This last circumstance created a great deal of surprise, not so much from the fact of the Bretons having taken up arms against the Convention, as from a certain degree of mystery which were attached to the men who were roving about the country. It appeared that they were all under the control of one leader, whose name was not known in Laval, but who was supposed to have taken an active part in many of the battles fought on the other side of the river. His tactics, however, were very different from those which had been practised in La Vendee. He never took any prisoners, or showed any quarter; but slaughtered indiscriminately every republican soldier that fell into his hands. He encouraged his men to pillage the towns, where the inhabitants were presumed to be favourable to the Convention; and this licence which he allowed was the means of drawing many after him, who might not have been very willing to fight merely for the honour of defending the throne. After the custom of their country, which was different from that which prevailed in Poitou and Anjou, these peasant-soldiers wore their long flaxen hair hanging down over their shoulders, and were clothed in rough dresses, made of the untanned skins of goats or sheep, with the hair on the outside. The singularity of their appearance at first added a terror to their arms, which was enhanced by the want of experience and cowardice of the republican troops through the country. This wild, roving band of lawless men had assumed to themselves the name of La Petite Vendee, and certainly they did much towards assisting the Vendeans; for they not only cleared the way for them, in many of the towns of Brittany, but they prepared the people to expect them, and created a very general opinion that there would be more danger in siding with the blues than with the royal party.
If the men of La Petite Vendee, had rendered themselves terrible, their Captain had made—not his name, for that was unknown—but his character much more so. He was represented to be a young man, but of a fierce and hideous aspect; the under part of his face was covered with his black beard, and he always wore on his head a huge heavy cap, which covered his brows, shaded his eyes from sight, and concealed his face nearly as effectually as a vizor. He was always on horseback, and alone; for he had neither confidant nor friend. The peasant-soldiers believed him to be invulnerable, for they represented him to be utterly careless as to where he went, or what danger he encountered. The only name they knew him by, was that of the Mad Captain; and, probably, had he been less ugly, less mysterious, and less mad, the people would not have obeyed him so implicitly, or followed him so faithfully.
Such were the tales that were repeated from time to time to Madame de Lescure and her party by the little Chevalier and Chapeau; and according to their accounts, the Mad Captain was an ally who would give them most valuable help in their difficulties. The whole story angered de Lescure, whose temper was acerbated by his own inactivity and suffering, and whose common sense could not endure the seeming folly of putting confidence in so mysterious a warrior.