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Richelieu assembled all the chief

Rochellois would be effectively cut off. officers of the army, and of the fleet, and laid before them the project. The council were divided in opinion as to its practicability, it being argued that the force of the sea, should a storm arise, would destroy the work; but the projectors replied so pertinently to every objection, that the majority were at length convinced, and were satisfied, says a French writer, that these men were sent to them of God. Both Metezean and Tiriot received handsome gratuities, and operations were speedily commenced. The soldiers were employed as labourers, and worked heartily, so it was

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carried on with rapidity; and a storm which threatened its destruction only served to assure the projectors of the real stability of the structure.

To protect the labourers a strong fortress was erected on Coureille and Chrutends, the foot of the dyke. The work itself was defended by stockadoes, and the opening in the centre through which vessels could pass to and fro, was commanded by a fortress called the Castle of Argencourt.

While this great work was in progress Richelieu was winning golden opinions from the peasantry and his own troops. For the speedy settlement of all disputes between the soldiers and the people he instituted a

tribunal whose decisions were always prompt and generally pure. He interdicted all pillage, and punished severely any act of treachery or violence committed by any of his men. But to their comfort he was not indifferent; he himself saw to their rations, and ascertained that they were good in quality and satisfactory in quantity; the pay of the troops was increased and paid with unusual punctuality; added to this he behaved to all who were about him with so much cordiality and courtesy as to gain over many to his side who at the outset were anything but well-disposed towards him. Those who saw him at the time describe the happy blending of the priest and the soldier, and here amid duties the most diversified and demands on his time and patience that would have exhausted half a dozen ordinary men, he still maintained that unruffled calmness, strict punctuality, and business aptitude, which distinguished him in all circumstances.

The Rochellois beheld with dismay the erection of the dyke but were powerless to prevent it. Their cannon thundered harmlessly over the blue waters; and the report of the watchmen on the lofty tower of the town was increasingly discouraging. There were a few skirmishes between the citizens and the besiegers in the parallel on the land side; and an occasional sortie under cover of the darkness. In these skirmishes the people of Rochelle invariably displayed heroic daring. They would venture much to capture a gun or destroy an outport-anything to bewilder their foes and confound their operations. They fought desperately, and those with whom they fought were no field-day soldiers. Such scenes took place almost daily at the beginning of the siege; but nothing of any real importance was done, and day by day the city granaries were emptying and the shadow of famine fell upon the town.

The unhappy people were in daily expectation of receiving help from England, and twice an English fleet came within sight of the beleaguered town, but Richelieu's formidable dyke prevented its entering the harbour. Those who saw in it deliverance-knew that the horrible reality of famine was upon them, and that the ships they saw, with straining eyes, could banish the dread evil-saw the silver sails sink below the horizon with something of the feeling of shipwrecked mariners when they fail to attract the notice of a passing vessel. From the height of the town, they could look round on a region of plenty; fields, gardens, orchards, herds of cattle, flocks of sheep-enough and to spare, while they were perishing with hunger.

They could stand in the trenches made

round the town and watch the gallant army of the soldiers as they were marshalled for some holiday pageant, filling the air with shouts. They could hear the music which seemed to mock their misery, and watch with longing eyes the troops at the camp fire cooking their rations and singing songs of home.

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Stealthily creeping through the streets, unseen, unheard, smiting one here and another there, was the famine. The shops were closed, night and day the prayers of the people rose up to heaven, and every day there were wild reports of demons lurking in the air, breaking the stillness of

the night with shrieks and laughter. They turned for consolation to the Book of Comfort, but again, and as though drawn to it by a spell, they read of the famine in Samaria-"and behold they besieged it until an ass's head was sold for four score pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove's dung for five pieces of silver. And as the king of Israel was passing by upon the wall there cried a woman unto him saying, help, my Lord, O king. And he said, if the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee, out of the barnfloor or out of the winepress? And the king said unto her, what aileth thee? And she answered, this woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my

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son to morrow. So we boiled my son and did eat him; and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son that we may eat him, and she hath hid her son." It was darkly whispered through the town that this horrible thing had been realised at Rochelle. That, maddened by hunger, women had slain their little ones and eaten them. Where was the Elisha to prophecy of sudden plenty? When should Benhadad-Richelieu be driven away, and a day of good tidings rise on Rochelle ?

Famine decimated the besieged, but it did not cast down their courage. They accepted contentedly their scanty rations of shell-fish and grass; they fared well on horse-flesh, but their resources failed. There was not a horse in the town. The sea seemed hardened against them and yielded nothing for their support; every green herb was exhausted. Before this

came to pass, the authorities of the town had found it necessary to station a guard in the graveyard and to punish summarily various attempts to seize on the bodies of the dead for food. Death held a carnival in this beleaguered town. Death, it was seen everywhere-in the quiet market, in the empty houses, in the cold, gloomy smithy, in the deserted wine-shop. It was seen in little groups of agonising sufferers crouching in obscure corners, praying for death speedily; it was seen in the dead bodies that soon began to encumber the streets-dead that the dying were too unhappy, too indifferent to bury. There were some few driven mad by the horrors of the scene, and who added to it by their wild cries and frantic gestures, flying through the streets at night, and seeming to bear charmed lives.

Amid all the terrible realities of the famine there were many instances of heroic self-devotion: for eight days a father kept his child alive by nourishing it with his own blood. Many preferred death to sharing the scanty food they could get with those they loved; and while in their mad fury some blasphemed heaven and polluted earth by their violence at the misery which had come upon them, for the most part they bore it patiently and hoped against hope.

Out of eighty men who were defending a gate, scarcely ten could support themselves without a staff. Of those who laboured in the batteries, scarcely one in five was able to stand erect. The preachers went amongst the people, exhorting them to faith in heaven; and the old Duchess of Rohan, the mother of the two brothers Rohan and Soubise, animated the courage of the unhappy garrison by her heroic words. She also went amongst them, sharing all their privations, enkindling afresh their enthusiasm as she assured them of a speedy deliverance. Guitin, too, gaunt with famine but strong of will, surveyed the heroic defenders of the town with a grim smile-"It is enough," said he, "if one of the citizens remain alive to close the gates."

Deliverance never came. King Charles had solemnly pledged his honour to assist the Rochellois, but he was unable to keep his promise. He despatched the Earl of Denbigh with a fleet; and the Earl, after shewing himself for seven days before the town, retired without striking a blow. He had been raised to rank and title simply on account of marrying the Duke of Buckingham's sister, and was, as a commander, even more incompetent than his brother-in-law. The Duke himself now resolved on returning with the fleet to Rochelle.

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