MY hurt proved more serious than I had looked for, and the day after my escape I was in a high fever. General Wolfe himself, having heard of my return, sent to inquire after me. He also was ill, and our forces were depressed in consequence ; for he had a power to inspire them not given to any other of our accomplished and admirable generals. He forbore to question me concerning the state of the town and what I had seen, for which I was glad. My adventure had been of a private nature, and such I wished it to remain. The general desired me to come to him as soon as I was able, that I might proceed with him above the town to reconnoitre. But for many a day this was impossible, for my wound gave me much pain and I was confined to my bed. Yet we on the Terror of France served our good general, too ; for one dark night, when the wind was fair, we piloted the remaining ships of Admiral Holmes’s division above the town. This move was made on my constant assertion that there was a way by which Quebec might be taken from above; and when General Wolfe made known my representations to his general officers, they accepted it as a last resort, for otherwise what hope had they ? At Montmorenci our troops had been repulsed, the mud flats of the Beauport shore and the St. Charles River were as good as an army against us, the Upper Town and citadel were practically impregnable, and for eight miles west of the town to the cove and river at Cap Rouge there was one long precipice, broken in but one spot; and there, I was sure, men could come up with stiff climbing as I had done. Bougainville came to Cap Rouge now with three thousand men, for he thought that this was to be our point of attack. Along the shore from Cap Rouge to Cape Diamond small batteries were posted, such as that of Lancy’s at Anse du Foulon ; but they were careless, for no conjectures might seem so wild as that of bringing an army up where I had climbed.
“ Tut, tut,” said General Murray, when he came to me on the Terror of France, after having, at my suggestion, gone to the south shore opposite Anse du Foulon, and scanned the faint line that marked the narrow cleft on the cliff side,—“ tut, tut, man,” he said. “ ’t is the dream of a cat or a damned mathematician.”
Once, after all was done, he said to me that cats and mathematicians were the only generals.
I cannot write with what pride Clark showed the way up the river one evening, the batteries of the town giving us plunging shots as we went, and ours at Point Levis answering gallantly. To me it was a good if most anxious time : good, in that I was having some sort of compensation for my own sufferings in the town ; anxious, because no single word came to me of Alixe or her father, and all the time we were pouring death into it. But this we knew from deserters, that Vaudreuil was Governor and Bigot Intendant still; by which it would seem that, on the momentous night when Doltaire was wounded by Madame Cournal, he gave back the governorship to Vaudreuil and reinstated Bigot. Presently, from an officer who had been captured as he was setting free a fire-raft upon the river to run among the boats of our fleet, I heard that Doltaire had been confined in the Intendance from a wound given by a stupid sentry. Thus the true story had been kept from the public. From him. too, I learned that nothing was known of the Seigneur Duvarney and his daughter ; that they had suddenly disappeared from the Intendance, as if the earth had swallowed them; and that even Juste Duvarney knew nothing of them, and was, in consequence, much distressed.
This officer also said that now, when it might seem as if both the Seigneur and his daughter were dead, opinion had turned in Alixe’s favor, and there had crept about the feeling, first among the common folk and afterwards among the people of the garrison, that she had been used harshly. This was due largely, he thought, to the constant advocacy of the Chevalier la Darante, whose nephew had married Mademoiselle Georgette Duvarney. This piece of news, in spite of the uncertainty of Alixe’s fate, touched me. for the Chevalier had indeed kept Ins word to me.
At last all of Admiral Holmes’s division was got above the town, with very little damage, and I never saw a man so elated, so profanely elated, as Clark over his share in the business. He was a daredevil, too; for the day that the last of the division was taken up the river, without my permission or the permission of the admiral or anybody else, he took the Terror of France almost up to Bougainville’s earthworks in the cove at Cap Rouge and insolently emptied his six swivels into them, and then came out and stood down the river. When I found what he was doing,—for I was now well enough to come on deck, — he said he was going to see how monkeys could throw nuts ; when I pressed him, he said he had a will to hear the cats in the eaves ; and when I became severe, he added that he would bring the Terror of France up past the batteries of the town in broad daylight, swearing that they could no more hit him than a woman could a bird on a flagstaff with a stone. I did not relish this foolish bravado, and I forbade it; but presently I consented, on condition that he take me to General Wolfe’s camp at Montmorenci first, for now I felt strong enough to be again on active service. Indeed, I found myself far stronger than the general, who, wasted by disease, seemed like a man keeping himself alive for some last great effort, which done, or undone, the flame, for want of fuel, would go out forever.
Clark took the Terror of France up the river in midday, running perilously close to the batteries; and though they pounded at him petulantly, foolishly angry at his contemptuous defiance, he ran the gauntlet safely, and coming to the flag-ship, the Sutherland, saluted with his six swivels, to the laughter of the whole fleet and his own profane joy.
“ Mr. Stobo,” said General Wolfe, when I saw him, racked with pain, studying a chart of the river and town which his chief engineer had just brought him, “ show me here this passage in the hillside.”
I did so, tracing the plains of Maître Abraham, which I assured him would be good ground for a pitched battle. He nodded: then rose, and walked up and down for a time, thinking. Suddenly he stopped, and fixed his eyes upon me.
“ Mr. Stobo,” said he, “ it would seem that you. angering La Pompadour, brought down this war upon us.”He paused, smiling in a dry way, as it the thought amused him, as if indeed he doubted it; but for that I cared not it was an honor I could easily live without.
I bowed to his words, and said, “ Mine was the last straw, sir.”
Again he nodded, and replied, “ Well, well, you got us into trouble; you must show us the way out,”and he looked at the passage I had traced upon the chart. “You will remain with me until we meet our enemy on these heights.”
He pointed to the plains of Maître Abraham. Then he turned away, and began walking up and down again. “ It is the last chalice ! ” he said to himself in a tone despairing and yet heroic. “ Please God, please God ! ’’ he added. “You will speak nothing of these plans,” he said to me at last, half mechanically. "We must make feints ot landing at Cap Rouge — feints of landing everywhere save at the one possible place; confuse both Bougainville and Montcalm; tire out their armies with watchings and want of sleep; and then, on the auspicious night, make the great trial.”
I had remained respectfully standing at a little distance from him. Now he suddenly came to me, and, pressing my hand, said quickly, “Ton have trouble, you have trouble, Mr. Stobo. 1 am sorry for you. But who can tell — maybe it is for better things to come.’
I thanked him stumblingly, and a moment later left him, to serve him on the morrow, and so on through many days, till, in divers perils, the camp at Montmorenei was abandoned, the troops were got aboard the ships, and the general took up his quarters on the Sutherland ; from which, one notable day, I sallied forth with him to a point at the south shore opposite the Anse du Foulon, where he saw the thin crack in the cliff side. From that moment instant and final attack was Ids purpose.
The great night came, starlit and serene. The camp-fires of two armies spotted the shores of the wide river, and the ships lay like wild fowl in convoys above the town from where the arrow of fate should be sped. Darkness upon the river, and fireflies upon the shore. At Beauport, an untiring general, who lor a hundred days had snatched sleep, booted and spurred, and in the ebb of a losing game, longed for his adored Caniliac, grieved for a beloved daughter s death, sent cheerful messages to his aged mother and to his wife, and by the deeper protests of his love foreshadowed liis own doom. At Cap Rouge, a dying commander, unperturbed and valiant, reached out a finger to trace the last movements in a desperate campaign of life that opened in Flanders at sixteen ; the end began when he took from his bosom the portrait of his affianced wife, and said to his old schoolfellow, “ Give this to her, Jervis, for we shall meet no more.” Then, passing to the deck, silent and steady, no signs’of pain upon his face, so had the calm come to him, as to nature and this beleaguered city, before the whirlwind, he looked out upon the clustered groups of boats filled with the flower of his army, settled in a menacing tranquillity. There lay the Light Infantry, Bragg’s, Kennedy s, Lascelles s, Anstruther’s Regiment, Fraser’s Highlanders, and the much - loved, muchblamed, and impetuous Louisburg Grenadiers. Steady, indomitable, silent as cats, precise as mathematicians, he could trust them, as they loved his awkward pain-twisted body and ugly red hair. “ Damme, Jack, didst thee ever take hell in tow before ? ” said a sailor from the Terror of France to his fellow once, as the marines grappled with a flotilla of French fire-ships, and dragged them, spitting destruction, clear of the fleet, to the shore. “ Nay, but I ’ve been in tow of Jimmy Wolfe’s red head — that’s hell fire, lad,” was the reply.
From boat to boat the general’s eye passed, then shifted to the ships, — the Squirrel, the Leostaff, the Seahorse, and tlie rest, and lastly to where the army of Bougainville lay. Then there came towards him an officer, who said quietly, The tide has turned, sir.” For reply the general made a swift motion towards the maintop shrouds, and almost instantly lanterns showed in them. In response the crowded boats began to cast away, and, immediately descending, the general passed into his own boat, drew to the front, and drifted in the current ahead of his gallant men, the ships followingafter.
It was two by the clock when the boats began to move, and slowly we ranged down the stream, carried by the current, silently steered. No paddle, no creaking oarlock, broke the stillness. I was in the next boat to the general’s, for, with Clark and twenty-two other volunteers to the forlorn hope, I was to show the way up the heights, and we were near to his person for over two hours that night. No moon was shining, but I could see him plainly; and once, when our boats almost touched, he saw me, and said graciously, “If they get up, Mr. Stobo. you are free to serve yourself.”
My heart was full of love of country then, and I answered, “ I hope, sir, to serve you till your flag is hoisted in the citadel.”
He turned to a young midshipman beside him, and said, "How old are you, sir ? ”
“ Seventeen, sir,” was the reply.
“It is the most lasting passion,” he said, musing.
It seemed to me then, and I still think it, that the passion he meant was love of country. A moment afterwards I heard him recite to the officers about him, in a low clear tone, verses by Mr. Gray, the poet, which I had never then read, though I have prized them since. Under those frowning heights, and the smell from our roaring thirty-two-pounders in the air, I heard him say —
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.”
I have heard finer voices than his, — it was as tin beside Doltaire’s, — but something in it pierced me that night, and I felt the man, the perfect hero, when he said —
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”
Soon afterwards we neared the end of our quest, the tide carrying us in to shore; and down from the dark heights there came a challenge, satisfied by an officer who said we were provision-boats for Montcalm. Then came the batteries of Samos. Again we passed with the same excuse, and we rounded a headland, and the great work was begun.
The boats of the Light Infantry swung in to shore. No sentry challenged, but I knew that at the top Lancy’s tents were set, When the Light Infantry had landed, we twenty-four volunteers stood still for a moment, and I pointed out the way. Before we started, we stooped beside a brook that leaped lightly down the ravine, and drank a little rum and water. Then I led the way, Clark at one side of me, and a soldier of the Light Infantry at the other. It was hard climbing, but, following in our careful steps as silently as they might, the good fellows came eagerly after. Once a rock broke loose and came tumbling down, but plunged into a thicket, where it stayed ; else it might have done for us entirely. I breathed freely when it stopped. Once, too, a branch cracked loudly, and we lay still ; but hearing nothing above, we pushed on, and, sweating greatly, came close to the top.
Here I drew back with Clark, for such honor as there might be in gaining the heights first I wished to go to these soldiers who had trusted their lives to my guidance. I let six go by and reach the heights, and then I drew myself up. We did not stir till all twenty-four were up ; then we made a dash for the tents of Lancy, which now showed in the first gray light of morning. We made a dash for them, were discovered, and shots greeted us ; but we were on them instantly, and in a moment I had the pleasure of putting a bullet in Lancy’s heel, and brought him down. Our cheers told the general the news, and soon hundreds of soldiers were climbing the hard way that we had come.
And now while an army climbed to the heights of Maître Abraham, Admiral Saunders in the gray dawn was bombarding Montcalm’s encampment, and boats filled with marines and soldiers drew to the Beauport flats, as if to land there, while shots, bombs, shells, and carcasses were hurled from Levis upon the town, deceiving Montcalm ; until at last, suspecting, he rode towards the town at six o’clock, and saw our scarlet ranks spread across the plains between him and Bougainville, and on the crest, nearer to him, eying us in amazement, the wliite-coated battalion of Guienne, which should the day before have occupied the very ground held by Lancy. A slight rain falling added to their gloom, but cheered us. It gave us a better light to fight by, for in the clear September air, the bright sun shining in our faces, they would have had us at advantage.
In another hour the gates of St. John and St. Louis emptied out upon this battlefield a warring flood of our foes. It was a handsome sight: the white uniforms of the brave regiments, Roussillon, La Sarre, Guienne, Languedoc, Béarn, mixed with the dark, excitable militia, the sturdy burghers of the town, a band of coureurs de bois in their rough hunter’s costume, and whooping Indians, painted and furious, ready to eat us. At last here was to he a test of fighting in open field, though the French had in their whole army twice the number of our men, a walled and provisioned city behind them, and field-pieces in great number to bring against us.
But there was bungling with them. Vaudreuil hung hack or came tardily from Beauport; Bougainville had not yet arrived; and when they might have pitted twice our number against us, they had not many more than we. With Bougainville behind us and Montcalm in front, we might have been checked, though there was no man in all our army but believed that we should win the day. I could plainly see Montcalm, mounted on a dark horse, riding along the lines as they formed against us, waving his sword, a truly gallant figure, and he was answered by a roar of applause and greeting. On the left their Indians and burghers overlapped our second line, where Townsend with Amherst’s and the Light Infantry, and Colonel Burton with the Royal Americans and Light Infantry, guarded our flank, prepared to meet Bougainville. In vain our foes tried to get between our right flank and the river ; Otway’s Regiment, thrown out, defeated that.
It was my hope that Doltaire was with Montcalm, and that we might meet and end our quarrel. I came to know afterwards that it was he who had induced Montcalm to send the battalion of Guienne to the heights above the Anse du Foulon, knowing well that I had seen the passage in the mountain, and that I would make our general acquainted with it. The battalion had not been moved till twenty-four hours after the order was given, or we should never have gained those heights: stones rolled from the cliff would have destroyed an army.
We waited, Clark and I, with the Louishurg Grenadiers while they formed. We made no noise, but stood steady and still, the bagpipes of the Highlanders shrilly challenging. At eight o’clock sharpshooters began firing on us from the left, and skirmishers were thrown out to hold them in check, or dislodge them and drive them from the houses where they sheltered, from which they galled Townsend’s men. Their fieldpieces opened on us, too, and yet we did nothing, but at nine o’clock, being ordered, lay down and waited still. There was no restlessness, no anxiety, no show of doubt, for these men of ours were old fighters, and they trusted their leaders. From bushes, trees, coverts, and fields of grain there came that constant hail of fire, and there fell upon our ranks a doggedness, a quiet anger, which grew into a grisly patience. The only pleasure we had in ten long hours was in watching our two brass six-pounders play upon the irregular ranks of our foes, making confusion, and Townsend drive back a detachment of cavalry from Cap Rouge, which sought to break our left flank and reach Montcalm.
We had seen the stars go down, the cold, mottled light of dawn break over the battered city and the heights of Charlesbourg ; we had watched the sun come up, and then steal away behind slow-traveling clouds and hanging mist; we had looked across over unreaped cornfields and the dull, slovenly St. Charles, knowing that endless leagues of country, north and south, east and west, lay in the balance to-day. I believed that this day would see the last of the strife between England and France for dominion here, of La Pompadour’s spite which I had roused to action against my country, of the struggle between Doltaire and myself. The public stake was worthy of our army — worthy of the dauntless soldier, who had begged his physicians to patch him up long enough to fight this fight, whereon he staked reputation, life, all that a man loves in the world; the private stake was more than worthy of my long sufferings. I thought that Montcalm would have waited for Vaudreuil, but no. At ten o’clock his three columns moved down upon us briskly, making a wild rattle; two columns moving upon our right and one upon our left, firing obliquely and constantly as they marched. Then came the command to rise, and we stood up and waited, our muskets loaded with an extra ball. I could feel the stern malice in our ranks, as we stood there and took, without returning a shot, that damnable fire. Minute after minute passed ; then came the sharp command to advance. We did so, and again halted, and yet no shot came from ns. We stood there, a long palisade of red.
At last, from where I was I saw our general raise his sword, a command rang down the long line of battle, and, like one terrible cannon-shot, our muskets sang together with as perfect a precision as on a private field of exercise. Then, waiting for the smoke to clear a little, another volley came with almost the same precision; after which the firing came in choppy waves of sound, and again in a persistent clattering. Then a light breeze lifted the smoke and mist well away, and a wayward sunlight showed us our foe, like a long white wave retreating from a rocky shore, bending, crumpling, breaking, and, in a hundred little billows, fleeing seaward.
So, checked, confounded, the French army trembled and fell back. Then I heard the order to charge, and from near four thousand throats there came for the first time our exultant British cheer, and high over all rang the slogan of Fraser’s Highlanders. To my left I saw the flashing broadswords of the clansmen, ahead of all the rest. Those sickles of death clove through and broke the battalions of La Sarre, and Lascelles scattered the good soldiers of Languedoc into flying columns. We on the right, led by Wolfe, charged the desperate and valiant men of Roussillon and Guienne and the impetuous sharpshooters of the militia. As we came on, I noted the general sway and push forward again, and then I lost sight of him, for I saw what gave the battle a new interest to me: Doltaire, cool and deliberate, animating and encouraging the French troops.
I moved in a shaking hedge of bayonets, keeping my eye on him; and presently there was a hand-to-hand mêlée, out of which I fought to reach him. I was making for him, where he now sought to rally the retreating columns, when I observed not far away Gabord, mounted, and attacked by three Grenadiers. Looking back now, I see him, with his sabre cutting right and left, as he drove his horse at one Grenadier, who slipped and fell on the slippery ground, while the horse rode on him, battering him. Obliquely down swept the sabre, and drove through the cheek and chin of one foe; another sweep, and the bayonet of the other was struck aside ; and another, which was turned aside as Gabord’s horse came down, bayoneted by the fallen Grenadier. But Gabord was on his feet again, roaring like a bull, with a wild grin on his face, as he partly struck aside the bayonet of the last Grenadier. It caught him in the flesh of the left side. He grasped the musket-barrel, and struck home with fatal precision: the man’s head dropped back like the lid of a pot, and he tumbled into a heap of the pretty goldenrod flower which spattered the field.
It was at this moment I saw making towards me Juste Duvarney, hatred and deadly purpose in his eyes. I had will enough to meet him, and to kill him too, yet I could not help but think of Alixe. Gabord saw him, also, and, being nearer, made for me as well. For that one act I cherish his memory. The thought was worthy of a gentleman of breeding ; he had the true tiling in his heart. He would save us two — brothers — from fighting, by fighting me himself. He reached me first, and with an “ Au diable ! ” made a stroke at me. It. was a matter of sword and sabre now. Clark met Juste Duvarney’s rush; and there we were, at as fine a game of cross-purposes as you can think: Clark hungering for Gabord’s life (Gabord had once been his jailer, too), and Juste Duvarney for mine, and the battle faring on ahead of us, for soon the two were clean cut off from the French army, and must fight to the death or surrender.
Juste Duvarney spoke only once, and then it was but the rancorous word “ Renegade ! ” nor did I speak at all; but Clark was blasphemous, and Gabord, bleeding, fought with a sputtering relish.
“ Fair fight and fowl for spitting, my dear,” he said. . . . “Go home to heaven, dickey-bird.” Between phrases of this kind we cut and thrust for life, an odd sort of fighting. There was no doubt what the end must be, and so I fought with a desperate alertness : and presently my sword passed through his body, drew out, and he fell where he stood, collapsing suddenly like a bag. I knelt beside him, and lifted up his head. His eyes were glazing fast.
“ Gabord ! Gabord ! ” I called, griefstricken, for that work was the worst I ever did in this world.
He started, stared, and fumbled at his waistcoat. I quickly put my hand in, and drew out — one of Mathilde’s wooden crosses. “ To cheat — the devil — yet — aho ! ” he whispered, kissed the cross, and so was done with life.
When I turned from him, Clark stood beside me. Dazed as I was, I did not at first grasp the significance of that. I looked towards the town, and saw the French army hustling into the St. Louis Gate ; saw the Highlanders charging the bushes at the Côte Ste. Genevieve, where the brave Canadians made their last stand ; saw, not fifty feet away, the noblest soldier of our time, even General Wolfe, dead in the arms of Mr. Henderson, a volunteer in the Twenty-Second ; and then, almost at my feet, stretched out as I had seen him lie in the Palace courtyard two years before, Juste Duvarney.
But now he was forever beyond all friendship or reconciliation.
The smell of unreaped harvest-fields was in the air, the bobolink was piping his evensong, the bells of some shattered church were calling to vespers, the sun was sinking behind the flaming autumn woods, as once more I entered the St. Louis Gate, with the Grenadiers and a detachment of artillery, the British colors hoisted on a gun-carriage. Till this hour I had ever entered and left this town a captive, a price set on my head, and in the very street where now I walked I had gone with a rope round my neck, abused and maltreated. I saw our flag replace the golden lilies of Franee on the citadel where Doltaire had baited me, and at the top of Mountain Street, near to the Bishop’s palace, up which I had been carried, wounded, from the Intern dance courtyard, our colors also flew.
Every step I took was familiar, yet unfamiliar too. It was a disfigured town, where a hungry, distracted people huddled among ruins, and begged for mercy and for food, and wept for their ruined homes and unhappy country, nor found time in the general overwhelming to think of the gallant Montcalm, lying in his shell-made grave at the chapel of the Ursulines, not fifty steps from where I had looked through the tapestry on Alixe and Doltaire. The convent was almost deserted now, and as I passed it, on my way to the cathedral, I took off my hat; for how knew I but that she I loved best lay there, too, as truly a heroine as the admirable Montcalm was hero, dying far from his olive vineyards at Candiac and the beloved olive branches of his home? A solitary bell was clanging on the chapel as I went by, and I saw three nuns steal past me with bowed heads. I longed to stop them and ask them of Alixe, for I felt sure that the Church knew where she was, living or dead, though none of all I asked knew aught of her, not even the Chevalier la Darante, who had come to our camp the night before, accompanied by Joannes, the town major, with terms of surrender.
I came to the church of the Recollets as I wandered ; for now, for a little time, I seemed bewildered and incapable, lost in a maze of dreadful imaginings. I entered the door of the church, and stumbled upon a body. Hearing footsteps ahead in the dusk, I passed up the aisle, and came upon a pile of débris. Looking up, I could see the stars shining through a hole in the roof, made by a shell. Hearing a noise beyond, I went on, and there, seated on the high altar, was the dwarf who had snatched the cup of rum out of the fire, the night that Mathilde had given the crosses to the revelers. He gave a low, wild laugh, and hugged a bottle to his breast. Almost at his feet, half naked, with her face on the lowest step of the altar, her feet touching the altar itself, was the girl — his sister — who had kept her drunken lover from assaulting him. The girl was dead — there was a knife-wound in her breast. Sick at the sight I left the place, and went on, almost mechanically, to Voban’s house.
It was level with the ground, a crumpled heap of ruins. I passed Lancy’s house, in front of which I had fought with Gabord ; it too was broken to pieces. As I turned away I heard a loud noise, as of an explosion, and I supposed it to be some magazine. I thought of it no more at the time. Voban must be found — that was more important. I must know of Alixe first, and I felt sure that if any one knew of her whereabouts it would he he : she would have told him where she was going, if she had fled ; if she were dead, who so likely to know, this secret, elusive, vengeful watcher ? Of Doltaire I had heard nothing ; I would seek him out when I knew of Alixe. He could not escape me now, in this walled town. I passed on for a time without direction, for I seemed not to know where I might find him. Our sentries already patrolled the streets, and our bugles were calling on the heights, with answering calls from the fleet in the basin. Night came down quickly, the stars shone out in the perfect blue, and, as I walked, broken walls, shattered houses, solitary pillars, looked mystically strange. It was so quiet; as if a beaten people had crawled away into the holes our shot and shell had made, to hide their misery. Now and again a gaunt face looked out from a hidingplace, and drew back again in fear at sight of tne. Once a drunken woman spat at me and cursed me ; once I was fired at; and many times from dark corners I heard voices crying, “ Sauvez-moi — ah, sauvez-moi, bon Dieu ! ” Once I stood for many minutes and watched our soldiers giving biscuits and their own share of rum to homeless French peasants hovering round the smouldering ruins of a house which carcasses had destroyed.
And now my wits came back to me, my purposes, the power to act, which for a couple of hours had seemed to be in abeyance. I hurried through narrow streets to the cathedral. There it stood, a shattered mass, its sides all broken, its roof gone, its tall octagonal tower alone substantial and unchanged. Coming to its rear, I found Babette’s little house, with open door, and I went in. There sat the old grandfather in his corner, with a lighted candle on the table near him, across his knees Jean’s coat that I had worn. He only babbled nonsense to my questioning, and, after calling aloud to Babette and getting no reply, I started for the Intendance.
I had scarcely left the house when I saw some French peasants coming towards me with a litter. A woman, walking behind the litter, carried a lantern, and one of our soldiers of artillery attended and directed. I ran forward, and discovered Voban, mortally hurt. The woman gave a cry, and spoke my name in a kind of surprise and relief; and the soldier, recognizing me, saluted. I sent him for a surgeon, and came on with the hurt man to the little house. Soon I was alone with him save for Babette, and her I sent for a priest. As soon as I had seen Voban I guessed what had happened —he had tried for his revenge at last. After a little time he knew me, but at first he could not speak.
“ What has happened —the Palace ? ” said I.
“You blew it up — with Bigot ? ” I asked.
His reply was a whisper, and his face twitched with pain : “ Not — with Bigot.”
I gave him some cordial, which he was inclined to refuse. It revived him, but I saw he could live only a few hours. Presently he made an effort. “ I will tell you,” he whispered.
“ Tell me first of my wife,” said I. “ Is she alive — is she alive ? ”
If a smile could have been upon his lips then, I saw one there — good Voban. I put my ear down, and my heart almost stopped beating, until I heard him say, “ Find Mathilde,” and then it took to pounding wildly.
“ Do you know where ? ” I asked.
“ In the Valdoche Hills,” he answered, “ where the Cray Monk lives — by the Tall Calvary.” He gasped with pain; I let him rest awhile, and eased the bandages on him, and soon he said, “ I am to be gone soon. For two years I have wait for the good time to kill him — Bigot — to send him and his Palace to hell. I cannot tell you how I work to do it. It is no matter — no. From an old cellar I mine, and at last I get the powder lay beneath him — his Palace. So. But he does not come to the Palace much this many months, and Madame Cournal is always with him, and it is hard to do the thing in other ways. But I laugh when the English come in the town, and when I see Bigot fly to his Palace alone to get his treasure - chest I think it is my time. So I ask the valet, and he say he is in the private room that lead to the treasureplace. Then I come back quick to the secret place and fire my mine. In ten minutes all will be done. I go at once to his room again, alone. I pass through the one room, and come to the other. It is a room with one small barred window. If he is there, I will say a word to him that I have wait long to say, then shut the door on us both, for I am sick of life, and watch him and laugh at him till the end comes. If he is in the other room, then I have another way as sure ” —
He paused, exhausted, and I waited till he could again go on. At last he made a great effort, and continued : "I go back to the first room, and he is not there. I pass soft to the treasure-room, and I see him kneel beside a chest, looking in. His back is to me. I hear him laugh to himself. I shut the door, turn the key, go to the window and throw it out, and look at him again. But now he stand and turn to me, and then I see — I see it is not Bigot, but — M’sieu’ Doltaire !
“ I am sick when I see that, and at first I cannot speak, my tongue stick in my mouth so dry. ’Has Voban turn robber ?' he say. I put out my hand and try to speak again, but no. ‘ What did you throw from the window ? ’ he speak. ‘ And what’s the matter, my Voban ? ’ ’My God,’ I say at him now,
‘ I thought you are Bigot! ’ I point to the floor. ’Powder ! ’ I whisper. His eyes go like fire so terrible ; he look to the window, take a quick angry step to me, but stand still. Then he point to the window. ‘ The key, Voban ? ’ he say ; and I answer, ’Yes.’ He get pale ; then he go and try the door, look close at the walls, try them — quick, quick, stop, for a panel, then try again, stand still, and lean against the table. It is no use to call; no one can hear, for it is all roar outside, and these walls are solid and very thick. ’How long?’ he say, and take out his watch. ‘ Five minutes — perhaps,’ I answer. He put his watch on the table, and sit down on a bench by it, and for a little minute he do not speak, but look at me close, and not angry, as you would think. ‘ Voban,’ he say in a low voice, ’Bigot was a thief.’ He point to the chest. ‘ He stole from the King — my father. He stole your Mathilde from you ! He should have died. We have both been blunderers, Voban, blunderers,’ he say ; ‘things have gone wrong with us. We have lost all.’ There is little time. ‘ Tell me one thing,’ he go on. ‘ Is Mademoiselle Duvarney safe — do you know ? ’ I tell him yes, and he smile, and take from his pocket something, and lay it against his lips, and then put it back in his breast. ‘You are not afraid to die, Voban ? ’ lie ask. I answer no. ‘ Shake hands with me, my friend,’ he speak, and I do so that. ‘ Ah, pardon, pardon, Monsieur,’ I say. ‘No, no, Voban ; it was to be,’ he answer. ‘ We shall meet again, comrade,’ he say also, and he turn away from me and look to the sky through the window, and nod his head. Then he look at his watch, and get to his feet, and stand there still. I kiss my crucifix. He reach out and touch it, and bring his fingers to his lips. ’Who can tell ? ’ he say. ’Perhaps.’ For a little minute — ah, it seem like a year, and it is so still, so still — he stand there, and then he put his hand over the watch, lift it up and shut his eyes, as if time is all done. While you can count ten it is so, and then the great crash come.”
For a long time he lay silent again. I gave him more cordial, and he revived, and ended his tale. "I am a blunderer, as M’sieu’ say,” he went on, "for he is killed, not Bigot and me, and only a little part of the Palace go to pieces. And so they fetch me here, and I wish — my God, I wish I go with M’sieu’ Doltaire.”
Two hours after I went to the Intendance, and there I found that the body of my enemy had been placed in the room where I had last seen him with Alixe. He lay on the same couch where she had lain. The Hag of France covered his broken body, but his face was untouched— as it had been in life, haunting, fascinating, though the shifting lights were gone, the fine eyes closed. A noble peace hid all that was sardonic; not even Gabord would now have called him “ Master Devil.” I covered up his face and left him there, — peasant and prince, — candles burning at his head and feet, and the star of Louis on his shattered breast; and I saw him no more.
All that night I walked the ramparts, thinking, remembering, hoping, waiting for the morning; and when I saw the light break over those far eastern parishes, wasted by fire and sword, I set out on a journey to the V aldoelie Hills.
It was in the saffron light of early morning that I saw it, the Tall Calvary of the Valdoche Hills. The night before I had come up through a long valley, overhung with pines on one side and crimsoning maples on the other, and, traveling till nearly midnight, had lain down in the hollow of a bank, and listened to a little river leap over cascades, and, far below, go prattling on to the great river in the south. My eyes closed, but for long I did not sleep. I heard a night-hawk go by on a lonely mission, a beaver slide from a log into the water, and the delicate humming of the pine needles was a drowsy music, through which broke by and by the strange, sad crying of a loon from the water below. I was neither asleep nor awake, but steeped in this wide awe of night, the sweet smell of earth and running water in my nostrils. Once, too, in a slight breeze, the scent of some wild animal’s nest near by came past, and I found it good. I lifted up a handful of loose earth and powdered leaves, and held it to my nose, — a good, brave smell, — all in a sort of sleep; for I was resting, too, one part of me all still and happy. How good this rich earth was ; how sweet a thing to lie close to Mother Nature, the true or careless or good-for-nothing head against her knee, even with the foolishness of the child who buries his hot face in the nest of cool sand that he has made !
As I mused, Doltaire’s face passed before me as it was in life, and I heard him say again of the peasants, “ These shall save the earth some day, for they are of it, and live close to it, and are kin to it.”
Then, all at once, there rushed before me that scene in the convent, when all the devil in him broke loose upon the woman I loved. But, turning on my homely bed, I looked up and saw the deep quiet of the skies, the stable peace of the stars, and I was a son of the good earth again, a sojourner in the tents of Home. I did not doubt that Alixe was alive or that I should find her. There was assurance in this benignant night. In that thought, dreaming that her cheek lay close to mine, her arm around my neck, I fell asleep. I waked to hear the squirrels stirring in the trees, the whir of the partridge, and the first unvarying note of the oriole. Turning on my dry, leafy bed, I looked down, and saw in the dark haze of dawn the beavers at their house-building.
I was at the beginning of a deep gorge or valley, on one side of which was a steep sloping hill of grass and trees, and on the other a huge escarpment of mossed and jagged rocks. Then, farther up, the valley seemed to end in a huge promontory. On this great wedge grim shapes loomed in the mist, uncouth and shadowy and unnatural — a lonely, mysterious Brocken, impossible to human tenantry. Yet as I watched the mist slowly rise, there grew in me the feeling that there lay the end of my quest. I came down to the brook, bathed my face and hands, ate my frugal breakfast of bread, with berries picked from the hillside, and, as the yellow light of the rising sun broke over the promontory, I saw the Tall Calvary upon a knoll, strange comrade to the huge rocks and monoliths—as it were vast playthings of the Mighty Men, the fabled ancestors of the Indian races of the land.
I started up the valley, and presently all the earth grew blithe, and the birds filled the woods and valleys with jocund noise. I was hopeful, ready for happiness, a deadly smother lifted from my heart.
It was near noon before I knew that my pilgrimage was over. Then, coming round a point of rock, I saw the Gray Monk, of whom strange legends had lately traveled to the city. I took off my hat to him reverently; but all at once he threw back his cowl, and I saw, no monk, but, much altered, the good chaplain who had married me to Alixe in the Chêteau St. Louis. He had been hurt when he was fired upon in the water ; had escaped, however, got to shore, and made his way into the woods. There he had met Mathilde, who led him to her lonely home in this hill. Seeing the Tall Calvary, he had conceived the idea of this disguise, and Mathilde had brought him the robe for the purpose.
In a secluded cave I found Alixe with her father, caring for him, for he was not yet wholly recovered from his hurt. There was no waiting now. The ban of Church did not hold her back, nor did her father do aught but smile when she came laughing and crying into my arms. The good Seigneur put out his hand to me beseechingly. I took it, clasped it.
“ The city ? ” he asked.
“ Is ours,” I answered.
“ And my son — my son ? ”
I told him how, the night that the city was taken, the Chevalier la Darante and I had gone a sad journey in a boat to the Island of Orleans, and there, in the chapel yard, near to his father’s chêteau, we had laid a brave and honest gentleman who died fighting for his country.
By and by, when their grief had a little abated, I took them out into the sunshine, a pleasant green valley lying to the north, and to the south, far off, the wall of rosy hills that hid the captured town. As we stood there, a scarlet figure came winding in and out among the giant stones, crosses hanging at her girdle. She approached us, and, seeing me, she said, “ Hush ! I know a place where all the lovers can hide.” And she put a little wooden cross into my hand.