List Of Contents | Contents of Massacres of the South, by Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

imposed upon by those who had described us as disloyal subjects, and
that we should thus obtain for the whole nation that liberty of
conscience which had been granted to us; that in no other way, as far
as I could see, could our deplorable condition be ameliorated, for
although Cavalier and his men might be able to exist for some time
longer in the forests and mountains, they would never be strong
enough to save the inhabitants of towns and other enclosed places
from perishing.

"Upon this he replied, that although the Catholics seldom kept a
promise made to those of our religion, he was willing to risk his
life for the welfare of his brethren and the province but that he
trusted if he confided in the clemency of the king for whom he had
never ceased to pray, no harm would happen him."

Thereupon d'Aygaliers, delighted to find him so well inclined, begged
him to give him a letter for M. de Villars, and as Cavalier knew the
marechal to be loyal and zealous, and had great confidence in him, he
wrote without any hesitation the following letter:

"MONSEIGNEUR,--Permit me to address your Excellency in order to beg
humbly for the favour of your protection for myself and for my
soldiers.  We are filled with the most ardent desire to repair the
fault which we have committed by bearing arms, not against the king,
as our enemies have so falsely asserted, but to defend our lives
against those who persecuted us, attacking us so fiercely that we
believed it was done by order of His Majesty.  We know that it was
written by St. Paul that subjects ought to submit themselves to their
king, and if in spite of these sincere protestations our sovereign
should still demand our blood, we shall soon be ready to throw
ourselves on his justice or his mercy; but we should, Monseigneur,
regard ourselves as happy, if His Majesty, moved by our repentance,
would grant us his pardon and receive us into his service, according
to the example of the God of mercy whose representative His Majesty
is on earth.  We trust, Monseigneur, by our faithfulness and zeal to
acquire the honour of your protection, and we glory in the thought of
being permitted, under the command of such an illustrious and
noble-minded general as yourself, to shed our blood for the king;
this being so, I hope that your Excellency will be pleased to allow
me to inscribe myself with profound respect and humility,
Monseigneur, your most humble and obedient servant,


D'Aygaliers, as soon as he got possession of this letter, set out for
Nimes in the best of spirits; for he felt sure that he was bringing
M. de Villars more than he had expected.  And, indeed, as soon as the
marechal saw how far things had gone, in spite of everything that
Lalande could say, who in his jealousy asserted that d'Aygaliers
would spoil everything, he sent him back to Cavalier with an
invitation to come to Nimes.  D'Aygaliers set out at once, promising
to bring the young chief back with him, at which Lalande laughed
loudly, pretending to be very much amused at the baron's confident
way of speaking, and protesting that Cavalier would not come.

In the meantime events were happening in the mountains which might
easily have changed the state of mind of the young chief.  The Comte
de Tournan, who was in command at Florae, had encountered Roland's
army in the plain of Fondmortes, and had lost two hundred men, a
considerable sum of money, and eighty mules loaded with provisions.
The anxiety which this news caused to M. de Villars was soon
relieved; for six days after the defeat he received a letter from
Cavalier by the hands of Lacombe, the same who had brought about the
interview on the bridge of Avenes.  In this letter Cavalier expressed
the greatest regret for what had just happened.

D'Aygaliers therefore found Cavalier in the best of humours when he
joined him at Tarnac.  The first feeling that the young chief felt on
receiving the invitation was one of stupefaction; for an interview
with the marechal was an honour so unexpected and so great, that his
impression was that some treason lay behind it; but he was soon
reassured when he recalled the character for loyalty which the
marechal bore, and how impossible it was that d'Aygaliers should lend
himself to treachery.  So Cavalier sent back word that he would obey
the marechal's orders; and that he put himself entirely into his
hands in what concerned the arrangements for the interview.  M. de
Villars let him know that he would expect him on the 16th in the
garden of the convent of the Recollets of Nimes, which lay just
outside the city, between the gates of Beaucaire and the Madeleine,
and that Lalande would meet him beyond Carayrac to receive him and to
bring him hostages.


On the 15th May Cavalier set out from Tarnac at the head of one
hundred and sixty foot-soldiers and fifty horse; he was accompanied
by his young brother and by d'Aygaliers and Lacombe.  They all passed
the night at Langlade.

The next day they set out for Nimes, and, as had been agreed upon,
were met by Lalande between Saint-Cesaire and Carayrac.  Lalande
advanced to greet Cavalier and present the hostages to him. These
hostages were M. de La Duretiere, captain of the Fimarcon regiment, a
captain of infantry, several other officers, and ten dragoons.
Cavalier passed them over to his lieutenant, Ravanel, who was in
command of the infantry, and left them in his charge at
Saint-Cesaire.  The cavalry accompanied him to within a musket-shot
of Nimes, and encamped upon the heights.  Besides this, Cavalier
posted sentinels and mounted orderlies at all the approaches to the
camp, and even as far off as the fountain of Diana and the tennis-
court.  These precautions taken, he entered the city, accompanied by
his brother, d'Aygaliers, Lacombe, and a body-guard of eighteen
cavalry, commanded by Catinat.  Lalande rode on before to announce
their arrival to the marechal, whom he found waiting with MM. de
Baville and Sandricourt, in the garden of the Recollets, dreading
every moment to receive word that Cavalier had refused to come; for
he expected great results from this interview.  Lalande, however,
reassured him by telling him the young Huguenot was behind.

In a few minutes a great tumult was heard: it was the people
hastening to welcome their hero.  Not a Protestant, except paralytic
old people and infants in the cradle, remained indoors; for the
Huguenots, who had long looked on Cavalier as their champion, now
considered him their saviour, so that men and women threw themselves
under the feet of his horse in their efforts to kiss the skirts of
his coat.  It was more like a victor making his entry into a
conquered town than a rebel chief coming to beg for an amnesty for
himself and his adherents.  M. de Villars heard the outcry from the
garden of Recollets, and when he learned its cause his esteem for
Cavalier rose higher, for every day since his arrival as governor had
showed him more and more clearly how great was the young chief's
influence.  The tumult increased as Cavalier came nearer, and it
flashed through the marechal's mind that instead of giving hostages
he should have claimed them.  At this moment Cavalier appeared at the
gate, and seeing the marechal's guard drawn up in line, he caused his
own to form a line opposite them.  The memoirs of the time tell us
that he was dressed in a coffee-coloured coat, with a very full white
muslin cravat; he wore a cross-belt from which depended his sword,
and on his head a gold-laced hat of black felt.  He was mounted on a
magnificent bay horse, the same which he had taken from M. de La
Jonquiere on the bloody day of Vergenne.

The lieutenant of the guard met him at the gate.  Cavalier quickly
dismounted, and throwing the bridle of his horse to one of his men,
he entered the garden, and advanced towards the expectant group,
which was composed, as we have said, of Villars, Baville, and
Sandricourt.  As he drew near, M. de Villars regarded him with
growing astonishment; for he could not believe that in the young
man, or rather boy, before him he saw the terrible Cevenol chief,
whose name alone made the bravest soldiers tremble.  Cavalier at this
period had just completed his twenty-fourth year, but, thanks to his
fair hair which fell in long locks over his shoulders, and to the
gentle expression of his eyes he did not appear more than eighteen.
Cavalier was acquainted with none of the men in whose presence he
stood, but he noticed M. de Villars' rich dress and air of command.
He therefore saluted him first; afterwards, turning towards the
others, he bowed to each, but less profoundly, then somewhat
embarrassed and with downcast eyes be stood motionless and silent.
The marechal still continued to look at him in silent astonishment,
turning from time to time to Baville and Sandricourt, as if to assure
himself that there was no mistake and that it was really the man whom
they expected who stood before them.  At last, doubting still, in
spite of the signs they made to reassure him, he asked--

"Are you really Jean Cavalier?"

"Yes, monseigneur," was the reply, given in an unsteady voice.

"But I mean Jean Cavalier, the Camisard general, he who has assumed
the title of Duke of the Cevennes."

"I have not assumed that title, monseigneur, only some people call me
so in joke: the king alone has the right to confer titles, and I
rejoice exceedingly, monseigneur, that he has given you that of
governor of Languedoc."

"When you are speaking of the king, why do you not say 'His
Majesty'?" said M. de Baville.  "Upon my soul, the king is too good
to treat thus with a rebel."

The blood rushed to Cavalier's head, his face flamed, and after a
moment's pause, fixing his eye boldly upon M. de Baville, and
speaking in a voice which was now as firm as it had been tremulous a
moment before, he said, "If you have only brought me here, sir, to
speak to me in such a manner, you might better have left me in my
mountains, and come there yourself to take a lesson in hospitality.
If I am a rebel, it is not I who am answerable, for it was the

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: