(A narration by Aravis based on an episode in the biography, Marie Antoinette and Her Son.)
The royal family was imprisoned. The monarchy was officially dissolved. The former king was killed.
But Toulan was still there. And wherever Toulan’s bravery and creativity was, there was hope.
Toulan was an actor. He managed to give himself the façade of a Citizen loyal to the people, and was often on guard outside the queen’s chamber. One day he proposed to the other guard, Simon, that they teach the queen to smoke. “And if she will smoke,” he added, “We will not smoke in her anteroom anymore.”
So saying, he abruptly threw open the door to the room where the children were playing and the queen and her ladies were sewing. “Madame Capet,” he inquired, “Do you smoke?”
“You know I do not,” she said, ‘not raising her eyes from her work.
“Then I shall teach you,” Toulan declared. “If you will smoke, nobody else will smoke in your chambers.”
The queen, smiling a little at his bravado, accepted the long bit of rolled paper he handed her, and allowed him to light it with another bit of paper. “That is enough,” said Simon after a moment. “Now we will only smoke in the hall.”
The queen put out the cigarette and stowed it in her workbasket. “I will show you my cigarette if you ever smoke here again, gentlemen,” she laughed.
Toulan laughed too, picking up a ball of thread one lady had dropped. “And I shall keep this thread as a gift from you,” he said, bowing. “Come on, Simon, I challenge you to a game of cards.”
After a while, the queen said, “Citizen Toulan, would you mind returning the thread? I need it to mend this dress.” Toulan, acting bored, rolled the ball to the table.
“It looks bigger than it was,” began Simon.
“Of course—anything held by a citizen is bigger and better than when it is held by one of the old royalty,” laughed Toulon. “Let’s go outside—I want to smoke.”
As the men left, Toulan caught the queen’s eye, glanced towards a padded bench, and whispered, “Tomorrow.”
Under the cushions were disguises for everyone.
Inside the paper-lighter was a letter from a loyal friend.
Inside the replaced ball of thread were keepsakes from the king.
And inside the cigarette was a plan of escape.