Part 12 out of 14
Roland had not heard what the two poachers had said, but he had
"Hey, the deuce! of course it is I," he shouted.
A minute more and Michel and Jacques were beside him. The questions
of father and son were a crossfire, and it must be owned they
had good reason for amazement. Roland, in civilian's dress, on
a cavalry horse, at three in the morning, on the road from Bourg
to the château! The young officer cut short all questions.
"Silence, poachers!" said he, "put that deer behind me and be off
at trot to the château. No one must know of my presence there,
not even my sister."
Roland spoke with military precision, and both men knew that
when he gave an order there was no replying. They picked up the
deer, put it behind his saddle, and followed the gentle trot
of the horse at a run. There was less than a mile to do, and
it took but ten minutes. At a short distance from the château,
Roland pulled up. The two men went forward as scouts to see if
all were quiet. Satisfied on that point, they made a sign to
Roland to advance.
Roland came, dismounted, found the door of the lodge open, and
entered. Michel took the horse to the stable and carried the deer
to the kitchen; for Michel belonged to that honorable class of
poachers, who kill game for the pleasure of killing, and not for
the selfish interest of sale. There was no need for precaution,
either for horse or deer; for Amélie took no more notice of what
went on in the stable than of what they served her to eat.
During this time Jacques lighted the fire. When Michel returned
he brought the remains of a leg of mutton and some eggs for an
omelet. Jacques made up a bed in the office.
Roland warmed himself and ate his supper without saying a word.
The two men looked at each other with an astonishment that was not
devoid of a certain degree of anxiety. A rumor of the expedition
to Seillon had got about, and it was whispered that Roland had led
it. Apparently, he had returned for another similar expedition.
When Roland had finished his supper he looked up and saw Michel.
"Ah! so there you are?" he exclaimed.
"I am waiting for Monsieur's orders."
"Here they are; listen carefully."
"I'm all ears."
"It's a question of life or death; of more than that, of my honor."
"Speak, Monsieur Roland."
Roland pulled out his watch.
"It is now five o'clock. When the inn of the Belle-Alliance opens,
be there, as if you were just sauntering by; then stop a minute
to chat with whoever opens it."
"That will probably be Pierre."
"Pierre or another; find out from him who the traveller is who
arrived last night on a pacing horse. You know what pacing is,
"The deuce! You mean a horse that goes like a bear, both feet
forward at the same time."
"Bravo! You can also find out whether the traveller is leaving
this morning, or whether he proposes to spend the day at the
hotel, can't you?"
"Of course I can find that out."
"Well, when you have found out all that, come and tell me; but
remember, not a word about my being here. If any one asks about
me, say that they had a letter from me yesterday, and that I
was in Paris with the First Consul."
Michel departed. Roland went to bed and to sleep, leaving Jacques
to guard the building.
When Roland awoke Michel had returned. He had found out all that
his master desired to know. The horseman who had arrived in the
night was to leave the next morning, and on the travellers' register,
which every innkeeper was obliged by law to keep in those days,
was entered: "Saturday, 30th Pluviose, _ten at night_; the
citizen Valensolle, from Lyons going to Geneva." Thus the alibi
was prepared; for the register would prove that the citizen
Valensolle had arrived at ten o'clock, and it was impossible
that he could have assisted in robbing the mail-coach near the
Maison-Blanche at half-past eight and yet have reached the Hotel
de la Belle-Alliance at ten.
But what impressed Roland the most was that the man he had followed
through the night, and whose name and retreat he had just discovered,
was none other than the second of Alfred de Barjols, whom he
himself had killed in a duel near the fountain of Vaucluse; and
that that second was, in all probability, the man who had played
the part of ghost at the Chartreuse of Seillon.
So, then, the Companions of Jehu were not mere thieves, but,
on the contrary, as rumor said, gentlemen of good family, who,
while the noble Bretons were laying down their lives for the
royalist cause in the West, were, here in the East, braving the
scaffold to send to the combatants the money they took from the
We have seen that during the pursuit of the preceding night Roland
could have arrested one or two of the men he was pursuing. He
could now do the same with M. de Valensolle, who was probably,
like Roland himself, taking a day's rest after a night of great
To do it he had only to write a line to the captain of gendarmes,
or to the colonel of dragoons, who had assisted him during that
ineffectual search at Seillon. Their honor was concerned in the
affair. They could instantly surprise M. de Valensolle in bed,
and at the cost of two pistol shots--two men killed or wounded--he
would be taken.
But M. de Valensolle's arrest would give warning to the rest of
the band, who would instantly put themselves in safety beyond
the frontier. It was better, therefore, to keep to his first
idea; to go slowly, to follow the different trails which must
converge to one centre, and, at the risk of a general engagement,
throw a net over the whole company.
To do that, M. de Valensolle must not be arrested. It was better
to follow him on his pretended journey to Geneva, which was probably
but a blind to foil investigation. It was therefore agreed that
Roland, whose disguise, however good, was liable to be penetrated,
should remain at the lodge, and Michel and Jacques should head
off the game. In all probabilities, M. de Valensolle would not
set out from the inn before nightfall.
Roland made inquiries of Michel about the life his sister had
led since her mother's departure. He learned that she had never
once left the grounds during that time. Her habits were still the
same, except for the walks and visits she had made with Madame
She rose at seven or eight in the morning, sketched or practiced
her music till breakfast, and afterward read or employed herself
at some kind of embroidery, or took advantage of the sunshine to
go out with Charlotte to the river. Sometimes she bade Michel
unfasten the little boat, and then, well wrapped in furs, would
row up the Reissouse as far as Montagnac or down to Saint-Just.
During these trips she spoke to no one. Then she dined. After
dinner, she retired to her bedroom and did not appear again.
By half-past six, therefore, Michel and Jacques could decamp
without arousing any suspicion as to their where-about; and,
accordingly, at that hour they took their blouses, game-bags
and guns, and started. Roland had given them their instructions.
They were to follow the pacing horse until they had ascertained
his destination, or until they had lost all trace of him. Michel
was to lie in wait opposite the inn of the Belle-Alliance; Jacques
was to station himself outside of Bourg, just where the main road
divides into three branches, one going to Saint-Amour, another
to Saint-Claude, and the third to Nantua. This last was at the
same time the highroad to Geneva. It was evident that unless M.
de Valensolle returned upon his steps, which was not probable,
he would take one or another of these three roads.
The father started in one direction, the son in another. Michel
went toward the town by the road to Pont-d'Ain, passing the church
of Brou. Jacques crossed the Reissouse, followed the right bank of
the little river, and found himself, after walking a few hundred
yards beyond the town, at the sharp angle made by the parting of
the three roads. Father and son reached their separate posts
at about the same time.
At this particular moment, that is to say, about seven o'clock, the
stillness and solitude surrounding the Château des Noires-Fontaines
was broken by the arrival of a post-chaise, which stopped before
the iron gate. A servant in livery got off the box and pulled
the chain of the bell.
It was Michel's business to open the gate, but Michel was away,
as we know. Amélie and Charlotte probably counted on him, for
the bell was rung three times before any one answered it. At
last the maid appeared at the head of the stairs calling Michel.
Michel made no reply. Finally, protected by the locked gates,
Charlotte ventured to approach them. In spite of the obscurity
she recognized the servant.
"Ah, is it you, Monsieur James?" she cried, somewhat reassured.
James was Sir John's confidential valet.
"Yes, mademoiselle, it is I, or rather it is Sir John."
The carriage door opened at this moment, and his master's voice
was heard saying: "Mademoiselle Charlotte, will you tell your
mistress that I have just arrived from Paris, that I have called
to leave my card, and to ask permission, not to be received this
evening, but to be allowed to call to-morrow, if she will grant
me that favor. Ask her at what hour I shall least inconvenience
Mademoiselle Charlotte had a high opinion of Sir John, consequently
she acquitted herself of the commission with the utmost alacrity.
Five minutes later she returned to announce that Sir John would
be received the next day between twelve and one o'clock.
Roland knew what the Englishman had come for. In his mind the
marriage was an accomplished fact, and he regarded Sir John already
as his brother-in-law. He hesitated a moment as to whether he
should or should not make himself known to Sir John, and tell
his friend about his projects; but he reflected that Sir John
was not a man to let him work them out alone. He, too, had a
revenge to take on the Companions of Jehu; he would certainly
insist on taking part in the expedition, whatever it was. And that
expedition, however it might result, was certain to be dangerous,
and another disaster might befall him. Roland's luck, as Roland
well knew, did not extend to his friends. Sir John, grievously
wounded, had barely escaped with his life, and the colonel of
dragoons had been killed outright. He therefore allowed Sir John
to drive away without giving any sign of his own proximity.
As for Charlotte, she did not seem in the least surprised that
Michel was not there to open the gate. Evidently they were accustomed
to his absences, and they did not disturb either the mistress
or the maid. For the rest, Roland knew his sister well enough
to understand this indifference. Amélie, feeble under a moral
suffering wholly unsuspected by Roland, who attributed to simple
nervous crises the fluctuations of his sister's character, Amélie
was strong and brave before real danger. That was no doubt why
she felt no fear about remaining with Charlotte alone in the
lonely house, without other protection than that afforded by the
two gardeners, who spent their nights in poaching.
As for ourselves, we know that Michel and his son did really
serve their mistress' desire more in absenting themselves thus
frequently from the château than in staying [near] it. Their
absence left the coast clear for Morgan, [and that] was all Amélie
really cared about.
That evening and part of the night went by without bringing Roland
any news. He tried to sleep, but succeeded ill. He fancied every
minute that he heard some one at the door. The day was just beginning
to glimmer through the shutters when the door did actually open.
Michel and Jacques were returning, and this is what had happened
They had each gone to his post, Michel at the inn door, Jacques
to the junction of the roads. Twenty paces from the door Michel
had met Pierre, and three words sufficed to show him that M. de
Valensolle was still at the inn. The latter had announced that,
as he had a long journey before him, he would let his horse rest
and would not start until nightfall. Pierre did not doubt that
he was going to Geneva, as he said.
Michel proposed a glass of wine to Pierre. Pierre accepted. After
that, Michel was sure of being warned of any change. Pierre was
the hostler, and nothing could be done in the stable without
his knowledge. A lad attached to the inn promised to convey the
news to Michel, in return for which Michel gave him three charges
of powder with which to make firecrackers.
At midnight the traveller had not yet started; they had drunk
four bottles of wine, but Michel had partaken sparingly of them.
He had found means to pour three of the four bottles into Pierre's
glass, where they did not long remain. At midnight the wine-shop
closed, and Michel having nowhere to go for the four hours that
still remained until daybreak, Pierre offered him a bed of straw in
the stable. Michel accepted. The two friends went back arm-in-arm;
Pierre staggering, Michel pretending to stagger.
At three o'clock in the morning the servant of the hotel awakened
Michel. The traveller wanted his horse. Michel, pretending that
he must be off to see to his game, also rose. His toilet was not
long in making; he had only to shake the straw from his hair,
game-bag, and blouse, after which he took leave of his friend
Pierre and hid himself at the corner of the street.
Fifteen minutes later the gate opened and a man rode out on a
pacing horse. It was M. de Valensolle. He took the street that
led to the Geneva road. Michel followed without concealment,
whistling a hunting air. Only, as Michel could not run for fear
of attracting the rider's notice, he lost sight of him before
long. But Jacques was there, thought he, waiting at the fork of
the roads. Yes, Jacques had been there, but he had been there
for over six hours of a winter's night, in five degrees of cold.
Had he the courage to stand six hours in the snow and kick his
soles against a tree?
Thinking thus, Michel took a short cut through the streets and
lanes, running at full speed; but horse and rider, in spite of
his haste, had gone faster than he. He reached the fork of the
roads. All was silent and solitary. The snow, trampled the day
before, a Sunday, no longer showed distinct tracks. The steps
of the horse were lost in the mud of the road. Nor did he waste
further time in vain searching. He wondered what had become of
Jacques; but his poacher's eye soon told him.
Jacques had stood on watch at the foot of a tree. For how long?
It was difficult to say, but long enough to become very cold.
The snow was well beaten down by his heavy hunting-boots. He
had evidently tried to keep warm by walking up and down. Then
suddenly he must have remembered a little mud hut on the other
side of the road, such as the road-menders build as a shelter
against the rain. He had gone down the ditch and crossed the
road. His trail, lost for a moment in the centre of the road, was
visible on the snow at either side. This trail formed a diagonal
line, making straight for the hut. It was evidently in the hut
that Jacques had passed the night. But when had he left it? And
why had he left it? The first question was unanswerable. But to
the most inexperienced scout the second was plain enough. He had
left it to follow M. de Valensolle. The same footsteps that had
approached the hut were to be seen going, as they left it, in
the direction of Ceyzeriat.
The traveller had really taken the road to Geneva. Jacques' footsteps
showed it plainly. The stride was long, like that of a man running,
and he had followed the road behind the trees, evidently to conceal
himself from the rider. At a wretched tavern, one of those with
the legend inscribed over its door: "Here we give food and drink,
equestrian and pedestrian lodgings," the trail stopped. It was
clear that the rider had stopped before this inn, for Jacques
had also paused behind a tree some twenty feet distant, where
the snow was-trampled. Then, probably after the gate had closed
on horse and rider, Jacques had left his tree, crossed the road,
this time with hesitation, his short steps leading, not to the
door, but to the window.
Michel put his own feet in his son's footprints and reached the
window. Through the chinks in the shutter the interior, when
lighted, could be seen; but now all was dark, and Michel could see
nothing. But Jacques had certainly looked through the window; no
doubt it was then lighted, and he had been able to see something.
Where had he gone on leaving the window? Round the house, close
to the wall. This excursion was easy to follow. The snow was
virgin. As for his purpose in going round the house that was
not difficult to make out. Jacques, like a lad of sense, had
concluded that the traveller had not left a good hotel, saying
that he was going to Geneva, to put up at a miserable tavern
a mile from the town.
He must have ridden through the yard and gone out by some other
exit. Jacques had, therefore, skirted the house in the hope of
recovering the trail, if not of the horse, at least of the rider
on the other side.
Sure enough, from a small gate in the rear, opening toward the
forest that extends from Coterz to Ceyzeriat, footsteps could
be seen advancing in a straight line to the edge of the woods.
They were those of a man elegantly shod, wearing spurs on his
heels, for the spurs had left their marks upon the snow.
Jacques had not hesitated to follow these marks. The track of
his heavy shoes could be seen near the prints of the delicate
boot--the large foot of the peasant near the slender foot of
the city man.
It was now five o'clock. Day was breaking, and Michel resolved
to go no further. Jacques was on the trail, and the young poacher
was worth as much as the old one. Michel circled the open as if
he were returning from Ceyzeriat, resolving to enter the inn
and wait for Jacques' return; certain that his son would know he
had followed him and had stopped short at this isolated house.
Michel knocked on the window-shutter and was soon admitted. He
knew the landlord, who was well accustomed to his nocturnal habits,
asked for a bottle, complaining bitterly of his poor luck, and
asked permission to wait for his son, who was in the woods on
the other side, and who, he hoped, had been more successful in
tracking the game. It goes without saying that this permission
was readily accorded. Michel opened the window-shutters, in order
to look out on the road.
It was not long before some one knocked on the glass. It was Jacques.
His father called him.
Jacques had been as unfortunate as his father. No game; and he
was frozen. An armful of wood was thrown on the fire and a second
bottle of wine was brought. Jacques warmed himself and drank.
Then, as it was necessary that the two poachers should be back
at the château before daylight, that their absence might not be
noticed, Michel paid for the wine and the wood, and the pair
Neither had said one word before the landlord of the subject
that filled their minds. He was not to suspect that they were on
other trail than that of game. But no sooner were they outside
of the house than Michel drew close to his son. Jacques recounted
how he had followed the tracks until they had reached a crossroad
in the forest. There a man, armed with a gun, had suddenly appeared
and asked him what he was doing in the forest at that hour. Jacques
replied that he was watching for game. "Then go further," said
the man; "don't you see that this place is taken?"
Jacques admitted the justice of this claim, and went on about a
hundred rods further, but, just as he was slanting to the left
to return to the crossroad, another man, armed like the first, had
suddenly started up with the same inopportune question. Jacques
gave him the same answer: "Watching for game." The man had then
pointed to the edge of the woods, saying in a threatening manner:
"If I have any advice to give you, my young friend, it is to go
over there. It will be safer for you than here."
Jacques had taken this advice, or at least had pretended to take
it, for as soon as he had reached the edge of the woods he had
crept along in the ditch, until, convinced that it would be
impossible to recover M. de Valensolle's track, he had struck
into the open, and returned by fields and the highroad to the
tavern, where he hoped to, and in fact did, find his father.
They reached the Château des Noires-Fontaines, as we have seen,
just as day was breaking.
All that we have related was repeated to Roland with a multiplicity
of detail which we must omit, and convinced the young officer
that the two armed men, who had warned off Jacques, were not
poachers as they seemed, but Companions of Jehu. But where was
their haunt located?
There was no deserted convent, no ruin, in that direction.
Suddenly Roland clapped his hand to his head. "Idiot that I am!"
he cried, "why did I never think of that?"
A smile of triumph crossed his lips, and addressing the two men,
who were mortified at having brought him no more definite news,
he cried: "My lads, I know all I want to know. Go to bed and
sleep sound; my word, you deserve to!" He himself, setting the
example, slept like a man whose brain has solved a problem of
the utmost importance which has long harassed it.
The thought had just flashed through his mind that the Companions
of Jehu had abandoned the Chartreuse of Seillon for the grottoes
of Ceyzeriat; and at the same time he recalled the subterranean
passage leading from these grottoes to the church of Brou.
That same day, Sir John, making use of the permission accorded
him the night before, presented himself at the Château des
Noires-Fontaines between twelve and one o'clock.
Everything occurred as Morgan had advised. Sir John was received as
the friend of the family, Lord Tanlay as a suitor whose attentions
were most flattering. Amélie made no opposition to the wishes of her
mother and brother, and to the commands of the First Consul, further
than to dwell on the state of her health and to ask for delay on
that account. Sir John bowed and submitted; he had obtained more
than he had hoped to obtain. He was accepted.
He felt that his presence in Bourg, if prolonged, would be an
impropriety, Amélie being (still on the plea of ill-health) parted
from her mother and brother. He therefore announced that he would
pay her a second visit on the morrow, and leave Bourg that same
evening. He would delay further visits until Amélie came to Paris,
or until Madame de Montrevel returned to Bourg. The latter
arrangement was the more probable of the two, for Amélie assured
him she needed the country air and the spring-like weather to
assist her in recovering her health.
Thanks to Sir John's considerate delicacy, the plan arranged
between Amélie and Morgan was thus carried out, and the two lovers
had before them a period of solitude and a respite in which to
form their plans.
Michel learned these details from Charlotte and imparted them
in turn to Roland. The latter determined to await Sir John's
departure before he took any decisive steps against the Companions
of Jehu. But this did not prevent him from endeavoring to set at
rest any remaining doubts.
When night came he put on a hunting-suit, and over it Michel's
blouse, concealed his face beneath a broad-brimmed hat, slipped
a pair of pistols in his knife-belt, hidden by the blouse, and
boldly took the road from Noires-Fontaines to Bourg. He stopped
at the barracks of the gendarmerie and asked to see the captain.
The captain was in his room. Roland went up and made himself
known. Then, as it was only eight o'clock, and some one passing
might recognize him, he blew out the light, and the two men talked
in the dark. The captain knew already what had happened on the
Lyons road three days earlier, and, certain that Roland was not
killed, was expecting him. To his great astonishment, Roland
asked him for only one, or rather for two things: the key of the
church of Brou and a crowbar.
The captain gave him the required articles, and offered to accompany
him, but Roland refused. It was evident to his mind that he had
been betrayed by some one connected with the affair of the
Maison-Blanche, and he would not expose himself to a second defeat.
He therefore begged the captain to tell no one of his presence
in Bourg, and to await his return, even if it were delayed some
hours. The captain agreed.
Roland, the key in his right hand, the crowbar in his left, reached
the side door of the church without making any noise. This he
unlocked, entered, relocked it behind him, and found himself facing
a wall of hay. He listened. The most profound silence reigned.
He remembered his boyish habits, took his bearings, put the key
in his pocket, and scrambled up the wall of hay, which was about
fifteen feet high and formed a sort of platform. When he reached
the top he slid down on the other side, as though he were descending
the scarp of a fortification, and reached the flooring of the
church, which was almost wholly composed of mortuary stones.
The choir was empty, thanks to a rood-screen which protected it
on one side, and also to the walls which inclosed it to right
and left. The door of the screen was open and Roland entered the
choir without difficulty. He came face to face with the monument
of Philippe le Beau. At the head of the tomb was a large square
flagstone. It covered the steps which led to the burial vaults.
Roland must have known the way, for as soon as he reached the
stone he knelt down and felt with his hand for the edge of it.
When he found it he stood up, inserted his lever and raised the
slab. With one hand he held it up while he went down the steps.
Then he lowered it slowly. It seemed as though this nocturnal
visitor were voluntarily separating himself from the land of the
living, and descending into the world of the dead. And strange
indeed to him, who sees by night as by day, on the earth and
beneath it, must the impassibility of this young man have seemed,
who passed among the dead in search of the living, and who, in
spite of darkness and solitude, did not shudder at the touch
of the mortuary marbles.
He walked on, feeling his way among the tombs, until he came
to the iron gate leading to the subterranean passage. He looked
for the lock. It was only bolted. He inserted the end of his
lever between the bolt and the staple, and pushed it gently.
The gate opened. He drew it close after him, but did not lock
it, so as to avoid delay on his return. The crowbar he left at
the corner of the gate.
Then, with straining ears, dilated pupils, every sense tense
with this effort to hear, the need to breathe, the impossibility
of seeing, he advanced slowly, a pistol in one hand, touching
the wall with the other to guide himself. He walked thus for
fifteen minutes. A few drops of ice-cold water fell through the
roof on his hands and shoulders, and told him he was passing
under the river.
At the end of this time he found the door which opened from the
passage into the quarry. There he halted a moment. He could now
breathe more freely, and, moreover, he fancied that he heard distant
sounds, and could see flickering lights, like will-o'-the-wisps,
on the pillars that supported the roof. An observer might have
thought, not distinguishing the face of the silent listener,
that he showed hesitation; but the moment his countenance was
seen, no one could have mistaken its expression of hope.
He then resumed his way, heading toward the light he thought he
had seen. As he advanced, the lights and the noises grew more
distinct. It was evident that the quarry was inhabited. By whom?
He did not yet know, but he would know.
He was already within ten feet of that open clearing in the midst
of the granite walls which we described on our first visit to
the grotto of Ceyzeriat. Roland clung closely to the wall, and
moved forward almost imperceptibly. In the dim half-light he
looked like a gliding bass-relief.
At last his head passed beyond an angle of the wall, and his
glance rested upon what we may call the camp of the Companions
A dozen or more of the members sat there at supper. Roland was
seized with a wild desire to precipitate himself into their midst,
attacking them singly, and fighting until he died. But he repressed
the insensate thought, withdrew his head as slowly as he had
advanced it, and, with beaming eyes and heart full of joy, returned,
unseen and unsuspected, along the way he had come. Everything
was now explained; the deserted Chartreuse, M. de Valensolle's
disappearance, and the counterfeit poachers near the entrance
to the grotto of Ceyzeriat.
This time he was sure of his vengeance, his deadly, terrible
vengeance--deadly, because, in like manner as he had been spared
(he suspected intentionally), he meant to spare others; with
this difference that, whereas he had been spared for life, he
would order these men spared for death, death on the scaffold.
Half-way back he thought he heard a noise behind him. He turned
and was certain he saw a gleam of light. He quickened his steps.
The gate once passed, there was no danger of losing his way. It
was no longer a quarry with a thousand windings; it was a straight
and narrow vaulted passage leading to the mortuary grating. At the
end of ten minutes he again passed under the river; a couple of
minutes later, his outstretched hand touched the iron gate.
He took the crowbar from the place where he had left it, entered
the vault, pulled the gate to, closed it gently and noiselessly,
and, guiding himself by the tombs, he regained the staircase,
pushed up the flagstone with his head, and stood once more in
the land of the living.
There it was comparative daylight. He left the choir, closed the
door of the screen as he had found it, scaled the hay, crossed
the platform, and slid down the other side. The key was still
in his pocket. He unlocked the door and stepped out into the
The captain of gendarmerie was anxiously awaiting him. They conferred
together for a few moments, and then they returned to Bourg by
the outer road to avoid being seen. Here they entered the town
through the market-gate, and followed the Rue de la Révolution,
the Rue de la Liberté, and the Rue d'Espagne, since called the
Rue Simonneau. There Roland ensconced himself in a corner of the
Rue du Greffe and waited. The captain continued on his way alone.
He went down the Rue des Ursules (for the last seven years called
the Rue des Casernes). This was where the colonel of dragoons
lived. He had just gone to bed when the captain of the gendarmerie
entered his room; in two words the latter told all, and he rose
at once and dressed in haste.
When the colonel of dragoons and the captain of gendarmerie appeared
in the square, a shadow detached itself from the opposite wall
and came up to them. That shadow was Roland. The three men stood
talking for about ten minutes, Roland giving his orders, the
other two listening and approving.
Then they separated. The colonel returned home. Roland and the
captain followed the Rue de l'Etoile, climbed the steps of the
Jacobins, passed down the Rue du Bourgneuf, and reached the outer
road once more. Then they struck diagonally across to the highroad
of Pont-d'Ain. The captain stopped at the barracks, which were
on the way, and Roland continued alone to the château.
Twenty minutes later--in order not to awaken Amélie--instead
of ringing the bell he knocked on Michel's window-blind. Michel
opened, and with one bound Roland, devoured by that fever which
took possession of him whenever he incurred, or merely dreamed
of some danger, sprang into the room.
He would not have awakened Amélie had he rung, for Amélie was
not asleep. Charlotte had been into town ostensibly to see her
father, but really to take a letter from her mistress to Morgan.
She had seen Morgan and brought back his answer.
Amélie was reading that answer, which was as follows:
DEAR LOVE OF MINE--Yes, all goes well on your side, for you are
an angel; but I greatly fear that all may go ill on mine, for I
am the demon.
I must see you, I must hold you in my arms and press you to my
Heart. I know not what presentiment hangs over me; but I am sad,
sad as death.
Send Charlotte to-morrow to make sure that Sir John is gone, and
then, if you are certain, make the accustomed signal. Do not be
alarmed; do not talk to me of the snow, or tell me that my
footsteps will be seen. This time it is not I who will go to you,
but you who must come to me. Do you understand? You can safely
walk in the park, and no one will notice your footsteps.
Put on your warmest shawl and your thickest furs. Then we will
spend an hour in the boat under the willows together, and change
our roles for once. Usually I tell you of my hopes and you tell
me of your fears; but to-morrow, you will tell me of your hopes
and I will tell you of my fears, my darling Amélie.
Only, be sure to come out as soon as you have made the signal. I
will await it at Montagnac, and from Montagnac to the Reissouse
it will not take a love like mine five minutes to reach you.
Au revoir, my poor Amélie; had you never met me you would have
been the happiest of the happy. Fatality placed me in your path,
and I have made a martyr of you.
P.S.--To-morrow without fail, unless some insurmountable obstacle
IN WHICH MORGAN'S PRESENTIMENTS ARE VERIFIED
It often happens that the skies are never so calm or so serene
as before a storm. The day was beautiful and still; one of those
glorious days of February when, in spite of the tingling cold
of the atmosphere, in spite of a winding-sheet of snow covering
the earth, the sun smiles down upon mankind with a promise of
Sir John came at noon to make his farewell visit to Amélie. He
had, or thought he had, her promise, and that satisfied him.
His impatience was altogether personal; but Amélie, in accepting
his suit, even though she relegated the period of her marriage to
the vaguest possible future, had crowned his hopes. He trusted
to the First Consul and to Roland's friendship for the rest. He
therefore returned to Paris to do much of his courting with
Madame de Montrevel, not being able to remain at Bourg and carry
it on with Amélie.
A quarter of an hour after he had left the Château des
Noires-Fontaines, Charlotte was also on her way to Bourg. At
four o'clock she returned, bringing word that she had seen Sir
John with her own eyes getting into his travelling carriage,
and that he had taken the road to Mâcon.
Amélie could therefore feel perfectly at ease on that score. She
breathed freer. She had tried to inspire Morgan with a peace of
mind which she herself did not share. Since the day that Charlotte
had brought back the news of Roland's presence at Bourg, she
had had a presentiment, like that of Morgan himself, that they
were approaching some terrible crisis. She knew all that had
happened at the Chartreuse of Seillon. She foresaw the struggle
between her brother and her lover, and, with her mind at rest
about her brother, thanks to Morgan's protection, she, knowing
Roland's character, trembled for her lover's life.
Moreover, she had heard of the stoppage of the Chambéry mail-coach
and the death of the colonel of Chasseurs. She also knew that her
brother had escaped, but that he had disappeared since that time.
She had received no letter from him herself. This disappearance
and silence, to her who knew her brother so well, was even worse
than open and declared war.
As for Morgan, she had not seen him since the scene we have narrated,
when she promised to send him arms wherever he might be, in case he
were condemned to death. Amélie therefore awaited this interview,
for which Morgan had asked, with as much impatience as he who had
asked it. As soon as she thought Michel and his son were in bed,
she lighted the four windows with the candles which were to summon
Morgan to her.
Then, following her lover's injunctions, she wrapped herself
in a cashmere shawl, which Roland had brought her from the
battlefield of the Pyramids, and which he had unwound from the
head of a chieftain whom he had killed. Over this she flung a
fur mantle, left Charlotte behind to keep her informed in case
of eventualities, which she trusted would not be forthcoming,
opened the park gate, and hastened toward the river.
During the day she had gone to the Reissouse and back several
times to trace a line of footsteps, among which the nocturnal
ones would not be noticed. She now descended, if not tranquilly
at least boldly, the slope leading to the river. Once there, she
looked about her for the boat beneath the willows. A man was
waiting in it--Morgan. With two strokes of the oar he reached
a spot where Amélie could come to him. The young girl sprang
down and he caught her in his arms.
The first thing the young girl noticed was the joyous radiance
which illuminated, if we may say so, the face of her lover.
"Oh!" she cried, "you have something nice to tell me." "What
makes you think so, dearest?" asked Morgan with his tenderest
"There is something in your face, my darling Charles, something
more than the mere happiness of seeing me."
"You are right," said Morgan, throwing the boat-chain around a
willow and letting the oars float idly beside the boat. Then,
taking Amélie in his arms, he said, "You were right, my Amélie.
Oh! blind weak beings! It is at the very moment that happiness
knocks at our door that we despair and doubt."
"Oh, speak, speak!" said Amélie, "tell me what has happened."
"Do you remember, my Amélie, how you answered me the last time
we met, when I asked you to fly and spoke to you of your probable
repugnance to the step?"
"Yes, I remember, Charles. I said that I was yours, and that,
though I felt that repugnance, I would conquer it for your sake."
"And I replied that I had engagements which would prevent my
leaving the country; that I was bound to others, and they to
me; that our duty was to one man to whom we owed absolute
obedience--the future King of France, Louis XVIII."
"Yes, you told me that."
"Well, we are now released from our pledges, Amélie, not only
by the King, but by our general, Georges Cadoudal."
"Oh! my friend, then you will be as other men, only above all
"I shall become a simple exile, Amélie. There is no hope of our
being included in the Breton or Vendéan amnesty."
"We are not soldiers, my darling child. We are not even rebels.
We are Companions of Jehu."
"We are bandits, brigands, highwaymen," said Morgan, dwelling
on the words with evident intention.
"Hush!" said Amélie, laying her hand on her lover's lips. "Hush!
don't let us speak of that. Tell me how it is that your king
has released you, and your general also."
"The First Consul wished to see Cadoudal. In the first place,
he sent your brother to him with certain proposals. Cadoudal
refused to come to terms; but, like ourselves, he received orders
from Louis XVIII. to cease hostilities. Coincident with that
order came another message from the First Consul to Cadoudal.
It was a safeguard for the Vendéan general, and an invitation
to come to Paris; an overture from one power to another power.
Cadoudal accepted, and is now on his way to Paris. If it is not
peace, it is at least a truce."
"Oh, what joy, my Charles!"
"Don't rejoice too much, my love."
"Do you know why they have issued this order to suspend hostilities?"
"Because M. Fouché is a long-headed man. He realized that, since
he could not defeat us, he must dishonor us. He has organized
false companies of Jehu, which he has set loose in Maine and
Anjou, who don't stop at the government money, but pillage and
rob travellers, and invade the châteaux and farms by night, and
roast the feet of the owners to make them tell where their treasure
is hidden. Well, these men, these bandits, these _roasters_,
have taken our name, and claim to be fighting for the same
principles, so that M. Fouché and his police declare that we are
not only beyond the pale of the law, but beyond that of honor."
"That is what I wished to tell you before I ask you to fly with
me, my Amélie. In the eyes of France, in the eyes of foreigners,
even in the eyes of the prince we have served, and for whom we
have risked the scaffold, we shall be hereafter, and probably
are now, dishonored men worthy of the scaffold."
"Yes; but to me you are my Charles, the man of devoted convictions,
the firm royalist, continuing to struggle for a cause when other men
have abandoned it. To me you are the loyal Baron de Sainte-Hermine,
or, if you like it better, you are to me the noble, courageous,
"Ah! that is what I longed to hear, my darling. If you feel thus,
you will not hesitate, in spite of the cloud of infamy that hangs
over our honor, you will not hesitate--I will not say to give
yourself to me, for that you have already done--but to become
"Hesitate! No, not for an instant, not for a second! To do it
is the joy of my soul, the happiness of my life! Your wife? I
am your wife in the sight of God, and God will have granted my
every prayer on the day that he enables me to be your wife before
Morgan fell on his knees.
"Then," he said, "here at your feet, with clasped hands and my
whole heart supplicating, I say to you, Amélie, will you fly
with me? Will you leave France with me? Will you be my wife in
Amélie sprang erect and clasped her head in her hands, as though
her brain were bursting with the force of the blood that rushed
to it. Morgan caught both her hands and looked at her anxiously.
"Do you hesitate?" he asked in a broken, trembling voice.
"No, not an instant!" she cried resolutely. "I am yours in the
past, in the present, in the future, here, everywhere. Only the
thought convulses me. It is so unexpected."
"Reflect well, Amélie. What I ask of you is to abandon country
and family, all that is dear to you, all that is sacred. If you
follow me, you leave the home where you were born, the mother
who nurtured you, the brother who loves you, and who, perhaps,
when he hears that you are the wife of a brigand, will hate you.
He will certainly despise you."
As he spoke, Morgan's eyes were anxiously questioning Amélie's
face. Over that face a tender smile stole gradually, and then
it turned from heaven to earth, and bent upon Morgan, who was
still on his knees before her.
"Oh, Charles!" she murmured, in a voice as soft as the clear
limpid river flowing at her feet, "the love that comes direct
from the Divine is very powerful indeed, since, in spite of those
dreadful words you have just uttered, I say to you without
hesitation, almost without regret: Charles, I am here; Charles,
I am yours. Where shall we go?"
"Amélie, our fate is not one to discuss. If we go, if you follow
me, it must be at once. To-morrow we must be beyond the frontier."
"How do we go?"
"I have two horses, ready saddled at Montagnac, one for you,
Amélie, and one for me. I have letters of credit for two hundred
thousand francs on London and Vienna. We will go wherever you
"Wherever you are, Charles. What difference does it make so long
as you are there?"
"Can I have five minutes, Charles; is that too much?"
"Where are you going?"
"To say good-by to many things, to fetch your precious letters
and the ivory chaplet used at my first communion. Oh! there are
many sacred cherished souvenirs of my childhood which will remind
me over there of my mother, of France. I will fetch them and
"What is it?"
"I cannot leave you. If I part with you an instant now I feel
that I shall lose you forever. Amélie, let me go with you."
"Yes, come. What matter if they see your footsteps now? We shall
be far enough away to-morrow. Come!" The young man sprang from
the boat and gave his hand to Amélie to help her out. Then he
folded his arm about her and they walked to the house.
On the portico Charles stopped.
"Go on alone," said he; "memory is a chaste thing. I know that,
and I will not embarrass you by my presence. I will wait here
and watch for you. So long as I know you are close by me I do
not fear to lose you. Go, dear, and come back quickly."
Amélie answered with a kiss. Then she ran hastily up to her room,
took the little coffer of carved oak clamped with iron, her treasury,
which contained her lover's letters from first to last, unfastened
from the mirror above her bed the white and virginal chaplet
that hung there; put into her belt a watch her father had given
her, and passed into her mother's bedchamber. There she stooped
and kissed the pillow where her mother's head had lain, knelt
before the Christ at the foot of the bed, began a thanksgiving
she dared not finish, changed it to a prayer, and then suddenly
stopped--she fancied she heard Charles calling her.
She listened and heard her name a second time, uttered in a tone
of agony she could not understand. She quivered, sprang to her
feet, and ran rapidly down the stairs.
"What is it?" cried Amélie, seizing the young man's hand.
"Listen, listen!" said he.
Amélie strained her ears to catch the sound which seemed to her
like musketry. It came from the direction of Ceyzeriat.
"Oh!" cried Morgan, "I was right in doubting my happiness to the
last. My friends are attacked. Adieu, Amélie, adieu!"
"Adieu!" cried Amélie, turning pale. "What, will you leave me?"
The sound of the firing grew more distinct.
"Don't you hear them? They are fighting, and I am not there to
fight with them."
Daughter and sister of a soldier, Amélie understood him and she
made no resistance.
"Go!" she said, letting her hands drop beside her. "You were right,
we are lost."
The young man uttered a cry of rage, caught her to his breast, and
pressed her to him as though he would smother her. Then, bounding
from the portico, he rushed in the direction of the firing with the
speed of a deer pursued by hunters.
"I come! I come, my friends!" he cried. And he disappeared like
a shadow beneath the tall trees of the park.
Amélie fell upon her knees, her hands stretched toward him without
the strength to recall him, or, if she did so, it was in so faint
a voice that Morgan did not stop or even check his speed to answer
It is easy to guess what had happened. Roland had not wasted his
time with the captain of gendarmerie and the colonel of dragoons.
They on their side did not forget that they had their own revenge
Roland had informed them of the subterranean passage that led
from the church of Brou to the grotto of Ceyzeriat. At nine in
the evening the captain and the eighteen men under his command
were to go to the church, descend into the burial vault of the
Dukes of Savoy, and prevent with their bayonets all communication
between the subterranean passage and the quarry.
Roland, at the head of twenty men, was to inclose the woods in
a semicircle, drawing in upon it until the two ends should meet
at the grotto of Ceyzeriat. The first movement of the party was
to be made at nine o'clock, in conjunction with the captain of
We have seen, from what Morgan told Amélie, the nature of the
present intentions of the Companions of Jehu. The news brought
from Mittau and from Brittany had put them at ease. Each man
felt that he was free, and, knowing that the struggle had been
a hopeless one, he rejoiced in his liberty.
There was therefore a full meeting at the grotto of Ceyzeriat,
almost a fête. At twelve o'clock the Companions of Jehu were
to separate, and each one, according to his facilities, was to
cross the frontier and leave France.
We know how their leader employed his last moments. The others,
who had not the same ties of the heart, were supping together in
the broad open space of the quarry, brilliantly illuminated--a
feast of separation and farewell; for, once out of France, the
Vendée and Brittany pacificated, Condé's army destroyed, who
knew when and where they should meet again in foreign lands.
Suddenly the report of a shot fell upon their ears.
Every man sprang to his feet as if moved by an electric shock.
A second shot, and then through the depths of the quarry rang
the cry, quivering on the wings of the bird of ill-omen, "To
To the Companions of Jehu, subjected to all the vicissitudes of
life of an outlaw, the occasional rest they snatched was never
that of peace. Pistols, daggers, carbines, were ever near at
hand. At the cry, given no doubt by the sentinel, each man sprang
to his weapons and stood with panting breast and strained ears,
In the midst of the silence a step as rapid as well could be in
the darkness was heard. Then, within the circle of light thrown
by the torches and candles, a man appeared.
"To arms!" he cried again, "we are attacked!"
The two shots the Companions of Jehu had heard were from the
double-barrelled gun of the sentry. It was he who now appeared,
his smoking gun in his hand.
"Where is Morgan?" cried twenty voices.
"Absent," replied Montbar; "consequently I command. Put out the
lights and retreat to the church. A fight is useless now. It
would only be waste of blood."
He was obeyed with an alacrity that showed that every one appreciated
the danger. The little company drew together in the darkness.
Montbar, who knew the windings of the subterranean passage almost
as well as Morgan, directed the troop, and, followed by his
companions, he plunged into the heart of the quarry. Suddenly,
as he neared the gate of the passage, he fancied he heard an
order given in a low tone not fifty feet away, then a sound like
the cocking of guns. He stretched out both arms and muttered
in a low voice:
"Halt!" At the same instant came the command, this time perfectly
It was hardly given before the cavern was lighted with a glare,
followed by a frightful volley. Ten carbines had been discharged
at once into the narrow passage. By their light Montbar and his
companions recognized the uniform of the gendarmes.
"Fire!" cried Montbar in turn.
Seven or eight shots answered the command. Again the darkness was
illuminated. Two of the Companions of Jehu lay upon the ground,
one killed outright, the other mortally wounded.
"Our retreat is cut off, my friends," cried Montbar. "To the
right-about! If we have a chance, it is through the forest."
The movement was executed with the precision of a military manoeuvre.
Montbar, again at the head of his companions, retraced his steps.
At that moment the gendarmes fired again. But no one replied.
Those who had discharged their guns reloaded them. Those who
had not, reserved their fire for the real struggle which was to
come. One or two sighs alone told that the last volley of the
gendarmes had not been without result.
At the end of five minutes Montbar stopped. The little party had
reached the open space of the quarry.
"Are your pistols and guns all loaded?" he asked.
"Yes," answered a dozen voices.
"Remember the order for those who fall into the hands of the
police. We belong to the army of M. de Teyssonnet, and we are
here to recruit men for the royalist cause. If they talk to us
of mail-coaches and diligences, we don't know what they mean."
"In either case it will be death. We know that well enough; but
the death of a soldier is better than that of thieves--the volley
of a platoon rather than the guillotine."
"Yes, yes," cried a mocking voice, "we know what that is--Vive
"Forward, friends!" said Montbar, "and let us sell our lives
for what they are worth; that is to say, as dearly as possible."
"Forward!" they all cried.
Then, as rapidly as was possible in the profound darkness, the
little troop resumed its march, still under the guidance of Montbar.
As they advanced, the leader noticed a smell of smoke which alarmed
him. At the same time gleams of light began to flicker on the
granite walls at the angles of the path, showing that something
strange was happening at the opening of the grotto.
"I believe those scoundrels are smoking us out," exclaimed Montbar.
"I fear so," replied Adler.
"They think we are foxes."
"Oh!" replied the same voice, "they shall know by our claws that
we are lions."
The smoke became thicker and thicker, the light more and more
They turned the last corner. A pile of dried wood had been lighted
in the quarry about fifty feet from the entrance, not for the
smoke, but for the light it gave. By the blaze of that savage
flame the weapons of the dragoons could be seen gleaming at the
entrance of the grotto.
Ten steps in advance of the men stood an officer, waiting. He
was leaning on his carbine, not only exposed to attack, but
apparently courting it. It was Roland. He was easily recognized.
He had flung his cap away, his head was bare, and the fitful
light of the flames played upon his features. But that which
should have cost him his life saved him. Montbar recognized him
and stepped backward.
"Roland de Montrevel!" he said. "Remember Morgan's injunction."
"Yes," replied the other Companions, in muffled tones.
"And now," said Montbar, "let us die, but dearly!"
And he sprang forward into the space illuminated by the fire,
and discharged one barrel of his gun at the dragoons, who replied
with a volley.
It would be impossible to relate all that followed. The grotto
was filled with smoke, which the flame of each weapon pierced
like a flash of lightning. The two bands clinched and fought
hand to hand, pistols and daggers serving them in turn. At the
noise of the struggle, the gendarmes poured in from the rear--few
more demons added to this fight of devils--but the groups of
friends and enemies were so confused they dared not fire. They
struggled in the red and lurid atmosphere, fell down and rose
again; a roar of rage was heard, then a cry of agony--the death
sigh of a man. The survivor sought another man, and the struggle
This work of death lasted fifteen minutes, perhaps twenty. At
the end of those twenty minutes twenty corpses could be counted
in the grotto of Ceyzeriat. Thirteen were those of the gendarmes
and the dragoons, nine belonged to the Companions of Jehu. Five
of the latter were still living; overwhelmed by numbers, crippled
by wounds, they were taken alive. The gendarmes and the dragoons,
twenty-five in number, surrounded them.
The captain of gendarmes had his arm shattered, the colonel of
dragoons was wounded in the thigh. Roland alone, covered with blood
that was not his own, had not a scratch. Two of the prisoners were
so grievously wounded that it was impossible for them to walk,
and the soldiers were obliged to carry them on an improvised
litter. Torches were lighted, and the whole troop, with the
prisoners, took the road to the town.
As they were leaving the forest to branch into the high-road,
the gallop of a horse was heard. It came on rapidly. "Go on,"
said Roland; "I will stay here and find out what this means."
It was a rider, who, as we have said, was advancing at full speed.
"Who goes there?" cried Roland, raising his carbine when the rider
was about twenty paces from him.
"One more prisoner, Monsieur de Montrevel," replied the rider,
"I could not be in at the fight, but I will at least go to the
scaffold. Where are my friends?"
"There, sir," replied Roland, who had recognized, not the face,
but the voice of the rider, a voice which he now heard for the
third time. As he spoke, he pointed to the little group in the
centre of the soldiers who were making their way along the road
from Ceyzeriat to Bourg.
"I am glad to see that no harm has befallen you, M. de Montrevel,"
said the young man, with great courtesy; "I assure you it gives
me much happiness." And spurring his horse, he was beside the
soldiers and gendarmes in a few strides. "Pardon me, gentlemen,"
he said, springing from his horse, "I claim a place among my
three friends, the Vicomte de Jayat, the Comte de Valensolle,
and the Marquis de Ribier."
The three prisoners gave a cry of admiration and held out their
hands to their friend. The two wounded men lifted themselves
up on their litters, and murmured: "Well done, Sainte-Hermine,
"I do believe, God help me!" cried Roland, "that those brigands
will have the nobler side of the affair!"
CADOUDAL AT THE TUILERIES
The day but one after the events which we have just related took
place, two men were walking side by side up and down the grand
salon of the Tuileries. They were talking eagerly, accompanying
their words with hasty and animated gestures. These men were
the First Consul, Bonaparte, and Cadoudal.
Cadoudal, impelled by the misery that might be entailed by a
prolonged struggle in Brittany, had just signed a peace with
Brune. It was after this signing of the peace that he had released
the Companions of Jehu from their obligations. Unhappily, this
release had reached them, as we have seen, twenty-four hours
When treating with Brune, Cadoudal had asked nothing for himself
save the liberty to go immediately to England. But Brune had
been so insistent, that he had consented to an interview with
the First Consul. He had, in consequence, come to Paris. The
very morning of his arrival he went to the Tuileries, sent in
his name, and had been received. It was Rapp who, in Roland's
absence, introduced him. As the aide-de-camp withdrew, he left
both doors open, so as to see everything from Bourrienne's room,
and to be able to go to the assistance of the First Consul if
But Bonaparte, who perfectly understood Rapp's motive, closed
the door. Then, returning hastily to Cadoudal's side, he said:
"Ah! so it is you at last! One of your enemies, my aide-de-camp,
Roland de Montrevel, has told me fine things of you."
"That does not surprise me," replied Cadoudal. "During the short
time I saw M. de Montrevel, I recognized in him a most chivalrous
"Yes; and that touched you?" asked the First Consul, fixing his
falcon eye on the royalist chief. "Listen, Georges. I need energetic
men like you to accomplish the work I have undertaken. Will you
be one of them? I have already offered you the rank of colonel,
but you are worth more than that. I now offer you the rank of
general of division."
"I thank you from the bottom of my heart, citizen First Consul,"
replied Cadoudal; "but you would despise me if I accepted."
"Why so?" queried Bonaparte, hastily.
"Because I have pledged myself to the House of Bourbon; and I
shall remain faithful to it under all circumstances."
"Let us discuss the matter," resumed the First Consul. "Is there
no way to bind you?"
"General," replied the royalist leader, "may I be permitted to
repeat to you what has been said to me?"
"Because it touches upon the deepest political interests."
"Pooh! some nonsense," said the First Consul, smiling uneasily.
Cadoudal stopped short and looked fixedly at his companion.
"It is said that an agreement was made between you and Commodore
Sidney Smith at Alexandria, the purport of which was to allow
you to return to France on the condition, accepted by you, of
restoring the throne to our former kings."
Bonaparte burst out laughing.
"How astonishing you are, you plebeians!" he said, "with your
love for your former kings! Suppose that I did re-establish the
throne (a thing, I assure you, I have not the smallest desire
to do), what return will you get, you who have shed your blood
for the cause? Not even the confirmation of the rank you have
won in it, colonel. Have you ever known in the royalist ranks a
colonel who was not a noble? Did you ever hear of any man rising
by his merits into that class of people? Whereas with me, Georges,
you can attain to what you will. The higher I raise myself, the
higher I shall raise those who surround me. As for seeing me
play the part of Monk, dismiss that from your mind. Monk lived
in an age in which the prejudices we fought and overthrew in
1789 were in full force. Had Monk wished to make himself king,
he could not have done so. Dictator? No! It needed a Cromwell
for that! Richard could not have maintained himself. It is true
that he was the true son of a great man--in other words a fool.
If I had wished to make myself king, there was nothing to hinder
me; and if ever the wish takes me there will be nothing to hinder.
Now, if you have an answer to that, give it."
"You tell me, citizen First Consul, that the situation in France
in 1800 is not the same as England in 1660. Charles I. was beheaded
in 1649, Louis XVI. in 1793. Eleven years elapsed in England
between the death of the king and the restoration of his son.
Seven years have already elapsed in France since the death of
Louis XVI. Will you tell me that the English revolution was a
religious one, whereas the French revolution was a political
one? To that I reply that a charter is as easy to make as an
"No," he said, "I should not tell you that. I should say to you
simply this: that Cromwell was fifty years old when Charles I.
died. I was twenty-four at the death of Louis XVI. Cromwell died at
the age of fifty-nine. In ten years' time he was able to undertake
much, but to accomplish little. Besides, his reform was a total
one--a vast political reform by the substitution of a republican
government for a monarchical one. Well, grant that I live to be
Cromwell's age, fifty-nine; that is not too much to expect; I
shall still have twenty years, just the double of Cromwell. And
remark, I change nothing, I progress; I do not overthrow, I build
up. Suppose that Cæsar, at thirty years of age, instead of being
merely the first roué of Rome, had been its greatest citizen;
suppose his campaign in Gaul had been made; that his campaign in
Egypt was over, his campaign in Spain happily concluded; suppose
that he was thirty years old instead of fifty--don't you think
he would have been both Cæsar and Augustus?"
"Yes, unless he found Brutus, Cassius, and Casca on his path."
"So," said Bonaparte, sadly, "my enemies are reckoning on
assassination, are they? In that case the thing is easy, and
you, my enemy, have the first chance. What hinders you at this
moment, if you feel like Brutus, from striking me as he struck
Cæsar? I am alone with you, the doors are shut; and you would
have the time to finish me before any one could reach you."
Cadoudal made a step backward.
"No," said he, "we do not count upon assassination, and I think
our extremity must be great indeed before any of us would become
a murderer; but there are the chances of war. A single reverse
would destroy your prestige. One defeat would bring the enemy to
the heart of France. The camp-fires of the Austrians can already
be seen from the frontiers of Provence. A cannon-ball may take
off your head, as it did that of Marshal Berwick, and then what
becomes of France? You have no children, and your brothers--"
"Oh!" cried Bonaparte, "from that point of view you are right
enough; but, if you don't believe in Providence, I do. I believe
that nothing happens by chance. I believe that when, on the 15th
of August, 1769 (one year, day for day, after Louis XV. issued
the decree reuniting Corsica to France), a child was born in
Ajaccio, destined to bring about the 13th Vendémiaire and the
18th Brumaire, and that Providence had great designs, mighty
projects, in view for that child. I am that child. If I have
a mission, I have nothing to fear. My mission is a buckler. If
I have no mission, if I am mistaken, if, instead of living the
twenty-five or thirty years I need to accomplish my work, I am
stabbed to the heart like Cæsar, or knocked over by a cannon-ball
like Berwick, Providence will have had its reasons for acting
so, and on Providence will devolve the duty of providing for
France. We spoke just now of Cæsar. When Rome followed his body,
mourning, and burned the houses of his murderers, when the Eternal
City turned its eyes to the four quarters of the globe, asking
whence would come the genius to stay her civil wars, when she
trembled at the sight of drunken Antony and treacherous Lepidus,
she never thought of the pupil of Apollonius, the nephew of Cæsar,
the young Octavius. Who then remembered that son of the Velletri
banker, whitened with the flour of his ancestors? No one; not
even the far-sighted Cicero. '_Orandum et tollendum_,' he
said. Well, that lad fooled all the graybeards in the Senate,
and reigned almost as long as Louis XIV. Georges, Georges! don't
struggle against the Providence which created me, or that Providence
will destroy you."
"Then I shall be destroyed while following the path and the religion
of my fathers," replied Cadoudal, bowing; "and I hope that God
will pardon my error, which will be that of a fervent Christian
and a faithful son."
Bonaparte laid his hands on the shoulders of the young leader.
"So be it," said he; "but at least remain neuter. Leave events
to complete themselves. Watch the thrones as they topple, the
crowns as they fall. Usually spectators pay for a show; I will
pay you to look on."
"And what will you pay me for that, citizen First Consul?" asked
"One hundred thousand francs a year," replied Bonaparte.
"If you would give a hundred thousand francs to one poor rebel
leader," said Cadoudal, "what would you give to the prince for
whom he fought?"
"Nothing, sir. I pay you for your courage, not for the principle
for which you fought. I prove to you that I, man of my own works,
judge men solely by theirs. Accept, Georges, I beg of you."
"And suppose I refuse?"
"You will do wrong."
"Will I still be free to depart when I please?"
Bonaparte went to the door and opened it.
"The aide-de-camp on duty," he said.
He waited, expecting to see Rapp. Roland appeared.
"Ah, is it you!" he cried. Then, turning to Cadoudal, he said:
"Colonel, I do not need to present to you my aide-de-camp, M.
Roland de Montrevel. He is already one of your acquaintances.
Roland, tell the colonel that he is as free in Paris as you were
in his camp at Muzillac, and that if he wishes a passport for
any country in the world, Fouché has orders to give it to him."
"Your word suffices, citizen First Consul," replied Cadoudal,
bowing. "I leave to-night."
"May I ask where you are going?"
"To London, general."
"So much the better."
"Why so much the better?"
"Because there you will be near the men for whom you have fought."
"Then, when you have seen them--"
"You will compare them with those against whom you have fought.
But, once out of France, colonel--"
"I am waiting," said Cadoudal.
"Do not return without warning me, or, if you do, do not be surprised
if I treat you as an enemy."
"That would be an honor, general. By treating me so you will show
that you consider me a man to be feared."
So saying, Georges bowed to the First Consul, and retired.
"Well, general," asked Roland, after the door had closed on the
Breton leader, "is he the man I represented him to be?"
"Yes," responded Bonaparte, thoughtfully; "only he sees things
awry. But the exaggeration of his ideas arises from noble sentiments,
which must give him great influence over his own people." Then
he added, in a low voice, "But we must make an end of him. And
now what have you been doing, Roland?"
"Making an end of my work," replied Roland.
"Ah, ha! Then the Companions of Jehu--"
"No longer exist, general. Three-fourths are dead, the rest
"And you are safe and sound?"
"Don't speak of it, general. I do verily believe I have a compact
with the devil."
That same evening Cadoudal, as he said, left Paris for England.
On receiving the news that the Breton leader was in London, Louis
XVIII. wrote him the following letter:
I have learned with the greatest satisfaction, general, that
you have at last _escaped_ from the bands of the tyrant who
misconceived you so far as to offer you service under him. I
deplore the unhappy circumstances which obliged you to treat
with him; but I did not feel the slightest uneasiness; the
heart of my faithful Bretons, and yours in particular, are
too well known to me. To-day you are free, you are near my
brother, all my hopes revive. I need not say more to such a
Frenchman as you.
To this letter were added a lieutenant-general's commission and
the grand cordon of Saint-Louis.
THE ARMY OF THE RESERVES
The First Consul had reached the point he desired. The Companions
of Jehu were destroyed and the Vendée was pacificated.
When demanding peace from England he had hoped for war. He understood
very well that, born of war, he could exist only by war. He seemed
to foresee that a poet would arise and call him "The Giant of
But war--what war? Where should he wage it? An article of the
constitution of the year VIII. forbade the First Consul to command
the armies in person, or to leave France.
In all constitutions there is inevitably some absurd provision.
Happy the constitutions that have but one! The First Consul found
a means to evade this particular absurdity.
He established a camp at Dijon. The army which occupied this camp
was called the Army of the Reserves. The force withdrawn from
Brittany and the Vendée, some thirty thousand men in all, formed the
nucleus of this army. Twenty thousand conscripts were incorporated
in it; General Berthier was appointed commander-in-chief. The
plan which Bonaparte explained to Roland in his study one day
was still working in his mind. He expected to recover Italy by
a single battle, but that battle must be a great victory.
Moreau, as a reward for his co-operation on the 18th Brumaire,
received the command he had so much desired. He was made
commander-in-chief of the Army of the Rhine, I with eighty thousand
men under him. Augereau, with twenty-five thousand more, was on
the Dutch frontier. And Masséna, commanding the Army of Italy,
had withdrawn to the country about Genoa, where he was tenaciously
maintaining himself against the land forces of the Austrian General
Ott, and the British fleet under Admiral Keith.
While the latter movements were taking place in Italy, Moreau
had assumed the offensive on the Rhine, and defeated the enemy
at Stockach and Moeskirch. A single victory was to furnish an
excuse to put the Army of Reserves under waiting orders. Two
victories would leave no doubt as to the necessity of co-operation.
Only, how was this army to be transported to Italy?
Bonaparte's first thought was to march up the Valais and to cross
the Simplon. He would thus turn Piedmont and enter Milan. But the
operation was a long one, and must be done overtly. Bonaparte
renounced it. His plan was to surprise the Austrians and to appear
with his whole army on the plains of Piedmont before it was even
suspected that he had crossed the Alps. He therefore decided to
make the passage of the Great Saint-Bernard. It was for this
purpose that he had sent the fifty thousand francs, seized by
the Companions of Jehu, to the monks whose monastery crowns that
mountain. Another fifty thousand had been sent since, which had
reached their destination safely. By the help of this money the
monastery was to be amply provisioned for an army of fifty thousand
men halting there for a day.
Consequently, toward the end of April the whole of the artillery
was advanced to Lauzanne, Villeneuve, Martigny, and Saint-Pierre.
General Marmont, commanding the artillery, had already been sent
forward to find a means of transporting cannon over the Alps.
It was almost an impracticable thing to do; and yet it must be
achieved. No precedent existed as a guide. Hannibal with his
elephants, Numidians, and Gauls; Charlemagne with his Franks,
had no such obstacles to surmount.
During the campaign in Italy in 1796, the army had not crossed
the Alps, but turned them, descending from Nice to Cerasco by
the Corniche road. This time a truly titanic work was undertaken.
In the first place, was the mountain unoccupied? The mountain
without the Austrians was in itself difficult enough to conquer!
Lannes was despatched like a forlorn hope with a whole division.
He crossed the peak of the Saint-Bernard without baggage or
artillery, and took possession of Châtillon. The Austrians had
left no troops in Piedmont, except the cavalry in barracks and
a few posts of observation. There were no obstacles to contend
with except those of nature. Operations were begun at once.
Sledges had been made to transport the guns; but narrow as they
might be, they were still too wide for the road. Some other means
must be devised. The trunks of pines were hollowed and the guns
inserted. At one end was a rope to pull them, at the other a
tiller to guide them. Twenty grenadiers took the cables. Twenty
others carried the baggage of those who drew them. An artilleryman
commanded each detachment with absolute power, if need be, over
life and death. The iron mass in such a case was far more precious
than the flesh of men.
Before leaving each man received a pair of new shoes and twenty
biscuits. Each put on his shoes and hung his biscuits around his
neck. The First Consul, stationed at the foot of the mountain,
gave to each cannon detachment the word to start.
A man must traverse the same roads as a tourist, on foot or on
mule-back, he must plunge his eye to the depth of the precipice,
before he can have any idea of what this crossing was. Up, always
up those beetling slopes, by narrow paths, on jagged stones,
which cut the shoes first, the feet next!
From time to time they stopped, drew breath, and then on again
without a murmur. The ice-belt was reached. Before attempting it
the men received new shoes; those of the morning were in shreds. A
biscuit was eaten, a drop of brandy from the canteen was swallowed,
and on they went. No man knew whither he was climbing. Some asked
how many more days it would take; others if they might stop for
a moment at the moon. At last they came to the eternal snows.
There the toil was less severe. The gun-logs slid upon the snow,
and they went faster.
One fact will show the measure of power given to the artilleryman
who commanded each gun.
General Chamberlhac was passing. He thought the advance not fast
enough. Wishing to hasten it, he spoke to an artilleryman in a
tone of command.
"You are not in command here," replied the man; "I am. I am
responsible for the gun; I direct its march. Pass on."
The general approached the artilleryman as if to take him by
the throat. But the man stepped back, saying: "General, don't
touch me, or I will send you to the bottom of that precipice
with a blow of this tiller."
After unheard-of toil they reached the foot of the last rise, at
the summit of which stands the convent. There they found traces
of Lannes' division. As the slope was very steep, the soldiers
had cut a sort of stairway in the ice. The men now scaled it.
The fathers of Saint-Bernard were awaiting them on the summit. As
each gun came up the men were taken by squads into the hospice.
Tables were set along the passage with bread and Gruyere cheese
When the soldiers left the convent they pressed the hands of the
monks and embraced the dogs.
The descent at first seemed easier than the ascent, and the officers
declared it was their turn to drag the guns. But now the cannon
outstripped the teams, and some were dragged down faster than
they wished. General Lannes and his division were still in the
advance. He had reached the valley before the rest of the army,
entered the Aosta, and received his orders to march upon Ivrea,
at the entrance to the plains of Piedmont. There, however, he
encountered an obstacle which no one had foreseen.
The fortress of Bard is situated about twenty-four miles from
Aosta. On the road to Ivrea, a little behind the village, a small
hill closes the valley almost hermetically. The river Dora flows
between this hill and the mountain on the right. The river, or
rather, the torrent, fills the whole space. The mountain on the
left presents very much the same aspect; only, instead of the
river, it is the highroad which passes between the hill and the
mountain. It is there that the fortress of Bard stands. It is
built on the summit of the hill, and extends down one side of
it to the highroad.
How was it that no one had thought of this obstacle which was
well nigh insurmountable? There was no way to assault it from
the bottom of the valley, and it was impossible to scale the
rocks above it.
Yet, by dint of searching, they did find a path that they were
able to level sufficiently for the cavalry and the infantry to
pass; but they tried in vain to get the artillery over it, although
they took the guns apart as at the Mont Saint-Bernard.
Bonaparte ordered two cannon levelled on the road, and opened
fire on the fortress; but it was soon evident that these guns
made no effect. Moreover, a cannon ball from the fortress struck
one of the two cannon and shattered it. The First Consul then
ordered an assault by storm.
Columns formed in the village, and armed with ladders dashed
up at a run and reached the fortress at several points; but to
insure success, not only celerity, but silence was needed. It
ought to have been a surprise; but Colonel Dufour, who commanded
one column, ordered the advance to be sounded, and marched boldly
to the assault. The column was repulsed, and the colonel received
a ball through his body.
Then a company of picked marksmen were chosen. They were supplied
with provisions and cartridges, and crept between the rocks until
they reached a ledge, from which they commanded the fort. From
this ledge they discovered another, not quite so high, but which
also overlooked the fort. To this they contrived, with extreme
difficulty, to hoist two guns, with which they formed a battery.
These two pieces on one side, and the sharpshooters on the other,
began to make the enemy uneasy.
In the meantime, General Marmont proposed a plan to the First
Consul, so bold that the enemy could not suspect it. It was nothing
less than to move the artillery along the highroad, notwithstanding
that the enemy could rake it.
Manure and wool from the mattresses were found in the villages
and were spread upon the road. The wheels and chains, and all
the jingling portions of the gun-carriages were swathed in hay.
The horses belonging to the guns and caissons were taken out,
and fifty men supplied their places. This latter precaution had
two advantages: first, the horses might neigh, while the men
had every interest in keeping dead silence; secondly, a dead
horse will stop a whole convoy, whereas a dead man, not being
fastened to the traces, can be pushed aside and his place taken
without even stopping the march. An officer and a subordinate
officer of artillery were placed in charge of each carriage or
caisson, with the promise of six hundred francs for the transport
of each gun or wagon beyond the range of the fort.
General Marmont, who had proposed the plan, superintended the
first operation himself. Happily, a storm prevailed and made
the night extremely dark. The first six cannon and the first
six caissons passed without a single shot from the fortress. The
men returned, picking their steps silently, one after another,
in single file; but this time the enemy must have heard some
noise, and, wishing to knew the cause, threw hand-grenades.
Fortunately, they fell beyond the road.
Why should these men, who had once passed, return? Merely to
get their muskets and knapsacks. This might have been avoided
had they been stowed on the caissons; but no one can think of
everything, and, as it happened, no one in the fort at Bard had
thought at all.
As soon as the possibility of the passage was demonstrated, the
transport of the artillery became a duty like any other; only,
now that the enemy were warned, it was more dangerous. The fort
resembled a volcano with its belching flames and smoke; but,
owing to the vertical direction in which it was forced to fire,
it made more noise than it did harm. Five or six men were killed
to each wagon; that is to say, a tenth of each fifty; but the
cannon once safely past, the fate of the campaign was secure.
Later it was discovered that the pass of the Little Saint-Bernard
would have been practicable, and that the whole artillery could
have crossed it without dismounting a gun or losing a man. It
is true, however, that the feat would have been less glorious
because less difficult.
The army was now in the fertile plains of Piedmont. It was reinforced
on the Ticino by a corps of twelve thousand men detached from
the Army of the Rhine by Moreau, who, after the two victories
he had just won, could afford to lend this contingent to the
Army of Italy. He had sent them by the Saint-Gothard. Thus
strengthened, the First Consul entered Milan without striking
By the bye, how came the First Consul, who, according to a provision
of the constitution of the year VIII., could not assume command
of the army, nor yet leave France, to be where he was? We shall
now tell you.
The evening before the day on which he left Paris--that is to
say, the 15th of May, or, according to the calendars of the time,
the 15th Floreal--he had sent for the two other consuls and all
the ministers, saying to Lucien: "Prepare a circular letter to
the prefects to-morrow." Then he said to Fouché: "You will publish
the circular in all the newspapers. You are to say that I have
left for Dijon to inspect the Army of the Reserves. Add, but
without affirming it positively, that I may go as far as Geneva.
In any case, let it be well impressed on everyone that I shall
not be absent more than a fortnight. If anything unusual happens
I shall return like a thunderclap. I commend to your keeping all
the great interests of France; and I hope you will soon hear
of me by way of Vienna and London."
On the 6th he started. From that moment his strong determination
was to make his way to the plains of Piedmont, and there to fight
a decisive battle. Then, as he never doubted that he would conquer,
he would answer, like Scipio, to those who accused him of violating
the constitution: "On such a day, at such an hour, I fought the
Carthagenians; let us go to the capitol, and render thanks to
Leaving France on the 6th of May, the First Consul was encamped
with his whole army between Casale and Turin on the 26th of the
same month. It had rained the whole day; but, as often happens
in Italy, toward evening the sky had cleared, changing in a few
moments from murky darkness to loveliest azure, and the stars
came sparkling out.
The First Consul signed to Roland to follow him, and together
they issued from the little town of Chivasso and walked along
the banks of the river. About a hundred yards beyond the last
house a tree, blown down by the wind, offered a seat to the
pedestrians. Bonaparte sat down and signed to Roland to join
him. He apparently had something to say, some confidence to make
to his young aide-de-camp.
Both were silent for a time, and then Bonaparte said: "Roland, do
you remember a conversation we had together at the Luxembourg?"
"General," said Roland, laughing, "we had a good many conversations
together at the Luxembourg; in one of which you told me we were
to cross into Italy in the spring, and fight General Mélas at
Torre di Gallifolo or San-Guiliano. Does that still hold good?"
"Yes; but that is not the conversation I mean."
"What was it, general?"
"The day we talked of marriage."
"Ah, yes! My sister's marriage. That has probably taken place
by this time, general."
"I don't mean your sister's marriage; I mean yours."
"Good!" said Roland, with a bitter smile. "I thought that had
been disposed of, general." And he made a motion as if to rise.
Bonaparte caught him by the arm.
"Do you know whom I meant you to marry at that time, Roland?" he
said, with a gravity that showed he was determined to be heard.
"Well, my sister Caroline."
"Yes. Does that astonish you?"
"I had no idea you had ever thought of doing me that honor."
"Either you are ungrateful, Roland, or you are saying what you
do not mean. You know that I love you."
"Oh! my general!"
He took the First Consul's two hands and pressed them with the
"Yes, I should have liked you for my brother-in-law."
"Your sister and Murat love each other, general," said Roland.
"It is much better that the plan should have gone no further.
Besides," he added, in muffled tones, "I thought I told you that
I did not care to marry."
Bonaparte smiled. "Why don't you say offhand that you intend becoming
a Trappist father?"
"Faith, general, re-establish the cloisters and remove these
opportunities for me to try to get myself killed, which, thank
God! are not lacking, and you have guessed what my end will be."
"Are you in love? Is this the result of some woman's faithlessness?"
"Good!" said Roland, "so you think I am in love! That is the last
"Do you complain of my affection when I wished to marry you to
"But the thing is impossible now! Your three sisters are all
married--one to General Leduc, one to Prince Bacciocchi, and the
third to Murat."
"In short," said Bonaparte, laughing, "you feel easy and settled
in your mind. You think yourself rid of my alliance."
"Oh, general!" exclaimed Roland.
"You are not ambitious, it seems?"
"General, let me love you for all the good you have done to me,
and not for what you seek to do."
"But suppose it is for my own interests that I seek to bind you
to me, not by the ties of friendship alone, but also by those
of matrimony. Suppose I say to you: In my plans for the future
I cannot rely upon my two brothers, whereas I could never for
one instant doubt you?"
"In heart, yes, you are right."
"In all respects! What can I do with Leclerc--a commonplace man;
with Bacciocchi--who is not French; with Murat--lion-hearted and
feather-brained? And yet some day I shall have to make princes
of them because they are my sisters' husbands. When that time
comes, what can I make of you?"
"A marshal of France."
"Afterward? I should say that was enough."
"And then you would be one of twelve, and not a unity of your own."
"Let me be simply your friend. Let me always thresh out the truth
with you, and then I'll warrant I shall be out of the crowd."
"That may be enough for you, Roland, but it is not enough for me,"
persisted Bonaparte. Then, as Roland said nothing, he continued,
"I have no more sisters, Roland, it is true; but I have dreamed
that you might be something more to me than a brother." Then,
as Roland still said nothing, he went on: "I know a young girl,
Roland, a charming child, whom I love as a daughter. She is just
seventeen. You are twenty-six, and a brigadier-general _de
facto_. Before the end of the campaign you will be general
of division. Well, Roland, when the campaign is over, we will
return together to Paris, and you shall marry her--"
"General," interrupted Roland, "I think I see Bourrienne looking
And in fact the First Consul's secretary was already within two
feet of the friends.
"Is that you, Bourrienne?" asked Bonaparte, somewhat impatiently.
"Yes, general, a courier from France."
"And a letter from Madame Bonaparte."
"Good!" said the First Consul, rising eagerly, "give it to me."
And he almost snatched the letter from Bourrienne's hand.
"And for me?" asked Roland. "Nothing for me?"
"That is strange," said the young man, pensively.
The moon had risen, and by its clear, beautiful light Bonaparte
was able to read his letters. Through the first two pages his
face expressed perfect serenity. Bonaparte adored his wife; the
letters published by Queen Hortense bear witness to that fact.
Roland watched these expressions of the soul on his general's
face. But toward the close of the letter Bonaparte's face clouded;
he frowned and cast a furtive glance at Roland.
"Ah!" exclaimed the young man, "it seems there is something about
me in the letter."
Bonaparte did not answer and continued to read. When he had finished,
he folded the letter and put it in the side pocket of his coat.
Then, turning to Bourrienne, he said: "Very well, we will return.
I shall probably have to despatch a courier. Go mend some pens
while you are waiting for me."
Bourrienne bowed and returned to Chivasso.
Bonaparte then went up to Roland and laid his hand on his shoulder,
saying: "I have no luck with the marriages I attempt to make."
"How so?" asked Roland.
"Your sister's marriage is off."
"Has she refused?"