“And the King?” asks Adrienne, turning from the Queen to his Majesty, who sat by, indecision and weariness and timidity written on all his heavy features.
“We dare not,” he says, at length, apathetically. “The Queen is right—after the refusal by the Assembly to allow us to depart, after this new humiliation, it were worse than folly to think of escaping. We are surrounded by spies—treachery is within these very walls—how can we hope to get away? It is best to await our doom quietly here. What think you, Beaufort?” he asks.
“I implore your Majesty to make the effort,” says Beaufort. “Once outside Paris, the Swiss Guards await you, Lafayette with his loyal regiments is even now at Compiegne——”
“Lafayette at Compiegne?—who knows?” says the Queen, gloomily, interrupting Beaufort again. “Monsieur de Lafayette hath betrayed us before and may do so again. I trust him not! To know that he has a share in this enterprise is to make me fear to pursue it! No, no,” she goes on, shuddering and turning away. “St. Cloud and the 5th of October are too well remembered. I should have thought of all this before,” she says, striking her hands together in an agony of doubt and despair. “It is too late now.”
“And who will tell these gentlemen waiting at Courbevoie, and the regiments advancing from Compiegne at the risk of their lives, of this sudden change in your Majesties’ plans? Should Monsieur d’Angremont be induced to divulge their names they will inevitably be lost—their only hope is in immediate flight,” says Adrienne, looking from the King, sunk in resigned silence, to the frantic, hapless Queen, and back again.
“Who but myself, Madame?” said Beaufort, advancing. “And if your Majesties are fully determined to go no further in this business, I will ask leave to withdraw and set out for Courbevoie at once. Every moment is precious, and an hour’s delay may mean the loss of many lives.”
“No, no, Beaufort, I cannot let you go,” cried the King, starting up. “Nom de Dieu, I forbid you!—d’Angremont is taken from me—there is no one in whom I can confide or trust—we must send another,” he went on, incoherently, and raising his hand as if to check Beaufort’s departure.
For an instant the Queen swept him a glance of disdain. ’Twas not timidity that made her falter. She could not understand the physical weakness of the King; with her the abandonment of the great undertaking was a matter of expediency, not of fear, and she deserted her friends as relentlessly from interest as he did from cowardice.
“There is no one, your Majesty—no one whom we can send. ’Tis too late to trust others with this great secret—”
“Then I will go,” said Adrienne, suddenly stepping forward. “Send me—I am in the secret, I can be trusted! I can put on the disguise intended for your Majesty and go.” She turned to the Queen and spoke eagerly and rapidly. “I fear nothing. Let me go, let me go!” She dropped on her knees before the Queen. “I must go—I must,” she said, wildly.