Alexandre Dumas.

Comtesse de Charny (Volume 2) online

. (page 18 of 24)
Online LibraryAlexandre DumasComtesse de Charny (Volume 2) → online text (page 18 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

deal said in relation to the king's contemplated flight;
and though his wife laughed at the absurdity of the rumour
when he told her of it, on his return home, he could not
divest himself of the idea that there was at least some
foundation for the report. He undressed and went to bed;
but ere long these convictions became so strong that he


sprang up, dressed himself; and hastened to the house of a
friend named Hucher, and imparted his suspicious to him.
Hucher shared his neighbour's apprehensions on the sub-
ject, and after making a hasty toilet rushed out and aroused
about thirty of his neighbours.

All this happened about a quarter past twelve o'clock,
just after the queen's encounter with Lafayette.

The citizens who were thus rudely awakened from
slumber by Buseby and Hucher, put on their uniforms as
members of the National Guard, and called upon General
Lafayette to inform him of what was going on.

They reached Lafayette's residence, on the Eue St.
Honoré, about half-past twelve o'clock.

The general, after seeing the king safely in bed and
notifying Bailly of the fact, paid a short visit to IVtonsieur
Emmery, a member of the National Assembly. He then
returned home, and was preparing to retire for the night,
when a loud knock was heard at the door. The general
sent his valet to ascertain what was the matter, and the
man soon returned with the intelligence that twenty-five
or thirty citizens wished to see the commander-in-chief on
a matter of importance; so Lafayette, who was then in the
habit of holding a reception at any hour of the day or night
it seemed necessary, slipped on his coat again, and gave
orders that his visitors should be admitted.

Buseby and Hucher acted as spokesmen ; but the general
only laughed at their fears. Being a good-natured man
and a great talker, he explained how the report had origi-
nated, and how, to satisfy himself that there was not the
slightest foundation for it, he had visited the palace at a
late hour of the night, and remained there until he had
seen the king go to bed exactly as they themselves would
see Lafayette go to bed, if they remained much longer.
But as even this failed to reassure them entirely, La-
fayette added that he would answer with his life for the
king and the entire royal family.

It was impossible to express any doubts after this assur-


ance, so the citizens conteuted themselves with asking
Lafayette to give them the password, so that no one could
molest them on their way home, and the general did not
have the heart to refuse them this slight favour.

Armed with the countersign, they decided to visit the
Hall of Assembly as well as the palace courtyards, to see if
anything unusual was going on in either place.

They had reached the Kue de l'Echelle when a horse-
man, coming at full speed, rode directly into the midst of
them. On such a night every incident seemed portentous,
so they crossed their muskets before him, and ordered him
to halt.

"What do you want?" he asked.

" We want to know where you are going ? "

"I 'm going to the Tuileries."

"What is your business there?"

"I have to render an account to the king of a commission
he intrusted to me."

"At this hour of the night ?"

"Most assuredly."

"But at this hour the king is in bed."

"Yes, but they will wake him."

"If your business with the king is so important, you
must have the countersign."

"Not necessarily; for I might have come from the fron-
tier, instead of from only three leagues away; and I might
have been gone a month, instead of two hours."

"True," said one of the men.

"Then you saw the king two hours ago?" inquired
one of the others.


"And talked with him? "


"What was he doing ?"

"He was only waiting for Lafayette to leave, to go to
sleep, I should judge."

" Then you have the password ? "


" Of course. The general, knowing I could not get back
to the Tuileries before one or two o'clock in the morning,
gave me the password, so that I might have no trouble."

" And the password is ? "

"Paris and Poitiers."

"That's all right. Au revoir, comrade. Tell the king
you found us watching at his palace gates, so that he might
not run away."

As they spoke they divided, to let the rider pass.

"I will not fail to do so," he responded; and, touching
his horse with the spur, he shot through the gateway of the
Tuileries and disappeared from their sight.

"Had n't we better wait until he comes out, and inquire
whether he saw the king?" asked one of these astute

"But if he has lodgings in the palace we shall have to
wait until to-morrow," remarked another.

"True," responded the first speaker. "And now, as
Lafayette 's abed, and the king 's abed, suppose we follow
their example, not forgetting to shout ' Hurrah for the
Nation!' first, however."

The twenty-five or thirty patriots repeated the cry in
unison, and then returned to their beds, happy and proud
at having heard from Lafayette's own lips that there was
not the slightest danger that the king would leave Paris.

Portrait of Louis X^l.
Engraved by W. Wellstood.





It was about three o'clock in the morning, and day was
beginning to dawn , when the royal family reached Meaux,
where they were to change horses. The king was hungry,
and determined to make an attack on the provisions, which
consisted of some cold veal, bread, and champagne, which
had been placed in a hamper under the box by Charny.

As no knives or forks had been provided , the king was
obliged to ask Maiden tor his hunting-knife to cut the

"Won't you take something too, Maiden?" whispered
the monarch; but Maiden declined.

While this was going on, the queen leaned out of the
window and gazed back over the road they had just travelled,
probably to ascertain if Charny was in sight.

"A penny for your thoughts, madame!" exclaimed the

"Mine? Oh! I was thinking of Lafayette," responded
her Majesty, trying to smile. "He is probably feeling
rather uncomfortable about this time." Then, turning to
Valory, who was standing near the coach, she remarked:
"François, it seems to me everything is going on very well,
and that we should have been stopped before this time if we
are likely to be stopped at all. Our departure cannot have
been noticed."

"I think so myself, madame, for I have seen nothing of
a suspicious character anywhere. Courage, madame, and
all will be well!"

"All ready," cried the postilions; so Maiden and Valory
climbed to their seats again, and the coach drove on.


About eight o'clock in the morning they reached the
foot of a long hill. A thick wood, in which the birds were
singing merrily, bordered both sides of the road.

The postilions checked their horses, and the two guards-
men clambered down from their seats.

"Stop the carriage, Jean! " said the king, "and open the
door. I want to walk awhile ; and I think the queen and
the children won't be sorry to have a little exercise, too."

Another moment, and the entire royal party was scattered
over the highway. The little dauphin began to chase butter-
flies, and his sister to gather flowers. Madame Elizabeth
took the king's arm, and the queen walked on alone.

Seeing this family thus scattered along the road, the
lovely children running and playing, the sister leaning on
the arm of her brother and smiling up in his face, the
beautiful and pensive woman glancing behind her now and
then, the whole scene illuminated by the sunshine of a per-
fect June morning, and the forest throwing its transparent
shadows half-way across the road, — beholding this scene,
one would have supposed this was some happy family
returning to their château to resume a contented and peace-
ful life, not the King and Queen of France fleeing from a
throne to which they were speedily to be restored, only to
be subsequently led to the scaffold.

Suddenly the queen paused, as if her feet had become
rooted to the earth. A horseman had appeared, a quarter
of a league away, enveloped in a cloud of dust raised by
his horse's feet. She dared not say, "There is Charny!"
but a faint cry escaped her, and she exclaimed, "Ah, news
from Paris ! "

Every one turned, except the dauphin. He had just
caught the butterfly he had been chasing, and cared little
for any news from Paris.

The king, who was slightly near-sighted , drew a small
lorgnette from his pocket.

" I do believe it is Charny ! " he exclaimed.

"Yes, sire, it is."


*'Let us walk on. He will soon overtake us."

The rider was indeed Charny, and he overtook them at
the top of the hill, where the coach again halted.

He wore a tight-fitting green riding-coat with a rolling
collar, a hat with a broad band and steel buckle, a white
vest, and high military boots which reached above his
knees. His usually pale face was flushed by his rapid
ride, and his eyes shone brilliantly. Never had the queeu
seen him look so handsome, and she heaved a deep sigh.
He sprang from his horse and bowed low to the king, then
turned and saluted the queen.

The entire party gathered around him, with the exception
of the two guardsmen, who held themselves discreetly aloof.

"Approach, gentlemen, approach!" cried the king.
"Monsieur de Charny 's news interests each and every
one of us."

"First, sire, all goes well," said Charny, "and at two
o'clock this morning no one even suspected your

Everybody drew a long breath of relief. Then the
questions multiplied.

Charny related all the incidents of his return to Paris,
— hoAv he had encountered the party of patriots on the Eue
de l'Echelle, how they had questioned him, and how he
had convinced them that the king was in bed and asleep.

Inside the Tuileries, he had found everything as quiet
as usual. He went up to his room, changed his clothing,
came down again through the king's corridor to satisfy him-
self that no one, not even Monsieur Gouvion, suspected the
flight of the royal family.

Then he again mounted his horse, and, thinking he should
probably have considerable difficulty in procuring another
steed at the post-house at that hour of the night, he decided
to set out for Bondy on the same animal he had been riding
so long. There he obtained a fresh horse and continued
his journey. Nothing of a disquieting nature had occurred
on the road.

VOL. II. — 17


The queen extended her hand to Charny. The bearer
of such good news certainly deserved some reward. The
count kissed his sovereign's hand respectfully. Why did
the queen turn pale? Was it for joy because Charny had
pressed her hand?

The party re-entered the carriage. It started again, and
Charny galloped along beside it.

At the next post-station, they found coach-horses in
readiness, but there was no saddle-horse for Charny, Isidore
not being aware that his brother would need one; so it
was decided that Charny should follow, not accompany the
royal coach, keeping within sight of it, and exchanging
a few words with its occupants when they stopped to change

Charny secured a fresh mount at Montmirail, and he
supposed the royal party was at least fifteen minutes in ad-
vance of him, when, on suddenly turning the corner of a
street, his horse almost ran his nose into the coach, which
was standing still in the middle of the road.

A trace had broken, and the guardsmen were trying to
mend it. Charny hastily dismounted, and, going to the
carriage, advised the king to keep out of sight, and bade
the queen not be at all uneasy. Then he opened a box, in
which he had placed such materials and implements as he
thought might be needed in case of an accident. There
he found a pair of traces, one of which he took to replace
the broken one.

The two guardsmen took advantage of this opportunity
to ask for the loaded pistols which had been placed in the
carriage. But the king objected; and when it was sugges-
ted that an attempt might be made to detain him by force,
the king replied that under no circumstances would he
permit blood to be shed on his account.

In two hours they were in Chalons.

"If we reach Chalons safely, all will be well," the king
had said more than once. They had reached Chalons, and
no attempt had been made to impede their progress.


They changed horses again here, and the king leaned
out of the carriage- window for an instant.

In the crowd that had gathered around the coach were
two men who gazed at the king intently. One of these
men suddenly disappeared; the other drew nearer the

"Sire," he said, in a low tone, "don't show yourself in
this way, or you are lost ! " Then he called out roughly to
the postilions : " Hurry up, you rascals ! is this the way you
treat travellers who are paying you thirty sous apiece ? "
And he, too, set to work assisting them. This man was
the superintendent of the post-house.

At last the horses were harnessed, and the postilions
sprang into their saddles. The first postilion tried to start
the two head horses, but both fell down. Under repeated
blows of the whip they managed to struggle to their feet,
and the carriage started; but almost at the same instant the
second postilion's horses fell, with him underneath them.

Charny pulled the fellow out from under the horses, but
his boots were left behind.

"What kind of horses are these you have given us ?"
cried Charny, indignantly, knowing nothing of the proof of
loyalty the man had just given.

"The very best in the stable," was the reply.

The horses were so entangled in their traces that the
more the postilions tried to free them, the worse the situ-
ation of affairs became.

Charny at last seized the traces, exclaiming, " Let us un-
harness, and begin again. We shall gain time by it."

The superintendent, too, set to work again, almost weep-
ing with chagrin and vexation.

Meanwhile, the man who had disappeared from the post-
house had rushed to the residence of the mayor and informed
him that the king and the entire royal family were getting
a relay of horses at the post, and begged him to give orders
for their detention.

Fortunately, the mayor was not a very ardent republican,


and did not care to assume such a responsibility; so, in-
stead of consenting to do what the man asked, he insisted
upon all sorts of explanations, as if to satisfy himself be-
yond a doubt of the truth of these statements, and did not
go to the post-house until he was compelled to, and that
was just as the coach was disappearing round the corner.

Still, nearly twenty minutes had been lost, and the
occupants of the royal coach began to feel somewhat
alarmed. Those four horses, falling one after another
without any apparent cause, reminded the queen most un-
pleasantly of the four candles that went out so mysteriously
the first night she spent in the Tuileries, nearly two years

Still, as they drove out through the gates of the town,
the king, the queen, and Madame Elizabeth all exclaimed
as with one accord : " We are safe ! " But a hundred yards
further on a man rushed up, and, putting his head in at the
window, called out, —

" Your plans were not well arranged. You are sure to
be arrested."

The queen uttered a faint scream. The man sprang
aside, and in another instant had vanished from sight in a
neighbouring grove.

Fortunately it was barely four leagues to Sommeville
Bridge, where they would find Choiseul with his forty
hussars ; but it was now three o'clock in the afternoon, and
they were nearly four hours behind time.

FATE. 261



The reader will recollect that the Due de Choiseul was
travelling by post in company with Leonard the hairdresser,
who was greatly exercised in mind at having left the door
of his lodgings unlocked, at having carried off his brother's
riding-coat, and at having failed to keep his promise to
dress Madame de I'Aage's hair.

The only thing that consoled him was the duke's assur-
ance that he was only taking him two or three leagues from
home in order to give him a special commission from the
queen, after which he would be set at liberty.

At Bondy, seeing the vehicle was about to stop, he felt
much relieved, and was preparing to get out, when the duke
checked him by telling him that this was not the place.

Horses had been ordered in advance. In a few seconds
they were harnessed to the carriage, and the vehicle was off
again like a flash of lightning.

"But where are we going, then, monsieur?" inquired
poor Léonard.

" What does it matter where we are going, provided you
are able to start on your way back by to-morrow morn-
ing ? " inquired Choiseul.

"Xot much, if I can get back to the Tuileries by ten
o'clock, in time to dress the queen's hair — "

"That will satisfy you then ? "

" Of course ; though if I could get home a little earlier,
so that I could pacify my brother and explain to Madame de
I'Aage, it would n't be a bad idea."


"Then you needn't worry, my dear Leonard," responded
the duke. " You '11 find that everything will turn out for
the best."

Léonard consequently had no idea that the duke intended
to kidnap him altogether, and became quite tranquil in
mind, at least for awhile 5 but seeing fresh horses put to
the carriage at Claye, and hearing nothing said about
stopping, the poor fellow exclaimed, "Ah, monsieur, are
we going to the ends of the earth ? "

"Listen, Léonard," the duke said, much more seriously.
" I am not taking you to some country-house near Paris, but
to the frontier."

Léonard groaned, and, placing his hands on his knees,
gazed at the duke in evident terror. " To — to the
frontier ? " he faltered.

"Yes, my dear Léonard, for I expect to find there, with
my regiment, a letter of the greatest importance from the
queen. Not being able to deliver it myself, it was neces-
sary for me to have some one upon whom I could depend to
do it. I begged the queen to name some one, and she
mentioned you as one whose devotion made him well worthy
of such a trust."

"Oh, of course, monsieur, I am very proud that the
queen considers me worthy of her confidence; but how shall
I get back to Paris? I 'm in my pumps and my white silk
stockings, and I have neither a change of linen nor any
money with me."

The poor fellow actually forgot that he had two million
francs' worth of diamonds in his pockets.

"Don't worry about that, my friend," said the duke. "I
have everything you need here in the carriage, — shoes,
linen-clothing, and money; so you will want for nothing."

"I may want for nothing, monsieur; but think of my
poor brother, whose hat and overcoat I have appropriated,
and poor Madame de I'Aage, who will never allow anybody
but me to dress her hair. Oh, heavens! how will all this
end ? "

FATE. 263

"For the best, for the best, my dear Léonard. At least,
I hope so."

They flew along like the wind. Choiseul had ordered
his courier to have two beds and a substantial supper await-
ing them at Montmirail, where they were to spend the
night; and Léonard was partially consoled, or at least he
occasionally let fall a word that betrayed that his pride
was flattered, at having been selected for such an important

After supper, the travellers went to bed, the duke having
ordered the carriage to be in readiness at four in the morn-
ing. Fifteen minutes before that time, they were to knock
at his door and wake him, in case he was asleep.

It was nearly three o'clock, and Choiseul had hardly
closed his eyes, when he heard the sound of wheels, accom-
panied by those loud cracks of the whip with which pos-
tilions announce the approach of new-comers.

To spring from his bed and rush to the window was the
work of an instant only.

A cabriolet was at the door. Two men in the uniform of
the National Guard stepped out, and imperiously demanded
horses. Who were these men, and why were they in such
a hurry for their horses?

Choiseul called his servant and bade him have their
own horses harnessed at once; then he aroused Léonard.
Both men had gone to bed with their clothes on, and were
consequently ready to start in a moment. When they went
downstairs both vehicles were ready; but Choiseul told the
postilion to let the guardsmen's carriage go first. He
intended, however, to follow it so closely as not to lose
sight of it for an instant.

He carefully examined the pistols which had been placed
in the carriage-pockets, and renewed the priming, thereby
causing poor Léonard dire misgivings.

They travelled on in this way about a league or a league
and a half, when the cabriolet in front of them turned into
a cross-road between Etoges and Chaintry. The guardsmen


proved to Le merely two peaceable citizens wlio had been to
Ferté and were now returning to their homes.

Choiseul continued his journey in a more contented
frame of mind, and at ten o'clock they passed through
Chalons, and at eleven reached Sommeville Bridge.

The detachment of hussars had not yet arrived; but the
duke asked for a room, and then put on his uniform.
Léonard watched these preparations with evident anxiety
and alarm, and his heavy sighs really touched the duke's
heart, so at last he said to him: —

"Léonard, 1 think it is time to let you know the truth."

" The truth ! What ! do you mean I don't know it now ? "

"Only partially. I will tell you the rest now."

Léonard clasped his hands despairingly.

"You are devoted to your royal master and mistress, are
you not? " continued the duke.

"In life and in death."

"In two hours they will be here."

"My God! is it possible?" exclaimed the poor fellow.

"Yes, with the children and with Madame Elizabeth.
You know what dangers they have incurred."

Léonard bowed his head in token of assent.

"And what dangers are still before them! "

Léonard lifted his eyes heavenward.

"Well, in two hours they will be safe."

Léonard could not answer. His eyes were full of tears.

"In two hours — here — "he faltered, at last. "Are
you sure ? "

" Yes, in two hours. They left the Tuileries at eleven
o'clock last night, or shortly afterwards. They are due at
Chalons at noon to-day. Allowing them an hour and a
half to travel the four remaining leagues, they should be
here in two hours. Let us order dinner. I am expecting
a detachment of hussars under command of Monsieur de
Goguelat to arrive at any moment. We will make the
dinner as long as possible."

" I am not at all hungry, monsieur," interrupted Léonard.

FATE. 265

"Never mind. If you try hard, I 'm sure you will be
able to eat a little. You see we must make the dinner last
as long as possible, so as to have an excuse for remaining.
Eh! what's that? Why, that is the hussars coming now."
For the ring of horses' hoofs could be distinctly heard, as
well as an occasional blast from the bugle.

Another moment, and Goguelathad entered the room and
handed Choiseul a package from Monsieur de Bouille.
This package contained six blank orders, all bearing the
king's signature, besides a duplicate of the king's order to
all officers of the army, whatever their rank might be, to
obey the Due de Choiseul.

Choiseul had the horses picketed, ordered rations of bread
and wine served to the hussars, and then sat down to his
own dinner.

The news Goguelat brought was not encouraging. All
along the route he had found the people in a state of
great excitement. Eumours of the king's flight from the
country had been rife for more than a year, not only in
Paris, but in the provinces ; and the detachments of troops
just stationed at Sainte Menehould had increased their sus-
picions. He had even heard the tocsin sounding in one
village through which he passed.

All this was more than enough to impair Choiseul's
appetite ; and after a half hour spent at the table, he rose,
and, leaving Monsieur Boudet in command, walked up
the street to a hill near the bridge, which commanded a
good view of the road for a distance of nearly two miles.
He could see no signs of either coach or courier, but this
was not surprising. If he made any alloAvance for even
trifling detentions, he could not expect the courier until at
least an hour later; and the king was not likely to arrive in
less than half an hour after the courier.

Two hours passed, and still no sign of what the duke
was looking for appeared. Every five minutes Choiseul
pulled out his watch, and every time he did so, Leonard

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryAlexandre DumasComtesse de Charny (Volume 2) → online text (page 18 of 24)