Part 13 out of 14
"No; she has not."
"She has not? Can it be Sir John?"
"Refused to marry my sister after asking her of me, of my mother,
of you, of herself?"
"Come, don't begin to get angry. Try to see that there is some
mystery in all this."
"I don't see any mystery, I see an insult!"
"Ah! there you are, Roland. That explains why your mother and
sister did not write to you. But Josephine thought the matter
so serious that you ought to be informed. She writes me this
news and asks me to tell you of it if I think best. You see I
have not hesitated."
"I thank you sincerely, general. Does Lord Tanlay give any reason
for this refusal?"
"A reason that is no reason."
"What is it?"
"It can't be the true one."
"But what is it?"
"It is only necessary to look at the man and to talk with him
for five minutes to understand that."
"But, general, what reason does he give for breaking his word?"
"That your sister is not as rich as he thought she was."
Roland burst into that nervous laugh which was a sign with him
of violent agitation.
"Ha!" said he, "that was the very first thing I told him."
"What did you tell him?"
"That my sister hadn't a penny. How can the children of republican
generals be rich?"
"And what did he answer?"
"That he was rich enough for two."
"You see, therefore, that that was not the real reason for his
"And it is your opinion that one of your aides-de-camp can receive
such an insult, and not demand satisfaction?"
"In such situations the person who feels affronted must judge
of the matter for himself, my dear Roland."
"General, how many days do you think it will be before we have
a decisive action?"
"Not less than fifteen days, or three weeks," he answered.
"Then, general, I ask you for a furlough of fifteen days."
"On one condition."
"What is it?"
"That you will first go to Bourg and ask your sister from which
side the refusal came."
"That is my intention."
"In that case you have not a moment to lose."
"You see I lose none," said the young man, already on his way
to the village.
"One moment," said Bonaparte; "you will take my despatches to
Paris, won't you?"
"Ah! I see; I am the courier you spoke of just now to Bourrienne."
"Wait one moment. The young men you arrested--"
"The Companions of Jehu?"
"Yes. Well, it seems that they were all of noble families. They
were fanatics rather than criminals. It appears that your mother
has been made the victim of some judicial trick or other in
testifying at their trial and has called their conviction."
"Possibly. My mother was in the coach stopped by them, as you
know, and saw the face of their leader."
"Well, your mother implores me, through Josephine, to pardon
those poor madmen--that is the very word she uses. They have
appealed their case. You will get there before the appeal can
be rejected, and, if you think it desirable, tell the minister
of Justice for me to suspend matters. After you get back we can
see what is best to be done."
"Thank you, general. Anything more?"
"No," said Bonaparte, "except to think over our conversation."
"What was it about?"
"Well, I'll say as you did just now, we'll talk about it when
I return, if I do."
"Bless me!" exclaimed Bonaparte, "I'm not afraid; you'll kill
him as you have the others; only this time, I must admit, I shall
be sorry to have him die."
"If you are going to feel so badly about it, general, I can easily
be killed in his stead."
"Don't do anything foolish, ninny!" cried Bonaparte; hastily;
"I should feel still worse if I lost you."
"Really, general, you are the hardest man to please that I know
of," said Roland with his harsh laugh.
And this time he took his way to Chivasso without further delay.
Half an hour later, Roland was galloping along the road to Ivrae
in a post-chaise. He was to travel thus to Aosta, at Aosta take
a mule, cross the Saint-Bernard to Martigny, thence to Geneva,
on to Bourg, and from Bourg to Paris.
While he is galloping along let us see what has happened in France,
and clear up the points in the conversation between Bonaparte and
his aide-de-camp which must be obscure to the reader's mind.
The prisoners which Roland had made at the grotto of Ceyzeriat
had remained but one night in the prison at Bourg. They had been
immediately transferred to that of Besançon, where they were
to appear before a council of war.
It will be remembered that two of these prisoners were so grievously
wounded that they were carried into Bourg on stretchers. One
of them died that same night, the other, three days after they
reached Besançon. The number of prisoners was therefore reduced
to four; Morgan, who had surrendered himself voluntarily and
who was safe and sound, and Montbar, Adler, and d'Assas, who
were more or less wounded in the fight, though none of them
dangerously. These four aliases hid, as the reader will remember,
the real names of the Baron de Sainte-Hermine, the Comte de Jayat,
the Vicomte de Valensolle, and the Marquis de Ribier.
While the evidence was being taken against the four prisoners
before the military commission at Besançon, the time expired
when under the law such cases were tried by courts-martial. The
prisoners became accountable therefore to the civil tribunals.
This made a great difference to them, not only as to the penalty
if convicted, but in the mode of execution. Condemned by a
court-martial, they would be shot; condemned by the courts, they
would be guillotined. Death by the first was not infamous; death
by the second was.
As soon as it appeared that their case was to be brought before
a jury, it belonged by law to the court of Bourg. Toward the
end of March the prisoners were therefore transferred from the
prison of Besançon to that of Bourg, and the first steps toward
a trial were taken.
But here the prisoners adopted a line of defence that greatly
embarrassed the prosecuting officers. They declared themselves to
be the Baron de Sainte-Hermine, the Comte de Jayat, the Vicomte
de Valensolle, and the Marquis de Ribier, and to have no connection
with the pillagers of diligences, whose names were Morgan, Montbar,
Adler, and d'Assas. They acknowledged having belonged to armed
bands; but these forces belonged to the army of M. de Teyssonnet
and were a ramification of the army of Brittany intended to operate
in the East and the Midi, while the army of Brittany, which had
just signed a peace, operated in the North. They had waited only
to hear of Cadoudal's surrender to do likewise, and the despatch
of the Breton leader was no doubt on its way to them when they
were attacked and captured.
It was difficult to disprove this. The diligences had invariably
been pillaged by masked, men, and, apart from Madame de Montrevel
and Sir John Tanlay, no one had ever seen the faces of the
The reader will recall those circumstances: Sir John, on the
night they had tried, condemned, and stabbed him; Madame de
Montrevel, when the diligence was stopped, and she, in her nervous
struggle, had struck off the mask of the leader.
Both had been summoned before the preliminary court and both
had been confronted with the prisoners; but neither Sir John
nor Madame de Montrevel had recognized any of them. How came
they to practice this deception? As for Madame de Montrevel, it
was comprehensible. She felt a double gratitude to the man who
had come to her assistance, and who had also forgiven, and even
praised, Edouard's attack upon himself. But Sir John's silence
was more difficult to explain, for among the four prisoners he
must have recognized at least two of his assailants.
They had recognized him, and a certain quiver had run through
their veins as they did so, but their eyes were none the less
resolutely fixed upon him, when, to their great astonishment,
Sir John, in spite of the judge's insistence, had calmly replied:
"I have not the honor of knowing these gentlemen."
Amélie--we have not spoken of her, for there are sorrows no pen
can depict--Amélie, pale, feverish, almost expiring since that
fatal night when Morgan was arrested, awaited the return of her
mother and Sir John from the preliminary trial with dreadful
anxiety. Sir John arrived first. Madame de Montrevel had remained
behind to give some orders to Michel. As soon as Amélie saw him
she rushed forward, crying out: "What happened?"
Sir John looked behind him, to make sure that Madame de Montrevel
could neither see nor hear him, then he said: "Your mother and
I recognized no one."
"Ah! how noble you are I how generous! how good, my lord!" cried
the young girl, trying to kiss his hand.
But he, withdrawing his hand, said hastily: "I have only done
as I promised you; but hush--here is your mother."
Amélie stepped back. "Ah, mamma!" she said, "so you did not say
anything to compromise those unfortunate men?"
"What!" replied Madame de Montrevel; "would you have me send to
the scaffold a man who had helped me, and who, instead of punishing
Edouard, kissed him?"
"And yet," said Amélie, trembling, "you recognized him, did you
"Perfectly," replied Madame de Montrevel. "He is the fair man with
the black eyebrows who calls himself the Baron de Sainte-Hermine."
Amélie gave a stifled cry. Then, making an effort to control
herself, she said: "Is that the end of it for Sir John and you?
Will you be called to testify again?"
"Probably not," replied Madame de Montrevel.
"In any case," observed Sir John, "as neither your mother nor
I recognized any one, she will persist in that declaration."
"Oh I most certainly," exclaimed Madame de Montrevel. "God keep
me from causing the death of that unhappy young man. I should
never forgive myself. It is bad enough that Roland should have
been the one to capture him and his companions."
Amélie sighed, but nevertheless her face assumed a calmer expression.
She looked gratefully at Sir John, and then went up to her room,
where Charlotte was waiting for her. Charlotte had become more
than a maid, she was now Amélie's friend. Every day since the
four young men had returned to the prison at Bourg she had gone
there to see her father for an hour or so. During these visits
nothing was talked of but the prisoners, whom the worthy jailer,
royalist as he was, pitied with all his heart. Charlotte made him
tell her everything, even to their slightest words, and later
reported all to Amélie.
Matters stood thus when Madame de Montrevel and Sir John arrived
at Noires-Fontaines. Before leaving Paris, the First Consul had
informed Madame de Montrevel, both through Josephine and Roland,
that he approved of her daughter's marriage, and wished it to
take place during his absence, and as soon as possible. Sir John
had declared to her that his most ardent wishes were for this
union, and that he only awaited Amélie's commands to become the
happiest of men. Matters having reached this point, Madame de
Montrevel, on the morning of the day on which she and Sir John
were to give their testimony, had arranged a private interview
between her daughter and Sir John.
The interview lasted over an hour, and Sir John did not leave
Amélie until the carriage came to the door which was to take
Madame de Montrevel and himself to the court. We have seen that
his deposition was all in the prisoners' favor, and we have also
seen how Amélie received him on his return.
That evening Madame de Montrevel had a long conversation with
her daughter. To her mother's pressing inquiries, Amélie merely
replied that the state of her health was such that she desired a
postponement of her marriage, and that she counted on Sir John's
delicacy to grant it.
The next day Madame de Montrevel was obliged to return to Paris,
her position in Madame Bonaparte's household not admitting of
longer absence. The morning of her departure she urged Amélie to
accompany her; but again the young girl dwelt upon the feebleness
of her health. The sweetest and most reviving months in the year
were just opening, and she begged to be allowed to spend then
in the country, for they were sure, she said, to do her good.
Madame de Montrevel, always unable to deny Amélie anything, above
all where it concerned her health, granted her request.
On her return to Paris, Madame de Montrevel travelled as before,
with Sir John. Much to her surprise, during the two days' journey
he did not say anything to her about his marriage to Amélie.
But Madame Bonaparte, as soon as she saw her friend, asked the
usual question: "Well, when shall we marry Amélie and Sir John?
You know how much the First Consul desires it."
To which Madame de Montrevel replied: "It all depends on Sir John."
This response furnished Madame Bonaparte with much food for
reflection. Why should a man who had been so eager suddenly grow
cold? Time alone could explain the mystery.
Time went by, and the trial of the prisoners began. They were
confronted with all the travellers who had signed the various
depositions, which, as we have seen, were in the possession of
the minister of police. No one had recognized them, for no one
had seen their faces uncovered. Moreover, the travellers asserted
that none of their property, either money or jewels, had been
taken. Jean Picot testified that the two hundred louis which
had been taken from him by accident had been returned.
These preliminary inquiries lasted over two months. At the end
of that time the accused, against whom there was no evidence
connecting them with the pillage of the coaches, were under no
accusation but that of their own admissions; that is to say,
of being affiliated with the Breton and Vendéan insurrection.
They were simply one of the armed bands roaming the Jura under
the orders of M. de Teyssonnet.
The judges delayed the final trial as long as possible, hoping
that some more direct testimony might be discovered. This hope
was balked. No one had really suffered from the deeds imputed to
these young men, except the Treasury, whose misfortunes concerned
no one. The trial could not be delayed any longer.
The prisoners, on their side, had made the best of their time.
By means, as we have seen, of an exchange of passports, Morgan
had travelled sometimes as Ribier, and Ribier as Sainte-Hermine,
and so with the others. The result was a confusion in the testimony
of the innkeepers, which the entries in their books only served
to increase. The arrival of travellers, noted on the registers
an hour too early or an hour too late, furnished the prisoners
with irrefutable alibis. The judges were morally convinced of
their guilt; but their conviction was impossible against such
On the other hand, it must be said that public sympathy was wholly
with the prisoners.
The trial began. The prison at Bourg adjoins the courtroom. The
prisoners could be brought there through the interior passages.
Large as the hall was, it was crowded on the opening day. The
whole population of Bourg thronged about the doors, and persons
came from Mâcon, Sons-le-Saulnier, Besançon, and Nantua, so great
was the excitement caused by the stoppages, and so popular were
the exploits of the Companions of Jehu.
The entrance of the four prisoners was greeted by a murmur in
which there was nothing offensive. Public sentiment seemed equally
divided between curiosity and sympathy. Their presence, it must
be admitted, was well calculated to inspire both. Very handsome,
dressed in the latest fashion of the day, self-possessed without
insolence, smiling toward the audience, courteous to their judges,
though at times a little sarcastic, their personal appearance
was their best defence.
The oldest of the four was barely thirty. Questioned as to their
names, Christian and family, their age, and places of birth,
they answered as follows:
"Charles de Sainte-Hermine, born at Tours, department of the
Indre-et-Loire, aged twenty-four."
"Louis-André de Jayat, born at Bage-le-Château, department of
the Ain, aged twenty-nine."
"Raoul-Frederic-Auguste de Valensolle, born at Sainte-Colombe,
department of the Rhone, aged twenty-seven."
"Pierre-Hector de Ribier, born at Bollène, department of Vaucluse,
Questioned as to their social condition and state, all four said
they were of noble rank and royalists.
These fine young men, defending themselves against death on the
scaffold, not against a soldier's death before the guns--who asked
the death they claimed to have merited as insurrectionists, but a
death of honor--formed a splendid spectacle of youth, courage,
and gallant bearing.
The judges saw plainly that on the accusation of being
insurrectionists, the Vendée having submitted and Brittany being
pacificated, they would have to be acquitted. That was not a
result to satisfy the minister of police. Death awarded by a
council of war would not have satisfied him; he had determined
that these men should die the death of malefactors, a death of
The trial had now lasted three days without proceeding in the
direction of the minister's wishes. Charlotte, who could reach
the courtroom through the prison, was there each day, and returned
each night to Amélie with some fresh word of hope. On the fourth
day, Amélie could bear the suspense no longer. She dressed herself
in a costume similar to the one that Charlotte wore, except that
the black lace of the head-dress was longer and thicker than
is usual with the Bressan peasant woman. It formed a veil and
completely hid her features.
Charlotte presented Amélie to her father as one of her friends
who was anxious to see the trial. The good man did not recognize
Mademoiselle de Montrevel, and in order to enable the young girls
to see the prisoners well he placed them in the doorway of the
porter's room, which opened upon the passage leading to the
courtroom. This passage was so narrow at this particular point
that the four gendarmes who accompanied the prisoners changed
the line of march. First came two officers, then the prisoners
one by one, then the other two officers. The girls stood in the
When Amélie heard the doors open she was obliged to lean upon
Charlotte's shoulder for support, the earth seemed to give way
under her feet and the wall at her back. She heard the sound
of feet and the rattle of the gendarmes' sabres, then the door
of the prison opened.
First one gendarme appeared, then another, then Sainte-Hermine,
walking first, as though he were still Morgan, the captain of
the Companions of Jehu.
As he passed Amélie murmured: "Charles!"
The prisoner recognized the beloved voice, gave a faint cry,
and felt a paper slip into his hand. He pressed that precious
hand, murmured her name, and passed on.
The others who followed did not, or pretended not to, notice the
two girls. As for the gendarmes, they had seen and heard nothing.
As soon as the party stepped into the light, Morgan unfolded the
note and read as follows:
Do not be anxious, my beloved Charles; I am and ever will be
your faithful Amélie, in life or death. I have told all to Lord
Tanlay. He is the most generous man on earth; he has promised me
to break off the marriage and to take the whole responsibility
on himself. I love you.
Morgan kissed the note and put it in his breast. Then he glanced
down the corridor and saw the two Bressan women leaning against
the door. Amélie had risked all to see him once more. It is true,
however, that at this last session of the court no additional
witnesses were expected who could injure the accused, and in the
absence of proof it was impossible to convict them.
The best lawyers in the department, those of Lyons and Besançon,
had been retained by the prisoners for their defence. Each had
spoken in turn, destroying bit by bit the indictment, as, in the
tournaments of the Middle Ages, a strong and dexterous knight
was wont to knock off, piece by piece, his adversary's armor.
Flattering applause had followed the more remarkable points of
their arguments, in spite of the usher's warnings and the
admonitions of the judge.
Amélie, with clasped hands, was thanking God, who had so visibly
manifested Himself in the prisoners' favor. A dreadful weight
was lifted from her tortured breast. She breathed with joy, and
looked through tears of gratitude at the Christ which hung above
the judge's head.
The arguments were all made, and the case about to be closed.
Suddenly an usher entered the courtroom, approached the judge,
and whispered something in his ear.
"Gentlemen," said the judge, "the court is adjourned for a time.
Let the prisoners be taken out."
There was a movement of feverish anxiety among the audience.
What could have happened? What unexpected event was about to
take place? Every one looked anxiously at his neighbor. Amélie's
heart was wrung by a presentiment. She pressed her hand to her
breast; it was as though an ice-cold iron had pierced it to the
springs of life.
The gendarmes rose. The prisoners did likewise, and were then
marched back to their cells. One after the other they passed
Amélie. The hands of the lovers touched each other; those of
Amélie were as cold as death.
"Whatever happens, thank you," said Charles, as he passed.
Amélie tried to answer, but the words died on her lips.
During this time the judge had risen and passed into the
council-chamber. There he found a veiled woman, who had just
descended from a carriage at the door of the courthouse, and had
not spoken to any one on her way in.
"Madame," said the judge, "I offer you many excuses for the way
in which I have brought you from Paris; but the life of a man
depends upon it, and before that consideration everything must
"You have no need to excuse yourself, sir," replied the veiled
lady, "I know the prerogatives of the law, and I am here at your
"Madame," said the judge, "the court and myself recognize the
feeling of delicacy which prompted you, when first confronted
with the prisoners, to decline to recognize the one who assisted
you when fainting. At that time the prisoners denied their identity
with the pillagers of the diligences. Since then they have confessed
all; but it is our wish to know the one who showed you that
consideration, in order that we may recommend him to the First
"What!" exclaimed the lady, "have they really confessed?"
"Yes, madame, but they will not say which of their number helped
you, fearing, no doubt, to contradict your testimony, and thus
cause you embarrassment."
"What is it you request of me, sir?"
"That you will save the gentleman who assisted you."
"Oh! willingly," said the lady, rising; "what am I to do?"
"Answer a question which I shall ask you."
"I am ready, sir."
"Wait here a moment. You will be sent for presently."
The judge went back into the courtroom. A gendarme was placed
at each door to prevent any one from approaching the lady. The
judge resumed his seat.
"Gentlemen," said he, "the session is reopened."
General excitement prevailed. The ushers called for silence, and
silence was restored.
"Bring in the witness," said the judge.
An usher opened the door of the council-chamber, and the lady,
still veiled, was brought into court. All eyes turned upon her.
Who was she? Why was she there? What had she come for? Amélie's
eyes fastened upon her at once.
"O my God!" she murmured, "grant that I be mistaken."
"Madame," said the judge, "the prisoners are about to be brought
in. Have the goodness to point out the one who, when the Geneva
diligence was stopped, paid you those attentions."
A shudder ran through the audience. They felt that some fatal
trap had been laid for the prisoners.
A dozen voices began to shout: "Say nothing!" but the ushers,
at a sign from the judge, cried out imperatively: "Silence!"
Amélie's heart turned deadly cold. A cold sweat poured from her
forehead. Her knees gave way and trembled under her.
"Bring in the prisoners," said the judge, imposing silence by
a look as the usher had with his voice. "And you, madame, have
the goodness to advance and raise your veil."
The veiled lady obeyed.
"My mother!" cried Amélie, but in a voice so choked that only
those near her heard the words.
"Madame de Montrevel!" murmured the audience.
At that moment the first gendarme appeared at the door, then the
second. After him came the prisoners, but not in the same order
as before. Morgan had placed himself third, so that, separated
as he was from the gendarmes by Montbar and Adler in front and
d'Assas behind, he might be better able to clasp Amélie's hand.
Montbar entered first.
Madame de Montrevel shook her head.
Then came Adler.
Madame de Montrevel made the same negative sign.
Just then Morgan passed before Amélie.
"We are lost!" she said.
He looked at her in astonishment as she pressed his hand
convulsively. Then he entered.
"That is he," said Madame de Montrevel, as soon as she saw
Morgan--or, if the reader prefers it, Baron Charles de
Sainte-Hermine--who was now proved one and the same man by means
of Madame de Montrevel's identification.
A long cry of distress burst from the audience. Montbar burst
into a laugh.
"Ha! by my faith!" he cried, "that will teach you, dear friend,
to play the gallant with fainting women." Then, turning to Madame
de Montrevel, he added: "With three short words, madame, you
have decapitated four heads."
A terrible silence fell, in the midst of which a groan was heard.
"Usher," said the judge, "have you warned the public that all
marks of approbation or disapproval are forbidden?"
The usher inquired who had disobeyed the order of the court.
It was a woman wearing the dress of a Bressan peasant, who was
being carried into the jailer's room.
From that moment the accused made no further attempt at denial;
but, just as Morgan had united with them when arrested, they
now joined with him. Their four heads should be saved, or fall
That same day, at ten in the evening, the jury rendered a verdict
of guilty, and the court pronounced the sentence of death.
Three days later, by force of entreaties, the lawyers obtained
permission for the accused to appeal their case; but they were
not admitted to bail.
IN WHICH AMÉLIE KEEPS HER WORD
The verdict rendered by the jury of the town of Bourg had a terrible
effect, not only in the courtroom, but throughout the entire town.
The four prisoners had shown such chivalric brotherhood, such
noble bearing, such deep conviction in the faith they professed,
that their enemies themselves admired the devotion which had made
robbers and highwaymen of men of rank and family.
Madame de Montrevel, overwhelmed by the part she had been made
to play at the crucial point of this drama, saw but one means of
repairing the evil she had done, and that was to start at once
for Paris and fling herself at the feet of the First Consul,
imploring him to pardon the four condemned men. She did not even
take time to go to the Château des Noires-Fontaines to see Amélie.
She knew that Bonaparte's departure was fixed for the first week
in May, and this was already the 6th. When she last left Paris
everything had been prepared for that departure.
She wrote a line to Amélie explaining by what fatal deception
she had been instrumental in destroying the lives of four men,
when she intended to save the life of one. Then, as if ashamed
of having broken the pledge she had made to Amélie, and above
all to herself, she ordered fresh post-horses and returned to
She arrived there on the morning of the 8th of May. Bonaparte
had started on the evening of the 6th. He said on leaving that
he was only going to Dijon, possibly as far as Geneva, but in
any case he should not be absent more than three weeks. The
prisoners' appeal, even if rejected, would not receive final
consideration for five or six weeks. All hope need not therefore
But, alas! it became evident that the review at Dijon was only
a pretext, that the journey to Geneva had never been seriously
thought of, and that Bonaparte, instead of going to Switzerland,
was really on his way to Italy.
Then Madame de Montrevel, unwilling to appeal to her son, for
she had heard his oath when Lord Tanlay had been left for dead,
and knew the part he had played in the capture of the Companions
of Jehu--then Madame de Montrevel appealed to Josephine, and
Josephine promised to write to the First Consul. That same evening
she kept her promise.
But the trial had made a great stir. It was not with these prisoners
as with ordinary men. Justice made haste, and thirty-five days
after the verdict had been rendered the, appeal was rejected. This
decision was immediately sent to Bourg with an order to execute
the prisoners within twenty-four hours. But notwithstanding the
haste of the minister of police in forwarding this decision,
the first intimation of the fatal news was not received by the
judicial authorities at Bourg. While the prisoners were taking
their daily walk in the courtyard a stone was thrown over the
outer wall and fell at their feet. Morgan, who still retained
in relation to his comrades the position of leader, picked it
up, opened the letter which inclosed the stone, and read it.
Then, turning to his friends, he said: "Gentlemen, the appeal
has been rejected, as we might have expected, and the ceremony
will take place in all probability to-morrow."
Valensolle and Ribier, who were playing a species of quoits with
crown-pieces and louis, left off their game to hear the news.
Having heard it they returned to their game without remark.
Jayat, who was reading "La Nouvelle Héloise," resumed his book,
saying: "Then, I shall not have time to finish M. Jean-Jacques
Rousseau's masterpiece, and upon my word I don't regret it, for
it is the most utterly false and wearisome book I ever read in
Sainte-Hermine passed his hand over his forehead, murmuring:
"Poor Amélie!" Then observing Charlotte, who was at the window
of the jailer's room overlooking the courtyard, he went to her.
"Tell Amélie that she must keep the promise she made me, to-night."
The jailer's daughter closed the window, kissed her father, and
told him that in all probability he would see her there again
that evening. Then she returned to Noires-Fontaines, a road she
had taken twice every day for the last two months, once at noon
on her way to the prison, once in the evening on returning to
Every night she found Amélie in the same place, sitting at the
window which, in happier days, had given admittance to her beloved
Charles. Since the day she had fainted in the courtroom she had
shed no tears, and, we may almost add, had uttered no word. Unlike
the marble of antiquity awakening into life, she might have been
compared to a living woman petrifying into stone. Every day she
Charlotte watched her with astonishment. Common minds, always
impressed by noisy demonstrations, that is to say, by cries and
tears, are unable to understand a mute sorrow. Dumbness to them
means indifference. She was therefore astonished at the calmness
with which Amélie received the message she was charged to deliver.
She did not see in the dimness of the twilight that Amélie's face
from being pale grew livid. She did not feel the deadly clutch
which, like an iron wrench, had seized her heart. She did not know
that as her mistress walked to the door an automatic stiffness
was in her limbs. Nevertheless she followed her anxiously. But
at the door Amélie stretched out her hand.
"Wait for me there," she said.
Charlotte obeyed. Amélie closed the door behind her, and went
up to Roland's room.
Roland's room was veritably that of a soldier and a huntsman,
and its chief adornments were trophies and weapons. Arms of all
kinds were here, French and foreign, from the blue-barrelled
pistol of Versailles to the silver-handled pistol of Cairo, from
the tempered blade of Catalonia to the Turkish cimeter.
Amélie took down from this arsenal four daggers, sharp-edged and
pointed, and eight pistols of different shapes. She put balls
in a bag and powder in a horn. Thus supplied she returned to her
own room. There Charlotte assisted her in putting on the peasant
gown. Then she waited for the night.
Night comes late in June. Amélie stood motionless, mute, leaning
against the chimney-piece, and looking through the open window at
the village of Ceyzeriat, which was slowly disappearing in the
gathering shades of night. When she could no longer distinguish
anything but the lights which were being lighted one by one, she
"Come, it is time to go."
The two young girls went out. Michel paid no attention to Amélie,
supposing her to be some friend of Charlotte's, who had called to
see her and whom the jailer's daughter was now escorting home.
Ten o'clock was striking as they passed the church of Brou. It
was quarter past when Charlotte knocked at the prison door. Old
Courtois opened it.
We have already shown the political opinions of the worthy jailer.
He was a royalist. He therefore felt the deepest sympathy for
the four condemned men, and had hoped, like nearly every one in
Bourg--like Madame de Montrevel, whose despair at what she had
done was known to him--that the First Consul would pardon them.
He had therefore mitigated their captivity as much as possible,
without failing in his duty, by relieving them of all needless
restrictions. On the other hand, it is true that he had refused
a gift of sixty thousand francs (a sum which in those days was
worth nearly treble what it is now) to allow them to escape.
We have seen how, being taken into confidence by his daughter,
he had allowed Amélie, disguised as a Bressan peasant, to be
present at the trial. The reader will also remember the kindness
the worthy man had shown to Amélie and her mother when they
themselves were prisoners. This time, as he was still ignorant
of the rejection of the appeal, he allowed his feelings to be
worked upon. Charlotte had told him that her young mistress was to
start that night for Paris to endeavor to hasten the pardon, and
that she desired before leaving to see the Baron de Sainte-Hermine
and obtain his last instructions.
There were five doors to break through to reach the street, a
squad of guards in the courtyard, and sentinels within and without
the prison. Consequently Père Courtois felt no anxiety lest his
prisoners escape. He therefore consented that Amélie should see
We trust our readers will excuse us if we use the names Morgan,
Charles, and the Baron de Sainte-Hermine, interchangeably, since
they are aware that by that triple appellation we intend to designate
the same man.
Courtois took a light and walked before Amélie. The young girl,
as though prepared to start by the mail-coach at once on leaving
the prison, carried a travelling bag in her hand. Charlotte followed
"You will recognize the cell, Mademoiselle de Montrevel," said
Courtois. "It is the one in which you were confined with your
mother. The leader of these unfortunate young men, the Baron
Charles de Sainte-Hermine, asked me as a favor to put them in
cage No. 1. You know that's the name we give our cells. I did
not think I ought to refuse him that consolation, knowing how
the poor fellow loved you. Oh, don't be uneasy, Mademoiselle
Amélie, I will never breathe your secret. Then he questioned
me, asking which had been your mother's bed, and which yours. I
told him, and then he wanted his to stand just where yours did.
That wasn't hard, for the bed was not only in the same place,
but it was the very one you had used. So, since the poor fellow
entered your cell, he has spent nearly all his time lying on
Amélie gave a sigh that resembled a groan. She felt--and it
was long since she had done so--a tear moisten her eyelids. Yes!
she was loved as she loved, and the lips of a disinterested
stranger gave her the proof of it. At this moment of eternal
separation this conviction shone like a diamond of light in its
setting of sorrow.
The doors opened one by one before Père Courtois. When they reached
the last one, Amélie laid her hand on the jailer's shoulder. She
thought she heard a chant. Listening attentively, she became
aware that it was a voice repeating verses.
But the voice was not Morgan's; it was unknown to her. Here is
what it said:
I have bared all my heart to the God of the just,
He has witnessed my penitent tears;
He has stilled my remorse, He has armed me with trust,
He has pitied and calmed all my fears.
My enemies, scoffing, have said in their rage:
"Let him die, be his mem'ry accursed!"
Saith the merciful Father, my grief to assuage,
"Their hatred hath now done its worst.
"I have heard thy complaints, and I know that the ban
Of remorse hath e'en brought thee so low;
I can pity the soul of the penitent man
That was weak in this valley of woe;
"I will crown thy lost name with the just acclaim
Of the slow-judging righteous years;
Their pity and justice in time shall proclaim
Thine honor; then layoff thy fears!"
I bless thee, O God! who hast deigned to restore
Mine honor that Thou hast made whole
From shame and remorse; as I enter Death's door
To Thee I commend my poor soul!
To the banquet of life, an unfortunate guest,
I came for a day, and I go--
I die in my vigor; I sought not to rest
In the grave where the weary lie low.
Farewell to thee, earth! farewell, tender verdure
Of woodland! Farewell, sunny shore!
Green fields that I love, azure skies, smiling Nature,
Farewell! I shall see thee no more.
May thy beauty still gladden the friends that I love,
Whom I long for--but stern fate denies;
May they pass full of years, though I wait them above;
May a last loving hand close their eyes.
The voice was silent; no doubt the last verse was finished. Amélie,
who would not interrupt the last meditations of the doomed men, and
who had recognized Gilbert's beautiful ode written on a hospital
bed the night before his death, now signed to the jailer to open
the door. Père Courtois, jailer as he was, seemed to share the
young girl's emotion, for he put the key in the lock and turned
it as softly as he could. The door opened.
Amélie saw at a glance the whole interior of the cell, and the
persons in it.
Valensolle was standing, leaning against the wall, and still
holding the book from which he had just read the lines that Amélie
had overheard. Jayat was seated near a table with his head resting
on his hands. Ribier was sitting on the table itself. Near him,
but further back, Sainte-Hermine, his eyes closed as if in sleep,
was lying on the bed. At sight of the young girl, whom they knew
to be Amélie, Ribier and Jayat rose. Morgan did not move; he
had heard nothing.
Amélie went directly to him, and, as if the love she felt for
him were sanctified by the nearness of death, she gave no heed
to the presence of his friends, but pressed her lips to his,
murmuring: "Awake, my Charles, it is I, Amélie. I have come to
keep my promise."
Morgan gave a cry of joy and clasped her in his arms.
"Monsieur Courtois," said Montbar, "you are a worthy man. Leave
those poor young people alone. It would be sacrilege to trouble
their last moments together on earth by our presence."
Père Courtois, without a word, opened the door of the adjoining
cell. Valensolle, Jayat and Ribier entered it, and the door was
closed upon them. Then, making a sign to Charlotte, Courtois
himself went away. The lovers were alone.
There are scenes that should not be described, words that must
not be repeated. God, who sees and hears them from his immortal
throne, alone knows what sombre joys, what bitter pleasures they
At the end of an hour the two young people heard the key turn
once more in the lock. They were sad but calm. The conviction
that their separation would not be for long gave them a sweet
serenity. The worthy jailer seemed more grieved and distressed
at his second appearance than at his first; but Morgan and Amélie
thanked him with a smile.
He went to the cell where the others were locked up and opened
it, murmuring to himself: "Faith! It would have been hard if
they couldn't have been alone together on their last night."
Valensolle, Jayat and Ribier returned. Amélie, with her left
arm wound around Morgan, held out her right hand to them. All
three, one after the other, kissed that cold, damp hand. Then
Morgan led her to the door.
"Au revoir!" he said.
"Soon!" she answered.
And then this parting at the gates of death was sealed by a long
kiss, followed by a groan so terrible that it seemed to rend
their hearts in twain.
The door closed again, the bolts and bars shot into their places.
"Well?" cried Valensolle, Jayat and Ribier with one accord.
"Here!" replied Morgan, emptying the travelling bag upon the table.
The three young men gave a cry of joy as they saw the shining
pistols and gleaming blades. It was all that they desired next to
liberty--the joy, the dolorous precious joy of knowing themselves
masters of their own lives, and, if need be, that of others.
During this time the jailer led Amélie to the street. When they
reached it he hesitated a moment, then he touched Amélie's arm,
saying as he did so: "Mademoiselle de Montrevel, forgive me for
causing you so much pain, but it is useless for you to go to
"Because the appeal has been rejected and the execution takes
place to-morrow, I suppose you mean," said Amélie.
The jailer in his astonishment stepped back a pace.
"I knew it, my friend," said Amélie. Then turning to Charlotte, she
said: "Take me to the nearest church and come for me to-morrow after
all is over."
The nearest church was not far off. It was that of Sainte-Claire.
For the last three months it had been opened for public worship
under the decree of the First Consul. As it was now nearly midnight,
the doors were closed; but Charlotte knew where the sexton lived
and she went to wake him. Amélie waited, leaning against the walls
as motionless as the marble figures that adorned its frontal.
The sexton arrived at the end of half an hour. During that time the
girl had seen a dreadful sight. Three men had passed her, dragging
a cart, which she saw by the light of the moon was painted red.
Within this cart she perceived shapeless objects, long planks and
singular ladders, all painted the same color. They were dragging
it toward the bastion Montrevel, the place used for the executions.
Amélie divined what it was, and, with a cry, she fell upon her
At that cry the men in black turned round. They fancied for a
moment that one of the sculptured figures of the porch had descended
from its niche and was kneeling there. The one who seemed to be
the leader stepped close to the young girl.
"Don't come near me!" she cried. "Don't come near me!"
The man returned humbly to his place and continued on his way.
The cart disappeared round the corner of the Rue des Prisons; but
the noise of its wheels still sounded on the stones and echoed
in the girl's heart.
When the sacristan and Charlotte returned they found the young
girl on her knees. The man raised some objections against opening
the church at that hour of the night; but a piece of gold and
Mademoiselle de Montrevel's name dispelled his scruples. A second
gold piece decided him to light a little chapel. It was the one
in which Amélie had made her first communion. There, kneeling
before the altar, she implored them to leave her alone.
Toward three in the morning she saw the colored window above the
altar of the Virgin begin to lighten. It looked to the east, so
that the first ray of light came direct to her eyes as a messenger
Little by little the town awoke. To Amélie the noise seemed louder
than ever before. Soon the vaulted ceiling of the church shook
with the tramp of a troop of horsemen. This troop was on its
way to the prison.
A little before nine the young girl heard a great noise, and it
seemed to her that the whole town must be rushing in the same
direction. She strove to lose herself in prayer, that she might
not hear these different sounds that spoke to her in an unknown
language of which her anguish told her she understood every word.
In truth, a terrible thing was happening at the prison. It was
no wonder that the whole town had rushed thither.
At nine o'clock Père Courtois entered the jail to tell the prisoners
at one and the same time that their appeal had been rejected and
that they must prepare for immediate death. He found the four
prisoners armed to the teeth.
The jailer, taken unawares, was pulled into the cell and the
door locked behind him. Then the young men, without any defence
on his part, so astonished was he, seized his keys, and passing
through the door opposite to the one by which he had entered
they locked it on him. Leaving him in their cell, they found
themselves in the adjoining one, in which he had placed three
of them during Amélie's interview with Morgan.
One of the keys on the jailer's bunch opened the other door of
this cell, and that door led to the inner courtyard of the prison.
This courtyard was closed by three massive doors, all of which
led to a sort of lobby, opening upon the porter's lodge, which
in turn adjoined the law-courts. From this lodge fifteen steps
led down into a vast courtyard closed by an iron gate and railing.
Usually this gate was only locked at night. If it should happen to
be open on this occasion it would offer a possibility of escape.
Morgan found the key of the prisoners' court, opened the door,
and rushed with his companions to the porter's lodge and to the
portico, from which the fifteen steps led down into the courtyard.
From there the three young men could see that all hope was lost.
The iron gate was closed, and eighty men, dragoons and gendarmes,
were drawn up in front of it.
When the four prisoners, free and armed to the teeth, sprang
from the porter's lodge to the portico, a great cry, a cry of
astonishment and terror, burst from the crowd in the street beyond
Their aspect was formidable, indeed; for to preserve the freedom
of their movements, perhaps to hide the shedding of blood, which
would have shown so quickly on their white linen, they were naked
to the waist. A handkerchief knotted around their middle bristled
A glance sufficed to show them that they were indeed masters of
their own lives, but not of their liberty. Amid the clamoring of
the crowd and the clanking of the sabres, as they were drawn from
their scabbards, the young men paused an instant and conferred
together. Then Montbar, after shaking hands with his companions,
walked down the fifteen steps and advanced to the gate.
When he was within four yards of the gate he turned, with a last
glance at his comrades, bowed graciously to the now silent mob,
and said to the soldiers: "Very well, gentlemen of the gendarmerie!
Very well, dragoons!"
Then, placing the muzzle of his pistol to his mouth, he blew out
Confused and frantic cries followed the explosion, but ceased
almost immediately as Valensolle came down the steps, holding in
his hand a dagger with a straight and pointed blade. His pistols,
which he did not seem inclined to use, were still in his belt.
He advanced to a sort of shed supported on three pillars, stopped
at the first pillar, rested the hilt of his dagger upon it, and,
with a last salutation to his friends, clasped the column with
one arm till the blade had disappeared in his breast. For an
instant he remained standing, then a mortal pallor overspread
his face, his arm loosened its hold, and he fell to the ground,
The crowd was mute, paralyzed with horror.
It was now Ribier's turn. He advanced to the gate, and, once
there, aimed the two pistols he held at the gendarmes. He did
not fire, but the gendarmes did. Three or four shots were heard,
and Ribier fell, pierced by two balls.
Admiration seized upon the spectators at sight of these successive
catastrophes. They saw that the young men were willing to die,
but to die with honor, and as they willed, and also with the
grace of the gladiators of antiquity. Silence therefore reigned
when Morgan, now left alone, came smiling down the steps of the
portico and held up his hand in sign that he wished to speak.
Besides, what more could it want--this eager mob; watching for
A greater sight had been given to it than it came to see. Four
dead men had been promised to it; four heads were to be cut off;
but here was variety in death, unexpected, picturesque. It was
natural, therefore, that the crowd should keep silence when Morgan
was seen to advance.
He held neither pistols nor daggers in his hands; they were in
his belt. He passed the body of Valensolle, and placed himself
between those of Jayat and Ribier.
"Gentlemen," said he, "let us negotiate."
The hush that followed was so great that those present seemed
scarcely to breathe. Morgan said: "There lies a man who has blown
out his brains [he pointed to Jayat]; here lies one who stabbed
himself [he designated Valensolle]; a third who has been shot
[he indicated Ribier]; you want to see the fourth guillotined.
I understand that."
A dreadful shudder passed through the crowd.
"Well," continued Morgan, "I am willing to give you that
satisfaction. I am ready, but I desire to go to the scaffold in
my own way. No one shall touch me; if any one does come near me
I shall blow out his brains--except that gentleman," continued
Morgan, pointing to the executioner. "This is his affair and
The crowd apparently thought this request reasonable, for from
all sides came the cry, "Yes, yes, yes."
The officer saw that the quickest way to end the matter was to
yield to Morgan's demand.
"Will you promise me," he asked, "that if your hands and feet
are not bound you will not try to escape?"
"I give my word of honor," replied Morgan.
"Then," said the officer; "stand aside, and let us take up the
bodies of your comrades."
"That is but right," said Morgan, and he turned aside to a wall
about ten paces distant and leaned against it.
The gate opened. Three men dressed in black entered the courtyard
and picked up the bodies one after the other. Ribier was not
quite dead; he opened his eyes and seemed to look for Morgan.
"Here I am," said the latter. "Rest easy, dear friend, I follow."
Ribier closed his eyes without uttering a word.
When the three bodies had been removed, the officer of the
gendarmerie addressed Morgan.
"Are you ready, sir?" he asked.
"Yes," replied Morgan, bowing with exquisite politeness.
And he took his place between a platoon of gendarmerie and a
detachment of dragoons.
"Will you mount the cart, sir, or go on foot?" asked the captain.
"On foot, on foot, sir. I am anxious that all shall see it is
my pleasure to be guillotined, and that I am not afraid."
The sinister procession crossed the Place des Lisses and skirted
the walls of the Hôtel Montbazon. The cart bearing the three
bodies came first, then the dragoons, then Morgan walking alone
in a clear space of some ten feet before and behind him, then
the gendarmes. At the end of the wall they turned to the left.
Suddenly, through an opening that existed at that time between
the wall and the market-place, Morgan saw the scaffold raising
its two posts to heaven like two bloody arms.
"Faugh!" he exclaimed, "I have never seen a guillotine, and I
had no idea it was so ugly."
Then, without further remark, he drew his dagger and plunged it
into his breast up to the hilt.
The captain of the gendarmerie saw the movement without being in
time to prevent it. He spurred his horse toward Morgan, who, to his
own amazement and that of every one else, remained standing. But
Morgan, drawing a pistol from his belt and cocking it, exclaimed:
"Stop! It was agreed that no one should touch me. I shall die
alone, or three of us will die together."
The captain reined back his horse.
"Forward!" said Morgan.
They reached the foot of the guillotine. Morgan drew out his
dagger and struck again as deeply as before. A cry of rage rather
than pain escaped him.
"My soul must be riveted to my body," he said.
Then, as the assistants wished to help him mount the scaffold
on which the executioner was awaiting him, he cried out: "No,
I say again, let no one touch me."
Then he mounted the three steps without staggering.
When he reached the platform, he drew out the dagger again and
struck himself a third time. Then a frightful laugh burst from
his lips; flinging the dagger, which he had wrenched from the
third ineffectual wound, at the feet of the executioner, he
exclaimed: "By my faith! I have done enough. It is your turn;
do it if you can."
A minute later the head of the intrepid young man fell upon the
scaffold, and by a phenomenon of that unconquerable vitality
which he possessed it rebounded and rolled forward beyond the
timbers of the guillotine.
Go to Bourg, as I did, and they will tell you that, as the head
rolled forward, it was heard to utter the name of Amélie.
The dead bodies were guillotined after the living one; so that
the spectators, instead of losing anything by the events we have
just related, enjoyed a double spectacle.
Three days after the events we have just recited, a carriage
covered with dust and drawn by two horses white with foam stopped
about seven of the evening before the gate of the Château des
Noires-Fontaines. To the great astonishment of the person who
was in such haste to arrive, the gates were open, a crowd of
peasants filled the courtyard, and men and women were kneeling
on the portico. Then, his sense of hearing being rendered more
acute by astonishment at what he had seen, he fancied he heard
the ringing of a bell.
He opened the door of the chaise, sprang out, crossed the courtyard
rapidly, went up the portico, and found the stairway leading to
the first floor filled with people.
Up the stairs he ran as he had up the portico, and heard what
seemed to him a murmured prayer from his sister's bedroom. He
went to the room. The door was open. Madame de Montrevel and
little Edouard were kneeling beside Amélie's pillow; Charlotte,
Michel, and his son Jacques were close at hand. The curate of
Sainte-Claire was administering the last sacraments; the dismal
scene was lighted only by the light of the wax-tapers.
The reader has recognized Roland in the traveller whose carriage
stopped at the gate. The bystanders made way for him; he entered
the room with his head uncovered and knelt beside his mother.
The dying girl lay on her back, her hands clasped, her head raised
on her pillows, her eyes fixed upon the sky, in a sort of ecstasy.
She seemed unconscious of Roland's arrival. It was as though
her soul were floating between heaven and earth, while the body
still belonged to this world.
Madame de Montrevel's hand sought that of Roland, and finding
it, the poor mother dropped her head on his shoulder, sobbing.
The sobs passed unnoticed by the dying girl, even as her brother's
arrival had done. She lay there perfectly immovable. Only when the
viaticum had been administered, when the priest's voice promised
her eternal blessedness, her marble lips appeared to live again,
and she murmured in a feeble but intelligible voice: "Amen!"
Then the bell rang again; the choir-boy, who was carrying it,
left the room first, followed by the two acolytes who bore the
tapers, then the cross-bearer, and lastly the priest with the
Host. All the strangers present followed the procession, and
the family and household were left alone. The house, an instant
before so full of sound and life, was silent, almost deserted.
The dying girl had not moved; her lips were closed, her hands
clasped, her eyes raised to heaven. After a few minutes Roland
stooped to his mother's ear, and whispered: "Come out with me,
mother, I must speak to you." Madame de Montrevel rose. She pushed
little Edouard toward the bed, and the child stood on tiptoe
to kiss his sister on the forehead. Then the mother followed
him, and, leaning over, with a sob she pressed a kiss upon the
same spot. Roland, with dry eyes but a breaking heart--he would
have given much for tears in which to drown his sorrow--kissed
his sister as his mother and little brother had done. She seemed
as insensible to this kiss as to the preceding ones.
Edouard left the room, followed by Madame de Montrevel and Roland.
Just as they reached the door they stopped, quivering. They had
heard the name of Roland, uttered in a low but distinct tone.
Roland turned. Amélie called him a second time.
"Did you call me, Amélie?" he asked.
"Yes," replied the dying girl.
"Alone, or with my mother?"
That voice, devoid of emphasis, yet perfectly intelligible, had
something glacial about it; it was like an echo from another
"Go, mother," said Roland. "You see that she wishes to be alone
"O my God!" murmured Madame de Montrevel, "can there still be
Low as these words were, the dying girl heard them.
"No, mother," she said. "God has permitted me to see my brother
again; but to-night I go to Him."
Madame de Montrevel groaned.
"Roland, Roland!" she said, "she is there already."
Roland signed to her to leave them alone, and she went away with
little Edouard. Roland closed the door, and returned to his sister's
bedside with unutterable emotion.
Her body was already stiffening in death; the breath from her lips
would scarcely have dimmed a mirror; the eyes only, wide-open,
were fixed and brilliant, as though the whole remaining life of
the body, dead before its time, were centred, there. Roland had
heard of this strange state called ecstasy, which is nothing
else than catalepsy. He saw that Amélie was a victim of that
"I am here, sister," he said. "What can I do for you?"
"I knew you would come," she replied, still without moving, "and
I waited for you."
"How did you know that I was coming?" asked Roland.
"I saw you coming."
"Did you know why I was coming?" he asked.
"Yes; I prayed God so earnestly in my heart that He gave me strength
to rise and write to you."
"When was that?"
"Where is the letter?"
"Under my pillow. Take it, and read it."
Roland hesitated an instant. Was his sister delirious?
"Poor Amélie!" he murmured.
"Do not pity me," she said, "I go to join him."
"Whom?" asked Roland.
"Him whom I loved, and whom you killed."
Roland uttered a cry. This was delirium; or else--what did his
"Amélie," said he, "I came to question you--"
"About Lord Tanlay; yes, I know," replied the young girl.
"You knew! How could you know?"
"Did I not tell you I saw you coming, and knew why you came?"
"Then answer me."
"Do not turn me from God and from him, Roland. I have written
it all; read my letter."
Roland slipped his hand beneath the pillow, convinced that his
sister was delirious.
To his great astonishment he felt a paper, which he drew out.
It was a sealed letter; on it were written these words: "For
Roland, who will come to-morrow."
He went over to the night-light in order to read the letter,
which was dated the night before at eleven o'clock in the evening.
My brother, we have each a terrible thing to forgive the
Roland looked at his sister; she was still motionless. He continued
I loved Charles de Sainte-Hermine; I did more than
love him, he was my lover.
"Oh!" muttered the young man between his teeth, "he shall die."
"He is dead," said Amélie.
The young man gave a cry of astonishment. He had uttered the words
to which Amélie had replied too low even to hear them himself. His
eyes went back to the letter.
There was no legal marriage possible between the sister
of Roland de Montrevel and the leader of the Companions
of Jehu: that was the terrible secret which I bore--and
it crushed me.
One person alone had to know it, and I told him; that
person was Sir John Tanlay.
May God forever bless that noble-hearted man, who
promised to break off an impossible marriage, and who
kept his word. Let his life be sacred to you, Roland; he
has been my only friend in sorrow, and his tears have
mingled with mine.
I loved Charles de Saint-Hermine; I was his mistress;
that is the terrible thing you must forgive.
But, in exchange, you caused his death; that is the
terrible thing I now forgive you.
Oh I come fast, Roland, for I cannot die till you are
To die is to see him again; to die is to be with him and
never to leave him again. I am glad to die.
All was clearly and plainly written; there was no sign of delirium
in the letter.
Roland read it through twice, and stood for an instant silent,
motionless, palpitating, full of bitterness; then pity got the
better of his anger. He went to Amélie, stretched his hand over
her, and said: "Sister, I forgive you."
A slight quiver shook the dying body.
"And now," she said, "call my mother, that I may die in her arms."
Roland opened the door and called Madame de Montrevel. She was
waiting and came at once.
"Is there any change?" she asked, eagerly.
"No," replied Roland, "only Amélie wishes to die in your arms."
Madame de Montrevel fell upon her knees beside her daughter's
Then Amélie, as though an invisible hand had loosened the bonds
that held her rigid body to the bed, rose slowly, parted the
hands that were clasped upon her breast, and let one fall slowly
into those of her mother.
"Mother," she said, "you gave me life and you have taken it from
me; I bless you. It was a mother's act. There was no happiness
possible for your daughter in this life."
Then, letting her other hand fall into that of Roland, who was
kneeling on the other side of the bed, she said: "We have forgiven
each other, brother?"
"Yes, dear Amélie," he replied, "and from the depths of our hearts,
"I have still one last request to make."
"What is it?"
"Do not forget that Lord Tanlay has been my best friend."
"Fear nothing," said Roland; "Lord Tanlay's life is sacred to me."
Amélie drew a long breath; then in a voice which showed her growing
weakness, she said: "Farewell, mother; farewell, Roland; kiss
Edouard for me."
Then with a cry from her soul, in which there was more of joy
than sadness, she said: "Here I am, Charles, here I am!"
She fell back upon her bed, withdrawing her two hands as she did
so, and clasping them upon her breast again.
Roland and his mother rose and leaned over her. She had resumed
her first position, except that her eyelids were closed and her
breath extinguished. Amélie's martyrdom was over, she was dead.
Amélie died during the night of Monday and Tuesday, that is to
say, the 2d and 3d of June. On the evening of Thursday, the 5th
of June, the Grand Opera at Paris was crowded for the second
presentation of "Ossian, or the Bards."
The great admiration which the First Consul professed for the
poems of Macpherson was universally known; consequently the National
Academy, as much in flattery as from literary choice, had brought
out an opera, which, in spite of all exertions, did not appear
until a month after General Bonaparte had left Paris to join the
Army of the Reserves.
In the balcony to the left sat a lover of music who was noticeable
for the deep attention he paid to the performance. During the
interval between the acts, the door-keeper came to him and said
in a low voice:
"Pardon me, sir, are you Sir John Tanlay?"
"In that case, my lord, a gentleman has a message to give you;
he says it is of the utmost importance, and asks if you will
speak to him in the corridor."
"Oh!" said Sir John, "is he an officer?"
"He is in civilian's dress, but he looks like an officer."
"Very good," replied Sir John; "I know who he is."
He rose and followed the woman. Roland was waiting in the corridor.
Lord Tanlay showed no surprise on seeing him, but the stern look
on the young man's face repressed the first impulse of his deep
affection, which was to fling himself upon his friend's breast.
"Here I am, sir," said Sir John.
"I have just come from your hotel," he said. "You have, it seems,
taken the precaution to inform the porter of your whereabout
every time you have gone out, so that persons who have business
with you should know where to find you."
"That is true, sir."
"The precaution is a good one, especially for those who, like
myself, come from a long distance and are hurried and have no
time to spare."
"Then," said Sir John, "was it to see me that you left the army
and came to Paris?"
"Solely for that honor, sir; and I trust that you will guess my
motives, and spare me the necessity of explaining them."
"From this moment I am at your service, sir," replied Sir John.
"At what hour to-morrow can two of my friends wait upon you?"
"From seven in the morning until midnight; unless you prefer that
it should be now."
"No, my lord; I have but just arrived, and I must have time to
find my friends and give them my instructions. If it will not
inconvenience you, they will probably call upon you to-morrow
between ten and eleven. I shall be very much obliged to you if
the affair we have to settle could be arranged for the same day."
"I believe that will be possible, sir; as I understand it to be
your wish, the delay will not be from my side."
"That is all I wished to know, my lord; pray do not let me detain
Roland bowed, and Sir John returned the salutation. Then the
young man left the theatre and Sir John returned to his seat
in the balcony. The words had been exchanged in such perfectly
well modulated voices, and with such an impassible expression of
countenance on both sides, that no one would have supposed that
a quarrel had arisen between the two men who had just greeted
each other so courteously.
It happened to be the reception day of the minister of war. Roland
returned to his hotel, removed the traces of his journey, jumped
into a carriage, and a little before ten he was announced in the
salon of the citizen Carnot.
Two purposes took him there: in the first place, he had a verbal
communication to make to the minister of war from the First Consul;
in the second place, he hoped to find there the two witnesses
he was in need of to arrange his meeting with Sir John.
Everything happened as Roland had hoped. He gave the minister of
war all the details of the crossing of the Mont Saint-Bernard and
the situation of the army; and he himself found the two friends of
whom he was in search. A few words sufficed to let them know what
he wished; soldiers are particularly open to such confidences.
Roland spoke of a grave insult, the nature of which must remain
a secret even to his seconds. He declared that he was the offended
party, and claimed the choice of weapons and mode of fighting--
advantages which belong to the challenger.
The young fellows agreed to present themselves to Sir John the
following morning at the Hôtel Mirabeau, Rue de Richelieu, at
nine o'clock, and make the necessary arrangements with Sir John's
seconds. After that they would join Roland at the Hôtel de Paris
in the same street.
Roland returned to his room at eleven that evening, wrote for
about an hour, then went to bed and to sleep.
At half-past nine the next morning his friends came to him. They
had just left Sir John. He admitted all Roland's contentions;
declared that he would not discuss any of the arrangements; adding
that if Roland regarded himself as the injured party, it was for
him to dictate the conditions. To their remark that they had
hoped to discuss such matters with two of his friends and not
with himself, he replied that he knew no one in Paris intimately
enough to ask their assistance in such a matter, and that he
hoped, once on the ground, that one of Roland's seconds would
consent to act in his behalf. The two officers were agreed that
Lord Tanlay had conducted himself with the utmost punctiliousness
in every respect.
Roland declared that Sir John's request for the services of one of
his two seconds was not only just but suitable, and he authorized
either one of them to act for Sir John and to take charge of his
interests. All that remained for Roland to do was to dictate
his conditions. They were as follows!
Pistols were chosen. When loaded the adversaries were to stand
at five paces. At the third clap of the seconds' hands they were
to fire. It was, as we see, a duel to the death, in which, if
either survived, he would be at the mercy of his opponent.
Consequently the young officers made many objections; but Roland
insisted, declaring that he alone could judge of the gravity of
the insult offered him, and that no other reparation than this
would satisfy him. They were obliged to yield to such obstinacy.
But the friend who was to act as Sir John's second refused to
bind himself for his principal, declaring that unless Sir John
ordered it he would refuse to be a party to such a murder.
"Don't excite yourself, dear friend," said Roland, "I know Sir
John, and I think he will be more accommodating than you."
The seconds returned to Sir John; they found him at his English
breakfast of beefsteak, potatoes and tea. On seeing them he rose,
invited them to share his repast, and, on their refusing, placed
himself at their disposal. They began by assuring him that he
could count upon one of them to act as his second. The one acting
for Roland announced the conditions. At each stipulation Sir John
bowed his head in token of assent and merely replied: "Very good!"
The one who had taken charge of his interests attempted to make
some objections to a form of combat that, unless something impossible
to foresee occurred, must end in the death of both parties; but Lord
Tanlay begged him to make no objections.
"M. de Montrevel is a gallant man," he said; "I do not wish to
thwart him in anything; whatever he does is right."
It only remained to settle the hour and the place of meeting. On
these points Sir John again placed himself at Roland's disposal.
The two seconds left even more delighted with him after this
interview than they had been after the first. Roland was waiting
for them and listened to what had taken place.
"What did I tell you?" he asked.
They requested him to name the time and place. He selected seven
o'clock in the evening in the Allée de la Muette. At that hour
the Bois was almost deserted, but the light was still good enough
(it will be remembered that this was in the month of June) for
the two adversaries to fight with any weapon.
No one had spoken of the pistols. The young men proposed to get
them at an armorer's.
"No," said Roland, "Sir John has an excellent pair of duelling
pistols which I have already used. If he is not unwilling to
fight with those pistols I should prefer them to all others."
The young man who was now acting as Sir John's second went to
him with the three following questions: Whether the time and
place suited him, and whether he would allow his pistols to be
Lord Tanlay replied by regulating his watch by that of his second
and by handing him the box of pistols.
"Shall I call for you, my lord?" asked the young man.
Sir John smiled sadly.
"Needless," he replied; "you are M. de Montrevel's friend, and
you will find the drive pleasanter with him than with me. I will
go on horseback with my servant. You will find me on the ground."
The young officer carried this reply to Roland.
"What did I tell you?" observed Roland again.
It was then mid-day, there were still seven hours before them,
and Roland dismissed his friends to their various pleasures and
occupations. At half-past six precisely they were to be at his
door with three horses and two servants. It was necessary, in
order to avoid interference, that the trip should appear to be
nothing more than an ordinary promenade.
At half-past six precisely the waiter informed Roland that his
friends were in the courtyard. Roland greeted them cordially and
sprang into his saddle. The party followed the boulevards as far
as the Place Louis XV. and then turned up the Champs Elysées. On
the way the strange phenomenon that had so much astonished Sir
John at the time of Roland's duel with M. de Barjols recurred.
Roland's gayety might have been thought an affectation had it not
been so evidently genuine. The two young men acting as seconds
were of undoubted courage, but even they were bewildered by such
utter indifference. They might have understood it had this affair
been an ordinary duel, for coolness and dexterity insure their
possessor a great advantage over his adversary; but in a combat
like this to which they were going neither coolness nor dexterity
would avail to save the combatants, if not from death at least
from some terrible wound.
Furthermore, Roland urged on his horse like a man in haste, so
that they reached the end of the Allée de la Muette five minutes
before the appointed time.
A man was walking in the allée. Roland recognized Sir John. The
seconds watched the young man's face as he caught sight of his
adversary. To their great astonishment it expressed only tender
A few more steps and the four principal actors in the scene that
was about to take place met.
Sir John was perfectly calm, but his face wore a look of profound
sadness. It was evident that this meeting grieved him as deeply
as it seemed to rejoice Roland.
The party dismounted. One of the seconds took the box of pistols
from the servants and ordered them to lead away the horses, and
not to return until they heard pistol-shots. The principals then
entered the part of the woods that seemed the thickest, and looked
about them for a suitable spot. For the rest, as Roland had foreseen,
the Bois was deserted; the approach of the dinner hour had called
every one home.
They found a small open spot exactly suited to their needs. The
seconds looked at Roland and Sir John. They both nodded their
heads in approval.
"Is there to be any change?" one of the seconds asked Sir John.
"Ask M. de Montrevel," replied Lord Tanlay; "I am entirely at
"Nothing," said Roland.
The seconds took the pistols from the box and loaded them. Sir
John stood apart, switching the heads of the tall grasses with
Roland watched him hesitatingly for a moment, then taking his
resolve, he walked resolutely toward him. Sir John raised his
head and looked at him with apparent hope.
"My lord," said Roland, "I may have certain grievances against
you, but I know you to be, none the less, a man of your word."
"You are right," replied Sir John.
"If you survive me will you keep the promise that you made me
"There is no possibility that I shall survive you, but so long
as I have any breath left in my body, you can count upon me."
"I refer to the final disposition to be made of my body."
"The same, I presume, as at Avignon?"
"The same, my lord."
"Very well, you may set your mind at rest."
Roland bowed to Sir John and returned to his friends.
"Have you any wishes in case the affair terminates fatally?" asked
one of them.
"What is it?"
"That you permit Sir John to take entire charge of the funeral
arrangements. For the rest, I have a note in my left hand for
him. In case I have not time to speak after the affair is over,
you are to open my hand and give him the note."
"Is that all?"
"The pistols are loaded, then."
"Very well, inform Sir John."
One of the seconds approached Sir John. The other measured off
five paces. Roland saw that the distance was greater than he
"Excuse me," he said, "I said three paces."
"Five," replied the officer who was measuring the distance.
"Not at all, dear friend, you are wrong."
He turned to Sir John and to the other second questioningly.
"Three paces will do very well," replied Sir John, bowing.
There was nothing to be said if the two adversaries were agreed.
The five paces were reduced to three. Then two sabres were laid
on the ground to mark the limit. Sir John and Roland took their
places, standing so that their toes touched the sabres. A pistol
was then handed to each of them.
They bowed to say that they were ready. The two seconds stepped
aside. They were to give the signal by clapping their hands three
times. At the first clap the principals were to cock their pistols;
at the second to take aim; at the third to fire.
The three claps were given at regular intervals amid the most
profound silence; the wind itself seemed to pause and the rustle
of the trees was hushed. The principals were calm, but the seconds
were visibly distressed.
At the third clap two shots rang out so simultaneously that they
seemed but one. But to the utter astonishment of the seconds the
combatants remained standing. At the signal Roland had lowered
his pistol and fired into the ground. Sir John had raised his
and cut the branch of a tree three feet behind Roland. Each was
clearly amazed--amazed that he himself was still living, after
having spared his antagonist.
Roland was the first to speak.
"Ah!" he cried, "my sister was right in saying that you were the
most generous man on earth."
And throwing his pistol aside he opened his arms to Sir John,
who rushed into them.
"Ah! I understand," he said. "You wanted to die; but, God be thanked,
I am not your murderer."
The two seconds came up.
"What is the matter?" they asked together.
"Nothing," said Roland, "except that I could not die by the hand
of the man I love best on earth. You saw for yourselves that he
preferred to die rather than kill me."
Then throwing himself once more into Sir John's arms, and grasping
the hands of his two friends, he said: "I see that I must leave
that to the Austrians. And now, gentlemen, you must excuse me.
The First Consul is on the eve of a great battle in Italy, and
I have not a moment to lose if I am to be there."
Leaving Sir John to make what explanations he thought suitable
to the seconds, Roland rushed to the road, sprang upon his horse,
and returned to Paris at a gallop.
In the meantime the French army continued its march, and on the
5th of June it entered Milan.
There was little resistance. The fort of Milan was invested.
Murat, sent to Piacenza, had taken the city without a blow. Lannes
had defeated General Ott at Montebello. Thus disposed, the French
army was in the rear of the Austrians before the latter were
aware of it.
During the night of the 8th of June a courier arrived from Murat,
who, as we have said, was occupying Piacenza. Murat had intercepted
a despatch from General Melas, and was now sending it to Bonaparte.
This despatch announced the capitulation of Genoa; Masséna, after
eating horses, dogs, cats and rats, had been forced to surrender.
Melas spoke of the Army of the Reserves with the utmost contempt;
he declared that the story of Bonaparte's presence in Italy was
a hoax; and asserted that he knew for certain that the First
Consul was in Paris.
Here was news that must instantly be imparted to Bonaparte, for
it came under the category of bad news. Consequently, Bourrienne
woke him up at three o'clock in the morning and translated the
despatch. Bonaparte's first words were as follows:
"Pooh! Bourrienne, you don't understand German."
But Bourrienne repeated the translation word for word. After
this reading the general rose, had everybody waked up, gave his
orders, and then went back to bed and to sleep.
That same day he left Milan and established his headquarters
at Stradella; there he remained until June 12th, left on the
13th, and marched to the Scrivia through Montebello, where he
saw the field of-battle, still torn and bleeding after Lannes'
victory. The traces of death were everywhere; the church was
still overflowing with the dead and wounded.
"The devil!" said the First Consul to the victor, "you must have
made it pretty hot here."
"So hot, general, that the bones in my division were cracking
and rattling like hail on a skylight."
Desaix joined the First Consul on the 11th of June, while he was
still at Stradella. Released by the capitulation of El-Arish, he
had reached Toulon the 6th of May, the very day on which Bonaparte
left Paris. At the foot of the Mont Saint-Bernard Bonaparte received
a letter from him, asking whether he should march to Paris or
rejoin the army.
"Start for Paris, indeed!" exclaimed Bonaparte; "write him to
rejoin the army at headquarters, wherever that may be."
Bourrienne had written, and, as we have seen, Desaix joined the
army the 11th of June, at Stradella. The First Consul received him
with twofold joy. In the first place, he regained a man without
ambition, an intelligent officer and a devoted friend. In the
second place, Desaix arrived just in the nick of time to take
charge of the division lately under Boudet, who had been killed.
Through a false report, received through General Gardannes, the
First Consul was led to believe that the enemy refused to give
battle and was retiring to Genoa. He sent Desaix and his division
on the road to Novi to cut them off.
The night of the 13th passed tranquilly. In spite of a heavy
storm, an engagement had taken place the preceding evening in
which the Austrians had been defeated. It seemed as though men
and nature were wearied alike, for all was still during the night.
Bonaparte was easy in his mind; there was but one bridge over
the Bormida, and he had been assured that that was down. Pickets