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Louis XVII: The Boy King Who Never Reigned
by [?]

It was the early morning of a bright June day, and the famous gardens surrounding the palace at Versailles were gay with bloom and heavy with scents as rare as was the morning. King Louis Sixteenth of France looked from a window out over the terraces in their vari-coloured beauty, and saw among the blossoms, a little figure busy with spade and rake, and although the King’s heart was heavy with sorrow because of the death of his elder son, the Dauphin, as the eldest son of the King of France, and heir to the throne, was always called, yet he was filled too with pride as he looked out at the little Louis Charles, to whom only three short hours before had descended the titles and honours which had belonged to his brother.

The King’s long and earnest glance at the little Dauphin attracted the child’s attention, and dropping his tools, he waved frantically towards the window, crying out:

“Papa, see the beautiful flowers. I am pleased with myself. I shall deserve mamma’s first kiss to-day, I shall have a bouquet for her dressing-table. May I come and show it to you?”

The king bowed his head in answer and smiled a sad smile as he turned to the queen, Marie Antoinette, who even then stood beside him, weeping bitterly for the other son who had gone from her for ever.

So absorbed was King Louis in his attempt to comfort her, that he forgot the new little Dauphin, until the door opened softly, and he saw the small figure standing just inside the door, holding tightly in his hand a bouquet of violets and roses. Charming in his childish grace and beauty was little Louis as he stood there, watching his father and then his mother, with grave concern at their evident sadness, and quickly he held up his flowers to his mother and said with sweet grace:

“Mamma, I have picked you some flowers from my garden.”

Still Marie Antoinette could not speak, but the king caught the child up in his arms, saying:

“Marie, he too is our son. He is the Dauphin of France.”

Slowly Marie Antoinette turned, clasped his bright, lovely face in her two hands, and stooping, kissed him tenderly on his forehead.

“I had forgotten,” she said. “God bless and protect you, Dauphin of France. I only pray that the storm clouds which now darken our sky may be long past, when you ascend the throne of your fathers!”

Little Louis’ forehead was wrinkled with perplexity.

“But, mamma,” he asked timidly–“why is it you all call me Dauphin to-day, when I am just your little Louis, who is called the Duke of Normandy?”

“My son,” said the King, solemnly, “each day differs from the last, and this new day has brought you a new name and a new position. Your poor dear brother has left us for ever. He has gone to God, and you are now in his place, the Dauphin of France.”

“And is that why mamma is crying, and will Louis never come back?”

“No, dear, he will never come back, and so your mamma is grieving.”

Quickly little Louis’ arms went around her neck.

“Oh,” he cried, “poor, dear mamma! I don’t see how anyone can leave you, and not come back? I will never leave you, never, never!”

“God grant it!” sighed the queen, pressing him tenderly to her. “May He grant it–oh, my precious child!” and then with his face close to hers, and a little hand held tight in the big one of his father, whose arm was around them both, Louis continued:

“If it is mine now, please tell me what it means–that name, the Dauphin.”

The king answered:

“My son, this is what it means. You are now the eldest son of the King of France, and some day you will be the king, and to you belong now the titles and honours that were your brother’s. Do you understand?”