate. His playfulness and mischievous pranks were a great comfort to the failing spirits of the king and queen, and the tact he showed in his manner and words were nothing less than wonderful in so young a boy. He never mentioned Versailles or the Tuileries or anything which would rouse sad memories in the minds of his parents, but seemed to be constantly on his guard to protect them both from any hints of sorrow which he could prevent.

The royal prisoners were soon removed to the principal tower of the Temple, where the Dauphin occupied a room with the king, until after Louis was taken away for trial, when the Dauphin was placed in his mother's care, and after that time he saw his father only once. The king was condemned to death. Having foreseen it, calmly he had accepted the decree, asking only that he might see his family once to say farewell. This privilege was granted and during the scene which lasted almost two hours, little Louis, born to inherit not glory but misfortune, held his father in his arms and kissed and comforted him in the fashion of a strong man rather than a little child. He did not understand causes, but he saw effects, and he was brave because mamma and papa needed someone beside them, who smiled, and so he held tears back until the time when they were a natural consequence of the final parting with his loved father.

And now little Louis was no longer the Dauphin, but rightful King of France--King of France, only think of it, and scarcely eight years old! Marie Antoinette, from the hour of separation from her husband devoted her entire strength and time to the education of her child, the little King. She felt she had no time to lose, and every moment of the day was made to serve some useful end. Even the games he played had each a purpose. It was a touching sight to see him leaning his elbows on a tiny table, absorbed in reading the history of France, then eagerly telling what he had read, and commenting on it. The queen made a special point of talking to the little King of his royal office, told him of his father's gentleness and mercy to his enemies, and made him promise to be as merciful if he should ever reign, and he soon was made to feel that greatness comes not with titles, but with character, and once in his sleep was heard to murmur:

"I will be good and kind; for I am king." Poor little Louis!

At this time there were wars and rumours of wars outside the walls of the Temple. Plots to liberate the queen and her son and to restore little Louis to the throne were set on foot by friends of the royal family, and though one and all failed of execution, they vitally affected the young king's life. When the plots were discovered by which Louis was to be abducted and publicly declared king, the revolutionists became so fearful that the plan might be really carried out, that they decided it was unwise to let him remain with his mother any longer, and the decree went forth that the son of Louis Sixteenth was to be taken from his mother and sister, and given into the care of a tutor to be chosen by the committee representing the people.

The queen was driven almost to madness by this unexpected decree, and when men came to take Louis away from her and carry him to another part of the Tower, she frantically placed herself in front of his bed, and insisted that he should not be taken, but power and force were on the wrong side, and at last, the officers tore the child from his mother's arms and carried him dazed and trembling with fright to his new apartment.

Cruel Torture And Mysterious Death

King of France was little Louis in title, but the most lonely, most frightened of all children in the land. For two days and two nights he refused food and held out his arms to his so-called tutor, constantly pleading to be taken back to his mother and sister. And who was his "tutor"? No other than Simon, the cobbler, he whose brawny arms had once stopped the Dauphin's way in the garden of the Tuileries. Simon and his wife had been chosen to guard and care for the little King of France, because they were staunch revolutionists who could be relied on to protect the interests of their party. Historians differ in their accounts of the treatment of the young King by this rough couple, but it seems pretty sure now that during their stay in the Temple they were not altogether cruel to little Louis. He was allowed to play both in his rooms and in the garden, had a billiard table, and a case of mechanical birds for his amusement, and when he grieved for his sister's companionship, another little companion of his own age was found to play with him, and it is also known that during his two sicknesses, Simon and his wife cared for him with as much devotion as if he had been their own child. Whether this was because of the fine salary attached to the position, or from some native kindness underneath his coarse rough exterior, we do not know, but be this as it may, Simon evidently gave only such measure of cruelty to his charge as was insisted on by those who employed him, and it was doubtless, they who forced Simon to do what he did to destroy the child's mental and bodily faculties. Louis was made to share their political opinions, to imitate their coarse manners and even to sing their revolutionary songs, while in place of the mourning he had worn for his father, he now wore the coarsest garments and the red cap of the Jacobins, and was often made to drink and eat far more than was good for him, until at last he was in a condition of body and mind such as his tormentors desired, when he could be made a tool to suit their own ends, because of his weakened and abnormal condition.

No page of history is written in so black an ink nor with so many blots as that on which is recorded the imprisonment and torture of little Louis Seventeenth, the King who never reigned, and no page of history offers a more bewildering puzzle for solution, from the moment of his being taken from his mother's care--a puzzle to which there have been more answers, and about which as much mystery hangs, as about any other incident on the pages of history, and no page has been oftener read and re-read than this which offers for solution the problem of the ending of this little King who never reigned.

We see him last as a prisoner; thin, haggard, sick unto death, with no sparkle in his lustreless eyes, no motion in his swollen joints, no pretty retort on his lips as of old, and with a sigh we turn from the ghastly sight to the pages of French history where we again read in detail the accounts of his life and death, and then it is for us to decide upon our answer to this riddle which offers more than one solution.

Louis Seventeenth of France, in his ninth year, was imprisoned by the revolutionists and subjected to every kind of torture that a human being could be made to suffer. As a result of that treatment, and of loneliness and cruelty, did he pine and sicken and die a natural death as some accounts say?

Did he, as some say, deliberately resist all the attempts made by his persecutors to enter into conversation with him, by maintaining a complete silence of fifteen months; or had a dumb child been put in his place by friends who had secretly rescued the real little king from his prison, and hidden him in a garret room of the Temple until they could safely liberate him? Then finding the dumb child too healthy to suit their plans, did they, as it is said, replace him by a very sick child, who died in the room where the little king was supposed to be imprisoned, and announce his death to the French nation as that of Louis Seventeenth, the royal prisoner? While the poor little substitute was lying in what was supposedly the coffin of little Louis, had the real King been given a strong dose of opium, and hurriedly placed in the coffin, instead of the substitute, as has been said?

Was the dead substitute carried hastily to the room in the Tower where the little King had been hidden, while Louis himself, alive and well, was being carried in the coffin to the cemetery? It has been said that the carriage in which the coffin was carried had been especially arranged for this scheme, and that while being driven to the cemetery, Louis was taken from the coffin, and placed in a box under the seat of the carriage, while the coffin was filled with papers that it might not seem too light when the bearers carried it to its final resting-place.

Is it true, do you think, that when the young King awoke from the effects of the drug he had been given, he found himself in a strange place, in a bed in a clear bright room, alone with a faithful woman who knew and loved him? And the plot to rescue him having been immediately discovered, was he hastily sent out of Paris in disguise, while to put his enemies on the wrong trail, another little boy was sent with his parents under the name of Louis, in another direction?

And in spite of the terrible sickness he had, as the consequence of all he had endured, did Louis Seventeenth of France, actually live and escape, to grow up a free citizen in a free country where were neither kings, queens nor tyranny, but liberty, equality and fraternity, not in word but in truth? Who can say positively when so much has been affirmed on all sides of the much argued question?

Difficult, indeed, it is to decide whether little Louis Seventeenth, the Dauphin of France, the king who never reigned, died in the Temple, a victim of the Reign of Terror, or escaped to new lands and a new life.

As we turn the pages of history and read the thrilling story, let each decide for himself the fate of the courageous, charming little sovereign. Each must study out the mystery, and solve the riddle if he can. And whatever one may read or decide, there in the church of the Madeleine in Paris, may be found this memorial to the little King who never reigned.


from Ten Boys Of History by Kate Dickinson Sweetser.

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