Abbildungen der Seite

great ferry-boats loaded with hay; and Henri, with Stofflet, three other officers, and eighteen soldiers crossed the river in their two boats, intending to take possession of them, send them back for the rest of the army, and in the mean time protect the passage from the Blues on the Vendéen side. Unfortunately, however, he had scarcely crossed before the pursuers came down upon his troops, drove them back from Ancenis, and entirely prevented them from attempting the passage, while at the same time Henri and his companions were attacked and forced from the river by a body of Republicans on their side. A last resistance was attempted by the retreating Vendéens at Savenay, where they fought nobly but in vain ; four thousand were shot on the field of battle, the chiefs were made prisoners and carried to Nantes or Angers, where they were guillotined, and a few who succeeded in escaping found shelter among the Bretons, or one by one found their way back to La Vendée. M. de Donnissan was amongst those who were guillotined, and M. d’Elbée, who was seized shortly after, was shot with his wife.

Henri, with his few companions, when driven from the banks of the Loire, dismissed the eighteen soldiers, whose number would only have attracted attention without being sufficient for protection ; but the five chiefs crossed the fields and wandered through the country without meeting a single inhabitant, — all the houses were burnt down, and the few remaining peasants hidden in the woods. At last, after four-and-twenty hours? walking, they came to an inhabited farm, where they laid down to sleep on the straw. The next moment the farmer came to tell them the Blues were coming; but they were so worn out with fatigue, that they would not move. The Blues were happily, also, very tired, and, without making search, laid down on the other side of the heap of straw, and also fell asleep. Before daylight the Vendéens rose and set out again, walking miles and miles in the midst of desolation, until, after several days, they came to Henri's own village of St. Aubin, where he sought out his aunt, who was in concealment there, and remained with her for three days, utterly overwhelmed with grief at his fatal separation from his army, and only longing for an opportunity of giving his life in the good cause.

Beyond all his hopes, the peasants no sooner heard his name than once more they rallied round the white standard, as determined as ever not to yield to the Revolutionary government; and the beginning of the year 1794 found him once more at the head of a considerable force, encamped in the forest of Vésins, guarding the villages around from the cruelties of the Blues. He was now doubly beloved and trusted by the followers who had proved his worth, and who even yet looked forward to triumphs beneath his brave guidance; but it was not so with him, he had learnt the lesson of disappointment, and though always active and cheerful, his mind was made up, and the only hope he cherished was of meeting the death of a soldier. His head-quarters were in the midst of a forest, where one of the Republican officers, who was made prisoner, was much surprised to find the much-dreaded chieftain of the Royalists living in a hut formed of boughs of trees, dressed almost like a peasant, and with his arm still in a sling. This person was shot, because he was found to be commissioned to promise pardon to the peasants, and afterwards to massacre them; but Henri had not learnt cruelty from his persecutors, and his last words were of forgiveness.

It was on Ash Wednesday that he had repulsed an attack of the enemy, and had almost driven them out of the wood, when, perceiving two soldiers hiding behind a hedge, he stopped, crying out,“ Surrender, I spare you." As he spoke one of them levelled his musket, fired, and stretched him dead on the ground without a groan.

Stofflet coming up the next moment, killed the murderer with one stroke of his sword ; but the remaining soldier was spared out of regard to the last words of the general. The Vendéens wept bitterly, but there was no time to indulge their sorrow, for the enemy were returning upon them; and, to save their chieftain's corpse from insult, they hastily dug a grave, in which they placed both bodies, and retreated as the Blues came up to occupy the ground. The Republicans sought for the spot, but it was preserved from their knowledge; and the high-spirited, pure-hearted Henri de la Rochejaquelein sleeps beside his enemy in the midst of the woodlands where he won for himself eternal honor. His name is still loved beyond all others; the Vendéens seldom pronounce it without touching their hats, and it is the highest glory of many a family that one of their number has served under Monsieur Henri.

Stofflet succeeded to the command, and carried on the war with great skill and courage for another year, though with barbarities such as had never been permitted by the gentlemen ; but his career was stained by the death of Marigny, whom, by false accusations, he was induced to sentence to be shot. Marigny showed great courage and resignation, himself giving the word to fire, perhaps at that moment remembering the warning of M. de Lescure. Stofflet repented bitterly, and never ceased to lament his death. He was at length made prisoner, and shot, with his last words declaring his devotion to his king and his faith.

Thus ends the tale of the Vendéen war, undertaken in the best of causes, for the honor of God and his Church, and the rescue of one of the most innocent of kings, by men whose saintly characters and dauntless courage have seldom been surpassed by martyrs or heroes of any age. It closed with blood, with fire, with miseries almost unequalled ; yet who would dare to say that the lives of Cathelineau, Bonchamp, Lescure, La Rochejaquelein, with their hundreds of brave and pious followers, were devoted in vain ? Who could wish to see their brightness dimmed with earthly rewards ?

And though the powers of evil were permitted to prevail on earth, yet what could their utmost triumph effect against the faithful, but to make for them, in the words of the child king for whom they fought, one of those thorny paths that lead to glory!

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

slavery, yet even this cloud is not without its silver lining; and noble deeds of fidelity and selfdevotion are on record even from those whom their masters have been accustomed to look on as so degraded as to be incapable of more than an animal species of loyalty.

The French are not in general bad slave-masters. Excitement does indeed stir their Keltic blood into a state in which they will perpetrate horrible ferocities; but in ordinary life their instinct of courtesy and amiability makes them perhaps the least obnoxious of all nations to those whom they beleive their inferiors, whether in the bondage of conquest or of slavery.

No doubt, however, there was a fearful arrear of wrongs in the beautiful West Indian island of Hispaniola, or St. Domingo, as it was called when it was shared between France and Spain, with the boundary between them of a river, now known by the portentous name of Massacre. One of the most fertile of all the lovely isles whose aspect had enchanted their discoverer, St. Domingo, was a region of rapid wealth to the French Creoles, who lived at ease, and full of luxury and enjoyment, on their rich plantations of sugar, cotton, and coffee, and, often

« ZurückWeiter »