He endeavoured, in as few words as he could, to make his companion understand, that highly as he appreciated his disinterested offer, he could not, at the present moment, accede to it. That many officers, high in the confidence of the whole army, must be consulted before any important step was taken; that, as for himself his duty required him to hurry back to Laval as quick as he could. That, as regarded him, Plume, he advised him to return to his own men, and endeavour to organize them into a regular corps, in doing which he promised him that practical assistance should not be wanting; and that, as regarded the body of their mutual friend, he, Henri, would give orders for its immediate burial; and having said so much as quickly as he could speak, Henri Larochejaquelin hurried from the room, leaving the unfortunate Plume to renew his lamentations over his friend. He had cause to lament; the only man likely to flatter his vanity was gone. He would never again be told that he was born for great achievements—never again promised that bravery, fidelity to his commander, and gallant demeanour among his comrades, would surely lead him to exalted duties. Such were the precepts with which the insanity of Denot had inflamed the mad ambition of his poor follower. He now felt—not his own unfitness, for that he could not suspect—but the difficulty, the impossibility to get his talents and services acknowledged; and he again sat down to weep, partly for his friend, and partly for himself.
Henri passed the remainder of the night in Chateau-Gonthier, and early on the next morning he returned towards Laval. The road was covered with swarms of Vendeans, now returning from the pursuit in which they had nearly exterminated the unfortunate army which had followed them across the Loire. They had crossed that river panic-stricken and hopeless; now they were shouting with triumph, and exulting with joy, confident of success. None of those who returned were without some token of success; some carried back with them the muskets of the republican infantry; others, the sabres of the cavalry; and others, more joyful in their success than any, were mounted on their horses. They all loudly greeted Henri as he passed, and declared that nothing should ever conquer them, now that they had the General over them, whom they themselves had chosen.
Henri, though he well knew the difficulties which were before him, could not but be triumphant as he listened to the cheers of his followers; he had certainly been pre-eminently successful in the first attempts which had been made under his own sole command; and it is not surprising that this, joined to the confidence of youth, should have made him feel himself equal almost to any enterprise. Then another subject of joy filled his heart; Marie had promised that if the Vendeans were now successful, if they could look forward to spending one quiet week in Laval, she would no longer refuse to join her hand to his and become bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh—that promise she would now realize; and therefore as he rode back through the gate of Laval, Henri felt happier than he had done for many a long, weary, tedious day.