Massacres of the South HTML version

Chapter 8
For some days Avignon had its assassins, as Marseilles had had them, and as
Nimes was about to have them; for some days all Avignon shuddered at the
names of five men--Pointu, Farges, Roquefort, Naudaud, and Magnan.
Pointu was a perfect type of the men of the South, olive-skinned and eagle-eyed,
with a hook nose, and teeth of ivory. Although he was hardly above middle
height, and his back was bent from bearing heavy burdens, his legs bowed by
the pressure of the enormous masses which he daily carried, he was yet
possessed of extraordinary strength and dexterity. He could throw over the Loulle
gate a 48-pound cannon ball as easily as a child could throw its ball. He could
fling a stone from one bank of the Rhone to the other where it was two hundred
yards wide. And lastly, he could throw a knife backwards while running at full
speed with such strength and precision of aim that this new kind of Parthian
arrow would go whistling through the air to hide two inches of its iron head in a
tree trunk no thicker than a man's thigh. When to these accomplishments are
added an equal skill with the musket, the pistol, and the quarter-staff, a good deal
of mother wit, a deep hatred for Republicans, against whom he had vowed
vengeance at the foot of the scaffold on which his father and mother had
perished, an idea can be formed of the terrible chief of the assassins of Avignon,
who had for his lieutenants, Farges the silk-weaver, Roquefort the porter,
Naudaud the baker, and Magnan the secondhand clothes dealer.
Avignon was entirely in the power of these five men, whose brutal conduct the
civil and military authorities would not or could not repress, when word came that
Marshal Brune, who was at Luc in command of six thousand troops, had been
summoned to Paris to give an account of his conduct to the new Government.
The marshal, knowing the state of intense excitement which prevailed in the
South, and foreseeing the perils likely to meet him on the road, asked permission
to travel by water, but met with an official refusal, and the Duc de Riviere,
governor of Marseilles, furnished him with a safe-conduct. The cut-throats
bellowed with joy when they learned that a Republican of '89, who had risen to
the rank of marshal under the Usurper, was about to pass through Avignon. At
the same time sinister reports began to run from mouth to mouth, the harbingers
of death. Once more the infamous slander which a hundred times had been
proved to be false, raised its voice with dogged persistence, asserting that Brune,
who did not arrive at Paris until the 5th of September, 1792, had on the 2nd,
when still at Lyons, carried the head of the Princesse de Lamballe impaled on a
pike. Soon the news came that the marshal had just escaped assassination at
Aix, indeed he owed his safety to the fleetness of his horses. Pointu, Forges, and
Roquefort swore that they would manage things better at Avignon.
By the route which the marshal had chosen there were only two ways open by
which he could reach Lyons: he must either pass through Avignon, or avoid it by
taking a cross-road, which branched off the Pointet highway, two leagues outside
the town. The assassins thought he would take the latter course, and on the 2nd