Insult was added to injury, for the Chevalier stood at the door with a brush, and a large jar of red paint, and as each man went out of the room, Arthur made a huge cross upon his bare pate. The poor wretches in their attempt to rub it off, merely converted the cross into a red patch, and as they were made to walk across the market-place with their bald red heads, they gave rise to shouts of laughter, not only from the royalists, but from the inhabitants of the town.
For three days the shaving went on, and as the men became experienced from practice, it was conducted with wonderful rapidity. At last, the prisoners were all deprived of their hair, and set at liberty—a temporary bridge was thrown across the Loire, near the Green Cross, and the men were allowed to march over. As soon as they found themselves on the other side of the Loire, they were free.
“Come, my bald pates, come my knights of the ruddy scalp,” said Jacques, standing at the corner of the bridge as they passed over, “away with you to the Convention; and if your friends like your appearance, send them to Saumur, and they shall be shaved close, and the barber shall ask for no fee; but remember, if you return again yourselves, your ears will be the next sacrifice you will be called on to make for your country.”
COUNCIL OF WAR
The taking of the fortified town of Saumur, and the total dispersion of the large army which had been collected there by the Republic, was an enterprise of much greater magnitude than anything which had previously been undertaken by the Vendeans: it gave them great advantages, it supplied them plentifully with arms, ammunition and clothes for their soldiers, and greatly inspirited the peasants; but it made the Convention feel that it had no contemptible enemy to deal with in La Vendee, and that the best soldiers of France would be required to crush the loyalty which inspired the peasants of Anjou and Poitou.
The Vendean leaders felt that their responsibilities were greatly increased, and that very much depended on the decision to which they might now come as regarded their further operations. A general council of war was accordingly held in Saumur, at which the matter was debated among them. Twelve of the Vendeans were admitted to this consultation, and all others were strictly excluded; they were Cathelineau, Bonchamps, who though badly wounded, had caused himself to be brought thither from Doue, de Lescure, who had remained in action for eight hours after his arm was broken, and had consequently suffered much from it, Larochejaquein, d’Elbee, Stofflet, Adolphe Denot, Father Jerome, Foret, M. Donnessan, Lescure’s father-in-law, Marigny, and the Prince de Talmont.