Dans le précédent article
« M. de Fromental et la guerre de
Vendée - 1794 », nous avons vu comment
Jean-Baptiste-Pierre-Justin Fromental (1758-1799) a, en tant
qu’officier républicain, sauvé la vie d’Eulalie Boguais qu’il a
Cette histoire apparaît effectivement véridique, selon les écrits
de « Une paroisse vendéenne sous la Terreur » en 1837 par
Théodore de Quatrebarbes, même si elle sera romancée en 1848 par
Emile Souvestre dans « La chouannerie dans le Poitou ».
Mais il est encore plus surprenant de voir la presse catholique
américaine reprendre, en 1896, une nouvelle de 1887, relatant la
même histoire bien plus développée, pour édifier la jeunesse chrétienne de New-York.
On y voit ainsi l'introduction de personnages fictifs, soit,
comme dans le cas de Petronille Chevert, pour fustiger les
mauvais sentiments républicains, soit, comme dans le cas du
cousin chevalier vendéen, pour contrebalancer les bons
sentiments de Fromental par ceux équivalents de la noblesse
AN EPISODE OF THE WARS IN THE EAST, UNDER THE REIGN OF TERROR IN
NEW YORK: P. J. KENEDY,
PUBLISHER TO THE HOLY APOSTOLIC SEE, EXCELSIOR CATHOLIC
5 BARCLAY STREET..
Copyright : D & J, SADLIER & CO. 1887.
AN EPISODE OF THE WARS OF THE EAST UNDER THE REIGN OF TERROR IN
If we are to believe an
official dispatch written from Alencon in 1793 to the minister
of war by citizen Moynault, commander of the forces, the mission
with which the Committee of Public Safety had entrusted the
conventional Garnier de Saintes was one of no small difficulty.
It related to the organizing, in the department of the Sarthe,
of the revolutionary government such as it had been decreed on
the 10th of October; - "And," said Moynault in the declamatory
language of the period, "Garnier will have trouble enough to
find men to fill the vacant forts for the departments of Orne,
Mayenne and Sarthe, are infested by fanaticism, aristocracy, and
Although it was in fact very true that the greater portion of
the inhabitants of Mans were at heart attached to the ancient
regime, it must nevertheless be allowed that the Revolution
possessed at Mans, as in other towns of France, some zealous
partizans, not alone among those who, without any fixed opinion
of their own, are ever eager to build their private fortunes
upon the ruins of the general prosperity, but even among men of
honest principle who were either seduced by the high sounding
words " fraternity" and " liberty," or carried away,
unconsciously almost, by that paltry vanity which leads certain
minds to envy the privileges of the higher classes.
Among the latter of these was an old bachelor named Chevert, who
with his sister, a portly old spinster already past the meridian
of life, inhabited a little dwelling in the Rue Basse.
They had inherited from their father, who carried on the
business of a hosier in the Rue Petit-Pont-Neuf, a fortune of
fifty thousand francs, scraped together by the daily profits of
his trade ; but not content to enjoy this little treasure in
peace, the brother and sister had given themselves up to
projects of ambition which occupied their minds, to the
absorption of every other idea. Mdlle. Petronille Chevert,
brought up at school with young ladies of noble birth, among
them, but not of them, had vainly dreamed of raising herself to
an equality with them, and at fifteen years of age had
registered a vow never to marry any one but a gentleman ; in
consequence of which resolution, she was still single at fifty,
no one suitable in her esteem, having as yet sought her hand,
which unpardonable neglect had at length caused her to conceive
an aversion for the higher classes altogether As for Chevert,
the hobby which he complacently be strode, - his most ardent
desire in short, - was to achieve the signal honor of being
raised to the dignity of sheriff in his native city, which would
at once have conferred upon him a position in the world, and the
precious privilege of encircling his waist with a silken scarf
trimmed with gold fringe. But lie had experienced numberless
disappointments: he had had the pain and mortification of seeing
Barbet des Granges and Pousset de la Voye preferred before him,
and some years later the Advocate Delauney, till he had at
length come to entertain profound disgust for a government which
had been unable to recognize his merits, and he was therefore
prepared to hail with enthusiasm the "rising sun of justice and
liberty," - for thus he designated the decree of the assembly
which renewed the establishment of the municipal
administrations. His wounded ambition was still more revived
when Garnier de Saintes seemed to have taken him into his
friendly confidence, and even honored him at times with a
fraternal pressure of the hand. Thus it was that the citizen
Chevert passed for a zealous patriot when the report reached
Mans that the Vendeans, after having seized upon Beauge and La
Fleche, had put to the route a body of fifteen or sixteen
thousand men whom Gen. Chabot had sent against then under
Chapelain-Renaudin, leader of the National Guard.
This news, confirmed by numerous fugitives, had already caused
the utmost alarm in the minds of citizen Chevert and his worthy
sister, as well as in those of the civil and military
authorities, when on the 10th of December, at nine o'clock in
the morning, Mdlle. Petronille, while still at her toilet, saw
her chamber door rudely burst open, and a man precipitate
himself into her presence without the smallest explanation.
Shocked by the intruder's utter disregard of propriety, her
first movement was a gesture of anger ; but recognizing her own
brother in the pale and disordered personage who had thrown
himself into an arm chair, and picturing to herself moreover
that some great misfortune must have befallen them, her anger
cooled, and forgetting the words of reproach which had risen to
her lips, she ran to him hastily, and seizing his hand exclaimed
"In the name of heaven, what has happened to you ?"
"We are lost!" murmured citizen Chevert, who could with
difficulty pronounce a word, "the brigands are advancing rapidly,
and by this evening perhaps will be masters of the town."
"Are you quite sure of what you say ?” demanded poor Petronille,
growing pale in her turn.
"I am only too sure of it, since I heard the sad news from
Gamier de Saintes himself, who came this moment to tell me ; and
as unfortunately our political opinions are but too well known
to our neighbors, we have everything to fear from the Whites, it
they should enter the town as conquerors."
“We must fly, my brother, we must set out tbis very instant."
"All very easy to say, Petronille, but where are we to fly to ?"
"To Ballon, to the house of our cousin Grillot. We have, it is
true, rather neglected him since the death of our father,
because it was not very pleasant to have a shoemaker for a
relation ; but now that we have a popular government, good
republicans like ourselves should not look so closely into such
things ; he will be flattered by our visit, and readily accord
up hospitality if only in the hope of being remembered in our
"But how can we thus abandon all we possess to the rapacity of
these brigands ?”
"Life is dearer than riches," replied Mdllle Petronille, who
found a ready answer to every objection ; "besides we will carry
away the greater part of our valuables."
Chevert suffered himself to be persuaded by this argument, and
they set to work in haste to collect their money, papers, and
Already had their drawers been stripped of their contents, when
a violent knocking was heard at the door; the servant hastened
to open it, and a man, armed with a gun, entered the house.
"Look alive, neighbor," cried he in a loud voice, even before
entering the chamber, "hast thou not heard the drum beat to arms
? The National Guard is assembling everywhere to fly to the
succor of the country in danger ; I have called for thee as I
passed better off than many others - we have guns and pistols;
arm thyself and come !"
"Hang the busy meddler !" thought Chevert, whose face was
blanched with terror. "I do not feel altogether well to-day,"
said he aloud. "I feel certain symptoms of the colic, and my
sister was just persuading me to take some physic."
"It is a pretty time to talk of the colic, and taking physic,
when the enemy is at the very gates ! Do you not perceive that
it is a mere woman's subterfuge to detain you ? My wife, too,
would fain have dissuaded me from taking up arms, but I sent her
off and here I am. Zounds ! it is something to be a patriot in
these days, and for my part I do not wish to see my native city
given up to fire and sword, my house plundered, and my property
"Oh ! Heaven ! citizen Boursel, do you really think us in such
danger as all that ?" cried Petronille, changing color.
"That, and many other dangers beside. They say the rascals are
frantic with rage since their habitations have been burnt down,"
"Heaven grant that they may not do the same by ours !"
"It is very likely to happen though.”
"But ought not the Government to protect us ! Of what use are
the troops of the Republic ?"
"Just imagine, citizeness, that we have here at this moment only
about a couple of hundred hussars, the remains of the battalion
of Vincennes, and a battalion of young recruits who have never
smelt powder; all this is quite insufficient for our protection,
if the good patriots do not come to the succor as it is their
bounden duty to do. Come, Chevert, art thou nearly ready ? Thy
hesitation, man, inspires me with but a poor idea of thy
"One may be a good republican and yet have the colic," replied
Chevert with a sullen air.
"Hum ! I very much doubt whether the citizen representative will
be of the same opinion," growled the terrible neighbor ; " but I
have already lost too much time in vain discourse ; once more,
wilt thou come yes, or no?"
"I shall follow thee, of course," replied Chevert reflecting
that formal refusal might perhaps cost him his life, or at all
events hinder him from obtaining the honor to which he had so
long aspired. "Besides this hateful man will not keep me always
in his sight,” said he to himself in an under tone, " and I
shall no doubt be able to find some means of escaping before the
Whilst making these heroic reflections, citizen Chevert was
busily engaged in cleaning his gun, arming himself with his
pistols and attaching to his girdle an old rusty sword.
"Forward !" cried he at length in a resolute tone, as though
this warlike apparel had suddenly inspired him with some degree
"What ! would you leave me all alone ! a poor defenceless woman!''
cried Petronille, half faint ing.
"Keep quiet, you goose, I shall not be long before I am back,"
whispered Chevert in her ear, pretending all the while to
embrace her as though to bid her a last adieu ; “have Cocotte
ready harnessed to the cart, and be prepared to set out at the
And with these words he followed his dreaded neighbor with a
The first care of Mdlle. Petronille, after the departure of the
two National Guards, was to go down to the stable and order
Cocotte to be supplied with a good feed of oats ; but judge of
her grief when she learned from one of her servants, who was as
terrified as herself, that under the pretext of requiring him
for the "public service," two agents of the police had just been
to fetch the poor beast, and had taken him unceremoniously away,
together with the vehicle upon which the brother and sister had
founded their hopes of safety. Citizeness Petronille no sooner
heard these dismal tidings, than she carefully barricaded all
the doors and windows, concealed in her palliasse the greater
part of the things which she had at first resolved to carry away
- then, at her wit's end, having exhausted all her resources,
and no longer knowing what to think on the score of her own
personal safety, she seated herself in her arm chair, and call
ing her two servants to aid her as a body-guard, awaited in
silence the course of events.
As citizen Boursel had truly
said, four or five thousand were found but a small body for the
defence of such a town as Le Mans ; but remembering that a
decree of the Convention condemned every city which did not
offer resistance to the royalists to be razed to the ground,
Garnier de Saintes and General Chabot resolved to take immediate
steps for checking the progress of the enemy.
The town of Le Mans, built in the form of an amphitheatre, on
the left bank of the Sarthe, a little above the confluence of
that river, with the Huisne, contained at the period of our
story from nineteen to twenty thousand souls, and though not so
extensive as at the present day, it covered nevertheless a good
space of ground. In the centre of the town stood and still
stands the Place des Halles, to which most of the streets
converge. The Rue Basse, in which the house of citizeness
Chevert was, led in one direction to this Place des Halles, by
the street of the Minimes, and on the other by the cross-road of
the Mission to the town of Pontlieue, on the road to La Fleche,
by which the Royalist army was advancing.
General Chabot ordered a redoubt, armed with four pieces of
cannon, to be thrown up first beyond this latter town; another
redoubt furnished with chevaux de fries, planks thickly studded
with nails, and other implements of warfare, was erected at the
foot of the bridge and a hundred feet off, a piece of cannon
worked by artillerymen defended the pass of the Mission.
At the same time two arches of the old bridge of Pontlieue were
hastily broken down to avoid the responsibility of defending it
; the trees by the Abbey of Epau were felled to supply that
place with temporary fortifications, and at Gue de Maulny two
guns were placed, together with a handful of soldiers of the
battalion of Vincennes, twenty-five hussars, and several
companies of recruits from the district of Ferte.
About two o'clock in the afternoon the Vendeans appeared, and
attacked the first redoubt with such impetuosity, that it was
carried in less than a quarter of an hour. They then turned
their charge full upon the main defences, whilst the recruits
who formed the outposts, driven in and pursued sword in hand,
retreated in disorder upon Pontlieue; here they were met by the
Republican hussars who drove the unfortunate men back with their
swords in order to force them to an engagement with the enemy,
But the greater part of them plunged into the river, all cold
and swollen as it was with the rains, rather than encounter the
formidable adversary whose impetuous ardor overthrew all
obstacles. In vain did citizen Desmerres, who commanded the city
artillery, send his grape-shot like hail among this brave troop
of heroes ; the Vendeans, scarcely arrested a moment by this
murderous discharge, rushed like infuriated lions upon the
second redoubt ; the hussars, terrified in their turn, fled in
disorder, the foot soldiers laid down their arms and escaped,
some into the town, others into the country ; the veterans who
guarded Epau surrendered at the first summons ; the troops of
the Gue de Maulny beat a hasty retreat by the way of the
Greffier, before even they were attacked, and at three in the
afternoon the triumphant army made its entry into the capital of
Maine, which General Chabot, Garnier de Saintes and all the
Republican authorities had prudently evacuated, carrying with
them the money of the public coffers, and part of the registers
of the administration.
In the meantime Mdlle Petronille, more dead than alive, awaited
in unspeakable terror, which the sound of the cannon and
incessant firing augmented every moment, the denouement of the
drama, which was acting almost beneath her window.
“What will become of us?" cried she starting at every fresh
explosion ; "and my brother not yet returned ! Heaven grant no
harm has befallen him !"
" My opinion, Mademoiselle, is that the best thing we can do is
to say our prayers," said the elder of the two servants,
proceeding to kneel down in a corner of the room, with her
chaplet in her hand.
Her companion followed her example. As for citizeness Chevert,
since she had embraced republican principles with ardor, she had
somewhat relaxed from the pious instructions of the good ladies
by whom she had been educated, but in this critical moment,
terror and alarm leading her instinctively back to the habits of
her youth, she began to repeat mechanically the Litanies of the
Blessed Virgin, intermingling each ejaculation with some more
mundane entreaties. The whole formed a curious jumble of the
sacred and the profane.
Meantime the sound of voices and of footsteps, like the roaring
of the waves of the sea, was heard in the street.
"What is the matter now ?" cried she - and curiosity surmounting
her fear, she half opened the window gently, and ventured to
take a peep through the blinds. A strange spectacle presented
itself to her view; she perceived an immense crowd of men, of
women, of children, and of old men, walking on pell-mell, some
with arms, others carrying all they had most precious upon their
backs: it was like the departure of the children of Israel out
of Egypt. This was the Vendean army defiling through the Rue
Basse in order to gain the Place des Halles and then disperse
themselves over the town and seek that repose which a long and
tedious march and perilous conflicts had rendered indispensable.
This army, composed of more than sixty thousand souls, scarcely
counted twenty-five thousand combatants. The brave fellows had
no uniform, but the greater part of them wore the white cockade.
The leaders were almost all at tired in a round vest and chamois
pantaloons ; they wore hats of the time of Henri Quatre
ornamented with white rosettes, and in some eases with the lily
embroidered in gold. A scarf or white girdle formed the
distinctive mark of the superior officers; their solitary flag
white and embroidered with the fleurs-de-lis. The cavalry were
not distinguished from the foot soldiers by any uniform, but the
first who could obtain possession of an enemy's horse, mounted
it and became a horse soldier immediately.
The procession lasted more than three hours, so great was the
multitude of these poor people whom fire and sword had driven
from their homes.
Mdlle. Petronille had not examined very narrowly into all this,
for no sooner did she perceive the white cockades of the Vendean
soldiers, than she retreated hastily from the window, and with
an affrighted air, took several turns round her chamber, as
though seeking a place of refuge, all the while exclaiming in a
doleful tone :
"Brother ! Brother ! have you then abandoned me ?”
She then sank into a chair pale and motionless as a statue. A
rude knock at the street door soon shook the whole house.
Petronille sprung from her seat, and would fain have forbidden
the door to be opened, but the words died upon her lips, and she
again sank back upon her seat. She heard the servants
withdrawing the bolts, then a manly and sonorous voice, in no
way resembling that of Chevert, resounded through the passage,
and numerous steps were heard ascending the staircase. In a
moment all the evils with which the citizen Boursel had recently
threatened his trembling neighbor, presented themselves to the
imagination of Petronille, and thinking the time for some
dreadful catastrophe had arrived, she ended by falling into a
When Mdlle. Petronille had
recovered her senses, her astonishment was extreme on seeing
herself surrounded by three graceful young girls, who were
supporting her with the tenderest compassion, whilst a lady of
more mature age held a smelling bottle of rock crystal to her
"Thank Heaven she is coming to herself," said the silvery voice
of the prettiest of these young girls.
"How do you find yourself now ?" asked the stranger lady, whose
countenance was a mixture of gentleness and dignity.
" Better, much better," replied Petronille, recovering her
Then casting looks of terror around :
"Where am I ?" said she, "and who are you ?"
"Poor exiles, who crave your hospitality for a few days."
"You Vendeans ! oh that cannot be."
In fact nothing less resembled the ideal portrait which Mdlle.
Petronille had drawn of those whom she in common with others
designated as brigands, than the four charming beings who were
surrounding her with their cares and attentions.
Mme. Boguais, as the elder lady of the party was named, was a
woman of about thirty-six or forty years of age. Grief and
anxiety had somewhat deadened the freshness of her complexion,
and sharpened the outlines of her gentle features, but she still
possessed a noble and distinguished air ; as for her daughters,
a poet of the period would not have failed to compare them to
the three graces, and their charms and beauty would hardly have
rendered the comparison an exaggerated one. Rosalie, the eldest,
was about twenty; Eulalie, the next, scarcely eighteen; and
Celeste, the youngest of the three, but fifteen. They might have
been likened, on seeing them gracefully grouped around their
mother, to three half-opened rose buds surrounding a full blown
rose which had bent beneath the storm.
"Calm yourself, Madame," said Rosalie, scarcely able to help
smiling at the terror depicted in the countenance of Petronille,
" the brigands will not do you any harm."
"You will be answerable for them, my charming young lady, will
you not ? But now speak - command - all that I possess is at
"We only ask for beds to rest in, for my poor daughters and I
stand in great need of repose," said the mother, "and a little
refreshment, for which we will willingly repay you."
"Do not mention that," replied Petronille, charmed with the
moderation of her beautiful guests, and trusting that their
presence would be a protection to her from the dangers she so
much dreaded : " I am only too happy to place myself wholly at
the service of noble ladies like you. Here, Jeanneton,
Françoise, lay the table, bring some of the oldest wine, and
prepare everything that we have of the best !"
Whilst Petronille was engaged in making preparations for the
comfort of the strangers, the latter dried their garments, which
were saturated with rain, at the fire, and warmed their benumbed
"Poor dear children, how tired you must be," said the mother.
"Not as much as you, mamma," replied Rosalie, " for we are more
accustomed to walking. How fortunate it was, too, that our uncle
succeeded in procuring a carriage for us; but for this I do not
know how you would ever have performed such a journey on foot !"
"We would have made a sedan chair for you with our hands," said
Mme. Boguais smiled sorrowfully.
"It was enough for you to carry yourselves, young and weak as
you are," said she.
"Oh ! mamma, you forget what strength filial affection bestows
The poor mother looked at her children with eyes streaming with
tears, and opening her arms to the young girls who rushed
simultaneously into them, she pressed them fervently to her
Almost at the same instant a man with grey hair, wearing the
white scarf of the Vendean officers, and the cross of St. Louis
at his button-hole, appeared at the threshold of the door.
"Well! how do you get on here?" said he in that deep voice which
had so strongly excited the apprehension of Mdlle. Petronille an
"Come and warm yourself, my dear uncle," cried Rosalie, " it is
so comfortable in this room."
"What are they doing now, and is there any news ?" asked Mme.
"Every one has endeavored to instal themselves as well as they
could, some in one quarter, some in another," said the
chevalier, seating himself by the fire ; in some of the houses
sixty of our fellows have billeted themselves together."
"And have any precautions been taken for the safety of the army
"Bah ! all the men in the town have taken to flight, and nothing
is to be met with but women and children."
" Yes ! but the army of Westerman, which is always upon our
heels ! They should, at all events, have organized guards to
support and relieve the sentinels."
"You talk like a consummate general, my fair cousin; but how
make the necessity of these wise measures understood by poor
peasants, so overwhelmed with fatigue that they can think of
nothing but obtaining a little rest ? They have performed
prodigies of valor to-day, - they will do as much tomorrow, if
need be. - but no human power would
keep them on duty in a guard-house while they can eat and sleep
tranquilly in the houses of the town.”
"And for this unpardonable carelessness, we may perhaps be all
surprised and massacred in the night."
“What would you have, my dear cousin ? the generals are
powerless to help it."
"Then, Heaven protect and guard us ! And if it enters into the
mysterious designs of God to let our holy cause be overthrown,
may He take pity on our souls, and grant us in heaven that
repose which we shall probably never more taste on earth ! For,
shall I confess to you, all hope of success seems to abandon me
at last ! I see misfortune enclosing us on all sides. We are in
a circle, out of which we cannot pass, and which presses us
closer and closer within its limits, and we cannot fail sooner
or later to be ground to powder."
"The moment when we have just rendered ourselves masters, almost
without a blow struck, of a large and beautiful town, in which
we find abundance of provisions, is a strange one to choose for
making such reflections !"
"Divine Providence can doubtless direct the course of events, so
as to baffle all human foresight ; but, according to all
probability, whither can this conquest, precious as it seems at
the present moment, lead us ? Do you think the republicans will
have us long at peace in this asylum ? The easier this town,
open on all sides, has been to take, the more easily shall we be
driven hence by a superior force. What will then become of us,
decimated as we are by sickness, with no place strong enough to
shelter us, and give our soldiers time to recover from their
fatigues, with no fixed plan, and without any communication with
the royalists of the other provinces ?"
"Well, mamma, we will die like martyrs, if we cannot live like
faithful subjects!" exclaimed Eulalie
“All very fine talking, niece," said the chevalier, while the
poor mother fixed upon her children eyes which seemed to say :
"It is on your account alone that I fear sufferings, danger, and
"Besides," continued the chevalier, "with men like ours we may
expect impossibilities, for prodigies are familiar to them. Only
imagine, for instance, just now, at the attack on Pontlieue, one
of our soldiers rushed in pursuit of about thirty republicans
who were flying towards the woods of Fune ; he shot five, and
brought back seven others whom he had succeeded in capturing.”
[This extraordinary fact is cited in the report of the Society
des Arts. The seven republicans who were made prisoners paid
their ransom to the royalist soldier with sundry bottles of wine,
which he made them quaff with him to the health of Louis the
" Wonderful, indeed !" cried mother and daughters in a breath,
while their gentle faces beamed with enthusiasm.
" And you have not heard either of the splendid combat of that
noble Prince de Talmont, whom my little Celeste admired so much
the other day ?"
"What has he done, now ?” asked the three sisters.
"This morning as we were quitting La Fleche, closely followed by
Westerman, who pitilessly massacred every straggler he could lay
hands on, the prince, at the head of a party of his cavalry, was
riding in the rear of the army to protect its retreat, when a
republican hussar, who recognized him by his white scarf, dared
to challenge him at a distance with the point of his sabre. In a
moment De Talmont detached himself from his troop ; 'I am with
thee,’ cried he to the hussar, and immediately a singular combat
worthy of the best age of chivalry commenced. The cavalry of
both parties remained motionless with eyes stramed, watching the
two champions whose swords crossed each other furiously. The
weapons sparkled ; even the coursers, sharing the animosity of
their masters, neighed and strove to bite each other. One of
them did not obey quickly enough the behest of his rider - it
was that of De Talmont - who was slightly wounded; but almost
immediately with a vigorous stroke of the sabre, he felled his
adversary's horse to the earth, and with a second blow, equally
well directed, cleft his rider's head to the very shoulder blade."
"Oh! how dreadful!" said Celeste.
"On the contrary, magnificent !" replied the old chevalier," and
I assure you both royalists and republicans mingled their
plaudits and shouts of admiration at this brilliant passage of
At this moment, Mdlle. Petronille re-entered the apartment, and
Mme. Boguais presented her cousin with that grace that
distinguished all her actions, and the old royalist saluted his
hostess less like a proud conqueror than as a courteous knight,
who prides himself on showing respect to ladies of all parties.
"Supper is ready," said Petronille, making a profound obeisance
; "have the kindness to follow me into the dining-room."
Good news for famished creatures like us,"replied the
chevalier," but I hope, Madame, that you will be good enough to
render this repast still more agreeable by doing the honors of
the table yourself," added he, offering her his hand.
“Oh!" murmured the elderly lady, enchanted with so much courtesy,
and slily casting a scrutinizing glance on the still fresh
countenance of the chevalier, and at the cross of St. Louis
which glittered at his button-hole. "This brigand," thought she,
"is more polite and amiable than all our sans-culottes put
together. He is very good-looking, too, and cannot be much older
And, perhaps, the hopes and dreams of her youth were about to
revive in her bosom, when all at once the recollection of
Chevert, absent since the morning, recurred to her mind.
Though vain, selfish, and cowardly, Mdlle. Petronille had,
nevertheless, a very sincere attachment to her brother, and the
desire of hearing of him, and of rescuing him, perhaps from some
great danger, overcoming every other feeling, she threw herself
with all her might at the feet of the royalist, assuring him
with tears in her eyes that she would never sit at table, and
would remain in her present humble posture until she had
obtained the pardon of Chevert who had been forced much against
his will to take up arms against the Vendeans, and who was in
all probability made prisoner, even supposing no greater harm
had befallen him.
"Be calm, Madame,” answered the chevalier, employing all the
force of his muscular arm to raise her ;
“if your brother is our prisoner, I will undertake to restore
him to you speedily."
And forgetting the hunger and fatigue with which he must have
been overpowered, the excellent man quitted the house in an
instant, spite of the cold and continued rain, and returned in
two hours accompanied by citizen Chevert, half dead with fright,
and astonished at finding himself once more safe and sound
beneath his own roof.
On the morrow, at daybreak,
the Vendean leaden wearing their Henri Quatre hats, and
decorated with the white scarf, the distinctive mark of command,
visited every part of the town, and were only too well convinced
of the impossibility of defending it against the numerous troops
now in hot pursuit of them. The best thing to be thought of,
therefore, was to abandon as soon as possible this brilliant but
useless conquest, and again set in motion, cold and rainy as was
the weather, those poor creatures worn out with fatigue and
privation, and to whom repose would have been as acceptable as
it was really necessary.
The council, presided over by the Bishop of Agra, assembled that
very day at the Hotel de la Biche in the Place des Halles ; they
had a long and anxious discussion upon the road which it would
be most desirable for them to take; the Prince de Talmont was
for marching direct upon Paris, in the hope of swelling the
royalist army by the numerous partizans they might expert to
meet with in the plains of La Beauce ; Henri de La
Rochejacquelin, on the contrary, thought it more advisable to
recross the Loire, and conduct the Vendeans back to their dear
Bocage, the scene of their first exploits. They separated
without coming to a conclusion; night arrived ; - night
peaceable enough to the unthinking multitude, reckless of the
future, and delightedly enjoying the comforts of which they had
so long been deprived, but full of anxiety for the leaders of
the army, who, while they knew the imminence of the peril, knew
not at the same time what steps to take to ward it off.
The next day, Thursday, the 12th of December, the Vendean
officers issued orders for the horses to be saddled, and every
one to be in readiness to start at the first signal ; but about
eleven in the morning, the hussars composing the vanguard of
Westerman's army suddenly appeared on the heights of Pontlieue.
Then the cry "To arms ! to arms ! the enemy !” re-echoed
throughout the city ; the most intrepid soldiers, to the number
of about three thousand, under the command of La Rochejacquelin,
assembled in haste, and taking their muskets in one hand and
their chaplets in the other, advanced in close order against the
redoubtable army of Mayence and proudly awaited it in the open
country. The combat soon commenced ; the shock of the Vendeans
was so terrible that the Mayencais recoiled and fled in disorder,
some by the way of Luce and Saint Calais, the others into the
fields and open commons. The royalist peasants casting away
their sabots pursued the fugitives with incredible ardor,
imprudently leaving their guns nearly a league behind them ; but
at that moment a column of the division of Marceau, sent to the
relief of the main body, encountered the Vendeans dispersed
along the road, and suddenly attacking them, forced them to turn
and fall back upon Le Mans. In vain did the Vendean leaders
endeavor to defend the redoubt established at Pontlieue ;
neither prayers nor threats sufficed to check the headlong
course of the peasants ; the enemy pursued them in close columns
to the entrance of the town, where they found barricades hastily
erected by the Prince de Talmont, who, at the head of his own
followers, vigorously repulsed the troops of Westerman. During
this time, La Rochejacquelin, returning at full gallop into Le
Mans, did all in his power to collect the scattered Vendeans and
lead them on to the attack. The greater part having lost by
bodily suffering every feeling save the instinct of self
preservation, had eaten and drunk with a voracity increased by
several weeks of scarcity and privation, and now lay extended on
the Place des Halles, sleeping so heavily that it was found
impossible to arouse them.
La Rochejacquelin, his heart sinking with despair, could with
difficulty assemble twelve thousand men in a state to bear arms.
At the head of this brave troop, he advanced against an enemy
possessing far greater numbers. They fought furiously in the
streets of the town, the battery of the wall of Quatre-Basse
being taken and retaken several times The Vendeans occupied the
houses, and fired from the windows upon the assailants, while by
order of the general-in-chief, the oflicer commanding the
artillery directed his cannon against the streets leading out of
the Place des Halles.
Towards midnight, both parties, worn out with fatigue, suspended
the action, as though by mutual consent ; but the booming of the
cannon which continued to resound at intervals, seemed to
proclaim at each moment that the combat was not over, and that
the morrow's sun would rise again on all the horrors of war. In
short, no sooner had day begun to dawn than the republicans,
reinforced by thirty thousand men of Kleber's army who had
arrived during the night, advanced to the charge under fire of
the royalists, who had maintained their positions, and at seven
in the morning arrived at the Place des Halles, by the adjacent
streets. Then began the most horrible butchery that can be
imagined; the streets literally flowed with blood, and the cries
of the dying mingled with the shouts of victory. In vain did the
royalist leaders strive to organize the retreat which had now
become indispensable. Their voices were lost in the appalling
tumult ; the Whites fled in disorder by the back streets leading
upon the Place des Halles to the Place de l’Eperon, in order to
gain the bridge of La Sarthe and the road to Laval.
Like all the rest of the poor Vendean women, who had not even
the excitement caused by the smell of the powder and the heat of
the combat to divert their minds from their own misfortunes,
Madame Boguais and her daughters had spent in the intensest
anguish this dreadful day and yet more dreadful night of
The old chevalier of St. Louis, brave and loyal like all the
rest of these ancient noblesse of which he formed an honorable
member, had flown at the first cry of alarm to the side of the
Prince de Talmont, and since then his cousin and terrified
nieces had vainly expected his return.
The affliction was general in the house of Chevert, Mdlle.
Petronille shared nearly all the anxiety of the Boguais family.
To the uneasiness caused her by the lively interest with which
the chevalier had from the first inspired her, were now added
the unspeakable torments of a fear still greater even than that
which she had experienced at the first alarm of the approach of
the Vendeans. It seemed to her as though she had not appreciated
the humanity and moderation of the royalist soldiers, that it
was madness on her part even to have doubted their triumph, but
that the danger would in reality commence when the republicans
should be masters of the town, for they would doubtless consider
it a crime in the people of Le Mans to have afforded shelter to
the Whites. So that in spite of every good possible feeling
towards her guests, Mdlle. Chevert yet made no effort to detain
them, when these unhappy females, a prey to the dreadful
perplexity, announced their intention of quitting the abode
which had served them as a temporary refuge, and following the
shattered remains of their army.
"I shall be happy to keep you longer with me,” said the old
lady, "but neither your lives nor mine would be safe if you were
found here ; you had much better quit the town with your friends
than remain at the mercy of the republicans. When you meet the
chevalier again, if he is still in this world," added she with a
profound sigh, "make my best compliments and beg him to come and
see me when the times are more tranquil. As the preserver of my
brother, I shall always be delighted to see him."
So saying, she conducted them with eager haste to the street
door, which she then immediately locked.
The poor women were hardly in the street when they perceived at
some paces distant a mother and a daughter, Madame Gourreau, and
Madame de la Fouchere, two of their royalist friends, who had
been driven from the house in which they had taken shelter. All
these unhappy fugitives flew to each other, embraced, and
without uttering a word began to reascend the Rue Basse, walking
at random in the hope of meeting with royalists whom they knew,
and whose protection they could claim. They were wandering thus
at hazard beneath a heavy rain of icy coldness, but which was
yet not copious enough to obliterate the traces of blood which
they encountered at each step, when they found themselves
surrounded by a troop of republicans, emerging from the place de
Quatre Rous. The poor women felt their hearts congealed with
terror; in vain would they have quickened their steps to escape
the fangs of this brutal soldiery, drunk with wine and carnage,
but their trembling limbs refused their office.
“Brigandes! and pretty ones, too!" said a soldier with a wine-inflamed
countenance, seizing Eulalie with his great hand stained with
blood and powder, whilst one of his comrades, not less hideous
than himself, passed his arm audaciously round the slender waist
The young girls uttered shrieks of terror, and struggled
vehemently in the grasp of the ruffians, while Mme. Boguais,
like that weak and timorous bird which suddenly receives from
its maternal instincts incredible power to defend its young ones,
threw herself furiously upon the cowardly assailants.
"Wretches !" cried she, repulsing them with all her strength, "kill
them, if you will, but do not insult them !"
And as they still retained their hold of their prizes :
"Have you, then, neither mothers nor sisters, the memory of whom
should bring the blush of shame to your cheeks added she, her
whole frame shaken with convulsive sobs.
But the monsters, laughing at her despair, were on the point of
seizing Madame Boguais herself when an officer, suddenly making
his appearance on the scene, rode into the middle of the group,
and with a loud voice :
"Stop !" cried he, drawing his sword, "the first who touches
them shall answer to me."
“They are brigandes,” replied one of the soldiers.
“What of that,'' answered the officer, "it is for the tribunal
to judge them and to condemn them if they are guilty, but it
would be unworthy of brave men like you to offer insult to
And as deep murmurs began to make themselves heard :
"Sergeant," the officer hastened to add, addressing an old
soldier, whose grey moustache inspired a certain confidence, "take
six men, conduct these brigandes to prison, and remember that
thou shalt answer for them with thy head. As for you," said he
to the rest of the troop, " follow me to headquarters, I am
going thither immediately."
Mme. Boguais cast upon the young officer a look full of
gratitude. Prison, which in those dreadful times was almost
always the stepping-stone to the scaffold, now seemed to her but
a haven of refuge where honor might, at least, be safe from
peril. The officer soon disappeared with the rest of the
soldiery, and the six Vendean females, half dead with fright,
followed, with trembling footsteps, those who were charged with
the office of conducting them.
After walking for some time, Mme. Gourreau, in taking her
handkerchief from her pocket, unfortunately let fall some pieces
of gold, which, in the hurry of departure, she had not had
sufficient time to conceal. The sight of this gold suddenly
aroused the feelings of cupidity rife in this little troop of
republicans, unworthy of the name of French soldiers; more base
and cowardly than highway robbers, they flung themselves all at
once upon this poor woman, whom they were commissioned to
protect, and proceeded to institute a brutal search of her
person with a view of possessing themselves of whatever might be
found upon her.
“I will die with you," cried Mme. de La Fouchere, mistaking
their intentions, and flinging herself wildly into the arms of
her mother, whom she vainly strove to cover with her own body.
The republicans repulsed her; she resisted with wonderful
courage, and in the unequal struggle, a hair chain which she
wore round her neck unfortunately gave way, and the portrait of
her young brother escaped from her bosom.
"Here is the face of an aristocrat !" said one of the soldiers,
picking up the miniature, "one would think it was the leader of
the brigands himself."
"Yes ! yes, it is the portrait of the leader of the brigands, I
recollect him well," added his comrade, "and this woman belongs
to him, no doubt. Death to the wife of the leader of the
brigands cried he, plunging his sabre into her heart.
Death to the wife of the leader of the brigands !" was echoed
with zealous emulation by all the others as they fell upon her
with their bayonets.
It was the work of an instant; a few moments later and both
mother and daughter had breathed their last sigh in each other's
arms, whilst their sanguinary executioners were greedily
occupied in dividing the spoil, which consisted of a sum of six
hundred francs, in gold, and some valuable jewels which they had
taken from the persons of their unhappy victims.
"Ten thousand thunders !" at length exclaimed the old sergeant,
who had taken care to have his share of the horrid booty, " my
opinion is that we are in a nice scrape ! Did not the adjutant-general
say that we should answer for these women with our heads ?"
"Oh ! a brigande more or less - what does it matter ?" replied
he who had struck the first blow ; " let us convey those that
remain to prison, I dare say he will not come there to count
" Come, then, march, and quickly, too ; I shall be glad to have
done with this job," replied the sub-officer with a disquietude
in which a slight trace of remorse might be distinguished ;
"come, march, do you hear, brigandes ?"
But the poor women, dumb with horror, with eyes closed, and
faces bathed in a cold perspiration, remained motionless as
statues, in a state which it is impossible to describe. The
soldiers, perceiving that they were quite incapable of moving of
their own accord, began to drag them along and drive them in the
midst of them to the prison, which soon enclosed them within its
Two days after the enactment
of this tragic scene, a commissioner, followed by five or six
military officials, entered the same house in the Rue Basse
which had been occupied by the Boguais family. He was a man in
the very prime of life, tall, finely formed, and of a grave but
withal pleasing countenance.
"Silence !" he cried to his subordinates, - whose loud voices
and blustering oaths made poor Petronille quake with fear, - "take
care that no one has cause of complaint against you here ;
whoever commits the slightest outrage shall answer for it to
Petronille was certainly well off under the circumstances, - for
not only had her dwelling escaped the cannon shot and bullets,
with which almost every other house from the Mission to the
Place des Halles was riddled, but she had been singularly
fortunate in the character of the parties who had sought refuge
beneath her roof, a piece of rare good luck, since few of the
republican officers gave themselves much trouble about the
conduct of their men.
Encouraged by the reassuring words of the commissioner, the old
lady summoned up resolutions to
advance and welcome him, at the same time proffering her
M. de Fromental, for so this officer was named although he did
not treat his hostess with the exquisite courtesy of the
Chevalier de St. Louis, nevertheless showed towards her all the
respect due to her age and sex, and after having seen that his
men were supplied with all they wanted, he was conducted to the
chamber occupied the preceding evening by the Ladies Boguais.
“Pardon ! citizen,” said Petronille, hastily snatching up
several articles of female apparel scattered here and there ; -
"we have been so bewildered these two or three days that no one
has had time to put things to rights here, but it will be done
in a moment."
So saying, she flung into a large trunk which stood open a
motley collection of gowns and neckerchiefs, with the honest
intention of restoring them to their owners should she ever meet
with them again.
M. de Fromental, who was impatient to be alone, was aiding her
in her work of clearing away the things which were lying about,
when he perceived at the bottom of a drawer an object which soon
engrossed his whole attention. It was an ebony frame beautifully
carved and encircling a most beautiful painting.
This little picture, above fifteen inches in height, represented
a lovely woman, half reclining on a luxurious couch, holding
between her white and plump palms the chubby hands of two little
sweet girls who, leaning upon their mother's shoulder in an
attitude replete with careless grace, were tenderly smiling in
her face, whilst a third still younger was seated on a stool at
her feet, with her head resting upon her mother's knees.
Astonished at seeing her guest absorbed in mute contemplation,
and unable to resist the desire to know the cause of it, Mlle.
Petronille approached softly from behind, and stepping on the
points of her toes to obtain a single sight of the picture which
he held in his hand, she could not restrain her admiration, and
exclaimed involuntarily :
"Good Heavens ! how like Mlle. Eulalie, especially!"
"They are real portraits, then, ?" said M. de Fromental; "I took
this for a mere fancy picture: an admirable painting upon my
"No, no, I knew them in a moment ; it is Mme. Boguais and her
"Who is this Madame Boguais ?" asked he, endeavoring to revive
his recollection, as though the name was not altogether
unfamiliar to him.
Mile. Petronille hesitated for an instant ; she almost regretted
having said so much; but as the officer, still retaining the
picture in his hand, appeared to await a reply, she stammered
out, blushing as she spoke :
"She is a brigande citizen, but quite unlike the others of the
party ; she is a good woman, you may believe me. We cannot
always do as we would in this world ; when the brigands entered
the town, they took possession of our houses, and we were
obliged to put up with it, whether we liked it or not. The
Boguais family lodged with me; I am a good patriot, citizen
commissionaire, and my principles are well known in the
neighborhood, but I must nevertheless confess that these people
behaved as well to me as the best republicans could possibly
have done; the mother was polite and affable, the young girls
mild and gentle as lambs, and as for their uncle, the chevalier,
he was indeed a fine man ! and still young for his age; he was
everything that was kind and amiable !"
"And what has become of these poor women ?” inquired the officer,
"Alas ! the unhappy creatures left yesterday morning in the hope
of escaping with such of the brigands as succeeded in quitting
the town. I went up to the loft to watch them out of sight, for
it was sad to see them go away thus without any one to protect
them ; they were joined by two other brigands who came out of a
neighboring house, and I soon lost sight of them, but I heard
afterwards that they had been taken by the soldiers and put in
prison, and it is a great pity truly, for I will put my right
hand in the fire if those unfortunate women are not as innocent
as newborn babes. What shall I do with this picture, citizen ?
Shall I put it in the trunk ?"
"Rather hang it on this nail, it will be less likely to be
injured, which would be a pity, for it was painted by the hand
of an artist."
Mile. Petronille hastened to comply with this request, and as
the officer did not appear disposed to renew the conversation,
she quitted the apartment, begging him to consider himself at
home in her house, but at the same time to have the kindness to
continue to maintain good order among his subordinates.
No sooner did M. de Fromental find himself alone than he took
down the picture and examined it again with attention.
“How charming !” said he, contemplating particularly the
likeness of that one of the three sisters who had been pointed
out to him by the name of Eulalie.
“Boguais, her name is Boguais ! I ought certainly to know that
name; my uncle has spoken to me a hundred times of a Boguais of
Angers, with whom he was at one time closely connected, and who
emigrated at the commencement of the revolution; he is doubtless
the father of these young ladies, for he had three daughters to
the best of my recollection. In prison too. Ah well ! it is
better perhaps than to be tracked like wild beasts on the road
to Laval, or in any of the neighboring farms ! Good Heavens,
what fearful times! What crimes ! what misfortunes.”
Saying these words, the young man sank into the only arm-chair
in the apartment, and leaning his head upon the table, gave
himself up to the most sorrowful reflections.
Although an officer in the service of the French republic, M. de
Fromental was far from approving of its excesses. Born of one of
the most distinguished families of Lorraine, he had at first
welcomed with joy those earliest cries of liberty which found so
ready an echo in the breasts of the generous spirits, whose
judgment years and experience had not yet ripened; but soon
disenchanted by the crimes of the Revolution, he remembered his
former sympathy with these brilliant theories, whose fruits
proved so bitter, and the 10th of August found him faithful to
his post in the constitutional guard of Louis XVI., of which he
was then a member. After having been twenty times on the point
of being massacred on that fatal day, he nevertheless succeeded
in regaining, a short time after, the little town of Blamont,
his native place, where he lived, plunged in the deepest
melancholy, bewailing at once his own lost illusions, the fall
of the monarchy, and the misfortunes of France. Under this
sanguinary code, however, which had been created in the derisive
name of "liberty," none could remain passive spectators of the
internal straggles by which the country was rent asunder ; M. de
Fromental was forced to choose between the scaffold and the post
of commissioner general in the army of the republic. Whatever
spark of French honor still remained, had sought refuge in the
camp. After some hesitation, M. de Fromental resolved upon
accepting the situation offered to him and it was thus that,
dispatched to the army of the East, he had arrived at Le Mans
three days after the battle of which we have already spoken.
Midnight Bounded from the clock placed in a corner of the room,
and whether it was that the twelve successive strokes had, by
interrupting the young man's reverie, reminded him that he had a
duty to fulfill or that a sudden idea presented itself at that
moment to his mind, he rose abruptly, and pushing away the table
which had served him for a support, tools his sword and hat from
the bed where he had deposited them, and hastily quitted the
Having gained the street, the commissioner general seemed to
hesitate for a moment as to the road he should take, then
turning to the right, he rapidly proceeded down the Rue Basse,
and in a few minutes arrived at the seminary of the Mission,
formerly the hospital of Coeffort. [Coeffort was an hospital,
founded about the year 1180, by Henry the Second, King of
England. In later times It was reunited to the hospital general
of Le Mans, and confided to the direction of the Lazarist
Brothers, of whom Coeffort became the seminary; it was then that
it first received the title of the Mission.]
On seeing the insignia of his rank, which conferred upon him the
right of inspection in the military establishments, the
sentinels presented arms, and every door flew open before him.
He trod with repressed emotion the precincts of this vast
building, whose walls had resounded for so many ages with the
praises of God. A melancholy spectacle presented itself to his
sight ; he beheld human beings pale, in rags, wanting common
clothing, and frozen with cold, infirm old men heaped together,
a mass of living misery upon a little damp straw. And yet no
murmur escaped their pallid lips, and their calm and resigned
countenances announced that peace which a good conscience could
"What men are these ?" asked the commissioner general of the
turnkey who served him as a guide.
"They are priests, who have refused to take the oath," replied
Willingly would M. de Fromental have bared his head before these
noble sufferers, but this simple mark of respect would have
sufficed to compromise him; he therefore carefully concealed his
feelings, visited the other parts of the building, which were
crowded with poor Vendean peasants, so exhausted with fatigue
that a great number of them were buried in a profound sleep on
the bare stones, while awaiting their sentence of death, and
then proceeded on his way to visit the Oratory of St. Croix and
the Ursuline Convent, which he knew were also crowded with
prisoners. He had scarcely gone a few paces when the noise of
musketry fell on his ear. This sound, coming from the direction
of Pontlieue, decided him upon retracing his footsteps, and he
rapidly directed his course towards this quarter, which had for
several days been the scene of many a sanguinary conflict. The
alley, planted with trees, which led to it, was still thickly
strewn with dead bodies; conquerors and conquered lay stretched
together upon the humid soil, without the possibility of
distinguishing one from the other, for all had been despoiled of
their clothing. Accustomed as he was to the horrors of war, the
officer could not refrain from shuddering at this sight. But on
this side of the bridge, where pitchforks and such simple
implements of husbandry were wont to be seen, a spectacle still
more affecting presented itself to his view.
About fifty Vendeans of all ages and of both sexes had just been
shot, not killed, sword in hand, in the heat of battle, but
ruthlessly murdered in cold blood. A great number of them,
mortally wounded, but in whom life was still not extinct,
writhed and struggled in the convulsions of mortal agony. A
young mother, with her head shattered by a bullet, pressed to
her tortured bosom her helpless infant, who rent the air with
its cries, while a poor little girl of twelve or thirteen,
slightly wounded on the right side, and covered with the blood
of her friends and relatives, wildly implored mercy on her knees.
Swifter than lightning M. de Fromental rushed into the midst of
this scene of carnage, and seizing the arm of the ruthless
soldier at the moment when the latter was preparing to put the
finishing stroke to his tender victim with the butt end of his
"Stop !" cried he; "this child has not yet reached the age
prescribed by the law."
"Very well !" muttered the republican carelessly " do as you
like citizen, it's the same thing to me after all !'
And he retreated with the rest of his troop.
M. de Fromental gently raised the little girl, and speaking to
her kindly, did his best to soothe and comfort her, greatly
embarrassed all the while as to where he should procure a
shelter for his interesting charge, when an old woman, who had
been a witness of the scene, advanced, and in a voice trembling
with emotion :
"Sir," said she, "I had an only son ; he was drawn in the
conscription, and died on the field of battle ; if you will only
intrust these two orphans to my care, ' (pointing to the little
girl, and the little boy whose mother had just breathed her
last,) "I will take care of them for the sake, and in memory of
my poor lost Augustus."
"Take them away quickly then, my good woman," replied he in an
under tone, "and may God reward you for this good action !"
And his spirit somewhat calmed by this act of benevolence, which
came so opportunely to prove to him that humanity was not yet
banished from the human heart, he pursued his way, and hastily
returned towards the city.
After having visited in vain
the Presbytery of Saint Croix, and the Convent of the Ursulines,
without discovering those of whom he was in search, the
commissioner arrived at length at the Place des Jacobins, which
was still strewn with the mutilated corpses of about thirty
women and children, whom the execrable Pottier La Morandiere had
that morning caused to be dragged from the houses of detention
in the city, stripped of their clothes in his presence, and then
beaten to death with swords and sticks.
M. de Fromental turned his head aside, shuddering with horror,
and hastened onwards, directing his course with rapid strides
towards a vast building composed of two unequal parts, which was
easily recognizable as a monastery, the chapel being surmounted
by a cross which had, as yet, escaped the rage of the
republicans. This was the house of the Oratory, where numbers of
the Vendean women were confined. Violently torn from their
husbands and brothers, exhausted with fatigue, and overwhelmed
with grief, they were all thrust indiscriminately into the
church, with no food but a little coarse black bread, no place
on which to rest their aching limbs but the damp stones of the
prison, and nothing to shield them from the piercing cold of
December save garments mostly in rags. Many of them were
attacked with a terrible epidemic, (the result of the privations
they had endured,) which at that time decimated the Vendean army.
Thus, when the commissioner general entered this dismal abode,
he felt almost suffocated by the infected atmosphere; his heart
sickened within him, as he contemplated the depth of misery to
which these poor females were reduced, some of whom, reared in
the bosom of opulence, had formerly held a distinguished
position in the world. The countenance of the brave officer,
usually so calm and dignified, no doubt betrayed the deep
compassion with which his whole soul was filled, for a young
captive, overcoming the timidity natural to her age, ventured to
approach him, and with eyes swimming in tears :
“Sir," said she, clasping her hands, "my mother is very ill, and
it is very cold ; would you order them to give us some coverings
to warm us ?”
M. de Fromental regarded the poor child who had just addressed
to him this humble request, and whose noble and pure brow was
suddenly suffused with crimson:
"Where is your mother ?" asked he.
"There !" replied she, with her soft and gentle voice, pointing
to a lady pale as death lying under the dome of the sanctuary,
whom two other young girls were supporting in their arms.
The commissioner general hesitated a few seconds, examining
alternately the young supplicant and the group she designated ;
then, approaching the invalid, and leaning down to her ear :
“Are you not Mme. Boguais ?" he asked in a low voice.
"Well, then,'' added he, still whispering, "do not let it appear
that any one recognizes you here, but, at the same time, keep up
your courage; there are those who take an interest in your fate."
" Ah !" replied the poor mother, with an energetic expression of
impassioned tenderness, " if there be any one who is interested
in me, let him save my children, sir."
“Them and you, if possible."
"Them first, that is all-important. Besides," added she in a low
voice, which the officer only could hear, " as for me, I have
not much longer to live."
" Keep up your courage, and rely on the devotion of a friend."
He withdrew at once, leaving Mme. Boguais in a state of mind
more easy to imagine than describe.
"What has he been saying to you, mamma ?” cried the three young
girls as soon as M. de Fromental was gone.
Their mother then repeated with the greatest animation, and
almost word for word, what the young officer had said, gathering
from this slight and newly conceived hope strength that had
seemed almost extinct.
"Who can this friend be who protects us, then ?" they earnestly
"I do not know, my children ; I know no one here."
"Oh!'' said Celeste, joyfully clapping her hands, " do you not
see that it must be my uncle, the chevalier, who, having
returned from seeking us, and finding us no longer in the house
of the old lady, has begged this republican officer to inquire
after us ?"
"Alas!" replied Mme. Boguais, sorrowfully shaking her head, " if
my poor cousin is still in this world, which I greatly doubt, he
must have left Le Mans with the scattered remains of the army,
without its being possible for him to return thither."
"But after all, mamma, this mysterious personage, who interests
himself in our fate, as this officer pretends - "
"I will wager anything he is speaking of himself," said Eulalie.
"Oh ! no," replied the mother, " his countenance is quite
strange to me, and besides, I have no friends among the
"Nevertheless, I observed him look at us attentively, as if he
were striving to recollect us ; and then he seemed so sorry at
seeing your suffering ! Republican as he is, I am quite sure he
is a worthy man, and has a good heart."
Eulalie was thus speaking when the door of the chapel grated
anew upon its hinges, and two of the turnkeys entered bearing
bundles of straw, which they began to distribute among the
prisoners according to the orders they had just received from
the commissioner general. When it came to the turn of the
Boguais family, as the poor mother was rising to receive her
portion, the elder of the men said to her in a rough tone :
"As for you, citizeness, you must follow me directly."
"Whither would you lead us ?" asked she in a voice choked with
"You will know all in good time," replied the fellow.
During the three days that the Vendeans had been prisoners,
bayonets and the guillotine had several times thinned their
ranks; a certain number had been taken at random and led to
execution. Mme. Boguais asked herself if her turn had arrived to
meet death face to face. Had she been alone in the world, she
would have welcomed death as a blessing, but she trembled for
her beloved daughters, still so young, in the full flower of
their youth and beauty ! Would the poor mother have to endure
the horrible misery of seeing the blood of these loved ones flow
? or was she then about to bid them an eternal adieu, and leave
them in that abode of horror exposed without guide or protection
to perils of every description ?
These racking thoughts, which chased each other through the poor
mother's burning brain, almost deprived her of her senses, and
she would have sunk, fainting on the ground if her daughters had
not hastened to her assistance.
"Come, none of your tricks," said the brutal gaoler, who looked
like an executioner himself, "you must make yourself scarce here,
you and all your brood."
Rosalie and one of her sisters took their mother by the arm, and
led her away without a word. They followed the gaoler through
two or three long passages, and at last stopped before a little
door half hidden by a projecting wall, whilst he leisurely chose
from the huge bunch of keys which hung at his side, that which
opened this nook, and then introduced the captives into a
species of closet into which air and light were only allowed to
penetrate by a narrow window strongly secured with iron bars.
"There, my chickens ! you will live like queens here," said he,
in a tone which he meant to be friendly, "to say nothing of your
being allowed mattresses and quilts, and some famous soup made
of cabbage and bacon. Don't you think yourselves lucky to be
treated like this ?"
And, indeed, in a quarter of an hour, he had brought all he
promised, and even more in the shape of a little deal table and
two common chairs. The soup, so much vaunted, was, it must be
admitted, nothing but a mixture of hot water and cabbage leaves,
in which some large pieces of black bread were soaked ; but such
as it was, Mme. Boguals contrived to swallow a few spoonfuls,
and the three sisters, who were suffering from hunger, consumed
the remainder with a good appetite. The air of this closet, much
less noxious than that of the chapel, was already felt as a real
blessing to these unhappy females, and as for the mattresses and
quilts, they made them almost joyful. The young girls hastened
to prepare a bed for the invalid ; then after offering up their
heartfelt thanks to God for this unhoped-for solace to their
misery, they likewise betook themselves to their pallets, and
were soon buried in profound slumber.
The day had long dawned, when the grating of the door and the
rough voice of the gaoler suddenly aroused them.
"What ! not up yet, lazy ones !" cried he jestingly; "how is the
little mother? here is something that will make her well at
once, and besides that, a box which I am desired to give to you
: if it were only as full of money as it is of women's rags,
there would be a pretty little sum !"
With these words he deposited against the wall a little trunk,
placed upon the table a smoking bowl of soup, and then withdrew.
He was hardly out of the room when the three sisters jumped up,
and running to the trunk to see what it contained, what was
their surprise and joy to find there all the things they had
been obliged to leave at the house of the citizeness Chevert ; -
everything in fact, with the exception of the picture destined
long since for their absent father, but which, never having been
enabled to convey to him, they had taken with them when they
fled from Angers.
"But, after all, to whom are we indebted for this fresh
indulgence?" asked they of each other; "what can be the name of
this mysterious benefactor
When the gaoler revisited them in the evening, the young girls
overwhelmed him with questions as to who had sent them the trunk
; but whether the man was really ignorant of the name of their
generous protector, or whether he had been strictly ordered to
keep the secret, he contented himself with giving some vague
information which only served to excite, while it failed to
satisfy, the curiosity of the captives.
In the meantime M. de Fromental, for it will be easily guessed
that it was he who had induced the gaoler to transfer the four
prisoners to this little closet, in order that they might stand
a chance of being forgotten by the purveyors for the guillotine
- and who had besides managed that the articles left behind at
the Cheverts should be conveyed to them - M. de Fromental was
planning a still greater enterprise in their behalf. Ardent and
generous by nature, he never did anything by halves ; having
voluntarily undertaken the mission of protecting these hapless
beings, he earnestly desired to rescue them from impending death,
and restore them to liberty, although he well knew the peril of
such an attempt.
He spared no means in order to induce the gaoler to consent to
their escape ; but he had to deal with a man at once cowardly
and avaricious, who, either from the fear of compromising
himself, or else in the hope of selling his compliance yet more
dearly, constantly started fresh objections to the plan he
A month passed by in this manner, when one morning the
commissioner general received orders to set out immediately for
Nantes. There was no longer a moment to lose; he must accomplish
his generous design within the next twenty-four hours, or
renounce it forever.
His heart filled with anxiety, and his brain almost on fire, he
hastily quitted his chamber and set off at almost a running pace
in the direction of the Oratory. Fortunately the air soon
restored to him the self-possession and reflection of which he
stood so much in need; he felt the necessity of slackening his
pace, and controlling his emotion in order to avoid suspicion.
He had besides a difficult game to play with the gaoler ; to be
liberal with his gifts, and at the same time keep that
individual in proper awe of him.
"And how do our protegees get on, citizen Scevola ?" said he,
accosting the Cerberus in the most friendly tone he could
"Rather say your protegees, citizen," responded the gaoler in a
"Well, mine, then, if you like, although it was only the other
day you confessed that the three children - for these young
girls are nothing but children - did you good to see them, they
were so pretty and so good-humored."
"It is true they are well enough for aristocrats, especially
when they say to me in their coaxing way:
"’My good sir, (they call me sir, the same as in former times,)
do tell us who sent us this, who sent us that?’"
And for my part I am obliged to tell them the first thing that
comes into my head ; but I do them justice, I take good care of
them, and if it costs you a trifle too much, citizen, you may
make your mind easy that they are excellently well looked after
in their hole ; and as for that, they never complain, but are
singing away all day long just like so many linnets."
"All very well, but linnets, you know, do not live long in a
cage ; we must have the air of the fields for them, and that
"Ay, ay, there it is again ; always singing the same tune; a
little patience ; and the plague -"
"I tell you, once for all, my patience is at an end, and I can
wait no longer," cried the commissioner general, abandoning in
spite of himself the tone of moderation he had at first assumed.
"You have been cajoling me with fine words for the last month ;
it is time now we should have something more !"
"Ho ! ho !" replied the gaoler impatiently," you take a good
deal upon you, master commissioner ! a word more, and I
reconduct your protegees, as you
call there, to prison; since you are so anxious they should
breathe the fresh air, that will be the shortest cut to it,''
"Listen !" said the officer, seizing the fellow by the arm, I
have no time to lose in idle words ; do you see this purse ? it
contains in gold the five hundred pieces agreed upon between us
; now I will double this sum if the persons are given up to me
this very evening."
" First let go my arm, for you squeeze it hard enough to break
the bones," said Scevola, casting a longing look upon the pieces
of gold which glistened through the silken network of the purse.
"I do not object to enter into arrangements, but at the same
time we must be reasonable ; I cannot accomplish all that you
“Oh ! you cannot ! - wretch !" cried the officer beside himself
with passion ; "you cannot, and yet with half the sum I now
offer, no later than the day before yesterday, you favored the
escape of the citizeness Foubert with her two nieces; and for a
still less sum you suffered a poor old brigande, for whom a
small ransom was paid by an inhabitant of the town, to depart !
You see I am well informed, citizen Scevola, and I now say that
if you refuse to do as much for these ladies as you have done
for so many others, I will denounce you at once to the
"Ah! citizen," said he in a more subdued tone, turning somewhat
pale, "you would not be the ruin of a poor wretch like me, the
father of a large family, who has already done everything in his
power to serve you. I am very willing to oblige you still
farther; but you know there are things which are not. Listen to
me in my turn, and you shall see if I lie," added he quickly,
seeing that his interlocutor made a gesture of impatience. "Although
you have played a very cunning game with me, and have never told
me the name of these aristocrats, I have known it for a very
long time, and unfortunately I am not the only one, for it was
already inscribed on the prison register when you first spoke of
them to me !"
It was now M. de Fromental's turn to change color.
“The proof of what you state,'' said he quickly.
"The proof ! see here !" replied the gaoler, opening the fatal
book, and pointing to the name of Mme.
The commissioner general was struck dumb at this discovery, for
he perceived fully that it was impossible to expect Scevola to
expose himself to certain death by conniving at the escape of
prisoners whose identity had been established.
“Why did you not tell me this sooner ?" said he.
"Why ? why, because I did not want to vex you beforehand."
He did not care to avow his real object, which was to extract
from M. de Fromental as large a sum of money as possible.
"So then, all hope is lost !" said the young man in an under
tone, and as if speaking to himself. "Farewell to all my dreams."
“Oh ! you despair too soon," rejoined Scevola, who had been
attentively observing him - thinking as he did so of the purse
of gold, the hope of obtaining which he could not bring himself
"What say you ?” quickly replied the officer starting up.
"I will explain myself shortly," replied the gaoler, for I hear
some one knocking at the door, and we must not be seen
conferring together. Step into this closet while I will get rid
of this troublesome visitor ; and when I return we will see
whether we cannot come to an understanding together."
It was eleven o'clock in the
morning; the sky was without a cloud, and the sun, almost
arrived at the meridian, penetrated even into the dismal abode
tenanted by the Boguais family.
The three young girls, seated by the side of their mother,
contemplated with melancholy joy the solitary sunbeam which
illumined the wall of their dungeon.
"The fine weather has returned again," said Celeste ; "how
delightful it would be now to take a walk in the open air !"
Eulalie touched her elbow to remind her that this was a
forbidden subject ; for the three sisters had tacitly refrained
from any expression of regret, which could only augment the
grief of their mother ; but the movement was perceived by Mme.
Boguais, who readily divined the cause, and a tear shone through
her half-closed eyelids.
"Let poor Celeste speak her mind, my dear," said she ; " at her
age it is but natural that she should pine for fresh air and
"Oh, mamma !" said Celeste, striving to force a smile, I am not
unhappy here, I assure you, since I am with you. Besides," added
she, “the time will come, and is not far off, I dare say, when
we shall all go out together to walk in the park. What a
pleasure it will be to see the beautiful country again, and the
little birds, flying among the branches of the trees, and the
flowers in my garden which will be so lovely in the spring ! The
very thought of it makes me full of joy!"
Mme. Boguais imprinted a fervent kiss on the forehead of her
child, but she remained silent, for she was far from sharing her
At this moment the sound of footsteps was heard in the passage.
"I hear some one coming," said Eulalie, " but it is not dinner
time yet ; what can Scevola want ?"
"It sounds like several persons," observed the eldest sister.
The door softly opened, and a man entered the chamber alone, but
it was not Scevola.
In spite of the large cloak which enveloped the person of the
new comer, Eulalie instantly recognized the republican officer,
who had spoken to them in the chapel.
"Madame," said the stranger, bowing profoundly, “the favor of
paying my respects to you is only accorded for a few moments.
Suffer, me, therefore, to come at once to the object of my visit.
I am the nephew of M. de Fromental, an old friend of M.
"I knew the viscount well," replied Mme. Boguais, with a gentle
inclination of her head in return ; " he was an excellent man
whom we highly esteemed, what has become of him, pray ?”.
“He was killed in the army of the prince, Madame, and in our
days, it is a blessing thus to die in the field of battle ; but
it is not of him that I would now speak. My uncle has often
spoken to me of you and your family, and, ever since by a lucky
chance I came to know you were taken prisoners, I have strained
every nerve in the hope of being serviceable to you."
"Ah ! Sir, you are then that friend, that unknown benefactor, of
whom a republican officer spoke in mysterious terms to us, in
the early part of our captivity. lt is to you we are indebted
for being still in this world, and for being less miserable than
our companions in misfortune ! Oh, a thousand blessings on you
for all your kindness."
"The republican officer and myself, Madame, are one and the same
person," said M. de Fromental, slightly coloring, and half
opening his cloak to allow his uniform to appear. "The slight
services I have been enabled to render you are few, indeed,
compared with what I would have wished to have done. My object
has been to restore you and these young ladies to liberty ; for
a long time I thought I could attain my aim, but an unfortunate
circumstance which has only just become known to me, has
disconcerted all my plans ; you have been recognized under your
own name, and inscribed on the prison register, together with
one of your daughters, from the first period of your
confinement. It is therefore impossible to persuade the gaoler
to connive at your escape, since he can only do so at the risk
of his own head ; but I can save two of these young ladies.
Scevola, won over by my entreaties, will come for them to-morrow
morning; a highly respectable lady, whom I have known for some
time, will with pleasure receive them into her house, where they
will be treated with every kindness and attention. We will then
consult together as to the best means of providing for your own
safety, and that of the one among your daughters who remains
Mme. Boguais could not refrain her tears.
"Pardon me, Sir," said she, using all her efforts to overcome
her emotion, " if I fail in expressing all the gratitude with
which my heart is overflowing ; but you can understand," added
she in an under tone, how difficult it must be for a mother to
select a victim from amongst her own children ! Ah ! if you
could but save all three ! I should then die happy ! I feel,
however, it is impossible, and that it is my duty as a mother to
avail myself of the chance of safety you offer for two of them.
I accept, therefore, Sir, your generous offer, and I confide to
your protection treasures more precious to me than all the
riches of the earth."
"I thank you for this mark of confidence, Madame," hastily
interrupted the young man ; " I will do all in my power to prove
myself worthy of it ; may this cruel separation be but of short
He took the hand the poor lady extended to him with an emotion
which he no longer sought to conceal, carried it respectfully to
his lips, and withdrew.
He was no sooner gone than the young girls threw themselves all
at once into their mother's arms.
“Mamma," said Eulalie, after a long embrace “Celeste greatly
needs to leave this place and breathe a purer air, for she grows
paler and paler every day. Rosalie, who possesses more
discretion than any of us, will be best able to take care of her,
and I shall remain with you.'
“No, no," cried Rosalie, " as eldest, this privilege belongs to
me ; I claim my right of birth."
"The right of birth has nothing to do with it," said Celeste, in
her turn ; " you are very quick in your decisions, you two ; you
manage everything your own way; but I claim to remain with
mamma.What would become of me without her ?”
This touching debate was prolonged for some time in the same
strain, each of the three bringing forward every reason she
could think of why she should be the one to be left. Madame
Boguais could only shed tears of grief and affection. She had
not the courage to decide; the very idea of a separation rent
her motherly heart with anguish.
"It is not till to-morrow," said she at length ; " let us
endeavor, meanwhile, to seek a little repose."
Their evening devotions being first performed, they threw
themselves on their pallets without undressing.
The three young girls were soon asleep, but the poor mother
could not close her eyes. About four in the morning she thought
she heard sounds like that of footsteps in the passage, which
gradually became more distinct, until at last the door of the
prison wad softly opened.
The gaoler entered the prison, carrying a dark lantern
"Come ; up with you ! there is not a moment to lose," said he.
"Eulalie and Celeste, come along, both of you."
"My dear sisters ! it is you who are called," cried Rosalie.
"You are mistaken, sister," cried Eulalie, starting up " Mamma
must decide," objected Celeste
" Well, will you have done with all this bother ?" said Scevola,
growing impatient ; " I was told the two youngest ; I know my
orders, I hope."
"Eulalie, Celeste ! go, go, my beloved children," said Madame
Boguais, straining them both to her heart ; "go, in the name of
the duty and obedience you owe your mother; go, and may God
watch over and protect you !"
"Mother! sister! when shall we meet again?" cried the two
youngest, sobbing convulsively, and again embracing them by
"Zounds ! are you coming at all ?” said Scevola, stamping with
impatience ; would not any one think to see you that you were
going to be burnt alive ? Are you mad ? The citizen commissioner
must be in a perfect fever down there by this time ; to say
nothing of the fact that it will soon be daylight, and if any
one should see us pass, both he and I might have reason to
And with these words he dragged them away almost by main force.
Mme. Boguais leant against the door to catch the last sound of
the retreating footsteps of her two children; a prolonged sob
reached her ear, and once more a profound silence reigned
throughout the corridor.
" Protect them, my God !” cried the poor mother,"and if it be
Thy will that I should never see them more on earth, grant that
we may all meet again one day in Heaven !"
Rosalie added a fervent "Amen !" while she made the sign of the
Then throwing themselves into each other's arms, the two
captives remained long absorbed in prayers and tears.
Morning had hardly dawned
when a convoy of provisions, with divers military equipments,
slowly traversed a portion of the city on its way to Angers.
The escort of soldiers was numerous, and well armed ; the men
marched on gaily, indifferent of fatigue and danger, whistling,
and singing snatches of joyous songs.
The officer in command was an old red-faced captain, who armed
himself against the nipping morning air by frequent applications
to a well-filled gourd which hung at his side. Another officer
of superior rank - a young and handsome man, habited in the
uniform of a commissioner general, brought up the rear of the
army, and followed at a slow pace the last wagon in the
cavalcade, although he had some difficulty in restraining the
ardor of his beautiful bay charger, who snorted with impatience.
"Well, Parisian," said a young sergeant to one of his comrades,
as soon as they had passed the town of Pontlieue, you who have
usually so much to say, have you managed to leave your tongue in
the city as well as your heart ?"
"I have neither left one nor the other," replied the Parisian.
" What is this fresh mood then ? how comes it that you are as
mute as a fish to-day, you who generally chatter faster than a
hundred magpies at a time ? Why, you are as preoccupied as a
commander-in-chief the night before a battle ?"
"Preoccupied as I may be, comrade, there is some one not very
far off who is a great deal more so. Look, Fier a Bras, just
look at the commissioner I have been amusing myself for the last
half hour with, watching him all the way along ; he seems ready
to devour the last wagon with his eyes, and follows like a
"That is true," said Fier a Bras, after having made his own
observations ; "but what does that prove ? Is that any reason
why we should not converse a little, if only to while away the
"It proves, my boy, that there must be more gold in that chest
than either your purse or mine has ever contained ; and my
opinion is that if that same chest were just to come to smash on
the road, it would be worth one's while to pick up the bits."
"I should rather think that there were arms inside.”
"And for my part I feel sure that it contains nothing more or
less than good solid coin."
"I wager you a dozen glasses of the best brandy that it contains
"Stay; - there is the commissioner just stopping his dear wagon,
and unlocking the enest ; we shall be just in time to see what
he takes from it."
"Oh ! see, he is off again. What can he have taken out of the
chest ? I did not see anything for my part."
"Nor I either, and yet the chest is not quite shut; by getting a
little nearer, we might, without seeming to notice anything,
contrive to learn which of us two is to have the honor of paying
for the cognac ?"
" Leave me alone to manage it," said Fier a Bras, "before
another quarter of an hour I shall have found out all about it.
We have just arrived at Arnage, where we halt, and you shall see."
"Well, who is the winner, you or I, old fellow ?" said the
Parisian, when the convoy had resumed its march.
"Let us speak of it no more," replied his companion with a
"Ah! is it not gold then after all that you saw?” Never mind,
don't be downhearted - if funds are low, I will willingly give
"Do you really then imagine you have won ?" said Fier a Bras,
shrugging his shoulders. "Undeceive yourself; there is no more
gold in that chest than there are sabres or firearms.”
"Why, what is there then ?"
"Hush ! strange things happen every day," said Fier a Bras,
almost in the ear of his friend : "I know not if there be
witchcraft in the affair, but I had no sooner approached the
chest, than I heard the sound of groans which proceeded from it:
it sounded for all the world like a woman's voice."
"Ah! is the commissioner such a gay fellow?- as for witchcraft,
I for one do not believe a word of it. But, after all, if it
really should be a woman, why should he take so much pains to
conceal it ?"
“That is exactly what I said to myself at first."
"The commissioner is an aristocrat, for certain. I have
suspected that for a long time," said the Parisian, after a
moment's reflection : "he is quite capable of having hidden some
royalist dame, to get her out of trouble, for the air of the
city is not wholesome for such persons just now.”
"It may be so, certainly,” replied Fier a Bras, somewhat
reassured, "but in either case it will not be I that shall
denounce him, for aristocrat or not, he is a good fellow ; - a
man after my own heart."
The two sergeants had guessed rightly ; the chest contained
Eulalie and Celeste Boguais. M. de Fromental could find no
better means of concealing them from the vigilance of the
republican gendarmes than by locking them up in his chest, which
was supposed to contain a quantity of luggage. An intelligent
and faithful servant was alone let into the secret ; once
arrived at the first stage of their journey, he was to release
the young girls from this rolling prison, and conduct them to
Chateaubriand where they were expected. M. de Fromental's duty
obliging him to repair at once to Nantes, he quitted the
cavalcade at the end of a few hours' march, after repeating to
the good Jerome the instructions he had before given him.
Arrived at the end of his journey, he anxiously awaited the
return of his domestic, who had orders to rejoin him as soon as
he had accomplished his mission. The young officer had
calculated that six days would suffice for Jerome to conduct the
two ladies to Chateaubriand, and afterwards return to him at
Nantes. The eighth day arrived, but no Jerome appeared. M. de
Fromental, a prey to the most anxious solicitude, could neither
eat nor sleep.
"If I should only have snatched them from their prison, to
plunge them into yet greater dangers !" said he despairingly to
At length one evening, as he was alone in his room, seated
before the fire, with his head resting on his hands, buried in a
reverie, Jerome suddenly presented himself before him.
"Ah ! here you are at last !" exclaimed the young man. Have you
had a prosperous journey ? How are they all at Chateaubriand ?"
"Sir," replied the domestic, with an embarrassed air, "what I
have to relate will give you pain. An accident has befallen us
by the way."
"What has happened ? Speak - "
"Well, then, honored sir ! the young ladies you know ? I had no
sooner released them from the chest than I perceived that one of
them was as pale as a corpse, and unable to stand. I supported
her on my arm to the best room the inn afforded, sent to fetch a
doctor immediately, and in the meantime both her sister and
myself tended her with every possible care ; but it was all in
vain, in the course of a few hours the poor creature breathed
her last. The other young lady took on so, it made one sad to
see her. At last we managed to get her safely housed, but still
very melancholy, with the old lady, who received her like her
"Which of the two have survived ?" asked the officer, scarcely
able to breathe with anxiety.
“The tallest, Mademoiselle Eulalie, she who has such rosy cheeks,
and such a stately figure, you know ! She gave me a letter for
"Hand it to me," replied M. de Fromental, a little relieved by
this explanation, for if all the Boguais family inspired him
with a tender interest, and generous devotion, it was Eulalie
who had the most impressed him.
He eagerly perused the lines addressed to him, which the fair
writer had traced with a trembling hand. She related to her
benefactor in the most affecting terms the almost sudden death
of Celeste ; she poured out to him the deep grief with which her
heart was filled, thanked him for all his goodness, and
concluded by conjuring him with tears not to limit his benefits
to what he had already done, but to endeavor to procure if
possible the deliverance of her mother and eldest sister.
"Yes," said the young man to himself, as he placed the letter in
his bosom, "my first care shall be to obey her; it is thus that
I will strive to render myself worthy of her affection."
He solicited and obtained leave of absence for a few days, and
set out instantly for Le Mans.
Arrived there, his first visit was to the prison of the Oratory,
where Scevola received him like a good client, from whom future
favors might be expected.
“Well, citizen," said he, "I have given you satisfaction I hope
; I fulfilled all your wishes. Did your linnets arrive without
meeting with any disaster?"
“And those who were left behind ?" demanded M. de Fromental
without replying to the question of the gaoler.
"The young one is all right ; but it is all over with the old
lady : she was buried the day before yesterday."
And, as cry of surprise and grief escaped the young man's lips,
he continued :
"Do not suppose that it was any fault of mine, citizen
commissioner. I let her want for nothing, as you told me ; but
typhus is stronger even than gold : it is the fifteenth prisoner
that it has carried off since the commencement of this decade."
M. de Fromental was in despair. "I shall never have the courage
to announce these sad tidings to her myself," thought he.
He requested to see Rosalie for an instant. The young captive
gave him the details of the illness and death of her mother; she
informed him also that a charitable lady of the town, Mme.
Legris de Pommeraye, having heard of her misfortunes, had come
to visit and console her, and was now taking active steps to
procure her liberty.
M. de Fromental went away from this interview a little comforted
as to the fate of this poor young girl ; and his mind then
reverted to her sister Eulalie whom he had left with his kind
old friend, and with whom it was necessary now to communicate at
once. In his dreams for the future, he had indulged the hope of
shortly offering his hand for the acceptance of Mlle. Eulalie,
but he had hoped to do so armed with the consent of her mother,
and now he had to break to her the sad intelligence of the death
of that revered parent. Besides, he scrupled, in his exquisite
sense of delicacy, to take advantage of his title of liberator
to urge his acceptance as a suitor on a girl still so young, and
deprived of the support and counsel of her parents. After
serious reflection, he resolved first to solicit the consent of
M. Boguais, who was then in exile in Germany, as well as those
of the grandmother of Eulalie, who was still alive. He wrote at
once to both, requesting permission to declare himself, and then
returned to Nantes, where he awaited with impatience the answer
to these two letters.
Three months after this, M. de Fromental married, with the
consent of all her remaining relatives, Eulalie Boguais whose
admiration for the noble character of her husband was equal to
the fervor of his attachment.
Immediately after the marriage, which was celebrated at
Chateaubriand, M. de Fromental conducted his young bride into
Touraine, where Rosalie, freed from prison through the exertions
of the courageous. Mme Legris de la Pommeraye, was soon enabled
to rejoin her sister.
As for Mlle. Petronille Chevert, if any one desires to know what
became of her, they may be informed that she was alive and as
brisk as ever at the restoration, having so completely
repudiated her republican tendencies that she really and truly
believed she had always remained faithfull to the cause of the