The Companions of Jehu HTML version
29. The Geneva Diligence
About the hour when Roland was entering Nantes, a diligence, heavily loaded,
stopped at the inn of the Croix-d'Or, in the middle of the main street of Châtillon-
In those days the diligences had but two compartments, the coupé and the
interior; the rotunda is an adjunct of modern times.
The diligence had hardly stopped before the postilion jumped down and opened
the doors. The travellers dismounted. There were seven in all, of both sexes. In
the interior, three men, two women, and a child at the breast; in the coupé, a
mother and her son.
The three men in the interior were, one a doctor from Troyes, the second a
watchmaker from Geneva, the third an architect from Bourg. The two women
were a lady's maid travelling to Paris to rejoin her mistress, and the other a wet-
nurse; the child was the latter's nursling, which she was taking back to its
The mother and son in the coupé were people of position; the former, about forty
years of age, still preserving traces of great beauty, the latter a boy between
eleven and twelve. The third place in the coupe was occupied by the conductor.
Breakfast was waiting, as usual, in the dining-room; one of those breakfasts
which conductors, no doubt in collusion with the landlords, never give travellers
the time to eat. The woman and the nurse got out of the coach and went to a
baker's shop nearby, where each bought a hot roll and a sausage, with which
they went back to the coach, settling themselves quietly to breakfast, thus saving
the cost, probably too great for their means, of a meal at the hotel.
The doctor, the watchmaker, the architect and the mother and son entered the
inn, and, after warming themselves hastily at the large kitchen-fire, entered the
dining-room and took seats at the table.
The mother contented herself with a cup of coffee with cream, and some fruit.
The boy, delighted to prove himself a man by his appetite at least, boldly
attacked the viands. The first few moments were, as usual, employed in
satisfying hunger. The watchmaker from Geneva was the first to speak.
"Faith, citizen," said he (the word citizen was still used in public places), "I tell you
frankly I was not at all sorry to see daylight this morning."
"Cannot monsieur sleep in a coach?" asked the doctor.
"Oh, yes, sir," replied the compatriot of Jean-Jacques; "on the contrary, I usually
sleep straight through the night. But anxiety was stronger than fatigue this time."
"Were you afraid of upsetting?" asked the architect.
"No. I'm very lucky in that respect; it seems enough for me to be in a coach to
make it unupsettable. No, that wasn't it."
"What was it, then?" questioned the doctor.
"They say in Geneva that the roads in France are not safe."
"That's according to circumstances," said the architect.
"Ah! how's that?" inquired the watchmaker.