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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 14


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Having blown this viper breath against parties in general, he went on to specify the most deadly traitor of all, and this was no other than the national assembly itself. He declared that it was a perfect den of traitors and counter-revolutionists, and that, having made this avowal, so fatal to himself, he regarded himself as a sacrifice doomed for the good of his country, and he threw himself on the people for protection. This was taking a vast stride towards the same dictatorship for which Marat had been crying from another quarter, and with a deeper manner; and the whole club swore to defend the life of M. Robespierre with their own lives. Scarcely was this scene over, when La Fayette, Sieyes, and a number of other members of the national assembly, which had thus been so fearfully denounced, appeared in the hall. They had not been seen there for a long time, and their appearance gave new support to the dark words of Robespierre. It was plain that they trembled for their safety from this club of assassins, and where anxious to conciliate them. But Danton started up, and, with his voice of thunder, denounced La Fayette as a traitor to the cause of the revolution; of having, as Marat had proclaimed, been with Bailly accomplices in the escape of the king. He heaped on his head all the accusations which the ferocious clubbists and journalists had brought against him, and equally accused Bailly and many of the earliest revolutionists. He declared that the heads of these men were forfeited to the scaffold. La Fayette defended himself and his colleagues, as amongst the first and the sincerest friends of the people, but then he was glad to withdraw. His absence only drew forth more violent denunciations, and it was insisted that he should be summoned back again, to answer to the charges against him; but La Fayette knew better than to trust himself again in the den of the anthropophagi. The blood-storm was evidently coming rapidly on the wind.

Louis with his family, meanwhile - for all this took place during the first day of his flight - was posting away in his huge berline, with the prospect, as he hoped, of a safe arrival amongst his friends, and a most inexpressibly happy escape from his intolerable subjects. Preparations for this journey had been begun in the palace so early as the month of March. No sooner had the count Alphonse de Durfort, who had been sent from Mantua by the emperor to learn the real sentiments of Louis, returned, than Leopold began to make the necessary disposition of his troops, and Louis to correspond with marshal Bouilld on the plan of his escape. This plan was to retire to Montmedy, where he might, in case of need, be supported by Luxembourg, and receive foreign aid. The Chalons road, by Clermont and Varennes, was preferred, contrary to the advice of Bouille. All the preparations were made for starting on the 20th of June, when Louis informed Bouille that the Austrian troops would be in Luxembourg. Bouille assembled the troops on which he could place most reliance, prepared a camp at Montmedy, collected forage; and, when the keen eyes of the jacobins noted these movements, he alleged as the cause the drawing of the Austrian army towards the frontiers, and that he was determined to give them a warm reception, if they dared to set foot on the soil of France. From Paris to Chalons the queen took on herself all the arrangements, from Chalons Bouille was charged with this important duty. He therefore stationed a strong force to cover Montmedy, and disposed eight foreign battalions, chiefly Germans and Swiss, along the road, at the distance of one, two, and three days' march, besides having thirty squadrons of horse on the alert. He posted two squadrons of dragoons at Clermont to receive the king on his arrival, under the command of the faithful count Charles de Damas, who was to place a detachment at St. Menehold, and another detachment at the bridge of Somme-vesle, between Chalons and St. Menehold. Thus every precaution seemed taken which human foresight and sagacity could adopt; and, had the plan been carried out as well by the royal party as it had been planned, especially on the part of Bouille, success was certain.

But punctuality was not a virtue of poor Louis XVI. Bouille had settled everything; but Louis threw everything out of joint by not keeping his time. He had informed Bouille that he should quit the Tuileries on the 19th of June, at about one o'clock in the morning; that he should proceed as far as Bondi in a common coach, and there take his own carriage. He desired Bouille to send to him the duke de Choiseul or M. Goguelat, that they might give the necessary orders on the road. De Bouille sent them both, but at two days' interval. De Choiseul was to return after receiving the king's orders, and take the command of the troops at the bridge of Somme-vesle, and escort the royal family to St. Menehold. All these arrangements being completed, Bouille, to his consternation, received a letter from the king, informing him that he could not set out till the 20th, by which everything was thrown into uncertainty. Bad as this was, they did not really set out till the night of the 21st, by which everything was made worse. Not an hour ought to have been let slip, after the long previous preparations, which, as we have seen from madame Campan's account, had not only been watched, but betrayed by the wardrobe-woman. Madame Campan had, in fact, been kept in a constant state of alarm by the many arrangements regarding dress and jewels which the queen thought it necessary to make. " It was with pain," she says, " that I saw the queen occupying herself about these matters, which seemed to me useless and even dangerous; and I remarked to her that the queen of France would find chemises and gowns everywhere. My observations were made in vain; she determined to have a complete wardrobe with her at Brussels, as well for her children as herself. I went out alone, and almost disguised, to purchase the articles necessary, and to have them made up."

Besides the quantities of linen, and dresses for herself and children, which the queen would insist on preparing, and which were sent off to the widow of the mayor of Arras, who was one of the queen's women with unlimited leave of absence, and who, having property in Flanders, could take them thither without suspicion, Marie Antoinette determined to take with her travelling dressing-case. " She consulted me," says madame Campan, u upon her idea of sending it off under pretence of making a present of it to the archduchess Christina, governess of the Low Countries. I ventured to oppose this plan strongly, and I observed to her that, amidst so many people, who watched not only her flight but actions, it might reasonably be foreseen that there would be found a sufficient number sharp-sighted enough to discover that the word present was used only as a pretence for sending away the property in question, before her departure. She persisted in her intention, and all that I could obtain was, that the dressing-case should not be removed from the apartment, and a consent that M. de ***, charge-d'affaires, from the court of Vienna, during the absence of the count de Merey, should come and ask her at her toilette, before all her people, to order one exactly like her own for the governess of the Low Countries. She therefore commanded me, before the charge-d'affaires, to order the article in question. This way of putting her intention in execution occasioned only the slight inconvenience of an expense of five hundred and eighty louis, and appeared calculated to lull suspicion completely.

" About the middle of May, 1791, a month after the queen had ordered me to bespeak the dressing-case, she asked me whether it would soon be finished. I sent for the ivory-turner who had it in hand. He could not complete it until the end of six weeks. I informed the queen of this, and she told me she should not be able to wait for it, as she was about to set out in the course of June. She added that she had ordered her sister's dressing-case in the presence of all her attendants; she had taken a sufficient precaution especially in saying that her sister was impatient at not receiving it, and that, therefore, her own must be emptied and cleaned, and taken to the charge-d'affaires, who would send it off. 1 executed this order without appearing to conceal it by the slightest mystery. I desired the wardrobe- woman to take out of the dressing-case all that it contained, because that intended for the archduchess could not be finished for some time, and to take care to leave no remains of the perfumes, which might not suit that princess. All these precautions were no less useless than dangerous."

The wardrobe-woman had, in fact, penetrated the whole scheme. She was not at all deceived by the order for the new dressing-case. In the evidence that she had given to the authorities she said, " It was supposed that she would not guess the true reason for the dressing-case being sent from the queen to Brussels, but that the mention of a present made by her majesty to her sister was but a mere pretence; that her majesty liked the article in question too well to think of depriving herself of it; and that she had often said it would be highly useful to her in case she should have a journey to perform." She had, as we have seen, also discovered, by means of her private key, the packing of the jewels belonging to this case. These diamonds she afterwards dispatched by Lunard, her hair-dresser, who went with the due de Choiseul, so that they were taken safely out of France. The crown diamonds she had already surrendered to the commissioners of the assembly. The wily ward- robe-woman had also missed a certain very valuable portfolio, which the queen had, through madame Campan, intrusted to the private keeping of madame Valayer Coster, a member of the Academy of Painting, who kept the secret faithfully.

With such packings and preparations, and a female spy in the very midst of it all, taking notes and conveying the facts to her paramour, the aide-de-camp of La Fayette, the only wonder is that La Fayette did not take such measures as to render escape impossible. But, wonderful as it is, no especial precautions appear to have been taken. Everything was arranged for the departure on the 20th of June, but some alarm caused it to be deferred to the 21st - a fatal delay! Though the committee of research had been warned of the coming flight, and the national guards had been put on more vigilant watch, neither La Fafayette, nor even the minister, Montmorin, who was in the confidence of the court, knew of it - only those who were indispensable to the execution of the plan were in the secret. The queen had secured a private door - that of the duke de Villequier - at which no sentinel was placed, for quitting the palace.

On the evening of the 21st, the royal family supped together, and retired to their bedchambers at their usual hour. It had been arranged by the count de Ferson, a young and chivalrous Swede, sent by Gustavus, the king of Sweden, who had sworn himself the true knight of Marie Antoinette, that he should drive them a certain distance in the berline which he had ordered, disguised as their coachman. He had procured a passport, without any difficulty, for a baroness de Korff, who was on the point of returning to Russia with two children, a valet, a femme-de-chambre, and other attendants. The king was to disguise himself as the valet. All being now still in the palace, the royal party issued forth in their disguises, through the apartments of the duke de Villequier, who had scarcely been in them since the day of poniards. The first who issued forth were madame de Tourzel, the governess, and the two royal children. As Madame de Korff's children were both girls, the dauphin was disguised as a little girl. He was roused from his sleep to be thus dressed, and asked, in wonder, whether they were going to act a comedy - no, unfortunately, it was a tragedy! Then came madame Elizabeth, dressed in a plain travelling dress and gipsy hat, which dress the queen also had assumed. Madame was attended by her equerry, M. de Saint Pardoux. Then followed the king, dressed in a brown coat, wig, and round hat, as the valet-de-charnbre of the Russian baroness, and leaning on the arm of a life-guardsman, disguised as a courier. Lastly, followed the queen, attended by her equerry, also in the costume of a courier. A voiture de remise, or carriage, of the kind that then plied for hire, was waiting for them a very short distance in the Place du Petit Carrousel, at the corner of the Rue de l'Echelle, and the count de Ferson was seated on the box in his coachman's disguise. Unfortunately, as the queen was proceeding thither, they met the carriage of La Fayette, with his numerous attendants walking on each side with torches. They passed so near, that Marie Antoinette, for fear of recognition, retreated beneath the wickets of the Louvre; but when the glare of lights had passed, in her confusion, she missed her way; nor was her attendant able to set her and himself right till they had lost an hour, every moment of which was of the most precious value, and which seemed an age to the alarmed and wondering party already in the coach. They at length reached the carriage, but not before the equerry had lost his way, and involved himself in a labyrinth of streets and quays, and at length was compelled to ask his road of a sentinel, who, however, did not at all suspect him. They were compelled then to return and to cross the court of the Tuileries, close to the garde-du-corps and the sentinels. Once in the carriage, they drove off rapidly; but very soon the noble coachman, who, it would seem, had not sufficiently acquainted himself with his route beforehand, also got wrong, and lost some time.

Count Ferson drove them to Bondi, where they found the berline, which, with six horses, and mounted postillions, had been waiting for them an hour and a half. Count Ferson then took his leave, and made his way to a place where his own carriage was waiting for him, and was soon safe at Brussels. The great berline then rolled on its way, followed by another carriage, containing two of the queen's waiting- women, and attended by three body-guards, who rode before, or followed after as servants. They continued their way safely to Chalons, where, on crossing the old bridge into the town, the postillions ran the berline against some of the timbers, and broke the traces, as well as doing some damage to the carriage. This necessitated both delay and danger during the repairs, which took half an hour, for the king, forgetting all prudence, would continually put his head out of the carriage, and various persons already believed they recognised him. However, they proceeded to Pont de Somme-vesle, three leagues farther, where they expected to find the first detachment of forty dragoons and the duke de Choiseul, but found neither duke nor soldiers. This occasioned them great anxiety, and was the first break in the chain of their plans, which threatened destruction to the whole scheme. The fact was, that through the delays mentioned, and through the king insisting on getting out and walking up the hills to spare the horses, the carriage was four hours behind its time. Whilst De Choiseul was waiting and watching in deepest anxiety, at not seeing either the carriage or a courier arriving to announce it, the country had taken alarm. The soldiers were supposed to be a detachment sent to compel the people on the estate of the princess of Elboeuf, near Somme-vesle, to pay their taxes, which they had refused to do. Accordingly, the peasants began sounding the tocsin through all the villages, to call their neighbours to assist them against the soldiers. The people of Somme-vesle, too, began to wonder why these dragoons were posted there, and sent out a party of national guards to reconnoitre. Then arose whispers that the dragoons were waiting for the queen, and the cry was to double the guards, and shut the gates. Choiseul therefore thought that to remain on the spot, under the circumstances, was to really close the way of the royal family, and he fell back. But he committed the capital mistake of falling back altogether, supposing the enterprise had miscarried; and of sending an order down the road to the other detachments to wait no longer. He says himself that he only quitted Pont Somme-vesle at six in the evening, and at half-past six the royal party arrived on the same spot; so that only half an hour was betwixt the full success of the scheme and its utter failure. Choiseul has been blamed for not leaving one or more persons to watch for the king's carriage, and inform him of the circumstance; but whom was he to leave? He had only soldiers, who would be immediately suspected and seized; and, moreover, he could not confide his secret to them. Had he fallen back awhile out of observation, and waited another hour, all would have been right; but fate, or a more powerful decider of events, seemed at work against this unfortunate family.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 14

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Russian peasants
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Death of Mirabeau
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Royal family of France
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Danton
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National Assembly
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Assassination of Gustavus III
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Sans Culottes
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