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La Vendee by Anthony Trollope

Part 8 out of 10

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"My dear old friend here," said he, laying his hand on the old man's
arm, "has not much to offer you; but I am sure you are welcome to what
-he has. There is not a heart in all La Vendée beats truer to his
sovereign than his. Old age, misfortune, and persecution, have lain a
heavy hand on him lately, but his heart still warms to the cause. Does
it not my old friend?" And Father Jerome looked kindly into his face,
striving to encourage him into some little share of interest in what was
going on.

"I don't think I'll ever be warm again," said the old man, drawing his
chair still nearer to the dull smoky fire, and shivering as he did so.
"Everything is cold now. I don't understand why these ladies are come
here, or what they're to do; but they're very welcome, Jerome, very
welcome. A strange man came in just now, and said they must have my

"Oh no, Sir," said Madame de Lescure, inexpressibly shocked at the
dreadful misery of the poor old man; "indeed, indeed, we will not. It
is only for one night, and we shall do very well. Indeed, we would not
turn you out of your bed."

"You are welcome, Madame, welcome to it all--welcome as the flowers in
May. I know who you are, though I forget your name; it is a name dear
to all La Vendée. Your husband is a great and good man; indeed, you
shall have my bed, though you'll find it very cold. Your husband--but,
oh dear! I beg your pardon, Madame, I forgot."

I need not say that the evening which they spent at Genet, was
melancholy enough, and the privations which they suffered were dreadful.
During the early part of the night both Madame de Lescure and Marie lay
down for a few hours, but nothing, which could be said, would induce
them to keep the old priest longer from his bed. About midnight they got
up and spent the remainder of the night seated on the two chairs near
the fire, while Father Jerome squatted on the stool, and with his elbows
on his knees, and his face upon his hands, sat out the long night,
meditating upon the fortunes of La Vendée.

They started early on the next morning, and the priest of St. Laud's
went with them, leaving Father Bernard in perfect solitude, for he had
neither friend or relative to reside beneath his roof.

"Some of them will come down from time to time," said Father Jerome,
"and do what little can be done for him, poor old man! His sufferings,
it is to be hoped, will not last many days."

"And will he perform mass next Sunday?" said Marie.

"Indeed he will, if able to walk across the road into the chapel, and
will forget no word of the service, and make no blunder in the ceremony.
To you he seems to be an idiot, but he is not so, though long suffering
has made his mind to wander strangely, when he sees strange faces. There
are many who have been called to a more active sphere of duty for their
King and country than that poor Curé, but none who have suffered more
acutely for the cause, and have born their sufferings with greater



The reader, it is hoped, will remember St. Florent; it was here that the
first scene of this tale opened; it was here that Cathelineau first
opposed the exactions of the democratic government and that the
Vendeans, not then rejoicing in that now illustrious name, felt the
first flush of victory. It was here that 'Marie Jeanne' was taken from
the troops of the Republic by the valour of the townsmen, and, adorned
with garlands by their sisters and daughters, was dragged in triumph
through the streets, with such bright presentiments of future success
and glory.

The men of St. Florent had ever since that day borne a prominent part
in the contest; they felt that the people of Poitou had risen in a mass
to promote the cause, which they had been the first to take up; and they
had considered themselves bound in honour to support the character for
loyalty which they had assumed: the consequence was that many of the
bravest of its sons had fallen, and that very few of its daughters had
not to lament a lover, a husband, or a father.

St. Florent was now a melancholy careworn place. The people no longer
met together in enthusiastic groups to animate each other's courage, and
to anticipate the glorious day when their sovereign should come among
them in person, to thank them for having been the first in Poitou to
unfurl the white flag. It is true that they did not go back from their
high resolves, or shrink from the bloody effects of their brave
enterprise, but their talk now was of suffering and death; they
whispered together in twos and threes, at their own door-sills, instead
of shouting in the market-place. Cathelineau was dead, and Foret was
dead, and they were the gallantest of their townsmen. They had now also
heard that everything had been staked on a great battle, and that that
battle had been lost at Cholet--that Bonchamps and d'Elbée had fallen,
and that de Lescure had been wounded and was like to die. They knew that
the whole army was retreating to St. Florent, and that the Republican
troops would soon follow them, headed by Lechelle, whose name already
drove the colour from the cheeks of every woman in La Vendée. They knew
that a crowd of starving wretches would fall, like a swarm of locusts,
on their already nearly empty granaries; and that all the horrors
attendant on a civil war were crowding round their hearths.

It was late in the evening that the news of the battle reached the town,
and early on the next morning the landlord of the auberge was standing
at his door waiting the arrival of Henri Larochejaquelin and de Lescure.
The town was all up and in a tumult; from time to time small parties of
men flocked in from Cholet, some armed, and some of whom had lost their
arms; some slightly wounded, and some fainting with fatigue, as they
begged admission into the houses of the town's-people. The aubergiste
was resolute in refusing admittance to all; for tidings had reached him
of guests who would more than fill his house, on whom he looked as
entitled to more than all he could give them. It was at his hall door
that the first blow had been struck, it was in rescuing his servant that
the first blood had been shed; and though the war had utterly ruined
him, he still felt that it would ill become him to begrudge anything
that remained to him to those who had suffered so much in the cause.

Peter Berrier, his ostler, stood behind him, teterrima belli causa! This
man had at different times been with the army, but had managed to bring
himself safe out of the dangers of the wars back to the little inn, and
now considered himself an hero. He looked on himself in the light in
which classic readers look on Helen, and felt sure that the whole
struggle had been commenced, and was continued on his account. He was
amazed to find how little deference was paid to him, not only by the
Vendeans in general, but even by his own town's-people.

"I shall never be made to understand this business of Cholet," said he
to his master, "never. There must have been sad want there of a good
head; aye, and of a good heart too, I fear. Well, well, to turn and run!
Vendean soldiers to turn and run before those beggarly blues!"

"You'd have been the first, Peter, to show a clean pair of heels
yourself, if you'd been there," said the landlord.

"Me show a clean pair of heels! I didn't run away at Saumur, nor yet at
Fontenay, nor yet at many another pitched battle I saw. I didn't run
away here at St. Florent, I believe, when a few of us took the barracks
against a full regiment of soldiers."

"You couldn't well run then, for you were tied by the leg in the stable

"No, I was not; it was only for a minute or two I was in the stable.
Would Cathelineau or Foret have turned their backs, think ye? When I was
alongside of those two men, I used to feel that the three of us were a
match for the world in arms; and they had the same feeling too exactly.
Well, two of the three are gone, but I would sooner have followed them
than have turned my back upon a blue."

"You're a great warrior, Peter, and it's a pity you didn't stay with the

"Perhaps it is, perhaps it is. Perhaps I shouldn't have left it; but I
was driven away by little jealousies. Even great men have their
failings. But they certainly made some queer selections when they chose
the twelve captains at Saumur. There's not one of them left with the
army now but M. Henri, and what's he but a boy?"

"He has done a man's work at any rate!"

"He's brave, there's no denying that. He's very brave, but what then;
there's that impudent puppy of a valet of his, Chapeau; he's brave too:
at least they say so. But what's bravery? Can they lead an army? is
there anything of the General about them? Can they beat the blues?

"Didn't he manage to beat the blues at Amaillou and at Coron, and at
Durbellière? Faith, I think he has done nothing but beat them these
three months."

"There's nothing of the General in him, I tell you. Haven't I seen him
in battle now; he's quite at home at a charge, I grant you; and he's not
bad in a breach; but Lord bless you, he can't command troops."

The landlord and his servant were still standing at the door of the inn,
when the party for whom they were waiting made its appearance in the
square of the town. It consisted of a waggon, in which the wounded man
was lying, of three or four men on horseback, among whom were Henri
Larochejaquelin and the little Chevalier, and a crowd of men on foot,
soldiers of the Vendean army, who had not left the side of their General
since he had fallen at Cholet.

During the latter part of his journey, de Lescure had been sensible, and
had suffered dreadfully both in mind and body. He had never felt so
confident of success as Henri and others had done, and had carried on
the war more from a sense of duty than from a hope of restoring the
power of the crown. He now gave way to that despondency which so often
accompanies bodily suffering. He felt certain that his own dissolution
was near, and on that subject his only anxiety was that he might see his
wife before he died. He had, since the power of speech had been restored
to him, more than once asserted that the cause of the royalists was
desperate, and had, by doing so, greatly added to the difficulties by
which Henri was now surrounded. He did not, however, despair; nothing
could make him despondent, or rob him of that elastic courage which, in
spite of all the sufferings he had endured, gave him a strange feeling
of delight in the war which he was waging.

An immense concourse of people gathered round the waggon, as de Lescure
was lifted from it and carried up to the bedroom, which had been
prepared for him; and they showed their grief at his sufferings, and
their admiration of his character as a soldier, by tears and prayers for
his recovery. The extreme popularity of M. de Lescure through the whole
war, and the love which was felt for him by all the peasants concerned
in it, proved their just appreciation of real merit; for he had not
those qualities which most tend to ingratiate an officer with his men.
He could not unbend among them, and talk to them familiarly of their
prowess, and of the good cause, as Henri did. He had the manners of an
austere, sombre man; and though always most anxious for the security and
good treatment of the prisoners, had more than once severely punished
men among his own followers for some breach of discipline. He had, on
one occasion, threatened to leave the army entirely if he was not obeyed
with the same exactness, as though he actually bore the King's
commission; and the general feeling that he would most certainly keep
his word, and that the army could not succeed without him, had greatly
tended to repress any inclination towards mutiny.

"God bless him, and preserve him, and restore him to us all!" said a
woman who had pushed her way through the crowd, so as to catch a glance
at his pale wasted face, one side of which was swathed in bandages,
which greatly added to the ghastliness of his appearance. "We have lost
our husbands, and our sons, and our sweethearts; but what matters, we
do not begrudge them to our King. The life of Monseigneur is more
precious than them all. La Vendée cannot afford to lose her great

De Lescure heard and understood, but could not acknowledge, the sympathy
of the people; but Henri, as he tenderly raised his cousin's head, and
bore him in his arms from the waggon, spoke a word or two to the crowd
which satisfied them; and Arthur Mondyon remained among them a while to
tell them how bravely their countrymen had fought at Cholet, against
numbers more than double their own, before they would consent to own
themselves beaten.

There was an immense deal for Henri Larochejaquelin to do. In the first
place he had to collect together the fragments of the disbanded army;
to separate the men who were armed from those who had lost their arms,
and to divide the comparatively speaking small number of the former,
into such bands or regiments as would make them serviceable in case of

De Lescure was unable to give him any actual assistance in his work; but
his thoughtful brain, reflecting on all the difficulties of Henri's
situation, conceived how much they would be increased by the want of any
absolute title to authority; he therefore determined, ill as he was, to
invest him with the command-in-chief of the shattered army.

Early on the morning after their arrival he begged that all such men as
had acted as chief officers among the Vendeans, and who were now in St.
Florent, would form themselves into a council in his room, and that it
might be proclaimed to the army that they were about to nominate a
General-in-Chief. The council was not so numerously attended as that
which on a former occasion was held at Saumur. As Peter Berrier had
said, most of those who then sat around that council table were now
dead, or were, at any rate, hors-de-combat. Only four of the number were
now present. De Lescure was lying on his bed, and was a spectacle
dreadful to look upon. The hair had been all cut from his head. His face
was not only pale, but livid. The greater portion of it had been
enveloped in bandages, which he had partly removed with his own hand,
that his mouth might be free, so that he could use his weak voice to
address his comrades, perhaps for the last time. He uttered neither
complaint or groan, but the compressed lips, careworn cheeks, and sunken
eyes, gave too certain signs of the agony which he suffered. Henri was
there, but he knew the proposal which his cousin was about to make, and
he felt, not only that he was unequal to the heavy task which was about
to be put on his shoulders, but also that there were still some among
their number who were superior to him in skill, rank, and age, and who
were to be excluded from the dangerous dignity by the partial admiration
which was felt for himself He sat apart in a corner of the room, with
his face buried in his handkerchief; his manly heart was overcome; and
while de Lescure named him as the only person possessed of sufficient
nerve and authority to give the Vendeans a chance of an escape from
utter ruin, he was shedding tears like a child.

D'Autachamps and the Prince de Talmont were there also; men, who
throughout the war had lent every energy to its furtherance. At another
time, and under other circumstances, they might have expressed
indignation at being called on to serve under a man so much their
junior; but de Lescure's position checked, not only the expression of
any such feeling, but the feeling itself. They could not differ from a
man who had lost so much in the cause, and vas now sealing his devotion
with his life. There were five or six others in the room; officers who
were now well known in the army, whose courage history has not forgotten
to record, but whose names are unnecessary to our tale.

"Gentlemen," said de Lescure to them, as soon as he saw them seated
round his bed, and had contrived to get himself so propped up with
pillows as to be able to address them, "you all know why I have wished
to see you here; you all know the paramount importance of that duty
which requires us to provide, as far as may be possible, for the
security of the unfortunate peasants who have followed us with such
courage, who have shown so much generous loyalty, so much true
patriotism. Our first step must be to name some one whom we can all
obey. We all know that the army cannot act in unison without one
absolute Commander. He who was lately our Commander has fallen in the
performance of his duty. Our dear friend Bonchamps is no more. Had I
escaped from that awful battle unwounded, it is not improbable that you
might have chosen me to undertake the now unenviable duty of guiding a
broken army. You will not accuse a dying man of vanity in saying so;
but, gentlemen, you all see that such a chance is now impossible. My
wound is mortal. A few days, perhaps a few hours, and I shall be removed
from this anxious, painful, all but hopeless conflict, in which you, my
friends, must still engage; in which some of you will probably fall. I
cannot suffer with you future reverses, or lead you to future triumphs;
but, if you will allow me, I will use my last breath in naming to you
one, whom, I believe, every peasant in La Vendée, and every gentleman
engaged in the cause, will follow, if it be necessary, to death. Henri
Larochejaquelin is the only man whom all the peasants, all the soldiers,
all the officers, know intimately; and the last duty I can perform in
the service of my King is to implore you to put him at the head of your
troops. He is young, and you will assist his youth with your counsel.
He is diffident of himself, and you will encourage him with your
assurance and obedience; but he is brave, he is beloved, he is trusted;
and above all, he possesses that innate aptitude for war, that power of
infusing courage into the timid and lending strength to the weak, which
is the gift of God alone, and without which no General can command an

Henri had promised his cousin that he would neither interrupt him, or
raise any objection to the proposition about to be made. He kept his
word as long as de Lescure was speaking, but when he had finished he
could not restrain himself from expressing his own sense of his
unfitness for the duties they were calling on him to perform. He came
forward, and leaning against the head of the wounded man's bed, put his
hand upon his shoulder, and speaking almost in a whisper, like a young
girl pleading for delay before her lover, he said, "Charles, you
forget, I am but one-and-twenty."

No one, however, seconded his objection. No other voice was raised to
counteract the wishes of the man who had suffered so much in the cause,
and who, had he been spared, would have been at once chosen to guide
their future movements.

"With this exception," said the Prince de Talmont; "your case we know
is doubtful, but should you recover, should you again be able to come
among us before the war be over, Larochejaquelin shall then give place
to you."

"There is little chance of that, Prince," said de Lescure, smiling
sadly; "but should it occur, there will be no quarrel between me and
Henri. I will serve with him as his aide-de-camp."

Henri Larochejaquelin now found himself General-in-Chief of the Vendean
army. As he himself had said, he was but one-and-twenty, and yet never
was greater energy, firmness, and moral courage required from a General,
than was required from him at this moment. Eighty thousand people were
on that day told to look to him as the man who was to save them from
famine and from the enemy's sword, to protect their lives and the lives
of all whom they loved, and eventually to turn their present utter
misery and despair into victory and triumph.

Eighty thousand people were there collected in and around St. Florent,
men, women, and children; the old and infirm, the maimed and sick, the
mutilated and the dying. Poor wretches who had gotten themselves dragged
thither from the hospitals, in which they feared to remain, were lying
in every ditch, and under every wall, filling the air with their groans.
Everything was in confusion; no staff existed competent to arrange their
affairs, and to husband the poor means at their disposal. Food was
wasted by some, while hundreds were starving. Some houses in the town
were nearly empty, while others were crowded almost to suffocation.
There was very much to be done, yet every one was idle.

The great work to be accomplished was to transport the Vendean multitude
over to the other side of the Loire. It had been at first feared by some
that the men of Brittany would be unwilling to receive the beaten
royalist army, flying from the bloody vengeance of the republicans, but
their neighbours did not prove so unhospitable. A thousand welcomes were
sent over to them, and many a happy messenger of good tidings came,
assuring Henri that the people of Poitou should find arms, food,
clothing, and shelter on the other side of the water.

Henri sat himself to work in earnest. His first difficulty was to get
vessels or rafts sufficient to carry the people over. All he could
obtain was seven or eight little boats, each capable of holding about
six persons, besides the two men who rowed. Timber there was none of
size sufficient to make a raft; and though he sent messengers for
leagues, both up and down the river, he could not get a barge. He put
the small boats to work, but the passage of the river was so tedious
that it seemed to him that it would be impossible for him to take over
all those who crowded on the banks. The river is broad at St. Florent,
and between the marshes which lie on the southern side and the northern
bank there is a long island. Between St. Florent and the island the
water is broad and the stream slow, but between the island and the other
shore the narrow river runs rapidly. Henri at first contented himself
with sending the women and children, together with the sick and aged,
into the island, thinking that there they would be at any rate for a
time safe from the blues, and that some effort might probably be made
from the other shore to convey them across the narrow passage.
Gradually, however, the island became full, and he was obliged to send
his boats round to take the people from thence to the main land.

All day the work continued, and when the dark night came on, the boats
did not for a moment cease to ply. Immediately after sunset, the rain
began to fall in torrents, and as the anxious wretches did not like to
leave the close vicinity of the river, which they had spent the whole
day in struggling to attain, thousands of them remained there wet and
shivering until the morning. Mothers during the darkness were parted
from their children, and wives from their husbands. Those who, worn out
with fatigue and weakness, were forced to lie down upon the ground, were
trodden upon by others, who pressed on, to reach the river. Some were
pushed into the water and screamed aloud that they were about to drown,
and when the dawn of the morning came, misery, wretchedness, and fear
were to be seen on every face.

During the whole day and night, Henri was either on the bank, or passing
between it and the town. He had, early in the day, stripped himself of
his coat, and when the evening came, he could not find it. Wet through,
in his shirt sleeves, this young generalissimo passed the first night
of his command, guarding the entrance into his little vessels;
prohibiting more than eight from embarking at a time; striving to his
uttermost that none but the weak and aged should be taken over; solacing
the sufferings of those near him; bidding the wretched not to despair,
and pointing to the opposite shore as the land of hope, where they would
soon again find plenty, comfort, and triumph.

He was still at the same duty on the following morning, reckoning up,
with something like despair, the small number of those who had as yet
passed over, and the multitude who were yet to pass, when the young
Chevalier came down to him with the news that Madame de Lescure, and her
sister-in-law were in St. Florent. Even the work, on which he was so
intent, could not keep him from those respecting whom he was so anxious,
and he hurried into town for an hour or two, leaving the Chevalier in
his place.



M. de Lescure had been two days in St. Florent, when his wife and sister
arrived there on horseback, attended by Chapeau. None of the party had
ever been in the town before, but it was not long before they were
recognized, and the two ladies soon found themselves standing in the inn
yard. Madame de Lescure had as yet asked no question about her husband;
indeed she had not had opportunity to do so, for she had been hurried
through a dense throng of people, none of whom she knew, and when she
was lifted from her horse by a strange hand, she had no idea that the
window immediately above her head looked from the room in which her
husband lay. Chapeau, however, with considerate tact, did not lose a
moment in finding the aubergiste, and learning from him enough to enable
him to whisper a word of comfort to her.

"He is here, Madame," said he, standing close behind her, "in the room
above there. He is somewhat better than he has been, and as strong in
his mind as ever. He has been most anxious for your arrival," and then
he led the way into the hotel, pushing aside the crowd to the right and
to the left; and within five minutes from the time of their entering the
town, the two ladies found themselves on the stairs immediately outside
the chamber in which was lying the object of all their present anxiety.

For the last four days and four nights, it had been the first and only
desire of Madame de Lescure to be with her husband; and now that she was
so near him she dreaded to open the door. "Who is with him?" said she,
speaking in a whisper, and trembling from head to foot, so that she
could hardly stand.

"The little Chevalier is with him always," said the aubergiste, who had
followed them up the stairs: "he never leaves him, now that M. Henri is
obliged to be away."

"Hadn't I better go in, perhaps," said Chapeau, "and send the Chevalier
out? I can tell M. de Lescure that Madame is here; it might be too much
for Monsieur to see her all at once."

Without waiting for an answer, Chapeau knocked at the door and went in,
while the two ladies sat down on the nearest step, dreading almost to
breathe in their intense anxiety; in a few seconds Arthur Mondyon came
out, and taking a hand of each of his two friends, pressed them to his

"He knows you are here," said he to Madame de Lescure, "and you are to
go into him alone. Marie and I wifi go down stairs until he sends for
us. Be tranquil as you can, while you are with him; you will find him
as calm as ever."

She rose, and entered the room on tiptoe, as Chapeau left it; her face
was as pale as marble, and her heart beat so violently that she felt
that she would hardly be able to reach the chair at the bed-side. De
Lescure was lying on a decent but very humble bed, at the farthest end
of a large room, in which there were three or four other bedsteads, and
an enormous number of common deal chairs and tables piled one a-top of
another. He was propped up in the bed on pillows, and as he turned his
eyes towards the door, the full light of the sun shone upon his face,
and gave an especial ghastliness to its pallor.

Madame de Lescure tried to control herself; but in such moments the
feelings of the heart overcome the reason, and the motions of the body
are governed by passion alone. In an instant her face was on his bosom,
and her arms were locked closely round his body.

"Victorine--my own Victorine," said he, "my greatest grief is over now.
I feared that we were not to meet again, and that thought alone was
almost too much for my courage."

She was for a time unable to articulate a word. He felt her warm tears
as she convulsively pressed her cheek against his breast; he felt the
violent throbs of her loving heart, and allowed her a few minutes before
he asked her to speak to him. She had thrown off the hat which she had
worn before entering the room, and he now gently smoothed her ruffled
hair with his hand, and collected together the loose tresses which had
escaped down her neck.

"Look up, love," he said; "I haven't seen your face yet, or heard your
voice. Come, Victorine, you were not used to be so weak. We must all
string our nerves now, dearest: we must all be brave now. We used to
praise you for your courage; now is the time for you to show it."

"Oh, Charles! oh, my poor stricken love!" and then she raised her face
and gazed into his, till the tears made her eyes so dim that she could
hardly see him. "I knew it would come at last," she said; "I knew this
fearful blow would come at last. Oh, that we had gone when others went!
at any rate I should not have lived to see you thus."

"Do no say that, Victorine; do not speak so--do not allow yourself to
think so--or you will rob both of us of our dearest comfort. No, my
love; were it to do again, I again would stand by the throne, and you
again would counsel me to do so. A doubt on that point would be
calamity, indeed; but, thank God, there is no doubt."

"But the misery to see you thus--torn, and mangled, and tortured. And
for what? What good have we done with our hot patriotism? Is the King
nearer his throne? Are the murders of the Republic less frequent?"

"I fear you are selfish now, love. Did we not know, when we first took
up our arms, that many happy wives would be widowed--that numberless
children would be made fatherless--that hundreds of mothers would have
to weep for their sons. We must not ourselves complain of that fate, to
which we have knowingly, and thoughtfully, consigned so many others."

Madame de. Lescure had no answer to make to her husband's remonstrance.
She sat herself upon the bed, so that she could support his head upon
her bosom; and pressing her lips to his clammy brow, she said in a low
voice: "God's will be done, Charles: with all my heart I pity those who
have suffered as I now suffer."

She remained sitting there in silence for a considerable time; weeping,
indeed, but stifling her sobs, that the sound of her grief might not
agitate him, while he enjoyed the inexpressible comfort of having her
close to him. He closed his eyes as he leant against the sweet support
which she afforded him, but not in sleep; he was thinking over all it
might be most necessary for him to say to her, before the power of
speech had left him, and taking counsel with himself as to the advice
which he would give her.

"Victorine," he said, and then paused a moment for a reply, but, as she
did not answer him, he went on. "Victorine, I want you to be all
yourself now, while I speak to you. Can you listen to me calmly, love,
while I speak to you seriously?"

She said that she would, but the tone in which she said it, hardly gave
confirmation to her promise.

"I hardly know what account you have yet heard of that unfortunate

"Oh! I have heard that it was most unfortunate: unfortunate to all, but
most unfortunate to us."

"It was unfortunate. I hope those who spoke to you of it, deceived you
with no false hopes, for that would have been mere cruelty. Give me your
hand, my love; I hope they told you the truth. You know, dearest, do you
not, that--that--that my wound is mortal?"

She strove hard to control her feelings. She bit her under lip between
her teeth; she pressed her feet against the bed, and grasped the loose
clothes with the hand which was disengaged. The virtue on which her
husband most prided himself was calmness and self-possession in
affliction. She knew that he now expected that virtue from her, and that
nothing would so grieve him as to see her render herself weakly up to
her sorrow, and she strove hard to control it; but all her exertion did
not enable her to answer him. It seemed almost miraculous to herself
that she could sit there, and retain her consciousness, and hear him
utter such words. Had she attempted to speak, the effort would have
overcome her.

"For heaven's sake, Victorine, let nothing, let nobody deceive you; know
the worst, and look to Christ for power to bear it, and you will find
the burden not too heavy to be borne. You and I, love, must part in this
world. We have passed our lives together without one shadow to darken
the joy of our union: we have been greatly blessed beyond others. Can
we complain because our happiness on earth is not eternal? Is it not a
great comfort that we can thus speak together before we part; that I
have been allowed to live to see your dear face, to feel your breath on
my cheek, and to hear your voice? to tell you, with the assurance which
the approach of death gives me, that these sorrows are but for a time,
and that our future joys shall be everlasting? And I must thank you,
Victorine, for your tender care, your constant love. You have made me
happy here; you have helped to fit me for happiness hereafter. It is
owing to you that even this hour has but little bitterness for me. Are
we not happy, dearest; are we not happy even now in each other's love?"

Madame de Lescure had, while her husband was speaking, sunk upon her
knees beside his bed, and was now bathing his hand with her tears.

"I cannot blame you for your tears," he said, "for human nature must
have her way; but my Victorine will remember that she must not give way
to her sorrow, as other women may do. Rise, dearest, and let me see your
face. I feel that I have strength now to tell you all that I have to
say. I may probably never have that strength again."

She rose at his bidding, and sat upon the bed where he could look full
upon her face; and then he began to pour out to her all the wishes of
his heart, all the thoughts which had run through his brain since
consciousness returned to him after his wound. After a little while she
conquered her emotion, and listened to him, and answered him with
attention. He first spoke of their daughter, who was now in safety, with
relatives who had fled to England, and then of herself, and the probable
result of the Vendean war. He told her that he would not say a word to
discourage Henri: that had his life been spared, he should have
considered it his own most paramount and sacred duty to further the war
with every energy which he possessed; but that he did not expect that
it would ever terminate favourably to their hopes. "The King will reign
again," he said, "in France; I do not doubt it for a moment; but years
upon years of bloodshed will have to be borne; the blood of France will
be drained from every province, aye, from every parish, before the guilt
which she has committed can be atoned for--before she can have expiated
the murder of her King." He desired her to continue with Henri till an
opportunity should occur for her to cross over into England, but to let
no such opportunity pass. He said that if Henri could maintain his
ground for a while in Brittany--if the people would support him, and if
English succour should arrive--it was still probable that they might be
able to come to such terms with the republicans as would enable them to
live after their own fashion, in their own country; to keep their own
priests among them, and to maintain their exemption from service in the
republican armies. "But should this not be so," he said, "should all the
valour of the Vendeans not be able to secure even thus much, then
remember that God will temper the wind to the shorn lamb. With a people
as with an individual, he will not make the burden too heavy for the
back which has to bear it."

He spoke also of Marie, and declared his wish that she should not delay
her marriage with Henri. He even said, that should his life be so far
prolonged, as to enable him to be carried over into Brittany, and should
the army there find a moment's rest, he would wish to see their hands
joined together at his bed-side.

"My poor dear Marie!" said Madame de Lescure, almost unconsciously. She
was thinking of her sister's future fate; that she also might have soon
to bewail a husband, torn from her by these savage wars. De Lescure
understood what was passing through her mind, and said:

"I know, love, that there are reasons why they had better remain as they
now are. Why they should not indissolubly bind themselves to each other
at such a time as this; but we must choose the least of evils. You will
both now be a burden--no, I will not say a burden, but a charge--upon
Henri; and he has a right to expect that a girl, who will depend for
everything on him, shall not shrink from the danger of marrying him. She
has been happy to accept his love, and when she may be a comfort to him,
she should not hesitate to give him her hand. Besides, dearest, think
what a comfort it will be to me to know that they are married before I

There was one other subject on which he had made up his mind to speak,
but on which even he, calm and collected as he was, found it difficult
to express himself; he had, however, determined that it was his duty to
do so, and though the words almost refused to come at his bidding, still
he went through his task.

"You will be desolate for a time, Victorine, when I shall have left
you," said he.

She answered him only by a look, but that look was so full of misery--of
misery, blended with inexpressible love--that no one seeing her, could
have doubted that she would indeed be desolate when he was gone.

"We have loved each other too well to part easily," he continued, "and,
for a time, the world will all be a weary blank to you. May God, who
knows how to pour a balm into every wound, which in his mercy He
inflicts, grant that that time may not be long! Listen to me patiently,
love. It is a strong sense of duty which makes me pain you; my memory
will always be dear to you; but do not let a vain, a foolish, a wicked
regret counteract the purpose for which God has placed you here. You are
very young, dearest, you have, probably, yet many years to live; and it
would multiply my grief at leaving you tenfold, if I thought that your
hopes of happiness in this world were to be buried in the grave with me.
No, love, bear with me," he said, for she tried to stop him. "The pain
which I give you now, may prevent much grief to you hereafter. Remember,
Victorine, that should these evil days pass by--should you ever again
be restored to peace and tranquil life, my earnest, my last, my solemn
prayer to you is, that my memory may not prevent your future marriage."

She was still kneeling by his side, and with her face upturned and her
hands clasped together, she now implored him to stop. She uttered no
dissent, she made no protestations; but she beseeched him, by their long
and tender love, by all the common ties which bound them together, to
cease to speak on a subject which was so agonising.

"I have done, love," he said; "and I know that you will not think
lightly of a prayer which I have made to you in so serious a manner."

De Lescure had expressed the same wish to his wife on former occasions,
which, however, had, of course, been less solemn; and then his wife had
answered him with a full, but not grieving heart. "Had our lot," he once
said, "been cast in an Indian village, the prejudices of the country
would have required you to submit to a horrid, torturing death upon my
tomb. The prejudices of Christian lands, which attribute blame to the
wife who does not yield herself a living sacrifice to a life of
desolation from a false regard to her husband's memory, are, if not so
horrid, every whit as unreasonable; such a sentiment is an attempt to
counteract God's beneficence, who cures the wounds which he inflicts."

Henri's first care, after having seen Marie and Madame de Lescure, was
to provide for their transit, and that of his wounded friend, to the
other side of the water; for he felt that if the blues came upon St.
Florent before that was done, nothing could prevent the three from being
made prisoners. No tidings had yet been received of the advance of the
republicans from Cholet towards St. Florent, and the precautions which
Henri had taken were such as to ensure him some few hours' notice of
their approach. He knew, however, that those hours would be hours of
boundless confusion; that the whole crowd of unfortunate wretches who
might then still be on the southern side of the river, would crowd into
the small boats, hurrying themselves and each other to destruction; that
discipline would be at an end, and that all his authority would probably
be insufficient to secure a passage for his party. About three o'clock
he sent word to Arthur to have the strongest of the boats kept in
readiness a little lower down the river than the usual point of
embarkation; so that they might, if possible, escape being carried
through the throng. He then procured a waggon into which de Lescure was
lifted on his bed; his wife sat behind him, supporting his head on her
lap, and Henri and his sister walked beside the vehicle down to the
water's edge.

The little Chevalier was there with the boat, and he had with him two
men, neither of whom were young, and who had been at work the whole day
ferrying over the Vendeans to the island. Arthur's figure was hardly
that of an aide-de-camp. His head was bare and his face begrimed with
mud. He was stripped to his shirt sleeves, and they were tucked up
nearly to his shoulders. He still had round his waist the red scarf, of
which he was so proud; but it was so soiled and dragged, as hardly to
be recognized as the badge of the honourable corps to which he belonged,
for he had, constantly since the morning, been up to his breast in the
water, dragging women and children out of the river, heaving the boats
ashore, or helping to push them off through the mud and rushes.

It was settled on the bank that Arthur should go over with them into
Brittany, as Henri felt that he could not conscientiously leave the St.
Florent side of the river, while so many thousands were looking to him
for directions; and, consequently, as soon as de Lescure and the two
ladies had, with much labour and delay, been placed in the boat, he
swung himself out of the water into the bow, and the frail bark with its
precious load was pushed off into the stream.

The point from which it started was somewhat lower down the stream than
that from which the boats had been hitherto put off, and, consequently,
as they got into the middle of the river, they found themselves carried
down towards the lower part of the island, on which they had intended
to land. Had the men who were rowing worked vigorously, this would not
have occurred to any great extent; but they pulled slowly and feebly,
and every foot which the boat made across, it descended as much down the
river. Arthur had been desired to land de Lescure on the island, and
another boat had been sent round to be ready to take him at once from
thence to the other shore; but when he found that they were
unintentionally so near the lower end of the island, it occurred to him
that it would save them all much pain and trouble, if he were to run
round it, and land them at once on the opposite shore; they would in
this way have to make a considerably longer journey, but then de Lescure
would be spared the pain of so many different movements.

Madame de Lescure immediately jumped at the proposal. "For heaven's
sake, Arthur, do so, if it be possible," said she; "it will be the
greatest relief. I do not think we should ever get across to the other
boat, if we once leave this."

Arthur was behind the two men at the oars, who had listened to what had
been said, without making any observation, or attempting to alter the
destination of the boat; rudder there was none, and the steering,
therefore, depended entirely on the rowers.

"Do you hear?" said Arthur, stretching forward and laying his hand on
the shoulder of the man who was in front. "Never mind the island at all;
go a little more down the stream, and then we can cross over at once
without landing at all. Do you hear me, friend?" added he, speaking
rather hastily, for the boatman took no apparent notice of his

"We hear you, Monsieur," said the man, "but it is impossible; we could
not do it."

"Ah, nonsense!" answered the Chevalier: "not do it--I say you must do
it. I wonder you should hesitate for a moment, when you know how M. de
Lescure is suffering, and how much those ladies have to go through. Turn
the boat down the stream at once, I tell you."

"It is quite impossible," said the old man doggedly, and still holding
on to his course; "we should only upset the boat and drown you all. We
could never push her through the current on the other side, could we

"Quite impossible," said the other. "We should only be carried down
into the rushes, or else be upset in the stream."

"Nonsense!" said Arthur. "What's to upset you? At any rate you shall
try." And he laid his hand on the oar of the man who was nearest to him,
but this, instead of having the effect which he desired, turned the nose
of the boat the other way.

"For God's sake, my dear friends, do this favour for us if you can!"
said Madame de Lescure. "It may save the life of my husband, and indeed
we will reward you richly for your labour. Stop, Arthur, don't use
violence; I am sure they will do this kindness for us, if they are

"If they won't do it for kindness, they shall do it because they cannot
help it," said Arthur, when he saw that the men still showed no
disposition to go down the stream; and as he spoke he pulled his pistol
out of his belt, and prepared to cock it. The pistol, in truth, was
perfectly harmless, for it had been over and over again immersed in the
water, and the powder was saturated with wet; but this did not occur to
the boatmen, nor, very possibly, to Arthur either; and when he, stepping
across the thwart, on which the hinder man was sitting, held the pistol
close to the ear of the other, threatening that if he did not at once
do as he was bid, he would blow out his brains and take his place on the
seat, the poor old man dropped his oar from his hand into the water, and
falling on his knees on the bottom of the boat, implored for mercy.

"Spare me, Monsieur! oh, spare me!" said he. "Ladies, pray speak for me:
I am not used to this work--indeed I am not--and I and my comrade are
nearly dead with fatigue."

Arthur put the pistol back into his belt when the poor man begged for
mercy, and pulling the fallen oar out of the water, declared that he
would himself row round the island, and that the two old men might take
the other oar in turns. They agreed to this, and then he who had been
so frightened, and who was plainly the master of the two, told his tale
to them, as he filled Arthur's place in the bow of the boat.

"When they had heard," he said, "what his former occupation had been,
they would not wonder that the hard work at which they found him was
almost too much for him. He was," he said, "a priest, and had been
employed above twenty years as Curé in a small parish on the river side,
between St. Florent and Chaudron. The other man, who was working with
him, had been his sexton. He had, like other Curés, been turned out of
his little house by the Republic, but had returned to his parish when
he heard that the success of the Vendean arms seemed to promise
tranquillity to the old inhabitants of the country. He had, however,
soon been again disturbed. The rumour of Lechelle's army had driven him
from his home, and he had fled with many others to St. Florent. He had
been advised that those who were taken in a priest's garb, would be more
subject even than others to the wrath of the republicans, and he had
therefore disguised himself; and as from having lived so long near the
river he had become somewhat used to the management of boats, he had,
for charity's sake, leant his hand to the poor Vendeans, willing," as
he said, "to use what little skill and strength he had for those who
lost their all in fighting for him, his country, and his religion. But
now," he added, "he found himself almost knocked up; and although, when
he had been chosen to take over Monsieur and the two ladies, he had not
had the heart to decline, still he had found that his strength would
fail him. He knew that he and his companion could not, unaided, reach
the opposite shore; but if the young gentleman would assist, they would
still do their best, and perhaps they might cross over in safety."

This piteous tale soon turned their anger into admiration and
friendship. They thanked the kind old man for all that he had done for
them, and Arthur once, and over again, turned round to beg his pardon
for the violence he had offered him.

"Indeed, then, I picked you out for this job," said he, "because you
always worked so hard, and seemed so skilful and anxious, and because
I observed that your boat always made the passage quicker than the
others. You must not be angry when I tell you that I thought you had
been a boatman all your life."

He said he was not angry at all, but flattered; indeed he had spent much
of his leisure time in rowing, and was heartily glad that his little
skill was now useful to his friends. He soon offered to take his place
again at the oar, and when neither his old servant or Arthur would allow
him to do so, he declared that he was quite himself again, and that
those few minutes' rest had wonderfully recruited him. The ladies both
thanked him kindly, but begged him to remain a while where he was, and
Marie, from time to time, asked him questions about the past, and tried
to hold out hopes to him for the future. The tears came into his eyes,
and rolled down his cheeks, and after a while he took the sexton's oar,
literally to relieve himself from having to speak.

"It is not he work alone that has upset me," said he after a while, "but
the poor people seem so callous. We have worked hard these two days, as
the young gentleman knows, and all for charity, and yet till this moment
we have not had a kind word. They urge us on to the work, and when we
land them at the shore, they do not even thank us as they go away; then
we turn back with a heavy heart for another load."

They reached the shore of Brittany in safety, and when de Lescure was
placed in the carriage which had been provided for him, he desired that
the poor priest might be begged to accompany them on their journey. He
declined, however, saying that he had found a sphere in which he could
be useful, and that he would stick to the work till it was all done, or
till his strength failed him. De Lescure pressed his hand, and begged
his blessing, and told him that if there were many such as him in the
country, La Vendée might still carry her head high, in spite of all that
the Republic could do against her. This praise made the old man's heart
light once again, and he returned to his bat, and passed. back to St.
Florent with his comrade and Arthur, ready to recommence his labours.
In the meantime de Lescure and his wife and sister were warmly welcomed
on the Breton side of the river, and before night he, for the first time
since the battle of Cholet, found himself in comparative security and

When Arthur got back he found that another plan had been started for
carrying over the Vendeans, which, if it did not drown them altogether,
would be certainly much more expeditious than that of the boats. It had
originated with Chapeau, under whose guidance the operations were about
to commence.

He had come down to the water-side with his master, and on seeing the
way in which the men were working, had calculated that it would yet take
above a week to carry over all who remained, and as it was probable that
they would be attacked before twenty-four hours were over, he had
observed that they might as well give themselves up for lost if they
could devise no other scheme of passing over.

"We will do the best we can," said Henri. "If we can get over the women,
and children, and wounded, the rest of us can fight our way to the
bridge of Ancenis."

"Why not make a raft?" said Chapeau.

"Make one if you can," said Henri, "but it will only go down the stream.
Besides, you have neither timber nor iron ready to do it."

Chapeau, however, determined to try, and he employed the men from
Durbellière, who knew him, and would work for him, to get together every
piece of timber they could collect. They brought down to the bank of the
river the green trunks of small trees, the bodies of old waggons, the
small beams which they were able to pull down out of the deserted
cottages near the river-side, pieces of bedsteads, and broken fragments
of barn doors. All these Chapeau, with endless care, joined together by
numberless bits of ropes, and at last succeeded in getting afloat a raft
on which some forty or fifty men might stand, but which seemed to be
anything but a safe or commodious means of transit. In the first place,
though it supported the men on it, it did not bear them high and dry
above the water, which came over the ankles of most of them. Then there
was no possible means of steering the unwieldy bark; and there could be
no doubt that if the Argonauts did succeed in getting their vessels out
into the river, it would immediately descend the stream, and that it,
and those upon it, would either be upset altogether, or taken to
whichever bank and whatever part of it, the river in its caprice might

In this dilemma a brilliant idea occurred to Chapeau. He still had
plenty of rope in his possession, and having fastened one end of a long
coil with weights and blocks on the riverside, he passed over with the
other end into the island, and fastened it there. The rope, therefore,
traversed the river, and by holding on to this, and passing it slowly
through their hands, while they strained against the raft with their
feet, the enterprising crew who had first embarked reached the island
in safety. Ten of the number had to return with the raft, but still from
thirty to forty had been taken over, and that without any great delay.

After this first success the boats were sent round to work between the
island and the other shore, and the raft was kept passing to and fro
over the river the whole night. Nobody got over with dry feet, but still
no one was drowned, and upon the whole Chapeau was considered to be
entitled to the thanks of the whole army for the success of his
invention. He had certainly accelerated their passage fivefold.



The old motto, attributing disrespect to every prophet in his own
country, had not been proved true with reference to Cathelineau in St.
Florent. His deeds, during the short period of his triumph, had been
celebrated there with general admiration, and since his death, his
memory had been almost adored. The people of the town had had no public
means of showing their appreciation of his valour; they had not as yet
had time to erect monuments to his honour, or to establish other
chronicles of his virtues, than those which were written in the hearts
of his townsmen. He had left an aged mother behind him, who had long
been dependent on his exertions for support, and they had endeavoured
to express their feeling of his services, by offering to place her
beyond the reach of poverty; but, unaccountably enough, she was the only
person in St. Florent, who was dissatisfied with her son's career, and
angry with the town which had induced him to adopt it.

She still lived in a small cottage near the extremity of St. Florent,
which had been the residence of Cathelineau as long as he supported
himself by his humble calling. It was now wrecked and shattered, and
showed those certain signs of ruin which quickly fall on the dwellings
of the aged poor, who have no young relatives round them. Here she would
sit and spin, seldom now interrupted by any; though at first her
neighbours used to flock thither to celebrate the praises of her son.
She had loved her son, as warmly as other mothers love their children;
but she had loved him as a hard-working labourer, earning for herself
and for him their daily pittance; not as a mighty General, courted and
complimented by the rich and great of the land. She had begged him not
to go out into the town on the morning when he had been so instrumental
in saving his townsmen from the ignominy of being pressed into the
service of the Republic; and when he returned in the evening, crowned
with laurels, she had not congratulated him. She had uttered nothing but
evil bodings to him on the day when he first went to Durbellière; and
when he returned from Saumur, chief General of all the forces of then
victorious La Vendée, she had refused to participate in the glories
which awaited him in his native town. On his departure to Nantes she had
prophesied to him his death, and when the tidings of his fall were first
brought to her, she merely said that she had expected it. The whole town
mourned openly for Cathelineau, except his mother. She wept for him in
silence and alone; but she wept for the honest, sturdy, hard--working
labourer whom she had reared beneath her roof, and who had been beguiled
away by vain people, to vain pursuits, which had ended in his death;
while others bewailed the fall of a great captain, who had conferred
honour on their town, and who, had he been spared, might have heaped
glory on his country. Since that time, she had not ceased to rail on
those who had seduced her son into celebrity and danger; and, after a
while, had been left to rail alone.

When nearly all the inhabitants of the town flocked down to the
river-side, anxious to escape from the wrath of the republicans, she
resolutely refused to move, declaring that if it were God's will that
she should perish under the ashes of her little cottage, she would do
so, and that nothing should induce her, in her extreme old age, to leave
the spot on which she had been born, and had always lived. During the
whole confusion, attending the passage of the river, she sat there
undisturbed; and though she saw all her poor neighbours leave their
humble dwellings, and all their little property, to look for safety in
Brittany, she did not move.

On the day after that on which de Lescure had passed over, she was
sitting alone in her cabin, and the unceasing whirl of her
spinning-wheel proved that the distractions of the time had not made her
idle. By this time all those who had lived immediately near her, were
gone. it is not to be supposed that absolutely every inhabitant of the
town left his home; there were some who had taken no prominent part in
the war, and who could not believe that the republicans would destroy
those whom they found quietly living in their own houses; but all the
poorer part of the population were gone, and not a living soul but
herself remained in the row of cabins, of which Cathelineau's mother
occupied one.

Her wheel was turning fast round, obedient to the quick motion of her
foot, and her two hands were employed in preparing the flax before it
was caught by the wheel; but her mind was far away from her ordinary
pursuit. She had been thinking how true were the prophetic warnings with
which she had implored her son to submit to the republicans, and how
surely she had foreseen the desolation which his resistance had brought
on all around her. And yet there was more of affection than bitterness
in her thoughts of her son. She acknowledged to herself his high
qualities; she knew well how good, how noble, how generous, had been his
disposition. She was, even in her own way, proud of his fame; but she
hated, with an unmixed hatred, those whom she thought had urged him on
to his ruin--those friends of noble blood, who would have spurned the
postillion from their doors had he presumed to enter them in former
days; but who had thrust him into the van of danger in the hour of need,
and had persuaded him, fond and foolish as he had been, to use his
courage, his energy, and his genius, in fighting for them a battle, in
which he should have had no personal interest.

As she sat there spinning, and thinking thus bitterly of the causes of
all her woe, a figure darkened the door of her cottage, and looking up
she saw a young lady dressed in black. She was tall, and of a noble
mien; her face was very beautiful, but pale and sad, as were the faces
of most in these sad times. Her dress was simple, and she was
unattended; but yet there was that about her, which assured the old
woman that she was not of simple blood, and which prepared her to look
upon her as an enemy.

It was Agatha Larochejaquelin. She and her father had, by slow stages,
reached St. Florent in safety; and, after having seen him at rest, and
spoken a word to her brother, her first care had been to inquire after
the mother of Cathelineau. She had been told of her solitary state, and
of her stubborn resolution to remain at St. Florent, and she determined
to offer her any aid in her power, as a duty due to the memory of him,
with whom she had been, for a short time, so strangely connected.

The old woman rose mechanically, and made a slight obeisance as she saw
Agatha's commanding figure, and then reseating herself, hastily
recommenced her work, as though she had forgotten herself, in having
been thus far courteous to her guest.

"I have come to express my esteem and respect to the mother of
Cathelineau," said Agatha, as soon as she found herself inside the
cottage. "I knew and valued your son, and I shall be glad to know his
mother. Was not the brave Cathelineau your son, my friend?" she added,
seeing that the old woman stared at her, as though she did not as yet
comprehend the object of her visit.

"My name is Françoise Cathelineau," said the sybil, "and Jacques
Cathelineau was my son."

"And proud you may be to have been his mother. He was a great and good
man: he was trusted and loved by all La Vendée. No one was so beloved
by the poor as he was; no one was so entirely trusted by the rich and

"I wish that the rich and great had left him as they found him. It would
be well for him and me this morning, if he had not so entirely trusted

"His death was a noble death. He died for the throne which he honoured,
and loved so loyally; and his name will be honoured in Poitou, aye, and
in all France, as long as the names of the great and the good are
remembered. It must be a bitter thing to lose an only son, but his
dearest friends should not regret him in such a cause."

"Dearest friends! What do you know of his dearest friends? How can you
tell what his dearest friends may feel about it?"

"I know what I feel myself. Perhaps I cannot judge of all a mother's
agony in losing her son; but I may truly say, that of those who knew
Cathelineau, none valued him more than I did."

"Valued him! Yes, you valued him as you would a war-horse, or a strong
tower, but you did not love him. He was not of your race, or breed. His
hands were hard with toil, his hair was rough, and his voice was harsh
with the night air. The breath of the labouring poor is noisome in the
nostrils of the rich. His garments smelt of industry, and his awkward
gait told tales of his humble trade. You did not love him: such as you
could not have loved a man like him. You have come here to bid me to
forget my son, and you think it easy for me to do so, because you and
his noble friends have forgotten him. You are welcome, Mademoiselle, but
you might have saved yourself the trouble."

"God forbid that I should ask you to forget him. I can never forget him

"Would that I could--would that I could! He left me that morning when
I bade him to stay, though I went down on my knees to ask it as a
favour. He was a stubborn self-willed man, and he went his own way. He
never passed another night under his mother's roof; he never again heard
his mother's blessing. I wish I could forget him. Indeed, indeed, I wish
I could!" and the old woman swayed herself backwards and forwards in her
chair, repeating the wish, as though she did not know that any one was
with her in the cottage.

Agatha hardly knew what to say to the strange woman before her, or how
to soften her bitterness of spirit. She had felt an unaccountable
attraction to Cathelineau's mother. She had imagined that she could
speak to her of her son with affection and warmth, though she could not
do so to any other living soul She had flattered herself that she should
have a melancholy pleasure in talking of his death, and in assuring his
aged mother that she had soothed her son's last hours, and given him,
in his dying moments, that care which can only be given by the hands of
a woman. She now felt herself repulsed, and learnt that the short career
of glory which had united her with Cathelineau, had severed him from his
mother. Nevertheless her heart yearned to the old woman; she still hoped
that, if she could touch the right cord, she might find her way to the
mother's heart.

"I thought, perhaps," she said, "you would be glad to hear some tidings
of his last moments; and as I was with him when he died, I have come to
tell you that his death was that of a Christian, who hoped everything
from the merits of his Saviour."

"May his soul rest in peace," said the mother, crossing herself, and
mechanically putting her hands to her beads. "May his soul rest in
peace. And you were with him when he died, Mademoiselle, were you?"

"I knelt at his bed-side as the breath passed from his body."

"It would have been better for him had one of his own degree been there:
not that I doubt you did the duty of a good neighbour, as well as it
might be done by one like you. Might I ask you your name, lady?"

"My name is Agatha Larochejaquelin."

"Larochejaquelin! I'm sorry for it. It was that name that first led
Jacques into trouble: it was young Larochejaquelin that first made my
son a soldier. I will not blame you, for you say you were kind to him
at a time when men most want kindness; but, I wish that neither I nor
he had ever heard your name."

"You are wrong there, my friend. It was Cathelineau made a soldier of
my brother, not my brother who made a soldier of him. Henri
Larochejaquelin was only a follower of Cathelineau."

"A Marquis obey a poor postillion! Yes, you stuffed him full with such
nonsense as that! You made him fancy himself a General! You cannot fool
me so easily. My son was not a companion for noble men and noble ladies.
A wise man will never consort with those who are above him in degree."

"We all looked on Cathelineau as equal to the best among us," answered
Agatha. "We all strove to see who should show him most honour."

The old woman sat silent for a while, turning her wheel with great
violence, and then she moved abruptly round, and facing Agatha, said:

"Will you answer me one question truly, Mademoiselle?"

Agatha said she would.

"Are you betrothed as yet to your lover?"

"No, indeed," answered she; "I am not betrothed."

"And now answer me another question. Suppose this son of mine, who, as
you say, was as great as the greatest among you, and as noble as the
noblest; suppose he had admired your beauty, and had offered to take you
home to his mother as the wife of his bosom, how would you then have
answered him? What would you then have thought of the postillion? Would
he then have been the equal of gay young counts, and high-blooded

Agatha at first made no reply, and a ruby blush suffused her whole face.
She was not at all unwilling that Cathelineau's mother should know the
feeling which she had entertained for her son, but the abruptness, and
the tone of the question, took her by surprise, and for a moment
scattered her thoughts.

"Now I have made you angry, Mademoiselle," said the other, chuckling at
the success of her scheme. "Now you are wrath that I should have dared
to suppose that the daughter of a Marquis could have looked, in the way
of love, on a poor labourer who had been born and bred in a hovel like

"You mistake me, my friend; I am not angry--I am anything but angry."

"You would have scorned him as a loathsome reptile, which to touch would
be an abomination," continued the old woman, not noticing, in her
eagerness, Agatha's denial. "You would have run from him in disgust, and
the servants would have let loose the dogs at him, or have chained him
as a madman. Yes, your delicate frame shakes with horror at the idea,
that a filthy stable boy could have looked on your beauty, and have
dared to wish to possess it: and yet you presume to tell me that
Cathelineau was among you as an equal: he was with you as a Jew is among
Christians, as a slobbering drunkard among sober men, as one stricken
with fever among the healthy. My son should have been too proud to have
eaten bread at a table where his hand was thought unclean, or to have
accepted favours, where he dared not look for love."

"You are unjust to Cathelineau," replied Agatha. "You are in every way
unjust, both to your son and to me. He accepted no favour from us, but
he did--but he did look--" and she paused, as though she still lacked
courage to speak the words which were on her tongue, but after a moment
she went on and said, "he did look for love, and he did not look in

"He did love, do you say, and not in vain! He did love, and made his
love acceptable to one of those fine flaunting ladies who sit at ease
all day, twirling a few bits of silk with their small white hands. Do
you say such a one as that loved Cathelineau! Who was she? What is her
name? Where is she?"

"She is close to you now," said Agatha, sitting down on a low stool at
the old woman's feet. "I told you her name a while since. It is I who
loved your son: I, Agatha Larochejaquelin."

Françoise Cathelineau dropped from her hand the flax, which she had
hitherto employed herself in preparing for the wheel, and pushing from
her forehead her loose grey locks, and resting on her knees her two
elbows, she gazed long and intently into Agatha's face.

"It is just the face he would have loved," said she aloud, yet speaking
to herself. "Yes, it is the face of which he used to dream and
talk--pale and sad, but very fair: and though I used to bid him mind his
work, and bring down his heart to love some poor honest labouring girl,
I did not the less often think over his strange fancies. And Jacques
told you that he loved you, did he, Mademoiselle? I wonder at that--I
wonder at that; it would have been more like himself to have carried his
love a secret to the grave."

"He was dying when he told me that he regarded me above other women; and
I am prouder of the dying hero's love, than I could have been had a
Prince knelt at my feet."

"He was dying when he confessed his love! Yes, I understand it now:
death will open the lips and bring forth the truth, when the dearest
hopes of life, when the sharpest pang of the heart fail to do so. Had
he not been sure that life with him was gone, he never would have spoken
of his love. He was a weak, foolish man. Very weak in spite of all his
courage; very weak and very foolish--very weak and very foolish."

She was talking more to herself than to Agatha, as she thus spoke of her
son's character, and for a minute or two she continued in the same
strain, speaking of him in a way that showed that every little action,
every wish of his, had been to her a subject of thought and anxiety; and
that she took a strange pride in those very qualities for which she
blamed him.

"And did you come to me on purpose to tell me this, Mademoiselle?" she
said after a while.

"I came to talk to you about your son, and to offer you, for his sake,
the affection of a daughter."

"And when he told you that he loved you, what answer did you make him?
tell me: did you comfort him; did you say one word to make him happy?
I know, from your face, that you had not the heart to rebuke a dying

"Rebuke him! How could I have rebuked him? though I had never owned it
to myself I now feel that I had loved him before he had ever spoken to
me of love."

"But what did you say to him? tell me what you said to him. He was my
own son, my only son. He was stubborn, and self-willed, but still he was
my son; and his words were sweeter to me than music, and his face was
brighter to me than the light of heaven. If you made him happy before
he died, I will kneel down and worship you," and joining her skinny
hands together, she laid them upon Agatha's knees. "Come, sweetest, tell
me what answer you made my poor boy when he told you that he loved you."

"It is a fearful thing, you know, to speak to a dying man," answered
Agatha. "You must not suppose that we were talking as though he were
still in the prime of health and strength--"

"But what did you say to him? you said something. You did not, at any
rate, bid him remember that he was a poor labouring man, and that you
were a lady of high rank."

"We neither of us thought of those things then. I do not know what it
was I said, but I strove to say the truth. I strove to make him
understand how much I valued, esteemed--and loved him."

"You told him that you loved him; you are sure you told him that. I wish
he had lived now. I wish he had lived and won more battles, and beat the
blues for good and all, and then he would have married you, and brought
you home as his wife to St. Florent, wouldn't he, love? There would have
been something in that. There would have been something really grand in
that. Such a beautiful bride! such a noble bride! so very, very
beautiful!" and the old woman continued gazing at the face of her whom
she was fancying to herself a daughter-in-law. "Real noble blood of the
very highest. Had he married you, he would have been a Marquis, wouldn't
he? I wish he had lived now, in spite of all I said. Why did he die when
there was such fortune before him I Why did he die when there was such
great fortune before him!"

"He was happy in his death," said Agatha. "I do not think he even wished
to live. As it is, he has been spared much sorrow which we must all
endure. Though I loved your son, I do not regret his death."

"But I do--but I do," said the old woman. "Had he only lived to call you
his wife, there would have been. honour in that--there would have been
real glory in that. People would then not have dared to say that after
all Cathelineau was only a postillion."

"Do not regard what people say. Had a Princess given him her hand, his
fame could not be brighter than it was. There was no thought of marriage
between us, since we first knew each other. There has been no time for
such thoughts; but his memory to me is that of a dear--dear friend."

From the time when Cathelineau first went to Durbellière, after the
battle of St. Florent, his mother had expressed the greatest dislike at
his attempting to associate with those who were so much above himself
in rank; with those who would, as she said, use him and scorn him. She
had affected to feel, or perhaps really felt, a horror of the insolence
of the great, and had quarrelled with her son for throwing himself among
them. This feeling, however, arose, not from contempt, but from
admiration and envy. In her secret soul the high and mighty seemed so
infinitely superior to those in her own rank, that she had felt sure
that her son could not be admitted among them as an equal, and she was
too proud to wish that he should be admitted into their company as a
humble hanger-on. What Agatha had now confessed to her had surprised and
delighted her. There could be no doubt now; there was the daughter of
one of the noblest houses in Poitou sitting at her feet in her own
cabin, owning her love for the poor postillion. Agatha Larochejaquelin,
young, noble, beautiful, grandly beautiful as she was, had come to her
to confess that she had given her heart to her son. There was, however,
much pain mixed with her gratification. Cathelineau had gone, without
enjoying the high honours which might have been his. Had he lived,
Agatha Larochejaquelin would have been her daughter-in-law; but now the
splendid vision could never be more than a vision. She could solace
herself with thinking of the high position her son had won for himself,
but she could never enjoy the palpable reality of his honours.

She sat, repeating to herself the same words, "Sad and pale, but very
beautiful--sad and pale, but very beautiful; just as he used to dream.
Why did he die, when such fortune was before him! Why did he die, when
such noble fortune was before him!"

Agatha suffered her to go on for a while before she interrupted her, and
then she came to the real purport of her visit. She offered the old
woman her assistance and protection, and begged her to pass over with
the others into Brittany, assuring her that she should want for nothing
as long as Henri or her father had the means of subsistence, and that
she should live among them as an honoured guest, loved and revered as
the mother of Cathelineau.

On this point, however, she remained obstinate. Whether she still
fancied that she would be despised by her new friends, or whether, as
she said, she was indifferent to life, and felt herself too old to move
from the spot where she had passed so many years, she resolutely held
her purpose to await the coming of the republicans. "They will hardly
put forth their strength to crush such a worm as me," she said; "and
if they do, it will be for the better."

Agatha then offered her money, but this she refused, assuring her that
she did not want it.

"You shall give me one thing though, if you will, sweet lady, that I may
think of you often, and have something to remind me of you; nay, you
shall give me two things--one is a lock of your soft brown hair, the
other is a kiss."

Agatha undid the braid which held up her rich tresses, and severing from
her head a lock of the full length to which her hair grew, tied it in
a portion of the braid, and put it into the old woman's hand; then she
stooped down and kissed her skinny lips, and having blessed her, and bid
her cherish the memory of her son with a holy love, as she herself did
and always would, Agatha. Larochejaquelin left the cabin, and returned
to her father.



The raft which Chapeau had made was by degrees enlarged and improved,
and the great mass of the Vendeans passed the river slowly, but safely.
As soon as the bulk of the people was over, Henri Larochejaquelin left
the southern shore, and crossed over to marshal the heterogeneous troops
on their route towards Laval, leaving Chapeau and Arthur Mondyon to
superintend and complete the transit of those who remained.

It was a beautiful October evening, and as the sun was setting, the two
were standing close to the edge of the water, congratulating themselves
that their dirty and disagreeable toil was well nigh over. From time to
time stragglers were still coming down to the river-side, begging for
a passage, and imploring that they might not be abandoned to the cruelty
of the blues, and as they came they were shipped off on the raft. There
were now, however, no more than would make one fair load, and Chapeau
and Arthur were determined that it was full time for them both to leave
the Anjou side of the river, and follow the main body of the army
towards Laval.

"We might remain here for ever, Chapeau, if we stayed for the very last
of all," said the Chevalier, as he jumped on the raft. "Come, man, get
on, we've our number now, and we couldn't take more, if they come.
There's some one hallooing up there, and we'll leave the little boat for
them. Come, I want to get over and have a run on dry land, for I'm as
cold as a stone. This living like a duck, half in the water and half
out, don't suit me at all. The next river we cross over, I'll make Henri
get another ferryman."

Chapeau still lingered on the shore, and putting his hand up to his ear,
listened to the voice of some one who was calling from a distance. It
was too dark for him to distinguish any one, but the voice of a woman
hallooing loudly, but with difficulty, as though she were out of breath
with running, was plainly audible.

"If you mean to wait here all night, I don't," said the Chevalier, "so
good night to you, and if you don't get on, I'll push off without you."

"Stop a moment, M. Arthur, there's a woman there."

"I've no doubt there is--there are fifty women there--fifty hundred
women, I dare say; but we can't wait while they all drop in one by one.
Don't be a fool, Jacques; is not there the small boat left for them?"

Chapeau still listened. "Stop a moment, M. Arthur, for heaven's sake
stop one moment," and then jumping on to the raft, he clung hold of the
rope, and moored it fast to the shore. "They're friends of my own, M.
Arthur; most particular friends, or I wouldn't ask to keep you. Don't
go now; after all we've gone through together, you won't leave my
friends behind, if I go on shore, will you, M. Arthur?"

"Oh, I'm a good comrade; if they're private friends, I'll wait all
night. Only I hope there ain't a great many of them."

"Only two; I think there are only two," and Chapeau once more jumped on
shore, and ran to meet his friends. He had not far to go, for the party
was now close to the water's edge. As he had supposed, it consisted only
of two, an old man and a girl: Michael Stein and his daughter Annot.
Annot had been running; and dragging her father by the hand, had
hallooed with all her breath, for she had heard from some of those who
still dared to trust themselves to the blues, that the last boat was on
the point of leaving the shore. The old man had disdained to halloo, and
had almost disdained to run; but he had suffered himself to be hurried
into a shambling kind of gait, and when he was met by Chapeau, he was
almost as much out of breath as his daughter.

"Oh, oh! for mercy's sake--for heaven's sake--kind Sir, dear Sir,"
sobbed Annot, as she saw a man approaching her; and then when he was
near enough to her to be distinguished through the evening gloom, she

"Mercy on us, mercy on us, its Jacques Chapeau!" and sank to the ground,
as though she had no further power to take care of herself now that she
had found one who was bound to take care of her.

"You're just in time, Michael Stein; thank God, you're just in time!
Annot, come on, its only a dozen yards to the raft, and we'll be off at
once. Well, this is the luckiest chance: come on, before a whole crowd
are down upon us, and swamp us all."

"Oh me! oh me!" sobbed Annot, still sitting on the ground, as though she
had not the slightest intention of stirring another step that night: "to
be left and deserted in this way by one's friends--and one's
brothers--and--and--one's--" she didn't finish the list, for she felt
sure that she had said enough to cut Chapeau to the inmost heart, if he
still had a heart.

"Come, dearest girl, come; I'll explain it all by-and-bye. We have not
a moment to spare. Come, I'll lift you," and he stooped to raise her
from the ground.

"Thank you, M. Chapeau, thank you, Sir; but pray leave me. I shall be
better tomorrow morning; that is, if I'm not dead, or killed, or worse.
The blues are close behind us; ain't they, father?"

"Get up, Annot; get up, thou little fool, and don't trouble the man to
carry thee," said Michael. "If there be still a boat to take us, in
God's name let us cross the river; for the blues are truly in St.
Florent, and after flying from them so far, it would be sore ill luck to
be taken now."

Chapeau, however, would not leave her to herself, but took her up bodily
in his arms, and carrying her down to the water's edge, put her on the
raft. He and Michael soon followed, and the frail vessel was hauled for
the last time over into the island. The news that the enemy was already
in St. Florent soon passed from month to mouth, and each wretched
emigrant congratulated himself in silence that he had so far escaped
from republican revenge. Many of them had still to sojourn on the island
for the night, but there they were comparatively safe; and Arthur,
Chapeau, and his friends, succeeded in gaining the opposite shore.

Poor Annot was truly in a bad state. When they heard that the ladies had
left Chatillon, she and. her father, and, indeed, all the inhabitants
of Echanbroignes, felt that they could no longer be safe in the village;
and they had started off to follow the royalist army on foot through the
country. From place to place they had heard tidings, sometimes of one
party, and sometimes of another. The old man had borne the fatigue and
dangers of the journey well; for, though now old, he had been a
hard-working man all his life, and was tough and seasoned in his old
age; but poor Annot had suffered dreadfully. The clothes she had brought
with her were nearly falling off her back; her feet were all but bare,
and were cut and blistered with walking. Grief and despair had taken the
colour and roundness from her cheek, and she had lacked time on her
mournful journey to comb the pretty locks of which she was generally so

"Oh, Jacques, Jacques, how could you leave us! how could you go away and
leave us, after all that's been between us," she said, as he bustled
about to make some kind of bed for her in the little hut, in which they
were to rest for the night.

"Leave you," said Chapeau, who had listened for some time in silence to
her upbraidings; "leave you, how could I help leaving .you? Has not
everybody left everybody? Did not M. Henri leave his sister, and M. de
Lescure leave his wife? And though they are now here all together, it's
by chance that they came here, the same as you have come yourself. As
long as these wars last, Annot dear, no man can answer as to where he
will go, or what he will do."

"Oh, these weary wars, these weary wars!" said she, "will they never be
done with? Will the people never be tired of killing, and slaying, and
burning each other? And what is the King the better of it? Ain't they
all dead: the King, and the Queen, and the young Princes, and all of

"You wouldn't have us give up now, Annot, would you? You wouldn't have
us lay down our arms, and call ourselves republicans, after all we have
done and suffered?"

Annot didn't answer. She wouldn't call herself a republican; but her
sufferings and sorrows had greatly damped the loyal zeal she had shown
when she worked her little fingers to the bone in embroidering a white
flag for her native village. She was now tired and cold, wet and hungry;
for Chapeau had been able to get no provisions but a few potatoes: so
she laid herself down on the hard bed which he had prepared for her; and
as he spread his own coat over her shoulders, she felt that it was, at
any rate, some comfort to have her own lover once more near her.

Jacques and the old smith had no bed, so they were fain to content
themselves with sitting opposite to each other on two low stools; the
best seats which the hut afforded. Jacques felt that it was incumbent
on him to do the honours of the place, and that some apology was
necessary for the poor accommodation which he had procured for his

"This is a poor place for you, Michael Stein," he commenced, "a very
poor place for both of you, after your own warm cottage at

"It's a poor place, truly, M. Chapeau," said the smith, looking round
on the bare walls of the little hut.

"Indeed it is, my friend, and sorry am I to see you and Annot so badly
lodged. But what then; we shall be in Laval tomorrow, and have the best
of everything--that is, if not tomorrow, the day after."

"I don't much care about the best of everything, M. Chapeau. I've not
used myself to the best, but I would it had pleased God. to have allowed
me to labour out the rest of my days in the little smithy at
Echanbroignes. I never wanted more than the bread which I could earn."

"You never did, Michael, you never did," said Chapeau, trying to flatter
the old man; "and, like an honest man, you endure without flinching what
you suffer for your King. Give us your hand, my friend, we've no wine
to drink his health, but as long as our voices are left, let us cry:
Vive le Roi!"

The old man silently rejected Chapeau's proposal that he should evince
his loyalty just at present by shouting out the Vendean war-cry. "I take
no credit, M. Chapeau," said he, "for suffering for my King, though,
while he lived, he always had my poor prayers for his safety. It wasn't
to fight the blues that I left my little home. It was because I couldn't
stay any without fearing to see that girl there in the rude hands of
Lechelle's soldiers, and my own roof in a blaze. It's all gone now,
forge and tools; the old woman's chair, the children's cradle; it's all
gone, now and for ever. I don't wish to curse any one, M. Chapeau, but
I am not in the humour to cry Vive le Roi!"

"But Michael Stein, my dear friend," urged Chapeau, "look what others
have lost too. Have not others suffered as much? Look at the old
Marquis, turned out of his house and everything lost; and yet you won't
hear a word of complaint fall from his mouth. Look at Madame de Lescure,
her husband dying; her house burnt to the ground; without a bed to lie
on, or a change of dress and yet she does not complain."

"They have brought it on themselves by their own doings," answered the
smith; "and they have brought it on me also, who have done nothing."

"Done nothing! but, indeed, you have, Michael. Have you not made pikes
for us, and have not your sons fought for us like brave soldiers?"

"I have done the work for which I was paid, as a good smith should; and
as for the boys, they took their own way. No, Jacques Chapeau, I have
taken no part in your battles. I have neither been for nor against you.
As for King or Republic, it was all one to me; let them who understand
such things settle that. For fifty years I have earned my bread, and
paid what I owed; and now I am driven out from my home like a fox from
its hole. Why should I say Vive le Roi! Look at that girl there, with
her bare feet bleeding from the sharp stones, and tell me, why should
I say Vive le Roi!"

Chapeau was flabbergasted, for all this was rank treason to him; and yet
he didn't want to quarrel with the smith; so he sat still and gazed into
his face, as though he were struck dumb with astonishment.

"I remember when you came to my cottage," continued the old man, "and
told me that the wars were all over, that the King was coming to
Durbellière, and that you would marry Annot, and make a fine lady of
her. I told you then what I thought of your soldiering, and your fine
ladies. I told you then what it would come to, and I told you true. I
don't throw this in your teeth to blame you, M. Chapeau, for you have
only served those you were bound to serve; but surely they who first put
guns and swords into the hands of the poor people, and bade them go out
for soldiers, will have much to answer for. All this blood will be upon
their heads."

"You don't mean to blame M. Henri and M. de Lescure, and the good
Cathelineau, for all that they've done?" said Chapeau, awe-struck at the
language used by his companion.

"It's not for me to blame them; but look at that girl there, and then
tell me, mustn't there be some great blame somewhere?"

Chapeau did look at the girl, and all the tenderness of his heart rose
into his eyes, as the flickering light of the fire showed him her
tattered and draggled dress.

"Thank God! the worst of it is over now, Michael. You're safe now, at
any rate, from those blood-hounds; and when we reach Laval, we shall all
have plenty."

"And where's this Laval, M. Chapeau?"

"We're close to it--it's just a league or so; or, perhaps, seven or
eight leagues to the north of us."

"And how is it, that in times like these, such a crowd of strangers will
find plenty there?"

"Why, the whole town is with us. There's a blue garrison in it; but
they're very weak, and the town itself is for the King to the backbone.
They've sent a deputation to our Generals, and invited us there; and
there are gentlemen there, who have come from England, with sure
promises of money and troops. The truth is, Michael, we never were
really in a position to beat the blues as they ought to be beat till we.
got to this side of the river. We never could have done anything great
in Poitou."

"I'm sorry they ever tried, M. Chapeau; but I remember when you came
back, after taking Saumur, you told me the war was over then. You used
to think that a great thing."

"So it was, Michael; it was well done. The taking of Saumur was very
well done; but it was only a detail. We've found out now that it won't
do to beat them in detail; it's too slow. The Generals have a plan now,
one great comprehensive plan, for finishing the war in a stroke, and
they're only waiting until they reach Laval."

"It's a great pity they didn't hit on that plan before," said Michael

The two men laid themselves down on the ground before the fire, and
attempted to sleep; but they had hardly composed themselves when they
were interrupted by a loud rumour, that there was a vast fire, close
down on the opposite side of the river. They both jumped up and went
out, and saw that the whole heavens were alight with the conflagration
of St. Florent--the blues had burnt the town. The northern bank of the
river was covered with the crowd of men and women, gazing at the flames,
which were consuming their own houses; and yet, so rejoiced were they
to have escaped themselves from destruction, that they hardly remembered
to bewail the loss of their property. The town of St. Florent was
between three or four miles from the place where they were congregated,
and yet they could plainly see the huge sparks as they flew upwards, and
they fancied they felt the heat of the flames on their upturned faces.

Early on the following morning, the whole army was on its march towards
Laval. The Vendean leaders were well aware that the republicans were now
on their track, and they were truly thankful that some unaccountable
delay in the movement of the enemy, had enabled them to put a great
river between themselves and their pursuers. The garrisons, which the
Convention had thrown into the towns of Brittany, were very
insufficient, both in numbers and spirit, and the blues abandoned one
place after another as the Vendeans approached. They passed through
Candé, Segré, and Château-Gonthier without having to fire a shot, and
though the gates of the town of Laval were closed against them, it was
only done to allow the republican soldiers time to escape from the other
side of the town.

The inhabitants of Laval flocked out in numbers to meet the poor
Vendeans, and to offer them hospitality, and such comfort as their small
town could afford to so huge a crowd. They begrudged them nothing that
they possessed, and spared neither their provisions nor their houses.
It seemed that Chapeau's promise was this time true; and that, at any
rate, for a time, they all found plenty in Laval. Henri established his
head-quarters in a stone house, in the centre of the town, and here also
he got accommodation for the three ladies and M. de Lescure. Nor did
Chapeau forget to include Annot Stein in the same comfortable
establishment, under the pretext that her services would be

M. de Lescure had suffered grievously through the whole journey, but he
seemed to rally when he reached Laval, and the comparative comfort of
his quiet chamber gave him ease, and lessened his despondency. The whole
party recovered something of their usual buoyancy, and when Henri
brought in word, in the evening, that if the worst came to the worst,
he could certainly hold out the town against the republican army until
assistance reached them from England, they were all willing to hope that
the cause in which they were engaged might still prosper.



For four or five days they all remained quiet in Laval, with nothing to
disturb their tranquillity, but rumours of what was going on on both
sides of the river. The men, with the exception of the old Marquis and
de Lescure, were hard at work from morning until night; but they had
hardly time or patience to describe accurately what was going on, to
those who were left within; and the time passed very heavily with them.
Two sofas had been carried to the windows of the sitting-room which they
occupied. These windows looked out into the main thoroughfare of the
town, and here the Marquis and the wounded man were placed, so that they
might see all that was passing in the street. Various reports reached
them from time to time, a few of which were confirmed, many proved to
be false, and some still remained doubtful; but two facts were
positively ascertained. Firstly, that the main army of the republicans
had passed the river at Angers, and were advancing towards Laval; and
secondly, that there was a considerable number of Breton peasants,
already under arms, in the country, who were harassing the blues
whenever they could meet them in small parties, and very frequently
menacing the garrisons which they found in the small towns.

This last circumstance created a great deal of surprise, not so much
from the fact of the Bretons having taken up arms against the
Convention, as from a certain degree of mystery which were attached to
the men who were roving about the country. It appeared that they were
all under the control of one leader, whose name was not known in Laval,
but who was supposed to have taken an active part in many of the battles
fought on the other side of the river. His tactics, however, were very
different from those which had been practised in La Vendée. He never
took any prisoners, or showed any quarter; but slaughtered
indiscriminately every republican soldier that fell into his hands. He
encouraged his men to pillage the towns, where the inhabitants were
presumed to be favourable to the Convention; and this licence which he
allowed was the means of drawing many after him, who might not have been
very willing to fight merely for the honour of defending the throne.
After the custom of their country, which was different from that which
prevailed in Poitou and Anjou, these peasant-soldiers wore their long
flaxen hair hanging down over their shoulders, and were clothed in rough
dresses, made of the untanned skins of goats or sheep, with the hair on
the outside. The singularity of their appearance at first added a terror
to their arms, which was enhanced by the want of experience and
cowardice of the republican troops through the country. This wild,
roving band of lawless men had assumed to themselves the name of La
Petite Vendée, and certainly they did much towards assisting the
Vendeans; for they not only cleared the way for them, in many of the
towns of Brittany, but they prepared the people to expect them, and
created a very general opinion that there would be more danger in siding
with the blues than with the royal party.

If the men of La Petite Vendée, had rendered themselves terrible, their
Captain had made--not his name, for that was unknown--but his character
much more so. He was represented to be a young man, but of a fierce and
hideous aspect; the under part of his face was covered with his black
beard, and he always wore on his head a huge heavy cap, which covered
his brows, shaded his eyes from sight, and concealed his face nearly as
effectually as a vizor. He was always on horseback, and alone; for he
had neither confidant nor friend. The peasant-soldiers believed him to
be invulnerable, for they represented him to be utterly careless as to
where he went, or what danger he encountered. The only name they knew
him by, was that of the Mad Captain; and, probably, had he been less
ugly, less mysterious, and less mad, the people would not have obeyed
him so implicitly, or followed him so faithfully.

Such were the tales that were repeated from time to time to Madame de
Lescure and her party by the little Chevalier and Chapeau; and according
to their accounts, the Mad Captain was an ally who would give them most
valuable help in their difficulties. The whole story angered de Lescure,
whose temper was acerbated by his own inactivity and suffering, and
whose common sense could not endure the seeming folly of putting
confidence in so mysterious a warrior.

"You don't really believe the stories you hear of this man, I hope," he
said to his wife and sister, one morning; "he is some inhuman ruffian,
who is disgracing, by his cruelty, the cause which he has joined, for
the sake of plunder and rapine."

"At any rate," said Marie, "he seems to have scared the blues in this
country; and if so, he must be a good friend to us."

"If we cannot do well without such friends, we shall never do well with
them. Believe me, whoever he may be, this man is no soldier."

De Lescure was, perhaps, right in the character which he attributed to
the Captain of La Petite Vendée; but the band of men which that
mysterious leader now commanded, held its ground in Brittany long after
the Vendean armies were put down in Poitou and Anjou. They then became
known by another name, and the Chouan bands for years carried on a
fearful war against the government in that part of the province which
is called the Morbihan.

About eight o'clock in the evening, Henri and Arthur Mondyon returned
to the house, after a long day's work, and were the first to bring new
tidings both of the blues and their new ally, the Mad Captain. A portion
of the republican army had advanced as far as Antrâmes, within a league
or two of Laval; and they had hardly taken up their quarters in the
town, before they were attacked, routed, and driven out of it by the men
of La Petite Vendée. Many hundreds of the republicans had been
slaughtered, and those who had escaped, carried to the main army an
exaggerated account of the numbers, daring, and cruelty of the Breton

"Whoever he is," said Henri, in answer to a question from his sister,
"he is a gallant fellow, and I shall be glad to give him my hand. There
can be no doubt of it now, Charles, for the blues at Antrâmes certainly
numbered more than double the men he had with him; and I am told he
drove them helter-skelter out of the town, like a flock of sheep."

"And do you mean to let him have the rest of the war all to himself?"
said de Lescure, who was rather annoyed than otherwise at the success
of a man whom he had stigmatized as a ruffian.

"I am afraid we shan't find it quite so easy to get the war taken off
our hands," said Henri, laughing; "but I believe it's the part of a good
General to make the most of any unexpected assistance which may come in
his way."

"But, Henri," said Marie, "you must have some idea who this wonderful
wild man is. Don't they say he was one of the Vendean chiefs?"

"He says so himself," said Arthur. "He told some of the people here that
he was at Fontenay and Saumur; and he talked of knowing Cathelineau and
Bonchamps. I was speaking to a man who heard him say so."

"And did the man say what he was like?" said Marie.

"I don't think he saw him at all," answered Arthur. "It seems that he
won't let any one see his face, if he can help it; but they all say he
is quite a young man."

Chapeau now knocked at the door, and brought farther tidings. The Mad
Captain and all his troop had returned from Antrâmes to Laval, and had
just now entered the town.

"Our men are shaking the Bretons by the hand," said Chapeau, "and
wondering at their long hair and rough skins. Three or four days ago,
I feared the Vendeans would never have faced the blues again; but now
they are as ready to meet them as ever they were."

"And the Captain, is he actually in Laval at present, Chapeau?"

"Indeed he is, M. Henri. I saw him riding down the street, by the Hôtel
de Ville, myself, not ten minutes since."

"Did you see his face, Chapeau?" asked Marie.

"Did he look like any one you knew?" asked Madame de Lescure.

"Did he ride well?" asked the little Chevalier.

"Did he look like a soldier?" asked M. de Lescure.

"Who do you think he is, Chapeau?" asked Henri Larochejaquelin.

Chapeau looked from one to another, as these questions were asked him;
and then selecting those of M. de Lescure and his sister, as the two
easiest to answer, he said:

"I did not see his face, Mademoiselle. They say that he certainly is a
good soldier, M. Charles, but he certainly does not look like any one
of our Vendean officers."

"Who can it be?" said Henri. "Can it be Marigny, Charles?"

"Impossible," said de Lescure; "Marigny is a fine, robust fellow, with
a handsome open face. They say this man is just the reverse."

"It isn't d'Elbée come to life again, is it?" said Arthur Mondyon. "He's
ugly enough, and not very big."

"Nonsense, Arthur, he's an old man; and of all men the most unlikely to
countenance such doings as those of these La Petite Vendée. I think,
however, I know the man. It must be Charette. He is courageous, but yet
cruel; and he has exactly that dash of mad romance in him which seems
to belong to this new hero."

"Charette is in the island of Noirmoutier," said de Lescure, "and by all
accounts, means to stay there. Had he been really willing to give us his
assistance, we never need have crossed the Loire."

"Oh! it certainly was not Charette," said Chapeau. "I saw M. Charette
on horseback once, and he carries himself as though he had swallowed a
poker; and this gentleman twists himself about like--like--"

"Like a mountebank, I suppose," said de Lescure.

"He rides well, all the same, M. Charles," rejoined Chapeau.

"And who do you think he is, Chapeau?" said Henri.

Chapeau shrugged his shoulders, as no one but a Frenchman can shrug
them, intending to signify the impossibility of giving an opinion;
immediately afterwards he walked close up to his master, and whispered
something in his ear. Henri looked astonished, almost confounded, by
what his servant said to him, and then replied, almost in a whisper:
"Impossible, Chapeau, quite impossible."

Immediately afterwards, Chapeau left the room, and Henri followed him;
and calling him into a chamber in the lower part of the house, began to
interrogate him as to what he had whispered upstairs.

"I did not like to speak out before them all, M. Henri," said Jacques,
"for I did not know how the ladies might take it; but as sure as we're
standing here, the man I saw on horseback just now was M. Adolphe

"Impossible, Chapeau, quite impossible. How on earth could he have got
the means to raise a troop of men in Brittany? Besides, he never would
have returned to the side he deserted."

"It does not signify, M. Henri, whether it be likely or unlikely: that
man was Adolphe Denot; I'd wager my life on it, without the least
hesitation. Why, M. Henri, don't I know him as well as I know yourself?"

"But you didn't see his face?"

"I saw him rise in his saddle, and throw his arms up as he did so, and
that was quite enough for me; the Mad Captain of La Petite Vendée is no
other than M. Adolphe Denot."

Henri Larochejaquelin was hardly convinced, and yet he knew that Chapeau
would not express himself so confidently unless he had good grounds for
doing so. He was aware, also, that it was almost impossible for any one
who had intimately known Denot to mistake his seat on horseback; and,
therefore, though not quite convinced, he was much inclined to suspect
that, in spite of improbabilities, his unfortunate friend was the
mysterious leader of the Breton army. He determined that he would, at
any rate, seek out the man, whoever he might be; and that if he found
that Adolphe Denot was really in Laval, he would welcome him back, with
all a brother's love, to the cause from which, for so Henri had always
protested, nothing but insanity had separated him.

"At any rate, Chapeau, we must go and find the truth of all this.
Moreover, whoever this man be, it is necessary that I should know him:
so come along."

They both sallied out into the street, which was quite dark, but which
was still crowded with strangers of every description. The wine-shops
were all open, and densely filled with men who were rejoicing over the
victory which had been gained that morning; and the Breton soldiers were
boasting of what they had done, while the Vendeans talked equally loudly
of what they would do when their Generals would once more lead them out
against the blues.

From these little shops, and from the house-windows, an uncertain
flicker of light was thrown into the street, by the aid of which Henri
and Chapeau made their way to the market-place, in which there was a
guard-house and small barrack, at present the position of the Vendean
military head-quarters. In this spot a kind of martial discipline was
maintained. Sentinels were regularly posted and exchanged; and some few
junior officers remained on duty, ready for any exigence for which they
might be required. Here they learnt that the Bretons, after returning
from Antrâmes, had dispersed themselves through the town, among the
houses of the citizens, who were willing to welcome their victorious
neighbours, but that nothing had been seen of their Captain since he
disbanded his men on the little square. They learnt, however, that he
had been observed to give his horse in charge to a man who acted as his
Lieutenant, and who was known to be a journeyman baker, usually employed
in Laval.

After many inquiries, Henri learnt the name and residence of the master
baker for whom this man worked, and thither he sent Chapeau, while he
himself remained in the guard-house, talking to two of the Breton
soldiers, who had been induced to come in to him.

"We none of us know his name, Monsieur," said one of them, "and it is
because he has no name, we call him the Mad Captain; and it is true
enough, he has many mad ways with him."

"For all his madness though, he is a desperate fine soldier; and he
cares no more for a troop of blues than I would for a flock of geese,"
said the other.

"I think its love must make him go on as he does," continued the first.

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