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 and put out my head. Mr. Stevens shot round the corner of the ChÂteau, 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 Château, 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 greater, 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 favorite seat on the cliff, set against a solitary tree, fixed in the rocks, defiant of storm and soil. 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 made pretense of reverie, and finally put on the appearance of sleep. They came nearer, and, facing me, sat upon a large stone, and gossiped freely, and, as I had guessed and hoped, concerning the strange sounds heard in my room at the Château.
“ 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 is coming. My wife, she falls upon my neck this morning. ‘ Argose,’ she says, ‘ ’t will need the Bishop and his college to drive La Jongleuse out of the grand Château.’ ”
“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 ” —
“ ’T is not the King’s house.”
“But yes, it is the King’s house, even though his Most Christian Majesty lives in France. The Marquis de Vaudreuil stands for the King, and we are sentinels in a king’s house. But, my faith, I would rather be sucking blood like leeches against Frederic, the Prussian boar, than watching this mad Englishman.”
“ And well said. But see you, my brother, that Englishman’s a devil — he is no honest man. 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 Monsieur Doltaire, even the King’s son — his mother worked in the fields like your Nanette, Bamboir ” —
“ Or your Lablanche, my boy; hard hands has she, 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 Monsieur Doltaire, and maybe no such firm breasts like Nanette ” —
“ Nor such an eye as has Lablanche. Well, Monsieur 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. And the young Monsieur Duvarney had him on his knees and 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 Mademoiselle 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 ? ’ And 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 Mademoiselle 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 Monsieur Doltaire came, and said a man that could do a trick like that should live to do another. And he did it, for Monsieur Doltaire is gone to the Bastile. Yes, this Englishman is a damned heretic, and has the wicked arts.”
“ But see, Bamboir, do you think that 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 what comes next ? Those damned noises in his room, eh — eh ? ”
Then they whispered together, and presently I caught a fragment, by which I understood that, as we walked near the edge of the cliff, I should be pushed over, and they would make it appear that I myself had done the deed.
They talked in low tones again, but soon got louder, and presently I knew that they were speaking of La Jongleuse; and Bamboir — the fat Bamboir, who the surgeon had said would some day die of apoplexy — was rash enough to say that he had seen her. He described her accurately, with the spirit of the born raconteur.
“ Hair so black as the feather in the Governor’s hat, and green eyes that flash fire, and a brown face with skin all scales. Oh, my saints of Heaven, when she pass I hide my head, and I go cold like stone. She is all covered with long reeds and lilies about her head and shoulders, and blue-red sparks fly up at every step. Flames go round her, and she burns not her robe — not at all. And as she go, I hear cries that make me sick, for it is, I said, some poor man in torture, and I think, perhaps it is Jacques Villon, perhaps Jean Rivas, perhaps Angèle Damgoche. But no, it is a young priest of St. Clair, for he is never seen again — never.”
Then they whispered together, and I commended this fat Bamboir as an excellent story-teller, and thanked him for his true picture of La Jongleuse, whom, to my regret, I had never seen. I would not forget his stirring description, as he should see. I gave point to the tale by squeezing an inflated toy in my pocket, with my arm, while my hands remained folded in front of me ; and it was most like a drama to see the faces of these soldiers, as they sprang to their feet, staring round in dismay. I myself seemed to wake with a start, and, rising to my feet, I asked what meant the noise and their amazement. We were in a spot where we could not easily be seen from any distance, and no one was in sight, nor were we to be remarked from the Château. They exchanged looks, as I started back towards the Château, walking very near the edge of the cliff. A spirit of bravado, a wicked love of sport came on me, and I said musingly to them as we walked, —
“ It would be easy to throw you both over the cliff, but I love you too well — much too well. I have proved that by making toys for your children.”
It was as wine to me to watch their faces. They both drew away from the cliff, and grasped their firearms apprehensively.
“ My God,” said Bamboir, “ these toys shall be burned to-night. Alphonse has the small - pox and Susanne the croup — damned devil! ” he added furiously, stepping forward to me with gun raised, “ I will ” —
I believe he would have shot me, but that I said quickly, “ If you did harm to me or let me come to harm, you ’d come to the rope. The Governor would rather lose a hand than me.”
I pushed his musket down. “ Why should you fret ? I am leaving the Château to-morrow for another prison. You fools, d’ ye think I ’d harm the children ? I hope one day to have sweet upshoots of my own. I know as little of the devil or La Jongleuse as do you. We’ll solve the witcheries of these sounds, you and I, to-night. If they come, we’ll say the Lord’s Prayer, and make the sacred gesture, and if it goes not, we will have one of your good priests to drive out this whining spirit.”
This quieted them much, and I was glad of it, for they had looked most bloodthirsty, and though I had a pistol on me, there was little use in seeking fighting or flight till the auspicious moment. They were not, however, satisfied, and they watched me diligently, muttering much, as we came on to the Château.
I could not bear that they should be frightened about their children, so I said, —
“ Make for me a sacred oath, and I will swear by it that those toys will do your children no harm.”
I drew out the little wooden cross that Mathilde had given me, and held it up. They looked at me astonished. What should I, a heretic and a Protestant, do with this sacred emblem ? “ This never leaves me,” said I; “it was a pious gift.” _
I raised the cross to my lips, and kissed it.
“ It is well done,” said Bamboir to his comrade. “If otherwise, he should have been struck down by the Avenging Angel.”
In this way I eased their minds, and we got back to the Château without more talk, and I was locked in, while my guards retired. As soon as they had gone I got to work, for time was short enough, and my great enterprise was at hand.
At ten o’clock I was ready for the venture which should carry me to safety, or end as badly as things can end for mortal man. When the critical moment came, I was so arrayed that my dearest friend would not have known me. My object was to come out upon my guards as La Jongleuse, and, in the fright and confusion which would follow, make my escape through the corridors and to the entrance doors, past the sentinels, and so on out to the free world. It may be seen now why I got the woman’s garb, the sheet, the horsehair, the phosphorus, the reeds, and such things; why I secured the knife and pistol may be guessed likewise. Upon the lid of a small stove in the room I placed my saltpetre, and with phosphorus I rubbed the horsehair on my head, on my hands, and face, and feet, and also on many objects in the room. The knife and pistol were at my hand, and when the clock struck ten. and ceased, I made the toys to send wailing sounds through the room.
Then I knocked upon the door with solemn taps, hurried hack to the stove, and waited for the door to open before I applied the match. I was sure it would he thrown wide, if the guards were frightened, so giving me an opportunity to move out upon them. If they made attempts to fire, then I would fight my way out, if possible. I heard a fumbling at the lock, then the door was thrown wide open. All was darkness in the hall without, save for a spluttering candle which Bamboir held over his head, as he and his fellow, deadly pale, stood peering forward. Suddenly they gave a cry, for I threw the sheet from my face and shoulders, and to their excited imagination La Jongleuse stood before them, all in flames. As I started down on them, the colored fire flew up, making the room all blue and scarlet for a moment, in which I must have looked devilish indeed, with staring eyes, and outstretched chalky hands, and wailing cries arising from my robe.
I moved swiftly, and Bamboir, without a cry, dropped like a log (poor fellow. he never rose again ! the apoplexy which the surgeon promised had come), and his fellow gave a cry, and, losing power over his limbs, sank in a heap in a corner, mumbling a prayer, and making the sign of the cross, his face stark with terror.
I passed him, came along the corridor, and down one staircase, without seeing any one ; then two soldiers appeared in the half-lighted hallway. Presently also a door opened behind me, and some one came out. Here the phosphorus light diminished, but still I was a villainous picture, for in one hand I held a small cup from which suddenly sprang red and blue fires. The men fell back, and I sailed past them, but I had not gone far down the lower staircase when a shot rang after me, and a bullet passed by my head. Now I came rapidly to the outer door, where two more sentinels stood. They shrank back, and suddenly one threw down his musket and ran ; the other, terrified, stood stock-still. I passed him, opened the door, and came out upon Bigot, who was just alighting from his carriage.
The horses sprang away, frightened at sight of me, and nearly threw the Intendant to the ground. I tossed the tin cup with its chemical fires full in his face, as he made a dash for me. He called out, and drew his sword. I wished not to fight, and I sprang aside; but he made a pass at me, and I drew my pistol and was about to fire, when another shot came from the hallway and struck him. He fell, almost at my feet, and I dashed away into the darkness. Fifty feet ahead I cast one glance back, and saw Monsieur Cournal standing in the doorway. I was sure that his second shot had not been meant for me, but for the Intendant, a wild attempt at a revenge, long delayed, for the worst of wrongs.
I ran on, and presently came full upon five soldiers, two of whom drew their pistols, fired, and missed. Their comrades ran away howling. They barred my path, and now I fired, too, and brought one down ; then came a shot from behind them, and another fell. The last one took to his heels, and a moment later I had my hand in that of Mr. Stevens. It was he who had fired the opportune shot that rid me of one foe. We came quickly along the river-brink, and, skirting the citadel, got clear of it without discovery, though we could see soldiers hurrying past, roused by the firing at the Château.
In about twenty minutes of steady running — with a few bad stumbles and falls—we reached the old windmill above the Ause du Foulon at Sillery, and came plump upon our waiting comrades. I had stripped myself of my disguise, and rubbed the phosphorus from my person as we came along, but enough remained to make me an uncanny figure. It had been kept secret from these people that I was to go with them, and they sullenly kept their muskets raised and cocked. But when Mr. Stevens told them who I was, they were amazed, agreeably so, I am proud to say, for I had a reputation among them for being bold (I knew not why, for I had done so little). I at once took command of the enterprise, saying firmly at the same time that I would shoot the first man who disobeyed my orders. I was sure that I could bring them to safety, but my will must be law. They took my terms like men, and swore to stand by me.
We were five altogether, — Mr. Stevens, Clark, the two Boston soldiers, and myself ; and presently we came down the steep passage in the cliff to where our craft lay, secured by my dear wife herself, — a large birch canoe, well laden with necessaries. Before we started, however, I buried under the tree beside the windmill a letter to Alixe, and one also, with a purse of money, for Voban. Our canoe was none too large for our party, but she must do ; and safely in, we pushed out upon the current, which was in our favor, for the tide was going out. My object was to cross the river softly and skirt the Levis shore, past the Isle of Orleans, and so on down the river. There was excitement in the town, as we could tell from the lights flashing along the shore, and boats soon began to patrol the banks, going swiftly up and down, and extending a line round to the St. Charles River towards Beauport.
It was well for us the night was dark, else we had never passed the town. But we were lucky enough, by hard paddling, to get past the town on the Levis side. Never were better boatmen. The paddles dropped with agreeable precision, and no boatswain’s rattan was needed to keep my fellows to their task. I, whose sight was long trained to darkness, could see a great distance round us, and so could prevent a trap, though once or twice we let our canoe drift with the tide, lest our paddles should be heard. I could not paddle long. I had so little strength. After the Island of Orleans was passed, I drew a breath of relief, and merely played the part of captain and boatswain.
Yet when I looked back at the town on those strong heights, and saw the bonfires burn to warn the settlers of our escape, saw the lights sparkling in many homes, and even fancied I could make out the light shining in my dear wife’s window, I had a strange feeling of loneliness. There in the shadow of my prison walls was the dearest thing on earth to me. Ought she not to be with me ? She had begged to come, to share with me these dangers and hardships ; but that I could not, would not grant. With her people she would be safe, and for us desperate men bent on escape, we must run the gauntlet of hourly peril which she must not endure.
“ My place is with you, Robert,” she had said to me. “ I am your wife, and I must follow you.” But I told her that I would come to fetch her in good time, and meanwhile she must feel and see that I was right, that she must remain in safety till this was over, or at least till I came back with our army to invest Quebec. I knew well that she would have trials to undergo, yet I could not guess they would be so great as afterwards they proved, or I think I should have brought her with me. But indeed it was a hard knitting to unravel, and I did what seemed wise at the time.
Thank God, there was work to do, and our dangers lifted me away from weak lamenting. Soon I was no longer looking back, but forward to fighting and conquest, and after that to peace. Hour after hour the swing and dip of the paddles went on. No one showed weariness, and when the dawn broke slow and soft over the eastern hills, I motioned my good boatmen towards the shore, and landed safely. We lifted our frigate up, and carried her into a thicket, there to rest with us till night, when we would sally forth again into the friendly darkness. We were in no distress all that day, for the weather was fine, and we had enough to eat; and in such case were we for ten days and nights, though indeed some of the nights were dreary and very cold, for it was yet but the beginning of May. _
It might thus seem that we were leaving danger well behind, after having traveled so many heavy leagues, but it was yet several hundred miles to Louisburg, my destination ; and we had escaped only immediate danger. We passed Isle aux Coudres and the Isles of Kamaraska, and now we ventured by day to ramble the woods in search of game, which was most plentiful. In this good outdoor life my health came slowly back, and I would soon be able to bear equal tasks with any of my faithful comrades. Never man led better friends, though I have seen adventurous service near and far since that time. Even the genial ruffian Clark was amenable, and took sharp reprimand without revolt.
On the eleventh night after our escape, our first real trial came. We were keeping the middle of the great river, as safest from detection, and when the tide was with us we could thus move more rapidly. We had had a constant favoring wind, but now suddenly, though we were running with the tide, the wind turned easterly, and blew up the river against the ebb. The wind became a gale, to which was added snow and sleet, and a rough, choppy sea followed.
I saw it would he no easy task to fetch our craft to the land. The waves broke in upon us, and soon, while half of us were paddling with labored and desperate stroke, the other half were bailing. Lifted on a crest, our canoe, being heavily loaded, dropped at both ends ; and again, sinking into the hollows between the short, brutal waves, her gunwales yielded outward, and her waist gaped in a dismal way. We looked to see her with a broken back at any moment. To add to our ill fortune, a violent current set in from the shore, and it was vain to try to reach land. Spirits and bodies flagged, and it needed all my cheerfulness to keep my good fellows to their tasks.
At last, the ebb of tide being almost spent, the waves began to fall, the wind shifted a little to the northward, and a rough sea gave place to such a piercing cold as instantly froze our drenched clothes on our backs. But the shore was to reach, and with the current changed there was a good chance of doing so. As daylight came we passed into a little sheltered cove, and sank with exhaustion on the shore. Our frozen clothes rattled like tin, and we could scarce lift a leg. But a fire must be had, and with wood in plenty a fine heap was gathered, the flint and steel were brought out, and the tinder was sought; which, when found, was soaked with wet. Not a dry stitch or stick could we find anywhere, till at last, within a leather belt, Mr. Stevens found a handkerchief, which was, indeed, as he told me afterwards, the gift and pledge of a lady to him ; and his returning to her without it nearly lost him another and better gift and pledge, for this went to light our fire. We had had enough danger and work in one night to give ns relish for a couple of days’ rest, and we piously took them.
The evening of the second day we set off again, and had a good night’s run, and in the dawn, spying a snug little bay. we stood in, and went ashore. I sent my two Provincials foraging with their guns, and we who remained set about to fix our camp for the day and prepare breakfast. A few minutes only passed, and the two hunters came running back with rueful faces to say they had seen two Indians near, armed with muskets and knives. My plans were made at once. We needed their muskets, and the Indians must pay the price of their presence here, for our safety should be had at any cost.
I urged my men to utter no word at all, for none but Clark could speak French, and he but poorly. For myself, my accent would pass after these six years of practice. We came to a little river, beyond which we could observe the Indians standing on guard. We could only cross by wading, which we did ; but one of my Provincials came down, wetting his musket and himself thoroughly. Reaching the shore, we marched together, I singing the refrain of an old French song as we went —
En roulant, ma boule ” —
so attracting the attention of the Indians. The better to deceive, we all were now dressed in the costume of the French peasant, — I had taken pains to have Mr. Stevens secure these for us before starting, — a pair of homespun trousers, a coarse brown jacket, with thrums like waving tassels, a silk handkerchief about the neck, and a strong thick worsted wig on the head ; no smart toupet, nor feathered top, nor buckle ; nor combed, nor powdered ; and all crowned by a dull black cap. I myself was, as became my purpose, most like a small captain of militia, doing wood service, and in the braver costume of the coureur de bois.
I signaled to the Indians, and, coming near, addressed them in French. They were deceived, and presently, abreast of them, in the midst of apparent ceremony, their firelocks were seized, and Stevens and Clark had them safe. I said we must be satisfied as to who they were, for English prisoners escaped from Quebec were abroad, and no man could go unchallenged. They must at once lead me to their camp. So they did, and at their bark wigwam they said they had seen no Englishman, and that they were guardians of the fire ; that is, it was their duty to light a fire on the shore when a hostile fleet should appear ; and from another point farther up, other guardians, seeing, would do the same, until beacons would be shining even to Quebec, three hundred leagues away.
While I was questioning them. Clark was rifling the wigwam; and presently, the excitable fellow, finding some excellent stores of skins, tea, maple sugar, coffee, and other things, broke out into English expletives. Instantly the Indians saw they had been trapped, and he whom Stevens held made a great spring from him, caught up a gun, and gave a wild yell which echoed far and near. Stevens, with great rapidity, leveled his pistol and shot him in the heart, while I, in a close struggle with my captive, was glad — for I was not yet strong — that Clark finished my assailant: and so both lay there dead, two foes less of our good King.
Not far from where we stood was a pool of water, black and deep, and we sank the bodies there ; but I did not know till long afterwards that Clark, with a barbarous and disgusting spirit, carried away their scalps to sell them in New York, where they would bring, as he confided to one of the Provincials, twelve pounds each. Before we left, we shot a poor howling dog that mourned for his masters, and sank him also in the dark pool.
We had but got back to our camp, when, looking out, we saw a well-manned fouroared boat making for the shore. My men were in dismay until I told them that, having begun the game of war, I would carry it on to the ripe end. This boat and all therein, I said, should be mine. Safely hidden, we watched the rowers draw in to shore, with brisk strokes, singing a quaint farewell song of the voyageurs, called La Pauvre Mère, of which the refrain is —
For your absence I shall grieve,
Come you home within the year.’ ”
They had evidently come a long voyage, and by their toiling we could see their boat was deep loaded ; but they drove on, like a horse that, at the close of day, sees ahead the inn where he is to bait and refresh, and, rousing to the spur, comes cheerily home. The figure of a reverend old man was in the stern, and he sent them in to shore with brisk words. Bump came the big shallop on the beach, and at that moment I ordered my men to fire, but to aim wide, for I had another end in view than killing.
We were exactly matched as to numbers, so that a fight would be fair enough, but I hoped for peaceful conquest. As we fired I stepped out of the thicket, and behind me could be seen the shining barrels of our menacing muskets. The old gentleman stood up, while his men cried for quarter. He waved them down with an impatient gesture, and stepped out on the beach. Then I recognized him, the Chevalier la Darante, and I stepped towards him, my sword drawn.
“ Monsieur the Chevalier la Darante, you are my prisoner,” said I.
He started, then recognized me. “ Now, by the blood of man ! now, by the blood of man ! ” he said, and paused, dumfounded.
“ You forget me, monsieur ? ” said I.
“ Forget you, monsieur?” said he. “ As soon forget the devil at mass ! But I thought you dead by now, and ” —
“If you are disappointed,” said I,
“ there is away ; ” and I waved towards his men, then to Mr. Stevens and my own ambushed fellows.
He smiled an acid smile, and took a pinch of snuff. “ ’T is not so fiery-edged as that,”he answered ; “ I can endure it.”
“ You shall have time too for reverie,” answered I.
He looked puzzled. “What is ’t you wish ? ” he asked.
“ Your surrender first,” said T, “ and then your company at breakfast.”
“ The latter has meaning and compliment,” he responded, “ the former is beyond me. What would you do with me ? ”
“ Detain you and your shallop for the services of my master, the King of England, soon to be the master of your master, if tlie signs are right.”
“All signs fail with the blind, monsieur.”
“ I will give you good reading of those signs in due course,” retorted I.
“ Monsieur,” he said, with great, almost too great dignity, “ I am of the family of the Due de Mirepoix, the whole Kamaraska Isles are mine, and the best gentlemen in this province do me vassalage, which I do not abuse. I do not move in warlike fashion, I have stepped aside from all affairs of state, I am a simple gentleman. I have been a great way down this river, at large expense and toil, to purchase wheat, for all the corn of this land above here goes to Quebec to store the King’s magazine, the adored La Friponne. I know not what it is you wish or need, but I trust you will not push your advantage”—he waved towards our muskets — ‘"against a private gentleman.”
“ You forget. Chevalier,” said I, “ that you gave verdict for my death.”
“Upon the evidence,” he replied. “ And I have no doubt you deserve hanging a thousand times.”
I almost loved him for his boldness. I remembered also that he had no wish to be one of my judges, and that he spoke for me in the presence of the Governor’s guests, and had my sentence changed from hanging to shooting. But he was not the man to make a point of that.
“ Monsieur le Chevalier,” said I, “by injustice and chicanery I have been foully used in yonder town ; by the fortune of war you shall help me to compensation. We have come a long, hard journey ; we are all much overworked ; we need rest, a better boat, and good sailors. You and your men, Chevalier, shall row us to freedom and Louisburg. When we are attacked, you shall he in the van ; when we are at peace, you shall industriously serve under King George’s flag. Now will you give up your men, and join me at breakfast ? ”
For a moment the excellent gentleman was mute, and my heart almost fell before his venerable white hair and his proud bearing ; but something a little overdone in his pride, a little ludicrous in the situation, set me smiling, and there came back on me the remembrance of all I had suffered, and I let no sentiment stand between me and my purposes.
“ I am the Chevalier la ” — he began.
“If you were King Louis himself, and every man there in your boat a peer of his realm, you should row a British subject now,” said I; “ or, if you choose, you shall have death instead.” I meant there should he nothing uncertain in my words.
“ I surrender,” said he ; “and if you are bent on shaming me, let us have it over soon.”
“ You shall have better treatment than I had in Quebec,” answered I.
A moment afterwards, his men were duly surrendered, disarmed, and guarded, and the Chevalier breakfasted with me, now and again asking me news of Quebec, He was much amazed to hear that Bigot had been shot, and distressed that I could not say whether fatally or no.
I fixed on a new plan. We would now proceed by day as well as by night, for the shallop could not leave the river, and, besides, I did not care to trust my prisoners on shore. I threw from the shallop into the stream enough wheat to lighten her, and now, well stored and trimmed, we pushed away upon our course, the Chevalier and his men rowing, while my men rested and tended the sail, which was now set. I was much loath to cut our good canoe adrift, but she stopped the shallop’s way, and she was left behind.
After a time, our prisoners were in part relieved, and I made the Chevalier rest also, for he had taken his task in good part, and had ordered his men to submit cheerfully. In the late afternoon, after an excellent journey, we saw a high and shaggy point of land, far ahead, which shut off our view. I was anxious to see beyond it, for ships-of-war might appear at any moment. A good breeze brought up this land, and when we were abreast of it a lofty frigate was disclosed to view, a convoy (so the Chevalier said) to a fleet of transports which that morning had gone up the river. I resolved instantly, since fight was useless, to make a run for it. Seating myself at the tiller, I declared solemnly that I would shoot the first man who dared to stop the shallop’s way, to make sign, or speak a word. So as the frigate stood across the river, I had all sail set, roused the men at the oars, and we came running by her stern. Our prisoners were keen enough to get by in safety, for they were between two fires, and the excellent Chevalier was alert and laborious as the rest. They signaled us from the frigate by a shot to bring to, but we came on gallantly. Another shot whizzed by at a distance, but we changed not our course, and then balls came flying over our heads, dropping round us, cooling their hot protests in the river. But none struck us, and presently all fell short; and in happy time, after desperate pulling, we left our large persecutor far behind, though, if the wind had been favorable for her, she would most like have sent us to the bottom.
We durst not slacken pace that night, and by morning, much exhausted, we deemed ourselves safe, and rested for a while, making a hearty breakfast, though a sombre shadow had settled on the face of the good Chevalier. Once more he ventured to protest, but I told him my resolution was fixed, and that I would at all costs secure escape from my six years’ misery. He must abide the fortune of this war. For several days we fared on, without more mishap, our prisoners at the oar, yet my good fellows toiling with them by turn. So excellent a journey had we that I could with cheerful mind admire the pretty islands so often falling behind us, and the shaggytopped mountains brooding above us. At last, one morning, as we hugged the shore. I saw a large boat lying on the beach. I had the shallop’s nose run to the shore, found the boat of excellent size, and made for swift going, and presently Clark found the oars. Then I turned to the Chevalier, who was watching me curiously, yet hiding anxiety, for he had upheld his dignity with some accent since he had come into my service, and I said —
“ Chevalier, you shall find me more humane than my persecutors at Quebec. We English, following the example of our King, love clemency, and I will use it even in our hard fortunes. I will not hinder your going, if you will engage on your honor — as would, for instance, the Due de Mirepoix ” — he bowed — “ that neither by means direct or indirect will you, to any soul on earth, divulge what brought you back thus far, till you shall reach your Kamaraska Isles ; and will you undertake the same for your fellows here ? ”
With a joy he could not hide he consented, and upon my soul, I admired the fine, vain old man, and lamented that I had to use him so.
“Then,” said I, “this you may do: you may depart with your shallop. Your mast and sail, however, must be ours; and for these I will pay. I will also pay for the wheat which was thrown into the river, and you shall have a share of our provisions, got from the Indians, to bring you back.”
“ Monsieur,” said he, “ it will be my pride to remember that I have dealt with so fair a foe. I cannot regret the pleasure of your acquaintance, even at the price. And see, monsieur, I do not think you the criminal they have made you out, and so I will tell a lady ” —
I raised my hand at him, for I saw that he had read Alixe’s interest in me, and Mr. Stevens was near us at the time.
“ Chevalier,” said I, drawing him aside, “ if, as you say, you think I have used you honorably, then, if trouble falls upon my wife before I see her again, I beg you to stand her friend. In the sad fortunes of war and hate of me, she may need a friend — even against her own people, on her own hearthstone.”
I never saw a man so amazed; and to his rapid questionings I gave the one reply, that Alixe was my wife. His lip trembled.
“ Poor child ! poor child ! “ he said ; “they will put her in a nunnery, You did wrong, monsieur.”
“ Chevalier,” said I, “ did you ever love a woman ? ”
He made a motion of the hand, as if I had given him a great hurt, and said, “So young, so young! ”
“ But you will stand by her,”I urged,
“ by the memory of some sweet soul you have known! And I charge you, as a man, answer to me as you would have had another answer to you “ —
He put out his hand again with a chafing sort of motion. “There, there, said he, “ the poor child shall never want a friend. If I can help it, she shall not be made a victim of the Church or of the State, nor yet of family pride — God help her! ”
So we parted here, exchanging compliments ; stern parted from stern, and soon we lost our grateful foes in the distance. All night we jogged along with easy sail, but just at dawn, in a sudden opening of the land, we saw a sloop at anchor near a wooded point, her long pennant flying. We pushed along, unheeding its fiery signal to bring to ; and declining, she let fly a swivel loaded with grape, and again another, riddling our sail; but we were traveling with wind and tide, and we soon left the indignant patrol behind. Towards evening came a freshening wind and a cobbling sea. and I thought it best to make for shore. So, easing the sail, we brought our shallop before the wind. It was very dark, and there was a heavy surf running ; but we had to take our fortune as it came, and we let drive for the unknown shore, for it was all alike to us. Presently, as we ran close in, our boat came hard upon a rock, which bulged her bows open. Taking what provisions we could, we left our poor craft upon the rocks, and fought our way to safety.
We had little joy that night in thinking of our shallop breaking on the reefs, and we discussed the chances of crossing overland to Louisburg; but we soon gave up that wild dream : this river was the only way. When daylight came, we found our boat, though badly wrecked, still held together. Now Clark rose to the great necessity, and said that he would patch her up to carry us on, or never lift a hammer more. With labor past reckoning we dragged her to shore, and got her on the stocks, and then set about to find materials to mend her misery. Tools were all too few — a hammer, a saw, and an adze were all we had. A piece of board or a nail were treasures then, and when the timbers of the craft were covered, pitch and oakum were beyond price. At last we had resort to the gum we could get from trees ; and for caulking, one spared a handkerchief, another a stocking, and another a piece of shirt, till she was stuffed in all her cracks. In this labor we passed eight days, and then were ready for the launch again.
On the very afternoon fixed for starting, we saw two sails standing down the river, and edging towards our shore. It gave us little pleasure to see them let anchors go right off the place where our patched boat lay. We had prudently carried on our work behind rocks and trees, so that we could not be seen, unless some of the men from these crafts came ashore. Our case seemed desperate enough, but all at once there came upon me the ambition for a daring enterprise. We had no provisions, and little hope of having more by peaceable means, till we reached Louisburg. I knew well that danger would threaten us every hour with this mangled craft of ours, and though I had hidden my apprehensions from my comrades, I had not looked forward with a cheerful heart to our further voyaging.
A plan came to me. The two vessels — convoys, I felt sure — had anchored at some distance from each other, and from their mean appearance I did not think that they would have a large freight of men and arms ; for they seemed not ships from France, but vessels of the country. It I could divide the force of either vessel, and quietly, under cloud of night, steal on her by surprise, then I would trust our desperate courage, and open the war which soon General Wolfe and Admiral Saunders were to wage up and down this river, and against the great fortress of Quebec.
It was a plot of signal danger, but I had brave fellows with me, and if we got our will it would be a thing worth remembrance. So I disclosed my plan to Mr. Stevens and the others, and, as I looked for, they were wholly of my mind, and had a fine relish for the enterprise. I agreed upon a signal with them, bade them to lie close along the ground, picked out the nearest, which was the smallest, ship for my purpose, and at sunset, tying a white handkerchief to a stick, came marching out of the woods, upon the shore, firing a gun at the same time. Presently a boat was put out from the sloop, and two men and a boy came rowing towards me. Standing off a little distance from the shore, they asked what was wanted.
The King’s errand, was my reply in French, and I must be carried down the river by them, for which I would pay generously, and the Governor would thank them. I had marched over from my post, word having been brought that two vessels had been seen coming down the river. I asked them to return and tell their captain my need. Then, with idle gesture, I said that if they wished some drink, there was a bottle of rum near my fire, above me, to which they were welcome ; also some game, which they might take as a gift to their captain and his crew.
This drew them like a magnet, and, as I lit my pipe, their boat scraped the sand, and, getting out, they hauled her up and came towards me. I met them, and, pointing towards my fire, as it seemed, led them up behind the rocks, when, at a sign’ my men sprang up, they were seized, and were bidden not to cry out on peril of their lives. Then with every sweet persuasion I bade them tell what hands, what arms, were left on board. I found that the sloop from which they came, and the schooner, its consort, were bound for Gaspe, to bring provisions for several hundred Indians assembled at Miramichi and Aristiguish, who were to go by these same vessels to reinforce the garrison of Quebec. Rich news indeed ! We would see what we could do to keep these barbarians idle and hungry at Gaspe. The sloop, they said, had six guns and a crew of twenty men ; but the schooner, which was much larger, had no arms save muskets, and a crew and guard of thirty men.
All opened to my will most comfortably, for in this country there is no twilight, and with sunset came instantly the dusk. Already silence and dark inclosed the sloop. I had the men bound to a tree, and, though I liked it not, gagged also, engaging to return and bring them away safe and unhurt when our task was over. I chose for pilot the boy, and presently, with great care, launching our patched shallop from the stocks, — for the ship-boat was too small to carry six safely, — we got quietly away. Rowing with silent stroke, we came alongside the sloop. No light burned save that in the binnacle, and all hands, except the watch, were below at supper and at cards, as I found afterwards.
I could see the watch forward as we dropped silently alongside the stern. My object was to catch this fellow as he came by, and end him without noise. This I would trust to no one but myself ; for now, grown stronger, I had the old spring in my blood, and I had also a good wish that my plans should not go wrong through the bungling of others.
I motioned my men to sit silent, and then, when the fellow’s back was toward me, coming softly up the side, I slid over quietly, and drew into the shadow of a boat that hung near.
He came on lazily, and when just past me, I suddenly threw my arms about him, clapping my hand upon his mouth. He was stoutly built, and he began at once to struggle. I whispered that I would kill him if he cried out. But he was no coward, and feeling for his knife, he drew it, and would have had it in me but that I was quicker, and, with a desperate wrench, my hand still over his mouth, half swung him round, and drove mine home.
He sank in my arms with a heaving sigh, and I laid him down, still and dead, upon the deck. Then I leaned over the side and whispered up my comrades, the boy leading. As the last man came over, his pistol, stuck in his belt, caught the ratlins of the shrouds, and it dropped upon the deck. This gave the alarm, hut I was at the companion-door on the instant, as the first master came bounding up, with sword showing, calling to his men, who swarmed after him. I fired; the bullet traveled the master’s spine, and he fell back stunned.
A dozen others came on, and some reached the deck, and in spite of shots grappled with my men. I never shall forget with what fiendish joy Clark fought that night — those five terrible minutes. He was like some mad devil, and by his imprecations 1 knew that be was avenging the brutal death of his infant daughter some years before. He was armed with a long knife, and I saw four men fall beneath it, while he himself had a wicked cut in the cheek. Of the Provincials, one fell wounded, and the other brought down his man. Mr. Stevens and myself held the companion-way, driving the crew back, not without hurt, for my wrist was slashed by a cutlass, and Mr. Stevens had a bullet in his thigh. But presently we had the joy of having those below cry quarter.
We were masters of the sloop. Quickly battening down the prisoners, I had the sails spread, the windlass going, and the anchor apeak quickly, and we soon were moving down upon the schooner, which was now all confusion, commands ringing out on the quiet air. But when, laying alongside, we gave her a dose, and then another, from all our swivels at once, sweeping her decks, the timid fellows cried quarter, and we boarded her. With my men’s muskets cocked, I ordered the crew and soldiers below, till they were all, save two lusty youths, stowed away. Then I had everything of value brought from the sloop, together with the swivels, which we fastened to the schooner’s side ; and when all was done, we set fire to the sloop, and I stood and watched her burn with a proud — too proud — spirit.
This was my second repayment for all I had suffered these past six years in the fortress of Quebec. With the last glow of the flames came the good rich dawn, and having brought our prisoners from the shore, we placed them with the rest.
Then I called a council with Mr. Stevens and the others, — our one hurt man was not left out, —and we all agreed that some of the prisoners should be sent off in the long boat, and a portion of the rest be used to work the ship. So we had half the fellows up, and giving them fishing-lines, rum, and provisions, with a couple of muskets and ammunition, we sent them off, and, raising anchor, got on our way down the broad river, in perfect weather, with cheerful spirit, and with an agreeable wind.
The days that followed are most like a good dream to me, for we came on all the way without challenge and with no adventure, even round Gaspé, to Louisburg, thirty-eight days after my escape from the fortress.
I pass by the good greeting we had at Louisburg, the praises and extravagance of sentiment, for many fables had traveled to them of my doings at Quebec, making me the very chief of adventurers, the doer of deeds beyond my thought and power. But, indeed, I was grateful, too, for I had been so long among enemies and insulters that kindness was as cordial to me; I could bear it and still keep my head. There were matters more important. Admiral Saunders and General Wolfe were gone to Quebec. They had passed us as we came down, for we had sailed inside some islands of the coast, getting shelter and better passage, and the fleet had, no doubt, passed outside. This was a blow to me, for I had hoped to be in time to join General Wolfe and proceed with him to Quebec, where my knowledge of the place should be of service to him. It was, however, no time for lament, and I set about to find my way back again. Our prisoners I handed over to the authorities. The two Provincials decided to remain and take service under General Amherst, Mr. Stevens would join his own Rangers at once, but Clark would go back with me to have his hour with his hated foes; and never did I see a man who hated more sincerely, nor one who fought with more savage lust. As they had done by him he would do by them, and more.
I paid Mr. Stevens and the two Provincials for their shares in the schooner, and Clark and I manned her afresh, and prepared to return instantly to Quebec. From General Amherst I received correspondence to carry to General Wolfe and Admiral Saunders. Before I started hack, I sent letters to Governor Dinwiddle, George A\ ashington, and my partner, but I had no sooner done so than I received others from them through General Amherst. They had been sent to him to convey to General Wolfe at Quebec, who was, in turn, to hand them to me, when, as was hoped, I should be released from captivity, if not already beyond the power of men to free me.
The letters from these friends almost atoned for my past sufferings, and I was ashamed that ever I had thought my countrymen forgot me in my worst misery ; for this was the first matter I saw when I opened the Governor’s letter : —
By the House of Burgesses.
Resolved — That the sum of three hundred pounds be paid to Captain Robert Stobo,in consideration of his services to the country,and his singular sufferings in his confinement, as a hostage,in Quebec.
And this. I learned, was one of three such resolutions, which were but preface to what came when the great war was done.
But there were other matters in his letter which much amazed me. An attempt, he said, had been made one dark night upon his strong-room, which would have succeeded but for the great bravery and loyalty of an old retainer. Two men were engaged in the attempt, one of whom was a Frenchman. Both men were masked, and, when set upon, fought with consummate bravery, and got away. It was found the next, day that the safe of my partner had also been rifled and all my papers stolen. There was no doubt in my mind what this meant. Doltaire, with some renegade Virginian who knew Williamsburg and myself, had made essay to get my papers. But they had failed in their designs, for all my valuable documents — and those desired by Doltaire among them — remained safe in the Governor’s strong-room. That Doltaire had been foiled was as wine to me, and I wished that he might be in Quebec when we took the city.
Bearing letters from General Amherst to General Wolfe and Admiral Saunders, I got away again for Quebec five days after reaching Louisburg. We came along with good winds, having no check, though twice we sighted French sloops, which, however, seemed most concerned to leave us alone and edge away; and I cannot say how glad I was when, with colors flying on our craft, we sighted Kamaraska Isles, which I saluted, remembering the Chevalier la Darante ; then Isle aux Coudres, below which we poor fugitives came so near disaster. Here we all felt new fervor, for the British flag flew from a staff on a lofty point, tents were pitched thereon in a pretty cluster, and, rounding a point, we came plump upon Admiral Durell’s little fleet, which was here to bar advance of French ships and to waylay stragglers.
When it was seen who we were, we were let pass, and I got an impulse to my vanity by hearing a shout from one ship, and then from others, coupled with my name. Some French prisoner had recognized me, and pointed me out, and my history and trials being now well known, and my adventure grown absurdly notorious, I was thus saluted.
On a blithe summer day we sighted, far off, the Island of Orleans and the tall masts of two patrol ships-of-war, which in due time we passed, saluting, and ran abreast of the island in the North Channel. Coming up this passage, I could see on an eminence, far distant, the tower of the Château Alixe, from which my wife had written me that noble letter while she was not yet my wife.
Presently there opened on our sight the great bluff at the Falls of Montmorenci, and, crowning it, tents and batteries, the camp of General Wolfe himself, with the good ship Centurion standing off like a sentinel at a point where the Basin, the River Montmorenci, and the North Channel seem to meet. To our left, across the shoals, was Major Hardy’s post, on the extreme eastern point of Isle Orleans ; and again beyond that, in a straight line. Point Levis on the south shore, where Brigadier-General Monckton’s camp was pitched, and his batteries farther on, from which shell and shot were poured into the town. How all had changed since I left over two months before ! Around the Seigneur Duvarney’s manor, in the sweet village of Beauport, was encamped the French army, and redoubts and batteries were ranged where Alixe and I and her brother Juste had many a time walked in a sylvan quiet. Here, as it were, round the bent and broken sides of a bowl, war raged, and the centre was like some caldron out of which imps sprang and sailed to hand up fires of hell to the battalions on the ledges. Here swung Admiral Saunders’s and Admiral Holmes’s divisions, out of reach of the French batteries, yet able to menace and destroy, and to feed the British camps with men and munitions. There was no French ship in sight — only two old hulks with guns in the mouth of the St. Charles River, to protect the road to the palace gate — that is, at the Intendance.
It was all there before me, the investment of Quebec, for which I had prayed and waited seven long years.
But all at once, on a lull in the fightingwhich had lasted twenty-four hours, the volleys of musketry from the heights of Montmorenci and the heavy batteries from the Levis shore opened upon the town, emptying therein the fatal fuel. Mixed feelings possessed me. I had at first listened to Clark’s delighted imprecations and devilish praises with a feeling of brag almost akin to his own, — that was the soldier and the Briton in me. But. all at once the man, the lover, and the husband spoke : my wife was in that beleaguered town. She had said that she would never leave it till I came to fetch her. I knew her father too well to suppose that he would seek safety in the country, but would rather stay — true patriot that he was — with his family, and stand or fall where all his hopes and loves lay. It seemed beyond doubt that my wife was there under that monstrous shower. Yet how knew I that she was there — that she was not dead — or, if living, immured in a convent ? For I knew well that our marriage must become known after I had escaped ; that she would not, for her own good pride and womanhood, keep it secret then ; that it would he proclaimed while yet Gabord and the excellent chaplain were alive to attest all. Yet I would not, and could not, think that she was dead, — some convictions are deep in us as life itself, as true and absolute. If she had gone, some warning shiver would have run through me, some sign and knowledge that the spring of life, hope, and love was broken.
Summoned by the Centurion, we were passed on beyond the eastern point of Isle Orleans to the Admiral’s ship, which lay in the Channel off the point, with battleships in front and rear, and a line of frigates curving towards the rocky Peninsula of Quebec. Then came a line of buoys beyond these, with manned boats moored alongside to protect the fleet from fire rafts, which once already the enemy had unavailingly sent down to ruin and burn our fleet.
Admiral Saunders received me with great cordiality, thanked me for the dispatches, heard with applause of my adventures with the convoy, and at once, with dry humor, said he would be glad, if General Wolfe consented, to make my captured schooner one of his fleet. Later, when her history and doings became known in the fleet, she was at once called the Terror of France; for, as will be seen, she did a wild thing or two before Quebec fell, though from first to last she had but her six swivel guns, which I had taken from the burnt sloop. Clark had command of her until she saw our fleet at last sail away to England, saluting her as they passed down the river.
From Admiral Saunders I learned that Bigot had recovered from his hurt, which had not been severe, and of the death of Monsieur Cournal, who had ridden his horse over the cliff in the dark. From the Admiral I came to General Wolfe at Montmorenci.
I shall never forget my first look at my hero, my General, that flaming, exhaustless spirit, in a body so gauche and so unshapely. When I was brought to him, he was standing on a knoll alone, looking through a glass towards the batteries of Levis. The first thing that struck me, as he lowered the glass and leaned against a gun, was the melancholy in the lines of his figure. That I never forget, for it came to me that whatever glory there was for British arms ahead, there was tragedy for him. Yet as he turned at the sound of our footsteps, I almost laughed; for his straight red hair, his face defying all regularity, with the nose thrust out like a wedge and the chin falling back from an affectionate sort of mouth, his tall straggling frame and far from athletic shoulders, challenged contrast with the compact, handsome, graciously - shaped Montcalm. In Montcalm was all manner of things to charm —all save that which presently filled me with awe, and showed me wherein this sallow-featured, pain-racked Briton was greater than his rival beyond measure : in that searching, burning eye, which carried all the distinction and greatness denied him elsewhere. There resolution, courage, endurance. deep design, clear vision, dogged will, heroism, lived : a bright furnace of daring resolves and hopes, which gave England her sound desire.
An officer of his staff presented me. He looked at me with piercing intelligence, and then, presently, his long hand made a swift motion of knowledge and greeting, and he said, —
“ Yes. yes, and you are welcome. Captain Stobo. I have heard of you, of much to your credit. You were for years in durance there.”
He pointed towards the town, where we could see the dome of the cathedral shine, and the leaping smoke and flame of the roaring batteries.
“ Near six years, your Excellency,” said I.
“ Papers of yours fell into General Braddock’s hands, and they tried you for a spy— a curious case—a curious case ! Wherein were they wrong and you justified, and why was all exchange refused ? ”
I told him the main, the bare facts, and how. to force certain papers from me, I had been hounded to the edge of the grave. He nodded, and seemed lost in study of the mud-flats at the Beauport shore, and presently took to beating his foot upon the ground. After a minute, as if he had come back from a distance, he said : “ Yes, yes, broken articles. Few women have a sense of national honor; such as La Pompadour none. An interesting matter.”
Then, after a moment: “ You shall talk with our Chief Engineer — you know the town — you should be useful to me, Captain Stobo. What do you suggest concerning this siege of ours ?”
“ Has any attack been made from above the town, your Excellency ? ”
He lifted his eyebrows. uIs it vulnerable from there ? From Cap Rouge, you mean ? ”
“ They have you at advantage everywhere, sir.” I said. “ A thousand men could keep the town, so long as this river, those mud-flats, and those high cliffs are there.”
“ But above the town ” —
“ Above the citadel there is a way — the only way : a feint from the basin here, a sham menace and attack, and the real action at the other door of the town.”
“ They will, of course, throw fresh strength and vigilance above, if our fleet run their batteries and attack there — the river at Cap Rouge is like this one here for defense.” He shook his head. “There is no way. I fear.”
“General, “ said I, “if you will take me into your service, and then give me leave to handle my little schooner in this basin and in the river above, I will prove that you may take your army into Quebec by entering it myself, and returning with something as precious to me as the taking of Quebec to you.”
He looked at me piercingly for a minute, then a sour sort of smile played at his lips. “ A woman! ” he said. “ Well, it were not the first time the love of a wench opened the gates to a nation’s victory.”
“ Love of a wife, sir, should carry a man farther,” said I.
He turned on me a commanding look. “ Speak plainly,” said he. “ If we are to use you, let us know you in all.”
He waved farther back the officers with him.
“ I have no other wish,” I answered him. Then I told him briefly of the Seigneur Duvarney, Alixe, and Doltaire.
“ Duvarney ! Duvarney ! ” he said, and a light came into his look. Then he called an officer. “ Was it not one Seigneur Duvarney who this morning prayed protection for his Château on the Island of Orleans ? ” he asked.
“ Even so, your Excellency,” was the reply; “ and he said that if Captain Stobo was with us, he would surely speak for the humanity and kindness he and his household had shown to British prisoners.”
“ You speak, then, for this gentleman ? ” he asked, with a dry sort of smile.
“ With all my heart.” I answered. “ But. why asks he protection at this late day ? ”
“New orders are issued to lay waste the country — hitherto all property was safe,” was the General’s reply. “ See that the Seigneur Duvarney’s suit is granted,” he added to his officer, “and say it is by Captain Stobo’s intervention. There is another matter of this kind to be arranged this noon,” he continued: “ a matter of exchange of prisoners, among whom are some ladies of birth and breeding, captured but two days ago, and a gentleman comes from General Montcalm directly upon the point. You might be useful herein,” he added, “ if you will come to my tent in an hour.” He turned to go.
“ And my ship, and permission to enter the town, your Excellency ? ” I asked.
“ What do you call your — ship ? ” he asked a little grimly.
I told him how the sailors had already christened her. He smiled. “ Then let her prove her title to Terror of France,” he said, “ by being pilot to the rest of our fleet, up the river, — some few have already crept up,— and you, Captain Stobo, be guide to a footing on those heights ” — he pointed to the town. “ Then this army and its General, and all England, please God, will thank you. Your craft shall have commission as a rover — but if she gets into trouble ? ”
“ She will do as her owner has done these six years, your Excellency. She will fight her way out alone.”
He gazed long at the town and at the Levis shore. “ From above, then, there is a way ? ” he asked.
“For proof, if I come back alive” —
“ For proof that you have been ” — he answered meaningly, with an amused flash of his eyes, though at the very moment a spasm of pain crossed his face, for he was suffering from incurable disease, and went about his great task in daily misery, yet cheerful and inspiring.
“ For proof, my wife, sir,” said I.
He nodded, but his thoughts were diverted instantly, and he went from me at once abstracted. But again he came back. “If you return,” said he, “you shall serve upon my staff. You will care to view our operations,” he added, motioning towards the intrenchments at the river. Then he stepped quickly away, and I was taken by an officer to the river, and though my heart warmed within me to hear that an attack was presently to be made from the shore not far distant from the falls, I felt that the attempt could not succeed.
At the close of an hour I went to the General’s tent. It was luncheon-time, and they were about to sit as I was announced. The General motioned me to a seat, and then again, as if on second thought, made as though to introduce me to some one who stood beside him. My amazement was unbounded when I saw, smiling cynically at me, Monsieur Doltaire.
He was the envoy from Quebec. I looked him in the eyes steadily for a moment, into malicious, unswerving eyes, as maliciously and unswervingly myself, and then we both bowed.
“ Captain Stobo and I have sat at meat together before,” he said, with mannered coolness. “ We have played host and guest also : but that was ere he won our hearts by bold, romantic feats. Still, I dared scarcely hope to meet him at this table.”
“ Which is sacred to the best of manners,” said I meaningly and coolly, for my anger and surprise were too deep for excitement.
I saw the General look at both of us keenly, then his marvelous eyes flashed intelligence, and an acid smile played at his lips a moment. After a little general conversation Doltaire addressed me.
“ We are not yet so overwhelmed with war but your being here again will give a fillip to our gossip. It must seem sad to you — you were so long with us — you have broken bread with so many of us — to see us pelted so. Sometimes a dinner-table is disordered by a riotous shell.”
He was trying to torture me. And it was not hard to do it, for how knew I what had happened ? How came he back so soon from the Bastile ? It was incredible. Perhaps he had never gone, in spite of all. After luncheon, the matter of exchange of prisoners was gone into, and one by one the names of the French prisoners in our hands — ladies and gentlemen apprehended at the Château — were ticked off, and I knew them all save two. The General deferred to me several times as to the persons and positions of the captives, and asked my suggestions. Immediately I proposed Mr. Wainfleet, the chaplain, in exchange for a prisoner, though his name was not on the list, but Doltaire shook his head in a blank sort of way.
“Mr. Wainfleet! Mr. Wainfleet! There was no such prisoner in the town,” he said.
I insisted, and I eyed him keenly, but he stared at me inscrutably, and said that he had no record of the man. Then I spoke most forcibly to the General, and said that Mr. Wainfleet should be produced, or an account of him be given by the Freach Governor. Doltaire then said: “ I am only responsible for these names recorded. Our General trusts to your honor, and you to ours, Monsieur le Général.”
There was nothing more to say, and presently the exchanges were arranged, and, after compliments, Doltaire took his leave. I left the Governor also, and followed Doltaire. It was what lie expected, for he turned to meet me.
“ Captain Stobo and I,” he said to the officers near, “ are old — enemies, and there is a sad sweetness in meetings like these. May I ” —
The officers drew away at a little distance at once before the suggestion was made, and we were left alone. I was in a white heat, but yet in fair control.
“ You are surprised to see me here,” he said. “ Did you think the Bastile was for me ? Tut! we had not cleared the St. Lawrence when we met a packet bearing fresh commands. La Pompadour forgave me, and in the King’s name bade me return to New France, and in her own she bade me get your papers, or hang yon straight. And — you will think it singular — if need be, I was to relieve the Governor and Bigot also, and work to save New France with the excellent Montcalm.” He laughed. “You can see how absurd that is. I have held my peace, and I keep my commission in my pocket.”
I looked at him amazed that he should tell me this. He saw my surprise, and said, —
“Yes, you are my confidant in this. I do not fear you. Your enemy is bound in honor, your friend may seek to serve himself.” Again he laughed. “ As if I, Tinoir Doltaire, — note the agreeable combination of peasant and gentleman in my name, — who held his hand from ambition for large things in France, should stake a lifetime on this foolish hazard ! When I play, Captain Stobo, it is for things large and vital. Else I remain the idler, the courtier — the son of the King.”
“Yet you lend your vast talent, the genius of those unknown possibilities, to this, Monsieur — this little business of exchange of prisoners,” I retorted ironically.
“That is my whim — a social courtesy.”
“ You said you knew nothing of the chaplain,” I broke out.
“ Not so. I said he was on no record given me. Officially — and in all public ways of honor — I know nothing of him.”
“ Come,” said I, “you know well how I am concerned for him. You quibble; you lied to our General.”
A wicked light shone in his eyes. “ I choose to pass that by, for the moment,” he said. “ I am sorry you forget yourself ; it were better for you and me to be courteous till our hour of reckoning, which is not yet. Shall we not meet some day ? ” he said, with a sweet hatred in his tone.
“ With all my heart.”
“ But where ? ”
“ In yonder town,” said I, pointing.
He laughed provokingly. “ You are melodramatic,” he rejoined. “ I could hold that town with one thousand men against all your army and five times your fleet.”
“ You have ever talked and nothing done,” said I. “ Will you tell me the truth of the chaplain? ”
“ Ay, in private the truth you shall hear,” he said. “ The man is dead.”
“ If you speak true, he was murdered,”
I broke out. “ You know well why.”
“ No, no,” he answered. “ He was put in prison, escaped, made for the river, was pursued, fought, and was killed. So much for serving you.”
“Will you answer me one question ? ” said I. “ Is my wife well ? Is she safe ? She is there set among villainies.”
“Your wife?” he answered, sneering. “ If you mean Mademoiselle Duvarney, she is not there.” Then he added solemnly and slowly : “She is in no fear of your batteries now — she is beyond them. When she was there, she was not child enough to think that foolish game with the vanished chaplain was a marriage. Did you think to gull a lady so beyond the minute’s wildness ? She is not there,” he added again in a low voice.
“ She is dead ? ” I gasped. “ My wife is dead ? ”
“ Enough of that,” he answered angrily. “ The lady saw the folly of it all, before she had done with the world. You — you, monsieur! It was but the pity of her gentle heart, of a romantic nature. You — you blundering alien, spy, and seducer ! ”
With a gasp of anger I struck him in the face, and whipped out my sword. But the officers near came instantly between us, and I could see that they thought me gross, ill-mannered, and wild, to do this thing before the General’s tent, and to an envoy and truce-bearer.
Doltaire stood still a moment. Then presently wiped a little blood from his mouth, and said. —
“ Messieurs, Captain Stobo was justified in his anger, and for the blow he will justify that in some happier time — for me. He said that I had lied, and I proved him wrong. I called him a spy and a seducer, — he sought to shame, he covered with sorrow, one of the noblest families of New France, — and he has yet to prove me wrong. As envoy I may not fight him now, but I may tell you that I have every cue to send him to hell one day. He will do me the credit to say that it is not cowardice that stays me.”
“ If no coward in the way of fighting, coward in all other things,” I retorted instantly.
“ Well, well, as you may think.” And he turned to go. “ We will meet there, then ? ” he said, pointing to the town. “ And when ? ”
“ To-morrow,” said I.
He shrugged his shoulder as to a boyish petulance, for he thought it an idle boast. “To-morrow? Then come and pray with me in the cathedral, and after that we will cast up accounts — to-morrow,” he said, with a poignant and exultant malice. A moment afterwards he was gone, and I was left alone.
Presently I saw a boat shoot out from the shore below, and he was in it. Seeing me, he waved a hand in an ironical way. I paced up and down, sick and distracted, for half an hour or move. I knew not whether he lied concerning Alixe, hut my heart was wrung with misery, for indeed he spoke with an air of truth.
Dead! dead ! dead! “In no fear of your batteries now,” he had said. “ Done with the world ! he had said. What else could it mean ? Yet the more I thought there came a feeling that somehow I had been tricked. “ Done with the world ! ” Ay, a nunnery — was that it? But then, “ In no fear of your batteries now ” — that, what did that mean but death ?
At this distressful moment a message came from the General, and I went to his tent, trying to calm myself, but overcome with apprehension. I was kept, another half hour waiting, and then, coming in to him, he questioned me closely for a little about Doltaire, and I told him the whole story briefly. Presently his secretary brought me the commission for my appointment to special service on the General’s own staff.
“ Your first duty,” he said, “ will be to — reconnoitre ; and if you come back safe, we will talk further.”
While he was speaking I kept looking at the list of prisoners which still lay upon his table. It ran thus : —
Monsieur and Madame Carçanal.
Mademoiselle La Rose.
La Sœur Angélique.
La Sœur Séraphine.
I know not why it was, but the last three names held my eyes. Each of the other names I knew, and the people also. When I looked close, I saw that where La Sœur Angélique now was another name had been written and then erased. I saw also that the writing was recent. Again, where “Halboir” was written there had been another name, and the same process of erasure and substitution had been made. It was not so with La Soeur Séraphine. I said to the General at once, “ Your excellency, it is possible you have been tricked.” Then I pointed out what I had discovered. He nodded.
“ Will you let me go, sir ? ” said I. “ Will you let me see this exchange ? ”
“ I fear you will be too late,” he answered. “ It is not a vital matter, I fancy.”
“ Perhaps to me most vital,” said I, and I explained my fears.
“ Then go, go,” he said kindly. He quickly gave directions to have me carried to Admiral Saunders’ ship, where the exchange was to be effected, and at the same time a general passport.
In a few moments we were hard on our way. Now the batteries were silent. By the General’s orders, the bombardment ceased while the exchange was being effected, and the French batteries also were still. A sudden quietness seemed to settle on land and sea, and there was only heard, now and then, the note of a bugle from a ship of war. The water in the basin was very still, and the air was balmy and quiet. My own agitation, this heraldry of war, was all unnatural in the golden weather and sweetsmelling land.
I urged the rowers to their task, and we flew on, for I think from my set face, and my unwavering look towards the Admiral’s ship, they caught at some strange happening. Patches of my history were now gone abroad among the army, and I was looked to for sensation of some sort. My mind was in a turmoil, but I remember that we passed another boat loaded with men, singing boisterously a disorderly sort of song, called Hot Stuff, set to the air Lilies of France, which now disturbed me, it was so out of touch with the general quiet: —
While bullets are whistling and cannons do roar,
Says Montcalm: “ Those are Shirleys—I know the lapels.”
“You lie,” says Ned Botwood, “ we swipe for Lascelles!
Tho’ our clothing is changed, and we scout powder-puff;
Here ’s at you, ye swabs, here ’s gave you Hot Stuff! ”
While yet we were about two miles away, I saw a boat put out from the Admiral’s ship, then, at the same moment, one from the Lower Town, and they drew towards each other. I urged my men to their task, and as we were passing some of Admiral Saunders’ ships, their sailors cheered us. Then came a silence, and it seemed to me that all our army and fleet, and that at Beauport, and the garrison of Quebec, were watching us, for the ramparts and shore were crowded. We drove on at an angle, to intercept the boat that left the Admiral’s ship before it reached the town.
War leaned upon its arms and watched a strange duel. There was no authority in any one’s hands to stop the boat, save my own, and both armies must avoid firing, for the people of both nations were here in this space between — ladies and gentlemen in the French boat going to the town, Englishmen and a poor woman or two coming to our own fleet. My men strained every muscle, but the pace was impossible — it could not last; and the rowers in the French boat hung over their oars also with eager force. With the glass of the officer near me, — Kingdon of Anstruther’s Regiment, — I could now see Doltaire standing erect in the boat, urging the boatmen on. Sitting by him was a figure I seemed to recognize, yet which eluded me. All round that basin, on shore and cliff and mountains, thousands of veteran fighters — Fraser’s, Otway’s, Townsend’s, Murray’s ; and on the other side the splendid soldiers of La Sarre, Languedoc, Béarn, and Guienne — watched in silence. And well they might, for in this entr’acte was the little weapon forged which opened the door of New France to England’s glory and the immortal fame of the hero whose officer I now was ; so may the little talent or opportunity make possible the genius of the great.
The pain of this suspense grew so, that I longed for some sound to break the stillness ; but there was nothing for minute after minute. Then, at last, on the halcyon air of that summer day floated the Angelus from the cathedral tower. Only a moment, in which one could feel, and see too, the French army praying, then came from the ramparts the sharp inspiring roll of a kettle-drum, and presently all was still again. Nearer and nearer the boat of prisoners approached the stone steps of the landing, and we were several hundred yards behind.
I motioned to Doltaire to stop, but he made no sign. I saw the figures of the nuns near him, and I strained my eyes, but I could not note their faces. My men worked on ardently, and now we gained. We were coming up on them gallantly. But I saw that it was impossible to reach them before they set foot on shore. Now their boat came to the steps, and one by one they hastily got out. Then I called twice to Doltaire to stop. The air was still, and my voice carried distinctly. Suddenly one of the cloaked figures sprang towards the steps with arms outstretched, calling aloud, “ Robert! Robert! ” “ Robert, my husband ! ” rang out again, and then a young officer and the other nun took her by the arm, as if to force her away. At the sharp instigation of Doltaire, instantly some companies of marines filed in upon the place where they had stood, leveled their muskets on us, and hid my beloved wife from my view. I recognized the young officer who had put a hand upon Alixe. It was her brother Juste.
“ Alixe ! Alixe ! ” I called, as my boat still came on.
“ Save me, Robert! ” came the anguished reply , a faint but searching sound, and then no more.
Misery and mystery were in my heart all at once. Doltaire had tricked me. “ Those batteries cannot, harm her now! ” Yes, yes, they could not while she was a prisoner in our camp. “ Done with the world ! ” Truly, when wearing the garb of the Sister Angélique. But why that garb ? was she indeed a nun ? I knew not what to think. I would not think that possible, with her cry, “ Robert, my husband ! ” ringing in my ears. I swore that I would be within that town by the morrow, that I would fetch my wife into safety, out from the damnable arts and devices of Doltaire, chief craftsman of the devil.
The captain of the marines called to us that another boat’s length would fetch upon us the fire of his men. There was nothing to do, but to turn back, while from the shore I was reviled by soldiers and by the rabble. My marriage with Alixe, I could see, had been made a national thing — of race and religion. So, as my men rowed back towards our fleet, I faced my enemies, and looked towards them without moving. I was grim enough that moment, God knows; I felt turned to stone. I did not stir when — ineffaceable brutality — the batteries on the heights began to play upon us, the shot falling round us, and passing over our heads, while musket-firing followed.
“ Damned villains! Faithless brutes ! ” cried Kingdon beside me. I did not speak a word, but stood there defiant, as when we first had turned back. Now, sharply, angrily, from all our batteries, there came reply to the French, and as we came on with only one man wounded and one oar broken, towards our ships, the whole fleet cheered us. I steered straight for the Terror of France, and there Clark and I, he swearing violently, laid plans.