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- The Seats Of The Mighty, Volume 4. - 4/14 -
as the birds mate, even as He gives honour to Gabord who was born upon a truss of hay."
"Poom!" said Gabord, puffing out his cheeks, and smiling on her with a look half sour, and yet with a doglike fondness, "Gabord's mouth is shut till 's head is off, and then to tell the tale to Twelve Apostles!"
Through his wayward, illusive speech we found his meaning. He would keep faith with us, and be best proof of this marriage, at risk of his head even.
As we spoke, the chaplain was writing in the blank fore-pages of the Prayer Book. Presently he said to me, handing me the pen, which he had picked from a table, "Inscribe your names here. It is a rough record of the ceremony, but it will suffice before all men, when to-morrow I have given Mistress Moray another record."
We wrote our names, and then the pen was handed to Gabord. He took it, and at last, with many flourishes and ahos, and by dint of puffings and rolling eyes, he wrote his name so large that it filled as much space as the other names and all the writing, and was indeed like a huge indorsement across the record.
When this was done, Alixe held out her hand to him. "Will you kiss me, Gabord?" she said.
The great soldier was all taken back. He flushed like a schoolboy, yet a big humour and pride looked out of his eyes.
"I owe you for the sables, too," she said. "But kiss me--not on my ears, as the Russian count kissed Gabord, but on both cheek."
This won him to our cause utterly, and I never think of Gabord, as I saw him last in the sway and carnage of battle, fighting with wild uproar and covered with wounds, but the memory of that moment, when he kissed my young wife, comes back to me.
At that he turned to leave. "I'll hold the door for ten minutes," he added; and bowed to the chaplain, who blessed us then with tears in his eyes, and smiled a little to my thanks and praises and purse of gold, and to Alixe's sweet gratitude. With lifting chin--good honest gentleman, who afterwards proved his fidelity and truth--he said that he would die to uphold this sacred ceremony. And so he made a little speech, as if he had a pulpit round him, and he wound up with a benediction which sent my dear girl to tears and soft trembling:
"The Lord bless you and keep you: the Lord make his face to shine upon you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace now and for evermore."
A moment afterwards the door closed, and for ten minutes I looked into my wife's face, and told her my plans for escape. When Gabord opened the door upon us, we had passed through years of understanding and resolve. Our parting was brave--a bravery on her side that I do not think any other woman could match. She was quivering with the new life come upon her, yet she was self-controlled; she moved as in a dream, yet I knew her mind was alert, vigilant, and strong; she was aching with thought of this separation, with the peril that faced us both, yet she carried a quiet joy in her face, a tranquil gravity of bearing.
"Whom God hath joined--" said I gravely at the last.
"Let no man put asunder," she answered softly and solemnly.
"Aho!" said Gabord, and turned his head away.
Then the door shut upon me, and though I am no Catholic, I have no shame in saying that I kissed the feet on the crucifix which her lips had blessed.
At nine o'clock I was waiting by the window, and even as a bugle sounded "lights out" in the barracks and change of guard, I let the string down. Mr. Stevens shot round the corner of the chateau, just as the departing sentinel disappeared, and attached a bundle to the string, and I drew it up.
"Is all well?" I called softly down.
"All well," said Mr. Stevens, and, hugging the wall of the chateau, he sped away. In another moment a new sentinel began pacing up and down, and I shut the window and untied my bundle. All that I had asked for was there. I hid the things away in the alcove and went to bed at once, for I knew that I should have no sleep on the following night.
I did not leave my bed till the morning was well advanced. Once or twice during the day I brought my guards in with fear on their faces, the large fat man more distorted than his fellow, by the lamentable sounds I made with my willow toys. They crossed themselves again and again, and I myself appeared devout and troubled. When we walked abroad during the afternoon, I chose to saunter by the river rather than walk, for I wished to conserve my strength, which was now vastly increased, though, to mislead my watchers and the authorities, I assumed the delicacy of an invalid, and appeared unfit for any enterprise--no hard task, for I was still very thin and worn.
So I sat upon a favourite seat on the cliff, set against a solitary tree, fixed in the rocks. I gazed long on the river, and my guards, stoutly armed, stood near, watching me, and talking in low tones. Eager to hear their gossip, I appeared to sleep. They came nearer, and, facing me, sat upon a large stone, and gossiped freely concerning the strange sounds heard in my room at the chateau.
"See you, my Bamboir," said the lean to the fat soldier, "the British captain, he is to be carried off in burning flames by that La Jongleuse. We shall come in one morning and find a smell of sulphur only, and a circle of red on the floor where the imps danced before La Jongleuse said to them, 'Up with him, darlings, and away!'"
At this Bamboir shook his head, and answered, "To-morrow I'll to the Governor, and tell him what's coming. My wife, she falls upon my neck this morning. 'Argose,' she says, ''twill need the bishop and his college to drive La Jongleuse out of the grand chateau.'"
"No less," replied the other. "A deacon and sacred palm and sprinkle of holy water would do for a cottage, or even for a little manor house, with twelve candles burning, and a hymn to the Virgin. But in a king's house--"
"It's not the King's house."
"But yes, it is the King's house, though his Most Christian Majesty lives in France. The Marquis de Vaudreuil stands for the King, and we are sentinels in the King's house. But, my faith, I'd rather be fighting against Frederick, the Prussian boar, than watching this mad Englishman."
"But see you, my brother, that Englishman's a devil. Else how has he not been hanged long ago? He has vile arts to blind all, or he would not be sitting there. It is well known that M'sieu' Doltaire, even the King's son--his mother worked in the fields like your Nanette, Bamboir--"
"Or your Lablanche, my friend. She has hard hands, with warts, and red knuckles therefrom--"
"Or your Nanette, Bamboir, with nose that blisters in the summer, as she goes swingeing flax, and swelling feet that sweat in sabots, and chin thrust out from carrying pails upon her head--"
"Ay, like Nanette and like Lablanche, this peasant mother of M'sieu' Doltaire, and maybe no such firm breasts like Nanette--"
"Nor such an eye as has Lablanche. Well, M'sieu' Doltaire, who could override them all, he could not kill this barbarian. And Gabord--you know well how they fought, and the black horse and his rider came and carried him away. Why, the young M'sieu' Duvarney had him on his knees, the blade at his throat, and a sword flashed out from the dark--they say it was the devil's--and took him in the ribs and well-nigh killed him."
"But what say you to Ma'm'selle Duvarney coming to him that day, and again yesterday with Gabord?"
"Well, well, who knows, Bamboir? This morning I said to Nanette, 'Why is't, all in one moment, you send me to the devil, and pray to meet me in Abraham's bosom too?' What think you she answered me? Why, this, my Bamboir: 'Why is't Adam loved his wife and swore her down before the Lord also, all in one moment?' Why Ma'm'selle Duvarney does this or that is not for muddy brains like ours. It is some whimsy. They say that women are more curious about the devil than about St. Jean Baptiste. Perhaps she got of him a magic book."
"No, no! If he had the magic Petit Albert, he would have turned us into dogs long ago. But I do not like him. He is but thirty years, they say, and yet his hair is white as a pigeon's wing. It is not natural. Nor did he ever, says Gabord, do aught but laugh at everything they did to him. The chains they put would not stay, and when he was set against the wall to be shot, the watches stopped--the minute of his shooting passed. Then M'sieu' Doltaire came, and said a man that could do a trick like that should live to do another. And he did it, for M'sieu' Doltaire is gone to the Bastile. Voyez, this Englishman is a damned heretic, and has the wicked arts."
"But see, Bamboir, do you think he can cast spells?"
"What mean those sounds from his room?"
"So, so. But if he be a friend of the devil, La Jongleuse would not come for him, but--"
Startled and excited, they grasped each other's arms. "But for us--for us!"
"It would be a work of God to send him to the devil," said Bamboir in a loud whisper. "He has given us trouble enough. Who can tell
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