Honore de Balzac
Part 4 out of 7
The captain's hasty retreat had a motive. The despised, humiliated
woman, who was even then, perhaps, being put to death, had so won upon
him during the scene of her degradation that he said to himself, as he
left the room, "If she is a prostitute, she is not an ordinary one,
and I'll marry her." He felt so sure of being able to rescue her from
the savages that his first thought, when his own life was given to
him, was to save hers. Unhappily, when he reached the portico, he
found the courtyard deserted. He looked about him, listened to the
silence, and could hear nothing but the distant shouts and laughter of
the Chouans, who were drinking in the gardens and dividing their
booty. He turned the corner to the fatal wing before which his men had
been shot, and from there he could distinguish, by the feeble light of
a few stray lanterns, the different groups of the Chasseurs du Roi.
Neither Pille-Miche, nor Marche-a-Terre, nor the girl were visible;
but he felt himself gently pulled by the flap of his uniform, and,
turning round, saw Francine on her knees.
"Where is she?" he asked.
"I don't know; Pierre drove me back and told me not to stir from
"Which way did they go?"
"That way," she replied, pointing to the causeway.
The captain and Francine then noticed in that direction a line of
strong shadows thrown by the moonlight on the lake, and among them
that of a female figure.
"It is she!" cried Francine.
Mademoiselle de Verneuil seemed to be standing, as if resigned, in the
midst of other figures, whose gestures denoted a debate.
"There are several," said the captain. "Well, no matter, let us go to
"You will get yourself killed uselessly," said Francine.
"I have been killed once before to-day," he said gaily.
They both walked towards the gloomy gateway which led to the causeway;
there Francine suddenly stopped short.
"No," she said, gently, "I'll go no farther; Pierre told me not to
meddle; I believe in him; if we go on we shall spoil all. Do as you
please, officer, but leave me. If Pierre saw us together he would kill
Just then Pille-Miche appeared in the gateway and called to the
postilion who was left in the stable. At the same moment he saw the
captain and covered him with his musket, shouting out, "By Saint Anne
of Auray! the rector was right enough in telling us the Blues had
signed a compact with the devil. I'll bring you to life, I will!"
"Stop! my life is sacred," cried Merle, seeing his danger. "There's
the glove of your Gars," and he held it out.
"Ghosts' lives are not sacred," replied the Chouan, "and I sha'n't
give you yours. Ave Maria!"
He fired, and the ball passed through his victim's head. The captain
fell. When Francine reached him she heard him mutter the words, "I'd
rather die with them than return without them."
The Chouan sprang upon the body to strip it, saying, "There's one good
thing about ghosts, they come to life in their clothes." Then,
recognizing the Gars' glove, that sacred safeguard, in the captain's
hand, he stopped short, terrified. "I wish I wasn't in the skin of my
mother's son!" he exclaimed, as he turned and disappeared with the
rapidity of a bird.
To understand this scene, so fatal to poor Merle, we must follow
Mademoiselle de Verneuil after the marquis, in his fury and despair,
had abandoned her to Pille-Miche. Francine had caught Marche-a-Terre
by the arm and reminded him, with sobs, of the promise he had made
her. Pille-Miche was already dragging away his victim like a heavy
bundle. Marie, her head and hair hanging back, turned her eyes to the
lake; but held as she was in a grasp of iron she was forced to follow
the Chouan, who turned now and then to hasten her steps, and each time
that he did so a jovial thought brought a hideous smile upon his face.
"Isn't she a morsel!" he cried, with a coarse laugh.
Hearing the words, Francine recovered speech.
"He'll kill her."
"Not at once."
"Then she'll kill herself, she will never submit; and if she dies I
shall die too."
"Then you love her too much, and she shall die," said Marche-a-Terre.
"Pierre! if we are rich and happy we owe it all to her; but, whether
or no, you promised me to save her."
"Well, I'll try; but you must stay here, and don't move."
Francine at once let go his arm, and waited in horrible suspense in
the courtyard where Merle found her. Meantime Marche-a-Terre joined
his comrade at the moment when the latter, after dragging his victim
to the barn, was compelling her to get into the coach. Pille-Miche
called to him to help in pulling out the vehicle.
"What are you going to do with all that?" asked Marche-a-Terre.
"The Grande Garce gave me the woman, and all that belongs to her is
"The coach will put a sou or two in your pocket; but as for the woman,
she'll scratch your eyes out like a cat."
Pille-Miche burst into a roar of laughter.
"Then I'll tie her up and take her home," he answered.
"Very good; suppose we harness the horses," said Marche-a-Terre.
A few moments later Marche-a-Terre, who had left his comrade mounting
guard over his prey, led the coach from the stable to the causeway,
where Pille-Miche got into it beside Mademoiselle de Verneuil, not
perceiving that she was on the point of making a spring into the lake.
"I say, Pille-Miche!" cried Marche-a-Terre.
"I'll buy all your booty."
"Are you joking?" asked the other, catching his prisoner by the
petticoat, as a butcher catches a calf that is trying to escape him.
"Let me see her, and I'll set a price."
The unfortunate creature was made to leave the coach and stand between
the two Chouans, who each held a hand and looked at her as the Elders
must have looked at Susannah.
"Will you take thirty francs in good coin?" said Marche-a-Terre, with
"Done?" said Marche-a-Terre, holding out his hand.
"Yes, done; I can get plenty of Breton girls for that, and choice
morsels, too. But the coach; whose is that?" asked Pille-Miche,
beginning to reflect upon his bargain.
"Mine!" cried Marche-a-Terre, in a terrible tone of voice, which
showed the sort of superiority his ferocious character gave him over
"But suppose there's money in the coach?"
"Didn't you say, 'Done'?"
"Yes, I said, 'Done.'"
"Very good; then go and fetch the postilion who is gagged in the
stable over there."
"But if there's money in the--"
"Is there any?" asked Marche-a-Terre, roughly, shaking Marie by the
"Yes, about a hundred crowns."
The two Chouans looked at each other.
"Well, well, friend," said Pille-Miche, "we won't quarrel for a female
Blue; let's pitch her into the lake with a stone around her neck, and
divide the money."
"I'll give you that money as my share in d'Orgemont's ransom," said
Marche-a-Terre, smothering a groan, caused by such sacrifice.
Pille-Miche uttered a sort of hoarse cry as he started to find the
postilion, and his glee brought death to Merle, whom he met on his
Hearing the shot, Marche-a-Terre rushed in the direction where he had
left Francine, and found her praying on her knees, with clasped hands,
beside the poor captain, whose murder had deeply horrified her.
"Run to your mistress," said the Chouan; "she is saved."
He ran himself to fetch the postilion, returning with all speed, and,
as he repassed Merle's body, he noticed the Gars' glove, which was
still convulsively clasped in the dead hand.
"Oho!" he cried. "Pille-Miche has blundered horribly--he won't live to
spend his crowns."
He snatched up the glove and said to Mademoiselle de Verneuil, who was
already in the coach with Francine: "Here, take this glove. If any of
our men attack you on the road, call out 'Ho, the Gars!' show the
glove, and no harm can happen to you. Francine," he said, turning
towards her and seizing her violently, "you and I are quits with that
woman; come with me and let the devil have her."
"You can't ask me to abandon her just at this moment!" cried Francine,
Marche-a-Terre scratched his ear and forehead, then he raised his
head, and his mistress saw the ferocious expression of his eyes. "You
are right," he said; "I leave you with her one week; if at the end of
that time you don't come with me--" he did not finish the sentence,
but he slapped the muzzle of his gun with the flat of his hand. After
making the gesture of taking aim at her, he disappeared, without
waiting for her reply.
No sooner was he gone than a voice, which seemed to issue from the
lake, called, in a muffled tone: "Madame, madame!"
The postilion and the two women shuddered, for several corpses were
floating near them. A Blue, hidden behind a tree, cautiously appeared.
"Let me get up behind the coach, or I'm a dead man. That damned cider
which Clef-des-Coeurs would stop to drink cost more than a pint of
blood. If he had done as I did, and made his round, our poor comrades
there wouldn't be floating dead in the pond."
* * * * *
While these events were taking place outside the chateau, the leaders
sent by the Vendeans and those of the Chouans were holding a council
of war, with their glasses in their hands, under the presidency of the
Marquis de Montauran. Frequent libations of Bordeaux animated the
discussion, which, however, became more serious and important at the
end of the meal. After the general plan of military operations had
been decided on, the Royalists drank to the health of the Bourbons. It
was at that moment that the shot which killed Merle was heard, like an
echo of the disastrous war which these gay and noble conspirators were
about to make against the Republic. Madame du Gua quivered with
pleasure at the thought that she was freed from her rival; the guests
looked at each other in silence; the marquis rose from the table and
"He loved her!" said Madame du Gua, sarcastically. "Follow him,
Monsieur de Fontaine, and keep him company; he will be as irritating
as a fly if we let him sulk."
She went to a window which looked on the courtyard to endeavor to see
Marie's body. There, by the last gleams of the sinking moon, she
caught sight of the coach being rapidly driven down the avenue of
apple-trees. Mademoiselle de Verneuil's veil was fluttering in the
wind. Madame du Gua, furious at the sight, left the room hurriedly.
The marquis, standing on the portico absorbed in gloomy thought, was
watching about a hundred and fifty Chouans, who, having divided their
booty in the gardens, were now returning to finish the cider and the
rye-bread provided for the Blues. These soldiers of a new species, on
whom the monarchy was resting its hopes, dispersed into groups. Some
drank the cider; others, on the bank before the portico, amused
themselves by flinging into the lake the dead bodies of the Blues, to
which they fastened stones. This sight, joined to the other aspects of
the strange scene,--the fantastic dress, the savage expressions of the
barbarous and uncouth /gars/,--was so new and so amazing to Monsieur
de Fontaine, accustomed to the nobler and better-regulated appearance
of the Vendean troops, that he seized the occasion to say to the
Marquis de Montauran, "What do you expect to do with such brutes?"
"Not very much, my dear count," replied the Gars.
"Will they ever be fit to manoeuvre before the enemy?"
"Can they understand or execute an order?"
"Then what good will they be to you?"
"They will help me to plunge my sword into the entrails of the
Republic," replied the marquis in a thundering voice. "They will give
me Fougeres in three days, and all Brittany in ten! Monsieur," he
added in a gentler voice, "start at once for La Vendee; if d'Auticamp,
Suzannet, and the Abbe Bernier will act as rapidly as I do, if they'll
not negotiate with the First Consul, as I am afraid they will" (here
he wrung the hand of the Vendean chief) "we shall be within reach of
Paris in a fortnight."
"But the Republic is sending sixty thousand men and General Brune
"Sixty thousand men! indeed!" cried the marquis, with a scoffing
laugh. "And how will Bonaparte carry on the Italian campaign? As for
General Brune, he is not coming. The First Consul has sent him against
the English in Holland, and General Hedouville, /the friend of our
friend Barras/, takes his place here. Do you understand?"
As Monsieur de Fontaine heard these words he gave Montauran a look of
keen intelligence which seemed to say that the marquis had not himself
understood the real meaning of the words addressed to him. The two
leaders then comprehended each other perfectly, and the Gars replied
with an undefinable smile to the thoughts expressed in both their
eyes: "Monsieur de Fontaine, do you know my arms? our motto is
'Persevere unto death.'"
The Comte de Fontaine took Montauran's hand and pressed it, saying: "I
was left for dead at Quatre-Chemins, therefore you need never doubt
me. But believe in my experience--times have changed."
"Yes," said La Billardiere, who now joined them. "You are young,
marquis. Listen to me; your property has not yet been sold--"
"Ah!" cried Montauran, "can you conceive of devotion without
"Do you really know the king?"
"Then I admire your loyalty."
"The king," replied the young chieftain, "is the priest; I am fighting
not for the man, but for the faith."
They parted,--the Vendean leader convinced of the necessity of
yielding to circumstances and keeping his beliefs in the depths of his
heart; La Billardiere to return to his negotiations in England; and
Montauran to fight savagely and compel the Vendeans, by the victories
he expected to win, to co-operate in his enterprise.
* * * * *
The events of the day had excited such violent emotions in
Mademoiselle de Verneuil's whole being that she lay back almost
fainting in the carriage, after giving the order to drive to Fougeres.
Francine was as silent as her mistress. The postilion, dreading some
new disaster, made all the haste he could to reach the high-road, and
was soon on the summit of La Pelerine. Through the thick white mists
of morning Marie de Verneuil crossed the broad and beautiful valley of
Couesnon (where this history began) scarcely able to distinguish the
slaty rock on which the town of Fougeres stands from the slopes of La
Pelerine. They were still eight miles from it. Shivering with cold
herself, Mademoiselle de Verneuil recollected the poor soldier behind
the carriage, and insisted, against his remonstrances, in taking him
into the carriage beside Francine. The sight of Fougeres drew her for
a time out of her reflections. The sentinels stationed at the Porte
Saint-Leonard refused to allow ingress to the strangers, and she was
therefore obliged to exhibit the ministerial order. This at once gave
her safety in entering the town, but the postilion could find no other
place for her to stop at than the Poste inn.
"Madame," said the Blue whose life she had saved. "If you ever want a
sabre to deal some special blow, my life is yours. I am good for that.
My name is Jean Falcon, otherwise called Beau-Pied, sergeant of the
first company of Hulot's veterans, seventy-second half-brigade,
nicknamed 'Les Mayencais.' Excuse my vanity; I can only offer you the
soul of a sergeant, but that's at your service."
He turned on his heel and walked off whistling.
"The lower one goes in social life," said Marie, bitterly, "the more
we find generous feelings without display. A marquis returns death for
life, and a poor sergeant--but enough of that."
When the weary woman was at last in a warm bed, her faithful Francine
waited in vain for the affectionate good-night to which she was
accustomed; but her mistress, seeing her still standing and evidently
uneasy, made her a sign of distress.
"This is called a day, Francine," she said; "but I have aged ten years
The next morning, as soon as she had risen, Corentin came to see her
and she admitted him.
"Francine," she exclaimed, "my degradation is great indeed, for the
thought of that man is not disagreeable to me."
Still, when she saw him, she felt once more, for the hundredth time,
the instinctive repulsion which two years' intercourse had increased
rather than lessened.
"Well," he said, smiling, "I felt certain you were succeeding. Was I
mistaken? did you get hold of the wrong man?"
"Corentin," she replied, with a dull look of pain, "never mention that
affair to me unless I speak of it myself."
He walked up and down the room casting oblique glances at her,
endeavoring to guess the secret thoughts of the singular woman whose
mere glance had the power of discomfiting at times the cleverest men.
"I foresaw this check," he replied, after a moment's silence. "If you
would be willing to establish your headquarters in this town, I have
already found a suitable place for you. We are in the very centre of
Chouannerie. Will you stay here?"
She answered with an affirmative sign, which enabled Corentin to make
conjectures, partly correct, as to the events of the preceding
"I can hire a house for you, a bit of national property still unsold.
They are behind the age in these parts. No one has dared buy the old
barrack because it belonged to an /emigre/ who was thought to be
harsh. It is close to the church of Saint Leonard; and on my word of
honor the view from it is delightful. Something can really be made of
the old place; will you try it?"
"Yes, at once," she cried.
"I want a few hours to have it cleaned and put in order for you, so
that you may like it."
"What matter?" she said. "I could live in a cloister or a prison
without caring. However, see that everything is in order before night,
so that I may sleep there in perfect solitude. Go, leave me; your
presence is intolerable. I wish to be alone with Francine; she is
better for me than my own company, perhaps. Adieu; go--go, I say."
These words, said volubly with a mingling of coquetry, despotism, and
passion, showed she had entirely recovered her self-possession. Sleep
had no doubt classified the impressions of the preceding day, and
reflection had determined her on vengeance. If a few reluctant signs
appeared on her face they only proved the ease with which certain
women can bury the better feelings of their souls, and the cruel
dissimulation which enables them to smile sweetly while planning the
destruction of a victim. She sat alone after Corentin had left her,
thinking how she could get the marquis still living into her toils.
For the first time in her life this woman had lived according to her
inmost desires; but of that life nothing remained but one craving,
--that of vengeance,--vengeance complete and infinite. It was her one
thought, her sole desire. Francine's words and attentions were
unnoticed. Marie seemed to be sleeping with her eyes open; and the
long day passed without an action or even a gesture that bore
testimony to her thoughts. She lay on a couch which she had made of
chairs and pillows. It was late in the evening when a few words
escaped her, as if involuntarily.
"My child," she said to Francine, "I understood yesterday what it was
to live for love; to-day I know what it means to die for vengeance.
Yes, I will give my life to seek him wherever he may be, to meet him,
seduce him, make him mine! If I do not have that man, who dared to
despise me, at my feet humble and submissive, if I do not make him my
lackey and my slave, I shall indeed be base; I shall not be a woman; I
shall not be myself."
The house which Corentin now hired for Mademoiselle de Verneuil
offered many gratifications to the innate love of luxury and elegance
that was part of this girl. The capricious creature took possession of
it with regal composure, as of a thing which already belonged to her;
she appropriated the furniture and arranged it with intuitive
sympathy, as though she had known it all her life. This is a vulgar
detail, but one that is not unimportant in sketching the character of
so exceptional a person. She seemed to have been already familiarized
in a dream with the house in which she now lived on her hatred as she
might have lived on her love.
"At least," she said to herself, "I did not rouse insulting pity in
him; I do not owe him my life. Oh, my first, my last, my only love!
what an end to it!" She sprang upon Francine, who was terrified. "Do
you love a man? Oh, yes, yes, I remember; you do. I am glad I have a
woman here who can understand me. Ah, my poor Francette, man is a
miserable being. Ha! he said he loved me, and his love could not bear
the slightest test! But I,--if all men had accused him I would have
defended him; if the universe rejected him my soul should have been
his refuge. In the old days life was filled with human beings coming
and going for whom I did not care; it was sad and dull, but not
horrible; but now, now, what is life without him? He will live on, and
I not near him! I shall not see him, speak to him, feel him, hold him,
press him,--ha! I would rather strangle him myself in his sleep!"
Francine, horrified, looked at her in silence.
"Kill the man you love?" she said, in a soft voice.
"Yes, yes, if he ceases to love me."
But after those ruthless words she hid her face in her hands, and sat
The next day a man presented himself without being announced. His face
was stern. It was Hulot, followed by Corentin. Mademoiselle de
Verneuil looked at the commandant and trembled.
"You have come," she said, "to ask me to account for your friends.
They are dead."
"I know it," he replied, "and not in the service of the Republic."
"For me, and by me," she said. "You preach the nation to me. Can the
nation bring to life those who die for her? Can she even avenge them?
But I--I will avenge them!" she cried. The awful images of the
catastrophe filled her imagination suddenly, and the graceful creature
who held modesty to be the first of women's wiles forgot herself in a
moment of madness, and marched towards the amazed commandant
"In exchange for a few murdered soldiers," she said, "I will bring to
the block a head that is worth a million heads of other men. It is not
a woman's business to wage war; but you, old as you are, shall learn
good stratagems from me. I'll deliver a whole family to your bayonets
--him, his ancestors, his past, his future. I will be as false and
treacherous to him as I was good and true. Yes, commandant, I will
bring that little noble to my arms, and he shall leave them to go to
death. I have no other rival. The wretch himself pronounced his doom,
--/a day without a morrow/. Your Republic and I shall be avenged. The
Republic!" she cried in a voice the strange intonations of which
horrified Hulot. "Is he to die for bearing arms against the nation?
Shall I suffer France to rob me of my vengeance? Ah! what a little
thing is life! death can expiate but one crime. He has but one head to
fall, but I will make him know in one night that he loses more than
life. Commandant, you who will kill him," and she sighed, "see that
nothing betrays my betrayal; he must die convinced of my fidelity. I
ask that of you. Let him know only me--me, and my caresses!"
She stopped; but through the crimson of her cheeks Hulot and Corentin
saw that rage and delirium had not entirely smothered all sense of
shame. Marie shuddered violently as she said the words; she seemed to
listen to them as though she doubted whether she herself had said
them, and she made the involuntary movement of a woman whose veil is
falling from her.
"But you had him in your power," said Corentin.
"Why did you stop me when I had him?" asked Hulot.
"I did not know what he would prove to be," she cried. Then, suddenly,
the excited woman, who was walking up and down with hurried steps and
casting savage glances at the spectators of the storm, calmed down. "I
do not know myself," she said, in a man's tone. "Why talk? I must go
and find him."
"Go and find him?" said Hulot. "My dear woman, take care; we are not
yet masters of this part of the country; if you venture outside of the
town you will be taken or killed before you've gone a hundred yards."
"There's never any danger for those who seek vengeance," she said,
driving from her presence with a disdainful gesture the two men whom
she was ashamed to face.
"What a woman!" cried Hulot as he walked away with Corentin. "A queer
idea of those police fellows in Paris to send her here; but she'll
never deliver him up to us," he added, shaking his head.
"Oh yes, she will," replied Corentin.
"Don't you see she loves him?" said Hulot.
"That's just why she will. Besides," looking at the amazed commandant,
"I am here to see that she doesn't commit any folly. In my opinion,
comrade, there is no love in the world worth the three hundred
thousand francs she'll make out of this."
When the police diplomatist left the soldier the latter stood looking
after him, and as the sound of the man's steps died away he gave a
sigh, muttering to himself, "It may be a good thing after all to be
such a dullard as I am. God's thunder! if I meet the Gars I'll fight
him hand to hand, or my name's not Hulot; for if that fox brings him
before me in any of their new-fangled councils of war, my honor will
be as soiled as the shirt of a young trooper who is under fire for the
The massacre at La Vivetiere, and the desire to avenge his friends had
led Hulot to accept a reinstatement in his late command; in fact, the
new minister, Berthier, had refused to accept his resignation under
existing circumstances. To the official despatch was added a private
letter, in which, without explaining the mission of Mademoiselle de
Verneuil, the minister informed him that the affair was entirely
outside of the war, and not to interfere with any military operations.
The duty of the commanders, he said, was limited to giving assistance
to that honorable /citoyenne/, if occasion arose. Learning from his
scouts that the movements of the Chouans all tended towards a
concentration of their forces in the neighborhood of Fougeres, Hulot
secretly and with forced marches brought two battalions of his brigade
into the town. The nation's danger, his hatred of aristocracy, whose
partisans threatened to convulse so large a section of country, his
desire to avenge his murdered friends, revived in the old veteran the
fire of his youth.
* * * * *
"So this is the life I craved," exclaimed Mademoiselle de Verneuil,
when she was left alone with Francine. "No matter how fast the hours
go, they are to me like centuries of thought."
Suddenly she took Francine's hand, and her voice, soft as that of the
first red-throat singing after a storm, slowly gave sound to the
"Try as I will to forget them, I see those two delicious lips, that
chin just raised, those eyes of fire; I hear the 'Hue!' of the
postilion; I dream, I dream,--why then such hatred on awakening!"
She drew a long sigh, rose, and then for the first time looked out
upon the country delivered over to civil war by the cruel leader whom
she was plotting to destroy. Attracted by the scene she wandered out
to breathe at her ease beneath the sky; and though her steps conducted
her at a venture, she was surely led to the Promenade of the town by
one of those occult impulses of the soul which lead us to follow hope
irrationally. Thoughts conceived under the dominion of that spell are
often realized; but we then attribute their pre-vision to a power we
call presentiment,--an inexplicable power, but a real one,--which our
passions find accommodating, like a flatterer who, among his many
lies, does sometimes tell the truth.
A DAY WITHOUT A MORROW
The preceding events of this history having been greatly influenced by
the formation of the regions in which they happened, it is desirable
to give a minute description of them, without which the closing scenes
might be difficult of comprehension.
The town of Fougeres is partly built upon a slate rock, which seems to
have slipped from the mountains that hem in the broad valley of
Couesnon to the west and take various names according to their
localities. The town is separated from the mountains by a gorge,
through which flows a small river called the Nancon. To the east, the
view is the same as from the summit of La Pelerine; to the west, the
town looks down into the tortuous valley of the Nancon; but there is a
spot from which a section of the great valley and the picturesque
windings of the gorge can be seen at the same time. This place, chosen
by the inhabitants of the town for their Promenade, and to which the
steps of Mademoiselle de Verneuil were now turned, was destined to be
the theatre on which the drama begun at La Vivetiere was to end.
Therefore, however picturesque the other parts of Fougeres may be,
attention must be particularly given to the scenery which meets the
eye from this terrace.
To give an idea of the rock on which Fougeres stands, as seen on this
side, we may compare it to one of those immense towers circled by
Saracen architects with balconies on each story, which were reached by
spiral stairways. To add to this effect, the rock is capped by a
Gothic church, the small spires, clock-tower, and buttresses of which
make its shape almost precisely that of a sugar-loaf. Before the
portal of this church, which is dedicated to Saint-Leonard, is a
small, irregular square, where the soil is held up by a buttressed
wall, which forms a balustrade and communicates by a flight of steps
with the Promenade. This public walk, like a second cornice, extends
round the rock a few rods below the square of Saint-Leonard; it is a
broad piece of ground planted with trees, and it joins the
fortifications of the town. About ten rods below the walls and rocks
which support this Promenade (due to a happy combination of
indestructible slate and patient industry) another circular road
exists, called the "Queen's Staircase"; this is cut in the rock itself
and leads to a bridge built across the Nancon by Anne of Brittany.
Below this road, which forms a third cornice, gardens descend, terrace
after terrace, to the river, like shelves covered with flowers.
Parallel with the Promenade, on the other side of the Nancon and
across its narrow valley, high rock-formations, called the heights of
Saint-Sulpice, follow the stream and descend in gentle slopes to the
great valley, where they turn abruptly to the north. Towards the
south, where the town itself really ends and the faubourg Saint-
Leonard begins, the Fougeres rock makes a bend, becomes less steep,
and turns into the great valley, following the course of the river,
which it hems in between itself and the heights of Saint-Sulpice,
forming a sort of pass through which the water escapes in two
streamlets to the Couesnon, into which they fall. This pretty group of
rocky hills is called the "Nid-aux-Crocs"; the little vale they
surround is the "Val de Gibarry," the rich pastures of which supply
the butter known to epicures as that of the "Pree-Valaye."
At the point where the Promenade joins the fortifications is a tower
called the "Tour de Papegaut." Close to this square erection, against
the side of which the house now occupied by Mademoiselle de Verneuil
rested, is a wall, partly built by hands and partly formed of the
native rock where it offered a smooth surface. Here stands a gateway
leading to the faubourg of Saint-Sulpice and bearing the same name.
Above, on a breastwork of granite which commands the three valleys,
rise the battlements and feudal towers of the ancient castle of
Fougeres,--one of those enormous erections built by the Dukes of
Brittany, with lofty walls fifteen feet thick, protected on the east
by a pond from which flows the Nancon, the waters of which fill its
moats, and on the west by the inaccessible granite rock on which it
Seen from the Promenade, this magnificent relic of the Middle Ages,
wrapped in its ivy mantle, adorned with its square or rounded towers,
in either of which a whole regiment could be quartered,--the castle,
the town, and the rock, protected by walls with sheer surfaces, or by
the glacis of the fortifications, form a huge horseshoe, lined with
precipices, on which the Bretons have, in course of ages, cut various
narrow footways. Here and there the rocks push out like architectural
adornments. Streamlets issue from the fissures, where the roots of
stunted trees are nourished. Farther on, a few rocky slopes, less
perpendicular than the rest, afford a scanty pasture for the goats. On
all sides heather, growing from every crevice, flings its rosy
garlands over the dark, uneven surface of the ground. At the bottom of
this vast funnel the little river winds through meadows that are
always cool and green, lying softly like a carpet.
Beneath the castle and among the granite boulders is a church
dedicated to Saint-Sulpice, whose name is given to the suburb which
lies across the Nancon. This suburb, flung as it were to the bottom of
a precipice, and its church, the spire of which does not rise to the
height of the rocks which threaten to crush it, are picturesquely
watered by several affluents of the Nancon, shaded by trees and
brightened by gardens. The whole region of Fougeres, its suburbs, its
churches, and the hills of Saint-Sulpice are surrounded by the heights
of Rille, which form part of a general range of mountains enclosing
the broad valley of Couesnon.
Such are the chief features of this landscape, the principal
characteristic of which is a rugged wildness softened by smiling
accidents, by a happy blending of the finest works of men's hands with
the capricious lay of a land full of unexpected contrasts, by a
something, hardly to be explained, which surprises, astonishes, and
puzzles. In no other part of France can the traveller meet with such
grandiose contrasts as those offered by the great basin of the
Couesnon, and the valleys hidden among the rocks of Fougeres and the
heights of Rille. Their beauty is of that unspeakable kind in which
chance triumphs and all the harmonies of Nature do their part. The
clear, limpid, flowing waters, the mountains clothed with the vigorous
vegetation of those regions, the sombre rocks, the graceful buildings,
the fortifications raised by nature, and the granite towers built by
man; combined with all the artifices of light and shade, with the
contrasts of the varieties of foliage, with the groups of houses where
an active population swarms, with the lonely barren places where the
granite will not suffer even the lichen to fasten on its surface, in
short, with all the ideas we ask a landscape to possess: grace and
awfulness, poesy with its renascent magic, sublime pictures,
delightful ruralities,--all these are here; it is Brittany in bloom.
The tower called the Papegaut, against which the house now occupied by
Mademoiselle de Verneuil rested, has its base at the very bottom of
the precipice, and rises to the esplanade which forms the cornice or
terrace before the church of Saint-Leonard. From Marie's house, which
was open on three sides, could be seen the horseshoe (which begins at
the tower itself), the winding valley of the Nancon, and the square of
Saint-Leonard. It is one of a group of wooden buildings standing
parallel with the western side of the church, with which they form an
alley-way, the farther end of which opens on a steep street skirting
the church and leading to the gate of Saint-Leonard, along which
Mademoiselle de Verneuil now made her way.
Marie naturally avoided entering the square of the church which was
then above her, and turned towards the Promenade. The magnificence of
the scene which met her eyes silenced for a moment the tumult of her
passions. She admired the vast trend of the valley, which her eyes
took in, from the summit of La Pelerine to the plateau where the main
road to Vitry passes; then her eyes rested on the Nid-aux-Crocs and
the winding gorges of the Val de Gibarry, the crests of which were
bathed in the misty glow of the setting sun. She was almost frightened
by the depth of the valley of the Nancon, the tallest poplars of which
scarcely reached to the level of the gardens below the Queen's
Staircase. At this time of day the smoke from the houses in the
suburbs and in the valleys made a vapor in the air, through which the
various objects had a bluish tinge; the brilliant colors of the day
were beginning to fade; the firmament took a pearly tone; the moon was
casting its veil of light into the ravine; all things tended to plunge
the soul into reverie and bring back the memory of those beloved.
In a moment the scene before her was powerless to hold Marie's
thoughts. In vain did the setting sun cast its gold-dust and its
crimson sheets to the depths of the river and along the meadows and
over the graceful buildings strewn among the rocks; she stood
immovable, gazing at the heights of the Mont Saint-Sulpice. The
frantic hope which had led her to the Promenade was miraculously
realized. Among the gorse and bracken which grew upon those heights
she was certain that she recognized, in spite of the goatskins which
they wore, a number of the guests at La Vivetiere, and among them the
Gars, whose every moment became vivid to her eyes in the softened
light of the sinking sun. A few steps back of the ground of men she
distinguished her enemy, Madame du Gua. For a moment Marie fancied
that she dreamed, but her rival's hatred soon proved to her that the
dream was a living one. The attention she was giving to the least
little gesture of the marquis prevented her from observing the care
with which Madame du Gua aimed a musket at her. But a shot which woke
the echoes of the mountains, and a ball that whistled past her warned
Mademoiselle de Verneuil of her rival's determination. "She sends me
her card," thought Marie, smiling. Instantly a "Qui vive?" echoing
from sentry to sentry, from the castle to the Porte Saint-Leonard,
proved to the Chouans the alertness of the Blues, inasmuch as the
least accessible of their ramparts was so well guarded.
"It is she--and he," muttered Marie to herself.
To seek the marquis, follow his steps and overtake him, was a thought
that flashed like lightning through her mind. "I have no weapon!" she
cried. She remembered that on leaving Paris she had flung into a trunk
an elegant dagger formerly belonging to a sultana, which she had
jestingly brought with her to the theatre of war, as some persons take
note-books in which to jot down their travelling ideas; she was less
attracted by the prospect of shedding blood than by the pleasure of
wearing a pretty weapon studded with precious stones, and playing with
a blade that was stainless. Three days earlier she had deeply
regretted having put this dagger in a trunk, when to escape her
enemies at La Vivetiere she had thought for a moment of killing
herself. She now returned to the house, found the weapon, put it in
her belt, wrapped a large shawl round her shoulders and a black
lace scarf about her hair, and covered her head with one of those
broad-brimmed hats distinctive of Chouans which belonged to a servant
of the house. Then, with the presence of mind which excited passions
often give, she took the glove which Marche-a-Terre had given her as a
safeguard, and saying, in reply to Francine's terrible looks, "I would
seek him in hell," she returned to the Promenade.
The Gars was still at the same place, but alone. By the direction of
his telescope he seemed to be examining with the careful attention of
a commander the various paths across the Nancon, the Queen's
Staircase, and the road leading through the Porte Saint-Sulpice and
round the church of that name, where it meets the high-road under
range of the guns at the castle. Mademoiselle de Verneuil took one of
the little paths made by goats and their keepers leading down from the
Promenade, reached the Staircase, then the bottom of the ravine,
crossed the Nancon and the suburb, and divining like a bird in the
desert her right course among the dangerous precipices of the Mont
Saint-Sulpice, she followed a slippery track defined upon the granite,
and in spite of the prickly gorse and reeds and loose stones which
hindered her, she climbed the steep ascent with an energy greater
perhaps than that of a man,--the energy momentarily possessed by a
woman under the influence of passion.
Night overtook her as she endeavored by the failing moonlight to make
out the path the marquis must have taken; an obstinate quest without
reward, for the dead silence about her was sufficient proof of the
withdrawal of the Chouans and their leader. This effort of passion
collapsed with the hope that inspired it. Finding herself alone, after
nightfall, in a hostile country, she began to reflect; and Hulot's
advice, together with the recollection of Madame du Gua's attempt,
made her tremble with fear. The stillness of the night, so deep in
mountain regions, enabled her to hear the fall of every leaf even at a
distance, and these slight sounds vibrated on the air as though to
give a measure of the silence or the solitude. The wind was blowing
across the heights and sweeping away the clouds with violence,
producing an alternation of shadows and light, the effect of which
increased her fears, and gave fantastic and terrifying semblances to
the most harmless objects. She turned her eyes to the houses of
Fougeres, where the domestic lights were burning like so many earthly
stars, and she presently saw distinctly the tower of Papegaut. She was
but a very short distance from her own house, but within that space
was the ravine. She remembered the declivities by which she had come,
and wondered if there were not more risk in attempting to return to
Fougeres than in following out the purpose which had brought her. She
reflected that the marquis's glove would surely protect her from the
Chouans, and that Madame du Gua was the only enemy to be really
feared. With this idea in her mind, Marie clasped her dagger, and
tried to find the way to a country house the roofs of which she had
noticed as she climbed Saint-Sulpice; but she walked slowly, for she
suddenly became aware of the majestic solemnity which oppresses a
solitary being in the night time in the midst of wild scenery, where
lofty mountains nod their heads like assembled giants. The rustle of
her gown, caught by the brambles, made her tremble more than once, and
more than once she hastened her steps only to slacken them again as
she thought her last hour had come. Before long matters assumed an
aspect which the boldest men could not have faced without alarm, and
which threw Mademoiselle de Verneuil into the sort of terror that so
affects the very springs of life that all things become excessive,
weakness as well as strength. The feeblest beings will then do deeds
of amazing power; the strongest go mad with fear.
Marie heard at a short distance a number of strange sounds, distinct
yet vague, indicative of confusion and tumult, fatiguing to the ear
which tried to distinguish them. They came from the ground, which
seemed to tremble beneath the feet of a multitude of marching men. A
momentary clearness in the sky enabled her to perceive at a little
distance long files of hideous figures waving like ears of corn and
gliding like phantoms; but she scarcely saw them, for darkness fell
again, like a black curtain, and hid the fearful scene which seemed to
her full of yellow, dazzling eyes. She turned hastily and ran to the
top of a bank to escape meeting three of these horrible figures who
were coming towards her.
"Did you see it?" said one.
"I felt a cold wind as it rushed past me," replied a hoarse voice.
"I smelt a damp and graveyard smell," said the third.
"Was it white?" asked the first.
"Why should only /he/ come back out of all those we left dead at La
Pelerine?" said the second.
"Why indeed?" replied the third. "Why do the Sacre-Coeur men have the
preference? Well, at any rate, I'd rather die without confession than
wander about as he does, without eating or drinking, and no blood in
his body or flesh on his bones."
This exclamation, or rather this fearful cry, issued from the group as
the three Chouans pointed to the slender form and pallid face of
Mademoiselle de Verneuil, who fled away with terrified rapidity
without a sound.
"Here he is!" "There he is!" "Where?" "There!" "He's gone!" "No!"
"Yes!" "Can you see him?" These cries reverberated like the monotonous
murmur of waves upon a shore.
Mademoiselle de Verneuil walked bravely in the direction of the house
she had seen, and soon came in sight of a number of persons, who all
fled away at her approach with every sign of panic fear. She felt
impelled to advance by a mysterious power which coerced her; the
lightness of her body, which seemed to herself inexplicable, was
another source of terror. These forms which rose in masses at her
approach, as if from the ground on which she trod, uttered moans which
were scarcely human. At last she reached, not without difficulty, a
trampled garden, the hedges and fences of which were broken down.
Stopped by a sentry, she showed the glove. The moon lighted her face,
and the muzzle of the gun already pointed at her was dropped by the
Chouan, who uttered a hoarse cry, which echoed through the place. She
now saw large buildings, where a few lighted windows showed the rooms
that were occupied, and presently reached the walls without further
hindrance. Through the window into which she looked, she saw Madame du
Gua and the leaders who were convoked at La Vivetiere. Bewildered at
the sight, also by the conviction of her danger, she turned hastily to
a little opening protected by iron bars, and saw in a long vaulted
hall the marquis, alone and gloomy, within six feet of her. The
reflection of the fire, before which he was sitting in a clumsy chair,
lighted his face with a vacillating ruddy glow that gave the character
of a vision to the scene. Motionless and trembling, the girl stood
clinging to the bars, to catch his words if he spoke. Seeing him so
depressed, disheartened, and pale, she believed herself to be the
cause of his sadness. Her anger changed to pity, her pity to
tenderness, and she suddenly knew that it was not revenge alone which
had brought her there.
The marquis rose, turned his head, and stood amazed when he saw, as if
in a cloud, Mademoiselle de Verneuil's face; then he shook his head
with a gesture of impatience and contempt, exclaiming: "Must I forever
see the face of that devil, even when awake?"
This utter contempt for her forced a half-maddened laugh from the
unhappy girl which made the young leader quiver. He sprang to the
window, but Mademoiselle de Verneuil was gone. She heard the steps of
a man behind her, which she supposed to be those of the marquis, and,
to escape him, she knew no obstacles; she would have scaled walls and
flown through air; she would have found and followed a path to hell
sooner than have seen again, in flaming letters on the forehead of
that man, "I despise you,"--words which an inward voice sounded in her
soul with the noise of a trumpet.
After walking a short distance without knowing where she went, she
stopped, conscious of a damp exhalation. Alarmed by the sound of
voices, she went down some steps which led into a cellar. As she
reached the last of them, she stopped to listen and discover the
direction her pursuers might take. Above the sounds from the outside,
which were somewhat loud, she could hear within the lugubrious moans
of a human being, which added to her terror. Rays of light coming down
the steps made her fear that this retreat was only too well known to
her enemies, and, to escape them, she summoned fresh energy. Some
moments later, after recovering her composure of mind, it was
difficult for her to conceive by what means she had been able to climb
a little wall, in a recess of which she was now hidden. She took no
notice at first of the cramped position in which she was, but before
long the pain of it became intolerable, for she was bending double
under the arched opening of a vault, like the crouching Venus which
ignorant persons attempt to squeeze into too narrow a niche. The wall,
which was rather thick and built of granite, formed a low partition
between the stairway and the cellar whence the groans were issuing.
Presently she saw an individual, clothed in a goatskin, enter the cave
beneath her, and move about, without making any sign of eager search.
Impatient to discover if she had any chance of safety, Mademoiselle de
Verneuil waited with anxiety till the light brought by the new-comer
lighted the whole cave, where she could partly distinguish a formless
but living mass which was trying to reach a part of the wall, with
violent and repeated jerks, something like those of a carp lying out
of water on a shore.
A small pine torch threw its blue and hazy light into the cave. In
spite of the gloomy poetic effects which Mademoiselle de Verneuil's
imagination cast about this vaulted chamber, which was echoing to the
sounds of a pitiful prayer, she was obliged to admit that the place
was nothing more than an underground kitchen, evidently long
abandoned. When the formless mass was distinguishable it proved to be
a short and very fat man, whose limbs were carefully bound before he
had been left lying on the damp stone floor of the kitchen by those
who had seized him. When he saw the new-comer approach him with a
torch in one hand and a fagot of sticks in the other, the captive gave
a dreadful groan, which so wrought upon the sensibilities of
Mademoiselle de Verneuil that she forgot her own terror and despair
and the cramped position of her limbs, which were growing numb. But
she made a great effort and remained still. The Chouan flung the
sticks into the fireplace, after trying the strength of an old crane
which was fastened to a long iron bar; then he set fire to the wood
with his torch. Marie saw with terror that the man was the same
Pille-Miche to whom her rival had delivered her, and whose figure,
illuminated by the flame, was like that of the little boxwood men so
grotesquely carved in Germany. The moans of his prisoner produced a
broad grin upon features that were ribbed with wrinkles and tanned by
"You see," he said to his victim, "that we Christians keep our
promises, which you don't. That fire is going to thaw out your legs
and tongue and hands. Hey! hey! I don't see a dripping-pan to put
under your feet; they are so fat the grease may put out the fire. Your
house must be badly furnished if it can't give its master all he wants
to warm him."
The victim uttered a sharp cry, as if he hoped someone would hear him
through the ceiling and come to his assistance.
"Ho! sing away, Monsieur d'Orgemont; they are all asleep upstairs, and
Marche-a-Terre is just behind me; he'll shut the cellar door."
While speaking Pille-Miche was sounding with the butt-end of his
musket the mantel-piece of the chimney, the tiles of the floor, the
walls and the ovens, to discover, if possible, where the miser hid his
gold. This search was made with such adroitness that d'Orgemont kept
silence, as if he feared to have been betrayed by some frightened
servant; for, though he trusted his secrets to no one, his habits gave
plenty of ground for logical deductions. Pille-Miche turned several
times sharply to look at his victim, as children do when they try to
guess, by the conscious expression of the comrade who has hidden an
article, whether they are nearer to or farther away from it.
D'Orgemont pretended to be alarmed when the Chouan tapped the ovens,
which sounded hollow, and seemed to wish to play upon his eager
credulity. Just then three other Chouans rushed down the steps and
entered the kitchen. Seeing Marche-a-Terre among them Pille-Miche
discontinued his search, after casting upon d'Orgemont a look that
conveyed the wrath of his balked covetousness.
"Marie Lambrequin has come to life!" cried Marche-a-Terre, proclaiming
by his manner that all other interests were of no account beside this
great piece of news.
"I'm not surprised," said Pille-Miche, "he took the sacrament so
often; the good God belonged to him."
"Ha! ha!" observed Mene-a-Bien, "that didn't stand him in anything at
his death. He hadn't received absolution before the affair at La
Pelerine. He had cheapened Goguelu's daughter, and was living in
mortal sin. The Abbe Gudin said he'd have to roam round two months as
a ghost before he could come to life. We saw him pass us,--he was
pale, he was cold, he was thin, he smelt of the cemetery."
"And his Reverence says that if a ghost gets hold of a living man he
can force him to be his companion," said the fourth Chouan.
The grotesque appearance of this last speaker drew Marche-a-Terre from
the pious reflections he had been making on the accomplishment of this
miracle of coming to life which, according to the Abbe Gudin would
happen to every true defender of religion and the king.
"You see, Galope-Chopine," he said to the fourth man gravely, "what
comes of omitting even the smallest duty commanded by our holy
religion. It is a warning to us, given by Saint Anne of Auray, to be
rigorous with ourselves for the slightest sin. Your cousin Pille-Miche
has asked the Gars to give you the surveillance of Fougeres, and the
Gars consents, and you'll be well paid--but you know with what flour
we bake a traitor's bread."
"Yes, Monsieur Marche-a-Terre."
"And you know why I tell you that. Some say you like cider and
gambling, but you can't play heads or tails now, remember; you must
belong to us only, or--"
"By your leave, Monsieur Marche-a-Terre, cider and stakes are two good
things which don't hinder a man's salvation."
"If my cousin commits any folly," said Pille-Miche, "it will be out of
"In any way he commits it, if harm comes," said Marche-a-Terre, in a
voice which made the arched roof tremble, "my gun won't miss him. You
will answer for him to me," he added, turning to Pille-Miche; "for if
he does wrong I shall take it out on the thing that fills your
"But, Monsieur Marche-a-Terre, with all due respect," said
Galope-Chopine, "haven't you sometimes taken a counterfeit Chouan for
a real one."
"My friend," said Marche-a-Terre in a curt tone, "don't let that
happen in your case, or I'll cut you in two like a turnip. As to the
emissaries of the Gars, they all carry his glove, but since that
affair at La Vivetiere the Grande Garce has added a green ribbon to
Pille Miche nudged his comrade by the elbow and showed him d'Orgemont,
who was pretending to be asleep; but Pille-Miche and Marche-a-Terre
both knew by experience that no one ever slept by the corner of their
fire, and though the last words said to Galope-Chopine were almost
whispered, they must have been heard by the victim, and the four
Chouans looked at him fixedly, thinking perhaps that fear had deprived
him of his senses.
Suddenly, at a slight sign from Marche-a-Terre, Pille-Miche pulled off
d'Orgemont's shoes and stockings, Mene-a-Bien and Galope-Chopine
seized him round the body and carried him to the fire. Then
Marche-a-Terre took one of the thongs that tied the fagots and fastened
the miser's feet to the crane. These actions and the horrible celerity
with which they were done brought cries from the victim, which became
heart-rending when Pille-Miche gathered the burning sticks under his
"My friends, my good friends," screamed d'Orgemont, "you hurt me, you
kill me! I'm a Christian like you."
"You lie in your throat!" replied Marche-a-Terre. "Your brother denied
God; and as for you, you bought the abbey of Juvigny. The Abbe Gudin
says we can roast apostates when we find them."
"But, my brothers in God, I don't refuse to pay."
"We gave you two weeks, and it is now two months, and Galope-Chopine
here hasn't received the money."
"Haven't you received any of it, Galope-Chopine?" asked the miser, in
"None of it, Monsieur d'Orgemont," replied Galope-Chopine, frightened.
The cries, which had sunk into groans, continuous as the rattle in a
dying throat, now began again with dreadful violence. Accustomed to
such scenes, the four Chouans looked at d'Orgemont, who was twisting
and howling, so coolly that they seemed like travellers watching
before an inn fire till the roast meat was done enough to eat.
"I'm dying, I'm dying!" cried the victim, "and you won't get my
In spite of these agonizing cries, Pille-Miche saw that the fire did
not yet scorch the skin; he drew the sticks cleverly together so as to
make a slight flame. On this d'Orgemont called out in a quavering
voice: "My friends, unbind me! How much do you want? A hundred crowns
--a thousand crowns--ten thousand crowns--a hundred thousand crowns--I
offer you two hundred thousand crowns!"
The voice became so lamentable that Mademoiselle de Verneuil forgot
her own danger and uttered an exclamation.
"Who spoke?" asked Marche-a-Terre.
The Chouans looked about them with terrified eyes. These men, so brave
in fight, were unable to face a ghost. Pille-Miche alone continued to
listen to the promises which the flames were now extracting from his
"Five hundred thousand crowns--yes, I'll give them," cried the victim.
"Well, where are they?" answered Pille-Miche, tranquilly.
"Under the first apple-tree--Holy Virgin! at the bottom of the garden
to the left--you are brigands--thieves! Ah! I'm dying--there's ten
"Francs! we don't want francs," said Marche-a-Terre; "those Republican
coins have pagan figures which oughtn't to pass."
"They are not francs, they are good louis d'or. But oh! undo me,
unbind me! I've told you where my life is--my money."
The four Chouans looked at each other as if thinking which of their
number they could trust sufficiently to disinter the money.
The cannibal cruelty of the scene so horrified Mademoiselle de
Verneuil that she could bear it no longer. Though doubtful whether the
role of ghost, which her pale face and the Chouan superstitions
evidently assigned to her, would carry her safely through the danger,
she called out, courageously, "Do you not fear God's anger? Unbind
The Chouans raised their heads and saw in the air above them two eyes
which shone like stars, and they fled, terrified. Mademoiselle de
Verneuil sprang into the kitchen, ran to d'Orgemont, and pulled him so
violently from the crane that the thong broke. Then with the blade of
her dagger she cut the cords which bound him. When the miser was free
and on his feet, the first expression of his face was a painful but
"Apple-tree! yes, go to the apple-tree, you brigands," he said. "Ho,
ho! this is the second time I've fooled them. They won't get a third
chance at me."
So saying, he caught Mademoiselle de Verneuil's hand, drew her under
the mantel-shelf to the back of the hearth in a way to avoid
disturbing the fire, which covered only a small part of it; then he
touched a spring; the iron back was lifted, and when their enemies
returned to the kitchen the heavy door of the hiding-place had already
fallen noiselessly. Mademoiselle de Verneuil then understood the
carp-like movements she had seen the miser making.
"The ghost has taken the Blue with him," cried the voice of
The fright of the Chouans must have been great, for the words were
followed by a stillness so profound that d'Orgemont and his companion
could hear them muttering to themselves: "Ave, sancta Anna Auriaca
gratia plena, Dominus tecum," etc.
"They are praying, the fools!" cried d'Orgemont.
"Hush! are you not afraid they will discover us?" said Mademoiselle de
Verneuil, checking her companion.
The old man's laugh dissipated her fears.
"That iron back is set in a wall of granite two feet thick," he said.
"We can hear them, but they can't hear us."
Then he took the hand of his preserver and placed it near a crevice
through which a current of fresh air was blowing. She then perceived
that the opening was made in the shaft of the chimney.
"Ai! ai!" cried d'Orgemont. "The devil! how my legs smart!"
The Chouans, having finished their prayer, departed, and the old miser
again caught the hand of his companion and helped her to climb some
narrow winding steps cut in the granite wall. When they had mounted
some twenty of these steps the gleam of a lamp dimly lighted their
heads. The miser stopped, turned to his companion, examined her face
as if it were a bank note he was doubtful about cashing, and heaved a
"By bringing you here," he said, after a moment's silence, "I have
paid you in full for the service you did me; I don't see why I should
"Monsieur, I ask nothing of you," she said.
These words, and also, perhaps, the disdainful expression on the
beautiful face, reassured the old man, for he answered, not without a
sigh, "Ah! if you take it that way, I have gone too far not to
He politely assisted Marie to climb a few more steps rather strangely
constructed, and half willingly, half reluctantly, ushered her into a
small closet about four feet square, lighted by a lamp hanging from
the ceiling. It was easy to see that the miser had made preparations
to spend more than one day in this retreat if the events of the civil
war compelled him to hide himself.
"Don't brush against that wall, you might whiten yourself," said
d'Orgemont suddenly, as he hurriedly put his hand between the girl's
shawl and the stones which seemed to have been lately whitewashed. The
old man's action produced quite another effect from that he intended.
Marie looked about her and saw in one corner a sort of projection, the
shape of which forced from her a cry of terror, for she fancied it was
that of a human being standing erect and mortared into the wall.
D'Orgemont made a violent sign to her to hold her tongue, and his
little eyes of a porcelain blue showed as much fear as those of his
"Fool! do you think I murdered him? It is the body of my brother," and
the old man gave a lugubrious sigh. "He was the first sworn-in priest;
and this was the only asylum where he was safe against the fury of the
Chouans and the other priests. He was my elder brother, and he alone
had the patience to each me the decimal calculus. Oh! he was a good
priest! He was economical and laid by money. It is four years since he
died; I don't know what was the matter with him; perhaps it was that
priests are so in the habit of kneeling down to pray that he couldn't
get accustomed to standing upright here as I do. I walled him up
there; /they'd/ have dug him up elsewhere. Some day perhaps I can put
him in holy ground, as he used to call it,--poor man, he only took the
oath out of fear."
A tear rolled from the hard eyes of the little old man, whose rusty
wig suddenly seemed less hideous to the girl, and she turned her eyes
respectfully away from his distress. But, in spite of these tender
reminiscences, d'Orgemont kept on saying, "Don't go near the wall, you
His eyes never ceased to watch hers, hoping thus to prevent her from
examining too closely the walls of the closet, where the close air was
scarcely enough to inflate the lungs. Marie succeeded, however, in
getting a sufficiently good look in spite of her Argus, and she came
to the conclusion that the strange protuberances in the walls were
neither more nor less than sacks of coin which the miser had placed
there and plastered up.
Old d'Orgemont was now in a state of almost grotesque bewilderment.
The pain in his legs, the terror he felt at seeing a human being in
the midst of his hoards, could be read in every wrinkle of his face,
and yet at the same time his eyes expressed, with unaccustomed fire, a
lively emotion excited in him by the presence of his liberator, whose
white and rosy cheek invited kisses, and whose velvety black eye sent
waves of blood to his heart, so hot that he was much in doubt whether
they were signs of life or of death.
"Are you married?" he asked, in a trembling voice.
"No," she said, smiling.
"I have a little something," he continued, heaving a sigh, "though I
am not so rich as people think for. A young girl like you must love
diamonds, trinkets, carriages, money. I've got all that to give--after
my death. Hey! if you will--"
The old man's eyes were so shrewd and betrayed such calculation in
this ephemeral love that Mademoiselle de Verneuil, as she shook her
head in sign of refusal, felt that his desire to marry her was solely
to bury his secret in another himself.
"Money!" she said, with a look of scorn which made him satisfied and
angry both; "money is nothing to me. You would be three times as rich
as you are, if you had all the gold that I have refused--" she stopped
"Don't go near that wall, or--"
"But I hear a voice," she said; "it echoes through that wall,--a voice
that is more to me than all your riches."
Before the miser could stop her Marie had laid her hand on a small
colored engraving of Louis XV. on horseback; to her amazement it
turned, and she saw, in a room beneath her, the Marquis de Montauran,
who was loading a musket. The opening, hidden by a little panel on
which the picture was gummed, seemed to form some opening in the
ceiling of the adjoining chamber, which, no doubt, was the bedroom of
the royalist general. D'Orgemont closed the opening with much
precaution, and looked at the girl sternly.
"Don't say a word if you love your life. You haven't thrown your
grappling-iron on a worthless building. Do you know that the Marquis
de Montauran is worth more than one hundred thousand francs a year
from lands which have not yet been confiscated? And I read in the
Primidi de l'Ille-et-Vilaine a decree of the Consuls putting an end to
confiscation. Ha! ha! you'll think the Gars a prettier fellow than
ever, won't you? Your eyes are shining like two new louis d'or."
Mademoiselle de Verneuil's face was, indeed, keenly excited when she
heard that well-known voice so near her. Since she had been standing
there, erect, in the midst as it were of a silver mine, the spring of
her mind, held down by these strange events, recovered itself. She
seemed to have formed some sinister resolution and to perceive a means
of carrying it out.
"There is no return from such contempt," she was saying to herself;
"and if he cannot love me, I will kill him--no other woman shall have
"No, abbe, no!" cried the young chief, in a loud voice which was heard
through the panel, "it must be so."
"Monsieur le marquis," replied the Abbe Gudin, haughtily; "you will
scandalize all Brittany if you give that ball at Saint James. It is
preaching, not dancing, which will rouse our villagers. Take guns, not
"Abbe, you have sense enough to know that it is not in a general
assembly of our partisans that I can learn to know these people, or
judge of what I may be able to undertake with them. A supper is better
for examining faces than all the spying in the world, of which, by the
bye, I have a horror; they can be made to talk with glasses in their
Marie quivered, as she listened, and conceived the idea of going to
the ball and there avenging herself.
"Do you take me for an idiot with your sermon against dancing?"
continued Montauran. "Wouldn't you yourself dance a reed if it would
restore your order under its new name of Fathers of the Faith? Don't
you know that Bretons come away from the mass and go to dancing? Are
you aware that Messieurs Hyde de Neuville and d'Andigne had a
conference, five days ago, with the First Consul, on the question of
restoring his Majesty Louis XVIII.? Ah, monsieur, the princes are
deceived as to the true state of France. The devotions which uphold
them are solely those of rank. Abbe, if I have set my feet in blood,
at least I will not go into it to my middle without full knowledge of
what I do. I am devoted to the king, but not to four hot-heads, not to
a man crippled with debt like Rifoel, not to 'chauffeurs,' not to--"
"Say frankly, monsieur, not to abbes who force contributions on the
highway to carry on the war," retorted the Abbe Gudin.
"Why should I not say it?" replied the marquis, sharply; "and I'll
say, further, that the great and heroic days of La Vendee are over."
"Monsieur le marquis, we can perform miracles without you."
"Yes, like that of Marie Lambrequin, whom I hear you have brought to
life," said the marquis, smiling. "Come, come, let us have no rancor,
abbe. I know that you run all risks and would shoot a Blue as readily
as you say an /oremus/. God willing, I hope to make you assist with a
mitre on your head at the king's coronation."
This last remark must have had some magic power, for the click of a
musket was heard as the abbe exclaimed, "I have fifty cartridges in my
pocket, monsieur le marquis, and my life is the king's."
"He's a debtor of mine," whispered the usurer to Marie. "I don't mean
the five or six hundred crowns he has borrowed, but a debt of blood
which I hope to make him pay. He can never suffer as much evil as I
wish him, the damned Jesuit! He swore the death of my brother, and
raised the country against him. Why? Because the poor man was afraid
of the new laws." Then, after applying his ear to another part of his
hiding-place, he added, "They are all decamping, those brigands. I
suppose they are going to do some other miracle elsewhere. I only hope
they won't bid me good-bye as they did the last time, by setting fire
to my house."
After the lapse of about half an hour, during which time the usurer
and Mademoiselle de Verneuil looked at each other as if they were
studying a picture, the coarse, gruff voice of Galope-Chopine was
heard saying, in a muffled tone: "There's no longer any danger,
Monsieur d'Orgemont. But this time, you must allow that I have earned
my thirty crowns."
"My dear," said the miser to Marie, "swear to shut your eyes."
Mademoiselle de Verneuil placed one hand over her eyelids; but for
greater security d'Orgemont blew out the lamp, took his liberator by
the hand, and helped her to make seven or eight steps along a
difficult passage. At the end of some minutes he gently removed her
hand, and she found herself in the very room the Marquis de Montauran
had just quitted, and which was, in fact, the miser's own bedroom.
"My dear girl," said the old man, "you can safely go now. Don't look
about you that way. I dare say you have no money with you. Here are
ten crowns; they are a little shaved, but they'll pass. When you leave
the garden you will see a path that leads straight to the town, or, as
they say now, the district. But the Chouans will be at Fougeres, and
it is to be presumed that you can't get back there at once. You may
want some safe place to hide in. Remember what I say to you, but don't
make use of it unless in some great emergency. You will see on the
road which leads to Nid-aux-Crocs through the Val de Gibarry, a
farmhouse belonging to Cibot--otherwise called Galope-Chopine. Go in,
and say to his wife: 'Good-day, Becaniere,' and Barbette will hide you.
If Galope-Chopine discovers you he will either take you for the ghost,
if it is dark, or ten crowns will master him if it is light. Adieu,
our account is squared. But if you choose," he added, waving his hand
about him, "all this is yours."
Mademoiselle de Verneuil gave the strange old man a look of thanks,
and succeeded in extracting a sigh from him, expressing a variety of
"You will of course return me my ten crowns; and please remark that I
ask no interest. You can pay them to my credit with Maitre Patrat, the
notary at Fougeres, who would draw our marriage contract if you
consented to be mine. Adieu."
"Adieu," she said, smiling and waving her hand.
"If you ever want money," he called after her, "I'll lend it to you at
five per cent; yes, only five--did I say five?--why, she's gone! That
girl looks to me like a good one; nevertheless, I'll change the secret
opening of my chimney."
Then he took a twelve-pound loaf and a ham, and returned to his
* * * * *
As Mademoiselle de Verneuil walked through the country she seemed to
breathe a new life. The freshness of the night revived her after the
fiery experience of the last few hours. She tried to follow the path
explained to her by d'Orgemont, but the darkness became so dense after
the moon had gone down that she was forced to walk hap-hazard,
blindly. Presently the fear of falling down some precipice seized her
and saved her life, for she stopped suddenly, fancying the ground
would disappear before her if she made another step. A cool breeze
lifting her hair, the murmur of the river, and her instinct all
combined to warn her that she was probably on the verge of the
Saint-Sulpice rocks. She slipped her arm around a tree and waited for
dawn with keen anxiety, for she heard a noise of arms and horses and
human voices; she was grateful to the darkness which saved her from
the Chouans, who were evidently, as the miser had said, surrounding
Like fires lit at night as signals of liberty, a few gleams, faintly
crimsoned, began to show upon the summits, while the bases of the
mountains still retained the bluish tints which contrasted with the
rosy clouds that were floating in the valley. Soon a ruby disk rose
slowly on the horizon and the skies greeted it; the varied landscape,
the bell-tower of Saint-Leonard, the rocks, the meadows buried in
shadow, all insensibly reappeared, and the trees on the summits were
defined against the skies in the rising glow. The sun freed itself
with a graceful spring from the ribbons of flame and ochre and
sapphire. Its vivid light took level lines from hill to hill and
flowed into the vales. The dusk dispersed, day mastered Nature. A
sharp breeze crisped the air, the birds sang, life wakened everywhere.
But the girl had hardly time to cast her eyes over the whole of this
wondrous landscape before, by a phenomenon not infrequent in these
cool regions, the mists spread themselves in sheets, filled the
valleys, and rose to the tops of the mountains, burying the great
valley beneath a mantle of snow. Mademoiselle de Verneuil fancied for
a moment she saw a /mer de glace/, like those of the Alps. Then the
vaporous atmosphere rolled like the waves of ocean, lifted
impenetrable billows which softly swayed, undulated, and were
violently whirled, catching from the sun's rays a vivid rosy tint, and
showing here and there in their depths the transparencies of a lake of
molten silver. Suddenly the north wind swept this phantasmagoric scene
and scattered the mists which laid a dew full of oxygen on the
Mademoiselle de Verneuil was now able to distinguish a dark mass of
men on the rocks of Fougeres. Seven or eight hundred Chouans were
running like ants through the suburb of Saint-Sulpice. The sleeping
town would certainly have been overpowered in spite of its
fortifications and its old gray towers, if Hulot had not been alert. A
battery, concealed on a height at the farther end of the basin formed
by the ramparts, replied to the first fire of the Chouans by taking
them diagonally on the road to the castle. The balls swept the road.
Then a company of Blues made a sortie from the Saint-Sulpice gate,
profited by the surprise of the royalists to form in line upon the
high-road, and poured a murderous fire upon them. The Chouans made no
attempt to resist, seeing that the ramparts of the castle were covered
with soldiers, and that the guns of the fortress sufficiently
protected the Republican advance.
Meantime, however, other Chouans, masters of the little valley of the
Nancon, had swarmed up the rocks and reached the Promenade, which was
soon covered with goatskins, giving it to Marie's eyes the appearance
of a thatched roof, brown with age. At the same moment loud reports
were heard from the part of the town which overlooks the valley of
Couesnon. Evidently, Fougeres was attacked on all sides and completely
surrounded. Flames rising on the western side of the rock showed that
the Chouans were setting fire to the suburbs; but these soon ceased,
and a column of black smoke which succeeded them showed that the fire
was extinguished. Brown and white clouds again hid the scene from
Mademoiselle de Verneuil, but they were clouds of smoke from the fire
and powder, which the wind dispersed. The Republican commander, as
soon as he saw his first orders admirably executed, changed the
direction of his battery so as to sweep, successively, the valley of
the Nancon, the Queen's Staircase, and the base of the rock of
Fougeres. Two guns posted at the gate of Saint-Leonard scattered the
ant-hill of Chouans who had seized that position, and the national
guard of the town, rushing in haste to the square before the Church,
succeeded in dislodging the enemy. The fight lasted only half an hour,
and cost the Blues a hundred men. The Chouans, beaten on all sides,
retreated under orders from the Gars, whose bold attempt failed
(although he did not know this) in consequence of the massacre at La
Vivetiere, which had brought Hulot secretly and in all haste to
Fougeres. The artillery had arrived only that evening, and the news
had not reached Montauran; otherwise, he would certainly have
abandoned an enterprise which, if it failed, could only have bad
results. As soon as he heard the guns the marquis knew it would be
madness to continue, out of mere pride, a surprise which had missed
fire. Therefore, not to lose men uselessly, he sent at once to all
points of the attack, ordering an immediate retreat. The commandant,
seeing his adversary on the rocks of Saint-Sulpice surrounded by a
council of men, endeavored to pour a volley upon him; but the spot was
cleverly selected, and the young leader was out of danger in a moment.
Hulot now changed parts with his opponent and became the aggressor. At
the first sign of the Gars' intention, the company stationed under the
walls of the castle were ordered to cut off the Chouans' retreat by
seizing the upper outlet of the valley of the Nancon.
Notwithstanding her desire for revenge, Mademoiselle de Verneuil's
sympathies were with the men commanded by her lover, and she turned
hastily to see if the other end of the valley were clear for them; but
the Blues, conquerors no doubt on the opposite side of Fougeres, were
returning from the valley of Couesnon and taking possession of the
Nid-aux-Crocs and that portion of the Saint-Sulpice rocks which
overhang the lower end of the valley of the Nancon. The Chouans, thus
hemmed in to the narrow fields of the gorge, seemed in danger of
perishing to the last man, so cleverly and sagaciously were the
commandant's measures taken. But Hulot's cannon were powerless at
these two points; and here, the town of Fougeres being quite safe,
began one of those desperate struggles which denoted the character of
Mademoiselle de Verneuil now comprehended the presence of the masses
of men she had seen as she left the town, the meeting of the leaders
at d'Orgemont's house, and all the other events of the night,
wondering how she herself had escaped so many dangers. The attack,
prompted by desperation, interested her so keenly that she stood
motionless, watching the living pictures as they presented themselves
to her sight. Presently the struggle at the foot of the mountain had a
deeper interest for her. Seeing the Blues almost masters of the
Chouans, the marquis and his friends rushed into the valley of the
Nancon to support their men. The rocks were now covered with
straggling groups of furious combatants deciding the question of life
or death on a ground and with weapons that were more favorable to the
Goatskins. Slowly this moving arena widened. The Chouans, recovering
themselves, gained the rocks, thanks to the shrubs and bushes which
grew here and there among them. For a moment Mademoiselle de Verneuil
felt alarmed as she saw, rather late, her enemies swarming over the
summit and defending the dangerous paths by which alone she could
descend. Every issue on the mountain was occupied by one or other of
the two parties; afraid of encountering them she left the tree behind
which she had been sheltering, and began to run in the direction of
the farm which d'Orgemont had mentioned to her. After running some
time on the slope of Saint-Sulpice which overlooks the valley of
Couesnon she saw a cow-shed in the distance, and thought it must
belong to the house of Galope-Chopine, who had doubtless left his wife
at home and alone during the fight. Mademoiselle de Verneuil hoped to
be able to pass a few hours in this retreat until it was possible for
her to return to Fougeres without danger. According to all appearance
Hulot was to triumph. The Chouans were retreating so rapidly that she
heard firing all about her, and the fear of being shot made her hasten
to the cottage, the chimney of which was her landmark. The path she
was following ended at a sort of shed covered with a furze-roof,
supported by four stout trees with the bark still on them. A mud wall
formed the back of this shed, under which were a cider-mill, a flail
to thresh buckwheat, and several agricultural implements. She stopped
before one of the posts, unwilling to cross the dirty bog which formed
a sort of courtyard to the house which, in her Parisian ignorance, she
had taken for a stable.
The cabin, protected from the north wind by an eminence towering above
the roof, which rested against it, was not without a poetry of its
own; for the tender shoots of elms, heather, and various rock-flowers
wreathed it with garlands. A rustic staircase, constructed between the
shed and the house, enabled the inhabitants to go to the top of the
rock and breathe a purer air. On the left, the eminence sloped
abruptly down, giving to view a series of fields, the first of which
belonged no doubt to this farm. These fields were like bowers,
separated by banks which were planted with trees. The road which led
to them was barred by the trunk of an old, half-rotten tree,--a Breton
method of enclosure the name of which may furnish, further on, a
digression which will complete the characterization of this region.
Between the stairway cut in the schist rock and the path closed by
this old tree, in front of the marsh and beneath the overhanging rock,
several granite blocks roughly hewn, and piled one upon the other,
formed the four corners of the cottage and held up the planks,
cobblestones, and pitch amalgam of which the walls were made. The fact
that one half of the roof was covered with furze instead of thatch,
and the other with shingles or bits of board cut into the form of
slates, showed that the building was in two parts; one half, with a
broken hurdle for a door, served as a stable, the other half was the
dwelling of the owner. Though this hut owed to the neighborhood of the
town a few improvements which were wholly absent from such buildings
that were five or six miles further off, it showed plainly enough the
instability of domestic life and habits to which the wars and customs
of feudality had reduced the serf; even to this day many of the
peasants of those parts call a seignorial chateau, "The Dwelling."
While examining the place, with an astonishment we can readily
conceive, Mademoiselle de Verneuil noticed here and there in the
filth of the courtyard a few bits of granite so placed as to form
stepping-stones to the house. Hearing the sound of musketry that was
evidently coming nearer, she jumped from stone to stone, as if crossing
a rivulet, to ask shelter. The house was closed by a door opening in
two parts; the lower one of wood, heavy and massive, the upper one a
shutter which served as a window. In many of the smaller towns of
France the shops have the same type of door though far more decorated,
the lower half possessing a call-bell. The door in question opened
with a wooden latch worthy of the golden age, and the upper part was
never closed except at night, for it was the only opening through
which daylight could enter the room. There was, to be sure, a clumsy
window, but the glass was thick like the bottom of a bottle, and the
lead which held the panes in place took so much room that the opening
seemed intended to intercept the light rather than admit it. As soon
as Mademoiselle de Verneuil had turned the creaking hinges of the
lower door she smelt an intolerable ammoniacal odor, and saw that the
beasts in the stable had kicked through the inner partition which
separated the stable from the dwelling. The interior of the farmhouse,
for such it was, did not belie its exterior.
Mademoiselle de Verneuil was asking herself how it was possible for
human beings to live in such habitual filth, when a ragged boy about
eight or nine years old suddenly presented his fresh and rosy face,
with a pair of fat cheeks, lively eyes, ivory teeth, and a mass of
fair hair, which fell in curls upon his half-naked shoulders. His
limbs were vigorous, and his attitude had the charm of that amazement
and naive curiosity which widens a child's eyes. The little fellow was
a picture of beauty.
"Where is your mother?" said Marie, in a gentle voice, stooping to
kiss him between the eyes.
After receiving her kiss the child slipped away like an eel, and
disappeared behind a muck-heap which was piled at the top of a mound
between the path and the house; for, like many Breton farmers who have
a system of agriculture that is all their own, Galope-Chopine put his
manure in an elevated spot, so that by the time it was wanted for use
the rains had deprived it of all its virtue. Alone for a few minutes,
Marie had time to make an inventory. The room in which she waited for
Barbette was the whole house. The most obvious and sumptuous object
was a vast fireplace with a /mantle/-shelf of blue granite. The
etymology of that word was shown by a strip of green serge, edged with
a pale-green ribbon, cut in scallops, which covered and overhung the
whole shelf, on which stood a colored plaster cast of the Holy Virgin.
On the pedestal of the statuette were two lines of a religious poem
very popular in Brittany:--
"I am the mother of God,
Protectress of the sod."
Behind the Virgin a hideous image, daubed with red and blue under
pretence of painting, represented Saint-Labre. A green serge bed of
the shape called "tomb," a clumsy cradle, a spinning-wheel, common
chairs, and a carved chest on which lay utensils, were about the whole
of Galope-Chopine's domestic possessions. In front of the window stood
a chestnut table flanked by two benches of the same wood, to which the
sombre light coming through the thick panes gave the tone of mahogany.
An immense cask of cider, under the bung of which Mademoiselle de
Verneuil noticed a pool of yellow mud, which had decomposed the
flooring, although it was made of scraps of granite conglomerated in
clay, proved that the master of the house had a right to his Chouan
name, and that the pints galloped down either his own throat or that
of his friends. Two enormous jugs full of cider stood on the table.
Marie's attention, caught at first by the innumerable spider's-webs
which hung from the roof, was fixing itself on these pitchers when the
noise of fighting, growing more and more distinct, impelled her to
find a hiding-place, without waiting for the woman of the house, who,
however, appeared at that moment.
"Good-morning, Becaniere," said Marie, restraining a smile at the
appearance of a person who bore some resemblance to the heads which
architects attach to window-casings.
"Ha! you come from d'Orgemont?" answered Barbette, in a tone that was
far from cordial.
"Yes, where can you hide me? for the Chouans are close by--"
"There," replied Barbette, as much amazed at the beauty as by the
strange apparel of a being she could hardly believe to be of her own
sex,--"there, in the priest's hiding-place."
She took her to the head of the bed, and was putting her behind it,
when they were both startled by the noise of a man springing into the
courtyard. Barbette had scarcely time to drop the curtain of the bed
and fold it about the girl before she was face to face with a fugitive
"Where can I hide, old woman? I am the Comte de Bauvan," said the
Mademoiselle de Verneuil quivered as she recognized the voice of the
belated guest, whose words, still a secret to her, brought about the
catastrophe of La Vivetiere.
"Alas! monseigneur, don't you see, I have no place? What I'd better do
is to keep outside and watch that no one gets in. If the Blues come,
I'll let you know. If I stay here, and they find me with you, they'll
burn my house down."
Barbette left the hut, feeling herself incapable of settling the
interests of two enemies who, in virtue of the double role her husband
was playing, had an equal right to her hiding-place.
"I've only two shots left," said the count, in despair. "It will be
very unlucky if those fellows turn back now and take a fancy to look
under this bed."
He placed his gun gently against the headboard behind which Marie was
standing among the folds of the green serge, and stooped to see if
there was room for him under the bed. He would infallibly have seen
her feet, but she, rendered desperate by her danger, seized his gun,
jumped quickly into the room, and threatened him. The count broke into
a peal of laughter when he caught sight of her, for, in order to hide
herself, Marie had taken off her broad-brimmed Chouan hat, and her
hair was escaping, in heavy curls, from the lace scarf which she had
worn on leaving home.
"Don't laugh, monsieur le comte; you are my prisoner. If you make the
least movement, you shall know what an offended woman is capable of
As the count and Marie stood looking at each other with differing
emotions, confused voices were heard without among the rocks, calling
out, "Save the Gars! spread out, spread out, save the Gars!"
Barbette's voice, calling to her boy, was heard above the tumult with
very different sensations by the two enemies, to whom Barbette was
really speaking instead of to her son.
"Don't you see the Blues?" she cried sharply. "Come here, you little
scamp, or I shall be after you. Do you want to be shot? Come, hide,
While these things took place rapidly a Blue jumped into the marshy
"Beau-Pied!" exclaimed Mademoiselle de Verneuil.
Beau-Pied, hearing her voice, rushed into the cottage, and aimed at
"Aristocrat!" he cried, "don't stir, or I'll demolish you in a wink,
like the Bastille."
"Monsieur Beau-Pied," said Mademoiselle de Verneuil, in a persuasive
voice, "you will be answerable to me for this prisoner. Do as you like
with him now, but you must return him to me safe and sound at
"Is the road to Fougeres clear?"
"Yes, it's safe enough--unless the Chouans come to life."
Mademoiselle de Verneuil picked up the count's gun gaily, and smiled
satirically as she said to her prisoner, "Adieu, monsieur le comte, au
Then she darted down the path, having replaced the broad hat upon her
"I have learned too late," said the count, "not to joke about the
virtue of a woman who has none."
"Aristocrat!" cried Beau-Pied, sternly, "if you don't want me to send
you to your /ci-devant/ paradise, you will not say a word against that
Mademoiselle de Verneuil returned to Fougeres by the paths which
connect the rocks of Saint-Sulpice with the Nid-aux-Crocs. When she
reached the latter height and had threaded the winding way cut in its
rough granite, she stopped to admire the pretty valley of the Nancon,
lately so turbulent and now so tranquil. Seen from that point, the
vale was like a street of verdure. Mademoiselle de Verneuil re-entered
the town by the Porte Saint-Leonard. The inhabitants, still uneasy
about the fighting, which, judging by the distant firing, was still
going on, were waiting the return of the National Guard, to judge of
their losses. Seeing the girl in her strange costume, her hair
dishevelled, a gun in her hand, her shawl and gown whitened against
the walls, soiled with mud and wet with dew, the curiosity of the
people was keenly excited,--all the more because the power, beauty,
and singularity of this young Parisian had been the subject of much
Francine, full of dreadful fears, had waited for her mistress
throughout the night, and when she saw her she began to speak; but
Marie, with a kindly gesture, silenced her.
"I am not dead, my child," she said. "Ah!" she added, after a pause,
"I wanted emotions when I left Paris, and I have had them!"
Francine asked if she should get her some food, observing that she
must be in great need of it.
"No, no; a bath, a bath!" cried Mademoiselle de Verneuil. "I must
dress at once."
Francine was not a little surprised when her mistress required her to
unpack the most elegant of the dresses she had brought with her.
Having bathed and breakfasted, Marie made her toilet with all the
minute care which a woman gives to that important act when she expects
to meet the eyes of her lover in a ball-room. Francine could not
explain to herself the mocking gaiety of her mistress. It was not the
joy of love,--a woman never mistakes that; it was rather an expression
of concentrated maliciousness, which to Francine's mind boded evil.
Marie herself drew the curtains of the window from which the glorious
panorama could be seen, then she moved the sofa to the chimney corner,
turning it so that the light would fall becomingly on her face; then
she told Francine to fetch flowers, that the room might have a festive
air; and when they came she herself directed their arrangement in a
picturesque manner. Giving a last glance of satisfaction at these
various preparations she sent Francine to the commandant with a
request that he would bring her prisoner to her; then she lay down
luxuriously on a sofa, partly to rest, and partly to throw herself
into an attitude of graceful weakness, the power of which is
irresistible in certain women. A soft languor, the seductive pose of
her feet just seen below the drapery of her gown, the plastic ease of
her body, the curving of the throat,--all, even the droop of her
slender fingers as they hung from the pillow like the buds of a bunch
of jasmine, combined with her eyes to produce seduction. She burned
certain perfumes to fill the air with those subtle emanations which
affect men's fibres powerfully, and often prepare the way for
conquests which women seek to make without seeming to desire them.
Presently the heavy step of the old soldier resounded in the adjoining
"Well, commandant, where is my captive?" she said.
"I have just ordered a picket of twelve men to shoot him, being taken
with arms in his hand."
"Why have you disposed of my prisoner?" she asked. "Listen to me,
commandant; surely, if I can trust your face, the death of a man
/after/ a fight is no particular satisfaction to you. Well, then, give
my Chouan a reprieve, for which I will be responsible, and let me see
him. I assure you that aristocrat has become essential to me, and he
can be made to further the success of our plans. Besides, to shoot a
mere amateur in Chouannerie would be as absurd as to fire on a balloon
when a pinprick would disinflate it. For heaven's sake leave cruelty
to the aristocracy. Republicans ought to be generous. Wouldn't you and
yours have forgiven the victims of Quiberon? Come, send your twelve
men to patrol the town, and dine with me and bring the prisoner. There
is only an hour of daylight left, and don't you see," she added
smiling, "that if you are too late, my toilet will have lost its
"But, mademoiselle," said the commandant, amazed.
"Well, what? But I know what you mean. Don't be anxious; the count
shall not escape. Sooner or later that big butterfly will burn himself
in your fire."
The commandant shrugged his shoulders slightly, with the air of a man
who is forced to obey, whether he will or no, the commands of a pretty
woman; and he returned in about half an hour, followed by the Comte de
Mademoiselle de Verneuil feigned surprise and seemed confused that the
count should see her in such a negligent attitude; then, after reading
in his eyes that her first effect was produced, she rose and busied
herself about her guests with well-bred courtesy. There was nothing
studied or forced in her motions, smiles, behavior, or voice, nothing
that betrayed premeditation or purpose. All was harmonious; no part
was over-acted; an observer could not have supposed that she affected
the manners of a society in which she had not lived. When the Royalist
and the Republic were seated she looked sternly at the count. He, on
his part, knew women sufficiently well to feel certain that the
offence he had committed against this woman was equivalent to a
sentence of death. But in spite of this conviction, and without
seeming either gay or gloomy, he had the air of a man who did not take
such serious results into consideration; in fact, he really thought it
ridiculous to fear death in presence of a pretty woman. Marie's stern
manner roused ideas in his mind.
"Who knows," thought he, "whether a count's coronet wouldn't please
her as well as that of her lost marquis? Montauran is as lean as a
nail, while I--" and he looked himself over with an air of
satisfaction. "At any rate I should save my head."
These diplomatic revelations were wasted. The passion the count
proposed to feign for Mademoiselle de Verneuil became a violent
caprice, which the dangerous creature did her best to heighten.
"Monsieur le comte," she said, "you are my prisoner, and I have the
right to dispose of you. Your execution cannot take place without my
consent, and I have too much curiosity to let them shoot you at
"And suppose I am obstinate enough to keep silence?" he replied gaily.
"With an honest woman, perhaps, but with a woman of the town, no, no,
monsieur le comte, impossible!" These words, full of bitter sarcasm,
were hissed, as Sully says, in speaking of the Duchesse de Beaufort,
from so sharp a beak that the count, amazed, merely looked at his
antagonist. "But," she continued, with a scornful glance, "not to
contradict you, if I am a creature of that kind I will act like one.
Here is your gun," and she offered him his weapon with a mocking air.
"On the honor of a gentleman, mademoiselle--"
"Ah!" she said, interrupting him, "I have had enough of the honor of
gentlemen. It was on the faith of that that I went to La Vivetiere.
Your leader had sworn to me that I and my escort should be safe
"What an infamy!" cried Hulot, contracting his brows.
"The fault lies with monsieur le comte," said Marie, addressing Hulot.
"I have no doubt the Gars meant to keep his word, but this gentleman
told some calumny about me which confirmed those that Charette's
mistress had already invented--"
"Mademoiselle," said the count, much troubled, "with my head under the
axe I would swear that I said nothing but the truth."
"In saying what?"
"That you were the--"
"Say the word, mistress of--"
"The Marquis de Lenoncourt, the present duke, a friend of mine,"
replied the count.
"Now I can let you go to execution," she said, without seeming at all
agitated by the outspoken reply of the count, who was amazed at the
real or pretended indifference with which she heard his statement.
"However," she added, laughing, "you have not wronged me more than
that friend of whom you suppose me to have been the--Fie! monsieur le
comte; surely you used to visit my father, the Duc de Verneuil? Yes?
Evidently considering Hulot one too many for the confidence she was
about to make, Mademoiselle de Verneuil motioned the count to her
side, and said a few words in her ear. Monsieur de Bauvan gave a low
ejaculation of surprise and looked with bewilderment at Marie, who
completed the effect of her words by leaning against the chimney in
the artless and innocent attitude of a child.
"Mademoiselle," cried the count, "I entreat your forgiveness, unworthy
as I am of it."
"I have nothing to forgive," she replied. "You have no more ground for
repentance than you had for the insolent supposition you proclaimed at
La Vivetiere. But this is a matter beyond your comprehension. Only,
remember this, monsieur le comte, the daughter of the Duc de Verneuil
has too generous a spirit not to take a lively interest in your fate."
"Even after I have insulted you?" said the count, with a sort of
"Some are placed so high that insult cannot touch them. Monsieur le
comte,--I am one of them."
As she said the words, the girl assumed an air of pride and nobility
which impressed the prisoner and made the whole of this strange
intrigue much less clear to Hulot than the old soldier had thought it.
He twirled his moustache and looked uneasily at Mademoiselle de
Verneuil, who made him a sign, as if to say she was still carrying out
"Now," continued Marie, after a pause, "let us discuss these matters.
Francine, my dear, bring lights."
She adroitly led the conversation to the times which had now, within a
few short years, become the "ancien regime." She brought back that
period to the count's mind by the liveliness of her remarks and
sketches, and gave him so many opportunities to display his wit, by
cleverly throwing repartees in his way, that he ended by thinking he
had never been so charming; and that idea having rejuvenated him, he
endeavored to inspire this seductive young woman with his own good
opinion of himself. The malicious creature practised, in return, every
art of her coquetry upon him, all the more adroitly because it was
mere play to her. Sometimes she let him think he was making rapid
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