The Honor of the Name HTML version

Chapter 23
Chupin's stupefying revelations and the thought that Martial, the heir of his name and
dukedom, should degrade himself so low as to enter into a conspiracy with vulgar
peasants, drove the Duc de Sairmeuse nearly wild.
But the Marquis de Courtornieu's coolness restored the duke's sang- froid.
He ran to the barracks, and in less than half an hour five hundred foot-soldiers and three
hundred of the Montaignac chasseurs were under arms.
With these forces at his disposal it would have been easy enough to suppress this
movement without the least bloodshed. It was only necessary to close the gates of the
city. It was not with fowling- pieces and clubs that these poor peasants could force an
entrance into a fortified town.
But such moderation did not suit a man of the duke's violent temperament, a man who
was ever longing for struggle and excitement, a man whose ambition prompted him to
display his zeal.
He had ordered the gate of the citadel to be left open, and had concealed some of his
soldiers behind the parapets of the outer fortifications.
He then stationed himself where he could command a view of the approach to the citadel,
and deliberately chose his moment for giving the signal to fire.
Still, a strange thing happened. Of four hundred shots, fired into a dense crowd of fifteen
hundred men, only three had hit the mark.
More humane than their chief, nearly all the soldiers had fired in the air.
But the duke had not time to investigate this strange occurrence now. He leaped into the
saddle, and placing himself at the head of about five hundred men, cavalry and infantry,
he started in pursuit of the fugitives.
The peasants had the advantage of their pursuers by about twenty minutes.
Poor simple creatures!
They might easily have made their escape. They had only to disperse, to scatter; but,
unfortunately, the thought never once occurred to the majority of them. A few ran across
the fields and gained their homes in safety; the others, frantic and despairing, overcome
by the strange vertigo that seizes the bravest in moments of panic, fled like a flock of
frightened sheep.