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Then after some moments he said, —

" General, I would refuse."

"And for what reason % " asked the general.

" A duel is largely a matter of chance ; and you cannot
submit the destinies of a hundred men to such a chance.
In an affair like this, where each one is engaged on his
own account, each one should have the opportunity to de-
fend his own skin as best he can."

" Is that your opinion, Colonel ? "

" On my honor."

"It is mine also; take my reply to the royalist

Roland returned to Cadoudal at a gallop, and d-elivered
General Hatry's reply.

Cadoudal smiled. " I suspected as much,*' he said.

" You could not have suspected it, since it was by my
advice that he gave this reply."

" You thought dififerently, however, just now.*'

" Yes, but as you yourself observed, I am not General
Hatry. Let me hear your third proposal," continued
Roland, impatiently ; for he began to see, or rather he
had seen for some time, that the royalist general had the
best of it.

**My third proposal," said Cadoudal, "is not a pro-


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posal, but an order, — the order that I shall give to two
hundred of my men to withdraw. General Hatry has a
hundred men, and I will keep a hundred ; my Breton
veterans are accustomed to fighting foot to foot, breast to
breast, man to man, and oftener one against three than
three against one. If Greneral Hatry conquers, he can
peacefully enter Vannes over our dead bodies ; if he is
conquered, he cannot say that it was because he M'as out-
numbered. Go, Monsieur de Montrevel, and remain with
your friends; I thereby give them the advantage of
numbers, for you alone are worth ten men."

Boland lifted his hat.

"What are you doing, sir?" asked Cadoudal.

" I am in the habit of saluting everything that appeal's
to me to be grand, sir, and I salute you I "

" Come, Colonel," said Cadoudal, ** a last glass of wine !
We will each of us drink to what he loves, what he is
sorry to leave on earth, and what he hopes to meet again
in heaven." Then taking the bottle and the one glass, he
half filled it and presented it to Roland. " We have only
one glass, Monsieur de Montrevel ; drink first"


"Because, in the first place you are my guest; and
again, because there is a proverb which says that who-
ever drinks after another knows his thought," And he
added laughingly, " I want to know your thought. Mon-
sieur de Montrevel."

Eoland emptied the glass, and returned it quickly to

Cadoudal poured out half a glassful for bimself, and
drank it»

" Well, now," said Roland, "do you know my thought 1 "

" No," replied the other ; " the proverb is false."

"Well," said Roland, with his customary frankness,


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" my thought is that you are a brave man, aud that I shall
feel honored if, before we go into battle^ you will shake
hands with me."

The two young men clasped hands, more like two friends
who are parting for a long absence than as two enemies
who are about to meet again upon the field of battle.
There was a simple yet majestic grandeur in the scene.
£ach one raised his hat.

" Good luck to you," said Eolaud to Cadoudal ; " but
permit me to say that I doubt if my wish will be realized.
It must be confessed that I made it with my lips aud not
with my heart.''

•*May God preserve you, sir/' said Cadoudal ; "and I
can truthfully say that I hope my wish will be realized,
for it is the expression of my heart."

" What will be the signal which will announce that you
are ready 1 " asked Roland.

" A gun fired into the air, to which you will reply by a
gun from your side."

"Very well, General," replied Roland. And putting
spurs to his horse, he crossed for the third time the space
which separated the Royalists from the Republicans.

Pointing towards Roland, Cadoudal said : " My friends,
do you see that young man 1 "

All eyes were turned towards Roland, and all mouths
murmured, " Yes."

" Well, he has been recommended to us by our brothers
in the South. His life must be sacred ; you may take
him alive, but not a hair of his head must be harmed."
" Very well, General," replied the Chouans.
" And now, ray friends, remember that you are the sons
of the thirty Bretons who fought thirty English between
Ploermel and Josselin, ten leagues from here, and con-
quered them." Then with a sigh, and in a lower tone, he

VOL. II. — 6


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added : *' Unfortunately^ our enemies are not Englishmen
this time."

The fog had entirely disappeared, and, as often happens
in such cases, a few rays of wintry sunlight were tinging
the plain of Plescop. All the movements made by the
two troops could therefore easily be distinguished. While
Roland turned towards the Republicans, Branche-d*Or set
off at a gallop in the direction of the two hundred men
who were opposing their passage. Scarcely had Blanche-
d'Or spoken to Cadoudal's four lieuteuants when a hun-
dred men drew off and wheeled to the right, and a
hundred others wheeled to the lefb. The two troops went
away, each in its own direction, — one division marching
towards Plumergat, and the other towards St.-Ave, thus
leaving the road clear. They halted at a quarter of a
league from the road, and grounding their muskets re-
mained motionless.

Branche-d*Or returned to Cadoudal. ** Have you any
special orders to give me, General ] '* he asked.

" Only one," replied Cadoudal. " Take eight men, and
follow me ; when the young Republican with whom I
breakfasted falls from his horse, throw yourselves upon
him, you and your eight men, before he has time to
escape, and take him prisoner.'*

" Yes, General."

'^ Remember that I must have him safe and sound.''

" Very well, General."

'^ Choose your eight men ; when he has been taken
prisoner, and has given his parole, you can do as you think

** And if he will not give his parole 1 "

'^ You will secure him so that he cannot escape, an^
keep him until the fight is over."

" Very well," said Branche-d'Or ; "but it will be rather


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dull to stand with folded arms while the others axe en-
joying themselves."

" Bah ! who knows 1 " said Cadoudal ; " there will pro-
bably be enough for every one to do." Then looking
around the plain, and seeing his men drawn off to one
side, while the Republicans were massed for battle, he said :
"A gun!"

One was brought to him. Cadoudal raised it above his
head, and fired. Almost at the same instant a report was
heard from the midst of the Republicans, answering that
of Cadoudal like an echo. Two drams were heard beat-
ing to charge, and a tram pet accompanied the sound.

Cadoudal stood up in his stirrups. "My boys," he
asked, "has every one of you said his prayers this
morning ? "

" Yes ! yes ! " was the reply.

" If any of you have forgotten it, or have not had time,
let them do it now."

Five or six peasants immediately fell upon their knees
and began to pray. The drams and the trumpet came

** General 1 General ! " said several voices, impatiently j
" they are coming ! "

The general pointed to the kneeling peasants.

** That is true," said the impatient ones.

Those who had been praying rose one by one, according
to the length of their prayer. When the last one was on
his feet, the Republicans had traversed a third of the
distance. They marched with levelled bayonets, in three
rows, each row being three men deep. Roland marched
at the head of the first row ; General Hatry was between
the first and second. They were easily recognized, being
the only two on horseback.

Among the Chouans, Cadoudal alone was mounted.


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Branche-d'Or had dismounted in order to take command
of his eight men.

" General," said a voice, *' all the prayers are finished,
and the men are on their feet/'

Cadoudal assured himself of the truth of the words.
Then in a loud voice he cried : ** Amuse yourselves, my
fine fellows ! "

This permission, which for the Chouans and Vendeeans
was equivalent to an order to charge, was no sooner given
than the Chouans ran out into the plain, crying " Vive le
roi I '' and waving their hats in one hand and their guns
in the other. But instead of keeping close ranks like the
Republicans, they spread out like skirmishers, taking the
form of an immense cross, of which Cadoudal and his
horse were the centre. In an instant they had overspread
the Republicans, and the musketry began to rattle.

Almost all Cadoudal's men were poachers, and therefore
excellent marksmen with their double-barrelled guns. Al-
though those who shot first were almost out of range, yet
several messengers of death penetrated the Republican
ranks, and three or four men fell.

" Forward ! " cried General Hatry..

The soldiers continued to march with lowered bayonets.
But in a few moments there was no one in front of them.
Cadoudal's hundred men had become sharp-shooters, and
had disappeared in a body. Fifty men were scattered
about on each side^ General Hatry ordered his men to
face right and left. Then the command was given :
"Fire ! " Two volleys were fired with the precision and
regularity of a perfectly drilled regiment, but they were
almost without result, for the Republicans were firing
upon isolated men. It was different with the Chouans,
who were firing upon a solid mass ; every shot told.

Roland saw the disadvantage of the position. He looked


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about him, and saw Oadoudal in the midst of the smoke,
upright and motionless as an equestrian statue. He knew
that the royalist chief was waiting for him. With a cry,
he sparred straight towards him.

In his turn, as if to spare him a part of the journey,
Cadoudal put his horse to a, gallop. But when he was a
hundred feet away from Eoland he stopped.

" Attention ! *' said he to Branche-d'Or and his men.

" All ready I ** replied Branche-d'Or.

Cadoudal drew a pistol from his holster and loaded it
Roland had taken his sword in his hand, and charged;
leaning over his horse's neck. When he was not more than
twenty paces from him, Cadoudal slowly raised his hand
in Roland's direction. At ten paces he fired. The horse
which Roland rode had a white star in the middle of his
forehead. The ball struck the centre of the star. The
horse, mortally wounded, rolled over with his rider, at
Cadoudal's feet. Cadoudal put spurs to his own horse,
and leaped over both horse and rider.

Branche-d'Or and his men were ready, and bounded
like jaguars upon Roland, who was entangled beneath his
horse's body. The young man let go of his sword and
tried to seize his pistols; but before he could put his
hand upon them, two men had taken them both away,
while four others pulled the horse away from him. The
thing was done with such concert of action that it was
easy to see it was a manoeuvre which had been planned
in advance.

Roland reddened with anger. Branche-d'Or approached
him, and put his hat in his hand.

" I do not give myself up I " cried Roland.

" It would be useless for you to do so. Monsieur de
Montrevel,*' replied Branche-d'Or, with the greatest


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'' Why ) ** asked Roland, exhausting his strength in a
struggle which was as ineffectual as it was useless.

" Because you are already taken, Monsieur."

The fact was so self-evident that there was no need to

" Well, then, kill me ! " cried Roland.

" We do not want to kill you, " replied Branche-d'Or.

" Then what do you want 1"

" We want you to give your word of honor to take no
further part in this fight. If you will do that^ we will
loose you, and you will be free."

" Never ! " exclaimed Roland.

^'Excuse me, Monsieur de Montrevel," said Branche-
d*Or, " but what you are doing is not loyaL"

" What ! " cried Roland, beside himself with rage, " not
loyal) You insult me, you wretch, because you know
that I can neither defend myself nor punish you."

" I am not a wretch, and I do not insult you, sir ; but
I do say that in refusing to give your parole you deprive
the general of the help of nine men who might be useful
to him, but who are forced to remain here to guard you.
The great Round-head over yonder did not do so ; he had
two hundred men more than you, and he sent them away ;
now we are only ninety-one against a hundred."

Roland's fSace flamed, and then became as pale as death.
" You are right, Branche-d*Or,'* he said. " I give myself
up unconditionally; you may go and fight with your

Tlie Chouans uttered a cry of joy, loosed their hold of
Roland, and hastened towards the Republicans, waving
their hats and guns, and crying : " Vive le roi I "

Roland, freed from their restraint, but disarmed mate-
rially by his fall and morally by his parole, went and sat
down upon the little mound which was still covered with


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the cloak which had served for a table-cloth. From there
he watched the fight without losing a single detail.
Cadoudal was upright upon his liorse, in the midst of the
fire and smoke, like the invulnerable demon of war.
Here and there might be seen the bodies of a dozen or
more Chouans lying upon the ground. But it was evi-
dent that the Republicans, always keeping close ranks,
had already lost double that number. Wounded men had
dragged themselves into the vacant spaces, and joining
eacli other, had raised themselves like bruised serpents,
and were fighting, — the Republicans with their bayonets,
and the Chouans with their knives. Those of the wounded
Chouans who were too far away to fight face to face with
those who were wounded like themselves, loaded their
guns, rose to their knees, fired, and fell back again. On
both sides the fight was pitiless, incessant, and bloody ; it
was as if civil war, a war without mercy or pity, was
shaking its torch above the battlefield.

Cadoudal was riding around the living redoubt, and
firing at twenty paces, — now with his pistols, now with
a double-barrelled gun which he threw down after he had
discharged it, only to take it up again ready loaded the
next time he passed. At each one of his shots a man
fell. The third time he repeated this manoeuvre a running
fire greeted him ; General Hatry did the honors for him
alone. He disappeared in the flame and smoke, and
Roland saw him and his horse sink down as if they had
both been struck by a thunderbolt. Ten or twelve Repub-
licans darted out of the ranks, against as many Chouans.
It was a terrible struggle, man to man, in which the
Chouans, with their knives, could not fail to have the

Suddenly Cadoudal found himself standing up, with a
pistol in each hand ; the next moment he fired, and two


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men fell dead. Then into the breach made by these ten
or a dozen men he tlirew himself with thirty. He had
picked up a gun which he used as a club, and at every blow
a man went down. He fought his way through the bat-
talion and reappeared upon the other side. Then, like a
wild boar who turns upon a wounded hunter and tears
out his entrails, he returned to the yawning wound, mak-
ing it larger as he went. From that moment all was

General Hatry rallied around him a few men, and with
levelled bayonets rushed upon the circle that surrounded
Cadoudal, who marched on foot at the head of his soldiers,
for his horse had been killed. Ten men fell before the
circle was broken. General Hatry found himself on the
outer edge of it. The Chouans were about to pursue him,
but Cadoudal called out in a voice of thunder, —

** You ought not to have let him pass ; but since he has
done so, let him go free."

The Chouans obeyed, with the reverence which they
always felt for their chiefs commands.

" And now," cried Cadoudal, " let the firing cease ; no
more dead, — take the rest prisoners. '^

The Chouans gathered themselves together, and sur-
rounded the heap of corpses, among which a few wounded
men were struggling. In this war, both parties shot their
prisoners, — on the one side, because they looked upon
Chouans and Vendeeans as brigands ; and on the other,
because they did not know what else to do with their
prisoners. The Republicans threw their guns away, in
order not to give them up. When they were approached,
their cartridge-boxes were all open ; they had used their
last cartridge.

Cadoudal made his way towards Roland. During the
whole of the fight the young man had remained seated.


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with his eyes fixed on the scene before him, his hair wet
with perspiration and his bosom heaving. When he had
seen how it was going, he had let his head fall into his
hands, and had sat with his forehead bent towards the
ground. Cadoudal approached him, but he did not hear
the sound of his steps. The general touched tlie young
man's shoulder.

Roland slowly raised his head without attempting to
conceal two tears which rolled down over his cheeks.
" General," he said, " dispose of me ; I am your prisoner."

"One does not make prisoner an ambassador of the
First Consul," replied Cadoudal, laughing; *^but one begs
him to grant a favor."

"Command me. General."

" I have no ambulance for the wounded, and no prison
for the prisoners ; I want you to take to Vannes the Re-
publican soldiers who are wounded or prisoners."

"Whatl" cried Roland.

" I give them, or rather intrust them, to you. I regret
that your horse is killed, and I am sorry that mine is dead
also ; but Branche-d'Or has one, if you will accept it."

The young man made a movement.

" Until you can get another, that is," continued Cadou-
dal, bowing.

Roland understood that there was nothing left for him
but to imitate the other's simplicity. " Shall I see you
again. General]" he asked as he rose.

"It is very doubtful. Monsieur; my operations call
me towards Port- Louis, and your duty calls you to the

" What shall I say to the First Consul, General ] "

" Tell him what you have seen ; he can judge between
the Abbe Bernier's diplomacy and that of Georges


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" After what I have seen, I doubt if you have any need
of me," said Roland; "but, at all events, remember that
you have a friend near the First Consul." And he held
out his hand to Cadoudal.

The royalist chief took it with the same frankness as
before the fight. "Adieu, Monsieur de Montrevel," he
said. " I need hardly tell you to speak a good word for
General Hatry ; such a defeat is as glorious as a victory."

In the mean time they had brought Branche-d^Or's
horse to the Republican colonel. He leaped into the

" By the way," said Cadoudal, " as you pass Roche-
Bernard, find out what has become of Thomas Milli^re."

" He is dead," replied a voice.

Co9ur-de-Roi and his four men, covered with mud and
perspiration, had just come up, but too late to take part
in the battle.

Roland cast a last look around the battlefield, uttered a
sigh, and waving an adieu to Cadoudal, set off at a gallop
across country, to await on the road to Vannes the cart
of wounded niien and prisoners which he was charged to
deliver to General Hatry. Cadoudal had given six livres
to each man. Roland could not help thinking that it was
with tlie money belonging to the Directory, and taken into
the West by Morgan and his companions, that the royalist
chief was dispensing his liberality.


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Roland's first visit when he arrived in Paris was for the
First Consul. He brought him the double news of the
peace of la Vendue and of the renewed insurrection of

Bonaparte knew Roland, and therefore the account of
the assassination of Thomas Milli^re, the trial of Bishop
Audrein, and the battle of Grandchamp produced upon him
a deep impression. There was besides in the young man's
story a kind of gloomy despair which was not to be

Roland was in despair at having missed this new occa-
sion for being killed. It seemed to him that an Unknown
Power watched over him, to bring him safe and sound out
of danger where many men lost their lives. Where Sir
John had found twelve judges and a death-sentence, he
had met with nothing but a ghost, — invulnerable, it is
true, but inoffensive. He blamed himself bitterly for
having sought out Georges Cadoudal in single combat,
which the other had expected, instead of throwing him-
self into the general fight, where at least he could have
killed or been killed.

The First Consul looked at him uneasily while he spoke.
He saw that there still existed in his heart that desire for
death which he had believed would be cured by contact
with his native land and by the embraces of his fiimily.


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Roland endeavored to prove General Hatry innocent
and praiseworthy, and as a just and impartial soldier he
give Cadoudal credit for the courage and generosity which
the royalist general deserved.

Bonaparte listened gravely, almost sadly ; although he
was eager for a war full of glory in a foreign land, he de-
tested civil war, in which the country shed its own blood
and tore its own entrails. It seemed to him that in such
a case negotiations should be substituted for war. But
how was it possible to negotiate with a man like Cadou-
dal 1 Bonaparte was not ignorant of the personal fascina-
tion which he possessed when he cared to exercise it. He
resolved to see Cadoudal, and without saying anything to
Roland about it, counted upon his help for the interview
when the hour should be ripe for it. In the mean time
he would wait and see if Bruue, in whose military talents
he had great confidence, would be more fortunate than his
predecessors. He dismissed Roland, after having an-
nounced his mother's arrival and her installation in the
little house in the Rue de la Victoire.

Roland leaped into a carriage and was at once driven
there. He found Mme. de Montrevel as happy and
proud as a woman and a mother could be. Edward had
become a member on the previous day of the French
Prytaneum. Mme. de Montrevel was now ready to
leave Paris and return to Am^Iie, whose health continued
to give her some uneasiness. As for Sir John, he was not
only out of danger, but he was almost well ; he was in
Paris, and had been to call upon Mme. de Montrevel ; she
had been out, and he had left his card. His address was
on this card. He was at the H6tel Mirabeau, on tho Rue
de Richelieu. It was eleven o'clock in the morning. That
was the hour when Sir John usually breakfasted, and
Roland was almost certain to find him at this time. He


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got into his carriage again and gave the order to stop
at the H6tel Mirabeau.

Koland found Sir John seated before a table upon which
was a breakfast after the English fashion, a very rare thing
at that time. He was drinking great cups of tea and
eating underdone cutlets. When he perceived Eoland,
Sir John uttered a cry of joy, and rising, hastened towards

Roland had conceived a deep affection for this excep-
tional nature, in which the qualities of the heart seemed
endeavoring to conceal themselves under national eccen-
tricities. Sir John was pale and thin, but he seemed to
feel very well. His wound was completely healed, and
aside from a difl&culty in breathing, which was growing
less every day and which would finally disappear, he had
recovered his ordinary health.

On his part Sir John received Eoland with a tenderness
*which would hardly have been expected from his nature,
and declared that the joy of seeing him had restored his
health completely. And in the first place he asked Roland
to share his meal, promising to have it served in the
French style.

Eoland accepted ; but like all soldiers who have been
through wars where bread was often lacking, he cared little
about his food, and he had acquired a habit of eating all
styles of cooking, in preparation for the time when he
might have no cooking at all. Sir John's promise, there-
fore, to have the breakfast served in the French style was
an attention which was scarcely appreciated. But what was
not lost upon Roland was Sir John's pre-occupation. It

Online LibraryAlexandre DumasThe companions of Jehu → online text (page 6 of 24)