Alexandre Dumas.

The companions of Jehu online

. (page 21 of 24)
Online LibraryAlexandre DumasThe companions of Jehu → online text (page 21 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

her son, since she knew the oath which he had taken at
the time of Lord Tanlay's assassination and the part which
he had played in the arrest of the companions of Jehu,
addressed herself to Josephine, who promised to write to
Bonaparte. That same evening she kept her word.

But the case had made a great stir. These accused
men were not like ordinary ones. Justice made haste in
their case, and on the thirty -fifth day after the trial their
appeal was rejected. Kews of this was immediately sent
to Bourg, with an order to execute the condemned men
within twenty-four hours.

But although the minister of justice lost no time in
sending his news, the judicial authority was not the first
to hear of it. While the prisoners were walking in the
inner court, a stone flew over the wall and fell at their feet.
A letter was fastened to the stone. Morgan, who, even
in prison preserved the authority of a chief, picked up
the stone, opened the letter, and read it. Then turning
towards his companions, he said : —

" Gentlemen, our appeal is rejected, as we might have
expected, and in all probability the ceremony will take
place to-morrow."

Valensolle and Ribier, who were playing at quoits with
livres and louis, had stopped their play to listen to the


tized by Google


news. When they had heard it they resumed their game,
without saying anything.

Jahiat, who was reading ** La Nouvelle H^loise," took
up his book again, saying : " I am afraid I shall not liave
lime to finish M. Jean Jacques Rousseau's masterpiece.
But upon my honor I am not sorry, for it is the most tire-
some and unnatural book I have ever read."

Sainte-Hermine, passing his hand across his forehead,
murmured, " Poor Am^lie ! " Then, seeing Charlotte, who
was at the jailer's window which overlooked the prisoners'
court, he went to her and said : " Tell Am^lie that she
must keep her promise to me to-night."

The jailer's daughter shut the window, and kissing her
father, told him that she would probably see him again
during the evening. Then she took the road to Noires-
Fontaines, — a road over which she had passed twice every
day for the last two months ; once in the middle of the
day, going to the prison, and once in the evening, return-
ing to the chateau. Every evening when she came back
she found Am^lie in the same place, sitting at the window
which in happier days had been opened to give entrance
to her beloved Charles.

Since the day of her faint after the jury's verdict,
Am^lie had not shed a tear and had scarcely pronounced a
word. Unlike the ancient marble wliich became animated
with a woman's soul, she was like a living being wlio was
gradually turning to stone. Every day she seemed to be-
come a little paler, a little colder. Charlotte looked at her
in astonishment. Vulgar minds, accustomed to noisy de-
monstrations of grief, to cries and tears, cannot understand
mute suffering. They call it indifference. She was there-
fore astonished at the calmness with which Am61ie received
the message that she brought. She did not see tlint
Am^lie's face in the twilight became livid rather than


by Google


pale. She did not feel the deadly constraint that seemed
to clutch Ara^lie's heart. She did not understand why,
when her mistress moved to the door, a more automatic
movement than usual seemed to animate her body. But
she followed her.

When they had reached the door Am61ie put out her
hand. " Wait for me here," she said.

Charlotte obeyed.

Am^lie shut the door behind her, and went up to Eo-
land's room. It was the room of a soldier and hunter,
and its principal ornaments were weapons and trophies.
There were all kinds of arms, native and foreign, from the
blue-barrelled pistols of Versailles to the silver-pommelled
ones of Cairo ; from the Spanish knife to the Turkish
cangier. She took down four daggers with sharp and
flexible blades, and eight pistols of different forms.

She put some bullets in a bag, and some powder in a pow-
der-horn ; then she went down again to Charlotte. Ten
minutes afterwards, helped by her maid, she had resumed
the disguise which she had worn once before.

They waited for the night ; but night comes late in the
month of June. Am^lie stood motionless and mute,
leaning against the mantelpiece and looking through the
open window at the village of Ceyzeriat, which was dis-
appearing gradually in the twilight shadows. When she
could see nothing except the lights in the different houses,
she said, " Come ; it is time to go." The two young girls
went out. Michel paid no attention to Am^lie, whom he
took to be one of Charlotte's friends who had been to see
her, and whom she was accompanying on the way home.

Ten o'clock struck as the two young girls passed be-
fore the church of Brou. It was nearly a quarter past
ten when Charlotte knocked at the prison door. Father
Courtois opened it. We have already mentioned the poli-


by Google


tical opinions of the wortliy jailer. He was a royalist.
He had therefore the deepest sympathy for the four ac-
cused men, and lioped, like everybody else, that Mme. de
Montrevel, whose despair was well known, would obtain
their pardon from the First Consul ; and he had soft-
ened the captivity of his prisoners as much as was pos-
sible, consistently with his duty, by taking away all
useless restrictions. It is true that on the other hand, in
spite of his sympathy, he had refused sixty thousand
francs in gold — a sum which at that time was worth three
times as much as it is to-day — to save them. But, as we
have seen, when his daughter Charlotte confided in him,
he liad allowed Am^lie in disguise to be present at the
trial. The care and attention which the worthy man had
paid Amelie when she herself had been a prisoner with
Mnie. de Montrevel will also be remembered. This time
also, as if he had been ignorant of the failure of the
appeal, he allowed her to enter without difficulty. Char-
lotte told him that her young mistress was about to start
that very night for Paris in order to hasten the pardon,
and that before going she wished to take leave of the
Baron of Sainte-Hermine and to ask for instructions as to
her conduct.

There were five doors between the prisoners and the
street, a body-guard in the court, and an inner and outer
sentinel, and consequently Father Courtois was not at
all afraid that the prisoners would escape. He therefore
permitted Amelie to see Morgan. He took a light and
went before her. The young girl, as if prepared to start
in the mail-coach when she left the prison, was holding a
satchel iu her hand. Charlotte followed her mistress.

" You will recognize the cell, Mademoiselle de Montrevel.
It is the same one in which you were shut up with Mme.
de Montrevel your mother. The chief of these unfortu-
VOL. II. — 20


by Google


Date young men, Baron Charles de Sainte-Hemiine, asked
as a favor that he might be put into cell No. 1. I could
not refuse him this consolation, knowing that the poor
boy loved you. Oh, never fear, Mademoiselle Amelie !
that secret will never leave my mouth. Then he ques-
tioned me, asking me where your mother's bed was and
your own ; and when I told him, he wanted his cot placed
iu the same spot where yours had been. This was not
difficult, and it was not only put in the same place but it
was the very same cot. So that, since the day of his
entrance to your prison, the poor young man has lain on
it almost constantly."

Ara^lie uttered a sigh which was almost a groan. She
felt a tear ready to fall from her eyelids ; and that was
something which she had not known for a long time.
She was then loved as she herself loved, and it was from
a stranger's disinterested mouth that she had received the
proof. At the moment of an eternal separation this
knowledge was the most beautiful diamond that she could
have found in the jewel-casket of grief.

The doors opened one after another before Father Cour-
tois. When they came to the last one, Amelie put her
hand on the jailer's shoulder. She thought she heard
singing. She listened attentively. A voice was reciting
some verses. But the voice was not that of Morgan ; it
was unknown. What it said was at once as sad as an
elegy and as religious as a psalm. It was Gilbert's beau-
tiful ode, written by him upon a hospital bed, the night
before his death.

At last there was silence. Amelie, who had not wished
to interrupt the condemned ones, ma<ie a sign to the jailer
to go on. Father Courtois, who, jailer though he was,
seemed to share the young girl's emotion, put the key as
gently as possible into the lock, and the door opened.


by Google


Amelie glanced around tlie cell at the prisoners who in-
habited it. Valensolle was standing up, leaning against
the wall, and still holding in his hand the book from
which he had just read the verses that Amelie had heard.
Jahiat was sitting near the table, with his head resting
upon his hand ; Eibier was sitting at the same table.
Sainte-Hermine, with his eyes shut as if he were buried in
the deepest slumber, was lying upon the bed.

At sight of the young girl, whom they recognized,
Jahiat and Eibier rose. Morgan remained motionless.
He had heard nothing. Amelie went straight to him, and
as if her feeling for her lover was sanctified by the, ap-
proach of death, without minding the presence of his
three friends she bent over him, and putting her lips to
his, murmured : *^ Awake, my Charles! your Amelie has
come to keep her word." Morgan uttered a joyful cry,
and clasped the young girl in his arms.

*^ Monsieur Courtois," said Montbar, " you are a worthy
man. Permit us to leave these two poor young persons
together. It would be wrong to trouble by our presence
the few moments which they are to have together upon
this earth."

Father Courtois, without speaking, opened the door of
the next cell. Valensolle, Jahiat, and Ribier entered, and
he shut the door upon them. Then, motioning to Char-
lotte to follow him, he also went away.

The two lovers were alone. There are scenes which
cannot be described ; words which cannot be repeated.
God, who listens to them from his immortal throne, can
alone tell what they contain of gloomy joys and sor-
rowful delights. At the end of an hour the two young
persons heard the key turn again in the lock. They were
sad but calm, and the conviction that their separation
would not be long gave them a gentle serenity.


by Google


The worthy jailer seemed more embarrassed at this
second appearance than at the first. Morgan and Amelie
thanked him smilingly. He weiH to the door of the other
cell. Valensolle, Jahiat, and Ribier came back again.
Amelie, putting her left arm around Morgan, held out her
hand to the other three. They all kissed the cold hand,
and then Morgan led her to the door.

" Au revoir,^* said Morgan.

" I will be with you again soon," said Amelie.

They sealed the words with a long kiss, after which
they separated with such a deep groan that it seemed as
if their hearts broke at the same time. The door shut
behind Amelie, and the bolts and keys did their work.

" Well 1 *' asked Valensolle, Jahiat, and Ribier at once.

" Here they are," replied Morgan, emptying the con-
tents of a satchel upon the table.

The three young men uttered a cry of joy as they saw
the shining pistols and the sharp steel. Next to lij)erty,
this was what they most desired. They felt a sorrowful
and supreme joy at knowing themselves masters of their
own lives, and, at an emergency, of those of others.

In the mean time the jailer led Amelie to the outside
door again. When he reached it he hesitated a moment ;
then, putting his hand upon her arm, he said : *' Mademoi-
selle de Montrevel, pardon me for causing you such grief,
but it is useless for you to go to Paris."

** Because the appeal is rejected, and the execution
takes place to-morrow, does it not 1 " replied Amelie.

The jailer, in astonishment, took a step backward.

'* I knew it, my friend," continued Amelie. Then turn-
ing to her maid, she said : " Take me to the nearest
church, Charlotte. You will come for me again to-mor-
row when all is over."

The nearest church was not far off; it was that of


by Google

HOW amiSlie kept her word. 309

Ste.-Claire. For the last three months, according to the
orders of the First Consul, services had been held there.
As it was nearly midnight, the church was shut; but
Charlotte knew wher6 the sacristan lived, and went to
arouse him.

Amelie remained alone, leaning against the wall, as
motionless as the stone figures which ornamented the
fa9ade. At the end of a half hour the sacristan arrived,.
During that half hour Amelie had seen a mournful sight.
Three men dressed in black had passed, accompanying a
cart which by the light of the moon she had seen to be
painted black. This cart was carrying some formless ob-
jects, — huge planks, and strange ladders painted the
same color. It was going towards the place of execution.
Amelie guessed what it was. She fell on her knees with
a cry.

At this cry the men dressed in black turned around. It
seemed to them that one of the sculptures above the door
had become detached from its niche and was kneeling
there before them. He who appeared to be their chief
took a few steps towards Amelie.

*' Do not come any nearer, sir 1 " she cried, " do not
come any nearer to me ! "

The man humbly resumed his place and continued on
his way, and the cart disappeared around the corner, but
the noise of its wheels re-echoed for a long time upon the
pavement and in Am^lie's heart.

When the sacristan and Charlotte came back they found
the young girl en her knees. The sacristan made some
objection to opening the church at such an hour, but a
piece of gold and the name of Mdlle. de Montrevel,
removed his scruples. A second piece of gold decided
him to light up the little chapel. It was the same one in
which, as a child, Amelie had taken her first communion.


by Google


When the chapel was illuminated Am^lie knelt at the
foot of the altar and asked to be left alone. About three
o'clock in the morning she saw light coming through the
colored window which was above the Virgin's altar. This
window chanced to face the east, so that the first rays of
sunlight came straight to it like a message from God.
Little by little the street woke up. Amelie noticed that
it was noisier than usual; soon even the church roof
trembled at the steps of a troop of horsemen. They were
going towards the prison. A little before nine o'clock
the young girl heard a loud murmur. Everybody seemed
to be hastening in the same direction. She tried to bury
herself still deeper in her prayers, in order not to hear
these different noises, which spoke an unknown language
to her heart, but which, however, she perfectly understood
by reason of the anguish which they caused her.

In truth, a terrible scene was taking place at the prison,
and it was no wonder that everybody was running in that
direction. When, about nine o'clock in the morning.
Father Courtois entered the prisoners' ce]l to announce to
them that their appeal was rejected, and that they must
prepare for death, he found all four armed to the teeth.
The jailer, taken unawares, was drawn into the cell, and
the door was shut behind him ; then, while he did not
even attempt to defend himself, so great was his surprise,
the young men snatched his keys from him, and opening
and shutting the door, they left him locked up in their place,
while they went into the neighboring cell, where on the
previous night Valensolle, Jahiat, and Eibier had waited
until the interview between Morgan and Amelie should
be ended. One of the keys opened a second door in this
other cell ; this door led out into the prisoners' court.

The prisoners' court was inclosed by three massive
doors, which all led out into a sort of corridor ; and thiS|


by Google


in turn, led to the keeper's lodge. From this lodge fifteen
steps led down into the prison yard, a vast court inclosed
by a gate. This gate was usually left open, except at
night. If circumstances had not caused it to be closed
this day, it was possible that the opening would have
given them an opportunity for flight. Morgan found the.
key of the prisoners' court, opened it, hastened with his
companions into the lodge, and darted towards the steps
which led into the prison yard.

From the top step the four young men saw that all hope
was gone. The gate of the prison yard was shut, and
twenty-five men, policemen and dragoons, were drawn up
in line before it. At sight of the four condemned men,
free, and hastening towards the steps, a great cry of aston-
ishment and terror rose from the crowd. Their appear-
ance was indeed formidable. To preserve the liberty of
their movements, and perhaps also to avoid those stains
of blood which are seen so quickly on white linen, they
were naked to the waist. A handkerchief knotted around
their waists was bristling with arms. It needed onh'^ a
look to understand that they were masters of their lives,
if not of their liberty.

In the midst of the clamor of the crowd and the clank-
ing of sabres as they leaped from their scabbards the four
men talked together for a moment. Then, after having
pressed their hands, Montbar left his companions, went
down the fifteen steps, and advanced to the gate. When
he had nearly reached it he threw a last look and smile at
his companions, gracefully bowed to the now silent crowd,
and putting into his mouth the muzzle of one of his pis-
tols, he blew out his brains.

Confused and wild cries followed the explosion, but
they ceased almost immediately. ValensoUe was coming
down in his turn. He held in his band a dagger, with a


by Google


straight sharp blade. His pistols, which he did not seem
lo intend to use, were in his belt. He advanced towards
a little shed supported by three pillars, stopped at the first
pillar, put the handle of the dagger against it, directed its
point towards his heart, put his arms around the pillar,
bowed once more to his friends, and pressed against the
pillar until the entire dagger had disappeared in his chest.
He stood still for a moment ; then a mortal pallor spread
over his face, his arms fell, and he sank dead at the foot
of the pillar.

This time the crowd remained mute. It was frozen with

It was Ribier's turn. He held in his hand his two
pistols. He advanced as far as the gate, and then aimed
his pistols at the policemen. He did not fire, but the po-
licemen did. Three or four shots were heard, and Ribier
fell pierced by two bullets,

A species of admiration had supplanted, in the minds
of the audience, the different sentiments which they had
at first felt at sight of these three deaths. They under-
stood that the young men were willing to die, but that
they were determined to die in their own way. They were
therefore silent when Morgan, left alone, smilingly de-
scended the steps and made a sign that he wished to

Moreover, what had this crowd lost, — this crowd so
eager for blood ] Had it not received more than it had
expected ] It had been promised four deaths just alike ;
four heads cut off; and it was witnessing four deaths all
different, all picturesque and unexpected. It was thus
only natural that it should keep silent when Morgan ad-
vanced. He held neither pistol nor dagger in his hand, —
both were in his belt. He passed near ValensoUe's corpse
and placed himself between the other two.


by Google

HOW amiSlie kept her word. 313

" Gentlemen," said Morgan, " let us make a bargain."
There was a silence so deep that it seemed as if every one
had ceased to breathe. " You have seen one man who
blew his brains out, another who killed himself with a
dagger, and a third who was shot, and I can understand
that you would like to see the fourth guillotined." A ter-
rible shudder passed over the crowd. " Well," continued
Morgan, " I ask nothing better than to give you that sat-
isfaction. I am ready to give myself up ; but I desire to
go to the scaffold of my own will, and without being
touched by any one. If any one approaches me I will
kill him, even should it be this gentleman," continued
Morgan, pointing to the executioner.

This demand evidently did not seem exorbitant to the
crowd, for from every direction there were cries of '* Yes,
yes, yes I "

The officer of the mounted police saw that the shortest
way would be to allow Morgan to do as he pleased.
" Promise me," he said, " that if we leave your feet and
hands free you will not attempt to escape."

** I give you my word of honor," replied Morgan.

" Well," said the officer, " get out of the way then, and
let us take away these corpses.**

" That is only right," said Morgan ; and he moved a
few steps away and leaned against the wall.

The gate opened. The three men dressed in black en-
tered the court and picked up the three bodies, one after
the other. Ribier was not quite dead. He opened his
eyes and seemed to look for Morgan.

" Here I am," said the latter. " Have no fear, dear
friend, — I am with you."

Ribier shut his eyes again, without uttering a word.

When the three bodies liad been carried away the officer
said : " Well, sir, are you ready 1 "


by Google


" Yes," replied Morgan, bowing with exquisite politeness.

"Then, come."

"Here I am," said Morgan; and he placed himself
between the policemen and the dragoons.

" Do you want to go in the cart or on foot, sir?" asked
the captain.

" On foot 1 on foot ! I know some of these people
think I shall run away, but I am not afraid."

The gloomy procession crossed the Place des Lices and
went past the walls of the garden of the Hotel Montbazon.
The cart drawing the three bodies went first ; then came the
dragoons ; then Morgan, walking alone in an open space
of a dozen steps or so ; then the policemen, preceded by
their captain. At the extremity of the wall the proces-
sion turned to the left.

Suddenly, in the opening between the garden and the
great wall, Morgan saw the scaffold, holding up its two
posts towards the sky, like two bloody arms. " Bah ! " he
said, "I never saw a guillotine, and I did not know it
was so ugly." And without any other explanation he
drew his dagger from his belt and plunged it into his
breast up to the hilt.

The captain of police made a movement forward, but
not in time to prevent the deed. He spurred his horse
towards Morgan, who remained standing, to the great as-
tonishment of everybody, including himself.

But Morgan, drawing one of his pistols from his belt
and cocking it, said : " Stop there ! It was agreed that
no one should touch me. I will die alone, or I will kill
two of you first. You may take your choice."

The captain drew in his horse.

" Let us go,V said Morgan ; and he walked on again.

When he reached the foot of the guillotine, Morgan
drew the dagger from his wound and stabbed himself a


by Google

HOW amjSlie kept her word. 315

second time, as deeply as at first. A cry of rage rather
than grief escaped him. '^ My soul must be fastened into
my body ! " he said.

Then, as the assistant wished to lielp him mount the
staircase, at the head of which the executioner was wait-
ing, he said : " Oh, I tell you again, do not touch me ! "
And he went up the steps without tottering.

When he reached the platform, he drew the dagger from
his wound and struck himself a third time. Then a
frightful burst of laughter left his lips, and throwing at
the feet of the executioner the dagger he had just drawn
from tlie third wound, wliich was as ineffectual as tho
other two, he said : " Upon my word, I have had enough
of it ! It is your turn now, and you may see what you
can do."

A moment later the head of the intrepid young man fell
upon the scaffold, and by a phenomenon of that relentless
vitality which he seemed to possess, leaped up and rolled
off the instrument of torture. If you will go to Bourg,
as I did, they will tell you that as his head bounded up
it pronounced Amelie's name.

The dead were executed after the living; so that the
spectators, instead of losing anything by tho events

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21 23 24

Online LibraryAlexandre DumasThe companions of Jehu → online text (page 21 of 24)