Zac stopped short, and looked with an air of mild inquiry at Claude. Claude, on his part, was rather startled by Zac's estimate of the character of Cazeneau, for it chimed in so perfectly with Mimi's opinion that it affected him in spite of himself. But it was only for a moment, and then his own self-confidence gained the mastery.
CAUGHT IN A TRAP.
The schooner was now directed towards the stranger, and before very long they saw that her course had been changed, and that she was now bearing down upon them. Zac stood at the helm saying nothing, but keeping his eyes fixed upon the frigate, which drew nearer and nearer, till finally she came near enough for her flag to be plainly seen. They had been right in their conjectures, and the new comer was a French frigate. This assurance seemed to open the mouth of Zac.
"I must say," he remarked to Claude, "the nearer I get to her, the less I like it. I've met Moosoo before this on the high seas, but I allus went on the plan of keepin' out of his way. This here system of goin' right into his jaws don't suit me at all."
"O, come now," said Claude, "don't begin again. I thought you'd given up all anxiety. There's not the slightest occasion for being worried about it. I'll find out whether they can take me to Louisbourg, and so I'll leave you, and you'll get back to Boston quicker than if you took me where you first proposed."
"Yes; but suppose she's goin' to France, and chooses to take me prisoner?" said Zac.
"O, nonsense!" said Claude. "They couldn't. What, after saving so many lives, and conveying these rescued fellow-countrymen to their own flag, do you suppose they could think of arresting you? Nonsense! The thing's impossible."
Zac said no more, but was evidently ill at ease, and in his own mind there was no end of dark forebodings as to the event of this meeting. These forebodings were in no way lessened as the schooner rounded to under the lee of the frigate, and Zac saw a row of guns heavy enough to blow him and his "Parson" to atoms. The frigate did not wait for the schooner to send a boat aboard, for her own boat was all ready, and soon appeared, well manned, rowing towards the schooner. On coming alongside, the officer in command stepped on board, and Claude at once went forward to meet him. Cazeneau also walked forward with the same purpose.
Claude politely raised his hat, and the officer civilly returned his greeting.
"This, monsieur, is the schooner Amos Adams, of Boston. We have recently picked up the survivors of His Royal French Majesty's frigate 'Arethuse,' which has been lost at sea, and we have come to see whether you could take them. Will you have the goodness to tell me where you are going?"
"Mon Dieu!" exclaimed the officer, "the Arethuse lost! Is it possible? What a terrible misfortune! And she had on board the new commandant for Louisbourg."
At this Cazeneau came forward.
"He is safe, monsieur, for I am he."
The officer respectfully removed his hat, and bowed very low.
"What ship is this?" asked Cazeneau, in the tone of a superior.
"L'Aigle," replied the officer.
"Where are you bound?"
"To Brest. We have just been cruising to the different settlements and forts on the Bay of Fundy, with some supplies which were sent from Louisbourg."
"Ah! And you are now on your return to France?"
"Who commands your ship?"
"Ah! Very good. You see, monsieur," said Cazeneau to Claude, "this ship is bound to France; and that destination will not suit any of us. I think I had better go aboard and see the captain, with whom I may have some little influence. Perhaps, as my command is an important one, he may be persuaded to alter his course, and land us at Louisbourg, or some other place.—And so, monsieur," he continued, turning to the officer, "I shall be obliged to you if you will put me aboard the Aigle."
The officer assured him that the boat was altogether at his service; whereupon Cazeneau stepped aboard, followed by the officer, and in a short time the boat was on its way back to the frigate. Claude watched this in silence, and without any misgivings. It seemed to him quite natural, and, indeed, the best thing that could be done, under the circumstances. If the ship was going to France, she could not be of service to them; but if her captain could be induced to change his course and land them at Louisbourg, this would be exactly what they wanted; and Cazeneau seemed to be the only one on board who was at all likely to persuade the captain of the Aigle to do such a thing as this.
It seemed a long time before any further notice was taken of the schooner. Meanwhile, all on board were watching the frigate with much anxiety, and wondering what the result would be. In any case it did not seem a matter of very great importance to any one; for the lieutenant and the two sailors, who might have been most concerned, were very well treated on board the schooner,—better, perhaps, than they would be on board a frigate,—and evinced no particular desire to leave. The priest said nothing; and to him, as well as to Claude, there was nothing to be gained by taking to the ship. As for the aged Laborde, he was still too weak to take any notice of events going on around him; while Mimi, perhaps, found herself as well situated here, under the care of Claude, as she could possibly be on the larger ship, under the care of one who might be less agreeable. Claude himself would certainly have preferred letting things remain as they were. The situation was very pleasant. Mimi's occasional companionship seemed sweeter than anything he had ever known; and, as he was master on board, he naturally had a certain right to show her attentions; which right he could not have under other circumstances. He would have liked to see Cazeneau take his departure for good, together with the French sailors, leaving Laborde and Mimi on board the schooner. Finally, Zac was not at all pleased with anything in his present situation. The thought of possible foul play never left his mind for an instant; and though the blow was delayed for a considerable time, he could not help feeling sure that it would fall.
During this period of waiting, the aged Laborde had been brought up on deck, and placed there on a seat. This was done from a hope which Mimi had that he would be benefited by the excitement of the change. The sight of the ship, however, produced but little effect of any kind upon the languid and worn-out old man. He gave an indifferent glance at the frigate and the surrounding scene, and then subsided into himself, while Mimi in vain strove to rouse him from his indifference.
At last their suspense came to an end, and they saw preparations making for another visit to the schooner. This time a second boat was lowered, which was filled with marines. The sight of this formidable boat's crew produced on Claude an impression of surprise; while in Zac it enforced a conviction that his worst fears were now to be realized.
"Look thar!" said he in a hoarse whisper. "Now you see what's a comin'! Good by, poor old Parson! Yer in the claws of the Philistines now, an' no mistake."
To this Claude made no reply, for he began to feel rather perplexed himself, and to imagine that Cazeneau might have been playing him false. All that Mimi had said about him now came to his mind, and the armed boat's crew seemed like the first act of a traitor. He tried to account for this in some other way, but was not able. He could no longer laugh away Zac's fears. He could only be still and wait.
The two boats rowed towards the schooner. Cazeneau was not in either of them. He had remained on board. At length one of the boats touched the schooner, and the same officer who had visited her before again stepped on board.
"Is the Count de Laborde here?" he asked.
Claude pointed to where the old man was seated. The officer advanced, and removed his hat with a bow to the old count, and another to the beautiful Mimi.
"Monsieur le Comte," said he, "I have the honor to convoy to you the compliments of Captain Ducrot, with the request that you would honor him with your company on board the Aigle. His excellency the Comte de Cazeneau, commandant of Louisbourg, has persuaded him to convey himself, and you, and some others, to the nearest French fort. It is the intention of Captain Ducrot to sail back up the Bay of Fundy, and land you at Grand Pre, from which place you can reach Louisbourg by land."
To this Laborde murmured a few indistinct words in reply, while Mimi made no remark whatever. She was anxious to know what Claude was intending to do. The officer now turned away to the others.
"My instructions," said he, "are, to convey the invitation of Captain Ducrot to Monsieur l'Abbe Michel and Lieutenant d'Angers, whom he will be happy to receive on board the Aigle, and convey them to Grand Pre, or France. The two seamen of the Arethuse will also go on board and report themselves."
The officer now went back to Laborde, and offered, to assist him. The old man rose, and taking his arm, walked feebly towards the vessel's side, whence he descended into the boat, and was assisted to the stern by the seamen. The officer then assisted Mimi to a place by her father's side, anticipating Claude, who stepped forward with the offer of his assistance. Then followed Pere Michel, and Lieutenant d'Angers, of the Arethuse; then Margot; and, finally, the two seamen.
Meanwhile nothing was said to Claude. He was not included in the compliments of Captain Ducrot, nor was any notice taken of him in any way. He could not help feeling slighted and irritated at the whole proceeding. To himself and to Zac this whole party owed their lives, and they were all leaving him now with no more regard for him than if he were, a perfect stranger. But the fact was, the whole party took it for granted that he and Zac would be invited on board, and that they would see them both again, and supposed that they were coming in the same boat. Mimi and Pere Michel both thought that Claude, at least, was going with them; for he had told them both that he was going to leave the schooner and send Zac home.
But Claude's feelings were somewhat embittered by this whole incident, and were destined to be still more so before it was all over.
The lieutenant remained on board. The boat rowed back to the Aigle, carrying the passengers above named, after which the lieutenant motioned to the other boat. This one moved alongside, and a half-dozen armed seamen stepped on board.
"Monsieur," said the lieutenant, advancing to Claude, "I hope you will pardon me for being the instrument in a very unpleasant duty. I am pained to inform you that you are my prisoner, on the command of his excellency the commandant of Louisbourg, whose instructions I am ordered to fulfil. I deeply regret this painful necessity, and most sincerely hope that it may prove only a temporary inconvenience."
At this Claude was so astounded that for some time he could only stare at the officer, without being able to utter a syllable. At length he said,—
"What, monsieur! A prisoner? You must be mistaken! And who—The commandant of Louisbourg—is not that the Count de Cazeneau?"
"But, monsieur, it must be a mistake. I have never injured him or any one. I have done nothing but good to him. My friend here, the captain of this schooner, and I, saved his life; and we have treated him with the utmost kindness since he was on board here. Finally, we sailed towards you, and put ourselves in your power, solely that these shipwrecked passengers, of whom the Count de Cazeneau was one, might reach their friends sooner. How, then, can he possibly mean to arrest me?"
"Monsieur, I assure you that it grieves mo most deeply," said the officer—"most exquisitely. I know all this—all, and so does Captain Ducrot; but there is no mistake, and it must be."
"But what authority has he here, and why should your captain do his orders?"
"Monsieur, I am only a subordinate, and I know nothing but my orders. At the same time, you must know that the commandant of Louisbourg has general control, by land and sea, and is my captain's superior."
Claude made no reply. He saw that this man was but, as he said, a subordinate, and was only obeying his orders. But the officer had something still on his mind. His words and his looks all showed that the present business was exceedingly distasteful to him, and that he was only doing it under pressure.
"Monsieur," said he, after a pause, "I have another painful duty to perform. I am ordered to take possession of this schooner, as a prize of war, and take the captain and crew as prisoners of war."
At this Claude stared at the officer once more, utterly stupefied.
"Mon Dieu!" he cried, at length. "Are you a Frenchman? Is your captain a French gentleman? Do you know, monsieur, what you are doing? We have saved some shipwrecked Frenchmen; we have carried them to a place of safety; and for this we are arrested! This honest man, the captain, might expect a reward for his generosity; and what does he get? Why, he is seized as a prisoner of war, and his schooner is made a prize! Is there any chivalry left in France? Are these the acts of Frenchmen? Great Heavens! Has it come to this?"
"Monsieur," said the officer, "be calm, I implore you. All this gives me the most exquisite distress. But I must obey orders."
"You are right," said Claude. "You are a subordinate. I am wasting words to talk with you. Take me to your captain, or to the Count de Cazeneau. Let me learn what it is that induces him to act towards us with such unparalleled baseness."
"Monsieur, I shall be happy to do all that I can. I will take you to the Aigle,—under guard,—and you will be a prisoner there. I hope that his excellency will accord you the favor of an interview."
All this time Zac had been a silent spectator of the scene. He had not understood the words that were spoken, but he had gathered the general meaning of this scene from the gestures and expression of the two speakers. The presence, also, of the armed guard was enough to show him that the blow which he dreaded had fallen. And now, since the worst had happened, all his uneasiness departed, and he resumed all the vigor of his mind. He at once decided upon the best course to follow, and that course was to be emphatically one of quiet, and calmness, and cool watchfulness. Claude had become excited at this event; Zac had become cool.
"Wal," said he, advancing towards Claude, "it's just as I said. I allus said that these here frog-eatin' Frenchmen wan't to be trusted; and here, you see, I was right. I see about how it is. The poor, unfort'nate Parson's done for, an' I'm in for it, too, I s'pose."
Claude turned, and gave Zac a look of indescribable distress.
"There's some infernal villain at work, Zac," said he, "out of the common course, altogether. I'm arrested myself."
"You? Ah!" said Zac, who did not appear to be at all surprised. "You don't say so! Wal, you've got the advantage of me, since you can speak their darned lingo. So they've gone an' 'rested you, too—have they?"
"It's that infernal Cazeneau," said Claude; "and I haven't got the faintest idea why."
"Cazeneau, is it? O, well," said Zac, "they're all alike. It's my opinion that it's the captain of the frigate, an' he's doin' it in Cazeneau's name. Ye see he's ben a cruisin' about, an' hankers after a prize; an' I'm the only one he's picked up. You're 'rested—course—as one of the belongin's of the Parson. You an' I an' the hull crew: that's it! We're all prisoners of war!"
"O, no," said Claude. "It isn't that, altogether; there's some deeper game."
"Pooh!" said Zac; "the game ain't a deep one, at all; it's an every-day game. But I must say it is hard to be done for jest because we had a leetle too much hooman feelin'. Now, ef we'd only let them Frenchies rot and drown on their raft,—or ef we'd a' taken them as prisoners to Boston,—we'd ben spared this present tribulation."
Zac heaved a sigh as he said this, and turned away. Then a sudden thought struck him.
"O, look here," said he; "jest ask 'em one thing, as a partiklar favor. You needn't mention me, though. It's this. Ask 'em if they won't leave me free—that is, I don't want to be handcuffed."
"Handcuffed!" exclaimed Claude, grinding his teeth in futile rage. "They won't dare to do that!"
"O, you jest ask this Moosoo, as a favor. They needn't object."
Upon this Claude turned to the officer.
"Monsieur," said he, "I have a favor to ask. I and my friend here are your prisoners, but we do not wish to be treated with unnecessary indignity or insult. I ask, then, that we may be spared the insult of being bound. Our offence has not been great. Wo have only saved the lives of six of your fellow-countrymen. Is it presumption to expect this favor?"
"Monsieur," said the officer, "I assure you that, as far as I have anything to say, you shall not be bound. And as to this brave fellow, he may be at liberty to move about in this schooner as long as he is quiet and gives no offence—that is, for the present. And now, monsieur, I will ask you to accompany me on board the Aigle."
With these words the officer prepared to quit the schooner. Before doing so he addressed some words to the six seamen, who were to be left in charge as a prize crew, with one midshipman at their head. He directed them to follow the frigate until further orders, and also, until further orders, to leave the captain of the schooner unbound, and let him have the run of the vessel.
After this the officer returned to the Aigle, taking Claude with him.
By the time that Claude reached the Aigle, the evening of this eventful day was at hand. He was taken to a room on the gun-deck, which seemed as though used for a prison, from the general character of the bolts and bars, and other fixtures. Claude asked to see the captain, and the lieutenant promised to carry the message to him. After about an hour he came back with the message that the captain could not see him that evening. Upon this Claude begged him to ask Count de Cazeneau for an interview. The officer went off once more, and returned with the same answer. Upon this Claude was compelled to submit to his fate as best he might. It was a hard thing for him, in the midst of health, and strength, and joy, with all the bounding activity and eager energy of youth, to be cast down into a prison; but to be arrested and imprisoned under such circumstances; to be so foully wronged by the very man whose life he had saved; to have his own kindness and hospitality repaid by treachery, and bonds, and insult,—all this was galling in the highest degree, and well nigh intolerable.
That night Claude did not sleep. He lay awake wondering what could be the cause of Cazeneau's enmity, and trying in vain to conjecture.
All the next morning Claude waited for some message from Captain Ducrot; but none came. His breakfast was brought to him, consisting of the coarse fare of common seamen, and then his dinner; but the captain did not make his appearance. Even the officer who had arrested him, and who had hitherto shown himself sufficiently sympathetic, did not appear. The sailor who brought his meals gave no answer to his questions. It seemed to Claude as though his captors were unwilling to give him a hearing.
At length, in about the middle of the afternoon, Claude heard the tramp of men approaching his prison; the door was opened, and he saw an officer enter, while three marines, with fixed bayonets, stood outside.
"Have I the honor of speaking to Captain Ducrot?" asked Claude.
"I am Captain Ducrot," said the other.
He was a small, wiry man, dressed with extreme neatness, who looked rather like an attorney than a seaman. His voice was thin and harsh,—his manner cold and repulsive, with an air of primness and formality that made him seem more like a machine than a man. The first sight of him made Claude feel as though any appeal to his humanity or generosity, or even justice, would be useless. He looked like an automaton, fit to obey the will of another, but without any independent will of his own. Nevertheless, Claude had no other resource; so he began:—
"I have asked for this interview, monsieur," said he, "from a conviction that there must be some mistake. Listen to me for a moment. I have lived in Boston all my life. I was on my way to Louisbourg, intending to go to France from there, on business. I had engaged a schooner to take me to Louisbourg; and at sea I came across a portion of the wreck of the Arethuse, with six people on board, one of whom was the Count de Cazeneau. I saved them all—that is, with the assistance of the captain of the schooner. After I brought them on board the schooner, I treated them all with the utmost kindness; and finally, when I saw your ship in the distance, I voluntarily sailed towards you, for the purpose of allowing my passengers to go on board. I had designed coming on board myself also, if your destination suited my views. And now, monsieur, for all this I find myself arrested, held here in prison, treated as a common felon, and all because I have saved the lives of some shipwrecked fellow-beings. Monsieur, it is not possible that this can be done with your knowledge. If you want confirmation of my words, ask the good priest Pere Michel, and he will confirm all that I have said."
The captain listened to all this very patiently, and without any interruption. At length, as Claude ended, he replied,—
"But you yourself cannot suppose that you, as you say, are imprisoned merely for this. People do not arrest their benefactors merely because they are their benefactors; and if you have saved the life of his excellency, you cannot suppose that he has ordered your arrest for that sole reason. Monsieur has more good sense, and must understand well that there is some sort of charge against him."
"Monsieur," said Claude, "I swear to you I not only know no reason for my arrest, but I cannot even imagine one; and I entreat you, as a man of honor, to tell me what the charge against me is."
"Monsieur," said the captain, blandly, "we are both men of honor, of course. Of your honor I have no doubt. It is untouched. Every day men of honor, and of rank, too, are getting into difficulties; and whenever one meddles with political affairs it must be so."
"Political affairs!" cried Claude. "What have I to do with political affairs?"
The captain again smiled blandly.
"Parbleu, monsieur, but that is not for me to say."
"But is that the charge against me?"
"Most certainly. How could it be otherwise?"
"Politics, politics!" cried Claude. "I don't understand you! I must be taken for some other person."
"O, no," said the captain; "there's no mistake."
"Pardon me, monsieur, there must be."
"Then, monsieur, allow me to indulge the hope that you may be able to show where the mistake is, at your trial."
The captain made a movement now as though he was about to leave; but Claude detained him.
"One moment, monsieur," said he. "Will you not tell me something more? Will you not tell me what these political charges are? For, I swear to you, I cannot imagine. How can I, who have lived all my life in Boston, be connected with politics in any way? Let me know, then, something about these charges; for nothing is more distressing than to be in a situation like this, and have no idea whatever of the cause of it."
"Eh bien, monsieur," said the captain, "since you wish it, I have no objection whatever to state what they are; and if you can clear yourself and show your innocence, I shall be the first to congratulate you. His excellency will not object to my telling you, I am sure, for he is the soul of goodness, and is full of generous impulses. Very well, then. In the first place you call yourself Claude Motier. Now, this is said to be an assumed name. Your real name is said to be Claude de Montresor; and it is said that you are the son of a certain Eugene de Moutresor, who committed grave offences about twenty years ago, for which he would have been severely punished had he not fled from the country. His wife, also,—your mother, perhaps,—was proscribed, and would have been arrested and punished had she not escaped with her husband. They were then outlawed, and their estates were confiscated. The wife died, the husband disappeared. This is what happened to them."
"That is all true," said Claude. "But my father and mother were both most foully wronged—"
"Pardon, monsieur," said the captain. "That is very probable; but I am not here as judge; I am only giving you information about the charge against you. I have not time to listen to your answer; and I would advise you not to speak too hastily. You have already confessed to the assumed name. I would advise you to be careful in your statements. And now, monsieur, should you like to hear any more?"
"Yes, yes!" cried Claude, eagerly; "tell me all that there is to know."
"Very well," said the captain. "Now you, under an assumed name, engage a schooner to take you, not to Louisbourg, but to some place in the vicinity of Louisbourg. Being the son of two dangerous political offenders, who were both outlawed for grave crimes, you are found coming from Boston to Louisbourg under an assumed name, and upon a secret errand, which you keep to yourself. Under these circumstances the commandant could not overlook your case. It seemed to him one which was full of suspicion, and, in spite of the gratitude which he felt for your kind offices, he nevertheless was compelled, by a strong sense of public duty, to order your arrest. You will be accorded a fair trial; and, though appearances are against you, you may succeed in proving your innocence; in which case, monsieur, I am sure that no one will be more rejoiced than myself and his excellency.
"You have also complained, monsieur, of the arrest of your captain. That was done on account of his unfortunate connection with you. He may be innocent, but that remains to be seen. At present appearances are against him, and he must take his share of the guilt which attaches to you. His arrest was a political necessity."
After this the captain left; and, as Claude saw how useless it was to attempt to plead his cause to this man, he made no further attempt to detain him.
Left once more to his own reflections, Claude recalled all that the captain had said, and at first was lost in wonder at the gravity of the charges that had been raised up against him. Nor could he conceal from himself that, though they were based on nothing, they still were serious and formidable. Even in France charges of a political kind would lead to serious consequences; and here in the colonies he felt less sure of justice. Indeed, as far as justice was concerned, he hardly hoped to experience anything of the kind, for his judge would be the very man who had got up these charges, and had treated him with such baseness and treachery. The fact was, that he would be called before a court where accuser, witness, and judge would all be one and the same person, and, what was more, the person who for some reason had chosen to become his bitterest enemy. Dark indeed and gloomy was the prospect that now lowered before him.
Before an impartial court the charges against him might be answered or refuted; but where could he find such a court? Cazeneau had created the charges, and would know how to make them still more formidable. And now he felt that behind these charges there must lurk something more dangerous still.
Already there had arisen in his mind certain suspicions as to Cazeneau's designs upon Mimi. These suspicions he had hinted at in conversation with her, and his present circumstances deepened them into convictions. It began now to seem to him that Cazeneau had designs to make the beautiful, high-born girl his wife. Everything favored him. He was supreme in authority out here; the old Laborde was under his influence; the daughter's consent alone was wanting. Of that consent, under ordinary circumstances, he could make sure. But he had seen a close and strong friendship arising between Mimi and her preserver. This Claude considered as a better and more probable cause for his hate. If this were indeed so, and if this hate grew up out of jealousy, then his prospects were indeed dark, for jealousy is as cruel as the grave.
The more Claude thought of this, the greater was the importance which he attached to it. It seemed to be this which had made Cazeneau transform himself into an eavesdropper; this which had occasioned his dark looks, his morose words, and haughty reticence. In his eavesdropping he must have heard enough to excite his utmost jealousy; and Claude, in recalling his conversations with Mimi, could remember words which must have been gall and bitterness to such a jealous listener.
Nearly thirty years before this, the French government had been compelled to give up the possession of Acadie to the English, and to retire to the Island of Cape Breton. Here they had built a stronghold at Louisbourg, which they were enlarging and strengthening every year, to the great disgust and alarm of the New England colonies. But though Acadie had been given up to the English, it could hardly be said to be held by them. Only two posts were occupied, the one at Canso, in the strait that separated Cape Breton from Acadie, and the other at Annapolis Royal. At Canso there was a wooden block-house, with a handful of soldiers: while at Annapolis Royal, where the English governor resided, the fortifications were more extensive, yet in a miserable condition. At this last place there were a few companies of soldiers, and here the governor tried to perform the difficult task of transforming the French Acadians to loyal British subjects.
But the French at Louisbourg never forgot their fellow-countrymen, and never relinquished their designs on Acadie. The French inhabitants of that province amounted to several thousands, who occupied the best portions of the country, while the English consisted of only a few individuals in one or two posts. Among the French Acadians emissaries were constantly moving about, who sought to keep up among them their old loyalty to the French crown, and by their pertinacity sorely disturbed the peace of the English governor at Annapolis Royal. The French governor at Louisbourg was not slow to second these efforts by keeping the Acadians supplied with arms and ammunition; and it was for this purpose that the Aigle had been sent to the settlements up the Bay of Fundy.
Up the bays he now sailed, in accordance with the wish of Cazeneau. His reason for this course was, that he might see the people for himself, and judge how far they might be relied on in the event of war, which he knew must soon be declared. It was his intention to land at Grand Pre, the chief Acadian settlement, and thence proceed by land to Louisbourg. He had understood from Captain Ducrot that an Indian trail went all the way through the woods, which could be traversed on horseback. Such a course would impose more hardship upon the aged Laborde and Mimi than would be encountered on shipboard; but Cazeneau had his own purposes, which were favored, to a great extent, by the land route. Besides, he had the schooner with him, so that if, after all, it should be advisable to go by water, they could make the journey in her.
The Aigle sailed, and the schooner followed. The wind had changed, and now blew more steadily, and from a favorable quarter. The currents delayed them somewhat; but on the third morning after the two vessels had met, they reached the entrance of the Basin of Minas.
The scenery here was wild and grand. A few miles from the shore there rose a lofty rocky island, precipitous on all sides save one, its summit crested with trees, its base worn by the restless waves. Opposite this was a rocky shore, with cliffs crowned with the primeval forest. From this pond the strait began, and went on for miles, till it reached the Basin, forming a majestic avenue, with a sublime gateway. On one side of this gateway were rocky shores receding into wooded hills, while on the other was a towering cliff standing apart from the shore, rising abruptly from the water, torn by the tempest and worn by the tide. From this the precipitous cliff ran on for miles, forming one side of the strait, till it terminated in a majestic promontory.
This promontory rose on one side, and on the other a lofty, wooded island, inside of which was a winding shore, curving into a harbor. Here the strait terminated, and beyond this the waters of the Basin of Minas spread away for many a mile, surrounded on every side by green, wooded shores. In one place was a cluster of small islands; in another, rivers rolled their turbid floods, bearing with them the sediment of long and fertile valleys. The blue waters sparkled in the sun under the blue sky; the sea-gulls whirled and screamed through the air; nowhere could the eye discern any of the works of man. It seemed like some secluded corner of the universe, and as if those on board the ship
"were the first that ever burst Into that silent sea."
But, though not visible from this point, the settlements of man were here, and the works of human industry lying far away on the slopes of distant hills and the edges of low, marshy shores.
It was not without much caution that they had passed through the strait. They had waited for the tide to come in, and then, with a favorable wind, they had made the venture. Borne onward by wind and tide together, they sailed on far into the bay, and then, directing their course to the southward, they sailed onward for a few miles farther. The captain had been here before, and was anxious to find his former anchorage. On the former occasion he had waited outside and sent in for a pilot, but now he had ventured inside without one, trusting to his memory. He knew well the perils that attend upon navigation in this place, and was not inclined to risk too much. For here were the highest tides in the world to be encountered, and swift currents, and sudden gusts of wind, and far-spreading shoals and treacherous quicksands, among which the unwary navigator could come to destruction only too easily.
But no accident happened on this occasion; the navigation was made with the utmost circumspection, the schooner being sent ahead to sound all the way, and the ship following. At length both came to anchor at a distance from the shore of about five miles. Nearer than that the captain did not dare to go, for fear of the sand-banks and shoals.
Here a boat was lowered, and Cazeneau prepared to land, together with the aged Laborde and Mimi. The Abbe Michel also prepared to accompany them.
Ever since Laborde had been saved from the wreck, he had been weak and listless. It seemed as though the exhaustion, and exposure, and privation of that event had utterly broken down his constitution. Since he had been taken to the ship, however, he had grown much worse, and was no longer able to walk. He had not risen from his berth since he had come on board the Aigle. Mimi's anxiety about him had been excessive, and she had no thought for anything else. The situation of Claude was unknown to her, and her distress about her father's increasing weakness prevented her from thinking much about him. Her only hope now was, that on reaching the shore her father would experience a change for the better, and be benefited by the land air.
On removing Laborde from his berth, it was found that he not only had not strength to stand, but that he was even so weak that this motion served of itself to exhaust him fearfully. He had to be placed on a mattress, and carried in that way by four sailors to the ship's side, where he was carefully let clown into the boat. There the mattress was placed in the boat's stern, and Laborde lay upon this, with his head supported against Mimi, who held him encircled in her arms. In this way he was taken ashore.
It was a long row, but the water was comparatively smooth, and the landing had been postponed until the flood tide, which made the boat's progress easier and swifter.
The nearest shore was very low, and the landing-place was two or three miles farther on. In the distance the land rose higher, and was covered with trees, with here and there a clearing. The land which they first approached was well wooded on the water side, but on passing this the whole scene changed. This land was an island, about two miles distant from the shore, with its inner side cleared, and dotted with houses and barns. Between this and the shore there extended a continuous tract of low land, which had evidently once been a salt-water marsh, for along the water's edge the coarse grass grew luxuriantly; but a little distance back there was a dike, about six or eight feet high, which ran from the island to the shore, and evidently protected the intervening level from the sea. The island itself thus served as a dike, and the artificial works that had been made ran where the sea had the least possible effect.
At length they approached the main land, and here they saw the low marsh-land all around them. Here a turbid river ran into the Basin, which came down a valley enclosed between wooded hills, and, with voluminous windings, terminated its course.
At this place there was a convenient beach for landing, and here Laborde was removed from the boat and carried up on the bank, where he was laid on his mattress under a shadowy willow tree. This point, though not very elevated, commanded a prospect which, to these new comers who had suffered so much from the sea, might have afforded the highest delight, had they been sufficiently free from care to take it all in. All around them lay one of the most fertile countries in all the world, and one of the most beautiful. The slopes of the hills rose in gentle acclivities, cultivated, dotted with groves and orchards, and lined with rows of tall poplars. The simple houses of the Acadian farmers, with their out-buildings, gave animation to the scene. At their feet lay a broad extent of dike-land, green and glowing with the verdure of Juno, spreading away to that island, which acted as a natural dike against the waters of the sea. Beyond this lay the blue waters of Minas Basin, on whose bosom floated the ship and the schooner, while in the distance rose the cliff which marked the entrance into the Basin, and all the enclosing shores.
But none of the party noticed this. Cazeneau was absorbed with his own plans; Laborde lay extended on the mattress, without any appearance of life except a faint breathing and an occasional movement; over him Mimi hung in intense anxiety, watching every change in his face, and filled with the most dreadful apprehensions; at a little distance stood Pere Michel, watching them with sad and respectful sympathy.
Captain Ducrot had come ashore in the boat, and, leaving Laborde, he accompanied Cazeneau to a house which stood not far away. It was rather larger than the average, with a row of tall poplars in front and an orchard on one side. A road ran from the landing, past this house, up the hill, to the rest of the settlement farther on.
An old man was seated on a bench in the doorway. He rose as he saw the strangers, and respectfully removed his hat.
"How do you do, Robicheau?" said Ducrot. "You see I have come back again sooner than I expected. I have brought with me his excellency the governor of Louisbourg, who will be obliged if you can make him comfortable for a few days. Also there are the Count de Laborde and his daughter, whom I should like to bring here; but if you cannot make them comfortable, I can take them to Comeau's."
Upon this, Robicheau, with a low bow to Cazeneau, informed him that he thought there might be room for them all, if they would be willing to accept his humble hospitality. The old man spoke with much embarrassment, yet with sincere good will. He was evidently overwhelmed by the grandeur of his visitors, yet anxious to do all in his power to give them fitting entertainment. Ducrot now informed him that the Count de Laborde needed immediate rest and attention; whereupon Robicheau went in to summon his dame, who at once set to work to prepare rooms for the guests.
Ducrot now returned to the landing, and ordered the sailors to carry Laborde to Robicheau's house. They carried him on the mattress, supporting it on two oars, which were fastened with ropes in such a way as to form a very easy litter. Mimi walked by her father's side, while Pere Michel followed in the rear. In this way they reached Robicheau's house. The room and the bed were already prepared, and Laborde was carried there. As he was placed upon that bed, Mimi looked at him with intense anxiety and alarm, for his pale, emaciated face and weak, attenuated frame seemed to belong to one who was at the last verge of life. An awful fear of the worst came over her—the fear of bereavement in this distant land, the presentiment of an appalling desolation, which crushed her young heart and reduced her to despair. Her father, her only relative, her only protector, was slipping away from her; and in the future there seemed nothing before her but the very blackness of darkness.
The good dame Robicheau saw her bitter grief, and shed tears of sympathy. She offered no word of consolation, for to her experienced eyes this feeble old man seemed already beyond the reach of hope. She could only show her compassion by her tears. Pere Michel, also, had nothing to say; and to all the distress of the despairing young girl he could offer no word of comfort. It was a case where comfort could not be administered, and where the stricken heart could only be left to struggle with its own griefs—alone.
A few hours after the first boat went ashore, a second boat landed. By this time, a large number of the inhabitants had assembled at the landing-place, to see what was going on; for to these people the sight of a ship was a rare occurrence, and they all recognized the Aigle, and wondered why she had returned. This second boat carried Claude, who had thus been removed from the ship to the shore for the purpose of being conveyed to Louisbourg. Captain Ducrot and Cazeneau had already succeeded in finding a place where he could be kept. It was the house of one of the fanners of Grand Pre, named Comeau, one of the largest in the whole settlement.
Claude landed, and was committed to the care of Comeau, who had come down to receive his prisoner. It was not thought worth while to bind him, since, in so remote a place as this, there would be scarcely any inducement for him to try to escape. If he did so, he could only fly to the woods, and, as he could not support his life there, he would be compelled to return to the settlement, or else seek shelter and food among the Indians. In either case he would be recaptured; for the Acadians would all obey the order of the governor of Louisbourg, and deliver up to him any one whom he might designate; while the Indians would do the same with equal readiness, since they were all his allies. Under these circumstances, Claude was allowed to go with his hands free; and in this way he accompanied Comeau, to whose charge he was committed. He walked through the crowd at the landing without exciting any very particular attention, and in company with Comeau he walked for about half a mile, when he arrived at the house. Here he was taken to a room which opened into the general sitting-room, and was lighted by a small window in the rear of the house, and contained a bed and a chair. The door was locked, and Claude was left to his own reflections.
Left thus to himself, Claude did not find his own thoughts very agreeable. He could not help feeling that he was now, more than ever, in the power of the man who had shown himself so relentless and persevering in his enmity. He was far away from any one whom he could claim as a friend. The people here were evidently all the creatures of Ducrot and Cazeneau. He saw that escape was useless. To get away from this particular place of imprisonment might be possible, for the window could be opened, and escape thus effected; but, if he should succeed in flying, where could he go? Annapolis Royal was many miles away; He did not know the way there; he could not ask; and even if he did know the way, he could only go there by running the gantlet of a population who were in league with Cazeneau.
That evening, as old Comeau brought him some food, he tried to enter into conversation with him. He began in a gradual way, and as his host, or, rather, his jailer, listened, he went on to tell his whole story, insisting particularly on the idea that Cazeneau must be mistaken; for he thought it best not to charge him with deliberate malice. He hinted, also, that if he could escape he might bestow a handsome reward upon the man who might help him. To all this Comeau listened, and even gave utterance to many expressions of sympathy; but the end of it all was nothing. Either Comeau disbelieved him utterly, but was too polite to say so, or else he was afraid to permit the escape of the prisoner who had been intrusted to his care. Claude then tried another means of influencing him. He reminded him that the governor of Louisbourg had no jurisdiction here; that the Acadians of Grand Pre were subject to the King of England, and that all concerned in this business would be severely punished by the English as soon as they heard of it. But here Claude utterly missed his mark. No sooner had he said this, than old Comeau began to denounce the English with the utmost scorn and contempt. He told Claude that there were many thousands of French in Acadia, and only a hundred English; that they were weak and powerless; that their fort at Annapolis was in a ruinous state; and that, before another year, they would be driven out forever. He asserted that the King of France was the greatest of all kings; that France was the most powerful of all countries; that Louisbourg was the strongest fortress in the universe; and that the French would drive the English, not only out of Acadia, but out of America. In fact, Claude's allusion to the English proved to be a most unfortunate one; for, whereas at first the old man seemed to feel some sort of sympathy with his misfortunes, so, at the last, excited by this allusion, he seemed to look upon him as a traitor to the cause of France, and as a criminal who was guilty of all that Cazeneau had laid to his charge.
ALONE IN THE WORLD.
The condition of the old Count de Laborde grew steadily worse. The change to the land had done him no good, nor was all the loving care of Mimi of any avail whatever. Every one felt that he was doomed: and Mimi herself, though she struggled against that thought, still had in her heart a dark terror of the truth. This truth could at last be concealed no longer even from herself, for Pere Michel came to administer the holy eucharist to the dying man, and to receive his last confession. Mimi could not be present while the dying man unfolded to his priest the secrets of his heart, nor could she hope to know what those secrets were. But dark indeed must they have been, and far, very far, beyond the scope of ordinary confessions, for the face of Pere Michel, as he came forth from that room, was pale and sombre; and so occupied was he with his own thoughts that he took no notice of the weeping girl who stood there, longing to hear from him some word of comfort. But Pere Michel had none to give. He left the house, and did not return till the next day.
By that time all was over. Laborde had passed away in the night. The priest went in to look upon the form of the dead. Mimi was there, bowed down in the deepest grief, for she felt herself all alone in the world. The priest stood looking at the face of the dead for some time with that same gloom upon his face which had been there on the preceding day, when he left that bedside. At length he turned to Mimi.
"Child," said he, in a voice full of pity, "I will not attempt to utter any words of condolence. I know well how the heart feels during the first emotions of sorrow over bereavement. Words are useless. I can only point you to Heaven, where all comfort dwells, and direct you to remember in your prayers him who lies here. The church is yours, with all her holy offices. The dearest friend must turn away from the dead, but the church remains, and follows him into the other world. Your heart may still be consoled, for you can still do something for the dear father whom you loved. You can pray for the soul of the departed, and thus it will seem to you as though you have not altogether lost him. He will seem near you yet when you pray for him; your spirit will seem to blend with his; his presence will seem about you. And besides, my dear child, this also I wish to say: you are not altogether alone in the world. I will watch over you till you go wherever you may wish. It is not much that I can do; but perhaps I can do for you all that you may now wish to be done for yourself. Think of this, then, dear child, and whenever you wish to have a friend's advice or assistance, come to me."
To this Mimi listened with streaming eyes; and as the priest ended, she pressed his hand gratefully, and uttered some unintelligible words. His offer had come to her like balm. It did not seem now as though she was so desolate, for she had learned already to love the good priest with something of a daughter's feelings, and to trust in him profoundly.
Laborde was buried in the little churchyard of Grand Pre; and now, in addition to the pangs of bereavement, Mimi began to feel other cares about her future. What was she to do? Could she go back to France? That was her only present course. But how? She could not go in the Aigle, for that frigate had left the day after her arrival, not having any time to spare. There was no other way of going to France now, except by going first to Louisbourg, and taking a ship from that place. But she was not left very long in suspense, for, two or three days after her father's burial, the Count de Cazeneau came to see her.
"I hope," he began, "that it is not necessary for me to say to you how deeply I sympathize with you in your bereavement, for I myself have my own bereavement to mourn over—the loss of my best, my only friend, the friend of a lifetime, the high-minded, the noble Laborde. The loss to me is irrevocable, and never can I hope to find any mere friend who may fill his place. We were always inseparable. We were congenial in taste and in spirit. My coming to America was largely due to his unfortunate resolve to come here, a resolve which I always combated to the best of my ability, and over which you and I must now mourn. But regrets are useless, and it remains for both of us to see about the future."
This somewhat formal opening was quite characteristic of Cazeneau, who, being of a distant, reserved nature, very seldom allowed himself to unbend; and, though he threw as much softness into his voice and manner as he was capable of using, yet Mimi felt repelled, and dreaded what might be coming.
"When we were first picked up by the Aigle," he continued, "it was in my power either to go direct to Louisbourg, or to come here, and then go on by land. I chose to come here, for two reasons; first, because I hoped that my dear friend would be benefited by reaching the land as soon as possible, and I thought that the pure, fresh air, and genial climate, and beautiful scenery of this lovely place would exercise upon him an immediate effect for the better. Another purpose which I had was an official one. I wished to see this place and this people with reference to my own administration and designs for the future. Unhappily, my hopes for my friend have proved unfounded, and my only consolation is that, though I have been disappointed as a private man in my affections, yet, as a public official, I have been able, during my short stay here, to do good service to my country, in a way which my country's enemies shall feel at a vital point before another year has passed away."
To this Mimi had nothing to say, for it was all preliminary, and she expected something more. She therefore waited in silence, though with much trepidation, to see what it might be that this man had in view with regard to her. Cazeneau then continued:—
"As I have now done all that I intended to do in this place, it is my intention to set forth for Louisbourg by land. I have some faithful Indians as guides, and the journey is not very fatiguing. In Louisbourg you will be able to obtain every comfort, and there will be friends and associates for you, your own social equals, who may make your life pleasanter than it has been for a long time."
By this Cazeneau directly stated his intention of taking Mimi with him to Louisbourg—a statement which did not surprise Mimi, for it was what she had expected. Now, however, that he said this, and in this way, without pretending to ask her consent, her trepidation increased, and she thought with terror over that long and lonely journey, which she would have to make with this man and a band of savages. There was nothing else, however, to be done. She could neither hope nor desire to remain in Grand Pre. Her position was a painful one, and the only hope remaining was that of returning to France. And to go to Louisbourg was the surest way of doing that. One thing, however, she could not help asking, for this she felt to be a matter of extreme importance.
"Is Pere Michel going?"
"He is," said Cazeneau. "He has asked permission to go with our party, and I have granted it."
At this answer a great relief was felt by Mimi, and the future seemed less dark.
"I have granted it," said Cazeneau, "because he seems a harmless man, and may be useful in various ways to me, hereafter, in my plans. He seems to know the people about here. I dare say he's been here before.
"Your position at Louisbourg," continued Cazeneau, "will be one which will be most honorable: as the daughter of the Count de Laborde, you will receive universal attention, and my influence shall be exerted to make everything contribute to your happiness. As commandant, I shall, of course, be supreme; my house will be like a small vice-regal court, and the little world of Louisbourg will all do homage to any one whom I may hold up before them as a worthy object."
Cazeneau paused after he had said this. It was a speech which was uttered slowly and with emphasis, but its meaning was not altogether apparent to Mimi. Still there was enough of it intelligible to her to make it seem excessively unpleasant. What he exactly meant was of no importance, the general meaning being certainly this: that he designed for her some prolonged stay there, during which he intended to secure homage and respect for her. Now, that was a thing that Mimi recoiled from with distaste. She had always detested this man, she had always shrunk from him. Her present position of dependence was most bitter; but to have that position continue was intolerable. It was as though he tried to put himself into the place of her beloved father,—he, whom she regarded as her father's evil genius,—as though he intended to make himself her guardian, and introduce her as his ward.
"You speak," said she, in a trembling voice, "just as—as if—I—you supposed that I was going to live at Louisbourg."
"And where else do you wish to live?" asked Cazeneau, placidly.
"I want to go home," said Mimi, her eyes filling with tears, and her voice sounding like the wail of a child that has lost its way.
"My poor child," said Cazeneau, more tenderly than he had yet spoken, "you evidently do not understand your position as yet. I did not intend to say anything about it; but, since you feel this way, and have spoken so, I suppose I must make some explanation. Well, then, my poor child, when your father left France on this unfortunate errand, he turned all his property into money, expecting to use that money in America in some way, in that mysterious design of his which brought him out here. All this money was on board the Arethuse with him, and it is hardly necessary to say that it was all lost. I know that his grief over this, and the thought that he was leaving you penniless, did more to shorten his life than the sufferings which he had on the sea. He sank under it. He told me that he could not rally from it; and it was his utter hopelessness that made him give way so completely. So, my poor child, this is your present situation: your father's estates are sold, and are now in the hands of strangers; your father's money is now at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean; so that to return to France is, for the present, at least, not to be thought of.
"For my part," continued Cazeneau, as Mimi sat there dumb with horror at hearing this fresh and crushing news, "I do not see anything in your situation which need give you one moment's uneasiness. You have lost your father, but your father's best friend still lives, and he will never see the daughter of his friend know one single trouble, if he can help it. We were more than brothers. Suppose you try to think of me with something of the same confidence that your father felt. I, for my part, will put you in his place. You shall never know a care. You may consider yourself rich. You shall have no trouble except that deep sorrow which you feel as a fond daughter."
"I cannot live in America," moaned Mimi, despairingly, recoiling in her heart from Cazeneau, and dreading him more than ever. "I cannot. I want to go home; or, if I have no home, I want to go to France. I will enter a convent."
Cazeneau smiled at this.
"Such a wish, dear child," said he, "is quite natural now, in the first freshness of your bereavement; but time alleviates all sorrow, and you may think differently hereafter. As to returning to France, you shall most certainly do that. I intend to go back after a time; and you will once more live in our dear, native land. But, for the present, let us not talk of these things. Louisbourg is now our destination. Fear nothing. You shall not know a care. You shall be guarded from every want, and every wish shall be gratified. You shall find yourself surrounded by the most anxious, and tender, and solicitous care for your happiness."
These last words were spoken in a warmer and more impassioned manner than Cazeneau had thus far used, and their effect upon Mimi was so much the more unpleasant. He then raised her hand to his lips with respectful affection, and took his departure.
Mimi was for a time quite overwhelmed. The sorrow which she had experienced for her father gave way to a new feeling—one of terror, deep, dark, and irremovable—about herself and her own future. All Cazeneau's words recurred to her, and the more she thought of them, the more hateful did they seem. Out of them all several things appeared plain to her mind.
First, that she was a pauper. Of Cazeneau's words she did not doubt the truth. It seemed in the highest degree probable. She had all along known that her father had come to America to search after some of the Montresors, and to made reparation. Cazeneau now had informed her that he had turned all his property into money. It must have been for that purpose. The thought had never occurred to her before; but, now that it was stated, she did not dream of doubting it. It seemed too true.
Secondly, she saw that Cazeneau, for some reason or other, was determined to keep her under his control. He was determined not to allow her to return to France, and not to enter a convent. He was bent upon associating her with his own life, and causing her to be admired in Louisbourg. Added to this was his promise to take her back to France with himself. All this showed that he would on no account allow her to part with him. What was the meaning of it all? And now the thought could no longer be kept out of her mind: Cazeneau's purpose was to make her his wife.
The thought was to her most odious; but, having once presented itself, she could not argue it away, nor could she get rid of it at all. Yes, that was the meaning that lurked behind his words all the time. That was the meaning of his promise to make her admired and happy.
Finally, she remembered how he had stated to her the fact that he was supreme in Louisbourg, and that through his grandeur she was to receive homage from all the lesser throng. To her this seemed like a plain statement that she was in his power, and entirely at his mercy.
And now, what could she do? The future was worse than ever. She was completely in the power of a man whom she detested—a man upon whom she looked as her father's evil genius, as one whose evil counsel had long ago led her father to that act which he had atoned for by remorse and death. She was now in the hands of this villain. Escape seemed impossible. He was supreme here. From him there was no appeal. And she was a beggar. But, even if she were rich, what hope could she have against him?
As she asked herself this question, there was no answer. She did not know what she could do, and could scarcely hope that she would ever know.
It was in this state of mind that Pere Michel found her, on the evening of that day. Mimi saw his arrival with intense delight. Here seemed one who might relieve her in her distress. Accordingly she proceeded to tell him her whole story, all the words of Cazeneau, with all their implied meaning, and all her own fears, from beginning to end.
The priest heard her narration in profound silence, and after she had told him all, he remained in deep thought for some time, while Mimi sat anxiously awaiting what he might say.
"My dear child," said the priest, at length, "it is difficult for me to give you advice, for your situation is most unpleasant, and most distressing to me. I can only entreat you to put your trust in that Heaven who never deserts the innocent. You must go to Louisbourg—there is no hope of escaping that. Besides, you yourself wish to go there. The Count de Cazeneau certainly has the chief power there; but whether he is omnipotent remains to be seen. Who knows what other powers may be there? I have known cases where the commandant has had powerful rivals,—such as the admiral of the fleet, or some subordinate who had influence at court at home. I have known places where the bishop could interfere and prevent his doing wrong. So, be calm, my daughter, put your trust in Heaven, and recollect that the commandant cannot break through all restraints, but that there must be some barriers that he cannot force. If you wish the protection of the church, that will always be yours. Beware how you do anything rashly. Confide in me. Perhaps, after all, these troubles may have a good end."
A FRIEND IN NEED.
For more than a week Claude had been kept in confinement, and had seen nothing of any of his former acquaintances. The confinement was not so close as it might have been, and escape was not absolutely impossible, for the window which lighted the chamber was merely a wooden sash, with four panes of glass, which Claude could have removed, had he been so disposed; but this he was not inclined to do, and for two reasons. One reason was, because, if he did get out, he had no idea where to go. Annapolis Royal was the nearest settlement belonging to the English; but he did not know in which direction it lay. He knew, however, that between Grand Pre and that place the country was settled by the French, among whom he could not go without being captured by his pursuers, while if he took to the woods he would be sure to fall into the hands of the Indians, who were the zealous allies of the French. Such a prospect was of itself sufficient to deter him from the attempt to escape. But there was also another reason. He could not bear the thought of leaving Mimi forever, and never seeing her again. If he should succeed in escaping to Annapolis Royal, it would be an eternal separation between her and himself. Grand Pre seemed pleasant to him since she was here; and he thought it better to be a prisoner here than a free man elsewhere. He, therefore, deliberately preferred to run any risk that might be before him, with the faint hope of seeing Mimi again, rather than to attempt flight.
What had happened since he had come here he did not know very clearly. From conversation which he had overheard he had gathered that Labordo was dead; but, when he asked any of them about it, they refused to tell him anything at all. Claude was, therefore, left to make the most that he could out of this vague information. But the intelligence caused him to feel much anxiety about Mimi. He remembered well all that she had ever told him, and could not help wondering what she would do under present circumstances. Would she be willing to remain in the neighborhood of Cazeneau? But how could she help it? Would not Cazeneau take advantage of her present loneliness to urge forward any plans that he might have about her?
Already the suspicion had come to Claude that Cazeneau had certain plans about Mimi. What he thought was this: that Laborde was rich, that Mimi was his heiress, and that Cazeneau was a man of profligate life and ruined fortunes, who was anxious to repair his fortunes by marrying this heiress. To such a man the disparity in their years would make no difference, nor would he particularly care whether Mimi loved him or not, so long as he could make her his wife, and gain control over her property. What had given him this idea about Cazeneau's position and plans it is difficult to say; but it was probably his own jealous fears about Mimi, and his deep detestation of his enemy.
And now he began to chafe against the narrow confines of his chamber with greater impatience. He longed to have some one with whom he could talk. He wondered whether Cazeneau would remain here much longer, and, if he went away, whether he would take Mimi or leave her. He wondered, also, whether he would be taken to Louisbourg. He felt as if he would rather go there, if Mimi was to go, even at the risk of his life, than remain behind after she had left. But all his thoughts and wonders resulted in nothing whatever, for it was impossible to create any knowledge out of his own conjectures.
He was in the midst of such thoughts as these when his ears were attracted by the sound of a familiar voice. He listened attentively. It was the voice of Pere Michel. No sooner had Claude satisfied himself that it was indeed the priest, than he felt sure that he had come here to visit him; and a little longer waiting showed that this was the case. There were advancing footsteps. Madame Comeau opened the door, and Pere Michel entered the chamber. The door was then shut, and the two were alone.
So overcome was Claude by joy that he flung himself into the priest's arms and embraced him. The good priest seemed to reciprocate his emotion, for there were tears in his eyes, and the first words that he spoke were in tremulous tones.
"My son," the priest commenced, in gentle, paternal tones, and in a voice that was tremulous with emotion, "you must calm yourself." Then, suddenly speaking in English, he said, "It is necessaire dat we sall spik Ingeles, for ze peuple of ze house may suspeck—"
Upon this Claude poured forth a torrent of questions in English, asking about Laborde, Cazeneau, Zac, and Mimi. It will not be necessary to report the words of the priest in his broken English, but rather to set them down according to the sense of them. So the priest said,—
"You speak too fast, my son. One thing at a time. The poor Laborde is dead and buried. The Count Cazeneau is about to go to Louisbourg. Mimi is going with him."
"Mimi going with him!" cried Claude, in deep agitation.
"Be calm, my son. Do not speak so loud. I have told the people of this house that your life is in danger, and that I have come as a priest, to hear your last confession. I do not wish them to suspect my real errand. We may talk as we wish, only do not allow yourself to be agitated."
"But tell me," said Claude, in a calmer voice, "how is it possible that Mimi can trust herself with Cazeneau?"
"Ma foi," said the priest, "it is possible, for she cannot help it. But do not fear. I am going to accompany them, and, as far as my feeble power can do anything, I will watch over her, and see that she suffers no injustice. I hope that Heaven will assist her innocence and my protection; so do not allow yourself to be uneasy about her; but hope for the best, and trust in Heaven."
At this Claude was silent for a few moments. At length he said,—
"O, Pere Michel, must I stay here when she goes? Can you tell me what they are going to do with me?"
"It is about yourself that I am going to speak, and it was for this that I came," said the priest.
"Can I go with the others to Louisbourg?" asked Claude, eagerly; for he thought only of being near Mimi.
"Heaven forbid!" said the priest. "It is in a for different way that you are to go. Listen to me. The Count de Cazeneau is going to set out to-morrow, with a party of Indians as escort. Mimi is to be taken with him. I am going, too. It is his intention to leave you here for a time, till his escort can return. They will then take you to Louisbourg. If he can find any Indians on the way whom he can make use of, he will send them here for you. But meantime you are to be kept imprisoned here.
"Now, I am acquainted with the Indians better than most men. I lived in Acadie formerly, long enough to be well known to the whole tribe. I am also well known to the Acadians. Among the Indians and the Acadians there are many who would willingly lay down their lives for me. I could have delivered you before this, but I saw that you were not in any immediate danger; so I preferred postponing it until the Count de Cazeneau had left. I do not wish him to suspect that I have any interest in you; and when he hears of your escape, I do not wish him to think that I had anything to do with it. But I have already made all the plans that are necessary, and the men are in this neighborhood with whom I have arranged for your escape."
"What is the plan?" asked Claude, eagerly.
"I will tell you," said the priest. "There are six Indians, all of them devoted to me. They will guide you to a place of safety, and will be perfectly faithful to you as long as they are with you. They are ready to go anywhere with you, to do anything for you, even to the extent of laying down their lives for you. It is for my sake that they are willing to show this devotion. I have presented you to them as my representative, and they look upon you as they would look upon me. But, first of all, you are to get out of this. Can you open that window?"
"It was fastened tight when I first came," said Claude; "but I have loosened it, so that I can take it out very quickly."
"Very good. Now, one of these Indians will be here to-morrow night. We shall leave to-morrow morning; and I do not want you to be rescued till after our departure. At midnight, to-morrow, then, the Indian will be here. He will give a sound like a frog, immediately outside, under the window. You must then open the window. If you see him, or hear him, you must then get out, and he will take you to the woods. After that he and the rest of the Indians will take you through the woods to Port Royal, which they call Annapolis Royal. Here you will be safe from Cazeneau until such time as may suit you to go back to Boston. Annapolis Royal is about twenty-four leagues from this place, and you can easily go there in two days."
Claude listened to all this without a word; and, after the priest had ended, he remained silent for some time, with his eyes fixed on the floor.
"The Indians will be armed," said the priest, "and will have a rifle and a sword for you. So you need have no trouble about anything."
"My dear Pere Michel," said Claude, at last, "you lay me under very great obligations; but will you not add to them by allowing me to select my own route?"
"Your own route?" asked the priest. "What do you mean? You don't know the country, especially the woods, while these Indians will be at home there."
"What I mean is this," said Claude: "will you not allow me the use of this Indian escort in another direction than the one you mention?"
"Another direction? Why, where else can you possibly go? Annapolis is the nearest place for safety."
"I should very much prefer," said Claude "to go to Canso."
"To Canso!" said the priest, in great surprise; "to Canso! Why, you would come on our track!"
"That is the very reason why I wish to go there. Once in Canso, I should be as safe as in Annapolis."
The priest shook his head.
"From what I hear, Canso cannot be a safe place for you very long. England and France are on the eve of war, and Cazeneau expects to get back Acadie—a thing that is very easy for him to do. But why do you wish to venture so near to Louisburg? Cazeneau will be there now; and it will be a very different place from what it would have been had you not saved Cazeneau from the wreck, and made him your enemy."
"My dear Pere Michel," said Claude, "I will be candid with you. The reason why I wish to go in that direction is for the sake of being near to Mimi, and on account of the hope I have that I may rescue her."
"Mimi! Rescue her!" exclaimed the priest, astonished, not at the young man's feelings towards Mimi, for those he had already discovered, but rather at the boldness of his plan,—"rescue her! Why how can you possibly hope for that, when she will be under the vigilant eye of Cazeneau?"
"I will hope it, at any rate," said Claude. "Besides, Cazeneau will not be vigilant, as he will not suspect that he is followed. His Indians will suspect nothing. I may be able, by means of my Indians, to entice her away, especially if you prepare her mind for my enterprise."
The priest was struck by this, and did not have any argument against it; yet the project was evidently distasteful to him.
"It's madness," said he. "My poor boy, it may cost you your life."
"Very well," said Claude; "let it go. I'd rather not live, if I can't have Mimi."
The priest looked at him sadly and solemnly.
"My poor boy," said he, "has it gone so far as that with you?"
"As far as that—yes," said Claude, "and farther. Recollect I saved her life. It seems to me as if Heaven threw her in my way; and I'll not give her up without striking a blow. Think of that scoundrel Cazeneau. Think of the danger she is in while under his power. There is no hope for her if he once gets her in Louisbourg; the only hope for her is before she reaches that place; and the only one who can save her is myself. Are my Indians faithful for an enterprise of that kind?"
"I have already told you," said the priest, "that they would all lay down their lives for you. They will go wherever you lead. And now, my dear son," continued the priest, "I did not think that you would dream of an enterprise like this. But, since you have made the proposal, and since you are so earnest about it, why, I make no opposition. I say, come, in Heaven's name. Follow after us; and, if you can come up with us, and effect a communication with Mimi, do so. Your Indians must be careful; and you will find that they can be trusted in a matter of this kind. If I see that you are coming up with us, and find any visitors from you, I will prepare Mimi for it. But suppose you succeed in rescuing her," added the priest; "have you thought what you would do next?"
"No," said Claude; "nor do I intend to think about that. It will depend upon where I am. If I am near Canso, I shall go there, and trust to finding some fisherman; if not, I shall trust to my Indians to take us back through the woods to Annapolis. But there's one thing that you might do."
"Zac—is he on board the schooner, or ashore?"
"The skipper?" said the priest. "No. I have not seen him. I think he must be aboard the schooner. It is my intention to communicate with him before I leave this place."
"Do so," said Claude, eagerly; "and see if you can't get him free, as you have managed for me; and if you can persuade him, or beg him for me, to sail around to Canso, and meet me there, all will be well. That is the very thing we want. If he will only promise to go there, I will push on to Canso myself, at all hazards."
The priest now prepared to go. A few more words were exchanged, after which Claude and Pere Michel embraced. The priest kissed him on both cheeks.
"Adieu, my dear son," said he. "I hope we may meet again."
"Adieu, dear Pere Michel," said Claude. "I shall never forget your kindness."
With this farewell the two separated; the priest went out, and the door was fastened again upon Claude.
For the remainder of that night, Claude did not sleep much. His mind was filled with the new prospect that the priest's message had opened before him. The thought of being free once more, and at the head of a band of devoted followers, on the track of Mimi, filled him with excitement. That he would be able to overtake the party of Cazeneau, he did not doubt; that he would be able to rescue Mimi, he felt confident. The revulsion from gloom and despondency to hope and joy was complete, and the buoyant nature of Claude made the transition an easy one. It was with difficulty that he could prevent himself from bursting forth into songs. But this would have been too dangerous, since it would have attracted the attention of the people of the house, and led them to suspect that the priest had spoken other words to him than those of absolution; or they might report this sudden change to Cazeneau, and thereby excite his suspicions.
The next day came. Claude knew that on this day Cazeneau and his party had left, for he overheard the people of the house speaking about it. According to their statements, the party had left at about four in the morning. This filled Claude with a fever of impatience, for he saw that this first day's march would put them a long way ahead, and make it difficult for him to catch up with them. But there was only one day, and he tried to comfort himself with the thought that he could travel faster than the others, and also that the priest and Mimi would both manage to retard their progress, so as to allow him to catch up.
The day passed thus, and evening came at last. Hour after hour went by. All the family retired, and the house was still. Claude then slowly, and carefully, and noiselessly removed the window from its place. Then he waited. The hours still passed on. At last he know that it must be about midnight.
Suddenly he heard, immediately outside, a low, guttural sound—the well-known sound of a frog. It was the signal mentioned by the priest. The time had come.
He put his head cautiously outside. Crouched there against the wall of the house, close underneath, he saw a dusky figure. A low, whispered warning came up. Claude responded in a similar manner. Then, softly and noiselessly, he climbed out of the window. His feet touched the ground. No one had heard him. He was saved.
THE PARSON AMONG THE PHILISTINES.
A map of this part of America, in this year, 1743, would show a very different scene from that which is presented by one of the present date. The country held by the English did not reach beyond the Kennebec, although claimed by them. But north of this river it was all in the virtual possession of the French, and on the map it was distinguished by the French colors. A line drawn from the mouth of the Penobscot, due north, to the River St. Lawrence, divided New England from the equally extensive territory of New Scotland, or Nova Scotia. This New England was bordered on the east by Nova Scotia, on the north by the River St. Lawrence, and on the west by the province of New York. But in New England the French colors prevailed over quite one half of this territory; and in Nova Scotia, though all was claimed by the English, every part was actually held by the French, except one or two points of a most unimportant character.
Looking over such a map, we perceive the present characteristics all gone, and a vast wilderness, full of roaming tribes of Indians, filling the scene. North of Boston there are a few towns; but beyond the little town of Falmouth, the English settlements are all called Fort this and Fort that. Up the valley of the Kennebec is the mark of a road to Quebec; and about half way, at the head waters of the Kennebec, a point is marked on the map with these words: "Indian and French rendezvous. Extremely proper for a fort, which mould restrain the French and curb the Abenakki Indians." And also: "From Quebec to Kennebek River mouth, not much above half way to Boston, and one third to New York, thence by that R. and ye Chaudiere ye road to Canada is short."
North of the St. Lawrence is a vast country, which is called New France. As Old France and Old England struggle for the supremacy in the old world, so New France and New England struggle for the supremacy in the new world, and the bone of contention is this very district alluded to,—this border-ground,—called by the French L'Acadie, but claimed by the English as Nova Scotia, which bordered both on New England and New France.
This debatable territory on the map is full of vast waste spaces, together with the names of savage tribes never heard of before or since, some of which are familiar names, merely spelled in an unusual manner, while others owe their origin, perhaps, to the imagination of the map-maker or his informant. Thus, for example, we have Massasuk, Arusegenticook, Saga Dahok, and others of equally singular sound.
In this debatable territory are numerous forts, both French and English. These are situated, for the most part, in the valleys of rivers, for the very good reason that these valleys afford the best places for settlement, and also for the further reason that they are generally used as the most convenient routes of travel by those who go by land from one post to another. These forts are numerous on the west of New England; they also stud the map in various places towards the north. The valley of the St. John, in Nova Scotia, is marked by several of these. Farther on, the important isthmus which connects the peninsula of Nova Scotia with the main land is protected by the strong post called Fort Beausejour.
In this peninsula of Nova Scotia, various settlements are marked. One is named Minas, which is also known as Grand Pre, a large and important community, situated in one of the most beautiful and fertile valleys in America. In the neighborhood of this are a half dozen points, marked with the general name of French settlements, while the vacant places between and beyond are marked with the name Mic Macs, which is the title of the Indians who inhabit Nova Scotia. One post here, however, possesses a singular interest in the eyes of the good people of Boston. It is marked on the map by the name of Annapolis, once the French Port Royal, but now the only English post of any consequence in all Nova Scotia. Here resides the handful of Englishmen who claim to rule the province. But the government is a mockery, and the French set it at defiance. If England wishes to assert her power here, she must have a far different force in the country from the handful of ragged and ill-armed soldiers who mount guard on the tumble-down forts at Annapolis.
Beyond all these, at the extreme east of the peninsula, is an island called by the French Ile Royale, and by the English Cape Breton. This is held by the French. Here is their greatest stronghold in America, except Quebec, and one, too, which is regarded by Boston with greater jealousy and dread than the latter, since it is actually nearer, is open winter and summer, and can strike a more immediate blow.
This was the extreme eastern outpost of French power in America. Here the French colonies reached out their arms to the mother country. Here began that great chain of fortresses, which ran up the valleys of navigable rivers, and connected with the great fortress of Quebec the almost impregnable outpost of Ticonderoga, and the posts of Montreal Island. From these the chain of military occupation extended itself towards the south, through the valleys of the Ohio and the Mississippi, until they were connected with the flourishing colony at New Orleans.
Thus it was, and with these advantages, that the French engaged in the great and momentous conflict with the English for the possession of America, and on the side of the former were the greater part of the wild and warlike Indians.
And now let us return to our friend Zac, who for some time has been lost sight of.
When the Aigle came to anchor, the schooner did the same, and lay under her guns some miles out from the shore. Zac had been allowed a certain amount of freedom, for, as the lieutenant had promised, his hands had not been bound. The same liberty was allowed to the others on board. Six French seamen were on board, who navigated the schooner, and acted as her guard. These were armed, while Zac and his friends were all unarmed. While sailing up the bay this guard was hardly necessary, as the schooner was under the guns of the frigate; but afterwards the necessity was more apparent.
The Aigle could not wait at Grand Pre longer than was requisite to land those who were going ashore. The boat that landed these brought back a half dozen Acadians from Grand Pre, whom it left on board the schooner. Then, taking back again her own seamen, the Aigle spread her white wings and sailed away for La Belle France.
Zac saw this change in affairs with varied feelings. First of all, he had half hoped that he might be let off, after all; partly because it was not a time of formal war, and partly because the schooner had saved some important lives, and therefore, at the very least, ought to be let off. But this change in her masters dispelled Zac's hope, and made him see that there was not at all any prospect of an immediate release. From that moment Zac gave up all hope of any release whatever, and began to see that, if escape were to be made, it must be effected by his own skill and daring.
The new comers seemed willing to maintain the old state of things, and showed no inclination to keep their prisoners in bonds. They were a good-natured lot, with simple, unsophisticated faces, and looked with amiable smiles upon the schooner and its company. Still, they were all stout, able-bodied fellows, and all were armed. The leader was a man of about forty, who seemed to be regarded by the rest with considerable respect. He was also able to speak a few words of English. They contented themselves with keeping a general lookout over the schooner and its crew, and taking turns at the night watch.
In fact, the simple confidence of the Acadians in the security of their guard seemed to be justified by circumstances. These six stout men wore armed; Zac and his followers were unarmed. All the floating craft in the Basin belonged to the Acadians, and all the settlements. For Zac to escape by water was scarcely possible, and to get off by land was not to be thought of. The nearest English settlement was many miles away, and to reach it he would have to run the gantlet of a population of French and Indians.
Day after day passed, and Zac spent most of the time in meditating over his situation and keeping his eyes and ears on the alert. He understood pretty well that to the villany of Cazeneau were due both his own captivity and the more serious danger which threatened his friend. It was from Margot that he had first heard of Cazeneau as an enemy, and little more had he been able to find out beyond what she had told him in the brief conversation already related. The illness of Laborde had necessitated her attendance on her master and mistress, and prevented any further confidences. Only a few occasional greetings were possible after that. Then followed the arrival of the Aigle, and the transfer of Margot, with the rest, to the French frigate. Zac had consequently been left in the dark as to the particular villany of Cazeneau towards Laborde and Mimi. But he had seen enough and felt enough to be sure that his enmity, from whatever cause it arose, was of no common kind, that Claude was in great danger, and that he himself was involved in the same peril, though to a less degree. This conviction served, therefore, to keep his mind continually on the alert, so as to find out what was the present situation of Claude, and also to devise and lay hold of some plan of action for himself.
In his thoughts the good Pere Michel was suggested as the only one who could do anything for either of them. What his influence might be, he could not guess; but he at least believed in his friendliness and good faith, and he could not help feeling that the priest would do all that was possible. It seemed to him not unlikely that the priest might come out to see him, and convey to him some information about the present state of affairs in Grand Pre. And besides this, he could not help feeling a vague hope that, even if the priest were unable to do anything, he might receive some sort of a message from one whom he could not help as regarding in the light of a friend—namely, the amiable Margot.
The situation had been accepted by the rest of the ship's company without any great display of emotion. Biler's melancholy remained unchanged, and still, as of yore, he passed much of his time at the mast-head, contemplating the universe, and eating raw turnips. Jericho remained as busy as ever, and cared for his pots, and his kettles, and his pans, without apparently being conscious that his master was a slave now, as well as himself. Upon Terry, also, the yoke of captivity lay but lightly. It was not in the nature of Terry to be downcast or sullen; and the simple expedients which had led him to fraternize with the shipwrecked sailors had afterwards enabled him to fraternize equally well with the crew of the Aigle that had been put on board. These had gone, and it remained now for him to come to an understanding with the Acadians. Constant practice had made him more capable, and, in addition to his own natural advantages, he had also learned a few French words, of which he made constant use in the most efficient way. The Acadians responded to Terry's advances quite as readily as any of the others had done; and before they had been on board one day they were all singing and laughing with the merry Irish lad, and going into fits of uproarious mirth at Terry's incessant use of the few French words which he had learned; for it was Terry's delight to stop each one of them, and insist on shaking hands, whenever he met them, saying at the same time, with all the gravity in the world,—
"Commy voo party voo, bong tong. Bon jure, moosoo!"
Thus nearly a week passed, and during all that time Zac had heard nothing about the fate of his friends ashore. Neither the priest nor Margot sent him any message whatever. The Acadians themselves did not hold any communication with the shore, but remained on board quite placidly, in a state of calm content—as placidly, indeed, as though they had been living on board the Parson all their lives.
During all the time Zac had been meditating over his situation, and trying to see his way out of it. At length a ray of light began to dawn into his mind, which illuminated his present position, and opened up to him a way of action. One day after dinner, while the Acadians were lolling in the sun, and while Terry was smoking his pipe forward, Zac sauntered up to him in a careless fashion, and placing himself near Terry, where he could not be overheard, he began to talk in an easy tone with the other,