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" Upon my word, that *s true ! "

" It is a pity, but we shall have to begin again, my

" Ah, let us begin again ! With a man like you, we
must do things right ; if we have made a mistake, let us
try again.'* And Antoine held out his glass, which Mont-
bar filled to the brim. " Now," said Antoine, glancing at
the bottle, and assuring himself that it was empty, '* we
must not make any more mistakes. What is her name 1 "

" To the beautiful Josephine ! " said Montbar.

" To the beautiful Josephine ! *' repeated Antoine ; and
he swallowed the Burgundy with ever increasing satisfac-
tion. Then, after having wiped his sleeve across his lips,
he exclaimed, as he put his glass down upon the table ;
** Here ! wait a moment."

" What ! " said Montbar, " is there something wrong

" I should think so ! We have made a bad business of
it, but it is too late now."


"The bottle is empty."

** This one is, yes, but not that one ; " and Montbar took
from the corner of the fireplace a bottle already opened.

"Ah ! " exclaimed Antoine, his face lighting up with a
radiant smile.

" Is there any help for it 1 *' asked Montbar,


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" There is," said Antoine ; and he held out his glass.

Moutbar filled it as faithfully as he had done thrice

" Well," said the postilion, holding the sparkling ruby
liquid to the light, " I said that we had drunk to the
health of the beautiful Josephine — "

" Yes," said Montbar.

**But, *' continued Antoine, "there are any quantity
of Josephines in France."

" That 's true ; how many do you suppose there are,
Antoine 1 "

" There are as many as a hundred thousand." ,

"Very likely; welH"

" Well, out of those hundred thousand there are not
more than a tenth that are beautiful."

" That is a large proportion."

" Let us put it at a twentieth."


" That makes five thousand.'*

" What a devil of a fellow you are for arithmetic,

" I am the son of a schoolmaster,"


" Well, to which one out of those five thousand have
we drunk 1 Ah ! "

" Upon my word, you are right, Antoine. We must
add the surname to the baptismal name. To the beautiful
Josephine — Wait! we have begun upon this glass;
that won't do. To make the health a good one, we should
empty it and fill it up again."

Antoine carried the glass to his mouth. " There, it is
empty," he said.

** And here it is filled up," added Montbar, putting the
bottle to it


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*' Now I am waiting ; to the beautiful Josephine — "

"To the beautiful Josephine — LoUier! " And Montbai
emptied his glass.

"Why,** said Antoine, "I know her ! "

" I did not say you did not." •

"Josephine Lollier is the daughter of the master of
post-horses at Belleville."

" Exactly."

" Well," said the postilion, " your taste is not to be de-
spised, citizen. A pretty slip of a girl ! to the health of
the beautiful Josephine Lollier ! '* And he swallowed his
fifth glass of Burgundy.

" Well, now," said Montbar, " do you know why I
asked you to come up here, my boy 1 "

" No ; but I don't bear you any ill-will for it."

" That *s very good of you."

" Oh, I am a good follow."

" Well, I am going to tell you why I sent for you."

" I am all attention.*'

" Wait ! I fancy you can hear better with a full glass
than with an empty one.**

" Have you ever doctored deaf people 1 " asked the pos-
tilion, grinning.

" No, but I have lived with drunkards," replied Mont-
bar, filling Antoine's glass Jigain.

" Because a man likes wine, it does not make him a
drunkard,** said Antoine.

"I agree with you, my friend,** replied Montbar; "one
is not a drunkard so long as he knows how to carry his

" Well said ! " replied Antoine, wlio seemed to carry his
marvellously well. " I am listening."

" You told me you did not know why I sent for you."



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" But you thought I must have some reason 1*'

"The cure saya that all meu have an end in view,
whether good or had," replied Antoine, sententiously.

" Well, mine, my friend,*' said Montbar, "is to go by
night, without bei^jg recognized, into the courtyard o Mas-
ter Nicolas Denis Lollier, master of the post at Belleville."

"At Belleville," repeated Antoine, who was following
Montbar's words with all the attention of which he was
capable. "I understand; you want to get into Master
Nicolas Denis LoUier's courtyard without being recognized,
so that you may see the beautiful Josephine. Ah, you
sly fellow ! "

" You have got it, my dear Antoine ; and I wish to go
there without being recognized, because Papa Lollier has
discovered all, and has forbidden his daughter to receive

" I see. And what do you want me to do 1 "

" Your ideas are not very clear, Antoine ; drink this
glass of wine to shine them up.*'

" You are right," said Antoine ; and he swallowed his
sixth glass of wine.

"And you want to know what you can do, Antoine]''

" Yes, what can I do 1 That is what I said."

" You can do everything, my friend."



** Ah, I am curious to know how. Clear my brains I "
And he held out his glass.

"You SLve going to conduct the Chambery mail to-
morrow 1 "

" For awhile ; at six o'clock."

" Well, supposing Antoine to be a good fellow — '*

" That is already supposed, for he is."

" Well, this is what Antoine would do."


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«« What would he dor '

"In the first place, he would empty his glass."

" That is not difficult ; it is done."

" Then he would take these ten louis."

Monthar laid out ten louis in a line on the tahle.

**Ah," said Antoine, "yellow boys! Really] I
thought the little devils had all emigrated."

" You see there are some of them left."

" Aud what would Antoine do, in order to put these
into his pocket 1 "

** Antoine would lend me his prettiest postilion coat."


** And give me his place to-morrow night."

" Eh 1 Oh, yes, so that you could see the beautiful
Josephine without being recognized ! "

" See here ! I get to Belleville at eight o'clock ; I go
into the court ; I say that the horaes are tired ; I let them
rest until ten o'clock, and from eight o'clock until ten — "

" I puzzle Papa LoUier for you."

" Well, will you do it, Antoine 1 "

"Yes; when one is young, one sympathizes with young
folks ; when one gets old, one sympathizes with the

" Then, my fine Antoine, you will lend me your finest
vest and most beautiful coat 1 "

" I have a vest and coat that I have never worn."

^* Will you give me your place 1 "

"With pleasure."

" And I will give you, first, these five louis as earnest

" And the rest — "

"To-morrow, when I put on your boots. But you
must take one precaution."

"What is it]"


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" There is a great deal of talk about brigands who stop
the diligences ; you must be sure and put holsters on jour

''What fori"

'* For me to stick pistols in.'*

" Oh, come ! you are not going to do any harm to those
brave young men 1 "

" What, do you call robbers of diligences brave young

" Bah ! They are not thieves because they steal govern-
ment money."

"Do you think sol"

" Yes, indeed ; and so do a great many others. I know
very well that if I was a judge I should not condemn

** Perhaps you would drink to their health 1 "

" I should have no objection, if the wine was good.*'

" I dare you to do it,*' said Montbar, pouring into An-
toine's glass all that remained of the second bottleful.

** You know the proverb ? " asked the postilion.

"What one 1"

" You must not dare a fool to commit an act of folly.
To the health of the companions of Jehu ! "

" So be it," said Montbar.

" And the five louis ? '* asked Autoine, putting the glass
down on the table.

" Here they are."

'* Thanks. You shall have holsters on your saddle ;
but take my advice, and do not put any pistols in them ;
or if you do, do as Father Jerome of the Geneva diligence
did, — do not put any balls in your pistols." And with
this philanthropical recommendation, the postilion took
leave of Montbar, and went downstairs singing lustily.


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The next day, at five o'clock in the evening, Antoine, in
order not to be late, was harnessing in the courtyard of
the H6tel de la Poste the three horses which were to draw
the mail-coach. A moment afterwards the mail-coach
came into the courtyard with the horses on a gallop, and
stopped beneath the windows of a room which had seemed
to interest Antoine. If any one had paid attention to
such a little detail, he would have remarked that the
curtain of the window was drawn aside almost impru-
dently, in order to permit the person who was in the room
to see who got out of the mail-coach.

Three men descended, who with the haste of hungry
travellers made their way towards the brilliantly lighted
windows of the dining-ioom. Scarcely had they entered,
when an elegant postilion came down the servants' stair-
case. He had not yet put on his long boots, but wore
thin ones instead, over which he intended to draw the
others. He pulled on Antoine's great boots, slipped five
louis into his hands, and then turned to allow him to throw
over his shoulders his riding-coat, which the cold weather
made a necessity. When this toilet was finished, Antoine
returned slowly to the stables, where he hid himself in
the darkest corner.

As for the one to whom he had yielded his place, he
was doubtless reassured by the height of the coat-collar
which half concealed his face, for he went straight to the


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three horses which Antoine had already harnessed, slipped
a pair of douhle-barrelled pistols into the holsters, and
profiting by the solitary position of the mail-coach (since
the horses had been led away and the postilion from
Tournus had gone oflF), he inserted, by the aid of a sharp
bodkin which might upon emergency become a dagger,
his four screw-eyes in the mail-coach, — two in each door ;
and two others opposite, in the body of the coach, —
after which he began to put the horses into the shafts
with a promptness and skill which indicated a familiarity
from childhood with all the details of the art. This done,
he waited, calming his impatient horses with word and
whip, often combined, or employed each in turn.

Every one is familiar with the rapidity with which the
meals of those unhappy ones who are condemned to the
rule of the stage-coach are devoured. The halfrhour there-
fore had not expired when the conductor's voice was heard
calling out : " Come, citizens ! carriage is ready ! "

Montbar stood near the door, and in spite of their dis-
guises had no difficulty in recognizing Roland and the
brigadier-general of the Seventh Chasseurs, who took their
places in the interior of the vehicle without paying any
attention to the postilion. The latter shut the door upon
them, passed one of the padlocks through the two screw-
eyes, and turned the key. Then g<jing around the coach he
pretended to let his whip drop before the other door, and
as he stooped for it he put a second padlock into the two
other screw-eyes, turning the key as he rose ; then, cer-
tain that the two officers were well locked in, he bestrode
his horse, all the time scolding the conductor who allowed
him to do his work. In fact, the traveller of the coup^
was already in his place, while the conductor was disput-
ing an account with the host.

''Are we going this evening, to-night^ or to-morrow


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moruingy Father Francois?" cried the pretended postil-
ion, imitating as best he could the voice of the real

" Yes, yes, we are going/* replied the conductor. Then
looking around him he asked : '' But where are the

" Here we are," replied the two o£Gicers from the inte-
rior of the coach and the agent from the coupe.

"Is the door shut close? " continued Fran9ois.

" Oh, I will answer for it/' replied Montbar.

*' Then in that case let us go," cried the conductor,
stepping upon the footpiece ; and taking his place near
his traveller, he brought the door to after him.

The postilion did not make him speak twice, but
started his horses by plunging the spurs into the sides of
the one that he rode and tingling the two others with a
vigorous blow of his whip. Tlie mail-coach started off
at a gallop.

Montbar behaved as though he had never been anything
but a postilion in his life, and crossed the city at such a
rate that the windows danced and the houses trembled.
Never had a real postilion cracked his whip in a more
knowing manner. As he left Macon he saw a little group
of horsemen. It was the twelve Chasseurs who were to
follow the coach without appearing to escort it. The briga-
dier-general passed his head through the opening of the
door and made a sign to the quartermaster who com-
manded them. Montbar did not seem to remark any-
thing, but at the end of three hundred paces, while
executing asympliony with his whip, he turned his head
and saw that the escort had started. ** Now, my dears,"
said Montbar, " I am going to make you see the country."
And he redoubled the strokes of his spurs and the blows
of his whip. The horses seemed to have wings. The


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coach flew over the pavement until it seemed as if a car
of thunder had passed.

The conductor grew uneasy. *' Master Antoine," he
cried, ** do you happen to be drunk ? •'

** Drunk I yes/* replied Montbar. "I had beet-root
salad for dinner,"

" But if he goes so fast,*' cried Roland, putting his head
through the door in his turn, " the escort cannot follow

"Do you hear what he said to youT* cried the

" No," replied Montbar, " I do not hear.'*

'* WelL they said that if you went so fast the escort
could not follow.'*

*' Is there an escort 1 " said Montbar.

"Yes, since we have government money with us.'*

" That is another thing I You ought to have told me
at once.*'

But instead of slackening its course the coach continued
to go on in the same way • if there was any change, it
appeared to gain in velocity.

" You know that if there is any accident," said the
conductor, " I will shoot you.**

"Oh,** said Montbar, "everybody knows your pistols;
there are no bullets in them.**

" Perhaps so ; but there are some in mine," cried the
police agent.

" We will see, when the occasion calls for them,'* replied
Montbar. And he continued on his way without trou-
bling himself to speak further.

They crossed with the speed of lightning the village
of Varennes, that of la Creche, and the little town of
Chapelle de Guinohay. They were only about a quarter
of a league from the Maison Blanche. The horses were


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dripping, and they neighed with rage as they tossed the
foam from their mouths.

Monthar glanced hehind him. More than a thousand
feet hehind the mail-coach sparks were flying under the
feet of the horses of the escort. Before him was the slope
of a mountain. He dashed upon it, gathering up his
reins in such a way as to make himself master of the
horses when he liked. The conductor had ceased to call
out, for he recognized that the horses were being driven
by a hand at once skilful and vigorous. Only, from time
to time, the brigadier-general looked out of the door to
see how far off his men were.

Half way down the slope Monthar was master of his
horses, without having appeared for a moment to slacken
their course. Then he began singing in a loud voice the
Reveil-du-Peuple ; it is the Royalists' song, as the Mar-
seillaise was the song of the Jacobins.

*^ What is that rascal doing 1 " cried Roland, putting his
head out of the door. *' Tell him to keep still, Conductor,
or I will put a bullet into him."

Perhaps the conductor would have repeated Roland's
threat to the postilion, but he thought he saw a black line
which barred the road. At the same time a voice of
thunder cried, " Stop, Conductor ! "

" Postilion, ride right over them ! " cried the agent of

" Do you think so ] '* said Monthar. ** Do you want to
ride over your friends ] H-o-o-h ! "

The raail-coach stopped as if by enchantment.

" Forward ! forward ! at once ! " cried Roland and the
chief of brigade, realizing that the escort was too far off
to be of any use to them.

" Ah, you blackguard of a postilion," cried the agent
of police, leaping down from the coup^ and pointing a
pistol at Monthar. ** You shall pay for this."


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But he had not finished before Montbar, anticipating
him, fired, and the agent rolled, mortally wounded, under
the wheels of the coach. His finger contracted in agony
and touched the trigger of his pistol. The weapon was
discharged, but the ball hit no one.

" Conductor," cried the two officers, "by all the thun-
ders of heaven open this door ! "

" Gentlemen," said Morgan, coming forward, " we do
not want your persons. We only want the government
money. Now, Conductor, the fifty thousand francs, and
quickly ! ''

Two shots from the interior of the coach were the reply
of the two officers, who, after having vainly shaken the
doors, tried still more vainly to get out through the
windows. Doubtless one of the shots had told, for they
heard a cry of rage, at the same time that a flash of light
illuminated the road. The general of brigade uttered a
sigh, and fell over upon Roland. He had been shot dead.
Roland fired a second pistol, but no one replied. His two
pistols were discharged. Shut in as he was he could not
use his sword, and he was raging with anger.

In the mean time they were forcing the conductor, with
a pistol held at his throat, to give up the money. Two
men took the bags which contained the fifty thousand
francs, and loaded them upon Montbar's horse, which his
groom had brought to him all saddled and bridled, as for
a meeting of the hunt.

Montbar got rid of his great boots, and leaped into the
saddle with his thin shoes on. " My compliments to the
First Consul, Monsieur de Montrevel," he exclaimed. Then
turning towards his companions he said : " Scatter now,
my boys, and take any road you like ! You know the
meeting place to-morrow evening."

" Yes," replied ten or twelve voices. And the whole


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baud scattered like the flight of birds, disappearing in the
valley under the shadow of the trees which grew along
the river's bank. Just then they heard the galloping of
horses, and the escort, attracted by the firing, appeared
upon the summit of the mountain,, which they descended
like an avalanche.

But they came too late. They found only the conductor
seated upon the bank by the roadside, the two corpses of
the agent of police and the general of brigade^ and Eolaad
a prisoner, and lagiug like an infuriated Hon.



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While the events which we have just related were taking
place in the provinces, and occupying all minds and dll
newspapers there, other events, of a serious nature, were
being prepared at Paris, which were to occupy the minds
and newspapers of the entire world.

Lord Tanlay had returned with the reply of his uncle.
Lord Grenville. This reply consisted of a letter addressed
to M. de Talleyrand, and a note enclosed in it for the
First Consul. The letter was as follows : —

Downing Street, Feb. 14, 1800.
Monsieur, — I have received and given to the king the
letter which you sent to me by my nephew, Lord Tanlay. His
Majesty, seeing no reason for departing from the forms which
have been for a long time established in Europe for treating
with foreign Powers, has onlered me to transmit to you in his
name the official reply which I enclose herewith.
I have the honor to be, sir.

Your very humble and obedient servant,


The reply was short, the note precise. More ; a letter
had been written, bearing the autograph of the First
Consul, to King George, and he, not depaii^ing from ike
fortM established in Europe for treating mth foreign
PotoerSy had replied by a simple note in the handwriting
of his first secretary. It is true that the note was signed
" Grenville." It was merely a long recrimination against


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Drawn by E. Van Muyden,

The Companions of Jehu, II. igs*


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France, against the spirit of disorder which agitated it,
and against the fears which this spirit of disorder excited
all over Europe, and enlarging upon the necessity im-
posed, by a regard for their own preservation, upon all
reigning sovereigns to repress it. In short, it was a con-
tinuation of the war.

At the reading of this note Bonaparte's eyes shone with
the flame which with him always preceded great decisions,
as the lightning precedes the thunder. '^ And so, sir," he
said, turning to Loid Tanlay, '' this is all that you were
able to obtain 1 *'

" Yes, citizen Consul/*

" Then you did not repeat verbally to your uncle what
I told your*

** I did not forget a syllable."

" Perhaps you did not tell him that you had lived in
France for two or three years ; that you had seen it and
studied it ; that it was strong, powerful, and happy, and
desifous of peace, although prepared for war ] "

"I told him all that."

" Then you did not add that the war which England
wages against us is a senseless one ; that this spirit of dis-
order of which they speak is nothing more than the over-
flow of repressed liberty, which it is advisable to shut up
in France by a universal peace ; that this peace is the sole
boundary which can keep it from leaping our frontiers ;
that in kindling in France the volcano of war, France,
like an outburst of lava, will overflow upon other nations 1
Italy is delivered, says the King of England; but de-
livered from whom 1 From its liberators ! Italy is
delivered, but whyl Because I was conquering Egypt
from the Delta to the third cataract ! Italy is free be-
cause I am not there. But in a month I shall be in Italy ;
And what will be necessary to reconquer it, from the Alps to

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the Adriatic 1 One battle. What do you think Mass^na
ia doing in defending Genoa) He ia waiting for me. Ah,
so the sovereigns of Europe need war in order to make
their crowns safer ! Well, my lord, I tell you I will shake
Europe until the crowns tremble on their foreheads. They
need war 1 Wait ! Bourrienne ! Bourrienne ! "

The door of communication between the office of the
First Consul and that of the secretary opened quickly,
and Bourrienne appeared, with his £Eice as frightened as if
Bonaparte had called for help. The latter was all excite
ment, crushing the diplomatic note in one hand and tapping
upon the desk with the other, while Lord Tanlay stood calm
and motionless a few stepa away from him.

Bourrienne understood at once that it was the reply
from England which had so irritated the First Consul.
** You called me. General ) ** he said.

''Yes," said the First Consul; ''sit down there and
write." And with a sharp, dry voice, without seek-
ing for words, but on the contrary as if the ¥^rda
crowded to the door of his mind, he dictated the follow**
ing proclamation : —

" Soldiers I — In promising peace to the people of France,
I have been your mouthpiece ; I knew your worth. You are
the same men who conquered the Rhine, Holland, and Italy,
and who gave peace under the walls of astonished Vienna.

" Soldiers 1 It is no longer a question of defending your
frontiers, but of invadhig unfriendly States. When the time
comes, I shall be in the midst of you, and then astonished
Europe will remember that you are of the race of brave

Bourrienne raised his head and waited, after he had
written the last words*

" Well, that is all," said Bonaparte.

" Shall I add the sacramental words, Vvvela Bepubttg^uef**


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Online LibraryAlexandre DumasThe companions of Jehu → online text (page 13 of 24)