Part 4 out of 14
in spite of what the biographers say, was falling into ruins
not three miles from the Château des Noires-Fontaines. He was
roused by three light raps at his door. It was Roland who came
to see how he had passed the night. He found him radiant as the
sun playing among the already yellow leaves of the chestnuts
and the lindens.
"Oh! oh! Sir John," cried Roland, "permit me to congratulate
you. I expected to find you as gloomy as the poor monks of the
Chartreuse, with their long white robes, who used to frighten
me so much in my childhood; though, to tell the truth, I was
never easily frightened. Instead of that I find you in the midst
of this dreary October, as smiling as a morn of May."
"My dear Roland," replied Sir John, "I am an orphan; I lost my
mother at my birth and my father when I was twelve years old.
At an age when children are usually sent to school, I was master
of a fortune producing a million a year; but I was alone in the
world, with no one whom I loved or who loved me. The tender joys of
family life are completely unknown to me. From twelve to eighteen
I went to Cambridge, but my taciturn and perhaps haughty character
isolated me from my fellows. At eighteen I began to travel. You who
scour the world under the shadow of your flag; that is to say, the
shadow of your country, and are stirred by the thrill of battle,
and the pride of glory, cannot imagine what a lamentable thing
it is to roam through cities, provinces, nations, and kingdoms
simply to visit a church here, a castle there; to rise at four in
the morning at the summons of a pitiless guide, to see the sun
rise from Rigi or Etna; to pass like a phantom, already dead,
through the world of living shades called men; to know not where
to rest; to know no land in which to take root, no arm on which
to lean, no heart in which to pour your own! Well, last night, my
dear Roland, suddenly, in an instant, in a second, this void in
my life was filled. I lived in you; the joys I seek were yours.
The family which I never had, I saw smiling around you. As I looked
at your mother I said to myself: 'My mother was like that, I am
sure.' Looking at your sister, I said: 'Had I a sister I could
not have wished her otherwise.' When I embraced your brother,
I thought that I, too, might have had a child of that age, and
thus leave something behind me in the world, whereas with the
nature I know I possess, I shall die as I have lived, sad, surly
with others, a burden to myself. Ah! you are happy, Roland! you
have a family, you have fame, you have youth, you have that which
spoils nothing in a man--you have beauty. You want no joys. You
are not deprived of a single delight. I repeat it, Roland, you
are a happy man, most happy!"
"Good!" said Roland. "You forget my aneurism, my lord."
Sir John looked at Roland increduously. Roland seemed to enjoy
the most perfect health.
"Your aneurism against my million, Roland," said Lord Tanlay,
with a feeling of profound sadness, "providing that with this
aneurism you give me this mother who weeps for joy on seeing
you again; this sister who faints with delight at your return;
this child who clings upon your neck like some fresh young fruit
to a sturdy young tree; this château with its dewy shade, its
river with its verdant flowering banks, these blue vistas dotted
with pretty villages and white-capped belfries graceful as swans.
I would welcome your aneurism, Roland, and with death in two
years, in one, in six months; but six months of stirring, tender,
eventful and glorious life!"
Roland laughed in his usual nervous manner.
"Ah!" said he, "so this is the tourist, the superficial traveller,
the Wandering Jew of civilization, who pauses nowhere, gauges
nothing, judges everything by the sensation it produces in him. The
tourist who, without opening the doors of these abodes where dwell
the fools we call men, says: 'Behind these walls is happiness!'
Well, my dear friend, you see this charming river, don't you?
These flowering meadows, these pretty villages? It is the picture
of peace, innocence and fraternity; the cycle of Saturn, the
golden age returned; it is Eden, Paradise! Well, all that is
peopled by beings who have flown at each other's throats. The
jungles of Calcutta, the sedges of Bengal are inhabited by tigers
and panthers not one whit more ferocious or cruel than the denizens
of these pretty villages, these dewy lawns, and these charming
shores. After lauding in funeral celebrations the good, the great,
the immortal Marat, whose body, thank God! they cast into the
common sewer like carrion that he was, and always had been; after
performing these funeral rites, to which each man brought an
urn into which he shed his tears, behold! our good Bressans,
our gentle Bressans, these poultry-fatteners, suddenly decided
that the Republicans were all murderers. So they murdered them
by the tumbrelful to correct them of that vile defect common
to savage and civilized man--the killing his kind. You doubt
it? My dear fellow, on the road to Lons-le-Saulnier they will
show you, if you are curious, the spot where not six months ago
they organized a slaughter fit to turn the stomach of our most
ferocious troopers on the battlefield. Picture to yourself a
tumbrel of prisoners on their way to Lons-le-Saulnier. It was a
staff-sided cart, one of those immense wagons in which they take
cattle to market. There were some thirty men in this tumbrel,
whose sole crime was foolish exaltation of thought and threatening
language. They were bound and gagged; heads hanging, jolted by the
bumping of the cart; their throats parched with thirst, despair and
terror; unfortunate beings who did not even have, as in the times
of Nero and Commodus, the fight in the arena, the hand-to-hand
struggle with death. Powerless, motionless, the lust of massacre
surprised them in their fetters, and battered them not only in
life but in death; their bodies, when their hearts had ceased
to beat, still resounded beneath the bludgeons which mangled
their flesh and crushed their bones; while women looked on in
calm delight, lifting high the children, who clapped their hands
for joy. Old men who ought to have been preparing for a Christian
death helped, by their goading cries, to render the death of these
wretched beings more wretched still. And in the midst of these
old men, a little septuagenarian, dainty, powdered, flicking his
lace shirt frill if a speck of dust settled there, pinching his
Spanish tobacco from a golden snuff-box, with a diamond monogram,
eating his "amber sugarplums" from a Sevres bonbonnière, given him
by Madame du Barry, and adorned with the donor's portrait--this
septuagenarian--conceive the picture, my dear Sir John--dancing
with his pumps upon that mattress of human flesh, wearying his
arm, enfeebled by age, in striking repeatedly with his gold-headed
cane those of the bodies who seemed not dead enough to him, not
properly mangled in that cursed mortar! Faugh! My friend, I have
seen Montebello, I have seen Arcole, I have seen Rivoli, I have
seen the Pyramids, and I believe I could see nothing more terrible.
Well, my mother's mere recital, last night, after you had retired,
of what has happened here, made my hair stand on end. Faith! that
explains my poor sister's spasms just as my aneurism explains
Sir John watched Roland, and listened with that strange wonderment
which his young friend's misanthropical outbursts always aroused.
Roland seemed to lurk in the niches of a conversation in order to
fall upon mankind whenever he found an opportunity. Perceiving
the impression he had made on Sir John's mind, he changed his
tone, substituting bitter raillery for his philanthropic wrath.
"It is true," said he, "that, apart from this excellent aristocrat
who finished what the butchers had begun, and dyed in blood the
red heels of his pumps, the people who performed these massacres
belonged to the lower classes, bourgeois and clowns, as our ancestors
called those who supported them. The nobles manage things much
more daintily. For the rest, you saw yourself what happened at
Avignon. If you had been told that, you would never have believed
it, would you? Those gentlemen pillagers of stage coaches pique
themselves on their great delicacy. They have two faces, not
counting their mask. Sometimes they are Cartouche and Mandrin,
sometimes Amadis and Galahad. They tell fabulous tales of these
heroes of the highways. My mother told me yesterday of one called
Laurent. You understand, my dear fellow, that Laurent is a fictitious
name meant to hide the real name, just as a mask hides the face.
This Laurent combined all the qualities of a hero of romance,
all the accomplishments, as you English say, who, under pretext
that you were once Normans, allow yourselves occasionally to
enrich your language with a picturesque expression, or some word
which has long, poor beggar! asked and been refused admittance
of our own scholars. This Laurent was ideally handsome. He was
one of seventy-two Companions of Jehu who have lately been tried
at Yssen-geaux. Seventy were acquitted; he and one other were
the only ones condemned to death. The innocent men were released
at once, but Laurent and his companion were put in prison to
await the guillotine. But, pooh! Master Laurent had too pretty a
head to fall under the executioner's ignoble knife. The judges who
condemned him, the curious who expected to witness him executed,
had forgotten what Montaigne calls the corporeal recommendation of
beauty. There was a woman belonging to the jailer of Yssen-geaux,
his daughter, sister or niece; history--for it is history and
not romance that I am telling you--history does not say which.
At all events the woman, whoever she was, fell in love with the
handsome prisoner, so much in love that two hours before the
execution, just as Master Laurent, expecting the executioner,
was sleeping, or pretending to sleep, as usually happens in such
cases, his guardian angel came to him. I don't know how they
managed; for the two lovers, for the best of reasons, never told
the details; but the truth is--now remember; Sir John, that this
is truth and not fiction--that Laurent was free, but, to his great
regret, unable to save his comrade in the adjoining dungeon.
Gensonné, under like circumstances, refused to escape, preferring
to die with the other Girondins; but Gensonné did not have the
head of Antinous on the body of Apollo. The handsomer the head,
you understand, the more one holds on to it. So Laurent accepted
the freedom offered him and escaped; a horse was waiting for him
at the next village. The young girl, who might have retarded
or hindered his flight, was to rejoin him the next day. Dawn
came, but not the guardian angel. It seems that our hero cared
more for his mistress than he did for his companion; he left his
comrade, but he would not go without her. It was six o'clock,
the very hour for his execution. His impatience mastered him.
Three times had he turned his horse's head toward the town, and
each time drew nearer and nearer. At the third time a thought
flashed through his brain. Could his mistress have been taken,
and would she pay the penalty for saving him? He was then in
the suburbs. Spurring his horse, he entered the town with face
uncovered, dashed through people who called him by name, astonished
to see him free and on horseback, when they expected to see him
bound and in a tumbrel on his way to be executed. Catching sight
of his guardian angel pushing through the crowd, not to see him
executed, but to meet him, he urged his horse past the executioner,
who had just learned of the disappearance of one of his patients,
knocking over two or three bumpkins with the breast of his Bayard.
He bounded toward her, swung her over the pommel of his saddle,
and, with a cry of joy and a wave of his hat, he disappeared like
M. de Condé at the battle of Lens. The people all applauded,
and the women thought the action heroic, and all promptly fell
in love with the hero on the spot."
Roland, observing that Sir John was silent, paused and questioned
him by a look. "Go on," replied the Englishman; "I am listening.
And as I am sure you are telling me all this in order to come
to something you wish to say, I await your point."
"Well," resumed Roland, laughing, "you are right, my dear friend,
and, on my word, you know me as if we had been college chums.
Well, what idea do you suppose has been cavorting through my brain
all night? It is that of getting a glimpse of these gentlemen of
Jehu near at hand."
"Ah, yes, I understand. As you failed to get yourself killed
by M. de Barjols, you want to try your chance of being killed
by M. Morgan."
"Or any other, my dear Sir John," replied the young officer calmly;
"for I assure you that I have nothing in particular against M.
Morgan; quite the contrary, though my first impulse when he came
into the room and made his little speech--don't you call it a
Sir John nodded affirmatively.
"Though my first thought," resumed Roland, "was to spring at
his throat and strangle him with one hand, and to tear off his
mask with the other."
"Now that I know you, my dear Roland, I do indeed wonder how
you refrained from putting such a fine project into execution."
"It was not my fault, I swear! I was just on the point of it when
my companion stopped me."
"So there are people who can restrain you?"
"Not many, but he can."
"And now you regret it?"
"Honestly, no! This brave stage-robber did the business with
such swaggering bravado that I admired him. I love brave men
instinctively. Had I not killed M. de Barjols I should have liked
to be his friend. It is true I could not tell how brave he was
until I had killed him. But let us talk of something else; that
duel is one of my painful thoughts. But why did I come up? It
was certainly not to talk of the Companions of Jehu, nor of M.
Laurent's exploits--Ah! I came to ask how you would like to
spend your time. I'll cut myself in quarters to amuse you, my
dear guest, but there are two disadvantages against me: this
region, which is not very amusing, and your nationality, which
is not easily amused."
"I have already told you, Roland," replied Lord Tanlay, offering
his hand to the young man, "that I consider the Château des
Noires-Fontaines a paradise."
"Agreed; but still in the fear that you may find your paradise
monotonous, I shall do my best to entertain you. Are you fond of
archeology--Westminster and Canterbury? We have a marvel here,
the church of Brou; a wonder of sculptured lace by Colonban.
There is a legend about it which I will tell you some evening
when you cannot sleep. You will see there the tombs of Marguerite
de Bourbon, Philippe le Bel, and Marguerite of Austria. I will
puzzle you with the problem of her motto: 'Fortune, infortune,
fort'une,' which I claim to have solved by a Latinized version:
'Fortuna, in fortuna, forti una.' Are you fond of fishing, my
dear friend? There's the Reissouse at your feet, and close at
hand a collection of hooks and lines belonging to Edouard, and
nets belonging to Michel; as for the fish, they, you know, are
the last thing one thinks about. Are you fond of hunting? The
forest of Seillon is not a hundred yards off. Hunting to hounds
you will have perforce to renounce, but we have good shooting.
In the days of my old bogies, the Chartreuse monks, the woods
swarmed with wild boars, hares and foxes. No one hunts there
now, because it belongs to the government; and the government
at present is nobody. In my capacity as General Bonaparte's
aide-de-camp I'll fill the vacancy, and we'll see who dares meddle
with me, if, after chasing the Austrians on the Adige and the
Mamelukes on the Nile, I hunt the boars and deer and the hares
and foxes on the Reissouse. One day of archeology, one day of
fishing, and one of hunting, that's three already. You see, my
dear fellow, we have only fifteen or sixteen left to worry about."
"My dear Roland," said Sir John sadly, and without replying to
the young officer's wordy sally, "won't you ever tell me about
this fever which sears you, this sorrow which undermines you?"
"Ah!" said Roland, with his harsh, doleful laugh. "I have never
been gayer than I am this morning; it's your liver, my lord,
that is out of order and makes you see everything black."
"Some day I hope to be really your friend," replied Sir John
seriously; "then you will confide in me, and I shall help you
to bear your burden."
"And half my aneurism!--Are you hungry, my lord?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Because I hear Edouard on the stairs, coming up to tell us that
breakfast is ready."
As Roland spoke, the door opened and the boy burst out: "Big
brother Roland, mother and sister Amélie are waiting breakfast
for Sir John and you."
Then catching the Englishman's right hand, he carefully examined
the first joint of the thumb and forefinger.
"What are you looking at, my little friend?" asked Sir John.
"I was looking to see if you had any ink on your fingers."
"And if I had ink on my fingers, what would it mean?"
"That you had written to England, and sent for my pistols and
"No, I have not yet written," said Sir John; "but I will to-day."
"You hear, big brother Roland? I'm to have my sword and my pistols
in a fortnight!"
And the boy, full of delight, offered his firm rosy cheek to
Sir John, who kissed it as tenderly as a father would have done.
Then they went to the dining-room where Madame de Montrevel and
Amélie were awaiting them.
That same day Roland put into execution part of his plans for
his guest's amusement. He took Sir John to see the church of
Those who have seen the charming little chapel of Brou know that
it is known as one of the hundred marvels of the Renaissance;
those who have not seen it must have often heard it said. Roland,
who had counted on doing the honors of this historic gem to Sir
John, and who had not seen it for the last seven or eight years,
was much disappointed when, on arriving in front of the building,
he found the niches of the saints empty and the carved figures
of the portal decapitated.
He asked for the sexton; people laughed in his face. There was
no longer a sexton. He inquired to whom he should go for the
keys. They replied that the captain of the gendarmerie had them.
The captain was not far off, for the cloister adjoining the church
had been converted into a barrack.
Roland went up to the captain's room and made himself known as
Bonaparte's aide-de-camp. The captain, with the placid obedience of
a subaltern to his superior officer, gave him the keys and followed
behind him. Sir John was waiting before the porch, admiring, in
spite of the mutilation to which they had been subjected, the
admirable details of the frontal.
Roland opened the door and started back in astonishment. The
church was literally stuffed with hay like a cannon charged to
"What does this mean?" he asked the captain of the gendarmerie.
"A precaution taken by the municipality."
"A precaution taken by the municipality?"
"To save the church. They were going to demolish it; but the
mayor issued a decree declaring that, in expiation of the false
worship for which it had served, it should be used to store fodder."
Roland burst out laughing, and, turning to Sir John, he said:
"My dear Sir John, the church was well worth seeing, but I think
what this gentleman has just told us is no less curious. You
can always find--at Strasburg, Cologne, or Milan--churches or
cathedrals to equal the chapel of Brou; but where will you find
an administration idiotic enough to destroy such a masterpiece,
and a mayor clever enough to turn it into a barn? A thousand
thanks, captain. Here are your keys."
"As I was saying at Avignon, the first time I had the pleasure
of seeing you, my dear Roland," replied Sir John, "the French
are a most amusing people."
"This time, my lord, you are too polite," replied Roland. "Idiotic
is the word. Listen. I can understand the political cataclysms
which have convulsed society for the last thousand years; I can
understand the communes, the pastorals, the Jacquerie, the
maillotins, the Saint Bartholomew, the League, the Fronde, the
dragonnades, the Revolution; I can understand the 14th of July,
the 5th and 6th of October, the 20th of June, the 10th of August,
the 2d and 3d of September, the 21st of January, the 31st of May,
the 30th of October, and the 9th Thermidor; I can understand
the egregious torch of civil wars, which inflames instead of
soothing the blood; I can understand the tidal wave of revolution,
sweeping on with its flux, that nothing can arrest, and its reflux,
which carries with it the ruins of the institution which it has
itself shattered. I can understand all that, but lance against
lance, sword against sword, men against men, a people against
a people! I can understand the deadly rage of the victors, the
sanguinary reaction of the vanquished, the political volcanoes
which rumble in the bowels of the globe, shake the earth, topple
over thrones, upset monarchies, and roll heads and crowns on the
scaffold. But what I cannot understand is this mutilation of the
granite, this placing of monuments beyond the pale of the law, the
destruction of inanimate things, which belong neither to those
who destroy them nor to the epoch in which they are destroyed;
this pillage of the gigantic library where the antiquarian can
read the archeological history of a country. Oh! the vandals,
the barbarians! Worse than that, the idiots! who revenge the
Borgia crimes and the debauches of Louis XV. on stone. How well
those Pharaohs, Menæs, and Cheops knew man as the most perversive,
destructive and evil of animals! They who built their pyramids,
not with carved traceries, nor lacy spires, but with solid blocks
of granite fifty feet square! How they must have laughed in the
depths of those sepulchres as they watched Time dull its scythe
and pashas wear out their nails in vain against them. Let us
build pyramids, my dear Sir John. They are not difficult as
architecture, nor beautiful as art, but they are solid; and that
enables a general to say four thousand years later: 'Soldiers,
from the apex of these monuments forty centuries are watching
you!' On my honor, my lord, I long to meet a windmill this moment
that I might tilt against it."
And Roland, bursting into his accustomed laugh, dragged Sir John
in the direction of the château. But Sir John stopped him and
asked: "Is there nothing else to see in the city except the church?"
"Formerly, my lord," replied Roland, "before they made a hay-loft
of it, I should have asked you to come down with me into the
vaults of the Dukes of Savoy. We could have hunted for that
subterranean passage, nearly three miles long, which is said to
exist there, and which, according to these rumors, communicates
with the grotto of Ceyzeriat. Please observe, I should never
offer such a pleasure trip except to an Englishman; it would
have been like a scene from your celebrated Anne Radcliffe in
the 'Mysteries of Udolpho.' But, as you see, that is impossible,
so we will have to be satisfied with our regrets. Come."
"Where are we going?"
"Faith, I don't know. Ten years ago I should have taken you to
the farms where they fatten pullets. The pullets of Bresse, you
must know, have a European reputation. Bourg was an annex to
the great coop of Strasburg. But during the Terror, as you can
readily imagine, these fatteners of poultry shut up shop. You
earned the reputation of being an aristocrat if you ate a pullet,
and you know the fraternal refrain: 'Ah, ça ira, ça ira--the
aristocrats to the lantern!' After Robespierre's downfall they
opened up again; but since the 18th of Fructidor, France has
been commanded to fast, from fowls and all. Never mind; come
on, anyway. In default of pullets, I can show you one thing,
the square where they executed those who ate them. But since
I was last in the town the streets have changed their names. I
know the way, but I don't know the names."
"Look here!" demanded Sir John; "aren't you a Republican?"
"I not a Republican? Come, come! Quite to the contrary. I consider
myself an excellent Republican. I am quite capable of burning off
my hand, like Mucius Scævola, or jumping into the gulf like Curtius
to save the Republic; but I have, unluckily, a keen sense of the
ridiculous. In spite of myself, the absurdity of things catches
me in the side and tickles me till I nearly die of laughing. I am
willing to accept the Constitution of 1791; but when poor Hérault
de Séchelles wrote to the superintendent of the National Library
to send him a copy of the laws of Minos, so that he could model
his constitution on that of the Isle of Crete, I thought it was
going rather far, and that we might very well have been content
with those of Lycurgus. I find January, February, and March,
mythological as they were, quite as good as Nivose, Pluviose, and
Ventose. I can't understand why, when one was called Antoine
or Chrystomome in 1789, he should be called Brutus or Cassius
in 1793. Here, for example, my lord, is an honest street, which
was called the Rue des Halles (Market Street). There was nothing
indecent or aristocratic about that, was there? Well, now it
is called--Just wait (Roland read the inscription). Well, now
it is called the Rue de la Révolution. Here's another, which
used to be called Notre Dame; it is now the Rue du Temple. Why
Rue du Temple? Probably to perpetuate the memory of that place
where the infamous Simon tried to teach cobbling to the heir of
sixty-three kings. Don't quarrel with me if I am mistaken by
one or two! Now here's a third; it was named Crèvecoeur, a name
famous throughout Bresse, Burgundy and Flanders. It is now the
Rue de la Federation. Federation is a fine thing, but Crèvecoeur
was a fine name. And then you see to-day it leads straight to
the Place de la Guillotine, which is, in my opinion, all wrong.
I don't want any streets that lead to such places. This one has
its advantages; it is only about a hundred feet from the prison,
which economized and still economizes the tumbrel and the horse
of M. de Bourg. By the way, have you noticed that the executioner
remains noble and keeps his title? For the rest, the square is
excellently arranged for spectators, and my ancestor, Montrevel,
whose name it bears, doubtless, foreseeing its ultimate destiny,
solved the great problem, still unsolved by the theatres, of
being able to see well from every nook and corner. If ever they
cut off my head, which, considering the times in which we are
living, would in no wise be surprising, I shall have but one
regret: that of being less well-placed and seeing less than the
others. Now let us go up these steps. Here we are in the Place
des Lices. Our Revolutionists left it its name, because in all
probability they don't know what it means. I don't know much
better than they, but I think I remember that a certain Sieur
d'Estavayer challenged some Flemish count--I don't know who--and
that the combat took place in this square. Now, my dear fellow,
here is the prison, which ought to give you some idea of human
vicissitudes. Gil Blas didn't change his condition more often
than this monument its purposes. Before Cæsar it was a Gaelic
temple; Cæsar converted it into a Roman fortress; an unknown
architect transformed it into a military work during the Middle
Ages; the Knights of Baye, following Cæsar's example, re-made it
into a fortress; the princes of Savoy used it for a residence;
the aunt of Charles V. lived here when she came to visit her
church at Brou, which she never had the satisfaction of seeing
finished. Finally, after the treaty of Lyons, when Bresse was
returned to France, it was utilized both as a prison and a
court-house. Wait for me a moment, my lord, if you dislike the
squeaking of hinges and the grating of bolts. I have a visit
to pay to a certain cell."
"The grating of bolts and the squeaking of hinges is not a very
enlivening sound, but no matter. Since you were kind enough to
undertake my education, show me your dungeon."
"Very well, then. Come in quickly. I see a crowd of persons who
look as if they want to speak to me."
In fact, little by little, a sort of rumor seemed to spread
throughout the town. People emerged from the houses, forming
groups in the streets, and they all watched Roland with curiosity.
He rang the bell of the gate, situated then where it is now, but
opening into the prison yard. A jailer opened it for them.
"Ah, ah! so you are still here, Father Courtois?" asked the young
man. Then, turning to Sir John, he added: "A fine name for a
jailer, isn't it, my lord?"
The jailer looked at the young man in amazement.
"How is it," he asked through the grating, "that you know my name,
when I don't know yours?"
"Good! I not only know your name, but also your opinions. You
are an old royalist, Père Courtois."
"Monsieur," said the jailer, terrified, "don't make bad jokes
if you please, and say what you want."
"Well, my good Father Courtois, I would like to visit the cell
where they put my mother and sister, Madame and Mademoiselle
"Ah!" exclaimed the gatekeeper, "so it's you, M. Louis? You may
well say that I know you. What a fine, handsome young man you've
grown to be!"
"Do you think so, Father Courtois? Well, I can return the compliment.
Your daughter Charlotte is, on my word, a beautiful girl. Charlotte
is my sister's maid, Sir John."
"And she is very happy over it. She is better off there than here,
M. Roland. Is it true that you are General Bonaparte's aide-de-camp?"
"Alas! I have that honor, Courtois. You would prefer me to be
Comte d'Artois's aide-de-camp, or that of M. le Duc of Angoulême?"
"Oh, do be quiet, M. Louis!" Then putting his lips to the young
man's ear, "Tell me, is it true?"
"What, Father Courtois?"
"That General Bonaparte passed through Lyons yesterday?"
"There must be some truth in the rumor, for this is the second
time that I have heard it. Ah! I understand now. These good people
who were watching me so curiously apparently wanted to question
me. They were like you, Father Courtois: they want to know what
to make of General Bonaparte's arrival."
"Do you know what they say, M. Louis?"
"Still another rumor, Father Courtois?"
"I should think so, but they only whisper it."
"What is it?"
"They say that he has come to demand the throne of his Majesty
Louis XVIII. from the Directory and the king's return to it;
and that if Citizen Gohier as president doesn't give it up of
his own accord he will take it by force."
"Pooh!" exclaimed the young officer with an incredulous air bordering
on irony. But Father Courtois insisted on his news with an
"Possibly," said the young man; "but as for that, it's news for
me. And now that you know me, will you open the gate?"
"Of course I will. I should think so. What the devil am I about?"
and the jailer opened the gate with an eagerness equalling his
former reluctance. The young man entered, and Sir John followed
him. The jailer locked the gate carefully, then he turned, followed
by Roland and the Englishman in turn. The latter was beginning
to get accustomed to his young friend's erratic character. The
spleen he saw in Roland was misanthropy, without the sulkiness
of Timon or the wit of Alceste.
The jailer crossed the yard, which was separated from the law
courts by a wall fifteen feet high, with an opening let into
the middle of the receding wall, closed by a massive oaken door,
to admit prisoners without taking them round by the street. The
jailer, we say, crossed the yard to a winding stairway in the
left angle of the courtyard which led to the interior of the
If we insist upon these details, it is because we shall be obliged
to return to this spot later, and we do not wish it to be wholly
unfamiliar to our readers when that time comes.
These steps led first to the ante-chamber of the prison, that
is to say to the porter's hall of the lower court-room. From
that hall ten steps led down into an inner court, separated from
a third, which was that of the prisoners, by a wall similar to
the one we have described, only this one had three doors. At
the further end of the courtyard a passage led to the jailer's
own room, which gave into a second passage, on which were the
cells which were picturesquely styled cages. The jailer paused
before the first of these cages and said, striking the door:
"This is where I put madame, your mother, and your sister, so
that if the dear ladies wanted either Charlotte or myself, they
need but knock."
"Is there any one in the cell?"
"Then please open the door. My friend, Lord Tanlay, is a
philanthropic Englishman who is travelling about to see if the
French prisons are more comfortable than the English ones. Enter,
Père Courtois having opened the door, Roland pushed Sir John
into a perfectly square cell measuring ten or twelve feet each
"Oh, oh!" exclaimed Sir John, "this is lugubrious."
"Do you think so? Well, my dear friend, this is where my mother,
the noblest woman in the world, and my sister, whom you know,
spent six weeks with a prospect of leaving it only to make the
trip to the Place de Bastion. Just think, that was five years
ago, so my sister was scarcely twelve."
"But what crime had they committed?"
"Oh! a monstrous crime. At the anniversary festival with which
the town of Bourg considered proper to commemorate the death
of the 'Friend of the People,' my mother refused to permit my
sister to represent one of the virgins who bore the tears of
France in vases. What will you! Poor woman, she thought she had
done enough for her country in giving it the blood of her son
and her husband, which was flowing in Italy and Germany. She was
mistaken. Her country, as it seems, claimed further the tears
of her daughter. She thought that too much, especially as those
tears were to flow for the citizen Marat. The result was that
on the very evening of the celebration, during the enthusiastic
exaltation, my mother was declared accused. Fortunately Bourg
had not attained the celerity of Paris. A friend of ours, an
official in the record-office, kept the affair dragging, until
one fine day the fall and death of Robespierre were made known.
That interrupted a good many things, among others the guillotinades.
Our friend convinced the authorities that the wind blowing from
Paris had veered toward clemency; they waited fifteen days, and on
the sixteenth they told my mother and sister that they were free.
So you understand, my friend--and this involves the most profound
philosophical reflection--so that if Mademoiselle Teresa Cabarrus
had not come from Spain, if she had not married M. Fontenay,
parliamentary counsellor; had she not been arrested and brought
before the pro-consul Tallien, son of the Marquis de Bercy's
butler, ex-notary's clerk, ex-foreman of a printing-shop, ex-porter,
ex-secretary to the Commune of Paris temporarily at Bordeaux;
and had the ex-pro-consul not become enamored of her, and had
she not been imprisoned, and if on the ninth of Thermidor she
had not found means to send a dagger with these words: 'Unless
the tyrant dies to-day, I die to-morrow'; had not Saint-Just
been arrested in the midst of his discourse; had not Robespierre,
on that day, had a frog in his throat; had not Garnier de l'Aube
exclaimed: 'It is the blood of Danton choking you!' had not Louchet
shouted for his arrest; had he not been arrested, released by
the Commune, recaptured in spite of this, had his jaw broken
by a pistol shot, and been executed next day--my mother would,
in all probability, have had her head cut off for refusing to
allow her daughter to weep for citizen Marat in one of the twelve
lachrymal urns which Bourg was desirous of filling with its tears.
Good-by, Courtois. You are a worthy man. You gave my mother and
sister a little water to put with their wine, a little meat to
eat with their bread, a little hope to fill their hearts; you
lent them your daughter that they might not have to sweep their
cell themselves. That deserves a fortune. Unfortunately I am not
rich; but here are fifty louis I happen to have with me. Come,
And the young man carried off Sir John before the jailer, recovered
from his surprise and found time either to thank Roland or refuse
the fifty louis; which, it must be said, would have been a remarkable
proof of disinterestedness in a jailer, especially when that jailer's
opinions were opposed to those of the government he served.
Leaving the prison, Roland and Sir John found the Place des Lices
crowded with people who had heard of General Bonaparte's return to
France, and were shouting "Vive Bonaparte!" at the top of their
lungs--some because they really admired the victor of Arcola,
Rivoli, and the Pyramids, others because they had been told,
like Père Courtois, that this same victor had vanquished only
that Louis XVIII. might profit by his victories.
Roland and Sir John, having now visited all that the town of Bourg
offered of interest, returned to the Château des Noires-Fontaines,
which they reached before long. Madame de Montrevel and Amélie
had gone out. Roland installed Sir John in an easy chair, asking
him to wait a few minutes for him. At the end of five minutes
he returned with a sort of pamphlet of gray paper, very badly
printed, in his hand.
"My dear fellow," said he, "you seemed to have some doubts about
the authenticity of that festival which I just mentioned, and
which nearly cost my mother and sister their lives, so I bring
you the programme. Read it, and while you are doing so I will
go and see what they have been doing with my dogs; for I presume
that you would rather hold me quit of our fishing expedition
in favor of a hunt."
He went out, leaving in Sir John's hands a copy of the decree of
the municipality of the town of Bourg, instituting the funeral
rites in honor of Marat, on the anniversary of his death.
Sir John was just finishing that interesting bit of history when
Madame de Montrevel and her daughter returned. Amélie, who did
not know how much had been said about her between Roland and Sir
John, was astounded by the expression with which that gentleman
To him she seemed more lovely than before. He could readily
understand that mother, who at the risk of life had been unwilling
that this charming creature should profane her youth and beauty
by serving as a mourner in a celebration of which Marat was the
deity. He recalled that cold damp cell which he had lately visited,
and shuddered at the thought that this delicate white ermine
before his eyes had been imprisoned there, without sun or air,
for six weeks. He looked at the throat, too long perhaps, but
swan-like in its suppleness and graceful in its exaggeration,
and he remembered that melancholy remark of the poor Princesse
de Lamballe, as she felt her slender neck: "It will not give
the executioner much trouble!"
The thoughts which succeeded each other in Sir John's mind gave
to his face an expression so different from its customary aspect,
that Madame de Montrevel could not refrain from asking what troubled
him. He then told her of his visit to the prison, and Roland's
pious pilgrimage to the dungeon where his mother and sister had
been incarcerated. Just as Sir John had concluded his tale, a
view-halloo sounded without, and Roland entered, his hunting-horn
in his hands.
"My dear friend," he cried, "thanks to my mother, we shall have
a splendid hunt to-morrow."
"Thanks to me?" queried Madame de Montrevel.
"How so?" added Sir John.
"I left you to see about my dogs, didn't I?"
"You said so, at any rate."
"I had two excellent beasts, Barbichon and Ravaude, male and female."
"Oh!" exclaimed Sir John, "are they dead?"
"Well, yes; but just guess what this excellent mother of mine
has done?" and, tilting Madame de Montrevel's head, he kissed
her on both cheeks. "She wouldn't let them drown a single puppy
because they were the dogs of my dogs; so the result is, that
to-day the pups, grand-pups, and great-grand-pups of Barbichon
and Ravaude are as numerous as the descendant of Ishmael. Instead
of a pair of dogs, I have a whole pack, twenty-five beasts, all
as black as moles with white paws, fire in their eyes and hearts,
and a regiment of cornet-tails that would do you good to see."
And Roland sounded another halloo that brought his young brother
to the scene.
"Oh!" shouted the boy as he entered, "you are going hunting
to-morrow, brother Roland. I'm going, too, I'm going, too!"
"Good!" said Roland, "but do you know what we are going to hunt?"
"No. All I know is that I'm going, too."
"We're going to hunt a boar."
"Oh, joy!" cried the boy, clapping his little hands.
"Are you crazy?" asked Madame de Montrevel, turning pale.
"Why so, madame mother, if you please?"
"Because boar hunts are very dangerous."
"Not so dangerous as hunting men. My brother got back safe from
that, and so will I from the other."
"Roland," cried Madame de Montrevel, while Amélie, lost in thought,
took no part in the discussion, "Roland, make Edouard listen to
reason. Tell him that he hasn't got common-sense."
But Roland, who recognized himself again in his young brother,
instead of blaming him, smiled at his boyish ardor. "I'd take
you willingly," said he, "only to go hunting one must at least
know how to handle a gun."
"Oh, Master Roland," cried Edouard, "just come into the garden
a bit. Put up your hat at a hundred yards, and I'll show you
how to handle a gun."
"Naughty child," exclaimed Madame de Montrevel, trembling, "where
did you learn?"
"Why, from the gunsmith at Montagnac, who keeps papa's and Roland's
guns. You ask me sometimes what I do with my money, don't you?
Well, I buy powder and balls with it, and I am learning to kill
Austrians and Arabs like my brother Roland."
Madame de Montrevel raised her hands to heaven.
"What can you expect, mother?" asked Roland. "Blood will tell.
No Montrevel could be afraid of powder. You shall come with us
The boy sprang upon his brother's neck.
"And I," said Sir John, "will equip you to-day like a regular
huntsman, just as they used to arm the knights of old. I have
a charming little rifle that I will give you. It will keep you
contented until your sabre and pistols come."
"Well," asked Roland, "are you satisfied now, Edouard?"
"Yes; but when will he give it to me? If you have to write to
England for it, I warn you I shan't believe in it."
"No, my little friend, we have only to go up to my room and open
my gun-case. That's soon done."
"Then, let's go at once."
"Come on," said Sir John; and he went out, followed by Edouard.
A moment later, Amélie, still absorbed in thought, rose and left
the room. Neither Madame de Montrevel nor Roland noticed her
departure, so interested were they in a serious discussion. Madame
de Montrevel tried to persuade Roland not to take his young brother
with him on the morrow's hunt. Roland explained that, since Edouard
was to become a soldier like his father and brother, the sooner
he learned to handle a gun and become familiar with powder and
ball the better. The discussion was not yet ended when Edouard
returned with his gun slung over his shoulder.
"Look, brother," said he, turning to Roland; "just see what a
fine present Sir John has given me." And he looked gratefully
at Sir John, who stood in the doorway vainly seeking Amélie with
It was in truth a beautiful present. The rifle, designed with
that plainness of ornament and simplicity of form peculiar to
English weapons, was of the finest finish. Like the pistols,
of which Roland had had opportunity to test the accuracy, the
rifle was made by the celebrated Manton, and carried a twenty-four
calibre bullet. That it had been originally intended for a woman
was easily seen by the shortness of the stock and the velvet
pad on the trigger. This original purpose of the weapon made it
peculiarly suitable for a boy of twelve.
Roland took the rifle from his brother's shoulder, looked at
it knowingly, tried its action, sighted it, tossed it from one
hand to the other, and then, giving it back to Edouard, said:
"Thank Sir John again. You have a rifle fit for a king's son.
Let's go and try it."
All three went out to try Sir John's rifle, leaving Madame de
Montrevel as sad as Thetis when she saw Achilles in his woman's
garb draw the sword of Ulysses from its scabbard.
A quarter of an hour later, Edouard returned triumphantly. He
brought his mother a bit of pasteboard of the circumference of
a hat, in which he had put ten bullets out of twelve. The two
men had remained behind in the park conversing.
Madame de Montrevel listened to Edouard's slightly boastful account
of his prowess. Then she looked at him with that deep and holy
sorrow of mothers to whom fame is no compensation for the blood
it sheds. Oh! ungrateful indeed is the child who has seen that
look bent upon him and does not eternally remember it. Then,
after a few seconds of this painful contemplation, she pressed
her second son to her breast, and murmured sobbing: "You, too!
you, too, will desert your mother some day."
"Yes, mother," replied the boy, "to become a general like my father,
or an aide-de-camp like Roland."
"And to be killed as your father was, as your brother perhaps
For the strange transformation in Roland's character had not
escaped Madame de Montrevel. It was but an added dread to her
other anxieties, among which Amélie's pallor and abstraction
must be numbered.
Amélie was just seventeen; her childhood had been that of a happy
laughing girl, joyous and healthy. The death of her father had
cast a black veil over her youth and gayety. But these tempests
of spring pass rapidly. Her smile, the sunshine of life's dawn,
returned like that of Nature, sparkling through that dew of the
heart we call tears.
Then, one day about six months before this story opens, Amélie's
face had saddened, her cheeks had grown pale, and, like the birds
who migrate at the approach of wintry weather, the childlike
laughter that escaped her parted lips and white teeth had fled
never to return.
Madame de Montrevel had questioned her, but Amélie asserted that
she was still the same. She endeavored to smile, but as a stone
thrown into a lake rings upon the surface, so the smiles roused
by this maternal solicitude faded, little by little, from Amélie's
face. With keen maternal instinct Madame de Montrevel had thought
of love. But whom could Amélie love? There were no visitors at
the Château des Noires-Fontaines, the political troubles had put
an end to all society, and Amélie went nowhere alone. Madame de
Montrevel could get no further than conjecture. Roland's return
had given her a moment's hope; but this hope fled as soon as she
perceived the effect which this event had produced upon Amélie.
It was not a sister, but a spectre, it will be recalled, who had
come to meet him. Since her son's arrival, Madame de Montrevel
had not lost sight of Amélie, and she perceived, with dolorous
amazement, that Roland's presence awakened a feeling akin to
terror in his sister's breast. She, whose eyes had formerly rested
so lovingly upon him, now seemed to view him with alarm. Only a
few moments since, Amélie had profited by the first opportunity
to return to her room, the one spot in the château where she
seemed at ease, and where for the last six months she had spent
most of her time. The dinner-bell alone possessed the power to
bring her from it, and even then she waited for the second call
before entering the dining-room.
Roland and Sir John, as we have said, had divided their time
between their visit to Bourg and their preparations for the morrow's
hunt. From morn until noon they were to beat the woods; from noon
till evening they were to hunt the boar. Michel, that devoted
poacher, confined to his chair for the present with a sprain, felt
better as soon as the question of the hunt was mooted, and had
himself hoisted on a little horse that was used for the errands
of the house. Then he sallied forth to collect the beaters from
Saint-Just and Montagnac. He, being unable to beat or run, was
to remain with the pack, and watch Sir John's and Roland's horse,
and Edouard's pony, in the middle of the forest, where it was
intersected by one good road and two practicable paths. The beaters,
who could not follow the hunt, were to return to the château with
The beaters were at the door at six the following morning. Michel
was not to leave with the horses and dogs until eleven. The Château
des Noires-Fontaines was just at the edge of the forest of Seillon,
so the hunt could begin at its very gates.
As the battue promised chiefly deer and hares, the guns were
loaded with balls. Roland gave Edouard a simple little gun which
he himself had used as a child. He had not enough confidence as
yet in the boy's prudence to trust him with a double-barrelled
gun. As for the rifle that Sir John had given him the day before,
it could only carry cartridges. It was given into Michel's safe
keeping, to be returned to him in case they started a boar for
the second part of the hunt. For this Roland and Sir John were
also to change their guns for rifles and hunting knives, pointed
as daggers and sharp as razors, which formed part of Sir John's
arsenal, and could be suspended from the belt or screwed on the
point of the gun like bayonets.
From the beginning of the battue it was easy to see that the
hunt would be a good one. A roebuck and two hares were killed
at once. At noon two does, seven roebucks and two foxes had been
bagged. They had also seen two boars, but these latter had only
shaken their bristles in answer to the heavy balls and made off.
Edouard was in the seventh heaven; he had killed a roebuck. The
beaters, well rewarded for their labor, were sent to the château
with the game, as had been arranged. A sort of bugle was sounded
to ascertain Michel's whereabout, to which he answered. In less
than ten minutes the three hunters had rejoined the gardener
with his hounds and horses.
Michel had seen a boar which he had sent his son to head off,
and it was now in the woods not a hundred paces distant. Jacques,
Michel's eldest son, beat up the woods with Barbichon and Ravaude,
the heads of the pack, and in about five minutes the boar was
found in his lair. They could have killed him at once, or at least
shot at him, but that would have ended the hunt too quickly. The
huntsmen launched the whole pack at the animal, which, seeing
this troop of pygmies swoop down upon him, started off at a slow
trot. He crossed the road, Roland giving the view-halloo, and
headed in the direction of the Chartreuse of Seillon, the three
riders following the path which led through the woods. The boar
led them a chase which lasted until five in the afternoon, turning
upon his tracks, evidently unwilling to leave the forest with
its thick undergrowth.
At last the violent barking of the dogs warned them that the
animal had been brought to bay. The spot was not a hundred paces
distant from the pavilion belonging to the Chartreuse, in one
of the most tangled thickets of the forest. It was impossible
to force the horses through it, and the riders dismounted. The
barking of the dogs guided them straight along the path, from
which they deviated only where the obstacles they encountered
rendered it necessary.
From time to time yelps of pain indicated that members of the
attacking party had ventured too close to the animal, and had
paid the price of their temerity. About twenty feet from the
scene of action the hunters began to see the actors. The boar
was backed against a rock to avoid attack in the rear; then,
bracing himself on his forepaws, he faced the dogs with his
ensanguined eyes and enormous tusks. They quivered around him
like a moving carpet; five or six, more or less badly wounded,
were staining the battlefield with their blood, though still
attacking the boar with a fury and courage that might have served
as an example to the bravest men.
Each hunter faced the scene with the characteristic signs of his
age, nature and nation. Edouard, at one and the same time, the
most imprudent and the smallest, finding the path less difficult,
owing to his small, stature, arrived first. Roland, heedless of
danger of any kind, seeking rather than avoiding it, followed.
Finally Sir John, slower, graver, more reflective, brought up
the rear. Once the boar perceived his hunters he paid no further
attention to the dogs. He fixed his gleaming, sanguinary eyes upon
them; but his only movement was a snapping of the jaws, which
he brought together with a threatening sound. Roland watched the
scene for an instant, evidently desirous of flinging himself
into the midst of the group, knife in hand, to slit the boar's
throat as a butcher would that of a calf or a pig. This impulse
was so apparent that Sir John caught his arm, and little Edouard
exclaimed: "Oh! brother, let me shoot the boar!"
Roland restrained himself, and stacking his gun against a tree,
waited, armed only with his hunting-knife, which he had drawn
from its sheath.
"Very well," said he, "shoot him; but be careful about it."
"Oh! don't worry," retorted the child, between his set teeth.
His face was pale but resolute as he aimed the barrel of his
rifle at the animal's head.
"If he misses him, or only wounds him," observed Sir John, "you
know that the brute will be upon us before we can see him through
"I know it, my lord; but I am accustomed to these hunts," replied
Roland, his nostrils quivering, his eyes sparkling, his lips
parted: "Fire, Edouard!"
The shot followed the order upon the instant; but after the shot,
with, or even before it, the beast, swift as lightning, rushed
upon the child. A second shot followed the first, but the animal's
scarlet eyes still gleamed through the smoke. But, as it rushed,
it met Roland with his knee on the ground, the knife in his hand.
A moment later a tangled, formless group, man and boar, boar
and man, was rolling on the ground. Then a third shot rang out,
followed by a laugh from Roland.
"Ah! my lord," cried the young man, "you've wasted powder and
shot. Can't you see that I have ripped him up? Only get his body
off of me. The beast weighs at least four hundred pounds, and
he is smothering me."
But before Sir John could stoop, Roland, with a vigorous push
of the shoulder, rolled the animal's body aside, and rose to his
feet covered with blood, but without a single scratch. Little
Edouard, either from lack of time or from native courage, had
not recoiled an inch. True, he was completely protected by his
brother's body, which was between him and the boar. Sir John had
sprung aside to take the animal in the flank. He watched Roland,
as he emerged from this second duel, with the same amazement that
he had experienced after the first.
The dogs--those that were left, some twenty in all--had followed
the boar, and were now leaping upon his body in the vain effort
to tear the bristles, which were almost as impenetrable as iron.
"You will see," said Roland, wiping the blood from his face and
hands with a fine cambric handkerchief, "how they will eat him,
and your knife too, my lord."
"True," said Sir John; "where is the knife?"
"In its sheath," replied Roland.
"Ah!" exclaimed the boy, "only the handle shows."
He sprang toward the animal and pulled out the poniard, which,
as he said, was buried up to the hilt. The sharp point, guided
by a calm eye and a firm hand, had pierced the animal's heart.
There were other wounds on the boar's body. The first, caused
by the boy's shot, showed a bloody furrow just over the eye; the
blow had been too weak to crush the frontal bone. The second came
from Sir John's first shot; it had caught the animal diagonally
and grazed his breast. The third, fired at close quarters, went
through the body; but, as Roland had said, not until after the
animal was dead.
AN UNPLEASANT COMMISSION
The hunt was over, darkness was falling, and it was now a question
of returning to the château. The horses were nearby; they could
hear them neighing impatiently. They seemed to be asking if their
courage was so doubted that they were not allowed to share in
the exciting drama.
Edouard was bent upon dragging the boar after them, fastening
it to the saddle-bow, and so carrying it back to the château;
but Roland pointed out that it was simpler to send a couple of
men for it with a barrow. Sir John being of the same opinion,
Edouard--who never ceased pointing to the wound in the head,
and saying, "That's my shot; that's where I aimed"--Edouard, we
say, was forced to yield to the majority. The three hunters soon
reached the spot where their horses were tethered, mounted, and in
less than ten minutes were at the Château des Noires-Fontaines.
Madame de Montrevel was watching for them on the portico. The
poor mother had waited there nearly an hour, trembling lest an
accident had befallen one or the other of her sons. The moment
Edouard espied her he put his pony to a gallop, shouting from
the gate: "Mother, mother! We killed a boar as big as a donkey.
I shot him in the head; you'll see the hole my ball, made; Roland
stuck his hunting knife into the boar's belly up to the hilt, and
Sir John fired at him twice. Quick, quick! Send the men for the
carcass. Don't be frightened when you see Roland. He's all covered
with blood--but it's from the boar, and he hasn't a scratch."
This was delivered with Edouard's accustomed volubility while
Madame de Montrevel was crossing the clearing between the portico
and the road to open the gate. She intended to take Edouard in her
arms, but he jumped from his saddle and flung himself upon her
neck. Roland and Sir John came up just then, and Amélie appeared
on the portico at the same instant.
Edouard left his mother to worry over Roland, who, covered as
he was with blood, looked very terrifying, and rushed to his
sister with the tale he had rattled off to his mother. Amélie
listened in an abstracted manner that probably hurt Edouard's
vanity, for he dashed off to the kitchen to describe the affair
to Michel, who was certain to listen to him.
Michel was indeed interested; but when, after telling him where
the carcass lay, Edouard gave him Roland's order to send a couple
of men after the beast, he shook his head.
"What!" demanded Edouard, "are you going to refuse to obey my
"Heaven forbid! Master Edouard. Jacques shall start this instant
"Are you afraid he won't find any body?"
"Goodness, no; he could get a dozen. But the trouble is the time
of night. You say the boar lies close to the pavilion of the
"Not twenty yards from it."
"I'd rather it was three miles," replied Michel scratching his
head; "but never mind. I'll send for them anyway without telling
them what they're wanted for. Once here, it's for your brother
to make them go."
"Good! Good! Only get them here and I'll see to that myself."
"Oh!" exclaimed Michel, "if I hadn't this beastly sprain I'd go
myself. But to-day's doings have made it worse. Jacques! Jacques!"
Jacques came, and Edouard not only waited to hear the order given,
but until he had started. Then he ran upstairs to do what Roland
and Sir John were already doing, that is, dress for dinner.
The whole talk at table, as may be easily imagined, centred upon
the day's prowess. Edouard asked nothing better than to talk
about it, and Sir John, astounded by Roland's skill, courage,
and good luck, improved upon the child's narrative. Madame de
Montrevel shuddered at each detail, and yet she made them repeat
it twenty times. That which seemed most clear to her in all this
was that Roland had saved Edouard's life.
"Did you thank him for it?" she asked the boy. "Thank whom?"
"Why should I thank him?" retorted Edouard. "I should have done
the same thing."
"Ah, madame, what can you expect!" said Sir John; "you are a gazelle
who has unwittingly given birth to a race of lions."
Amélie had also paid the closest attention to the account, especially
when the hunters spoke of their proximity to the Chartreuse.
From that time on she listened with anxious eyes, and seemed
scarcely to breathe, until they told of leaving the woods after
After dinner, word was brought that Jacques had returned with
two peasants from Montagnac. They wanted exact directions as to
where the hunters had left the animal. Roland rose, intending to
go to them, but Madame de Montrevel, who could never see enough
of her son, turned to the messenger and said: "Bring these worthy
men in here. It is not necessary to disturb M. Roland for that."
Five minutes later the two peasants entered, twirling their hats
in their hands.
"My sons," said Roland, "I want you to fetch the boar we killed
in the forest of Seillon."
"That can be done," said one of the peasants, consulting his
companion with a look.
"Yes, it can be done," answered the other.
"Don't be alarmed," said Roland. "You shall lose nothing by your
"Oh! we're not," interrupted one of the peasants. "We know you,
Monsieur de Montrevel."
"Yes," answered the other, "we know that, like your father, you're
not in the habit of making people work for nothing. Oh! if all
the aristocrats had been like you, Monsieur Louis, there wouldn't
have been any revolution."
"Of course not," said the other, who seemed to have come solely
to echo affirmatively what his companion said.
"It remains to be seen now where the animal is," said the first
"Yes," repeated the second, "remains to be seen where it is."
"Oh! it won't be hard to find."
"So much the better," interjected the peasant.
"Do you know the pavilion in the forest?"
"Yes, which one?"
"The one that belongs to the Chartreuse of Seillon."
The peasants looked at each other.
"Well, you'll find it some twenty feet distant from the front
on the way to Genoud."
The peasants looked at each other once more.
"Hum!" grunted the first one.
"Hum!" repeated the other, faithful echo of his companion.
"Well, what does this 'hum' mean?" demanded Roland.
"Come, explain yourselves. What's the matter?"
"The matter is that we'd rather that it was the other end of the
"But why the other end?" retorted Roland, impatiently; "it's
nine miles from here to the other end, and barely three from here
to where we left the boar."
"Yes," said the first peasant, "but just where the boar lies--"
And he paused and scratched his head.
"Exactly; that's what," added the other.
"It's a little too near the Chartreuse."
"Not the Chartreuse; I said the pavilion."
"It's all the same. You know, Monsieur Louis, that there is an
underground passage leading from the pavilion to the Chartreuse."
"Oh, yes, there is one, that's sure," added the other.
"But," exclaimed Roland, "what has this underground passage got
to do with our boar?"
"This much, that the beast's in a bad place, that's all."
"Oh, yes! a bad place," repeated the other peasant.
"Come, now, explain yourselves, you rascals," said Roland, who
was growing angry, while his mother seemed uneasy, and Amélie
visibly turned pale.
"Beg pardon, Monsieur Louis," answered the peasant; "we are not
rascals; we're God-fearing men, that's all."
"By thunder," cried Roland, "I'm a God-fearing man myself. What
"Well, we don't care to have any dealings with the devil."
"No, no, no," asserted the second peasant.
"A man can match a man if he's of his own kind," continued the
"Sometimes two," said the second, who was built like a Hercules.
"But with ghostly beings phantoms, spectres--no thank you," continued
the first peasant.
"No, thank you," repeated the other.
"Oh, mother, sister," queried Roland, addressing the two women,
"in Heaven's name, do you understand anything of what these two
fools are saying?"
"Fools," repeated the first peasant; "well, possibly. But it's
not the less true that Pierre Marey had his neck twisted just for
looking over the wall. True, it was of a Saturday--the devil's
"And they couldn't straighten it out," affirmed the second peasant,
"so they had to bury him with his face turned round looking the
"Oh!" exclaimed Sir John, "this is growing interesting. I'm very
fond of ghost stories."
"That's more than sister Amélie is it seems," cried Edouard.
"What do you mean?"
"Just see how pale she's grown, brother Roland."
"Yes, indeed," said Sir John; "mademoiselle looks as if she were
going to faint."
"I? Not at all," exclaimed Amélie, wiping the perspiration from
her forehead; "only don't you think it seems a little warm here,
"No," answered Madame de Montrevel.
"Still," insisted Amélie, "if it would not annoy you, I should
like to open the window."
"Do so, my child."
Amélie rose hastily to profit by this permission, and went with
tottering steps to a window opening upon the garden. After it
was opened, she stood leaning against the sill, half-hidden by
"Ah!" she said, "I can breathe here."
Sir John rose to offer her his smelling-salts, but Amélie declined
hastily: "No, no, my lord. Thank you, but I am better now."
"Come, come," said Roland, "don't bother about that; it's our
"Well, Monsieur Louis, we will fetch your boar tomorrow."
"That's it," said the second peasant, "to-morrow morning, when
"But to go there at night--"
"Oh! to go there at night--"
The peasant looked at his comrade and both shook their heads.
"It can't be done at night."
"Monsieur Louis, a man's not a coward because he's afraid."
"No, indeed; that's not being a coward," replied the other.
"Ah!" said Roland, "I wish some stronger minded men than you would
face me with that argument; that a man is not a coward because
"Well, it's according to what he's afraid of, Monsieur Louis.
Give me a good sickle and a good cudgel, and I'm not afraid of
a wolf; give me a good gun and I'm not afraid of any man, even
if I knew he's waiting to murder me."
"Yes," said Edouard, "but you're afraid of a ghost, even when
it's only the ghost of a monk."
"Little Master Edouard," said the peasant, "leave your brother to
do the talking; you're not old enough to jest about such things--"
"No," added the other peasant, "wait till your beard is grown,
my little gentleman."
"I haven't any beard," retorted Edouard, starting up, "but just
the same if I was strong enough to carry the boar, I'd go fetch
it myself either by day or night."
"Much good may it do you, my young gentleman. But neither my comrade
nor myself would go, even for a whole louis."
"Nor for two?" said Roland, wishing to corner them.
"Nor for two, nor four, nor ten, Monsieur de Montrevel. Ten louis
are good, but what could I do with them if my neck was broken?"
"Yes, twisted like Pierre Marey's," said the other peasant.
"Ten louis wouldn't feed my wife and children for the rest of
my life, would they?"
"And besides, when you say ten louis," interrupted the second
peasant, "you mean really five, because I'd get five, too."
"So the pavilion is haunted by ghosts, is it?" asked Roland.
"I didn't say the pavilion--I'm not sure about the pavilion--but
in the Chartreuse--"
"In the Chartreuse, are you sure?"
"Oh! there, certainly."
"Have you seen them?"
"I haven't; but some folks have."
"Has your comrade?" asked the young officer, turning to the second
"I haven't seen them; but I did see flames, and Claude Philippon
"Ah! so they have flames and chains?" said Roland.
"Yes," replied the first peasant, "for I have seen the flames
"And Claude Philippon on heard the chains," repeated the other.
"Very good, my friends, very good," replied Roland, sneering;
"so you won't go there to-night at any price?"
"Not at any price."
"Not for all the gold in the world."
"And you'll go to-morrow when it's light?"
"Oh! Monsieur Louis, before you're up the boar will be here."
"Before you're up," said Echo.
"All right," said Roland. "Come back to me the day after tomorrow."
"Willingly, Monsieur Louis. What do you want us to do?"
"Never mind; just come."
"Oh! we'll come."
"That means that the moment you say, 'Come,' you can count upon
us, Monsieur Louis."
"Well, then I'll have some information for you."
Amélie gave a stifled cry; Madame de Montrevel alone heard it.
Louis dismissed the two peasants, and they jostled each other
at the door in their efforts to go through together.
Nothing more was said that evening about the Chartreuse or the
pavilion, nor of its supernatural tenants, spectres or phantoms
who haunted them.
THE STRONG-MINDED MAN
At ten o'clock everyone was in bed at the Château des
Noires-Fontaines, or, at any rate, all had retired to their rooms.
Three or four times in the course of the evening Amélie had
approached Roland as if she had something to say to him; but
each time the words died upon her lips. When the family left
the salon, she had taken his arm, and, although his room was
on the floor above hers, she had accompanied him to his very
door. Roland had kissed her, bade her good-night, and closed
his door, declaring himself very tired.
Nevertheless, in spite of this assertion, Roland, once alone,
did not proceed to undress. He went to his collection of arms,
selected a pair of magnificent pistols, manufactured at Versailles,
and presented to his father by the Convention. He snapped the
triggers, and blew into the barrels to see that there were no
old charges in them. They were in excellent condition. After
which he laid them side by side on the table; then going to the
door, looking out upon the stairs, he opened it softly to see if
any one were watching. Finding the corridor and stairs empty,
he went to Sir John's door and knocked.
"Come in," said the Englishman. Sir John, like himself, was not
prepared for bed.
"I guessed from the sign you made me that you had something to
say to me," said Sir John, "so I waited for you, as you see."
"Indeed, I have something to say to you," returned Roland, seating
himself gayly in an armchair.
"My kind host," replied the Englishman, "I am beginning to understand
you. When I see you as gay as you are now, I am like your peasants,
I feel afraid."
"Did you hear what they were saying?"
"I heard them tell a splendid ghost story. I, myself, have a haunted
castle in England."
"Have you ever seen the ghosts, my lord?"
"Yes, when I was little. Unfortunately, since I have grown up
they have disappeared."
"That's always the way with ghosts," said Roland gayly; "they
come and go. How lucky it is that I should return just as the
ghosts have begun to haunt the Chartreuse of Seillon."
"Yes," replied Sir John, "very lucky. Only are you sure that there
are any there?"
"No. But I'll know by the day after to-morrow."
"I intend to spend to-morrow night there."
"Oh!" said the Englishmen, "would you like to have me go with
"With pleasure, my lord. Only, unfortunately, that is impossible."
"As I have just told you, my dear fellow."
"But why impossible?"
"Are you acquainted with the manners and customs of ghosts, Sir
John?" asked Roland gravely.
"Well, I am. Ghosts only show themselves under certain conditions."
"Well, for example, in Italy, my lord, and in Spain, the most
superstitious of countries, there are no ghosts, or if there
are, why, at the best, it's only once in ten or twenty years,
or maybe in a century."
"And to what do you attribute their absence?"
"To the absence of fogs."
"Not a doubt of it. You understand the native atmosphere of ghosts
is fog. Scotland, Denmark and England, regions of fog, are overrun
with ghosts. There's the spectre of Hamlet, then that of Banquo,
the shadows of Richard III. Italy has only one spectre, Cæsar,
and then where did he appear to Brutus? At Philippi, in Macedonia
and in Thessaly, the Denmark of Greece, the Scotland of the Orient;
where the fog made Ovid so melancholy he named the odes he wrote
there Tristia. Why did Virgil make the ghost of Anchises appear
to Eneas? Because he came from Mantua. Do you know Mantua? A
marsh, a frog-pond, a regular manufactory of rheumatism, an
atmosphere of vapors, and consequently a nest of phantoms."
"Go on, I'm listening to you."
"Have you seen the Rhine?"
"Germany, isn't it?"
"Still another country of fairies, water sprites, sylphs, and
consequently phantoms ('for whoso does the greater see, can see
the less'), and all that on account of the fog. But where the
devil can the ghosts hide in Italy and Spain? Not the least bit
of mist. And, therefore, were I in Spain or Italy I should never
attempt to-morrow's adventure."
"But all that doesn't explain why you refuse my company," insisted
"Wait a moment. I've just explained to you that ghosts don't
venture into certain countries, because they do not offer certain
atmospheric conditions. Now, let me explain the precautions we
must take if we wish to see them."
"Explain! explain!" said Sir John, "I would rather hear you talk
than any other man, Roland."
And Sir John, stretching himself out in his easy-chair, prepared
to listen with delight to the improvisations of this fantastic
mind, which he had seen under so many aspects during the few
days of their acquaintance.
Roland bowed his head by way of thanks.
"Well, this is the way of it, and you will grasp it readily enough.
I have heard so much about ghosts in my life that I know the
scamps as if I had made them. Why do ghosts appear?"
"Are you asking me that?" inquired Sir John.
"Yes, I ask you."
"I own that, not having studied ghosts as you have, I am unable
to give you a definitive answer."
"You see! Ghosts show themselves, my dear fellow, in order to
frighten those who see them."
"That is undeniable."
"Of course! Now, if they don't frighten those to whom they appear,
they are frightened by them; witness M. de Turenne, whose ghosts
proved to be counterfeiters. Do you know that story?"
"I'll tell it to you some day; don't let's get mixed up. That
is just why, when they decide to appear--which is seldom--ghosts
select stormy nights, when it thunders, lightens and blows; that's
"I am forced to admit that nothing could be more correct."
"Wait a moment! There are instances when the bravest man feels
a shudder run through his veins. Even before I was suffering
with this aneurism it has happened to me a dozen times, when I
have seen the flash of sabres and heard the thunder of cannon
around me. It is true that since I have been subject to this
aneurism I rush where the lightning flashes and the thunder growls.
Still there is the chance that these ghosts don't know this and
believe that I can be frightened."
"Whereas that is an impossibility, isn't it?" asked Sir John.
"What will you! When, right or wrong, one feels that, far from
dreading death, one has every reason to seek it, what should
he fear? But I repeat, these ghosts, who know so much, may not
know that only ghosts know this; they know that the sense of
fear increases or diminishes according to the seeing and hearing
of exterior things. Thus, for example, where do phantoms prefer
to appear? In dark places, cemeteries, old cloisters, ruins,
subterranean passages, because the aspect of these localities
predisposes the soul to fear. What precedes their appearance?
The rattling of chains, groans, sighs, because there is nothing
very cheerful in all that? They are careful not to appear in
the bright light, or after a strain of dance music. No, fear
is an abyss into which you descend step by step, until you are
overcome by vertigo; your feet slip, and you plunge with closed
eyes to the bottom of the precipice. Now, if you read the accounts
of all these apparitions, you'll find they all proceed like this:
First the sky darkens, the thunder growls, the wind howls, doors
and windows rattle, the lamp--if there is a lamp in the room of
the person the ghosts are trying to frighten--the lamp flares,
flickers and goes out--utter darkness! Then, in the darkness,
groans, wails and the rattling of chains are heard; then, at
last, the door opens and the ghost appears. I must say that all
the apparitions that I have not seen but read about have presented
themselves under similar circumstances. Isn't that so, Sir John?"
"And did you ever hear of a ghost appearing to two persons at
the same time?"
"I certainly never did hear of it."
"It's quite simple, my dear fellow. Two together, you understand,
have no fear. Fear is something mysterious, strange, independent
of the will, requiring isolation, darkness and solitude. A ghost
is no more dangerous than a cannon ball. Well, a soldier never
fears a cannon ball in the daytime, when his elbows touch a comrade
to the right and left. No, he goes straight for the battery and
is either killed or he kills. That's not what the phantoms want.
That's why they never appear to two persons at the same time,
and that is the reason I want to go to the Chartreuse alone,
my lord. Your presence would prevent the boldest ghost from
appearing. If I see nothing, or if I see something worth the
trouble, you can have your turn the next day. Does the bargain
"Perfectly! But why can't I take the first night?"
"Ah! first, because the idea didn't occur to you, and it is only
just that I should benefit by my own cleverness. Besides, I belong
to the region; I was friendly with the good monks in their lifetime,
and there may be a chance of their appearing to me after death.
Moreover, as I know the localities, if it becomes necessary to
run away or pursue I can do it better than you. Don't you see
the justice of that, my dear fellow?"
"Yes, it couldn't be fairer; but I am sure of going the next night."
"The next night, and the one after, and every day and night if
you wish; I only hold to the first. Now," continued Roland rising,
"this is between ourselves, isn't it? Not a word to any one.
The ghosts might be forewarned and act accordingly. It would
never do to let those gay dogs get the best of us; that would
be too grotesque."
"Oh, be easy about that. You will go armed, won't you?"
"If I thought I was only dealing with ghosts, I'd go with my
hands in my pockets and nothing in my fobs. But, as I told you,
M. de Turenne's ghosts were counterfeiters, so I shall take my
"Do you want mine?"
"No, thanks. Though yours are good, I am about resolved never
to use them again." Then, with a smile whose bitterness it would
be impossible to describe, he added: "They brought me ill-luck.
Good-night! Sir John. I must sleep soundly to-night, so as not
to want to sleep to-morrow night."
Then, shaking the Englishman's hand vigorously a second time,
he left the room and returned to his own. There he was greatly
surprised to find the door, which he was sure he had left closed,
open. But as soon as he entered, the sight of his sister explained
the matter to him.
"Hello!" he exclaimed, partly astonished, partly uneasy; "is that
"Yes, it is I," she said. Then, going close to her brother, and
letting him kiss her forehead, she added in a supplicating voice:
"You won't go, will you, dear Roland?"
"Go where?" asked Roland.
"To the Chartreuse."
"Good! Who told you that?"
"Oh! for one who knows, how difficult it is to guess!"
"And why don't you want me to go to the Chartreuse?"
"I'm afraid something might happen to you."
"What! So you believe in ghosts, do you?" he asked, looking fixedly
into Amélie's eyes.
Amélie lowered her glance, and Roland felt his sister's hand tremble
"Come," said Roland; "Amélie, at least the one I used to know,
General de Montrevel's daughter and Roland's sister, is too
intelligent to yield to these vulgar terrors. It's impossible
that you can believe these tales of apparitions, chains, flames,
spectres, and phantoms."
"If I did believe them, Roland, I should not be so alarmed. If
ghosts do exist, they must be souls without bodies, and consequently
cannot bring their material hatred from the grave. Besides, why
should a ghost hate you, Roland; you, who never harmed any one?"
"Good! You forget all those I have killed in war or in duels."
Amélie shook her head. "I'm not afraid of them."
"Then what are you afraid of?"
The young girl raised her beautiful eyes, wet with tears, to
Roland, and threw herself in his arms, saying: "I don't know,
Roland. But I can't help it, I am afraid."
The young man raised her head, which she was hiding in his breast,
with gentle force, and said, kissing her eyelids softly and tenderly:
"You don't believe I shall have ghosts to fight with to-morrow,
"Oh, brother, don't go to the Chartreuse!" cried Amélie, eluding
"Mother told you to say this to me, didn't she?"
"Oh, no, brother! Mother said nothing to me. It is I who guessed
that you intended to go."
"Well, if I want to go," replied Roland firmly, "you ought to
know, Amélie, that I shall go."
"Even if I beseech you on my knees, brother?" cried Amélie in
a tone of anguish, slipping down to her brother's feet; "even
if I beseech you on my knees?"
"Oh! women! women!" murmured Roland, "inexplicable creatures,
whose words are all mystery, whose lips never tell the real secrets
of their hearts, who weep, and pray, and tremble--why? God knows,
but man, never! I shall go, Amélie, because I have resolved to
go; and when once I have taken a resolution no power on earth
can make me change it. Now kiss me and don't be frightened, and
I will tell you a secret."
Amélie raised her head, and gazed questioningly, despairingly,
"I have known for more than a year," replied the young man, "that
I have the misfortune not to be able to die. So reassure yourself,
and don't be afraid."
Roland uttered these words so dolefully that Amélie, who had,
until then, kept her emotion under control, left the room sobbing.
The young officer, after assuring himself that her door was closed,
shut his, murmuring: "We'll see who will weary first, Fate or I."
The next evening, at about the same hour, the young officer,
after convincing himself that every one in the Château des
Noires-Fontaines had gone to bed, opened his door softly, went
downstairs holding his breath, reached the vestibule, slid back
the bolts of the outer door noiselessly, and turned round to
make sure that all was quiet. Reassured by the darkened windows,
he boldly opened the iron gate. The hinges had probably been
oiled that day, for they turned without grating, and closed as
noiselessly as they had opened behind Roland, who walked rapidly
in the direction of Pont d'Ain at Bourg.
He had hardly gone a hundred yards before the clock at Saint-Just
struck once; that of Montagnac answered like a bronze echo. It
was half-past ten o'clock. At the pace the young man was walking
he needed only twenty minutes to reach the Chartreuse; especially
if, instead of skirting the woods, he took the path that led direct
to the monastery. Roland was too familiar from youth with every
nook of the forest of Seillon to needlessly lengthen his walk
ten minutes. He therefore turned unhesitatingly into the forest,
coming out on the other side in about five minutes. Once there,
he had only to cross a bit of open ground to reach the orchard
wall of the convent. This took barely another five minutes.
At the foot of the wall he stopped, but only for a few seconds.
He unhooked his cloak, rolled it into a ball, and tossed it over
the wall. The cloak off, he stood in a velvet coat, white leather
breeches, and top-boots. The coat was fastened round the waist
by a belt in which were a pair of pistols. A broad-brimmed hat
covered his head and shaded his face.
With the same rapidity with which he had removed his garment
that might have hindered his climbing the wall, he began to scale
it. His foot readily found a chink between the stones; he sprang
up, seizing the coping, and was on the other side without even
touching the top of the wall over which he bounded. He picked
up his cloak, threw it over his shoulder, hooked it, and crossed
the orchard to a little door communicating with the cloister.
The clock struck eleven as he passed through it. Roland stopped,
counted the strokes, and slowly walked around the cloister, looking
He saw nothing and heard no noise. The monastery was the picture
of desolation and solitude; the doors were all open, those of
the cells, the chapel, and the refectory. In the refectory, a
vast hall where the tables still stood in their places, Roland
noticed five or six bats circling around; a frightened owl flew
through a broken casement, and perched upon a tree close by,
"Good!" said Roland, aloud; "I'll make my headquarters here; bats
and owls are the vanguards of ghosts."
The sound of that human voice, lifted in the midst of this solitude,
darkness and desolation, had something so uncanny, so lugubrious
about it, that it would have caused even the speaker to shudder,
had not Roland, as he himself said, been inaccessible to fear. He
looked about for a place from which he could command the entire
hall. An isolated table, placed on a sort of stage at one end of
the refectory, which had no doubt been used by the superior of
the convent to take his food apart from the monks, to read from
pious books during the repast, seemed to Roland best adapted to
his needs. Here, backed by the wall, he could not be surprised
from behind, and, once his eye grew accustomed to the darkness,
he could survey every part of the hall. He looked for a seat,
and found an overturned stool about three feet from the table,
probably the one occupied by the reader or the person dining
there in solitude.
Roland sat down at the table, loosened his cloak to insure greater
freedom of movement, took his pistols from his belt, laid one
on the table, and striking three blows with the butt-end of the
other, he said, in a loud voice: "The meeting is open; the ghosts
Those who have passed through churches and cemeteries at night have
often experienced, without analyzing it, the supreme necessity of
speaking low and reverently which attaches to certain localities.
Only such persons can understand the strange impression produced
on any one who heard it by that curt, mocking voice which now
disturbed the solitude and the shadows. It vibrated an instant
in the darkness, which seemed to quiver with it; then it slowly
died away without an echo, escaping by all the many openings made
by the wings of time.
As he had expected, Roland's eyes had accustomed themselves to
the darkness, and now, by the pale light of the rising moon,
whose long, white rays penetrated the refectory through the broken
windows, he could see distinctly from one end to the other of
the vast apartment. Although Roland was as evidently without
fear internally as externally, he was not without distrust, and
his ear caught the slightest sounds.
He heard the half-hour strike. In spite of himself the sound
startled him, for it came from the bell of the convent. How was
it that, in this ruin where all was dead, a clock, the pulse of
time, was living?
"Oh! oh!" said Roland; "that proves that I shall see something."
The words were spoken almost in an aside. The majesty of the
place and the silence acted upon that heart of iron, firm as
the iron that had just tolled the call of time upon eternity.