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- The Seats Of The Mighty, Volume 5. - 2/13 -
into an honourable family, and at your word she gives her hand to Monsieur Auguste de la Darante. She marries to your pleasure, therefore she has peace and your love. I marry a man of my own choosing, a bitterly wronged gentleman, and you treat me as some wicked thing. Is that like a father who loves his child?"
"The wronged gentleman, as you call him, invaded that which is the pride of every honest gentleman," he said.
"And what is that?" asked I quietly, though I felt the blood beating at my temples.
"My family honour, the good name and virtue of my daughter."
I got to my feet, and looked my father in the eyes with an anger and a coldness that hurts me now when I think of it, and I said, "I will not let you speak so to me. Friendless though I be, you shall not. You have the power to oppress me, but you shall not slander me to my face. Can not you leave insults to my enemies?"
"I will never leave you to the insults of this mock marriage," answered he, angrily also. "Two days hence I take command of five thousand burghers, and your brother Juste serves with General Montcalm. There is to be last fighting soon between us and the English. I do not doubt of the result, but I may fall, and your brother also, and, should the English win, I will not leave you to him you call your husband. Therefore you shall be kept safe where no alien hands may reach you. The Church will hold you close."
I calmed myself again while listening to him, and I asked, "Is there no other way?"
He shook his head.
"Is there no Monsieur Doltaire?" said I. "He has a king's blood in his veins!"
He looked sharply at me. "You are mocking," he replied. "No, no, that is no way, either. Monsieur Doltaire must never mate with daughter of mine. I will take care of that; the Church is a perfect if gentle jailer."
I could bear it no longer. I knelt to him. I begged him to have pity on me. I pleaded with him; I recalled the days when, as a child, I sat upon his knee and listened to the wonderful tales he told; I begged him, by the memory of all the years when he and I were such true friends to be kind to me now, to be merciful--even though he thought I had done wrong--to be merciful. I asked him to remember that I was a motherless girl, and that if I had missed the way to happiness he ought not to make my path bitter to the end. I begged him to give me back his love and confidence, and, if I must for evermore be parted from you, to let me be with him, not to put me away into a convent.
Oh, how my heart leaped when I saw his face soften! "Well, well," he said, "if I live, you shall be taken from the convent; but for the present, till this fighting is over, it is the only safe place. There, too, you shall be safe from Monsieur Doltaire."
It was poor comfort. "But should you be killed, and the English take Quebec?" said I.
"When I am dead," he answered, "when I am dead, then there is your brother."
"And if he speaks for Monsieur Doltaire?" asked I.
"There is the Church and God always," he answered.
"And my own husband, the man who saved your life, my father," I urged gently; and when he would have spoken I threw myself into his arms--the first time in such long, long weeks!--and, stopping his lips with my fingers, burst into tears on his breast. I think much of his anger against me passed, yet before he left he said he could not now prevent the annulment of the marriage, even if he would, for other powers were at work; which powers I supposed to be the Governor, for certain reasons of enmity to my father and me--alas! how changed is he, the vain old man!--and Monsieur Doltaire, whose ends I knew so well. So they will unwed us to-morrow, Robert; but be sure that I shall never be unwed in my own eyes, and that I will wait till I die, hoping you will come and take me--oh, Robert, my husband--take me home.
If I had one hundred men, I would fight my way out of this city, and to you; but, dear, I have none, not even Gabord, who is not let come near me. There is but Voban. Yet he will bear you this, if it be possible, for he comes to-night to adorn my fashionable brother. The poor Mathilde I have not seen of late. She has vanished. When they began to keep me close, and carried me off at last into the country, where we were captured by the English, I could not see her, and my heart aches for her.
God bless you, Robert, and farewell. How we shall smile, when all this misery is done! Oh, say we shall, say we shall smile, and all this misery cease. Will you not take me home? Do you still love thy wife, thy
I bade Voban come to me at the little house behind the church that night at ten o'clock, and by then I should have arranged some plan of action. I knew not whether to trust Gabord or no. I was sorry now that I had not tried to bring Clark with me. He was fearless, and he knew the town well; but he lacked discretion, and that was vital.
Two hours of waiting, then came a scene which is burned into my brain. I looked down upon a mass of people, soldiers, couriers of the woods, beggars, priests, camp followers, and anxious gentlefolk, come from seclusion, or hiding, or vigils of war, to see a host of powers torture a young girl who by suffering had been made a woman long before her time. Out in the streets was the tramping of armed men, together with the call of bugles and the sharp rattle of drums. Presently I heard the hoofs of many horses, and soon afterwards there entered the door, and way was made for him up the nave, the Marquis de Vaudreuil and his suite, with the Chevalier de la Darante, the Intendant, and--to my indignation--Juste Duvarney.
They had no sooner taken their places than, from a little side door near the vestry, there entered the Seigneur Duvarney and Alixe, who, coming down slowly, took places very near the chancel steps. The Seigneur was pale and stern, and carried himself with great dignity. His glance never shifted from the choir, where the priests slowly entered and took their places, the aged and feeble bishop going falteringly to his throne. Alixe's face was pale and sorrowful, and yet it had a dignity and self-reliance that gave it a kind of grandeur. A buzz passed through the building, yet I noted, too, with gladness that there were tears on many faces.
A figure stole in beside Alixe. It was Mademoiselle Lotbiniere, who immediately was followed by her mother. I leaned forward, perfectly hidden, and listened to the singsong voices of the priests, the musical note of the responses, heard the Kyrie Eleison, the clanging of the belfry bell as the host was raised by the trembling bishop. The silence which followed the mournful voluntary played by the organ was most painful to me.
At that moment a figure stepped from behind a pillar, and gave Alixe a deep, scrutinizing look. It was Doltaire. He was graver than I had ever seen him, and was dressed scrupulously in black, with a little white lace showing at the wrists and neck. A handsomer figure it would be hard to see; and I hated him for it, and wondered what new devilry was in his mind. He seemed to sweep the church with a glance. Nothing could have escaped that swift, searching look. His eyes were even raised to where I was, so that I involuntarily drew back, though I knew he could not see me.
I was arrested suddenly by a curious disdainful, even sneering smile which played upon his face as he looked at Vaudreuil and Bigot. There was in it more scorn than malice, more triumph than active hatred. All at once I remembered what he had said to me the day before: that he had commission from the King through La Pompadour to take over the reins of government from the two confederates, and send them to France to answer the charges made against them.
At last the bishop came forward, and read from a paper as follows:
"Forasmuch as a well-beloved child of our Holy Church, Mademoiselle Alixe Duvarney, of the parish of Beauport and of this cathedral parish, in this province of New France, forgetting her manifest duty and our sacred teaching, did illegally and in sinful error make feigned contract of marriage with one Robert Moray, captain in a Virginian regiment, a heretic, a spy, and an enemy to our country; and forasmuch as this was done in violence of all nice habit and commendable obedience to Mother Church and our national uses, we do hereby declare and make void this alliance until such time as the Holy Father at Rome shall finally approve our action and proclaiming. And it is enjoined upon Mademoiselle Alixe Duvarney, on peril of her soul's salvation, to obey us in this matter, and neither by word or deed or thought have commerce more with this notorious and evil heretic and foe of our Church and of our country. It is also the plain duty of the faithful children of our Holy Church to regard this Captain Moray with a pious hatred, and to destroy him without pity; and any good cunning or enticement which should lure him to the punishment he so much deserves shall be approved. Furthermore, Mademoiselle Alixe Duvarney shall, until such times as there shall be peace in this land, and the molesting English are driven back with slaughter--and for all time, if the heart of our sister incline to penitence and love of Christ--be confined within the Convent of the Ursulines, and cared for with great tenderness."
He left off reading, and began to address himself to Alixe directly; but she rose in her place, and while surprise and awe seized the congregation, she said:
"Monseigneur, I must needs, at my father's bidding, hear the annulment of my marriage, but I will not hear this public exhortation. I am but a poor girl, unlearned in the law, and I must needs submit to your power, for I have no one here to speak for me. But my soul and my conscience I carry to my Saviour, and I have no fear to answer Him. I am sorry that I have offended against my people and my country and Holy Church, but I repent not that I love and hold to my husband. You must do with me as you will, but in this I shall never willingly yield."
She turned to her father, and all the people breathed hard; for it passed their understanding, and seemed most scandalous that a
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