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Title: Ninety-Three
Author: Hugo, Victor
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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http://www.freeliterature.org (Images generously made
available by the Hathi Trust - and by Gallica (Bibliothèque
nationale de France) for the illustrations.)



_THE ROMANCES BY VICTOR HUGO_


_NINETY-THREE_

_Translated by Mrs. Aline Delano_



BOSTON

LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.

_1889_



TABLE OF CONTENTS.

NINETY-THREE.

PART I. AT SEA.

BOOK I.

THE FOREST OF LA SAUDRAIE

BOOK II.

THE CORVETTE "CLAYMORE."

      I.  ENGLAND AND FRANCE UNITED
     II.  NIGHT WITH THE SHIP AND THE PASSENGER
    III.  PATRICIAN AND PLEBEIAN UNITED
     IV.  TORMENTUM BELLI
      V.  VIS ET VIR
     VI.  THE TWO ENDS OF THE SCALE
    VII.  HE WHO SETS SAIL INVESTS IN A LOTTERY
   VIII.  9 : 380
     IX.  SOME ONE ESCAPES
      X.  DOES HE ESCAPE?

BOOK III.

HALMALO.

      I.  SPEECH IS WORD
     II.  A PEASANT'S MEMORY IS WORTH AS MUCH AS THE CAPTAIN'S SCIENCE

BOOK IV.

TELLMARCH.

      I.  ON THE TOP OF THE DUNE
     II.  AURES HABET, ET NON AUDIET
    III.  THE USEFULNESS OF BIG LETTERS
     IV.  THE CAIMAND
      V.  WHEN HE AWOKE IT WAS DAYLIGHT
     VI.  THE VICISSITUDES OF CIVIL WAR
    VII.  NO MERCY! NO QUARTER!


PART II.

AT PARIS.

BOOK I.

CIMOURDAIN.

      I. THE STREETS OF PARIS AT THAT TIME
     II. CIMOURDAIN
    III. A CORNER NOT DIPPED INTO THE STYX

BOOK II.

THE POT-HOUSE OF THE RUE DU PAON.

      I. MINOS, ÆACUS, AND RHADAMANTHUS
     II. MAGNA TESTANTUR VOCE PER UMBRAS
    III. A QUIVERING OF THE INMOST FIBRES

BOOK III.

THE CONVENTION.

      I. THE CONVENTION
     II. MARAT IN THE GREEN-ROOM

PART III.

IN THE VENDÉE.

BOOK I.

THE VENDÉE.

      I. THE FORESTS
     II. MEN
    III. CONNIVANCE OF MEN AND FORESTS
     IV. THEIR LIFE UNDER GROUND
      V. THEIR LIFE IN WARFARE
     VI. THE SOUL OF THE EARTH PASSES INTO MAN
    VII. THE VENDÉE HAS RUINED BRITTANY

BOOK II.

THE THREE CHILDREN.

      I. PLUS QUAM CIVILIA BELLA
     II. DOL
    III. SMALL ARMIES AND GREAT BATTLES
     IV. A SECOND TIME
      V. A DROP OF COLD WATER
     VI. A HEALED BREAST, BUT A BLEEDING HEART
    VII. THE TWO POLES OF TRUTH
   VIII. DOLOROSA
     IX. A PROVINCIAL BASTILE
           I. LA TOURGUE
          II. THE BREACH
         III. THE OUBLIETTE
          IV. THE BRIDGE-CASTLE
           V. THE IRON DOOR
          VI. THE LIBRARY
         VII. THE GRANARY
      X. THE HOSTAGES
     XI. TERRIBLE AS THE ANTIQUE
    XII. THE RESCUE PLANNED
   XIII. WHAT THE MARQUIS IS DOING
    XIV. WHAT THE IMÂNUS IS DOING

BOOK III.

THE MASSACRE OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW.

I. THE MASSACRE OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW

BOOK IV.

THE MOTHER.

      I. DEATH PASSES
     II. DEATH SPEAKS
    III. MUTTERINGS AMONG THE PEASANTS
     IV. A MISTAKE
      V. VOX IN DESERTO
     VI. THE SITUATION
    VII. PRELIMINARIES
   VIII. THE SPEECH AND THE ROAR
     IX. TITANS AGAINST GIANTS
      X. RADOUB
     XI. THE DESPERATE
    XII. THE DELIVERER
   XIII. THE EXECUTIONER
    XIV. THE IMÂNUS ALSO ESCAPES
     XV. NEVER PUT A WATCH AND KEY IN THE SAME POCKET

BOOK V.

IN DÆMONE DEUS.

      I. FOUND, BUT LOST
     II. FROM THE DOOR OF STONE TO THAT OF IRON
    III. WHERE THE SLEEPING CHILDREN WAKE

BOOK VI.

AFTER VICTORY, STRUGGLE BEGINS.

      I. LANTENAC TAKEN
     II. GAUVAIN MEDITATING
    III. THE COMMANDER'S HOOD

BOOK VII.

FEUDALITY AND REVOLUTION.

      I. THE ANCESTOR
     II. THE COURT-MARTIAL
    III. THE VOTES
     IV. AFTER CIMOURDAIN THE JUDGE, CIMOURDAIN THE MASTER
      V. THE DUNGEON
     VI. STILL THE SUN RISES



Illustrations

They are obtained from the French 1876 edition, published in Paris
by E. Hugues.

Drawings are by: Émile Bayard, G. Brion, Karl Bodmer, Férat, Ferdinandus,
                 Gilbert, Godefroy-Durand, Victor Hugo, Lançon, Lix,
                 D. Maillart, Edmond Morin, Miss Patterson, Riou,
                 H. Scott, Daniel Vierge.

Etchings are by: Bellenger, Chapon, Froment, Hildibrand, Laplante,
                 Léveillé, Martin, Méaulle, Moller, Morand, Stéphane
                 Pannemaker, Perrichon, Poeget, Quenel, Soupey, Tilly.



NINETY-THREE



[Illustration: At Sea. 002]



PART I.


AT SEA.


[Illustration: The Forest of La Saudraie. 003]



BOOK I.


THE FOREST OF LA SAUDRAIE.


[Illustration: 004]


During the last days of May, 1793, one of the Parisian battalions
introduced into Brittany by Santerre was reconnoitring the formidable
La Saudraie Woods in Astillé. Decimated by this cruel war, the
battalion was reduced to about three hundred men. This was at the time
when, after Argonne, Jemmapes, and Valmy, of the first battalion of
Paris, which had numbered six hundred volunteers, only twenty-seven
men remained, thirty-three of the second, and fifty-seven of the
third,--a time of epic combats. The battalion sent from Paris into La
Vendée numbered nine hundred and twelve men. Each regiment had three
pieces of cannon. They had been quickly mustered. On the 25th of April,
Gohier being Minister of Justice, and Bouchotte Minister of War, the
section of Bon Conseil had offered to send volunteer battalions into
La Vendée; the report was made by Lubin, a member of the Commune. On
the 1st of May, Santerre was ready to send off twelve thousand men,
thirty field-pieces, and one battalion of gunners. These battalions,
notwithstanding they were so quickly formed, serve as models even at
the present day, and regiments of the line are formed on the same plan;
they altered the former proportion between the number of soldiers and
that of non-commissioned officers.

On the 28th of April the Paris Commune had given to the volunteers of
Santerre the following order: "No mercy, no quarter." Of the twelve
thousand that had left Paris, at the end of May eight thousand were
dead. The battalion which was engaged in La Saudraie held itself on its
guard. There was no hurrying: every man looked at once to right and to
left, before him, behind him. Kléber has said: "The soldier has an eye
in his back." They had been marching a long time. What o'clock could it
be? What time of the day was it? It would have been hard to say; for
there is always a sort of dusk in these wild thickets, and it was never
light in that wood. The forest of La Saudraie was a tragic one. It was
in this coppice that from the month of November, 1792, civil war began
its crimes; Mousqueton, the fierce cripple, had come forth from those
fatal thickets; the number of murders that had been committed there
made one's hair stand on end. No spot was more terrible.

The soldiers forced cautiously. Everything was in full bloom; they
were surrounded by a quivering wall of branches, whose leaves diffused
a delicious freshness. Here and there sunbeams pierced, these green
shades. At their feet the gladiolus, the German iris, the wild
narcissus, the wood-daisy, that tiny flower, forerunner of the warm
weather, the spring crocus,--all these embroidered and adorned a thick
carpet of vegetation, abounding in every variety of moss, from the kind
that looks like a caterpillar to that resembling a star.

The soldiers advanced silently, step by step, gently pushing aide the
underbrush. The birds twittered above the bayonets.

La Saudraie was one of those thickets where formerly, in time of peace,
they had pursued the Houicheba,--the the hunting of birds by night; now
it was a place for hunting men.

The coppice consisted entirely of birch-trees, beeches, and oaks; the
ground was level; the moss and the thick grass deadened the noise of
footsteps; no paths at all, or paths no sooner found than lost; holly,
wild sloe, brakes, hedges of rest-harrow, and tall brambles; it was
impossible to see a man ten paces distant.

Now and then a heron or a moor-hen flew through the branches, showing
the vicinity of a swamp. They marched along at haphazard, uneasy, and
fearing lest they might find what they sought.

From time to time they encountered traces of encampments,--a burnt
place, trampled grass, sticks arranged in the form of a cross, or
branches spattered with blood. Here, soup had been made; there, Mass
had been said; yonder, wounds had been dressed. But whoever had passed
that way had vanished. Where were they? Far away, perhaps; and yet
they might be very near, hiding, blunderbuss in hand. The wood seemed
deserted. The battalion redoubled its precaution. Solitude, therefore
distrust. No one was to be seen; all the more reason to fear some one.
They had to do with a forest of ill-repute.

[Illustration 005]

An ambush was probable.

Thirty grenadiers, detached as scouts and commanded by a sergeant,
marched ahead, at a considerable distance from the main body. The
vivandière of the battalion accompanied them. The vivandières like to
join the vanguard; they run risks, but then they stand a chance of
seeing something. Curiosity is one of the forms of feminine courage.

Suddenly the soldiers of this little advanced guard received that shock
familiar to hunters, which shows them that they are close upon the lair
of their prey. They heard something like breathing in the middle of the
thicket, and it seemed as if they caught sight of some commotion among
the leaves. The soldiers made signs to each other.

When this mode of watching and reconnoitring is confided to the scouts,
officers have no need to interfere; what has to be done is done
instinctively.

In less than a minute the spot where the movement had been observed
was surrounded by a circle of levelled muskets, aimed simultaneously
from every side at the dusky centre of the thicket; and the soldiers,
with finger on trigger and eye on the suspected spot, awaited only the
sergeant's command to fire.

Meanwhile, the vivandière ventured to peer through the underbush;
and just as the sergeant was about to cry, "Fire!" this woman cried,
"Halt!"

And turning to the soldiers, "Do not fire!" she cried, and rushed into
the thicket, followed by the men.

There was indeed some one there.

In the thickest part of the copse on the edge of one of those small
circular clearings made in the woods by the charcoal-furnaces that
are used to burn the roots of trees, in a sort of hole formed by
the branches,--a bower of foliage, so to speak, half-open, like an
alcove,--sat a woman on the moss, with a nursing child at her breast
and the fair heads of two sleeping children resting against her knees.

[Illustration 006]

This was the ambush.

"What are you doing here?" called out the vivandière.

The woman raised her head, and the former added angrily,--

"Are you insane to remain there!"

She went on,--

"A little more, and you would have been blown to atoms!" Then
addressing the soldiers, she said, "It's a woman."

"Pardieu! That's plain to be seen," replied a grenadier.

The vivandière continued,--"To come into the woods to get oneself
massacred. Can you conceive of any one so stupid as that?"

The woman, surprised, bewildered, and stunned, was gazing around, as
though in a dream, at these muskets, sabres, bayonets, and savage
faces. The two children awoke and began to cry.

"I am hungry," said one.

"I am afraid," said the other.

The baby went on nursing.

The vivandière addressed it.

"You are the wise one," she said.

The mother was dumb with terror.

"Don't be afraid," exclaimed the sergeant, "we are the battalion of the
Bonnet Rouge."

The woman trembled from head to foot. She looked at the sergeant, of
whose rough face she could see only the eyebrows, moustache, and eyes
like two coals of fire.

"The battalion formerly known as the Red-Cross," added the vivandière.

The sergeant continued,--

"Who are you, madam?"

The woman looked at him in terror. She was thin, young, pale, and
in tatters. She wore the large hood and woollen cloak of the Breton
peasants, fastened by a string around her neck. She left her bosom
exposed with the indifference of an animal. Her feet, without shoes or
stockings, were bleeding.

"It's a beggar," said the sergeant.

The vivandière continued in her martial yet womanly voice,--a gentle
voice withal,--

"What is your name?"

The woman stammered in a scarce audible whisper:

"Michelle Fléchard."

Meanwhile the vivandière stroked the little head of the nursing baby
with her large hand.

"How old is this midget?" she asked.

The mother did not understand. The vivandière repeated,--"I ask you how
old it is?"

"Oh, eighteen months," said the mother.

"That's quite old," said the vivandière; "it ought not to nurse any
longer, you must wean it. We will give him soup."

The mother began to feel more at ease. The two little ones, who had
awakened, were rather interested than frightened; they admired the
plumes of the soldiers.

"Ah, they are very hungry!" said the mother.

And she added,--

"I have no more milk."

"We will give them food," cried the sergeant, "and you also. But there
is something more to be settled. What are your political opinions?"

The woman looked at him and made no reply.

"Do you understand my question?"

She stammered,--

"I was put into a convent when I was quite young, but I married; I am
not a nun. The Sisters taught me to speak French. The village was set
on fire. We escaped in such haste that I had no time to put my shoes
on."

"I ask you what are your political opinions?"

"I don't know anything about that."

The sergeant continued,--

"There are female spies. That kind of person we shoot. Come, speak. You
are not a gypsy, are you? What is your native land?"

She still looked at him as though unable to comprehend.

The sergeant repeated,--

"What is your native land?"

"I do not know," she said.

"How is that? You do not know your country?"

"Ah! Do you mean my country? I know that."

"Well, what is your country?"

The woman replied,--

"It is the farm of Siscoignard, in the parish of Azé."

It was the sergeant's turn to be surprised. He paused for a moment,
lost in thought; then he went on,--

"What was it you said?"

"Siscoignard."

"You cannot call that your native land."

"That is my country."

Then after a minute's consideration she added,--

"I understand you, sir. You are from France, but I am from Brittany."

"Well?"

"It is not the same country."

"But it is the same native land," exclaimed the sergeant.

The woman only replied,--

"I am from Siscoignard."

"Let it be. Siscoignard, then," said the sergeant. "Your family belong
there, I suppose?"

"Yes!"

"What is their business?"

"They are all dead. I have no one left."

The sergeant, who was quite loquacious, continued to question her.

"Devil take it, every one has relations, or one has had them! Who are
you? Speak!"

The woman listened bewildered; this "or one has had them" sounded more
like the cry of a wild beast than the speech of a human being.

The vivandière felt obliged to interfere. She began to caress the
nursing child, and patted the other two on the cheeks.

"What is the baby's name? It's a little girl, isn't it?"

The mother replied, "Georgette."

"And the oldest one? For he is a man, the rogue!"

"René-Jean."

"And the younger one? For he is a man too, and a chubby one into the
bargain."

"Gros-Alain," replied the mother.

"They are pretty children," said the vivandière. "They look already as
if they were somebody."

Meanwhile the sergeant persisted.

"Come! Speak, madam! Have you a house?"

"I had one once."

"Where was it?"

"At Azé."

"Why are you not at home?"

"Because my house was burned."

"Who burned it?"

"I do not know. There was a battle."

"Were do you come from?"

"From over there."

"Where are you going?"

"I do not know."

"Come, to the point! Who are you?"

"I do not know."

"Don't know who you are?"

"We are people running away."

"To what party do you belong?"

"I do not know."

"To the Blues, or the Whites? Which side are you on?"

"I am with my children."

There was a pause. The vivandière spoke.

"For my part I never had any children. I have not had time."

The sergeant began again.

"But what about your parents? See here, madam, tell me the facts about
your parents. Now, my name is Radoub. I am a sergeant. I live on the
Rue Cherche-Midi. My father and my mother lived there. I can talk of my
parents. Tell us about yours. Tell us who your parents were."

"Their name was Fléchard. That's all."

"Yes. The Fléchards are the Fléchards, just as the Radoubs are the
Radoubs. But people have a trade. What was your parents' trade? What
did they do, these Fléchards of yours?"[1]

"They were laborers. My father was feeble and could not work, on
account of a beating which the lord, his lord, our lord, gave him: it
was really a mercy, for my father had poached a rabbit, a crime of
which the penalty is death; but the lord was merciful and said, 'You
may give him only a hundred blows with a stick;' and my father was
left a cripple."

"And then?"

"My grandfather was a Huguenot. The curé had him sent to the galleys. I
was very young then."

"And then?"

"My husband's father was a salt smuggler. The king had him hung."

"And what did your husband do?"

"He used to fight in those times."

"For whom?"

"For the king."

"And after that?"

"Ah! For his lord."

"And then?"

"For the curé."

"By all the names of beasts!" cried the grenadier. The woman jumped in
terror.

"You see, madam, we are Parisians," said the vivandière, affably.

The woman clasped her hands, exclaiming,--

"Oh, my God and Lord Jesus!"

"No superstitions here!" rejoined the sergeant.

The vivandière sat down beside the woman and drew the oldest child
between her knees; he yielded readily. Children are quite as easily
reassured as they are frightened, with no apparent reason. They seem
to possess instinctive perceptions. "My poor worthy woman of this
neighborhood, you have pretty little children, at all events. One can
guess their age. The big one is four years, and his brother is three.
Just see how greedily the little rascal sucks. The wretch! Stop eating
up your mother! Come madam, do not be frightened. You ought to join the
battalion. You should do as I do. My name is Housarde. It's a nickname,
but I had rather be called Housarde than Mamzelle Bicorneau, like my
mother. I am the canteen woman, which is the same as saying, she who
gives the men to drink when they are firing grape-shot and killing each
other. The devil and all his train. Our feet are about the same size. I
will give you a pair of my shoes. I was in Paris on the 10th of August.
I gave Westerman a drink. Everything went with a rush in those days! I
saw Louis XVI. guillotined,--Louis Capet, as they call him. I tell you
he didn't like it. You just listen now. To think that on the 13th of
January he was roasting chestnuts and enjoying himself with his family!
When he was made to lie down on what is called the see-saw, he wore
neither coat nor shoes; only a shirt, a quilted waistcoat, gray cloth
breeches, and gray silk stockings. I saw all that with my own eyes.
The fiacre which he rode in was painted green. Now then, you come with
us; they are kind lads in the battalion; you will be canteen number
two; I will teach you the trade. Oh, it's very simple! You will have
a can and a bell; you are right in the racket, amid the firing of the
platoons and the cannons, in all that hubbub, calling out, 'Who wants
a drink, my children?' It is no harder task than that. I offer a drink
to all, you may take my word for it,--to the Whites as well as to the
Blues, although I am a Blue, and a true Blue at that. But I serve them
all alike. Wounded men are thirsty. People die without difference of
opinions. Dying men ought to shake hands. How foolish to fight! Come
with us. If I am killed you will fill my place. You see I am not much
to look at, but I am a kind woman, and a good fellow. Don't be afraid."

When the vivandière ceased speaking, the woman muttered to herself,--

"Our neighbor's name was Marie-Jeanne, and it was our servant who was
Marie-Claude."

Meanwhile Sergeant Radoub was reprimanding the grenadier.

"Silence! You frighten madam. A man should not swear before ladies."

"I say this is a downright butchery for an honest man to hear
about," replied the grenadier; "and to see Chinese Iroquois, whose
father-in-law was crippled by the lord, whose grandfather was sent to
the galleys by the curé, and whose father was hung by the king, and who
fight,--zounds!--and who get entangled in revolts, and are crushed for
the sake of the lord, the curé, and the king!"

"Silence in the ranks!" exclaimed the sergeant.

"One may be silent, sergeant," continued the grenadier; "but it is all
the same provoking to see a pretty woman like that running the risk of
getting her neck broken for the sake of a calotin."[2]

"Grenadier," said the sergeant, "we are not in the Pike Club. Save your
eloquence!" And turning to the woman, "And your husband, madam? What
does he do? What has become of him?"

"Nothing; since he was killed."

"Where was that?"

"In the hedge."

"When?"

"Three days ago."

"Who killed him?"

"I do not know."

"How is that? You don't know who killed your husband?"

"No."

"Was it a Blue, or a White?"

"It was a bullet."

"Was that three days ago?"

"Yes."

"In what direction?"

"Towards Ernée. My husband fell. That was all."

"And since your husband died, what have you been doing?"

"I have been taking my little ones along."

"Where are you taking them?"

"Straight along."

"Where do you sleep?"

"On the ground."

"What do you eat?"

"Nothing."

The sergeant made that military grimace which elevates the moustache to
the nose. "Nothing?"

"Well, nothing but sloes, blackberries when I found any left over from
last year, whortle-berries, and fern-shoots."

"Yes, you may well call it nothing."

The oldest child, who seemed to understand, said:

"I am hungry."

The sergeant pulled from his pocket a piece of ration bread, and handed
it to the mother.

Taking the bread, she broke, it in two and gave it to the children, who
bit into it greedily.

"She has not saved any for herself," growled the sergeant.

"Because she is not hungry," remarked a soldier.

"Because she is a mother," said the sergeant.

The children broke in.

"Give me something to drink," said one.

"To drink," repeated the other.

"Is there no brook in this cursed wood?" said the sergeant.

The vivandière took the copper goblet suspended at her belt together
with a bell, turned the cock of the can that was strapped across her
shoulder, and pouring several drops into the goblet, held it to the
children's lips.

The first drank and made a grimace.

The second drank and spit it out

"It is good, all the same," said the vivandière.

"Is that some of the old cut-throat?" asked the sergeant.

"Yes, some of the best. But they are peasants."

She wiped the goblet.

"And so, madam, you are running away?" resumed the sergeant.

"I couldn't help it."

"Across the fields? With no particular object?"

"Sometimes I run with all my might, and then I walk, and once in a
while I fall."

"Poor countrywoman!" said the vivandière.

"They were fighting," stammered the woman. "I was in the middle of the
firing. I don't know what they want. They killed my husband,--that was
all I know about it."

The sergeant banged the butt of his musket on the ground, exclaiming,--

"What a beast of a war! In the name of all that is idiotic!"

The woman continued,---

"Last night we went to bed in an _émousse._"

"All four of you?"

"All four."

"Went to bed?"

"Went to bed."

"Then you must have gone to bed standing." And he turned to the
soldiers.

"Comrades, a dead tree, old and hollow, wherein a man can sheathe
himself like a sword in a scabbard, is what these savages call
an _émousse._ But what would you have? All are not obliged to be
Parisians."

"The idea of sleeping in the hollow of a tree,--and with three
children!" exclaimed the vivandière.

"And when the little one bawled, it must have seemed queer to the
passers-by, who could see nothing, to hear the tree calling out, 'Papa!
mamma!'"

"Fortunately, it is summer-time," said the woman, with a sigh.

She looked down resigned, with an expression in her eyes of one who had
known surprising calamities.

The silent soldiers surrounded this wretched group. A widow, three
orphans, flight, desolation, solitude, the rumblings of war on the
horizon, hunger, thirst, no food but herbs, no roof but the sky.

The sergeant drew near the woman and gazed upon the nursing infant. The
baby left the breast, turned her head, and looked with her lovely blue
eyes on the dreadful hairy face, bristling and fierce, that was bending
over her, and began to smile.

The sergeant drew back, and a large tear was seen to roll down his
cheek, clinging to the end of his moustache like a pearl.

He raised his voice.

"Comrades, I have come to the conclusion that this battalion is about
to become a father. Are you willing? We adopt these three children."

"Hurrah for the Republic!" shouted the grenadiers.

"So be it!" exclaimed the sergeant; and he stretched out both hands
over the mother and the children.

"Behold the children of the battalion of the Bonnet-Rouge!" he said.

The vivandière jumped for joy.

"Three heads under one cap!" she cried.

Then she burst out sobbing, and embraced the widow excitedly, saying,--

"She looks like a rogue already, that little girl!"

"Hurrah for the Republic!" repeated the soldiers.

"Come, citizeness," said the sergeant to the mother.


[Footnote 1: The sergeant makes a pun on the name Fléchard which is
untranslatable. Flèche means arrow, and he asks whether the Fléchards
made arrows.--TR.]

[Footnote 2: An opprobrious epithet for an ecclesiastic.--TR.]


[Illustration: The Corvette "Claymore" 007]



BOOK II.


THE CORVETTE "CLAYMORE."


[Illustration 008]



I.


ENGLAND AND FRANCE UNITED.


In the spring of 1793, when France, attacked at one and the same
time on all her frontiers, experienced the pathetic diversion of the
downfall of the Girondists, the following events were taking place
in the Channel Islands. In Jersey, one evening on the first of June,
about an hour before sunset, from the lovely little Bay of Bonnenuit,
a corvette set sail in that foggy kind of weather dangerous for
navigation, and for that very reason better suited for escape than for
pursuit. The ship, although it was manned by a French crew, belonged
to the English squadron which had been stationed to watch the eastern
point of the island. The prince of Tour d'Auvergne, of the house of
Bouillon, commanded the English fleet, and it was by his order, and for
a special and pressing service, that the corvette had been detached.

This corvette entered at the Trinity House under the name of the
"Claymore," and, apparently a freight vessel, was in point of fact a
man-of-war. She looked like a heavy and peaceable merchant-ship; but
it would not have been wise to trust to that, for she had been built
to serve two purposes,--cunning and strength; to deceive if possible,
to fight if necessary. For the service on hand that night the freight
between decks had been replaced by thirty carronades of heavy caliber.
Either for the sake of giving the ship a peaceable appearance, or
possibly because a storm was anticipated, these thirty carronades were
housed; that is, they were firmly fastened inside by triple chains,
with their muzzles tightly braced against the port-holes. Nothing could
be seen from the outside. The port-holes were closed. It was as though
the corvette wore a mask. These guns were mounted on old-fashioned
bronzed wheels, called the "radiating model." The regular naval
corvettes carry their guns on the upper deck; but this ship, built
for surprise and ambush, had its decks clear, having been arranged,
as we have just seen, to carry a masked battery between decks.
The "Claymore," although built in a heavy and clumsy fashion, was
nevertheless a good sailer, her hull being one of the strongest in the
English Navy; and in an engagement she was almost equal to a frigate,
although her mizzen-mast was only a small one, with a fore and aft
rig. Her rudder, of an odd and scientific shape, had a curved frame,
quite unique, which had cost fifty pounds sterling in the Southampton
shipyards. The crew, entirely French, was composed of refugee officers
and sailors who were deserters. They were experienced men; there was
not one among them who was not a good sailor, a good soldier, and a
good royalist. A threefold fanaticism possessed them,--for the ship,
the sword, and the king.

Half a battalion of marines, which could in case of necessity be
disembarked, was added to the crew.

The captain of the "Claymore" was a chevalier of Saint-Louis, Count
Boisberthelot, one of the best officers of the old Royal Navy; the
first officer was the Chevalier de la Vieuville, who had commanded in
the French Guards the company of which Hoche was sergeant; and the
pilot, Philip Gacquoil, was one of the most experienced in Jersey.

It was easy to guess that the ship had some unusual work to do.
In fact, a man had just stepped on board, who had the look of one
starting out for an adventure. He was an old man, tall, upright, and
strong, with a severe countenance,--a man whose age it would have been
difficult to determine, for he seemed both young and old, advanced
in years yet abounding in vigor; one of those men whose eyes flash
lightning though the hair is white. Judging from his energy, he was
about forty years old; his air of authority was that of a man of eighty.

At the moment when he stepped on board the corvette, his sea-cloak
was half-open, revealing beneath wide breeches called _bragoubras_,
high boots, and a goat-skin waistcoat embroidered with silk on the
right side, while the rough and bristling fur was left on the wrong
side,--the complete costume of a Breton peasant. These old-fashioned
Breton waist-coats answered two purposes, being worn both on holidays
and week-days, and could be reversed at the option of the wearer,
with either the hairy or the smooth side out,--fur on a week-day, and
gala attire for holidays. And as if to increase a carefully studied
resemblance, the peasant dress worn by the old man was well worn on the
knees and elbows, showing signs of long usage, and his cloak, made of
coarse cloth, looked like the garb of a fisherman. He wore the round
hat of the period, tall and broad-brimmed, which when turned down looks
countrified, but when caught up on one side by a loop and a cockade has
quite a military effect. He wore it turned down, country fashion, with
neither loop nor cockade.

Lord Balcarras, the governor of the island, and the Prince de La Tour
d'Auvergne had in person escorted him on board. The secret agent of
the Prince Gélambre, an old body-guard of the Count d'Artois, himself
a nobleman, had personally superintended the arrangement of his cabin,
showing his attention and courtesy even so far as to carry the old
man's valise. When about to leave him, to return to the land, M. de
Gélambre had made a deep bow to this peasant; Lord Balcarras exclaimed,
"Good luck to you, general;" and the Prince de La Tour d'Auvergne said,
"Au revoir, cousin."

"The peasant" was the name by which the sailors at once called their
passenger in the short dialogues which sailors hold among themselves;
yet, without further information on the subject, they understood that
this peasant was no more a genuine peasant than the man-of-war was a
merchantman.

There was scarcely any wind. The "Claymore" left Bonnenuit, passed
Boulay Bay, remaining for some time in sight, tacking, gradually
diminishing in the gathering darkness, and finally disappeared.

All hour later, Gélambre, having returned home to Saint-Hélier, sent
to the Count d'Artois, at the headquarters of the Duke of York, by the
Southampton express, the following lines:--

"MY LORD,--The departure has just taken place. Success is certain. In
eight days the whole coast, from Granville to St. Malo, will be ablaze."

Four days previously the representative of the Marne, Prieur, on a
mission to the army on the coast of Cherbourg, and just then stopping
at Granville, received by a secret emissary the following message, in
the same handwriting as the previous one:--

"CITIZEN REPRESENTATIVE,--The 1st of June, at high tide, the war
corvette 'Claymore,' with a masked battery, will set sail, to land on
the coast of France a man who answers to the following description:
Tall, aged, gray-haired, dressed like a peasant, and with the hands of
an aristocrat. To-morrow I will send you further details. He will land
on the morning of the 2d. Communicate this to the cruiser, capture the
corvette, guillotine the man."


[Illustration 008b]



II.


NIGHT WITH THE SHIP AND THE PASSENGER.


[Illustration 009]


The corvette, instead of sailing south, in the direction of St.
Catherine, headed to the north, then, veering towards the west, had
boldly entered that arm of the sea between Sark and Jersey called the
Passage of the Déroute. There was then no lighthouse, at any point
on either coast. It had been a clear sunset: the night was darker
than summer nights usually are; it was moonlight, but large clouds,
rather of the equinox than of the solstice, overspread the sky, and,
judging by appearances the moon would not be visible until she reached
the horizon at the moment of setting. A few clouds hung low near the
surface of the sea and covered it with vapor.

All this darkness was favorable. Gacquoil, the pilot, intended to
leave Jersey on the left, Guernsey on the right, and by boldly sailing
between Hanois and Dover, to reach some bay on the coast near St. Malo,
a longer but safer route than the one through Minquiers; for the French
coaster had standing orders to keep an unusually sharp lookout between
St. Hélier and Granville.

If the wind were favorable, and nothing happened, by dint of setting
all sail Gacquoil hoped to reach the coast of France at daybreak.

All went well. The corvette had just passed Gros Nez. Towards nine
o'clock the weather looked sullen, as the sailors express it, both wind
and sea rising; but the wind was favorable, and the sea was rough, yet
not heavy, waves now and then dashing over the bow of the corvette.
"The peasant," whom Lord Balcarras had called general, and whom the
Prince de La Tour d'Auvergne had addressed as cousin, was a good
sailor, and paced the deck of the corvette with calm dignity. He did
not seem to notice that she rocked considerably. From time to time he
took out of his waistcoat pocket a cake of chocolate, and breaking off
a piece, munched it. Though his hair was gray, his teeth were sound.

He spoke to no one, except that from time to time he made a few
concise remarks in an undertone to the captain, who listened to him
deferentially, apparently regarding his passenger as the commander,
rather than himself. Unobserved in the fog, and skilfully piloted,
the "Claymore" coasted along the steep shore to the north of Jersey,
hugging the land to avoid the formidable reef of Pierres-de-Leeq, which
lies in the middle of the strait between Jersey and Sark. Gacquoil, at
the helm, sighting in turn Grove de Leeq, Gros Nez, and Plémont, making
the corvette glide in among those chains of reefs, felt his way along
to a certain extent, but with the self-confidence of one familiar with
the ways of the sea.

The corvette had no light forward, fearing to betray its passage
through these guarded waters. They congratulated themselves on the fog.
The Grande Étape was reached; the mist was so dense that the lofty
outlines of the Pinnacle were scarcely visible. They heard it strike
ten from the belfry of Saint-Ouen,--a sign that the wind was still aft.
All was going well; the sea grew rougher, because they were drawing
near La Corbière.

A little after ten, the Count Boisberthelot and the Chevalier de la
Vieuville escorted the man in the peasant garb to the door of his
cabin, which was the captain's own room. As he was about to enter, he
remarked, lowering his voice:--

"You understand the importance of keeping the secret, gentlemen.
Silence up to the moment of explosion. You are the only ones here who
know my name."

"We will carry it to the grave," replied Boisberthelot.

"And for my part, I would not reveal it were I face to face with
death," remarked the old man.

And he entered his state-room.



III.


PATRICIAN AND PLEBEIAN UNITED.


The commander and the first officer returned on deck, and began to
pace up and down side by side, talking as they walked. The theme
was evidently their passenger; and this was the substance of the
conversation which the wind wafted through the darkness. Boisberthelot
grumbled half audibly to La Vieuville,--

"It remains to be seen whether or no he is a leader."

La Vieuville replied,--

"Meanwhile he is a prince."

"Almost."

"A nobleman in France, but a prince in Brittany."

"Like the Trémoilles and the Rohans."

"With whom he is connected."

Boisberthelot resumed,--

"In France and in the carriages of the king he is a marquis,--as I am a
count, and you a chevalier."

"The carriages are far away!" exclaimed Vieuville. "We are living in
the time of the tumbril."

A silence ensued.

Boisberthelot went on,--

"For lack of a French prince we take one from Brittany."

"For lack of thrushes--No: since an eagle is not to be found, we take a
crow."

"I should prefer a vulture," remarked Boisberthelot.

La Vieuville replied,---

"Yes, indeed, with a beak and talons."

"We shall see."

"Yes," replied Vieuville, "it is time there was a leader. I agree
with Tinténiac,--a leader and gun-power! See here, commander, I know
nearly all the possible and impossible leaders,--those of yesterday,
those of to-day, and those of to-morrow. Not one of them has the head
required for war. In this cursed Vendée a general is needed who would
be a lawyer as well as a leader. He must harass the enemy, dispute
every bush, ditch, and stone; he must force unlucky quarrels upon him,
and take advantage of everything; vigilant and pitiless, he must watch
incessantly, slaughter freely, and make examples. Now, in this army of
peasants there are heroes, but no captains. D'Elbée is a nonentity,
Lescure an invalid; Bonchamps is merciful,--he is kind, and that
implies folly; La Rochejaquelein is a superb sub-lieutenant; Silz
is an officer good for the open field, but not suited for a war that
needs a man of expedients; Cathelineau is a simple teamster; Stofflet
is a crafty game-keeper; Bérard is inefficient; Boulainvilliers is
absurd; Charette is horrible. I make no mention of Gaston the barber.
Mordemonbleu! what is the use of opposing revolution, and what is the
difference between ourselves and the republicans, if we set barbers
over the heads of noblemen! The fact is, that this beastly revolution
has contaminated all of us."

"It is the itch of France."

"It is the itch of the Tiers État," rejoined Boisberthelot. "England
alone can help us."

"And she will, captain, undoubtedly."

"Meanwhile it is an ugly state of affairs."

"Yes,--rustics everywhere. A monarchy that has Stofflet, the
game-keeper of M. de Maulevrier, for a commander has no reason to envy
a republic whose minister is Pache, the son of the Duke de Castries'
porter. What men this Vendean war brings face to face,--.on one side
Santerre the brewer; on the other Gaston the hairdresser!"

"My dear La Vieuville, I feel some respect for this Gaston. He behaved
well in his command of Guéménée. He had three hundred Blues neatly shot
after making them dig their own graves."

"Well enough done; but I could have done quite as well as he."

"Pardieu, to be sure; and I too."

"The great feats of war," said Vieuville, "require noble blood in
those who perform them. These are matters for knights, and not for
hairdressers."

"But yet there are estimable men in this 'Third Estate,'" rejoined
Vieuville. "Take that watchmaker, Joly, for instance. He was formerly
a sergeant in a Flanders regiment; he becomes a Vendean chief and
commander of a coast band. He has a son, a republican; and while the
father serves in the ranks of the Whites, the son serves in those of
the Blues. An encounter, a battle: the father captures the son and
blows out his brains."

[Illustration 010]

"He did well," said La Vieuville.

"A royalist Brutus," answered Boisberthelot. "Nevertheless, it is
unendurable to be under the command of a Coquereau, a Jean-Jean, a
Moulin, a Focart, a Bouju, a Chouppes!"

"My dear chevalier, the opposite party is quite as indignant. We are
crowded with plebeians; they have an excess of nobles. Do you think
the sans-culottes like to be commanded by the Count de Canclaux, the
Viscount de Miranda, the Viscount de Beauharnais, the Count de Valence,
the Marquis de Custine, and the Duke de Biron?"

"What a combination!"

"And the Duke de Chartres!"

"Son of Égalité. By the way, when will he be king?"

"Never!"

"He aspires to the throne, and his very crimes serve to promote his
interests."

"And his vices will injure his cause," said Boisberthelot.

Then, after another pause, he continued,--

"Nevertheless, he was anxious to be reconciled. He came to see the
king. I was at Versailles when some one spit on his back."

"From the top of the grand staircase?"

"Yes."

"I am glad of it."

"We called him Bourbon le Bourbeux."

"He is bald-headed; he has pimples; he is a regicide. Poh!"

And La Vieuville added:--

"I was with him at Ouessant."

"On the 'Saint Esprit'?"

"Yes."

"Had he obeyed Admiral d'Orvillier's signal to keep to the windward, he
would have prevented the English from passing."

"True."

"Was he really hidden in the bottom of the hold?"

"No; but we must say so all the same."

And La Vieuville burst out laughing.

Boisberthelot continued:--

"Fools are plentiful. Look here, I have known this Boulainvilliers of
whom you were speaking; I knew him well. At first the peasants were
armed with pikes; would you believe it, he took it into his head to
form them into pike-men. He wanted to drill them in crossing pikes
and repelling a charge. He dreamed of transforming these barbarians
into regular soldiers. He undertook to teach them how to round in the
corners of their squares, and to mass battalions with hollow squares.
He jabbered the antiquated military dialect to them; he called the
chief of a squad a 'cap d'escade'--which was what corporals under
Louis XIV. were called. He persisted in forming a regiment of all
those poachers. He had regular companies whose sergeants ranged
themselves in a circle every evening, and, receiving the sign and
countersign from the colonel's sergeant, repeated it in a whisper to
the lieutenant's sergeant, who repeated it to his next neighbor, who
in his turn transmitted it to the next man, and so on from ear to ear
until it reached the last man. He cashiered an officer for not standing
bareheaded to receive the watchword from the sergeant. You may imagine
how he succeeded. This simpleton could not understand that peasants
have to be led peasant fashion, and that it is impossible to transform
rustics into soldiers. Yes, I have known Boulainvilliers."

They walked along a few steps, each one engrossed in his own thoughts.

Then the conversation was resumed:--

"By the way, has the report of Dampierre's death been confirmed?"

"Yes, commander."

"Before Condé?"

"At the camp of Pamars; he was hit by a cannon-ball."

Boisberthelot sighed.

"Count Dampierre,--another of our men, who took sides with them."

"May he prosper wherever he may be!" said Vieuville.

"And the ladies,--where are they?"

"At Trieste."

"Still there?"

"Yes."

"Ah, this republic!" exclaimed La Vieuville. "What havoc from so slight
a cause! To think that this revolution was the result of a deficit of
only a few millions!"

"Insignificant beginnings are not always to be trusted."

"Everything goes wrong," replied La Vieuville.

"Yes; La Rouarie is dead. Du Dresnay is an idiot. What wretched leaders
are all those bishops,--this Coucy, bishop of La Rochelle; Beaupoil
Saint-Aulaire, bishop of Poitiers; Mercy, bishop of Luzon, a lover of
Madame de l'Eschasserie--"

"Whose name is Servanteau, you know, commander. Eschasserie is the name
of an estate."

"And that false bishop of Agra, who is a curé of I know not what!"

"Of Dol. His name is Guillot de Folleville. But then he is brave, and
knows how to fight."

"Priests when one needs soldiers! bishops who are no bishops at all!
generals who are no generals!"

La Vieuville interrupted Boisberthelot.

"Have you the 'Moniteur' in your state-room, commander?"

"Yes."

"What are they giving now in Paris?"

"'Adèle and Pauline' and 'La Caverne.'"

"I should like to see that."

"You may. We shall be in Paris in a month." Boisberthelot thought a
moment, and then added:

"At the latest,--so Mr. Windham told Lord Hood."

"Then, commander, I take it affairs are not going so very badly?"

"All would go well, provided that the Breton war were well managed."

De Vieuville shook his head.

"Commander," he said, "are we to land the marines?"

"Certainly, if the coast is friendly, but not otherwise. In some cases
war must force the gates; in others it can slip through them. Civil war
must always keep a false key in its pocket. We will do all we can; but
one must have a chief."

And Boisberthelot added thoughtfully,--

"What do you think of the Chevalier de Dieuzie, La Vieuville?"

"Do you mean the younger?"

"Yes."

"For a commander?"

"Yes."

"He is only good for a pitched battle in the open field. It is only the
peasant who knows the underbrush."

"In that case, you may as well resign yourself to Generals Stofflet and
Cathelineau."

La Vieuville meditated for a moment; then he said,--

"What we need is a prince,--a French prince, a prince of the blood, a
real prince."

"How can that be? He who says 'prince'--"

"Says 'coward.' I know it, commander. But we need him for the
impression he would produce upon the herd."

"My dear chevalier, the princes don't care to come."

"We will do without them."

Boisberthelot pressed his hand mechanically against his forehead, as if
striving to evoke an idea. He resumed,--

"Then let us try this general."

"He is a great nobleman."

"Do you think he will do?"

"If he is one of the right sort," said La Vieuville.

"You mean relentless?" said Boisberthelot.

The count and the chevalier looked at each other.

"Monsieur Boisberthelot, you have defined the meaning of the word.
Relentless,--yes, that's what we need. This is a war that shows no
mercy. The bloodthirsty are in the ascendant The regicides have
beheaded Louis XVI.; we will quarter the regicides. Yes, the general
we need is General Relentless. In Anjou and Upper Poitou the leaders
play the magnanimous; they trifle with generosity, and they are always
defeated. In the Marais and the country of Retz, where the leaders are
ferocious, everything goes bravely forward. It is because Charette is
fierce that he stands his ground against Parrein,--hyena pitted against
hyena."

Boisberthelot had no time to answer. Vieuville's words were suddenly
cut short by a desperate cry, and at the same instant they heard a
noise unlike all other sounds. This cry and the unusual sounds came
from the interior of the vessel.

The captain and the lieutenant rushed to the gun-deck, but were unable
to enter. All the gunners came running up, beside themselves with
terror.

A frightful thing had just happened.



IV.


TORMENTUM BELLI.


[Illustration 011]


One of the carronades of the battery, a twenty-four pound cannon, had
become loose.

This is perhaps the most dreadful thing that can take place at sea.
Nothing more terrible can happen to a man-of-war under full sail.

A cannon that breaks loose from its fastenings is suddenly transformed
into a supernatural beast. It is a monster developed from a machine.
This mass runs along on its wheels as easily as a billiard ball; it
rolls with the rolling, pitches with the pitching, comes and goes,
stops, seems to meditate, begins anew, darts like an arrow from one end
of the ship to the other, whirls around, turns aside, evades, rears,
hits out, crushes, kills, exterminates. It is a ram battering a wall
at its own pleasure. Moreover, the battering-ram is iron, the wall is
wood. It is matter set free; one might say that this eternal slave is
wreaking its vengeance; it would seem as though the evil in what we
call inanimate objects had found vent and suddenly burst forth; it has
the air of having lost its patience, and of taking a mysterious, dull
revenge; nothing is so inexorable as the rage of the inanimate. The
mad mass leaps like a panther; it has the weight of an elephant, the
agility of a mouse, the obstinacy of the axe; it takes one by surprise,
like the surge of the sea; it flashes like lightning; it is deaf as the
tomb; it weighs ten thousand pounds, and it bounds like a child's ball;
it whirls as it advances, and the circles it describes are intersected
by right angles. And what help is there? How can it be overcome? A
calm succeeds the tempest, a cyclone passes over, a wind dies away, we
replace the broken mass, we check the leak, we extinguish the fire;
but what is to be done with this enormous bronze beast? How can it
be subdued? You can reason with a mastiff, take a bull by surprise,
fascinate a snake, frighten a tiger, mollify a lion; but there is no
resource with the monster known as a loosened gun. You cannot kill
it,--it is already dead; and yet it lives. It breathes a sinister life
bestowed on it by the Infinite. The plank beneath sways it to and fro;
it is moved by the ship; the sea lifts the ship, and the wind keeps the
sea in motion. This destroyer is a toy. Its terrible vitality is fed
by the ship, the waves, and the wind, each lending its aid. What is to
be done with this complication? How fetter this monstrous mechanism of
shipwreck? How foresee its comings and goings, its recoils, its halts,
its shocks? Any one of those blows may stave in the side of the vessel.
How can one guard against these terrible gyrations? One has to do with
a projectile that reflects, that has ideas, and changes its direction
at any moment. How can one arrest an object in its course, whose
onslaught must be avoided? The dreadful cannon rushes about, advances,
recedes, strikes to right and to left, flies here and there, baffles
their attempts at capture, sweeps away obstacles, crushing men like
flies.

[Illustration 012]

The extreme danger of the situation comes from the unsteadiness of
the deck. How is one to cope with the caprices of an inclined plane?
The ship had within its depths, so to speak, imprisoned lightning
struggling for escape; something like the rumbling of thunder during
an earthquake. In an instant the crew was on its feet. It was the
chief gunner's fault, who had neglected to fasten the screw-nut of
the breeching chain, and had not thoroughly chocked the four trucks
of the carronade, which allowed play to the frame and bottom of the
gun-carriage, thereby disarranging the two platforms and parting the
breeching. The lashings were broken, so that the gun was no longer firm
on its carriage. The stationary breeching which prevents the recoil was
not in use at that time. As a wave struck the ship's side the cannon,
insufficiently secured, had receded, and having broken its chain, began
to wander threatningly over the deck. In order to get an idea of this
strange sliding, fancy a drop of water sliding down a pane of glass.

When the fastening broke, the gunners were in the battery, singly and
in groups, clearing the ship for action. The carronade, thrown forward
by the pitching, dashed into a group of men, killing four of them at
the first blow; then, hurled back by the rolling, it cut in two an
unfortunate fifth man, and struck and dismounted one of the guns of the
larboard battery. Hence the cry of distress which had been heard. All
the men rushed to the ladder. The gun-deck was empty in the twinkling
of an eye.

The monstrous gun was left to itself. It was its own mistress, and
mistress of the ship. It could do with it whatsoever it wished.
This crew, accustomed to laugh in battle, now trembled. It would be
impossible to describe their terror.

Captain Boisberthelot and Lieutenant la Vieuville, brave men though
they were, paused at the top of the ladder, silent, pale, and
undecided, looking down on the deck. Some one pushed them aside with
his elbow, and descended. It was their passenger, the peasant, the man
about whom they were talking a moment ago.

Having reached the bottom of the ladder he halted.



V.


VIS ET VIR.


[Illustration 013]


The cannon was rolling to and fro on the deck. It might have been
called the living chariot of the Apocalypse. A dim wavering of lights
and shadows was added to this spectacle by the marine lantern, swinging
under the deck. The outlines of the cannon were indistinguishable, by
reason of the rapidity of its motion; sometimes it looked black when
the light shone upon it, then again it would cast pale, glimmering
reflections in the darkness.

It was still pursuing its work of destruction. It had already
shattered four other pieces, and made two breaches in the ship's side,
fortunately above the water-line, but which would leak in case of rough
weather. It rushed frantically against the timbers; the stout riders
resisted,--curved timbers have great strength; but one could hear them
crack under this tremendous assault brought to bear simultaneously on
every side, with a certain omnipresence truly appalling.

A bullet shaken in a bottle could not produce sharper or more rapid
sounds. The four wheels were passing and repassing over the dead
bodies, cutting and tearing them to pieces, and the five corpses had
become five trunks rolling hither and thither; the heads seemed to cry
out; streams of blood flowed over the deck, following the motion of the
ship. The ceiling, damaged in several places, had begun to give way.
The whole ship was filled with a dreadful tumult.

The captain, who had rapidly recovered his self-possession, had given
orders to throw down the hatchway all that could abate the rage and
check the mad onslaught of this infuriated gun; mattresses, hammocks,
spare sails, coils of rope, the bags of the crew, and bales of false
assignats, with which the corvette was laden,--that infamous stratagem
of English origin being considered a fair trick in war.

But what availed these rags? No one dared to go down to arrange them,
and in a few moments they were reduced to lint.

There was just sea enough to render this accident as complete as
possible. A tempest would have been welcome. It might have upset the
cannon, and with its four wheels once in the air, it could easily have
been mastered. Meanwhile the havoc increased. There were even incisions
and fractures in the masts, that stood like pillars grounded firmly in
the keel, and piercing the several decks of the vessel. The mizzen-mast
was split, and even the main-mast was damaged by the convulsive blows
of the cannon. The destruction of the battery still went on. Ten out of
the thirty pieces were useless. The fractures in the side increased,
and the corvette began to leak.

The old passenger, who had descended to the gun-deck, looked like one
carved in stone as he stood motionless at the foot of the stairs and
glanced sternly over the devastation. It would have been impossible to
move a step upon the deck.

Each bound of the liberated carronade seemed to threaten the
destruction of the ship. But a few moments longer, and shipwreck would
be inevitable.

They must either overcome this calamity or perish; some decisive action
must be taken. But what?

What a combatant was this carronade!

Here was this mad creature to be arrested, this flash of lightning
to be seized, this thunderbolt to be crushed. Boisberthelot said to
Vieuville:--

"Do you believe in God, chevalier?"

"Yes and no, sometimes I do!" replied La Vieuville.

"In a tempest?"

"Yes, and in moments like these."

"Truly God alone can save us," said Boisberthelot.

All were silent, leaving the carronade to its horrible uproar.

The waves beating the ship from without answered the blows of the
cannon within, very much like a couple of hammers striking in turn.

Suddenly in the midst of this inaccessible circus, where the escaped
cannon was tossing from side to side, a man appeared, grasping an iron
bar. It was the author of the catastrophe, the chief gunner, whose
criminal negligence had caused the accident,--the captain of the gun.
Having brought about the evil, his intention was to repair it. Holding
a handspike in one hand, and in the other a tiller rope with the
slip-noose in it, he had jumped through the hatchway to the deck below.

Then began a terrible struggle; a titanic spectacle; a combat between
cannon and cannoneer; a contest between mind and matter; a duel between
man and the inanimate. The man stood in one corner in an attitude of
expectancy, leaning on the rider and holding in his hands the bar and
the rope; calm, livid, and tragic, he stood firmly on his legs, that
were like two pillars of steel.

He was waiting for the cannon to approach him.

The gunner knew his piece, and he felt as though it must know him. They
had lived together a long time. How often had he put his hand in its
mouth. It was his domestic monster. He began to talk to it as he would
to a dog. "Come," said he. Possibly he loved it.

He seemed to wish for its coming, and yet its approach meant sure
destruction for him. How to avoid being crushed was the question. All
looked on in terror.

Not a breath was drawn freely, except perhaps by the old man, who
remained on the gun-deck gazing sternly on the two combatants.

He himself was in danger of being crushed by the piece; still he did
not move.

Beneath them the blind sea had command of the battle. When, in the act
of accepting this awful hand-to-hand struggle, the gunner approached
to challenge the cannon, it happened that the surging sea held the gun
motionless for an instant, as though stupefied. "Come on!" said the
man. It seemed to listen.

Suddenly it leaped towards him. The man dodged. Then the struggle
began,--a contest unheard of; the fragile wrestling with the
invulnerable; the human warrior attacking the brazen beast; blind force
on the one side, soul on the other.

All this was in the shadow. It was like an indistinct vision of a
miracle.

A soul!--strangely enough it seemed as if a soul existed within the
cannon, but one consumed with hate and rage. The blind thing seemed
to have eyes. It appeared as though the monster were watching the
man. There was, or at least one might have supposed it, cunning in
this mass. It also chose its opportunity. It was as though a gigantic
insect of iron was endowed with the will of a demon. Now and then this
colossal grasshopper would strike the low ceiling of the gun-deck, then
falling back on its four wheels, like a tiger on all fours, rush upon
the man. He--supple, agile, adroit--writhed like a serpent before these
lightning movements. He avoided encounters; but the blows from which he
escaped fell with destructive force upon the vessel. A piece of broken
chain remained attached to the carronade. This bit of chain had twisted
in some incomprehensible way around the breech-button.

One end of the chain was fastened to the gun-carriage; the other end
thrashed wildly around, aggravating the danger with every bound of
the cannon. The screw held it as in a clenched hand, and this chain,
multiplying the strokes of the battering-ram by those of the thong,
made a terrible whirlwind around the gun,--a lash of iron in a fist of
brass. This chain complicated the combat.

Despite all this, the man fought. He even attacked the cannon at times,
crawling along by the side of the ship and clutching his handspike and
the rope; the cannon seemed to understand his movements, and fled as
though suspecting a trap. The man, nothing daunted, pursued his chase.

Such a struggle must necessarily be brief. Suddenly the cannon seemed
to say to itself: Now, then, there must be an end to this. And it
stopped. A crisis was felt to be at hand. The cannon, as if in
suspense, seemed to meditate, or--for to all intents and purposes it
was a living creature--it really did meditate, some furious design.
All at once it rushed on the gunner, who sprang aside with a laugh,
crying out, "Try it again!" as the cannon passed him. The gun in its
fury smashed one of the larboard carronades; then, by the invisible
sling in which it seemed to be held, it was thrown to the starboard,
towards the man, who escaped. Three carronades were crushed by its
onslaught; then, as though blind and beside itself, it turned from the
man, and rolled from stern to stem, splintering the latter, and causing
a breach in the walls of the prow. The gunner took refuge at the foot
of the ladder, a short distance from the old man, who stood watching.
He held his handspike in readiness. The cannon seemed aware of it, and
without taking the trouble to turn, it rushed backward on the man, as
swift as the blow of an axe. The gunner, if driven up against the side
of the ship, would be lost.

One cry arose from the crew.

The old passenger--who until this moment had stood motionless--sprang
forward more swiftly than all those mad whirls. He had seized a bale
of the false assignats, and at the risk of being crushed succeeded in
throwing it between the wheels of the carronade. This decisive and
perilous manoeuvre could not have been executed with more precision
and adroitness by an adept in all the exercises given in the work of
Durosel's "Manual of Naval Gunnery."

The bale had the effect of a plug. A pebble may block a log; a branch
sometimes changes the course of an avalanche. The carronade stumbled,
and the gunner, availing himself of the perilous opportunity, thrust
his iron bar between the spokes of the back wheels. Pitching forward,
the cannon stopped; and the man, using his bar for a lever, rocked it
backward and forward. The heavy mass upset, with the resonant sound of
a bell that crashes in its fall. The man, reeking with perspiration,
threw himself upon it, and passed the slip-noose of the tiller-rope
around the neck of the defeated monster.

The combat was ended. The man had conquered. The ant had overcome the
mastodon; the pygmy had imprisoned the thunderbolt.

The soldiers and sailors applauded.

The crew rushed forward with chains and cables, and in an instant the
cannon was secured.

Saluting the passenger, the gunner exclaimed,--

"Sir, you have saved my life!"

The old man had resumed his impassible attitude, and made no reply.



VI.


THE TWO ENDS OF THE SCALE.


The man had conquered; but it might be affirmed that the cannon also
had gained a victory. Immediate shipwreck was averted; but the corvette
was still in danger. The injuries the ship had sustained seemed
irreparable. There were five breaches in the sides, one of them--a
very large one--in the bow, and twenty carronades out of thirty lay
shattered in their frames. The recaptured gun, which had been secured
by a chain, was itself disabled. The screw of the breech-button being
wrenched, it would consequently be impossible to level the cannon. The
battery was reduced to nine guns; there was a leakage in the hold. All
these damages must be repaired without loss of time, and the pumps
set in operation. Now that the gun-deck had become visible, it was
frightful to look upon. The interior of a mad elephant's cage could not
have been more thoroughly devastated. However important it might be for
the corvette to avoid observation, the care for its immediate safety
was still more imperative. They were obliged to light the deck with
lanterns placed at intervals along the sides.

In the mean time, while this tragic entertainment had lasted, the crew,
entirely absorbed by a question of life and death, had not noticed what
was going on outside of the ship. The fog had thickened, the weather
had changed, the wind had driven the vessel at will; they were out of
their course, in full sight of Jersey and Guernsey, much farther to
the south than they ought to have been, and confronting a tumultuous
sea. The big waves kissed the wounded sides of the corvette with kisses
that savored of danger. The heaving of the sea grew threatening; the
wind had risen to a gale; a squall, perhaps a tempest, was brewing. One
could not see four oars' length before one.

While the crew made haste with their temporary repairs on the gun-deck,
stopping the leaks and setting up the cannons that had escaped
uninjured, the old passenger returned to the deck.

He stood leaning against the main-mast.

He had taken no notice of what was going on in the ship. The Chevalier
de la Vieuville had drawn up the marines on either side of the
main-mast, and at a signal-whistle of the boatswain the sailors,
who had been busy in the rigging, stood up on the yards. Count
Boisberthelot approached the passenger. The captain was followed by a
man, who, haggard and panting, with his dress in disorder, still wore
on his countenance an expression of content.

It was the gunner who had so opportunely displayed his power as a tamer
of monsters, and gained the victory over the cannon.

The count made a military salute to the old man in the peasant garb,
and said to him:--

"Here is the man, general."

The gunner, with downcast eyes, stood erect in a military attitude.

"General," resumed Count Boisberthelot, "considering what this man has
done, do you not think that his superiors have a duty to perform?"

"I think so," replied the old man.

"Be so good as to give your orders," resumed Boisberthelot.

"It is for you to give them; you are the captain."

"But you are the general," answered Boisberthelot.

The old man looked at the gunner.

"Step forward," he said.

The gunner advanced a step.

Turning to Count Boisberthelot, the old man removed the cross of Saint
Louis from the captain's breast, and fastened it on the jacket of the
gunner. The sailors cheered, and the marines presented arms.

Then pointing to the bewildered gunner he added:

"Now let the man be shot!"

Stupor took the place of applause.

Then, amid a tomb-like silence, the old man, raising his voice, said:--

[Illustration 014]

"The ship has been endangered by an act of carelessness, and may even
yet be lost. It is all the same whether one be at sea or face to face
with the enemy. A ship at sea is like an army in battle. The tempest,
though unseen, is ever present; the sea is an ambush. Death is the fit
penalty for every fault committed when facing the enemy. There is no
fault that can be retrieved. Courage must be rewarded and negligence
punished."

These words fell one after the other slowly and gravely, with a certain
implacable rhythm, like the strokes of the axe upon an oak-tree.
Looking at the soldiers, the old man added,--

"Do your duty!"

The man on whose breast shone the cross of Saint Louis bowed his
head, and at a sign of Count Boisberthelot two sailors went down to
the gun-deck, and presently returned bringing the hammock-shroud; the
two sailors were accompanied by the ship's chaplain, who since the
departure had been engaged in saying prayers in the officers' quarters.
A sergeant detached from the ranks twelve soldiers, whom he arranged
in two rows, six men in a row. The gunner placed himself between the
two lines. The chaplain, holding a crucifix, advanced and took his
place beside the man. "March!" came from the lips of the sergeant;
and the platoon slowly moved towards the bow, followed by two sailors
canning the shroud.

A gloomy silence fell on the corvette. In the distance a hurricane was
blowing. A few moments later, a report echoed through the gloom; one
flash, and all was still. Then came the splash of a body falling into
the water. The old passenger, still leaning against the main-mast, his
hands crossed on his breast, seemed lost in thought. Boisberthelot,
pointing towards him with the forefinger of his left hand, remarked in
an undertone to La Vieuville,--

"The Vendée has found a leader."



VII.


HE WHO SETS SAIL INVESTS IN A LOTTERY.


But what was to become of the corvette? The clouds that had mingled all
night with the waves had now fallen so low that they overspread the
sea like a mantle, and completely shut out the horizon. Nothing but
fog,--always a dangerous situation, even for a seaworthy vessel.

A heavy swell was added to the mist.

They had improved their time; the corvette had been lightened by
throwing into the sea everything that they had been able to clear
away after the havoc caused by the carronade,--dismantled cannons,
gun-carriages, twisted or loosened timbers, splintered pieces of wood
and iron; the port-holes were opened, and the corpses and parts of
human bodies, wrapped in tarpaulin, were slid down on planks into the
sea.

The sea was running high. Not that the tempest was imminent. On the
other hand, it seemed as if the hurricane, that was rumbling afar off
on the horizon, and the wind were both decreasing and moving northward;
but the waves were still high, showing an angry sea, and the corvette
in its disabled condition could with difficulty resist the shocks, so
that the high waves might prove fatal to it. Gacquoil, absorbed in
thought, remained at the helm. To show a bold front in the presence of
danger is the habit of commanders.

La Vieuville, whose spirits rose in time of trouble, addressed Gacquoil.

"Well, pilot," he said, "the squall has subsided. Its sneezing-fit came
to naught. We shall pull through. We shall get some wind, and nothing
more."

"We can't have wind without waves."

A true sailor, neither gay nor sad; and his reply was charged with
an anxious significance. For a leaking ship a high sea means a rapid
sinking. Gacquoil had emphasized this prediction by frowning. Perhaps
he thought that after the catastrophe with the cannon and the gunner,
La Vieuville had been too quick to use light-hearted, almost cheerful,
words. Certain things bring ill-luck at sea. The sea is reticent; one
never knows its intentions, and it is well to be on one's guard.

La Vieuville felt obliged to resume his gravity.

"Where are we, pilot?" he asked.

"In the hands of God," replied the pilot.

A pilot is a master; he must always be allowed to do what pleases him,
and often to say what he chooses. That kind of man is not apt to be
loquacious. La Vieuville left him, after asking a question to which the
horizon soon replied.

The sea had suddenly cleared.

The trailing fogs were rent; the dusky heaving waves stretched as far
as the eye could penetrate into the dim twilight, and this was the
sight that lay before them.

The sky was shut in by clouds, although they no longer touched the
water. The dawn had begun to illumine the east, while in the west
the setting moon still cast a pale glimmering light These two pallid
presences in opposite quarters of the sky outlined the horizon in two
narrow bands of light between the dark sea and the gloomy sky. Black
silhouettes were sketched against them, upright and motionless.

In the west, against the moonlit sky, three high cliffs stood forth,
like Celtic cromlechs.

In the east, against the pale horizon of the morning, eight sails drawn
up in a row in formidable array came in view. The three cliffs were a
reef, the eight sails a squadron. Behind them was Minquiers, a cliff
of ill-repute, and in front were the French cruisers. With an abyss on
the left hand, and carnage on the right, they had to choose between
shipwreck and a battle. The corvette must either encounter the cliffs
with a damaged hull, a shattered rigging, and broken masts, or face
a battle, knowing that twenty out of the thirty cannons of which her
artillery consisted were disabled, and the best of her gunners dead.

The dawn was still feint, and the night not yet ended. This darkness
might possibly last for quite a long time, as it was caused mostly by
the clouds that hung high in the air, thick and dense, looking like a
solid vault.

The wind had scattered the sea-fog, driving the corvette on Minquiers.

In her extreme weakness, and dilapidated as she was, she hardly obeyed
the helm as she rolled helplessly along, lashed onward by the force of
the waves.

The Minquiers--that tragic reef!--was more dangerous at that time
than it is now. Several of the turrets of this marine fortress have
been worn away by the incessant action of the sea. The form of reefs
changes; waves are fitly likened unto swords; each tide is like the
stroke of a saw. At that time, to be stranded on the Minquiers meant
certain death. The cruisers composed the squadron of Cancale,--the one
that afterwards became so famous under the command of Captain Duchesne,
called by Lequinio "Père Duchesne."

The situation was critical. During the struggle with the carronade the
ship had wandered unconsciously from her course, sailing more in the
direction of Granville than of St. Malo. Even had her sailing power
been unimpaired, the Minquiers would have barred her return to Jersey,
while the cruisers hindered her passage towards France. Although there
was no storm, yet, as the pilot had said, the sea was rough. Rolled by
the heavy wind over a rocky bottom, it had grown savage.

The sea never tells what it wants at the first onset. Everything lies
concealed in its abyss, even trickery. One might almost affirm that
it has a scheme. It advances and recedes; it offers and refuses; it
arranges for a storm, and suddenly gives up its intention; it promises
an abyss, and fails to keep its agreement; it threatens the north, and
strikes the south. All night long the corvette "Claymore" labored with
the fog and feared the storm; the sea had disappointed them in a savage
sort of way. It had drawn a storm in outline, and filled in the picture
with a reef.

[Illustration 015]

It was to be a shipwreck in any event, but it had assumed another form,
and with one enemy to supplement the work of the other, it was to
combine a wreck on the surf with destruction by battle.

"A shipwreck on the one hand and a fight on the other!" exclaimed
Vieuville amid his gallant laughter. "We have thrown double fives on
both sides!"



VIII.


9:380.


[Illustration 016]


The corvette was little better than a wreck.

A sepulchral solemnity pervaded the dim twilight, the darkness of
the clouds, the confused changes of the horizon, and the mysterious
sullenness of the waves. There was no sound except the hostile blasts
of the wind. The catastrophe rose majestic from the abyss. It looked
more like an apparition than an attack. No stir on the rocks, no stir
on the ships. The silence was overpowering beyond description. Were
they dealing with reality? It was like a dream passing over the sea.
There are legends that tell of such visions. The corvette lay, so to
speak, between a demon reef and a phantom fleet.

Count Boisberthelot in a low voice gave orders to La Vieuville, who
went down to the gun-deck, while the captain, seizing his telescope,
stationed himself behind the pilot. Gacquoil's sole effort was to keep
up the corvette to the wind; for if struck on her side by the sea and
the wind, she would inevitably capsize.

"Pilot, where are we?" said the captain.

"On the Minquiers."

"On which side?"

"On the worst one."

"What kind of bottom?"

"Small rocks."

"Can we turn broadside on?"

"We can always die."

The captain turned his spy-glass towards the west and examined the
Minquiers; then turning it to the east he watched the sails that were
in sight.

The pilot went on, as though speaking to himself:

"Yonder is the Minquiers. That is where the laughing sea-mew and the
great black-hooded gull stop to rest when they migrate from Holland."

Meanwhile the captain had counted the sails.

There were, indeed, eight ships drawn up in line, their warlike
profiles rising above the water. In the centre was seen the stately
outline of a three-decker.

The captain questioned the pilot.

"Do you know those ships?"

"Of course I do."

"What are they?"

"That's the squadron."

"Of the French?"

"Of the Devil."

A silence ensued; and again the captain resumed his questions.

"Are all the cruisers there?"

"No, not all."

In fact, on the 2d of April, Valazé had reported to the Convention that
ten frigates and six ships of the line were cruising in the Channel.
The captain remembered this.

"You are right," he said; "the squadron numbers sixteen ships, and only
eight are here."

"The others are straggling along the coast down below, on the lookout,"
said Gacquoil.

Still gazing through his spy-glass the captain murmured,--

"One three-decker, two first-class and five second-class frigates."

"I too have seen them close at hand," muttered Gacquoil. "I know them
too well to mistake one for the other."

The captain passed his glass to the pilot.

"Pilot, can you make out distinctly the largest ship?"

"Yes, commander. It is the 'Côte-d'Or.'"

"They have given it a new name. It used to be the 'États de
Bourgogne,'--a new ship of a hundred and twenty-eight cannon."

He took a memorandum-book and pencil from his pocket, and wrote down
the number "128."

"Pilot, what is the first ship on the port?"

"The 'Expérimentée.'"

"A frigate of the first class; fifty-two guns. She was fitting out at
Brest two months ago."

The captain put down on his note-book the number "52."

"What is the second ship to port, pilot?"

"The 'Dryade.'"

"A frigate of the first class; forty eighteen-pounders. She has been in
India, and has a glorious military record."

And below the "52" he wrote the number "40." Then, raising his head, he
said,--

"Now, on the starboard?"

"They are all second-class frigates, commander; there are five of
them."

"Which is the first one from the ship?"

"The 'Résolue.'"

"Thirty-two eighteen-pounders. The second?"

"The 'Richmond.'"

"Same. Next?"

"The 'Athée.'"

"A queer name to sail under. Next?"

"The 'Calypso.'"

"Next?"

"The 'Preneuse.'"

"Five frigates, each of thirty-two guns."

The captain wrote "160" under the first numbers.

"You are sure you recognize them, pilot?" he asked.

"You also know them well, commander. It is something to recognize them;
but it is better to know them."

The captain, with his eyes on the note-book, was adding up the column
to himself.

"One hundred and twenty-eight, fifty-two, forty, one hundred and sixty."

Just then La Vieuville came up on deck.

"Chevalier," exclaimed the captain, "we are facing three hundred and
eighty cannon."

"So be it," replied La Vieuville.

"You have just been making an inspection, La Vieuville: how many guns
have we fit for service?"

"Nine."

"So be it," responded Boisberthelot in his turn; and taking the
telescope from the pilot, he scanned the horizon.

The eight black and silent ships, though they appeared immovable,
continued to increase in size.

They were gradually drawing nearer.

La Vieuville saluted the captain.

"Commander," he said, "here is my report. I mistrusted this corvette
'Claymore.' It is never pleasant to be suddenly ordered on board a
ship that neither knows nor loves you. An English ship is a traitor
to the French. That slut of a carronade proved this. I have made the
inspection. The anchors are good; they are not made of inferior iron,
but hammered out of solid bars; the flukes are solid; the cables are
excellent, easy to pay out, and have the requisite length of one
hundred and twenty fathoms. Plenty of ammunition; six gunners dead;
each gun has one hundred and seventy-one rounds."

"Because there are only nine cannon left," grumbled the captain.

Boisberthelot levelled his glass to the horizon. The squadron continued
its slow approach. Carronades have one advantage: three men are
sufficient to man them. But they also have a disadvantage: they do
not carry as far, and shoot with less precision than cannon. It was
therefore necessary to let the squadron approach within the range of
the carronades.

The captain gave his orders in a low voice. Silence reigned on the
ship. No signal to clear the decks for action had been given, but still
it had been done. The corvette was as helpless to cope with men as with
the sea. They did their best with this remnant of a war-ship. Near
the tiller-ropes on the gangway were piled spare hawsers and cables,
to strengthen the mast in case of need. The quarters for the wounded
were put in order. According to the naval practice of those days, they
barricaded the deck,--which is a protection against balls, but not
against bullets. The ball-gauges were brought, although it was rather
late to ascertain the caliber; but they had not anticipated so many
incidents. Cartridge-boxes were distributed among the sailors, and
each one secured a pair of pistols and a dirk in his belt. Hammocks
were stowed away, guns were pointed, and muskets, axes, and grapplings
prepared. The cartridge and bullet stores were put in readiness; the
powder-magazine was opened; every man stood at his post. Not a word was
spoken while these preparations went on amid haste and gloom; and it
seemed like the room of a dying person.

Then the corvette was turned broadside on. She carried six anchors,
like a frigate, and all of them were cast,--the spare anchor forward,
the kedger aft, the sea-anchor towards the open, the ebb-anchor towards
the breakers, the bower-anchor to starboard, and the sheet-anchor to
port. The nine uninjured carronades were placed as a battery on the
side towards the enemy.

The squadron, equally silent, had also finished its evolutions. The
eight ships now stood in a semicircle, of which Minquiers formed
the chord. The "Claymore" enclosed within this semicircle, and held
furthermore by its own anchors, was backed by the reef,--signifying
shipwreck. It was like a pack of hounds surrounding a wild boar, not
giving tongue, but showing its teeth.

It seemed as if each side were waiting for something.

The gunners of the "Claymore" stood to their guns.

Boisberthelot said to La Vieuville,--

"I should like to be the first to open fire."

"A coquette's fancy," replied La Vieuville.



IX.


SOME ONE ESCAPES.


The passenger had not left the deck; he watched all that was going on
with his customary impassibility.

Boisberthelot went up to him.

"Sir," he said, "the preparations are completed. We are now clinging to
our grave; we shall not relax our hold. We must succumb either to the
squadron or to the reef. The alternative is before us: either shipwreck
among the breakers or surrender to the enemy. But the resource of death
is still left; better to fight than be wrecked. I would rather be shot
than drowned; fire before water, if the choice be left to me. But
where it is our duty to die it is not yours. You are the man chosen by
princes. You have an important mission,--that of directing the Vendean
war. Your death might result in the failure of monarchy; therefore
you must live. While honor requires us to stand by the ship, it calls
on you to escape. You must leave us, General; I will provide you with
a boat and a man. You may succeed in reaching the shore, by making a
détour. It is not yet daylight; the waves are high and the sea dark.
You will probably escape. There are occasions when to flee means to
conquer."

The old man bent his stately head in token of acquiescence.

Count Boisberthelot raised his voice.

"Soldiers and sailors!" he called.

Every movement ceased, and from all sides faces were turned in the
direction of the captain.

He continued:--

"This man who is among us represents the king. He has been intrusted to
our care; we must save him. He is needed for the throne of France. As
we have no prince, he is to be,--at least we hope so,--the leader of
the Vendée. He is a great general. He was to land with us in France;
now he must land without us. If we save the head we save all."

"Yes, yes, yes!" cried the voices of all the crew.

The captain went on:--

"He too is about to face a serious danger. It is not easy to reach the
coast. The boat must be large enough to live in this sea, and small
enough to escape the cruisers. He must land at some safe point, and
it will be better to do so nearer Fougères than Coutances. We want a
hardy sailor, a good oars-man and a strong swimmer, a man from that
neighborhood, and one who knows the straits. It is still so dark that
a boat can put off from the corvette without attracting attention; and
later there will be smoke enough to hide it from view. Its size will be
an advantage in the shallows. Where the panther is caught, the weasel
escapes. Although there is no outlet for us, there may be for a small
rowboat; the enemy's ships will not see it, and, what is more, about
that time we shall be giving them plenty of diversion. Is it decided?"

"Yes, yes, yes!" cried the crew.

"Then there is not a moment to be lost," continued the captain. "Is
there a man among you willing to undertake the business?"

In the darkness, a sailor stepped out of the ranks and said,--

"I am the man."

[Illustration 017]



X.


DOES HE ESCAPE?


[Illustration 018]


A few minutes later, one of those small boats called a gig, which are
always devoted to the use of the captain, pushed off from the ship.
There were two men in this boat,--the passenger in the stern, and the
volunteer sailor in the bow. The night was still very dark. The sailor,
according to the captain's instructions, rowed energetically towards
the Minquiers. For that matter, it was the only direction in which
he could row. Some provisions had been placed in the bottom of the
boat,--a bag of biscuits, a smoked tongue, and a barrel of water.

Just as they were lowering the gig, La Vieuville, a very scoffer in the
presence of destruction, leaning over the stern-post of the corvette,
cried out in his cool sneering voice a parting word:--

"Very good for escaping, and still better for drowning."

"Sir, let us joke no more," said the pilot.

They pushed off rapidly, and soon left the corvette far behind. Both
wind and tide were in the oars-man's favor, and the small skiff flew
rapidly along, wavering to and fro in the twilight, and hidden by the
high crests of the waves.

A gloomy sense of expectation brooded over the sea.

Suddenly amid this illimitable, tumultuous silence a voice was heard;
exaggerated by the speaking-trumpet, as by the brazen mask of ancient
tragedy, it seemed almost superhuman.

It was Captain Boisberthelot speaking.

"Royal marines," he exclaimed, "nail the white flag to the mizzen-mast!
We are about to look upon our last sunrise!"

And the corvette fired a shot.

"Long live the King!" shouted the crew.

Then from the verge of the horizon was heard another shout, stupendous,
remote, confused, and yet distinct,--

"Long live the Republic!"

And a din like unto the roar of three hundred thunderbolts exploded in
the depths of the sea.

The conflict began. The sea was covered with fire and smoke.

Jets of spray thrown up by the balls as they struck the water rose from
the sea on all sides.

The "Claymore" was pouring forth flame on the eight vessels; the
squadron, ranged in a semicircle around her, opened fire from all
its batteries. The horizon was in a blaze. A volcano seemed to have
sprung from the sea. The wind swept to and fro this stupendous crimson
drapery of battle through which the vessels appeared and disappeared
like phantoms. Against the red sky in the foreground were sketched the
outlines of the corvette.

The fleur-de-lis flag could be seen floating from the main-mast.

The two men in the boat were silent. The triangular shoal of the
Minquiers, a kind of submarine Trinacrium, is larger than the isle of
Jersey. The sea covers it. Its culminating point is a plateau that is
never submerged, even at the highest tide, and from which rise, towards
the northeast, six mighty rocks standing in a line, producing the
effect of a massive wall which has crumbled here and there. The strait
between the plateau and the six reefs is accessible only to vessels
drawing very little water. Beyond this strait is the open sea.

[Illustration 019]

The sailor who had volunteered to manage the boat headed for the
strait. Thus he had put Minquiers between the boat and the battle.
He navigated skilfully in the narrow channel, avoiding rocks to
starboard and port. The cliff now hid the battle from their view. The
flaming horizon and the furious din of the cannonade were growing less
distinct, by reason of the increased distance; but judging from the
continued explosions one could guess that the corvette still held its
own, and that it meant to use its hundred and ninety-one rounds to
the very last. The boat soon found itself in smooth waters beyond the
cliffs and the battle, and out of the reach of missiles. Gradually the
surface of the sea lost something of its gloom; the rays of light that
had been swallowed up in the shadows began to widen; the curling foam
leaped forth in jets of light, and the broken waves sent back their
pale reflections. Daylight appeared.

The boat was beyond reach of the enemy, but the principal difficulty
still remained to be overcome. It was safe from grape-shot, but the
danger of shipwreck was not yet past. It was on the open sea, a mere
shell, with neither deck, sail, mast, nor compass, entirely dependent
on its oars, face to face with the ocean and the hurricane,--a pygmy at
the mercy of giants.

Then amid this infinite solitude, his face whitened by the morning
light, the man in the bow of the boat raised his head and gazed
steadily at the man in the stern as he said,--

"I am the brother of him whom you ordered to be shot."

[Illustration 020]

[Illustration: Halmalo 021]



BOOK III.


HALMALO.



I.


SPEECH IS WORD.


[Illustration 022]


The old man slowly lifted his head.

He who had addressed him was about thirty years of age. The tan of the
sea was upon his brow; there was something unusual about his eyes, as
if the simple pupils of the peasant had taken on the keen expression
of the sailor; he held his oars firmly in his hands. He looked gentle
enough. In his belt he wore a dirk, two pistols, and a rosary.

"Who are you?" said the old man.

"I have just told you."

"What do you wish?"

The man dropped the oars, folded his arms, and replied,--

"To kill you."

"As you please!" replied the old man.

The man raised his voice.

"Prepare yourself."

"For what?"

"To die."

"Why?" inquired the old man.

A silence followed. For a moment the question seemed to abash the man.
He continued,--

"I tell you that I mean to kill you."

"And I ask of you the reason."

The sailor's eyes flashed.

"Because you killed my brother."

The old man answered quietly,--

"I saved his life at first."

"True. You saved him first, but you killed him afterwards."

"It was not I who killed him."

"Who was it, then?"

"His own fault."

The sailor gazed on the old man open-mouthed; then once more his brows
contracted savagely.

"What is your name?" asked the old man.

"My name is Halmalo, but I can kill you all the same, whether you know
my name or not."

Just then the sun rose; a ray struck the sailor full in the face,
vividly illumining that wild countenance.

The old man studied it closely. The cannonading, though not yet ended,
was no longer continuous. A dense smoke had settled upon the horizon.
The boat, left to itself, was drifting to leeward.

With his right hand the sailor seized one of the pistols at his belt,
while in his left he held his rosary.

The old man rose to his feet.

"Do you believe in God?" he asked.

"'Our Father who art in heaven.'" replied the sailor.

Then he made the sign of the cross.

"Have you a mother?"

He crossed himself again, saying,--

"I have said all I have to say. I give you one minute longer, my lord."

And he cocked the pistol.

"Why do you call me 'My lord'?"

"Because you are one. That is evident enough."

"Have you a lord yourself?"

"Yes, and a grand one too. Is one likely to be without a lord?"

"Where is he?"

"I do not know. He has left the country. His name is Marquis de
Lantenac, Viscount de Fontenay, Prince in Brittany; he is lord of the
Sept-Forêts. I never saw him, but he is my master all the same."

"If you were to see him, would you obey him?"

"Of course I should be a heathen were I not to obey him! We owe
obedience to God, and after that to the king, who is like unto God, and
then to the lord, who is like the king. But that has nothing to do with
the question; you have killed my brother, and I must kill you."

The old man replied,--

"Let us say, then, that I did kill your brother; I did well."

The sailor had closed more firmly upon his pistol.

"Come!" he said.

"So be it," said the old man.

And he added composedly,--

"Where is the priest?"

The sailor looked at him.

"The priest?"

"Yes. I gave your brother a priest; therefore it is your duty to
provide one for me."

"But I have none," replied the sailor.

And he continued,--

"How do you expect to find a priest here on the open sea?"

The convulsive explosions of the battle sounded more and more distant.

"Those who are dying yonder have their priest," said the old man.

"I know it," muttered the sailor; "they have the chaplain."

The old man went on,--

"If you make me lose my soul, it will be a serious matter."

The sailor thoughtfully bent his head.

"And if my soul is lost," continued the old man, "yours will be lost
also. Listen to me; I feel pity for you. You shall do as you like. For
my part, I only fulfilled my duty when I first saved your brother's
life and afterwards took it from him; and at the present moment I am
doing my duty in trying to save your soul. Reflect; for it is a matter
that concerns you. Do you hear the cannon-shots? Men are dying over
yonder; desperate men, in their last agony, husbands who will never
see their wives, fathers who will never see their children, brothers
who, like yourself, will never see their brothers. And who is to blame
for it? Your own brother. You believe in God, do you not? If so, you
know that God is suffering now. He is suffering in the person of his
son, the most Christian king of France, who is a child like the child
Jesus, and who is now imprisoned in the Temple; God is suffering in
his Church of Brittany, in his desecrated cathedrals, in his Gospels
torn to fragments, in his violated houses of prayer, in his murdered
priests. What were we about to do with that ship which is perishing
at this moment? We were going to the relief of the Lord. If your
brother had been a trustworthy servant, if he had performed his duties
faithfully, like a good and useful man, no misfortune would have
happened to the carronade, the corvette would not have been disabled,
she would not have got out of her course and fallen into the hands of
that cursed fleet, and we should all now be landing in France, brave
sailors and soldiers as we were, sword in hand, with our white banner
unfurled, a multitude of contented, happy men, advancing to the rescue
of the brave Vendean peasants, on our way to save France, the king, and
Almighty God. That is what we were intending to do, what we should have
done, and what I, the only one remaining, still propose to do. But you
intend to prevent me. In this struggle of impious men against priests,
in this conflict of regicides against the king, of Satan against God,
you range yourself in the ranks of Satan. Your brother was the Devil's
first assistant, you are his second. What he began you mean to finish.
You are for the regicides against the throne; you take sides with the
impious against the Church. You take away the Lord's last resource.
For, as I shall not be there,--I, who represent the king,--villages
will continue to burn, families to mourn, priests to bleed, Brittany
to suffer, the king to remain imprisoned, and Jesus Christ to grieve
over his people. And who will have caused all this? You. Well, you are
carrying out your own plans. I expected far different things from you,
but I was mistaken. It is true that I killed your brother. He played
a brave part, for that I rewarded him; he was guilty, therefore I
punished him. He failed in his duty; I have not failed in mine. What I
did I would do again; and I swear by the great Saint Anne of Auray, who
looks down on us, that under like circumstances I would shoot my own
son just as I shot your brother. Now you are the master. Indeed, I pity
you. You have broken your word to the captain,--you, Christian without
faith; you, Breton without honor. I was intrusted to your loyalty, and
you accepted the trust meaning to betray it; you offer my death to
those to whom you have promised my life. Do you realize whom you are
destroying here? It is your own self. You rob the king of my life, and
you consign yourself forever to the Devil. Go on, commit your crime.
You set a low value on your share in Paradise. Thanks to you, the Devil
will conquer; thanks to you, the churches will fall; thanks to you, the
heathen will go on turning bells into cannon,--men will be shot with
the very instrument that once brought to mind the salvation of their
souls. Perhaps at this moment, while I still speak to you, the same
bell that pealed for your baptism is killing your mother. Go on with
the Devil's work. Do not pause. Yes, I have condemned your brother; but
learn this,--I am but a tool in the hands of God. Ah I you pretend to
judge God's ways? You will next sit in judgment on the thunderbolt in
the heavens. Wretched man, you will be judged by it. Beware what you
do. Do you even know whether I am in a state of grace? No. Never mind,
go on; do your will. You have the power to hurl me to perdition, and
yourself likewise. Your own damnation, as well as mine, rests in your
hands. You will be answerable before God. We are alone, face to face
with the abyss; complete your work, make an end of it. I am old, and
you are young; I have no weapons, you are armed: kill me."

While the old man, standing erect, was uttering these words in a voice
that rang above the tumult of the sea, the undulations of the waves
showed him now in shadow, now in light. The sailor had turned ghostly
pale; large drops of moisture fell from his brow; he trembled like a
leaf; now and then he kissed his rosary. When the old man finished, he
threw away his pistol and fell on his knees.

"Pardon, my lord! forgive me!" he cried. "You speak like our Lord
himself. I have been wrong. My brother was guilty. I will do all I can
to make amends for his crime. Dispose of me; command me: I will obey."

"I forgive you," said the old man.



II.


A PEASANT'S MEMORY IS WORTH AS MUCH AS THE CAPTAIN'S SCIENCE.


The provisions with which the boat had been stocked were far from
superfluous; for the two fugitives were forced to make long détours,
and were thirty-six hours in reaching the coast. They passed the night
at sea; but the night was fine, with more moonlight than is pleasing to
people who wish to escape observation.

At first they were obliged to keep away from the French coast, and gain
the open sea in the direction of Jersey. They heard the final volley
from the unfortunate corvette, and it sounded like the roar of a lion
whom the hunters are killing in the forest. Then a silence fell upon
the sea.

The corvette "Claymore" perished like the "Vengeur;" but glory has kept
no record of its deeds. One can win no laurels who fights against his
native land.

Halmalo was a remarkable sailor. He performed miracles of skill and
sagacity. The route that he improvised amid the reefs, the waves, and
the vigilance of the enemy was a masterpiece. The wind had abated, and
the struggle with the sea was over. Halmalo had avoided the Caux des
Minquiers, and having rounded the Chaussée aux Boeufs, took refuge
there, so as to get a few hours of rest in the little creek formed
by the sea at low tide; then rowing southward, he continued to pass
between Granville and the Chausey Islands without being noticed by
the lookout either of Chausey or Granville. He entered the Bay of
Saint-Michel,--a daring feat, considering that the cruising squadron
was anchored at Cancale.

On the evening of the second day, about an hour before sunset, he
passed the hill of Saint-Michel, and landed on a shore that is always
avoided on account of the danger from its shifting sand.

[Illustration 023]

Fortunately the tide was high.

Halmalo pushed the boat as far as he could, tried the sand, and,
finding it firm, grounded the boat and jumped ashore, the old man
following, with eyes turned anxiously towards the horizon.

"My lord," said Halmalo, "this is the mouth of the Couesnon. We have
Beauvoir to starboard, and Huisnes to port. The belfry before us is
Ardevon."

The old man bent over the boat, took from it a biscuit, which he put in
his pocket, and said to Halmalo,--

"You may take the rest."

Halmalo put what remained of meat and biscuit in the bag, and hoisted
it on his shoulder. Having done this, he said,--

"My lord, am I to lead the way, or to follow you?"

"You will do neither."

Halmalo looked at the old man in amazement.

The latter went on,--

"We are about to separate, Halmalo. Two men are of no use whatever.
Unless they are a thousand, it is better for one man to be alone."

He stopped and pulled out of his pocket a knot of green silk resembling
a cockade; with a fleur-de-lis embroidered in gold in the centre.

"Can you read?" he asked.

"No."

"That is fortunate. A man who knows how to read is embarrassing. Have
you a good memory?"

"Yes."

"Very well. Listen, Halmalo. You will follow the road on the right, and
I the one on the left. You are to turn in the direction of Bazouges,
and I shall go towards Fougères. Keep your bag, because it makes you
look like a peasant; hide your weapons; cut yourself a stick from the
hedge; creep through the tall rye; glide behind the hedges; climb over
fences and cross the fields: you will thus avoid the passers-by, as
well as roads and bridges. Do not enter Pontorson. Ah! you will have to
cross the Couesnon. How will you manage that?"

"I shall swim across."

"Excellent. Then you will come to a ford. Do you know where it is?"

"Between Nancy and Vieux-Viel."

"Correct. You are evidently familiar with the country."

"But night is coming on. Where will my lord sleep?"

"I can take care of myself. And where will you sleep?"

"There are plenty of _émousses._ I was a peasant before I was a sailor."

"Throw away your sailor hat; it would betray you. You can surely find
some worsted head-covering."

"Oh, a cap is easily found. The first fisherman I meet will sell me
his."

"Very well. Now listen. You are familiar with the woods?"

"All of them."

"Throughout this entire neighborhood?"

"From Noirmoutier to Laval."

"Do you know their names too?"

"I know the woods and their names; I know all about them."

"You will forget nothing?"

"Nothing."

"Good. Now mind. How many leagues can you walk in a day?"

"Ten, fifteen, eighteen, twenty, if need be."

"It will have to be done. Do not miss a word of what I am about to tell
you. You will go to the woods of Saint-Aubin."

"Near Lamballe?"

"Yes. On the edge of a ravine between Saint-Rieul and Plédéliac there
is a large chestnut-tree. You will stop there. No one will be in sight."

"But a man will be there nevertheless. On that I can depend."

"You will give the call. Do you know it?"

Halmalo puffed out his cheeks, turned towards the sea, and there rang
the "to-whit-to-hoo" of the owl.

One would have supposed it came from the depths of a forest, so
owl-like and sinister was the sound.

"Good!" said the old man. "You have it."

He extended to Halmalo the green silk knot.

"This is my commander's badge. Take it. No one must know my name at
present; but this knot is sufficient. The fleur-de-lis was embroidered
by Madame Royale in the Temple prison."

Halmalo knelt. Trembling with awe he received the knot embroidered with
the fleur-de-lis, and in the act of raising it to his lips, he paused
as if in fear.

"May I?" he asked.

"Yes, since you kiss the crucifix."

Halmalo kissed the fleur-de-lis.

"Rise," said the old man.

Halmalo obeyed him, placing the knot in his bosom.

"Listen carefully to what I am about to say. This is the order:
'Revolt! Give no quarter.' On the edge of the forest of Saint-Aubin you
will give the call, repeating it three times. After the third time you
will see a man rise from the ground."

"I know, from a hole under the trees."

"That man will be Planchenault, sometimes called Coeur-de-Roi. To him
you will show this knot. He will know what it means. Then you are
to go by ways that you must discover for yourself to the woods of
Astillé, where you will see a cripple surnamed Mousqueton, a man who
shows mercy to no human being. You are to tell him that I love him,
and that he must stir up the parishes in his neighborhood. Thence you
will go to the wood of Couesbon, which is one mile from Ploërmel.
When you give the owl-cry, a man will come out of a hole; that will
be M. Thuault, seneschal of Ploërmel, who formerly belonged to the
Constitutional Assembly, but on the royalist side. You will direct
him to fortify the castle of Couesbon, that belongs to the Marquis de
Guer, a refugee. Ravines, woods of moderate extent, uneven soil, a good
spot. M. Thuault is an able and upright man. From there you will go to
Saint-Guen-les-Toits, and speak to Jean Chouan, whom I look upon as the
actual leader, and then to the woods of Ville-Anglose, where you will
see Guitter, called Saint-Martin; you will tell him to keep his eye on
a certain Courmesnil, son-in-law of the old Goupil de Préfeln, and who
is the head of the Jacobins of Argentan. Remember all this. I write
nothing, because writing must be avoided. La Rouarie made out a list,
which ruined everything. Thence you will go to the wood of Rougefeu,
where Miélette lives, he who leaps across ravines by the help of a long
pole."

"They call it a leaping-pole."

"Do you know how to use it?"

"Am I not a Breton peasant? The leaping-pole is our friend. It makes
our arms bigger, our legs longer."

"That is to say, it reduces the enemy and shortens the way. An
excellent machine."

[Illustration 024]

"Once, with my leaping-pole, I stood my ground against three salt-tax
men armed with sabres."

"When was that?"

"Ten years ago."

"Under the king?"

"Certainly."

"Against whom?"

"I really do not know. I was a salt-smuggler."

"Very good."

"It was called fighting against the collectors of the salt-tax. Is the
tax on salt the same thing as the king?"

"Yes, and no. But it is not necessary for you to understand this."

"I ask monseigneur's pardon for having put a question to monseigneur."

"Let us go on. Do you know the Tourgue?"

"Do I know it! I came from there."

"How is that?"

"Why, because I come from Parigné."

"To be sure, the Tourgue borders on Parigné."

"Do I know the Tourgue! The great round castle belongs to the family
of my lords. A large iron door separates the old building from the new
part, which a cannon could not destroy. In the new building they keep
the famous book on Saint-Barthélémy, which people come to see as a
curiosity. The grass is full of frogs. When I was a boy I used to play
with those frogs. And the underground passage, too. Perhaps I am the
only one left who knows about that."

"What underground passage? I don't know what you are talking about."

"That was in old times, when the Tourgue was besieged. The people
inside could escape through an underground passage which opened into
the woods."

"I know there are subterranean passages of that kind in the châteaux of
Jupellière and Hunaudaye, and in the tower of Champéon; but there is
nothing like it in the Tourgue."

"But indeed there is, monseigneur. I do not know the passages of which
monseigneur speaks; I only know the one in the Tourgue because I belong
in the neighborhood; and besides, I am the only one who does know of
it. It was never spoken of. It was forbidden, because this passage had
been used in the wars of M. de Rohan. My father knew the secret and
showed it to me. I know both the secret entrance and the outlet. If I
am in the forest I can go into the tower; and if I am in the tower I
can go into the forest without being seen, so that when the enemies
enter there is no one to be found. That is the passage of the Tourgue.
Oh, I know it well."

The old man remained silent for a moment.

"You must be mistaken. If there had been any such secret I should have
known it."

"Monseigneur, I am sure of it. There is a stone that turns."

"Oh, yes! You peasants believe in turning-stones, in singing-stones,
and in stones that go by night down to a neighboring brook to drink. A
pack of idle tales!"

"But when I turned the stone myself--"

"Yes, just as others have heard it sing. My friend, the Tourgue is
a Bastille, safe and strong, and easily defended; but he would be a
simpleton indeed who depended for escape on a subterranean passage."

"But, monseigneur--"

The old man shrugged his shoulders,--

"Let us waste no more time, but speak of business."

This peremptory tone checked Halmalo's persistence.

The old man resumed:--

"Let us go on. Listen. From Rougefeu you are to go into the wood of
Montchevrier, where you will find Bénédicité, the leader of the Twelve.
He is another good man. He recites his _Bénédicite_ while he has people
shot. There is no room for sensibility in warfare. From Montchevrier
you will go--"

He broke off.

"I had forgotten about the money."

He took from his pocket a purse and a pocket-book, which he put into
Halmalo's hands.

"In this pocket-book you will find thirty thousand francs in paper
money, which is worth about three livres and ten sous. The assignats
are false, to be sure, but the real ones are no more valuable; and in
this purse, mind, you will find one hundred louis d'ors. I give you all
I have, because I have no need of anything here, and it is better that
no money should be found on me. Now I will go on. From Montchevrier you
are to go to Antrain, where you will meet M. de Frotté; from Antrain
to Jupellière, where you Will see M. de Rochecotte; from Jupellière to
Noirieux, where you will find the Abbé Baudoin. Will you remember all
this?"

"As I do my Pater Noster."

"You will see M. Dubois-Guy at Saint-Brice-en-Cogle, M. de Turpin
at Morannes, which is a fortified town, and the Prince de Talmont at
Château-Gonthier."

"Will a prince speak to me?"

"Am I not speaking to you?"

Halmalo took off his hat.

"You need but to show Madam's fleur-de-lis, and your welcome is
assured. Remember that you will have to go to places where there are
mountaineers and _patauds._[1] You will disguise yourself. That is
an easy matter, since the republicans are so stupid that with a blue
coat, a three-cornered hat, and a cockade, you may go anywhere. The
day of regiments and uniforms has gone by; the regiments are not even
numbered, and every man is at liberty to wear any rag he fancies. You
will go to Saint-Mhervé. You will see Gaulier, called Grand-Pierre.
You will go to the cantonment of Parné, where all the men have swarthy
faces. They put gravel in their muskets and use a double charge of
powder to make more noise. They do well; but be sure and tell them
to kill, kill, and kill. You will go to the camp of the Vache-Noire,
which is an elevation in the midst of the forest of La Charnie, from
Vache-Noire to the camp of l'Avoine, then to the camp Vert, and
afterwards to the camp of the Fourmis. You will go to Grand-Bordage,
also called Haut-du-Pré, where lives the widow whose daughter married
Treton the Englishman; that is in the parish of Quelaines. You will
visit Épineux-le-Chevreuil, Sillé-le-Guillaume, Guillaume, Parannes,
and all the men in hiding throughout the woods. You will make friends
and you will send them to the borders of upper and lower Maine; you
will see Jean Treton in the parish of Vaisges, Sans-Regret in Bignon,
Chambord in Bonchamps, the Corbin brothers at Maisoncelles, and
Petit-Sans-Peur at Saint-Jean-sur-Evre. He is the one who is called
Bourdoiseau. Having done this, and uttered the watchwords, 'Revolt!'
'No quarter!' in all these places, you will join the royal and catholic
grand army, wherever it may be. You will see d'Elbée, de Lescure, de
la Rochejaquelein, and such leaders as may still be living. You will
show them my commander's knot. They know what it means. You are only a
sailor, but Cathelineau is nothing but a teamster. You will give them
this message from me: It is time to join the two wars, the great and
the small. The great one makes more noise, but the small one does the
work. The Vendée does fairly well, but Chouannerie goes farther, and in
civil war cruelty is a powerful agent. The success of a war depends on
the amount of evil that it causes."

He broke off.

"Halmalo, I tell you all this, not that you can understand the words,
but because your perceptions are keen, and you will comprehend the
matters themselves. I have trusted you since I saw you managing that
boat. Without knowing anything of geometry you execute wonderful sea
manoeuvres. He who can pilot a boat can guide an insurrection. Judging
from the way in which you managed our affair at sea, I feel sure that
you will execute my instructions equally well. But to resume: So you
will repeat to the chiefs all that I have told you, or words to the
same effect, as near as you can remember; I am confident that you
will convey to them my meaning. I prefer the warfare of the forest to
that of the open field. I have no intention of exposing one hundred
thousand peasants to the grape-shot of the soldiers in blue and the
artillery of M. Carnot. In a month's time I expect to have five hundred
sharp-shooters hidden in the woods. The republican army is my game.
Poaching is one method of warfare. The strategy of the thickets for me!
Ah, that is probably another word which you will not understand; but
never mind,--you know what I mean when I say, No quarter! and ambushes
on every side! Give me more Chouannerie rather than the regular Vendean
warfare. You will add that the English are on our side. Let us catch
the republic between two fires. Europe helps us: let us put down
revolution. Kings are waging a war of kingdoms: we will wage a war of
parishes. You will say all this. Do you understand me?"

"Yes: put all to fire and sword."

"That is it,"

"No quarter."

"None whatever. You understand?"

"I will go everywhere."

"And be always on your guard; for in these parts it is an easy matter
to lose one's life."

"Death I have no fear of. He who takes his first step may be wearing
his last shoes."

"You are a brave fellow."

"And if I am asked monseigneur's name?"

"It is not to be made known yet. You are to say that you do not know
it, and you will say the truth."

"Where shall I see monseigneur again?"

"At the place where I am going."

"How shall I know where that is?"

"All the world will know it. Before eight days have gone by you
will hear of me. I shall make examples; I shall avenge the king and
religion; and you will know well enough that it is I of whom they are
speaking."

"I understand."

"Do not forget anything."

"You may rest assured of that."

"Now go, and may God guide you! Go!"

"I will do all you bid me. I will go; I will speak; I will obey; I will
command."

"Good."

"And if I succeed--"

"I will make you a knight of Saint-Louis."

"Like my brother. And if I fail, you will have me shot?"

"Like your brother."

"So be it, monseigneur."

The old man bent his head, and seemed to fall into a gloomy reverie.
When he raised his eyes he was alone. Halmalo was only a black speck
vanishing on the horizon.

The sun had just set; the sea-mews and hooded gulls were flying
homeward from the ocean, and the atmosphere was charged with that
well-known restlessness that precedes the night; the tree-frogs
croaked, the kingfishers flew whistling from the pools, the gulls and
rooks kept up their usual evening clamor, and the shore-birds called
to each other, but not a human sound was to be heard. It was absolute
solitude,--not a sail on the bay, not a peasant in the fields; only a
bleak expanse as far as the eye could reach. The tall sand-thistles
quivered; the pale twilight sky shed a livid light over all the shore;
and the ponds far away on the dark plain looked like sheets of pewter
laid flat upon the ground. A sea-wind was blowing.

[Illustration 025]

[Footnote 1: A name given by the Chouans to the republicans, a
corruption of patriot.--TR.]

[Illustration: Tellmarch 026]



BOOK IV.


TELLMARCH.



I.


ON THE TOP OF THE DUNE.


[Illustration 027]


The old man waited until Halmalo was out of sight; then drawing his
sea-cloak more closely around him, he started walking slowly, wrapt in
thought. He took the direction of Huisnes; Halmalo had gone towards
Beauvoir.

Behind him rose the enormous triangle of Mont Saint-Michel, with its
cathedral tiara and its cuirass-like fortress, whose two great eastern
towers--the one round, the other square--help the mountain to bear
up under the burden of the church and the village. As the pyramid of
Cheops is a landmark in the desert, so is Mont-Saint Michel a beacon to
the sea.

The quicksands in the bay of Mont Saint-Michel act imperceptibly
upon the dunes. At that time between Huisnes and Ardevon there was a
very high one, which is no longer in existence. This dune, levelled
by an equinoctial gale, was unusually old, and on its summit stood a
milestone, erected in the twelfth century in memory of the council held
at Avranches against the assassins of Saint Thomas of Canterbury. From
its top one could see all the surrounding country, and ascertain the
points of the compass.

The old man directed his steps to this dune, and ascended it.

When he reached the summit, he seated himself on one of the four
projecting stones, and leaning back against the monument, began to
examine the land that lay spread out like a geographical map at his
feet. He seemed to be looking for a route in a country that had
once been familiar to him. In this broad landscape, obscured by the
twilight, nothing was distinctly visible but the dark line of the
horizon against the pale sky.

One could see the clustered roofs of eleven hamlets and villages; and
all the belfries of the coast were visible several miles away, standing
high that they might serve as beacons to the sailors in time of need.

Some minutes later the old man seemed to have found what he was looking
for in this dim light; his eye rested on an enclosure of trees, walls,
and roofs, partially visible between the valley and the wood: it was a
farm. He nodded his head with an expression of satisfaction, like one
who says to himself, "There it is!" and began to trace with his finger
the outlines of a route across the hedges and the fields. From time to
time he gazed intently at a shapeless and somewhat indistinct object
that was moving above the principal roof of the farm, and seemed to ask
himself what it could be. It was colorless and dim, in consequence of
the time of day. It was not a weather-vane, because it was floating;
and there seemed to be no reason why it should be a flag.

He felt weary; and grateful to rest on the stone where he was sitting,
he yielded to that vague sense of oblivion which the first moment of
repose brings to weary men. There is one hour of the day which may
be called noiseless,--the peaceful hour of early evening; that hour
had come, and he was enjoying it. He gazed, he listened. To what?
To perfect tranquillity. Even savage natures have their moments of
melancholy. Suddenly this tranquillity was--not exactly disturbed, but
sharply defined by the voices of those who were passing below. They
were the voices of women and children. It was like a joyous chime of
bells heard unexpectedly in the darkness. The group from which the
voices came could not be distinguished, on account of the underbrush;
but it was evident that the persons were walking along the foot of the
dune, in the direction of the plain and the forest. As those clear,
fresh voices reached the old man where he sat absorbed in thought, they
were so near that he lost not a word.

A woman's voice said,--

"Let us hurry, Flécharde. Is this the way?"

"No; it is over yonder."

And the dialogue went on between the two voices, the one high and
shrill, the other low and timid.

"What is the name of this farm where we are living now?"

"Herbe-en-Pail."

"Are we still far from it?"

"Fully a quarter of an hour."

"Let us make haste and get there in time for the soup."

"Yes, I know we are late."

"We ought to run; but your mites are tired. We are only two women, and
cannot carry three brats. And then, you, Flécharde, you are carrying
one as it is,--a perfect lump of lead. You have weaned that little
gormandizer, and you still carry it. That is a bad habit; you had
better make it walk. Well, the soup will be cold,--worse luck!"

"Ah, what good shoes you gave me! They fit as though they were made for
me."

"It's better than going barefooted."

"Do hurry, René-Jean."

"He is the one who makes us late; he has had to stop and speak to all
the little village girls that we meet He behaves like a man already."

"Of course he does; he is going on five years old."

"Tell us, René-Jean, why did you speak to that little girl in the
village?"

A child's voice, that of a boy, replied,--

"Because I know her."

"How is that? You know her?" said the woman.

"Yes," answered the boy; "because we played games this morning."

[Illustration 028]

"Well, I must say!" exclaimed the woman. "We have been here only three
days; a boy no bigger than your fist, and he has found a sweetheart
already!"

And the voices grew fainter in the distance, and every sound died away.



II.


AURES HABET, ET NON AUDIET.


The old man sat motionless. He was not consciously thinking, nor yet
was he dreaming. Around him was peace, repose, assurance of safety,
solitude. Although night had shut down upon the woods, and in the
valley below it was nearly dark, broad daylight still rested on the
dune. The moon was rising in the east, and several stars pricked the
pale blue of the zenith. This man, although intensely absorbed in his
own interests, surrendered himself to the unutterable peacefulness of
nature. He felt the vague dawn of hope rising in his breast,--if the
word "hope" may fitly be applied to projects of civil warfare. For the
moment it seemed to him that in escaping from the inexorable sea he had
left all danger behind him. No one knew his name; he was alone,--lost,
as far as concerned the enemy; he had left no traces behind him, for
the surface of the sea preserves no trace; all is hidden, ignored, and
never even suspected. He felt unspeakably calm. A little more, and he
would have fallen asleep.

It was the deep silence pervading both heaven and earth that lent to
the hour a subtle charm to soothe the imagination of this man, stirred
as he was by inward and outward agitations.

There was nothing to be heard but the wind blowing in from the sea, a
prolonged monotonous bass, to which the ear becomes so used that it
almost ceases to be noticed as a sound.

All at once he rose to his feet

His attention was suddenly awakened. An object on the horizon seemed to
arrest his glance.

He was gazing at the belfry of Cormeray, at the farther end of the
valley. Something unusual was going on in this belfry.

Its dark silhouette was clearly defined against the sky; the tower
surmounted by the spire could be seen distinctly, and between the tower
and the spire was the square cage for the bell, without a penthouse,
and open on the four sides, after the fashion of Breton belfries. Now
this cage seemed to open and shut by turns, and at regular intervals;
its lofty aperture looked now perfectly white, and the next moment
black, the sky constantly appearing and vanishing, eclipse following
the light, as the opening and shutting succeeded each other with the
regularity of a hammer striking an anvil.

This belfry of Cormeray lay before him at a distance of some two
leagues. He looked towards the right in the direction of the belfry
of Baguer-Pican, which also rose straight against the horizon, and
the cage of that belfry was opening and closing like the belfry of
Cormeray. He looked towards the left at the belfry of Tanis; the cage
of Tanis opened and closed like that of Baguer-Pican. He examined
all the belfries on the horizon, one after another,--the belfries of
Courtils, of Précey, of Crollon, and of Croix-Avranchin on his right
hand, those of Raz-sur-Couesnon, of Mordray, and of the Pas on his
left, and before him the belfry of Pontorson. Every belfry cage was
changing alternately from white to black.

What could it mean?

It meant that all the bells were ringing, and they must be ringing
violently to cause the light to change so rapidly.

What was it, then? The tocsin, beyond a doubt. They were ringing, and
frantically too, from all the belfries, in every parish, and in every
village, and yet not a sound could be heard.

This was owing to the distance, combined with the sea-wind, which,
blowing from the opposite direction, carried all sounds from the shore
away beyond the horizon.

All these frantic bells ringing on every side, and at the same time
this silence; what could be more appalling?

The old man looked and listened.

He could not hear the tocsin, but he could see it. Seeing the tocsin is
rather a strange sensation.

Against whom was this fury directed?

Against whom was the tocsin ringing?



III.


THE USEFULNESS OF BIG LETTERS.


Some one was surely caught in a trap.

Who could it be?

A shudder shook this man of steel.

It could not be he. His arrival could not have been discovered. It was
impossible for the representatives to have learned it already, for he
had but just stepped on shore. The corvette had surely foundered with
all on board; and even on the corvette Boisberthelot and La Vieuville
were the only men who knew his name.

The bells kept up their savage sport. He counted them mechanically,
and in the abrupt transition from the assurance of perfect safety to
a terrible sense of danger, his thoughts wandered restlessly from
one conjecture to another. However, after all, this ringing might be
accounted for in many different ways, and he finally reassured himself
by repeating, "In short, no one knows of my arrival here, or even my
name."

For several minutes there had been a slight noise overhead and behind
him,--a sound resembling the rustling of a leaf; at first he took no
notice of it, but as it continued, persisted, one might almost say, he
finally turned. It was really a leaf,--a leaf of paper. The wind was
struggling to tear off a large placard that was pasted on the milestone
above his head. The placard had but just been pasted; for it was still
moist, and had become a prey to the wind, which in its sport had partly
detached it.

The old man had not perceived it, because he had ascended the dune on
the opposite side.

He stepped up on the stone where he had been sitting, and placed his
hand on the corner of the placard that fluttered in the wind. The sky
was clear; in June the twilight lasts a long time, and although it was
dark at the foot of the dune, the summit was still light. A part of the
notice was printed in large letters; it was yet sufficiently light to
read it, and this was what he read:--

      THE FRENCH REPUBLIC, ONE AND INDIVISIBLE.

      We, Prieur of the Marne, representative of the people,
      in command of the army on the coast of Cherbourg, give
      notice, That the ci-devant Marquis of Lantenac, Viscount
      of Fontenay, calling himself a Breton prince, and who has
      secretly landed on the coast of Granville, is outlawed.
      A price has been set upon his head. Whoever captures him
      dead or alive will receive sixty thousand livres. This sum
      will be paid in gold, and not in paper money. A battalion
      of the army of the coast guards of Cherbourg will be at
      once despatched for the apprehension of the former Marquis
      of Lantenac. The inhabitants of the parishes are ordered
      to lend their aid.

      Given at the Town Hall of Granville the second of June,
      1793.

      Signed: PRIEUR, DE LA MARNE.

Below this name there was another signature written in smaller
characters, which the fading light prevented him from deciphering.
Pulling his hat down over his eyes, and muffling himself in his
sea-cape up to his chin, the old man hastily descended the dune.
Evidently it was not safe to tarry any longer on this lighted summit.

Perhaps he had stayed there too long already. The top of the dune was
the only point of the landscape that still remained visible.

When he had descended and found himself in the darkness he slackened
his pace.

He took the road leading to the farm which he had traced out, evidently
believing himself safe in that direction. It was absolute solitude.
There were no passers-by at this hour.

Stopping behind a clump of bushes, he unfastened his cloak, turned his
waistcoat with the hairy side out, refastened his cloak, that was but a
rag held by a string around his neck, and resumed his journey.

It was bright moonlight.

He came to a place where two roads forked, and on the pedestal
of the old stone cross which stood there a white square could be
distinguished,--undoubtedly another placard like the one he had lately
read. As he drew near to it he heard a voice.

[Illustration 029]

"Where are you going?" it said; and turning he beheld a man in the
hedge-row, tall like himself, and of about the same age, with hair as
white and garments even more ragged than his own,--almost his very
double.

The man stood leaning on a long staff.

"I asked you where you were going? he repeated.

"In the first place, tell me where I am," was the reply, uttered in
tones of almost haughty composure.

And the man answered,--

"You are in the seigneury of Tanis, of which I am the beggar and you
the lord."

"I?"

"Yes, you,--monsieur le marquis de Lantenac."


IV.

THE CAIMAND.

The Marquis de Lantenac (henceforth we shall call him by his name)
replied gravely,--

"Very well. Then deliver me up."

The man continued,--

"We are both at home here,--you in the castle, I in the bushes."

"Let us put an end to this. Do what you have to do. Deliver me to the
authorities," said the Marquis.

The man went on,--

"You were going to the farm Herbe-en-Pail, were you not?"

"Yes."

"Don't go there."

"Why not?"

"Because the Blues are there."

"How long have they been there?"

"These three days past."

"Did the inhabitants of the farm and village resist?"

"No; they opened all the doors."

"Ah!" said the Marquis.

The man indicated with his finger the roof of the farm, which was
visible in the distance above the trees.

"Do you see that roof, Marquis?"

"Yes."

"Do you see what there is above it?"

"Something waving?"

"Yes."

"It is a flag."

"The tricolor," said the man.

It was the object that had attracted the attention of the Marquis when
he stood on the top of the dune.

"Isn't the tocsin ringing?" inquired the Marquis.

"Yes."

"On what account?"

"Evidently on yours."

"But one cannot hear it?"

"The wind prevents it from being heard."

The man continued,--

"Did you see that notice about yourself?"

"Yes."

"They are searching for you."

Then glancing towards the farm, he added,--

"They have a demi-battalion over there."

"Of republicans?"

"Of Parisians."

"Well," said the Marquis, "let us go on."

And he made a step in the direction of the farm. The man seized him by
the arm.

"Don't go there!"

"Where would you have me go?"

"With me."

The Marquis looked at the beggar.

"Listen to me, Marquis: My home is not a fine one, but it is safe,--a
hut lower than a cellar, seaweed for a floor, and for a ceiling a roof
of branches and of grass. Come. They would shoot you at the farm,
and at my house you will have a chance to sleep; you must be weary.
To-morrow the Blues start out again, and you can go where you choose."

The Marquis studied the man.

"On which side are you, then?" asked the Marquis. "Are you a royalist,
or a republican?"

"I am a beggar."

"Neither royalist nor republican?"

"I believe not."

"Are you for or against the king?"

"I have no time for that sort of thing."

"What do you think of what is transpiring?"

"I think that I have not enough to live on."

"Yet you come to my aid."

"I knew that you were outlawed. What is this law, then, that one can be
outside of it? I do not understand. Am I inside the law, or outside of
it? I have no idea. Does dying of hunger mean being inside the law?"

"How long have you been dying of hunger?"

"All my life."

"And you propose to save me?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Because I said to myself, 'There is a man who is poorer than I, for he
has not even the right to breathe.'"

"True. And so you mean to save me?"

"Certainly. Now we are brothers, my lord,--beggars both; I for bread,
and you for life."

"But do you know there is a price set on my head?"

"Yes."

"How did you know it?"

"I have read the notice."

"Then you can read?"

"Yes, and write also. Did you think I was like the beasts of the field?"

"But since you can read, and have seen the notice, you must know that
he who delivers me up will receive sixty thousand francs."

"I know it."

"Not in assignats."

"Yes, I know,--in gold."

"You realize that sixty thousand francs is a fortune?"

"Yes."

"And that the man who arrests me will make his fortune?"

"Yes; and what then?"

"His fortune!"

"That is exactly what I thought. When I saw you, I said to myself, 'To
think that whoever arrests this man will earn sixty thousand francs,
and make his fortune! Let us make haste to hide him.'"

The Marquis followed the beggar.

They entered a thicket. There was the beggar's den, a sort of chamber
in which a large and ancient oak had allowed the man to take up his
abode; it was hollowed out under its roots, and covered with its
branches,--dark, low, hidden, actually invisible,--and in it there was
room for two.

"I foresaw that I might have a guest," said the beggar.

This kind of subterranean lodging, less rare in Brittany than one
might imagine, is called a _carnichot._ The same name is also given to
hiding-places built in thick walls. The place was furnished with a few
jugs, a bed of straw or sea-weed, washed and dried, a coarse kersey
blanket, and a few tallow dips, together with a flint and steel, and
twigs of furze to be used as matches.

They stooped, crawling for a moment, and penetrated into a chamber
divided by the thick roots of the tree into fantastic compartments, and
seated themselves on the heap of dry sea-weed that served as a bed. The
space between the two roots through which they had entered, and which
served as a door, admitted a certain amount of light. Night had fallen;
but the human eye adapts itself to the change of light, and even in
the darkness it sometimes seems as if the daylight lingered still. The
reflection of a moonbeam illumined the entrance. In the corner was a
jug of water, a loaf of buckwheat bread, and some chestnuts.

"Let us sup," said the beggar.

They divided the chestnuts; the Marquis gave his bit of hard-tack; they
ate of the same black loaf, and drank in turn out of the same jug of
water, meanwhile conversing.

[Illustration 030]

The Marquis questioned the man.

"So it is all one to you, whatever happens?"

"Pretty much. It is for you who are lords to look out for that sort of
business."

"But then, what is going on now, for instance--"

"It is all going on over my head."

The beggar added,--

"Besides, there are things happening still higher; the sun rises, the
moon waxes and wanes. That is the kind of thing that interests me."

He took a swallow from the jug and said,--

"Good fresh water!"

Then he continued,--

"How do you like this water, my lord?"

"What is your name?" asked the Marquis.

"My name is Tellmarch, but they call me the Caimand."

"I understand. _Caimand_ is a local word."

"Which means beggar. I am also called Le Vieux."

He went on,--

"I have been called Le Vieux for forty years."

"Forty years! But you must have been young then!"

"I was never young. You are young still, Marquis. You have the legs
of a man of twenty; you can climb the great dune, while I can hardly
walk. A quarter of a mile tires me out. Yet we are of the same age;
but the rich have an advantage over us,--they eat every day. Eating
keeps up one's strength."

After a silence the beggar went on:--

"Wealth and poverty,--there's the mischief; it seems to me that that is
the cause of all these catastrophes. The poor want to be rich, and the
rich do not want to become poor. I think that is at the bottom of it
all, but I do not trouble myself about such matters; let come what may,
I am neither for the creditor nor for the debtor. I know that there is
a debt, and somebody is paying it; that is all. I would rather they had
not killed the king, and yet I hardly know why. And then one says to
me, 'Think how they used to hang people for nothing at all! Think of
it! For a miserable shot fired at one of the king's deer, I once saw a
man hung: he had a wife and seven children.' There is something to be
said on both sides."

He was silent again, then resumed:--

"Of course you understand. I do not pretend to know just how matters
stand; men go to and fro, changes take place, while I live beneath the
stars."

Again Tellmarch became thoughtful, then went on:--

"I know something of bone-setting and medicine. I am familiar with
herbs and the use of plants; the peasants see me preoccupied for no
apparent reason, and so I pass for a wizard. Because I dream, they
think that I am wise."

"Do you belong to the neighborhood?" asked the Marquis.

"I have never left it."

"Do you know me?"

"Certainly. The last time I saw you, you were passing through this part
of the country on your way to England; that was two years ago. Just
now I saw a man on the top of the dune,--a tall man. Tall men are not
common hereabouts; Brittany is a country of short men. I looked more
closely; I had read the notice, and I said to myself, 'See here!' And
when you came down, the moon was up and I recognized you."

"But I do not know you,"

"You have looked at me, but you never saw me." And Tellmarch the
Caimand added,--

"I saw you. The passer-by and the beggar look with different eyes."

"Have I ever met you before?"

"Often, for I am your beggar. I used to beg on the road, below your
castle. Sometimes you gave me alms; he who gives takes no notice, but
he who receives looks anxiously and observes well. A beggar is a born
spy. But though I am often sad, I try not to be a malicious spy. I used
to hold out my hand, and you saw nothing but that, into which you threw
the alms that I needed in the morning to keep me from dying of hunger
at night. Frequently I went twenty-four hours without food. Sometimes a
penny means life itself. I am paying you now for the life I owe you."

"True, you are saving my life."

"Yes, I am saving your life, monseigneur."

The voice of Tellmarch grew solemn:--

"On one condition."

"What is that?"

"That you have not come here to do harm."

"I have come here to do good."

"Let us sleep," said the beggar.

They lay down side by side on the bed of sea-weed. The beggar dropped
to sleep at once. The Marquis, although much fatigued, remained awake
for some time, thinking and watching his companion in the darkness;
finally he lay back. Lying upon the bed was equivalent to lying on the
earth, and he took advantage of this to put his ear to the ground and
listen. He could hear a hollow subterranean rumbling. It is a fact that
sound is transmitted into the bowels of the earth; he could hear the
ringing of the bells.

The tocsin continued.

The Marquis fell asleep.



V.


WHEN HE AWOKE IT WAS DAYLIGHT.


The beggar was standing up,--not in his den, for it was impossible to
stand erect there, but outside on the threshold. He was leaning on his
staff, and the sunshine fell upon his face.

"Monseigneur," said Tellmarch, "it has just struck four from the
belfry of Tanis. I heard it strike,--therefore the wind has changed; it
comes from the land, and as I heard no other sound the tocsin must have
ceased. All is quiet at the farm and in the village of Herbe-en-Pail.
The Blues are either sleeping or gone. The worst of the danger is over;
it will be prudent for us to separate. This is my time for going out."

He indicated a point in the horizon.

"I am going this way;" then pointing in the opposite direction, he
said,--

"You are to go that way."

The beggar gravely waved his hand to the Marquis.

"Take those chestnuts with you, if you are hungry," he added, pointing
to the remains of the supper.

A moment after he had disappeared among the trees.

The Marquis rose and went in the direction indicated by Tellmarch.

It was that charming hour called in the old Norman peasant dialect the
"peep of day." The chirping of the finches and of the hedge-sparrows
was heard. The Marquis followed the path that they had traversed
the day before, and as he emerged from the thicket he found himself
at the fork of the roads marked by the stone cross. The placard was
still there, looking white and almost festive in the rising sun. He
remembered that there was something at the foot of this notice that he
had not been able to read the evening before, on account of the small
characters and the fading light. He went up to the pedestal of the
cross. Below the signature "Prieur, de la Marne," the notice ended
with the following lines in small characters:--

      The identity of the ci-devant Marquis of Lantenac having
      been established, he will be executed without delay.

      Signed: GAUVAIN,

      _Chief of Battalion in Command of Exploring Column._

"Gauvain!" said the Marquis.

He paused, wrapt in deep thought, his eyes fixed on the placard.

"Gauvain!" he repeated.

He started once more, turned, looked at the cross, came back, and read
the placard over again.

Then he slowly walked away. Had any one been near, he might have heard
him mutter to himself in an undertone:--

"Gauvain!"

The roofs of the farm on his left were not visible from the sunken
paths through which he was stealing. He skirted a precipitous hill,
covered with blossoming furze, of the species known as the thorny
furze. This eminence was crowned by one of those points of land called
in this district a _hure_,[1] and at its base the trees cut off the
view at once. The foliage seemed bathed in light. All Nature felt the
deep joy of morning.

Suddenly this landscape became terrible. It was like the explosion of
an ambuscade. An indescribable tornado of wild cries and musket-shots
fell upon these fields and woods all radiant with the morning light,
and from the direction of the farm rose a dense smoke mingled with
bright flames, as though the village and the farm were but a truss
of burning straw. It was not only startling but awful,--this sudden
change from peace to wrath; like an explosion of hell in the very midst
of dawn, a horror without transition. A fight was going on in the
direction of Herbe-en-Pail. The Marquis paused.

No man in a case like this could have helped feeling as he did;
curiosity is more powerful than fear. One must find out what is
going on, even at the risk of life. He climbed the hill at the foot
of which lay the sunken path. From there, although the chances were
that he would be discovered, he could at least see what was taking
place. In a few moments he stood on the _hure_ and looked about him.
In fact, there was both a fusillade and a fire. One could hear the
cries and see the fire. The farm was evidently the centre of some
mysterious catastrophe. What could it be? Was it attacked? And if so,
by whom? Could it be a battle? Was it not more likely to be a military
execution? By the orders of a revolutionary decree the Blues frequently
punished refractory farms and villages by setting them on fire. For
instance, every farm and hamlet which had neglected to fell the trees
as prescribed by law, and had not opened roads in the thickets for the
passage of republican cavalry, was burned. It was not long since the
parish of Bourgon near Ernée had been thus punished. Was Herbe-en-Pail
a case in point? It was evident that none of those strategic openings
ordered by the decree had been cut, either in the thickets or in the
environs of Tanis and Herbe-en-Pail. Was this the punishment thereof?
Had an order been received by the advanced guard occupying the farm?
Did not this advanced guard form a part of one of those exploring
columns called _colonnes infernales_?

The eminence on which the Marquis had stationed himself was surrounded
on all sides by a wild and bristling thicket called the grove of
Herbe-en-Pail; it was about as large as a forest, however, and extended
to the farm, concealing, as all Breton thickets do, a network of
ravines, paths, and sunken roads,--labyrinths wherein the republican
armies frequently went astray.

This execution, if execution it were, must have been a fierce one,
for it had been rapid. Like all brutal deeds, it had been done like a
flash. The atrocity of civil war admits of these savage deeds. While
the Marquis, vainly conjecturing, and hesitating whether to descend or
to remain, listened and watched, this crash of extermination ceased,
or, to speak more accurately, vanished. The Marquis could see the
fierce and jubilant troop as it scattered through the grove. There was
a dreadful rushing to and fro beneath the trees. From the farm they
had entered the woods. Drums beat an attack, but there was no more
firing. It was like a _battue_; they seemed to be following a scent.
They were evidently looking for some one; the noise was wide-spread
and far-reaching. There were confused outcries of wrath and triumph, a
clamor of indistinct sounds. Suddenly, as an outline is revealed in a
cloud of smoke, one sound became clearly defined and audible in this
tumult. It was a name, repeated by thousands of voices, and the Marquis
distinctly heard the cry,--

"Lantenac, Lantenac! The Marquis of Lantenac!" They were looking for
him.



VI.


THE VICISSITUDES OF CIVIL WAR.


Around him suddenly, from all directions, the thicket was filled with
muskets, bayonets, and sabres, a tricolored banner was unfurled in the
dim light, and the cry, "Lantenac!" burst forth on his ears, while at
his feet through the brambles and branches savage faces appeared.

The Marquis was standing alone on the top of the height, visible from
every part of the wood. He could scarcely distinguish those who shouted
his name, but he could be seen by all. Had there been a thousand
muskets in the wood, he offered them a target. He could distinguish
nothing in the coppice, but the fiery eyes of all were directed upon
him.

He took off his hat, turned back the brim, and drawing from his pocket
a white cockade, he pulled out a long dry thorn from a furze-bush, with
which he fastened the cockade to the brim of his hat, then replaced it
on his head, the upturned brim revealing his forehead and the cockade,
and in a loud voice, as though addressing the wide forest, he said:--

"I am the man you seek. I am the Marquis de Lantenac, Viscount de
Fontenay, Breton Prince, Lieutenant-General of the armies of the king.
Make an end of it. Aim! Fire!"

And opening with both hands his goat-skin waistcoat, he bared his
breast.

Lowering his eyes to see the levelled guns, he beheld himself
surrounded by kneeling men.

A great shout went up,--"Long live Lantenac! Long live our lord! Long
live the General!"

At the same time hats were thrown up and sabres whirled joyously, while
from all sides brown woollen caps hoisted on long poles were waving in
the air.

A Vendean band surrounded him.

[Illustration 031]

At the sight of him they fell on their knees.

Legends tell us that the ancient Thuringian forests were inhabited by
strange beings,--a race of giants, at once superior and inferior to
men,--whom the Romans regarded as horrible beasts, and the Germans
as divine incarnations, and who might chance to be exterminated or
worshipped according to the race they encountered.

A sensation similar to that which may have been felt by one of those
beings was experienced by the Marquis when, expecting to be treated
like a monster, he was suddenly worshipped as a deity.

All those flashing eyes were fastened upon him with a kind of savage
love.

The crowd were armed with guns, sabres, scythes, poles, and sticks. All
wore large felt hats or brown caps, with white cockades, a profusion
of rosaries and charms, wide breeches left open at the knee, jackets of
skin, and leather gaiters; the calves of their legs were bare, and they
wore their hair long; some looked fierce, but all had frank and open
countenances.

A young man of noble bearing passed through the crowd of kneeling men
and hastily approached the Marquis. He wore a felt hat with an upturned
brim, a white cockade, and a skin jacket, like the peasants; but his
hands were delicate and his linen was fine, and over his waistcoat was
a white silk scarf, from which hung a sword with a golden hilt.

Having reached the _hure_, he threw aside his hat, unfastened his
scarf, and kneeling, presented to the Marquis both scarf and sword.

"Indeed we were seeking for you," he said, "and we have found you.
Receive the sword of command. These men are yours now. I was their
commander; now am I promoted, since I become your soldier. Accept our
devotion, my lord. General, give me your orders."

At a sign from him, men carrying the tricolored banner came forth from
the woods, and going up to the Marquis, placed it at his feet. It was
the one he had seen through the trees.

"General," said the young man who presented the sword and the scarf,
"this is the flag which we took from the Blues who held the farm
Herbe-en-Pail. My name is Gavard, my lord. I was with the Marquis de la
Rouarie."

"Very well," said the Marquis.

[Illustration 032]

And calm and composed he girded on the scarf.

Then he pulled out his sword, and waving it above his head, he cried,--

"Rise! And long live the king!"

All started to their feet. Then from the depth of the woods arose a
tumultuous and triumphant cry,--

"Long live the king! Long live our Marquis! Long live Lantenac!"

The Marquis turned towards Gavard.

"How many are you?"

"Seven thousand."

While they were descending the hill, the peasants clearing away the
furze-bushes to make a path for the Marquis de Lantenac, Gavard
continued:--

"All this may be explained in a word, my lord: nothing could be more
simple. It needed but a spark. The republican placard in revealing your
presence has roused the country for the king. Besides, we have been
secretly notified by the mayor of Granville, who is one of us,--the
same who saved the Abbé Ollivier. They rang the tocsin last night."

"For whom?"

"For you."

"Ah!" said the Marquis.

"And here we are," continued Gavard.

"And you number seven thousand?"

"To-day. But we shall be fifteen thousand to-morrow. It is the Breton
contingent. When Monsieur Henri de la Rochejaquelein went to join
the catholic army they sounded the tocsin, and in one night six
parishes--Isernay, Corqueux, Échaubroignes, Aubiers, Sainte Aubin, and
Nueil--sent him ten thousand men. They had no munitions of war, but
having found at a quarryman's house sixty pounds of blasting-powder,
Monsieur de la Rochejaquelein took his departure with that. We felt
sure you must be somewhere in these woods, and we were looking for you."

"And you attacked the Blues at the farm Herbe-en-Pail?"

"The wind prevented them from hearing the tocsin, and they mistrusted
nothing; the population of the hamlet, a set of clowns, received them
well. This morning we invested the farm while the Blues were sleeping,
and the thing was over in a trice. I have a horse here; will you deign
to accept it, general?"

"Yes."

A peasant led up a white horse with military housings. The Marquis
mounted him without accepting Gavard's proffered assistance.

"Hurrah!" cried the peasants. The English fashion of cheering is much
in vogue on the Breton coast, for the people have continual dealings
with the Channel islands.

Gavard made the military salute, asking, as he did so, "Where will you
establish your headquarters, my lord?"

"At first, in the forest of Fougères."

"It is one of the seven forests belonging to you."

"We need a priest."

"We have one."

"Who is it?"

"The curate of the Chapelle-Erbrée."

"I know him. He has made the trip to Jersey." A priest stepped out from
the ranks and said,--

"Three times."

The Marquis turned his head.

"Good morning, Monsieur le Curé. There is work in store for you."

"So much the better, Monsieur le Marquis."

"You will have to hear the confessions of such as desire your services.
No one will be forced."

"Marquis," said the priest, "at Guéménée, Gaston compels the
republicans to confess."

"He is a hairdresser. The dying should be allowed free choice in such a
matter."

Gavard, who had gone away to give certain orders, now returned.

"I await your commands, general."

"In the first place, the rendez-vous is in the forest of Fougères.
Direct the men to separate and meet there."

"The order has been given."

"Did you not say that the people of Herbe-en-Pail were friendly to the
Blues?"

"Yes, general."

"Was the farm burned?"

"Yes."

"Did you burn the hamlet?"

"No."

"Burn it."

"The Blues tried to defend themselves. But they numbered one hundred
and fifty, while we were seven thousand."

"What Blues are they?"

"Those of Santerre."

"He who ordered the drums to beat while they were beheading the king?
Then it is a Parisian battalion?"

"A demi-battalion."

"What was it called?"

"Their banner has on it, 'Battalion of the Bonnet-Rouge.'"

"Wild beasts."

"What is to be done with the wounded?"

"Put an end to them."

"What are we to do with the prisoners?"

"Shoot them."

"There are about eighty of them."

"Shoot them all."

"There are two women."

"Treat them all alike."

"And three children."

"Bring them along. We will decide what Is to be done with them."

And the Marquis spurred his horse forward.



VII.


NO MERCY![2]NO QUARTER![3]


While these events were transpiring in the vicinity of Tanis, the
beggar had gone towards Crollon. He plunged into the ravines, under
wide leafy bowers, heedless of all things, noticing nothing; as he
himself had expressed it, dreaming rather than thinking,--for the
thinker has an object, but the dreamer has none; wandering, rambling,
pausing, munching here and there a sprig of wild sorrel, drinking at
the springs, raising his head from time to time as distant sounds
attracted his attention, then yielding again to the irresistible
fascination of nature; presenting his rags to the sunlight, hearing
human sounds, by chance, but listening to the singing of birds.

He was old and slow; as he told the Marquis of Lantenac, he could not
go far; a quarter of a mile fatigued him; he made a short circuit
towards Croix-Avranchin, and it was evening when he returned.

A little beyond Macey, the path he followed led him to a sort of
elevation, destitute of trees, which commanded a wide expanse of
country, including the entire horizon from the west as far as the sea.

A smoke attracted his attention.

There is nothing more delightful than a smoke, and nothing more
alarming. There are smokes signifying peace, and smokes that mean
mischief. In the density and color of a column of smoke lies all
the difference between war and peace, brotherly love and hatred,
hospitality and the grave, life and death. A smoke rising among the
trees may mean the sweetest thing in all the world,--the family hearth,
or the most dreadful of calamities,--a conflagration. And the entire
happiness or misery of a human being is sometimes centred in a vapor,
scattered by the wind. The smoke which Tellmarch saw was of a kind to
excite anxiety.

It was black with sudden flashes of red light, as though the furnace
from whence it sprung burned fitfully and was gradually dying out, and
it rose above Herbe-en-Pail. Tellmarch hurried along, walking towards
the smoke. He was tired, but he wanted to know what it meant.

He reached the top of a hillock, behind which nestled a hamlet and the
farm.

Neither farm nor hamlet was to be seen.

A heap of ruins was still burning, all that remained of Herbe-en-Pail.

It is much more heart-rending to see a cottage burn than a palace. A
cottage in flames is a pitiful sight. Devastation swooping down on
poverty, a vulture pouncing upon an earth-worm,--there is a sense of
repugnance about it that makes one shudder.

If we believe the Biblical legend, the sight of a conflagration once
turned a human being into a statue. For an instant a similar change
came over Tellmarch. The sight before his eyes transfixed him to the
spot. The work of destruction went on in silence. Not a cry was heard;
not a human sigh mingled with the smoke. That furnace pursued its task
of devouring the village with no other sound than the splitting of
timbers and the crackling of thatch. From time to time the clouds of
smoke were rent, the falling roofs revealed the gaping chambers, the
fiery furnace displayed all its rubies, the poor rags turned scarlet,
and the wretched old furniture, tinged with purple, stood out amid
these dull red interiors; Tellmarch was dazed by the terrible calamity.

Several trees of a neighboring chestnut-grove had caught fire and were
in a blaze.

He listened, trying to hear a voice, a call, or some kind of a noise.
Nothing stirred but the flames; all was still save the fire. Had all
the inhabitants fled?

Where was the community that lived and labored at Herbe-en-Pail? What
had become of this little family?

Tellmarch descended the hillock.

A gloomy enigma lay before him. He approached it slowly, gazing at
it steadily. He advanced towards the ruin with the deliberation of a
shadow, feeling like a ghost in this tomb.

Having reached what had formerly been the door of the farm, he looked
into the yard, whose ruined walls no longer separated it from the
surrounding hamlet.

What he had seen before was nothing as compared with what he now
beheld. From afar he had seen the terror of it; now all its horrors lay
before him.

In the middle of the yard was a dark mass, vaguely outlined on one side
by the flames, and on the other by the moonlight. It was a heap of
men; and these men were dead. Around this mound lay a wide pool, still
smoking, whose surface reflected the flames; but it needed not the fire
to redden it; it was of blood.

Tellmarch went up to it. He examined, one after another, these
prostrate bodies; all were corpses. Both the moon and the
conflagration lighted up the scene.

The dead bodies were those of soldiers. Every man had bare feet; both
their shoes and their weapons had been taken from them, but they
still wore their blue uniforms. Here and there one could distinguish,
amid the confusion of the limbs and heads, hats bearing the tricolor
cockades riddled with bullets. They were republicans,--the same
Parisians who the previous evening had been living, active men,
garrisoned at the farm Herbe-en-Pail. The symmetrical arrangement of
the fallen bodies proved the affair to have been an execution. They had
been shot on the spot, and with precision. They were all dead. Not a
sound came from the mass.

Tellmarch examined each individual corpse, and every man was riddled
with shot.

Their executioners, doubtless in haste to depart, had not taken time to
bury them.

Just as he was about to leave the place, his attention was attracted by
the sight of four feet protruding beyond the corner of a low wall in
the yard.

These feet were smaller than those which he had previously seen; there
were shoes upon them, and as he drew near he perceived that they were
the feet of women.

Two women were lying side by side behind the wall, also shot.

Tellmarch stooped over them. One of them wore a kind of uniform; beside
her was a jug, broken and empty. She was a vivandière. She had four
balls in her head. She was dead.

[Illustration 033]

Tellmarch examined the other, who was a peasant woman. Her eyes were
closed, her mouth open, her face discolored; but there were no wounds
in her head. Her dress, undoubtedly worn to shreds by long marches, was
rent by her fall, exposing her bosom. Tellmarch pushed it still further
aside, and discovered on her shoulder a round wound made by a ball; the
shoulder-blade was broken. He gazed upon her livid breast.

"A nursing mother," he murmured.

He touched her. She was not cold.

The broken bone and the wound in the shoulder were her only injuries.
He placed his hand on her breast, and felt a faint throb. She was not
dead.

Tellmarch raised himself, and cried out in a terrible voice,--

"Is there no one here?"

"Is that you, Caimand?" replied a voice, so low that it could scarcely
be heard.

At the same time a head emerged from a hole in the ruin, and the next
moment a second one peered forth from another aperture.

These were the sole survivors,--two peasants who had managed to hide
themselves, and who now, reassured by the familiar voice of the
Caimand, crept out of the hiding-places where they had been crouching.

They approached Tellmarch, still trembling violently.

The latter had found strength to utter his cry, but he could not speak;
deep emotions always produce this effect.

He pointed to the woman lying at his feet.

"Is she still alive?" asked one of the peasants.

Tellmarch nodded.

"And the other woman,--is she living too?" asked the second peasant.

Tellmarch shook his head.

The peasant who had been the first to show himself continued:--

"All the others are dead, are they not? I saw it all. I was in my
cellar. How grateful one is to God, in times like these, to have no
family! My house was burned. Lord Jesus! everybody was killed. This
woman had children,--three little ones! The children cried, 'Mother!'
The mother cried, 'Oh, my children!' They killed the mother and carried
away the children. I saw all,--oh, my God! my God! Those who murdered
them went off well pleased. They carried away the little ones, and
killed the mother. But she is not dead, is she? I say, Caimand, do you
think you could save her? Don't you want us to help you carry her to
your _carnichot?_"

[Illustration 034]

Tellmarch nodded.

The woods were near the farm. They quickly made a litter with branches
and ferns, and placing the woman, still motionless, upon it, they
started towards the grove, the two peasants bearing the litter, one at
the head, the other at the foot, while Tellmarch supported the woman's
arm and constantly felt her pulse.

On the way the two peasants talked; and over the body of the bleeding
woman, whose pale face was lighted by the moon, they exchanged their
frightened exclamations.

"To kill all!"

"To burn all!"

"Oh, my Lord! Is that the way they are going to do now?"

"It was that tall old man who ordered it."

"Yes; he was the commander."

"I did not see him while the shooting went on. Was he there?"

"No, he was gone. But it was done by his order, all the same."

"Then it was he who did this."

"He said, 'Kill, burn! No quarter!'"

"Is he a marquis?"

"Yes, of course; he is our marquis."

"What is his name?"

"It is Monsieur de Lantenac."

Tellmarch raised his eyes to heaven, murmuring between his teeth,--

"Had I but known!"


[Footnote 1: A head.--TR.]

[Footnote 2: Watchword of the Commune.]

[Footnote 3: Watchword of the Princes.]

[Illustration: At Paris. 035]



PART II.


AT PARIS.



BOOK I.


CIMOURDAIN.


[Illustration: Cimourdain. 036]

I.


THE STREETS OF PARIS AT THAT TIME.


People lived in public; they ate at tables spread outside the doors;
women sat on the church steps, making lint to the accompaniment of the
Marseillaise; the park of Monceaux and the Luxembourg were turned into
parade-grounds; at every street-corner there was a gun-maker's shop,
where muskets were manufactured before the eyes of the passers-by,
to their great admiration. "Patience: this is revolution" was on
every lip. People smiled heroically. They went to the theatre as in
Athens during the Peloponnesian war. At street-corners were seen such
playbills as these, advertising: "The Siege of Thionville;" "A Mother
saved from the Flames;" "The Club of Sans-Soucis;" "The oldest of the
Popes Joan;" "The Military Philosophers;" "The Art of Love-making in
the Village." The Germans were at the gates; it was rumored that
the King of Prussia had secured boxes for the opera. Everything was
terrible, yet no one was frightened. The grewsome law against the
suspected, which was the crime of Merlin de Douai, held a vision of
the guillotine suspended over every head. A lawyer, Séran by name,
learning that he had been denounced, calmly awaited his arrest, arrayed
in his dressing-gown and slippers, playing the flute at his window.
No one seemed to have any spare time, every one was in a hurry; all
the hats bore their cockades, and the women cried, "Are not red caps
becoming to us?" All Paris seemed in the act of changing its abode.
The curiosity shops were filled with crowns, mitres, gilded sceptres,
and fleur-de-lis, spoils from royal dwellings,--the signs of the
destruction of monarchy. Copes and surplices might be seen hanging on
hooks offered for sale at the old-clothes shops. At the Porcherons
and at Ramponneau's men decked out in surplices and stoles bestrode
donkeys caparisoned with chasubles, and drank wine from ecclesiastical
ciboria. In the Rue Saint-Jacques barefooted street-pavers once stopped
the wheelbarrow of a shoe-pedler and clubbing together bought fifteen
pairs of shoes to send to the Convention "for our soldiers." Busts of
Rousseau, Franklin, Brutus, and even, be it added, of Marat, abounded.
In the Rue Cloche-Perce, below one of Marat's busts, in a black wooden
frame under glass, hung a formula of prosecution against Malouet, with
facts in support of the charges and the following lines inscribed on
the margin:--

      These details were given to me by the mistress of Sylvain
      Bailly, a good patriot, and who had a liking for me.

      Signed: MARAT.

The inscription on the Palais Royal fountain, "Quantos effundit in
usus!" was hidden under two large canvases painted in distemper, one
representing Cahier de Gerville denouncing to the National Assembly
the rallying-cry of the "Chiffonistes" of Arles; the other, Louis
XVI. brought back from Varennes in his royal carriage, and under the
carriage a plank fastened by cords bearing on each end a grenadier
with levelled bayonet. Very few large shops were open; perambulating
carts containing haberdashery and toys, lighted by tallow candles,
which, melting, dripped upon the merchandise, were dragged through the
streets by women. Ex-nuns adorned with blond wigs kept open shop; this
woman, darning stockings in a stall, was a countess; that dressmaker,
a marchioness; Madame de Boufflers lived in an attic from which she
had a view of her own hotel. Venders ran about offering the news
bulletins. People who muffled their chins in their neck-cloths were
called "écrouelleux." Street singers swarmed. The crowd hooted Pitou,
the royalist song-writer, a brave man, to boot, for he was imprisoned
twenty-two times and was brought before the revolutionary tribunal for
slapping himself behind when he uttered the word "civism;" seeing that
his head was in danger, he exclaimed, "But my head is not the offending
member!" which made the judges laugh, and saved his life. This Pitou
ridiculed the fashion of Greek and Latin names; his favorite song
was about a cobbler and his wife whom he called Cujus and Cujusdam.
The Carmagnole was danced in circles; they no longer said "lady"
and "gentleman," but "citizen" and "citizeness." They danced in the
ruined cloisters, beneath a chandelier made of two sticks fastened
crosswise to the vaulted roof, bearing four candles, while the church
lamps burned upon the altar, and tombs lay beneath the dancers' feet.
They wore "tyrant-blue" waistcoats, and shirt-pins called "liberty's
cap," composed of red, white, and blue stones. The Rue de Richelieu
was called Rue de la Loi; the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, the Faubourg de
Gloire; a statue of Nature stood in the Place de la Bastille. People
pointed out to each other well-known personages,--Châtelet, Didier,
Nicolas, and Gamier-Delaunay, who mounted guard at the doors of the
joiner Duplay; Voullant, who never missed a day of guillotining, and
who followed the tumbrils of the condemned, calling it "going to the
red mass;" Montflabert, a revolutionary juryman and marquis whom they
called _Dix-Août._ They watched the pupils of the École Militaire file
past, called "aspirants to the school of Mars" by the decrees of the
Convention, and nicknamed by the people "Robespierre's pages." They
read the proclamations of Fréron, denouncing those suspected of the
crime of "négotiantisime." Young scapegraces gathered about the doors
of the mayoralties crowding the brides and grooms as they came in
sight, and shouting, "Municipal marriages," in derision of the civil
ceremony. The statues of the saints and kings at the Invalides were
crowned with Phrygian caps. They played cards on curbstones at the
crossings, and the very cards themselves were totally revolutionized;
kings were replaced by genii, queens by the Goddess of Liberty, knaves
by Equality, aces by emblems of Law. The public gardens were tilled;
they ploughed the Tuileries.

With all this was intermingled, especially among the conquered
party, an indescribably haughty weariness of living. A man wrote to
Fouquier-Tinville, "Be so kind as to lift from me the burden of life.
This is my address." Champcenetz was arrested for exclaiming at the
Palais Royal: "When are we to have a Turkish revolution? I should
like to see the republic _à la Porte."_[1] Newspapers abounded.
Hair-dressers' apprentices curled the women's wigs in public while the
master read the "Moniteur" aloud; others, surrounded by listeners,
commented with expressive gesticulations on the journal "Entendons
nous," of Dubois Crancé, or the "Trompette du père Bellerose."
Sometimes a man was both a barber and a pork-dealer; and hams and
chitterlings would hang side by side with a golden-haired doll. The
wines of the Émigrés were sold by dealers on the streets. One merchant
advertised wine of fifty-two different brands; others retailed
lyre-shaped clocks and sofas _à la duchesse._ A hairdresser had the
following notice printed on his sign: "I shave the clergy; I dress
the hair of the nobility; I wait upon the Tiers-État." People went to
Martin, at No. 173 in the Rue d'Anjou, formerly called Rue Dauphine,
to have their fortune told. Bread, coal, and soap were scarce. Herds
of milch-cows on their way from the provinces were constantly passing.
At La Vallée, lamb was sold at fifteen francs a pound. An order of the
Commune assigned to each person a pound of meat for every ten days.
People stood in files at the shop-doors; one file that reached from the
door of a grocer's shop in the Rue du Petit-Carreau to the middle of
the Rue Montorgueil has become a matter of tradition. Forming a queue
was called "holding the string," on account of the long cord held by
those who stood in line one behind the other.

In the midst of all this wretchedness women were brave and gentle. They
passed whole nights waiting their turn to be served at the baker's.
The revolution was successful in its expedients. It alleviated this
wide-spread misery by two dangerous measures,--the assignat and
the maximum; in other words, the lever and the fulcrum. France was
actually saved by empiricism. The enemy, both in Coblentz and in
London, speculated in assignats.

[Illustration 038]

Girls went hither and thither offering lavender-water, garters,
and false hair, and selling stocks at the same time; there were
stock-jobbers on the steps of the Rue Vivienne, with muddy shoes,
greasy hair, woollen caps with fox-tails, and the dandies of the Rue
de Valois, with their polished boots, a toothpick in their mouths, and
beaver hats on their heads, to whom the girls said "thee and thou." The
people hunted them down as they did thieves, whom the royalists called
"active citizens." Robbery, however, seldom occurred; the fearful
destitution was matched by a stoical honesty. With downcast eyes the
barefooted and the hungry went gravely past the shop-windows of the
jewellers of the Palais Égalité. During a domiciliary visit made by the
Section Antoine at Beaumarchais' house, a woman plucked a flower in
the garden: the crowd boxed her ears. A cord of wood cost four hundred
francs in coin. People were to be seen in the streets sawing up their
wooden beds. In the winter the fountains froze, and two pails of water
cost twenty sous; every man was his own water-carrier. A gold louis was
worth three thousand nine hundred and fifty francs. A ride in a fiacre
cost six hundred francs. After a day's ride the following dialogue
might be heard: "How much do I owe you, coachman?" "Six thousand
livres." The trade of a greengrocer woman amounted to twenty thousand
francs a day. A beggar was known to have said: "Help me, for charity's
sake! I want two hundred and thirty livres to pay for my shoes." At the
entrance of the bridges might be seen colossal figures, sculptured and
painted by David, which Mercier insultingly called "enormous wooden
Punchinellos." These figures represented Federalism and Coalition
overthrown. No infirmity of purpose among the people. There was a
gloomy sense of pleasure in having put an end to thrones. No lack of
volunteers ready to lay down their lives: every street furnished a
battalion. The flags of the district went hither and thither, each one
with its own device. On the banner of the Capuchin District might be
read, "No one will shave us;" on another, "No other nobility save that
of the heart." On the walls were placards, large and small, white,
yellow, green, and red, printed and written, on all which might be read
this war-cry: "Long live the Republic!" Little children lisped, "Ça
ira."

These little children were the nucleus of a great future.

Later on, a cynical city took the place of the tragical one;
the streets of Paris have displayed two distinct revolutionary
aspects,--the one preceding the 9th Thermidor, and that which followed
it. After the Paris of Saint-Just came the Paris of Tallien. Such are
the constant antitheses of Almighty God. Immediately after Sinai, the
Courtille appeared.

Paroxysms of popular folly may always be expected. The same thing had
taken place eighty years before. After Louis XIV., as well as after
Robespierre, the people needed breathing space; hence the Regency at
the opening of the century and the Directory at its close, each reign
of terror ending in a Saturnalia. France fled from the Puritan as well
as from the monarchical cloister with the joy of a nation escaping from
bondage.

After the 9th Thermidor, Paris was like one gone mad with gayety.
An unwholesome joy prevailed, exceeding all bounds. The frenzy of
life followed the frenzy of death, and grandeur eclipsed itself.
They had a Trimalcion whom they called Grimod de la Reynière; also
an "Almanach des Gourmands." People dined to the accompaniment
of trumpets in the entresols of the Palais Royal; the orchestras
were composed of women beating drums and blowing trumpets; the
"rigadooner," bow in hand, reigned over all; they supped after the
Oriental fashion at Méot's, surrounded by censers of perfume. The
artist Boze painted his daughters, innocent and charming heads of
sixteen, "en guillotinés,"--that is, bare-necked and in red chemises.
The wild dances in ruined churches were followed by the balls of
Ruggieri, Luquet Wenzel, Mauduit, and the Montansier; to the dignified
_citoyennes_ making lint, succeeded sultanas, savages, and nymphs; to
the bare feet of the soldiers, disfigured by blood, mud, and dust,
succeeded the bare feet of women adorned with diamonds; and together
with shamelessness came dishonesty,--which had its purveyors in high
places, and their imitators in the lower ranks. Paris was infested by
swarms of sharpers, and every man had to watch his "luc," or in other
words, his pocket-book. One of the amusements was to go to the Place
of the Palais de Justice to see the female acrobats on the tabouret;
they were forced to tie their skirts down. At the doors of the theatres
street-urchins offered cabs, crying, "Citizen and Citizeness, there is
room enough for two." They sold no more copies of "The Old Cordelier"
or of "L'Ami du peuple;" but in their stead they offered "Punch's
Letter" and "The Rogues' Petition." The Marquis de Sade presided at
the section of the Pikes, Place Vendôme. The reaction was both jovial
and ferocious. The Dragons of Liberty of '92 were revived under the
name of Knights of the Dagger. At the same time there appeared on the
stage the type Jocrisse. There were the "Merveilleuses," and after the
"Merveilleuses," the "Inconcevables." People swore fantastic oaths
by "sa paole victimée" and by "sa paole verte." This was the recoil
from Mirabeau to Bobèche. Paris vibrates like an enormous pendulum
of civilization; now it touches one pole, now the other,--Thermopylæ
and Gomorrah. After '93, Revolution suffered a singular eclipse: the
century apparently forgot to finish what it had begun; a strange orgie,
interposing, took possession of the foreground, and thrusting the
dread Apocalypse behind, it drew a veil over the monstrous vision, and
shouted with laughter after its fright; tragedy vanished in parody;
and rising from the horizon's edge the smoke of carnival obscured the
outlines of Medusa.

But in the year '93 the streets of Paris still retained the imposing
and fierce aspect of the beginning. They had their orators, like Varlot
for instance, who travelled about in a booth on wheels, from the top
of which he harangued the passers-by; their heroes, one of whom was
called "the Captain of iron-shod poles;" their favorites, like Guffroy,
the author of the pamphlet "Rougiff." Some of these celebrities were
mischievous, others exerted a wholesome influence. One among all the
rest was honest and filial,--it was Cimourdain.



II.


CIMOURDAIN.


[Illustration 039]


Cimourdain had a pure but gloomy soul. There was something of the
absolute within him. He had been a priest, which is a serious matter.
A man may, like the heavens, enjoy a gloomy serenity,--it needs only
an influence powerful enough to create night within his soul; and the
priesthood had done this thing for Cimourdain. To be once a priest is
to be a priest forever.

Though there be night within us, we may still possess the stars.
Cimourdain was a man of many virtues and truths, but they shone amid
the darkness.

His story may be told in a few words. He had been a village curate, and
tutor in an influential family; but falling heir to a small legacy, he
had thereby gained his freedom.

He was obstinate to the last degree. He employed meditation as the
artisan uses his pincers. He believed it wrong to abandon an idea until
he had fully developed it. His method of thought was intense. He was
familiar with all the European languages, and had some acquaintance
with other tongues. His devotion to study was a great help towards the
preservation of his chastity. But there is nothing more dangerous than
such a system of repression.

Either from pride, circumstances, or loftiness of soul, he had been
true to his priestly vows; but his faith he had not been able to keep.
Science had crushed it; all his dogmas had gone from him. Then, looking
into his own soul, he saw therein a mutilated being, and having no
power to rid himself of his priesthood, he tried, after an austere
fashion, to remould the man. For want of a family he adopted his
country; a wife had been refused him,--he had wedded humanity. There is
a certain sense of emptiness in this all-embracing zeal.

His parents, who were peasants, had thought to lift him above the
common people by consecrating him to the priesthood; he had returned
among them of his own accord, and with a feeling of passionate
devotion watched the suffering with intense sympathy. From a priest
he had become a philosopher, and from a philosopher an athlete. Even
during the life of Louis XV., Cimourdain had vaguely fancied himself
a republican. But of what republic? Perhaps of the Republic of Plato,
and it might be of Draco also. Forbidden to love, he devoted himself
to hating. He detested lies, monarchy, theocracy, and his priestly
garb; he hated the present, and eagerly invoked the future; he had a
presentiment of what it would be, he foresaw it, he pictured it, both
terrible and grand. In order to put an end to this deplorable human
misery, he felt the need of a leader who would appear not only as an
avenger but also as a liberator. He worshipped the catastrophe from
afar.

In 1789 this catastrophe came and found him ready. Cimourdain flung
himself into that gigantic scheme for human regeneration on logical
principles, which, for a mind constituted like his, is equivalent
to saying with inexorable determination. Logic is not a softening
influence. He had survived the great revolutionary years, and had been
shaken by the blasts thereof,--in '89, the fall of the Bastille, the
end of the martyrdom of people; in.'90, on the 19th of June, the end of
the feudal system; in '91, Varennes, and the end of royalty; in '92,
the birth of the Republic. He had seen the rise of Revolution. He was
not the man to fear that giant; on the contrary, the universal growth
had given him new life, and though already advanced in years,--for
he was fifty, and a priest ages faster than other men,--he too began
to develop. From year to year he had watched and kept pace with the
progress of events. At first he had feared lest Revolution might fail;
he watched it. Since it had both logic and justice on its side, he
expected its success, and his confidence increased in proportion to the
fear it inspired; he would have this Minerva crowned with the stars
of the future,--a Pallas likewise bearing the Gorgon's head for her
buckler. In case of need he would have wished an infernal glare to
flash from her divine eyes upon the demons, paying them back in their
own coin.

Thus he reached '93.

'93 is the war of Europe against France, and of France against Paris.
What then is Revolution? It is the victory of France over Europe, and
of Paris over France. Hence the immensity of that terrible moment '93,
grander than all the rest of the century.

Nothing could be more tragic. Europe attacking France, and France
attacking Paris,--a drama with the proportions of an epic.

'93 is a year of intense action. The tempest is there in all its wrath
and grandeur. Cimourdain felt himself in his element. This scene of
distraction, wild and magnificent, suited the compass of his outspread
wings. Like a sea-eagle, he united a profound inward calm with a relish
for external danger. Certain winged natures, souls of the tempest,
ferocious yet tranquil, seem eminently fitted for combatting the storms
of life.

His sense of pity was never kindled, save in behalf of the wretched. He
devoted himself to those forms of suffering that are most repulsive.
For him nothing was abhorrent. That was his kind of goodness. He
was divine in his zeal to relieve the most loathsome sufferers. He
searched for ulcers that he might kiss them. Those noble actions
which are hideous to look upon are the most difficult to perform; for
such he had a preference. One day at the Hôtel-Dieu a man was at the
point of death, suffocating with a tumor in the throat,--a putrid,
malignant, and perhaps contagious abscess, which must be opened at
once. Cimourdain was there; he put his lips to the abscess, sucked
it, spitting it out as his mouth filled, emptied the tumor and saved
the man. As he still was wearing his priestly garb at the time, some
one said to him: "Had you done that for the king you would be made a
bishop." "I would not do it for the king," replied Cimourdain. The act
and the answer made him popular in the gloomy quarters of Paris to
a degree that won for him unbounded influence over the classes that
suffer, weep, and struggle for vengeance. When the public indignation,
that fruitful source of blunders, rose high against the monopolists, it
was Cimourdain who by a word prevented the sacking of a boat laden with
soap at the Saint-Nicolas quay, and who dispersed the furious crowds
that were stopping the carriages at the barrier Saint-Lazare.

[Illustration 040]

He it was who ten days after the 10th of August marshalled the people
who went forth to overthrow the statues of kings, which as they fell
cost some of them their lives. On the Place Vendôme, a woman, Reine
Violet, pulling at the rope she had fastened around the neck of Louis
XIV., was crushed to death beneath its weight. This statue had been
standing for a hundred years: it was erected on the 12th of August,
1692; it was overthrown on the 12th of August, 1793. On the Place de la
Concorde one Guinguerlot, having called the demolishers "canaille," was
butchered on the pedestal of the statue of Louis XV. The statue itself
was hacked to pieces; later, it was melted into sous. One arm alone
escaped,--the right arm, which Louis XV. held outstretched with the
gesture of a Roman emperor. By request of Cimourdain the people sent a
deputation to offer this arm to Latude, a man who had been buried alive
in the Bastille for forty years. When Latude with an iron collar round
his neck and a chain round his loins was rotting alive in that prison
at the bidding of the king whose statue overlooked Paris, who could
have prophesied to him that both prison and statue would fall, and that
he would come forth from his tomb,--he, the prisoner, would be the
master of that hand of bronze which had signed his warrant, and that
nothing would be left of this monarch of clay save his brazen arm?

Cimourdain was one of those men who possess an inward monitor, and who
when they appear absent-minded are simply listening to its voice.

Cimourdain was both learned and ignorant. He was versed in science,
and knew nothing whatever of life; hence his severity. His eyes were
bandaged like those of Homer's Themis: he possessed the blind certainty
of an arrow,--that, seeing naught besides, flies straight to the goal.
In revolution there is nothing so formidable as the straight line.
Cimourdain went straight ahead, with fatal results. He believed that
in these social geneses the farthest point is solid ground,--an error
common to minds in which logic occupies the place of reason. He went
beyond the Convention, beyond the Commune: he belonged to the Évêché.

The society called the Évêché because it held its meetings in a hall
of the old episcopal palace was rather a medley of men than a society.
There were present, as in the Commune, those silent but important
spectators who, as Garat expressed it, "had about them as many
pistols as they had pockets." The Évêché was a queer mixture, both
cosmopolitan and Parisian,--no contradiction in terms, since Paris is
the place where throbs the heart of all nations. There at the Évêché
was the great plebeian incandescence. As compared with the Évêché, the
Convention was cold and the Commune lukewarm. It was one of those
revolutionary formations which partake of the nature of a volcano. The
Évêché combined everything,--ignorance, stupidity, honesty, heroism,
wrath, and policy. Brunswick had agents therein. It held men worthy of
Sparta, and others fit only for the galleys. The greater number of them
were mad and honest. The Gironde, speaking in the person of Isnard,
temporary president of the Convention, had uttered this appalling
prophecy: "Parisians, beware! for in your city not one stone shall
be left resting upon another, and the day will come when men will
search for the place where Paris once stood." This speech had given
Birth to the Évêché. Certain men--and as we have just said, men of
all nations--had felt the need of drawing closer to Paris. Cimourdain
joined this group.

The party reacted against the reactionists. It sprang from that public
necessity for violence which constitutes the formidable and mysterious
side of revolutions. Strong in this strength, the Évêché at once
defined its position. In the disturbances of Paris it was the Commune
that fired the cannon, and the Évêché that sounded the alarm.

In his inexorable sincerity Cimourdain believed that all means are fair
when devoted to the service of truth,--a conviction which eminently
fitted him for the control of extremists of all parties. Scoundrels
perceived him to be honest, and were satisfied. Crime is flattered to
feel that virtue has taken it in charge. It is rather embarrassing, but
pleasing nevertheless. Palloy the architect, who had taken advantage
of the destruction of the Bastille to sell the stones for his own
benefit, and who, being appointed to paint the cell of Louis XVI.,
had in his zeal covered the wall with bars, chains, and iron collars;
Gonchon, the suspected orator of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, whose
receipts were found later; the American Fournier, who on the 17th of
July fired a pistol-shot at Lafayette,--an act for which, they said,
Lafayette himself had paid; Henriot, who had come from Bicêtre, and
who had been a lackey, a juggler, a thief, and a spy before he turned
general and levelled his guns on the Convention; La Reynie, formerly
grand-vicar of Chartres, who had substituted "Père Duchesne" for his
breviary,--all these men were respected by Cimourdain, and all that
was needed to keep the worst of them from stumbling occasionally was
to feel that really formidable and determined candor like a judgment
before them. It was thus that Saint-Just terrified Schneider. At the
same time the majority in the Évêché, consisting for the most part of
poor and violent men, sincere in their purposes, believed in Cimourdain
and followed him. His vicar or aide-de-camp, whichever you choose
to call him, was Danjou,--that other republican priest, whose lofty
stature endeared him to the people, who called him the Abbé Six-Pieds.
Cimourdain could have led whithersoever he chose that fearless chief
called Général la Pique and the bold Truchon (surnamed Grand-Nicolas),
who tried to save Madame de Lamballe, offering her his arm to assist
her in leaping over the corpses,--an attempt which would have proved
successful had it not been for the barbarous joke of Chariot the
barber.

The Commune kept watch over the Convention, and the Évêché over
the Commune. Cimourdain, an upright man, despising intrigues, had
broken more than one mysterious thread in the hands of Pache, whom
Beurnonville called "the black man." At the Évêché, Cimourdain was
on good terms with all. He was consulted by Dobsent and Momoro. He
spoke Spanish to Gusman, Italian to Pio, English to Arthur, Flemish
to Pereyra, German to the Austrian Proly, the bastard of a prince.
He reconciled all these discordant elements: hence his strong though
obscure position. Hébert feared him.

In those times and over those tragic assemblies Cimourdain possessed
the power of the inexorable. He was a faultless man, who believed
himself to be infallible. He had never been seen to weep. His was an
inaccessible and frigid virtue; a just, but awful, man.

There are no half measures possible for a revolutionary priest. A
priest who embarks in an adventure so portentous in its aims, is
influenced either by the highest or the lowest motives; he must be
either infamous or sublime. Cimourdain was sublime, but isolated
in rugged inaccessibility, inhospitably repellent,--sublime in his
surrounding of precipices. Lofty mountains possess this forbidding
purity.

Cimourdain looked like an ordinary man, clothed in whatever happened
to be convenient, rather poor in aspect. In his youth he had received
the tonsure, and later in life had become bald. His few remaining
locks were gray. Looking upon his forehead, expansive as it was, an
observing eye could read his character. Cimourdain had an abrupt way
of speaking, at once passionate and solemn; his utterance was rapid,
his tone peremptory, the expression of his mouth sad and bitter; his
eyes were clear and deep, and his whole face bore the impress of an
unspeakable indignation. Such was Cimourdain.

To-day his name is unknown.

History possesses these terrible incognitos.



III.


A CORNER NOT DIPPED INTO THE STYX.


Was such a man in very deed a man? Could the servant of all men feel a
personal affection? Was he not too much of a soul to possess a heart?
That vast embrace, enfolding everything and everybody, could it be
limited to one? Could Cimourdain love? We answer, yes.

In his youth, when he was a tutor in an almost princely family, he
had a pupil, the son and heir of the house, whom he loved. It is easy
to love a child. What is there that one cannot forgive a child? One
forgives him for being a lord, a prince, a king. His innocent age and
his weakness make one forget the crimes of his race and the arrogance
of his rank. He is so little that one pardons him for being great,
the slave forgives him for being the master. The old negro idolizes
the white nursling. Cimourdain had conceived a passionate love for
his pupil. Childhood is so ineffably charming, it absorbs all love.
All the power of loving in Cimourdain's nature had, so to speak,
concentrated itself upon that child; the heart, condemned to solitude,
fed upon this sweet and innocent creature, which it loved with the
combined tenderness of a father, a brother, a friend, and a creator. To
him he was indeed a son,--not of the flesh, but of the soul; he was not
his father, the author of his being, but he was his master, and this
was his masterpiece. He had made a man of this little lord,--possibly a
great man, who knows? Thus run our dreams. Without the knowledge of the
family,--for does one require permission to create an intelligence, a
well-directed will, and an upright character?--he had communicated to
the young viscount, his pupil, all the advanced ideas that he himself
held; he had inoculated him with the dread virus of his own virtue; he
had infused into his veins his belief, his conscience, his ideal; into
the brain of this aristocrat, as into a mould, he had poured the soul
of the people. Mind seeks nourishment; intelligence is a breast. There
is an analogy between the nurse who gives her milk and the tutor who
gives his thought. Sometimes the tutor is more of a father than the
actual father himself, just as the nurse is more like a mother than
the natural mother. Cimourdain was closely bound to his pupil by the
profound paternity of the soul. The very sight of the child touched him.

Let us add this: it was an easy matter to replace the father, since the
child had none, he was an orphan; his father and mother were both dead;
there was only a blind grandmother, and a great-uncle who did not live
at home to watch over him. The grandmother died; the great-uncle, who
was the head of the family, was a military man, a member of the high
nobility, who held various appointments at Court; he avoided the old
family dungeon, living at Versailles, changing his quarters with the
army, and leaving the orphan alone in the solitary castle. Thus the
preceptor was the master in every sense of the word. Furthermore, let
us add, Cimourdain had witnessed the birth of his pupil. When almost
a baby, the child had a serious illness; during the crisis Cimourdain
had watched over him night and day. The doctor prescribes, but it is
the nurse who saves, and Cimourdain had saved the child. Not only was
his pupil indebted to him for his instruction, his education, and his
knowledge, he also owed him his convalescence and his health; over
and above the development of his mind he owed him his very life. We
worship those who are indebted to us for everything; hence Cimourdain
worshipped the child.

In the course of time the natural separation between them took place.
Having finished his education, Cimourdain was obliged to leave the
child, who had now become a young man. With what cold and careless
cruelty such separations are planned! How calmly do families discharge
the tutor, who leaves his soul behind him with the child, and the
nurse who leaves her heart's blood! Cimourdain, having received his
salary and his dismissal, had left the higher for the lower sphere;
the partition that separates the great from the little had closed
once more. The young lord, an officer by birth, received a captain's
commission at the outset, and had departed to join some garrison. The
humble tutor, already a rebellious priest in his secret heart, had lost
no time in returning to the obscure ground-floor of the church, among
the inferior clergy, and thus lost sight of his pupil.

Revolution came. The recollection still brooding within him of that
creature whom he had transformed into a man was by no means lost,
although buried beneath the immense accumulation of public affairs.

It is a noble deed to model a statue and breathe into it the breath of
life; but to mould an intelligence and inspire it with the spirit of
truth is far nobler. Cimourdain was the Pygmalion of a soul.

The mind may possess its offspring.

The only being on earth whom he loved was this pupil,--child and orphan
as he was. Is such a man vulnerable to the influence of any affection
whatsoever? We shall see.


[Footnote 1: A pan meaning a Turkish republic, and the republic
expelled.--TR.]


[Illustration: Le cabaret de la Rue de Paon 041]



BOOK II.


THE POT-HOUSE OF THE RUE DU PAON


I.


MINOS, ÆACUS, AND RHADAMANTHUS.


[Illustration 042]


In the Rue du Paon there was an ale-house called by courtesy a café,
and in this café a back-room which has since become famous in history.
It was there that from time to time those men, so powerful and so
closely watched that they dared not venture to speak to one another in
public, held their secret meetings.

It was there, on the 23d day of October, 1792, that the Mountain and
the Gironde exchanged their famous kiss. There, too, Garat--although
he does not admit it in his memoirs--came for information during that
rueful night when, after having placed Clavière in safety in the Rue
de Beaune, he stopped his carriage on the Pont-Royal to listen to the
tocsin. On the 28th of June, 1793, in this back-room, three men were
gathered around a table. Their chairs did not touch. Each man occupied
one of the three sides of the table, leaving the fourth one vacant. It
was about eight o'clock in the evening. Although it was still light
in the street, the back-room was dark, and a lamp--a luxury in those
times--hanging from the ceiling threw its light upon the table. The
first of those men was pale, young, and grave, with thin lips and a
cold unsympathetic expression. There was a nervous twitching in his
cheek, which must have been a drawback to the act of smiling. He was
powdered and gloved, and his well-brushed and carefully-buttoned
light-blue coat fitted him without a wrinkle. He wore nankeen breeches,
white stockings, a high cravat, a plaited shirt-frill, and silver
buckles on his shoes. Of the two other men, one was, so to speak, a
giant, the other a dwarf. The tall man was negligently dressed in a
loose coat of scarlet, with his neck bare, and a half-untied cravat
hanging carelessly below his shirt-frill; his waistcoat was unfastened
for want of buttons; he wore top-boots; and his hair, although
dishevelled and bristling, still showed signs of former dressing;
his wig looked very much like a mane, and his face was marked by the
small-pox. Between his eyebrows was a line betokening a fierce temper,
and at the corner of his mouth another, rather suggestive of a kindly
nature. His lips were thick, his teeth large; he had the fist of a
porter, and flashing eyes. The short personage was a yellow-looking
man, who when seated had the effect of one deformed. His head was
thrown back, his eyes blood-shot; livid patches covered his face; a
handkerchief was tied over his straight, greasy hair; no forehead to
speak of, but a monstrous and terrible mouth. He wore long trousers,
slippers, a waistcoat that seemed originally to have been made of
white satin, and over it a loose jacket, in the folds of which a hard
straight line revealed the presence of a poniard. The first of these
men was Robespierre, the second Danton, the third Marat.

They were alone in this room. Before Danton stood a bottle of wine
covered with dust,--reminding one of Luther's half pint of beer,--a cup
of coffee before Marat, and papers were spread in front of Robespierre.

Near the papers stood one of those round, heavy, ridged, leaden
inkstands, which will be remembered by all who were schoolboys at the
beginning of this century, and a pen had been thrown down beside it.
A large brass seal bearing the words "Palloy fecit," and representing
an exact miniature model of the Bastille, rested upon these papers. A
map of France lay outspread in the middle of the table. Outside the
door stood Marat's watchdog, one Laurent Basse, the same who was an
agent at No. 18 Rue des Cordeliers, and who on the 13th of July, nearly
a fortnight after this 28th of June, was to deal a blow with a chair
upon the head of a woman named Charlotte Corday, who at this time was
vaguely dreaming at Caen. Laurent Basse was the proof-carrier of "L'Ami
du Peuple." On that evening, having been brought by his master to the
café of the Rue du Paon, he was ordered to keep the room closed where
Marat, Danton, and Robespierre were seated, and to admit no one, unless
it were some person from the Committee of Public Safety, the Commune,
or the Évêché.

Robespierre would not have it closed against Saint-Just, neither would
Danton refuse admittance to Pache, or Marat to Gusman.

The subject of the conference, which had already lasted a long time,
lay in the papers spread out on the table, which Robespierre had been
reading aloud. The voices were gradually rising higher and higher.
Something very like anger was developing between these three men.
From without one could catch, from time to time, fragments of excited
speech. In those days the custom of public tribunals seemed to have
created a certain right to listen. It was at the time when the copying
clerk, Fabricius Pâris, watched through the key-hole the proceedings
of the Committee of Public Safety; not an act of supererogation, be it
observed, for it was this very Pâris who notified Danton on the night
of the 31st of March, 1794. Laurent Basse had his ear at the door of
the back-room in which Danton, Marat, and Robespierre were seated; he
served Marat, but he belonged to the Évêché.



II.


MAGNA TESTANTUR VOCE PER UMBRAS.


Danton had just risen, pushing back his chair impetuously. "Listen!" he
cried. "There is but one urgent business,--the Republic is in danger. I
have but a single purpose, that is, to deliver France from the enemy.
And to accomplish this, all means are fair. All! All! All! I have to
deal with every form of danger. I employ every variety of expedient,
and when all is to be feared, then I venture all. My thought is a
lioness. No half measures, no squeamishness in revolution. Nemesis
is not a haughty prude. Let us make ourselves terrible and likewise
useful. Does the elephant stop to see where he puts his foot? Let us
crush the enemy."

Robespierre replied mildly,--

"I am willing."

Then he added,--

"The question is, to learn the whereabouts of the enemy."

"He is without, and it is I who have driven him there," said Danton.

"He is within, and I am watching him," said Robespierre.

"I will drive him out again," replied Danton.

"One cannot so easily expel an internal enemy."

"What, then, is to be done?"

"He must be exterminated."

"I agree to that," said Danton, in his turn.

And he continued,--

"But I tell you he is outside, Robespierre."

"And I tell you that he is within, Danton."

"Robespierre, he is on the frontier."

"He is in the Vendée, Danton."

"Calm yourselves," remarked a third voice; "he is everywhere, and you
are lost."

It was Marat who spoke.

Robespierre looked at Marat, and quietly retorted,--

"A truce to generalizations. Let us come to particulars. Here are the
facts."

"Pedant!" growled Marat.

Placing his hand on the paper spread out before him, Robespierre
continued:--

"I have just read you the despatches of Prieur de la Marne, and also
communicated the information given by Gélambre. Listen, Danton; foreign
war is as nothing compared with the dangers of civil war. A foreign war
is like a scratch on the elbow, but civil war is an ulcer which eats
away your liver. Here is the sum and substance of all that I have just
read to you: the Vendée, which has hitherto been divided among many
chiefs, is about to concentrate its forces. Henceforth it is to have
one leader--"

"A sort of central brigand," muttered Danton.

"It is the man who landed near Pontorson on the 2d of June. You have
seen what he is. Observe, that this landing was contemporary with the
arrest of the representatives, Prieur de la Côte d'Or and Romme, at
Bayeux, by that treacherous district of Calvados, which took place on
the very same day, the 2d of June."

"And their transfer to the castle of Caen," said Danton.

Robespierre replied:--

"I will proceed to sum up the despatches. They are organizing the
warfare of the forest on a vast scale. At the same time an English
invasion is in preparation,--Vendeans and Englishmen; Brittany joining
hands with Britain. The Hurons of Finistère speak the same language
as the Topinambes of Cornwall. I showed you an intercepted letter of
Puisaye, where he says that 'twenty thousand red coats distributed
among the insurgents will be the means of raising one hundred thousand
more.' When the peasant insurrection is fully organized, the English
descent will take place. Here is the plan; follow it on the map." And
putting his finger on the map, Robespierre continued:--

"The English have the choice of landing place, from Cancale to Paimpol.
Craig would prefer the Bay of Saint-Brieuc, Cornwallis the Bay of
Saint-Cast. But this is simply a matter of detail. The left shore
of the Loire is guarded by the rebel Vendean army, and as to the
twenty-eight miles of open country between Ancenis and Pontorson, forty
Norman parishes have promised their assistance. The descent will be
made at three points, Plérin, Iffiniac, and Pléneuf; from Plérin they
will go to Saint-Brieuc, and from Pléneuf to Lamballe; on the second
day they intend to reach Dinan, where there are nine hundred English
prisoners, thus simultaneously occupying Saint-Jouan and Saint-Méen,
where they, are to leave the cavalry; on the third day two columns
will march,--one to Jouan on Bédée, the other to Dinan on Becherel,
a natural fortress, and where they propose to set up two batteries;
on the fourth day they expect to be at Rennes, which is the key to
Brittany. Whoever has Rennes is master of the situation. Rennes once
taken, Châteauneuf and Saint-Malo are sure to fall. There are one
million cartridges and fifty field-pieces at Rennes."

"Which they will sweep away," muttered Danton.

Robespierre continued:--

"To conclude. From Rennes three columns will descend, one upon
Fougères, and the second and third upon Vitré and Redon. As the bridges
are destroyed, the enemy will be provided, as has already been stated,
with pontoons and planks, and they will also have guides for such
places as are fordable by cavalry. From Fougères they will diverge to
Avranches, from Redon to Ancenis, from Vitré to Laval. Nantes will
surrender, Brest likewise. Redon opens the way to Vilaine, as Fougères
to Normandy and Vitré to Paris. In fifteen days they will have a
brigand army of three hundred thousand men, and the whole of Brittany
will belong to the King of France."

"You mean to the King of England," said Danton. "No, to the King of
France," replied Robespierre, adding: "the King of France is worse; it
takes fifteen days to expel a foreign foe, and eighteen hundred years
to destroy a monarchy."

Danton, who had reseated himself with his elbows resting on the table,
supported hip head on his hands and remained buried in thought.

"You perceive the danger," said Robespierre. "Vitré opens for the
English the way to Paris."

Raising his head, Danton brought his two clenched fists down upon the
map as though it were an anvil.

"Robespierre, did not Verdun open the way to Paris for the Prussians?"

"What then?"

"Well, we will drive the English as we drove the Prussians."

And Danton rose again.

Robespierre placed his cold hand on Danton's burning wrist.

"Danton, Champagne did not take sides with the Prussians, as Brittany
does with the English. Retaking Verdun was foreign war; but to
recapture Vitré will be civil war."

And Robespierre murmured in a cold, sepulchral tone,--

"A serious difference."

Then he continued,--

"Sit down, Danton, and look at the map, instead of battering it with
your fists."

But Danton was wholly carried away with his own ideas.

"Well, this goes beyond everything!" he exclaimed; "to be on the alert
for a catastrophe in the west, when it is actually in the east! I
grant you, Robespierre, that England looms up on the ocean; but Spain
rises from behind the Pyrenees, Italy from the Alps, Germany from
the Rhine, and the big Russian bear is behind them all. Robespierre,
danger surrounds us like a circle, and we are in its centre. Coalition
abroad, treason at home. In the south, Servant holds the door of
France ajar for the King of Spain; in the north, Dumouriez goes over
to the enemy. However, he always threatened Holland less than Paris.
Nerwinde has wiped out Jemmapes and Valmy. The philosopher Rabaut
Saint-Étienne, a traitor, like the Protestant he is, corresponds with
the courtier Montesquiou. The army is decimated. No battalion has
now over four hundred men, and the brave regiment of Deux-Ponts is
reduced to one hundred and fifty; the camp of Pamars has surrendered;
Givet has but five hundred bags of flour left. We are falling back
on Landau; Wurmser presses Kléber; Mayence makes a valiant defence;
Condé yields ignobly, and Valenciennes likewise, but this in no way
alters the fact that their defenders Féraud and Chancel are two heroes,
not to mention Meunier, who defended Mayence; but all the others
are betraying us. Dharville plays the traitor at Aix-la-Chapelle,
Mouton at Brussels, Valence at Bréda, Neuilly at Limbourg, Miranda
at Maëstricht; Stengel, Lanoue, Ligonnier, Menou, Dillon, traitors
all,--hideous coin of Dumouriez. Examples are needed. I am suspicious
of Custine's countermarches. I am inclined to believe that he preferred
the lucrative capture of Frankfort to the more useful one of Coblentz.
Suppose that Frankfort is able to pay a war indemnity of four
millions,--what is that in comparison with crushing a nest of Émigrés?
I call it treason. Meunier died on the 13th of June, and Kléber is
now alone. Meanwhile Brunswick gains strength and marches onward.
He raises the German flag in every French place that he captures.
The Margrave of Brandenburg is to-day the arbiter of Europe; he is
pocketing our provinces; you will soon see him appropriating Belgium;
one might think that we were working for Berlin; and if this continues,
and we take no means to prevent it, the French Revolution will result
in the aggrandizement of Potsdam. Its chief consequence will be the
advancement of the little State of Frederick II., and we shall have
killed the King of France for the benefit of the King of Prussia."

[Illustration 043]

Here Danton, terrible in his wrath, burst into a fit of laughter, which
made Marat smile.

"You have each your hobby. Yours, Danton, is Prussia, and yours,
Robespierre, is the Vendée. I will also mention a few facts. You
do not see the real danger which is centred in the cafés and the
gaming-houses: the Café de Choiseul is Jacobin; the Café Patin,
royalist; the Café Rendez-Vous attacks the National Guard, and the Café
de la Porte Saint-Martin defends it; the Café de la Régence is opposed
to Brissot, the Café Corazza favors him; the Café Procope swears by
Diderot, and the Café du Théâtre Français by Voltaire; at the Rotonde
they tear up the assignats; the Cafés Saint-Marceau are in a state of
perfect fury; the Café Manouri is agitating the flour problem; at the
Café de Foy there is a perpetual racket and brawling, and at the Perron
the hornets of finance are buzzing. All this is a serious matter."

[Illustration 044]

Danton no longer laughed, but Marat still continued to smile. The smile
of a dwarf is worse than the laugh of a giant.

"Are you sneering, Marat?" growled Danton.

[Illustration 045]

Marat twitched his hip convulsively,--that motion peculiar to himself
which has been so often described,--and his smile died away.

"Ah, I recognize you, Citizen Danton. You are the man who in full
convention called me 'that individual Marat.' Listen: I forgive you.
We are in times when men play the fool. Sneering, did you say? What
kind of a man do you think I am? I have denounced Chazot, Pétion,
Kersaint, Mouton, Dufriche-Valazé, Ligonnier, Menou, Banneville,
Gensonné, Biron, Lidon, and Chambon. Was I wrong? I scent the treason
of the traitor before the deed is done, and I find it useful to
denounce the criminal in advance. It is my habit to say in the evening
what the rest of you say the next day. I am the man who proposed to
the Assembly a complete scheme for criminal legislation. What have I
done up to the present moment? I asked to have the sections instructed
that they might be disciplined for revolution; I had the seals of
thirty-two boxes broken; I reclaimed the diamonds placed in the hands
of Roland; I proved that the Brissotins had given to the Committee of
General Safety blank warrants; I noted certain omissions in Lindet's
report concerning the crimes of Capet; I voted for the execution
of the tyrant in the course of twenty-four hours; I defended the
battalions of Mauconseil and the Républicain; I prevented the reading
of Narbonne's and Malouet's letters; I motioned in favor of the wounded
soldiers; I caused the suppression of the Committee of Six; I foresaw
the treason of Dumouriez in the affair of Mons; I demanded to have one
hundred thousand relatives of the refugees taken as hostages for the
commissioners delivered to the enemy; I proposed to declare traitor
any representative who crossed the frontier; I unmasked the faction
of Roland in the disturbances at Marseilles; I insisted that a price
should be set on the head of Égalité's son; I defended Bouchotte; I
called for a nominal vote to expel Isnard from the chair.

[Illustration 046]

It was I who instigated the declaration that Parisians had deserved
well of their country; that is why Louvet calls me a dancing puppet,
and why Finistère demands my expulsion. For this the city of Loudun
wishes me to be exiled, and the city of Amiens proposes to muzzle
me, Coburg requires my arrest, and Lecointe-Puiraveau suggests to
the Convention that it would be well to pronounce me insane. Bah!
Citizen Danton, why did you ask me to come to your Conventicle if
you did not wish for my advice? Did I ask permission to belong to
it? Far from it. I have no inclination for a tête-à-tête with such
counter-revolutionists as Robespierre and yourself. However, I might
have expected this. You have not understood me,--neither you nor
Robespierre. Are there then no statesmen here? You need a spelling
lesson in politics, and some one to dot your _i_'s for you. This is
the meaning of what I told you,--you are both mistaken. The danger
comes neither from London nor from Berlin, as you two believe. It is
in Paris. It is in the absence of unity; in the right of every man to
pull his own way, beginning with you yourselves; in the levelling of
intellects; in the anarchy of will--"

[Illustration 047]

"Anarchy!" interrupted Danton. "Who is it that causes anarchy if not
yourself?"

Marat paid no attention.

"Robespierre, Danton, the danger is in this multitude of cafés, in
these countless gaming-houses, this crowd of clubs,--Club des Noirs,
Club des Fédérés, Club des Dames, Club des Impartiaux (which dates
from Clermont-Tonnerre, and which was the Monarchical Club of 1790,--a
social circle originated by the priest Claude Fauchet), the Club des
Bonnets de Laine, founded by the journalist Prudhomme, etc.; without
counting your Jacobin Club, Robespierre, and your Club of Cordeliers,
Danton. The danger is in the famine that made the porte-sacs Blin
hang François Denis, the baker of Palu market, to the lamp-post of
the Hôtel de Ville, and likewise in the justice that hung porte-sacs
Blin for hanging baker Denis. The danger lies in the depreciation of
the currency. One day on the Rue du Temple an assignat of a hundred
francs fell to the ground, and a passer-by, a man of the lower class,
remarked, 'It is not worth while to pick it up.' The danger comes from
the stock-brokers and the monopolists. Fine progress we have made when
we hoist the black flag over the Hôtel de Ville! You have arrested
Baron Trenck; but that is not sufficient. I want to see you wring the
neck of that old prison intriguer. Do you think that the business is
accomplished because the President of the Convention places a civic
crown on the head of Labertèche, who received forty-one sabre-thrusts
at Jemmapes, and of whom Chénier makes himself the showman? Comedies
and idle shows! Ah, you take no heed of Paris! You are looking for
danger at a distance, when it is close at hand. Of what use are your
police, Robespierre? You have your spies,--Payan in the Commune,
Coffinhal at the Revolutionary Tribunal, David in the Committee of
Public Safety, Couthon in the Committee of Public Well-being. You
perceive that I am well informed. Now, then, learn this: The danger
is hanging over your heads and rising beneath your feet. Conspiracies!
conspiracies! conspiracies! The people passing along the streets read
the papers to one another, and nod their heads significantly; six
thousand men having no civic papers--the returned Émigrés, Muscadins,
and Mathevons--are hidden in the cellars and garrets and in the wooden
galleries of the Palais Royal; they are ranged in files in front of the
bake-shops; women stand on the door-sills, and clasping their hands,
cry, 'When shall we have peace?' It is of no use to close the doors
of the Executive Committee against the public. Every word you utter
is known; and as a proof, Robespierre, I will repeat the words you
spoke last night to Saint-Just: 'Barbaroux's paunch grows apace; that
will inconvenience him in his flight.' Danger, I tell you, lurks on
every side, but chiefly in the centre. In Paris, while the ci-devants
are weaving their plots the patriots go barefoot; the aristocrats
arrested on the 9th of March are already released; the fine private
horses that bespatter us with mud in the streets ought to be harnessed
to the cannons on the frontier; a loaf of bread weighing four pounds
is sold for three francs and twelve sous; indecent plays are given on
the stage; and Robespierre will sooner or later send Danton to the
guillotine."

"Phew!" exclaimed Danton.

Robespierre was attentively studying the map.

"What we need is a dictator!" cried Marat, fiercely. "You know,
Robespierre, that I want a dictator."

Robespierre raised his head. "Yes, I know, Marat, it must be either you
or I."

"I or you, you mean," retorted Marat.

"The dictatorship,--I advise you to try it!" grumbled Danton between
his closed teeth.

Marat perceived Danton's frown.

"Stop," he said. "Let us make one last effort to come to an agreement.
The situation is well worth it. Was there not an understanding for the
31st of May? The question of mutual agreement is even more important
than Girondism, which is a matter of detail. There is a certain amount
of truth in your statements; but truth itself, the whole truth, the
real truth, lies in, I say, Federalism in the south, Royalism in the
West, a deadly struggle between the Convention and the Commune in
Paris, and on the frontier the backsliding of Custine and the treason
of Dumouriez. What will be the result? The end will be nothing less
than dismemberment. And what do we require? Unity. Therein lies our
salvation. But we have no time to lose. Paris must undertake the
control of the Revolution. If we waste one hour, the Vendeans may be
in Orleans to-morrow, and the Prussians in Paris. I grant one thing to
you, Danton, and another to Robespierre. So be it. And the conclusion
must be dictatorship. Let us, we three who represent the Revolution,
grasp the dictatorship. We are the three heads of Cerberus. One is a
talking head, and that is you, Robespierre; the second head does the
roaring, and that is you, Danton--"

"And the other bites, and that is you, Marat," said Danton.

"All three bite," said Robespierre.

For a time there was silence; then this dialogue full of gloomy and
violent utterances proceeded.

"Listen, Marat; people should know each other before they marry. How
did you find out what I said to Saint-Just yesterday?"

"That is my affair, Robespierre."

"Marat!"

"It is my duty to gain information."

"Marat!"

"I like to know what is going on."

"Marat!"

"Robespierre, I know what you say to Saint-Just, as I know what Danton
says to Lacroix; I know what happens on the quay of the Théatins, at
the Hôtel Labriffe, a den frequented by the nymphs of the Emigration,
as well as I know what is going on at the house of Thilles, near
Gonesse, which now belongs to Valmerange, the former administrator
of the postal service, where Maury and Cazalès were in the habit of
going,--a house which Sieyès and Vergniaud have since frequented, and
where at the present time a certain person goes once a week."

In saying a certain person, Marat looked significantly at Danton.

"If I had but two farthings' worth of power, this would be terrible,"
cried Danton.

[Illustration 048]

"I know what you say, Robespierre," continued Marat, "just as I knew
what was going on in the tower of the Temple when they were fattening
Louis XVI.; and the wolf, the she-wolf, and the cubs, during the month
of September alone, devoured eighty-six baskets of peaches. At that
time the nation was starving. I know it, as I know that Roland was
concealed in a lodging looking out on a back-yard, in the Rue de la
Harpe; as I know that six hundred pikes used on the 14th of July were
manufactured by Faure, the locksmith of the Duke of Orleans; as I know
what they do at the house of Saint-Hilaire, the mistress of Sillery.
On the days when there is to be a ball, old Sillery himself chalks the
parquet floors of the yellow salon in the Rue Neuve-des-Mathurins;
Buzot and Kersaint dined there; Saladin dined there on the 27th, and
with whom do you guess, Robespierre? With your friend Lasource."

"Idle talk," muttered Robespierre; "Lasource is not my friend."

He added thoughtfully,--

"In the mean time there are eighteen manufactories of false assignats
in London."

Marat went on in a voice calm but somewhat tremulous, an ominous sign
with him,--

"You are the faction of the All-Importants. Yes, I know everything, in
spite of what Saint-Just calls the silence of State--"

Marat emphasized this word, looked at Robespierre, and continued:--

"I know the conversation that takes place at your table on the days
when Lebas invites David to eat the food prepared by his betrothed,
Élisabeth Duplay, your future sister-in-law, Robespierre. I am the
all-seeing eye of the people, and from the depths of my cave I observe.
Yes, I hear, I see, and I know. You are contented with small things.
You admire yourself. Robespierre shows himself off before his Madame de
Chalabre, the daughter of the Marquis who played whist with Louis XV.
on the evening of Damiens' execution. Yes, heads are carried high in
these days. Saint-Just never unbends; Legendre is a scrupulous devotee
to fashion, with his new frock-coat and white waistcoat, and a frill,
that people may forget his apron. Robespierre imagines that history
will be interested to know that he wore an olive-colored coat _à la
Constitution_, and a sky-blue coat _à la Convention._ He hangs his
portrait on every wall around his room--"

Robespierre interrupted him in a voice even more quiet than that of
Marat himself:--

"And you drag yours through all the sewers, Marat."

They continued this conversation in tones whose very deliberation
emphasized the violence of the attacks and retorts, and added a certain
irony to the implied threats.

"Robespierre, you called those who are in favor of the abolition of
monarchy the Don Quixotes of mankind."

"And you, Marat, after the 4th of August, in No. 559 of your 'Ami du
Peuple,'--you see, I remember the number, a useful item,--you requested
to have the titles of the nobles restored to them. You said: 'Once a
Duke, always a Duke.'"

"Robespierre, in the session of the 7th of December you defended
Roland's wife against Viard."

"Just as my brother defended you, Marat, when you were attacked at the
Jacobins'. What does that prove? Nothing at all."

"Robespierre! we all know the cabinet at the Tuileries where you said
to Garas: 'I am tired of the Revolution.'"

"Marat, in this very ale-house, on the 20th of October, you embraced
Barbaroux."

"And you said to Buzot, Robespierre, 'What does the Republic signify?'"

"Marat, you invited three men from Marseilles to breakfast with you
here in this ale-house."

"Robespierre, you go about escorted by a strong fellow from the market
armed with a club."

"And you, Marat, on the eve of the 10th of August,--you asked Buzot to
assist you in escaping to Marseilles disguised as a jockey."

"During the prosecutions of September you took good care to hide
yourself, Robespierre."

"And you, Marat, were not backward in making a display of yourself."

"Robespierre, you flung the red cap on the ground."

"Yes, when a traitor hoisted it. Dumouriez defiles Robespierre."

"Robespierre, you refused to throw a veil over the head of Louis XVI.
when Chateauvieux' soldiers were passing."

"I did better than veil his head; I cut it off."

Danton interposed, but it was like pouring oil upon the flames.

"Robespierre, Marat, calm yourselves," he said. Marat did not like to
be mentioned in the second place. He turned round.

"What affair is this of Danton?"

"What affair of mine? I will tell you. There must be no fratricides;
we must have no strife between two men, both of whom serve the people.
It is enough to have to deal with foreign and civil wars, and it would
be too much if we were to have a family conflict. It is I who made the
Revolution, and I do not choose to have it destroyed. This is why I
feel called upon to interfere."

Marat replied, without raising his voice,--

"You had better be attending to the settlement of your own accounts."

"My accounts!" cried Danton. "Go ask for them in the passes of Argonne,
in Champagne delivered, in Belgium conquered, in the armies where I
have exposed my breast four times already to the grape-shot! Inquire in
the Place de la Révolution, on the scaffold of the 21st of January, of
the throne lying on the ground, of the guillotine, that widow--"

Here Marat broke forth, interrupting Danton,--

"The guillotine is a virgin who gives death unto men, but not life."

"What do you know about it? I will make her fruitful."

"We shall see."

And he smiled.

Danton saw the smile.

"Marat," he cried, "you are the man who prefers to hide; I am a man who
rejoices in broad daylight, in the open air. I despise the life of a
reptile. It would not suit me to be a woodlouse. You live in a cave; I
live in the street. You hold no communication with mankind; the chance
passer-by may see and speak with me."

"Handsome youth! Will you ascend to my abode?" growled Marat.

And no longer smiling, he continued in a peremptory tone:--

"Danton, give an account of the thirty-three thousand crowns cash, that
were paid you by that Montmorin in the name of the king, under the
pretext of indemnifying you for the post of solicitor of the Châtelet."

"I belonged to the 14th of July," said Danton, haughtily.

"And the Garde-meuble? And the crown diamonds?"

"I was also of the 6th of October."

"And the thefts of your _alter ego_, Lacroix, in Belgium?"

"I was of the 20th of June."

"And the loans to Montansier?"

"I influenced the people to bring about the return from Varennes."

"And the Opera House built with the money that you furnished?"

"I armed the sections of Paris."

"And the hundred thousand livres in secret funds of the Ministère de la
Justice?"

"The 10th of August was my work."

"And the two millions secret expenses of the Assembly, a quarter of
which fell to your share?"

"I arrested the progress of the enemy, and barred the road to the
allied kings."

"Prostitute!" cried Marat.

Danton was terrible in his wrath.

"Yes," he cried; "you have spoken the word! I have sold my virtue, but
I saved the world!"

Robespierre meanwhile continued to bite his nails. He could neither
laugh nor smile. He possessed not the lightning-like laughter of
Danton, nor the sting of Marat's smile.

Danton continued,--

"I am like the ocean: I have my flood and ebb. When the tide is low you
can see the shoals; but at high tide you see only the waves."

"What one might call your froth," said Marat.

"My tempest, rather," replied Danton.

They both sprang to their feet, and Marat burst forth; the adder
suddenly assumed the shape of a dragon.

"Ah, Robespierre! ah, Danton!" he exclaimed, "you will not listen to
me. I tell you, you are lost! Your policy brings you up against a wall!
Every issue is closed to you, and you go on committing deeds that will
finally leave you with no outlet save that of the grave."

"In that lies the very essence of our greatness," said Danton,
shrugging his shoulders.

Marat went on:--

"Danton, beware! Vergniaud has a wide mouth, thick lips, and frowning
brows, like yourself. He is also pitted, like you and Mirabeau. Yet
this did not prevent the 31st of May. Ah, you shrug your shoulders! A
shrug of the shoulders has been known to cost a man his head. I tell
you, Danton, your loud voice, your loose cravat, your top-boots, your
late suppers, your ample pockets,--Louisette will have something to say
about all that."

Louisette was Marat's pet name for the guillotine.

He continued:--

"And as for you, Robespierre, you are a Moderate; but that will avail
you nothing. Go on; powder and dress your hair, brush your clothes,
play the coxcomb, wear fine linen, be a model of propriety, frizzed
and bedizened; sooner or later you will go to the Place de Grève; read
Brunswick's proclamation, and make up your mind to be treated like the
regicide Damiens, and you are arrayed in fine style to be drawn and
quartered."

"Echo of Coblentz!" muttered Robespierre between his teeth.

"Robespierre, I echo no one. I am the cry of the whole world. Ah, you
are young, both of you! How old are you, Danton? Thirty-four. And you,
Robespierre? Thirty-three. Well, as for myself, I have lived from
the beginning of time. I am the embodiment of the ancient misery of
mankind. I am six thousand years old."

"That is true," replied Danton; "for six thousand years Cain has been
preserved in hatred, like a toad in a stone. The stone breaks, and Cain
leaps forth among men, to be known as Marat."

"Danton!" cried Marat; and a livid glare shone in his eyes.

"Well, what is it?" said Danton.

Thus conversed these three terrible men,--conflicting thunderbolts!



III.


A QUIVERING OF THE INMOST FIBRES.


[Illustration 050]


The conversation ceased for a time. Each Titan betook himself to his
own reflections.

Lions are disturbed by hydras. Robespierre had grown very pale, and
Danton very much flushed. Both shuddered. Marat's wild glare had died
out; calmness, imperious calmness, now rested on the face of that man,
feared by those who were themselves objects of awe.

Danton felt himself conquered, but was unwilling to yield.

He continued,--

"Marat talks loudly of dictatorship and unity, possessing all the while
a talent for destroying."

Robespierre opened his thin lips, and by way of supplementing Danton's
speech remarked,--

"I agree with Anacharsis Cloots. Give me neither Roland nor Marat."

"And I," said Marat,--"I say neither Danton nor Robespierre."

He gazed steadily at the two men, and then added:

"Let me advise you, Danton. You are in love, and think of marrying
again; let politics alone,--be wise."

And taking a step towards the door, he was about to take his departure,
with the ominous salutation,--

"Farewell, gentlemen."

Danton and Robespierre shuddered.

At that moment a voice was heard at the farther end of the room,
saying,--

"You are wrong, Marat."

All turned. During Marat's outbreak some one had entered, unperceived,
through the door at the back of the room.

"Is that you, citizen Cimourdain?" said Marat "Good-day."

It was Cimourdain.

"I tell you that you are wrong, Marat," he repeated.

Marat turned green, which was his way of growing pale, and Cimourdain
added:--

"You are useful, but Robespierre and Danton are indispensable. Why do
you threaten them? Let us have union, citizens. The people wish us to
be united."

This entrance was like a dash of cold water, or the arrival of a
stranger upon the scene of a family quarrel; it produced a calming
effect upon the surface, if it did not reach the depths.

Cimourdain advanced towards the table.

Both Danton and Robespierre knew him. They had often noticed, in the
public tribunals of the Convention, this obscure but influential man,
whom the people greeted with respect. Robespierre, however, always
ceremonious, inquired,--

"How did you get in, citizen?"

"He belongs to the Évêché," replied Marat, in an unusually meek tone of
voice.

Marat braved the Convention and led the Commune, but he feared the
Évêché.

This is a law.

Mirabeau, in some mysterious far-away depth, is conscious of the
existence of Robespierre. Marat, too, is aware of Hébert,--Hébert
of Babeuf. So long as the subterranean strata remain quiet, the
politician can move at his ease. But there is a sub-soil under the most
revolutionary, and the boldest men will quail when they feel beneath
their feet the movement which they themselves have started overhead.

[Illustration 051]

To be able to distinguish between the disturbance that springs from
covetousness and that which is founded on principle, to combat the
one and to aid the other, constitutes the genius and merit of great
revolutionists.

"Oh, citizen Cimourdain is not unwelcome," he said, as he extended his
hand to Cimourdain, adding:

"Parbleu! Let us explain the situation to citizen Cimourdain. He comes
in just in time. I represent the Mountain, Robespierre the Committee of
Public Safety, Marat the Commune; and Cimourdain represents the Évêché.
He will give us the casting vote."

"So be it," replied Cimourdain, in his serious and simple manner. "What
is the subject under consideration?"

"The Vendée," replied Robespierre.

"The Vendée," echoed Cimourdain, then went on:

"There lies the great danger. If Revolution expires, the Vendée will
have given it its death-blow. One Vendée is more to be feared than ten
Germanys. If France is to be saved, we must destroy the Vendée."

These words won Robespierre to his side; but still the latter put the
question,--

"Were you not formerly a priest?"

For the priestly aspect had not escaped his observation. He recognized
in another what he had within himself.

"Yes, citizen," replied Cimourdain.

"What does that matter?" cried Danton. "When priests are good they
are better than other men. In time of revolution priests are melted
into citizens, just as bells are melted into sous and cannon. Danjou
and Danon are both priests. Thomas Lindet is Bishop of Évreux. At the
Convention, Robespierre, you sit side by side with Massieu, Bishop
of Beauvais. The Vicar-General Vaugeois belonged to the Insurrection
Committee of the 10th of August. Chabot is a capuchin. Dom Gerle
devised the oath of the Tennis-Court. The Abbé Audran declared the
National Assembly superior to the king; the Abbé Goutte asked the
Legislature to remove the daïs from the chair of Louis XVI., and the
Abbé Grégoire instigated the abolition of royalty."

"A motion seconded by the comedian Collot d'Herbois. They two did the
business; the priest overturned the throne, the comedian deposed the
king!"

"Let us return to the Vendée," said Robespierre.

"Well, what is it?" asked Cimourdain; "what is the Vendée doing now?"

"This," replied Robespierre. "It has found a leader; it will become
terrible."

"Who is this leader, citizen Robespierre?"

"He is a ci-devant Marquis de Lantenac, who styles himself a Breton
prince."

Cimourdain made a movement.

"I know him," he said. "I was chaplain at his house."

He reflected for a moment, and then continued:

"He was fond of women before he became active in military affairs."

"Like Biron, who was a Lauzun," said Danton. Cimourdain added
thoughtfully,--

"Yes, formerly a man devoted to pleasure. He must be terrible."

"Frightful!" said Robespierre. "He burns villages, kills the wounded,
massacres prisoners, and shoots women."

"Women?"

"Yes. Among others he ordered a woman to be shot who was the mother of
three children. No one knows what became of the children. Moreover, he
is really a leader. He understands the art of warfare."

"True," replied Cimourdain. "When he was in the Hanoverian war the
soldiers used to say, 'Richelieu above, Lantenac below;' but the latter
was the actual general. Ask your colleague Dussaulx about it."

Robespierre remained for a moment absorbed in thought; then the
conversation between Cimourdain and himself was renewed.

"Well, citizen Cimourdain, this man is in the Vendée."

"How long since?"

"Three weeks ago."

"He must be outlawed."

"That has been done."

"A price must be set upon his head."

"That also has been done."

"A large sum of money must be offered for his capture."

"The offer has been made,"

"It must not be in assignats."

"Certainly not."

"But in gold."

"It has been so promised."

"And he must be guillotined."

"That shall be done."

"By whom?"

"By you!"

"By me?"

"Yes; you will be delegated by the Committee of Public Safety with
ample powers."

"I accept," said Cimourdain.

Robespierre was rapid in his decisions,--a states-manlike quality. He
took from the portfolio that lay before him a sheet of white paper, at
the head of which the following words were printed: "French Republic,
one and indivisible: Committee of Public Safety."

"I accept," continued Cimourdain. "Let the terrible encounter the
terrible. Lantenac is ferocious; I will be equally so. It shall be war
unto death with that man; I shall rid the Republic of him, if it be
God's will."

He stopped, then continued,--

"I am a priest; I believe in God."

"God has grown antiquated," said Danton.

"I believe in God," repeated Cimourdain, unmoved.

Robespierre gloomily nodded his approval, and Cimourdain continued,--

"To whom shall I be delegated?"

Robespierre replied,--

"To the commandant of the exploring division sent against Lantenac. But
I give you warning that he is a nobleman."

"That is another thing that excites my contempt," cried Danton. "A
nobleman? Well, what of that? It is all the same whether a man be a
priest or a nobleman; if he is a good man, he is excellent. Nobility
is a prejudice; but we ought to deal impartially with it, granting
both its merits and its demerits. Is not Saint-Just a nobleman,
Robespierre? Florelle de Saint-Just,--parbleu! Anacharsis Cloots is
a baron. Our friend Charles Hesse, who never misses a single session
of the Cordeliers, is a prince, brother to the reigning Landgrave of
Hesse-Rothenbourg. Montaut, Marat's intimate friend, is Marquis de
Montaut. In the revolutionary tribunal there is one juror Vilate,
who is a priest, and another Leroy, Marquis de Montflabert. Both are
trustworthy men."

"And you forget," added Robespierre, "the foreman of the revolutionary
jury--"

"Antonelle!"

"Marquis Antonelle," corrected Robespierre.

"And that Dampierre, who was lately killed before Condé by the
Republic," rejoined Danton, "was a nobleman; and Beaurepaire too,
who blew his brains out rather than open the gates of Verdun to the
Prussians."

"And in spite of all that," grumbled Marat, "on the day when Condorcet
exclaimed, 'The Gracchi were nobles!' Danton cried out, 'All nobles are
traitors,--beginning with Mirabeau, and ending with thee!'"

Here the serious voice of Cimourdain rose above the others:--

"Citizen Danton, citizen Robespierre, you may perhaps be justified in
your confidence; but the nation distrusts, and it has reason to do
so. When a priest is charged with the surveillance of a nobleman, the
responsibility is a double one, and it is the duty of the priest to be
inflexible."

"That is true," said Robespierre.

"And inexorable," added Cimourdain.

"Well said, citizen Cimourdain!" rejoined Robespierre. "It is a young
man with whom you will have to deal, and you will have the advantage
over him, from the fact that you are twice his age. He must be
guided, but with the utmost discretion, that he may not suspect it.
It seems that he has military ability; all reports are unanimous on
that point. He forms part of a corps which has been detached from the
army of the Rhine and sent into the Vendée. He has lately returned
from the frontier, where he distinguished himself by his bravery and
intelligence, and is now in command of the exploring division, which he
handles like an expert. For fifteen days he has held the old Marquis
de Lantenac in check. He restrains him, and at the same time compels
him to give way. He will end by forcing him to the sea and pitching
him into it. Lantenac has the cunning of an old general, while his
opponent possesses the boldness of a young captain. This young man has
already won for himself enemies and detractors, who are envious of him.
Adjutant-General Léchelle is jealous of him."

"This Léchelle wants to be commander-in-chief," interrupted Danton. "He
has only a pun in his favor,--it needs a ladder to mount into a cart.
Meanwhile, Charette defeats him."

"And he is not willing that any one else should defeat Lantenac," added
Robespierre. "The misfortune of the Vendean war is the existence of
these rivalries. Our soldiers are heroes led by inferior commanders.
Chérin, a mere captain of hussars, enters Saumur with trumpets,
playing _Ça ira_; he takes Saumur; he might go on and take Cholet,
but having received no orders, he pauses. Every position of command
in the Vendée ought to be reconstructed; the garrisons are scattered,
the forces dispersed; an army that is scattered is paralyzed; it is
like a rock crumbling into dust. Nothing but tents are left at Camp
de Paramé. Between Tréguier and Dinan there are a hundred useless
little encampments out of which a division could be formed to cover
the entire coast. Léchelle, supported by Parrein, robs the northern
coast under the pretext of protecting the southern, and thus exposes
France to the English. Half a million of peasants in revolt, and a
descent of England upon France,--such is Lantenac's plan. The young
commander of the exploring column presses his resistless sword against
Lantenac's loins, until he forces him to yield, and this without
asking leave of Léchelle. Now, Léchelle is his chief, therefore he
denounces him. Opinions are divided regarding this young man. Léchelle
would like to have him shot, and Prieur de la Marne wishes to make him
Adjutant-General."

"He seems to me to possess great qualities," observed Cimourdain.

"But he has one defect!"

This interruption came from Marat.

"And what is that?" asked Cimourdain.

"Clemency," replied Marat; and he went on: "He is firm in the assault,
but after the victory he shows his weakness. He grants indulgences,
he is too merciful and forgiving, he protects _religieuses_ and nuns,
he saves the wives and daughters of the aristocrats, he releases
prisoners, and lets the priests go free."

"A grave fault," murmured Cimourdain.

"A crime, you would do better to call it," said Marat.

"Sometimes," said Danton.

"Often," said Robespierre.

"Almost always," insisted. Marat.

"Yes, when one has to deal with the enemies of one's country it may
always be called a crime," said Cimourdain.

Marat turned towards the latter.

"And what then would you do with a Republican chief who would set a
Royalist leader at liberty?" he inquired.

"I should agree with Léchelle; I would have him shot."

"Or guillotined," said Marat.

"He might take his choice," said Cimourdain. Danton began to laugh.

"The one seems to me as good as the other."

"You are quite sure to have one or the other," muttered Marat; and
averting his eyes from Danton, he fixed them again on Cimourdain.

"So, citizen Cimourdain, if you caught a Republican chief stumbling,
you would have him beheaded?"

"Within twenty-four hours."

"Well," resumed Marat, "I agree with Robespierre; citizen Cimourdain
must be sent as a delegate from the Committee of Public Safety to the
commander of the exploring division of the coast army. What is this
commander's name, by the way?"

Robespierre, beginning to turn over his papers, replied,--

"He is a ci-devant nobleman."

"It is an excellent plan to set a priest to guard a nobleman," said
Danton. "Either one of them, singly and alone, I am inclined to
distrust; but when taken together, I have no fear of them: they keep a
mutual watch over each other, and go on very well."

The expression of indignation peculiar to Cimourdain's face grew more
pronounced; but doubtless aware that the observation was based upon
truth, he did not turn towards Danton as he lifted his severe voice.

"If the Republican commander intrusted to my care makes a false step,
he will suffer the penalty of death."

Robespierre, with his eyes still resting on his portfolio, said:--

"Here is the name; the commander in charge of whom you will be placed,
to conduct yourself in his regard at your own discretion, is a former
Viscount called Gauvain."

Cimourdain turned pale.

"Gauvain!" he exclaimed.

Marat observed Cimourdain's pallor.

"The Viscount Gauvain!" repeated Cimourdain.

"Yes," said Robespierre.

"Well?" exclaimed Marat, gazing steadfastly at Cimourdain.

There was a brief silence, broken by Marat.

"Citizen Cimourdain, do you accept the appointment of commissioner
delegate to the commander Gauvain, with the condition which you
yourself have laid down? Is it agreed?"

"It is," replied Cimourdain, with increasing pallor.

Robespierre took the pen that lay beside him, and in his slow and
regular handwriting traced four lines on the sheet of paper headed
"Committee of Public Safety." After signing it, he passed the pen and
paper to Danton, who signed; and the signature of Marat, who had not
once removed his eyes from the pale face of Cimourdain, was added to
the others.

Robespierre, taking back the sheet, dated it and gave it to Cimourdain,
who read on it the following:--

      YEAR II. OF THE REPUBLIC.

      Full powers are granted to citizen Cimourdain,
      commissioner delegated from the Committee of Public Safety
      to the citizen Gauvain, in command of the exploring
      division of the army of the coast. ROBESPIERRE. DANTON.
      MARAT.

And below the signatures: "June 29, 1793."

The revolutionary calendar, called the civil calendar, had no legal
existence at that time, and was only adopted by the Convention on the
5th of October, 1793, in response to the proposition of Romme.

While Cimourdain was reading, Marat continued to watch him. Then, in a
tone half-inaudible, as though speaking to himself, he said,--

"All this must be confirmed by a decree from the Convention, or by a
special resolution of the Committee of Public Safety. Something still
remains to be done."

"Citizen Cimourdain, where do you live?" asked Robespierre.

"Cour du Commerce."

"Indeed! Then you are a neighbor of mine. I live there also," said
Danton.

Robespierre continued:--

"There is not a moment to lose. To-morrow you will receive your formal
commission, signed by all the members of the Committee of Public
Safety. This is a confirmation of the commission accrediting you
specially to the acting representatives Philippeaux, Prieur de la
Marne, Lecointre, Alquier, and others. We know you; your powers are
unlimited. It rests with you to make Gauvain a general or send him
to the scaffold. You will receive your commission to-morrow at three
o'clock. When will you start?"

"At four o'clock," said Cimourdain; and they separated.

On returning home, Marat informed Simonne Évrard that he should go to
the Convention to-morrow.


[Illustration: The Convention. 052]

BOOK III.


THE CONVENTION.


[Illustration 053]



I.


THE CONVENTION.



I.


We are approaching the summit.

The Convention is before our eyes, and in the presence of this lofty
eminence the gaze grows steady.

Nothing more towering ever rose above the human horizon. There is but
one Himalaya, but one Convention.

The Convention may perhaps be called the culminating point in history.

During its lifetime--an assembly actually lives--one did not realize
what it was. Its supreme grandeur was not appreciated by its
contemporaries, who were too much terrified to be dazzled. Mediocrities
and moderate hills levy no severe tax on one's admiration; but the
majestic inspires a holy horror, whether it be the majesty of genius
or of a mountain, an assembly or a masterpiece. Too close proximity
excites alarm; every peak seems exaggerated, the ascent is fatiguing,
and one loses breath in climbing its sharp acclivities, misses his
footing on the slopes, and is wounded by the cragged surfaces, which
in themselves are beauties; the foaming torrent indicates the presence
of the chasm, the summit is veiled in clouds; whether ascending or
descending, it is equally frightful, hence one feels the influence of
terror rather than of admiration,--a kind of aversion to grandeur,
which is a strange enough sensation. While gazing on the abyss, one
cannot always appreciate its sublimity; the monster is more evident
than the miracle. It was thus that men first judged the Convention.
The purblind undertook to fathom an abyss whose depths could only be
sounded by the eagle.

To-day we behold it in the perspective outlining the granite profile
of the French Revolution against the calm and tragic background of the
far-away heavens.


II.

The 14th of July set the nation free.

The 10th of August hurled its thunderbolts.

The 21st of September founded a new era; for the 21st of September
was the equinox, the equilibrium, _Libra_,--the balance-scales of
Justice. According to the remark of Romme, the Republic was proclaimed
beneath this sign of Equality and Justice,--heralded, so to speak, by a
constellation.

The Convention is the first avatar of the people. It was the
Convention that turned the new and glorious page, introducing the
future of to-day.

Every idea requires a visible embodiment; every principle needs a
habitation; a church means the four walls within which the Almighty
has his dwelling-place; every dogma must have its temple. When the
Convention became a fact, the first problem was to locate it.

At first it was established in the Manège, but afterwards at the
Tuileries. Here they raised a platform and arranged scenery, painted
in gray, by David; also, rows of benches and a square tribune; there
were parallel pilasters, with massive plinths, and long rectangular
stems, and square enclosures, into which the multitude crowded, and
which were called public tribunes; a Roman velarium, and Grecian
draperies; and amid these right angles and straight lines the
Convention was installed,--a tempest confined within geometrical
limits. On the tribune the red cap was painted in gray. At first the
Royalists ridiculed this gray _bonnet-rouge_, this artificial hall,
this pasteboard monument, this sanctuary of papier-mâché, this pantheon
of mud and spittle. How quickly it was destined to vanish! The pillars
were made of barrel-staves, the arches of thin deal boards, the
bas-reliefs were mastic, the entablature was of pine, the statues were
of plaster, the marble was painted, the walls were of canvas; and in
this provisional shelter France has recorded deeds that can never be
forgotten.

During the early sessions of the Convention the walls of the Hall
of the Manège were covered with the advertisements with which Paris
swarmed at the time of the return from Varennes. On one might be read:
"The King returns. Whoever applauds him will be chastised; whoever
insults him will be hung." On another: "Peace. Keep your hats on your
heads. He is about to pass before his judges." On another: "The King
took aim at the nation, but his weapon hung fire. Now the nation has
its turn." On another: "The law! the law!" It was within these walls
that the Convention sat in judgment on Louis XVI.

At the Tuileries, now called the Palais National, where the Convention
had held its sessions from the 10th of May, 1793, the Assembly
Hall occupied the space between the Pavillon de l'Horloge, called
Pavillon Unité, and the Pavillon Marsan, called Pavillon Liberté. The
Pavillon de Flore was now called Pavillon-Égalité. The Assembly Hall
was accessible by the grand staircase of Jean Bullant. The entire
ground-floor of the palace below the first story, occupied by the
Assembly, was a kind of long guardroom, littered with the luggage and
camp-beds of the various troops mounting guard over the Convention. The
Assembly had a special guard of honor, called "the Grenadiers of the
Convention."

A tricolored ribbon divided the palace occupied by the Assembly from
the garden where the people passed in and out.


III.

Let us finish our description of the Assembly Hall. Everything
concerning this terrible place is of interest. The first object to
attract one's attention on entering was a tall statue of Liberty,
placed between two large windows. This hall, which was formerly
the king's theatre, had now become the stage of Revolution. It was
forty-two metres long, ten metres in width, and eleven in height. This
elegant and superb hall built by Vigarani for the use of the courtiers
was hidden beneath the rude timber-work which served to support the
weight of the people in '93. The only point of support upon which
this timber-work of the public tribunes rested, was a single post,
which well deserves honorable mention. This post consisted of one
solid piece, ten metres in circumference, and few caryatides have done
an equal amount of work; for years it bore the severe pressure of
revolution. It has supported applause, enthusiasm, insult, clamors and
tumults, the tremendous chaos of wrath, the fury of insurrection, and
never given way beneath its burden. After the Convention it witnessed
the council of the Ancients. On the 18th Brumaire it was relieved. At
that time Percier replaced this wooden pillar by columns of marble that
did not last so long.

An architect's ideal is sometimes peculiar; that of the architect
of the Rue de Rivoli was the curved path of a cannon-ball in its
flight; the architect of Carlsruhe conceived the ideal of a fan;
and the conception of the architect who built the hall where
the Convention established itself on the 10th of May, 1793, was
apparently a huge bureau drawer, for it was long as well as high and
flat. A great semicircle had been added to one of the long sides
of the parallelogram; this was the amphitheatre with seats for
the representatives, but neither tables nor desks; Garan-Coulon,
who wrote a great deal, used to write, resting his paper on his
knee; facing the benches was the tribune,--before it the bust of
Lepelletier-Saint-Fargeau, and behind it the president's arm-chair.
The head of the bust projected slightly above the edge of the tribune,
which afterwards was the cause of its removal.

The amphitheatre consisted of nineteen semicircular benches, rising one
above the other, some of which had been lengthened in order to fit into
the corners, by means of other benches cut off for the purpose.

In the semicircle beneath, at the foot of the tribunal, were the places
of the ushers, and on the other side of the tribune hung a placard
nine feet high, set in a black wooden frame, and bearing on its two
pages, separated by a kind of sceptre, the Declaration of the rights
of man. On the other side was an empty space which was afterwards
occupied by a similar frame, containing the Constitution of the year
II., with the two pages separated by a sword. Above the tribune, over
the head of the orator, from a deep loge divided into two compartments
and filled with People, floated three immense tricolored banners,
arranged in a horizontal position, resting on an altar upon which
could be read the following words: "The Law." Behind this altar rose,
like the sentinel of freedom of speech, an enormous Roman fasces as
tall as a column. Two colossal statues, placed erect against the wall,
faced the representatives,--Lycurgus on the president's right hand,
Solon on his left, with Plato towering above the Mountain. The statues
stood on simple wooden blocks, resting on a long projecting cornice
that encircled the hall, separating the people from the Assembly. The
spectators leaned their elbows on this cornice.

The black wooden frame enclosing the proclamation of the Rights of
Man reached to the cornice, interfering with the symmetry of the
entablature,--an infraction of the straight line that made Chabot
growl. "It is ugly," he said to Vadier.

The heads of the statues were decorated with wreaths of oak and laurel.

Green curtains, on which similar wreaths were painted in a deeper shade
of the same color, fell in heavy folds from the surrounding cornice,
draping the entire lower floor of the hall occupied by the Assembly.
Above this drapery the wall was white and bare. In this wall, as if
carved by a chisel, without moulding or ornament, were two stories of
public tribunes, the square ones below, the round ones above; according
to the rule-for the influence of Vitruvius was still acknowledge--the
archivolts were superimposed upon the architraves. There were ten
tribunes on each of the long sides of the hall, and two huge boxes at
both ends; twenty-four in all. There sat the assembled crowd.

The spectators in the lower tribunes overflowed their bounds, grouping
themselves on every projection along the cornice. A long iron bar,
firmly fastened at the point of support, served as a rail to the upper
tribunes, and protected the spectators from the pressure of the crowds
that ascended the stairs. Once, however, a man who was pitched suddenly
into the Assembly below escaped death by falling partly upon Massieu,
Bishop of Beauvais; whereupon he exclaimed, "Really, a bishop has his
use, then, after all!"

The hall of the Convention was large enough to contain two thousand
persons, and on the days of insurrections even three thousand.

The Convention held two sessions,--one during the day and one in the
evening.

The back of the president's chair was round, studded with gilt nails.
His table was supported by four winged monsters with a single foot,
who might have been supposed to have come forth from the Apocalypse
to witness the Revolution. They seemed to have been unharnessed from
Ezekiel's chariot to drag the tumbril of Samson.

On the president's table stood a huge bell, almost as large as a
church-bell, a big copper inkstand, and a parchment portfolio, which
contained the record of proceedings. The blood from many a severed
head, borne aloft on the end of a pike, has dripped upon this table.

Nine steps led to the tribune. These steps were high, steep, and
difficult of ascent; Gensonné once tripped in the act of mounting them.
"It is like the staircase of a scaffold!" he said. "It is well to serve
your apprenticeship!" cried Carrier.

In the corners of the hall, where the walls seemed rather bare, the
architect had placed Roman fasces as ornaments, with the axe bound on
the outside.

On the right and left of the tribune pedestals supported two candelabra
twelve feet high, each bearing four pairs of Argand lamps. For each
public box there was a similar candelabra; and on the pedestals
of these candelabra circles were carved, which the people called
"guillotine collars."

The seats of the Assembly, rising almost to the cornice of the
tribunes, gave the representatives and the people an opportunity to
chat with one another.

The exits of the tribunes opened into a labyrinth of corridors, often
echoing with wild and tumultuous sounds.

The Convention, outgrowing the limits of the palace, ace, overflowed
into the neighboring hotels of Longueville and Coigny. If we may credit
Lord Bradford's letter, it was to the Hôtel Coigny that the royal
furniture was removed after the 10th of August. It took two entire
months to empty the Tuileries.

The committees were lodged in the vicinity of the hall: those of
legislation, agriculture, and commerce at the Pavillon-Égalité; those
of the navy, the colonies, finance, assignats, and public safety, at
the Pavillon Liberté; the Committee of War was at the Pavillon-Unité.

The lodgings of the Committee of General Safety were accessible to
those of the Public Safety through a dark corridor, lighted night and
day by a lantern,--a passage-way for the spies of all parties, who came
and went, talking in whispers.

The bar of the Convention had been changed several times. Usually it
was at the right hand of the president.

At both ends of the hall the two vertical partitions that shut off the
concentric semicircles of the amphitheatre on the right hand and on the
left, allowed space enough between partition and wall for two long and
narrow passages closed at either end by square doors, which afforded
entrance and exit.

A door opening upon the Terrasse des Feuillants, and leading directly
into the hall, served for the admittance of the representatives.

This hall, ineffectually lighted during the day by windows, whose
insufficient glimmer was replaced by livid torches when twilight fell,
seemed ever shrouded in night. The lamplight sessions were lugubrious,
the artificial light seeming really to increase rather than diminish
the darkness. No man could see his neighbor; from all parts of the hall
indistinct groups of faces seemed to be mocking each other. People
passed one another without recognition. One day Laignelot, hastening to
the tribune, jostled some one in the descending passage. "I beg pardon,
Robespierre," he said. "For whom do you take me?" replied a hoarse
voice. "Excuse me, Marat," said Laignelot.

Below, one tribune on either Bide of the president was reserved; for,
strange to say, privileged spectators were admitted to the Convention.
The draperies of these tribunes--the only ones thus adorned--were
caught back to the middle of the architrave by golden cords and
tassels. The tribunes of the people were bare. The general effect
was stern, unconventional, and yet correct. The union of propriety
and fierceness is the essence of a revolutionary life. The Hall of
the Convention presented a perfect example of what artists have
since called the "messidor architecture." It was at once massive and
frail. The builders of that period mistook symmetry for beauty. The
Renaissance had said its last word under Louis XV., and a reaction had
set in. The standards of nobility and purity had been so exaggerated
that that which was really noble had degenerated into insipidity, and
purity itself had become inexpressibly wearisome. Prudery may exist
in architecture. After the dazzling orgies of form and color of the
eighteenth century, art had begun a system of diet, and allowed itself
only a straight line. This style of improvement resulted in ugliness,
and art was thereby reduced to a skeleton,--a phenomenal condition
which is the drawback to this kind of wisdom and abstinence; the style
is so strict that it becomes meagre. Apart from all political emotion,
the mere sight of this architecture made one shiver. Dimly recalling
the old theatre, with its garlanded boxes, its ceiling of azure and
crimson, its chandelier and girandoles with their prismatic reflections
glittering like diamonds, its dove-colored upholstery, the profusion
of cupids and nymphs on its curtain and draperies,--all that royal and
amorous idyl, painted, sculptured, and gilded, which once irradiated
this gloomy place with its smile,--and then casting one's eyes upon
these severe rectangular lines, cold and sharp as steel, made one think
of Boucher guillotined by David.


IV.

He who looked upon the Assembly utterly forgot the hall. He who
witnessed the drama was oblivious to the theatre. Nothing more
misshapen and at the same time sublime. A crowd of heroes, a herd of
cowards; wild beasts on the mountain, reptiles in the swamp. There all
those combatants, the ghosts of to-day, swarmed, elbowed each other,
quarrelling, threatening, fighting, and living out their lives.

A convocation of Titans!

[Illustration 054]

On the right the Gironde,--a legion of thinkers; on the left the
Mountain,--a group of athletes. Here might be seen Brissot, to whom
the keys of the Bastille had been delivered; Barbaroux, who ruled
the Marseillais; Kervélégan, who had entire control of the battalion
of Brest, quartered in the Faubourg Saint-Marceau; Gensonné, who had
established the supremacy of representatives over generals; Gaudet,
that man of ill-omen, to whom the Queen one evening at the Tuileries
had shown the sleeping Dauphin: Gaudet kissed the child on the
forehead, and beheaded the father; the chimerical Salles, who denounced
the intrigues of the Mountain with Austria; Sillery, the cripple of the
Right, and Couthon, the paralytic of the Left; Lause-Duperret, who,
upon being called a "villain" by a certain journalist, invited him to
dinner, saying, "Oh, 'villain' simply means a man whose opinions differ
from our own;" Rabaut-Saint-Étienne, who began his almanac in 1790
with these words: "The Revolution is over;" Quinette, one of those who
hastened the downfall of Louis XVI.; the Jansenist Camus, who compiled
the civil constitution of the clergy, believed in the miracles of the
deacon of Pâris, and prostrated himself every night before an image of
Christ seven feet high, nailed to his chamber wall; the priest Fauchet,
who, together with Camille Desmoulins, was instrumental in bringing
about the 14th of July; Isnard, guilty of saying, "Paris will be
destroyed," at the very moment when Brunswick was saying, "Paris will
be burned;" Jacob Dupont, who was the first man to proclaim himself "an
atheist," and to whom Robespierre replied, "Atheism is aristocratic;"
Lanjuinais, a stern, sagacious, and valiant Breton; Ducos, the Euryalus
of Boyet-Fonfrède; Rebecqui, the Pylades of Barbaroux, who tendered
his resignation because Robespierre had not as yet been guillotined;
Richaud, who was opposed to the permanency of Sections; Lasource, who
uttered the murderous apothegm, "Woe be unto grateful nations," and who
at the foot of the scaffold was to contradict himself by those haughty
words, flung to the members of the Mountain,--"We are dying because the
nation slumbers; when it awakes your turn will come;" Biroteau, who in
abolishing the inviolability of the crown unconsciously forged his own
axe and reared his own scaffold; Charles Villatte, who shielded his
conscience behind this protest: "I will not vote beneath the axe;"
Louvet, the author of "Faublas," who was to end as a librarian at the
Palais Royal, with Lodoïska at the desk; Mercier, the author of the
"Tableau de Paris," who exclaimed, "Every king felt of his neck on the
21st of January;" Marec, who had the care of the "faction of ancient
limits;" the journalist Carra, who at the foot of the scaffold said
to the executioner: "It is provoking to die; I should like to have
seen the result;" Vigée, who called himself a grenadier of the second
battalion of Mayenne-et-Loire, and who when threatened by the public
tribunes, cried, "I move that at the first murmur of the tribunes we
all withdraw, and, sabre in hand, march upon Versailles;" Buzot, who
was doomed to die of hunger, and Valazé, to fall by his own dagger;
Condorcet, who was to die at Bourg-la-Reine, or Bourg-Égalité, as
it was called at that time, betrayed by a volume of Horace that he
carried in his pocket; Pétion, whose fate it was to be adored by the
populace in 1792 and devoured by the wolves in 1794; and twenty more
besides,--Pontécoulant, Marboz, Lidon, Saint-Martin, Dussaulx, the
translator of Juvenal, who had made the Hanover campaign; Boileau,
Bertrand, Lesterp-Beauvais, Lesage, Gomaire, Gardien, Mainvielle,
Duplantier, Lacaze, Antiboul, and, foremost among them all, Barnave,
whom men called Vergniaud.

[Illustration 055]

On the other side, Antoine-Louis-Léon Florelle de Saint-Just, a youth
of twenty-three, whose pallid face, low forehead, regular profile, and
deep, mysterious eyes conveyed an impression of profound melancholy;
Merlin de Thionville, whom the Germans called "Feuer-Teufel"--the
fire-devil; Merlin de Douai, the guilty author of the Law of the
Suspects; Soubrany, whom the Parisians, in the riot of the first
Prairial, demanded for their general; the former curé, Lebon, who
now held a sabre in the hand that had once sprinkled holy water;
Billaud-Varennes, who foresaw the magistracy of the future, when
arbitrators would take the place of judges; Fabre d'Églantine, who
chanced upon the happy invention of the republican calendar, and Rouget
de Lisle, the composer of the Marseillaise,--no second inspiration ever
visited either of these two men; Manuel, the attorney of the Commune,
who had said, "A dead king is no less a man;" Goujon, who marched into
Tripstadt, Newstadt, and Spire, and who witnessed the flight of the
Prussian army; Lacroix, a lawyer transformed into a general and made
knight of Saint-Louis six days before August 10; Fréron-Thersite, son
of Fréron Zoïle; Ruth, the inexorable searcher of the iron cupboard,
predestined to a great republican suicide, who was to kill himself on
the day of the death of the Republic; Fouché, with the soul of a demon
and the face of a corpse; Camboulas, the friend of Père Duchesne, who
used to say to Guillotin, "You belong to the Club of the Feuillants,
but your daughter belongs to the Club of the Jacobins;" Jagot, who
replied to those who pitied the nakedness of the prisoners in those
savage words: "A prison is a dress of stone;" Javogues, the frightful
desecrator of the tombs of Saint-Denis; Osselin, himself a proscriber,
who sheltered one of the proscribed, Madame Charry, in his own house;
Bentabolle, who while presiding over the Assembly gave the tribunes
the signal for applause or disapproval; the journalist Robert,
Mademoiselle Kéralio's husband, who wrote: "Neither Robespierre nor
Marat comes to my house; Robespierre is welcome to come whenever he
chooses, Marat never;" Garan-Coulon, who, when Spain interceded on
the occasion of the trial of Louis XVI., had haughtily requested that
the Assembly should not condescend to read the letter of one king
pleading for another; the bishop Grégoire, who in the earlier part of
his career was worthy to have belonged to the primitive church, but who
afterwards, during the period of the Empire, renounced his Republican
principles; Amar, who said, "The whole earth condemns Louis XVI.; to
whom then shall we appeal for judgment? To the planets;" Rouyer, who on
the 21st of January opposed the firing of the cannon of the Pont-Neuf,
saying, "A king's head ought to make no more noise in falling than the
head of any other man;" Chénier, brother of the poet André; Vadier,
one of those who placed a pistol on the tribune; Tanis, who used to
say to Momoro, "I want Marat and Robespierre to embrace at my table."

[Illustration 056]

"Where do you live?" "At Charenton." "It would have surprised me had
you said elsewhere," was Momoro's reply; Legendre, who was the butcher
of the French Revolution, as Pride had been of the English Revolution.
"Come and be slaughtered!" he cried to Lanjuinais. To which the latter
replied: "First pass a decree that I am an ox, if you please;" Collot
d'Herbois, that gloomy comedian, wearing, as it were, the antique
mask with the double mouth, one of which said "Yes," while the
other said "No," approving on the one hand and blaming on the other,
defaming Carrier in Nantes and deifying Châlier in Lyons, sending
Robespierre to the scaffold and Marat to the Pantheon; Génissieux,
who asked that the penalty of death should be imposed on whosoever
should be found wearing a medal that bore the inscription, "Louis XVI.
martyred;" Léonard Bourdon, the schoolmaster, who had offered his
house to the old man of Mount Jura; Topsent, the sailor; Goupilleau,
the lawyer; Laurient Lecointre, merchant; Duhem, the doctor; Sergent,
the sculptor; David, the artist; and Joseph Égalité, the prince; and
others besides,--Lecointe Puiraveau, who called for a formal decree
pronouncing Marat "insane;" Robert Lindet, the troublesome author
of that devilfish whose head was the Committee of Public Safety,
and whose twenty-one thousand arms embraced France in the shape of
revolutionary committees; Leboeuf, on whom Girey-Dupré, in his "Noël
des faux-Patriotes," wrote this line:--

"Leboeuf vit Legendre et beugla."

Thomas Paine, the benevolent American; Anacharsis Cloots, the
millionnaire, a German baron, who although an atheist was still a man
of sincere purpose, and a follower of Hébert; the upright Lebas, a
friend of the Duplays; Rovère, one of those men whom one occasionally
meets, who indulge in wickedness for its own sake, a variety of amateur
more common than we might imagine; Charlier, who wished to address
aristocrats with the familiar "vous;" the elegiac and cruel Tallien,
who was to bring about the 9th Thermidor out of pure love of it:
Cambacérès, a lawyer, who finally became a prince; Carrier, another
lawyer, who turned into a tiger; Laplanche, who once exclaimed, "I
demand priority for the alarm-gun;" Thuriot, who wished the jurors
of the Revolutionary Tribunal to vote aloud; Bourdon de l'Oise, who
provoked Chambon to challenge him, denounced Paine, and in his turn was
denounced by Hébert; Fayau, who proposed to despatch an incendiary army
into the Vendée; Tavaux, who on the 13th of April acted as a sort of
mediator between the Gironde and the Mountain; Vernier, who suggested
that the leaders of the Gironde and the Mountain should be sent to
serve as common soldiers; Rewbell, who shut himself up in Mayence;
Bourbotte, whose horse was killed under him at Saumur; Guimberteau and
Jard-Panvilliers, the commanders of the army of the Cherbourg coast and
that of La Rochelle; Lecarpentier, who was in charge of the squadron of
Cancale; Roberjot, for whom the ambush of Rastadt was lying in wait;
Prieur de la Marne, who wore in camp his former major's epaulettes;
Levasseur de la Sarthe, who by a single word induced Serrent, commander
of the Battalion of Saint-Armand, to kill himself; Reverchon, Maure,
Bernard de Saintes, Charles Richard, Lequinio, and towering above them
all a Mirabeau whom men called Danton.

Belonging to neither of these parties, and yet holding both in awe,
rose the man Robespierre.


[Illustration: 057]


V.

Below crouched dismay, which may be noble, and fear, which cannot
fail to be contemptible. Beneath all these passions, this heroism
and devotion, this rage, might be seen the gloomy multitude of the
anonymous. The shoals of the Assembly were called the Plain, comprising
the entire floating element,--men who are in doubt, who hesitate,
retreat, temporize, mistrustfully watching one another. The Mountain
and the Gironde were the chosen few, the Plain was the crowd. The Plain
was summed up and expressed in Sieyès.

Sieyès was a man of a naturally profound mind, full of chimerical
projects. He had paused at the Third Estate, and had never been able
to rise as high as the people. Certain minds are constituted to rest
midway. Sieyès called Robespierre a tiger, who returned the compliment
by calling him a mole. He was a philosopher who had attained prudence
if not wisdom. He was a courtier, rather than the servant of the
Revolution. He took a spade and went to work with the people in the
Champs de Mars, hauling the same cart with Alexander de Beauharnais. He
urged others to energetic labors which he never performed himself. He
said to the Girondists: "Put the cannon on your own side." There are
philosophers who are natural wrestlers, and they like Condorcet joined
the party of Vergniaud, or like Camille Desmoulins that of Danton.
There are philosophers who value their lives, and those who belonged to
this class followed Sieyès.

The best vats have their dregs. Still lower even than the Plain was
the Marsh, whose stagnation was hideous to look upon, revealing
as it did transparent egotism. There shivered the timid in silent
expectation. Nothing could be more wretched. Ignominious to the last
degree, and yet feeling no shame, hiding their indignation, living in
servitude, cherishing covert rebellion, possessed by a certain cynical
terror, they had all the desperation peculiar to cowardice; they
really preferred the Gironde, and yet they chose the Mountain; when
the final result depended on them, they went over to the successful
side; they surrendered Louis XVI. to Vergniaud, Danton to Robespierre,
and Robespierre to Tallien. They put Marat in the pillory during his
lifetime, and deified him after his death. They showed themselves the
partisans of the very cause which they suddenly turned against. They
seemed to possess an instinct for jostling the infirm. Since they had
joined the cause with the understanding that it was a strong one, any
sign of wavering seemed to them equivalent to treason. They were the
majority, the power, and the fear. Hence springs the audacity of the
base.

Hence the 31st of May, the 11th Germinal, the 9th Thermidor,--tragedies
where dwarfs untied the knots of giants.


VI.

And among these passionate men were to be found others, fanciful
dreamers. Utopia was there in all its varied forms,--from the warlike,
which admitted the scaffold, to the mild, which would fain abolish
the penalty of death; a spectre or an angel, according as one viewed
it from the throne or from the side of the common people. Men eager
for the fray stood face to face with others who were contented
to brood over their dreams of peace. The brain of Carnot created
fourteen armies while Jean Debry was revolving in his head a scheme
of universal democratic federation. Amid this furious eloquence, amid
these howling and thundering voices, some men there were who preserved
a fruitful silence. Lakanal was silent, preoccupied with his system
for national public education; Lanthenas held his peace, absorbed in
his plans for primary schools; Revellière-Lepaux was silent, dreaming
of philosophy when it should attain the dignity of religion. Others
busied themselves with matters of minor importance and the details
of every-day life. Guyton-Morveaux was interested in the improvement
of the sanitary condition of hospitals; Maire in the abolishment of
existing servitudes; Jean-Bon-Saint-André in the suppression of arrest
and imprisonment for debt; Romme in Chappe's proposition; Duböe in
the filing of the archives; Coren-Fustier in the foundation of the
Cabinet of Anatomy and the Museum of Natural History; Guyomard in
the navigation of rivers and the damming of the Scheldt. Men were
fanatical about art, even monomaniacs on the subject; on the 21st of
January, at the very time when the head of monarchy was falling on the
Place de la Révolution, Bézard, the representative of the Oise, went
to see a picture of Rubens which had been found in a garret in the
Rue Saint-Lazare. Artists, orators, and prophets, giants like Danton,
and men as childlike as Cloots, gladiators and philosophers, were all
straining for the same goal,--progress. Nothing disconcerted them. The
greatness of the Convention consisted in its efforts to discover what
degree of reality there might be in that which men call the impossible.
At one end stood Robespierre with his eyes fixed upon the Law, and at
the other Condorcet gazing with equal steadiness on Duty.

[Illustration 058]

Condorcet was a man enlightened, but given to dreaming. Robespierre
possessed executive ability; and sometimes, in the final crises of
worn-out conditions, execution signifies extermination. Revolutions
have two slopes,--the one ascending, the other descending,--whereon we
meet at different stages each season in its turn, from the freezing to
the flowery; and each zone produces men suited to the climate, from
those who live under the hot rays of the sun, to those who dwell with
the thunderbolt.


[Illustration 059]


VII.

People pointed out to each other the bend in the left-hand passage,
where Robespierre whispered to Clavière's friend Garat that terrible
epigram, "Clavière a conspiré partout où il a respiré." In this
same bend, well adapted for privacy and suppressed indignation,
Fabre d'Églantine quarrelled with Romme, reproaching him for having
disfigured his calendar by changing Fervidor into Thermidor.
People pointed out the corner where, elbow to elbow, sat the seven
representatives of Haute-Garonne, who, being the first called upon to
pronounce their verdict upon Louis XVI., had thus answered, one after
the other: Mailhe, "death;" Delmas, "death;" Projean, "death;" Calès,
"death;" Ayral, "death;" Julien, "death;" Desaby, "death,"--eternal
reverberation that fills all history, and since the birth of human
justice has continued to send forth a funereal echo from the walls of
the tribunal. Amid this stormy sea of faces one man would point out
to another the individuals whose tragic votes had caused that fearful
din: Paganel, who cried, "Death. A king serves no purpose save by his
death." Millaud, who said, "If death had never been known, we must
to-day have invented it." Old Raffron du Trouillet, who exclaimed,
"A speedy death!" Goupilleau, who cried, "The scaffold, at once.
Delay but aggravates the pain of death." Sieyès, who with solemn
brevity uttered the single word, "Death." Thuriot, who, rejecting
the appeal to the people proposed by Buzot, said, "What! The primary
assemblies! forty-four thousand tribunals! an endless trial! The
head of Louis XVI. would have time to grow gray before it fell."
Augustin-Bon-Robespierre, who exclaimed, after his brother, "I ignore
that humanity which massacres the people and pardons despots! Death!
The demand for a reprieval means a substitution of the appeal to
tyrants for the appeal to the people." Foussedoire, who took the place
of Bernardin-de-Saint-Pierre, saying, "The shedding of human blood is
abhorrent to me; but the blood of a king is not human blood. Death!"
Jean-Bon-Saint-André, who said, "No nation can be free until the tyrant
dies." Lavicomterie, who expressed himself in this formula: "So long as
the tyrant breathes, liberty is strangled. Death!" Châteauneuf-Randon,
who cried, "The death of Louis the Last!" Guyardin, who suggested, "Let
him be executed at the Barrière-Renversée." The Barrière-Renversée was
the Barrière du Trône. Tellier, who said, "Let us forge a cannon of the
calibre of Louis XVI.'s head, to fire upon the enemy." And among those
inclined to mercy, Gentil was one, who said, "I vote for imprisonment.
He who makes a Charles I. makes a Cromwell likewise." Bancal, who said,
"Exile. I should like to see the first king of the earth sentenced to
earn his living at a trade." Albouys, who said, "Exile. Let this living
spectre wander round among the thrones." Zangiacomi, who said, "I vote
for imprisonment; let us keep Capet alive for a scarecrow." Chaillon,
who said, "Let him live! I do not approve of killing a man for Rome to
canonize." While sentences like these fell one after the other from
these severe lips, making their way into history, bedizened women in
low-necked dresses sat in the boxes, and with list in hand counted the
votes as they were given, pricking each name with a pin.

[Illustration 060]

Where tragedy has entered in, horror and pity remain. To see the
Convention, at whatsoever epoch of its reign, was to witness anew the
judgment of the last of the Capets; the legend of the 21st of January
seemed to be interwoven with all its acts; the formidable Assembly was
composed of those men whose fatal breath put out the ancient torch of
monarchy, which had burned for eighteen centuries; the decisive trial
of all kings in the person of one seemed to be the starting-point of
the great war which it waged against the past. At whatsoever session of
the Convention one might be present, the shadow cast by the scaffold
of Louis XVI. never failed to make itself evident. The spectators
told each other about the resignations of Kersaint and Roland, and
also about Duchâtel the deputy of the Deux-Sèvres, who, being ill,
caused himself to be carried to the Assembly, and on his death-bed
voted against the execution of the king,--an act which excited Marat
to laughter. People looked for the representative forgotten to-day,
who, after a session that had lasted thirty-seven hours, overcome by
fatigue, fell asleep on his bench, and being roused by the usher when
his turn came to vote, half-opened his eyes, murmured, "Death," and
fell asleep again.

At the time when the death-sentence of Louis XVI. was passed,
Robespierre had eighteen months to live, Danton fifteen, Vergniaud
nine, Marat five months and three weeks, and Lepelletier-Saint-Fargeau
one day! Brief and terrible was the breath of life in those days.


VIII.

The people had a window, opening on the Convention in the shape of the
public tribunes, and when this window proved inadequate, they opened
the door, and the street-population poured in upon the Assembly. The
invasions of the crowd into this senate presented one of the most
striking spectacles known to history. Generally these irruptions
were amicable. The street fraternized with the curule chair. But
friendship with a people who had once, in the course of three hours,
taken the cannon of the Invalides and forty thousand muskets besides,
was a somewhat formidable relationship. At every moment a procession
interrupted the session. There were deputations admitted to the bar,
petitions, expressions of respect, offerings. The pike of honor of the
Faubourg Saint-Antoine was brought in, borne by women. The English
offered twenty thousand pairs of shoes for our barefooted soldiers.
"Citizen Arnoux," said the "Moniteur," "the curé of Aubignan, in
command of the battalion of the Drôme, requests permission to march
to the frontier, and begs that his parish may be kept for him." The
delegates from the Sections came, bringing in wheelbarrows, dishes,
patens, chalices, monstrances, heaps of gold, silver, and gilt,
offerings to the country from this ragged crowd, who asked, as a
reward, permission to dance the Carmagnole before the Convention.

[Illustration 061]

Chenard, Narbonne, and Vallière came to sing stanzas in honor of the
Mountain. The section of Mont-Blanc brought the bust of Lepelletier,
and a woman placed a red cap on the head of the president, who embraced
her; "the citoyennes of the section du Mail" strewed flowers "before
the legislators;" the "pupils of the country," escorted by music, came
to thank the Convention for having "paved the way for the prosperity
of the century;" the women of the section of the Gardes-Françaises
brought roses; the women of the section of the Champs-Élysées presented
a crown of oak-leaves; the women of the section of the Temple came to
the bar and took an oath "to wed only true Republicans;" the section of
Molière presented a medal of Franklin which, by a formal decree, was
suspended from the wreath of the statue of Liberty; the Foundlings,
who had been declared the Children of the Republic, filed by, dressed
in the national uniform; young girls of the ninety-third section came
arrayed in long white gowns, and the next day the "Moniteur" contained
this line: "The president receives a bouquet from the innocent hands
of a fair young girl." The orators saluted the crowds and sometimes
flattered them, saying to the multitude; "Thou art infallible; thou
art irreproachable; thou art sublime." The lower classes are childlike;
they are fond of sugar-plums. Sometimes a riot would invade the
Assembly, entering in a fury and departing pacified, like the Rhone
flowing through Lake Leman, which is muddy enough on its entrance, but
flows out as blue as the sky.

[Illustration 062]

If it continued turbulent, Henriot would now and then order his
furnaces for heating the bullets to be brought up to the entrance of
the Tuileries.


IX.

While this assembly was throwing off the shackles of revolution, it was
also promoting civilization. It was a furnace, to be sure, but it was
likewise a forge. In this caldron where terror was bubbling, progress
also fermented. From that chaos of shadows and tempestuous whirlwind
of clouds spread immense rays of light parallel with the eternal
laws,--rays that have since rested on the horizon, forever visible
in the sky of the nations, and which are called justice, tolerance,
goodness, reason, truth, and love. The Convention proclaimed this
grand axiom: "The liberty of one citizen ends where that of another
begins;" thus summing up in two lines the essence of social science.
It proclaimed the sanctity of the poor, as well as of the infirm in
the persons of the blind, and of the mutes, whose guardianship had
been assumed by the State; it honored maternity in the person of the
girl-mother, whom it comforted and lifted up, childhood in the orphans
adopted by the State, and innocence in the accused, who was indemnified
by the government after his acquittal. It branded the traffic in
blacks and abolished slavery. It proclaimed civil consolidation. It
decreed gratuitous instruction. It organized national education by
the establishment of the normal school in Paris, the central school
in the cities, and the primary school in the communes. It founded
conservatories and museums. It systematized the Code as well as the
weights and measures, and the method of calculation by decimals. It
established the finances of France upon a firm basis, and brought about
an era of public credit after the long monarchical bankruptcy. It
established communication by telegraph, it provided almshouses for old
age and the improved hospitals for sickness; it gave the Polytechnic
School to the cause of education, the Bureau of Longitude to science,
and the Institute to the domain of human intellect. It was at once
cosmopolitan and national. Of the eleven thousand two hundred and ten
decrees issued by the Convention, the proportion of philanthropic as
compared with the political was as two to one. It proclaimed universal
morality to be the basis of society, and universal conscience the basis
of the law. And it must be remembered that all these reforms--the
abolition of slavery, the proclamation of universal brotherhood, the
protection of humanity, the elevation of the human conscience, the law
of labor changed into a privilege, thus transforming the burden into a
comfort, the consolidation of the national wealth, the enlightenment
and protection of children, the dissemination of knowledge and
science, a light set upon all the mountain-tops, help proffered to the
suffering, and the promulgation of all principle--were accomplished by
the Convention, with the Vendée gnawing like hydra at its entrails, and
the kings of the world leaping like tigers upon its shoulders.

[Illustration 063]


X.

Astonishing assembly! The human, the inhuman, and the
superhuman,--every type in short might be found there. An epic
accumulation of antagonisms,--Guillotin avoiding David, Bazire
insulting Chabot, Gaudet mocking Saint-Just, Vergniaud despising
Danton, Louvet attacking Robespierre, Buzot denouncing Égalité, Chambon
branding Pache: all hating Marat. And how many more names might yet be
registered! Armonville,--called Bonnet-Rouge, because at the sessions
he invariably wore a Phrygian cap,--a friend of Robespierre, who
demanded that the latter should be "guillotined after Louis XVI." to
restore the equilibrium; Massieu, a colleague and counterpart of the
kindly Lamourette, the bishop, destined to leave his name to a kiss;
Lehardy du Morbihan, stigmatizing the priests of Brittany; Barère,
the man of majorities, who presided when Louis XVI. appeared at the
bar, and who bore the same relation to Paméla as Louvet to Lodoïska;
the orator Daunou, who said, "Let us gain time;" Dubois-Crancé, who
listened to Marat's whispered confidences; the Marquis de Châteauneuf;
Laclos; Herault de Séchelle, who fell back before Henriot, crying,
"Gunners, to your pieces!" Julien, who compared the Mountain to
Thermopylæ; Gamon, who demanded that a public tribune should be
reserved exclusively for women; Laloy, who awarded the honors of
the session to Bishop Gobel, who came to the Convention to exchange
his mitre for the red cap; Lecomte, who cried, "So we pay homage to
the priest who unfrocks himself;" Féraud, whose head was saluted by
Boissy-d'Anglas, leaving to history the solution of the query, "Did
Boissy-d'Anglas salute the victim in the person of the head, or the
assassins in the form of the pike?" the two brothers Duprat, one a
member of the Mountain, the other a Girondist, who hated each other, as
did the two brothers Chénier.

[Illustration 064]

Many a word has been uttered in this tribune in moments of excitement
which has sometimes unconsciously to the speaker aroused the fatal
spirit of revolution, and so influenced the existing circumstances
that a sense of discontent and passion suddenly sprang to life. As if
displeased with what they heard, events seemed to take offence at the
words of men, and catastrophes were precipitated by human speech. The
reverberation of a voice in the mountain is sufficient to start an
avalanche. The utterance of one superfluous word may be followed by a
landslide, which might not have happened had no word been spoken. One
might almost fancy that events develop a certain irascibility.

Thus a mistaken word falling by chance from the lips of an orator cost
Mme. Élisabeth her head.

Intemperance of language was the rule at the Convention. In the
discussions threats flew back and forth, crossing one another, like
sparks from a conflagration.

_Pétion._ "Come to the point, Robespierre."

_Robespierre._ "You are the point, Pétion. I shall come; you need have
no fear."

_A Voice._ "Death to Marat!"

_Marat._ "When Marat dies, the city of Paris will be no more; and when
Paris is gone, there is an end to the Republic."

Billaud-Varennes rose to say, "We wish to--"

Barère interrupted him: "You speak in the plural, like a king."

And another day:--

_Philippeaux._ "One of the members drew his sword upon me."

_Audouin._ "President, call the assassin to order."

_The President._ "Wait."

_Panis._ "President, I call you to order,"--a sally followed by an
outburst of rude laughter.

_Lecointre._ "The Curé of Chant-de-Bout complains that his Bishop
Fauchet forbids him to marry."

_A Voice._ "I see no reason why Fauchet, who has mistresses, should try
to prevent other men from having wives."

_Another Voice._ "Priest, take to thyself a wife."

The tribunes mingled in the conversation, and said "Thou" to the
members.

One day the representative Ruamps mounted to the tribune, and, one
of his hips being much larger than the other, a spectator called out
to him: "Turn that one towards the Right, since you have a cheek _à
la David!_" Such were the liberties that the people took with the
Convention. Once, however, during the uproar of the 11th of April,
1793, the president caused a disorderly person in the tribunes to be
arrested.

One day, during a session at which the venerable Buonarotti was
present, Robespierre had the floor, and spoke for two hours, never
removing his eyes from Danton,--sometimes looking straight at him,
which was unpleasant enough, but when he looked at him sideways, it
was even more disagreeable. His thunders of eloquence were not without
effect, ending by an indignant outburst full of ominous words: "We
know the intriguers, and those who strive to corrupt, as well as
those who are corrupted; we know the traitors also. They are present
in this Assembly. They hear our voice, our eyes are upon them, and
our gaze pursues them. Let them look above their heads, and they will
discover the sword of the law; let them look into their conscience, and
there behold their own infamy. Let them beware!" When Robespierre had
finished, Danton, with his half-closed eyes turned upwards and one arm
hanging over the back of his chair, threw himself back and began to
hum,--

      "Cadet Roussel fait des discours
       Qui ne sont pas longs quand ils sont courts."

Imprecations fell thick on every side,--"Conspirator!" "Assassin!"
"Scoundrel!" "Seditious!"

"Moderate!" They denounced one another in the presence of the bust of
Brutus standing there. Exclamations, insults, challenges! Angry glances
interchanged, much shaking of fists, flashing of pistols and half-drawn
daggers. An awful outblazing from the tribune. Some talked as if
they were pushed up against the guillotine. Heads waved to and fro,
frightened yet terrible. The multitude was like a volume of smoke blown
all ways at once,--men of the Mountain, Girondists, Feuillantists,
Moderates, Terrorists, Jacobins, Cordeliers, and the eighteen regicide
priests.

All these men!--a mass of smoke driven about in every direction.


XI.

Spirits at the mercy of the wind,--but a wind of preternatural power!

It might be truthfully said, even of the chief among them, that to be
a member of the Convention was like being a wave of the ocean. The
impetus came from above. There was an inherent force in the Convention,
which might be called a will,--not in the sense of an individual
quality, but belonging to the Assembly as a body; and this will was an
idea, indomitable and boundless, which from the heavens above descended
into the darkness below. Men called it Revolution, and wherever it
passed, some men were overthrown and others exalted; one would be
scattered like foam, while another was dashed to pieces against the
rocks. It kept its goal well in mind as it drove the maelstrom before
it. To impute revolution to men is like attributing the tides to the
waves.

Revolution is a manifestation of the unknown. You may call it good
or evil, according as you aspire to the future or cling to the past;
but leave it to its authors. It would seem to be the joint product
of great events and great individualities, but is in reality the
result of events alone. Events plan the expenditures for which men pay
the bills. Events dictate, men sign. The 14th of July was signed by
Camille Desmoulins, the 10th of August by Danton, the 2d September by
Marat, the 21st of September by Grégoire, and the 21st of January by
Robespierre; but Desmoulins, Danton, Marat, Grégoire, and Robespierre
are merely clerks. The majestic and mysterious compiler of those grand
pages was Almighty God, wearing the mask of destiny. Robespierre
believed in God,--he did indeed.

Revolution is one form of the eternal phenomenon that circumscribes us
on all sides, and which we call Necessity.

In the presence of this mysterious complication of benefits and
wretchedness rises the wherefore of history.

_Because._ This answer may be the reply of one who knows nothing, as
well as that of one who knows all.

In the presence of these monstrous catastrophes which both devastate
and revivify civilization, one hesitates to sit in judgment on the
details. To blame or to praise men on account of the result is very
much like praising or criticising the ciphers on account of the sum
total. The inevitable is sure to happen; if the wind is to blow, it
will blow, but the eternal serenity remains untouched by these blasts.
Like the starlit sky above the tempest, truth and justice sit enthroned
above all revolutions.


XII.

Such was this immeasurable Convention, like an intrenched encampment of
the human race attacked simultaneously by all the powers of darkness;
the camp-fires of an army of ideas besieged by its foes, an immense
bivouac of human intellect on the slope of a precipice. Nothing in
history can be compared to this Assembly, which contained within itself
senate and people, conclave and street-crossing, Areopagus and public
square, tribunal and accused.

The Convention always yielded to the wind; but this wind came from the
mouth of the people, and it was the breath of God.

And to-day, after the lapse of eighty years, every time the Convention
presents itself to the mind of any man whomsoever, whether philosopher
or historian, he cannot but pause and meditate; since no man can be
indifferent to that grand procession of shadows.


[Illustration 069]



II.


MARAT IN THE GREEN-ROOM.


On the day following the interview in the Rue du Paon, Marat, according
to the intention which he had announced to Simonne Évrard, went to the
Convention.

There chanced to be present a certain marquis, Louis de Montaut, an
admirer of Marat,--the same who afterwards presented to the Convention
a decimal clock surmounted by a bust of Marat.

Just as Marat entered, Chabot approached Montant. "Ci-devant--" he said.

Montaut looked up.

"Why do you call me ci-devant?"

"Because that's what you are."

"I?"

"Of course, since you were once a marquis."

"Never!"

"Nonsense!"

"My father was a soldier; my grandfather was a weaver."

"What folly is this, Montaut?"

"My name is not Montaut."

"What is it, then?"

"My name is Maribon."

"Very well," declared Chabot; "it is all one to me."

And he added, between his teeth,--

"Every man, nowadays, pretends that he is no marquis."

Marat stopped in the left-hand corridor and looked at Montaut and
Chabot.

Whenever he came in, a murmur would pass through the crowd, but always
at a respectful distance; it was quiet in his immediate vicinity. Marat
paid no attention whatever. He scorned the croaking of the frogs.

In this dim shadow obscuring the lower benches, Conpé de l'Oise,
Prunelle, Villars,--a bishop who afterwards became a member of the
French Academy,--Boutroue, Petit, Plaichard, Bonet, Thibaudeau,
Valdruche, pointed him out to one another.

"Look! There is Marat!"

"He is not ill, then?"

"Probably he is, since he is here in a dressing-gown."

"In a dressing-gown?"

"Certainly."

"What liberties he allows himself!"

"That he should dare to come to the Convention in such a garb!"

"Since he came one day crowned with laurels, he might be expected to
appear in a dressing-gown."

"With his face of copper, and teeth of verdigris."

"His dressing-gown seems new."

"What is it made of?"

"A kind of rep."

"Striped?"

"Just see the lapels!"

"They are made of fur."

"Tiger-skin?"

"No, ermine."

"Imitation."

"He has stockings on."

"Remarkable!"

"And shoes with buckles."

"Silver buckles!"

"Camboulas' sabots will not soon forgive him that."

On the opposite benches they pretended not to see Marat, but continued
to talk of other matters. Santhonax accosted Dussaulx.

"Have you heard, Dussaulx?"

"What?"

"The ci-devant Count de Brienne."

"The one who was at La Force with the ci-devant Duke de Villeroy?"

"Yes."

"I knew them both. What about them?"

"You know they were so frightened that they saluted all the red caps of
the turnkeys, and one day refused to take a hand at _piquet_ because a
pack of cards with kings and queens was offered them."

"Well?"

"They were guillotined yesterday."

"Both of them?"

"Yes."

"Well, how did they behave in prison?"

"Like cowards!"

"And what sort of a figure did they cut on the scaffold?"

"Intrepid."

Whereupon Dussaulx exclaimed,--

"It's easier to die than to live."

Barère had begun to read a report on the subject of the Vendée. Nine
hundred men from Morbihan had started with cannon to relieve Nantes.
Redon was threatened by the peasants, and Paimboeuf had been attacked.
A fleet was cruising in the vicinity of Maindrin to prevent invasions.
From Ingrande to Maure the entire left bank of the Loire bristled
with Royalist batteries. Three thousand peasants had taken possession
of Pornic. They cried: "Vive les Anglais!" Barère read a letter from
Santerre to the Convention ending with the following words:

      "Seven thousand peasants attacked Vannes. We repulsed
      them, and they retreated, leaving four cannon in our
      hands."

"And how many prisoners?" interrupted a voice. Barère went on,--

      "Postscript. We have no prisoners, because we have ceased
      to take them."[1]

Marat, as usual, stood motionless, paying no attention to what was
going on, apparently absorbed in deep preoccupation.

He held a paper in his hand, crumpling it between his fingers. Had it
been unfolded, certain words in the handwriting of Momoro, in answer,
no doubt, to some question of Marat, might have been read:--

      "Nothing can be done in opposition to the supreme
      authority of the delegated commissioners, especially
      those of the Committee of Public Safety. Although
      Génissieux said in the session of May 6th, 'Each
      commissioner is more than a king,' it had no effect. Life
      and death are in their hands. Massade at Angers, Trullard
      at Saint-Amand, Nyon with General Marcé, Parrein in the
      army of the 'Sables,' Millier in the army of Niort, are
      all-powerful. The Jacobin Club has gone so far as to
      appoint Parrein brigadier-general. Circumstances excuse
      everything. A delegate of the Committee of Public Safety
      may hold in check a commander-in-chief."

Marat ceased crumpling the paper, put it in his pocket, and walked
slowly towards Montaut and Chabot, who had continued their conversation
and had not seen him enter.

Chabot was just saying,--

"Maribon, or Montaut, listen to this: I have just left the Committee of
Public Safety."

"And what are they doing there?"

"They are setting a priest to watch a noble."

"Ah!"

"A noble like yourself--"

"I am not a noble," said Montaut.

"To be watched by a priest--"

"Like you."

"I am not a priest," said Chabot.

And both men began to laugh.

"Please give us a more definite account."

"Well, here is the tale: a priest, Cimourdain by name, has been
delegated with full powers to a Viscount Gauvain, who is in command of
the exploring division of the army of the coast. Now, the difficulty
is, to prevent the nobleman from cheating and the priest from
betraying."

"There will be no trouble about that. You have only to make death the
third party."

"That is what I came for," said Marat They looked up.

"Good-day, Marat," said Chabot; "we seldom see you at our sessions."

"My doctor has ordered baths," replied Marat.

"Ah, you had better beware of baths," continued Chabot. "Seneca died in
a bath."

Marat smiled.

"There is no Nero here, Chabot."

"I should say there was, since you are here," said a gruff voice.

It was Danton, who was passing on his way towards his seat.

Marat did not turn round.

He thrust his head in between the faces of Montaut and Chabot.

"Listen, I have come on serious business; one of us three must propose
the draft of a decree to the Convention to-day."

"I am not the man," said Montaut. "They pay no attention to me; I am a
marquis."

"Neither will they listen to me; I am a Capuchin," said Chabot.

"Nor to me, for I am Marat"

A silence ensued.

Marat, absorbed in his own thoughts, was not accessible to questions;
still, Montaut ventured upon one.

"What decree would you like the Assembly to pass, Marat?"

"A decree inflicting the penalty of death on any military chief who
allows a rebel prisoner to escape."

Chabot interposed.

"There is such a decree already; it was made a law at the end of April."

"That amounts to nothing whatever," said Marat. "Everywhere throughout
the Vendée prisoners are helped to escape, and any man may shelter them
with impunity."

"That is because the decree is no longer in force, Marat."

"It must be revived, Chabot."

"No doubt it needs to be revived."

"And to accomplish this we must address the Convention."

"There will be no need to do that, Marat; the Committee of Public
Safety will suffice."

"The object will be attained," added Montaut, "if the Committee of
Public Safety order the decree to be placarded in every Commune of the
Vendée, and make two or three suitable examples."

"Of men in authority," rejoined Chabot. "Of the generals."

Marat mumbled between his teeth, "Yes, I suppose that will answer."

"Marat," continued Chabot, "go and say that to the Committee of Public
Safety yourself."

Marat gazed steadily at him, which was not pleasant, even for a Chabot.

"Chabot," he said, "the Committee of Public Safety meets at
Robespierre's house; I do not visit Robespierre."

"Then I will go myself," said Montaut.

"Very well," replied Marat.

The next day a mandate from the Committee of Public Safety was sent in
all directions, ordering the authorities of the cities and villages of
the Vendée not only to publish, but also strictly to execute, a decree
awarding the penalty of death to all who were known to aid and abet the
escape of brigands and rebel prisoners.

This decree was but the first step. The Convention was to go still
farther than that. Several months later, on the 11th Brumaire, in the
year II. (November, 1793), when Laval opened its gates to the Vendean
fugitives, it decreed that every city that sheltered rebels should be
demolished and destroyed.

The princes of Europe, on their side, in the manifesto of the Duke of
Brunswick, suggested by the Émigrés and drawn up by the Marquis of
Linnon, steward to the Duke of Orleans, declared that every Frenchman
taken with arms in his hand should be shot, and if but a hair fell from
the head of the king, Paris should be razed to the ground.

Cruelty against barbarity.


[Footnote 1: Moniteur, vol. xix. p. 81.]


[Illustration: In the Vendée 066]



PART III.


IN THE VENDÉE.



BOOK I.


THE VENDÉE.


[Illustration 067]


I.


THE FORESTS.


[Illustration 068]


There were in Brittany at that time seven much-dreaded forests. The
Vendean war was a rebellion among priests, and the forest was their
auxiliary. The spirits of darkness help one another.

The seven Black Forests of Brittany were the forest of Fougères, which
bars the passage between Dol and Avranches; the forest of Princé, eight
miles in circumference; the forest of Paimpont, abounding in ravines
and brooks, and almost inaccessible in the direction of Baignon, with
an easy retreat towards Concornet, which was a Royalist town; the
forest of Rennes, whence could be heard the tocsin of the Republican
parishes, always numerous in the neighborhood of cities,--there it
was that Puysaye lost Focard; the forest of Machecoul, where Charette
dwelt like a wild beast; the forest of La Garnache, belonging to
the Trémoilles, the Gauvains, and the Rohans; and the forest of
Brocéliande, that had been appropriated by the fairies.

One nobleman in Brittany was called the _Seigneur des Sept-Forêts_, and
he was the Viscount de Fontenay, a Breton prince.

For the Breton prince was a creation quite distinct from the French
prince. The Rohans were Breton princes. Gamier de Saintes, in his
report to the Convention of the 15th Nivôse, year II., thus describes
the Prince de Talmont,--"That Capet of brigands, the sovereign of Maine
and Normandy."

The events that transpired in Breton forests from 1792 to 1800
would form a history in themselves, blending like a legend with the
stupendous affair of the Vendée.

There is truth in legend as well as in history, but the nature of
legendary truth differs from that of historic truth. The former may be
invention; but its result is reality. Both, however, have the same aim,
inasmuch as each strives to depict the eternal type of mankind under
the transitory specimen.

The Vendée cannot be fully understood unless legend is allowed to
supplement history; history must present the total effect, legend
describe the details.

We cannot refuse to acknowledge that the Vendée is well worth the
trouble, for it is a prodigy.

That War of the Ignorant, so dull and yet so splendid, so detestable
and at the same time so magnificent, was at once the despair and the
pride of the nation. In the act of wounding France, the Vendée covered
her with glory. There are times when human society presents enigmas
whose meaning becomes evident to the wise, while for the ignorant it
remains obscure, signifying nothing more than violence and barbarism.
A philosopher is slow to accuse. He takes into consideration the
disturbances caused by these problems, which never pass without casting
a shadow like a cloud.

He who would understand the Vendée must picture the antagonism of the
French Revolution on the one hand, and the Breton peasant on the other.

Face to face with these unparalleled events,--this tremendous
promise of every advantage at once, this fit of rage on the part of
civilization, this excess of infuriated progress, to be accompanied by
an improvement that could neither be measured nor understood,--stands
this serious and peculiar savage, this man with the keen eyes and long
hair, who lives on milk and chestnuts; whose ideas are bounded by his
roof, by his hedge, and by his ditch; who can distinguish each village
by the sound of its bells; who drinks nothing but water, yet wears a
leather waistcoat worked with silken arabesques,--a man uncultivated,
dressed in embroidered garments, who tattoes his clothes as his
ancestors the Celts used to tattoo their faces; who respects his master
in the person of his executioner; who speaks a dead language, which is
equivalent to keeping his mind in a tomb, goading his oxen, sharpening
his scythe, hoeing his black grain, kneading his buckwheat cake;
reverencing, first his plough, and secondly his grandmother; believing
in the Blessed Virgin, and in the White Lady no less; worshipping
before the altar, and also before the tall mysterious stone set up in
the midst of the moor,--a laborer in the plain, a fisherman on the
coast, a poacher in the thicket, devoted to his kings, his priests,
his lords, and to his very lice; a man of pensive mood, often standing
motionless for hours on the wide deserted shore, listening gloomily to
the sounding sea.

Is it then strange that this blind man failed to appreciate the light?



II.


MEN.


The peasant has confidence in the field that nourishes him, no less
than in the wood that serves to hide him. It is no easy matter to
conceive an idea of the forests of Brittany. They were cities in
themselves. Nothing could be more secret, more silent, or more
impenetrable than those tangled thickets of briers and branches
offering shelter, repose, and silence. No solitude could seem more
death-like and sepulchral; if one could, like a flash of lightning,
have felled the entire forest at a single stroke, a swarm of human
beings would have stood forth revealed within those shades.

Concealed on the outside by coverings of stones and branches were
wells, round and narrow, sinking at first vertically and then
horizontally, widening under the ground like funnels, and ending in
dark chambers. Wells like these discovered by Westermann in Brittany
were also found in Egypt by Cambyses,--with this difference, that
while the Egyptian caves in the desert held dead men only, those in the
forests of Brittany contained living human beings. One of the wildest
glades in the woods of Misdon, intersected by subterranean passages and
cells, wherein a mysterious population moved to and fro, was called "la
Grande Ville." Another glade, just as deserted above ground, and no
less populous below, was called "la Place Royale."

This subterranean life in Brittany had existed from time immemorial.
Man had there sought refuge from his brother man. Hence these
hiding-places, like the dens of reptiles, hollowed out under the trees.
They dated from the times of the Druids, and some of the crypts were as
old as the dolmens. All the evil spirits of legend and the monsters of
history passed over this gloomy land,--Teutates, Cæsar, Hoël, Néomène,
Geoffrey of England, Alain of the iron glove, Pierre Mauclerc, the
French house of Blois and the English house of Montfort, kings and
dukes, the nine barons of Brittany, the judges of the Great Days, the
counts of Nantes who wrangled with the counts of Rennes, highwaymen,
banditti, Free Lances, René II., the Viscount de Rohan, the king's
governors, the "good Duke de Chaulnes" who hung the peasants under
the windows of Madame de Sévigné, the seignorial butcheries in the
fifteenth century, religious wars in the sixteenth and seventeenth,
and the thirty thousand dogs trained to hunt men in the eighteenth.
During this wild trampling, the people made up their minds that it
would be better for them to disappear. One after the other, the
troglodytes seeking to escape from the Celts, the Celts from the
Romans, the Bretons from the Normans, the Huguenots from the Catholics,
and the smugglers from the excise officers, had sought refuge first
in the forests, then underground. It is thus that tyranny forces the
nations to the last resource of the hunted beast. For two thousand
years had despotism, in all its varied forms,--of conquest, vassalage,
fanaticism, and taxation,--hunted down this unfortunate and distracted
Brittany; it was like an inexorable _battue_ constantly changing its
method of attack. Men disappeared underground. While that terror which
is a sort of rage was brooding in human souls, and the dens in the
forests were in waiting for them, the French Republic sprang into
existence. Brittany, thinking this compulsory deliverance but a new
form of oppression, broke into open rebellion,--a mistake usually made
by enslaved peoples.



III.


CONNIVANCE OF MEN AND FORESTS.


Thus the tragic forests of Brittany once more resumed their ancient
rôle of servant and accomplice to revolution.

The subsoil of such a forest was like a madrepore pierced and
intersected in all directions by a secret labyrinth of mines, cells,
and galleries. Each of these hidden cells was large enough to shelter
five or six men; the only difficulty was in breathing. Certain
mysterious ciphers have been preserved that give us a clew to this
powerful organization of the peasant rebellion. In Ille-et-Vilaine, in
the forest of Pertre, where the Prince de Talmont had taken refuge,
not a breath could be heard, not a trace of human life was visible;
and yet Focard had there mustered six thousand men. In Morbihan,
in the forest of Meulac, not a man of all the eight thousand there
was to be seen. These two forests, le Pertre and Meulac, are not,
however, to be reckoned among the great Breton forests. It would have
been dangerous walking over their explosive soil. These treacherous
copses, with their multitudes of combatants lurking in a sort of
subterranean labyrinth, were like great black sponges, from which,
beneath the pressure of Revolution's giant foot, civil war gushed
forth. Invisible battalions were lying in wait. This army, unknown to
the world, wound its way along under the feet of the Republican armies,
leaping out of the ground at times in vast numbers, and disappearing
as suddenly,--possessing the power of vanishing at will no less than
the gift of ubiquity. It was like the descending avalanche that leaves
but a cloud of dust behind, colossi with a marvellous genius for
contraction, giants in warfare, dwarfs in flight, jaguars with the
habits of moles. Moreover, there were woods as well as forests. As the
village ranks below the city, so the woods, bear a similar relation
to the forests, which they serve to connect after the fashion of a
labyrinth. Old castles, fortresses once upon a time, hamlets that had
been camps, farms covered with ambushes and snares, divided by ditches
and fenced in by trees, formed the meshes of the net in which the
Republican armies were caught.

All this was called the Bocage.

There was the wood of Misdon, with a pond in its midst, held by
Jean Chouan; the wood of Gennes, held by Taillefer; the wood of La
Huisserie, held by Gouge-le-Bruant; the wood of La Charnie, held by
Courtillé-le-Bâtard, called the apostle Saint Paul, chief of the
camp of the Vache-Noire; the wood of Burgault, in possession of that
enigmatical Monsieur Jacques, who was to meet with a mysterious death
in the vault of Juvardeil; the wood of Charreau, where Pimousse and
Petit-Prince, when attacked by the garrison of Châteauneuf, captured
the grenadiers from the ranks of the Republicans in a hand-to-hand
encounter; the wood of La Heureuserie, which witnessed the defeat of
the military post of Longue-Faye; the wood of L'Aulne, whence the road
between Rennes and Laval could be watched; the wood of La Gravelle,
won by a Prince of La Tremoille in a bowling-match; the wood of Lorges
in the Côtes-du-Nord, where Charles de Boishardy succeeded Bernard de
Villeneuve; the wood of Bagnard, near Fontenay, where Lescure offered
battle to Chalbos,--a challenge accepted by the latter although they
were five to one against him; the wood of La Durondais, over which
Alain le Redru and Hérispoux, sons of Charles the Bald, quarrelled in
former times; the wood of Croque-loup, on the edge of that moor where
Coupereau used to shear the prisoners; the wood of La Croix-Bataille,
witness to the Homeric insults hurled against each other by Jambe
d'Argent and Morière; the wood of La Saudraie, which the reader will
remember was reconnoitred by the Paris battalion; and many others
besides.

In several of these forests and woods there were not only subterranean
villages grouped around the burrow-like headquarters of the chief,
but actual hamlets composed of low cabins hidden under the trees in
such numbers that the forest was often filled with them. Sometimes the
smoke betrayed their presence. Two among these hamlets in the forest
of Misdon have become famous,--Lorrière, near Létang, and the group of
huts called La Rue-de-Bau, in the direction of Saint-Ouen-les-Toits.

[Illustration 069]

The women lived in the huts, and the men in the caves. The galleries
of the fairies and the old Celtic mines were utilized for purposes
of warfare. Food was conveyed to the dwellers underground, and some
there were who, forgotten, died of hunger. They, however, were awkward
fellows, who had not sense enough to uncover their wells. This cover,
usually made of moss and branches, and arranged so skilfully that it
was impossible to distinguish it on the outside from the surrounding
grass, was yet easily opened and closed from the inside. A den like
this, known under the name of "la loge," was hollowed out with great
care, and the earth taken therefrom thrown into some neighboring pond.
The inside walls and the floor were afterwards lined with ferns and
moss. It was fairly comfortable, save for the lack of light, fire,
bread, and air.

To rise from underground and appear among the living without due
precaution, possibly to disinter themselves at an inappropriate
moment, would be a serious business. They might chance to encounter an
army on the march. Those were dangerous woods, snares with a double
trap. The Blues dared not enter, and the Whites dared not come out.



IV.


THEIR LIFE UNDER GROUND.


The men, wearied of living in these beasts' lairs, would sometimes
venture to come out by night and dance on the neighboring moor; or else
they said prayers, by way of killing time. "Jean Chouan made us say our
beads from morning till night," says Bourdoiseau.

It was almost impossible, when the season arrived, to prevent the men
of Bas-Maine from going to the Fête de la Gerbe. They clung to their
own ideas. Tranche-Montagne says that Denys disguised himself as a
woman, to go to the play at Laval; after which he returned to his den.

All at once they would rush out in search of death, changing one tomb
for another.

Sometimes they would lift the cover of their grave and listen for any
chance sounds of battle in the distance, following it with their ears,
guided by the steady fire of the Republicans and the intermittent
shots of the Royalists. When the platoon-firing suddenly ceased, they
knew that the Royalists had lost the day; but if the scattering shots
continued, receding into the distance, it was a sign that the victory
was theirs. The Whites always pursued; the Blues never did so, because
the country was against them.

These underground belligerents were wonderfully well-informed.
Nothing could be more rapid or more mysterious than their means of
communication. The bridges and wagons had all been destroyed, yet they
found means to keep one another informed of all that went on, and to
send timely warning. Messenger-stations of danger were established from
forest to forest, from village to village, from hut to hut, from bush
to bush.

A stupid-looking peasant might be seen passing along; he carried
despatches in his hollow staff.

Furnished by Boétidoux, a former constituent, with the modern
Republican passport, in which a blank space is left for the name,
bundles of which were in the possession of that traitor, they were
enabled to travel from one end of Brittany to the other.

It was impossible to take them by surprise. Puysaye[1] states that
"secrets confided to upwards of four thousand individuals have been
religiously kept."

It seemed as though this quadrilateral, closed on the south by the line
from Sables to Thouars, on the east by that from Thouars to Saumur as
well as by the river of Thoué, on the north by the Loire, and on the
west by the ocean, possessed a system of nerves in common, and that no
single part of the ground could stir without shaking the whole. In
the twinkling of an eye, they learned in Luçon what was going on in
Noirmoutier, and the camp of La Loué knew what was passing in the camp
La Croix-Morineau. It was as if the birds had carried the news. On the
7th Messidor, in the year III., Hoche wrote: "One might have supposed
they had telegraphs."

They formed clans, as in Scotland, and each parish had its own captain.
My father fought in this war, and I know whereof I am speaking.



V.


THEIR LIFE IN WARFARE.


[Illustration 070]


Many of them had nothing but pikes; but good hunting-rifles were
plentiful, and no marksmen were more expert than the poachers of the
Bocage and the smugglers of Loroux. They were eccentric, terrible, and
intrepid fighters. The proclamation of a decree to levy three hundred
thousand men was the signal for ringing the tocsin in six hundred
villages. The flames burst forth in all directions at once. Poitou
and the Anjou revolted on the same day. Let us remark that the first
rumbling was heard on the 8th of July, 1792, a month previous to the
10th of August, on the moor of Kerbader. Alain Redeler, whose name is
now forgotten, was the forerunner of La Rochejaquelein and Jean Chouan.
The Royalists forced all able-bodied men to march, under penalty of
death. They confiscated harnesses, wagons, and provisions. Sapinaud
at once assembled three thousand soldiers, Cathelineau ten thousand,
Stofflet twenty thousand, and Charette took possession of Noirmoutier.
The Viscount de Scépeaux roused the Haut-Anjou, the Chevalier de
Dieuzie the Entre-Vilaine-et-Loire, Tristan l'Hermite the Bas-Maine,
the barber Gaston the city of Guéménée, and the Abbé Bernier all the
others.

It required but little to excite the masses. A great black cat was
placed in the tabernacle of a priest who had taken the civil oath,--a
"priest-juror," as he was called,--whence it suddenly leaped forth in
the middle of the Mass. "It's the Devil!" cried the peasants, and a
whole district rose in revolt. Sometimes flames would be seen issuing
from the confessionals. For assailing the Blues and crossing the
ravines, they had sticks fifteen feet long, called the "ferte,"--a
weapon of defence, which was likewise available for flight. In the very
heat of the conflict, when the peasants were attacking the Republican
squares, if they chanced to see on the battlefield a cross or a chapel,
all fell on their knees and said their prayers under the fire of the
enemy; and after finishing the rosary, those who had not been killed
rushed upon the enemy. Alas! what giants were these! They loaded their
muskets on the run; that was their special talent. They could be made
to believe anything. Their priests showed them other priests whose
necks had been reddened by a tightly drawn cord, saying to them:
"These are the guillotined come to life again." They had their fits of
chivalrous emotion; they paid military honors to Fesque, a Republican
standard-bearer, who had allowed himself to be sabred without once
losing hold of his banner. These peasants were at times derisive;
they called the married Republican priests "sans-calottes devenus
sans-culottes."[2] At first they stood in awe of the cannon; but after
a while they dashed upon them with no other weapons than their sticks,
and captured several. The first one they took was a fine bronze cannon,
which they baptized "le Missionnaire;" another gun, dating from the
times of the Catholic wars, and which had Richelieu's arms and an
image of the Virgin engraved upon it, they named Marie-Jeanne. When
they lost Fontenay, they lost Marie-Jeanne, around which six hundred
peasants fell fighting with unflinching courage.

[Illustration 071]

Later, they recaptured Fontenay in order to recover Marie-Jeanne,
which they brought back under the fleur-de-lis flag, covering it with
flowers, and making the women who passed by kiss it. But two cannon
were insufficient. It was Stofflet who had captured Marie-Jeanne;
Cathelineau, envying him, left Pin-en-Mange, attacked Jallais, and took
possession of a third one. Forest fell on Saint-Florent and captured
a fourth. Two other commanders, Chouppes and Saint-Paul, were still
more successful. They manufactured imitation-cannon from the trunks
of trees, using manikins for gunners; and with this artillery, over
which they made merry, they forced the Blues to retreat to Mareuil.
At that time they were in the height of their glory. Later, when
Chalbos defeated La Marsonnière, the peasants left behind them on the
dishonored battlefield two cannon, bearing the arms of England. At
that time the French princes were paid by England, who, as Nantiat
writes on the 10th of May, 1794, "remitted funds to Monseigneur because
Mr. Pitt was told that it was the proper thing to do." Mellinet, in
a report of the 31st of March, says: "The cry of the rebels is,'Long
live the English!'" The peasants tarried for purposes of pillage, for
these devotees were thieves. Savages have their vices, and it is to
these that civilization appeals. Puysaye says: "Several times I have
saved the town of Plélan from pillage." And again he says that he
refrained from entering Montfort: "I made a circuit in order to avoid
the sacking of the houses of the Jacobins."[3] They pillaged Cholet;
they sacked Chalans; passing by Granville, they robbed Ville-Dieu. They
called the country-people who joined the Blues the "Jacobin herd," and
exterminated them more fiercely than they did their other foes. They
enjoyed carnage like soldiers, and revelled in massacre like brigands.
To shoot the _patauds_ was their delight. They called it breaking their
fast.

At Fontenay one of their priests, named Barbotin, killed an old man
with a blow from his sabre. At Saint-Germain-sur-Ille [4] one of their
captains, a nobleman, shot the solicitor of the Commune, and took his
watch. At Machecoul for the space of five weeks they made a practice of
slaughtering the Republicans at the rate of thirty a day. Each string
of thirty they called a rosary. Behind this row of men there was a
trench prepared, into which the men fell back as they were shot; and
when, as sometimes happened, a man was still alive, he was buried as if
he were dead. Such acts have been witnessed in our own times. Joubert,
president of the district, had his wrists sawed off. They had handcuffs
for the Blues made expressly to cut the flesh. They slaughtered them
in the public squares, sounding the halloo. Charette, who signed
himself, "Fraternity, Chevalier Charette," and who, like Marat, wore a
handkerchief knotted around his brows, burned the city of Pornic, with
the inhabitants in their dwellings.

Meanwhile Carrier was frightful. Terror answered unto terror. The
Breton rebel looked very much like the Greek insurgent, clad as he was
in a short jacket, with a gun slung across his shoulders, leggings,
wide trousers of a material not unlike fustian. The lads resembled a
Greek klepht. Henri de la Rochejaquelein went into this war at the age
of twenty-one, armed with a pair of pistols and a stick. There were one
hundred and fifty-four divisions in the Vendean army. They laid regular
sieges. The city of Bressuire was invested by them for three days. On
a Good Friday ten thousand peasants bombarded the city of des Sables
with red-hot cannon-balls. They succeeded in destroying in one day the
fourteen Republican cantonments from Montigné to Courbeveilles. On
the high wall at Thouars the following astonishing dialogue was heard
between La Rochejaquelein and a lad: "Fellow!" "Here I am."--"Lend me
your shoulders to climb up on." "Take them."--"Give me your gun." "Here
it is." And La Rochejaquelein leaped into the city, and thus without
the aid of scaling-ladders they captured the very towers once besieged
by Duguesclin. They valued a cartridge far beyond a gold louis. They
burst into tears whenever they lost sight of their village belfry.
To run away seemed to them the simplest affair in the world. At such
times their leaders would exclaim, "Throw away your sabots, but keep
your guns!" When munitions failed, they said their beads, and proceeded
to take the powder from the caissons of the Republican artillery; and
afterwards d'Elbée demanded powder from the English. On the approach
of the enemy they concealed their wounded in the tall grain, or among
the brakes, and came back for them after the engagement was over. They
wore no uniform, and their clothing was falling to pieces. Noblemen as
well as peasants wore any rags that came to hand. Roger Mouliniers was
arrayed in a turban and dolman taken from the ward-robe of the Théâtre
de La Flèche; the Chevalier de Beauvilliers had a barrister's gown,
and a lady's bonnet over a woollen cap. All wore the white belt and
scarf. The different grades were indicated by a knot. Stofflet wore a
red knot, La Rochejaquelein a black one. Wimpfen, a semi-Girondist, and
who moreover had never been out of Normandy, wore the armlets of the
Carabots of Caen.

They had women in their ranks,--Madame de Lescure, who afterwards
became Madame de la Rochejaquelein; Thérèse de Mollien, mistress
of La Rouarie, she who burned the list of parishes; Madame de la
Rochefoucauld, young and beautiful, who sabre in hand rallied the
peasants at the foot of the Tower of the Château Puy-Rousseau; and
Antoinette Adams, styled the Chevalier Adams, so brave that when
captured she was shot standing, out of respect for her courage. This
epic period was a cruel one. Men behaved like maniacs. Madame de
Lescure deliberately walked her horse over the Republicans who lay
disabled on the battle-ground. She said they were dead, but very
possibly they may have been only wounded. There was occasionally
a traitor among the men, but never among the women. It is true,
Mademoiselle Fleury of the French Theatre forsook La Rouarie for Marat;
but that was for love's sake. The commanders were often as ignorant as
the soldiers. M. de Sapinaud could not spell correctly; he wrote, "Nous
_orions_ de notre _cauté._"

[Illustration 072]

The leaders hated one another. The captains of the Marais cried, "Down
with the Mountaineers!" Their cavalry was few in numbers, and difficult
to form. Puysaye writes: "A man who would cheerfully give me his two
sons grows cool when I ask for one of his horses." Poles, pitchforks,
scythes, muskets, old and new, poacher's knives, spits, iron-pointed
cud-gels studded with nails,--such were their weapons. Some carried
a cross made of two human bones. They rushed to the attack with
shouts, springing up at once from all quarters,--from woods, hills,
underbrush, and hollow roads,--ranging themselves in a circle, killing,
exterminating, striking terror, and then disappearing. Whenever they
passed a Republican town they cut down the liberty-pole, set it on
fire, and forming in a circle, danced around it. All their activity
was displayed by night. The rule of the Vendean is to be always
unexpected. They would march fifteen leagues in utter silence, without
so much as stirring a blade of grass. At night, their chiefs having
determined in a council of war at what point the Republican posts were
to be surprised the next day, they loaded their muskets, mumbled their
prayers, and taking off their sabots, filed through the woods in long
columns, barefoot across the heather and moss, noiseless, without
uttering a sound or drawing a breath, like a procession of cats in the
darkness.



VI.


THE SOUL OF THE EARTH PASSES INTO MAN.


The number of the rebels in the Vendée, including men, women, and
children, cannot be estimated at less than five hundred thousand.
Tuffin de la Rouarie states the sum total of the combatants to have
been half a million.

The federalists helped them, and the Vendée had the Gironde on its
side also. Lozère sent thirty thousand men into the Bocage. Eight
departments formed a coalition: five in Brittany, three in Normandy.
Évreux, who fraternized with Caen, was represented in the rebellion
by Chaumont, its mayor, and Gardembas, a man of note. Buzot, Gorsas,
and Barbaroux at Caen, Brissot at Moulins, Chassan at Lyons,
Rabaut-Saint-Étienne at Nismes, Meillan and Duchâtel in Brittany, all
fanned the flames of the furnace. There were two Vendées,--the great
army fighting in the forests, and the smaller one carrying on the war
in the bushes. And this marks the difference between Charette and Jean
Chouan. The little Vendée was simple-minded and true; the great Vendée
was corrupt. The little Vendée was the better of the two. The rank of
Marquis, lieutenant-general of the king's armies, was bestowed upon
Charette, and he received the grand cross of Saint-Louis. Jean Chouan
remained Jean Chouan. Charette resembles a bandit, Jean Chouan is more
like a paladin of old.

As to those magnanimous chiefs, Bonchamps, Lescure, La Rochejaquelein,
they were mistaken; the great Catholic army was an insane attempt,
upon whose heels disaster was sure to follow; imagine a crowd of
peasants storming Paris, a coalition of villages besieging the
Pantheon, a chorus of Christmas hymns and prayers striving to drown the
Marseillaise, a cohort of rustics rushing upon a legion of enlightened
minds. Mans and Savenay chastised this folly. The Vendée could not
cross the Loire; that was a stride beyond its power. Civil war can
make no conquests. Crossing the Rhine confirms the power of Cæsar and
adds to that of Napoleon; crossing the Loire kills La Rochejaquelein.
The genuine Vendée is the Vendée at home: there it is more than
invulnerable; it is unconquerable. At home the Vendée is smuggler,
laborer, soldier, shepherd, poacher, sharpshooter, goat-herd,
bell-ringer, peasant, spy, assassin, sacristan, and wild beast.

La Rochejaquelein is only an Achilles, while Jean Chouan is a Proteus.

The Vendée failed. Other revolts have been successful, that in
Switzerland for instance. The difference between mountain insurgents
like the Swiss and forest insurgents like the Vendean, exists in the
fact that almost invariably, owing to some fatal influence of his
surroundings, the former fights for an ideal, while the latter fights
for a prejudice. The one soars, the other crawls. The one fights for
humanity, the other for solitude; the one demands liberty, the other
isolation; the one defends the commune, the other the parish. "The
Commons! The Commons!" cried the heroes of Morat. The one has to do
with precipices, the other with quagmires; the one is the man of
torrents and foaming streams, the other of stagnant pools whence fever
rises; one has the blue sky above his head, the other a thicket; one is
on the mountain-top, the other among the shadows.

An education that is gained upon the heights is quite a different
affair from that of the shallows.

A mountain is a fortress; a forest is an ambush; the former inspires
courage, the latter teaches trickery. The ancients placed their gods
upon a pinnacle, and their satyrs within copses. The satyr is a savage,
half man, half beast. Free countries have their Apennines, Alps,
Pyrenees, an Olympus. Parnassus is a mountain. Mont Blanc was the
gigantic auxiliary of William Tell. Looking beyond and above those
titanic contests between human intellect and the darkness of night,
which form the subjects of the poems of India, one sees Himalaya
towering overhead. Greece, Spain, Italy, Helvetia have the mountains
for their inspiration. Cimmeria, whether it be Germany or Brittany, has
but the woods. The forest tends to barbarism.

The formation of the soil influences man in many of his actions. It
is more of an accomplice than one might imagine. When we consider
certain wild scenery, we feel tempted to exonerate man and accuse
Nature; we are conscious of an occult provocation on the part of
Nature; the desert has sometimes an unwholesome influence upon the
conscience, especially on one that is not enlightened. A conscience
may be gigantic,--take for example Socrates or the Christ; it may be
dwarf-like, in which case we find Atreus and Judas. A narrow conscience
soon displays the attributes of the reptile; it delights to haunt the
dim forests, it is attracted by the brambles, the thorns, the marshes
underneath the branches, and absorbs the evil influences of the place.
Optical illusions, mysterious mirages, the terrors of the hour and the
place, inspire a man with that sort of half-religious, half-animal
fear which in every-day life begets superstition, and in times of wild
excitements degenerates into brutality. Hallucination holds the torch
that lights the path to murder. A vertigo seizes the brigand. Nature,
marvellous as she is, holds a double meaning that dazzles great minds
and blinds the savage soul. When man is ignorant, and the desert is
alive with visions, the gloom of solitude is added to the blindness
of the intelligence; hence the abyss that sometimes yawns in the human
soul. There are certain rocks, ravines, copses, weird spaces between
the trees, revealing the blackness of the night, that incite man to
mad and cruel deeds. One might say that the evil fiend possesses such
spots. What tragic scenes has not the gloomy hill between Baignon and
Plélan beheld!

Wide horizons tend to enlarge the mind; limited horizons, on the
contrary, circumscribe it; hence men naturally kind-hearted, such, for
instance, as Jean Chouan, grow narrow-minded.

It is the hatred of narrow minds for liberal ideas that fetters the
march of progress. The Vendean war, a quarrel between the local and the
universal idea, the contest of peasant and patriot, may be summed up in
two words,--the village community and the fatherland.



VII.


THE VENDÉE HAS RUINED BRITTANY.


[Illustration 073]


Brittany is an old rebel. In all her revolts in the past two
thousand years she has had the right on her side until now; in
her last rebellion she was wrong. And yet, after all, whether she
was fighting against revolution or against monarchy, against the
acting representative or against the ruling dukes and peers, against
the financial resource of the assignats or the oppression of the
salt-tax,--whoever might be fighting, whether it were Nicolas Rapin,
François de La Noue, Captain Pluviaut, and The Lady of La Garnache, or
Stofflet, Coquereau, and Lechandelier de Pierreville, and whether they
were fighting under M. de Rohan against the king, or under M. de La
Rochejaquelein for the king, it was practically the same war, that of
local government against centralization.

These ancient provinces might be compared with a pond; stagnant water
is not inclined to flow; the wind, instead of rousing it to life,
simply irritates it. France ended at Finistère; that was the limit of
the space granted to man, and there the forward march of generations
ceased. "Pause!" cries the ocean to the land, and barbarism to
civilization. Whenever it feels the influence of any excitement in
Paris, whatever may be the occasion thereof, monarchy or republic,
despotism or liberty, it is an innovation, and Brittany bristles
with alarm, and says, "Let us alone! What do you want of us?" The
Marais seizes its pitchfork, and the Bocage grasps its musket. All
our attempts at reform in matters of education and legislation, our
philosophical systems, our men of genius, our triumphs, fail before the
Houroux; the tocsin of Bazouges holds the French Revolution in awe;
the moor of Faou defies the stormy assemblies on our public squares;
and the belfry of Haut-des-Près declares war against the Tower of the
Louvre. Terrible blindness!

The Vendean insurrection was a melancholy misunderstanding.

An affray on a gigantic scale, wrangling among Titans, a colossal
rebellion, fated to bequeath but one word to history, _The Vendée_,--a
glorious though melancholy word, devoting itself to death for the
absent, sacrificing itself to egotism, squandering its dauntless
courage, offering itself in the cause of cowards, with neither
foresight nor strategy, without tactics, plan, or aim, following no
leader, accepting no responsibility, showing how powerless the human
will may become, uniting the spirit of chivalry with the deeds of the
savage, absurdity at its height, darkness screening itself from the
light, ignorance offering a determined resistance to truth, justice,
right, reason, and deliverance, the terror of eight years, the
devastation of fourteen departments, the ravages in the fields, the
destruction of crops, the burning of villages, the ruin of cities, the
massacre of women and children, the torch applied to the thatch, the
sword plunged into the heart, the terror of civilization, the hope of
Mr. Pitt,--such was this war, an unreasoning attempt at parricide.

On the whole, the Vendée has served the cause of progress by
showing the necessity of scattering the ancient shadows of Brittany
by discharging into its thickets all the arrows of enlightenment
Catastrophes have a gloomy way of settling affairs.


[Footnote 1: Vol. ii. p. 35.]

[Footnote 2: The uncapped become unbreeched.--TR.]

[Footnote 3: Puysaye, vol. ii. pp. 187, 434.]

[Footnote 4: Ibid., p. 35.]


[Illustration: The Three Children 074]



BOOK II.


THE THREE CHILDREN.


[Illustration 075]



I.


PLUS QUAM CIVILIA BELLA.


The summer of 1792 had been a very rainy one; but that of 1793 was
so extremely warm that, although the civil war had gone far towards
ruining the roads in Brittany, the people--thanks to the fine
weather--were able to travel from place to place, for a dry soil makes
the best road.

At the close of a clear July day, about an hour after sunset, a man
on horseback, riding from the direction of Avranches, stopped before
the little inn called the Croix-Blanchard, situated at the entrance of
Pontorson. For some years its sign had borne the following inscription:
"Good cider obtained here." The day had been a very warm one, but now
the wind was beginning to rise.

The traveller was wrapped in an ample cloak that fell over his horse's
back. He wore a broad-brimmed hat, ornamented with a tricolored
cockade, which was rather a bold thing to do in a country like this,
with its hedges and sharpshooting, for which a cockade offered an
excellent target. The cloak fastened around his neck was pushed back,
leaving his arms free, and revealing at the same time a tricolored
belt and the butts of two pistols protruding from it, while a sabre
hung down below the cloak. At the sound of the horses hoofs stopping
before the inn the door opened, and the landlord came out, holding a
lantern in his hand. It was just at twilight, when it is still light
out of doors, although dark within.

The host glanced at the cockade.

"Do you mean to stop here, citizen?"

"No."

"Where are you going, then?"

"To Dol."

"In that case, you would do better to return to Avranches, or else
remain at Pontorson."

"Why so?"

"Because they are fighting at Dol."

"Ah!" said the rider; then he continued, "Give my horse some oats."

The host, having brought the trough and poured the oats into it,
proceeded to unbridle the horse, which began at once snuffing and
champing, while the dialogue went on.

"Is this one of the requisition horses, citizen?" "No."

"Does it belong to you?"

"Yes. I bought him and paid for him."

"Where do you come from?"

"From Paris."

"Not directly?"

"No."

"I should say not. The roads are blocked; but the post still runs."

"As far as Alençon. I left it there."

"Ah, it will not be long before we shall have no more posts in France.
The horses are all gone; one worth three hundred francs costs six
hundred, and the price of fodder is beyond all reason. I used to be a
postmaster; and now, you see, I keep a tavern. Out of thirteen hundred
and thirteen postmasters, two hundred have resigned. Have you been
travelling according to the new tariff, citizen?"

"You mean the tariff of the 1st of May? Yes."

"Twenty sous a post for a carriage, twelve for a gig, five for a van.
Did you not buy this horse at Alençon?"

"Yes."

"And you have been travelling all day?"

"Yes, since dawn."

"And yesterday?"

"And the day before."

"I should think so. You came by the way of Domfront and Mortain."

"And Avranches."

"You had better take my advice, and rest, citizen. Are you not tired?
Your horse certainly is."

"Horses may be tired, but men have no right to give way to fatigue."

Again the host gazed at the traveller, whose face, grave, calm, and
severe, was framed by gray hair.

Casting a glance along the road, that was deserted as far as the eye
could reach, he said,--

"And so you are travelling alone."

"I have an escort."

"Where is it?"

"My sabre and pistols."

The innkeeper went for a pail of water; and while he was watering the
horse he contemplated the traveller, saying to himself, "He looks like
a priest, all the same."

The rider continued,--

"You say there is fighting at Dol?"

"Yes. They are just about ready to begin."

"Who is fighting?"

"One ci-devant against another."

"How is that?"

"I mean that the ci-devant who is a Republican is fighting against
another who takes sides with the king."

"But there is no longer a king."

"There is the little fellow. But the strangest part is that the two
ci-devants are related to each other."

Here the rider listened attentively, while the innkeeper continued:--

"One is a young man, and the other an old one. It is the grand-nephew
fighting against his great-uncle. The uncle is a Royalist, while the
nephew is a patriot; the uncle commands the Whites, the nephew the
Blues. Ah! they will show no mercy to each other, you may be sure! It
is a war to death!"

"Death?"

"Yes, citizen. Perhaps you might like to see the polite speeches they
fling at each other's head. Here is a placard, which the old man has
managed to post on all the houses and trees, and which I found had been
stuck on my very door."

The host held up his lantern to a square bit of paper glued upon one of
the panels of his door, and as it was written in very large characters,
the rider was able to read it as he sat in his saddle:--

"The Marquis de Lantenac has the honor to inform his grand-nephew the
Viscount Gauvain that if the Marquis is so fortunate as to take him
prisoner, M. le Viscount may rest assured that he will be speedily
shot."

"And here is the reply," continued the innkeeper.

He turned so as to throw the light of his lantern upon a second placard
on the other panel of the door, directly opposite the first one.

      "Gauvain warns Lantenac that if he catches him he will
      have him shot."

"Yesterday the first placard was posted on my door," said the host,
"and this morning came the second. He was not kept waiting for his
answer."

The traveller, in an undertone, as though speaking to himself, uttered
certain words which the innkeeper caught without fully understanding
their meaning:--

"Yes, this is more than waging war against one's native land; it
is carrying it into the family. And it must needs be done; great
regenerations are only to be purchased at this price."

And the traveller, with his eyes still riveted to the second placard,
lifted his hand to his hat and saluted it.

The host continued:--

"You see, citizen, this is the way matters stand. In the cities and in
larger towns we are in favor of revolution, but in the country they are
opposed to it; which amounts to saying that we are Frenchmen in the
cities, and Bretons in the villages. It is a war between the peasants
and the townspeople. They call us _patauds_,[1] and we call them
_rustauds._[2] They have the nobles and the priests on their side."

"Not all of them," interrupted the rider.

"That is true, citizen, for here we have a Viscount fighting against a
Marquis; and I verily believe," he added aside, "that I am speaking to
a priest at this minute."

"Which of the two is likely to gain the day?"

"I should say the Viscount, so far. But he has a hard time of it. The
old man is a tough customer. They belong to the Gauvains, a noble
family in these parts, of which there are two branches; the Marquis
de Lantenac is the head of the older, and the Viscount Gauvain of
the younger branch. To-day the two branches are fighting each other.
You never see this among trees, but often among men. This Marquis de
Lantenac is all-powerful in Brittany; the peasants regard him as a
prince. On the very day he landed he rallied eight thousand men; in
a week three hundred parishes had risen. If he had only been able
to establish a foothold on the coast, the English would have made a
descent. Luckily Gauvain, who, strange to say, is his grand-nephew,
was on the spot. He is a Republican commander, and has got the upper
hand of his great-uncle. And then, as good luck would have it, this
Lantenac at the time of his arrival, when he was massacring a multitude
of prisoners, gave orders to have two women shot, one of whom had three
children, who had been adopted by a Paris battalion. This roused the
rage of the battalion, which is called the Bonnet-Rouge. There are but
few of the original Parisians left, but they are desperate fighters.
They have been incorporated into Commandant Gauvain's division.
Nothing can resist them. Their great object is to avenge the women and
recapture the children. No one knows what the old Marquis did with
the little ones, and that is what infuriates the Parisian grenadiers.
Had not these children been mixed up in it, this war would not have
been what it is. The Viscount is a good and brave young fellow; but
the old man is a terrible Marquis. The peasants call this the war of
Saint Michel against Beelzebub. You know, maybe, that Saint Michel is
the patron of these parts. There is a mountain named after him in the
middle of the bay. They give him credit for conquering the Devil and
burying him under another hill not far away, called Tombelaine."

"Yes," murmured the rider. "Tumba Beleni,--the tomb of Belenus, Belus,
Bel, Belial, Beelzebub."

"I see that you are well informed." And the host said to himself,--

"He knows Latin; surely he must be a priest." Then he added:--

"Well, citizen, this war is beginning all over again for the peasants.
No doubt they think the Royalist general is Saint Michel, and the
patriot commander Beelzebub; but if there is a devil it is Lantenac,
and Gauvain is an angel if there ever was one. Will you take nothing,
citizen?"

"I have my gourd and a bit of bread. But you have not told me what is
going on at Dol."

"To be sure; well, Gauvain is in command of the exploring division of
the coast. Now, Lantenac's plan was to stir up a general insurrection,
to bring Lower Normandy to the aid of Lower Brittany, to throw open
the door to Pitt, and to lend a helping hand to the great Vendean
army in the shape of twenty thousand English and two hundred thousand
peasants. Gauvain has checkmated this plan. He holds the coast and
drives Lantenac back into the interior and the English into the sea.
Lantenac was here, but Gauvain dislodged him, recaptured Pont-au-Beau,
drove him out from Avranches and Villedieu, and prevented him from
reaching Granville. He is manoeuvring now to force him to retreat into
the forest of Fougères, and there to surround him. Yesterday everything
was favorable, and Gauvain was here with his division. All at once,
mind you, the old man, who is a shrewd one, made a point; the news
came that he had marched on Dol. If he should take it, and succeeds in
establishing a battery on Mont-Dol,--for he has artillery,--that will
give the English a chance to land, and then all is lost. That is the
reason why Gauvain, who has a head on his shoulders, knowing there was
not a moment to be lost, consulted no one; nor did he wait for orders,
but giving the signal to saddle, and harnessing his artillery, he
collected his troops, drew his sabre, and while Lantenac is hurrying
towards Dol, Gauvain is all ready to pounce upon Lantenac; and Dol is
to be the place where these two Breton heads will clash, and a famous
crash it will be. They are at it now."

"How long does it take to reach Dol?"

"For troops with artillery carriages, at least three hours; but they
are there now."

The traveller, as he listened, said,--

"You are right; I think I can hear the cannon." The host, too, was
listening.

"Yes, citizen, and the firing is steady. You had better spend the night
here. There is nothing to be gained by going over there."

"I cannot stop. I must continue my journey."

"You are wrong. I do not know anything about your business, but the
risk is great, and unless all that you hold dearest in the world is at
stake--"

"That is precisely the state of things," replied the rider.

"Now, supposing your son--"

"You are very near the truth," said the rider.

The innkeeper raised his head as he said to himself,--

"And yet I thought this citizen was a priest." Then, after a moment's
reflection, he added: "But a priest may have children, after all."

"Put the bridle back on my horse," said the traveller. "How much do I
owe you?"

After receiving his pay, the host put the trough and bucket against the
wall, and came back to the traveller.

"Since you are determined to go, take my advice. You must be going
to Saint-Malo. Now, then, do not go by the way of Dol. There are
two roads,--one leading through Dol, and the other along the coast.
There is very little difference in their length. The road along
the coast passes through Saint-Georges-de-Brehaigne, Cherrueix,
and Hirelle-Vivier. You leave Dol to the south, and Cancale to the
north, and at the end of this street, citizen, you will come to a
place where the two roads fork,--that of Dol to the left, that of
Saint-Georges-de-Brehaigne to the right. Mark my words: if you go to
Dol, you will plunge headlong into the massacre; so do not take the
left-hand turning, but keep to the right."

"Thank you," said the traveller.

And he set spurs to his horse.

As it was now quite dark, he soon vanished in the gloom, and the
innkeeper lost sight of him.

When the traveller reached the end of the street where the two roads
forked, he heard the voice of the innkeeper calling to him from the
distance,--

"Turn to your right!"

He turned to the left.



II.


DOL.


[Illustration 076]


Dol, a Franco-Spanish city in Brittany, as the old records call it,
is not really a city; it is a street,--a grand old Gothic street,
with rows of houses supported by pillars on both sides of it. These
houses are not built in straight lines, but stand irregularly, now
and then elbowing into the street, which is, to be sure, a very wide
one. The rest of the town is a mere network of lanes, all leading
into this great diametrical street,--emptying into it, one might
say, like streams into a river, with Mont-Dol towering above it. The
city, with neither gates nor walls, could not have withstood a siege;
but the street was quite capable of sustaining one. The houses, like
promontories, which but fifty years ago were still standing, and the
two pillared galleries bordering the street, made it a strong and
well-nigh impregnable redoubt. Each of the houses was a fortress in
itself, and the enemy would have found himself forced to capture them
one by one. Almost in the middle of the street stood the old market.

The innkeeper of the Croix-Branchard had told the truth; a furious
battle was raging in Dol even while he was speaking. A nocturnal
duel between the Whites who arrived in the morning and the Blues who
appeared at night had burst suddenly upon the town. The forces were
unequal, the Whites numbering six thousand, while the Blues were only
fifteen hundred; but they fought with equal fury. Surprising as it may
seem, it was the fifteen hundred who attacked the six thousand.

A mob pitted against a phalanx. On one side were six thousand peasants,
with images of the Sacred Heart upon their leathern waistcoats, white
ribbons on their round hats, Christian emblems on their leather cuffs,
rosaries hanging from their belts, carrying pitchforks oftener than
sabres, and carbines without bayonets, dragging along cannon by means
of ropes, wretchedly equipped, undisciplined, with no suitable weapons,
yet mad with rage. On the other side were fifteen thousand soldiers,
wearing three-cornered hats with the tricolored cockade, long-tailed
coats, with broad lapels, and shoulder-belts crossed, short sabres with
copper hilts, muskets with long bayonets, well-drilled and disciplined,
obedient though savage, knowing how to obey like men who could at need
command, volunteers like the others, but patriots withal, although
barefooted and in rags; paladins in the shape of peasants fighting in
defence of Monarchy; barefooted heroes in the ranks of the Revolution;
while the life and soul of both Royalists and Republicans was centred
in their leaders,--Lantenac, the man advanced in years, and the young
Gauvain.

Standing side by side in the Revolution with young giants like Danton,
Saint-Just, and Robespierre, were the ideal and youthful forms of Hoche
and Marceau, and like unto them was Gauvain.

Gauvain was thirty years of age, with the chest of Hercules, the
solemn eye of a prophet, and the laugh of a child. He never smoked; he
neither drank nor swore. He carried a dressing-case with him throughout
the entire war, and took great care of his nails, his teeth, and his
luxuriant brown hair. Whenever they halted, it was his habit carefully
to shake his commander's uniform, riddled with balls and whitened with
dust as it was. Though always rushing headlong into the thickest of the
fray, he had never been wounded. His voice, unusually melodious, could
assume at need the imperative ring of command. He set the example of
sleeping on the ground, in the wind, the rain, and the snow, wrapped
in his cloak, with his charming head resting on a stone. His was a
heroic and innocent soul. Let him but take a sabre in his hand, he was
straightway transformed. He had that effeminate aspect that changes to
something formidable in battle.

A thinker and philosopher withal; in short, a youthful sage. Beautiful
to look upon as Alcibiades, his speech showed the wisdom of Socrates.

In that grand improvisation which men called the French Revolution,
this young man at once became a leader.

The division which he had formed was like a Roman legion; an army on a
small scale, complete in itself; it consisted of infantry and cavalry;
it had its scouts, its pioneers, its sappers, its engineers; and as
the Roman legion had its catapults, this army had its cannon. Three
well-mounted pieces strengthened the division, while leaving it easy to
handle.

Lantenac was also a military leader, but a more accomplished one,--more
cautious, and at the same time more daring. The veritable old hero
is cooler than a younger man, because he is farther removed from the
heyday of life, and more daring from the consciousness that he is
nearer death. What has he to lose? So slight a matter. This explains
the bold and yet scientific manoeuvres of Lantenac. Yet on the whole,
in this obstinate wrestling-match between the old and the young,
Gauvain almost always had the advantage, and he owed this rather to
chance than to anything in himself. Every sort of good-fortune, even
though it may be terrible, falls to the lot of youth. Victory has
something feminine in its nature.

Lantenac was exasperated with Gauvain; first, because his nephew had
defeated him, and second, because he was his nephew. What possessed him
to be Jacobin?--a Gauvain! Unruly youngster that he was. His heir,--for
the Marquis had no children,--a great-nephew, almost a grandchild!
"Ah!" cried this quasi grandfather, "if he falls into my hands, I will
kill him like a dog."

The Republic, moreover, had good reason to feel uneasy about this
Marquis de Lantenac. He had no sooner landed than its terror began.
The mere utterance of his name was like a powder-train spread through
the Vendean insurrection, of which he straightway became the centre.
In a revolt of this kind, where each one is jealous of his neighbor,
where each has his bush or his ravine, if a superior leader appears,
the separate chiefs who have been on a level will rally round him and
submit themselves to his authority. Nearly all the forest captains
had joined Lantenac, and whether near or remote, they all obeyed him.
Only Gavard, who had been the first to join him, had departed. And why
was this? Because he had enjoyed the confidence of the Republic and
been in a position of authority. Gavard had held all the secrets and
had adopted the old-fashioned system of civil war, which Lantenac had
come to change and replace. A successor can hardly agree with a man of
that stamp. The shoe of La Rouarie was not a fit for Lantenac, and so
Gavard had gone to join Bonchamp.

Lantenac belonged to the military school of Frederic II.; he understood
the art of warfare, which consists of combining the greater with the
lesser; he favored neither the great Catholic and Royal army, that
"mass of confusion" destined to be crushed, nor the guerilla troops
scattered through the thickets and hedges, useful to harass, but
powerless to crush. There is either no end to guerilla warfare, or else
it comes to an unfortunate one: it begins by attacking the Republic and
ends by robbing a diligence. Lantenac did not propose to carry on the
Breton war altogether in the open country like La Rochejaquelein, nor
yet in the forest like Chouan. He neither approved of the Vendée nor
of the Chouannerie; he believed in real warfare; he was willing to use
the peasant, but he wished to support him by the soldier. He required
bands for strategy and regiments for tactics. The village armies so
easily disbanded he considered excellent for an attack, an ambush,
or a surprise, but he felt that they lacked solidity; they were like
water in his hands; he sought a solid foundation for this unstable
and diffusive warfare; to the savage army of the forest he proposed
to add regular troops as a sort of pivot about which to manoeuvre the
peasants. Had this scheme, deep-laid and terrible as it was, proved
successful, the Vendée would never have been conquered.

But where could regular troops be found? Where look for soldiers? Where
seek for regiments, and find a ready-made army? In England. Hence
Lantenac's determination that the English should effect a landing. Thus
do parties compromise with their consciences. He quite lost sight of
the red coat, eclipsed as it was by the white cockade. Lantenac had but
one idea,--first to seize upon some point on the coast, and then to
deliver it into the hands of Pitt. It was with this object that, seeing
Dol unprotected, he had thrown himself upon it, knowing that once in
possession of Dol, he could readily gain Mont-Dol, and by means of the
latter gain a footing on the coast.

The spot was well chosen. From Mont-Dol the cannon would sweep Fresnois
on one side; and Saint-Brelade, on the other, would keep the fleet of
Cancale at a distance, and leave the whole beach, from Raz-sur-Couesnon
to Saint-Mêloir-des-Ondes, open to an attack.

In order to insure success, Lantenac had brought with him six thousand
of the most active men in the regiment at his disposal, together with
all his artillery,--ten sixteen-pound culverins, one demi-culverin,
and one four-pounder. He proposed to establish a strong battery on
Mont-Dol, on the principle that a thousand shots fired from ten cannon
do more execution than fifteen hundred fired from five cannon.

With six thousand men, he felt sure of success. In the direction of
Avranches they had nothing to fear but Gauvain with his fifteen hundred
men. Towards Dina there was Léchelle, to be sure, with twenty-five
thousand; but he was twenty leagues away. In regard to the latter,
Lantenac felt quite safe, the distance offsetting the numbers; and
as for Gauvain though he was quite near, his force was very small.
WE may here remark that Léchelle was a fool, who afterwards allowed
his twenty-five thousand men to be slaughtered on the moors of
Croix-Bataille,--a mistake for which he strove to atone by suicide.

So Lantenac felt quite safe. His entrance into Dol had been sudden and
stern. The Marquis de Lantenac enjoyed a hard reputation; and knowing
him to be merciless, the terrified inhabitants shut themselves up
in their houses without attempting resistance, and the six thousand
Vendeans installed themselves in the city after the disorderly fashion
of a band of rustics. It was almost like a market-ground; in default of
quartermasters, they chose their own quarters, camping at haphazard,
cooking, in the open air, dispersing hither and yonder through the
churches, dropping their muskets to take up their rosaries. Lantenac,
accompanied by a few artillery officers, proceeded without delay to
reconnoitre Mont-Dol, leaving Gouge-le-Bruant, whom he had appointed
field-sergeant, in command. This Gouge-le-Bruant has left but an
indistinct trace in history. He had two nicknames,-_Brise-Bleu_ in
token of his massacre of the patriots, and _Imânus_, because there was
something indescribably horrible about him. _Imânus_ is derived from
_immanis_, and old Low-Norman word, which expresses a superhuman degree
of ugliness, almost godlike in its terror,--a demon, a satyr, an ogre.
An old manuscript says, "With my own eyes I beheld Imânus." To-day the
old people in Brittany no longer know who Gouge-le-Bruant was, nor what
Brise-Bleu means; but they have a vague idea of the Imânus, whose name
is interwoven with all the local superstitions. He still is spoken of
in Trémorel and Plumaugat,--the two villages where Gouge-le-Bruant has
left the impress of his ill-omened footstep. In the Vendée, where all
the inhabitants were savages, Gouge-le-Bruant was the barbarian. He was
a sort of Cacique tattooed all over with crucifixes and fleurs-de-lis.
Upon his face was the hideous, almost supernatural glow of a soul
unlike that of any other human being. He was as brave in battle as
Satan himself, and atrociously cruel when the battle was over. His
heart, full of mysterious determinations, now urged him to acts of
devotion, now to deeds of wildest fury. Did he use his reason? Yes,
after a serpentine fashion. Heroism was his starting-point, murder his
goal. It was impossible to conceive how his resolutions, often grand in
their very monstrosity, could have entered his mind. He was capable of
any horror, when least expected. His ferocity was on a scale of epic
grandeur.

Hence his peculiar surname, Imânus.

The Marquis de Lantenac relied upon his cruelty; but while none could
dispute the fact that he excelled in cruelty, in matters of strategy
and tactics he was less efficient, and it may perhaps have been a
mistake on the part of the Marquis when he made him his field-sergeant.
But however that may be, he left him behind in charge, with the
injunction to look after matters in general.

Gouge-le-Bruant was more of a fighter than a soldier, and guarding
a town was not so much in his line as massacring a clan would have
been; still, he posted sentries. When at nightfall the Marquis, having
decided upon the position of his battery, was returning to Dol, he
suddenly caught the sound of cannon. Looking in the direction of
the sound, he saw a red smoke rising from the street. This meant a
surprise, an invasion, an attack; fighting was going on in the town.

Although not easily taken by surprise, he was now utterly amazed, for
he had anticipated nothing of the sort. What could it mean? Evidently
not Gauvain, for a man would hardly attack an enemy outnumbering him
four to one. Could it be Léchelle? But was it possible for him to have
made such a forced march? Léchelle was improbable, Gauvain impossible.

Lantenac urged on his horse. On the way he met some of the inhabitants
in the act of flight; but when he questioned them, they seemed beside
themselves with terror, crying, "The Blues! the Blues!" And on his
arrival he found the situation a bad one.

This is what had happened.



III.


SMALL ARMIES AND GREAT BATTLES.


[Illustration 077]


On their arrival at Dol, the peasants, as we have seen, had dispersed
through town, each man guided by his own fancy, as it often happens
when "on obéit d'amitié," as the Vendeans expressed it,--a form of
obedience that may produce heroes, but not well-disciplined soldiers.
They had stored their artillery, together with the baggage, under
the arches of the old market, and feeling weary, when they had eaten
and drunk and said their beads, they stretched themselves out in
the middle of the principal street, that was encumbered rather than
guarded. As night came on most of them fell asleep, pillowing their
heads on their knapsacks, some having their wives beside them; for it
often happened that the peasant women followed the men. In the Vendée,
women about to become mothers frequently acted as spies. It was a mild
July night The constellations shone forth against the deep-blue sky.
The entire bivouac, which might have been mistaken for the halt of a
caravan rather than for a military encampment, gave itself up to quiet
slumber. Suddenly by the glimmering twilight those who were still awake
perceived three cannon levelled at the entrance of the principal street.

It was Gauvain. He had surprised the guard, had entered the town, and
with his division held the entrance of the street.

A peasant started up, crying, "Who goes there?" and fired off his
musket. A cannon-shot, followed by a terrific volley of musketry, was
the reply. The whole sleeping crowd sprang up with a start. It was a
rude shock to be roused by a volley of grape-shot from a peaceful sleep
beneath the stars.

The first moment was terrific. There is nothing more tragic than the
confusion of a panic-stricken crowd. They snatched their weapons.
Many fell as they ran yelling to and fro. Confused by the unexpected
assault, the lads lost their heads and fired madly at one another.
The townspeople, bewildered by all this confusion, rushed in and out
of their houses, shouting to each other as they wandered helplessly
about,--a dismal struggle in which women and children played a part.
The balls whistling through the air left streaks of light in the
darkness behind them. Amid the smoke and tumult a constant firing
issued from every dark corner. The entanglement of the baggage-wagons
and cannon-carriages was added to the general confusion. The horses,
rearing, trampled upon the wounded, whose groans could be heard on
every side. Some were horror-stricken, others stupefied. Officers were
looking for their men, and soldiers for their officers. In the midst
of all this some there were who displayed a stolid indifference. One
woman, seated on the fragment of a wall, was nursing her new-born
babe, while her husband, with bleeding wounds and a broken leg, leaned
against it as he calmly loaded his musket and fired at random in the
darkness, killing or not, as it happened. Men lying flat on the ground
fired between the spokes of the wagon-wheels. At times there rose a
hideous din of clamors, and again the thundering voice of the cannon
would overwhelm all. It was frightful,--like the felling of trees when
one falls upon the other.

[Illustration 078]

Gauvain from his ambush aimed with precision, and lost but few men.
But at last the peasants, intrepid in spite of the disaster, ended by
taking the defensive. They fell back on the market, which was like
a great dark fortress, with its forest of stone pillars. There they
made a stand; anything that resembled a forest inspired them with
courage. The Imânus did his best to atone for the absence of Lantenac.
They had cannon; but, to the great surprise of Gauvain, they made no
use of them. This was due to the fact that the artillery officers had
gone with the Marquis to reconnoitre Mont-Dol, and the peasants did
not know how to manage the culverins and demi-culverins; but they
riddled with balls the Blues who cannonaded them. The peasants answered
the grape-shot by a volley of musketry. They now had the advantage
of a shelter, having heaped up the drays, the carts, the baggage,
and all the small casks that were lying about in the old market,
thus improvising a high barricade, with openings through which they
could pass their muskets, and from which they opened a deadly fire.
So rapidly had they worked, that in a quarter of an hour the market
presented an impregnable front.

Matters were beginning to look serious for Gauvain. The sudden
transformation of a market into a fortress, and the peasants assembled
in a solid mass within, was a condition of affairs which he had not
anticipated. He had taken them by surprise, it is true; but he had not
succeeded in routing them. He had dismounted, and holding his sword
by the hilt, he stood with folded arms, gazing steadfastly into the
gloom, his own figure distinctly revealed by the flame of the torch
that lighted the battery,--a target for the men of the barricade; of
which fact he took no heed, as he stood there lost in thought, while a
shower of balls from the barricade fell around him.

He set his cannon against their rifles; and victory is ever on the side
of the cannon-ball. He who has artillery is sure to win the day, and
his well-manned battery gave him the advantage.

Suddenly a flash of lightning burst forth from the dark market; there
came a report like a peal of thunder, and a bullet went crashing
through a house over Gauvain's head.

The barricade was paying him back in his own coin.

What was going on? This was a new development. The artillery was no
longer confined to one side.

A second ball followed the first, embedding itself in the wall close to
Gauvain; and a third ball knocked off his hat.

These balls were of a calibre so heavy that they must have been fired
from a sixteen-pounder.

"They are aiming at you, commander," cried the gunners, as they put out
the torch; and Gauvain, still absorbed in his reverie, stooped to pick
up his hat.

Some one was indeed aiming at Gauvain, and it was Lantenac.

The Marquis had just reached the barricade from the opposite side.

The Imânus hastened to meet him.

"Monseigneur, we have been taken by surprise."

"By whom?"

"I do not know."

"Is the road to Dinan open?"

"I believe so."

"We must begin to retreat."

"We have done so. Many have already fled."

"I am not speaking of flight, but of retreat. Why did you not use the
artillery?"

"The men were beside themselves, and then the officers were absent."

"I was to be here."

"Monseigneur, I sent everything I could on to Fougères,--the women, the
baggage, and all useless incumbrances; but what is to be done with the
three little prisoners?"

"Do you mean the children?"

"Yes."

"They are our hostages. Send them on to the Tourgue."

So saying, the Marquis started for the barricade, and directly after
his arrival things took on another aspect. The barricade was not
well constructed for artillery; there was room for but two cannon;
the Marquis placed in position the two sixteen-pounders for which
embrasures were made. As he was leaning on one of the cannon, watching
the enemy's battery through the embrasure, he caught sight of Gauvain.

"It is he!" he cried.

Then, taking the swab and the ramrod, he loaded the piece, adjusted the
sight, and took aim.

Three times he aimed at Gauvain and missed him, but the third shot
knocked off his hat.

"Bungler!" murmured Lantenac. "A little lower, and I should have had
his head."

Suddenly the torch went out, and he had only darkness before him.

"Well, let it go," he said.

And turning to the peasant gunners, he exclaimed:

"Let them have the grape-shot!"

Gauvain for his part was also in deadly earnest. The situation had
become a serious one since the development of this new phase of the
conflict, and the barricade was now cannonading him. Who could tell
how soon it might pass from the defensive to the offensive? The enemy
numbered at least five thousand, even allowing for the dead and the
fugitives, while he had no more than twelve hundred service-able men
at his command. What would happen to the Republicans if the enemy
should become aware of their limited number? Their rôles would soon
be reversed; from playing the part of assailants, he would become the
object of assault. If the barricade were to make a sortie, all would be
lost.

What was to be done? It was out of the question to think of attacking
the barricade in front; an attempt to capture it by main strength
would be folly; twelve hundred men could not dislodge five thousand.
Imperative as it was to make an end of it, knowing as he did that delay
was fatal, still he realized that to force the enemy's hand would be
impossible. What was he to do?

Gauvain belonged to this neighborhood; he was familiar with the
town, and knew that behind the old market, where the Vendeans were
intrenched, was a labyrinth of narrow and crooked streets.

He turned to his lieutenant, the brave Captain Guéchamp, who afterwards
became famous for clearing the forest of Concise, where Jean Chouan was
born, and who prevented the capture of Bourgneuf by cutting the rebels
off from the highway that led to the pond of La Chaine.

"Guéchamp," said Gauvain, "I intrust you with the command. Fire as
rapidly as possible. Riddle the barricade with cannon-balls, and keep
them busy over yonder."

"I understand," said Guéchamp.

"Mass the whole column with their guns loaded, and hold them in
readiness for an attack."

He whispered a few words in Guéchamp's ear.

"It shall be done," said the latter.

Gauvain continued,--

"Are all our drummers ready?"

"Yes"

"We have nine. Keep two and give me seven."

The seven drummers silently ranged themselves in front of Gauvain.

"Step forward, battalion of the Bonnet-Rouge!" exclaimed Gauvain.

Twelve soldiers, one of whom was a sergeant, stepped from the ranks.

"I called for the whole battalion," said Gauvain.

"Here it is," replied the sergeant.

"Are there but twelve?"

"Only twelve of us left."

"Very well," said Gauvain.

This sergeant was that very Radoub, the rough and kindly soldier who in
the name of the battalion had adopted the three children found in the
forest of La Saudraie.

It will be remarked that only half that battalion was massacred at
Herbe-en-Pail, and Radoub, by good luck, was not among them.

A forage-wagon was standing near, and Gauvain pointed it out to the
sergeant.

"Let your men weave ropes of straw and bind them around their muskets
to deaden the noise when they clash against each other."

A minute went by; the order was silently executed in the darkness.

"It is done," said the sergeant.

"Take off your shoes, soldiers," continued Gauvain.

"We have none," replied the sergeant.

Including the drummers, they numbered nineteen men; Gauvain was the
twentieth.

"Follow me, in single file!" cried Gauvain. "Let the drummers go before
the battalion. You will command the battalion, sergeant!"

He placed himself at the head of this column, and while the cannonading
still continued on both sides, these twenty men glided along like
shadows and plunged into the deserted lanes.

Thus they proceeded for some time, skirting along the fronts of the
houses. It seemed as though the whole town were dead; the citizens had
taken refuge in their cellars. Every door was barred and every shutter
closed. Not a light was to be seen anywhere.

But through this silence they still heard the awful din on the
principal street: the cannonading went on; the Republican battery and
the Royal barricade spit out their grape-shot with unabated fury.

[Illustration 079]

After marching twenty minutes, winding in and out, Gauvain, who had led
the way unerringly through this darkness, reached the end of a lane
that led into the principal street; they were now, however, on the
other side of the market.

The position was changed. On that side there was no intrenchment,--a
common mistake of barricade builders; the market was open, and one
could walk in under the pillars, where several baggage-wagons stood
ready to leave. Gauvain and his nineteen men were in the presence of
the five thousand Vendeans as before, only instead of facing them they
found themselves in their rear.

Gauvain whispered to the sergeant; the straw was unwound from the
muskets, and the twelve grenadiers ranged themselves in a line behind
the corner of the lane, while the seven drummers, with uplifted
drumstick, waited for the signal.

The artillery firing was intermittent, when suddenly, during the
interval between two discharges, Gauvain raised his sword, and in a
voice that rang out like a clarion upon the silence, exclaimed,--

"Two hundred men to the right, two hundred to the left, the rest in the
centre."

The drums beat and the twelve musket-shots were fired.

Then Gauvain uttered the formidable battle-cry of the Blues,--

"Charge! Bayonets!"

The effect was wonderful.

All this crowd of peasants finding themselves assailed in the rear,
imagined that another army had come up from behind. At the same time,
on hearing the beating of the drums, the column which held the upper
part of the street and was commanded by Guéchamp began to move,
sounding the charge in its turn, and starting on the run, attacked
the barricade; the peasants saw themselves between two fires. A panic
magnifies, and at such moments a pistol-shot sounds like the report of
a cannon; imagination distorts every sound, and the barking of a dog
seems like the roar of a lion. Let us add, moreover, that the peasant
takes fright as easily as a thatch catches fire, and as quickly as a
burning thatch becomes a conflagration, a panic among peasants grows
into a rout; and on this occasion the flight was beyond description.

In a few moments the market was deserted; the terrified lads scattered
in all directions, and the officers were helpless. The Imânus killed
two or three of the fugitives, but it was of no avail. Nothing could be
heard save the cry, "Sauve qui peut," and with the rapidity of a cloud
driven onward by a hurricane, the entire army scattered through the
streets as through the meshes of a sieve and vanished into the country.

Some fled towards Châteauneuf, some towards Plerguer, and others in the
direction of Antrain.

The Marquis de Lantenac, who was the last man to leave the scene,
spiked the guns with his own hands, and then quietly and calmly took
his departure, saying as he went,--

"It is evident that the peasants cannot be depended upon to stand their
ground. We need the English."


[Illustration 080]



IV.


A SECOND TIME.


[Illustration 081]


They had won the victory, and, turning to the men of the battalion of
the Bonnet-Rouge, Gauvain exclaimed,--

"Though you are but twelve, you are equal to a thousand."

One word from the chief in times like these was as good as the cross of
honor.

Guéchamp, who had been sent by Gauvain outside the city in pursuit of
the fugitives, captured many of them.

Torches were lighted, and the town was searched.

All those who had not been able to escape, surrendered themselves. The
principal street, illuminated by _pots-à-feu_, was strewn with the
dead and the wounded. The fierce struggle that always terminates a
battle was still continued by a few groups of desperate fighters, who,
however, on being surrounded, threw down their arms and surrendered.

Gauvain had observed amid the wild tumult of the flight a fearless man,
vigorous and agile as a faun, who stood his own ground while covering
the flight of the others. This peasant, after handling his musket like
an expert, alternately firing: and Rising the butt as a club, until
he had broken it, now stood grasping a pistol in one hand and a sabre
in the other, and no man dared approach him. Suddenly Gauvain saw him
reel, and lean against one of the pillars of the principal street. He
was evidently wounded, but he still held his sabre and his pistols.
Gauvain put his sword under his arm and came up to him. As he called
upon him to surrender, the man gazed steadily at him, while the blood
oozing from his wound formed a pool at his feet.

"You are my prisoner," said Gauvain. "What is your name?"

"Danse-à-l'Ombre," was the reply.

"You are a brave fellow," said Gauvain, extending his hand.

"Long live the King!" cried the man.

Then gathering all his strength, and raising both hands simultaneously,
he fired his pistol at Gauvain's heart, at the same time aiming a blow
at his head with the sabre.

This movement, tiger-like in its rapidity, was yet forestalled by the
action of another. A horseman had appeared on the scene; he had been
there for some moments without attracting attention, and when he saw
the Vendean lift his sabre and pistol, he threw himself between the
latter and Gauvain, intercepting the sabre-thrust by his own person,
while his horse was struck by the pistol-shot, and both horse and rider
fell to the ground. Thus Gauvain's life was saved. All this took place
as quickly as one would utter a cry.

The Vendean also sank to the pavement.

The blow from the sabre struck the man full in the face; he lay on the
ground in a swoon. The horse was killed.

[Illustration 082]

Gauvain drew near, asking, as he approached, if any could tell who he
was.

On looking at him more closely he saw that the blood was gushing over
the face of the wounded man, covering it as with a red mask, and
rendering it impossible to distinguish his features. One could see that
his hair was gray.

"He has saved my life," said Gauvain. "Does any one here know him?"

"Commander," said a soldier, "he has but just arrived in town. I saw
him coming from the direction of Pontorson."

The surgeon-in-chief of the division hurried up with his
instrument-case.

The wounded man was still unconscious, but after examining him the
surgeon said,--

"Oh, this is nothing but a simple cut. It can be sewed, and in eight
days he will be on his feet again. That was a fine sabre-cut."

The wounded man wore a cloak and a tricolored belt, with pistols and
a sabre. They placed him on a stretcher, and after undressing him, a
bucket of water was brought, and the surgeon washed the wound. As the
face began to appear, Gauvain studied it attentively.

"Has he any papers about him?" he asked.

The surgeon felt in his side pocket and drew out a pocket-book, which
he handed to Gauvain.

Meanwhile the wounded man, revived by the cold water, was regaining
his consciousness. His eyelids quivered slightly.

Gauvain was looking over the pocket-book, in which he discovered a
sheet of paper folded four times; he opened it and read,--

"Committee of Public Safety. Citizen Cimourdain--"

"Cimourdain!" he cried; whereupon the wounded man opened his eyes.

Gauvain was beside himself.

"It is you, Cimourdain! For the second time you have saved my life."

Cimourdain looked at Gauvain, while a sudden burst of joy, impossible
to describe, lit up his bleeding face.

Gauvain fell on his knees before him, exclaiming:

"My master!"

"Thy father!" said Cimourdain.



V.


A DROP OF COLD WATER.


It was many a year since last they met, but their hearts had never been
separated, and they knew each other again as if they had parted but
yesterday.

A hospital had been improvised in the town hall of Dol, and Cimourdain
was placed on a bed in a small room adjoining the large hall devoted to
the other wounded men. The surgeon who had sewed up his wound put a
stop to all exciting conversation between the two men, considering it
wiser to leave Cimourdain to sleep. Besides, Gauvain was called away by
the thousand duties and cares incident to victory. Cimourdain was left
alone, but he could not sleep, excited as he was by the double fever of
his wound and of his joy.

He knew he was not sleeping, and yet he hardly felt sure that he was
awake. Could it be possible that his dream had come to pass? Cimourdain
was one of those men who have no faith in good luck, and yet it had
fallen to his lot. He had found Gauvain. He had left him a child, he
found him a man,--a grand, brave, awe-inspiring conqueror, and that in
the cause of the people. In the Vendée, Gauvain was the pillar of the
Revolution, and it was really Cimourdain himself who had bestowed this
support upon the Republic. This conqueror was his pupil. Cimourdain
beheld his own thought illumining the youthful countenance of this man,
for whom a niche in the Republican Pantheon was perhaps reserved; his
disciple, the child of his mind, was a hero from this time forth, and
would soon become famous; it seemed to Cimourdain like seeing his own
soul transformed into a genius. As he watched Gauvain in the battle
he had felt like Chiron watching Achilles. There is a certain analogy
between the priest and the Centaur, since a priest is but half a man.

The incidents of this day's adventure, added to the sleeplessness
caused by his wound, filled Cimourdain with a strange sort of
intoxication. He seemed to see a youthful destiny rising before him in
all its splendor, and the knowledge of his own absolute control of
this destiny contributed to increase his deep joy. It needed but one
more triumph like that which he had just witnessed, and at a word from
Cimourdain, the Republic would place Gauvain at the head of an army.
Nothing dazzles one so much as an unexpected success. This was the
epoch of military dreams. Every man had a longing to create a general;
Westermann was the hero of Danton's dream, Rossignol of Marat's, Ronsin
of Hébert's; and Robespierre would have liked to ruin them all. So
why not Gauvain? Cimourdain asked himself; and thereupon he proceeded
to lose himself in dreams. There were no limits to his imaginings;
as he passed from one hypothesis to another, all obstacles vanished
before him. For this is a ladder on which, having once set foot, one
never pauses; the ascent is a long one, starting from man and ending
at the stars. A great general is only the commander of an army; a
great captain is also a leader of thought; Cimourdain pictured Gauvain
as a great captain. It seemed to him--for fancies travel fast--that
he saw him on the sea, pursuing the English; on the Rhine, driving
before him the kings of the North; in the Pyrenees, repulsing Spain;
on the Alps, setting the signal for insurrection before the eyes of
Rome. Cimourdain was a man who possessed two distinct natures,--the
one tender, the other gloomy,--both of which were satisfied; for since
the inexorable was his ideal, it gratified him to see Gauvain at once
glorious and terrible. Cimourdain thought of all he had to pull down
before he could build up. "And certainly," he said to himself, "this
is no time to indulge in tender emotions. Gauvain will be up _à la
hauteur_,"[3]--an expression of the day. Cimourdain pictured Gauvain
to himself with a sword in his hand, girded in light, a flaming meteor
on his brow, spreading the grand ideal wings of justice, right, and
progress, and, like an angel of extermination, crushing the darkness
beneath his heel.

Just at the crisis of this reverie, which one might almost have called
an ecstasy, through the half-open door he heard men talking in the
great ambulance-hall adjoining his room, and he recognized Gauvain's
voice, which, in spite of years of absence, had always rung in his
ears; for the voice of the man often retains something of its childish
tones. He listened. There was a sound of footsteps, and he heard the
soldiers saying,--

"Here is the man who fired at you, commander. He had crawled into a
cellar when no one was watching; but we found him, and here he is."

Then Cimourdain heard the following conversation between Gauvain and
the man:--

"Are you wounded?"

"I am well enough to be shot."

"Put this man to bed, dress his wounds, take good care of him until he
recovers."

"I want to die."

"But you are going to live. You tried to kill me in the name of the
King; I pardon you in the name of the Republic."

A shadow crossed Cimourdain's brow. He seemed to wake as with a start,
and whispered to himself in a tone of gloomy dejection,--

"Yes, he has a merciful nature, there can be no doubt."



VI.


A HEALED BREAST, BUT A BLEEDING HEART.


A Gash is quickly healed; but there was elsewhere one more seriously
wounded than Cimourdain. This was the woman who had been shot, and whom
the beggar Tellmarch had rescued from the great pool of blood at the
farm Herbe-en-Pail.

Michelle Fléchard was in a more critical condition than Tellmarch
had supposed. There was a wound in the shoulder-blade corresponding
to that above her breast; one ball had broken her collar-bone, while
another had entered her shoulder; but as the lung was uninjured, she
might recover. Tellmarch was what in peasant language is called a
"philosopher," that is to say, a combination of doctor, surgeon, and
wizard. Upon the bed of seaweed in his underground den he nursed the
wounded woman, using those mysterious remedies called "simples;" end
thanks to his care, she lived.

The collar-bone knitted together, the wounds in the breast and the
shoulder closed, and after a few weeks the wounded woman became
convalescent.

One morning she was able to walk out of the _carnichot_, leaning on
Tellmarch; she seated herself under the trees, in the sun. Tellmarch
knew very little about her; for a wound in the breast necessitates
silence, and during the death-like agony which preceded her recovery
she had hardly spoken a word. Whenever she seemed about to open
her lips, Tellmarch would prevent her; but he could not control
her thoughts, and he observed by the expression in her eyes the
heart-rending nature of her ever-recurring fancies. This morning she
felt strong, and could almost walk alone. The doctor who has cured his
patient enjoys a sense of fatherhood; and as he watched her, Tellmarch
felt happy. The good old man began to smile as he addressed her.

"Well, it seems we are up; our wounds are healed."

"All but those of the heart."

And presently she added,--

"Then you don't know where they are?"

"Whom do you mean?" asked Tellmarch.

"My children."

The word "then" revealed a whole world of meaning; it seemed to say:
"Since you do not speak of them to me, since you have been with me for
so many days without opening your lips to me on the subject, since you
silence me every time I try to speak, since you seem to fear that I
am going to talk about them,--it must mean that you have nothing to
tell me." During the course of her fever she had often noticed that
whenever, in her delirious ramblings, she had called for her children
(the perceptions of delirium are sometimes acute), the old man would
make no reply.

The truth was that Tellmarch did not know what to tell her. It is not
easy to speak to a mother of her lost children; and besides, what did
he know? Nothing at all, in fact,--that a mother had been shot, that he
had found this mother on the ground, that when he had lifted her up she
was nearly dead, that this dying woman had three children, and lastly,
that the Marquis de Lantenac, after ordering the mother to be shot, had
carried away the children; and here his information ceased. What had
become of the children? Were they still living? Having made inquiries,
he had learned that there were two boys, and a little girl barely
weaned; and this was the extent of his knowledge. He asked himself more
questions than he could answer in regard to this unhappy family; but
the neighbors whom he had asked only shook their heads. M. de Lantenac
was a man of whom no one cared to talk.

They were equally reluctant either to speak about Lantenac or to talk
to Tellmarch. Peasants have their own peculiar superstitions. They
disliked Tellmarch. Tellmarch le Caimand was a perplexing man. Why was
he always looking up at the sky? What was he doing, what could he be
thinking about, when he stood motionless for hours at a time? Surely he
must be a very odd sort of man. While the district was in a state of
combustion and conflagration, when warfare, devastation, and carnage
were the sole occupations of life, when every man was doing his best to
burn houses, murder families, massacre outposts, and plunder villages,
thinking of nothing but setting ambushes and traps and killing one
another, here was this hermit absorbed in nature, enjoying absolute
peace of mind, gathering plants and herbs, interested only in flowers,
birds, and stars,--of course he was a dangerous character! He must be
insane. He never hid behind a bush to fire at his fellow-men. "The man
is mad!" said the passers-by. Hence he inspired a certain awe, and men
avoided him, thus increasing the isolation of his life.

[Illustration 087]

They asked him no questions, and seldom vouchsafed replies; therefore
he had been unable to get the information he wanted. The conflict had
been transferred to other districts, and the fighting was more remote.
The Marquis de Lantenac had vanished from the horizon; and war must set
its foot on a man of Tellmarch's character before he becomes aware of
its existence.

After hearing these words, "My children!" Tellmarch ceased to smile,
and the mother sank into deep thought. What was passing in her soul?
She seemed to have plunged into the depths. Suddenly she looked up at
Tellmarch, and repeated her demand almost angrily,--

"My children!"

Tellmarch bent his head like a culprit.

He was thinking of the Marquis de Lantenac, who, so far from returning
his thought, had probably forgotten his very existence. He realized the
fact as he said to himself, "When a nobleman is in danger he reckons
you among his acquaintance; but let the danger pass, and he forgets
that he ever saw you."

And he asked himself, "Why, then, did I save him?" To which question he
made reply, "Because he was a man."

For some moments he dwelt upon this thought; then he resumed the thread
of his meditations,--

"Am I sure of this?"

And presently he repeated those bitter words: "Had I but known!"

This whole experience gave him a sense of oppression, for his own
action in the affair was enigmatical to him. His thoughts were sad,
since a sense of guilt had crept into them. A kindly act may prove
in the end to have been an evil one. He who saves the wolf kills the
sheep; he who sets the vulture's wing is responsible for his talons.
The unreasoning anger of this mother was therefore justified.

Still he felt a certain consolation in the knowledge that he had saved
the mother, which partly balanced his regret for having saved the
Marquis.

"But the children?"

The mother was also thinking; and these two currents of thoughts moved
side by side, perhaps to mingle unawares in the shadowy land of reverie.

Meanwhile her eyes, gloomy as the night, rested again on Tellmarch.

"We cannot go on like this," she said.

"Hush!" rejoined Tellmarch, putting his finger on his lips.

She continued,--

"I am angry with you for saving me; you did wrong. I would rather have
died, for then I should surely see them and know where they are. They
would not see me, but I should be near them. The dead must have power
to protect."

He took her by the arm, and felt her pulse.

"You must calm yourself, or you will have a relapse."

She asked him almost harshly,--

"When can I go away?"

"Go away?"

"Yes. When shall I be fit for tramping?"

"Never, if you are unreasonable; to-morrow, if you are good."

"What do you call being good?"

"Trusting in God."

"God? What has He done with my children?"

She seemed to be wandering. Her voice had grown very gentle.

"You must see," she went on to say, "that I cannot stay like this. You
never had any children; but I am a mother: that makes a difference. One
cannot judge of a thing unless he knows what it is like. Did you ever
have any children?"

"No," replied Tellmarch.

"But I have. Can I live without my children? I should like to be told
why my children are not here. Something is happening, but what it is I
cannot understand."

"Come," said Tellmarch, "you are feverish again. You mustn't talk any
more."

She looked at him and was silent.

And from that day she kept silence again.

This implicit obedience was more than Tellmarch desired. She spent hour
after hour crouching at the foot of the old tree, like one stupefied.
She pondered in silence,--that refuge of simple souls who have sounded
the gloomy depths of woe. She seemed to give up trying to understand.
After a certain point despair becomes unintelligible to the despairing.

As Tellmarch watched her, his sympathy increased. The sight of her
suffering excited in this old man thoughts such as a woman might have
known. "She may close her lips," he said to himself, "but her eyes will
speak, and I see what ails her. She has but one idea; she cannot be
resigned to the thought that she is no longer a mother. Her mind dwells
constantly on the image of her youngest, whom she was nursing not long
ago. How charming it must be to feel a tiny rosy mouth drawing ones
soul from out one's body, feeding its own little life on the life of
its mother!"

He too was silent, realizing the impotence of speech in the presence of
such sorrow.

There is something really terrible in the silence of an unchanging
thought, and how can one expect that a mother will listen to reason?
Maternity sees but one side. It is useless to argue with it. One
sublime characteristic of a mother is her resemblance to a wild animal.
The maternal instinct is divine animalism. The mother ceases to be a
woman; she becomes a female, and her children are her cubs.

Hence we find in the mother something above reason and at the same time
below it,--a something which we call instinct. Guided as she is by the
infinite and mysterious will of the universe, her very blindness is
charged with penetration.

However anxious to make this unfortunate woman speak, Tellmarch could
not succeed. One day he said to her:--

"Unfortunately I am old, and can no longer walk. My strength is
exhausted before I reach my journey's end. I would go with you, only
that my legs give out in about fifteen minutes and I have to stop
and rest. However, it may be just as well for you that I cannot walk
far, as my company might be more dangerous than useful. Here, I am
tolerated; but the Blues suspect me because I am a peasant, and the
peasants because they believe me to be a wizard."

He waited for an answer, but she did not even raise her eyes.

A fixed idea ends either in madness or heroism. But what heroism can
be expected from a poor peasant woman? None whatever. She can be a
mother, and that is all. Each day she grew more and more absorbed in
her reverie. Tellmarch was watching her.

He tried to keep her busy. He bought her needles, thread, and a
thimble, and to the delight of the poor Caimand, she really began
to busy herself with sewing; she still dreamed, it is true, but she
worked also,--a sure sign of health,--and by degrees her strength
returned. She mended her underwear, her dress, and her shoes, her
eyes all the while preserving a strange, far-away look. As she sewed
she hummed to herself unintelligible songs. She would mutter names,
probably children's names, but not distinctly enough for Tellmarch to
understand. Sometimes she paused and listened to the birds, as though
she expected a message from them. She watched the weather, and he could
see her lips move as she talked to herself in a low voice. She had made
a bag and filled it with chestnuts, and one morning Tellmarch found her
gazing vaguely into the depths of the forest, and he saw that she was
all ready to start.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

And she replied,--

"I am going to look for them."

He made no effort to detain her.


[Illustration 084]



VII.


THE TWO POLES OF TRUTH.


After a few weeks, crowded with the vicissitudes of civil war
throughout the district of Fougères, the talk ran for the most part
upon two men, wholly unlike in character, who were nevertheless engaged
in the same work, fighting side by side in the great revolutionary
struggle. The savage duel still continued, but the Vendée was losing
ground,--especially in Ille-et-Vilaine, where, thanks to the young
commander who at Dol had so opportunely confronted the audacity of
six thousand Royalists with that of fifteen hundred patriots, the
insurrection, if not suppressed, was at least far less active, and
restricted to certain limits. Several successful attacks had followed
that exploit, and from these repeated victories a new state of affairs
had sprung into existence. Matters had assumed a different aspect, but
a singular complication had arisen.

That the Republic was in the ascendant throughout this region of the
Vendée was beyond a doubt; but which Republic? Amidst the dawning
of triumph, two republics confronted each other,--that of terror,
determined to conquer by severity, and that of mercy, striving to
win the victory by mildness. Which was to prevail? The visible
representatives of these two forms, one of which was conciliatory and
the other implacable, were two men, each possessing influence and
authority,--one a military commander, the other a civil delegate.
Which of the two would win the day? The delegate was supported by
a tremendous influence; he came bringing with him the threatening
watchword from the Paris Commune to the battalion of Santerre: "No
mercy, no quarter!" As a means of compelling implicit obedience to his
authority, he had the decree of the Convention reading as follows:
"Penalty of death to whomsoever shall set at liberty or connive at
the escape of a rebel chief," and also full powers from the Committee
of Public Safety, with an injunction commanding obedience to him as a
delegate, signed by Robespierre, Danton, and Marat. The soldier, for
his part, had but the power that is born of pity.

His weapons of defence were his right arm to chastise the enemy, and
his heart to pardon them. As a conqueror, he felt that he had a right
to spare the conquered.

Hence a conflict, deep but as yet unacknowledged, between these
two men. They lived in different atmospheres, both wrestling with
rebellion,--the one armed with the thunderbolts of victory, the other
with those of terror.

Throughout the Bocage, men talked of nothing else; and the extreme
intimacy of two men of such utterly opposite natures contributed to
increase the anxiety of those who were watching them on every side.
These two antagonists were friends. Never were two hearts drawn
together by a deeper or a nobler sympathy. The man of ungentle nature
had saved the life of him who was merciful; the scar on his face bore
witness to the fact. These men represented in their own persons the
images of death and of life, embodying the principle of destruction and
that of peace, and they loved each other. Conceive, if you can, Orestes
merciful and Pylades pitiless. Try to imagine Arimanes the brother of
Ormus!

Let us also add that of these two men, the one who was called ferocious
showed himself at the same time the most brotherly of men. He dressed
wounds, nursed the sick, spent his days and nights in the ambulances
and hospitals, took pity on the barefooted children, kept nothing
for himself, but gave all he had to the poor. He never missed a
battle,--always marching at the head of the columns; was ever in the
thickest of the fight,--armed, it is true, for he always wore in his
belt a sabre and two pistols, yet practically unarmed, for no one had
ever seen him draw his sword or raise his pistols. He faced blows, but
never returned them. It was said that he had been a priest.

These two men were Gauvain and Cimourdain,--at variance in principles,
though united in friendship: it was like a soul cleft in twain; and
Gauvain had in truth received the gentler half of Cimourdain's nature.
One might say that the latter has bestowed the white ray upon Gauvain,
and kept the black one for himself. Hence a secret discord. Sooner or
later this suppressed disagreement could hardly fail to explode; and
one morning the contest began as follows.

Cimourdain said to Gauvain,--

"What have we accomplished?"

To which the latter replied,--

"You know as well as I. I have dispersed Lantenac's bands. He has but a
few men left, and has been driven to the forest of Fougères. In eight
days he will be surrounded."

"And in fifteen?"

"He will be captured."

"And then?"

"You have seen my notice?"

"Yes; and what then?"

"He is to be shot."

"A truce to clemency. He must be guillotined."

"I approve of a military death."

"And I of a revolutionary one."

Looking Gauvain full in the face, Cimourdain said,--

"Why did you order those nuns of the convent of Saint-Marc-le-Blanc to
be set at liberty?"

"I do not wage war against women," replied Gauvain.

"Those women hate the people; and when there is a question of hatred,
one woman is equal to ten men. Why did you refuse to send that band
of fanatical old priests, whom you took at Louvigné, before the
revolutionary tribunal?"

"Neither do I wage war against old men."

"An old priest is worse than a young one. The rebellion that is
advocated by white hair is so much the more dangerous. People have
faith in wrinkles. Do not indulge in false pity, Gauvain. The regicide
is the true liberator. Keep your eye on the tower of the Temple."

"The Temple Tower! I would have the Dauphin out of it. I am not making
war against children."

Cimourdain's eye grew stern.

"Learn then, Gauvain, that one must make war on a woman when her name
is Marie-Antoinette, on an old man if he happens to be Pope Pius VI.,
and upon a child who goes by the name of Louis Capet."

"I am no politician, master."

"Try, then, not to be a dangerous man. Why was it that during the
attack of the post of Cossé, when the rebel Jean Treton, repulsed and
defeated, rushed alone, sabre in hand, against your entire division,
you cried, 'Open the ranks! Let him pass through!'"

"Because it is not fit that fifteen hundred men should be allowed to
kill one man."

"And why at Cailleterie d'Astillé, when you saw that your soldiers were
about to kill the Vendean Joseph Bézier, who was wounded and just able
to drag himself along, did you cry, 'Forward! leave this man to me!'
and directly afterwards fire your pistol in the air?"

"Because one shrinks from killing a fallen enemy."

"There you were wrong. Both of these men are leaders at this present
moment. Joseph Bézier is known as Moustache, and Jean Treton as
Jambe-d'Argent. By saving their lives you presented the Republic with
two enemies."

[Illustration 095]

"I should prefer to make friends for her rather than enemies."

"After the victory of Landéan, why did you not shoot the three hundred
peasant prisoners?"

"Because Bonchamp pardoned the Republican prisoners, and I wished it to
be known that the Republic pardons the Royalist prisoners."

"Then I suppose you will pardon Lantenac if you take him?"

"No."

"Why not,--since you pardoned three hundred peasants?"

"The peasants are only ignorant men. Lantenac knows what he is about."

"But Lantenac is your kinsman."

"And France nearer than he."

"Lantenac is an old man."

"To me Lantenac is a stranger; he has no age. He is ready to summon the
English, he represents invasion, he is the country's enemy, and the
duel between us can only be ended by his death or mine."

"Remember these words, Gauvain."

"I have said them."

For a while both men remained silent, gazing at each other; then
Gauvain continued,--

"This will be a bloody year,--this '93."

"Tate care," cried Cimourdain. "There are terrible duties to be
performed, and we must beware of accusing the innocent instrument.
How long since we have blamed the doctor for his patient's illness?
Yes, the chief characteristic of this stupendous year is its pitiless
severity. And why is this? Because it is the great revolutionary
year,--the year which is the very incarnation of revolution. Revolution
feels no more pity for its enemy, the old world, than the surgeon
feels for the gangrene against which he is fighting. The business
of revolution is to extirpate royalty in the person of the king,
aristocracy in that of the nobleman, despotism in that of the soldier,
and superstition and barbarism in the persons of the priest and the
judge,--in one word, of every form of tyranny in the image of the
tyrant. The operation is a fearful one, but revolution performs it
with a steady hand. As to the amount of sound flesh that must be
sacrificed, ask a Boerhave what he thinks of it. Do you suppose it
possible to remove a tumor without loss of blood? Can a conflagration
be extinguished without violent efforts? These terrible necessities are
the very condition of success. A surgeon may be compared to a butcher,
or a healer may seem like an executioner. Revolution is devoted to its
fatal work. It mutilates that it may save. What! can you expect it to
take pity on the virus? Would you have it merciful to poison? It will
not listen. It holds the past within its grasp, and it means to make an
end of it. It cuts deeply into civilization, that it may promote the
health of mankind. You suffer, no doubt; but consider for how short a
time it will endure,--only so long as the operation requires; and after
that is over you will live. Revolution is amputating the world; hence
this hemorrhage,--'93."

"A surgeon is calm," said Gauvain, "and the men I see are violent."

"Revolution requires the aid of savage workmen," replied Cimourdain;
"it repulses all trembling hands; it trusts only such as are
inexorable. Danton is the impersonation of the terrible, Robespierre
of the inflexible, Saint-Just of the immovable, and Marat of the
implacable. Take note of it, Gauvain. We need these names. They are
worth as much as armies to us. They will terrify Europe."

"And possibly the future also," replied Gauvain. He paused, and then
continued,--

"But really, master, you are mistaken. I accuse no one. My idea of
revolution is that it shall be irresponsible. We ought not to say this
man is innocent, or that one is guilty. Louis XVI. is like a sheep cast
among lions. He wishes to escape, and in trying to defend himself he
would bite if he could; but one cannot turn into a lion at will. His
weakness is regarded as a crime; and when the angry sheep shows his
teeth, 'Ah, the traitor!' cry the lions, and they proceed straightway
to devour him, and afterwards fall to fighting among themselves."

"The sheep is a brute."

"And what are the lions?"

This answer set Cimourdain thinking.

"The lions," he replied, "represent the human conscience, principles,
ideas."

"It is they who have caused the Reign of Terror."

"Some day the Revolution will justify all that."

"Take care lest Terror should prove the calumny of the Revolution."

Gauvain continued,--

"Liberty, equality, fraternity,--these are the dogmas of peace and
harmony. Why give them so terrible an aspect? What are we striving to
accomplish? To bring all nations under one universal republic. Well,
then, let us not terrify them. Of what use is intimidation? Neither
nations nor birds can be attracted by fear. We must not do evil that
good may come. We have not overturned the throne to leave the scaffold
standing. Death to the king, and life to the nations. Let us strike
off the crowns, but spare the heads. Revolution means concord, and
not terror. Schemes of benevolence are but poorly served by merciless
men. Amnesty is to me the grandest word in human language. I am
opposed to the shedding of blood, save as I risk my own. Still, I am
but a soldier; I can do no more than fight. Yet if we are to lose
the privilege of pardoning, of what use is it to conquer? Let us be
enemies, if you will, in battle; but when victory is ours, then is the
time to be brothers."

"Take care!" repeated Cimourdain for the third time; "take care,
Gauvain! You are dearer to me than a son."

And he added, thoughtfully,--

"In times like these pity may be nothing less than treason in another
form."

Listening to these two men, one might have fancied himself hearing a
dialogue between a sword and all axe.


[Illustration 086]



VIII.


DOLOROSA.


Meanwhile the mother was searching for her little ones, walking
straight onward; and how she subsisted we cannot tell, since she did
not know herself. She walked day and night, begging as she went, often
living on herbs and sleeping upon the ground in the open air, among
the bushes, under the stars, and sometimes mid the rain and the wind.
Thus she wandered from village to village and from farm to farm,
making inquiries as she went along, but, tattered and torn as she was,
never venturing beyond the threshold. Sometimes she found a welcome,
sometimes she was turned away; and when they refused to let her come
in, she would go into the woods.

Unfamiliar as she was with the country beyond Siscoignard and the
parish of Azé, and having nothing to serve as guide, she would retrace
her steps, going over and over the same ground, thus wasting both
time and strength. Sometimes she followed the highway, sometimes the
cart-ruts, and then again she would turn into the paths in the woods.
In this wandering life she had worn out her wretched garments. At first
she had her shoes, then she went barefoot, and it was not long before
her feet were bleeding.

Unconsciously she travelled on, mid bloodshed and warfare, neither
hearing, seeing, nor trying to shield herself, simply looking for her
children. As the entire country was in rebellion, there were no longer
any gendarmes, or mayors, or authorities of any kind. Only such persons
as she encountered on the way would she stop to ask.

"Have you seen three little children anywhere?"

And when the passers-by lifted their heads she would say,--

"Two boys and a girl," and go on to name them:

"René-Jean, Gros-Alain, Georgette. Have you not seen them?"

And again,--

"The oldest one was four and a half and the youngest twenty months."

Presently she would add,--

"Do you know where they are? They have been taken from me."

[Illustration 087]

People gazed at her, and that was all.

Perceiving that she was not understood, she would explain,--

"It is because they are mine. That is the reason."

And then seeing the passers-by continue their way, she would stand
speechless, tearing her breast with her nails. One day, however, a
peasant stopped to listen to her. The worthy man set his wits at work.

"Let us see. Did you say three children?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Two boys?"

"And a girl."

"And you are looking for them?"

"Yes."

"I was told that a nobleman had carried off three little children and
keeps them with him."

"Where is that man? Where are they?" she cried.

"Yon must go to the Tourgue," answered the peasant.

"And shall I find my children there?"

"Very likely you will."

"What did you say the name was?"

"The Tourgue."

"What is the Tourgue?"

"It is a place."

"Is it a village, a castle, or a farm?"

"I never was there."

"Is it far?"

"I should say so."

"In what direction?"

"In the direction of Fougères."

"Which way shall I go?"

"You are now at Ventortes," replied the peasant. "You will leave
Ernée on your left and Coxelles on your right; you must pass through
Longchamps, and cross the Leroux."

The peasant raised his hand and pointed westward.

"Keep straight ahead, facing the sunset."

She had already started before he had time to lower his arm.

He called out to her.

"You must be careful; they are fighting over there."

She never turned to reply, but walked straight ahead without pausing.


[Illustration 088]



IX.


A PROVINCIAL BASTILE.


[Illustration 089]



I.


LA TOURGUE.


The traveller who forty years ago entered the forest of Fougères from
the direction of Laignelet and came out towards Parigné, might have
beheld on the edge of this dense forest a sinister sight, for emerging
from the thicket he would come directly upon the Tourgue, and not the
living Tourgue, but the dead one.

The Tourgue cracked, battered, scarred, dismantled. A ruin may be
called the ghost of an edifice. Nothing could be more lugubrious
than the aspect of the Tourgue. A high circular tower stood alone
like a malefactor on the edge of the wood, and rising as it did from
a precipitous rock, its severe and solid architecture gave it the
appearance of a Roman structure, combining within itself the elements
of power and of decay. In fact, it might in one sense be called Roman,
since it was Romance. It was begun in the ninth century and finished
in the twelfth, after the time of the third crusade. The style of the
imposts of its embrasures indicated its period. If one approached
it and cared to climb the slope, he might perceive a breach in the
wall; and if he ventured to enter in, he would find a vacant space
and nothing more. It was not unlike the inside of a stone trumpet set
upright on the ground. From top to bottom there were no partitions,
and neither ceilings nor floors; here and there arches and chimneys
had evidently been torn away, and falconet embrasures were still seen;
at different heights, rows of granite corbels and a few cross-beams
covered with the ordure of the night birds marked the separate stories;
a colossal wall, fifteen feet thick at its base and twelve at its
summit; cracks here and there, and holes which once were doors, and
through which one caught glimpses of staircases within the gloomy
walls. One who passing by at evening might venture in, would hear the
cry of the wood-owl, the goat-suckers, and the night-herons; would find
brambles, stones, and reptiles beneath his feet; and overhead, through
a dark circular opening at the top of the tower which looked like the
mouth of an enormous well, he might see the stars.

Local tradition relates that there were secret doors in the upper
stories of this tower, like those in the tombs of the kings of Judah,
composed of one large stone turning on a pivot, which when closed could
not be distinguished from the wall itself,--a fashion in architecture
brought home by the crusaders, together with the pointed arch. When
these doors were closed, it was impossible to discover them, so
skilfully were they fitted into the rest of the stones. Such doors can
be found to-day in those mysterious Libyan cities which escaped the
earthquakes that buried the twelve cities in the time of Tiberius.



II.


THE BREACH.

The breach by which one gained access to the ruin was the opening of
a mine. A connoisseur familiar with Errard, Sardi, and Pagan would
have appreciated the skill with which this mine was planned. The
fire-chamber, in the shape of a biretta, was of a size accurately
proportioned to the strength of the keep which it was intended to
destroy. It was capable of containing at least two hundred-weight of
powder. The winding passage which led to it was more effective than
a straight one. The saucisse, laid bare among the broken stones as
the result of the crumbling caused by the mine, was seen to have the
requisite diameter of a hen's-egg. The explosion had made a deep rent
in the wall, by which the assailants were enabled to enter. It was
evident that this tower must have sustained formal sieges from time to
time. It was riddled with balls, and these were not all of the same
epoch; every missile has its own special way of marking a rampart, and
each one, from the stone bullets of the fourteenth century to the iron
ones of the eighteenth, had left a scar upon this donjon-keep.

The breach opened into what must have been the ground-floor; and
directly opposite, in the wall of the tower, was the gateway of a
crypt, cut in the rock and extending under the hall of the lower floor
throughout the foundation of the tower.

This crypt, three-fourths filled up, was cleared out in 1835, under the
direction of Auguste Le Provost, the antiquary of Bernay.



III.


THE OUBLIETTE.

This crypt was the oubliette. Every keep possessed one, and this, like
many other penal dungeons of the same period, had two stories. The
first story, accessible through the gate, consisted of a good-sized
vaulted chamber, on a level with the hall of the ground-floor. On the
walls of this room might be seen two vertical furrows, parallel with
each other, reaching from wall to wall and passing along the vault,
where they had left a deep rut, reminding one of wheel-tracks,--and
such in fact they were; for these two furrows were hollowed out by
two wheels. In old feudal times men had been torn limb from limb here
in this very room, by a process less noisy than that of being drawn
and quartered. They had a pair of wheels so large and powerful that
they filled the entire room, touching both walls and ceiling, and to
each wheel was attached an arm and a leg of the victim; and when these
wheels were turned in opposite directions, the man was torn asunder. It
required great power; hence the ruts worn in the stone by the grazing
of the wheels. A room of this kind may be seen at Vianden.

[Illustration 090]

Above this room there was another, the actual oubliette, whose only
entrance was a hole which served the purpose of a door; the victim,
stripped of his clothes, was let down, by means of a rope tied under
his armpits, into the room below, through an opening made in the middle
of the flagging of the upper room. If he persisted in living, food was
thrown to him through this aperture. A similar hole may still be seen
at Bouillon.

This chamber below, excavated under the hall of the ground-floor to
such a depth that it reached water, and constantly swept by an icy
wind, was more like a well than a room. But the wind so fatal to the
prisoner in the depths was, on the other hand, favorable to the one
overhead, groping about beneath the vault, who could breathe the
easier on account of it; indeed, all the air he had, came up through
this hole. But then any man who entered, or rather fell, into this
tomb, never came out again. It behooved the prisoner to look out for
himself in the darkness, for it needed but one false step to change the
scene of his sufferings. That, however, was his own affair. If he were
tenacious of life, this hole was his danger; but if he were weary of
it, it was his resource. The upper story was the dungeon, the lower one
the tomb,--a superposition not unlike that of the society of the period.

This is what our ancestors called a moat-dungeon; but since the thing
itself has disappeared, the name has no longer any meaning for us.
Thanks to the Revolution, we can listen with indifference to the sound
of these words. On the outside of the tower, and above the breach,
which forty years ago was its only entrance, might be seen an embrasure
somewhat wider than the other loopholes, from which hung an iron
grating, loosened and broken.



IV.


THE BRIDGE-CASTLE.

A stone bridge whose three arches were but slightly damaged, was
connected with this tower on the side opposite to the breach. This
bridge had once supported a building whose few remaining fragments bore
the traces of a conflagration; it was only the framework that was left
standing, and as the light shone through its interstices as it rose
side by side with the tower, it had the effect of a skeleton beside a
phantom.

To-day this ruin is utterly demolished, leaving no trace whatever
behind. A single peasant can destroy in one day structures that
kings have labored for centuries to erect. La Tourgue, a peasant
abbreviation, signifies La Tour-Gauvain, just as La Jupelle stands for
La Jupellière, and Pinson le Tort, the name of a hunchback leader, for
Pinson le Tortu.

La Tourgue, which even forty years ago was a ruin, and which to-day is
but a shadow, was a fortress in 1793. It was the old Bastile of the
Gauvains, and served to guard, towards the west, the entrance of the
forest of Fougères, which is now little more than a grove.

This fortress was built on one of those great blocks of slate which
are found in abundance between Mayence and Dinan, scattered in all
directions among the copses and along the heath like the missiles
of some Titanic combat. The tower composed the entire fortress; and
below the tower stood the rock at whose base flowed one of those
water-courses which swells into a torrent in January and dries up in
June.

Simple as were its means of defence, this tower was almost impregnable
in the Middle Ages, but the bridge had proved a source of weakness.
The Gauvains of Gothic times had built it without a bridge. It was
formerly accessible by means of one of those swinging bridges that
could be instantly severed by the stroke of an axe. So long as the
Gauvains remained Viscounts it pleased them just as it was, and they
were satisfied with it. But when they became Marquises and exchanged
the keep for the Court, they spanned the stream with three arches and
thus offered access in the direction of the plain very much as they had
yielded to the advances of the king. The marquises of the seventeenth
century and the marchionesses of the seventeenth no longer prided
themselves on their impregnability. They abandoned the traditions of
their ancestors to follow the fashions of Versailles.

Facing the tower towards the west was a somewhat elevated plateau
adjoining two plains; this plateau was very near the tower, only
separated from it by a deep ravine through which flowed a stream
tributary to the Couesnon. The bridge that connected the fortress with
the plateau stood on lofty piles, and on these piles was constructed
as at Chenonceaux a building in the Mansard style of architecture, but
more comfortable than the tower. Customs were still very rude, and the
lords continued to occupy chambers in the keep that were more like
dungeons than bedrooms. As to the building on the bridge, which was a
diminutive kind of castle, a long corridor had been added to it, by
way of entrance, which was called the hall of the guards. Over this
hall, which was like an entresol, was the library, and above that a
granary. Separated by pillars stood the long windows with their small
panes of Bohemian glass; medallions were sculptured on the walls. The
fortress was three stories high; halberds and muskets were to be found
below, books in the middle, and over all the bags of oats,--a somewhat
barbarous arrangement, but princely to the last degree.

The tower loomed above this coquettish building presenting a stern and
gloomy contrast.

The platform offered a point of attack from which the bridge could be
destroyed.

Between these two buildings there was no harmony whatsoever; the
roughness of the one jarred against the elegance of the other. It would
seem as if two semicircles ought to be identical; yet no two styles
have less in common than that of a Roman semicircle and a classic
archivolt. That tower, a worthy companion for the forest, was a strange
neighbor for the bridge, which might have come from Versailles. Fancy
Louis XIV. leaning on the arm of Alain Barbe-Torte. There was something
appalling in this juxtaposition. An inexpressible spirit of terror
pervaded the combined majesty of these structures.

Let us repeat, that from a military point of view the bridge went
far towards betraying the tower; for while it added to its beauty it
diminished its strength, ornamenting it on the one hand and weakening
it on the other; by placing it on a level with the plateau, it had
exposed it to attacks from that direction, although it still remained
impregnable in the direction of the forest. Formerly it had commanded
the plateau, but matters were now reversed. An enemy installed on the
plain would speedily become master of the bridge. The library and
the granary were advantageous to the besiegers rather than to the
besieged, since the contents of both are of a combustible nature. For
an assailant who knows how to avail himself of fire as a means of
assault, it matters but little whether it be a Homer or a bundle of
hay, provided it burns. The French offered a proof of this fact to the
Germans when they burned the library at Heidelberg, as did the Germans
in burning that of Strasbourg. In short, this bridge built on to the
Tourgue was a strategic mistake; but in the seventeenth century, under
Colbert and Louvois, the Princes Gauvain, like the Princes de Rohan or
La Tremoille, believed themselves henceforth safe from assault. Still,
the builders of the bridge had taken certain precautions. In the first
place, anticipating the chances of fire, they had fastened crosswise
below the three windows looking towards the stream, by iron clamps
which no longer than fifty years ago were still to be seen, a strong
ladder, equal in length to the height of the first two stories of the
bridge,--a height surpassing that of three ordinary stories; secondly,
foreseeing the possibility of a siege, they had isolated the bridge
from the tower by means of a low and heavy iron door, arched at the top
and locked with a large key, whose hiding-place was known to the master
alone; once closed, it could defy the battering-ram and almost brave
the cannon-ball.

One must cross the bridge to reach this door, which was the only means
of access to the tower.



V.


THE IRON DOOR.

As a result of the elevation of this castle on the bridge by means of
piles, its second story was on a level with the corresponding story of
the tower; and here, for greater safety, the iron door had been placed.

This iron door led from the bridge into the library, and from the
tower into a large vaulted hall with a pillar in the centre. As
already stated, this hall was in the second story of the keep. Like
the tower itself, it was circular in its form, and was lighted by deep
embrasures overlooking the fields. The stones of its rough and naked
walls, unhidden from the view, were, however, symmetrically adjusted.
This hall was reached by a spiral staircase built in the wall,--quite
a simple matter when walls are fifteen feet thick. In the Middle Ages
they used to capture a city by streets, a street by houses, and a
house by rooms; and thus a fortress was besieged story by story. In
this respect La Tourgue was very skilfully arranged, and very difficult
to cope with. An uncomfortable staircase connected one story with
another; the doors were sloping, and not high enough to admit a man
unless he bent his head; and where at every door the besieged stood in
waiting for their assailants, a bowed head was certain death.

Below the circular hall with the pillar were two similar rooms,
composing the first story and the ground-floor, and above these three
more. The tower was closed, so to speak, by a platform which rested on
these six rooms like a stone cover, and a narrow watch-tower led up to
the platform.

As they were obliged to pierce this wall in which the iron door was
sealed to a depth of fifteen feet, it was thereby framed in a deep
archway, which when the door was closed formed a porch six or seven
feet deep, towards the bridge as well as towards the tower, and when
it was open these two porches united to form the entrance arch. Set in
the wall under the porch, towards the bridge, was a low gate with a
Saint-Gilles bolt, leading into the corridor of the first story under
the library. This was another difficulty for the besiegers. That side
of the castle on the bridge looking towards the plateau ended in a
perpendicular wall, and there the bridge was severed. The drawbridge
set up against a low gate to connect it with the plateau, and which
on account of the height of the latter could only be lowered like an
inclined plane, led into the long corridor called the guard-room. The
besiegers who found themselves in possession of this corridor would
have been obliged to carry by main force the Saint-Gilles winding
stairway that led to the second story, in order to reach the iron gate.



VI.


THE LIBRARY.

As to the library, it was an oblong room of the same length and width
as the bridge, with a single door, and that the iron one. A false
folding-door covered with green cloth, which only needed to be pushed,
concealed within the entrance arch of the tower. The walls of the
library were lined from floor to ceiling with glass bookcases in the
fine taste of the seventeenth century cabinet-work, and lighted by six
large windows, three on a side,--that is, one over each arch. Through
these windows the interior of the room was visible from the height of
the platform. Between the windows stood six marble busts on pedestals
of carved oak,--Hermolaüs of Byzantium, the grammarian Athenæus
of Naucratis, Suidas, Casaubon, Clovis, King of France, and his
chancellor, Anachalus,--who for that matter was no more a chancellor
than Clovis was a king.

There were various books in the library. One has remained famous.
It was an ancient quarto, enriched with prints, with the title
"Saint Bartholomew" in large letters, together with the sub-title,
"Gospel according to Saint Bartholomew, preceded by a dissertation by
Pantoenus, Christian philosopher, on the question as to whether this
Gospel should be considered apocryphal, and whether Saint Bartholomew
is identical with Nathanal." This book, supposed to be a unique copy,
was placed on a reading-desk in the middle of the library. In the last
century people came to see it as a curiosity.



VII.


THE GRANARY.

As for the granary, which, like the library, followed the oblong form
of the bridge, it was merely the space under the woodwork of the roof.
It consisted of a large room filled with hay and straw, and lighted by
six Mansard windows, with no other ornament than the statue of Saint
Barnabas sculptured on the door, and below it the following verse:--

      "Barnabus sanctus falcem jubet ire per herbam."

A lofty and massive tower, six stories in height, pierced here and
there by a few embrasures, its sole means of entrance and egress an
iron door opening into a bridge-castle closed by a drawbridge; behind
the tower a forest, before it a heath-covered plateau, higher than the
bridge, lower than the tower; below the bridge, between the tower and
the plateau, a deep narrow ravine filled with underbrush, a torrent in
winter, a stream in the springtime, and a rocky bed in summer,--such
was the Tour-Gauvain, called La Tourgue.


[Illustration 091]

[Illustration: The Hostages 092]



X.


THE HOSTAGES.


July passed away, and August came. A blast, fierce and heroic,
had swept over France; two spectres had but just crossed the
horizon,--Marat with a dagger in his side, and Charlotte Corday
headless: events looked threatening. As to the Vendée, defeated in
her grand strategic schemes, she turned her attention to others on a
smaller scale, which, as we have already said, were likely to prove
more dangerous. This war had now become one monstrous battle scattered
about in the woods: the disasters of the grand army, Royal and
Catholic, so called, had begun. A decree had been passed to send the
army of Mayence into the Vendée; eight thousand Vendeans were killed
at Ancenis; they were repulsed from Nantes, dislodged from Montaigu,
expelled from Thouars, driven out of Noirmoutier, pitched headlong
out of Cholet, Mortagne, and Saumur; they had evacuated Parthenay,
abandoned Clisson, and lost ground at Châtillon; at Saint-Hilaire their
flag was captured; they were defeated at Pornic, Sables, Fontenay,
Doui, Château-d'Eau, and Ponts-de-Cé; they were checkmated at Luçon,
retreated from Châtaigneraye, and were routed at the Roche-sur-Yon;
at present, while they threatened La Rochelle on the one hand, on the
other an English fleet riding in the waters of Guernsey, commanded by
General Craig, and carrying several regiments of the English army,
together with some of the best officers of the French navy, was only
waiting for the signal of the Marquis de Lantenac to disembark,--a
descent which might once more turn the tide of victory in favor of the
Royalists. Pitt was but a political malefactor. As the dagger to an
armament, even so is treason to political warfare. Pitt stabbed our
country, and betrayed his own, since to dishonor is to betray. Through
his influence and under his administration England waged Punic warfare.
She spied, cheated, and deceived. Poacher and forger, she stopped at
nothing, stooping to the petty details of hatred. She established
a monopoly of tallow that cost five francs a pound. A letter from
Prigent, Pitt's agent in the Vendée, which was seized on the person of
an Englishman at Lille, contained the following lines: "I beg you to
spare no money. In regard to the assassinations, we hope that prudence
will be exercised; disguised priests and women are the most suitable
for this work. Send sixty thousand livres to Rouen, and fifty thousand
to Caen." This letter was read by Barère at the Convention on the first
day of August. As a retaliation for these acts of treachery witness the
cruelties of Parrein, and still later the atrocities of Carrier. The
Republicans of Metz and those of the South were eager to march against
the rebels. A decree was passed ordering the formation of twenty-four
companies of sappers, who were to burn the fences and enclosures of the
Bocage. Here was a crisis without parallel. War was suspended in one
direction only to break out in another. "No mercy! No prisoners!" was
the war-cry of both parties. Dark and terrible shadows fall across the
pages of history in these times.

In this very month of August the Tourgue was besieged.

One evening, just as the stars were rising in the calm twilight
peculiar to dog-day weather, when not a leaf stirred in the woods, nor
a blade of grass quivered on the plain, the sound of a horn was heard
through the silence of the approaching night. It came from the summit
of the tower.

This peal was answered by the ring of a clarion from below. On the top
of the tower stood an armed man, and in the shadow below lay a camp.

In the obscurity around the Tour-Gauvain one could dimly distinguish
the moving to and fro of dark figures. This was the bivouac. A few
fires had been kindled beneath the forest-trees and among the heather
of the plateau, their shining points of light pricking through the
darkness here and there, as if earth as well as sky would deck itself
out with stars, though it were but with the lurid stars of war. Towards
the plateau the bivouac stretched as far as the plain, and in the
direction of the forest it extended into the thicket. The Tourgue was
invested.

The extent of the besiegers' bivouac indicated a numerous force.

The camp pressed hard upon the fortress, reaching to the rock in the
direction of the tower, and as far as the ravine on the side of the
bridge.

Another peal from the horn was heard, followed by a second blast from
the clarion.

The horn asked the question, and the clarion made reply.

The horn was the voice of the tower asking the camp, "May we speak with
you?" To which the clarion, speaking for the camp, answered, "Yes."

At that time the Convention did not regard the Vendeans in the light
of belligerents, and it being forbidden by a decree to exchange flags
of truce with "the brigands," they supplemented as best they could the
usual means of communication which international law authorizes in
ordinary warfare, but interdicts in civil conflicts. Consequently in
time of need a certain understanding existed between the peasant horn
and the military clarion. The first call simply broached the subject;
the second asked the question, "Will you listen?" If the clarion made
no reply to the second question, it meant refusal. If, on the other
hand, the clarion replied, it was consent, and signified a truce for a
few minutes.

When the clarion answered this second call, the man who stood on the
top of the tower spoke, and these were his words:--

"Be it known to all ye who hear me, I am Gouge-le-Bruant, surnamed
Brise-Bleu because I have killed many of your people, and also
surnamed the Imânus because I mean to kill many more; in the attack
at Granville, while my finger rested on the barrel of my gun, it was
chopped off by a sabre-stroke; at Laval you guillotined my father, my
mother, and my eighteen-year-old sister Jacqueline. And now you know me.

"I speak to you in the name of my master, Monseigneur le Marquis
Gauvain de Lantenac, Vicomte de Fontenay, Breton Prince, and owner of
the Seven Forests.

"It is well for you to learn that before shutting himself up in this
tower, where you hold him blockaded, Monsieur le Marquis distributed
the command among six chiefs, his lieutenants. To Delière he assigned
the country between the woods of Brest and Erneé; to Treton, that
which lies between the Roë and Laval; to Jacquet, called Taillefer,
the border of the Haut-Maine; to Gaulier, called Grand-Pierre,
Château-Gontier; to Lecomte, Craon; to Monsieur Dubois-Guy, Fougères;
and to Monsieur de Rochambeau, all Mayenne; so that the capture of this
fortress by no means ends the war for you, and even were Monsieur le
Marquis to die, the Vendée of God and the king will still live.

"I say this for your information. Monseigneur is here beside me; I am
but his mouthpiece. Silence, besiegers!

"It will be well for you to consider my words.

"Remember that the war you are waging against us is unjust; we are men
living in our own land and fighting honestly. Submissive to the will
of God, we are as simple and upright as the grass beneath the dew. It
is the Republic who has attacked us: she comes to trouble us in our
fields; she has burned our houses and our harvests and destroyed our
farms, and our women and children have been forced to run barefoot in
the woods while the hedge-sparrow was still singing.

"You who are down there listening to me,--you have pursued us through
the forest and surrounded us in this tower; you have killed or
scattered our allies; you have cannon, and you have added to your
division the garrisons and the posts of Mortain, Barenton, Teilleul,
Landivy, Evran, Tinténiac, and Vitré,--which gives you four thousand
five hundred men with which to attack us.

"We, who are nineteen for the defence, are supplied with provisions and
munitions.

"You have succeeded in undermining and blowing up a part of our rock
and wall, thus making a breach at the foot of the tower, through which
you can enter, although it is not open, while the tower stands strong
and upright, forming an arch above it.

"Now you are preparing for the assault.

"And we--first of all, Monseigneur le Marquis, who is a Breton prince
and the secular prior of the Abbey of Sainte-Marie de Lantenac, where
a daily Mass was instituted by Queen Jeanne, and the other defenders
of this tower, who are: Monsieur l'Abbé Turmeau, whose military name
is Grand-Francoeur; my comrades, Guinoiseau, captain of the Camp-Vert;
Chante-en-Hiver, captain of the camp of Avoine; Musette, captain of the
camp Fourmis; and myself, a peasant, born in the town of Daon, through
which runs the brook Moriandre,--we have one thing to tell you.

"Listen, now, ye men at the foot of this tower!

"We hold three prisoners,--the same children who were adopted by one of
your battalions, and they are yours. We offer to give them back to you
on one condition,--that we be allowed to go free.

"If you refuse,--listen to this. There are but two points of
attack,--either the breach or the bridge, according as you advance from
the fortress or the plateau. There are three stories in the building
on the bridge; in the lower one I, the Imânus, who speak to you, have
placed six casks of tar and one hundred bundles of dry heather; there
is straw in the upper, and there are books and papers in the middle
story; the iron door communicating with the tower is closed, and
monseigneur carries the key on his person; I have made a hole under
the door, through which is passed a sulphur slow-match; one end of it
is in a cask of tar, and the other within reach of my hand, inside the
tower; I can set it on fire whenever I choose. If you refuse to let us
go free, the children will be placed on the second floor of the bridge,
between the story where the sulphur-match ends in the barrel and the
one which is filled with straw, and the iron door will be closed on
them. If you attack us by way of the bridge, you will be the ones to
set the building on fire; if by the breach, it will be left to us; and
if you attack us from both sides at once, we shall both be kindling the
fire at the same instant; at all events, the three children will perish.

"It rests with you, now, either to accept or refuse.

"If you accept, we depart; if you refuse, the children die.

"I have finished,"

And the man who had been speaking from the top of the tower was silent.

"We refuse!" cried a voice from below, in tones abrupt and severe.
Another voice, quite as firm, although less harsh, added,--

"We give you twenty-four hours to surrender at discretion."

A silence ensued, and then the same voice continued,--

"If to-morrow at this hour you have not surrendered, we begin the
assault."

"And give no quarter," resumed the first speaker; and then a voice
from the top of the tower made reply to the savage one. Between two
battlements a tall figure, in which, by the light of the stars,
one might have recognized the awe-inspiring form of the Marquis de
Lantenac, leaned forward; his glance, piercing the shadows, seemed
searching for some one.

"Ah, it is thou, priest!" he cried.

"Yes, it is I, traitor!" replied the harsh voice from below.



XI.


TERRIBLE AS THE ANTIQUE.


This implacable voice was in truth the voice of Cimourdain; the younger
and less imperative one was that of Gauvain.

The Marquis de Lantenac had not been mistaken in his recognition of the
Abbé Cimourdain.

In this district, ensanguined by civil war, Cimourdain, as we have
said, had in a few weeks become famous. No man had won a more baleful
notoriety. Men would say: "Marat in Paris, Châlier at Lyons, Cimourdain
in the Vendée." All the veneration which the Abbé Cimourdain had
formerly enjoyed was now turned to his dishonor. This is what a priest
who unfrocks himself may fairly expect.

Cimourdain excited a feeling of horror. The austere are unfortunate,
inasmuch as their own acts seem to condemn them. Could their
consciences be revealed, men might perhaps absolve them. A Lycurgus
misunderstood may seem like a Tiberius. However, the fact remains that
these two men--the Marquis de Lantenac and the Abbé Cimourdain--were
equally matched in regard to the hatred they inspired. The maledictions
hurled at Cimourdain by the Royalists were counterbalanced by the
execrations which the Republicans heaped upon Lantenac. Each of those
men seemed a monster in the eyes of the opposite camp. In fact, by
a singular coincidence it chanced that while Prieur de la Marne
at Granville had set a price on the head of Lantenac, Charette at
Noirmoutier had likewise set one on that of Cimourdain.

We may observe that these two men--the Marquis and the
priest--represented in a certain degree one and the same man. The
bronze mask of civil war has a double profile, one of which looks
towards the past, the other towards the future. Lantenac wore the
former, Cimourdain the latter; only the bitter sneer of Lantenac was
shrouded in darkness, whereas on Cimourdain's fatal brow might be
discerned a glimmer of the dawn.

Meanwhile the besieged Tourgue was enjoying a respite.

Thanks to the intervention of Gauvain, they had agreed upon a sort of
truce for twenty-four hours.

The Imânus had indeed been well informed. In consequence of
Cimourdain's requisitions Gauvain was now in command of four thousand
five hundred men, national guards as well as troops of the line, with
which he surrounded Lantenac in the Tourgue, and could, moreover, bring
to bear against the fortress a masked battery of six cannon, planted on
the edge of the forest towards the tower, together with an open battery
of six on the plateau towards the bridge. He had succeeded in springing
the mine, and a breach had been made at the foot of the tower.

Thus on the expiration of the twenty-four hours' truce, the struggle
would begin again under the following conditions:--

On the plateau and in the forest were four thousand five hundred men
against nineteen in the tower.

History may find the names of the nineteen besieged in the placards
posted against outlaws. We may possibly come across them.

It would have pleased Cimourdain had Gauvain consented to accept the
rank of adjutant-general, in order to command these four thousand five
hundred men, which was practically an army. But the latter refused,
saying: "We will consider that matter after Lantenac is taken; I have
won no promotion as yet."

These important commands, held by officers of subordinate rank, were,
moreover, in accordance with Republican customs. Bonaparte, later
on, while as yet only a colonel of artillery, was at the same time
commander-in-chief of the army of Italy.

It was a strange fate for the Tour-Gauvain to be attacked by one
Gauvain, while defended by another member of the same family. Hence a
certain reluctance in the attack, but none in the defence; for M. de
Lantenac was a man who spared nothing. Accustomed as he had been to
live at Versailles, he had no feeling of regard for the Tourgue, which
he scarcely knew. He had sought refuge there, simply because he had
no other resource; but he would have destroyed it without a scruple.
Gauvain felt more respect for it.

The bridge was the weak point of the fortress, but in the library
above it were the family records. Now, if the assault began there, the
burning of the bridge would be inevitable, and it seemed to Gauvain
that to burn the records would be like attacking his ancestors. The
Tourgue was the ancestral manor of the Gauvain family; from this tower
started all their fiefs of Brittany, as those of France from the tower
of the Louvre. It was the centre round which clustered the family
associations of the Gauvains. He himself was born there; and now, led
by the tortuous chances of fate, the grown man had come to attack the
venerable walls that had protected his childhood.

[Illustration 093]

Was it an impious act to lay this dwelling in ashes? Perhaps his own
cradle was stored away in some corner of the granary over the library.
Certain trains of thought assume the nature of emotions. Before the
old family mansion Gauvain felt himself deeply moved, and it was in
consequence of this feeling that he had spared the bridge. Contenting
himself with making it impossible for the enemy to sally forth or
attempt an escape at this point of egress, he held the bridge in check
by a battery, and chose the opposite side for the attack. Hence the
mining and sapping at the foot of the tower.

Cimourdain had allowed him to take his own course, meanwhile
reproaching himself; for these Gothic antiquities were odious to his
severe soul, and he was no more indulgent towards buildings than
towards human beings. Sparing a castle was the first step in the
direction of mercy; and he knew that mercy was Gauvain's weak point.
Cimourdain, as we are aware, kept watch over him, and arrested his
progress down this slope, so fatal in his eyes. And yet even he--and he
acknowledged it to himself with a sort of indignation--had been unable
to see the Tourgue again without a secret emotion: he was affected by
the sight of that schoolroom containing the first books in which he
had taught Gauvain to read. He had been the curé of the neighboring
village Parigné; had occupied an upper room in the castle on the
bridge; it was in the library that he held little Gauvain between
his knees, and taught him the alphabet; within these four old walls
he had seen his beloved pupil, the child of his soul, growing up to
manhood, and watched the development of his mind. Was he about to burn
and destroy this library, this castle, these walls, wherein he had so
often blessed the child? He had spared them, but it had not been done
without compunction.

He had allowed Gauvain to begin the siege from the opposite point. The
tower might have been called the savage side of the Tourgue, and the
library its civilized side. Cimourdain had allowed Gauvain to make the
breach only in the former.

This ancient castle in the midst of the Revolution had, after all, only
resumed its feudal customs, in being at the same time attacked and
defended by a Gauvain. The history of the Middle Ages is but a record
of wars between kinsmen. Étéocles and Polynices are Gothic as well as
Grecian; and Hamlet but repeats in Elsinore what Orestes did in Argos.



XII.


THE RESCUE PLANNED.


The entire night was spent by both parties in preparations. As soon as
the gloomy parley to which we lately listened was over, Gauvain's first
act was to summon his lieutenant.

Guéchamp, with whom we must become acquainted, was a man of the
secondary order, honest, brave, commonplace, a better soldier than
commander, strictly intelligent up to the point when it becomes a duty
not to understand, never moved to tenderness, proof against corruption
in whatsoever shape it might present itself,--whether in the form of
bribery, that taints the conscience, or in that of pity, that corrupts
justice. As the eyes of a horse are shaded by his blinders, so were his
heart and soul protected by the two screens of discipline and the order
of command, and he walked straight ahead in the space they allowed him
to see. His course was direct, but his path was narrow.

A man to be depended on, withal,--stern in command, exact in obedience.

Gauvain spoke in rapid tones,--

"We need a ladder, Guéchamp."

"We have none, commander."

"One must be found."

"For scaling?"

"No; for rescue."

After a moments reflection, Guéchamp replied,--

"I understand. But to serve your purpose a very long one is needed."

"The length of three stories."

"Yes, commander, that's about the height."

"It ought to be longer than that, for we must be sure of success."

"Certainly."

"How is it that you have no ladder?"

[Illustration 094]

"Commander, you did not think it best to besiege the Tourgue from the
plateau; you were satisfied to blockade it on that side; you planned
the attack by way of the tower, and not from the bridge. So we gave our
attention to the mine, and thought no more about the scaling. That is
why we have no ladder."

"Have one made at once."

"A ladder of the length of three stories cannot be made at once."

"Then fasten several short ones together."

"But we must first get our ladders."

"Find them."

"There are none to be found. All through the country the peasants
destroy ladders, just as they break up the carts and cut the bridges."

"True, they intend to paralyze the Republic."

"They mean that we shall neither transport baggage, cross a river, nor
scale a wall."

"But I must have a ladder, in spite of all that."

"I was thinking, commander, that at Javené, near Fougères, there is a
large carpenter's shop. We might get one there."

"There is not a moment to lose."

"When do you want the ladder?"

"By this time to-morrow, at the latest."

"I will send a messenger at full speed to Javené to carry the order
for a requisition. A post of cavalry stationed there will furnish an
escort. The ladder may be here to-morrow before sunset."

"Very well; that will answer," said Gauvain; "only be quick about it.
Go!"

Ten minutes later, Guéchamp returned, and said to Gauvain,--

"The messenger has started for Javené."

Gauvain ascended the plateau, and for a long time stood gazing intently
on the bridge-castle across the ravine. The gable of the castle, with
no other opening than the low entrance closed by the raised drawbridge,
faced the escarpment of the ravine. In order to reach the plateau at
the foot of the bridge one roust climb down the face of the ravine,
which might be accomplished by clinging to the bushes. But once in the
moat, the assailants would be exposed to a shower of missiles from the
three stories. Gauvain became convinced that at this stage of the siege
the proper way to attack was through the breach of the tower.

He took every precaution to render flight impossible; he perfected the
strict blockade of the Tourgue. Drawing the meshes of his battalions
more and more closely, so that nothing could pass between them,
Gauvain and Cimourdain divided the investment of the fortress between
them,--the former reserving for himself the forest side, and leaving
the plateau to Cimourdain. It was agreed that while Gauvain, aided by
Guéchamp, should conduct the assault through the mine, Cimourdain, with
all the matches of the upper battery lighted, should watch the bridge
and the ravine.



XIII.


WHAT THE MARQUIS IS DOING.


While all these preparations for the attack were going on outside, they
were also making ready for resistance inside the tower.

A tower may be entered by a mine as a cask is bored by an auger; hence
a tower is sometimes called a _douve_,[4] and it was the fate of the
Tourgue to have its walls pierced by a bung-hole.

The powerful boring of two or three hundred-weight of powder had driven
a hole through the mighty wall from one side to the other. Beginning at
the foot of the tower, it had made a breach in the thickest part of the
wall, in a sort of shapeless arch in the lower story of the fortress,
and in order to make this hole more practicable for assault from
without, the besiegers had enlarged it by cannon-shot.

The ground-floor where this breach had penetrated was a large, empty
hall of a circular form, with a pillar in the centre, supporting the
keystone of the vaulted ceiling. The hall, which was the largest in
the keep, was no less than forty feet in diameter. Each story of the
tower had a similar room, only on a smaller scale, with guards to the
embrasures of the loop-holes. The hall on the ground-floor had neither
embrasures, ventilators, nor dormer windows. There was about as much
air and light in it as in a tomb.

The door of the oubliettes, the greater part of which was iron, was in
the lower hall. Another door opened on a staircase leading to the upper
rooms. All the staircases were built in the wall itself.

It was to the lower hall that the besieged had gained access by the
breach they had made; but even after gaining possession of it, the
tower would still remain to be taken.

One could scarcely breathe in this lower hall, and formerly no one
could remain in it twenty-four hours without suffocating; but now,
thanks to the breach, one could exist there.

For this reason the besieged had not closed the breach. Besides, what
purpose would it have served? The guns would have reopened it.

They had fastened an iron torch-holder into the wall, wherein they set
a torch, and that lighted the lower floor.

But how were they to defend themselves?

To stop up the hole would have been easy enough, but useless. A
_retirade_ would be more effective. A _retirade_ is an intrenchment
with a retreating angle,--a kind of barricade composed of rafters,
by means of which the fire may be concentrated on the assailants,
and which while leaving the breach open from without closes it
from within. There was no lack of materials, and they proceeded to
construct a barricade of this description with clefts for the passage
of gun-barrels. The corner of the _retirade_ was supported by the
middle pillar, the two wings touching the walls on either side. Having
completed this they placed _fugades_ in safe places.

The Marquis directed everything. Inspirer, commander, guide, and
master,--a terrible spirit!

Lantenac was one of those soldiers of the eighteenth century who save
cities at the age of eighty. He resembled the Count d'Alberg, who, when
almost a centenarian, drove the King of Poland from Riga.

"Courage, friends!" he said; "in 1713, at the beginning of this
century, Charles XII., shut up in a house at Bender, with three hundred
Swedes, held his own against twenty thousand Turks."

They barricaded the two lower stories, fortified the chambers,
converted the alcoves into battlements, supported the doors with
beams driven in by a mallet, thus forming buttresses; but the spiral
staircase connecting the different stories they were obliged to leave
free, since if they blockaded it against the besieger, their own
passage would be obstructed. Thus a fortification always has its weak
point.

The Marquis, indefatigable, vigorous as a young man, set example for
the others by putting his own hands to the work, raising beams and
carrying stones; he gave his orders, helped, fraternized, and laughed
with this savage band, yet always remaining their lord and master,
haughty even while familiar, elegant although fierce.

He allowed no one to contradict him. Once he said: "If half of you were
to revolt, I would have you shot by the other half, and still defend
the place with the rest."

This is the sort of thing for which men worship a commander.


[Illustration 095]


XIV.


WHAT THE IMÂNUS IS DOING.


While the Marquis occupied himself with the breach and tower, the
Imânus attended to the bridge. At the beginning of the siege the
escape-ladder suspended crosswise below the windows of the second story
had been removed by order of the Marquis and placed by the Imânus in
the library. Probably this was the very ladder whose place Gauvain
wished to supply. The windows of the entresol on the first story,
called the guard-room, were defended by a triple bracing of iron bars
set in the stones, so that one could neither come nor go that way.

The library windows, which were high, had no bars.

The Imânus was accompanied by three men as resolute and daring as
himself. These men were Hoisnard, called Branche-d'Or, and the two
brothers Pique-en-Bois. Taking with him a dark-lantern, he opened
the iron door, and made a careful inspection of the three stories
of the bridge-castle. Hoisnard Branche-d'Or, whose brother had been
killed by the Republicans, was as implacable as the Imânus. The latter
investigated the upper story, filled with hay and straw, as well as the
lower one, into which he had several _pots-à-feu_ brought, which he
placed near the tar-barrels; he ordered bundles of dry heather to be
so arranged that they would touch the tar-casks, after which he made
sure that the sulphur-match, one end of which was on the bridge and the
other in the tower, was in good working order. Over the floor, under
the casks and the bundles, he poured a pool of tar into which he dipped
the end of the sulphur-match; then he ordered his men to bring into the
library, between the ground-floor and the attic, with tar beneath and
straw overhead, three cradles containing René-Jean, Gros-Alain, and
Georgette, who were all sound asleep. The cradles were brought in very
gently, that the children might not be roused.

They were simple little village cribs, something like an osier basket,
which when placed on the floor were low enough for a child to climb
in and out without help. Beside each cradle the Imânus ordered them
to place a porringer of soup, together with a wooden spoon. The
escape-ladder, taken off its hooks, was laid on the floor against the
wall, and the three cradles were placed end to end along the opposite
wall, facing the ladder; then, thinking that a current of air might be
useful, he flung wide open the six windows of the library. It was a
warm and clear summer night.

He sent the brothers Pique-en-Bois to open the windows in the stories
above and below. On the eastern façade of the building he had observed
a large ivy, old and withered, about the color of tinder, which
entirely covered one side of the bridge, framing the windows of the
three stories, and thought that this ivy would do no harm. After
bestowing a last glance on everything, the Imânus and his men left the
châtelet and returned into the keep. Double locking the heavy iron
door, he examined attentively this immense and awe-inspiring lock,
nodded approvingly at the sulphur-match, passed through the hole he
had drilled, which was henceforth the only channel of communication
between the tower and the bridge. This match, starting from the round
room, passed beneath the iron door and entered under the arch, coiled
snake-like over the spiral stairs, crept across the floor of the
corridor below, and ended in the pool of tar under the dry heath. The
Imânus had calculated that it would take a quarter of an hour from the
time this sulphur-match was lighted from the interior of the tower, to
set on fire the pool of tar under the library. Having completed and
reviewed all these preparations, he carried the key of the iron door to
the Marquis de Lantenac, who put it in his pocket.

Every movement of the besiegers must be watched; so with his cowherd
horn in his belt he stood sentinel in the watch-tower of the platform
on the summit of the tower. While keeping his eye on both the forest
and the plateau, he had beside him in the embrasure of the watch-tower
a powder-horn, and a canvas bag filled with good-sized balls and old
newspapers, which he tore up to make cartridges. When the sun rose, it
revealed in the forest eight battalions, with sabres at their sides,
cartridge-boxes on their backs, and fixed bayonets, ready for the
assault; on the plateau a battery with caissons, cartridges, and boxes
of grape-shot; within the fortress nineteen men loading their muskets,
pistols, and blunderbusses, and three children asleep in their cradles.


[Footnote 1: A corruption of the word "patriot."--Tr.]

[Footnote 2: Rustics.]

[Footnote 3: Equal to the occasion.]

[Footnote 4: Stave, cask.]


[Illustration: The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew. 096]


BOOK III.



I.


THE MASSACRE OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW.


I.


[Illustration 097]


The children awoke.

The little girl was the first to open her eyes.

The waking of children is like the opening of flowers; and like the
flowers, these pure little souls seem to exhale fragrance.

Georgette, the youngest of the three, who last May was but a nursing
infant, and now only twenty months old, lifted her little head, sat up
in her cradle, looked at her toes, and began her baby-talk.

A ray of light fell upon the crib; it would have been difficult to say
which was the rosier,--Georgette's foot, or the dawn.

The other two children still slept,--boys always sleep more soundly
than girls,--while Georgette, contented and peaceful, began to prattle.

René-Jean's hair was brown, Gros-Alain's auburn, and Georgette's
blond,--all shades peculiar to their ages, which would change as the
children grew older. René-Jean looked like an infant Hercules as he
lay there on his stomach fast asleep, with his two fists in his eyes.
Gros-Alain had thrust his legs outside his little bed.

All three were in rags. The clothes given them by the battalion of the
Bonnet-Rouge were in tatters; they had not even a shirt between them.
The two boys were almost naked, and Georgette was bundled up in a rag
which had formerly been a petticoat, but which now served the purpose
of a jacket. Who had taken care of these little ones? It would be
impossible to tell. Certainly not a mother. Those savage peasants who
had carried them along as they fought their way from forest to forest,
gave them their share of the soup, and nothing more. The little ones
lived as best they could; they had masters in plenty, but no father.
Yet childhood is enveloped by an atmosphere of enchantment that lends a
charm to its very rags; and these three tiny beings were delightful.

Georgette chattered away.

The child prattles as the bird sings; but it is always the same
hymn,--indistinct, inarticulate, and yet full of deep meaning; only the
child, unlike the bird, has the dark fate of humanity before it. None
can listen to the joyous song of a child without a sense of sadness.
The lisping of a human soul from the lips of childhood may well be
called the most sublime of earthly songs. This confused murmuring of
thought, which is as yet mere instinct, contains an unconscious appeal
to eternal justice. Perhaps it is a protest uttered on the threshold of
life,--an unconscious protest, distressing to hear; ignorance, smiling
on the infinite, seems to make all creation responsible for the fate
allotted to a weak and defenceless being. Should misfortune befall, it
would seem like an abuse of confidence.

The prattle of a child is more and less than speech; it is a song
without notes, a language without syllables, a murmur that begins in
heaven but is not to end on earth. As it began before birth, so it
will go on after death. As the lispings are the continuance of what
the child said when he was an angel, they are likewise a foreshadowing
of what he will say in eternity. The cradle has its Yesterday, as the
grave has its Morrow; and the double mystery of both mingles with this
unintelligible babble. There is no such proof of God, of eternity, of
responsibility, and of the duality of destiny, as is this awe-inspiring
shadow which we see resting upon a bright young soul.

Still, there was nothing melancholy about Georgette's chatter, for her
sweet face was wreathed in smiles. Her mouth, her eyes, the dimples in
her cheeks, all smiled in concert; and by this smile she seemed to show
her delight in the morning. The human soul believes in sunshine. The
sky was blue, the weather warm and beautiful; and this frail creature,
neither knowing nor comprehending the meaning of life,--living in a
dream, as it were,--felt safe amid the loveliness of Nature, with its
friendly trees and its pure verdure, the serene and peaceful landscape,
with the noises of birds, springs, insects, and leaves, and above all,
the intense purity of the sunshine.

René-Jean, the oldest of the children, a boy over four years old, was
the next one to wake. He stood up, jumped out of his cradle like a
little man, discovered his porringer, as the most natural thing that
could happen, seated himself on the floor, and began to eat his soup.

Georgette's prattle had not roused Gros-Alain, but at the sound of the
spoon in the porringer he started and opened his eyes. Gros-Alain was
the three-year-old boy. He too saw his bowl, and as it was within reach
of his arm, he seized it, and without getting out of bed, with his dish
on his knees and his spoon in his fist, he straightway followed the
example of René-Jean.

Georgette did not hear them; the modulations of her voice seemed to
keep time with the cradling of a dream. Her large eyes, gazing upward,
were divine; however gloomy may be the vault over a child's head,
heaven is always reflected in its eyes.

When René-Jean had finished, he scraped the bottom of the porringer
with the spoon, sighed, and remarked with dignity,--

"I have eaten my soup."

This roused Georgette from her dreaming.

"Thoup," said she.

And seeing that René-Jean had finished his, and that Gros-Alain was
still eating, she took the bowl of soup which stood beside her, and
began to eat, carding the spoon quite as often to her ear as she did to
her mouth.

From time to time she renounced civilization and ate with her fingers.

When Gros-Alain had scraped the bottom of his porringer he jumped out
of bed and trotted after his brother.


II.

Suddenly from below rang the blast of a clarion, stern and loud, coming
from the direction of the forest, to which a trumpet from the summit of
the tower made reply.

This time the clarion called, and the trumpet answered. And again came
the summons from the clarion, followed by the reply of the trumpet.

Then from the edge of the forest rose a voice, distant but clear,
shouting distinctly,--

"Brigands, a summons! If by sunset you have not surrendered at
discretion, we shall begin the assault."

A voice that sounded like the roar of a wild beast answered from the
top of the tower,--

"Attack."

The voice from below replied,--

"A cannon will be fired as a last warning half an hour before the
assault."

And the voice from above repeated,--

"Attack."

The children did not hear these voices, but the clarion and the horn
echoed louder and more distinctly, and at the first sound Georgette
craned her neck and ceased eating; she had dropped her spoon into the
porringer, and at the second blast from the clarion she lifted the tiny
forefinger of her right hand, and alternately raising and letting it
fall, she marked the time of the trumpet, that was prolonged by the
second call of the horn; when the horn and the clarion were silent,
with her finger still uplifted, she paused dreamily, and then murmured
to herself, "Muthic."

She probably meant "music,"

The two older ones, René-Jean and Gros-Alain, had paid no attention
to the horn and the clarion; they were absorbed by another object.
Gros-Alain, who had spied a woodlouse in the act of crawling across the
library floor, exclaimed,--

"A creature!"

René-Jean ran up to him.

"It pricks," continued Gros-Alain.

"Don't hurt it," said René-Jean.

And both the children set themselves to watch the traveller.

Meanwhile Georgette, having finished her soup, was looking about for
her brothers, who, crouching in the embrasure of a window, hung gravely
over the woodlouse, their heads so close together that their hair
intermingled; holding their breath, they gazed in astonishment at the
creature, which, far from appreciating so much admiration, had stopped
crawling, and no longer attempted to move.

Georgette, seeing that her brothers were watching something, desired
to know what it might be. It was no easy matter to reach them,
but she undertook it nevertheless. The journey fairly bristled
with difficulties; all sorts of things were scattered over the
floor,--stools turned upside down, bundles of papers, packing-cases
which had been opened and left empty, trunks, all sorts of
rubbish,--around which she had to make her way: a very archipelago
of reefs; but Georgette took the risk. Her first achievement was to
crawl out of the crib; then she plunged among the reefs. Winding her
way through the straits, and pushing aside a footstool, she crawled
between two boxes and over a bundle of papers, climbing up on one
side, rolling down on the other, innocently exposing her poor little
naked body, and finally reached what a sailor would call the open
sea,--that is to say, quite an expanse of floor unencumbered by rubbish
and free from perils. Here she made a rush, and with the agility of
a cat she crept across the room on all fours as far as the window,
where she encountered a formidable obstacle in the shape of the long
ladder, which lying against the wall ended at this window, reaching
a little beyond the corner of the embrasure, thus forming a sort of
promontory between Georgette and her brothers. She paused, and seemed
to consider the subject; and when she had solved the problem to her
satisfaction, she resolutely clasped her rosy fingers about one of the
rungs, which, as the ladder rested on its side, were not horizontal
but vertical, and tried to pull herself up on to her feet; and when,
after two unsuccessful attempts, she at last succeeded, she walked
the entire length of the ladder, catching one rung after the other.
On reaching the end her support failed, she stumbled and fell; but,
nothing daunted, she caught at the end of one of its enormous poles
with her tiny hands, pulled herself up, doubled the promontory, looked
at René-Jean and Gros-Alain, and burst out laughing.


[Illustration 098]


III.


[Illustration 099]

Just then René-Jean, satisfied with the result of his investigations of
the woodlouse, raised his head and affirmed,--

"It is a female."

Georgette's laughter made René-Jean laugh, and Gros-Alain laughed
because his brother did.

Georgette having effected her object and joined her brothers, they sat
round upon the floor as in a sort of diminutive chamber, but their
friend the woodlouse had vanished.

It had taken advantage of Georgette's laughter and hidden itself away
in a crack.

Other events followed the visit of the woodlouse.

First some swallows flew by.

Their nests were probably under the eaves. They flew quite close to
the window, somewhat startled at the sight of the children, describing
great circles in the air, and uttering their sweet spring note. This
made the three children look up, and the woodlouse was forgotten.

Georgette pointed her finger at the swallows, crying,--

"Biddies!"

[Illustration 100]

René-Jean reprimanded her,--

I "You mustn't say 'biddies,' missy; you must say 'birds.'"

"'Bir's,'" said Georgette.

And, all three watched the swallows.

Then a bee flew in.

Nothing reminds one of the human soul more than the bee, which goes
from flower to flower as a soul from star to star, gathering honey as
the soul absorbs the light.

This one came buzzing in with an air of great stir, as if it said:
"Here I am; I have just seen the roses, and now I have come to see the
children. What is going on here, I should like to know?"

A bee is a housekeeper, scolding as it hums.

As long as the bee stayed, the children never once moved their eyes
from it.

It explored the entire library, rummaging in every corner, flying
about quite as if it were at home in its hive; winged and melodious,
it darted from case to case, peering through the glass at the titles
of the books, just as if it had a brain, and having paid its visit, it
flew away.

"It has gone home," said René-Jean.

"It is an animal," remarked Gros-Alain.

"No," replied René-Jean, "it is a fly."

"A f'y,'" said Georgette.

Then Gros-Alain, who had just found a string on the floor with a knot
in the end, took the other end between his thumb and his forefinger,
and having made a sort of windmill of the string, he was deeply
absorbed in watching its whirling.

Georgette on her part, having returned to her former character of
quadruped, and started again on her capricious journeys across
the floor, had discovered a venerable arm-chair, with moth-eaten
upholstery, from which the horse-hair was falling out in several
places. She had stopped before this arm-chair, and was carefully
enlarging the holes and pulling out the horse-hair.

Suddenly she raised her finger to attract her brothers' attention and
make them listen.

They turned their heads.

A vague far-away sound could be heard outside: probably the attacking
camp executing some strategic manoeuvre in the forest; there was
a neighing of horses, a beating of drums, a rolling to and fro of
caissons, a clanking of chains, and military calls and responses echoed
on every side,--a confusion of wild sounds, whose combination resulted
in a sort of harmony; the children listened in delight.

"It is the good God who does that," said Gros-Alain.


IV.

The noise ceased.

René-Jean had fallen into a dream.

How are ideas formed and scattered in those little minds? What is
the mysterious action of those memories, so faint and evanescent?
In this dreamy little head there was a confused vision of the good
God, of prayer, of clasped hands, of a certain tender smile that had
once rested on him, and which now he missed, and René-Jean whispered
half-aloud, "Mamma!"

"Mamma," said Gros-Alain.

"Mma," repeated Georgette.

Thereupon René-Jean began to jump, and Gros-Alain lost no time in
following his example, imitating all the movements and gestures of his
brother; not so Georgette. Three years may copy four, but twenty months
preserves its independence.

Georgette remained seated, uttering a word now and then; she had as yet
achieved no success in sentences.

She was a thinker, and only uttered monosyllabic apothegms. After a
few moments, however, she succumbed to the influence of example, and
began her attempts to imitate her brothers, and these three pairs of
naked little feet began to dance, run, and totter about in the dust
that covered the old oaken floor, under the serious eyes of the marble
busts, towards which Georgette from to time threw an uneasy glance,
whispering,--

"The Momommes!"

In the language of Georgette a "momomme" was anything that looked like
a man without really being one. Living beings are strangely confused
with ghosts in the minds of children.

As Georgette tottered along after her brothers she was always on the
verge of descending to all fours.

Suddenly René-Jean, who had gone near the window, raised his head, but
dropped it the next moment, and ran to hide in a corner formed by
the embrasure of the window. He had caught sight of some one looking
at him. It was one of the Blues, a soldier from the encampment on the
plateau, who, taking advantage of the armistice and perhaps somewhat
infringing thereon, had ventured to the edge of the escarpment from
whence he had gained a view of the interior of the library. Seeing
René-Jean hide, Gros-Alain hid also; he cuddled down close by his
brother's side, and Georgette hid herself behind them, and there they
stayed silent and motionless, Georgette laying her finger on her
lips. After a few moments René-Jean ventured to put out his head, but
finding the soldier still there, he quickly drew it back, and the three
children hardly dared to breathe. This lasted for quite a long time,
but finally Georgette grew tired of it; she plucked up the courage to
look out, and behold the soldier had gone, and once more they began to
run and play.

[Illustration 101]

Gros-Alain, although an imitator and admirer of René-Jean, possessed a
talent peculiarly his own, that of making discoveries; and his brother
and sister now beheld him prancing in wild delight, dragging along a
little four-wheeled cart, which he had unexpectedly discovered.

This doll-carriage had been lying there for years, forgotten in the
dust, side by side with works of genius and the busts of sages. Perhaps
Gauvain may have played with it when he was a child.

Gros-Alain had converted his bit of string into a whip, which he
cracked with great exultation. Thus it is with discoverers. If one
cannot discover America, one can at least find a small cart. It
amounts to much the same thing.

But he must share his treasure; René-Jean was eager to harness himself
to the wagon, and Georgette tried to get in and sit down.

René-Jean was the horse, Gros-Alain the coachman.

But the coachman did not know his business, and the horse felt obliged
to give him a few lessons.

"Say, 'Get up!'" cried René-Jean.

"'Get up!'" repeated Gros-Alain.

The carriage upset, and Georgette fell out, whereupon she proceeded to
make it known that angels can shriek,--and after that she had half a
mind to cry.

"You are too big, missy," said René-Jean.

"I big," stammered Georgette; and her vanity seemed to console her for
her fall.

The cornice under the windows was very wide, and the dust of the fields
from the heath-covered plateau had collected there. After the rains had
changed this dust into soil, among the seeds wafted thither by the wind
was a bramble, which, making the most of this shallow soil, had taken
root therein; it was of the hardy variety known as the fox-blackberry,
and now in August it was covered with berries, and one of its branches,
pushing its way through the window, hung down almost to the floor.

Gros-Alain to the discovery of the string and the cart added that of
the blackberry-vine. He went up to it, picked off a berry, and ate it.

"I am hungry," said René-Jean. And Georgette, galloping on her hands
and knees, lost no time in making her appearance on the scene.

The three together soon stripped the branch and devoured all the fruit;
staining their faces and hands with the purple juices and laughing
aloud in their glee, these three little seraphs were speedily turned
into three little fauns, who would have horrified Dante and charmed
Virgil.

Occasionally the thorns pricked their fingers. Every pleasure has its
price.

Pointing to the bush, and holding out her finger, on which stood a tiny
drop of blood, Georgette said to René-Jean,--

"Prick."

Gros-Alain, who had also pricked himself, looked suspiciously at the
bush, and cried out,--

"It is a beast."

"No, it's a stick," replied René-Jean.

"Sticks are wicked, then," remarked Gros-Alain.

Again Georgette would have liked to cry, but she decided to laugh.


[Illustration 102]


V.

Meanwhile René-Jean, jealous perhaps of the discoveries of his younger
brother Gros-Alain, had conceived a grand project. For some time past,
while he had been gathering the berries and pricking his fingers, his
eyes had turned frequently towards the reading-desk, which, raised on
a pivot, stood alone like a monument in the middle of the library. On
this desk was displayed the famous volume of Saint Bartholomew.

It was really a magnificent and remarkable quarto. It had been
published at Cologne by Bloeuw, or Coesius, as he was called in Latin,
the famous publisher of the Bible of 1682. It was printed, not on Dutch
paper, but on that fine Arabian paper, so much admired by Édrisi,
manufactured from silk and cotton, which always retains its whiteness;
the binding was of gilded leather, and the clasps of silver; the
fly-leaves were of that parchment which the Parisian parchment-sellers
swore to buy at the hall Saint-Mathurin "and nowhere else." This
volume was full of wood-cuts, engravings on copper, and geographical
maps of many countries; it contained a preface consisting of a protest
from the printers, paper-manufacturers, and book-sellers against the
edict of 1635, which imposed a tax on "leather, beer, cloven-footed
animals, sea-fish, and paper," and on the back of the frontispiece was
a dedication to the Gryphs, who rank in Lyons with the Elzévirs in
Amsterdam. And all this had combined to produce a famous copy almost as
rare as the "Apostol" of Moscow.

It was a beautiful book, and for that reason René-Jean gazed at
it--too long, perhaps. The volume lay open just at the large engraving
which represented Saint Bartholomew carrying his skin on his arm.
This print could be seen from below, and when the berries were eaten,
René-Jean gazed steadily at it with all his longing and greedy eyes;
and Georgette, whose eyes had taken the same direction, spied the
engraving, and exclaimed,--

"Picsure."

This word seemed to decide René-Jean. Then to the unbounded surprise of
Gros-Alain a most remarkable proceeding took place.

In one corner of the library stood a large oaken chair. René-Jean went
up to this chair, seized it, and dragged it across the room all alone
by himself to the desk, then pushing it close up to the latter, he
climbed upon it and put both his fists on the book.

Having reached the height of his ambition, he felt that it behooved
him to be generous; so taking the "picsure" by the upper corner he
carefully tore it in two,--the tear crossing the saint diagonally,
which was a pity; but that was no fault of René-Jean. The entire left
side, one eye, and a fragment of the halo of this old apocryphal
evangelist were left in the book; he offered Georgette the other half
of the saint and the whole of his skin. Georgette, as she received it,
remarked,--

"Momomme."

"Me too!" cried Gros-Alain.

The tearing out of the first page is like the first shedding of blood
in battle; it decides the carnage.

René-Jean turned over the page; next to the saint came the commentator,
Pantoenus; he bestowed Pantoenus upon Gros-Alain.

Meanwhile, Georgette had torn her large piece into two smaller ones,
and then the two into four; thus it might have been recorded in history
that Saint-Bartholomew, after being flayed in Armenia, was quartered in
Brittany.


VI.

The execution finished, Georgette held out her hand to René-Jean for
more.

After the saint and his commentator came the frowning portraits of the
glossarists. First came Gavantus; René-Jean tore him out and placed him
in Georgettes hand.

A similar fate befell all the commentators of Saint-Bartholomew.

The act of giving imparts a sense of superiority. René-Jean kept
nothing for himself. He knew that Gros-Alain and Georgette were
watching him, and that was enough for him; he was satisfied with the
admiration of his audience. René-Jean, inexhaustible in his magnificent
generosity, offered Fabricius and Pignatelli to Gros-Alain, and Father
Stilting to Georgette; Alphonse Tostat to Gros-Alain, _Cornelius a
Lapide_ to Georgette; Gros-Alain had Henry Hammond, and Georgette
Father Roberti, together with an old view of the city of Douai, where
the latter was born in 1619; Gros-Alain received the protest of the
paper-manufacturers, while Georgette obtained the dedication to the
Gryphs. And then came the maps, which René-Jean also distributed. He
gave Ethiopia to Gros-Alain, and Lycaonia to Georgette; after which he
threw the book on the floor.

This was an awful moment. With mingled feelings of ecstasy and awe,
Gros-Alain and Georgette saw René-Jean frown, stiffen his limbs,
clench his fists, and push the massive quarto off the desk. It is
really quite tragical to see a stably old book treated with such
disrespect. The heavy volume, pushed from its resting-place, hung a
moment on the edge of the desk, hesitating, as if it were trying to
keep its balance; then it fell, crumpled and torn, with disjointed
clasps and loosened from its binding, all flattened out upon the floor.
Luckily, it did not fall on the children.

They were startled, but not crushed. The results of conquest have
sometimes proved more fatal.

Like all glories, it was accompanied by a loud noise and a cloud of
dust.

Having upset the book, René-Jean now came down from the chair.

For a moment, silence and dismay prevailed; for victory has its
terrors. The three children clung to one another's hands and gazed from
a distance upon the ruins of this monstrous volume.

After a brief pause, However, Gros-Alain went up to it with an air of
determination and gave it a kick.

This was quite enough; the appetite for destruction is never sated.
René-Jean gave it a kick too, and Georgette gave it another, which
landed her on the floor, but in a sitting position, of which she at
once took advantage to throw herself on Saint Bartholomew. All respect
was now at an end. René-Jean and Gros-Alain pounced upon it, jubilant,
wild with excitement, triumphant, and pitiless, tearing the prints,
slashing the leaves, tearing out the markers, scratching the binding,
detaching the gilded leather, pulling the nails from the silver
corners, breaking the parchment, defacing the noble text,--working with
hands, feet, nails, and teeth; rosy, laughing, and fierce, they fell
upon the defenceless evangelist like three angels of prey.

They annihilated Armenia, Judea, and Benevento, where the relics of the
saint are to be found; Nathanael, who is supposed by some authorities
to be the same as Bartholomew; Pope Gelasius, who declared the Gospel
of Nathanael-Bartholomew apocryphal; and every portrait and map.
Indeed, they were so utterly engrossed in their pitiless destruction of
the old book, that a mouse ran by unobserved.

It might well be called extermination.

To cut to pieces history, legend, science, miracles true or false,
ecclesiastical Latin, superstition, fanaticism, and mysteries,--thus
to tear a whole religion to tatters,--might be considered a work of
time for three giants. And even for three children it was no small
matter; they labored for hours, but at last they conquered, and nothing
remained of Saint-Bartholomew.

When they came to the end, when the last page was detached and the
last print thrown on the floor, when all that was left in the skeleton
binding were fragments of text and tattered portraits, René-Jean rose
to his feet, looked at the floor all strewn with scattered leaves, and
clapped his hands in triumph.

Gros-Alain immediately did the same.

Georgette rose, picked up a leaf from the floor, leaned against the
window-sill, that was just on a level with her chin, and began to tear
the big page into tiny bits and throw them out of the window.

When René-Jean and Gros-Alain saw what she was doing, they were at once
eager to follow her example; and picking up the pages, they tore them
over and over again, page by page, and threw the fragments outside the
window as she had done. Thus almost the whole of that ancient book,
torn by those destructive little fingers, went flying to the winds.
Georgette dreamily watched the fluttering groups of tiny white papers
blown about by every wind, and cried,--

"Butterflies."

And here ended the massacre, its last traces vanishing in thin air.


[Illustration 103]



VII.

Thus for the second time was Saint Bartholomew put to death,--he who
had already suffered martyrdom in the year of our Lord 49.

Meanwhile the evening was drawing on, and as the heat increased a
certain drowsiness pervaded the atmosphere. Georgette's eyes were
growing heavy; René-Jean went to his crib, pulled out the sack of
straw that served him for a mattress, dragged it to the window, and
stretching himself out upon it, said, "Let us go to bed."

Gros-Alain leaned his head against René-Jean, Georgette laid hers on
Gros-Alain, and thus the three culprits fell sound asleep.

Warm breezes stole in at the open windows; the scent of wild-flowers
borne upon the wind from the ravines and hills mingled with the
breath of evening; Nature lay calm and sympathetic; radiance, peace,
and love pervaded the world; the sunlight touched each object with a
soft caress; and one felt in every pore of his being the harmony that
springs from the profound tenderness of inanimate things. Infinity
holds within itself the essence of motherhood; creation is a miracle in
full bloom, whose magnitude is perfected by its benevolence. One seemed
to be conscious of an invisible presence exercising its mysterious
influence in the dread conflict between created beings, protecting
the helpless against the powerful; beauty meanwhile on every side,
its splendor only to be equalled by its tenderness. The landscape,
calm and peaceful, displayed the enchanting hazy effects of light and
shade over the fields and river; the smoke rose upwards to the clouds,
like reveries melting into dreams; flocks of birds circled above the
Tourgue; the swallows peeped in at the windows, as much as to say,
"We have come to see if the children are sleeping comfortably." And
pure and lovable they looked as they lay motionless, prettily grouped,
like little half-naked Cupids, their united ages amounting to less
than nine years. Vague smiles hovered round their lips, reflecting
dreams of Paradise. Perchance Almighty God was whispering in their
ears, since they were of those whom all human tongues unite to call
the weak and the blessed. Theirs was the innocence that commands
veneration. All was silent, as if the breath that stirred those tender
bosoms were the business of the universe, and all creation paused to
listen; not a leaf rustled, not a blade of grass quivered. It seemed
as if the wide starry universe held its breath lest these three lowly
but angelic slumberers should be disturbed; and nothing could be more
sublime than the impressive reverence of Nature in the presence of this
insignificance.

The declining sun had nearly reached the horizon, when suddenly, amid
this profound peace, lightning flashed from the forest, followed by a
savage report. A cannon had just been fired. The echoes seized this
sound, and magnified it to a dreadful din, and so frightful was the
prolonged reverberation from hill to hill that it roused Georgette.

She raised her head a little, lifted her finger, listened, then said,--

"Boom!"

The noise ceased, and silence returned again. Georgette put her head
back on Gros-Alain, and fell asleep again.


[Illustration 104]

[Illustration: The Mother 105]



BOOK IV.


THE MOTHER.


[Illustration 106]



I.


DEATH PASSES.


That evening the mother, whom we have seen wandering onward with no
settled plan, had walked all day long. This was, to be sure, a matter
of every-day occurrence. She kept on her way without pause or rest; for
the sleep of exhaustion in some chance corner could no more be called
rest than could the stray crumbs that she picked up here and there like
the birds be considered nourishment. She ate and slept just enough to
keep her alive.

She had spent the previous night in a forsaken barn,--a wreck such as
civil wars leave behind them. In a deserted field she had found four
walls, an open door, a little straw, and the remains of a roof, and on
this straw beneath the roof she threw herself down, feeling the rats
glide under as she lay there, and watching the stars rise through the
roof. She slept several hours; then waking in the middle of the night,
she resumed her journey, so as to get over as much ground as possible
before the excessive heat of the day came on. For the summer pedestrian
midnight is more favorable than noon.

She followed as best she could the brief directions given her by the
Vautortes peasant, and kept as far as possible toward the west. Had
there been any one near, he might have heard her incessantly muttering
half aloud, "La Tourgue." She seemed to know no other word, save the
names of her children.

And as she walked she dreamed. She thought of the adventures that had
befallen her, of all she had suffered and endured, of the encounters,
the indignities, the conditions imposed, the bargains offered and
accepted, now for a shelter, now for a bit of bread, or simply to
be directed on her way. A wretched woman is more unfortunate than a
wretched man, inasmuch as she is the instrument of pleasure. Terrible
indeed was this wandering journey! But all this would count for nothing
if she could but find her children.

On that day her first adventure was in a village through which her
route lay; the dawn was barely breaking, and the dusk of night still
shrouded all the surrounding objects; but in the principal village
street a few doors were half open, and curious faces peeped out of
the windows. The inhabitants seemed restless like a startled hive of
bees,--a disturbance due to the noise of wheels and the clanking of
iron, which had reached their ears.

On the square in front of the church, a frightened group was staring at
some object that was descending the hill towards the village. It was
a four-wheeled wagon drawn by five horses, whose harness was composed
of chains, and upon which could be seen something that looked like a
pile of long joists, in the middle of which lay an object whose vague
outlines were hidden by a large canvas resembling a pall. Ten horsemen
rode in front of the wagon, and ten behind. They wore three-cornered
hats, and above their shoulders rose what seemed like the points of
naked sabres. The whole procession advanced slowly, its dark outlines
sharply defined against the horizon; everything looked black,--the
wagon, the harness, and the riders. On entering the village they
approached the square with the pale glimmer of the dawn behind them.

It had grown somewhat lighter while the wagon was descending the hill,
and now the escort was plainly to be seen,--a procession of ghosts to
ail intents, for no man uttered a word.

The horsemen were gendarmes; they really were carrying drawn sabres,
and the canvas that covered the wagon was black.

The wretched wandering mother, entering the village from the opposite
direction, just as the wagon and the gendarmes reached the square,
approached the crowd of peasants and heard voices whispering the
following questions and answers,--

"What is that?"

"It's the guillotine."

"Where does it come from?"

"From Fougères."

"Where is it going?"

"I don't know. They say it is going to some castle near Parigné."

"Parigné!"

"Let it go wherever it will, so that it does not stop here."

There was something ghostlike in the combination of this great wagon
with its shrouded burden, the gendarmes, the clanking chains of the
team, and the silent men, in the early dawn.

The group crossed the square and passed out from the village, which lay
in a hollow between two hills. In a quarter of an hour the peasants who
had stood there like men petrified saw the funereal procession reappear
on the summit of the western hill. The great wheels jolted in the ruts,
the chains of the harness rattled as they were shaken by the early
morning wind, the sabres shone; the sun was rising, and at a bend of
the road all vanished from the sight.

It was at this very moment that Georgette woke up in the library beside
her still sleeping brothers, and wished her rosy feet good-morning.



II.


DEATH SPEAKS.


The mother had watched this dark object as it passed by, but she
neither understood nor tried to understand it, absorbed as she was in
the vision that pictured her children lost in the darkness.

She too left the village soon after the procession which had just
passed, and followed the same road at some distance behind the second
squad of gendarmes. Suddenly the word "guillotine" came back to her,
and she repeated it to herself; now, this untaught peasant woman,
Michelle Fléchard, had no idea of its meaning, but her instinct warned
her; she shuddered involuntarily, and it seemed dreadful to her to be
walking behind it,--so she turned to the left, quitting the highway,
and entered a wood, which was the Forest of Fougères.

After roaming about for some time she spied a belfry and the roofs of
houses,--evidently a village on the edge of the forest; and she went
towards it, for she was hungry.

It was one of those hamlets where the Republicans had established a
military outpost.

She went as far as the square in front of the mayoralty-house.

Here, too, there was agitation and anxiety. A crowd had gathered in
front of the flight of steps leading to the hall, and here, standing on
one of these steps was a man accompanied by soldiers, who held in his
hand a large unfolded placard. A drummer stood on his right, and on his
left a bill-sticker, with his brush and paste-pot. Upon the balcony,
over the door, stood the mayor, wearing a tricolored scarf over his
peasant's dress.

[Illustration 107]

The man with the placard was a public crier.

He wore a shoulder-belt from which hung a small wallet, in token
that he was going from village to village proclaiming certain news
throughout the district.

Just as Michelle Fléchard arrived, he had unfolded the placard and was
beginning to read in a loud voice,--

      "THE FRENCH REPUBLIC ONE AND INDIVISIBLE."

The drum beat. There was a stir in the crowd. A few took off their
caps, others jammed their hats more firmly on their heads; in those
times one could almost recognize a man's political views, throughout
that district, by the fashion of his head-gear; hats were worn by
Royalists, caps by Republicans. The confused murmur of voices ceased,
and all listened as the crier proceeded to read:--

      "By virtue of the orders given to as, and of the authority
      vested in us by the Committee of Public Safety,--"

Again the drum beat, and again the crier continued:--

      "--and in execution of the decree of the National
      Convention, that outlaws all rebels taken with arms in
      their hands, and declares that capital punishment shall be
      inflicted on any man who harbors them or aids and abets in
      their escape,--"

One peasant whispered to his neighbor,--

"What does capital punishment mean?"

"I don't know," the neighbor replied.

The crier waved the placard:--

      "--in accordance with Article 17 of the law of the 30th of
      April, that gives to the delegates and sub-delegates full
      authority over the rebels,--"

Here he made a pause, then resumed:--

      "--the individuals designated under the following names
      and surnames are declared outlawed:--"

The audience listened with a close attention.

The voice of the crier sounded like thunder:--

      "--Lantenac, brigand,--"

"That's Monseigneur," muttered a peasant.

And the whisper ran through the crowd, "It's Monseigneur."

And the crier pursued,--

      "--Lantenac, ci-devant Marquis, brigand; the Imânus,
      brigand;--"

Two peasants looked askance at each other.

"That's Gouge-le-Bruant."

"Yes; that's Brise-Bleu."

The crier went on reading the list:--

      "Grand-Francoeur, brigand;--"

A murmur-ran through the crowd.

"He's a priest."

"Yes,--the Abbé Turmeau."

"I know; he is a curé somewhere near the forest of La Chapelle."

"And a brigand," added a man in a cap.

The crier went on:--

      "--Boisnouveau, brigand; the two brothers Pique-en-bois,
      brigands; Houzard, brigand;--"

"That's Monsieur de Quélen," said a peasant.

      "--Panier, brigand;--"

"That's Monsieur Sepher."

      "--Place-Nette, brigand;--"

"That's Monsieur Jamois."

Paying no heed to these remarks, the crier continued:--


      "--Guinoiseau, brigand; Chatenay, called Robi, brigand;--"

One peasant whispered, "Guinoiseau is the same person we call Le Blond;
Chatenay comes from Saint-Ouen."

      "--Hoisnard, brigand;--" continued the crier.

"He is from Ruillé," some one in the crowd was heard to say.

"Yes, that's Branche-d'Or."

"His brother was killed at the attack of Pontorson."

"Yes, Hoisnard-Malonnière."

"A fine-looking fellow of nineteen."

"Attention!" called out the crier; "here is the end of the list:--

      "--Belle-Vigne, brigand; La Musette, brigand; Sabre-tout,
      brigand; Brin-d'Amour, brigand;--"

Here a lad jogged the elbow of a young girl; she smiled.

The crier continued,--

      "--Chante-en-hiver, brigand; Le Chat, brigand--"

"That's Moulard," said a peasant.

      "--Tabouze, brigand.--"

"That's Gauffre," said another.

"There are two of the Gauffres," added some woman.

"Good fellows, both of them," muttered a lad.

The crier waved the placard, the drum beat to command silence, and then
he resumed the reading:

      "--And the above-named, wheresoever they may be taken, as
      soon as their identity is proved, will be put to death
      upon the spot;--"

There was a movement in the crowd.

The crier pursued,--

      "--and any man who protects them, or aids them to escape,
      will be brought before a court-martial and forthwith put
      to death. Signed--"

The silence grew intense.

      "--Signed: Delegate of the Committee of Public Safety,

      "CIMOURDAIN."

"A priest," said a peasant.

"The former curé of Parigné," remarked another.

"Turmeau and Cimourdain," added a townsman,--"a White priest and a Blue
one."

"And both of them black," remarked another townsman.

The mayor, who stood on the balcony, lifted his hat as he cried,--

"Long live the Republic!"

A roll of the drum made it known that the crier had not yet finished.
He waved his hand.

"Listen," he said, "to the last four lines of the Government
proclamation. They are signed by the chief of the exploring column of
the Côtes-du-Nord, Commander Gauvain."

"Listen," cried voices in the crowd.

The crier read,--

      "Under penalty of death,--"

All were silent.

      "--it is forbidden, in pursuance with the above, to lend
      aid or succor to the nineteen rebels herein named, who are
      at present shut up and besieged in the Tourgue."

"What's that?" cried a voice.

It was a woman's voice,--the voice of the mother.



III.


MUTTERINGS AMONG THE PEASANTS.


Michelle Fléchard had mingled with the crowd. She had not listened,
but some things one may hear without listening. She had heard the word
"Tourgue," and raised her head.

"What's that? Did he say La Tourgue?"

People looked at her. The ragged woman seemed like one dazed.

Voices were heard to murmur, "She looks like a brigand."

A peasant woman, carrying a basket of buckwheat cakes, went up to her
and whispered,--

"Keep still."

Michelle Fléchard stared stupidly; again she had lost all power
of comprehension. That name, "La Tourgue" passed like a flash of
lightning, and night closed once more. Had she no right to ask for
information? What made the people look at her so strangely?

Meanwhile the drum had beaten for the last time, the bill-poster pasted
up the notice, the mayor went back into the house, the crier started
for some other village, and the crowd dispensed.

One group was still standing in front of the notice. Michelle Fléchard
drew near.

They were commenting on the names of the outlaws.

Both peasants and townsmen were there; that is to say, both Whites and
Blues.

"After all, they have not caught everybody," said a peasant. "Nineteen
is just nineteen, and no more. They have not got Riou, nor Benjamin
Moulins, nor Goupil from the parish of Andouillé."

"Nor Lorieul, of Monjean," remarked another.

And thus they went on:--

"Nor Brice-Denys."

"Nor François Dudouet."

"Yes, they have the one from Laval."

"Nor Huet, from Launey-Villiers."

"Nor Grégis."

"Nor Pilon."

"Nor Filleul."

"Nor Ménicent."

"Nor Guéharrée."

"Nor the three brothers Logerais."

"Nor Monsieur Lechandellier de Pierreville."

"Idiots!" exclaimed a stern-looking, white-haired man. "They have them
all, if they have Lantenac."

"They have not got him yet," muttered one of the young fellows.

"Lantenac once captured, the soul is gone. The death of Lantenac means
death to the Vendée," said the old man.

"Who is this Lantenac?" asked a townsman.

"He is a ci-devant," replied another.

And another added,--

"He is one of those who shoot women."

Michelle Fléchard heard this, and said,--

"That's true."

When people turned to look at her she added,--

"Because he shot me."

It was an odd thing to say; as if a living woman were to call herself
dead. People looked at her suspiciously.

And truly she was a startling object, trembling at every sound,
wild-looking, shivering, with an animal-like fear; so terrified was she
that she frightened other people. There is a certain weakness in the
despair of a woman that is dreadful to witness. It is like looking upon
a being against whom destiny has done its worst. But peasants are not
analytical; they see nothing below the surface. One of them muttered,
"She might be a spy."

"Keep still and go away," whispered the kind-hearted woman who had
spoken to her before.

"I am doing no harm," replied Michelle Fléchard; "I am only looking for
my children."

The kind woman winked at those who were starring at Michelle Fléchard,
and touching her forehead with her finger, said,--

"She is a simpleton."

Then drawing her aside, she gave her a buckwheat cake.

Without even stopping to thank her, Michelle Fléchard began to devour
the cake like one ravenous for food.

"You see, she eats just like an animal: she must be a simpleton;" and
one by one the crowd gradually dispersed.

After she had eaten, Michelle Fléchard said to the peasant woman,--

"Well, I have finished my cake; now, where is the Tourgue?"

"There she is at it again!" cried the peasant woman.

"I must go the Tourgue. Show me the road to La Tourgue."

"Never!" cried the peasant woman. "You would like to be killed, I
suppose; but whether you would or not, I don't know the way myself. You
must surely be insane. Listen to me, my poor woman. You look tired;
will you come to my house and rest?"

"I never test," replied the mother.

"And her feet are all torn," muttered the peasant woman.

"Didn't you hear me telling you that my children were stolen from me,
one little girl and two little boys? I came from the _carnichot_ in the
forest. You can ask Tellmarch le Caimand about me, and also the man I
met in the field down yonder. The Caimand cared me. It seems I had
something broken. All those things really happened. Besides, there is
Sergeant Radoub; you may ask him; he will tell you, for it was he who
met us in the forest. Three,--I tell you there were three children,
and the oldest one's name was René-Jean: I can prove it to you; and
Gros-Alain and Georgette were the two others. My husband is dead; they
killed him. He was a farmer at Siscoignard. You look like a kind woman.
Show me the way. I am not mad, I am a mother. I have lost my children,
and am looking for them. I do not know exactly where I came from. I
slept last night on the straw in a barn. I am going to the Tourgue.
I am not a thief. You can't help seeing that I am telling you the
truth. You ought to help me to find my children. I don't belong to this
neighborhood. I have been shot, but I do not know where it happened."

The peasant woman shook her head, saying,--

"Listen, traveller; in times of revolution you must not say things that
cannot be understood, for you might be arrested."

"But the Tourgue," cried the mother; "madam, for the love of the Infant
Jesus and of the Blessed Virgin in Paradise I pray you, I beg of you, I
beseech you, madam, tell me how I can find the road to the Tourgue!"

Then the peasant woman grew angry.

"I don't know! And if I did, I would not tell you! It is a bad place.
People don't go there."

"But I am going there," said the mother.

And once more she started on her way.

The woman, as she watched her depart, muttered to herself:--

"She must have something to eat, whatever she does;" and running after
Michelle Fléchard, she put a dark-looking cake in her hand, saying,--

"There is something for your supper."

Michelle Fléchard took the buckwheat-cake, but she neither turned nor
made reply as she pursued her way.

She went forth from the village, and just as she reached the last
houses she met three little ragged and barefooted children trotting
along. She went up to them and said,--

"Here are two boys and a girl;" and when she saw them looking at her
bread, she gave it to them.

The children took the bread, but they were evidently frightened.

She entered the forest.



IV.


A MISTAKE.


Meanwhile, on this very day, before dawn, amid the dim shadows of the
forest, the following scene took place on the bit of road that leads
from Javené to Lécousse.

All the roads of the Bocage are shut in between high banks, and those
enclosing the one that runs from Javené to Parigné by way of Lécousse
are even higher than usual; indeed the road, winding as it does, might
well be called a ravine. It leads from Vitré, and has had the honor of
jolting Madame de Sévigné's carriage. Shut in as it is by hedges on the
right and on the left, no better spot for an ambush could well be found.

That morning, one hour before Michelle Fléchard, starting from a
different part of the forest, had reached the first village, where she
beheld the funereal apparition of the wagon escorted by the gendarmes,
a crowd of unseen men, concealed by the branches, crouched in the
thickets through which the road from Javené runs after it crosses the
bridge over the Couesnon. They were, peasants dressed in coats of skin,
such as were worn by the kings of Brittany in the sixteenth century
and by the peasants in the eighteenth. Some were armed with muskets,
others with axes. Those who had axes had just built in a glade a kind
of funeral pile of dry fagots and logs, which was only waiting to be
set on fire. Those who had muskets were posted on both sides of the
road, in the attitude of expectancy. Could one have seen through the
leaves, he might have discovered on every side fingers resting on
triggers and guns aimed through the openings made by the interlacing of
the branches. These men were lying in wait. All the muskets converged
towards the road, which had begun to whiten in the rising dawn.

Amid this twilight low voices were carrying on a dialogue:--

"Are you sure of this?"

"Well, that's what they say."

"She is about to go by?"

"They say she is in this neighborhood."

"She must not leave it."

"She must be burned."

"We three villages have come out for that very purpose."

"And how about the escort?"

"It is to be killed."

"But will she come by this road?"

"So they say."

"Then she is coming from Vitré."

"And why shouldn't she?"

"Because they said she was coming from Fougères."

"Whether she comes from Fougères or from Vitré, she certainly comes
from the devil."

"That is true."

"And she must go back to him."

"I agree to that."

"Then she is going to Parigné?"

"So it seems."

"She will not get there."

"No."

"No, no, no!"

"Attention!"

It was the part of prudence to be silent now, since it was growing
quite light.

Suddenly these men lurking in ambush held their breath, as they heard
the sound of wheels and horses' feet. Peering through the branches,
they caught an indistinct glimpse of a long wagon, a mounted escort,
and something on the top of the wagon, all of which was coming towards
them along the hollow road.

"There she is," cried the one who appeared to be the leader.

"Yes, and the escort too," said one of the men who lay in wait.

"How many are there?"

"Twelve."

"It was said that there were to be twenty."

"Twelve or twenty, let us kill them all."

"Wait till they are within our reach."

[Illustration 108]

A little later and the wagon with its escort appeared at a turn of the
road.

"Long live the King!" cried the peasant leader; and as he spoke,
a hundred muskets were fired at the same instant. When the smoke
scattered, the escort was scattered likewise. Seven horsemen had
fallen, and the other five had made their escape. The peasants rushed
to the wagon. "Hallo! this is not the guillotine," cried the leader;
"it's a ladder."

In fact, there was nothing whatever in the wagon but a long ladder.

The two wounded horses had fallen, and the driver had been killed by
accident.

"There is something suspicious about a ladder with an escort, all the
same," said the leader. "It was going in the direction of Parigné. No
doubt it was intended for scaling the Tourgue."

"Let us burn the ladder," cried the peasants.

As to the funereal wagon for which they were watching, it had taken
another road, and was already two miles farther away, in the village
where Michelle Fléchard had seen it pass at sunrise.



V.


VOX IN DESERTO.


After leaving the three children to whom she had given her bread,
Michelle Fléchard started at random through the woods.

Since no one would show her the way, she must find it without help.
From time to time she paused, and sat down to rest; then up and away
again. She was overcome by that intense weariness which one feels first
in the muscles, then in the bones,--like the fatigue of a slave. And
a slave indeed she was,--the slave of her lost children. They must be
found; each passing moment might be fatal to them. A duty like this
debars one from the right to breathe freely; yet she was very weary.
When one has reached this stage of fatigue it becomes a question
whether another step can be taken. Could she do it? She had been
walking since morning without finding either a village or a house. When
she first started she had followed the right path, but soon wandered
into the wrong one, and at last quite lost her way among the thick
branches, where one tree looked just like another. Was she drawing
near her goal? Were her sufferings almost over? She was following the
way of the Cross, and felt all the languor and exhaustion of the final
station. Was she doomed to fall dead on the road? At one time it seemed
to her impossible to take another step: the sun was low, the forest
dark, the paths no longer visible in the grass, and God only knew what
was to become of her. She began to call, but there was no reply.

Looking around, she perceived an opening among the branches, and no
sooner had she started in that direction than she found herself out of
the wood.

Before her lay a valley no wider than a trench, across whose stony
bottom flowed a slender stream of clear water. Then she realized that
she was excessively thirsty, and approaching it knelt to drink; and
while thus kneeling she thought she would say her prayers.

When she rose she tried to get her bearings, and crossed the brook.

As far as the eye could reach on the farther side of the little valley
stretched a limitless plain overgrown with a stubbly underbrush, which
rose from the brook like an inclined plane, occupying the entire
horizon. If the forest were a solitude, this plateau might be called
a desert. In the forest there was a chance that one might encounter
a human being behind any bush; but across the plateau not an object
could be descried within reach of human vision. A few birds were flying
across the heather, as if making an effort to escape.

Then, in the presence of this utter desolation, feeling her knees
give way beneath her, the poor bewildered mother cried out amid the
solitude, like one suddenly gone mad,--

"Is there no one here?"

She paused for an answer, and the answer came.

A deep and muffled voice burst forth from the distant horizon, caught
and repeated by echo upon echo. It was like a thunderbolt; but it might
have been the firing of a cannon, or a voice answering the mother's
question, and replying, "Yes."

Then silence reigned once more.

The mother rose with renewed energy. She felt reassured by a sense of
companionship. Having quenched her thirst and said her prayers, her
strength returned, and she began to climb the plateau in the direction
from whence the voice of distant thunder had reached her ears. Suddenly
she caught sight of a lofty tower looming up against the far-away
horizon. It stood alone amid this wild landscape, and a ray of the
setting sun cast a crimson glow across it. It was more than a league
away. Beyond it stretched the forest of Fougères, its vast expanse of
verdure half hidden by the mist.

Could it have been this tower that made the noise?--for it seemed to
her to stand on the very spot whence came the thundering sound that had
rung in her ears like a call.

Michelle Fléchard had now reached the summit of the plateau, and the
plain alone lay before her.



VI.


THE SITUATION.


The moment had finally come when Cimourdain held Lantenac in his grasp.
The inexorable had conquered the pitiless. The old rebel Royalist
was caught in his own lair, with no possible chance of escape; and
Cimourdain had determined to behead the Marquis in the home of his
ancestors, on his own estate, upon his very hearthstone, so to speak,
that the feudal mansion might look upon the downfall of its feudal
lord, and thus present an example not soon to be forgotten.

For this reason he sent to Fougères for the guillotine, which we saw on
its way.

To kill Lantenac was to kill the Vendée; the death of the Vendée meant
safety for France. Cimourdain was a man utterly calm in the performance
of duty, however ferocious it might be, and not for a moment did he
hesitate.

[Illustration 109]

In regard to the ruin of the Marquis he felt quite at ease; but he had
another cause for anxiety. The struggle would no doubt be a fearful
one; Gauvain would direct the assault, and perhaps take part in it.
This young chief had all the fire of a soldier; he was the very man
to throw himself headlong into this hand-to-hand encounter. And what
if he were killed,--Gauvain, his child, the only being on earth whom
he loved! Gauvain had been fortunate thus far; but fortune sometimes
grows weary. Cimourdain trembled. Strange enough was his destiny, thus
placed between these two Gauvains, longing for the death of the one,
and praying for the life of the other.

The cannon that had started Georgette in her cradle and summoned the
mother from the depths of the woods, did more than that. Whether by
accident or intentionally on the part of the man who pointed the
gun, the ball, though intended only as a warning, struck, broke, and
partly wrenched away the iron bars that defended and closed the great
loop-hole on the first floor of the tower, and the besieged had had no
time to repair this damage.

The truth was that, in spite of their loud boasting, their ammunition
was nearly exhausted; and their situation, let it be remembered, was
more critical than the besiegers suspected. Their dream had been to
blow up the Tourgue when the enemy was once fairly within the walls;
but their store of powder was running low,--not more than thirty
rounds left for each man. They had plenty of muskets, blunderbusses,
and pistols, but few cartridges. All the guns were loaded, that they
might keep up a steady fire. But how long could this last? To keep
up the firing and economize their resources at one and the same time
would be a somewhat difficult combination. Fortunately (a gloomy kind
of fortune) it would be for the most part a hand-to-hand encounter,
in which the cold steel of sabre and dagger would take the place of
firearms. They would have a chance to hack the enemy in pieces, and
therein lay their chief hope.

The interior of the tower seemed impregnable. In the low hall where
the breach had been made the entrance was defended by that barricade
so skilfully constructed by Lantenac, called that _retirade._ Behind
it stood a long table covered with loaded weapons, blunderbusses,
carbines, muskets, sabres, hatchets, and daggers. Having been unable
to make use of the oubliette prison communicating with the lower hall,
for the purpose of blowing up the tower, the Marquis had ordered the
door of this dungeon to be closed. Above the hall was the round chamber
of the first story, which could only be reached by a very narrow
spiral staircase. This room, provided like the lower hall with a table
covered with weapons ready for use, was lighted by the wide embrasure
whose grating had just been crushed by a cannon-ball. Below this room
the spiral staircase led to the round chamber on the second story,
from which the iron door opened into the bridge-castle. This room on
the second floor was called indiscriminately "the room with the iron
door," or "the mirror room", on account of the numerous little mirrors
hung from rusty old nails against the naked stone walls,--an odd
medley of elegance and barbarism. As there were no means by which the
upper rooms could be successfully defended, this mirror-room was what
Manesson-Mallet, the authority on fortifications, calls "the last post
where the besieged may capitulate." The object was, as we have already
stated, to prevent the besiegers from reaching it.

This round chamber on the second floor was lighted by embrasures,
but a torch was burning there also. This torch, stuck in an iron
torch-holder, like the one in the lower hall, had been lighted by the
Imânus and placed quite near the end of the sulphur-match. Appalling
solicitude.

At the end of the hall, on a long board raised on trestles, food had
been placed as in a Homeric cavern; great dishes of rice, a porridge of
some kind of dark grain, hashed veal, a boiled pudding made of flour
and fruit, and jugs of cider. Whoever wished to eat and drink could do
so.

The cannon had set them all on the alert, and now they had but half an
hour of repose before them.

From the top of the tower the Imânus kept watch of the enemy's
approach. Lantenac had given orders that the besiegers should be
allowed to advance unmolested.

"They are four thousand five hundred," he said; "it would be useless to
kill them outside. Wait till they are within the walls, where we shall
be equal to them." And he added, laughing, "Equality, Fraternity."

It had been agreed that when the enemy began to advance, the Imânus
should give warning on his horn.

Posted behind the _retirade_ and on the steps of the staircase, they
waited in silence, with a musket in one hand and a rosary in the other.

The situation might be summed up as follows:--

On one side of the besiegers a breach to scale, a barricade to carry,
three rooms in succession, one above the other, to be taken by main
force, two spiral staircases to be climbed, step by step, under a
shower of bullets; the besieged meanwhile standing face to face with
death.


[Illustration 110]



VII.


PRELIMINARIES.


[Illustration 111]


Gauvain on his side was preparing for the attack. He had given his last
instructions to Cimourdain, who, it will be remembered, was to guard
the plateau, taking no part in the action, as well as to Guéchamp, who
with the main body of the army was to be stationed in the forest camp.
It was agreed that neither the lower battery of the wood nor the higher
one of the plateau was to fire, unless a sortie or an attempt to escape
were made. Gauvain reserved for himself the command of the storming
column, and this it was that troubled Cimourdain.

The sun had just set.

A tower in the open country is like a ship in mid-ocean, and must be
attacked in the same way. It is more like boarding than assaulting.
Cannon is of no avail, for of what use would it be to cannonade walls
fifteen feet thick? A port-hole through which men struggle to force
a way, while others defend the entrance with axes, knives, pistols,
fists, and teeth,--this was the kind of combat that might be expected,
and Gauvain knew that by no other means could the Tourgue be taken.
Nothing can be more deadly than an attack where the combatants can look
into one another's eyes. He was familiar with the formidable interior
of the tower, having lived there as a child.

He stood wrapped in deep thought.

A few paces from him, his lieutenant, Guéchamp, with a spy-glass in his
hand, was scanning the horizon in the direction of Parigné. Suddenly he
cried,--

"Ah! At last!"

This exclamation roused Gauvain from his reverie.

"What is it, Guéchamp?"

"The ladder is coming, commander."

"The escape-ladder?"

"Yes."

"Is it possible that it has not arrived till now?"

"No, commander; and I felt anxious about it. The courier whom I sent to
Javené returned."

"I am aware of that."

"He reported that he had found in a carpenter-shop at Javené a ladder
of the required dimensions, that he had taken possession of it, and
having had it put on a wagon, demanded an escort of twelve horsemen;
that he had waited to see them set out for Parigné,--the wagon, the
escort, and the ladder,--and had then started for home at full speed."

"And reported the same to us, adding that the team was a good one and
had started about two o'clock in the morning, and would therefore be
here before sunset. Yes, I know all that. What else?"

"Well, commander, the sun has just set and the wagon that is to bring
the ladder has not yet arrived."

"Is it possible? But we must begin the attack. The hour has come. If we
are late, the besieged will think that we have retreated."

"We can attack, commander."

"But we must have the escape-ladder."

"Certainly."

"But we have not got it"

"Yes, we have."

"How is that?"

"That's what made me say, 'Ah! at last!' As the wagon had not arrived,
I took my spy-glass and have been watching the road from Parigné to the
Tourgue, and now I am content; for the wagon and the escort are yonder
descending the hill. You can see them."

Gauvain took the spy-glass and looked.

"Yes, there it is. It is hardly light enough to see it all distinctly,
but I can distinguish the escort; it is certainly that. Only it seems
to me larger than you said, Guéchamp?"

"Yes, it does."

"They are about a quarter of a league distant."

"The escape-ladder will be here in a quarter of an hour, commander."

"Then we can attack."

It was indeed a wagon approaching, but not the one they supposed it to
be.

As he turned, Gauvain saw behind him Sergeant Radoub standing with
downcast eyes, in the attitude of military salute.

"What is it, Sergeant Radoub?"

"Citizen commander, we, the men of the battalion of the Bonnet-Rouge,
have a favor to ask of you."

"What is it?"

"To be killed."

"Ah!" exclaimed Gauvain.

"Will you grant us this favor?"

"Well, that depends," said Gauvain.

"It is just this, commander. Since the affair at Dol, you have been too
careful of us. There are twelve of us still."

"Well?"

"It humiliates us."

"You are the reserved force."

"We would rather be in the vanguard."

"I need you to insure success at the close of the engagement. That is
why I keep you back."

"There is too much of this keeping back."

"It is all the same. You are in the column. You march."

"In the rear. Paris has a right to march at the head."

"I will consider the matter, Sergeant Radoub."

"Consider it to-day, commander. The occasion is at hand. Hard knocks
will be given on both sides; it will be lively work. He who lays a
finger on the Tourgue will get himself burned; we request the favor of
being in the thick of it."

The sergeant paused, twisted his moustache, and continued in a changed
voice:--

"And then you know, commander, our little ones are in this tower.
Our children are there,--the children of the battalion, our three
children. That abominable wretch Brise-Bleu, called the Imânus, that
Gouge-le-Bruand, Bouge-le-Gruand, Fouge-le-Truand, that thundering
devil of a man, threatens our children,--our children, our puppets,
commander! No harm must come to them, whatever convulsion shakes the
Tourgue. Do you understand that, commander? We will not endure it.
Just now I took advantage of the truce, and climbing up the plateau, I
looked at them through the window. Yes, they are certainly there,--you
can see them from the edge of the ravine; I saw them, and frightened
the darlings. Commander, if a single hair falls from the heads of
those little cherubs,--I swear it by the thousand names of all that is
sacred,--I, Sergeant Radoub, will demand an account of God Almighty!
And this is what the battalion says: we want the babies to be saved,
or else we all want to be killed. We have a right to ask it. Yes,
that every man of us be killed! And now I salute you, and present my
respects."

Gauvain held out his hand to Radoub as he exclaimed:--

"You are brave fellows! You will join the attacking column. I shall
divide you into two parties; six of you I shall place in the vanguard
to insure the advance, and six in the rear-guard to prevent a retreat."

"And am I still to command the twelve?"

"Of course."

"Thank you, commander. In that case, I join the vanguard."

Radoub made the military salute, and returned to the ranks. Gauvain
drew out his watch, whispered a few words to Guéchamp, and the
attacking column began to form.



VIII.


THE SPEECH AND THE ROAR.


[Illustration 112]


Meanwhile, Cimourdain who had not yet taken his position on the
plateau, and who stood beside Gauvain, approached a trumpeter.

"Sound the trumpet!" he said to him.

The clarion sounded, the horn replied.

Again the clarion and the trumpet exchanged calls.

"What does that mean?" asked Gauvain of Guéchamp. "What does Cimourdain
want?"

Cimourdain, with a white handkerchief in his hand, approached the
tower; and as he drew near, he cried aloud,--

"You men in the tower, do you know me?"

And the voice of the Imânus made answer from the heights,--

"We do."

These two voices were now heard exchanging question and reply as
follows:--

"I am the ambassador of the Republic,'

"You are the former curé of Parigné."

"I am a delegate of the Committee of Public Safety."

"You are a priest."

"I am a representative of the law."

"You are a renegade."

"I am a commissioner of the Revolution."

"You are an apostate."

"I am Cimourdain."

"You are a demon."

"Do you know me?"

"We abominate you."

"Would you like to have me in your power?"

"There are eighteen of us here who would give our heads to have yours."

"Well, then, I have come to give myself up to you."

A burst of savage laughter rang out from the top of the tower, with the
derisive cry,--

"Come!"

A deep silence of expectancy reigned in the camp.

Cimourdain continued,--

"On one condition."

"What is that?"

"Listen."

"Speak."

"You hate me?"

"Yes."

"And I love you; I am your brother."

The voice from above replied,--

"Yes--our brother Cain."

Cimourdain went on, with a peculiar inflection of voice,--soft, but
penetrating:--

"Insult me, if you will, but listen to my words. I come here protected
by a flag of truce. Poor misguided men, you are in very truth my
brothers, and I am your friend. I am the light, trying to illumine your
ignorance. Light is the essence of brotherhood. Moreover, have we not
all one common mother,--our native land? Then listen to me. Sooner or
later, you--or at least your children or grandchildren--will know that
every event of this present time is the result of the higher law, and
that this revolution is the work of God himself. But while we wait for
the time when, to the inner sense of every man, even unto yours, all
these things will be made plain, and when all fanaticisms, including
our own, will vanish before the powerful light that is to dawn, is
there none to take pity on your ignorance? Behold, I come to you, and I
offer you my head; more than this, I hold out my hand. I beg of you to
take my life and spare your own. All power is vested in me, and what I
promise I can fulfil. I make one final effort in this decisive moment.
He who speaks to you is both citizen and priest. The citizen contends
with you, but the priest implores you. I beseech you to hear me. Many
among you have wives and children. It is in their behalf that I entreat
you. Oh, my brothers--"

"Go on with your preaching!" sneered the Imânus.

Cimourdain continued:--

"My brethren, avert this fatal hour. There will be frightful slaughter
here. Many of us who stand before you will not see to-morrow's sun;
yes, many indeed will perish, and you,--you will all die. Have mercy on
yourselves. Why shed all this blood to no avail? Why kill so many men
when two would suffice?"

"Two?" asked the Imânus.

"Yes, two."

"Who are they?"

"Lantenac and myself."

Here Cimourdain raised his voice.

"We are the two men whose deaths would be most pleasing to our
respective parties. This is my offer; accept it and you are saved. Give
Lantenac to us and take me in his place; he will be guillotined, and
with me you may do what you will."

"Priest," howled the Imânus, "if we but had you, we would roast you
over a slow fire."

"So be it," said Cimourdain; and he went on:--

[Illustration 113]

"You, the condemned who are in this tower, in one hour may all be safe
and free. I offer you salvation. Will you accept?"

The Imânus burst out:--

"You are a fool as well as a villain. Why do you interfere with us? Who
invited you to come here with your speeches? You expect us to deliver
up Monseigneur, do you? What do you want to do with him?"

"I want his head, and I offer you--"

"Your skin, for we would flay you like a dog, curé; but no, your skin
is not worth his head. Begone!"

"The slaughter will be terrible. Once more I beseech you to reflect."

Night had come on during the progress of this gloomy conference,
which had been heard both within and without the tower. The Marquis
de Lantenac listened in silence, letting the affair take its course;
leaders sometimes exhibit this self-absorbed indifference, as a kind of
prerogative of responsibility.

The Imânus raised his voice above that of Cimourdain, exclaiming:--

"You men who are about to attack us, we have declared our intentions.
You have heard our offers; we shall make no change in them, and woe be
unto you if you refuse them. But if you consent, we will give you back
the three children whom we now hold, on condition that each one of us
is allowed to depart in safety."

"You may all go free, save one," replied Cimourdain.

"Who is that?"

"Lantenac."

"Monseigneur! Deliver Monseigneur! Never!"

"We must have Lantenac."

"Never!"

"We can treat with you on no other condition."

"Then you had better begin the attack."

Silence ensued.

The Imânus having given the signal on his horn, came down, the Marquis
grasped his sword, the nineteen besieged silently gathered in the lower
hall behind the _retirade_, and fell upon their knees; they heard the
measured tread of the attacking column as it advanced towards the
tower, drawing nearer and nearer in the darkness, until suddenly the
sound was close upon them, at the very mouth of the breach. Then every
man knelt and adjusted his musket or blunderbuss in an opening of
the retirade, while one of their number, Grand-Francoeur, the former
priest Turmeau, rose, and holding in his right hand a drawn sabre, and
in his left a crucifix, solemnly uttered the blessing.

"In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost!"

All fired at once, and the conflict began.


[Illustration 114]


[Illustration 115]



IX.


TITANS AGAINST GIANTS.


[Illustration 116]


It was indeed a fearful scene.

This hand-to-hand struggle surpassed all conception.

To find its parallel one must have recourse to the great duels of
Æschylus, or to the butcheries of old feudal times; to those "attacks
with short arms" that continued in vogue until the seventeenth century,
when men penetrated into fortified places by way of concealed breaches;
tragic assaults, where, says an old sergeant of the province of
Alentejo, "the mines having done their work, the besiegers will now
advance, carrying boards covered with sheets of tin, armed with round
shields and bucklers, and supplied with an abundance of grenades; and
as they force those who hold the intrenchments and _retirades_ to
give way, they will take possession of them, vigorously expelling the
besieged."

The scene of the attack was terrible; it was one of those breaches
technically termed "a covered breach," and was, it must be remembered,
not a wide breach opened to daylight, but a mere crack, traversing the
wall from side to side. The powder had worked like an auger. The effect
of the explosion had been so tremendous that the tower was cracked for
more than forty feet above the chamber of the mine; but it was only a
fissure, and the practicable rent that served as a breach and afforded
an entrance into the lower hall, had the effect of having been pierced
by the thrust of a lance rather than cleft by a blow from an axe.

It was a puncture in the side of the tower, a long, deep cut, not
unlike a well, horizontal with the ground, a narrow passage twisting
and turning like an intestine through a wall fifteen feet thick, a
shapeless cylinder, abounding in obstacles, pitfalls, and all the
débris of past explosions, where a man, blinded by the darkness and
stumbling over the rubbish beneath his feet, would surely dash his head
against the granite rock.

Before the assailants yawned this black portal, like a cavernous mouth,
whose upper and lower jaws, closely set with jagged rocks, rivalled
a shark's mouth in the number of its teeth. This cavity was the only
means of entrance or exit, and while the grape-shot was raining
within, on the other side--that is to say, in the lower hall of the
ground-floor--rose the _retirade._

The ferocity of the encounter can only be compared with the encounters
of sappers in underground passages when a counter-mine has just cut
across a mine, or with the cutlass butcheries that take place when in
a naval battle a man-of-war is boarded. Fighting in the depths of a
grave reaches the very climax of all that is dreadful. The fact that
a ceiling is overhead seems to increase the horror of human slaughter.
Just as the first of the assailants came surging in, the _retirade_ was
wrapped in a sheet of lightning, and it seemed like the bursting of a
subterranean thunder-clap, report answering report as the besiegers
returned the thunder of the ambuscade. Above the uproar rose the voice
of Gauvain, shouting, "Break them in!" then Lantenac's cry, "Stand
firm against the enemy!" then the cry of the Imânus, "Stand by me, men
of Maine!" then the clang of sabres clashing one against the other,
and terrible discharges following in swift succession, dealing death
on every hand. The torch fastened to the wall but dimly lighted this
scene of horror. A lurid glare enveloped all objects, amid which
nothing could be clearly distinguished; and those who entered were
straightway struck deaf and blind,--deafened by the uproar, blinded by
the smoke. The disabled lay here and there among the rubbish; while the
combatants trampled upon the corpses, crushing the wounds and bruising
the broken limbs of the injured men, who groaned aloud in their wild
agony, and sometimes set their teeth in the feet of those who were
torturing them. Now and then a silence more appalling than sound would
settle over all. Men seized each other by the throat, and then were
heard fierce pantings, followed by gnashings of teeth, death-rattles
and imprecations, and directly all the din returned again. A stream
of blood flowed through the breach in the tower, and spreading in the
gloom, formed a dark, smoking pool outside upon the grass.

[Illustration 117]

One might have said that the tower herself was bleeding like a wounded
giantess.

Surprising to relate, all this tumult was hardly audible on the
outside. The night was very dark, and around the besieged fortress
an almost funereal sense of peace rested on forest and plain. Hell
was within, a sepulchre without. This life-and-death struggle in the
darkness, these volleys of musketry, this clamor and fury,--all this
tumult and confusion was subdued by the massive walls and arches. There
was not air enough for reverberation, and a sense of suffocation was
added to the carnage. Outside the tower the noise was scarcely audible;
and meanwhile the three little children still slumbered.

The fury of the combat deepened; the _retirade_ held its own.

There is nothing more difficult to force than this kind of barricade,
with a re-entering angle. If the besieged were at a disadvantage in
numbers, their position was in their favor. The attacking column had
suffered serious loss of men. Formed in a long line outside the tower,
it gradually worked its way through the breach, shortening as it
disappeared, like a snake twisting itself into its hole.

Gauvain, with the rashness peculiar to a youthful leader, was in the
lower hall, in the thickest of the mêlée, with the bullets flying in
all directions. Let us add, however, that he felt all the confidence of
a man who had never been wounded.

As he turned to give an order, the flash from a volley of musketry
lighted up a face close beside him.

"Cimourdain!" he-cried, "why are you here?"

"I came to be near you," replied the man, who was indeed Cimourdain.

"But you will be killed."

"What of that? Are you not in the same danger?"

"But I am needed here, and you are not."

"Since you are here, my place is by your side."

"No, my master."

"Yes, my child."

And Cimourdain remained near Gauvain.

The dead lay in heaps on the pavement of the lower hall. Although the
_retirade_ had not as yet been carried, the majority would sooner or
later gain the day. The assailants, it is true, were not protected,
while the assailed were under cover; and ten of the besiegers fell to
one of the besieged; but the latter were constantly replaced.

In proportion as the besieged diminished the besiegers increased.

The nineteen besieged were collected behind the _retirade_, since that
was the centre of attack; and among them were their dead and wounded;
not more than fifteen of them were in fighting condition. One of the
fiercest, Chante-en-hiver, had been fright-fully mutilated. He was a
thick-set Breton, with curling hair, and short of stature, but full
of life and energy. Although his jaw was broken and one of his eyes
blown out, he could still walk, and he dragged himself up the winding
staircase into the room on the first story, hoping there to be able to
say his prayers and die.

He leaned against the wall near the loop-hole trying to get a breath of
air.

The butchery down below in front of the _retirade_ had grown more
and more horrible. Once when there was a pause between two volleys
Cimourdain raised his voice.

"Besieged," he cried, "why continue this bloodshed? You are conquered.
Surrender! Remember we are four thousand five hundred against nineteen,
which is over two hundred to one. Surrender!"

"Let us put an end to that idle babble," replied the Marquis de
Lantenac.

And twenty balls responded to Cimourdain's appeal.

The _retirade_ did not reach as high as the vaulted ceiling, thus
the besieged were enabled to fire over it; but at the same time it
presented to the besiegers an opportunity for an escalade.

"An assault on the _retirade_!" cried Gauvain. "Is there a man among
you who will volunteer to scale it?"

"I," replied Sergeant Radoub.



X.


RADOUB.


A sudden stupor fell upon the assailants. Radoub had been the sixth to
enter the breach at the head of the attacking column, and of these six
men of the Parisian battalion four had already fallen. After uttering
the exclamation "I," he was seen to draw back instead of advancing, and
bending over, in a crouching attitude, he crawled between the legs of
the combatants, until, reaching the opening of the breach, he rushed
out. Was this flight? Was it possible for such a man to flee? What
could it mean?

Having escaped from the breach, Radoub, still blinded by the smoke,
rubbed his eyes, as though to dispel the horror and gloom of the night,
and by the faint glimmer of the stars began to scrutinize the wall of
the tower. He nodded with an air of satisfaction, as much as to say,
"So I was not mistaken."

Radoub had noticed that the deep fissure caused by the explosion of
the mine extended from the breach to that loop-hole on the first story
whose iron grating had been shattered and partially torn off by a
cannon-ball, and thus hanging, the network of broken bars left just
room enough for a man to pass through,--provided he could climb up to
it; and that was the question. Possibly it might be done by following
the crack, supposing the man to be a cat; and Radoub was precisely like
a cat. He was of the race which Pindar calls "the agile athletes."
Although a man may be an old soldier, it by no means follows that he is
no longer young. Radoub, who had been in the French Guards, was not yet
forty years of age, and he was as active as Hercules.

Laying his musket on the ground, he removed his shoulder-belt, threw
off his coat and waistcoat, keeping only his two pistols, which he
stuck in the belt of his trousers, and his drawn sabre, which he held
between his teeth. The butts of his pistols projected from above his
belt.

Thus burdened by no unnecessary weight, and followed in the darkness
by the eyes of all those of the attacking column who had not as yet
entered the breach, he began the ascent, climbing the stones of the
cracked wall as though they had been the steps of a staircase. It was
an advantage to him that he wore no shoes; there is nothing like a
naked foot for clinging, and he twisted his toes into the holes between
the stones. While hoisting himself by means of his fists, he used his
knees for support. It was a hard pull, not unlike climbing up the teeth
of a saw. "Luckily," he thought to himself, "there is no one in the
room on the first story; for if there were, I should never have been
allowed to climb up in this way."

He had about forty feet to climb after this fashion, and, as he
advanced, somewhat inconvenienced by the projecting butts of his
pistols, the crack grew narrower and the ascent more and more
difficult. The increasing depth of the precipice beneath his feet added
constantly to the danger of a fall; but at last he reached the edge of
the loop-hole, and on pushing aside the twisted and broken grating he
found that he had ample room to pass through. Then raising himself by a
powerful effort, he braced his knees against the cornices of the ledge,
caught hold of a fragment of the grating on either hand, and holding
his sabre between his teeth, he drew himself up as high as his waist
in front of the embrasure of the loop-hole; there, with his entire
weight resting on his two fists, he hung suspended over the abyss.

Now, with a single bound, he had but to leap into the hall of the first
story.

Suddenly he beheld in the gloom a horrible object; a face appeared in
the embrasure, like a bleeding mask with its jaw crushed and one eye
torn out, and this one-eyed mask was gazing steadily at him.

The two hands belonging to this mask were seen to reach forth from the
darkness in the direction of Radoub; one of them instantly caught the
pistols from his belt, and the other pulled the sabre from his teeth,
and thus Radoub was disarmed.

He felt his knee slipping from the sloping cornice, the grasp of his
hands on fragments of the grating barely sufficed to support him, while
behind him yawned an abyss of forty feet.

[Illustration 118]

That mask and those hands belonged to Chante-en-hiver.

Suffocated by the smoke that rose from below, Chante-en-hiver had made
his way into the embrasure of this loop-hole, where the out-door air
had revived him, the freshness of the night had checked the bleeding of
his wounds, and he had begun to feel somewhat stronger, when suddenly
in the opening before him appeared the form of Radoub; then, while the
latter hung there, clinging with both hands to the railing, with no
choice but to drop or suffer himself to be disarmed, Chante-en-hiver,
with an awful calmness, snatched the two pistols from big belt and the
sabre from his teeth.

Whereupon ensued a duel between the unarmed and the wounded,--a duel
without a parallel.

There could be no doubt that the dying man would come off victorious;
one shot would be enough to hurl Radoub into the yawning gulf below.

Luckily for Radoub, Chante-en-hiver, in consequence of holding the two
pistols in one hand, was unable to fire either, and was forced to use
the sabre, with which he gave Radoub a thrust in the shoulder,--a blow
which wounded him and at the same time saved his life.

Although unarmed, Radoub, in full possession of his strength and
heedless of his injury, which was simply a flesh-wound, suddenly swung
himself forward, and releasing his hold on the bars, leaped into the
embrasure, where he found himself face to face with Chante-en-hiver,
who had thrown the sabre behind him, as he knelt clutching a pistol in
either hand.

As he took aim at Radoub, the muzzle of his pistol was so close as
nearly to touch him; but his enfeebled arm trembled, and a minute
passed before he could fire.

Radoub availed himself of this respite to burst out laughing.

"Look here, you hideous object!" he cried, "do you think you can
frighten me with your jaw like beef _à la mode?_ Sapristi! how they
have spoiled your face for you."

Chante-en-hiver was aiming at him.

"I suppose it is rather rude to say so," continued Radoub, "but the
grape-shot has made a pretty ragged piece of work of your head.
Bellona spoiled your beauty, my poor fellow. Come, come, spit out your
little pistol-shot, my friend."

The pistol went off, and the ball, grazing Radoub's head, tore away
half his ear. Chante-en-hiver, still grasping the second pistol, raised
his other arm, but Radoub gave him no time to take aim.

"It's quite enough to lose one ear," he cried. "You have wounded me
twice, and now my turn has come."

Throwing himself on Chante-en-hiver, he gave his arm so powerful a blow
that the pistol went off in the air; then seizing him by his wounded
jaw, he twisted it until Chante-en-hiver uttered a howl of agony and
fainted.

Radoub stepped over his prostrate form and left him lying in the
embrasure.

"Now that I have made known to you my ultimatum, don't you dare to
stir," he said. "Lie there, base reptile that you are! You may be very
sure that I shall not amuse myself at present by killing you. Crawl
at your leisure over the ground, under my feet You will have to die,
anyhow. And then you will find out what nonsense your curé has been
telling you. Away with you into the great mystery, peasant!"

And he sprang into the hall of the lower story.

"One can't see his hand before him," he grumbled.

Chante-en-hiver was convulsively writhing and moaning in his agony.
Radoub looked back.

"Silence! Will you please to keep still, citizen without knowing it? I
have nothing more to do with you; for I should scorn to put an end to
your life. Now, leave me in peace."

And as he stood watching Chante-en-hiver, he plunged his hands
restlessly into his hair.

"What am I to do? This is all very well, but here I am disarmed. I
had two shots to fire, and you have wasted them, animal that you are.
And besides, the smoke is so thick that it makes my eyes water;" and
accidentally touching his tom ear, he cried out with pain.

"You have not gained much by getting my ear," he continued; "in fact,
I would rather lose that than any other member; it's only an ornament,
any way. You have scratched my shoulder, too, but that's of no
consequence. You may die in peace, rustic; I forgive you."

He listened. The noise in the lower hall was frightful. The fight was
raging more wildly than ever.

"Things are progressing downstairs. Hear them yelling 'Long live the
King!' It must be acknowledged that they die nobly."

He stumbled over his sabre that lay on the floor, and as he picked it
up, he said to Chante-en-hiver, who had ceased to moan, and who might
very possibly be dead:--

"You see, man of the woods, my sabre is not of the slightest use for
what I intended to do. However, I take it as a keepsake from you. But I
needed my pistols. Devil take you, savage! What am I to do here? I am
of no use at all."

As he advanced into the hall, tiding to see where he was and to get
his bearings, he suddenly discovered in the shadow behind the central
pillar a long table, and upon this table something faintly gleaming. He
felt of the objects. They were muskets, pistols, and carbines, a whole
row of fire-arms arranged in order and apparently only waiting for
hands to seize them. This was the reserve prepared by the besieged for
the second stage of the assault; indeed, it was a complete arsenal.

"This is a treasure indeed!" exclaimed Radoub; and half dazed with joy
he flung himself upon them.

[Illustration 119]

Then it was that he became formidable.

Near the table covered with fire-arms could be seen the wide-open door
of the staircase leading to the upper and lower stories. Radoub dropped
his sabre, seized a double-barrelled pistol in each hand, and instantly
fired at random through the door leading to the spiral staircase; then
he grasped a blunderbuss, firing that also, and directly afterwards a
gun loaded with buckshot, whose fifteen balls made as much noise as a
volley of grape-shot. After which, pausing to take breath, he shouted
in thundering tones down the staircase, "Long live Paris!"

Seizing another blunderbuss bigger than the first he aimed it towards
the vault of the winding staircase and paused again.

The uproar that ensued in the lower hall baffles description.
Resistance is shattered by such unlooked for surprises.

Two of the balls of Radoub's triple discharge had taken effect, killing
the older of the brothers Pique-en-bois and Houzard, who was M. de
Quélen.

"They are upstairs," cried the Marquis.

At this exclamation; the men determined to abandon the _retirade_ and
no flock of birds could have surpassed the rapidity of their flight, as
they rushed pell-mell towards the staircase, the Marquis urging them
onward.

"Make haste!" he cried; "now we must show our courage by flight. Let us
all go up to the second floor and there begin anew!"

He himself was the last man to leave the _retirade_, and to this act of
bravery he owed his life.

Radoub, with his finger on the trigger, was concealed on the first
landing of the staircase, watching the rout. The first men who appeared
at the turn of the staircase received the discharge full in their faces
and fell, and if the Marquis had been among them he would have been a
dead man. Before Radoub had time to seize another weapon they had all
passed, and the Marquis, moving more deliberately than the others,
brought up the rear. Supposing as they did that the room on the first
story was filled with the besiegers, they never paused until they
reached the mirror room on the second story,--the room with the iron
door and the sulphur match, where they must either capitulate or die.

Gauvain, quite as much surprised as any one of the besieged at the
sound of the shots from the staircase, and having no idea of the source
of this unexpected assistance, but availing himself of it without
trying to understand, had leaped over the _retirade_, followed by his
men, and, sword in hand, had driven the fugitives to the first story.
There he found Radoub, who, with a military salute, said to him,--

"One moment, commander. It was I who did that. I had not forgotten Dol,
so I followed your example, and took the enemy between two fires."

"You are a clever scholar," replied Gauvain with a smile.

One's eyes, like those of night birds, grow accustomed to a dim light
after a certain time, and Gauvain discovered that Radoub was covered
with blood.

"But you are wounded, comrade!"

"Oh, that is nothing, commander. What is an ear more or less? I got
a sabre-thrust, too, but I don't mind it. When one breaks a pane of
glass, of course one gets a few cuts; it is only a question of a little
blood."

In the room in the first story conquered by Radoub the men halted. A
lantern was brought, and Cimourdain rejoined Gauvain; whereupon they
both took counsel together, and well they might. The besiegers were
not in the confidence of the besieged; they had no means of knowing
their scarcity of ammunition nor their want of powder; the second story
was their very last intrenchment, and the assailants thought it not
unlikely that the staircase might be mined.

One thing was certain,--the enemy could not escape. Those who were not
killed, were like men locked in a prison. Lantenac was caught in the
trap.

Resting upon this assurance, they felt that it would be well to devote
a short time to considering the matter of bringing the affair to a
crisis. Many of their men had already been killed. They must take
measures to prevent too great a loss of life in the final assault.

There would be serious danger in this last attack. At the first onset
they would no doubt find themselves exposed to a heavy fire.

Hostilities had ceased. The besiegers in possession of the ground-floor
and the first story waited for orders from their chief to renew the
fight. While Gauvain and Cimourdain held counsel together, Radoub
listened in silence to their deliberations.

At last he timidly ventured another military salute.

"Commander!"

"What is it, Radoub?"

"Have I earned a small reward?"

"Certainly. Ask what you will."

"Then I ask to be the first one to go up."

It was impossible to refuse him; besides, he would have gone without
permission.



XI.


THE DESPERATE.


While these deliberations were in progress on the first floor, a
barricade was going up overhead. If success inspires fury, defeat fills
men with rage. The two stories were about to clash in wild frenzy.
There is a sense of intoxication in the assurance of victory. The
assailants below were buoyed up by hope, that most powerful incentive
to human effort when it is not counteracted by despair. All the
despair was above,--calm, cold, and gloomy despair. When they reached
this hall of refuge, their last resource, they proceeded first of
all to bar the entrance, and in order to accomplish this object they
decided that the blockading of the staircase would be more effectual
than barring the door. Under such circumstances an obstacle through
which one can both see what is going on and fight at the same time is a
better defence than a closed door.

All the light they had, came from the torch which Imânus had stuck in
the holder on the wall near the sulphur match.

One of those great heavy oaken chests such as formerly served the
purpose of holding clothing and linen, before the invention of chests
of drawers, stood in the hall, and this trunk they dragged out, and set
up on end in the doorway of the staircase.

It fitted so closely into the space that it blocked up the entrance,
leaving just room enough for the passage of a single man, thus
affording them an excellent chance to kill their assailants one by one.
It seemed somewhat doubtful whether any of them would attempt to enter.

Meanwhile, the obstructed entrance gave them a respite, during which
they counted the men.

Of the original nineteen, but seven remained, including the Imânus; and
he and the Marquis were the only ones who had not been wounded.

The five wounded men, who were still active,--for in the excitement of
battle no man would succumb to anything less than a mortal wound,---
were Chatenay, called Robi, Guinoiseau, Hoisnard, Branche-d'Or,
Brin-d'Amour, and Grand-Francoeur. All the others were dead.

Their ammunition was exhausted, and their cartridge-boxes were empty.
On counting the cartridges, they found that there were just four rounds
apiece among the seven men.

Death was now their only resource. Behind them yawned the dreadful
precipice. They could hardly have been nearer to the edge.

Meanwhile, the attack had just begun again,--slowly, it is true, but
none the less determined. As the assailants advanced, they could hear
the butt-end of their muskets strike on each stair by way of testing
its security.

All means of escape were cut off. By way of the library? Six guns stood
on the plateau, with matches lighted. Through the rooms overhead? To
what avail? Opening on to the platform as they did, they simply offered
an opportunity to hurl themselves from the summit of the tower into the
depths below.

And now the seven survivors of this epic band realized the hopelessness
of their position; within that solid wall, which, though protecting for
the moment, would in the end betray, they were practically prisoners,
although not as yet really captured.

The voice of the Marquis broke the silence.

"My friends, all is over," he said.

Then, after a pause, he added,--

"Grand-Francoeur will for the time being resume the duties of the Abbé
Turmeau."

All knelt, rosary in hand. The sounds of the butt-ends of the
besiegers' guns came nearer and nearer.

Grand-Francoeur, bleeding from a gunshot wound which had grazed his
skull and torn away his hairy leathern cap, raised a crucifix in his
right hand; the Marquis, a thorough sceptic, knelt on one knee.

"Let each one confess his sins aloud. Speak, Monseigneur."

And the Marquis replied, "I have killed my fellow-men."

"And I the same," said Hoisnard.

"And I," said Guinoiseau.

"And I," said Brin-d'Amour.

"And I," said Chatenay.

"And I," said the Imânus.

Then Grand-Francoeur repeated: "In the name of the Most Holy Trinity I
absolve you. May your souls depart in peace."

"Amen!" replied all the voices.

The Marquis rose.

"Now let us die," he said.

"And kill, as well," said the Imânus.

The blows from the butt-ends of the muskets already shook the chest
that stood within the door, barring the entrance.

"Turn your thoughts to God," said the priest; "earth no longer exists
for you."

"Yes," rejoined the Marquis, "we are in the tomb."

All bowed their heads and smote their breasts. The priest and the
Marquis alone remained standing. All eyes were fixed on the ground,--the
priest and the peasants absorbed in prayer, the Marquis buried in his
own thoughts. The chest, under the hammer-like strokes of the guns,
sent forth its dismal reverberations.

At that moment a powerful, resonant voice suddenly rang out behind
them, exclaiming,--

"I told you so, Monseigneur!"

All the heads turned in amazement.

A hole had just opened in the wall.

A stone, fitting perfectly with the others, but left without cement
and provided with a pivot above and below, had revolved on itself like
a turnstile, and, as it turned, had opened the wall. In revolving on
its axis it opened a double passage to the right and left,--narrow,
it is true, yet wide enough to allow a man to pass; and through this
unexpected door could be seen the first steps of a spiral staircase. A
man's face appeared in the opening, and the Marquis recognized Halmalo.


[Illustration 120]



XII.


THE DELIVERER.


"Is that you, Halmalo?"

"It is I, Monseigneur. You see I was right about the turning stones,
and that there is a way of escape. I have come just in time. But you
must make haste; ten minutes more, and you will be in the heart of the
forest."

"God is great!" said the priest.

"Save yourself, Monseigneur!" cried the men.

"Not until I have seen every one of you in safety," said the Marquis.

"But you must lead the way, Monseigneur," said the Abbé Turmeau.

"Not so," replied the Marquis; "I shall be the last man to leave."

And in a severe tone he continued:--

"Let there be no strife in this matter of generosity. We have no time
for a display of magnanimity; your only chance for life is in escape.
You hear my commands: make haste now, and take advantage of this
outlet,--for which I thank you, Halmalo."

"Are we, then, to separate, Monsieur le Marquis?" asked the Abbé
Turmeau.

"Certainly, after we have left the tower; otherwise, there would be
small chance for escape."

"Will Monseigneur appoint some place of rendez-vous?"

"Yes; a glade in the forest,--the Pierre-Gauvaine. Do you know the
spot?"

"We all know it."

"All those who are able to walk will find me there to-morrow at
noonday."

"Every man will be on the spot."

"And then we will begin the war over again," said the Marquis.

Meanwhile Halmalo, bringing all his strength to bear on the turning
stone, found that it would not stir, and therefore the opening could
not be closed.

"Let us make haste, Monseigneur," he cried; "the stone will not move. I
managed to open the passage, but now I cannot close it."

In fact, the stone, from a long disuse, had stiffened, so to speak, in
its groove, and it was impossible to start it again.

"Monseigneur," said Halmalo, "I hoped to close the passage, so that
when the Blues came in and found no one here they would not know what
to make of it, and might imagine that you had all vanished in smoke.
But the stone is not to be moved, and the enemy will find the outlet
and probably pursue us; so let us lose not a minute, but reach the
staircase as quickly as we can."

The Imânus laid his hand on Halmalo's shoulder.

"Comrade," he said, "how long will it take to go through this passage
and reach the woods in safety?"

"Are any of the men seriously wounded?" asked Halmalo.

"None," they answered.

"In that case, a quarter of an hour will be sufficient."

"So if the enemy does not get in here for a quarter of an hour--"
rejoined the Imânus.

"He might pursue, but he could not overtake us."

"But they will be upon us in five minutes," said the Marquis; "that old
chest cannot keep them out much longer. A few blows from their muskets
will settle the affair. A quarter of an hour! Who could hold them at
bay for a quarter of an hour?"

"I," said the Imânus.

"You, Gouge-le-Bruant?"

"Yes, I, Monseigneur. Listen. Out of six men five of us are wounded. I
have not even a scratch."

"Nor I either," said the Marquis.

"Yes, but you are the chief, Monseigneur. I am a soldier. The chief and
the soldier are two different persons."

"Our duties are not alike, it is true."

"Monseigneur, at this moment we have but one duty between us, and that
is to save your life."

The Imânus turned to his companions.

"Comrades," he said, "we must hold the enemy in check and delay pursuit
until the last moment. Listen. I have not lost a drop of blood; not
having been wounded, I am as strong as ever, and can hold out longer
than any of the others. Go now, but leave me your weapons, and I
promise to make good use of them. I will undertake to keep the enemy at
bay a good half-hour. How many loaded pistols are there?"

"Four."

"Put them down on the floor."

They did as he required.

"That is well. I remain here, and they will find some one to entertain
them. Now, get away as fast as you can."

In moments of imminent peril gratitude finds but brief expression.
Hardly had they time to press his hand.

"We shall soon meet again," said the Marquis.

"I hope not, Monseigneur,--not quite at once, for I am about to die."

One by one they made their way down the narrow staircase, the wounded
in advance; and as they went, the Marquis drew a pencil from his
note-book and wrote a few words on the stone that, refusing to turn,
had thus left an open passage-way.

"Come, Monseigneur, you are the only one left," said Halmalo, as he
went down.

The Marquis followed him, and Imânus remained alone.



XIII.


THE EXECUTIONER.


Upon the flagstones which formed the only floor of the hall the four
pistols had been placed, and the Imânus, taking two of them, one in
each hand, advanced stealthily towards the entrance of the staircase,
obstructed and concealed by the chest.

The assailants evidently suspected a snare. They might be on the verge
of one of those decisive explosions that overwhelm both conquerer and
conquered in one common ruin. In proportion as the first attack had
been impetuous, the last was cautious and deliberate. They could not,
or perhaps did not care to batter down the chest by main force; they
had destroyed the bottom of it with the butts of their muskets and
pierced its lid with their bayonets; and now through these holes they
attempted to see the interior of the hall before venturing within it.

The glimmer of the lanterns, by means of which the staircase was
lighted, fell through these chinks, and the Imânus, catching sight of
an eye peering through one of them, instantly adjusted the barrel
of his pistol to the spot and pulled the trigger. No sooner had he
fired than to his great joy he heard a terrible cry. The ball passed
through the head by way of the eye, and the soldier, interrupted in his
gazing, fell backward down the staircase. The assailants had broken
open the lower part of the lid in two places, forming something not
unlike loop-holes; and the Imânus, availing himself of one of these
apertures, thrust his arm in it and fired his second pistol at random
among the mass of the besiegers. The ball probably rebounded, for
several cries were heard, as though three or four had been killed or
wounded, and a great tumult ensued as the men, losing their footing,
fell back in confusion. The Imânus threw down the two pistols which he
had discharged, and caught up the remaining ones; grasping one in each
hand, he peered through the holes in the chest and beheld the result of
his first assault.

The besiegers had retreated down the stairs and the dying lay writhing
in agony upon the steps; the form of the spiral staircase prevented him
from seeing beyond three or four steps.

He paused.

"So much time gained," he thought to himself.

Meanwhile, he saw a man crawling up the steps flat on his stomach,
and just at that moment, a little farther down, the head of a soldier
emerged from behind the central pillar of the winding stairs. The
Imânus aimed at this head and fired. The soldier fell back with a cry,
and as the Imânus was transferring his last pistol from his left hand
into his right, he himself felt a horrible pain, and in his turn
uttered a yell of agony. Some tone had thrust a sabre into his vitals,
and it was the very man whom he had seen crawling along the stair,
whose hand, entering the other hole in the bottom of the chest, had
plunged a sabre into the body of the Imânus.

The wound was frightful. The abdomen was pierced through and through.

The Imânus did not fall. He ground his teeth as he muttered, "That is
good!"

Then, tottering, and with great effort, he dragged himself back to the
torch still burning near the iron door; this he seized, after putting
down his pistol, and then, supporting with his left hand the protruding
intestines, with his right he lowered the torch until it touched the
sulphur-match, which caught fire, and the wick blazed up in an instant.

Dropping the still burning torch upon the ground, he grasped his
pistol, and although he had fallen on the flags, he lifted himself
and used the scanty breath that was left him to fan the flame, which,
starting, ran along until it passed under the iron door and reached the
bridge-castle.

When he beheld the triumph of his villanous scheme, taking to himself
more credit for this crime than for his self-sacrifice, the man who had
acted the part of a hero and who now degraded himself to the level of
an assassin smiled as he was about to die, and muttered:--

"They will remember me. I take vengeance on their little ones, in
behalf of our own little king shut up in the Temple."


[Illustration 121]



XIV.


THE IMÂNUS ALSO ESCAPES.


[Illustration 122]


At that moment a loud voice was heard, and the chest, violently hurled
aside, was shattered into fragments,--giving passage to a man, who,
sabre in hand, rushed into the hall.

"It is I, Radoub!" he cried. "Who wants to fight me? I am bored to
death with waiting, and I must run the risk. I don't care what happens;
at all events, I have disembowelled one of you, and now I come to
attack you all. Follow me or not, as you like; but here I am. How many
are you?"

It was indeed Radoub himself, and he alone. After the slaughter that
the Imânus had made on the staircase, Gauvain, suspecting some hidden
mine, had withdrawn his men and was taking counsel with Cimourdain.

Amid the darkness, where the expiring torch cast but a feeble glimmer,
Radoub, sabre in hand, stood on the threshold and repeated his
question,--

"I am alone. How many are you?"

Receiving no reply, he advanced. Just then one of those sudden flashes,
emitted from time to time by a dying fire,--a kind of throbbing light,
which might be compared with a human sob,--burst from the torch and
illuminated the entire hall.

Radoub caught sight of one of the little mirrors hung on the wall, and
approaching it, inspected his bloody face and lacerated ear, saying as
he did so,--

"What a horrible mutilation!"

Then he turned, surprised to see the hall empty, and cried,--

"No one here! not a soul!"

His eyes lighted on the revolving stone, the passage, and the staircase.

"Ah, I understand! they have taken to their heels! Come on, comrades!
come on! They have all run away; they have gone, evaporated, dissolved,
vanished. There was a crack in this old jug of a tower; there is the
hole through which they got out, the rascals! How are we ever to get
the better of Pitt and Coburg, when men play tricks like these? The
Devil himself must have come to their aid. There is no one here!"

A pistol-shot was fired, and a ball, grazing his elbow, flattened
itself against the wall.

"Ah! some one is here, then! To whom do I owe this delicate attention?"

"To me," replied a voice.

Radoub, peering through the shadows, at last descried the form of
Imânus.

"Aha!" he cried, "I have got one of you! The others have escaped, but
you will not get off."

"Is that your opinion?" replied the Imânus. Radoub made one step
forward and paused.

"Hey I who are you, lying on the ground there?"

"I am a man on the ground, who laughs at those who are on the feet."

"What is that in your right hand?"

"A pistol."

"And in your left hand?"

"My intestines."

"I take you prisoner."

"I defy you to do it."

And the Imânus, stooping over the burning wick, blew feebly upon its
flame, and with that breath expired.

A few moments later, Gauvain and Cimourdain, followed by the others,
entered the hall. They all saw the opening, and after searching every
corner and exploring the staircase which led down into the ravine, they
felt very sure that the enemy had escaped. They shook the Imânus, but
he was dead. Gauvain, with lantern in hand, examined the stone which
had furnished the fugitives with a means of escape. He had heard of
this revolving stone, but he too had always regarded it as a fable.
While he was examining the stone he noticed certain words written with
a pencil; and holding the lantern nearer, he read as follows:--

      "Au revoir, Monsieur le Vicomte.

      "LANTENAC."

Guéchamp had joined Gauvain. Pursuit was manifestly out of the
question; the escape had been successful; everything was in favor of
the fugitives,--the entire country, the underbrush, the ravines, the
copses, and even the inhabitants themselves. No doubt they were far
enough away by this time; there was no possibility of finding them,
and the entire forest of Fougères was one vast hiding-place. What was
to be done? They saw themselves forced to begin the whole affair over
again. Gauvain and Guéchamp exchanged their regrets and conjectures.

Cimourdain listened gravely without uttering a word.

"By the way, Guéchamp, how was it about the ladder?"

"It has not come, commander."

"But we saw a wagon with an escort of gendarmes."

"It was not bringing the ladder," replied Guéchamp.

"What, then, was it bringing?"

"The guillotine," said Cimourdain.



XV.


NEVER PUT A WATCH AND KEY IN THE SAME POCKET.


The Marquis de Lantenac was not so far away as they supposed, although
he was in perfect safety, and beyond their reach.

He had followed Halmalo.

The staircase by which they had descended, following the other
fugitives, ended in a narrow passage quite near the ravine and the
arches of the bridge. This passage led into a deep natural fissure
in the ground which formed a connecting link between the ravine and
the forest. In this fissure, twisting and turning as it did through
impenetrable thickets and utterly hidden from the human eye, no man
could ever have been captured; he had but to follow the example of a
snake, and his safety was assured. The entrance to this secret passage
was so overgrown with brambles, that its constructors had deemed it
unnecessary to provide it with any other screen.

The Marquis had now no further need even to consider the matter of
disguise. Since his arrival in Brittany he had continued to wear the
peasant dress, feeling himself to be more truly a grand seigneur when
thus attired. He had contented himself with taking off his sword,
unfastening and throwing aside the belt.

When Halmalo and the Marquis emerged from the passage into the fissure,
nothing was to be seen of the five others,--Guinoiseau, Hoisnard
Branche-d'Or, Brin d'Amour, Chatenay, and the Abbé Turmeau.

"They have lost no time," said Halmalo.

"Follow their example," replied the Marquis.

"Does Monseigneur wish me to leave him?"

"Of course; I have told you so already. A man who is trying to escape
must remain alone if he would insure success; one man can often pass
where two would find it impossible. Were we together, we should attract
attention and imperil each other."

"Does Monseigneur know the neighborhood?"

"Yes."

"And the rendez-vous is still to be the same,--at the Pierre-Gauvaine?"

"To-morrow at noon."

"I will be there. We shall all be there."

Halmalo paused.

"Ah, Monseigneur, when I remember the time we were alone together on
the open sea, when I wanted to kill you, you who were my lord and
master and might have told me, but did not! What a man you are!"

The sole reply of the Marquis was, "England is our only resource. In
fifteen days the English must be in France."

"I have a great many things to tell Monseigneur. I have given all his
messages."

"We will attend to all that to-morrow."

"Farewell till then, Monseigneur."

"By the way, are you hungry?"

"Perhaps I am, Monseigneur. I was in such a hurry to get here, that I
have forgotten whether I had anything to eat to-day or not."

The Marquis drew from his pocket a cake of chocolate, broke it in two,
and giving one half to Halmalo, he began to eat the other himself.

"Monseigneur," said Halmalo, "you will find the ravine on your right,
and the forest on your left."

"Very well. Leave me now. Go your own way."

Halmalo obeyed, and was at once lost in the darkness. At first there
was a rustling of the underbrush soon followed by silence, and in a
few moments every trace of his passage had disappeared. This land of
the Bocage, bristling with forests and labyrinths, was the fugitives'
best ally. Men vanished before one's very eyes. It was this facility
for rapid disappearance that made our armies pause before this
ever-retreating Vendée, and rendered its combatants so formidable in
their flight.

[Illustration 123]

The Marquis stood motionless. Although he was a man who kept his
feelings under perfect control, he was not insensible to the joy of
breathing the fresh air, after having lived so long in an atmosphere of
blood and carnage. To be rescued at a moment when all seemed utterly
lost, to find one's self in safety after gazing into one's own grave,
to be snatched from death to life, is a severe shock even for such a
man as Lantenac; and although this was by no means his only experience
of the kind, he could not at once subdue his agitation. For a moment he
admitted to himself his own satisfaction, but straightway suppressed an
emotion that was akin to joy.

Drawing out his watch he struck the hour. He wondered what time it
might be, and to his great surprise discovered that it was but ten
o'clock.

When one has just passed through some terrible crisis wherein life and
death have hung in the balance it is always astonishing to discover
that those minutes so crowded with action were no longer than any
others. The warning cannon had been fired shortly before sunset, and
half an hour later, just at dusk, between seven and eight o'clock, the
assault on the Tourgue began; hence this tremendous combat beginning at
eight and ending at ten, this epic, as one might call it, had consumed
just one hundred and twenty minutes. Catastrophes often descend like
a flash of lightning, and events are marvellously fore-shortened, and
when one pauses to reflect, it would be surprising were it otherwise;
two hours' resistance offered by so small a band against a force
vastly superior to itself was extraordinary, and this struggle of
nineteen against four thousand could not be called a brief one.

But it was time to go. Halmalo must by this time be far away, and the
Marquis felt that prudence no longer required him to remain there. He
put his watch back into his waistcoat pocket, but not into the one
from which he had taken it, for he noticed that in that one it came in
contact with the key of the iron door which the Imânus had brought him,
and there was danger of breaking the crystal. Just as he was on the
point of taking the left-hand turning towards the forest, he fancied he
saw a feint ray of light.

He turned, and through the underbrush which all at once stood out
against a red background, thus revealing its minutest details with
absolute distinctness, he beheld a bright glare along the ravine very
near the spot where he was standing. At first, he turned in that
direction, then changed his mind as the folly of exposing himself to
that light occurred to him; whatever it might be, it was really no
affair of his in any event. Once more he started to follow Halmalo's
directions, and advanced several steps towards the forest.

All at once, buried and hidden by the brambles as he was, he heard
above his head a terrible cry; it seemed to come from the very edge of
the plateau, above the ravine. The Marquis raised his eyes and paused.


[Illustration: In Dæmone Deus. 124]



BOOK V.

IN DÆMONE DEUS.



I.


FOUND, BUT LOST.


[Illustration 125]


When Michelle Fléchard first perceived the tower reddened by the rays
of the setting sun, it was more than a league away; and this woman,
nothing daunted by the distance, though scarcely able to put one foot
before the other, kept bravely on her way. Women may be weak, but
mothers are strong.

The sun had set: twilight came on, followed by the darkness of night;
as she walked along, far away in the distance, from some invisible
belfry, probably that of Parigné, she heard the clock strike eight,
then nine. From time to time she paused to listen to something that
sounded like heavy blows; but it might have been only the uncertain
noises peculiar to the night.

She walked straight onward, crushing the furze and prickly heather
beneath her bleeding feet. She was guided by a faint light issuing from
the distant keep, which bathed the tower in a mysterious glow while it
defined its outlines against the surrounding gloom. This light changed
in measure as the sounds grew loud or faint.

The vast plateau across which Michelle Fléchard made her way was
completely covered with grass and heather; neither house nor tree was
to be seen. Its rise was almost imperceptible, and as far as the eye
could reach, its long line was clearly defined against the dark horizon
dotted with stars. She was supported, as she climbed, by the sight
of the tower constantly before her eyes, and as she drew nearer, it
gradually increased in size.

As we have just remarked, the muffled reports and the pallid gleams of
light that issued from the tower were intermittent; dying away and then
returning as they did, it seemed to the wretched mother in her distress
like some agonizing enigma.

Suddenly they ceased, and with the sound, the light too died away;
there was a moment of absolute silence, an appalling tranquillity, and
then it was that Michelle Fléchard reached the edge of the plateau.

She saw beneath her feet a ravine, whose depths were hidden by the
dim shadows of night; at a short distance, on the top of the plateau,
the confused mass of wheels, slopes; and embrasures which formed the
battery; and before her, indistinctly lighted by the burning matches of
the guns, an enormous edifice that seemed built of shadows blacker than
those that surrounded it.

This building consisted of a bridge, whose arches rested in the ravine,
together with a kind of castle erected on the bridge, both castle and
bridge supported by a round and lofty mass of masonry; this was the
tower which had been that mother's distant goal. One could see the
lights moving to and fro behind the loop-holes of the tower, and it was
evident, from the noise issuing therefrom, that it was crowded with
men, whose shadows were projected even as high as platform.

Michelle Fléchard could distinguish the vedettes of the camp near the
battery, but the darkness and the underbrush concealed her from their
view.

She had reached the edge of the plateau, and was so close to the bridge
that it seemed as if she could almost touch it with her hand. The deep
ravine alone separated her from it. She could distinguish even in the
darkness the three stories of the bridge-castle.

She knew not how long she had been standing there, having lost all
consciousness of time, absorbed in a silent contemplation of that
yawning chasm and the gloomy building. What was it that was going
on within. Was this the Tourgue? She felt that restless sense of
expectation peculiar to travellers who have either just arrived or are
on the eve of departure. As she stood listening and gazing around, she
tried to think why she was there. Suddenly all objects vanished before
her eyes.

A veil of smoke had suddenly obscured the object she was watching. A
sharp pain forced her to close her eyes; but she had no sooner done so,
than a light flashed upon them so intensely brilliant that her eyelids
seemed transparent, and when she opened them again, the night had
changed into day, but the light of that day, dreadful to look upon, was
born of fire. What she saw was the outburst of a conflagration.

The smoke had changed from black to scarlet, from which at times a
mighty flame leaped forth, with those fierce contortions peculiar to
the lightning and the serpent. It darted forth like a tongue from some
monstrous jaw; but it was really a window filled with fire, whose
iron bars were already red hot,--a casement in the lower story of the
bridge-castle, and the only part of the entire building that could now
be seen. Even the plateau was shrouded in the smoke, and the edge of
the ravine alone could be distinguished against the crimson flames.

Michelle Fléchard looked on in amazement. Smoke is a cloud; dreams come
from the clouds; hardly realizing what she saw, she knew not what to
do. Should she stay, or try to make her escape? She almost felt herself
transported beyond the actual world.

There came a gust of wind, that rent the curtain of smoke and revealed
through this gap the tragic Bastile, in all its grandeur, with its
keep, its bridge, and its castle, dazzling and terrible, magnificently
gilded by the light of the flames which were reflected upon it from
summit to base. Michelle Fléchard could see everything by the awful
glare of the flames.

Only the lower story of the bridge-castle was as yet burning.

Above it could be seen the two other stories, still intact, though
resting as it were upon a bed of flames. From the edge of the plateau
where she stood, through the smoke and fire, Michelle Fléchard caught
an occasional glimpse of the interior. All the windows were open.
Through those of the second story, which were very large, she could
see cases along the walls, which seemed to her to be filled with books;
and in front of one of the windows, lying on the floor in the shadow,
she noticed a little group whose outline had no definite form; it lay
in a heap, like a nest or brood of young birds, and from time to time
she thought she saw it stir.

She watched it.

What could this little group of shadows be?

Sometimes she fancied it was composed of living forms. She was feverish
and exhausted, for she had not eaten a mouthful since morning, had
walked incessantly, and she felt as if she were the victim of some sort
of hallucination which she instinctively mistrusted. But her eyes were
now riveted upon this dark group of objects, whatsoever they might be;
doubtless it was something inanimate lying there upon the floor in the
hall directly over the conflagration.

Suddenly, as though inspired by a will of its own, the fire flung forth
a jet of flame upon the dead ivy that mantled the very wall on which
Michelle Fléchard stood gazing. It was as if it had just discovered
this network of withered branches; a spark greedily seized upon it, and
the fire began to rise from twig to twig with the frightful rapidity of
a powder-train. In the twinkling of an eye the flame reached the second
story, and from thence a light was thrown into the one below. A vivid
glare brought into instantaneous relief three little sleeping children.

It was a charming group, their little legs and arms intertwined, their
eyelids closed, their faces sweetly smiling.

The mother knew her children.

She uttered a terrible cry.

That cry of inexpressible anguish is given only to mothers. No sound
can be more savage and yet pathetic. Uttered by a woman, it is like the
cry of a she-wolf; and when one hears it from a wolf it might well come
from a woman.

This cry of Michelle Fléchard was a howl. Hecuba howled, Homer tells us.

And this was the cry just heard by the Marquis de Lantenac.

We saw him pause to listen.

He was between the outlet of the passage through which Halmalo had
guided him in his escape, and the ravine. Through the tangled wildwood
about him he saw the burning bridge, and the Tourgue reddened by
the reflection; he pushed aside the branches, and discovered on the
opposite side, above his head, on the edge of the plateau, in front of
the burning castle, and in the full light of the conflagration, the
haggard and woful face of a woman bending over the ravine.

This face was no longer the face of Michelle Fléchard; it was a Medusa.
There is something formidable in intense agony. This peasant woman had
changed into one of the Eumenides. The unknown rustic, low, ignorant,
stupid, had suddenly taken on the epic proportions of despair. Great
sorrows expand the soul to gigantic proportions. This mother was the
embodiment of maternity. A summary of humanity rises to the superhuman;
she stood towering above the edge of the ravine, within sight of the
conflagration, in presence of that crime like a power from beyond
the grave. Moaning like a wild beast, she stood in the attitude of
a goddess, with a countenance like a flaming mask, hurling forth
imprecations. Nothing could have been more imperious than the lightning
that flashed from those eyes drowned in tears; her look was like a
thunderbolt hurled against the conflagration.

The Marquis listened. These reproaches fell upon his head; he heard her
inarticulate, heart-rending cries, more like sobs than words:--

"My children, oh, my Lord! They are my children! Help! Fire! Fire!
Fire! You must be brigands! Is there no one here? But my children will
be burned to death! Such doings! Georgette! My children! Gros-Alain!
René-Jean! What can this mean? Who put my children there? They are
sleeping. I am mad! Oh, this is impossible! Help!"

Meanwhile, a great commotion was going on in the Tourgue and on
the plateau. The whole camp had rushed to the fire, which had just
broken out. The besiegers, after encountering the grape-shot, had
now to struggle against the fire. Gauvain, Cimourdain, and Guéchamp
were giving orders. What could be done? A few buckets of water might
possibly be drawn from the slender stream in the ravine. The edge of
the plateau was covered with terrified faces, gazing at the sight with
ever-increasing distress; and it was an awful scene.

[Illustration 126]

There they stood looking on, but none could lend a helping hand.

By way of the ivy the flames had risen to the upper story, and finding
there a granary filled with straw had rushed upon it; and that entire
granary was now on fire, the flames merrily dancing. A dreadful sight
is the glee of a fire! It was like the breath of fiends fanning a
funereal pile. One could fancy that the terrible Imânus was in person
there, metamorphosed into a whirlwind of sparks, living in this cruel
life of flame, and that his horrible soul had been transformed into a
conflagration. The flames had not yet reached the library story; its
lofty ceiling and massive walls had retarded the fatal moment that was
now drawing near. The flames, like tongues of fire, darted upward from
the story below; while the flames from above touched the stones, as if
carressing them with the dread kiss of death. Beneath it lay a cave
of lava, above an arch of fiery coals. Were the floor to cave in, all
would be precipitated into a bed of red-hot ashes; were the ceiling to
give way, they would be buried beneath the glowing coals. René-Jean,
Gros-Alain, and Georgette had not yet waked; they were sleeping the
sound and innocent sleep of childhood; and through the sheets of flame
and smoke which now hid, now revealed the windows, they could be seen
in this fiery grotto against a background of meteoric light, calm,
graceful, and motionless, like three heavenly cherubs confidingly
slumbering in hell. A tiger might have wept to see such blossoms in
that furnace,--their cradles in the grave.

[Illustration 127]

Meanwhile the mother wrung her hands:--

"Fire! Fire! I am crying fire! Are they all deaf, that no one comes?
They arc burning up my children! Come, you men over yonder! To think
of the days and days I have walked, and to find them like this! Fire!
Help! They are angels, nothing short of angels! What have those
innocents done? They shot me, and now they are burning them! Who does
such things as these? Help! Save my children! Don't you hear me? If I
were a dog, you would have pity on me! My children! They are asleep!
Ah, Georgette, I see her dear little body! René-Jean! Gros-Alain!
Those are their names. You can see well enough that I am their mother.
Such abominable doings go on in these days! I have walked for days and
nights. Why, I talked about them this very morning to a woman. Help!
Help! Fire! They must be monsters! This is horrible! The oldest one
is not five years old and the baby not two. I can see their little
naked legs. They are asleep. Holy Virgin! Heaven gives them to me and
Hell snatches them back again. Just think how far I have walked! The
children that I fed with my milk,--I who felt so wretched because I
couldn't find them! Have pity on me! I want my children; I must have
them! And to think of them there in the fire! See my poor bleeding
feet. Help! It cannot be that there are men on earth who would let
those poor little creatures die like that! Help! Murder! Who ever saw
the like? Ah, the brigands! What is that dreadful house? They stole
them from me to murder them. Merciful Jesus! I want my children. Oh, I
don't know what to do! They must not die! Help! Help! Help! Oh, I shall
curse Heaven if they die like that!"

Simultaneously with the mother's entreaty other voices rang out on the
plateau and the ravine.

"A ladder!"

"There is none."

"Water!"

"None to be had!"

"Up in the tower there, in the second story, there is a door."

"It is iron."

"Break it in!"

"Impossible."

Here the mother redoubled her desperate appeals.

"Fire! Help! Make haste, or kill me at once! My children! My children!
Oh, that terrible fire! Throw me into the fire, but save their lives!"

In the intervals between her cries could be heard the constant
crackling of the flames.

The Marquis felt in his pocket and his hand met the key to the iron
door. Then stooping below the arch, through which he had just escaped,
he re-entered the passage from which he had so lately emerged.



II.


FROM THE DOOR OF STONE TO THAT OF IRON.


[Illustration 128]


A whole army driven half wild by its enforced inaction in the presence
of danger; four thousand men unable to save three children,--such was
the situation.

In point of fact, they had no ladder; the one sent from Javené had not
arrived; the flames spread as from a yawning crater; it was simply
absurd to attempt to extinguish them with the water from the half-dried
brook in the ravine; one might as well empty a glass of water into a
volcano.

Cimourdain, Guéchamp, and Radoub had gone down into the ravine. Gauvain
had returned to the hall on the second story of the Tourgue, where the
turning stone, the secret passage, and the iron door of the library
were to be found; it was there that the sulphur match had been lighted
by the Imânus, and there the fire had originated.

Gauvain had brought with him twenty sappers. Their last resource was to
force open the iron door. Its fastenings were terribly strong.

They went at it with their axes, dealing violent blows. The axes broke.
One of the sappers exclaimed,--

"Steel shivers like glass against that iron."

In fact, the door was composed of double sheets of wrought-iron bolted
together, each sheet three inches thick.

Then they took iron bars and tried to pry the door open from below. The
iron bars broke.

"One would think they were matches," said the sapper.

"Nothing less than a cannon-ball could open that door," muttered
Gauvain, gloomily. "We should have to mount a field-piece up here."

"But even then--" replied the sapper.

For a moment they stood in despair, and their arms fell helpless by
their sides. With a sense of defeat, these men stood in speechless
dismay, gazing upon that door so awful in its immobility. They caught
a glimpse of the red reflection from beneath it. Behind them, the fire
was spreading.

The frightful body of the Imânus was there, dread victor that he was.

But a few minutes more, and the entire building might fall into ruins.

What could they do? The last ray of hope was gone.

Gauvain, whose eyes were riveted on the revolving stone and the opening
through which the escape had been made, cried in the bitterness of his
exasperation,--

"And yet the Marquis de Lantenac escaped through that door!"

"And returns," said a voice.

Against the stone setting of the secret passage appeared a white head.

It was the Marquis.

It was many a year since Gauvain had seen him so close at hand. He drew
back.

Every man present stood as if petrified.

The Marquis held a large key in his hand; with one haughty glance he
compelled the sappers who stood in his path to make way for him, walked
at once to the iron door, stooped beneath the arch, and put the key
into the lock.

It creaked in the lock, the door opened, they saw the fiery gulf; the
Marquis entered it.

With head erect and steady step he strode forward. And those who
looked on shuddered as their eyes followed his receding form.

He had barely taken a few steps in the burning hall, before the inlaid
floor, undermined by the fire and shaken by his tread, gave way behind
him, setting a chasm between him and the door. The Marquis pursued his
way, never once turning his head, and vanished in the smoke.

Nothing more was seen.

Had he succeeded in making his way; or had another fiery chasm opened
under his feet; or had he but ended his own life? No one could tell. A
wall of smoke and flames rose before them. Whether dead or alive, the
Marquis was on the other side.



III.


WHERE THE SLEEPING CHILDREN WAKE.


Meanwhile, the little ones had at last opened their eyes.

The fire, although it had not yet reached the library, cast a red
reflection on the ceiling. It was not the kind of dawn the children
knew. They were gazing at it,--Georgette utterly absorbed.

The conflagration showed forth all its glories; the black hydra and
the scarlet dragon appeared amid the smoke-wreaths in all their sombre
and vermilion hues. Great sparks shot out into the distance, lighting
up the gloom like contending comets pursuing one another. Fire is
a prodigal; its furnaces abound in jewels which they scatter to the
winds; and it is to some purpose that charcoal is identical with the
diamond. From the fissures opened in the wall of the third story, the
embers were showering down into the ravine like cascades of jewels;
the heaps of straw and oats burning in the granary began to pour in
a stream through the windows like avalanches of gold-dust,--the oats
changing to amethysts, and the straw to carbuncles.

"Pretty!" cried Georgette.

All three were now sitting up.

"Ah!" cried the mother, "they are awake!"

When René-Jean rose, then Gros-Alain rose also, and Georgette followed.

René-Jean stretched himself, and going towards the window, exclaimed,
"I am hot!"

"Me hot!" repeated Georgette.

The mother called them.

"Children! René! Alain! Georgette!"

The children looked round. They were trying to find out what it all
meant. Where men feel terrified, children are simply curious; he who is
open to surprise is not easily alarmed; ignorance is closely allied to
intrepidity. Children have so little claim upon hell, that were they to
behold it, it would but excite their admiration.

The mother kept repeating,--

"René! Alain! Georgette!"

René-Jean turned; that voice roused him from his reverie. Children have
short memories, but their recollections are swift; the entire past is
for them but as yesterday. When René-Jean saw his mother, it seemed
to him the most natural thing that could happen, surrounded as he was
by strange things; and with a dim consciousness of needing support, he
called, "Mamma!"

"Mamma!" said Gros-Alain.

"M'ma!" repeated Georgette.

And she stretched out her little arms.

The mother shrieked, "My children!"

The three children came to the window-ledge; fortunately, the
conflagration was not on this side.

"I am too warm," said René-Jean; then added, "it burns"! and he looked
for his mother.

"Why don't you come, mamma?" he said.

"Tum, m'ma," repeated Georgette.

The mother, with her hair streaming, torn and bleeding as she was,
let herself roll from bush to bush, down into the ravine. There stood
Cimourdain and Guéchamp, as powerless in their position as Gauvain was
in his. The soldiers, in despair at their helplessness, were swarming
around them. The heat would have seemed unbearable, had any one noticed
it. They were discussing the escarpment of the bridge, the height of
the arches and of the different stories, the inaccessible windows, and
the necessity for speedy action. Three stories to climb, with no means
of access. Radoub, wounded by a sabre-thrust in the shoulder, his ear
lacerated, dripping with sweat and blood, had appeared upon the scene.
He saw Michelle Fléchard.

"What have we here,--the woman who was shot come to life again?"

"My children!" cried the mother.

"You are right!" replied Radoub; "this is no time to inquire about
ghosts." And he started to scale the bridge,--a useless attempt. He
dug his nails into the stone, clung thus for a few seconds, but the
smooth layers of stone offered neither cleft nor projection; they were
as accurately fitted one upon the other as if the wall had just been
built, and Radoub fell back. The fire was still increasing, terrible
to behold. They could see the three fair heads framed in the window
lighted by the glowing flames. Then Radoub shook his fist towards
Heaven as though he beheld some one, and exclaimed,--

"Has Almighty God no mercy?"

The mother, kneeling, clasped her arms around one of the piers of the
bridge, crying, "Mercy!"

The hollow sound of crashing timbers mingled with the crackling of
the flames. The glass doors of the bookcases in the library cracked
and fell with a crash. There could be no doubt that the woodwork was
giving way. Human strength was of no avail. One moment, and the entire
building would be swallowed up in the abyss. They were only waiting
for the final catastrophe. The little voices could be heard repeating,
"Mamma, mamma!" They were in paroxysms of terror.

Suddenly against the crimson background of the flames a tall figure
came into view standing in the window next to the one where the
children stood.

All heads were raised, all eyes were riveted upon the spot. A man
up there, in the hall of the library,--a man in that furnace! His
face looked black against the flames, but his hair was white. They
recognized the Marquis de Lantenac.

He vanished, but only to appear again.

[Illustration 129]

This appalling old man stood in the window, managing an enormous
ladder. It was the escape-ladder, which had been lying along the
library wall, and which he had dragged to the window. He seized one end
of it, and with the masterly agility of an athlete he let it slip out
of the window over the outer ledge down into the depths of the ravine.
Radoub, standing below, wild with excitement, received the ladder in
his outstretched arms, and clasping it to his breast, cried,--

"Long live the Republic!"

"Long live the King!" replied the Marquis.

"You may cry what you please," muttered Radoub, "and talk all the
nonsense you like; you are a very angel of mercy."

The ladder was firmly planted, and communication thereby established
between the burning hall and the ground. Twenty men, led by Radoub,
rushed forward, and in the twinkling of an eye grouped themselves on
the ladder from top to bottom, leaning back against the rungs, like
masons carrying stones up and down, thus forming a human ladder over
the wooden one. Radoub, standing on the uppermost rung, facing towards
the fire, was just on a level with the window.

The little army, dispersed across the heath and along the slopes,
overcome by contending emotions, hastened towards the plateau down into
the ravine and up to the platform of the tower. Again they lost sight
of the Marquis, but he reappeared, carrying a child in his arms.

The applause was tremendous.

He had caught up the first child that came within his reach, and it
chanced to be Gros-Alain, who cried out,--

"I am frightened!"

The Marquis handed him to Radoub, who passed him on to a soldier
standing just behind him, a little farther down, who in his turn
delivered him to the next one; and while Gros-Alain, screaming with
terror, was thus transferred from hand to hand until he reached the
bottom of the ladder, the Marquis, disappearing for a moment, returned
to the window with René-Jean, who, struggling and crying, slapped
Radoub just as the Marquis handed him to the sergeant.

Again the Marquis went back into the burning room. Georgette was the
only one left. She smiled, and this man of granite felt the tears
spring to his eyes. "What is your name?" he asked.

"'Orgette," she said.

He took her still smiling in his arms, and as he gave her to Radoub
his conscience, austerely pure, albeit darkened, succumbed to the
overpowering charm of innocence, and the old man kissed the child.

"It is the little midget!" exclaimed the soldiers; and so Georgette in
her turn, amid the cries of admiration, was also passed from hand to
hand till she reached the ground. The soldiers clapped their hands and
stamped their feet. The old grenadiers sobbed aloud as she smiled upon
them.

The mother stood at the foot of the ladder, panting, frantic,
intoxicated by this sudden transition from hell to paradise. Excess of
joy tears the heart in a fashion of its own. She held out her arms,
first receiving Gros-Alain, then René-Jean, then Georgette. She covered
them with frenzied kisses; then bursting into a laugh she fell swooning
to the ground.

Then rose a loud cry,--

"All are saved!"

And so indeed they were, except the old man.

But no one thought of him, not even he himself perhaps. For several
instants he stood dreamily near the window-ledge, as though he would
give the fiery abyss time to make up its mind; then deliberately,
slowly, and proudly he stepped over the window-sill, and without
turning, holding himself upright and perfectly erect, with his back
towards the rungs, the conflagration behind and the precipice before
and beneath him, with all the majesty of a supernatural being he
proceeded to descend the ladder in silence. Those who were on the
ladder rushed down; a thrill ran through the witnesses, and they drew
back in holy horror before this man who was approaching them like
a vision. But stately and grave he continued his descent into the
darkness before him, drawing nearer and nearer as they recoiled before
his approach. His marble pallor revealed not a wrinkle; his ghost-like
eyes, cold as steel, neither glittered nor flashed. As he drew near
these men, whose startled eyes were fixed upon him in the darkness,
he seemed to grow at every step; the ladder shook and echoed beneath
his ominous tread; he might have been compared to the statue of the
commander returning to his tomb.

When he reached the bottom and had stepped from the last rung of the
ladder to the ground, a hand seized him by the collar. He turned.

"I arrest you," said Cimourdain.

"I approve," replied Lantenac.


[Illustration 130]



BOOK VI.

AFTER VICTORY, STRUGGLE BEGINS.



I.


LANTENAC TAKEN.


The Marquis had indeed descended into his tomb.

They led him away.

The oubliette dungeon on the ground-floor of the Tourgue was forthwith
reopened under Cimourdain's severe superintendence; a lamp was placed
there, a jug of water, and a loaf of soldier's bread; a bundle of straw
was flung in; and in less than a quarter of an hour from the instant
when the priest's hand had seized upon him, the dungeon door closed
upon Lantenac.

This done, Cimourdain joined Gauvain; at that moment the clock from the
distant church of Parigné struck eleven: Cimourdain said to Gauvain:--

"I am about to summon a court-martial. You will not join it; you are
a Gauvain as well as Lantenac. You are too nearly related to be a
judge; and I do not approve of Égalité sitting in judgment upon Capet.
The court-martial will consist of three judges,--one officer, Captain
Guéchamp, one non-commissioned officer, Sergeant Radoub, and myself,
who will preside. You need have no further concern in the matter. We
shall be governed by the decree of the Convention; all we have to do
is simply to prove the identity of the ci-devant Marquis de Lantenac.
To-morrow the court-martial, the day after to-morrow the guillotine.
The Vendée is dead."

Gauvain made no reply; and Cimourdain, preoccupied with the important
business that lay before him, departed. He now had to appoint the hour
and select the place. Like Lequinio at Granville, Talien at Bordeaux,
Châlier at Lyons, and Saint-Just at Strasbourg, he had made a practice
of superintending executions in person. It was regarded as an excellent
example, this supervision on the part of the judge of the executioner's
work,--a custom borrowed by the Terror of '93 from the parliaments of
France and the Spanish Inquisition.

Gauvain himself was preoccupied.

A cold wind blew from the forest. He left Guéchamp to give the
necessary orders, went into his tent, which was in the meadow on the
outskirts of the wood at the foot of the Tourgue, and taking his hooded
cloak wrapped himself in it. This cloak was trimmed with that simple
galoon which in accordance with the republican fashion, averse to
decoration, designated the commander-in-chief. He began to pace up and
down this bloody field where the assault was begun. There he was alone.
The fire, though scarcely heeded, had not yet ceased to bum. Radoub was
with the mother and children, almost as motherly as she herself; the
bridge-castle was nearly consumed, the sappers completing the work of
the flames; they dug ditches, buried the dead, cared for the wounded,
demolished the _retirade,_ and removed the dead bodies from the rooms
and the staircases; the men were at work purifying the scene of
carnage, sweeping away the mass of horrible filth, and setting matters
in order after the battle with military rapidity. Gauvain took no note
of all this activity.

Absorbed in his own thoughts, he hardly glanced at the sentries
guarding the breach, doubled by the order of Cimourdain.

He could distinguish this breach amid the darkness, about two hundred
paces from that part of the field in which he had found refuge. He saw
that black opening. There the attack began three hours ago; this was
the breach through which Gauvain had made his way into the tower; there
was the ground-floor, with the _retirade;_ the Marquis's dungeon-door
opened on to that floor. The sentries posted near the breach guarded
the dungeon.

While thus he gazed absently upon it, these words returned confusedly
to his ears, like the tolling of a funeral knell: "The court-martial
to-morrow; the guillotine the day after to-morrow."

The fire, which had been isolated, and upon which the sappers had
dashed all the water that they could obtain, still resisted their
efforts to extinguish it, and continued to shoot forth occasional jets
of flame. Now and then was heard the cracking of the ceilings and the
crashing of the stories as they fell one upon another; then showers of
sparks flew about as from a whirling torch, revealing like a flash of
lightning the extreme limit of the horizon; and the shadow cast by the
Tourgue would grow to colossal size, extending to the very edge of the
forest.

Gauvain walked slowly back and forth in this shadow in front of the
breach. Now and then he clasped both his hands behind his head, covered
by his military hood. He was thinking.


[Illustration 131]



II.


GAUVAIN MEDITATING.


His reverie was fathomless.

An unheard of change had taken place.

The Marquis de Lantenac had been transfigured, and Gauvain had seen it
with his own eyes.

He would never have believed it possible that such a state of things
could have come to pass from any complication of events whatsoever.
Even in a dream he could not have imagined such a condition of affairs.

The Unforeseen, that inexplicable force that makes a man the plaything
of its capricious will, had seized Gauvain and held him fast.

Before his eyes he beheld the realization of the impossible,--visible,
palpable, inevitable, inexorable.

And what did he think of it? This was no time for evasion; he must make
up his mind. A question had been presented to him; he must meet it
fairly.

Who had asked this question?

It had come to him in the course of events, but not through events
alone.

For when events, which are ever changing, ask us a question, immutable
justice summons us to answer.

Behind the cloud that casts the shadow is the star that sheds the light.

We can no more escape the light than the shadow.

Gauvain was undergoing an interrogatory.

He had been arraigned before a judge.

An awe-inspiring presence.

His own conscience.

His entire being was vacillating within him; his firmest resolutions,
his most solemn promises, his most irrevocable determinations, were all
shaken to their foundations. The soul has its earthquakes.

The more he reflected upon what he had just witnessed, the more
confused he grew.

Gauvain, Republican as he was, believed himself to be and was just; but
a superior law had been revealed.

Human law takes a higher stand than the law of revolutions. This
affair now in progress could not be evaded; it was a serious matter,
and Gauvain formed a part of it; he was involved in it, and could not
extricate himself; and however much Cimourdain might say, "This matter
no longer concerns you," he felt all the sensations of a tree torn up
by its roots.

Every man has a basis; a shock to this basis produces a serious
disturbance; and this was what Gauvain now felt. He pressed his head
between his hands, as if to express from it the truth. It was no easy
task to gain a clear idea of a situation like his: nothing could be
more uncomfortable; he saw before him a formidable array of ciphers
to be added up. To add up the columns of human destiny! The bare
thought made him dizzy. And yet he was endeavoring to do this; he was
trying to explain matters to himself, to collect his ideas, to subdue
the resistance that he felt within him, and to review the facts. He
revolved them again and again in his mind.

Is there one among us who has not been called upon to consider some
important subject in all its bearings, or has not asked himself at a
serious crisis which road to follow,--whether to advance or to retreat?

Gauvain had been witness to a miracle.

While the earthly combat was still in progress, a celestial one had
begun.

A contest between good and evil.

A merciless heart had just been conquered.

In the man before him, with all the evil inherent to his nature,
violence, error, blindness, an unwholesome obstinacy, selfishness, and
pride, Gauvain had witnessed a miracle. A victory won by humanity over
the man.

The human victorious over the inhuman.

And by what means? How was it achieved? How had it overthrown a
colossus of anger and hatred? What weapons had it used? What machinery
of warfare? Simply the cradle.

To Gauvain it was positively bewildering. To the very midst of civil
war, at the climax of hostility and vengeance, in the darkest and
fiercest moment of the tumult, when crime lent all its fires, and
hatred all its blackness, at the very crisis of the struggle when
anything may serve for a missile, when the mêlée is so direful that man
is lost to every sense of justice, honesty, and truth, suddenly from
the Unknown, that mysterious monitor of the human soul, overpowering
all the lights and shadows of humanity, came one broad flash of the
everlasting light.

Above that fatal duel between falsehood and comparative truth, the face
of absolute truth had suddenly risen from the depths.

The strength of the weak had suddenly intervened.

The triumph of three poor little beings, but lately born into the
world, unconscious of wrong, orphans, forsaken, and alone, lisping
and smiling, with all the Gorgons of civil war, retaliation, the
terrible logic of reprisals, murder, carnage, fratricide, wrath, and
malice, had just been witnessed, together with the failure and defeat
of an infamous conflagration kindled with criminal intent; cruelty
had been frustrated and baffled; ancient feudal ferocity, inexorable
disdain, the professed experience of the necessities of war, reasons
of State, all the arrogant resolves of savage old age vanished before
the innocent blue eyes of infant life; and what could be more simple?
The infant whose little life has just begun, has done no evil; it is
the embodiment of justice, truth, and innocence; the highest angels of
heaven dwell in little children.

And truly it was an edifying sight; these frenzied combatants in
a merciless war had, in the face of all their evil deeds, their
crimes, fanaticism, and murder, vengeance fanning the funeral piles,
death advancing torch in hand, suddenly seen Innocence rise in its
omnipotence above this countless legion of crimes.

And Innocence had won the day.

One might well say, No; civil war has no existence; there are no
such evils as barbarism, hatred, or crime; there is no darkness; the
divine dawn of infancy has but to rise, and all these spectres will
straightway vanish.

Never in any struggle had the presence of Satan and of Almighty God
been more plainly visible.

A conscience had furnished the arena for this combat. It was the
conscience of Lantenac.

And again it was renewed, more desperate, and possibly more decisively
than ever, in another conscience,--in the conscience of Gauvain.

What a battle-field is the mind of man!

Our thoughts, like gods, monsters, or giants, hold us in their power.

Sometimes those terrible wrestlers trample our very soul beneath their
feet.

Gauvain was thinking.

The Marquis de Lantenac, hemmed in, blockaded, condemned, outlawed,
confined like a wild beast in a circus, held like a nail in a vice,
immured in his own home that had changed into a prison, encompassed
on every side by a wall of iron and fire, had eluded his enemies and
stolen away. He had effected a miraculous escape. He had achieved a
masterpiece,--the most difficult of all accomplishments in a war like
this,--flight. He had regained possession of the forest to intrench
himself therein, of the district where he would renew the combat, and
of the impenetrable shadows among which he might vanish from sight.
Once more he had become formidable, ever on the wing, a knight-errant
whose presence boded evil; the captain of invisible forces, the leader
of men who dwell beneath the ground, the master of the woods. Gauvain
was victorious, but Lantenac was free. Henceforth Lantenac was safe,
his career unfettered, asylums without number from which to choose. He
was intangible, unapproachable, inaccessible. This lion, caught in a
snare, had forced his way out, and now behold he had come back to it.

The Marquis de Lantenac had voluntarily, impelled only by his free
will, left the shades of the forest, where safety and freedom awaited
him, to return to the most frightful danger; first, Gauvain had seen it
himself, rushing with fearless spirit into the flames that threatened
to engulf him, and again descending that ladder that was to deliver him
into the hands of his enemies,--the same ladder that offered escape to
others, but to him absolute ruin.

And why had he done this?

To save three children.

And what were they now about to do with this man?

Guillotine him.

And so, this man, for the sake of three children,--his own? No; of
his kin perhaps? Not at all; belonging to his own rank in life? By no
means; for three little beggars, chance children, foundlings, unknown
to him, ragged and barefooted, this nobleman, this prince, this old
man, who had made his escape, who was both a free man and a victor, for
escape is a triumph in itself,--had risked everything, compromised his
own safety, imperilled the cause, and while restoring the children, he
offered up his own head, this head hitherto terrible, but now august.

And what were they about to do with it?

To accept it.

The Marquis de Lantenac had had the opportunity to choose between the
life of others and his own; and when this splendid option lay before
him, he chose his death.

And it was to be granted him.

They would put him to death.

What a reward for heroism!--To return a generous action by a deed of
barbarity!

To cast this reproach upon the Revolution!

Thus to humiliate the Republic!

While he, a man still in the bondage of prejudices and slavery,
suddenly assumed another form and re-entered the lists of humanity,
they, the champions of deliverance and freedom, would still remain
plunged in civil war, with its routine of blood and fratricide!

And they who fought on the side of error respected the supreme law of
divine forgiveness, of abnegation, of redemption, and of sacrifice,
while for the soldiers of truth it had apparently ceased to exist!

What! Was there to be no rivalry in magnanimity? Were they, who were
now in the ascendant, to resign themselves to defeat, to acknowledge
their weakness, to take advantage of their victory, to commit murder,
and to allow men to say that while the defenders of monarchy save
little children, Republicans kill old men!

This grand soldier, this powerful octogenarian, this disarmed warrior,
betrayed rather than captured, seized in the very act of doing a good
deed, bound by his own consent, with the moisture of a superb devotion
still upon his brow, would be seen mounting the steps of the scaffold
as if borne upward in an apotheosis; and they would offer to the knife
that head round which the three souls of the little angels he had saved
would hover in supplication! And standing face to face with a death so
infamous for the executioners, a smile would be seen on the face of
that man, while a blush of shame would overspread that of the Republic!

And that was to take place in the presence of Gauvain, the chief!

And he, possessing the power to prevent this,--was he to hold his
peace? Was he to content himself with that haughty dismissal, "You have
no further concern in this matter," and not to realize that in a case
like this, abdication of authority was equivalent to complicity? And
could he not see that in a deed so outrageous, the coward who allows
the act is worse than the man who commits it? But had he not promised
that this death should take place? Had not he, Gauvain the merciful,
declared that Lantenac was to be excluded from mercy, and that he would
deliver him to Cimourdain?

This head was a debt which he owed, and he paid it That was all.

But was this indeed the same head?

Hitherto Gauvain had seen in Lantenac nothing but a barbarous warrior,
enslaved by the fanaticisms of royalty and feudality, the murderer
of prisoners, an assassin let loose by war, a man of blood,--and of
that man he felt no fear; this proscriber of others he would himself
proscribe; this relentless man would find him relentless also. Nothing
could be more simple; the road was already mapped out and terribly
plain to follow; all had been anticipated; he who had killed others
was now to suffer the same fate; they were in the direct path of the
horrible. Suddenly this straight line changed; an unlooked for turn
revealed a new horizon, a transformation had been effected. Lantenac
had appeared on the scene in an unexpected character. A hero had
come forth from the monster; yea, one greater than a hero,--a man.
Something higher than a mind,--a heart. He stood before Gauvain no
longer a murderer, but a saviour. Gauvain was overwhelmed by a flood of
celestial light. Lantenac had felled him to the ground by a thunderbolt
of virtue.

And had not this transfigured Lantenac in his turn the power to
transfigure Gauvain? What! Was this flood of light to meet with no
responsive flash? Was the man of the past to lead the van of progress,
and the man of the future to fall back to the rear? Was the man of
barbarism and superstition suddenly to spread his wings and soar
upward, all the while gazing down at the man with the lofty ideal,
groping below him in the mire amid the murky shadows of the night?
Gauvain would lie prostrate in the savage old rut, while Lantenac
soared higher and higher in his new career!

And another thing must be considered,--the family!

This blood that he was about to shed,--for to allow its shedding
amounted to the same as shedding it himself,--was not this his own
blood? His grandfather was dead, it is true, but his great-uncle
still lived in the person of the Marquis de Lantenac. Would not he,
who already rested in the grave, rise to bar the entrance against his
brother? Would he not lay his command upon his grandson henceforth
to pay the same veneration to that crown of white hair as to his own
halo? Would not the indignant glance of a departed spirit rise between
Gauvain and Lantenac?

Was it then the object of Revolution to destroy the natural affections,
to sever all family ties, and to stifle every sense of humanity? Far
from it. The dawn of '89 came to affirm those higher truths, and not to
deny them. The destruction of bastilles signified the deliverance of
humanity; the overthrow of feudalism was the signal for the building
up of the family. Since authority takes rise from and is centred in
its author, there can be no real authority save in fatherhood; thus we
see the legitimacy of the queen-bee who gives birth to her subjects
and combines the mother with the queen; and also the absurdity of the
king-man, who not being the father, has no right to be the master;
hence the suppression of the king, and the rise of the Republic. And
what is the meaning of all this? It is family, humanity, revolution.
Revolution is the accession of the people, and in reality The People is
Man.

It had now become important to ascertain whether, since Lantenac had
returned to humanity, Gauvain would return to the family.

The question was whether the uncle and the nephew would meet again in
the higher light, or whether the decline of the nephew would correspond
to the progress of the uncle.

In this pathetic struggle between Gauvain and his conscience
the question thus presented itself, and the answer seemed
instinctive,--Lantenac must be saved.

Yes--but France?

Here the puzzling problem suddenly assumed a different aspect.

What! France, at the last extremity, betrayed, exposed to attack on
all sides, dismantled! Her moat was gone; Germany could cross the
Rhine: her walls were overthrown; Italy might leap over the Alps,
and Spain over the Pyrenees. All that was left to her was the ocean,
whose infinite abyss was on her side. She could lean against it, and,
giantess as she was, supported by the expanse of the sea, fight the
whole world,--an invincible position one might well call it. But no:
she was on the point of losing this position. The ocean was no longer
her own: England lay in this sea, though she knew not how to cross it.
Well, there stood a man ready to throw a bridge across, to lend her a
helping hand,--a man who was about to say to Pitt, to Cornwallis, to
Dundas, to the pirates, "Come!" a man who would cry out, "England, come
over and seize upon France!" and this man was the Marquis de Lantenac,
whom they now held in their grasp.

After three months of an eager, passionate chase they had finally
seized him. The hand of Revolution had swooped down upon the accursed
one, the clenched fist of '93 grasped the Royalist murderer by the
collar; and by one of those mysterious dispensations of Providence
which enter into human affairs, it was in his own family dungeon that
the parricide now awaited his punishment,--the feudal lord lay in the
feudal oubliette; the stones of his own castle had risen and closed
upon him. Thus he who would have betrayed his country was himself
betrayed by his own castle. God had visibly ordained all this; the hour
of doom had struck, and Revolution had turned the key upon the public
enemy. He could no longer fight, neither could he struggle nor work
further harm. Of that Vendée, where there was no lack of arms, his
alone was the brain: his death would be the signal for the close of
the war,--tragic climax ardently desired. After all the massacre and
carnage he had caused, the murderer was in their power, and doomed in
his turn to die.

And was there a man who could wish to save him?

Cimourdain in the person of '93 held Lantenac, or, as one might call
him, the spirit of monarchy; and could a man be found to snatch that
prey from these brazen talons? Lantenac, around whose name was
bound that sheaf of scourges which men call the past, the Marquis de
Lantenac, was in the tomb; the heavy door of eternity had closed upon
him, and would one appear from without to draw back the bolt? This
social malefactor was dead, and with him had perished revolt, the
fratricidal struggle, the brutal war; and conceive of a man who would
bring him back to life!

Oh, how that death's-head would laugh!

The spectre would exclaim, "Good! I am still alive, you fools."

With what zeal he would begin his hideous work all over again! With
what implacable rejoicing would he plunge again into the abyss of
hatred and war! Not a day would pass before houses would be in flames,
prisoners massacred, the wounded slain, women shot.

And, after all, was it not possible that Gauvain exaggerated the deed
that so fascinated his imagination?

Three children were in danger of death: Lantenac had saved them.

But who had imperilled their lives?

Was it not Lantenac?

Who had put their cradles in the fire?

Was it not the Imânus?

Who was the Imânus?

The lieutenant of the Marquis.

It is the chief who bears the responsibility.

Hence Lantenac was both the incendiary and the assassin.

Why then was his deed so admirable?

He had simply desisted from evil,--nothing more.

Having conceived the crime, he had recoiled before its presence; he
was horrified at himself. The mother's shriek had stirred within him
the dregs of human pity,--the deposit of universal life which exists
in every soul, even in the most cruel. At this cry he had retraced his
steps; from the darkness towards which he was plunging he had turned
back towards the light. Having committed the crime, he made haste to
retrieve it. He had not continued a monster to the very end; herein lay
all his merit.

And in return for so small a thing was all to be restored to him,--his
liberty, the fields and plains, the open air, daylight, the forest,
which he would use for brigandage; his own freedom, that he might use
it to plunge others into slavery; his own life, which he would devote
to the death of his fellow-men?

As for trying to come to an understanding with him, as for attempting
to treat with this arrogant soul, offering to save his life under
conditions, to ask him whether he would agree, provided his life were
spared, to abstain henceforth from hostility and revolt,--what a
mistake would such an offer be, what an advantage it would give him,
with what scorn would he greet the proposal, how he would scourge the
question by the answer! Hear him exclaim: "Keep such indignities for
yourselves! For my part, give me death!"

Nothing could be done with such a man; he must either be set free
or put to death. His was a rugged, inaccessible nature; ready for
flight, ready for sacrifice,--it mattered not which. His strange soul
displayed the characteristics of the eagle as well as of the precipice.

To kill him? Dreadful to contemplate! To set him free? What a
responsibility!

Suppose Lantenac were saved, it would simply be a return to the
beginning of the Vendée, like a struggle with a hydra, whose head
is not yet severed. In the twinkling of an eye, like the flash of a
meteor, all the flames which expired when this man vanished, would
be rekindled. Lantenac would never rest until he had effected his
detestable plan,--to establish Monarchy like the lid of a tomb over
the Republic, and to give England control over France! He who would
save Lantenac must sacrifice France; Lantenac's life would be death
to a multitude of innocent creatures,--men, women, and children,--who
would again become the prey of civil war; it meant the landing of the
English, the Revolution retarded, the cities sacked, the inhabitants
distracted, Brittany tom and bleeding; in short, it would be like
tossing back his prey to the tiger's claws. And Gauvain, amid all this
uncertain glimmering of cross-lights,--Gauvain, in-his reverie, caught
a vague glimpse of the problem as it gradually took form in his mind:
the setting at liberty of a tiger.

And then the question resumed its former aspect; the stone of Sisyphus,
which is nothing less than the conflict of man with his own conscience,
recoiled upon him. Was Lantenac then a tiger?

Once he may have been; but was he a tiger still? Gauvain grew dizzy
with conflicting thoughts,--thoughts which coiled themselves around
one another after the fashion of a snake. Could one, after mature
consideration, really deny the devotion of Lantenac, his stoical
self-abnegation, his sublime disinterestedness? What! after he had
shown his humanity in the very jaws of civil war? What! when in the
conflict between inferior truths he had shown forth the truth that
stands above all others? What! when he had proved that the deep
tenderness of human nature, the protection that strength owes to
weakness, the duty which binds every man who is saved to lend a helping
hand to his perishing brother, the fatherhood which every old man owes
to every little child, are above all principalities and revolutions,
above all earthly questions whatsoever,--when he had proved the truth
of all these grand things, and proved it by the gift of his own head?
What! general as he was, to have renounced strategy, battle, and
revenge? What! he, being a Royalist, had taken the scales, and placing
in one end the King of France, the monarchy fifteen centuries old, the
restoration of ancient laws and the re-establishment of an old society,
and in the other, three little unknown peasants, and had found the
king, the throne, the sceptre, and the fifteen centuries of monarchy
out-weighed by those innocent creatures?

Could it be possible that all this was to count for nothing? Was he
who had done this to remain a tiger and be treated like a wild beast?
No, no, no! He was no monster, the man whose divine action had just
illumined the abyss of civil war! The sword-bearer had been transformed
into a messenger of light. The infernal Satan had become once more
the heavenly Lucifer. Lantenac had expiated all his cruel deeds by
one act of sacrifice; his moral salvation had been attained by way of
his material ruin; he had returned to a state of innocence; he had
signed his own pardon. Does Hot the right of self-forgiveness exist?
Henceforth he was an object for veneration.

Lantenac had just proved himself a remarkable man. It was now Gauvain's
turn to make fitting response.

The struggle between the passions of good and evil was fast converting
the world into chaos; Lantenac, dominating this same chaos, had set
humanity free, and now it was left for Gauvain to assert the rights of
the family.

What was he about to do?

Was he to betray God's trust?

No. And he muttered to himself: Lantenac must be saved.

Well, then, go your way; connive with the English, desert your country,
ally yourself with her enemy! Save Lantenac and betray France!

Here he shuddered.

Dreamer that thou art, this is no solution! and Gauvain fancied he saw
in the shadow the baleful smile of the sphinx.

This combination of circumstances was like a platform whereon
conflicting truths had taken their stand, ready for the encounter, and
where the three loftiest principles of mankind--humanity, family, and
country--stood face to face.

Each of these voices spoke in turn, and each one spoke the truth.
How was a man to choose? Each one by turns seemed to have discovered
the point of union between justice and wisdom, and said, "Act thus."
Must he obey this voice? Yes. No. Reason suggested one thing,
sentiment another; and their counsels were diametrically opposed.
Logic is nothing more than reason; sentiment is often the voice of the
conscience: the one comes from man, the other from above.

Hence the perceptions of sentiment are less clear, but wield a stronger
influence.

But what a power dwells in stern reason!

Gauvain hesitated.

Torturing perplexities!

Two abysses opened before Gauvain,--to destroy the Marquis, or to save
him? Into one or the other he must needs plunge. Towards which of these
two did duty call him?



II


THE COMMANDER'S HOOD.


The question had indeed resolved itself in a matter of duty.

Duty arose stem-visaged and immutable before the spirit of Cimourdain,
and terrible before that of Gauvain.

Simple to the one; complex, many-sided, devious, to the other.

The hour of midnight sounded; then one o'clock.

Without realizing where he was going, Gauvain had unconsciously
approached the entrance of the breach.

The light of the expiring fire cast now but a dim reflection. The
plateau on the other side of the tower caught the light and became
visible for an instant only, to vanish as the clouds of smoke obscured
the flames. This light, with its unexpected flashes and sudden
darkening shadows, exaggerated the surrounding objects and gave to the
sentinels of the camp the effect of phantoms. Gauvain, lost in thought,
unconsciously watched the alternations of smoke and flame. There seemed
to him a strange analogy between these changes of light and shade and
the varied phases of truth in his own mind.

Suddenly, between two clouds of smoke, a flame burst forth from the bed
of dying coals, threw a brilliant light on the summit of the plateau,
and revealed the red outlines of a wagon. Gauvain gazed upon it. It was
surrounded by horsemen wearing the hats of gendarmes. He concluded that
this must be the same one that he had seen through Guéchamp's spy-glass
against the horizon a few hours before, just as the sun was setting.
There were men on the wagon who appeared to be unloading it. The object
which they were removing seemed heavy, and at times the clanking of
iron could be heard; it would have been difficult to say what it was.
It seemed to be wood-work; two of the men lowered from the wagon and
placed on the ground a case, which, judging from its shape, might
contain some triangular object. The flame died out, and everything was
dark again; Gauvain, wrapped in thought, gazed steadily before him upon
that object now hidden by the darkness.

Lanterns were lighted, and men could be seen moving to and fro on the
plateau; but the outlines were indistinct, and moreover, Gauvain,
standing as he did, and on the opposite side of the ravine, could only
discern those objects which were close to the edge.

He could hear the voices, but not the words. Now and then he caught
the echo of hammering upon the wood. He could also hear a grinding,
metallic sound, like the sharpening of a scythe.

It struck two.

Slowly, and like one who would from choice take two steps forward and
three back, Gauvain advanced towards the breach. On his approach, the
sentinel, recognizing in the dusk the commander's cloak and braided
hood, presented arms. Gauvain entered the hall on the lower floor,
which had been transformed into a guard-room. A lantern hung from the
ceiling, and cast just light enough so that one could cross the hall
without treading on the men, most of whom lay upon the straw, sound
asleep.

There they lay, on the spot where but a few hours since they had
been fighting. The grape-shot, from the careless sweeping, still lay
scattered about beneath them, and was not very comfortable to sleep on;
but weary as they were, they could sleep in spite of it This hall had
been the terrible spot: here the assault had been made; yonder men had
roared, howled, gnashed their teeth, given blow for blow, struck down
the enemy, and in their turn expired; many of their men had fallen dead
upon this floor where they were now slumbering; the same straw on which
they slept had been drenched with the blood of their comrades. Now all
was ended; all the blood was stanched and the sabres dried, the dead
were dead, peacefully slumbering. Such is war; and it may be no longer
than to-morrow before every man among them will sleep the same sleep.
On Gauvain's entrance some of the sleepers rose, among them the officer
in command. Pointing to the door of the dungeon, Gauvain said to him,--

"Open it."

The bolts were drawn, and the door opened.

Gauvain entered the dungeon.

The door closed behind him.


[Illustration: Feudality and Revolution. 132]

BOOK VII.

FEUDALITY AND REVOLUTION.



I.


THE ANCESTOR.


[Illustration 133]


A lamp stood on the flags of the dungeon, beside the square air-hole of
the oubliette.

There was also to be seen a jug of water, a loaf of army bread, and a
truss of straw. As the dungeon was cut out of solid rock, any prisoner
who conceived the idea of setting the straw on fire would have had his
labor for his pains,--no risk of a conflagration for the prison, and
certain suffocation for the prisoner.

When the door turned on its hinges, the Marquis was walking up and down
in his prison, with that mechanical pacing to and fro peculiar to caged
wild animals.

At the sound of the opening and closing door, he looked up, and the
light from the lamp that stood on the floor between Gauvain and himself
struck full upon the faces of both men.

They looked at each other with such an expression that each stood there
as if transfixed.

The Marquis burst out laughing and exclaimed:

"Good-evening, sir. Many years have passed since I have had the
pleasure of meeting you. You honor me by your visit. I thank you.
Nothing could please me more than a little conversation, for I was
beginning, to be bored. Your friends are wasting their time,--proofs
of identity, court-martials, all those ceremonies are tedious. Were
it my affair I should proceed more rapidly. I am at home here. Will
you be good enough to come in. Well, what do you think of the present
state of affairs? It is original, is it not? Once upon a time there was
a king and queen in France; the king was the king; France herself was
the queen. They have cut off the king's head and married the queen to
Robespierre; and to this pair a daughter has been born,--they call her
Guillotine, and it seems that I am to make her acquaintance to-morrow
morning. I shall be as pleased to meet her as I am to meet you. Is that
perchance the object of your visit? Have you been promoted? Shall you
officiate as headsman? But if this be simply a visit of friendship,
I feel grateful. You may perhaps have forgotten, Viscount, what a
nobleman is? Allow me to present you to one. Behold me; it has become a
rare specimen; it believes in God, in tradition, and in the family; it
believes in its ancestors, in the example of its father, in fidelity,
in loyalty, in its duty towards its princes, in reverence for ancient
laws, in virtue and in justice; and it would order you to be shot
with much pleasure. Will you do me the favor to take a seat? I must
ask you to sit upon the floor, since there is no arm-chair in this
salon; but he who dwells in the mire may well sit upon the ground. I
do not say this to offend you, for that which is mire in our esteem,
represents the nation in your eyes. You will not, of course, require
me to shout for Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity? This is an old room
in my house, where in former times the lords used to imprison their
peasants; nowadays, it is the peasants who imprison the lords. And
these follies men call revolution! It seems that my head is to be cut
off in thirty-six hours. I have no objection to offer; still, had they
been well-bred they would have sent me my snuff-box, which is upstairs
in the mirror-chamber, where you used to play when you were a child,
and where I have dandled you on my knee. Sir, let me tell you one
thing: your name is Gauvain, and strange as it may seem, you have noble
blood in your veins,--yes, _pardieu_! the very same blood that flows
in mine; and this blood which has made a man of honor of me, has made
of you a scoundrel. Such are the idiosyncrasies of the human race! You
will tell me that it is not your fault. Nor is it mine. _Parbleu_! one
may be a rascal unconsciously. It depends upon the air one breathes.
In times like ours, no man is responsible for what he does; revolution
is the scapegoat for all mankind, for your great criminals are supreme
innocents. What blockheads! To begin with yourself. Allow me to admire
you. Yes, I admire a youth like yourself, who, well-born, with an
excellent position in State affairs, possessing noble blood fit to
be shed in a noble cause, Viscount of this Tower-Gauvain, Prince of
Brittany, a duke in his own right, belonging to the hereditary peerage
of France,--which is about all that a sensible man can desire here
below,--a youth who, being such as he is, amuses himself by playing a
part like yours, until his enemies believe him a scoundrel, and his
friends regard him as an idiot! By the way, give my regards to the Abbé
Cimourdain."

Perfectly at his ease, the Marquis spoke slowly and calmly, without
emphasis, in his society voice, his eyes clear and tranquil, and with
both hands in his waistcoat pockets. He paused, took a long breath, and
then continued:--

"I do not conceal from you that I have done all in my power to kill
you. As I stand before you, I have three times in person aimed a cannon
at you. A discourteous proceeding, I confess, but it would be relying
upon a false maxim did we allow ourselves to fancy that in time of war
the enemy proposes to make himself agreeable. For we are in a state of
war, nephew. Everything is put to fire and sword, and they have killed
the king besides. A fine century!"

He paused again, then continued:--

"And when one thinks that none of these things would have happened if
they had hung Voltaire and sent Rousseau to the galleys! Ah, those men
of intellect! What a scourge they were! For what crime did you reproach
the Monarchy? The Abbé Pucelle was sent to his Abbey of Corbigny,
it is true, allowing him the choice of conveyance and as much time
as he required in the journey; and as for your Monsieur Titon, who
was--begging your pardon--a wretched libertine, who visited abandoned
women before going to the miracles of Deacon Pâris, he was transferred
from Vincennes to the fortress of Ham in Picardy, which is, I admit,
rather a disagreeable place. Those are your grievances; I remember
them, for I too inveighed against them in my day. I have been as stupid
as you."

The Marquis fumbled in his pocket as though he expected to find his
snuff-box; then he continued:

"But not so wicked. We talked for the sake of talking. There was,
moreover, the mutiny of demands and petitions; and then those
gentlemen the philosophers appeared upon the scene, whose works they
burned,--they would have done better had they burned the authors:
Court intrigues were mixed up in the affair. Then came all the dunces,
Turgot, Quesnay, Malesherbes, the physiocratists, and so forth, and the
wrangling began. All this was the work of scribblers and rhymsters.
The Encyclopædia! Diderot! D'Alembert! Ah! the malicious scamps! Fancy
a well-born man like the King of Prussia joining hands with them! I
would have made short work with all those paper-scribblers. Ah! we know
how to administer justice; you can see here, on this wall, the mark
of the quartering-wheels. There was no jesting in the matter. No, no;
let us abolish scribblers! So long as there are Arouets there will be
Marats. So long as there are men who scribble, there will be wretches
who murder; while there is ink, there will be black stains; so long as
men's claws can hold a goose-quill, frivolous nonsense will engender
atrocious follies. Books are the authors of crime. The word 'chimera'
has a double signification,--it means a dream and it means a monster.
What a price one pays for all this idle nonsense! What is it you keep
repeating to us about your rights,--the rights of man, the rights of
the people! Has it any sense whatever? Could anything be more stupid,
utterly imaginary, and devoid of meaning! When I state the fact that
Havoise, the sister of Conan II., brought the Comté of Bretagne to
Hoël, Count of Nantes and of Cornwall, from whom the estate descended
to Alain Fergant, the uncle of that Bertha who married Alain le Noir,
lord of Roche-sur-Yon, and bore unto him Conan le Petit, grandfather
of Guy or Gauvain de Thouars our ancestor,--I make a plain statement,
and claim my rights. But the knaves, the rascals, the scoundrels of
your party, what rights do they claim? Deicide and regicide. Is it
not frightful? Ah! the ragamuffins! I am sorry for you, sir; still,
you come of that proud Breton blood; you and I have a Gauvain de
Thouars for our grandfather, and furthermore we have an ancestor in
that famous Duke de Montbazon, a peer of France and decorated with the
Grand Collar, who attacked the Faubourg de Tours and was wounded at
the battle of Arques, and who died Grand-veneur of France in his house
of Couzières in Touraine at the age of eighty-six. I could tell you
of the Duke of Laudunois, son of the Lady de la Garnache, of Claude
de Lorraine, of the Duke de Chevreuse, of Henri do Lenoncourt, and
of Françoise de Laval-Boisdauphin. But to what purpose? Monsieur has
the honor of being an idiot, and he delights to lower himself to the
level of my groom. Learn this: I was already an old man when you were
still a nursing infant. I watched you, and I would watch you still. As
you grew up you succeeded in degrading yourself. Since we ceased to
meet, each of us has followed his inclinations; mine have led me in
the direction of honesty, while your course has been the very reverse.
Ah! I know not how all this will end; but your friends are consummate
villains. Oh, yes, I acknowledge it is all very fine, the progress
is marvellous; they have done away in the army with the punishment
of the pint of water, inflicted for three days in succession, on
drunken soldiers; they have the maximum, the Convention, Bishop Gobel,
Monsieur Chaumette, and Monsieur Hébert; there has been a wholesale
extermination of the past, from the Bastille to the calendar. The
saints are replaced by vegetables. Very well, citizens; be our masters
if you will, reign over us, take your ease, act your good pleasure,
stand upon no ceremony. All that will not prevent religion from being
religion, nor alter the fact that royalty has occupied fifteen hundred
years of our history, and that the old French nobility, even though
beheaded, stands higher than you. And as to your sophistries concerning
the historical right of royal races, what care we for that matter?
Chilpéric was really nothing but a monk by the name of Daniel; it was
Rainfroi who invented Chilpéric to annoy Charles Martel,--we know that
as well as you. That is not the question. The question is this: that
there shall be a great kingdom, old France, a well-regulated country,
where men consider first the sacred person of the monarchs, absolute
rulers of the State, then the princes, then the officers of the crown,
naval and military, as well as the controllers of finance. Then there
are the officers of justice of the different grades, followed by those
of the salt-tax and the general receipts, and finally the police of
the kingdom in its three orders. All this was fine and well-regulated;
you have destroyed it. You have destroyed the provinces, without even
understanding--so great was your ignorance,--what the provinces were.
The genius of France was made up from that of the entire continent,
and each of its provinces represents a special virtue of Europe; the
frankness of Germany is to be found in Picardy, the generosity of
Sweden in Champagne, the industry of Holland in Burgundy, the activity
of Poland in Languedoc, the grave dignity of Spain in Gascony, the
wisdom of Italy in Provence, the subtlety of Greece in Normandy, the
fidelity of Switzerland in Dauphiny. You knew nothing of all this;
you have broken, shattered, crushed, demolished, behaving like stupid
beasts of the field. So you wish to have no more nobles? Very well, you
shall have none. Prepare your mourning. Your paladins and heroes have
departed. Bid farewell to all the ancient glories. Find me a D'Assas
at the present time, if you can! You are all trembling for your skins.
You will have no more Chevaliers de Fontenoy who saluted the enemy
before killing him; you will have no more combatants in silk stockings
like those at the siege of Lérida; you will have no more of those days
of military glory when plumes flashed by like meteors; your days are
numbered; the outrage of invasion will descend upon you. If Alain II.
were to return, he would no longer find a Clovis to confront him; if
Abdérame were to come back, he would encounter no such foe as Charles
Martel; neither would the Saxons find a Pépin waiting for them. You
will have no Agnadel, Rocroy, Lens, Staffarde, Nerwinde, Steinkerque,
La Marsaille, Raucoux, Lawfeld, Mahon; you will never have another
Marignan with Francis I.; nor a Bouvines with Philip-Augustus, who
took Renaud, Count of Boulogne, prisoner with one hand, while with the
other he held Ferrand, Count of Flanders. You will have Agincourt, but
you will not have the great standard-bearer, the Sieur de Bacqueville,
wrapping himself in his banner to die. Go on, go on, accomplish your
work! Be the new men. Dwarf yourselves!"

Here the Marquis paused a moment; then he continued:--

"But leave to us our greatness. Kill the kings, kill nobles and
priests, if you will; sow broadcast over the land destruction, ruin,
and death; trample all things under foot; set your heel upon the
ancient laws, overthrow the throne, stamp upon the altar of your God,
and dance over the ruins. All rests with you, cowards and traitors as
you are, incapable of self-devotion and sacrifice. I have said all that
I have to say. Now have me guillotined, Monsieur le Vicomte. I have the
honor to be your most humble servant."

Then he added,--

"It is but the truth. What difference can it make to me? I am dead."

"You are free," said Gauvain.

And he advanced towards the Marquis, unfastened his commander's-cloak,
and throwing it over the shoulders of the latter, he drew the hood down
over his eyes. Both men were of the same height.

"What is this that you are doing?" said the Marquis.

Gauvain raised his voice and called out,--

"Lieutenant, open to me!"

The door was opened.

Gauvain cried,--

"You will be careful to close the door behind me."

And he pushed the astonished Marquis across the threshold.

It must be remembered that the low hall which had been turned into a
guard-room was lighted by a horn lantern, whose dim rays served only to
deepen the shadows; it threw an uncertain glimmer on the surrounding
objects, and in this indistinct light those of the soldiers who were
not sleeping saw a tall man walk past them towards the entrance,
wrapped in the cloak and braided hood of the commander-in-chief. The
soldiers saluted him as he passed out.

The Marquis slowly crossed the guard-room and the breach,--not without
hitting his head more than once,--and went out. The sentinel, supposing
that it was Gauvain whom he saw, presented arms.

Once outside, within two hundred steps of the forest, feeling the turf
beneath his feet, and space, the protecting night, liberty, and life
before him, he paused and stood for a moment motionless, like a man who
has allowed himself to be influenced, has been overcome by surprise,
and who, having taken advantage of an open door, asks himself whether
he has acted nobly or ignobly, and hesitates before going on,--giving
ear, as it were, to an afterthought. After some moments of deep
reverie, he raised his right hand, and snapping his thumb and finger,
cried,--

"Faith!"

And he went on.

The door of the prison had closed again, and this time it was upon
Gauvain.



II.


THE COURT-MARTIAL.


Nearly all the court-martials of this period were arbitrary tribunals.
In the Legislative Assembly, Dumas had drawn up a rough plan of
military legislation, afterwards improved by Talbot in the Council of
the Five Hundred, but the final code of councils of war was not drawn
up until the time of the Empire. From that time also, be it mentioned
by way of parenthesis, dates the law imposed on military tribunals in
regard to the taking of votes, that of beginning with the lower grade.
This law was not in existence during the Revolution.

In 1793, the president of a military tribunal might almost be said to
personify the tribunal itself; he elected the members, arranged the
order of the ranks and regulated the method of voting; he was master
as well as judge.

Cimourdain had selected the identical room on the ground-floor where
the _retirade_ had been, and where the guard was now posted, for
the judgment-hall of the court-martial. He was anxious to shorten
everything,--the road from the prison to the tribunal, and the passage
from the tribunal to the scaffold.

In accordance with his orders, the court opened its session at noon
with no more display of ceremonial than three straw chairs, a pine
table, two lighted candies, and a stool placed in front of the table.

The chairs were for the judges and the stool was for the prisoner.
At each end of the table stood another stool, one for the
commissioner-auditor, who was a quartermaster, and the other for the
clerk, who was a corporal.

On the table there was a stick of red sealing-wax, a copper seal of
the Republic, two inkstands, bundles of white paper, and two printed
placards, spread wide open,--one containing the sentence of outlawry,
the other, the decree of the Convention.

The middle chair was pushed back against a group of tricolored flags;
in those times of rude simplicity, decorations were quickly arranged,
and but little time was needed to change a guard-hall into a court of
justice. The middle chair, intended for the president, faced the prison
door.

The audience was composed of soldiers.

Two gendarmes stood on guard beside the stool.

Cimourdain was seated in the middle chair, with Captain Guéchamp, the
first judge, on his right, and Sergeant Radoub, the second, on his left.

He wore a hat with tricolored plumes, a sabre by his side, and two
pistols on his belt. His scar, of a vivid red, increased the ferocity
of his appearance.

Radoub had at last consented to allow his wounds to be dressed. He
wore a handkerchief tied round his head, on which a blood-stain was
gradually extending.

At noon, before the Court opened, a messenger stood beside the table
of the tribunal, while his horse impatiently pawed the ground outside.
Cimourdain was writing; and this was what he wrote:--

"_Citizen members of the Com. of Public Safety:_"

"Lantenac is taken. He will be executed to-morrow."

After dating and signing the despatch he folded and sealed it, and then
handed it to the messenger, who took his leave.

Whereupon Cimourdain said in a loud voice,--

"Open the dungeon."

Two gendarmes drew back the bolts, opened the dungeon, and went in.

Cimourdain raised his head, crossed his arms, glanced at the door, and
exclaimed:--

"Bring forth the prisoner!"

Beneath the archway of the open door appeared a man between the two
gendarmes.

It was Gauvain.

Cimourdain started.

"Gauvain!" he cried

Then continued:--

"I demand the prisoner."

"It is I," said Gauvain.

"Thou?"

"I."

"And Lantenac?"

"He is free."

"Free?"

"Yes."

"Escaped?"

"Escaped."

Cimourdain trembled as he murmured:--

"True, it is his own castle, he is familiar with all its outlets; the
crypt perhaps communicates with one of them. I ought to have thought of
this; he probably found means of escape; he would need no help."

"He has been helped," said Gauvain.

"To escape?"

"To escape."

"Who helped him?"

"I."

"Thou?"

"I."

"Thou art dreaming."

"I went into the dungeon, I was alone with the prisoner, I took off my
cloak and wrapped it about him, I drew the hood over his face; he went
out in my stead, while I remained in his. Here I am."

"Thou hast not done this?"

"I have."

"It is impossible."

"It is true."

"Bring me Lantenac."

"He is no longer here. The soldiers, seeing the commander's-cloak, took
him for me and allowed him to pass. It was still dark."

"Thou art mad."

"I tell you what happened."

A silence ensued. Cimourdain stammered:--

"Then thou deservest--"

"Death," said Gauvain.

Cimourdain was as pale as a corpse, and as motionless as a man who
has been struck by lightning. He seemed to have lost the power of
breathing. A great drop of sweat formed upon his forehead.

He controlled his voice, forcing himself to speak firmly as he said:--

"Gendarmes, seat the accused."

Gauvain took his seat on the stool.

Cimourdain continued:--

"Gendarmes, draw your sabres."

This was the usual formula when the accused was under sentence of death.

The gendarmes bared their sabres.

Cimourdain's voice regained its ordinary tone.

"Accused," he said, "rise."

He no longer used the familiar "thee" and "thou."



III.

THE VOTES.

Gauvain rose.

"What is your name?" asked Cimourdain.

"Gauvain," was the reply.

Cimourdain went on with the interrogatory:--

"Who are you?"

"I am commander-in-chief of the expeditionary column of the
Côtes-du-Nord."

"Are you a kinsman or connection of the man who has escaped?"

"I am his great-nephew."

"Are you acquainted with the decree of the Convention?"

"I see the placard on your table."

"What have you to say in regard to this decree?"

"That I have countersigned it, and have ordered its execution; that it
was I who had that placard written, to which my name is affixed."

"Choose your defender."

"I will defend myself."

"You may speak."

Cimourdain had become impassible. Only his impassibility was more like
the calmness of a rock than that of a man.

For a moment Gauvain remained silent and thoughtful.

Cimourdain continued:--

"What have you to say in your defence?"

Gauvain slowly raised his head, and without looking at any one,
replied:--

"This: one thing has prevented me from seeing another. A good deed,
viewed too near at hand, hid from my sight hundreds of criminal
actions; on the one side, an aged man, on the other, children,--all
this interfered between me and my duty. I forgot the burning villages,
the ravaged fields, the massacred prisoners, the wounded cruelly put
to death, the women shot; I forgot France betrayed to England: I have
set at liberty the country's murderer. I am guilty. When I speak thus I
seem to speak against myself, but it is not so; I am speaking in my own
behalf. When he who is guilty acknowledges his fault, he saves the only
thing worth saving--honor."

"Is this all you have to say in your defence?" returned Cimourdain.

"I will add, that being the commander I should have set an example, and
that you in turn as judges must offer one."

"What example do you require of us?"

"My death."

"You think it just?"

"And necessary."

"Take your seat."

The quartermaster, who was commissioner-auditor, rose and read, first
the decree pronouncing the sentence of outlawry against the ci-devant
Marquis de Lantenac; second, that of the Convention sentencing to
death any one whomsoever who should aid or abet the escape of a rebel
prisoner. He ended with the few lines printed at the bottom of the
placard, forbidding men to "aid or abet" the rebel aforesaid, "under
penalty of death," and signed: "Commander-in-chief of the expeditionary
column, GAUVAIN." The reading ended, the auditor-commissioner again
took his scat.

Cimourdain, crossing his arms, said:--

"Attention, accused, and let the public listen, look on, and keep
silence. The law lies before you. It will be put to vote. The sentence
will be determined by the vote of the majority. Each judge will in
turn pronounce his decision aloud, in the presence of the accused; for
justice has nothing to conceal."

Cimourdain continued,--

"Let the first judge cast his vote. Speak, Captain Guéchamp."

Captain Guéchamp seemed unconscious of the presence either of Gauvain
or Cimourdain. His eyes, riveted upon the placard of the decree, as if
he were absorbed in the contemplation of an abyss, were hidden by his
downcast lids. He said:--

"The law is clearly defined. The judge is more and less than a
man,--less than a man, inasmuch as he has no heart; more than a man,
in that he wields the sword. In the year 414 of the building of the
city of Rome, Manlius put his son to death because he gained a victory
without waiting for orders. That infraction of discipline required an
expiation. Here, the law has been violated; and the law stands higher
than discipline. A man has been overcome by the emotion of pity, and
the country is once more endangered. Pity may rise to the level of
a crime. Commander Gauvain has connived at the escape of the rebel
Lantenac. Gauvain is guilty. I vote for death."

"Write it down, clerk," said Cimourdain.

The clerk wrote, "Captain Guéchamp: death."

Gauvain said in a firm voice,--

"Guéchamp, you have voted well; I thank you."

Cimourdain continued,--

"It is the turn of the second judge. Speak, Sergeant Radoub."

Radoub rose, and turning towards Gauvain, he made the military salute,
exclaiming,--

"If that is the way things are going, then guillotine me; for upon my
most sacred word of honor, I would like to have done, first, what the
old man did, and then what my commander did. When I beheld that man of
eighty rushing into the flames to save the three midgets, I said to
myself, 'Good man, you are a brave fellow!' And since I hear that it
was my commander who saved this old man from your beastly guillotine,
by all that is holy, I say, 'Commander, you ought to be the general;
and you are a true man; and by thunder, I would give you the Cross of
Saint-Louis if there were any crosses or saints or Louises left!' Are
we going to make idiots of ourselves, for pity's sake? I should say
so, if this is to be the result of winning the battles of Jemmapes,
Valmy, Fleurus, and Wattignies. What! here is Commander Gauvain, who
for these four months past has been driving those donkeys of Royalists
to the sound of the drum, who saves the Republic by his sword, and who
did something at Dol that needed brains to accomplish it; and when
you have a man like that, you try to get rid of him, and instead of
making him your general you propose to cut his throat! I say that it is
enough to make one throw one's self head-foremost from the Pont-Neuf!
and if you, citizen Gauvain, were only a corporal instead of being my
commander, I would tell you that you talked a heap of nonsense just
now. The old man did well when he saved the children, you did well
to save the old man; and if men are to be guillotined for their good
actions, then we might as well go to the deuce; and I am sure I don't
know what it all means. There is nothing to depend upon. This must be
a sort of dream, isn't it? I pinch myself to see if I am really awake.
I don't understand. So the old man ought to have let the midgets burn
alive, and my commander did wrong to save the old man's head? See here!
guillotine me; I wish you would! Suppose the midgets had died; then
the battalion of the Bonnet-Rouge would have been dishonored. Is that
what they wanted? If that is the case, then let us destroy one another.
I know as much about politics as you do, for I belonged to the Club
of the Section of the Pikes. Sapristi! we are getting to be no better
than the brutes! In a word, this is the way I look at it. I don't like
such an upsetting state of affairs. Why the devil do we risk our lives?
So that our chief may be put to death. None of that, Lisette! I want
my chief; I must have my chief. I love him better to-day than I did
yesterday. You make me laugh when you say that he is to be guillotined.
We'll have nothing of the sort. I have listened. You may say what you
please; but let me tell you in the first place, it is impossible."

And Radoub took his seat. His wound had reopened. A thin stream of
blood oozed from under the bandage, from the place where his ear had
been, and ran along his neck.

Cimourdain turned towards Radoub.

"You vote that the accused be acquitted?"

"I vote to have him made general," replied Radoub.

"I ask you whether you vote for his acquittal."

[Illustration 134]

"I vote that he be made the head of the Republic."

"Sergeant Radoub, do you, or do you not, vote for Captain Gauvain's
acquittal? Yes, or no?"

"I vote that you behead me in his place."

"Acquittal," said Cimourdain. "Write it down, clerk."

Then the clerk announced,--

"One vote for death, one for acquittal: a tie."

It was Cimourdain's turn to vote.

He rose, took off his hat, and placed it on the table. He was no longer
pale or livid; his face was the color of clay.

Had every man present been lying in his shroud, the silence could not
have been more profound.

In solemn, measured tones Cimourdain said,--

"Gauvain, the accused, your case has been heard. The court-martial, in
the name of the Republic, by a majority of two against one--"

He broke off; he seemed to pause. Was he still doubtful whether to
vote for death or for life? The audience was breathless. Cimourdain
went on,--

"--condemns you to the penalty of death."

His face revealed the torture of an awful triumph. When Jacob in the
darkness forced a blessing from the angel whom he had overthrown, he
must have worn the same terrible smile.

It passed like a flash, however, and Cimourdain again became marble. He
took his seat, replaced his hat on his head, and added,--

"Gauvain, you will be executed to-morrow at sunrise."

Gauvain rose, bowed, and said,--

"I thank the court."

"Remove the prisoner," said Cimourdain; and at a sign from him the door
of the dungeon was reopened, Gauvain entered, and it closed behind him.
Two gendarmes with drawn sabres were stationed on each side of the door.

Radoub, who had just fallen senseless, was carried away.



IV.


AFTER CIMOURDAIN THE JUDGE, CIMOURDAIN THE MASTER.


A camp is a wasps nest, especially in time of revolution. The civic
sting which exists in the soldier darts forth at a moments notice, and
after driving out the enemy, will often turn without ceremony upon its
own chief. The brave army which had taken the Tourgue was alive with
conflicting rumors. When first the escape of Lantenac was discovered,
it was all against Gauvain; but when the latter was seen coming out of
the dungeon where they had supposed Lantenac to be imprisoned, it was
like the transmission of an electric spark, and in less than a minute
the whole army knew of it. A murmur broke forth from the little band;
at first it ran: "They are getting ready to try Gauvain. But it is all
a farce. He is a fool who trusts these ci-devants and calotins! We
have just seen a Viscount save a Marquis, and presently we shall see a
priest acquit a noble!"

When the condemnation of Gauvain became known, there was a second
murmur: "That is an outrage! Our chief, our brave chief, our young
commander, a hero! He is a Viscount, to be sure, but so much more to
his credit that he is also a Republican! What, he, the liberator of
Pontorson, of Villedieu, of Pont-au-Beau: the conqueror of Dol and
of the Tourgue! the man who has made us invincible! the sword of the
Republic in the Vendée,--he who for five months holds his own against
the Chouans, and corrects all the blunders of Léchelle and others! And
Cimourdain dares to condemn him! Wherefore? Because he saved an old
man who had rescued three children! Does it become a priest to put a
soldier to death?"

Thus murmured the victorious and dissatisfied camp. On every side a
dull sense of anger prevailed against Cimourdain. Four thousand men
against one might be supposed to constitute a power; but it does not.
These four thousand men were nothing more than a crowd; Cimourdain was
a will. They all knew that his frown was easily provoked, and this
knowledge sufficed to hold the army in awe. In those times it needed
but the shadow of the Committee of Public Safety behind a man to make
him formidable, and to convert an imprecation into a whisper, and
that whisper into silence. Before, as well as after their murmuring,
Cimourdain was absolute master of the fate of all, as well as of that
of Gauvain. They knew that it would be vain to entreat him; that he
would listen only to his conscience,--that superhuman voice audible to
himself alone. Everything depended upon him. What he had done simply
in his capacity of military judge, he could undo as civil delegate. He
alone could pardon; there were no limits to his authority; it needed
but a sign from him to set Gauvain at liberty; life and death were in
his hands; the guillotine was at his command. In this tragic moment he
held supreme authority.

There was no resource but to wait.

The night came.



V.


THE DUNGEON.


Once more the hall of justice was changed into a guard-room; and as on
the previous evening, the sentinels were doubled, two of whom guarded
the door of the closed dungeon.

Toward midnight, a man, bearing a lantern in his hand, crossed the
guard-room, where he made himself known, and ordered the dungeon to
be opened. It was Cimourdain. He entered, leaving the door half open
behind him. The dungeon was dark and silent. Taking one step forward
in the gloom, he placed the lantern on the ground and stood still. The
even breathing of a sleeping man could be heard through the darkness.
Cimourdain stood dreamily listening to this peaceful sound.

On the truss of straw at the farther end of the dungeon lay Gauvain
sound asleep. It was his breathing that he heard.

Cimourdain moved as noiselessly as possible, and when he had drawn
near, he fixed his eyes upon Gauvain; no mother gazing upon her
sleeping infant could have worn a look more unutterably tender. The
expression was probably beyond his control; he pressed his clenched
hands against his eyes as children sometimes do, and for a moment stood
perfectly still. Then he knelt, gently lifted Gauvain's hand, and
carried it to his lips.

Gauvain stirred. He opened his eyes, with the vague surprise of sudden
waking. The feeble glimmer of a lantern dimly lighted the dungeon. He
recognized Cimourdain.

"Ah, is that you, master?" he said.

Then he added,--

"I dreamed that Death was kissing my hand."

A sudden influx of thoughts will now and then startle a man, and so it
was with Cimourdain; at times this wave rolls in so tumultuously that
it threatens to submerge the soul. But Cimourdain's deep soul gave
forth no sign; he could but utter the word "Gauvain!"

And the two men stood gazing at each other--Cimourdain's eyes alight
with flames that scorched his tears, Gauvain with his sweetest smile.

Gauvain raised himself on one elbow, and said:--

"That scar I see on your face is the sabre-cut you received in my
stead. It was but yesterday you stood beside me in the mêlée, and all
for my sake. If Providence had not placed you by my cradle, where
should I be to-day? In ignorance. If I have any sense of duty, it is
to you that I owe it. I was born in fetters,--I mean the bonds of
prejudice,--which you have loosened; you promoted my free development,
and from the mummy you have created a child. You have implanted a
conscience in a being who bade fair to prove an abortion. Without you
my growth would have been cramped; it is through your influence that
I live. I was but a lord, you have made of me a citizen; I was only
a citizen, you have made of me a mind; you have fitted me to lead
the life of a man upon the earth, and have shown my soul the way to
heaven. It is you who placed in my hands the key of truth that unlocks
the domain wherein we find the realities of human life, and the key
of light to the realms above. I thank you, my master! To you I owe my
life."

Cimourdain, seating himself on the straw beside Gauvain, said,--

"I have come to sup with you."

Gauvain broke the black bread and offered it to him. After Cimourdain
had taken a piece, Gauvain handed him the jug of water.

"Drink first yourself," said Cimourdain.

Gauvain drank, and then passed the jug to Cimourdain, who drank after
him.

Gauvain had taken but a swallow.

Cimourdain took deep draughts.

During this supper Gauvain ate, and Cimourdain drank,--a proof of the
calmness of the one, and of the burning fever of the other.

A certain awful tranquillity pervaded this dungeon. The two men
conversed.

"Gauvain was saying,--

"Grand events are taking form. No one can comprehend the mysterious
workings of revolution at the present time. Behind the visible
achievement rests the invisible, the one concealing the other. The
visible work seems cruel; the invisible is sublime. At this moment
I can see it all very clearly. It is strange and beautiful. We have
been forced to use the materials of the Past. Hence this wonderful
'93. Beneath a scaffolding of barbarism we are building the temple of
civilization.

"Yes," replied Cimourdain, "these temporary expedients pave the way
for the final adjustment, wherein justice and duty stand side by side,
where taxation will be proportionate and progressive, and military
service compulsory; where there is to be absolute equality in rank; and
where, above all things else, the straight line of the Law is to be
maintained,--the republic of the absolute."

"I prefer the republic of the ideal," said Gauvain.

He broke off, then continued:--

"But, oh, my master, where in the picture you have just drawn in words
do you place devotion, sacrifice, abnegation, the sweet intermingling
of kindliness and love? An accurate adjustment of proportions is a
good thing, but harmony is still better. The lyre stands higher than
the scales. Your republic deals with the material interest of man;
mine transports him to the skies: it is like the difference between a
theorem and an eagle."

"You are lost in the clouds."

"And you in your calculations."

"There is an element of dreaminess in harmony."

"So there is in algebra."

"I would have man fashioned according to Euclid."

"And I like him better as described by Homer."

The stern smile of Cimourdain rested on Gauvain as though to stay the
flight of his soul.

[Illustration 135]

"Poetry. Beware of poets!"

"Yes; that is a familiar warning: beware zephyrs, beware of sunbeams,
beware of perfumes, beware of flowers, beware of the stars."

"That sort of thing can never supply us with food."

"How can you tell? There is mental nourishment: a man finds food in
thought."

"Let us indulge in no abstractions! The republic is like two and two in
mathematics: two and two make four. When I have given to each man his
due--"

"Then your duty is to give him what does not revert to him as a right."

"What do you mean by that?"

"I mean those mutual concessions which each man owes his neighbor, and
which go to make up the sum of social life."

"There is nothing beyond the just limits of the law."

"Ah, but there is--everything!"

"I see nothing but justice."

"I look higher."

"What stands higher than justice?"

"Equity."

Now and then both paused, as though a sudden light had flashed across
their minds.

Cimourdain continued,--

"Explain your assertion. I challenge you to do it."

"Very well, then. You demand compulsory military service. Against whom?
Against mankind. I object to military service; I would have peace.
You desire to help the wretched; what I wish is the abolition of
their misery. You demand proportionate taxation; I would have no taxes
whatsoever. I would have the public expenses reduced to the lowest
level, and paid for by the social surplus."

"What do you mean by that?"

"This: In the first place, it is for you to suppress sycophancy,--that
of the priest, the soldier, and the judge. Then, use your wealth to
the best advantage; distribute over your furrows all that fertilizing
matter which is now thrown into your sewers. Three quarters of the
soil lies fallow; plough it up; redeem the waste pastures; divide
the communal lands; let each man have a farm, and each farm a man.
You will increase a hundredfold the social product. At the present
time, France affords her peasants meat but four times a year; well
cultivated, she could feed three millions of men, all Europe. Utilize
nature, that gigantic auxiliary; enlist every breeze, every waterfall,
every magnetic current, in your service. This globe has a subterranean
network of veins, through which flows a marvellous circulation of
water, oil, and fire; pierce this vein of the globe, and let the water
feed your fountains, the oil your lamps, and the fire your hearths.
Consider the action of the waves,--the ebb and flow of the tides. What
is the ocean? A prodigious force wasted. How stupid is the earth, to
make no use of the ocean!"

"There you go, in full career with your dreams!"

"You mean with my realities."

Gauvain continued,--

"And woman,--how do you dispose of her?"

Cimourdain replied,--

"Leave her as she is,--the servant of man."

"Yes, under one condition."

"What is that?"

"That man shall be the servant of woman."

"What are you thinking of?" exclaimed Cimourdain. "Man a servant?
Never! Man is the master. I admit but one kingdom,--that of the
fire-side. Man is king in his own home."

"Yes, on one condition."

"What is that?"

"That woman shall be its queen."

"You mean that you demand for both man and woman--"

"Equality."

"'Equality'! Can you dream of such a thing? The two beings are so
entirely unlike!"

"I said equality, not identity."

There was another pause, a sort of truce as it were, between these two
minds exchanging their lightning flashes. Cimourdain broke it.

"And the child? To whose care would you intrust that?"

"First to the father who begets, then to the mother who gives him
birth, later to the master who educates, and to the city that makes a
man of him, then to the country which is his supreme mother, and lastly
to humanity which is his great ancestress."

"You have not mentioned God."

"Each step--father, mother, master, city, country, humanity--is but a
rung in the ladder that leads to God."

Cimourdain was silent, while Gauvain continued:

"When one climbs to the top of the ladder one has reached God. God is
revealed, and one has but to enter into heaven."

Cimourdain made the gesture of one who calls another back: "Gauvain,
return to earth. We want to realize the possible."

"Do not begin then by making it impossible."

"The possible may always be realized."

"Not always. Rough usage destroys Utopia. Nothing is more defenceless
than the egg."

"Still, Utopia must be seized and forced to wear the yoke of reality;
she must be circumscribed by a system of actual facts. The abstract
must be resolved into the concrete: what it loses in beauty it gains
in usefulness; although contracted, it is improved. Justice must enter
into law; and when justice has become law, it is absolute. That is what
I call the possible."

"The possible includes more than that."

"Ah, there you go again, soaring away into the land of dreams!"

"The possible is a mysterious bird, always hovering above the head of
man."

"We must catch it."

"And take it alive too."

Gauvain continued:--

"My idea is this: Ever onward. If God had intended that man should
go backwards He would have given him an eye in the back of his head.
Let us look always towards the dawn, the blossom-time, the hour of
birth. Those things which are falling to decay encourage the new
springing life. In the splitting of the old tree may be heard a
summons to the new one. Each century will do its work,--civic, to-day;
humane, to-morrow: to-day, the question of justice; to-morrow, that of
compensation. Wages and Justice are in point of fact synonymous terms.
Man's life is not to be spent without a suitable compensation. When He
bestows life, God contracts thereby a debt: justice is the inherent
compensation; remuneration is the acquirement thereof."

Gauvain spoke with the calm serenity of a prophet; Cimourdain listened.
The parts were changed, and now it seemed as if it were the pupil who
had become the master.

Cimourdain murmured,--

"You go at a rapid rate."

"Perhaps because I have no time to lose," replied Gauvain with a smile.

He continued:--

"Ah, master, here is the difference between our two utopias. You would
have military service obligatory; I demand the same for education.
You dream of man the soldier; I, of man the citizen. You wish him to
strike terror; I would have him thoughtful. You establish a republic of
swords, while I desire to found--"

He broke off.

"I should like to establish a republic of minds."

Cimourdain looked down on the flag-stones of the dungeon.

"And in the mean time what would you have?" he asked.

"The existing condition of things."

"Then you absolve the present moment."

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Because it is a tempest. A tempest always knows what it is about. For
every oak that is struck by lightning, how many forests are purified!
Civilization has a plague; a strong wind is sent to expel it from the
land. It may not choose its methods wisely, perhaps, but can it do
otherwise? Its task is no light one. Viewing the horror of the miasma,
I can understand the fury of the wind."

Gauvain went on:--

"But what matters the storm to me, if I have a compass; and what power
can events gain over me, if I have my conscience?"

And he added in that undertone which produces so solemn an effect:--

"There is One to whose will we must always yield."

"Who is that?" asked Cimourdain.

Gauvain pointed upwards. Cimourdain looked in the direction of the
uplifted finger, and it seemed to him that he could see the starry sky
through the dungeon vault.

Once more they relapsed into silence.

Cimourdain continued:--

"A supernatural state of society; I tell you it is no longer
possible,--it is a mere dream."

"It is a goal; otherwise, of what use is society? Better remain in a
state of nature; be like the savages. Otaheite is a paradise, only
in that paradise no one thinks. Better an intelligent hell than a
stupid heaven. But, no,--we will have no hell whatever. Let us be a
human society. Super-natural? Yes. But if you are to add nothing to
Nature, why leave her? In that case you may as well content yourself
with work like the ant, and with honey like the bee. Rest content
among the laboring classes, instead of rising to the ranks of superior
intelligence. If you add anything to Nature, you must of necessity rise
above her: to add is to augment; to augment is to increase. Society is
the exaltation of Nature. I would have what bee-hives and ant-hills
lack,--monuments, arts, poetry, heroes, men of genius. To bear eternal
burdens is no fit law for man. No, no, no! let us have no more pariahs,
no more slaves, no more convicts, no more lost souls! I would have
every attribute of man a symbol of civilization and an example of
progress; I would present liberty to the intellect, equality to the
heart, fraternity to the soul. Away with the yoke! Man is not made
for dragging chains, but that he may spread his wings. Let us have no
more of the reptile. Let the larva turn into a butterfly; let the grub
change into a living flower and fly away. I wish--"

He broke off. His eyes shone, his lips moved, he said no more.

The door had remained open. Sounds from without penetrated into the
dungeon. The distant echo of a trumpet reached their ears,--probably
the réveille; then, when the guard was relieved, they heard the
butt-ends of the sentinels' muskets striking the ground; again,
apparently quite near the tower, so far as the darkness allowed one
to judge, a noise like the moving of planks and beams, accompanied
by muffled and intermittent sounds resembling the blows of a hammer.
Cimourdain turned pale as he listened. Gauvain heard nothing. Deeper
and deeper grew his reverie. Hardly did he seem to breathe, so absorbed
was he in the visions of his brain. Now and then he moved, like one
slightly startled. A gathering brightness shone in his eyes, like the
light of dawn.

Some time passed thus.

"Of what are you thinking?" asked Cimourdain.

"Of the future," replied Gauvain.

And he fell back again into his meditation. Unobserved by the latter,
Cimourdain rose from the bed of straw whereon they had both been
sitting. His eyes rested yearningly upon the young dreamer, while he
slowly moved backward towards the door. He went out. The dungeon was
again closed.


[Illustration 136]



VI.


STILL THE SUN RISES


It was not long before day began to dawn on the horizon; and together
with the day there sprang to light upon the plateau of the Tourgue,
above the forest of Fougères, a strange, stationary, and wonderful
object, unfamiliar to the birds of heaven.

It had been placed there during the night,--set up rather than built.
From a distance, against the horizon, it presented a profile composed
of straight and rigid lines, resembling a Hebrew letter, or one of
those Egyptian hieroglyphics which formed part of the alphabet of the
ancient enigma.

The first thought that entered the mind at the sight of this object was
its uselessness. There it stood, among the blossoming heather. Then
came the question, could it be used; and for what purpose? Then came
a shudder. It was a sort of trestle-work, supported by four posts. At
one end were two long upright beams, united at the top by a cross-beam,
from which hung a triangle that looked black against the pale blue
of the morning sky. At the other end of this trestle stood a ladder.
Between these two beams, beneath the triangle, could be distinguished
a sort of panel composed of two movable sections, which, fitting into
one another, offered to the eye a round hole about the size of a man's
neck. The upper section of the panel ran in a groove, by means of which
it could be raised or lowered. For the moment the two semicircles that
formed the collar were drawn apart. At the foot of the two pillars
supporting the triangle was seen a plank that moved on hinges like a
see-saw. Beside the plank stood a long basket, and in front, between
the two posts at the end of the staging, a square one. This object was
painted red, and made entirely of wood, except the triangle, which was
of iron. One might know that it was built by men, so ugly, sordid, and
contemptible did it look; and yet so formidable was it that it might
well have been transported hither by genii.

This shapeless structure was the guillotine.

In front of it, a few paces off, in the ravine, was another monster,
La Tourgue,--a stone monster, companion-piece to the monster of wood.
And let us add, that after wood and stone have been manipulated by man
they lose something of their original substance, taking on a certain
similitude to man himself. A building is a dogma; a machine is an idea.

The Tourgue was that fatal product of the past called in Paris the
Bastille, in England the Tower of London, in Germany the Fortress of
Spielberg, in Spain the Escurial, in Moscow the Kremlin, and in Rome
the Castle of Saint-Angelo.

The Tourgue was the condensation of fifteen hundred years,--the
period of the Middle Ages, with its vassalage, its servitude, and its
feudality. The guillotine showed forth but one year,--'93; but these
twelve months were a fitting counterpoise for those fifteen centuries.

The Tourgue was the personification of monarchy; the guillotine, of
revolution.

A tragic encounter.

On the one hand, the debt; on the other, the requirement thereof. All
the hopeless entanglement of the Gothic period--the serf, the lord,
the slave, the master, the plebeian, the nobility, a complex code
with all the ramifications of practice, the coalition of judge and
priest, the infinite variety of shackles, fiscal duties, the salt-tax,
the mortmain, the poll-tax, the exception, the prerogatives, the
prejudices, the fanaticisms, the royal privilege of bankruptcy, the
sceptre, the throne, the arbitrary will, the divine right--opposed to
that simple thing, a knife.

On one side, a knot; on the other, the axe.

For many a year the Tourgue had stood alone in this desert, and from
its battlements had rained the boiling oil, the burning pitch, and the
melted lead; there it stood, with its dungeons paved with human bones,
its torture-chamber alive with memories of its tragic past. For fifteen
centuries of savage tranquillity its gloomy front had towered above the
shades of the forest; it had been the only power in the land,--the one
thing respected and feared; its reign had been supreme, without a rival
in its wild barbarity, when it suddenly saw rising before it, with an
aspect of hostility, a thing,--nay, more than a thing; a creature as
hideous as itself,--the guillotine.

Stone seems at times endowed with the sense of sight. A statue
observes, a tower watches, the front of a building contemplates. The
Tourgue seemed to be examining the guillotine.

It was as if questioning itself,--

"What can this object be?"

One might fancy it to have sprung from the soil.

And so, indeed, it had.

Like a poisonous tree it had sprouted from a fatal soil. From that soil
so plentifully watered by human sweat, by tears, and by blood, from the
soil wherein men had dug countless graves, tombs, caves, and ambushes,
from the same soil wherein had rotted the innumerable victims of
every kind of tyranny, from that soil covering so great a multitude of
crimes, buried like frightful germs in the depths below, had sprung
forth, on the appointed day, this stranger, this avenging goddess, this
fierce sword-bearing instrument; and '93 cried out to the Old World,--

"Behold me!"

The guillotine had a right to say to the dungeon: "I am thy daughter."

And yet at the same time the keep--for these fatal objects live a
certain obscure life--recognized its own death-warrant.

At the sight of this formidable apparition the Tourgue seemed
bewildered. One might have called it terror. The immense mass of
granite was both majestic and infamous; that plank with its triangle
was still more dreadful. Deposed omnipotence felt a horror of the
rising power. It was criminal history studying judicial history. The
violence of former days was comparing itself with the violence of the
present time; the ancient fortress, both the prison and the dwelling
of the lords, where the tortured victims had shrieked aloud, this
structure devoted to war and murder, now useless and defenceless,
violated, dismantled, discrowned, a pile of stones no better than a
heap of cinders, hideous to look upon, magnificent in death, dizzy with
the vertigo of those terrible centuries, stood watching the passage of
the awful living hour. Yesterday shuddered in the presence of To-day.
The old ferocity beheld and did homage to the new terror, and that
which was mere Nothingness unclosed its spectral eyes before the
Terror, and the phantom gazed upon the ghost. Nature is pitiless; she
never withholds her flowers, her melodies, her perfumes, her sunbeams,
from human abominations. She overwhelms man by the contrast between
divine beauty and social ugliness; she spares him nothing, neither the
wing of butterfly, nor song of bird; on the verge of murder, in the
act of vengeance or barbarity, she brings him face to face with those
holy things; nowhere can he escape the eternal reproach of universal
benevolence and the implacable serenity of the sky. Human law in all
its hideous deformity must stand forth naked in the presence of the
eternal radiance. Man breaks and crushes, lays waste, destroys; but the
summer, the lily, and the star remain ever the same.

Never had the fair sky of early dawn seemed lovelier than on that
morning. A soft breeze stirred the heather, the mist floated lightly
among the branches, the forest of Fougères, suffused with the breath
of running brooks, smoked in the dawn like a gigantic censer filled
with incense; the blue sky, the snowy clouds, the clear transparency
of the streams, the verdure, with its harmonious scale of color, from
the aqua-marine to the emerald, the social groups of trees, the grassy
glades, the far-reaching plains,--all revealed that purity which is
Nature's eternal precept unto man. In the midst of all this appeared
the awful depravity of man; there stood the fortress and the scaffold,
war and punishment, the two representatives of this sanguinary epoch
and moment, the screech-owl of the gloomy night of the Past and the bat
of the twilight of the Future. In the presence of a world all flowery
and fragrant, tender and charming, the glorious sky bathed both the
Tourgue and the guillotine with the light of dawn, as though it said to
man: "Behold my work, and yours."

The sun wields a formidable weapon in its light.

This spectacle had its spectators.

The four thousand men of the expeditionary army were drawn up on the
plateau in battle array. They surrounded the guillotine on three sides,
forming themselves around it after a geometrical fashion in the shape
of the letter E; the battery placed against the centre of the longest
line made the notch of the E. The red machine was, if we may so express
it, shut in by these three battle fronts, a wall of soldiers, extending
in a sort of coil and spreading as far as the edge of the escarpment of
the plateau; the fourth side, left open, was the ravine itself, which
looked upon the Tourgue.

This formed an oblong square, in the centre of which stood the
scaffold. The shadow cast upon the grass by the guillotine lessened as
the sun rose. The gunners with lighted matches stood by their pieces. A
faint blue smoke curled upward from the ravine,--the last breath of the
dying fire on the bridge.

This smoke obscured without veiling the Tourgue, whose lofty platform
overlooked the entire horizon. Only the width of the ravine separated
the platform from the guillotine, and voices could easily have been
heard between them.

The table of the tribunal and the chair shaded by the tricolored
flags had been conveyed to this platform. The sun rising behind the
Tourgue brought into relief the black mass of the fortress, and upon
its summit, seated on the chair of the tribunal, beneath the group
of flags, the figure of a man, motionless, his arms crossed upon his
breast.

This man was Cimourdain. He wore, as on the previous evening, his civil
delegate's uniform, a hat with the tricolored cockade upon his head, a
sabre by his side, and pistols in his belt.

He was silent. The entire assembly was silent likewise. The soldiers,
their eyes downcast, stood at order-arms. They touched elbows, but no
one spoke. They were thinking vaguely about this war,--the numerous
battles, the hedge fusillades so valiantly faced, of the hosts of
furious peasants scattered by their prowess, the citadels conquered,
the engagements won, the victories; and now it seemed as though all
this glory were turned to their shame. A gloomy expectation oppressed
every breast. They could see the executioner walking up and down the
platform of the guillotine. The growing light of day deepened until it
filled the sky with its majestic presence.

Suddenly was heard that muffled sound peculiar to crape-covered drums;
nearer and nearer came their funereal roll; the ranks opened, and the
procession, entering the square, moved towards the scaffold.

First came the black' drums, then a company of grenadiers with lowered
muskets, then a platoon of gendarmes with drawn sabres, then the
prisoner, Gauvain.

Gauvain walked without constraint. Neither hands nor feet were bound.
He was in undress uniform, and wore his sword.

Behind him marched another platoon of gendarmes.

The same pensive joy that had lighted his face when he said to
Cimourdain, "I am thinking of the future," still rested upon it.
Nothing could be more sublime and touching than this continued smile.

When he reached the fatal spot, his first glance was turned to the
summit of the tower. He disdained the guillotine. He knew that
Cimourdain would feel it his duty to be present at the execution; his
eyes sought him on the platform and found him there.

Cimourdain was ghastly pale and cold. Even those who stood nearest
heard no sound of his breathing.

When he caught sight of Gauvain not a quiver passed over his face; and
yet he knew that every step brought him nearer to the scaffold.

As he advanced, Gauvain looked at Cimourdain, and Cimourdain looked at
him. It seemed as though Cimourdain found support in that glance.

Gauvain reached the foot of the scaffold. He ascended it, followed by%
the officer in command of the grenadiers. He unbelted his sword and
handed it to this officer; then he loosened his cravat and gave it to
the headsman. He was like a vision. Never had he looked more beautiful:
his brown locks floated in the wind (at that time they did not cut the
hair of those about to be executed); his fair throat reminded one of
a woman's; his heroic and commanding expression gave the idea of an
arch-angel. He stood upon the scaffold, lost in reverie. There, too,
was a height. Gauvain stood upon it stately and calm. The sun streamed
about him, crowning him, as it were, with a halo. Still, the prisoner
must be bound. Rope in hand, the executioner advanced.

At that moment, when the soldiers saw their young leader so near the
knife, they could no longer restrain themselves; the hearts of those
warriors burst forth. Then was heard a startling sound,--the sobs of
an entire army. A clamor arose: "Mercy! mercy!" Some fell on their
knees, others threw down their muskets, stretching their arms towards
the platform where Cimourdain stood. One grenadier, pointing to the
guillotine, cried, "Here I am; will you not take me as a substitute?"
All repeated frantically, "Mercy! mercy!" The very lions would have
been moved or terrified; for the tears of soldiers are terrible.

The headsman paused, uncertain what to do.

Then a voice, quick and low, and yet in its ominous severity distinctly
heard by all, cried from the top of the tower,--

"Execute the law!"

They recognized the inexorable tone. Cimourdain had spoken. The army
shuddered.

The executioner hesitated no longer. He moved forward, holding out the
cord.

"Wait," said Gauvain.

And turning towards Cimourdain, he waved his free right hand in token
of farewell; then he allowed himself to be bound.

When he was tied he said to the executioner,--

"Pardon,--one moment more. Long live the Republic!" he cried.

He was laid upon the plank. The infamous collar clasped that charming
and noble head. The executioner gently lifted his hair, then pressed
the spring; the triangle detached itself, gliding first slowly, then
rapidly: a frightful blow was heard.

At the same instant another report sounded; the stroke of the axe
was answered by a pistol-shot. Cimourdain had just seized one of the
pistols that he wore in his belt; and as Gauvain's head rolled into the
basket, Cimourdain sent a bullet through his own heart. A stream of
blood gushed from his mouth, and he fell dead.

Thus these twin souls, united in the tragic death, rose together,--the
shadow of the one blending with the radiance of the other.


[Illustration 137]


THE END.





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