Je Ne Regrette Rien
8 décembre 1793
Once opulent and full of the richness of life, the city is a torch-lit darkness, stinking of death and screaming of everything sanguine. Eleni runs, and runs, and runs. She pushes her way through the crowd of people shouting insults at her. She did not know them, but they despised her. She is not Eleni to them. She is a symbol of everything the torches and blades aim to destroy. Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité ou la mort! The chants fill Eleni's ears as she moves as fast as she can towards the doors of the only home she has ever known, narrowly escaping grasping hands. I am just a girl, she screams in her head, knowing full well she is not.
The girl is Mademoiselle la Duchesse Eleonore Delphine du Vigneron, a striking dark beauty who became a favourite of the white-featured Austrian La Reine Antoinette. Eugenie argued her spirited daughter was too young and troublesome for Court life. Times were dangerous. The Revolution had always been in existence, yet their way of life persisted. When the summons came from the palace for the precocious thirteen year-old, Eugenie had little choice. The entire family installed at the palace, they saw the charming home Eleni loved only on rare occasions.
Eleni had not been within the women of the Court for too long, yet knew most of her life, her existence was for this. She was to serve her country, honour her family, marry a man even more esteemed and wealthy than her father. "Do not push her, she will only rebel," Eleni heard her mother's voice whisper. "Leave her to her own schemes and charms, and she may wed a step or two from the Crown. She does not understand ambition, but she has plenty".
Running through the crowd, body lurching through the doors and past the angry mob, Eleni felt that world exist a century ago. She was once loved. People admired her. Now, from the home she grew up in to her appearance to the shoes on her feet, they hated her. Strangers threatened her very existence with a contempt that kept Eleni up sleepless nights crying. She only ever tried to please everyone; still they hated her.
Through the gates and up a large staircase and through corridors, she ran. Even with rocks and excrement flying at her back, she never stumbled in her tall and elegant heels. Eleni was a woman now, sort of. At sixteen, she was no longer an awkward and uncomfortable teenager. She was old enough for heels, old enough for marriage, old enough to understand the way the world worked.
Lately, the world was made to turn with the power of blood. The people paraded in front of her home, in front of the two next door, setting things on fire, destroying her precious beautiful roses, the one act that made her weep.
She runs into the large bedroom, large enough for it to actually be two rooms. Eleni was never allowed in here. She was never trusted not to play or cause trouble, not until today. Finding her mother, Eugenie, a tall imposing woman who was flawless in Eleni's eyes, she tries to hug her. "Maman, non! What are they doing? I am frightened. There are torches and axes and a group of men are parading down the street shouting things. It looks as if they have a beautiful woman's head as a trophy." Eleni shudders visibly. "It is the Madame du Barry, n'est-ce pas? How could they have hurt her? She was like a small dove. She could not even fight back"
Eleni feels the tears pool in her eyes. Louis and Antoinette were already gone, along with most of the royal family, and now the gentle mistress of the former King. Who was next? Was anyone to survive at all? "Maman, please, do not let them take us!"
The larger woman grabbed her arm. She did not mean to be rough, but it was important and there was no time for being frightened. "Soyez silencieux, Eleonore!" It wasn't necessary to know French to understand Eugenie's meaning as she pushed her small-boned daughter into the small space.
Opening the closet door, the girl was hidden there, behind pounds of fabric, elaborate gowns and costumes once representing joy and frivolity. "The sound of the wagons is not far. You must forget the example Madame Jeanne has set today. She carried herself without dignity, the small difference between a true lady and a whore, a flaw in character no amount of money can buy." Eugenie shakes her head as if in disgust at the dead mistress to the King.
"You are a noble woman, Eleonore. A noble woman does not cry and she does not beg. A noble woman will never allow herself to be insulted. Remember that, mon petit fleur. Be silent and stay in the shadows. They will pass you by." The door closes, leaving Eleni wide-eyed in darkness, and she hears the sound of the chamber door locking behind, more barriers. "Je t'aime, Eleonore. Je t'aime." Her mother's voice is distinguishable but full of sadness.
Eleni hid for what felt like days, barely daring to breathe, wanting so badly to sing. She hugged her mother's gowns, wanting any comfort she could find. Why could she not hide with them? Why did she have to be alone? She fell asleep feeling sorry for herself. The sound of the mobs shouting for death and mocking tragedy with their cruel faces served as Eleni's lullaby. From somewhere outside the window she hears agonising cries, arguing, and a loud "crack" and heavy thud. These are sounds that can only belong to her Maman, and she needs to run. She cannot run, bur she m...