Seats Of The Mighty by Gilbert Parker
XIX. A Danseuse and the Bastile
Recovering, I found myself lying on a couch, in a large, well-lighted room hung about with pictures and adorned with trophies of the hunt. A wide window faced the foot of the bed where I lay, and through it I could see--though the light hurt my eyes greatly--the Levis shore, on the opposite side of the St. Lawrence. I lay and thought, trying to discover where I was. It came to me at last that I was in a room of the Chateau St. Louis. Presently I heard breathing near me, and, looking over, I saw a soldier sitting just inside the door.
Then from another corner of the room came a surgeon with some cordial in a tumbler, and, handing it to me, he bade me drink. He felt my pulse; then stopped and put his ear to my chest, and listened long.
"Is there great danger?" asked I.
"The trouble would pass," said he, "if you were stronger. Your life is worth fighting for, but it will be a struggle. That dungeon was slow poison. You must have a barber," added he; "you are a ghost like this."
I put my hand up, and I found my hair and beard were very long and almost white. Held against the light, my hands seemed transparent. "What means my coming here?" asked I.
He shook his head. "I am but a surgeon," he answered shortly, meanwhile writing with a flourish on a piece of paper. When he had finished, he handed the paper to the soldier, with an order. Then he turned to go, politely bowing to me, but turned again and said, "I would not, were I you, trouble to plan escape these months yet. This is a comfortable prison, but it is easier coming in than going out. Your mind and body need quiet. You have, we know, a taste for adventure"--he smiled--"but is it wise to fight a burning powder magazine?"
"Thank you, monsieur," said I, "I am myself laying the fuse to that magazine. It fights for me by-and-bye."
He shrugged a shoulder. "Drink," said he, with a professional air which almost set me laughing, "good milk and brandy, and think of nothing but that you are a lucky man to have this sort of prison."
He bustled out in an important way, shaking his head and talking to himself. Tapping the chest of a bulky soldier who stood outside, he said brusquely, "Too fat, too fat; you'll come to apoplexy. Go fight the English, lazy ruffian!"
The soldier gave a grunt, made a mocking gesture, and the door closed on me and my attendant. This fellow would not speak at all, and I did not urge him, but lay and watched the day decline and night come down. I was taken to a small alcove which adjoined the room, where I slept soundly.
Early the next morning I waked, and there was Voban sitting just outside the alcove, looking at me. I sat up in bed and spoke to him, and he greeted me in an absent sort of way. He was changed as much as I; he moved as one in a dream; yet there was the ceaseless activity of the eye, the swift, stealthy motion of the hand. He began to attend me, and I questioned him; but he said he had orders from mademoiselle that he was to tell nothing--that she, as soon as she could, would visit me.
I felt at once a new spring of life. I gave him the letter I had written, and bade him deliver it, which he promised to do; for though there was much in it not vital now, it was a record of my thoughts and feelings, and she would be glad of it, I knew. I pressed Voban's hand in leaving, and he looked at me as if he would say something; but immediately he was abstracted, and left me like one forgetful of the world.
About three hours after this, as I lay upon the couch in the large room, clean and well shaven, the door opened, and some one entered, saying to my guard, "You will remain outside. I have the Governor's order."
I knew the voice; an instant, and I saw the face shining with expectancy, the eyes eager, yet timid, a small white hand pressed to a pulsing breast--my one true friend, the jailer of my heart.
For a moment she was all trembling and excited, her hand softly clutching at my shoulder, tears dripping from her eyes and falling on my cheek, as hers lay pressed to mine; but presently she grew calm, and her face was lifted with a smile, and, brushing back some flying locks of hair, she said in a tone most quaint and touching too, "Poor gentleman! poor English prisoner! poor hidden lover! I ought not, I ought not," she added, "show my feelings thus, nor excite you so." My hand was trembling on hers, for in truth I was very weak. "It was my purpose," she continued, "to come most quietly to you; but there are times when one must cry out, or the heart will burst."
I spoke then as a man may who has been delivered from bondage into the arms of love. She became very quiet, looking at me in her grave, sweet way, her deep eyes shining with a sincerity.
"Honest, honest eyes," said I--"eyes that never deceive, and never were deceived."
"All this in spite of what you do not know," she answered. For an instant a look elfish and childlike came into her eyes, and she drew back from me, stood in the middle of the floor, and caught her skirts in her fingers.
"See," she said, "is there no deceit here?"
Then she began to dance softly, her feet seeming hardly to touch the ground, her body swaying like a tall flower in the wind, her face all light and fire. I was charmed, fascinated. I felt my sleepy blood stirring to the delicate rise and fall of her bosom, the light of her eyes flashing a dozen colours. There was scarce a sound her steps could not be heard across the room.
All at once she broke off from this, and stood still.
"Did my eyes seem all honest then?" she asked, with a strange, wistful expression. Then she came to the couch where I was.
"Robert," said she, "can you, do you trust me, even when you see me at such witchery?"
"I trust you always," answered I. "Such witcheries are no evils that I can see."
She put her finger upon my lips, with a kind of bashfulness. "Hush, till I tell you where and when I danced like that, and then, and then--"
She settled down in a low chair. "I have at least an hour," she continued. "The Governor is busy with my father and General Montcalm, and they will not be free for a long time. For your soldiers, I have been bribing them to my service these weeks past, and they are safe enough for to-day. Now I will tell you of that dancing.
"One night last autumn there was a grand dinner at the Intendance. Such gentlemen as my father were not asked; only the roisterers and hard drinkers, and gambling friends of the Intendant. You would know the sort of upspring it would be. Well, I was sitting in my window, looking down into the garden; for the moon was shining. Presently I saw a man appear below, glance up towards me, and beckon. It was Voban. I hurried down to him, and he told me that there had been a wild carousing at the palace, and that ten gentlemen had determined, for a wicked sport, to mask themselves, go to the citadel at midnight, fetch you forth, and make you run the gauntlet in the yard of the Intendance, and afterwards set you fighting for your life with another prisoner, a common criminal. To this, Bigot, heated with wine, made no objection. Monsieur Doltaire was not present; he had, it was said, taken a secret journey into the English country. The Governor was in Montreal, where he had gone to discuss matters of war with the Council.
"There was but one thing to do--get word to General Montcalm. He was staying at the moment with the Seigneur Pipon at his manor by the Montmorenci Falls. He must needs be sought there: he would never allow this shameless thing. So I bade Voban go thither at once, getting a horse from any quarter, and to ride as if for his life. He promised, and left me, and I returned to my room to think. Voban had told me that his news came from Bigot's valet, who is his close friend. This I knew, and I knew the valet too, for I had seen something of him when my brother lay wounded at the palace. Under the best circumstances General Montcalm could not arrive within two hours. Meanwhile, these miserable men might go on their dreadful expedition. Something must be done to gain time. I racked my brain for minutes, till the blood pounded at my temples. Presently a plan came to me.
"There is in Quebec one Madame Jamond, a great Parisian dancer, who, for reasons which none knows save perhaps Monsieur Doltaire, has been banished from France. Since she came to Canada, some nine months ago, she has lived most quietly and religiously, though many trials have been made to bring her talents into service; and the Intendant has made many efforts have her dance in the palace for his guests. But she would not.
"Madame Lotbiniere had come to know Jamond, and she arranged, after much persuasion, for lessons in dancing to be given to Lucy, myself, and Georgette. To me the dancing was a keen delight, a passion. As I danced I saw and felt a thousand things, I can not tell you how. Now my feet appeared light as air, like thistledown, my body to float. I was as a lost soul flying home, flocks of birds singing me to come with them into a pleasant land.
"Then all that changed, and I was passing through a bitter land, with harsh shadows and tall cold mountains. From clefts and hollows figures flew out and caught at me with filmy hands. These melancholy things pursued me as I flew, till my wings drooped, and I felt that I must drop into the dull marsh far beneath, round which travelled a lonely mist.
"But this too passed, and I came through a land all fire, so that, as I flew swiftly, my wings were scorched, and I was blinded often, and often missed my way, and must change my course of flight. It was all scarlet, all that land--scarlet sky and scarlet sun, and scarlet flowers, and the rivers running red, and men and women in long red robes, with eyes of flame, and voices that kept crying, 'The world is mad, and all life is a fever!'"
She paused for a moment, seeming to come out of a dream, and then she laughed a little. "Will you not go on?" I asked gently.
"Sometimes, too," she continued, "I fancied I was before a king and his court, dancing for my life or for another's. Oh, how I scanned the faces of my judges, as they sat there watching me; some meanwhile throwing crumbs to fluttering birds that whirled round me, some stroking the ears of hounds that gaped at me, while the king's fool at first made mock at me, and the face of a man behind the king's chair smiled like Satan--or Monsieur Doltaire! Ah, Robert, I know you think me fanciful and foolish, as indeed I am; but you must bear with me.
"I danced constantly, practising hour upon hour with Jamond, who came to be my good friend; and you shall hear from me some day her history--a sad one indeed; a woman sinned against, not sinning. But these special lessons went on secretly, for I was sure, if people knew how warmly I followed this recreation, they would set it down to wilful desire to be singular--or worse. It gave me new interest in lonely days. So the weeks went on.
"Well, that wicked night I sent Voban to General Montcalm, and, as I said, a thought came to me: I would find Jamond, beg her to mask herself, go to the Intendance, and dance before the gentlemen there, keeping them amused till the General came, as I was sure he would at my suggestion, for he is a just man and a generous. All my people, even Georgette, were abroad at a soiree, and would not be home till late. So I sought Mathilde, and she hurried with me, my poor daft protector, to Jamond's, whose house is very near the bishop's palace.
"We were at once admitted to Jamond, who was lying upon a couch. I hurriedly told her what I wished her to do, what was at stake, everything but that I loved you; laying my interest upon humanity and to your having saved my father's life. She looked troubled at once, then took my face in her hands. 'Dear child,' she said, 'I understand. You have sorrow too young--too young.' 'But you will do this for me?' I cried. She shook her head sadly. 'I can not. I am lame these two days,' she answered. 'I have had a sprain.' I sank on the floor beside her, sick and dazed. She put her hand pitifully on my head, then lifted up my chin. Looking into her eyes, I read a thought there, and I got to my feet with a spring. 'I myself will go,' said I; 'I will dance there till the General comes.' She put out her hand in protest. 'You must not,' she urged. 'Think: you may be discovered, and then the ruin that must come!'
"'I shall put my trust in God,' said I. 'I have no fear. I will do this thing.' She caught me to her breast. 'Then God be with you, child,' was her answer; 'you shall do it.' In ten minutes I was dressed in a gown of hers, which last had been worn when she danced before King Louis. It fitted me well, and with a wig the colour of her hair, brought quickly from her boxes, and use of paints which actors use, I was transformed. Indeed, I could scarce recognize myself without the mask, and with it on my mother would not have known me. 'I will go with you,' she said to me, and she hurriedly put on an old woman's wig and a long cloak, quickly lined her face, and we were ready. She walked lame, and must use a stick, and we issued forth towards the Intendance, Mathilde remaining behind.
"When we got to the palace, and were admitted, I asked for the Intendant's valet, and we stood waiting in the cold hall until he was brought. 'We come from Voban, the barber,' I whispered to him, for there were servants near; and he led us at once to his private room. He did not recognize me, but looked at us with sidelong curiosity. 'I am,' said I, throwing back my cloak, 'a dancer, and I have come to dance before the Intendant and his guests.' 'His Excellency does not expect you?' be asked. 'His Excellency has many times asked Madame Jamond to dance before him,' I replied. He was at once all complaisance, but his face was troubled. 'You come from Monsieur Voban?' he inquired. 'From Monsieur Voban,' answered I. 'He has gone to General Montcalm.' His face fell, and a kind of fear passed over it. 'There is no peril to any one save the English gentleman,' I urged. A light dawned on him. 'You dance until the General comes?' he asked, pleased at his own penetration. 'You will take me at once to the dining-hall,' said I, nodding. 'They are in the Chambre de la Joie,' he rejoined. 'Then the Chambre de la Joie,' said I; and he led the way. When we came near the chamber, I said to him, 'You will tell the Intendant that a lady of some gifts in dancing would entertain his guests; but she must come and go without exchange of individual courtesies, at her will.
"He opened the door of the chamber, and we followed him; for there was just inside a large oak screen, and from its shadow we could see the room and all therein. At the first glance I shrank back, for, apart from the noise and the clattering of tongues, such a riot of carousal I have never seen. I was shocked to note gentlemen whom I had met in society, with the show of decorum about them, loosed now from all restraint, and swaggering like woodsmen at a fair. I felt a sudden fear, and drew back sick; but that was for an instant, for even as the valet came to the Intendant's chair a dozen or more men, who were sitting near together in noisy yet half-secret conference, rose to their feet, each with a mask in his hand, and started towards the door. I felt my blood fly back and forth in my heart with great violence, and I leaned against the oak screen for support. 'Courage,' said the voice of Jamond in my ear, and I ruled myself to quietness.
"Just then the Intendant's voice stopped the men in their movement towards the great entrance door, and drew the attention of the whole company. 'Messieurs,' said he, 'a lady has come to dance for us. She makes conditions which must be respected. She must be let come and go without individual courtesies. Messieurs,' he added, 'I grant her request in your name and my own.'
"There was a murmur of 'Jamond! Jamond!' and every man stood looking towards the great entrance door. The Intendant, however, was gazing towards the door where I was, and I saw he was about to come, as if to welcome me. Welcome from Francois Bigot to a dancing-woman! I slipped off the cloak, looked at Jamond, who murmured once again, 'Courage,' and then I stepped out swiftly, and made for a low, large dais at one side of the room. I was so nervous that I knew not how I went. The faces and forms of the company were blurred before me, and the lights shook and multiplied distractedly. The room shone brilliantly, yet just under the great canopy, over the dais; there were shadows, and they seemed to me, as I stepped under the red velvet, a relief, a sort of hiding-place from innumerable candles and hot unnatural eyes.
"Once there I was changed. I did not think of the applause that greeted me, the murmurs of surprise, approbation, questioning, rising round me. Suddenly, as I paused and faced them all, nervousness passed out of me, and I saw nothing--nothing but a sort of far-off picture. My mind was caught away into that world which I had created for myself when I danced, and these rude gentlemen were but visions. All sense of indignity passed from me. I was only a woman fighting for a life and for her own and her another's happiness.
"As I danced I did not know how time passed--only that I must keep those men where they were till General Montcalm came. After a while, when the first dazed feeling had passed, I could see their faces plainly through my mask, and I knew that I could hold them; for they ceased to lift their glasses, and stood watching me, sometimes so silent that I could hear their breathing only, sometimes making a great applause, which passed into silence again quickly. Once, as I wheeled, I caught the eyes of Jamond watching me closely. The Intendant never stirred from his seat, and scarcely moved, but kept his eyes fixed on me. Nor did he applaud. There was something painful in his immovability.
"I saw it all as in a dream, yet I did see it, and I was resolute to triumph over the wicked designs of base and abandoned men. I feared that my knowledge and power to hold them might stop before help came. Once, in a slight pause, when a great noise of their hands and a rattling of scabbards on the table gave me a short respite, some one--Captain Lancy, I think--snatched up a glass, and called on all to drink my health.
"'Jamond! Jamond!' was the cry, and they drank; the Intendant himself standing up, and touching the glass to his lips, then sitting down again, silent and immovable as before. One gentleman, a nephew of the Chevalier de la Darante, came swaying towards me with a glass of wine, begging me in a flippant courtesy to drink; but I waved him back, and the Intendant said most curtly, 'Monsieur de la Darante will remember my injunction.'
"Again I danced, and I can not tell you with what anxiety and desperation--for there must be an end to it before long, and your peril, Robert, come again, unless these rough fellows changed their minds. Moment after moment went, and though I had danced beyond reasonable limits, I still seemed to get new strength, as I have heard men say, in fighting, they 'come to their second wind.' At last, at the end of the most famous step that Jamond had taught me, I stood still for a moment to renewed applause; and I must have wound these men up to excitement beyond all sense, for they would not be dissuaded, but swarmed towards the dais where I was, and some called for me to remove my mask.
"Then the Intendant came down among them, bidding them stand back, and himself stepped towards me. I felt affrighted, for I liked not the look in his eyes, and so, without a word, I stepped down from the dais--I did not dare to speak, lest they should recognize my voice--and made for the door with as much dignity as I might. But the Intendant came to me with a mannered courtesy, and said in my ear, 'Madame, you have won all our hearts; I would you might accept some hospitality--a glass of wine, a wing of partridge, in a room where none shall disturb you?' I shuddered, and passed on. 'Nay, nay, madame, not even myself with you, unless you would have it otherwise,' he added.
"Still I did not speak, but put out my hand in protest, and moved on towards the screen, we two alone, for the others had fallen back with whisperings and side-speeches. Oh, how I longed to take the mask from my face and spurn them! The hand that I put out in protest the Intendant caught within his own, and would have held it, but that I drew it back with indignation, and kept on towards the screen. Then I realized that a new-corner had seen the matter, and I stopped short, dumfounded--for it was Monsieur Doltaire! He was standing beside the screen, just within the room, and he sent at the Intendant and myself a keen, piercing glance.
"Now he came forward quickly, for the Intendant also half stopped at sight of him, and a malignant look shot from his eyes; hatred showed in the profane word that was chopped off at his teeth. When Monsieur Doltaire reached us, he said, his eyes resting on me with intense scrutiny, 'His Excellency will present me to his distinguished entertainer?' He seemed to read behind my mask. I knew he had discovered me, and my heart stood still. But I raised my eyes and met his gaze steadily. The worst had come. Well, I would face it now. I could endure defeat with courage. He paused an instant, a strange look passed over his face, his eyes got hard and very brilliant, and he continued (oh, what suspense that was!): 'Ah yes, I see--Jamond, the perfect and wonderful Jamond, who set us all a-kneeling at Versailles. If Madame will permit me?' He made to take my hand. Here the Intendant interposed, putting out his hand also. 'I have promised to protect Madame from individual courtesy while here,' he said. Monsieur Doltaire looked at him keenly. 'Then your Excellency must build stone walls about yourself,' he rejoined, with cold emphasis. 'Sometimes great men are foolish. To-night your Excellency would have let'--here he raised his voice so that all could hear--'your Excellency would have let a dozen cowardly gentlemen drag a dying prisoner from his prison, forcing back his Majesty's officers at the dungeon doors, and, after baiting, have matched him against a common criminal. That was unseemly in a great man and a King's chief officer, the trick of a low law-breaker. Your Excellency promised a lady to protect her from individual courtesy, if she gave pleasure--a pleasure beyond price--to you and your guests, and you would have broken your word without remorse. General Montcalm has sent a company of men to set your Excellency right in one direction, and I am come to set you right in the other.'
"The Intendant was white with rage. He muttered something between his teeth, then said aloud, 'Presently we will talk more of this, monsieur. You measure strength with Francois Bigot: we will see which proves the stronger in the end.' 'In the end the unjust steward kneels for mercy to his master,' was Monsieur Doltaire's quiet answer; and then he made a courteous gesture towards the door, and I went to it with him slowly, wondering what the end would be. Once at the other side of the screen, he peered into Jamond's face for an instant, then he gave a low whistle. 'You have an apt pupil, Jamond, one who might be your rival one day,' said he. Still there was a puzzled look on his face, which did not leave it till he saw Jamond walking. 'Ah yes,' he added, 'I see now. You are lame. This was a desperate yet successful expedient.'
"He did not speak to me, but led the way to where, at the great door, was the Intendant's valet standing with my cloak. Taking it from him, he put it round my shoulders. 'The sleigh by which I came is at the door,' he said, 'and I will take you home.' I knew not what to do, for I feared some desperate act on his part to possess me. I determined that I would not leave Jamond, in any case, and I felt for a weapon which I had hidden in my dress. We had not, however, gone a half dozen paces in the entrance hall when there were quick steps behind, and four soldiers came towards us, with an officer at their head--an officer whom I had seen in the chamber, but did not recognize.
"'Monsieur Doltaire,' the officer said; and monsieur stopped. Then he cried in surprise, 'Legrand, you here!' To this the officer replied by handing monsieur a paper. Monsieur's hand dropped to his sword, but in a moment he gave a short, sharp laugh, and opened up the packet. 'H'm,' he said, 'the Bastile! The Grande Marquise is fretful--eh, Legrand? You will permit me some moments with these ladies?' he added. 'A moment only,' answered the officer. 'In another room?' monsieur again asked. 'A moment where you are, monsieur,' was the reply. Making a polite gesture for me to step aside, Monsieur Doltaire said, in a voice which was perfectly controlled and courteous, though I could hear behind all a deadly emphasis, 'I know everything now. You have foiled me, blindfolded me and all others, these three years past. You have intrigued against the captains of intrigue, you have matched yourself against practised astuteness. On one side, I resent being made a fool and tool of; on the other, I am lost in admiration of your talent. But 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.