Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Flight Of The King
by [?]

At midnight of the 22d of June, 1791, a heavy and lumbering carriage rolled slowly into the town of Varennes, situated in the department of Meuse, in northeastern France. It had set out from Paris at an early hour of the preceding day, and had now left that turbulent capital more than a hundred and fifty miles behind it, pursuing a direct route towards the nearest frontier of the kingdom.

There were in this clumsy vehicle several plainly-dressed ladies, a man attired as a servant, and a half-grown boy. They all seemed in the best of spirits, and felicitated themselves on having come so far without question or obstruction. As they neared Varennes, however, an alarming sound was borne on the midnight air to their ears,–that of a clanging bell, ringing quickly, as if in alarm. They entered the town and drove to the post-house.

“Let us have horses at once,” was the demand of the outriders; “we must go forward without delay.”

“There are no horses ready,” was the reply. “Have you your passports?”

The papers were presented and taken to M. Sausse, the public officer of the commune, a timid little shop-keeper, sadly incompetent to deal with any matter that needed bold decision. He cast his eye over the passports, which shook in his trembling hand. Yet they appeared to be all right, being made out in the name of Baron Korf, the man in the carriage being named as a valet de chambre to the baron.

But the disturbed little commune officer knew better than that. A young man named Drouet, son of the postmaster at St. Menehould, had, a half-hour or so before, ridden at furious speed into the town, giving startling information to such of the citizens as he found awake. There quickly followed that ringing of the alarm-bell which had pealed trouble into the ears of the approaching travellers.

M. Sausse approached the carriage, and bowed with the deepest respect before the seeming servant within.

“Will you not enter my house?” he asked. “There is a rumor abroad that we are so fortunate as to have our king in our midst. If you remain in the carriage, while the municipal authorities are in council, your Majesty might be exposed to insult.”

The secret was out; it was the king of France who was thus masquerading in the dress of a lackey and speeding with all haste towards the frontier. The town was alarmed: a group of armed men stood at the shopkeeper’s door as the traveller entered; some of them told him rudely that they knew him to be the king.

“If you recognize him,” sharply answered the lady who followed, “speak to him with the respect you owe your king.”

It was Marie Antoinette, though her dress was rather that of a waiting-maid than a queen. The ladies who followed her were Madame Elizabeth, the princess, and the governess of the royal children. The boy was the dauphin of France.

This flight had been undertaken under the management of General Bouille, who had done all in his power to make it successful, by stationing relays of soldiers along the road, procuring passports, and other necessary details. But those intrusted with its execution had, aside from keeping the project a secret, clumsily managed its details. The carriage procured was of great size, and loaded like a furniture van with luggage. There was a day’s delay in the start. Even the setting out was awkwardly managed; the queen leaving the palace on foot, losing her way, and keeping her companions perilously waiting. The detachments of troops on the road were sure to attract attention. Careful precautions for the defeat of the enterprise seemed to have been taken.

Yet all went well until St. Menehould was reached, though the king was recognized by more than one person on the road. “We passed through the large town of Chalons-sur-Marne,” wrote the young princess, “where we were quite recognized. Many people praised God at seeing the king, and made vows for his escape.”