LILY AND THE CROSS.
A Tale of Acadia.
PROF. JAMES DE MILLE,
Author Of "the Dodge Club," "Cord And Creese," "the B. O. W. C. Stories," "the Young Dodge Club," Etc
BOSTON: LEE AND SHEPARD, PUBLISHERS.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874, By LEE AND SHEPARD, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
CHAPTER I. A Voice Out Of The Deep
CHAPTER II. A Meeting In Mid Ocean
CHAPTER III. New Friends
CHAPTER IV. Mimi And Margot
CHAPTER V. A Strange Revelation
CHAPTER VI. A French Frigate
CHAPTER VII. Caught In A Trap
CHAPTER VIII. Under Arrest
CHAPTER IX. Grand Pre
CHAPTER X. Alone In The World
CHAPTER XI. A Friend In Need
CHAPTER XII. The Parson Among The Philistines
CHAPTER XIII. A Stroke For Liberty
CHAPTER XIV. Manoeuvres Of Zac
CHAPTER XV. Flight
CHAPTER XVI. Reunion
CHAPTER XVII. Among Friends
CHAPTER XVIII. Louisbourg
CHAPTER XIX. The Captive And The Captors
CHAPTER XX. Examinations
CHAPTER XXI. A Ray Of Light
CHAPTER XXII. Escape
CHAPTER XXIII. Pursuit
CHAPTER XXIV. Zac And Margot
CHAPTER XXV. The Court Martial
CHAPTER XXVI. News From Home
THE LILY AND THE CROSS.
A TALE OF ACADIA.
A VOICE OUT OF THE DEEP.
Once upon a time there was a schooner belonging to Boston which was registered under the somewhat singular name of the "Rev. Amos Adams." This was her formal title, used on state occasions, and was, no doubt, quite as appropriate as the more pretentious one of the "Duke of Marlborough," or the "Lord Warden." As a general thing, however, people designated her in a less formal manner, using the simpler and shorter title of the "Parson." Her owner and commander was a tall, lean, sinewy young man, whoso Sunday-go-to-meeting name was Zion Awake Cox, but who was usually referred to by an ingenious combination of the initials of these three names, and thus became Zac, and occasionally Zachariah. This was the schooner which, on a fine May morning, might have been seen "bounding over the billows" on her way to the North Pole.
About her motion on the present occasion, it must be confessed there was not much bounding, nor much billow. Nor, again, would it have been easy for any one to see her, even if he had been brought close to her; for the simple reason that the "Parson," as she went on her way, carrying Zac and his fortunes, had become involved in a fog bank, in the midst of which she now lay, with little or no wind to help her out of it.
Zac was not alone on board, nor had the present voyage been undertaken on his own account, or of his own motion. There were two passengers, one of whom had engaged the schooner for his own purposes. This one was a young fellow who called himself Claude Motier, of Randolph. His name, as well as his face, had a foreign character; yet he spoke English with the accent of an Englishman, and had been brought up in Massachusetts, near Boston, where he and Zac had seen very much of one another, on sea and on shore. The other passenger was a Roman Catholic priest, whose look and accent proclaimed him to be a Frenchman. He seemed about fifty years of age, and his bronzed faced, grizzled hair, and deeply-wrinkled brow, all showed the man of action rather than the recluse. Between these two passengers there was the widest possible difference. The one was almost a boy, the other a world-worn old man; the one full of life and vivacity, the other sombre and abstracted; yet between the two there was, however, a mysterious resemblance, which possibly may have been something more than that air of France, which they both had.
Whatever it may have been, they had been strangers to one another until the past few days, for Claude Motier had not seen the priest until after he had chartered the schooner for a voyage to Louisbourg. The priest had then come, asking for a passage to that port. He gave his name as the Abbe Michel, and addressed Claude in such bad English that the young man answered in French of the best sort, whereat the good priest seemed much delighted, and the two afterwards conversed with each other altogether in that language.
Besides these three, there were the ship's company dispersed about the vessel. This company were not very extensive, not numbering over three, in addition to Zac. These three all differed in age, in race, and in character. The aged colored man, who was at that moment washing out some tins at the bows, came aboard as cook, with the understanding that he was to be man of all work. He was a slave of Zac's, but, like many domestic slaves in those days, he seemed to regard himself as part of his master's family,—in fact, a sort of respected relative. He rejoiced in the name of Jericho, which was often shortened to Jerry, though the aged African considered the shorter name as a species of familiarity which was only to be tolerated on the part of his master. The second of the ship's company was a short, athletic, rosy-cheeked, bright-eyed, round-faced lad, who was always singing and dancing except when he was whistling. His name was Terry, and his country Ireland. In addition to Jerry and Terry, there was a third. He was a short, dull, and somewhat doleful looking boy of about twelve, who had a crushed expression, and seemed to take gloomy views of life. The only name by which he was known to himself and others was Biler; but whether that was a Christian name, or a surname, or a nickname, cannot be said. Biler's chief trouble in life was an inordinate and insatiable appetite. Nothing came amiss, and nothing was ever refused. Zac had picked the boy up three years before, and since that time he had never known him to be satisfied. At the present moment, Terry was standing at the tiller, while Biler was at the masthead, to which he had climbed to get rid of the disappointments of the world below, in a more elevated sphere, and from his lofty perch he was gazing with a hungry eye forth into space, and from time to time pulling bits of dried codfish from his pocket, and thrusting them into his mouth.
"Hy da!" suddenly shouted the aged Jericho, looking up. "You da, Biler? You jis come down heah an' help me fotch along dese yar tings. Ef you ain't got notin' to do, Ise precious soon find you lots ob tings. Hurry down, da; make haste; relse I'll pitch some hot water up at you. I can't be boddered wid dese yer pots an' pans any longer, cos Ise got de dinna to meditate 'bout."
With these words Jericho stood up, regarding Biler with an appearance of grave dignity, which would have overawed even a less solemn lad than this. Biler did not refuse obedience, but thrusting a few fragments of dried codfish into his mouth, heaved a sigh, gave another dejected look at surrounding space, and then slowly and mournfully descended to the lower world.
The priest was seated on a water-cask, reading his Breviary, while Zac stood not far off, looking thoughtfully over the vessel's side. Terry was at the tiller, not because there was any steering to be done, but because he thought it would be as well for every one to be at his post in the event of a change of wind. He had whistled "St. Patrick's Day in the Morning," and was about beginning another interminable strain of the same kind. Claude was lounging about, and gradually drew nearer to the meditative Zac, whom he accosted.
"Well, we don't appear to be making much progress—do we?" said he.
Zac slowly shook his head.
"No," said he; "I must say, I don't like this here one mite. 'Tain't quite right. Seems kin' o' unlucky."
"Wal, fust and foremost, ef it hadn't been you, you'd never a' got me to pint the Parson's nose for that French hole, Louisbourg."
"Why not?" asked Claude, in some surprise; "you don't suppose that there's any danger—do you?"
"Wal, it's a risky business—no doubt o' that thar. You see, my 'pinion is this, that Moosoo's my nat'ral born enemy, an' so I don't like to put myself into his power."
"O, there's no danger," said Claude, cheerily. "There's peace now, you know—as yet."
Zac shook his head.
"No," said he, "that ain't so. There ain't never real peace out here. There's on'y a kin' o' partial peace in the old country. Out here, we fight, an' we've got to go on fightin', till one or the other goes down. An' as to peace, 'tain't goin' to last long, even in the old country, 'cordin' to all accounts. There's fightin' already off in Germany, or somewhars, they say."
"But you know," said Claude, "you thought you could manage this for me somehow. You said you could put me ashore somewhere without trusting yourself in Louisbourg harbor—some bay or other—wasn't it? I forget what the name is. There's no trouble about that now—is there?"
"Wal, not more'n thar was afore," said Zac, slowly; "on'y it seems more resky to me here, jest now, settin' here this way, inactive like; p'aps it's the fog that's had a kin' o' depressin' effect on my sperrits; it's often so. Or mebbe it's the effect of the continooal hearin' of that darned frog-eatin' French lingo that you go on a jabberin' with the priest thar. I never could abide it, nor my fathers afore me; an' how ever you—you, a good Protestant, an' a Massachusetts boy, an' a loyal subject of his most gracious majesty, King George—can go on that way, jabberin' all day long with that thar priest in that darned outlandish lingo,—wal, it beats me,—it doos clar."
At this Claude burst into a merry laugh.
"Well, by George," he cried, "if this ain't the greatest case of patriotic prejudice! What's the matter with the French language? It's better than English to talk with. Besides, even if it wern't, the French can't help their language. If it were yours, you'd like it, you know. And then I hope you're not beginning to take a prejudice against the good Pere Michel. He's as fine a fellow as ever lived, by George!"
"O, mind you, now, I wan't intendin' to say anythin' agin him," said Zac. "I like him, an' can't help it, he's so gentle, an' meek, an' has sech a look out of his eyes. Blamed if I don't sometimes feel jest as though he's my father. O, no, I ain't got anythin' agin' him. Far from it. But it's the idee. For here, you see—this is the way it is; here aboard the Parson I see a Roman Catholic priest; I hear two people jabber French all day long. It makes me feel jest for all the world as though I'd got somehow into the hands of the Philistines. It seems like bein' a captive. It kin' o' seems a sort o' bad lookout; a kin' o' sort o' sign, you know, of what's a goin' to happen afore I git back agin."
At this, which was spoken with much earnestness, and with a very solemn face, Claude gave another laugh.
"O, that's all nonsense," said he, gayly. "Why, you don't really think, now, that you're going to get into trouble through me—do you? And then as to Pere Michel, why, I feel as much confidence in him as I do in myself. So come, don't get into this low state of mind, but pluck up your spirits. Never mind the fog, or the French language. They oughtn't to have such an effect on a fellow of your size and general build. You'll put us ashore at that bay you spoke of, and then go home all right. That's the way of it. As to the land, you can't have any danger from that quarter; and as to the sea, why, you yourself said that the French cruiser was never built that could catch you."
"Wal," said Zac, "that's a fac', an' no mistake. Give me any kin' of wind, an' thar ain't a Moosoo afloat that can come anywhar nigh the Parson. Still, jest now, in this here fog,—an' in the calm, too,—if a Moosoo was to come along, why, I railly don't—quite—know—what—I could—railly do."
"The fog! O, in the fog you'll be all right enough, you know," said Claude.
"O, but that's the very thing I don't know," said Zac. "That thar pint's the very identical pint that I don't feel at all clear about, an' would like to have settled."
Claude said nothing for a few moments. He now began to notice in the face, the tone, and the manner of Zac something very different from usual—a certain uneasiness approaching to anxiety, which seemed to be founded on something which he had not yet disclosed.
"What do you mean?" he asked, rather gravely, suddenly dropping his air of light banter.
Zac drew a long breath.
"Wal," said he, "this here fog makes it very easy for a Moosoo to haul up alongside all of a suddent, an' ax you for your papers. An' what's more," he continued, dropping his voice to a lower tone, and stooping, to bring his mouth nearer to Claude's ear, "what's more, I don't know but what, at this very moment, there's a Moosoo railly an' truly a little mite nearer to us than I altogether keer for to hev him."
"What!" exclaimed Claude, with a start; "do you really think so? What! near us, here in this fog?"
"Railly an' truly," said Zac, solemnly, "that's my identical meanin'—jest it, exactly; an' 'tain't overly pleasant, no how. See here;" and Zac dropped his voice to still lower tones, and drew still nearer to Claude, as he continued—"see here, now; I'll tell you what happened jest now. As I was a standin' here, jest afore you come up, I thought I heerd voices out thar on the starboard quarter —voices—"
"Voices!" said Claude. "O, nonsense! Voices! How can there be voices out there? It must have been the water."
"Wal," continued Zac, still speaking in a low tone, "that's the very thing I thought when I fust heerd 'em; I thought, too, it must be the water. But, if you jest take the trouble to examine, you'll find that thur ain't enough motion in the water to make any sound at all. 'Tain't as if thar was a puffin' of the wind an a dashin' of the waves. Thar ain't no wind an' no waves, unfort'nat'ly; so it seems beyond a doubt that it must either be actooal voices, or else somethin' supernat'ral. An' for my part I'd give somethin' for the wind to rise jest a leetle mite, so's I could step off out o' this, an' git out o' hearin', at least."
At this Claude was again silent for some time, thinking to himself whether the possibility of a French ship being near was to be wished or dreaded. Much was to be said on both sides. To himself it would, perhaps, be desirable; yet not so to Zac, although he tried to reassure the dejected skipper by telling him that if a French vessel should really be so near, it would be all the better, since his voyage would thereby be made all the shorter, for he himself could go aboard, and the Parson might return to Boston. But Zac refused to be so easily comforted.
"No," said he; "once I git into their clutches, they'll never let me go; and as for the poor old Parson, why, they'll go an' turn her into a Papist priest. And that," he added, with a deep sigh, "would be too—almighty—bad!"
Claude now found that Zac was in too despondent a mood to listen to what he called reason, and therefore he held his tongue. The idea that a French ship might be somewhere near, behind that wall of fog, had in it something which to him was not unpleasant, since it afforded some variety to the monotony of his situation. He stood, therefore, in silence, with his face turned towards the direction indicated by Zac, and listened intently, while the skipper stood in silence by his side, listening also.
There was no wind whatever. The water was quite smooth, and the Parson rose and fell at the slow undulations of the long ocean rollers, while at every motion the spars creaked and the sails flapped idly. All around there arose a gray wall of fog, deep, dense, and fixed, which shut them in on every side, while overhead the sky itself was concealed from view by the same dull-gray canopy. Behind that wall of fog anything might lie concealed; the whole French fleet might be there, without those on board the Parson being anything the wiser. This Claude felt, and as he thought of the possibility of this, he began to see that Zac's anxiety was very well founded, and that if the Parson should be captured it would be no easy task to deliver her from the grasp of the captor. Still there came no further sounds, and Claude, after listening for a long time without hearing anything, began, at length, to conclude that Zac had been deceived.
"Don't you think," he asked, "that it may, after all, have been the rustle of the sails, or the creaking of the spars?"
Zac shook his head.
"No," said he; "I've heerd it twice; an' I know very well all the sounds that sails an' spars can make; an' I don't see as how I can be mistook. O, no; it was human voice, an' nothin' else in natur'. I wouldn't mind it a mite if I could do anythin'. But to set here an' jest git caught, like a rat in a trap, is what I call too—almighty—bad!"
At this very instant, and while Zac was yet speaking, there came through the fog the sound of a voice. Claude heard it, and Zac also. The latter grasped the arm of his friend, and held his breath. It was a human voice. There was not the slightest doubt now of that. Words had been spoken, but they were unintelligible. They listened still. There was silence for a few moments, and then the silence was broken once more. Words were again heard. They were French, and they heard them this time with perfect distinctness. They were these:—
"Put her head a little over this way."
A MEETING IN MID OCEAN.
Put her head a little over this way!
They were French words. To Claude, of course, they were perfectly intelligible, though not so to Zac, who did not understand any language but his mother Yankee. Judging by the distinctness and the loudness of the sound, the speaker could not be very far away. The voice seemed to come from the water astern. No sight, however, was visible; and the two, as they stared into the fog, saw nothing whatever. Nor did any of the others on board seem to have heard the voice. The priest was still intent on his Breviary. Terry was still whistling his abominable tune. Jericho was below with his pots and pans; and Biler, taking advantage of his absence, was seated on the taffrail devouring a raw turnip, which he chewed with a melancholy air. To none of these had the voice been audible, and therefore Claude and Zac alone were confronted with this mystery of the deep. But it was a mystery which they could not fathom; for the fog was all around, hiding everything from view, and the more they peered into the gloom the less were they able to understand it.
Neither of them spoke for some time. Zac had not understood the words, but was more puzzled about the fact of a speaker being so near on the water, behind the fog, than he was about the meaning of the words which had been spoken. That seemed to be quite a secondary consideration. And it was not until he had exhausted his resources in trying to imagine what or where the one might be, that, he thought of asking about the other.
"What did it mean?" he asked, at length.
Claude told him.
Zac said nothing for some time.
"I wonder whether they've seen us," said he, at length. "No—'tain't possible. The fog's too thick—and we're as invisible to them as they are to us. Besides, these words show that they ain't thinkin' about anybody but themselves. Well, all we've got to do is to keep as still as a mouse, an' I'll jest go an' warn the boys."
With these words Zac moved softly away to warn his crew. First he went to Terry, and informed him that the whole fleet of France was around the Parson, and that their only chance of safety was to keep silent—a piece of information which effectually stopped Terry's singing and whistling for some time; then he told Biler, in a friendly way, that if he spoke above a whisper, or made any noise, he'd pitch him overboard with an anchor tied to his neck. Then he warned Jericho. As for Pere Michel, he felt that warning was unnecessary, for the priest was too absorbed in his book to be conscious of the external world. After this, he came back to Claude, who had been listening ever since he left, but without hearing anything more.
"We must have drifted nearer together," said Zac. "The voice was a good deal louder than when I fust heerd it. My only hope is, that they'll drift past us, an' we'll git further away from them. But I wonder what they meant by bringin' her head around. P'aps they've seen us, after all—an' then, again, p'aps they haven't."
He said this in a whisper, and Clause answered in another whisper.
"It seems to me," said Claude, "that if they'd seen us, they'd have said something more—or at any rate, they'd have made more noise. But as it is, they've been perfectly silent."
"Wal—I on'y hope we won't hear anythin' more of them."
For more than two hours silence was observed on board the Parson. Terry stopped all whistling, and occupied himself with scratching his bullet head. The priest sat motionless, reading his book. Jericho drew the unhappy Biler down below for safe keeping, and detained him there a melancholy prisoner. Claude and Zac stood listening, but nothing more was heard.
To Claude there seemed something weird and ghostly in this incident—a voice thus sounding suddenly forth out of nothingness, and then dying away into the silence from which it had emerged: there was that in it which made him feel a sensation of involuntary awe; and the longer the silence continued, the more did this incident surround itself with a certain supernatural element, until, at length, he began to fancy that his senses might have deceived him. Yet he knew this had not been the case. Zac had heard the voice as well as he, and the words to him had been perfectly plain. Put her head a little over this way! Singular words, too, they seemed to be, as he turned them over in his mind. Under other circumstances they might have been regarded as perfectly commonplace, but now the surroundings gave them the possibility of a varied interpretation. Who was the "her"? What was meant? Was it a ship or a woman? What could the meaning be? Or, again, might not this have been some supernatural voice speaking to them from the Unseen, and conveying to them some sentence either of good or evil omen, giving them some direction, perhaps, about the course of the schooner in which he was?
Not that Claude was what is called a superstitious man. From ordinary superstition he was, indeed, quite as free as any man of his age or epoch; not was he even influenced by any of the common superstitious fancies then prevalent. But still there is a natural belief in the unseen which prevails among all men, and Claude's fancy was busy, being stimulated by this incident, so that, as he endeavored to account for it, he was as easily drawn towards a supernatural theory as to a natural one. Hundreds of miles from land, on the broad ocean, a voice had sounded from behind the impenetrable cloud, and it was scarcely to be wondered at that he considered it something unearthly.
Under other circumstances Zac might also have yielded to superstitious fancies; but as it was, his mind had been too completely filled with the one absorbing idea of the French fleet to find room for any other thought. It was not an unsubstantial ghost which Zac dreaded, but the too substantial form of some frigate looming through the fog, and firing a gun to bring him on board. Every additional moment of silence gave him a feeling of relief, for he felt that these moments, as they passed, drew him away farther from the danger that had been so near.
At length a new turn came to the current of affairs. A puff of wind suddenly filled the sails, and at its first breath Zac started up with a low chuckle.
"I'd give ten guineas," said he, "for one good hooray—I would, by George! But bein' as it is, I'll postpone that till I haul off a few miles from this."
"Why, what's the matter?" said Claude, rousing himself out of abstraction.
"Matter?" repeated Zac. "Why, the wind's hauled round to the nor'west, and the fog's goin' to lift, an' the Parson's goin' to show her heels."
With these words, Zac hurried to the tiller, which he took from the smiling Terry, and began to being the vessel around to run her before the wind.
"Don't care a darn whar I go jest now," said he, "so's I on'y put a mile or two between us and the Frenchman. Arter that we can shape our course satisfactory."
And now the wind, which had thus turned, blew more steadily till it became a sustained breeze of sufficient strength to carry the schooner, with very satisfactory speed, out of the unpleasant proximity to the Frenchman. And as it blew, the clouds lessened, and the circle of fog which had surrounded them was every moment removed to a greater distance, while the view over the water grew wider and clearer. All this was inexpressibly delightful to Zac, who, as it were, with one bound passed from the depths of despondency up to joyousness and hope.
But suddenly a sight appeared which filled him with amazement, a sight which attracted all his thoughts, and in an instant changed all his feelings and plans. It was a sight which had become revealed on the dispersion of the fog, showing itself to their wondering eyes out there upon the sea astern, in the place where they had been looking for that French cruiser, which Zac had feared.
No French cruiser was it that they saw, no ship of war with a hostile flag and hostile arms, no sight of fear; but a sight full of infinite pathos and sadness—a pitiable, a melancholy sight. It was about half a mile behind them, for that was about the distance which they had traversed since the wind had changed and the schooner's direction had been altered.
It seemed at first like a black spot on the water, such as a projection rock or a floating spar; but as the fog faded away the object became more perceptible. Then they could see human figures, some of whom were erect, and others lying down. They were on what seemed to be a sort of raft, and the whole attitude of the little group showed most plainly that they had suffered shipwreck, and were here now floating about helplessly, and at the mercy of the tide, far out at sea. Moreover, these had already seen the schooner, for they were waving their arms and gesticulating wildly.
One glance was enough for both Zac and Claude, and then the exclamation which they gave drew there the attention of all the others. The priest looked up, and putting his book back in his pocket, walked towards them, while Terry gave one swift look, and then disappeared below.
"Quick wid ye," he called to Jericho; "put on a couple of barls o' taters to bile. There's a shipwrecked raft afloat out there beyant, an' they're all dyin' or dead av starvation, so they are."
"O, you jes go long wid yer nonsensical tomfoolery," said Jericho.
"Tomfoolery, is it? Go up, thin, an' luk for yerself," cried Terry, who bounded up on deck again, and began to prepare for action. At this Jericho put on his nose an enormous pair of spectacles, and thus equipped climbed upon deck, followed closely by the melancholy Biler, who devoured a carrot as he went up.
By this time Zac had brought the Parson's head round once more, and steered for the raft, calling out to Terry to get the boat afloat. Terry and Jerry then went to work, assisted by Biler, and soon the boat was in the water.
"Ef I hadn't ben sich a darned donkey," said Zac, in a tone of vexation, "I might have got at 'em before an' saved them all these hours of extra starvation. Ef I'd only yelled back when I fust heerd the voice! Who knows but that some of 'em hev died in the time that's ben lost?"
"Can't we run alongside without the boat?" asked Claude.
"Wal, yes," said Zac; "but then, you know, we couldn't stay alongside when we got that, an' so we've got to take 'em off with the boat the best way we can."
They were not long in retracing their way, and soon came near enough. Zac then gave up the tiller to Terry, telling him to keep as near as possible. He then got into the boat, and Claude followed, by Zac's invitation, as well as his own urgent request. Each took an oar, and after a few strokes, they were up to the raft. The raft was on a level with the water and was barely able to sustain the weight of those who had found refuge on it. It seemed like the poop or round house of some ship which had been beaten off by the fury of the waves, and had afterwards been resorted to by those who now clung to it.
The occupants of the raft were, indeed, a melancholy group. They were seven in number. Of these, two were common seamen; a third looked like a ship's officer, and wore the uniform of a second lieutenant; the fourth was a gentleman, who seemed about forty years of age. These four were standing, and as the boat approached them they gave utterance to every possible cry of joy and gratitude. But it was the other three occupants of the raft that most excited the attention of Claude and Zac.
An old man was seated there, with thin, emaciated frame, and snow-white hair. He was holding in his arms a young girl, while beside her knelt another young girl who seemed like the attendant of the first, and both the old man and the maid were most solicitous in their attentions. The object of these attentions was exquisitely beautiful. Her slender frame seemed to have been worn by long privation, and weakened by famine and exposure. Her face was pale and wan, but still showed the rounded outlines of youth. Her hair was all dishevelled, as though it had been long the sport of the rude tempest and the ocean billow, and hung in disordered masses over her head and shoulders. Her dress, though saturated with wet from the sea and the fog, was of rich material, and showed her to belong to lofty rank; while the costume of the old man indicated the same high social position. The young lady was not senseless, but only weak, perhaps from sudden excitement. As she reclined in the old man's arms, her eyes were fixed upon the open boat; and Claude, as he turned to grasp the raft, caught her full gaze fixed upon him, with a glance from her large dark eyes that thrilled through him, full of unutterable gratitude. Her lips moved, not a word escaped, but tears more eloquent than words rolled slowly down.
Such was the sight that greeted Claude as he stepped from the boat upon the raft. In an instant he was caught in the embraces of the men, who, frenzied with joy at the approach of deliverance, flung themselves upon him. But Claude had no eyes for any one but the lovely young girl, whose gaze of speechless gratitude was never removed from him.
"Messieurs," said Claude, who knew them to be French, and addressed them in their own language, "you shall all be saved; but we cannot all go at once; we must save the weakest first; and will, therefore, take these now, and come back for you afterwards."
Saying this, he stooped down so to raise the young lady in his arms, and carry her aboard. The old man held her up, uttering inarticulate murmurs, that sounded like blessings on their deliverer. Claude lifted the girl as though she had been a child, and stepped towards the boat. Zac was already on the raft, and held the boat, while Claude stepped aboard. The old man then tried to rise and follow, assisted by the maid, but, after one or two efforts, sank back, incapable of keeping his feet. Upon this Zac flung the rope to the French lieutenant, and walked over to the old man. Claude now had returned, having left the girl in the stern of the boat.
"Look here," said Zac, as he came up; "the old gentleman can't walk. You'd best carry him aboard, and I'll carry the gal."
With these words Zac turned towards the maid; she looked up at him with a shy glance and showed such a pretty face, such black eyes and smiling lips, that Zac for a moment hesitated, feeling quite paralyzed by an overflow of bashfulness. But it was not a time to stand on ceremony; and so honest Zac, without more ado, seized the girl in his arms, and bore her to the boat, where he deposited her carefully by the side of the other. Claude now followed, carrying the old man, whom he placed beside the young lady, so that he and the maid could support her as before. There was yet room for one more, and the gentleman still on the raft came forward at Claude's invitation, and took his place in the bows. The rest waited on the raft. The boat then returned to the schooner, which now had come very close. Here Claude lifted the lady high in the air, and Pere Michel took her from his arms. Claude then got on board the schooner, and took her to the cabin, where he laid her on a couch. Zac then lifted up the maid, who was helped on board by Pere Michel, where Claude met her, and took her to the cabin. Zac then lifted up the old man, and Pere Michel stood ready to receive him also.
And now a singular incident occurred. As Zac raised the old man, Pere Michel caught sight of the face, and regarded it distinctly. The old man's eyes were half closed, and he took no notice of anything; but there was something in that face which produced a profound impression on Pere Michel. He stood rigid, as though rooted to the spot, looking at the old man with a fixed stare. Then his arms sank down, his head also fell forward, and turning abruptly away, he walked forward to the bows. Upon this Jericho came forward; and he it was who lifted the old man on board and assisted him to the cabin.
After this, the other gentleman got on board, and then the boat returned and took off the other occupants of the raft.
Every arrangement was made that could be made within the confines of a small schooner to secure the comfort of the strangers. To the young lady and her maid Claude gave up the state-room which he himself had thus far occupied, and which was the best on board, while Zac gave up his to the old man. The others were all comfortably disposed of, and Zac and Claude stowed themselves away as best they could feeling indifferent about themselves as long as they could minister to the wants of their guests. Food and sleep were the things that were the most needed by all these new-comers, and these they had in abundance. Under the beneficial effects of these, they began to regain their strength. The seaman rallied first, as was most natural; and from these Claude learned the story of their misfortunes.
The lost ship had been the French frigate Arethuse, which had left Brest about a moth previously, on a voyage to Louisbourg and Quebec. The old gentleman was the Comte de Laborde, and the two girls whom they had saved, one was his daughter, and the other her maid. The other gentleman was the Comte de Cazeneau. This last was on his way to Louisbourg, where an important post was awaiting him. About a week before this the Arethuse had encountered a severe gale, accompanied by a dense fog, in which they had lost their reckoning. To add to their miseries, they found themselves surrounded by icebergs, among which navigation was so difficult that the seamen all became demoralized. At length the ship struck one of these floating masses, and instantly began to fill. The desperate efforts of the crew, however, served to keep her afloat for another day, and might have saved her, had it not been for the continuation of the fog. On the following night, in the midst of intense darkness, she once more struck against an iceberg, and this time the consequences were more serious. A huge fragment of ice fell upon the poop, shattering it and sweeping it overboard. In an instant all discipline was at an end. It was sauve qui peut. The crew took to the boats. One of these went down with all on board, while the others passed away into the darkness. This little handful had thrown themselves upon the ship's poop, which was floating alongside within reach, just in time to escape being dragged down by the sinking ship; and there, for days and nights, with scarcely any food, and no shelter whatever, they had drifted amid the dense fog, until all hope had died out utterly. Such had been their situation when rescue came.
Claude, upon hearing this story, expressed a sympathy which was most sincere; and to the seamen it was all the pleasanter as his accent showed him to be a countryman. But the general sympathy which the young man felt, sincere though it was, could not be compared with that special sympathy which he experienced for the lovely young girl whom he had borne from the raft into the schooner, and whose deep glance of speechless gratitude had never since faded from his memory. She was now aboard, and was occupying his own room. More than this, she had already taken up a position within his mind which was a pre-eminent one. She had driven out every thought of everything else. The highest desire which he had was to see once again that face which had become so vividly impressed upon his memory, and find out what it might be like in less anxious moments. But for this he would have to wait.
Meanwhile the schooner had resumed her voyage, in which, however, she made but slow progress. The wind, which had come up so opportunely, died out again; and, though the fog had gone, still for a few days they did little else than drift.
After the first day and night the Count de Laborde came upon deck. He was extremely feeble, and had great difficulty in walking; with him were his daughter and her maid. Although her exhaustion and prostration on the raft had, apparently, been even greater than his, yet youth was on her side, and she had been able to rally much more rapidly. She and her maid supported the feeble old count, and anxiously anticipated his wants with the fondest care.
Claude had hoped for this appearance, and was not disappointed. He had seen her first as she was emerging from the valley of the shadow of death, with the stamp of sorrow and despair upon her features; but now no trace of despair remained; her face was sweet and joyous beyond expression, with the grace of a child-like innocence and purity. The other passenger, whom the lieutenant of the Arethuse had called the Count de Cazeneau, was also on deck, and, on seeing Laborde and his daughter, he hastened towards them with the utmost fervor of congratulations. The lieutenant also went to pay his respects. The young countess was most gracious, thanking them for their good wishes, and assuring them that she was as well as ever; and then her eyes wandered away, and, after a brief interval, at length rested with a fixed and earnest look full upon Claude. The glance thrilled through him. For a moment he stood as if fixed to the spot; but at length, mastering his emotion, he went towards her.
"Here he is, papa, dearest," said she,—"our noble deliverer.—And, O, monsieur, how can we ever find words to thank you?"
"Dear monsieur," said the old count, embracing Claude, "Heaven will reward you; our words are useless.—Mimi," he continued, turning to his daughter, "your dream was a true one.—You must know, monsieur, that she dreamed that a young Frenchman came in an open boat to save us. And so it really was."
Mimi smiled and blushed.
"Ah, papa, dear," she said, "I dreamed because I hoped. I always hoped, but you always desponded. And now it has been better than our hopes.—But, monsieur, may we not know the name of our deliverer?"
She held out her little hand as she said this. Claude raised it respectfully to his lips, bowing low as he did so. He then gave his name, but hastened to assure them that he was not their preserver, insisting that Zac had the better claim to that title. To this, however, the others listened with polite incredulity, and Mimi evidently considered it all the mere expression of a young man's modesty. She waved her little hand with a sunny smile.
"Eh bien," she said, "I see, monsieur, it pains you to have people too grateful; so we will say no more about it. We must satisfy ourselves by remembering and by praying."
Here the conversation was interrupted by the interposition of the Count de Cazeneau, who came forward to add his thanks to those of Laborde. He made a little set speech, to which Claude listened with something of chagrin, for he did not like being placed in the position of general savior and preserver, when he knew that Zac deserved quite as much credit for what had been done as he did. This was not unobserved by Mimi, who appreciated his feelings and came to his relief.
"M. Motier does not like being praised," said she. "Let us respect his delicacy."
But Cazeneau was not to be stopped so easily. He seemed like one who had prepared a speech carefully and with much labor, and was, accordingly, bound to give it all; so Claude was forced to listen to an eloquent and inflated panegyric about himself and his heroism, without being able to offer anything more than an occasional modest disclaimer. And all the time the deep, dark glance of Mimi was fixed on him, as though she would read his soul. If, indeed, he had any skill in reading character, it was easy enough to see in the face of that young man a pure, a lofty, and a generous nature, unsullied by anything mean or low, a guileless and earnest heart, a soul sans peur et sans reproche; and it did seem by the expression of her own face as though she had read all this in Claude.
Further conversation of a general nature followed, which served to explain the position of all of them with reference to one another. Claude was the virtual master of the schooner, since he had chartered it for his own purposes. To all of them, therefore, he seemed first their savior, and secondly their host and entertainer, to whom they were bound to feel chiefly grateful. Yet none the less did they endeavor to include the honest skipper in their gratitude; and Zac came in for a large share of it. Though he could not understand any of the words which they addressed to him, yet he was easily able to guess what they were driving at, and so he modestly disclaimed it all with the expression,—
"O, sho! sho, now! sho, sho!"
They now learned that Claude was on his way to Louisbourg, and that they would thus be able to reach their original destination. They also learned the circumstances of Zac, and his peculiar unwillingness to trust his schooner inside the harbor of Louisbourg. Zac's scruples were respected by them, though they all declared that there was no real danger. They were sufficiently satisfied to be able to reach any point near Louisbourg, and did not seek to press Zac against his will, or to change his opinion upon a point where it was so strongly expressed.
No sooner had these new passengers thus unexpectedly appeared, than a very marked change came over Pere Michel, which to Claude was quite inexplicable. To him and to Zac the good priest had thus far seemed everything that was most amiable and companionable; but now, ever since the moment when he had turned away at the sight of the face of Laborde, he had grown strangely silent, and reticent, and self-absorbed. Old Laborde had made advances which had been coldly repelled. Cazeneau, also, had tried to draw him out, but without success. To the lieutenant only was he at all inclined to unbend. Yet this strange reserve did not last long, and at length Pere Michel regained his old manner, and received the advances of Laborde with sufficient courtesy, while to Mimi he showed that paternal gentleness which had already endeared him to Claude and to Zac.
Several days thus passed, during which but little progress was made. The schooner seemed rather to drift than to sail. Whenever a slight breeze would arise, it was sure to be adverse, and was not of long duration. Then a calm would follow, and the schooner would lie idle upon the bosom of the deep.
During these days Mimi steadily regained her strength; and the bloom and the sprightliness of youth came back, and the roses began to return to her cheeks, and her wan face resumed its plumpness, and her eyes shone with the light of joyousness. Within the narrow confines of a small schooner, Claude was thrown in her way more frequently than could have been the case under other circumstances; and the situation in which they were placed towards one another connected them more closely, and formed a bond which made an easy way to friendship, and even intimacy. As a matter of course, Claude found her society pleasanter by far than that of any one else on board; while, on the other hand, Mimi did not seem at all averse to his companionship. She seemed desirous to know all about him.
"But, monsieur," she said once, in the course of a conversation, "it seems strange to me that you have lived so long among the English here in America."
"It is strange," said Claude; "and, to tell the truth, I don't altogether understand myself how it has happened."
"Ah, you don't understand yourself how it has happened," repeated Mimi, in a tone of voice that was evidently intended to elicit further confidences.
"No," said Claude, who was not at all unwilling to receive her as his confidante. "You see I was taken away from France when I was an infant."
"When you were an infant!" said Mimi. "How very, very sad!" and saying this, she turned her eyes, with a look full of deepest commiseration, upon him. "And so, of course, you cannot remember anything at all about France."
Claude shook his head.
"No, nothing at all," said he. "But I'm on my way there now; and I hope to see it before long. It's the most beautiful country in all the world—isn't it?'
"Beautiful!" exclaimed Mimi, throwing up her eyes; "there are no words to describe it. It is heaven! Alas! how can I ever bear to live here in this wild and savage wilderness of America!"
"You did not wish to leave France then?" said Claude, who felt touched by this display of feeling.
"I!" exclaimed Mimi; "I wish to leave France! Alas, monsieur! it was the very saddest day of all my life. But dear papa had to go, and I do not know why it was. He offered to let me stay; but I could not let him go alone, for he is so old and feeble, and I was willing to endure all for his sake."
"What part of France did you live in?" asked Claude.
"That is where the court is," said Claude.
"Of course," said Mimi, with a smile. "But how funny it seems to hear a Frenchman make such a remark, and in such an uncertain way, as though he did not feel quite sure. Why, monsieur, in France Versailles is everything; Versailles is the king and court. In a word, monsieur, Versailles is France."
"I suppose you saw very much of the splendor and magnificence of the court?" said Claude.
"I!" said Mimi; "splendor and magnificence! the court! Ma foi, monsieur, I did not see any of it at all. In France young girls are kept close-guarded. You have lived among the English, and among them I have heard that young girls can go anywhere and do anything. But for my part I have always lived most secluded—sometimes at school, and afterwards at home."
"How strange it is," said Claude, "that your father should leave France, when he is so old and feeble, and take you, too, and come to this wild country!"
"O, it is very strange," said Mimi, "and very sad; and I don't know why in the world it was, for he will never tell me. Sometimes I think that something unfortunate has happened, which has made him go into exile this way. But then, if that were so, I don't see why he should remain in French possessions. If his political enemies have driven him away, he would not be safe in French colonies; and so I don't know why in the world he ever left home."
"Does he intend to remain at Louisbourg, or go farther?" asked Claude, after a thoughtful pause.
"I'm sure I don't know," said Mimi; "but I don't think he has decided yet. It is just as if he was looking for something, and as if he would travel about till he found it; though what it is that he wants I can hardly tell. And such, monsieur, is our mournful position. We may remain at Louisbourg a short time or a long time: it depends upon circumstances. We may go to Quebec, or even to New Orleans."
"New Orleans!" exclaimed Claude.
"Yes; I heard him hint as much. And he said, also, that if he did go as far as that, he would leave me at Quebec or Louisbourg. But I will never consent to that, and I will go with him wherever he goes."
"I should think that such a roving life would make you feel very unhappy."
"O, no; I am not unhappy," said Mimi, cheerfully. "I should, indeed, feel unhappy if I were left behind in France, or anywhere else, and if poor papa should go roaming about without any one to care for him. I am not much; but I know that he loves me dearly, and that he is very much happier with me than without me. And that is the reason why I am determined to go with him wherever he goes,—yes, even if he goes among the savages. Besides, while I am with him, he has a certain amount of anxiety about me, and this distracts his thoughts, and prevents him from brooding too much over his own personal troubles. But O, how I envy you, Monsieur Motier, and O, how I should love to be going back to France, if dear papa were only going there too! I shall never be happy again, I know, never, till I am back again in France."
MIMI AND MARGOT.
While Claude was doing the honors of hospitality to the guests aft, the crew of the Parson was fraternizing with the seamen of the wrecked Arethuse, forward. The first and most important act of friendly intercourse was the work of Jericho, who put forth all his skill in preparing for the half-starved sailors a series of repasts upon which he lavished all his genius, together with the greater part of the stores of the schooner. To these repasts the seamen did ample justice, wasting but little time in unnecessary words, but eating as only those can eat who have been on the borders of starvation. Yet it may be questioned whether their voracity exceeded that of a certain melancholy boy, who waited on the banquet, and whose appetite seemed now even more insatiable in the midst of the abundant supplies which Jericho produced, than it had been in former days, when eatables had been less choice and repasts less frequent. In fact, Biler outdid himself, and completely wore out the patience of the long-suffering Jericho.
"You jes look heah, you Biler," he said; "you better mind, for I ain't goin' to stand dese yer goins on no longer. Bar's limits to eberyting—and dese yer 'visiums has got to be 'commonized, an' not to be all gobbled up by one small boy. Tell you what, I got a great mind to put you on a lowns, an' gib you one rore turnip a day, an' ef you can ketch a fish I'll 'gree to cook it. Why, dar ain't de vessel afloat dat can stand dis yer. You eat fifty-nine meals a day, an' more. You nebber do notin' else but eat—morn', noon, an' night."
"Arrah, Jerry, let the b'y ate his fill," said Terry: "sure an' a growin' b'y has to ate more'n a grown man, so as to get flesh to grow wid."
"Can't do it," said Jerry, "an' won't do it. Didn't mind it so much afore, but now we'se got to 'commonize. Bar's ebber so many more moufs aboard now, an' all on 'em eat like sin. Dis yer calm keeps us out heah in one spot, an' when we're ebber a goin' to get to de end ov de vyge's more'n I can tell. No use frowin' away our val'ble 'visiums on dis yer boy—make him eat soap fat and oakum—good enough for him. No 'casium for him to be eatin' a hundred times more'n all de res ob us. If he wants to eat he'll hab to find his own 'visiums, an' ketch a shark, an' I'll put it in pickle for he own private use."
With these words Jericho turned away with deep trouble and perplexity visible on his ebon brow, and Biler, pocketing a few potatoes and turnips, climbed to the mast-head, where he sat gazing in a melancholy way into space.
To Terry these new comers were most welcome. At a distance he professed to hate and despise the French; but now that they appeared face to face, his hate was nowhere, and in its place there was nothing but a most earnest desire to form an eternal friendship with the shipwrecked seamen. There was certainly one difficulty in the way which was of no slight character; and that was, that neither of them knew the language of the other. But Terry was not easily daunted, and the very presence of a difficulty was enough to make him feel eager to triumph over it.
In his first approaches he made the very common mistake of addressing the French sailors as though they were deaf. Thus he went up to them one after the other, shaking hands with each, and shouting in their ears as loud as he could, "How do yez do?" "Good day." "The top av the mornin' to yez." To which the good-natured Frenchmen responded in a sympathetic way, shaking his hand vigorously,—and grinning and chattering. Terry kept this up for some time; but at length it became somewhat monotonous, and he set his wits to work to try to discover some more satisfactory mode of effecting a communication with them. The next way that he thought of was something like the first, and, like the first, is also frequently resorted to by those who have occasion to speak to foreigners. It was to address them in broken English, or rather in a species of baby talk; for to Terry it seemed no more than natural that this sort of dialect would be more intelligible than the speech of full-grown men.
Accordingly, as soon as Terry thought of this, he put it in practice. He began by shaking hands once more, and then said to them, "Me berry glad see you—me sposy you berry hundy. Polly want a cracker. He sall hab penty mate den, so he sall. Did de naughty water boos um den?"
But unfortunately this effort proved as much of a failure as the other; so Terry was once more compolled to trust to his wits. Those wits of his, being active, did not fail, indeed, to suggest many ways, and of the best kind, by which he brought himself into communication with his new friends. At the first repast he found this out, and insisted upon passing everything to them with his own hands, accompanying each friendly offer with an affectionate smile, which went straight to the hearts of the forlorn and half-starved guests. This was a language which was every way intelligible, the language of universal humanity, in which the noblest precept is, to be kind to enemies and to feed the hungry.
In addition to this, Terry also found out other ways of holding communication with them, the chief of which was by the language of song. Terry's irrepressible tendency to singing thus burst forth in their presence, and after trolling out a few Irish melodies, he succeeded in eliciting from them a sympathetic response in the shape of some lively French songs. The result proved most delightful to all concerned; and thereafter the muse of Ireland and the muse of France kept up a perpetual antiphonal song, which beguiled many a tedious hour.
While the various characters on board the schooner were thus entering into communication with one another, Zac endeavored also to scrape an acquaintance with one of the rescued party, who seemed to him to be worth all the rest put together. This was Mimi's maid, Margot, a beautiful little creature, full of life and spirit, and fit companion for such a mistress as hers. The good little Margot was very accessible, and had not failed to pour forth in language not very intelligible her sense of gratitude to Zac. She had not forgotten that it was Zac who had conveyed her in his strong arms from death to life, and therefore persisted in regarding him not only as the preserver of her own self, but as the real and only preserver of all the others.
Margot had one advantage which was delightful to Zac; and that was, she could speak a little English. She had once spent a year in England, where she had picked up enough of the language to come and go upon, and this knowledge now proved to be of very great advantage.
The calm weather which continued gave Zac many opportunities of drifting away towards Margot, and talking with her, in which talks they gradually grew to be better acquainted.
"I am so happy zat I spik Ingelis!" said Margot; "I nevar did sink dat it was evare useful."
"An' pooty blamed lucky it's ben for me, too," said Zac, in a joyous tone; "for as I don't know French, like Claude over there, I have to trust to you to keep up the conversation."
"I not know mooch Ingelis," said Margot, "for I not understan de mooch of what you say."
"O, you'll learn dreadful fast out here," said Zac.
"But I not weesh to stay here so long as to learn," said Margot.
"Not wish! Sho, now! Why, it's a better country than France."
"Than France—better!" cried Margot, lifting her hands and throwing up her eyes in amazement. "France! Monsieur, France is a heaven—mais—dees—dees—is different."
"Why, what's the matter with America?" said Zac.
"Amerique—eet ees all full of de sauvage—de Indian—de wild men—an' wild beasts—an' desert."
"O, you ain't ben to Boston; that's clar," said Zac, mildly. "Jest you wait till you see Boston; that's all."
"Boston! I nevare hear of Boston," said Margot, "till you tell me. I do not believe eet it is more magnifique dan Paris."
"The most magnificent town in the hull world," said Zac, calmly. "You take the House of Assembly an' Govement House—take King Street and Queen Street, an' I'd like to know whar you'll find a better show any whar on airth."
"Sais pas," said Margot; "nevare see Boston. Mais vous—you nevare see Paris—so we are not able to compare."
"O, well, it's nat'ral enough for you," said Zac, with magnanimity, "nat'ral enough for you, course, to like your own place best—'twouldn't be nat'ral ef you didn't. All your friends live thar, course. You were born thar, and I s'pose your pa an' ma may be there now, anxiously expectin' to hear from you."
Zac put this in an interrogative way, for he wanted to know. But as he said these words, the smiling face of Margot turned sad; she shook her head, and said,—
"No; I have no one, no one!"
"What! no relatives!" said Zac, in a voice full of commiseration and tender pity.
Margot shook her head.
"An' so you've got no father nor mother, an' you're a poor little orphan girl!" said Zac, in a broken voice.
Margot shook her head, and looked sadder than over.
Tears came to Zac's eyes. He felt as he had never felt before. There was something so inexpressibly touching about this orphan! He took her little hand tenderly in his own great, brown, toil-worn fist, and looked at her very wistfully. For a few moments he said nothing. Margot looked up at him with her great brown eyes, and then looked meekly at the deck. Zac heaved a deep sigh; then he placed his disengaged hand solemnly upon her head.
"Wal," said he, gravely, "I'll protect you. Ef anybody ever harms you, you jest come to me. I'll—I'll be—a father to you."
Again Margot looked up at him with her great brown eyes.
"O, dat's noting," she said. "I don't want you to be my fader. But, all de same, I tink you one very nice man; an' you safe my life; an' I sall not forget—nevare; an' I weesh—. Sall I tell you what I weesh?"
"Yes, yes," said Zac, eagerly, with a strange thrill of excitement.
Margot threw a quick look around.
"Dees Monsieur de Cazeneau," said she, drawing nearer to Zac, and speaking in a low, quick voice, "I 'fraid of heem. Dere is danjaire for my mademoiselle. He is a bad man. He haf a plot—a plan. You moos safe us. Dees Monsieur Motier is no good. You haf safe us from death; you moos safe us from dees danjaire."
"How?" asked Zac, who took in at once the meaning of Margot's words, though not fully understanding them.
"I will tell. Dess Monsieur de Cazeneau wish to get us to Louisbourg, where he will ruin us all—dat is, de ole count and de mademoiselle. You moos turn about, and take us to Boston."
"Take you to Boston! But this schooner is engaged to go to Louisbourg with Mr. Motier."
Margot shook her head.
"You moos do it," said she, "or we sall be ruin. You moos tell Monsieur Motier—"
Zac now began questioning her further; but Margot could not remain any longer; she therefore hurried away, with the promise to see him again and explain more about it; and Zac was left alone with his own thoughts, not knowing exactly what he could say to Claude, or how he could make up, out of Margot's scanty information, a story which might offer sufficient ground for a change in the purpose of the voyage.
Meanwhile Claude had seen Mimi at various times, and had conversed with her, as before, in a very confidential manner. The danger of which Margot had spoken was present in Mimi's thoughts, also; and she was anxious to secure Claude's assistance.
Thus it was that Mimi communicated to Claude all about her personal affairs. There was something almost childish in this ready communicativeness; but she knew no reason for concealing anything, and therefore was thus frank and outspoken. Claude, also, was quite as willing to tell all about himself; though his own story was somewhat more involved, and could not be told piecemeal, but required a longer and more elaborate explanation.
"Have you many friends in France?" asked Mimi, in an abrupt sort of way, the next time they met.
"Friends in France?" repeated Claude; "not one, that I know of."
"No friends! Then what can you do there?" she asked, innocently.
"Well, I don't know yet," said he. "I will see when I get there. The fact is, I am going there to find out something about my own family—my parents and myself."
At this Mimi fastened her large eyes upon Claude with intense interest.
"How strangely you talk!" said she.
"I'll tell you a secret," said Claude, after a pause.
"What?" she asked.
"You will never tell it to any one? It's very important."
"I tell it?" repeated Mimi; "I! Never. Of course not. So, now, what is the secret?"
"Well, it's this: my name is not Motier."
"Well," said Mimi, "I'm sure I'm very glad that it isn't; and it seemed strange when you told me first, for Motier is a plebeian name; and you certainly are no plebeian."
"I am not a plebeian," said Claude, proudly. "You are right. My name is one of the noblest in France. I wonder if you can tell me what I want to know!"
"I! Why, how can I?" said Mimi. "But I should so like to know what it is that you want to know! And O, monsieur, I should so love to know what is your real name and family!"
"Well," said Claude, "I don't as yet know much about it myself. But I do know what my real name is. I am the Count de Montresor."
"Montresor," exclaimed Mimi, "Montresor!"
As she said this, there was an evident agitation in her voice and manner which did not escape Claude.
"What's the matter?" said he. "You know something. Tell me what it is! O, tell me!"
Mimi looked at him very earnestly.
"I don't know," said she; "I don't know anything at all. I only know this, that poor papa's troubles are connected in some way with some one whose name is Montresor. But his troubles are a thing that I am afraid to speak about, and therefore I have never found out anything about them. So I don't know anything about Montresor, more than this. And the trouble is something terrible, I know," continued Mimi, "for it has forced him, at his time of life, to leave his home and become an exile. And I'm afraid—that is, I imagine—that he himself has done some wrong in his early life to some Montresor. But I'm afraid to ask him; and I think now that the sole object of his journey is to atone for this wrong that he has done. And O, monsieur, now that you tell your name, now that you say how you have been living here all your life, I have a fearful suspicion that my papa has been the cause of it. Montrosor! How strange!"
Mimi was very much agitated; so much so, indeed, that Claude repented having told her this. But it was now too late to repent, and he could only try to find some way of remedying the evil.
"Suppose I go to your father," said he, "and tell him who I am, and all about myself."
"No, no," cried Mimi, earnestly; "do not! O, do not! I would not have you for worlds. My hope is, that he may give up his search and go home again, and find peace. There is nothing that you can do. What it is that troubles him I don't know; but it was something that took place before you or I were born—many, many years ago. You can do nothing. You would only trouble him the more. If he has done wrong to you or yours, you would only make his remorse the worse, for he would see in you one whom his acts have made an exile."
"O, nonsense!" said Claude, cheerily; "I haven't been anything of the kind. For my part, I've lived a very happy life indeed; and it's only of late that I found out my real name. I'll tell you all about it some time, and then you'll understand better. As to anybody feeling remorse about my life, that's all nonsense. I consider my life rather an enviable one thus far."
At this Mimi's agitation left her, and she grew calm again. She looked at Claude with a glance of deep gratitude, and said,—
"O, how glad, how very glad, I am to hear you say that! Perhaps you may be able yet to tell that to my dear papa. But still, I do not wish you to say anything to him at all till I may find some time when you may do it safely. And you will promise me—will you not?—that you will keep this a secret from him till he is able to bear it."
"Promise? Of course," said Claude.
She held out her hand, and Claude took it and carried it to his lips. They had been sitting at the bows of the schooner during this conversation. No one was near, and they had been undisturbed.
A STRANGE REVELATION.
The old Count Laborde had been too much weakened by suffering and privation to recover very rapidly. For a few days he spent most of his time reclining upon a couch in the little cabin, where Mimi devoted herself to him with the tenderest care. At times she would come upon deck at the urgent request of her father, and then Claude would devote himself to her with still more tender care. The old man did not take much notice of surrounding things. He lay most of the time with his eyes closed, in a half-dreamy state, and it was only with an effort that he was able to rouse himself to speak. He took no notice whatever of any one but his daughter. Cazeneau made several efforts to engage his attention, but he could not be roused.
Thus there were short intervals, on successive days, when Claude was able to devote himself to Mimi, for the laudable purpose of beguiling the time which he thought must hang heavy on her hands. He considered that as he was in some sort the master of the schooner, these strangers were all his guests, and he was therefore bound by the sacred laws of hospitality to make it as pleasant for them as possible. Of course, also, it was necessary that he should exert his hospitable powers most chiefly for the benefit of the lady; and this necessity he followed up with very great spirit and assiduity.
By the conversation which he had already had with her, it will be seen that they had made rapid advances towards intimacy. Claude was eager to extend this advance still farther, to take her still more into his confidence, and induce her to take him into hers. He was very eager to tell her all about himself, and the nature of his present voyage; he was still more eager to learn from her all that she might know about the Montresor family. And thus he was ever on the lookout for her appearance on deck.
These appearances were not so frequent as he desired; but Mimi's devotion to her father kept her below most of the time. At such times Claude did the agreeable to the other passengers, with varying success. With the lieutenant he succeeded in ingratiating himself very rapidly; but with Cazeneau all his efforts proved futile. There was about this man a sullen reserve and hauteur which made conversation difficult and friendship impossible. Claude was full of bonhomie, good-nature generally, and sociability; but Cazeneau was more than he could endure; so that, after a few attempts, he retired, baffled, vexed at what he considered the other's aristocratic pride. What was more noticed by him now, was the fact that Pere Michel had grown more reserved with him; not that there was any visible change in the good priest's friendly manner, but he seemed pro-occupied and strangely self-absorbed. And so things went on.
Meantime the schooner can hardly be said to have gone on at all. What with light head winds, and currents, and calms, her progress was but slow. This state of things was very irritating to Zac, who began to mutter something about these rascally Moosoos bringing bad luck, and "he'd be darned if he wouldn't like to know where in blamenation it was all going to end." But as Claude was no longer so good a listener as he used to be, Zac grew tired of talking to empty space, and finally held his peace. The winds and tides, and the delay, however, made no difference with Claude, nor did it interfere in the slightest with his self-content and self-complacency. In fact, he looked as though he rather enjoyed the situation; and this was not the least aggravating thing in the surroundings to the mind of the impatient skipper.
Thus several days passed, and at length Claude had an opportunity of drawing Mimi into another somewhat protracted conversation.
"I am very much obliged to you," said Claude, gayly, "for making your appearance. I have been trying to do the agreeable to your shipmate Cazeneau, but without success. Is he always so amiable? and is he a friend of yours?"
Mimi looked at Claude with a very serious expression as he said this, and was silent for a few minutes.
"He is a friend of papa's," said she at last. "He came out with us—"
"Is he a great friend of yours?" asked Claude.
Mimi hesitated for a moment, and then said,—
"No; I do not like him at all."
Claude drew a long breath.
"Nor do I," said he.
"Perhaps I am doing him injustice," said Mimi, "but I cannot help feeling as though he is in some way connected with dear papa's troubles. I do not mean to say that he is the cause of them. I merely mean that, as far as I know anything about them, it is always in such a way that he seems mixed up with them. And I don't think, either, that his face is very much in his favor, for there is something so harsh and cruel in his expression, that I always wish that papa had chosen some different kind of a person for his friend and confidant."
"Is he all that?" asked Claude.
"O, I suppose so," said Mimi. "They have secrets together, and make, together, plans that I know nothing about."
"Do you suppose," asked Claude, "that you will ever be in any way connected with their plans?"
He put this question, which was a general one, in a very peculiar tone, which indicated some deeper meaning. It seemed as though Mimi understood him, for she threw at him a hurried and half-frightened look.
"Why?" she asked. "What makes you ask such a question as that?"
"O, I don't know," said Claude. "The thought merely entered my mind—perhaps because I dislike him, and suspect him, and am ready to imagine all kinds of evil about him."
Mimi regarded him now with a very earnest look, and said nothing for some time.
"Have you any recollection," she asked, at length, "of ever having seen his face anywhere, at any time, very long ago?"
Claude shook his head.
"Not the slightest," said he. "I never saw him in all my life, or any one like him, till I saw him on the raft. But what makes you ask so strange a question?"
"I hardly know," said Mimi, "except that he seems so in papa's confidence,—and I know that papa's chief trouble arises from some affair that he had with some Montresor,—and I thought—well, I'll tell you what I thought. I thought that, as this Montresor had to leave France—that perhaps he had been followed to America, or sought after; and, as you are a member of that family, you might have seen some of those who were watching the family; and the Count do Cazeneau seemed to be one who might be connected with it. But I'm afraid I'm speaking in rather a confused way; and no wonder, for I hardly know what it is that I do really suspect."
"O, I understand," said Claude; "you suspect that my father was badly treated, and had to leave France, and that this man was at the bottom of it. Well, I dare say he was, and that he is quite capable of any piece of villany; but as to his hunting us in America, I can acquit him of that charge, as far as my experience goes, for I never saw him, and never heard of any one ever being on our track. But can't you tell me something more definite about it? Can't you tell me exactly what you know?"
Mimi shook her head.
"I don't know anything," said she, "except what little I told you—that poor papa's trouble of mind comes from some wrong which he did to some Montresor, who had to go to America. And you may not be connected with that Montresor, after all; but I'm afraid you must be, and that—you—will have to be—poor papa's—enemy."
"Never!" said Claude, vehemently; "never! not if your father—Whatever has happened, I will let it pass—so far as I am concerned."
"O, you don't know what it is that has happened."
"Neither do you, for that matter; so there now; and for my part I don't want to know, and I won't try to find out, if you think I'd better not."
"I don't dare to think anything about it; I only know that a good son has duties towards his parents, and that he must devote his life to the vindication of their honor."
"Undoubtedly," said Claude, placidly; "but as it happens my parents have never communicated to me any story of any wrongs of theirs, I know very little about them. They never desired that I should investigate their lives; and, as I have never heard of any wrongs which they suffered, I don't see how I can go about to vindicate their honor. I have, by the merest chance, come upon something which excited my curiosity, and made me anxious to know something more. I have had no deeper feeling than curiosity; and if you think that my search will make me an enemy of your father, I hereby give up the search, and decline to pursue it any farther. In fact, I'll fall back upon my old name and rank, and become plain Claude Motier."
Claude tried to speak in an off-hand tone; but his assumed indifference could not conceal the deep devotion of the look which he gave to Mimi, or the profound emotion which was in his heart. It was for her sake that he thus offered to relinquish his purpose. She knew it and felt it.
"I'm sure," said she, "I don't know what to say to that. I'm afraid to say anything. I don't know what may happen yet; you may at any time find out something which would break through all your indifference, and fill you with a thirst for vengeance. I don't know, and you don't know, what may be—before us. So don't make any rash offers, but merely do as I asked you before; and that is,—while papa is here,—refrain from mentioning this subject to him. It is simply for the sake of his—his peace of mind—and—and—his health. I know it will excite him so dreadfully—that I tremble for the result."
"O, of course," said Claude, "I promise, as I did before. You needn't be at all afraid."
"Would you have any objection," she asked, after a short silence, "to tell me how much you do really know?"
"Of course not," said Claude, with his usual frankness. "I'll tell you the whole story. There isn't much of it. I always believed myself to be the son of Jean Motier, until a short time ago. We lived near Boston, a place that you, perhaps, have heard of. He was always careful to give me the best education that could be had in a colony, and particularly in all the accomplishments of a gentleman. We were both very happy, and lived very well, and I called him father, and he called me son; and so things went on until a few weeks ago. I went off hunting with some British officers, and on my return found the old man dying. The shock to me was a terrible one. At that time I believed that it was my father that I was losing. What made it worse, was the evident fact that there was something on his mind, something that he was longing to tell me; but he could not collect his thoughts, and he could only speak a few broken words. He kept muttering, 'Mon tresor, Mon tresor;' but I thought it was merely some loving words of endearment to me, and did not imagine what they really meant. Still I saw that there was something on his mind, and that he died without being able to tell it."
Claude paused for a moment, quite overcome by his recollections, and Mimi's large dark eyes filled with tears in her deep sympathy with his sorrows.
"Well," said Claude, regaining his composure with an effort, "I'll go on. As soon as he was buried I began to search the papers, partly to see how the business was, and how I was situated in the world; but more for the sake of trying to find out what this secret could be. There was an old cabinet filled with papers and parcels, and here I began my search. For a long time I found nothing but old business letters and receipts; but at last I found some religious books—with a name written in them. The name was Louise de Montresor. Well, no sooner had I seen this than I at once recollected the words of my father, as I supposed him, which I thought words of endearment—Montresor, Montresor. I saw now that it was the name of a person—of a woman; so this excited me greatly, and I continued the search with greater ardor.
"After a while I came to a drawer in which was a quantity of gold coins, amounting to over a hundred guineas. In this same drawer was a gold watch; on the back of it were engraved the letters L. D. M., showing that it was evidently the property of this Louise de Montresor. A gold chain was connected with it, upon which was fastened a seal. On this was engraved a griffin rampant, with the motto, Noblesse oblige.
"Well, after this I found another drawer, in which were several lady's ornaments, and among them was a package carefully wrapped up. On opening it I found the miniature portrait of a lady, and this lady was the same Louise de Montresor, for her name was written on the back."
"Have you it now?" asked Mimi, with intense interest.
"Yes," said Claude; "and I'll show it to you some time. But I have something else to show you just now. Wait a minute, and I'll explain. After I found the portrait, I went on searching, and came to another package. On opening this I found some papers which seemed totally different from anything I had seen as yet. The ink was faded; the writing was a plain, bold hand; and now I'll let you read this for yourself; and you'll know as much as I do."
Saying this, Claude produced from his pocket a paper, which he opened and handed to Mimi. It was a sheet of foolscap, written on three sides, in a plain, bold hand. The ink was quite faded. As Mimi took the paper, her hand trembled with excitement, and over her face there came a sudden anxious, half-frightened look, as though she dreaded to make herself acquainted with the contents of this old document.
After a moment's hesitation she mustered up her resolution, and began to read. It was as follows:—
"QUEBEC, June 10, 1725.
"Instructions to Jean Motier with reference to my son, Claude de Montresor, and my property.
"As I do not know how long I shall be absent, I think it better to leave directions about my son, which may be your guide in the event of my death. I must stay away long enough to enable me to overcome the grief that I feel. Long, long indeed, must it be before I shall feel able to settle in any one place. The death of my dearest wife, Louise, has left me desolate beyond expression, and there is no home for me any more on earth, since she has gone.
"I have property enough for you to bring up Claude as a gentleman. I wish him to have the best education which he can get in the colonies. I do not wish him to know about his family and the past history of his unhappy parents until he shall be old enough to judge for himself. In any case, I should wish him not to think of France. Let him content himself in America. It is done. In France there is no redress. The government is hopelessly corrupt, and there is no possibility of wrong being righted. Besides, the laws against the Huguenots are in full force, and he can never live with his mother's enemies. I revere the sacred memory of my Huguenot wife, and curse the knaves and fanatics who wronged her and cast her out; yet I thank God that I was able to save her from the horrible fate that awaited her.
"I wish my son, therefore, to know nothing of France, at least until he shall be of age, and his own master; and even then I should wish him never to go there. Let him content himself in the colonies. For how could he ever redeem the position which is lost? or how could he hope to face the powerful and unscrupulous enemies who have wrought my ruin; the false friend who betrayed me; his base and infernal accomplice; the ungrateful government which did such foul wrong to a loyal servant? All is lost. The estates are confiscated. The unjust deed can never be undone. Let my son, therefore, resign himself to fate, and be content with the position in which he may find himself.
"The property will be sufficient to maintain him in comfort and independence. Here he will have all that he may want; here the church will give him her consolations without bigotry, or fanaticism, or corruption, or persecution. He will be free from the vices and temptations of the old world, and will have a happier fate than that of his unhappy father.
"EUGENE DE MONTRESOR."
Another paper was folded up with this. It was written in a different hand, and was as follows:—
"BOSTON, June 20, 1740.
"Count Eugene de Montresor left on the 2d July, 1725, and has never since been heard of. I have followed all his instructions, with one exception. It was from the countess that I first heard the word of life, and learned the truth. The priests at Quebec gave me no peace; and so I had to leave and come here, among a people who are of another nation, but own and hold my faith—the faith of the pure worship of Christ. The count wished me to bring you up a Catholic; but I had a higher duty than his will, and I have brought you up not in your father's religion, but in your mother's faith. Your father was a good man, though in error. He has, no doubt, long since rejoined the saint who was his wife on earth; and I know that the spirits of your father and mother smile approvingly on my acts.
"If I die before I tell you all, dear Claude, you will see this, and will understand that I did my duty to your parents and to you—"
Here it ended abruptly. There was no name, and it was evidently unfinished.
A FRENCH FRIGATE.
Mimi read both papers through rapidly and breathlessly, and having finished them, she read them over once more. As she finished the second reading, Claude presented to her in silence a small package. She took it in the same silence. On opening it, she saw inside a miniature portrait of a lady—the same one which Claude had mentioned. She was young and exquisitely beautiful, with rich dark hair, that flowed luxuriantly around her head; soft hazel eyes, that rested with inexpressible sweetness upon the spectator; and a gentle, winning smile. This face produced an unwonted impression upon Mimi. Long and eagerly did she gaze upon it, and when, at length, she handed it back to Claude, her eyes were moist with tears.
Claude replaced the portrait in its wrapper, and then restored it, with the letters, to his pocket. For some time they sat in silence, and then Claude said,—
"You see there is no great duty laid on me. Judging by the tone of that letter, I should be doing my duty to my father if I did not go to France—and if I did not seek after anything."
"Ah! but how could you possibly live, and leave all this unexplained?"
"I could do it very easily," said Claude.
"You don't know yourself."
"O, yes, I could; I could live very easily and very happily—if I only had your assistance."
At these words, which were spoken in a low, earnest voice, full of hidden meaning, Mimi darted a rapid glance at Claude, and caught his eyes fixed on her. Her own eyes fell before the fervid eagerness of the young man's gaze, a flush overspread her face, and she said not a word. Nor did Claude say anything more just then; but it was rather as though he felt afraid of having gone too far, for he instantly changed the subject.
"I'm afraid," said he, "that I shall not be able to find out very much. You cannot give me any enlightenment, and there is nothing very precise in these papers. The chief thing that I learned from them was the fact that Jean Motier was not my father, but my guardian. Then a few other things are stated which can easily be mentioned. First, that my father was the Count Eugene de Montresor; then that he was driven to exile by some false charge which he did not seem able to meet; then, that his estates were confiscated; then, that his wife, my mother, was a Huguenot, and also in danger. I see, also, that my father considered his enemies altogether too powerful for any hope to remain that he could resist them, and that finally, after my mother's death, he grew weary of the world, and went away somewhere to die.
"Now, the fact that he lived two years in Quebec made me have some thoughts at first of going there; but afterwards I recollected how long it had been since he was there, and it seemed quite improbable that I should find any one now who could tell me anything about him; while, if I went to France, I thought it might be comparatively easy to learn the cause of his exile and punishment. And so, as I couldn't find any vessels going direct from Boston, I concluded to go to Louisbourg and take ship there. I thought also that I might find out something at Louisbourg; though what I expected I can hardly say.
"You spoke as though you supposed that this Cazeneau had something to do with my father's trouble. Do you think that his present journey has anything to do with it? That is, do you think he is coming out on the same errand as your father?"
"I really do not know what to say about that. I should think not. I know that he has some office in Louisbourg, and I do not see what motive he can have to search after the Montresors. I believe that papa hopes to find your papa, so as to make some atonement, or something of that sort; but I do not believe that Cazeneau is capable of making atonement for anything. I do not believe that Cazeneau has a single good quality. Cazeneau is my father's evil genius."
Mimi spoke these words with much vehemence, not caring, in her excitement, whether she was overheard or not; but scarce had she uttered them than she saw emerging from the forecastle the head of Cazeneau himself. She stopped short, and looked at him in amazement and consternation. He bowed blandly, and coming upon deck, walked past her to the stern. After he had passed, Mimi looked at Claude with a face full of vexation.
"Who could have supposed," said she, "that he was so near? He must have heard every word!"
"Undoubtedly he did," said Claude, "and he had a chance of verifying the old adage that 'listeners never hear good of themselves.'"
"O, I wish you would be on your guard!" said Mimi, in real distress. "It makes me feel very anxious."
She threw at Claude a glance so full of tender interest and pathetic appeal, that Claude's playful mood gave way to one of a more sentimental character; and it is quite impossible to tell what he would have done or said had not Cazeneau again made his appearance, on his way back to the forecastle.
He smiled a cold smile as he passed them.
"Charming weather for a tete-a-tete, mademoiselle," said he. "Parbleu! Monsieur Motier, I don't wonder you don't make your vessel go faster. I quite envy you; but at present I must see about my fellows below here."
With these words he turned away, and descended into the forecastle. Mimi also turned away, and Claude accompanied her to the stern.
"How old do you suppose he is?" asked Claude, very gravely.
"How old? What a funny question! Why, he must be nearly fifty by this time."
"Fifty!" exclaimed Claude, in surprise.
"Why, I thought he was about thirty, or thirty-five."
"Well, he certainly doesn't look over forty; but he is a wonderfully well-kept man. Even on the raft, the ruling passion remained strong in the very presence of death, and he managed to keep up his youthful appearance; but I know that he is almost, if not quite, as old as papa."
"Is it possible?" cried Claude, in amazement.
Mimi turned, and with her face close to Claude's, regarded him with an anxious look, and spoke in a low, hurried voice:—
"O, be on your guard—beware of him. Even now he is engaged in some plot against you. I know it by his face. That's what takes him down there to confer with the seamen. He is not to be trusted. He is all false—in face, in figure, in mind, and in heart. He knows nothing about honor, or justice, or mercy. He has been the deadly enemy of the Montresors, and if he finds out who you are, he will be your deadly enemy. O, don't smile that way! Don't despise this enemy! Be careful—be on your guard, I entreat you—for my sake!"
These last words were spoken in a hurried whisper, and the next moment Mimi turned and hastened down into the cabin to her father, while Claude remained there, thinking over these words. Yet of them all it was not the warning contained in them that was present in his memory, but rather the sweet meaning convoyed in those last three words, and in the tone in which they were uttered—the words for my sake!
Out of his meditations on this theme he was at length aroused by an exclamation from Zac. Looking up, he saw that worthy close beside him, intently watching something far away on the horizon, through a glass.
"I'll be darned if it ain't a French frigate!"
This was the exclamation that roused Claude. He at once returned to himself, and turning to Zac, he asked him what he meant. Zac said nothing, but, handing him the spy-glass, pointed away to the west, where a sail was visible on the horizon. That sail was an object of curious interest to others on board; to the lieutenant and seamen of the wrecked vessel, who were staring at her from the bows; and to Cazeneau, who was with them, staring with equal interest. Claude took the glass, and raising it to his eye, examined the strange sail long and carefully, but without being able to distinguish anything in particular about her.
"What makes you think that she is a French frigate?" he asked, as he handed the glass back to Zac. "I cannot make out that she is French any more than English."
"O, I can tell easy enough," said Zac, "by the cut of her jib. Then, too, I judge by her course. That there craft is comin' down out of the Bay of Fundy, which the Moosoos in their lingo call Fonde de la Baie. She's been up at some of the French settlements. Now, she may be goin' to France—or mayhap she's goin' to Louisbourg—an' if so be as she's goin' to Louisbourg, why, I shouldn't wonder if it mightn't be a good idee for our French friends here to go aboard of her and finish their voyage in a vessel of their own. One reason why I'd rather have it so is, that I don't altogether like the manoeuvrin's of that French count over thar. He's too sly; an' he's up to somethin', an' I don't fancy havin' to keep up a eternal watch agin him. If I was well red of him I could breathe freer; but at the same time I don't altogether relish the idee of puttin' myself into the clutches of that thar frigate. It's easy enough for me to keep out of her way; but if I was once to get under her guns, thar'd be an end of the Parson. This here count ain't to be trusted, no how; an' if he once got into communication with that there frigate, he'd be my master. An' so I'm in a reg'lar quan-dary, an' no mistake. Darned if I know what in the blamenation to do about it."