Hervagault

Hervagault—Soi-Disant  Louis XVII. of France

There is no darker page in the history of France than that whereon is inscribed the record of the Revolution; and in its darkness there is nothing blacker than the narration of the horrible treatment of the young dauphin by the revolutionists. The misfortunes of his father King Louis XVI., and of Marie-Antoinette, are sufficiently well known throughout Europe to render the repetition of them tedious; but the evil fate of the son has been less voluminously recorded by historians, and it is, therefore, necessary to repeat the story at some length to render the following narratives of claims to royalty thoroughly intelligible.

Louis-Charles was the second son of Louis XVI. and his consort Marie-Antoinette, and was born at the Chateau of Versailles, on the 27th of March, at five minutes before seven in the evening. An hour and a half later he was baptised with much ceremony by the Cardinal de Rohan and the Vicar of Versailles, and received the title of Duke of Normandy. Then the king, followed by all the court, went to the chapel of the chateau, where Te Deum  was sung in honour of the event, and subsequently the infant prince was consecrated a knight of the order of the Holy Ghost. Fireworks were displayed on the Place d'Armes at Versailles; and when the news reached Paris it is said "joy spread itself from one end of the great city to the other; the cannon of the Bastille responded to the cannon of the Invalides; and everywhere spontaneous illuminations, the ringing of bells, and the acclamations of the people, manifested the love of France for a king who, in the flower of his youth, found his happiness in the happiness of the people." Such was the introduction into the world of the young prince.

Fate seemed to have the brightest gifts in store for him. On the 4th of June 1789, the dauphin, his elder brother, died at Meudon, and the young Louis-Charles succeeded to his honours. At this time he was rather more than four years old, and is described as having a graceful and well-knit frame, his forehead broad and open, his eyebrows arched; his large blue eyes fringed with long chestnut lashes of angelic beauty; his complexion dazzlingly fair and blooming; his hair, of a dark chestnut, curled naturally, and fell in thick ringlets on his shoulders; and he had the vermilion mouth of his mother, and like her a small dimple on the chin. In disposition he was exceedingly amiable, and was a great favourite both with his father and mother, who affectionately styled him their "little Norman."

His happiness was destined to be very short-lived, for the murmurs of the Revolution could already be heard. On the 20th of July, 1791, King Louis XVI., his family and court, fled from the disloyal French capital in the night, their intention being to travel in disguise to Montmèdy, and there to join the Marquis de Bouillé, who was at the head of a large army. When they awoke the little dauphin, and began to dress him as a girl, his sister asked him what he thought of the proceeding. His answer was, "I think we are going to play a comedy;" but never had comedy more tragic ending. The royal party were discovered at Varennes, and brought back to the Tuileries amid the hootings and jeers of the mob. "The journey," says Lamartine, "was a Calvary of sixty leagues, every step of which was a torture." On the way the little girl whispered to her brother, "Charles, this is not a comedy." "I have found that out long since," said the boy. But he was brave, tender to his mother, and gravely courteous to the commissioner of the Assembly who had been deputed to bring them back. "Sir," he said, from his mother's knee, "you ask if I am not very sorry to return to Paris. I am glad to be anywhere, so that it is with mamma and papa, and my aunt and sister, and Madame de Tourzel, my governess."

There soon came the wild scene in the Tuileries, and the sad appearance of the dethroned king in the Assembly, with its still more lamentable ending. Louis XVI. was carried to the prison of the Temple. This building had originally been a fortress of the Knights Templars. In 1792, the year in which it received the captive monarch, it consisted of a large square tower, flanked at its angles by four round towers, and having on the north side another separate tower of less dimensions than the first, surmounted by turrets, and generally called the little tower. It was in this little tower that the royal family of France were located by the commune of Paris. Here the king spent his time in the education of his son, while the best historian of the boy says he devoted himself to comforting his parents: "Here he was happy to live, and he was only turned to grief by the tears which sometimes stole down his mother's cheeks. He never spoke of his games and walks of former days; he never uttered the name of Versailles or the Tuileries; he seemed to regret nothing."

On the morning of the 21st January, 1793, Louis XVI. was carried to the scaffold, and suffered death. On the previous day, at a final interview which was allowed, he had taken the dauphin, "his dear little Norman," on his knee, and had said to him, "My son, you have heard what I have just said"—he had been causing them all to promise never to think of avenging his death—"but, as oaths are something more sacred still than words, swear, with your hands held up to Heaven, that you will obey your father's dying injunction;" and, adds his sister, who tells the story, "My brother, bursting into tears, obeyed; and this most affecting goodness doubled our own grief." And thus father and son parted, but not for long.

On the 1st of July the Committee of Public Safety passed a decree, "That the son of Capet be separated from his mother, and committed to the charge of a tutor, to be chosen by the Council General of the Commune." The Convention sanctioned it, and it was carried into effect two days later. About ten o'clock at night, when the young dauphin was sleeping soundly in his bed, and the ex-queen and her sister were busy mending clothes, while the princess read to them, six municipal guards marched into the room and tore the child from his agonized mother. They conveyed him to that part of the Tower which had formerly been occupied by his father, where the "tutor" of the commune was in waiting to receive him. This was no other than a fellow called Simon, a shoemaker, who had never lost an opportunity of publicly insulting the king, and who, through the influence of Marat and Robespierre, had been appointed the instructor of his son at a salary of 500 francs a month, on condition that he was never to leave his prisoner or quit the Tower, on any pretence whatever.

On the first night, Simon found his new pupil disposed to be unmanageable. The dauphin sat silently on the floor in a corner, and not all his new master's threats could induce him to answer the questions which were put to him. Madame Simon, although a terrible virago, was likewise unsuccessful; and for two days the prince mourned for his mother, and refused to taste food, only demanding to see the law which separated him from her and kept them in prison. At the end of the second day he found that he could not persist in exercising his own will, and went to bed. In the morning his new master cried in his elation, "Ha, ha! little Capet, I shall have to teach you to sing the 'Carmagole,' and to cry 'Vive la République!' Ah! you are dumb, are you?" and so from hour to hour he sneered at the miserable child.

On one occasion, in the early days of his rule, Simon made his pupil the present of a Jew's harp, at the same time saying, "Your she-wolf of a mother plays on the piano, and you must learn to accompany her on the Jew's harp!" The dauphin steadily refused to touch the instrument; whereupon the new tutor, in a passion, flew upon him and beat him severely. Still he was not cowed, although the blows were the first which he had ever received, but bravely answered, "You may punish me if I don't obey you; but you ought not to beat me—you are stronger than I." "I am here to command you, animal! my duty is just what I please to do; and 'vive la Liberté, l'Egalité.'" By-and-by personal suffering and violence had become only too common occurrences of his daily life.

About a week after the dauphin was transferred from the little tower, a rumour spread through Paris that the son of Louis XVI. had been carried off from the Temple Tower, and crowds of the sovereign people flocked to the spot to satisfy themselves of its truth. The guard, who had not seen the boy since he had been taken from his mother's care, replied that he was no longer in the Tower; "and from that time the popular falsehood gained ground and strength continually." In order to quiet the public apprehension, a deputation from the Committee of Public Safety visited Simon, and ordered him to bring down "the tyrant's son," so that the incoming guard might see him for themselves. They then proceeded to cross-question Simon as to the manner in which he discharged his duties. When that worthy had satisfied them as to his past treatment, he demanded decisive instructions for his future guidance.

"Citizens, what do you decide about the wolf-cub? He has been taught to be insolent, but I shall know how to tame him. So much the worse if he sinks under it! I don't answer for that. After all, what do you want done with him? Do you want him transported?"

"No."

"Killed?"

"No."

"Poisoned?"

"No."

"But what then?"

"We want to get rid of him!"

The guard saw him and questioned him, and some of them even sympathized with him and tried to comfort him; but Simon came and dragged him away with a rough "Come, come, Capet, or I'll show the citizens how I work  you when you deserve it!"

When the commissaries returned to the Convention they were able to announce that the report which had stirred up the populace was false, and that they had seen Capet's son. From this time forward Simon redoubled his harshness; beat the boy daily; removed his books and converted them into pipe-lights; cut off his hair, and made him wear the red Jacobin cap; dressed him in a scarlet livery, and compelled him to clean his own and his wife's shoes, and to give them the most abject obedience. At last the boy's spirit was thoroughly broken, and Simon not only did as he had said, and forced his victim to sing the "Carmagnole," and shout "Vive la République!" but made him drunk upon bad wine, and when his mind was confused forced him to sing lewd and regicide songs, and even to subscribe his name to foul slanders against his mother.

It might be supposed that the Convention was thoroughly satisfied with its worthy subordinate who had done his peculiar work so effectively, but he was considered too costly, and was ousted from his post. It was resolved that the expenses of the children of Louis Capet should be reduced to what was necessary for the food and maintenance of two persons, and four members of the Council-General of the Commune agreed to superintend the prisoners of the Temple. A new arrangement was made, and a novel system of torture was inaugurated by Hébert and Chaumette, two of the most infamous wretches whom the Revolution raised into temporary notoriety. The wretched boy was confined in a back-room which had no window or connection with the outside except through another apartment. His historian describes it vividly—"The door of communication between the ante-room and this room was cut down so as to leave it breast high, fastened with nails and screws, and grated from top to bottom with bars of iron. Half way up was placed a shelf on which the bars opened, forming a sort of wicket, closed by other moveable bars, and fastened by an enormous padlock. By this wicket his coarse food was passed in to little Capet, and it was on this ledge that he had to put whatever he wanted to send away. Although small, his compartment was yet large enough for a tomb. What had he to complain of? He had a room to walk in, a bed to lie upon; he had bread and water, and linen and clothes! But he had neither fire nor candle. His room was warmed only by a stove-pipe, and lighted only by the gleam of a lamp suspended opposite the grating." Into this horrible place he was pushed on the anniversary of his father's death. The victim did not even see the parsimonious hand which passed his food to him, nor the careless hand that sometimes left him without a fire in very cold weather, and sometimes, by plying the stove with too much fuel, converted his prison into a furnace.

This horrible place he was expected to keep clean, but his strength was unequal to the task, and he was glad to crawl to his bed when ordered by his guards, who refused to give him a light. Even there he was not allowed to rest in peace, and often the commissaries appointed to relieve those on duty would often noisily arouse him from his pleasant dreams by rattling at his wicket, crying, "Capet, Capet, are you asleep? Where are you? Young viper, get up!" And the little startled form would creep from the bed and crawl to the wicket; while the faint gentle voice would answer, "I am here, citizens, what do you want with me?" "To see you," would be the surly reply of the watch for the night. "All right. Get to bed. In!—Down!" And this performance would be repeated several times before morning. It would have killed a strong man in a short time. How long could a child stand it?

Days and weeks and months did pass, and as they passed brought increasing langour, and weakness, and illness. The want of fresh air, the abandonment and the solitude, had all had their effect, and the unfortunate dauphin could scarcely lift the heavy earthenware platter which contained his food, or the heavier jar in which his water was brought. He soon left off sweeping his room, and never tried to move the palliasse off his bed. He could not change his filthy sheets, and his blanket was worn into tatters. He wore his ragged jacket and trousers—Simon's legacy—both day and night, and although he felt all this misery he could not cry. Loathsome creatures crawled in his den and over his person until even the little scullion who attended him shuddered with horror as he glanced into the place and muttered, "Everything is alive  in that room." "Yes," says Beauchesne, "everything was alive except the boy they were killing by inches, and murdering in detail. This beautiful child, so admired at Versailles and at the Tuileries, would not recognise himself, his form is scarcely human—it is something that vegetates—a moving mass of bones and skin. Never could any state of misery have been conceived more desolate, more lonely, more threatening than this!... And all that I here relate is true! These troubles, insults, and torments were heaped on the head of a child. I show them to you, like indeed to what they were, but far short of the reality. Cowardly and cruel men, why did you stop in your frenzy of murder? It would have been better to drink that last drop of royal blood, than to mingle it with gall and venom and poison; it would have been better to smother the child, as was done by the emissaries of Richard III. in the Tower of London, than to degrade and sully his intellect by that slow method of assassination which killed the mind before it slew the body. He should have been struck a year or two before; his little feet should have been aided to mount the rude steps of the guillotine! Ah, if she could have known the fate you were reserving for him, the daughter of Maria-Theresa would have asked to take her child in her arms: she would have shared her very last victory with him; and the angels would have prepared at once the crown of the martyred and that of the innocent victim! Alas, history is fain to regret for Louis XVII. the scaffold of his mother!"

But the end of the torture was very near. Robespierre fell, and Simon, the Barbarous, accompanied him in the same tumbril to the guillotine, and shared his fate. Barras, the new dictator, made it almost his first care to visit the Temple; and, from what his colleagues and himself saw there, they came to the conclusion that some more judicious control was needed than that of the rough guards who had charge of the royal children—that a permanent agent must be appointed to watch the watchers. Accordingly, without consulting him, they delegated the citizen Laurent to take charge of the dauphin and his sister. Laurent was a humane man, and accepted the appointment willingly. Indeed he dared not have refused it; but, in common with the rest of the public, he had heard that the boy was miserably ill and was totally uncared for, and seems to have had a notion that he could better his condition.

He arrived at the Temple in the evening; but, having no idea of the real state of the child, he did not visit his little prisoner until the guard was changed at two o'clock in the morning. When he arrived at the entrance-door, the foul smell emanating therefrom almost drove him back. But he was forced to overcome his repugnance; for when the municipals battered at the little wicket, and shouted for Capet, no Capet responded. At last, after having been frequently called, a feeble voice answered "Yes;" but there was no motion on the part of the speaker. No amount of threatening could induce the occupant of the bed to leave it, and Laurent was compelled to accept his new charge in this way, knowing that he was safe somewhere in that dark and abominable hole. Early next morning he was at the wicket again, and saw a sight which caused him to send an immediate request to his superiors to come and visit their captive. Two days later several members of the Committee of General Safety repaired to the Temple, the barrier and the wicket were torn down, and "in a dark room, from which exhaled an odour of corruption and death, on a dirty unmade bed, barely covered with a filthy cloth and a ragged pair of trousers, a child of nine years old was lying motionless, his back bent, his face wan and wasted with misery, and his features exhibiting an expression of mournful apathy and rigid unintelligence. His head and neck were fretted by purulent sores, his legs and arms were lengthened disproportionately, his knees and wrists were covered with blue and yellow swellings, his feet and hands unlike in appearance to human flesh, and armed with nails of an immense length; his beautiful fair hair was stuck to his head by an inveterate scurvy like pitch; and his body, and the rags which covered him, were alive with vermin." Mentally he was almost an imbecile; and in answer to all the questions which were put to him, he only said once, "I wish to die." And this was the son of Louis XVI., and the nearest heir to the throne of France!

The commissaries having given some trifling directions, went their way to concoct a report, leaving Laurent with very indefinite instructions. But all the human feelings of the man were roused. He sent at once for another bed, and bathed the child's wounds. He got an old woman to cut his hair, and comb it out, and wash him, and persuaded one of the municipals, who had been a kind of doctor, to prescribe for the sores, and managed to persuade his superiors to send a tailor, who made a suit of good clothes for the dauphin. At first the boy had some difficulty in understanding the change, but as it dawned upon him he was very grateful. Nor did Laurent's good work stop here. Although the Revolution was less bloody than before, it was still very jealous; and the keeper of the Temple was not permitted to see his prisoner, except at meal times and rare intervals. Still he contrived to obtain permission to carry him to the top of the Tower, on the plea that fresh air was essential to his health, and tended him so assiduously, that while the prisoner was partially restored, and could walk about, the strength of his custodier broke down.

Under these circumstances he applied for an assistant, and citizen Gomin was appointed to the duty. Citizen Gomin, the son of a well-to-do upholsterer, had no desire to leave his father's shop to become an under-jailer at the Temple; but his remonstrances were silenced by the emissaries of the committee, and he was carried off at once from his bench and his counter in a carriage which was waiting. He was a kindly fellow, but prudent withal, and was so horrified when he saw the condition of his charge, that he would have resigned if he had not been afraid that by so doing he would become a suspect. As it was he did his best to help Laurent, and by a happy thought, and with the connivance of a good-hearted municipal, brought into the invalid's room four little pots of flowers in full bloom. The sight of the flowers and the undisguised mark of sympathy and affection did what all previous kindness had failed to do—unlocked the fountains of a long-sealed heart—and the child burst into tears. From that moment he recognised Gomin as his friend, but days elapsed before he spoke to him. When he did, his first remark was—"It was you who gave me some flowers: I have not forgotten it."

Gomin and Laurent by-and-by came to be great favourites; but the latter was compelled to resign his post through the urgency of his private affairs, and he was replaced by a house-painter called Lasné, who, like Gomin, was forced to abandon his own business at a moment's notice. He proved equally good-natured with the other two, and like them succeeded in gaining the friendship of the dauphin. As far as he could, he lightened his captivity and tended him with the utmost care. But no amount of kindliness could bring back strength to the wasted frame, or even restore hope to the careful attendants. They sang to him, talked with him, and gave him toys; but it was all in vain. In the month of May, 1705, they became really alarmed, and informed the government that the little Capet was dangerously ill. No attention was paid to their report, and they wrote again, expressing a fear that he would not live. After a delay of three days a physician came. He considered him as attacked with the same scrofulous disorder of which his brother had died at Meudon, and proposed his immediate removal to the country. This idea was, of course, regarded as preposterous. He was, however, transferred to a more airy room; but the change had no permanent effect. Lasné and Gomin did all they could for him, carrying him about in their arms, and nursing him day and night; but he continued gradually to sink.

On the morning of the 8th of June a bulletin was issued announcing that the life of the captive was in danger. Poor patient Gomin was by his bedside, on the watch in more senses than one, and expressed his profound sorrow to see him suffer so much. "Take comfort," said the child, "I shall not always suffer so much." Then, says Beauchesne, "Gomin knelt down that he might be nearer to him. The child took his hand and pressed it to his lips. The pious heart of Gomin prompted an ardent prayer—one of those prayers that misery wrings from man and love sends up to God. The child did not let go the faithful hand that still remained to him, and raised his eyes to Heaven while Gomin prayed for him." A few hours later, when Lasné had relieved his subordinate, and was sitting beside the bed, the prince said that he heard music, and added, "Do you think my sister could have heard the music? How much good it would have done her!" Lasné could not speak. All at once the child's eye brightened, and he exclaimed, "I have something to tell you!" Lasné took his hand, and bent over the bed to listen. The little head fell on his bosom; but the last words had been spoken, and the descendant and heir of sixty-five kings was dead. The date was the 8th of June, 1795; and the little prisoner, who had escaped at last, was just ten years, two months, and twelve days old.

Lasné at once acquainted Gomin and Damont, the commissary on duty, with the event, and they instantly repaired to the room. The poor little royal corpse was carried from the apartment where he died into that where he had suffered so long, the remains were laid out on the bed, and the doors were thrown open. Gomin then repaired to the offices of the Committee of Safety, and announced the decease of his charge. He saw one of the members, who told him that the sitting was ended, and advised the concealment of the fact till the following morning. This was done. The same evening supper was prepared at eight o'clock for "the little Capet," and Gomin pretended to take it to his room. He left it outside, and entered the chamber of death. Many years afterwards he described his feelings to M. Beauchesne—"I timidly raised the covering and gazed upon him. The lines which pain had drawn on his forehead and on his cheeks had disappeared.... His eyes, which suffering had half-closed, were open now, and shone as pure as the blue heaven. His beautiful fair hair, which had not been cut for two months, fell like a frame round his face, which I had never seen so calm."

At eight o'clock next morning four members of the committee came to the Tower to assure themselves that the prince really was dead. They were satisfied and withdrew. As they went out some of the officers of the Temple guard asked to see "the little Capet" whom they had known at the Tuileries, and were admitted. They recognised the body at once, and twenty of them signed an attestation to that effect. Four surgeons arrived while the soldiers were in the room, and had to wait until it could be cleared before they could begin the autopsy which they had been sent to perform. By this time also everyone outside the Temple had learned the event, except his sister, who was confined in another part of the Tower; and the good-hearted Gomin could not muster up courage to tell her.

On the evening of the 10th of June the coffin which contained the body was carried out at the great gate, escorted by a small detachment of troops, and the crowd which had collected was kept back by gens d'armes. Lasné was among the mourners, and witnessed the interment, which took place in the cemetery of Sainte-Marguerite. As the soldier-guarded coffin passed along, the people asked whose body it contained, and were answered 'little Capet;' and the more popular title of dauphin spread from lip to lip with expressions of pity and compassion, and a few children of the common people, in rags, took off their caps, in token of respect and sympathy, before this coffin that contained a child who had died poorer than they themselves were to live.

The procession entered by the old gate of the cemetery, and the interment took place in the corner on the left, at a distance of eight or nine feet from the enclosure wall, and at an equal distance from a small house. The grave was filled up—no mound was raised, but the ground was carefully levelled, so that no trace of the interment should remain. All was over.

This is the story of M. Beauchesne, and there seems to be little reason to doubt its truth in any essential particular. He writes with much feeling, but he does not permit his sentiments to overcome his reason, and has verified the truthfulness of his statements before giving them to the public. His book is the result of twenty years' labour and research, and he freely reproduces his authorities for the inspection and judgment of his readers. He was personally acquainted with Lasné and Gomin, the two last keepers of the Tower, and the government aided him if it did not patronise him in his work. Certificates, reports, and proclamations are all proved, and lithographs of them are given. The book is a monument of patient research as well as of love, and the mass of readers will find no difficulty in believing that it embodies the truth, or that Louis XVII. really died in the Temple on the 8th of June 1795.

But in a land such as France, it is not remarkable that the utmost should have been made of the mystery which surrounded the fate of the youthful dauphin, or that pretenders should have endeavoured to personate the son of Louis XVI. The first of these was a lad called Jean Marie Hervagault, a young scamp, who was a native of St. Lo, a little village in the department of La Manche, and who resided there during his early youth with his father, who was a tailor. This precocious youth, who was gifted with good looks, and who undoubtedly bore some resemblance to the deceased prince, ran away from home in 1796, and, by his plausible manners and innocent expression, succeeded in ingratiating himself with several royalist families of distinction, who believed his story that he was the son of a proscribed nobleman. His good luck was so great that he was induced to visit Cherbourg, and tempt his fortune among the concealed adherents of the monarchy who were resident there; but he was quickly detected, and was thrown into prison.

His father, learning his whereabouts, repaired to the jail, and implored his prodigal son to return to the needle and the shop-board at St. Lo, but his entreaties were unavailing, and the would-be aristocrat plainly announced his intention of wearing fine clothes instead of making them. Accordingly, when he was released, he assumed feminine attire, had recourse to prominent royalists to supply his wants, and explained his disguise by mysterious allusions to political motives, and to his own relationship to the Bourbons. The officers of the law again laid hands on him, and threw him into prison at Bayeux, and his father had once more to free him from custody. Still his soul revolted at honest industry; and, although he condescended to return to St. Lo, the shears and the goose remained unknown to him, and he made his stay under the paternal roof as brief as possible.

One morning in October, 1797, the honest old tailor awoke to find that his ambitious son was missing for the third time, and heard no more of him until he learnt that he was in prison at Châlons. He had contrived to reach that town in his usual fashion, and when he found himself in his customary quarters, and his further progress impeded, he informed some of his fellow-prisoners, in confidence, that he was the dauphin of the Temple, and the brother of the princess. They, of course, whispered the wondrous secret to the warders, who in turn conveyed it to their friends, and the news spread like wildfire. The whole town "was moved, and the first impulse was to communicate to Madame Royale" the joyful intelligence that her brother still lived. Crowds flocked to see the interesting prisoner and to do him homage, and the turnkeys, anxious to err on the safe side, relaxed their rules, and permitted him to receive the congratulations of enthusiastic crowds, who were anxious to kiss his hand and to avow their attachment to himself and his cause.

The authorities were less easily moved, and sentenced the sham dauphin to a month's imprisonment as a rogue and vagabond, and, moreover, took good care that he suffered the penalty. On his release he was loaded with gifts by his still faithful friends, and went on his way rejoicing, until at Vere he had the misfortune to be captured by the police, and was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for swindling. The royalists of Châlons, however, remained true to him, and when his captivity was ended he was carried to the house of a Madame Seignes, where he held a mimic court, and graciously received those who flocked to do him honour. But the attentions of the police having become pressing, he was compelled to move secretly from place to place, until he found a temporary home in the house of a M. de Rambercourt, at Vetry. Here he first told the full story of his adventures to a wondering but believing audience. He glibly narrated the events which took place in the Temple up to the removal of the miscreant Simon from his post; but this part of the tale possessed little attraction, for the cruelties of the shoemaker-tutor were well known; but the sequel was of absorbing interest.

He said that after the fall of Robespierre and his myrmidons, he received much more lenient treatment, and was permitted to see his sister daily, to play with her, and to take his meals in her company. Still his health did not improve, and the compassion of his nurse having been excited, she informed his friends without of his condition, and it was resolved to effect his release. An arrangement was made, and the real dauphin was placed in the midst of a bundle of foul linen, and was then carried past the unsuspecting guards, while a child who had been purchased for the occasion from his unnatural parents was substituted in his place. The laundress' cart containing the prince was driven to Passy, and there three individuals received him, and were so certain of his identity that they at once fell on their knees and did him homage. From their care he was transferred to Belleville, the head-quarters of the Vendéan army, where with strange inconsistency he was compelled to observe an incognito! Here he passed two months disguised as a lady; and, although known to the chiefs, concealed from the loyal army.

Meantime the poor child who had been foisted upon the republicans was drugged and died, and Dessault, his medical attendant, died also—the suspicion being that both were poisoned. This miserable child, who had thus paid the death penalty for his king was none other, the pretender said, than the son of a rascally tailor, named Hervagault, who lived at St. Lo!

He further stated that, while the royalist cause was wavering, instructions arrived from some mysterious source to send him to England to secure his safety, and that thither he was despatched. The Count d'Artois, he admitted, refused to acknowledge him as his nephew; but simple George III. was more easily imposed upon, and received the pseudo -dauphin with much kindness, and after encouraging him to be of good cheer, despatched him in an English man-of-war to Ostia. At Rome he had an interview with the Pope, and presented to him a confidential letter which had been given to him by the English monarch. Moreover, the pontiff prophesied the future greatness of his illustrious visitor; and, in order to confirm his identity, stamped two stigmata on his limbs with a red-hot iron—one on the right leg, representing the royal shield of France, with the initial letter of his name; and the other, on his left arm, with the inscription of "Vive le roi !"

Embarking at Leghorn, he landed in Spain, and without staying to pay his respects to the king at Madrid hurried on to Portugal, where he fell in love with the Princess Benedectine. This damsel, who was fair as a houri, had, he declared, returned his affection, and the Queen of Portugal had favoured his addresses; but as his friends were about to get up a revolution (that of the 18th Fructidor) on his behalf, he was compelled to leave his betrothed and hurry back to France. The pro-royalist movement having failed, he was forced to conceal himself, and to save himself by a second flight to England. But robbers, as well as soldiers, barred his way, and, after being stripped by a troop of bandits, he at last succeeded in reaching Châlons and his most attentive audience.

As it was known to those present that he had been imprisoned in Châlons as a rogue, and had condescended subsequently to accept the hospitality of the tailor of St. Lo, it was necessary to give some slight explanation of circumstances which were so untoward. But his ingenuity was not at fault, and the audacity of his story even helped to satisfy his dupes. He admitted that when he was examined before the authorities he had acknowledged Hervagault as his father; but he declared that he had done so simply to escape from the rage of his enemies, who were anxious to destroy him; and he considered that the tailor, who had accepted royalist gold in exchange for a son, was both bound to protect and recognise him.

There was no doubting. Those who listened were convinced. The king had come to take his own again; and Louis XVII. was the hero of the hour. Royalist vied with royalist in doing him service, and the ladies, who loved him for his beauty, pitied him for his misfortunes, and admired him for his devotion to the Princess Benedectine, were the foremost in endeavouring to restore him to his rights. Like devout Frenchwomen their first thought was to procure for him the recognition of the church, and they persuaded the curé of Somepuis to invite their protégé to dinner. The village priest gladly did so, inasmuch as the banquet was paid for by other folks than himself; but, being a jovial ecclesiastic, he failed to perceive the true dignity of this descendant of St. Louis, and even went so far as to jest with the royal participant of his hospitality, somewhat rudely remarking that "the prince had but a poor appetite, considering that he belonged to a house whose members were celebrated as bons vivants !" The dauphin was insulted, the ladies were vexed, and the curé was so intensely amused that he burst into an explosive fit of laughter. The dinner came to an untimely conclusion, and the branded of the Pope retired wrathfully.

But Fouché heard of these occurrences! The great minister of police was little likely to allow an adventurer to wander about the provinces without a passport, declaring himself the son of Louis XVI. By his instructions the pretender was arrested, but even when in the hands of the police lost none of his audacity. He assumed the airs of royalty, and assured his disconsolate friends that the time would speedily come when his wrongs would be righted, his enemies discomfited, and his adherents rewarded as they deserved. The martyr was even more greatly fêted in jail than he had been when at liberty. The prison regulations were relaxed to the utmost in his favour by dubious officials, who feared to incur the vengeance of the coming king; banquets were held in the apartments of the illustrious captive; valuable presents were laid at his feet; and a petty court was established within the walls of the prison.

But again the dread Fouché interposed; and although Bonaparte, then consul, would not allow the sham dauphin to be treated as a political offender, the chief of police had him put upon trial as a common impostor. Madame Seignes was at the same time indicted as an accomplice, she having been the first who publicly acknowledged her conviction that Hervagault was the dauphin of the Temple. The trial came on before the Tribunal of Justice on the 17th of February, 1802. After a patient hearing Hervagault was sentenced to four years' imprisonment, while his deluded admirer was acquitted.

There was some hope in the bosoms of Hervagault's partizans that the influence of his supposed sister, the Duchess d'Angoulême, would be sufficient to free him from the meshes of the law, and she was communicated with, but utterly repudiated the impostor. Meantime appeals were lodged against the sentence on both sides—by the prosecuting counsel, because of the acquittal of Madame Seignes, and by the friends of the prisoner against his conviction. A new trial was therefore appointed to take place at Rheims.

In the interval a new and powerful friend arose for the captive in Charles Lafond de Savines, the ex-bishop of Viviers. This ecclesiastic had been one of the earliest advocates of the revolution; but, on discovering its utter godlessness, had withdrawn from it in disgust, and had retired into private life. In his seclusion the news reached him that the dauphin was still alive, and was resolved to re-establish a monarchy similar to that in England, and in which the church, although formally connected with the state, would be allowed freedom of thought and freedom of action within its own borders. His zeal was excited, and he resolved to aid the unfortunate prince in so laudable an undertaking. He was little disposed to question the identity of the pretender, for the surgeons who had performed the autopsy at the Temple Tower had told him that, although they had indeed opened the body of a child, they had not recognised it, and could not undertake to say that it was that of the dauphin. To his mind, therefore, there appeared nothing extraordinary in the story of Hervagault, and he resolved to aid him to the best of his ability.

Recognising the deficiencies of the presumed heir to the throne of France, he determined to educate him as befitted his lofty rank, and declared himself willing, if he could not obtain the liberty of the prince, to share his captivity, and to teach him, in a dungeon, his duty towards God and man. He also entered into a lengthy correspondence with illustrious royalists to secure their co-operation in his plans, and even projected a matrimonial alliance for his illustrious protégé. Nor did he offer only one lady to the choice of his future king. There were three young sisters of considerable beauty at the time resident in the province of Dauphiné, and he left Hervagault liberty to select one of the three. He assured his prince that they were the daughters of a marquis, who was the natural son of Louis XV., and as the grand-daughters of a king of France were in every respect worthy of sitting by his side on his future throne. But the prisoner's deep affection for the Princess Benedictine for a time threatened to spoil this part of the plan, until, sacrificing his own feelings, he consented to yield to considerations of state, and placed himself unreservedly in the hands of his reverend adviser, who at once set out for Dauphiné, and made formal proposals on behalf of Hervagault on the 25th of August, 1802, the anniversary of the festival of St. Louis.

But justice would not wait for Hymen; and while the fortunate young ladies were still undecided as to which of them should reign as Queen of France, the trial came on at Rheims. Crowds flocked to the town, prepared to give their prince an ovation on his acquittal; but the law was very stern and uncompromising. The conviction of Hervagault was affirmed; and, moreover, the acquittal of Madame Seignes was quashed, and she was sentenced to six months' imprisonment as the accomplice of a man who had been found guilty of using names which did not belong to him, and of extorting money under false pretences.

But all the evidence which was led failed to convince his dupes, and they subscribed liberally to supply him with comforts during his confinement. The authorities at Paris had ordered him to be kept in strict seclusion; but his jailers were not proof against the splendid bribes which were offered to them, and the august captive held daily court and fared sumptuously, until the government, finding that the belief in his pretensions was spreading rapidly, ordered his removal to Soissons, and gave imperative injunctions that he should be kept in solitary confinement.

The infatuated ex-bishop in the meantime was wandering about the country, endeavouring by every possible means to procure his release; and when he heard that the pseudo -prince was to be transferred from one prison to another, spent night after night wandering on the high road, or sitting at the foot of some village cross, hoping to intercept the prisoner on his way, and perhaps rescue him from the gens d'armes who had him in custody. Of course, he did not succeed in his quixotic undertaking; and when he subsequently demanded admission to see the prince in Soissons jail, he was himself arrested and detained until the government had decided whether to treat him as a conspirator or a lunatic.

At Soissons, as at Vitry, Châlons, and Rheims, crowds flocked to pay homage to the pretender, until at last Bonaparte, disgusted with the attention which was given to this impudent impostor, caused him to be removed to the Bicêtre, then a prison for vagabonds and suspects. The place was thronged with the offscourings of Paris, and Hervagault found himself in congenial quarters. Certain enjoyments were permitted to those of the inmates who could afford to pay for them; and, as the so-called prince had plenty of money, and spent it liberally, his claims were as unhesitatingly recognised by his fellow-prisoners as they had been by the royalists of the provinces. Gradually his partizans found means to approach his person, and to procure for him extraordinary indulgences, which were at first denied to him; but when intelligence of this new demonstration in his favour reached the ears of the First Consul, he at once gave orders that he should be placed in solitary confinement, and that the ex-bishop of Viviers, who was at large under the surveillance of the police, should be arrested and shut up in Charenton as hopelessly mad. His instructions were fully carried out, and the unfortunate bishop shortly afterwards ended his days in the madhouse.

The last commands of Bonaparte had been so precise that no one dared to disobey them, and the sham dauphin for a time disappeared from public view. When the period of his imprisonment was at an end, he was turned out of the Bicêtre, with an order forbidding him to remain more than one day in Paris—a miserable vagabond dressed in the prison garb! During his incarceration he had gained the friendship of a Jew named Emanuel, who had given him a letter to his wife, in which he entreated her to treat his comrade hospitably for the solitary night which he was permitted to spend in the capital. When Hervagault arrived at the Rue des Ecrivains, where the Jewess lodged, she was not at home; but a pastry-cook and his wife, who had a shop close by, invited the dejected caller to rest in their parlour until his friend returned. The couple were simple; Hervagault's plausibility was as great as ever, and, little by little, he told the story of his persecution, and passed himself off as a distressed royalist. The sympathies of the honest pastry-cook were stirred, and he not only invited the rogue to make his house his home, but clothed him, filled his purse, and took him to various places of public entertainment.

In return for this generous treatment, Hervagault in confidence informed his new protector that he was none other than the prisoner of the Temple; and that, when his throne was set up, the kindness he had received would be remembered and recompensed a thousandfold. One favour he did ask—money sufficient to carry him to Normandy. The needful francs were forthcoming, and the deluded pastry-cook bade his future sovereign a respectful adieu at the door of the diligence, never again to behold him, or his money, or his reward.

Hervagault's next appearance was in an entirely new character. He entered on board a man-of-war at Brest, under the name of Louis-Charles, and distinguished himself both for good conduct and courage. But he could not remain content with the praises which he acquired by his bravery, and once more confided the wonderful story of his birth and misfortunes to his shipmates, many of whom listened and believed. But the monotony of life at sea was too great for his sensitive nerves, and he deserted, and again took to a wandering life, trying his fortunes, on this occasion, among the royalists of Lower Brittany. Intelligence of his whereabouts soon reached the government, and he was arrested and again conveyed to the Bicêtre, with the intimation that his captivity would only terminate with his life.

By this time it was well known in France that Bonaparte's word, once passed, would not be broken; and Hervagault, losing all hope, abandoned himself to drunkenness and the wildest excesses. His constitution gave way, and in a very short time he lay at the gates of death. A priest was summoned to administer the last consolations of religion to the dying pretender, and urged him to think on God and confess the truth. He gazed steadily into the eyes of the confessor, and said—"I shall not appear as a vile impostor in the eyes of the Great Judge of the universe. Before His tribunal I shall stand, revealed and acknowledged, the son of Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette of Austria. A Bourbon, descendant of a line of kings, my portion will be among the blessed. There I shall meet with my august and unfortunate family, and with them I shall partake of the common eternal rest." Two days afterwards he died, as he had lived, with a lie on his lips.