It is now 17 August. It has been a week since. One might ask, "since what?" and get different answers, depending on who you asked, and what time of day.
Danton would say, "since the march on the palace, and since this fucking headache started," and he'd sit behind his Minister's desk while his secretary rubs his temples and mews consoling things.
In the same moment, said secretary might say, "since I sent my letter to father." And his face would glow, all innocent, beatific malice.
If you were to ask Robespierre, he'd say, very seriously, "since the real work began." He has begun to affect a very new seriousness; it is not at all like his old seriousness. Danton notices this, but doesn't understand him well enough to unravel the new flavour of it. He can perhaps be forgiven for his inability; no one else can read Robespierre either, and he has other things on his mind.
Camille notices it too, and it makes him think about how everything has changed. He has some sense of sitting very high atop a grand peak, where there once great thrones of gold and marble are shattered in piles, now a part of the mountain from which they were originally quarried. It makes him giddy, for a while, until he thinks about it for too long. Suddenly the peak seems lonely, the shattered shards of marble are white and powdered bodies, their empty faces turned up and looking vacantly at him. Some of the faces he can recognize, and he feels a fierce sense of justice.
"It has been a week since." Camille says, sitting up in his bed in the Palais, a pale little cherub amongst the gilded angels adorning the headboard. Lucile, half asleep, reads the expanse of the question in his tone.
"Since what in particular?"
Camille turns away in the bed, curled up very small, his mouth hidden behind his knees. Lucile, more awake now, cups her body behind his, and strokes his hair as if he were their son. At this hour, he does not need to answer aloud, she understands: "Since Louis Suleau was murdered."
The King and his family have been locked up in the old Temple, but they have not been entirely forgotten. Louis sometimes wonders if he wishes that they would be. There are aspects of life here which are not so terrible; the children find games to amuse themselves with much of the daytime, though at night they often cry and whimper for home. The guards vary in their compassion for this, but gently, or firmly, or mockingly, they each echo the point: this, now, is their home. It is easier for the children to adapt to the new reality; for Antoinette, it is an impossibility. She oscillates between stoicism and despair. To Antoinette, it has been a week since she had any hope, any hope at all. The children attempt to console her; she attempts to permit it, for their sake. It makes it worse for her, later. The King cannot console her; it has been some days since he has thought to try. And- what of the King, himself?
He is aware of the current state of affairs as a failure, and he is aware of the failure as his, in the main part, if not in full. How could it be otherwise? He is-or-was a King, and thus the father to his people. But he must maintain his innocence before them, for that is the prerogative of a father. Perhaps innocence is the wrong word; it makes him feel as if he is already on trial. Cuplability, perhaps. He understands that there is yet debate on whether or not a trial will occur. He understands further that whether or not there is a trial, he will most likely be executed by right of his birth. It is a conclusion he cannot fault in itself, as much as he prays against such an outcome. He is a pragmatist, but he does not love the logic of the sword. It is a horrible, blood-soaked logic. He knows that words only mean what they mean in the arms of some broader context.
Mostly, he wishes that he could have given the people-- these people-- what they wanted, without taking it from other people, closer to his physical person, who would have been no happier. He feels the despair of one who wishes to please everyone, and cannot succeed.
And if you were to ask Louis, "A week since what?"
He might say, "since I had anyone at all I could talk to."
Camille cannot talk to anyone about Louis Suleau. If he were still alive, he would be imprisoned, and possibly dead by some other means. Camille's stamp would prevent him from going to M. Sanson, he feels certain, but it is an eroding certainty. He comforts himself that he would have, given more time, been able to convince Louis to flee, go to England, take up with the Royalists, join the Austrians-- it doesn't matter much. The less Camille is able to think about where Louis might have gone, the less sick he feels. It is much easier to think about what he might do to Therogine, if he ever gets his hands on her, and the slightest excuse. It is much easier to not think at all. Danton helps, keeping him busy. Lucile helps too, in a million different ways, and Max. Max, Camille thinks, might almost understand. Max abhors violence, abhors death, although he has begun to talk about conspiracies and conspirators as if he were talking about a pile of paving stones and overturned apple carts in the way of-- what?
Camille feels like he knew once, and if he had to write about it, he would probably remember. Max is right about the war, it's a mess. It's a tripping stone. It's in the way, and it's going to be the death of them all, and the people who are pushing it either want to profit or- charitably- don't realise that they will be the utter ruin of France.
He cannot abide the idea that Louis Suleau would have been such ruin as well, if he had got his way. Well, not his way. That was the whole point of their friendship. They believed in every opposite thing, but they loved each other. Some glittering truth lay there, buried in the mud and blood of 10 August, and the mountain of papers on Camille's desk.
Someone has spoken, and Camille looks up. It is Fabre, he needs this or that document, and the seal. He's still talking, jabbering away about something Camille should probably care about. Camille waves a hand distractedly in the appropriate direction. He is thinking about monsters, and justice. He recalls a certain aristocrat who could not possibly be insulted by him. He thinks of cages, and those who inhabit them.
"Fabre," he says, quite suddenly, "what would the Brissotin papers say, if I were to pay a visit to the Temple?"
Fabre's chatter dies, like taking a knife in the ribs. "Are you serious?"
His hand rests on his hip. His lorgnette dangles between two knuckles.
"Not in the slightest." Camille smiles, very sweetly, and Fabre leaves. A few minutes later, so does Camille, in quite another direction.
The problem, Louis thinks, is that no one ever really talked to him. They talked at him, and around him, they told him what must be done, or what must not be done, and they did not listen to anything that didn't dissolve to yes or no, or come on a sheet with an official seal. The more he thinks about it, and the more the loneliness of his position deepens around him, the more he loses certainty that he has ever spoken to a real person in his life. All of his people played characters for him- useful characters, from which much could be gleaned and worked with, but not themselves. Perhaps Antoinette, from time to time. There has never been much of the disingenuous about her, particularly with him. They have always understood each other in essence, though less when it came to politics. She let personal likes and dislikes move her. He, perhaps, always cared too much for the personal likes and dislikes of others. But she does not wish to talk now, about much of anything.
There is a clock embedded in the high wall of his chamber, but it has stopped. Its silence and stillness irk him, like a hair in the eye. He has difficulty looking away from it, the short hand just slightly obscuring the 2, the long hand half-way between 10 and 11. He thinks, if he brought his stool over, he could probably get to it and open its face, and see where it is broken. It would pass the time. Bemusedly, he wonders if the guards might provide him with the tools required for clock-fixing. Certainly, they would not allow him those required to assemble and disassemble locks, for obvious reasons. At this point, where would he go, anyway?
To the fighting, he supposes, and the Austrian army, if he could get his family out. Something that was a failing of himself as a king, even as it is a understandable action of a man. There is something of a half-formed thought in that, but it does not complete, for the door of his chamber is opened by one of the guards.
"Secretary Desmoulins to see you, Citoyen Capet." The guard leaves them, but with the door open.
The ci-devant King recognizes the dark little man with the pretty, girlish curls and unsettling eyes. He had looked at him, from the reporters' box in the assembly chambers, and had not particularly wanted to. Desmoulins is prettier than his daughter's long-shattered porcelain dolls, and colder. He had kept trying to catch Antoinette's eye in the assembly, but seemed willing enough to settle for her husband. This, too, is one of the rumors that centers about him. it was meant as derision, but Louis can think of more destructive vices. Courtiers talked of sodomy with dismissive elbows and winks. In the Assembly, working men from butcher shops and candle factories talked of a few handfuls of diamonds with real anger. Of course, it wasn't really the diamonds, in and of themselves.
"Citoyen Capet." The doll-man smiles at him, and Louis wonders how old he could really be, anyway.
"Um. Citoyen Desmoulins. The one they call the Lanterne Attorney. Secretary now, is it?"
"to the Minister of Justice, yes." Desmoulin's eyes were searching his face, but any expression of horror remained buried under the fat folds of it.
"Ah, yes. And who is that, these days? We get very little news here, as you might imagine."
"Citoyen Danton, of course."
"Of course." He ought to have guessed. A man like Danton would be out making a name for himself. But this person- much like Robespierre, he didn't immediately get this furtive creature in front of him, who is looking about at what little there is to see in his cell: A bed, a couple of chairs, no books. His daughter reads books; there have been some that he's liked fairly well, but the thought of reading gives him something of a headache, lately. To hear people talk about this Desmoulins, he'd sounded something like Marat, though perhaps more debauched. One cannot begin to imagine Marat being debauched in the least. The suggestion must make one shudder. Louis manages not to do so visibly. "To what do I owe the pleasure, Monsieur Secretary?"
Camille, also, recalls the evening of 10 August, or perhaps it was the morning of 11 August. He hadn't slept, either way. He thinks of the sad, sagging king in the sad purple coat, eating a capon leg and looking even more foolish than the vision he occasionally conjured in Camille's head, like a puppet with his strings cut. He does not look much better now, but for an air of determined, nigh-forced cheerfulness, which wears better on him than authority or exhaustion. He is a man, Camille thinks, who takes resignation well. It unsettles him. One must not say, "I came for a puppet show, now dance!" Well, they had, at the Tuilleries, but Camille is not that sort of person. He merely agitates them.
He had asked Louis Suleau whether this man- this sad, fat fool (those were the words, yes) was worth dying for, and in doing so had completely dismissed the idea that anyone might believe thusly. Suleau had demurred, and perhaps half agreed with him on this point. To look at Louis Capet now, still sad and fat, but possessing something like dignity in his degradation, it does not change his mind on the higher point, but he feels that the questions he'd had, the memories he wished to invoke, all dried up in his mouth, so much inappropriate ash. Probably, this Louis would not know who that one was. Horrifyingly, he might even be embarrassed to admit it, and in earnest.
"Absolutely nothing," Camille says, finally, and turns to go.
"A moment then," Louis says, so quickly it almost comes out as a stutter, "If I might make a request of you."
This strikes Camille as incredibly hilarious. He can hardly refuse to listen. As Louis speaks- humbly, casually, even deferentially!- Camille even smiles.
"Well. I'll see what I can do."
And he goes, granting Louis no further enlightenment.
Maximillien Robespierre cannot talk to anyone about much of anything. It ought to be familiar, but it is becoming more and more of a strain. The Duplays are wonderful to him, but it would scandalise them, to have him ask them… anything of substance, for an opinion that was not his own. He feels kindly towards them, because of it, but it does not help, right now. He can talk to Saint-Just, so long as the topic is correct. St-Just sees the way Max himself sees, about Brissot and the conspirators. St-Just understands the danger that they all are in, still, with only one real revolution down. There is so much more to go. The basic positions have simply switched. St-Just thinks in terms of imperatives, and there is a refreshing clarity in that. Well, up to a point. Marat is more popular than ever, and it is making Max sick to his stomach. There are bridges which span too far. It is harder to define those boundaries for St-Just. And it is impossible to talk to him about Camille. More, so, even, than usual.
He wants to talk to Camille, but it never comes out the way he'd like, because Camille takes a perverse delight in being perverse. It's just how he is, but it's also a problem. One man cannot exemplify an entire movement, an entire moral and national order, in himself-- that is both impossible and hubristic. Those who are true patriots, for all their foibles and their differences, must come to adhere, naturally and rightly, to what is best in humanity, and in human nature; the role model of the individual must be society as a whole, and no one person- no figure of a national father, so to speak. If he were to think about it, he would understand immediately how a father is made conspicuous by his absence, and at the same time, also unnecessary. But using his own life for an illustration seems small, and besides, he doesn't think of it.
Camille, when he had last come, had not been able to talk about much besides whether or not his father would write him back, and what would he say when he did. Max was certain that Camille's father would be very proud of him- and how could he not? From one perspective, to fail in that regard was to fail the Revolution, to fail as a patriot. He did not say that however, or much of anything. He let Camille talk, and gently defused him when he attempted to get too shocking. Max believed in the institutions of the family, but did not entirely understand them. He was uncertain whether or not this was a deficiency on his part, but it was certainly the way of things.
He wonders, suddenly, how the little children- the ci-devant prince and princess- feel about their father, under the circumstances? It troubles him, a little. Where a father is present, there should be love, and ideally, respect. But the king, of course, is a tyrant because a king is a tyrant, where the monarchy is absolute. The ability to deny people their natural rights being a crime, though a crime not recognized in any book of law. Perhaps the bible had some commentary thus. Rousseau, of course, although he was no legislator. But it brings him again, to his point. He needs to talk to Camille. It has become important.
Camille is home, but he is just leaving. That is all to the good. They can talk better in the street, moving. People are always around, at Camille's house, and at his. The Duplays always worry that Camille will upset him. They are very difficult to reassure on that point. In spite of that it doesn't happen often that they are right.
"Hullo Max," Camille says, though there isn't much heart in it. He seems preoccupied. This, Max finds worrying, in context.
"Is something on your mind?" He asks gently, and Camille smiles.
"I was about to ask you the same thing."
"There is, in fact. I'm told you went to see the Capets?"
"Well, Louis, anyway. He looked well."
"What did you see him about?"
"Absolutely nothing." Camille looks up at the sky, which is beginning to come over chill.
"nothing? You spoke about nothing?"
"Nothing at all."
"But you realise how it looks, don't you? Going to the king, speaking in private..."
"We hardly spoke. The door was open the whole time, anyone who bribes the guard should know that much."
"But why did you go there at all?"
"...you sound like Danton, do you know that?" He is looking at Max sideways through his curls, a look that Max finds very disquieting, "that is exactly what he said to me, when Fabre told him about it."
"Well yes. I told him where I was going."
"Why did you do that?"
"Because he wouldn't believe me."
"Camille..." Max sighs, shaking his head, "You know, of course, that I do not have any uncertainties or suspicions about you."
"Of course not. My cousin has more than enough for both of you."
Max chooses not to address that with an answer, beyond pressing his mirrored glasses further onto his nose, "But you must know how it looks."
"Max. I know how everything I do looks. There was nothing seditious about it. Well, Louis-Antoine would doubtlessly disagree, but that reminds me. M. Capet had a request, and I suppose you're the one I ought to relay it to, ultimately."
"He asked you for something?"
"In return for...?"
"Nothing like that." Camille giggles, nearly, "he asked for a little hammer, and a small set of tweezers, and a device, like a little metal clamp with a screw at the top... in brief, the tools of a clockmaker. Before you ask why, the answer is very simple: there is a clock in his cell, and it has stopped. So there you have it."
Maximillien does not say anything to this. He removes his spectacles, polishes them on his handkerchief, then puts them back on.
"And that is all?"
"Is it? I thought it was the most ordinary thing in the world. Why shouldn't a king- ci-devant or no- wish to fix the broken clock in his cell?"
"I think you are enjoying this far too much."
"I am, indeed. Oh, don't look at me like that, I am actually delighted you asked. I haven't been able to share this joke with anyone but Lucile, and I've been dying to. I got as far as the King having a request with Danton; he said he didn't want to hear anything about it, and if I did anything like that again he'd... well, you know Danton."
No, I don't at all, Max thinks, And I'm not so foolish as to think I do, either. But he can't say this to Camille, as much as he wants to. He hopes, however, that Camille is implying that Danton made an empty threat. He doesn't seem concerned about it, but he never does, about that kind of thing. Max thinks about how little he understands Camille, but how well he knows him, anyway. Camille is looking at him now, curiously. The look means that Camille does not know how to interpret his expression, and is waiting to see what Max will do. Max smiles.
"Well then, why not?"
"Why not what?"
"Why not let him fix his clock?"
"Are you serious?" Camille does not realise it, but his tone is remarkably similar to the one that Fabre had used on him a day ago.
"I don't see what harm it can do. He isn't going to be able to disable a guard with a pair of pliers. Perhaps he could have them under supervision, if they are very worried."
"That would be something," Camille mused, "to see a king fix a clock. One hears stories of ci-devants shoeing horses and digging ditches, but one so rarely has a chance to see that sort of thing."
"I can see how it would give a man satisfaction," Max says, slowly and carefully, "to fix something broken, that one can hold in one's hand, and see fixed."
"Like you and the Convention?" Camille says, cupping his hand archly. Max says nothing, but smiles thinly behind his glasses. They keep walking.
It is 1 September.
Louis Capet is called back to his chamber, from a walk on the tower of the Temple with his children and his sister. They are allowed these little luxuries, right now. The children are taken back to their mother, who is lying down with a headache. When he arrives, he is startled to find Citoyen Robespierre waiting for him, his hands loosely folded behind his back, his eyes invisible behind his mirrored glasses. Louis ducks his head towards him, politely. Citoyen Robespierre is impassive.
"I was told," he says slowly, "that you had some aptitude for fixing clocks."
"Some little," Louis replies, unsettled. Robespierre makes him deeply uncomfortable, but he has always wanted to see him up close, and get the measure of him. Up close, Louis thinks suddenly, is not something that one can get to him, even standing some three feet away, as they are now.
"Well then." Robespierre hands him a small bundle, wrapped in a piece of coarse cloth. The feel of it in his hand reveals his contents, and he almost steps backwards in surprise.
"I had not expected M. the Lanterne Secretary to take my request seriously."
"He didn't." Robespierre's hands return behind his back. "But you may repair your clock, under my supervision."
"You, Citoyen? Surely the guard. Do you not have more pressing business at hand?"
"Not at the moment, Monsieur." There is some broader meaning in that phrasing that Louis does not get, not immediately. He chooses to ignore it for now, and unfolds the tools on his little desk. Selecting a small, thin file, he reaches up to pry the clock from its casing, so that he can work on it while sitting. Robespierre watches, which makes his hands sweaty, and the tools slip twice from his hands as he works. The second time, Robespierre bends to pick it up.
"Merci," mutters the King, and prises the piece free with a final tug. Then, carrying it as gently as an apron of fresh-laid eggs, he lays it down on the piece of the cloth, to work.
It is easier, once he gets the face open and begins removing the parts, to forget that Robespierre is there, until he speaks.
"What did Citoyen Desmoulins come to talk to you about?"
"Absolutely nothing." Louis says, startled nearly out of his focus.
"His words, Citoyen. Absolutely Nothing. I did not understand it, and I don't, now, either." Enigmatic statements aside, Louis again reflects how that Desmoulins creature had been difficult to read, but not impossible, once he'd had the chance to think about it for a while. He is a contrarian: one of those dangerous types who is very easy to keep happy, so long as his thirst for chaos is slaked. In the old days, the English kept those sorts as Jesters, and let them say whatever they liked. This one- a product of his time, Louis ruefully admitted- is too violent for that. But that sort also only likes hypocrisy when people are aware of it in themselves, and it can all be a big joke to everyone. It was telling, and a source of a very secret gratitude, that the creature had not found reason to laugh at him. Under the circumstances, Louis was inclined to be very patient, but he could not have borne that. He hoped, nervously, that this Robespierre had not come here to laugh at him. "I suspect he found me disappointing."
"Forgive me, Monsieur Robespierre, but I do not expect that I make a very impressive figure, under these circumstances. I have always wished to live up to the promise of my great ancestor, but unlike some of the courtiers, I do not think that I have ever believed the thing achieved. And less, now."
"Which? Louis Soleil?"
"Oh heavens no. Henri IV."
"Ah." Robespierre considers this, thoughtfully. It seems to Louis, quite suddenly, that most of what came off as sinister in this Citoyen Robespierre is really thoughtfulness. It is not a particularly useful long-term revelation, but it does do something to calm his nerves immediately.
"Might I ask you something, Citoyen?" Louis ventures.
"What is it that you want?"
This question finally alters Robespierre's features; they seem to sharpen. Louis understands that he has said something... if not wrong, then dangerous. It would have galled him, if he still had it in him to be galled by circumstances. It would have horrified Antoinette. He feels concerned for her. He knows she misses her friends, her life, her favorites. It pains him he could not and cannot give her those things. But Robespierre is still sharpening his gaze on him, so he feels it best to be earnest. It is, after all, an earnest question.
"That is not something you're in any position to ask."
"No, it isn't." Louis says sadly, "well, it's not something I am in a position to do anything about. But it is something that I have wondered for a long time. You are not like Brissot, or Danton, or like Mirabeau was. You don't want money, or position, or my cousin wouldn't be calling himself Egalité now, and sitting in the Assembly, most likely. You are not any of the types that we see in our histories; you don't have the military ambition of a Cromwell, and you're not ambitious, not in the way the word is usually meant. But you have ideas, and you are listened to, without thundering or cajoling. I don't know you. So you see, well, here we are."
Robespierre's expression returns to thoughtfulness, if of an edged kind. He seems to be trying to decide if he should be offended. Louis sees the truth of the matter reveal itself to him: they are neither of them in any position to be offended by the other. It is the prerogative of one who holds, in reality, the power of life and death over another, to choose not to be offended. Louis has spent his entire life so choosing. He wonders if Robespierre realises this shift in the paradigm, the magnitude of it. He knows, also, that perhaps they will hold him to a trial, perhaps he will be called upon to speak for the system of his birth, and weigh it against revolution before the benefactors of the same. And Robespierre, who may or may not be getting anything out of it, one way or the other.
"Nothing," he says, "for myself. For the people, everything."
"But aren't you one of the people?"
"Yes, but I'm not talking materially. I mean one man, one vote- one person, one vote, for denying the franchise of women is ridiculous. I want a society which is moral, which is correct, which is fair, which is just. I wish to see tyranny ended, for all time."
"I suppose tyranny means me, then."
Robespierre hesitates for a second, and takes off his glasses. He regards the thick, sloping form of the once-King, his double-chins propped on his shoulder at an angle that lets him work, his thick fingers curiously deft with the little tools. Is this, then, has this been a tyrant, in face and form? Camille would have some remarkable image in his mind about that, what a tyrant ought to look like. Louis had made a statement, but it seems to need an answer. Before Max can, however, Louis speaks again,
"How I wish," He sighs, "How I wish that you had been born a Dauphin, and I in Artois. I don't know that I could have been a lawyer, but perhaps some other meaningful work might have been found."
"But you weren't. Your birth sentences you."
"It does," Louis is all agreement, deep, melancholy agreement, "since before I was born, and my cousin also, even if he thinks he can avoid it by giving up all hope of being one day the King and calling himself... what he calls himself. People will think, because of his birth, that he is still biding his time, no matter what he does. Everyone has an opinion, Citoyen, on what it is, a King, and what it is to be one. All the gentlemen and ministers, anyway, and they all think that they could do it better. The trouble comes, when the common people begin to question what it is, too, and are permitted to do so out loud. Your hero Rousseau devoted so much ink to it, you would think that he had been raised in Versailles. But he could only see the question from one side. As if that question has not dominated my entire life, as if it is not the first real question that I learned to consider. I have only ever hoped that my answers to that question were fair, and just."
"They were not." Robespierre says flatly, and all of the air goes out of Louis, the tools limp in his hands.
"You see, then," He exhales with the air, "a King is just a man after all. I wonder what will happen to the Americans, if George Washington ever dies?"
"They will elect someone else to lead them, I suppose."
"I presume he could lose one of their elections, but that seems unlikely. Perhaps in his dotage. I wonder how quickly I should have been voted out, if I had to submit to an election every four years?" He looks thoughtful, "But I suppose you all would have elected Philippe, or Danton by now. Or you, perhaps?"
"I don't presume to that kind of popularity."
"No?" Louis is curious now, "You don't want to be the saviour of your country?"
"I would wish that my country would not require a saviour, but that it could save itself through the efforts of the whole."
"That would be nice," Louis agrees, "If it were so."
"What do you want, M. Capet?" Robespierre asks, watching his reanimated hands wind the clock beneath them,
"I suppose you mean that broadly, beyond what I have here in my hands," Louis smiles; it is not cheerful, "For myself? Once I would have said, to give everyone what they want, so they could live in peace. Now?" He tastes the words before he says them. It is often that way with a truth that one has never been able to utter before, straining to be freed, a thing one has often pondered, and which is decided in the opportunity to speak it, "I want to be forgotten, and to live in peace myself."
Robespierre does not move for nearly a minute. Louis has an impeccable sense of time, though a terrible sense of timing, and he marks the passage of the seconds. On the fifty-third, the Citoyen turns and leaves. He does not collect the tools from Louis in doing so, though the guard does some ten minutes later. By then, the clock has been re-set in its niche, and set correctly, thanks to the guard being one of the friendlier sort, and telling him the hour. It ticks forward pleasantly, regularly, a comfort. For the first time in a week, Louis Capet takes pleasure in the passage of time.
There is no trial.
Robespierre had always intended to argue against a trial- the question is existential and philosophical, a matter of natural law rather than law of the text. He does not realise until after the decision is made that his initial argument, about the futility of trying the Revolution itself, et cetera, would never have impressed the convention, in spite of its correctness. This is a note to file away for the future.
The question still came down to the core principle of the revolution: is a man defined by his birth, or by the rightness of his actions? By one view of this argument, whichever definition is correct, the King ought to be condemned and to die. By another, that he had not considered before, this principle precludes his death absolutely. A man born to be a King ought, by the enlightened view, to adapt to any other profession as suited him, and his inheritance should no more be power than the son of a beggar should be condemned by his circumstances to poverty. Let the model for this be Phillipe Egalité, content to find himself a mere statesman, set to accept the dictates of the people. Let Louis Capet and the family Capet accept the will of the people as sovereign and retire somewhere, to the country-- to Artois, perhaps, and let an eye be kept on him, to prevent those foreign powers who would subvert the people's will and put stock in bloodlines from presumption. But let him retire, free, and with a modicum of dignity, a regular participant in an enlightened, revolutionary society.
This is not immediately popular. A humiliated and tormented people longs to visit humiliation upon their tormentors. But in considering the long histories of cruelties visited upon the people by Tyranny, it does have to be said (and is, by the American statesman Benjamin Franklin, shortly thereafter), that the rule of Louis Capet did not even occasion the censure that his cousin George the Mad deserved, that lost the English their colony. Still more surprising, Camille Desmoulins supported the measure, and Danton seemed disinclined to argue with it, turning his barrel organ of a voice on Brissot and the Plain instead, in support of Robespierre's plan.
"And he shall live at the expense of the state then, in the county, I expect? What difference is there from a house there or a cottage in the gardens of Versailles?"
So says Brissot, on the convention floor. Danton replies,
"He shall earn an honest day's wages at a trade, like any other man."
Laughter, deep and from the belly, rattles the Assembly. In the Temple, perhaps Louis Capet's ears are twitching.
"A trade!" Demouriez scoffs from his seat, and Robespierre turns his eerie, reflective glasses on him.
"A trade, yes. I understand he has some skill at clock-works."
Murmurs at this, and a sick look from Louis-Antoine St Just. He is not speaking to Maximillien right now. Camille is beside himself with glee.
A week later, the family Capet is gone, for the second time, in a carriage away from Paris; this time, away too from the border. Louis writes an address of farewell to the people, and while it is possible that Desmoulins has edited a line here or there, one can be assured that it is for spelling, and nothing else. The man Capet has always been better with his hands than with his words. What the wife and the sister think of this sudden change in their affairs is a matter for gossip and speculation; the children, of course, find it a grand adventure.
They are permitted to take very little with them of their former life; what they brought with them into the Temple, although the princess is allowed to obtain a new book or two before leaving the city. Citoyen Robespierre is supposed to have given her a copy of the Social Contract, but there is little to substantiate this. What is more certain is that the ci-devant king, leaving his purple coat and anything of velvet stuff behind him in his cell, carried with him on his lap in the carriage: an old, beaten, and rather obnoxiously loud clock.