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The Companions of Jehu by Alexandre Dumas

Part 8 out of 14

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"Are you quite restored, madame, or should you like a few minutes
more to rest?" asked Morgan. "The diligence shall wait."

"No, that is quite unnecessary; I feel quite well, and am much
indebted to you."

Morgan offered Madame de Montrevel his arm, and she leaned upon
it to reach the diligence. The conductor had already placed little
Edouard inside. When Madame de Montrevel had resumed her seat,
Morgan, who had already made his peace with the mother, wished
to do so with the son.

"Without a grudge, my young hero," he said, offering his hand.

But the boy drew back.

"I don't give my hand to a highway robber," he replied. Madame
de Montrevel gave a start of terror.

"You have a charming boy, madame," said Morgan; "only he has his
prejudices." Then, bowing with the utmost courtesy, he added,
"A prosperous voyage, madame," and closed the door.

"Forward!" cried the conductor.

The carriage gave a lurch.

"Oh! pardon me, sir!" exclaimed Madame de Montrevel; "your flask!"

"Keep it, madame," said Morgan; "although I trust you are
sufficiently recovered not to need it."

But Edouard, snatching the flask from his mother's hands, flung
it out of the window, crying: "Mamma doesn't receive presents
from robbers."

"The devil!" murmured Morgan, with the first sigh his Companions
had ever heard him give. "I think I am right not to ask for my
poor Amélie in marriage." Then, turning to his Companions, he
said: "Well, gentlemen, is it finished?"

"Yes," they answered with one voice.

"Then let us mount and be off. Don't forget we have to be at the
Opera at nine o'clock this evening."

Springing into his saddle, he was the first to jump the ditch,
reach the river, and there unhesitatingly took the ford which
the pretended courier had pointed out on Cassini's map.

When he reached the opposite bank, followed by the other young
men, d'Assas said to him: "Say, didn't your mask falloff?"

"Yes; but no one saw my face but Madame de Montrevel."

"Hum!" muttered d'Assas. "Better no one had seen it."

Putting their horses to a gallop, all four disappeared across
the fields in the direction of Chacource.



On arriving the next day, toward eleven in the morning, at the
Hôtel des Ambassadeurs, Madame de Montrevel was astonished to
find, instead of Roland, a stranger awaiting her. The stranger
approached her.

"Are you the widow of General de Montrevel, madame?" he asked.

"Yes, monsieur," replied Madame de Montrevel, not a little

"And you are looking for your son?"

"Yes; and I do not understand, after the letter he wrote me--"

"Man proposes, the First Consul disposes," replied the stranger,
laughing. "The First Consul has disposed of your son for a few
days, and has sent me to receive you in his stead."

Madame de Montrevel bowed.

"To whom have I the honor of speaking?" she asked.

"To citizen Fauvelet de Bourrienne, his first secretary," replied
the stranger.

"Will you thank the First Consul for me," replied Madame de
Montrevel, "and have the kindness to express to him the profound
regret I feel at not being able to do so myself?"

"But nothing can be more easy, madame."

"How so?"

"The First Consul has ordered me to bring you to the Luxembourg."


"You and your son."

"Oh! I am going to see General Bonaparte; I am going to see General
Bonaparte!" cried the child, jumping for joy and clapping his
hands. "What happiness!"

"Edouard, Edouard!" exclaimed Madame de Montrevel. Then, turning
to Bourrienne, "You must excuse him, sir; he is a little savage
from the Jura Mountains."

Bourrienne held out his hand to the boy.

"I am a friend of your brother's," said he. "Will you kiss me?"

"Oh! willingly, sir," replied Edouard. "You are not a thief, I know."

"Why, no; I trust not," replied the secretary, laughing.

"You must excuse him once again, sir. Our diligence was stopped
on the way."



"By robbers?"

"Not exactly."

"Monsieur," asked Edouard, "when people take other people's money,
are they not thieves?"

"That is what they are generally called, my dear child."

"There, you see, mamma."

"Come, Edouard, be quiet, I beg of you."

Bourrienne glanced at Madame de Montrevel, and saw clearly from
the expression of her face that the subject was disagreeable
to her; he therefore dropped it.

"Madame," said he, "may I remind you that I have I orders to
take you to the Luxembourg, and to add that Madame Bonaparte is
expecting you?"

"Pray give me time to change my gown and to dress Edouard, sir."

"How long will that take, madame?"

"Is half an hour too much to ask?"

"No, indeed; if half an hour really suffices I shall think you
most reasonable."

"Be easy, sir; it will be sufficient."

"Well, madame," said the secretary, bowing, "I will attend to
an errand, and return in half an hour to place myself at your

"Thank you, sir."

"Don't be annoyed if I should be punctual."

"I shall not keep you waiting."

Bourrienne left. Madame de Montrevel dressed Edouard first, then
herself, and was ready five minutes before Bourrienne reappeared.

"Take care, madame," said Bourrienne laughing, "lest I tell the
First Consul of your extreme punctuality."

"What should I have to fear if you did?"

"He would keep you near him to give lessons in punctuality to
Madame Bonaparte."

"Oh!" exclaimed Madame de Montrevel, "you must forgive unpunctuality
in a Creole."

"But I believe you are a Creole also, madame."

"Madame Bonaparte sees her husband every day," said Madame de
Montrevel, laughing, "whereas I am to see the First Consul for
the first time."

"Come, mother, let us go!" said Edouard.

The secretary drew aside to allow Madame de Montrevel to pass
out. Fifteen minutes later they had reached the Luxembourg.

Bonaparte occupied the suite of rooms on the ground floor to
the right. Josephine's chamber and boudoir were on the first
floor; a stairway led from the First Consul's study to her room.

She was expecting Madame de Montrevel, for as soon as she saw
her she opened her arms as to a friend. Madame de Montrevel had
stopped respectfully at the door.

"Oh! come in, come in, madame!" said Josephine. "To-day is not
the first that I know you; I have long known you through your
excellent son, Roland. Shall I tell you what comforts me when
Bonaparte leaves me? It is that Roland goes with him; for I fancy
that, so long as Roland is with him, no harm will befall him.
Well, won't you kiss me?"

Madame de Montrevel was confused by so much kindness.

"We are compatriots, you know," continued Josephine. "Oh! how
well I remember M. de la Clémencière, and his beautiful gardens
with the splendid fruit. I remember having seen a young girl who
seemed its queen. You must have married very young, madame?"

"At fourteen."

"Yes, you could not have been older to have a son of Roland's
age. But pray sit down."

She led the way, making a sign to Madame de Montrevel to sit beside

"And that charming boy," she said, pointing to Edouard, "is he
also your son?" And she gave a sigh. "God has been prodigal to
you, madame, and as He has given you all you can desire, will
you not implore Him to send me a son."

She pressed her lips enviously to Edouard's forehead.

"My husband will be delighted to see you, he is so fond of your
son, madame! You would not have been brought to me in the first
instance, if he were not engaged with the minister of police.
For that matter," she added, laughing, "you have arrived at an
unfortunate moment; he is furious!"

"Oh!" cried Madame de Montrevel, frightened; "if that is so, I
would rather wait."

"No, no! On the contrary, the sight of you will calm him. I don't
know just what is the matter; but it seems a diligence was stopped
on the outskirts of the Black Forest in broad daylight. Fouché
will find his credit in danger if the thing goes on."

Madame de Montrevel was about to answer when the door opened and
an usher appeared.

"The First Consul awaits Madame de Montrevel," he said.

"Go," said Josephine; "Bonaparte's time is so precious that he
is almost as impatient as Louis XV., who had nothing to do. He
does not like to wait."

Madame de Montrevel rose hastily and turned to take Edouard with her.

"No," said Josephine; "leave this beautiful boy with me. You will
stay and dine with us, and Bonaparte can see him then. Besides,
if my husband takes a fancy to see him, he can send for him.
For the time, I am his second mamma. Come, what shall we do to
amuse ourselves?"

"The First Consul must have a fine lot of weapons, madame," replied
the boy.

"Yes, very fine ones. Well, I will show you the First Consul's arms."

Josephine, leading the child, went out of one door, and Madame
de Montrevel followed the usher through the other.

On the way the countess met a fair man, with a pale face and
haggard eye, who looked at her with an uneasiness that seemed
habitual to him. She drew hastily aside to let him pass. The
usher noticed her movement.

"That is the minister of police," he said in a low voice. Madame de
Montrevel watched him as he disappeared, with a certain curiosity.
Fouché was already at that time fatally celebrated. Just then the
door of Bonaparte's study opened and his head was seen through
the aperture. He caught sight of Madame de Montrevel.

"Come in, madame," he said; "come in."

Madame de Montrevel hastened her steps and entered the study.

"Come in," said Bonaparte, closing the door himself. "I have
kept you waiting much against my will; but I had to give Fouché
a scolding. You know I am very well satisfied with Roland, and
that I intend to make a general of him at the first opportunity.
When did you arrive?"

"This very moment, general."

"Where from? Roland told me, but I have forgotten."

"From Bourg."

"What road?"

"Through Champagne."

"Champagne! Then when did you reach Châtillon?"

"Yesterday morning at nine o'clock."

"In that case, you must have heard of the stoppage of the diligence."


"Yes, a diligence was stopped at ten in the morning, between
Châtillon and Bar-sur-Seine."

"General, it was ours."



"You were in the diligence that was stopped?"

"I was."

"Ah! now I shall get the exact details! Excuse me, but you understand
my desire for correct information, don't you? In a civilized
country which has General Bonaparte for its chief magistrate,
diligences can't be stopped in broad daylight on the highroads
with impunity, or--"

"General, I can tell you nothing, except that those who stopped
it were on horseback and masked."

"How many were there?"


"How many men were there in the diligence?"

"Four, including the conductor."

"And they didn't defend themselves?"

"No, general."

"The police report says, however, that two shots were fired."

"Yes, general, but those two shots--"


"Were fired by my son."

"Your son? Why, he is in Vendée!"

"Roland, yes; but Edouard was with me."

"Edouard! Who is Edouard?"

"Roland's brother."

"True, he spoke of him; but he is only a child."

"He is not yet twelve, general."

"And it was he who fired the two shots?"

"Yes, general."

"Why didn't you bring him with you?"

"I did."

"Where is he?"

"I left him with Madame Bonaparte."

Bonaparte rang, and an usher appeared.

"Tell Josephine to bring the boy to me." Then, walking up and
down his study, he muttered, "Four men! And a child taught them
courage! Were any of the robbers wounded?"

"There were no balls in the pistols."

"What I no balls?"

"No; they belonged to the conductor, and he had taken the precaution
to load them with powder only."

"Very good; his name shall be known."

Just then the door opened, and Madame Bonaparte entered, leading
the boy by the hand.

"Come here," Bonaparte said to him.

Edouard went up to him without hesitation and made a military salute.

"So you fired at the robbers twice, did you?"

"There, you see, mamma, they were robbers!" interrupted the child.

"Of course they were robbers; I should like to hear any one declare
they were not! Was it you who fired at them, when the men were

"Yes, it was I, general. But unfortunately that coward of a conductor
had loaded his pistols only with powder; otherwise I should have
killed their leader."

"Then you were not afraid?"

"I?" replied the boy. "No, I am never afraid."

"You ought to be named Cornelia, madame," exclaimed Bonaparte,
turning to Madame de Montrevel, who was leaning on Josephine's
arm. Then he said to the child, kissing him: "Very good; we will
take care of you. What would you like to be?"

"Soldier first."

"What do you mean by first?"

"Why, first a soldier, then later a colonel like my brother, and
then a general like my father."

"It won't be my fault if you are not," answered the First Consul.

"Nor mine," retorted the boy.

"Edouard!" exclaimed Madame de Montrevel, timidly.

"Now don't scold him for answering properly;" and Bonaparte, lifting
the child to the level of his face, kissed him.

"You must dine with us," said he, "and to-night Bourrienne, who
met you at the hotel, will install you in the Rue de la Victoire.
You must stay there till Roland gets back; he will then find
you suitable lodgings. Edouard shall go to the Prytanée, and I
will marry off your daughter."


"That's all settled with Roland." Then, turning to Josephine,
he said: "Take Madame de Montrevel with you, and try not to let
her be bored.--And, Madame de Montrevel, if _your friend_
(he emphasized the words) wishes to go to a milliner, prevent
it; she can't want bonnets, for she bought thirty-eight last

Then, giving Edouard a friendly tap, he dismissed the two women
with a wave of the hand.



We have said that at the very moment when Morgan and his three
companions stopped the Geneva diligence between Bar-sur-Seine
and Châtillon, Roland was entering Nantes.

If we are to know the result of his mission we must not grope
our way, step by step, through the darkness in which the Abbé
Bernier wrapped his ambitious projects, but we must join him
later at the village of Muzillac, between Ambon and Guernic, six
miles above the little bay into which the Vilaine River falls.

There we find ourselves in the heart of the Morbihan; that is
to say, in the region that gave birth to the Chouannerie. It
was close to Laval, on the little farm of the Poiriers, that the
four Chouan brothers were born to Pierre Cottereau and Jeanne
Moyné. One of their ancestors, a misanthropical woodcutter, a
morose peasant, kept himself aloof from the other peasants as
the _chat-huant_ (screech-owl) keeps aloof from the other
birds; hence the name Chouan, a corruption of _chat-huant_.

The name became that of a party. On the right bank of the Loire
they said Chouans when they meant Bretons, just as on the left
bank they said brigands when they meant Vendéans.

It is not for us to relate the death and destruction of that
heroic family, nor follow to the scaffold the two sisters and a
brother, nor tell of battlefields where Jean and René, martyrs
to their faith, lay dying or dead. Many years have elapsed since
the executions of Perrine, René and Pierre, and the death of Jean;
and the martyrdom of the sisters, the exploits of the brothers
have passed into legends. We have now to do with their successors.

It is true that these gars (lads) are faithful to their traditions.
As they fought beside la Rouërie, Bois-Hardy and Bernard de
Villeneuve, so did they fight beside Bourmont, Frotté, and Georges
Cadoudal. Theirs was always the same courage, the same devotion--that
of the Christian soldier, the faithful royalist. Their aspect is
always the same, rough and savage; their weapons, the same gun
or cudgel, called in those parts a "ferte." Their garments are
the same; a brown woollen cap, or a broad-brimmed hat scarcely
covering the long straight hair that fell in tangles on their
shoulders, the old _Aulerci Cenomani_, as in Cæsar's day,
_promisso capillo_; they are the same Bretons with wide
breeches of whom Martial said:

_Tam laxa est..._
_Quam veteres braccoe Britonis pauperis._

To protect themselves from rain and cold they wore goatskin garments,
made with the long hair turned outside; on the breasts of which,
as countersign, some wore a scapulary and chaplet, others a heart,
the heart of Jesus; this latter was the distinctive sign of a
fraternity which withdrew apart each day for common prayer.

Such were the men, who, at the time we are crossing the borderland
between the Loire-Inférieure and Morbihan, were scattered from
La Roche-Bernard to Vannes, and from Quertemberg to Billiers,
surrounding consequently the village of Muzillac.

But it needed the eye of the eagle soaring in the clouds, or
that of the screech-owl piercing the darkness, to distinguish
these men among the gorse and heather and underbrush where they
were crouching.

Let us pass through this network of invisible sentinels, and
after fording two streams, the affluents of a nameless river
which flows into the sea near Billiers, between Arzal and Dangau,
let us boldly enter the village of Muzillac.

All is still and sombre; a single light shines through the blinds
of a house, or rather a cottage, which nothing distinguishes
from its fellows. It is the fourth to the right on entering the

Let us put our eye to one of these chinks and look in.

We see a man dressed like the rich peasants of Morbihan, except
that gold lace about a finger wide stripes the collar and buttonholes
of his coat and also the edges of his hat. The rest of his dress
consists of leathern trousers and high-topped boots. His sword
is thrown upon a chair. A brace of pistols lies within reach
of his hand. Within the fireplace the barrels of two or three
muskets reflect the light of a blazing fire.

The man is seated before a table; a lamp lights some papers which
he is reading with great attention, and illuminates his face at
the same time.

The face is that of a man of thirty. When the cares of a partisan
warfare do not darken it, its expression must surely be frank and
joyous. Beautiful blond hair frames it; great blue eyes enliven
it; the head, of a shape peculiarly Breton, seems to show, if
we believe in Gall's system, an exaggerated development of the
organs of self-will. And the man has two names. That by which he
is known to his soldiers, his familiar name, is Round-head; and
his real name, received from brave and worthy parents, Georges
Cadudal, or rather Cadoudal, tradition having changed the orthography
of a name that is now historic.

Georges was the son of a farmer of the parish of Kerléano in
the commune of Brech. The story goes that this farmer was once a
miller. Georges had just received at the college of Vannes--distant
only a few leagues from Brech--a good and solid education when the
first appeals for a royalist insurrection were made in Vendée.
Cadoudal listened to them, gathered together a number of his
companions, and offered his services to Stofflet. But Stofflet
insisted on seeing him at work before he accepted him. Georges
asked nothing better. Such occasions were not long to seek in
the Vendéan army. On the next day there was a battle; Georges
went into it with such determination and made so desperate a rush
that M. de Maulevrier's former huntsman, on seeing him charge
the Blues, could not refrain from saying aloud to Bonchamp, who
was near him:

"If a cannon ball doesn't take off that _Big Round Head_,
it will roll far, I warrant you."

The name clung to Cadoudal--a name by which, five centuries earlier,
the lords of Malestroit, Penhoël, Beaumanoir and Rochefort designated
the great Constable, whose ransom was spun by the women of Brittany.

"There's the Big Round Head," said they; "now we'll exchange some
good sword-play with the English."

Unfortunately, at this time it was not Breton sword-thrusts against
English, but Frenchmen against Frenchmen.

Georges remained in Vendée until after the defeat of Savenay.
The whole Vendéan army was either left upon the battlefield or
vanished in smoke. For three years, Georges had performed prodigies
of valor, strength and dexterity; he now crossed the Loire and
re-entered Morbihan with only one man left of all who had followed

That man became his aide-de-camp, or rather his brother-in-arms.
He never left him, and in memory of the hard campaign they had
made together he changed his name from Lemercier to Tiffauges. We
have seen him at the ball of the Victims charged with a message
to Morgan.

As soon as Cadoudal returned to his own part of the country, he
fomented insurrection on his own responsibility. Bullets respected
that big round head, and the big round head justified Stofflet's
prediction. He succeeded La Rochejacquelin, d'Elbée, Bonchamp,
Lescure, even Stofflet himself, and became their rival for fame,
their superior in power; for it happened (and this will give
an idea of his strength) that Cadoudal, almost single-handed,
had been able to resist the government of Bonaparte, who had
been First Consul for the last three months. The two leaders
who continued with him, faithful to the Bourbon dynasty, were
Frotté and Bourmont.

At the time of which we are now speaking, that is to say, the
26th of January, 1800, Cadoudal commanded three or four thousand
men with whom he was preparing to blockade General Hatry in Vannes.

During the time that he awaited the First Consul's answer to the
letter of Louis XVIII. he had suspended hostilities; but Tiffauges
had arrived a couple of days before with it.

That letter was already on the way to England, whence it would be
sent to Mittau; and since the First Consul would not accept peace
on the terms dictated by Louis XVIII., Cadoudal, commander-in-chief
of Louis XVIII. in the West, renewed his warfare against Bonaparte,
intending to carry it on alone, if necessary, with his friend
Tiffauges. For the rest, the latter was at Pouancé, where conferences
were being held between Châtillon, d'Autichamp, the Abbé Bernier,
and General Hédouville.

He was reflecting--this last survivor of the great warriors of
the civil war--and the news he had just received was indeed a
matter for deep reflection.

General Brune, the conqueror of Alkmaar and Castricum, the savior
of Holland, had just been appointed to the command of the Republican
forces in the West. He had reached Nantes three days previous,
intending, at any cost, to annihilate Cadoudal and his Chouans.

At any cost, therefore, Cadoudal and his Chouans must prove to
the commander-in-chief that they knew no fear, and had nothing
to expect from intimidation.

Just then the gallop of a horse was heard; the rider no doubt
had the countersign, for he passed without difficulty the various
patrols stationed along the toad to La Roche-Bernard, and entered
the village of Muzillac, also without difficulty.

He stopped before the door of the cottage in which Georges was
sitting. The latter raised his head, listened, and, by way of
precaution, laid his hands on his pistols, though it was probable
that the new-comer was a friend.

The rider dismounted, strode up the path, and opened the door
of the room where Georges was waiting.

"Ah! it's you, Coeur-de-Roi," said Cadoudal. "Where do you come

"From Pouancé, general."

"What news?"

"A letter from Tiffauges."

"Give it to me."

Georges snatched the letter hastily from Coeur-de-Roi's hand and
read it.

"Ah!" he exclaimed.

Then he read it a second time,

"Have you seen the man whose coming he speaks of?" inquired Cadoudal.

"Yes, general," replied the courier.

"What sort of a man is he?"

"A handsome young fellow of twenty-six or seven."

"What manner?"


"That's it. When does he arrive?"

"Probably to-night."

"Did you safe-guard him along the road?"

"Yes; he'll come safely."

"Do it again. Nothing must happen to him; he is protected by Morgan."

"That's understood, general."

"Anything more to say?"

"The advanced guard of the Republicans has reached La Roche-Bernard."

"How many men?"

"About a thousand. They have a guillotine with them, and the
commissioner of the executive power, Millière."

"Are you sure?"

"I met them on the road. The commissioner was riding near the
colonel, and I recognized him perfectly. He executed my brother,
and I have sworn he shall die by my own hand."

"And you'll risk your life to keep your oath?"

"At the first opportunity."

"Perhaps it won't be long coming."

The gallop of a horse echoed through the street.

"Ah!" said Coeur-de-Roi, "that is probably the man you expect."

"No," replied Cadoudal, "this rider comes from the direction of

The sound became more distinct, and it proved that Cadoudal was right.

The second horseman, like the first, halted at the gate, dismounted,
and came into the room. The royalist leader recognized him at
once, in spite of the large cloak in which he was wrapped.

"Is it you, Bénédicité?" he asked.

"Yes, general."

"Where do you come from?"

"From Vannes, where you sent me to watch the Blues.

"Well, what are the Blues doing?"

"Scaring themselves about dying of hunger if you blockade the
town. In order to procure provisions General Hatry intends to
carry off the supplies at Grandchamp. The general is to command
the raid in person; and, to act more quickly, only a hundred
men are to go."

"Are you tired, Bénédicité?"

"Never, general."

"And your horse?"

"He came fast, but he can do twelve or fifteen miles more without
killing himself."

"Give him two hours' rest, a double feed of oats, and make him
do thirty."

"On those conditions he can do them."

"Start in two hours. Be at Grandchamp by daybreak. Give the order
in my name to evacuate the village. I'll take care of General
Hatry and his column. Is that all you have to say?"

"No, I heard other news."

"What is it?"

"That Vannes has a new bishop."

"Ha! so they are giving us back our bishops?"

"So it seems; but if they are all like this one, they can keep them."

"Who is he?"


"The regicide?"

"Audrein the renegade."

"When is he coming?"

"To-night or to-morrow."

"I shall not go to meet him; but let him beware of falling into
my men's hands."

Bénédicité and Coeur-de-Roi burst into a laugh which completed
Cadoudal's thought.

"Hush!" cried Cadoudal.

The three men listened.

"This time it is probably he," observed Georges.

The gallop of a horse could be heard coming from the direction
of La Roche-Bernard.

"It is certainly he," repeated Coeur-de-Roi.

"Then, my friends, leave me alone. You, Bénédicité, get to Grandchamp
as soon as possible. You, Coeur-de-Roi, post thirty men in the
courtyard; I want messengers to send in different directions.
By the way, tell some one to bring the best that can be got for
supper in the village."

"For how many, general?"

"Oh! two."

"Are you going out?"

"No, only to meet the man who is coming."

Two or three men had already taken the horses of the messengers
into the courtyard. The messengers themselves disappeared.

Georges reached the gate on the street just as a horseman, pulling
up his horse, looked about him and seemed to hesitate.

"He is here, sir," said Georges.

"Who is here?"

"He whom you seek."

"How do you know whom I am seeking?"

"I presume it is Georges Cadoudal, otherwise called Round-head."


"Then I bid you welcome, Monsieur Roland de Montrevel, for I am
the person you seek."

"Ah, ah!" exclaimed the young man, amazed.

Then, dismounting, he looked about as if for some one to take
his mount.

"Throw the bridle over your horse's neck, and don't be uneasy
about him. You will find him when you want him. Nothing is ever
lost in Brittany; you are in the land of honesty."

The young man made no remark, threw the bridle over his horse's neck
as he had been told, and followed Cadoudal, who walked before him.

"Only to show you the way, colonel," said the leader of the Chouans.

They both entered the cottage, where an invisible hand had just
made up the fire.



Roland entered, as we have said, behind Georges, and as he entered
cast a glance of careless curiosity around him. That glance sufficed
to show him that they were alone.

"Are these your quarters, general?" asked Roland with a smile,
turning the soles of his boots to the blaze.

"Yes, colonel."

"They are singularly guarded."

Georges smiled in turn.

"Do you say that because you found the road open from La
Roche-Bernard here?" he asked.

"I did not meet a soul."

"That does not prove that the road was not guarded."

"Unless by the owls, who seemed to fly from tree to tree, and
accompanied me all the way, general. In that case, I withdraw
my assertion."

"Exactly," replied Cadoudal. "Those owls were my sentinels, sentinels
with good eyes, inasmuch as they have this advantage over the
eyes of men, they can see in the dark."

"It is not the less true that I was fortunate in having inquired
my way at La Roche-Bernard; for I didn't meet even a cat who
could have told me where to find you."

"But if you had raised your voice at any spot on the road and
asked: 'Where shall I find Georges Cadoudal?' a voice would have
answered: 'At the village of Muzillac, fourth house to the right.'
You saw no one, colonel; but at that very moment fifteen hundred
men, or thereabout, knew that Colonel Roland, the First Consul's
aide-de-camp, was on his way to a conference with the son of
the miller of Leguerno."

"But if they knew that I was a colonel in the Republican service
and aide-de-camp to the First Consul, how came they to let me pass?"

"Because they were ordered to do so."

"Then you knew that I was coming?"

"I not only knew that you were coming, but also why you have come."

Roland looked at him fixedly.

"Then it is useless for me to tell you; and you will answer me
even though I say nothing?"

"You are about right."

"The deuce! I should like to have a proof of this superiority
of your police over ours."

"I will supply it, colonel."

"I shall receive it with much satisfaction, especially before
this excellent fire, which also seems to have been expecting me."

"You say truer than you know, colonel; and it is not the fire
only that is striving to welcome you warmly."

"Yes, but it does not tell me, any more than you have done, the
object of my mission."

"Your mission, which you do me the honor to extend to me, was
primarily intended for the Abbé Bernier alone. Unhappily the
Abbé Bernier, in the letter he sent his friend Martin Duboys,
presumed a little on his strength. He offered his mediation to
the First Consul."

"Pardon me," interrupted Roland, "you tell me something I did
not know; namely that the Abbé Bernier had written to General

"I said he wrote to his friend Martin Duboys, which is very
different. My men intercepted the letter and brought it to me.
I had it copied, and forwarded the original, which I am certain
reached the right hands. Your visit to General Hédouville proves it."

"You know that General Hédouville is no longer in command at Nantes.
General Brune has taken his place."

"You may even say that General Brune commands at La Roche-Bernard,
for a thousand Republican soldiers entered that town to-night
about six o'clock, bringing with them a guillotine and the citizen
commissioner-general Thomas Millière. Having the instrument, it
was necessary to have the executioner."

"Then you say, general, that I came to see the Abbé Bernier?"

"Yes; the Abbé Bernier had offered his mediation. But he forgot
that at the present there are two Vendées--the Vendée of the
left bank, and the Vendée of the right bank--and that, after
treating with d'Autichamp, Châtillon, and Suzannet at Pouancé,
it would still be necessary to negotiate with Frotté, Bourmont
and Cadoudal--and where? That no one could tell--"

"Except you, general."

"So, with the chivalry that is the basis of your nature, you
undertook to bring me the treaty signed on the 25th. The Abbé
Bernier, d'Autichamp, Châtillon, and Suzannet signed your pass,
and here you are."

"On my word, general, I must admit that you are perfectly
well-informed. The First Consul desires peace with all his heart.
He knows that in you he has a brave and honorable adversary, and
being unable to meet you himself, since you were not likely to
come to Paris, he expedited me to you in his behalf."

"That is to say, to the Abbé Bernier."

"That can hardly matter to you, general, if I bind myself to make
the First Consul ratify what may be agreed upon between you and
me. What are your conditions of peace?"

"They are very simple, colonel: that the First Consul shall restore
his Majesty Louis XVIII. to the throne; that he himself be constable,
lieutenant-general, general-in-chief by land and sea, and I his
first subordinate."

"The First Consul has already replied to that demand."

"And that is why I have decided to reply myself to his response."


"This very night, if occasion offers."

"In what way?"

"By resuming hostilities."

"But are you aware that Châtillon, d'Autichamp and Suzannet have
laid down their arms?"

"They are the leaders of the Vendéans, and in the name of the
Vendéans they can do as they see fit. I am the leader of the
Chouans, and in the name of the Chouans I shall do what suits me."

"Then you condemn this unhappy land to a war of extermination,

"It is a martyrdom to which I summon all Christians and royalists."

"General Brune is at Nantes with the eight thousand prisoners
just returned to us by the English after their defeats at Alkmaar
and Castricum."

"That is the last time they will have the chance. The Blues have
taught us the bad habit of not making prisoners. As for the number
of our enemies, we don't care for that; it is a mere detail."

"If General Brune with his eight thousand men, joined to the
twenty thousand he has received from General Hédouville, is not
sufficient, the First Consul has decided to march against you
in person with one hundred thousand men."

Cadoudal smiled.

"We will try to prove to him," he said, "that we are worthy to
fight against him."

"He will burn your towns."

"We shall retire to our huts."

"He will burn your huts."

"We will live in the woods."

"Reflect, general."

"Do me the honor to remain here forty-eight hours, colonel, and
you will see that my reflections are already made."

"I am tempted to accept."

"Only, colonel, don't ask for more than I can give; a night's
sleep beneath a thatched roof or wrapped in a cloak under an
oak tree, a horse to follow me, and a safe-guard when you leave me."

"I accept."

"Have I your word, colonel, that you will not interfere with
any orders I give, and will do nothing to defeat the surprises
I may attempt?"

"I am too curious to see for that. You have my word, general."

"Whatever takes place before your eyes?"

"Whatever takes place before my eyes, I renounce the rôle of
actor and confine myself wholly to that of spectator. I wish to
say to the First Consul: 'I have seen.'"

Cadoudal smiled.

"Well, you shall see," said he.

At that moment the door opened, and two peasants brought in a
table all laid, on which stood a smoking bowl of cabbage-soup and
a piece of lard; an enormous pot of cider, just drawn from the
cask, was foaming over the edges of the jug between two glasses.
A few buckwheat cakes served as a desert to this modest repast.
The table was laid for two.

"You see, Monsieur de Montrevel, that my lads hoped you would
do me the honor to sup with me."

"Faith! they were not far wrong. I should have asked for supper,
had you not invited me; and I might have been forced to seize
some had you not invited me."

"Then fall to!"

The young colonel sat down gayly.

"Excuse the repast I offer you," said Cadoudal; "unlike your
generals, I don't make prize money; my soldiers feed me. Have
you anything else for us, Brise-Bleu?"

"A chicken fricassee, general."

"That's your dinner, Monsieur de Montrevel."

"A feast! Now, I have but one fear, general."

"What is it?"

"All will go well for the eating, but when it comes to drinking--"

"Don't you like cider? The devil! I'm sorry; cider or water, that's
my cellar."

"Oh! that's not it; but whose health are we going to drink?"

"Is that all, sir?" said Cadoudal, with great dignity. "We will
drink to the health of our common mother, France. We are serving
her with different minds, but, I hope, the same hearts. To
_France_, Monsieur," said Cadoudal, filling the two glasses.

"To _France_, general!" replied Roland, clinking his glass
against that of Georges.

And both gayly reseated themselves, their consciences at rest,
and attacked the soup with appetites that were not yet thirty
years old.



"Now, general," said Roland, when supper was over and the two young
men, with their elbows on the table and their legs stretched out
before the blazing fire, began to feel that comfortable sensation
that comes of a meal which youth and appetite have seasoned.
"Now for your promise to show me things which I can report to
the First Consul."

"You promised, remember, not to object to them."

"Yes, but I reserve the right, in case you wound my conscience
too severely, to withdraw."

"Only give time to throw a saddle on the back of your horse,
or of mine, if yours is too tired, colonel, and you are free."

"Very good."

"As it happens," said Cadoudal, "events will serve you. I am
here, not only as general, but as judge, though it is long since
I have had a case to try. You told me, colonel, that General
Brune was at Nantes; I knew it. You told me his advanced guard
was only twelve miles away, at La Roche-Bernard; I knew that
also. But a thing you may not know is that this advanced guard
is not commanded by a soldier like you and me, but by citizen
Thomas Millière, Commissioner of the Executive authorities. Another
thing of which you may perhaps be ignorant is that citizen Thomas
Millière does not fight like us with cannon, guns, bayonets,
pistols and swords, but with an instrument invented by your
Republican philanthropists, called the guillotine."

"It is impossible, sir," cried Roland, "that under the First Consul
any one can make that kind of war,"

"Ah! let us understand each other, colonel. I don't say that the
First Consul makes it; I say it is made in his name."

"And who is the scoundrel that abuses the authority given him,
to make war with a staff of executioners?"

"I have told you his name; he is called Thomas Millière. Question
whom you please, colonel, and throughout all Vendée and Brittany
you'll hear but one voice on that man. From the day of the rising
in Vendée and Brittany, now six years ago, Millière has been,
always and everywhere, the most active agent of the Terror. For
him the Terror did not end with Robespierre. He denounced to
his superiors, or caused to be denounced to himself, the Breton
and Vendéan soldiers, their parents, friends, brothers, sisters,
wives, even the wounded and dying; he shot or guillotined them
all without a trial. At Daumeray, for instance, he left a trail
of blood behind him which is not yet, can never be, effaced.
More than eighty of the inhabitants were slaughtered before his
eyes. Sons were killed in the arms of their mothers, who vainly
stretched those bloody arms to Heaven imploring vengeance. The
successive pacifications of Brittany and Vendée have never slaked
the thirst for murder which burns his entrails. He is the same
in 1800 that he was in 1793. Well, this man--"

Roland looked at the general.

"This man," continued the general, with the utmost calmness, "is
to die. Seeing that society did not condemn him, I have condemned him."

"What! Die at La Roche-Bernard, in the midst of the Republicans;
in spite of his bodyguard of assassins and executioners?"

"His hour has struck; he is to die."

Cadoudal pronounced these words with such solemnity that no doubt
remained in Roland's mind, not only as to the sentence, but also
the execution of it. He was thoughtful for an instant.

"And you believe that you have, the right to judge and condemn
that man, guilty as he is?"

"Yes; for that man has judged and condemned, not the guilty but
the innocent."

"If I said to you: 'On my return to Paris I will demand the arrest
and trial of that man,' would you not trust my word?"

"I would trust your word; but I should say to you: 'A maddened
wild beast escapes from its cage, a murderer from his prison;
men are men, subject to error. They have sometimes condemned
the innocent, they might spare the guilty.' My justice is more
certain than yours, colonel, for it is the justice of God. The
man will die."

"And by what right do you claim that your justice, the justice
of a man liable to error like other men, is the justice of God?"

"Because I have made God a sharer in that justice. Oh! my
condemnation of that man is not of yesterday."

"How do you mean?"

"In the midst of a storm when thunder roared without cessation,
and the lightning flashed from minute to minute, I raised my
arms to heaven, and I said to God: 'O God! whose look is that
lightning, whose voice is that thunder, if this man ought to die,
extinguish that lightning, still the thunder for ten minutes.
The silence of the skies, the darkness of the heavens shall be
thy answer!' Watch in hand, I counted eleven minutes without a
flash or a sound. I saw at the point of a promontory a boat,
tossed by a terrible tempest, a boat with but one man in it, in
danger every minute of sinking; a wave lifted it as the breath
of an infant lifts a plume, and cast it on the rocks. The boat
flew to pieces; the man clung to the rock, and all the people
cried out: 'He is lost!' His father was there, his two brothers
were there, but none dared to succor him. I raised my arms to
the Lord and said: 'If Millière is condemned by Thee as by me,
O God, let me save that man; with no help but thine let me save
him!' I stripped, I knotted a rope around my arm, and I swam to
the rock. The water seemed to subside before my breast. I reached
the man. His father and brothers held the rope. He gained the
land. I could have returned as he did, fastening the rope to the
rocks. I flung it away from me; I trusted to God and cast myself
into the waves. They floated me gently and surely to the shore,
even as the waters of the Nile bore Moses' basket to Pharaoh's
daughter. The enemy's outposts were stationed around the village
of Saint-Nolf; I was hidden in the woods of Grandchamp with fifty
men. Recommending my soul to God, I left the woods alone. 'Lord
God,' I said, 'if it be Thy will that Millière die, let that
sentry fire upon me and miss me; then I will return to my men
and leave that sentry unharmed, for Thou wilt have been with
him for an instant.' I walked to the Republican; at twenty paces
he fired and missed me. Here is the hole in my hat, an inch from
my head; the hand of God had aimed that weapon. That happened
yesterday. I thought that Millière was at Nantes. To-night they
came and told me that Millière and his guillotine were at La
Roche-Bernard. Then I said: 'God has brought him to me; he shall

Roland listened with a certain respect to the superstitious narrative
of the Breton leader. He was not surprised to find such beliefs
and such poetry in a man born in face of a savage sea, among the
Druid monuments of Karnac. He realized that Millière was indeed
condemned, and that God, who had thrice seemed to approve his
judgment, alone could save him. But one last question occurred to

"How will you strike him?" he asked.

"Oh!" said Georges, "I do not trouble myself about that; he will
be executed."

One of the two men who had brought in the supper table now entered
the room.

"Brise-Bleu," said Cadoudal, "tell Coeur-de-Roi that I wish to
speak to him."

Two minutes later the Breton presented himself.

"Coeur-de-Roi," said Cadoudal, "did you not tell me that the murderer
Thomas Millière was at Roche-Bernard?"

"I saw him enter the town side by side with the Republican colonel,
who did not seem particularly flattered by such companionship."

"Did you not add that he was followed by his guillotine?"

"I told you his guillotine followed between two cannon, and I
believe if the cannon could have got away the guillotine would
have been left to go its way alone."

"What precautions does Millière take in the towns he visits?"

"He has a special guard about him, and the streets around his
house are barricaded. He carries pistols always at hand."

"In spite of that guard, in spite of that barricade and the pistols,
will you undertake to reach him?"

"I will, general."

"Because of his crimes, I have condemned that man; he must die."

"Ah!" exclaimed Coeur-de-Roi, "the day of justice has come at last!"

"Will you undertake to execute my sentence, Coeur-de-Roi?"

"I will, general."

"Go then, Coeur-de-Roi. Take the number of men you need; devise
what stratagem you please, but reach the man, and strike."

"If I die, general--"

"Fear not; the curate of Leguerno shall say enough masses in
your behalf to keep your poor soul out of purgatory. But you will
not die, Coeur-de-Roi."

"That's all right, general. Now that I am sure of the masses,
I ask nothing more. I have my plan."

"When will you start?"


"When will he die?"


"Go. See that three hundred men are ready to follow me in half
an hour."

Coeur-de-Roi went out as simply as he had entered.

"You see," said Cadoudal, "the sort of men I command. Is your
First Consul as well served as I, Monsieur de Montrevel?"

"By some, yes."

"Well, with me it is not some, but all."

Bénédicité entered and questioned Georges with a look.

"Yes," replied Georges, with voice and nod.

Bénédicité went out.

"Did you see any one on your way here?" asked Cadoudal.

"Not one."

"I asked for three hundred men in half an hour, and they will
be here in that time. I might have asked for five hundred, a
thousand, two thousand, and they would have responded as promptly."

"But," said Roland, "you have, in number at least, a limit you
cannot exceed."

"Do you want to know my effective? It is easily told, I won't
tell you myself, for you wouldn't believe me. Wait. I will have
some one tell you."

He opened the door and called out: "Branche-d'Or!"

Two seconds later Branche-d'Or appeared.

"This is my major-general," said Cadoudal, laughing. "He fulfils
the same functions for me that General Berthier does for the
First Consul. Branche-d'Or--"


"How many men are stationed along the road from here to La
Roche-Bernard, which the gentleman followed in coming to see me?"

"Six hundred on the Arzal moor, six hundred among the Marzan gorse,
three hundred at Péaule, three hundred at Billiers."

"Total, eighteen hundred. How many between Noyal and Muzillac?"

"Four hundred."

"Two thousand two hundred. How many between here and Vannes?"

"Fifty at Theix, three hundred at the Trinité, six hundred between
the Trinité and Muzillac."

"Three thousand two hundred. And from Ambon to Leguerno?"

"Twelve hundred."

"Four thousand four hundred. And in the village around me, in
the houses, the gardens, the cellars?"

"Five to six hundred, general."

"Thank you, Bénédicité."

He made a sign with his head and Bénédicité went out.

"You see," said Cadoudal, simply, "about five thousand. Well,
with those five thousand men, all belonging to this country,
who know every tree, every stone, every bush, I can make war
against the hundred thousand men the First Consul threatens to
send against me."

Roland smiled.

"You think that is saying too much, don't you?"

"I think you are boasting a little, general; boasting of your
men, rather."

"No; for my auxiliaries are the whole population. None of your
generals can make a move unknown to me; send a despatch without
my intercepting it; find a retreat where I shall not pursue him.
The very soil is royalist and Christian! In default of the
inhabitants, it speaks and tells me: 'The Blues passed here;
the slaughterers are hidden there!' For the rest, you can judge
for yourself."


"We are going on an expedition about twenty-four miles from here.
What time is it?"

Both young men looked at their watches.

"Quarter to twelve," they said together.

"Good!" said Georges, "our watches agree; that is a good sign.
Perhaps some day our hearts will do the same."

"You were saying, general?"

"I was saying that it was a quarter to twelve, colonel; and that
at six o'clock, before day, we must be twenty miles from here.
Do you want to rest?"


"Yes; you can sleep an hour."

"Thanks; it's unnecessary."

"Then we will start whenever you are ready."

"But your men?"

"Oh! my men are ready."



"I should like to see them."

"You shall."


"Whenever agreeable to you. My men are very discreet, and never
show themselves till I make the signal."

"So that whenever I want to see them--"

"You will tell me; I shall give the signal and they'll appear."

"Let us start, general."

"Yes, let us start."

The two young men wrapped themselves in their cloaks and went
out. At the door Roland collided against a small group of five
men. These five men wore Republican uniforms; one of them had
sergeant stripes on his sleeve.

"What is all this?" asked Roland.

"Nothing," replied Cadoudal, laughing.

"But who are these men?"

"Coeur-de-Roi and his party; they are starting on that expedition
you know of."

"Then they expect by means of this uniform--"

"Oh! you shall know all, colonel; I have no secrets from you."
Then, turning to the little group, Cadoudal called: "Coeur-de-Roi!"

The man with the stripes on his sleeves left the group, and came
to Cadoudal.

"Did you call me, general?" asked the pretended sergeant.

"Yes, I want to know your plan."

"Oh! general, it is very simple."

"Let me judge of that."

"I put this paper in the muzzle of my gun." Coeur-de-Roi showed
a large envelope with an official red seal, which had once, no
doubt, contained some Republican despatch intercepted by the
Chouans. "I present myself to the sentries, saying: 'Despatch
from the general of division.' I enter the first guardhouse and
ask to be shown the house of the citizen-commissioner; they show
me, I thank them; always best to be polite. I reach the house,
meet a second sentry to whom I tell the same tale as to the first;
I go up or down to citizen Millière accordingly as he lives in
the cellar or the garret. I enter without difficulty, you
understand--'Despatch from the general of division'. I find him
in his study or elsewhere, present my paper, and while he opens
it, I kill him with this dagger, here in my sleeve."

"Yes, but you and your men?"

"Ah, faith! In God's care; we are defending his cause, it is for
him to take care of us."

"Well, you see, colonel," said Cadoudal, "how easy it all is.
Let us mount, colonel! Good luck, Coeur-de-Roi!"

"Which of these two horses am I to take?" asked Roland.

"Either; one is as good as the other; each has an excellent pair
of English pistols in its holsters."


"And well-loaded, colonel; that's a job I never trust to any one."

"Then we'll mount."

The two young men were soon in their saddles, and on the road
to Vannes; Cadoudal guiding Roland, and Branche-d'Or, the
major-general of the army, as Georges called him, following about
twenty paces in the rear.

When they reached the end of the village, Roland darted his eyes
along the road, which stretches in a straight line from Muzillac
to the Trinité. The road, fully exposed to view, seemed absolutely

They rode on for about a mile and a half, then Roland said: "But
where the devil are your men?"

"To right and left, before and behind us."

"Ha, what a joke!"

"It's not a joke, colonel; do you think I should be so rash as
to risk myself thus without scouts?"

"You told me, I think, that if I wished to see your men I had
only to say so."

"I did say so."

"Well, I wish to see them."

"Wholly, or in part?"

"How many did you say were with you?"

"Three hundred."

"Well, I want to see one hundred and fifty."

"Halt!" cried Cadoudal.

Putting his hands to his mouth he gave the hoot of the screech-owl,
followed by the cry of an owl; but he threw the hoot to the right
and the cry to the left.

Almost instantly, on both sides of the road, human forms could
be seen in motion, bounding over the ditch which separated the
bushes from the road, and then ranging themselves beside the

"Who commands on the right?" asked Cadoudal.

"I, Moustache," replied a peasant, coming near.

"Who commands on the left?" repeated the general.

"I, Chante-en-hiver," replied another peasant, also approaching

"How many men are with you, Moustache?"

"One hundred."

"How many men are with you, Chante-en-hiver?"


"One hundred and fifty in all, then?" asked Georges.

"Yes," replied the two Breton leaders.

"Is that your number, colonel?" asked Cadoudal laughing.

"You are a magician, general."

"No; I am a poor peasant like them; only I command a troop in
which each brain knows what it does, each heart beats singly for
the two great principles of this world, religion and monarchy."
Then, turning to his men, Cadoudal asked: "Who commands the advanced

"Fend-l'air," replied the two Chouans.

"And the rear-guard?"

"La Giberne."

The second reply was made with the same unanimity as the first.

"Then we can safely continue our way?"

"Yes, general; as if you were going to mass in your own village."

"Let us ride on then, colonel," said Cadoudal to Roland. Then
turning to his men he cried: "Be lively, my lads."

Instantly every man jumped the ditch and disappeared. For a few
seconds the crackling of twigs on the bushes, and the sound of
steps among the underbrush, was heard. Then all was silent.

"Well," asked Cadoudal, "do you think that with such men I have
anything to fear from the Blues, brave as they may be?"

Roland heaved a sigh; he was of Cadoudal's opinion.

They rode on. About three miles from Trinité they caught sight
of a black spot approaching along the road with great rapidity.
As it became more distinct this spot stopped suddenly.

"What is that?" asked Roland.

"As you see, a man," replied Cadoudal.

"Of course; but who is this man?"

"You might have guessed from the rapidity of his coming; he is
a messenger."

"Why does he stop?"

"Because he has seen us, and does not know whether to advance
or retreat."

"What will he do?"

"Wait before deciding."

"For what?"

"A signal."

"Will he answer the signal?"

"He will not only answer but obey it. Will you have him advance
or retreat; or will you have him step aside."

"I wish him to advance; by that means we shall know the news he

Cadoudal gave the call of the cuckoo with such perfection that
Roland looked about him for the bird.

"It was I," said Cadoudal, "you need not look for it."

"Is the messenger going to come?"

"Not-going to, he is coming."

The messenger had already started, and was rapidly approaching;
in a few seconds he was beside his general.

"Ah!" said the latter, "is that you, Monte-à-l'assaut?"

The general stooped, and Monte-à-l'assaut said a few words in
his ear.

"Bénédicité has already warned me," said Georges. Then turning
to Roland, he said, "Something of importance is to happen in
the village of the Trinité in a quarter of an hour, which you
ought to see. Come, hurry up."

And, setting the example, he put his horse to a gallop. Roland
did the same.

When they reached the village they could see from a distance, by
the light of some pine torches, a tumultuous mob in the market
square. The cries and movements of this mob bespoke some grave

"Fast, fast!" cried Cadoudal.

Roland asked no better; he dug his spurs in his horse's belly.

At the clatter of horses' hoofs the peasants scattered. There
were five or six hundred of them at least, all armed.

Cadoudal and Roland found themselves in a circle of light in the
midst of cries and agitation.

The crowd was pressing more particularly toward the opening of a
street which led to the village of Tridon. A diligence was coming
down that street escorted by a dozen Chouans; two on either side
of the postilion, ten others guarding the doors. The carriage
stopped in the middle of the market-square. All were so intent
upon the diligence that they paid but scant attention to Cadoudal.

"Hola," shouted Georges. "What is all this?"

At this well known voice, everyone turned round, and heads were

"The Big Round Head!" they murmured.

"Yes," said Cadoudal.

A man went up to Georges.

"Didn't Bénédicité and Monte-à-l'assaut notify you?" he inquired.

"Yes. Is that the diligence from Ploermel to Vannes that you are
bringing back?"

"Yes, general. It was stopped between Tréfléon and Saint-Nolf."

"Is he in it?"

"We think so."

"Act according to your consciences; if it is a crime toward God,
take it on yourselves; I take only the responsibility toward
men. I will be present at what takes place; but I will not share
in it--either to hinder or help."

"Well," demanded a hundred voices, "what does he say, Sabre-tout?"

"He says we must act according to our consciences, and that he
washes his hands of it."

"Long live the Big Round Head!" cried all the people, rushing
toward the diligence.

Cadoudal remained motionless in the midst of this crowd. Roland
stood near him, also motionless, but full of curiosity; for he
was completely ignorant of who, or what, was in question.

The man who had just spoken to Cadoudal, and whom his companions
called Sabre-tout, opened the door. The travellers were huddled
together and trembling in the darkness within.

"If you have nothing to reproach yourselves with against God or
the king," said Sabre-tout in a full sonorous voice, "descend
without fear. We are not brigands, we are Christians and royalists."

This declaration no doubt reassured the travellers, for a man
got out, then two women, then a mother pressing her child in
her arms, and finally another man. The Chouans examined them
attentively as they came down the carriage steps; not finding
the man they wanted, they said to each traveller, "Pass on."

One man alone remained in the coach. A Chouan thrust a torch in
the vehicle, and by its light they could see he was a priest.

"Minister of the Lord," said Sabre-tout, "why did you not descend
with the others? Did you not hear me say we were Christians and

The priest did not move; but his teeth chattered.

"Why this terror?" continued Sabre-tout. "Does not your cloth
plead for you? The man who wears a cassock can have done nothing
against royalty or religion."

The priest crouched back, murmuring: "Mercy! mercy!"

"Why mercy?" demanded Sabre-tout, "do you feel that you are guilty,

"Oh! oh!" exclaimed Roland, "is that how you royalists and Christians
speak to a man of God!"

"That man," said Cadoudal, "is not a man of God, but a man of
the devil."

"Who is he, then?"

"Both an atheist and a regicide; he denied his God and voted
for the death of the king. That is the Conventional Audrein."

Roland shuddered. "What will they do?" he asked.

"He gave death, he will receive death," answered Cadoudal.

During this time the Chouans had pulled Audrein out of the diligence.

"Ha! is it you, bishop of Vannes?" cried Sabre-tout.

"Mercy!" begged the bishop.

"We were informed of your arrival, and were waiting for you."

"Mercy!" repeated the bishop for the third time.

"Have you your pontifical robes with you?"

"Yes, my friends, I have."

"Then dress yourself as a prelate; it is long since we have seen one."

A trunk marked with the prelate's name was taken from the diligence
and opened. They took the bishop's robes from it, and handed them
to Audrein, who put them on. Then, when every vestment was in
its place, the peasants ranged themselves in a circle, each with
his musket in his hand. The glare of the torches was reflected on
the barrels, casting evil gleams.

Two men took the priest and led him into the circle, supporting
him beneath his arms. He was pale as death. There was a moment
of lugubrious silence.

A voice broke it. It was that of Sabre-tout.

"We are about to judge you," said the Chouan. "Priest of God,
you have betrayed the Church; child of France, you have condemned
your king to death."

"Alas! alas!" stammered the priest.

"Is it true?"

"I do not deny it."

"Because it is impossible to deny. What have you to say in


"We are not citizens," cried Sabre-tout, in a voice thunder, "we
are royalists."


"We are not gentlemen; we are Chouans."

"My friends--"

"We are not your friends; we are your judges. You judges are
questioning you; answer."

"I repent of what I did, and I ask pardon of God and men."

"Men cannot pardon you," replied the same implacable voice; "for,
pardoned to-day, you would sin to-morrow. You may change your
skin, but never your heart. You have nothing to expect from men
but death; as for God, implore his mercy."

The regicide bowed his head; the renegade bent his knee. But
suddenly drawing himself up, he cried: "I voted the king's death,
it is true, but with a reservation--"

"What reservation?"

"The time of the execution."

"Sooner or later, it was still the king's death which you voted,
and the king was innocent."

"True, true," said the priest, "but I was afraid."

"Then you are not only a regicide, and an apostate, but also
a coward. We are not priests, but we are more just than you.
You voted the death of the innocent; we vote the death of the
guilty. You have ten minutes in which to prepare to meet your

The bishop gave a cry of terror and fell upon both knees; the
church bells rang, as if of their own impulse, and two of the
men present, accustomed to the offices of the church, intoned
the prayers for the dying. It was some time before the bishop
found words with which to respond. He turned affrighted glances
in supplication to his judges one after the other, but, not one
face met his with even the consolation of mere pity. The torches,
flickering in the wind, lent them, on the contrary, a savage
and terrible expression. Then at last he mingled his voice with
the voices that were praying for him.

The judges allowed him time to follow the funeral prayer to its
close. In the meantime others were preparing a pile of wood.

"Oh!" cried the priest, beholding these preparations with growing
terror; "would you have the cruelty to kill me thus?"

"No," replied his inflexible accuser, "flames are the death of
martyrs; you are not worthy of such a death. Apostate, the hour
has come!"

"Oh, my God! my God!" cried the priest, raising his arms to heaven.

"Stand up!" said the Chouan.

The priest tried to obey, but his strength failed him, and he
fell again to his knees.

"Will yon let that murder be done before your eyes?" Roland asked

"I said that I washed my hands of it," replied the latter.

"Pilate said that, and Pilate's hands are to this day red with
the blood of Jesus Christ."

"Because Jesus Christ was a righteous man; this man is a Barabbas."

"Kiss your cross! kiss your cross!" cried Sabre-tout.

The prelate looked at him with a terrified air, but without obeying.
It was evident that he no longer saw, no longer heard.

"Oh!" cried Roland, making an effort to dismount, "it shall never
be said that I let a man be murdered before me, and did not try
to, save him."

A threatening murmur rose around him; his words had been overheard.
That was all that was needed to excite the young man.

"Ah! is that the way of it?" he cried, carrying his hand to one
of his holsters.

But with a movement rapid as thought, Cadoudal seized his hand,
and, while Roland struggled vainly to free himself from this
grip of iron, he shouted: "Fire!"

Twenty shots resounded instantly, and the bishop fell, an inert

"Ah!" cried Roland. "What have you done?"

"Forced you to keep your promise," replied Cadoudal; "you swore
to see all and hear all without offering any opposition."

"So perish all enemies of God and the king," said Sabre-tout,
in a solemn voice.

"Amen!" responded the spectators with one voice of sinister

Then they stripped the body of its sacerdotal ornaments, which
they flung upon the pile of wood, invited the other travellers
to take their places in the diligence, replaced the postilion
in his saddle, and, opening their ranks to give passage to the
coach, cried: "Go with God!"

The diligence rolled rapidly away.

"Come, let us go," cried Cadoudal, "we have still twelve miles
to do, and we have lost an hour here." Then, addressing the
executioners, he said: "That man was guilty; that man is punished.
Human justice and divine justice are satisfied. Let prayers for
the dead be said over his body, and give him Christian burial;
do you hear?" And sure of being obeyed, Cadoudal put his horse
to a gallop.

Roland seemed to hesitate for a moment whether to follow him
or not; then, as if resolving to accomplish a duty, he said: "I
will go to the end."

Spurring his horse in the direction taken by Cadoudal he reached
the Chouan leader in a few strides. Both disappeared in the darkness,
which grew thicker and thicker as the men left the place where
the torches were illuminating the dead priest's face and the
fire was consuming his vestments.



The feeling that Roland experienced as he followed Georges Cadoudal
resembled that of a man half-awakened, who is still under the
influence of a dream, and returns gradually from the confines
which separate night from day. He strives to discover whether
the ground he walks on is that of fiction or reality, and the
more he burrows in the dimness of his brain the further he buries
himself in doubt.

A man existed for whom Roland felt a worship almost divine.
Accustomed to live in the atmosphere of glory which surrounded that
man, to see others obey his orders, and to obey them himself with

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