Alexandre Dumas.

The companions of Jehu online

. (page 12 of 24)
Online LibraryAlexandre DumasThe companions of Jehu → online text (page 12 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


twelve men continued on their way and entered the city.

It was the sentinel's cry which had attracted the atten-
tion of Morgan and Valensolle; it was the entrance of
the eighteen men into the barracks which had interrupted
their meal ; and it was this unexpected occurrence which
had made Morgan say, " Attention I " In fact, in the
situation in which the two young men found themselves,
everything merited attention ; therefore the meal was in-
terrupted, and their jaws ceased to work, in order to allow
their eyes and ears to fulfil their office to the fullest ex-
tent. It was soon evident that their eyes alone would be
occupied.

Each of the police gained his room without using a
light ; nothing drew the attention of the two young men
to the numerous windows of the barracks, so that it was
concentrated upon one point. Among all the darkened
windows, two only were illuminated ; they were at riglit
angles to the rest of the building, and exactly opposite
the one at which the two young men were taking their
meal. These windows were on the first floor; but in the
position which they occupied, on the top of the bundles
of forage, Morgan and Valensolle found themselves not
only on a level, but above them. They were those of the
captain of police. Whether from the brave captain's care-
lessness, or from the penury of the State, there were no
curtains to the windows ; so that, thanks to the two can-
dles lighted by the officer in honor of his guest, Morgan
and Valensolle could see all that passed in the lighted
room.

Suddenly Morgan seized Valensolle's arm tightly.

" Well," said Valensolle, " what's the news]"

Roland had just thrown his three-cornered hat on a
chair, and Morgan had recognized him. " Roland de Mon-



Digitized



by Google



168 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

trevel ! " he said ; "Roland, in a quartermaster's uniform !
This time we are on his track, while he cannot find ours.
We must not lose it."

" What are you going to do ?'' asked ValensoUe, feeling
that his companion was moving away from him.

" I am going to warn my companions. Stay here, and
do not lose sight of him ; he is taking off his sword and
putting down his pistols, so it is probable that he will
pass the night in the captain's room. To-morrow I defy
him to take any road, no matter what, without having one
of us at his heels.'* .

And Morgan, slipping down over the forage, disap-
peared from the eyes of his companion, who, crouching
down like a sphinx, did not lose sight of Roland de
Montrevel.

A quarter of an hour later, when Morgan came back,
the officer's windows were as dark as those of all the rest
of the building.

" Well 1 " asked Morgan.

**Well," replied ValensoUe, "the thing ended in the
most prosaic manner possible ; they undressed, blew out
the candles, and went to bed, — the captain on his own
bed, and Roland on a cot ; and they are probably by this
time snoring lustily."

"In that case," said Morgan, "good-night to them and
to us also."

Ten minutes later the two young men were sleeping as
calmly as if they did not have danger for a bed-fellow.



Digitized



by Google



THE HOTEL DE LA POSTK 169



CHAPTER XIV.

THE HOTEL DE LA POSTE.

The same day, about six o'clock in the morning, in the
cold dawn of one of the last days in February, a horse-
man, spurring a poat-horse, and preceded by a postilion
who was to bring back the horse, left Bourg by the Macon
or St.-Jullien road. We say by the Macon or St. -Jul lien
road, because at about a league from the capital of Bresse
the road forks, and offers two directions, — one going to
the right, to St.-Jullien, and the other leading to the left,
to Macon. When he reached the fork of the two roads,
the traveller was about to take the one leading to Macon,
when a voice which seemed to come from beneath an over-
turned wagon called for help. The horseman ordered the
postilion to see what was the matter.

A poor kitchen-gardener was held there under his cart.
He was probably trying to lift it when the wheel, sinking
into the ditch, had overturned the cart ; the latter had
rolled over upon him, but in such a way that he said he
believed no bones were broken, and that he only needed a
little help with the cart, when, he thought, he would be
all right again. The horseman felt so much sympathy for
the unfortunate gardener that he not only allow^ed the
postilion to stop and extricate him from his dilemma, but
lie even dismounted himself, and with a strength which
was hardly to be expected from a man of medium height
he helped the postilion not only to right the cart, but to



Digitized



by Google



170 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

put it back again in the middle of the road, — after which
he offered to help the man to get up. But that individual
had spoken the truth ; he was not at all hurt, and if his
limbs wavered a little, it only proved the truth of the
proverb which declares that there is a special God for
drunkards. The gardener was profuse in his thanks, as
he took his horse by the bridle ; but it was easy to see
that he clung to it as much to sustain himself as to guide
the horse on the right road. The two horsemen remounted,
urged their horses to a gallop, and soon disappeared around
the turn in the road which comes just before the forest of
Monnet is reached.

But they had scarcely disappeared when there was a
curious change in the vegetable merchant. He stopped his
horse, stood erect, carried a small trumpet to his lips, and
blew upon it thrice. A groom emerged from the woods
which bordered the road, leading a horae by the bridle.
The gardener rapidly pulled off his blouse, threw down
his coarse linen pantaloons, and stood revealed in vest
and small-clothes of buckskin and top-boots. He fumbled
in his wagon, and drew out a package which he opened ;
he shook out a green hunting-coat trimmed with gold
braid, put it on, drew over it a chestnut-colored riding-
coat, took from the groom's hands a hat which compared
with his elegant costume, fitted spurs to his boots, and
leaping upon his horse with the skill and lightness of a
skilful rider, said to the groom, —

** This evening, at seven o'clock, go to the road between
St.-Just and Ceyzeriat ; you will meet Morgan there, and
will tell him that the one whom he knows is going to
Macon, but that I shall be there before him."

Then, without paying any attention to the vegetable
cart, which he left to his servant's care,* the ex-gardener,
who was none other than our old acquaintance Montbar,



Digitized



by Google



THE h6tel de la poste. 171

turned his horse's head towards the little forest of Monnet,
and set off at a gallop.

Roland was riding a post-horse, but the animal which
Moutbar rode was an excellent hunter, and therefore he
soon overtook and passed the two horsemen. The horse,
except for a short halt at St.-Cyr-sur-Menthon, made
the nine or ten leagues between Bourg and Macon, without
stopping, and in less than three hours.

When he reached Macon, Montbar dismounted at the
Hotel de la Poste, the only one, at that period, which had
the reputation of entertaining travellers of distinction.
By the manner in which Montbar was received at the
hotel it w^as evident that he was well acquainted with
the host.

"Ah, is it you, Monsieur de Jayat?" said the latter;
" we were wondering yesterday what had become of yt)u ;
it is more than a month since we have seen you."

" Is it as long as that ] " asked the young man ; " upon
my word, you are right. I have been with friends, the
Trefforts and Hautecourts. You know them by name, do
you not 1 *'

" Oh, both by name and personally.'*

" We went hunting. They have some fine horses. But
are you going to have any breakfast here this morning 1 "

'• Certainly."

" Well, then, let them bring me a chicken, a bottle of
Bordeaux wine, a couple of cutlets, and some fruit, or any
little thing."

" Instantly. Will you have it in your own room, or in
the common dining-room 1 "

" In the dining-room ; it is more amusing. But give
me a table to myself. Ah, and do not forget my horse ;
he is an excellent beast, and I think more of him than I
do of some Christians."



Digitized



by Google



172 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

The host gave his orders, and Montbar placed himself
before the mirror, settled his coat-collar, and warmed the
calves of his legs. " Have you always kept this hotel 1 '*
he asked the landlord, apparently for the sake of keeping
up conversation.

« Yes, indeed."

" Then you supply the diligences with horses 1 "

" Not the diligences, but the mail-coaches."

" Ah, by the way, I must go to Chamb^ry one of these
days. How many places are there in the mail-coach 1 "

" Three ; two inside, and one with the courier."

*' And have I any chance of finding a place free ] "

" Sometimes you might possibly find one ; but the
surest way is to have a carriage of your own."

"Then it is not possible to engage a place in advance ]"

** No j for you will understand, Monsieur Jayat, that if
there were two travellers who had taken their places from
Paris to Lyons, they would rank before you."

" Aristocrats, you see," said Montbar, laughing. " A
propos of aristocrats, there was one on the road behind
me, on a post-horse ; I passed him a quarter of a league
from Polliat, and it looked to me as though his horse was
rather broken winded."

" Oh, I dare say," said the landlord ; " my brother inn-
keepers are apt to have poor horses."

" There he is, now," said Montbar ; " I thought I had
more the start of him than that."

In fact, Eoland passed the windows just then at a
gallop, and entered the courtyard.

"Do you care to have room No. 1, as usual, sir?"
asked the landlord.

"Why do you ask?"

" Because it is the best room in the house ; and if you
do not take it, I will give it to the gentleman who has



Digitized



byGoogk



THE hStel de la postb. 173

just come, if he is going to stay any length of time with
us."

" Oh, do not disturb your arrangements for me ; I do
not know yet whether I shall go or stay. If the new ar-
rival is going to stay, give him No. 1. I shall be satisfied
with No. 2."

" Breakfast is ready," announced the servant, from the
doorway between the kitchen and dining-room.

Montbar nodded his head, and accepted the invitation
thus extended to him ; he entered the dining-room just as
Roland was coming into the house. The table was ready
set ; Montbar changed his plate to the side, and sat down
with his back to the door. But the precaution was use-
less ; Roland did not enter the dining-room, and Montbar
finished his breakfast without being disturbed. At des-
sert the landlord himself came to bring him his coffee.
Montbar understood by this that the worthy man was in-
clined to talk, and this suited him perfectly, for there were
several things which he wanted to know.

" Well," began Montbar, " what has become of our man ?
Did he only stay long enough to change his horse 1 "

" No," replied the landlord ; " as you said, he is an aris-
tocrat; he ordered breakfast to be served in his own
room."

" In his room, or in my room ] " asked Montbar, " for I
am very sure that you have given him the famous
No. 1."

"And if I have, Monsieur Jayat, it is your fault; you
told me that I might dispose of it."

"And if you took me at my word, you did right; I
shall be perfectly contented with No. 2."

" Oh, you will not like it at all. The room is separated
from No. 1 only by a thin partition, and everything that
is said or done in one room can be heard in the other."



Digitized



by Google



174 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

" Ah, my dear sir, do you think I came here to sing
seditious songs, that you are afraid some one will hear
what I say or do ] "

" Oh, it is not that."

"What is it, thenl"

" I am not afraid that you will disturb the others, but
that you will be disturbed by them."

" Ah, is your young friend a noisy fellow 1 "

" No, but he looks to me like an officer."

" What can have made you think so ] "

" In the first place, his figure ; then he asked about the
regiment in garrison at Macon, and when I told him it
was the seventh Mounted Chasseurs, he said, * Ah, I know
the chief of brigade ; he is one of my friends. Perhaps
your servant will carry my card to him, and ask if he will
come and breakfast with me/ '*

" Ah ! "

** And as you know, when two officers get together, they
are apt to be noisy. Perhaps they will want dinner and
supper as well as breakfast."

" I have already told you that I hardly hope to have the
pleasure in passing the night with you ; I expect, by the
poste restante, letters from Paris, which will decide my
movements. In the mean time light a fire for me in room
No. 2, making as little noise as possible, in order not to
.disturb my neighbor ; and at the same time, send me up
pen, ink, and paper ; I have some writing to do."

Montbar's orders were punctually executed, and he fol-
lowed the servant upstairs in order to make sure that Ko-
land was not disturbed by his proximity. The room was
exactly as the landlord had said, and not a movement
could be made or a word spoken in one of them that was
not heard in the other. Thus Montbar had no difficulty
in hearing the hotel-boy announce to Roland the ar-



Digitized



by Google



THE h6tEL DE la POSTE. 175

rival of the chief of brigade Saint-Maurice, and, follow-
ing the heavy step of the latter in the passage, tlie excla-
mations uttered by the two friends, who were delighted to
see each other.

For his part, Roland, who had been for a moment dis-
turbed by the noise in the adjoining room, had forgotten
it as soon as it ceased, and there was no danger that it
would be renewed. MontVjar, when he was once alone,
seated himself at a table upon which were placed pen, ink,
and paper, and remained motionless. The two officers
had formerly known each other in Italy, and Roland had
served under Saint-Maurice when the latter had been a
captain, and Roland only a lieutenant. To-day tlieir ranks
were equal; and besides, Roland be iri ng a double com-
mission from the chief consul and from the prefect of
police, commanded the officers of his own rank, and
even within the limits of his mission, those of a higher
rank.

Morgan was not mistaken in supposing that Am^lie's
brother was in pursuit of tlie companions of Jehu ; if the
nocturnal search in the monastery of Seillon had not
proved it, the proof was amply furnished by the conver-
sation of the young officer with his colleague. In sub-
stance it was as follows : The First Consul was to send
fifty thousand francs, ostensibly as a gift to the fathers of
Saint Bernard, but in reality to serve as a decoy with
which to catch the diligence robbers, if they were not sur-
prised in the monastery of Seillon, or in some other re-
treat. The details of the plan remained to be settled.
While they breakftisted, the subject was discussed at
length by the two officers. At dessert they had agreed
upon a plan.

The same evening Morgan received the following
letter : —



Digitized



by Google



176 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

As we told Adler, next Wednesday at five o'clock in the
evening, the mail-coach will leave for Paris with fifty thousand
francs destined for the fathers of Saint Bernard.

The three seats in the coach — the one in the coup^ and the
two inside — are already engaged by three travellers, who will
take the coach, the first at Sens, and the other two at TonneiTe.
These travellers will be, the one in the coup6 one of the brav-
est agents of citizen Fouch^, and in the inside M. Roland de
Montrevel and the chief of brigade of the Seventh Chasseurs,
in garrison at Macon. They will be in citizen's clothes in
order to avert suspicion, but will be armed to the teeth.
Twelve chasseurs on horseback, with muskets, pistols, and
sabres, will act as escort to the coach, but at a distance, and in
such a way as to arrive in the midst of the fight. The first
shot will be a signal to them to 'put spurs to their horses and
to fall upon the robbers.

Now, my advice is that in spite of all these precautions, or
rather on account of them, the attack shall take place at the
spot agreed upon, — the Maison Blanche. If the Companions
agree with me, let me know ; I will be the postilion to drive
the coach from Macon to Belleville. I will take care of the
chief of brigade, and one of you must do the same for the
agent of citizen Fouch6. As for M. Roland de Montrevel, 1
will take care that no harm comes to him, by means of an in-
vention of my own, which will prevent him from leaving the
coach.

The precise hour at which the mail-coach will pass the
Maison Blanche will be at six o'clock on the evening of Satur-
day. A single line in reply, in these words : " Saturday, at
six o'clock in the evening," and all will go smoothly.

MONTBAR.

At midnight, Montbar, who had complained of the noise
made by his neighbor, and had been removed to a room
at the other extremity of the hotel, was awakened by a
messenger, who was no other than the groom who had
brought him a ready saddled horse on the road.

The letter was as follows : —



Digitized



by Google



THE h6tel db la poste. 177

Saturday, at six o'clock iu the evening.

Morgan.

P. S. Do not forget, even in the midst of the fight, and
above all in the midst of the fight, that the life of M. Roland
de Montrevel is protected by a safeguard.

The 3'ouug man read this reply joyfully ; this was not a
simple stopping of a diligence, but it was an aflfair of
hon«)r between persons of different opinions, — a meeting
of brave men. It was not merely gold which was to be
shed upon the high road, but blood. This was not an
affair of pistols without balls, belonging to the conductor
and held in tlie baud of a child ; it was a matter of deadly
weapons in the grasp of soldiers who were in the habit- of
using them.

They had the whole of the day which was just break-
ing, and the next also, in which to make arrangements.
Montbar contented himself therefore with asking the man
to ascertain the name of the postilion who at five o'clock
took the coach at Macon, and made tiie stage, or rather two
stages, between Macon and Belleville. He told the man
also to buy four screw-eyes and two padlocks. He already
knew that the coach arrived at Macon at half- past four,
stayed there for dinner, and left again at five precisely.

Montbar's arrangements were evidently all made in ad-
vance, for when he had given these orders to his servant,
he dismissed him, and went to sleep like a man who has
large arreai-s of slumber to make up. The next day he did
not awake, or at least did not leave his room, until nine
o'clock in the morning. He openly asked the landlord
for news of his noisy neighbor. The traveller had gone
away at six o'clock in the morning by the mail-coach from
Lyons to Paris, with his friend the chief of brigade; and
the landlord believed that they had only taken their
places as far as Tonnerre.

VOL. II. — 12



Digitized



by Google



178 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

Furthermore, the young officer, iu his turn, had made
inquiries concerning M. de Jayat, — asking who he was,
whether he was in the habit of coming to the hotel, and
whether he would be likely to be willing to sell his horse.
The landlord had replied that he knew M. de Jayat per-
fectly well ; that he was in the habit of staying at the
hotel whenever business brought him to Macon ; and that
as for his horse, he did not believe, judging from the gen-
tleman's evident fondness for the animal, he would consent
to part with him at any price, — upon which the traveller
had gone away without saying anything more about it.

After breakfast, M. de Jayat, who seemed to have
nothing in particular to do, had his horse saddled,
mounted it, and rode out of Macon on the road to Lyons.
While he was in the city, he allowed his horse to take
any pace that elegant animal preferred ; but once away
from the place, he gathered up the reins and pressed his
knees against the horse's sides. The signal was enough ;
the horse started otf at a gallop. Montbar crossed the vil-
lages of Varennes and de la Creche and the Chapelle de
Guincliay, and did not stop until he reached the Maison
Blanche. Valensolle had described the place correctly,
and it was particularly well chosen for an ambuscade.

The Maison Blanche was situated at the bottom of a
little valley, between a descent and a rise ; at the corner
of its garden was a little brook which emptied into the
Sji6ne at Challe. Tall, thick trees followed the course of
the little river, and describing a half-circle, surrounded the
house. As for the house itself, it had formerly been an
inn ; but the inn-keeper had not been successful at the
business, and the house had been shut up for seven or
eiglit years, and had begun to fall into ruins. Coming
from Macon, the road made a turn just before it reached
the house.



Digitized



by Google



THE HOtEL DE la POSTB. 179

Moatbar examined the locality with the care of a gen-
eral charged with choosing a battlefield, and drawing out
a pencil and piece of paper from his pocket, made an
exact plan of the situation. Then he returned to Macon.

Two hours later the groom set out, carrying the plan to
Morgan, and leaving with his master the name of the
postilion who was to drive the coach ; it was Antoine.
The groom had also purchased the four screw-eyes and the
two padlocks.

Montbar ordered a bottle of Burgundy wine, and asked
for Antoine. Ten minutes later the man entered. He
was tall and good-looking, about twenty-five years old, and
about Montbar's height, which the latter, after scruti-
nizing him from head to foot, observed with satisfaction.
The postilion stopped upon the threshold, and putting
his hand to his hat after the manner of a soldier
asked, —

" Did the citizen send for me 1 "

" Is your name Antoine 1 " asked Montbar.

" At your service, if you think fit."

" Well, yes, my man, you can serve me. Shut the door
and come here."

Antoine shut the door, and coming close to Montbar,
said, while he carried his band to his hat again : " Here I
am. Master."

" In the first place," said Montbar, " if you don't mind,
we will drink to the health of your mistress."

'^Oh," said Antoine, "to my mistress ! Do you think
people like us have mistresses? That is for gi-eat lords
like you."

*' Come, now," said Montbar, " with good looks like
yours, you need n't try to make me believe that."

*' Oh, I don't set up to be a monk. Perhaps there are
some pretty girls along the way."



Digitized



by Google



180 THE COMPANIONS OP JEHU.

''Yes, in some wine-shop. That is why we stop so
often on the way home to drink a little drop or to smoke
our pipe.*'

" Oh/' said Antoine, with an indescrihable movement
of his shoulders, " if you will have your little joke ! "

" Well, taste this wine, my boy. I '11 answer for it
you will find it pretty good." * And taking up one full
glass, Montbar motioned to the postilion to take the
other.

" It is a great honor for me. To your health and that
of your company."

This was a favorite phrase with the postilion, and was
with him only a form of politeness, which did not at all
demand the existence of a company.

" Ah, yes," he said, smacking his lips after he had
drunk it, " that is an old gray-beard, and here I swal-
lowed it as if it had been an infant, without even
tasting it."

** That was wrong, Antoine."

'^ Yes, indeed, it was a mistake."

"But, luckily," said Montbar, pouring out a second
glassful, " it is a mistake which can be rectified."

" No higher than my thumb, citizen," said the facetious
postilion, holding out his glass, and taking care that his
thumb came up to the edge.

" Wait a minute," said Montbar, just as Antoine was
about to carry the wine to his mouth.

"You were just in time," said the postilion ; "it was
almost gone, the rascal ! What is it 1 '* '

" You would not allow me to drink to the health of
your mistress, but you surely will not refuse to drink to
mine?"

" Oh, that is not to be refused, especially with such
wine as this. To the health of your mistress and her corn-



Digitized



by Google



THE HOTEL DE la POSTE. 181

pany ! " And Antoiue swallowed the red liquor, taking
care to taste it well as he did so.

" There 1 " said Montbar, " you were in too much of a
Iiurry that time, too."

" Bah ! " said the postilion.

•* Yes ; suppose I have several mistresses ; if we speak
no name, how is it going to do this one any good for us to
drink her health 1"


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryAlexandre DumasThe companions of Jehu → online text (page 12 of 24)