Part 2 out of 14
two travellers in a harsh, strident voice. Though visibly the
elder, he was scarcely thirty years of age.
"Oh, the road to Avignon, citizen, by a good four miles at least."
"Then," he had replied, "go by way of Avignon."
And the carriage had started again at a gallop, which proclaimed
that the citizen travellers, as the postilion called them, although
the title of Monsieur was beginning to reappear in conversation,
paid a fee of at least thirty sous.
The same desire to lose no time manifested itself at the hotel
entrance. There, as on the road, it was the elder of the two
travellers who spoke. He asked if they could dine at once, and the
way this demand was made indicated that he was ready to overlook
many gastronomical exigencies provided that the repast in question
be promptly served.
"Citizens," replied the landlord, who, at the sound of carriage
wheels hastened, napkin in hand, to greet the travellers, "you
will be promptly and comfortably served in your room; but if
you will permit me to advise--" He hesitated.
"Oh, go on! go on!" said the younger of the travellers, speaking
for the first time.
"Well, it would be that you dine at the table d'hôte, like the
traveller for whom this coach, already harnessed, is waiting.
The dinner is excellent and all served."
The host at the same time indicated a comfortably appointed carriage,
to which were harnessed two horses who were pawing the ground,
while the postilion sought patience in the bottle of Cahors wine
he was emptying near the window-ledge. The first movement of
him to whom this proposal was made was negative; nevertheless,
after a second's reflection, the elder of the two travellers, as
if he had reconsidered his first decision, made an interrogative
sign to his companion, who replied with a look which signified,
"You know that I am at your orders."
"Very well, so be it," said the other, "we will dine at the table
d'hôte." Then, turning to the postilion, who, hat in hand, awaited
his order, he added, "Let the horses be ready in a half hour,
at the latest."
And the landlord pointing out the way, they both entered the
dining-room, the elder of the two walking first, the other following
Everyone knows the impression generally produced at a table d'hôte
by new-comers. All eyes were bent upon them and the conversation,
which seemed to be quite animated, stopped.
The guests consisted of the frequenters of the hotel, the traveller
whose carriage was waiting harnessed at the door, a wine merchant
from Bordeaux, sojourning temporarily at Avignon for reasons we
shall shortly relate, and a certain number of travellers going
from Marseilles to Lyons by diligence.
The new arrivals greeted the company with a slight inclination of
the head, and sat down at the extreme end of the table, thereby
isolating themselves from the other guests by three or four empty
places. This seemingly aristocratic reserve redoubled the curiosity
of which they were the object; moreover, they were obviously
people of unquestionable distinction, although their garments
were simple in the extreme. Both wore hightop boots and breeches,
long-tailed coats, travelling overcoats and broad-brimmed hats,
the usual costume of the young men of that day. But that which
distinguished them from the fashionables of Paris, and even of the
provinces, was their long straight hair, and their black stocks
buckled round the neck, military fashion. The Muscadins--that
was the name then given to young dandies--the Muscadins wore
dogs' ears puffing at the temples, the rest of the hair combed
up tightly in a bag at the back, and an immense cravat with long
floating ends, in which the chin was completely buried. Some
had even extended this reaction to powder.
As to the personality of the two young men, they presented two
diametrically opposite types.
The elder of the two, he who, as we have already remarked, had
taken the initiative several times, and whose voice, even in
its most familiar intonations, denoted the habit of command,
was about thirty years of age. His black hair was parted in the
middle, falling straight from his temples to his shoulders. He
had the swarthy skin of a man who has travelled long in southern
climes, thin lips, a straight nose, white teeth, and those hawk-like
eyes which Dante gives to Cæsar. He was short rather than tall,
his hand was delicate, his foot slender and elegant. His manner
betrayed a certain awkwardness, suggesting that he was at the
moment wearing a costume to which he was not accustomed, and when
he spoke, his hearers, had they been beside the Loire instead
of the Rhone, would have detected a certain Italian accent in
His companion seemed to be some three or four years younger than
he. He was a handsome young man with a rosy complexion, blond
hair and light blue eyes, a straight, firm nose and prominent
but almost beardless chin. He was perhaps a couple of inches
taller than his companion, and though his figure was somewhat
above medium height, he was so well proportioned, so admirably
free in his movements, that he was evidently if not extraordinarily
strong, at least uncommonly agile and dexterous. Although attired
in the same manner and apparently on a footing of equality, be
evinced remarkable deference to the dark young man, which, as it
could not result from age, was doubtless caused by some inferiority
of position. Moreover, he called his companion citizen, while
the other addressed him as Roland.
These remarks which we make to initiate the reader more profoundly
into our story, were probably not made as extensively by the
guests at the table d'hôte; for after bestowing a few seconds
of attention upon the new-comers, they turned their eyes away,
and the conversation, interrupted for an instant, was resumed.
It must be confessed that it concerned a matter most interesting
to the travellers--that of the stoppage of a diligence bearing
a sum of sixty thousand francs belonging to the government. The
affair had occurred the day before on the road from Marseilles
to Avignon between Lambesc and Pont-Royal.
At the first words referring to this event, the two young men
listened with unmistakable interest. It had taken place on the
same road which they had just followed, and the narrator, the
wine merchant of Bordeaux, had been one of the principal actors
in the scene on the highroad. Those who seemed the most curious
to hear the details were the travellers in the diligence which
had just arrived and was soon to depart. The other guests, who
belonged to the locality, seemed sufficiently conversant with
such catastrophes to furnish the details themselves instead of
listening to them.
"So, citizen," said a stout gentleman against whom a tall woman,
very thin and haggard, was crowding in her terror. "You say that
the robbery took place on the very road by which we have just
"Yes, citizen, between Lambesc and Pont-Royal. Did you notice
the spot where the road ascends between two high banks? There
are a great many rocks there."
"Yes, yes, my friend," said the wife, pressing her husband's
arm, "I noticed it; I even said, as you must remember, 'Here is
a bad place; I would rather pass here by day than at night.'"
"Oh! madame," said a young man whose voice affected to slur his
r's after the fashion of the day, and who probably assumed to
lead the conversation at the table d'hôte, on ordinary occasions,
"you know the Companions of Jehu know no day or night."
"What! citizen," asked the lady still more alarmed, "were you
attacked in broad daylight?"
"In broad daylight, citizeness, at ten o'clock in the morning."
"And how many were there?" asked the stout gentleman.
"Ambushed beside the road?"
"No; they were on horseback, armed to the teeth and masked."
"That's their custom," said the young frequenter of the table
d'hôte, "and they said, did they not: 'Do not defend yourself,
we will not harm you. We only want the government money.'"
"Word for word, citizen."
"Then," continued this well-informed young man, "two dismounted
from their horses, flinging their bridles to their comrades,
and commanded the conductor to deliver up the money."
"Citizen," said the stout man astonished, "you describe the thing
as if you had seen it."
"Monsieur was there, perhaps," said one of the travellers, half
in jest, half in earnest.
"I do not know, citizen, whether in saying that you intend a
rudeness," carelessly observed the young man who had so pertinently
and obligingly come to the narrator's assistance, "but my political
opinions are such that I do not consider your suspicion an insult.
Had I had the misfortune to be among those attacked, or the honor
to be one of those who made the attack, I should admit it as
frankly in the one case as in the other. But yesterday at ten
o'clock, at precisely the moment when the diligence was stopped,
twelve miles from here, I was breakfasting quietly in this very
seat. And, by-the-bye, with the two citizens who now do me the
honor to sit beside me."
"And," asked the younger of the two travellers who had lately
joined the table, whom his companion called Roland, "how many
men were you in the diligence?"
"Let me think; we were--yes, that's it--we were seven men and
"Seven men, not including the conductor?" repeated Roland.
"And you seven men allowed yourselves to be plundered by four
brigands? I congratulate you, gentlemen."
"We knew with whom we had to deal," replied the wine merchant,
"and we took good care not to defend ourselves."
"What! with whom you had to deal?" retorted the young man. "Why,
it seems to me, with thieves and bandits."
"Not at all. They gave their names."
"They gave their names?"
"They said, 'Gentlemen, it is useless to defend yourselves; ladies,
do not be alarmed, we are not bandits, we are Companions of Jehu.'"
"Yes," said the young man of the table d'hôte, "they warned you
that there might be no misunderstanding. That's their way."
"Ah, indeed!" exclaimed Roland; "and who is this Jehu who has
such polite companions? Is he their captain?"
"Sir," said a man whose dress betrayed somewhat the secularized
priest, and who seemed also to be, not only an habitual guest
at the table d'hôte, but also an initiate into the mysteries of
the honorable company whose merits were then under discussion,
"if you were better versed than you seem to be in the Holy
Scriptures, you would know that this Jehu died something like
two thousand six hundred years ago, and that consequently he
cannot at the present time stop coaches on the highways."
"Monsieur l'Abbé," replied Roland, who had recognized an
ecclesiastic, "as, in spite of the sharp tone in which you speak,
you seem a man of learning, permit a poor ignoramus to ask you a
few details about this Jehu, dead these two thousand six hundred
years, who, nevertheless, is honored by followers bearing his
"Jehu!" replied the churchman, in the same sour tone, "was a
King of Israel anointed by Elisha, on condition that he punish
the crimes of the house of Ahab and Jezbel, and put to death
the priests of Baal."
"Monsieur l'Abbé," replied the young man laughing, "I thank you
for the explanation. I don't doubt it is correct, and, above
all, very learned. But I must admit it doesn't tell me much."
"What, citizen!" exclaimed the abbé, "don't you understand that
Jehu is his Majesty Louis XVIII., anointed on condition that he
punish the crimes of the Revolution and put to death all the
priests of Baal; that is to say, all those who had taken any part
whatsoever in the abominable state of things which, for these
last seven years, has been called the republic?"
"Yes, indeed!" exclaimed the young man; "of course I understand.
But among those whom the Companions of Jehu are appointed to
fight, do you reckon the brave soldiers who have repulsed the
enemy along the frontiers of France, and the illustrious generals
who have commanded the armies of the Tyrol, the Sambre-and-Meuse,
and of Italy?"
"Why, beyond doubt, those foremost and before all."
The young man's eyes flashed lightning; his nostrils quivered
and his lips tightened. He rose from his chair, but his comrade
touched his coat and forced him to sit down again, while with a
single glance he silenced him. Then he who had thus given proof
of his power, speaking for the first time, addressed the young
man of the table d'hôte.
"Citizen, excuse two travellers who are just arrived from the
end of the earth, from America, or India as it were. Absent from
France these last two years; we are completely ignorant of all
that has occurred here, and most desirous to obtain information."
"Why, as to that," replied the young man, to whom these words
were addressed, "that is but fair, citizen. Question us and we
will answer you."
"Well," continued the dark young man with the eagle eye, the
straight black hair, and the granite complexion, "now that I
know who Jehu is, and to what end his company was instituted, I
should like to know what his companions do with the money they
"Oh I that is very simple, citizen. You know there is much talk
of the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy?"
"No, I did not know it," replied the dark young man, in a tone
which he vainly strove to render artless; "I am but just arrived,
as I told you, from the end of the earth."
"What! you did not know that? Well, six months hence it will be
an accomplished fact."
"I have the honor to tell you so, citizen."
The two soldier-like young men exchanged a glance and a smile,
though the young blond one was apparently chafing under the weight
of his extreme impatience.
Their informant continued: "Lyons is the headquarters of the
conspiracy, if one can call conspiracy a plot which was organized
openly. 'The provisional government' would be a more suitable
"Well, then, citizen," said the dark young man with a politeness
not wholly exempt from satire, "let us call it 'provisional
"This provisional government has its staff and its armies."
"Bah! its staff perhaps--but its armies--"
"Its armies, I repeat."
"Where are they?"
"One is being organized in the mountains of Auvergne, under the
orders of M. de Chardon; another in the Jura Mountains, under M.
Teyssonnet; and, finally, a third is operating most successfully
at this time, in the Vendée, under the orders of Escarboville,
Achille Leblond and Cadoudal."
"Truly, citizen, you render me a real service in telling me this.
I thought the Bourbons completely resigned to their exile. I
supposed the police so organized as to suppress both provisional
royalist committees in the large towns and bandits on the highways.
In fact, I believed the Vendée had been completely pacificated
The young man to whom this reply was addressed burst out laughing.
"Why, where do you come from?" he exclaimed.
"I told you, citizen, from the end of the earth."
"So it seems." Then he continued: "You understand, the Bourbons
are not rich, the émigrés whose property was confiscated are
ruined. It is impossible to organize two armies and maintain a
third without money. The royalists faced an embarrassing problem;
the republic alone could pay for its enemies' troops and, it
being improbable that she would do so of her own volition, the
shady negotiation was abandoned, and it was adjudged quicker
to take the money without permission than to ask her for it."
"Ah! I understand at last."
"That's very fortunate."
"Companions of Jehu then are the intermediaries between the Republic
and the Counter-Revolution, the tax-collectors of the royalist
"Yes. It is not robbery, but a military operation, rather a feat
of arms like any other. So there you are, citizen, and now you
are as well informed on this point as ourselves."
"But," timidly hazarded the wine merchant of Bordeaux, "if the
Companions of Jehu--observe that I say nothing against them--want
the government money--"
"The government money, no other. Individual plunder on their part
is unheard of."
"How does it happen, then, that yesterday, in addition to the
government money, they carried off two hundred louis of mine?"
"My dear sir," replied the young man of the table d'hôte, "I
have already told you that there is some mistake. As surely as
my name is Alfred de Barjols, this money will be returned to
you some day."
The wine merchant heaved a sigh and shook his head, as if, in
spite of that assurance, he still retained some doubts. But at
this moment, as if the promise given by the young noble, who
had just revealed his social position by telling his name, had
stirred the delicacy of those whom he thus guaranteed, a horse
stopped at the entrance, steps were heard in the corridor, the
dining-room door opened, and a masked man, armed to the teeth,
appeared on the threshold.
"Gentlemen," said he, in the profound silence occasioned by his
apparition, "is there a traveller here named Jean Picot, who
was in the diligence that was held up yesterday between Lambesc
"Yes," said the wine merchant, amazed.
"Are you he?" asked the masked man.
"Was anything taken from you?"
"Oh, yes, two hundred louis, which I had intrusted to the conductor."
"And I may add," said the young noble, "that the gentleman was
speaking of it at this very moment. He looked upon it as lost."
"The gentleman was wrong," said the masked unknown, "we war upon
the government and not against individuals. We are partisans
and not robbers. Here are your two hundred Louis, sir, and if
a similar mistake should occur in the future, claim your loss,
mentioning the name of Morgan."
So saying, the masked individual deposited a bag of gold beside
the wine merchant, bowed courteously to the other guests, and
went out, leaving some terrified and others bewildered by such
AN ITALIAN PROVERB
Although the two sentiments which we have just indicated were
the dominant ones, they did not manifest themselves to an equal
degree in all present. The shades were graduated according to
the sex, age, character, we may almost say, the social positions
of the hearers. The wine merchant, Jean Picot, the principal
personage in the late event, recognizing at first sight by his
dress, weapons, mask, one of the men who had stopped the coach
on the preceding day, was at first sight stupefied, then little
by little, as he grasped the purport of this mysterious brigand's
visit to him, he had passed from stupefaction to joy, through
the intermediate phases separating these two emotions. His bag
of gold was beside him, yet he seemingly dared not touch it;
perhaps he feared that the instant his hand went forth toward
it, it would melt like the dream-gold which vanishes during that
period of progressive lucidity which separates profound slumber
from thorough awakening.
The stout gentleman of the diligence and his wife had displayed,
like their travelling companions, the most absolute and complete
terror. Seated to the left of Jean Picot, when the bandit approached
the wine merchant, the husband, in the vain hope of maintaining a
respectable distance between himself and the Companion of Jehu,
pushed his chair back against that of his wife, who, yielding to
the pressure, in turn endeavored to push back hers. But as the
next chair was occupied by citizen Alfred de Barjols, who had
no reason to fear these men whom he had just praised so highly,
the chair of the stout man's wife encountered an obstacle in the
immovability of the young noble; so, as at Marengo, eight or
nine months later, when the general in command judged it time
to resume the offensive, the retrograde movement was arrested.
As for him--we are speaking of the citizen Alfred de Barjols--his
attitude, like that of the abbé who had given the Biblical
explanation about Jehu, King of Israel, and his mission from
Elisha, his attitude, we say, was that of a man who not only
experiences no fear, but who even expects the event in question,
however unexpected it may be. His lips wore a smile as he watched
the masked man, and had the guests not been so preoccupied with
the two principal actors in this scene, they might have remarked
the almost imperceptible sign exchanged between the eyes of the
bandit and the young noble, and transmitted instantly by the
latter to the abbé.
The two travellers whom we introduced to the table d'hôte, and
who as we have said sat apart at the end of the table, preserved
an attitude conformable to their respective characters. The younger
of the two had instinctively put his hand to his side, as if to
seek an absent weapon, and had risen with a spring, as if to rush
at the masked man's throat, in which purpose he had certainly not
failed had he been alone; but the elder, who seemed to possess
not only the habit but the right of command, contented himself by
regrasping his coat, and saying, in an imperious, almost harsh
tone: "Sit down, Roland!" And the young man had resumed his seat.
But one of the guests had remained, in appearance at least, the
most impassible during this scene. He was a man between thirty-three
and thirty-four years of age, with blond hair, red beard, a calm,
handsome face, with large blue eyes, a fair skin, refined and
intelligent lips, and very tall, whose foreign accent betrayed
one born in that island of which the government was at that time
waging bitter war against France. As far as could be judged by
the few words which had escaped him, he spoke the French language
with rare purity, despite the accent we have just mentioned. At
the first word he uttered, in which that English accent revealed
itself, the elder of the two travellers started. Turning to his
companion, he asked with a glance, to which the other seemed
accustomed, how it was that an Englishman should be in France
when the uncompromising war between the two nations had naturally
exiled all Englishmen from France, as it had all Frenchmen from
England. No doubt the explanation seemed impossible to Roland,
for he had replied with his eyes, and a shrug of the shoulders: "I
find it quite as extraordinary as you; but if you, mathematician
as you are, can't solve the problem, don't ask me!"
It was evident to the two young men that the fair man with the
Anglo-Saxon accent was the traveller whose comfortable carriage
awaited him harnessed in the courtyard, and that this traveller
hailed from London, or, at least, from some part of Great Britain.
As to his remarks, they, as we have stated, were infrequent, so
laconic, in reality, that they were mere exclamations rather than
speech. But each time an explanation had been asked concerning the
state of France, the Englishman openly drew out a note-book and
requested those about him, the wine merchant, the abbé, or the
young noble to repeat their remarks; to which each had complied
with an amiability equal to the courteous tone of the request. He
had noted down the most important, extraordinary and, picturesque
features of the robbery of the diligence, the state of Vendée, and
the details about the Companions of Jehu, thanking each informant
by voice and gesture with the stiffness peculiar to our insular
cousins, replacing his note-book enriched each time by a new
item in a side pocket of his overcoat.
Finally, like a spectator enjoying an unexpected scene, he had
given a cry of satisfaction at sight of the masked man, had listened
with all his ears, gazed with all his eyes, not losing him from
sight until the door closed behind him. Then drawing his note-book
hastily from his pocket--
"Ah, sir," he said to his neighbor, who was no other than the
abbé, "will you be so kind, should my memory fail me, as to repeat
what that gentleman who has just gone out said?"
He began to write immediately, and the abbé's memory agreeing
with his, he had the satisfaction of transcribing literally and
verbatim the speech made by the Companion of Jehu to citizen
Jean Picot. Then, this conversation written down, he exclaimed
with an accent that lent a singular stamp of originality to his
"Of a truth! it is only in France that such things can happen;
France is the most curious country in the world. I am delighted,
gentlemen, to travel in France and become acquainted with Frenchmen."
The last sentence was said with such courtesy that nothing remained
save to thank the speaker from whose serious mouth it issued,
though he was a descendant of the conquerors of Crecy, Poitiers
and Agincourt. It was the younger of the two travellers who
acknowledged this politeness in that heedless and rather caustic
manner which seemed habitual to him.
"'Pon my word! I am exactly like you, my lord--I say my lord,
because I presume you are English."
"Yes, sir," replied the gentleman, "I have that honor."
"Well! as I was saying," continued the young man, "I am delighted
to travel in France and see what I am seeing. One must live under
the government of citizens Gohier, Moulins, Roger Ducos, Sièyes
and Barras to witness such roguery. I dare wager than when the
tale is told, fifty years hence, of the highwayman who rode into
a city of thirty thousand inhabitants in broad day, masked and
armed with two pistols and a sword at his belt, to return the
two hundred louis which he had stolen the day previous to the
honest merchant who was then deploring their loss, and when it
is added that this occurred at a table d'hôte where twenty or
twenty-five people were seated, and that this model bandit was
allowed to depart without one of those twenty or twenty-five
people daring to molest him; I dare wager, I repeat, that whoever
has the audacity to tell the story will be branded as an infamous
And the young man, throwing himself back in his chair, burst
into laughter, so aggressive, so nervous, that every one gazed
at him in wonderment, while his companion's eyes expressed an
almost paternal anxiety.
"Sir," said citizen Alfred de Barjols, who, moved like the others
by this singular outburst, more sad, or rather dolorous, than
gay, had waited for its last echo to subside. "Sir, permit me
to point out to you that the man whom you have just seen is not
"Bah! Frankly, what is he then?"
"He is in all probability a young man of as good a family as yours
"Count Horn, whom the Regent ordered broken on the wheel at the
Place de Grève, was also a man of good family, and the proof
is that all the nobility of Paris sent their carriages to his
"Count Horn, if I remember rightly, murdered a Jew to steal a
note of hand which he was unable to meet. No one would dare assert
that a Companion of Jehu had ever so much as harmed the hair of
"Well, be it so. We will admit that the Company was founded upon
a philanthropic basis, to re-establish the balance of fortunes,
redress the whims of chance and reform the abuses of society.
Though he may be a robber, after the fashion of Karl Moor, your
friend Morgan--was it not Morgan that this honest citizen called
"Yes," said the Englishman.
"Well, your friend Morgan is none the less a thief."
Citizen Alfred de Barjols turned very pale.
"Citizen Morgan is not my friend," replied the young aristocrat;
"but if he were I should feel honored by his friendship."
"No doubt," replied Roland, laughing. "As Voltaire says: 'The
friendship of a great man is a blessing from the gods.'"
"Roland, Roland!" observed his comrade in a low tone.
"Oh! general," replied the latter, letting his companion's rank
escape him, perhaps intentionally, "I implore you, let me continue
this discussion, which interests me in the highest degree."
His friend shrugged his shoulders.
"But, citizen," continued the young man with strange persistence,
"I stand in need of correction. I left France two years ago, and
during my absence so many things have changed, such as dress,
morals, and accents, that even the language may have changed also.
In the language of the day in France what do you call stopping
coaches and taking the money which they contain?"
"Sir," said the young noble, in the tone of a man determined to
sustain his argument to its end, "I call that war. Here is your
companion whom you have just called general; he as a military
man will tell you that, apart from the pleasure of killing and
being killed, the generals of all ages have never done anything
else than what the citizen Morgan is doing?"
"What!" exclaimed the young man, whose eyes flashed fire. "You
dare to compare--"
"Permit the gentleman to develop his theory, Roland," said the
dark traveller, whose eyes, unlike those of his companion, which
dilated as they flamed, were veiled by long black lashes, thus
concealing all that was passing in his mind.
"Ah!" said the young man in his curt tone, "you see that you,
yourself, are becoming interested in the discussion." Then, turning
to the young noble, whom he seemed to have selected for his
antagonist, he said: "Continue, sir, continue; the general permits
The young noble flushed as visibly as he had paled a moment before.
Between clinched teeth, his elbow on the table, his chin on his
clinched hand, as if to draw as close to his adversary as possible,
he said with a Provençal accent, which grew more pronounced as
the discussion waxed hotter: "Since _the general_
permits"--emphasizing the two words--"I shall have the honor
to tell him and you, too, citizen, that I believe I have read
in Plutarch that Alexander the Great, when he started for India,
took with him but eighteen or twenty talents in gold, something
like one hundred or one hundred and twenty thousand francs. Now,
do you suppose that with these eighteen or twenty talents alone
he fed his army, won the battle of Granicus, subdued Asia Minor,
conquered Tyre, Gaza, Syria and Egypt, built Alexandria, penetrated
to Lybia, had himself declared Son of Jupiter by the oracle of
Ammon, penetrated as far as the Hyphases, and, when his soldiers
refused to follow him further, returned to Babylon, where he
surpassed in luxury, debauchery and self-indulgence the most
debauched and voluptuous of the kings of Asia? Did Macedonia
furnish his supplies? Do you believe that King Philip, most indigent
of the kings of poverty-stricken Greece, honored the drafts his
son drew upon him? Not so. Alexander did as citizen Morgan is
doing; only, instead of stopping the coaches on the highroads,
he pillaged cities, held kings for ransom, levied contributions
from the conquered countries. Let us turn to Hannibal. You know
how he left Carthage, don't you? He did not have even the eighteen
or twenty talents of his predecessor; and as he needed money, he
seized and sacked the city of Saguntum in the midst of peace,
in defiance of the fealty of treaties. After that he was rich and
could begin his campaign. Forgive me if this time I no longer
quote Plutarch, but Cornelius Nepos. I will spare you the details
of his descent from the Pyrenees, how he crossed the Alps and
the three battles which he won, seizing each time the treasures
of the vanquished, and turn to the five or six years he spent in
Campania. Do you believe that he and his army paid the Capuans
for their subsistence, and that the bankers of Carthage, with
whom he had quarrelled, supplied him with funds? No; war fed
war--the Morgan system, citizen. Let us pass on to Cæsar. Ah,
Cæsar! That's another story. He left for Spain with some thirty
millions of debt, and returned with practically the same. He
started for Gaul, where he spent ten years with our ancestors.
During these ten years he sent over one hundred millions to Rome,
repassed the Alps, crossed the Rubicon, marched straight to the
Capitol, forced the gates of the Temple of Saturn, where the
treasury was, seized sufficient for his private needs--and not
for those of the Republic--three thousand pounds of gold in ingots;
and died (he whom creditors twenty years earlier refused to allow
to leave his little house in the Suburra) leaving two or three
thousand sesterces per head to the citizens, ten or twelve millions
to Calpurnia, and thirty or forty millions to Octavius; always the
Morgan system, save that Morgan, I am sure, would die sooner than
subvert to his personal needs either the silver of the Gauls or the
gold of the capital. Now let us spring over eighteen centuries and
come to the General Buonaparté." And the young aristocrat, after
the fashion of the enemies of the Conqueror of Italy, affected to
emphasize the _u_, which Bonaparte had eliminated from his
name, and the _e_, from which he had removed the accent.
This affectation seemed to irritate Roland intensely. He made
a movement as if to spring forward, but his companion stopped
"Let be," said he, "let be, Roland. I am quite sure that citizen
Barjols will not say the General Buonaparté, as he calls him,
is a thief."
"No, I will not say it; but there is an Italian proverb which
says it for me."
"What is the proverb?" demanded the general in his companion's
stead, fixing his calm, limpid eye upon the young noble.
"I give it in all its simplicity: 'Francesi non sono tutti ladroni,
ma buona parte'; which means: 'All Frenchmen are not thieves,
"A good part are?" concluded Roland.
"Yes, 'Buonaparté,'" replied Alfred de Barjols.
Scarcely had these insolent words left the young aristocrat's
lips than the plate with which Roland was playing flew from his
hands and struck De Barjols full in the face. The women screamed,
the men rose to their feet. Roland burst into that nervous laugh
which was habitual with him, and threw himself back in his chair.
The young aristocrat remained calm, although the blood was trickling
from his brow to his cheek.
At this moment the conductor entered with the usual formula:
"Come! citizen travellers, take your places."
The travellers, anxious to leave the scene of the quarrel, rushed
to the door.
"Pardon me, sir," said Alfred de Barjols to Roland, "you do not
go by diligence, I hope?"
"No, sir, I travel by post; but you need have no fear; I shall
"Nor I," said the Englishman. "Have them unharness my horses;
I shall remain."
"I must go," sighed the dark young man whom Roland had addressed
as general. "You know it is necessary, my friend; my presence
yonder is absolutely imperative. But I swear that I would not
leave you if I could possibly avoid it."
In saying these words his voice betrayed an emotion of which,
judging from its usual harsh, metallic ring, it had seemed incapable.
Roland, on the contrary, seemed overjoyed. His belligerent nature
seemed to expand at the approach of a danger to which he had
perhaps not given rise, but which he at least had not endeavored
"Good! general," he said. "We were to part at Lyons, since you
have had the kindness to grant me a month's furlough to visit
my family at Bourg. It is merely some hundred and sixty miles
or so less than we intended, that is all. I shall rejoin you
in Paris. But you know if you need a devoted arm, and a man who
never sulks, think of me!"
"You may rest easy on that score, Roland," exclaimed the general.
Then, looking attentively at the two adversaries, he added with
an indescribable note of tenderness: "Above all, Roland, do not
let yourself be killed; but if it is a possible thing don't kill
your adversary. Everything considered, he is a gallant man, and
the day will come when I shall need such men at my side."
"I shall do my best, general; don't be alarmed." At this moment
the landlord appeared upon the thresh-hold of the door.
"The post-chaise is ready," said he.
The general took his hat and his cane, which he had laid upon
the chair. Roland, on the contrary, followed him bareheaded,
that all might see plainly he did not intend to leave with his
friend. Alfred de Barjols, therefore, offered no opposition to his
leaving the room. Besides, it was easy to see that his adversary
was of those who seek rather than avoid quarrels.
"Just the same," said the general, seating himself in the carriage
to which Roland had escorted him, "my heart is heavy at leaving
you thus, Roland, without a friend to act as your second."
"Good! Don't worry about that, general; seconds are never lacking.
There are and always will be enough men who are curious to see
how one man can kill another."
"Au revoir, Roland. Observe, I do not say farewell, but au revoir!"
"Yes, my dear general," replied the young man, in a voice that
revealed some emotion, "I understand, and I thank you."
"Promise that you will send me word as soon as the affair is
over, or that you will get some one to write if you are disabled."
"Oh, don't worry, general. You will have a letter from me personally
in less than four days," replied Roland, adding, in a tone of
profound bitterness: "Have you not perceived that I am protected
by a fatality which prevents me from dying?"
"Roland!" exclaimed the general in a severe tone, "Again!"
"Nothing, nothing," said the young man, shaking his head and
assuming an expression of careless gayety which must have been
habitual with him before the occurrence of that unknown misfortune
which oppressed his youth with this longing for death.
"Very well. By the way, try to find out one thing."
"What is that, general?"
"How it happens that at a time when we are at war with England
an Englishman stalks about France as freely and as easily as
if he were at home."
"Good; I will find out."
"I do not know; but when I promise you to find out I shall do
so, though I have to ask it of himself."
"Reckless fellow! Don't get yourself involved in another affair
in that direction."
"In any case, it would not be a duel. It would be a battle, as
he is a national enemy."
"Well, once more--till I see you again. Embrace me."
Roland flung himself with passionate gratitude upon the neck of
the personage who had just given him this permission.
"Oh, general!" he exclaimed, "how happy I should be--if I were
not so unhappy!"
The general looked at him with profound affection, then asked:
"One day you will tell me what this sorrow is, will you not,
Roland laughed that sorrowful laugh which had already escaped
his lips once or twice.
"Oh! my word, no," said he, "you would ridicule me too much."
The general stared at him as one would contemplate a madman.
"After all," he murmured, "one must accept men as they come."
"Especially when they are not what they seem to be."
"You must mistake me for OEdipe since you pose me with these enigmas,
"Ah! If you guess this one, general, I will herald you king of
Thebes! But, with all my follies, I forgot that your time is
precious and that I am detaining you needlessly with my nonsense."
"That is so! Have you any commissions for Paris?"
"Yes, three; my regards to Bourrienne, my respects to your brother
Lucien, and my most tender homage to Madame Bonaparte."
"I will deliver them."
"Where shall I find you in Paris?"
"At my house in the Rue de la Victoire, perhaps."
"Who knows? Perhaps at Luxembourg!" Then throwing himself back
as if he regretted having said so much, even to a man he regarded
as his best friend, he shouted to the postilion, "Road to Orange!
As fast as possible."
The postilion, who was only waiting for the order, whipped up
his horses; the carriage departed rapidly, rumbling like a roll
of thunder, and disappeared through the Porte d'Oulle.
Roland remained motionless, not only as long as he could see
the carriage, but long after it had disappeared. Then, shaking
his head as if to dispel the cloud which darkened his brow, he
re-entered the inn and asked for a room.
"Show the gentleman to number three," said the landlord to a
The chambermaid took a key hanging from a large black wooden
tablet on which were arranged the numbers in white in two rows,
and signed to the young traveller to follow her.
"Send up some paper, and a pen and ink," Roland said to the landlord,
"and if M. de Barjols should ask where I am tell him the number
of my room."
The landlord promised to obey Roland's injunctions and the latter
followed the girl upstairs whistling the Marseillaise. Five minutes
later he was seated at a table with the desired paper, pen and
ink before him preparing to write. But just as he was beginning
the first line some one knocked, three times at the door.
"Come in," said he, twirling his chair on one of its hind legs
so as to face his visitor, whom he supposed to be either, M. de
Barjols or one of his friends.
The door opened with a steady mechanical motion and the Englishman
appeared upon the threshold.
"Ah!" exclaimed Roland, enchanted with this visit, in view of
his general's recommendation; "is it you?"
"Yes," said the Englishman, "it is I."
"You are welcome."
"Oh! if I am welcome, so much the better! I was not sure that
I ought to come."
"On account of Aboukir."
Roland began to laugh.
"There are two battles of Aboukir," said he; "one which we lost;
the other we won."
"I referred to the one you lost."
"Good!" said Roland, "we fight, kill, and exterminate each other
on the battlefield, but that does not prevent us from clasping
hands on neutral ground. So I repeat, you are most welcome,
especially if you will tell me why you have come."
"Thank you; but, in the first place, read that." And the Englishman
drew a paper from his pocket.
"What is that?" asked Roland.
"What have I to do with your passport?" asked Roland, "I am not
"No, but I have come to offer you my services. Perhaps you will
not accept them if you do not know who I am."
"Your services, sir?"
"Yes; but read that first."
In the name of the French Republic--The Executive Directory hereby
orders that Sir John Tanlay, Esq., be permitted to travel freely
throughout the territory of the Republic, and that both assistance
and protection be accorded him in case of need.
To whom it may concern--I recommend Sir John Tanlay particularly
as a philanthropist and a friend of liberty.
"Have you read it?"
"Yes; what of it?"
"What of it? Well, my father, Lord Tanlay, rendered M. Barras
some services; that is why M. Barras permits me to roam about
France. And I am very glad to roam about; it amuses me very much."
"Oh, I remember, Sir John; you did us the honor to say so at dinner."
"I did say so, it is true; I also said that I liked the French
"And above all General Bonaparte," continued Sir John.
"You like General Bonaparte very much?"
"I admire him; he is a great, a very great, man."
"By Heavens! Sir John, I am sorry he is not here to hear an
Englishman say that of him."
"Oh! if he were here I should not say it."
"I should not want him to think I was trying to please him. I
say so because it is my opinion."
"I don't doubt it, my lord," said Roland, who did not see what
the Englishman was aiming at, and who, having learned all that
he wished to know through the passport, held himself upon his
"And when I heard," continued the Englishman with the same phlegm,
"you defend General Bonaparte, I was much pleased."
"Much pleased," repeated the Englishman, nodding his head
"So much the better!"
"But when I saw you throw a plate at M. Alfred de Barjols' head,
I was much grieved."
"You were grieved, my lord, and why?"
"Because in England no gentleman would throw a plate at the head
of another gentleman."
"My lord," said Roland, rising with a frown, "have you perchance
come here to read me a lecture?"
"Oh, no; I came to suggest that you are perhaps perplexed about
finding a second?"
"My faith, Sir John! I admit that the moment when you knocked
at the door I was wondering of whom I could ask this service."
"Of me, if you wish," said the Englishman. "I will be your second."
"On my honor!" exclaimed Roland, "I accept with all my heart."
"That is the service I wished to render you!"
Roland held out his hand, saying: "Thank you!"
The Englishman bowed.
"Now," continued Roland, "as you have had the good taste, my
lord, to tell me who you were before offering your services,
it is but fair that, since I accept them, I should tell you who
"Oh! as you please."
"My name is Louis de Montrevel; I am aide-de-camp to General
"Aide-de-camp to General Bonaparte. I am very glad."
"That will explain why I undertook, rather too warmly perhaps,
my general's defence."
"No, not too warmly; only, the plate--"
"Oh, I know well that the provocation did not entail that plate.
But what would you have me do! I held it in my hand, and, not
knowing what to do with it, I threw it at M. de Barjols' head;
it went of itself without any will of mine."
"You will not say that to him?"
"Reassure yourself; I tell you to salve your conscience."
"Very well; then you will fight?"
"That is why I have remained here, at any rate."
"That is not our affair, my lord."
"What! not our affair?"
"No; M. de Barjols is the one insulted; the choice is his."
"Then you will accept whatever he proposes?"
"Not I, Sir John, but you in my name, since you do me the honor
to act as my second."
"And if he selects pistols, what is the distance to be and how
will you fight?"
"That is your affair, my lord, and not mine. I don't know how
you do in England, but in France the principals take no part
in the arrangements. That duty devolves upon the seconds; what
they decide is well decided!"
"Then my arrangements will be satisfactory?"
"Perfectly so, my lord."
The Englishman bowed.
"What hour and what day?"
"Oh! as soon as possible; I have not seen my family for two years,
and I confess that I am in a hurry to greet them."
The Englishman looked at Roland with a certain wonder; he spoke
with such assurance, as if he were certain that he would not be
killed. Just then some one knocked at the door, and the voice
of the innkeeper asked: "May I come in?"
The young man replied affirmatively. The door opened and the
landlord entered, holding a card in his hand which he handed his
guest. The young man took the card and read: "Charles du Valensolle."
"From M. Alfred de Barjols," said the host.
"Very well!" exclaimed Roland. Then handing the card to the
Englishman, he said: "Here, this concerns you; it is unnecessary
for me to see this monsieur--since we are no longer citizens--M.
de Valensolle is M. de Barjols' second; you are mine. Arrange
this affair between you. Only," added the young man, pressing
the Englishman's hand and looking fixedly at him, "see that it
holds a chance of certain death for one of us. Otherwise I shall
complain that it has been bungled."
"Don't worry," said the Englishman, "I will act for you as for
"Excellent! Go now, and when everything is arranged come back.
I shall not stir from here."
Sir John followed the innkeeper. Roland reseated himself, twirled
his chair back to its former position facing the table, took up
his pen and began to write.
When Sir John returned, Roland had written and sealed two letters
and was addressing a third. He signed to the Englishman to wait
until he had finished, that he might give him his full attention.
Then, the address finished, he sealed the letter, and turned
"Well," he asked, "is everything arranged?"
"Yes," said the Englishman, "it was an easy matter. You are dealing
with a true gentleman."
"So much the better!" exclaimed Roland, waiting.
"You will fight two hours hence by the fountain of Vaucluse--a
charming spot--with pistols, advancing to each other, each to
fire as he pleases and continuing to advance after his adversary's
"By my faith! you are right, Sir John. That is, indeed, excellent.
Did you arrange that?"
"I and M. de Barjols' second, your adversary having renounced
his rights of the insulted party."
"Have you decided upon the weapons?"
"I offered my pistols. They were accepted on my word of honor
that you were as unfamiliar with them as was M. de Barjols. They
are excellent weapons. I can cut a bullet on a knife blade at
"Peste! You are a good shot, it would seem, my lord."
"Yes, I am said to be the best shot in England."
"That is a good thing to know. When I wish to be killed, Sir John,
I'll pick a quarrel with you."
"Oh! don't pick a quarrel with me," said the Englishman, "it would
grieve me too much to have to fight you."
"We will try, my lord, not to cause you such grief. So it is settled
then, in two hours."
"Yes, you told me you were in a hurry."
"Precisely. How far is it to this charming spot?"
"From here to Vaucluse?"
"A matter of an hour and a half. We have no time to lose, so let
us rid ourselves of troublesome things in order to have nothing
but pleasure before us."
The Englishman looked at the young man in astonishment. Roland
did not seem to pay any attention to this look.
"Here are three letters," said he; "one for Madame de Montrevel,
my mother; one for Mlle. de Montrevel, my sister; one for the
citizen, Bonaparte, my general. If I am killed you will simply
put them in the post. Will that be too much trouble?"
"Should that misfortune occur, I will deliver your letters myself,"
said the Englishman. "Where do your mother and sister live?"
"At Bourg, the capital of the Department of Ain."
"That is near here," observed the Englishman. "As for General
Bonaparte, I will go to Egypt if necessary. I should be extremely
pleased to meet General Bonaparte."
"If you take the trouble, as you say, my lord, of delivering my
letters yourself, you will not have to travel such a distance.
Within three days General Bonaparte will be in Paris."
"Oh!" said the Englishman, without betraying the least surprise,
"do you think so?"
"I am sure of it," replied Roland.
"Truly, he is a very extraordinary man, your General Bonaparte.
Now, have you any other recommendations to make to me, M. de
"One only, my lord."
"Oh! as many as you please."
"No, thank you, one only, but that is very important."
"What is it?"
"If I am killed--but I doubt if I be so fortunate."
Sir John looked at Roland with that expression of wonder which
he had already awakened three or four times.
"If I am killed," resumed Roland; "for after all one must be prepared
"Yes, if you are killed, I understand."
"Listen well, my lord, for I place much stress on my directions
being carried out exactly in this matter."
"Every detail shall be observed," replied Sir John, "I am very
"Well, then, if I am killed," insisted Roland, laying his hand
upon his second's shoulder, to impress his directions more firmly
on his memory, "you must not permit any one to touch my body,
which is to be placed in a leaden coffin without removing the
garments I am wearing; the coffin you will have soldered in your
presence, then inclosed in an oaken bier, which must also be
nailed up in your presence. Then you will send it to my mother,
unless you should prefer to throw it into the Rhone, which I
leave absolutely to your discretion, provided only that it be
disposed of in some way."
"It will be no more difficult," replied the Englishman, "to take
the coffin, since I am to deliver your letter."
"Decidedly, my lord," said Roland, laughing in his strange way.
"You are a capital fellow. Providence in person brought us together.
Let us start, my lord, let us start!"
They left Roland's room; Sir John's chamber was on the same floor.
Roland waited while the Englishman went in for his weapons. He
returned a few seconds later, carrying the box in his hand.
"Now, my lord," asked Roland, "how shall we reach Vaucluse? On
horseback or by carriage?"
"By carriage, if you are willing. It is much more convenient in
case one is wounded. Mine is waiting below."
"I thought you had given the order to have it unharnessed?"
"I did, but I sent for the postilion afterward and countermanded it."
They went downstairs.
"Tom! Tom!" called Sir John at the door, where a servant, in
the severe livery of an English groom, was waiting, "take care
of this box."
"Am I going with you, my lord?" asked the servant.
"Yes!" replied Sir John.
Then showing Roland the steps of his carriage, which the servant
lowered, he said:
"Come, M. de Montrevel."
Roland entered the carriage and stretched himself out luxuriously.
"Upon my word!" said he. "It takes you English to understand
travelling. This carriage is as comfortable as a bed. I warrant
you pad your coffins before you are put in them!"
"Yes, that is a fact," said Sir John, "the English people understand
comfort, but the French people are much more curious and
amusing--postilion, to Vaucluse!"
The road was passable only from Avignon to l'Isle. They covered
the nine miles between the two places in an hour. During this
hour Roland, as he resolved to shorten the time for his travelling
companion, was witty and animated, and their approach to the
duelling ground only served to redouble his gayety. To one
unacquainted with the object of this drive, the menace of dire
peril impending over this young man, with his continuous flow of
conversation and incessant laughter, would have seemed incredible.
At the village of l'Isle they were obliged to leave the carriage.
Finding on inquiry that they were the first to arrive, they entered
the path which led to the fountain.
"Oh! oh!" exclaimed Roland, "there ought to be a fine echo here."
And he gave one or two cries to which Echo replied with perfect
"By my faith!" said the young man, "this is a marvellous echo.
I know none save that of the Seinonnetta, at Milan, which can
compare with it. Listen, my lord."
And he began, with modulations which revealed an admirable voice
and an excellent method, to sing a Tyrolean song which seemed to
bid defiance to the human throat with its rebellious music. Sir
John watched Roland, and listened to him with an astonishment
which he no longer took the trouble to conceal. When the last note
had died away among the cavities of the mountain, he exclaimed:
"God bless me! but I think your liver is out of order."
Roland started and looked at him interrogatively. But seeing that
Sir John did not intend to say more, he asked:
"Good! What makes you think so?"
"You are too noisily gay not to be profoundly melancholy."
"And that anomaly astonishes you?"
"Nothing astonishes me, because I know that it has always its
reason for existing."
"True, and it's all in knowing the secret. Well, I'm going to
"Oh! I don't want to force you."
"You're too polite to do that; still, you must admit you would
be glad to have your mind set at rest about me."
"Because I'm interested in you."
"Well, Sir John, I am going to tell you the secret of the enigma,
something I have never done with any one before. For all my seeming
good health, I am suffering from a horrible aneurism that causes
me spasms of weakness and faintness so frequent as to shame even
a woman. I spend my life taking the most ridiculous precautions,
and yet Larrey warns me that I am liable to die any moment, as
the diseased artery in my breast may burst at the least exertion.
Judge for yourself how pleasant for a soldier! You can understand
that, once I understood my condition, I determined incontinently
to die with all the glory possible. Another more fortunate than I
would have succeeded a hundred times already. But I'm bewitched;
I am impervious alike to bullets and balls; even the swords seem
to fear to shatter themselves upon my skin. Yet I never miss an
opportunity; that you must see, after what occurred at dinner.
Well, we are going to fight. I'll expose myself like a maniac,
giving my adversary all the advantages, but it will avail me
nothing. Though he shoot at fifteen paces, or even ten or five,
at his very pistol' s point, he will miss me, or his pistol will
miss fire. And all this wonderful luck that some fine day when
I least expect it, I may die pulling on my boots! But hush I
here comes my adversary."
As he spoke the upper half of three people could be seen ascending
the same rough and rocky path that Roland and Sir John had followed,
growing larger as they approached. Roland counted them.
"Three!" he exclaimed. "Why three, when we are only two?"
"Ah! I had forgotten," replied the Englishman. "M. de Barjols,
as much in your interest as in his own, asked permission to bring
a surgeon, one of his friends."
"What for?" harshly demanded Roland, frowning.
"Why, in case either one of you was wounded. A man's life can
often be saved by bleeding him promptly."
"Sir John," exclaimed Roland, ferociously, "I don't understand
these delicacies in the matter of a duel. When men fight they fight
to kill. That they exchange all sorts of courtesies beforehand,
as your ancestors did at Fontenoy, is all right; but, once the
swords are unsheathed or the pistols loaded, one life must pay
for the trouble they have taken and the heart beats they have
lost. I ask you, on your word of honor, Sir John, to promise that,
wounded or dying, M. de Barjols' surgeon shall not be allowed
to touch me."
"But suppose, M. Roland--"
"Take it or leave it. Your word of honor, my lord, or devil take
me if I fight at all."
The Englishman again looked curiously at the young man. His face
was livid, and his limbs quivered as though in extreme terror.
Sir John, without understanding this strange dread, passed his
"Good!" exclaimed Roland. "This, you see, is one of the effects
of my charming malady. The mere thought of surgical instruments,
a bistoury or a lance, makes me dizzy. Didn't I grow very pale?"
"I did think for an instant you were going to faint."
"What a stunning climax!" exclaimed Roland with a laugh. "Our
adversaries arrive and you are dosing me with smelling salts
like a hysterical woman. Do you know what they, and you, first
of all, would have said? That I was afraid."
Meantime, the three new-comers having approached within earshot,
Sir John was unable to answer Roland. They bowed, and Roland,
with a smile that revealed his beautiful teeth, returned their
greeting. Sir John whispered in his ear:
"You are still a trifle pale. Go on toward the fountain; I will
fetch you when we are ready."
"Ah! that's the idea," said Roland. "I have always wanted to see
that famous fountain of Vaucluse, the Hippocrene of Petrarch.
You know his sonnet?
"'Chiari, fresche e dolci acque
Ove le belle membra
Pose colei, che sola a me perdona.'
This opportunity lost, I may never have another. Where is your
"Not a hundred feet off. Follow the path; you'll find it at the
turn of the road, at the foot of that enormous bowlder you see."
"My lord," said Roland, "you are the best guide I know; thanks!"
And, with a friendly wave of the hand, he went off in the direction
of the fountain, humming the charming pastoral of Philippe Desportes
beneath his breath:
"'Rosette, a little absence
Has turned thine heart from me;
I, knowing that inconstance,
Have turned my heart from thee.
No wayward beauty o'er me
Such power shall obtain;
We'll see, my fickle lassie,
Who first will turn again.'"
Sir John turned as he heard the modulations of that fresh sweet
voice, whose higher notes had something at a feminine quality. His
cold methodical mind understood nothing of that nervous impulsive
nature, save that he had under his eyes one of the most amazing
organisms one could possibly meet.
The other two young men were waiting for him; the surgeon stood
a little apart. Sir John carried his box of pistols in his hands.
Laying it upon a table-shaped rock, he drew a little key from
his pocket, apparently fashioned by a goldsmith rather than a
locksmith, and opened the box. The weapons were magnificent,
although of great simplicity. They came from Manton's workshop,
the grandfather of the man who is still considered one of the
best gunsmiths in London. He handed them to M. de Barjols' second
to examine. The latter tried the triggers and played with the
lock, examining to see if they were double-barrelled. They were
single-barrelled. M. de Barjols cast a glance at them but did
not even touch them.
"Our opponent does not know these weapons?" queried M. Valensolle.
"He has not even seen them," replied Sir John, "I give you my
word of honor."
"Oh!" exclaimed M. de Valensolle, "a simple denial suffices."
The conditions of the duel were gone over a second time to avoid
possible misunderstanding. Then, these conditions determined,
the pistols were loaded. They were then placed, loaded, in the
box, the box left in the surgeon's charge, and Sir John, with
the key in his pocket, went after Roland.
He found him chatting with a little shepherd boy who was herding
three goats on the steep rocky slope of the mountain, and throwing
pebbles into the fountain. Sir John opened his lips to tell Roland
that all was ready; but the latter, without giving the Englishman
time to speak, exclaimed:
"You don't know what this child has been telling me, my lord! A
perfect legend of the Rhine. He says that this pool, whose depth
is unknown, extends six or eight miles under the mountain, and a
fairy, half woman half serpent, dwells here. Calm summer nights
she glides over the surface of water calling to the shepherds of
the mountains, showing them, of course, nothing more than her
head with its long locks and her beautiful bare shoulders and
arms. The fools, caught by this semblance of a woman, draw nearer,
beckoning to her to come to them, while she on her side signs
to them to go to her. The unwary spirits advance unwittingly,
giving no heed to their steps. Suddenly the earth fails them, the
fairy reaches out her arms, and plunges down into her dripping
palaces, to reappear the next day alone. Where the devil did
these idiots of shepherds get the tale that Virgil related in
such noble verse to Augustus and Mecænas?"
He remained pensive an instant, his eyes bent upon the azure depths,
then turning to Sir John:
"They say that, no matter how vigorous the swimmer, none has
ever returned from this abyss. Perhaps were I to try it, my lord,
it might be surer than M. de Barjols' bullet. However, it always
remains as a last resort; in the meantime let us try the bullet.
Come, my lord, come."
Then turning to the Englishman, who listened, amazed by this
mobility of mind, he led him back to the others who awaited them.
They in the meantime had found a suitable place.
It was a little plateau, perched as it were on a rocky proclivity,
jutting from the mountain side, exposed to the setting sun, on
which stood a ruined castle where the shepherds were wont to
seek shelter when the mistral overtook them. A flat space, some
hundred and fifty feet long, and sixty wide, which might once
have been the castle platform, was now to be the scene of the
drama which was fast approaching its close.
"Here we are, gentlemen," said Sir John.
"We are ready, gentlemen," replied M. de Valensolle.
"Will the principals kindly listen to the conditions of the duel?"
said Sir John. Then addressing M. de Valensolle, he added: "Repeat
them, monsieur; you are French and I am a foreigner, you will
explain them more clearly than I."
"You belong to those foreigners, my lord, who teach us poor
Provençals the purity of our language; but since you so courteously
make me spokesman, I obey you." Then exchanging bows with Sir
John, he continued: "Gentlemen, it is agreed that you stand at
forty paces, that you advance toward each other, that each will
fire at will, and wounded or not will have the right to advance
after your adversary's fire."
The two combatants bowed in sign of assent, and with one voice,
and almost at the same moment, they said:
Sir John drew the little key from his pocket and opened the box.
Then approaching M. de Barjols he offered it to him open. The
latter wished to yield the choice of weapons to his opponent;
but with a wave of his hand Roland refused, saying in a tone
almost feminine in its sweetness:
"After you, M. de Barjols. Although you are the insulted party,
you have, I am told, renounced your advantages. The least I can do
is to yield you this one, if for that matter it is an advantage."
M. de Barjols no longer insisted. He took one of the two pistols
at random. Sir John offered the other to Roland, who took it,
and, without even examining its mechanism, cocked the trigger,
then let it fall at arm's-length at his side.
During this time M. de Valensolle had measured forty paces, staking
a cane as a point of departure.
"Will you measure after me?" he asked Sir John.
"Needless, sir," replied the latter: "M. de Montrevel and myself
rely entirely upon you."
M. de Valensolle staked a second cane at the fortieth pace.
"Gentlemen," said he, "when you are ready."
Roland's adversary was already at his post, hat and cloak removed.
The surgeon and the two seconds stood aside. The spot had been
so well chosen that neither had any advantage of sun or ground.
Roland tossed off hat and coat, stationed himself forty paces
from M. de Barjols, facing him. Both, one to right the other to
the left, cast a glance at the same horizon. The aspect harmonized
with the terrible solemnity of the scene about to take place.
Nothing was visible to Roland's right and to M. de Barjols' left,
except the mountain's swift incline and gigantic peak. But on the
other side, that is to say, to M. de Barjols' right and Roland's
left, it was a far different thing.
The horizon stretched illimitable. In the foreground, the plain,
its ruddy soil pierced on all sides by rocks, like a Titan graveyard
with its bones protruding through the earth. Then, sharply outlined
in the setting sun, was Avignon with its girdle of walls and its
vast palace, like a crouching lion, seeming to hold the panting
city in its claws. Beyond Avignon, a luminous sweep, like a river
of molten gold, defined the Rhone. Beyond the Rhone, a deep-hued
azure vista, stretched the chain of hills which separate Avignon
from Nimes and d'Uzes. And far off, the sun, at which one of
these two men was probably looking for the last time, sank slowly
and majestically in an ocean of gold and purple.
For the rest these two men presented a singular contrast. One,
with his black hair, swarthy skin, slender limbs and sombre eyes,
was the type of the Southern race which counts among its ancestors
Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Spaniards. The other, with his rosy
skin, large blue eyes, and hands dimpled like a woman's, was
the type of that race of temperate zones which reckons Gauls,
Germans and Normans among its forebears.
Had one wished to magnify the situation it were easy to believe
this something greater than single combat between two men. One
might have thought it was a duel of a people against another
people, race against race, the South against the North.
Was it these thoughts which we have just expressed that filled
Roland's mind and plunged him into that melancholy revery.
Probably not; the fact is, for an instant he seemed to have forgotten
seconds, duel, adversary, lost as he was in contemplation of this
magnificent spectacle. M. de Barjols' voice aroused him from
this poetical stupor.
"When you are ready, sir," said he, "I am."
"Pardon my keeping you waiting, sir," said he. "You should not
have considered me, I am so absent-minded. I am ready now."
Then, a smile on his lips, his hair lifted by the evening breeze,
unconcerned as if this were an ordinary promenade, while his
opponent, on the contrary, took all the precaution usual in such
a case, Roland advanced straight toward M. de Barjols.
Sir John's face, despite his ordinary impassibility, betrayed
a profound anxiety. The distance between the opponents lessened
rapidly. M. de Barjols halted first, took aim, and fired when
Roland was but ten paces from him.
The ball clipped one of Roland's curls, but did not touch him.
The young man turned toward his second:
"Well," said he, "what did I tell you?"
"Fire, monsieur, fire!" said the seconds.
M. de Barjols stood silent and motionless on the spot where he
"Pardon me, gentlemen," replied Roland; "but you will, I hope,
permit me to be the judge of the time and manner of retaliating.
Since I have felt M. de Barjols' shot, I have a few words to
say to him which I could not say before." Then, turning to the
young aristocrat, who was pale and calm, he said: "Sir, perhaps
I was somewhat too hasty in our discussion this morning."
And he waited.
"It is for you to fire, sir," replied M. de Barjols.
"But," continued Roland, as if he had not heard, "you will understand
my impetuosity, and perhaps excuse it, when you hear that I am
a soldier and General Bonaparte's aide-de-camp."
"Fire, sir," replied the young nobleman.
"Say but one word of retraction, sir," resumed the young officer.
"Say that General Bonaparte's reputation for honor and delicacy
is such that a miserable Italian proverb, inspired by ill-natured
losers, cannot reflect discredit on him. Say that, and I throw
this weapon away to grasp your hand; for I recognize in you,
sir, a brave man."
"I cannot accord that homage to his honor and delicacy until
your general has devoted the influence which his genius gives
him over France as Monk did--that is to say, to reinstate his
legitimate sovereign upon the throne."
"Ah!" cried Roland, with a smile, "that is asking too much of
a republican general."
"Then I maintain what I said," replied the young noble. "Fire!
monsieur, fire!" Then as Roland made no haste to obey this
injunction, he shouted, stamping his foot: "Heavens and earth!
will you fire?"
At these words Roland made a movement as if he intended to fire
in the air.
"Ah!" exclaimed M. de Barjols. Then with a rapidity of gesture
and speech that prevented this, "Do not fire in the air, I beg,
or I shall insist that we begin again and that you fire first."
"On my honor!" cried Roland, turning as pale as if the blood
had left his body, "this is the first time I have done so much
for any man. Go to the devil! and if you don't want to live,
At the same time he lowered his arm and fired, without troubling
to take aim.
Alfred de Barjols put his hand to his breast, swayed back and
forth, turned around and fell face down upon the ground. Roland's
bullet had gone through his heart.
Sir John, seeing M. de Barjols fall, went straight to Roland
and drew him to the spot where he had thrown his hat and coat.
"That is the third," murmured Roland with a sigh; "but you are
my witness that this one would have it."
Then giving his smoking pistol to Sir John, he resumed his hat
and coat. During this time M. de Valensolle picked up the pistol
which had escaped from his friend's hand, and brought it, together
with the box, to Sir John.
"Well?" asked the Englishman, motioning toward Alfred de Barjols
with his eyes.
"He is dead," replied the second.
"Have I acted as a man of honor, sir?" asked Roland, wiping away
the sweat which suddenly inundated his brow at the announcement
of his opponent's death.
"Yes, monsieur," replied M. de Valensolle; "only, permit me to
say this: you possess the fatal hand."
Then bowing to Roland and his second with exquisite politeness,
he returned to his friend's body.
"And you, my lord," resumed Roland, "what do you say?"
"I say," replied Sir John, with a sort of forced admiration,
"you are one of those men who are made by the divine Shakespeare
to say of themselves:
"'Danger and I--
We were two lions littered in one day,
But I the elder.'"
The return was silent and mournful; it seemed that with the hopes
of death Roland's gayety had disappeared.
The catastrophe of which he had been the author played perhaps a
part in his taciturnity. But let us hasten to say that in battle,
and more especially during the last campaign against the Arabs,
Roland had been too frequently obliged to jump his horse over
the bodies of his victims to be so deeply impressed by the death
of an unknown man.
His sadness was, due to some other cause; probably that which he
confided to Sir John. Disappointment over his own lost chance of
death, rather than that other's decease, occasioned this regret.
On their return to the Hotel du Palais-Royal, Sir John mounted to
his room with his pistols, the sight of which might have excited
something like remorse in Roland's breast. Then he rejoined the young
officer and returned the three letters which had been intrusted
He found Roland leaning pensively on a table. Without saying
a word the Englishman laid the three letters before him. The
young man cast his eyes over the addresses, took the one destined
for his mother, unsealed it and read it over. As he read, great
tears rolled down his cheeks. Sir John gazed wonderingly at this
new phase of Roland's character. He had thought everything possible
to this many-sided nature except those tears which fell silently
from his eyes.
Shaking his head and paying not the least attention to Sir John's
presence, Roland murmured:
"Poor mother! she would have wept. Perhaps it is better so. Mothers
were not made to weep for their children!"
He tore up the letters he had written to his mother, his sister,
and General Bonaparte, mechanically burning the fragments with
the utmost care. Then ringing for the chambermaid, he asked:
"When must my letters be in the post?"
"Half-past six," replied she. "You have only a few minutes more."
"Just wait then."
And taking a pen he wrote:
My DEAR GENERAL--It is as I told you; I am living and he is
dead. You must admit that this seems like a wager. Devotion
Then he sealed the letter, addressed it to General Bonaparte,
Rue de la Victoire, Paris, and handed it to the chambermaid,
bidding her lose no time in posting it. Then only did he seem
to notice Sir John, and held out his hand to him.
"You have just rendered me a great service, my lord," he said.
"One of those services which bind men for all eternity. I am
already your friend; will you do me the honor to become mine?"
Sir John pressed the hand that Roland offered him.
"Oh!" said he, "I thank you heartily. I should never have dared
ask this honor; but you offer it and I accept."
Even the impassible Englishman felt his heart soften as he brushed
away the tear that trembled on his lashes. Then looking at Roland,
he said: "It is unfortunate that you are so hurried; I should
have been pleased and delighted to spend a day or two with you."
"Where were you going, my lord, when I met you?"
"Oh, I? Nowhere. I am travelling to get over being bored. I am
unfortunately often bored."
"So that you were going nowhere?"
"I was going everywhere."
"That is exactly the same thing," said the young officer, smiling.
"Well, will you do something for me?"
"Oh! very willingly, if it is possible."
"Perfectly possible; it depends only on you."
"What is it?"
"Had I been killed you were going to take me to my mother or throw
me into the Rhone."
"I should have taken you to your mother and not thrown you into
"Well, instead of accompanying me dead, take me living. You will
be all the better received."
"We will remain a fortnight at Bourg. It is my natal city, and
one of the dullest towns in France; but as your compatriots are
pre-eminent for originality, perhaps you will find amusement
where others are bored. Are we agreed?"
"I should like nothing better," exclaimed the Englishman; "but
it seems to me that it is hardly proper on my part."
"Oh! we are not in England, my lord, where etiquette holds absolute
sway. We have no longer king nor queen. We didn't cut off that
poor creature's head whom they called Marie Antoinette to install
Her Majesty, Etiquette, in her stead."
"I should like to go," said Sir John.
"You'll see, my mother is an excellent woman, and very distinguished
besides. My sister was sixteen when I left; she must be eighteen
now. She was pretty, and she ought to be beautiful. Then there
is my brother Edouard, a delightful youngster of twelve, who
will let off fireworks between your legs and chatter a gibberish
of English with you. At the end of the fortnight we will go to
"I have just come from Paris," said the Englishman.
"But listen. You were willing to go to Egypt to see General
Bonaparte. Paris is not so far from here as Cairo. I'll present
you, and, introduced by me, you may rest assured that you will
be well received. You were speaking of Shakespeare just now--"
"Oh! I am always quoting him."
"Which proves that you like comedies and dramas."
"I do like them very much, that's true."
"Well, then, General Bonaparte is going to produce one in his
own style which will not be wanting in interest, I answer for
"So that," said Sir John, still hesitating, "I may accept your
offer without seeming intrusive?"
"I should think so. You will delight us all, especially me."
"Then I accept."
"Bravo! Now, let's see, when will you start?"
"As soon as you wish. My coach was harnessed when you threw that
unfortunate plate at Barjols' head. However, as I should never
have known you but for that plate, I am glad you did throw it
"Shall we start this evening?"
"Instantly. I'll give orders for the postilion to send other horses,
and once they are here we will start."
Roland nodded acquiescence. Sir John went out to give his orders,
and returned presently, saying they had served two cutlets and a
cold fowl for them below. Roland took his valise and went down.
The Englishman placed his pistols in the coach box again. Both ate
enough to enable them to travel all night, and as nine o'clock was
striking from the Church of the Cordeliers they settled themselves
in the carriage and quitted Avignon, where their passage left
a fresh trail of blood, Roland with the careless indifference
of his nature, Sir John Tanlay with the impassibility of his
nation. A quarter of an hour later both were sleeping, or at
least the silence which obtained induced the belief that both
had yielded to slumber.
We shall profit by this instant of repose to give our readers
some indispensable information concerning Roland and his family.
Roland was born the first of July, 1773, four years and a few
days later than Bonaparte, at whose side, or rather following
him, he made his appearance in this book. He was the son of M.
Charles de Montrevel, colonel of a regiment long garrisoned at
Martinique, where he had married a creole named Clotilde de la
Clémencière. Three children were born of this marriage, two boys
and a girl: Louis, whose acquaintance we have made under the
name of Roland, Amélie, whose beauty he had praised to Sir John,
Recalled to France in 1782, M. de Montrevel obtained admission
for young Louis de Montrevel (we shall see later how the name
of Louis was changed to Roland) to the Ecole Militaire in Paris.
It was there that Bonaparte knew the child, when, on M. de Keralio's
report, he was judged worthy of promotion from the Ecole de Brienne
to the Ecole Militaire. Louis was the youngest pupil. Though
he was only thirteen, he had already made himself remarked for
that ungovernable and quarrelsome nature of which we have seen
him seventeen years later give an example at the table d'hôte
Bonaparte, a child himself, had the good side of this character;
that is to say, without being quarrelsome, he was firm, obstinate,
and unconquerable. He recognized in the child some of his own
qualities, and this similarity of sentiments led him to pardon
the boy's defects, and attached him to him. On the other hand
the child, conscious of a supporter in the Corsican, relied upon
One day the child went to find his great friend, as he called
Napoleon, when the latter was absorbed in the solution of a
mathematical problem. He knew the importance the future artillery
officer attached to this science, which so far had won him his
greatest, or rather his only successes.
He stood beside him without speaking or moving. The young
mathematician felt the child's presence, and plunged deeper and
deeper into his mathematical calculations, whence he emerged
victorious ten minutes later. Then he turned to his young comrade
with that inward satisfaction of a man who issues victorious
from any struggle, be it with science or things material.
The child stood erect, pale, his teeth clinched, his arms rigid
and his fists closed.
"Oh! oh!" said young Bonaparte, "what is the matter now?"