“That axe of yours,” said Auguste, “is a singular weapon, and perhaps not entirely fitted for military purposes; but I must own you have used it well—it fell with decided effect this morning on many a poor fellow’s head and shoulders. You have probably, my friend, fought many a battle with these fellows of Mayence?”
“Not a battle I ever fought before, Monsieur,” said Michael; “nor do I ever wish to fight another; it’s horrid weary work, this of knocking men’s brains out, not to talk of the chance a man runs of losing his own.”
“But ain’t you one of the Vendeans, my gallant comrade?” asked Auguste.
“If you mean, did I come over from Poitou with them, I certainly did; but I only came because I could not help it, and because I could not live to see a little girl I have fall into the hands of the butchers; it was not for any love of fighting that I came.”
“But yet you take to it kindly, my friend. I am considered to know something of the sword exercise, and I thought you wielded that axe, as though your arm had been used to a sabre this many a year.”
“I am a blacksmith,” said Michael, shortly; “and I have been fifty years ringing hammers on an anvil: that makes a man’s arm lusty.”
“Indeed,” said the other, “a blacksmith—well, you may be a blacksmith, and yet a good soldier. Now you wouldn’t believe it, but I’m a baker—you wouldn’t take me to be a baker by my trade, would you now?”
Michael Stein looked at him, and told him he couldn’t well give an opinion, as he knew nothing about bakers.
“I knew you wouldn’t,” said the other; “no one on earth would take me to be a tradesman—that’s what they all say; I have that kind of manner about me, that I look like a soldier—I did when I hadn’t been at it above a week. Every one used to say, Plume, you were born to be an officer; Plume, you will live to be a General: and if I don’t get killed in the wars, I think I shall. Now it’s only three months since I joined, and I am already second in command in the whole army.”
Michael Stein stared at him, as he repeated his words, “Second in command in the whole army!”
“Indeed I am, my friend, the second in command. You wouldn’t believe it, now, but I was sticking loaves of bread into an oven three or four months ago.”
“The second in command!” said Michael, still regarding his companion with a look in which incredulous surprise and involuntary reverence were blended. “I suppose you’re a great way above Jacques Chapeau, then?”
“Oh, my friend Chapeau—and do you know my friend Chapeau? No, I’m not above him; he’s not in our army; he’s second in command himself in the Vendean army. You know I belong to La Petite Vendee.”
At this moment, the very man of whom they were speaking, the redoubtable Chapeau, came up with a large party of straggling Vendeans, out of breath with running; they were in full pursuit of the blues, who were now said to be flying towards Antrames and Chateau-Gonthier.