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The Companions of Jehu

37. The Ambassador
We have seen that Roland, on returning to the Luxembourg, asked for the First
Consul and was told that he was engaged with Fouché, the minister of police.
Roland was a privileged person; no matter what functionary was with Bonaparte,
he was in the habit, on his return from a journey, or merely from an errand, of half
opening the door and putting in his head. The First Consul was often so busy that
he paid no attention to this head. When that was the case, Roland would say
"General!" which meant, in the close intimacy which still existed between the two
schoolmates: "General, I am here; do you need me? I'm at your orders." If the
First Consul did not need him, he replied: "Very good." If on the contrary he did
need him, he said, simply: "Come in." Then Roland would enter, and wait in the
recess of a window until the general told him what he wanted.
On this occasion, Roland put his head in as usual, saying: "General!"
"Come in," replied the First Consul, with visible satisfaction; "come in, come in!"
Roland entered. Bonaparte was, as he had been told, busy with the minister of
police. The affair on which the First Consul was engaged, and which seemed to
absorb him a great deal, had also its interest for Roland.
It concerned the recent stoppages of diligences by the Companions of Jehu.
On the table lay three procès-verbaux relating the stoppage of one diligence and
two mail-coaches. Tribier, the paymaster of the Army of Italy, was in one of the
latter. The stoppages had occurred, one on the highroad between Meximieux
and Montluel, on that part of the road which crosses the commune of Bellignieux;
the second, at the extremity of the lake of Silans, in the direction of Nantua; the
third, on the highroad between Saint-Etienne and Bourg, at a spot called Les
Carronnières.
A curious fact was connected with these stoppages. A sum of four thousand
francs and a case of jewelry had been mixed up by mistake with the money-bags
belonging to the government. The owners of the money had thought them lost,
when the justice of the peace at Nantua received an unsigned letter telling him
the place where these objects had been buried, and requesting him to return
them to their rightful owners, as the Companions of Jehu made war upon the
government and not against private individuals.
In another case; that of the Carronnières--where the robbers, in order to stop the
mail-coach, which had continued on its way with increased speed in spite of the
order to stop, were forced to fire at a horse--the Companions of Jehu had felt
themselves obliged to make good this loss to the postmaster, who had received
five hundred francs for the dead horse. That was exactly what the animal had
cost eight days before; and this valuation proved that they were dealing with men
who understood horses.
The procès-verbaux sent by the local authorities were accompanied by the
affidavits of the travellers.
Bonaparte was singing that mysterious tune of which we have spoken; which
showed that he was furious. So, as Roland might be expected to bring him fresh
information, he had called him three times to come in.
 
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