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- The Seats Of The Mighty, Volume 2. - 5/15 -
Seeing Doltaire, he came forward and they embraced. Then he turned towards me, and as they walked off a little distance I could see that he was curious concerning me. Presently he raised his hand, and, as if something had excited him, said, "No, no, no; hang him and have done with it, but I'll have nothing to do with it--not a thing. 'Tis enough for me to rule at--"
I could hear no further, but I was now sure that he was some one of note who had retired from any share in state affairs. He and Doltaire then moved on to the doors of the citadel, and, pausing there, Doltaire turned round and made a motion of his hand to Gabord. I was at once surrounded by the squad of men, and the order to march was given. A drum in front of me began to play a well-known derisive air of the French army, The Fox and the Wolf.
We came out on the St. Foye Road and down towards the Chateau St. Louis, between crowds of shouting people who beat drums, kettles, pans, and made all manner of mocking noises. It was meant not only against myself, but against the British people. The women were not behind the men in violence; from them at first came handfuls of gravel and dust which struck me in the face; but Gabord put a stop to that.
It was a shameful ordeal, which might have vexed me sorely if I had not had greater trials and expected worse. Now and again appeared a face I knew--some lady who turned her head away, or some gentleman who watched me curiously, but made no sign.
When we came to the Chateau, I looked up as if casually, and there in the little round window I saw Alixe's face--for an instant only. I stopped in my tracks, was prodded by a soldier from behind, and I then stepped on. Entering, we were taken to the rear of the building, where, in an open courtyard, were a company of soldiers, some seats, and a table. On my right was the St. Lawrence swelling on its course, hundreds of feet beneath, little boats passing hither and thither on its flood.
We were waiting about half an hour, the noises of the clamoring crowd coming to us, as they carried me aloft in effigy, and, burning me at the cliff edge, fired guns and threw stones at me, till, rags, ashes, and flame, I was tumbled into the river far below. At last, from the Chateau came the Marquis de Vaudreuil, Bigot, and a number of officers. The Governor looked gravely at me, but did not bow; Bigot gave me a sneering smile, eying me curiously the while, and (I could feel) remarking on my poor appearance to Cournal beside him--Cournal, who winked at his wife's dishonour for the favour of her lover, who gave him means for public robbery.
Presently the Governor was seated, and he said, looking round, "Monsieur Doltaire--he is not here?"
Bigot shook his head, and answered, "No doubt he is detained at the citadel."
"And the Seigneur Duvarney?" the Governor added.
At that moment the Governor's secretary handed him a letter. The Governor opened it. "Listen," said he. He read to the effect that the Seigneur Duvarney felt he was hardly fitted to be a just judge in this case, remembering the conflict between his son and the notorious Captain Moray. And from another standpoint, though the prisoner merited any fate reserved for him, if guilty of spying, he could not forget that his life had been saved by this British captain--an obligation which, unfortunately, he could neither repay nor wipe out. After much thought, he must disobey the Governor's summons, and he prayed that his Excellency would grant his consideration thereupon.
I saw the Governor frown, but he made no remark, while Bigot said something in his ear which did not improve his humour, for he replied curtly, and turned to his secretary. "We must have two gentlemen more," he said.
At that moment Doltaire entered with the old gentleman of whom I have written. The Governor instantly brightened, and gave the stranger a warm greeting, calling him his "dear Chevalier;" and, after a deal of urging, the Chevalier de la Darante was seated as one of my judges: which did not at all displease me, for I liked his face.
I do not need to dwell upon the trial here. I have set down the facts before. I had no counsel and no witnesses. There seemed no reason why the trial should have dragged on all day, for I soon saw it was intended to find me guilty. Yet I was surprised to see how Doltaire brought up a point here and a question there in my favour, which served to lengthen out the trial; and all the time he sat near the Chevalier de la Darante, now and again talking with him.
It was late evening before the trial came to a close. The one point to be established was that the letters taken from General Braddock were mine, and that I had made the plans while a hostage. I acknowledged nothing, and would not do so unless I was allowed to speak freely. This was not permitted until just before I was sentenced.
Then Doltaire's look was fixed on me, and I knew he waited to see if I would divulge the matter private between us. However, I stood by my compact with him. Besides, it could not serve me to speak of it here, or use it as an argument, and it would only hasten an end which I felt he could prevent if he chose.
So when I was asked if I had aught to say, I pleaded only that they had not kept the Articles of War signed at Fort Necessity, which provided I should be free within two months and a half--that is, when prisoners in our hands should be delivered up to them, as they were. They had broken their bond, though we had fulfilled ours, and I held myself justified in doing what I had done for our cause and for my own life.
I was not heard patiently, though I could see that the Governor and the Chevalier were impressed; but Bigot instantly urged the case hotly against me, and the end came very soon. It was now dark; a single light had been brought and placed beside the Governor, while a soldier held a torch at a distance. Suddenly there was a silence; then, in response to a signal, the sharp ringing of a hundred bayonets as they were drawn and fastened to the muskets, and I could see them gleaming in the feeble torchlight. Presently, out of the stillness, the Governor's voice was heard condemning me to death by hanging, thirty days hence, at sunrise. Silence fell again instantly, and then a thing occurred which sent a thrill through us all. From the dark balcony above us came a voice, weird, high, and wailing:
"Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! He is guilty, and shall die! Francois Bigot shall die!"
The voice was Mathilde's, and I saw Doltaire shrug a shoulder and look with malicious amusement at the Intendant. Bigot himself sat pale and furious. "Discover the intruder," he said to Gabord, who was standing near, "and have--him--jailed."
But the Governor interfered. "It is some drunken creature," he urged quietly. "Take no account of it."
AN OFFICER OF MARINES
What was my dismay to know that I was to be taken back again to my dungeon, and not lodged in the common jail, as I had hoped and Alixe had hinted! When I saw whither my footsteps were directed I said nothing, nor did Gabord speak at all. We marched back through a railing crowd as we had come, all silent and gloomy. I felt a chill at my heart when the citadel loomed up again out of the November shadow, and I half paused as I entered the gates. "Forward!" said Gabord mechanically, and I moved on into the yard, into the prison, through the dull corridors, the soldiers' heels clanking and resounding behind, down into the bowels of the earth, where the air was moist and warm, and then into my dungeon home! I stepped inside, and Gabord ordered the ropes off my person somewhat roughly, watched the soldiers till they were well away, and then leaned against the wall, waiting for me to speak. I had no impulse to smile, but I knew how I could most touch him, and so I said lightly, "You've got dickey-bird home again."
He answered nothing and turned towards the door, leaving the torch stuck in the wall. But he suddenly stopped short, and suddenly thrust out to me a tiny piece of paper.
"A hand touched mine as I went through the Chateau," said he, "and when out I came, look you, this here! I can't see to read. What does it say?" he added, with a shrewd attempt at innocence.
I opened the little paper, held it towards the torch, and read:
"Because of the storm there is no sleeping. Is there not the watcher aloft? Shall the sparrow fall unheeded? The wicked shall be confounded."
It was Alixe's writing. She had hazarded this in the hands of my jailer as her only hope, and, knowing that he might not serve her, had put her message in vague sentences which I readily interpreted. I read the words aloud to him, and he laughed, and remarked, "'Tis a foolish thing that--The Scarlet Woman, mast like."
"Most like," I answered quietly; "yet what should she be doing there at the Chateau?"
"The mad go everywhere," he answered, "even to the intendance!"
With that he left me, going, as he said, "to fetch crumbs and wine." Exhausted with the day's business, I threw myself upon my couch, drew my cloak over me, composed myself, and in a few minutes was sound asleep. I waked to find Gabord in the dungeon, setting out food upon a board supported by two stools.
"'Tis custom to feed your dickey-bird ere you fetch him to the pot." he said, and drew the cork from a bottle of wine.
He watched me as I ate and talked, but he spoke little. When I had finished, he fetched a packet of tobacco from his pocket. I offered him money, but he refused it, and I did not press him, for he said the food and wine were not of his buying. Presently he left, and came back with pens, ink, paper, and candles, which be
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