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great event.

** Hurry, hurry I ** said CadoudaL

Roland asked nothing better, and put spurs to his horse
again. At the sound of the galloping horses the peasants
moved one side ; there were five or six hundred at least,
all armed. Cadoudal and Eoland were in the circle of
light, in the midst of the excitement and the rumors.
The throng was thickest at the entrance of the street lead-
ing to the village of Tridon. A diligence was just coming
through this street, guarded by twelve Chouans. Two of
them were at each side of the postilion, and the other
ten were guarding the doors. In the middle of the
square the carriage stopped. Every one was so occupied
with the diligence that no one paid any attention to

" Hallo ! ** cried Cadoudal, " what is going on here 1 "

At this well known voice every one turned and all
heads were bared.

"The great Round-head," murmured each voice.

"Yes," said Cadoudal.

A man approached him.


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" Were you not notified both by B^n^dicit^ and by
Monte-^-FAssaut ) " he asked.


"Is this the diligence from Ploermel to VannesT'

" Yes, General ; it was stopped between Tr^fleon and

"Is he in it r'

" They think so."

" Do as your conscience dictates. If there is a crime
against God, take it upon yourselves ; I only charge myself
with responsibility towards men. I will watch what is
passing, but without taking any part in it, either to pre-
vent or aid."

" Well," asked a hundred voices, " what did he say,
Sabre-tout 1"

" He says we can do as our conscience thinks best, and
that he washes his hands of it."

"Long live the great Round-head!" they all cried,
hastening towards the diligence.

Cadoudal remained motionless in the midst of the tor-
rent. Eoland was near him, motionless as himself and full
of curiosity, for he was entirely ignorant of what was
about to happen. The man who had come to speak to
Cadoudal, and whom his companions had called Sabre-
tout, opened the door of the diligence; then they saw
the travellers, huddled together and trembling in its

"If you have nothing to reproach yourselves with
against the king and religion," said Sabre-tout, in a fuU,
load voice, " descend without fear. We are not brigands ;
we are Christians and royalists."

This declaration doubtless reassured the travellers ; for
a man presented himself at the door and descended ; then
two women, then a mother pressing her child in her arms,


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and then another man. The Chouans received them at
the carriage-step, looked at them intently, and not recog-
nizing the one for whom they were seeking, said, " Pass
on." A single man remained in the carriage. A Chouan
lifted a flaming torch, and they saw that the man was a

** Minister of the Lord," said Sahre-tout, " why did you
not get down with the others 1 Did you not hear me say
that we were all royalists and Christians?"

The priest did not move, but his teeth chattered.

"But in any case," continued Sabre-tout, "does not
your coat plead for youl A man who wears a cassock
should fear nothing, either from royalty or religion,"

The priest crouched down, murmuring, "Mercy!

" Why mercy ? " asked Sabre-tout. " Bo you then feel
that you are guilty, you wretch? "

"Oh," said Koland, "gentlemen, is that how you
speak to a man of God 1 "

" This man,** replied Cadoudal, " is not a man of God,
but a man of the Devil."

" Who is he]'*

" He is at once an atheist and a regicide. He has de-
nied his God and voted for the death of the king. He is

Roland shivered. " What are they going to do with
him 1 " he asked.

" He gave death, and he will receive it," replied

In the mean time the two Chouans had brought
Audrein from the diligence.

"Ah, so it is you, Bishop of Vannesi'* said Sabre-

" Mercy I ^ cried the bishop.

VOL. II. — 5


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"We had been told that you were coming, and we
were waiting for you."

" Mercy ! " repeated the bishop for the third time.

" Have you your bishop's robes with you 1 "

" Yes, my friends, I have."

" Well, dress yourself in them ; it is a long time since
we have seen them.'^

They took down from the diligence a trunk bearing the
bishop's name. They opened it and drew out a bishop's
costume and gave it to Audrein, who put it on. Then,
when he had done so, the peasants arranged themselves in
a circle, each one holding his gun in his hand. The light
of the torches reflected upon the weapons, which threw
out sinister gleams. Two men took the bishop and led
him within the circle, supporting him under his arms.
He was as pale as death. There was a moment of ter-
rible silence. A voice broke it, — it was that of Sabre-

"We are about to judge you," said the Chouan.
*• Priest of God, you have betrayed the Church. Child
of France, you have condemned your king."

" Alas ! alas I " stammered the priest.

"Is it true?"

" I do not deny it."

" Because it is impossible for you to deny it. What
have you to reply in justification 1 "

"Citizens — "

" We are not citizens," said Sabre-tout, in a voice of
thunder; "we are royalists."

"Gentlemen — "

" We are not gentlemen, we are Chouans.**

"My friends — "

" We are not your friends, we are your judges. Your
judges question you ; answer them ! "


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" I repent what I did, and I ask pardon of God and
man for it'*

" Man cannot pardon yon," replied the same iniplao-
able voice ; " for if you were pardoned to-day you
would begin again to-morrow. Yon can change your skin,
but you can never change your heart. You have nothing
but death to expect from men ; as for God, implore his

The regicide bowed his head, and his knees bowed be-
neath him ; but suddenly standing erect, he said, —

** I voted the death of the king, it is true, but with
the reservation — *'

" What reservation ? "

" The reservation of the time when the execution should
take place."

"Whether near or distant, it was death which you
voted, and the king was innocent."

"That is true, that is true," said the prieS^; "but I
was afraid."

" Then you are not only a regicide and an apostate, but
a coward as well. We are not priests, but we will be
more just than you. You voted for the death of an inno-
cent man, and we vote for the death of a guilty one.
You have ten minutes in which to prepare to appear
before God."

The bishop uttered a cry of fright, and fell on his
knees. The church-bell tolled as if of its own accord, and
two of the men who were accustomed to the chants of
the church began to repeat the prayers for the dying. It
was some time before the bishop could speak the words
by which he ought to reply to them. He turned towards
his judges a frightened face, which gradually became ap-
pealing ; but he met with no expression of pity. On the
contrary, the torches which flickered in the wind gave


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every face a savage and terrible appearance. Then he
joined his voice to the voices of those who prayed, for
him. The judges waited until the last word of the familiar
prayer was spoken. In the mean time some men were
preparing a pile of wood.

** Oh ! " cried the priest, with increasing terror, " have
you the cruelty to reserve such a death for me 1 "

**No," replied the inflexible accuser. '*The fire is the
death of martyrs, and you are not worthy of such a death.
Come, apostate, your hour is at hand."

" Oh, my God I my God I " cried the priest, raising his
arms to heaven.

** Stand up ! *' said the Chouan.

The bishop tried to obey, but his strength failed him,
and he fell upon his knees.

" Are you going to allow the assassination to be ac-
complished under your very eyesi" asked Eoland of

'* I have said that I wash my hands of it," replied the

" That was Pilate's speech ; and Pilate's hands were
reddened with the blood of Jesus Christ."

** Because Jesus Christ was a just man ; but this man
is not Jesus Christ, he is Barabbas."

" Kiss the cross ! Kiss the cross ! " cried Sabre-

The priest looked around him with a frightened air, but
without obeying. It was evident that he saw nothing and
beard nothing of what was passing.

" Oh," cried Eoland, making a movement to descend
from his horse ; " it shall never be said that they have
assassinated a man in my presence, and that I have not
tried to help him."

A murmur of threats rolled around Eoland. The words


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which he had just pronounced had been heard. That
was all that was needed to excite the impetuous young

'^ Ah, is it so t " he said ; and he reached for one of hia

But with a movement as rapid as thought Cadoudal
seized his hand, and while Roland vainly tried to dis-
engage it from the iron grasp Cadoudal said : " Fire ! "

Twenty shots resounded at once^ and the bishop fell as
if struck by a thunderbolt.

" Ah," cried Roland, " what are you doing 1 "

** I forced you to keep your oath," replied Cadoudal.
" You swore to see and hear everything without offering
any opposition."

** Thus perish all enemies of God and the king ! " said
Sabre-tout, in a solemn voice.

" Amen ! *' replied the others, as with one voice.

Then they tore the bishop's robes from the corpse, and
threw them into the flames of the burning wood. They
made the other travellers re-enter the diligence, put the
postilion in his saddle, and making a passage-way before
them, said : " Go, and God be with you ! " The diligence
rolled rapidly away.

** Come, we must be going," said Cadoudal. " We have
still four leagues to make, and we have lost an hour here."
Then addressing the executioner, he said : " This man was
guilty and has been punished. Human and divine jus-
tice are satisfied. Let the prayers for the dead be said
above his body, and let him have Christian burial. Do
you understand 1 '* And sure of being obeyed, Cadoudal
glided away.

Roland seemed to hesitate a moment whether he should
follow him ; then, as if he had decided upon accomplish-
ing a duty, he said : " Let us go on to the end," And


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urging his horse in the direction which Cadoudal had
taken, he soon rejoined him.

They disappeared in the darkness, which seemed to
grow more dense in proportion as they went farther away
from the place where the torches were lighting the dead
priest, and the fire was devouring his vestments.


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Eoland's feeb'ngs as he followed Cadoudal resembled
those of a man half awake, who feels himself still under
the empire of a dream, and who approaches little by little
the point which separates night from day; he tried to
think whether he was in the land of fiction or that of re-
ality, and the more he sought among the shadows of his
brain the more doubtful he became.

There was one man in existence for whom Roland felt
something amounting to worship. Accustomed to living
in the glorious atmosphere which surrounded this man ;
accustomed to seeing others obeying his commands, and to
obeying him himself with an almost Oriental promptness,
— it seemed to him astonishing to meet in the two ex-
tremities of France two organized powers, which were op-
posed to this man, and ready to go to war with him. It
was as if one of the Jews of Judas Maccabeus, adoring
Jehovah, and having from his infancy heard men call upon
the King of Kings, — the great God, the avenging God,
the God of armies, the Eternal, — should suddenly invoke
the mysterious Osiris of the Egyptians or the thunder-
wielding Jupiter of the Greeks. His adventures at Avig-
non and Bourg with Morgan and the companions of Jehu,
and in the town of Muzillac and at the village of la Trin-
ite with Cadoudal and the Chouans, seemed to him like a
strange initiation into some unknown religion ; but, like a
courageous neophyte, who risks even death to learn the


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secrets of initiation, he resolved to persevere to the end.
Besides, he was not without a certain admiration for these
extraordinary characters ; it was not without astonishment
that he reflected upon these Titans in revolt, who had
dared to war against his god ; and he well knew that the
men who had stahhed Sir John in the monastery of
Seillon, and who had shot the Bishop of Yannes in the
village of la Trinity, were no ordinary men.

What was he about to see next 1 He would soon know,
for they had been on the road for five hours and a half,
and day was approaching. Beyond the village of Tridon
they had gone across country ; then, leaving Yannes on
the left, they had reached Tr^fl^on. At Tr^fl^on, Cadou-
dal, still followed by his major-general, Branche-d'Or, had
met Monte-k-rAssaut and Chante-en-Hiver, and given them
some orders, after which he had continued on his way,
bearing to the left and reaching the border of the little
wood which extends from Grandchamp to Lane.

There Cadoudal halted, uttered three times in succes-
sion the hoot of the owl, and in a moment was surrounded
by three hundred men. A gray light was dawning in the
direction of Tr^fleou and St.-Nolf ; it was not the first rays
of the sun, but the beginning of the daylight. A thick
fog lay upon the earth, making it impossible to see objects
fifty feet away.

Before venturing farther, Cadoudal seemed to await
news. Suddenly they heard, not five hundred feet away,
the crowing of a cock. Cadoudal listened attentively ;
his men looked smilingly at one another. The sound was
heard again, this time nearer.

*' It is he ! " said Cadoudal ; " answer ! "

The howling of a dog was heard close by Roland, who,
notwithstanding he had been led to know what to expect^
looked around him for the animal who had uttered the


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mournful sound. Almost at the same moment a man*s
form became visible in the fog, advancing rapidly, and
growing clearer as he drew near. The new-comer saw the
two riders, and approached them. Cadoudal stepped for-
ward, at the same time putting his finger to his lip, in
token that the man was to speak softly. The latter there-
fore did not stop until he had reached the general.

" Well, Fleur-d'J&pine," said Cadoudal, " have we got

'' Like mice in a trap ; not one of them will ever get
back to Vannes unless you choose."

" I ask nothing better ; how many are they 1 '*

'^ A hundred men, commanded by the general in person.'*

** How many wagons % "

" Seventeen,*'

" When will they march ] "

" They must be three quarters of a league from here

'' What road do they take ] "

" That from Grandchamp to Vannes."

" So that if I extend a line from Meucon to Plescop — "

" You will bar their way."

« Very good."

Cadoudal called his four lieutenants, Chante-en-Hiver,
Monte-i-1'Assaut, Fend-rAir, and la Gibeme. Then, when
they had come to him, he gave them each their men.
Each one in turn uttered the cry of the screech-owl, and
disappeared with fifty men. The fog was still so thick
that the fifty men forming each of these groups had not
gone a hundred feet before they disappeared like shadows.

Cadoudal remained where he was, with a hundred men,
Branche-d'Or, and Fleur-d*Epine. He rejoined Roland.

" Well, General," said the latter> " is everything going
as you wish 1 "


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"Yes, very nearly. Colonel," replied the other; **in
half an hour you can judge for yourself."

" It will be difficult to judge of anything in this fog."

Cadoudal glanced around him. " In half an hour/' he
said, " it will be gone ; will you take advantage of this
half hour by eating and drinking something 1 ''

" Upon my word," replied the young man, "the march
has certainly made me hungry.''

" And for my part," said Cadoudal, •* it is always my
habit to eat a hearty breakfast before going into battle."

« Then there will be a fight 1 "

" I think so."

** Against whom]"

"Against the Republicans; and since General Hatry
will be here in person, he probably will not yield without

" And do the Republicans know that they are about to
fight you 1 "

" They have not a suspicion of it."

" Then it is a surprise 1 "

" Not entirely, provided the fog lifts so that they can
see us as well as we see them." Then, turning towards
those who seemed to have charge of the provisions, he
asked: "Brise-Bleu, have you anything for our break-

Brise-Bleu made an affirmative sign, and going into the
wood, led forth a donkey with two panniers. In a mo-
ment a cloak was thrown over a mound of earth, and upon
the cloak a roast chicken, a piece of pork, some bread, and
some buckwheat cakes were spread out. Brise-Bleu had a
luxurious feast to-day, for he had procured a bottle of
wine and a glass.

Cadoudal drew Roland's attention to the improvised re-
past. Roland sprang from his horse, and gave the bridle


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to a Chouan. Cadoudal followed his example. " Now,"
said the latter, turning towards his men, " you have half
an hour in which to follow our example ; those who have
not breakfasted in that time will have to fight upon empty

The invitation seemed equivalent to an order, such was
the alacrity with which it was accepted. Each one drew
a piece of bread or a buckwheat cake from his pocket, and
imitated the example of his general, who had already
' carved the chicken for his own benefit and that of Roland.
As there was only one glass, they both drank out of it.

While they were breakfasting side by side like two
hunting-companions, the day broke, and as Cadoudal had
predicted, the fog steadily decreased. Soon they saw the
nearest trees, then the line of woods extending on the
right from Meucon to Grandchamp, while on the left the
plain of Plescop, divided by a brook, extended as far as
Vannes. This natural slope of the land became more ap-
parent in proportion as it approached the sea.

On the road from Grandchamp to Plescop they soon
distinguished a line of carts whose end was hidden in the
woods. This line of carts was motionless, and it was easy
to understand that some unforeseen obstacle had arrested
its course. In fact, at an eighth of a league in front of
the first cart could be distinguished the two hundred men
of Monte-k-1'Assaut, Chante-en-Hiver, Fend-l'Air, and la
Giberne, which barred the way. The Republicans, who
were inferior in number, having only a hundred men, had
halted, and were waiting until the fog should entirely dis-
appear, so that they might be certain of the number of
the enemy with whom they were confronted. Men and
carts formed a triangle, of which Cadoudal and his hundred
men made one of the extremities.

At sight of this insignificant number of men sur-


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rounded by a force three times as great, and at the uni-
form whose color had given the name of Blues to the
Republicans, Roland quickly rose. As for Cadoudal, he
remained quietly extended upon the grass, finishing his
meal. Of the hundred men around him, not one seemed
to notice what was going on before his eyes ; it was as if
they were awaiting Cadoudal's order, before paying atten-
tion to it. Roland only needed to look once to see that
the Republicans were doomed.

Cadoudal watched the different feelings which chased
each other over the young man's face. " Well," asked he,
after a moment of silence, ^'do you think I have made
my arrangements well ? "

" You would do better to say your precautions. Gen-
eral,*' replied Roland, with a mocking smile.

" Is it not the First Consul's habit," asked Cadoudal,
"to take advantage of opportunities when he can?"

Roland bit his lips, and instead of replying to the ques*
tion of the royalist chief, he said : " General, I hope you
will not refuse me the favor which I am about to ask."

« What is it 1"

'* I want permission to go and be killed with my com-

Cadoudal rose. " I expected this," he said.

"Then you will consent?" asked Roland, his eyes

" Yes ; but first I want you to do something for me,"
replied the royalist chief, with great dignity.

" Name it, sir."

" I want you to be my ambassador to General Hatry."

"To what end?"

" I have several proposals to make to him before we be-
gin to fight."

** I suppose that among these proposals which you do


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me the honor to confide to me you do not include that of
laying down arms 1 "

** On the contrary, you may easily understand that that
heads the list.*'

" General Hatry wiU refuse/*

" Probably."

"And then r'

" Then I will give him his choice between two other
proposals which he may, in my opinion, accept without
loss of honor."

"What are they 1"

" I will tell you in their proper time and place ; we
will begin with the first."

" Formulate it."

" This is it. General Hatry and his hundred men are
surrounded by a force three times their number. I offer
them their lives ; but they must lay down their arms, and
take oath not to serve again in la Vendee for five years."

Roland shook his head.

" This, however, would be better than to kill all his
men," said Cadoudal.

** Perhaps so ; but he would rather have them all killed,
and die with them."

**But do you not think," said Cadoudal, laughing,
" that it would be just as well to give him the choice 1 "

" Yes," said Roland.

<* Very well then, Colonel, have the goodness to get
upon your horse and make yourself known to the general,
and present my proposition to him."

" Very well," said Roland.

** The colonel's horse," said Cadoudal, making a sign to
the Chouan who had charge of it.

They brought Roland's horse to him. The young man
quickly mounted, and rapidly crossed the space which


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separated him from the motionless convoy, A group had
formed in the rear of the procession ; it was evidently
composed of General Hatry and his officers. Roland
directed his course towards this group.

General Hatry's astonishment was great when he saw a
man coming towards him in the uniform of a Republican
colonel. He left the group, and advanced towards the
messenger. Roland made himself known, related how he
came to be in the ranks of the Whites, and delivered
General Cadoudal*s proposal to General Hatry. As the
young man had expected, the latter refused.

Roland rode proudly and joyously back to Cadoudal.
" He refuses ! " he cried, as soon as he was near enough to
be heard.

Cadoudal bowed his head, in token that he was not sur-
prised. "In that case," he said, " carry my second pro-
posal to him. I wish to have nothing to reproach myself
with, since I have to answer to a judge of honor like

Roland bowed. " What is the second proposal! " he said.

" It is this : General Hatry will come to me in the
vacant space between the two troops ; we will be armed
alike, with a sword and two pistols, and the question will
be decided between us two. If I kill him, his men will
submit to the conditions that I have already made, for
being prisoners they cannot do otherwise ; if he kills me,
his men may pass freely, and gain Vannes unmolested. I
hope that is a proposition of which you approve, Colonel? "

" Yes, I accept it," said Roland.

** Ah," said Cadoudal, "but you are not General Hatry;
content yourself, therefore, with being his ambassador;
and if this proposal, which if I were in his place I would
certainly accept, does not suit him, — well, I am a good
prince I come back again, and I will make him a third."


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Roland started a second time towards the Republicans,
by whoni he was impatiently expected. He gave his
message to General Hatry.

" Citizen," replied the general, ** I am answerable for
my conduct to the First Consul ; you are his aide-de-camp,
and I charge you, on your return to Paris, to tell him what
has happened. What would you do in my place ] What-
ever you say, I will do."

Roland trembled, and his face took the grave expression
of a man who debates with himself a question of honor.

Online LibraryAlexandre DumasThe companions of Jehu → online text (page 5 of 24)