"Terry, lad," said he, "I'm getting tired o' this here."
"Faix, an' it's mesilf that's been waitin' to hear ye say that same for a week an' more—so it is."
"Wal, ye see, I ben a turnin' it over in my mind, and hain't altogether seen my way clear afore; but now it seems to me as how it's a burnin' shame to stand this here any longer."
"Thrue for you; an' so it is," said Terry. "An' so, ef ye've got anythin' on yer mind that ye want to do, why, out with it, for I'm your man."
"Wal, ye see," resumed Zac, "it's this here; I don't want to go away out o' this jest yet."
"Not go away! Tare an ages," cried Terry; "d'ye want to be a prisoner?"
"Course not. I mean this: I don't want to go an' leave my friend here, Motier, in the hands of the Philistines."
"Sure ye can't do anythin' for him; an' he's among his own kin—so he is; for he jabbers French ayqual to the best of thim."
"No, I can't do anything for him as I am; that's a fact; and so I'm bound to put myself in a position whar I can do somethin'; that is, I'm bound to seize this here schewner, an' bring the old Parson back to the fold."
"Arrah, sure, an' that's the right sort of talk—so it is; an' it's mesilf that's glad to hear ye. An' so, what is it, captain dear? Out with it. Tell me what yer plan is, an' I'm wid ye—so I am."
"I think, Terry, that we can manage to get the schewner from these chaps—can't we?"
"Sure we can. Sure, an' I'd ingage to do it alone, almost."
"They don't watch much."
"Not a bit of it."
"The two that watch at night sleep half the time."
"Sure, an' that's thrue for you, for I've seed thim at it whin I was asleep mesilf."
"We can git Jericho to bar down the cabin door, Terry, an' then you an' I can seize the two on deck."
"Aisy enough—so it is. They'll all be dead asleep—so they will."
"Wal, thar we'll have them; an' then I hope to be able to bring a pressure on the natyves of these regions by which I may git my friend out of their clutches."
"Sure, an' I don't onderstand ye at all, at all."
"Why, I'll have these six Acadians prisoners, an' then I'll sail up off Grand Pre, an' threaten to cut the throats of all of them if they don't send off Motier to me in ten minutes."
"Tare an' ages!" cried Terry. "Whoroo! but isn't that the plan? It is. It bates the wurruld—so it does. An whin'll ye begin, captain darlint?"
"To-night," said Zac.
A STROKE FOE LIBERTY.
Zac and Terry talked for a long time over the plan, trying to chat in an off-hand and careless manner, so as not to excite any suspicion. No suspicion appeared to be raised among the Acadians, who took no notice of them whatever. So Zac and Terry had sufficient opportunity to arrange all the details of the plan, and it was decided that Terry should indicate to Jericho what was to be done by him. It was agreed that the best time would be about three o'clock in the morning; for then the Acadians below would all be in their soundest sleep, while those who kept watch on deck would probably, in accordance with their usual careless fashion, be sunk into a slumber no less sound. Terry at length left Zac, and moved about in a desultory fashion, after which he finally settled down among the Acadians, and began to sing to them the immortal strain of St. Patrick.
Although Zac had upon his mind the weight of such an important enterprise, yet it did not at all interfere with his usual slumbers. He went to bed at nine, and slept soundly. At about half past two he awoke, and waited a little longer. Then he roused Terry and Jericho. Terry then went upon deck noiselessly, and reconnoitred. It was as they had hoped it would be. Two men were on deck as a watch, but both were crouched under the taffrail fast asleep. Terry proposed to go and shut down the cabin door, where the rest of the Acadians were; but Zac concluded that it would be best for Jericho to do this, so that in case the noise should wake the watch, he and Terry might be on hand to deal with them. Jericho was now sent aft, charged with the burden of an important commission. He went softly and swiftly, like a spirit of night. His whole nature seemed changed by the purpose before him. In an instant he had ceased to be the lowly slave intent on cookery, and had started up into the attitude of an African warrior. As he glided along, Zac and Terry, with equal noiselessness, moved towards the slumbering watch, and then waited. It was necessary that the cabin should first be closed, so that those within, if alarmed by the outcry of their friends, should not be able to help them.
All went on well. Jericho reached the cabin, and then swiftly, and with as little noise as possible, shut the door and fastened it. Upon this, Zac and Terry each seized one of the slumbering Acadians, and before they were fairly awake they were disarmed.
Zac and Terry both scorned to bind them, partly out of kindly feeling towards them, partly because they themselves had not been bound, and partly out of the pride of their manhood. The Acadians at first stood stupefied, and then, recognizing the whole truth, they slunk forward, and stood dejectedly in the bows, where they awaited with fear the further action of their late prisoners.
Both Terry and Zac made friendly signs to them, pressing their hands on their hearts, smiling, nodding, and so forth; while Terry even went so far as to whistle one of their favorite melodies. But the Acadians were not to be reassured. They looked upon themselves as lost men, and evidently regarded Terry as a traitor of the deepest dye.
They now waited till the others in the cabin should make some sign. Jericho had armed himself with an axe, with which he stood ready to act in case of a fight. It was evident that the Acadians in the cabin had heard nothing whatever, and not one of them awaked before the usual time. Then, of course, the painful discovery was made by them. At first, loud cries and threats were made; but these were stilled by Zac, who in a voice of thunder awed them into silence.
"You are prisoners!" said he. "Give up your arms."
The one who understood a little English was able to comprehend this. The command was followed by an excited debate among the four, which was at last ended by a second mandate from Zac, accompanied by a threat to fire upon them. At this a hurried answer was given:—
"We render. We render. Fire not."
A small skylight was then opened, and all the arms and equipments of the prisoners were passed up. These were appropriated by Zac. The door of the cabin was then unfastened and opened, and the prisoners called upon to come forth. They came looking fearful and dejected, as though apprehending the worst. Zac, Terry, and Jericho, each with his musket, stood at the stern, and as they came out they motioned to them to go to the bows. The Acadians obeyed in silence, and soon joined their two companions.
Some time was now occupied by Zac in talking over with Terry the best course to be pursued. They at length decided to allow the Acadians to remain unbound by day, and to shut them down at night, or while sailing. As long as these men were unarmed and themselves armed, they had not the slightest fear of any trouble arising. For the Acadians, though stout, muscular fellows, were all so good-natured and phlegmatic in their faces that no danger of anything so desperate as an attack on their part was to be anticipated. It was decided, however, while they were on deck, to keep them confined to the forward part of the schooner.
This Zac succeeded in making known to them.
"We won't do you no harm," said he. "We won't tie you or bind you. At night you must go below to sleep. If any of you make an attack, we won't show you any mercy. So you'd best keep quiet."
The chief Acadian understood this as well by the signs with which it was accompanied as from the words, and he explained it to his followers. He then informed Zac that they would be quiet; whereupon Terry went forward and shook hands with each and all of them. "Commy porty-voo? Bon jure, moosoo," said he; to which the Acadians, however, made no response. They did indeed allow him to shake their hands; but they would not say anything, and evidently regarded him as a perjured villain, and traitor to their cause.
"Biler!" roared Zac. "Whar are you, you young cuss of life?"
Upon this the young cuss of life slowly emerged from the forecastle, holding a cold potato in his hand. The scene on deck made no impression on him, but he walked aft with his eyes fixed on Zac.
"Stand there!" commanded Zac; and Biler stood.
"Feller seamen and comrades at arms," said Zac, stretching out his arm in the oratorical fashion which he had seen used at town meetings "to hum." "This is a gellorious day for his great and gracious majesty King George, whose loyal subjects we air, as we have proved by this rescoo of his ship from the hands of the Philistines. It air all very well for the king to send out his red-coats; but I tell you what it is, I ain't seen a red-coat that lives that's equal to the natyve pro-vincial. Who air the ones that doos the best fightin' out here? The pro-vincials! Who air the men that's druv the wild and bloodthusty Injin back to his natyve woods? The pro-vincial! And who air the men that's goin' to settle the business of Moosoo, an' make America too hot to hold him an' his'n? The red-coats? Nay; but rayther the pro-vincials, the men that's fit the catamounts, an' bars, an' Injins, an' turned the waste an' howlin' wilderness into a gardin', an' made the desert blossom like a rose. So, I say, Hooray for the pro-vincials!"
At this Zac removed his hat. Terry did the same; so did Jericho. Biler had none to remove, but he raised his potato in the air. Zac led off—"Hip, hip, hip, h-o-o-o-r-a-a-a-y!"
"Arrah, captain, darlint, an' while yo's about it, sure ye won't be forgettin' ould Ireland," cried Terry, as the ringing cheers died away over the waters.
"Certingly," said Zac. "Course. Here goes!"
And three cheers in the same fashion followed for Terry's native land.
"Tare an' ages!" cried Terry; "an' while we're about it, sure an' we's ought to give three chairs for Africa, in honor of Jericho."
"Hooray!" cried Zac. "Here goes!" And three cheers followed for Africa. Whether Jericho knew much about Africa, may be a question; but he understood at least that this honor was offered to himself, and accepted it accordingly. It almost overwhelmed him. A wild chuckle of spasmodic delight burst from him, which threatened to end in a convulsion. And though he rallied from this, yet he was quite demoralized, and it was a long time before he settled down into that sedate old darky which was his normal condition.
And now Zac waited. Finding himself in command of his own schooner again, he felt more able to act in case of necessity. He was so far out from the shore that he was easily able to guard against the unexpected arrival of any boat. By day he lay at anchor; but when night came the Acadians were sent below, the anchor was raised, and the schooner cruised about the bay. The strong tides and currents caused a little trouble, but Zac soon got the run of them, at least in a general way, and several nights were thus passed. At length he began to grow impatient, and felt quite at a loss what to do. He was half inclined to send one of the Acadians ashore with a message, but as yet concluded to wait a little longer.
The Acadians, whether from fear or policy, did as they promised, and kept quiet. They kept by themselves always, and refused to accept the advances of Terry, though they were frequently made. They all appeared listless and dejected, and the smiles, the laughter, and the singing which had characterized their first days on board had all passed away, and given place to low, murmured conversation or silence.
At length, one evening at about six o'clock, Zac saw a solitary boat coming from the shore. It was a long way off when he first saw it, and it seemed to be coming towards the schooner. The tide was unfavorable, so that the progress was quite slow; but its course lay steadily towards him, and Zac, who watched it intently, was turning over in his mind his best plan of action. It did not seem large enough to contain any very formidable force; but Zac thought best to take every precaution, and so sent all the Acadians below, while Terry and Jericho stood ready for action.
The time passed away, and the boat drew steadily nearer. At length it came near enough for Zac to see that it was rowed by two men, which sight was most welcome, since it assured him that no danger was to be apprehended. As he watched it, the boat drew nearer and nearer. He said nothing, but waited for them to speak first. He could see that both of the men were unarmed.
At last the boat touched the schooner's side. One of the men leaped on board, securing the boat, and the other followed immediately. They were both dressed like all the Acadians, but the second boatman had a slouched hat, which concealed his face. Zac, who carelessly regarded him, noticed that he was a smooth-faced boy, while the first boatman was a grizzled old man.
Both of these looked around, and seemed surprised. At length the boy advanced towards Zac.
"Capitaine," said this boy, "what ees dees? You no seem a preesonaire. You haf a gun. Air you free?"
At the sound of this voice Zac started back a step or two in utter amazement. Could it be possible? Yet that voice could not belong to any other. It must be. And even as he stood thus bewildered, the boy raised his hat with a shy smile, with which there was also much sadness mingled, and revealed the face of the little Margot.
"Wal," exclaimed Zac, "this doos beat creation!"
Zac then caught both her hands, and held them in a tight grip, and for a few moments could not speak.
"I do feel good, little one," said he, in a tremulous voice. "This here's what I ben a waitin' for—to see you—an' you only—though I skurse dared to hope it. At any rate, I did hope and feel that you wouldn't go off without a word, and no more you heven't; an' I feel so happy that I could cry."
It was not exaggerated. Honest Zac was unused to such emotions, and hardly understood them. His eyes were moist as he looked upon Margot, and she saw that his simple confession was true. Her own emotion was as great as his. Tears started to her own eyes, and in her sadness she leaned on his arm and wept. Whereupon Zac's tears fell in spite of him, and he began to call himself a darned fool, and her a dear little pet; till the scolding of himself and the soothing of Margot became so hopelessly intermingled that he called her a darned old pet, and himself a dear little fool. Whereupon Margot burst into a laugh, dashed her tears away, and started off from Zac's grasp.
And now Margot proceeded to tell Zac the reason of her journey. From her he learned for the first time the events that had taken place on shore. First, she informed him that Claude was in confinement, and that Cazeneau intended to take him or send him to Louisbourg; that Cazeneau himself was bitterly hostile to him. She informed him that Laborde was dead; that Mimi was in terrible distress, and in mortal terror of Cazeneau; and finally, that she was to be taken to Louisbourg. All this filled Zac with concern and apprehension. She informed Zac that she and her mistress were to be taken away early on the following morning, and that she had slipped off thus in disguise, with the consent of her mistress, to let him know the danger of his friend; for Claude was to remain in Grand Pre for some time longer, and her mistress thought that after Cazeneau had departed, it might be possible to do something to save him.
This occupied some time, and Zac interrupted her with many questions. At length, having told her story, Margot turned away. This startled Zac.
"What!" said he; "you're not a goin' to leave me!" and poor Zac's voice was like a wail of despair.
"Why, what ees eet posseeble to do? I moos go to ma maitresse."
"But-but what'll become of me?" mourned Zac. "I may never see you again."
Margot sighed. "I moos go to ma maitresse," she murmured.
"O, don't! don't now!" cried Zac. "She ain't half as fond of you as me. She can take care of herself. The priest'll watch over her. O, don't go, don't! I declar I feel like droundin' myself at the bare idee."
Zac, upon this, seized her hand, and begged, and coaxed, and prayed her to stay; till poor little Margot began to cry bitterly, and could only plead in broken tones her love for her dear mistress, who was in such danger, and how base it would be to desert her at such a time.
"Wal, wal—would you—would you come with me if—if it warn't for her?" mourned Zac.
Margot looked up at his face with a slight smile shining through her tears, which seemed to reassure poor Zac.
"We sall meet again," said Margot, in a more cheerful voice.
Zac shook his head disconsolately.
"And so, adieu," said Margot, in a low voice.
Zac said nothing, but with an expression of despair he took her in his arms, kissed her, and then turned away and wept.
Margot cried bitterly, and got into the boat. The old Acadian followed. The boat rowed away.
"Adieu, et au revoir, cher Zac," said Margot, calling back and waving her hat.
"Goo-oo-d by-ye," said Zac, in a wail of despair.
For hours Zac stood looking after the boat in perfect silence. At last he turned away, gulping down a sigh.
"Darned ef I know what on airth's the matter with me," he murmured.
MANOEUVRES OF ZAC.
Zac slept but little that night. There were two causes for wakefulness. The first was Margot, who had wrought such mischief with his thoughts and feelings that he did not know what was the matter with him. The second cause was the condition of Claude.
Gradually Margot's image faded away, and he began to turn his thoughts towards the problem of delivering Claude. How was that to be done?
Over this he thought for the greater part of that night. Towards morning he called Terry, who was to watch for the remainder of the night, and proceeded to hold a council of war.
First of all he acquainted Terry with the general state of affairs. Part of Margot's information had been overheard by him; but Terry, seeing how things were, had discreetly withdrawn aft, and kept up a loud whistle, so as to prevent himself from overhearing their words; so that now the greater part of this information was news to the Irish boy.
"And have ye thought of anythin' at all, at all?" he asked.
"Wal, I've thought over most everythin'," said Zac. "You see, the state of the case is this: they've got one of us a prisoner ashore over there, but we've got six of them a prisoner out here."
"Thrue for you," said Terry.
"Wal, now, you see, if this Cazeneau was here, he hates Motier so like pison that he'd sacrifice a hundred Frenchmen rayther'n let him go—an' in my 'pinion he's worth a hundred Frenchmen, an' more. But now, bein' as Cazeneau's goin' away to-morrer, we'll be in a position to deal with the people here that's a keepin' Motier; an' when it comes to them—why, they won't feel like losin' six of their men for the sake of one stranger."
"I wonder," said Terry, "whether the owld boy that came out in the boat found out anythin'. 'Deed, if he'd had his wits about him, an' eyes in his head, he'd have seen it all,—so he would."
"Wal, we'll hev to let 'em know, right straight off."
"To-morra'd be best."
"Yes; an' then Cazeneau'll be off. I'd rayther wait till then; it'll be better for us to have him out of the way."
"What'll ye do?"
"Wal, I'll sail up, and send word ashore."
"How'll you sind word? We can't spake a word of the lingo."
"Wal, I ben a thinkin' it over, an' I've about come to the conclusion that the old Frenchman down thar in the cabin'll be the best one to send."
"Sure, an' ye won't sind the Frenchman ashore in yer own boat!"
"He'll niver bring it back; so he won't."
"Then we'll keep the other five Frenchmen."
"Sure, an' it's a hard thing altogether, so it is, to hev to thrust him. He'll be after rousin' the country, an' they'll power down upon us in five hundred fishin' boats; so they will."
"Wal, if I staid here to anchor, that might be dangerous," said Zac; "but I ain't got no idee of standin' still in one place for them to attack me."
"Sure, an' it'll be best to let him see that if he don't come back wid Misther Motier, the whole five'll hev their brains blown out."
"Sartin. He'll have to go with that in his mind; an' what's more, I'll make him swear an oath to come back."
"Sure, an' it'll be the hard thing to do when neither of yez ondherstan' enough of one another's lingo to ax the time af day."
"Wal, then I'll have to be satisfied with the other five Moosoos. If the first Moosoo runs for it, he'll leave the other five, an' I ain't goin' to b'lieve that the farmers here air goin' to let five of their own relatives and connections perish, rayther'n give up one stranger."
A few more words followed, and then Zac retired below, leaving Terry on deck.
A few hours' sleep sufficed for Zac, and not long after sunrise he was all ready for action. But the tide was not quite high enough for his purposes. The long-extended mud flats lay bare in the distance for miles, and Zac had to wait until a portion, at least, of this space should be covered. At length the water had spread over as much of the red mud as seemed desirable, while every hour the schooner would have a greater depth beneath her; so Zac concluded to start. Up then went the anchor, the sails were set, and yielding to the impulse of a favorable breeze, the Parson turned her head towards the landing-place at Grand Pre.
Various preparations had to be made, and these now engaged the attention of Zac, who committed the care of the helm to Terry. The first was the composition of a letter. It was to be short and to the point. Zac had already settled in his own mind about the wording of this, so that the writing of it now occupied but a little time. It was as follows:—
"To any Magistrate at Grand Pre:—
"Know all men by this, that the six Acadians sent to take charge of the schooner 'Rev. Amos Adams,' are now held by me as my prisoners until such time as Mr. Claude Motier shall be delivered free from prison. And if Mr. Claude Motier shall not be set free, these six shall be carried to prison to Boston. And if Mr. Claude Motier be put to death, these six shall one and all be put to death likewise.
"An answer is required within three hours.
"Zion Awake Cox,
"Master of the schooner 'Rev. Amos Adams.'
"Minas Basin, May 28, 1743."
This Zac folded and addressed, thinking that if no one in Grand Pre could read English, it would be taken to Claude himself for translation.
He next prepared to hoist a large British ensign. It was not often that the Parson showed her colors, but on this occasion it was necessary, and Zac saw that this display of English colors would be an act which would tell its own story, and show Moosoo that the schooner had once more changed masters. The colors lay on deck, ready to be hoisted at the proper moment. What that moment was to be he had already decided. Zac, in his preparations on this occasion, showed that he possessed a line eye for dramatic effect, and knew how to create a sensation. There was a small howitzer amidships,—Zac's joy and pride,—which, like the ensign, was made use of only on great and rare occasions, such as the king's birthday, or other seasons of general rejoicing. This he determined to make use of at the present crisis, thinking that it would speak in tones that would strike terror to the heart of Moosoo, both on board and ashore.
Last of all, it remained to explain to the Acadians on board the purposes upon which he was bent. They were still below. Jericho had supplied them with their breakfast there, but Zac had not allowed them on deck. Now, however, he summoned forth their chief man, leaving the others behind, and proceeded to endeavor, as far as possible, to explain to this man what he wished.
The Acadian's stock of English words was but small, yet Zac was able, after all, by the help of signs, to give him some idea of his purpose. The letter also was shown him, and he seemed able to gather from it a general idea of its meaning. His words to Zac indicated a very lively idea of the danger which was impending over the prisoners.
"Me go," he said. "Put me 'shore. Me go tout de suite; me deliver M. Motier; make come here tout de suite—bon!"
"All right," said Zac; "but mind you, he must be here in three hours—three," he repeated, holding up three fingers; "three hours."
"O, oui—yes—certainement—tree hour."
"These others will be all prisoners if he don't come."
"O, oui—yes; all personaire; mais he vill come, tout certainement."
"You und'stand now, Moosoo, sure?"
"O, oui; me comprends—ond'stand—certainement."
"Well, then, you wait up here till we get nearer, and then you can go ashore in the boat."
But Zac's preparations were destined to undergo some delay, for the wind died out, and the schooner lay idle upon the surface of the water. For several hours Zac waited patiently, hoping for a change; but no change came. At length the tide turned, and after a time the schooner, which had already been drifting helplessly, now began to be carried back towards the place from which she had started.
Zac was now left to his own invention, and could only decide that on the following day, if the wind should fail him, he would send the boat ashore from his present anchorage, and wait the result. For various reasons, however, he preferred going nearer; and therefore he had refrained from sending the boat ashore that day.
The next day came. There was a fresh breeze and a favorable one. The waters began to rise. Zac was all ready. Up went the anchor, the sails were set, and once more the Parson was turned towards the landing. The breeze now blew steadily, and in course of time Zac found himself sufficiently near for his purposes, and he began to act.
First of all, up went the British ensign. Then, the howitzer was fired. The noise of the report did not fail of the effect which Zac had anticipated. He saw the people turning out from their houses, some standing still and looking, others running towards the landing. Again and again the gun was fired, each report serving to increase the excitement among the people ashore. The British ensign was fully visible, and showed them what had taken place.
After this Zac sent Jericho ashore in the boat, along with the chief Acadian. The others were confined below. Zac saw the Acadian land, and Jericho return. Then he waited.
But it was not possible for him to wait here, nor was it safe. The tide would soon fall, leaving, as it retreated, a vast expanse of bare mud flats. He did not wish to run any risk of the schooner grounding in a place like this, and therefore allowed her to fall with the tide, and gradually move back to the bay without. All the time, however, he kept one eye on the shore. The three hours passed. He had drifted down again for several miles, and it was no longer easy to discern objects. But at length he saw a boat sailing from the shore to the schooner.
As the boat came nearer, he saw that Claude was not on board. Two men were in her, one of whom was the man whom he had sent away, and the other was a stranger. This stranger was an elderly man, of venerable appearance. They came up, and both went on board.
The elderly man was one of the chief men of the settlement, and spoke English sufficiently well to carry on a conversation. The information which he gave Zac was not at all to the satisfaction of the latter. It was to the following effect:—
That M. Motier had been kept in confinement at the house of Comeau; that early on the previous day M. Cazeneau had departed for Louisbourg, with the Abbe Michel, and the Countess de Laborde and her maid; that M. Motier, however, on the previous night, had somehow effected his escape.
Then the old man tried to induce Zac to set the Acadians free, except one, arguing that one life was enough to hold against that of Motier. But to this Zac sternly responded that one hundred Acadians would not be of sufficient value to counterbalance the sacred life of his friend. The only thing that Zac conceded was the liberty of the Acadian whom he had sent ashore; for he felt touched by the plucky conduct of this man in returning to the schooner. To his amazement, however, this man refused to go, declaring that he had come back to stand by his friends, and one of the others might be freed instead. On referring the matter to them, one was found who was weak enough to take advantage of this offer, and he it was who rowed the old man ashore.
Towards evening a canoe came gliding over the water, containing a single Indian. This Indian held aloof at a certain distance, scanning the schooner curiously. Zac, seeing this, sprang upon the taffrail, and called and beckoned to him; for a sudden thought came to him that the Indian might have been despatched by Claude to tell him something, and not knowing that he was no longer a prisoner, might be hesitating as to the best way of approaching. His conjecture seemed to be right, for this Indian, on seeing him, at once drew near, and came on board.
The Indian said not a word, but handed Zac a letter. Zac opened it, and read the following:—
"Claude Motier is free. Indians hafe safed him, and guide him to Louisbourg on the trail of Cazeneau. He wishes that you go to Canso, where you will be useful. He hope to safe Comtesse de Laborde, and want you to help to safe she. Go, then, to Canso; and if you arrive immediately, you sall see Indians, and must tell. They sall bing the intelligence to us.
"The Pere Michel."
On reading this, Zac understood all. He saw that Pere Michel had been a friend, and had engaged the Indians to help Claude. He at once determined to go to Canso. That very night he sent the Acadians ashore, and set sail.
On leaving the house, the Indian led the way in silence for some distance. In the immediate neighborhood of the house were open fields, while in front of it was the road which ran down to the river. The house was on the declivity of a hill, at the foot of which were broad dike-lands, which ran far out till they terminated at the island already mentioned. Beyond this lay the Basin of Minas, and in the distance the shadowy outline of the surrounding shores.
The Indian led the way for some distance across the fields, and then turned into the road. Along this he passed till he reached the river. It was the Gaspereaux, at the mouth of which was the place where Claude had landed. Here the Indian crossed, and Claude followed, the water not being much above their knees. On reaching the other side, the Indian walked down the stream, keeping in the open as much as possible.
At length they left the river, and went on where the ground rose gradually. Here they soon entered the woods. It was a broad trail, and though in the shadow of the trees it was rather dark, yet the trail was wide enough to allow of Claude following his guide without any difficulty whatever. For about an hour they walked on in this way, ascending steadily most of the time, until at length Claude found himself upon an open space overgrown with shrubbery, and altogether bare of trees. Here several dusky figures appeared, and the guide conversed with them for some time.
Claude now seated himself on the ground. He felt so fatigued already from this first tramp, that he began to experience a sense of discouragement, and to think that his confinement had affected his strength. He gazed wearily and dreamily upon the scene before him. There, spread out at his feet, was a magnificent prospect. The land went sloping down to the water. Towards the left were the low dike-lands running out to the island; beyond this the waters of Minas Basin lay spread out before him. Thus far there had been no moonlight; but now, as he looked towards the east, he noticed that the sky was already flushing with the tints of dawn. But even this failed to rouse him.. A profound weariness and inertness settled slowly over every sense and limb, and falling back, he fell into a deep sleep.
When he awaked, he saw that it was broad day, and that the sun was already high up in the sky. He started to his feet, and his first thought was one of joy at finding that his strength had all returned.
At his question, the Indian who was the spokesman told him that Louisbourg was more than twelve days' journey away, and that the path lay through the woods for the whole distance.
Before setting forth, the Indian gave him a rifle and a sword, which he said Pere Michel had requested him to give him. There was also a sufficient supply of powder and ball. Taking these, Claude then set out on his long tramp. There were six Indians. Of these, three went in front, and three in the rear, the whole party going in single file. The trail was a wide one, and comparatively smooth. The guide drew Claude's attention to tracks on the ground, which could easily be recognized as the prints of horse hoofs. To Claude's inquiry how many there were, the Indian informed him that there were four. By this it seemed to Claude that Mimi and her maid had each one, while the other two were used by Cazeneau and the priest.
After several hours they at length came to a river. It was like the Gaspereaux in one respect, for it was turbid, and rolled with a swift current. The banks also were lined with marshes, and the edges were composed of soft mud. No way of crossing it appeared, and as they approached it, the Indians turned away to go up the stream. The prospect of a long detour was very unpleasant to Claude; and when at length he came to a place where the tracks of the horses went towards the river, he asked why this was. The Indians informed him that the horses had crossed here, but that they would have to go farther up. It did not turn out so bad as Claude had feared, for after about half an hour's further walk, they stopped at the bank of the river, and waited.
To Claude's question why they waited, an extraordinary answer was given. It was, that they were waiting till the water ran out. This reminded him of the old classic story about the fool who came to a river bank and waited for the water to run out, so that he might cross. Claude could not understand it; but, supposing that his guides knew what they were about, he waited for the result, taking advantage of this rest to fortify his inner man with a sound repast. After this was over, he rose to examine the situation; and the first sight showed him an astonishing change. He had lingered over his repast, now eating, now smoking, for about an hour, and in that time there had been wrought what seemed to him like a wonder of Nature. The water of the river had indeed been running out, as the Indian said; and there before him lay the channel, running low, with its waters still pouring forward at a rate which seemed to threaten final emptiness. And as he looked, the waters fell lower and lower, until at length, after he had been there three hours, the channel was almost empty.
This particular spot was not so muddy as other parts of the river bed, and therefore it had been chosen as the best place for crossing. It was quite hard, except in the middle, where the mud and water together rose over their knees; and thus this mighty flood was crossed as though it had been some small brook.
A few hours more served to bring them to the foot of some hills; and here the party halted. They had once more picked up the trail, and Claude was encouraged by the sight of the horse tracks.
He now unfolded to the Indian his design. To his great pleasure he found that Pere Michel had already anticipated him, and that the Indian understood very well what was wanted. He assured Claude that he could easily communicate with the others so as not to be suspected, and lead back Pere Michel and the women to him. His plan was to make a detour, and get ahead of them, approaching them from that direction, so as to avoid suspicion, while Claude might remain with the other Indians in some place where they could be found again. This plan seemed to Claude so simple and so feasible that he grew exultant over the prospect, forgetting the many difficulties that would still be before him, even if this first enterprise should succeed.
Their repast was simple and easily procured. The woods and waters furnished all that they required. A hare and some snipe and plover, with a few trout and a salmon, were the result of a short excursion, that did not extend much farther than a stone's throw from the encampment.
The next day they resumed their journey. It lay over the hills, which were steep, though not very high. The trail now grew rougher, being covered with stones in many places, so as to resemble the dry channel of a mountain torrent, while in other places the roots of trees which ran across interfered with rapid progress. This Claude saw with great satisfaction, for he knew that horses could go but slowly over a path like this; and therefore every step seemed to lessen the distance between him and Mimi. All that day they were traversing these hills.
The next day their journey lay through a gentle, undulating country, where the towering trees of the forest rose high all around, while at their feet were mosses, and wild grasses, and ferns, and flowers of a kind that were utterly strange to Claude. It was the month of June, the time when all nature in Acadie robes herself in her fairest charms.
Thus day after day passed, each day being the counterpart of the other in its cloudless skies, its breath from the perfumed woods, and the song of birds. On the sixth day the tracks of the horses seemed to be fresher than usual; and to Claude's question the Indian replied that they must be close by them. At this Claude hurried on more vigorously, and kept up his march later than usual. He was even anxious to go forward all night; but the Indian was unwilling. He wished to approach them by day rather than by night, and was afraid of coming too suddenly upon them, and thus being discovered, if they went on while the others might be resting. Thus Claude was compelled to restrain his impatient desires, and wait for the following day.
When it came they set forth, and kept up a rapid pace for some hours. At length they came to an opening in the woods where the scene was no longer shut in by trees, but showed a wide-extended prospect. It was a valley, through which ran a small stream, bordered on each side with willows. The valley was green with the richest vegetation. Clusters of maples appeared like groves, here and there interspersed with beech and towering oaks, while at intervals appeared the magnificent forms of grand elms all covered with drooping foliage, and even the massive trunks green with the garlands of tender and gracefully-bending shoots.
For a moment Claude stood full of admiration at this lovely scene, and then hurried on after his guide. The guide now appeared desirous of slackening his pace, for he saw that if the other party were not far away he would be more liable to discovery in this open valley; but it was not very wide. About half a mile farther on, the deep woods arose once more; and, as there were no signs of life here, he yielded to Claude's impatient entreaty, and went on at his usual pace.
Half way across the valley there was a grove of maple trees; the path ran close beside it, skirting it, and then going beyond it. Along this they went, and were just emerging from its shelter, when the guide made a warning movement, and stood still. The next instant Claude was at his side. The Indian grasped Claude's arm, and made a stealthy movement backward.
That very instant Claude saw it all. A man was there—a European. Two Indians were with him. He was counting some birds which the Indians were carrying. It seemed as though they had been shooting through the valley, and this was their game. They could not have been shooting very recently, however, as no sound had been heard. This was the sight that met Claude's eyes as he stood by the Indian, and as the Indian grasped his arm.
It was too late. The European looked up. It was Cazeneau!
For a moment he stood staring at Claude as though he was some apparition. But the Indians who were behind, and who came forward, not knowing what was the matter, gave to this vision too practical a character; and Cazeneau saw plainly enough that, however unaccountable it might be, this was in very deed the man whom he believed to be in safe confinement at Grand Pre. A bitter curse escaped him. He rushed towards Claude, followed by his Indians.
"Scoundrel," he cried, "you have escaped! Aha! and do you dare to come on my track! This time I will make sure of you."
He gnashed his teeth in his fury, and, snatching a rifle from one of his Indians who were near him, aimed it at Claude, and pulled the trigger.
But the trigger clicked, and that was all. It was not loaded. With another curse Cazeneau dashed the rifle to the ground, and turned towards the other Indian. All this had been the work of a moment. The next moment Claude sprang forward with drawn sword.
"Villain," he cried, "and assassin! draw, and fight like a man!"
At these words Cazeneau was forced to turn, without having had time to get the other Indian's rifle, for Claude was close to him, and the glittering steel flashed before his eyes. He drew his sword, and retreating backward, put himself on guard.
"Seize this fellow!" he cried to his Indians; "seize him! In the name of your great father, the King of France, seize him, I tell you!"
The Indians looked forward. There, behind Claude, they saw six other Indians—their own friends. They shook their heads.
"Too many," said they.
"You fellows!" cried Cazeneau to Claude's Indians, "I am the officer of your great father, the King of France. This man is a traitor. I order you to seize him, in the king's name."
Claude's Indians stood there motionless. They did not seem to understand.
All this time Cazeneau was keeping up a defence, and parrying Claude's attack. He was a skilful swordsman, and he wished to take Claude alive if possible, rather than to fight with him. So he tried once more. He supposed that Claude's Indians did not understand. He therefore told his Indians to tell the others in their language what was wanted. At this the two walked over to the six, and began talking. Caseneau watched them earnestly. He saw, to his infinite rage, that his words had no effect whatever on Claude's Indians.
"Coward," cried Claude, "coward and villain! you must fight. My Indians are faithful to me. You hate to fight,—you are afraid,—but you must, or I will beat you to death with the blade of my sword."
At this Cazeneau turned purple with rage. He saw how it was. He determined to show this colonist all his skill, and wound him, and still take him alive. So, with a curse, he rushed upon Claude. But his own excitement interfered with that display of skill which he intended to show; and Claude, who had regained his coolness, had the advantage in this respect.
A few strokes showed Cazeneau that he had found his master. But this discovery only added to his rage. He determined to bring the contest to a speedy issue. With this intent he lunged forward with a deadly thrust. But the thrust was turned aside, and the next instant Claude's sword passed through the body of Cazeneau.
The wounded man fell to the ground, and Claude, dropping his sword, sank on his knees beside him. In that one instant all his anger and his hate fled away. It was no longer Cazeneau, his mortal enemy, whom he saw, but his fellow-creature, laid low by his hand. The thought sent a quiver through every nerve, and it was with no ordinary emotion that Claude sought to relieve his fallen enemy. But Cazeneau was unchanged in his implacable hate; or, if possible, he was even more bitter and more malignant now, since he had thus been beaten.
"Away!" he cried, in a faint voice. "Away! Touch me not. Do not exult yet, Montresor. You think you have—avenged—your cursed father—and your mother. Do not exult too soon; at least you are—a pauper—a pauper—a pauper! Away! My own people—will care for me."
Claude rose at this, and motioned to Cazeneau's Indians. They came up. One of them examined the wound. He then looked up at Claude, and solemnly shook his head.
"May Heaven have mercy on his soul!" murmured Claude. "I thank Heaven that I do not know all the bitter wrong that he has done to my parents. What he has done to me I forgive."
Then, by a sudden impulse, he bent down over the fallen man. "Cazeneau," said he, "you're a dying man. You have something on your conscience now. What you have done to me I forgive. May others whom you have injured do the same."
At this magnanimous speech Cazeneau rolled his glaring eyes furiously towards the young man, and then, supplied with a sudden spasmodic strength by his own passion, he cried out, with bitter oaths and execrations,—
"Curse you! you and all your race!"
He raised himself slightly as he said this. The next instant he fell back, senseless. For a moment Claude stood looking at the lifeless form, undecided what to do. Should he remain here longer? If Cazeneau should revive, it would only be to curse him; if he died, he could do nothing. Would it not be better to hurry forward after the rest of the party, who could not be very far away? If so, he could send back the priest, who would come in time either for life or death. The moment that he thought of this he decided that he would hurry forward for the priest. He then explained to his guide what he wished, and asked the Indians of Cazeneau how far the rest of the party were. They could speak but very little French, but managed to make Claude understand that they were not far. To his Indian they said more, and he told his employer. What they said was to this effect: that on this morning Cazeneau had left the party with these two Indians, for the sake of a little recreation in hunting. The rest had gone forward, with the understanding that they should not go more than two or three hours. Then they were to halt and wait. Cazeneau was just about to go after them as Claude came up.
This information showed Claude that the rest of the party were within easy distance, and that the priest could be reached and sent back before evening. Accordingly he hesitated no longer, but set forth at once in the greatest haste.
The thought that Mimi was so near inspired Claude with fresh energy. Although he had been on the tramp all day, and without rest,—although he had received a severe and unparalleled shock in the terrible fate of Cazeneau,—yet the thought of Mimi had sufficient power over him to chase away the gloom that for a time had fallen over his soul. It was enough to him now that a priest was within reach. Upon that priest he could throw all the responsibility which arose out of the situation of his enemy. These were the thoughts that animated him, and urged him forward.
The Indians of Cazeneau had made him understand that they were only a few hours ahead; but Claude thought that they were even nearer. He thought it unlikely that Cazeneau would let them go very far, and supposed that he had ordered the other Indians to go slowly, and halt after about three or four miles. He therefore confidently expected to come up with them after traversing about that distance.
With this belief he urged on his attendants, and himself put forth all his powers, until at length, after nearly two hours, he was compelled to slacken his speed. This showed that they were not so near as he had expected; yet still he believed that they were just ahead, and that he would come up with them every moment.
Thus his mind was kept upon a constant strain, and he was always on the lookout, watching both with eyes and ears either to see some sign of them, or to hear them as they went on before him. And this constant strain of mind and of sense, and this sustained attitude of expectation, made the way seem less, and the time seem short; and thus, though there was a certain disappointment, yet still the hope of seeing them every next minute kept up his spirits and his energies. Thus he went on, like one who pursues an ignis fatuus, until at length the light of day faded out, and the shades of night settled down over the forest.
He would certainly have thought that he had missed the way, had it not been for one fact; and that was, that the track of the party whom he was pursuing was as plain as ever, and quite fresh, showing that they had passed over it this very day. The Indians with him were all certain of this. It showed him that however fast he had gone, they had been going yet faster, and that all his eagerness to catch up with them had not been greater than their eagerness to advance. Why was this? Suddenly the whole truth flashed upon his mind.
The priest had unexpectedly shaken off Cazeneau. He had evidently resolved to try to escape. His strange influence over the Indians had, no doubt, enabled him to make them his accomplices. With the hope, therefore, of shaking off Cazeneau, he had hurried on as fast as possible.
Still there was one thing, and that was, that they would have to bring up somewhere. It was more than probable that the priest would try to reach Canso. In that case Claude had only to keep on his track, and he would get to that place not very long after him; sufficiently soon, at any rate, to prevent missing him. As to Louisbourg, if the priest should go there, he also could go there, and with impunity now, since his enemy was no more. As for the unhappy Cazeneau, he found himself no longer able to send him the priest; but he did not feel himself to blame for that, and could only hope that he might reach the priest before it should be altogether too late.
A slight repast that night, which was made from some fragments which he had carried in his pocket, a few hours' sleep, and another slight repast on the following morning, made from an early bird which he had shot when it was on its way to get its worm, served to prepare him for the journey before him.
The Indians informed him that the Strait of Canso was now not more than a day and a half distant. The news was most welcome to Claude. The Strait of Canso seemed like a place where the priest would be compelled to make some sort of a halt, either while waiting for a chance to cross or while making a detour to get to Canso. For his part, he would have one great advantage, and that was, that he would not be compelled to think about his course. All that he had to do was to follow the track before him as rapidly and as perseveringly as possible.
All that day Claude hurried onward without stopping to halt, being sustained by his own burning impatience, and also by that same hope which had supported him on the preceding day. But it was, as before, like the pursuit of an ignis fatuus, and ever the objects of his pursuit seemed to elude him.
At length, towards the close of the day, they reached a river, and the trail ran along by its side for miles, sometimes leaving it, and again returning to it. The path was broad, the woods were free from underbrush, and more open than usual.
Suddenly the guide stopped and looked forward, with the instinct of his Indian caution. But Claude had one idea only in his mind, and knowing well that there could be no enemy now, since Cazeneau was out of the way, he hurried onward. Some moving figures attracted his gaze. Then he saw horses, and some men and women. Then he emerged from the trees, bursting forth at a run into an open place which lay upon the river bank. One glance was sufficient. It was the priest and his party. With a cry of joy he rushed forward. The others saw him coming. The priest turned in amazement; for he had no idea that Claude was so near. Before he could speak a word, however, the young man had flung himself into his arms, and the priest returned his embrace with equal warmth. Claude then turned to Mimi, who was standing near, and in the rapture of that meeting was on the point of catching her in his arms also; but Mimi saw the movement, and retreated shyly, while a mantling blush over her lovely features showed both joy and confusion. So Claude had to content himself with taking her hand, which he seized in both of his, and held as though he would never let go.
After these first greetings, there followed a torrent of questions from both sides. The priest's story was but a short one. On the day when Cazeneau had left them, he had gone on a short hunting excursion, simply for the sake of relieving the monotony of the long tramp. He had charged the Indians not to go farther than two hours ahead. His intention was to make a circuit, and join them by evening. But the Indians were altogether under the influence of Pere Michel, and were willing to do anything that he wished. The "Great Father,"—the French king,—with whom Cazeneau thought he could overawe them, was in truth a very shadowy and unsubstantial personage. But Pere Michel was one whom they knew, and for some reason regarded with boundless veneration. When, therefore, he proposed to them to go on, they at once acceded. For Pere Michel caught at this unexpected opportunity to escape, which was thus presented, and at once set forth at the utmost possible speed. He travelled all that day and far into the night, until he thought that a sufficient distance had been put between himself and Cazeneau to prevent capture. He would have gone much farther on this day had it not been for Mimi, who, already fatigued by her long journey, was unable to endure this increased exertion, and after trying in vain to keep up, was compelled to rest. They had been encamping here for about three hours, and were already deliberating about a night journey, when Claude came up.
The time had been spent in constructing a sort of litter, which the priest intended to sling between two horses, hoping by this means to take Mimi onward with less fatigue. He had made up his mind, as Claude indeed had suspected, to make for Canso, so as to put himself out of the reach of Cazeneau.
Claude then told the priest his story, to which the latter listened with deep emotion. He had not anticipated anything like this. Amazed as he had been at the sudden appearance of Claude, he had thought that by some happy accident the young man had eluded Cazeneau, and he now learned how it really was.
For some time he said not a single word, and indeed there was nothing that he could say. He knew well that Claude had been deeply and foully wronged by Cazeneau, and he knew also that this last act was hardly to be considered as anything else than the act of Cazeneau himself, who first attacked Claude, and forced him to fight.
But there still remained to be considered what might now be done. Claude's first thought was the one which had been in his mind during the past day; that is to say, he still thought of sending the priest back to Cazeneau, without thinking of the distance, and the time that now lay between. His excitement had prevented him from taking this into consideration. The priest, however, at once reminded him of it.
"I do not see," said he, "what I can do. You forget how long it is since you left him. He must be dead and buried by this time. Even if he should linger longer than you expected, I could not hope to reach that place in time to do anything, not even to bury him. It is a good two days' journey from here to there. It is two days since you left him. It would take two days more for me to reach him. That makes four days. By that time, if he is dead, he would already be buried; and if he is living, he would be conveyed by the Indians to some place of rest and shelter.
"As long as I thought that Cazeneau was pursuing us," continued the priest, "I tried to advance as rapidly as possible, and intended to go to Canso, where I should be safe from him. But now that he can trouble us no more, there is no reason why we should not go to Louisbourg. That will be better for Mimi, and it will also suit my views better. You, too, may as well go there, since you will be able to carry out your own plans, whatever they are, from that place better than from any other."
The result of this conversation was, that they decided to go to Louisbourg.
In order to make their escape the more certain, the priest had carried off the horse which Cazeneau had used, so that now Claude was no more obliged to go on foot. Mimi no longer complained of fatigue, but was able to bear up with the fatigues of the rest of the journey in a wonderful way. Claude did not seem inclined to make much use of the spare horse, for he walked much of the way at Mimi's side, and where there was not room, he walked at her horse's head.
The remainder of the journey occupied about four days, and it was very much like what it had been; that is, a track through the woods, sometimes rough, sometimes smooth. The whole track showed marks of constant use, which the priest explained to Claude as being caused by droves of cattle, which were constantly being sent from Grand Pre to Louisbourg, where they fetched a handsome price. The Indian trails in other places were far rougher and narrower, besides being interrupted by fallen trees. The only difficulty that they had to encounter was in crossing the Strait of Canso; but after following the shore for a few miles, they came to a place where there was a barge, used to transport cattle. Two or three French fishermen lived here, and they took the whole party over to the opposite side. After this they continued their journey.
That journey seemed to Claude altogether too short. Each day passed away too rapidly. Wandering by the side of Mimi through the fragrant forests, under the clear sky, listening to her gentle voice, and catching the sweet smile of her innocent face, it seemed to him as though he would like to go on this way forever. A cloud of sadness rested on her gentle brow, which made her somewhat unlike the sprightly girl of the schooner, and more like the despairing maid whom he had rescued on the raft.
But there was reason for this sadness. Mimi was a fond and loving daughter. She had chosen to follow her father across the ocean, when she might have lived at home in comfort; and the death of that father had been a terrible blow. For some time the blow had been alleviated by the terrors which she felt about Cazeneau and his designs. But now, since he and his designs were no more to be thought of, the sorrow of her bereavement returned.
Still, she was not without consolation, and even joy. It was joy to her to have escaped from the man and from the danger that she dreaded. It was also joy to her to find herself once more in company with Claude, in whom she had all along taken a tender interest. Until she heard his story from his own lips she had not had any idea that he had been the victim of Cazeneau. She had supposed that he was in the schooner all the time, and had wondered why he did not make his appearance. And her anxiety about her father, and grief over his death, prevented her from dwelling much upon this.
At length they came in sight of the sea. The trees here were small, stunted, and scrubby; the soil was poor, the grass coarse and interspersed with moss and stones. In many places it was boggy, while in others it was rocky. Their path ran along the shore for some miles, and then entered the woods. For some distance farther they went on, and then emerged into an open country, where they saw before them the goal of their long journey.
Open fields lay before them, with houses and barns. Farther on there lay a beautiful harbor, about five or six miles long and one mile wide, with a narrow entrance into the outer sea, and an island which commanded the entrance. Upon this island, and also on one side of the entrance, were batteries, while on the side of the harbor on which they were standing, and about two miles away, was another battery, larger than either of these. At the farthest end of the harbor were small houses of farmers or fishermen, with barns and cultivated fields. In the harbor were some schooners and small fishing vessels, and two large frigates.
But it was upon the end of the harbor nearest to themselves that their eyes turned with the most pleasure. Here Louisbourg stood, its walls and spires rising before them, and the flag of France floating from the citadel. The town was about half a mile long, surrounded by a stockade and occasional batteries. Upon the highest point the citadel stood, with the guns peeping over the parapet. The path here entered a road, which ran towards the town; and now, going to this road, they went on, and soon reached the gate.
On entering the gate, they were stopped and questioned; but the priest, who seemed to be known, easily satisfied his examiners, and they were allowed to go on. They went along a wide street, which, however, was unpaved, and lined on each side with houses of unpretending appearance. Most of them were built of wood, some of logs, one or two of stone. All were of small size, with small doors and windows, and huge, stumpy chimneys. The street was straight, and led to the citadel, in which was the governor's residence. Other streets crossed at right angles with much regularity. There were a few shops, but not many. Most of these were lower down, near the water, and were of that class to which the soldiers and sailors resorted. Outside the citadel was a large church, built of undressed stone, and without any pretensions to architectural beauty. Beyond this was the entrance to the citadel. This place was on the crest of the hill, and was surrounded by a dry ditch and a wall. A drawbridge led across the ditch to the gate. On reaching this place the party had to stop, and the priest sent in his name to the governor or commandant. After waiting some time, a message came to admit them. Thereupon they all passed through, and found themselves inside the citadel.
They found this to be an irregular space, about two hundred feet in length and width, surrounded by walls, under which were arched cells, that were used for storage or magazines, and might also serve as casemates in time of siege. There were barracks at one end, and at the other the governor's residence, built of stone. Upon the parade troops were exercising, and in front of the barracks a band was playing. The whole scene was thus one of much animation; indeed, it seemed very much so to the eyes of these wanderers, so long accustomed to the solitude of the sea, or of the primeval forest. However, they did not wait to gaze upon the scene, but went on at once, without delay, to the commandant.
The commandant—Monsieur Auguste de Florian—received them with much politeness. He was a man of apparently about forty years of age, medium stature, and good-natured face, without any particular sign of character or talent in his general expression. This was the man whom Cazeneau was to succeed, whose arrival he had been expecting for a long time. He received the new comers politely, and, after having heard the priest's account of Mimi,—who she was, and how he had found her,—he at once sent for his wife, who took her to her own apartments, and informed her that this must be her home as long as she was at Louisbourg.
The commandant now questioned the priest more particularly about the Arethuse. Pere Michel left the narration to Claude. He had been introduced under the name of M. Motier, and did not choose to say anything about his real name and rank, for fear that it might lead him into fresh difficulties. So Claude gave an account of the meeting between the schooner and the raft, and also told all that he knew about the fate of the Arethuse. The priest added something more that he had learned, and informed the commandant that he could learn all the rest from Mimi.
The governor's polite attention did not end with this visit. He at once set about procuring a place where Claude might stay, and would have done the same kind office to Pere Michel, had not the priest declined. He had a place where he could stay with one of the priests of the town, who was a friend; and besides, he intended to carry on the duties of his sacred office. Claude, therefore, was compelled to separate himself from the good priest, who, however, assured him that he would see him often. Before evening he found himself in comfortable quarters in the house of the naval storekeeper, who received him with the utmost cordiality as the friend of the commandant.
The next day Claude saw Pere Michel. He seemed troubled in mind, and, after some questions, informed him that he had come all the way to Louisbourg for the express purpose of getting some letters which he had been expecting from France. They should have been here by this time, but had not come, and he was afraid that they had been sent out in the Arethuse. If so, there might be endless trouble and confusion, since it would take too long altogether to write again and receive answers. It was a business of infinite importance to himself and to others; and Pere Michel, who had never before, since Claude had known him, lost his serenity, now appeared quite broken down by disappointment.
His present purpose was to go back and see about the burial of Cazeneau; but he would wait for another week, partly for the sake of rest, and partly to wait until Cazeneau's Indians had been heard from. He had sent out two of the Indians who had come with him to make inquiries; and when they returned, he would go. He was also waiting in the hope that another ship might arrive. There was some talk of a frigate which was to bring out some sappers and engineers for the works. It was the Grand Monarque. She had not come as yet, nor had she left by last advices; but still she was liable to leave at any moment.
"Still," said the priest, "it is useless to expect anything or to hope for anything. The king is weak. He is nothing. How many years has he been a roi faineant? Fleury was a fit minister for such a king. Weak, bigoted, conceited, Fleury had only one policy, and that was, to keep things quiet, and not suffer any change. If wrongs had been done, he refused to right them. Fleury has been a curse to France. But since his death his successors may be even worse. The state of France is hopeless. The country is overwhelmed with debt, and is in the hands of unprincipled vagabonds. The king has said that he would govern without ministers; but that only means that he will allow himself to be swayed by favorites. Fleury has gone, and in his place there comes—who? Why, the Duchesse de Chateauroux. She is now the minister of France."
The priest spoke with indescribable bitterness; so much so, indeed, that Claude was amazed.
"The latest news," continued Pere Michel, "is, that England is going to send an army to assist Austria. The queen, Maria Theresa, will now be able to turn the scales against France. This means war, and the declaration must follow soon. Well, poor old Fleury kept out of war with England till he died. But that was Walpole's doing, perhaps. They were wonderful friends; and perhaps it was just as well. But this new ministry—this woman and her friends—they will make a change for France; and I only hope, while they are reversing Fleury's policy in some things, they'll do it in others.
"France," continued Pere Michel, in a gloomy tone, "France is rotten to the core—all France, both at home and abroad. Why, even out here the fatal system reigns. This commandant," he went on, dropping his voice, "is as deeply implicated as any of them. He was appointed by a court favorite; so was Cazeneau. He came out with the intention of making his fortune, not for the sake of building up a French empire in America.
"It's no use. France can't build up an empire here. The English will get America. They come out as a people, and settle in the forest; but we come out as officials, to make money out of our country. Already the English are millions, and we are thousands. What chance is there for us? Some day an English army will come and drive us out of Ile Royale, and out of Canada, as they've already driven us out of Acadie. Our own people are discouraged; and, though they love France, yet they feel less oppressed under English rule. Can there be a worse commentary on French rule than that?
"And you, my son," continued the priest, in a milder tone, but one which was equally earnest, "don't think of going to France. You can do nothing there. It would require the expenditure of a fortune in bribery to get to the ears of those who surround the king; and then there would be no hope of obtaining justice from them. All are interested in letting things remain as they were. The wrong done was committed years ago. The estates have passed into other hands, and from one owner to another. The present holders are all-powerful at court; and if you wore to go there, you would only wear out your youth, and accomplish nothing."
There was a little beau monde at Louisbourg, which, as might be expected, was quite gay, since it was French. At the head stood, of course; the commandant and his lady; then came the military officers with their ladies, and the naval officers without their ladies, together with the unmarried officers of both services. As the gentlemen far outnumbered the ladies, the latter were always in great demand; so that the ladies of the civilians, though of a decidedly inferior grade, were objects of attention and of homage. This being the case, it will readily be perceived what an effect was produced upon the beau monde at Louisbourg by the advent of such a bright, particular star as Mimi. Young, beautiful, accomplished, she also added the charms of rank, and title, and supposed wealth. The Count de Laborde had been prominent at court, and his name was well known. His daughter was therefore looked upon as one of the greatest heiresses of France, and there was not a young officer at Louisbourg who did not inwardly vow to strive to win so dazzling a prize.
She would at once have been compelled to undergo a round of the most exhaustive festivities, had it not been for one thing—she was in mourning. Her bereavement had been severe, and was so recent that all thoughts of gayety were out of the question. This fact lessened the chances which the gallant French cavaliers might otherwise have had, but in no respect lessened their devotion. Beauty in distress is always a touching and a resistless object to every chivalrous heart; and here the beauty was exquisite, and the distress was undeniably great.
The commandant and his lady had appropriated Mimi from the first, and Mimi congratulated herself on having found a home so easily. It was pleasant to her, after her recent imprisonment, to be among people who looked up to her with respectful and affectionate esteem. Monsieur de Florian may not have been one of the best of men; indeed, it was said that he had been diligently feathering his nest at the expense of the government ever since he had been in Louisbourg; but in spite of that, he was a kindhearted man, while his wife was a kind-hearted woman, and one, too, who was full of tact and delicacy. Mimi's position, therefore, was as pleasant as it could be, under the circumstances.
After one or two days had passed, Claude began to be aware of the fact that life in Louisbourg was much less pleasant than life on the road. There he was all day long close beside Mimi, or at her horse's bridle, with confidential chat about a thousand things, with eloquent nothings, and shy glances, and tender little attentions, and delicate services. Here, however, it was all different. All this had come to an end. The difficulty now was, to see Mimi at all. It is true there was no lack of friendliness on the part of the commandant, or of his good lady; but then he was only one among many, who all were received with the same genial welcome by this genial and polished pair. The chivalry of Louisbourg crowded to do homage to the beautiful stranger, and the position of Claude did not seem to be at all more favorable than that of the youngest cadet in the service.
His obscurity now troubled Claude greatly. He found himself quite insignificant in Louisbourg. If he had possessed the smallest military rank, he would have been of more consequence. He thought of coming out in his true name, as the Count de Montresor, but was deterred by the thought of the troubles into which he had already fallen by the discovery of his name. How much of that arrest was due to the ill will of Cazeneau, and how much to the actual dangers besetting him as a Montresor, he could not know. He saw plainly enough that the declaration of his name and rank might lead to a new arrest at the hands of this commandant, in which case escape could hardly be thought of. He saw that it was better far for him to be insignificant, yet free, than to be the highest personage in Louisbourg, and liable to be flung into a dungeon. His ignorance of French affairs, and of the actual history of his family, made him cautious; so that he resolved not to mention the truth about himself to any one. Under all these circumstances, Claude saw no other resource but to endure as best he could the unpleasantness of his personal situation, and live in the hope that in the course of time some change might take place by which he could be brought into closer connection with Mimi.
Fortunately for him, an opportunity of seeing Mimi occurred before he had gone too deep down into despondency. He went up one day to the citadel, about a week after he had come to Louisbourg. Mimi was at the window, and as he came she saw him, and ran to the door. Her face was radiant with smiles.
"O, I am so glad," she said, "that you have come! I did so want to see you, to ask you about something!"
"I never see you alone now," said Claude, sadly, holding her hand as though unwilling to relinquish it.
"No," said Mimi, with a slight flush, gently withdrawing her hand, "I am never alone, and there are so many callers; but M. Florian has gone out, taking the madame, on an affair of some importance; and so, you see, we can talk without interruption."
"Especially if we walk over into the garden," said Claude.
Mimi assented, and the two walked into the garden that was on the west side of the residence, and for some time neither of them said a word. The trees had just come into leaf; for the season is late in this climate, but the delay is made good by the rapid growth of vegetation after it has once started; and now the leaves were bursting forth in glorious richness and profusion, some more advanced than others, and exhibiting every stage of development. The lilacs, above all, were conspicuous for beauty; for they were covered with blossoms, with the perfume of which the air was loaded.
"I never see you now," said Claude, at length.
"No," said Mimi, sadly.
"It is not as it used to be," said Claude, with a mournful smile, "when I walked by your side day after day."
Mimi sighed, and said nothing.
"It is different with you," said Claude; "you are the centre of universal admiration, and everybody pays you attention. The time never passes heavily with you; but think of me—miserable, obscure, friendless!"
Mimi turned, and looked at him with such a piteous face that Claude stopped short. Her eyes were fixed on his with tender melancholy and reproach. They were filled with tears.
"And do you really believe that?" she said—"that the time never passes heavily with me? It has been a sad time ever since I came here. Think how short a time it is since poor, dear papa left me! Do you think I can have the heart for much enjoyment?"
"Forgive me," said Claude, deeply moved; "I had forgotten; I did not think what I was saying; I was too selfish."
"That is true," said Mimi. "While you were suffering from loneliness, you should have thought that I, too, was suffering, even in the midst of the crowd. But what are they all to me? They are all strangers. It is my friends that I want to see; and you are away, and the good Pere Michel never comes!"
"Were you lonely on the road?" asked Claude.
"Never," said Mimi, innocently, "after you came."
As she said this, a flush passed over her lovely face, and she looked away confused. Claude seized her hand, and pressed it to his lips. They then walked on in silence for some time. At last Claude spoke again.
"The ship will not leave for six weeks. If I were alone, I think I should go back to Boston. But if you go to France, I shall go, too. Have you ever thought of what you will do when you get there?"
"I suppose I shall have to go to France," said Mimi; "but why should you think of going to Boston? Are you not going on your family business?"
"I am not," said Claude. "I am only going because you are going. As to my family business, I have forgotten all about it; and, indeed, I very much doubt whether I could do anything at all. I do not even know how I am to begin. But I wish to see you safe and happy among your friends."
Mimi looked at him in sad surprise.
"I do not know whether I have any friends or not," said she. "I have only one relative, whom I have never seen. I had intended to go to her. I do not know what I shall do. If this aunt is willing to take me, I shall live with her; but she is not very rich, and I may be a burden."
"A burden!" said Claude; "that is impossible! And besides, such a great heiress as you will be welcome wherever you go."
He spoke this with a touch of bitterness in his voice; for Mimi's supposed possessions seemed to him to be the chief barrier between himself and her.
"A great heiress!" said Mimi, sadly. "I don't know what put that into your head. Unfortunately, as far as I know, I have nothing. My papa sold all his estates, and had all his money on board the Arethuse. It was all lost in the ship, and though I was an heiress when I left home, I shall go back nothing better than a beggar, to beg a home from my unknown aunt. Or," she continued, "if my aunt shows no affection, it is my intention to go back to the convent of St. Cecilia, where I was educated, and I know they will be glad to have me; and I could not find a better home for the rest of my life than among those dear sisters who love me so well."
"O, Mimi," he cried, "O, what joy it is to hear that you are a beggar! Mimi, Mimi! I have always felt that you were far above me—too far for me to raise my thoughts to you. Mimi, you are a beggar, and not an heiress! You must not go to France. I will not go. Let us remain together. I can be more to you than any friend. Come with me. Be mine. O, let me spend my life in trying to show you how I love you!"
He spoke these words quickly, feverishly, and passionately, seizing her hand in both of his. He had never called her before by her name; but now he called her by it over and over, with loving intonations. Mimi had hardly been prepared for this; but though unprepared, she was not offended. On the contrary, she looked up at him with a face that told him more than words could convey. He could not help reading its eloquent meaning. Her glance penetrated to his heart—her soul spoke to his. He caught her in his arms, and little Mimi leaned her head on his breast and wept.
But from this dream of hope and happiness they were destined to have a sudden and very rude awakening. There was a sound in the shrubbery behind them, and a voice said, in a low, cautious tone,—
At this they both started, and turned. It was the Pere Michel.
Both started as they saw him, partly from surprise, and partly, also, from the shock which they felt at the expression of his face. He was pale and agitated, and the calmness and self-control which usually characterized him had departed.
"My dear friend," said Claude, hurriedly, turning towards him and seizing his hand, "what is the matter? Are you not well? Has anything happened? You are agitated. What is the matter?"
"The very worst," said Pere Michel—"M. de Cazeneau!"
"What of him? Why, he is dead!"
"Dead? No; he is alive. Worse—he is here—here—in Louisbourg. I have just seen him!"
"What!" cried Claude, starting back, "M. de Cazeneau alive, and here in Louisbourg! How is that possible?"
"I don't know," said the priest. "I only know this, that I have just seen him!"
"Where? You must be mistaken."
"No, no," said the priest, hurriedly. "I know him—only too well. I saw him at the Ordnance. He has just arrived. He was brought here by Indians, on a litter. The commandant is even now with him. I saw him go in. I hurried here, for I knew that you were here, to tell you to fly. Fly then, at once, and for your life. I can get you away now, if you fly at once."
"Fly?" repeated Claude, casting a glance at Mimi.
"Yes, fly!" cried the priest, in earnest tones. "Don't think of her, —or, rather, do you, Mimi, if you value his life, urge him, entreat him, pray him to fly. He is lost if he stays. One moment more may destroy him."
Mimi turned as pale as death. Her lips parted. She would have spoken, but could say nothing.
"Come," cried the priest, "come, hasten, fly! It may be only for a few weeks—a few weeks only—think of that. There is more at stake than you imagine. Boy, you know not what you are risking—not your own life, but the lives of others; the honor of your family; the hope of the final redemption of your race. Haste—fly, fly!"
The priest spoke in tones of feverish impetuosity. At these words Claude stood thunder-struck. It seemed as though this priest knew something about his family. What did he know? How could he allude to the honor of that family, and the hope of its redemption?
"O, fly! O, fly! Haste!" cried Mimi, who had at last found her voice. "Don't think of me. Fly—save yourself, before it's too late."
"What! and leave you at his mercy?" said Claude.
"O, don't think of me," cried Mimi; "save yourself."
"Haste—come," cried the priest; "it is already too late. You have wasted precious moments."
"I cannot," cried Claude, as he looked at Mimi, who stood in an attitude of despair.
"Then you are lost," groaned the priest, in a voice of bitterest grief.
THE CAPTIVE AND THE CAPTORS.
Further conversation was now prevented by the approach of a company of soldiers, headed by the commandant. Mimi stood as if rooted to the spot, and then suddenly caught Claude by the arm, as though by her weak strength she could save him from the fate which was impending over him; but the priest interposed, and gently drew her away.
The soldiers halted at the entrance to the garden, and the commandant came forward. His face was clouded and somewhat stern, and every particle of his old friendliness seemed to have departed.
"I regret, monsieur," said he, "the unpleasant necessity which forces me to arrest you; but, had I known anything about your crime, you would have been put under arrest before you had enjoyed my hospitality."
"O, monsieur!" interrupted Mimi.
The commandant turned, and said, severely, "I trust that the Countess de Laborde will see the impropriety of her presence here. Monsieur L'Abbe, will you give the countess your arm into the house?"
Pere Michel, at this, led Mimi away. One parting look she threw upon Claude, full of utter despair, and then, leaning upon the arm of the priest, walked slowly in.
Claude said not a word in reply to the address of the commandant. He knew too well that under present circumstances words would be utterly useless. If Cazeneau was indeed alive, and now in Louisbourg, then there could be no hope for himself. If the former charges which led to his arrest should be insufficient to condemn him, his attack upon Cazeneau would afford sufficient cause to his enemy to glut his vengeance.
The soldiers took him in charge, and he was marched away across the parade to the prison. This was a stone building, one story in height, with small grated windows, and stout oaken door studded with iron nails. Inside there were two rooms, one on each side of the entrance. These rooms were low, and the floor, which was laid on the earth, was composed of boards, which were decayed and moulded with damp. The ceiling was low, and the light but scanty. A stout table and stool formed the only furniture, while a bundle of mouldy straw in one corner was evidently intended to be his bed. Into this place Claude entered; the door was fastened, and he was left alone.
On finding himself alone in this place, he sat upon the stool, and for some time his thoughts were scarcely of a coherent kind. It was not easy for him to understand or realize his position, such a short interval had elapsed since he was enjoying the sweets of an interview with Mimi. The transition had been sudden and terrible. It had cast him down from the highest happiness to the lowest misery. A few moments ago, and all was bright hope; now all was black despair. Indeed, his present situation had an additional gloom from the very happiness which he had recently enjoyed, and in direct proportion to it. Had it not been for that last interview, he would not have known what he had lost.
Hope for himself there was none. Even under ordinary circumstances, there could hardly have been any chance of his escape; but now, after Cazeneau had so nearly lost his life, there could be nothing in store for him but sure and speedy death. He saw that he would most undoubtedly be tried, condemned, and executed here in Louisbourg, and that there was not the slightest hope that he would be sent to France for his trial.
Not long after Claude had been thrust into his prison, a party entered the citadel, bearing with them a litter, upon which reclined the form of a feeble and suffering man. It was Cazeneau. The wound which Claude had given him had not been fatal, after all; and he had recovered sufficiently to endure a long journey in this way; yet it had been a severe one, and had made great ravages in him. He appeared many years older. Formerly, he had not looked over forty; now he looked at least as old as Pere Michel. His face was wan; his complexion a grayish pallor; his frame was emaciated and weak. As he was brought into the citadel, the commandant came out from his residence to meet him, accompanied by some servants, and by these the suffering man was borne into the house.
"All is ready, my dear count," said the commandant. "You will feel much better after you have some rest of the proper kind."
"But have you arrested him?" asked Cazeneau, earnestly.
"I have; he is safe now in prison."
"Very good. And now, Monsieur Le Commandant, if you will have the kindness to send me to my room—"
"Monsieur Le Commandant, you reign here now," said the other. "My authority is over since you have come, and you have only to give your orders."
"At any rate, mon ami, you must remain in power till I get some rest and sleep," said Cazeneau.
Rest, food, and, above all, a good night's sleep, had a very favorable effect upon Cazeneau, and on the following morning, when the commandant waited on him, he congratulated him on the improvement in his appearance. Cazeneau acknowledged that he felt better, and made very pointed inquiries about Mimi, which led to the recital of the circumstances of Claude's arrest in Mimi's presence. Whatever impression this may have made upon the hearer, he did not show it, but preserved an unchanged demeanor.
A conversation of a general nature now followed, turning chiefly upon affairs in France.
"You had a long voyage," remarked the commandant.
"Yes; and an unpleasant one. We left in March, but it seems longer than that; for it was in February that I left Versailles, only a little while after the death of his eminence."
"I fancy there will be a great change now in the policy of the government."
"O, of course. The peace policy is over. War with England must be. The king professes now to do like his predecessor, and govern without a minister; but we all know what that means. To do without a minister is one thing for Louis Quatorze, but another thing altogether for Louis Quinze. The Duchesse de Chateauroux will be minister—for the present. Then we have D'Aguesseau, D'Argenson, and Maurepas. O, there'll be war at once. I dare say it has already been declared. At any rate, it's best to act on that principle."
"Well, as to that, monsieur, we generally do act on that principle out here. But Fleury was a wonderful old man."
"Yes; but he died too soon."
"Too soon! What, at the age of ninety?"
"O, well, I meant too soon for me. Had he died ten years ago, or had he lived two years longer, I should not have come out here."