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- La Vendee - 6/91 -


yesterday performed. We shall doubtless have many friends in Nantes and Angers, but the Republic also has many friends in those towns, and the soldiers of the Republic are strong there. It will not be long before they hurry to St. Florent to avenge the disgrace of their comrades; and bitter will be their revenge if they take you unprepared. You have declared war against the Republic, and you must be prepared to fight it out to the end."

"We will, we will," shouted the people. "Down with the Republic--down with the Convention. Long live the King--our own King once again."

"Very well, my friends," continued Cathelineau, "so be it. We will fight it out then. We will combat with the Republic, sooner than be carried away from our wives, our children, and our sweethearts. We will fight for our own curés and our own churches; but our battle will be no holiday-work, it will be a different affair from that of yesterday. We must learn to carry arms, and to stand under them. You showed yesterday that you had courage--you must now show that you can join patience and perseverance to your courage."

"We will, Cathelineau, we will," shouted they "Tell us what we must do, Cathelineau, and we will do it.

"We must see," continued he, "who will be our friends and our allies. St. Florent cannot fight single-handed against the Republic. There are others in Anjou, and Poitou also, besides ourselves, who do not wish to leave their homes and their fields. There are noblemen and gentlemen, our friends and masters, who will lead you better than I can."

"No, no, Cathelineau is our general; we will follow no one but Cathelineau."

"You will, my friends, you will; but we need not quarrel about that. Forte and I, with Peter Berrier, will visit those who we think will join us; but you must at once prepare yourselves. You must arm yourselves. We will distribute the muskets of the soldiers as far as they will go. You must prepare yourselves. If we do not at once attack the Republicans elsewhere, they will soon overwhelm us in St. Florent. We will go to Cholet--the men of Cholet will surely second us--they are as fond of their sons and their brethren as we are. Cholet will join us, and Beaupréau, and Coron, and Torfou. We will go and ask them whether they prefer the Republic to their homes--whether the leaders of the Convention are dearer to them than their own lords--whether their new priests love them, as the old ones did? And I know what will be their answer."

He ceased speaking, and his audience crowded around him to shake hands with him, and to bless him; and before the sun was in the middle of the sky he had left St. Florent on his mission, in company with Forte and Peter Berrier.

CHAPTER III

DURBELLIERE.

The château of Durbellière, the family seat of the Larochejacquelins, was situated in the very centre of the Bocage, between the small towns of Chatillon and Vihiers--in the province of Poitou, and about twelve leagues from St. Florent.

It was a large mansion, surrounded by extensive gardens, and a considerable domain. There were few residences of more importance as betokening greater wealth in the province of Poitou; but it was neither magnificent nor picturesque. The landlords of the country were not men of extensive property or expensive habits--they built no costly castles, and gave no sumptuous banquets; but they lived at home, on their incomes, and had always something to spare for the poorer of their neighbours. Farming was their business--the chase their amusement--loyalty their strongest passion, and the prosperity of their tenantry their chief ambition.

The château of Durbellière was a large square building, three stories high, with seven front windows to each of the upper stories, and three on each side of the large door on the ground floor. Eight stone steps of great width led up to the front door; but between the top step and the door there was a square flagged area of considerable space; and on the right hand, and on the left, two large whitewashed lions reclined on brick and mortar pedestals. An enormous range of kitchens, offices and cellars, ran under the whole house; the windows opened into a low area, or rather trench, which ran along the front and back of the house, and to which there were no rails or palings of any kind. The servants' door was at the side of the house, and the servants and people coming to them, to save themselves the trouble of walking round to this door, were in the habit of jumping into the area and entering the kitchen by the window. Doubtless some lady of the house, when the mansion was first built, had protested strongly against this unsightly practice; but habit had now accustomed the family to this mode of ingress and egress, and the servants of Durbèlliere consequently never used any other.

The back of the château was just the same as the front, the same windows, the same broad steps, the same pedestals and the same whitewashed lions, only the steps, instead of leading on to a large gravelled square, led into a trim garden. There were no windows, whatsoever, on one side of the house, and on the other only those necessary to light the huge staircase of the mansion.

The rooms were square, very large, and extremely lofty; the salon alone was carpetted, and none of them were papered, the drawing-room, the dining-room and the grand salon were ornamented with painted panels, which displayed light-coloured shepherds and shepherdesses in almost every possible attitude. In these rooms, also, there were highly ornamented stoves, which stood out about four feet from the wall, topped with marble slabs, on which were sculptured all the gods and demi-gods of the heathen mythology--that in the drawing-room exhibited Vulcan catching Mars and Venus in his marble net; and the unhappy position of the god of war was certainly calculated to read a useful lesson to any Parisian rover, who might attempt to disturb the domestic felicity of any family in the Bocage.

The house was not above a hundred yards from the high road, from which there were two entrances about two hundred yards apart. There were large wooden, gates at each, which were usually left open, but each of which was guarded by two white-washed lions--not quite so much at ease as those on the pedestals, for they were fixed a-top of pillars hardly broad enough to support them. But this doubtless only increased their watchfulness.

But the glory of the château was the large garden behind the house. It was completely enclosed by a very high wall, and, like the house, was nearly square in its proportions. It contained miles of walks, and each walk so like the others, that a stranger might wander there for a week without knowing that he had retraversed the same ground, were it not that he could not fail to recognize the quaint groups of figures which met him at every turn. A few of these were of stone, rudely sculptured, but by far the greater number were of painted wood, and, like the shepherds and shepherdesses in the drawing-room, displayed every action of rural life. You would suddenly come upon a rosy-coloured gentleman, with a gun to his shoulder, in the act of shooting game--then a girl with a basket of huge cabbages--an old man in a fit of the cholic; the same rosy gentleman violently kissing a violet-coloured young lady; and, at the next turn, you would find the violet-coloured young lady fast asleep upon a bank. You would meet a fat curé a dozen times in half-an-hour, and always well employed. He would be saying his prayers--drinking beer--blessing a young maiden, and cudgelling a mule that wouldn't stir a step for him, till the large yellow drops of sweat were falling from his face. It was inconceivable how so many painted figures, in such a variety of attitudes, could have been designed and executed; but there they were, the great glory of the old gardener, and the endless amusement of the peasants of the neighbourhood, who were allowed to walk there on the summer Sunday evenings.

The gardens of Durbellière were also wonderful in another respect. It was supposed to be impossible to consume, or even to gather, all the cherries which they produced in the early summer. The trees between the walks were all cherry-trees--old standard trees of a variety of sorts; but they all bore fruit of some description or another, some sweet and some bitter; some large, some small, and some perfectly diminutive; some black, some red, and some white. Every species of known cherry was in that garden in abundance; but even the gardener himself did not know the extent of the produce. Birds of all kinds flocked there in enormous numbers, and banqueted gloriously during the summer. No one disturbed them except the painted sportsman; and the song of the linnet and the thrush was heard all day, and that of the nightingale during the night.

The old Marquis de Larochejaquelin had been crossed in love early in life, and he had not recovered from his sorrow till he was above fifty, when he married, and outlived his young wife, who left him different children. Henri and Agatha were the only two now living with him. As has already been said, the old man was very infirm, and had lost the use of his limbs.

When the weather was cold or wet, he sat with his daughter, Agatha, near his bright wood fire, and watched her needle, or listened to her songs; but, if the sun appeared at all, he was dragged out in his garden chair among the birds and the painted figures, and was happy in spite of his infirmities.

He was most affectionate to his children, and indulgent to a fault. He was kind to every one, and, unless the birds were disturbed, the cherry-trees injured, or the figures upset, he was never angry even with a servant. Everybody loved and venerated the old Marquis, and even in his foibles, he was thoroughly respected. He had a vast collection of stuffed birds of every description, and the peasants round him were so anxious to gratify him by adding to his stock, that there began to be a doubt whether room in the château could be found for the presents which were continually brought. The upper story of the house had never been required by the family, and the rooms had not even been roofed or plastered. One great partition wall ran across the space, and the only ceiling was the bare high-pointed roof of the house. This place was called the granary, and was used for a drying ground. And here the superfluous birds were brought, much to the old man's grief, for he knew that he should never see them again; but he could not refuse them when they were given to him, and the room which he inhabited would conveniently hold no more.

The happiness of the last years of the old man's life was much disturbed by the events of the French revolution. He had been very anxious when he saw his young son join a club, which was sure to incur the ill-will of the ruling power in Paris; and yet he could not dissuade him from doing so; and, though he had rejoiced when his son returned to Poitou still safe, the imprisonment of the King had woefully afflicted him, and his death had nearly killed him. He had now expressed his opposition to the levies of a conscription with a degree of energy which had astonished his family. He knew the names and persons of every man and woman living on his estate, indeed, of every child above the age of ten; and, when he was told the names of those who were drawn as conscripts, he desired that they might all be told in his name that he hoped they would not obey.


La Vendee - 6/91

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