Ninety-three/3.2.14

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Ninety-three by Victor Hugo
What L'Imanus Does.

CHAPTER XIV.

WHAT L'IMANUS DOES.

While the marquis was engaged with the breach and the tower, l'Imânus was engaged with the bridge. At the beginning of the siege, the ladder of escape, which hung horizontally outside and underneath the windows of the second story, had been taken away by order of the marquis, and put by l'Imânus in the hall of the library. Perhaps it was this ladder which Gauvain wished to replace. The windows of the entresol of the first story, called "hall of the guards," were protected by a triple row of iron bars fastened in the stonework, and it was impossible to get in or out through them.

There were no bars at the library windows, but they were very high.

L'Imânus had three men, who, like himself, were full of resolution, and capable of anything. These men were Hoisnard, called Branche-d'Or, and the two brothers Pique-en-Bois. L'Imânus took a dark lantern, opened tho iron door, and carefully inspected the three stories of the bridge châtelet. Hoisnard Branche-d'Or was as implacable as l'Imânus, having had a brother killed by the Republicans.

L'Imânus examined the upper story, overflowing with hay and straw, and the lower story into which he had brought some firepots in addition to the hogsheads of tar; he had the pile of heather fagots placed close to the hogsheads of tar, and he made sure that the sulphur match, one end of which was in the bridge and the other in the tower, was in a good condition. He poured out on the floor under the hogsheads and over the fagots a pool of tar, in which he placed the end of the sulphur slow-match; then in the hall of the library, between the ground floor where the tar was and the granary where the straw was, he had placed the three cribs in which were René-Jean, Gros-Alain, and Georgette, sound asleep. They carried the cribs very gently, in order not to waken the little ones.

They were very simple little country cribs, a sort of very low osier baskets, that stand on the floor, allowing the child to get out alone and without assistance. Near each crib, l'Imânus had placed a porringer of soup with a wooden spoon. The ladder for escape, unfastened from its hooks, had been laid on the floor against the wall; l'Imânus had the three cribs arranged, end to end, along the other wall, opposite the ladder. Then, thinking that a draught of air might be useful, he opened wide all six of the library windows. It was a summer night, hot and sultry.

He sent the brothers Pique-en-Bois to open the windows in the upper and lower stories; he noticed on the eastern façade of the building, a large, old, dried-up ivy, the color of tinder, covering one entire side of the bridge from top to bottom, and framing the windows of the three stories. He thought that this ivy would do no harm. L'Imânus took a last look around; after this the four men went out of the châtelet and went back to the keep. L'Imânus fastened the heavy iron door with a double lock, carefully examined the enormous, formidable fastening, and, with a nod of satisfaction, looked at the sulphur slow-match, which passed through the hole he had made, and was henceforth the only communication between the tower and the bridge.

This match started from the round room, passed under the iron door, entered under the coving, went down the staircase leading to the ground floor of the bridge, meandered over the winding stairs, crept along the floor of the corridor in the entresol, and ended in the pool of tar over the pile of dry fagots. L'Imânus calculated that it would take about a quarter of an hour for this match to set fire to the pool of tar in the library, after it had been lighted in the interior of the tower. Having made all these arrangements, and finished all this inspection, he carried the key of the iron door back to the Marquis de Lantenac, who put it in his pocket.

It was important to watch all the besieger's movements. L'Imânus, with his herdsman's horn in his belt, stationed himself like a vidette in the watch tower of the platform, on the top of the tower. While watching with an eye on the forest, and an eye on the plateau, he had beside him in the embrasure of the watch-tower window, a powder flask, a linen bag filled with musket-balls, and some old newspapers, which he tore up to make into cartridges.

When the sun appeared, its rays illumined, in the forest, eight battalions, their swords by their sides, cartridge boxes on their backs, bayonets in their guns, ready for the assault; on the plateau a battery of cannons, with ammunition wagons, cartridges and boxes of grapeshot; in the fortress, nineteen men loading blunderbusses, muskets, and pistols, and in the three cribs, three sleeping children.