Joseph II. and His Court
Part 13 out of 22
"I am sorry that I cannot agree with Doctor Mesmer's invisible patron,"
said Von Paradies. "I strive to forget that I am her father, and place
myself on the side of the incredulous public, who have a right to demand
whether indeed the days of miracles have returned."
"My remedy does wonders," said Barth to the faculty.
Herr von Paradies continued: "This being the case, it is easier for us
to suppose that the distinguished actress, who selected the page, has
been requested to do so, than to believe that my daughter has seen the
words just read; for this lady is known to be a follower of Doctor
Mesmer. Perhaps the countess did not remark that the corner of the leaf
is slightly turned down."
He took the book and passed the leaves rapidly over his thumb.
"Here it is," said he, holding it up.
"Father!" exclaimed Therese, indignantly, "I saw you turn the leaf a few
minutes ago with your own hand."
"SAW" cried Von Paradies, raising his hands. Then turning to the
audience, he continued: "As regards this book, it was handed to me just
now by Baron von Horka, one of Mesmer's most devoted adherents. He may
have been commissioned to select this particular work, and Therese may
be aware of it. If I am thus stringent in my acceptance of the evidence
in this case, it is because I long to possess the sweet assurance of my
dear child's complete cure."
"Hear him," laughed Barth, touching Ingenhaus on the elbow.
Therese, meanwhile, was growing embarrassed; and, looking to Mesmer for
encouragement she lost sight of every thing under the influence of his
eyes. Her father held the paper before her, but she was not aware of it.
The audience whispered, but Mesmer at that moment, turning away from
Therese, she sighed, and, recovering her self-possession, took the paper
and placed it before the harpsichord.
"March, from 'OEdipus,'" said she, seating herself before the
"Why, Therese," cried her father, "you read the title without turning to
"I saw the piece when it was handed to you by Ritter Gluck."
"You are acquainted with Gluck?" asked Von Paradies. "He has never been
to our house."
"I have seen him at Doctor Mesmer's," replied Therese.
"Ah, indeed! Ritter Gluck, who hands the music, is like Baron von Horka,
who brought the book, a friend of Mesmer's," said Von Paradies, with a
sneer that affrighted his daughter and made her tremble.
But she placed her hands upon the keys and began to play.
The enraptured audience again forgot her eyes, and, entranced by the
music, hung breathless upon her notes, while she executed the
magnificent funeral march in "OEdipus." Suddenly, at the conclusion of a
passage of exquisite beauty, she ceased, and her hands wandered feebly
over the keys, Her father, who was turning the leaves, looked almost
scornfully at the poor girl; who, alarmed and bewildered by his
unaccountable conduct, grew deadly pale, and finally, with a deep sigh,
closed her eyes.
After a few moments she began again. From her agile fingers dropped
showers of pearly notes, while, through all the fanciful combinations of
sound, was beard the solemn and majestic chant of the funeral march. The
audience could scarcely contain their raptures; and yet they dared not
applaud for fear of losing a note.
She seemed to be astray in a wilderness of harmony, when her father,
with an impatient gesture, laid his hands upon her fingers and held them
"You are no longer playing by note!" exclaimed he, with affected
surprise. "You are giving us voluntaries from 'Orpheus,' instead of the
funeral march. I appeal to the public to say whether my daughter is
playing the funeral march?"
There was a pause, then a voice, tremulous with emotion, said, "No, it
is no longer the funeral march; it is now a beautiful arrangement from
Herr von Paradies, with an expression of profoundest anguish, threw his
arm around his daughter, exclaiming, "Oh, my beloved child, it is then
as I feared! We have been deceived, and you are blind for life."
"Father!" screamed Therese, flinging him off; "father, you know--"
"I know that you are blind," cried he, following her, and again clasping
her in his arms. "Come, my poor child, come, and fear nothing! Your
father will work for you; and his hand shall guide your faltering steps.
Oh, my child! May God forgive those who have brought this bitter
disappointment upon my head! My dream of hope is over. You are blind,
Therese, hopelessly blind, and your father's heart is broken!"
The audience were deeply moved by this outburst of paternal grief and
tenderness. Here and there were heard half-audible murmurs of sympathy,
and many of the ladies had their handkerchiefs to their eyes. Everybody
was touched except Professor Barth. He, on the contrary, was chuckling
with satisfaction, and felt much more inclined to applaud than to
commiserate. He looked at Ingenhaus, who, not being in the secret, was
divided between sympathy for the father and indignation toward the
charlatan. Indeed, he had so far forgotten his own interest in the
scene, that he was weeping with the rest.
"Console yourself, my friend," said Barth, "all this is the result of my
efforts in behalf of science. I deserve a public vote of thanks for
having out-mesmered Mesmer."
He stopped--for Therese's voice was heard in open strife with her
father. "Let me go!" cried she, with passion. "I am not blind. As God
hears me, I see--but oh, how fearful have been the revelations that
sight has made to me this night!"
Poor, poor Therese! The shock of her father's treachery had proved too
great for her girlish frame. She reeled and fell back insensible in his
Von Paradies, with simulated anguish, turned to the audience and bowed
his stricken head. Then raising his daughter in his arms, he carried her
away from the stage.
Therese lay for several hours unconscious, while her mother wept, and
watched over her, and her father stood by, sullenly awaiting the result.
At last she heaved a sigh and opened her eyes. "Where am I?" asked she,
"At home, darling," replied the tender mother, bending over and kissing
"No--I am in the fearful concert-room. They stare at me with those
piercing daggers which men call eyes; and oh, their glances hurt me,
mother! There they sit, heartlessly applauding my misery, because it has
shaped itself into music! Let me go; I am strong, and I SEE!"
She attempted to rise, but her father held her back. "Lie still, my
child," said he, reproachfully; "it is in vain for you to carry this
deception further. Trust your parents, and confess that you are blind.
Were it otherwise, you would not mistake your own familiar chamber for
the vast concert-room. For Mesmer's sake, you have sought to deceive us,
but it is useless, for we know that you are blind."
"You are blind--you are blind!" These oft-repeated words seemed fraught
with a power that almost made her doubt her own senses. She saw, and yet
she felt as if sight were receding from her eyes.
"Oh, my God! Why will my father madden me!" cried the unhappy girl,
rising in spite of all efforts to detain her, and looking around the
room. "Ah--now I remember, I fainted and was brought home. Yes, father,
yes, I tell you that I see," cried she, wringing her hands, and writhing
with the agony he was inflicting upon her. "I see in the window the blue
flower-pot which Mesmer brought me yesterday--there opposite stands my
harpsichord, and its black and white keys are beckoning me to come and
caress them. Two open books lie upon the table, and over it are
scattered drawings and engravings. Oh, father, have I not described
things as they are?"
"Yes, child--you have long been familiar with this room, and need not
the help of eyes to describe it."
"And then," continued she, "I see you both. I see my mother's dear face,
tender as it was when first my eyes opened to the light of its love;
and, my father, I see you with the same frown that terrified me in the
concert-room--the same scowl that to my frightened fancy, seemed that of
some mocking fiend who sought to drive me back to blindness! What is it,
father? What has changed you so that you love your child no longer, and
seek to take the new life that God has just bestowed?"
"God has bestowed nothing upon you, and I will no longer be the tool of
an impostor," replied he, morosely. "Am I to be the laughing-stock of
Vienna, while men of distinction see through the tricks of the
charlatan? I must and will have the strength to confess my folly, and to
admit that you are blind."
Therese uttered a cry, and shook as though a chill had seized her. "O
God, help me!" murmured the poor girl, sinking in her mother's
outstretched arms, and weeping piteously. Suddenly she raised her head
and gradually her face brightened, her cheeks flushed, her lips parted
with a smile, and her large expressive eyes beamed with happiness. Once
more she trembled--but with joy, and leaning her head upon her mother's
shoulder, she whispered, "He comes."
The door opened, and Mesmer's tall and commanding figure advanced toward
the group. Therese flew to meet him and grasped his hands in hers.
"Come, master, come and shield me! God be thanked, you are here to
shelter me. If you leave again, I shall lose my sight."
He passed his hands lightly over her face, and looked earnestly into her
"You are dissatisfied with me, master," said she anxiously. "You are
displeased at my childish behavior. I know that I was silly; but when I
saw those multitudinous heads so close together, all with eyes that were
fixed on me alone, I began again to feel afraid of my own race. It
seemed as if the walls were advancing to meet me--and I retreated in
"What confused you at the harpsichord, child?"
"The sight of the small, dazzling notes, and the singular motions of my
own fingers. I am so unaccustomed to see, that hands and notes appeared
to be dancing a mad Morrisco, until at last I grew confused and saw
"All this is so natural," said Mesmer sadly, "for the seat of your
infirmity lay in the nerves. And now that they require rest, you are a
prey to agitation and to tears. Unhappy Therese, there are some who seek
to plunge you back into the darkness from whence I have rescued you!"
She put her arms upon his shoulders and sobbed, "Save me, master, save
me--I could not bear blindness now!"
At the other end of the room stood Von Paradies and his wife. She laid
her hand upon his arm, saying imploringly:
"What signifies all this mystery, husband? Why do you torture our little
Therese so cruelly? You know that she sees; why, then, do you--"
"Peace!" interrupted Von Paradies angrily. "If Therese does not become
blind again, we shall lose our pension."
"My poor child," sobbed the mother, "you are lost!"
"I have come to your help, Therese," said Mesmer audibly. "I know all
that is passing under this roof," continued he, with a look of scorn at
her parents. "They are trying to deprive you of your sight, and they
well know that excitement and weeping will destroy it. But my name and
honor are linked with your fortunes, child; and I shall struggle for
both. I have come to take you to the villa, with my other patients. You
shall be under my wife's care, and will remain with us until your eyes
are fortified against nervous impressions. The carriage is at the door."
"I am ready to go," replied Therese joyfully.
"I will not suffer her to leave the house!" cried Von Paradies, striding
angrily forward. "Therese is my daughter, and shall not be torn from her
"She goes with me," thundered Mesmer with eyes that flashed lightning,
like those of Olympian Zeus. "You gave her to me as a patient, and until
she is cured she belongs to her physician."
He took Therese in his arms and carried her toward the door. But Von
Paradies, with a roar like that of some wild animal, placed himself
before it and defended the passage.
"Let me pass," cried he.
"Go--but first put down Therese."
"No--you shall not deprive her of the sight I have bestowed." With these
words, he raised his muscular right arm, and swinging off Von Paradies
as if he had been a child, Mesmer passed the opening and stood outside.
"Farewell, and fear nothing," cried he, "for your pension will not be
withdrawn. Therese is once more blind. But as God is just, I will
restore her again to sight!"
Mesmer, however, was destined to be foiled. His enemies were richer and
more influential than he; and Von Paradies, in mortal terror for his
pension, sustained them. Von Stork obtained an order, commanding the
relinquishment of Therese to her natural guarians; and her father, armed
with the document, went and demanded his daughter. Therese flew to
Mesmer's arms, and a fearful scene ensued. It shall be described in
Mesmer's own words.
"The father of Therese, resolved to carry her away by main force, rushed
upon me with an unsheathed sword. I succeeded in disarming him, but the
mother and daughter both fell insensible at my feet: the former from
terror, the latter because her unnatural father had hurled her against
the wall, where she had struck her head with such violence as to lose
all consciousness. Madame von Paradies recovered and went home; but poor
Therese was in a state of such nervous agony that she lost her sight
entirely. I trembled for her life and reason. Having no desire to
revenge myself upon her parents, I did all that I could to save her.
Herr von Paradies, sustained by those who had instigated him, filled
Vienna with the cry of persecution. I became an object of universal
contumely, and a second order was obtained by which I was commanded to
deliver Therese to her father." [Footnote: Justinus Kerner, "Fraaz Anton
From this time Therese remained blind, and continued to give concerts in
Vienna, as she had done before. Barth and his accomplices were
triumphant; and Mesmer, disgusted with his countrymen, left Vienna, and
made his home in Paris.
Therese von Paradies then, as her father asserted, was blind. Whether
she ever was any thing else, remains to this day an open question. The
faculty denied furiously that she had seen; Mesmer's friends, on the
contrary, declared solemnly that she had been restored by animal
magnetism; but that her cruel father, for the sake of the pension, had
persecuted her, and so succeeded in destroying her eyesight forever.
LE ROI EST MORT, VIVE LE ROI!
It was the evening of the tenth of May, 1774. The palace of Versailles,
the seat of royal splendor, was gloomy, silent, and empty. Regality,
erst so pleasure-loving and voluptuous, now lay with crown all dim, and
purple all stained, awaiting the last sigh of an old, expiring king,
whose demise was to restore to it an inheritance of youth, beauty, and
In one wing of the palace royalty hovered over a youthful pair, as the
genius of hope; in another it frowned upon the weak old king as the
implacable angel of death.
Louis the Fifteenth was balancing the great account of his life--a life
of luxury, voluptuousness, and supreme selfishness. Yielding to the
entreaties of his daughters, he had sent for the Archbishop of Paris;
but knowing perfectly well that the sacraments of the church would not
be administered under a roof which was polluted by the presence of Du
Barry, the old libertine had banished her to the Chateau de Ruelles.
But Monseigneur de Beaumontr required something more than this of the
royal sinner. He exacted that he should make public confession of his
scandalous life in presence of the court to which he had given such
shameful example. The king had struggled against such open humiliation,
but the archbishop was firm, and the fear of death predominating over
pride, Louis consented to make the sacrifice.
For three days the courtiers had hung about the anteroom, afraid to
enter (for the king's disease was small-pox), yet afraid to take flight,
lest by some chance he should recover. But now the doors of the royal
apartments were flung wide open, and there was great trepidation among
the crowd. The archbishop in his canonicals was seen standing by the bed
of state; on one side of him stood the grand almoner, and on the other
the minister, the Duke d'Aiguillon. At the foot of the bed knelt the
daughters of the king, who in soft whispers were trying to comfort their
"The king wishes to bid adieu to his friends!" cried the Duke
d'Aiguillon, in a loud voice.
Here was a dilemma! Everybody was afraid of the small-pox, for the
handsome Marquis de Letorieres, whom Louis had insisted upon seeing, had
just died of the infection, and nobody desired to follow him. And yet
the king might outlive this attack, and then--what?
Once more the Duke d'Aiguillon called out for the king's friends; and,
trembling from apprehension of results that might follow this latter
contingency, they entered the chamber of death. The atmosphere was
fearful. Not all the fumes of the incense which was sending its vapory
wreaths to the pictured ceilings could overpower the odor of approaching
dissolution. In vain the acolytes swung their golden censers--death was
there, and the scent of the grave.
Breathless and with compressed lips the king's friends listened to his
indistinct mutterings, and looked upon his swollen, livid, blackened
face. Each one had hurried by, and now they all were free again, and
were preparing to fly as far as possible from the infected spot. But the
clear, solemn voice of the archbishop--that voice which so often had
stricken terror to their worldly hearts--was heard again, and he bade
"The king asks pardon of his subjects for the wicked and scandalous life
which he has led on earth," said the archbishop. "Although as a man he
is responsible to God alone for his deeds, as a sovereign he
acknowledges to his subjects that he heartily repents of his wickedness,
and desires to live only that he may do penance for the past and make
amends for the future."
A piteous groan escaped from the lips of the dying monarch, but his
"friends" did not stay to hear it; they fled precipitately from the
While here a trembling soul was being driven from its earthly dwelling,
in another wing of the palace the other members of the royal family were
in the chapel at prayer. The evening services were over, and the
chaplain was reading the "forty hours' prayer," when the sky became
suddenly obscured, peal upon peal of thunder resounded along the
heavens, and night enveloped the chapel in its dismal pall of black.
Livid flashes of lightning lit up the pale faces of the royal
supplicants, while to every faltering prayer that fell from their lips
the answer came from above in the roar of the angry thunder-clap.
There, before the altar, knelt the doomed pair, the innocent heirs of a
selfish and luxurious race of kings; whose sins were to be visited upon
their unconscious heads. No wonder they wept--no wonder they shuddered
on the dark and stormy night which heralded their reign.
The rites were ended, and the dauphin and dauphiness went silently
together to their apartments. The few trusty attendants who were
gathered in the anteroom greeted them with faint smiles, and uttered
silent orisons in their behalf; for who could help compassionating these
two young creatures, upon whose inexperienced heads the thorny crown of
royalty was so soon to be placed?
As they entered the door, a flash of lightning; that seemed like the
fire which smote the guilty cities of Israel, flashed athwart their
paths, and the thunder cracked and rattled above the roof as though it
had been riving that palace-dome asunder. The dauphiness cried out, and
clung to her husband's arm. He, scarcely less appalled, stood motionless
on the threshold.
The violence of the wind at that moment had burst open some outer door.
The lights in the chandeliers were almost extinguished, and one solitary
wax-light, that had been burning in the recess of a window, went
entirely out. Regardless of etiquette, and of the presence of the royal
pair, Monsieur de Campan sprang to the chandelier, and, relighting the
candle, quickly replaced it in the window.
The dauphin beheld the act with astonishment, for no one at that court
was more observant of decorum than Monsieur de Campan.
"What means that light in the window?" inquired the dauphin, in his
clear, touching voice.
"Pardon me, your highness, it is merely a ceremony," replied Monsieur de
"What ceremony?" asked the dauphin, with surprise.
"Your highness commands me?"
"I request you--if the dauphiness permits," said Louis, turning to his
wife, who, almost exhausted, leaned for support against him, and bowed
"Your majesty has given orders, that as soon as the event, which is
about to take place, has occurred, the whole court shall leave
Versailles for Choisy. Now it would not be possible to issue verbal
orders in such a moment as the one which we await; so that the master of
the horse and myself had agreed upon a signal by which the matter could
be arranged without speech. The garden du corps, pages, equerries,
coaches, coachmen, and outriders, are all assembled in the court-yard,
their eyes fixed upon this light. As soon as it is extinguished, it will
be understood that the moment has arrived when the court is to leave
"The disappearance of the light, then, will communicate the tidings of
the king's death?"
Monsieur de Campan bowed. Louis drew his wife hurriedly forward, and
passed into another room, where, with his hands folded behind him, he
walked to and fro.
"God is just," murmured he to himself, "and there is retribution in
Marie Antoinette, whose large violet eyes had followed her husband's
motions, raised them to his face with a look of inquiry. She rose from
the divan on which she was sitting, and putting her small, white hand
upon the dauphin's shoulder, said:
"What do you mean, Louis?"
"I mean that this solitary light, for whose disappearance these people
are waiting, shines in retribution for the fearful death-bed of my
"I do not understand."
"No, Antoinette, how should you? You have never heard the tragic story
of my father's death, have you?"
"No, my husband," said she, tenderly; "tell it to me now."
"I will, Antoinette. He was one of the best and truest hearts that ever
lived; and yet these selfish courtiers all forsook him in his dying
hour. He lay alone and abandoned in his room by all save my angelic
mother, who nursed him as loving woman alone can nurse. The court was at
Fontainebleau, and the dauphin's father announced that as soon as his
son had expired, they would all journey to Choisy. My father, who in an
arm-chair, was inhaling, for the last time, the balmy breath of spring,
saw these hurried preparations for departure from the open window where
he sat. He saw carriages, horses, trunks, lackeys, and equerries ready
at a moment's warning to move. He saw that the signal for the rushing
crowd to depart was to be his death. Turning to his physician, he said,
with a sad smile, 'I must not be too long in dying, for these people are
becoming impatient.'" [Footnote: Soulavie, "Memoires," etc., vol. i.]
"Shameful!" cried Marie Antoinette, wiping away her tears.
"Ay, more than shameful!" exclaimed Louis. "Now, you see, that the hour
of retribution has come, for once more the court grows impatient with
the length of a dying sovereign's agony. Oh, would that my noble father
were alive! How much more worthy was he to be a king than I."
"From my heart I echo your wish," said Antoinette, fervently. "How was
it that he died so young?"
Louis looked searchingly at the face of his young wife. "He died of a
malady whose name is an impeachment of the honor of those who survive
him," said the dauphin, sternly, "and my mother died of the same
disease. [Footnote: It was generally believed that the dauphin and his
wife were poisoned by a political party, whose leader was the Duke de
Choiseul. The royal couple belonged to the anti-Austrian party.
"Memoires de Campan," vol. i., p. 78.] But let us not throw any darker
shadows over the gloom of this heavy hour. I am stifled--I have a
presentiment of--" A loud shout interrupted the dauphin. It came nearer
and nearer, and now it reached the anteroom, where the crowding
courtiers were pouring in to greet King Louis XVI.
The dauphin and his wife were at no loss to understand these shouts.
They exchanged glances of fear, and side by side they fell upon their
knees while, with tear-streaming eyes, they faltered. "O God have mercy
upon us, we are so young to reign!" [Footnote: "Memoires de Campan,"
vol. i., p. 78.]
The doors were thrown open, and the mistress of ceremonies of Marie
Antoinette appeared. Behind her came a multitude of lords and ladies,
their curious eyes peering at what they had never expected to see--a
royal couple assuming the purple, not with pomp and pride, but with
humility, distrust, and prayer.
They rose, and faced their subjects. Madame de Noailles courtesied so
low that she was upon her knees.
"Your majesties will forgive this intrusion," said she, with all the
aplomb of her dignity. "I come to request that your majesties will
repair to the state reception-room to receive the congratulations of
your royal relatives, and those of your court, who are all waiting
anxiously to do you homage."
Such a request, from the lips of Madame de Noailles, was the exaction of
an indispensable form of court-etiquette, which the young couple dared
Arm in arm they went, Marie Antoinette hiding her tears with her
handkerchief, and looking inexpressibly lovely in her childish emotions,
while the loud greetings of a magnificent court hailed her as their
While the consorts of the royal princes folded their sister-in-law in
their arms, the princes, with courtly decorum, bowed ceremoniously
before the king.
"Permit us, sire," began the Count of Provence, "to be the first to lay
our homage at your majesty's feet, and to--"
"My brothers, my brothers!" cried Louis, deeply affected, "is my crown
to rob me of the dear ties of kindred? Oh, do not call me king, for I
cannot afford to lose the dear companions of my childhood."
"Sire," replied the Count of Provence, "you shall not lose them; and for
us, our gain is two-fold. We receive from God a gracious king, and
retain our much-loved brother." And the count embraced the king, who had
opened his arms to receive him.
A quarter of an hour later, the chateau of Versailles was deserted. The
courtiers, pages, equerries, and lackeys, had all departed, delighted to
leave that infected atmosphere within whose poisonous influence the iron
rules of etiquette had detained them while Louis XV. lived. None of them
felt inclined to do homage to departed royalty. Even the Duke de
Villequier, first gentleman of the bed-chamber, in his terror, forgot
etiquette; and instead of watching the king's corpse, he, too, made
ready to go with the rest.
"Monsieur," said the duke to Andouille, the king's physician, "I leave
you that you may be able to open and embalm the body." Andouille grew
pale, for he knew perfectly well that the performance of such a ceremony
as that, was his death-warrant. However, after a pause, he replied, "I
am ready, your grace, but you must remain to hold the king's head. It
is, as you know, a part of your duty as gentleman of the bedchamber."
[Footnote: Campan, vol. i., p. 79]
The Duke de Villequier said nothing. He merely bowed and hurried from
the room. Andouille followed his example, but, more considerate than the
other attendants of the king, he made some provision for the deserted
corpse. He sent for one of the subordinates of the palace, and ordered
him to watch by the body. Then, going to his carriage, he saw several
hodmen lounging about, who were carrying mortar for some repairs that
were being made at the palace. The physician called them, and bade them
go tell the lord-Steward that the king's coffin must be saturated with
spirits of wine, and his winding-sheet also.
Such were the preparations that were made for the obsequies of the
defunct king; and his body was watched by a few servants and these
hodmen whom Andouille had employed as messengers.
It was early in the morning. The court had accompanied the king and
queen to Choisy, and thither had flocked the representatives of every
class in Paris, to do homage to the king and wish him a prosperous
The people seemed wild with joy, and nobody vouchsafed a thought to the
memory of the "Bien-aime," whose body was even now being taken to its
last rest, in the vaults of St. Denis. The funeral train was any thing
but imposing. The coffin, placed upon a large hunting-wagon, was
followed by two carriages, containing the Duke d'Ayen, the Duke
d'Aumont, and two priests. Twenty pages and as many grooms closed the
procession, which went along without attracting the notice of anybody.
The burial-service was read in the crypt, and the coffin hastily lowered
in the vault, which was not only walled up, but cemented also, for fear
the infection imprisoned within might escape from the dungeon of the
dead and infest the abodes of the living.
Not one of the royal family had followed the body. The king was at
Choisy, and all hearts were turned to him. Thousands of men went in and
out of the palace, each one with his burden of fears, hopes, uneasiness
or expectations. Who was now to find favor at court! Would it be the
queen, or the aunts of the king? What fate awaited Du Barry? Who would
be prime minister?
While these matters were being discussed without, the king, who had not
yet made his appearance, was in his cabinet. His disordered mien,
tangled hair, and red eyes, as well as the lights that still flickered
in the chaneliers, showed plainly that he had not been to bed that
He could not sleep. The future lowered dark and threatening before him,
and day had not brought comfort to his anxious mind. Great drops of
sweat stood upon his brow, and his face, never at the best of tunes
handsome, to-day was less attractive than ever. "I am so young!" thought
he, despondently. "I know of no man at this court, in whose honesty I
can confide. Every man of them has curried favor with that shameless
woman whose presence has defiled the throne of my ancestors, and
disgraced the declining years of my grandfather. To whom shall I turn?
Who will give counsel to a poor, inexperienced youth?"
A slight knock was heard at the door. The king rose and opened it.
"Monsieur de Nicolai," said Louis, surprised, as the old man stood.
before him with head inclined. "What brings you to me?"
"The will of your deceased father, sire."
The king stepped back and motioned him to enter. "Now speak," said he.
"I know that you were with my father on his death-bed; and I have often
sought to win your friendship, but until now leave sought in vain."
"Sire, I was afraid that if I betrayed an interest in your majesty, I
might not be allowed to live long enough to fulfil the trust confided to
me by your father. I had sworn that on the day you ascended the throne
of France I would deliver his will to your majesty."
"And you have preserved it? You have brought it to me?"
"Sire, here it is," said the old nobleman, taking from his breast a
sealed package, and laying it in the king's hands.
Louis grasped it eagerly, and deeply moved, read the address "Papers to
be delivered to whichever one of my sons ascends the throne of France."
"Your majesty sees that I have kept my trust," said De Nicolai.
"Oh, why is not my father here to reign in my stead!" exclaimed Louis.
"He died, sire, that he might be spared the sight of the disgrace which
has overtaken France. He died that the world might bear witness to the
baseness of those who, since his death, have swayed the destinies of
France. He did not die in vain. Your majesty's self will profit by his
"Yes, I have heard of it all. I know the invisible hand that dealt the
death-blow to my father, my mother, and my grand-mother. I know it,
"Sire, your majesty's father forgave his enemies; and, through me, he
prays your majesty to do likewise."
"I will obey," said Louis, inclining his head, "and leave the guilty to
the vengeance of Heaven. "
"And now, sire, that my mission is accomplished, allow me to retire, and
let me entreat you to lay your father's words to heart."
"I will do so, I promise you. Can I do aught to serve you?"
"No, your majesty, I have nothing to ask of man."
The king gave him his hand, and followed him with wistful eyes until the
door had closed behind him.
"Oh, how beggared seems a king, when he has nothing wherewith to
recognize the loyalty and love of his friends!" thought Louis, with a
He took up the packet and read: "Treaty concluded between Louis XV. and
Maria Theresa, on the 1st of May, 1756. Arguments to prove that, sooner
or later, the Austrian alliance will be an injury to France."
The king turned over the pages and read the following:
"Whichever one of my sons is called to the throne of Louis XV. let him
hearken to the warning of his father. Beware, my son, of entanglements
with Austria. Never seek the hand of an Austrian princess; for marriages
with Austria have brought no blessing to France."
The king sighed heavily, and his head sank upon his breast. "Too
late--too late, my father! My fate is decided!" And Louis took up the
"List of persons whom I recommend to my son, the King of France."
"Ah!--this is the guide I was seeking. Let me see. First,--`Monsieur de
Maurepas--a statesman who has steadily opposed the policy advocated by
La Pompadour.' That is well--I shall recall him from banishment.
'Messieurs de Machault, de Nivernois, de Muy Perigord, de Broglie,
d'Estaing, and others--all men of honor.' How far-sighted was my father,
in recommending these men! They are the very nobles who have kept aloof
from the late king's mistresses. With one exception, I adopt the list;
but there is one among them, who stooped to be a flatterer of Du Barry.
The Duke d'Aiguillon is certainly a statesman, but he cannot be of my
Here the king paused, perplexed to know who should be appointed in
D'Aiguillon's place. Suddenly his face brightened, and he rose from his
"Marie Antoinette," thought he, "I will advise with her. Though we may
not love one another, we are friendly; and she has a right to my
confidence. Besides, she is intelligent and principled."
Here the king took up his memoranda, and prepared to seek his wife. He
had gotten as far as the door, when his expression changed again, and
his face once more wore a look of blank despondency. With a grieved and
perplexed mind, he returned to the table.
"No, no," sighed he, falling back into his chair, "that will never do.
She is an Austrian; and her policy would be in direct opposition to that
of my father."
For some time the poor young king sat in profound discouragement.
Finally, with a long, weary sigh, he raised his head, and began to
reflect again. At last he solved he difficult problem. "Ah!--I have it
now," thought he, heartily relieved. "I will go to Madame Adelaide. She
was my mother's dearest friend and my father's favorite sister. She
shall be my counsellor. I believe that, with her assistance, I may
succeed in carrying out the policy dictated by my father."
He gathered up his papers, and went into the anteroom, where he ordered
a page to go to Madame Adelaide, and say that the king would visit her
if she could conveniently receive him. [Footnote: Madame Adelaide, an
anti-Austrian, and, therefore, one of the queen's enemies was,
throughout his whole reign, the counsellor of her nephew.]
FRANCE AND AUSTRIA.
While the king was closeted with Madame Adelaide, the queen, on her
side, was receiving her royal household. This ceremony over, she had
gladly retired to the privacy of her own room, there to restore order to
her confused mind.
But her rest was not of long duration, for presently came Monsieur de
Campan to announce the visit of the Austrian ambassador.
The queen received him most cordially, rising from her seat, and
advancing a few steps to meet him. Madame de Noailles, who, conforming
to etiquette, had entered with Monsieur de Campan, and was to remain in
the room during the interview, was shocked at the queen, and frowned
Marie Antoinette paid no attention to her. She reached her hand to Count
von Mercy, and allowed him to press it to his lips.
Again Madame de Noailles was horror-stricken. The kissing of the queen's
hand was a state ceremonial, and was inadmissible in private.
The queen had forgotten the existence of her mistress of ceremonies.
With sparkling eyes and beaming smiles she greeted the old count, who,
to her, was the representative of all that she loved--her mother, her
sisters, and her native country.
"Have you news for me from Vienna, count?" said she, in a voice whose
tones were strikingly like those of her mother.
"I bring to your majesty letters of condolence and of congratulation
from the empress and the emperor."
"Why, you must be a conjurer, count. Our reign is not twenty-four hours
old yet, and you bring us congratulations from Vienna?"
"I will explain, your majesty," said the old count, with a smile. "You
remember, that more than a week ago the king lay in a stupor, which, for
some hours, was supposed to be death. During his stupor, my courier
started for Vienna, and the messenger sent after him, to stop the
dispatches, arrived too late. The answers had been sent, and there are
the congratulatory letters."
The count handed his papers, and as the queen cast down her beautiful
eyes to read the address, she exclaimed, joyfully:
"My mother's handwriting and my brother's!"
She broke the seal of the empress's letter, and her countenance fell.
"Nothing but official papers," said she, sighing and putting them on the
table. "I know the contents of Joseph's letter without reading it. Have
you no news for me from Vienna? Think of something to tell me from home,
Count von Mercy cast a stolen glance at the mistress of ceremonies, who,
stiff and watchful, stood close by the side of the queen's chair. Marie
Antoinette understood the look.
"Madame de Noailles" said she, turning with a smile to address her, "you
will not, I hope, think me rude, if I request you to allow me a few
moments interview with Count von Mercy. He has something to say to me
that is of a strictly confidential nature."
The mistress of ceremonies did not appear to have heard a word of this
address. Marie Antoinette reddened, and threw back her head.
"I request Madame de Noailles," repeated she, changing her tone, "to
retire into the reception-room. I wish to speak with Count von Mercy
"I must be permitted to say that your majesty's request cannot be
granted," replied Madame de Noailles. "No Queen of France is permitted
to receive a foreign ambassador otherwise than in the presence of the
court. I shall have to ask his majesty's pardon for a breach of decorum,
which I was too late to prevent--the reception of the ambassador here
with myself alone to witness the interview."
The queen's eyes flashed with anger as she listened to this presumptuous
"You will have to ask pardon of no one but myself, madame, for your
unseemly language to your sovereign."
"Excuse me, your majesty, I perform my duty, and this requires of me to
see that no one here commits any breach of court etiquette. The laws of
etiquette are as binding upon the queen as upon her subjects--and she
cannot infringe them."
"I announce to you, madame, that no laws of yours shall be binding upon
me. The Queen of France is here to make laws--not to receive them. And
for the last time I command you to quit this room, and to leave me alone
with the representative of my imperial mother."
Madame de Noailles made a deep courtesy, and backed out of the room.
Marie Antoinette looked after her, until the last traces of her long
train had vanished, and the silk portiere had fallen in its place.
"Ah!" said she, taking a long breath, "at last I have gained a victory.
It is now my turn to lecture, and madame has received her first
scolding. Well, count, now that she is fairly off, what have you to tell
me from Vienna?"
Count von Mercy looked toward the door, and having convinced himself
that it was well closed, he drew from his pocket a package, and
presented it to the queen.
Marie Antoinette hastily tore open the seals and began to read.
"Oh!" said she, with a disappointed look, "this is no private letter. It
is nothing but a letter of instructions, directing me how to win the
king's confidence, so as to influence his policy and secure a new ally
to Austria. The empress need not remind me that I must look to the
interests of the house of Hapsburg. The Queen of France will never
forget that she is the daughter of Maria Theresa, and she will do all in
her power to promote an alliance between France and Austria. Tell my
mother that I never will cease to be her subject, and that her interests
shall always be mine. And now for the other mission."
"Good Heaven!" cried she, after opening the letter, "more politics." She
looked down the page, and read: "Personages whom I recommend as suitable
for the counsellors and household of the king."
This was quite a long list in the empress's handwriting, and at its head
stood the name of the Duke de Choiseul. "The Queen of France must use
every effort to secure his appointment as minister, for he is sincerely
attached to us."
Many other distinguished names were there; but not one of those which
had been mentioned by the king's father.
"I will preserve this paper with care," said Marie Antoinette, burying
her letters deep in her pocket. "No doubt, you know their contents,
count. A postscript says, 'Consult frequently with Mercy;' so let us
begin at once."
"Will your majesty not read the letter of the emperor?"
"Why should I read it now? It grieves me to see these political
documents from the hands of dear relatives who ought to write to me of
home and love. I will put it with the official letter of the empress for
the king to read."
"Pardon me, your majesty, but I do not think it is official."
"Read it for me, then," said the queen, throwing herself back in the
deep recesses of her arm-chair. "I have confidence enough in you to be
willing that you shall see my brother's letter, should it even be a
Count von Mercy bowed, and unfolded the letter, which was as follows:
"Madame: I congratulate you upon your husband's accession to the throne
of France. He will repair the faults of his predecessor's reign, and win
the love of his people. The French nation has groaned under the
inflictions of a king who not only proscribed parliament, but intrusted
every office of state to his favorites. He banished De Choiseul,
Malesherbes, and Chalotais; and in their stead elevated the Maurepas,
the D'Aiguillons, and that hateful Abbe Terray, who, for rapacity, were
none of them better than Du Barry--and thus he ended by losing the love
of his subjects. I have often pitied Louis XV. for degrading himself as
he did before the eyes of his family, his subjects, and the world.
"Unite your efforts to those of your husband, that you may win the love
of the French nation. Leave no stone unturned to secure their affection,
for, by so doing, you will prove a blessing to your people.
"Strengthen our alliance with France, and apply yourself to the mission
for which you were educated--that of peace-maker between two of the most
important powers of Europe.
"I kiss your hands, and remain, with the highest esteem and
consideration, your majesty's friend and brother,
"Joseph." [Footnote: "Letters of Joseph II, as Characteristic
Contributions," etc., p. 20.]
"You are right, count," said the queen, as the ambassador concluded his
reading. "This is no official document, but a most significant letter of
instructions. I am expected to preserve peace between France and
Austria. Ah, I fear that I am not calculated to walk the slippery arena
of politics, and I confess to you that I feel in no wise drawn toward
it. It does seem to me that a queen of nineteen may be pardoned if she
feels some desire to enjoy life. I intend to begin by breaking the
fetters which have hitherto made such wretched puppets of the queens of
France; and before long you will see the workings of my court
revolution. But there is one thing near to my heart, which you must
assist me to compass. The Duke de Choiseul must be minister of foreign
affairs. I know that he desires it, and I am under obligations to him
which deserve some return. I owe it to him that I am Queen of France.
Now, if I succeed in elevating Choiseul to the ministry," continued the
queen, with an appealing smile, "I hope that Austria will be satisfied,
and will allow me to retire from the field. The Duke de Choiseul will be
a much abler auxiliary than I, near the king. We must, therefore, have
"The duke arrived in Paris from Chanteloup this morning, but does not
think it advisable to present himself, until he receives a message from
"I shall see that the message is sent," said Marie Antoinette,
confidently. "The king will not refuse me, I know. You shrug your
shoulders, count. Do you think it doubtful?"
"Your majesty condescends to speak confidentially with me," said the
count, seriously. "I am an old servant of your house, and my hair has
grown gray in its service. In consideration, then, of the deep affection
which I have ever felt for your majesty, will you allow me to speak with
"I implore you, count, to do so."
"Then, your majesty, let me warn you to be careful. Things do not work
at this French court as they ought to do. Your majesty has bitter
enemies, who await an opportunity to declare themselves openly. The
Count of Provence and the aunts of the king are at the head, and,
believe me, they are watchful spies."
"Oh, my God!" cried the poor young queen, "what have I done to earn
"You are an Austrian princess, and that suffices for them. Your marriage
was a victory over the anti-Austrian party, for which the Duke de
Choiseul never will be forgiven; and as for yourself, if you give them
the opportunity, they will not scruple to take revenge upon your own
royal person. The Count of Provence has a sharp tongue, and his aunts
and himself will spare no means to wound or to injure you. Therefore,
pardon me, if again I bid you beware of your enemies. There is Madame de
Noailles, for instance, she belongs to the most powerful families in
France, and the French nation regard her as the palladium of the queen's
honor. Your majesty cannot afford to offend her. It would be a great
misfortune for you, if she should resign her office; for her resignation
would place on the list of your enemies all the most influential nobles
"Is that all?" asked the queen, with a painful blush.
"Yes, your majesty; and I thank you for your condescension in listening
"Then hear me," said Marie Antoinette, rising and standing proudly
before him. "You tell me that I have enemies. Be it so, and may God
forgive them! But it were unworthy the daughter of Maria Theresa to
stoop to conciliate them. With visor raised, and front exposed, I stand
before them. My blameless life shall be my defence, for I will so live
that all France shall be my champions. As for Madame de Noailles, I will
make no concessions to her. My virtue needs no more protection from
etiquette than that of any other woman. Heretofore the Queens of France
have been nothing but Marionettes in the hands of their high-born
duennas. I intend to transform the puppets into women, whom the French
nation can love and esteem, for I wish my people to know that their
queen's virtue is not a thing of form, but the veritable overflowing of
a heart aspiring to perfection."
"Right royally spoken!" said a soft voice behind, and the queen
starting, beheld the king, who, having opened the door quietly, had
heard her last words.
THE KING'S LIST.
Marie Antoniette, with a happy smile, gave her hand to her husband. He
raised it to his lips, and kissed it so fervently that his young wife
blushed with pleasure.
"Do you know what brings me to you, Antoinette?" said he gayly. "The
deadly anxiety of good Madame Etiquette. She met me in the anteroom, and
confessed that she had been guilty of the crime of leaving the queen
alone with a foreign ambassador. To relieve her mind, I promised to come
hither myself, and put an end to the treason that was hatching between
France ad Austria."
"Ah!" said Marie Antoinette, with a bewitching pout, "then you came, not
to see me, but to save Madame Etiquette a fit of the vapors."
"I made use of her as a pretext to intrude myself upon you," said the
king with embarrassment.
"Oh, your majesty well knows that you need no pretext to come in my
presence!" said Marie Antoinette, eagerly.
"Certainly, I require it just now, for I have broken up a charming
tete-a-tete," said the king, bowing to Von Mercy.
"The count has brought me letters from the empress," said Marie
Antoinette, "And what do you suppose they were? Congratulations upon our
accession to the throne."
The king smiled, but expressed no surprise.
"What, you are not surprised!" said the queen. "Do you take the count
for a sorcerer?"
"I take him for a true and loyal friend of his sovereign," said Louis,
"and I only wish that I possessed one as faithful. But I am not at all
astonished to hear of the congratulations, since the courier started off
with the news a week ago."
"Your majesty knew it, then?"
"A king must know all things," said he gravely. "Are you not of my
opinion, count? Is it not proper that a sovereign should possess a
knowledge of every important letter which comes into his kingdom or
"I believe so, your majesty," replied the count, somewhat confused.
"I am convinced of it, and so is the Empress of Austria," said the king,
with a laugh. "She is admirably well posted in all that concerns foreign
courts, and not a document leaves the French embassy in Vienna of which
she has not a copy. Is it not so, Count von Mercy?"
"I do not believe, sire, that there is any person in the French embassy
capable of betraying the interests of his country, or of revealing its
"Then change your creed, count, for in every country there are men open
to bribery. But," continued he, turning to the queen, "we have wandered
from our subject--your majesty's letters from Vienna. Have you good
"It is merely official, sire," replied the queen, handing the letter to
Louis looked it over; then replacing it upon the table, said, "And the
"Which other letters?" asked the queen.
"Did you not tell me there were several?"
"No, sire," replied the queen, reddening.
"What fables men do invent!" exclaimed the king. "A courier has just
arrived from the French embassy, in Vienna, with dispatches informing us
that Count von Mercy had received for your majesty one official letter
from the empress, and two private letters of instruction, one of which
contained a list of persons recommended by her majesty; and, finally, a
fourth missive, private, from the Emperor Joseph. And all this is pure
invention, Count von Mercy?"
"It is, your majesty," said the count, with much embarrassment, while
Marie Antoinette cast down her eyes, and blushed.
The king enjoyed their confusion for a while; he seemed to take pleasure
in this first triumph of his regal power, and a smile flitted over his
rather clumsy features.
"You see, then," continued he, "that I have received false intelligence,
and it is evident that Austrians are less corrupt than Frenchmen, for I
am told that Count von Mercy and Prince Kaunitz are au fait to every
thing that transpires in the palace here. Be that as it may, we intend
to follow the example of the queen. Our policy shall be so frank and
honorable that all the world may know it and welcome. But--it occurs to
me that the mistress of ceremonies is in great anguish of mind. She will
not recover her equanimity until she sees you again, count."
"In that case, your majesty, I beg leave to retire," replied the count.
The king bowed, and the queen gave him her hand.
As the count was about to raise the portiere, the king called him back.
"Do you send a courier to Vienna to-day?" asked his majesty. "Yes, sire,
in one hour."
"Then let me impart to you a secret which I think will interest her
imperial majesty of Austria--my new ministry."
"How! has your your majesty already chosen them?" asked Marie
The king nodded. "It was my first sacred duty to seek guides for my
inexperience, and I have chosen ministers who are able statesmen, and
have already served before."
The queen's eyes brightened, and even Count von Mercy seemed surprised
"Do, your majesty, let us have their names," said Marie Antoinette.
"First, Monsieur de Maurepas."
The queen uttered an exclamation. "The minister of the regency, who has
been banished for forty years!"
"The same. He was a friend of my father. He will be prime minister; and
as I am so unfortunate as to have to bear the weight of royalty at
twenty years, I have taken care to select old and experienced men as my
"And who is to succeed the Duke d'Aiguillon?" cried Marie Antoinette,
"for I presume that your majesty intends to give him his dismissal."
"I would be glad to retain him as my minister," said the king,
pointedly, "for his policy is identical with mine. He has the interests
of France at heart, and has never suffered himself to be led away by
foreign influence. But unluckily, he was too intimate with Du Barry, and
on this ground I shall dismiss him."
"And his successor?" asked the queen, scarcely able to restrain her
"His successor is the Count do Vergennes."
"De Vergennes!" cried the queen, scornfully. "He who married a slave in
"Ah, you have heard that ridiculous story, which was invented by
Monsieur de Choiseul? Nobody here ever believed it; and let me tell you
that the Countess de Vergennes enjoys the esteem and consideration of
all who know her. Vergennes himself is a man of talent, and will do me
good service. The other ministers are: for the war department, Count de
Muy; for the minister of finance, instead of that hateful Abbe
Terray--(was not that the emperor's expression?)--I have chosen Count de
"Count de Clugny!" said Marie Antoinette, again beginning to hope. "Does
your majesty mean the friend of the Duke de Choiseul?"
"Himself, madame," said the king, coolly. "And while you are speaking of
Monsieur de Choiseul, I am reminded that this is not the first time his
name has been mentioned to-day. You, Count von Mercy, are a friend of
his--I am not. You can, therefore, tell me whether it is true that he
has left Chantoloup, wither the deceased king had banished him."
"Yes, sire, the Duke de Choiseul arrived this morning in Paris."
"What can he want in Paris?" asked the king, with an unconscious look.
"Why did he leave Chanteloup? It seems to me that for the man who is so
lucky as to have a landed estate, this is the very time of year to stay
there. You had better advise your friend to return to the country. And
now, count, you know all that I have to tell, and I will detain you no
longer. Madame de Noailles must be in despair. Comfort her by informing
her that you left the Queen of France in the company of her husband."
THE FIRST PASQUINADE.
The court had left Choisy for the Chateau de la Muette, near Paris. Here
the queen was to hold her first public levee, and her subjects longed to
appear before her, for the Parisians were enthusiastic admirers of grace
and beauty. Marie Antoinette had won their hearts by refusing to accept
the tax called "La ceinture de la reine." This tax was the perquisite of
the Queen of France on her accession to the throne. But having
discovered that the nobles had managed to evade it and cast the burden
of taxation upon the poor, Marie Antoinette had requested her husband's
leave to relinquish her right to it. Like wildfire the news of the young
queen's generosity spread throughout Paris; and in all the streets,
cafe, and cabarets the people were singing this couplet
"Vous renoncez, charmante souveraine, Au plus beau de vos revenus; A
quol vous serviraiio la celnture de refine, Vous avez celle de Venus."
They sang, they shouted, and made merry, happy in the possession of a
young king, and a beautiful queen, casting never a thought toward him
who, years before, had been surnamed Le Bien-aime.[Footnote: "Memoires
de Weber," vol. i., p. 43.]
One speculating jeweller, alone, honored the memory of the deceased
king, and made his fortune thereby. He manufactured a mourning
snuff-box, of black shagreen, whose lid was ornamented with a portrait
of the queen. He called his boxes "La consolation, dans le
chagrin,"[Footnote: "Mbmoires de Madame de Campan" vol. i., p. 91.] and
his portrait and pun became so popular, that in less than a week he had
sold a hundred thousand of these boxes.[Footnote: This word "chagrin,"
signifies not only grief, but also that preparation of leather, which,
in English, is called "shagreen." Hence the pun.]
Louis, also, had his share of the national good-will. He renounced the
tax called "Le joyeux avenement;" and to commemorate the act, another
snuff-box made its appearance in Paris as a pendant to the "Consolation
in Grief." The king's box contained the portraits of Louis XII. and
Henry IV. Below these, was his own likeness, with the following
inscription: "Les peres du peuple, XII et IV. font XVI." These boxes
were as popular as those of the queen, and Louis and Marie Antoinette
were the idols of the Parisians.
"Long live the king!" was the cry from morn till night. Hope brightened
every eye, and reigned in every heart. The people dreamed of peace,
happiness, and plenty, and the fashions symbolized their state of mind.
The women dressed their heads with ears of wheat, and ate their dragees
from cornucopias. The men poured out their enthusiasm in sonnets and
addresses, and every thing in France was couleur de rose.
Couleur de rose--with one exception. The anti-Austrian party frowned,
and plotted, and hated. Exasperated by the enthusiasm which the
beautiful young queen inspired, they watched her every motion, eager to
magnify the most trivial imperfection into crime; hoping, sooner or
later, to render her obnoxious to the French people, and finally, to
compass the end of all their wicked intrigues--a separation between the
king and queen, and the disgrace and banishment of Marie Antoinette to
It was the day of the grand reception, at La Muette, where every lady
having a right to appear at court might come uninvited and be presented
to the queen. The great throne-room was prepared for the occasion; and
although its decorations were black, they were tastefully enlivened with
white and silver. The throne itself was covered with black velvet,
trimmed with silver and fringe. Hundreds of ladies thronged the room,
all with their eyes fixed upon the door through which the queen and her
court must make their entrance.
The folding-doors were thrown wide open, and, announced by her mistress
of ceremonies, Marie Antoinette appeared.
A murmur of admiration was heard among the crowd. Never had the queen
looked so transcendently lovely as she did to-day in her dress of deep
mourning. She seemed to feel the solemnity of her position as
queen-consort of a great nation, and the expression of her face was
tranquil and dignified. No woman ever represented royalty with better
grace than Marie Antoinette, and the old coquettes of the regency and of
the corrupt court of Louis XV. were awed by her stateliness. They could
not but confess that they were in the presence of a noble and virtuous
woman; therefore they disliked her, whispering one to the other, "What
Marie Antoinette took her seat upon the throne. On her right and left
were the royal family, and behind them the ladies of the court. Opposite
stood Madame de Noailles, whose duty it was to present those who were
unknown to the queen.
The presentation began. Forth in their high-heeled shoes came the
noble-born widows, who, old and faded, were loath to forget that in the
days of the regency they had been blooming like the queen, and who, in
happy ignorance of their crow's feet and wrinkles, were decked in the
self-same costumes which had once set off their roses and dimples.
It was a ludicrous sight--these ugly old women, with their jewels and
patches, their extraordinary head-dresses and their deep, courtesies,
painful by reason of the aching bones of three-score and ten. The young
princesses dared not raise their eyes to these representatives of
by-gone coquetry, for they were afraid to commit a crime--they were
afraid that they might laugh. But the ladies of honor, safe behind the
hoops of the queen and her sisters-in-law made merry over the
magnificent old ruins. Madame de Noailles was so busy with the front,
that she overlooked the rear, where the lively young Marquise de
Charente Tounerre, tired of standing, had glided down and seated herself
comfortably on the floor. Neither could she see that the marquise, in
the exuberance of her youthful spirits, was pulling the other ladies by
their skirts, and amusing them with mimicry of the venerable coquettes
before mentioned; so that while etiquette and ceremony were parading
their ugliness in front of the throne, behind it, youth and beauty were
tittering and enjoying the absurd pageant in utter thoughtlessness of
The mistress of ceremonies was in the act of presenting one of the most
shrivelled and most elaborately dressed of the ancients, when the queen,
attracted by the whispering behind, turned her head in the direction of
her ladies of honor. There on the floor, sat the Marquise de Charente
Tounerre, imitating every gesture of the old comtesse; while the others,
including the princesses themselves, were pursing up their lips, and
smothering their laughter behind handkerchiefs and fans. The drolleries
of the marquise were too much for the queen. She turned away in terror,
lest they should infect her with untimely levity, and just at that
moment the comtesse made precisely such a courtesy as the marquise was
making behind her.
Marie Antoinette felt that her dignity was departing. She straggled to
recall it, but in vain; and instead of the stately inclination which it
was her duty to return, she suddenly opened her fan to hide the mirth
which she was unable to control.
The gesture was seen not only by the austere mistress of ceremonies, but
by the comtesse herself, who, furious at the insult, looked daggers at
the queen, and omitting her third courtesy, swept indignantly to her
A short pause ensued. Madame de Noailles was so shocked that she forgot
to give the signal for another presentation. The queen's face was still
buried under her fan, and the princesses had followed her example.
Discontent was manifest upon the countenances of all present, and the
lady whose turn it was to advance did so with visible reluctance.
Marie Antoinette recovered her self-possession, and looked with perfect
serenity toward the high and mighty duchess, whose titles were being
pompously enumerated by the punctilious mistress of ceremonies. As ill
luck would have it, this one was older, uglier, and more strangely
bedizened than all the others together. The queen felt a spasmodic
twitch of her face; she colored violently, and opening her fan again, it
was evident to all that assemblage of censorious dames that for the
second time youth and animal spirits had prevailed over decorum.
In vain Marie Antoinette sought to repair the contretemps. In vain she
went among them with her sweetest smiles and most gracious words. Their
outraged grandeur was not to be appeased--she had offended beyond
The Areopagus sent forth its fist. The queen was a frivolous woman; she
had that worst of failings--a taste for satire. She despised all
conventionalities, and trampled all etiquette under foot.
On that day the number of her enemies was increased by more than a
hundred persons, who attacked her with tongues sharper than two-edged
swords. The first thrust was given her on the morning that followed the
reception; and the same people who a few days before had been singing
her praises on the Pont-neuf, were equally, if not better pleased with
the ballad of "La Reine moqueuse," of which the cruel refrain was as
"Petite reine de vingt ails Vous qui traitez si mal les gens, Vous
repasserez la barriere Laire, laire, laire, lanlaire, lanla." [Footnote:
"Memoires de Madame de C'ampan," vol. i., pp. 90, 91.]
THE NEW FASHIONS.
The queen had submitted to a state of things which she felt to be
irremediable. She had renounced all idea of interceding with the king
for De Choiseul, for she felt that interference on her part would be
resented; and she could not afford to lessen, by so much as a shade, the
kindly feelings which her husband had begun to manifest toward her.
Louis appeared to have no greater happiness than that which he found in
his wife's society. They were often seen wandering in the shady walks of
the palace gardens, talking, jesting, and laughing together, as might
have done any other young couple, unencumbered by the burden of royalty.
It had even happened to Louis to steal an arm around the graceful form
of the queen, and once or twice to bestow a shy kiss upon her ivory
The heart of the king was thawing; and Marie Antoinette, who had so
longed and pined for his regard, sometimes blushed, while with beating
heart she indulged a hope that the king was falling in love.
She sought, by every means in her power, to please him; and she who,
hitherto, had seemed indifferent to dress, now bestowed hours of thought
upon the toilet of the day.
The anti-Austrian party, the royal aunts, the brothers of the king, and
the Orleans family, all her enemies, observed this new taste for dress
with secret satisfaction. Not one of them suspected that it was aimed at
the heart of the king; and that Marie Antoinette, whom they were
deriding as a coquette, was coquetting with her husband, and dressing
for him alone. So they flattered and encouraged her, hoping to divert
her mind from politics, and urge her on to ruin.
The Duchess of Chartres had mentioned to the queen a Parisian modiste,
who had instituted a complete revolution in dress. This wonderful
modiste, whose taste in modes was exquisite, was Mademoiselle Bertin.
The duchess had described her dresses, laces, caps, and coiffures, with
so much enthusiasm, that Marie Antoinette grew impatient with curiosity,
ordered her carriage, and sent a message to Madauie de Noailles to
prepare to accompany her at once to Bertin's establishment.
Madame received this message with indignation, and instead of making
ready to obey, went in hot haste to the queen's reception room.
"I wish to drive to Bertin's to make some purchases," said Marie
Antoinette, as her tormentor appeared at the door.
"That is impossible, your majesty," said the guardian of the inferno of
etiquette. "No Queen of France has ever set foot within the precincts of
a shop, or has ever appeared in a public place of that sort. It would be
such an egregious breach of etiquette, that I am convinced your majesty
will not be guilty of it."
"Well," said the queen, with a scornful laugh, "I will not disturb your
virtuous convictions. I will not be guilty of that which no Queen of
France has ever stooped to do, so that you can have Bertin sent to the
palace, and I can examine her goods here."
"Here! Your majesty would receive a modiste in your reception room!"
cried De Noailles, rolling up the whites of her eyes. "I beseech your
majesty to remember that none but the noble ladies, who have the
privilege of the tabouret, are allowed to enter the queen's
The queen bit her rosy lips. "Well, then, madame," said she, "I will
receive Bertin in my own cabinet. I presume there can be no objections
to that; and, if there were, I should certainly not heed them."
"The duty of my office, nevertheless, obliges me to remark to your--"
"There is no office at this court which justifies any one in a direct
disobedience of the queen's orders. Go, then, madame, and order that
Bertin be sent to me in an hour."
"Oh!" murmured Marie Antoinette, as the mistress of ceremonies slowly
retreated, "that woman's sole delight in life is to irritate and annoy
An hour later, Mademoiselle Bertin made her appearance before the queen.
Four royal lackeys followed her, laden with band-boxes.
"Mademoiselle," said the queen, "have you brought me the latest
"No, your majesty," replied Bertin, reverentially, "I bring the
materials wherewith to fill your majesty's orders."
"Were you not told to bring your samples of fashions?" asked Marie
Antoinette, with surprise.
"Your majesty, there are no new fashions," said Bertin. "Your majesty's
word is necessary to create them. A queen does not follow the fashion,
it follows her."
"Ah! you intend that I shall invent now fashions?"
"Yes, your majesty. The Queen of France cannot stoop to wear that which
has already been worn by others."
"You are right," said the queen, pleased by the flattery of the shrewd
modiste." Make haste, and show me your goods, that I may begin at once
to set the fashions to the court. It will be quite an amusement to
invent new modes of dress."
Mademoiselle Bertin smiled, and, opening her boxes, exhibited her goods.
There were the beautiful silken fabrics of Lyons; the shimmering white
satin, besprinkled with bouquets that rivalled nature; there were heavy,
shining velvets, heightened by embroidery of gold and silver; laces,
from Alencon and Valenciennes, whose web was as delicate as though elfin
fingers, had spun the threads; muslins, from India, so fine that they
could only he woven in water; crapes, from China, with the softness of
satin and the sheen of velvet; there were graceful ostrich-plumes from
Africa, and flowers from Paris, so wondrous in their beauty that nothing
was wanting to their perfection save perfume.
Marie Antoinette flitted from one treasure to another; her white hands
at one moment deriving new beauty from the dark velvets upon which they
rested; at another, looking lovelier than ever, as they toyed with the
transparent laces. There was nothing queenly about her now. She was
merely a charming woman, anxious to outshine all other women in the eyes
of one man.
When Mademoiselle Berlin took her leave, the queen gave her orders to
return to the palace daily. "One thing I shall exact of you,
mademoiselle, you shall disclose the secret of my toilet for the day to
nobody; and the fashions shall be made public at the end of one week."
Mademoiselle Bertin, with a solemnity befitting the importance of her
office, swore that henceforth the hands which had been honored by
carrying out the ideas of a queen, should never work for lesser mortals;
that her dresses should be made with closed doors, and that she would
rather be led to execution than betray to a living soul the mysteries of
her royal patroness's toilet. [Footnote: Mademoiselle Bertin, from that
day, became an important personage, and received many a rich present
from noble ladies anxious to imitate the queen in dress.]
THE TEMPLE OF ETIQUETTE.
The hour for the queen's toilet was one of ravishment to Madame de
Noailles; for it was a daily glorification of that etiquette which she
worshipped, and which Marie Antoinette abhorred. In that hour, its
chains were on her hands and feet. She could neither breathe, speak, nor
move, but within the narrow limits of its weary exactions.
The queen's toilet, then, was Madame de Noailles' triumph; and she
always made her appearance in the dressing-room with an air of supreme
The first lady of honor poured the water into the golden basin, and
Marie Antoinette, who at least had the privilege of washing her own
hands, stood patiently waiting until the towel had been passed by a lady
of the bedchamber to the same lady of honor who had poured out the
water. The latter, on one knee, gave the towel, and the queen wiped her
The second act of the royal toilet began at the solemn moment when the
queen changed her richly-embroidered night-chemise for the simpler one
she wore during the day. This changing of garments was a sublime
ceremonial, not only in the queen's dressing-room, but also in that of
the king. At the king's great levee, none but a prince of the blood had
the right to reach him his shirt. At the lesser levee, the nobleman whom
the king wished to honor, was called upon to fill this high office; and
the enviable mortal, thus honored, remained near the king's person for
the whole day; was entitled to dine at the royal table, and had a seat
in the king's hunting-wagon.
Now, at the toilet of the queen, the ceremonial was different; and, as
in all such matters, more onerous for the woman than for the man. The
honor of presenting the chemise, devolved upon the lady present whose
rank was the highest.
On the particular day to which we allude, it was the privilege of Madame
de Noailles. Marie Antoinette had allowed her night-dress to slip from
her shoulders, and stood, bare to the waist, awaiting the pleasure of
her mistress of ceremonies. She crossed her beautiful arms, and bent her
head in readiness to receive the chemise, which the lady of the
bedchamber was in the act of passing to Madame de Noailles.
At this moment there was a knock at the door, and the Duchess of Orleans
entered the room. A triumphant smile lit up the face of Madame
Etiquette, for now the ceremony would be prolonged. It was no longer her
duty, it was that of the duchess, to wait upon the queen. But the proud
Countess de Noailles could not condescend to pass the garment to the
duchess. That was the duty of the aforesaid lady of the bedchamber. The
mistress of ceremonies motioned her to approach, and the duchess began
to draw off her gloves.
Meanwhile, Marie Antoinette, with folded arms, stood beautiful as one of
Dian's nymphs, but very uncomfortable in her beauty; for she was
beginning to grow chilly, and her teeth chattered. At last the
preparations were made, and the duchess advanced with the coveted
Suddenly she stopped, and stood perfectly still. She had heard the voice
of "Madame," the Countess of Provence; and it would have been an
unpardonable sin for the Duchess of Orleans to deprive a princess of the
blood, of handing the chemise to the queen.
The door opened, and the sister-in-law of Marie Antoinette came in. The
duchess retreated--Madame de Noailles approached slowly and relieved her
of the chemise, and with unflinching deliberation, again gave it into
the hands of the lady of the bedchamber.
And there stood the queen, shivering and waiting. Scarlet with shame and
anger, though trembling from head to foot, she murmured resentful words
against her tormentors. The princess saw it all, and hastened to her
relief. Without stopping to remove her gloves, she took the chemise, and
advancing, in great haste, to throw it over the queen's head, she struck
against her high toupet and disarranged the headdress.
"Oh, my dear sister," said the queen, laughing, "my hair will have to be
Madame de Noailles drew down her eyebrows, as she was accustomed to do
when irritated by indecorum, and motioned to the second lady of the
bedchamber to put on the queen's shoes, The royal toilet now went on
more smoothly, and was completed according to form. This done, it became
the duty of the victim to pass into her reception-room, attended by her
ladies. Madame de Noailles had opened the door and stood before it like
a she-cerberus waiting for her prey to pass within, when the queen,
still laughing at her disordered coiffure, threw herself into a chair
before cheval-glass, and said:
"I hope, madame, that etiquette does not require of the Queen of France
to appear before her court with dishevelled hair. If I may be permitted
to express a preference in the matter, I would like to have my hair in
Madame de Noailles closed the door, and turned stiffly to the first lady
of the bedchamber.
"Oh, no," said Marie Antoinette, "I will not trouble my good Madame de
Campan today. Did my secretary fetch the hair-dresser from Paris?"
"Yes, your majesty," said a lady in waiting, "the hair-dresser is in the
"Go and call him, De Campan. And now, ladies," said Marie Antionette to
the princesses, "you shall see one of the demi-gods. Leonard is called
in the world of fashion 'le dieu des coiffures.'"
"Leonard!" exclaimed Madame de Noailles. "And has your majesty then
forgotten that the queen is not permitted to be waited upon by any but
"The queen not permitted!" echoed Marie Antoinette, proudly. "We shall
see whether the Queen of France asks permission of her subjects to
employ a male or female hair dresser!"
The door opened, and the discussion was stopped by the entrance of
Madame de Campan with Leonard.
"Now, ladies," continued the queen, "be so good as to await me in the
reception-room." As she saw that the prim lips of De Noailles were about
to be opened, she added: "The mistress of ceremonies and the ladies of
the bedchamber will remain."
Leonard's skilful hands were soon at work, loosening the queen's hair;
and it glistened, as it fell, like glimmering gold. He surveyed it with
such looks of enthusiasm as a statuary might bestow upon the spotless
block of marble, whence he will fashion, ere long, the statue of a
Marie Antoinette, from the mirror, saw his complacent face, and smiled.
"What style do you intend to adopt for me?" asked she.
"The coiffure a la Marie Antoinette," said Leonard.
"I have never seen it."
Here Leonard sank the subject, and became the artiste. His head went
proudly back with a look of conscious power.
"Your majesty must not think me so barren of invention that I should
deck the head of my queen with a coiffure that has been seen before by
"Then you are about to invent a coiffure?"
"If it please your majesty--if your majesty will condescend to leave its
fashion to the inspiration of my genius."
"Follow your inspiration by all means," said the queen, highly amused,
and Leonard began his work. A long, solemn pause ensued, and all eyes
were strained to see the result. He combed the queen's hair over a
trellis of fine wire, then he introduced two down cushions, which he had
brought in his band-box, and after he had built him a tower of a foot
high, he took a long breath and surveyed the structure. Then he glanced
at the toilet-table where lay a mass of flowers, feathers, and laces,
which Bertin had left.
"May I be allowed to select from these?" asked he.
The queen nodded, and Leonard chose a bunch of white ostrich-feathers,
which he prepared to place in her head.
"Feathers!" cried Marie Antoinette. "You surely are not going to put
feathers in my hair!"
"Pardon me, your majesty," said Leonard, with an air of supreme wisdom,
"if I beg you to allow me to complete my coiffure, before you decide
upon its merits." And he went to work to fasten the feathers in his
"This is really becoming," said the queen, not reflecting that her
beautiful face with its lofty brow and exquisite contour could bear any
abomination with which Leonard chose to invest it.
"I adopt the feathers," said she, "and allow you to call the coiffure
after me. Poor ostriches, they will not thank me! From this day you are
in my service, Monsieur Leonard, and my steward will assign you your
Leonard bowed with the dignity of an artist who feels that in the favor
of his sovereign he receives his merited reward.
"Come every morning at this hour, and every evening at seven o'clock,"
said Marie Antoinette. "Meanwhile, you are at liberty to dress the hair
of as many ladies as you choose."
"Pardon me, your majesty," interposed Madame de Noailles. "An old
immutable regulation of the French court forbids any person employed by
the royal family to serve a subject; and the coiffeur of the queen
cannot be allowed to dress the hair of any lady in France."
"Nevertheless, I give him permission to dress as many heads as he
pleases, when he is not in attendance upon myself. What is the use of a
man's taste and talent if it is all to be wasted on one monotonous
employment? Let Monsieur Leonard exercise his ingenuity upon different
styles of women, that he may have scope for his imagination."
The mistress of ceremonies sighed, and opened the door. Marie Antoinette
approached it gayly, for she was all anxiety to test the effect of her
coiffure upon the ladies in waiting.
THE NEW FASHIONS AND THEIR UNHAPPY RESULTS.
A murmur of surprise and admiration was heard among the ladies, when the
queen appeared in the reception-room. The Countess of Provence could
scarcely retain her discontent, as she surveyed the magnificent costume
of her beautiful sister-in-law.
For a few moments the queen enjoyed the pleasure of being sincerely
admired. Then, advancing to the princess, she took her hand and said:
"Oblige me, dear sister, by dining with the king and myself en famille.
Let us have a social meal together to-day."
"Certainly, your majesty, I will do so with pleasure; but what you are
pleased to call a family dinner will lose all its charm through the
curiosity of your majesty's admirers, who come from Paris, from
Versailles, and from all the ends of the earth, to look at the royal
family taking their dinner."
"Not at all," said the queen, eagerly. "I look upon this daily
exhibition as a tyrannical custom, which must be abolished. It is too
hard that we cannot have our meals in private, but must be gazed at like
animals, and denied the privilege of confidential intercourse. I have
submitted to be stared at for four years, but the queen is not to be
ruled as the dauphiness has been. We shall dine to-day en famille, and
from this time the public have access to our dining-room no more."
"That is delightful news," answered the princess, "but I pity the good
people who are coming in expectation of seeing your majesty at table."
"They will return to their homes," said the queen, slightly raising her
shoulders, "and when they reflect coolly on the subject, they will
certainly not think less of me because I prefer to dine like the rest of
the world. I believe that if we desire popularity with the people, we
must show them that we have feeling hearts like themselves, and it is by
such means that I hope to gain the love of the French nation."
The princess was secretly vexed at the honesty and purity of the queen's
motives, but she forced a smile, and replied: "You have already
succeeded in doing so: for the French people adore you; and if they
could only see you to-day in that piquant head-dress, they would verify
the saying of the mayor of Paris: 'Your majesty beholds in us a hundred
thousand lovers.' "
Marie Antoinette laughed. "Quite a respectable army," said she slightly
blushing; "but to complete its worth it must be commanded by the king.
How surprised he will be to see us dining in private!"
"His majesty has not been consulted?"
"It is a surprise which I have in store for him. He has often bewailed
this stupid custom, but dared not complain, for fear of remarks. I am
less timid than he, and I am about to give you a proof of the same."
"Madame de Noailles," added she, aloud, "inform the ushers that while
the royal family are at dinner no strangers will be admitted to the
dining-room. The privilege of entrance shall cease from to-day."
The countess had been awaiting her opportunity to speak.
"Your majesty," said she, with an expression of painful anxiety, "I
entreat of you not to revoke that privilege! Believe me when I tell you
that it is dangerous to interfere with customs which are so old that the
people have grown to look upon them as right. Ever since the days of
Francis I the royal family has dined in public, and every decently-clad
person has enjoyed the privilege of entering the banquet-room. Moreover,
allow me to observe to your majesty that this public meal is an express
ceremony of the French court, and it is indispensable to its dignity."
"Etiquette, madame," replied Marie Antoinette, "is not made for
sovereigns, but regulated by them. You speak of the people's rights;
allow me to claim something for mine. It has ever been the habit of
kings and queens to give commands, not to receive them. Let me,
therefore, advise you to strike out from your code of etiquette the rule
which obliges us to dine in public, and to insert in its stead the
following: `On days of festivals or of public rejoicing, the people will
be admitted to the king's dining-room.' And now, sister, let us take a
turn in the park."
So saying, the queen took the arm of the princess, and, followed by the
ladies in waiting, they went out upon the terrace. Madame de Noailles
remained behind in the large, empty reception-room. Her face was pale
and troubled, and she leaned despondently against the high back of an
arm-chair near that from which the queen had just risen.
"Royalty totters on its throne!" murmured she, in a low voice. "This
woman's bold hand is shaking the pillars of her own temple, and when it
falls it will bury both king and queen under its fragments. She laughs
at etiquette as ridiculous despotism; she does not know that it is the
halo that renders her sacred in the eyes of the people. I see the
tempest lowering," continued the mistress of ceremonies, after a
thoughtful pause. "The queen is surrounded by enemies whom she defies,
and those who would be her friends she alienates by her haughtiness. In
the innocence of her thoughtless heart, what unhappy precedents has she
established this day! They are the dragon's teeth that will grow armed
men to destroy their sower. She despises conventionalities and braves
old customs. She does not know how dearly she will pay for her milliner,
her hair-dresser, and her dinners in private! I have done my duty. I
have warned and remonstrated, and will continue to do so as long as my
patience and honor can endure the humiliations to which I am
exposed--but no longer! By the Heaven that hears me--no longer!"
The countess was right. The apparently trifling incidents of the day
were fraught with mournful consequences to the queen. Heretofore she had
been remarked for her simplicity of dress; from the introduction of
Bertin and Leonard into her household she dressed with rare
magnificence. Not only the ladies of the court, but those of the city,
followed her extravagance at a distance. They must wear the same jewels,
the same flowers, the same costly silks and laces. Ostrich-feathers
became the rage, and they were soon so scarce that fabulous prices were
paid to import them for the use of the Frenchwomen.
The trousseau of a young beauty became as important as her dowry.
Mothers and husbands sighed, and at last ended by abusing the queen. It
was she who had set the example of this wasteful luxury in dress; she
who had bewitched all the women, so that they had gone mad for a feather
or a flower. Strife was in every house. Parents were at variance with
their children; marriages were broken off through the exactions of the
brides; and on all sides the blame of everybody's domestic troubles fell
upon the shoulders of the queen.
The court had now moved to Marly. Each day brought its variety of
sports, and the palace became the very shrine of pleasure. Even the
king, fascinated by his wife's grace and gayety, lost his awkward
bearing, and became a devoted lover. He was ready to gratify every whim
of hers without ever inquiring whether it was consistent with the
dignity and station of a queen. True, all her whims were innocent in
themselves; but some of them were childish, and therefore inappropriate
to her position.
The king grew so bold that he paid graceful compliments to the queen on
the subject of her beauty; and in the exuberance of his young, gushing
love, he went beyond his courtiers in felicity of expression, so that
finally he became more eloquent than D'Artois, more impassioned than De
Chartres, and more piquant than De Provence.
Marie Antoinette beheld this transformation with rapture; and her little
innocent coquetries with the princes and noblemen of the court had but
one aim--that of heightening the effect of her charms upon her royal
"One of these days," thought she, "he will learn to love me. I await
this day, as Nature throughout her dark winter nights, awaits the rising
of the glorious sun. Oh how happy will I be when the morning of my
wedded love has dawned!"
"But,"--added she, interrupting herself and smiling, "what a simpleton I
am with my similes; like a blind man enraptured with a color! I talk of
sunrise--I, who am such a barbarian that I never saw the day dawn in my
life!--And to think that the French are so fond of comparing me to the
rising sun! I think I had better make acquaintance with the original of
which I hear so often that I am the copy!"
So the queen, full of a new idea, sent for the Countessde Noailles.
"Madame," said she, "can you tell me at what hour the sun rises?"
"When the sun rises!" exclaimed madame, who had hardly ever taken the
trouble to remember that the sun rose at all.
"Yes, madame, I wish to know at what hour the sun rises; and I hope
there is nothing in your code of etiquette which forbids the Queen of
France to aspire to a knowledge of that very commonplace fact."
"I regret, your majesty, that I cannot enlighten you, for I have never
felt any interest in the matter. But if you allow me, I will make the
"Do so, if you please, madame."
Madame de Noailles was absent for some time. At last she returned.
"Pardon me, your majesty, that I have been away so long. But no one in
the palace could give me the information I sought. Luckily, in passing
one of the corridors, I met a gardener coming in with fresh flowers for
your majesty's cabinet, and he was able to tell me. The sun rises at
present at three o'clock."
"Thank you. Be so good as to make your arrangements accordingly. I shall
get up at three o'clock to-morrow morning and go out upon the hillock in
the garden to see the dawn of day."
"Your majesty would go out into the garden at three o'clock in the
morning?" said madame, almost fainting with horror.
"Yes, madame," said Marie Antoinette, with decision. "Is there any law
in France to forbid me a sight of the sun at that hour?"
"No, your majesty, for such an extraordinary demand could never have
been presupposed. Since France was a kingdom, no Queen of France has
ever been known to indulge a wish to see the sun rise."
"Unhappy queens! I suppose they were so profoundly engaged in the study
of your favorite code, that they had no time to admire the works of God.
But you see that I am an eccentric queen, and I would go in all humility
to adore Him through one of His glorious works. And as, luckily for me,
etiquette has never legislated on the subject, you have no grounds for
objection, and I shall commit the astounding indiscretion of going out
to see the sun rise."
"Still, your majesty must allow me to say that for all extraordinary
cases not provided for in the code of etiquette, the queen must have the
consent of the king."
"Do not concern yourself about that; I shall express my desire to the
king, and that will suffice. My ladies in waiting who keep diaries can
then note, with quiet conscience, that on this day the Queen of France,
with the consent of her husband, went into the garden to see the sun
Marie Antoinette slightly inclined her head, and passed into her
dressing-room, there to put herself in the hands of Monsieur Leonard.
The skilful hair-dresser was in his happiest vein; and when he had
achieved the great labor of his day, the queen was inexpressibly
Conformably to her wishes, many irksome court-customs had been laid
aside at Marly. The strict lines of demarcation between royalty and
nobility no longer hampered the daily intercourse of the sovereigns and
their subjects. The lords and ladies in waiting were at liberty to join
the queen's circle in the drawing-rooms, or to group themselves together
as inclination prompted. Some talked over the events of the day, some
discussed the new books which lay in heaps upon a table in one of the
saloons; others, again, played billiards with the king.
To-day the court was assembled in an apartment opening into the garden;
and the queen, who had just made her appearance in all the splendor of
her regal beauty, was the cynosure of attraction and of admiration. She
stood in the centre of the room, her eyes fixed wistfully upon the
setting sun, whose dying rays were flooding park, terrace, and even the
spot on which she stood, with a red and golden light. By her side stood
the king, his mild countenance illumined with joy and admiration of his
young wife's surpassing loveliness. On the other side of the queen were
the princes and princesses of the blood; and around the royal group an
assemblage of the youngest, prettiest, and sprightliest women of the
aristocracy, escorted by their cavaliers, young nobles whose rank,
worth, and culture entitled them to all the favor which they enjoyed at
court. At the head of the wits were the Count de Provence, the Count
d'Artois, and their kinsman, the Duke de Chartres, known years afterward
as "Philippe Egalite." De Chartres and the witty Duke de Lauzun were
among the most enthusiastic admirers of the queen.
The French court was in the zenith of its splendor. Youth and beauty
were the rule, age was the exception; and in the saloons of Marie
Antoinette, its solitary representatives frowned through the deep and
angry furrows that dented the wrinkled visage of Madame de Noailles.
To-day the high-priestess of etiquette had taken advantage of the
liberty allowed to all, and had absented herself. Her absence was a
sensible relief to a court where no man was older than the king, and
many a woman was as young as the queen.
For a time Marie Antoinette's glance lingered caressingly upon the
garden, through whose perfumed alleys the evening wind was rustling with
a sweet, low song. The court, following the mood of the queen, kept
perfectly silent. Of what were they thinking? that crowd of youthful
triflers, so many of whom were hurrying to the bloody destiny which made
heroes of coxcombs and heroines of coquettes
Suddenly the expression of the queen's face, which had been thoughtful
and solemn, changed to its usual frankness and gayety. "Ladies and
gentlemen," said she, in that clear, rich voice of hers, which always
reminded one of little silver bells, "I have a riddle to propose."
"A riddle!" echoed the company, crowding around to hear.
"Yes, a riddle, and woe to those who cannot guess it! They will be
sentenced to sit up this whole night long. "
"A severe sentence," said the king, with a sigh. "May I not be one of the
condemned? Well, then, lovely sphinx, tell us your riddle."
"Listen all!" said Marie Antoinette, "and strain your every faculty to
its solution. Princes and princesses, lords and ladies, can you tell me
at what hour the sun will rise to-morrow?"
The perplexed company looked at one another. Everybody seemed puzzled
except the king. He alone smiled, and watched the countenances of the
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