De Lescure only remained three days at Durbellière, and then started again for his own house at Clisson, and Henri accompanied him. They had both been occupied during these three days in making such accommodation as was in their power for the sick and wounded, who were brought back into the Bocage in considerable numbers from Saumur. The safe and sound and whole of limb travelled faster than those who had lost arms and legs in the trenches at Varin, or who had received cuts and slashes and broken ribs at the bridge of Fouchard, and therefore the good news was first received in the Bocage; but those miserable accompaniments of victory, low tumbrils, laden with groaning sufferers lying on straw, slowly moving carts, every motion of which opened anew the wounds of their wretched occupants, and every species of vehicle as could be collected through the country, crammed with the wounded and the dying, and some even with the dead, were not long in following the triumphal return of the victorious peasants.
A kind of hospital was immediately opened at a little town called St. Laurent sur Sèvre, about two leagues from Durbellière, at which a convent of sisters of mercy had long been established. De Lescure and Larochejaquelin between them supplied the means, and the sisters of the establishment cheerfully gave their time, their skill, and tenderest attention to assuage the miseries of their suffering countrymen. Agatha knew the superior of the convent well, and assisted in all the necessary preparations. She was there when the hospital was first opened, and for a long time afterwards visited it once or twice a week, on which occasions she stayed for the night in the convent; had it not been that she could not bring herself to leave her father, she would have remained there altogether, as long as the war continued to supply the little wards with suffering patients. They were seldom, or rather never, empty as long as the Vendeans kept their position in the country, the sick and the wounded were nursed with the tenderest care at St. Laurent. The sisters who had commenced the task never remitted their zeal, nor did Agatha Larochejaquelin. The wards were by degrees increased in number, the building was enlarged, surgical skill was procured, every necessary for a hospital was obtained, whatever might be the cost, and whatever the risk; till at last, in spite of the difficulties which had to be encountered, the dangers which surrounded them, the slenderness of their means, and the always increasing number of their patients, the hospital of St. Laurent might have rivalled the cleanliness, care, and comfort of the Hotel Dieu in its present perfection.
As soon as the first arrangements for the commencement of this hospital had been made, de Lescure and Henri went to Clisson. It may easily be supposed that de Lescure was anxious to see his wife, and that she was more than anxious to see him. Henri also was not sorry to hear the praises of his valour sung by the sweet lips of Marie. He stayed one short happy week at Clisson, basking in the smiles of beauty, and they were the last hours of tranquillity that any of the party were destined to enjoy for many a long sad day. De Lescure’s recovery was neither slow nor painful, and before the week was over, he was able to sit out on the lawn before the château, with one arm in a sling, and the other round his wife’s waist, watching the setting of the sun, and listening to the thrushes and nightingales. Every now and again he would talk of the future battles to be fought, and of the enemies to be conquered, and of the dangers to be encountered; but he did not speak so sadly of the prospects of his party as he did when he had only just determined to take up arms with the Vendeans. The taking of Thouars, and Fontenay, of Montreuil, and Saumur, had inspirited even him, and almost taught him to believe that La Vendée would be ultimately successful in re-establishing the throne.
De Lescure was delighted to see what he thought was a growing attachment between his sister and his friend. Had he had the power of choosing a husband for Marie out of all France, he would have chosen Henri Larochejaquelin: he loved him already as he could only love a brother, and he knew that he had all those qualities which would most tend to make a woman happy.
“Oh, if these wars were but over,” said he to his wife, “how I would rejoice to give her to him, he is such a brave and gallant fellow — but as tender-hearted and kind as he is brave!”
“These weary, weary wars!” said Madame de Lescure, with a sigh, “would they were over: would, with all my heart, they had never been begun. How well does the devil do his work on earth, when he is able to drive the purest, the most high-minded, the best of God’s creatures to war and bloodshed as the only means of securing to themselves the liberty of worshipping their Saviour and honouring their King!”
Henri himself, however, had not considered the propriety of waiting until the wars were over before he took a wife for himself, or at any rate before he asked the consent of the lady’s friends: for the day before he left Clisson, he determined to speak to Charles on the subject; though he had long known Marie so well, and had now been staying a week in the house, he had never yet told her that he loved her. It was the custom of the age and the country for a lover first to consult the friends of the young lady, and though the peculiar circumstances of his position might have emboldened Henri to dispense with such a practice, he was the last man in the world to take advantage of his situation.
“Charles,” said he, the evening before his departure, as he stood close to the garden seat, on which his cousin was sitting, and amused himself with pitching stones into the river, which ran beneath the lawn at Clisson. “Charles, I shall be off tomorrow; I almost envy you the broken arm which keeps you here.”
“It won’t keep me long now, Henri,” said he; “I shall be at Chatillon in a week’s time, unless you and d’Elbée have moved to Parthenay before that. Cathelineau will by that time be master of Nantes, that is, if he is ever to be master of it.”
“Don’t doubt it, Charles. I do not the least: think of all Charette’s army. I would wager my sword to a case-dagger, that Nantes is in his hands this minute.”
“We cannot always have the luck we had at Saumur, Henri?”
“No,” said Henri, “nor can we always have a de Lescure to knock down for us the gates of the republicans.”
“Nor yet a Larochejaquelin to force his way through the breach,” said the other.
“Now we are even,” said Henri, laughing; “but really, without joking, I feel confident that the white flag is floating at this moment on the castle at Nantes; but it is not of that, Charles, that I wish to speak now. You have always been an elder brother to me. We have always been like brothers, have we not?”
“Thank God, we have, Henri! and I do not think it likely that we shall ever be more distant to each other.”
“No, that I’m sure we never shall. You are too good either to quarrel yourself, or to let me quarrel with you; but though we never can be more distant, we may yet be more near to each other. You know what I mean, Charles?”
“I believe I do,” said de Lescure; “but why do you not speak out? You are not likely, I think, to say or to propose anything that we shall not approve of — that is, Victorine and I.”
“God bless you both!” said Henri. “You are too kind to me; but can you consent to give me your own dear favourite sister — your sweet Marie? You know what I mean in saying that I would be nearer to you.”
De Lescure was in the act of answering his cousin, when. the quick fall of a horse’s foot was heard in the avenue close to the house, and then there was a sudden pause as the brute was pulled up violently in the yard of the château, and the eager voices of domestics answering the rapid questions of the man who had alighted.
Interested as the two friends were in their conversation, the times were too full of important matters to allow of their remaining quiet, after having heard such tokens of a hurried messenger. Larochejaqnelin ran off to the yard of the château, and de Lescure followed him as quickly as his wounded arm would allow.
Henri had hardly got off the lawn, when he met a couple of servants coming from the yard, and between them a man booted, spurred, and armed, covered with dust and spattered with fuam, whom he at once recognized as Foret, the friend and townsman of Cathelineau.
“What news, Foret, what news?” said Henri, rushing up to him, and seizing him by the hand. “Pray God you bring with you good tidings.”
“The worst news that ever weighed heavy on a poor man’s tongue, M. Henri,” said Foret, sorrowfully.
“Cathelineau is not dead?” said Henri, but the tone of his inquiry shewed plainly how much he feared what the reply would be.
“He was not dead,” answered Foret, “when I left him five leagues on this side Nantes, but he had not many days to live.”
The two had turned back over the lawn, and now met de Lescure, as he hastened to join them.
“Cathelineau,” said Henri, “is mortally wounded! Victory will have been bought too dear at such a price; but I know not yet even whether the Vendeans have been victorious.”
“They have not — they have not,” said Foret. “How could they be victorious when their great General had fallen?”
“Mortally wounded! Oh, Foret, you are indeed a messenger of evil,” said de Lescure, giving him his hand.
“Yes, mortally wounded,” said Foret. “I fear before this he may have ceased to breathe. I left him, gentlemen, a few leagues this side Nantes, and at his own request hurried on to tell you these sad tidings. Oh, M. de Lescure, our cause has had a heavy blow at Nantes, and yet at one time we had almost beaten them; but when the peasants saw Cathelineau fall, they would fight no longer.”
“Where is he?” said Henri, “that is if he still lives.”
“I crossed the river with him,” answered Foret, “and brought him on as far as Remouille. He wished to be carried to the hospital you have opened at St. Laurent, and unless he has died since I left him, he is there now. I hurried on by Montacué and Tiffauges to St. Laurent; and there, M. Henri, I saw Mademoiselle Agatha, and told her what had happened. If there be an angel upon earth she is one! When I told her that the good Cathelineau was dying, every shade of colour left her beautiful cheek; she became as pale as marble, and crossed her hands upon her bosom; she spoke to me not a word, nor did I look for reply, for I knew that in her heart she was praying that his soul might be taken up to heaven.”
Henri at that moment remembered the enthusiastic declaration of his sister, that Cathelineau, despite his birth, was worthy of any woman’s love, and he did not begrudge her the only means which now remained to her of proving her devotion to the character she had admired.
“I told her,” continued Foret, “that if he lived so long, Cathelineau would reach the hospital on the following day, and then I hurried on to you. She told me I should find you here. It was then dark, but I reached Chatillon that night, for they sent a guide with me from St. Laurent. I left Chatillon again at the break of day, and have not lost much time in arriving here.”
“No, indeed, Foret; and surely you must need rest and refreshment,” said de Lescure. “Come into the château, and you shall have both.”
“But tell us, Foret, of this reverse at Nantes,” said Henri. “I will at once start for St. Laurent; I will, if possible, see Cathelineau before he dies; but let me know before I go to him how it has come to pass that victory has at last escaped him.”
“Victory did not escape him,” said Foret: “he was victorious to the last — victorious till he fell. You know, gentlemen, it had been arranged that Nantes should be attacked at the same moment by Charette from the southern banks of the Loire, and by Cathelineau from the northern, but this we were not able to accomplish. Charette was at his post, and entered the town gallantly over the Pont Rousseau, but we were unable to be there at the appointed time. For ten hours we were detained by a detachment of the blues at the little town of Nort, and though we carried it at last, without losing many of our men, the loss of the precious hours was very grievous. We pushed on to Nantes, however, without losing another minute, and though we found the rebels ready to receive us, they could not hold their ground against us at all. We drove them from the town in every direction. We were already in the chief square of Nantes, assured of our victory, and leading our men to one last attack, when a musket ball struck Cathelineau on the arm, and passing through the flesh entered his breast. He was on foot, in front of the brave peasants whom he was leading, and they all saw him fall. Oh, M. de Lescure, if you had heard the groan, the long wail of grief, which his poor followers from St. Florent uttered, when they saw their sainted leader fall before them, your ears would never forget the sound. We raised him up between us, and carried him back to a part of the town which was in our hands, and from thence over the Pont Rousseau to Pirmil, where I left him for a while, and returned to the town, but I could not get the peasants to follow me again — that is, his peasants; and he was too weak to speak to them himself. It was not till two hours after that he was able to speak a word.”
“And you lost all the advantage you had gained?” asked de Lescure.
“We might still have been successful, for the blues would always rather run than fight when they have the choice, but the Prince de Talmont, in his eagerness, headed the fugitive rebels who were making for Savenay, and drove them back into the town; when there, they had no choice but to fight; indeed, their numbers were so much greater than our own, that they surrounded us. Our hearts were nearly broken, and our arms were weak; it ended in our retreating to Pirmil, and leaving the town in the hands of the republicans.”
“How truly spoke that General who said, ‘build a bridge of gold for a flying enemy!’” said de Lescure.
“And is Cathelineau’s wound so surely mortal?” asked Henri.
“The surgeon who examined him in Pirmil said so; indeed, Cathelineau never doubted it himself. He told me, as soon as he could speak, that he should never live to see the Republic at an end. ‘But,’ added he, ‘you, Foret, and others will; and it delights me to think that I have given my life to so good a cause.’”
Henri’s horse was now ready, and he made no longer delay than to say adieu to his hostess, and to speak one or two last words to his cousin Marie, and then he made the best of his way to Chatillon and St. Laurent, hoping once more to see Cathelineau before he died. All his spurring and his hurrying was in vain.
A few hours before Henri could reach the hospital, the Saint of Anjou had breathed his last, and Agatha Larochejaquelin had soothed his dying moments.
As Foret had related, Agatha, on hearing of Cathelineau’s wound, had turned deadly pale. It was not love that made her feel that the world was darkened by his fall; that from henceforward nothing to her could be bright and cheerful; at least not such love as that which usually warms a woman’s heart, for Agatha had never hoped, or even wished to be more to Cathelineau than an admiring friend; nor yet was it grief for the loss of services which she knew were invaluable to the cause she had so warmly espoused. These two feelings were blended together in her breast. She had taught herself to look to Cathelineau as the future saviour of her country; she loved his virtue, his patriotism, and his valour; and her heart was capable of no other love while that existed in it so strongly. The idea of looking on Cathelineau as a lover, of seeing him kneeling at her feet, or listening to him while he whispered sweet praises of her beauty, had never occurred to her; had she dreamed it possible that he could do so, half her admiration of him would have vanished. No, there was nothing earthly, nothing mundane in Agatha’s love, for though she did love the fallen hero of La Vendée, the patriot postillion of St. Florent, she did not shed a tear when she heard that he was dragging his wounded body to St. Laurent, that he might have the comfort of her tender care in his last moments; her hand did not shake as she wrote a line to her father to say that she could not leave the hospital that evening, or probably the next; nor did she for one half hour neglect the duties which her less distinguished patients required her to perform; but still she felt her heart was cold within her, and that if God had so willed it, she could, without regret, take her place in the grave beside the stricken idol of her admiration, who had fallen at Nantes while fighting for his God and his King.
Early on the morning after Foret’s departure for Clisson, the litter which bore the wounded chief reached the hospital, and Agatha’s arm assisted him from the door-step to the death-bed, which she had prepared for him. Agatha’s feelings towards him have been imperfectly described; but what were his feelings towards her? What was the nature of the mysterious love, which no kind words had ever encouraged, which no look had ever declared, which he had hardly dared to acknowledge to his own heart, and which had yet induced the wounded man to make so painful a journey, to travel over twenty long, long leagues, that he might once more see the glorious face which had filled his breast with such an unutterable passion? Not for a moment had he ever dreamt that Agatha regarded him differently than she did the many others who had taken up arms in the service of their country. His name he knew must be familiar to her ears, for chance had made it prominent in the struggle; but beyond that, it had never occurred to his humble mind that Agatha Larochejaquelin had given one thought to the postillion of St. Florent. For some time, Cathelineau had been unable to define to himself the passion which he felt, but had gradually become aware that he loved Agatha passionately, incurably, and hopelessly. Her image had been present to him continually; it had been with him in the dead of night, and in the heat of day; in the hour of battle, and at the council-table; in the agony of defeat, and in the triumph of victory. When he found himself falling in the square at Nantes, and all visible objects seemed to swim before his eyes, still he saw Agatha’s beautiful pale face, and then she seemed to smile kindly on him, and to bid him hope. As soon as his senses returned to him, he was made conscious that he was dying, and then he felt that he should die more happily if he could see once more the fair angel, who had illuminated and yet troubled the last few days of his existence.
Cathelineau had heard that Agatha had taken under her own kind care the hospital at St. Laurent, but he had not expected that she would be on the step to meet him as he was lifted out of his litter; but hers was the first face he saw on learning that his painful journey was at an end. His wound had been pronounced to be inevitably mortal, and he had been told that he might possibly live for two or three days, but that in all probability his sufferings would not be protracted so long. The fatal bullet had passed through his arm into his breast, had perforated his lungs, and there, within the vitals of his body, the deadly missile was still hidden. At some moments, his agony was extreme, but at others, he was nearly free from pain; and as his life grew nearer to its close, his intervals of ease became longer, and the periods of his suffering were shortened. He had confessed, and received absolution and the sacrament of his church at Remouille; and when he reached St. Laurent, nothing was left for him but to die.
He tried to thank her, as Agatha assisted him to the little chamber which she had prepared for him; but his own feelings, and his exertions in moving were at first too much for him. The power of speech, however, soon returned to him, and he said:
“How can I thank you, Mademoiselle, what am I to say to thank you for such care as this?”
“You are not to thank us at all,” said Agatha, (there was one of the sisters of mercy with her in the room). “We are only doing what little women can do for the cause, for which you have done so much.”
Again he essayed to speak, but the sister stopped him with a kind yet authoritative motion of her hand, and bade him rest tranquil a while, and so he did. Sometimes Agatha sat by the window, and watched his bed, and at others, she stole quietly out of the room to see her other patients, and then she would return again, and take her place by the window; and as long as she remained in the room, so that he could look upon her face, Cathelineau felt that he was happy.
He had been at St. Laurent some few hours, and was aware that his precious moments were fast ebbing. He hardly knew what it was that he longed to say, but yet he felt that he could not die in peace without expressing to the fair creature who sat beside him the gratitude he felt for her tender care. Poor Cathelineau! he did not dream how difficult he would find it to limit gratitude to its proper terms, when the heart from which he spoke felt so much more than gratitude!
“Ah, Mademoiselle!” he began, but she interrupted him.
“Hush, hush, Cathelineau!” she said. “Did you not hear sister Anna say that you should not speak.”
“What avails it now for me to be silent?” said he. “I know, Mademoiselle, that I am dying, and, believe me, I do not fear to die. Your kind care can make my last few hours tranquil and easy, but it cannot much prolong them. Let me have the pleasure of telling you that I appreciate your kindness, and that I give you in return all that a dying man can give — my prayers.”
“And I will pray for you, Cathelineau,” said Agatha. “But will not every Vendean pray for the hero who first led them to victory, who first raised his hand against the Republic?”
“How precious are the praises of such as you!” said he. “Pray for me and for your other poor countrymen who have fallen in this contest; such prayers as yours will assuredly find entrance into heaven.”
He then again laid tranquil for a while, but his spirit was not quiet within him; he felt that there was that which he longed to say before he died, and that the only moments in which the power of speaking would be left to him were fast passing from him.
“Do not bid me be silent,” he said; “did I not know that no earthly power could prolong my life, I would do nothing to defeat the object of my kind nurses; but as it is, a few moments’ speech are of value to me, but an extra hour or so of torpid life can avail me nothing. Ah, Mademoiselle, though I cannot but rejoice to see our cause assisted by the nobility and excellence of the country, though I know that the angelic aid of such as thou art —”
“Stop, stop,” said Agatha, interrupting him, “if you will speak, at any rate do not flatter; your last words are too precious to be wasted in such idleness.”
“It does not seem to be flattery in me to praise you, Mademoiselle; heaven knows that I do not wish to flatter; but my rude tongue knows not how to express what my heart feels. I would say, that valuable as is your aid to our poor peasants, I almost regret to see you embarked in a cause which will bathe the country in blood, and which, unless speedily victorious, will bring death and desolation on the noble spirits who have given to it all their energies and all their courage.”
“Do you think so badly, Cathelineau, of the hopes of the royalists?”
“If we could make one great and glorious effort,” said he, and his eyes shone as brightly as ever while he spoke; “if we could concentrate all our forces, and fill them with the zeal which, at different times, they all have shewn, we might still place the King upon his throne, and the white flag might still wave for ages from our churches, as a monument of the courage of La Vendée. But if, as I fear, the war become one of detached efforts, despite the wisdom of de Lescure, the skill of Bonchamps, the piety of d’Elbée, the gallant enthusiasm of Larochejaquelin, and the devoted courage of them all, the Republic by degrees will devour their armies, will consume their strength, will desolate the country, and put to the sword even their wives and children: neither high nobility, nor illustrious worth, nor surpassing beauty will shield the inhabitants of this devoted country from the brutality of the conquerors, who have abjured religion, and proclaimed that blood alone can satisfy their appetites.”
“Surely God will not allow his enemies to prevail,” said Agatha.
“God’s ways are inscrutable,” answered Cathelineau, “and his paths are not plain to mortal eyes; but it is not the less our duty to struggle on to do those things which appear to us to be acceptable to Him. But should these sad days come, should atheism and the love of blood stride without control through our villages; if it be doomed that our houses are to be burnt and our women to be slaughtered, why should all remain to be a prey to our enemies? Ah, Mademoiselle leave this devoted country for a while, take your sweet cousin with you; bid M. de Lescure send away his young wife: it is enough that men should have to fight with demons; men can fight and die, and suffer comparatively but little, but female beauty and female worth will be made to suffer ten thousand deaths from the ruthless atrocities of republican foes.”
Agatha shuddered at the picture which Cathelineau’s words conjured up, but her undaunted courage was not shaken.
“God will temper the wind to the shorn lamb,” said she. “Neither I, nor Marie will leave our brothers, nor will Madame de Lescure leave her husband; it is little we can do to hasten victory, but we can lessen suffering and administer comfort, when comfort is most required. Had you, Cathelineau, loved some woman above all others, and been loved by her; had you had with you in your struggle some dear sister, or perhaps still dearer wife, would you have asked her to go from you, that you might have battled on, and struggled, and at last have died alone?”
“By God’s dear love, I would,” said he, raising himself, as he spoke, upon his bed. “My most earnest prayer to her should have been to leave me.”
“And when she refused to do so; when she also swore by God’s dear love, that she would stay with you till the last; as she would have done, Cathelineau, if she loved you as — as you should have been loved; would you then have refused the comfort her love so longed to give you?”
“I know not then what I would have done,” said he, after lying with his eyes closed for a few moments without answering. “I have never known such love. Our women love their husbands and their brothers, but it is only angels love with such a love as that.”
“Such is the love a man deserves who gives his all for his King and his country. If our husbands, and our brothers, and our dear friends, Cathelineau, are brave and noble, we will endeavour to imitate them; as long as there is an abiding-place for them in the country, there are duties for us. If God vouchsafed to spare you your life a while, that you might live to be the instrument of restoring His worship, do you think that I would run from your bedside, because I heard that the rebels were near you? Oh, Cathelineau! you do not know the passive courage of a woman’s heart.”
Cathelineau listened to her with all his ears, and gazed on her with all his eyes, as she spoke to him. It seemed to him as though another world had opened to his view even before his death; as though paradise could give him no holier bliss than to gaze on that face, and to listen to that voice.
“I never knew what a woman was till now,” said he; “and how much better is it that I should die this moment, with your image before me, than return to a world, such as mine has been, where all henceforward would be distasteful to me.”
“Should you live, Cathelineau, you would live to be honoured and valued. If it be God’s pleasure that you should die, your memory will be honoured — and loved,” said Agatha.
He did not answer her for a while, but lay still, with his eyes fixed upon her, as she sat with her elbow leaning on the window. Oh! what an unspeakable joy it was to him to hear such heavenly words spoken by her, whom he had almost worshipped; and yet her presence and her words turned his thoughts back from heaven to the earth which he had all but left. Could she really have loved him had it been his lot to survive these wars? Could she really have descended from her high pinnacle of state and fortune to bless so lowly a creature as him with her beauty and her excellence? As these thoughts passed through his brain, he began for the first time to long for life, to think that the promised blessings of heaven hardly compensated for those which he was forced to leave on earth; but his mind was under too strong control to be allowed to wander long upon such reflections. He soon recovered his wayward thoughts, and remembered that his one remaining earthly duty was to die.
“It is God’s will that I should die,” said he at last, “and I feel that He will soon release me from all worldly cares and sufferings; but you, Mademoiselle, have made the last moments of my life happy,” and again he was silent for a minute or two, while he strove to find both courage and words to express that which he wished to say. “How different have been the last few weeks of my existence since first I was allowed to look upon your face!” A faint blush suffused Agatha’s brow as Cathelineau spoke. “Yes, Mademoiselle,” he continued,” I know you will forgive, when coming from a dying man, words which would have been insane had they been spoken at any other time — my life has been wholly different since that day when your brother led me, unwilling as I was, into your presence at Durbellière. Since that time I have had no other thought than of you; it was you who gave me courage in battle, and, more wonderful than that, enabled me to speak aloud, and with authority among those who were all so infinitely my superiors. It was your beauty that softened my rough heart, your spirit that made me dauntless, your influence that raised me up so high. I have not dared to love you as love is usually described, for they say that love without hope makes the heart miserable, and my thoughts of you have made me more blessed than I ever was before, and yet I hoped for nothing; but I have adored you as I hardly dared to adore anything that was only human. I hardly know why I should have had myself carried hither to tell you this, but I felt that I should die more easily, when I had confessed to you the liberty which my thoughts had taken with your image.”
As he continued speaking, Agatha had risen from her seat, and she was now kneeling at the foot of his bed, hiding her face between her hands, and the tears were streaming fast down her cheeks.
“Tell me, Mademoiselle, that you forgive me,” said he, “tell me that you pardon my love, and above all, pardon me for speaking of it. I have now but a few hours’ breath, and in them I feel that I shall be but feeble; but tell me that you forgive me, and, though dying, I shall be happy.”
Agatha was too agitated to speak for a time, but she stretched her hand out to him, and he grasped it in his own as forcibly as his strength would allow.
“I know that you have pardoned my boldness,” said he. “May God bless you, and protect you in the dangers which are coming.”
“May He bless you also, Cathelineau — dear Cathelineau,” said Agatha, still sobbing. “May He bless you, and receive you into His glory, and seat you among His angels, and make you blessed and happy in His presence for ever and ever through eternity.” And she drew herself nearer to him, and kissed the hand which she still held within her own, and bathed it with her tears, and pressed it again and again to her bosom. “The memory of the words you have spoken to me shall be dearer to me than the love of man, shall be more precious to me than any homage a living prince could lay at my feet — to remember that Cathelineau has loved me — that the sainted Cathelineau has held my image in his heart, shall be love enough for Agatha Larochejaquelin.”
Cathelineau lingered on for the whole of that day, and the greater portion of the night. Agatha did not leave his bed-side for a moment, but sat during most of the time still holding his hand in hers. He spoke no farther respecting the singular passion he had nursed in his heart, nor did she allude to it; but when be spoke at all, he felt that he was speaking to a dear, and tried, and valued friend, and he spoke, therefore, without hesitation and without reserve. He desired her to give various messages from him to the Vendean chiefs, but especially to de Lescure, to whom he said he looked with most hope for a successful issue to the struggle. He begged that they might be told that his last breath was spent in advising that they should make one great, combined, and final effort for the total overthrow of republicanism in France, and not fritter away their strength in prolonged contests with an enemy so infinitely their superior in numbers. Agatha promised faithfully to be a true messenger of these last injunctions, and then she saw the Vendean chief expire in perfect tranquillity, happy in an assured hope of everlasting joy.
He died about three in the morning, and before five, Henri Larochejaquelin arrived at St. Laurent from Clisson. He had ridden hard through the previous day and the entire night, with the hope of once more seeing the leader, whom he had followed with so much devotion, and valued so truly; but he was too late.
He caught his sister in his arms as he ran up the hospital stairs. “Where is he?” said he; “is he still alive? Is there any hope?”
“There is no hope for us,” answered Agatha; “but there is perfect certainty for him. The good Cathelineau has restored his spirit to Him who gave it to avenge His glory.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01