When he found himself foiled at the gate, he returned as quickly as possible to the house. His men had already ransacked every room, and in their anxiety to find the more distinguished inhabitants of the chateau, allowed the domestics to escape; but few of them had been in bed, and even they were overlooked in the anxiety of the troopers to find M. de Lescure. They did not dream that any warning could have been given to the chateau, nor could they conceive it possible that at three o’clock in the morning the royalists should have been up, and ready for instant flight. It was not till nearly five that they satisfied themselves that neither de Lescure nor his wife, nor any of his family were in the house; and then, at the command of their General, they commenced the work of destruction.
The troopers got hay and straw from the farm-yard (not without some opposition from the loose bull,) and piled them in every room in the chateau; they then took the furniture, beds, curtains, wearing apparel, and every article of value they could find, and placed them in heaps, in such a way as to render them an immediate prey to the flames. They did the same to the barns and granaries, in which there were large stores of corn, and also to the stables, in which stood the horses and cattle; the bull, which Francois had loosened, was the only animal about the place that did not perish. Having systematically prepared the chateau and out-houses for a huge bonfire, they put a light to the straw in various places, and re-mounting their horses, stood around it till they saw that no efforts which the peasants might use could extinguish the flames. Westerman then gave the word of command for their return; they started at a sharp trot, and he did not allow them to slacken their pace till he had again passed the ruins of the little village of Amaillou.
While the troopers were thus preparing to set the chateau in a blaze, the General himself was not idle; he seated himself in the salon, and having had pen, ink, and paper brought to him, he wrote the following despatch to the President of the Convention, in which, it will be observed, he studiously omitted all mention of the defeat which he had incurred between Amaillou and Clisson, and the retreat which his army had been forced to make. The date is given in the denomination which will be intelligible to the reader, as the Fructidors and the Messidors, Brumaires and Nivoses, which had then been adopted by the republicans, now convey no very defined idea to people, who have not yet scrupled to call the months by their old aristocratic names, or to count the year from their Saviour’s birth.
“Chateau of Clisson,
I have the honour to acquaint you that I have already succeeded in carrying the arms of the Convention as far as the residence of the most powerful of the rebel leaders. As I am writing, my men are preparing to set fire to this den of aristocratic infamy, and within an hour the stronghold of the redoubted de Lescure will be level with the ground.