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exclaimed: "They 're not coming! Oh, my poor mistress,



266 LA COMTESSE DE CHAENY.

niy poor mistress ! Some misfortune has certainly be-
fallen them ! "

And the poor fellow's despair increased Choiseul's
anxiety not a little.

Half -past two came, and three, and half-past three, and
still no courier, no coach ! The reader, however, will recol-
lect that it was three o'clock when the king left Chalons.

But while Choiseul was thus watching and waiting. Fate
was busy bringing about an event which was destined to
exert a powerful influence in the drama we are relating.
Fate had so decreed that, a few days before, the peasantry
on the estate of a certain Madame d'Elbœuf, residing near
the Sommeville Bridge, had refused to comply with certain
demands on the part of the owner, who had threatened to
call in the soldiery to enforce her claims ; but the Federa-
tion had borne its fruits, and the inhabitants of the neigh-
bouring hamlets had promised to aid the Elbœuf peasantry
if this threat was carried into execution.

Seeing the hussars arrive at the post-station, the peas-
antry supposed they had come with hostile intentions.

Messengers were hastily despatched to the neighbouring
villages, and by three o'clock the tocsin began to sound
throughout that entire region of country.

Hearing the alarm-bells, Choiseul hurried back to the
post-house, where he found Lieutenant Boudet very uneasy.
Bitter threats had been uttered against the hussars, who
were extremely unpopular. The peasants, in fact, openly
defied them, and sang contemptuously, under their very
noses, this improvised ditty : —

" The hussars, though they're big and tall,
Really don't frighten us at all."

Other persons, who were either better informed or
more discerning, began to whisper that the hussars had not
come to meddle with the Elbœuf peasantry, but to meet
the king and queen.

This was the condition of affairs when four o'clock came,
without bringing either news or courier.



FATE. 267

M. de Choiseul decided to wait a while longer, however;
but he had horses put to his carriage, took the diamonds
into his own charge, and started Leonard himself off towards
Varennes, bidding him be sure and see Monsieur Dandoins
at Sainte Menehould, Monsieur Damas at Clermont, and
young Jules de Bouille at Varennes, and explain the situ-
ation fully to them.

In order to quiet the increasing excitement, Choiseul
announced that the hussars were not there to interfere with
Madame Elbœuf 's tenantry, but to act as escort for a large
sum of money the minister of war was sending to the
army.

This explanation did not have the desired effect, how-
ever; and in a quarter of an hour the hostile throng that
surrounded Choiseul and his men had increased in number
to such an alarming extent that the duke saw that if the
royal party should come while this state of affairs lasted,
he would bcunable to render them adequate protection with
the small force at his command.

He was there to see that the king's coach proceeded on
its way unhindered; but his presence now, instead of being
a protection, was a positive source of danger. The best thing
to do, even in case the king should come, was to get the
soldiers away. In fact, their departure would leave the
road clear ; but he must needs devise a plausible pretext for
their departure.

The superintendent was standing in the midst of a crowd
of about five hundred curious men who would be converted
into enemies by a single imprudent word. He was stand-
ing with folded arms, watching like the others, but he
happened to be under the duke's very nose.

" Have you heard anything about a large sum of money
being sent to Metz about this time?" Choiseul inquired of
him.

"The diligence that passed here this very morning car-
ried a hundred thousand crowns," replied the superin-
tendent. "It was guarded by two gendarmes."



268 LA COMTESSE DE CHARNY.

" Indeed ! " exclaimed M. de Choiseul, fairly dazed by tlie
kindness with which Fate was treating him.

"Yes, it is true, for Kobin and I acted as escort," re-
marked a gendarme, who was standing near by.

Whereupon Choiseul turned quietly to Goguelat and said:
"Well, if the minister of war prefers that mode of trans-
portation, there is no longer any use of our staying here,
and I think we might as well be off. Hussars, saddle your
horses."

The hussars were nothing loath, for they, too, were be-
coming uneasy. A minute more, and they were in their
saddles. Choiseul passed along the line, cast one more
glance at the Chalons road, and sighed. Then, clear and
distinct, came the command, —

"Hussars, form into fours! Forward!"

They dashed over the Sommeville Bridge just as the
church clock was striking half-past five.

Two hundred yards from the village, Choiseul turned into
a cross-road so as to avoid Sainte Menehould, where there
was said to be a great deal of excitement.

At that very moment, Isidore de Charny, whipping and
spurring a horse which had required nearly two hours to
travel ten or twelve miles, rode up to the post-house.
While changing horses, he inquired if a squad of cavalry
had been seen in the vicinity, and learned that the detach-
ment had started down the Sainte Menehould road barely
ten minutes before. He ordered horses for a coach that
would soon arrive, and then, hoping to overtake Choiseul,
mounted a fresh horse and galloped away.

But, as we have seen, Choiseul left the road to Sainte
Menehould a short distance further on, and at the very
moment the viscount drew rein before the post-house near
Sommeville Bridge; and as the viscount rode straight on
towards Sainte Menehould, he did not succeed in overtaking
the duke.



FATE. 269



CHAPTER XL.

FATE.

Ten minutes after Isidore de Charny's departure, the royal
coach arrived, and as Choiseul had foreseen, the crowd had
dispersed.

The elder Charny, knowing that the first detachment
of troops was to be here at the Sommeville Bridge, did not
consider it necessary for him to remain behind; so he gal-
loped up to the carriage to urge on the postilions, who were
driving at a slow trot.

When they reached the bridge, the king, seeing neither
the hussars nor the duke , began to feel anxious, and put his
head out of the window.

"Pray do not show yourself, sire," entreated Charny.
"I will make inquiries at once."

He entered the post-house. Five minutes afterwards,
he re-appeared, having learned all the particulars. He re-
peated them to the king, who immediately divined that it
was to leave the road clear that Choiseul had left so hastily.

The important thing now was to push on and reach Sainte
Menehould as soon as possible, for they would doubtless
find Choiseul there with his hussars, and a detachment of
dragoons as well.

At the moment of departure, Charny stepped to the
carriage window.

"What are the queen's orders? " he asked. "Am I to go
on ahead, or follow on behind? "

" Do not leave me ! " responded the queen.

Charny bowed to his horse's mane, and galloped along
by the carriage door.



270 LA COMTESSE DE CHARNY.

Meanwhile, Isidore was riding on in advance, marvelling
greatly at the deserted aspect of the road, which was so
straight that he could see in some places two or three miles
ahead of him. He spurred his horse on anxiously, thus
getting farther and farther ahead of the coach; for he feared
the inhabitants of Sainte Menehould might take offence at
the prolonged stay of Dandoins' dragoons, as the people of
Sommeville had taken umbrage at the detention of Choiseul's
hussars.

And Isidore was right. The first thing that struck him
on reaching Sainte INIenehould was the large number of
National Guardsmen walking about the streets. In fact,
they were the tirst he had encountered since he left Paris ;
the entire place seemed to be in a commotion, and he could
hear a drum beating at the other end of the town.

He trotted coolly along through the streets, however,
without appearing to be in the least disturbed by the ex-
citement around him, and, after crossing the square, stopped
in front of the post-house.

As he crossed the square, however, he noticed about a
dozen dragoons wearing fatigue-caps seated on a bench ; and
a few steps from them, at a window on the lower floor of a
house, he perceived the Marquis Dandoins, also wearing
a fatigue-cap, and holding a riding-whip in his hand.

Isidore passed straight by, however, as if he had not even
seen them, for he felt sure that Dandoins would recognise
him from his costume, and that consequently no further
intimation of the near approach of the royal party would
be necessary.

In the doorway of the post-house stood a young man
about twenty-eight years of age, attired in a dressing-gown,
and wearing his hair à la Titus, according to the fashion
of the patriots of the time. He also wore a full beard.

Isidore looked around as if in search of some one to whom
he could speak.

"What do you desire, monsieur?" inquired the black-
whiskered man.



FATE. 271

"I should like to see the superintendent of the station."

" He is away just now, but I am his son, Jean Baptiste
Drouet. If I shall do as well, tell me what you wish."

The young man emphasised the words Jean Baptiste
Drouet, as if he foresaw that these words, or rather
these names, were destined to occupy a prominent place
in history.

" I want six post-horses for two vehicles that are close
behind me ! " said the viscount.

Drouet nodded as if to indicate that the courier could
have what he wanted; and then, stepping out into the
courtyard, shouted lustily : —

" Here, postilions, six horses for two carriages, and a
nag for the courier."

Just then the Marquis Dandoins came up hurriedly.

"You precede the royal coach, do you not?" he asked, in
a low tone, addressing Isidore.

"Yes, monsieur, and I am much surprised to see you and
your men still wearing your fatigue-caps."

"We have received no orders to the contrary, nor have
I received any instructions as to the duty my men are to
perform. There are threatening demonstrations all around
us, and the people here are trying to demoralise my men.
What am I expected to do ?"

"Why, guard the carriage when the king comes, and be
governed by circumstances; then, leave half an hour after
the royal family has passed, to act as a rear-guard. But
tush ! " exclaimed Isidore, interrupting himself suddenly,
"they are watching us. Perhaps some one has overheard
our conversation. Kejoin your men, and do your very best
to keep them up to their duty."

Drouet was, in fact, at the door of the kitchen in which
this conversation had taken place.

Dandoins withdrew, and almost simultaneously the
cracking of whips was heard, and the royal coach
crossed the square and drew up in front of the post-
house. A crowd gathered around it.



272 LA COMTESSE DE CHARNY.

Dandoins, anxious to explain why he and his men were
not under arras, rushed up to the carriage-door, hat in
hand, and made his apologies with every possible mark of
respect. The king, in answering him, showed his face at
the window several times.

Isidore, with one foot already in the stirrup, was stand-
ing near Drouet, who was scrutinising the vehicle and its
occupants closely. He had attended the great Federation
in Paris the summer before, and had then seen the king.
He felt sure that this was he.

That very morning Drouet had received a large sum in
assignats, and he had examined each bill closely, in order
to see if any of them were counterfeit; consequently the
king's features were distinctly impressed upon his memory,
and seemed to cry out to him, —

"This man before you is the king."

He drew one of these assignats from his pocket, com-
pared the portrait upon it with the original, and mur-
mured, —

"It is certainly he !"

Isidore rode around to the other side of the coach, where
his brother was standing, partly for the purpose of screen-
ing the queen, who was leaning against the window, and
hastily whispered to Olivier, " The king has been recog-
nised. Get away from here as quickly as possible, and
keep an eye on that black-whiskered fellow over there.
He 's the son of the superintendent, and it is he who has
recognised the king. His name is Jeau Baptiste Drouet."

"All right, I '11 attend to him. Be off as quick as you
can, my brother."

And Isidore started off at a gallop to order the relay of
horses at Clermont.

He had hardly reached the end of the street before the
postilions, urged on by Maiden and Valory and by the
promise of a crown extra, had everything in readiness, and
drove off at a brisk trot.

The count had not lost sight of Drouet for an instant,



FATE. 273

but Drouet had not moved. He had merely been talking
in a low tone to one of the hostlers.

So Charny stepped up to him and said : —

" Was no horse ordered for me, monsieur?"

"Yes, but there are no more horses."

"What, no more horses ? How about the one they are
saddling there in the courtyard ? "

"That horse is mine."

"Can't you let me have him? I'll pay you your own
price for him."

"Impossible, monsieur. It is getting late, and there's
a trip that must be made."

To insist would only increase Drouet's suspicions; to
attempt to take the horse by force would ruin everything.
Besides, Charny had thought of another way out of the
difficulty.

He went to Dandoins, who stood watching the coach,
which was just disappearing around the corner of the
street. Feeling a hand on his shoulder, Dandoins turned.

"Hush!" said Olivier, "it is I, Comte de Charny.
There is no horse for me at the post-station, they say.
Make one of your dragoons let me have his. I must
follow the king and queen, for I alone know where to find
Choiseul's relays; and if I 'm not at hand, the king is sure
to be delayed in Varennes."

"I'll not give you one of my men's horses, count, but
my own."

"I accept your offer. The safety of the king and of
the entire royal family is involved. The better the horse,
the better their chances."

Both men walked briskly to the lodgings of the marquis;
but before doing so, Charny charged a sergeant to watch
Drouet closely.

Unfortunately, Dandoins' rooms were fully five hundred
yards distant, and before the horses had been saddled,
at least fifteen minutes had been lost. We say horses,
because Dandoins, too, intended to mount and comply with

VOL. II. — 18



274 LA COMTESSE DE CHARNY.

the king's expressed wish by following his Majesty, and,
with his men, constituting a rear-guard for the royal
coach.

Suddenly it seemed to Charny that he heard the words:
" The king ! the queen ! " mingled with other far-off cries,
and he hastened out of the house, requesting Daudoms to
send his horse to the square. The entire village was in
the wildest commotion; for Charny and Dandoins had
hardly left the square before Drouet exclaimed, exactly
as if he had only been waiting for their departure to
spread the news: "That coach which just passed is the
king's. The king and queen and the royal children of
France are in that carriage."

Then he flung himself upon his horse. Several of his
friends tried to stop him.

" Where are you going ? What do you intend doing ? "
they exclaimed.

He replied in a whisper, —

"The colonel of those dragoons is over there. There
was no way of stopping the king without causing a dis-
turbance that would have turned out badly for us. What
I could not do here, I can do at Clermont. Detain the
dragoons; that is all I ask."

And he started off at a gallop after the king. So it
became noised about that the king and queen were in the
coach which had just passed through the village; and
the rumour spread so quickly that it reached Charny 's
ears.

Hearing the commotion, the mayor and some of the other
municipal officers rushed to the spot, and the mayor
ordered the dragoons to retire to their barracks and remain
there until eight o'clock.

Charny soon learned all there was to know; namely,
that Drouet had recognised the king and ridden away.
He fairly stamped with impatience.

Just then Dandoins rejoined him. As soon as he saw
him coming, Charny called out from a distance, —



FATE. 275

"The horses, where are the horses ? "

"They 're bringing them now."

"Have they put my pistols in the holsters? "

"Yes."

"Are they loaded?"

"I attended to that myself."

"Good ! Everything depends upon the speed of your
horse now. I must overtake a man who has fifteen
minutes the start of me, and kill him."

"What ! do you mean to kill him?"

"If I don't kill him, all is lost."

"Let us start at once, then."

"Don't trouble yourself about me. You had better stay
and attend to your men, who are becoming utterly demor-
alised here. Look, the mayor is talking to them now.
You, too, have no time to lose. Go ! go ! "

Just then the orderly came up with the two horses ; and
without stopping to notice which was which, Chamy
leaped upon the back of the horse nearest him, snatched
the bridle from the hand of the orderly, struck his spurs
into his horse's sides, and was off like a shot in pursuit
of Drouet, but without catching the words Dandoins
shouted after him, though the words cast upon the wind
were mighty indeed in their import, —

"You have taken the horse I was to ride instead of
yours, and the pistols in the holsters are not loaded ! "



276 LA COMTESSE DE CHAENY.



CHAPTER XLI.



FATE.



Meanwhile the royal coach, preceded by Isidore, was
bowling swiftly along the road from Sainte Menehould to
Clermont. Daylight was fast fading away, however, and
it was eight o' clock when the carriage reached the Forest
of Argonne, through which the highway passed.

The Comte de Charny had not been able to tell the
queen the cause of his detention, inasmuch as the royal
coach left Sainte Menehould before Drouet had informed
Charny that he could not have a horse. As they drove out
of the village, however, the queen noticed that her cava-
lier was no longer at her carriage window ; but she could
think of no excuse for stopping the vehicle. Once, she
fancied she caught sight of a horseman galloping along the
road a long way behind them; but this equestrian — if she
did see him at all — was soon lost to view in the shadows
of approaching night.

And now — for, in order to make the events of this
momentous journey clear to the reader, we are obliged to
dart from one actor to another — and now, while Isidore
was riding a mile in advance of the royal coach, and while
the coach was entering the Forest of Argonne, and while
Drouet was riding in hot haste after the coach, and the
elder Charny was wildly pursuing Drouet, — while all
these things were going on simultaneously, the Marquis
Dandoins rejoined his men, and ordered the call "To
saddle!" sounded; but when the dragoons attempted to
advance, the people crowded in around them so that the
horses could not move a step.



FATE. 277

In this crowd there were at least three hundred National
Guardsmen, with their muskets in their hands. To risk an
encounter would be to ruin the king; so it seemed best for
the troops to remain where they were, and thus keep the
people where they were.

So Dandoins condescended to parley with them. He
even asked the leaders what they wanted, and what they
expected, and the meaning of all these threats and hostile
demonstrations.

In the mean time, the king had reached Clermont, where
he found Monsieur Damas, with his one hundred and forty
dragoons.

If Dandoins had had one hundred and forty men at his
disposal, like Damas, he might have been able to accom-
plish something; but he had only thirty: and what could
thirty dragoons do against three or four thousand men ?
Nothing but talk and parley with them; and that is pre-
cisely what Dandoins did.

At half-past nine the royal coach reached Clermont, and
the postilions had driven so fast that Isidore was only a
few hundred yards in advance of it. In fact, it had only
taken the party an hour and a quarter to traverse the four
leagues that separated the two villages.

The speed with which they had travelled might explain
Charny's continued absence, but he would surely overtake
them when they changed horses. Damas, having been
warned by Léonard, was lying in wait for the party, and
just before Isidore entered the village, Damas, who had
recognised the courier's livery, stopped him.

"Pardon me, monsieur, but do you not precede the
king?" he asked.

"And you, I presume, are Charles de Damas ?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"I do precede the king. Call your men together to
serve as a guard for his Majesty's coach."

"There is an alarming scent of insurrection in the air,
monsieur, and I am obliged to admit that I cannot vouch



278 LA COMTESSE DE CHARNY.

for my men if they should recognise the king. All I can
promise is to obstruct the road after the royal coach
passes."

"Do your best, monsieur," said Isidore. "Here is the
king now," he added, pointing to an incoming coach,
whose course could be discerned through the darkness only
by the sparks that flew from beneath the horses' feet.

As for Isidore, it was his duty to hasten forward and
order relays. In five minutes he drew rein at the door of
the post-house. Damas, with five or six dragoons, arrived
almost at tlie same moment.

Close upon Isidore's heels, and before he had time to
remount, came the royal coach. The vehicle, though not
a magnificent affair, was a little remarkable, and a number
of people assembled in front of the post-house. Damas
stood some distance from the carriage-door, as if he had
no acquaintance with its occupants; but as neither the
king nor queen could resist their longing to hear the latest
news, the king beckoned to Damas on one side, while the
queen beckoned to Isidore on the other.

" Is this Monsieur de Damas ? " asked the king.

"Yes, sire."

" Why are your dragoons not here under arms ? "

" Your Majesty is five hours behind time. My squadron
was in the saddle by four this afternoon. I kept the men
under arms as long as possible ; but the whole village began
to get excited, and even my dragoons began to show that
they were upset by all sorts of conflicting conjectures. If
a disturbance occurred before your Majesty's arrival, I
knew the alarm-bell would be sounded and your progress
checked, so I kept only a dozen men under arms and sent
the rest back to the barracks ; but I kept the trumpeters
with me so as to be able to call the men to horse at the
first sign of danger. Your Majesty can see that my plan
has worked well, as the road is clear."

"Very well, monsieur; I must say you have acted very
prudently. As soon as I am well out of the village, have



FATE. 279

your men mount and follow my carriage, at a distance of a
mile or so."

" Sire, I want you to listen to what Monsieur Isidore
says," interrupted the queen.

"What is it?" responded the king, with some slight
show of impatience.

"He says you were recognised by the superintendent's
son at Sainte Menehould. The viscount is sure of it, for
he saw the young man comparing your face with the
portrait engraved on an assignat he had in his hand. He
says, too, that he informed his brother, the count, of the
fact, and that as we have seen nothing of him since, there
must have been some serious trouble."

"If we have been recognised, there is all the more need
that we should make haste. Monsieur Isidore, hurry up
the postilions, and then ride on ahead as fast as you can,"

Isidore's horse being ready, he sprang into the saddle
and called out to the postilions: "The road to Varennes ! "

Damas stepped back, bowing respectfully, the postilions
whipped up their horses, and the coach was off in the
twinkling of an eye. As they left the village, they met a
sergeant of hussars just entering it.

For an instant, Damas was strongly tempted to follow
the royal coach with the few men then at his disposal; but
the king had given contrary orders, and he thought it his
duty to obey those orders, especially as there were signs of
commotion in the town. People were running from house
to house, and persons and lights could be plainly seen
moving hurriedly about in the dwellings. Damas was
firmly resolved to prevent one thing, — the sounding of
the alarm-bell ; so he ran to the church to guard the door.
Besides, Dandoins might arrive with reinforcements at
any moment.

The excitement gradually subsided, however; so at the
end of about fifteen minutes Damas returned to the public
square, where he found Major de Noirville, to whom he
gave his instructions, bidding him get the men under arms
at once.


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