Read The Countess De Charny - Volume II Online

Authors: Alexandre Dumas

Tags: #Classics, #Historical

The Countess De Charny - Volume II (8 page)

BOOK: The Countess De Charny - Volume II
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“That is, trust myself to Lafayette.”

“He has certainly proved his devotion to you beyond all question.”

“No, monsieur, no. With these five thousand men, and five thousand more who will come at our bidding, I prefer to do something very different, — crush this rebellion now and for ever.”

“Ah, madame, madame, he was right when he told me you were doomed.”

“Who said that?”

” A man whose name I dare not repeat in your presence. A man who has warned you three times already.”

“Silence!” cried the queen, turning pale. “He shall be proved a liar, this prophet of evil! “

” Madame, I am very much afraid that you are wilfully deceiving yourself.”

” You really think they will make an attack upon us, then?”

“There is certainly a strong probability of it.”

” And do the populace think they can gain an entrance here now as they did on the 20th of June? “



“A palace can never be very strongly fortified.”

“No; but if you will come with me, I will show you that we shall at least be able to hold out some time.”

And, preceding Gilbert to the window, she bade him look out upon the Carrousel, where they could see, not the immense courtyard which now extends along the entire front of the palace, but three small courtyards, separated from each other by walls.

“Look!” she exclaimed.

And Gilbert saw that the walls had been pierced with many narrow loopholes, which would afford the garrison a decided advantage in case it was necessary to fire upon the mob. If this first barrier was passed, the garrison could retire, not only into the palace, every door of wliicli opened upon a courtyard, but also into the side buildings; so any patriots who ventured into either courtyard would find themselves betwixt two fires.

“Whab do you think now, monsieur?” asked the queen. “Would you still advise Monsieur Barbaroux and his five hundred Marseillais to persist in their undertaking?”

” If they were likely to listen to me, I should give them advice very similar to that which I have offered you. I came to ask you not to wait for an attack, I should ask them not to make an attack.”

“And they would turn a deaf ear to your advice, probably.”

“Yes, as you do, madame. It is one of the greatest weaknesses of mankind to be always asking for advice, which one has no intention of following.”

“But you forget that the advice you give us is not solicited. Monsieur Gilbert,” remarked the queen, smiling.

“True,” responded the doctor, retreating a step or two.

“But that makes us all the more grateful for it,” added the queen, graciously, offering the doctor her hand.

Gilbert smiled rather dubiously.

Just then several waggons loaded with heavy oak timbers were driven into the courtyard, where a number of men, wlio



were evidently soldiers, in spite of their citizen’s dress, were apparently waiting for them; for they immediately began sawing these timbers into pieces about six feet long.

“Do you know who those men are? ” asked the queen.

“Engineers, I should judge.”

“Yes, monsieur; and they are preparing to board up the windows, and leave only the loopholes open, so as to fire through them.”

Gilbert looked at her sorrowfully.

“Well, what have you to say about it?”

“I pity you sincerely, madame, for having forced your memory to retain those words, and your tongue to utter them.”

” Why so, monsieur ? There are circumstances which make it necessary for women to become men, and men — “

She checked herself suddenly ; then , as if concluding her thought rather than her sentence, she added, “But this time it is the king that has decided.”

” Madame, as you have decided to resort to these violent measures, I trust you have fortified all the approaches to the palace, — the gallery leading from the Louvre, for example — “

“Ah! you have set me to thinking. Come with me, monsieur. I should like to satisfy myself that an order I gave has been carried out.”

She led the way through her apartments to the door leading into the Floral Pavilion, which was connected in turn with the picture gallery.

The door was open, and Gilbert could see that workmen were dividing the gallery into compartments about twenty feet long.

” See ! ” she exclaimed. Then, addressing the ofiicer in charge, she asked, —

“How is the work progressing, Monsieur d’Hervilly?”

“If the rebels give us twenty-four hours longer, we shall have completed it.”



“Do you think they will give “us twenty-four hours?” the queen inquired, turning to the doctor.

“If anything serious is contemplated, it will not take place before the 10th of August.”

” On Friday, then. That is a bad day for an outbreak. I should have supposed the rebels would be shrewd enough to select a Sunday.”

She walked on, Gilbert following her closely. As they were leaving the picture gallery, they met another officer.

“Well, Monsieur Mandat, are all your arrangements completed? “

“Yes, madame,” replied the officer, eying Gilbert rather dubiously.

“Oh, you can speak with perfect freedom before this gentleman, monsieur,” said the queen. “He is a friend of ours. Is n’t that so, doctor? ” she added, turning to Gilbert.

“Yes, madame, and one of your most devoted friends.”

“That alters the case entirely,” responded Mandat. “A detachment of National Guards at the city-hall and another at the Pont ISTeuf will allow the rebels to pass them. AVhen Monsieur d’Hervilly and his men, and Monsieur Maillardot with his Swiss, confront the rebels here, their retreat being completely cut off, they will be utterly annihilated.”

” You see, monsieur, that your 10th of August is not likely to prove a 20th of June,” remarked the queen.

“I fear not indeed, madame.”

” Have you time to go down to the basement with me, monsieur?”

“Certainly, madame.”

They found the basement story strongly fortified, and defended by Swiss Guards. The windows were already boarded up.

“How about your men. Monsieur Maillardot?” the queen inquired, going up to the officer in command.

“They, like myself, are ready to die for your Majesty.”

“They will defend us to the last, then?”



” When they have once opened fire, they will cease only upon the king’s written order.”

” You hear, do you not, Monsieur Gilbert? Outside the walls of the palace, hostility reigns; but within, every one is faithful.”

“That is a great consolation, madame, but no guarantee.”

“You are not very encouraging, to say the least, doctor. Now, as I am very tired, will you give me your arm and escort me back to my apartments?”

Gilbert bowed low on receiving this signal mark of favour, rarely bestowed by the queen except upon a few intimate friends, — especially since her days of adversity.

On reaching her boudoir, Marie Antoinette sank into an armchair, sighing heavily. Dropping on one knee before her, Gilbert said : ” Madame, for the sake of your august husband, your beloved children, and your personal safety, I once more beseech you to use the force at your command for flight, and not for conflict.”

“Ever since the 14th of July I have been longing to see the king have his revenge,” said the queen. “The time has come, — at least, we think so. We shall either save our crown, or bury it in the ruins of the Tuileries.”

“Can nothing induce you to abandon this unfortunate resolution? “

“Nothing! ” and as she spoke, the queen offered him her hand, partly as a signal for him to dej^art, and partly that he might raise it to his lips.

Gilbert kissed her hand respectfully, and, rising, said:

“Madame, will your Majesty allow me to write a few lines? The necessity is so urgent, I feel they can be no longer delayed.”

“Certainly, monsieur,” said the queen, motioning him to a table.

Gilbert seated himself, and wrote the following note:

” Come, monsieur. The queen is in mortal danger, unless a friend can persuade her to flee ; and I believe you are the only person who has suflBcient influence over her to do this.”



Then he signed and addressed the missive.

” I trust you will not think me too inquisitive if I ask to whom you are writing? ” said the queen.

“To Monsieur de Charny, madame,” replied Gilbert.

“To Monsieur de Charny?” repeated the queen, pale and trembling now. “And why to him, pray?”

“In order that he may be able to persuade your Majesty to do what I am powerless to induce you to do.”

“Monsieur de Charny is too happy now to even recollect the existence of his less fortunate friends. He will not come.”

The door opened, and a footman appeared.

” The Comte de Charny — who has only this moment arrived in Paris — begs permission to pay his respects to your Majesty.”

The queen’s face was not pale, but livid now, and it was with great difficulty that she managed to stammer out a few incoherent words.

“Show him in! Show him in!” cried Gilbert. “It is certainly Heaven that sends him here ! “

In another moment Charny appeared upon the threshold, clad in his naval uniform.

“I was just writing to you. Here is the letter,” exclaimed Gilbert.

“I heard of her Majesty’s peril, and here I am,” said Charny, bowing.

“Madame, for God’s sake, listen to what Monsieur de Charny is about to tell you,” pleaded Gilbert. “His voice will be the voice of France.”

And, bowing respectfully both to the queen and to the count, Gilbert departed, not entirely without hope now.






Our readers must now permit us to conduct them to a house on the Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, near the Rue Dauphine.

Freron lived on the first floor.

Passing his door, — where it would be useless to ring, as he is on the floor above, with his friend Camille Desmoulins, — we will give a brief history of Preron while we are ascending the seventeen stairs which separate one stor}’^ from the other.

Louis Stanislas Freron was the son of the famous Monsieur Elie Catherine Freron, so unjustly and cruelly attacked by Voltaire. When one peruses to-day that journalist’s criticism upon the author of “La Pucelle,” “The Philo-sophical Dictionary,” and “Mahomet,” one is amazed to see that the journalist only said in 1754 exactly what we all think a hundred years afterwards.

Incensed by the persecution he had seen heaped upon his father, — who died of chagrin in 1776, in consequence of the suppression of his journal by Miromesnil, keeper of the seals, — young Freron embraced the principles of the Revolution with ardour.

On the evening of August 9th he was in the apartments of Camille Desmoulins, having supped there in company with Brune, a future marshal of France, — though then only a foreman in a printing-office, — and Barbarov;x and Rebecqui, Only one woman graced their repast, — Lucile. a charming creature, who left a mournful memory indeed in the annals of the Revolution.



In our story we cannot accompany thee to the scaffold^ which thou wilt soon ascend, loving and romantic creature, because it is the shortest road to reunion with thy husband !

But one portrait remains of thee, poor child! for thou didst die so young that the painter was, so to speak, compelled to seize thy likeness in thy flight; and this is a miniature in the admirable collection of Colonel Morin.

In this portrait Lucile is represented as small and pretty, with a decidedly roguish expression of countenance; yet there is something unmistakably plebeian in her charming face ; and, indeed, as the daughter of an old treasury clerk and a very beautiful woman who claimed to have been the mistress of Terray, — a secretary of the treasury, — Lucile, like Madame Koland, was of essentially common origin.

In 1791 a marriage of love had united this young girl — who was wealthy in comparison with him — to that enfant terrible, that wild, erratic genius called Camille Desmoulins.

Poor, unattractive in person, and slow of speech by rea-son of the impediment which prevented him from becoming an orator, but made him, perhaps, the great writer with whom we are familiar, Camille had won her by his wit, his refinement, and the natural goodness of his heart.

Although he agreed with Mirabeau, who said, “You will never make the Revolution a success unless you de-christianize it,” Camille was married in Saint Sulpice Church in accordance with the rites of the Catholic Church; but in 1792, when a son was born to them, he carried the infant to the city-hall, and requested a Eepublican baptism for it.

It was in their apartments, on the second floor of a house on tlie Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, that the entire plan of the insurrection was unfolded, to Lucile’s great pride and alarm, — a plan which Barbaroux frankly confessed he had sent, by mistake, in the pocket of his nankeen breeches, to his laundress a few days before.



As Barbaroux was by no means confident of the success of his scheme, and feared he might fall into the hands of his opponents, he exhibited with truly antique simplicity a poison, prepared, like Condorcet’s, by Cabanis.

At the beginning of the repast, Camille, who was not much more sanguine than Barbaroux, raised his glass, and quoted in Latin, so as not to be understood by Lucile, the words : —

^” Edamus et bibamus, eras enim moriemur;” h it Lucile comprehended, nevertheless, and exclaimed : —

” Why do you speak in a foreign tongue. I understand what you say. Go on, Camille. It is not I, you may rest assured, who will hinder you from fulfilling your noble mission.”

After this they all talked very plainly. Freron was the most determined of them all. It was known that he loved some woman hopelessly, though no one knew who the woman was at that time; but his despair over Lucile’s death subsequently revealed his sad secret.

BOOK: The Countess De Charny - Volume II
10.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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