Ninety-three/3.1.4

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Ninety-three by Victor Hugo
Their Life Underground.

CHAPTER IV.

THEIR LIFE UNDERGROUND.

The men in these dens became restless. Sometimes at night, in spite of the danger, they would leave them and go forth to dance on the neighboring moor. Or else they prayed, to kill time. "All day long," said Bourdoiseau, "Jean Chouan made us tell our beads."

It was almost impossible when the time came round, to prevent those of the lower Maine from leaving to take part in the Fête de la Gerbe. Some had their own ideas. Denys, called Tranche-Montagne, disguised himself as a woman to go to see the comedy at Laval; then he went back to his cave.

They would suddenly make away with themselves, leaving the dungeon for the grave.

Sometimes they would raise the cover of their hole and listen for distant fighting; they followed the struggle with their ears. The firing of the Republicans was regular, that of the Royalists, intermittent; this was their guide. If the firing of the platoons ceased suddenly, it was a sign that the Royalists were worsted; if the irregular firing continued and seemed to disappear in the distance, it was a sign that they had the advantage. The Whites always pursued; the Blues never, for the country was against them.

These underground warriors were admirably drilled. Nothing was swifter than their communications, nothing more mysterious. They had broken down all the bridges, they had destroyed all the wagons, and yet they found a way to tell each other everything and to warn each other in season. Relays of emissaries were established from forest to forest, from village to village, from farm to farm, from hut to hut, from bush to bush.

This stupid-looking peasant went along carrying messages in his stick, which was hollow.

A former constituent, Boétidoux, to enable them to go from one end of Brittany to the other, furnished them with Republican passports of the new design, with a blank for their names, of which this traitor had large bundles. It was impossible to detect them. "Secrets entrusted to more than four hundred thousand indivividuals," said Puysaye,[1] "were religiously kept."

It seemed that this square, enclosed on the south by the boundary of the Sables to Thouars, on the east by the boundary of Thouars to Saumur and by the river of Thoué, on the north by the Loire, and on the west by the ocean, had a common nervous system, so that, not a point of this ground could stir without the whole being set in motion. In a twinkling, they were informed of Noirmoutier at Luçon, and the camp of La Loué knew what was going on in the camp of Croix-Morineau. One would have said that the birds had something to do with it. Hoche wrote, the seventh Messidor, year III: "One would have believed that they had telegraphs."

They had clans, like the Scotch. Each parish had its captain. My father took part in that war, and I am able to say something about it.

  1. Vol. II., page 35.