The Companions of Jehu HTML version

25. An Important Communication
Some time after this military revolution, which created a great stir in Europe,
convulsing the Continent for a time, as a tempest convulses the ocean--some
time after, we say, on the morning of the 30th Nivoise, better and more clearly
known to our readers as the 20th of January, 1800, Roland, in looking over the
voluminous correspondence which his new office entailed upon him, found,
among fifty other letters asking for an audience, the following:
MONSIEUR THE GOVERNOR-I know your loyalty to your word, and you will
see that I rely on it. I wish to speak to you for five minutes, during which I must
remain masked.
I have a request to make to you. This request you will grant or deny. In either
case, as I shall have entered the Palace of the Luxembourg in the interest o£ the
First Consul, Bonaparte, and the royalist party to which I belong, I shall ask for
your word of honor that I be allowed to leave it as freely as you allow me to enter.
If to-morrow, at seven in the evening, I see a solitary light in the window over
the clock, I shall know that Colonel Roland de Montrevel has pledged me his
word of honor, and I shall boldly present myself at the little door of the left wing of
the palace, opening on the garden. I shall strike three blows at intervals, after the
manner of the free-masons.
In order that you may know to whom you engage or refuse your word, I sign a
name which is known to you, that name having been, under circumstances you
have probably not forgotten, pronounced before you.
Chief of the Companions of Jehu.
Roland read the letter twice, thought it over for a few moments, then rose
suddenly, and, entering the First Consul's study, handed it to him silently. The
latter read it without betraying the slightest emotion, or even surprise; then, with a
laconism that was wholly Lacedæmonian, he said: "Place the light."
Then he gave the letter back to Roland.
The next evening, at seven o'clock, the light shone in the window, and at five
minutes past the hour, Roland in person was waiting at the little door of the
garden. He had scarcely been there a moment when three blows were struck on
the door after the manner of the free-masons; first two strokes and then one.
The door was opened immediately. A man wrapped in a cloak was sharply
defined against the grayish atmosphere of the wintry night. As for Roland, he was
completely hidden in shadow. Seeing no one, the man in the cloak remained
motionless for a second.
"Come in," said Roland.
"Ah! it is you, colonel!"
"How do you know it is I?" asked Roland.
"I recognize your voice."
"My voice! But during those few moments we were together in the dining-room at
Avignon I did not say a word."
"Then I must have heard it elsewhere."