All day the work continued, and when the dark night came on, the boats did not for a moment cease to ply. Immediately after sunset, the rain began to fall in torrents, and as the anxious wretches did not like to leave the close vicinity of the river, which they had spent the whole day in struggling to attain, thousands of them remained there wet and shivering until the morning. Mothers during the darkness were parted from their children, and wives from their husbands. Those who, worn out with fatigue and weakness, were forced to lie down upon the ground, were trodden upon by others, who pressed on, to reach the river. Some were pushed into the water and screamed aloud that they were about to drown, and when the dawn of the morning came, misery, wretchedness, and fear were to be seen on every face.
During the whole day and night, Henri was either on the bank, or passing between it and the town. He had, early in the day, stripped himself of his coat, and when the evening came, he could not find it. Wet through, in his shirt sleeves, this young generalissimo passed the first night of his command, guarding the entrance into his little vessels; prohibiting more than eight from embarking at a time; striving to his uttermost that none but the weak and aged should be taken over; solacing the sufferings of those near him; bidding the wretched not to despair, and pointing to the opposite shore as the land of hope, where they would soon again find plenty, comfort, and triumph.
He was still at the same duty on the following morning, reckoning up, with something like despair, the small number of those who had as yet passed over, and the multitude who were yet to pass, when the young Chevalier came down to him with the news that Madame de Lescure, and her sister-in-law were in St. Florent. Even the work, on which he was so intent, could not keep him from those respecting whom he was so anxious, and he hurried into town for an hour or two, leaving the Chevalier in his place.
The passage of the Loire.