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- The Seats Of The Mighty, Volume 4. - 1/14 -
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
XX Upon the ramparts XXI La Jongleuse XXII The lord of Kamaraska XXIII With Wolfe at Montmorenci XXIV The sacred countersign
UPON THE RAMPARTS
The Governor visited me. His attitude was marked by nothing so much as a supercilious courtesy, a manner which said, You must see I am not to be trifled with; and though I have you here in my chateau, it is that I may make a fine scorching of you in the end. He would make of me an example to amaze and instruct the nations--when I was robust enough to die.
I might easily have flattered myself on being an object of interest to the eyes of nations. I almost pitied him; for he appeared so lost in self-admiration and the importance of his office that he would never see disaster when it came.
"There is but one master here in Canada," he said, "and I am he. If things go wrong it is because my orders are not obeyed. Your people have taken Louisburg; had I been there, it should never have been given up. Drucour was hasty--he listened to the women. I should allow no woman to move me. I should be inflexible. They might send two Amhersts and two Wolfes against me, I would hold my fortress."
"They will never send two, your Excellency," said I.
He did not see the irony, and he prattled on: "That Wolfe, they tell me, is bandy-legged; is no better than a girl at sea, and never well ashore. I am always in raw health--the strong mind in the potent body. Had I been at Louisburg, I should have held it, as I held Ticonderoga last July, and drove the English back with monstrous slaughter."
Here was news. I had had no information in many months, and all at once two great facts were brought to me.
"Your Excellency, then, was at Ticonderoga?" said I.
"I sent Montcalm to defend it," he replied pompously. "I told him how he must act; I was explicit, and it came out as I had said: we were victorious. Yet he would have done better had he obeyed me in everything. If I had been at Louisburg--"
I could not at first bring myself to flatter the vice-regal peacock; for it had been my mind to fight these Frenchmen always; to yield in nothing; to defeat them like a soldier, not like a juggler. But I brought myself to say half ironically, "If all great men had capable instruments, they would seldom fail."
"You have touched the heart of the matter," he said credulously. "It is a pity," he added, with complacent severity, "that you have been so misguided and criminal; you have, in some things, more sense than folly."
I bowed as to a compliment from a great man. Then, all at once, I spoke to him with an air of apparent frankness, and said that if I must die, I cared to do so like a gentleman, with some sort of health, and not like an invalid. He must admit that at least I was no coward. He might fence me about with what guards he chose, but I prayed him to let me walk upon the ramparts, when I was strong enough to be abroad, under all due espionage. I had already suffered many deaths, I said, and I would go to the final one looking like a man, and not like an outcast of humanity.
"Ah, I have heard this before," said he. "Monsieur Doltaire, who is in prison here, and is to fare on to the Bastile, was insolent enough to send me message yesterday that I should keep you close in your dungeon. But I had had enough of Monsieur Doltaire; and indeed it was through me that the Grande Marquise had him called to durance. He was a muddler here. They must not interfere with me; I am not to be cajoled or crossed in my plans. We shall see, we shall see about the ramparts," he continued. "Meanwhile prepare to die." This he said with such importance that I almost laughed in his face. But I bowed with a sort of awed submission, and he turned and left the room.
I grew stronger slowly day by day, but it was quite a month before Alixe came again. Sometimes I saw her walking on the banks of the river, and I was sure she was there that I might see her, though she made no sign towards me, nor ever seemed to look towards my window.
Spring was now fully come. The snow had gone from the ground, the tender grass was springing, the air was so soft and kind. One fine day, at the beginning of May, I heard the booming of cannons and a great shouting, and, looking out, I could see crowds of people upon the banks, and many boats in the river, where yet the ice had not entirely broken up. By stretching from my window, through the bars of which I could get my head, but not my body, I noted a squadron sailing round the point of the Island of Orleans. I took it to be a fleet from France bearing re-enforcements and supplies--as indeed afterwards I found was so; but the re-enforcements were so small and the supplies so limited that it is said Montcalm, when he knew, cried out, "Now is all lost! Nothing remains but to fight and die. I shall see my beloved Candiac no more."
For the first time all the English colonies had combined against Canada. Vaudreuil and Montcalm were at variance, and Vaudreuil had, through his personal hatred and envy of Montcalm, signed the death-warrant of the colony by writing to the colonial minister that Montcalm's agents, going for succour, were not to be trusted. Yet at that moment I did not know these things, and the sight made me grave, though it made me sure also that this year would find the British battering this same Chateau.
Presently there came word from the Governor that I might walk upon the ramparts, and I was taken forth for several hours each day; always, however, under strict surveillance, my guards, well armed, attending, while the ramparts were, as usual, patrolled by soldiers. I could see that ample preparations were being made against a siege, and every day the excitement increased. I got to know more definitely of what was going on, when, under vigilance, I was allowed to speak to Lieutenant Stevens, who also was permitted some such freedom as I had enjoyed when I first came to Quebec. He had private information that General Wolfe or General Amherst was likely to proceed against Quebec from Louisburg, and he was determined to join the expedition.
For months he had been maturing plans for escape. There was one Clark, a ship-carpenter (of whom I have before written), and two other bold spirits, who were sick of captivity, and it was intended to fare forth one night and make a run for freedom. Clark had had a notable plan. A wreck of several transports had occurred at Belle Isle, and it was thought to send him down the river with a sloop to bring back the crew, and break up the wreck. It was his purpose to arm his sloop with Lieutenant Stevens and some English prisoners the night before she was to sail, and steal away with her down the river. But whether or not the authorities suspected him, the command was given to another.
It was proposed, however, on a dark night, to get away to some point on the river, where a boat should be stationed--though that was a difficult matter, for the river was well patrolled and boats were scarce--and drift quietly down the stream, till a good distance below the city. Mr. Stevens said he had delayed the attempt on the faint hope of fetching me along. Money, he said, was needed, for Clark and all were very poor, and common necessaries were now at exorbitant prices in the country. Tyranny and robbery had made corn and clothing luxuries. All the old tricks of Bigot and his La Friponne, which, after the outbreak the night of my arrest at the Seigneur Duvarney's, had been somewhat repressed, were in full swing again, and robbery in the name of providing for defense was the only habit.
I managed to convey to Mr. Stevens a good sum of money, and begged him to meet me every day upon the ramparts, until I also should see my way to making a dart for freedom. I advised him in many ways, for he was more bold than shrewd, and I made him promise that he would not tell Clark or the others that I was to make trial to go with them. I feared the accident of disclosure, and any new failure on my part to get away would, I knew, mean my instant death, consent of King or no consent.
One evening, a soldier entered my room, whom in the half-darkness I did not recognize, till a voice said, "There's orders new! Not dungeon now, but this room Governor bespeaks for gentlemen from France."
"And where am I to go, Gabord?"
"Where you will have fighting," he answered.
"Yourself, aho!" A queer smile crossed his lips, and was followed by a sort of sternness. There was something graver in his manner than I had ever seen. I could not guess his meaning. At last he added, pulling roughly at his mustache, "And when that's done, if not well done, to answer to Gabord the soldier; for, God take my soul without bed-going, but I will call you to account! That Seigneur's home is no place for you."
"You speak in riddles," said I. Then all at once the matter burst upon me. "The Governor quarters me at the Seigneur Duvarney's?"
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