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- Marie Antoinette And Her Son - 1/120 -


by Louise Muhlbach




It was the 13th of August, 1785. The queen, Marie Antoinette, had at last yielded to the requests and protestations of her dear subjects. She had left her fair Versailles and loved Trianon for one day, and had gone to Paris, in order to exhibit herself and the young prince whom she had borne to the king and the country on the 25th of March, and to receive in the cathedral of Notre Dame the blessing of the clergy and the good wishes of the Parisians.

She had had an enthusiastic reception, this beautiful and much loved queen, Marie Antoinette. She had driven into Paris in an open carriage, in company with her three children, and every one who recognized her had greeted her with a cheerful huzzah, and followed her on the long road to Notre Dame, at whose door the prominent clergy awaited her, the cardinal, Prince Louis de Rohan, at their head, to introduce her to the house of the King of all kings.

Marie Antoinette was alone; only the governess of the children, the Duchess de Polignac, sat opposite her, upon the back seat of the carriage, and by her side the Norman nurse, in her charming variegated district costume, cradling in her arms Louis Charles, the young Duke of Normandy. By her side, in the front part of the carriage, sat her other two children--Therese, the princess royal, the first-born daughter, and the dauphin Louis, the presumptive heir of the much loved King Louis the Sixteenth. The good king had not accompanied his spouse on this journey to Paris, which she undertook in order to show to her dear, yet curious Parisians that she was completely recovered, and that her children, the children of France, were blossoming for the future like fair buds of hope and peace.

"Go, my dear Antoinette," the king had said to his queen, in his pleasant way and with his good natured smile--" go to Paris in order to prepare a pleasure for my good people. Show them our children, and receive from them their thanks for the happiness which you have given to me and to them. I will not go with you, for I wish that you should be the sole recipient of the enthusiasm of the people and their joyful acclamations. I will not share your triumph, but I shall experience it in double measure if you enjoy it alone. Go, therefore, my beloved Antoinette, and rejoice in this happy hour."

Marie Antoinette did go, and she did rejoice in the happiness of the hour. "While riding through Paris, hundreds recognized her, hundreds hailed her with loud acclamations. As she left the cathedral of Notre Dame, in order to ascend into the carriage again with her children and their governess, one would be tempted to think that the whole square in front of the church had been changed into a dark, tumultuous sea, which dashed its raging black waves into all the streets debouching on the square, and was filling all Paris with its roar, its swell, its thunder roll. Yes, all Paris was there, in order to look upon Marie Antoinette, who, at this hour, was not the queen, but the fair woman; the happy mother who, with the pride of the mother of the Gracchi, desired no other protection and no other companionship than that of her two sons; who, her hand resting upon the shoulder of her daughter, needed no other maid of honor to appear before the people in all the splendor and all the dignity of the Queen of France and the true mother.

Yes, all Paris was there in order to greet the queen, the woman, and the mother, and out of thousands upon thousands of throats there sounded forth the loud ringing shout, "Long live the queen! Long live Marie Antoinette! Long live the fair mother and the fair children of France!"

Marie Antoinette felt herself deeply moved by these shouts. The sight of the faces animated with joy, of the flashing eyes, and the intoxicated peals of laughter, kindled her heart, drove the blood to her cheeks, and made her countenance beam with joy, and her eyes glisten with delight. She rose from her seat, and with a gesture of inimitable grace took the youngest son from the arms of the nurse, and lifted him high in the air, in order to display this last token of her happiness and her motherly pride to the Parisians, who had not yet seen the child. The little hat, which had been placed sideways upon the high toupet of her powdered head, had dropped upon her neck; the broad lace cuffs had fallen back from the arms which lifted the child into the air, and allowed the whole arm to be seen without any covering above the elbow.

The eyes of the Parisians drank in this spectacle with perfect rapture, and their shouting arose every moment like a burst of fanaticism.

"How beautiful she is!" resounded everywhere from the mass. "What a wonderful arm! What a beautiful neck!"

A deep flush mantled the face of Marie Antoinette. These words of praise, which were a tribute to the beauty of the woman, awoke the queen from the ecstasy into which the enthusiasm of her subjects had transported her. She surrendered the child again to the arms of his nurse, and sank down quickly like a frightened dove into the cushions of the carriage, hastily drawing up at the same time the lace mantle which had fallen from her shoulders and replacing her hat upon her head.

"Tell the coachman to drive on quickly," she said to the nurse; and while the latter was communicating this order, Marie Antoinette turned to her daughter. "Now, Therese," asked she, laughing, "is it not a beautiful spectacle our people taking so much pleasure in seeing us?"

The little princess of seven years shook her proud little head with a doubting, dark look.

"Mamma," said she, "these people look very dirty and ugly. I do not like them!"

"Be still, my child, be still," whispered the queen, hastily, for she feared lest the men who pressed the carriage so closely as almost to touch its doors, might hear the unthinking words of the little girl.

Marie Antoinette had not deceived herself. A man in a blouse, who had even laid his hand upon the carriage, and whose head almost touched the princess, a man with a blazing, determined face, and small, piercing black eyes, had heard the exclamation of the princess, and threw upon her a malignant, threatening glance.

"Madame loves us not, because we are ugly and dirty," he said; "but we should, perhaps, look pretty and elegant too, if we could put on finery to ride about in splendid carriages. But we have to work, and we have to suffer, that we may be able to pay our taxes. For if we did not do this, our king and his family would not be able to strut around in this grand style. We are dirty, because we are working for the king."

"I beg you, sir," replied the queen, softly, "to forgive my daughter; she is but a child, and does not know what she is saying. She will learn from her parents, however, to love our good, hard- working people, and to be thankful for their love, sir."

"I am no 'sir,' " replied the man, gruffly; "I am the poor cobbler Simon, nothing more."

"Then I beg you, Master Simon, to accept from my daughter, as a remembrance, this likeness of her father, and to drink to our good health," said the queen, laying at the same time a louis-d'or in the hand of her daughter, and hastily whispering to her, "Give it to him."

The princess hastened to execute the command of her mother, and laid the glistening gold piece in the large, dirty hand which was extended to her. But when she wanted to draw back her delicate little hand, the large, bony fingers of the cobbler closed upon it and held it fast.

"What a little hand it is!" he said, with a deriding laugh; "I wonder what would become of these fingers if they had to work!"

"Mamma," cried the princess, anxiously, "order the man to let me go; he hurts me."

The cobbler laughed on, but dropped the hand of the princess.

"Ah," cried he, scornfully, "it hurts a princess only to touch the hand of a working man. It would be a great deal better to keep entirely away from the working people, and never to come among us."

"Drive forward quickly!" cried the queen to the coachman, with loud, commanding voice.

He urged on the horses, and the people who had hemmed in the carriage closely, and listened breathlessly to the conversation of the queen with the cobbler Simon, shrank timidly back before the prancing steeds.

The queen recovered her pleasant, merry smile, and bowed on all sides while the carriage rolled swiftly forward. The people again expressed their thanks with loud acclamations, and praised her beauty and the beauty of her children. But Marie Antoinette was no longer carried beyond herself by these words of praise, and did not rise again from her seat.

While the royal carriage was disappearing in the tumult and throng of the multitude, Simon the cobbler stood watching it with his mocking smile. He felt a hand upon his arm, and heard a voice asking the scornful question:

"Are you in love with this Austrian woman, Master Simon?"

The cobbler quickly turned round to confront the questioner. He saw, standing by his side, a little, remarkably crooked and dwarfed young man, whose unnaturally large head was set upon narrow, depressed shoulders, and whose whole appearance made such an impression upon the cobbler that the latter laughed outright.

"Not beautiful, am I?" asked the stranger, and he tried to join in the laugh of the cobbler, but the result was a mere grimace, which

Marie Antoinette And Her Son - 1/120

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