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- The Companions of Jehu - 27/133 -
The young man tossed aside his coat, displaying his belt, which was furnished with four pistols and a short hunting-knife. Then, with a gayety which seemed characteristic of his careless nature, he added: "I ought to look ferocious, oughtn't I? They may have taken me for the late Mandrin, descending from the mountains of Savoy. By the bye, here are the sixty thousand francs of Her Highness, the Directory." And the young man disdainfully kicked the valise which he had placed on the ground, which emitted a metallic sound indicating the presence of gold. Then he mingled with the group of friends from whom he had been separated by the natural distance between a narrator and his listeners.
One of the monks stooped and lifted the valise.
"Despise gold as much as you please, my dear Morgan, since that doesn't prevent you from capturing it. But I know of some brave fellows who are awaiting these sixty thousand francs, you so disdainfully kick aside, with as much impatience and anxiety as a caravan, lost in the desert, awaits the drop of water which is to save it from dying of thirst."
"Our friends of the Vendée, I suppose?" replied Morgan. "Much good may it do them! Egotists, they are fighting. These gentlemen have chosen the roses and left us the thorns. Come! don't they receive anything from England?"
"Oh, yes," said one of the monks, gayly; "at Quiberon they got bullets and grapeshot."
"I did not say from the English," retorted Morgan; "I said from England."
"Not a penny."
"It seems to me, however," said one of those present, who apparently possessed a more reflective head than his comrades, "it seems to me that our princes might send a little gold to those who are shedding their blood for the monarchy. Are they not afraid the Vendée may weary some day or other of a devotion which up to this time has not, to my knowledge, won her a word of thanks."
"The Vendée, dear friend," replied Morgan, "is a generous land which will not weary, you may be sure. Besides, where is the merit of fidelity unless it has to deal with ingratitude? From the instant devotion meets recognition, it is no longer devotion. It becomes an exchange which reaps its reward. Let us be always faithful, and always devoted, gentlemen, praying Heaven that those whom we serve may remain ungrateful, and then, believe me, we shall bear the better part in the history of our civil wars."
Morgan had scarcely formulated this chivalric axiom, expressive of a desire which had every chance of accomplishment, than three Masonic blows resounded upon the door through which he had entered.
"Gentlemen," said the monk who seemed to fill the rôle of president, "quick, your hoods and masks. We do not know who may be coming to us."
HOW THE MONEY OF THE DIRECTORY WAS USED
Every one hastened to obey. The monks lowered the hoods of their long robes over their faces, Morgan replaced his mask.
"Enter!" said the superior.
The door opened and the serving-brother appeared.
"An emissary from General Georges Cadoudal asks to be admitted," said he.
"Did he reply to the three passwords?"
"Then let him in."
The lay brother retired to the subterranean passage, and reappeared a couple of minutes later leading a man easily recognized by his costume as a peasant, and by his square head with its shock of red hair for a Breton. He advanced in the centre of the circle without appearing in the least intimidated, fixing his eyes on each of the monks in turn, and waiting until one of these twelve granite statues should break silence. The president was the first to speak to him.
"From whom do you come?" he asked him.
"He who sent me," replied the peasant, "ordered me to answer, if I were asked that question, that I was sent by Jehu."
"Are you the bearer of a verbal or written message?"
"I am to reply to the questions which you ask me, and exchange a slip of paper for some money."
"Very good; we will begin with the questions. What are our brothers in the Vendée doing?"
"They have laid down their arms and are awaiting only a word from you to take them up again."
"And why did they lay down their arms?"
"They received the order to do so from his Majesty Louis XVIII."
"There is talk of a proclamation written by the King's own hand. Have they received it?"
"Here is a copy."
The peasant gave a paper to the person who was interrogating him. The latter opened it and read:
The war has absolutely no result save that of making the monarchy odious and threatening. Monarchs who return to their own through its bloody succor are never loved; these sanguinary measures must therefore be abandoned; confide in the empire of opinion which returns of itself to its saving principles. "God and the King," will soon be the rallying cry of all Frenchmen. The scattered elements of royalism must be gathered into one formidable sheaf; militant Vendée must be abandoned to its unhappy fate and marched within a more pacific and less erratic path. The royalists of the West have fulfilled their duty; those of Paris, who have prepared everything for the approaching Restoration, must now be relied upon--
The president raised his head, and, seeking Morgan with a flash of the eye which his hood could not entirely conceal, said: "Well, brother, I think this is the fulfilment of your wish of a few moments ago. The royalists of the Vendée and the Midi will have the merit of pure devotion." Then, lowering his eyes to the proclamation, of which there still remained a few lines to read, he continued:
The Jews crucified their King, and since that time they have wandered over the face of the earth. The French guillotined theirs, and they shall be dispersed throughout the land.
Given at Blankenbourg, this 25th of August, 1799, on the day of St. Louis and the sixth year of our reign.
The young men looked at each other.
"'Quos vult perdere Jupiter dementat!'" said Morgan.
"Yes," said the president; "but when those whom Jupiter wishes to destroy represent a principle, they must be sustained not only against Jupiter but against themselves. Ajax, in the midst of the bolts and lightning, clung to a rock, and, threatening Heaven with his clinched hand, he cried, 'I will escape in spite of the gods!'" Then turning toward Cadoudal's envoy, "And what answer did he who sent you make to this proclamation?"
"About what you yourself have just answered. He told me to come and inform myself whether you had decided to hold firm in spite of all, in spite of the King himself."
"By Heavens! yes," said Morgan.
"We are determined," said the President.
"In that case," replied the peasant, "all is well. Here are the real names of our new chiefs, and their assumed names. The general recommends that you use only the latter as far as is possible in your despatches. He observes that precaution when he, on his side, speaks of you."
"Have you the list?" asked the President.
"No; I might have been stopped, and the list taken. Write yourself; I will dictate them to you."
The president seated himself at the table, took a pen, and wrote the following names under the dictation of the Breton peasant:
"Georges Cadoudal, Jehu or Roundhead; Joseph Cadoudal, Judas Maccabeus; Lahaye Saint-Hilaire, David; Burban-Malabry, Brave-la-Mort; Poulpiquez, Royal-Carnage; Bonfils, Brise-Barrière; Dampherné, Piquevers; Duchayla, La Couronne; Duparc, Le Terrible; La Roche, Mithridates; Puisaye, Jean le Blond."
"And these are the successors of Charette, Stoffiet, Cathelineau, Bonchamp, d'Elbée, la Rochejaquelin, and Lescure!" cried a voice.
The Breton turned toward him who had just spoken.
"If they get themselves killed like their predecessors," said he, "what more can you ask of them?"
"Well answered," said Morgan, "so that--"
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