And the prime mover in the conspiracy had not yet been tried.
Confined in the cell next to that which Chanlouineau had occupied, Lacheneur had fallen into a state of gloomy despondency, which lasted during his whole term of imprisonment. He was terribly broken, both in body and in mind.
Once only did the blood mount to his pallid cheek, and that was on the morning when the Duc de Sairmeuse entered the cell to interrogate him.
“It was you who drove me to do what I did,” he said. “God sees us, and judges us!”
Unhappy man! his faults had been great; his chastisement was terrible.
He had sacrificed his children on the altar of his wounded pride; he had not even the consolation of pressing them to his heart and of asking their forgiveness before he died.
Alone in his cell he could not distract his mind from thoughts of his son and of his daughter; but such was the terrible situation in which he had placed himself that he dared not ask what had become of them.
Through a compassionate keeper, he learned that nothing had been heard of Jean, and that it was supposed Marie-Anne had gone to some foreign country with the d’Escorval family.
When summoned before the court for trial, Lacheneur was calm and dignified in manner. He attempted no defence, but responded with perfect frankness. He took all the blame upon himself, and would not give the name of one of his accomplices.
Condemned to be beheaded, he was executed on the following day. In spite of the rain, he desired to walk to the place of execution. When he reached the scaffold, he ascended the steps with a firm tread, and, of his own accord, placed his head upon the block.
A few seconds later, the rebellion of the 4th of March counted its twenty-first victim.
And that same evening the people everywhere were talking of the magnificent rewards which were to be bestowed upon the Duc de Sairmeuse and the Marquis de Courtornieu; and it was also asserted that the nuptials of the children of these great houses were to take place before the close of the week.
That Martial de Sairmeuse was to marry Mlle. Blanche de Courtornieu did not surprise the inhabitants of Montaignac in the least.
But spreading such a report, with Lacheneur’s execution fresh in the minds of everyone, could not fail to bring odium upon these men who had held absolute power, and who had exercised it so mercilessly.
Heaven knows that M. de Courtornieu and the Duc de Sairmeuse were now doing their best to make the people of Montaignac forget the atrocious cruelty of which they had been guilty during their dictatorship.
Of the hundred or more who were confined in the citadel, only eighteen or twenty were tried, and they received only some very slight punishment; the others were released.