Page:Ninety-three.djvu/172

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168
NINETY-THREE.

CHAPTER III.

MEN AND FORESTS IN CONNIVANCE.

The tragic forests of Brittany resumed their old rôle again and became the servants and accomplices of this rebellion, as they had been of all the others.

The subsoil of these forests was a sort of madrepore, pierced and traversed in every direction by a labyrinth of saps, cells, and galleries. Each of these blind cells sheltered five or six men. The difficulty was in getting air there. There are certain strange figures, which explain this powerful organization of the widespread peasant revolt. In Ille-et-Vilaine, in the forest of Pertre, asylum of the Prince of Talmont, not a breath could be heard, not a human footstep was to be found, and yet there were six thousand men there with Focard. In Morbihan, in the forest of Meulac, no one was seen, and yet eight thousand men were there. These two forests, the Pertre and Meulac are not numbered among the great forests of Brittany. If one entered them it was terrible. These deceitful thickets, full of combatants crouching in a sort of underground labyrinth, were like enormous concealed sponges, from which, under pressure of that gigantic foot, the Revolution, gushed forth civil war.

Invisible battalions were lying in wait. These unknown armies meandered beneath the Republican troops, came suddenly out of the ground and then went back again, leaping forth in vast numbers and vanished out of sight, it was everywhere and nowhere; an avalanche, then dust, giants with the gift of diminishing in size; giants for fighting, dwarfs for disappearing. Jaguars with the habits of moles.

Beside the forests there were the woods. Just as below cities there are villages, so below forests there are thickets. The forests were bound together by a maze of woods spreading in every direction. The ancient castles, which were fortresses; hamlets, which were camps; freeholds