Alexandre Dumas.

The companions of Jehu online

. (page 16 of 24)
Online LibraryAlexandre DumasThe companions of Jehu → online text (page 16 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


question of my honor ! "

" Speak, Monsieur Roland."

Roland drew out his watch. " It is five o'clock. When
they open the inn of the Belle-Alliance, you must be
there as if you were just passing by. You will stop and
talk with whoever opens the gate."

" It will probably be Pierre."

" Whether it is Pierre or not, you will find out for me



Digitized



by Google



228 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

what traveller has come there on a pacing horse. Do you
know what a pacing horse is 1 '*

^* Oh, yes ; it is a horse that walks like a bear, with the
two legs on the same side at once."

" Good ; you can find out also, can you not, whether
the traveller is going to leave this morning, or whether he
will pass the day at the hotel ] "

" Certainly I can find out."

" Well, when you know that, come and tell me ; but
preserve strict silence as to my presence here. If any
one asks news of me, say that a letter came from me yes-
terday, and that I am at Paris with the First ConsuL"

"Very well."

Michel went away. Roland lay down and went to
sleep, leaving Jacques to guard the pavilion.

When Roland awoke Michel had returned. He had
found out all that his master wanted to know. The horse-
man who had arrived in the night was to go away again in
the evening ; and upon the hotel register which every inn-
keeper was forced to keep regularly at this period had
been written : " Saturday, 30th Pluvi6se, ten o'clock in
the evening ; Citizen Valensolle, coming from Lyons, go-
ing to Geneva." Thus an alibi had been prepared, since
the register evidenced that Citizen Valensolle had arrived
at ten o'clock in the evening, and since it was impossible
that he could have stopped the mail-coach at the Maison
Blanche at half-past eight, and have entered the hotel of
the Belle-Alliance at ten o'clock.

But what occupied Roland's thoughts more than any-
thing else was the discovery that the one whom he had
followed for a part of the night, and whose retreat and
name he had just discovered, was no other than Alfred de
Barjols' second, who in all probability had played the part
of the ghost in the monastery of Seillon.



Digitized



by Google



LOOKING FOR A TRAIL. 229

The companions of Jehu were not ordinary thieves,
therefore, but on the contrary, as report had testified,
gentlemen of good family, who, while the noble Bretons
risked their lives in the west for the royalist cause, defied
the scaffold in their turn to send to the combatants the
money which they collected in their dangerous expedi-
tions at the other end of France.



Digi



tized by Google



330 THB COMPANIONS OF JEHU.



CHAPTEE XIX.

AN INSPIRATION.

As we have seen, in his pursuit on the preceding night
Roland might have arrested one or two of those whom he
was following. He could also have arrested M. de Valen-
solle, who probably followed Roland's example, and took
a day of rest after a night of fatigue. All he would have
to do now would be to write a little note to the captain
of police, or the chief of brigade of dragoons, who had
made the expedition with him to Seillon. Their honor
was engaged in the affair. They could surround M. de
Valensolle in his bed. It would only cost them two men
killed or wounded, and M. de Valensolle would be taken.
But the arrest of M. de Valensolle would give the alarm
to the rest of the troop, who would instantly put them-
selves in safety on the other side of the frontier. It was
therefore better to keep to Roland's iirst idea ; namely, to
follow the different trails which would converge at the
main centre, and at the risk of a fight cast a net over the
whole company. To do this M. de Valensolle could not
be arrested. He must be followed in his intended journey
to Geneva, which was probably only a pretext to evade
pursuit.

It was agreed this time that Roland, who, well dis-
guised though he was, might be recognized, should stay
at the pavilion, and that Michel and Jacques should for
this night turn the game. M. de Valensolle would prob-
ably not start until it was nearly night.



Digitized



by Google



AN INSPIRATION. 231

Eoland asked about the life which his sister had led
since his mother's departure. Since that time Am^lie had
not once left the Ch&teau of Noires-Fontaines. Her days
were spent as usual, except for the walks which she had
taken with Mme. de Montrevel. She rose at seven or
eight o'clock in the morning, and drew or practised music
until breakfast ; after breakfast she occupied herself with
some fancy work, or profited by fair weather to go down
as far as the river with Charlotte. Sometimes she called
Michel, had him unfasten a little boat, and wrapped in
her furs went up the Keyssouse as far as Montagnac, or
descended it as far as St.-Just, and then returned, without
having spoken to any one. Then she dined. After din-
ner she went up to her room with Charlotte, and did not
again appear.

At half-past six, therefore, Michel and Jacques could
leave the place, and none would inquire what had become
of them. At six o'clock Michel and Jacques took their
blouses, game-bags, and guns, and started. They had re-
ceived their instructions. They were to follow the pacing
horse until they found out where his rider was going, or
until they lost track of him. Michel was to go and lie
in ambush opposite the Belle- Alliance, and Jacques was to
take his station at the junction of the three roads to St.-
Amour, St.-Claude, and Nantua. The latter is also the
road to Geneva. It was evident that unless he retraced
his steps, which was not probable, M. de Valensolle would
take one of these three roads.

The father went one way and the son the other. Michel
went towards the city by the road to Pont-d'Ain, passing
the church of Brou. Jacques crossed the Reyssouae and
followed the right bank of the little river. He soon
found himself at the acute angle which the three roads
made in leaving the city. At about the moment when



Digitized



by Google



232 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

the son took his station, the father had arrived at his
own.

At that very moment, seven o'clock in the evening, in-
terrupting the solitude and accustomed silence of the
Chdteau of Noires-Fontaines, a post-chaise stopped before
the gate, and a servant in livery pulled the iron chain of
the bell. It was Michel's duty to open the gate, but
Michel, as we know, was not there. Am^lie and Charlotte
probably depended upon him, for the ringing of the bell
was repeated three times before any one opened the gate.
Finally the maid appeared at the top of the steps. She
drew near impatiently, calling Michel. Michel did not
answer. At last, protected by the gate, Charlotte ven-
tured to approach. In spite of the darkness she recog-
nized the servant.

" Ah, is it you, Monsieur James ] " she cried.

James was Sir John's confidential servant. " Oh, yes,*'
said James, " it is I, Mademoiselle Charlotte ; or rather
it is my lord."

Just then the carriage door opened and Sir John's voice
was heard, saying, "Charlotte, be good enough to tell
your mistress that I have just come from Paris, and have
stopped here, not in order to be received this evening,
but to ask her permission to present myself to-morrow, if
she will be good enough to grant me this favor. Ask
her what hour will be most convenient for her to see
me."

Charlotte had a great respect for Sir John, and she
therefore hastened to acquit herself of her errand. Five
minutes afterwards she came back to tell him that he
would be received on the following day from twelve to
one o'clock.

Eoland knew what his visit signified. In his own
mind the marriage was already decided, and Sir John was



Digitized



by Google



AN INSPIRATION. 233

his brother-in-law. He hesitated a moment whether he
should make himself known to the Englishman, and
acquaint him with part of his plans. But he reflected
that Lord Tanlay was not a man to be left out of any-
thing of the kind. He wanted to be revenged upon the
companions of Jehu, and would wish to accompany Roland
upon the expedition, whatever it was. This expedition
was sure to be dangerous, and harm might happen to
him. The good fortune which accompanied Roland, as
Roland himself had experienced, did not extend to his
friends. Sir John, grievously wounded, had barely been
brought back to life, and the chief of brigade had been
shot dead. He therefore allowed Sir John to go away
without giving any sign of his existence.

As for Charlotte, she did not appear at all astonished
that Michel had not been there to open the gate. They
were evidently accustomed to his absences, and neither
the maid nor the mistress were disturbed by them. Ro-
land explained this degree of carelessness by telling himself
that Amelie, although she was weak in the face of some
moral suffering which was unknown to Roland, who attri-
buted to nervousness the variations in his sister's char-
acter, yet she would be great and strong before a real
danger. This was doubtless (he said to himself) the reason
for the absence of fear which the two girls felt in remain-
ing alone in the solitary chateau, without other guardians
than two men who passed their nights in poaching. As
for us, we know how Michel and his son, by going away,
ministered to Am^lie's wishes much better than if they
had remained at the chateau ; for their absences left a free
field for Morgan, and that was all Am^lie asked.

The evening and a part of the night slipped away
without any news for Roland. He tried to sleep, but
he slept little. Every moment he thought he heard a



Digitized



by Google



234 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

door opening. The day was beginning to break when the
door opened in reality, Michel and Jacques had come
back. This is what had passed.

Each one had gone to his post, Michel to tlie hotel
gate and Jacques to the cross-roads. A few steps away
from the inn Michel had found Pierre. In a few wonis
he had satisfied himself that M. de YalensoUe was still
there. He had announced that he had a long journey to
make, and would let his horse rest until niglit. Pierre
had no doubt that the traveller was about to set out for
Geneva, as he had said. Michel proposed to Pierre to
drink a glass of wine. Pierre accepted, and from that
time Michel was sure of finding out all he wanted to
know ; for Pierre had charge of the stable, and nothing
could be done in his department without his knowledge.
This knowledge the boy attached to the hotel promised to
give him, for which favor he was to receive three charges
of powder to make a fusee. At midnight the traveller
had not started. The two men had drunk four bottles of
wine, but Michel was not at all overcome by them. Of
these four bottles he had found means to empty at least
three into Pierre's glass, where they did not stay long.
At midnight Pierre was to go back. But what was Michel
to do then ) The shop would shut up, and he had still
four hours to wait before daylight. Pierre oflTered Michel
a bed of straw in the stable. It was warm, and he would
have a good soft place to lie. Michel accepted. The two
friends entered by the great gate arm in arm, — Pierre
staggering, and Michel seeming to do so. At three o'clock
in the morning the servant called Pierre ; the traveller
wished to go. Michel pretended that it was time for him
to go also, and rose. It did not take long for him to
make his toilet ; he had only to shake off the straw from
his blouse, game-bag, and hair, after which he took leave



Digitized



by Google



AN INSPIRATION. 235

of his friend Pierre and went to hide at the corner of the
street. A quarter of an hour later the gate opened, and a
horseman came out of the hotel ; he rode a pacing horse.
It was M. de Valensolle ; he took the street which led
to the road to Geneva. Michel followed him without
attempting to conceal the fact, whistling a hunting-song.
But he could not run, for he would have been noticed ; as
the result of this difficulty, in a moment he had lost sight
of M. de Valensolle.

There remained Jacquos, who was to wait for the young
man at the cross-roads. But Jacques had been at the
cross-roads for more than six hours, on a winter's night,
with the thermometer only a few degrees above rero.
Would he have had the courage to stand in the snow for
six hours, kicking his feet against the trees along the
road ] Michel began to run through the streets and lanes.
But the horse had been quicker than he. He arrived at
the cross-roads. The place was solitary. The snow had
been trampled upon during the whole of the preceding
day, which had been Sunday, and the horse's tracks were
lost in the mud of the road. Michel did not try to follow
the horse, — it was useless ; it would only have been lost
time. He occupied himself in trying to find out what
Jacques had been doing. His poacher's eye soon put him
on the track.

Jacques had stationed himself at the foot of a tree ;
but for how long was difficult to say. It was long enough,
however, for him to have become cold, for the snow was
beaten down by his great hunting-boots. He had tried to
warm himself by marching up and down. Then suddenly
be had doubtless remembered that there was on the other
side of the road one of those little mud huts in which the
road-laborers were accustomed to take shelter from the rain.
He had descended the ditch and crossed the road. The



Digitized



by Google



236 THE COMPANIONS OP JEHU.

tracks which were lost for a moment in the middle of the
road, could he followed apon the sides. These tr^ks went
diagonally across the road, straight to the hut. It was evi-
dent that it was in this hut that Jacques had passed the
night.

Now, when had he left it 1 And why had he left it 1
It was hard to say when he had left it, hut the dullest fol-
lower of a trail would have known why he had left it.
He had left it to follow M. de ValensoUe. The same
step which had gone towards the hut had left it, and
gone away in the direction of Ceyzeriat. The horseman
therefore had really taken the road to Geneva. Jacques'
footsteps told that clearly ; they were far apart, like those
of a man who was running, and he followed along the
sides of the fields the line of trees which would conceal
him from the sight of the traveller. Opposite an obscure
public house, one of those inns above whose gate are
written these words, " Eating and drinking. Lodging for
man and beast," the steps had stopped. It was evident
that the traveller had halted at this inn, since twenty
paces away from there, Jacques himself had stopped be-
hind a tree. But at the end of a moment, probably at
the time the gate shut upon the horseman and his steed,
Jacques had left his tree, crossed the road, this time hesi-
tatingly and with short steps, and made his way, not
towards the door, but towards the window.

Michel put his feet^ in the footprints of his son and
thus reached the window. Through the poorly fitting
shutters it would be possible, when the interior of the
place was lighted up, to see into it ; but now everything
was dark, and he could see nothing. It was for the sake
of looking into the house that Jacques had approached
the window ; doubtless the room had been lighted for a
moment, and Jacques had seen in. Where had he gone



Digitized



by Google



AN INSPIRATION. 237

when he left the window t He had gone around the house
along the wall, and could easily be followed on this ex-
cursion, for the snow was untrodden. It was not difficult
to guess what his object had been in thus going around
the house ; Jacques, being a boy of sense, had thought
that the horseman would not set out at three o'clock in
the morning, saying that he was going to Geneva, only to
stop at a quarter of a league from the town in such an inn
as this. He must have gone out by some back door.
Jacques, then, had gone around the wall in the hope of
finding on the other side of the house some trace of the
horse, or at least of the rider. And in fact, leading from
the little back gate towards the forest which extends from
Cotrez to Ceyzeriat, it was easy to follow the footsteps,
which went in a straiglit line towards the edge of the
wood. The steps were those of a man elegantly shod,
and shod like a rider. His spurs had left traces in the
snow. Jacques had not hesitated, but had followed the
steps. Michel could see the traces of his great shoes near
those of the well-made boots, — the large peasant foot
beside the well-shod one of the citizen.

It was five o'clock in the morning, and daylight. Michel
resolved to go no farther. When Jacques was once upon
the trail, the young poacher was as good as the old one.
Michel made a wide circuit upon the plain as if he was
returning from Ceyzeriat, and resolved to enter the inn
and wait for Jacques there. Jacques would understand
that his father must have followed him, and that he must
have stopped at the solitary house. Michel knocked upon
the window-shutter, and made them open the door for
him. He knew the landlord, for he was accustomed to
seeing him in his nocturnal rambles ; he asked for a bottle
of wine, complained of having found no game, and while he
was drinking asked permission to wait for his son, who was



Digitized



by Google



238 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

out poaching in his turn, and would perhaps have been
luckier than he. He of course obtained permission without
any difficulty. Michel had taken the precaution to have
the shutters open on the side towards the road.

A moment later steps were heard upon the pavement. It
was Jacques. His father called him. Jacques had been as
unfortunate as his father, and had killed nothing. Jacques
was frozen. An armful of wood was thrown upon the fire,
and a second glass brought. Jacques warmed himself, and
drank. Then, as they were obliged to get back to the
Chateau of Noires-Foutaines before daylight, so that no one
should perceive the absence of the two poachers, Michel
paid for the bottle of wine and the fire, and they started.
Neither of them had said to the landlord a single word of
what wais in their thoughts, and no one suspected that
they had been in quest of anything but game. But when
they were on the other side of the threshold Michel ques-
tioned his son.

Then Jacques told him that he had followed the tracks
into the forest, but that when he came to a clearing, there
had suddenly risen up before him a man armed with a
gun, who had asked him what he was doing in the woods
at that hour. Jacques had replied that he was looking
for game. " Then go farther," the man had said, " for, as
you see, this place is taken." Jacques had recognized the
justice of the claim, and had gone a hundred feet farther.
But just as he was turning to the left to go back into
the inclosure from which he had been turned aside, an*
other man, armed like the first, had also risen up before
him, asking him the same questions. Jacques had no
other reply to make than what he had already made, —
" I am looking for game." The man had then pointed
towards the edge of the forest and had said almost threat-
eningly : " If I should advise you, my young friend, it



Digitized



by Google



AN INSPIRATION. 239

would be to go yonder. I think you will do better there
than here." Jacques had followed the advice, or at least
had appeared to do so, for when he arrived at the place
indicated he had gone along the ditch ; and then con-
vinced of the impossibility of taking up again, at least at
present, M. de ValensoUe's track, he had gone out into the
opening, had come upon the high-road, and crossing the
fields had returned to the inn, where he hoped to find his
father, as he had done in fact. They had reached the
Chateau of Noires-Fontaines, as we already know, just as
the first rays of light shone through the shutters.

All this was related to Roland, together with a mass of
details which we omit, and which convinced the young
officer that the two men armed with guns, who had risen
up at Jacques* approach, were none other — poachers
though they seemed to be — than companions of Jehn.
But where could their haunt bel There was no aban-
doned convent there, nor any other ruins.

Suddenly Roland struck his head. " Oh, how stupid
I am ! " he said ; " why did n't I think of that] " A tri-
umphant smile crossed his lips, and addressing the two
men, who were in despair at not having been able to bring
him more precise information, he said : " My boys, I know
all that I want to know. Go to bed and sleep well, for you
have indeed deserved it."

In his turn setting the example, Roland slept like a
man who has just solved a problem of the highest import-
ance, and which has puzzled him for a long time. It had
occurred to him that the companions of Jehu had aban-
doned the monastery of Seillon for the cave of Ceyzeriat ;
and at the same time he remembered a subterranean pas-
sage which existed between that cave and the church of
Brou.



Digitized



by Google



240 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.



CHAPTER XX.

RECONNOITRING.

That same day, in accordance with the permission that
had been granted him on the preceding night, Sir John
presented himself about noon at Mile, de Montrevel's.

Everything took place as Morgan had wished. Sir
John was received as a friend of the family, whose pre-
tentions to the hand of the daughter were considered an
honor. Am^lie opposed neither her brother's nor her
mother's desires, nor the orders of the First Consul ; but
she pleaded the state of her health as an excuse for ask-
ing for time. Lord Tanlay bowed. He had obtained as
much as he had dared to hope, and he would conform to
her wishes. But he guessed that his prolonged presence at
Bourg would be unsuitable, — Ara^lie, still under the pre-
text of ill health, being so far from her mother and
brother. Consequently he told her that he would come
and see her again on the next day, and would go away
that same afternoon. He would wait for another inter-
view with her until she went to Paris, or until her mother
returned to Bourg. The latter seemed the more probable,
as Am^lie said that she needed springtime and her native
air to aid in the recovery of her health.

Thus to the perfect delicacy of Sir John, Am^lie's desires
and those of Morgan were fulfilled, and the two lovers
had before them time and solitude.

Michel learned these details from Charlotte, and Roland
learned them from Michel. Rolan«l resolved to allow Sir



Digitized



by Google



RECONNOITRING. 241

John to go away before attempting anything further. But
this did not prevent him from trying to solve the final
doubt.

When night had come, Roland took a hunting-costnme,
threw over it Michel's blouse, shaded his face under a
large hat,, put a pair of pistols into the belt which held
his hunting-knife, and which was concealed under his
blouse, and ventured upon the road from Noires-Fontaines
to Bourg. He stopped at the barracks of the police, and
asked to speak to the captain. The captain was in his
room. Roland went up and revealed his identity to him.
Then, as it was only eight o'clock in the evening, and he
might be recognized by some passer-by, he put out the
lamp. The two men remained in darkness. The captain
already knew what had taken place three days before on
the road to Lyons^ and being certain that Roland had not
been killed, he was awaiting his visit. To his great aston-
ishment, Roland had come to ask only one thing of him,
or rather two things, — the key of the church of Bourg,
and a crowbar. The captain gave him the desired objects,
and oflTered to accompany him on his excursion, but Ro-
land refused. It was evident that he had been betrayed
by some one at the time of his expedition to the Maison
Blanche, and he would not expose himself to a second be-
trayal. He also strictly enjoined the captain to tell no
one of his presence, and to wait for his return even though
he should be delayed for an hour or two. The captain
promised.

Roland, with the key in his right hand and the crowbar
in his left, noiselessly reached the side door of the church,
opened it,. shut it again, and found himself face to face
with a wall of hay. He listened. The deepest silence
reigned in the solitary church. He recalled his youthful
memories, turned to the east, put the key in his pocket,

VOL. II. — 16



Digitized



by Google



242 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

and climbed up the wall of hay, which was about fifteen
feet high and formed a kind of platform. Then, as if he
was sliding down hill, he slipped down to the ground,
which was paved with tombstones. The choir was
empty of hay^ thanks to the gallery, which protected it


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryAlexandre DumasThe companions of Jehu → online text (page 16 of 24)