Condensed from Sylvia Martin's book I, Madame Tussaud, published in 1957 by Harper. This is another story in the Reader's Digest Junior Omnibus where the actual story didn't excite me so much as the illustrations. And in the case of History and Horror in Wax, the title. When I first got my omnibus, I was five, and I couldn't read all of it. I couldn't make out the word History, so I substituted: Hindus. Over and over I read: Hindus and Horrors in Wax.
I was fascinated by both the illustrations. In the main picture, people had their names printed below, and not in one straight line. It was great fun looking back and forth between the jagged line of names (and fancy names at that) and the asembled people, who also were not in a straight line. Some were behind, and smaller. Something about the way Edward the First was holding the baby, that he didn't actually grasp the child but just supported it in the crook of his arm was intriguing.(Edward actually seems to have his hand looped through the strap of a cradle, but I never recognized that.) I felt that Marie Antoinette's dress, especially the embellishments near its hem, must hold some secret writing, like the way Al Hirschfeld incorporated the name of his daughter, Nina, into his drawings.
The other drawing showed Mary, Queen of Scots kneeling just before her head was chopped off. There was always something about the puffiness of her cap and the way the shape of the chopping block was echoed on the wall.
When I read the story of Madame Tussaud now, I see she was a woman dedicated to her craft, and at times forced to practice it: in 1789 the French Revolution began and Tussaud was condemned to death and jailed in Paris. Her captors forced her to make wax models of the heads of guillotined: Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Marat, and Robespierre. Tussaud was not executed; she lived until the age of 88, in 1850.
Sylvia Pass Martin was born in 1913. Martin published a few travel books, all written with Lawrence Martin: