“Nonsense!” he replied, with singular assurance; “I, on the contrary, have an idea that I shall not want for anything there.”
Time gradually heals all wounds, and in less than a year it was difficult to discern any trace of the fierce whirlwind of passion which had devastated the peaceful valley of the Oiselle.
What remained to attest the reality of all these events, which, though they were so recent, had already been relegated to the domain of the legendary?
A charred ruin on the Reche.
A grave in the cemetery, upon which was inscribed:
“Marie-Anne Lacheneur, died at the age of twenty. Pray for her!”
Only a few, the oldest men and the politicians of the village, forgot their solicitude in regard to the crops to remember this episode.
Sometimes, during the long winter evenings, when they had gathered at the Boeuf Couronne, they laid down their greasy cards and gravely discussed the events of the past years.
They never failed to remark that almost all the actors in that bloody drama at Montaignac had, in common parlance, “come to a bad end.”
Victors and vanquished seemed to be pursued by the same inexorable fatality.
Look at the names already upon the fatal list!
Chupin, the traitor, assassinated.
The Marquis de Courtornieu lived, or rather survived, but death would have seemed a mercy in comparison with such total annihilation of intelligence. He had fallen below the level of the brute, which is, at least, endowed with instinct. Since the departure of his daughter he had been cared for by two servants, who did not allow him to give them much trouble, and when they desired to go out they shut him up, not in his chamber, but in the cellar, to prevent his ravings and shrieks from being heard from without.
If people supposed for awhile that the Sairmeuse would escape the fate of the others, they were mistaken. It was not long before the curse fell upon them.
One fine morning in the month of December, the duke left the chateau to take part in a wolf-hunt in the neighborhood.
At nightfall, his horse returned, panting, covered with foam, and riderless.
What had become of its master?
A search was instituted at once, and all night long twenty men, bearing torches, wandered through the woods, shouting and calling at the top of their voices.
Five days went by, and the search for the missing man was almost abandoned, when a shepherd lad, pale with fear, came to the chateau one morning to tell them that he had discovered, at the base of a precipice, the bloody and mangled body of the Duc de Sairmeuse.
It seemed strange that such an excellent rider should have met with such a fate. There might have been some doubt as to its being an accident, had it not been for the explanation given by the grooms.