Alexandre Dumas.

The companions of Jehu online

. (page 22 of 24)
Online LibraryAlexandre DumasThe companions of Jehu → online text (page 22 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


which we have just related, received doable the amount
of their expectations.



Digitized



by Google



316 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE CONFESSION.

Three days after the events just related, about seven
o'clock iu the evening, a carriage covered with dust, to
which were attached two post-horses white with foam,
stopped at the gate of Xoires-Fontaines. To the great
astonishment of the one who had seemed so eager to reach
the place, the gate was wide open, people were standing in
the courtyard, and the steps were covered with kneeling
men and women. Then the sense of hearing awakeLing
in proportion as astonishment gave more acuteness to his
vision, the traveller thought he heard the ringing of a
little bell. He opened the carriage door quickly, leaped
out, crossed the courtyard rapidly, mounted the steps, and
saw that the staircase which led to the first floor was cov-
ered with people. He leaped over this staircase as he
had leaped up the steps, hearing as he did so a religious
murmur which seemed to come from Amfelie's room. He
advanced towards the room. The door was open. Beside
the bed were kneeling Mme. de Montrevel and little Ed-
ward, and a little farther oflf were Charlotte and Michel
and his son. The cure of Ste.-Claire was administering
the last sacrament to Amelie. The mournful scene was
lighted only by two wax tapers.

The traveller whose carriage had just stopped before the
gate had been recognized as Roland. The people moved
aside out of his way. He entered with uncovered head,
and went and knelt beside his mother.



Digitized



by Google



THE CONFESSION. 317

The dying girl, lying upon her back with her hands
crossed, her head raised on a pillow, and her eyes fixed
npon heaven in a sort of ecstasy, did not seem to perceive
Roland's arrival. It was almost as if, while the body was
still in this world, the soul was already floating between
earth and heaven. Mme. de Montrevel's hand sought
that of Roland, and the poor mother, having found it, let
her head fall sobbing upon her sou's shoulder. These ma-
ternal sobs were apparently as inaudible to Amelie as
Roland's presence had been unnoticed, for the young girl
remained completely motionless. But when the sacra-
ment was administered to her, when eternal happiness was
promised her by the consoling mouth of the priest, her
marble lips seemed to move, and she murmured in a feeble
but intelligible voice, —

"So be it!"

Then the little bell rang again ; the choir boy who
was carrying it went out first, then the two assistants with
the wax tapers, and then those who bore the cross, fol-
lowed finally by the priest carrying the sacrament. All
the strangers went with the procession. Those who be-
longed to the house, and the members of the family, were
left alone. The house, which a moment before had been
filled with noise and people, was silent and almost de-
serted. The dying girl had not moved. Her lips were
shut, her hands clasped, her eyes raised to heaven.

At the end of a few minutes Roland leaned towards
Mme. de Montrevel, and said to her in a low tone :
" Come, Mamma ; I must speak to you."

Mme. de Montrevel rose. She drew little Edward to-
wards his sister's bed ; the child stood up on tip-toe and
kissed Am^lie's forehead. Then Mme. de Montrevel came
after him, bending over her daughter and kissing her, sob-
bingly. Roland came in his turn, broken-hearted, but



Digitized



by Google



318 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

with dry eyes. He would have given much to be able to
shed the tears which were filling his heart. He kissed
Am^lie, as his brother and mother had done. She seemed
as insensible to this kiss as to the two which had pre-
ceded it. Edward went out first, and Mme. de Montre-
vel and Roland, following him, moved towards the door.

As they were about to cross the threshold they all
stopped suddenly. They had distinctly heard Roland's
name pronounced. Roland turned around. Am^lie for
the second time pronounced her brother's name.

" Do you want me, Am^lie ? " asked Roland.

" Yes," replied the voice of the dying girl.

** Alone or with my mother 1 "

" Alone."

The voice, monotonous but perfectly intelligible, had
something icy about it. It seemed to be an echo from
another world.

"Go, Mamma," said Roland; "you see that Am^lie
wishes to speak to me alone."

" God ! " murmured Mme. de Montrevel, " can there
be a last hopel '*

Low as the words were pronounced, the dying girl heard
them. ''No, Mamma," she said; "God has permitted
me to see my brother again, but to-night I shall be in
heaven."

Mme. de Montrevel groaned heavily. "Roland, Ro-
land," she said, " does it not seem as if she were already
there 1"

Roland made her a sign to leave them alone. Mme. de
Montrevel went away with little Edward. Roland came
back, shut the door, and, almost overcome by emotion, re-
turned to Am^lie's bedside. Her body was rigid and her
breath so feeble that it would scarcely have tarnished a
mirror. The eyes alone, wide open, were fixed and shin-



Digitized



by Google



THE CONFESSION. 319

ing, as if everything that remained of existence was cen-
tred in them. Roland had heard of the strange condition
called ecstasy, which is nothing more nor less tlian cata-
lepsy. He understood that Am^lie was a victim to this
death in life.

" Here I am, sister," he said ; " what do you want ] "

" I knew that you were coming," replied the young girl,
still motionless, ** and I was waiting for you."

"How did you know that I was coming?" asked
Roland.

"I saw you coming."

Roland shivered. "x\nd," he asked, "did you know
why I was coming 1 "

" Yes ; and I therefore prayed to God from the bottom
of my heart, and he permitted me to rise and write."

"Whenl"

" Last night."

"And the letter?"

" It is under my pillow ; take it and read it.'*

Roland hesitated for a moment, for he thought that his
sister was delirious. " Poor Am^lie ! " he murmured.

"You must not pity me," said the young girl; " I am
going to join him."

•* Whom 1 " asked Roland.

" The man whom I loved and you killed."

Roland uttered a cry. This must he delirium. Of
whom was his sister speaking ] " Am^lie," he said, " I came
to question you."

"About Lord Tanlayl I know it," replied the young
girl.

" You know it ] And how 1 "

" Did I not tell you that I saw you coming, and knew
why you were coming 1 "

" Then answer me."



Digitized



by Google



320 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

*^Do not turn me away from God and him, Eoland. I
have written to you ; read my letter."

Roland put his hand under the pillow, convinced that
his sister was delirious. To his great astonishment he felt
a paper there, and drew it out. It was a letter enclosed
in an envelope. Upon the envelope was written : " To
Roland, who will be here to-mon'ow." He drew near the
night-lamp in order to read more easily. The letter was
dated on the preceding night at eleven o'clock.

Roland read : —

" My brother, we have each of us done a terrible thing, for
which we must ask pardon."

Roland looked at his sister, who remained motionless.
He continued : —

** I loved Charles de Sainte-Hermine. I did more than love
him ; he was my lover."

" Oh I " murmured the young man between his teeth,
"he shall die!"

" He is dead," said Am^lie.

Roland uttered a cry of astonishment. He had spoken
the words in such a low tone that he had barely heard
them himself. His eyes went back to the letter : —

" No legal union was possible between the sister of Roland
de Montrevel and the chief of the companions of Jehu. That
was the terrible secret which I could not tell, and which was
devouring me. Only one person had a right to know of it ; he
knew it. That person was Sir John Tanlay. May God bless
the man of loyal heart who promised me to break off an im-
possible marriage, and who kept his word ! May the life of
Lord Tanlay be sacred to you, Roland I He is the only friend
I have had in my sorrow, — the only man whose tears have
mingled with mine.

** I loved Charles de Sainte-Hermine, and I was his mistress.



Digitized



by Google



THE confession: 321

That is the terrible thing for which you must pardon me.
But on the other hand, it is you who have caused his death.
That is the terrible thing which I must pardon you. And now
come quickly, Roland, since I cannot die until you arrive.
To die is to see him again ; to die is to rejoin him, never to
leave him. I am happy to die."

All was clear and precise, and it was evident that there
was no trace of delirium in the letter. Eoland read it twice,
and remained motionless for a moment, — mute, breath-
ing heavily, full of anxiety. But finally pity overcame
anger. He drew near to Am^lie, put out his hand, and in
a gentle voice said : —

" Sister, I pardon you."

A slight thrill went through the limbs of the dying girl.
" And now," she said, " call our mother, for I must die
in her arms."

Boland went to the door and called Mme. de Mon-
trevel. The door of her room was open. She had evi-
dently expected a summons, and she hastened at once.

" What is it 1 " she asked quickly.

** Nothing," replied Roland, " except that Am^lie has
asked to die in your arms."

Mme. de Montrevel entered, and fell upon her knees
beside her daughter's bed. And then the young girl, as
if an invisible arm had loosened the bonds which had
seemed to hold her fast, rose slowly, unclasped the hands
which lay upon her breast, and allowed one of them to
slip into that of her mother.

" Mamma," she said, " you have given me life, and you
have taken it from me. May God bless you ! it was the
kindest thing that you could do for me, since there was
no more happiness possible for your daughter in this
worid."

Tlien as Roland came to kneel on the other side of the

VOL. II. — 21



Digitized



by Google



332 THE CbMPAKIONS OP JEHU.

bed, she put her other hand upon his. " We have for-
giyen eaeh other, brother 1 " she said.

" Yes, poor Am41ie/' replied Eoland, " from the depths
of our hearts."

" I have only one thing to ask of you."

"What is it 1"

**Do not forget that Lord Tanlay has been my best
friend."

**You may rest assured," said Eoland, "that Lord
Taulay's life is sacred to me."

Amdlie sighed. Then in a voice in which it was im-
possible to recognize any other alteration than an increas-
ing feebleness, she said : —

" Farewell, Roland ! farewell, Mamma ! you will kiss
Edward for me." Then with a cry which came from her
heart, and in which there was more joy than sadness, she
said, " Here I am, Charles ! here I am ! " And she fell
back upon her bed, clasping her hands once more over her
breast as she did so.

Eoland and Mme. de Montrevel rose and bent over
her. She had resumed her former position ; but her eye-
lids were shut, and the feeble breath had ceased to leave
her ehest. Her martyrdom was finished, and Am^lie was
dead.



Digitized



by Google



INVULNERABLBL 323



CHAPTER XXVIII.

INVULNERABLE.

Am^lib died on the night of Monday, the 2d of June,
1800. On the evening of Thursday, the 5th, the Grand
Opera was thronged, for there was a second representation
of "Ossian, or the Bards," The First Consul *s deep ad-
miration for songs collected by Macpherson was well
known, and, more from flattery than from literary choice,
the National Academy of Music had ordered an opera
which, in spite of the haate that was made, was not pro-
duced until nearly a mouth after General Bonaparte had
left Paris to join the reserve army.

In the left balcony, a music lover was attracting atten-
tion by the earnestness with which he watched the play,
when, in the interval between the first and second acts, the
box-opener, slipping between two rows of seats, approached
him and asked in a low tone, —

"I beg your pardon, sir, but are you not Lord
Tanlay]'*

" Yes," replied the other.

" Then, my lord, a young man who says he has a com-
munication of the greatest importance to make to yon,
begs you to be good enough to join him in the corridor."

*' Oh," said Sir John, " an officer ] "

'* He is dressed as a citizen, my lord, but he looks like
a soldier."

"Good!" said Sir John; '*I know who it is." He
rose and followed the box-opener.



Digitized



by Google



324 THE COMPANIONS OP JEHU.

At the entrance of the corridor Eoland was waiting.
Lord Tanlay did not seem astonished at seeing him, but
the stern face of the young man repressed his lordship's
first outburst of deep sympathy.

*• Here I am, sir/* said Sir John. r

Roland bowed, "I have just come from your res-
idence, my lord," said Roland ; " and I found that for
some time you have been in the habit of telling the door-
keeper where you were going, so that any one who had
business with you might know where to find you.*'

" That is true, sir."

" The precaution is a good one, particularly for those
who come from a distance, and who, being pressed for
time, have, like myself, no leisure to waste."

" Then," said Sir John, " it is for the sake of seeing
me that you left the army and came to Paris 1 "

" Solely for that honor, my lord ; and I hope you will
guess the cause of my eagerness, and will spare me all
explanations/'

** Montrevel," said Sir John, " I am entirely at your
disposal."

" At what hour may two of my friends present them-
selves to you to-morrow, my lord 1 "

" At any time from seven in the morning until mid-
night, sir, unless you prefer them to come immediately."

" No, my lord, I have only this moment arrived, and I
must have time to find these two friends and give them
ray instructions. They will not disturb you, in all prob-
ability, before eleven or twelve o'clock ; but I would be
grateful to you if the affair which is to be arranged
through them could take place on the same day."

"I believe the thing to be practicable, sir; and if
it is possible to satisfy your desire, I shall cause no
delay."



Digitized



by Google



INVULNERABLE. 325

'* That is all I wanted to know, my lord. I should be
very sorry to disturb you longer now." And Eoland
bowed.

Sir John returned his bow, and while the young man
went away he re-entered the balcony and took his former
place. Everything that they had said had been in so low
a tone and with such unmoved faces that the nearest per-
sons could not even have suspected that there was any-
thing approaching a quarrel between the two men who
had just bowed to each other so courteously.

It was the evening of the minister of war's recep-
tion. Roland went back to his apartments, removed all
traces of the journey which he had just taken, entered a
carriage, and at a few minutes before ten o'clock was an-
nounced at the house of citizen Carnot. Two motives
led him there. The first one was a verbal communication
which he brought to the minister of war from the First
Consul ; and the second was the hope of finding in his
salon two friends who would serve him in his meeting
with Sir John.

Everything took place as Roland had hoped. He gave
the minister of war the most precise details concerning
the passage of the St.-Beroard and the situation of the
army, and found in his salon the two friends for whom he
was looking. A few words sufl&ced to tell them what he
desired, for soldiers are accustomed to that sort of thing.
Roland spoke of a grave insult, which must remain a secret
even from those who were to be present at its expiation.
He declared himself to be the offended one, and claimed
for himself the choice of arms and the method of combat,
as being advantages which were his right. The two
young men were to present themselves on the following
day at nine o'clock in the morning at the Hotel Mirabeau,
Rue de Richelieu, and to talk with Lord Tanlay's two



Digitized



by Google



THE COMPANIONS OF JEHCJ.

seconds ; after which they were to rejoin Roland at the
H6tel de Paris on the same street.

Roland went to his apartments at eleven o'clock, wrote
for an hour or more, then went to hed and went to sleep.
At half-past nine the next morning his two friends came
to him. They had just left Sir John. Sir John had
recognized all Roland's claims, had said that he would
discuss none of the conditions of the fight, and that since
Roland considered himself the offended party, he was to
dictate all the details. When they had told his lordship
that they had expected to meet two of his friends and not
himself, Lord Tanlay had remarked that he knew no one
in Paris intimately enough to call upon him in such an
affair, and that he therefore hoped that when they reached
the ground one of Roland's two friends would act as his
second. In short, in all things they had found Lord
Tanlay to be a perfect gentleman.

Roland said that his adversary's request to be assisted
by one of hi& own seconds was not only just, but right ;
and he authorized one of the two young men to assist Sir
John and care for his interests. It only remained for
Roland to dictate the conditions of the duel. They were
to fight with pistols. When the two pistols were loaded,
the adversaries were to place themselves fire paces apart,
and when the seconds had clapped their hands three times,
they were to fire.

It was, as will be seen, a duel to the deaths in which
the one who was not killed would owe his life to liis ad-
versary's mercy. The two young men began to object ;
but Roland insisted, declaring that as he was sole judge
of the gravity of the offence, he alone could decide whether
the reparation was too great. They were obliged to yield
to his obstinacy. The one who was to assist Sir John
declared that he would promise nothing on the part of



Digitized



by Google



. INVULNERABLE. ' 327

his principal, and that unless by absolute order from him
he would never permit such a blood-thirsty affair.

"Do not excite yourself, my friend," said Roland; "I
know Sir John, and I believe that he will be more accom-
modating than you."

The two young men went out once more to Sir John's
rooms. They found him breakfasting in true English style,
with a beefsteak, potatoes, and tea. When they came in,
he rose and asked them to share his meal, and upon their
refusal put himself at their disposal. Koland's two friends
began by telling him that he might count on one of them
to assist him. Then the one who was to act for Koland
related the conditions of the meeting.

At each one of Roland's demands Sir John, in token of
assent, contented himself with replying, " Very well.**

The one who was to care for Sir John's interests at-
tempted to make some observations upon the method of
fighting, which must, unless by some impossible chance,
lead to the death of both competitors ; but Lord Tanlay
begged him not to insist.

"M. de Montrevel is a gallant man,'* he said. "I
do not care to contradict him in anything. What he
wants shall be done.*'

The hour of meeting was still to be decided. On this
point, as on the others, Lord Tanlay left everything to
Roland. The two seconds left Sir John, more delighted
with him at their second interview than at their first.

Roland was waiting for them, and they told him every-
thing. " What did I tell you 1 " he said.

They asked him concerning the hour and the place.
Roland fixed upon seven o'clock in the evening, in the
Alley de la Muette. This was the hour at which the Bois
was almost deserted, and there would be sufficient light at
that time, as it was the month of June, for two adveisa-



Digitized



by Google



328 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

ries to fight with any kind of weapons. No one had
spoken of the pistols. The two young men offered to go
and get some from the gunsmith.

** No/' said Roland. " Lord Tanlay has a pair of ex-
cellent pistols which I have already used. If he does
not object to fighting with them I should prefer them
to othere."

The young man who was to serve as second for Sir
John went once more to find him, and to put to him the
three final questions ; namely, whether the hour and place
of meeting would suit him, and whether he would allow
his pistols to be used in the fight. Lord Tanlay replied
by regulating his watch by that of his second, and by
handing him a box of pistols.

"Shall I come for you, my lord]" asked the young
man.

Sir John smiled sadly. '* It is useless," he said. " You
are M. de Montrevel's friend. The journey would be
more agreeable with him than with me, and you had better
go with him, therefore. I will go on horseback, with my
servant, and you will find me at the appointed place."

The young officer brought back this reply to Roland.
"What did I tell youl" said the latter.

It was noon. They had seven hours before them.
Roland gave his two friends permission to do what they
pleased for that length of time. Precisely at half-past
six they were to be at Roland's door with three horses
and two servants. It was important, in order not to be
disturbed, to give to all the preparations of the duel the
appearance of a simple ride.

As half-past six sounded, the hotel boy came to tell
Roland that some one was waiting for him at the street
door. The two seconds and the two servants were there.
One of the latter held a horse by the bridle. Roland



Digitized



by Google



INVULNERABLE. 329

made a sign of greeting to the two officers, and leaped
into the saddle. Then by way of the Boulevards they
gained the Champs Elys^es.

On the way the strange phenomenon which had aston-
ished Sir John so much on the occasion of Roland's duel
with M. de Barjols occurred again. Roland was full of
a gayety which would have seemed exaggerated if it had
not been so plainly genuine. The two young men, who
knew him to be courageous, were puzzled at such apparent
carelessness. They could have understood it in an or-
dinary duel, where coolness and skill gave a man the
hope of prevailing over his adversary ; but in a combat
like the one before them, neither skill nor coolness could
save the duellists, if not from death, at least from some
frightful wound. Moreover, Roland urged his horse like
a man who is in haste to arrive, so that five minutes be-
fore the time fixed he was at one end of the Alley de la
Muette.

A man was walking up and down. Roland recognized
Sir John. The two young men watched Roland's face as
he caught sight of his adversary. To their great aston-
ishment, the only expression which was visible there was
one of almost tender kindliness.

A moment more and the four principal actors in the
scene which was about to take place met and bowed. Sir
John was perfectly calm, but his face was profoundly sad.
It was evident that this meeting was as sorrowful to him
as it seenied to be agreeable to Roland. They dismounted.
One of the two seconds took the box of pistols from the
hands of one of the servants, and told the men to follow the
road as if they were exercising their masters' horses ; they
need not come back again until they heard two pistol-shots.
Sir John's groom was to join them, and follow their ex-
ample. The two duellists and their two seconds entered



Digitized



by Google



330 THE COMPANIONS OF JEHU.

the woods, going through the thickest of the undergrowth
to find a suitable spot.

As Roland had foreseen, the place was deserted. Dinner-
time had taken away all the promenaders. They found a
sort of clearing, which seemed to have been made expressly
for the occasion. The sentinels looked at Eoland and Sir
John. They both nodded.

*' Nothing is changed 1 *' asked one of the seconds of
Lord Tanlay,

" Ask M. de Montrevel," said Lord Tanlay. ** I am
entirely under his orders."

« Nothing," said Roland.

They drew the pistols from the bags and began to load
them. Sir John kept at one side, switching the tall grass
with the end of his ridiug-whip. Roland looked at him,
seemed to hesitate for a moment, and then, taking his re-
solve, went up to him. Sir John raised his head and
waited, evidently hopeful.

"My lord," said Roland to him, ** there are certain
things concerning which I may have some complaint to
make of you, but I nevertheless believe you to be a man
of your word."

** And you are right, sir," replied Sir John.

" Are you willing, if you survive me, to keep for me
here the promise which you made at Avignon 1 "

" There is no probability that I shall survive you, sir,"
replied Lord Tanlay ; ** but you may command me as long
as I have a breath left in me."

" I refer to the disposal of my body."

*^Are your wishes the same here that they were at
Avignon 1 "

** They are the same, my lord."

** Very well, you may rest perfectly easy."


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 22 24

Online LibraryAlexandre DumasThe companions of Jehu → online text (page 22 of 24)