London, September 1795.
Last week I saw my friend Rougeville again – though I dread to call him that, now I have heard the rest of his story. But the poor man will not live long, I can no longer restrain him from harming himself. I fear I cannot blame him and even must admit that I would be tempted to do the same were I in his place.
Rougeville wanted, before leaving this world, to recount in full his last encounter with Marie-Antoinette, and the circumstances of her death. He does not beleive these will be properly recorded for posterity, and tells me already that a certain drawing of the Queen going to the scaffold has been falsified. He has entrusted me with the original, by a man called David and I am reproducing it below, following the Chevalier’s express wishes.
No doubt, dear reader, you will be struck by the advanced state of decomposition our dear Queen was in, as she approached her end (I dare not say her death, as by all accounts, she had already met that). The Chevalier Rougeville assures me, however, that David was kind to her, in his representation, and that in any case, he could not reproduce in ink the stench that emerged from her body even at twenty paces, an odour so foul that even Samson, that beast among men, neary passed out bexause of it.
But let us not stray from the story. Rougeville was so enamoured with his queen, that he could not bear to abandon her in her gaol, and he made plans to rescue her. Word had gone out that in her prison of the Conciergerie, that dreadful place where so many of the brightest stars of France were taken to live out their last few days, the Queen was ler out for a walk twice every day, past a place in the corridor where there was a trap door. The chevalier decided to send her a message – a tiny bit of paper lovingly rolled inside the heart of a carnation – which was to be delivered to her during her walk, at which point , following the instructions in the message, she would look up towards the trap door, and be rescued by the Chevalier who would be waiting there.
My dear readers, already acquainted with Marie-Antoinette’s comdition, will not be surprised to hear that not everything went according to plan. The wench who was to deliver the flowers, upon receiving one glance – or perhaps one whiff – of the Queen ran away screaming. The Queen’s guard allowed his attention to wander for an instant to his surroundings, and, unwisely rather, let go of his charge to retreive the flowers. Perhaps he suspected that the bouquet contained a message? Whatever the reason, the Queen took the opportunity of this second of freedom to grab hold of the unsuspecting guard, flatten him to the ground, and, sitting herself on his chest, proceeded to eat is face. My friend Rougeville was, at that very moment, opening the trap door, and, with an endearing smile, about to beckon to his queen to grab hold of his hand. Imagine his horror, dear reader , when she did look up to him, tearing off as she moved her head, the poor guard’s cheek and thereby exposing his jaw! Rougeville retrieved his hand before the Queen could seize it, and she, with a nonchalant snarl, went back to her degustation.
It will not surprise you to hear, dear reader, that it was this experience that led our brave Rougeville finally to abandon his country it its time of need, and seek the company of those such as myself, who had also loved the Queen. You will not, I think, judge him too harshly, or call him a coward, for he tells me that he would gladly have given his own face to the queen to chew on, had he thought it could relieve the pain of her condition in anyway.