“Come, my friends,” said Chapeau, “no idling now; come to Antrames, and we’ll get plenty of arms, if we get nothing else. What, is it you, Captain Plume. I’m told you did as well as the best today; and what—my dear old friend Michael: a soldier at last, eh, Michael Stein! Come, man, don’t be ashamed to give us your hand; you’ve joined us in very good time, for the Vendeans never gained such a victory as they have today. Come on, old friend, we’ll get another sight of these running devils at Antrarnes.”
“They may run for me, M. Chapeau, and run far enough, before I try to stop them; do you know I’m nearly ashamed of what I’ve been doing as it is.”
“Ashamed!—ashamed of what?” said Chapeau.
“Why look there,” said Michael; and as he spoke, he pointed with his foot to the body of a republican soldier, who lay calmly at his ease, in the sleep of death, not three yards from the spot where the old man was now standing.
“Not an hour since, that poor fellow ran this way, and as he passed, he had no thought of hurting me; he was thinking too much of himself, for half-a-dozen hungry devils were after him. Well, I don’t know what possessed me, but the smell of blood had made me wild, and I lifted up my axe and struck him to the ground. I wish, with all my heart, the poor man were safe at Antrames.”
It was in vain that Chapeau tried to persuade the smith that he had only done his duty in killing a republican, who would certainly have lived to have done an injury to the cause, had he been suffered to escape. Michael Stein would not, or could not, understand the arguments he used; and decidedly declared that if he found it possible to avoid fighting for the future he would do so.
“Do you know, M. Chapeau,” he said at last, “when I first took this axe in my hand, this morning, I had hardly made up my mind on which side I should use it. It was only when I thought of the boys and of Annot, that I determined to go with the Vendeans. It wasn’t possible for a man not to fight on one side or the other—that’s the only reason I had for fighting at all.”
Chapeau became rather ashamed of his friend’s irregular doctrines, and hurried on; explaining to Plume, who accompanied him, that Michael Stein was a queer eccentric old man, but a thorough good royalist at heart. “Why he has two sons among the red scarfs,” he added, to settle the point.
“Has he, indeed?” said Plume, who had never heard who the red scarfs were.
DEATH OF ADOLPHE DENOT