Página:Imbert de Saint-Amand Marie Antoinette.djvu/33

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Emperor Leopold to explain himself definitely before March 1.

By a curious coincidence, this date of March 1 was precisely that on which the Emperor Leopold was to die of a dreadful malady. He was in perfect health on February 27, when he gave audience to the Turkish envoy; he was in his agony, February 28, and on March 1, he died. His usual physician asserted that he had been poisoned. The idea that a crime had been committed spread among the people. Vague rumors got about concerning a woman who had caused remark at the last masked ball at court. This unknown person, under shelter of her disguise, might have presented the sovereign with poisoned bonbons. The J acobins, who might have desired to get rid of the armed chief of the empire, and the émigrés, who might h.aVe reproached him as too luke- warm in his opposition to the principles of the French Revolution, were alternately suspected. The last hypothesis was hardly probable, 11or does anything prove that the J acobins had any hand in the possibly natural death of the Emperor Leopold. But minds were so overexcited at the time that the parties mutually accused each other, on all occasions, of the most execrable crimes. For that matter, there were Jacobins who, out of mere bravado, would willingly have gloried in crimes of which they were not guilty, provided that these crimes had been com- mitted against kings.

What is certain is, that Marie Antoinette believed