THE SEATS OF THE MIGHTY
BEING THE MEMOIRS OF CAPTAIN ROBERT MORAY, SOMETIME AN OFFICER IN THE VIRGINIA REGIMENT, AND AFTERWARDS OF AMHERST'S REGIMENT
By Gilbert Parker
To the Memory of Madge Henley.
Chapter Introduction to the Imperial Edition Prefatory note to First Edition I An escort to the citadel II The master of the King's magazine III The wager and the sword IV The rat in the trap V The device of the dormouse VI Moray tells the story of his life VII "Quoth little Garaine" VIII As vain as Absalom IX A little concerning the Chevalier de la Darante X An officer of marines XI The coming of Doltaire XII "The point envenomed too!" XIII A little boast XIV Argand Cournal XV In the chamber of torture XVI Be saint or imp XVII Through the bars of the cage XVIII The steep path of conquest XIX A Danseuse and the Bastile XX Upon the ramparts XXI La Jongleuse XXII The lord of Kamaraska XXIII With Wolfe at Montmorenci XXIV The sacred countersign XXV In the cathedral XXVI The secret of the tapestry XXVII A side-wind of revenge XXVIII "To cheat the Devil yet" XXIX "Master Devil" Doltaire XXX "Where all the lovers can hide" Appendix—Excerpt from 'The Scot in New France'
INTRODUCTION TO THE IMPERIAL EDITION
It was in the winter of 1892, when on a visit to French Canada, that I made up my mind I would write the volume which the public knows as 'The Seats of the Mighty,' but I did not begin the composition until early in 1894. It was finished by the beginning of February, 1895, and began to appear in 'The Atlantic Monthly' in March of that year. It was not my first attempt at historical fiction, because I had written 'The Trail of the Sword' in the year 1893, but it was the first effort on an ambitious scale, and the writing of it was attended with as much searching of heart as enthusiasm. I had long been saturated by the early history of French Canada, as perhaps 'The Trail of the Sword' bore witness, and particularly of the period of the Conquest, and I longed for a subject which would, in effect, compel me to write; for I have strong views upon this business of compulsion in the mind of the writer. Unless a thing has seized a man, has obsessed him, and he feels that it excludes all other temptations to his talent or his genius, his book will not convince. Before all else he must himself be overpowered by the insistence of his subject, then intoxicated with his idea, and, being still possessed, become master of his material while remaining the slave of his subject. I believe that every book which has taken hold of the public has represented a kind of self-hypnotism on the part of the writer. I am further convinced that the book which absorbs the author, which possesses him as he writes it, has the effect of isolating him into an atmosphere which is not sleep, and which is not absolute wakefulness, but a place between the two, where the working world is indistinct and the mind is swept along a flood submerging the self-conscious but not drowning into unconsciousness.
Such, at any rate, is my own experience. I am convinced that the books of mine which have had so many friends as this book, 'The Seats of the Mighty', has had in the English-speaking world were written in just such conditions of temperamental isolation or absorption. First the subject, which must of itself have driving power, then the main character, which becomes a law working out its own destiny; and the subject in my own work has always been translatable into a phrase. Nearly every one of my books has always been reducible to its title.
For years I had wished to write an historical novel of the conquest of Canada or the settlement of the United Empire loyalists and the subsequent War of 1812, but the central idea and the central character had not come to me; and without both and the driving power of a big idea and of a big character, a book did not seem to me possible. The human thing with the grip of real life was necessary. At last, as pointed out in the prefatory note of the first edition, published in the spring of 1896 by Messrs. D. Appleton & Co., of New York, and Messrs. Methuen & Co., of London, I ran across a tiny little volume in the library of Mr. George M. Fairchild, Jr., of Quebec, called the Memoirs of Major Robert Stobo. It was published by John S. Davidson, of Market Street, Pittsburgh, with an introduction by an editor who signed himself "N. B.C."
The Memoirs proper contained about seventeen thousand words, the remaining three thousand words being made up of abstracts and appendices collected by the editor. The narrative was written in a very ornate and grandiloquent style, but the hero of the memoirs was so evidently a man of remarkable character, enterprise and adventure, that I saw in the few scattered bones of the story which he unfolded the skeleton of an ample historical romance. There was necessary to offset this buoyant and courageous Scotsman, adventurous and experienced, a character of the race which captured him and held him in leash till just before the taking of Quebec. I therefore found in the character of Doltaire—which was the character of Voltaire spelled with a big D—purely a creature of the imagination, one who, as the son of a peasant woman and Louis XV, should be an effective offset to Major Stobo. There was no hint of Doltaire in the Memoirs. There could not be, nor of the plot on which the story was based, because it was all imagination. Likewise, there was no mention of Alixe Duvarney in the Memoirs, nor of Bigot or Madame Cournal and all the others. They too, when not characters of the imagination, were lifted out of the history of the time; but the first germ of the story came from 'The Memoirs of Robert Stobo', and when 'The Seats of the Mighty' was first published in 'The Atlantic Monthly' the subtitle contained these words: "Being the Memoirs of Captain Robert Stobo, sometime an officer in the Virginia Regiment, and afterwards of Amherst's Regiment."
When the book was published, however, I changed the name of Robert Stobo to Robert Moray, because I felt I had no right to saddle Robert Stobo's name with all the incidents and experiences and strange enterprises which the novel contained. I did not know then that perhaps it might be considered an honour by Robert Stobo's descendants to have his name retained. I could not foresee the extraordinary popularity of 'The Seats of the Mighty', but with what I thought was a sense of honour I eliminated his name and changed it to Robert Moray. 'The Seats of the Mighty' goes on, I am happy to say, with an ever-increasing number of friends. It has a position perhaps not wholly deserved, but it has crystallised some elements in the life of the continent of America, the history of France and England, and of the British Empire which may serve here and there to inspire the love of things done for the sake of a nation rather than for the welfare of an individual.
I began this introduction by saying that the book was started in the summer of 1894. That was at a little place called Mablethorpe in Lincolnshire, on the east coast of England. For several months I worked in absolute seclusion in that out-of-the-way spot which had not then become a Mecca for trippers, and on the wonderful sands, stretching for miles upon miles coastwise and here and there as much as a mile out to the sea, I tried to live over again the days of Wolfe and Montcalm. Appropriately enough the book was begun in a hotel at Mablethorpe called "The Book in Hand." The name was got, I believe, from the fact that, in a far-off day, a ship was wrecked upon the coast at Mablethorpe, and the only person saved was the captain, who came ashore with a Bible in his hands. During the writing now and again a friend would come to me from London or elsewhere, and there would be a day off, full of literary tattle, but immediately my friends were gone I was lost again in the atmosphere of the middle of the eighteenth century.
I stayed at Mablethorpe until the late autumn, and then I went to Harrogate, exchanging the sea for the moors, and there, still living the open-air life, I remained for several months until I had finished the book. The writing of it knew no interruption and was happily set. It was a thing apart, and not a single untoward invasion of other interests affected its course.
The title of the book was for long a trouble to me. Months went by before I could find what I wanted. Scores of titles occurred to me, but each was rejected. At last, one day when I was being visited by Mr. Grant Richards, since then a London publisher, but at that time a writer, who had come to interview me for 'Great Thoughts', I told him of my difficulties regarding the title. I was saying that I felt the title should be, as it were, the kernel of a book. I said: "You see, it is a struggle of one simple girl against principalities and powers; it is the final conquest of the good over the great. In other words, the book will be an illustration of the text, 'He has put down the mighty from their seats, and has exalted the humble and meek.'" Then, like a flash, the title came 'The Seats of the Mighty'.
Since the phrase has gone into the language and was from the very first a popular title, it seems strange that the literary director of the American firm that published the book should take strong exception to it on the ground that it was grandiloquent. I like to think that I was firm, and that I declined to change the title.
I need say no more save that the book was dramatised by myself, and produced, first at Washington by Herbert (now Sir Herbert) Beerbohm Tree in the winter of 1897 and 1898, and in the spring of 1898 it opened his new theatre in London.
PREFATORY NOTE TO FIRST EDITION
This tale would never have been written had it not been for the kindness of my distinguished friend Dr. John George Bourinot, C.M.G., of Ottawa, whose studies in parliamentary procedure, the English and Canadian Constitutions, and the history and development of Canada have been of singular benefit to the Dominion and to the Empire. Through Dr. Bourinot's good offices I came to know Mr. James Lemoine, of Quebec, the gifted antiquarian, and President of the Royal Society of Canada. Mr. Lemoine placed in my hands certain historical facts suggestive of romance. Subsequently, Mr. George M. Fairchild, Jr., of Cap Rouge, Quebec, whose library contains a valuable collection of antique Canadian books, maps, and prints, gave me generous assistance and counsel, allowing me "the run" of all his charts, prints, histories, and memoirs. Many of these prints, and a rare and authentic map of Wolfe's operations against Quebec are now reproduced in this novel, and may be considered accurate illustrations of places, people, and events. By the insertion of these faithful historical elements it is hoped to give more vividness to the atmosphere of the time, and to strengthen the verisimilitude of a piece of fiction which is not, I believe, out of harmony with fact.
To Sir Edward Seaforth, Bart., of Sangley Hope in Derbyshire, and Seaforth House in Hanover Square.
Dear Ned: You will have them written, or I shall be pestered to my grave! Is that the voice of a friend of so long standing? And yet it seems but yesterday since we had good hours in Virginia together, or met among the ruins of Quebec. My memoirs—these only will content you? And to flatter or cajole me, you tell me Mr. Pitt still urges on the matter. In truth, when he touched first upon this, I thought it but the courtesy of a great and generous man. But indeed I am proud that he is curious to know more of my long captivity at Quebec, of Monsieur Doltaire and all his dealings with me, and the motions he made to serve La Pompadour on one hand, and, on the other, to win from me that most perfect of ladies, Mademoiselle Alixe Duvarney.
Our bright conquest of Quebec is now heroic memory, and honour and fame and reward have been parcelled out. So I shall but briefly, in these memoirs (ay, they shall be written, and with a good heart), travel the trail of history, or discourse upon campaigns and sieges, diplomacies and treaties. I shall keep close to my own story; for that, it would seem, yourself and the illustrious minister of the King most wish to hear. Yet you will find figuring in it great men like our flaming hero General Wolfe, and also General Montcalm, who, I shall ever keep on saying, might have held Quebec against us, had he not been balked by the vain Governor, the Marquis de Vaudreuil; together with such notorious men as the Intendant Bigot, civil governor of New France, and such noble gentlemen as the Seigneur Duvarney, father of Alixe.
I shall never view again the citadel on those tall heights where I was detained so barbarously, nor the gracious Manor House at Beauport, sacred to me because of her who dwelt therein—how long ago, how long! Of all the pictures that flash before my mind when I think on those times, one is most with me: that of the fine guest-room in the Manor House, where I see moving the benign maid whose life and deeds alone can make this story worth telling. And with one scene therein, and it the most momentous in all my days, I shall begin my tale.
I beg you convey to Mr. Pitt my most obedient compliments, and say that I take his polite wish as my command.
With every token of my regard, I am, dear Ned, affectionately your friend,
AN ESCORT TO THE CITADEL
When Monsieur Doltaire entered the salon, and, dropping lazily into a chair beside Madame Duvarney and her daughter, drawled out, "England's Braddock—fool and general—has gone to heaven, Captain Moray, and your papers send you there also," I did not shift a jot, but looked over at him gravely—for, God knows, I was startled—and I said,
"The General is dead?"
I did not dare to ask, Is he defeated? though from Doltaire's look I was sure it was so, and a sickness crept through me, for at the moment that seemed the end of our cause. But I made as if I had not heard his words about my papers.
"Dead as a last years courtier, shifted from the scene," he replied; "and having little now to do, we'll go play with the rat in our trap."
I would not have dared look towards Alixe, standing beside her mother then, for the song in my blood was pitched too high, were it not that a little sound broke from her. At that, I glanced, and saw that her face was still and quiet, but her eyes were shining, and her whole body seemed listening. I dared not give my glance meaning, though I wished to do so. She had served me much, had been a good friend to me, since I was brought a hostage to Quebec from Fort Necessity. There, at that little post on the Ohio, France threw down the gauntlet, and gave us the great Seven Years War. And though it may be thought I speak rashly, the lever to spring that trouble had been within my grasp. Had France sat still while Austria and Prussia quarreled, that long fighting had never been. The game of war had lain with the Grande Marquise—or La Pompadour, as she was called—and later it may be seen how I, unwillingly, moved her to set it going.
Answering Monsieur Doltaire, I said stoutly, "I am sure he made a good fight; he had gallant men."
"Truly gallant," he returned—"your own Virginians among others" (I bowed); "but he was a blunderer, as were you also, monsieur, or you had not sent him plans of our forts and letters of such candour. They have gone to France, my captain."
Madame Duvarney seemed to stiffen in her chair, for what did this mean but that I was a spy? and the young lady behind them now put her handkerchief to her mouth as if to stop a word. To make light of the charges against myself was the only thing, and yet I had little heart to do so. There was that between Monsieur Doltaire and myself—a matter I shall come to by-and-bye—which well might make me apprehensive.
"My sketch and my gossip with my friends," said I, "can have little interest in France."
"My faith, the Grande Marquise will find a relish for them," he said pointedly at me. He, the natural son of King Louis, had played the part between La Pompadour and myself in the grave matter of which I spoke. "She loves deciding knotty points of morality," he added.
"She has had chance and will enough," said I boldly, "but what point of morality is here?"
"The most vital—to you," he rejoined, flicking his handkerchief a little, and drawling so that I could have stopped his mouth with my hand. "Shall a hostage on parole make sketches of a fort and send them to his friends, who in turn pass them on to a foolish general?"
"When one party to an Article of War brutally breaks his sworn promise, shall the other be held to his?" I asked quietly.
I was glad that, at this moment, the Seigneur Duvarney entered, for I could feel the air now growing colder about Madame his wife. He, at least, was a good friend; but as I glanced at him, I saw his face was troubled and his manner distant. He looked at Monsieur Doltaire a moment steadily, stooped to his wife's hand, and then offered me his own without a word; which done, he went to where his daughter stood. She kissed him, and, as she did so, whispered something in his ear, to which he nodded assent. I knew afterwards that she had asked him to keep me to dinner with them.
Presently turning to Monsieur Doltaire, he said inquiringly, "You have a squad of men outside my house, Doltaire?"
Doltaire nodded in a languid way, and answered, "An escort—for Captain Moray—to the citadel."
I knew now, as he had said, that I was in the trap; that he had begun the long sport which came near to giving me the white shroud of death, as it turned white the hair upon my head ere I was thirty-two. Do I not know, the indignities, the miseries I suffered, I owed mostly to him, and that at the last he nearly robbed England of her greatest pride, the taking of New France?—For chance sometimes lets humble men like me balance the scales of fate; and I was humble enough in rank, if in spirit always something above my place.
I was standing as he spoke these words, and I turned to him and said, "Monsieur, I am at your service."
"I have sometimes wished," he said instantly, and with a courteous if ironical gesture, "that you were in my service—that is, the King's."
I bowed as to a compliment, for I would not see the insolence, and I retorted, "Would I could offer you a company in my Virginia regiment!"
"Delightful! delightful!" he rejoined. "I should make as good a Briton as you a Frenchman, every whit."
I suppose he would have kept leading to such silly play, had I not turned to Madame Duvarney and said, "I am most sorry that this mishap falls here; but it is not of my doing, and in colder comfort, Madame, I shall recall the good hours spent in your home."
I think I said it with a general courtesy, yet, feeling the eyes of the young lady on me, perhaps a little extra warmth came into my voice, and worked upon Madame, or it may be she was glad of my removal from contact with her daughter; but kindness showed in her face, and she replied gently, "I am sure it is only for a few days till we see you again."
Yet I think in her heart she knew my life was perilled: those were rough and hasty times, when the axe or the rope was the surest way to deal with troubles. Three years before, at Fort Necessity, I had handed my sword to my lieutenant, bidding him make healthy use of it, and, travelling to Quebec on parole, had come in and out of this house with great freedom. Yet since Alixe had grown towards womanhood there had been strong change in Madame's manner.
"The days, however few, will be too long until I tax your courtesy again," I said. "I bid you adieu, Madame."
"Nay, not so," spoke up my host; "not one step: dinner is nearly served, and you must both dine with us. Nay, but I insist," he added, as he saw me shake my head. "Monsieur Doltaire will grant you this courtesy, and me the great kindness. Eh, Doltaire?"
Doltaire rose, glancing from Madame to her daughter. Madame was smiling, as if begging his consent; for, profligate though he was, his position, and more than all, his personal distinction, made him a welcome guest at most homes in Quebec. Alixe met his look without a yes or no in her eyes—so young, yet having such control and wisdom, as I have had reason beyond all men to know. Something, however, in the temper of the scene had filled her with a kind of glow, which added to her beauty and gave her dignity. The spirit of her look caught the admiration of this expatriated courtier, and I knew that a deeper cause than all our past conflicts—and they were great—would now, or soon, set him fatally against me.
"I shall be happy to wait Captain Moray's pleasure," he said presently, "and to serve my own by sitting at your table. I was to have dined with the Intendant this afternoon, but a messenger shall tell him duty stays me.... If you will excuse me!" he added, going to the door to find a man of his company. He looked back for an instant, as if it struck him I might seek escape, for he believed in no man's truth; but he only said, "I may fetch my men to your kitchen, Duvarney? 'Tis raw outside."
"Surely. I shall see they have some comfort," was the reply.
Doltaire then left the room, and Duvarney came to me. "This is a bad business, Moray," he said sadly. "There is some mistake, is there not?"
I looked him fair in the face. "There is a mistake," I answered. "I am no spy, and I do not fear that I shall lose my life, my honour, or my friends by offensive acts of mine."
"I believe you," he responded, "as I have believed since you came, though there has been gabble of your doings. I do not forget you bought my life back from those wild Mohawks five years ago. You have my hand in trouble or out of it."
Upon my soul, I could have fallen on his neck, for the blow to our cause and the shadow on my own fate oppressed me for the moment.
At this point the ladies left the room to make some little toilette before dinner, and as they passed me the sleeve of Alixe's dress touched my arm. I caught her fingers for an instant, and to this day I can feel that warm, rich current of life coursing from finger-tips to heart. She did not look at me at all, but passed on after her mother. Never till that moment had there been any open show of heart between us. When I first came to Quebec (I own it to my shame) I was inclined to use her youthful friendship for private and patriotic ends; but that soon passed, and then I wished her companionship for true love of her. Also, I had been held back because when I first knew her she seemed but a child. Yet how quickly and how wisely did she grow out of her childhood! She had a playful wit, and her talents were far beyond her years. It amazed me often to hear her sum up a thing in some pregnant sentence which, when you came to think, was the one word to be said. She had such a deep look out of her blue eyes that you scarcely glanced from them to see the warm sweet colour of her face, the fair broad forehead, the brown hair, the delicate richness of her lips, which ever were full of humour and of seriousness—both running together, as you may see a laughing brook steal into the quiet of a river.
Duvarney and I were thus alone for a moment, and he straightway dropped a hand upon my shoulder. "Let me advise you," he said, "be friendly with Doltaire. He has great influence at the Court and elsewhere. He can make your bed hard or soft at the citadel."
I smiled at him, and replied, "I shall sleep no less sound because of Monsieur Doltaire."
"You are bitter in your trouble," said he.
I made haste to answer, "No, no, my own troubles do not weigh so heavy—but our General's death!"
"You are a patriot, my friend," he added warmly. "I could well have been content with our success against your English army without this deep danger to your person."
I put out my hand to him, but I did not speak, for just then Doltaire entered. He was smiling at something in his thought.
"The fortunes are with the Intendant always," said he. "When things are at their worst, and the King's storehouse, the dear La Friponne, is to be ripped by our rebel peasants like a sawdust doll, here comes this gay news of our success on the Ohio; and in that Braddock's death the whining beggars will forget their empty bellies, and bless where they meant to curse. What fools, to be sure! They had better loot La Friponne. Lord, how we love fighting, we French! And 'tis so much easier to dance, or drink, or love." He stretched out his shapely legs as he sat musing.
Duvarney shrugged a shoulder, smiling. "But you, Doltaire—there's no man out of France that fights more."
He lifted an eyebrow. "One must be in the fashion; besides, it does need some skill to fight. The others—to dance, drink, love: blind men's games!" He smiled cynically into the distance.
I have never known a man who interested me so much—never one so original, so varied, and so uncommon in his nature. I marvelled at the pith and depth of his observations; for though I agreed not with him once in ten times, I loved his great reflective cleverness and his fine penetration—singular gifts in a man of action. But action to him was a playtime; he had that irresponsibility of the Court from which he came, its scornful endurance of defeat or misery, its flippant look upon the world, its scoundrel view of women. Then he and Duvarney talked, and I sat thinking. Perhaps the passion of a cause grows in you as you suffer for it, and I had suffered, and suffered most by a bitter inaction. Governor Dinwiddie, Mr. Washington (alas that, as I write the fragment chapters of my life, among the hills where Montrose my ancestor fought, George leads the colonists against the realm of England!), and the rest were suffering, but they were fighting too. Brought to their knees, they could rise again to battle; and I thought then, How more glorious to be with my gentlemen in blue from Virginia, holding back death from the General, and at last falling myself, than to spend good years a hostage at Quebec, knowing that Canada was for our taking, yet doing nothing to advance the hour!
In the thick of these thoughts I was not conscious of what the two were saying, but at last I caught Madame Cournal's name; by which I guessed Monsieur Doltaire was talking of her amours, of which the chief and final was with Bigot the Intendant, to whom the King had given all civil government, all power over commerce and finance in the country. The rivalry between the Governor and the Intendant was keen and vital at this time, though it changed later, as I will show. At her name I looked up and caught Monsieur Doltaire's eye.
He read my thoughts. "You have had blithe hours here, monsieur," he said—"you know the way to probe us; but of all the ladies who could be most useful to you, you left out the greatest. There you erred. I say it as a friend, not as an officer, there you erred. From Madame Cournal to Bigot, from Bigot to Vaudreuil the Governor, from the Governor to France. But now—"
He paused, for Madame Duvarney and her daughter had come, and we all rose.
The ladies had heard enough to know Doltaire's meaning. "But now—Captain Moray dines with us," said Madame Duvarney quietly and meaningly.
"Yet I dine with Madame Cournal," rejoined Doltaire, smiling.
"One may use more option with enemies and prisoners," she said keenly, and the shot ought to have struck home. In so small a place it was not easy to draw lines close and fine, and it was in the power of the Intendant, backed by his confederates, to ruin almost any family in the province if he chose; and that he chose at times I knew well, as did my hostess. Yet she was a woman of courage and nobility of thought, and I knew well where her daughter got her good flavor of mind.
I could see something devilish in the smile at Doltaire's lip's, but his look was wandering between Alixe and me, and he replied urbanely, "I have ambition yet—to connive at captivity"; and then he looked full and meaningly at her.
I can see her now, her hand on the high back of a great oak chair, the lace of her white sleeve falling away, and her soft arm showing, her eyes on his without wavering. They did not drop, nor turn aside; they held straight on, calm, strong—and understanding. By that look I saw she read him; she, who had seen so little of the world, felt what he was, and met his invading interest firmly, yet sadly; for I knew long after that a smother was at her heart then, foreshadowings of dangers that would try her as few women are tried. Thank God that good women are born with greater souls for trial than men; that, given once an anchor for their hearts, they hold until the cables break.
When we were about to enter the dining-room, I saw, to my joy, Madame incline towards Doltaire, and I knew that Alixe was for myself—though her mother wished it little, I am sure. As she took my arm, her finger-tips plunged softly into the velvet of my sleeve, giving me a thrill of courage. I felt my spirits rise, and I set myself to carry things off gaily, to have this last hour with her clear of gloom, for it seemed easy to think that we should meet no more.
As we passed into the dining-room, I said, as I had said the first time I went to dinner in her father's house, "Shall we be flippant, or grave?"
I guessed that it would touch her. She raised her eyes to mine and answered, "We are grave; let us seem flippant."
In those days I had a store of spirits. I was seldom dismayed, for life had been such a rough-and-tumble game that I held to cheerfulness and humour as a hillsman to his broadsword, knowing it the greatest of weapons with a foe, and the very stone and mortar of friendship. So we were gay, touching lightly on events around us, laughing at gossip of the doorways (I in my poor French), casting small stones at whatever drew our notice, not forgetting a throw or two at Chateau Bigot, the Intendant's country house at Charlesbourg, five miles away, where base plots were hatched, reputations soiled, and all clean things dishonoured. But Alixe, the sweetest soul France ever gave the world, could not know all I knew; guessing only at heavy carousals, cards, song, and raillery, with far-off hints of feet lighter than fit in cavalry boots dancing among the glasses on the table. I was never before so charmed with her swift intelligence, for I never had great nimbleness of thought, nor power to make nice play with the tongue.
"You have been three years with us," suddenly said her father, passing me the wine. "How time has flown! How much has happened!"
"Madame Cournal's husband has made three million francs," said Doltaire, with dry irony and truth.
Duvarney shrugged a shoulder, stiffened; for, oblique as the suggestion was, he did not care to have his daughter hear it.
"And Vaudreuil has sent bees buzzing to Versailles about Bigot and Company," added the impish satirist.
Madame Duvarney responded with a look of interest, and the Seigneur's eyes steadied to his plate. All at once by that I saw the Seigneur had known of the Governor's action, and maybe had counseled with him, siding against Bigot. If that were so—as it proved to be—he was in a nest of scorpions; for who among them would spare him: Marin, Cournal, Rigaud, the Intendant himself? Such as he were thwarted right and left in this career of knavery and public evils.
"And our people have turned beggars; poor and starved, they beg at the door of the King's storehouse—it is well called La Friponne," said Madame Duvarney, with some heat; for she was ever liberal to the poor, and she had seen manor after manor robbed, and peasant farmers made to sell their corn for a song, to be sold to them again at famine prices by La Friponne. Even now Quebec was full of pilgrim poor begging against the hard winter, and execrating their spoilers.
Doltaire was too fond of digging at the heart of things not to admit she spoke truth.
"La Pompadour et La Friponne! Qu'est que cela, mon petit homme?" "Les deux terribles, ma chere mignonne, Mais, c'est cela— La Pompadour et La Friponne!"
He said this with cool drollery and point, in the patois of the native, so that he set us all laughing, in spite of our mutual apprehensions.
Then he continued, "And the King has sent a chorus to the play, with eyes for the preposterous make-believe, and more, no purse to fill."
We all knew he meant himself, and we knew also that so far as money went he spoke true; that though hand-in-glove with Bigot, he was poor, save for what he made at the gaming-table and got from France. There was the thing that might have clinched me to him, had matters been other than they were; for all my life I have loathed the sordid soul, and I would rather, in these my ripe years, eat with a highwayman who takes his life in his hands than with the civilian who robs his king and the king's poor, and has no better trick than false accounts, nor better friend than the pettifogging knave. Doltaire had no burning love for France, and little faith in anything; for he was of those Versailles water-flies who recked not if the world blackened to cinders when their lights went out. As will be seen by-and-bye, he had come here to seek me, and to serve the Grande Marquise.
More speech like this followed, and amid it all, with the flower of the world beside me at this table, I remembered my mother's words before I bade her good-bye and set sail from Glasgow for Virginia.
"Keep it in mind, Robert," she said, "that an honest love is the thing to hold you honest with yourself. 'Tis to be lived for, and fought for, and died for. Ay, be honest in your loves. Be true."
And there I took an oath, my hand clenched beneath the table, that Alixe should be my wife if better days came; when I was done with citadel and trial and captivity, if that might be.
The evening was well forward when Doltaire, rising from his seat in the drawing-room, bowed to me, and said, "If it pleases you, monsieur?"
I rose also, and prepared to go. There was little talk, yet we all kept up a play of cheerfulness. When I came to take the Seigneur's hand, Doltaire was a distance off, talking to Madame. "Moray," said the Seigneur quickly and quietly, "trials portend for both of us." He nodded towards Doltaire.
"But we shall come safe through," said I.
"Be of good courage, and adieu," he answered, as Doltaire turned towards us.
My last words were to Alixe. The great moment of my life was come. If I could but say one thing to her out of earshot, I would stake all on the hazard. She was standing beside a cabinet, very still, a strange glow in her eyes, a new, fine firmness at the lips. I felt I dared not look as I would; I feared there was no chance now to speak what I would. But I came slowly up the room with her mother. As we did so, Doltaire exclaimed and started to the window, and the Seigneur and Madame followed. A red light was showing on the panes.
I caught Alixe's eye, and held it, coming quickly to her. All backs were on us. I took her hand and pressed it to my lips suddenly. She gave a little gasp, and I saw her bosom heave.
"I am going from prison to prison," said I, "and I leave a loved jailer behind."
She understood. "Your jailer goes also," she answered, with a sad smile.
"I love you! I love you!" I urged.
She was very pale. "Oh, Robert!" she whispered timidly; and then, "I will be brave, I will help you, and I will not forget. God guard you."
That was all, for Doltaire turned to me then and said, "They've made of La Friponne a torch to light you to the citadel, monsieur."
A moment afterwards we were outside in the keen October air, a squad of soldiers attending, our faces towards the citadel heights. I looked back, doffing my cap. The Seigneur and Madame stood at the door, but my eyes were for a window where stood Alixe. The reflection of the far-off fire bathed the glass, and her face had a glow, the eyes shining through, intent and most serious. Yet how brave she was, for she lifted her handkerchief, shook it a little, and smiled.
As though the salute were meant for him, Doltaire bowed twice impressively, and then we stepped forward, the great fire over against the Heights lighting us and hurrying us on.
We scarcely spoke as we went, though Doltaire hummed now and then the air La Pompadour et La Friponne. As we came nearer I said, "Are you sure it is La Friponne, monsieur?"
"It is not," he said, pointing. "See!"
The sky was full of shaking sparks, and a smell of burning grain came down the wind.
"One of the granaries, then," I added, "not La Friponne itself?"
To this he nodded assent, and we pushed on.
THE MASTER OF THE KING'S MAGAZINE
"What fools," said Doltaire presently, "to burn the bread and oven too! If only they were less honest in a world of rogues, poor moles!"
Coming nearer, we saw that La Friponne itself was safe, but one warehouse was doomed and another threatened. The streets were full of people, and thousands of excited peasants, laborers, and sailors were shouting, "Down with the palace! Down with Bigot!"
We came upon the scene at the most critical moment. None of the Governors soldiers were in sight, but up the Heights we could hear the steady tramp of General Montcalm's infantry as they came on. Where were Bigot's men? There was a handful—one company—drawn up before La Friponne, idly leaning on their muskets, seeing the great granary burn, and watching La Friponne threatened by the mad crowd and the fire. There was not a soldier before the Intendant's palace, not a light in any window.
"What is this weird trick of Bigot's?" said Doltaire, musing.
The Governor, we knew, had been out of the city that day. But where was Bigot? At a word from Doltaire we pushed forward towards the palace, the soldiers keeping me in their midst. We were not a hundred feet from the great steps when two gates at the right suddenly swung open, and a carriage rolled out swiftly and dashed down into the crowd. I recognized the coachman first—Bigot's, an old one-eyed soldier of surpassing nerve, and devoted to his master. The crowd parted right and left. Suddenly the carriage stopped, and Bigot stood up, folding his arms, and glancing round with a disdainful smile without speaking a word. He carried a paper in one hand.
Here were at least two thousand armed and unarmed peasants, sick with misery and oppression, in the presence of their undefended tyrant. One shot, one blow of a stone, one stroke of a knife—to the end of a shameless pillage. But no hand was raised to do the deed. The roar of voices subsided—he waited for it—and silence was broken only by the crackle of the burning building, the tramp of Montcalm's soldiers in Mountain Street, and the tolling of the cathedral bell. I thought it strange that almost as Bigot came out the wild clanging gave place to a cheerful peal.
After standing for a moment, looking round him, his eye resting on Doltaire and myself (we were but a little distance from him), Bigot said in a loud voice: "What do you want with me? Do you think I may be moved by threats? Do you punish me by burning your own food, which, when the English are at our doors, is your only hope? Fools! How easily could I turn my cannon and my men upon you! You think to frighten me. Who do you think I am?—a Bostonnais or an Englishman? You—revolutionists! T'sh! You are wild dogs without a leader. You want one that you can trust; you want no coward, but one who fears you not at your wildest. Well, I will be your leader. I do not fear you, and I do not love you, for how have you deserved my love? By ingratitude and aspersion? Who has the King's favour? Francois Bigot. Who has the ear of the Grande Marquise? Francois Bigot. Who stands firm while others tremble lest their power pass to-morrow? Francois Bigot. Who else dare invite revolution, this danger"—his hand sweeping to the flames—"who but Francois Bigot?" He paused for a moment, and looking up to the leader of Montcalm's soldiers on the Heights, waved him back; then he continued:
"And to-day, when I am ready to give you great news, you play the mad dog's game; you destroy what I had meant to give you in our hour of danger, when those English came. I made you suffer a little, that you might live then. Only to-day, because of our great and glorious victory—"
He paused again. The peal of bells became louder. Far up on the Heights we heard the calling of bugles and the beating of drums; and now I saw the whole large plan, the deep dramatic scheme. He had withheld the news of the victory that he might announce it when it would most turn to his own glory. Perhaps he had not counted on the burning of the warehouse, but this would tell now in his favour. He was not a large man, but he drew himself up with dignity, and continued in a contemptuous tone:
"Because of our splendid victory, I designed to tell you all my plans, and, pitying your trouble, divide among you at the smallest price, that all might pay, the corn which now goes to feed the stars."
At that moment some one from the Heights above called out shrilly, "What lie is in that paper, Francois Bigot?"
I looked up, as did the crowd. A woman stood upon a point of the great rock, a red robe hanging on her, her hair free over her shoulders, her finger pointing at the Intendant. Bigot only glanced up, then smoothed out the paper.
He said to the people in a clear but less steady voice, for I could see that the woman had disturbed him, "Go pray to be forgiven for your insolence and folly. His most Christian Majesty is triumphant upon the Ohio. The English have been killed in thousands, and their General with them. Do you not hear the joy-bells in the Church of Our Lady of the Victories? and more—listen!"
There burst from the Heights on the other side a cannon shot, and then another and another. There was a great commotion, and many ran to Bigot's carriage, reached in to touch his hand, and called down blessings on him.
"See that you save the other granaries," he urged, adding, with a sneer, "and forget not to bless La Friponne in your prayers!"
It was a clever piece of acting. Presently from the Heights above came the woman's voice again, so piercing that the crowd turned to her.
"Francois Bigot is a liar and a traitor!" she cried. "Beware of Francois Bigot! God has cast him out."
A dark look came upon Bigot's face; but presently he turned, and gave a sign to some one near the palace. The doors of the courtyard flew open, and out came squad after squad of soldiers. In a moment, they, with the people, were busy carrying water to pour upon the side of the endangered warehouse. Fortunately the wind was with them, else it and the palace also would have been burned that night.
The Intendant still stood in his carriage watching and listening to the cheers of the people. At last he beckoned to Doltaire and to me. We both went over.
"Doltaire, we looked for you at dinner," he said. "Was Captain Moray"—nodding towards me—"lost among the petticoats? He knows the trick of cup and saucer. Between the sip and click he sucked in secrets from our garrison—a spy where had been a soldier, as we thought. You once wore a sword, Captain Moray—eh?"
"If the Governor would grant me leave, I would not only wear, but use one, your excellency knows well where," said I.
"Large speaking, Captain Moray. They do that in Virginia, I am told."
"In Gascony there's quiet, your excellency."
Doltaire laughed outright, for it was said that Bigot, in his coltish days, had a shrewish Gascon wife, whom he took leave to send to heaven before her time. I saw the Intendant's mouth twitch angrily.
"Come," he said, "you have a tongue; we'll see if you have a stomach. You've languished with the girls; you shall have your chance to drink with Francois Bigot. Now, if you dare, when we have drunk to the first cockcrow, should you be still on your feet, you'll fight some one among us, first giving ample cause."
"I hope, your excellency," I replied, with a touch of vanity, "I have still some stomach and a wrist. I will drink to cockcrow, if you will. And if my sword prove the stronger, what?"
"There's the point," he said. "Your Englishman loves not fighting for fighting's sake, Doltaire; he must have bonbons for it. Well, see: if your sword and stomach prove the stronger, you shall go your ways to where you will. Voila!"
If I could but have seen a bare portion of the craftiness of this pair of devils artisans! They both had ends to serve in working ill to me, and neither was content that I should be shut away in the citadel, and no more. There was a deeper game playing. I give them their due: the trap was skillful, and in those times, with great things at stake, strategy took the place of open fighting here and there. For Bigot I was to be a weapon against another; for Doltaire, against myself.
What a gull they must have thought me! I might have known that, with my lost papers on the way to France, they must hold me tight here till I had been tried, nor permit me to escape. But I was sick of doing nothing, thinking with horror on a long winter in the citadel, and I caught at the least straw of freedom.
"Captain Moray will like to spend a couple of hours at his lodgings before he joins us at the palace," the Intendant said, and with a nod to me he turned to his coachman. The horses wheeled, and in a moment the great doors opened, and he had passed inside to applause, though here and there among the crowd was heard a hiss, for the Scarlet Woman had made an impression. The Intendant's men essayed to trace these noises, but found no one. Looking again to the Heights, I saw that the woman had gone. Doltaire noted my glance and the inquiry in my face, and he said:
"Some bad fighting hours with the Intendant at Chateau Bigot, and then a fever, bringing a kind of madness: so the story creeps about, as told by Bigot's enemies."
Just at this point I felt a man hustle me as he passed. One of the soldiers made a thrust at him, and he turned round. I caught his eye, and it flashed something to me. It was Voban the barber, who had shaved me every day for months when I first came, while my arm was stiff from a wound got fighting the French on the Ohio. It was quite a year since I had met him, and I was struck by the change in his face. It had grown much older; its roundness was gone. We had had many a talk together; he helping me with French, I listening to the tales of his early life in France, and to the later tale of a humble love, and of the home which he was fitting up for his Mathilde, a peasant girl of much beauty, I was told, but whom I had never seen. I remembered at that moment, as he stood in the crowd looking at me, the piles of linen which he had bought at Ste. Anne de Beaupre, and the silver pitcher which his grandfather had got from the Duc de Valois for an act of merit. Many a time we had discussed the pitcher and the deed, and fingered the linen, now talking in French, now in English; for in France, years before, he had been a valet to an English officer at King Louis's court. But my surprise had been great when I learned that this English gentleman was no other than the best friend I ever had, next to my parents and my grandfather. Voban was bound to Sir John Godric by as strong ties of affection as I. What was more, by a secret letter I had sent to George Washington, who was then as good a Briton as myself, I had been able to have my barber's young brother, a prisoner of war, set free.
I felt that he had something to say to me. But he turned away and disappeared among the crowd. I might have had some clue if I had known that he had been crouched behind the Intendant's carriage while I was being bidden to the supper. I did not guess then that there was anything between him and the Scarlet Woman who railed at Bigot.
In a little while I was at my lodgings, soldiers posted at my door and one in my room. Doltaire gone to his own quarters promising to call for me within two hours. There was little for me to do but to put in a bag the fewest necessaries, to roll up my heavy cloak, to stow safely my pipes and two goodly packets of tobacco, which were to be my chiefest solace for many a long day, and to write some letters—one to Governor Dinwiddie, one to George Washington, and one to my partner in Virginia, telling them my fresh misfortunes, and begging them to send me money, which, however useless in my captivity, would be important in my fight for life and freedom. I did not write intimately of my state, for I was not sure my letters would ever pass outside Quebec. There were only two men I could trust to do the thing. One was a fellow-countryman, Clark, a ship-carpenter, who, to save his neck and to spare his wife and child, had turned Catholic, but who hated all Frenchmen barbarously at heart, remembering two of his bairns butchered before his eyes. The other was Voban. I knew that though Voban might not act, he would not betray me. But how to reach either of them? It was clear that I must bide my chances.
One other letter I wrote, brief but vital, in which I begged the sweetest girl in the world not to have uneasiness because of me; that I trusted to my star and to my innocence to convince my judges; and begging her, if she could, to send me a line at the citadel. I told her I knew well how hard it would be, for her mother and her father would not now look upon my love with favour. But I trusted all to time and Providence.
I sealed my letters, put them in my pocket, and sat down to smoke and think while I waited for Doltaire. To the soldier on duty, whom I did not notice at first, I now offered a pipe and a glass of wine, which he accepted rather gruffly, but enjoyed, if I might judge by his devotion to them.
By-and-bye, without any relevancy at all, he said abruptly, "If a little sooner she had come—aho!"
For a moment I could not think what he meant; but soon I saw.
"The palace would have been burnt if the girl in scarlet had come sooner—eh?" I asked. "She would have urged the people on?"
"And Bigot burnt, too, maybe," he answered.
"Fire and death—eh?"
I offered him another pipeful of tobacco. He looked doubtful, but accepted.
"Aho! And that Voban, he would have had his hand in," he growled.
I began to get more light.
"She was shut up at Chateau Bigot—hand of iron and lock of steel—who knows the rest! But Voban was for always," he added presently.
The thing was clear. The Scarlet Woman was Mathilde. So here was the end of Voban's little romance—of the fine linen from Ste. Anne de Beaupre and the silver pitcher for the wedding wine. I saw, or felt, that in Voban I might find now a confederate, if I put my hard case on Bigot's shoulders.
"I can't see why she stayed with Bigot," I said tentatively.
"Break the dog's leg, it can't go hunting bones—mais, non! Holy, how stupid are you English!"
"Why doesn't the Intendant lock her up now? She's dangerous to him. You remember what she said?"
"Tonnerre, you shall see to-morrow," he answered; "now all the sheep go bleating with the bell. Bigot—Bigot—Bigot—there is nothing but Bigot! But, pish! Vaudreuil the Governor is the great man, and Montcalm, aho! son of Mahomet! You shall see. Now they dance to Bigot's whistling; he will lock her safe enough to-morrow, 'less some one steps in to help her. Before to-night she never spoke of him before the world—but a poor daft thing, going about all sad and wild. She missed her chance to-night—aho!"
"Why are you not with Montcalm's soldiers?" I asked. "You like him better."
"I was with him, but my time was out, and I left him for Bigot. Pish! I left him for Bigot, for the militia!" He raised his thumb to his nose, and spread out his fingers. Again light dawned on me. He was still with the Governor in all fact, though soldiering for Bigot—a sort of watch upon the Intendant.
I saw my chance. If I could but induce this fellow to fetch me Voban! There was yet an hour before I was to go to the intendance.
I called up what looks of candour were possible to me, and told him bluntly that I wished Voban to bear a letter for me to the Seigneur Duvarney's. At that he cocked his ear and shook his bushy head, fiercely stroking his mustaches.
I knew that I should stake something if I said it was a letter for Mademoiselle Duvarney, but I knew also that if he was still the Governor's man in Bigot's pay he would understand the Seigneur's relations with the Governor. And a woman in the case with a soldier—that would count for something. So I said it was for her. Besides, I had no other resource but to make a friend among my enemies, if I could, while yet there was a chance.
It was like a load lifted from me when I saw his mouth and eyes open wide in a big soundless laugh, which came to an end with a voiceless aho! I gave him another tumbler of wine. Before he took it, he made a wide mouth at me again, and slapped his leg. After drinking, he said, "Poom—what good? They're going to hang you for a spy."
"That rope's not ready yet," I answered. "I'll tie a pretty knot in another string first, I trust."
"Damned if you haven't spirit!" said he. "That Seigneur Duvarney, I know him; and I know his son the ensign—whung, what saltpetre is he! And the ma'm'selle—excellent, excellent; and a face, such a face, and a seat like leeches in the saddle. And you a British officer mewed up to kick your heels till gallows day! So droll, my dear!"
"But will you fetch Voban?" I asked.
"To trim your hair against the supper to-night—eh, like that?"
As he spoke he puffed out his red cheeks with wide boylike eyes, burst his lips in another soundless laugh, and laid a finger beside his nose. His marvellous innocence of look and his peasant openness hid, I saw, great shrewdness and intelligence—an admirable man for Vaudreuil's purpose, as admirable for mine. I knew well that if I had tried to bribe him he would have scouted me, or if I had made a motion for escape he would have shot me off-hand. But a lady—that appealed to him; and that she was the Seigneur Duvarney's daughter did the rest.
"Yes, yes," said I, "one must be well appointed in soul and body when one sups with his Excellency and Monsieur Doltaire."
"Limed inside and chalked outside," he retorted gleefully. "But M'sieu' Doltaire needs no lime, for he has no soul. No, by Sainte Helois! The good God didn't make him. The devil laughed, and that laugh grew into M'sieu' Doltaire. But brave!—no kicking pulse is in his body."
"You will send for Voban—now?" I asked softly.
He was leaning against the door as he spoke. He reached and put the tumbler on a shelf, then turned and opened the door, his face all altered to a grimness.
"Attend here, Labrouk!" he called; and on the soldier coming, he blurted out in scorn, "Here's this English captain can't go to supper without Voban's shears to snip him. Go fetch him, for I'd rather hear a calf in a barn-yard than this whing-whanging for 'M'sieu' Voban!'"
He mocked my accent in the last two words, so that the soldier grinned, and at once started away. Then he shut the door, and turned to me again, and said more seriously, "How long have we before Monsieur comes?"—meaning Doltaire.
"At least an hour," said I.
"Good," he rejoined, and then he smoked while I sat thinking.
It was near an hour before we heard footsteps outside; then came a knock, and Voban was shown in.
"Quick, m'sieu'," he said. "M'sieu' is almost at our heels."
"This letter," said I, "to Mademoiselle Duvarney," and I handed four: hers, and those to Governor Dinwiddie, to Mr. Washington, and to my partner.
He quickly put them in his coat, nodding. The soldier—I have not yet mentioned his name—Gabord, did not know that more than one passed into Voban's hands.
"Off with your coat, m'sieu'," said Voban, whipping out his shears, tossing his cap aside, and rolling down his apron. "M'sieu' is here."
I had off my coat, was in a chair in a twinkling, and he was clipping softly at me as Doltaire's hand turned the handle of the door.
"Beware—to-night!" Voban whispered.
"Come to me in the prison," said I. "Remember your brother!"
His lips twitched. "M'sieu', I will if I can." This he said in my ear as Doltaire entered and came forward.
"Upon my life!" Doltaire broke out. "These English gallants! They go to prison curled and musked by Voban. VOBAN—a name from the court of the King, and it garnishes a barber. Who called you, Voban?"
"My mother, with the cure's help, m'sieu'."
Doltaire paused, with a pinch of snuff at his nose, and replied lazily, "I did not say 'Who called you VOBAN?' Voban, but who called you here, Voban?"
I spoke up testily then of purpose: "What would you have, monsieur? The citadel has better butchers than barbers. I sent for him."
He shrugged his shoulders and came over to Voban. "Turn round, my Voban," he said. "Voban—and such a figure! a knee, a back like that!"
Then, while my heart stood still, he put forth a finger and touched the barber on the chest. If he should touch the letters! I was ready to seize them—but would that save them? Twice, thrice, the finger prodded Voban's breast, as if to add an emphasis to his words. "In Quebec you are misplaced, Monsieur le Voban. Once a wasp got into a honeycomb and died."
I knew he was hinting at the barber's resentment of the poor Mathilde's fate. Something strange and devilish leapt into the man's eyes, and he broke out bitterly,
"A honey-bee got into a nest of wasps—and died."
I thought of the Scarlet Woman on the hill.
Voban looked for a moment as if he might do some wild thing. His spirit, his devilry, pleased Doltaire, and he laughed. "Who would have thought our Voban had such wit? The trade of barber is double-edged. Razors should be in fashion at Versailles."
Then he sat down, while Voban made a pretty show of touching off my person. A few minutes passed so, in which the pealing of bells, the shouting of the people, the beating of drums, and the calling of bugles came to us clearly.
A half hour afterwards, on our way to the Intendant's palace, we heard the Benedictus chanted in the Church of the Recollets as we passed—hundreds kneeling outside, and responding to the chant sung within:
"That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hands of all that hate us."
At the corner of a building which we passed, a little away from the crowd, I saw a solitary cloaked figure. The words of the chant, following us, I could hear distinctly:
"That we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve Him without fear."
And then, from the shadowed corner came in a high, melancholy voice the words:
"To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace."
Looking closer, I saw it was Mathilde.
Doltaire smiled as I turned and begged a moment's time to speak to her.
"To pray with the lost angel and sup with the Intendant, all in one night—a liberal taste, monsieur; but who shall stay the good Samaritan!"
They stood a little distance away, and I went over to her and said, "Mademoiselle—Mathilde, do you not know me?"
Her abstracted eye fired up, as there ran to her brain some little sprite out of the House of Memory and told her who I was.
"There were two lovers in the world," she said: "the Mother of God forgot them, and the devil came. I am the Scarlet Woman," she went on; "I made this red robe from the curtains of Hell—"
Poor soul! My own trouble seemed then as a speck among the stars to hers. I took her hand and held it, saying again, "Do you not know me? Think, Mathilde!"
I was not sure that she had ever seen me, to know me, but I thought it possible; for, as a hostage, I had been much noticed in Quebec, and Voban had, no doubt, pointed me out to her. Light leapt from her black eye, and then she said, putting her finger on her lips, "Tell all the lovers to hide. I have seen a hundred Francois Bigots."
I looked at her, saying nothing—I knew not what to say. Presently her eye steadied to mine, and her intellect rallied. "You are a prisoner, too," she said; "but they will not kill you: they will keep you till the ring of fire grows in your head, and then you will make your scarlet robe, and go out, but you will never find It—never. God hid first, and then It hides.... It hides, that which you lost—It hides, and you can not find It again. You go hunting, hunting, but you can not find It."
My heart was pinched with pain. I understood her. She did not know her lover now at all. If Alixe and her mother at the Manor could but care for her, I thought. But alas! what could I do? It were useless to ask her to go to the Manor; she would not understand.
Perhaps there come to the disordered mind flashes of insight, illuminations and divinations, greater than are given to the sane, for she suddenly said in a whisper, touching me with a nervous finger, "I will go and tell her where to hide. They shall not find her. I know the woodpath to the Manor. Hush! she shall own all I have—except the scarlet robe. She showed me where the May-apples grew. Go,"—she pushed me gently away—"go to your prison, and pray to God. But you can not kill Francois Bigot, he is a devil." Then she thrust into my hands a little wooden cross, which she took from many others at her girdle. "If you wear that, the ring of fire will not grow," she said. "I will go by the woodpath, and give her one, too. She shall live with me: I will spread the cedar branches and stir the fire. She shall be safe. Hush! Go, go softly, for their wicked eyes are everywhere, the were-wolves!"
She put her fingers on my lips for an instant, and then, turning, stole softly away towards the St. Charles River.
Doltaire's mockery brought me back to myself.
"So much for the beads of the addled; now for the bowls of sinful man," said he.
THE WAGER AND THE SWORD
As I entered the Intendant's palace with Doltaire I had a singular feeling of elation. My spirits rose unaccountably, and I felt as though it were a fete night, and the day's duty over, the hour of play was come. I must needs have felt ashamed of it then, and now, were I not sure it was some unbidden operation of the senses. Maybe a merciful Spirit sees how, left alone, we should have stumbled and lost ourselves in our own gloom, and so gives us a new temper fitted to our needs. I remember that at the great door I turned back and smiled upon the ruined granary, and sniffed the air laden with the scent of burnt corn—the peoples bread; that I saw old men and women who could not be moved by news of victory, shaking with cold, even beside this vast furnace, and peevishly babbling of their hunger, and I did not say, "Poor souls!" that for a time the power to feel my own misfortunes seemed gone, and a hard, light indifference came on me.
For it is true I came into the great dining-hall, and looked upon the long loaded table, with its hundred candles, its flagons and pitchers of wine, and on the faces of so many idle, careless gentlemen bid to a carouse, with a manner, I believe, as reckless and jaunty as their own. And I kept it up, though I saw it was not what they had looked for. I did not at once know who was there, but presently, at a distance from me, I saw the face of Juste Duvarney, the brother of my sweet Alixe, a man of but twenty or so, who had a name for wildness, for no badness that I ever heard of, and for a fiery temper. He was in the service of the Governor, an ensign. He had been little at home since I had come to Quebec, having been employed up to the past year in the service of the Governor of Montreal. We bowed, but he made no motion to come to me, and the Intendant engaged me almost at once in gossip of the town; suddenly, however, diverging upon some questions of public tactics and civic government. He much surprised me, for though I knew him brave and able, I had never thought of him save as the adroit politician and servant of the King, the tyrant and the libertine. I might have known by that very scene a few hours before that he had a wide, deep knowledge of human nature, and despised it; unlike Doltaire, who had a keener mind, was more refined even in wickedness, and, knowing the world, laughed at it more than he despised it, which was the sign of the greater mind. And indeed, in spite of all the causes I had to hate Doltaire, it is but just to say he had by nature all the great gifts—misused and disordered as they were. He was the product of his age; having no real moral sense, living life wantonly, making his own law of right or wrong. As a lad, I was taught to think the evil person carried evil in his face, repelling the healthy mind. But long ago I found that this was error. I had no reason to admire Doltaire, and yet to this hour his handsome face, with its shadows and shifting lights, haunts me, charms me. The thought came to me as I talked with the Intendant, and I looked round the room. Some present were of coarse calibre—bushranging sons of seigneurs and petty nobles, dashing and profane, and something barbarous; but most had gifts of person and speech, and all seemed capable.
My spirits continued high. I sprang alertly to meet wit and gossip, my mind ran nimbly here and there, I filled the role of honoured guest. But when came the table and wine, a change befell me. From the first drop I drank, my spirits suffered a decline. On one side the Intendant rallied me, on the other Doltaire. I ate on, drank on; but while smiling by the force of will, I grew graver little by little. Yet it was a gravity which had no apparent motive, for I was not thinking of my troubles, not even of the night's stake and the possible end of it all; simply a sort of gray colour of the mind, a stillness in the nerves, a general seriousness of the senses. I drank, and the wine did not affect me, as voices got loud and louder, and glasses rang, and spurs rattled on shuffling heels, and a scabbard clanged on a chair. I seemed to feel and know it all in some far-off way, but I was not touched by the spirit of it, was not a part of it. I watched the reddened cheeks and loose scorching mouths around me with a sort of distant curiosity, and the ribald jests flung right and left struck me not at all acutely. It was as if I were reading a Book of Bacchus. I drank on evenly, not doggedly, and answered jest for jest without a hot breath of drunkenness. I looked several times at Juste Duvarney, who sat not far away, on the other side of the table, behind a grand piece of silver filled with October roses. He was drinking hard, and Doltaire, sitting beside him, kept him at it. At last the silver piece was shifted, and he and I could see each other fairly. Now and then Doltaire spoke across to me, but somehow no word passed between Duvarney and myself.
Suddenly, as if by magic—I know it was preconcerted—the talk turned on the events of the evening and on the defeat of the British. Then, too, as strangely I began to be myself again, amid a sense of my position grew upon me. I had been withdrawn from all real feeling and living for hours, but I believe that same suspension was my salvation. For with every man present deeply gone in liquor round me—every man save Doltaire—I was sane and steady, and settling into a state of great alertness, determined on escape, if that could be, and bent on turning every chance to serve my purposes.
Now and again I caught my own name mentioned with a sneer, then with remarks of surprise, then with insolent laughter. I saw it all. Before dinner some of the revellers had been told of the new charge against me, and, by instruction, had kept it till the inflammable moment. Then, when the why and wherefore of my being at this supper were in the hazard, the stake, as a wicked jest of Bigot's, was mentioned. I could see the flame grow inch by inch, fed by the Intendant and Doltaire, whose hateful final move I was yet to see. For one instant I had a sort of fear, for I was sure they meant I should not leave the room alive; but anon I felt a river of fiery anger flow through me, rousing me, making me loathe the faces of them all. Yet not all, for in one pale face, with dark, brilliant eyes, I saw the looks of my flower of the world: the colour of her hair in his, the clearness of the brow, the poise of the head—how handsome he was!—the light, springing step, like a deer on the sod of June. I call to mind when I first saw him. He was sitting in a window of the Manor, just after he had come from Montreal, playing a violin which had once belonged to De Casson, the famous priest whose athletic power and sweet spirit endeared him to New France. His fresh cheek was bent to the brown, delicate wood, and he was playing to his sister the air of the undying chanson, "Je vais mourir pour ma belle reine." I loved the look of his face, like that of a young Apollo, open, sweet, and bold, all his body having the epic strength of life. I wished that I might have him near me as a comrade, for out of my hard experience I could teach him much, and out of his youth he could soften my blunt nature, by comradeship making flexuous the hard and ungenial.
I went on talking to the Intendant, while some of the guests rose and scattered about the rooms, at tables, to play picquet, the jesting on our cause and the scorn of myself abating not at all. I would not have it thought that anything was openly coarse or brutal; it was all by innuendo, and brow-lifting, and maddening, allusive phrases such as it is thought fit for gentlefolk to use instead of open charge. There was insult in a smile, contempt in the turn of a shoulder, challenge in the flicking of a handkerchief. With great pleasure I could have wrung their noses one by one, and afterwards have met them tossing sword-points in the same order. I wonder now that I did not tell them so, for I was ever hasty; but my brain was clear that night, and I held myself in proper check, letting each move come from my enemies. There was no reason why I should have been at this wild feast at all, I a prisoner, accused falsely of being a spy, save because of some plot by which I was to have fresh suffering and some one else be benefited—though how that could be I could not guess at first.
But soon I understood everything. Presently I heard a young gentleman say to Duvarney over my shoulder:
"Eating comfits and holding yarn—that was his doing at your manor when Doltaire came hunting him."
"He has dined at your table, Lancy," broke out Duvarney hotly.
"But never with our ladies," was the biting answer.
"Should prisoners make conditions?" was the sharp, insolent retort.
The insult was conspicuous, and trouble might have followed, but that Doltaire came between them, shifting the attack.
"Prisoners, my dear Duvarney," said he, "are most delicate and exacting; they must be fed on wine and milk. It is an easy life, and hearts grow soft for them. As thus— Indeed, it is most sad: so young and gallant; in speech, too, so confiding! And if we babble all our doings to him, think you he takes it seriously? No, no—so gay and thoughtless, there is a thoroughfare from ear to ear, and all's lost on the other side. Poor simple gentleman, he is a claimant on our courtesy, a knight without a sword, a guest without the power to leave us—he shall make conditions, he shall have his caprice. La, la! my dear Duvarney and my Lancy!"
He spoke in a clear, provoking tone, putting a hand upon the shoulder of each young gentleman as he talked, his eyes wandering over me idly, and beyond me. I saw that he was now sharpening the sickle to his office. His next words made this more plain to me:
"And if a lady gives a farewell sign to one she favours for the moment, shall not the prisoner take it as his own?" (I knew he was recalling Alixe's farewell gesture to me at the manor.) "Who shall gainsay our peacock? Shall the guinea cock? The golden crumb was thrown to the guinea cock, but that's no matter. The peacock clatters of the crumb." At that he spoke an instant in Duvarney's ear. I saw the lad's face flush, and he looked at me angrily.
Then I knew his object: to provoke a quarrel between this young gentleman and myself, which might lead to evil ends; and the Intendant's share in the conspiracy was to revenge himself upon the Seigneur for his close friendship with the Governor. If Juste Duvarney were killed in the duel which they foresaw, so far as Doltaire was concerned I was out of the counting in the young lady's sight. In any case my life was of no account, for I was sure my death was already determined on. Yet it seemed strange that Doltaire should wish me dead, for he had reasons for keeping me alive, as shall be seen.
Juste Duvarney liked me once, I knew, but still he had the Frenchman's temper, and had always to argue down his bias against my race, and to cherish a good heart towards me; for he was young, and most sensitive to the opinions of his comrades. I can not express what misery possessed me when I saw him leave Doltaire, and, coming to me where I stood alone, say—
"What secrets found you at our seigneury, monsieur?"
I understood the taunt—as though I were the common interrogation mark, the abuser of hospitality, the abominable Paul Pry. But I held my wits together.
"Monsieur," said I, "I found the secret of all good life: a noble kindness to the unfortunate."
There was a general laugh, led by Doltaire, a concerted influence on the young gentleman. I cursed myself that I had been snared to this trap.
"The insolent," responded Duvarney, "not the unfortunate."
"Insolence is no crime, at least," I rejoined quietly, "else this room were a penitentiary."
There was a moment's pause, and presently, as I kept my eye on him, he raised his handkerchief and flicked me across the face with it, saying, "Then this will be a virtue, and you may have more such virtues as often as you will."
In spite of will, my blood pounded in my veins, and a devilish anger took hold of me. To be struck across the face by a beardless Frenchman, scarce past his teens!—it shook me more than now I care to own. I felt my cheek burn, my teeth clinched, and I know a kind of snarl came from me; but again, all in a moment, I caught a turn of his head, a motion of the hand, which brought back Alixe to me. Anger died away, and I saw only a youth flushed with wine, stung by suggestions, with that foolish pride the youngster feels—and he was the youngest of them all—in being as good a man as the best, and as daring as the worst. I felt how useless it would be to try the straightening of matters there, though had we two been alone a dozen words would have been enough. But to try was my duty, and I tried with all my might; almost, for Alixe's sake, with all my heart.
"Do not trouble to illustrate your meaning," said I patiently. "Your phrases are clear and to the point."
"You bolt from my words," he retorted, "like a shy mare on the curb; you take insult like a donkey on a well-wheel. What fly will the English fish rise to? Now it no more plays to my hook than an August chub."
I could not help but admire his spirit and the sharpness of his speech, though it drew me into a deeper quandary. It was clear that he would not be tempered to friendliness; for, as is often so, when men have said things fiercely, their eloquence feeds their passion and convinces them of holiness in their cause. Calmly, but with a heavy heart, I answered:
"I wish not to find offense in your words, my friend, for in some good days gone you and I had good acquaintance, and I can not forget that the last hours of a light imprisonment before I entered on a dark one were spent in the home of your father—of the brave Seigneur whose life I once saved."
I am sure I should not have mentioned this in any other situation—it seemed as if I were throwing myself on his mercy; but yet I felt it was the only thing to do—that I must bridge this affair, if at cost of some reputation.
It was not to be. Here Doltaire, seeing that my words had indeed affected my opponent, said: "A double retreat! He swore to give a challenge to-night, and he cries off like a sheep from a porcupine; his courage is so slack, he dares not move a step to his liberty. It was a bet, a hazard. He was to drink glass for glass with any and all of us, and fight sword for sword with any of us who gave him cause. Having drunk his courage to death, he'd now browse at the feet of those who give him chance to win his stake."
His words came slowly and bitingly, yet with an air of damnable nonchalance. I looked round me. Every man present was full-sprung with wine; and a distance away, a gentleman on either side of him, stood the Intendant, smiling detestably, a keen, houndlike look shooting out of his small round eyes.
I had had enough; I could bear no more. To be baited like a bear by these Frenchmen—it was aloes in my teeth! I was not sorry then that these words of Juste Duvarney's gave me no chance of escape from fighting; though I would it had been any other man in the room than he. It was on my tongue to say that if some gentleman would take up his quarrel I should be glad to drive mine home, though for reasons I cared not myself to fight Duvarney. But I did not, for I knew that to carry that point farther might rouse a general thought of Alixe, and I had no wish to make matters hard for her. Everything in its own good time, and when I should be free! So, without more ado, I said to him:
"Monsieur, the quarrel was of your choosing, not mine. There was no need for strife between us, and you have more to lose than I: more friends, more years of life, more hopes. I have avoided your bait, as you call it, for your sake, not mine own. Now I take it, and you, monsieur, show us what sort of fisherman you are."
All was arranged in a moment. As we turned to pass from the room to the courtyard, I noted that Bigot was gone. When we came outside, it was just one, as I could tell by a clock striking in a chamber near. It was cold, and some of the company shivered as we stepped upon the white, frosty stones. The late October air bit the cheek, though now and then a warm, pungent current passed across the courtyard—the breath from the people's burnt corn. Even yet upon the sky was the reflection of the fire, and distant sounds of singing, shouting, and carousal came to us from the Lower Town.
We stepped to a corner of the yard and took off our coats; swords were handed us—both excellent, for we had had our choice of many. It was partial moonlight, but there were flitting clouds. That we should have light, however, pine torches had been brought, and these were stuck in the wall. My back was to the outer wall of the courtyard, and I saw the Intendant at a window of the palace looking down at us. Doltaire stood a little apart from the other gentlemen in the courtyard, yet where he could see Duvarney and myself at advantage.
Before we engaged, I looked intently into my opponent's face, and measured him carefully with my eye, that I might have his height and figure explicit and exact; for I know how moonlight and fire distort, how the eye may be deceived. I looked for every button; for the spot in his lean, healthy body where I could disable him, spit him, and yet not kill him—for this was the thing furthest from my wishes, God knows. Now the deadly character of the event seemed to impress him, for he was pale, and the liquor he had drunk had given him dark hollows round the eyes, and a gray shining sweat was on his cheek. But his eyes themselves were fiery and keen and there was reckless daring in every turn of his body.
I was not long in finding his quality, for he came at me violently from the start, and I had chance to know his strength and weakness also. His hand was quick, his sight clear and sure, his knowledge to a certain point most definite and practical, his mastery of the sword delightful; but he had little imagination, he did not divine, he was merely a brilliant performer, he did not conceive. I saw that if I put him on the defensive I should have him at advantage, for he had not that art of the true swordsman, the prescient quality which foretells the opponents action and stands prepared. There I had him at fatal advantage—could, I felt, give him last reward of insult at my pleasure. Yet a lust of fighting got into me, and it was difficult to hold myself in check at all, nor was it easy to meet his breathless and adroit advances.
Then, too, remarks from the bystanders worked me up to a deep sort of anger, and I could feel Doltaire looking at me with that still, cold face of his, an ironical smile at his lips. Now and then, too, a ribald jest came from some young roisterer near, and the fact that I stood alone among sneering enemies wound me up to a point where pride was more active than aught else. I began to press him a little, and I pricked him once. Then a singular feeling possessed me. I would bring this to an end when I had counted ten; I would strike home when I said "ten."
So I began, and I was not aware then that I was counting aloud. "One—two—three!" It was weird to the onlookers, for the yard grew still, and you could hear nothing but maybe a shifting foot or a hard breathing. "Four—five—six!" There was a tenseness in the air, and Juste Duvarney, as if he felt a menace in the words, seemed to lose all sense of wariness, and came at me lunging, lunging with great swiftness and heat. I was incensed now, and he must take what fortune might send; one can not guide one's sword to do the least harm fighting as did we.
I had lost blood, and the game could go on no longer. "Eight!" I pressed him sharply now. "Nine!" I was preparing for the trick which would end the matter, when I slipped on the frosty stones, now glazed with our tramping back and forth, and, trying to recover myself, left my side open to his sword. It came home, though I partly diverted it. I was forced to my knees, but there, mad, unpardonable youth, he made another furious lunge at me. I threw myself back, deftly avoided the lunge, and he came plump on my upstretched sword, gave a long gasp, and sank down.
At that moment the doors of the courtyard opened, and men stepped inside, one coming quickly forward before the rest. It was the Governor, the Marquis de Vaudreuil. He spoke, but what he said I knew not, for the stark upturned face of Juste Duvarney was there before me, there was a great buzzing in my ears, and I fell back into darkness.
THE RAT IN THE TRAP
When I waked I was alone. At first nothing was clear to me; my brain was dancing in my head, my sight was obscured, my body painful, my senses were blunted. I was in darkness, yet through an open door there showed a light, which, from the smell and flickering, I knew to be a torch. This, creeping into my senses, helped me to remember that the last thing I saw in the Intendant's courtyard was a burning torch, which suddenly multiplied to dancing hundreds and then went out. I now stretched forth a hand, and it touched a stone wall; I moved, and felt straw under me. Then I fixed my eyes steadily on the open door and the shaking light, and presently it all came to me: the events of the night, and that I was now in a cell of the citadel. Stirring, I found that the wound in my body had been bound and cared for. A loosely tied scarf round my arm showed that some one had lately left me, and would return to finish the bandaging. I raised myself with difficulty, and saw a basin of water, a sponge, bits of cloth, and a pocket-knife. Stupid and dazed though I was, the instinct of self-preservation lived, and I picked up the knife and hid it in my coat. I did it, I believe, mechanically, for a hundred things were going through my mind at the time.
All at once there rushed in on me the thought of Juste Duvarney as I saw him last—how long ago was it?—his white face turned to the sky, his arms stretched out, his body dabbled in blood. I groaned aloud. Fool, fool! to be trapped by these lying French! To be tricked into playing their shameless games for them, to have a broken body, to have killed the brother of the mistress of my heart, and so cut myself off from her and ruined my life for nothing—for worse than nothing! I had swaggered, boasted, had taken a challenge for a bout and a quarrel like any hanger-on of a tavern.
Suddenly I heard footsteps and voices outside; then one voice, louder than the other, saying, "He hasn't stirred a peg—lies like a log!" It was Gabord.
Doltaire's voice replied, "You will not need a surgeon—no?" His tone, as it seemed to me, was less careless than usual.
Gabord answered, "I know the trick of it all—what can a surgeon do? This brandy will fetch him to his intellects. And by-and-bye crack'll go his spine—aho!"
You have heard a lion growling on a bone. That is how Gabord's voice sounded to me then—a brutal rawness; but it came to my mind also that this was the man who had brought Voban to do me service!
"Come, come, Gabord, crack your jaws less, and see you fetch him on his feet again," said Doltaire. "From the seats of the mighty they have said that he must live—to die another day; and see to it, or the mighty folk will say that you must die to live another day—in a better world, my Gabord."
There was a moment in which the only sound was that of tearing linen, and I could see the shadows of the two upon the stone wall of the corridor wavering to the light of the torch; then the shadows shifted entirely, and their footsteps came on towards my door. I was lying on my back as when I came to, and, therefore, probably as Gabord had left me, and I determined to appear still in a faint. Through nearly closed eyelids however I saw Gabord enter. Doltaire stood in the doorway watching as the soldier knelt and lifted my arm to take off the bloody scarf. His manner was imperturbable as ever. Even then I wondered what his thoughts were, what pungent phrase he was suiting to the time and to me. I do not know to this day which more interested him—that very pungency of phrase, or the critical events which inspired his reflections. He had no sense of responsibility; his mind loved talent, skill, and cleverness, and though it was scathing of all usual ethics, for the crude, honest life of the poor it had sympathy. I remember remarks of his in the market-place a year before, as he and I watched the peasant in his sabots and the good-wife in her homespun cloth.
"These are they," said he, "who will save the earth one day, for they are like it, kin to it. When they are born they lie close to it, and when they die they fall no height to reach their graves. The rest—the world—are like ourselves in dreams: we do not walk; we think we fly, over houses, over trees, over mountains; and then one blessed instant the spring breaks, or the dream gets twisted, and we go falling, falling, in a sickening fear, and, waking up, we find we are and have been on the earth all the while, and yet can make no claim on it, and have no kin with it, and no right to ask anything of it—quelle vie—quelle vie!"
Sick as I was, I thought of that as he stood there, looking in at me; and though I knew I ought to hate him, I admired him in spite of all.
Presently he said to Gabord, "You'll come to me at noon to-morrow, and see you bring good news. He breathes?"
Gabord put a hand on my chest and at my neck, and said at once, "Breath for balloons—aho!"
Doltaire threw his cloak over his shoulder and walked away, his footsteps sounding loud in the passages. Gabord began humming to himself as he tied the bandages, and then he reached down for the knife to cut the flying strings. I could see this out of a little corner of my eye. When he did not find it, he settled back on his haunches and looked at me. I could feel his lips puffing out, and I was ready for the "Poom!" that came from him. Then I could feel him stooping over me, and his hot strong breath in my face. I was so near to unconsciousness at that moment by a sudden anxiety that perhaps my feigning had the look of reality. In any case, he thought me unconscious and fancied that he had taken the knife away with him; for he tucked in the strings of the bandage. Then, lifting my head, he held the flask to my lips; for which I was most grateful—I was dizzy and miserably faint.
I think I came to with rather more alacrity than was wise, but he was deceived, and his first words were, "Ho, ho! the devil's knocking; who's for home, angels?"
It was his way to put all things allusively, using strange figures and metaphors. Yet, when one was used to him and to them, their potency seemed greater than polished speech and ordinary phrase.
He offered me more brandy, and then, without preface, I asked him the one question which sank back on my heart like a load of ice even as I sent it forth. "Is he alive?" I inquired. "Is Monsieur Juste Duvarney alive?"
With exasperating coolness he winked an eye, to connect the event with what he knew of the letter I had sent to Alixe, and, cocking his head, he blew out his lips with a soundless laugh, and said:
"To whisk the brother off to heaven is to say good-bye to sister and pack yourself to Father Peter."
"For God's sake, tell me, is the boy dead?" I asked, my voice cracking in my throat.
"He's not mounted for the journey yet," he answered, with a shrug, "but the Beast is at the door."
I plied my man with questions, and learned that they had carried Juste into the palace for dead, but found life in him, and straightway used all means to save him. A surgeon came, his father and mother were sent for, and when Doltaire had left there was hope that he would live.
I learned also that Voban had carried word to the Governor of the deed to be done that night; had for a long time failed to get admittance to him, but was at last permitted to tell his story; and Vaudreuil had gone to Bigot's palace to have me hurried to the citadel, and had come just too late.
After answering my first few questions, Gabord say nothing more, and presently he took the torch from the wall and with a gruff good-night prepared to go. When I asked that a light be left, he shook his head, said he had no orders. Whereupon he left me, the heavy door clanging to, the bolts were shot, and I was alone in darkness with my wounds and misery. My cloak had been put into the cell beside my couch, and this I now drew over me, and I lay and thought upon my condition and my prospects, which, as may be seen, were not cheering. I did not suffer great pain from my wounds—only a stiffness that troubled me not at all if I lay still. After an hour or so passed—for it is hard to keep count of time when one's thoughts are the only timekeeper—I fell asleep.
I know not how long I slept, but I awoke refreshed. I stretched forth my uninjured arm, moving it about. In spite of will a sort of hopelessness went through me, for I could feel long blades of corn grown up about my couch, an unnatural meadow, springing from the earth floor of my dungeon. I drew the blades between my fingers, feeling towards them as if they were things of life out of place like myself. I wondered what colour they were. Surely, said I to myself, they can not be green, but rather a yellowish white, bloodless, having only fibre, the heart all pinched to death. Last night I had not noted them, yet now, looking back, I saw, as in a picture, Gabord the soldier feeling among them for the knife that I had taken. So may we see things, and yet not be conscious of them at the time, waking to their knowledge afterwards. So may we for years look upon a face without understanding, and then, suddenly, one day it comes flashing out, and we read its hidden story like a book.