The Companions of Jehu
31. The Son Of The Miller Of Leguerno
We have said that at the very moment when Morgan and his three companions
stopped the Geneva diligence between Bar-sur-Seine and Châtillon, Roland was
If we are to know the result of his mission we must not grope our way, step by
step, through the darkness in which the Abbé Bernier wrapped his ambitious
projects, but we must join him later at the village of Muzillac, between Ambon
and Guernic, six miles above the little bay into which the Vilaine River falls.
There we find ourselves in the heart of the Morbihan; that is to say, in the region
that gave birth to the Chouannerie. It was close to Laval, on the little farm of the
Poiriers, that the four Chouan brothers were born to Pierre Cottereau and Jeanne
Moyné. One of their ancestors, a misanthropical woodcutter, a morose peasant,
kept himself aloof from the other peasants as the chat-huant (screech-owl) keeps
aloof from the other birds; hence the name Chouan, a corruption of chat-huant.
The name became that of a party. On the right bank of the Loire they said
Chouans when they meant Bretons, just as on the left bank they said brigands
when they meant Vendéans.
It is not for us to relate the death and destruction of that heroic family, nor follow
to the scaffold the two sisters and a brother, nor tell of battlefields where Jean
and René, martyrs to their faith, lay dying or dead. Many years have elapsed
since the executions of Perrine, René and Pierre, and the death of Jean; and the
martyrdom of the sisters, the exploits of the brothers have passed into legends.
We have now to do with their successors.
It is true that these gars (lads) are faithful to their traditions. As they fought
beside la Rouërie, Bois-Hardy and Bernard de Villeneuve, so did they fight
beside Bourmont, Frotté, and Georges Cadoudal. Theirs was always the same
courage, the same devotion--that of the Christian soldier, the faithful royalist.
Their aspect is always the same, rough and savage; their weapons, the same
gun or cudgel, called in those parts a "ferte." Their garments are the same; a
brown woollen cap, or a broad-brimmed hat scarcely covering the long straight
hair that fell in tangles on their shoulders, the old Aulerci Cenomani, as in
Cæsar's day, promisso capillo; they are the same Bretons with wide breeches of
whom Martial said:
Tam laxa est...
Quam veteres braccoe Britonis pauperis.
To protect themselves from rain and cold they wore goatskin garments, made
with the long hair turned outside; on the breasts of which, as countersign, some
wore a scapulary and chaplet, others a heart, the heart of Jesus; this latter was
the distinctive sign of a fraternity which withdrew apart each day for common
Such were the men, who, at the time we are crossing the borderland between the
Loire-Inférieure and Morbihan, were scattered from La Roche-Bernard to
Vannes, and from Quertemberg to Billiers, surrounding consequently the village