When nearly all the inhabitants of the town flocked down to the river-side, anxious to escape from the wrath of the republicans, she resolutely refused to move, declaring that if it were God’s will that she should perish under the ashes of her little cottage, she would do so, and that nothing should induce her, in her extreme old age, to leave the spot on which she had been born, and had always lived. During the whole confusion, attending the passage of the river, she sat there undisturbed; and though she saw all her poor neighbours leave their humble dwellings, and all their little property, to look for safety in Brittany, she did not move.
On the day after that on which de Lescure had passed over, she was sitting alone in her cabin, and the unceasing whirl of her spinning-wheel proved that the distractions of the time had not made her idle. By this time all those who had lived immediately near her, were gone. it is not to be supposed that absolutely every inhabitant of the town left his home; there were some who had taken no prominent part in the war, and who could not believe that the republicans would destroy those whom they found quietly living in their own houses; but all the poorer part of the population were gone, and not a living soul but herself remained in the row of cabins, of which Cathelineau’s mother occupied one.
Her wheel was turning fast round, obedient to the quick motion of her foot, and her two hands were employed in preparing the flax before it was caught by the wheel; but her mind was far away from her ordinary pursuit. She had been thinking how true were the prophetic warnings with which she had implored her son to submit to the republicans, and how surely she had foreseen the desolation which his resistance had brought on all around her. And yet there was more of affection than bitterness in her thoughts of her son. She acknowledged to herself his high qualities; she knew well how good, how noble, how generous, had been his disposition. She was, even in her own way, proud of his fame; but she hated, with an unmixed hatred, those whom she thought had urged him on to his ruin—those friends of noble blood, who would have spurned the postillion from their doors had he presumed to enter them in former days; but who had thrust him into the van of danger in the hour of need, and had persuaded him, fond and foolish as he had been, to use his courage, his energy, and his genius, in fighting for them a battle, in which he should have had no personal interest.
As she sat there spinning, and thinking thus bitterly of the causes of all her woe, a figure darkened the door of her cottage, and looking up she saw a young lady dressed in black. She was tall, and of a noble mien; her face was very beautiful, but pale and sad, as were the faces of most in these sad times. Her dress was simple, and she was unattended; but yet there was that about her, which assured the old woman that she was not of simple blood, and which prepared her to look upon her as an enemy.