On the 15th May Cavalier set out from Tarnacby@alexandredumas

On the 15th May Cavalier set out from Tarnac

by Alexandre DumasJuly 21st, 2023
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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.
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Massacres of the South (1551-1815) by Alexandre Dumas, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. Chapter IV


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 he 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 tyranny and cruelty of M. de Baville which forced us to have recourse to arms; and if history takes exception to anything connected with the great monarch for whose pardon I sue to-day, it will be, I hope, not that he had foes like me, but friends like him.”

M de Baville grew pale with anger; for whether Cavalier knew to whom he was speaking or not, his words had the effect of a violent blow full in his face; but before he could reply M. de Villars interposed.

“Your business is only with me, sir,” he said; “attend to me alone, I beg: I speak in the name of the king; and the king, of his clemency, wishes to spare his subjects by treating them with tenderness.”

Cavalier opened his mouth to reply, but the intendant cut him short.

“I should hope that that suffices,” he said contemptuously: “as pardon is more than you could have hoped for, I suppose you are not going to insist on the other conditions you laid down?”

“But it is precisely those other conditions,” said Cavalier, addressing himself to M. de Villars, and not seeming to see that anyone else was present, “for which we have fought. If I were alone, sir, I should give myself up, bound hand and foot, with entire confidence in your good faith, demanding no assurances and exacting no conditions; but I stand here to defend the interests of my brethren and friends who trust me; and what is more, things have gone so far that we must either die weapon in hand, or obtain our rights.”

The intendant was about to speak, but the marechal stopped him with such an imperative gesture that he stepped back as if to show that he washed his hands of the whole matter.

“What are those rights? Are they those which M. Lalande has transmitted to me by word of mouth?”

“Yes, sir.”

“It would be well to commit them to writing.”

“I have done so, monseigneur, and sent a copy to M. d’Aygaliers.”

“I have not seen it, sir; make me another copy and place it in my hands, I beg.”

“I shall go and set about it directly, monseigneur,” stepping back as if about to withdraw.

“One moment!” said the marechal, detaining him by a smile. “Is it true that you are willing to enter the king’s army?”

“I am more than willing, I desire it with all my heart,” exclaimed Cavalier, with the frank enthusiasm natural to his age, “but I cannot do so till our just demands are granted.”

“But if they were granted—?”

“Then, sir,” replied Cavalier, “the king has never had more loyal subjects than we shall be.”

“Well, have a little patience and everything will be arranged, I hope.”

“May God grant it!” said Cavalier. “He is my witness that we desire peace beyond everything.” And he took another step backwards.

“You will not go too far away, I hope,” said the marechal.

“We shall remain wherever your excellency may appoint,” said Cavalier.

“Very well,” continued M. de Villars; “halt at Calvisson, and try all you can to induce the other leaders to follow your example.”

“I shall do my best, monseigneur; but while we await His Majesty’s reply shall we be allowed to fulfil our religious duties unimpeded?”

“Yes, I shall give orders that you are to have full liberty in that respect.”

“Thanks, monseigneur.”

Cavalier bowed once more, and was about to go; but M. de Villars accompanied him and Lalande, who had now joined them, and who stood with his hand on Cavalier’s shoulder, a few steps farther. Catinat seeing that the conference was at an end, entered the garden with his men. Thereupon M. de Villars took leave, saying distinctly, “Adieu, Seigneur Cavalier,” and withdrew, leaving the young chief surrounded by a dozen persons all wanting to speak to him at once. For half an hour he was detained by questions, to all of which he replied pleasantly. On one finger was an emerald taken from a naval officer named Didier, whom he had killed with his own hand in the action at Devois de Martignargues; he kept time by a superb watch which had belonged to M. d’Acqueville, the second in command of the marines; and he offered his questioners from time to time perfumed snuff from a magnificent snuffbox, which he had found in the holsters when he took possession of M. de La Jonquiere’s horse. He told everyone who wished to listen that he had never intended to revolt against the king; and that he was now ready to shed the last drop of his blood in his service; that he had several times offered to surrender on condition that liberty of conscience was granted to those of the new faith, but that M. de Montrevel had always rejected his offers, so that he had been obliged to remain under arms, in order to deliver those who were in prison, and to gain permission for those who were free to worship God in their own way.

He said these things in an unembarrassed and graceful manner, hat in hand; then passing through the crowd which had gathered outside the garden of the Recollets, he repaired to the Hotel de la Poste for lunch, and afterwards walked along the Esplanade to the house of one Guy Billard, a gardener, who was his head prophet’s father. As he thus moved about he was preceded by two Camisards with drawn swords, who made way for him; and several ladies were presented to him who were happy to touch his doublet. The visit over, he once again passed along the Esplanade, still preceded by his two Camisards, and just as he passed the Little Convent he and those with him struck up a psalm tune, and continued singing till they reached Saint-Cesaire, where the hostages were. These he at once sent back.

Five hundred persons from Nimes were awaiting him; refreshments were offered to him, which he accepted gratefully, thanking all those who had gathered together to meet him. At last he went off to St. Denoise, where he was to sup and sleep; but before going to bed he offered up supplications in a loud voice for the king, for M. de Villars, for M. de Lalande, and even for M. de Baville.

The next morning, Cavalier, according to promise, sent a copy of his demands to M. de Villars, who caused it to be laid before the king, along with a full report of all that had passed at the interview at Nimes. As soon as the young chief had sent off his missive, he rejoined his troops at Tarnac, and related all that had passed to Roland, urging him to follow his example. That night he slept at Sauves, having passed through Durfort at the head of his men; a captain of dragoons named Montgros, with twenty-five soldiers, accompanying him everywhere, by M. de Villars’ orders, and seeing that the villages through which they passed furnished him with all that was needed. They left Sauves on May 16th very early in the morning, in order to get to Calvisson, which, as our readers may remember, was the place appointed for the residence of Cavalier during the truce. In passing through Quissac, where they stopped for refreshments, they were joined by Castanet who delivered a long sermon, at which all the Protestants of the neighbourhood were present.

The two battalions of the Charolais regiment which were quartered at Calvisson had received orders on the evening of the 17th to march out next morning, so as to make room for the Camisards.

On the 18th the head of the commissary department, Vincel, ordered suitable accommodation to be provided for Cavalier and his troops; the muster roll being in the hands of M. d’Aygaliers, it would be sent by him or brought in the course of the day. In the meantime, vans were arriving filled with all sorts of provisions, followed by droves of cattle, while a commissary and several clerks, charged with the distribution of rations, brought up the rear.

On the 19th, Catinat, accompanied by twelve Camisards, rode into the town, and was met at the barrier by the commandant and eighty townspeople. As soon as the little band came in sight the commandant reiterated his orders that nothing should be said or done in the town, on pain of corporal punishment, that could offend the Camisards.

At one o’clock P. M. Baron d’Aygaliers arrived, followed in his turn by the chief of the commissariat, Vincel, by Captain Cappon, two other officers named Viala and Despuech, and six dragoons. These were the hostages Cavalier had given.

At six o’clock there was heard a great noise; and shouts of “Cavalier! Cavalier!” resounded on all sides. The young Cevenol was in sight, and the whole population hastened to meet him. He rode at the head of his cavalry, the infantry following, and the whole number—about six hundred men—sang psalms in a loud voice.

When they reached the church, Cavalier drew up before it with all his men in review order, and for some time the singing went on. When it stopped, a long prayer was offered up, which was most edifying to all the bystanders; and this being over, Cavalier went to the quarters assigned him, which were in the best house in Calvisson. Arrived there, he sent out for a dozen loaves that he might judge how his men were going to be fed; not finding them white enough, he complained to M. Vincel, whom he sent for, and who promised that in future the bread should be of a better quality. Having received this assurance, Cavalier gave orders that the loaves in hand should be distributed for that day, but probably fearing poison, he first made M. de Vincel and his clerks taste them in his presence. These duties accomplished, he visited in person all the gates of the town, placed guards and posted sentinels at all the entrances and along all the avenues, the most advanced being three-quarters of a league from the town. Besides this, he placed guards in the streets, and a sentinel at each door of the house he occupied; in addition, thirty guards always slept outside the door of his bedroom, and these accompanied him as an escort when he went out; not that he was afraid, for he was not of a mistrustful character, but that he thought it politic to give people an exalted idea of his importance. As to his soldiers, they were billeted on the inhabitants, and received each as daily rations a pound of meat, a quart of wine, and two and a half pounds of bread.

The same day a convocation was held on the site of the old meeting-house which had been destroyed by the Catholics. It was a very numerous assembly, to which crowds of people came from all parts; but on the following days it was still more numerous; for, as the news spread, people ran with great eagerness to hear the preaching of the word of which they had been so long deprived. D’Aygaliers tells us in his Memoirs that—“No one could help being touched to see a whole people just escaped from fire and sword, coming together in multitudes to mingle their tears and sighs. So famished were they for the manna divine, that they were like people coming out of a besieged city, after a long and cruel famine, to whom peace has brought food in abundance, and who, first devouring it with their eyes, then throw themselves on it, devouring it bodily—meat, bread, and fruit—as it comes to hand. So it was with the unfortunate inhabitants of La Vannage, and even of places more distant still. They saw their brethren assembling in the meadows and at the gates of Calvisson, gathering in crowds and pressing round anyone who started singing a psalm, until at last four or five thousand persons, singing, weeping, and praying, were gathered together, and remained there all day, supplicating God with a devotion that went to every heart and made a deep impression. All night the same things went on; nothing was to be heard but preaching, singing, praying, and prophesying.”

But if it was a time of joy for the Protestants, it was a time of humiliation for the Catholics. “Certainly,” says a contemporary historian, “it was a very surprising thing, and quite a novelty, to see in a province like Languedoc, where so many troops were quartered, such a large number of villains—all murderers, incendiaries, and guilty of sacrilege—gathered together in one place by permission of those in command of the troops; tolerated in their eccentricities, fed at the public expense, flattered by everyone, and courteously, received by people sent specially to meet them.”

One of those who was most indignant at this state of things was M. de Baville. He was so eager to put an end to it that he went to see the governor, and told him the scandal was becoming too great in his opinion: the assemblies ought to be put an end to by allowing the troops to fall upon them and disperse them; but the governor thought quite otherwise, and told Baville that to act according to his advice would be to set fire to the province again and to scatter for ever people whom they had got together with such difficulty. In any case, he reminded Baville that what he objected to would be over in a few days. His opinion was that de Baville might stifle the expression of his dissatisfaction for a little, to bring about a great good. “More than that,” added the marechal, “the impatience of the priests is most ridiculous. Besides your remonstrances, of which I hope I have now heard the last, I have received numberless letters full of such complaints that it would seem as if the prayers of the Camisards not only grated on the ears of the clergy but flayed them alive. I should like above everything to find out the writers of these letters, in order to have them flogged; but they have taken good care to put no signatures. I regard it as a very great impertinence for those who caused these disturbances to grumble and express their disapproval at my efforts to bring them to an end.” After this speech, M. de Baville saw there was nothing for him to do but to let things take their course.

The course that they took turned Cavalier’s head more and more; for thanks to the injunctions of M. de Villars, all the orders that Cavalier gave were obeyed as if they had been issued by the governor himself. He had a court like a prince, lieutenants like a general, and secretaries like a statesman. It was the duty of one secretary to give leave of absence to those Camisards who had business to attend to or who desired to visit their relations. The following is a copy of the form used for these passports:

“We, the undersigned, secretary to Brother Cavalier, generalissimo of the Huguenots, permit by this order given by him to absent himself on business for three days.

“(Signed) DUPONT.

“Calvisson, this——”

And these safe-conducts were as much respected as if they had been signed “Marechal de Villars.”

On the 22nd M. de Saint-Pierre arrived from the court, bringing the reply of the king to the proposals which Cavalier had submitted to M. de Lalande. What this reply was did not transpire; probably it was not in harmony with the pacific intentions of the marechal. At last, on the 25th, the answer to the demands which Cavalier had made to M. de Villars himself arrived. The original paper written by the Camisard chief himself had been sent to Louis XIV, and he returned it with notes in his own writing; thus these two hands, to one of which belonged the shepherd’s crook and to the other the sceptre, had rested on the same sheet of paper. The following is the text of the agreement as given by Cavalier in his Memoirs:


“1. That it may please the king to grant us liberty of conscience throughout the province, and to permit us to hold religious meetings in every suitable place, except fortified places and walled cities.

‘Granted, on condition that no churches be built.

“2. That all those in prison or at the galleys who have been sent there since the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, because of their religion, be set at liberty within six weeks from the date of this petition.


“3. That all those who have left the kingdom because of their religion be allowed to return in freedom and safety, and that their goods and privileges be restored to them.

‘Granted on condition that they take the oath of fidelity to the king.

“4. That the Parliament of Languedoc be reestablished on its ancient footing, and with all its former privileges.

‘The king reserves decision on this point.

“5. That the province of Languedoc be exempted from the poll tax for ten years, this to apply, to Catholics and Protestants alike, both sides having equally suffered.


“6. That the cities of Perpignan, Montpellier, Cette, and Aiguemortes be assigned us as cities of refuge.


“7. That the inhabitants of the Cevennes whose houses were burnt or otherwise destroyed during the war be exempt from taxes for seven years.


“8. That it may please His Majesty to permit Cavalier to choose 2000 men, both from among his own troops and from among those who may be delivered from the prisons and galleys, to form a regiment of dragoons for the service of His Majesty, and that this regiment when formed may at once be ordered to serve His Majesty in Portugal.

‘Granted: and on condition that all the Huguenots everywhere lay down their arms, the king will permit them to live quietly in the free exercise of their religion.’”

“I had been a week at Calvisson,” says Cavalier in his Memoirs, “when I received a letter from M. le Marechal de Villars ordering me to repair to Nimes, as he wished to see me, the answer to my demands having arrived. I obeyed at once, and was very much displeased to find that several of my demands, and in particular the one relating to the cities of refuge, had been refused; but M. le marechal assured me that the king’s word was better than twenty cities of refuge, and that after all the trouble we had given him we should regard it as showing great clemency on his part that he had granted us the greater part of what we had asked. This reasoning was not entirely convincing, but as there was no more time for deliberation, and as I was as anxious for peace as the king himself, I decided to accept gracefully what was offered.”

All the further advantage that Cavalier could obtain from M. de Villars was that the treaty should bear the date of the day on which it had been drawn up; in this manner the prisoners who were to be set at liberty in six weeks gained one week.

M de Villars wrote at the bottom of the treaty, which was signed the same day by him and M. de Baville on the part of the king, and by Cavalier and Daniel Billard on the part of the Protestants, the following ratification:

“In virtue of the plenary powers which we have received from the king, we have granted to the Reformers of Languedoc the articles above made known.


“Given at Nimes, the 17th of May 1704”

These two signatures, all unworthy as they were to stand beside their own, gave such great delight to MM. de Villars and de Baville, that they at once sent off fresh orders to Calvisson that the wants of the Camisards should be abundantly supplied until the articles of the treaty were executed—that is to say, until the prisoners and the galley slaves were set at liberty, which, according to article 2 of the treaty, would be within the next six weeks. As to Cavalier, the marechal gave him on the spot a commission as colonel, with a pension of 1200 livres attached, and the power of nominating the subordinate officers in his regiment, and at the same time he handed him a captain’s commission for his young brother.

Cavalier drew up the muster-roll of the regiment the same day, and gave it to the marechal. It was to consist of seven hundred and twelve men, forming fifteen companies, with sixteen captains, sixteen lieutenants, a sergeant-major, and a surgeon-major.

While all this was happening, Roland, taking advantage of the suspension of hostilities, was riding up and down the province as if he were viceroy of the Cevennes, and wherever he appeared he had a magnificent reception. Like Cavalier, he gave leave of absence and furnished escorts, and held himself haughtily, sure that he too would soon be negotiating treaties on terms of equality with marshals of France and governors of provinces. But Roland was much mistaken: M. de Villars had made great concessions to the popularity of Cavalier, but they were the last he intended to make. So, instead of being in his turn summoned to Nimes, or Uzes, to confer with M. de Villars, Roland merely received an intimation from Cavalier that he desired to speak with him on important business.

They met near Anduze, and Cavalier, faithful to the promise given to M. de Villars, neglected no argument that he could think of to induce Roland to follow his example; but Roland would listen to nothing. Then, when Cavalier saw that arguments and promises were of no avail, he raised his voice in anger; but Roland, laying his hand on his shoulder, told him that his head was turned, that he should remember that he, Roland, was his senior in command, and therefore bound by nothing that had been promised in his name by his junior, and that he had registered a vow in Heaven that nothing would persuade him to make peace unless complete liberty of conscience were granted to all. The young Cevenol, who was unaccustomed to such language, laid his hand on the hilt of his sword, Roland, stepping back, drew his, and the consultation would have ended in a duel if the prophets had not thrown themselves between them, and succeeded in getting Roland to consent to one of their number, a man much esteemed among the Huguenots, named Salomon, going back to Nimes with Cavalier to learn from M. de Villars’ own mouth what the exact terms were which Cavalier had accepted and now offered to Roland.

In a couple of hours Cavalier and Salomon set out together, and arrived at Nimes on the 27th May, escorted by twenty-five men; they halted at the tower of Magne, and the Protestants of the city came out to meet them, bringing refreshments; then, after prayers and a hasty meal, they advanced to the barracks and crossed the courtyards. The concourse of people and the enthusiasm was no whit less than on Cavalier’s first entry, more than three hundred persons kissing his hands and knees. Cavalier was dressed on this occasion in a doublet of grey cloth, and a beaver hat, laced with gold, and adorned with a white feather.

Cavalier and his travelling-companion went direct to the garden of the Recollets, and hardly had they got there than MM. de Villars and de Baville, accompanied by Lalande and Sandricourt, came out to meet them: the conference lasted three hours, but all that could be learned of the result was that Salomon had declared that his brethren would never lay down their arms till full liberty of conscience had been secured to them. In consequence of this declaration, it was decided that Cavalier and his regiment should be despatched to Spain without delay, in order to weaken the Calvinist forces to that extent; meantime Salomon was sent back to Roland with a positive promise that if he would surrender, as Cavalier had done, he would be granted the same conditions—that is to say, receive a commission as colonel, have the right to name the officers of his regiment, and receive a pension of 1200 livres. On quitting the garden of the Recollets, Cavalier found as great a crowd as ever waiting for him, and so closely did they press on him that two of his men were obliged to ride before him with drawn sabres to clear a way for him till the Montpellier road was reached. He lay that night at Langlade, in order to rejoin his troops early next morning.

But during his absence things had happened among these men, who had hitherto obeyed him blindly, which he little expected. He had left, as usual, Ravanel in command; but hardly had he ridden away when Ravanel began to take all kinds of precautions, ordering the men not to lay aside their arms. The negotiations with M. de Villars had made him most anxious; he looked upon all the promises given as snares, and he regarded the compromise favoured by his chief as a defection on Cavalier’s part. He therefore called all the officers and men together, told them of his fears, and ended by imbuing them with his suspicions. This was all the more easily done, as it was very well known that Cavalier had joined the Huguenots less from devotion to the cause than to avenge a private wrong, and on many occasions had given rise to the remark that he had more genius than religion.

So, on getting back to Calvisson, the young chief found his principal officers, Ravanel at their head, drawn up in the market-place, waiting for him. As soon as he drew near they told him that they were determined to know at once what were the conditions of the treaty he had signed with the marechal; they had made up their minds to have a plain answer without delay. Such a way of speaking to him was so strange and unexpected, that Cavalier shrugged his shoulders and replied that such matters were no business of theirs, being too high for their intelligence; that it was his business to decide what course to take and theirs to take it; it had always been so in the past, and with the help of God and his own, Cavalier’s, goodwill, it should still be so in future; and having so spoken, he told them to disperse. Ravanel upon this came forward, and in the name of all the others said they would not go away until they knew what orders Cavalier was about to give the troops, that they might consult among themselves whether they should obey them or not. This insubordination was too much for Cavalier’s patience.

“The orders are,” he said, “to put on the uniforms that are being made for you, and to follow me to Portugal.”

The effect of such words on men who were expecting nothing less than the re-enactment of the Edict of Nantes, can be easily imagined; the words “coward” and “traitor” could be distinguished above the murmurs, as Cavalier noticed with increasing astonishment. Raising himself in his stirrups, and glancing round with that look before which they had been used to tremble, he asked in a voice as calm as if all the demons of anger were not raging in his heart, “Who called Jean Cavalier traitor and coward?”

“I,” said Ravanel, crossing his arms on his breast.

Cavalier drew a pistol from his holsters, and striking those near him with the butt end, opened a way towards his lieutenant, who drew his sword; but at this moment the commissary-general, Vincel, and Captain Cappon threw themselves between the two and asked the cause of the quarrel.

“The cause,” said Ravanel, “is that the Cadets of the Cross, led by the ‘Hermit,’ have just knocked out the brains of two of our brethren, who were coming to join us, and are hindering others front attending our meetings to worship God: the conditions of the truce having been thus broken, is it likely they will keep those of the treaty? We refuse to accept the treaty.”

“Sir,” said Vincel, “if the ‘Hermit’ has done what you say, it is against the orders of the marachal, and the misdoer will be punished; besides, the large number of strangers at present in Calvisson ought to be sufficient proof that no attempt has been made to prevent the new converts from coming to the town, and it seems to me that you have been too easily led to believe everything that malicious people have told you.”

“I believe what I choose to believe,” said Ravanel impatiently; “but what I know and say is, that I shall never lay down arms till the king grants us full liberty of conscience, permission to rebuild our places of worship, and sends us back all prisoners and exiles.”

“But, judging by your tone,” said Cavalier, who had till now remained silent while toying with his pistol, “you seem to be in command here; have we changed, parts without my being aware?”

“It is possible,” said Ravanel.

Cavalier burst out laughing.

“It seems to astonish you,” said Ravanel, “but it is true. Make peace for yourself, lay down what conditions suit you, sell yourself for whatever you will bring; my only reply is, You are a coward and a traitor. But as to the troops, they will not lay down arms except on the conditions formulated by me.”

Cavalier tried to get at Ravanel, but seeing from his paleness and his smile that terrible things would happen if he reached his lieutenant, Vincel and Cappon, backed by some Camisards, threw themselves before his horse. Just then the whole band shouted with one voice, “No peace! no peace! no reconciliation till our temples are restored!” Cavalier then saw for the first time that things were more serious than he had believed, but Vincel, Cappon, Berlie, and about twenty Camisards surrounded the young chief and forced him to enter a house; it was the house of Vincel.

They had hardly got indoors when the ‘generale’ was sounded: resisting all entreaties, Cavalier sprang to the door, but was detained by Berlie, who said that the first thing he ought to do was to write M. de Villars an account of what had happened, who would then take measures to put things straight.

“You are right,” said Cavalier; “as I have so many enemies, the general might be told if I were killed that I had broken my word. Give me pen and ink.”

Writing materials were brought, and he wrote to M. de Villars.

“Here,” he said, giving the letter unsealed to Vincel, “set out for Nimes and give this to the marechal, and tell him, if I am killed in the attempt I am about to make, I died his humble servant.”

With these words, he darted out of the house and mounted his horse, being met at the door by twelve to fifteen men who had remained faithful to him. He asked them where Ravanel and his troops were, not seeing a single Camisard in the streets; one of the soldiers answered that they were probably still in town, but that they were moving towards Les Garrigues de Calvisson. Cavalier set off at a gallop to overtake them.

In crossing the market-place he met Catinat, walking between two prophets, one called Moses and the other Daniel Guy; Catinat was just back from a visit to the mountains, so that he had taken no part in the scene of insubordination that had so lately been enacted.

Cavalier felt a ray of hope; he was sure he could depend on Catinat as on himself. He hurried to greet him, holding out his hand; but Catinat drew back his.

“What does this mean?” cried Cavalier, the blood mounting to his forehead.

“It means,” answered Catinat, “that you are a traitor, and I cannot give my hand to a traitor.”

Cavalier gave a cry of rage, and advancing on Catinat, raised his cane to strike him; but Moses and Daniel Guy threw themselves between, so that the blow aimed at Catinat fell on Moses. At the same moment Catinat, seeing Cavalier’s gesture, drew a pistol from his belt. As it was at full cock, it went off in his hand, a bullet piercing Guy’s hat, without, however, wounding him.

At the noise of the report shouts were heard about a hundred yards away. It was the Camisards, who had been on the point of leaving the town, but hearing the shot had turned back, believing that some of their brethren were being murdered. On seeing them appear, Cavalier forgot Catinat, and rode straight towards them. As soon as they caught sight of him they halted, and Ravanel advanced before them ready for every danger.

“Brethren,” he cried, “the traitor has come once more to tempt us. Begone, Judas! You have no business here.”

“But I have,” exclaimed Cavalier. “I have to punish a scoundrel called Ravanel, if he has courage to follow me.”

“Come on, then,” cried Ravanel, darting down a small side-street, “and let us have done with it.” The Camisards made a motion as if to follow them, but Ravanel turning towards them ordered them to remain where they were.

They obeyed, and thus Cavalier could see that, insubordinate as they had been towards him, they were ready to obey another.

Just at the moment as he turned into the narrow street where the dispute was to be settled once for all, Moses and Guy came up, and seizing the bridle of his horse stopped him, while the Camisards who were on the side of Cavalier surrounded Ravanel and forced him to return to his soldiers. The troops struck up a psalm, and resumed their march, while Cavalier was held back by force.

At last, however, the young Cevenol succeeded in breaking away from those who surrounded him, and as the street by which the Camisards had retired was blocked, he dashed down another. The two prophets suspecting his intention, hurried after the troops by the most direct route, and got up with them, just as Cavalier, who had made the circuit of the town, came galloping across the plain to intercept their passage. The troops halted, and Ravanel gave orders to fire. The first rank raised their muskets and took aim, thus indicating that they were ready to obey. But it was not a danger of this kind that could frighten Cavalier; he continued to advance. Then Moses seeing his peril, threw himself between the Camisards and him, stretching out his arms and shouting, “Stop! stop! misguided men! Are you going to kill Brother Cavalier like a highwayman and thief? You must pardon him, my brethren! you must pardon him! If he has done wrong in the past, he will do better in future.”

Then those who had taken aim at Cavalier grounded their muskets, and Cavalier changing menace for entreaty, begged them not to break the promise that he had made in their name; whereupon the prophets struck up a psalm, and the rest of the soldiers joining in, his voice was completely drowned. Nevertheless, Cavalier did not lose heart, but accompanied them on their march to Saint-Esteve, about a league farther on, unable to relinquish all hope. On reaching Saint-Esteve the singing ceased for a moment, and he made another attempt to recall them to obedience. Seeing, however, that it was all in vain, he gave up hope, and calling out, “At least defend yourselves as well as you can, for the dragoons will soon be on you,” he set his horse’s head towards the town. Then turning to them for the last time, he said, “Brethren, let those who love me follow me!” He pronounced these words in tones so full of grief and affection that many were shaken in their resolution; but Ravanel and Moses seeing the effect he had produced, began to shout, “The sword of the Lord!” Immediately all the troops turned their back on Cavalier except about forty men who had joined him on his first appearance.

Cavalier went into a house near by, and wrote another letter to M. de Villars, in which he told him what had just taken place, the efforts he had made to win back his troops, and the conditions they demanded. He ended by assuring him that he would make still further efforts, and promised the marechal that he would keep him informed of everything that went on. He then withdrew to Cardet, not venturing to return to Calvisson.

Both Cavalier’s letters reached M. de Villars at the same time; in the first impulse of anger aroused by this unexpected check, he issued the following order:

“Since coming to this province and taking over the government by order of the king, our sole thought has been how to put an end to the disorders we found existing here by gentle measures, and to restore peace and to preserve the property of those who had taken no part in the disturbances. To that end we obtained His Majesty’s pardon for those rebels who had, by the persuasion of their chiefs, been induced to lay down their arms; the only condition exacted being that they should throw themselves on the king’s clemency and beg his permission to expiate their crime by adventuring their lives in his service. But, being informed that instead of keeping the engagements they had made by signing petitions, by writing letters, and by speaking words expressing their intentions, some among them have been trying to delude the minds of the people with false hopes of full liberty for the exercise of this so-called Reformed religion, which there has never been any intention of granting, but which we have always declared as clearly as we could, to be contrary to the will of the king and likely to bring about great evils for which it would be difficult to find a remedy, it becomes necessary to prevent those who give belief to these falsehoods from expecting to escape from well-deserved chastisement. We therefore declare hereby that all religious assemblies are expressly forbidden under the penalties proclaimed in the edicts and ordinances of His Majesty, and that these will be more strictly enforced in the future than in the past.

“Furthermore, we order all the troops under our command to break up such assemblies by force, as having been always illegal, and we desire to impress on the new converts of this province that they are to give their obedience where it is due, and we forbid them to give any credence to the false reports which the enemies of their repose are spreading abroad. If they let themselves be led astray, they will soon find themselves involved in troubles and misfortunes, such as the loss of their lands, the ruin of their families, and the desolation of their country; and we shall take care that the true authors of these misfortunes shall receive punishment proportioned to their crime.


“Given at Nimes the 27th day of May 1704”

This order, which put everything back upon the footing on which it had been in the time of M. de Montrevel, had hardly been issued than d’Aygaliers, in despair at seeing the result of so much labour destroyed in one day, set off for the mountains to try and find Cavalier. He found him at Cardet, whither, as we have said, he had retired after the day of Calvisson. Despite the resolution which Cavalier had taken never to show his face again to the marechal, the baron repeated to him so many times that M. de Villars was thoroughly convinced that what had happened had not been his fault, he having done everything that he could to prevent it, that the young chief began to feel his self-confidence and courage returning, and hearing that the marachal had expressed himself as very much pleased with his conduct, to which Vincel had borne high testimony, made up his mind to return to Nimes. They left Cardet at once, followed by the forty men who had remained true to Cavalier, ten on horse and thirty on foot, and arrived on the 31st May at Saint-Genies, whither M. de Villars had come to meet them.

The assurances of d’Aygaliers were justified. The marechal received Cavalier as if he were still the chief of a powerful party and able to negotiate with him on terms of equality. At Cavalier’s request, in order to prove to him that he stood as high in his good opinion as ever, the marechal returned once more to gentle methods, and mitigated the severity of his first proclamation by a second, granting an extension of the amnesty:

“The principal chiefs of the rebels, with the greater number of their followers, having surrendered, and having received the king’s pardon, we declare that we give to all those who have taken up arms until next Thursday, the 5th instant inclusive, the opportunity of receiving the like pardon, by surrendering to us at Anduze, or to M. le Marquis de Lalande at Alais, or to M. de Menon at Saint Hippolyte, or to the commandants of Uzes, Nimes, and Lunel. But the fifth day passed, we shall lay a heavy hand on all rebels, pillaging and burning all the places which have given them refuge, provisions, or help of any kind; and that they may not plead ignorance of this proclamation, we order it to be publicly read and posted up in every suitable place.


“At Saint-Genies, the 1st June 1704”

The next day, in order to leave no doubt as to his good intentions, the marechal had the gibbets and scaffolds taken down, which until then had been permanent erections.

At the same time all the Huguenots were ordered to make a last effort to induce the Camisard chiefs to accept the conditions offered them by M. de Villars. The towns of Alais, Anduze, Saint-Jean, Sauve, Saint-Hippolyte, and Lasalle, and the parishes of Cros, Saint-Roman, Manoblet, Saint-Felix, Lacadiere, Cesas, Cambo, Colognac, and Vabre were ordered to send deputies to Durfort to confer as to the best means of bringing about that peace which everyone desired. These deputies wrote at once to M. de Villars to beg him to send them M. d’Aygaliers, and to M. d’Aygaliers to request him to come.

Both consented to do as they were asked, and M. d’Aygaliers arrived at Durfort on the 3rd of June 1704.

The deputies having first thanked him for the trouble which he had taken to serve the common cause during the past year, resolved to divide their assembly into two parts, one of which, was to remain permanently sitting, while the other went to seek Roland and Ravanel to try and obtain a cessation of hostilities. The deputies charged with this task were ordered to make it quite clear to the two chiefs that if they did not accept the proposals made by M. de Villars, the Protestants in general would take up arms and hunt them down, and would cease to supply them with the means of subsistence.

On hearing this, Roland made reply that the deputies were to go back at once to those who sent them, and threatened, should they ever show him their faces again, to fire on them.

This answer put an end to the assembly, the deputies dispersed, and d’Aygaliers returned to the Marechal de Villars to make his report.

Hardly had he done this when a letter from Roland arrived, in which the Camisard chief asked M. de Villars to grant him an interview, such as he had granted to Cavalier. This letter was addressed to d’Aygaliers, who immediately communicated its contents to the marechal, from whom he received orders to set out at once to find Roland and to spare no pains to bring him round.

D’Aygaliers, who was always indefatigable when working for his country, started the same day, and went to a mountain about three-quarters of a league from Anduze, where Roland awaited him. After a conference of two hours, it was agreed that hostages should be exchanged and negotiations entered upon.

Consequently, M. de Villars on his side sent Roland M. de Montrevel, an officer commanding a battalion of marines, and M. de la Maison-Blanche, captain of the Froulay regiment; while Roland in return sent M. de Villars four of his principal officers with the title of plenipotentiaries.

Unskilled in diplomacy as these envoys were, and laughable as they appeared to contemporary historians, they received nevertheless the marechal’s consent to the following conditions:

That Cavalier and Roland should each be placed in charge of a regiment serving abroad, and that each of them should be allowed a minister.

That all the prisoners should be released and the exiles recalled.

That the Protestants should be permitted to leave the kingdom, taking their effects with them.

That those Camisards who desired to remain might do so, on giving up their arms.

That those who were abroad might return.

That no one should be molested on account of his religion provided everyone remained quietly at home.

That indemnities should be borne by the whole province, and not exacted specially from the Protestants.

That a general amnesty should be granted to all without reserve.

These articles were laid before Roland and Ravanel by d’Aygaliers. Cavalier, who from the day he went back to Nimes had remained in the governor’s suite, asked leave to return with the baron, and was permitted to do so. D’Aygaliers and he set out together in consequence for Anduze, and met Roland and Ravanel about a quarter of a league from the town, waiting to know the result of the negotiations. They were accompanied by MM. de Montbel and de Maison-Blanche, the Catholic hostages.

As soon as Cavalier and Roland met they burst out into recriminations and reproaches, but through the efforts of d’Aygaliers they soon became more friendly, and even embraced on parting.

But Ravanel was made of harder stuff: as soon as he caught sight of Cavalier he called him “traitor,” saying that for his part he would never surrender till the Edict of Nantes was re-enacted; then, having warned them that the governor’s promises were not to be trusted, and having predicted that a day would come when they would regret their too great confidence in him, he left the conference and rejoined his troops, which, with those of Roland, were drawn up on a mountain about three-quarters of a league distant.

The negotiators did not, however, despair. Ravanel had gone away, but Roland had debated with them at some length, so they determined to speak to “the brethren”—that is, to the troops under Roland and Ravanel, whose headquarters at the moment were at Leuzies, in order that they might know exactly what articles had been agreed on between Roland’s envoys and the marechal. Those who made up their minds to take this step were, Cavalier, Roland, Moise, Saint-Paul, Laforet, Maille, and d’Aygaliers. We take the following account of what happened in consequence of this decision from d’Aygaliers’ Memoirs:

“We had no sooner determined on this plan, than, anxious to carry it out, we set off. We followed a narrow mountain path on the face of the cliff which rose up to our right; to our left flowed the Gardon.

“Having gone about a league, we came in sight of the troops, about 3000 strong; an advanced post barred our way.

“Thinking it was placed there in our honour, I was advancing unsuspiciously, when suddenly we found our road cut off by Camisards to right and left, who threw themselves on Roland and forced him in among their troops. Maille and Malplach were dragged from their horses. As to Cavalier, who was somewhat behind, as soon as he saw people coming towards him with uplifted sabres and shouting Traitor! he put spurs to his horse and went off at full gallop, followed by some townspeople from Anduze who had come with us, and who, now that they saw the reception we met with, were ready to die with fear.

“I was too far forward to escape: five or six muskets rested on my breast and a pistol pressed each ear; so I made up my mind to be bold. I told the troopers to fire; I was willing to die in the service of my prince, my country, and my religion, as well as for themselves, whom I was trying to benefit by procuring them the king’s goodwill.

“These words, which I repeated several times in the midst of the greatest uproar, gave them pause.

“They commanded me to retire, as they did not want to kill me. I said I should do nothing of the kind: I was going into the middle of the troops to defend Roland against the charge of treason, or be put to death myself, unless I could convince them that what I had proposed to him and Cavalier was for the good of the country, of our religion, and the brethren; and having thus expostulated at the top of my voice against thirty voices all trying to drown mine for about an hour, I offered to fight the man who had induced them to oppose us.

“At this offer they pointed their muskets at me once more; but Maille, Malplach, and some others threw themselves before me, and although they were unarmed, had enough influence to hinder my being insulted; I was forced, however, to retreat.

“In leaving, I warned them that they were about to bring great misfortunes on the province, whereupon a man named Claris stepped out from among the troops, and approaching me exclaimed, ‘Go on, sir, and God bless you! We know that you mean well, and were the first to be taken in. But go on working for the good of the country, and God will bless you.’”

D’Aygaliers returned to the marechal, who, furious at the turn things had taken, resolved instantly to break off all negotiations and have recourse once more to measures of severity. However, before actually carrying out this determination, he wrote the following letter to the king:

“SIRE,—It is always my glory to execute faithfully your Majesty’s orders, whatever those orders may be; but I should have been able, on many occasions since coming here, to display my zeal for your Majesty’s service in other ways if I had not had to deal with madmen on whom no dependence could be placed. As soon as we were ready to attack them, they offered to submit, but a little later changed their minds again. Nothing could be a greater proof of madness than their hesitation to accept a pardon of which they were unworthy, and which was so generously offered by your Majesty. If they do not soon make up their minds, I shall bring them back to the paths of duty by force, and thus restore this province to that state of peace which has been disturbed by these fools.”

The day after writing this letter to the king, Roland sent Maille to M. de Villars to beg him to wait till Saturday and Sunday the 7th and the 8th June were over, before resorting to severity, that being the end of the truce. He gave him a solemn promise that he would, in the interval, either bring in his troops to the last man, or would himself surrender along with a hundred and fifty followers. The marechal consented to wait till Saturday morning, but as soon as Saturday arrived he gave orders to attack the Camisards, and the next day led a considerable body of troops to Carnoulet, intending to take the Huguenots by surprise, as word had been brought that they were all gathered there. They, however, received intelligence of his plan, and evacuated the village during the night.

The village had to pay dearly for its sin of hospitality; it was pillaged and burnt down: the miquelets even murdered two women whom they found there, and d’Aygaliers failed to obtain any satisfaction for this crime. In this manner M. de Villars kept the fatal promise he had given, and internecine war raged once more.

Furious at having missed the Camisards, de Menon having heard from his scouts that Roland was to sleep next night at the chateau de Prade, went to M. de Villars and asked leave to conduct an expedition against the chief. He was almost sure of taking Roland by surprise, having procured a guide whose knowledge of the country was minute. The marechal gave him carte blanche. In the evening Menon set out with two hundred grenadiers. He had already put three-quarters of the way behind him without being discovered, when an Englishman met them by chance. This man was serving under Roland, but had been visiting his sweetheart in a neighbouring village, and was on his way home when he fell among Menon’s grenadiers. Without a thought for his own safety, he fired off his gun, shouting, “Fly! fly! The royals are upon you!”

The sentinels took up the cry, Roland jumped out of bed, and, without staying for clothes or horse, ran off in his shirt, escaping by a postern gate which opened on the forest just as de Menon entered by another. He found Roland’s bed still warm, and took possession of his clothes, finding in a coat pocket a purse containing thirty-five Louis, and in the stables three superb horses. The Camisards answered this beginning of hostilities by a murder. Four of them, thinking they had reasons for displeasure against one of M. de Baville’s subordinates, named Daude, who was both mayor and magistrate; at Le Vigan, hid in a corn-field which he had to pass on his way back from La Valette, his country place. Their measures were successful: Daude came along just as was expected, and as he had not the slightest suspicion of the impending danger, he continued conversing with M. de Mondardier, a gentleman of the neighbourhood who had asked for the; hand of Daude’s daughter in marriage that very day. Suddenly he found himself surrounded by four men, who, upbraiding him for his exactions and cruelties, shot him twice through the head with a pistol. They offered no violence to M. de Mondardier except to deprive him of his laced hat and sword. The day on which M. de Villars heard of its murder he set a price on the heads of Roland, Ravanel, and Catinat. Still the example set by Cavalier, joined to the resumption of hostilities, was not without influence on the Camisards; every day letters arrived from single troopers offering to lay down their arms, and in one day thirty rebels came in and put themselves into Lalande’s hands, while twenty surrendered to Grandval; these were accorded not only pardon, but received a reward, in hopes that they might be able to induce others to do like them; and on the 15th June eight of the troops which had abandoned Cavalier at Calvisson made submission; while twelve others asked to be allowed to return to their old chief to follow him wherever he went. This request was at once granted: they were sent to Valabregues, where they found forty-two of their old comrades, amongst whom were Duplan and Cavalier’s young brother, who had been ordered there a few days before. As they arrived they were given quarters in the barracks, and received good pay—the chiefs forty sous a day, and the privates ten. So they felt as happy as possible, being well fed and well lodged, and spent their time preaching, praying, and psalm-singing, in season and out of season. All this, says La Baume, was so disagreeable to the inhabitants of the place, who were Catholics, that if they had not been guarded by the king’s soldiers they would have been pitched into the Rhone.

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