Massacres of the South by Alexandre Dumas, Pere - HTML preview

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Chapter 2

The death of Henri IV led to new conflicts, in which although at first success was on the side of the Protestants it by degrees went over to the Catholics; for with the accession of Louis XIII Richelieu had taken possession of the throne: beside the king sat the cardinal; under the purple mantle gleamed the red robe. It was at this crisis that Henri de Rohan rose to eminence in the South. He was one of the most illustrious representatives of that great race which, allied as it was to the royal houses of Scotland, France, Savoy, and Lorraine; had taken as their device, "Be king I cannot, prince I will not, Rohan I am."
Henri de Rohan was at this time about forty years of age, in the prime of life. In his youth, in order to perfect his education, he had visited England, Scotland, and Italy. In England Elizabeth had called him her knight; in Scotland James VI had asked him to stand godfather to his son, afterwards Charles I; in Italy he had been so deep in the confidence of the leaders of men, and so thoroughly initiated into the politics of the principal cities, that it was commonly said that, after Machiavel, he was the greatest authority in these matters. He had returned to France in the lifetime of Henry IV, and had married the daughter of Sully, and after Henri's death had commanded the Swiss and the Grison regiments--at the siege of Juliers. This was the man whom the king was so imprudent as to offend by refusing him the reversion of the office of governor of Poitou, which was then held by Sully, his father-in-law. In order to revenge himself for the neglect he met with at court, as he states in his Memoires with military ingenuousness, he espoused the cause of Conde with all his heart, being also drawn in this direction by his liking for Conde's brother and his consequent desire to help those of Conde's religion.
From this day on street disturbances and angry disputes assumed another aspect: they took in a larger area and were not so readily appeased. It was no longer an isolated band of insurgents which roused a city, but rather a conflagration which spread over the whole South, and a general uprising which was almost a civil war.
This state of things lasted for seven or eight years, and during this time Rohan, abandoned by Chatillon and La Force, who received as the reward of their defection the field marshal's baton, pressed by Conde, his old friend, and by Montmorency, his consistent rival, performed prodigies of courage and miracles of strategy. At last, without soldiers, without ammunition, without money, he still appeared to Richelieu to be so redoubtable that all the conditions of surrender he demanded were granted. The maintenance of the Edict of Nantes was guaranteed, all the places of worship were to be restored to the Reformers, and a general amnesty granted to himself and his partisans. Furthermore, he obtained what was an unheard-of thing until then, an indemnity of 300,000 livres for his expenses during the rebellion; of which sum he allotted 240,000 livres to his coreligionists--that is to say, more than three-quarters of the entire amount--and kept, for the purpose of restoring his various chateaux and setting his domestic establishment, which had been destroyed during the war, again on foot, only 60,000 livres. This treaty was signed on July 27th, 1629.
The Duc de Richelieu, to whom no sacrifice was too great in order to attain his ends, had at last reached the goal, but the peace cost him nearly 40,000,000 livres; on the other hand, Saintonge, Poitou, and Languedoc had submitted, and the chiefs of the houses of La Tremouille, Conde, Bouillon, Rohan, and Soubise had came to terms with him; organised armed opposition had disappeared, and the lofty manner of viewing matters natural to the cardinal duke prevented him from noticing private enmity. He therefore left Nimes free to manage her local affairs as she pleased, and very soon the old order, or rather disorder, reigned once more within her walls. At last Richelieu died, and Louis XIII soon followed him, and the long minority of his successor, with its embarrassments, left to Catholics and Protestants in the South more complete liberty than ever to carry on the great duel which down to our own days has never ceased. But from this period, each flux and reflux bears more and more the peculiar character of the party which for the moment is triumphant; when the Protestants get the upper hand, their vengeance is marked by brutality and rage; when the Catholics are victorious, the retaliation is full of hypocrisy and greed. The Protestants pull down churches and monasteries, expel the monks, burn the crucifixes, take the body of some criminal from the gallows, nail it on a cross, pierce its side, put a crown of thorns round its temples and set it up in the market-place--an effigy of Jesus on Calvary. The Catholics levy contributions, take back what they had been deprived of, exact indemnities, and although ruined by each reverse, are richer than ever after each victory. The Protestants act in the light of day, melting down the church bells to make cannon to the sound of the drum, violate agreements, warm themselves with wood taken from the houses of the cathedral clergy, affix their theses to the cathedral doors, beat the priests who carry the Holy Sacrament to the dying, and, to crown all other insults, turn churches into slaughter-houses and sewers.
The Catholics, on the contrary, march at night, and, slipping in at the gates which have been left ajar for them, make their bishop president of the Council, put Jesuits at the head of the college, buy converts with money from the treasury, and as they always have influence at court, begin by excluding the Calvinists from favour, hoping soon to deprive them of justice.
At last, on the 31st of December, 1657, a final struggle took place, in which the Protestants were overcome, and were only saved from destruction because from the other side of the Channel, Cromwell exerted himself in their favour, writing with his own hand at the end of a despatch relative to the affairs of Austria, "I learn that there have been popular disturbances in a town of Languedoc called Nimes, and I beg that order may be restored with as much mildness as possible, and without shedding of blood." As, fortunately for the Protestants, Mazarin had need of Cromwell at that moment, torture was forbidden, and nothing allowed but annoyances of all kinds. These henceforward were not only innumerable, but went on without a pause: the Catholics, faithful to their system of constant encroachment, kept up an incessant persecution, in which they were soon encouraged by the numerous ordinances issued by Louis XIV. The grandson of Henri IV could not so far forget all ordinary respect as to destroy at once the Edict of Nantes, but he tore off clause after clause.
In 1630--that is, a year after the peace with Rohan had been signed in the preceding reign--Chalons-sur-Saone had resolved that no Protestant should be allowed to take any part in the manufactures of the town.
In 1643, six months after the accession of Louis XIV, the laundresses of Paris made a rule that the wives and daughters of Protestants were unworthy to be admitted to the freedom of their respectable guild.
In 1654, just one year after he had attained his majority, Louis XIV consented to the imposition of a tax on the town of Nimes of 4000 francs towards the support of the Catholic and the Protestant hospitals; and instead of allowing each party to contribute to the support of its own hospital, the money was raised in one sum, so that, of the money paid by the Protestants, who were twice as numerous as the Catholics, two-sixths went to their enemies. On August 9th of the same year a decree of the Council ordered that all the artisan consuls should be Catholics; on the 16th September another decree forbade Protestants to send deputations to the king; lastly, on the 20th of December, a further decree declared that all hospitals should be administered by Catholic consuls alone.
In 1662 Protestants were commanded to bury their dead either at dawn or after dusk, and a special clause of the decree fixed the number of persons who might attend a funeral at ten only.
In 1663 the Council of State issued decrees prohibiting the practice of their religion by the Reformers in one hundred and forty-two communes in the dioceses of Nimes, Uzes, and Mendes; and ordering the demolition of their meetinghouses.
In 1664 this regulation was extended to the meeting-houses of Alencon and Montauban, as well as their small place of worship in Nimes. On the 17th July of the same year the Parliament of Rouen forbade the master-mercers to engage any more Protestant workmen or apprentices when the number already employed had reached the proportion of one Protestant, to fifteen Catholics; on the 24th of the same month the Council of State declared all certificates of mastership held by a Protestant invalid from whatever source derived; and in October reduced to two the number of Protestants who might be employed at the mint.
In 1665 the regulation imposed on the mercers was extended to the goldsmiths. In 1666 a royal declaration, revising the decrees of Parliament, was published, and Article 31 provided that the offices of clerk to the consulates, or secretary to a guild of watchmakers, or porter in a municipal building, could only be held by Catholics; while in Article 33 it was ordained that when a procession carrying the Host passed a place of worship belonging to the so-called Reformers, the worshippers should stop their psalm-singing till the procession had gone by; and lastly, in Article 34 it was enacted that the houses and other buildings belonging to those who were of the Reformed religion might, at the pleasure of the town authorities, be draped with cloth or otherwise decorated on any religious Catholic festival.
In 1669 the Chambers appointed by the Edict of Nantes in the Parliaments of Rouen and Paris were suppressed, as well as the articled clerkships connected therewith, and the clerkships in the Record Office; and in August of the same year, when the emigration of Protestants was just beginning, an edict was issued, of which the following is a clause:
"Whereas many of our subjects have gone to foreign countries, where they continue to follow their various trades and occupations, even working as shipwrights, or taking service as sailors, till at length they feel at home and determine never to return to France, marrying abroad and acquiring property of every description: We hereby forbid any member of the so-called Reformed Church to leave this kingdom without our permission, and we command those who have already left France to return forthwith within her boundaries." In 1670 the king excluded physicians of the Reformed faith from the office of dean of the college of Rouen, and allowed only two Protestant doctors within its precincts. In 1671 a decree was published commanding the arms of France to be removed from all the places of worship belonging to the pretended Reformers. In 1680 a proclamation from the king closed the profession of midwife to women of the Reformed faith. In 1681 those who renounced the Protestant religion were exempted for two years from all contributions towards the support of soldiers sent to their town, and were for the same period relieved from the duty of giving them board and lodging. In the same year the college of Sedan was closed--the only college remaining in the entire kingdom at which Calvinist children could receive instruction. In 1682 the king commanded Protestant notaries, procurators, ushers, and serjeants to lay down their offices, declaring them unfit for such professions; and in September of the same year three months only were allowed them for the sale of the reversion of the said offices. In 1684 the Council of State extended the preceding regulations to those Protestants holding the title of honorary secretary to the king, and in August of the same year Protestants were declared incapable of serving on a jury of experts.
In 1685 the provost of merchants in Paris ordered all Protestant privileged merchants in that city to sell their privileges within a month. And in October of the same year the long series of persecutions, of which we have omitted many, reached its culminating point--the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Henri IV, who foresaw this result, had hoped that it would have occurred in another manner, so that his co-religionists would have been able to retain their fortresses; but what was actually done was that the strong places were first taken away, and then came the Revocation; after which the Calvinists found themselves completely at the mercy of their mortal enemies.
From 1669, when Louis first threatened to aim a fatal blow at the civil rights of the Huguenots, by abolishing the equal partition of the Chambers between the two parties, several deputations had been sent to him praying him to stop the course of his persecutions; and in order not to give him any fresh excuse for attacking their party, these deputations addressed him in the most submissive manner, as the following fragment from an address will prove:
"In the name of God, sire," said the Protestants to the king, "listen to the last breath of our dying liberty, have pity on our sufferings, have pity on the great number of your poor subjects who daily water their bread with their tears: they are all filled with burning zeal and inviolable loyalty to you; their love for your august person is only equalled by their respect; history bears witness that they contributed in no small degree to place your great and magnanimous ancestor on his rightful throne, and since your miraculous birth they have never done anything worthy of blame; they might indeed use much stronger terms, but your Majesty has spared their modesty by addressing to them on many occasions words of praise which they would never have ventured to apply to themselves; these your subjects place their sole trust in your sceptre for refuge and protection on earth, and their interest as well as their duty and conscience impels them to remain attached to the service of your Majesty with unalterable devotion." But, as we have seen, nothing could restrain the triumvirate which held the power just then, and thanks to the suggestions of Pere Lachaise and Madame de Maintenon, Louis XIV determined to gain heaven by means of wheel and stake. As we see, for the Protestants, thanks to these numerous decrees, persecution began at the cradle and followed them to the grave.
As a boy, a Huguenot could enter no public school; as a youth, no career was open to him; he could become neither mercer nor concierge, neither apothecary nor physician, neither lawyer nor consul. As a man, he had no sacred house, of prayer, no registrar would inscribe his marriage or the birth of his children; hourly his liberty and his conscience were ignored. If he ventured to worship God by the singing of psalms, he had to be silent as the Host was carried past outside. When a Catholic festival occurred, he was forced not only to swallow his rage but to let his house be hung with decorations in sign of joy; if he had inherited a fortune from his fathers, having neither social standing nor civil rights, it slipped gradually out of his hands, and went to support the schools and hospitals of his foes. Having reached the end of his life, his deathbed was made miserable; for dying in the faith of his fathers, he could not be laid to rest beside them, and like a pariah he would be carried to his grave at night, no more than ten of those near and dear to him being allowed to follow his coffin.
Lastly, if at any age whatever he should attempt to quit the cruel soil on which he had no right to be born, to live, or to die, he would be declared a rebel, his goods would be confiscated, and the lightest penalty that he had to expect, if he ever fell into the hands of his enemies, was to row for the rest of his life in the galleys of the king, chained between a murderer and a forger.
Such a state of things was intolerable: the cries of one man are lost in space, but the groans of a whole population are like a storm; and this time, as always, the tempest gathered in the mountains, and the rumblings of the thunder began to be heard.
First there were texts written by invisible hands on city walls, on the signposts and cross-roads, on the crosses in the cemeteries: these warnings, like the 'Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin' of Belshazzar, even pursued the persecutors into the midst of their feasts and orgies.
Now it was the threat, "Jesus came not to send peace, but a sword." Then this consolation, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." Or perhaps it was this appeal for united action which was soon to become a summons to revolt, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us."
And before these promises, taken from the New Testament, the persecuted paused, and then went home inspired by faith in the prophets, who spake, as St. Paul says in his First Epistle to the Thessalonians, "not the word of men but the word of God."
Very soon these words became incarnate, and what the prophet Joel foretold came to pass: "Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions,... and I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood and fire,... and it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered."
In 1696 reports began to circulate that men had had visions; being able to see what was going on in the most distant parts, and that the heavens themselves opened to their eyes. While in this ecstatic state they were insensible to pain when pricked with either pin or blade; and when, on recovering consciousness, they were questioned they could remember nothing.
The first of these was a woman from Vivarais, whose origin was unknown. She went about from town to town, shedding tears of blood. M. de Baville, intendant of Languedoc, had her arrested and brought to Montpellier. There she was condemned to death and burnt at the stake, her tears of blood being dried by fire. After her came a second fanatic, for so these popular prophets were called. He was born at Mazillon, his name was Laquoite, and he was twenty years of age. The gift of prophecy had come to him in a strange manner. This is the story told about him:--"One day, returning from Languedoc, where he had been engaged in the cultivation of silkworms, on reaching the bottom of the hill of St. Jean he found a man lying on the ground trembling in every limb. Moved by pity, he stopped and asked what ailed him. The man replied, 'Throw yourself on your knees, my son, and trouble not yourself about me, but learn how to attain salvation and save your brethren. This can only be done by the communion of the Holy Ghost, who is in me, and whom by the grace of God I can bestow on you. Approach and receive this gift in a kiss.' At these words the unknown kissed the young man on the mouth, pressed his hand and disappeared, leaving the other trembling in his turn; for the spirit of God was in him, and being inspired he spread the word abroad."
A third fanatic, a prophetess, raved about the parishes of St. Andeol de Clerguemont and St. Frazal de Vantalon, but she addressed herself principally to recent converts, to whom she preached concerning the Eucharist that in swallowing the consecrated wafer they had swallowed a poison as venomous as the head of the basilisk, that they had bent the knee to Baal, and that no penitence on their part could be great enough to save them. These doctrines inspired such profound terror that the Rev. Father Louvreloeil himself tells us that Satan by his efforts succeeded in nearly emptying the churches, and that at the following Easter celebrations there were only half as many communicants as the preceding year.
Such a state of licence, which threatened to spread farther and farther, awoke the religious solicitude of Messire Francois Langlade de Duchayla, Prior of Laval, Inspector of Missions of Gevaudan, and Arch-priest of the Cevennes. He therefore resolved to leave his residence at Mende and to visit the parishes in which heresy had taken the strongest hold, in order to oppose it by every means which God and the king had put in his power.
The Abbe Duchayla was a younger son of the noble house of Langlade, and by the circumstances of his birth, in spite of his soldierly instincts, had been obliged to leave epaulet and sword to his elder brother, and himself assume cassock and stole. On leaving the seminary, he espoused the cause of the Church militant with all the ardour of his temperament. Perils to encounter, foes to fight, a religion to force on others, were necessities to this fiery character, and as everything at the moment was quiet in France, he had embarked for India with the fervent resolution of a martyr.
On reaching his destination, the young missionary had found himself surrounded by circumstances which were wonderfully in harmony with his celestial longings: some of his predecessors had been carried so far by religious zeal that the King of Siam had put several to death by torture and had forbidden any more missionaries to enter his dominions; but this, as we can easily imagine, only excited still more the abbe's missionary fervour; evading the watchfulness of the military, and regardless of the terrible penalties imposed by the king, he crossed the frontier, and began to preach the Catholic religion to the heathen, many of whom were converted.
One day he was surprised by a party of soldiers in a little village in which he had been living for three months, and in which nearly all the inhabitants had abjured their false faith, and was brought before the governor of Bankan, where instead of denying his faith, he nobly defended Christianity and magnified the name of God. He was handed over to the executioners to be subjected to torture, and suffered at their hands with resignation everything that a human body can endure while yet retaining life, till at length his patience exhausted their rage; and seeing him become unconscious, they thought he was dead, and with mutilated hands, his breast furrowed with wounds, his limbs half worn through by heavy fetters, he was suspended by the wrists to a branch of a tree and abandoned. A pariah passing by cut him down and succoured him, and reports of his martyrdom having spread, the French ambassador demanded justice with no uncertain voice, so that the King of Siam, rejoicing that the executioners had stopped short in time, hastened to send back to M. de Chaumont, the representative of Louis XIV, a mutilated though still living man, instead of the corpse which had been demanded.
At the time when Louis XIV was meditating the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes he felt that the services of such a man would be invaluable to him, so about 1632, Abbe Duchayla was recalled from India, and a year later was sent to Mende, with the titles of Arch-priest of the Cevennes and Inspector of Missions. Soon the abbe, who had been so much persecuted, became a persecutor, showing himself as insensible to the sufferings of others as he had been inflexible under his own. His apprenticeship to torture stood him in such good stead that he became an inventor, and not only did he enrich the torture chamber by importing from India several scientifically constructed machines, hitherto unknown in Europe, but he also designed many others. People told with terror of reeds cut in the form of whistles which the abbe pitilessly forced under the nails of malignants; of iron pincers for tearing out their beards, eyelashes, and eyebrows; of wicks steeped in oil and wound round the fingers of a victim's hands, and then set on fire so as to form a pair of five-flamed candelabra; of a case turning on a pivot in which a man who refused to be converted was sometimes shut up, the case being then made to revolve rapidly till the victim lost consciousness; and lastly of fetters used when taking prisoners from one town to another, and brought to such perfection, that when they were on the prisoner could neither stand nor sit.
Even the most fervent panegyrists of Abbe Duchayla spoke of him with bated breath, and, when he himself looked into his own heart and recalled how often he had applied to the body the power to bind and loose which God had only given him over the soul, he was seized with strange tremors, and falling on his knees with folded hands and bowed head he remained for hours wrapt in thought, so motionless that were it not for the drops of sweat which stood on his brow he might have been taken for a marble statue of prayer over a tomb. Moreover, this priest by virtue of the powers with which he was invested, and feeling that he had the authority of M. de Baville, intendant of Languedoc, and M. de Broglie, commander of the troops, behind him, had done other terrible things. He had separated children from father and mother, and had shut them up in religious houses, where they had been subjected to such severe chastisement, by way of making them do penance for the heresy of their parents, that many of them died under it.
He had forced his way into the chamber of the dying, not to bring consolation but menaces; and bending over the bed, as if to keep back the Angel of Death, he had repeated the words of the terrible decree which provided that in case of the death of a Huguenot without conversion, his memory should be persecuted, and his body, denied Christian burial, should be drawn on hurdles out of the city, and cast on a dungheap.
Lastly, when with pious love children tried to shield their parents in the deathagony from his threats, or dead from his justice, by carrying them, dead or dying, to some refuge in which they might hope to draw their last breath in peace or to obtain Christian burial, he declared that anyone who should open his door hospitably to such disobedience was a traitor to religion, although among the heathen such pity would have been deemed worthy of an altar.
Such was the man raised up to punish, who went on his way, preceded by terror, accompanied by torture, and followed by death, through a country already exhausted by long and bloody oppression, and where at every step he trod on half repressed religious hate, which like a volcano was ever ready to burst out afresh, but always prepared for martyrdom. Nothing held him back, and years ago he had had his grave hollowed out in the church of St. Germain, choosing that church for his last long sleep because it had been built by Pope Urban IV when he was bishop of Mende.
Abbe Duchayla extended his visitation over six months, during which every day was marked by tortures and executions: several prophets were burnt at the stake; Francoise de Brez, she who had preached that the Host contained a more venomous poison than a basilisk's head, was hanged; and Laquoite, who had been confined in the citadel of Montpellier, was on the point of being broken on the wheel, when on the eve of his execution his cell was found empty. No one could ever discover how he escaped, and consequently his reputation rose higher than ever, it being currently believed that, led by the Holy Spirit as St. Peter by the angel, he had passed through the guards invisible to all, leaving his fetters behind.
This incomprehensible escape redoubled the severity of the Arch-priest, till at last the prophets, feeling that their only chance of safety lay in getting rid of him, began to preach against him as Antichrist, and advocate his death. The abbe was warned of this, but nothing could abate his zeal. In France as in India, martyrdom was his longed-for goal, and with head erect and unfaltering step he "pressed toward the mark."
At last, on the evening of the 24th of July, two hundred conspirators met in a wood on the top of a hill which overlooked the bridge of Montvert, near which was the Arch-priest's residence. Their leader was a man named Laporte, a native of Alais, who had become a master-blacksmith in the pass of Deze. He was accompanied by an inspired man, a former wool-carder, born at Magistavols, Esprit Seguier by name. This man was, after Laquoite, the most highly regarded of the twenty or thirty prophets who were at that moment going up and down the Cevennes in every direction. The whole party was armed with scythes, halberts, and swords; a few had even pistols and guns.
On the stroke of ten, the hour fixed for their departure, they all knelt down and with uncovered heads began praying as fervently as if they were about to perform some act most pleasing to God, and their prayers ended, they marched down the hill to the town, singing psalms, and shouting between the verses to the townspeople to keep within their homes, and not to look out of door or window on pain of death.
The abbe was in his oratory when he heard the mingled singing and shouting, and at the same moment a servant entered in great alarm, despite the strict regulation of the Arch-priest that he was never to be interrupted at his prayers. This man announced that a body of fanatics was coming down the hill, but the abbe felt convinced that it was only an unorganised crowd which was going to try and carry off six prisoners, at that moment in the 'ceps.' [A terrible kind of stocks
-a beam split in two, no notches being made for the legs: the victim's legs were placed between the two pieces of wood, which were then, by means of a vice at each end, brought gradually together. Translators Note.]
These prisoners were three young men and three girls in men's clothes, who had been seized just as they were about to emigrate. As the abbe was always protected by a guard of soldiers, he sent for the officer in command and ordered him to march against the fanatics and disperse them. But the officer was spared the trouble of obeying, for the fanatics were already at hand. On reaching the gate of the courtyard he heard them outside, and perceived that they were making ready to burst it in. Judging of their numbers by the sound of their voices, he considered that far from attacking them, he would have enough to do in preparing for defence, consequently he bolted and barred the gate on the inside, and hastily erected a barricade under an arch leading to the apartments of the abbe. Just as these preparations were complete, Esprit Seguier caught sight of a heavy beam of wood lying in a ditch; this was raised by a dozen men and used as a battering-ram to force in the gate, which soon showed a breach. Thus encouraged, the workers, cheered by the chants of their comrades, soon got the gate off the hinges, and thus the outside court was taken. The crowd then loudly demanded the release of the prisoners, using dire threats.
The commanding officer sent to ask the abbe what he was to do; the abbe replied that he was to fire on the conspirators. This imprudent order was carried out; one of the fanatics was killed on the spot, and two wounded men mingled their groans with the songs and threats of their comrades.
The barricade was next attacked, some using axes, others darting their swords and halberts through the crevices and killing those behind; as for those who had firearms, they climbed on the shoulders of the others, and having fired at those below, saved themselves by tumbling down again. At the head of the besiegers were Laporte and Esprit Seguier, one of whom had a father to avenge and the other a son, both of whom had been done to death by the abbe. They were not the only ones of the party who were fired by the desire of vengeance; twelve or fifteen others were in the same position.
The abbe in his room listened to the noise of the struggle, and finding matters growing serious, he gathered his household round him, and making them kneel down, he told them to make their confession, that he might, by giving them absolution, prepare them for appearing before God. The sacred words had just been pronounced when the rioters drew near, having carried the barricade, and driven the soldiers to take refuge in a hall on the ground floor just under the Archpriest's room.
But suddenly, the assault was stayed, some of the men going to surround the house, others setting out on a search for the prisoners. These were easily found, for judging by what they could hear that their brethren had come to their rescue, they shouted as loudly as they could.
The unfortunate creatures had already passed a whole week with their legs caught and pressed by the cleft beams which formed these inexpressibly painful stocks. When the unfortunate victims were released, the fanatics screamed with rage at the sight of their swollen bodies and half-broken bones. None of the unhappy people were able to stand. The attack on the soldiers was renewed, and these being driven out of the lower hall, filled the staircase leading to the abbe's apartments, and offered such determined resistance that their assailants were twice forced to fall back. Laporte, seeing two of his men killed and five or six wounded, called out loudly, "Children of God, lay down your arms: this way of going to work is too slow; let us burn the abbey and all in it. To work! to work!" The advice was good, and they all hastened to follow it: benches, chairs, and furniture of all sorts were heaped up in the hall, a palliasse thrown on the top, and the pile fired. In a moment the whole building was ablaze, and the Archpriest, yielding to the entreaties of his servants, fastened his sheets to the window-bars, and by their help dropped into the garden. The drop was so great that he broke one of his thigh bones, but dragging himself along on his hands and one knee, he, with one of his servants, reached a recess in the wall, while another servant was endeavouring to escape through the flames, thus falling into the hands of the fanatics, who carried him before their captain. Then cries of "The prophet! the prophet!" were heard on all sides. Esprit Seguier, feeling that something fresh had taken place, came forward, still holding in his hand the blazing torch with which he had set fire to the pile.
"Brother," asked Laporte, pointing to the prisoner, "is this man to die?" Esprit Seguier fell on his knees and covered his face with his mantle, like Samuel, and sought the Lord in prayer, asking to know His will.
In a short time he rose and said, "This man is not to die; for inasmuch as he has showed mercy to our brethren we must show mercy to him."
Whether this fact had been miraculously revealed to Seguier, or whether he had gained his information from other sources, the newly released prisoners confirmed its truth, calling out that the man had indeed treated them with humanity. Just then a roar as of a wild beast was heard: one of the fanatics, whose brother had been put to death by the abbe, had just caught sight of him, the whole neighbourhood being lit up by the fire; he was kneeling in an angle of the wall, to which he had dragged himself.
"Down with the son of Belial!" shouted the crowd, rushing towards the priest, who remained kneeling and motionless like a marble statue. His valet took advantage of the confusion to escape, and got off easily; for the sight of him on whom the general hate was concentrated made the Huguenots forget everything else: Esprit Seguier was the first to reach the priest, and spreading his hands over him, he commanded the others to hold back. "God desireth not the death of a sinner," said he, "but rather that he turn from his wickedness and live." "No, no!" shouted a score of voices, refusing obedience for the first time, perhaps, to an order from the prophet; "let him die without mercy, as he struck without pity. Death to the son of Belial, death!"
"Silence!" exclaimed the prophet in a terrible voice, "and listen to the word of God from my mouth. If this man will join us and take upon him the duties of a pastor, let us grant him his life, that he may henceforward devote it to the spread of the true faith."
"Rather a thousand deaths than apostasy!" answered the priest.
"Die, then!" cried Laporte, stabbing him; "take that for having burnt my father in Nimes."
And he passed on the dagger to Esprit Seguier.
Duchayla made neither sound nor gesture: it would have seemed as if the dagger had been turned by the priest's gown as by a coat of mail were it not that a thin stream of blood appeared. Raising his eyes to heaven, he repeated the words of the penitential psalm: "Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice!"
Then Esprit Seguier raised his arm and struck in his turn, saying, "Take that for my son, whom you broke on the wheel at Montpellier."
And he passed on the dagger.
But this blow also was not mortal, only another stream of blood appeared, and the abbe said in a failing voice, "Deliver me, O my Saviour, out of my wellmerited sufferings, and I will acknowledge their justice; for I have been a man of blood."
The next who seized the dagger came near and gave his blow, saying, "Take that for my brother, whom you let die in the 'ceps.'"
This time the dagger pierced the heart, and the abbe had only time to ejaculate, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy!" before he fell back dead.
But his death did not satisfy the vengeance of those who had not been able to strike him living; one by one they drew near and stabbed, each invoking the shade of some dear murdered one and pronouncing the same words of malediction.
In all, the body of the abbe received fifty-two dagger thrusts, of which twenty-four would have been mortal.
Thus perished, at the age of fifty-five, Messire Francois de Langlade Duchayla, prior of Laval, inspector of missions in Gevaudan, and Arch-priest of the Cevennes and Mende.
Their vengeance thus accomplished, the murderers felt that there was no more safety for them in either city or plain, and fled to the mountains; but in passing near the residence of M. de Laveze, a Catholic nobleman of the parish of Molezon, one of the fugitives recollected that he had heard that a great number of firearms was kept in the house. This seemed a lucky chance, for firearms were what the Huguenots needed most of all. They therefore sent two envoys to M. de Laveze to ask him to give them at least a share of his weapons; but he, as a good Catholic, replied that it was quite true that he had indeed a store of arms, but that they were destined to the triumph and not to the desecration of religion, and that he would only give them up with his life. With these words, he dismissed the envoys, barring his doors behind them.
But while this parley was going on the conspirators had approached the chateau, and thus received the valiant answer to their demands sooner than M. de Laveze had counted on. Resolving not to leave him time to take defensive measures, they dashed at the house, and by standing on each other's shoulders reached the room in which M. de Laveze and his entire family had taken refuge. In an instant the door was forced, and the fanatics, still reeking with the life-blood of Abbe Duchayla, began again their work of death. No one was spared; neither the master of the house, nor his brother, nor his uncle, nor his sister, who knelt to the assassins in vain; even his old mother, who was eighty years of age, having from her bed first witnessed the murder of all her family, was at last stabbed to the heart, though the butchers might have reflected that it was hardly worth while thus to anticipate the arrival of Death, who according to the laws of nature must have been already at hand.
The massacre finished, the fanatics spread over the castle, supplying themselves with arms and under-linen, being badly in need of the latter; for when they left their homes they had expected soon to return, and had taken nothing with them. They also carried off the copper kitchen utensils, intending to turn them into bullets. Finally, they seized on a sum of 5000 francs, the marriage-portion of M. de Laveze's sister, who was just about to be married, and thus laid the foundation of a war fund
The news of these two bloody events soon reached not only Nimes but all the countryside, and roused the authorities to action. M. le Comte de Broglie crossed the Upper Cevennes, and marched down to the bridge of Montvert, followed by several companies of fusiliers. From another direction M. le Comte de Peyre brought thirty-two cavalry and three hundred and fifty infantry, having enlisted them at Marvejols, La Canourgue, Chiac, and Serverette. M. de St. Paul, Abbe Duchayla's brother, and the Marquis Duchayla, his nephew, brought eighty horsemen from the family estates. The Count of Morangiez rode in from St. Auban and Malzieu with two companies of cavalry, and the town of Mende by order of its bishop despatched its nobles at the head of three companies of fifty men each.
But the mountains had swallowed up the fanatics, and nothing was ever known of their fate, except that from time to time a peasant would relate that in crossing the Cevennes he had heard at dawn or dusk, on mountain peak or from valley depths, the sound going up to heaven of songs of praise. It was the fanatic assassins worshipping God.
Or occasionally at night, on the tops of the lofty mountains, fires shone forth which appeared to signal one to another, but on looking the next night in the same direction all was dark.
So M. de Broglie, concluding that nothing could be done against enemies who were invisible, disbanded the troops which had come to his aid, and went back to Montpellier, leaving a company of fusiliers at Collet, another at Ayres, one at the bridge of Montvert, one at Barre, and one at Pompidon, and appointing Captain Poul as their chief.
This choice of such a man as chief showed that M. de Broglie was a good judge of human nature, and was also perfectly acquainted with the situation, for Captain Poul was the very man to take a leading part in the coming struggle. "He was," says Pere Louvreloeil, priest of the Christian doctrine and cure of SaintGermain de Calberte, "an officer of merit and reputation, born in Ville-Dubert, near Carcassonne, who had when young served in Hungary and Germany, and distinguished himself in Piedmont in several excursions against the Barbets, [A name applied first to the Alpine smugglers who lived in the valleys, later to the insurgent peasants in the Cevennes.-- Translator's Note.] notably in one of the later ones, when, entering the tent of their chief, Barbanaga, he cut off his head. His tall and agile figure, his warlike air, his love of hard work, his hoarse voice, his fiery and austere character, his carelessness in regard to dress, his mature age, his tried courage, his taciturn habit, the length and weight of his sword, all combined to render him formidable. Therefore no one could have been chosen more suitable for putting down the rebels, for forcing their entrenchments, and for putting them to flight."
Hardly had he taken up a position in the market town of Labarre, which was to be his headquarters, than he was informed that a gathering of fanatics had been seen on the little plain of Fondmorte, which formed a pass between two valleys. He ordered out his Spanish steed, which he was accustomed to ride in the Turkish manner--that is, with very short stirrups, so that he could throw himself forward to the horse's ears, or backward to the tail, according as he wished to give or avoid a mortal blow. Taking with him eighteen men of his own company and twenty-five from the town, he at once set off for the place indicated, not considering any larger number necessary to put to rout a band of peasants, however numerous.
The information turned out to be correct: a hundred Reformers led by Esprit Seguier had encamped in the plain of Fondmorte, and about eleven o'clock in the morning one of their sentinels in the defile gave the alarm by firing off his gun and running back to the camp, shouting, "To arms!" But Captain Poul, with his usual impetuosity, did not give the insurgents time to form, but threw himself upon them to the beat of the drum, not in the least deterred by their first volley. As he had expected, the band consisted of undisciplined peasants, who once scattered were unable to rally. They were therefore completely routed. Poul killed several with his own hand, among whom were two whose heads he cut off as cleverly as the most experienced executioner could have done, thanks to the marvellous temper of his Damascus blade. At this sight all who had till then stood their ground took to flight, Poul at their heels, slashing with his sword unceasingly, till they disappeared among the mountains. He then returned to the field of battle, picked up the two heads, and fastening them to his saddlebow, rejoined his soldiers with his bloody trophies,--that is to say, he joined the largest group of soldiers he could find; for the fight had turned into a number of single combats, every soldier fighting for himself. Here he found three prisoners who were about to be shot; but Poul ordered that they should not be touched: not that he thought for an instant of sparing their lives, but that he wished to reserve them for a public execution. These three men were Nouvel, a parishioner of Vialon, Moise Bonnet of Pierre-Male, and Esprit Seguier the prophet.
Captain Poul returned to Barre carrying with him his two heads and his three prisoners, and immediately reported to M. Just de Baville, intendant of Languedoc, the important capture he had made. The prisoners were quickly tried. Pierre Nouvel was condemned to be burnt alive at the bridge of Montvert, Molise Bonnet to be broken on the wheel at Deveze, and Esprit Seguier to be hanged at Andre-de-Lancise. Thus those who were amateurs in executions had a sufficient choice.
However, Moise Bonnet saved himself by becoming Catholic, but Pierre Nouvel and Esprit Seguier died as martyrs, making profession of the new faith and praising God.
Two days after the sentence on Esprit Seguier had been carried out, the body disappeared from the gallows. A nephew of Laporte named Roland had audaciously carried it off, leaving behind a writing nailed to the gibbet. This was a challenge from Laporte to Poul, and was dated from the "Camp of the Eternal God, in the desert of Cevennes," Laporte signing himself "Colonel of the children of God who seek liberty of conscience." Poul was about to accept the challenge when he learned that the insurrection was spreading on every side. A young man of Vieljeu, twenty-six years of age, named Solomon Couderc, had succeeded Esprit Seguier in the office of prophet, and two young lieutenants had joined Laporte. One of these was his nephew Roland, a man of about thirty, pockmarked, fair, thin, cold, and reserved; he was not tall, but very strong, and of inflexible courage. The other, Henri Castanet of Massevaques, was a keeper from the mountain of Laygoal, whose skill as a marksman was so well known that it was said he never missed a shot. Each of these lieutenants had fifty men under him.
Prophets and prophetesses too increased apace, so that hardly a day passed without reports being heard of fresh ones who were rousing whole villages by their ravings.
In the meantime a great meeting of the Protestants of Languedoc had been held in the fields of Vauvert, at which it had been resolved to join forces with the rebels of the Cevennes, and to send a messenger thither to make this resolution known.
Laporte had just returned from La Vaunage, where he had been making recruits, when this good news arrived; he at once sent his nephew Roland to the new allies with power to pledge his word in return for theirs, and to describe to them, in order to attract them, the country which he had chosen as the theatre of the coming war, and which, thanks to its hamlets, its woods, its defiles, its valleys, its precipices, and its caves, was capable of affording cover to as many bands of insurgents as might be employed, would be a good rallying-ground after repulse, and contained suitable positions for ambuscades. Roland was so successful in his mission that these new "soldiers of the Lord," as they called themselves, on learning that he had once been a dragoon, offered him the post of leader, which he accepted, and returned to his uncle at the head of an army.
Being thus reinforced, the Reformers divided themselves into three bands, in order to spread abroad their beliefs through the entire district. One went towards Soustele and the neighbourhood of Alais, another towards St. Privat and the bridge of Montvert, while the third followed the mountain slope down to St. Roman le Pompidou, and Barre.
The first was commanded by Castanet, the second by Roland, and the third by Laporte.
Each party ravaged the country as it passed, returning deathblow for deathblow and conflagration for conflagration, so that hearing one after another of these outrages Captain Poul demanded reinforcements from M. de Broglie and M. de Baville, which were promptly despatched.
As soon as Captain Poul found himself at the head of a sufficient number of troops, he determined to attack the rebels. He had received intelligence that the band led by Laporte was just about to pass through the valley of Croix, below Barre, near Temelague. In consequence of this information, he lay in ambush at a favourable spot on the route. As soon as the Reformers who were without suspicion, were well within the narrow pass in which Poul awaited them, he issued forth at the head of his soldiers, and charged the rebels with such courage and impetuosity that they, taken by surprise, made no attempt at resistance, but, thoroughly demoralised, spread over the mountain-side, putting a greater and greater distance at every instant between themselves and the enemy, despite the efforts of Laporte to make them stand their ground. At last, seeing himself deserted, Laporte began to think of his own safety. But it was already too late, for he was surrounded by dragoons, and the only way of retreat open to him lay over a large rock. This he successfully scaled, but before trying to get down the other side he raised his hands in supplication to Heaven; at that instant a volley was fired, two bullets struck him, and he fell head foremost down the precipice. When the dragoons reached the foot of the rock, they found him dead. As they knew he was the chief of the rebels, his body was searched: sixty Louis was found in his pockets, and a sacred chalice which he was in the habit of using as an ordinary drinking-cup. Poul cut off his head and the heads of twelve other Reformers found dead on the field of battle, and enclosing them in a wicker basket, sent them to M. Just de Baville.
The Reformers soon recovered from this defeat and death, joined all their forces into one body, and placed Roland at their head in the place of Laporte. Roland chose a young man called Couderc de Mazel- Rozade, who had assumed the name of Lafleur, as his lieutenant, and the rebel forces were not only quickly reorganised, but made complete by the addition of a hundred men raised by the new lieutenant, and soon gave a sign that they were again on the war-path by burning down the churches of Bousquet, Cassagnas, and Prunet. Then first it was that the consuls of Mende began to realise that it was no longer an insurrection they had on hand but a war, and Mende being the capital of Gevaudan and liable to be attacked at any moment, they set themselves to bring into repair their counterscarps, ravelins, bastions, gates, portcullises, moats, walls, turrets, ramparts, parapets, watchtowers, and the gear of their cannon, and having laid in a stock of firearms, powder and ball, they formed eight companies each fifty strong, composed of townsmen, and a further band of one hundred and fifty peasants drawn from the neighbouring country. Lastly, the States of the province sent an envoy to the king, praying him graciously to take measures to check the plague of heresy which was spreading from day to day. The king at once sent M. Julien in answer to the petition. Thus it was no longer simple governors of towns nor even chiefs of provinces who were engaged in the struggle; royalty itself had come to the rescue.
M. de Julien, born a Protestant, was a member of the nobility of Orange, and in his youth had served against France and borne arms in England and Ireland when William of Orange succeeded James II as King of England, Julien was one of his pages, and received as a reward for his fidelity in the famous campaign of 1688 the command of a regiment which was sent to the aid of the Duke of Savoy, who had begged both England and Holland to help him. He bore himself so gallantly that it was in great part due to him that the French were forced to raise the siege of Cony.
Whether it was that he expected too much from this success, or that the Duke of Savoy did not recognise his services at their worth, he withdrew to Geneva, where Louis XIV hearing of his discontent, caused overtures to be made to him with a view to drawing him into the French service. He was offered the same rank in the French army as he had held in the English, with a pension of 3000 livres. M. de Julien accepted, and feeling that his religious belief would be in the way of his advancement, when he changed his master he changed his Church. He was given the command of the valley of Barcelonnette, whence he made many excursions against the Barbets; then he was transferred to the command of the Avennes, of the principality of Orange, in order to guard the passes, so that the French Protestants could not pass over the frontier for the purpose of worshipping with their Dutch Protestant brethren; and after having tried this for a year, he went to Versailles to report himself to the king. While he was there, it chanced that the envoy from Gevaudan arrived, and the king being satisfied with de Julien's conduct since he had entered his service, made him major-general, chevalier of the military order of St. Louis; and commander-in-chief in the Vivarais and the Cevennes.
M. de Julien from the first felt that the situation was very grave, and saw that his predecessors had felt such great contempt for the heretics that they had not realised the danger of the revolt. He immediately proceeded to inspect in person the different points where M. de Broglie had placed detachments of the Tournon and Marsily regiments. It is true that he arrived by the light of thirty burning village churches.
M. de Broglie, M. de Baville, M. de Julien, and Captain Poul met together to consult as to the best means of putting an end to these disorders. It was agreed that the royal troops should be divided into two bodies, one under the command of M. de Julien to advance on Alais, where it was reported large meetings of the rebels were taking place, and the other under M. de Brogue, to march about in the neighbourhood of Nimes.
Consequently, the two chiefs separated. M. le Comte de Broglie at the head of sixty-two dragoons and some companies of foot, and having under him Captain Poul and M. de Dourville, set out from Cavayrac on the 12th of January at 2 a. m., and having searched without finding anything but the vineyards of Nimes and La Garrigue de Milhau, took the road to the bridge of Lunel. There he was informed that those he was in search of had been seen at the chateau of Caudiac the day before; he therefore at once set out for the forest which lies around it, not doubting to find the fanatics entrenched there; but, contrary to his expectations, it was vacant. He then pushed on to Vauvert, from Vauvert to Beauvoisin, from Beauvoisin to Generac, where he learned that a troop of rebels had passed the night there, and in the morning had left for Aubore. Resolved to give them no rest, M, de Broglie set out at once for this village.
When half-way there, a member of his staff thought he could distinguish a crowd of men near a house about half a league distant; M. de Broglie instantly ordered Sieur de Gibertin, Captain Paul's lieutenant, who was riding close by, at the head of his company, to take eight dragoons and make a reconnaissance, in order to ascertain who these men were, while the rest of the troops would make a halt. This little band, led by its officer, crossed a clearing in the wood, and advanced towards the farmhouse, which was called the Mas de Gafarel, and which now seemed deserted. But when they were within half a gun-shot of the wall the charge was sounded behind it, and a band of rebels rushed towards them, while from a neighbouring house a second troop emerged, and looking round, he perceived a third lying on their faces in a small wood. These latter suddenly stood up and approached him, singing psalms. As it was impossible for M. de Gibertin to hold his ground against so large a force, he ordered two shots to be fired as a warning to de Brogue to advance to meet him, and fell back on his comrades. Indeed, the rebels had only pursued him till they had reached a favourable position, on which they took their stand.
M. de Brogue having surveyed the whole position with the aid of a telescope, held a council of war, and it was decided that an attack should be made forthwith. They therefore advanced on the rebels in line: Captain Poul on the right, M. de Dourville on the left, and Count Broglie in the centre.
As they got near they could see that the rebels had chosen their ground with an amount of strategical sagacity they had never till then displayed. This skill in making their dispositions was evidently due to their having found a new leader whom no one knew, not even Captain Poul, although they could see him at the head of his men, carbine in hand.
However, these scientific preparations did not stop M. de Brogue: he gave the order to charge, and adding example to precept, urged his horse to a gallop. The rebels in the first rank knelt on one knee, so that the rank behind could take aim, and the distance between the two bodies of troops disappeared rapidly, thanks to the impetuosity of the dragoons; but suddenly, when within thirty paces of the enemy, the royals found themselves on the edge of a deep ravine which separated them from the enemy like a moat. Some were able to check their horses in time, but others, despite desperate efforts, pressed upon by those behind, were pushed into the ravine, and rolled helplessly to the bottom. At the same moment the order to fire was given in a sonorous voice, there was a rattle of musketry, and several dragoons near M. de Broglie fell.
"Forward!" cried Captain Poul, "forward!" and putting his horse at a part of the ravine where the sides were less steep, he was soon struggling up the opposite side, followed by a few dragoons.
"Death to the son of Belial!" cried the same voice which had given the order to fire. At that moment a single shot rang out, Captain Poul threw up his hands, letting his sabre go, and fell from his horse, which instead of running away, touched his master with its smoking nostrils, then lifting its head, neighed long and low. The dragoons retreated.
"So perish all the persecutors of Israel!" cried the leader, brandishing his carbine. He then dashed down into the ravine, picked up Captain Poul's sabre and jumped upon his horse. The animal, faithful to its old master, showed some signs of resistance, but soon felt by the pressure of its rider's knees that it had to do with one whom it could not readily unseat. Nevertheless, it reared and bounded, but the horseman kept his seat, and as if recognising that it had met its match, the noble animal tossed its head, neighed once more, and gave in. While this was going on, a party of Camisards [Name given to the insurgent Calvinists after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.--Translator's Note.] and one of the dragoons had got down into the ravine, which had in consequence been turned into a battlefield; while those who remained above on either side took advantage of their position to fire down at their enemies. M. de Dourville, in command of the dragoons, fought among the others like a simple soldier, and received a serious wound in the head; his men beginning to lose ground, M. de Brogue tried to rally them, but without avail, and while he was thus occupied his own troop ran away; so seeing there was no prospect of winning the battle, he and a few valiant men who had remained near him dashed forward to extricate M. Dourville, who, taking advantage of the opening thus made, retreated, his wound bleeding profusely. On the other hand, the Camisards perceiving at some distance bodies of infantry coming up to reinforce the royals, instead of pursuing their foes, contented themselves with keeping up a thick and well-directed musketry-fire from the position in which they had won such a quick and easy victory.
As soon as the royal forces were out of reach of their weapons, the rebel chief knelt down and chanted the song the Israelites sang when, having crossed the Red Sea in safety, they saw the army of Pharaoh swallowed up in the waters, so that although no longer within reach of bullets the defeated troops were still pursued by songs of victory. Their thanksgivings ended, the Calvinists withdrew into the forest, led by their new chief, who had at his first assay shown the great extent of his knowledge, coolness, and courage.
This new chief, whose superiors were soon to become his lieutenants, was the famous Jean Cavalier.
Jean Cavalier was then a young man of twenty-three, of less than medium height, but of great strength. His face was oval, with regular features, his eyes sparkling and beautiful; he had long chestnut hair falling on his shoulders, and an expression of remarkable sweetness. He was born in 1680 at Ribaute, a village in the diocese of Alais, where his father had rented a small farm, which he gave up when his son was about fifteen, coming to live at the farm of St. Andeol, near Mende.
Young Cavalier, who was only a peasant and the son of a peasant, began life as a shepherd at the Sieur de Lacombe's, a citizen of Vezenobre, but as the lonely life dissatisfied a young man who was eager for pleasure, Jean gave it up, and apprenticed himself to a baker of Anduze.
There he developed a great love for everything connected with the military; he spent all his free time watching the soldiers at their drill, and soon became intimate with some of them, amongst others with a fencing-master who gave him lessons, and a dragoon who taught him to ride.
On a certain Sunday, as he was taking a walk with his sweetheart on his arm, the young girl was insulted by a dragoon of the Marquis de Florae's regiment. Jean boxed the dragoon's ears, who drew his sword. Cavalier seized a sword from one of the bystanders, but the combatants were prevented from fighting by Jean's friends. Hearing of the quarrel, an officer hurried up: it was the Marquis de Florae himself, captain of the regiment which bore his name; but when he arrived on the scene he found, not the arrogant peasant who had dared to attack a soldier of the king, but only the young girl, who had fainted, the townspeople having persuaded her lover to decamp.
The young girl was so beautiful that she was commonly called la belle Isabeau, and the Marquis de Florac, instead of pursuing Jean Cavalier, occupied himself in reviving Isabeau.
As it was, however, a serious affair, and as the entire regiment had sworn Cavalier's death, his friends advised him to leave the country for a time. La belle Isabeau, trembling for the safety of her lover, joined her entreaties to those of his friends, and Jean Cavalier yielded. The young girl promised him inviolable fidelity, and he, relying on this promise, went to Geneva.
There he made the acquaintance of a Protestant gentleman called Du Serre, who having glass-works at the Mas Arritas, quite near the farm of St. Andeol, had undertaken several times, at the request of Jean's father, Jerome, to convey money to Jean; for Du Serre went very often to Geneva, professedly on business affairs, but really in the interests of the Reformed faith. Between the outlaw and the apostle union was natural. Du Serre found in Cavalier a young man of robust nature, active imagination, and irreproachable courage; he confided to him his hopes of converting all Languedoc and Vivarais. Cavalier felt himself drawn back there by many ties, especially by patriotism and love. He crossed the frontier once more, disguised as a servant, in the suite of a Protestant gentleman; he arrived one night at Anduze, and immediately directed his steps to the house of Isabeau.
He was just about to knock, although it was one o'clock in the morning, when the door was opened from within, and a handsome young man came out, who took tender leave of a woman on the threshold. The handsome young man was the Marquis de Florac; the woman was Isabeau. The promised wife of the peasant had become the mistress of the noble.
Our hero was not the man to suffer such an outrage quietly. He walked straight up to the marquis and stood right in his way. The marquis tried to push him aside with his elbow, but Jean Cavalier, letting fall the cloak in which he was wrapped, drew his sword. The marquis was brave, and did not stop to inquire if he who attacked him was his equal or not. Sword answered sword, the blades crossed, and at the end of a few instants the marquis fell, Jean's sword piercing his chest. Cavalier felt sure that he was dead, for he lay at his feet motionless. He knew he had no time to lose, for he had no mercy to hope for. He replaced his bloody sword in the scabbard, and made for the open country; from the open country he hurried into the mountains, and at break of day he was in safety.
The fugitive remained the whole day in an isolated farmhouse whose inmates offered him hospitality. As he very soon felt that he was in the house of a coreligionist, he confided to his host the circumstances in which he found himself, and asked where he could meet with an organised band in which he could enrol himself in order to fight for the propagation of the Reformed religion. The farmer mentioned Generac as being a place in which he would probably find a hundred or so of the brethren gathered together. Cavalier set out the same evening for this village, and arrived in the middle of the Camisards at the very moment when they had just caught sight of M. de Broglie and his troops in the distance. The Calvinists happening to have no leader, Cavalier with governing faculty which some men possess by nature, placed himself at their head and took those measures for the reception of the royal forces of which we have seen the result, so that after the victory to which his head and arm had contributed so much he was confirmed in the title which he had arrogated to himself, by acclamation. Such was the famous Jean Cavalier when the Royalists first learned of his existence, through the repulse of their bravest troops and the death of their most intrepid captain.
The news of this victory soon spread through the Cevennes, and fresh conflagrations lit up the mountains in sign of joy. The beacons were formed of the chateau de la Bastide, the residence of the Marquis de Chambonnas, the church of Samson, and the village of Grouppieres, where of eighty houses only seven were left standing.
Thereupon M. de Julien wrote to the king, explaining the serious turn things had taken, and telling him that it was no longer a few fanatics wandering through the mountains and flying at the sight of a dragoon whom they had to put down, but organised companies well led and officered, which if united would form an army twelve to fifteen hundred strong. The king replied by sending M. le Comte de Montrevel to Nimes. He was the son of the Marechal de Montrevel, chevalier of the Order of the Holy Spirit, major-general, lieutenant of the king in Bresse and Charolais, and captain of a hundred men-at-arms.
In their struggle against shepherds, keepers, and peasants, M. de Brogue, M. de Julien, and M. de Baville were thus joined together with the head of the house of Beaune, which had already at this epoch produced two cardinals, three archbishops, two bishops, a viceroy of Naples, several marshals of France, and many governors of Savoy, Dauphine, and Bresse.
He was followed by twenty pieces of ordnance, five thousand bullets, four thousand muskets, and fifty thousand pounds of powder, all of which was carried down the river Rhone, while six hundred of the skilful mountain marksmen called 'miquelets' from Roussillon came down into Languedoc.
M. de Montrevel was the bearer of terrible orders. Louis XIV was determined, no matter what it cost, to root out heresy, and set about this work as if his eternal salvation depended on it. As soon as M. de Baville had read these orders, he published the following proclamation:
"The king having been informed that certain people without religion bearing arms have been guilty of violence, burning down churches and killing priests, His Majesty hereby commands all his subjects to hunt these people down, and that those who are taken with arms in their hands or found amongst their bands, be punished with death without any trial whatever, that their houses be razed to the ground and their goods confiscated, and that all buildings in which assemblies of these people have been held, be demolished. The king further forbids fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and other relations of the fanatics, or of other rebels, to give them refuge, food, stores, ammunition, or other assistance of any kind, under any pretext whatever, either directly or indirectly, on pain of being reputed accessory to the rebellion, and he commands the Sieur de Baville and whatever officers he may choose to prosecute such and pronounce sentence of death on them. Furthermore, His Majesty commands that all the inhabitants of Languedoc who may be absent at the date of the issue of this proclamation, return home within a week, unless their absence be caused by legitimate business, in which case they shall declare the same to the commandant, the Sieur de Montrevel, or to the intendant, the Sieur de Baville, and also to the mayors and consuls of the places where they may be, receiving from the latter certificates that there is a sufficient reason for their delay, which certificates they shall forward to the above-mentioned commandant or intendant. And His Majesty furthermore commands the said commandant and intendant to admit no foreigner or inhabitant of any other province into Languedoc for commercial purposes or for any other reason whatsoever, unless provided with certificates from the commandants or intendants of the provinces whence they come, or from the judges of the royal courts in the places whence they come, or from the nearest place containing such courts. Foreigners must be provided with passports from the ambassadors or ministers of the king accredited to the countries to which they belong, or from the commandants or intendants of the provinces, or from the judges of the royal courts of the places in which they may be at the date of this proclamation. Furthermore, it is His Majesty's will that those who are found in the aforesaid province of Languedoc without such certificates be regarded as fanatics and rebels, and that they be prosecuted as such, and punished with death, and that they be brought for this purpose before the aforesaid Sieur de Baville or the officers whom he may choose.
"(Signed) "(Countersigned)
"Given at Versailles the 25th day, of the month of February 1703." M. de Montrevel obeyed this proclamation to the letter. For instance, one day-the 1st of April 1703--as he was seated at dinner it was reported to him that about one hundred and fifty Reformers were assembled in a mill at Carmes, outside Nimes, singing psalms. Although he was told at the same time that the gathering was composed entirely of old people and children, he was none the less furious, and rising from the table, gave orders that the call to horse should be sounded. Putting himself at the head of his dragoons, he advanced on the mill, and before the Huguenots knew that they were about to be attacked they were surrounded on every side. It was no combat which ensued, for the Huguenots were incapable of resistance, it was simply a massacre; a certain number of the dragoons entered the mill sword in hand, stabbing all whom they could reach, whilst the rest of the force stationed outside before the windows received those who jumped out on the points of their swords. But soon this butchery tired the butchers, and to get over the business more quickly, the marshal, who was anxious to return to his dinner, gave orders that the mill should be set on fire. This being done, the dragoons, the marshal still at their head, no longer exerted themselves so violently, but were satisfied with pushing back into the flames the few unfortunates who, scorched and burnt, rushed out, begging only for a less cruel death.
Only one victim escaped. A beautiful young girl of sixteen was saved by the marshal's valet: both were taken and condemned to death; the young girl was hanged, and the valet was on the point of being executed when some Sisters of Mercy from the town threw themselves at the marshal's feet end begged for his life: after long supplication, he granted their prayer, but he banished the valet not only from his service, but from Nimes.
The very same evening at supper word was brought to the marshal that another gathering had been discovered in a garden near the still smoking mill. The indefatigable marshal again rose from table, and taking with him his faithful dragoons, surrounded the garden, and caught and shot on the spot all those who were assembled in it. The next day it turned out that he had made a mistake: those whom he had shot were Catholics who had gathered together to rejoice over the execution of the Calvinists. It is true that they had assured the marshal that they were Catholics, but he had refused to listen to them. Let us, however, hasten to assure the reader that this mistake caused no further annoyance to the marshal, except that he received a paternal remonstrance from the Bishop of Nimes, begging him in future not to confound the sheep with the wolves. In requital of these bloody deeds, Cavalier took the chateau of Serras, occupied the town of Sauve, formed a company of horse, and advancing to Nimes, took forcible possession of sufficient ammunition for his purposes. Lastly, he did something which in the eyes of the courtiers seemed the most incredible thing of all, he actually wrote a long letter to Louis XIV himself. This letter was dated from the "Desert, Cevennes," and signed "Cavalier, commander of the troops sent by God"; its purpose was to prove by numerous passages from Holy Writ that Cavalier and his comrades had been led to revolt solely from a sense of duty, feeling that liberty of conscience was their right; and it dilated on the subject of the persecutions under which Protestants had suffered, and asserted that it was the infamous measures put in force against them which had driven them to take up arms, which they were ready to lay down if His Majesty would grant them that liberty in matters of religion which they sought and if he would liberate all who were in prison for their faith. If this were accorded, he assured the king His Majesty would have no more faithful subjects than themselves, and would henceforth be ready to shed their last drop of blood in his service, and wound up by saying that if their just demands were refused they would obey God rather than the king, and would defend their religion to their last breath.
Roland, who, whether in mockery or pride, began now to call himself "Comte Roland," did not lag behind his young brother either as warrior or correspondent. He had entered the town of Ganges, where a wonderful reception awaited him; but not feeling sure that he would be equally well received at St. Germain and St. Andre, he had written the following letters:--
"Gentlemen and officers of the king's forces, and citizens of St. Germain, make ready to receive seven hundred troops who have vowed to set Babylon on fire; the seminary and the houses of MM. de Fabregue, de Sarrasin, de Moles, de La Rouviere, de Musse, and de Solier, will be burnt to the ground. God, by His Holy Spirit, has inspired my brother Cavalier and me with the purpose of entering your town in a few days; however strongly you fortify yourselves, the children of God will bear away the victory. If ye doubt this, come in your numbers, ye soldiers of St. Etienne, Barre, and Florac, to the field of Domergue; we shall be there to meet you. Come, ye hypocrites, if your hearts fail not.
The second letter was no less violent. It was as follows:--
"We, Comte Roland, general of the Protestant troops of France assembled in the Cevennes in Languedoc, enjoin on the inhabitants of the town of St. Andre of Valborgne to give proper notice to all priests and missionaries within it, that we forbid them to say mass or to preach in the afore-mentioned town, and that if they will avoid being burnt alive with their adherents in their churches and houses, they are to withdraw to some other place within three days. "COMTE ROLAND."
Unfortunately for the cause of the king, though the rebels met with some resistance in the villages of the plain, such as St. Germain and St. Andre, it was otherwise with those situated in the mountains; in those, when beaten, the Protestants found cover, when victorious, rest; so that M. de Montrevel becoming aware that while these villages existed heresy would never be extirpated, issued the following ordinance:--
"We, governor for His most Christian Majesty in the provinces of Languedoc and Vivarais, do hereby make known that it has pleased the king to command us to reduce all the places and parishes hereinafter named to such a condition that they can afford no assistance to the rebel troops; no inhabitants will therefore be allowed to remain in them. His Majesty, however, desiring to provide for the subsistence of the afore-mentioned inhabitants, orders them to conform to the following regulations. He enjoins on the afore-mentioned inhabitants of the hereinafter-mentioned parishes to repair instantly to the places hereinafter appointed, with their furniture, cattle, and in general all their movable effects, declaring that in case of disobedience their effects will be confiscated and taken away by the troops employed to demolish their houses. And it is hereby forbidden to any other commune to receive such rebels, under pain of having their houses also razed to the ground and their goods confiscated, and furthermore being regarded and treated as rebels to the commands of His Majesty."
To this proclamation were appended the following instructions:--
"I. The officers who may be appointed to perform the above task shall first of all make themselves acquainted with the position of the parishes and villages which are to be destroyed and depopulated, in order to an effective disposition of the troops, who are to guard the militia engaged in the work of destruction. "II. The attention of the officers is called to the following:-- When two or more villages or hamlets are so near together that they may be protected at the same time by the same troops, then in order to save time the work is to be carried on simultaneously in such villages or hamlets.
"III. When inhabitants are found still remaining in any of the proscribed places, they are to be brought together, and a list made of them, as well as an inventory taken of their stock and corn.
"IV. Those inhabitants who are of the most consequence among them shall be selected to guide the others to the places assigned.
"V. With regard to the live stock, the persons who may be found in charge of it shall drive it to the appointed place, save and except mules and asses, which shall be employed in the transport of corn to whatever places it may be needed in. Nevertheless, asses may be given to the very old, and to women with child who may be unable to walk.
"VI. A regular distribution of the militia is to be made, so that each house to be destroyed may have a sufficient number for the task; the foundations of such houses may be undermined or any other method employed which may be most convenient; and if the house can be destroyed by no other means, it is to be set on fire.
"VII. No damage is to be done to the houses of former Catholics until further notice, and to ensure the carrying out of this order a guard is to be placed in them, and an inventory of their contents taken and sent to Marechal de Montrevel.
"VIII. The order forbidding the inhabitants to return to their houses is to be read to the inhabitants of each village; but if any do return they shall not be harmed, but simply driven away with threats; for the king does not desire that blood be shed; and the said order shall be affixed to a wall or tree in each village. "IX. Where no inhabitants are found, the said order shall simply be affixed as above-mentioned in each place.
Under these instructions the list of the villages to be destroyed was given. It was as follows:
18 in the parish of Frugeres,
5 " " Fressinet-de-Lozere,
4 " " Grizac,
15 " " Castagnols,
11 " " Vialas,
6 " " Saint-Julien,
8 " " Saint-Maurice de Vantalon,
14 " " Frezal de Vantalon,
7 " " Saint-Hilaire de Laret,
6 " " Saint-Andeol de Clergues,
28 " " Saint-Privat de Vallongues,
10 " " Saint-Andre de Lancise,
19 " " Saint-Germain de Calberte,
26 " " Saint-Etienne de Valfrancesque,
9 " " parishes of Prunet and Montvaillant,
16 " " parish of Florac.
A second list was promised, and was shortly afterwards published: it included the parishes of Frugeres, Pompidon, Saint-Martin, Lansuscle, Saint-Laurent, Treves, Vebron, Ronnes, Barre, Montluzon, Bousquet, La Barthes, Balme, Saint-Julien d'Aspaon Cassagnas, Sainte-Croix de Valfrancesque, Cabriac, Moissac, SaintRoman, Saint Martin de Robaux, La Melouse, le Collet de Deze, Saint-Michel de Deze, and the villages of Salieges, Rampon, Ruas, Chavrieres, Tourgueselle, Ginestous, Fressinet, Fourques, Malbos, Jousanel, Campis, Campredon, LousAubrez, La Croix de Fer, Le Cap de Coste, Marquayres, Le Cazairal, and Le Poujal.
In all, 466 market towns, hamlets, and villages, with 19,500 inhabitants, were included.
All these preparations made Marechal de Montrevel set out for Aix, September 26th, 1703, in order that the work might be carried out under his personal supervision. He was accompanied by MM. de Vergetot and de Marsilly, colonels of infantry, two battalions of the Royal-Comtois, two of the Soissonnais infantry, the Languedoc regiment of dragoons, and two hundred dragoons from the Fimarcon regiment. M. de Julien, on his side, set out for the Pont-de- Montvert at the same time with two battalions from Hainault, accompanied by the Marquis of Canillac, colonel of infantry, who brought two battalions of his own regiment, which was stationed in Rouergue, with him, and Comte de Payre, who brought fifty-five companies of militia from Gevaudan, and followed by a number of mules loaded with crowbars, axes, and other iron instruments necessary for pulling down houses.
The approach of all these troops following close on the terrible proclamations we have given above, produced exactly the contrary effect to that intended. The inhabitants of the proscribed districts were convinced that the order to gather together in certain places was given that they might be conveniently massacred together, so that all those capable of bearing arms went deeper into the mountains, and joined the forces of Cavalier and Roland, thus reinforcing them to the number of fifteen hundred men. Also hardly had M. de Julien set his hand to the work than he received information from M. de Montrevel, who had heard the news through a letter from Flechier, that while the royal troops were busy in the mountains the Camisards had come down into the plain, swarmed over La Camargue, and had been seen in the neighbourhood of Saint-Gilles. At the same time word was sent him that two ships had been seen in the offing, from Cette, and that it was more than probable that they contained troops, that England and Holland were sending to help the Camisards.
M. de Montrevel, leaving the further conduct of the expedition to MM. de Julien and de Canillac, hastened to Cette with eight hundred men and ten guns. The ships were still in sight, and were really, as had been surmised, two vessels which had been detached from the combined fleets of England and Holland by Admiral Schowel, and were the bearers of money, arms, and ammunition to the Huguenots. They continued to cruise about and signal, but as the rebels were forced by the presence of M. de Montrevel to keep away from the coast, and could therefore make no answer, they put off at length into the open, and rejoined the fleet. As M. de Montrevel feared that their retreat might be a feint, he ordered all the fishermen's huts from Aigues-Morte to Saint-Gilles to be destroyed, lest they should afford shelter to the Camisards. At the same time he carried off the inhabitants of the district of Guillan and shut them up in the chateau of Sommerez, after having demolished their villages. Lastly, he ordered all those who lived in homesteads, farms, or hamlets, to quit them and go to some large town, taking with them all the provisions they were possessed of; and he forbade any workman who went outside the town to work to take more than one day's provisions with him.
These measures had the desired effect, but they were terrible in their results; they deprived the Camisards of shelter indeed, but they ruined the province. M. de Baville, despite his well-known severity tried remonstrances, but they were taken in bad part by M. de Montrevel, who told the intendant to mind his own business, which was confined to civil matters, and to leave military matters in his, M. de Montrevel's, hands; whereupon the commandant joined M. de Julien, who was carrying on the work of destruction with indefatigable vigour.
In spite of all the enthusiasm with which M. de Julien went to work to accomplish his mission, and being a new convert, it was, of course very great. Material hindrances hampered him at every step. Almost all the doomed houses were built on vaulted foundations, and were therefore difficult to lay low; the distance of one house from another, too, their almost inaccessible position, either on the peak of a high mountain or in the bottom of a rocky valley, or buried in the depths of the forest which hid then like a veil, made the difficulty still greater; whole days were often lost by the workmen and militia in searching for the dwellings they came to destroy.
The immense size of the parishes also caused delay: that of Saint-Germain de Calberte, for instance, was nine leagues in circumference, and contained a hundred and eleven hamlets, inhabited by two hundred and seventy-five families, of which only nine were Catholic; that of Saint-Etienne de Valfrancesque was of still greater extent, and its population was a third larger, so that obstacles to the work multiplied in a remarkable manner. For the first few days the soldiers and workmen found food in and around the villages, but this was soon at an end, and as they could hardly expect the peasants to keep up the supply, and the provisions they had brought with them being also exhausted, they were soon reduced to biscuit and water; and they were not even able to make it into a warm mess by heating the water, as they had no vessels; moreover, when their hard day's work was at an end, they had but a handful of straw on which to lie. These privations, added to their hard and laborious life, brought on an endemic fever, which incapacitated for work many soldiers and labourers, numbers of whom had to be dismissed. Very soon the unfortunate men, who were almost as much to be pitied as those whom they were persecuting, waited no longer to be sent away, but deserted in numbers.
M. de Julien soon saw that all his efforts would end in failure if he could not gain the king's consent to a slight change in the original plan. He therefore wrote to Versailles, and represented to the king how long the work would take if the means employed were only iron tools and the human hand, instead of fire, the only true instrument employed by Heaven in its vengeance. He quoted in support of his petition the case of Sodom and Gomorrah--those cities accursed of the Lord. Louis XIV, impressed by the truth of this comparison, sent him back a messenger post-haste authorising him to employ the suggested means. "At once," says Pere Louvreloeil, "the storm burst, and soon of all the happy homesteads nothing was left: the hamlets, with their barns and outhouses, the isolated farmhouses, the single huts and cottages, every species of building in short, disappeared before the swift advancing flames as wild flowers, weeds, and roots fall before the ploughshare."
This destruction was accompanied by horrible cruelty. For instance, twenty-five inhabitants of a certain village took refuge in a chateau; the number consisted of children and very old people, and they were all that was left of the entire population. Palmerolle, in command of the miquelets, hearing of this, hastened thither, seized the first eight he could lay hold of, and shot them on the spot, "to teach them," as he says in his report, "not to choose a shelter which was not on the list of those permitted to them."
The Catholics also of St. Florent, Senechas, Rousson, and other parishes, becoming excited at seeing the flames which enveloped the houses of their old enemies, joined together, and arming themselves with everything that could be made to serve as an instrument of death, set out to hunt the conscripts down; they carried off the flocks of Perolat, Fontareche, and Pajolas, burned down a dozen houses at the Collet-de-Deze, and from there went to the village of Brenoux, drunk with the lust of destruction. There they massacred fifty-two persons, among them mothers with unborn children; and with these babes, which they tore from them, impaled on their pikes and halberts, they continued their march towards the villages of St. Denis and Castagnols.
Very soon these volunteers organised themselves into companies, and became known under the name of Cadets de la Croix, from a small white cross which they wore on their coats; so the poor Huguenots had a new species of enemy to contend with, much more bloodthirsty than the dragoons and the miquelets; for while these latter simply obeyed orders from Versailles, Nimes, or Montpellier, the former gratified a personal hate--a hate which had come down to them from their fathers, and which they would pass on to their children.
On the other hand, the young Huguenot leader, who every day gained more influence over his soldiers, tried to make the dragoons and Cadets de la Croix suffer in return everything they inflicted on the Huguenots, except the murders. In the night from the 2nd to the 3rd October, about ten o'clock, he came down into the plain and attacked Sommieres from two different points, setting fire to the houses. The inhabitants seizing their arms, made a sortie, but Cavalier charged them at the head of the Cavalry and forced them to retreat. Thereupon the governor, whose garrison was too small to leave the shelter of the walls, turned his guns on them and fired, less in the hope of inflicting injury on them than in that of being heard by the neighbouring garrisons.
The Camisards recognising this danger, retired, but not before they had burnt down the hotels of the Cheval-Blanc, the Croix-d'Or, the Grand-Louis, and the Luxembourg, as well as a great number of other houses, and the church and the presbytery of Saint-Amand.
Thence the Camisards proceeded to Cayla and Vauvert, into which they entered, destroying the fortifications. There they provided themselves abundantly with provisions for man and beast. In Vauvert, which was almost entirely inhabited by his co-religionists, Cavalier assembled the inhabitants in the market-place, and made them join with him in prayer to God, that He would prevent the king from following evil counsel; he also exhorted his brethren to be ready to sacrifice their goods and their lives for the re-establishment of their religion, affirming that the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that the arm of the Lord, which had always come to their aid, was still stretched out over them.
Cavalier undertook these movements in the hope of interrupting the work of destruction going on in Upper Cevennes; and partly obtained the desired result; for M. de Julien received orders to come down into the open country and disperse the Camisards.
The troops tried to fulfil this task, but, thanks to the knowledge that the rebels had of the country, it was impossible to come up with them, so that Fleshier, who was in the thick of the executions, conflagrations, and massacres, but who still found time to write Latin verse and gallant letters, said, in speaking of them, "They were never caught, and did all the damage they wished to do without let or hindrance. We laid their mountains waste, and they laid waste our plain. There are no more churches left in our dioceses, and not being able either to plough or sow our lands, we have no revenues. We dread serious revolt, and desire to avoid a religious civil war; so all our efforts are relaxing, we let our arms fall without knowing why, and we are told, 'You must have patience; it is not possible to fight against phantoms.'" Nevertheless, from time to time, these phantoms became visible. Towards the end of October, Cavalier came down to Uzes, carried off two sentinels who were guarding the gates, and hearing the call to arms within, shouted that he would await the governor of the city, M. de Vergetot, near Lussan.
And indeed Cavalier, accompanied by his two lieutenants, Ravanel and Catinat, took his way towards this little town, between Uzes and Bargeac, which stands upon an eminence surrounded upon all sides by cliffs, which serve it as ramparts and render it very difficult of access. Having arrived within three gun-shots of Lussan, Cavalier sent Ravanel to demand provisions from the inhabitants; but they, proud of their natural ramparts, and believing their town impregnable, not only refused to comply with the requisition, but fired several shots on the envoy, one of which wounded in the arm a Camisard of the name of La Grandeur, who had accompanied Ravanel. Ravanel withdrew, supporting his wounded comrade, followed by shots and the hootings of the inhabitants. When they rejoined Cavalier and made their report, the young commander issued orders to his soldiers to make ready to take the town the next morning; for, as night was already falling, he did not venture to start in the dark. In the meantime the besieged sent post-haste to M. de Vergetot to warn him of their situation; and resolving to defend themselves as long as they could, while waiting for a response to their message they set about barricading their gates, turned their scythes into weapons, fastened large hooks on long poles, and collected all the instruments they could find that could be used in attack or defence. As to the Camisards, they encamped for the night near an old chateau called Fan, about a gun-shot from Lussan.
At break of day loud shouts from the town told the Camisards that the expected relief was in sight, and looking out they saw in the distance a troop of soldiers advancing towards them; it was M. de Vergetat at the head of his regiment, accompanied by forty Irish officers.
The Protestants prepared themselves, as usual, by reciting psalms and prayers, without taking notice of the shouts and threats of any of the townspeople, and having finished their invocations, they marched out to meet the approaching column. The cavalry, commanded by Catinat, made a detour, taking a sheltered way to an unguarded bridge over a small river not far off, so as to outflank the royal forces, which they were to attack in the rear as soon as Cavalier and Ravanel should have engaged them in front.
M. de Vergetot, on his side, continued to advance, so that the Calvinists and the Catholics were soon face to face. The battle began on both sides by a volley; but Cavalier having seen his cavalry emerging from a neighbouring wood, and counting upon their assistance, charged the enemy at the double quick. Catinat judging by the noise of the firing that his presence was necessary, charged also at a gallop, falling on the flank of the Catholics.
In this charge, one of M. de Vergetot's captains was killed by a bullet, and the other by a sabre-cut, and the grenadiers falling into disorder, first lost ground and then fled, pursued by Catinat and his horsemen, who, seizing them by the hair, despatched them with their swords. Having tried in vain to rally his men, M, de Vergetot, surrounded by a few Irish, was forced in his turn to fly; he was hotly pursued, and on the point of being taken, when by good luck he reached the height of Gamene, with its walls of rock. Jumping off his horse, he entered the narrow pathway which led to the top, and entrenched himself with about a hundred men in this natural fort. Cavalier perceiving that further pursuit would be dangerous, resolved to rest satisfied with his victory; as he knew by his own experience that neither men nor horses had eaten for eighteen hours, he gave the signal far retreat, and retired on Seyne, where he hoped to find provisions. This defeat mortified the royal forces very deeply, and they resolved to take their revenge. Having learnt by their spies that on a certain night in November Cavalier and his band intended to sleep on a mountain called Nages, they surrounded the mountain during the night, so that at dawn Cavalier found himself shut in on every side. As he wished to see with his own eyes if the investment was complete, he ordered his troops to fall into rank on the top of the mountain, giving the command to Ravanel and Catinat, and with a pair of pistols in his belt and his carbine on his shoulder, he glided from bush to bush and rock to rock, determined, if any weak spot existed, to discover it; but the information he had received was perfectly correct, every issue was guarded.
Cavalier now set off to rejoin his troops, passing through a ravine, but he had hardly taken thirty steps when he found himself confronted by a cornet and two dragoons who were lying in ambush. There was no time to run away, and indeed such a thought never entered the young commander's head; he walked straight up to them. On their side, the dragoons advanced towards him, and the cornet covering him with his pistol, called out, "Halt! you are Cavalier; I know you. It is not possible for you to escape; surrender at discretion." Cavalier's answer was to blow out the cornet's brains with a shot from his carbine, then throwing it behind him as of no further use, he drew his two pistols from his belt, walked up to the two dragoons, shot them both dead, and rejoined his comrades unwounded. These, who had believed him lost, welcomed him with cheers.
But Cavalier had something else to do than to celebrate his return; mounting his horse, he put himself at the head of his men, and fell upon the royal troops with such impetuosity that they gave way at the first onset. Then a strange incident occurred. About thirty women who had come to the camp with provisions, carried away by their enthusiasm at the sight of this success, threw themselves upon the enemy, fighting like men. One young girl of about seventeen, Lucrese Guigon by name, distinguished herself amongst the others by her great valour. Not content with encouraging her brethren by the cry of "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!" she tore sabres from the hands of the dead dragoons to despatch the dying. Catinat, followed by ten of his men, pursued the flying troops as far as the plain of Calvisson. There they were able to rally, thanks to the advance of the garrison to meet them.
Eighty dragoons lay dead on the field of battle, while Cavalier had only lost five men.
As we shall see, Cavalier was not only a brave soldier and a skilful captain, but also a just judge. A few days after the deed of arms which we have just related, he learned that a horrible murder had been committed by four Camisards, who had then retired into the forest of Bouquet. He sent a detachment of twenty men with orders to arrest the murderers and bring them before him. The following are the details of the crime:
The daughter of Baron Meyrargues, who was not long married to a gentleman named M. de Miraman, had set out on the 29th November for Ambroix to join her husband, who was waiting for her there. She was encouraged to do this by her coachman, who had often met with Camisards in the neighbourhood, and although a Catholic, had never received any harm from them. She occupied her own carriage, and was accompanied by a maid, a nurse, a footman, and the coachman who had persuaded her to undertake the journey. Two-thirds of the way already lay safely behind them, when between Lussan and Vaudras she was stopped by four men, who made her get out of her carriage and accompany them into the neighbouring forest. The account of what then happened is taken from the deposition of the maid. We copy it word for word:
"These wretches having forced us," says she, "to walk into the forest till we were at some distance from the high road, my poor mistress grew so tired that she begged the man who walked beside her to allow her to lean on his shoulder. He looking round and seeing that they had reached a lonely spot, replied, 'We need hardly go any farther,' and made us sit dawn on a plot of grass which was to be the scene of our martyrdom. My poor mistress began to plead with the barbarians in the most touching manner, and so sweetly that she would have softened the heart of a demon. She offered them her purse, her gold waistband, and a fine diamond which she drew from her finger; but nothing could move these tigers, and one of them said, 'I am going to kill all the Catholics at once, and shall begin with you.' 'What will you gain by my death?' asked my mistress. 'Spare my life.'-- 'No; shut up!' replied he. 'You shall die by my hand. Say your prayers.' My good mistress threw herself at once on her knees and prayed aloud that God would show mercy to her and to her murderers, and while she was thus praying she received a pistol-shot in her left breast, and fell; a second assassin cut her across the face with his sword, and a third dropped a large stone on her head, while the fourth killed the nurse with a shot from his pistol. Whether it was that they had no more loaded firearms, or that they wished to save their ammunition, they were satisfied with only giving me several bayonet wounds. I pretended to be dead: they thought it was really the case, and went away. Some time after, seeing that everything had become quiet, and hearing no sound, I dragged myself, dying as I was, to where my dear mistress lay, and called her. As it happened, she was not quite dead, and she said in a faint voice, 'Stay with me, Suzon, till I die.' She added, after a short pause, for she was hardly able to speak, 'I die for my religion, and I hope that God will have pity on me. Tell my husband that I confide our little one to his care.' Having said this, she turned her thoughts from the world, praying to God in broken and tender words, and drew her last breath as the night fell."
In obedience to Cavalier's orders, the four criminals were taken and brought before him. He was then with his troops near Saint-Maurice de Casevielle; he called a council of war, and having had the prisoners tried for their atrocious deed, he summed up the evidence in as clear a manner as any lawyer could have done, and called upon the judges to pronounce sentence. All the judges agreed that the prisoners should be put to death, but just as the sentence was made known one of the assassins pushed aside the two men who guarded him, and jumping down a rock, disappeared in the forest before any attempt could be made to stop him. The three others were shot.
The Catholics also condemned many to be executed, but the trials conducted by them were far from being as remarkable for honour and justice as was that which we have just described. We may instance the trial of a poor boy of fourteen, the son of a miller of Saint-Christol who had been broken on the wheel just a month before. For a moment the judges hesitated to condemn so young a boy to death, but a witness presented himself who testified that the little fellow was employed by the fanatics to strangle Catholic children. Although no one believed the evidence, yet it was seized-on as a pretext: the unfortunate boy was condemned to death, and hanged without mercy an hour later.
A great many people from the parishes devastated by M. de Julien had taken refuge in Aussilargues, in the parish of St. Andre. Driven by hunger and misery, they went beyond the prescribed limits in search of means of subsistence. Planque hearing of this, in his burning zeal for the Catholic faith resolved not to leave such a crime unpunished. He despatched a detachment of soldiers to arrest the culprits: the task was easy, for they were all once more inside the barrier and in their beds. They were seized, brought to St. Andre's Church and shut in; then, without trial of any kind,--they were taken, five at a time, and massacred: some were shot and some cut down with sword or axe; all were killed without exception--old and young women and children. One of the latter, who had received three shots was still able to raise his head and cry, "Where is father? Why doesn't he come and take me away."
Four men and a young girl who had taken refuge in the town of Lasalle, one of the places granted to the houseless villagers as an asylum, asked and received formal permission from the captain of the Soissonais regiment, by name Laplace, to go home on important private business, on condition that they returned the same night. They promised, and in the intention of keeping this promise they all met on their way back at a small farmhouse. Just as they reached it a terrible storm came on. The men were for continuing their way in spite of the weather, but the young girl besought them to wait till daylight, as she did not dare to venture out in the dark during such a storm, and would die of fright if left alone at the farm. The men, ashamed to desert their companion, who was related to one of them, yielded to her entreaties and remained, hoping that the storm would be a sufficient excuse for the delay. As soon as it was light, the five resumed their journey. But the news of their crime had reached the ears of Laplace before they got back. They were arrested, and all their excuses were of no avail. Laplace ordered the men to be taken outside the town and shot. The young girl was condemned to be hanged; and the sentence was to be carried out that very day, but some nuns who had been sent for to prepare her for death, having vainly begged Laplace to show mercy, entreated the girl to declare that she would soon become a mother. She indignantly refused to save her life at the cost of her good name, so the nuns took the lie on themselves and made the necessary declaration before the captain, begging him if he had no pity for the mother to spare the child at least, by granting a reprieve till it should be born. The captain was not for a moment deceived, but he sent for a midwife and ordered her to examine the young girl. At the end of half an hour she declared that the assertion of the nuns was true.
"Very well," said the captain: "let them both be kept in prison for three months; if by the end of that time the truth of this assertion is not self-evident, both shall be hanged." When this decision was made known to the poor woman, she was overcome by fear, and asked to see the captain again, to whom she confessed that, led away by the entreaties of the nuns, she had told a lie.
Upon this, the woman was sentenced to be publicly whipped, and the young girl hanged on a gibbet round which were placed the corpses of the four men of whose death she was the cause.
As may easily be supposed, the "Cadets of the Cross" vied with both Catholics and Protestants in the work of destruction. One of their bands devoted itself to destroying everything belonging to the new converts from Beaucaire to Nimes. They killed a woman and two children at Campuget, an old man of eighty at a farm near Bouillargues, several persons at Cicure, a young girl at Caissargues, a gardener at Nimes, and many other persons, besides carrying off all the flocks, furniture, and other property they could lay hands on, and burning down the farmhouses of Clairan, Loubes, Marine, Carlot, Campoget Miraman, La Bergerie, and Larnac--all near St. Gilies and Manduel. "They stopped travellers on the highways," says Louvreloeil, "and by way of finding out whether they were Catholic or not, made them say in Latin the Lord's Prayer, the Ave Maria, the Symbol of the Faith, and the General Confession, and those who were unable to do this were put to the sword. In Dions nine corpses were found supposed to have been killed by their hands, and when the body of a shepherd who had been in the service of the Sieur de Roussiere, a former minister, was found hanging to a tree, no one doubted who were the murderers. At last they went so far that one of their bands meeting the Abbe de Saint Gilles on the road, ordered him to deliver up to them one of his servants, a new convert, in order to put him to death. It was in vain that the abbe remonstrated with them, telling them it was a shame to put such an affront on a man of his birth and rank; they persisted none the less in their determination, till at last the abbe threw his arms round his servant and presented his own body to the blows directed at the other." The author of The Troubles in the Cevennes relates something surpassing all this which took place at Montelus on the 22nd February. "There were a few Protestants in the place," he says, "but they were far outnumbered by the Catholics; these being roused by a Capuchin from Bergerac, formed themselves into a body of 'Cadets of the Cross,' and hastened to serve their apprenticeship to the work of assassination at the cost of their countrymen. They therefore entered the house of one Jean Bernoin, cut off his ears and further mutilated him, and then bled him to death like a pig. On coming out of this house they met Jacques Clas, and shot him in the abdomen, so that his intestines obtruded; pushing them back, he reached his house in a terrible condition, to the great alarm of his wife, who was near her confinement, and her children, who hastened to the help of husband and father. But the murderers appeared on the threshold, and, unmoved by the cries and tears of the unfortunate wife and the poor little children, they finished the wounded man, and as the wife made an effort to prevent them, they murdered her also, treating her dead body, when they discovered her condition, in a manner too revolting for description; while a neighbour, called Marie Silliot, who tried to rescue the children, was shot dead; but in her case they did not pursue their vengeance any further. They then went into the open country and meeting Pierre and Jean Bernard, uncle and nephew, one aged forty-five and the other ten, seized on them both, and putting a pistol into the hands of the child, forced him to shoot his uncle. In the meantime the boy's father had come up, and him they tried to constrain to shoot his son; but finding that no threats had any effect, they ended by killing both, one by the sword, the other by the bayonet.
"The reason why they put an end to father and son so quickly was that they had noticed three young girls of Bagnols going towards a grove of mulberry trees, where they were raising silk-worms. The men followed them, and as it was broad daylight and the girls were therefore not afraid, they soon came up with them. Having first violated them, they hung them by the feet to a tree, and put them to death in a horrible manner."
All this took place in the reign of Louis the Great, and for the greater glory of the Catholic religion.
History has preserved the names of the five wretches who perpetrated these crimes: they were Pierre Vigneau, Antoine Rey, Jean d'Hugon, Guillaume, and Gontanille.