Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/763

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739
THE HISTORY OF A DELUSION.

the 1st of May, 1816, to the 8th of May, 1817. By the death of these two princes the succession passed to Louis I, uncle of the Grand-duke Charles, and after him to the descendants of the second marriage—to the morganatic line which now reigns in Carlsruhe. Those were found who could imagine and affirm that the prince born in 1812 was not dead, but that persons interested in his disappearance had caused him to be abducted, and bad substituted for him another child who had shortly died, and that the stout boy who, on the 26th of May, 1828, presented himself, letter in hand, before Major Friedrich von Wessenig, was the real grand-ducal heir of Baden, who had been shut up for sixteen years.

This legend, revamped from the history of Cyrus, Romulus, and other great heroes, was hard to digest. Substitutions of children are attended by difficulties, especially when the child in question is a royal or nearly royal scion, an heir that has been ardently expected and impatiently waited for, and whose features have been fondly looked upon. On the 4th of October, 1812, the grandmother of the little prince, the Margravine Amelia of Baden wrote in French to her daughter, the Empress Elizabeth of Russia: "The wife of Charles was brought to bed on the 29th of September, with a son of enormous size in proportion to his mother's; it cost much trouble and suffering, too, to get him into the world. The event has caused much joy here." The grandmother examined the child closely, for on the 11th of October she wrote again to her daughter: "Everything is in joy here over the birth of an heir; what gives me the most pleasure about it is, that I find in him a resemblance to his father when he was a baby." But this rejoicing was of short duration. On the 18th of October, at eleven o'clock in the morning, the margravine took up the pen again, " to announce the death of the poor little one. . . . He only lived for seventeen days, with a vigor and healthfulness which made us hope for his preservation; but he was all at once seized with suffocation and convulsions in the head. . . . Charles is very much affected by it; I never saw him so much afflicted. I am grieved, because the child was so like the house of Baden. I was obliged to announce it yesterday morning to his mother, who was not anticipating anything of the kind. No one else would take it upon himself." She added, on the 25th of October, "The death of that child, who interested me because of the resemblance I found in him to the house of Baden, and whom I saw expire, . . . and the extreme grief of Charles—all that has overthrown me."

The grandmother saw the child born and saw him die; the father was there, too, and the nurse. The corpse was examined and opened in the presence of the state minister, Berckheim, and nine doctors. No one suspected substitution. Shall we believe that everybody was in the plot, including even the grandmother? No one has ventured to maintain this. It was once pretended that the man in the iron mask