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- The Seats Of The Mighty, Volume 3. - 13/13 -

henceforth there is no such thing as quarter between us. Your lover shall die, and I will come again. This whim of the Grande Marquise will last but till I see her; then I will return to you--forever. Your lover shall die, your love's labour for him shall be lost. I shall reap where I did not sow--his harvest and my own. I am as ice to you, mademoiselle, at this moment; I have murder in my heart. Yet warmth will come again. I admire you so much that I will have you for my own, or die. You are the high priestess of diplomacy; your brain is a statesman's, your heart is a vagrant; it goes covertly from the sweet meadows of France to the marshes of England, a taste unworthy of you. You shall be redeemed from that by Tinoir Doltaire. Now thank me for all I have done for you, and let me say adieu.' He stooped and kissed my hand. 'I can not thank you for what I myself achieved,' I said. 'We are, as in the past, to be at war, you threaten, and I have no gratitude.' 'Well, well, adieu and au revoir, sweetheart,' he answered. 'If I should go to the Bastile, I shall have food for thought; and I am your hunter to the end. In this good orchard I pick sweet fruit one day.' His look fell on me in such a way that shame and anger were at equal height in me. Then he bowed again to me and to Jamond, and, with a sedate gesture, walked away with the soldiers and the officer.

"You can guess what were my feelings. You were safe for the moment--that was the great thing. The terror I had felt when I saw Monsieur Doltaire in the Chambre de la Joie had passed, for I felt he would not betray me. He is your foe, and he would kill you; but I was sure he would not put me in danger while he was absent in France--if he expected to return--by making public my love for you and my adventure at the palace. There is something of the noble fighter in him, after all, though he is so evil a man. A prisoner himself now, he would have no immediate means to hasten your death. But I can never forget his searching, cruel look when he recognized me! Of Jamond I was sure. Her own past had been full of sorrow, and her life was now so secluded and religious that I could not doubt her. Indeed, we have been blessed with good, true friends, Robert, though they are not of those who are powerful, save in their loyalty."

Alixe then told me that the officer Legrand had arrived from France but two days before the eventful night of which I have just written, armed with an order from the Grande Marquise for Doltaire's arrest and transportation. He had landed at Gaspe, and had come on to Quebec overland. Arriving at the Intendance, he had awaited Doltaire's coming. Doltaire had stopped to visit General Montcalm at Montmorenci Falls, on his way back from an expedition to the English country, and had thus himself brought my protection and hurried to his own undoing. I was thankful for his downfall, though I believed it was but for a moment.

I was curious to know how it chanced I was set free of my dungeon, and I had the story from Alixe's lips; but not till after I had urged her, for she was sure her tale had wearied me, and she was eager to do little offices of comfort about me; telling me gaily, while she shaded the light, freshened my pillow, and gave me a cordial to drink, that she would secretly convey me wines and preserves and jellies and such kickshaws, that I should better get my strength.

"For you must know," she said, "that though this gray hair and transparency of flesh become you, making your eyes look like two jets of flame and your face to have shadows most theatrical, a ruddy cheek and a stout hand are more suited to a soldier. When you are young again in body, these gray hairs shall render you distinguished."

Then she sat down beside me, and clasped my hand, now looking out into the clear light of afternoon to the farther shores of Levis, showing green here and there from a sudden March rain, the boundless forests beyond, and near us the ample St. Lawrence still covered with its vast bridge of ice; anon into my face, while I gazed into those deeps of her blue eyes that I had drowned my heart in. I loved to watch her, for with me she was ever her own absolute self, free from all artifice, lost in her perfect naturalness: a healthy, perfect soundness, a primitive simplicity beneath the artifice of usual life. She had a beautiful hand, long, warm, and firm, and the fingers, when they clasped, seemed to possess and inclose your own--the tenderness of the maidenly, the protectiveness of the maternal. She carried with her a wholesome fragrance and beauty as of an orchard, and while she sat there I thought of the engaging words:

"Thou art to me like a basket of summer fruit, and I seek thee in thy cottage by the vineyard, fenced about with good commendable trees."

Of my release she spoke thus: "Monsieur Doltaire is to be conveyed overland to the coast en route for France, and he sent me by his valet a small arrow studded with emeralds and pearls, and a skull all polished, with a message that the arrow was for myself, and the skull for another--remembrances of the past, and earnests of the future--truly an insolent and wicked man. When he was gone I went to the Governor, and, with great show of interest in many things pertaining to the government (for he has ever been flattered by my attentions--me, poor little bee in the buzzing hive!), came to the question of the English prisoner. I told him it was I that prevented the disgrace to his good government by sending to General Montcalm to ask for your protection.

"He was deeply impressed, and he opened out his vain heart in divers ways. But I may not tell you of these--only what concerns yourself; the rest belongs to his honour. When he was in his most pliable mood, I grew deeply serious, and told him there was a danger which perhaps he did not see. Here was this English prisoner, who, they said abroad in the town, was dying. There was no doubt that the King would approve the sentence of death, and if it were duly and with some display enforced, it would but add to the Governor's reputation in France. But should the prisoner die in captivity, or should he go an invalid to the scaffold, there would only be pity excited in the world for him. For his own honour, it were better the Governor should hang a robust prisoner, who in full blood should expiate his sins upon the scaffold. The advice went down like wine; and when he knew not what to do, I urged your being brought here, put under guard, and fed and nourished for your end. And so it was.

"The Governor's counsellor in the matter will remain a secret, for by now he will be sure that he himself had the sparkling inspiration. There, dear Robert, is the present climax to many months of suspense and persecution, the like of which I hope I may never see again. Some time I will tell you all: those meetings with Monsieur Doltaire, his designs and approaches, his pleadings and veiled threats, his numberless small seductions of words, manners, and deeds, his singular changes of mood, when I was uncertain what would happen next; the part I had to play to know all that was going on in the Chateau St. Louis, in the Intendance, and with General Montcalm; the difficulties with my own people; the despair of my poor father, who does not know that it is I who have kept him from trouble by my influence with the Governor. For since the Governor and the Intendant are reconciled, he takes sides with General Montcalm, the one sound gentleman in office in this poor country--alas!"

Soon afterwards we parted. As she passed out she told me I might at any hour expect a visit from the Governor.

The Seats Of The Mighty, Volume 3. - 13/13

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