The Legend of Rosalind

Rosalind of Squam Island
taken from Maine My State
by The Maine Writers Research Club
with contributions by Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and Famous Maine Writers
Copyright 1919


Rosalind Clough paused a moment on the broad steps of the great, white
house.  She was a demure little maid with wide brown eyes, the white cap on
her dark curls giving her face an almost Puritanical severity.  There was
something sweet and winsome about the face, although the mouth was drawn
with grave lines of anxiety.

Before her in the fast-deepening twilight lay the broad expanse of the
Sheepscot River, quivering at its western verge with flashes of crimson and
gold.  One by one the lights twinkled forth in the houses of the hamlet of
Wiscasset across the river.  High above her on the white edge of the last
cloud, that was resisting the advance of night, glimmered the first great
star.

But peaceful as was the scene and all her surroundings there was little
quiet or rest in the troubled girlish mind.  Far across the water he whom
Rosalind loved best, her father, Capt. Clough, had been drawn by strange
and riotous currents into the very depths of a whirlpool.  In a way
Rosalind had been aware of her father's interest in the events that had
shaken the French nation.  For many years he had voyaged thither, and his
name was well known, along the quays of Havre and in the great
merchant-houses of Paris, as that of a man of honor, whose word was as good
as gold, one who could be trusted in all places and at all times-- a true
American.

Often in the quiet evenings of early fall, or when the snow fell softly
about the mansion on Squam Island, he would tell singular tales as his
family gathered around the cheery blaze.  The names of Louis, the weakling
king, of the traitorous Duke of Orleans, of Danton and Marat, the wicked,
restless leaders of the revolution, had become household words to the
children of the brave captain.

But  there was always one story that Rosalind would always draw closer to
hear, for her father's voice grew gentler in tone and lingered with
sympathetic cadence whenever he spoke the name of the beautiful, ill-fated
French queen, Marie Antoinette.

Marie Antoinette, what marvelous visions that name evoked in the girlish
mind!  Marie Antoinette, haughty, wonderous fair, every inch a queen; Marie
Antoinette in her sweet matronhood, loving wife and fond mother in the
stately old palace at Versailles; Marie Antoinette facing that
blood-thirsty mob in the Tuileries, calm with the calmness of utter
despair; Marie Antoinette in those last sad chapters, bereft of all that
life held dear, standing in the dread shadow of the guillotine, always a
beautiful, pathetic figure, a royal, noble woman to the end.

Capt. Clough had been in France that fatal July day when the smouldering
fury of the Paris mob had burst into flame, and, urged to insurrection, had
stormed the old Bastille and captured the prison.  During the terrible
summer of 1792 he had seen the excited populace, swearing, howling,
cursing and fighting, massacre the brave Swiss guards and thrust the royal
family into a dungeon.  Before he reached his quiet Maine home, for passage
was slow in those days, France had become a republic.  Before he again set
foot in the streets of Paris, they had literally flowed red with blood, and
Louis XVI had met his fate on the guillotine.  Capt. Clough's letters home
touched the hearts of his readers, for through his friendship with the
loyalists, he had become familiar with the pitiful suffering of the royal
family.  "The luxuriant hair of Marie Antoinette turned white in a single
night," he wrote his daughter.

Many times Rosalind had stolen out alone in the early twilight to watch for
a vessel that did not come.  Capt. Clough's family had been expecting his
return from France through many long autumn days.  Knowing as they did of
the turbulent times in France, and of how little account was the life of
one who sympathized with the royal cause during the Reign of Terror, their
minds were filled with anxiety.  The mother was a dignified, matronly woman
loving her children in her own quiet way; the father, clever sailor and
business man though he was, had the mystic nature of a student and a
dreamer, which his daughter had inherited. There was thus a strong chain of
sympathy between them, a sort of mental telepathy that bound them to each
other with a tie that distance could not break.  Sometimes Rosalind would
say at the breakfast table, "I shall  hear from my father today,: and in
almost every instance the letter would arrive before night-fall.
Occasionally she would cry out anxiously, "I am afraid my father is ill,"
and the next word received would tell of some indisposition.  Neither tried
to explain this strange sympathy, for it had existed so long as it had
become a part of their every-day lives.  Naturally this time of suspense
had borne heavily on Rosalind and somewhat saddened her.

At last a letter had come to the uneasy watchers telling a strange tale of
happenings across the sea.  Capt. Clough wrote of the relentless hounding
of royal sympathizers by Robespierre; how a word or a whisper in the
morning had sent many an innocent man to his death before night; how all
day the death carts rattled through the streets, as Robespierre from an
upper window watched "the cursed aristocrats" and mocked at their pain; and
how it was rumored that she, the noble, the royal woman, must meet the fate
of her murdered husband.

"There is plot  afoot," wrote Capt. Clough, "to rescue the queen from the
guillotine.  I scarce dare think, much less write of it to you, my dear
ones, for every day I see men hurried to death without even a prayer, for
less than this.  But that you may be prepared in some measure for what may
follow, I will write briefly concerning our hazardous undertaking.  Friends
of the unhappy queen have spoken in private to friends of m mine, and they
in turn to me.  My ship lies in the port at any moment ready for sailing.
I await the word. Methinks I need say no more, my loved ones, for I write
in haste and with a troubled heart.  Well you know my sympathy has always
been  with her, even though I am American-born citizen, and in America we
know no king but God.  My wife, prepare you the house, not as for a royal
guest, but I say to you, for a broken-hearted woman.  Wait and watch and
pray, my dear ones, for me and her gracious and deeply-wronged majesty,
Marie Antoinette."

It was of this letter Rosalind was thinking as she scanned the river with
anxious eyes.  For days there had been stir and excitement in the great
house on Squam Island.  Every noon and corner had been cleaned and
polished, and cleaned and polished again.  On this night, and for many
nights before, all had been in readiness for the strange guest.  The
brightest fires roared their cheeriest welcome, the larder groaned with it
s goodly store.  But days and nights had come and gone with unrewarded
vigil.

Striving to throw off the vague unrest and dread that possessed her,
Rosalind hastened down the path to the shore.  She had felt all day a
subdued excitement, a premonition.  As she followed the long path she
seemed lifted out of herself.  It was the house when Capt. Clough loved to
draw his daughter's arm through his own and lead her down to the shore.
All the cares, anxieties, the sorrows of the past few weeks, fell from her
like a cloak, and she lived again the hours when they had paced the beach
together, when he had taught her the lore of the waters, and of the
heavens, and led her with him along a pathway of stars.  She loved to
think, as she followed the path, that Mars shone as redly for him far away
on the high seas as it did for her; that he, too, could see Vega's
brightness, Venus's beauty, and the shimmering swarm of the Pleiades.

Rosalind paced slowly back and forth on the beach.  The damp wind on her
face revived the memory of an hour that was gone; the fascination of the
night was upon her.  As she turned seaward, the darkness blotted even the
horizon from view.  The girl stood staring into the blackness.

The  vision came to her.  Earth and sea and sky seemed to flash before her.
Every tree, every bush on the opposite shore, every bend in the river burst
plainly on her view.  The glare pierced and tore the dusk like a flash of
lightning.  She closed her eyes, opened them, stared like one in a dream.
On the broad current of the stream she beheld the masts, the deck, and hull
of a vessel, and although it was like a barque of silver on water of
crystal, she knew it was her father's own ship illumined with a strange and
startling brightness.  She saw the busy sailors, the captain on the deck,
even beheld her father throw back his head in the old, familiar way; saw
and recognized every detail of sail and mast and spar.  And then she saw
Her - the Woman.  She was floating rather than walking upon that silvered
deck, beautiful in countenance and form, tall, regal in carriage, richly
gowned, with powdered hair and a face that held one spellbound, so filled
was it would youth and grace. Rosalind saw her stretch out her hands with a
sudden, beseeching gesture, as if pleading for release; then raise her eyes
to Heaven with a wonderful look of peace. The girl strove to move, to
speak, but could make neither motion nor sound.  Even as she struggled with
the torpor that benumbed her, the brightness faced, then there was darkness
over island and sea, and the vision was gone.

Half an hour later Madam Clough, sitting by the glowing fire, was roused
from her sad musings by the sound of swift steps in the hall.  The door was
flung open to admit Rosalind looking like awraith of the night with her
hair blown about her wide eyes and pallid face.

"Mother! Mother!" she cried, "My father is well. He will return.  But
she-she-Marie Antoinette, is dead!"

_______.

Winter had cast its pall over the earth before Captain Clough sailed up the
Sheepscot River to his home on Squam Island; and he brought beautifully
carved furniture, draperies of velvet and silk, magnificent paper hangings,
and even gowns of costly brocade, which the friends of Marie Antoinette had
placed on board his vessel in the far-away French waters that their loved
queen might have fitting surroundings in her exile.  He told of the
discovery of the plot on the eve of its consummation; of the message,
concealed and sent in a bouquet to the queen, and discovered by her
jailers; of her swift execution; of the imprisonment of her true and
faithful friends; of his own hairbreadth escape, and of the blood-curdling
shouts of the mob, when it  stormed through the streets bearing Marie
Antoinette to her untimely doom.  The night on which Rosalind Clough had
seen the strange vision was that of October 16, 1793, the date of the
queen's execution.

_________

The old house which legend says was prepared for the queen's residence, has
been moved to the opposite shore of Edgecomb, and its quiet rooms greet
with colonial stateliness the visitors who come and go.  One by one the
relics that give substance to the story, have been carried away by souvenir
hunters.  Only a shred of tapestry and a piece of brocaded stuff, on which
is pinned a piece of paper in Capt. Clough's handwriting, remain.  This
certificate asserts that the cloth was sent to Capt. Clough "by an eye
witness" and was a bit of the gown worn by the queen at her execution.
Many of the tapestries were given away years ago; the hangings have fallen
to tattered rags; the quaint, old side-board stood for a quarter century in
the old Knox House, Thomaston.  Fair little Rosalind married and "lived
happily ever after" like the princess in the fairy tale.  Her first
daughter was named Antoinette, and to this day the name remains in the
family, handed down from daughter to  daughter.

Maude Clark Gay.



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