The young General’s good news had preceded him, and when he entered the room where his friends were assembled, they were one and all ready to embrace and congratulate their successful soldier; he received the blessing of his father, the praises of de Lescure, the thanks and admiration of Madame de Lescure, and what he valued more than all, Marie’s acknowledgments of the promise she gave him, when last he left her side.
During his absence, three unexpected visitors had reached Laval; the first was Father Jerome, who had followed the army, and now brought them news from the side of Nantes, that Charette was still at the head of a large body of royalists, and was ready to join himself with the main army, somewhere to the north of the Loire, if any plan could be struck out for their future proceedings, to which both he and Henri could agree; and the others were perfect strangers. Two gentlemen had called at the guard-house, and asked for M. de Larochejaquelin: on hearing that he was not in Laval, they had desired to see M. de Lescure, and had, when alone with him, declared that they came from England, with offers of assistance, both in men and money; one of these gentlemen had with him a stick, and after having carefully looked round the room to see that no one but de Lescure could observe him, he had broken the stick in two, and taken from the hollow space within it, a letter addressed to the Commander-in-Chief of the Vendean army.
These two gentlemen were both Vendeans, but early in the contest they had passed over into England; they had now returned, habited like peasants, and in this disguise had come over on their dangerous mission, passing first into Jersey and thence to the coast of Normandy; they had walked the whole distance, through the province of Brittany, passing themselves off, in one place as good republicans, and in another as true loyalists; they had, however, through all their dangers, managed to keep the important stick, the promises contained in which could not have arrived at a moment when they would have been more welcome.
Granville was the point at which it was decided that the English troops should land, and de Lescure was strongly of opinion that the Vendean army, relieved of its intolerable load of women and children, should proceed thither to meet their allies; and this plan, though with some dissentient voices, was agreed to. They could not, however, start quite immediately; nor was it necessary for them to do so; and the few days of secure rest which so many of them anxiously desired, was given to the army.
At length Henri found leisure to tell them all the sad, but still pleasing story of Denot’s conduct and fate—of the gallantry by which he had redeemed so many sins, and of the death by which he had set a seal to the forgiveness of them all. Each of them had already learnt that Adolphe was the mysterious leader, the Mad Captain of La Petite Vendee, and they listened with deep attention to the story which they now heard of the way in which he had been living, and of the manner of his death.