One August Night
By Daydree Featherstone
Sleep was impossible. The mobs had come at dusk, yelling threats and cursing, pounding at the heavy iron gates. They threw stones and their very own feces. Even their women and children had come to join the demonstration.
"Why do they do this, Papa?" little Marianne had asked. She was too young to understand. I took her to bed with me because she had cried when we left her alone. I was grateful for the company, even if it did come from such a young girl.
"Why are they so angry, Lucie?" she had inquired of me, eyes filled with tears. Now she was sleeping fretfully by my side.
The French Revolution, as it was called, had sparked in the hearts of the third estate and spread like wild fires through out Paris. Our once great city was now erupted in waves of envy, hate, and violence. Life meant danger for all the families of nobility, such as ours.
The night air was heavy; the distant sound of angry men and women blending with those outside our wake. It only served to feed the flame. I stirred from the nightmare I was having. There was someone in the chamber!
I breathed a sigh of relief. It was only my brother.
"Marc," I answered, "What are you doing in here?"
"Wake Marianne and dress quickly. We are leaving. Maintenaint."
"Now? But--" I struggled against my swimming head, "Where are we going?"
"Belgium. Papa has friends there."
Were we really leaving our home? I tried to understand.
"Listen, Lucie," he started. He sat beside me on my bed and took my hands in his, "It is not safe here for us. The people have gone mad, they will kill us if we stay. This is our last chance; if we donít leave now we never will."
I hung my head. It meant leaving everything I had ever known: my friends, my house, my beautiful things, my entire life. But what choice did we have?
I woke Marianne and dressed her in silence.
The shouting boomed clearly, no longer muffled by the safe distance from the gate. "They broke through!" I realized in horror. I clutched Marianne, trying to keep her calm when Maman burst through the room.
"Come, now!" she cried. We flew with her down the grand staircase. It would be the last time I would ever cross the marble steps.
"Papa!" Marianne shot into his arms and clung there, fearfully, when we met him in the grand hall. Marc was with him, but he was limping. Outside we could hear the fast approaching fusillade of guns and the howls of both aggression and pain.
"The Guard has come to help," Papa explained meekly. It didnít change the fact that people were dying, their blood spilling on our doorstep. Their last thoughts would be only that we would be next. These people did not know us, they had never met us and never would, and still they hated us. They hated us because Papa had money, because we lived in a fine house with servants and much good food to eat. It made me sick. I tried to be brave for Marianne, but my knees threatened to buckle with every step. They would stop at nothing to see every one of us lying in our own pools of blood, because we have money.
The mob crashed through the windows. Marble and plaster exploding at our feet from the gun shots. Torches scattered the floor, igniting the curtains, the tapestries, the carpets, anything that would catch. There were shouts of approval as the room burst into flames and smoke. The heat licked my face, stung my eyes; the flames danced their mockeries. We were surrounded.
"Papa, what do we do?" I pleaded frantically. He glanced around, seeking a way out.
"The fireplace!" he shouted, barely audible above the roar of the fire, pointed to the other side. The smoke filled the room. It hurt to breath, to see, to move. I squeezed my eyes shut and coughed, trying to rid myself of the black poison. I froze. Which way was the fire place? I didnít know which way to go. I found myself alone in hell itself. I was terrified of the fire consuming me, but I was too sick and scared to move. I sunk to the ground, ready to give in to the heat and smoke as my final resting place. My flesh felt as if it were melting, there couldnít be any other way to describe the pain. It was only a matter of time before the end would come. I was welcoming the oncoming cold of death, but before it came I was being lifted up and carried across the room. It wasnít until I was surrounded in cold, clammy darkness that I understand what was happening.
"Lucie- wake up!" a voice pleaded. My head throbbed; my whole body seemed encased in ice. I moaned.
"Where am I?" It came out barely a whisper.
"She is badly burned," said another. Was it Papa?
"Papa? Papa, I canít see you!" I whimpered. An icy touch seared my skin.
"What can we do?" inquired the first.
"There is nothing we can do for her. She will be dead before morning."
I fell back into darkness.
"Lucie." A soft voice. I knew that voice. Cold pressure on my cheek.
"Marc? Is that you, Marc?" I tried to open my eyes to see my brother. "Why canít I see?"
I panicked, tried to push myself up on my elbows, but strong hands held me down by the shoulders.
"Hush, Lucie. Donít speak."
I was exhausted from struggling. I fell back, breathed deeply. "Marc, where is Papa? And Maman? Where is Marianne?"
"Hush, I said." His voice was strong, not scolding. "They are gone, Lucie. We are the only ones left."
"What?" I didnít understand. In my condition right then, there was no way I could. They went to Belgium and left us behind? "They left us?"
Marc was silent a long time. I feared he had left me, too.
"Marc! Donít leave me! Stay with me!"
He grabbed my hands, "I will never leave you, Lucie," he said. His voice softened, "Neither would they, if they had had a choice."
I understood. Marianne, Maman, Papa... they are gone. They will not be coming back. "Why canít I see Marc? Am I blind?"
He was very quiet.
"Will I ever see again, Marc? How can I survive?" He held my face in his hands. How I wished I could see him then, seen his soft eyes that would bring me comfort. But there was only gaping darkness.
"There is nothing in this world that you can see with your eyes, that you cannot see with your heart," he said.
I could not cry for my family with tears. I could only cry in my heart for them. In one single August night my entire world had shattered.
"What can we do, Marc? We are alone." He gathered me in his arms then.
"We are not alone, we have each other," he squeezed his arms in reassurance, "we are a family. I will always be here for you."