Friday, 23/02/2024 - 14:58

Chapter VIII. The speech and the roar

05:15 | 16/10/2019

Meanwhile, Cimourdain who had not yet taken his position on the plateau, and who stood beside Gauvain, approached a trumpeter.

“Sound the trumpet!” he said to him.

The clarion sounded, the horn replied.

Again the clarion and the trumpet exchanged calls.

“What does that mean?” asked Gauvain of Guéchamp. “What does Cimourdain want?”

Cimourdain, with a white handkerchief in his hand, approached the tower; and as he drew near, he cried aloud, –

“You men in the tower, do you know me?”

And the voice of the Imânus made answer from the heights, –

“We do.”

These two voices were now heard exchanging question and reply as follows: –

“I am the ambassador of the Republic,’

“You are the former curé of Parigné.”

“I am a delegate of the Committee of Public Safety.”

“You are a priest.”

“I am a representative of the law.”

“You are a renegade.”

“I am a commissioner of the Revolution.”

“You are an apostate.”

“I am Cimourdain.”

“You are a demon.”

“Do you know me?”

“We abominate you.”

“Would you like to have me in your power?”

“There are eighteen of us here who would give our heads to have yours.”

“Well, then, I have come to give myself up to you.”

A burst of savage laughter rang out from the top of the tower, with the derisive cry, –

“Come!”

A deep silence of expectancy reigned in the camp.

Cimourdain continued, –

“On one condition.”

“What is that?”

“Listen.”

“Speak.”

“You hate me?”

“Yes.”

“And I love you; I am your brother.”

The voice from above replied, –

“Yes – our brother Cain.”

Cimourdain went on, with a peculiar inflection of voice, – soft, but penetrating: –

“Insult me, if you will, but listen to my words. I come here protected by a flag of truce. Poor misguided men, you are in very truth my brothers, and I am your friend. I am the light, trying to illumine your ignorance. Light is the essence of brotherhood. Moreover, have we not all one common mother, – our native land? Then listen to me. Sooner or later, you – or at least your children or grandchildren – will know that every event of this present time is the result of the higher law, and that this revolution is the work of God himself. But while we wait for the time when, to the inner sense of every man, even unto yours, all these things will be made plain, and when all fanaticisms, including our own, will vanish before the powerful light that is to dawn, is there none to take pity on your ignorance? Behold, I come to you, and I offer you my head; more than this, I hold out my hand. I beg of you to take my life and spare your own. All power is vested in me, and what I promise I can fulfil. I make one final effort in this decisive moment. He who speaks to you is both citizen and priest. The citizen contends with you, but the priest implores you. I beseech you to hear me. Many among you have wives and children. It is in their behalf that I entreat you. Oh, my brothers – “

“Go on with your preaching!” sneered the Imânus.

Cimourdain continued: –

“My br

ethren, avert this fatal hour. There will be frightful slaughter here. Many of us who stand before you will not see to-morrow’s sun; yes, many indeed will perish, and you, – you will all die. Have mercy on yourselves. Why shed all this blood to no avail? Why kill so many men when two would suffice?”

“Two?” asked the Imânus.

“Yes, two.”

“Who are they?”

“Lantenac and myself.”

Here Cimourdain raised his voice.

“We are the 

two men whose deaths would be most pleasing to our respective parties. This is my offer; accept it and you are saved. Give Lantenac to us and take me in his place; he will be guillotined, and with me you may do what you will.”

“Priest,” howled the Imânus, “if we but had you, we would roast you over a slow fire.”

“So be it,” said Cimourdain; and he went on: –

“You, the condemned who are in this tower, in one hour may all be safe and free. I offer you salvation. Will you accept?”

The Imânus burst out: –

“You are a fool as well as a villain. Why do you interfere with us? Who invited you to come here with your speeches? You expect us to deliver up Monseigneur, do you? What do you want to do with him?”

“I want his head, and I offer you – “

“Your skin, for we would flay you like a dog, curé; but no, your skin is not worth his head. Begone!”

“The slaughter will be terrible. Once more I beseech you to reflect.”

Night had come on during the progress of this gloomy conference, which had been heard both within and without the tower. The Marqui

s de Lantenac listened in silence, letting the affair take its course; leaders sometimes exhibit this self-absorbed indifference, as a kind of prerogative of responsibility.

The Imânus raised his voice above that of Cimourdain, exclaiming: –

“You men who are about to attack us, we have declared our intentions. You have heard our offers; we shall make no change in them, and woe be unto you if you refuse them. But if you consent, we will give you back the three children whom we now hold, on condition that each one of us is allowed to depart in safety.”

“You may all go free, save one,” replied Cimourdain.

“Who is that?”

“Lantenac.”

“Monseigneur! Deliver Monseigneur! Never!”

“We must have Lantenac.”

“Never!”

 

“We can treat with you on no other condition.”

“Then you had better begin the attack.”

Silence ensued.

 

The Imânus having given the signal on his horn, came down, the Marquis grasped his sword, the nineteen besieged silently gathered in the lower hall behind the retirade, and fell upon their knees; they heard the measured tread of the attacking column as it advanced towards the tower, drawing nearer and nearer in the darkness, until suddenly the sound was close upon them, at the very mouth of the breach. Then every man knelt and adjusted his musket or blunderbuss in an opening of the retirade, while one of their number, Gra

 

nd-Francoeur, the former priest Turmeau, rose, and holding in his right hand a drawn sabre, and in his left a crucifix, solemnly uttered the blessing.

“In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost!”

All fired at once, and the conflict began.

 

 

 

 

 

 



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *