Page:Ninety-three.djvu/202

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198
NINETY-THREE.

be attacked. If the barricade were to make a sortie all would be lost.

What was to be done? attacking the barricade front was not to be dreamed of; to attempt at main force would be risky; twelve hundred men could not drive out five thousand. To hasten matters was impossible, to wait would be fatal. They must come to an end. But how?

Gauvain belonged to the country, he knew the town; he knew that back of the old market, where the Vendéans were embattled, was a maze of narrow, winding lanes.

He turned to his lieutenant who was that brave Captain Guéchamp, famous later for clearing the forest of Concise, where Jean Chouan was born, and for preventing the taking of Bourgneuf, by barring the rebels from the dyke of the pond of la Chaîne.

"Guéchamp," he said, "I leave you in command. Fire with all your might. Riddle the barricade with cannon balls. Keep all those people busy."

"I understand," said Guéchamp.

"Mass the whole column with arms loaded, and hold them ready for attack."

He spoke a few words additional in Guéchamp's ear.

"I understand," said Guéchamp.

Gauvain continued,—

"Are all our drummers on hand?"

"Yes."

"We have nine. Keep two, give me seven."

The seven drummers ranged themselves silently before Gauvain.

Then Gauvain cried,—

"Battalion of Bonnet-Rouge!"

Twelve men, with a sergeant, left the main body of the troops.

"I ask for the whole battalion," said Gauvain.

"Here we are!" replied the sergeant.

"Twelve of you!"

"There are twelve of us left."

"Very good," said Gauvain.

This sergeant was the rough, but kind-hearted, trooper Radoub, who had adopted in the name of the battalion the three children found in the woods of La Saudraie.

Only half a battalion, it will be remembered, had been