The Companions of Jehu
33. The Law Of Retaliation
"Now, general," said Roland, when supper was over and the two young men,
with their elbows on the table and their legs stretched out before the blazing fire,
began to feel that comfortable sensation that comes of a meal which youth and
appetite have seasoned. "Now for your promise to show me things which I can
report to the First Consul."
"You promised, remember, not to object to them."
"Yes, but I reserve the right, in case you wound my conscience too severely, to
"Only give time to throw a saddle on the back of your horse, or of mine, if yours is
too tired, colonel, and you are free."
"As it happens," said Cadoudal, "events will serve you. I am here, not only as
general, but as judge, though it is long since I have had a case to try. You told
me, colonel, that General Brune was at Nantes; I knew it. You told me his
advanced guard was only twelve miles away, at La Roche-Bernard; I knew that
also. But a thing you may not know is that this advanced guard is not
commanded by a soldier like you and me, but by citizen Thomas Millière,
Commissioner of the Executive authorities. Another thing of which you may
perhaps be ignorant is that citizen Thomas Millière does not fight like us with
cannon, guns, bayonets, pistols and swords, but with an instrument invented by
your Republican philanthropists, called the guillotine."
"It is impossible, sir," cried Roland, "that under the First Consul any one can
make that kind of war,"
"Ah! let us understand each other, colonel. I don't say that the First Consul
makes it; I say it is made in his name."
"And who is the scoundrel that abuses the authority given him, to make war with
a staff of executioners?"
"I have told you his name; he is called Thomas Millière. Question whom you
please, colonel, and throughout all Vendée and Brittany you'll hear but one voice
on that man. From the day of the rising in Vendée and Brittany, now six years
ago, Millière has been, always and everywhere, the most active agent of the
Terror. For him the Terror did not end with Robespierre. He denounced to his
superiors, or caused to be denounced to himself, the Breton and Vendéan
soldiers, their parents, friends, brothers, sisters, wives, even the wounded and
dying; he shot or guillotined them all without a trial. At Daumeray, for instance, he
left a trail of blood behind him which is not yet, can never be, effaced. More than
eighty of the inhabitants were slaughtered before his eyes. Sons were killed in
the arms of their mothers, who vainly stretched those bloody arms to Heaven
imploring vengeance. The successive pacifications of Brittany and Vendée have
never slaked the thirst for murder which burns his entrails. He is the same in
1800 that he was in 1793. Well, this man--"
Roland looked at the general.