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the daring creation which the pen of simple truth has alone authority to write. In his wildest flights the novelist would never have conceived such a programme as that which history enables us to place before him. If it be not so, let the reader judge.
Our first scene is a palace; the period winter ; the time morning; the weather cold and miserable. It is 10 o'clock, and the King of France with his wife and family are discovered at the breakfast table. A splendid beginning! Calmness is the prevailing expression of every countenance save one; the King's daughter-in-law looks anxious and disturbed. Well she might be if the audience knew all. Light domestic talk, such as becomes princes and the gilded roof that overhangs them, occupies the moments. You have never seen Royalty so near before; sensible of its grandeur, you gaze in admiration and applaud the unaccustomed sight. Hush! Whilst the lacqueys, dressed in gold and scarlet, move noiselessly about the room, awed by the presence which subdues all lookers-on, a noise is heard without. It becomes more audible by degrees. Suddenly the door flies open, and two men enter, paler than ghosts. They are Ministers of State. You learn the fact immediately, or from their haste and horror you would never have suspected it. They have news to communicate. Discontent prevails in the city; the populace are out; the dragoons have surrendered their sabres, the soldiers their arms, within sight of the very apartment in which the King had just now enjoyed his meal and his daughter-in-law had looked so sad. The reader will note how rapidly the action goes on, how little time is lost. What is to be done? The
King is thunderstruck, hesitates for a moment, and then, urged by the Queen, instantly leaves the room. The Queen follows her husband with her eyes from the palace window. She sees him on horseback reviewing the National Guards. She has no fear, neither has he. What more? He returns, accompanied by the man whom, yesterday, to satisfy public clamour, he created Prime Minister. The Minister has power to save his master. You observe at a glance that he is far more anxious to save himself. He craves permission to resign. Permission is granted, when a volley is heard close to their ears. What does it mean! This man will tell
who now enters. The King has a pen in his hand, with which he is about to appoint his new Prime Minister. “Sign not,” shouts the last comer—a man of the press,
with the face of a student and the spirit of a soldier—"Sign rather your own abdication.” The situation is fine. The pen drops from the King's fingers, the speaker takes it up, and quietly replaces it in the Monarch's hand. The audience is already touched. The poor King looks around him for advice; no one offers it; even the Prime Minister of yesterday is dumb; and in another instant the deed is done. The King has abdicated in favour of his grandson. Behind the scenes you hear sounds of tumult and disorder, and your heart is already beating for the issue. The King doffs his robes, places his sword upon the table, and, dressed as a private gentleman, is evidently anxious to depart. The Queen would fain meet the coming danger, but his Majesty has already ordered the carriages. The horses are put to, but horses and groom are shot by the multi
FLIGHT OF HIS MAJESTY,
tude. A broad path leads from the palace garden, and at the end of it a friendly hand has brought two hired coaches. "Let us go,” exclaims the Monarch, and leaning heavily upon the Queen, whose head is high and erect, he hurries on. The coaches are reached; the fugitives escape. They arrive at St. Cloud, at Versailles, but not to stay. On they go, and at half-past 11 o'clock at night they descend at Dreux. At one in the morning they are joined by one of the King's sons, who informs the unhappy pair that the claims of the grandson' have been disregarded, and that a Republic has been declared by the people of Paris. It is enough. The King shaves off his whiskers, puts on green spectacles, buries his face in a handkerchief, speaks English, and calls himself Smith. The wind is high, the coast dangerous, embarkation is out of the question at the moment, and before an opportunity offers, the rank of the runaways is discovered. Fortune, however, is with them : they escape capture and put to sea. Protected by Heaven, they reach in safety the hospitable shores of England.
Meanwhile, what has happened in Paris ? The whole city has given way to a handful of riotersmen who meditated an émeute, and effected, to their astonishment, an actual revolution. But two individuals upon the side of the King evinced a particle of courage, and these were women_his wife and his daughter-in-law already mentioned. The rest of the city were faithless to themselves as well as to the King. Princes, peers, soldiers, and statesmen were all sneaking in hiding-places whilst the capital was made over to the mercy of a few dozen incendiaries.
The daughter-in-law, seeing the King depart, carries her child to the Chamber of Deputies, and there with womanly courage and queenly dignity vindicates his rights. Her friends entreat her to withdraw. Firm in her purpose she does not move an inch. She attempts to speak, but is interrupted; and he who interrupts is himself silenced by an armed mob that pours
into the hall. The Duchess is forced away, and in that terrible extremity is separated from her child. But the sparrows of the earth are not forgotten. The child is seized by a rough hand, which is strong enough to strike but generous enough to save. The boy is brought to his mother, and mother and son pass from asylum to asylum, chased by sithes, sabres, muskets, and, worse than all, the bloody passions of an infuriated canaille. For four days they creep into hiding places; on the fifth day they are beyond the frontier. Everybody is escaping at the same moment. There is the King's eldest son pale and half naked, throwing aside his tinsel and putting on fustian, looking less than a man in his fear, trembling with emotion, and finally running like a madman for his life. There are your ministers, of European reputation and wisdom unapproachable, bounding like antelopes, northwards, southwards, “anywhere, any. where out of the” city! which they, and all the rest, give up to indiscriminate riot. And now the crowning point of our first tableau is near. The mob, masters of Paris, are sacking the Tuileries. The choicest movables are broken to atoms; a group take the places which Royalty filled a moment ago at the breakfast table; that is a palpable hit, and brings down laughter on all sides; others are in the wine
THE FIRST TABLEAU !
cellar drinking themselves ten times drunk; others, again, are in the Queen's apartments, defiling that domestic sanctuary. Outside the palace and on the top of it a flag is waved by a dozen men, whose shouts and shrieks invite hundreds, whom you see crawling and clambering up with no earthly object but immediately to slide down again. There is sentiment in all things. The apartments of the poor daughter-in-law are reached, but, strange to say, are respected in the midst of the work of general destruction. Her children's toys are not even touched; the hat and whip of her dead husband are still sacred; the books she had been reading lie open, and they are not even closed. It is an incident that cannot fail to elicit rounds of applause. And whilst anarchy and destruction prevail here, there is equal confusion and danger in the Chamber of Deputies. We have seen the mob forcing their way into that deliberative assembly. Everybody is now rushing to the tribune. Three speakers become marked from the rest; their names are Lamartine, Crémieux, and Ledru Rollin; they gain the popular ear and undertake to establish order—a superhuman responsibility! A Provisional Government is announced, named, and approved on the spot. “To the Hotel de Ville !" exclaims one. “To the Hotel de Ville !” respond a hundred; and amidst yells and hootings, cries of “ Vive la Republique ! ” « Vive Lamartine !” "A bas tout le monde !” M. Lamartine sets out for that celebrated building, followed by a train made up of the dregs of a seething metropolis. In the middle of the shouting the curtain falls, and the first act terminates. Search the dramatic annals of the world for such another !