What a smile broke over my uncle’s face!
“Said I not,” cried he, joyfully, “that a path would doubtless open for me? Henceforth, my children, never distrust the Lord.”
His course was now altered. Instead of making for the nearest coast, now within a few miles, on the borders of the Mediterranean, he decided to proceed with all convenient speed to Montauban, where my aunt had friends, thence down the Garonne, and so to Bordeaux. I could but set him on his way and trust his future course to the same good Providence that had hitherto protected him. My aunt was decided to follow his fortunes, happen what would.
Trial by fire.
Day was far spent before I got back, my horse having gone lame. There seemed unusual disturbance in the town; I distinguished a distant hum of many voices, and all at once a shrill cry that made me shudder, followed by the passionate wailing of children, and the incessant barking of dogs. I took the back way to our house, where lay our stable, and entering the little yard, saw to my dismay six or eight cavalry horses standing in it. I sprang from my cart and hurried into the house, on the threshold of which my little brother Charles met me all in tears, and cried, “Oh, they’re burning mamma!”
I burst into the kitchen; there was a roaring fire on the hearth, which a dragoon was feeding with handfuls of paper torn from our great family Bible; but there were also great billets of wood burning, which threw out intense heat, and close in front of it was placed my mother, penned in with heavy pieces of furniture, while two dragoons in front of her were thrusting their clenched fists in her face, saying, “Now then, you obstinate woman! will you roast like a pig, or say where he is gone?”
My mother looked immovable as stone, but directly I entered, I saw her change countenance a little. My father lay on the ground, bound hand and foot, while a dragoon was preparing to beat him with a heavy bridle.
“Ah, ah, here is the young cub,” cried they as I entered; “here is the young fellow that was attending on his uncle!” Then, with more bad language than I choose to repeat, they bade me tell where I had carried him, unless I would see my mother roasted alive.
“Out of your reach,” said I, boldly; “so now let my mother go free,” and springing towards her, I released her before they could throw themselves upon me. The next minute, we were rolling on the ground, but, as my mother for the moment was safe, I did not mind the blows I was getting, but returned them with a fire-iron that lay within reach. I dealt blows with such a will that for a time I had the advantage, never ceasing to shout, “Never fear, mother! All’s safe! he’s on the wide sea. Fly with the children and leave me to deal with these gentry.”
This so enraged them that they redoubled their violence; no wonder, then, that I was got down at last, bound hand and foot, and my feet made bare to receive the bastinado. Before they laid it on, they put the question to me: