In the last days of May, the soldiers and the marquee of the Paris battalion “Red Hat” stumble into the Sodreysk forest to the Breton peasant woman with three children – a baby girl and two boys a little older. Michelle Flechard was killed by her husband and burnt the hut-without a piece of bread, the unhappy wanders where her eyes look. At the suggestion of Sergeant Raduba, the battalion adopts Georges, René Jean and Gro-Alain. On June 1, a military frigate Claymore sails from England, disguised as a merchant ship: he is to deliver a passenger to France, a tall old man in peasant clothes and bearing the prince’s posture. On the way, a misfortune happens: one of the Gunners badly fixed the cannon, a huge machine collapses, and the damaged ship loses control.
The cannonarian who has overturned tries to fix the matter – at a decisive moment the majestic old man, risking his life, throws a bag under the wheels with false notes, and the gun is put in place. The captain applies for orders to the old man: he awards the gunner with the cross of St. Louis, and then orders him to be shot. Lost in precious time, the frigate dies in an unequal battle with the French squadron, but before that the Royalists imperceptibly lower the boat to save the old man – the future leader of the rebellious Vendee. One of the sailors is called to accompany him: when they remain together, they take out a pistol-the killed gunner was his brother. The old man calmly
Galmalo nods happily: these are the possessions of his lord, the Marquis de Lantenac, he grew up there and often climbed into the underground passage about which no one knows… The old man interrupts the sailor: there is nothing like this in Turge, these are the usual tales of local peasants. Landed on the shore, the aristocrat and the sailor leave: Galmalo leaves with instructions, and the old man goes to the nearest village. The road to him is blocked by a beggar – the marquis can not go there, a reward is assigned for his head. Good Telmarsh hides Lantenac in his own shack, as he is disgusted with the idea of betrayal. The next morning the marquis sees the order of his execution, signed by the commander of the expeditionary corps Goven – this name makes a strong impression on the old man. Suddenly, from all sides, as if from under the ground, people arise – the Bretons, having learned of the appearance of the leader, rushed to the place of his landing and destroyed the standing in the village republican detachment. Lantenac orders to shoot prisoners, without making an exception for both women. He is informed of three children: he orders them to be taken with him – then we will see what to do with them. And Telmarsh selects one of the women shot: this feeding mother was lucky – the bullet just killed her collarbone.
Europe is at war with France, and France is at war with Paris. The city breathes a revolution – it even smiles heroically, and small children babble “sa ira”. There are no shortcomings in the stands and preachers; among them stands the former priest Simurden – a man of fierce righteousness and frightening purity. He has only one affection: in his youth he was the tutor of a little viscount, whom he loved with all his heart. When the boy grew up, the tutor was shown at the door, and he lost his pupil from view. Then came a great storm: Simurden, having renounced his dignity, devoted himself entirely to the cause of the insurgent people – in 93 he became one of the most influential members of the Episcopate, who, along with the Convention and the Commune, possesses all power in the revolutionary capital. On June 28, in a tavern on Pavlin Street, there is a secret meeting: at the table sit a sleek young man in a sky-blue frock coat, a red-faced giant with a lion’s mane of hair and a disgusting dwarf in a women’s knitted sweater – Robespierre, Danton and Marat. The leaders quarrel: Robespierre believes that the main danger comes from the Vendee, Danton argues that there is nothing more terrible than the external enemy, and Marat is hungry for dictatorship – the revolution will ruin the discord of opinions. The appearance of Simurden interrupts the argument.
The former priest takes the side of Robespierre: if you do not strangle the Vendian revolt, the infection will spread throughout the country. the Marquis de Lantenac knows perfectly well what to do-he needs only to win a small beachhead on the coast, and British troops will land in France. Robespierre, instantly appreciating the virtues of Simurden, appoints him to the Vendee of the Convention – he will be with a young commander, who has great military talents, but is distinguished by excessive indulgence towards prisoners. This young man is from the former nobles, and his name is Goven. Hearing this name, Simurden turns pale, but does not refuse from the commission. From the look of Marat, nothing escapes: at his insistence, the Convention on the next day adopts a decree that any commander who released an enemy captured with weapons in his hands must be beheaded on the guillotine.
In early July, an unfamiliar rider stops at an inn, not far from the Breton town of Share. The landlord advises the traveler to round Dale with a side: there they fight, and two former Marquis de Lantenacs viscount de Gauvin clashed. They are also relatives – Goven is Lantenak grandchild. While the young Republican is more lucky – he presses the old royalist, not allowing to gain a foothold on the coast. Perhaps it would have been different if the Marquis had not ordered the execution of a woman – the mother of three children. The children he took with him, and the surviving soldiers of the battalion “Red Hat” are now fighting with such frenzy that no one can withstand them. Having thanked the innkeeper, the stranger rides to Dol and, having got into the thick of the battle, takes on the saber blow, destined for Goven.
Simurden also can not hide his feelings: his cute boy became a man and turned into a true angel of the Revolution. Both passionately want the Republic to triumph, but embody the two poles of truth: Simurden stands for the Republic of Terror, and Goven for the Republic of Mercy. However, in relation to Lantenaku, the youth is as inconsistent as his former mentor: unlike ignorant peasants, the marquis acts quite consciously, and he will not be spared. A few weeks later, the Vendian revolt is almost over – the peasants scatter, unable to resist the regular troops. One of the August days begins the siege of the castle of Turg, where Lantenak took refuge with several associates. The position of the marquis is hopeless, and Simurden looks forward to the arrival of the guillotine from Paris. But in the castle there are three children Michelle flushar: They are placed on the second floor of the tower, in a library with a massive iron door, and on the first and third floors, combustible materials are deposited. Then the besieged people present an ultimatum: if they are not allowed to leave freely, the hostage children will perish.
Goven sends for the stairs to the nearest village, and Simurden is ready to let go of all the rebels, except for Lantenac. The Vendans, rejecting these conditions with disdain, take a hopeless fight. When they confess, preparing for imminent death, the stone in the wall goes to the side – the underground passage does exist, and Galmalo arrived in time. The ferocious Imanus is called to detain the attackers for a quarter of an hour – this is enough for a retreat. Sergeant Radub first breaks into the castle, but the agonizing Vendean manages to set fire to the wick. Republicans in furious fury watching the fire. Lantenac escaped, and the children inevitably perish: the iron door can not be broken, and the second floor can not be climbed without a ladder – it was burned by peasants who ambushed the guillotine, which reached the castle safely. The most terrible moment comes, when the mother sees the doomed children – the survivor of the shooting Michel Fleschar finally found Georgette, René Jean and Gro-Alain. Hearing her bestial cry, Lantenac returns through the underground passage to the iron door, unlocks it with a key and disappears in the flames – after that the floors crumble with a crash.
The old man rescues the children, taking advantage of the staircase, which was in the library, and then descends himself – directly into the hands of Simurden. The Marquis awaits a military court (pure formality), and then the guillotine. At night, Goven is released by Lantenac: a clean young man can not allow the Republic to tarnish itself by responding to an act of great self-sacrifice. The young commander is brought to trial: Simurden’s voice turns out to be decisive, and he sentences the youth to death without hesitation. When the head of Goven falls under the knife of the guillotine, a shot is heard – Simurden fulfilled his terrible duty, but he can not live after that.