They need not, however, have been alarmed, for Agatha Larochejaquelin was not at all disposed to take Adolphe Denot as her lord; she was passionately attached to her brother, and for his sake she had been kind, attentive, nay, almost affectionate to his friend; she and Adolphe had been much together since they were children. Agatha was glad that he was gone; she wished to spare him the humiliation of a refusal; she understood his character well, and felt that the wound inflicted on his self-love, by being rejected, would be more painful to him than his actual disappointment; she knew that Adolphe would not die for love, but she also knew that he would not quietly bear the fancied slight of unreturned affection.
He had wished to see them married; and, though he had not exactly told his friend as much, he had said so much that both Agatha and Denot knew what his wishes were. This, of course, gave great encouragement to the lover, but it greatly grieved poor Agatha; and now that Adolphe was gone, she made up her mind to open her heart to her brother. A day or two before the revolt of St. Florent, they were sitting together in the drawing-room; it was late in the evening, the old Marquis had retired for the night, and Marie de Lescure was engaged elsewhere, so that Agatha and her brother were left alone together.
He was reading, but she was sitting gazing at the fire. She could hardly summon up courage to say, even to her dear brother, what she wished to say. I am sorry to hear what you say, Agatha — very sorry — I thought you and Adolphe were great friends. I hope you have not been doing so — tell me, Henri, that you have not. My own Henri! I do love him as your friend. I will continue to love him as such, as long as he remains your friend. I know he loves you, though he has not told me so.
You must tell him, kindly, that you cannot return his affection: you cannot always run away from him. He will, at any rate, forget his love, when he finds that I avoid his company; but, Henri, if he formally asks my hand, and is refused, that he will neither forget nor forgive. You know he is — he is rather impatient of refusal; he could not bear as well as some men any mortification to his pride. I grieve for him, for I love him myself; and I know his affections are strong; but I think it is better he should know the truth at once, and it must be from your own lips.
I cannot tell him you will not accept him before he himself makes the offer.
Agatha did not reply; she could not explain even to her brother all that she felt. She could not point out to him how very weak — how selfish his friend was.
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Adolphe Denot loved her as warmly as he was capable of loving ought but himself; but were she to die, his grief would be very short lived; he would not, however, endure to see that she preferred any one to himself. I will never press you against your will. I knew you would not torture me with a request that I should marry a man I did not love.
I grieve that I interfere with your plans; but I will live with you, and be your old maid sister, and nurse and love your children, and they shall love their old maid aunt. I have promised to be with de Lescure, and Adolphe is to meet me there; they are both then to come here.
Not a man shall be taken who does not choose to go; and there are not many who wish to go from choice. There will be warm work in Poitou next week, Agatha; few of us then can think of love or marriage. You and Marie will be making sword-knots and embroidering flags; that will be your work. A harder task will soon follow it — that of dressing wounds and staunching blood.
We shall have hot work, and more than plenty of it. May God send us well through it. We will be apt scholars in fighting for our wives, and our sisters, and our houses. As for leaders, the man who is most fit shall lead the others. Whatever women can do, we will do; you shall have our prayers for your success our tears for your reverses, and our praises for your courage; and when you require it, as some of you will too soon, our tenderest care in your sufferings. But, M. Larochejaquelin, will the people rise?
Agatha asked me but now, who would be our leaders? Is there a man in the Bocage — aye, in all Poitou, who will not follow Charles de Lescure? In St. Florent, they say, not a man will join; in Clisson and Torfou they begin on Monday. Charles, and I, and Adolphe will be in Clisson.
Father Jerome has the whole lists; he says that in St. Marie cannot leave Madame de Lescure alone, when her husband is, away and in such danger. The country cures generally were men who knew little of the world and its ways — who were uneducated, save as regards their own profession — who had few ideas beyond their own duties and station, This was not so with Father Jerome; he had travelled and heard the ways of men in other countries; he had not read much but he had seen a good deal, and he was a man of quick apprehension — and above all a man of much energy.
He had expressed great hostility to the revolution since its commencement; at a time when so few were hostile to it, he had foreseen that it would destroy the religion and the religious feeling of the country, and he had constantly besought his flock to remain true to their old customs. He was certainly a devout man in his own way, though he was somewhat unscrupulous in his devotions; the people were as superstitious as they were faithful, and he never hesitated in using their superstition to forward his own views.
His whole anxiety was for their welfare; but he cherished their very faults, their ignorance and their follies, to enable himself to serve them in his own manner. He would not own that any change: could better their condition, or that anything more was desirable for them than that they should live contented and obedient, and die faithful in hope.
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Father Jerome was a tall, well-made, brawny man; his face was not exactly handsome, but it was bold and intellectual; his eye was bright and clear, and his forehead high and open — he was a man of immense muscular power and capable of great physical exertion — he was above forty-five years of age but still apparently in the prime of his strength. Father Jerome greeted them all as he entered the breakfast-room. He was received with great kindness by the old Marquis, who pressed his hand and made him sit beside himself; he blessed the two young girls fervently, and nodded affectionately to Henri, whom he had seen on the preceding day.
I hope we shall soon be able to lay our trophies at your feet. I would, however, that God had spared me from these days; it is grievous for me to see my son going out to fight against his own countrymen, at his own door-sill; it would be more grievous still, where he now to hesitate in doing so. So saying, he got up and went out, and the priest followed him; they had much to do, and many things to arrange; to distribute arms and gunpowder, and make the most of their little means.
It was not their present intention to lead the men from their homes, but they wished to prepare them to receive the republican troops, when they came into the country to enforce the collection of the republican levy. The revolt of St. As Cathelineau had said, the news was soon known in Nantes and Angers, and the commander of the republican troops determined most thoroughly to avenge the insolence and rebellion of the vain people of St.
He was not, however, able to accomplish his threat on the instant, for he also was collecting conscripts in the neighbourhood of Nantes, and the peasantry had heard of the doings of St.
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Florent as well as the soldiers, and the men of Brittany seemed inclined to follow the example of the men of Anjou. He had, therefore, for a time enough to occupy his own troops, without destroying the rebels of St. Florent — and it was well for St. Florent that it was so. Had he at once marched five hundred men, with four pieces of cannon against the town, he might have reduced the place to ashes, and taken a bloody revenge for their victory The men of St Florent would have had no means of opposing such a force, and the peasantry generally were not armed, the tactics of the royalists were not settled, and the revolt through the province was not general.
The destruction of St Florent was postponed for a month, and at the expiration of that time, the troops of the republic had too much to do, to return to the little town where the war had commenced. The rumour of what had been done at St. Florent, was also soon known in Coron, in Torfou, and in Clisson. The battle was fought on Thursday, and early on Saturday morning, M. They found Henri in the midst of his preparations, weighing out gunpowder with the assistance of the priest and the two girls.
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As the priest remarked, blasting powder was not the best, but it was good enough to treat republicans with — at any rate they could get no better, and it was lucky that they chanced to have that. Charles de Lescure shuddered, as he. I am rejoiced to see you so well supplied, Henri; this is indeed a Godsend. I am strictly within my calling, M. Mademoiselle, these packets are too large. You are giving too good measure. Remember how many are the claimants for our bounty. They all left off what they were doing, and listened anxiously for M. Florent, I am sure, have not disgraced themselves.
What I hear is this — not a conscript was to be seen at the barracks when they were summoned. Three or four soldiers were sent to commence the collection in the town, and they were at once taken prisoners by a party headed by Cathelineau, the postillion. The Colonel then turned out, and fired on the crowd; but he could not stand his ground before the people, who drove him back to the barracks; half his men were killed in retreating.
The people then attacked the barracks, and regularly carried them by storm; took the cannon which was with the detachment, and made prisoners of every soldier that was not killed in the fray. If the half of it be true, St. Florent has made a fine beginning for us. He says, that twenty times in the day Cathelineau stood, unharmed before the bayonets of the soldiers; that twenty times he was shot at, but it was impossible to wound him.
They say that God has interfered for the protection of St. Why should He not put out his right hand to assist his own? We must not believe it all; it is too glorious to be true.