“You are welcome, Madame, welcome to it all—welcome as the flowers in May. I know who you are, though I forget your name; it is a name dear to all La Vendee. Your husband is a great and good man; indeed, you shall have my bed, though you’ll find it very cold. Your husband—but, oh dear! I beg your pardon, Madame, I forgot.”
I need not say that the evening which they spent at Genet, was melancholy enough, and the privations which they suffered were dreadful. During the early part of the night both Madame de Lescure and Marie lay down for a few hours, but nothing, which could be said, would induce them to keep the old priest longer from his bed. About midnight they got up and spent the remainder of the night seated on the two chairs near the fire, while Father Jerome squatted on the stool, and with his elbows on his knees, and his face upon his hands, sat out the long night, meditating upon the fortunes of La Vendee.
They started early on the next morning, and the priest of St. Laud’s went with them, leaving Father Bernard in perfect solitude, for he had neither friend or relative to reside beneath his roof.
“Some of them will come down from time to time,” said Father Jerome, “and do what little can be done for him, poor old man! His sufferings, it is to be hoped, will not last many days.”
“And will he perform mass next Sunday?” said Marie.
“Indeed he will, if able to walk across the road into the chapel, and will forget no word of the service, and make no blunder in the ceremony. To you he seems to be an idiot, but he is not so, though long suffering has made his mind to wander strangely, when he sees strange faces. There are many who have been called to a more active sphere of duty for their King and country than that poor Cure, but none who have suffered more acutely for the cause, and have born their sufferings with greater patience.”
The Vendeans at st. Florent.
The reader, it is hoped, will remember St. Florent; it was here that the first scene of this tale opened; it was here that Cathelineau first opposed the exactions of the democratic government and that the Vendeans, not then rejoicing in that now illustrious name, felt the first flush of victory. It was here that ‘Marie Jeanne’ was taken from the troops of the Republic by the valour of the townsmen, and, adorned with garlands by their sisters and daughters, was dragged in triumph through the streets, with such bright presentiments of future success and glory.
The men of St. Florent had ever since that day borne a prominent part in the contest; they felt that the people of Poitou had risen in a mass to promote the cause, which they had been the first to take up; and they had considered themselves bound in honour to support the character for loyalty which they had assumed: the consequence was that many of the bravest of its sons had fallen, and that very few of its daughters had not to lament a lover, a husband, or a father.