This wretched country is so crowded with ravines and rocks, and the roads are so narrow, so deep, and so bad, that I have been forced to make my way hither with a small detachment of thirty men only, but I have found that sufficient to drive the tiger from his lair. He, and the other rebel leader, Larochejaquelin, have fled into the woods, without either money, arms, or even clothing; and I doubt not soon to be able to inform the Convention that, at any rate, they can never again put themselves at the head of a rebellious army.
Citizen President, deign to receive from my hands the only trophies which I have deemed myself justified in rescuing from the flames which are about to consume this accursed chateau. I enclose the will and a miniature portrait of the aristocrat, de Lescure.
I pray you to receive, and to make acceptable to the Convention, the most distinguished,
&c. &c. &c.
Santerre and Adolphe Denot left the main army at Thouars, and made their way to Argenton with about four thousand men. From thence, Durbelliere was distant about four leagues; and Santerre lost no time in making his preparations for destroying that chateau, as Westerman was at the same moment doing at Clisson. Generally speaking, the people of the towns, even in La Vendee sided with the republicans; but the people of Argenton were supposed to be royalists, and Santerre therefore gave positive orders that every house in it should be destroyed. He did not, however, himself want to see the horrid work done, but hurried on to Durbelliere, that he might, if possible, surprise the Vendean chiefs, whom he believed to be staying there. About one hundred and fifty men followed him, and the remainder of the army was to march on to Bressuire, as soon as Argenton was in ashes.
Santerre, since he had left the company of the other Generals at Thouars, had become more familiar and confidential with Denot, and rode side by side with him from Argenton, talking freely about the manners of the country, and the hopes of the royalists, till he succeeded in getting the traitor into good humour, and obtaining from him something like a correct idea of the state of the country.
“And this is the parish of St. Aubin?” said Santerre, as they drew near to Durbelliere.
“Yes,” said Denot, “this is the parish of St. Aubin; and the estate of the Larochejaquelins.”
“And they are popular with the people?” said Santerre. “They must have been well loved, or they would not have been so truly followed.”
Denot blushed at the heavy accusation against himself which these words conveyed; but he made no answer.
“And this old man, my friend?” said Santerre, “this ancient cripple that you tell me of? he is too old, too infirm, I suppose, to care much about this revolt?”