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- The Seats Of The Mighty, Volume 2. - 4/15 -
redeem your nation."
At that moment Gabord came with a message from the Governor to Doltaire, and he prepared to go.
"You are set on sacrifice?" he asked. "Think--dangling from Cape Diamond!"
"I will meditate on your fate instead," I replied.
"Think!" he said again, waving off my answer with his hand. "The letters I shall no more ask for; and you will not escape death?"
"Never by that way," rejoined I.
"So. Very good. Au plaisir, my captain. I go to dine at the Seigneur Duvarney's."
With that last thrust he was gone, and left me wondering if the Seigneur had ever made an effort to see me, if he had forgiven the duel with his son.
That was the incident.
* * * * *
When Gabord and Voban were gone, leaving the light behind, I went over to where the torch stuck in the wall, and drew Alixe's letter from my pocket with eager fingers. It told the whole story of her heart.
CHATEAU ST. LOUIS, 27th November, 1757.
Though I write you these few words, dear Robert, I do not know that they will reach you, for as yet it is not certain they will let Voban visit you. A year, dear friend, and not a word from you! I should have broken my heart if I had not heard of you one way and another. They say you are much worn in body, though you have always a cheerful air. There are stories of a visit Monsieur Doltaire paid you, and how you jested. He hates you, and yet he admires you too.
And now listen, Robert, and I beg you not to be angry--oh, do not be angry, for I am all yours; but I want to tell you that I have not repulsed Monsieur Doltaire when he has spoken flatteries to me. I have not believed them, and I have kept my spirits strong against the evil in him. I want to get you free of prison, and to that end I have to work through him with the Intendant, that he will not set the Governor more against you. With the Intendant himself I will not deal at all. So I use the lesser villain, and in truth the more powerful, for he stands higher at Versailles than any here. With the Governor I have influence, for he is, as you know, a kinsman of my mother's, and of late he has shown a fondness for me. Yet you can see that I must act most warily, that I must not seem to care for you, for that would be your complete undoing. I rather seem to scoff. (Oh, how it hurts me! how my cheeks tingle when I think of it alone! and how I clench my hands, hating them all for oppressing you!)
I do not believe their slanders--that you are a spy. It is I, Robert, who have at last induced the Governor to bring you to trial. They would have put it off till next year, but I feared you would die in that awful dungeon, and I was sure that if your trial came on there would be a change, as there is to be for a time, at least. You are to be lodged in the common jail during the sitting of the court; and so that is one step gained. Yet I had to use all manner of device with the Governor.
He is sometimes so playful with me that I can pretend to sulkiness; and so one day I said that he showed no regard for our family or for me in not bringing you, who had nearly killed my brother, to justice. So he consented, and being of a stubborn nature, too, when Monsieur Doltaire and the Intendant opposed the trial, he said it should come off at once. But one thing grieves me: they are to have you marched through the streets of the town like any common criminal, and I dare show no distress nor plead, nor can my father, though he wishes to move for you in this; and I dare not urge him, for then it would seem strange the daughter asked your punishment, and the father sought to lessen it.
When you are in the common jail it will be much easier to help you. I have seen Gabord, but he is not to be bent to any purpose, though he is kind to me. I shall try once more to have him take some wine and meat to you to-night. If I fail, then I shall only pray that you may be given strength in body for your time of trouble equal to your courage.
It may be I can fix upon a point where you may look to see me as you pass to-morrow to the Chateau. There must be a sign. If you will put your hand to your forehead-- But no, they may bind you, and your hands may not be free. When you see me, pause in your step for an instant, and I shall know. I will tell Voban where you shall send your glance, if he is to be let in to you, and I hope that what I plan may not fail.
And so, Robert, adieu. Time can not change me, and your misfortunes draw me closer to you. Only the dishonourable thing could make me close the doors of my heart, and I will not think you, whate'er they say, unworthy of my constant faith. Some day, maybe, we shall smile at, and even cherish, these sad times. In this gay house I must be flippant, for I am now of the foolish world! But under all the trivial sparkle a serious heart beats. It belongs to thee, if thou wilt have it, Robert, the heart of thy
An hour after getting this good letter Gabord came again, and with him breakfast--a word which I had almost dropped from my language. True, it was only in a dungeon, on a pair of stools, by the light of a torch, but how I relished it!--a bottle of good wine, a piece of broiled fish, the half of a fowl, and some tender vegetables.
When Gabord came for me with two soldiers, an hour later--I say an hour, but I only guess so, for I had no way of noting time--I was ready for new cares, and to see the world again. Before the others Gabord was the rough, almost brutal soldier, and soon I knew that I was to be driven out upon the St. Foye Road and on into the town. My arms were well fastened down, and I was tied about till I must have looked like a bale of living goods of no great value. Indeed, my clothes were by no means handsome, and save for my well-shaven face and clean handkerchief I was an ill-favoured spectacle; but I tried to bear my shoulders up as we marched through dark reeking corridors, and presently came suddenly into well-lighted passages.
I had to pause, for the light blinded my eyes, and they hurt me horribly, so delicate were the nerves. For some minutes I stood there, my guards stolidly waiting, Gabord muttering a little and stamping upon the floor as if in anger, though I knew he was merely playing a small part to deceive his comrades. The pain in my eyes grew less, and, though they kept filling with moisture from the violence of the light, I soon could see without distress.
I was led into the yard of the citadel, where was drawn up a company of soldiers. Gabord bade me stand still, and advanced towards the officers' quarters. I asked him if I might not walk to the ramparts and view the scene. He gruffly assented, bidding the men watch me closely, and I walked over to a point where, standing three hundred feet above the noble river, I could look out upon its sweet expanse, across to the Levis shore, with its serried legions of trees behind, and its bold settlement in front upon the Heights. There, eastward lay the well-wooded Island of Orleans, and over all the clear sun and sky, enlivened by a crisp and cheering air. Snow had fallen, but none now lay upon the ground, and I saw a rare and winning earth. I stood absorbed. I was recalling that first day that I remember in my life, when at Balmore my grandfather made prophecies upon me, and for the first time I was conscious of the world.
As I stood lost to everything about me, I heard Doltaire's voice behind, and presently he said over my shoulder, "To wish Captain Moray a good-morning were superfluous!"
I smiled at him: the pleasure of that scene had given me an impulse towards good nature even with my enemies.
"The best I ever had," I answered quietly.
"Contrasts are life's delights," he said. "You should thank us. You have your best day because of our worst dungeon."
"But my thanks shall not be in words; you shall have the same courtesy at our hands one day."
"I had the Bastile for a year," he rejoined, calling up a squad of men with his finger as he spoke. "I have had my best day. Two would be monotony. You think your English will take this some time?" he asked, waving a finger towards the citadel. "It will need good play to pluck that ribbon from its place." He glanced up, as he spoke, at the white flag with its golden lilies.
"So much the better sport," I answered. "We will have the ribbon and its heritage."
"You yourself shall furnish evidence to-day. Gabord here will see you temptingly disposed--the wild bull led peaceably by the nose!"
"But one day I will twist your nose, Monsieur Doltaire."
"That is fair enough, if rude," he responded. "When your turn comes, you twist and I endure. You shall be nourished well like me, and I shall look a battered hulk like you. But I shall never be the fool that you are. If I had a way to slip the leash, I'd slip it. You are a dolt." He was touching upon the letters again.
"I weigh it all," said I. "I am no fool--anything else you will."
"You'll be nothing soon, I fear--which is a pity."
What more he might have said I do not know, but there now appeared in the yard a tall, reverend old gentleman, in the costume of the coureur de bois, though his belt was richly chased, and he wore an order on his breast. There was something more refined than powerful in his appearance, but he had a keen, kindly eye, and a manner unmistakably superior. His dress was a little barbarous, unlike Doltaire's splendid white uniform, set off with violet and gold, the lace of a fine handkerchief sticking from his belt, and a gold-handled sword at his side; but the manner of both was
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