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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 15


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The king, who had calculated that he should have escaped his last danger at this point, was confounded and greatly cast down: he said that he felt as if the earth was opening under his feet to swallow him up, and he was not of a spirit to surmount discouragements.

It was half-past eight in the evening when they reached St. Menehold, and there they found the detachment of cavalry that waited for them, but not ready mounted, or ready to mount. They had unsaddled and put up their horses for the night, and though M. Valory, who rode foremost as courier, found the commander, the commander found it impossible to get his men to horse. They had been drinking, and refused to turn out after being on horseback all day. There was a blunder in not finding the post-house all at once, and whilst the horses were changing, Louis completed the sum of his imprudences by putting his head out, and asking the post-master the cross-road to Varennes. The post-master, who had been in Paris, instantly recognised him. He took out an assignat, compared the face of the portly gentleman in the round hat with that on the paper-money, and was certain. This post-master Drouet was one of the most determined jacobins in France. He, as well as his neighbours, had long been on the qui vive, from the protestations of Marat and the other journalists that the king was intending flight. Drouet and his assistant, Guillaume, instantly mounted and followed after the berline. Scarcely was the carriage out of the town, when the tocsin was sounded, and the national guards turned out, and the cry went through the town that the king was escaping, and that the cavalry must not be suffered to leave. Only one of the cavalry seems to have made any attempt at getting away, and this was Legache, a quartermaster, who took the reins of his horse in his teeth, and, with a pistol in each hand, dashed through the crowds, and made his way out of St. Menehold, amid bullets and stones whistling around his head.

Legache, as soon as he caught sight of the berline, saw also a horseman steadily trotting after it; and, having no doubt of the rider's object, he spurred on his horse, determining to put a bullet-through the head of the intruder. But the man, whether it were Drouet or Guillaume, did not wait for him; he struck into a side road, and galloped off, pursued by Legache, till he was lost in the darkness. The quartermaster, thus defeated, returned to the highway, and rode after the berline.

All was now alarm in the royal party, and the horses were put forward at a great speed. They reached Clermont at half-past nine at night, and found there count Charles de Damas, with a detachment of a hundred and forty dragoons. All would now have appeared hopeful. No time was lost there, double drink-money was offered to the postillions, and they went off with their fresh horses at rapid speed. Count de Damas had exchanged a few words with the king whilst the horses were changing, probably to inform him that the detachment would not follow instantly on the carriage, for fear of creating suspicion; but he sent on a trusty young cornet, named Remy, to ride in all haste before the king to Varennes, and have the cavalry there prepared to receive the royal party, and conduct it onward without a moment's delay. But the quick departure of Remy roused the suspicions of the townsmen of Clermont; they sounded the tocsin, flew to arms, put lights in their windows, and swore that the dragoons should not quit the place. They had no desire to quit. The moment Damas ordered them to draw their swords and follow him, they showed him that they were of another meaning. Only two subaltern officers followed him.

Meantime, Remy had lost his way, and did not arrive at Varennes in time to have the soldiers in the saddle, and the bridge kept clear. When the royal family arrived, at half- past eleven o'clock, the soldiers were all in their beds, and Valory, who acted as courier, and acted so ill, had to gallop about to find where the relay of horses was. All this roused the people from their beds; but not the soldiers. The commander of the detachment was young Bouille, the son of the marshal, from whom more vigilance might have been expected; but he had gone to bed at ten o'clock, and was only roused when it was too late. The king declared that he would proceed with the old post-horses, and, had he done that, he would have been saved; but, unfortunately for him and the whole family, the new relay was just then found, and, after the delays already, and the fresh one of getting these put to, all was over. The inhabitants were all alert. Drouet, the postmaster of St. Menehold, had arrived, had procured help, and by overturning a wagon under the archway of the old bridge, over which they must pass, had barricaded it, and there he stood behind the barricade, with a number of other fellows armed with muskets.

As the berline approached the bridge, Drouet and his accomplices rushed out, seized the horses, cried " Halt!" and, presenting their muskets at each window, demanded the passports. These were delivered; but Drouet said they must be examined by the solicitor of the commune. This solicitor, a M. Sauce, a tallow-chandler and grocer, presently appeared, with a crowd of people after him. He requested the royal family to quit the carriage and proceed to his house, to await superior orders. Had young Bouille been to horse with his dragoons they might soon have put to flight the rabble, including the redoubtable Drouet, and have dragged the wagon out of the way; but neither he nor his men were yet visible, and the dejected captives took their way back to the solicitor and tallow-chandler's shop. Sauce, who was a thorough democrat, had yet the politeness to offer an arm each to the queen and madame Elizabeth, the king took the dauphin and the little daughter by the hand, and, followed by madame de Tourzel and the three body-guards, they traced their way through the midnight streets of Varennes to M. Sauce's dwelling. Being introduced into a couple of little rooms over the shop, some bread and cheese and a bottle of burgundy were set before them; and the king, spite of his danger and anxiety, ate heartily.

He then insisted that Sauce should vise his passport, and allow them to proceed. Sauce replied that all would be right in the morning; but that at present the wagon had to be drawn out of the gateway, and the people were in a great state of excitement. " Then," said the king, " we will cross the ford below the town." " But that," replied Sauce, "I have had strongly defended with stakes and crows feet for fear of the Austrians." " Then, by all means," said the king, " let the bridge be cleared." Sauce went out as if for this purpose, but only to consult with his colleagues on the exigencies of the case; and Marie Antoinette seized the opportunity to try the effect of womanly sympathy and persuasion on the tallow-chandler's wife. " She went down with her into the back part of the shop, and there, sitting down between two piles of candles," says madame Campan, " she conversed with madame Sauce, who seemed to be a woman of weight in her own household, and whom M. Sauce eyed, from time to time, as if to consult her; but the only reply the queen got was, ' What would you have, madame? Your situation is very unfortunate; but you see that would expose M. Sauce; they would cut his head off. A wife ought to think for her husband.' 'Well,' replied the queen, ' mine is your king; he has long made you happy, and wishes to do so still.'"

But all was unavailing. Madame Sauce knew too well that the king's release was the chandler's destruction, and by this time the shop and the rooms above were crowded with people, gazing at the novel sight of the royal family in custody. They did not evince any respect for the sovereign or his family. " You know you are the king," said a national guardsman; " why don't you confess it like an honest man?" The queen, resenting this language, said, " As you believe him to be the king, speak to him with the respect you owe to the king!" The two poor children, worn out with fatigue, lay and slept, amid all the hubbub, on the bed of Madame Sauce. By this time, young de Bouille was to have arrived with his dragoons; but the alarm had become general, two thousand national guards were on foot, and thousands of others were marching towards the place. De Bouille thought it best to dash through the river, and make for his father's post, that he might hasten up with a powerful force. He succeeded in crossing the Aire, a narrow but deep river, and galloped off to Stenay, where he believed his father to be. Scarcely was he gone, when the duke of Choiseul and M. Goguelat arrived with forty dragoons from Somme-vesle.

Every movement was thus a failure. Had young de Bouille and Choiseul met and united their forces, they might have succeeded in forcing the bridge, or the ford, and carrying off the royal family; but now, not finding De Bouille, Choiseul and Goguelat went to the tallow chandler's, where they also met count Damas, who had arrived from Clermont, but without his insubordinate detachment. This was the scene which presented itself, according to Choiseul's own narrative: - " The king and the royal family were in two dirty rooms on the first floor. I ascended by a crooked staircase. In the front room, which faced the street, I found some armed country people, two of whom, with pitchforks in their hands, stood sentinels at the door of the inner room, wherein the king was. They attempted to oppose my entrance, but I pushed them aside, and entered sword in hand. In the midst of that filthy chamber was a table with bread and some glasses upon it. On a bed the exhausted dauphin was sleeping, and madame de Tourzel was seated on the bedside with her head leading on her hands, and having near her mesdames Brünier and Neuville, the two waiting-women who had followed the berline in the chaise. Near the window were madame Elizabeth and the little princess-royal. The king and queen were standing and talking with M. Sauce and one or two municipals; and, at the end of the room, seated upon chairs, were the three gardes-du-corps.

"My sudden entrance, followed by that of Damas and Goguelat, interrupted the conversation. The queen and madame Elizabeth came up to me and took my hand with joy and kindness. The king received me in the same manner. We took their majesties aside, explained the situation of affairs, and asked the kind's orders. I asked where was young De Bouille with his dragoons? The king replied that he had not so much as seen one of them. One of us said we believed they were killed before the wheels of the royal carriage. The king said, 'What is to be done?' i You must try and escape,' said M. de Damas. I added, ' Give your orders, sire. I have here forty hussars that may cut their way as far as Dun; something must be done at once.'"

Choiseul proposed to mount the royal party on hussar horses, surround them with the hussars, and cut their way out of the town. The thing, to a spirited king, might yet, probably, have succeeded, for not only De Bouille, but an orderly, whom De Choiseul dispatched to bring up the detachment of captain Deslons from Dun, managed to cross the river; but Louis was no hero. He said, if he were alone, he would try it, but that with the ladies and the children it was impossible, though there is very little doubt but that the children and the ladies would have shown more courage and address than himself. Poor Louis said that M. Sauce did not forbid his proceeding, but that he demanded that this should not be till morning, and that he should take a body of the national guards with him as an escort. And all this time national guards and armed peasantry were pouring into the town from all quarters, so that before the morning there are said to have been ten thousand national guards alone. None but poor Louis XVI. could for a moment have put any faith in the jacobin lawyer and tallow-chandler's transparent proposal.

Captain Deslons was at the bridge of Varennes with a hundred men by five o'clock in the morning, but he found the bridge strongly barricaded, and, though he made his own way into the town, leaving his soldiers behind him, he could effect nothing. By this time, the hussars of Choiseul, though chiefly Germans, had been treated with wine and corrupted by the patriots, and they began to cry, "Vive la nation! " Deslons was in constant expectation of seeing the troops of Bouille come up from Stenay, the next place to Dun; but Bouille had been much nearer than Stenay; he had been that night posted close to Dun, and it seems strange that he had not made captain Deslons aware of it. Not seeing the royal carriage arrive, he had marched back at daylight to Stenay, so that at the moment that Deslons was expecting him from Stenay, he was returning thither. There it was that he found his son, the messenger of ill tidings, who had, in reality, galloped past the very place where De Bouille had been secretly posted near Dun. Marshal Bouille, in great consternation, instantly ordered the royal German regiment to horse, but these troops, too, were in bed; they could not start before five o'clock, and as it was twenty-five miles to Varennes, and through a bad and mountainous road, it was a quarter past nine before he reached the vicinity of Varennes, having had to disperse a party of national guards, who fired on them from a wood. On coming up with the detachment of captain Deslons, that officer informed him that the king had been forced, with his family, on the arrival of an aide-de-camp from M. La Eayette, to re-enter the berline, and return towards Paris, and that they had been gone full an hour and a half. To this astounding intelligence he added that the soldiers at Clermont and at Varennes had been corrupted; that Choiseul, Damas, and Goguelat, were all arrested; and that the king had said that he feared nothing could be done to benefit him, but that he hoped Bouille would do what ho could.

In fact, Romeauf, the aide-de-camp of La Fayette, arrived at half-past six in the morning, with the decree of the assembly for the arrest of the king. He found the berline with the horses already put to, and their heads turned towards Paris. He entered the chamber where the royal family was, and presented the decree to the king. Louis, on receiving it, murmured, in a dejected manner, "lama prisoner; there is no longer any king!" There was a general burst of indignation at La Fayette for causing them to be arrested. Romeauf replied that both his general and himself had done their duty with great pain, and had wished that he might not overtake them. The queen replied that she wondered that he, a gentleman and soldier, should charge himself with such a commission. The king threw the decree on the bed where the dauphin was still sleeping; the queen snatched it up, saying it would pollute her child. Rumours having arrived that Bouille was in quick march for Varennes, the royal family were hurried into the berline, and at half-past seven o'clock they were on their way back to Paris and the scaffold! The three gardes-du-corps were tied to the coachbox like felons, and an immense rabble of national guards and of other people surrounded and followed the carriage in a frenzy of wonder and delight at having their king for a captive. They dragged along with them the only two old, rusty cannons that Varennes was in possession of. Just as they quitted the town, the vicomte Dampierre, who had heard of the king's arrest, and had hastened up to the carriage to kiss the king's hand with tears in hiä eyes, was at once stabbed and trodden under foot by this sanguinary mob.

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