The Plan of Escape
A floor-plan, exactly similar to the one the Colonel had used, was out on the dining table in Jeanne’s and la Motte’s, apartments in Paris. The conspirators were gathered round the table, Cagliostro, as usual, the maestro.
“If they are going to be in the vestry, and that room just here,” he pointed, “that suits us just fine. Our carriage will be here, on the other side of the gates, the Colonel has decided, will be locked. They cannot pursue.”
“But, how do we get out of the vestry?” Jeanne asked, and all eyes turned on Cagliostro.
“The door.” He answered. All eyes returned to the plan, puzzled for a moment, and then la Motte waved his hand.
“Which one? The Cardinal will leave through this one, the Gardes Françaises, will enter through that one?”
The Italian smiled and pointed, “Neither of these. We will use this one.”
He pointed at a piece of wall, in the chapel, marked as… a wall. The others looked, and then back up to to his face. Still the smile.
“It is hidden. It is to allow the royal family to escape, should people who wish them ill, are at the main doors of the chapel. It is also why the gate, is placed where it is, to block the mob, or whoever, is following. The door is barred from the outside, except when the royal family are inside.”
“How do you know about this?” Jeanne asked.
“This is why I am with you, Jeanne, to know things, like this. The day the Bourbons go somewhere, with no plan to be somewhere else, is they day the monarchy will fall.”
Jeanne agreed, and they all turned back to the map.
“The Gardes, will not know, at first, we have departed and the door is handsomely barred from outside, as I mentioned. They will still be occupied with the Cardinal and we should be several miles away by the time the chase starts.”
“I will have a change of horses and clothing, here.” Françoise began, pulling the plan of the palace complex away, to show a map of the countryside. “We will do everything in stages, including changing our clothes. I have relays here, here, and in Lens, to avoid your regiment.”
“I will return to Paris. I am entirely innocent of your schemes.” Cagliostro said, and grinned at the company. “Later, I will join you in England, all being well.”
“Do you have to be with us in Versailles, at all?” La Motte asked.
“If there is no need, why take the risk?” Jeanne added.
Cagliostro thought for a second or two and agreed, “I thought the Cardinal would get more confidence from my presence, but if not…”
“I think you convinced him the other day, he trusts the jewellers.”
“One less person to worry about, is one less person to worry about.” Cagliostro said.
“The fewer the people, the less we attract attention.” said la Motte. “So we are here, they are coming in from there, what happens if they move early?”
“That would be troublesome.” Cagliostro observed.
“I can forestall any early intervention. Rochefort asked me to give the soldiers in the room a signal, I can tell these ones, I am to do the same for them.” Jeanne told them, keeping her eyes firmly on the map. La Motte and Cagliostro turned to look at her.
“When are you supposed to give this signal?” La Motte asked.
“Oh, I’ve told them I would enter the church through the main door, after the Cardinal had left the vestry. I thought it would buy us some time.”
The Italian and la Motte looked at her, and then frowned almost in unison.
“You have to tell us these things, we will not have much leeway.” Cagliostro chided her.
“I know. I didn’t think it altered anything, as I wasn’t going to do it. Now, it’s bought us an opportunity, so it’s all good.” Said Jeanne still examining the map.
“It has. I don’t wish to stifle your freedom to act, I only wish to know about it.” Cagliostro said.
“Right,” La Motte, took things up again. “We are out and running for our lives on Françoise’s horses, changing clothes as we go. Can they overtake us? Will they guess where we are headed?”
The Italian nodded, and ran his hand over the map. “I think they will not explicitly guess where we are going, I think they will chase every possibility. That, will take time.”
“They could overtake us, if we headed to Calais and they guessed that, but they would have to fly like the wind.” Françoise said. “As it is, we are for Dunkirk. A ship will get there on Saturday evening and we should be on it by Sunday evening.”
Jeanne was shocked, “Sunday evening? It is two hundred miles from Versailles, to the northern coast. Even riding without a break, we cannot get there faster, than twelve hours.”
“It should take us twelve hours, forty five minutes. The ship leaves on the two AM tide, which gives us sixteen hours, end to end.” Françoise had not been idle.
“And I have arranged to have food for us at Bapaume, short of where my regiment is garrisoned.” La Motte said, smiling at Françoise. “We then cut across to pass east of Arras, Lens, and head for Lille, and thence to Dunkirk.”
The two others looked at the map, and then up at those who had laid out the plan. Jeanne smiled.
“I will be sore.”
“I will take pleasure, tending to your wounds madame.” La Motte said, taking her hand and kissing it.
Françoise and Jeanne, were alone. Jeanne was sitting on her bed as Françoise packed things into boxes. She watched the younger woman, for a short while.
“Françoise, before we start this, I just wanted to say, thank you.”
“Before we start? I think you’re too late, we’re about to finish it.” And she smiled.
“Yes, but… this is it. You could all still run away.”
“And miss payday? Not likely. I put some of my own money into the clothes, and the horses, and the comte, put his into the ship. If we try to cut and run without a good reason… well.”
“I didn’t realise. You could have asked me.”
“I didn’t know you were flush, Jeanne, have you been holding out on us?”
Jeanne coloured, “No, I mean… I would have if…”
Françoise laughed and sat on the bed beside her, “I’m teasing. The Italian has stumped up, mostly from his mysterious ‘investors’. But the way out, I didn’t want to have anyone else near the arrangements, except for me, and the comte. Get that bit wrong, and you end up dancing on the end of a rope. No, thank you.”
“Right, good thinking.”
“Anyway, it’s been fun. More fun than running around a tavern after drunken customers. So really, I should be thanking you.”
Jeanne smiled and agreed, “You’re right. Any time.” And they laughed. Françoise went back to her packing up, and Jeanne joined in, but couldn’t get away from thinking about the next few days, and hoping the choices she’d made, were for the right reasons, however they turned out.