“And your wife, Charles, and Marie! you will not leave them in the chateau?”
“If your father and Agatha will receive them, they shall go to Durbelliere.”
“There you are right,” said Henri. “Whatever may be the danger, let us have them together; we shall then at any rate be able to feel that we know the point which is to be defended most closely.”
“We will start tomorrow, Henri; tomorrow evening. May God grant that that may be time enough. Westerman cannot collect his men so as to force a march as far as Clisson tomorrow; but before a week is over, I know that the chateau will be a ruin.”
“Will you leave the furniture?” said Henri.
“Yes,” answered de Lescure; “furniture, horses, cattle, corn—everything but my wife and child. Let everything go: am I not giving it to my King?”
De Lescure had calculated wrongly with regard to Westerman’s return. It was true that he could not have again put his ten thousand men in marching order, and have returned with his whole force the next day from Bressuire as far as Clisson, but Westerman himself did not go back beyond Amaillou, and he detained there with him a small detachment of mounted men, whom he had commanded at Valmy, and whom he well knew. He kept no officers but one cornet and two sergeants, and with this small force he determined, if possible, to effect that night what his army of ten thousand men had so signally failed in accomplishing.
About half a mile from Amaillou there was a large chateau, the owner of which had emigrated; it had been left to the care of two or three servants, who had deserted it on the approach of the republican army, and when Westerman and his small troop rode up to the front gate, they found no one either to admit them or to dispute their entrance. Here he bivouacked for an hour or two, and matured his project, which, as yet, he had communicated to no one.
He had entrusted the retreat of the army to General Bourbotte, who, in spite of their quarrel at Angers, was serving with him; and without staying even to ascertain what was the amount of loss he had sustained, or to see whether the enemy would harass the army as it retreated, he had separated from it at Amaillou, and reached the chateau about ten o’clock in the evening. He had with him a couple of guides, who knew the country well, and accompanied by these, he resolved to attack Clisson that night, to burn the chateau of M. de Lescure, and, if possible, to carry back with him to Bressuire the next morning the two Vendean chiefs, whom he knew were staying there.