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- The Companions of Jehu - 90/133 -


Roland laid his finger on the centre of the map.

"General, there's the exact spot. Les Carronnières are not marked on the map because of their slight importance."

"What are Les Carronnières?" asked the First Consul.

"General, in our part of the country the manufactories of tiles are called _carronnières_; they belong to citizen Terrier. That's the place they ought to be on the map."

And Roland made a pencil mark on the paper to show the exact spot where the stoppage occurred.

"What!" exclaimed Bonaparte; "why, it happened less than a mile and a half from Bourg!"

"Scarcely that, general; that explains why the wounded horse was taken back to Bourg and died in the stables of the Belle-Alliance."

"Do you hear all these details, sir!" said Bonaparte, addressing the minister of police.

"Yes, citizen First Consul," answered the latter.

"You know I want this brigandage to stop?"

"I shall use every effort--"

"It's not a question of your efforts, but of its being done."

The minister bowed.

"It is only on that condition," said Bonaparte, "that I shall admit you are the able man you claim to be."

"I'll help you, citizen," said Roland.

"I did not venture to ask for your assistance," said the minister.

"Yes, but I offer it; don't do anything that we have not planned together."

The minister looked at Bonaparte.

"Quite right," said Bonaparte; "you can go. Roland will follow you to the ministry."

Fouché bowed and left the room.

"Now," continued the First Consul, "your honor depends upon your exterminating these bandits, Roland. In the first place, the thing is being carried on in your department; and next, they seem to have some particular grudge against you and your family."

"On the contrary," said Roland, "that's what makes me so furious; they spare me and my family."

"Let's go over it again, Roland. Every detail is of importance; it's a war of Bedouins over again."

"Just notice this, general. I spend a night in the Chartreuse of Seillon, because I have been told that it was haunted by ghosts. Sure enough, a ghost appears, but a perfectly inoffensive one. I fire at it twice, and it doesn't even turn around. My mother is in a diligence that is stopped, and faints away. One of the robbers pays her the most delicate attentions, bathes her temples with vinegar, and gives her smelling-salts. My brother Edouard fights them as best he can; they take him in their arms, kiss him, and make him all sorts of compliments on his courage; a little more and they would have given him sugar-plums as a reward for his gallant conduct. Now, just the reverse; my friend Sir John follows my example, goes where I have been; he is treated as a spy and stabbed, as they thought, to death."

"But he didn't die."

"No. On the contrary, he is so well that he wants to marry my sister."

"Ah ha! Has he asked for her?"

"Officially."

"And you answered?"

"I answered that the matter depended on two persons."

"Your mother and you; that's true."

"No; my sister herself--and you."

"Your sister I understand; but I?"

"Didn't you tell me general, that you would take charge of marrying her?"

Bonaparte walked up and down the room with his arms crossed; then, suddenly stopping before Roland, he said: "What is your Englishman like?"

"You have seen him, general."

"I don't mean physically; all Englishmen are alike--blue eyes, red hair, white skin, long jaws."

"That's their _th_," said Roland, gravely.

"Their _th_?"

"Yes. Did yon ever learn English, general?"

"Faith! I tried to learn it."

"Your teacher must have told you that the _th_ was sounded by pressing the tongue against the teeth. Well, by dint of punching their teeth with their tongues the English have ended by getting those elongated jaws, which, as you said just now, is one of the distinctive characteristics of their physiognomy."

Bonaparte looked at Roland to see if that incorrigible jester were laughing or speaking seriously. Roland was imperturbable.

"Is that your opinion?" said Bonaparte.

"Yes, general, and I think that physiologically it is as good as any other. I have a lot of opinions like it, which I bring to light as the occasion offers."

"Come back to your Englishman."

"Certainly, general."

"I asked you what he was like."

"Well, he is a gentleman; very brave, very calm, very impassible, very noble, very rich, and, moreover--which may not be a recommendation to you--a nephew of Lord Grenville, prime minister to his Britannic Majesty."

"What's that?"

"I said, prime minister to his Britannic Majesty."

Bonaparte resumed his walk; then, presently returning to Roland, he said: "Can I see your Englishman?"

"You know, general, that you can do anything."

"Where is he?"

"In Paris."

"Go find him and bring him here."

Roland was in the habit of obeying without reply; he took his hat and went toward the door.

"Send Bourrienne to me," said the First Consul, just as Roland passed into the secretary's room.

Five minutes later Bourrienne appeared.

"Sit down there, Bourrienne," said the First Consul, "and write."

Bourrienne sat down, arranged his paper, dipped his pen in the ink, and waited.

"Ready?" asked the First Consul, sitting down upon the writing table, which was another of his habits; a habit that reduced his secretary to despair, for Bonaparte never ceased swinging himself back and forth all the time he dictated--a motion that shook the table as much as if it had been in the middle of the ocean with a heaving sea.

"I'm ready," replied Bourrienne, who had ended by forcing himself to endure, with more or less patience, all Bonaparte's eccentricities.

"Then write." And he dictated:

Bonaparte, First Consul of the Republic, to his Majesty the King of Great Britain and Ireland.

Called by the will of the French nation to the chief magistracy of the Republic, I think it proper to inform your Majesty personally of this fact.

Must the war, which for two years has ravaged the four quarters of the globe, be perpetuated? Is there no means of staying it?

How is it that two nations, the most enlightened of Europe, more powerful and strong than their own safety and independence require; how is it that they sacrifice to their ideas of empty grandeur or bigoted antipathies the welfare of commerce, eternal prosperity, the happiness of families? How is it that they do not recognize that peace is the first of needs and the first of a nation's glories?

These sentiments cannot be foreign to the heart of a king who


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