Little Dauphin - George Upton

Sunny Days

Within the grounds of the Tuileries,—that splendid palace of the King of France, at the end of a terrace overlooking the water, there was, in 1790, a small garden surrounded by a neat trellis and adjoining a pavilion occupied by the Abbe Daveaux, tutor of the Dauphin, or Crown Prince, Louis Charles.

On a certain bright July morning in that year a handsome, graceful boy about five years old entered this garden. He was richly and carefully dressed, and was accompanied by a small detachment of soldiers in the uniform of the National Guard, who followed him on foot to the gate in the trellis and stationed themselves there as sentinels. The boy bowed courteously to them and said, smiling: I am sorry, gentlemen, my garden is so small I cannot have the pleasure of receiving you in it, but I will do the best I can," and quickly gathering a handful of flowers, he proceeded to distribute them among his escort with such winning sweetness that the bearded soldiers could scarcely restrain their emotion.

After busying himself for some time in this way, the boy took from a corner one of the small but handsomely finished garden tools that had evidently been specially adapted to his use, and went industriously to work removing the weeds which had sprung up among the flowers, and spading the soil of a small bed to prepare it for setting out some young plants which he had brought with him in a pretty little basket. He worked with such energy and absorption that beads of perspiration stood on his forehead, and he did not observe that his tutor, the Abbe Daveaux, had entered the little garden and was watching his labors with loving interest.

That will do, my Prince," said the Abbe, finally. You must not fatigue yourself too much or you will not be able to give proper attention to your lessons."

The boy immediately laid down his tool and with a bright smile greeted his tutor, who gently brushed the clustering curls from his flushed face. As he stood there, glowing with health and breathless from the exercise which had brought a bright color to his cheeks, with the frank, fearless glance of his great blue eyes shaded by dark lashes, the wide, fair brow, the fresh red lips, the dimple in his rounded chin, and the almost angelic expression of innocence on his face it would have been hard to find a lovelier child. His figure was slender and delicate, his motions full of grace and vivacity, while in his manner and bearing there was something noticeably distinguished, combined with a confiding trustfulness that won all hearts.

Universally admired for his beauty and beloved for his nobility of mind, his tender heart, and the sweet friendliness he showed to all with whom he came in contact, this boy was Louis Charles, Dauphin of France, destined in the ordinary course of events to be the future ruler of one of the mightiest kingdoms of the world. Tenderly beloved by his parents, the unfortunate King Louis the Sixteenth and the imperious Grand Duchess Marie Antoinette; surrounded by all the pomp and splendor of a kingdom, and sheltered with loving solicitude from every shadow of evil, as yet he had known only the sunny days of happy, careless childhood; but already above him were gathering the dark clouds which were to eclipse the sunshine of his life evermore and transform the serene happiness of his parents into bitter trouble and untold misery. Alas! what a cruel fate had destiny reserved for this beautiful boy whose blue eyes looked out so bravely and trustfully upon the world! But of all this he had little foreboding as he gave himself up to the full enjoyment of his innocent happiness with all the light-hearted unconsciousness of a child.

Just see, M. Abbe, how busy I have been this morning!" said the boy, after he had given the usual morning greetings to his tutor. I have taken out all the weeds and planted this bed with fine asters, which will please my mother very much when they blossom. You know, M. Abbe, how much she loves flowers!"

"I do, indeed, my Prince," answered M. Daveaux, "and it is very nice and thoughtful of you to take her a nosegay every morning; but I cannot understand why you exert yourself to do all that digging, weeding, watering, and planting when a gardener would do it for you in a few moments."

The little Prince shook his head earnestly. "No, no, M. Abbe," he replied after a moment's reflection; my father gave me this garden so that I should have the care of it. And besides," he added with a charming smile, "I must make these flowers grow myself, because, mamma would not like them half so well if anyone else had done it."

"You are right, my Prince," said the Abbe, surprised and touched by the boy's remark, which showed so much affection for his mother. "Go on planting your flowers, and I hope they may thrive entirely to your satisfaction."

"Oh, they are growing finely, M. Daveaux," answered the Prince, proudly. You will see what a large bunch I can pick in just a moment "; and with a zeal and energy inspired by his love for his mother he examined all the flowers in his little garden, selected the largest and freshest blossoms, and bound them into a bouquet which he arranged with much care and taste.

"Look, M. Abbe," said he, holding out his nose-gay with childish triumph, "do you not think my mother will be pleased with this? It makes me very unhappy when the weather is bad and I cannot work in my garden, for how can I be happy, M. Abbe, when I have not earned mamma's first kiss with my bouquet? But now I must go and feed my rabbits, and then hurry to her with the flowers."

In a corner of the garden there was a small enclosure walled in with bricks, where some pretty tame rabbits were kept by the Prince. They recognized him with evident pleasure, and came quickly at his call as he bountifully distributed among them fresh cabbage leaves and carrots provided for the purpose. After this visit to his pets, the Dauphin turned back toward the palace to make his usual morning call on his mother, but once more he was detained.

Before the iron railings that separated the garden from the open street stood a poor woman, who was gazing at the Prince with longing eyes, but had not ventured to address him. Perceiving instantly that she seemed to be in trouble, he approached her and asked kindly: "What is the matter, my good woman? Can I do anything for you?"

The woman burst into tears. Oh, my Prince," she stammered, "I am very poor and have a sick child at home,—it is a boy, my Prince, and just as old as you,—and he is waiting anxiously for my return. But I cannot bear to go back to him with empty hands!"

"Wait a moment," replied the Prince, after he had convinced himself that the woman was really poor and needy. "I am going to see my mother, and will be back directly."

With hasty steps he ran on, and disappeared in the palace; but in less than ten minutes he was back again with a beaming face.

"Here, my good woman," he said in his gentle voice, as he handed her a bright new gold piece through the railings, "that is from my mother. And this," he added, snatching one of the finest roses from his garden, this is from me for your sick boy. I hope he will soon be well again "; and before the astonished woman could utter her thanks the little Dauphin had vanished again, hardly hearing the loud acclamations of the crowd which had gathered outside the palings and witnessed his generous deed.

At no time was the young Prince gayer or more charming than with his mother, whom he adored above all the world. As she did not wish his mind overtaxed with learning during his tender years, she taught him herself the rudiments of his education before giving him into the hands of his tutor, and nothing could equal the motherly care and solicitude she bestowed on the task. If the boy became weary, the Queen would seat herself at the piano or harp and play for him little melodies, full of expression, which she had either learned or composed herself, observing with pleasure that his ear was very sensitive to the charm of melody; or she would sometimes read to him fairy tales, fables, or stories from history, to which the little Prince listened with the liveliest interest. Every emotion aroused by these appeals to his imagination showed itself on his sensitive, animated features. Exclamations of wonder or excitement occasionally escaped him at the recital of stirring events or adventures which his mind could readily grasp; but whenever anything escaped his comprehension or was not clear to him, his brow clouded, and a stream of questions immediately followed. Nor was he satisfied until he fully understood. At such times he often astonished those about him with observations and reflections that awakened the liveliest hopes for the future of the royal child,—hopes unhappily doomed to be so soon blasted.

After the little Dauphin had made the poor woman happy with his gift, he returned for a moment to his mother to thank her again for the gold piece, and then went to give the King his morning greetings.

"What is this I hear, my dear Charles?" said the King, smiling and shaking his finger at the Prince.

"M. Hue has been telling me strange things of you." M. Hue was one of the Prince's attendants.

"What things, papa?" asked the boy. "I don't remember doing anything bad."

"No? Think well, Charles. Yesterday, while you were reciting your lesson, you began to whistle. Did you not deserve a rebuke for that?"

The Prince colored. Then he answered quietly: "Yes, papa, I remember. I repeated my lesson so badly that I whistled to myself."

"Nevertheless you see it was heard," replied the King. "You may be forgiven for that, however, but we have not come to the end yet. Afterwards you were in such high spirits that you tried to run away and dash through the rose-bushes in the garden. M. Hue warned you, and said, 'Monseigneur, a single one of those thorns might wound your face badly, or even put out your eye!' And what answer did Monseigneur make?"

Somewhat abashed, the Prince lowered his eyes. "I said: 'It is the thorny path that leads to glory!' And is not that true, papa?"

The King's face assumed a more serious expression. "Yes, yes, the principle is right," he answered, "but you have misapplied it, my child. There is no glory in risking your eyesight merely to gratify a mischievous impulse. If it had been a question of killing a dangerous beast, of rescuing a human being from peril, in short, if you had risked your life to save another, that might have been called glory; but your act, Charles, was simply thoughtless and imprudent. Beside, child, you had better wait and not talk of glory until you are able to read the history of your ancestors and our French heroes like Guesclin, Bayard, Turenne, and many others who have defended our crown with their blood."

This mild but earnest exhortation made a deep impression on the heart of the young Prince. He seized his father's hand, kissed it, and said in a low voice, "Very well, dear papa, after this I will find my glory in following your counsels and in obeying you."

"Then we are good friends again," answered the King; "and now we will look over your exercises for a few moments, so that M. Hue and M. Daveaux may be pleased with you."

The King, as well as the Queen, observed with pride the talents of his son, and it afforded him much pleasure to be present during the lesson hours and examine the exercises and copybooks. He frequently instructed the Prince himself, and by his praise or censure encouraged in the boy a habit of diligence and attention to what was being impressed upon his mind. Together with his wife he guided the education of the young Prince, and even continued the practice in later and less happy days, when, deprived of his crown, he had to accustom himself to the gloom of a prison cell.

Soon the Abbe Daveaux appeared, and the usual instruction in religion, reading, history, and geography began. The Prince was particularly attentive on this day, for his father's gentle admonition had sunk deep into his heart and spurred his zeal to the utmost.

"You have been very bright and industrious to-day, my Prince," said M. Daveaux, when study-time was over, "and I am glad, therefore, that I have a pleasant piece of news for you."

"What news?" asked the Prince, quickly.

"This,—that a company of small soldiers has been formed in Paris under the name of 'Regiment of the Dauphin,' which wishes to have you for its Colonel. I am sure you will accept this post of honor with pleasure."

"Yes, indeed, if papa will allow me!" replied the Prince, with sparkling eyes.

"Your papa," answered the King himself, "has not only already given his consent, but is willing for you to receive the young gentlemen who have come to pay their respects to their new Colonel."

"Come already? Where shall I find them?" asked the Prince, eagerly.

"In your garden," replied the King. "M. Daveaux will be good enough to accompany you."

Beaming with joy, the Crown Prince hastened with his tutor to the garden, where he greeted the little deputation, most of whom were not more than four or five years older than himself, with graceful courtesy and announced his readiness to accept the post of Colonel of their regiment.

"Now it will be adieu to your flowers and the nosegays for your mamma, I suppose?" said the Abbe.

"Oh, no!" returned the Dauphin, gayly, "reviewing my Grenadiers will not prevent me from taking care of my flowers. Some of these young soldiers have little gardens of their own; they will love the Queen, too, like their Colonel, and in the future, instead of a single one, mamma will receive a whole regiment of bouquets every day."

The little soldiers loudly applauded their new commander's speech, and the best relations were at once established between them and continued without a break for several weeks. His small Guards afforded the Prince the greatest pleasure, until they were dispersed in the stormy times which soon followed.

By this time the day was considerably advanced, and the Abbe was obliged to remind his pupil that his mother would be waiting for him and he must dismiss the envoys of the Regiment of the Dauphin. The Prince gave his hand courteously to his little comrades and followed his tutor to the Queen's apartment. His reception, however, was by no means such as he expected. His mother greeted him with a very serious face and gave him only her cheek to kiss instead of the usual embrace. Prince Louis Charles, who was acutely sensitive, perceived at once that something was amiss and looked at his mother timidly and somewhat perplexed.

"What fault have I committed now, mamma?" he asked.

"Ah, the young gentleman's conscience troubles him already," replied the Queen. "Perhaps he can tell me about the trick that was played on the page who attended him yesterday on the terrace. I hope he will not attempt to deny it!"

The Prince's delicate face grew crimson, for he remembered very well to what his mother referred. The day before, while they were walking together, he had mischievously taken a flute from his companion's pocket and hidden it in a fir-tree on the terrace. In a faltering voice he confessed his guilt.

"Very good," said the Queen; "your confession mitigates your fault somewhat, but nevertheless such pranks cannot be passed over without punishment. It is out of the question, of course, to imprison the newly appointed Colonel of a regiment, but there is Mouflet! Mouflet was with you at the time. He was in a way the accomplice of his master, and since that master may not be punished, Mouflet must suffer for him. Let Mouflet be called and placed in arrest for two hours!"

Mouflet was a pretty little dog, dearly loved by the Prince, and on this affection the Queen relied in her punishment of the Dauphin. Nor was she mistaken as to its effect.

Confined in a dark little cabinet, deprived alike of his freedom and the sight of his young master, poor Mouflet began to whine dolefully, to scratch at the door, and finally to howl with all his might. His lamentations found an echo in the tender heart of the real culprit and filled it with pity and remorse. Weeping, he hastened to his mother and tearfully kissed her hand.

"But, mamma," said he, "Mouflet is not the one who has done wrong. Why should the poor dog be punished? Oh, please set him free and put me in his place!"

Delighted as the Queen was at this proof of the Prince's sense of justice, and gladly as she would have pardoned him, she felt that for the sake of discipline she must not yield to her feelings, and replied gravely: "Very well, since you feel that you deserve the punishment, I will not prevent you from enduring it. You may release poor Mouflet and be locked up in his place for an hour."

Rejoiced at this decision, the Prince accepted his sentence at once and even extended it beyond the allotted time. But this was not all. In the solitude of his prison he began to reflect upon his behavior, and told himself that even though he had atoned for his fault the wrong had not yet been righted. He resolved that as soon as he was at liberty he would go to the garden, get the flute from its hiding-place, and give it back to his playmate with a request for forgiveness. A loving glance, a tender caress from his mother, were the rewards of his victory over himself; and these signs that he was forgiven made the little Prince so happy and contented that for the rest of the day he was the most polite and well-behaved of boys and gave not the slightest occasion for a word or even a look of reproof.

Some days later, on the fourteenth of July, 1790, a great fete was held on the Champ de Mars in Paris, as in all the other cities of France, to celebrate the inauguration of the new regime. The storm of the Revolution which had broken out in the previous year seemed to have passed away with this celebration, and there was a general feeling of hope and cheerful expectancy even among the opponents of the new order of things. All the people, without distinction of rank or class, had contributed to the erection of a huge amphitheatre-like structure built around the Champ de Mars, and in its construction had treated one another like members of one great family. Even the heavy gusts of rain which ushered in the long-talked-of day failed to dampen the ardor of the deputies and the vast throng of people assembled there. The endless processions followed each other in perfect order; and at last the sun burst forth triumphantly from the mists and rain clouds. First, Lafayette mounted the steps of the high altar erected under the open sky, where Talleyrand, Bishop of Autun, with sixty priests, read the Mass and consecrated the banners of the eighty-three districts of France, and swore, with the colors of Paris in his hand, in the name of the National Guard and the army of France, to be true to the law and the King; then the President of the National Assembly, rising from his seat at the right of the King, took the same oath; and finally the King himself arose and swore with uplifted arms to use all the power bestowed on him by the law and the new Constitution for their maintenance. At this instant, while cannon thundered and trumpets blared, loud shouts arose. The Queen, who was on a raised dais beside the throne, carried away by the excitement of the moment, lifted her son, the Dauphin, high in her arms to show him to the people and also to let him share in the oaths. The lovely child, smiling and radiant, stretched out his innocent arms as though to invoke a blessing from Heaven upon France, whereat the multitude that witnessed the charming sight broke forth into cheers and deafening huzzas that rent the ragged clouds and penetrated to the heavens above.

The envoys of the people thronged about the little Dauphin to offer him their loyalty and homage, which the Prince received with such grace and childish dignity that the enthusiasm broke out afresh, and thousands of hearts vowed unswerving allegiance to this child whose innocent breast seemed to harbor no thoughts but those of peace and goodwill to men. The King and Queen embraced' each other, many eyes were filled with tears, and a general reconciliation seemed to have closed forever the abyss of the Revolution which had threatened to engulf unhappy France.

These were still sunny days; but, alas! they were the last to shine upon the well-meaning King and his unfortunate consort. Fate had doomed them to misfortune, and "misfortune travels swiftly."