Alexandre Dumas.

The companions of Jehu online

. (page 20 of 24)
Online LibraryAlexandre DumasThe companions of Jehu → online text (page 20 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the Comte de Jayat, the Vicomte de Valensolle, and the
Marquis de Ribier.

While the military commission at Besan9on was going
through with the trial of the four prisoners, the law ex-
pired which submitted to military tribunals the offence of
stopping diligences on the high roads. The prisoners
were therefore under the jurisdiction of civil tribunals.
This made a great difference to them, — not as regarded
the sentence, but as regarded the method of execution.
Condemned by a military tribunal, they were shot ; con-
demned by civil jurisdiction, they were guillotined. It
was not shameful to be shot, but it was to be guillotined.

When it was found that they were to be judged by a
jury, their case came before the jury of Bourg. Towards
the end of March the accused had therefore been trans-
ferred from the prison of Besan9on to that of Bourg, and
the trial had begun. But the four accused men had
adopted a system which could not fail to embarrass the
judge. They declared that they were called the Baron of
Sainte-Hermine, the Comte de Jayat, the Vicomte de Val-



Digitized



by Google



288 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

ensolle, and the Marquis de Ribier, but that they had no
connection whatever with those robbers of diligences who
had been called Morgan, Montbar, Adler, and D'Assas.
They confessed to having been a part of the main army ;
but they claimed to belong to the bands of M, de Tey-
sonnet, — a branch of the army of Brittany destined to
operate in the south or east, while the army of Brittany
which had just signed the peace had been destined to
operate in the west. They were only waiting for sub-
mission from Cadoudal to make their own ; and that of
their chief had doubtless been on the way to them when
they had been attacked and taken.

Proof to the contrary was difficult to find. The dil-
igences had always been attacked by masked men, and
aside from Mme. de Montrevel and Sir John no one had
ever seen the face of one of our adventurers. It will
be recalled under what circumstances this had occurred.
Sir John had seen their faces upon the night when he
had been judged, condemned, and apparently executed
by them ; Mme. de Montrevel, at the time of the
stopping of the diligence, when, struggling against an at-
tack of hysterics, she had accidentally knocked off Mor-
gan's mask. Both had been called before the judge; both
had been confronted with the four accused men, and both
had declared that they recognized none of them.

But whence came this reserve *? On Mme. de Mon-
trevel's part it was easily guessed. She felt a double
gratitude towards the man who had protected her son
Edward and had brought help to herself. On Sir John's
part the silence was more difficult to explain, for among
the four prisoners he certainly recognized at least two of
his assassins. They had recognized him, and a shudder
had passed over them at sight of him ; but they had not
the less resolutely fixed their eyes upon him, when, to



Digitized



by Google



THE TRIAL. 289

tbeir great astonishment, Sir John, in spite of the per-
sistence of the judge, had obstinately replied : " I have
not the honor of recognizing these gentlemen."

Am^lie, of whom I have not hitherto spoken, — for
there are sorrows which the pen cannot even attempt to
describe, — Am^lie, pale, feverish, almost perishing since
that fatal night when Morgan had been arrested, waited
with anxiety the return of her mother and Lord Tanlay
from their interview with the judge. Lord Tanlay came
in first. Mme. de Montrevel stayed behind for a moment
to give some orders to Michel.

As soon as she saw Sir John, Am^lie sprang towards
him, exclaiming : " Well 1 "

Sir John looked around him to assure himself that
Mme. de Montrevel could neither see nor hear him.
" Neither your mother nor I have recognized any one,*' he
replie<l.

**Ah, how noble, how generous, how good you arc,
my lord 1 " cried the young girl, attempting to kiss his
hand.

But he drew it back. " I have only kept my promise,"
he said ; " but, hush ! here is your mother ! "

Amelie stepped back. "And so, Madame," she said,
" you have not helped to condemn these unfortunate ones 1 ""

" What ! " replied Mme. de Montrevel, " would you
liave me send to the scaffold a man who brought help to
me, and who, instead of punishing Edward, kissed him 1 "

**And yet," asked Amelie, trembling, "you recognized
him, did you nof?"

"Perfectly," replied Mme. de Montrevel. "It was
tiie blonde man with black eyebrows and eyes, who was
named Charles de Sainte-Hermine."

Amelie uttered a stifled cry ; then making an effort to
control herself she asked : " Then all is at an end, as far

VOL. II. — 19



Digitized



by Google



290 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

as you and my lord are concerned, and you will not be
called back again 1 '*

"Probably not," replied Mme. de Montrevel.

"In any case," replied Sir John, " I suppose that like
myself, who really did not recognize any one, Mme. de
Montrevel would persist in her deposition."

"Oh, certainly," said Mme. de Montrevel. "God
forbid that I should cause the death of this unhappy
young man! I should never forgive myself. It is
quite enough that his companions were arrested by
Roland."

Araelie uttered a sigh, and then her face became calmer.
She threw a look of gratitude at Sir John, and went up
to her room, where Charlotte was waiting for her. Char-
lotte had become more a friend than a maid. Every day
since the accused had been brought to the prison at Bourg,
Charlotte had been to pass an hour with her father. Dur-
ing that time they talked of nothing but the prisoner,
whom the worthy turnkey, in his character of royalist,
pitied with all his heart. Charlotte listened to every
word she could glean about them, and each day she
brought to Amelia news of the accused.

In the mean time Mme. de Montrevel and Sir John
had arrived at Noires-Fontaines. Before leaving Paris,
the First Consul had told both Roland and Josephine to
inform Mme. de Montrevel that he desired that the mar-
riage should take place in his absence, and as promptly
as possible. Sir John, when he went with Mme. de Mon-
trevel to Noires-Fontaines, had declared that his most
ardent desires would be accomplished by this union, and
that he only waited for a word from Amelie to become
the happiest of men.

Things having come to this point, Mme. de Montre-
vel, on the very morning of the day when Sir John and



Digitized



by Google



THE TRIAL. 291

slie were to appear as witnesses, had authorized a tete-ct-tete
between Sir John and her daughter. The interview had
lasted more than an hour, and Sir John had left Am^lie
only to accompany Mme. de Montrevel before the judge.
We have seen that their evidence tended to liberate the
prisoners, and we have also seen how, on his return, Sir
John had been received by Amelia.

In the evening Mme. de Montrevel also had an inter-
view with her daughter. To her mother's searching
questions Amelie had contented herself with replying
that her ill health made her desire to postpone her mar-
riage, but that she would leave the matter to the delicacy
of Lord Tanlay.

On the next day Mme. de Montrevel had been obliged
to leave Bourg to return to Paris, her position near Mme.
Bonaparte not permitting a longer absence. On the morn-
ing of her departure she had insisted that Amelie should
accompany her to Paris; but Amelie upon this point
pleaded the feebleness of her health ; they were about to
enter upon the sweet, life-giving months of the year, the
months of April and May. She asked that she might
pass these two months in the country, certain, she said,
that they would do her good. Mme. de Montrevel could
refuse nothing to Amelie, above all when it was a question
of her health. A further delay was granted to the invalid.

As Mme. de Montrevel had come to Bourg with Lord
Tanlay, 'so slie returned to Paris with him. But much to
her astonishment, during the two days of the journey Sir
John did not say one word of his marriage with Amelie.
But when Mme. Bonaparte saw her friend she asked her
usual question : —

" Well, when will Amelie be married to Sir John 1 You
know that this marriage is one of the wishes of the First
Consul.'*



Digitized



by Google



292 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

To which Mme. de Montrevel replied, " The thing de-
pends entirely upon Lord Tanlay."

This reply made Mme. Bonaparte very thoughtful.
How, after having appeared so eager at first, had Lord
Tanlay become so cold ] Time alone could explain such
a mystery.

Time slipped away, and the trial of the prisoners con-
tinued. They had been confronted with all the travellers
who had signed the different reports that had been sent to
the minister of police, but none of the travellers had been
able to recognize them, as none of them had been seen
with uncovered faces. The travellers had, besides, borne
witness that nothing belonging to them, either of money
or of jewels, had been taken. Jean Picot had testified
that the two hundred louis which had been taken from
him by mistake had been returned.

The trial had lasted two months, and at the end of these
two months the accused, whom no one could identify,
rested upon the weight of their own confessions. That is
to say, they belonged to the Breton and Vend^ean revolt ;
they were simply a part of the armed bands which had
been scattered about the Jura Mountains, under the orders
of M. de Teysonnet.

The judges had delayed the debates as long as possible,
hoping that some witness of importance would be pro-
duced. But their hope had been in vain. 'No one had
in fact suffered from the deeds imputed to these young
men, with the exception of the treasury, whose misfor-
tunes interested no one.

It was time to open the debates. On their side the
accused had used their time to some profit. We have
seen that by means of a clever exchange of passports
Morgan travelled under the name of Ribier, and Ribier
under that of Sainte-Hermine. From this there had re-



Digitized



by Google



THE TRIAL. 293

suited a confusion in the testimony of the inn-keepers,
which their hooks had still further increased. The arrival
of travellers who registered an hour too soon or an
hour too late afiforded unmistakable alibis. The judges
were morally convinced of their guilt, but it was impos-
sible to prove it. Then, it must be confessed, the accused
had the entire sympathy of the public.

The debates opened. The prison of Bourg adjoins the
judgment hall, to which, by means of inside passages, the
prisoners could be conducted. Large as was this hall, it
was crowded upon the day of the opening of the debates.
The whole city of Bourg thronged to the doors of the
tribunal, and people came even from Macon, from Lons-
le-Saulnier, from Besangon, and from Nantua, so renowned
had become the stopping of the diligences and so popular
the exploits of the companions of Jehu.

The entrance of the four accused men was greeted in a
murmur which was not unfriendly. It was almost an
equal mixture of curiosity and sympathy. And their ap-
pearance was well calculated to awaken these two senti-
ments. Handsome, dressed in the latest fashion, self-
confident without being impudent, smiling to the audience,
courteous to their judges, although slightly mocking, their
best defence was their own appearance. The oldest of
the four had scarcely reached his thirtieth year. Ques-
tioned as to their names, ages, and place of birth, they
replied : —

" Charles de Sainte-Hermine, born at Tours, in the de-
partment of Indre-et-Loire, aged twenty-four years."

" Louis Audr6 do Jahiat, born at Bage-le-Chateau, de-
partment of TAin, aged twenty-nine years."

"Raoul Fr^d^ric Auguste do Valensolle, born at St.
Colombe, department of the Eh6ne, aged twenty-seven
years."



Digitized



by Google



294 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

" Pierre Hector de Eibier, born at BuUene, department
of Vaucluse, aged twenty-six years."

Questioned as to their condition and rank, they all four
declared themselves noblemen and royalists.

These four handsome young men, who were defending
themselves against the guillotine but not against being
shot, — who asked for death and declared that they had
merited it, but who desired a soldier's death, — formed an
admirable group of youth, courage, and generosity; and
the judges understood that under the simple accusation of
armed rebellion, la Vendee being in submission and Brit-
tany pacified, they w^ould be acquitted. But this was not
what the minister of police wanted. Even the death pro-
nounced by court martial would not satisfy him. He
wanted a dishonored death, the death of malefactors, the
death of rogues.

The debates had lasted for three days, and had not ad-
vanced a step. Charlotte, who by way of the prison
could reach the judgment hall, went every day to the de-
bates, and every evening came back to bring to Am^lie a
word of hope. On the fourth day Am^lie could endure
it no longer. She had had a costume made exactly simi-
lar to that of Charlotte, except that the black lace which
covered her hat was longer and thicker than usual. It
formed a veil, and prevented any ons from seeing her
face.

Charlotte presented Amelie to her father as one of her
young friends who was curious to be present at the de-
bates. The good man did not recognize Mdlle. de Mon-
trevel ; and in order that she might see the accused
plainly, he placed the two girls in the corridor along which
they were to pass, and which led from his room to the
judgment hall. The corridor was narrow at a certain
point, and of the four policemen who accompanied tlie



Digi



tized by Google



THE TRIAL. 295

prisouers two went in front, followed by the prisonera
one by one, and then by the other two policemen. It
was at this point that Charlotte and Am^lie stationed
themselves.

When they heard the door open, Amelie was obliged
to lean upon Charlotte's shoulder. It seemed to her that
the earth sank beneath her feet and the wall receded from
behind her. She heard the noise of the footsteps and the
clanking of the policemen's sabres. Finally the door of
communication opened. A policeman passed along, then a
second. Sainte-Hermine walked first, as if he were still
called Morgan. As he passed along Amelie murmured,
" Charles ! " The prisoner recognized the beloved voice,
uttered a faint cry of delight, and felt that a note was be-
ing slipped into his hand. He pressed her dear hand, mur-
mured the name of Amelie, and passed on. The others
came next, and they either did not or seemed not to
notice the two young girls. As for the police, they had
seen and heard nothing.

As soon as he reached a light place Morgan unfolded
the note. It contained these words : —

'* Be content, my dear Charles ; I am and will be your faith-
ful Amelie in lite as in death I have confessed all to Lord
Tanlay, and he is the most generous man in the world. 1
have his word that he will break off the marriage, and take
upon himself the responsibility of this rupture. I love
youl"

Morgan kissed the note, and put it upon his heart;
then he glanced towards the passage. The two young
gills were leaning against the door. Amelie had riskeil
everything to see him again.

It is true that they hoped this day would be the last,
unless some new witness could be found, for it was impos-



Digitized



by Google



296 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

sible to coudeiun the accused men without proofs. The
first lawyers In the department, those of Lyons and
Besan^on, had been called in by the accused to defend
them. They had spoken, each in his turn, destroying
piece by piece the accusation against the prisoners, as in
the tournaments of the Middle Ages a strong and adroit
champion would strike away piece by piece the armor of
his adversary. Applause had, in spite of the warnings of
the officers and the admonitions of the judge, welcomed
the most remarkable parts of these speeches. Amelie with
clasped hands thanked God, who was manifesting Himself
so decidedly in favor of the accused. A frightful weight
was lifted from her. She breathed freely, and looked
through tears of gratitude at the Christ placed at the head
of the judge.

The debates were about to be closed. Suddenly an
officer entered, approached the judge, and said a few words
in his ear.

" Gentlemen," said the president, " the trial is ad-
journed. Let the accused go out."

There was a moment of feverish uneasiness in the
audience. What had happened ] What unexpected thing
M'as about to take place 1 Every one looked anxiously at
his neighbor. A presentiment contracted Am^lie's heart.
She carried her hand to her chest. She felt something
like an icy dagger penetrating to the very source of her
life.

The police rose ; tlie accused followed them, and passed
towards their cell. They went one after another in front of
Amelie. The hands of the two young lovers touched
each other, and Amelie's was as cold as deatli. " What-
ever happens, thanks ! " said Charles, as he passed.
Amelie tried to reply, but the words died upon her
lips.



Digitized



by Google



THE TRIAL. 297

In the mean time the president rose and went into the
council chamber. He found a veiled lady there who had
just descended from a carriage at the very door of the
tribunal, and who had been led to this room without hav-
ing exchanged a word with any one.

" Madame," he said, " I beg of you to accept my ex-
cuses for the almost brutal fashion in which, acting upon
my discretionary power, I have called you from Paris and
brought you here. But it is a question of the life of a
man, and before that consideration all others should seem
insignificant."

'* You do not need to excuse yourself, sir," replied the
veiled lady. "I understand the privileges of justice, and
I am here at your service."

** Madame," continued the president, " I appreciate the
sentiment of exquisite delicacy which urged you, when
you were confronted with the accused, not to recognize
any one who had brought help to you. At that time
they denied their identity with the men who had robbed
tlie diligences ; since then they have confessed everything.
But we want to know which of them offered you such
courtesy, in order that we may recommend him to the
clemency of the First Consul,"

" What ! " cried the veiled lady, " they have confessed ? "

" Yes, Madame ; but they are obstinately silent as to
which one of them came to your assistance, doubtless fear-
ing to contradict your testimony, and not willing to buy
mercy at such a price."

** And what do you ask of me, sir 1 "

** That you save your savior."

'* Oh, willingly ! " said the lady, rising. " What shall
I do 1 "

" Simply reply to the question which will be addressed
to you by me."



Digitized



by Google



298 - THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

" I am ready, sir."

" Wait a moment here. You will be summoned in a
few moments."

The judge went back. The policemen placed before
each door prevented any one from communicating with
the veiled lady. The judge took his place. "Gentle-
men," he said, "the trial will continue."

A loud murmur rose. The officers called for silence.
Silence was re-established.

" Bring in the witness," said the president.

An officer opened the door, and the veiled lady entered.
All looks were cast upon her. Who was this veiled lady ]
What had she come to do 1 To what end had she been
called 1 Before any one else Amelie had fixed lier eyes
upon her. " Oh, my God ! " she murmured, " I hope I
am mistaken ! "

" Madame, " said the president, " the accused are about
to enter this hall ; be good enough to identify to the judge
the one who, upon the occasion of the stopping of the
Geneva diligence, cared for you so chivalrously."

A shudder ran through the assembly. They understood
that some sinister net had been spread beneath the feet of
the accused. A dozen voices were about to cry, " Do not
speak ! " when at a sign from the president an officer, in
an imperative voice, cried, " Silence ! " A deathlike cold
enveloped Am^lie's heart ; an icy perspiration stood upon
her forehead, and her knees seemed to give way under
her.

" Let the accused enter," said the president, command-
ing silence with a look, as the officer had called for it with
his voice. " And you, Madame, come forward and lift
your veil."

The veiled lady obeyed. " Mother 1 Mother ! " cried
Amelie, But it was in a voice so low that she was only



Digitized



by Google



THE TRIAL. 299

heard by those immediately around her. *' Madame de
Montrevel ! " murmured the audience.

Just then the first policeman appeared at the door, and
then the second. After him came the accused, but in a
different order. Morgan had the third place, so that,
separated from the policemen by Montbar and Adler, who
walked before him, and by D*Assas, who walked behind
him, he could the more easily grasp Amelie's hand.
Montbar entered first. Mme. de Montrevel shook her
head. Then came Adler. Mme. de Montrevel made
the same negative sign. Just then Morgan passed before
Am^lie. ** Oh, we are lost ! " said she. He looked at her
with astonishment, and convulsively her hand grasped his
own. He entered.

"That is he, gentlemen," said Mme. de Montrevel,
seeing Morgan, or rather Charles de Sainte-Hermine.

There rang through the audience a long wail of grief.

Montbar burst out laughing, " Upon my word," he
said, " this will teach you, my dear friend, to play the
gallant to ladies who fall ill." Then turning towards
Mme. de Montrevel, he said : " Madame, with those
words you have struck off four heads."

There was a terrible, silence, in the midst of which a
single groan was heard.

"Officer," said the president, "did you not tell the
audience that every mark of approbation or disapproba-
tion was forbidden ? "

The officer made a search for the person who had uttered
the groan. It was a woman, whom they had just carried
into the room of the prison turnkey.

From that time the accused attempted to deny nothing ;
as Morgan had clung to them, so they would cling to
him. Their four heads would be saved or would fall
together.



Digitized



by Google



300 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

The same day, at ten o'clock in the evening, the jury
declared the accused guilty, and the court pronounced the
penalty of death. Three days afterwards the lawyers suc-
ceeded in obtaining permission to carry their case to the
court of appeals.



Digitized



by Google



HOW amiSlie kept her word. 301



CHAPTER XXVI.

HOW AM^LIE KEPT HER WORD.

The verdict returned by the jury of the city of Bourg
had produced a terrible effect, not only in the judgment
hall, but in the whole city. There was such chivalrous
brotherhood among the four accused, such elegance of
manner, and such a belief in the faith which they pro-
fessed, that their very enemies could but admire this
strange devotion which had converted noblemen of birth
and name into highway robbers.

Mme. de Montrevel, in despair at the part which she
had just taken in the trial, and at the rdle which she had
involuntarily played in the deadly drama, had seen only
one means of repairing the mischief that she had done.
That was to set out upon the instant for Paris, throw her-
self at the feet of the First Consul, and ask his mercy for
the four condemned men. She did not even take time to
go to Am^lie at the Chateau of Noires-Fontaines. She
knew that Bonaparte's departure had been fixed for the
first days of May, and it was already the 6th. When she
had left Paris all his preparations had been made. She
wrote a note to her daughter, explaining to her how, in
attempting to save one of the accused men, she had con-
demned them all to death. Then, as if ashamed of fail-
ing to keep the promise which she had made both to
Amelie and to herself, she sent for fresh' post-horses, got
into the carriage again, and started for Paris. She reached
there on the morning of the 8th of May. Bonaparte had



Digitized



by Google



302 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

left on the evening of the 6th. When he started he had
said that he was only going to Dijon, or perhaps to Gen-
eva, but that in any case he should not be away more
than three weeks. Even if the appeal of the condemned
men should be rejected, it would take at least five or six
weeks. All hope was not lost, therefore. But hope
peemed dead when it was known that the review at Dijon
was only a pretext, and that Bonaparte had never seriously
intended to go to Geneva, but was on his w^ay to Italy in-
stead. Then Mme. de Montrevel, not wishing to call upon


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 22 23 24

Online LibraryAlexandre DumasThe companions of Jehu → online text (page 20 of 24)