THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU
Alexandre Dumas père
Just about a year ago my old friend, Jules Simon, author of "Devoir," came to me with a request that I write a novel for the "Journal pour Tous." I gave him the outline of a novel which I had in mind. The subject pleased him, and the contract was signed on the spot.
The action occurred between 1791 and 1793, and the first chapter opened at Varennes the evening of the king's arrest.
Only, impatient as was the "Journal pour Tous," I demanded a fortnight of Jules Simon before beginning my novel. I wished to go to Varennes; I was not acquainted with the locality, and I confess there is one thing I cannot do; I am unable to write a novel or a drama about localities with which I am not familiar.
In order to write "Christine" I went to
This gives such a character of veracity to all that I write, that the personages whom I create become eventually such integral parts of the places in which I planted them that, as a consequence, many end by believing in their actual existence. There are even some people who claim to have known them.
In this connection, dear readers, I am going to tell you
something in confidence--only do not repeat it. I do not wish to injure honest
fathers of families who live by this little industry, but if you go to
When I staged "Monte-Cristo" at the
Theâtre-Historique, I wrote to
I have learned since that a worthy man, a guide attached to the Château d'If, sells pens made of fish-bone by the Abbé Faria himself.
There is but one unfortunate circumstance concerning this; the fact is, Dantès and the Abbé Faria have never existed save in my imagination; consequently, Dantès could not have been precipitated from the top to the bottom of the Château d'If, nor could the Abbé Faria have made pens. But that is what comes from visiting these localities in person.
Therefore, I wished to visit Varennes before commencing my novel, because the first chapter was to open in that city. Besides, historically, Varennes worried me considerably; the more I perused the historical accounts of Varennes, the less I was able to understand, topographically, the king's arrest.
I therefore proposed to my young friend, Paul Bocage, that he accompany me to Varennes. I was sure in advance that he would accept. To merely propose such a trip to his picturesque and charming mind was to make him bound from his chair to the tram. We took the railroad to Châlons. There we bargained with a livery-stable keeper, who agreed, for a consideration of ten francs a day, to furnish us with a horse and carriage. We were seven days on the trip, three days to go from Châlons to Varennes, one day to make the requisite local researches in the city, and three days to return from Varennes to Châlons.
I recognized with a degree of satisfaction which you will easily comprehend, that not a single historian had been historical, and with still greater satisfaction that M. Thiers had been the least accurate of all these historians. I had already suspected this, but was not certain. The only one who had been accurate, with absolute accuracy, was Victor Hugo in his book called "The Rhine." It is true that Victor Hugo is a poet and not a historian. What historians these poets would make, if they would but consent to become historians!
One day Lamartine asked me to what I attributed the immense success of his "Histoire des Girondins."
"To this, because in it you rose to the level of a novel," I answered him. He reflected for a while and ended, I believe, by agreeing with me.
I spent a day, therefore, at Varennes and visited all the localities necessary for my novel, which was to be called "René d'Argonne." Then I returned. My son was staying in the country at Sainte-Assise, near Melun; my room awaited me, and I resolved to go there to write my novel.
I am acquainted with no two characters more dissimilar than Alexandre's and mine, which nevertheless harmonize so well. It is true we pass many enjoyable hours during our separations; but none I think pleasanter than those we spend together.
I had been installed there for three or four days endeavoring to begin my "René d'Argonne," taking up my pen, then laying it aside almost immediately. The thing would not go. I consoled myself by telling stories. Chance willed that I should relate one which Nodier had told me of four young men affiliated with the Company of Jehu, who had been executed at Bourg in Bresse amid the most dramatic circumstances. One of these four young men, he who had found the greatest difficulty in dying, or rather he whom they had the greatest difficulty in killing, was but nineteen and a half years old.
Alexandre listened to my story with much interest. When I had finished: "Do you know," said he, "what I should do in your place?"
"I should lay aside 'René d'Argonne,' which refuses to materialize, and in its stead I should write 'The Companions of Jehu.'"
"But just think, I have had that other novel in mind for a year or two, and it is almost finished."
"It never will be since it is not finished now."
"Perhaps you are right, but I shall lose six months regaining my present vantage-ground."
"Good! In three days you will have written half a volume."
"Then you will help me."
"Yes, for I shall give you two characters."
"Is that all?"
"You are too exacting! The rest is your affair; I am busy with my 'Question d'Argent.'"
"Well, who are your two characters, then?"
"An English gentleman and a French captain."
"Introduce the Englishman first."
"Very well." And Alexandre drew Lord Tanlay's portrait for me.
"Your English gentleman pleases me," said I; "now let us see your French captain."
"My French captain is a mysterious character, who courts death with all his might, without being able to accomplish his desire; so that each time he rushes into mortal danger he performs some brilliant feat which secures him promotion."
"But why does he wish to get himself killed?"
"Because he is disgusted with life."
"Why is he disgusted with life?"
"Ah! That will be the secret of the book."
"It must be told in the end."
"On the contrary, I, in your place, would not tell it."
"The readers will demand it."
"You will reply that they have only to search for it; you must leave them something to do, these readers of yours."
"Dear friend, I shall be overwhelmed with letters."
"You need not answer them."
"Yes, but for my personal gratification I, at least, must know why my hero longs to die."
"Oh, I do not refuse to tell you."
"Let me hear, then."
"Well, suppose, instead of being professor of dialectics, Abelard had been a soldier."
"Well, let us suppose that a bullet--"
"You understand? Instead of withdrawing to Paraclet, he would have courted death at every possible opportunity."
"Hum! That will be difficult."
"Difficult! In what way?"
"To make the public swallow that."
"But since you are not going to tell the public."
"That is true. By my faith, I believe you are right. Wait."
"I am waiting."
"Have you Nodier's 'Souvenirs de la Révolution'? I believe he wrote one or two pages about Guyon, Leprêtre, Amiet and Hyvert."
"They will say, then, that you have plagiarized from Nodier."
"Oh! He loved me well enough during his life not to refuse me whatever I shall take from him after his death. Go fetch me the 'Souvenirs de la Révolution.'"
Alexandre brought me the book. I opened it, turned over two or three pages, and at last discovered what I was looking for. A little of Nodier, dear readers, you will lose nothing by it. It is he who is speaking:
The highwaymen who attacked the diligences, as mentioned in the article on Amiet, which I quoted just now, were called Leprêtre, Hyvert, Guyon and Amiet.
Leprêtre was forty-eight years old. He was formerly a captain
of dragoons, a knight of
To these four men was intrusted the attack upon a diligence conveying forty thousand francs of government money. This deed was transacted in broad daylight, with an exchange of mutual courtesy almost; and the travellers, who were not disturbed by the attack, gave little heed to it. But a child of only ten years of age, with reckless bravado, seized the pistol of the conductor and fired it into the midst of the assailants. As this peaceful weapon, according to the custom, was only charged with powder, no one was injured; but the occupants of the coach quite naturally experienced a lively fear of reprisals. The little boy's mother fell into violent hysterics. This new disturbance created a general diversion which dominated all the preceding events and particularly attracted the attention of the robbers. One of them flew to the woman's side, reassuring her in the most affectionate manner, while complimenting her upon her son's precocious courage, and courteously pressed upon her the salts and perfumes with which these gentlemen were ordinarily provided for their own use. She regained consciousness. In the excitement of the moment her travelling companions noticed that the highwayman's mask had fallen off, but they did not see his face.
The police of those days, restricted to mere impotent supervision, were unable to cope with the depredations of these banditti, although they did not lack the means to follow them up. Appointments were made at the cafés, and narratives relating to deeds carrying with them the penalty of death circulated freely through all the billiard-halls in the land. Such was the importance which the culprits and the public attached to the police.
These men of blood and terror assembled in society in the evening, and discussed their nocturnal expeditions as if they had been mere pleasure-parties.
Leprêtre, Hyvert, Amiet and Guyon were arraigned before the tribunal of a neighboring department. No one save the Treasury had suffered from their attack, and there was no one to identify them save the lady who took very good care not to do so. They were therefore acquitted unanimously.
Nevertheless, the evidence against them so obviously called
for conviction, that the Ministry was forced to appeal from this decision. The
verdict was set aside; but such was the government's vacillation, that it
hesitated to punish excesses that might on the morrow be regarded as virtues.
The accused were cited before the tribunal of Ain, in the city of
The trial recommenced. It was at first attended by the same results as the preceding one. The four accused were protected by an alibi, patently false, but attested by a hundred signatures, and for which they could easily have obtained ten thousand. All moral convictions must fail in the presence of such authoritative testimony. An acquittal seemed certain, when a question, perhaps involuntarily insidious, from the president, changed the aspect of the trial.
"Madam," said he to the lady who had been so kindly assisted by one of the highwaymen, "which of these men was it who tendered you such thoughtful attention?"
This unexpected form of interrogation confused her ideas. It is probable that she believed the facts to be known, and saw in this a means of modifying the fate of the man who interested her.
"It was that gentleman," said she, pointing to Leprêtre. The four accused, who were included in a common alibi, fell by this one admission under the executioner's axe. They rose and bowed to her with a smile.
"Faith!" said Hyvert, falling back upon his bench with a burst of laughter, "that, Captain, will teach you to play the gallant."
I have heard it said that the unhappy lady died shortly after of chagrin.
The customary appeal followed; but, this time, there was little hope. The Republican party, which Napoleon annihilated a month later, was in the ascendency. That of the Counter-Revolution was compromised by its odious excesses. The people demanded examples, and matters were arranged accordingly, as is ordinarily the custom in strenuous times; for it is with governments as with men, the weakest are always the most cruel. Nor had the Companies of Jehu longer an organized existence. The heroes of these ferocious bands, Debeauce, Hastier, Bary, Le Coq, Dabri, Delbourbe and Storkenfeld, had either fallen on the scaffold or elsewhere. The condemned could look for no further assistance from the daring courage of these exhausted devotees, who, no longer capable of protecting their own lives, coolly sacrificed them, as did Piard, after a merry supper. Our brigands were doomed to die.
Their appeal was rejected, but the municipal authorities were not the first to learn of this. The condemned men were warned by three shots fired beneath the walls of their dungeon. The Commissioner of the Executive Directory, who had assumed the rôle of Public Prosecutor at the trial, alarmed at this obvious sign of connivance, requisitioned a squad of armed men of whom my uncle was then commander. At six o'clock in the morning sixty horsemen were drawn up before the iron gratings of the prison yard.
Although the jailers had observed all possible precautions in entering the dungeon where these four unfortunate men were confined, and whom they had left the preceding day tightly pinioned and heavily loaded with chains, they were unable to offer them a prolonged resistance. The prisoners were free and armed to the teeth. They came forth without difficulty, leaving their guardians under bolts and bars, and, supplied with the keys, they quickly traversed the space that separated them from the prison yard. Their appearance must have been terrifying to the populace awaiting them before the iron gates.
To assure perfect freedom of action, or perhaps to affect an appearance of security more menacing even than the renown for strength and intrepidity with which their names were associated, or possibly even to conceal the flow of blood which reveals itself so readily beneath white linen, and betrays the last agonies of a mortally wounded man, their breasts were bared. Their braces crossed upon the chest--their wide red belts bristling with arms--their cry of attack and rage, all that must have given a decidedly fantastic touch to the scene. Arrived in the square, they perceived the gendarmerie drawn up in motionless ranks, through which it would have been impossible to force a passage. They halted an instant and seemed to consult together. Leprêtre, who was, as I have said, their senior and their chief, saluted the guard with his hand, saying with that noble grace of manner peculiar to him:
"Very well, gentlemen of the gendarmerie!"
Then after a brief, energetic farewell to his comrades, he stepped in front of them and blew out his brains. Guyon, Amiet and Hyvert assumed a defensive position, their double-barrelled pistols levelled upon their armed opponents. They did not fire; but the latter, considering this demonstration as a sign of open hostility, fired upon them. Guyon fell dead upon Leprêtre's body, which had not moved. Amiet's hip was broken near the groin. The "Biographie des Contemporains" says that he was executed. I have often heard it said that he died at the foot of the scaffold. Hyvert was left alone, his determined brow, his terrible eye, the pistol in each practiced and vigorous hand threatening death to the spectators. Perhaps it was involuntary admiration, in his desperate plight, for this handsome young man with his waving locks, who was known never to have shed blood, and from whom the law now demanded the expiation of blood; or perhaps it was the sight of those three corpses over which he sprang like a wolf overtaken by his hunters, and the frightful novelty of the spectacle, which for an instant restrained the fury of the troop. He perceived this and temporized with them for a compromise.
"Gentlemen," said he, "I go to my death! I die with all my heart! But let no one approach me or I shall shoot him--except this gentleman," he continued, pointing to the executioner. "This is an affair that concerns us alone and merely needs a certain understanding between us."
This concession was readily accorded, for there was no one present who was not suffering from the prolongation of this horrible tragedy, and anxious to see it finished. Perceiving their assent, he placed one of his pistols between his teeth, and drawing a dagger from his belt, plunged it in his breast up to the hilt. He still remained standing and seemed greatly surprised. There was a movement toward him.
"Very well, gentlemen!" cried he, covering the men who sought to surround him with his pistols, which he had seized again, while the blood spurted freely from the wound in which he had left his poniard. "You know our agreement; either I die alone or three of us will die together. Forward, march!" He walked straight to the guillotine, turning the knife in his breast as he did so.
"Faith," said he, "my soul must be centred in my belly! I cannot die. See if you can fetch it out."
This last was addressed to his executioner. An instant later his head fell. Be it accident or some peculiar phenomenon of the vitality, it rebounded and rolled beyond the circle of the scaffolding, and they will still tell you at Bourg, that Hyvert's head spoke.
Before I had finished reading I had decided to abandon René d'Argonne for the Companions of Jehu. On the morrow I came down with my travelling bag under my arm.
"You are leaving?" said Alexandre to me.
"Where are you going?"
"To Bourg, in Bresse."
"What are you going to do there?"
"Study the neighborhood and consult with the inhabitants who saw Leprêtre, Amiet, Guyon and Hyvert executed."
* * * * *
There are two roads to Bourg--from
I was hesitating between these two roads when one of the
travellers who was temporarily occupying my compartment decided me. He was
going to Bourg, where he frequently had business. He was going by way of
I resolved to travel by the same route. I slept at
A paper published in the second capital of the kingdom met
my eye. It contained a spiteful article about me.
One day a Neapolitan boasted to me that he had hissed Rossini and Malibran, "The Barbiere" and "Desdemona."
"That must be true," I answered him, "for Rossini and Malibran on their side boast of having been hissed by Neapolitans."
So I boast that the Rouenese have hissed me. Nevertheless,
meeting a full-blooded Rouenese one day I resolved to discover why I had been
My Rouenese informed me: "We hiss you because we are down on you."
Therefore to this haughty reply, "We hiss you because we have a grudge against you," I asked humbly:
"But, great Heavens! why are you down on me?"
"Oh, you know very well," replied my Rouenese.
"I?" I exclaimed.
"Well, never mind; pretend I do not know."
"You remember the dinner the city gave you, in connection with that statue of Corneille?"
"Perfectly. Were they annoyed because I did not return it?"
"No, it is not that."
"What is it then?"
"Well, at that dinner they said to you: 'M. Dumas, you
ought to write a play for
"To which I replied: 'Nothing easier; I will come at
your first summons and spend a fortnight in
"That is true, you said that."
"I see nothing sufficiently insulting in that to incur the hatred of the Rouenese."
"Yes, but they added: 'Will you write it in prose?' To which you replied--Do you remember what you answered?"
"My faith! no."
"You replied: 'I will write it in verse; it is soonest done.'"
"That sounds like me. Well, what then?"
"Then! That was an insult to Corneille, M. Dumas; that is why the Rouenese are down on you, and will be for a long time."
Oh, worthy Rouenese! I trust that you will never serve me so ill as to forgive and applaud me.
The aforesaid paper observed that M. Dumas had doubtless
spent but one night in
I knew that it was under the management of a distinguished
archeologist, who was also the editor of my friend Baux's work on the
I asked for M. Milliet. M. Milliet appeared. We shook hands and I explained the object of my visit.
"I can fix you perfectly," said he to me. "I will take you to one of our magistrates, who is at present engaged upon a history of the department."
"How far has he got in this history?"
"Then that's all right. As the events I want to relate occurred in 1799, and my heroes were executed in 1800, he will have covered that epoch, and can furnish me with the desired information. Let us go to your magistrate."
On the road, M. Milliet told me that this same magisterial historian was also a noted gourmet. Since Brillat-Savarin it has been the fashion for magistrates to be epicures. Unfortunately, many are content to be gourmands, which is not at all the same thing.
We were ushered into the magistrate's study. I found a man with a shiny face and a sneering smile. He greeted me with that protecting air which historians deign to assume toward poets.
"Well, sir," he said to me, "so you have come to our poor country in search of material for your novel?"
"No, sir; I have my material already. I have come simply to consult your historical documents."
"Good! I did not know that it was necessary to give one's self so much trouble in order to write novels."
"There you are in error, sir; at least in my instance. I am in the habit of making exhaustive researches upon all the historical events of which I treat."
"You might at least have sent some one else."
"Any person whom I might send, sir, not being so completely absorbed in my subject, might have overlooked many important facts. Then, too, I make use of many localities which I cannot describe unless I see them."
"Oh, then this is a novel which you intend writing yourself?"
"Yes, certainly, sir. I allowed my valet to write my last; but he had such immense success that the rogue asked so exorbitant an increase of wages that, to my great regret, I was unable to keep him."
The magistrate bit his lips. Then, after a moment's silence, he said:
"Will you kindly tell me, sir, how I can assist you in this important work?"
"You can direct my researches, sir. As you have compiled the history of the department, none of the important event which have occurred in its capital can be unknown to you."
"Truly, sir, I believe that in this respect I am tolerably well informed."
"Then, sir, in the first place, your department was the centre of the operations of the Company of Jehu."
"Sir, I have heard speak of the Companions of Jesus," replied the magistrate with his jeering smile.
"The Jesuits, you mean? That is not what I am seeking, sir."
"Nor is it of them that I am speaking. I refer to the stage robbers who infested the highroads from 1797 to 1800."
"Then, sir, permit me to tell you they are precisely the ones I have come to Bourg about, and that they were called the Companions of Jehu, and not the Companions of Jesus."
"What is the meaning of this title 'Companions of Jehu'? I like to get at the bottom of everything."
"So do I, sir; that is why I did not wish to confound these highwaymen with the Apostles."
"Truly, that would not have been very orthodox."
"But it is what you would have done, nevertheless, sir, if I, a poet, had not come here expressly to correct the mistake you, as historian, have made."
"I await your explanation, sir," resumed the magistrate, pursing his lips.
"It is short and simple. Elisha consecrated Jehu, King of Israel, on condition that he exterminate the house of Ahab; Elisha was Louis XVIII.; Jehu was Cadoudal; the house of Ahab, the Revolution. That is why these pillagers of diligences, who filched the government money to support the war in the Vendée, were called the Companions of Jehu."
"Sir, I am happy to learn something at my age."
"Oh, sir! One can always learn, at all times and at all ages; during life one learns man; in death one learns God."
"But, after all," my interlocutor said to me with a gesture of impatience, "may I know in what I can assist you?"
"Thus, sir. Four of these young men, leaders of the Companions of Jehu, were executed at Bourg, on the Place du Bastion."
"In the first place, sir, in Bourg executions do not take place at the Bastion; they execute on the Fair grounds."
"Now, sir--these last fifteen or twenty years, it is true--since Peytel. But before, especially during the Revolution, they executed on the Place du Bastion."
"That is possible."
"It is so. These four young men were called Guyon, Leprêtre, Amiet, and Hyvert."
"This is the first time I have heard those names."
"Yet their names made a certain noise at Bourg."
"Are you sure, sir, that these men were executed here?"
"I am positive."
"From whom have you derived your information?"
"From a man whose uncle, then in command of the gendarmerie, was present at the execution."
"Will you tell me this man's name?"
"Charles Nodier, the novelist, the poet?"
"If he were a historian I would not be so insistent, sir. Recently, during a trip to Varennes, I learned what dependence to place upon historians. But precisely because he is a poet, a novelist, I do insist."
"You are at liberty to do so; but I know nothing of what you desire to learn, and I dare even assert that, if you have come to Bourg solely to obtain information concerning the execution of--what did you call them?"
"Guyon, Leprêtre, Amiet, and Hyvert."
"You have undertaken a futile voyage. For these last twenty years, sir, I have been searching the town archives, and I have never seen anything relating to what you have just told me."
"The town archives are not those of the registrar, sir; perhaps at the record office I may be able to find what I am seeking."
"Ah! sir, if you can find anything among those archives you will be a very clever man! The record office is a chaos, a veritable chaos. You would have to spend a month here, and then--then--"
"I do not expect to stay here more than a day, sir; but if in that day I should find what I am seeking will you permit me to impart it to you?"
"Yes, sir; yes, sir; and you will render me a great service by doing so."
"No greater than the one I asked of you. I shall merely give you some information about a matter of which you were ignorant, that is all."
You can well understand that on leaving my magistrate, my honor was piqued. I determined, cost what it might, to procure this information about the Companions of Jehu. I went back to Milliet, and cornered him.
"Listen," he said. "My brother-in-law is a lawyer."
"He's my man! Let's go find the brother-in-law."
"He's in court at this hour."
"Then let us go to court."
"Your appearance will create a sensation, I warn you."
"Then go alone--tell him what we want, and let him make a search. I will visit the environs of the town to base my work on the localities. We will meet at four o'clock at the Place du Bastion, if you are agreed."
"It seems to me that I saw a forest, coming here."
"Do you need a forest?"
"It is absolutely indispensable to me."
"Then permit me--"
"I am going to take you to a friend of mine, M. Leduc, a poet who in his spare moments is an inspector."
"Inspector of what?"
"Of the forest."
"Are there any ruins in the forest?"
"The Chartreuse, which is not in the forest, but merely some hundred feet from it."
"And in the forest?"
"There is a sort of hermitage which is called La Correrie, belonging to the Chartreuse, with which it communicates by a subterranean passage."
"Good! Now, if you can provide me with a grotto you will overwhelm me."
"We have the grotto of Ceyzeriat, but that is on the other side of the Reissouse."
"I don't mind. If the grotto won't come to me, I will do like Mahomet--I will go to the grotto. In the meantime let us go to M. Leduc."
Five minutes later we reached M. Leduc's house. He, on learning what we wanted, placed himself, his horse, and his carriage at my disposal. I accepted all. There are some men who offer their services in such a way that they place you at once at your ease.
We first visited the Chartreuse. Had I built it myself it could not have suited me better. A deserted cloister, devastated garden, inhabitants almost savages. Chance, I thank thee!
From there we went to the Correrie; it was the supplement of the Chartreuse. I did not yet know what I could do with it; but evidently it might be useful to me.
"Now, sir," I said to my obliging guide, "I need a pretty site, rather gloomy, surrounded by tall trees, beside a river. Have you anything like that in the neighborhood?"
"What do you want to do with it?"
"To build a château there."
"What kind of a château?"
"Zounds! of cards! I have a family to house, a model mother, a melancholy young girl, a mischievous brother, and a poaching gardener."
"There is a place called Noires-Fontaines."
"In the first place the name is charming."
"But there is no château there."
"So much the better, for I should have been obliged to demolish it."
"Let us go to Noires-Fontaines."
We started; a quarter of an hour later we descended at the ranger's lodge.
"Shall we take this little path?" said M. Leduc; "it will take us where you want to go."
It led us, in fact, to a spot planted with tall trees which overshadowed three or four rivulets.
"We call this place Noires-Fontaines," M. Leduc explained.
"And here Madame de Montrevel, Amélie and little Edouard will dwell. Now what are those villages which I see in front of me?"
"Here, close at hand, is Montagnac; yonder, on the mountain side, Ceyzeriat."
"Is that where the grotto is?"
"Yes. But how did you know there was a grotto at Ceyzeriat?"
"Never mind, go on. The name of those other villages, if you please."
"Saint-Just, Tréconnas, Ramasse, Villereversure."
"That will do."
"Have you enough?"
I drew out my note-book, sketched a plan of the locality and wrote about in their relative positions the names of the villages which M. Leduc had just pointed out to me.
"That's done!" said I.
"Where shall we go now?"
"Then let us go to the
"Do you need that in your novel?"
"Yes, indeed; you don't imagine I am going to lay my scene in a country which contains the architectural masterpiece of the sixteenth century without utilizing that masterpiece, do you?"
"Let us go to the
A quarter of an hour later the sacristan showed us into this granite jewel-case which contains the three marble gems called the tombs of Marguerite of Austria, Marguerite or Bourbon, and of Philibert le Beau."
"How is it," I asked the sacristan, "that all these masterpieces were not reduced to powder during the Revolution?"
"Ah! sir, the municipality had an idea."
"What was it?"
"That of turning the church into a storage house for fodder."
"Yes, and the hay saved the marble; you are right, my friend, that _was_ an idea."
"Does this idea of the municipality afford you another?" asked M. Leduc.
"Faith, yes, and I shall have poor luck if I don't make something out of it."
I looked at my watch. "Three o'clock! Now for the prison. I have an appointment with M. Milliet at four on the Place du Bastion."
"Wait; there is one thing more."
"What is that?"
"Have you noticed Marguerite of Austria's motto?"
"No; where is it?"
"Oh, all over. In the first place, look above her tomb."
"'Fortune, infortune, fort'une.'"
"Well, what does this play of words mean?"
"Learned men translate it thus: 'Fate persecutes a woman much.'"
"Explain that a little."
"You must, in the first place, assume that it is derived from the Latin."
"True, that is probable."
"Well, then: 'Fortuna infortunat--'"
"Oh! Oh! 'Infortunat.'"
"That strongly resembles a solecism!"
"What do you want?"
"Explain it yourself."
"Well; 'Fortuna, infortuna, forti una.' 'Fortune and misfortune are alike to the strong.'"
"Do you know, that may possibly be the correct translation?"
"Zounds! See what it is not to be learned, my dear sir; we are endowed with common-sense, and that sees clearer than science. Have you anything else to tell me?"
"Then let us go to the prison."
We got into the carriage and returned to the city, stopping only at the gate of the prison. I glanced out of the window.
"Oh!" I exclaimed, "they have spoiled it for me."
"What! They've spoiled it for you?"
"Certainly, it was not like this in my prisoners' time. Can I speak to the jailer?"
"Then let us consult him."
We knocked at the door. A man about forty opened it. He recognized M. Leduc.
"My dear fellow," M. Leduc said to him, "this is one of my learned friends--"
"Come, come," I exclaimed, interrupting him, "no nonsense."
"Who contends," continued M. Leduc, "that the prison is no longer the same as it was in the last century?"
"That is true, M. Leduc, it was torn down and rebuilt in 1816."
"Then the interior arrangements are no longer the same?"
"Oh! no, sir, everything was changed."
"Could I see the old plan?"
"M. Martin, the architect, might perhaps be able to find one for you."
"Is he any relation to M. Martin, the lawyer?"
"Very well, my friend, then I can get my plan."
"Then we have nothing more to do here?" inquired M. Leduc.
"Then I am free to go home?"
"I shall be sorry to leave you, that is all."
"Can you find your way to the Bastion without me?"
"It is close by."
"What are you going to do this evening?"
"I will spend it with you, if you wish."
"Very good! You will find a cup of tea waiting for you at nine."
"I shall be on hand for it."
I thanked M. Leduc. We shook hands and parted.
I went down the Rue des Lisses (meaning Lists, from a combat
which took place in the square to which it leads), and skirting the
"Well?" I asked.
"What is that you have there?"
"The minutes of the trial and execution."
"Of your men."
"Of Guyon, Leprêtre, Amiet--!"
"Give it to me."
"Here it is."
I took it and read:
REPORT OF THE DEATH AND EXECUTION OF LAURENT GUYON, ETIENNE HYVERT, FRANÇOIS AMIET, ANTOINE LEPRÊTRE. Condemned the twentieth Thermidor of the year VIII., and executed the twenty-third Vendemiaire of the year IX.
To-day, the twenty-third Vendemiaire of the year IX., the government commissioner of the tribunal, who received at eleven of the evening the budget of the Minister of Justice, containing the minutes of the trial and the judgment which condemns to death Laurent Guyon, Etienne Hyvert, François Amiet and Antoine Leprêtre;--the decision of the Court of Appeals of the sixth inst., rejecting the appeal against the sentence of the twenty-first Thermidor of the year VIII., I did notify by letter, between seven and eight of the morning, the four accused that their sentence of death would take effect to-day at eleven o'clock. In the interval which elapsed before eleven o'clock, the four accused shot themselves with pistols and stabbed themselves with blows from a poinard in prison. Leprêtre and Guyon, according to public rumor, were dead; Hyvert fatally wounded and dying; Amiet fatally wounded, but still conscious. All four, in this state, were conveyed to the scaffold, and, living or dead, were guillotined. At half after eleven, the sheriff, Colin, handed in the report of their execution to the Municipality for registration upon the death roll:
The captain of gendarmerie remitted to the Justice of the Peace a report of what had occurred in the prison, of which he was a witness. I, who was not present, do certify to what I have learned by hearsay only.
(Signed) DUBOST, _Clerk_.
Bourg, 23d Vendemiaire of the year IX.
Ah! so it was the poet who was right and not the historian! The captain of gendarmerie, who remitted the report of the proceedings in the prison to the Justice of the Peace, at which he was present, was Nodier's uncle. This report handed to the Justice of the Peace was the story which, graven upon the young man's mind, saw the light some forty years later unaltered, in that masterpiece entitled "Souvenirs de la Révolution." The entire series of papers was in the record office. M. Martin offered to have them copied for me; inquiry, trial and judgment.
I had a copy of Nodier's "Souvenirs of the Revolution" in my pocket. In my hand I held the report of the execution which confirmed the facts therein stated.
"Now let us go to our magistrate," I said to M. Milliet.
"Let us go to our magistrate," he repeated.
The magistrate was confounded, and I left him convinced that poets know history as well as historians--if not better.
THE CITY OF
We do not know if the prologue we are going to present to our readers' eyes be very useful, nevertheless we cannot resist the desire to make of it, not the first chapter, but the preface of this book.
The more we advance in life, the more we advance in art, the more convinced we become that nothing is abrupt and isolated; that nature and society progress by evolution and not by chance, and that the event, flower joyous or sad, perfumed or fetid, beneficent or fatal, which unfolds itself to-day before our eyes, was sown in the past, and had its roots sometimes in days anterior to ours, even as it will bear its fruits in the future.
Young, man accepts life as it comes, enamored of yestereen, careless of the day, heeding little the morrow. Youth is the springtide with its dewy dawns and its beautiful nights; if sometimes a storm clouds the sky, it gathers, mutters and disperses, leaving the sky bluer, the atmosphere purer, and Nature more smiling than before. What use is there in reflecting on this storm that passes swift as a caprice, ephemeral as a fancy? Before we have discovered the secret of the meteorological enigma, the storm will have disappeared.
But it is not thus with the terrible phenomena, which at the close of summer, threaten our harvests; or in the midst of autumn, assail our vintages; we ask whither they go, we query whence they come, we seek a means to prevent them.
To the thinker, the historian, the poet, there is a far deeper subject for reflection in revolutions, these tempests of the social atmosphere which drench the earth with blood, and crush an entire generation of men, than in those upheavals of nature which deluge a harvest, or flay the vineyards with hail--that is to say, the fruits of a single harvest, wreaking an injury, which can at the worst be repaired the ensuing year; unless the Lord be in His days of wrath.
Thus, in other days, be it forgetfulness, heedlessness or ignorance perhaps--(blessed he who is ignorant! a fool he who is wise!)--in other days in relating the story which I am going to tell you to-day I would, without pausing at the place where the first scene of this book occurs, have accorded it but a superficial mention, and traversing the Midi like any other province, have named Avignon like any other city.
But to-day it is no longer the same; I am no longer tossed
by the flurries of spring, but by the storms of summer, the tempests of autumn.
To-day when I name
"Look! in this place ran Cassius' dagger through; See what a rent the envious Casca made; Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabbed--"
So, seeing the bloody shroud of the papal city, I say: "Behold the blood of the Albigenses, and here the blood of the Cevennais; behold the blood of the Republicans, and here the blood of the Royalists; behold the blood of Lescuyer; behold the blood of Maréchal Brune."
And I feel myself seized with a profound sadness, and I begin to write, but at the first lines I perceive that, without suspecting it, the historian's chisel has superseded the novelist's pen in my hand.
Well, let us be both. Reader, grant me these ten, fifteen, twenty pages to the historian; the novelist shall have the rest.
Let us say, therefore, a few words about
"Avignon," he writes, "a town noble for its antiquity, pleasing in its site, superb for its walls, smiling for the fertility of its soil, charming for the gentleness of its inhabitants, magnificent for its palace, beautiful in its broad streets, marvellous in the construction of its bridge, rich because of its commerce, and known to all the world."
May the shade of François Nouguier pardon us if we do not at
first see his city with the same eyes as he does. To those who know
It is but just to assert in the first place that
The bourgeois refused. They offered the King of France, as a
last concession, a peaceful entrance, lances erect, and the royal banner alone
unfurled. The King laid siege to the town, a siege which lasted three months,
during which, says the chronicler, the bourgeois of
The city capitulated at length. Louis VIII. brought the
Roman Cardinal-Legate, Saint-Angelo, in his train. It was he who dictated the
terms, veritable priestly terms, hard and unconditional. The Avignonese were
commanded to demolish their ramparts, to fill their moats, to raze three
hundred towers, to sell their vessels, and to burn their engines and machines
of war. They had moreover to pay an enormous impost, to abjure the Vaudois
heresy, and maintain thirty men fully armed and equipped, in
In opposition to these penitents, known as the "White Penitents," the order of the "Black Penitents" was founded, imbued with the spirit of opposition of Raymond of Toulouse.
From that day forth the religious hatreds developed into
political hatreds. It was not sufficient that
Permit us, in connection with this French Rome, a short historical digression. Strictly speaking, it is not essential to the subject of which we treat, and we were perhaps wiser to launch ourselves immediately into the heart of the drama; but we trust that we will be forgiven. We write more particularly for those who, in a novel, like occasionally to meet with something more than fiction.
In 1285 Philippe le Bel ascended the throne.
It is a great historical date, this date of 1285. The papacy which, in the person of Gregory VII., successfully opposed the Emperor of Germany; the papacy which, vanquished in matters temporal by Henry IV., yet vanquished him morally. This papacy was slapped by a simple Sabine gentleman, and the steel gauntlet of Colonna reddened the cheek of Boniface VIII. But the King of France, whose hand had really dealt this blow, what happened to him under the successor of Boniface VIII.?
This successor was Benedict XI., a man of low origin, but who might perhaps have developed into a man of genius, had they allowed him the time. Too weak for an open struggle with Philippe le Bel, he found a means which would have been the envy of the founder of a celebrated order two hundred years later. He pardoned Colonna openly.
To pardon Colonna was to declare Colonna culpable, since culprits alone have need of pardon. If Colonna were guilty, the King of France was at least his accomplice.
There was some danger in supporting such an argument; also
Benedict XI. was pope but eight months. One day a veiled woman, a pretended
lay-sister of Sainte-Petronille at
Then Philippe le Bel had a strange idea; so strange that it must, at first, have seemed an hallucination.
It was to withdraw the papacy from
The reign of Philippe le Bel was the advent of gold. Gold!
that was the sole and unique god of this king who had slapped a pope.
Do you expect, dear reader, that we are about to fall into the philosophical commonplace of anathematizing gold? You are mistaken.
In the thirteenth century gold meant progress. Until then nothing was known but the soil. Gold was the soil converted into money, the soil mobilized, exchangeable, transportable, divisible, subtilized, spiritualized, as it were.
So long as the soil was not represented by gold, man, like the god Thermes, that landmark of the fields, had his feet imprisoned by the earth. Formerly the earth bore man, to-day man bears the earth.
But this gold had to be abstracted from its hiding-place,
and it was hidden far otherwise than in the mines of
And that is why Philippe le Bel, that great exploiter of
gold, resolved to have a pope of his own. Benedict XI. dead, a conclave was
Bertrand de Got took heed not to miss that appointment.
The King and the Archbishop heard mass there, and at the moment when the Host was elevated, they bound themselves by this God they glorified to absolute secrecy. Bertrand de Got was still ignorant of the matter in question. Mass over, Philippe le Bel said:
"Archbishop, I have it in my power to make thee pope."
Bertrand de Got listened no longer, but cast himself at the King's feet, saying:
"What must I do to obtain this?"
"Accord me the six favors which I shall ask of thee," replied Philippe le Bel.
"It's for thee to command and for me to obey," said the future Pope.
The vow of servitude was taken.
The King raised Bertrand de Got, and, kissing him on the mouth, said:
"The six favors which I demand of thee are these:
First, thou shalt reconcile me completely with the Church, and grant me pardon
for the misdeed that I committed toward Boniface VIII. Second, thou shalt
restore to me and mine the right of communion of which the Court of Rome
deprived me. Third, thou shalt grant me the clergy's tithe in my kingdom for
the next five years, to help defray the expenses of the war in
Bertrand de Got swore to the promises and favors known, and to the promise and favor unknown. This last, which the King had not dared to mention in connection with the others, was the abolition of the Knights Templar. Besides the promises made on the Corpus Domini, Bertrand de Got gave as hostages his brother and two of his nephews. The King swore on his side that he should be elected pope.
This scene, set in the deep shadows of a crossroad in the forest, resembled rather an evocation between magician and demon than an agreement entered upon between king and pope.
Also the coronation of the King, which took place shortly
Bertrand de Got was elected pope under the name of Clement V.
Clement V. paid all that Bertrand de Got had promised.
Philippe was absolved, Holy Communion restored to him and his, the purple again
descended upon the shoulders of the Colonna, the Church was obliged to defray
the expenses of the war in Flanders and Philippe de Valois's crusade against
the Greek Empire. The memory of Pope Boniface VIII. was, if not destroyed and
annulled, at least besmirched; the walls of the
All these edicts--they were no longer called bulls from the
moment the temporal power dictated them--all these edicts were dated at
Philippe le Bel was the richest of all the kings of the French monarchy; he possessed an inexhaustible treasury, that is to say, his pope. He had purchased him, he used him, he put him to the press, and as cider flows from apples, so did this crushed pope bleed gold. The pontificate, struck by the Colonna in the person of Boniface VIII., abdicated the empire of the world in the person of Clement V.
We have related the advent of the king of blood and the pope of gold. We know how they ended. Jacques de Molay, from his funeral pyre, adjured them both to appear before God within the year. _Ae to geron sithullia_, says Aristophanes. "Dying hoary heads possess the souls of sibyls."
Clement V. departed first. In a vision he saw his palace in flames. "From that moment," says Baluze, "he became sad and lasted but a short time."
Seven months later it was Philippe's turn. Some say that he
was killed while bunting, overthrown by a wild boar. Dante is among their number.
"He," said he, "who was seen near the
"Undermined by a malady unknown to the physicians, Philippe expired," said he, "to the great astonishment of everybody, without either his pulse or his urine revealing the cause of his malady or the imminence of the danger."
The King of Debauchery, the King of Uproar, Louis X., called the Hutin, succeeded his father, Philippe le Bel; John XXII. to Clement V.
This lasted until King Charles V., who was a virtuous and
pious prince, having resolved to put an end to the scandal, sent the Maréchal
de Boucicaut to drive out the anti-pope, Benedict XIII., from
There each morning, from the summit of a tower, assisted by
the two priests who constituted his sacred college, he blessed the whole world,
which was none the better for it, and excommunicated his enemies, who were none
the worse for it. At last, feeling himself nigh to death, and fearing lest the
schism die with him, he elected his two vicars cardinals on the condition that
after his death one of the two would elect the other pope. The election was
made. The new pope, supported by the cardinal who made him, continued the schism
for awhile. Finally both entered into negotiations with
From this time until 1790
To those who know
The clergy--not the pious clergy, tolerantly austere in the practice of its duty and charity, living in the world to console and edify it, without mingling in its joys and passions--but a clergy such as intrigue, cupidity, and ambition had made it; that is to say, the court abbés, rivalling the Roman priests, indolent, libertine, elegant, impudent, kings of fashion, autocrats of the salon, kissing the hands of those ladies of whom they boasted themselves the paramours, giving their hands to kiss to the women of the people whom they honored by making their mistresses.
Do you want a type of those abbés? Take the Abbé Maury. Proud as a duke, insolent as a lackey, the son of a shoemaker, more aristocratic than the son of a great lord.
One understands that these two categories of inhabitants, representing the one heresy, the other orthodoxy; the one the French party, the other the Roman party; the one the party of absolute monarchy, the other that of progressive constitutionalism, were not elements conducive to the peace and security of this ancient pontifical city. One understands, we say, that at the moment when the revolution broke out in Paris, and manifested itself by the taking of the Bastille, that the two parties, hot from the religious wars of Louis XIV., could not remain inert in the presence of each other.
We have said,
Therefore, at the first cry of liberty which rang through
During the night the papists amused themselves by hanging from a gibbet an effigy of straw wearing the tri-color cockade.
The course of the Rhone has been controlled, the Durance
canalled, dikes have been built to restrain the fierce torrents, which, at the
melting of the snows, pour in liquid avalanches from the summits of
At sight of this manikin with the national colors, dancing at the end of a cord, the French city rose upon its very foundations with terrible cries of rage. Four papist, suspected of this sacrilege, two marquises, one burgher, and a workman, were torn from their homes and hung in the manikin's stead. This occurred the eleventh of June, 1790.
The whole French town wrote to the National Assembly that
she gave herself to
The National Assembly was in one of its reactionary moods.
It did not wish to quarrel with the Pope; it dallied with the King, and the
matter was adjourned. From that moment the rising became a revolt, and the Pope
was free to do with
One man, one only, in broad daylight dared to go straight to
the walls, in face of all, and tear down the decree. His name was Lescuyer. He
was not a young man; and therefore it was not the fire of youth that impelled
him. No, he was almost an old man who did not even belong to the province. He was
a Frenchman from Picardy, ardent yet reflective, a former notary long since
It was a crime that Roman Avignon remembered; a crime so great that the Virgin wept!
It was in the Church of the Cordeliers that this miracle
occurred. The crowd rushed there. It was much that the Virgin should weep; but
a rumor spread at the same time that brought the excitement to a climax. A
large coffer, tightly sealed, had been carried through the city; this chest had
excited the curiosity of all
Lescuyer was the secretary of the municipality. His name was thrown to the crowd, not for having torn down the pontifical decrees--from that moment he would have had defenders--but for having signed the order to the keeper of the Mont-de-Piété permitting the removal of the articles in pawn.
Four men were sent to seize Lescuyer and bring him to the church. They found him in the street on his way to the municipality. The four men fell upon him and dragged him to the church with the most ferocious cries. Once there, Lescuyer understood from the flaming eyes that met his, from the clinched fists threatening him, the shrieks demanding his death; Lescuyer understood that instead of being in the house of the Lord he was in one of those circles of hell forgotten by Dante.
The only idea that occurred to him as to this hatred against him was that he had caused it by tearing down the pontifical decrees. He climbed into the pulpit, expecting to convert it into a seat of justice, and in the voice of a man who not only does not blame himself, but who is even ready to repeat his action, he said:
"Brothers, I consider the revolution necessary; consequently I have done all in my power--"
The fanatics understood that if Lescuyer explained, Lescuyer
was saved. That was not what they wanted. They flung themselves upon him, tore
him from the pulpit, and thrust him into the midst of this howling mob, who
dragged him to the altar with that sort of terrible cry which combines the hiss
of the serpent and the roar of the tiger, the murderous zou! zou! peculiar to
the people of
Lescuyer recognized that fatal cry; he endeavored to gain refuge at the foot of the altar. He found none; he fell there.
A laborer, armed with a stick, dealt him such a blow on the head that the stick broke in two pieces. Then the people hurled themselves upon the poor body, and, with that mixture of gayety and ferocity peculiar to Southern people, the men began to dance on his stomach, singing, while the women, that he might better expiate his blasphemies against the Pope, cut or rather scalloped his lips with their scissors.
And out of the midst of this frightful group came a cry, or rather a groan; this death groan said: "In the name of Heaven! in the name of the Virgin! in the name of humanity! kill me at once."
This cry was heard, and by common consent the assassins stood aside. They left the unfortunate man bleeding, disfigured, mangled, to taste of his death agony.
This lasted five hours, during which, amid shouts of
laughter, insults, and jeers from the crowd, this poor body lay palpitating
upon the steps of the altar. That is how they kill at
Stay! there is yet another way. A man of the French party conceived the idea of going to the Mont-de-Piété for information. Everything was in order there, not a fork or a spoon had been removed. It was therefore not as an accomplice of theft that Lescuyer had just been so cruelly murdered, it was for being a patriot.
There was at that time in
He collected three hundred men, carried the gates of the town, left half of his troop to guard them, and with the remainder marched upon the Church of the Cordeliers, preceded by two pieces of cannon. These he stationed in front of the church and fired them into it at random. The assassins fled like a flock of frightened birds, leaving some few dead upon the church steps. Jourdan and his men trampled over the bodies and entered the holy precincts. No one was there but the Virgin, and the wretched Lescuyer, still breathing. Jourdan and his comrades took good care not to despatch Lescuyer; his death agony was a supreme means of exciting the mob. They picked up this remnant of a sentient being, three-quarters dead, and carried it along, bleeding, quivering, gasping, with them.
Every one fled from the sight, closing doors and windows. At the end of an hour, Jourdan and his three hundred men were masters of the town.
Lescuyer was dead, but what of that; they no longer needed his agony. Jourdan profited by the terror he had inspired to arrest or have arrested eighty people, murderers, or so-called murderers of Lescuyer. Thirty, perhaps, had never even set foot within the church. But when one has such a good opportunity to be rid of one's enemies, one must profit by it; good opportunities are rare.
These eighty people were huddled into the
It had been the scene of the inquisitorial tortures. One can still see on the walls the greasy soot which rose from the smoke of the funeral pyre where human bodies were consumed. They still show you to-day the instruments of torture which they have carefully preserved--the caldron, the oven, the wooden horse, the chains, the dungeons, and even the rotten bones. Nothing is wanting.
It was in this tower, built by Clement V., that they now
confined the eighty prisoners. These eighty men, once arrested and locked up in
We have said that a third, perhaps half of them, had not only taken no part in the murder, but had not even set foot in the church. How should they kill them? The killing must be placed upon the basis of reprisals. But the killing of these eighty people required a certain number of executioners.
A species of tribunal was improvised by Jourdan and held session in one of the law-courts. It had a clerk named Raphel; a president, half Italian, half French; an orator in the popular dialect named Barbe Savournin de la Roua, and three or four other poor devils, a baker, a pork butcher--their names are lost in the multitude of events.
These were the men who cried: "We must kill all! If one only escapes he will be a witness against us."
But, as we have said, executioners were wanting. There were barely twenty men at hand in the courtyard, all belonging to the petty tradesfolk of Avignon--a barber, a shoemaker, a cobbler, a mason, and an upholsterer--all insufficiently armed at random, the one with a sabre, the other with a bayonet, a third with an iron bar, and a fourth with a bit of wood hardened by fire. All of these people were chilled by a fine October rain. It would be difficult to turn them into assassins.
Pooh! Is anything too difficult for the devil?
There comes an hour in such crises when God seems to abandon the earth. Then the devil's chance comes.
The devil in person entered this cold, muddy courtyard. Assuming the features, form and face of an apothecary of the neighborhood named Mendes, he prepared a table lighted by two lanterns, on which he placed glasses, jugs, pitchers and bottles.
What infernal beverage did these mysterious and curiously formed receptacles contain? No one ever knew, but the result is well known. All those who drank that diabolical liquor were suddenly seized with a feverish rage, a lust of blood and murder. From that moment it was only necessary to show them the door; they hurtled madly into the dungeon.
The massacre lasted all night; all night the cries, the sobs, the groans of the dying sounded through the darkness. All were killed, all slaughtered, men and women. It was long in doing; the killers, we have said, were drunk and poorly armed. But they succeeded.
Among these butchers was a child remarked for his bestial cruelty, his immoderate thirst for blood. It was Lescuyer's son. He killed and then killed again; he boasted of having with his childish hand alone killed ten men and four women.
"It's all right! I can kill as I like," said he. "I am not yet fifteen, so they can do nothing to me for it."
As the killing progressed, they threw their victims, the
living, dead and wounded, into the
"For pity's sake, come kill me! I cannot die."
A man, the armorer Bouffier, bent over the pit and looked down. The others did not dare.
"Who was that crying?" they asked.
"That was Lami," replied Bouffier. Then, when he had returned, they asked him:
"Well, what did you see at the bottom?"
"A queer marmalade," said he. "Men and women, priests and pretty girls, all helter-skelter. It's enough to make one die of laughter."
"Decidedly man is a vile creature," said the Count of Monte-Cristo to M. de Villefort.
Well, it is in this town, still reeking with blood, still warm, still stirred by these last massacres, that we now introduce two of the principal personages of our story.
The 9th of October, 1799, on a beautiful day of that meridional autumn which ripens the oranges of Hyères and the grapes of Saint-Peray, at the two extremities of Provence, a travelling chaise, drawn by three post horses, galloped at full speed over the bridge that crosses the Durance, between Cavailhon and Château-Renard, on its way to Avignon, the ancient papal city which a decree, issued the 25th of May, 1791, eight years earlier, had reunited to France--a reunion confirmed by the treaty signed in 1797, at Tolentino, between General Bonaparte and Pope Pius VI.
The carriage entered by the gate of Aix and, without slackening speed, traversed the entire length of the town, with its narrow, winding streets, built to ward off both wind and sun, and halted at fifty paces from the Porte d'Oulle, at the Hotel du Palais-Egalité, which they were again beginning to quietly rename the Hotel du Palais-Royal, a name which it bore formerly and still bears to-day.
These few insignificant words about the name of the inn,
before which halted the post-chaise which we had in view, indicate sufficiently
well the state of
After the revolutionary struggle which had occurred between the 14th of July, 1789, and the 9th Thermidor, 1794; after the days of the 5th and 6th of October, of the 21st of June, of the 10th of August, of the 2d and 3d of September, of the 21st of May, of the 29th Thermidor and the 1st Prairial; after seeing fall the heads of the King and his judges, and the Queen and her accusers, of the Girondins and the Cordeliers, the Moderates and the Jacobins, France experienced that most frightful and most nauseous of all lassitudes, the lassitude of blood!
She had therefore returned, if not to a need of monarchy, at least to a desire for a stable government, in which she might place her confidence, upon which she might lean, which would act for her, and which would permit her some repose while it acted.
In the stead of this vaguely desired government, the country obtained the feeble and irresolute Directory, composed for the moment of the voluptuous Barrès, the intriguing Sièyes, the brave Moulins, the insignificant Roger Ducos, and the honest but somewhat too ingenuous Gohier. The result was a mediocre dignity before the world at large and a very questionable tranquillity at home.
It is true that at the moment of which we write our armies,
so glorious during those epic campaigns of 1796 and 1797, thrown back for a
But in the interior, matters were not in so promising a
state, and the government of the Directory was, it must be confessed, much
embarrassed between the war in the Vendée and the brigandages of the Midi, to
which, according to custom, the population of
Beyond doubt the two travellers who descended from the carriage at the door of the Hotel du Palais-Royal had reason to fear the state of mind in which the always excitable papal town might be at that time; for just before reaching Orgon, at a spot where three crossroads stretched out before the traveller--one leading to Nimes, the second to Carpentras, the third to Avignon--the postilion had stopped his horses, and, turning round, asked:
"Will the citizens go by way of
"Which of the two roads is the shorter?" asked the elder of the two travellers in a harsh, strident voice. Though visibly the elder, he was scarcely thirty years of age.
"Oh, the road to
"Then," he had replied, "go by way of
And the carriage had started again at a gallop, which proclaimed that the citizen travellers, as the postilion called them, although the title of Monsieur was beginning to reappear in conversation, paid a fee of at least thirty sous.
The same desire to lose no time manifested itself at the hotel entrance. There, as on the road, it was the elder of the two travellers who spoke. He asked if they could dine at once, and the way this demand was made indicated that he was ready to overlook many gastronomical exigencies provided that the repast in question be promptly served.
"Citizens," replied the landlord, who, at the sound of carriage wheels hastened, napkin in hand, to greet the travellers, "you will be promptly and comfortably served in your room; but if you will permit me to advise--" He hesitated.
"Oh, go on! go on!" said the younger of the travellers, speaking for the first time.
"Well, it would be that you dine at the table d'hôte, like the traveller for whom this coach, already harnessed, is waiting. The dinner is excellent and all served."
The host at the same time indicated a comfortably appointed carriage, to which were harnessed two horses who were pawing the ground, while the postilion sought patience in the bottle of Cahors wine he was emptying near the window-ledge. The first movement of him to whom this proposal was made was negative; nevertheless, after a second's reflection, the elder of the two travellers, as if he had reconsidered his first decision, made an interrogative sign to his companion, who replied with a look which signified, "You know that I am at your orders."
"Very well, so be it," said the other, "we will dine at the table d'hôte." Then, turning to the postilion, who, hat in hand, awaited his order, he added, "Let the horses be ready in a half hour, at the latest."
And the landlord pointing out the way, they both entered the dining-room, the elder of the two walking first, the other following him.
Everyone knows the impression generally produced at a table d'hôte by new-comers. All eyes were bent upon them and the conversation, which seemed to be quite animated, stopped.
The guests consisted of the frequenters of the hotel, the
traveller whose carriage was waiting harnessed at the door, a wine merchant
The new arrivals greeted the company with a slight
inclination of the head, and sat down at the extreme end of the table, thereby
isolating themselves from the other guests by three or four empty places. This
seemingly aristocratic reserve redoubled the curiosity of which they were the
object; moreover, they were obviously people of unquestionable distinction,
although their garments were simple in the extreme. Both wore hightop boots and
breeches, long-tailed coats, travelling overcoats and broad-brimmed hats, the
usual costume of the young men of that day. But that which distinguished them
from the fashionables of
As to the personality of the two young men, they presented two diametrically opposite types.
The elder of the two, he who, as we have already remarked, had taken the initiative several times, and whose voice, even in its most familiar intonations, denoted the habit of command, was about thirty years of age. His black hair was parted in the middle, falling straight from his temples to his shoulders. He had the swarthy skin of a man who has travelled long in southern climes, thin lips, a straight nose, white teeth, and those hawk-like eyes which Dante gives to Cæsar. He was short rather than tall, his hand was delicate, his foot slender and elegant. His manner betrayed a certain awkwardness, suggesting that he was at the moment wearing a costume to which he was not accustomed, and when he spoke, his hearers, had they been beside the Loire instead of the Rhone, would have detected a certain Italian accent in his pronunciation.
His companion seemed to be some three or four years younger than he. He was a handsome young man with a rosy complexion, blond hair and light blue eyes, a straight, firm nose and prominent but almost beardless chin. He was perhaps a couple of inches taller than his companion, and though his figure was somewhat above medium height, he was so well proportioned, so admirably free in his movements, that he was evidently if not extraordinarily strong, at least uncommonly agile and dexterous. Although attired in the same manner and apparently on a footing of equality, be evinced remarkable deference to the dark young man, which, as it could not result from age, was doubtless caused by some inferiority of position. Moreover, he called his companion citizen, while the other addressed him as Roland.
These remarks which we make to initiate the reader more
profoundly into our story, were probably not made as extensively by the guests
at the table d'hôte; for after bestowing a few seconds of attention upon the
new-comers, they turned their eyes away, and the conversation, interrupted for
an instant, was resumed. It must be confessed that it concerned a matter most
interesting to the travellers--that of the stoppage of a diligence bearing a
sum of sixty thousand francs belonging to the government. The affair had
occurred the day before on the road from
At the first words referring to this event, the two young
men listened with unmistakable interest. It had taken place on the same road
which they had just followed, and the narrator, the wine merchant of
"So, citizen," said a stout gentleman against whom a tall woman, very thin and haggard, was crowding in her terror. "You say that the robbery took place on the very road by which we have just come?"
"Yes, citizen, between Lambesc and Pont-Royal. Did you notice the spot where the road ascends between two high banks? There are a great many rocks there."
"Yes, yes, my friend," said the wife, pressing her husband's arm, "I noticed it; I even said, as you must remember, 'Here is a bad place; I would rather pass here by day than at night.'"
"Oh! madame," said a young man whose voice affected to slur his r's after the fashion of the day, and who probably assumed to lead the conversation at the table d'hôte, on ordinary occasions, "you know the Companions of Jehu know no day or night."
"What! citizen," asked the lady still more alarmed, "were you attacked in broad daylight?"
"In broad daylight, citizeness, at ten o'clock in the morning."
"And how many were there?" asked the stout gentleman.
"Ambushed beside the road?"
"No; they were on horseback, armed to the teeth and masked."
"That's their custom," said the young frequenter of the table d'hôte, "and they said, did they not: 'Do not defend yourself, we will not harm you. We only want the government money.'"
"Word for word, citizen."
"Then," continued this well-informed young man, "two dismounted from their horses, flinging their bridles to their comrades, and commanded the conductor to deliver up the money."
"Citizen," said the stout man astonished, "you describe the thing as if you had seen it."
"Monsieur was there, perhaps," said one of the travellers, half in jest, half in earnest.
"I do not know, citizen, whether in saying that you intend a rudeness," carelessly observed the young man who had so pertinently and obligingly come to the narrator's assistance, "but my political opinions are such that I do not consider your suspicion an insult. Had I had the misfortune to be among those attacked, or the honor to be one of those who made the attack, I should admit it as frankly in the one case as in the other. But yesterday at ten o'clock, at precisely the moment when the diligence was stopped, twelve miles from here, I was breakfasting quietly in this very seat. And, by-the-bye, with the two citizens who now do me the honor to sit beside me."
"And," asked the younger of the two travellers who had lately joined the table, whom his companion called Roland, "how many men were you in the diligence?"
"Let me think; we were--yes, that's it--we were seven men and three women."
"Seven men, not including the conductor?" repeated Roland.
"And you seven men allowed yourselves to be plundered by four brigands? I congratulate you, gentlemen."
"We knew with whom we had to deal," replied the wine merchant, "and we took good care not to defend ourselves."
"What! with whom you had to deal?" retorted the young man. "Why, it seems to me, with thieves and bandits."
"Not at all. They gave their names."
"They gave their names?"
"They said, 'Gentlemen, it is useless to defend yourselves; ladies, do not be alarmed, we are not bandits, we are Companions of Jehu.'"
"Yes," said the young man of the table d'hôte, "they warned you that there might be no misunderstanding. That's their way."
"Ah, indeed!" exclaimed Roland; "and who is this Jehu who has such polite companions? Is he their captain?"
"Sir," said a man whose dress betrayed somewhat the secularized priest, and who seemed also to be, not only an habitual guest at the table d'hôte, but also an initiate into the mysteries of the honorable company whose merits were then under discussion, "if you were better versed than you seem to be in the Holy Scriptures, you would know that this Jehu died something like two thousand six hundred years ago, and that consequently he cannot at the present time stop coaches on the highways."
"Monsieur l'Abbé," replied Roland, who had recognized an ecclesiastic, "as, in spite of the sharp tone in which you speak, you seem a man of learning, permit a poor ignoramus to ask you a few details about this Jehu, dead these two thousand six hundred years, who, nevertheless, is honored by followers bearing his name."
"Jehu!" replied the churchman, in the same sour tone, "was a King of Israel anointed by Elisha, on condition that he punish the crimes of the house of Ahab and Jezbel, and put to death the priests of Baal."
"Monsieur l'Abbé," replied the young man laughing, "I thank you for the explanation. I don't doubt it is correct, and, above all, very learned. But I must admit it doesn't tell me much."
"What, citizen!" exclaimed the abbé, "don't you understand that Jehu is his Majesty Louis XVIII., anointed on condition that he punish the crimes of the Revolution and put to death all the priests of Baal; that is to say, all those who had taken any part whatsoever in the abominable state of things which, for these last seven years, has been called the republic?"
"Yes, indeed!" exclaimed the young man; "of
course I understand. But among those whom the Companions of Jehu are appointed
to fight, do you reckon the brave soldiers who have repulsed the enemy along
the frontiers of
"Why, beyond doubt, those foremost and before all."
The young man's eyes flashed lightning; his nostrils quivered and his lips tightened. He rose from his chair, but his comrade touched his coat and forced him to sit down again, while with a single glance he silenced him. Then he who had thus given proof of his power, speaking for the first time, addressed the young man of the table d'hôte.
"Citizen, excuse two travellers who are just arrived
from the end of the earth, from
"Why, as to that," replied the young man, to whom these words were addressed, "that is but fair, citizen. Question us and we will answer you."
"Well," continued the dark young man with the eagle eye, the straight black hair, and the granite complexion, "now that I know who Jehu is, and to what end his company was instituted, I should like to know what his companions do with the money they take."
"Oh I that is very simple, citizen. You know there is much talk of the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy?"
"No, I did not know it," replied the dark young man, in a tone which he vainly strove to render artless; "I am but just arrived, as I told you, from the end of the earth."
"What! you did not know that? Well, six months hence it will be an accomplished fact."
"I have the honor to tell you so, citizen."
The two soldier-like young men exchanged a glance and a smile, though the young blond one was apparently chafing under the weight of his extreme impatience.
Their informant continued: "
"Well, then, citizen," said the dark young man with a politeness not wholly exempt from satire, "let us call it 'provisional government.'"
"This provisional government has its staff and its armies."
"Bah! its staff perhaps--but its armies--"
"Its armies, I repeat."
"Where are they?"
"One is being organized in the mountains of
"Truly, citizen, you render me a real service in telling me this. I thought the Bourbons completely resigned to their exile. I supposed the police so organized as to suppress both provisional royalist committees in the large towns and bandits on the highways. In fact, I believed the Vendée had been completely pacificated by Hoche."
The young man to whom this reply was addressed burst out laughing.
"Why, where do you come from?" he exclaimed.
"I told you, citizen, from the end of the earth."
"So it seems." Then he continued: "You understand, the Bourbons are not rich, the émigrés whose property was confiscated are ruined. It is impossible to organize two armies and maintain a third without money. The royalists faced an embarrassing problem; the republic alone could pay for its enemies' troops and, it being improbable that she would do so of her own volition, the shady negotiation was abandoned, and it was adjudged quicker to take the money without permission than to ask her for it."
"Ah! I understand at last."
"That's very fortunate."
"Companions of Jehu then are the intermediaries between the Republic and the Counter-Revolution, the tax-collectors of the royalist generals?"
"Yes. It is not robbery, but a military operation, rather a feat of arms like any other. So there you are, citizen, and now you are as well informed on this point as ourselves."
"But," timidly hazarded the wine merchant of
"The government money, no other. Individual plunder on their part is unheard of."
"How does it happen, then, that yesterday, in addition to the government money, they carried off two hundred louis of mine?"
"My dear sir," replied the young man of the table d'hôte, "I have already told you that there is some mistake. As surely as my name is Alfred de Barjols, this money will be returned to you some day."
The wine merchant heaved a sigh and shook his head, as if, in spite of that assurance, he still retained some doubts. But at this moment, as if the promise given by the young noble, who had just revealed his social position by telling his name, had stirred the delicacy of those whom he thus guaranteed, a horse stopped at the entrance, steps were heard in the corridor, the dining-room door opened, and a masked man, armed to the teeth, appeared on the threshold.
"Gentlemen," said he, in the profound silence occasioned by his apparition, "is there a traveller here named Jean Picot, who was in the diligence that was held up yesterday between Lambesc and Pont-Royal?"
"Yes," said the wine merchant, amazed.
"Are you he?" asked the masked man.
"Was anything taken from you?"
"Oh, yes, two hundred louis, which I had intrusted to the conductor."
"And I may add," said the young noble, "that the gentleman was speaking of it at this very moment. He looked upon it as lost."
"The gentleman was wrong," said the masked unknown, "we war upon the government and not against individuals. We are partisans and not robbers. Here are your two hundred Louis, sir, and if a similar mistake should occur in the future, claim your loss, mentioning the name of Morgan."
So saying, the masked individual deposited a bag of gold beside the wine merchant, bowed courteously to the other guests, and went out, leaving some terrified and others bewildered by such daring.
Although the two sentiments which we have just indicated were the dominant ones, they did not manifest themselves to an equal degree in all present. The shades were graduated according to the sex, age, character, we may almost say, the social positions of the hearers. The wine merchant, Jean Picot, the principal personage in the late event, recognizing at first sight by his dress, weapons, mask, one of the men who had stopped the coach on the preceding day, was at first sight stupefied, then little by little, as he grasped the purport of this mysterious brigand's visit to him, he had passed from stupefaction to joy, through the intermediate phases separating these two emotions. His bag of gold was beside him, yet he seemingly dared not touch it; perhaps he feared that the instant his hand went forth toward it, it would melt like the dream-gold which vanishes during that period of progressive lucidity which separates profound slumber from thorough awakening.
The stout gentleman of the diligence and his wife had displayed, like their travelling companions, the most absolute and complete terror. Seated to the left of Jean Picot, when the bandit approached the wine merchant, the husband, in the vain hope of maintaining a respectable distance between himself and the Companion of Jehu, pushed his chair back against that of his wife, who, yielding to the pressure, in turn endeavored to push back hers. But as the next chair was occupied by citizen Alfred de Barjols, who had no reason to fear these men whom he had just praised so highly, the chair of the stout man's wife encountered an obstacle in the immovability of the young noble; so, as at Marengo, eight or nine months later, when the general in command judged it time to resume the offensive, the retrograde movement was arrested.
As for him--we are speaking of the citizen Alfred de Barjols--his attitude, like that of the abbé who had given the Biblical explanation about Jehu, King of Israel, and his mission from Elisha, his attitude, we say, was that of a man who not only experiences no fear, but who even expects the event in question, however unexpected it may be. His lips wore a smile as he watched the masked man, and had the guests not been so preoccupied with the two principal actors in this scene, they might have remarked the almost imperceptible sign exchanged between the eyes of the bandit and the young noble, and transmitted instantly by the latter to the abbé.
The two travellers whom we introduced to the table d'hôte, and who as we have said sat apart at the end of the table, preserved an attitude conformable to their respective characters. The younger of the two had instinctively put his hand to his side, as if to seek an absent weapon, and had risen with a spring, as if to rush at the masked man's throat, in which purpose he had certainly not failed had he been alone; but the elder, who seemed to possess not only the habit but the right of command, contented himself by regrasping his coat, and saying, in an imperious, almost harsh tone: "Sit down, Roland!" And the young man had resumed his seat.
But one of the guests had remained, in appearance at least,
the most impassible during this scene. He was a man between thirty-three and
thirty-four years of age, with blond hair, red beard, a calm, handsome face,
with large blue eyes, a fair skin, refined and intelligent lips, and very tall,
whose foreign accent betrayed one born in that island of which the government
was at that time waging bitter war against France. As far as could be judged by
the few words which had escaped him, he spoke the French language with rare
purity, despite the accent we have just mentioned. At the first word he
uttered, in which that English accent revealed itself, the elder of the two
travellers started. Turning to his companion, he asked with a glance, to which
the other seemed accustomed, how it was that an Englishman should be in
It was evident to the two young men that the fair man with the Anglo-Saxon accent was the traveller whose comfortable carriage awaited him harnessed in the courtyard, and that this traveller hailed from London, or, at least, from some part of Great Britain.
As to his remarks, they, as we have stated, were infrequent,
so laconic, in reality, that they were mere exclamations rather than speech.
But each time an explanation had been asked concerning the state of
Finally, like a spectator enjoying an unexpected scene, he had given a cry of satisfaction at sight of the masked man, had listened with all his ears, gazed with all his eyes, not losing him from sight until the door closed behind him. Then drawing his note-book hastily from his pocket--
"Ah, sir," he said to his neighbor, who was no other than the abbé, "will you be so kind, should my memory fail me, as to repeat what that gentleman who has just gone out said?"
He began to write immediately, and the abbé's memory agreeing with his, he had the satisfaction of transcribing literally and verbatim the speech made by the Companion of Jehu to citizen Jean Picot. Then, this conversation written down, he exclaimed with an accent that lent a singular stamp of originality to his words:
"Of a truth! it is only in
The last sentence was said with such courtesy that nothing
remained save to thank the speaker from whose serious mouth it issued, though
he was a descendant of the conquerors of
"'Pon my word! I am exactly like you, my lord--I say my lord, because I presume you are English."
"Yes, sir," replied the gentleman, "I have that honor."
"Well! as I was saying," continued the young man,
"I am delighted to travel in
And the young man, throwing himself back in his chair, burst into laughter, so aggressive, so nervous, that every one gazed at him in wonderment, while his companion's eyes expressed an almost paternal anxiety.
"Sir," said citizen Alfred de Barjols, who, moved like the others by this singular outburst, more sad, or rather dolorous, than gay, had waited for its last echo to subside. "Sir, permit me to point out to you that the man whom you have just seen is not a highwayman."
"Bah! Frankly, what is he then?"
"He is in all probability a young man of as good a family as yours or mine."
"Count Horn, whom the Regent ordered broken on the
wheel at the Place de Grève, was also a man of good family, and the proof is
that all the nobility of
"Count Horn, if I remember rightly, murdered a Jew to steal a note of hand which he was unable to meet. No one would dare assert that a Companion of Jehu had ever so much as harmed the hair of an infant."
"Well, be it so. We will admit that the Company was founded upon a philanthropic basis, to re-establish the balance of fortunes, redress the whims of chance and reform the abuses of society. Though he may be a robber, after the fashion of Karl Moor, your friend Morgan--was it not Morgan that this honest citizen called himself?"
"Yes," said the Englishman.
"Well, your friend Morgan is none the less a thief."
Citizen Alfred de Barjols turned very pale.
"Citizen Morgan is not my friend," replied the young aristocrat; "but if he were I should feel honored by his friendship."
"No doubt," replied Roland, laughing. "As Voltaire says: 'The friendship of a great man is a blessing from the gods.'"
"Roland, Roland!" observed his comrade in a low tone.
"Oh! general," replied the latter, letting his companion's rank escape him, perhaps intentionally, "I implore you, let me continue this discussion, which interests me in the highest degree."
His friend shrugged his shoulders.
"But, citizen," continued the young man with
strange persistence, "I stand in need of correction. I left
"Sir," said the young noble, in the tone of a man determined to sustain his argument to its end, "I call that war. Here is your companion whom you have just called general; he as a military man will tell you that, apart from the pleasure of killing and being killed, the generals of all ages have never done anything else than what the citizen Morgan is doing?"
"What!" exclaimed the young man, whose eyes flashed fire. "You dare to compare--"
"Permit the gentleman to develop his theory, Roland," said the dark traveller, whose eyes, unlike those of his companion, which dilated as they flamed, were veiled by long black lashes, thus concealing all that was passing in his mind.
"Ah!" said the young man in his curt tone, "you see that you, yourself, are becoming interested in the discussion." Then, turning to the young noble, whom he seemed to have selected for his antagonist, he said: "Continue, sir, continue; the general permits it."
The young noble flushed as visibly as he had paled a moment
before. Between clinched teeth, his elbow on the table, his chin on his
clinched hand, as if to draw as close to his adversary as possible, he said
with a Provençal accent, which grew more pronounced as the discussion waxed
hotter: "Since _the general_ permits"--emphasizing the two words--"I
shall have the honor to tell him and you, too, citizen, that I believe I have
read in Plutarch that Alexander the Great, when he started for India, took with
him but eighteen or twenty talents in gold, something like one hundred or one
hundred and twenty thousand francs. Now, do you suppose that with these
eighteen or twenty talents alone he fed his army, won the battle of Granicus,
subdued Asia Minor, conquered Tyre, Gaza, Syria and Egypt, built Alexandria,
penetrated to Lybia, had himself declared Son of Jupiter by the oracle of
Ammon, penetrated as far as the Hyphases, and, when his soldiers refused to
follow him further, returned to Babylon, where he surpassed in luxury,
debauchery and self-indulgence the most debauched and voluptuous of the kings of
This affectation seemed to irritate Roland intensely. He made a movement as if to spring forward, but his companion stopped him.
"Let be," said he, "let be, Roland. I am quite sure that citizen Barjols will not say the General Buonaparté, as he calls him, is a thief."
"No, I will not say it; but there is an Italian proverb which says it for me."
"What is the proverb?" demanded the general in his companion's stead, fixing his calm, limpid eye upon the young noble.
"I give it in all its simplicity: 'Francesi non sono tutti ladroni, ma buona parte'; which means: 'All Frenchmen are not thieves, but--"
"A good part are?" concluded Roland.
"Yes, 'Buonaparté,'" replied Alfred de Barjols.
Scarcely had these insolent words left the young aristocrat's lips than the plate with which Roland was playing flew from his hands and struck De Barjols full in the face. The women screamed, the men rose to their feet. Roland burst into that nervous laugh which was habitual with him, and threw himself back in his chair. The young aristocrat remained calm, although the blood was trickling from his brow to his cheek.
At this moment the conductor entered with the usual formula:
"Come! citizen travellers, take your places."
The travellers, anxious to leave the scene of the quarrel, rushed to the door.
"Pardon me, sir," said Alfred de Barjols to Roland, "you do not go by diligence, I hope?"
"No, sir, I travel by post; but you need have no fear; I shall not depart."
"Nor I," said the Englishman. "Have them unharness my horses; I shall remain."
"I must go," sighed the dark young man whom Roland had addressed as general. "You know it is necessary, my friend; my presence yonder is absolutely imperative. But I swear that I would not leave you if I could possibly avoid it."
In saying these words his voice betrayed an emotion of which, judging from its usual harsh, metallic ring, it had seemed incapable. Roland, on the contrary, seemed overjoyed. His belligerent nature seemed to expand at the approach of a danger to which he had perhaps not given rise, but which he at least had not endeavored to avoid.
"Good! general," he said. "We were to part at
"You may rest easy on that score, Roland," exclaimed the general. Then, looking attentively at the two adversaries, he added with an indescribable note of tenderness: "Above all, Roland, do not let yourself be killed; but if it is a possible thing don't kill your adversary. Everything considered, he is a gallant man, and the day will come when I shall need such men at my side."
"I shall do my best, general; don't be alarmed." At this moment the landlord appeared upon the thresh-hold of the door.
"The post-chaise is ready," said he.
The general took his hat and his cane, which he had laid upon the chair. Roland, on the contrary, followed him bareheaded, that all might see plainly he did not intend to leave with his friend. Alfred de Barjols, therefore, offered no opposition to his leaving the room. Besides, it was easy to see that his adversary was of those who seek rather than avoid quarrels.
"Just the same," said the general, seating himself in the carriage to which Roland had escorted him, "my heart is heavy at leaving you thus, Roland, without a friend to act as your second."
"Good! Don't worry about that, general; seconds are never lacking. There are and always will be enough men who are curious to see how one man can kill another."
"Au revoir, Roland. Observe, I do not say farewell, but au revoir!"
"Yes, my dear general," replied the young man, in a voice that revealed some emotion, "I understand, and I thank you."
"Promise that you will send me word as soon as the affair is over, or that you will get some one to write if you are disabled."
"Oh, don't worry, general. You will have a letter from me personally in less than four days," replied Roland, adding, in a tone of profound bitterness: "Have you not perceived that I am protected by a fatality which prevents me from dying?"
"Roland!" exclaimed the general in a severe tone, "Again!"
"Nothing, nothing," said the young man, shaking his head and assuming an expression of careless gayety which must have been habitual with him before the occurrence of that unknown misfortune which oppressed his youth with this longing for death.
"Very well. By the way, try to find out one thing."
"What is that, general?"
"How it happens that at a time when we are at war with
"Good; I will find out."
"I do not know; but when I promise you to find out I shall do so, though I have to ask it of himself."
"Reckless fellow! Don't get yourself involved in another affair in that direction."
"In any case, it would not be a duel. It would be a battle, as he is a national enemy."
"Well, once more--till I see you again. Embrace me."
Roland flung himself with passionate gratitude upon the neck of the personage who had just given him this permission.
"Oh, general!" he exclaimed, "how happy I should be--if I were not so unhappy!"
The general looked at him with profound affection, then asked: "One day you will tell me what this sorrow is, will you not, Roland?"
Roland laughed that sorrowful laugh which had already escaped his lips once or twice.
"Oh! my word, no," said he, "you would ridicule me too much."
The general stared at him as one would contemplate a madman.
"After all," he murmured, "one must accept men as they come."
"Especially when they are not what they seem to be."
"You must mistake me for OEdipe since you pose me with these enigmas, Roland."
"Ah! If you guess this one, general, I will herald you
"That is so! Have you any commissions for
"Yes, three; my regards to Bourrienne, my respects to your brother Lucien, and my most tender homage to Madame Bonaparte."
"I will deliver them."
"Where shall I find you in
"At my house in the Rue de la Victoire, perhaps."
"Who knows? Perhaps at
The postilion, who was only waiting for the order, whipped up his horses; the carriage departed rapidly, rumbling like a roll of thunder, and disappeared through the Porte d'Oulle.
Roland remained motionless, not only as long as he could see the carriage, but long after it had disappeared. Then, shaking his head as if to dispel the cloud which darkened his brow, he re-entered the inn and asked for a room.
"Show the gentleman to number three," said the landlord to a chambermaid.
The chambermaid took a key hanging from a large black wooden tablet on which were arranged the numbers in white in two rows, and signed to the young traveller to follow her.
"Send up some paper, and a pen and ink," Roland said to the landlord, "and if M. de Barjols should ask where I am tell him the number of my room."
The landlord promised to obey Roland's injunctions and the latter followed the girl upstairs whistling the Marseillaise. Five minutes later he was seated at a table with the desired paper, pen and ink before him preparing to write. But just as he was beginning the first line some one knocked, three times at the door.
"Come in," said he, twirling his chair on one of its hind legs so as to face his visitor, whom he supposed to be either, M. de Barjols or one of his friends.
The door opened with a steady mechanical motion and the Englishman appeared upon the threshold.
"Ah!" exclaimed Roland, enchanted with this visit, in view of his general's recommendation; "is it you?"
"Yes," said the Englishman, "it is I."
"You are welcome."
"Oh! if I am welcome, so much the better! I was not sure that I ought to come."
"On account of Aboukir."
Roland began to laugh.
"There are two battles of Aboukir," said he; "one which we lost; the other we won."
"I referred to the one you lost."
"Good!" said Roland, "we fight, kill, and exterminate each other on the battlefield, but that does not prevent us from clasping hands on neutral ground. So I repeat, you are most welcome, especially if you will tell me why you have come."
"Thank you; but, in the first place, read that." And the Englishman drew a paper from his pocket.
"What is that?" asked Roland.
"What have I to do with your passport?" asked Roland, "I am not a gendarme."
"No, but I have come to offer you my services. Perhaps you will not accept them if you do not know who I am."
"Your services, sir?"
"Yes; but read that first."
In the name of the
To whom it may concern--I recommend Sir John Tanlay particularly as a philanthropist and a friend of liberty.
"Have you read it?"
"Yes; what of it?"
"What of it? Well, my father, Lord Tanlay, rendered M.
Barras some services; that is why M. Barras permits me to roam about
"Oh, I remember, Sir John; you did us the honor to say so at dinner."
"I did say so, it is true; I also said that I liked the French people heartily."
"And above all General Bonaparte," continued Sir John.
"You like General Bonaparte very much?"
"I admire him; he is a great, a very great, man."
"By Heavens! Sir John, I am sorry he is not here to hear an Englishman say that of him."
"Oh! if he were here I should not say it."
"I should not want him to think I was trying to please him. I say so because it is my opinion."
"I don't doubt it, my lord," said Roland, who did not see what the Englishman was aiming at, and who, having learned all that he wished to know through the passport, held himself upon his guard.
"And when I heard," continued the Englishman with the same phlegm, "you defend General Bonaparte, I was much pleased."
"Much pleased," repeated the Englishman, nodding his head affirmatively.
"So much the better!"
"But when I saw you throw a plate at M. Alfred de Barjols' head, I was much grieved."
"You were grieved, my lord, and why?"
"My lord," said Roland, rising with a frown, "have you perchance come here to read me a lecture?"
"Oh, no; I came to suggest that you are perhaps perplexed about finding a second?"
"My faith, Sir John! I admit that the moment when you knocked at the door I was wondering of whom I could ask this service."
"Of me, if you wish," said the Englishman. "I will be your second."
"On my honor!" exclaimed Roland, "I accept with all my heart."
"That is the service I wished to render you!"
Roland held out his hand, saying: "Thank you!"
The Englishman bowed.
"Now," continued Roland, "as you have had the good taste, my lord, to tell me who you were before offering your services, it is but fair that, since I accept them, I should tell you who I am."
"Oh! as you please."
"My name is Louis de Montrevel; I am aide-de-camp to General Bonaparte."
"Aide-de-camp to General Bonaparte. I am very glad."
"That will explain why I undertook, rather too warmly perhaps, my general's defence."
"No, not too warmly; only, the plate--"
"Oh, I know well that the provocation did not entail that plate. But what would you have me do! I held it in my hand, and, not knowing what to do with it, I threw it at M. de Barjols' head; it went of itself without any will of mine."
"You will not say that to him?"
"Reassure yourself; I tell you to salve your conscience."
"Very well; then you will fight?"
"That is why I have remained here, at any rate."
"That is not our affair, my lord."
"What! not our affair?"
"No; M. de Barjols is the one insulted; the choice is his."
"Then you will accept whatever he proposes?"
"Not I, Sir John, but you in my name, since you do me the honor to act as my second."
"And if he selects pistols, what is the distance to be and how will you fight?"
"That is your affair, my lord, and not mine. I don't
know how you do in
"Then my arrangements will be satisfactory?"
"Perfectly so, my lord."
The Englishman bowed.
"What hour and what day?"
"Oh! as soon as possible; I have not seen my family for two years, and I confess that I am in a hurry to greet them."
The Englishman looked at Roland with a certain wonder; he spoke with such assurance, as if he were certain that he would not be killed. Just then some one knocked at the door, and the voice of the innkeeper asked: "May I come in?"
The young man replied affirmatively. The door opened and the landlord entered, holding a card in his hand which he handed his guest. The young man took the card and read: "Charles du Valensolle."
"From M. Alfred de Barjols," said the host.
"Very well!" exclaimed Roland. Then handing the card to the Englishman, he said: "Here, this concerns you; it is unnecessary for me to see this monsieur--since we are no longer citizens--M. de Valensolle is M. de Barjols' second; you are mine. Arrange this affair between you. Only," added the young man, pressing the Englishman's hand and looking fixedly at him, "see that it holds a chance of certain death for one of us. Otherwise I shall complain that it has been bungled."
"Don't worry," said the Englishman, "I will act for you as for myself."
"Excellent! Go now, and when everything is arranged come back. I shall not stir from here."
Sir John followed the innkeeper. Roland reseated himself, twirled his chair back to its former position facing the table, took up his pen and began to write.
When Sir John returned, Roland had written and sealed two letters and was addressing a third. He signed to the Englishman to wait until he had finished, that he might give him his full attention. Then, the address finished, he sealed the letter, and turned around.
"Well," he asked, "is everything arranged?"
"Yes," said the Englishman, "it was an easy matter. You are dealing with a true gentleman."
"So much the better!" exclaimed Roland, waiting.
"You will fight two hours hence by the fountain of Vaucluse--a charming spot--with pistols, advancing to each other, each to fire as he pleases and continuing to advance after his adversary's fire."
"By my faith! you are right, Sir John. That is, indeed, excellent. Did you arrange that?"
"I and M. de Barjols' second, your adversary having renounced his rights of the insulted party."
"Have you decided upon the weapons?"
"I offered my pistols. They were accepted on my word of honor that you were as unfamiliar with them as was M. de Barjols. They are excellent weapons. I can cut a bullet on a knife blade at twenty paces."
"Peste! You are a good shot, it would seem, my lord."
"Yes, I am said to be the best shot in
"That is a good thing to know. When I wish to be killed, Sir John, I'll pick a quarrel with you."
"Oh! don't pick a quarrel with me," said the Englishman, "it would grieve me too much to have to fight you."
"We will try, my lord, not to cause you such grief. So it is settled then, in two hours."
"Yes, you told me you were in a hurry."
"Precisely. How far is it to this charming spot?"
"From here to Vaucluse?"
"A matter of an hour and a half. We have no time to lose, so let us rid ourselves of troublesome things in order to have nothing but pleasure before us."
The Englishman looked at the young man in astonishment. Roland did not seem to pay any attention to this look.
"Here are three letters," said he; "one for Madame de Montrevel, my mother; one for Mlle. de Montrevel, my sister; one for the citizen, Bonaparte, my general. If I am killed you will simply put them in the post. Will that be too much trouble?"
"Should that misfortune occur, I will deliver your letters myself," said the Englishman. "Where do your mother and sister live?"
"At Bourg, the capital of the Department of Ain."
"That is near here," observed the Englishman.
"As for General Bonaparte, I will go to
"If you take the trouble, as you say, my lord, of
delivering my letters yourself, you will not have to travel such a distance.
Within three days General Bonaparte will be in
"Oh!" said the Englishman, without betraying the least surprise, "do you think so?"
"I am sure of it," replied Roland.
"Truly, he is a very extraordinary man, your General Bonaparte. Now, have you any other recommendations to make to me, M. de Montrevel?"
"One only, my lord."
"Oh! as many as you please."
"No, thank you, one only, but that is very important."
"What is it?"
"If I am killed--but I doubt if I be so fortunate."
Sir John looked at Roland with that expression of wonder which he had already awakened three or four times.
"If I am killed," resumed Roland; "for after all one must be prepared for everything--"
"Yes, if you are killed, I understand."
"Listen well, my lord, for I place much stress on my directions being carried out exactly in this matter."
"Every detail shall be observed," replied Sir John, "I am very punctilious."
"Well, then, if I am killed," insisted Roland,
laying his hand upon his second's shoulder, to impress his directions more
firmly on his memory, "you must not permit any one to touch my body, which
is to be placed in a leaden coffin without removing the garments I am wearing;
the coffin you will have soldered in your presence, then inclosed in an oaken
bier, which must also be nailed up in your presence. Then you will send it to
my mother, unless you should prefer to throw it into the
"It will be no more difficult," replied the Englishman, "to take the coffin, since I am to deliver your letter."
"Decidedly, my lord," said Roland, laughing in his
strange way. "You are a capital fellow.
They left Roland's room; Sir John's chamber was on the same floor. Roland waited while the Englishman went in for his weapons. He returned a few seconds later, carrying the box in his hand.
"Now, my lord," asked Roland, "how shall we reach Vaucluse? On horseback or by carriage?"
"By carriage, if you are willing. It is much more convenient in case one is wounded. Mine is waiting below."
"I thought you had given the order to have it unharnessed?"
"I did, but I sent for the postilion afterward and countermanded it."
They went downstairs.
"Tom! Tom!" called Sir John at the door, where a servant, in the severe livery of an English groom, was waiting, "take care of this box."
"Am I going with you, my lord?" asked the servant.
"Yes!" replied Sir John.
Then showing Roland the steps of his carriage, which the servant lowered, he said:
"Come, M. de Montrevel."
Roland entered the carriage and stretched himself out luxuriously.
"Upon my word!" said he. "It takes you English to understand travelling. This carriage is as comfortable as a bed. I warrant you pad your coffins before you are put in them!"
"Yes, that is a fact," said Sir John, "the English people understand comfort, but the French people are much more curious and amusing--postilion, to Vaucluse!"
The road was passable only from
At the village of l'Isle they were obliged to leave the carriage. Finding on inquiry that they were the first to arrive, they entered the path which led to the fountain.
"Oh! oh!" exclaimed Roland, "there ought to be a fine echo here." And he gave one or two cries to which Echo replied with perfect amiability.
"By my faith!" said the young man, "this is a
marvellous echo. I know none save that of the Seinonnetta, at
And he began, with modulations which revealed an admirable voice and an excellent method, to sing a Tyrolean song which seemed to bid defiance to the human throat with its rebellious music. Sir John watched Roland, and listened to him with an astonishment which he no longer took the trouble to conceal. When the last note had died away among the cavities of the mountain, he exclaimed:
"God bless me! but I think your liver is out of order."
Roland started and looked at him interrogatively. But seeing that Sir John did not intend to say more, he asked:
"Good! What makes you think so?"
"You are too noisily gay not to be profoundly melancholy."
"And that anomaly astonishes you?"
"Nothing astonishes me, because I know that it has always its reason for existing."
"True, and it's all in knowing the secret. Well, I'm going to enlighten you."
"Oh! I don't want to force you."
"You're too polite to do that; still, you must admit you would be glad to have your mind set at rest about me."
"Because I'm interested in you."
"Well, Sir John, I am going to tell you the secret of the enigma, something I have never done with any one before. For all my seeming good health, I am suffering from a horrible aneurism that causes me spasms of weakness and faintness so frequent as to shame even a woman. I spend my life taking the most ridiculous precautions, and yet Larrey warns me that I am liable to die any moment, as the diseased artery in my breast may burst at the least exertion. Judge for yourself how pleasant for a soldier! You can understand that, once I understood my condition, I determined incontinently to die with all the glory possible. Another more fortunate than I would have succeeded a hundred times already. But I'm bewitched; I am impervious alike to bullets and balls; even the swords seem to fear to shatter themselves upon my skin. Yet I never miss an opportunity; that you must see, after what occurred at dinner. Well, we are going to fight. I'll expose myself like a maniac, giving my adversary all the advantages, but it will avail me nothing. Though he shoot at fifteen paces, or even ten or five, at his very pistol' s point, he will miss me, or his pistol will miss fire. And all this wonderful luck that some fine day when I least expect it, I may die pulling on my boots! But hush I here comes my adversary."
As he spoke the upper half of three people could be seen ascending the same rough and rocky path that Roland and Sir John had followed, growing larger as they approached. Roland counted them.
"Three!" he exclaimed. "Why three, when we are only two?"
"Ah! I had forgotten," replied the Englishman. "M. de Barjols, as much in your interest as in his own, asked permission to bring a surgeon, one of his friends."
"What for?" harshly demanded Roland, frowning.
"Why, in case either one of you was wounded. A man's life can often be saved by bleeding him promptly."
"Sir John," exclaimed Roland, ferociously, "I don't understand these delicacies in the matter of a duel. When men fight they fight to kill. That they exchange all sorts of courtesies beforehand, as your ancestors did at Fontenoy, is all right; but, once the swords are unsheathed or the pistols loaded, one life must pay for the trouble they have taken and the heart beats they have lost. I ask you, on your word of honor, Sir John, to promise that, wounded or dying, M. de Barjols' surgeon shall not be allowed to touch me."
"But suppose, M. Roland--"
"Take it or leave it. Your word of honor, my lord, or devil take me if I fight at all."
The Englishman again looked curiously at the young man. His face was livid, and his limbs quivered as though in extreme terror. Sir John, without understanding this strange dread, passed his word.
"Good!" exclaimed Roland. "This, you see, is one of the effects of my charming malady. The mere thought of surgical instruments, a bistoury or a lance, makes me dizzy. Didn't I grow very pale?"
"I did think for an instant you were going to faint."
"What a stunning climax!" exclaimed Roland with a laugh. "Our adversaries arrive and you are dosing me with smelling salts like a hysterical woman. Do you know what they, and you, first of all, would have said? That I was afraid."
Meantime, the three new-comers having approached within earshot, Sir John was unable to answer Roland. They bowed, and Roland, with a smile that revealed his beautiful teeth, returned their greeting. Sir John whispered in his ear:
"You are still a trifle pale. Go on toward the fountain; I will fetch you when we are ready."
"Ah! that's the idea," said Roland. "I have always wanted to see that famous fountain of Vaucluse, the Hippocrene of Petrarch. You know his sonnet?
"'Chiari, fresche e dolci acque
Ove le belle membra
Pose colei, che sola a me perdona.'
This opportunity lost, I may never have another. Where is your fountain?"
"Not a hundred feet off. Follow the path; you'll find it at the turn of the road, at the foot of that enormous bowlder you see."
"My lord," said Roland, "you are the best guide I know; thanks!"
And, with a friendly wave of the hand, he went off in the direction of the fountain, humming the charming pastoral of Philippe Desportes beneath his breath:
"'Rosette, a little absence
Has turned thine heart from me;
I, knowing that inconstance,
Have turned my heart from thee.
No wayward beauty o'er me
Such power shall obtain;
We'll see, my fickle lassie,
Who first will turn again.'"
Sir John turned as he heard the modulations of that fresh sweet voice, whose higher notes had something at a feminine quality. His cold methodical mind understood nothing of that nervous impulsive nature, save that he had under his eyes one of the most amazing organisms one could possibly meet.
The other two young men were waiting for him; the surgeon
stood a little apart. Sir John carried his box of pistols in his hands. Laying
it upon a table-shaped rock, he drew a little key from his pocket, apparently
fashioned by a goldsmith rather than a locksmith, and opened the box. The
weapons were magnificent, although of great simplicity. They came from Manton's
workshop, the grandfather of the man who is still considered one of the best
"Our opponent does not know these weapons?" queried M. Valensolle.
"He has not even seen them," replied Sir John, "I give you my word of honor."
"Oh!" exclaimed M. de Valensolle, "a simple denial suffices."
The conditions of the duel were gone over a second time to avoid possible misunderstanding. Then, these conditions determined, the pistols were loaded. They were then placed, loaded, in the box, the box left in the surgeon's charge, and Sir John, with the key in his pocket, went after Roland.
He found him chatting with a little shepherd boy who was herding three goats on the steep rocky slope of the mountain, and throwing pebbles into the fountain. Sir John opened his lips to tell Roland that all was ready; but the latter, without giving the Englishman time to speak, exclaimed:
"You don't know what this child has been telling me, my
lord! A perfect legend of the
He remained pensive an instant, his eyes bent upon the azure depths, then turning to Sir John:
"They say that, no matter how vigorous the swimmer, none has ever returned from this abyss. Perhaps were I to try it, my lord, it might be surer than M. de Barjols' bullet. However, it always remains as a last resort; in the meantime let us try the bullet. Come, my lord, come."
Then turning to the Englishman, who listened, amazed by this mobility of mind, he led him back to the others who awaited them. They in the meantime had found a suitable place.
It was a little plateau, perched as it were on a rocky proclivity, jutting from the mountain side, exposed to the setting sun, on which stood a ruined castle where the shepherds were wont to seek shelter when the mistral overtook them. A flat space, some hundred and fifty feet long, and sixty wide, which might once have been the castle platform, was now to be the scene of the drama which was fast approaching its close.
"Here we are, gentlemen," said Sir John.
"We are ready, gentlemen," replied M. de Valensolle.
"Will the principals kindly listen to the conditions of the duel?" said Sir John. Then addressing M. de Valensolle, he added: "Repeat them, monsieur; you are French and I am a foreigner, you will explain them more clearly than I."
"You belong to those foreigners, my lord, who teach us poor Provençals the purity of our language; but since you so courteously make me spokesman, I obey you." Then exchanging bows with Sir John, he continued: "Gentlemen, it is agreed that you stand at forty paces, that you advance toward each other, that each will fire at will, and wounded or not will have the right to advance after your adversary's fire."
The two combatants bowed in sign of assent, and with one voice, and almost at the same moment, they said:
Sir John drew the little key from his pocket and opened the box. Then approaching M. de Barjols he offered it to him open. The latter wished to yield the choice of weapons to his opponent; but with a wave of his hand Roland refused, saying in a tone almost feminine in its sweetness:
"After you, M. de Barjols. Although you are the insulted party, you have, I am told, renounced your advantages. The least I can do is to yield you this one, if for that matter it is an advantage."
M. de Barjols no longer insisted. He took one of the two pistols at random. Sir John offered the other to Roland, who took it, and, without even examining its mechanism, cocked the trigger, then let it fall at arm's-length at his side.
During this time M. de Valensolle had measured forty paces, staking a cane as a point of departure.
"Will you measure after me?" he asked Sir John.
"Needless, sir," replied the latter: "M. de Montrevel and myself rely entirely upon you."
M. de Valensolle staked a second cane at the fortieth pace.
"Gentlemen," said he, "when you are ready."
Roland's adversary was already at his post, hat and cloak removed. The surgeon and the two seconds stood aside. The spot had been so well chosen that neither had any advantage of sun or ground. Roland tossed off hat and coat, stationed himself forty paces from M. de Barjols, facing him. Both, one to right the other to the left, cast a glance at the same horizon. The aspect harmonized with the terrible solemnity of the scene about to take place.
Nothing was visible to Roland's right and to M. de Barjols' left, except the mountain's swift incline and gigantic peak. But on the other side, that is to say, to M. de Barjols' right and Roland's left, it was a far different thing.
The horizon stretched illimitable. In the foreground, the
plain, its ruddy soil pierced on all sides by rocks, like a Titan graveyard
with its bones protruding through the earth. Then, sharply outlined in the
setting sun, was
For the rest these two men presented a singular contrast. One, with his black hair, swarthy skin, slender limbs and sombre eyes, was the type of the Southern race which counts among its ancestors Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Spaniards. The other, with his rosy skin, large blue eyes, and hands dimpled like a woman's, was the type of that race of temperate zones which reckons Gauls, Germans and Normans among its forebears.
Had one wished to magnify the situation it were easy to believe this something greater than single combat between two men. One might have thought it was a duel of a people against another people, race against race, the South against the North.
Was it these thoughts which we have just expressed that filled Roland's mind and plunged him into that melancholy revery.
Probably not; the fact is, for an instant he seemed to have forgotten seconds, duel, adversary, lost as he was in contemplation of this magnificent spectacle. M. de Barjols' voice aroused him from this poetical stupor.
"When you are ready, sir," said he, "I am."
"Pardon my keeping you waiting, sir," said he. "You should not have considered me, I am so absent-minded. I am ready now."
Then, a smile on his lips, his hair lifted by the evening breeze, unconcerned as if this were an ordinary promenade, while his opponent, on the contrary, took all the precaution usual in such a case, Roland advanced straight toward M. de Barjols.
Sir John's face, despite his ordinary impassibility, betrayed a profound anxiety. The distance between the opponents lessened rapidly. M. de Barjols halted first, took aim, and fired when Roland was but ten paces from him.
The ball clipped one of Roland's curls, but did not touch him. The young man turned toward his second:
"Well," said he, "what did I tell you?"
"Fire, monsieur, fire!" said the seconds.
M. de Barjols stood silent and motionless on the spot where he had fired.
"Pardon me, gentlemen," replied Roland; "but you will, I hope, permit me to be the judge of the time and manner of retaliating. Since I have felt M. de Barjols' shot, I have a few words to say to him which I could not say before." Then, turning to the young aristocrat, who was pale and calm, he said: "Sir, perhaps I was somewhat too hasty in our discussion this morning."
And he waited.
"It is for you to fire, sir," replied M. de Barjols.
"But," continued Roland, as if he had not heard, "you will understand my impetuosity, and perhaps excuse it, when you hear that I am a soldier and General Bonaparte's aide-de-camp."
"Fire, sir," replied the young nobleman.
"Say but one word of retraction, sir," resumed the young officer. "Say that General Bonaparte's reputation for honor and delicacy is such that a miserable Italian proverb, inspired by ill-natured losers, cannot reflect discredit on him. Say that, and I throw this weapon away to grasp your hand; for I recognize in you, sir, a brave man."
"I cannot accord that homage to his honor and delicacy
until your general has devoted the influence which his genius gives him over
"Ah!" cried Roland, with a smile, "that is asking too much of a republican general."
"Then I maintain what I said," replied the young noble. "Fire! monsieur, fire!" Then as Roland made no haste to obey this injunction, he shouted, stamping his foot: "Heavens and earth! will you fire?"
At these words Roland made a movement as if he intended to fire in the air.
"Ah!" exclaimed M. de Barjols. Then with a rapidity of gesture and speech that prevented this, "Do not fire in the air, I beg, or I shall insist that we begin again and that you fire first."
"On my honor!" cried Roland, turning as pale as if the blood had left his body, "this is the first time I have done so much for any man. Go to the devil! and if you don't want to live, then die!"
At the same time he lowered his arm and fired, without troubling to take aim.
Alfred de Barjols put his hand to his breast, swayed back and forth, turned around and fell face down upon the ground. Roland's bullet had gone through his heart.
Sir John, seeing M. de Barjols fall, went straight to Roland and drew him to the spot where he had thrown his hat and coat.
"That is the third," murmured Roland with a sigh; "but you are my witness that this one would have it."
Then giving his smoking pistol to Sir John, he resumed his hat and coat. During this time M. de Valensolle picked up the pistol which had escaped from his friend's hand, and brought it, together with the box, to Sir John.
"Well?" asked the Englishman, motioning toward Alfred de Barjols with his eyes.
"He is dead," replied the second.
"Have I acted as a man of honor, sir?" asked Roland, wiping away the sweat which suddenly inundated his brow at the announcement of his opponent's death.
"Yes, monsieur," replied M. de Valensolle; "only, permit me to say this: you possess the fatal hand."
Then bowing to Roland and his second with exquisite politeness, he returned to his friend's body.
"And you, my lord," resumed Roland, "what do you say?"
"I say," replied Sir John, with a sort of forced admiration, "you are one of those men who are made by the divine Shakespeare to say of themselves:
"'Danger and I--
We were two lions littered in one day, But I the elder.'"
The return was silent and mournful; it seemed that with the hopes of death Roland's gayety had disappeared.
The catastrophe of which he had been the author played perhaps a part in his taciturnity. But let us hasten to say that in battle, and more especially during the last campaign against the Arabs, Roland had been too frequently obliged to jump his horse over the bodies of his victims to be so deeply impressed by the death of an unknown man.
His sadness was, due to some other cause; probably that which he confided to Sir John. Disappointment over his own lost chance of death, rather than that other's decease, occasioned this regret.
On their return to the Hotel du Palais-Royal, Sir John mounted to his room with his pistols, the sight of which might have excited something like remorse in Roland's breast. Then he rejoined the young officer and returned the three letters which had been intrusted to him.
He found Roland leaning pensively on a table. Without saying a word the Englishman laid the three letters before him. The young man cast his eyes over the addresses, took the one destined for his mother, unsealed it and read it over. As he read, great tears rolled down his cheeks. Sir John gazed wonderingly at this new phase of Roland's character. He had thought everything possible to this many-sided nature except those tears which fell silently from his eyes.
Shaking his head and paying not the least attention to Sir John's presence, Roland murmured:
"Poor mother! she would have wept. Perhaps it is better so. Mothers were not made to weep for their children!"
He tore up the letters he had written to his mother, his sister, and General Bonaparte, mechanically burning the fragments with the utmost care. Then ringing for the chambermaid, he asked:
"When must my letters be in the post?"
"Half-past six," replied she. "You have only a few minutes more."
"Just wait then."
And taking a pen he wrote:
My DEAR GENERAL--It is as I told you; I am living and he is dead. You must admit that this seems like a wager. Devotion to death.
Then he sealed the letter, addressed it to General Bonaparte, Rue de la Victoire, Paris, and handed it to the chambermaid, bidding her lose no time in posting it. Then only did he seem to notice Sir John, and held out his hand to him.
"You have just rendered me a great service, my lord," he said. "One of those services which bind men for all eternity. I am already your friend; will you do me the honor to become mine?"
Sir John pressed the hand that Roland offered him.
"Oh!" said he, "I thank you heartily. I should never have dared ask this honor; but you offer it and I accept."
Even the impassible Englishman felt his heart soften as he brushed away the tear that trembled on his lashes. Then looking at Roland, he said: "It is unfortunate that you are so hurried; I should have been pleased and delighted to spend a day or two with you."
"Where were you going, my lord, when I met you?"
"Oh, I? Nowhere. I am travelling to get over being bored. I am unfortunately often bored."
"So that you were going nowhere?"
"I was going everywhere."
"That is exactly the same thing," said the young officer, smiling. "Well, will you do something for me?"
"Oh! very willingly, if it is possible."
"Perfectly possible; it depends only on you."
"What is it?"
"Had I been killed you were going to take me to my
mother or throw me into the
"I should have taken you to your mother and not thrown
you into the
"Well, instead of accompanying me dead, take me living. You will be all the better received."
"We will remain a fortnight at Bourg. It is my natal
city, and one of the dullest towns in
"I should like nothing better," exclaimed the Englishman; "but it seems to me that it is hardly proper on my part."
"Oh! we are not in
"I should like to go," said Sir John.
"You'll see, my mother is an excellent woman, and very
distinguished besides. My sister was sixteen when I left; she must be eighteen
now. She was pretty, and she ought to be beautiful. Then there is my brother
Edouard, a delightful youngster of twelve, who will let off fireworks between
your legs and chatter a gibberish of English with you. At the end of the
fortnight we will go to
"I have just come from
"But listen. You were willing to go to
"Oh! I am always quoting him."
"Which proves that you like comedies and dramas."
"I do like them very much, that's true."
"Well, then, General Bonaparte is going to produce one in his own style which will not be wanting in interest, I answer for it!"
"So that," said Sir John, still hesitating, "I may accept your offer without seeming intrusive?"
"I should think so. You will delight us all, especially me."
"Then I accept."
"Bravo! Now, let's see, when will you start?"
"As soon as you wish. My coach was harnessed when you threw that unfortunate plate at Barjols' head. However, as I should never have known you but for that plate, I am glad you did throw it at him!"
"Shall we start this evening?"
"Instantly. I'll give orders for the postilion to send other horses, and once they are here we will start."
Roland nodded acquiescence. Sir John went out to give his orders, and returned presently, saying they had served two cutlets and a cold fowl for them below. Roland took his valise and went down. The Englishman placed his pistols in the coach box again. Both ate enough to enable them to travel all night, and as nine o'clock was striking from the Church of the Cordeliers they settled themselves in the carriage and quitted Avignon, where their passage left a fresh trail of blood, Roland with the careless indifference of his nature, Sir John Tanlay with the impassibility of his nation. A quarter of an hour later both were sleeping, or at least the silence which obtained induced the belief that both had yielded to slumber.
We shall profit by this instant of repose to give our readers some indispensable information concerning Roland and his family.
Roland was born the first of July, 1773, four years and a
few days later than Bonaparte, at whose side, or rather following him, he made
his appearance in this book. He was the son of M. Charles de Montrevel, colonel
of a regiment long garrisoned at
It was there that Bonaparte knew the child, when, on M. de Keralio's report, he was judged worthy of promotion from the Ecole de Brienne to the Ecole Militaire. Louis was the youngest pupil. Though he was only thirteen, he had already made himself remarked for that ungovernable and quarrelsome nature of which we have seen him seventeen years later give an example at the table d'hôte at Avignon.
Bonaparte, a child himself, had the good side of this character; that is to say, without being quarrelsome, he was firm, obstinate, and unconquerable. He recognized in the child some of his own qualities, and this similarity of sentiments led him to pardon the boy's defects, and attached him to him. On the other hand the child, conscious of a supporter in the Corsican, relied upon him.
One day the child went to find his great friend, as he called Napoleon, when the latter was absorbed in the solution of a mathematical problem. He knew the importance the future artillery officer attached to this science, which so far had won him his greatest, or rather his only successes.
He stood beside him without speaking or moving. The young mathematician felt the child's presence, and plunged deeper and deeper into his mathematical calculations, whence he emerged victorious ten minutes later. Then he turned to his young comrade with that inward satisfaction of a man who issues victorious from any struggle, be it with science or things material.
The child stood erect, pale, his teeth clinched, his arms rigid and his fists closed.
"Oh! oh!" said young Bonaparte, "what is the matter now?"
"Ah!" said Bonaparte, laughing, "and you have come to me to strike him back?"
The child shook his head.
"No," said he, "I have come to you because I want to fight him--"
"Therefore I don't want to fight him as children do, but like men fight."
"Does that surprise you?" asked the child.
"No," said Bonaparte; "what do you want to fight with?"
"But only the sergeants have swords, and they won't lend you one."
"Then we will do without swords."
"But what will you fight with?"
The child pointed to the compass with which the young mathematician had made his equations.
"Oh! my child," said Bonaparte, "a compass makes a very bad wound."
"So much the better," replied Louis; "I can kill him."
"But suppose he kills you?"
"I'd rather that than bear his blow."
Bonaparte made no further objections; he loved courage, instinctively, and his young comrade's pleased him.
"Well, so be it!" he replied; "I will tell
"You will have the night to reflect."
"And from now till to-morrow," replied the child,
"Where are you going?" Bonaparte asked him.
"To ask some one else to be my friend."
"So I am no longer your friend?"
"No, since you think I am a coward."
"Very well," said the young man rising.
"You will go?"
"I am going."
"Ah!" exclaimed the child, "I beg your pardon; you are indeed my friend." And he fell upon his neck weeping. They were the first tears he had shed since he had received the blow.
Bonaparte went in search of
The modern Popilius to
But Louis's unyielding obstinacy made the matter a serious
one. A council of the Grands (elder scholars) was called, as was usual in
serious cases. The Grands decided that one of their number could not fight a
child; but since this child persisted in considering himself a young man,
Louis, who was waiting in his friend's room, was sent for. He was introduced into the conclave assembled in the playground of the younger pupils.
There Valence, to whom his comrades had dictated a speech carefully debated among themselves to safeguard the honor of the Grands toward the Petits, assured Louis that he deeply deplored the occurrence; that he had treated him according to his age and not according to his intelligence and courage, and begged him to excuse his impatience and to shake hands in sign that all was forgotten.
But Louis shook his head.
"I heard my father, who is a colonel, say once," he replied, "that he who receives a blow and does not fight is a coward. The first time I see my father I shall ask him if he who strikes the blow and then apologizes to avoid fighting is not more of a coward than he who received it."
The young fellows looked at each other. Still the general
opinion was against a duel which would resemble murder, and all, Bonaparte
included, were unanimously agreed that the child must be satisfied with what
The morrow, while the Grands were receiving their lesson in
mathematics, Louis slipped into the recitation-room, and while
"There," said he, "now we are quits, and I have your apologies to boot; as for me, I shan't make any, you may be quite sure of that."
The scandal was great. The act occurring in the professor's presence, he was obliged to report it to the governor of the school, the Marquis Tiburce Valence. The latter, knowing nothing of the events leading up to the blow his nephew had received, sent for the delinquent and after a terrible lecture informed him that he was no longer a member of the school, and must be ready to return to his mother at Bourg that very day. Louis replied that his things would be packed in ten minutes, and he out of the school in fifteen. Of the blow he himself had received he said not a word.
The reply seemed more than disrespectful to the Marquis Tiburce Valence. He was much inclined to send the insolent boy to the dungeon for a week, but reflected that he could not confine him and expel him at the same time.
The child was placed in charge of an attendant, who was not to leave him until he had put him in the coach for Mâcon; Madame de Montrevel was to be notified to meet him at the end of the journey.
Bonaparte meeting the boy, followed by his keeper, asked an explanation of the sort of constabulary guard attached to him.
"I'd tell you if you were still my friend," replied the child; "but you are not. Why do you bother about what happens to me, whether good or bad?"
Bonaparte made a sign to the attendant, who came to the door while Louis was packing his little trunk. He learned then that the child had been expelled. The step was serious; it would distress the entire family, and perhaps ruin his young comrade's future.
With that rapidity of decision which was one of the distinctive characteristics of his organization, he resolved to ask an audience of the governor, meantime requesting the keeper not to hasten Louis's departure.
Bonaparte was an excellent pupil, beloved in the school, and
highly esteemed by the Marquis Tiburce Valence. His request was immediately
complied with. Ushered into the governor's presence, he related everything,
and, without blaming
"Are you sure of what you are telling me, sir?" asked the governor.
"Question your nephew himself. I will abide by what he says."
"Very well," said the governor, "Louis shall not go, but you will. You are old enough to leave school." Then ringing, "Bring me the list of the vacant sub-lieutenancies," he said.
That same day an urgent request for a sub-lieutenancy was
made to the Ministry, and that same night
"It's all right now," said he, "but if ever we meet with swords by our sides--" A threatening gesture ended the sentence.
This was far from what Bonaparte wanted. He wished to cross first. Had it been possible he would have gone alone.
Seizing the young man by the flap of his coat, he drew him back, saying: "Citizen, you are only a lieutenant, I a commander-in-chief! The precedence belongs to me."
"Too true," replied the other; and he followed Bonaparte instead of preceding him.
That evening, learning that two Austrian divisions had been cut to pieces, and seeing the two thousand prisoners he had taken, together with the captured cannons and flags, Bonaparte recalled the young man who had sprung in front of him when death alone seemed before him.
"Berthier," said he, "tell my aide-de-camp,
"General," stammered Berthier, "
"Ah! I remember I have not seen him to-day. Wounded? Where? How? On the battlefield?"
"No, general," said he, "he was dragged into a quarrel yesterday, and received a sword thrust through his body."
Bonaparte frowned. "And yet they know very well I do
not approve of duels; a soldier's blood belongs not to himself, but to
"He is killed, general."
"To Elliot, in that case."
Bonaparte drew his handkerchief from his pocket and passed it over his brow, which was bathed with sweat.
"To whom you will, then; but I want to see that lieutenant."
He dared not name any others, fearing to hear again that fatal "Killed!"
A quarter of an hour later the young lieutenant was ushered into his tent, which was lighted faintly by a single lamp.
"Come nearer, lieutenant," said Bonaparte.
The young man made three steps and came within the circle of light.
"So you are the man who wished to cross the bridge before me?" continued Bonaparte.
"It was done on a wager, general," gayly answered the young lieutenant, whose voice made the general start.
"Did I make you lose it?"
"Maybe, yes; maybe, no."
"What was the wager?"
"That I should be promoted captain to-day."
"You have won it."
"Thank you, general."
The young man moved hastily forward as if to press Bonaparte's hand, but checked himself almost immediately. The light had fallen full on his face for an instant; that instant sufficed to make the general notice the face as he had the voice. Neither the one nor the other was unknown to him. He searched his memory for an instant, but finding it rebellious, said: "I know you!"
"I am certain; only I cannot recall your name."
"You managed that yours should not be forgotten, general."
"Who are you?"
Bonaparte gave a cry of joy.
"Louis de Montrevel," he exclaimed, opening wide his arms. This time the young lieutenant did not hesitate to fling himself into them.
"Very good," said Bonaparte; "you will serve eight days with the regiment in your new rank, that they may accustom themselves to your captain's epaulets, and then you will take my poor Muiron's place as aide-de-camp. Go!"
"Once more!" cried the young man, opening his arms.
"Faith, yes!" said Bonaparte, joyfully. Then holding
him close after kissing him twice, "And so it was you who gave
"My word!" said the new captain and future aide-de-camp, "you were there when I promised it to him. A soldier keeps his word."
Eight days later Captain Montrevel was doing duty as
staff-officer to the commander-in-chief, who changed his name of Louis, then in
ill-repute, to that of Roland. And the young man consoled himself for ceasing
to be a descendant of
Roland--no one would have dared to call Captain Montrevel
Louis after Bonaparte had baptized him Roland--made the campaign of
When the Egyptian expedition was decided upon, Roland, who
had been summoned to his mother's side by the death of the Brigadier-General de
Montrevel, killed on the Rhine while his son was fighting on the
Bonaparte, who loved his old comrade of the Ecole Militaire
with all his heart, granted him permission to rejoin him at the very last
Our intention is no more to give the history of the campaign
During this succession of marches and battles, Roland had been the officer we know him, gay, courageous and witty, defying the scorching heat of the day, the icy dew of the nights, dashing like a hero or a fool among the Turkish sabres or the Bedouin bullets. During the forty days of the voyage he had never left the interpreter Ventura; so that with his admirable facility he had learned, if not to speak Arabic fluently, at least to make himself understood in that language. Therefore it often happened that, when the general did not wish to use the native interpreter, Roland was charged with certain communications to the Muftis, the Ulemas, and the Sheiks.
During the night of October 20th and 21st
Bonaparte was breakfasting with his aide-de-camp Sulkowsky, so severely wounded at Salahieh that he left his pallet of suffering with the greatest difficulty only. Bonaparte, in his preoccupation forgetting the young Pole's condition, said to him: "Sulkowsky, take fifteen Guides and go see what that rabble wants."
"General," interposed Roland, "give me the commission. Don't you see my comrade can hardly stand?"
"True," said Bonaparte; "do you go!"
Roland went out and took the fifteen Guides and started. But the order had been given to Sulkowsky, and Sulkowsky was determined to execute it. He set forth with five or six men whom he found ready.
Whether by chance, or because he knew the streets of
Half an hour later, a Guide, returning alone to head-quarters, announced the deaths of Sulkowsky, Roland and his twenty-one companions.
Bonaparte, as we have said, loved Roland as a brother, as a
son, as he loved
Bonaparte sighed, shed a tear and murmured: "Another!" and apparently thought no more about it. But he did inquire to what tribe belonged these Bedouins, who had just killed two of the men he loved best. He was told that they were an independent tribe whose village was situated some thirty miles off. Bonaparte left them a month, that they might become convinced of their impunity; then, the month elapsed, he ordered one of his aides-de-camp, named Crosier, to surround the village, destroy the huts, behead the men, put them in sacks, and bring the rest of the population, that is to say, the women and children, to Cairo.
Crosier executed the order punctually; all the women and
children who could be captured were brought to
"Why is this man still alive?" asked Bonaparte. "I ordered you to behead every man who was able to bear arms."
"General," said Crosier, who also possessed a smattering of Arabian words, "just as I was about to order his head cut off, I understood him to offer to exchange a prisoner for his life. I thought there would be time enough to cut off his head, and so brought him with me. If I am mistaken, the ceremony can take place here as well as there; what is postponed is not abandoned."
Perhaps this was a tale invented to gain time, but it might also be true; nothing was lost by waiting.
The Arab was placed in safe keeping, a scribe was brought to
write at his dictation. He sealed the letter with his own seal, and an Arab
Three days later he returned bringing Roland. Bonaparte had hoped for but had not dared to expect this return.
This heart of iron, which had seemed insensible to grief, was now melted with joy. He opened his arms to Roland, as on the day when he had found him, and two tears, two pearls--the tears of Bonaparte were rare--fell from his eyes.
But Roland, strange as it may seem, was sombre in the midst of the joy caused by his return. He confirmed the Arab's tale, insisted upon his liberation, but refused all personal details about his capture by the Bedouins and the treatment he had received at the hands of the doctor. As for Sulkowsky, he had been killed and beheaded before his eyes, so it was useless to think more of him. Roland resumed his duties, but it was noticeable his native courage had become temerity, and his longing for glory, desire for death.
On the other hand, as often happens with those who brave
fire and sword, fire and sword miraculously spared him. Before, behind and
around Roland men fell; he remained erect, invulnerable as the demon of war.
During the campaign in
When Bonaparte resolved to return to France, Roland was the first to whom the general announced his intention. Another had been overjoyed; but he remained sombre and melancholy, saying: "I should prefer to remain here, general. There is more chance of my being killed here."
But as it would have appeared ungrateful on his part to
refuse to follow the general, he returned with him. During the voyage he
remained sad and impenetrable, until the English fleet was sighted near
All were impatient to be the first to set foot on French
soil. Roland was the last. Although the general paid no apparent attention to
these details, none escaped him. He sent Eugène, Berthier, Bourrienne, his
aides-de-camp and his suite by way of Gap and Draguignan, while he took the
road to Aix strictly incognito, accompanied only by Roland, to judge for
himself of the state of the
Roland replied: "Thank you, general. My sister and my mother will be very happy to see me." Whereas formerly his words would have been: "Thank you, general. I shall be very happy to see my mother and sister again."
We know what occurred at
And now, as we have said, they were sleeping or pretending
to sleep as they were drawn by two horses at full speed along the road of
Our readers must permit us for an instant to abandon Roland and Sir John, who, thanks to the physical and moral conditions in which we left them, need inspire no anxiety, while we direct our attention seriously to a personage who has so far made but a brief appearance in this history, though he is destined to play an important part in it.
We are speaking of the man who, armed and masked, entered the room of the table d'hôte at Avignon to return Jean Picot the two hundred louis which had been stolen from him by mistake, stored as it had been with the government money.
We speak of the highwayman, who called himself Morgan. He
had ridden into
The persons whom he had left at Avignon who were curious to know if this could be the terrible Morgan, the terror of the Midi, might have convinced themselves with their own eyes, had they met him on the road between Avignon and Bédarides, whether the bandit's appearance was as terrifying as his renown. We do not hesitate to assert that the features now revealed would have harmonized so little with the picture their prejudiced imagination had conjured up that their amazement would have been extreme.
The removal of the mask, by a hand of perfect whiteness and delicacy, revealed the face of a young man of twenty-four or five years of age, a face that, by its regularity of feature and gentle expression, had something of the character of a woman's. One detail alone gave it or rather would give it at certain moments a touch of singular firmness. Beneath the beautiful fair hair waving on his brow and temples, as was the fashion at that period, eyebrows, eyes and lashes were black as ebony. The rest of the face was, as we have said, almost feminine. There were two little ears of which only the tips could be seen beneath the tufts of hair to which the Incroyables of the day had given the name of "dog's-ears"; a straight, perfectly proportioned nose, a rather large mouth, rosy and always smiling, and which, when smiling, revealed a double row of brilliant teeth; a delicate refined chin faintly tinged with blue, showing that, if the beard had not been carefully and recently shaved, it would, protesting against the golden hair, have followed the same color as the brows, lashes and eyes, that is to say, a decided black. As for the unknown's figure, it was seen, when he entered the dining-room, to be tall, well-formed and flexible, denoting, if not great muscular strength, at least much suppleness and agility.
The manner he sat his horse showed him to be a practiced rider. With his cloak thrown back over his shoulders, his mask hidden in the holster, his hat pulled low over his eyes, the rider resumed his rapid pace, checked for an instant, passed through Bédarides at a gallop, and reaching the first houses in Orange, entered the gate of one which closed immediately behind him. A servant in waiting sprang to the bit. The rider dismounted quickly.
"Is your master here?" he asked the domestic.
"No, Monsieur the Baron," replied the man; "he was obliged to go away last night, but he left word that if Monsieur should ask for him, to say that he had gone in the interests of the Company."
"Very good, Baptiste. I have brought back his horse in good condition, though somewhat tired. Rub him down with wine, and give him for two or three days barley instead of oats. He has covered something like one hundred miles since yesterday morning."
"Monsieur the Baron was satisfied with him?"
"Perfectly satisfied. Is the carriage ready?"
"Yes, Monsieur the Baron, all harnessed in the coach-house; the postilion is drinking with Julien. Monsieur recommended that he should be kept outside the house that he might not see him arrive."
"He thinks he is to take your master?"
"Yes, Monsieur the Baron. Here is my master's passport,
which we used to get the post-horses, and as my master has gone in the
"Unfasten the valise that is on the croup of my saddle, Baptiste, and give it to me."
Baptiste obeyed dutifully, but the valise almost slipped from his hands. "Ah!" said he laughing, "Monsieur the Baron did not warn me! The devil! Monsieur the Baron has not wasted his time it seems."
"Just where you're mistaken, Baptiste! if I didn't waste all my time, I at least lost a good deal, so I should like to be off again as soon as possible."
"But Monsieur the Baron will breakfast?"
"I'll eat a bite, but quickly."
"Monsieur will not be delayed. It is now two, and breakfast has been ready since ten this morning. Luckily it's a cold breakfast."
And Baptiste, in the absence of his master, did the honors of the house to the visitor by showing him the way to the dining-room.
"Not necessary," said the visitor, "I know the way. Do you see to the carriage; let it be close to the house with the door wide open when I come out, so that the postilion can't see me. Here's the money to pay him for the first relay."
And the stranger whom Baptiste had addressed as Baron handed him a handful of notes.
"Why, Monsieur," said the servant, "you have
given me enough to pay all the way to
"Pay him as far as
"Shall I put the valise in the carriage-box?"
"I will do so myself."
And taking the valise from the servant's hands, without letting it be seen that it weighed heavily, he turned toward the dining-room, while Baptiste made his way toward the nearest inn, sorting his notes as he went.
As the stranger had said, the way was familiar to him, for he passed down a corridor, opened a first door without hesitation, then a second, and found himself before a table elegantly served. A cold fowl, two partridges, a ham, several kinds of cheese, a dessert of magnificent fruit, and two decanters, the one containing a ruby-colored wine, and the other a yellow-topaz, made a breakfast which, though evidently intended for but one person, as only one place was set, might in case of need have sufficed for three or four.
The young man's first act on entering the dining-room was to go straight to a mirror, remove his hat, arrange his hair with a little comb which he took from his pocket; after which he went to a porcelain basin with a reservoir above it, took a towel which was there for the purpose, and bathed his face and hands. Not until these ablutions were completed--characteristic of a man of elegant habits--not until these ablutions had been minutely performed did the stranger sit down to the table.
A few minutes sufficed to satisfy his appetite, to which youth and fatigue had, however, given magnificent proportions; and when Baptiste came in to inform the solitary guest that the carriage was ready he found him already afoot and waiting.
The stranger drew his hat low over his eyes, wrapped his coat about him, took the valise under his arm, and, as Baptiste had taken pains to lower the carriage-steps as close as possible to the door, he sprang into the post-chaise without being seen by the postilion. Baptiste slammed the door after him; then, addressing the man in the top-boots:
"Everything is paid to
"Everything; do you want a receipt?" replied the postilion, jokingly.
"No; but my master, the Marquise de Ribier, don't want
to be disturbed until he gets to
"All right," replied the postilion, in the same bantering tone, "the citizen Marquis shan't be disturbed. Forward, hoop-la!" And he started his horses, and cracked his whip with that noisy eloquence which says to neighbors and passers-by: "'Ware here, 'ware there! I am driving a man who pays well and who has the right to run over others."
Once in the carriage the pretended Marquis of Ribier opened the window, lowered the blinds, raised the seat, put his valise in the hollow, sat down on it, wrapped himself in his cloak, and, certain of not being disturbed till he reached Valence, slept as he had breakfasted, that is to say, with all the appetite of youth.
They went from
"It seems he's a ci-devant; but he was recommended from
"Very well," replied the other; "he shall be driven accordingly."
The traveller thought the time had come to intervene. He raised the blind and said:
"And you'll only be doing me justice. A patriot? Deuce take it! I pride myself upon being one, and of the first calibre, too! And the proof is--Drink this to the health of the Republic." And he handed a hundred-franc assignat to the postilion who had recommended him to his comrade. Seeing the other looking eagerly at this strip of paper, he continued: "And the same to you if you will repeat the recommendation you've just received to the others."
"Oh! don't worry, citizen," said the postilion;
"there'll be but one order to
"And here is the money for the sixteen posts, including the double post of entrance in advance. I pay twenty sous fees. Settle it among yourselves."
The postilion dug his spurs into his horse and they were off
at a gallop. The carriage relayed at
"Are you quite sure?" he asked the porter.
"I tell you that I saw him with my own eyes!" replied the latter.
"Then I can give the news to our friends as a positive fact?"
"You can. Only hurry."
"Have they been notified at Servas?"
"Yes; you will find a horse ready between Servas and Sue."
The postilion came up; the young man exchanged a last glance with the porter, who walked away as if charged with a letter of the utmost importance.
"What road, citizen?" asked the postilion.
"To Bourg. I must reach Servas by nine this evening; I pay thirty sous fees."
"Forty-two miles in five hours! That's tough. Well, after all, it can be done."
"Will you do it."
"We can try."
And the postilion started at full gallop. Nine o'clock was striking as they entered Servas.
"A crown of six livres if you'll drive me half-way to Sue without stopping here to change horses!" cried the young man through the window to the postilion.
"Done!" replied the latter.
And the carriage dashed past the post house without stopping.
Morgan stopped the carriage at a half mile beyond Servas, put his head out of the window, made a trumpet of his hands, and gave the hoot of a screech-owl. The imitation was so perfect that another owl answered from a neighboring woods.
"Here we are," cried Morgan.
The postilion pulled up, saying: "If we're there, we needn't go further."
The young man took his valise, opened the door, jumped out and stepped up to the postilion.
"Here's the promised ecu."
The postilion took the coin and stuck it in his eye, as a fop of our day holds his eye-glasses. Morgan divined that this pantomime had a significance.
"Well," he asked, "what does that mean?"
"That means," said the postilion, "that, do what I will, I can't help seeing with the other eye."
"I understand," said the young man, laughing; "and if I close the other eye--"
"Damn it! I shan't see anything."
"Hey! you're a rogue who'd rather be blind than see with one eye! Well, there's no disputing tastes. Here!"
And he gave him a second crown. The postilion stuck it up to his other eye, wheeled the carriage round and took the road back to Servas.
The Companion of Jehu waited till he vanished in the darkness. Then putting the hollow of a key to his lips, he drew a long trembling sound from it like a boatswain's whistle.
A similar call answered him, and immediately a horseman came out of the woods at full gallop. As he caught sight of him Morgan put on his mask.
"In whose name have you come?" asked the rider, whose face, hidden as it was beneath the brim of an immense hat, could not be seen.
"In the name of the prophet Elisha," replied the young man with the mask.
"Then you are he whom I am waiting for." And he dismounted.
"Are you prophet or disciple?" asked Morgan.
"Disciple," replied the new-comer.
"Where is your master?"
"You will find him at the Chartreuse of Seillon."
"Do you know how many Companions are there this evening?"
"Very good; if you meet any others send them there."
He who had called himself a disciple bowed in sign of obedience, assisted Morgan to fasten the valise to the croup of the saddle, and respectfully held the bit while the young man mounted. Without even waiting to thrust his other foot into the stirrup, Morgan spurred his horse, which tore the bit from the groom's hand and started off at a gallop.
On the right of the road stretched the
A gloomy mass, isolated in the middle of a plain, rose about
a hundred feet from the forest. It was a building of massive architecture,
shaded by five or six venerable trees. The horseman paused before the portal,
over which were placed three statues in a triangle of the Virgin, our Lord, and
The mysterious traveller had reached his goal, for this was
the Chartreuse of Seillon. This monastery, the twenty-second of its order, was
The monks were expelled from their convent in 1791; in 1792 the Chartreuse and its dependencies were offered for sale as ecclesiastical property. The dependencies consisted first of the park, adjoining the buildings, and the noble forest which still bears the name of Seillon. But at Bourg, a royalist and, above all, religious town, no one dared risk his soul by purchasing property belonging to the worthy monks whom all revered. The result was that the convent, the park and the forest had become, under the title of state property, the property of the republic; that is to say, they belonged to nobody, or were at the best neglected. The republic having, for the last seven years, other things to think of than pointing walls, cultivating an orchard and cutting timber.
For seven years, therefore, the Chartreuse had been completely abandoned, and if by chance curious eyes peered through the keyhole, they caught glimpses of grass-grown courtyards, brambles in the orchard, and brush in the forest, which, except for one road and two or three paths that crossed it, had become almost impenetrable. The Correrie, a species of pavilion belonging to the monastery and distant from it about three-quarters of a mile, was mossgrown too in the tangle of the forest, which, profiting by its liberty, grew at its own sweet will, and had long since encircled it in a mantle of foliage which hid it from sight.
For the rest, the strangest rumors were current about these two buildings. They were said to be haunted by guests invisible by day, terrifying at night. The woodsmen and the belated peasants, who went to the forest to exercise against the Republic the rights which the town of Bourg had enjoyed in the days of the monks, pretended that, through the cracks of the closed blinds, they had seen flames of fire dancing along the corridors and stairways, and had distinctly heard the noise of chains clanking over the cloister tilings and the pavement of the courtyards. The strong-minded denied these things; but two very opposite classes opposed the unbelievers, confirming the rumors, attributing these terrifying noises and nocturnal lights to two different causes according to their beliefs. The patriots declared that they were the ghosts of the poor monks buried alive by cloister tyranny in the In-pace, who were now returned to earth, dragging after them their fetters to call down the vengeance of Heaven upon their persecutors. The royalists said that they were the imps of the devil, who, finding an empty convent, and fearing no further danger from holy water, were boldly holding their revels where once they had not dared show a claw. One fact, however, left everything uncertain. Not one of the believers or unbelievers--whether he elected for the souls of the martyred monks or for the Witches' Sabbath of Beelzebub--had ever had the courage to venture among the shadows, and to seek during the solemn hours of night confirmation of the truth, in order to tell on the morrow whether the Chartreuse were haunted, and if haunted by whom.
But doubtless these tales, whether well founded or not, had no influence over our mysterious horseman; for although, as we have said, nine o'clock had chimed from the steeples of Bourg, and night had fallen, he reined in his horse in front of the great portal of the deserted monastery, and, without dismounting, drew a pistol from his holster, striking three measured blows with the butt on the gate, after the manner of the Freemasons. Then he listened. For an instant he doubted if the meeting were really there; for though he looked closely and listened attentively, he could perceive no light, nor could he hear a sound. Still he fancied he heard a cautious step approaching the portal from within. He knocked a second time with the same weapon and in the same manner.
"Who knocks?" demanded a voice.
"He who comes from Elisha," replied the traveller.
"What king do the sons of Isaac obey?"
"What house are they to exterminate?"
"That of Ahab."
"Are you prophet or disciple?"
"Welcome then to the House of the Lord!" said the voice.
Instantly the iron bars which secured the massive portal swung back, the bolts grated in their sockets, half of the gate opened silently, and the horse and his rider passed beneath the sombre vault, which immediately closed behind them.
The person who had opened the gate, so slow to open, so quick to close, was attired in the long white robe of a Chartreuse monk, of which the hood, falling over his face, completely concealed his features.
Beyond doubt, like the first affiliated member met on the road to Sue by the man who styled himself prophet, the monk who opened the gate was of secondary rank in the fraternity; for, grasping the horse's bridle, he held it while the rider dismounted, rendering the young man the service of a groom.
Morgan got off, unfastened the valise, pulled the pistols from the holsters, and placed them in his belt, next to those already there. Addressing the monk in a tone of command, he said: "I thought I should find the brothers assembled in council."
"They are assembled," replied the monk.
"At La Correrie. Suspicious persons have been seen prowling around the Chartreuse these last few days, and orders have been issued to take the greatest precautions."
The young man shrugged his shoulders as if he considered such precautions useless, and, always in the same tone of command, said: "Have some one take my horse to the stable and conduct me to the council."
The monk summoned another brother, to whom he flung the bridle. He lighted a torch at a lamp, in the little chapel which can still be seen to the right of the great portal, and walked before the new-comer. Crossing the cloister, he took a few steps in the garden, opened a door leading into a sort of cistern, invited Morgan to enter, closed it as carefully as he had the outer door, touched with his foot a stone which seemed to be accidentally lying there, disclosed a ring and raised a slab, which concealed a flight of steps leading down to a subterraneous passage. This passage had a rounded roof and was wide enough to admit two men walking abreast.
The two men proceeded thus for five or six minutes, when they reached a grated door. The monk, drawing a key from his frock, opened it. Then, when both had passed through and the door was locked again, he asked: "By what name shall I announce you?"
"As Brother Morgan."
"Wait here; I will return in five minutes."
The young man made a sign with his head which showed that he was familiar with these precautions and this distrust. Then he sat down upon a tomb--they were in the mortuary vaults of the convent--and waited. Five minutes had scarcely elapsed before the monk reappeared.
"Follow me," said he; "the brothers are glad you have come. They feared you had met with some mishap."
A few seconds later Morgan was admitted into the council chamber.
Twelve monks awaited him, their hoods drawn low over their eyes. But, once the door had closed and the serving brother had disappeared, while Morgan was removing his mask, the hoods were thrown back and each monk exposed his face.
No brotherhood had ever been graced by a more brilliant assemblage of handsome and joyous young men. Two or three only of these strange monks had reached the age of forty. All hands were held out to Morgan and several warm kisses were imprinted upon the new-comer's cheek.
"'Pon my word," said one who had welcomed him most tenderly, "you have drawn a mighty thorn from my foot; we thought you dead, or, at any rate, a prisoner."
"Dead, I grant you, Amiet; but prisoner, never! citizen--as they still say sometimes, and I hope they'll not say it much longer. It must be admitted that the whole affair was conducted on both sides with touching amenity. As soon as the conductor saw us he shouted to the postilion to stop; I even believe he added: 'I know what it is.' 'Then,' said I, 'if you know what it is, my dear friend, our explanations needn't be long.' 'The government money?' he asked. 'Exactly,' I replied. Then as there was a great commotion inside the carriage, I added: 'Wait! first come down and assure these gentlemen, and especially the ladies, that we are well-behaved folk and will not harm them--the ladies; you understand--and nobody will even look at them unless they put their heads out of the window.' One did risk it; my faith! but she was charming. I threw her a kiss, and she gave a little cry and retired into the carriage, for all the world like Galatea, and as there were no willows about, I didn't pursue her. In the meantime the guard was rummaging in his strong-box in all expedition, and to such good purpose, indeed, that with the government money, in his hurry, he passed over two hundred louis belonging to a poor wine merchant of Bordeaux."
"Ah, the devil!" exclaimed the brother called Amiet--an assumed name, probably, like that of Morgan--"that is annoying! You know the Directory, which is most imaginative, has organized some bands of chauffeurs, who operate in our name, to make people believe that we rob private individuals. In other words, that we are mere thieves."
"Wait an instant," resumed Morgan; "that is
just what makes me late. I heard something similar at
"And you sent his money back to him?"
"I did better; I returned it to him."
"Ah! no, but at
The gathering burst into bravos.
"Only," said one of the participants, "I think you were somewhat imprudent to return the money yourself to citizen Jean Picot."
"My dear colonel," replied the young man, "there's an Italian proverb which says: 'Who wills, goes; who does not will, sends.' I willed--I went."
"And there's a jolly buck who, if you ever have the misfortune to fall into the hands of the Directory, will reward you by recognizing you; a recognition which means cutting off your head!"
"Oh! I defy him to recognize me."
"What can prevent it?"
"Oh! You seem to think that I play such pranks with my
face uncovered? Truly, my dear colonel, you mistake me for some one else. It is
well enough to lay aside my mask among friends; but among strangers--no, no!
Are not these carnival times? I don't see why I shouldn't disguise myself as
Abellino or Karl Moor, when Messieurs Gohier, Sieyès, Roger Ducos, Moulin and
Barras are masquerading as kings of
"And you entered the city masked?"
"The city, the hotel, the dining-room. It is true that if my face was covered, my belt was not, and, as you see, it is well garnished."
The young man tossed aside his coat, displaying his belt,
which was furnished with four pistols and a short hunting-knife. Then, with a
gayety which seemed characteristic of his careless nature, he added: "I
ought to look ferocious, oughtn't I? They may have taken me for the late
Mandrin, descending from the mountains of
One of the monks stooped and lifted the valise.
"Despise gold as much as you please, my dear Morgan, since that doesn't prevent you from capturing it. But I know of some brave fellows who are awaiting these sixty thousand francs, you so disdainfully kick aside, with as much impatience and anxiety as a caravan, lost in the desert, awaits the drop of water which is to save it from dying of thirst."
"Our friends of the Vendée, I suppose?" replied
Morgan. "Much good may it do them! Egotists, they are fighting. These
gentlemen have chosen the roses and left us the thorns. Come! don't they
receive anything from
"Oh, yes," said one of the monks, gayly; "at Quiberon they got bullets and grapeshot."
"I did not say from the English," retorted Morgan;
"I said from
"Not a penny."
"It seems to me, however," said one of those present, who apparently possessed a more reflective head than his comrades, "it seems to me that our princes might send a little gold to those who are shedding their blood for the monarchy. Are they not afraid the Vendée may weary some day or other of a devotion which up to this time has not, to my knowledge, won her a word of thanks."
"The Vendée, dear friend," replied Morgan, "is a generous land which will not weary, you may be sure. Besides, where is the merit of fidelity unless it has to deal with ingratitude? From the instant devotion meets recognition, it is no longer devotion. It becomes an exchange which reaps its reward. Let us be always faithful, and always devoted, gentlemen, praying Heaven that those whom we serve may remain ungrateful, and then, believe me, we shall bear the better part in the history of our civil wars."
Morgan had scarcely formulated this chivalric axiom, expressive of a desire which had every chance of accomplishment, than three Masonic blows resounded upon the door through which he had entered.
"Gentlemen," said the monk who seemed to fill the rôle of president, "quick, your hoods and masks. We do not know who may be coming to us."
Every one hastened to obey. The monks lowered the hoods of their long robes over their faces, Morgan replaced his mask.
"Enter!" said the superior.
The door opened and the serving-brother appeared.
"An emissary from General Georges Cadoudal asks to be admitted," said he.
"Did he reply to the three passwords?"
"Then let him in."
The lay brother retired to the subterranean passage, and reappeared a couple of minutes later leading a man easily recognized by his costume as a peasant, and by his square head with its shock of red hair for a Breton. He advanced in the centre of the circle without appearing in the least intimidated, fixing his eyes on each of the monks in turn, and waiting until one of these twelve granite statues should break silence. The president was the first to speak to him.
"From whom do you come?" he asked him.
"He who sent me," replied the peasant, "ordered me to answer, if I were asked that question, that I was sent by Jehu."
"Are you the bearer of a verbal or written message?"
"I am to reply to the questions which you ask me, and exchange a slip of paper for some money."
"Very good; we will begin with the questions. What are our brothers in the Vendée doing?"
"They have laid down their arms and are awaiting only a word from you to take them up again."
"And why did they lay down their arms?"
"They received the order to do so from his Majesty Louis XVIII."
"There is talk of a proclamation written by the King's own hand. Have they received it?"
"Here is a copy."
The peasant gave a paper to the person who was interrogating him. The latter opened it and read:
The war has absolutely no result save that of making the monarchy odious and threatening. Monarchs who return to their own through its bloody succor are never loved; these sanguinary measures must therefore be abandoned; confide in the empire of opinion which returns of itself to its saving principles. "God and the King," will soon be the rallying cry of all Frenchmen. The scattered elements of royalism must be gathered into one formidable sheaf; militant Vendée must be abandoned to its unhappy fate and marched within a more pacific and less erratic path. The royalists of the West have fulfilled their duty; those of Paris, who have prepared everything for the approaching Restoration, must now be relied upon--
The president raised his head, and, seeking Morgan with a
flash of the eye which his hood could not entirely conceal, said: "Well,
brother, I think this is the fulfilment of your wish of a few moments ago. The
royalists of the Vendée and the
The Jews crucified their King, and since that time they have wandered over the face of the earth. The French guillotined theirs, and they shall be dispersed throughout the land.
Blankenbourg, this 25th of August, 1799, on the day of
The young men looked at each other.
"'Quos vult perdere Jupiter dementat!'" said Morgan.
"Yes," said the president; "but when those
whom Jupiter wishes to destroy represent a principle, they must be sustained
not only against Jupiter but against themselves.
"About what you yourself have just answered. He told me to come and inform myself whether you had decided to hold firm in spite of all, in spite of the King himself."
"By Heavens! yes," said Morgan.
"We are determined," said the President.
"In that case," replied the peasant, "all is well. Here are the real names of our new chiefs, and their assumed names. The general recommends that you use only the latter as far as is possible in your despatches. He observes that precaution when he, on his side, speaks of you."
"Have you the list?" asked the President.
"No; I might have been stopped, and the list taken. Write yourself; I will dictate them to you."
The president seated himself at the table, took a pen, and wrote the following names under the dictation of the Breton peasant:
"Georges Cadoudal, Jehu or Roundhead; Joseph Cadoudal, Judas Maccabeus; Lahaye Saint-Hilaire, David; Burban-Malabry, Brave-la-Mort; Poulpiquez, Royal-Carnage; Bonfils, Brise-Barrière; Dampherné, Piquevers; Duchayla, La Couronne; Duparc, Le Terrible; La Roche, Mithridates; Puisaye, Jean le Blond."
"And these are the successors of Charette, Stoffiet, Cathelineau, Bonchamp, d'Elbée, la Rochejaquelin, and Lescure!" cried a voice.
The Breton turned toward him who had just spoken.
"If they get themselves killed like their predecessors," said he, "what more can you ask of them?"
"Well answered," said Morgan, "so that--"
"So that, as soon as our general has your reply," answered the peasant, "he will take up arms again."
"And suppose our reply had been in the negative?" asked another voice.
"So much the worse for you," replied the peasant; "in any case the insurrection is fixed for October 20."
"Well," said the president, "thanks to us, the general will have the wherewithal for his first month's pay. Where is your receipt?"
"Here," said the peasant, drawing a paper from his pocket on which were written these words:
Received from our
brothers of the
CADOUDAL, General commanding the
Royalist army of
The sum was left blank.
"Do you know how to write?" asked the president.
"Enough to fill in the three or four missing words."
"Very well. Then write, 'one hundred thousand francs.'"
The Breton wrote; then extending the paper to the president, he said: "Here is your receipt; where is the money?"
"Stoop and pick up the bag at your feet; it contains sixty thousand francs." Then addressing one of the monks, he asked: "Montbard, where are the remaining forty thousand?"
The monk thus interpellated opened a closet and brought forth a bag somewhat smaller than the one Morgan had brought, but which, nevertheless, contained the good round sum of forty thousand francs.
"Here is the full amount," said the monk.
"Now, my friend," said the president, "get something to eat and some rest; to-morrow you will start."
"They are waiting for me yonder," said the Breton. "I will eat and sleep on horseback. Farewell, gentlemen. Heaven keep you!" And he went toward the door by which he bad entered.
"Wait," said Morgan.
The messenger paused.
"News for news," said Morgan; "tell General
Cadoudal that General Bonaparte has left the army in
"Impossible!" exclaimed all the monks with one accord.
"Nevertheless nothing is more true, gentlemen. I have
it from our friend the Priest (Leprêtre), [Footnote: The name Leprêtre is a
contraction of the two words "le prêtre," meaning the priest; hence
the name under which this man died.] who saw him relay at
"What has he come to
"Faith," said Morgan, "we shall know some
day. It is probable that he has not returned to
"Don't lose an instant in carrying this news to our brothers in the West," said the president to the peasant. "A moment ago I wished to detain you; now I say to you: 'Go!'"
The peasant bowed and withdrew. The president waited until the door was closed.
"Gentlemen," said he, "the news which our brother Morgan has just imparted to us is so grave that I wish to propose a special measure."
"What is it?" asked the Companions of Jehu with one voice.
"It is that one of us, chosen by lot, shall go to
"Agreed!" they replied.
"In that case," resumed the president, "let us write our thirteen names, each on a slip of paper. We put them in a hat. He whose name is first drawn shall start immediately."
The young men, one and all, approached the table, and wrote their names on squares of paper which they rolled and dropped into a hat. The youngest was told to draw the lots. He drew one of the little rolls of paper and handed it to the president, who unfolded it.
"Morgan!" said he.
"What are my instructions?" asked the young man.
"Remember," replied the president, with a solemnity to which the cloistral arches lent a supreme grandeur, "that you bear the name and title of Baron de Sainte-Hermine, that your father was guillotined on the Place de la Révolution and that your brother was killed in Condé's army. Noblesse oblige! Those are your instructions."
"And what else?" asked the young man.
"As to the rest," said the president, "we rely on your royalist principles and your loyalty."
"Then, my friends, permit me to bid you farewell at
once. I would like to be on the road to
"Go!" said the president, opening his arms to Morgan. "I embrace you in the name of the Brotherhood. To another I should say, 'Be brave, persevering and active'; to you I say, 'Be prudent.'"
The young man received the fraternal embrace, smiled to his other friends, shook hands with two or three of them, wrapped himself in his mantle, pulled his hat over his eyes and departed.
Under the possibility of immediate departure, Morgan's horse, after being washed, rubbed down and dried, had been fed a double ration of oats and been resaddled and bridled. The young man had only to ask for it and spring upon its back. He was no sooner in the saddle than the gate opened as if by magic; the horse neighed and darted out swiftly, having forgotten its first trip, and ready for another.
At the gate of the Chartreuse, Morgan paused an instant, undecided whether to turn to the right or left. He finally turned to the right, followed the road which leads from Bourg to Seillon for a few moments, wheeled rapidly a second time to the right, cut across country, plunged into an angle of the forest which was on his way, reappeared before long on the other side, reached the main road to Pont-d'Ain, followed it for about a mile and a half, and halted near a group of houses now called the Maison des Gardes. One of these houses bore for sign a cluster of holly, which indicated one of those wayside halting places where the pedestrians quench their thirst, and rest for an instant to recover strength before continuing the long fatiguing voyage of life. Morgan stopped at the door, drew a pistol from its holster and rapped with the butt end as he had done at the Chartreuse. Only as, in all probability, the good folks at the humble tavern were far from being conspirators, the traveller was kept waiting longer than he had been at the monastery. At last he heard the echo of the stable boy's clumsy sabots. The gate creaked, but the worthy man who opened it no sooner perceived the horseman with his drawn pistol than he instinctively tried to, close it again.
"It is I, Patout," said the young man; "don't be afraid."
"Ah! sure enough," said the peasant, "it is really you, Monsieur Charles. I'm not afraid now; but you know, as the curé used to tell us, in the days when there was a good God, 'Caution is the mother of safety.'"
"Yes, Patout, yes," said the young man, slipping a piece of silver into the stable boy's hand, "but be easy; the good God will return, and M. le Curé also."
"Oh, as for that," said the good man, "it is easy to see that there is no one left on high by the way things go. Will this last much longer, M. Charles?"
"Patout, I promise, in my honor, to do my best to be rid of all that annoys you. I am no less impatient than you; so I'll ask you not to go to bed, my good Patout."
"Ah! You know well, monsieur, that when you come I don't often go to bed. As for the horse--Goodness! You change them every day? The time before last it was a chestnut, the last time a dapple-gray, now a black one."
"Yes, I'm somewhat capricious by nature. As to the horse, as you say, my dear Patout, he wants nothing. You need only remove his bridle; leave him saddled. Oh, wait; put this pistol back in the holsters and take care of these other two for me." And the young man removed the two from his belt and handed them to the hostler.
"Well," exclaimed the latter, laughing, "any more barkers?"
"You know, Patout, they say the roads are unsafe."
"Ah! I should think they weren't safe! We're up to our
necks in regular highway robberies, M. Charles. Why, no later than last week
they stopped and robbed the diligence between
"Indeed!" exclaimed Morgan; "and whom do they accuse of the robbery?"
"Oh, it's such a farce! Just fancy; they say it was the Companions of Jesus. I don't believe a word of it, of course. Who are the Companions of Jesus if not the twelve apostles?"
"Of course," said Morgan, with his eternally joyous smile, "I don't know of any others."
"Well!" continued Patout, "to accuse the twelve apostles of robbing a diligence, that's the limit. Oh! I tell you, M. Charles, we're living in times when nobody respects anything."
And shaking his head like a misanthrope, disgusted, if not with life, at least with men, Patout led the horse to the stable.
As for Morgan, he watched Patout till he saw him disappear
down the courtyard and enter the dark stable; then, skirting the hedge which
bordered the garden, he went toward a large clump of trees whose lofty tops
were silhouetted against the darkness of the night, with the majesty of things
immovable, the while their shadows fell upon a charming little country house
known in the neighborhood as the Château des Noires-Fontaines. As Morgan
reached the château wall, the hour chimed from the belfry of the
Morgan advanced a few steps farther, examined the wall, apparently in search of a familiar spot, then, having found it, inserted the tip of his boot in a cleft between two stones. He sprang up like a man mounting a horse, seized the top of the wall with the left hand, and with a second spring seated himself astride the wall, from which, with the rapidity of lightning, he lowered himself on the other side. All this was done with such rapidity, such dexterity and agility, that any one chancing to pass at that instant would have thought himself the puppet of a vision. Morgan stopped, as on the other side of the wall, to listen, while his eyes tried to pierce the darkness made deeper by the foliage of poplars and aspens, and the heavy shadows of the little wood. All was silent and solitary. Morgan ventured on his path. We say ventured, because the young man, since nearing the Château des Noires-Fontaines, revealed in all his movement a timidity and hesitation so foreign to his character that it was evident that if he feared it was not for himself alone.
He gained the edge of the wood, still moving cautiously. Coming to a lawn, at the end of which was the little château, he paused. Then he examined the front of the house. Only one of the twelve windows which dotted the three floors was lighted. This was on the second floor at the corner of the house. A little balcony, covered with virgin vines which climbed the walls, twining themselves around the iron railing and falling thence in festoons from the window, overhung the garden. On both sides of the windows, close to the balcony, large-leafed trees met and formed above the cornice a bower of verdure. A Venetian blind, which was raised and lowered by cords, separated the balcony from the window, a separation which disappeared at will. It was through the interstices of this blind that Morgan had seen the light.
The young man's first impulse was to cross the lawn in a straight line; but again, the fears of which we spoke restrained him. A path shaded by lindens skirted the wall and led to the house. He turned aside and entered its dark leafy covert. When he had reached the end of the path, he crossed, like a frightened doe, the open space which led to the house wall, and stood for a moment in the deep shadow of the house. Then, when he had reached the spot he had calculated upon, he clapped his hands three times.
At this call a shadow darted from the end of the apartment and clung, lithe, graceful, almost transparent, to the window.
Morgan repeated the signal. The window was opened immediately, the blind was raised, and a ravishing young girl, in a night dress, her fair hair rippling over her shoulders, appeared in the frame of verdure.
The young man stretched out his arms to her, whose arms were stretched out to him, and two names, or rather two cries from the heart, crossed from one to the other.
Then the young man sprang against the wall, caught at the vine shoots, the jagged edges of the rock, the jutting cornice, and in an instant was on the balcony.
What these two beautiful young beings said to each other was only a murmur of love lost in an endless kiss. Then, by gentle effort, the young man drew the girl with one hand to her chamber, while with the other he loosened the cords of the blind, which fell noisily behind them. The window closed behind the blind. Then the lamp was extinguished, and the front of the Château des Noires-Fontaines was again in darkness.
This darkness had lasted for about a quarter of an hour, when the rolling of a carriage was heard along the road leading from the highway of Pont-d'Ain to the entrance of the château. There the sound ceased; it was evident that the carriage had stopped before the gates.
The carriage which had stopped before the gate was that which brought Roland back to his family, accompanied by Sir John.
The family was so far from expecting him that, as we have said, all the lights in the house were extinguished, all the windows in darkness, even Amélie's. The postilion had cracked his whip smartly for the last five hundred yards, but the noise was insufficient to rouse these country people from their first sleep. When the carriage had stopped, Roland opened the door, sprang out without touching the steps, and tugged at the bell-handle. Five minutes elapsed, and, after each peal, Roland turned to the carriage, saying: "Don't be impatient, Sir John."
At last a window opened and a childish but firm voice cried out: "Who is ringing that way?"
"Ah, is that you, little Edouard?" said Roland. "Make haste and let us in."
The child leaped back with a shout of delight and disappeared. But at the same time his voice was heard in the corridors, crying: "Mother! wake up; it is Roland! Sister! wake up; it is the big brother!"
Then, clad only in his night robe and his little slippers, he ran down the steps, crying: "Don't be impatient, Roland; here I am."
An instant later the key grated in the lock, and the bolts slipped back in their sockets. A white figure appeared in the portico, and flew rather than ran to the gate, which an instant later turned on its hinges and swung open. The child sprang upon Roland's neck and hung there.
"Ah, brother! Brother!" he exclaimed, embracing
the young man, laughing and crying at the same time. "Ah, big brother
Roland! How happy mother will be; and Amélie, too! Every body is well. I am the
sickest--ah! except Michel, the gardener, you know, who has sprained his leg.
But why aren't you in uniform? Oh! how ugly you are in citizen's clothes! Have
you just come from
And the boy smothered the big brother with kisses while he showered questions upon him. The Englishman, still seated in the carriage, looked smilingly through the window at the scene.
In the midst of these fraternal embraces came the voice of a woman; the voice of the mother.
"Where is he, my Roland, my darling son?" asked Madame de Montrevel, in a voice fraught with such violent, joyous emotion that it was almost painful. "Where is he? Can it be true that he has returned; really true that he is not a prisoner, not dead? Is he really living?"
The child, at her voice, slipped from his brother's arms like an eel, dropped upon his feet on the grass, and, as if moved by a spring, bounded toward his mother.
"This way, mother; this way!" said he, dragging his mother, half dressed as she was, toward Roland. When he saw his mother Roland could no longer contain himself. He felt the sort of icicle that had petrified his breast melt, and his heart beat like that of his fellowmen.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "I was indeed ungrateful to God when life still holds such joys for me."
And he fell sobbing upon Madame de Montrevel's neck without thinking of Sir John, who felt his English phlegm disperse as he silently wiped away the tears that flowed down his cheeks and moistened his lips. The child, the mother, and Roland formed an adorable group of tenderness and emotion.
Suddenly little Edouard, like a leaf tossed about by the wind, flew from the group, exclaiming: "Sister Amélie! Why, where is she?" and he rushed toward the house, repeating: "Sister Amélie, wake up! Get up! Hurry up!"
And then the child could be heard kicking and rapping against a door. Silence followed. Then little Edouard shouted: "Help, mother! Help, brother Roland! Sister Amélie is ill!"
Madame de Montrevel and her son flew toward the house. Sir John, consummate tourist that he was, always carried a lancet and a smelling bottle in his pocket. He jumped from the carriage and, obeying his first impulse, hurried up the portico. There he paused, reflecting that he had not been introduced, an all-important formality for an Englishman.
However, the fainting girl whom he sought came toward him at that moment. The noise her brother had made at the door brought Amélie to the landing; but, without doubt, the excitement which Roland's return had occasioned was too much for her, for after descending a few steps in an almost automatic manner, controlling herself by a violent effort, she gave a sigh, and, like a flower that bends, a branch that droops, like a scarf that floats, she fell, or rather lay, upon the stairs. It was at that moment that the child cried out.
But at his exclamation Amélie recovered, if not her strength, at least her will. She rose, and, stammering, "Be quiet, Edouard! Be quite, in Heaven's name! I'm all right," she clung to the balustrade with one hand, and leaning with the other on the child, she had continued to descend. On the last step she met her mother and her brother. Then with a violent, almost despairing movement, she threw both arms around Roland's neck, exclaiming: "My brother! My brother!"
Roland, feeling the young girl's weight press heavily upon his shoulder, exclaimed: "Air! Air! She is fainting!" and carried her out upon the portico. It was this new group, so different from the first, which met Sir John's eyes.
As soon as she felt the fresh air, Amélie revived and raised her head. Just then the moon, in all her splendor, shook off a cloud which had veiled her, and lighted Amélie's face, as pale as her own. Sir John gave a cry of admiration. Never had he seen a marble statue so perfect as this living marble before his eyes.
We must say that Amélie, seen thus, was marvelously beautiful. Clad in a long cambric robe, which defined the outlines of her body, molded on that of the Polyhymnia of antiquity, her pale face gently inclined upon her brother's shoulder, her long golden hair floating around her snowy shoulders, her arm thrown around her mother's neck, its rose-tinted alabaster hand drooping upon the red shawl in which Madame de Montrevel had wrapped herself; such was Roland's sister as she appeared to Sir John.
At the Englishman's cry of admiration, Roland remembered that he was there, and Madame de Montrevel perceived his presence. As for the child, surprised to see this stranger in his mother's home, he ran hastily down the steps of the portico, stopping on the third one, not that he feared to go further, but in order to be on a level with the person he proceeded to question.
"Who are you, sir!" he asked Sir John; "and what are you doing here?"
"My little Edouard," said Sir John, "I am
your brother's friend, and I have brought you the silver-mounted pistols and
"Where are they?" asked the child.
"Ah!" said Sir John, "they are in
"Yes, Edouard, yes," said Roland. "If Sir John promises them to you, you will get them." Then turning to Madame de Montrevel and his sister, "Excuse me, my mother; excuse me, Amélie; or rather, excuse yourselves as best you can to Sir John, for you have made me abominably ungrateful." Then grasping Sir John's hand, he continued: "Mother, Sir John took occasion the first time he saw me to render me an inestimable service. I know that you never forget such things. I trust, therefore, that you will always remember that Sir John is one of our best friends; and he will give you the proof of it by saying with me that he has consented to be bored for a couple of weeks with us."
"Madame," said Sir John, "permit me, on the contrary, not to repeat my friend Roland's words. I could wish to spend, not a fortnight, nor three weeks, but a whole lifetime with you."
Madame de Montrevel came down the steps of the portico and offered her hand to Sir John, who kissed it with a gallantry altogether French.
"My lord," said she, "this house is yours. The day you entered it has been one of joy, the day you leave will be one of regret and sadness."
Sir John turned toward Amélie, who, confused by the disorder of her dress before this stranger, was gathering the folds of her wrapper about her neck.
"I speak to you in my name and in my daughter's, who is still too much overcome by her brother's unexpected return to greet you herself as she will do in a moment," continued Madame de Montrevel, coming to Amélie's relief.
"My sister," said Roland, "will permit my friend Sir John to kiss her hand, and he will, I am sure, accept that form of welcome."
Amélie stammered a few words, slowly lifted her arm, and held out her hand to Sir John with a smile that was almost painful.
The Englishman took it, but, feeling how icy and trembling it was, instead of carrying it to his lips he said: "Roland, your sister is seriously indisposed. Let us think only of her health this evening. I am something of a doctor, and if she will deign to permit me the favor of feeling her pulse I shall be grateful."
But Amélie, as if she feared that the cause of her weakness
might be surmised, withdrew her hand hastily, exclaiming: "Oh, no! Sir
John is mistaken. Joy never causes illness. It is only joy at seeing my brother
again which caused this slight indisposition, and it has already passed
over." Then turning to Madame de Montrevel, she added with almost feverish
haste: "Mother, we are forgetting that these gentlemen have made a long
voyage, and have probably eaten nothing since
Leaving her mother, as she said, to do the honors of the house, Amélie went to waken the maids and the manservant, leaving on the mind of Sir John that sort of fairy-like impression which the tourist on the Rhine brings with him of the Lorelei on her rock, a lyre in her hand, the liquid gold of her hair floating in the evening breezes.
In the meantime, Morgan had remounted his horse, returning at full gallop to the Chartreuse. He drew rein before the portal, pulled out a note-book, and pencilling a few lines on one of the leaves, rolled it up and slipped it through the keyhole without taking time to dismount.
Then pressing in both his spurs, and bending low over the mane of the noble animal, he disappeared in the forest, rapid and mysterious as Faust on his way to the mountain of the witches' sabbath. The three lines he had written were as follows:
"Louis de Montrevel, General Bonaparte's aide-de-camp, arrived this evening at the Château des Noires-Fontaines. Be careful, Companions of Jehu!"
But, while warning his comrades to be cautious about Louis de Montrevel, Morgan had drawn a cross above his name, which signified that no matter what happened the body of the young officer must be considered as sacred by them.
The Companions of Jehu had the right to protect a friend in that way without being obliged to explain the motives which actuated them. Morgan used that privilege to protect the brother of his love.
The Château of Noires-Fontaines, whither we have just conducted two of the principal characters of our story, stood in one of the most charming spots of the valley, where the city of Bourg is built. The park, of five or six acres, covered with venerable oaks, was inclosed on three sides by freestone walls, one of which opened in front through a handsome gate of wrought-iron, fashioned in the style of Louis XV.; the fourth side was bounded by the little river called the Reissouse, a pretty stream that takes its rise at Journaud, among the foothills of the Jura, and flowing gently from south to north, joins the Saône at the bridge of Fleurville, opposite Pont-de-Vaux, the birthplace of Joubert, who, a month before the period of which we are writing, was killed at the fatal battle of Novi.
Beyond the Reissouse, and along its banks, lay, to the right
and left of the Château des Noires-Fontaines, the
It was in full view of this ravishing landscape that Sir
John awoke. For the first time in his life, perhaps, the morose and taciturn
Englishman smiled at nature. He fancied himself in one of those beautiful
"Oh! oh! Sir John," cried Roland, "permit me to congratulate you. I expected to find you as gloomy as the poor monks of the Chartreuse, with their long white robes, who used to frighten me so much in my childhood; though, to tell the truth, I was never easily frightened. Instead of that I find you in the midst of this dreary October, as smiling as a morn of May."
"My dear Roland," replied Sir John, "I am an
orphan; I lost my mother at my birth and my father when I was twelve years old.
At an age when children are usually sent to school, I was master of a fortune
producing a million a year; but I was alone in the world, with no one whom I
loved or who loved me. The tender joys of family life are completely unknown to
me. From twelve to eighteen I went to
"Good!" said Roland. "You forget my aneurism, my lord."
Sir John looked at Roland increduously. Roland seemed to enjoy the most perfect health.
"Your aneurism against my million, Roland," said Lord Tanlay, with a feeling of profound sadness, "providing that with this aneurism you give me this mother who weeps for joy on seeing you again; this sister who faints with delight at your return; this child who clings upon your neck like some fresh young fruit to a sturdy young tree; this château with its dewy shade, its river with its verdant flowering banks, these blue vistas dotted with pretty villages and white-capped belfries graceful as swans. I would welcome your aneurism, Roland, and with death in two years, in one, in six months; but six months of stirring, tender, eventful and glorious life!"
Roland laughed in his usual nervous manner.
"Ah!" said he, "so this is the tourist, the
superficial traveller, the Wandering Jew of civilization, who pauses nowhere,
gauges nothing, judges everything by the sensation it produces in him. The
tourist who, without opening the doors of these abodes where dwell the fools we
call men, says: 'Behind these walls is happiness!' Well, my dear friend, you see
this charming river, don't you? These flowering meadows, these pretty villages?
It is the picture of peace, innocence and fraternity; the cycle of Saturn, the
golden age returned; it is
Sir John watched Roland, and listened with that strange wonderment which his young friend's misanthropical outbursts always aroused. Roland seemed to lurk in the niches of a conversation in order to fall upon mankind whenever he found an opportunity. Perceiving the impression he had made on Sir John's mind, he changed his tone, substituting bitter raillery for his philanthropic wrath.
"It is true," said he, "that, apart from this
excellent aristocrat who finished what the butchers had begun, and dyed in
blood the red heels of his pumps, the people who performed these massacres
belonged to the lower classes, bourgeois and clowns, as our ancestors called
those who supported them. The nobles manage things much more daintily. For the
rest, you saw yourself what happened at
Roland, observing that Sir John was silent, paused and questioned him by a look. "Go on," replied the Englishman; "I am listening. And as I am sure you are telling me all this in order to come to something you wish to say, I await your point."
"Well," resumed Roland, laughing, "you are right, my dear friend, and, on my word, you know me as if we had been college chums. Well, what idea do you suppose has been cavorting through my brain all night? It is that of getting a glimpse of these gentlemen of Jehu near at hand."
"Ah, yes, I understand. As you failed to get yourself killed by M. de Barjols, you want to try your chance of being killed by M. Morgan."
"Or any other, my dear Sir John," replied the young officer calmly; "for I assure you that I have nothing in particular against M. Morgan; quite the contrary, though my first impulse when he came into the room and made his little speech--don't you call it a speech--?"
Sir John nodded affirmatively.
"Though my first thought," resumed Roland, "was to spring at his throat and strangle him with one hand, and to tear off his mask with the other."
"Now that I know you, my dear Roland, I do indeed wonder how you refrained from putting such a fine project into execution."
"It was not my fault, I swear! I was just on the point of it when my companion stopped me."
"So there are people who can restrain you?"
"Not many, but he can."
"And now you regret it?"
"Honestly, no! This brave stage-robber did the business with such swaggering bravado that I admired him. I love brave men instinctively. Had I not killed M. de Barjols I should have liked to be his friend. It is true I could not tell how brave he was until I had killed him. But let us talk of something else; that duel is one of my painful thoughts. But why did I come up? It was certainly not to talk of the Companions of Jehu, nor of M. Laurent's exploits--Ah! I came to ask how you would like to spend your time. I'll cut myself in quarters to amuse you, my dear guest, but there are two disadvantages against me: this region, which is not very amusing, and your nationality, which is not easily amused."
"I have already told you, Roland," replied Lord Tanlay, offering his hand to the young man, "that I consider the Château des Noires-Fontaines a paradise."
"Agreed; but still in the fear that you may find your
paradise monotonous, I shall do my best to entertain you. Are you fond of
"My dear Roland," said Sir John sadly, and without replying to the young officer's wordy sally, "won't you ever tell me about this fever which sears you, this sorrow which undermines you?"
"Ah!" said Roland, with his harsh, doleful laugh. "I have never been gayer than I am this morning; it's your liver, my lord, that is out of order and makes you see everything black."
"Some day I hope to be really your friend," replied Sir John seriously; "then you will confide in me, and I shall help you to bear your burden."
"And half my aneurism!--Are you hungry, my lord?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Because I hear Edouard on the stairs, coming up to tell us that breakfast is ready."
As Roland spoke, the door opened and the boy burst out: "Big brother Roland, mother and sister Amélie are waiting breakfast for Sir John and you."
Then catching the Englishman's right hand, he carefully examined the first joint of the thumb and forefinger.
"What are you looking at, my little friend?" asked Sir John.
"I was looking to see if you had any ink on your fingers."
"And if I had ink on my fingers, what would it mean?"
"That you had written to
"No, I have not yet written," said Sir John; "but I will to-day."
"You hear, big brother Roland? I'm to have my sword and my pistols in a fortnight!"
And the boy, full of delight, offered his firm rosy cheek to Sir John, who kissed it as tenderly as a father would have done. Then they went to the dining-room where Madame de Montrevel and Amélie were awaiting them.
That same day Roland put into execution part of his plans
for his guest's amusement. He took Sir John to see the
Those who have seen the charming little chapel of Brou know that it is known as one of the hundred marvels of the Renaissance; those who have not seen it must have often heard it said. Roland, who had counted on doing the honors of this historic gem to Sir John, and who had not seen it for the last seven or eight years, was much disappointed when, on arriving in front of the building, he found the niches of the saints empty and the carved figures of the portal decapitated.
He asked for the sexton; people laughed in his face. There was no longer a sexton. He inquired to whom he should go for the keys. They replied that the captain of the gendarmerie had them. The captain was not far off, for the cloister adjoining the church had been converted into a barrack.
Roland went up to the captain's room and made himself known as Bonaparte's aide-de-camp. The captain, with the placid obedience of a subaltern to his superior officer, gave him the keys and followed behind him. Sir John was waiting before the porch, admiring, in spite of the mutilation to which they had been subjected, the admirable details of the frontal.
Roland opened the door and started back in astonishment. The church was literally stuffed with hay like a cannon charged to the muzzle.
"What does this mean?" he asked the captain of the gendarmerie.
"A precaution taken by the municipality."
"A precaution taken by the municipality?"
"To save the church. They were going to demolish it; but the mayor issued a decree declaring that, in expiation of the false worship for which it had served, it should be used to store fodder."
Roland burst out laughing, and, turning to Sir John, he
said: "My dear Sir John, the church was well worth seeing, but I think
what this gentleman has just told us is no less curious. You can always
"As I was saying at
"This time, my lord, you are too polite," replied Roland. "Idiotic is the word. Listen. I can understand the political cataclysms which have convulsed society for the last thousand years; I can understand the communes, the pastorals, the Jacquerie, the maillotins, the Saint Bartholomew, the League, the Fronde, the dragonnades, the Revolution; I can understand the 14th of July, the 5th and 6th of October, the 20th of June, the 10th of August, the 2d and 3d of September, the 21st of January, the 31st of May, the 30th of October, and the 9th Thermidor; I can understand the egregious torch of civil wars, which inflames instead of soothing the blood; I can understand the tidal wave of revolution, sweeping on with its flux, that nothing can arrest, and its reflux, which carries with it the ruins of the institution which it has itself shattered. I can understand all that, but lance against lance, sword against sword, men against men, a people against a people! I can understand the deadly rage of the victors, the sanguinary reaction of the vanquished, the political volcanoes which rumble in the bowels of the globe, shake the earth, topple over thrones, upset monarchies, and roll heads and crowns on the scaffold. But what I cannot understand is this mutilation of the granite, this placing of monuments beyond the pale of the law, the destruction of inanimate things, which belong neither to those who destroy them nor to the epoch in which they are destroyed; this pillage of the gigantic library where the antiquarian can read the archeological history of a country. Oh! the vandals, the barbarians! Worse than that, the idiots! who revenge the Borgia crimes and the debauches of Louis XV. on stone. How well those Pharaohs, Menæs, and Cheops knew man as the most perversive, destructive and evil of animals! They who built their pyramids, not with carved traceries, nor lacy spires, but with solid blocks of granite fifty feet square! How they must have laughed in the depths of those sepulchres as they watched Time dull its scythe and pashas wear out their nails in vain against them. Let us build pyramids, my dear Sir John. They are not difficult as architecture, nor beautiful as art, but they are solid; and that enables a general to say four thousand years later: 'Soldiers, from the apex of these monuments forty centuries are watching you!' On my honor, my lord, I long to meet a windmill this moment that I might tilt against it."
And Roland, bursting into his accustomed laugh, dragged Sir John in the direction of the château. But Sir John stopped him and asked: "Is there nothing else to see in the city except the church?"
"Formerly, my lord," replied Roland, "before they made a hay-loft of it, I should have asked you to come down with me into the vaults of the Dukes of Savoy. We could have hunted for that subterranean passage, nearly three miles long, which is said to exist there, and which, according to these rumors, communicates with the grotto of Ceyzeriat. Please observe, I should never offer such a pleasure trip except to an Englishman; it would have been like a scene from your celebrated Anne Radcliffe in the 'Mysteries of Udolpho.' But, as you see, that is impossible, so we will have to be satisfied with our regrets. Come."
"Where are we going?"
"Faith, I don't know. Ten years ago I should have taken
you to the farms where they fatten pullets. The pullets of Bresse, you must
know, have a European reputation. Bourg was an annex to the great coop of
Strasburg. But during the Terror, as you can readily imagine, these fatteners
of poultry shut up shop. You earned the reputation of being an aristocrat if
you ate a pullet, and you know the fraternal refrain: 'Ah, ça ira, ça ira--the
aristocrats to the lantern!' After Robespierre's downfall they opened up again;
but since the 18th of Fructidor,
"Look here!" demanded Sir John; "aren't you a Republican?"
"I not a Republican? Come, come! Quite to the contrary.
I consider myself an excellent Republican. I am quite capable of burning off my
hand, like Mucius Scævola, or jumping into the gulf like Curtius to save the
Republic; but I have, unluckily, a keen sense of the ridiculous. In spite of
myself, the absurdity of things catches me in the side and tickles me till I
nearly die of laughing. I am willing to accept the Constitution of 1791; but
when poor Hérault de Séchelles wrote to the superintendent of the National
Library to send him a copy of the laws of Minos, so that he could model his
constitution on that of the Isle of Crete, I thought it was going rather far,
and that we might very well have been content with those of Lycurgus. I find
January, February, and March, mythological as they were, quite as good as
Nivose, Pluviose, and Ventose. I can't understand why, when one was called
Antoine or Chrystomome in 1789, he should be called Brutus or Cassius in 1793.
Here, for example, my lord, is an honest street, which was called the Rue des
"The grating of bolts and the squeaking of hinges is not a very enlivening sound, but no matter. Since you were kind enough to undertake my education, show me your dungeon."
"Very well, then. Come in quickly. I see a crowd of persons who look as if they want to speak to me."
In fact, little by little, a sort of rumor seemed to spread throughout the town. People emerged from the houses, forming groups in the streets, and they all watched Roland with curiosity. He rang the bell of the gate, situated then where it is now, but opening into the prison yard. A jailer opened it for them.
"Ah, ah! so you are still here, Father Courtois?" asked the young man. Then, turning to Sir John, he added: "A fine name for a jailer, isn't it, my lord?"
The jailer looked at the young man in amazement.
"How is it," he asked through the grating, "that you know my name, when I don't know yours?"
"Good! I not only know your name, but also your opinions. You are an old royalist, Père Courtois."
"Monsieur," said the jailer, terrified, "don't make bad jokes if you please, and say what you want."
"Well, my good Father Courtois, I would like to visit the cell where they put my mother and sister, Madame and Mademoiselle Montrevel."
"Ah!" exclaimed the gatekeeper, "so it's you, M. Louis? You may well say that I know you. What a fine, handsome young man you've grown to be!"
"Do you think so, Father Courtois? Well, I can return
the compliment. Your daughter Charlotte is, on my word, a beautiful girl.
"And she is very happy over it. She is better off there than here, M. Roland. Is it true that you are General Bonaparte's aide-de-camp?"
"Alas! I have that honor, Courtois. You would prefer me to be Comte d'Artois's aide-de-camp, or that of M. le Duc of Angoulême?"
"Oh, do be quiet, M. Louis!" Then putting his lips to the young man's ear, "Tell me, is it true?"
"What, Father Courtois?"
"That General Bonaparte passed through
"There must be some truth in the rumor, for this is the second time that I have heard it. Ah! I understand now. These good people who were watching me so curiously apparently wanted to question me. They were like you, Father Courtois: they want to know what to make of General Bonaparte's arrival."
"Do you know what they say, M. Louis?"
"Still another rumor, Father Courtois?"
"I should think so, but they only whisper it."
"What is it?"
"They say that he has come to demand the throne of his Majesty Louis XVIII. from the Directory and the king's return to it; and that if Citizen Gohier as president doesn't give it up of his own accord he will take it by force."
"Pooh!" exclaimed the young officer with an incredulous air bordering on irony. But Father Courtois insisted on his news with an affirmative nod.
"Possibly," said the young man; "but as for that, it's news for me. And now that you know me, will you open the gate?"
"Of course I will. I should think so. What the devil am I about?" and the jailer opened the gate with an eagerness equalling his former reluctance. The young man entered, and Sir John followed him. The jailer locked the gate carefully, then he turned, followed by Roland and the Englishman in turn. The latter was beginning to get accustomed to his young friend's erratic character. The spleen he saw in Roland was misanthropy, without the sulkiness of Timon or the wit of Alceste.
The jailer crossed the yard, which was separated from the law courts by a wall fifteen feet high, with an opening let into the middle of the receding wall, closed by a massive oaken door, to admit prisoners without taking them round by the street. The jailer, we say, crossed the yard to a winding stairway in the left angle of the courtyard which led to the interior of the prison.
If we insist upon these details, it is because we shall be obliged to return to this spot later, and we do not wish it to be wholly unfamiliar to our readers when that time comes.
These steps led first to the ante-chamber of the prison, that is to say to the porter's hall of the lower court-room. From that hall ten steps led down into an inner court, separated from a third, which was that of the prisoners, by a wall similar to the one we have described, only this one had three doors. At the further end of the courtyard a passage led to the jailer's own room, which gave into a second passage, on which were the cells which were picturesquely styled cages. The jailer paused before the first of these cages and said, striking the door:
"This is where I put madame, your mother, and your sister, so that if the dear ladies wanted either Charlotte or myself, they need but knock."
"Is there any one in the cell?"
"Then please open the door. My friend, Lord Tanlay, is a philanthropic Englishman who is travelling about to see if the French prisons are more comfortable than the English ones. Enter, Sir John."
Père Courtois having opened the door, Roland pushed Sir John into a perfectly square cell measuring ten or twelve feet each way.
"Oh, oh!" exclaimed Sir John, "this is lugubrious."
"Do you think so? Well, my dear friend, this is where my mother, the noblest woman in the world, and my sister, whom you know, spent six weeks with a prospect of leaving it only to make the trip to the Place de Bastion. Just think, that was five years ago, so my sister was scarcely twelve."
"But what crime had they committed?"
"Oh! a monstrous crime. At the anniversary festival
with which the town of
And the young man carried off Sir John before the jailer, recovered from his surprise and found time either to thank Roland or refuse the fifty louis; which, it must be said, would have been a remarkable proof of disinterestedness in a jailer, especially when that jailer's opinions were opposed to those of the government he served.
Leaving the prison, Roland and Sir John found the Place des Lices crowded with people who had heard of General Bonaparte's return to France, and were shouting "Vive Bonaparte!" at the top of their lungs--some because they really admired the victor of Arcola, Rivoli, and the Pyramids, others because they had been told, like Père Courtois, that this same victor had vanquished only that Louis XVIII. might profit by his victories.
Roland and Sir John, having now visited all that the town of
"My dear fellow," said he, "you seemed to have some doubts about the authenticity of that festival which I just mentioned, and which nearly cost my mother and sister their lives, so I bring you the programme. Read it, and while you are doing so I will go and see what they have been doing with my dogs; for I presume that you would rather hold me quit of our fishing expedition in favor of a hunt."
He went out, leaving in Sir John's hands a copy of the
decree of the municipality of the town of
Sir John was just finishing that interesting bit of history when Madame de Montrevel and her daughter returned. Amélie, who did not know how much had been said about her between Roland and Sir John, was astounded by the expression with which that gentleman scrutinized her.
To him she seemed more lovely than before. He could readily understand that mother, who at the risk of life had been unwilling that this charming creature should profane her youth and beauty by serving as a mourner in a celebration of which Marat was the deity. He recalled that cold damp cell which he had lately visited, and shuddered at the thought that this delicate white ermine before his eyes had been imprisoned there, without sun or air, for six weeks. He looked at the throat, too long perhaps, but swan-like in its suppleness and graceful in its exaggeration, and he remembered that melancholy remark of the poor Princesse de Lamballe, as she felt her slender neck: "It will not give the executioner much trouble!"
The thoughts which succeeded each other in Sir John's mind gave to his face an expression so different from its customary aspect, that Madame de Montrevel could not refrain from asking what troubled him. He then told her of his visit to the prison, and Roland's pious pilgrimage to the dungeon where his mother and sister had been incarcerated. Just as Sir John had concluded his tale, a view-halloo sounded without, and Roland entered, his hunting-horn in his hands.
"My dear friend," he cried, "thanks to my mother, we shall have a splendid hunt to-morrow."
"Thanks to me?" queried Madame de Montrevel.
"How so?" added Sir John.
"I left you to see about my dogs, didn't I?"
"You said so, at any rate."
"I had two excellent beasts, Barbichon and Ravaude, male and female."
"Oh!" exclaimed Sir John, "are they dead?"
"Well, yes; but just guess what this excellent mother of mine has done?" and, tilting Madame de Montrevel's head, he kissed her on both cheeks. "She wouldn't let them drown a single puppy because they were the dogs of my dogs; so the result is, that to-day the pups, grand-pups, and great-grand-pups of Barbichon and Ravaude are as numerous as the descendant of Ishmael. Instead of a pair of dogs, I have a whole pack, twenty-five beasts, all as black as moles with white paws, fire in their eyes and hearts, and a regiment of cornet-tails that would do you good to see."
And Roland sounded another halloo that brought his young brother to the scene.
"Oh!" shouted the boy as he entered, "you are going hunting to-morrow, brother Roland. I'm going, too, I'm going, too!"
"Good!" said Roland, "but do you know what we are going to hunt?"
"No. All I know is that I'm going, too."
"We're going to hunt a boar."
"Oh, joy!" cried the boy, clapping his little hands.
"Are you crazy?" asked Madame de Montrevel, turning pale.
"Why so, madame mother, if you please?"
"Because boar hunts are very dangerous."
"Not so dangerous as hunting men. My brother got back safe from that, and so will I from the other."
"Roland," cried Madame de Montrevel, while Amélie, lost in thought, took no part in the discussion, "Roland, make Edouard listen to reason. Tell him that he hasn't got common-sense."
But Roland, who recognized himself again in his young brother, instead of blaming him, smiled at his boyish ardor. "I'd take you willingly," said he, "only to go hunting one must at least know how to handle a gun."
"Oh, Master Roland," cried Edouard, "just come into the garden a bit. Put up your hat at a hundred yards, and I'll show you how to handle a gun."
"Naughty child," exclaimed Madame de Montrevel, trembling, "where did you learn?"
"Why, from the gunsmith at Montagnac, who keeps papa's and Roland's guns. You ask me sometimes what I do with my money, don't you? Well, I buy powder and balls with it, and I am learning to kill Austrians and Arabs like my brother Roland."
Madame de Montrevel raised her hands to heaven.
"What can you expect, mother?" asked Roland. "Blood will tell. No Montrevel could be afraid of powder. You shall come with us to-morrow, Edouard."
The boy sprang upon his brother's neck.
"And I," said Sir John, "will equip you to-day like a regular huntsman, just as they used to arm the knights of old. I have a charming little rifle that I will give you. It will keep you contented until your sabre and pistols come."
"Well," asked Roland, "are you satisfied now, Edouard?"
"Yes; but when will he give it to me? If you have to
"No, my little friend, we have only to go up to my room and open my gun-case. That's soon done."
"Then, let's go at once."
"Come on," said Sir John; and he went out, followed by Edouard.
A moment later, Amélie, still absorbed in thought, rose and left the room. Neither Madame de Montrevel nor Roland noticed her departure, so interested were they in a serious discussion. Madame de Montrevel tried to persuade Roland not to take his young brother with him on the morrow's hunt. Roland explained that, since Edouard was to become a soldier like his father and brother, the sooner he learned to handle a gun and become familiar with powder and ball the better. The discussion was not yet ended when Edouard returned with his gun slung over his shoulder.
"Look, brother," said he, turning to Roland; "just see what a fine present Sir John has given me." And he looked gratefully at Sir John, who stood in the doorway vainly seeking Amélie with his eyes.
It was in truth a beautiful present. The rifle, designed with that plainness of ornament and simplicity of form peculiar to English weapons, was of the finest finish. Like the pistols, of which Roland had had opportunity to test the accuracy, the rifle was made by the celebrated Manton, and carried a twenty-four calibre bullet. That it had been originally intended for a woman was easily seen by the shortness of the stock and the velvet pad on the trigger. This original purpose of the weapon made it peculiarly suitable for a boy of twelve.
Roland took the rifle from his brother's shoulder, looked at it knowingly, tried its action, sighted it, tossed it from one hand to the other, and then, giving it back to Edouard, said: "Thank Sir John again. You have a rifle fit for a king's son. Let's go and try it."
All three went out to try Sir John's rifle, leaving Madame de Montrevel as sad as Thetis when she saw Achilles in his woman's garb draw the sword of Ulysses from its scabbard.
A quarter of an hour later, Edouard returned triumphantly. He brought his mother a bit of pasteboard of the circumference of a hat, in which he had put ten bullets out of twelve. The two men had remained behind in the park conversing.
Madame de Montrevel listened to Edouard's slightly boastful account of his prowess. Then she looked at him with that deep and holy sorrow of mothers to whom fame is no compensation for the blood it sheds. Oh! ungrateful indeed is the child who has seen that look bent upon him and does not eternally remember it. Then, after a few seconds of this painful contemplation, she pressed her second son to her breast, and murmured sobbing: "You, too! you, too, will desert your mother some day."
"Yes, mother," replied the boy, "to become a general like my father, or an aide-de-camp like Roland."
"And to be killed as your father was, as your brother perhaps will be."
For the strange transformation in Roland's character had not escaped Madame de Montrevel. It was but an added dread to her other anxieties, among which Amélie's pallor and abstraction must be numbered.
Amélie was just seventeen; her childhood had been that of a happy laughing girl, joyous and healthy. The death of her father had cast a black veil over her youth and gayety. But these tempests of spring pass rapidly. Her smile, the sunshine of life's dawn, returned like that of Nature, sparkling through that dew of the heart we call tears.
Then, one day about six months before this story opens, Amélie's face had saddened, her cheeks had grown pale, and, like the birds who migrate at the approach of wintry weather, the childlike laughter that escaped her parted lips and white teeth had fled never to return.
Madame de Montrevel had questioned her, but Amélie asserted that she was still the same. She endeavored to smile, but as a stone thrown into a lake rings upon the surface, so the smiles roused by this maternal solicitude faded, little by little, from Amélie's face. With keen maternal instinct Madame de Montrevel had thought of love. But whom could Amélie love? There were no visitors at the Château des Noires-Fontaines, the political troubles had put an end to all society, and Amélie went nowhere alone. Madame de Montrevel could get no further than conjecture. Roland's return had given her a moment's hope; but this hope fled as soon as she perceived the effect which this event had produced upon Amélie.
It was not a sister, but a spectre, it will be recalled, who had come to meet him. Since her son's arrival, Madame de Montrevel had not lost sight of Amélie, and she perceived, with dolorous amazement, that Roland's presence awakened a feeling akin to terror in his sister's breast. She, whose eyes had formerly rested so lovingly upon him, now seemed to view him with alarm. Only a few moments since, Amélie had profited by the first opportunity to return to her room, the one spot in the château where she seemed at ease, and where for the last six months she had spent most of her time. The dinner-bell alone possessed the power to bring her from it, and even then she waited for the second call before entering the dining-room.
Roland and Sir John, as we have said, had divided their time between their visit to Bourg and their preparations for the morrow's hunt. From morn until noon they were to beat the woods; from noon till evening they were to hunt the boar. Michel, that devoted poacher, confined to his chair for the present with a sprain, felt better as soon as the question of the hunt was mooted, and had himself hoisted on a little horse that was used for the errands of the house. Then he sallied forth to collect the beaters from Saint-Just and Montagnac. He, being unable to beat or run, was to remain with the pack, and watch Sir John's and Roland's horse, and Edouard's pony, in the middle of the forest, where it was intersected by one good road and two practicable paths. The beaters, who could not follow the hunt, were to return to the château with the game-bags.
The beaters were at the door at six the following morning.
Michel was not to leave with the horses and dogs until eleven. The Château des
Noires-Fontaines was just at the edge of the
As the battue promised chiefly deer and hares, the guns were loaded with balls. Roland gave Edouard a simple little gun which he himself had used as a child. He had not enough confidence as yet in the boy's prudence to trust him with a double-barrelled gun. As for the rifle that Sir John had given him the day before, it could only carry cartridges. It was given into Michel's safe keeping, to be returned to him in case they started a boar for the second part of the hunt. For this Roland and Sir John were also to change their guns for rifles and hunting knives, pointed as daggers and sharp as razors, which formed part of Sir John's arsenal, and could be suspended from the belt or screwed on the point of the gun like bayonets.
From the beginning of the battue it was easy to see that the hunt would be a good one. A roebuck and two hares were killed at once. At noon two does, seven roebucks and two foxes had been bagged. They had also seen two boars, but these latter had only shaken their bristles in answer to the heavy balls and made off.
Edouard was in the seventh heaven; he had killed a roebuck. The beaters, well rewarded for their labor, were sent to the château with the game, as had been arranged. A sort of bugle was sounded to ascertain Michel's whereabout, to which he answered. In less than ten minutes the three hunters had rejoined the gardener with his hounds and horses.
Michel had seen a boar which he had sent his son to head off, and it was now in the woods not a hundred paces distant. Jacques, Michel's eldest son, beat up the woods with Barbichon and Ravaude, the heads of the pack, and in about five minutes the boar was found in his lair. They could have killed him at once, or at least shot at him, but that would have ended the hunt too quickly. The huntsmen launched the whole pack at the animal, which, seeing this troop of pygmies swoop down upon him, started off at a slow trot. He crossed the road, Roland giving the view-halloo, and headed in the direction of the Chartreuse of Seillon, the three riders following the path which led through the woods. The boar led them a chase which lasted until five in the afternoon, turning upon his tracks, evidently unwilling to leave the forest with its thick undergrowth.
At last the violent barking of the dogs warned them that the animal had been brought to bay. The spot was not a hundred paces distant from the pavilion belonging to the Chartreuse, in one of the most tangled thickets of the forest. It was impossible to force the horses through it, and the riders dismounted. The barking of the dogs guided them straight along the path, from which they deviated only where the obstacles they encountered rendered it necessary.
From time to time yelps of pain indicated that members of the attacking party had ventured too close to the animal, and had paid the price of their temerity. About twenty feet from the scene of action the hunters began to see the actors. The boar was backed against a rock to avoid attack in the rear; then, bracing himself on his forepaws, he faced the dogs with his ensanguined eyes and enormous tusks. They quivered around him like a moving carpet; five or six, more or less badly wounded, were staining the battlefield with their blood, though still attacking the boar with a fury and courage that might have served as an example to the bravest men.
Each hunter faced the scene with the characteristic signs of his age, nature and nation. Edouard, at one and the same time, the most imprudent and the smallest, finding the path less difficult, owing to his small, stature, arrived first. Roland, heedless of danger of any kind, seeking rather than avoiding it, followed. Finally Sir John, slower, graver, more reflective, brought up the rear. Once the boar perceived his hunters he paid no further attention to the dogs. He fixed his gleaming, sanguinary eyes upon them; but his only movement was a snapping of the jaws, which he brought together with a threatening sound. Roland watched the scene for an instant, evidently desirous of flinging himself into the midst of the group, knife in hand, to slit the boar's throat as a butcher would that of a calf or a pig. This impulse was so apparent that Sir John caught his arm, and little Edouard exclaimed: "Oh! brother, let me shoot the boar!"
Roland restrained himself, and stacking his gun against a tree, waited, armed only with his hunting-knife, which he had drawn from its sheath.
"Very well," said he, "shoot him; but be careful about it."
"Oh! don't worry," retorted the child, between his set teeth. His face was pale but resolute as he aimed the barrel of his rifle at the animal's head.
"If he misses him, or only wounds him," observed Sir John, "you know that the brute will be upon us before we can see him through the smoke."
"I know it, my lord; but I am accustomed to these hunts," replied Roland, his nostrils quivering, his eyes sparkling, his lips parted: "Fire, Edouard!"
The shot followed the order upon the instant; but after the shot, with, or even before it, the beast, swift as lightning, rushed upon the child. A second shot followed the first, but the animal's scarlet eyes still gleamed through the smoke. But, as it rushed, it met Roland with his knee on the ground, the knife in his hand. A moment later a tangled, formless group, man and boar, boar and man, was rolling on the ground. Then a third shot rang out, followed by a laugh from Roland.
"Ah! my lord," cried the young man, "you've wasted powder and shot. Can't you see that I have ripped him up? Only get his body off of me. The beast weighs at least four hundred pounds, and he is smothering me."
But before Sir John could stoop, Roland, with a vigorous push of the shoulder, rolled the animal's body aside, and rose to his feet covered with blood, but without a single scratch. Little Edouard, either from lack of time or from native courage, had not recoiled an inch. True, he was completely protected by his brother's body, which was between him and the boar. Sir John had sprung aside to take the animal in the flank. He watched Roland, as he emerged from this second duel, with the same amazement that he had experienced after the first.
The dogs--those that were left, some twenty in all--had followed the boar, and were now leaping upon his body in the vain effort to tear the bristles, which were almost as impenetrable as iron.
"You will see," said Roland, wiping the blood from his face and hands with a fine cambric handkerchief, "how they will eat him, and your knife too, my lord."
"True," said Sir John; "where is the knife?"
"In its sheath," replied Roland.
"Ah!" exclaimed the boy, "only the handle shows."
He sprang toward the animal and pulled out the poniard, which, as he said, was buried up to the hilt. The sharp point, guided by a calm eye and a firm hand, had pierced the animal's heart.
There were other wounds on the boar's body. The first, caused by the boy's shot, showed a bloody furrow just over the eye; the blow had been too weak to crush the frontal bone. The second came from Sir John's first shot; it had caught the animal diagonally and grazed his breast. The third, fired at close quarters, went through the body; but, as Roland had said, not until after the animal was dead.
The hunt was over, darkness was falling, and it was now a question of returning to the château. The horses were nearby; they could hear them neighing impatiently. They seemed to be asking if their courage was so doubted that they were not allowed to share in the exciting drama.
Edouard was bent upon dragging the boar after them, fastening it to the saddle-bow, and so carrying it back to the château; but Roland pointed out that it was simpler to send a couple of men for it with a barrow. Sir John being of the same opinion, Edouard--who never ceased pointing to the wound in the head, and saying, "That's my shot; that's where I aimed"--Edouard, we say, was forced to yield to the majority. The three hunters soon reached the spot where their horses were tethered, mounted, and in less than ten minutes were at the Château des Noires-Fontaines.
Madame de Montrevel was watching for them on the portico. The poor mother had waited there nearly an hour, trembling lest an accident had befallen one or the other of her sons. The moment Edouard espied her he put his pony to a gallop, shouting from the gate: "Mother, mother! We killed a boar as big as a donkey. I shot him in the head; you'll see the hole my ball, made; Roland stuck his hunting knife into the boar's belly up to the hilt, and Sir John fired at him twice. Quick, quick! Send the men for the carcass. Don't be frightened when you see Roland. He's all covered with blood--but it's from the boar, and he hasn't a scratch."
This was delivered with Edouard's accustomed volubility while Madame de Montrevel was crossing the clearing between the portico and the road to open the gate. She intended to take Edouard in her arms, but he jumped from his saddle and flung himself upon her neck. Roland and Sir John came up just then, and Amélie appeared on the portico at the same instant.
Edouard left his mother to worry over Roland, who, covered as he was with blood, looked very terrifying, and rushed to his sister with the tale he had rattled off to his mother. Amélie listened in an abstracted manner that probably hurt Edouard's vanity, for he dashed off to the kitchen to describe the affair to Michel, who was certain to listen to him.
Michel was indeed interested; but when, after telling him where the carcass lay, Edouard gave him Roland's order to send a couple of men after the beast, he shook his head.
"What!" demanded Edouard, "are you going to refuse to obey my brother?"
"Heaven forbid! Master Edouard. Jacques shall start this instant for Montagnac."
"Are you afraid he won't find any body?"
"Goodness, no; he could get a dozen. But the trouble is the time of night. You say the boar lies close to the pavilion of the Chartreuse?"
"Not twenty yards from it."
"I'd rather it was three miles," replied Michel scratching his head; "but never mind. I'll send for them anyway without telling them what they're wanted for. Once here, it's for your brother to make them go."
"Good! Good! Only get them here and I'll see to that myself."
"Oh!" exclaimed Michel, "if I hadn't this beastly sprain I'd go myself. But to-day's doings have made it worse. Jacques! Jacques!"
Jacques came, and Edouard not only waited to hear the order given, but until he had started. Then he ran upstairs to do what Roland and Sir John were already doing, that is, dress for dinner.
The whole talk at table, as may be easily imagined, centred upon the day's prowess. Edouard asked nothing better than to talk about it, and Sir John, astounded by Roland's skill, courage, and good luck, improved upon the child's narrative. Madame de Montrevel shuddered at each detail, and yet she made them repeat it twenty times. That which seemed most clear to her in all this was that Roland had saved Edouard's life.
"Did you thank him for it?" she asked the boy. "Thank whom?"
"Why should I thank him?" retorted Edouard. "I should have done the same thing."
"Ah, madame, what can you expect!" said Sir John; "you are a gazelle who has unwittingly given birth to a race of lions."
Amélie had also paid the closest attention to the account, especially when the hunters spoke of their proximity to the Chartreuse. From that time on she listened with anxious eyes, and seemed scarcely to breathe, until they told of leaving the woods after the killing.
After dinner, word was brought that Jacques had returned with two peasants from Montagnac. They wanted exact directions as to where the hunters had left the animal. Roland rose, intending to go to them, but Madame de Montrevel, who could never see enough of her son, turned to the messenger and said: "Bring these worthy men in here. It is not necessary to disturb M. Roland for that."
Five minutes later the two peasants entered, twirling their hats in their hands.
"My sons," said Roland, "I want you to fetch
the boar we killed in the
"That can be done," said one of the peasants, consulting his companion with a look.
"Yes, it can be done," answered the other.
"Don't be alarmed," said Roland. "You shall lose nothing by your trouble."
"Oh! we're not," interrupted one of the peasants. "We know you, Monsieur de Montrevel."
"Yes," answered the other, "we know that, like your father, you're not in the habit of making people work for nothing. Oh! if all the aristocrats had been like you, Monsieur Louis, there wouldn't have been any revolution."
"Of course not," said the other, who seemed to have come solely to echo affirmatively what his companion said.
"It remains to be seen now where the animal is," said the first peasant.
"Yes," repeated the second, "remains to be seen where it is."
"Oh! it won't be hard to find."
"So much the better," interjected the peasant.
"Do you know the pavilion in the forest?"
"Yes, which one?"
"The one that belongs to the Chartreuse of Seillon."
The peasants looked at each other.
"Well, you'll find it some twenty feet distant from the front on the way to Genoud."
The peasants looked at each other once more.
"Hum!" grunted the first one.
"Hum!" repeated the other, faithful echo of his companion.
"Well, what does this 'hum' mean?" demanded Roland.
"Come, explain yourselves. What's the matter?"
"The matter is that we'd rather that it was the other end of the forest."
"But why the other end?" retorted Roland, impatiently; "it's nine miles from here to the other end, and barely three from here to where we left the boar."
"Yes," said the first peasant, "but just where the boar lies--" And he paused and scratched his head.
"Exactly; that's what," added the other.
"It's a little too near the Chartreuse."
"Not the Chartreuse; I said the pavilion."
"It's all the same. You know, Monsieur Louis, that there is an underground passage leading from the pavilion to the Chartreuse."
"Oh, yes, there is one, that's sure," added the other.
"But," exclaimed Roland, "what has this underground passage got to do with our boar?"
"This much, that the beast's in a bad place, that's all."
"Oh, yes! a bad place," repeated the other peasant.
"Come, now, explain yourselves, you rascals," said Roland, who was growing angry, while his mother seemed uneasy, and Amélie visibly turned pale.
"Beg pardon, Monsieur Louis," answered the peasant; "we are not rascals; we're God-fearing men, that's all."
"By thunder," cried Roland, "I'm a God-fearing man myself. What of that?"
"Well, we don't care to have any dealings with the devil."
"No, no, no," asserted the second peasant.
"A man can match a man if he's of his own kind," continued the first peasant.
"Sometimes two," said the second, who was built like a Hercules.
"But with ghostly beings phantoms, spectres--no thank you," continued the first peasant.
"No, thank you," repeated the other.
"Oh, mother, sister," queried Roland, addressing the two women, "in Heaven's name, do you understand anything of what these two fools are saying?"
"Fools," repeated the first peasant; "well, possibly. But it's not the less true that Pierre Marey had his neck twisted just for looking over the wall. True, it was of a Saturday--the devil's sabbath."
"And they couldn't straighten it out," affirmed the second peasant, "so they had to bury him with his face turned round looking the other way.
"Oh!" exclaimed Sir John, "this is growing interesting. I'm very fond of ghost stories."
"That's more than sister Amélie is it seems," cried Edouard.
"What do you mean?"
"Just see how pale she's grown, brother Roland."
"Yes, indeed," said Sir John; "mademoiselle looks as if she were going to faint."
"I? Not at all," exclaimed Amélie, wiping the perspiration from her forehead; "only don't you think it seems a little warm here, mother?"
"No," answered Madame de Montrevel.
"Still," insisted Amélie, "if it would not annoy you, I should like to open the window."
"Do so, my child."
Amélie rose hastily to profit by this permission, and went with tottering steps to a window opening upon the garden. After it was opened, she stood leaning against the sill, half-hidden by the curtains.
"Ah!" she said, "I can breathe here."
Sir John rose to offer her his smelling-salts, but Amélie declined hastily: "No, no, my lord. Thank you, but I am better now."
"Come, come," said Roland, "don't bother about that; it's our boar."
"Well, Monsieur Louis, we will fetch your boar tomorrow."
"That's it," said the second peasant, "to-morrow morning, when it's light."
"But to go there at night--"
"Oh! to go there at night--"
The peasant looked at his comrade and both shook their heads.
"It can't be done at night."
"Monsieur Louis, a man's not a coward because he's afraid."
"No, indeed; that's not being a coward," replied the other.
"Ah!" said Roland, "I wish some stronger minded men than you would face me with that argument; that a man is not a coward because he's afraid!"
"Well, it's according to what he's afraid of, Monsieur Louis. Give me a good sickle and a good cudgel, and I'm not afraid of a wolf; give me a good gun and I'm not afraid of any man, even if I knew he's waiting to murder me."
"Yes," said Edouard, "but you're afraid of a ghost, even when it's only the ghost of a monk."
"Little Master Edouard," said the peasant, "leave your brother to do the talking; you're not old enough to jest about such things--"
"No," added the other peasant, "wait till your beard is grown, my little gentleman."
"I haven't any beard," retorted Edouard, starting up, "but just the same if I was strong enough to carry the boar, I'd go fetch it myself either by day or night."
"Much good may it do you, my young gentleman. But neither my comrade nor myself would go, even for a whole louis."
"Nor for two?" said Roland, wishing to corner them.
"Nor for two, nor four, nor ten, Monsieur de Montrevel. Ten louis are good, but what could I do with them if my neck was broken?"
"Yes, twisted like Pierre Marey's," said the other peasant.
"Ten louis wouldn't feed my wife and children for the rest of my life, would they?"
"And besides, when you say ten louis," interrupted the second peasant, "you mean really five, because I'd get five, too."
"So the pavilion is haunted by ghosts, is it?" asked Roland.
"I didn't say the pavilion--I'm not sure about the pavilion--but in the Chartreuse--"
"In the Chartreuse, are you sure?"
"Oh! there, certainly."
"Have you seen them?"
"I haven't; but some folks have."
"Has your comrade?" asked the young officer, turning to the second peasant.
"I haven't seen them; but I did see flames, and Claude Philippon heard chains."
"Ah! so they have flames and chains?" said Roland.
"Yes," replied the first peasant, "for I have seen the flames myself."
"And Claude Philippon on heard the chains," repeated the other.
"Very good, my friends, very good," replied Roland, sneering; "so you won't go there to-night at any price?"
"Not at any price."
"Not for all the gold in the world."
"And you'll go to-morrow when it's light?"
"Oh! Monsieur Louis, before you're up the boar will be here."
"Before you're up," said Echo.
"All right," said Roland. "Come back to me the day after tomorrow."
"Willingly, Monsieur Louis. What do you want us to do?"
"Never mind; just come."
"Oh! we'll come."
"That means that the moment you say, 'Come,' you can count upon us, Monsieur Louis."
"Well, then I'll have some information for you."
Amélie gave a stifled cry; Madame de Montrevel alone heard it. Louis dismissed the two peasants, and they jostled each other at the door in their efforts to go through together.
Nothing more was said that evening about the Chartreuse or the pavilion, nor of its supernatural tenants, spectres or phantoms who haunted them.
At ten o'clock everyone was in bed at the Château des Noires-Fontaines, or, at any rate, all had retired to their rooms.
Three or four times in the course of the evening Amélie had approached Roland as if she had something to say to him; but each time the words died upon her lips. When the family left the salon, she had taken his arm, and, although his room was on the floor above hers, she had accompanied him to his very door. Roland had kissed her, bade her good-night, and closed his door, declaring himself very tired.
Nevertheless, in spite of this assertion, Roland, once
alone, did not proceed to undress. He went to his collection of arms, selected
a pair of magnificent pistols, manufactured at
"Come in," said the Englishman. Sir John, like himself, was not prepared for bed.
"I guessed from the sign you made me that you had something to say to me," said Sir John, "so I waited for you, as you see."
"Indeed, I have something to say to you," returned Roland, seating himself gayly in an armchair.
"My kind host," replied the Englishman, "I am beginning to understand you. When I see you as gay as you are now, I am like your peasants, I feel afraid."
"Did you hear what they were saying?"
"I heard them tell a splendid ghost story. I, myself,
have a haunted castle in
"Have you ever seen the ghosts, my lord?"
"Yes, when I was little. Unfortunately, since I have grown up they have disappeared."
"That's always the way with ghosts," said Roland gayly; "they come and go. How lucky it is that I should return just as the ghosts have begun to haunt the Chartreuse of Seillon."
"Yes," replied Sir John, "very lucky. Only are you sure that there are any there?"
"No. But I'll know by the day after to-morrow."
"I intend to spend to-morrow night there."
"Oh!" said the Englishmen, "would you like to have me go with you?"
"With pleasure, my lord. Only, unfortunately, that is impossible."
"As I have just told you, my dear fellow."
"But why impossible?"
"Are you acquainted with the manners and customs of ghosts, Sir John?" asked Roland gravely.
"Well, I am. Ghosts only show themselves under certain conditions."
"Well, for example, in
"And to what do you attribute their absence?"
"To the absence of fogs."
"Not a doubt of it. You understand the native
atmosphere of ghosts is fog.
"Go on, I'm listening to you."
"Have you seen the
"Still another country of fairies, water sprites,
sylphs, and consequently phantoms ('for whoso does the greater see, can see the
less'), and all that on account of the fog. But where the devil can the ghosts
"But all that doesn't explain why you refuse my company," insisted Sir John.
"Wait a moment. I've just explained to you that ghosts don't venture into certain countries, because they do not offer certain atmospheric conditions. Now, let me explain the precautions we must take if we wish to see them."
"Explain! explain!" said Sir John, "I would rather hear you talk than any other man, Roland."
And Sir John, stretching himself out in his easy-chair, prepared to listen with delight to the improvisations of this fantastic mind, which he had seen under so many aspects during the few days of their acquaintance.
Roland bowed his head by way of thanks.
"Well, this is the way of it, and you will grasp it readily enough. I have heard so much about ghosts in my life that I know the scamps as if I had made them. Why do ghosts appear?"
"Are you asking me that?" inquired Sir John.
"Yes, I ask you."
"I own that, not having studied ghosts as you have, I am unable to give you a definitive answer."
"You see! Ghosts show themselves, my dear fellow, in order to frighten those who see them."
"That is undeniable."
"Of course! Now, if they don't frighten those to whom they appear, they are frightened by them; witness M. de Turenne, whose ghosts proved to be counterfeiters. Do you know that story?"
"I'll tell it to you some day; don't let's get mixed up. That is just why, when they decide to appear--which is seldom--ghosts select stormy nights, when it thunders, lightens and blows; that's their scenery."
"I am forced to admit that nothing could be more correct."
"Wait a moment! There are instances when the bravest man feels a shudder run through his veins. Even before I was suffering with this aneurism it has happened to me a dozen times, when I have seen the flash of sabres and heard the thunder of cannon around me. It is true that since I have been subject to this aneurism I rush where the lightning flashes and the thunder growls. Still there is the chance that these ghosts don't know this and believe that I can be frightened."
"Whereas that is an impossibility, isn't it?" asked Sir John.
"What will you! When, right or wrong, one feels that, far from dreading death, one has every reason to seek it, what should he fear? But I repeat, these ghosts, who know so much, may not know that only ghosts know this; they know that the sense of fear increases or diminishes according to the seeing and hearing of exterior things. Thus, for example, where do phantoms prefer to appear? In dark places, cemeteries, old cloisters, ruins, subterranean passages, because the aspect of these localities predisposes the soul to fear. What precedes their appearance? The rattling of chains, groans, sighs, because there is nothing very cheerful in all that? They are careful not to appear in the bright light, or after a strain of dance music. No, fear is an abyss into which you descend step by step, until you are overcome by vertigo; your feet slip, and you plunge with closed eyes to the bottom of the precipice. Now, if you read the accounts of all these apparitions, you'll find they all proceed like this: First the sky darkens, the thunder growls, the wind howls, doors and windows rattle, the lamp--if there is a lamp in the room of the person the ghosts are trying to frighten--the lamp flares, flickers and goes out--utter darkness! Then, in the darkness, groans, wails and the rattling of chains are heard; then, at last, the door opens and the ghost appears. I must say that all the apparitions that I have not seen but read about have presented themselves under similar circumstances. Isn't that so, Sir John?"
"And did you ever hear of a ghost appearing to two persons at the same time?"
"I certainly never did hear of it."
"It's quite simple, my dear fellow. Two together, you understand, have no fear. Fear is something mysterious, strange, independent of the will, requiring isolation, darkness and solitude. A ghost is no more dangerous than a cannon ball. Well, a soldier never fears a cannon ball in the daytime, when his elbows touch a comrade to the right and left. No, he goes straight for the battery and is either killed or he kills. That's not what the phantoms want. That's why they never appear to two persons at the same time, and that is the reason I want to go to the Chartreuse alone, my lord. Your presence would prevent the boldest ghost from appearing. If I see nothing, or if I see something worth the trouble, you can have your turn the next day. Does the bargain suit you?"
"Perfectly! But why can't I take the first night?"
"Ah! first, because the idea didn't occur to you, and it is only just that I should benefit by my own cleverness. Besides, I belong to the region; I was friendly with the good monks in their lifetime, and there may be a chance of their appearing to me after death. Moreover, as I know the localities, if it becomes necessary to run away or pursue I can do it better than you. Don't you see the justice of that, my dear fellow?"
"Yes, it couldn't be fairer; but I am sure of going the next night."
"The next night, and the one after, and every day and night if you wish; I only hold to the first. Now," continued Roland rising, "this is between ourselves, isn't it? Not a word to any one. The ghosts might be forewarned and act accordingly. It would never do to let those gay dogs get the best of us; that would be too grotesque."
"Oh, be easy about that. You will go armed, won't you?"
"If I thought I was only dealing with ghosts, I'd go with my hands in my pockets and nothing in my fobs. But, as I told you, M. de Turenne's ghosts were counterfeiters, so I shall take my pistols."
"Do you want mine?"
"No, thanks. Though yours are good, I am about resolved never to use them again." Then, with a smile whose bitterness it would be impossible to describe, he added: "They brought me ill-luck. Good-night! Sir John. I must sleep soundly to-night, so as not to want to sleep to-morrow night."
Then, shaking the Englishman's hand vigorously a second time, he left the room and returned to his own. There he was greatly surprised to find the door, which he was sure he had left closed, open. But as soon as he entered, the sight of his sister explained the matter to him.
"Hello!" he exclaimed, partly astonished, partly uneasy; "is that you, Amélie?"
"Yes, it is I," she said. Then, going close to her brother, and letting him kiss her forehead, she added in a supplicating voice: "You won't go, will you, dear Roland?"
"Go where?" asked Roland.
"To the Chartreuse."
"Good! Who told you that?"
"Oh! for one who knows, how difficult it is to guess!"
"And why don't you want me to go to the Chartreuse?"
"I'm afraid something might happen to you."
"What! So you believe in ghosts, do you?" he asked, looking fixedly into Amélie's eyes.
Amélie lowered her glance, and Roland felt his sister's hand tremble in his.
"Come," said Roland; "Amélie, at least the one I used to know, General de Montrevel's daughter and Roland's sister, is too intelligent to yield to these vulgar terrors. It's impossible that you can believe these tales of apparitions, chains, flames, spectres, and phantoms."
"If I did believe them, Roland, I should not be so alarmed. If ghosts do exist, they must be souls without bodies, and consequently cannot bring their material hatred from the grave. Besides, why should a ghost hate you, Roland; you, who never harmed any one?"
"Good! You forget all those I have killed in war or in duels."
Amélie shook her head. "I'm not afraid of them."
"Then what are you afraid of?"
The young girl raised her beautiful eyes, wet with tears, to Roland, and threw herself in his arms, saying: "I don't know, Roland. But I can't help it, I am afraid."
The young man raised her head, which she was hiding in his breast, with gentle force, and said, kissing her eyelids softly and tenderly: "You don't believe I shall have ghosts to fight with to-morrow, do you?"
"Oh, brother, don't go to the Chartreuse!" cried Amélie, eluding the question.
"Mother told you to say this to me, didn't she?"
"Oh, no, brother! Mother said nothing to me. It is I who guessed that you intended to go."
"Well, if I want to go," replied Roland firmly, "you ought to know, Amélie, that I shall go."
"Even if I beseech you on my knees, brother?" cried Amélie in a tone of anguish, slipping down to her brother's feet; "even if I beseech you on my knees?"
"Oh! women! women!" murmured Roland, "inexplicable creatures, whose words are all mystery, whose lips never tell the real secrets of their hearts, who weep, and pray, and tremble--why? God knows, but man, never! I shall go, Amélie, because I have resolved to go; and when once I have taken a resolution no power on earth can make me change it. Now kiss me and don't be frightened, and I will tell you a secret."
Amélie raised her head, and gazed questioningly, despairingly, at Roland.
"I have known for more than a year," replied the young man, "that I have the misfortune not to be able to die. So reassure yourself, and don't be afraid."
Roland uttered these words so dolefully that Amélie, who had, until then, kept her emotion under control, left the room sobbing.
The young officer, after assuring himself that her door was closed, shut his, murmuring: "We'll see who will weary first, Fate or I."
The next evening, at about the same hour, the young officer, after convincing himself that every one in the Château des Noires-Fontaines had gone to bed, opened his door softly, went downstairs holding his breath, reached the vestibule, slid back the bolts of the outer door noiselessly, and turned round to make sure that all was quiet. Reassured by the darkened windows, he boldly opened the iron gate. The hinges had probably been oiled that day, for they turned without grating, and closed as noiselessly as they had opened behind Roland, who walked rapidly in the direction of Pont d'Ain at Bourg.
He had hardly gone a hundred yards before the clock at
Saint-Just struck once; that of Montagnac answered like a bronze echo. It was
half-past ten o'clock. At the pace the young man was walking he needed only
twenty minutes to reach the Chartreuse; especially if, instead of skirting the
woods, he took the path that led direct to the monastery. Roland was too
familiar from youth with every nook of the
At the foot of the wall he stopped, but only for a few seconds. He unhooked his cloak, rolled it into a ball, and tossed it over the wall. The cloak off, he stood in a velvet coat, white leather breeches, and top-boots. The coat was fastened round the waist by a belt in which were a pair of pistols. A broad-brimmed hat covered his head and shaded his face.
With the same rapidity with which he had removed his garment that might have hindered his climbing the wall, he began to scale it. His foot readily found a chink between the stones; he sprang up, seizing the coping, and was on the other side without even touching the top of the wall over which he bounded. He picked up his cloak, threw it over his shoulder, hooked it, and crossed the orchard to a little door communicating with the cloister. The clock struck eleven as he passed through it. Roland stopped, counted the strokes, and slowly walked around the cloister, looking and listening.
He saw nothing and heard no noise. The monastery was the picture of desolation and solitude; the doors were all open, those of the cells, the chapel, and the refectory. In the refectory, a vast hall where the tables still stood in their places, Roland noticed five or six bats circling around; a frightened owl flew through a broken casement, and perched upon a tree close by, hooting dismally.
"Good!" said Roland, aloud; "I'll make my headquarters here; bats and owls are the vanguards of ghosts."
The sound of that human voice, lifted in the midst of this solitude, darkness and desolation, had something so uncanny, so lugubrious about it, that it would have caused even the speaker to shudder, had not Roland, as he himself said, been inaccessible to fear. He looked about for a place from which he could command the entire hall. An isolated table, placed on a sort of stage at one end of the refectory, which had no doubt been used by the superior of the convent to take his food apart from the monks, to read from pious books during the repast, seemed to Roland best adapted to his needs. Here, backed by the wall, he could not be surprised from behind, and, once his eye grew accustomed to the darkness, he could survey every part of the hall. He looked for a seat, and found an overturned stool about three feet from the table, probably the one occupied by the reader or the person dining there in solitude.
Roland sat down at the table, loosened his cloak to insure greater freedom of movement, took his pistols from his belt, laid one on the table, and striking three blows with the butt-end of the other, he said, in a loud voice: "The meeting is open; the ghosts can appear!"
Those who have passed through churches and cemeteries at night have often experienced, without analyzing it, the supreme necessity of speaking low and reverently which attaches to certain localities. Only such persons can understand the strange impression produced on any one who heard it by that curt, mocking voice which now disturbed the solitude and the shadows. It vibrated an instant in the darkness, which seemed to quiver with it; then it slowly died away without an echo, escaping by all the many openings made by the wings of time.
As he had expected, Roland's eyes had accustomed themselves to the darkness, and now, by the pale light of the rising moon, whose long, white rays penetrated the refectory through the broken windows, he could see distinctly from one end to the other of the vast apartment. Although Roland was as evidently without fear internally as externally, he was not without distrust, and his ear caught the slightest sounds.
He heard the half-hour strike. In spite of himself the sound startled him, for it came from the bell of the convent. How was it that, in this ruin where all was dead, a clock, the pulse of time, was living?
"Oh! oh!" said Roland; "that proves that I shall see something."
The words were spoken almost in an aside. The majesty of the place and the silence acted upon that heart of iron, firm as the iron that had just tolled the call of time upon eternity. The minutes slowly passed, one after the other. Perhaps a cloud was passing between earth and moon, for Roland fancied that the shadows deepened. Then, as midnight approached, he seemed to hear a thousand confused, imperceptible sounds, coming no doubt from the nocturnal universe which wakes while the other sleeps. Nature permits no suspension of life, even for repose. She created her nocturnal world, even as she created her daily world, from the gnat which buzzes about the sleeper's pillow to the lion prowling around the Arab's bivouac.
But Roland, the camp watcher, the sentinel of the desert, Roland, the hunter, the soldier, knew all those sounds; they were powerless to disturb him.
Then, mingling with these sounds, the tones of the clock, chiming the hour, vibrated above his head. This time it was midnight. Roland counted the twelve strokes, one after the other. The last hung, quivering upon the air, like a bird with iron wings, then slowly expired, sad and mournful. Just then the young man, thought he heard a moan. He listened in the direction whence it came. Again he heard it, this time nearer at hand.
He rose, his hands resting upon the table, the butt-end of a pistol beneath each palm. A rustle like that of a sheet or a gown trailing along the grass was audible on his right, not ten paces from him. He straightened up as if moved by a spring.
At the same moment a shade appeared on the threshold of the vast hall. This shade resembled the ancient statues lying on the tombs. It was wrapped in an immense winding-sheet which trailed behind it.
For an instant Roland doubted his own eyes. Had the preoccupation of his mind made him see a thing which was not? Was he the dupe of his senses, the sport of those hallucinations which physicians assert, but cannot explain? A moan, uttered by the phantom, put his doubts to flight.
"My faith!" he cried in a burst of laughter, "now for a tussle, friend ghost!"
The spectre paused and extended a hand toward the, young officer. "Roland! Roland!" said the spectre in a muffled voice, "it would be a pity not to follow to the grave those you have sent there."
And the spectre, without hastening its step, continued on its way.
Roland, astounded for an instant, came down from the stage, and resolutely followed the ghost. The path was difficult, encumbered with stones, benches awry, and over-turned tables. And yet, through all these obstacles, an invisible channel seemed open for the spectre, which pursued its way unchecked.
Each time it passed before a window, the light from with out, feeble as it was, shone upon the winding-sheet and the ghost, outlining the figure, which passed into the obscurity to reappear and vanish again at each succeeding one, Roland, his eyes fixed upon the figure, fearing to lose sight of it if he diverted his gaze from it, dared not look at the path, apparently so easy to the spectre, yet bristling with obstacles for him. He stumbled at every step. The ghost was gaining upon him. It reached the door opposite to that by which it had entered. Roland saw the entrance to a dark passage. Feeling that the ghost would escape him, he cried: "Man or ghost, robber or monk, halt or I fire!"
"A dead body cannot be killed twice, and death has no power over the spirit," replied the ghost in its muffled voice.
"Who are you?"
"The Shade of him you tore violently from the earth."
The young officer burst into that harsh, nervous laugh, made more terrible by the darkness around him.
"Faith!" said he, "if you have no further indications to give me, I shall not trouble myself to discover you."
"Remember the fountain at Vaucluse," said the Shade, in a voice so faint the words seemed to escape his lips like a sigh rather than articulate speech.
For an instant Roland felt, not his heart failing him, but the sweat pouring from his forehead. Making an effort over himself, he regained his voice and cried, menacingly: "For a last time, apparition or reality, I warn you that, if you do not stop, I shall fire!"
The Shade did not heed him, but continued on its way.
Roland paused an instant to take aim. The spectre was not ten paces from him. Roland was a sure shot; he had himself loaded his pistols, and only a moment before he had looked to the charge to see that it was intact.
As the spectre passed, tall and white, beneath the gloomy vault of the passage, Roland fired. The flash illumined the corridor like lightning, down which the spectre passed with unfaltering, unhastening steps. Then all was blacker than before. The ghost vanished in the darkness. Roland dashed after him, changing his other pistol from the left hand to the right. But short as his stop had been, the ghost had gained ground. Roland saw him at the end of the passage, this time distinctly outlined against the gray background of the night. He redoubled his pace, and as he crossed the threshold of the passage, he fancied that the ghost was plunging into the bowels of the earth. But the torso still remained visible.
"Devil or not," cried Roland, "I follow you!"
He fired a second shot, which filled the cavernous space, into which the ghost had disappeared, with flame and smoke.
When the smoke had cleared away, Roland looked vainly around. He was alone. He sprang into the cistern howling with rage. He sounded the walls with the butt-end of his pistol, he stamped on the ground; but everywhere, earth and stone gave back the sound of solid objects. He tried to pierce the darkness, but it was impossible. The faint moonlight that filtered into the cistern died out at the first steps.
"Oh!" cried Roland, "a torch! a torch!"
No one answered. The only sound to be heard was the spring bubbling close at hand. Realizing that further search would be useless, he emerged from the cavern. Drawing a powder-horn and two balls from his pocket, he loaded his pistols hastily. Then he took the path along which he had just come, found the dark passage, then the vast refectory, and again took his place at the end of the silent hall and waited.
But the hours of the night sounded successively, until the first gleam of dawn cast its pallid light upon the walls of the cloister.
"Well," muttered Roland, "it's over for to-night. Perhaps I shall be more fortunate the next time."
Twenty minutes later he re-entered the Château des Noires-Fontaines.
Two persons were waiting for Roland's return; one in anguish, the other with impatience. These two persons were Amélie and Sir John. Neither of them had slept for an instant. Amélie displayed her anguish only by the sound of her door, which was furtively closed as Roland came up the staircase. Roland heard the sound. He had not the courage to pass before her door without reassuring her.
"Be easy, Amélie, I am here," he said. It did not occur to him that his sister might be anxious for any one but him.
Amélie darted from her room in her night-dress. It was easy to see from her pallor and the dark circles which spread nearly to the middle of her cheeks that she had not closed her eyes all night.
"Has nothing happened to you, Roland?" she cried, clasping her brother in her arms and feeling him over anxiously.
"Nor to any one else?"
"And you saw nothing?"
"I didn't say that," answered Roland.
"Good God! What did you see?"
"I'll tell that to you later. Meantime, there is no one either killed or wounded."
"Ah! I breathe again!"
"Now, let me give you a bit of advice, little sister. Go to bed and sleep, if you can, till breakfast. I am going to do the same thing, and can assure yon I won't need any rocking. Good-night, or rather good-morning."
Roland kissed his sister tenderly. Then affecting to whistle a hunting-air carelessly, he ran up the next flight of steps. Sir John was frankly waiting for him in the hall. He went straight to the young man.
"Well?" he asked.
"Well, I didn't roll my stone entirely for nothing."
"Did you see any ghosts?"
"At any rate I saw something that resembled one very closely."
"Come, tell me all about it."
"I see you won't be able to sleep, or at best only fitfully, if I don't. Here's what happened, in a nutshell."
And Roland gave him a minute account of the night's adventure.
"Excellent," said Sir John, when Roland had finished. "I hope you have left something for me to do."
"I am even afraid," answered Roland, "that I have left you the hardest part."
Then, as Sir John went over each detail, asking many questions about the localities, he said:
"Listen, Sir John. We will pay the Chartreuse a visit in broad daylight after breakfast, which will not interfere in the least with your night-watch. On the contrary, it will acquaint you with the localities. Only you must tell no one."
"Oh!" exclaimed Sir John, "do I look like a gabbler?"
"No, that's true," cried Roland laughing, "you are not a gabbler, but I am a ninny." So saying, he entered his bedchamber.
After breakfast the two young men sauntered down the slopes of the garden, as if to take a walk along the banks of the Reissouse. Then they bore to the left, swung up the hill for about forty paces, struck into the highroad, and crossed the woods, till they reached the convent wall at the very place where Roland had climbed over it on the preceding night.
"My lord," said Roland, "this is the way."
"Very well," replied Sir John, "let us take it."
Slowly, with a wonderful strength of wrist, which betokened a man well trained in gymnastics, the Englishman seized the coping of the wall, swung himself to the top, and dropped down on the other side. Roland followed with the rapidity of one who is not achieving a feat for the first time. They were both on the other side, where the desertion and desolation were more visible by night than by day. The grass was growing knee high in the paths; the espaliers were tangled with vines so thick that the grapes could not ripen in the shadow of the leaves. The wall had given way in several places, and ivy, the parasite rather than the friend of ruins, was spreading everywhere.
As for the trees in the open space, plums, peaches and apricots, they had grown with the freedom of the oaks and beeches in the forest, whose breadth and thickness they seemed to envy. The sap, completely absorbed by the branches which were many and vigorous, produced but little fruit, and that imperfect. By the rustle of the tall grass, Sir John and Roland divined that the lizards, those crawling offsprings of solitude, had established their domicile there, from which they fled in amazement at this disturbance.
Roland led his friend straight to the door between the orchard and the cloister, but before entering he glanced at the clock. That clock, which went at night, was stopped in the day time. From the cloister he passed into the refectory. There the daylight showed under their true aspect the various objects which the darkness had clothed with such fantastic forms the night before. Roland showed Sir John the overturned stools, the table marked by the blow of the pistol, the door by which the phantom had entered. Accompanied by the Englishman, he followed the path he had taken in pursuit of the spectre. He recognized the obstacles which had hindered him, and noted how easily one who knew the locality might cross or avoid them.
At the spot where he had fired, he found the wad, but he looked in vain for the bullet. The arrangement of the passage, which ran slanting, made it impossible for the bullet, if its marks were not on the walls, to have missed the ghost. And yet if the ghost were hit, supposing it to be a solid body, how came it to remain erect? How had it escaped being wounded, and if wounded, why were there no bloodstains on the ground? And there was no trace of either blood or ball.
Sir John was almost ready to admit that his friend had had to do with a veritable ghost.
"Some one came after me," said Roland, "and picked up the ball."
"But if you fired at a man, why didn't the ball go into him?"
"Oh! that's easily explained. The man wore a coat of mail under his shroud."
That was possible, but, nevertheless, Sir John shook his head dubiously. He preferred to believe in a supernatural occurrence; it gave him less trouble.
Roland and he continued their investigations. They reached the end of the passage which opened on the furthest extremity of the orchard. It was there that Roland had seen his spectre for an instant as it glided into the dark vault. He made for the cistern, and so little did he hesitate that he might still have been following the ghost. There he understood how the darkness of the night had seemed to deepen by the absence of all exterior reflection. It was even difficult to see there by day.
Roland took two torches about a foot long from beneath his cloak, took a flint, lighted the tinder, and a match from the tinder. Both torches flared up.
The problem was now to discover the way by which the ghost had disappeared. Roland and Sir John lowered their torches and examined the ground. The cistern was paved with large squares of limestone, which seemed to fit perfectly. Roland looked for his second ball as persistently as for the first. A stone lay loose at his feet, and, pushing it aside, he disclosed an iron ring screwed into one of the limestone blocks.
Without a word Roland seized the ring, braced his feet and pulled. The square turned on its pivot with an ease which proved that it was frequently subjected to the same manipulation. As it turned, it disclosed a subterranean passage.
"Ah!" exclaimed Roland, "this is the way my spectre went."
He entered the yawning cavern, followed by Sir John. They traversed the same path that Morgan took when he returned to give an account of his expedition. At the end of the passage they came upon an iron gate opening into the mortuary vaults. Roland shook the gate, which yielded to his touch. They crossed this subterranean cemetery, and came to a second gate; like the first, it was open. With Roland still in front, they went up several steps, and found themselves in the choir of the chapel, where the scene we have related between Morgan and the Company of Jehu took place. Only now the stalls were empty, the choir was deserted, and the altar, degraded by the abandonment of worship, was no longer covered by the burning tapers or the sacred cloth.
It was evident to Roland that this was the goal of the false ghost, which Sir John persisted in believing a real one. But, real or false, Sir John admitted that its flight had brought it to this particular spot. He reflected a moment and then remarked: "As it is my turn to watch tonight, I have the right to choose my ground; I shall watch here."
And he pointed to a sort of table formed in the centre of the choir by an oaken pedestal which had formerly supported the eagle lectern.
"Indeed," said Roland, with the same heedlessness he showed in his own affairs, "you'll do very well there, only as you may find the gates locked and the stone fastened tonight, we had better look for some more direct way to get here."
In less than five minutes they had found an outlet. The door of the old sacristy opened into the choir, and from the sacristy a broken window gave passage into the forest. The two men climbed through the window and found themselves in the forest thicket some twenty feet from the spot where they had killed the boar.
"That's what we want," said Roland; "only, my dear Sir John, as you would never find your way by night in a forest which, even by day, is so impenetrable, I shall accompany you as far as this."
"Very well. But once I am inside, you are to leave me," said the Englishman. "I remember what you told me about the susceptibility of ghosts. If they know you are near, they may hesitate to appear, and as you have seen one, I insist on seeing at least one myself."
"I'll leave you, don't be afraid," replied Roland, adding, with a laugh, "Only I do fear one thing."
"What is that?"
"That in your double capacity of an Englishman and a heretic they won't feel at ease with you."
"Oh," replied Sir John, gravely, "what a pity I shall not have time to abjure before this evening."
The two friends, having seen all there was to see, returned to the chateau. No one, not even Amélie, had suspected that their walk was other than an ordinary one. The day passed without questions and without apparent anxiety; besides, it was already late when the two gentlemen returned.
At dinner, to Edouard's great delight, another hunt was proposed, and it furnished a topic for conversation during dinner and part of the evening. By ten o'clock, as usual, all had retired to their rooms, except Roland, who was in that of Sir John.
The difference of character showed itself markedly in the preparations of the two men. Roland had made them joyously, as if for a pleasure trip; Sir John made his gravely, as if for a duel. He loaded his pistols with the utmost care and put them into his belt English fashion. And, instead of a cloak, which might have impeded his movements, he wore a top-coat with a high collar put on over his other coat.
At half-past ten the pair left the house with the same precautions that Roland had observed when alone. It was five minutes before eleven when they reached the broken window, where the fallen stones served as a stepping-block. There, according to agreement, they were to part. Sir John, reminded Roland of this agreement.
"Yes," said Roland, "an agreement is an agreement with me. Only, let me give you a piece of advice."
"What is it?"
"I could not find the bullets because some one had been here and carried them off; and that was done beyond doubt to prevent me from seeing the dents on them."
"What sort of dent do you mean?"
"Those of the links of a coat of mail; my ghost was a man in armor."
"That's too bad!" said Sir John; "I hoped for a ghost." Then, after a moment's silence and a sigh expressive of his deep regret in resigning the ghost, he asked: "What was your advice?"
"Fire at his face!"
Sir John nodded assent, pressed the young officer's hand, clambered through the window and disappeared in the sacristy.
"Good-night!" called Roland after him. Then with the indifference to danger which a soldier generally feels for himself and his companions, Roland took his way back to the Château des Noires-Fontaines, as he had promised Sir John.
The next day Roland, who had been unable to sleep till about two in the morning, woke about seven. Collecting his scattered wits, he recalled what had passed between Sir John and himself the night before, and was astonished that the Englishman had not wakened him. He dressed hastily and went to Sir John's room at the risk of rousing him from his first sleep.
He knocked at the door. Sir John made no answer. Roland knocked again, louder this time. The same silence. This time some uneasiness mingled with Roland's curiosity. The key was on the outside; the young officer opened the door, and cast a rapid glance around the room. Sir John was not there; he had not returned. The bed was undisturbed. What had happened?
There was not an instant to lose, and we may be sure that, with that rapidity of decision we know in Roland, he lost not an instant. He rushed to his room, finished dressing, put his hunting knife into his belt, slung his rifle over his shoulder and went out. No one was yet awake except the chambermaid. Roland met her on the stairs.
"Tell Madame de Montrevel," said he, "that I
have gone into the
Then he darted rapidly away. Ten minutes later he reached the window where he had left Sir John the night before. He listened, not a sound came from within; the huntsman's ear could detect the morning woodland sounds, but no others. Roland climbed through the window with his customary agility, and rushed through the choir into the sacristy.
One look sufficed to show him that not only the choir but the entire chapel was empty. Had the spectres led the Englishman along the reverse of the way he had come himself? Possibly. Roland passed rapidly behind the altar, into the vaults, where he found the gate open. He entered the subterranean cemetery. Darkness hid its depths. He called Sir John three times. No one answered.
He reached the second gate; it was open like the first. He entered the vaulted passage; only, as it would be impossible to use his gun in such darkness, he slung it over his shoulder and drew out his hunting-knife. Feeling his way, he continued to advance without meeting anybody, but the further he went the deeper became the darkness, which indicated that the stone in the cistern was closed. He reached the steps, and mounted them until his head touched the revolving stone; then he made an effort, and the block turned. Roland saw daylight and leaped into the cistern. The door into the orchard stood open. Roland passed through it, crossed that portion of the orchard which lay between the cistern and the corridor at the other end of which he had fired upon the phantom. He passed along the corridor and entered the refectory. The refectory was empty.
Again, as in the funereal passageway, Roland called three times. The wondering echo, which seemed to have forgotten the tones of the human voice, answered stammering. It was improbable that Sir John had come this way; it was necessary to go back. Roland retraced his steps, and found himself in the choir again. That was where Sir John had intended to spend the night, and there some trace of him must be found.
Roland advanced only a short distance, and then a cry escaped him. A large spot of blood lay at his feet, staining the pavement. On the other side of the choir, a dozen feet from the blood, was another stain, not less large, nor less red, nor less recent. It seemed to make a pendant for the first.
One of these stains was to the right, the other to the left of that sort of pedestal intended, as we have said, to support the eagle lectern--the pedestal which Sir John had selected for his place of waiting. Roland went up to it. It was drenched with blood! Evidently the drama had taken place on that spot; a drama which, if all the signs were true, must have been terrible.
Roland, in his double capacity of huntsman and soldier, was keen at a quest. He could calculate the amount of blood lost by a man who was dead, or by one who was only wounded. That night three men had fallen, either dead or wounded. What were the probabilities?
The two stains in the choir to the right and left of the pedestal were probably the blood of Sir John's two antagonists. That on the pedestal was probably his own. Attacked on both sides, right and left, he had fired with both hands, killing or wounding a man with each shot. Hence these two bloodstains which reddened the pavement. He himself must have been struck down beside the pedestal, on which his blood had spurted.
After a few seconds of examination, Roland was as sure of this as if he had witnessed the struggle with his own eyes. Now, what had been done with the bodies? He cared little enough about two of them; but he was determined to know what had become of that of Sir John.
A track of blood started from the pedestal and led straight to the door. Sir John's body had been carried outside. Roland shook the massive door. It was only latched, and opened at the first pressure. Outside the sill the tracks of blood still continued. Roland could see through the underbrush the path by which the body had been carried. The broken branches, the trampled grass, led Roland to the edge of the wood on the road leading from Pont d'Ain to Bourg. There the body, living or dead, seemed to have been laid on the bank of the ditch. Beyond that no traces whatever.
A man passed just then, coming from the direction of the Château des Noires-Fontaines. Roland went up to him.
"Have you seen anything on the road? Did you meet any one?" he inquired.
"Yes," replied the man, "I saw two peasants carrying a body on a litter."
"Ah!" cried Roland, "was it that of a living man?"
"The man was pale and motionless; he looked as if he were dead."
"Was the blood flowing?"
"I saw some drops on the road."
"In that case, he is living."
Then taking a louis from his pocket he said: "There's a louis for you. Run for Dr. Milliet at Bourg; tell him to get a horse and come at full speed to the Château des Noires-Fontaines. You can add that there is a man there in danger of dying."
While the peasant, stimulated by the reward, made all haste to Bourg, Roland, leaping along on his vigorous legs, was hurrying to the château.
And now, as our readers are, in all probability, as curious as Roland to know what had happened to Sir John, we shall give an account of the events of the night.
A few minutes before eleven, Sir John, as we have seen, entered what was usually known as La Correrie, or the pavilion of the Chartreuse, which was nothing more than a chapel erected in the woods. From the sacristy he entered the choir. It was empty and seemed solitary. A rather brilliant moon, veiled from time to time by a cloud, sent its bluish rays through the stained glass, cracked and broken, of the pointed windows. Sir John advanced to the middle of the choir, where he paused and remained standing beside the pedestal.
The minutes slipped away. But this time it was not the convent clock which marked the time, it was the church at Péronnaz; that is to say, the nearest village to the chapel where Sir John was watching.
Everything happened up to midnight just as it had to Roland. Sir John heard only the vague rustling and passing noises of the night.
Midnight sounded; it was the moment he awaited with impatience, for it was then that something would happen, if anything was to happen. As the last stroke died away he thought he heard footsteps underground, and saw a light appear behind the iron gate leading to the mortuary vault. His whole attention was fixed on that spot.
A monk emerged from the passage, his hood brought low over his eyes, and carrying a torch in his hand. He wore the dress of a Chartreux. A second one followed, then a third. Sir John counted twelve. They separated before the altar. There were twelve stalls in the choir; six to the right of Sir John, six to his left. The twelve monks silently took their places in the twelve stalls. Each one placed his torch in a hole made for that purpose in the oaken desk, and waited.
A thirteenth monk appeared and took his stand before the altar.
None of the monks affected the fantastic behavior of ghosts or shades; they all belonged undoubtedly to the earth, and were living men.
Sir John, a pistol in each hand, stood leaning against the pedestal in the middle of the choir, and watched with the utmost coolness this manoeuvre which tended to surround him. The monks were standing, like him, erect and silent.
The monk at the altar broke the silence.
"Brothers," he asked, "why are the Avengers assembled?"
"To judge a blasphemer!" replied the monks.
"What crime has this blasphemer committed?" continued the interlocutor.
"He has tried to discover the secrets of the Companions of Jehu."
"What penalty has he incurred?"
The monk at the altar waited, apparently, to give time for the sentence which had just been pronounced to reach the heart of him whom it concerned. Then turning to the Englishman, who continued as calm as if he were at a comedy, he said: "Sir John Tanlay, you are a foreigner and an Englishman--a double reason why you should leave the Companions of Jehu to fight their own battles with the government, whose downfall they have sworn. You failed in wisdom, you yielded to idle curiosity; instead of keeping away, you have entered the lion's den, and the lion will rend you."
Then after an instant's silence, during which he seemed to await the Englishman's reply, he resumed, seeing that he remained silent: "Sir John Tanlay, you are condemned to death. Prepare to die!"
"Ah! I see that I have fallen into the hands of a band of thieves. If so, I can buy myself off with a ransom." Then turning to the monk at the altar he asked, "How much do you demand, captain?"
A threatening murmur greeted these insolent words. The monk at the altar stretched out his hand.
"You are mistaken, Sir John. We are not a band of thieves," said he in a tone as calm and composed as Sir John's, "and the proof is, that if you have money or jewels upon you, you need only give me your instructions, and they will be remitted either to your family or the person whom you designate."
"And what guarantee shall I have that my last wishes will be carried out?"
"The word of the leader of assassins! I don't trust it."
"This time, as before, you are mistaken, Sir John. I am no more the leader of assassins than I am a captain of thieves."
"Who are you, then?"
"The elect of celestial vengeance. I am the envoy of Jehu, King of Israel, who was anointed by the prophet Elisha to destroy the house of Ahab."
"If you are what you say, why do you veil your faces? Why do you wear armor under your robes? The elect strike openly; they risk death in giving death. Throw back your hoods, show me your naked breasts, and I will admit that you are what you pretend to be."
"Brothers, you have heard him," said the monk at the altar.
Then, stripping off his gown, he opened his coat, waistcoat and even his shirt. Each monk did the same, and stood with face exposed and bared breast. They were all handsome young men, of whom the eldest was apparently not more than thirty-five. Their dress was elegant, but, strange fact, none was armed. They were judges and nothing more.
"Be satisfied, Sir John Tanlay," said the monk at the altar. "You will die, but in dying, you can, as you wished just now, recognize and kill your judges. Sir John, you have five minutes to prepare your soul for death!"
Sir John, instead of profiting by this permission to think of his eternal salvation, coolly cocked his pistols to see that the triggers were all right, and passed a ramrod down the barrels to make sure that the balls were there. Then, without waiting for the five minutes to expire, he said: "Gentlemen, I am ready. Are you?"
The young men looked at each other; then, on a sign from their chief, they walked straight to Sir John, and surrounded him on all sides. The monk at the altar stood immovable, commanding with his eye the scene that was about to take place.
Sir John had only two pistols, consequently he could only kill two men. He selected his victims and fired. Two Companions of Jehu rolled upon the pavement, which they reddened with their blood. The others, as if nothing had happened, still advanced with outstretched hands upon Sir John. Sir John seized his pistols by the muzzle, using them like hammers. He was vigorous and the struggle was long. For ten minutes, a confused group tussled in the centre of the choir; then this violent commotion ceased, and the Companions of Jehu drew away to right and left, and regained their stalls, leaving Sir John bound with their girdles and lying upon the pedestal in the choir.
"Have you commended your soul to God?" asked the monk at the altar.
"Yes, assassin," answered Sir John; "you may strike."
The monk took a dagger from the altar, advanced with uplifted arm, and, standing over Sir John, levelled the dagger at his breast: "Sir John Tanlay," he said, "you are a brave man, and doubtless a man of honor. Swear that you will never breathe a syllable of what you have seen; swear that under no circumstances, whatever they may be, you will recognize us, and we will spare your life."
"As soon as I leave here," replied Sir John, "I shall denounce you. The moment I am free I will trail you down."
"Swear," repeated the monk a second time.
"No," said Sir John.
"Swear," said the monk for the third time.
"Never," replied Sir John.
"Then die, since you will it!"
And he drove his dagger up to the hilt in Sir John's breast; who, whether by force of will, or because the blow killed him at once, did not even sigh. Then the monk in a loud sonorous voice, like a man conscious of having done his duty, exclaimed: "Justice is done!"
Then he returned to the altar, leaving the dagger in the wound and said: "Brothers, you are invited to the ball of the Victims, which takes place in Paris on the 21st of January next, at No. 35 Rue du Bac, in memory of the death of King Louis XVI."
So saying, he re-entered the subterranean passage, followed by the remaining ten monks, each bearing his torch in his hand. Two torches remained to light the three bodies.
A moment later four serving brothers entered, and raised first the bodies of the two monks, which they carried into the vault. Then they returned, lifted that of Sir John, placed it on a stretcher, and carried it out of the chapel by the entrance door, which they closed after them. Two of the monks walked in front of the stretcher, carrying the two torches left in the chapel.
And now, if our readers ask why there was this difference between the treatment received by Roland and that administered to Sir John, why this mansuetude toward one and this rigor toward the other, we reply: Remember that Morgan enjoined on his brethren the safety of Amélie's brother, and thus safeguarded, under no circumstances could Roland die by the hand of a Companion of Jehu.
While they are bearing Sir John Tanlay's body to the Château des Noires-Fontaines; while Roland is hurrying in the same direction; while the peasant, despatched by him, is hastening to Bourg to notify Dr. Milliet of the catastrophe which necessitated his immediate presence at Madame de Montrevel's home, let us jump over the distance which separates Bourg from Paris, and the time which elapsed between the 16th of October and the 7th of November; that is to say, between the 24th of Vendemiaire and the 16th Brumaire, and repair to that little house in the Rue de la Victoire rendered historically famous by the conspiracy of the 18th Brumaire, which issued from it fully armed.
It is the same house which stands there to-day on the right of the street at No. 60, apparently astonished to present to the eye, after so many successive changes of government, the consular fasces which may still be seen on the panels of its double oaken doors.
Let us follow the long, narrow alley of lindens that leads from the gate on the street to the door of the house; let us enter the antechamber, take the hall to the right, ascend the twenty steps that lead to a study hung with green paper, and furnished with curtains, easy chairs and couches of the same color. The walls are covered with geographical charts and plans of cities. Bookcases of maple are ranged on either side of the fireplace, which they inclose. The chairs, sofas, tables and desks are piled with books; there is scarcely any room on the chairs to sit down, or on the desks and tables to write.
In the midst of this encumbering mass of reports, letters, pamphlets and books, a man had cleared a space for himself where he was now seated, clutching his hair impatiently from time to time, as he endeavored to decipher a page of notes, compared to which the hieroglyphics on the obelisk of Luxor, would have been transparently intelligible. Just as the secretary's impatience was approaching desperation, the door opened and a young officer wearing an aide's uniform entered.
The secretary raised his head, and a lively expression of satisfaction crossed his face.
"Oh! my dear Roland," said he; "you here at last! I am delighted to see you, for three reasons. First, because I am wearying for you; second, because the general is impatient for your return, and keeps up a hullaballoo about it; and third, because you can help me to read this, with which I have been struggling for the last ten minutes. But first of all, kiss me."
And the secretary and the aide-de-camp embraced each other.
"Well," said the latter, "let us see this word that is troubling you so, my dear Bourrienne!"
"Ah! my dear fellow, what writing! I get a white hair for every page I decipher, and this is my third to-day! Here, read it if you can."
Roland took the sheet from the secretary, and fixing his
eyes on the spot indicated, read quite fluently: "Paragraph XI. The Nile,
from Assouan to a distance of twelve miles north of
"Go on, go on," said Bourrienne.
The young man resumed: "'From that point, which is called'--ah! Ah!"
"There you are! Now what do you say to that?"
Roland repeated: "'Which is called'--The devil! 'Which is called--'"
"Yes, 'Which is called'--after that?"
"What will you give me, Bourrienne," cried Roland, "if I guess it?"
"The first colonel's commission I find signed in blank."
"By my faith, no! I don't want to leave the general; I'd rather have a good father than five hundred naughty children. I'll give you the three words for nothing."
"What! are there three words there?"
"They don't look as if they were quite three, I admit. Now listen, and make obeisance to me: 'From the point called Ventre della Vacca.'"
"Ha! Ventre de la Vache! Confound it! He's illegible enough in French, but if he takes it into his head to go off in Italian, and that Corsican patois to boot! I thought I only ran the risk of going crazy, but then I should become stupid, too. Well, you've got it," and he read the whole sentence consecutively: "'The Nile, from Assouan to a distance of twelve miles north of Cairo, flows in a single stream; from that point, which is called Ventre de la Vache, it forms the branches of the Rosetta and the Damietta.' Thank you, Roland," and he began to write the end of the paragraph, of which the first lines were already committed to paper.
"Tell me," said Roland; "is he still got his
hobby, the dear general, of colonizing
"Yes; and then, as a sort of offset, a little governing
"Well, my dear Bourrienne, suppose you post me a little on matters in this country, so that I won't seem to have just arrived from Timbuctoo."
"In the first place, did you come back of your own accord, or were you recalled?"
"Recalled? I should think so!"
"The general himself."
"Written by himself; see!"
The young man drew a paper from his pocket containing two
lines, not signed, in the same handwriting as that which Bourrienne had before
him. These two lines said: "'Start. Be in
"Yes," said Bourrienne, "I think it will be on the eighteenth."
"What will be on the eighteenth?"
"On my word, Roland, you ask more than I know. That man, as you are aware, is not communicative. What will take place on the 18th Brumaire? I don't know as yet; but I'll answer for it that something will happen."
"Oh! you must have a suspicion!"
"I think he means to make himself Director in place of Sièyes, or perhaps president in Gohier's stead."
"Good! How about the Constitution of the year III.?"
"The Constitution of the year III. What about that?"
"Why, yes, a man must be forty years old to be a Director; and the general lacks just ten of them."
"The deuce! so much the worse for the Constitution. They must violate it."
"It is rather young yet, Bourrienne; they don't, as a rule, violate children of seven."
"My dear fellow, in Barras' hands everything grows old rapidly. The little girl of seven is already an old prostitute."
Roland shook his head.
"Well, what is it?" asked Bourrienne.
"Why, I don't believe the general will make himself a
simple Director with four colleagues. Just imagine it--five kings of
"Anyway, up to the present, that is all he has allowed any one to perceive; but you know, my dear friend, if we want to know the general's secrets we must guess them."
"Faith! I'm too lazy to take the trouble, Bourrienne. Besides, I'm a regular Janissary--what is to be, will be. Why the devil should I bother to form an opinion and battle for it. It's quite wearisome enough to have to live." And the young man enforced his favorite aphorism with a long yawn; then he added: "Do you think there will be any sword play?"
"Then there will be a chance of getting killed; that's all I want. Where is the general?"
"With Madame Bonaparte. He went to her about fifteen minutes ago. Have you let him know you are here?"
"No, I wanted to see you first. But I hear his step now."
Just then the door was opened abruptly, and the same
historical personage whom we saw playing a silent part incognito at
"Ah, here you are, Roland!" he said. "True as steel! Called, you come. Welcome, my dear fellow." And he offered Roland his hand. Then he asked, with an imperceptible smile, "What were you doing with Bourrienne?"
"Waiting for you, general."
"And in the meantime gossiping like two old women."
"I admit it, general. I was showing him my order to be here on the 16th Brumaire."
"Did I write the 16th or the 17th?"
"Oh! the 16th, general. The 17th would have been too late."
"Why too late?"
"Why, hang it, Bourrienne says there are to be great doings here on the 18th."
"Capital," muttered Bourrienne; "the scatter-brain will earn me a wigging."
"Ah! So he told you I had planned great doings for the 18th?" Then, approaching Bourrienne, Bonaparte pinched his ear, and said, "Tell-tale!" Then to Roland he added: "Well, it is so, my dear fellow, we have made great plans for the 18th. My wife and I dine with President Gohier; an excellent man, who was very polite to Josephine during my absence. You are to dine with us, Roland."
Roland looked at Bonaparte. "Was it for that you brought me here, general?" he asked, laughing.
"For that, and something else, too, perhaps. Bourrienne, write--"
Bourrienne hastily seized his pen.
"Are you ready?"
"'My dear President, I write to let you know that my wife and I, with one of my aides-de-camp, will dine with you the day after to-morrow. This is merely to say that we shall be quite satisfied with a family dinner.'"
"How do you mean?"
"Shall I put, '
"Or death," added Roland.
"No," said Bonaparte; "give me the pen."
He took the pen from Bourrienne's hands and wrote, "Ever yours, Bonaparte." Then, pushing away the paper, he added: "Address it, Bourrienne, and send an orderly with it."
Bourrienne wrote the address, sealed it, and rang the bell. An officer on duty entered.
"Send an orderly with that," said Bourrienne.
"There is an answer," added Bonaparte.
The officer closed the door.
"Bourrienne," said Bonaparte, pointing to Roland, "look at your friend."
"Well, general, I am looking at him."
"Do you know what he did at
"I hope he didn't make a pope."
"No, he threw a plate at a man's head."
"Oh, that was hasty!"
"That's not all."
"That I can well imagine."
"He fought a duel with that man."
"And, most naturally, he killed him."
"Exactly. Do you know why he did it?"
The general shrugged his shoulders, and said: "Because the man said that I was a thief." Then looking at Roland with an indefinable expression of raillery and affection, he added: "Ninny!" Then suddenly he burst out: "Oh! by the way, and the Englishman?"
"Exactly, the Englishman, general. I was just going to speak to you about him."
"Is he still in
"Yes, and for awhile even I thought he would remain
here till the last trumpet blew its blast through the
"Did you miss killing him?"
"Oh! no, not I. We are the best friends in the world. General, he is a capital fellow, and so original to boot that I'm going to ask a bit of a favor for him."
"The devil! For an Englishman?" said Bonaparte, shaking his head. "I don't like the English."
"Good! As a people, but individually--"
"Well, what happened to your friend?"
"He was tried, condemned, and executed."
"What the devil are you telling us?"
"God's truth, general."
"What do you mean when you say, 'He was tried, condemned, and guillotined'?"
"Oh! not exactly that. Tried and condemned, but not guillotined. If he had been guillotined he would be more dangerously ill than he is now."
"Now, what are you gabbling about? What court tried and condemned him?"
"That of the Companions of Jehu!"
"And who are the Companions of Jehu?"
"Goodness! Have you forgotten our friend Morgan already, the masked man who brought back the wine-merchant's two hundred louis?"
"No," replied Bonaparte, "I have not forgotten him. I told you about the scamp's audacity, didn't I, Bourrienne?"
"Yes, general," said Bourrienne, "and I answered that, had I been in your place, I should have tried to find out who he was."
"And the general would know, had he left me alone. I was just going to spring at his throat and tear off his mask, when the general said, in that tone you know so well: 'Friend Roland!'"
"Come back to your Englishman, chatterbox!" cried the general. "Did Morgan murder him?"
"No, not he himself, but his Companions."
"But you were speaking of a court and a trial just now."
"General, you are always the same," said Roland, with their old school familiarity; "you want to know, and you don't give me time to tell you."
"Get elected to the Five Hundred, and you can talk as much as you like."
"Good! In the Five Hundred I should have four hundred and ninety-nine colleagues who would want to talk as much as I, and who would take the words out of my mouth. I'd rather be interrupted by you than by a lawyer."
"Will you go on?"
"I ask nothing better. Now imagine, general, there is a Chartreuse near Bourg--"
"The Chartreuse of Seillon; I know it."
"What! You know the Chartreuse of Seillon?" demanded Roland.
"Doesn't the general know everything?" cried Bourrienne.
"Well, about the Chartreuse; are there any monks there now?"
"No; only ghosts--"
"Are you, perchance, going to tell me a ghost-story?"
"And a famous one at that!"
"The devil! Bourrienne knows I love them. Go on."
"Well, we were told at home that the Chartreuse was haunted by ghosts. Of course, you understand that Sir John and I, or rather I and Sir John, wanted to clear our minds about it. So we each spent a night there."
"Why, at the Chartreuse."
Bonaparte made an imperceptible sign of the cross with his thumb, a Corsican habit which he never lost.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "did you see any ghosts?"
"And what did you do to it?"
"Shot at it."
"It walked away."
"And you allowed yourself to be baffled?"
"Good! How well yon know me! I followed it, and fired again. But as he knew his way among the ruins better than I, he escaped me."
"The next day it was Sir John's turn; I mean our Englishman."
"Did he see your ghost?"
"He saw something better. He saw twelve monks enter the church, who tried him for trying to find out their secrets, condemned him to death, and who, on my word of honor, stabbed him."
"Didn't he defend himself?"
"Like a lion. He killed two."
"Is he dead?"
"Almost, but I hope he will recover. Just imagine, general; he was found by the road, and brought home with a dagger in his breast, like a prop in a vineyard."
"Why, it's like a scene of the Sainte-Vehme, neither more nor less."
"And on the blade of the dagger, that there might be no doubt as to who did the deed, were graven the words: 'Companions of Jehu.'"
"Why, it isn't possible that such things can happen in
"Not possible, general? But here is the dagger. What do you say to that? Attractive, isn't it?"
And the young man drew from under his coat a dagger made entirely of steel, blade and handle. The handle was shaped like a cross, and on the blade, sure enough, were engraved the words, "Companions of Jehu."
Bonaparte examined the weapon carefully.
"And you say they planted that plaything in your Englishman's breast?"
"Up to the hilt."
"And he's not dead?"
"Not yet, at any rate."
"Have you been listening, Bourrienne?"
"With the greatest interest."
"You must remind me of this, Roland."
"When?--when I am master. Come and say good-day to Josephine. Come, Bourrienne, you will dine with us, and be careful what you say, you two, for Moreau is coming to dinner. Ah! I will keep the dagger as a curiosity."
He went out first, followed by Roland, who was, soon after, followed by Bourrienne. On the stairs they met the orderly who had taken the note to Gohier.
"Well?" asked the general.
"Here is the President's answer."
"Give it to me."
Bonaparte broke the seal, and read:
The President Gohier is enchanted the good fortune promised him by General Bonaparte. He will expect him to dinner the day after to-morrow, the 18th Brumaire, with his charming wife, and the aide-de-camp, whoever he may be. Dinner will be served at five o'clock.
If the hour does not suit General Bonaparte, will he kindly make known the one he would prefer.
The President, GOHIER. 16th Brumaire, year VII.
With an indescribable smile, Bonaparte put the letter in his pocket. Then turning to Roland, he asked: "Do you know President Gohier?"
"Ah! you'll see; he's an excellent man."
These words were pronounced in a tone no less indescribable than the smile.
Josephine, in spite of her thirty-four years, or possibly because of them (that enchanting age when woman hovers between her passing youth and her corning age), Josephine, always beautiful, more graceful than ever, was still the charming woman we all know. An imprudent remark of Junot's, at the time of her husband's return, had produced a slight coolness between them. But three days had sufficed to restore to the enchantress her full power over the victor of Rivoli and the Pyramids.
She was doing the honors of her salon, when Roland entered
the room. Always incapable, like the true Creole she was, of controlling her
emotions, she gave a cry of joy, and held out her hand to him. She knew that
Roland was devoted to her husband; she knew his reckless bravery, knew that if
the young man had twenty lives he would willingly have given them all for
Bonaparte. Roland eagerly took the hand she offered him, and kissed it
respectfully. Josephine had known Roland's mother in
A subject of conversation was therefore ready at hand. She inquired tenderly after Madame de Montrevel's health, and that of her daughter and little Edouard. Then, the information given, she said: "My dear Roland, I must now pay attention to my other guests; but try to remain after the other guests, or else let me see you alone to-morrow. I want to talk to you about _him_" (she glanced at Bonaparte) "and have a thousand things to tell you." Then, pressing the young man's hand with a sigh, she added, "No matter what happens, you will never leave him, will you?"
"What do you mean?" asked Roland, amazed.
"I know what I mean," said Josephine, "and when you have talked ten minutes with Bonaparte you will, I am sure, understand me. In the meantime watch, and listen, and keep silence."
Roland bowed and drew aside, resolved, as Josephine had advised, to play the part of observer.
But what was there to observe? Three principal groups occupied the salon. The first, gathered around Madame Bonaparte, the only woman present, was more a flux and reflux than a group. The second, surrounding Talma, was composed of Arnault, Parseval-Grandmaison, Monge, Berthollet, and two or three other members of the Institute. The third, which Bonaparte had just joined, counted in its circle Talleyrand, Barras, Lucien, Admiral Bruix, [Footnote: AUTHOR'S NOTE.--Not to be confounded with Rear-Admiral de Brueys, who was killed at Aboukir, August 1, 1798. Admiral Bruix, the negotiator with Talleyrand of the 18th Brumaire, did not die until 1805.] Roederer, Regnaud de Saint-Jean-d'Angely, Fouché, Réal, and two or three generals, among whom was Lefebvre.
In the first group they talked of fashions, music, the theatre; in the second, literature, science, dramatic art; in the third, they talked of everything except that which was uppermost in their minds. Doubtless this reserve was not in keeping with Bonaparte's own feeling at the moment; for after sharing in this commonplace conversation for a short time, he took the former bishop of Autun by the arm and led him into the embrasure of the window.
"Well?" he asked.
Talleyrand looked at Bonaparte with that air which belonged to no one but him.
"What did I tell you of Sièyes, general?"
"You told me to secure the support of those who regarded the friends of the Republic as Jacobins, and to rely, upon it that Sièyes was at their head."
"I was not mistaken."
"Then he will yield?"
"Better, he has yielded."
"The man who wanted to shoot me at Fréjus for having landed without being quarantined!"
"Oh, no; not for that."
"But what then?"
"For not having looked at him or spoken to him at Gohier's dinner."
"I must confess that I did it on purpose. I cannot endure that unfrocked monk."
Bonaparte perceived, too late, that the speech he had just made was like the sword of the archangel, double-edged; if Sièyes was unfrocked, Talleyrand was unmitred. He cast a rapid glance at his companion's face; the ex-bishop of Autun was smiling his sweetest smile.
"Then I can count upon him?"
"I will answer for him."
"And Cambacérès and Lebrun, have you seen them?"
"I took Sièyes in hand as the most recalcitrant. Bruix saw the other two."
The admiral, from the midst of the group, had never taken his eyes off of the general and the diplomatist. He suspected that their conversation had a special importance. Bonaparte made him a sign to join them. A less able man would have done so at once, but Bruix avoided such a mistake. He walked about the room with affected indifference, and then, as if he had just perceived Talleyrand and Bonaparte talking together, he went up to them.
"Bruix is a very able man!" said Bonaparte, who judged men as much by little as by great things.
"And above all very cautious, general!" said Talleyrand.
"Yes. We will need a corkscrew to pull anything out of him."
"Oh, no; on the contrary, now that he has joined us, he, will broach the question frankly."
And, indeed, no sooner had Bruix joined them than he began in words as clear as they were concise: "I have seen them; they waver!"
"They waver! Cambacérès and Lebrun waver? Lebrun I can understand--a sort of man of letters, a moderate, a Puritan; but Cambacérès--"
"But it is so."
"But didn't you tell them that I intended to make them each a consul?"
"I didn't get as far as that," replied Bruix, laughing.
"And why not?" inquired Bonaparte.
"Because this is the first word you have told me about your intentions, Citizen General."
"True," said Bonaparte, biting his lips.
"Am I to repair the omission?" asked Bruix.
"No, no," exclaimed Bonaparte hastily; "they might think I needed them. I won't have any quibbling. They must decide to-day without any other conditions than those you have offered them; to-morrow it will be too late. I feel strong enough to stand alone; and I now have Sièyes and Barras."
"Barras?" repeated the two negotiators astonished.
"Yes, Barras, who treated me like a little corporal,
and wouldn't send me back to
"Nothing." Then, changing his mind, "Faith! I may as well tell you. Do you know what Barras said at dinner yesterday before me? That it was impossible to go on any longer with the Constitution of the year III. He admitted the necessity of a dictatorship; said he had decided to abandon the reins of government, and retire; adding that he himself was looked upon as worn-out, and that the Republic needed new men. Now, guess to whom he thinks of transferring his power. I give it you, as Madame de Sévigné says, in a hundred, thousand, ten thousand. No other than General Hedouville, a worthy man, but I have only to look him in the face to make him lower his eyes. My glance must have been blasting! As the result, Barras came to my bedside at eight o'clock, to excuse himself as best he could for the nonsense he talked the night before, and admitted that I alone could save the Republic, and placed himself at my disposal, to do what I wished, assume any rôle I might assign him, begging me to promise that if I had any plan in my head I would count on him--yes, on him; and he would be true to the crack of doom."
"And yet," said Talleyrand, unable to resist a play upon words, "doom is not a word with which to conjure liberty."
Bonaparte glanced at the ex-bishop.
"Yes, I know that Barras is your friend, the friend of Fouché and Réal; but he is not mine, and I shall prove it to him. Go back to Lebrun and Cambacérès, Bruix, and let them make their own bargain." Then, looking at his watch and frowning, he added: "It seems to me that Moreau keeps us waiting."
So saying, he turned to the group which surrounded Talma. The two diplomatists watched him. Then Admiral Bruix asked in a low voice: "What do you say, my dear Maurice, to such sentiments toward the man who picked him out, a mere lieutenant, at the siege of Toulon, who trusted him to defend the Convention on the 13th Vendémiaire, and who named him, when only twenty-six, General-in-Chief of the Army in Italy?"
"I say, my dear admiral," replied M. de Talleyrand, with his pallid mocking smile, "that some services are so great that ingratitude alone can repay them."
At that moment the door opened and General Moreau was announced. At this announcement, which was more than a piece of news--it was a surprise to most of those present--every eye was turned toward the door. Moreau appeared.
At this period three men were in the eyes of
Moreau was at that time in the full strength of his age; we would say the full strength of his genius, if decision were not one of the characteristics of genius. But no one was ever more undecided than the famous cunctator. He was thirty-six years old, tall, with a sweet, calm, firm countenance, and must have resembled Xenophon.
Bonaparte had never seen him, nor had he, on his side, ever
seen Bonaparte. While the one was battling on the Adige and the Mincio, the
other fought beside the Danube and the
"General," replied Moreau, smiling courteously,
while all present made a circle around them to see how this new Cæsar would
meet the new Pompey, "you come from
"A defeat which was not yours, and for which you are
not responsible, general. It was Joubert's fault. If he had rejoined the Army
of Italy as soon as he had been made commander-in-chief, it is more than
probable that the Russians and Austrians, with the troops they then had, could
not have resisted him. But he remained in
"Alas! yes," said Moreau; "it is always the greater number which defeats the smaller."
"A great truth, general," exclaimed Bonaparte; "an indisputable truth."
"And yet," said Arnault, joining in the conversation, "you yourself, general, have defeated large armies with little ones."
"If you were Marius, instead of the author of 'Marius,' you would not say that, my dear poet. Even when I beat great armies with little ones--listen to this, you young men who obey to-day, and will command to-morrow--it was always the larger number which defeated the lesser."
"I don't understand," said Arnault and Lefebvre together.
But Moreau made a sign with his head to show that he understood. Bonaparte continued: "Follow my theory, for it contains the whole art of war. When with lesser forces I faced a large army, I gathered mine together, with great rapidity, fell like a thunderbolt on a wing of the great army, and overthrew it; then I profited by the disorder into which this manoeuvre never failed to throw the enemy to attack again, always with my whole army, on the other side. I beat them, in this way, in detail; and the victory which resulted was always, as you see, the triumph of the many over the few."
As the able general concluded his definition of his own genius, the door opened and the servant announced that dinner was served.
"General," said Bonaparte, leading Moreau to Josephine, "take in my wife. Gentlemen, follow them."
On this invitation all present moved from the salon to the dining-room.
After dinner, on pretence of showing him a magnificent sabre
he had brought from
"In the meantime?" questioned Lucien.
"He will have that of the
The next day the following appeared in the "Moniteur":
Brumaire. Bonaparte has presented Moreau with a magnificent
We have said that Moreau, furnished no doubt with instructions, left the little house in the Rue de la Victoire, while Bonaparte returned alone to the salon. Everything furnished an object of comment in such a company as was there assembled; the absence of Moreau, the return of Bonaparte unaccompanied, and the visible good humor which animated his countenance, were all remarked upon.
The eyes which fastened upon him most ardently were those of Josephine and Roland. Moreau for Bonaparte added twenty chances to the success of the plot; Moreau against Bonaparte robbed him of fifty. Josephine's eyes were so supplicating that, on leaving Lucien, Bonaparte pushed his brother toward his wife. Lucien understood, and approached Josephine, saying: "All is well."
"I thought he was a Republican."
"He has been made to see that we are acting for the good of the Republic."
"I should have thought him ambitious," said Roland.
Lucien started and looked at the young man.
"You are right," said he.
"Then," remarked Josephine, "if he is ambitious he will not let Bonaparte seize the power."
"Because he will want it himself."
"Yes; but he will wait till it comes to him ready-made, inasmuch as he doesn't know how to create it, and is afraid to seize it."
During this time Bonaparte had joined the group which had formed around Talma after dinner, as well as before. Remarkable men are always the centre of attraction.
"What are you saying, Talma?" demanded Bonaparte. "It seems to me they are listening to you very attentively."
"Yes, but my reign is over," replied the artist.
"I do as citizen Barras has done; I abdicate?"
"So citizen Barras has abdicated?"
"So rumor says."
"Is it known who will take his place?"
"It is surmised."
"Is it one of your friends, Talma?"
"Time was," said Talma, bowing, "when he did me the honor to say I was his."
"Well, in that case, Talma, I shall ask for your influence."
"Granted," said Talma, laughing; "it only remains to ask how it can serve you."
"Get me sent back to
"The deuce!" said Talma; "don't you know the song, general, 'We won't go back to the woods when the laurels are clipped'?"
"Oh! Roscius, Roscius!" said Bonaparte, smiling, "have you grown a flatterer during my absence?"
"Roscius was the friend of Cæsar, general, and when the
conqueror returned from
Bonaparte laid his band on Talma's shoulder.
"Would he have said the same words after crossing the Rubicon?"
Talma looked Bonaparte straight in the face.
"No," he replied; "he would have said, like the augur, 'Cæsar, beware of the Ides of March!'"
Bonaparte slipped his hand into his breast as if in search of something; finding the dagger of the Companions of Jehu, he grasped it convulsively. Had he a presentiment of the conspiracies of Arena, Saint-Regent, and Cadoudal?
Just then the door opened and a servant announced: "General Bernadotte!"
"Bernadotte," muttered Bonaparte, involuntarily. "What does he want here?"
Since Bonaparte's return, Bernadotte had held aloof from him, refusing all the advances which the general-in-chief and his friends had made him. The fact is, Bernadotte had long since discerned the politician beneath the soldier's greatcoat, the dictator beneath the general, and Bernadotte, for all that he became king in later years, was at that time a very different Republican from Moreau. Moreover, Bernadotte believed he had reason to complain of Bonaparte. His military career had not been less brilliant than that of the young general; his fortunes were destined to run parallel with his to the end, only, more fortunate than that other--Bernadotte was to die on his throne. It is true, he did not conquer that throne; he was called to it.
Son of a lawyer at
Bernadotte's appearance in Bonaparte's salon was therefore an event almost as extraordinary as the presence of Moreau. And the entrance of the conqueror of Maestricht caused as many heads to turn as had that of the conqueror of Rastadt. Only, instead of going forward to meet him, as he had Moreau, Bonaparte merely turned round and awaited him.
Bernadotte, from the threshold of the door, cast a rapid glance around the salon. He divided and analyzed the groups, and although he must have perceived Bonaparte in the midst of the principal one, he went up to Josephine, who was reclining on a couch at the corner of the fireplace, like the statue of Agrippina in the Pitti, and, addressing her with chivalric courtesy, inquired for her health; then only did he raise his head as if to look for Bonaparte. At such a time everything was of too much importance for those present not to remark this affectation of courtesy on Bernadotte's part.
Bonaparte, with his rapid, comprehensive intellect, was not the last to notice this; he was seized with impatience, and, instead of awaiting Bernadotte in the midst of the group where he happened to be, he turned abruptly to the embrasure of a window, as if to challenge the ex-minister of war to follow him. Bernadotte bowed graciously to right and left, and controlling his usually mobile face to an expression of perfect calmness, he walked toward Bonaparte, who awaited him as a wrestler awaits his antagonist, the right foot forward and his lips compressed. The two men bowed, but Bonaparte made no movement to extend his hand to Bernadotte, nor did the latter offer to take it.
"Is it you?" asked Bonaparte. "I am glad to see you."
"Thank you, general," replied Bernadotte. "I have come because I wish to give you a few explanations."
"I did not recognize you at first."
"Yet I think, general, that my name was announced by your servant in a voice loud enough to prevent any doubt as to my identity."
"Yes, but he announced General Bernadotte."
"Well, I saw a man in civilian's dress, and though I recognized you, I doubted if it were really you."
For some time past Bernadotte had affected to wear civilian's dress in preference to his uniform.
"You know," said he, laughing, "that I am only half a soldier now. I was retired by citizen Sièyes."
"It seems that it was lucky for me that you were no longer minister of war when I landed at Fréjus."
"You said, so I was told, that had you received the order to arrest me for violating quarantine you would have done so."
"I said it, and I repeat it, general. As a soldier I was always a faithful observer of discipline. As a minister I was a slave to law."
Bonaparte bit his lips. "And will you say, after that, that you have not a personal enmity to me?"
"A personal enmity to you, general?" replied
Bernadotte. "Why should I have? We have always gone together, almost in
the same stride; I was even made general before you. While my campaigns on the
Rhine were less brilliant than yours on the
"What do you mean? Kléber's last despatches? Has Kléber written?"
"Are you ignorant of that, general? Has the Directory not informed you of the complaints of your successor? That would be a great weakness on their part, and I congratulate myself to have come here, not only to correct in your mind what has been said of me, but to tell you what is being said of you."
Bonaparte fixed an eye, darkling as an eagle's, on Bernadotte. "And what are they saying of me?" he asked.
"They say that, as you must come back, you should have brought the army with you."
"Had I a fleet? Are you unaware that De Brueys allowed his to be burned?"
"They also say, general, that, being unable to bring back the army, it would have been better for your renown had you remained with it."
"That is what I should have done, monsieur, if events
had not recalled me to
"What events, general?"
"Pardon me, general; you mean to say Schérer's defeats.
"Yours as well."
"I was not answerable for the generals commanding our
armies on the Rhine and in
"You certainly do not intend to tell me that matters are in a good condition?"
"No, but I do say that they are not in so desperate state as you affect to believe."
"As I affect!--Truly, general, to hear you one would
think I had some interest in lowering
"I don't say that; I say that I wish to settle the balance of our victories and defeats for the last three months; and as I came for that, and am now in your house, and in the position of an accused person--"
"Or an accuser."
"As the accused, in the first instance--I begin."
"And I listen," said Bonaparte, visibly on thorns.
"My ministry dates from the 30th Prairial, the 8th of June if you prefer; we will not quarrel over words."
"Which means that we shall quarrel about things."
Bernadotte continued without replying.
"I became minister, as I said, the 8th of June; that is, a short time after the siege of Saint-Jean-d'Acre was raised."
Bonaparte bit his lips. "I did not raise the siege until after I had ruined the fortifications," he replied.
"That is not what Kléber wrote; but that does not
concern me." Then he added, smiling: "It happened while
There was a moment's silence, during which Bonaparte endeavored to make Bernadotte lower his eyes. Not succeeding, he said: "Go on."
Bernadotte bowed and continued: "Perhaps no minister of
war--and the archives of the ministry are there for reference--ever received
the portfolio under more critical circumstances: civil war within, a foreign
enemy at our doors, discouragement rife among our veteran armies, absolute destitution
of means to equip new ones. That was what I had to face on the 8th of June,
when I entered upon my duties. An active correspondence, dating from the 8th of
June, between the civil and military authorities, revived their courage and
their hopes. My addresses to the armies--this may have been a mistake--were
those, not of a minister to his soldiers, but of a comrade among comrades, just
as my addresses to the administrators were those of a citizen to his
fellow-citizens. I appealed to the courage of the army, and the heart of the
French people; I obtained all that I had asked. The National Guard reorganized
with renewed zeal; legions were formed upon the Rhine, on the
"But," interrupted Bonaparte bitterly, "this is an apology you are making for yourself."
"Be it so. I will divide my discourse into two parts.
The first will be a contestable apology; the second an array of incontestable
facts. I will set aside the apology and proceed to facts. June 17 and 18, the
battle of the
"Is that said for my benefit, general?"
"I say that for flatterers. You have pretended, it is
said, that you returned to
"I ask no better than to believe as you do,"
replied Bonaparte, with sovereign dignity; "and the more grand and
powerful you prove
"Oh, the result is plain, general! Three armies
defeated; the Russians exterminated, the Austrians defeated and forced to fly,
twenty thousand prisoners, a hundred pieces of cannon, fifteen flags, all the
baggage of the enemy in our possession, nine generals taken or killed,
"But," asked Bonaparte satirically, "if you have, as you say, two hundred thousand soldiers under arms, why do you want me to bring back the fifteen or twenty thousand men I have in Egypt, who are useful there as colonizers?"
"If I ask you for them, general, it is not for any need we may have of them, but in the fear of some disaster over taking them."
"What disaster do you expect to befall them, commanded by Kléber?"
"Kléber may be killed, general; and who is there behind Kléber? Menou. Kléber and your twenty thousand men are doomed, general!"
"Yes, the Sultan will send troops; he controls by land.
The English will send their fleet; they control by sea. We, who have neither
land nor sea, will be compelled to take part from here in the evacuation of
"You take a gloomy view of things, general!"
"The future will show which of us two have seen things as they are."
"What would you have done in my place?"
"I don't know. But, even had I been forced to bring
them back by way of Constantinople, I should never have abandoned those whom
From the instant Bernadotte uttered the word
And he fixed his burning eyes upon Bernadotte, who, this time, lowered his under the flame of this genius.
"What I should have done," repeated Bonaparte,
And he so far forgot to whom he was speaking, as he followed the shadows of his vanished dream, that he called Bernadotte "my dear general." The latter, almost appalled by the magnitude of the project which Bonaparte had unfolded to him, made a step backward.
"Yes," said Bernadotte, "I perceive what you
want, for you have just betrayed yourself. Orient or Occident, a throne! A
throne? So be it; why not? Count upon me to help you conquer it, but elsewhere
Bonaparte shook his head as if to disperse the thoughts which held him in the clouds.
"I, too, am a Republican," said he, "but see what has come of your Republic!"
"What matter!" cried Bernadotte. "It is not to a word or a form that I am faithful, but to the principle. Let the Directors but yield me the power, and I would know how to defend the Republic against her internal enemies, even as I defended her from her foreign enemies."
As he said these words, Bernadotte raised his eyes, and his glance encountered that of Bonaparte. Two naked blades clashing together never sent forth lightning more vivid, more terrible.
Josephine had watched the two men for some time past with anxious attention. She saw the dual glance teeming with reciprocal menace. She rose hastily and went to Bernadotte.
"General," said she.
"You are intimate with Gohier, are you not?" she continued.
"He is one of my best friends, madame," said Bernadotte.
"Well, we dine with him the day after to-morrow, the 18th Brumaire; dine there yourself and bring Madame Bernadotte. I should be so glad to know her better."
"Madame," said Bernadotte, "in the days of the Greeks you would have been one of the three graces; in the Middle Ages you would have been a fairy; to-day you are the most adorable woman I know."
And making three steps backward, and bowing, he contrived to retire politely without including Bonaparte in his bow. Josephine followed him with her eyes until he had left the room. Then, turning to her husband, she said: "Well, it seems that it was not as successful with Bernadotte as with Moreau, was it?"
"Bold, adventurous, disinterested, sincere republican, inaccessible to seduction, he is a human obstacle. We must make our way around him, since we cannot overthrow him."
And leaving the salon without taking leave of any one, he went to his study, whither Roland and Bourrienne followed. They had hardly been there a quarter of an hour when the handle of the lock turned softly, the door opened, and Lucien appeared.
Lucien was evidently expected. Bonaparte had not mentioned his name once since entering the study; but in spite of this silence he had turned his head three or four times with increasing impatience toward the door, and when the young man appeared an exclamation of contentment escaped his lips.
Lucien, the general's youngest brother, was born in 1775, making him now barely twenty-five years old. Since 1797, that is, at the age of twenty-two and a half, he had been a member of the Five Hundred, who, to honor Bonaparte, had made him their president. With the projects he had conceived nothing could have been more fortunate for Bonaparte.
Frank and loyal, republican to the core, Lucien believed that, in seconding his brother's plans, he was serving the Republic better than the future First Consul. In his eyes, no one was better fitted to save it a second time than he who had saved it the first. It was with these sentiments in his heart that he now came to confer with his brother.
"Here you are," said Bonaparte. "I have been waiting for you impatiently."
"So I suspected. But I was obliged to wait until I could leave without being noticed."
"Did you manage it?"
"Yes; Talma was relating a story about Marat and Dumouriez. Interesting as it was, I deprived myself of the pleasure, and here I am."
"I have just heard a carriage driving away; the person who got in it couldn't have seen you coming up my private stairs, could he?"
"The person who drove off was myself, the carriage was mine. If that is not seen every one will think I have left."
Bonaparte breathed freer.
"Well," said he, "let us hear how you have spent your day."
"Oh! I haven't wasted my time, you may be sure."
"Are we to have a decree or the Council?"
"We drew it up to-day, and I have brought it to you--the rough draft at least--so that you can see if you want anything added or changed."
"Let me see it," cried Bonaparte. Taking the paper hastily from Lucien's hand, he read:
Art. I. The legislative body is transferred to the commune of Saint-Cloud; the two branches of the Council will hold their sessions in the two wings of the palace.
"That's the important article," said Lucien. "I had it placed first, so that it might strike the people at once."
"Yes, yes," exclaimed Bonaparte, and he continued:
Art. II. They will assemble there to-morrow, the 20th Brumaire--
"No, no," said Bonaparte, "to-morrow the 19th. Change the date, Bourrienne;" and he handed the paper to his secretary.
"You expect to be ready for the 18th?"
"I shall be. Fouché said day before yesterday, 'Make haste, or I won't answer for the result.'"
"The 19th Brumaire," said Bourrienne, returning the paper to the general.
Art. II. They will assemble there to-morrow, the 19th Brumaire, at noon. All deliberations are forbidden elsewhere and before the above date.
Bonaparte read the article a second time.
"Good," said he; "there is no double meaning there." And he continued:
Art. III. General Bonaparte is charged with the enforcement of this decree; he will take all necessary measures for the safety of the National Legislature.
A satirical smile flickered on the stony lips of the reader, but he continued almost immediately.
The general commanding the 17th military division, the guard of the Legislature, the stationary national guard the troops of the line within the boundaries of the Commune of Paris, and those in the constitutional arrondissement, and throughout the limits of the said 17th division, are placed directly under his orders, and are directed to regard him as their commanding officer.
"Bourrienne, add: 'All citizens will lend him assistance when called upon.' The bourgeois love to meddle in political matters, and when they really can help us in our projects we ought to grant them this satisfaction."
Bourrienne obeyed; then he returned the paper to the general, who went on:
Art. IV. General Bonaparte is summoned before the Council to receive a copy of the present decree, and to make oath thereto. He will consult with the inspecting commissioners of both branches of the Council.
Art. V. The present decree shall be transmitted immediate, by messenger, to all the members of the Council of Five Hundred and to the Executive Directory. It shall be printed and posted, and promulgated throughout the communes of the Republic by special messengers.
"The date is left blank," said Lucien.
"Put 'the 18th Brumaire,' Bourrienne; the decree must
take everybody by surprise. It must be issued at seven o'clock in the morning,
and at the same hour or even earlier it must be posted on all the walls of
"But suppose the Ancients won't consent to issue it?" said Lucien.
"All the more reason to have it posted, ninny," said Bonaparte. "We must act as if it had been issued."
"Am I to correct this grammatical error in the last paragraph?" asked Bourrienne, laughing.
"Where?" demanded Lucien, in the tone of an aggrieved author.
"The word 'immediate,'" replied Bourrienne. "You can't say 'transmitted immediate'; it ought to be 'immediately.'"
"It's not worth while," said Bonaparte. "I shall act, you may be sure, as if it were 'immediately.'" Then, after an instant's reflection, he added: "As to what you said just now about their not being willing to pass it, there's a very simple way to get it passed."
"What is that."
"To convoke the members of whom we are sure at six o'clock in the morning, and those of whom we are not sure at eight. Having only our own men, it will be devilishly hard to lose the majority."
"But six o'clock for some, and eight for the others--" objected Lucien.
"Employ two secretaries; one of them can make a mistake." Then turning to Lucien, he said: "Write this."
And walking up and down, he dictated without hesitating, like a man who has long thought over and carefully prepared what he dictates; stopping occasionally beside Bourrienne to see if the secretary's pen were following his every word:
CITIZENS--The Council of the Ancients, the trustee of the nation's wisdom, has issued the subjoined decree: it is authorized by articles 102 and 103 of the Constitution.
This decree enjoins me to take measures for the safety of the National Legislature, and its necessary and momentary removal.
Bourrienne looked at Bonaparte; _instantaneous_ was the word the latter had intended to use, but as the general did not correct himself, Bourrienne left _momentary_.
Bonaparte continued to dictate:
The Legislature will find means to avoid the imminent danger into which the disorganization of all parts of the administration has brought us.
But it needs, at this crisis, the united support and confidence of patriots. Rally around it; it offers the only means of establishing the Republic on the bases of civil liberty, internal prosperity, victory and peace.
Bonaparte perused this proclamation, and nodded his head in sign of approval. Then he looked at his watch.
"Eleven o'clock," he said; "there is still time."
Then, seating himself in Bourrienne's chair, he wrote a few words in the form of a note, sealed it, and wrote the address: "To the Citizen Barras."
"Roland," said he, when he had finished, "take a horse out of the stable, or a carriage in the street, and go to Barras' house. I have asked him for an interview tomorrow at midnight. I want an answer."
Roland left the room. A moment later the gallop of a horse resounded through the courtyard, disappearing in the direction of the Rue du Mont-Blanc.
"Now, Bourrienne," said Bonaparte, after listening to the sound, "to-morrow at midnight, whether I am in the house or not, you will take my carriage and go in my stead to Barras."
"In your stead, general?"
"Yes. He will do nothing all day, expecting me to accept him on my side at night. At midnight you will go to him, and say that I have such a bad headache I have had to go to bed, but that I will be with him at seven o'clock in the morning without fail. He will believe you, or he won't believe you; but at any rate it will be too late for him to act against us. By seven in the morning I shall have ten thousand men under my command."
"Very good, general. Have you any other orders for me?"
"No, not this evening," replied Bonaparte. "Be here early to-morrow."
"And I?" asked Lucien.
"See Sièyes; he has the Ancients in the hollow of his hand. Make all your arrangements with him. I don't wish him to be seen here, nor to be seen myself at his house. If by any chance we fail, he is a man to repudiate. After tomorrow I wish to be master of my own actions, and to have no ties with any one."
"Do you think you will need me to-morrow?"
"Come back at night and report what happens."
"Are you going back to the salon?"
"No. I shall wait for Josephine in her own room. Bourrienne, tell her, as you pass through, to get rid of the people as soon as possible."
Then, saluting Bourrienne and his brother with a wave of the hand, he left his study by a private corridor, and went to Josephine's room. There, lighted by a single alabaster lamp, which made the conspirator's brow seem paler than ever, Bonaparte listened to the noise of the carriages, as one after the other they rolled away. At last the sounds ceased, and five minutes later the door opened to admit Josephine.
She was alone, and held a double-branched candlestick in her hand. Her face, lighted by the double flame, expressed the keenest anxiety.
"Well," Bonaparte inquired, "what ails you?"
"I am afraid!" said Josephine.
"Of what? Those fools of the Directory, or the lawyers of the two Councils? Come, come! I have Sièyes with me in the Ancients, and Lucien in the Five Hundred."
"Then all goes well?"
"You sent me word that you were waiting for me here, and I feared you had some bad news to tell me."
"Pooh! If I had bad news, do you think I would tell you?"
"How reassuring that is!"
"Well, don't be uneasy, for I have nothing but good news. Only, I have given you a part in the conspiracy."
"What is it?"
"Sit down and write to Gohier."
"That we won't dine with him?"
"On the contrary, ask him to come and breakfast with us. Between those who like each other as we do there can't be too much intercourse."
Josephine sat down at a little rosewood writing desk "Dictate," said she; "I will write."
"Goodness! for them to recognize my style! Nonsense; you know better than I how to write one of those charming notes there is no resisting."
Josephine smiled at the compliment, turned her forehead to Bonaparte, who kissed it lovingly, and wrote the following note, which we have copied from the original:
To the Citizen
Gohier, President of the Executive Directory of the
"Is that right?" she asked.
"Perfectly! As he won't wear this title of President much longer, we won't cavil at it."
"Don't you mean to make him something?"
"I'll make him anything he pleases, if he does exactly what I want. Now go on, my dear."
Josephine picked up her pen again and wrote:
Come, my dear Gohier, with your wife, and breakfast with us to-morrow at eight o'clock. Don't fail, for I have some very interesting things to tell you.
Adieu, my dear Gohier! With the sincerest friendship, Yours, LA PAGERIE-BONAPARTE.
"I wrote to-morrow," exclaimed Josephine. "Shall I date it the 17th Brumaire?"
"You won't be wrong," said Bonaparte; "there's midnight striking."
In fact, another day had fallen into the gulf of time; the clock chimed twelve. Bonaparte listened gravely and dreamily. Twenty-four hours only separated him from the solemn day for which he had been scheming for a month, and of which he had dreamed for years.
Let us do now what he would so gladly have done, and spring over those twenty-four hours intervening to the day which history has not yet judged, and see what happened in various parts of Paris, where the events we are about to relate produced an overwhelming sensation.
At seven in the morning, Fouché, minister of police, entered the bedroom of Gohier, president of the Directory.
"Oh, ho!" said Gohier, when he saw him. "What has happened now, monsieur le ministre, to give me the pleasure of seeing you so early?"
"Don't you know about the decree?" asked Fouché.
"What decree?" asked honest Gohier.
"The decree of the Council of the Ancients."
"When was it issued?"
"So the Council of the Ancients assembles at night now?"
"When matters are urgent, yes."
"And what does the decree say."
"It transfers the legislative sessions to Saint-Cloud."
Gohier felt the blow. He realized the advantage which Bonaparte's daring genius might obtain by this isolation.
"And since when," he asked Fouché, "is the minister of police transformed into a messenger of the Council of the Ancients?"
"That's where you are mistaken, citizen president," replied the ex-Conventional. "I am more than ever minister of police this morning, for I have come to inform you of an act which may have the most serious consequences."
Not being as yet sure of how the conspiracy of the Rue de la
Victoire would turn out, Fouché was not averse to keeping open a door for
retreat at the
"You should have informed me of this decree yesterday, and not this morning; for in making the communication now you are scarcely in advance of the official communication I shall probably receive in a few moments."
As he spoke, an usher opened the door and informed the president that a messenger from the Inspectors of the Council of the Ancients was there, and asked to make him a communication.
"Let him come in," said Gohier.
The messenger entered and handed the president a letter. He broke the seal hastily and read:
CITIZEN PRESIDENT--The Inspecting Commission hasten to inform you of a decree removing the residence of the legislative body to Saint-Cloud.
The decree will be forwarded to you; but measures for public safety are at present occupying our attention.
We invite you to meet the Commission of the Ancients. You will find Sièyes and Ducos already there.
"Very good," said Gohier, dismissing the messenger with a wave of his hand.
The messenger went out. Gohier turned to Fouché.
"Ah!" said he, "the plot is well laid; they inform me of the decree, but they do not send it to me. Happily you are here to tell me the terms of it."
"But," said Fouché, "I don't know them."
"What! do you the minister of police, mean to tell me that you know nothing about this extraordinary session of the Council of the Ancients, when it has been put on record by a decree?"
"Of course I knew it took place, but I was unable to be present."
"And you had no secretary, no amanuensis to send, who
could give you an account, word for word, of this session, when in all
probability this session will dispose of the fate of
"Have you any orders to give me, citizen president?" asked Fouché.
"None, citizen minister," replied the president. "If the Directory judges it advisable to issue any orders, it will be to men whom it esteems worthy of its confidence. You may return to those who sent you," he added, turning his back upon the minister.
Fouché went, and Gohier immediately rang his bell. An usher entered.
"Go to Barras, Sièyes, Ducos, and Moulins, and request them to come to me at once. Ah! And at the same time ask Madame Gohier to come into my study, and to bring with her Madame Bonaparte's letter inviting us to breakfast with her."
Five minutes later Madame Gohier entered, fully dressed,
with the note in her hand. The invitation was for eight o'clock. It was then
half-past seven, and it would take at least twenty minutes to drive from the
"Here it is, my dear," said Madame Gohier, handing the letter to her husband. "It says eight o'clock."
"Yes," replied Gohier, "I was not in doubt about the hour, but about the day."
Taking the note from his wife's hand, he read it over:
Come, my dear Gohier, with your wife, and breakfast with me to-morrow at eight o'clock. Don't fail, for I have some very interesting things to tell you.
"Ah," said Gohier, "there can be no mistake."
"Well, my dear, are we going?" asked Madame Gohier.
"You are, but not I. An event has just happened about
which the citizen Bonaparte is probably well-informed, which will detain my
colleagues and myself at the
"A serious event?"
"Then I shall stay with you."
"No, indeed; you would not be of any service here. Go to Madame Bonaparte's. I may be mistaken, but, should anything extraordinary happen, which appears to you alarming, send me word some way or other. Anything will do; I shall understand half a word."
"Very good, my dear; I will go. The hope of being useful to you is sufficient."
Just then the usher entered, and said:
"General Moulins is at my heels; citizen Barras is in his bath, and will soon be here; citizens Sièyes and Ducos went out at five o'clock this morning, and have not yet returned."
"They are the two traitors!" said Gohier; "Barras is only their dupe." Then kissing his wife, he added: "Now, go."
As she turned round, Madame Gohier came face to face with General Moulins. He, for his character was naturally impetuous, seemed furious.
"Pardon me, citizeness," he said. Then, rushing into Gohier's study, he cried: "Do you know what has happened, president?"
"No, but I have my suspicions."
"The legislative body has been transferred to Saint-Cloud; the execution of the decree has been intrusted to General Bonaparte, and the troops are placed under his orders."
"Ha! The cat's out of the bag!" exclaimed Gohier.
"Well, we must combine, and fight them."
"Have you heard that Sièyes and Ducos are not in the palace?"
"By Heavens! they are at the Tuileries! But Barras is in his bath; let us go to Barras. The Directory can issue decrees if there is a majority. We are three, and, I repeat it, we must make a struggle!"
"Then let us send word to Barras to come to us as soon as he is out of his bath."
"No; let us go to him before he leaves it."
The two Directors left the room, and hurried toward Barras' apartment. They found him actually in his bath, but they insisted on entering.
"Well?" asked Barras as soon as he saw them.
"Have you heard?"
They told him what they themselves knew.
"Ah!" cried Barras, "that explains everything."
"What do you mean?"
"Yes, that is why he didn't come last night."
"Did you expect him last evening?"
"He sent me word by one of his aides-de-camp that he would call on me at eleven o'clock last evening."
"And he didn't come?"
"No. He sent Bourrienne in his carriage to tell me that a violent headache had obliged him to go to bed; but that he would be here early this morning."
The Directors looked at each other.
"The whole thing is plain," said they.
"I have sent Bollot, my secretary, a very intelligent fellow, to find out what he can," continued Barras.
He rang and a servant entered.
"As soon as citizen Bollot returns," said Barras, "ask him to come here."
"He is just getting out of his carriage."
"Send him up! Send him up!"
But Bollot was already at the door.
"Well?" cried the three Directors.
"Well, General Bonaparte, in full uniform, accompanied by Generals Beurnonville, Macdonald and Moreau, are on their way to the Tuileries, where ten thousand troops are awaiting them."
"Moreau! Moreau with him!" exclaimed Gohier.
"On his right!"
"I always told you that Moreau was a sneak, and nothing else!" cried Moulins, with military roughness.
"Are you still determined to resist, Barras?" asked Gohier.
"Yes," replied Barras.
"Then dress yourself and join us in the council-room."
"Go," said Barras, "I follow you."
The two Directors hastened to the council-room. After waiting ten minutes Moulins said: "We should have waited for Barras; if Moreau is a sneak, Barras is a knave."
Two hours later they were still waiting for Barras.
Talleyrand and Bruix had been admitted to Barras' bathroom just after Gohier and Moulins had left it, and in talking with them Barras forgot his appointment.
We will now see what was happening in the Rue de la Victoire.
At seven o'clock, contrary to his usual custom, Bonaparte was up and waiting in full uniform in his bedroom. Roland entered. Bonaparte was perfectly calm; they were on the eve of a battle.
"Has no one come yet, Roland?" he asked.
"No, general," replied the young man, "but I heard the roll of a carriage just now."
"So did I," replied Bonaparte.
At that minute a servant announced: "The citizen Joseph Bonaparte, and the citizen General Bernadotte."
Roland questioned Bonaparte with a glance; was he to go or stay? He was to stay. Roland took his stand at the corner of a bookcase like a sentinel at his post.
"Ah, ha!" exclaimed Bonaparte, seeing that Bernadotte was still attired in civilian's clothes, "you seem to have a positive horror of the uniform, general!"
"Why the devil should I be in uniform at seven in the morning," asked Bernadotte, "when I am not in active service?"
"You will be soon."
"But I am retired."
"Yes, but I recall you to active service."
"In the name of the Directory?"
"Is there still a Directory?"
"Still a Directory? What do you mean?"
"Didn't you see the troops drawn up in the streets leading to the Tuileries as you came here?"
"I saw them, and I was surprised."
"Those soldiers are mine."
"Excuse me," said Bernadotte; "I thought they
"I was not aware of that," replied Bernadotte, coldly.
"Though you doubt it now, you will be certain of it tonight. Come, Bernadotte, this is the vital moment; decide!"
"General," replied Bernadotte, "I am fortunate enough to be at this moment a simple citizen; let me remain a simple citizen."
"Bernadotte, take care! He that is not for me is against me."
"General, pay attention to your words! You said just now, 'Take care.' If that is a threat, you know very well that I do not fear them."
Bonaparte came up to him, and took him by both hands.
"Oh, yes, I know that; that is why I must have you with me. I not only esteem you, Bernadotte, but I love you. I leave you with Joseph; he is your brother-in-law. Between brothers, devil take it, there should be no quarrelling."
"Where are you going?"
"In your character of Spartan you are a rigid observer
of the laws, are you not? Well, here is a decree issued by the Council of Five
Hundred last night, which confers upon me the immediate command of the troops
And he placed in Bernadotte's hands the copy of the decree which had been sent to him at six o'clock that morning. Bernadotte read it through from the first line to the last.
"To this," said he, "I have nothing to object. Secure the safety of the National Legislature, and all good citizens will be with you."
"Then be with me now."
"Permit me, general, to wait twenty-four hours to see how you fulfil that mandate."
"Devil of a man!" cried Bonaparte. "Have your own way." Then, taking him by the arm, he dragged him a few steps apart from Joseph, and continued, "Bernadotte, I want to play above-board with you."
"Why so," retorted the latter, "since I am not on your side?"
"Never mind. You are watching the game, and I want the lookers-on to see that I am not cheating."
"Do you bind me to secrecy?"
"That is well, for in that case I should have refused to listen to your confidences."
"Oh! my confidences are not long! Your Directory is detested, your Constitution is worn-out; you must make a clean sweep of both, and turn the government in another direction. You don't answer me."
"I am waiting to hear what you have to say."
"All I have to say is, Go put on your uniform. I can't wait any longer for you. Join me at the Tuileries among our comrades."
Bernadotte shook his head.
"You think you can count on Moreau, Beurnonville, and Lefebvre," resumed Bonaparte. "Just look out of that window. Who do you see there, and there? Moreau and Beurnonville. As for Lefebvre, I do not see him, but I am certain I shall not go a hundred steps before meeting him. Now will you decide?"
"General," replied Bernadotte, "I am not a man to be swayed by example, least of all when that example is bad. Moreau, Beurnonville, and Lefebvre may do as they wish. I shall do as I ought!"
"So you definitively refuse to accompany me to the Tuileries?"
"I do not wish to take part in a rebellion."
"A rebellion! A rebellion! Against whom? Against a parcel of imbeciles who are pettifogging from morning till night in their hovels."
"These imbeciles, general, are for the moment the representatives of the law. The Constitution protects them; they are sacred to me."
"At least promise me one thing, iron rod that you are."
"What is it?"
"To keep quiet."
"I will keep quiet as a citizen, but--"
"But what? Come, I made a clean breast of it to you; do you do likewise."
"But if the Directory orders me to act, I shall march against the agitators, whoever they may be."
"Ah! So you think I am ambitious?" asked Bonaparte.
"I suspect as much," retorted Bernadotte, smiling.
"Faith," said Bonaparte, "you don't know me. I have had enough of politics, and what I want is peace. Ah, my dear fellow! Malmaison and fifty thousand a year, and I'd willingly resign all the rest. You don't believe me. Well, I invite you to come and see me there, three months hence, and if you like pastorals, we'll do one together. Now, au revoir! I leave you with Joseph, and, in spite of your refusal, I shall expect you at the Tuileries. Hark! Our friends are becoming impatient."
They were shouting: "Vive Bonaparte!"
Bernadotte paled slightly. Bonaparte noticed this pallor.
"Ah, ha," he muttered. "Jealous! I was mistaken; he is not a Spartan, he is an Athenian!"
As Bonaparte had said, his friends were growing impatient. During the hour that had elapsed since the decree had been posted, the salon, the anterooms, and the courtyard had been crowded. The first person Bonaparte met at the head of the staircase was his compatriot, Colonel Sebastiani, then commanding the 9th Dragoons.
"Ah! is that you, Sebastiani?" said Bonaparte. "Where are your men?"
"In line along the Rue de la Victoire, general."
"Enthusiastic! I distributed among them ten thousand cartridges which I had in store."
"Yes; but you had no right to draw those cartridges out
without an order from the commandant of
"Then take me into yours, general. I have faith in your fortunes."
"You mistake me for Cæsar, Sebastiani!"
"Faith! I might make worse mistakes. Besides, down below in the courtyard there are forty officers or more, of all classes, without pay, whom the Directory has left in the most complete destitution for the last year. You are their only hope, general; they are ready to die for you."
"That's right. Go to your regiment, and take leave of it."
"Take leave of it? What do you mean, general?"
"I exchange it for a brigade. Go, go!"
Sebastiani did not wait to be told twice. Bonaparte continued his way. At the foot of the stairs he met Lefebvre.
"Here I am, general!" said Lefebvre.
"You? And where is the 17th military division?"
"I am waiting for my appointment to bring it into action."
"Haven't you received your appointment?"
"From the Directory, yes. But as I am not a traitor, I have just sent in my resignation, so that they may know I am not to be counted on."
"And you have come for me to appoint you, so that I may count on you, is that it?"
"Quick, Roland, a blank commission; fill in the general's name, so that I shall only have to put my name to it. I'll sign it on the pommel of my saddle."
"That's the true sort," said Lefebvre.
The young man, who had already started obediently, came back to the general.
"Fetch me that pair of double-barrelled pistols on my mantel-piece at the same time," said Bonaparte, in a low tone. "One never knows what may happen."
"Yes, general," said Roland; "besides, I shan't leave you."
"Unless I send you to be killed elsewhere."
"True," replied the young man, hastening away to fulfil his double errand.
Bonaparte was continuing on his way when he noticed a shadow in the corridor. He recognized Josephine, and ran to her.
"Good God!" cried she, "is there so much danger?"
"What makes you think that?"
"I overheard the order you gave Roland."
"Serves you right for listening at doors. How about Gohier?"
"He hasn't come."
"Nor his wife?"
"She is here."
Bonaparte pushed Josephine aside with his hand and entered the salon. He found Madame Gohier alone and very pale.
"What!" said he, without any preamble, "isn't the President coming?"
"He was unable to do so, general," replied Madame Gohier.
Bonaparte repressed a movement of impatience. "He absolutely must come," said he. "Write him that I await him, and I will have the note sent."
"Thank you, general," replied Madame Gohier; "my servants are here, and they can attend to that."
"Write, my dear friend, write," said Josephine, offering her paper and pen and ink.
Bonaparte stood so that he could see over her shoulder what she wrote. Madame Gohier looked fixedly at him, and he drew back with a bow. She wrote the note, folded it, and looked about her for the sealing-wax; but, whether by accident or intention, there was none. Sealing the note with a wafer, she rang the bell. A servant came.
"Give this note to Comtois," said Madame Gohier,
"and bid him take it to the
Bonaparte followed the servant, or rather the letter, with his eyes until the door closed. Then, turning to Madame Gohier, he said: "I regret that I am unable to breakfast with you. But if the President has business to attend to, so have I. You must breakfast with my wife. Good appetite to you both."
And he went out. At the door he met Roland.
"Here is the commission, general," said the young man, "and a pen."
Bonaparte took the pen, and using the back of his aide-de-camp's hat, he signed the commission. Roland gave him the pistols.
"Did you look; to them?" asked Bonaparte.
Roland smiled. "Don't be uneasy," said he; "I'll answer for them."
Bonaparte slipped the pistols in his belt, murmuring as he did so: "I wish I knew what she wrote her husband."
"I can tell you, word for word, what she wrote, general," said a voice close by.
"Yes. She wrote: 'You did right not to come, my dear; all that is happening here convinces me that the invitation was only a snare. I will rejoin you shortly.'"
"You unsealed the letter?"
"General, Sextus Pompey gave a dinner on his galley to
Bonaparte thought an instant; then he said: "You are
mistaken; it was Octavius and not
Hardly had the general appeared on the portico than cries of "Vive Bonaparte!" echoed through the courtyard into the street, where they were taken up by the dragoons drawn up in line before the gate.
"That's a good omen, general," said Roland.
"Yes. Give Lefebvre his commission at once; and if he has no horse, let him take one of mine. Tell him to meet me in the court of the Tuileries."
"His division is already there."
"All the more reason."
Glancing about him, Bonaparte saw Moreau and Beurnonville, who were waiting for him, their horses held by orderlies. He saluted them with a wave of his hand, already that of a master rather than that of a comrade. Then, perceiving General Debel out of uniform, he went down the steps and approached him.
"Why are you in civilian's dress?" he asked.
"General, I was not notified. I chanced to be passing along the street, and, seeing the crowd before your house, I came in, fearing you might be in danger."
"Go and put on your uniform quickly."
"But I live the other side of
"What are you going to do?"
"Don't be alarmed, general."
Debel had noticed an artilleryman on horseback who was about his size.
"Friend," said he, "I am General Debel. By order of General Bonaparte lend me your uniform and your horse, and I'll give you furlough for the day. Here's a louis to drink the health of the commander-in-chief. To-morrow, come to my house for your horse and uniform. I live in the Rue Cherche-Midi, No. 11."
"Will nothing be done to me?"
"Yes, you shall be made a corporal."
"Good!" said the artilleryman; and he quickly handed over his uniform and horse to General Debel.
In the meantime, Bonaparte heard talking above him. He raised his head and saw Joseph and Bernadotte at a window.
"Once more, general," he said to Bernadotte, "will you come with me?"
"No," said the latter, firmly. Then, lowering his tone, he continued: "You told me just now to take care."
"Well, I say to you, take care."
"You are going to the Tuileries?"
"The Tuileries are very near the Place de la Révolution."
"Pooh!" retorted Bonaparte, "the guillotine has been moved to the Barrière du Trône."
"Never mind. The brewer Santerre still controls the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, and Santerre is Moulins' friend."
"Santerre has been warned that at the first inimical movement he attempts I will have him shot. Will you come?"
"As you please. You are separating your fortunes from mine; I do not separate mine from yours." Then, calling to his orderly, he said: "My horse!"
They brought his horse. Seeing an artillery private near him, he said: "What are you doing among the epaulets?"
The artilleryman began to laugh.
"Don't you recognize me, general?" he asked.
"Faith, it's Debel! Where did you get that horse and the uniform?"
"From that artilleryman you see standing there in his shirt. It will cost you a corporal's commission."
"You are wrong, Debel," said Bonaparte; "it will cost me two commissions, one for the corporal, and one for the general of division. Forward, march, gentlemen! We are going to the Tuileries."
And, bending forward on his horse, as he usually did, his
left hand holding a slack rein, his right resting on his hip, with bent head
and dreamy eyes, he made his first steps along that incline, at once glorious
and fatal, which was to lead him to a throne--and to
On entering the Rue de la Victoire, Bonaparte found Sebastiani's dragoons drawn up in line of battle. He wished to address them, but they interrupted him at the first words, shouting: "We want no explanations. We know that you seek only the good of the Republic. Vive Bonaparte!"
The cortège followed the streets which led from the Rue de la Victoire to the Tuileries, amid the cries of "Vive Bonaparte!"
General Lefebvre, according to promise, was waiting at the palace gates. Bonaparte, on his arrival at the Tuileries, was hailed with the same cheers that had accompanied him. Once there, he raised his head and shook it. Perhaps this cry of "Vive Bonaparte!" did not satisfy him. Was he already dreaming of "Vive Napoleon?"
He advanced in front of the troop, surrounded by his staff, and read the decree of the Five Hundred, which transferred the sessions of the Legislature to Saint-Cloud and gave him the command of the armed forces.
Then, either from memory, or offhand--Bonaparte never admitted any one to such secrets--instead of the proclamation he had dictated to Bourrienne two days earlier, he pronounced these words:
"Soldiers--The Council of Ancients has given me the command of the city and the army.
"I have accepted it, to second the measures to be adopted for the good of the people.
"The Republic has been ill governed for two years. You have hoped for my return to put an end to many evils. You celebrated it with a unanimity which imposes obligations that I now fulfil. Fulfil yours, and second your general with the vigor, firmness and strength I have always found in you.
The soldiers applauded frantically. It was a declaration of war against the Directory, and soldiers will always applaud a declaration of war.
The general dismounted, amid shouts and bravos, and entered
the Tuileries. It was the second time he had crossed the threshold of this
palace of the
"Ah! citizen Roederer, you were here on the morning of August 10."
"Yes, general," replied the future Count of the Empire.
"It was you who advised Louis XVI. to go before the National Assembly."
"Bad advice, citizen Roederer! I should not have followed it."
"We advise men according to what we know of them. I would not give General Bonaparte the same advice I gave King Louis XVI. When a king has the fact of his flight to Varennes and the 20th of June behind him, it is difficult to save him."
As Roederer said these words, they reached a window opening on the garden of the Tuileries. Bonaparte stopped, and, seizing Roederer by the arm, he said: "On the 20th of June I was there," pointing with his finger to the terrace by the water, "behind the third linden. Through the open window I could see the poor king, with the red cap on his head. It was a piteous sight; I pitied him."
"What did you do?"
"Nothing, I could do nothing; I was only a lieutenant of artillery. But I longed to go in like the others, and whisper: 'Sire, give me four cannon, and I'll sweep the whole rabble out.'"
What would have happened if Lieutenant Bonaparte had
followed his impulse, obtained what he wanted from Louis XVI., and _swept the
rabble out_, that is to say the people of
While the ex-Syndic; who had grown grave, was outlining in his mind the opening pages of his future "History of the Consulate," Bonaparte presented himself at the bar of the Council of the Ancients, followed by his staff, and by all those who chose to do likewise. When the tumult caused by this influx of people had subsided, the president read over the decree which invested Bonaparte with the military power. Then, after requesting him to take the oath, the president added:
"He who has never promised his country a victory which he did not win, cannot fail to keep religiously his new promise to serve her faithfully."
Bonaparte stretched forth his hand and said solemnly:
"I swear it!"
All the generals repeated after him, each for himself:
"I swear it!"
The last one had scarcely finished, when Bonaparte recognized Barras' secretary, that same Bollot of whom Barras had spoken that morning to his two colleagues. He had come there solely to give his patron an account of all that was happening there, but Bonaparte fancied he was sent on some secret mission by Barras. He resolved to spare him the first advance, and went straight to him, saying:
"Have you come on behalf of the Directors?" Then,
without giving him time to answer, he continued: "What have they done with
It was not precisely to Barras' secretary that these words should have been said; but Bonaparte wished to say them, needed to say them, and little he cared to whom he said them. Perhaps even, from his point of view, it was better to say them to some one who could not answer him. At that moment Sièyes rose.
"Citizens," said he, "the Directors Moulins and Gohier ask to be admitted."
"They are no longer Directors," said Bonaparte, "for there is no longer a Directory."
"But," objected Sièyes, "they have not yet sent in their resignation."
"Then admit them and let them give it," retorted Bonaparte.
Moulins and Gohier entered. They were pale but calm. They knew they came to force a struggle, but behind their resistance may have loomed the Sinnamary. The exiles they sent there the 18th of Fructidor pointed the way.
"I see with satisfaction," Bonaparte hastened to say, "that you have yielded to our wishes and those of your two colleagues."
Gohier made a step forward and said firmly: "We yield neither to your wishes, nor to those of our two colleagues, who are no longer our colleagues, since they have resigned, but to the Law. It requires that the decree transferring the legislative body to Saint-Cloud shall be proclaimed without delay. We have come here to fulfil the duty which the law imposes on us, fully determined to defend it against all factious persons, whoever they may be, who attempt to attack it."
"Your zeal does not astonish us," replied Bonaparte; "and because you are a man who loves his country you will unite with us."
"Unite with you! And why?"
"To save the Republic."
"To save the Republic! There was a time, general, when you had the honor to be its prop. But to-day the glory of saving it is reserved for us."
"You save it!" retorted Bonaparte. "How will you do that? With the means your Constitution gives you? Why, that Constitution is crumbling on all sides, and even if I did not topple it over, it could not last eight days."
"Ah!" cried Moulins, "at last you avow your hostile intentions."
"My intentions are not hostile!" shouted Bonaparte, striking the floor with the heel of his boot. "The Republic is in peril; it must be saved, and I shall do it."
"You do it?" cried Gohier. "It seems to me it is for the Directory, not you, to say, 'I shall do it!'"
"There is no longer a Directory."
"I did indeed hear that you said so just a moment before we came in."
"There is no longer a Directory, now that Sièyes and Ducos have resigned."
"You are mistaken. So long as there are three Directors, the Directory still exists. Neither Moulins, Barras nor myself, have handed in our resignations."
At that moment a paper was slipped in Bonaparte's hand, and a voice said in his ear: "Read it." He did so; then said aloud: "You, yourself, are mistaken. Barras has resigned, for here is his resignation. The law requires three Directors to make a Directory. You are but two, and, as you said just now, whoever resists the law is a rebel." Then handing the paper to the president, he continued: "Add the citizen Barras' resignation to that of citizens Sièyes and Ducos, and proclaim the fall of the Directory. I will announce it to my soldiers."
Moulins and Gohier were confounded. Barras' resignation sapped the foundations of all their plans. Bonaparte had nothing further to do at the Council of Ancients, but there still remained much to be done in the court of the Tuileries. He went down, followed by those who had accompanied him up. His soldiers no sooner caught sight, of him than they burst into shouts of "Vive Bonaparte!" more noisily and more eagerly than ever. He sprang into his saddle and made them a sign that he wished to speak to them. Ten thousand voices that had burst into cries were hushed in a moment. Silence fell as if by enchantment.
"Soldiers," said Bonaparte, in a voice so loud that all could hear it, "your comrades in arms on the frontiers are denuded of the necessaries of life. The people are miserable. The authors of these evils are the factious men against whom I have assembled you to-day. I hope before long to lead you to victory; but first we must deprive those who would stand in the way of public order and general prosperity of their power to do harm."
Whether it was weariness of the government of the Directory, or the fascination exercised by the magic being who called them to victory--so long forgotten in his absence--shouts of enthusiasm arose, and like a train of burning powder spread from the Tuileries to the Carrousel, from the Carrousel to the adjacent streets. Bonaparte profited by this movement. Turning to Moreau, he said:
"General, I will give you proof of the immense
confidence I have in you. Bernadotte, whom I left at my house, and who refused
to follow us, had the audacity to tell me that if he received orders from the
Directory he should execute them against whosoever the agitators might be.
General, I confide to you the guardianship of the
And without waiting for a reply he put his horse to a gallop, and rode off to the opposite end of the line.
Moreau, led by military ambition, had consented to play a
part in this great drama; he was now forced to accept that which the author
assigned him. On returning to the Louvre, Gohier and Moulins found nothing
changed apparently. All the sentries were at their posts. They retired to one
of the salons of the presidency to consult together. But they had scarcely
begun their conference, when General Jubé, the commandant of the
It was then about four o'clock in the afternoon. An instant later Gohier's secretary returned in great perturbation.
"Well," said Gohier, "why have you not gone?"
"Citizen president," replied the young man, "we are prisoners in the palace."
"Prisoners? What do you mean?"
"The guard has been changed, and General Jubé is no longer in command."
"Who has replaced him?"
"I think some one said General Moreau."
"Moreau? Impossible! And that coward, Barras, where is he?"
"He has started for his country-place at Grosbois."
"Ah! I must see Moulins!" cried Gohier, rushing to the door. But at the entrance he found a sentry who barred the door. Gohier insisted.
"No one can pass," said the sentry.
"What! not pass?"
"But I am President Gohier!"
"No one can pass," said the sentry; "that is the order."
Gohier saw it would be useless to say more; force would be impossible. He returned to his own rooms.
In the meantime, General Moreau had gone to see Moulins; he wished to justify himself. Without listening to a word the ex-Director turned his back on him, and, as Moreau insisted, he said: "General, go into the ante-chamber. That is the place for jailers."
Moreau bowed his head, and understood for the first time into what a fatal trap his honor had fallen.
At five o'clock, Bonaparte started to return to the Rue de
la Victoire; all the generals and superior officers in
The shouts of "Vive Bonaparte!" which came from the lower part of the Rue du Mont Blanc, and swept like a sonorous wave toward the Rue de la Victoire, told Josephine of her husband's return. The impressionable Creole had awaited him anxiously. She sprang to meet him in such agitation that she was unable to utter a single word.
"Come, come!" said Bonaparte, becoming the kindly man he was in his own home, "calm yourself. We have done to-day all that could be done."
"Is it all over?"
"Oh, no!" replied Bonaparte.
"Must it be done all over again to-morrow?"
"Yes, but to-morrow it will be merely a formality."
That formality was rather rough; but every one knows of the events at Saint-Cloud. We will, therefore, dispense with relating them, and turn at once to the result, impatient as we are to get back to the real subject of our drama, from which the grand historical figure we have introduced diverted us for an instant.
One word more. The 20th Brumaire, at one o'clock in the morning, Bonaparte was appointed First Consul for ten years. He himself selected Cambacérès and Lebrun as his associates under the title of Second Consuls, being firmly resolved this time to concentrate in his own person, not only all the functions of the two consuls, but those of the ministers.
The 20th Brumaire he slept at the
Roland was made governor of the
Some time after this military revolution, which created a great stir in Europe, convulsing the Continent for a time, as a tempest convulses the ocean--some time after, we say, on the morning of the 30th Nivoise, better and more clearly known to our readers as the 20th of January, 1800, Roland, in looking over the voluminous correspondence which his new office entailed upon him, found, among fifty other letters asking for an audience, the following:
MONSIEUR THE GOVERNOR-I know your loyalty to your word, and you will see that I rely on it. I wish to speak to you for five minutes, during which I must remain masked.
I have a request to make to you. This request you will grant or deny. In either case, as I shall have entered the Palace of the Luxembourg in the interest o£ the First Consul, Bonaparte, and the royalist party to which I belong, I shall ask for your word of honor that I be allowed to leave it as freely as you allow me to enter.
If to-morrow, at seven in the evening, I see a solitary light in the window over the clock, I shall know that Colonel Roland de Montrevel has pledged me his word of honor, and I shall boldly present myself at the little door of the left wing of the palace, opening on the garden. I shall strike three blows at intervals, after the manner of the free-masons.
In order that you may know to whom you engage or refuse your word, I sign a name which is known to you, that name having been, under circumstances you have probably not forgotten, pronounced before you.
Chief of the Companions of Jehu.
Roland read the letter twice, thought it over for a few moments, then rose suddenly, and, entering the First Consul's study, handed it to him silently. The latter read it without betraying the slightest emotion, or even surprise; then, with a laconism that was wholly Lacedæmonian, he said: "Place the light."
Then he gave the letter back to Roland.
The next evening, at seven o'clock, the light shone in the window, and at five minutes past the hour, Roland in person was waiting at the little door of the garden. He had scarcely been there a moment when three blows were struck on the door after the manner of the free-masons; first two strokes and then one.
The door was opened immediately. A man wrapped in a cloak was sharply defined against the grayish atmosphere of the wintry night. As for Roland, he was completely hidden in shadow. Seeing no one, the man in the cloak remained motionless for a second.
"Come in," said Roland.
"Ah! it is you, colonel!"
"How do you know it is I?" asked Roland.
"I recognize your voice."
"My voice! But during those few moments we were
together in the dining-room at
"Then I must have heard it elsewhere."
Roland wondered where the Chief of the Companions of Jehu could have heard his voice, but the other said gayly: "Is the fact that I know your voice any reason why we should stand at the door?"
"No, indeed," replied Roland; "take the lapel of my coat and follow me. I purposely forbade any lights being placed in the stairs and hall which lead to my room."
"I am much obliged for the intention. But on your word I would cross the palace from one end to the other, though it were lighted _à giorno_, as the Italians say."
"You have my word," replied Roland, "so follow me without fear."
Morgan needed no encouragement; he followed his guide fearlessly. At the head of the stairs Roland turned down a corridor equally dark, went twenty steps, opened a door, and entered his own room. Morgan followed him. The room was lighted by two wax candles only. Once there, Morgan took off his cloak and laid his pistols on the table.
"What are you doing?" asked Roland.
"Faith! with your permission," replied Morgan, gayly, "I am making myself comfortable."
"But those pistols you have just laid aside--"
"Ah! did you think I brought them for you?"
"For whom then?"
"Why, that damned police! You can readily imagine that I am not disposed to let citizen Fouché lay bold of me, without burning the mustache of the first of his minions who lays hands on me."
"But once here you feel you have nothing to fear?"
"The deuce!" exclaimed the young man; "I have your word."
"Then why don't you unmask?"
"Because my face only half belongs to me; the other half belongs to my companions. Who knows if one of us being recognized might not drag the others to the guillotine? For of course you know, colonel, we don't hide from ourselves that that is the price of our game!"
"Then why risk it?"
"Ah! what a question. Why do you venture on the field of battle, where a bullet may plow through your breast or a cannon-ball lop off your head?"
"Permit me to say that that is different. On the battlefield I risk an honorable death."
"Ah! do you suppose that on the day I get my head cut off by the revolutionary triangle I shall think myself dishonored? Not the least in the world. I am a soldier like you, only we can't all serve our cause in the same way. Every religion has its heroes and its martyrs; happy the heroes in this world, and happy the martyrs in the next."
The young man uttered these words with a conviction which moved, or rather astonished, Roland.
"But," continued Morgan, abandoning his enthusiasm to revert to the gayety which seemed the distinctive trait of his character, "I did not come here to talk political philosophy. I came to ask you to let me speak to the First Consul."
"What! speak to the First Consul?" exclaimed Roland.
"Of course. Read my letter over; did I not tell you that I had a request to make?"
"Well, that request is to let me speak to General Bonaparte."
"But permit me to say that as I did not expect that request--"
"It surprises you; makes you uneasy even. My dear colonel, if you don't believe my word, you can search me from head to foot, and you will find that those pistols are my only weapons. And I haven't even got them, since there they are on your table. Better still, take one in each hand, post yourself between the First Consul and me, and blowout my brains at the first suspicious move I make. Will that suit you?"
"But will you assure me, if I disturb the First Consul and ask him to see you, that your communication is worth the trouble?"
"Oh! I'll answer for that," said Morgan. Then, in his joyous tones, he added: "I am for the moment the ambassador of a crowned, or rather discrowned, head, which makes it no less reverenced by noble hearts. Moreover, Monsieur Roland, I shall take up very little of your general's time; the moment the conversation seems too long, he can dismiss me. And I assure you he will not have to say the word twice."
Roland was silent and thoughtful for a moment.
"And it is to the First Consul only that you can make this communication?"
"To the First Consul only, as he alone can answer me."
"Very well. Wait until I take his orders."
Roland made a step toward the general's room; then he paused and cast an uneasy look at a mass of papers piled on his table. Morgan intercepted this look.
"What!" he said, "you are afraid I shall read those papers in your absence? If you only knew how I detest reading! If my death-warrant lay on that table, I wouldn't take the trouble to read it. I should consider that the clerk's business. And every one to his own task. Monsieur Roland, my feet are cold, and I will sit here in your easy-chair and warm them. I shall not stir till you return."
"Very good, monsieur," said Roland, and he went to the First Consul.
Bonaparte was talking with General Hedouville, commanding the troops of the Vendée. Hearing the door open, he turned impatiently.
"I told Bourrienne I would not see any one."
"So he told me as I came in, but I told him that I was not any one."
"True. What do you want? Be quick."
"He is in my room."
"The man of
"Ah, ha! And what does he want?"
"To see you."
"To see me?"
"Yes, you, general. Does that surprise you?"
"No. But what can he want to say to me?"
"He refused obstinately to tell me. But I dare answer for it that he is neither importunate nor a fool."
"No, but he may be an assassin."
Roland shook his head.
"Of course, since you introduce him--"
"Moreover, he is willing that I should be present at the conference and stand between you and him."
Bonaparte reflected an instant.
"Bring him in," he said.
"You know, general, that except me--"
"Yes, General Hedouville will be so kind as to wait a second. Our conversation is of a nature that is not exhausted in one interview. Go, Roland."
Roland left the room, crossed Bourrienne's office, reentered his own room, and found Morgan, as he had said, warming his feet.
"Come, the First Consul is waiting for you," said the young man.
Morgan rose and followed Roland. When they entered
Bonaparte's study the latter was alone. He cast a rapid glance on the chief of
the Companions of Jehu, and felt no doubt that he was the same man he had seen
Morgan had paused a few steps from the door, and was looking curiously at Bonaparte, convincing himself that he was the man he had seen at the table d'hôte the day he attempted the perilous restoration of the two hundred louis stolen by an oversight from Jean Picot.
"Come nearer," said the First Consul.
Morgan bowed and made three steps forward. Bonaparte partly returned the bow with a slight motion of the head.
"You told my aide-de-camp, Colonel Roland, that you had a communication to make me."
"Yes, citizen First Consul."
"Does that communication require a private interview?"
"No, citizen First Consul, although it is of such importance--"
"You would prefer to be alone."
"Beyond doubt. But prudence--"
"The most prudent thing in France, citizen Morgan, is courage."
"My presence here, general, proves that I agree with you perfectly."
Bonaparte turned to the young colonel.
"Leave us alone, Roland," said he.
"But, general--" objected Roland.
Bonaparte went up to him and said in a low voice: "I see what it is. You are curious to know what this mysterious cavalier of the highroad has to say to me. Don't worry; you shall know."
"That's not it. But suppose, as you said just now, he is an assassin."
"Didn't you declare he was not. Come, don't be a baby; leave us."
Roland went out.
"Now that we are alone, sir," said the First Consul, "speak!"
Morgan, without answering, drew a letter from his pocket and
gave it to the general. Bonaparte examined it. It was addressed to him, and the
seal bore the three fleurs-de-lis of
"Oh!" he said, "what is this, sir?"
"Read it, citizen First Consul."
Bonaparte opened the letter and looked at the signature: "Louis," he said.
"Louis," repeated Morgan.
"Louis de Bourbon, I presume."
"Monsieur le Comte de Provençe, brother of Louis XVI."
"Consequently Louis XVIII., since his nephew, the Dauphin, is dead."
Bonaparte looked at the stranger again. It was evident that Morgan was a pseudonym, assumed to hide his real name. Then, turning his eyes on the letter, he read:
January 3, 1800.
Whatever may be
their apparent conduct, monsieur, men like you
never inspire distrust. You have accepted an exalted post, and I thank you for so doing. You know, better
than others, that force and power are
needed to make the happiness of a great
Bonaparte turned to the young man, who stood erect, motionless and silent as a statue.
"Do you know the contents of this letter?" he asked.
The young man bowed. "Yes, citizen First Consul."
"It was sealed, however."
"It was sent unsealed under cover to the person who intrusted it to me. And before doing so he made me read it, that I might know its full importance."
"Can I know the name of the person who intrusted it to you?"
Bonaparte started slightly.
"Do you know Georges Cadoudal?" he asked.
"He is my friend."
"Why did he intrust it to you rather than to another?"
"Because he knew that in telling me to deliver the letter to you with my own hand it would be done."
"You have certainly kept your promise, sir."
"Not altogether yet, citizen First Consul."
"How do you mean? Haven't you delivered it to me?"
"Yes, but I promised to bring back an answer."
"But if I tell you I will not give one."
"You will have answered; not precisely as I could have wished, but it will be an answer."
Bonaparte reflected for a few moments. Then shaking his shoulders to rid himself of his thoughts, he said: "They are fools."
"Who, citizen?" asked Morgan.
"Those who write me such letters--fools, arch fools. Do
they take me for a man who patterns his conduct by the past? Play Monk! What
good would it do? Bring back another Charles II.? No, faith, it is not worth
while. When a man has
"For that reason you are asked to make your own conditions, citizen First Consul."
Bonaparte started at the sound of that voice as if he had forgotten that any one was present.
"Not counting," he went on, "that it is a ruined family, a dead branch of a rotten trunk. The Bourbons have so intermarried with one another that the race is depraved; Louis XIV. exhausted all its sap, all its vigor.--You know history, sir?" asked Bonaparte, turning to the young man.
"Yes, general," he replied; "at least as well as a _ci-devant_ can know it."
"Well, you must have observed in history, especially in
"Permit me, general, to remark that I did not ask you for all this."
"But I, I ask you--"
"I think you are doing me the honor to take me for posterity."
Bonaparte started, turned round, saw to whom he was speaking, and was silent.
"I only want," said Morgan, with a dignity which surprised the man whom he addressed, "a yes or a no."
"And why do you want that?"
"To know whether we must continue to war against you as an enemy, or fall at your feet as a savior."
"War," said Bonaparte, "war! Madmen, they who war with me! Do they not see that I am the elect of God?"
"Attila said the same thing."
"Yes; but he was the elect of destruction; I, of the
new era. The grass withered where he stepped; the harvest will ripen where I
pass the plow. War? Tell me what has become of those who have made it against
me? They lie upon the plains of Piedmont, of Lombardy and
"You forget the Vendée; the Vendée is still afoot."
"Afoot, yes! but her leaders? Cathelineau, Lescure, La Rochejaquelin, d'Elbée, Bonchamps, Stoffiet, Charette?"
"You are speaking of men only; the men have been mown down, it is true; but the principle is still afoot, and for it are fighting Autichamp, Suzannet, Grignon, Frotté, Châtillon, Cadoudal. The younger may not be worth the elder, but if they die as their elders died, what more can you ask?"
"Let them beware! If I determine upon a campaign against the Vendée I shall send neither Santerre nor Rossignol!"
"The Convention sent Kléber, and the Directory, Hoche!"
"I shall not send; I shall go myself."
"Nothing worse can happen to them than to be killed like Lescure, or shot like Charette."
"It may happen that I pardon them."
"Cato taught us how to escape the pardon of Cæsar."
"Take care; you are quoting a Republican!"
"Cato was one of those men whose example can be followed, no matter to what party they belong."
"And suppose I were to tell you that I hold the Vendée in the hollow of my hand?"
"And that within three months, she will lay down her arms if I choose?"
The young man shook his head.
"You don't believe me?"
"I hesitate to believe you."
"If I affirm to you that what I say is true; if I prove it by telling you the means, or rather the men, by whom I shall bring this about?"
"If a man like General Bonaparte affirms a thing, I shall believe it; and if that thing is the pacification of the Vendée, I shall say in my turn: 'Beware! Better the Vendée fighting than the Vendée conspiring. The Vendée fighting means the sword, the Vendée conspiring means the dagger.'"
"Oh! I know your dagger," said Bonaparte. "Here it is."
And he drew from a drawer the dagger he had taken from Roland and laid it on the table within reach of Morgan's hand.
"But," he added, "there is some distance between Bonaparte's breast and an assassin's dagger. Try."
And he advanced to the young man with a flaming eye.
"I did not come here to assassinate you," said the young man, coldly. "Later, if I consider your death indispensable to the cause, I shall do all in my power, and if I fail it will not be because you are Marius and I the Cimbrian. Have you anything else to say to me, citizen First Consul?" concluded the young man, bowing.
"Yes. Tell Cadoudal that when he is ready to fight the enemy, instead of Frenchmen, I have a colonel's commission ready signed in my desk for him."
"Cadoudal commands, not a regiment, but an army. You were unwilling to retrograde from Bonaparte to Monk; why should you expect him to descend from general to colonel? Have you nothing else to say to me, citizen First Consul?"
"Yes. Have you any way of transmitting my reply to the Comte de Provençe?"
"You mean King Louis XVIII.?"
"Don't let us quibble over words. To him who wrote to me."
"His envoy is now at the camp at Aubiers."
"Well, I have changed my mind; I shall send him an answer. These Bourbons are so blind that this one would misinterpret my silence."
And Bonaparte, sitting down at his desk, wrote the following letter with a care that showed he wished to make it legible:
I have received your
letter, monsieur. I thank you for the good
opinion you express in it of me. You must not wish for your return to
Then, folding and sealing the letter, he directed it to "Monsieur le Comte de Provençe," and handed it to Morgan. Then he called Roland, as if he knew the latter were not far off.
"General?" said the young officer, appearing instantly.
"Conduct this gentleman to the street," said Bonaparte. "Until then you are responsible for him."
Roland bowed in sign of obedience, let the young man, who said not a word, pass before him, and then followed. But before leaving, Morgan cast a last glance at Bonaparte.
The latter was still standing, motionless and silent, with folded arms, his eyes fixed upon the dagger, which occupied his thoughts far more than he was willing to admit even to himself.
As they crossed Roland's room, the Chief of the Companions of Jehu gathered up his cloak and pistols. While he was putting them in his belt, Roland remarked: "The citizen First Consul seems to have shown you a dagger which I gave him."
"Yes, monsieur," replied Morgan.
"Did you recognize it?"
"Not that one in particular; all our daggers are alike."
"Well," said Roland, "I will tell you whence it came."
"Ah! where was that?"
"From the breast of a friend of mine, where your Companions, possibly you yourself, thrust it."
"Possibly," replied the young man carelessly. "But your friend must have exposed himself to punishment."
"My friend wished to see what was happening at night in the Chartreuse."
"He did wrong."
"But I did the same wrong the night before, and nothing happened to me."
"Probably because some talisman protects you."
"Monsieur, let me tell you something. I am a straight-forward man who walks by daylight. I have a horror of all that is mysterious."
"Happy those who can walk the highroads by daylight, Monsieur de Montrevel!"
"That is why I am going to tell you the oath I made, Monsieur Morgan. As I drew the dagger you saw from my friend's breast, as carefully as possible, that I might not draw his soul with it, I swore that henceforward it should be war to the death between his assassins and myself. It was largely to tell you that that I gave you a pledge of safety."
"That is an oath I hope to see you forget, Monsieur de Montrevel."
"It is an oath I shall keep under all circumstances, Monsieur Morgan; and you would be most kind if you would furnish me with an opportunity as soon as possible."
"In what way, sir?"
"Well, for example, by accepting a meeting with me,
either in the Bois de Boulogne or at
"The pretext would suit me," replied Morgan, in a tone of sadness of which he seemed incapable, "if the duel itself could take place. You have taken an oath, and you mean to keep it, you say. Well, every initiate who enters the Company of Jehu swears that he will not expose in any personal quarrel a life that belongs to the cause and not to himself."
"Oh! So that you assassinate, but will not fight."
"You are mistaken. We sometimes fight."
"Have the goodness to point out an occasion when I may study that phenomenon."
"Easily enough. If you and five or six men, as resolute as yourself, will take your places in some diligence carrying government money, and will defend it against our attack, the occasion you seek will come. But, believe me, do better than that; do not come in our way."
"Is that a threat, sir?" asked the young man, raising his head.
"No," replied Morgan, in a gentle, almost supplicating voice, "it is an entreaty."
"Is it addressed to me in particular, or would you include others?"
"I make it to you in particular;" and the chief of the Companions of Jehu dwelt upon the last word.
"Ah!" exclaimed the young man, "then I am so fortunate as to interest you?"
"As a brother," replied Morgan, in the same soft, caressing tone.
"Well, well," said Roland, "this is decidedly a wager,"
Bourrienne entered at that moment.
"Roland," he said, "the First Consul wants you."
"Give me time to conduct this gentleman to the street, and I'll be with him."
"Hurry up; you know he doesn't like to wait."
"Will you follow me, sir?" Roland said to his mysterious companion.
"I am at your orders, sir."
"Come, then," And Roland, taking the same path by which he had brought Morgan, took him back, not to the door opening on the garden (the garden was closed), but to that on the street. Once there, he stopped and said: "Sir, I gave you my word, and I have kept it faithfully, But that there may be no misunderstanding between us, have the goodness to tell me that you understand it to have been for this one time and for to-day only."
"That was how I understood it, sir,"
"You give me back my word then?"
"I should like to keep it, sir; but I recognize that you are free to take it back."
"That is all I wish to know. Au revoir! Monsieur Morgan."
"Permit me not to offer you the same wish, Monsieur de Montrevel."
The two young men bowed with perfect courtesy, Roland
It is he whom we are now to follow.
After taking about a hundred steps Morgan removed his mask.
He ran more risk of being noticed in the streets of
When he reached the Rue Taranne he knocked at the door of a small furnished lodging-house at the corner of that street and the Rue du Dragon, took a candlestick from a table, a key numbered 12 from a nail, and climbed the stairs without exciting other attention than a well-known lodger would returning home. The clock was striking ten as he closed the door of his room. He listened attentively to the strokes, the light of his candle not reaching as far as the chimney-piece. He counted ten.
"Good!" he said to himself; "I shall not be too late."
In spite of this probability, Morgan seemed determined to lose no time. He passed a bit of tinder-paper under the heater on the hearth, which caught fire instantly. He lighted four wax-candles, all there were in the room, placed two on the mantel-shelf and two on a bureau opposite, and spread upon the bed a complete dress of the Incroyable of the very latest fashion. It consisted of a short coat, cut square across the front and long behind, of a soft shade between a pale-green and a pearl-gray; a waistcoat of buff plush, with eighteen mother-of-pearl buttons; an immense white cravat of the finest cambric; light trousers of white cashmere, decorated with a knot of ribbon where they buttoned above the calves, and pearl-gray silk stockings, striped transversely with the same green as the coat, and delicate pumps with diamond buckles. The inevitable eye-glass was not forgotten. As for the hat, it was precisely the same in which Carle Vernet painted his dandy of the Directory.
When these things were ready, Morgan waited with seeming impatience. At the end of five minutes he rang the bell. A waiter appeared.
"Hasn't the wig-maker come?" asked Morgan.
In those days wig-makers were not yet called hair-dressers.
"Yes, citizen," replied the waiter, "he came, but you had not yet returned, so he left word that he'd come back. Some one knocked just as you rang; it's probably--"
"Here, here," cried a voice on the stairs.
"Ah! bravo," exclaimed Morgan. "Come in, Master Cadenette; you must make a sort of Adonis of me."
"That won't be difficult, Monsieur le Baron," replied the wig-maker.
"Look here, look here; do you mean to compromise me, citizen Cadenette?"
"Monsieur le Baron, I entreat you, call me Cadenette; you'll honor me by that proof of familiarity; but don't call me citizen. Fie; that's a revolutionary denomination! Even in the worst of the Terror I always called my wife Madame Cadenette. Now, excuse me for not waiting for you; but there's a great ball in the Rue du Bac this evening, the ball of the Victims (the wig-maker emphasized this word). I should have thought that M. le Baron would be there."
"Why," cried Morgan, laughing; "so you are still a royalist, Cadenette?"
The wig-maker laid his hand tragically on his heart.
"Monsieur le Baron," said he, "it is not only a matter of conscience, but a matter of state."
"Conscience, I can understand that, Master Cadenette, but state! What the devil has the honorable guild of wigmakers to do with politics?"
"What, Monsieur le Baron?" said Cadenette, all the while getting ready to dress his client's hair; "you ask me that? You, an aristocrat!"
"Monsieur le Baron, we _ci-devants_ can say that to each other."
"So you are a _ci-devant_?"
"To the core! In what style shall I dress M. le Baron's hair?"
"Dog's ears, and tied up behind."
"With a dash of powder?"
"Two, if you like, Cadenette."
"Ah! monsieur, when one thinks that for five years I was the only man who had an atom of powder '_à la maréchale_.' Why, Monsieur le Baron, a man was guillotined for owning a box of powder!"
"I've known people who were guillotined for less than that, Cadenette. But explain how you happen to be a _ci-devant_. I like to understand everything."
"It's very simple, Monsieur le Baron. You admit, don't you, that among the guilds there were some that were more or less aristocratic."
"Beyond doubt; accordingly as they were nearer to the higher classes of society."
"That's it, Monsieur le Baron. Well, we had the higher
classes by the hair of their head. I, such as you see me, I have dressed Madame
de Polignac's hair; my father dressed Madame du Barry's; my grandfather, Madame
de Pompadour's. We had our privileges, Monsieur; we carried swords. It is true,
to avoid the accidents that were liable to crop up among hotheads like
ourselves, our swords were usually of wood; but at any rate, if they were not
the actual thing, they were very good imitations. Yes, Monsieur le Baron,"
continued Cadenette with a sigh, "those days were the good days, not only
for the wig-makers, but for all
"And those two men, those levellers, those two revolutionaries, who were they, Cadenette? that I may doom them, so far as it lies in my power, to public execration."
"M. Rousseau and citizen Talma: Monsieur Rousseau who said that absurdity, 'We must return to Nature,' and citizen Talma, who invented the Titus head-dress."
"That's true, Cadenette; that's true."
"When the Directory came in there was a moment's hope. M. Barras never gave up powder, and citizen Moulins stuck to his queue. But, you see, the 18th Brumaire has knocked it all down; how could any one friz Bonaparte's hair! Ah! there," continued Cadenette, puffing out the dog's ears of his client--"there's aristocratic hair for you, soft and fine as silk, and takes the tongs so well one would think you wore a wig. See, Monsieur le Baron, you wanted to be as handsome as Adonis! Ah! if Venus had seen you, it's not of Adonis that Mars would have been jealous!"
And Cadenette, now at the end of his labors and satisfied with the result, presented a hand-mirror to Morgan, who examined himself complacently.
"Come, come!" he said to the wig-maker, "you are certainly an artist, my dear fellow! Remember this style, for if ever they cut off my head I shall choose to have it dressed like that, for there will probably be women at my execution."
"And M. le Baron wants them to regret him," said the wig-maker gravely.
"Yes, and in the meantime, my dear Cadenette, here is a crown to reward your labors. Have the goodness to tell them below to call a carriage for me."
"Monsieur le Baron," said he, "time was when I should have answered: 'Show yourself at court with your hair dressed like that, and I shall be paid.' But there is no court now, Monsieur le Baron, and one must live. You shall have your carriage."
With which Cadenette sighed again, slipped Morgan's crown in his pocket, made the reverential bow of wig-makers and dancing-masters, and left the young man to complete his toilet.
The head being now dressed, the rest was soon done; the cravat alone took time, owing to the many failures that occurred; but Morgan concluded the difficult task with an experienced hand, and as eleven o'clock was striking he was ready to start. Cadenette had not forgotten his errand; a hackney-coach was at the door. Morgan jumped into it, calling out: "Rue du Bac, No. 60."
The coach turned into the Rue de Grenelle, went up the Rue du Bac, and stopped at No. 60.
"Here's a double fare, friend," said Morgan, "on condition that you don't stand before the door."
The driver took the three francs and disappeared around the corner of the Rue de Varennes. Morgan glanced up the front of the house; it seemed as though he must be mistaken, so dark and silent was it. But he did not hesitate; he rapped in a peculiar fashion.
The door opened. At the further end of the courtyard was a building, brilliantly lighted. The young man went toward it, and, as he approached, the sound of instruments met his ear. He ascended a flight of stairs and entered the dressing-room. There he gave his cloak to the usher whose business it was to attend to the wraps.
"Here is your number," said the usher. "As for your weapons, you are to place them in the gallery where you can find them easily."
Morgan put the number in his trousers pocket, and entered the great gallery transformed into an arsenal. It contained a complete collection of arms of all kinds, pistols, muskets, carbines, swords, and daggers. As the ball might at any moment be invaded by the police, it was necessary that every dancer be prepared to turn defender at an instant's notice. Laying his weapons aside, Morgan entered the ballroom.
We doubt if any pen could give the reader an adequate idea of the scene of that ball. Generally, as the name "Ball of the Victims" indicated, no one was admitted except by the strange right of having relatives who had either been sent to the scaffold by the Convention or the Commune of Paris, blown to pieces by Collot d'Herbois, or drowned by Carrier. As, however, the victims guillotined during the three years of the Terror far outnumbered the others, the dresses of the majority of those who were present were the clothes of the victims of the scaffold. Thus, most of the young girls, whose mothers and older sisters had fallen by the hands of the executioner, wore the same costume their mothers and sisters had worn for that last lugubrious ceremony; that is to say, a white gown and red shawl, with their hair cut short at the nape of the neck. Some added to this costume, already so characteristic, a detail that was even more significant; they knotted around their necks a thread of scarlet silk, fine as the blade of a razor, which, as in Faust's Marguerite, at the Witches' Sabbath, indicated the cut of the knife between the throat and the collar bone.
As for the men who were in the same case, they wore the collars of their coats turned down behind, those of their shirt wide open, their necks bare, and their hair, cut short.
But many had other rights of entrance to this ball besides that of having Victims in their families; some had made victims themselves. These latter were increasing. There were present men of forty or forty-five years of age, who had been trained in the boudoirs of the beautiful courtesans of the seventeenth century--who had known Madame du Barry in the attics of Versailles, Sophie Arnoult with M. de Lauraguais, La Duthé with the Comte d'Artois--who had borrowed from the courtesies of vice the polish with which they covered their ferocity. They were still young and handsome; they entered a salon, tossing their perfumed locks and their scented handkerchiefs; nor was it a useless precaution, for if the odor of musk or verbena had not masked it they would have smelled of blood.
There were men there twenty-five or thirty years old, dressed with extreme elegance, members of the association of Avengers, who seemed possessed with the mania of assassination, the lust of slaughter, the frenzy of blood, which no blood could quench--men who, when the order came to kill, killed all, friends or enemies; men who carried their business methods into the business of murder, giving their bloody checks for the heads of such or such Jacobins, and paying on sight.
There were younger men, eighteen and twenty, almost children, but children fed, like Achilles, on the marrow of wild beasts, like Pyrrhus, on the flesh of bears; here were the pupil-bandits of Schiller, the apprentice-judges of the Sainte-Vehme--that strange generation that follows great political convulsions, like the Titans after chaos, the hydras after the Deluge; as the vultures and crows follow the carnage.
Here was the spectre of iron impassible, implacable, inflexible, which men call Retaliation; and this spectre mingled with the guests. It entered the gilded salons; it signalled with a look, a gesture, a nod, and men followed where it led. It was, as says the author from whom we have borrowed these hitherto unknown but authentic details, "a merry lust for extermination."
The Terror had affected great cynicism in clothes, a Spartan austerity in its food, the profound contempt of a barbarous people for arts and enjoyments. The Thermidorian reaction was, on the contrary, elegant, opulent, adorned; it exhausted all luxuries, all voluptuous pleasures, as in the days of Louis XV.; with one addition, the luxury of vengeance, the lust of blood.
Fréron's name was given to the youth of the day, which was called the jeunesse Fréron, or the _jéunesse dorée_ (gilded youth). Why Fréron? Why should he rather than others receive that strange and fatal honor?
I cannot tell you--my researches (those who know me will do me the justice to admit that when I have an end in view, I do not count them)--my researches have not discovered an answer. It was a whim of Fashion, and Fashion is the one goddess more capricious than Fortune.
Our readers will hardly know to-day who Fréron was. The
Fréron who was Voltaire's assailant was better known than he who was the patron
of these elegant assassins; one was the son of the other. Louis Stanislas was
son of Elie-Catherine. The father died of rage when Miromesnil, Keeper of the
Seals, suppressed his journal. The other, irritated by the injustices of which
his father had been the victim, had at first ardently embraced the
revolutionary doctrines. Instead of the "Année Littéraire," strangled
to death in 1775, he created the "Orateur du Peuple," in 1789. He was
sent to the Midi on a special mission, and
It was to the midst of this _jeunesse_ Fréron, mouthing its words, slurring its r's, giving its "word of honor" about everything, that Morgan now made his way.
It must be admitted that this _jeunesse_, in spite of the clothes it wore, in spite of the memories these clothes evoked, was wildly gay. This seems incomprehensible, but it is true. Explain if you can that Dance of Death at the beginning of the fifteenth century, which, with all the fury of a modern galop, led by Musard, whirled its chain through the very Cemetery of the Innocents, and left amid its tombs fifty thousand of its votaries.
Morgan was evidently seeking some one.
A young dandy, who was dipping into the silver-gilt comfit-box of a charming victim, with an ensanguined finger, the only part of his delicate hand that had escaped the almond paste, tried to stop him, to relate the particulars of the expedition from which he had brought back this bloody trophy. But Morgan smiled, pressed his other hand which was gloved, and contented himself with replying: "I am looking for some one."
"Company of Jehu."
The young man with the bloody finger let him pass. An adorable Fury, as Corneille would have called her, whose hair was held up by a dagger with a blade as sharp as a needle, barred his way, saying: "Morgan, you are the handsomest, the bravest, the most deserving of love of all the men present. What have you to say to the woman who tells you that?"
"I answer that I love," replied Morgan, "and that my heart is too narrow to hold one hatred and two loves." And he continued on his search.
Two young men who were arguing, one saying, "He was English," the other, "He was German," stopped him.
"The deuce," cried one; "here is the man who can settle it for us."
"No," replied Morgan, trying to push past them; "I'm in a hurry."
"There's only a word to say," said the other. "We have made a bet, Saint-Amand and I, that the man who was tried and executed at the Chartreuse du Seillon, was, according to him, a German, and, according to me, an Englishman."
"I don't know," replied Morgan; "I wasn't there. Ask Hector; he presided that night."
"Tell us where Hector is?"
"Tell me rather where Tiffauges is; I am looking for him."
"Over there, at the end of the room," said the young man, pointing to a part of the room where the dance was more than usually gay and animated. "You will recognize him by his waistcoat; and his trousers are not to be despised. I shall have a pair like them made with the skin of the very first hound I meet."
Morgan did not take time to ask in what way Tiffauges' waistcoat was remarkable, or by what queer cut or precious material his trousers had won the approbation of a man as expert in such matters as he who had spoken to him. He went straight to the point indicated by the young man, saw the person he was seeking dancing an été, which seemed, by the intricacy of its weaving, if I may be pardoned for this technical term, to have issued from the salons of Vestris himself.
Morgan made a sign to the dancer. Tiffauges stopped instantly, bowed to his partner, led her to her seat, excused himself on the plea of the urgency of the matter which called him away, and returned to take Morgan's arm.
"Did you see him," Tiffauges asked Morgan.
"I have just left him," replied the latter.
"Did you deliver the King's letter?"
"Did he read it?"
"Has he sent an answer?"
"Two; one verbal, one written; the second dispenses with the first."
"You have it?"
"Here it is."
"Do you know the contents?"
"Nothing could be more positive."
"Does he know that from the moment he takes all hope away from us we shall treat him as an enemy?"
"I told him so."
"What did he answer?"
"He didn't answer; he shrugged his shoulders."
"What do you think his intentions are?"
"It's not difficult to guess."
"Does he mean to keep the power himself?"
"It looks like it."
"The power, but not the throne?"
"Why not the throne?"
"He would never dare to make himself king."
"Oh! I can't say he means to be absolutely king, but I'll answer for it that he means to be something."
"But he is nothing but a soldier of fortune!"
"My dear fellow, better in these days to be the son of his deeds, than the grandson of a king."
The young man thought a moment.
"I shall report it all to Cadoudal," he said.
"And add that the First Consul said these very words: 'I hold the Vendée in the hollow of my hand, and if I choose in three months not another shot will be fired.'"
"It's a good thing to know."
"You know it; let Cadoudal know it, and take measures."
Just then the music ceased; the hum of the dancers died away; complete silence prevailed; and, in the midst of this silence, four names were pronounced in a sonorous and emphatic voice.
These four names were Morgan, Montbar, Adler and d'Assas.
"Pardon me," Morgan said to Tiffauges, "they are probably arranging some expedition in which I am to take part. I am forced, therefore, to my great regret, to bid you farewell. Only before I leave you let me look closer at your waistcoat and trousers, of which I have heard--curiosity of an amateur; I trust you will excuse it."
"Surely!" exclaimed the young Vendéan, "most willingly."
With a rapidity and good nature that did honor to his courtesy, he went close to the candelabra, which were burning on the chimney-piece. The waistcoat and trousers seemed to be of the same stuff; but what was that stuff? The most experienced connoisseur would have been puzzled.
The trousers were tight-fitting as usual, of a light tint between buff and flesh color; the only remarkable thing about them was the absence of the seam, and the closeness with which they clung to the leg. The waistcoat, on the other hand, had two characteristic signs which attracted attention; it had been pierced by three balls, which had the holes gaping, and these were stained a carmine, so like blood, that it might easily have been mistaken for it. On the left side was painted a bloody heart, the distinguishing sign of the Vendéans. Morgan examined the two articles with the closest attention, but without result.
"If I were not in such a hurry," said he, "I should like to look into the matter for myself. But you heard for yourself; in all probability, some news has reached the committee; government money probably. You can announce it to Cadoudal; only we shall have to take it first. Ordinarily, I command these expeditions; if I delay, some one may take my place. So tell me what your waistcoat and trousers are made of."
"My dear Morgan," replied the Vendéan, "perhaps you have heard that my brother was captured near Bressure, and shot by the Blues?"
"Yes, I know that."
"The Blues were retreating; they left the body at the corner of the hedge. We were pursuing them so closely that we arrived just after them. I found the body of my brother still warm. In one of his wounds a sprig was stuck with these words: 'Shot as a brigand by me, Claude Flageolet, corporal of the Third Battalion of Paris.' I took my brother's body, and had the skin removed from his breast. I vowed that this skin, pierced with three holes, should eternally cry vengeance before my eyes. I made it my battle waistcoat."
"Ah!" exclaimed Morgan, with a certain astonishment, in which, for the first time, was mingled something akin to terror--"Ah! then that waistcoat is made of your brother's skin? And the trousers?"
"Oh!" replied the Vendéan, "the trousers, that's another matter. They are made of the skin of Claude Flageolet, corporal of the Third Battalion of Paris."
At that moment the voice again called out, in the same order, the names of Morgan, Montbar, Adler and d'Assas.
Morgan rushed out of the study, crossed the dancing-hall from end to end, and made his way to a little salon on the other side of the dressing-room. His three companions, Montbar, Adler and d'Assas, were there already. With them was a young man in the government livery of a bearer of despatches, namely a green and gold coat. His boots were dusty, and he wore a visored cap and carried the despatch-box, the essential accoutrements of a cabinet courier.
One of Cassini's maps, on which could be followed the whole lay of the land, was spread on the table.
Before saying why this courier was there, and with what object the map was unfolded, let us cast a glance at the three new personages whose names had echoed through the ballroom, and who are destined to play an important part in the rest of this history.
The reader already knows Morgan, the Achilles and the Paris of this strange association; Morgan, with his blue eyes, his black hair, his tall, well-built figure, graceful, easy, active bearing; his eye, which was never without animation; his mouth, with its fresh lips and white teeth, that was never without a smile; his remarkable countenance, composed of mingling elements that seemed so foreign to each other--strength and tenderness, gentleness and energy; and, through it all, that bewildering expression of gayety that was at times alarming when one remembered that this man was perpetually rubbing shoulders with death, and the most terrifying of all deaths--that of the scaffold.
As for d'Assas, he was a man from thirty-five to thirty-eight years of age, with bushy hair that was turning gray, and mustaches as black as ebony. His eyes were of that wonderful shade of Indian eyes, verging on maroon. He was formerly a captain of dragoons, admirably built for struggle, whether physical or moral, his muscles indicating strength, and his face, obstinacy. For the rest, a noble bearing, great elegance of manners, scented like a dandy, carrying, either from caprice or luxury, a bottle of English smelling-salts, or a silver-gilt vinaigrette containing the most subtle perfumes.
Montbar and Adler, whose real names were unknown, like those of d'Assas and Morgan, were commonly called by the Company "the inseparables." Imagine Damon and Pythias, Euryalus and Nisus, Orestes and Pylades at twenty-two--one joyous, loquacious, noisy, the other melancholy, silent, dreamy; sharing all things, dangers, money, mistresses; one the complement of the other; each rushing to all extremes, but forgetting self when in peril to watch over the other, like the Spartan youths on the sacred legions--and you will form an idea of Montbar and Adler.
It is needless to say that all three were Companions of Jehu. They had been convoked, as Morgan suspected, on business of the Company.
On entering the room, Morgan went straight to the pretended bearer of despatches and shook hands with him.
"Ah! the dear friend," said the latter, with a
stiff movement, showing that the best rider cannot do a hundred and fifty miles
on post-hacks with impunity. "You are taking it easy, you Parisians.
"My dear Hastier--" began Morgan.
"Stop!" cried Hastier. "No proper names, if
you please, gentlemen. The Hastiers are an honest family in
"No," replied the three young men, "and we ask pardon for Morgan, who did wrong."
"My dear Lecoq," exclaimed Morgan.
"That's right," interrupted Hastier. "I answer to that name! Well, what did you want to tell me?"
"I wanted to say that if you are not the antipodes of the god Harpocrates, whom the Egyptians represent with a finger on his lips, you will, instead of indulging in a lot of declamations, more or less flowery, tell us why this costume, and why that map?"
"The deuce!" retorted the young man. "If you
don't know already, it's your fault and not mine. If I hadn't been obliged to
call you twice, caught as you doubtless were in the toils of some beautiful
Eumenides imploring vengeance of a fine young man for the death of her old
parents, you'd know as much as these gentlemen, and I wouldn't have to sing an
encore. Well, here's what it is: simply of the remaining treasure of the
"We were informed of this by Renard, who started from
Gex at full speed, and transmitted the news to l'Hirondelle, who is at present
stationed at Châlon-sur-Saône. He transmitted it to me, Lecoq, at Auxerre, and
I have done a hundred and fifty miles to transmit it in turn to you. As for the
secondary details, here they are. The treasure left
"By heavens!" cried Morgan, "we say that there seems to be no room for argument left; we say we should never have permitted ourselves to touch the money of their Highnesses the bears of Berne so long as it remained in their coffers; but as it has changed hands once, I see no objection to its doing so a second time. Only how are we to start?"
"Haven't you a post-chaise?"
"Yes, it's here in the coach-house."
"Haven't you horses to get you to the next stage?"
"They are in the stable."
"Haven't you each your passports."
"We have each four."
"Well, we can't stop the diligence in a post-chaise. We don't put ourselves to too much inconvenience, but we don't take our ease in that way."
"Well, and why not?" asked Montbar; "it would be original. I can't see why, if sailors board from one vessel to another, we couldn't board a diligence from a post-chaise. We want novelty; shall we try it, Adler?"
"I ask nothing better," replied the latter, "but what will we do with the postilion?"
"That's true," replied Montbar.
"The difficulty is foreseen, my children," said
the courier; "a messenger has been sent to
"Shall we change our clothes?" inquired d'Assas.
"What for?" replied Morgan. "I think we are very presentable as we are. No diligence could be relieved of unnecessary weight by better dressed fellows. Let us take a last glance at the map, transfer a pâté, a cold chicken, and a dozen of champagne from the supper-room to the pockets of the coach, arm to the teeth in the arsenal, wrap ourselves in warm cloaks, and--clack! postilion!"
"Yes!" cried Montbar, "that's the idea."
"I should think so," added Morgan. "We'll kill the horses if necessary, and be back at seven in the evening, in time to show ourselves at the opera."
"That will establish an alibi," observed d'Assas.
"Precisely," said Morgan, with his imperturbable gayety. "How could men who applaud Mademoiselle Clotilde and M. Vestris at eight o'clock in the evening have been at Bar and Chatillon in the morning settling accounts with the conductor of a diligence? Come, my sons, a last look at the map to choose our spot."
The four young men bent over Cassini's map.
"If I may give you a bit of topographical advice," said the courier, "it would be to put yourselves in ambush just beyond Massu; there's a ford opposite to the Riceys--see, there!"
And the young man pointed out the exact spot on the map.
"I should return to Chacource, there; from Chacource
you have a department road, straight as an arrow, which will take you to
"Adopted, so far as I am concerned," said Morgan.
"Adopted!" cried the other three in chorus.
Morgan pulled out one of the two watches whose chains were dangling from his belt; it was a masterpiece of Petitot's enamel, and on the outer case which protected the painting was a diamond monogram. The pedigree of this beautiful trinket was as well established as that of an Arab horse; it had been made for Marie-Antoinette, who had given it to the Duchesse de Polastron, who had given it to Morgan's mother.
"One o'clock," said Morgan; "come, gentlemen, we must relay at Lagny at three."
From that moment the expedition had begun, and Morgan became its leader; he no longer consulted, he commanded.
D'Assas, who in Morgan's absence commanded, was the first to obey on his return.
Half an hour later a closed carriage containing four young
men wrapped in their cloaks was stopped at the
"Oh, what a joke!" exclaimed one of them, putting his head out of the window and affecting the pronunciation of the day. "Passpawts to dwive to Gwobois to call on citizen _Ba-as_? 'Word of fluted honor!' you're cwazy, fwend! Go on, dwiver!"
The coachman whipped up his horses and the carriage passed without further opposition.
Let us leave our four _hunters_ on their way to Lagny--where, thanks to the passports they owed to the obligingness of certain clerks in citizen Fouché's employ, they exchanged their own horses for post-horses and their coachman for a postilion--and see why the First Consul had sent for Roland.
After leaving Morgan, Roland had hastened to obey the general's orders. He found the latter standing in deep thought before the fireplace. At the sound of his entrance General Bonaparte raised his head.
"What were you two saying to each other?" asked Bonaparte, without preamble, trusting to Roland's habit of answering his thought.
"Why," said Roland, "we paid each other all sorts of compliments, and parted the best friends in the world."
"How does he impress you?"
"As a perfectly well-bred man."
"How old do you take him to be?"
"About my age, at the outside."
"So I think; his voice is youthful. What now, Roland, can I be mistaken? Is there a new royalist generation growing up?"
"No, general," replied Roland, shrugging his shoulders; "it's the remains of the old one."
"Well, Roland, we must build up another, devoted to my son--if ever I have one."
Roland made a gesture which might be translated into the words, "I don't object." Bonaparte understood the gesture perfectly.
"You must do more than not object," said he; "you must contribute to it."
A nervous shudder passed over Roland's body.
"In what way, general?" he asked.
Roland burst out laughing.
"Good! With my aneurism?" he asked.
Bonaparte looked at him, and said: "My dear Roland, your aneurism looks to me very much like a pretext for remaining single."
"Do you think so?"
"Yes; and as I am a moral man I insist upon marriage."
"Does that mean that I am immoral," retorted Roland, "or that I cause any scandal with my mistresses?"
"Augustus," answered Bonaparte, "created laws against celibates, depriving them of their rights as Roman citizens."
"I'll wait until you are Augustus; as yet, you are only Cæsar."
Bonaparte came closer to the young man, and, laying his hands on his shoulders, said: "Roland, there are some names I do not wish to see extinct, and among them is that of Montrevel."
"Well, general, in my default, supposing that through caprice or obstinacy I refuse to perpetuate it, there is my little brother."
"What! Your brother? Then you have a brother?"
"Why, yes; I have a brother! Why shouldn't I have brother?"
"How old is he?"
"Eleven or twelve."
"Why did you never tell me about him?"
"Because I thought the sayings and doings of a youngster of that age could not interest you."
"You are mistaken, Roland; I am interested in all that concerns my friends. You ought to have asked me for something for your brother."
"Asked what, general?"
"His admission into some college in
"Pooh! You have enough beggars around you without my swelling their number."
"You hear; he is to come to
"Faith, general," said Roland, "just as if I
had guessed your good intentions, he is this very day on the point of, starting
"I wrote to my mother three days ago to bring the boy
"In that case?"
"Oh! in that case I have left a bit of a will addressed to you, and recommending to your kindness my mother, and the boy and the girl--in short, the whole raft."
"The girl! Who is she?"
"So you have a sister also?"
"How old is she?"
"I'll take charge of her establishment."
Roland began to laugh.
"What's the matter?" demanded the First Consul.
"General, I'm going to put a placard over the grand
entrance to the
"What will you put on the placard?"
"'Marriages made here.'"
"Why not? Is it any reason because you don't wish to marry for your sister to remain an old maid? I don't like old maids any better than I do old bachelors."
"I did not say, general, that my sister should remain an old maid; it's quite enough for one member of the Montrevel family to have incurred your displeasure."
"Then what do you mean?"
"Only that, as the matter concerns my sister, she must, if you will allow it, be consulted."
"Ah, ha! Some provincial love-affair, is there?"
"I can't say. I left poor Amélie gay and happy, and I find her pale and sad. I shall get the truth out of her; and if you wish me to speak to you again about the matter, I will do so."
"Yes, do so--when you get back from the Vendée."
"Ah! So I am going to the Vendée?"
"Why, is that, like marriage, repugnant, to you?"
"Not in the least."
"Then you are going to the Vendée."
"Oh, you need not hurry, providing you start to-morrow."
"Excellent; sooner if you wish. Tell me what I am to do there."
"Something of the utmost importance, Roland."
"The devil! It isn't a diplomatic mission, I presume?"
"Yes; it is a diplomatic mission for which I need a man who is not a diplomatist."
"Then I'm your man, general! Only, you understand, the less a diplomatist I am, the more precise my instructions must be."
"I am going to give them to you. Do you see that map?"
And he showed the young man a large map of
"Yes, I see it," replied Roland, accustomed to
follow the general along the unexpected dashes of his genius; "but it is a
"Yes, it's a map of
"So there is still a question of
"There is always a question of
"I thought you spoke of the Vendée?"
"Why, general, you are not going to send me to the
Vendée and go yourself to
"No; don't be alarmed."
"All right; but I warn you, if you did, I should desert and join you."
"I give you permission to do so; but now let us go back to Mélas."
"Excuse me, general; this is the first time you have mentioned him."
"Yes; but I have been thinking of him for a long time. Do you know where I shall defeat him?"
"The deuce! I do."
"Wherever you meet him."
"Ninny!" he said, with loving familiarity. Then, stooping over the map, he said to Roland, "Come here."
Roland stooped beside him. "There," resumed Bonaparte; "that is where I shall fight him."
"Within eight or nine miles of it. He has all his
supplies, hospitals, artillery and reserves in
"Oh! trust you for that!"
"Yes; but you understand, Roland, that in order to quit
"Ah! now I see what you are after. No Vendée! And you are sending me to the Vendée to suppress it."
"That young man told me some serious things about the Vendée. They are brave soldiers, those Vendéans, led by a man of brains, Georges Cadoudal. I have sent him the offer of a regiment, but he won't accept."
"Jove! He's particular."
"But there's one thing he little knows."
"Yes, Cadoudal. That is that the Abbé Bernier has made me overtures."
"The Abbé Bernier?"
"Who is the Abbé Bernier?"
"The son of a peasant from
"Well, the Abbé Bernier, general agent of the belligerent forces, and furnished with plenary powers by the Comte d'Artois--the Abbé Bernier has made overtures to me."
"To you, to Bonaparte, to the First Consul he deigns to--? Why, that's very kind of the Abbé Bernier? Have you accepted them?"
"Yes, Roland; if the Vendée will give me peace, I will open her churches and give her back her priests."
"And suppose they chant the _Domine, salvum fac regem?_"
"That would be better than not singing at all. God is omnipotent, and he will decide. Does the mission suit you, now that I have explained it?"
"Then, here is a letter for General Hédouville. He is to treat with the Abbé Bernier as the general-in-chief of the Army of the West. But you are to be present at all these conferences; he is only my mouthpiece, you are to be my thought. Now, start as soon as possible; the sooner you get back, the sooner Mélas will be defeated."
"General, give me time to write to my mother, that's all."
"Where will she stop?"
"At the Hôtel des Ambassadeurs."
"When do you think she will arrive?"
"This is the night of the 21st of January; she will be here the evening of the 23d, or the morning of the 24th."
"And she stops at the Hôtel des Ambassadeurs?"
"I take it all on myself."
"Take it all on yourself, general?"
"Certainly; your mother can't stay at a hotel."
"Where should she stay?"
"With a friend."
"She knows no one in
"I beg your pardon, Monsieur Roland; she knows citizen Bonaparte, First Consul, and his wife."
"You are not going to lodge my mother at the
"No; but I shall lodge her in the Rue de la Victoire."
"Come, come; that's settled. Go, now, and get back as soon as possible."
Roland took the First Consul's hand, meaning to kiss it; but Bonaparte drew him quickly to him.
"Embrace me, my dear Roland," he said, "and good luck to you."
Two hours later Roland was rolling along in a post-chaise on
the road to
About the hour when Roland was entering
In those days the diligences had but two compartments, the coupé and the interior; the rotunda is an adjunct of modern times.
The diligence had hardly stopped before the postilion jumped down and opened the doors. The travellers dismounted. There were seven in all, of both sexes. In the interior, three men, two women, and a child at the breast; in the coupé, a mother and her son.
The three men in the interior were, one a doctor from
The mother and son in the coupé were people of position; the former, about forty years of age, still preserving traces of great beauty, the latter a boy between eleven and twelve. The third place in the coupe was occupied by the conductor.
Breakfast was waiting, as usual, in the dining-room; one of those breakfasts which conductors, no doubt in collusion with the landlords, never give travellers the time to eat. The woman and the nurse got out of the coach and went to a baker's shop nearby, where each bought a hot roll and a sausage, with which they went back to the coach, settling themselves quietly to breakfast, thus saving the cost, probably too great for their means, of a meal at the hotel.
The doctor, the watchmaker, the architect and the mother and son entered the inn, and, after warming themselves hastily at the large kitchen-fire, entered the dining-room and took seats at the table.
The mother contented herself with a cup of coffee with
cream, and some fruit. The boy, delighted to prove himself a man by his
appetite at least, boldly attacked the viands. The first few moments were, as
usual, employed in satisfying hunger. The watchmaker from
"Faith, citizen," said he (the word citizen was still used in public places), "I tell you frankly I was not at all sorry to see daylight this morning."
"Cannot monsieur sleep in a coach?" asked the doctor.
"Oh, yes, sir," replied the compatriot of Jean-Jacques; "on the contrary, I usually sleep straight through the night. But anxiety was stronger than fatigue this time."
"Were you afraid of upsetting?" asked the architect.
"No. I'm very lucky in that respect; it seems enough for me to be in a coach to make it unupsettable. No, that wasn't it."
"What was it, then?" questioned the doctor.
"They say in
"That's according to circumstances," said the architect.
"Ah! how's that?" inquired the watchmaker.
"Oh!" replied the architect; "if, for example, we were carrying government money, we would surely be stopped, or rather we would have been already."
"Do you think so?" queried the watchmaker.
"That has never failed. I don't know how those devils of Companions of Jehu manage to keep so well posted; but they never miss an opportunity."
The doctor nodded affirmatively.
"Ah!" exclaimed the watchmaker, addressing the doctor; "do you think so, too?"
"And if you knew there was government money in the coach, would you be so imprudent as to take passage in it?"
"I must admit," replied the doctor, "that I should think twice about it."
"And you, sir?" said the questioner to the architect.
"Oh, I," replied the latter--"as I am on important business, I should have started anyway."
"I am tempted," said the watchmaker "to take
off my valise and my oases, and wait for to-morrow's diligence, because my
boxes are filled with watches worth something like twenty thousand francs.
We've been lucky so far, but there's no use tempting
"Did you not hear these gentlemen say," remarked the lady, joining in the conversation for the first time, "that we run the risk of being stopped only when the coach carries government money?"
"That's exactly it," replied the watchmaker, looking anxiously around. "We are carrying it."
The mother blanched visibly and looked at her son. Before fearing for herself every mother fears for her child.
"What! we are carrying it?" asked the doctor and the architect in varying tones of excitement. "Are you sure of what you are saying?"
"Perfectly sure, gentlemen."
"Then you should either have told us before, or have told us in a whisper now."
"But perhaps," said the doctor, "the gentleman is not quite sure of what he says."
"Or perhaps he is joking," added the architect.
"The Genevese are very fond of a laugh," persisted the doctor.
"Sir," replied the Genevese, much hurt that any one should think he liked to laugh, "I saw it put on the coach myself."
"Was there much?"
"A good many bags."
"But where does the money come from?"
"The treasury of the bears of
The doctor burst out laughing.
"Decidedly, sir, you are trying to frighten us," said he.
"Gentlemen," said the watchmaker, "I give you my word of honor--"
"Take your places gentlemen," shouted the conductor, opening the door. "Take your places! We are three-quarters of an hour late."
"One moment, conductor, one moment," Said the architect; "we are consulting."
"Close the door, conductor, and come over here."
"Drink a glass of wine with us, conductor."
"With pleasure, gentlemen; a glass of wine is never to be refused."
The conductor held out his glass, and the three travellers touched it; but just as he was lifting it to his lips the doctor stopped his arm.
"Come, conductor, frankly, is it true?"
"What this gentleman says?" And he pointed to the Genevese.
"I don't know if that is his name."
"Yes, sir, that is my name--Féraud & Company, No. 6
Rue du Rempart,
"Gentlemen," repeated the conductor, "take your places!"
"But you haven't answered."
"What the devil shall I answer? You haven't asked me anything."
"Yes, we asked you if it is true that you are carrying a large sum of money belonging to the French Government?"
"Blabber!" said the conductor to watchmaker, "did you tell that?"
"Confound it, my worthy fellow--"
"Come, gentlemen, your places."
"But before getting in we want to know--"
"What? Whether I have government money? Yes I have. Now, if we are stopped, say nothing and all will be well."
"Are you sure?"
"Leave me to arrange matters with these gentry."
"What will you do if we are stopped?" the doctor asked the architect.
"Faith! I shall follow the conductor's advice."
"That's the best thing to do," observed the latter.
"Well, I shall keep quiet," repeated the architect.
"And so shall I," added the watchmaker.
"Come, gentlemen, take your seats, and let us make haste."
The boy had listened to this conversation with frowning brow and clinched teeth.
"Well," he said to his mother, "if we are stopped, I know what I'll do."
"What will you do?" she asked.
"What does this little boy say?" asked the watchmaker.
"I say you are all cowards," replied the child unhesitatingly.
"Edouard!" exclaimed his mother, "what do you mean?"
"I wish they'd stop the diligence, that I do!" cried the boy, his eye sparkling with determination.
"Come, come, gentlemen, in Heaven's name, take your places," called the conductor once more.
"Conductor," said the doctor, "I presume you have no weapons!"
"Yes, I have my pistols."
The conductor stooped to the doctor's ear and whispered: "Don't be alarmed, doctor; they're only loaded with powder."
"Forward, postilion, forward!" shouted the conductor, closing the door of the interior. Then, while the postilion snapped his whip and started the heavy vehicle, he also closed that of the coupé.
"Are you not coming with us, conductor?" asked the lady.
"Thank you, no, Madame de Montrevel," replied the conductor; "I have something to do on the imperial." Then, looking into the window, he added: "Take care the Monsieur Edouard does not touch the pistols in the pocket of the carriage; he might hurt himself."
"Pooh!" retorted the boy, "as if I didn't
know how to handle a pistol. I have handsomer ones than yours, that my friend
Sir John had sent me from
"Never mind, Edouard," replied Madame de Montrevel, "I entreat you not to touch them."
"Don't worry, little mother." Then he added softly, "All the same, if the Companions of Jehu stop us, I know what I shall do."
The diligence was again rolling heavily on its way to
It was one of those fine winter days which makes those who think that nature is dead at that season admit that nature never dies but only sleeps. The man who lives to be seventy or eighty years of age has his nights of ten or twelve hours, and often complains that the length of his nights adds to the shortness of his days. Nature, which has an everlasting existence; trees, which live a thousand years; have sleeping periods of four or five months, which are winters for us but only nights for them. The poets, in their envious verse, sing the immortality of nature, which dies each autumn and revives each spring. The poets are mistaken; nature does not die each autumn, she only falls asleep; she is not resuscitated, she awakens. The day when our globe really dies, it will be dead indeed. Then it will roll into space or fall into the abysses of chaos, inert, mute, solitary, without trees, without flowers, without verdure, without poets.
But on this beautiful day of the 23d of February, 1800, sleeping nature dreamed of spring; a brilliant, almost joyous sun made the grass in the ditches on either side of the road sparkle with those deceptive pearls of the hoarfrost which vanish at a touch, and rejoice the heart of a tiller of the earth when he sees them glittering at the points of his wheat as it pushes bravely up through the soil. All the windows of the diligence were lowered, to give entrance to this earliest smile of the Divine, as though all hearts were saying: "Welcome back, traveller long lost in the clouds of the West, or beneath the heaving billows of Ocean!"
Suddenly, about an hour after leaving Châtillon, the diligence stopped at a bend of the river without any apparent cause. Four horsemen quietly approached, walking their horses, and one of them, a little in advance of the others, made a sign with his hand to the postilion, ordering him to draw up. The postilion obeyed.
"Oh, mamma!" cried Edouard, standing up and leaning out of the window in spite of Madame de Montrevel's protestations; "oh, mamma, what fine horses! But why do these gentlemen wear masks? This isn't carnival."
Madame de Montrevel was dreaming. A woman always dreams a little; young, of the future; old, of the past. She started from her revery, put her head out of the window, and gave a little cry.
Edouard turned around hastily.
"What ails you, mother?" he asked.
Madame de Montrevel turned pale and took him in her arms without a word. Cries of terror were heard in the interior.
"But what is the matter?" demanded little Edouard, struggling to escape from his mother's encircling arms.
"Nothing, my little man," said one of the masked men in a gentle voice, putting his head through the window of the coupé; "nothing but an account we have to settle with the conductor, which does not in the least concern you travellers. Tell your mother to accept our respectful homage, and to pay no more heed to us than if we were not here." Then passing to the door of the interior, he added: "Gentlemen, your servant. Fear nothing for your money or jewels, and reassure that nurse--we have not come here to turn her milk." Then to the conductor: "Now, then, Père Jérôme, we have a hundred thousand francs on the imperial and in the boxes, haven't we?"
"Gentlemen, I assure you--"
"That the money belongs to the government. It did
belong to the bears of
At the words "bottom of the coupe" Madame de Montrevel gave another cry of terror; she was about to come in contact with men who, in spite of their politeness, inspired her with the most profound terror.
"But what is the matter, mother, what is the matter?" demanded the boy impatiently.
"Be quiet, Edouard; be quiet!"
"Why must I be quiet?"
"Don't you understand?"
"The coach has been stopped."
"Why? Tell me why? Ah, mother, I understand."
"No, no," said Madame de Montrevel, "you don't understand."
"Those gentlemen are robbers."
"Take care you don't say so."
"What, you mean they are not robbers? Why, see they are taking the conductor's money."
Sure enough, one of the four was fastening to the saddle of his horse the bags of silver which the conductor threw down from the imperial.
"No," repeated Madame de Montrevel, "no, they are not robbers." Then lowering her voice, she added: "They are Companions of Jehu."
"Ah!" cried the boy, "they are the ones who assassinated my friend, Sir John."
And the child turned very pale, and his breath came hissing through his clinched teeth.
At that moment one of the masked men opened the door of the coupé, and said with exquisite politeness: "Madame la Comtesse, to our great regret we are obliged to disturb you; but we want, or rather the conductor wants, a package from the bottom of the coupé. Will you be so kind as to get out for a moment? Jérôme will get what he wants as quickly as possible." Then, with that note of gayety which was never entirely absent from that laughing voice, he added, "Won't you, Jérôme?"
Jérôme replied from the top of the diligence, confirming these words.
With an instinctive movement to put herself between the danger and her son, Madame de Montrevel, while complying with that request, pushed Edouard behind her. That instant sufficed for the boy to seize the conductor's pistols.
The young man with the laughing voice assisted Madame de Montrevel from the coach with the greatest care, then signed to one of his companions to give her an arm, and returned to the coach.
But at that instant a double report was heard. Edouard had fired a pistol with each hand at the Companion of Jehu, who disappeared in the smoke.
Madame de Montrevel screamed, and fainted away. Various cries, expressive of diverse sentiments, echoed that of the mother.
From the interior came one of terror; they had all agreed to offer no resistance, and now some one had resisted. From the three young men came a cry of surprise--it was the first time such a thing had happened.
They rushed to their companion, expecting to find him reduced to pulp; but they found him safe and sound, laughing heartily, while the conductor, with clasped hands, was exclaiming: "Monsieur, I swear there were no balls; monsieur, I protest, they were only charged with powder."
"The deuce," said the young man, "don't I see that? But the intention was good, wasn't it, my little Edouard?" Then, turning to his companions, he added: "Confess, gentlemen, that he is a fine boy--a true son of his father, and brother of his brother. Bravo, Edouard! you'll make a man some day!"
Taking the boy in his arms, he kissed him, in spite of his struggles, on both cheeks.
Edouard fought like a demon, thinking no doubt that it was very humiliating to be embraced by a man at whom he had just fired two pistols.
In the meantime one of the Companions had carried Edouard's mother to the bank by the roadside a little distance from the diligence. The man who had kissed Edouard with so much affection and persistence now looked around for her.
"Ah!" cried he, on perceiving her, "Madame de Montrevel still unconscious? We can't leave a woman in that condition, gentlemen. Conductor, take Master Edouard." Placing the boy in Jérôme's arms, he turned to one of his companions: "Man of precautions," said he, "haven't you smelling salts or a bottle of essence with you?"
"Here!" said the young man he had addressed, pulling a flask of toilet vinegar from his pocket.
"Good," said the other, who seemed to be the leader of the band. "Do you finish up the matter with Master Jérôme; I'll take charge of Madame de Montrevel."
It was indeed time. The fainting fit was giving place to a violent nervous attack; spasmodic movements shook her whole body and strangled cries came from her throat. The young man leaned over her and made her inhale the salts.
Madame de Montrevel presently opened her frightened eyes, and called out: "Edouard! Edouard!" With an involuntary movement she knocked aside the mask of the man who was supporting her, exposing his face.
The courteous, laughing young man--our readers have already recognized him--was Morgan.
Madame de Montrevel paused in amazement at sight of those beautiful blue eyes, the lofty brow, and the gracious lips smiling at her. She realized that she ran no danger from such a man, and that no harm could have befallen Edouard. Treating Morgan as a gentleman who had succored her, and not as a bandit who had caused her fainting-fit, she exclaimed: "Ah, sir! how kind you are."
In the words, in the tones in which she uttered them, there lay a world of thanks, not only for herself, but for her child.
With singular delicacy, entirely in keeping with his chivalric nature, Morgan, instead of picking up his fallen mask and covering his face immediately, so that Madame de Montrevel could only have retained a fleeting and confused impression of it--Morgan replied to her compliment by a low bow, leaving his features uncovered long enough to produce their impression; then, placing d'Assas' flask in Madame de Montrevel's hand--and then only--he replaced his mask. Madame de Montrevel understood the young man's delicacy.
"Ah! sir," said she, "be sure that, in whatever place or situation I see you again, I shall not recognize you."
"Then, madame," replied Morgan, "it is for me to thank you and repeat, 'How kind you are.'"
"Come, gentlemen, take your seats!" said the conductor, in his customary tone, as if nothing unusual had happened.
"Are you quite restored, madame, or should you like a few minutes more to rest?" asked Morgan. "The diligence shall wait."
"No, that is quite unnecessary; I feel quite well, and am much indebted to you."
Morgan offered Madame de Montrevel his arm, and she leaned upon it to reach the diligence. The conductor had already placed little Edouard inside. When Madame de Montrevel had resumed her seat, Morgan, who had already made his peace with the mother, wished to do so with the son.
"Without a grudge, my young hero," he said, offering his hand.
But the boy drew back.
"I don't give my hand to a highway robber," he replied. Madame de Montrevel gave a start of terror.
"You have a charming boy, madame," said Morgan; "only he has his prejudices." Then, bowing with the utmost courtesy, he added, "A prosperous voyage, madame," and closed the door.
"Forward!" cried the conductor.
The carriage gave a lurch.
"Oh! pardon me, sir!" exclaimed Madame de Montrevel; "your flask!"
"Keep it, madame," said Morgan; "although I trust you are sufficiently recovered not to need it."
But Edouard, snatching the flask from his mother's hands, flung it out of the window, crying: "Mamma doesn't receive presents from robbers."
"The devil!" murmured Morgan, with the first sigh his Companions had ever heard him give. "I think I am right not to ask for my poor Amélie in marriage." Then, turning to his Companions, he said: "Well, gentlemen, is it finished?"
"Yes," they answered with one voice.
"Then let us mount and be off. Don't forget we have to be at the Opera at nine o'clock this evening."
Springing into his saddle, he was the first to jump the ditch, reach the river, and there unhesitatingly took the ford which the pretended courier had pointed out on Cassini's map.
When he reached the opposite bank, followed by the other young men, d'Assas said to him: "Say, didn't your mask falloff?"
"Yes; but no one saw my face but Madame de Montrevel."
"Hum!" muttered d'Assas. "Better no one had seen it."
Putting their horses to a gallop, all four disappeared across the fields in the direction of Chacource.
On arriving the next day, toward eleven in the morning, at the Hôtel des Ambassadeurs, Madame de Montrevel was astonished to find, instead of Roland, a stranger awaiting her. The stranger approached her.
"Are you the widow of General de Montrevel, madame?" he asked.
"Yes, monsieur," replied Madame de Montrevel, not a little astonished.
"And you are looking for your son?"
"Yes; and I do not understand, after the letter he wrote me--"
"Man proposes, the First Consul disposes," replied the stranger, laughing. "The First Consul has disposed of your son for a few days, and has sent me to receive you in his stead."
Madame de Montrevel bowed.
"To whom have I the honor of speaking?" she asked.
"To citizen Fauvelet de Bourrienne, his first secretary," replied the stranger.
"Will you thank the First Consul for me," replied Madame de Montrevel, "and have the kindness to express to him the profound regret I feel at not being able to do so myself?"
"But nothing can be more easy, madame."
"The First Consul has ordered me to bring you to the
"You and your son."
"Oh! I am going to see General Bonaparte; I am going to see General Bonaparte!" cried the child, jumping for joy and clapping his hands. "What happiness!"
"Edouard, Edouard!" exclaimed Madame de Montrevel.
Then, turning to Bourrienne, "You must excuse him, sir; he is a little
savage from the
Bourrienne held out his hand to the boy.
"I am a friend of your brother's," said he. "Will you kiss me?"
"Oh! willingly, sir," replied Edouard. "You are not a thief, I know."
"Why, no; I trust not," replied the secretary, laughing.
"You must excuse him once again, sir. Our diligence was stopped on the way."
"Monsieur," asked Edouard, "when people take other people's money, are they not thieves?"
"That is what they are generally called, my dear child."
"There, you see, mamma."
"Come, Edouard, be quiet, I beg of you."
Bourrienne glanced at Madame de Montrevel, and saw clearly from the expression of her face that the subject was disagreeable to her; he therefore dropped it.
"Madame," said he, "may I remind you that I
have I orders to take you to the
"Pray give me time to change my gown and to dress Edouard, sir."
"How long will that take, madame?"
"Is half an hour too much to ask?"
"No, indeed; if half an hour really suffices I shall think you most reasonable."
"Be easy, sir; it will be sufficient."
"Well, madame," said the secretary, bowing, "I will attend to an errand, and return in half an hour to place myself at your orders."
"Thank you, sir."
"Don't be annoyed if I should be punctual."
"I shall not keep you waiting."
Bourrienne left. Madame de Montrevel dressed Edouard first, then herself, and was ready five minutes before Bourrienne reappeared.
"Take care, madame," said Bourrienne laughing, "lest I tell the First Consul of your extreme punctuality."
"What should I have to fear if you did?"
"He would keep you near him to give lessons in punctuality to Madame Bonaparte."
"Oh!" exclaimed Madame de Montrevel, "you must forgive unpunctuality in a Creole."
"But I believe you are a Creole also, madame."
"Madame Bonaparte sees her husband every day," said Madame de Montrevel, laughing, "whereas I am to see the First Consul for the first time."
"Come, mother, let us go!" said Edouard.
The secretary drew aside to allow Madame de Montrevel to
pass out. Fifteen minutes later they had reached the
Bonaparte occupied the suite of rooms on the ground floor to the right. Josephine's chamber and boudoir were on the first floor; a stairway led from the First Consul's study to her room.
She was expecting Madame de Montrevel, for as soon as she saw her she opened her arms as to a friend. Madame de Montrevel had stopped respectfully at the door.
"Oh! come in, come in, madame!" said Josephine. "To-day is not the first that I know you; I have long known you through your excellent son, Roland. Shall I tell you what comforts me when Bonaparte leaves me? It is that Roland goes with him; for I fancy that, so long as Roland is with him, no harm will befall him. Well, won't you kiss me?"
Madame de Montrevel was confused by so much kindness.
"We are compatriots, you know," continued Josephine. "Oh! how well I remember M. de la Clémencière, and his beautiful gardens with the splendid fruit. I remember having seen a young girl who seemed its queen. You must have married very young, madame?"
"Yes, you could not have been older to have a son of Roland's age. But pray sit down."
She led the way, making a sign to Madame de Montrevel to sit beside her.
"And that charming boy," she said, pointing to Edouard, "is he also your son?" And she gave a sigh. "God has been prodigal to you, madame, and as He has given you all you can desire, will you not implore Him to send me a son."
She pressed her lips enviously to Edouard's forehead.
"My husband will be delighted to see you, he is so fond of your son, madame! You would not have been brought to me in the first instance, if he were not engaged with the minister of police. For that matter," she added, laughing, "you have arrived at an unfortunate moment; he is furious!"
"Oh!" cried Madame de Montrevel, frightened; "if that is so, I would rather wait."
"No, no! On the contrary, the sight of you will calm
him. I don't know just what is the matter; but it seems a diligence was stopped
on the outskirts of the
Madame de Montrevel was about to answer when the door opened and an usher appeared.
"The First Consul awaits Madame de Montrevel," he said.
"Go," said Josephine; "Bonaparte's time is so precious that he is almost as impatient as Louis XV., who had nothing to do. He does not like to wait."
Madame de Montrevel rose hastily and turned to take Edouard with her.
"No," said Josephine; "leave this beautiful boy with me. You will stay and dine with us, and Bonaparte can see him then. Besides, if my husband takes a fancy to see him, he can send for him. For the time, I am his second mamma. Come, what shall we do to amuse ourselves?"
"The First Consul must have a fine lot of weapons, madame," replied the boy.
"Yes, very fine ones. Well, I will show you the First Consul's arms."
Josephine, leading the child, went out of one door, and Madame de Montrevel followed the usher through the other.
On the way the countess met a fair man, with a pale face and haggard eye, who looked at her with an uneasiness that seemed habitual to him. She drew hastily aside to let him pass. The usher noticed her movement.
"That is the minister of police," he said in a low voice. Madame de Montrevel watched him as he disappeared, with a certain curiosity. Fouché was already at that time fatally celebrated. Just then the door of Bonaparte's study opened and his head was seen through the aperture. He caught sight of Madame de Montrevel.
"Come in, madame," he said; "come in."
Madame de Montrevel hastened her steps and entered the study.
"Come in," said Bonaparte, closing the door himself. "I have kept you waiting much against my will; but I had to give Fouché a scolding. You know I am very well satisfied with Roland, and that I intend to make a general of him at the first opportunity. When did you arrive?"
"This very moment, general."
"Where from? Roland told me, but I have forgotten."
"Yesterday morning at nine o'clock."
"In that case, you must have heard of the stoppage of the diligence."
"Yes, a diligence was stopped at ten in the morning, between Châtillon and Bar-sur-Seine."
"General, it was ours."
"You were in the diligence that was stopped?"
"Ah! now I shall get the exact details! Excuse me, but you understand my desire for correct information, don't you? In a civilized country which has General Bonaparte for its chief magistrate, diligences can't be stopped in broad daylight on the highroads with impunity, or--"
"General, I can tell you nothing, except that those who stopped it were on horseback and masked."
"How many were there?"
"How many men were there in the diligence?"
"Four, including the conductor."
"And they didn't defend themselves?"
"The police report says, however, that two shots were fired."
"Yes, general, but those two shots--"
"Were fired by my son."
"Your son? Why, he is in Vendée!"
"Roland, yes; but Edouard was with me."
"Edouard! Who is Edouard?"
"True, he spoke of him; but he is only a child."
"He is not yet twelve, general."
"And it was he who fired the two shots?"
"Why didn't you bring him with you?"
"Where is he?"
"I left him with Madame Bonaparte."
Bonaparte rang, and an usher appeared.
"Tell Josephine to bring the boy to me." Then, walking up and down his study, he muttered, "Four men! And a child taught them courage! Were any of the robbers wounded?"
"There were no balls in the pistols."
"What I no balls?"
"No; they belonged to the conductor, and he had taken the precaution to load them with powder only."
"Very good; his name shall be known."
Just then the door opened, and Madame Bonaparte entered, leading the boy by the hand.
"Come here," Bonaparte said to him.
Edouard went up to him without hesitation and made a military salute.
"So you fired at the robbers twice, did you?"
"There, you see, mamma, they were robbers!" interrupted the child.
"Of course they were robbers; I should like to hear any one declare they were not! Was it you who fired at them, when the men were afraid?"
"Yes, it was I, general. But unfortunately that coward of a conductor had loaded his pistols only with powder; otherwise I should have killed their leader."
"Then you were not afraid?"
"I?" replied the boy. "No, I am never afraid."
"You ought to be named Cornelia, madame," exclaimed Bonaparte, turning to Madame de Montrevel, who was leaning on Josephine's arm. Then he said to the child, kissing him: "Very good; we will take care of you. What would you like to be?"
"What do you mean by first?"
"Why, first a soldier, then later a colonel like my brother, and then a general like my father."
"It won't be my fault if you are not," answered the First Consul.
"Nor mine," retorted the boy.
"Edouard!" exclaimed Madame de Montrevel, timidly.
"Now don't scold him for answering properly;" and Bonaparte, lifting the child to the level of his face, kissed him.
"You must dine with us," said he, "and to-night Bourrienne, who met you at the hotel, will install you in the Rue de la Victoire. You must stay there till Roland gets back; he will then find you suitable lodgings. Edouard shall go to the Prytanée, and I will marry off your daughter."
"That's all settled with Roland." Then, turning to Josephine, he said: "Take Madame de Montrevel with you, and try not to let her be bored.--And, Madame de Montrevel, if _your friend_ (he emphasized the words) wishes to go to a milliner, prevent it; she can't want bonnets, for she bought thirty-eight last month."
Then, giving Edouard a friendly tap, he dismissed the two women with a wave of the hand.
We have said that at the very moment when Morgan and his
three companions stopped the
If we are to know the result of his mission we must not
grope our way, step by step, through the darkness in which the Abbé Bernier
wrapped his ambitious projects, but we must join him later at the
There we find ourselves in the heart of the Morbihan; that
is to say, in the region that gave birth to the Chouannerie. It was close to
The name became that of a party. On the right bank of the
It is not for us to relate the death and destruction of that
heroic family, nor follow to the scaffold the two sisters and a brother, nor
tell of battlefields where Jean and René, martyrs to their faith, lay dying or
dead. Many years have elapsed since the executions of Perrine, René and
It is true that these gars (lads) are faithful to their traditions. As they fought beside la Rouërie, Bois-Hardy and Bernard de Villeneuve, so did they fight beside Bourmont, Frotté, and Georges Cadoudal. Theirs was always the same courage, the same devotion--that of the Christian soldier, the faithful royalist. Their aspect is always the same, rough and savage; their weapons, the same gun or cudgel, called in those parts a "ferte." Their garments are the same; a brown woollen cap, or a broad-brimmed hat scarcely covering the long straight hair that fell in tangles on their shoulders, the old _Aulerci Cenomani_, as in Cæsar's day, _promisso capillo_; they are the same Bretons with wide breeches of whom Martial said:
_Tam laxa est..._ _Quam veteres braccoe Britonis pauperis._
To protect themselves from rain and cold they wore goatskin garments, made with the long hair turned outside; on the breasts of which, as countersign, some wore a scapulary and chaplet, others a heart, the heart of Jesus; this latter was the distinctive sign of a fraternity which withdrew apart each day for common prayer.
Such were the men, who, at the time we are crossing the
borderland between the Loire-Inférieure and Morbihan, were scattered from La
Roche-Bernard to Vannes, and from Quertemberg to Billiers, surrounding
But it needed the eye of the eagle soaring in the clouds, or that of the screech-owl piercing the darkness, to distinguish these men among the gorse and heather and underbrush where they were crouching.
Let us pass through this network of invisible sentinels, and
after fording two streams, the affluents of a nameless river which flows into
the sea near Billiers, between Arzal and Dangau, let us boldly enter the
All is still and sombre; a single light shines through the blinds of a house, or rather a cottage, which nothing distinguishes from its fellows. It is the fourth to the right on entering the village.
Let us put our eye to one of these chinks and look in.
We see a man dressed like the rich peasants of Morbihan, except that gold lace about a finger wide stripes the collar and buttonholes of his coat and also the edges of his hat. The rest of his dress consists of leathern trousers and high-topped boots. His sword is thrown upon a chair. A brace of pistols lies within reach of his hand. Within the fireplace the barrels of two or three muskets reflect the light of a blazing fire.
The man is seated before a table; a lamp lights some papers which he is reading with great attention, and illuminates his face at the same time.
The face is that of a man of thirty. When the cares of a partisan warfare do not darken it, its expression must surely be frank and joyous. Beautiful blond hair frames it; great blue eyes enliven it; the head, of a shape peculiarly Breton, seems to show, if we believe in Gall's system, an exaggerated development of the organs of self-will. And the man has two names. That by which he is known to his soldiers, his familiar name, is Round-head; and his real name, received from brave and worthy parents, Georges Cadudal, or rather Cadoudal, tradition having changed the orthography of a name that is now historic.
Georges was the son of a farmer of the parish of Kerléano in
the commune of Brech. The story goes that this farmer was once a miller.
Georges had just received at the
"If a cannon ball doesn't take off that _Big Round Head_, it will roll far, I warrant you."
The name clung to Cadoudal--a name by which, five centuries
earlier, the lords of Malestroit, Penhoël, Beaumanoir and Rochefort designated
the great Constable, whose ransom was spun by the women of
"There's the Big Round Head," said they; "now we'll exchange some good sword-play with the English."
Unfortunately, at this time it was not Breton sword-thrusts against English, but Frenchmen against Frenchmen.
Georges remained in Vendée until after the defeat of
Savenay. The whole Vendéan army was either left upon the battlefield or
vanished in smoke. For three years, Georges had performed prodigies of valor,
strength and dexterity; he now crossed the
That man became his aide-de-camp, or rather his brother-in-arms. He never left him, and in memory of the hard campaign they had made together he changed his name from Lemercier to Tiffauges. We have seen him at the ball of the Victims charged with a message to Morgan.
As soon as Cadoudal returned to his own part of the country, he fomented insurrection on his own responsibility. Bullets respected that big round head, and the big round head justified Stofflet's prediction. He succeeded La Rochejacquelin, d'Elbée, Bonchamp, Lescure, even Stofflet himself, and became their rival for fame, their superior in power; for it happened (and this will give an idea of his strength) that Cadoudal, almost single-handed, had been able to resist the government of Bonaparte, who had been First Consul for the last three months. The two leaders who continued with him, faithful to the Bourbon dynasty, were Frotté and Bourmont.
At the time of which we are now speaking, that is to say, the 26th of January, 1800, Cadoudal commanded three or four thousand men with whom he was preparing to blockade General Hatry in Vannes.
During the time that he awaited the First Consul's answer to the letter of Louis XVIII. he had suspended hostilities; but Tiffauges had arrived a couple of days before with it.
That letter was already on the way to
He was reflecting--this last survivor of the great warriors of the civil war--and the news he had just received was indeed a matter for deep reflection.
General Brune, the conqueror of
At any cost, therefore, Cadoudal and his Chouans must prove to the commander-in-chief that they knew no fear, and had nothing to expect from intimidation.
Just then the gallop of a horse was heard; the rider no
doubt had the countersign, for he passed without difficulty the various patrols
stationed along the toad to La Roche-Bernard, and entered the
He stopped before the door of the cottage in which Georges was sitting. The latter raised his head, listened, and, by way of precaution, laid his hands on his pistols, though it was probable that the new-comer was a friend.
The rider dismounted, strode up the path, and opened the door of the room where Georges was waiting.
"Ah! it's you, Coeur-de-Roi," said Cadoudal. "Where do you come from?"
"From Pouancé, general."
"A letter from Tiffauges."
"Give it to me."
Georges snatched the letter hastily from Coeur-de-Roi's hand and read it.
"Ah!" he exclaimed.
Then he read it a second time,
"Have you seen the man whose coming he speaks of?" inquired Cadoudal.
"Yes, general," replied the courier.
"What sort of a man is he?"
"A handsome young fellow of twenty-six or seven."
"That's it. When does he arrive?"
"Did you safe-guard him along the road?"
"Yes; he'll come safely."
"Do it again. Nothing must happen to him; he is protected by Morgan."
"That's understood, general."
"Anything more to say?"
"The advanced guard of the Republicans has reached La Roche-Bernard."
"How many men?"
"About a thousand. They have a guillotine with them, and the commissioner of the executive power, Millière."
"Are you sure?"
"I met them on the road. The commissioner was riding near the colonel, and I recognized him perfectly. He executed my brother, and I have sworn he shall die by my own hand."
"And you'll risk your life to keep your oath?"
"At the first opportunity."
"Perhaps it won't be long coming."
The gallop of a horse echoed through the street.
"Ah!" said Coeur-de-Roi, "that is probably the man you expect."
"No," replied Cadoudal, "this rider comes from the direction of Vannes."
The sound became more distinct, and it proved that Cadoudal was right.
The second horseman, like the first, halted at the gate, dismounted, and came into the room. The royalist leader recognized him at once, in spite of the large cloak in which he was wrapped.
"Is it you, Bénédicité?" he asked.
"Where do you come from?"
"From Vannes, where you sent me to watch the Blues.
"Well, what are the Blues doing?"
"Scaring themselves about dying of hunger if you blockade the town. In order to procure provisions General Hatry intends to carry off the supplies at Grandchamp. The general is to command the raid in person; and, to act more quickly, only a hundred men are to go."
"Are you tired, Bénédicité?"
"And your horse?"
"He came fast, but he can do twelve or fifteen miles more without killing himself."
"Give him two hours' rest, a double feed of oats, and make him do thirty."
"On those conditions he can do them."
"Start in two hours. Be at Grandchamp by daybreak. Give the order in my name to evacuate the village. I'll take care of General Hatry and his column. Is that all you have to say?"
"No, I heard other news."
"What is it?"
"That Vannes has a new bishop."
"Ha! so they are giving us back our bishops?"
"So it seems; but if they are all like this one, they can keep them."
"Who is he?"
"Audrein the renegade."
"When is he coming?"
"To-night or to-morrow."
"I shall not go to meet him; but let him beware of falling into my men's hands."
Bénédicité and Coeur-de-Roi burst into a laugh which completed Cadoudal's thought.
"Hush!" cried Cadoudal.
The three men listened.
"This time it is probably he," observed Georges.
The gallop of a horse could be heard coming from the direction of La Roche-Bernard.
"It is certainly he," repeated Coeur-de-Roi.
"Then, my friends, leave me alone. You, Bénédicité, get to Grandchamp as soon as possible. You, Coeur-de-Roi, post thirty men in the courtyard; I want messengers to send in different directions. By the way, tell some one to bring the best that can be got for supper in the village."
"For how many, general?"
"Are you going out?"
"No, only to meet the man who is coming."
Two or three men had already taken the horses of the messengers into the courtyard. The messengers themselves disappeared.
Georges reached the gate on the street just as a horseman, pulling up his horse, looked about him and seemed to hesitate.
"He is here, sir," said Georges.
"Who is here?"
"He whom you seek."
"How do you know whom I am seeking?"
"I presume it is Georges Cadoudal, otherwise called Round-head."
"Then I bid you welcome, Monsieur Roland de Montrevel, for I am the person you seek."
"Ah, ah!" exclaimed the young man, amazed.
Then, dismounting, he looked about as if for some one to take his mount.
"Throw the bridle over your horse's neck, and don't be
uneasy about him. You will find him when you want him. Nothing is ever lost in
The young man made no remark, threw the bridle over his horse's neck as he had been told, and followed Cadoudal, who walked before him.
"Only to show you the way, colonel," said the leader of the Chouans.
They both entered the cottage, where an invisible hand had just made up the fire.
Roland entered, as we have said, behind Georges, and as he entered cast a glance of careless curiosity around him. That glance sufficed to show him that they were alone.
"Are these your quarters, general?" asked Roland with a smile, turning the soles of his boots to the blaze.
"They are singularly guarded."
Georges smiled in turn.
"Do you say that because you found the road open from La Roche-Bernard here?" he asked.
"I did not meet a soul."
"That does not prove that the road was not guarded."
"Unless by the owls, who seemed to fly from tree to tree, and accompanied me all the way, general. In that case, I withdraw my assertion."
"Exactly," replied Cadoudal. "Those owls were my sentinels, sentinels with good eyes, inasmuch as they have this advantage over the eyes of men, they can see in the dark."
"It is not the less true that I was fortunate in having inquired my way at La Roche-Bernard; for I didn't meet even a cat who could have told me where to find you."
"But if you had raised your voice at any spot on the road and
asked: 'Where shall I find Georges Cadoudal?' a voice would have
answered: 'At the
You saw no one, colonel; but at that very moment fifteen hundred men, or thereabout, knew that Colonel Roland, the First Consul's aide-de-camp, was on his way to a conference with the son of the miller of Leguerno."
"But if they knew that I was a colonel in the Republican service and aide-de-camp to the First Consul, how came they to let me pass?"
"Because they were ordered to do so."
"Then you knew that I was coming?"
"I not only knew that you were coming, but also why you have come."
Roland looked at him fixedly.
"Then it is useless for me to tell you; and you will answer me even though I say nothing?"
"You are about right."
"The deuce! I should like to have a proof of this superiority of your police over ours."
"I will supply it, colonel."
"I shall receive it with much satisfaction, especially before this excellent fire, which also seems to have been expecting me."
"You say truer than you know, colonel; and it is not the fire only that is striving to welcome you warmly."
"Yes, but it does not tell me, any more than you have done, the object of my mission."
"Your mission, which you do me the honor to extend to me, was primarily intended for the Abbé Bernier alone. Unhappily the Abbé Bernier, in the letter he sent his friend Martin Duboys, presumed a little on his strength. He offered his mediation to the First Consul."
"Pardon me," interrupted Roland, "you tell me something I did not know; namely that the Abbé Bernier had written to General Bonaparte."
"I said he wrote to his friend Martin Duboys, which is very different. My men intercepted the letter and brought it to me. I had it copied, and forwarded the original, which I am certain reached the right hands. Your visit to General Hédouville proves it."
"You know that General Hédouville is no longer in
"You may even say that General Brune commands at La Roche-Bernard, for a thousand Republican soldiers entered that town to-night about six o'clock, bringing with them a guillotine and the citizen commissioner-general Thomas Millière. Having the instrument, it was necessary to have the executioner."
"Then you say, general, that I came to see the Abbé Bernier?"
"Yes; the Abbé Bernier had offered his mediation. But he forgot that at the present there are two Vendées--the Vendée of the left bank, and the Vendée of the right bank--and that, after treating with d'Autichamp, Châtillon, and Suzannet at Pouancé, it would still be necessary to negotiate with Frotté, Bourmont and Cadoudal--and where? That no one could tell--"
"Except you, general."
"So, with the chivalry that is the basis of your nature, you undertook to bring me the treaty signed on the 25th. The Abbé Bernier, d'Autichamp, Châtillon, and Suzannet signed your pass, and here you are."
"On my word, general, I must admit that you are perfectly well-informed. The First Consul desires peace with all his heart. He knows that in you he has a brave and honorable adversary, and being unable to meet you himself, since you were not likely to come to Paris, he expedited me to you in his behalf."
"That is to say, to the Abbé Bernier."
"That can hardly matter to you, general, if I bind myself to make the First Consul ratify what may be agreed upon between you and me. What are your conditions of peace?"
"They are very simple, colonel: that the First Consul shall restore his Majesty Louis XVIII. to the throne; that he himself be constable, lieutenant-general, general-in-chief by land and sea, and I his first subordinate."
"The First Consul has already replied to that demand."
"And that is why I have decided to reply myself to his response."
"This very night, if occasion offers."
"In what way?"
"By resuming hostilities."
"But are you aware that Châtillon, d'Autichamp and Suzannet have laid down their arms?"
"They are the leaders of the Vendéans, and in the name of the Vendéans they can do as they see fit. I am the leader of the Chouans, and in the name of the Chouans I shall do what suits me."
"Then you condemn this unhappy land to a war of extermination, general!"
"It is a martyrdom to which I summon all Christians and royalists."
"General Brune is at
"That is the last time they will have the chance. The Blues have taught us the bad habit of not making prisoners. As for the number of our enemies, we don't care for that; it is a mere detail."
"If General Brune with his eight thousand men, joined to the twenty thousand he has received from General Hédouville, is not sufficient, the First Consul has decided to march against you in person with one hundred thousand men."
"We will try to prove to him," he said, "that we are worthy to fight against him."
"He will burn your towns."
"We shall retire to our huts."
"He will burn your huts."
"We will live in the woods."
"Do me the honor to remain here forty-eight hours, colonel, and you will see that my reflections are already made."
"I am tempted to accept."
"Only, colonel, don't ask for more than I can give; a night's sleep beneath a thatched roof or wrapped in a cloak under an oak tree, a horse to follow me, and a safe-guard when you leave me."
"Have I your word, colonel, that you will not interfere with any orders I give, and will do nothing to defeat the surprises I may attempt?"
"I am too curious to see for that. You have my word, general."
"Whatever takes place before your eyes?"
"Whatever takes place before my eyes, I renounce the rôle of actor and confine myself wholly to that of spectator. I wish to say to the First Consul: 'I have seen.'"
"Well, you shall see," said he.
At that moment the door opened, and two peasants brought in a table all laid, on which stood a smoking bowl of cabbage-soup and a piece of lard; an enormous pot of cider, just drawn from the cask, was foaming over the edges of the jug between two glasses. A few buckwheat cakes served as a desert to this modest repast. The table was laid for two.
"You see, Monsieur de Montrevel, that my lads hoped you would do me the honor to sup with me."
"Faith! they were not far wrong. I should have asked for supper, had you not invited me; and I might have been forced to seize some had you not invited me."
"Then fall to!"
The young colonel sat down gayly.
"Excuse the repast I offer you," said Cadoudal; "unlike your generals, I don't make prize money; my soldiers feed me. Have you anything else for us, Brise-Bleu?"
"A chicken fricassee, general."
"That's your dinner, Monsieur de Montrevel."
"A feast! Now, I have but one fear, general."
"What is it?"
"All will go well for the eating, but when it comes to drinking--"
"Don't you like cider? The devil! I'm sorry; cider or water, that's my cellar."
"Oh! that's not it; but whose health are we going to drink?"
"Is that all, sir?" said Cadoudal, with great dignity. "We will drink to the health of our common mother, France. We are serving her with different minds, but, I hope, the same hearts. To _France_, Monsieur," said Cadoudal, filling the two glasses.
"To _France_, general!" replied Roland, clinking his glass against that of Georges.
And both gayly reseated themselves, their consciences at rest, and attacked the soup with appetites that were not yet thirty years old.
"Now, general," said Roland, when supper was over and the two young men, with their elbows on the table and their legs stretched out before the blazing fire, began to feel that comfortable sensation that comes of a meal which youth and appetite have seasoned. "Now for your promise to show me things which I can report to the First Consul."
"You promised, remember, not to object to them."
"Yes, but I reserve the right, in case you wound my conscience too severely, to withdraw."
"Only give time to throw a saddle on the back of your horse, or of mine, if yours is too tired, colonel, and you are free."
"As it happens," said Cadoudal, "events will
serve you. I am here, not only as general, but as judge, though it is long
since I have had a case to try. You told me, colonel, that General Brune was at
"It is impossible, sir," cried Roland, "that under the First Consul any one can make that kind of war,"
"Ah! let us understand each other, colonel. I don't say that the First Consul makes it; I say it is made in his name."
"And who is the scoundrel that abuses the authority given him, to make war with a staff of executioners?"
"I have told you his name; he is called Thomas Millière. Question whom you please, colonel, and throughout all Vendée and Brittany you'll hear but one voice on that man. From the day of the rising in Vendée and Brittany, now six years ago, Millière has been, always and everywhere, the most active agent of the Terror. For him the Terror did not end with Robespierre. He denounced to his superiors, or caused to be denounced to himself, the Breton and Vendéan soldiers, their parents, friends, brothers, sisters, wives, even the wounded and dying; he shot or guillotined them all without a trial. At Daumeray, for instance, he left a trail of blood behind him which is not yet, can never be, effaced. More than eighty of the inhabitants were slaughtered before his eyes. Sons were killed in the arms of their mothers, who vainly stretched those bloody arms to Heaven imploring vengeance. The successive pacifications of Brittany and Vendée have never slaked the thirst for murder which burns his entrails. He is the same in 1800 that he was in 1793. Well, this man--"
Roland looked at the general.
"This man," continued the general, with the utmost calmness, "is to die. Seeing that society did not condemn him, I have condemned him."
"What! Die at La Roche-Bernard, in the midst of the Republicans; in spite of his bodyguard of assassins and executioners?"
"His hour has struck; he is to die."
Cadoudal pronounced these words with such solemnity that no doubt remained in Roland's mind, not only as to the sentence, but also the execution of it. He was thoughtful for an instant.
"And you believe that you have, the right to judge and condemn that man, guilty as he is?"
"Yes; for that man has judged and condemned, not the guilty but the innocent."
"If I said to you: 'On my return to
"I would trust your word; but I should say to you: 'A maddened wild beast escapes from its cage, a murderer from his prison; men are men, subject to error. They have sometimes condemned the innocent, they might spare the guilty.' My justice is more certain than yours, colonel, for it is the justice of God. The man will die."
"And by what right do you claim that your justice, the justice of a man liable to error like other men, is the justice of God?"
"Because I have made God a