Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

The Companions of Jehu by Alexandre Dumas

Part 10 out of 14

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

independence require; how is it that they sacrifice to their
ideas of empty grandeur or bigoted antipathies the welfare
of commerce, eternal prosperity, the happiness of families?
How is it that they do not recognize that peace is the first
of needs and the first of a nation's glories?

These sentiments cannot be foreign to the heart of a king who
governs a free nation with the sole object of rendering it happy.

Your Majesty will see in this overture my sincere desire to
contribute efficaciously, for the second time, to a general
pacification, by an advance frankly made and free of those
formalities which, necessary perhaps to disguise the dependence
of feeble states, only disclose in powerful nations a mutual
desire to deceive.

France and England can, for a long time yet, by the abuse of
their powers, and to the misery of their people, carry on the
struggle without exhaustion; but, and I dare say it, the fate
of all the civilized nations depends on the conclusion of a
war which involves the universe.

Bonaparte paused. "I think that will do," said he. "Read it over,
Bourrienne."

Bourrienne read the letter he had just written. After each paragraph
the First Consul nodded approvingly; and said: "Go on."

Before the last words were fairly uttered, he took the letter
from Bourrienne's hands and signed it with a new pen. It was
a habit of his never to use the same pen twice. Nothing could
be more disagreeable to him than a spot of ink on his fingers.

"That's good," said he. "Seal it and put on the address: 'To Lord
Grenville.'"

Bourrienne did as he was told. At the same moment the noise of
a carriage was heard entering the courtyard of the Luxembourg.
A moment later the door opened and Roland appeared.

"Well?" asked Bonaparte.

"Didn't I tell you you could have anything you wanted, general?"

"Have you brought your Englishman?"

"I met him in the Place de Buci; and, knowing that you don't
like to wait, I caught him just as he was, and made him get into
the carriage. Faith! I thought I should have to drive round to
the Rue Mazarine, and get a guard to bring him. He's in boots
and a frock-coat."

"Let him come in," said Bonaparte.

"Come in, Sir John," cried Roland, turning round.

Lord Tanlay appeared on the threshold. Bonaparte had only to
glance at him to recognize a perfect gentleman. A trifling
emaciation, a slight pallor, gave Sir John the characteristics
of great distinction. He bowed, awaiting the formal introduction,
like the true Englishman he was.

"General," said Roland, "I have the honor to present to you Sir
John Tanlay, who proposed to go to the third cataract for the
purpose of seeing you, but who has, to-day, obliged me to drag
him by the ear to the Luxembourg."

"Come in, my lord; come in," said Bonaparte. "This is not the
first time we have seen each other, nor the first that I have
expressed the wish to know you; there was therefore positive
ingratitude in trying to evade my desire."

"If I hesitated," said Sir John, in excellent French, as usual,
"it was because I could scarcely believe in the honor you do me."

"And besides, very naturally, from national feeling, you detest
me, don't you, like the rest of your countrymen?"

"I must confess, general," answered Sir John, smiling, "that they
have not got beyond admiration."

"And do you share the absurd prejudice that claims that national
honor requires you to hate to-day the enemy who may be a friend
to-morrow?"

"France has been almost a second mother country to me, and my
friend Roland will tell you that I long for the moment when,
of my two countries, the one to which I shall owe the most will
be France."

"Then you ought to see France and England shaking hands for the
good of the world, without repugnance."

"The day when I see that will be a happy day for me."

"If you could contribute to bring it about would you do so?"

"I would risk my life to do it."

"Roland tells me you are a relative of Lord Grenville."

"His nephew."

"Are you on good terms with him?"

"He was very fond of my mother, his eldest sister."

"Have you inherited the fondness he bore your mother?"

"Yes; only I think he holds it in reserve till I return to England."

"Will you deliver a letter for me?"

"To whom?"

"King George III."

"I shall be greatly honored."

"Will you undertake to say to your uncle that which cannot be
written in a letter?"

"Without changing a syllable; the words of General Bonaparte are
history."

"Well, tell him--" but, interrupting himself, he turned to
Bourrienne, saying: "Bourrienne, find me the last letter from
the Emperor of Russia."

Bourrienne opened a box, and, without searching, laid his hand
on a letter that he handed to Bonaparte.

The First Consul cast his eye over the paper and then gave it
to Lord Tanlay.

"Tell him," said he, "first and before all, that you have read
this letter."

Sir John bowed and read as follows:

CITIZEN FIRST CONSUL--I have received, each armed and newly
clothed in the uniform of his regiment, the nine thousand
Russians, made prisoners in Holland, whom you have returned
to me without ransom, exchange, or condition of any kind.

This is pure chivalry, and I boast of being chivalrous.

I think that which I can best offer you in exchange for this
magnificent present, citizen First Consul, is my friendship.
Will you accept it?

As an earnest of that friendship, I am sending his passports
to Lord Whitworth, the British Ambassador to Saint Petersburg.

Furthermore, if you will be, I do not say my second, but my
witness, I will challenge personally every king who will not
take part against England and close his ports to her.

I begin with my neighbor the King of Denmark, and you will
find in the "Gazette de la Cour" the ultimatum I have sent him.

What more can I say to you? Nothing, unless it be that you and
I together can give laws to the world.

I am your admirer and sincere friend, PAUL.

Lord Tanlay turned to the First Consul. "Of course you know,"
said he, "that the Emperor of Russia is mad."

"Is it that letter that makes you think so, my lord?" asked
Bonaparte.

"No; but it confirms my opinion."

"It was a madman who gave Henry VI. of Lancaster the crown of
Saint-Louis, and the blazon of England still bears--until I scratch
them out with my sword--the fleur-de-lis of France."

Sir John smiled; his national pride revolted at this assumption
in the conqueror of the Pyramids.

"But," said Bonaparte, "that is not the question to-day; everything
in its own time."

"Yes," murmured Sir John, "we are too near Aboukir."

"Oh, I shall never defeat you at sea," said Bonaparte; "it would
take fifty years to make France a maritime nation; but over there,"
and he motioned with his hand to the East, "at the present moment,
I repeat, that the question is not war but peace. I must have
peace to accomplish my dream, and, above all, peace with England.
You see, I play aboveboard; I am strong enough to speak frankly.
If the day ever comes when a diplomatist tells the truth, he will
be the first diplomatist in the world; for no one will believe
him, and he will attain, unopposed, his ends."

"Then I am to tell my uncle that you desire peace."

"At the same time letting him know that I do not fear war. If
I can't ally myself with King George, I can, as you see, do so
with the Emperor Paul; but Russia has not reached that point
of civilization that I desire in an ally."

"A tool is sometimes more useful than an ally."

"Yes; but, as you said, the Emperor is mad, and it is better to
disarm than to arm a madman. I tell you that two nations like
France and England ought to be inseparable friends or relentless
enemies; friends, they are the poles of the world, balancing its
movements with perfect equilibrium; enemies, one must destroy
the other and become the world's sole axis."

"But suppose Lord Grenville, not doubting your genius, still
doubts your power; if he holds the opinion of our poet Coleridge,
that our island needs no rampart, no bulwark, other than the
raucous murmur of the ocean, what shall I tell him?"

"Unroll the map of the world, Bourrienne," said Bonaparte.

Bourrienne unrolled a map; Bonaparte stepped over to it.

"Do you see those two rivers?" said he, pointing to the Volga
and the Danube. "That's the road to India," he added.

"I thought Egypt was, general," said Sir John.

"So did I for a time; or, rather, I took it because I had no
other. But the Czar opens this one; your government can force
me to take it. Do you follow me?"

"Yes; citizen; go on."

"Well, if England forces me to fight her, if I am obliged to
accept this alliance with Catherine's successor, this is what I
shall do: I shall embark forty thousand Russians on the Volga;
I shall send them down the river to Astrakhan; they will cross
the Caspian and await me at Asterabad."

Sir John bowed in sign of deep attention. Bonaparte continued:
"I shall embark forty thousand Frenchmen on the Danube."

"Excuse me, citizen First Consul, but the Danube is an Austrian
river."

"I shall have taken Vienna."

Sir John stared at Bonaparte.

"I shall have taken Vienna," continued the latter. "I shall then
embark forty thousand Frenchmen on the Danube; I find Russian
vessels at its mouth ready to transport them to Taganrog; I march
them by land along the course of the Don to Pratisbianskaïa,
whence they move to Tzaritsin; there they descend the Volga in
the same vessels that have transported the forty thousand Russians
to Asterabad; fifteen days later I have eighty thousand men in
western Persia. From Asterabad, these united corps will march to
the Indus; Persia, the enemy of England, is our natural ally."

"Yes; but once in the Punjab, the Persian alliance will do you
no good; and an army of eighty thousand men cannot drag its
provisions along with it."

"You forget one thing," said Bonaparte, as if the expedition were
already under way, "I have left bankers at Teheran and Caboul.
Now, remember what happened nine years ago in Lord Cornwallis' war
with Tippo Saïb. The commander-in-chief fell short of provisions,
and a simple captain--I forget his name."

"Captain Malcolm," said Lord Tanlay.

"That's it!" cried Bonaparte. "You know the story! Captain Malcolm
had recourse to the Brinjaries, those Bohemians of India, who
cover the whole Hindostan peninsula with their encampments, and
control the grain supplies. Well, those Bohemians are faithful
to the last penny to those who pay them; they will feed me."

"You must cross the Indus."

"What of that!" exclaimed Bonaparte, "I have a hundred and eighty
miles of bank between Déra-Ismaël-Khan and Attok to choose from.
I know the Indus as well as I do the Seine. It is a slow current
flowing about three miles an hour; its medium depth is, I should
say, at the point I mentioned, from twelve to fifteen feet, and
there are ten or more fords on the line of my operations."

"Then your line is already traced out?" asked Sir John smiling.

"Yes, in so far as it follows a broad uninterrupted stretch of
fertile, well-watered provinces; that I avoid the sandy deserts
which separate the lower valley of the Indus from Rajputana;
and also that I follow the general bases of all invasions of
India that have had any success, from Mahmoud of Ghazni, in the
year 1000, to Nadir Shah, in 1739. And how many have taken the
route I mean to take between the two epochs! Let us count them.
After Mahmoud of Ghazni came Mohammed Ghori, in 1184, with one
hundred and twenty thousand men; after him, Timur Tang, or Timur
the Lame, whom we call Tamerlane, with sixty thousand men; after
Tamerlane, Babar; after Babar, Humajan, and how many more I can't
remember. Why, India is there for whoever will go and take it!"

"You forget, citizen First Consul, that all the conquerors you
have named had only the aboriginal populations to deal with,
whereas you have the English. We hold India--"

"With from twenty to twenty-two thousand men."

"And a hundred thousand Sepoys."

"I have counted them all, and I regard England and India, the
one with the respect, the other with the contempt, they merit.
Wherever I meet European infantry, I prepare a second, a third,
and if necessary, a fourth line of reserves, believing that the
first three might give way before the British bayonets; but wherever
I find the Sepoys, I need only the postilion's whip to scatter
the rabble. Have you any other questions to put to me, my lord?"

"One, citizen First Consul: are you sincerely desirous of peace?"

"Here is the letter in which I ask it of your king, my lord,
and it is to be quite sure that it reaches his Britannic Majesty
that I ask Lord Grenville's nephew to be my messenger."

"It shall be done as you desire, citizen; and were I the uncle,
instead of the nephew, I should promise more."

"When can you start?"

"In an hour I shall be gone."

"You have no wish to express to me before leaving?"

"None. In any case, if I have any, I leave my affairs to my friend,
Roland."

"Shake hands with me, my lord; it will be a good omen, as you
represent England and I France."

Sir John accepted the honor done him by Bonaparte, with the exact
measure of cordiality that indicated both his sympathy for France,
and his mental reserves for the honor of his own nation.

Then, having pressed Roland's hand with fraternal effusion, he
bowed again to the First Consul and went out. Bonaparte followed
him reflectively with his eyes; then he said suddenly: "Roland,
I not only consent to your sister's marriage with Lord Tanlay,
but I wish it. Do you understand? _I wish it_."

He laid such emphasis upon those three words, that to any one
who knew him they signified plainly, not "I wish," but "I will."

The tyranny was sweet to Roland, and he accepted it with grateful
thanks.

CHAPTER XXXVIII

THE TWO SIGNALS

Let us now relate what happened at the Château des Noires-Fontaines
three days after the events we have just described took place
in Paris.

Since the successive departures of Roland, then Madame de Montrevel
and her son, and finally Sir John--Roland to rejoin his general,
Madame de Montrevel to place Edouard in school, and Sir John to
acquaint Roland with his matrimonial plans--Amélie had remained
alone with Charlotte at the Château des Noires-Fontaines. We
say _alone_, because Michel and his son Jacques did not
live in the house, but in the little lodge at the gate where he
added the duties of porter to those of gardener.

It therefore happened that at night all the windows, excepting
those of Amélie, which, as we have said, were on the first floor
overlooking the garden, and that of Charlotte in the attic, were
left in darkness.

Madame de Montrevel had taken the second chambermaid with her.
The two young girls were perhaps rather isolated in their part of
the house, which consisted of a dozen bedrooms on three floors,
especially at a time when so many rumors of robberies on the
highroads reached them. Michel, therefore, proposed to his young
mistress that he sleep in the main building, so as to be near
her in case of need. But she, in a firm voice, assured him that
she felt no fear, and desired no change in the customary routine
of the château.

Michel did not insist, and retired, saying that Mademoiselle
might, in any case, sleep in peace, for he and Jacques would make
the rounds of the house during the night.

Amélie at first seemed anxious about those rounds; but she soon
noticed that Michel and Jacques contented themselves with watching
on the edge of the forest of Seillon, and the frequent appearance
of a jugged hare, or a haunch of venison on the table, proved
to her that Michel kept his word regarding the promised rounds.

She therefore ceased to trouble about Michel's rounds, which
were always on the side of the house opposite to that where she
feared them.

Now, as we have said, three days after the events we have just
related, or, to speak more correctly, during the night following
the third day, those who were accustomed to see no light save in
Amélie's windows on the first floor and Charlotte's on the third,
might have observed with surprise that, from eleven o'clock until
midnight, the four windows on the first floor were illuminated. It
is true that each was lighted by a single wax-candle. They might
also have seen the figure of a young girl through the shades,
staring in the direction of the village of Ceyzeriat.

This young girl was Amélie, pale, breathing with difficulty, and
seeming to watch anxiously for a signal.

At the end of a few minutes she wiped her forehead and drew a
joyous breath. A fire was lighted in the direction she had been
watching. Then she passed from room to room, putting out the
three candles one after the other, leaving only the one which
was burning in her own room. As if the fire awaited this return
signal, it was now extinguished.

Amélie sat down by her window and remained motionless, her eyes
fixed on the garden. The night was dark, without moon or stars,
and yet at the end of a quarter of an hour she saw, or rather
divined, a shadow crossing the lawn and approaching the window.
She placed her single candle in the furthest corner of her room,
and returned to open her window.

He whom she was awaiting was already on the balcony.

As on the first night when we saw him climb it, the young man
put his arm around the girl's waist and drew her into the room.
She made but slight resistance; her hand sought the cord of the
Venetian blind, unfastened it from the hook that held it, and
let it fall with more noise than prudence would have counselled.

Behind the blind, she closed the window; then she fetched the candle
from the corner where she had hidden it. The light illuminated her
face, and the young man gave a cry of alarm, for it was covered
with tears.

"What has happened?" he asked.

"A great misfortune!" replied the young girl.

"Oh, I feared it when I saw the signal by which you recalled me
after receiving me last night. But is it irreparable?"

"Almost," answered Amélie.

"I hope, at least, that it threatens only me."

"It threatens us both."

The young man passed his hand over his brow to wipe away the sweat
that covered it.

"Tell me," said he; "you know I am strong."

"If you have the strength to hear it," said she, "I have none
to tell it." Then, taking a letter from the chimney-piece, she
added: "Read that; that is what I received by the post to-night."

The young man took the letter, opened it, and glanced hastily
at the signature.

"From Madame de Montrevel," said he.

"Yes, with a postscript from Roland."

The young man read:

MY DEAREST DAUGHTER--I hope that the news I announce will give
you as much joy as it has already given our dear Roland and me.
Sir John, whose heart you doubted, claiming that it was only a
mechanical contrivance, manufactured in the workshops at
Vaucanson, admits that such an opinion was a just one until the
day he saw you; but he maintains that since that day he has a
heart, and that that heart adores you.

Did you suspect it, my dear Amélie, from his aristocratic and
polished manners, when your mother's eyes failed to discern this
tenderness.

This morning, while breakfasting with your brother, he formally
asked your hand. Your brother received the offer with joy, but
he made no promises at first. The First Consul, before Roland's
departure for the Vendée, had already spoken of making himself
responsible for your establishment. But since then he has asked to
see Lord Tanlay, and Sir John, though he maintained his national
reserve, was taken into the first Consul's good graces at once, to
such a degree that he received from him, at their first interview,
a mission to his uncle, Lord Grenville. Sir John started for
England immediately.

I do not know how many days Sir John will be absent, but on his
return he is certain to present himself to you as your betrothed.

Lord Tanlay is still young, pleasing in appearance, and immensely
rich; he is highly connected in England, and Roland's friend. I
do not know a man who has more right, I will not say to your love,
but to your profound esteem.

The rest of my news I can tell you in two words. The First Consul
is still most kind to me and to your two brothers, and Madame
Bonaparte has let me know that she only awaits your marriage to
place you near her.

There is talk of leaving the Luxembourg, and removing to the
Tuileries. Do you understand the full meaning of this change of
domicile?

Your mother, who loves you,
CLOTILDE DE MONTREVEL.

Without pausing, the young man turned to Roland's postscript.
It was as follows:

You have read, my dear little sister, what our good mother has
written. This marriage is a suitable one under all aspects. It
is not a thing to be childish about; the First Consul _wishes_
you to become Lady Tanlay; that is to say, he _wills_ it.

I am leaving Paris for a few days. Though you may not see me,
you will hear of me.

I kiss you, ROLAND.

"Well, Charles," asked Amélie, when the young man had finished
reading, "what do you think of that?"

"That it is something we had to expect from day to day, my poor
angel, but it is none the less terrible."

"What is to be done?"

"There are three things we can do."

"Tell me."

"In the first place, resist if you have the strength; it is the
shortest and surest way."

Amélie dropped her head.

"You will never dare, will you?"

"Never."

"And yet you are my wife, Amélie; a priest has blessed our union."

"But they say that marriage before a priest is null before the law."

"Is it not enough for you, the wife of a proscribed man?" asked
Morgan, his voice trembling as he spoke.

Amélie flung herself into his arms.

"But my mother," said she; "our marriage did not have her presence
and blessing."

"Because there were too many risks to run, and we wished to run
them alone."

"But that man--Did you notice that my brother says he _wills_
it?"

"Oh, if you loved me, Amélie, that man would see that he may
change the face of the State, carry war from one end of the world
to the other, make laws, build a throne, but that he cannot force
lips to say yes when the heart says no."

"If I loved you!" said Amélie, in a tone of soft reproach. "It
is midnight, you are here in my room, I weep in your arms--I, the
daughter of General de Montrevel and the sister of Roland--and
you say, 'If you loved me.'"

"I was wrong, I was wrong, my darling Amélie. Yes, I know that
you were brought up in adoration of that man; you cannot understand
that any one should resist him, and whoever does resist him is
a rebel in your eyes."

"Charles, you said there were three things that we could do. What
is the second?"

"Accept apparently the marriage they propose to you, and gain
time, by delaying under various pretexts. The man is not immortal."

"No; but is too young for us to count on his death. The third
way, dear friend?"

"Fly--but that is a last resource, Amélie; there are two objections:
first, your repugnance."

"I am yours, Charles; I will surmount my repugnance."

"And," added the young man, "my engagements."

"Your engagements?"

"My companions are bound to me, Amélie; but I, too, am bound to
them. We also have a man to whom we have sworn obedience. That
man is the future king of France. If you accept your brother's
devotion to Bonaparte, accept ours to Louis XVIII."

Amélie let her face drop into her hands with a sigh.

"Then," said she, "we are lost."

"Why so? On various pretexts, your health above all, you can gain
a year. Before the year is out Bonaparte will probably be forced
to begin another war in Italy. A single defeat will destroy his
prestige; in short, a great many things can happen in a year."

"Did you read Roland's postscript, Charles?"

"Yes; but I didn't see anything in it that was not in your mother's
letter."

"Read the last sentence again." And Amélie placed the letter before
him. He read:

I am leaving Paris for a few days; though you may not see me,
you will hear of me.

"Well?"

"Do you know what that means?"

"No."

"It means that Roland is in pursuit of you."

"What does that matter? He cannot die by the hand of any of us."

"But you, unhappy man, you can die by his!"

"Do you think I should care so very much if he killed me, Amélie?"

"Oh! even in my gloomiest moments I never thought of that."

"So you think your brother is on the hunt for us?"

"I am sure of it."

"What makes you so certain?"

"Because he swore over Sir John's body, when he thought him dead,
to avenge him."

"If he had died," exclaimed the young man, bitterly, "we should
not be where we are, Amélie."

"God saved him, Charles; it was therefore good that he did not die."

"For us?"

"I cannot fathom the ways of the Lord. I tell you, my beloved
Charles, beware of Roland; Roland is close by."

Charles smiled incredulously.

"I tell you that he is not only near here, but he has been seen."

"He has been seen! Where? Who saw him?"

"Who saw him?"

"Yes."

"Charlotte, my maid, the jailer's daughter. She asked permission
to visit her parents yesterday, Sunday; you were coming, so I
told her she could stay till this morning."

"Well?"

"She therefore spent the night with her parents. At eleven o'clock
the captain of the gendarmerie brought in some prisoners. While
they were locking them up, a man, wrapped in a cloak, came in
and asked for the captain. Charlotte thought she recognized the
new-comer's voice. She looked at him attentively; his cloak slipped
from his face, and she saw that it was my brother,"

The young man made a movement.

"Now do you understand, Charles? My brother comes to Bourg,
mysteriously, without letting me know; he asks for the captain
of the gendarmerie, follows him into the prison, speaks only
to him, and disappears. Is that not a threatening outlook for
our love? Tell me, Charles!"

As Amélie spoke, a dark cloud spread slowly over her lover's face.

"Amélie," said he, "when my companions and I bound ourselves
together, we did not deceive ourselves as to the risks we ran."

"But, at least," said Amélie, "you have changed your place of
refuge; you have abandoned the Chartreuse of Seillon?"

"None but our dead are there now."

"Is the grotto of Ceyzeriat perfectly safe?"

"As safe as any refuge can be that has two exit."

"The Chartreuse of Seillon had two exits; yet, as you say, you
left your dead there."

"The dead are safer than the living; they are sure not to die
on the scaffold."

Amélie felt a shudder go through her.

"Charles!" she murmured.

"Listen," said the young man. "God is my witness, and you too, that
I have always put laughter and gayety between your presentiments
and my fears; but to-day the aspect of things has changed; we are
coming face to face with the crisis. Whatever the end brings
us, it is approaching. I do not ask of you, my Amélie, those
selfish, unreasonable things that lovers in danger of death exact
from their mistresses; I do not ask you to bind your heart to
the dead, your love to a corpse--"

"Friend," said the young girl, laying her hand on his arm, "take
care; you are doubting me."

"No; I do you the highest honor in leaving you free to accomplish
the sacrifice to its full extent; but I do not want you to be
bound by an oath; no tie shall fetter you."

"So be it," said Amélie.

"What I ask of you," continued the young man, "and I ask you
to swear it on our love, which has been, alas! so fatal to you,
is this: if I am arrested and disarmed, if I am imprisoned and
condemned to death, I implore you, Amélie, I exact of you, that
in some way you will send me arms, not only for myself, but for
my companions also, so that we may still be masters of our lives."

"But in such a case, Charles, may I not tell all to my brother?
May I not appeal to his tenderness; to the generosity of the
First Consul?"

Before the young girl had finished, her lover seized her violently
by the wrist.

"Amélie," said he, "it is no longer one promise I ask of you,
there are two. Swear to me, in the first place, and above all
else, that you will not solicit my pardon. Swear it, Amélie;
swear it!"

"Do I need to swear, dear?" asked the young girl, bursting into
tears. "I promise it."

"Promise it on the hour when I first said I loved you, on the
hour when you answered that I was loved!"

"On your life, on mine, on the past, on the future, on our smiles,
on our tears."

"I should die in any case, you see, Amélie, even though I had to
beat my brains out against the wall; but I should die dishonored."

"I promise you, Charles."

"Then for my second request, Amélie: if we are taken and condemned,
send me arms--arms or poison, the means of dying, any means. Coming
from you, death would be another joy."

"Far or near, free or a prisoner, living or dead, you are my master,
I am your slave; order and I obey."

"That is all, Amélie; it is simple and clear, you see, no pardon,
and the means of death."

"Simple and clear, but terrible."

"You will do it, will you not?"

"You wish me to?"

"I implore you."

"Order or entreaty, Charles, your will shall be done."

The young man held the girl, who seemed on the verge of fainting,
in his left arm, and approached his mouth to hers. But, just
as their lips were about to touch, an owl's cry was heard, so
close to the window that Amélie started and Charles raised his
head. The cry was repeated a second time, and then a third.

"Ah!" murmured Amélie, "do you hear that bird of ill-omen? We
are doomed, my friend."

But Charles shook his head.

"That is not an owl, Amélie," he said; "it is the call of our
companions. Put out the light."

Amélie blew it out while her lover opened the window.

"Even here," she murmured; "they seek you even here!"

"It is our friend and confidant, the Comte de Jayat; no one else
knows where I am." Then, leaning from the balcony, he asked:
"Is it you, Montbar?"

"Yes; is that you, Morgan?"

"Yes."

A man came from behind a clump of trees.

"News from Paris; not an instant to lose; a matter of life and
death to us all."

"Do you hear, Amélie?"

Taking the young girl in his arms, he pressed her convulsively
to his heart.

"Go," she said, in a faint voice, "go. Did you not hear him say
it was a matter of life and death for all of you?"

"Farewell, my Amélie, my beloved, farewell!"

"Oh! don't say farewell."

"No, no; au revoir!"

"Morgan, Morgan!" cried the voice of the man waiting below in
the garden.

The young man pressed his lips once more to Amélie's; then, rushing
to the window, he sprang over the balcony at a bound and joined
his friend.

Amélie gave a cry, and ran to the balustrade; but all she saw
was two moving shadows entering the deepening shadows of the
fine old trees that adorned the park.

CHAPTER XXXIX

THE GROTTO OF CEYZERIAT

The two young men plunged into the shadow of the trees. Morgan
guided his companion, less familiar than he with the windings
of the park, until they reached the exact spot where he was in
the habit of scaling the wall. It took but an instant for both
of them to accomplish that feat. The next moment they were on
the banks of the Reissouse.

A boat was fastened to the foot of a willow; they jumped into
it, and three strokes of the oar brought them to the other side.
There a path led along the bank of the river to a little wood
which extends from Ceyzeriat to Etrez, a distance of about nine
miles, and thus forms, on the other side of the river, a pendant
to the forest of Seillon.

On reaching the edge of the wood they stopped. Until then they
had been walking as rapidly as it was possible to do without
running, and neither of them had uttered a word. The whole way
was deserted; it was probable, in fact certain, that no one had
seen them. They could breathe freely.

"Where are the Companions?" asked Morgan.

"In the grotto," replied Montbar.

"Why don't we go there at once?"

"Because we shall find one of them at the foot of that beech,
who will tell us if we can go further without danger."

"Which one?"

"D'Assas."

A shadow came from behind the tree.

"Here I am," it said.

"Ah! there you are," exclaimed the two young men.

"Anything new?" inquired Montbar.

"Nothing; they are waiting for you to come to a decision."

"In that case, let us hurry."

The three young men continued on their way. After going about
three hundred yards, Montbar stopped again, and said softly:
"Armand!"

The dry leaves rustled at the call, and a fourth shadow stepped
from behind a clump of trees, and approached his companions.

"Anything new?" asked Montbar.

"Yes; a messenger from Cadoudal."

"The same one who came before?"

"Yes."

"Where is he?"

"With the brothers, in the grotto."

"Come."

Montbar rushed on ahead; the path had grown so narrow that the
four young men could only walk in single file. It rose for about
five hundred paces with an easy but winding slope. Coming to an
opening, Montbar stopped and gave, three times, the same owl's
cry with which he had called Morgan. A single hoot answered him;
then a man slid down from the branches of a bushy oak. It was
the sentinel who guarded the entrance to the grotto, which was
not more than thirty feet from the oak. The position of the trees
surrounding it made it almost impossible of detection.

The sentinel exchanged a few whispered words with Montbar, who
seemed, by fulfilling the duties of leader, desirous of leaving
Morgan entirely to his thoughts. Then, as his watch was probably
not over, the bandit climbed the oak again, and was soon so
completely blended with the body of the tree that those he had
left might have looked for him in vain in that aerial bastion.

The glade became narrower as they neared the entrance to the
grotto. Montbar reached it first, and from a hiding-place known
to him he took a flint, a steel, some tinder, matches, and a
torch. The sparks flew, the tinder caught fire, the match cast a
quivering bluish flame, to which succeeded the crackling, resinous
flames of the torch.

Three or four paths were then visible. Montbar took one without
hesitation. The path sank, winding into the earth, and turned
back upon itself, as if the young men were retracing their steps
underground, along the path that had brought them. It was evident
that they were following the windings of an ancient quarry, probably
the one from which were built, nineteen hundred years earlier,
the three Roman towns which are now mere villages, and Cæsar's
camp which overlooked them.

At intervals this subterraneous path was cut entirely across by
a deep ditch, impassable except with the aid of a plank, that
could, with a kick, be precipitated into the hollow beneath. Also,
from place to place, breastworks could still be seen, behind
which men could intrench themselves and fire without exposing
their persons to the sight or fire of the enemy. Finally, at
five hundred yards from the entrance, a barricade of the height
of a man presented a final obstacle to those who sought to enter
a circular space in which ten or a dozen men were now seated
or lying around, some reading, others playing cards.

Neither the readers nor the players moved at the noise made by
the new-comers, or at the gleam of their light playing upon the
walls of the quarry, so certain were they that none but friends
could reach this spot, guarded as it was.

For the rest, the scene of this encampment was extremely picturesque;
wax candles were burning in profusion (the Companions of Jehu
were too aristocratic to make use of any other light) and cast
their reflection upon stands of arms of all kinds, among which
double-barrelled muskets and pistols held first place. Foils
and masks were hanging here and there upon the walls; several
musical instruments were lying about, and a few mirrors in gilt
frames proclaimed the fact that dress was a pastime by no means
unappreciated by the strange inhabitants of that subterranean
dwelling.

They all seemed as tranquil as though the news which had drawn
Morgan from Amélie's arms was unknown to them, or considered
of no importance.

Nevertheless, when the little group from outside approached,
and the words: "The captain! the captain!" were heard, all rose,
not with the servility of soldiers toward their approaching chief,
but with the affectionate deference of strong and intelligent
men for one stronger and more intelligent than they.

Then Morgan shook his head, raised his eyes, and, passing before
Montbar, advanced to the centre of the circle which had formed
at his appearance, and said:

"Well, friends, it seems you have had some news."

"Yes, captain," answered a voice; "the police of the First Consul
does us the honor to be interested in us."

"Where is the messenger?" asked Morgan.

"Here," replied a young man, wearing the livery of a cabinet courier,
who was still covered with mud and dust.

"Have you any despatches?"

"Written, no, verbal, yes."

"Where do they come from?"

"The private office of the minister of police."

"Can they be trusted?"

"I'll answer for them; they are positively official,"

("It's a good thing to have friends everywhere," observed Montbar,
parenthetically.)

"Especially near M. Fouché," resumed Morgan; "let us hear the
news."

"Am I to tell it aloud, or to you privately?"

"I presume we are all interested, so tell it aloud."

"Well, the First Consul sent for citizen Fouché at the Louvre,
and lectured him on our account."

"Capital! what next?"

"Citizen Fouché replied that we were clever scamps, very difficult
to find, and still more difficult to capture when we had been
found, in short, he praised us highly."

"Very amiable of him. What next?"

"Next, the First Consul replied that that did not concern him,
that we were brigands, and that it was our brigandage which
maintained the war in Vendée, and that the day we ceased sending
money to Brittany there would be no more Brittany."

"Excellent reasoning, it seems to me."

"He said the West must be fought in the East and the Midi."

"Like England in India."

"Consequently he gave citizen Fouché full powers, and, even if
it cost a million and he had to kill five hundred men, he must
have our heads."

"Well, he knows his man when he makes his demand; remains to be
seen if we let him have them."

"So citizen Fouché went home furious, and vowed that before eight
days passed there should not be a single Companion of Jehu left
in France."

"The time is short."

"That same day couriers started for Lyons, Mâcon, Sons-le-Saulnier,
Besançon and Geneva, with orders to the garrison commanders to
do personally all they could for our destruction; but above all
to obey unquestioningly M. Roland de Montrevel, aide-de-camp
to the First Consul, and to put at his disposal as many troops
as he thought needful."

"And I can add," said Morgan, "that M. Roland de Montrevel is
already in the field. He had a conference with the captain of
the gendarmerie, in the prison at Bourg, yesterday."

"Does any one know why?" asked a voice.

"The deuce!" said another, "to engage our cells."

"Do you still mean to protect him?" asked d'Assas.

"More than ever."

"Ah! that's too much!" muttered a voice.

"Why so," retorted Morgan imperiously, "isn't it my right as a
Companion?"

"Certainly," said two other voices.

"Then I use it; both as a Companion and as your leader."

"But suppose in the middle of the fray a stray ball should take
him?" said a voice.

"Then, it is not a right I claim, nor an order that I give, but
an entreaty I make. My friends, promise me, on your honor, that
the life of Roland de Montrevel will be sacred to you."

With unanimous voice, all stretching out their hands, they replied:
"We swear on our honor!"

"Now," resumed Morgan, "let us look at our position under its
true aspect, without deluding ourselves in any way. Once an
intelligent police force starts out to pursue us, and makes actual
war against us, it will be impossible for us to resist. We may
trick them like a fox, or double like a boar, but our resistance
will be merely a matter of time, that's all. At least that is
my opinion."

Morgan questioned his companions with his eyes, and their
acquiescence was unanimous, though it was with a smile on their
lips that they recognized their doom. But that was the way in
those strange days. Men went to their death without fear, and
they dealt it to others without emotion.

"And now," asked Montbar, "have you anything further to say?"

"Yes," replied Morgan, "I have to add that nothing is easier
than to procure horses, or even to escape on foot; we are all
hunters and more or less mountaineers. It will take us six hours
on horse back to get out of France, or twelve on foot. Once in
Switzerland we can snap our fingers at citizen Fouché and his
police. That's all I have to say."

"It would be very amusing to laugh at citizen Fouché," said Montbar,
"but very dull to leave France."

"For that reason, I shall not put this extreme measure to a vote
until after we have talked with Cadoudal's messenger."

"Ah, true," exclaimed two or three voices; "the Breton! where
is the Breton?"

"He was asleep when I left," said Montbar.

"And he is still sleeping," said Adler, pointing to a man lying
on a heap of straw in a recess of the grotto.

They wakened the Breton, who rose to his knees, rubbing his eyes
with one hand and feeling for his carbine with the other.

"You are with friends," said a voice; "don't be afraid."

"Afraid!" said the Breton; "who are you, over there, who thinks
I am afraid?"

"Some one who probably does not know what fear is, my dear
Branche-d'Or," said Morgan, who recognized in Cadoudal's messenger
the same man whom they had received at the Chartreuse the night
he himself arrived from Avignon. "I ask pardon on his behalf."

Branche-d'Or looked at the young men before him with an air that
left no doubt of his repugnance for a certain sort of pleasantry;
but as the group had evidently no offensive intention, their
gayety having no insolence about it, he said, with a tolerably
gracious air: "Which of you gentlemen is captain? I have a letter
for him from my captain."

Morgan advanced a step and said: "I am."

"Your name?"

"I have two."

"Your fighting name?"

"Morgan."

"Yes, that's the one the general told me; besides, I recognize
you. You gave me a bag containing sixty thousand francs the night
I saw the monks. The letter is for you then."

"Give it to me."

The peasant took off his hat, pulled out the lining, and from
between it and the felt he took a piece of paper which resembled
another lining, and seemed at first sight to be blank. Then, with
a military salute, he offered the paper to Morgan, who turned it
over and over and could see no writing; at least none was apparent.

"A candle," he said.

They brought a wax light; Morgan held the paper to the flame.
Little by little, as the paper warmed, the writing appeared.
The experience appeared familiar to the young men; the Breton
alone seemed surprised. To his naive mind the operation probably
seemed like witchcraft; but so long as the devil was aiding the
royalist cause the Chouan was willing to deal with him.

"Gentlemen," said Morgan, "do you want to know what the master
says?"

All bowed and listened, while the young man read:

MY DEAR MORGAN--If you hear that I have abandoned the cause, and
am in treaty with the government of the First Consul and the
Vendéan leaders, do not believe it. I am a Breton of Brittany,
and consequently as stubborn as a true Breton. The First Consul
sent one of his aides-de-camp to offer me an amnesty for all my
men, and the rank of colonel for myself. I have not even consulted
my men, I refused for them and for me.

Now, all depends on us; as we receive from the princes neither
money nor encouragement, you are our only treasurer; close your
coffers, or rather cease to open those of the government for us,
and the royalist opposition, the heart of which beats only in
Brittany, will subside little by little, and end before long.

I need not tell you that my life will have ended first.

Our mission is dangerous; probably it will cost us our heads; but
what can be more glorious than to hear posterity say of us, if
one can hear beyond the grave: "All others despaired; but they,
never!"

One of us will survive the other, but only to succumb later. Let
that survivor say as he dies: _Etiamsi omnes, ego non._

Count on me as I count on you. CADOUDAL.

P.S.--You know that you can safely give Branche-d'Or all the money
you have for the Cause. He has promised me not to let himself be
taken, and I trust his word.

A murmur of enthusiasm ran through the group, as Morgan finished
the last words of the letter.

"You have heard it, gentlemen?" he said.

"Yes, yes, yes," repeated every voice.

"In the first place, how much money have we to give to Branche-d'Or?"

"Thirteen thousand francs from the Lake of Silans, twenty-two
thousand from Les Carronnières, fourteen thousand from Meximieux,
forty-nine thousand in all," said one of the group.

"You hear, Branche-d'Or?" said Morgan; "it is not much--only
half what we gave you last time, but you know the proverb: 'The
handsomest girl in the world can only give what she has.'"

"The general knows what you risk to obtain this money, and he
says that, no matter how little you send, he will receive it
gratefully."

"All the more, that the next will be better," said a young man
who had just joined the group, unperceived, so absorbed were
all present in Cadoudal's letter. "More especially if we say two
words to the mail-coach from Chambéry next Saturday."

"Ah! is that you, Valensolle?" said Morgan.

"No real names, if you please, baron; let us be shot, guillotined,
drawn and quartered, but save our family honor. My name is Adler;
I answer to no other."

"Pardon me, I did wrong--you were saying?"

"That the mail-coach from Paris to Chambéry will pass through
Chapelle-de-Guinchay and Belleville next Saturday, carrying fifty
thousand francs of government money to the monks of Saint-Bernard;
to which I may add that there is between those two places a spot
called the Maison-Blanche, which seems to me admirably adapted
for an ambuscade."

"What do you say, gentlemen?" asked Morgan, "Shall we do citizen
Fouché the honor to worry about his police? Shall we leave France?
Or shall we still remain faithful Companions of Jehu?"

There was but one reply--"We stay."

"Right!" said Morgan. "Brothers, I recognize you there. Cadoudal
points out our duty in that admirable letter we have just received.
Let us adopt his heroic motto: _Etiamsi omnes, ego non._" Then
addressing the peasant, he said, "Branche-d'Or, the forty-nine
thousand francs are at your disposal; you can start when you
like. Promise something better next time, in our name, and tell
the general for me that, wherever he goes, even though it be to
the scaffold, I shall deem it an honor to follow, or to precede
him. Au revoir, Branche-d'Or." Then, turning to the young man who
seemed so anxious to preserve his incognito, "My dear Adler,"
he said, like a man who has recovered his gayety, lost for an
instant, "I undertake to feed and lodge you this night, if you
will deign to accept me as a host."

"Gratefully, friend Morgan," replied the new-comer. "Only let
me tell you that I could do without a bed, for I am dropping
with fatigue, but not without supper, for I am dying of hunger."

"You shall have a good bed and an excellent supper."

"Where must I go for them."

"Follow me."

"I'm ready."

"Then come on. Good-night, gentlemen! Are you on watch, Montbar?"

"Yes."

"Then we can sleep in peace."

So saying, Morgan passed his arm through that of his friend,
took a torch in his other hand, and passed into the depths of
the grotto, where we will follow him if our readers are not too
weary of this long session.

It was the first time that Valensolle, who came, as we have said,
from the neighborhood of Aix, had had occasion to visit the grotto
of Ceyzeriat, recently adopted as the meeting-place of the Companions
of Jehu. At the preceding meetings he had occasion to explore
only the windings and intricacies of the Chartreuse of Seillon,
which he now knew so well that in the farce played before Roland
the part of ghost was intrusted to him. Everything was, therefore,
curious and unknown to him in this new domicile, where he now
expected to take his first sleep, and which seemed likely to be,
for some days at least, Morgan's headquarters.

As is always the case in abandoned quarries--which, at the first
glance, partake somewhat of the character of subterranean cities--the
different galleries excavated by the removal of the stone end in a
cul de sac; that is to say, at a point in the mine where the work
stops. One of these streets seemed to prolong itself indefinitely.
Nevertheless, there came a point where the mine would naturally
have ended, but there, in the angle of the tunnelled way, was
cut (For what purpose? The thing remains a mystery to this day
among the people of the neigbborhood) an opening two-thirds the
width of the gallery, wide enough, or nearly so, to give passage
to two men abreast.

The two friends passed through this opening. The air there became
so rarefied that their torch threatened to go out at every step.
Vallensolle felt drops of ice-cold water falling on his hands
and face.

"Bless me," said he, "does it rain down here?"

"No," replied Morgan, laughing; "only we are passing under the
Reissouse."

"Then we are going to Bourg?"

"That's about it."

"All right; you are leading me; you have promised me supper and
a bed, so I have nothing to worry about--unless that light goes
out," added the young man, looking at the paling flame of the
torch.

"That wouldn't matter; we can always find ourselves here."

"In the end!" said Valensolle. "And when one reflects that we
are wandering through a grotto under rivers at three o'clock in
the morning, sleeping the Lord knows where, with the prospect
of being taken, tried, and guillotined some fine morning, and
all for princes who don't even know our names, and who if they
did know them one day would forget them the next--I tell you,
Morgan, it's stupid!"

"My dear fellow," said Morgan, "what we call stupid, what ordinary
minds never do understand in such a case, has many a chance to
become sublime."

"Well, well," said Valensolle, "I see that you will lose more
than I do in this business; I put devotion into it, but you put
enthusiasm."

Morgan sighed.

"Here we are," said he, letting the conversation drop, like a
burden too heavy to be carried longer. In fact, his foot had
just struck against the first step of a stairway.

Preceding Valensolle, for whom he lighted the way, Morgan went
up ten steps and reached the gate. Taking a key from his pocket,
he opened it. They found themselves in the burial vault. On each
side of the vault stood coffins on iron tripods: ducal crowns and
escutcheons, blazoned azure, with the cross argent, indicated
that these coffins belonged to the family of Savoy before it
came to bear the royal crown. A flight of stairs at the further
end of the cavern led to an upper floor.

Valensolle cast a curious glance around him, and by the vacillating
light of the torch, he recognized the funereal place he was in.

"The devil!" said he, "we are just the reverse of the Spartans,
it seems."

"Inasmuch as they were Republicans and we are royalists?" asked
Morgan.

"No; because they had skeletons at the end of their suppers, and
we have ours at the beginning."

"Are you sure it was the Spartans who proved their philosophy
in that way?" asked Morgan, closing the door.

"They or others--what matter?" said Vallensolle. "Faith! My citation
is made, and like the Abbé Vertot, who wouldn't rewrite his siege,
I'll not change it."

"Well, another time you had better say the Egyptians."

"Well," said Valensolle, with an indifference that was not without
a certain sadness, "I'll probably be a skeleton myself before I
have another chance to display my erudition. But what the devil
are you doing? Why did you put out the torch? You're not going
to make me eat and sleep here I hope?"

Morgan had in fact extinguished the torch at the foot of the steps
leading to the upper floor.

"Give me your hand," said the young man.

Valensolle seized his friend's band with an eagerness that showed
how very slight a desire he had to make a longer stay in the
gloomy vaults of the dukes of Savoy, no matter what honor there
might be in such illustrious companionship.

Morgan went up the steps. Then, by the tightening of his hand,
Valensolle knew he was making an effort. Presently a stone was
raised, and through the opening a trembling gleam of twilight
met the eyes of the young men, and a fragrant aromatic odor came
to comfort their sense of smell after the mephitic atmosphere
of the vaults.

"Ah!" cried Valensolle, "we are in a barn; I prefer that."

Morgan did not answer; he helped his companion to climb out of
the vault, and then let the stone drop back in its place.

Valensolle looked about him. He was in the midst of a vast building
filled with hay, into which the light filtered through windows
of such exquisite form that they certainly could not be those
of a barn.

"Why!" said Valensolle, "we are not in a barn!"

"Climb up the hay and sit down near that window," replied Morgan.

Valensolle obeyed and scrambled up the hay like a schoolboy in
his holidays; then he sat down, as Morgan had told him, before
a window. The next moment Morgan placed between his friend's
legs a napkin containing a paté, bread, a bottle of wine, two
glasses, two knives and two forks.

"The deuce!" cried Valensolle, "'Lucullus sups with Lucullus.'"

Then gazing through the panes at a building with numberless windows,
which seemed to be a wing of the one they were in, and before
which a sentry was pacing, he exclaimed: "Positively, I can't
eat my supper till I know where we are. What is this building?
And why that sentry at the door?"

"Well," said Morgan, "since you absolutely must know, I will
tell you. We are in the church of Brou, which was converted into
a fodder storehouse by a decree of the Municipal Council. That
adjoining building is now the barracks of the gendarmerie, and
that sentry is posted to prevent any one from disturbing our
supper or surprising us while we sleep."

"Brave fellows," said Valensolle, filling his glass; "their health,
Morgan!"

"And ours!" said the young man, laughing; "the devil take me if
any one could dream of finding us here."

Morgan had hardly drained his glass, when, as if the devil had
accepted the challenge, the sentinel's harsh, strident voice
cried: "_Qui vive!_"

"Hey!" exclaimed the two young men, "what does this mean?"

A body of thirty men came from the direction of Pont d'Ain, and,
after giving the countersign to the sentry, at once dispersed;
the larger number, led by two men, who seemed to be officers,
entered the barracks; the others continued on their way.

"Attention!" said Morgan.

And both young men, on their knees, their ears alert, their eyes
at the window, waited.

Let us now explain to the reader the cause of this interruption
of a repast which, though taken at three o'clock in the morning,
was not, as we have seen, over-tranquil.

CHAPTER XL

A FALSE SCENT

The jailer's daughter had not been mistaken; it was indeed Roland
whom she had seen in the jail speaking to the captain of the
gendarmerie. Neither was Amélie wrong in her terror. Roland was
really in pursuit of Morgan.

Although he avoided going to the Château des Noires-Fontaines,
it was not that he had the slightest suspicion of the interest
his sister had in the leader of the Companions of Jehu; but he
feared the indiscretion of one of his servants. He had recognized
Charlotte at the jail, but as the girl showed no astonishment,
he believed she had not recognized him, all the more because,
after exchanging a few words with the captain, he went out to
wait for the latter on the Place du Bastion, which was always
deserted at that hour.

His duties over, the captain of gendarmerie joined him. He found
Roland impatiently walking back and forth. Roland had merely
made himself known at the jail, but here he proceeded to explain
the matter, and to initiate the captain into the object of his
visit.

Roland had solicited the First Consul, as a favor to himself,
that the pursuit of the Companions of Jehu be intrusted to him
personally, a favor he had obtained without difficulty. An order
from the minister of war placed at his disposal not only the
garrison of Bourg, but also those of the neighboring towns. An
order from the minister of police enjoined all the officers of
the gendarmerie to render him every assistance.

He naturally applied in the first instance to the captain of
the gendarmerie at Bourg, whom he had long known personally as
a man of great courage and executive ability. He found what he
wanted in him. The captain was furious against the Companions
of Jehu, who had stopped diligences within a mile of his town,
and on whom he was unable to lay his hand. He knew of the reports
relating to the last three stoppages that had been sent to the
minister of police, and he understood the latter's anger. But
Roland brought his amazement to a climax when he told him of
the night he had spent at the Chartreuse of Seillon, and of what
had happened to Sir John at that same Chartreuse during the
succeeding night.

The captain had heard by common rumor that Madame de Montrevel's
guest had been stabbed; but as no one had lodged a complaint,
he did not think he had the right to investigate circumstances
which it seemed to him Roland wished to keep in the dark. In
those troublous days more indulgence was shown to officers of
the army than they might have received at other times.

As for Roland, he had said nothing because he wished to reserve
for himself the satisfaction of pursuing the assassins and sham
ghosts of the Chartreuse when the time came. He now arrived with
full power to put that design into execution, firmly resolved
not to return to the First Consul until it was accomplished.
Besides, it was one of those adventures he was always seeking,
at once dangerous and picturesque, an opportunity of pitting his
life against men who cared little for their own, and probably
less for his. Roland had no conception of Morgan's safe-guard
which had twice protected him from danger--once on the night
he had watched at the Chartreuse, and again when he had fought
against Cadoudal. How could he know that a simple cross was drawn
above his name, and that this symbol of redemption guaranteed
his safety from one end of France to the other?

For the rest, the first thing to be done was to surround the
Chartreuse of Seillon, and to search thoroughly into its most
secret places--a thing Roland believed himself perfectly competent
to do.

The night was now too far advanced to undertake the expedition,
and it was postponed until the one following. In the meantime
Roland remained quietly in hiding in the captain's room at the
barracks that no one might suspect his presence at Bourg nor
its cause. The following night he was to guide the expedition.
In the course of the morrow, one of the gendarmes, who was a
tailor, agreed to make him a sergeant's uniform. He was to pass
as a member of the brigade at Sons-le-Saulnier, and, thanks to
the uniform, could direct the search at the Chartreuse without
being recognized.

Everything happened as planned. Roland entered the barracks with
the captain about one o'clock, ascended to the latter's room, where
he slept on a bed on the floor like a man who has just passed two
days and two nights in a post-chaise. The next day he restrained
his impatience by drawing a plan of the Chartreuse of Seillon for
the captain's instruction, with which, even without Roland's
help, that worthy officer could have directed the expedition
without going an inch astray.

As the captain had but eighteen men under him, and it was not
possible to surround the monastery completely with that number,
or rather, to guard the two exits and make a thorough search
through the interior, and, as it would have taken three or four
days to bring in all the men of the brigade scattered throughout
the neighborhood, the officer, by Roland's order, went to the
colonel of dragoons, garrisoned at Bourg, told him of the matter
in hand, and asked for twelve men, who, with his own, made thirty
in all.

The colonel not only granted the twelve men, but, learning that
the expedition was to be commanded by Colonel Roland de Montrevel,
aide-de-camp to the First Consul, he proposed that he himself
should join the party at the head of his twelve men.

Roland accepted his co-operation, and it was agreed that the
colonel (we employ the words colonel and chief of brigade
indifferently, both being interchangeable terms indicating the
same rank) and his twelve dragoons should pick up Roland, the
captain, and his eighteen men, the barracks being directly on
their road to the Chartreuse. The time was set for eleven that
night.

At eleven precisely, with military punctuality, the colonel of
dragoons and his twelve men joined the gendarmes, and the two
companies, now united in one, began their march. Roland, in his
sergeant's uniform, made himself known to his brother colonel;
but to the dragoons and gendarmes he remained, as agreed upon,
a sergeant detached from the brigade at Sons-le-Saulnier. Only,
as it might otherwise have seemed extraordinary that a sergeant,
wholly unfamiliar with these localities, should be their guide,
the men were told that Roland had been in his youth a novice at
Seillon, and was therefore better acquainted than most persons
with the mysterious nooks of the Chartreuse.

The first feeling of these brave soldiers had been a slight
humiliation at being guided by an ex-monk; but, on the other
hand, as that ex-monk wore the three-cornered hat jauntily, and
as his whole manner and appearance was that of a man who has
completely forgotten that he formerly wore a cowl, they ended
by accepting the humiliation, and reserved their final judgment
on the sergeant until they could see how he handled the musket
he carried on his arm, the pistols he wore in his belt, and the
sword that hung at his side.

The party was supplied with torches, and started in perfect silence.
They were divided into three squads; one of eight men, led by
the captain of gendarmerie, another of ten, commanded by the
colonel, and the third of twelve men, with Roland at its head.
On leaving the town they separated.

The captain of the gendarmerie, who knew the localities better
than the colonel of dragoons, took upon himself to guard the
window of La Correrie, giving upon the forest of Seillon, with
his eight men. The colonel of dragoons was commissioned by Roland
to watch the main entrance of the Chartreuse; with him were five
gendarmes and five dragoons. Roland was to search the interior,
taking with him five gendarmes and seven dragoons.

Half an hour was allowed each squad to reach its post; it was
more than was needed. Roland and his men were to scale the orchard
wall when half-past eleven was ringing from the belfry at Péronnaz.
The captain of gendarmerie followed the main road from Pont d'Ain
to the edge of the woods, which he skirted until he reached his
appointed station. The colonel of dragoons took the crossroad
which branches from the highway of Pont d'Ain and leads to the
great portal of the Chartreuse. Roland crossed the fields to the
orchard wall which, as the reader will remember, he had already
climbed on two occasions.

Punctually at half-past eleven he gave the signal to his men
to scale the wall. By the time they reached the other side the
men, if they did not yet know that Roland was brave, were at
least sure that he was active.

Roland pointed in the dusk to a door--the one that led from the
orchard into the cloister. Then he sprang ahead through the rank
grasses; first, he opened the door; first, he entered the cloister.

All was dark, silent and solitary. Roland, still guiding his
men, reached the refectory. Absolute solitude; utter silence.

They crossed the hall obliquely, and returned to the garden without
alarming a living creature except the owls and the bats. There
still remained the cistern, the mortuary vault, and the pavilion,
or rather, the chapel in the forest, to be searched. Roland crossed
the open space between the cistern and the monastery. After
descending the steps, he lighted three torches, kept one, and
handed the other two, one to a dragoon, the other to a gendarme;
then he raised the stone that concealed the stairway.

The gendarmes who followed Roland began to think him as brave
as he was active.

They followed the subterranean passage to the first gate; it
was closed but not locked. They entered the funereal vault. Here
was more than solitude, more than silence; here was death. The
bravest felt a shiver in the roots of their hair.

Roland went from tomb to tomb, sounding each with the butt of
the pistol he held in his hand. Silence everywhere. They crossed
the vault, reached the second gate, and entered the chapel. The
same silence, the same solitude; all was deserted, as it seemed,
for years. Roland went straight to the choir; there lay the blood
on the stones; no one had taken the trouble to efface it. Here
was the end of his search, which had proved futile. Roland could
not bring himself to retreat. He fancied he was not attacked
because of his numerous escort; he therefore left ten men and a
torch in the chapel, told them to put themselves in communication,
through the ruined window, with the captain of the gendarmerie,
who was ambushed in the forest within a few feet of the window,
while he himself, with two men, retraced his steps.

This time the two men who followed Roland thought him more than
brave, they considered him foolhardy. But Roland, caring little
whether they followed or not, retraced his own steps in default
of those of the bandits. The two men, ashamed, followed him.

Undoubtedly the Chartreuse was deserted. When Roland reached the
great portal, he called to the colonel of dragoons; he and his
men were at their post. Roland opened the door and joined them.
They had seen nothing, heard nothing. The whole party entered
the monastery, closing and barricading the door behind them to
cut off the bandits' retreat, if they were fortunate enough to
meet any. Then they hastened to rejoin their comrades, who, on
their side, had united with the captain and his eight men, and
were waiting for them in the choir.

There was nothing for it but to retire. Two o'clock had just
struck; nearly three hours had been spent in fruitless search.
Roland, rehabilitated in the estimation of the gendarmes and
the dragoons, who saw that the ex-novice did not shirk danger,
regretfully gave the signal for retreat by opening the door of
the chapel which looked toward the forest.

This time Roland merely closed the door behind him, there being
no longer any hope of encountering the brigands. Then the little
troop returned to Bourg at a quick step. The captain of gendarmerie,
with his eighteen men and Roland, re-entered the barracks, while
the colonel and his twelve men continued on their way toward the
town.

It was the sentinel's call, as he challenged the captain and
his party, which had attracted the attention of Morgan and
Valensolle; and it was the noise of their return to the barracks
which interrupted the supper, and caused Morgan to cry out at
this unforeseen circumstance: "Attention!"

In fact, in the present situation of these young men, every
circumstance merited attention. So the meal was interrupted.
Their jaws ceased to work to give the eyes and ears full scope.
It soon became evident that the services of their eyes were alone
needed.

Each gendarme regained his room without light. The numerous barrack
windows remained dark, so that the watchers were able to concentrate
their attention on a single point.

Among those dark windows, two were lighted. They stood relatively
back from the rest of the building, and directly opposite to
the one where the young men were supping. These windows were
on the first floor, but in the position the watchers occupied
at the top of bales of hay, Morgan and Valensolle were not only
on a level, but could even look down into them. These windows
were those of the room of the captain of gendarmes.

Whether from indifference on the worthy captain's part, or by
reason of State penury, the windows were bare of curtains, so
that, thanks to the two candles which the captain had lighted
in his guest's honor, Morgan and Valensolle could see everything
that took place in this room.

Suddenly Morgan grasped Valensolle's arm, and pressed it with
all his might.

"Hey" said Valensolle "what now?"

Roland had just thrown his three-cornered hat on a chair and Morgan
had recognized him.

"Roland de Montrevel!" he exclaimed, "Roland in a sergeant's
uniform! This time we are on his track while he is still seeking
ours. It behooves us not to lose it."

"What are you going to do?" asked Valensolle, observing that his
friend was preparing to leave him.

"Inform our companions. You stay here and do not lose sight of
him. He has taken off his sword, and laid his pistols aside,
therefore it is probable he intends to spend the night in the
captain's room. To-morrow I defy him to take any road, no matter
which, without one of us at his heels."

And Morgan sliding down the declivity of the hay, disappeared
from sight, leaving his companion crouched like a sphinx, with
his eyes fixed on Roland de Montrevel.

A quarter of an hour later Morgan returned. By this time the
officer's windows were dark like all the others of the barracks.

"Well?" asked Morgan.

"Well," replied Valensolle, "it ended most prosaically. They
undressed themselves, blew out the candles, and lay down, the
captain on his bed, Roland on a mattress. They are probably trying
to outsnore each other at the present moment."

"In that case," said Morgan, "good-night to them, and to us also."

Ten minutes later the wish was granted, and the two young men
were sleeping, as if they did not have danger for a bed-fellow.

CHAPTER XLI

THE HÔTEL DE LA POSTE

That same morning, about six o'clock, at the cold gray breaking
of a February day, a rider, spurring a post-hack and preceded
by a postilion who was to lead back the horse, left Bourg by
the road to Mâcon or Saint-Julien.

We say Mâcon _or_ Saint-Julien, because about three miles
from the capital of Bresse the road forks; the one to the right
keeping straight on to Saint-Julien, the other, which deviates
to the left, leading to Mâcon.

When the rider reached this bifurcation, he was about to take
the road leading to Mâcon, when a voice, apparently coming from
beneath an upset cart, implored his pity. The rider called to
the postilion to see what the matter was.

A poor market-man was pinned down under a load of vegetables.
He had evidently attempted to hold up the cart just as the wheel,
sinking into the ditch, overbalanced the vehicle. The cart had
fallen on him, but fortunately, he said, he thought no limbs
were broken, and all he wanted was to get the cart righted, and
then he could recover his legs.

The rider was compassionate to his fellow being, for he not only
allowed the postilion to stop and help the market-man, but he
himself dismounted, and with a vigor one would hardly have expected
from so slight a man, he assisted the postilion not only to right
the cart, but to replace it on the roadbed. After which he offered
to help the man to rise; but the latter had said truly; he really
was safe and sound, and if there were a slight shaking of the
legs, it only served to prove the truth of the proverb that God
takes care of drunkards. The man was profuse in his thanks, and
took his horse by the bridle, as much, it was evident, to hold
himself steady as to lead the animal.

The riders remounted their homes, put them to a gallop, and soon
disappeared round a bend which the road makes a short distance
before it reaches the woods of Monnet.

They had scarcely disappeared when a notable change took place in
the demeanor of our market-man. He stopped his horse, straightened
up, put the mouthpiece of a tiny trumpet to his lips, and blew
three times. A species of groom emerged from the woods which
line the road, leading a gentleman's horse by the bridle. The
market-man rapidly removed his blouse, discarded his linen trousers,
and appeared in vest and breeches of buckskin, and top boots.
He searched in his cart, drew forth a package which he opened,
shook out a green hunting coat with gold braidings, put it on,
and over it a dark-brown overcoat; took from the servant's hands
a hat which the latter presented him, and which harmonized with
his elegant costume, made the man screw his spurs to his boots,
and sprang upon his horse with the lightness and skill of an
experienced horseman.

"To-night at seven," he said to the groom, "be on the road between
Saint-Just and Ceyzeriat. You will meet Morgan. Tell him that
he _whom he knows of_ has gone to Mâcon, but that I shall
be there before him."

Then, without troubling himself about his cart and vegetables,
which he left in his servant's charge, the ex-marketman, who
was none other than our old acquaintance Montbar, turned his
horse's head toward the Monnet woods, and set out at a gallop.
His mount was not a miserable post hack, like that on which Roland
was riding. On the contrary, it was a blooded horse, so that
Montbar easily overtook the two riders, and passed them on the
road between the woods of Monnet and Polliat. The horse, except
for a short stop at Saint-Cyr-sur-Menthon, did the twenty-eight
or thirty miles between Bourg and Mâcon, without resting, in
three hours.

Arrived at Mâcon, Montbar dismounted at the Hôtel de la Poste,
the only one which at that time was fitted to receive guests
of distinction. For the rest, from the manner in which Montbar
was received it was evident that the host was dealing with an
old acquaintance.

"Ah! is it you, Monsieur de Jayat?" said the host. "We were wondering
yesterday what had become of you. It's more than a month since
we've seen you in these parts."

"Do you think it's as long as that, friend?" said the young man,
affecting to drop his r's after the fashion of the day. "Yes,
on my honor, that's so! I've been with friends, the Trefforts
and the Hautecourts. You know those gentlemen by name, don't
you?"

"By name, and in person."

"We hunted to hounds. They're finely equipped, word of honor!
Can I breakfast here this morning?"

"Why not?"

"Then serve me a chicken, a bottle of Bordeaux, two cutlets,
fruit--any trifle will go."

"At once. Shall it be served in your room, or in the common room?"

"In the common room, it's more amusing; only give me a table to
myself. Don't forget my horse. He is a fine beast, and I love
him better than I do certain Christians, word of honor!"

The landlord gave his orders. Montbar stood before the fire, his
coat-tails drawn aside, warming his calves.

"So you still keep to the posting business?" he said to the landlord,
as if desirous of keeping up the conversation.

"I should think so!"

"Then you relay the diligences?"

"Not the diligences, but the mail-coaches."

"Ah! tell me--I want to go to Chambéry some of these days--how
many places are there in the mail-coach?"

"Three; two inside, and one out with the courier."

"Do I stand any chance of finding a vacant seat?"

"It may happen; but the safest way is to hire your own conveyance."

"Can't I engage a place beforehand?"

"No; for don't you see, Monsieur de Jayat, that if travellers
take places from Paris to Lyons, they have the first right."

"See, the aristocrats!" said Montbar, laughing. "Apropos of
aristocrats, there is one behind me posting here. I passed him
about a mile the other side of Polliat. I thought his hack a
little wind-broken."

"Oh!" exclaimed the landlord, "that's not astonishing; my brothers
in the business have a poor lot of horses."

"Why, there's our man!" continued Montbar; "I thought I had more
of a lead of him."

Roland was, in fact, just passing the windows at a gallop.

"Do you still want chamber No. 1, Monsieur de Jayat?" asked the
landlord.

"Why do you ask?"

"Because it is the best one, and if you don't take it, I shall
give it to that man, provided he wants to make any stay."

"Oh! don't bother about me; I shan't know till later in the day
whether I go or stay. If the new-comer means to remain give him
No. l. I will content myself with No. 2."

"The gentleman is served," said the waiter, looking through the
door which led from the kitchen to the common room.

Montbar nodded and accepted the invitation. He entered the common
room just as Roland came into the kitchen. The dinner was on
the table. Montbar changed his plate and sat down with his back
to the door. The precaution was useless. Roland did not enter
the common room, and Montbar breakfasted without interruption.
When dessert was over, however, the host himself brought in his
coffee. Montbar understood that the good man was in talkative
humor; a fortunate circumstance, for there were certain things
he was anxious to hear about.

"Well," said Montbar, "what became of our man? Did he only change
horses?"

"No, no, no," said the landlord; "as you said, he's an aristocrat.
He ordered breakfast in his own room."

"His room or my room?" asked Montbar; "for I'm certain you put
him in that famous No. 1."

"Confound it! Monsieur de Jayat, it's your own fault. You told
me I could do as I liked."

"And you took me at my word; that was right. I shall be satisfied
with No. 2."

"You'll be very uncomfortable. It's only separated from No. 1
by a partition, and you can hear everything that happens from
one room to the other."

"Nonsense, my dear man, do you think I've come here to do improper
things, or sing seditious songs, that you are afraid the stranger
should hear or see what I do?"

"Oh! that's not it."

"What is it then?"

"I'm not afraid you'll disturb others. I'm afraid they'll disturb
you."

"So your new guest is a roisterer?"

"No; he looks to me like an officer."

"What makes you think so?"

"His manner, in the first place. Then he inquired what regiment

Book of the day: