Early on the following morning, the whole army was on its march towards Laval. The Vendean leaders were well aware that the republicans were now on their track, and they were truly thankful that some unaccountable delay in the movement of the enemy, had enabled them to put a great river between themselves and their pursuers. The garrisons, which the Convention had thrown into the towns of Brittany, were very insufficient, both in numbers and spirit, and the blues abandoned one place after another as the Vendeans approached. They passed through Cande, Segre, and Chateau-Gonthier without having to fire a shot, and though the gates of the town of Laval were closed against them, it was only done to allow the republican soldiers time to escape from the other side of the town.
The inhabitants of Laval flocked out in numbers to meet the poor Vendeans, and to offer them hospitality, and such comfort as their small town could afford to so huge a crowd. They begrudged them nothing that they possessed, and spared neither their provisions nor their houses. It seemed that Chapeau’s promise was this time true; and that, at any rate, for a time, they all found plenty in Laval. Henri established his head-quarters in a stone house, in the centre of the town, and here also he got accommodation for the three ladies and M. de Lescure. Nor did Chapeau forget to include Annot Stein in the same comfortable establishment, under the pretext that her services would be indispensable.
M. de Lescure had suffered grievously through the whole journey, but he seemed to rally when he reached Laval, and the comparative comfort of his quiet chamber gave him ease, and lessened his despondency. The whole party recovered something of their usual buoyancy, and when Henri brought in word, in the evening, that if the worst came to the worst, he could certainly hold out the town against the republican army until assistance reached them from England, they were all willing to hope that the cause in which they were engaged might still prosper.
LA PETITE VENDEE
For four or five days they all remained quiet in Laval, with nothing to disturb their tranquillity, but rumours of what was going on on both sides of the river. The men, with the exception of the old Marquis and de Lescure, were hard at work from morning until night; but they had hardly time or patience to describe accurately what was going on, to those who were left within; and the time passed very heavily with them. Two sofas had been carried to the windows of the sitting-room which they occupied. These windows looked out into the main thoroughfare of the town, and here the Marquis and the wounded man were placed, so that they might see all that was passing in the street. Various reports reached them from time to time, a few of which were confirmed, many proved to be false, and some still remained doubtful; but two facts were positively ascertained. Firstly, that the main army of the republicans had passed the river at Angers, and were advancing towards Laval; and secondly, that there was a considerable number of Breton peasants, already under arms, in the country, who were harassing the blues whenever they could meet them in small parties, and very frequently menacing the garrisons which they found in the small towns.