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280 LA COMTESSE DE CHARNY.

Just then some one came to inform Damas that a mes-
senger from Dandoins was waiting for him at his lodgings.

This messenger came to say that it would not be advis-
able to wait for Dandoins or his dragoons, Dandoins being
forcibly detained by the people of Sainte IVIenehould; and
that besides this — as Damas knew already — Drouet had
started off at full speed after the royal coach, though he
had probably not succeeded in overtaking it, as he had not
been seen in Clermont.

Damas had scarcely finished listening to this report
when another messenger from an entirely different direc-
tion was announced. This messenger was an orderW sent
by the officers in command of the troops at Varennes,
our friends Monsieur Jules de Bouille and Monsieur de
Raigecourt. Seeing the hours drag by without bringing
any one connected with the royal party, these young gentle-
men had finally determined to send a messenger to Damas
to ascertain if he had heard anything of the king.

"What was the condition of affairs when you left
Varennes ? " inquired Damas, eagerly.

"Perfectly quiet."

"Where were the hussars ? "

"At the barracks, with their horses all saddled."

"Did you meet any vehicles on your way here ? "

"Yes, one large coach drawn by four horses and another
with two."

It will be recollected that the queen's attendants occu-
pied the second carriage; and though no allusion has been
made to the cabriolet for some time, it was never very far
behind the royal coach.

" Those are the very carriages you came to inquire
about," replied Damas. "So everything is all right."

So Damas returned to his quarters and ordered the
trumpeters to sound the call to saddle. It was his inten-
tion to follow the king to Varennes and give him armed
assistance there, should necessity reijuire it. In five
minutes the trumpets sounded the call. Everything was



FATE. 281

progressing well, aside from the detention of Dandoins and
the thirty men under his command; but having one hun-
dred and forty men himself, Damas felt that he could
manage very well without any increase of numbers.

Let us now return to the king's coach, which on leaving
Clermont took the road to the left leading to Varennes,
not the right-hand road leading to Verdun.

We have already described the topographical situation
of Varennes, which is divided into the Upper and Lower
Towns. We have also stated that it had been decided to
change horses at the farther end of the town, and that in
order to reach that point it would be necessary to leave
the main road, reach the bridge by another route, cross the
bridge under the old tower, and so meet Choiseul's relays
on the other side, where they would be waiting in charge
of Jules de Bouille and Eaigecourt. As for young Rohrig,
an officer about twenty years of age, the managers of the
affair had not taken him into their confidence, and he still
believed the troops had been sent there to guard a large
sum of money destined for the army.

After their arrival at this dangerous point, the reader
will recollect that Charny was to act as guide through the
labyrinth of cross-roads; for Charny had spent a fortnight
at Varennes, carefully studying and mapping out the
entire route, so that there was not a milestone or a lane
with which he was not familiar.

But, unfortunately, Charny was not at hand, and the
queen's anxiety increased greatly; for under these circum-
stances the count's failure to rejoin the j^arty must be due
to some serious accident.

As they approached Varennes, the king, too, became
more and more uneasy; for, depending upon Charny so
implicitly, he had not brought the count's maps with him.
Besides, the night was very dark, with no light but that
of the stars, — one of those nights when a person is liable
to lose his way even in a locality with which he is
perfectly familiar.



282 LA COMTESSE DE CHARNY.

Isidore's orders, received directly from his brother,
required him to stop on the outskirts of the town. Here
the elder Charny would change horses and assume charge
of the party.

His brother's absence troubled Isidore as much as, and
perhaps even more than, it did the queen. His only hope
now was that Jules de Bouille or Monsieur de Raigecourt,
in their impatience, would come to meet the king and wait
for him on this side of the town. During the two or three
days they had spent there, they must have become
thoroughly acquainted with the town and its surround-
ings, and so be able to serve as efficient guides.

On reaching the bottom of the hill, and perceiving
several lights, which indicated that the town was near,
Isidore paused irresolutely and gazed about him; but he
could distinguish nothing in the profound darkness.

Then he called softly, and afterwards more loudly, the
names of Bouille and Raigecourt, in the hope that they
might be somewhere about. There was no response; but
he could hear the rumble of the coach, nearly a mile away,
which sounded like distant thunder coming nearer and
nearer.

There was nothing for him to do but wait, so he waited.
In five minutes the coach reached the spot where Isidore
was watching, and the king and queen both thrust their
beads out of the window, and asked in the same breath:

"Have you seen your brother ?"

"I have not, sire; and as he is not here, he must have
met with some serious accident in his pursuit of that
wretched Drouet."

The queen groaned.

"What are we to do ? " asked the king. Then, address-
ing the two guardsmen, who had alighted, he said: "Do
you know anything about this town, gentlemen? "

Both replied in the negative.

"Everything seems to be quiet, sire," said Isidore, "so
there cannot be any danger, I think. If your Majesty will



FATE. 283

consent to wait here ten minutes, I will enter the town
and endeavour to obtain some information in regard to
Bouille and Kaigecourt, or at least in regard to Monsieur
de Choiseul's relays. Your Majesty cannot recall the
name of the tavern where the horses were to be found ? "

"Alas! no," replied the king. "I did know it, but I
have forgotten it. No matter; go just the same. In the
mean time, we, too, will endeavour to secure some infor-
mation on the subject."

Isidore galloped off towards the Lower Town, and was
soon lost to view among the first houses.



284 LA COMTESSE DE CHAKNY.



CHAPTER XLII.

JEAN BAPTISTE DROUET.

The king's remark about securing some information where
they were, was explained by the close proximity of two or
three houses, the outposts of the Upper Town, as it were,
which stood on the right-hand side of the road.

Some one was awake, and moving about in the nearest of
these houses, as was evident from a light that stole out
through the half-open door.

The queen left the carriage, took Maiden's arm, and
walked towards the house. As they approached it, some
one inside closed the door, but not quickly enough to
prevent Maiden — who divined the inhospitable inten-
tions of the occupant — from springing forward and push-
ing it open again before the bolt could be slipped into its
socket.

Behind this door, trying hard all the while to shut it,
stood a man about fifty years of age, clad in slippers and
dressing-gown.

It was not without some very natural surprise, of course,
that the man saw himself driven back into his own house,
and his door pushed open by a strange man accompanied
by a woman; but the occupant of the dwelling started
violently as he cast a quick glance at the queen, whose face
was plainly visible in the light of the candle he held in his
hand.

"What do you want, monsieur ?" he asked of Maiden.

"We know nothing about Varennes, and would be much
obliged if you would tell us the way to Stenay."

" And what if my compliance with your request should
become known, and ruin me ? "



JEAN BAPTISTE DROUET. 285

"Ah, monsieur, but even if you should incur some risk
in rendering us such a service, you are surely too cour-
teous not to thus oblige a woman who finds herself in a
dangerous position."

"Monsieur," replied the man, "the person behind you is
no ordinary woman," — and here he placed his mouth close
to Maiden's ear, — "it is the queen."

" Monsieur ! "

"I recognise her."

The queen, who had either overheard or guessed what
had been said, drew Monsieur Maiden back a step or two,
and said: "Before addressing another word to this man,
go and tell the king that I am discovered."

Maiden obeyed the command instantly.

"Indeed ! " said the king. " Then beg the man to come
to me at once."

Maiden returned to the house, and, thinking further dis-
simulation useless, said : " The king desires to speak with
you."

The man sighed, then kicked off his slippers, and walked
to the carriage barefoot, so as to make as little noise as
possible.

"Your name, monsieur?" demanded the king, first of
all.

"Préfontaine, sire," answered the man, hesitatingly.

"Who are you?"

"A major of cavalry and a Knight of the Order of
St. Louis."

" In your two-fold character of Major and Knight of the
Order of St. Louis, you have twice taken an oath of
fidelity to me. It is consequently your bounden duty to
assist me out of my present difficulties."

" Certainly ; but I entreat your Majesty to make haste, for
some one may see me," faltered the major.

"If any one sees you, so much the better," remarked
Maiden. "You will never have a better opportunity to
show your loyalty."



286 LA COMTESSE DE CHARNY.

The major, who did not seem to be of the same opinion,
almost groaned. The queen shrugged her shoulders and
tapped her foot impatiently.

The king shook his head warningly at her, then, ad-
dressing the major, said, —

"Have you chanced to hear of some horses that are
waiting here for a passing carriage, or have you seen any-
thing of some hussars who were to reach your town
yesterday ? "

"Yes, sire, both the horses and the soldiers are at the
other end of the town, — the horses at a tavern called
Le Grand Monarque, the hussars are at the barracks,
probably."

"Thank you, monsieur. Now, return to the house; no
one has seen you, so no harm can possibly befall you."

"Sire — "

The king waited to hear no more, however, but assisted
the queen into the carriage, then, turning to the guards-
men, who were awaiting his orders, he said, —

"To the Grand Monarque."

Just then a shadowy steed shot out from the wood and
planted itself diagonally across the road as its ghostly
rider shouted, —

"Not another step, postilions."

" And why not ? " asked the astonished men.

"Because you are driving the king, who is fleeing from
the country. In the name of the Nation I command you
not to move."

The postilions, who had made a movement as if to drive
on, paused and murmured, "The king ! "

Louis XVI. saw that the critical moment had come, and
called out sternly, —

"Who are you that you dare to give such orders here ?"

"An humble citizen; but I represent the Law, and speak
in the name of the Nation. Postilions, for the second
time I command you not to move. I am Jean Baptiste
Drouet, son of the superintendent of the post-station at
Sainte Menehould."



JEAN BAPTISTE DKOUET. 287

"Wretch!" cried the two guardsmen, springing from
their seats and drawing their hunting-knives; but before
they touched the ground Drouet was riding swiftly
towards the LoAver Town.

"Oh, Charny, Charny, what has happened to you?"
moaned the queen, sinking back in her seat, almost indif-
ferent as to what might befall her now.

What had happened to Charny, and why had he allowed
Drouet to thus escape him ? It seemed, indeed, to have
been Fate against which he had been doomed to contend.

Dandoins' horse was a good traveller, but Drouet had the
advantage of a twenty minutes' start over the count. This
time must needs be made up. Charny stuck his spurs into
his horse's flanks, and the animal started off like the wind.

On the other hand, Drouet, though not aware that he
was pursued, was riding at full speed; but he had only a
post-horse, whereas Charny 's steed was a thoroughbred.
The result was that Charny had gained one-third of the
distance by the time he had ridden a league. Drouet then
discovered that he was pursued, and redoubled his efforts,
in order to escape from the rider who threatened to
overtake him.

At the end of the second league, Charny was still
gaining at the same rate, and Drouet glanced behind again
and again with ever-increasing anxiety.

Drouet had started in such haste that he had failed to
provide himself with any weapon. The youthful patriot
did not fear death, as he proved beyond question after-
wards; but he did fear that if he was checked in his
course the king would get away, and he also feared lest
this splendid opportunity to immortalise his (Drouet's)
name would be lost.

He had two leagues more to travel before reaching
Clermont; but it was evident that he would be overtaken
before the end of the next league, — the third since his
departure from Sainte Menehould.

Just then, as if to stimulate his ardour, Drouet scented



288 LA COMTESSE DE CHARNY.

the royal coach in front of him. We say "scented," for
it was already after nine o'clock and nearly dark, though
this was one of the longest days in the year; so Drouet
plied whip and spur still more vigorously. The coach
was barely three-quarters of a league from Clermont now,
but Charny was barely two hundred yards behind him, and
Drouet began to despair. Before he could overtake the
king, he himself would be overtaken.

A half league from Clermont he heard the ring of Charny 's
horse's hoofs close behind him, and he must either give
up the race or turn and face his pursuer; and Drouet had
no weapons with which to risk such an encounter.

Suddenly, when Charny was within about fifty yards of
him, Drouet met the postilions returning to Sainte Mene-
hould with horses which he recognised as those that had
been attached to the king's coach.

"Ah, it is you !" he called out. "They took the road
to Verdun, did n't they ? "

" What ? "

"I mean that the carriages you drove took the road to
Verdun." And as he spoke he rode by them, urging his
horse to a final effort.

"No, the road to Varennes," shouted the postilions.

Drouet uttered a cry of joy. He was saved, and the
king was lost.

If the king had taken the road to Verdun, Drouet would
have been compelled to follow him along the same road;
but the king had chosen to go from Clermont to Varennes,
and the road from Clermont to Varennes described an
acute angle to the left; so Drouet made for the Forest of
Argonne, with which he was thoroughly acquainted ; for by
taking a short cut through the woods he could save at least
a quarter of an hour, besides having the obscurity of the
forest to protect him.

Charny, who knew the country almost as well as Drouet,
saw that the latter was likely to escape him after all, and
uttered a cry of rage, and almost simultaneously with



JEAN BAPTISTE DEOUET. 289

Drouet urged his horse across the narrow strip of land that
lay between the road and the forest, shouting, —

"Stop ! stop !"

But Drouet made no response. Lying upon his horse's
neck, he urged the animal on with whip and spur and
voice. If he could only reach the forest, it was all he
asked. He did reach it, but only to find himself ten yards
from Charny, who drew a pistol and aimed it at him,
shouting: "Halt, or you 're a dead man ! "

But Drouet only clung still more closely to his horse's
neck, and urged him on.

Charny pulled the trigger; but the sparks of fire as the
flint struck the steel served only to illumine the surround-
ing darkness for an instant.

Enraged by this failure, Charny flung the pistol at
Drouet, and drew a second, riding madly after the fugi-
tive all the while. Again he fired, this time through an
opening between the trees; but this pistol, too, failed him
as the first had done.

Then, and not until then, did he remember that as he
galloped out of Sainte Menehould, Monsieur Dandoins had
shouted something after him which he failed to understand.

"Ah !" thought Charny, "I took the wrong horse, and
he probably called out to me that the pistols on this horse
were not loaded. No matter; I will overtake this scoun-
drel and strangle him with my own hands if need be."

And he flew on in pursuit of the shadowy form, of which
he had just caught another glimpse in the darkness.

But he had hardly advanced a hundred yards into the
forest, of which he knew little or nothing, when his horse
stumbled, and fell into a ditch. Charny, who was thrown
over the animal's head, jumped up and leaped into the
saddle again ; but Drouet had disappeared.

It was in this way that Drouet had managed to elude
Charny , and so dart across the highway near Varennes like
a phantom , and order the postilions not to advance a step
farther.

VOL. II. — 19



290 LA COMTESSE DE CHARNY.

And the postilions obeyed because Drouet had com-
manded them to pause in the name of the Nation, which
had become more potent in the land than that of the king.

But Drouet had scarcely started for the Lower Town
before the royal party could hear the hoof-beats of an
approaching as well as a departing steed, and Isidore
reappeared a moment afterwards.

The information he had secured corroborated that fur-
nished by Monsieur de Préfontaine. The horses were at
the other end of the town, in charge of Jules de Bouille
and young Kaigecourt; the other officer, young Rohrig,
was at the barracks with the hussars. A waiter in a café
who was just closing up the establishment for the night
had given Isidore these particulars.

Isidore had hoped to bring joy to the hearts of the illus-
trious travellers, but they seemed to be plunged into a sort
of stupor. Préfontaine was filling the air with his lamen-
tations, and the two guardsmen seemed to be savagely
threatening something or somebody; so Isidore paused
abruptly in the middle of his story, and asked, —

" What is the matter, gentlemen ? "

"Didn't you see a man pass you just now, — a man
riding at a gallop ? "

"Yes, sire."

"Well, that man was Drouet," said the king.

" Drouet ! " cried Isidore, his heart suddenly failing
him; "then my brother is dead."

The queen uttered a cry, and buried her face in her
hands.



THE TOLLGATE TOWEK. 291



CHAPTER XLIII.



THE TOLLGATE TOWER.



There was a moment of utter despondency for these
unfortunate travellers, thus detained on the highway, and
threatened with unknown but terrible perils.

Isidore was the first to rally from the shock. "Sire,"
said he, "let us cease to think of my brother, living or
dead, and think only of your Majesty. There is not a
second to lose. The postilions must know the hotel; we
will hasten there at once. Postilions, whip up your
horses. To the Grand Monarque at once ! "

But the postilions did not move.

"Don't you hear me?" thundered Isidore.

"Yes."

"Then why don't you start ?"

"Because Monsieur Drouet forbids us to do so."

"What? Drouet forbids ! When the king commands,
and Drouet forbids, you obey Drouet ! "

"We obey the Nation."

"Come, gentlemen," cried Isidore to the two guardsmen,
"there are times when a man's life counts for nothin^r.
Each of you pick out your man, — I'll take care of this
one; then we will drive ourselves."

As he spoke, he collared the postilion nearest him, and
lifted his hunting-knife to plunge it into his heart.

The queen saw the blades glitter, and screamed, " Hold,
gentlemen, hold ! " Then, addressing the postilions, she
added: "Fifty louis, my friends, to be divided between
you now, and a yearly pension of five hundred francs each,
if you save the king."



292 LA COMTESSE DE CHARNY.

The postilions were either frightened by the threatening
demonstration the young man had just made, or tempted
by the queen's muuiticent ofïer, for they started their
horses, and the journey was resumed.

Monsieur de Préfontaine retreated into his dwelling, and
closed and barred the door.

Isidore galloped along in front of the coach. He in-
tended to pass through the Upper Town and cross the
bridge. Five minutes would then bring them to the inn.

The coach fairly flew down the hill towards the Lower
Town ; but as they neared the archway at the end of the
bridge they could see that one half of the tollgate was
closed. They opened it, but found two or three wagons
standing directly in the road.

"Help me, gentlemen," exclaimed Isidore, dismounting,
and catching hold of one of the wagons.

Just then the roll of a drum and the notes of an alarm-
bell broke the stillness of the air. Drouet's work was
accomplished.

" Scoundrel ! " hissed Isidore between his clenched
teeth, "if I ever find you — "

By an almost superhuman effort he pushed one big
wagon aside; Maiden and Valory moved another; but the
third still obstructed the way.

"ISTow for the last one," exclaimed Isidore; but as he
spoke, four or five muskets were thrust out from between
the slats of the third wagon.

"Not another step, or you are dead men!" cried a
determined voice.

" Don't try to force a passage, gentlemen, I command
you," said the king, putting his head out of the carriage
window.

The two guardsmen and Isidore stepped back.

" What is wanted ? " demanded the king.

Almost at the same instant a cry of terror resounded
from the coach. Several men had stolen up behind the
vehicle, and the barrels of several muskets had been thrust



THE TOLLGATE TOWER. 293

in at the windows. One of these was aimed straight at
the queen's breast. Isidore saw her danger, and, springing
forward, grasped the muzzle, and turned the weapon
aside,

"Shoot, shoot !" cried several voices. One of the men
obeyed, but fortunatelj^ his gun missed fire.

Isdiore raised his arm, and was about plunging his hunt-
ing-knife into the miscreant's heart, when the queen stayed
his hand.

"In Heaven's name let me put an end to this scoundrel,
madame," cried Isidore, frantically.

"No, sheathe your knife. Do you hear me ?" responded
the queen.

Isidore let the knife fall at his side, but he did not
restore it to his belt. " Ah, if I encounter that Drouet — "
he murmured.

"As for him," whispered the queen, pressing Isidore's
arm forcibly, "as for him, — do with him as you will."

"Now, gentlemen, what do you desire?" repeated the
king.

"We want to see your passports," responded two or
three voices.

" Our passports ? Very well. Bring the proper authori-
ties here, and we will show them our passports."

"These are fine goings-on, upon my word !" exclaimed
the man whose gun had missed fire, thrusting his head
almost into the king's face. But the two guardsmen
sprang upon him and felled him to the ground. In the
struggle his gun went off, but the bullet hit nobody.

"Halloo ! who fired ?" shouted another voice.

The man, who was being crushed under the feet of the
two guardsmen, groaned, and cried, "Help, help ! " Five
or six armed men rushed to his assistance ; the guardsmen
drew their knives and prepared for a fight. The king and
queen attempted in vain to quell the disturbance. It was
evident that a fierce and deadly combat was about to
begin.



294 LA COMTESSE DE CHARNY.

At that juncture, two men rushed into the midst of
the combatants. One was attired in the uniform of the
National Guards, the other wore a tricoloured sash. The
man with the tricoloured sash was Monsieur Sausse,
the town solicitor; the man in uniform was Hannonet,
the commander of the Varennes National Guard. Behind
them, about twenty muskets could be seen glittering in the
light of two or three torches.

The king saw that immunity from insult, and perhaps
his very life itself, depended upon these two men.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I am willing to trust myself, as
well as the persons who accompany me, to you ; but protect
us from the brutality of those men."

And as he spoke, he pointed to the men armed with
muskets.

"Put down your guns ! " cried Hannonet.

The men obeyed, though not without considerable grum-
bling.

"You must excuse us, monsieur," said the town soli-
citor, "but it is reported that his Majesty Louis XVI.
is fleeing from France, and it is our duty to ascertain if
this report is true."

"Ascertain if it is true ! " cried Isidore. " If this coach
contains the king, you should be at the king's feet; if, on
the contrary, it contains only a private individual, what
right have you to stop it ? "

"Monsieur," said Sausse, still addressing the king, "I
am speaking to you. Will you do me the honour to
reply."

"Try to gain a little time, sire," whispered Isidore.


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