THE SEATS OF THE MIGHTY - VOLUME 4.
THE SEATS OF THE MIGHTY - VOLUME 4.
XX Upon the ramparts
XXI La Jongleuse
XXII The lord of Kamaraska
XXIII With Wolfe at Montmorenci
XXIV The sacred countersign
UPON THE RAMPARTS
The Governor visited me. His attitude was marked by nothing so
much as a supercilious courtesy a manner which said You must
see I am not to be trifled with; and though I have you here in
my chateau it is that I may make a fine scorching of you in the
end. He would make of me an example to amaze and instruct the
nations--when I was robust enough to die.
I might easily have flattered myself on being an object of
interest to the eyes of nations. I almost pitied him; for he
appeared so lost in self-admiration and the importance of his
office that he would never see disaster when it came.
"There is but one master here in Canada" he said "and I am he.
If things go wrong it is because my orders are not obeyed. Your
people have taken Louisburg; had I been there it should never have
been given up. Drucour was hasty--he listened to the women. I should
allow no woman to move me. I should be inflexible. They might send
two Amhersts and two Wolfes against me I would hold my fortress."
"They will never send two your Excellency" said I.
He did not see the irony and he prattled on: "That Wolfe they
tell me is bandy-legged; is no better than a girl at sea and
never well ashore. I am always in raw health--the strong mind in
the potent body. Had I been at Louisburg I should have held it
as I held Ticonderoga last July and drove the English back with
Here was news. I had had no information in many months and all
at once two great facts were brought to me.
"Your Excellency then was at Ticonderoga?" said I.
"I sent Montcalm to defend it" he replied pompously. "I told
him how he must act; I was explicit and it came out as I had said:
we were victorious. Yet he would have done better had he obeyed me
in everything. If I had been at Louisburg--"
I could not at first bring myself to flatter the vice-regal peacock;
for it had been my mind to fight these Frenchmen always; to yield in
nothing; to defeat them like a soldier not like a juggler. But I
brought myself to say half ironically "If all great men had capable
instruments they would seldom fail."
"You have touched the heart of the matter" he said credulously.
"It is a pity" he added with complacent severity "that you
have been so misguided and criminal; you have in some things
more sense than folly."
I bowed as to a compliment from a great man. Then all at once
I spoke to him with an air of apparent frankness and said that if
I must die I cared to do so like a gentleman with some sort of
health and not like an invalid. He must admit that at least I was
no coward. He might fence me about with what guards he chose but
I prayed him to let me walk upon the ramparts when I was strong
enough to be abroad under all due espionage. I had already
suffered many deaths I said and I would go to the final one
looking like a man and not like an outcast of humanity.
"Ah I have heard this before" said he. "Monsieur Doltaire who
is in prison here and is to fare on to the Bastile was insolent
enough to send me message yesterday that I should keep you close in
your dungeon. But I had had enough of Monsieur Doltaire; and indeed
it was through me that the Grande Marquise had him called to
durance. He was a muddler here. They must not interfere with me; I
am not to be cajoled or crossed in my plans. We shall see we shall
see about the ramparts" he continued. "Meanwhile prepare to die."
This he said with such importance that I almost laughed in his face.
But I bowed with a sort of awed submission and he turned and left
I grew stronger slowly day by day but it was quite a month
before Alixe came again. Sometimes I saw her walking on the banks
of the river and I was sure she was there that I might see her
though she made no sign towards me nor ever seemed to look towards
Spring was now fully come. The snow had gone from the ground
the tender grass was springing the air was so soft and kind. One
fine day at the beginning of May I heard the booming of cannons
and a great shouting and looking out I could see crowds of
people upon the banks and many boats in the river where yet the
ice had not entirely broken up. By stretching from my window
through the bars of which I could get my head but not my body I
noted a squadron sailing round the point of the Island of Orleans.
I took it to be a fleet from France bearing re-enforcements
and supplies--as indeed afterwards I found was so; but the
re-enforcements were so small and the supplies so limited that
it is said Montcalm when he knew cried out "Now is all lost!
Nothing remains but to fight and die. I shall see my beloved
Candiac no more."
For the first time all the English colonies had combined against
Canada. Vaudreuil and Montcalm were at variance and Vaudreuil
had through his personal hatred and envy of Montcalm signed the
death-warrant of the colony by writing to the colonial minister
that Montcalm's agents going for succour were not to be trusted.
Yet at that moment I did not know these things and the sight made
me grave though it made me sure also that this year would find the
British battering this same Chateau.
Presently there came word from the Governor that I might walk
upon the ramparts and I was taken forth for several hours each
day; always however under strict surveillance my guards well
armed attending while the ramparts were as usual patrolled by
soldiers. I could see that ample preparations were being made
against a siege and every day the excitement increased. I got to
know more definitely of what was going on when under vigilance
I was allowed to speak to Lieutenant Stevens who also was
permitted some such freedom as I had enjoyed when I first came to
Quebec. He had private information that General Wolfe or General
Amherst was likely to proceed against Quebec from Louisburg and
he was determined to join the expedition.
For months he had been maturing plans for escape. There was one
Clark a ship-carpenter (of whom I have before written) and two
other bold spirits who were sick of captivity and it was intended
to fare forth one night and make a run for freedom. Clark had had a
notable plan. A wreck of several transports had occurred at Belle
Isle and it was thought to send him down the river with a sloop to
bring back the crew and break up the wreck. It was his purpose to
arm his sloop with Lieutenant Stevens and some English prisoners
the night before she was to sail and steal away with her down
the river. But whether or not the authorities suspected him the
command was given to another.
It was proposed however on a dark night to get away to some
point on the river where a boat should be stationed--though that
was a difficult matter for the river was well patrolled and boats
were scarce--and drift quietly down the stream till a good distance
below the city. Mr. Stevens said he had delayed the attempt on the
faint hope of fetching me along. Money he said was needed for
Clark and all were very poor and common necessaries were now at
exorbitant prices in the country. Tyranny and robbery had made corn
and clothing luxuries. All the old tricks of Bigot and his La
Friponne which after the outbreak the night of my arrest at the
Seigneur Duvarney's had been somewhat repressed were in full swing
again and robbery in the name of providing for defense was the only
I managed to convey to Mr. Stevens a good sum of money and
begged him to meet me every day upon the ramparts until I also
should see my way to making a dart for freedom. I advised him in
many ways for he was more bold than shrewd and I made him promise
that he would not tell Clark or the others that I was to make trial
to go with them. I feared the accident of disclosure and any new
failure on my part to get away would I knew mean my instant
death consent of King or no consent.
One evening a soldier entered my room whom in the half-darkness
I did not recognize till a voice said "There's orders new! Not
dungeon now but this room Governor bespeaks for gentlemen from
"And where am I to go Gabord?"
"Where you will have fighting" he answered.
"Yourself aho!" A queer smile crossed his lips and was followed
by a sort of sternness. There was something graver in his manner
than I had ever seen. I could not guess his meaning. At last he
added pulling roughly at his mustache "And when that's done if
not well done to answer to Gabord the soldier; for God take my
soul without bed-going but I will call you to account! That
Seigneur's home is no place for you."
"You speak in riddles" said I. Then all at once the matter burst
upon me. "The Governor quarters me at the Seigneur Duvarney's?"
"No other" answered he. "In three days to go."
I understood him now. He had had a struggle knowing of the
relations between Alixe and myself to avoid telling the Governor
all. And now if I involved her used her to effect my escape from
her father's house! Even his peasant brain saw my difficulty the
danger to my honour--and hers. In spite of the joy I felt at being
near her seeing her I shrank from the situation. If I escaped
from the Seigneur Duvarney's it would throw suspicion upon him
upon Alixe and that made me stand abashed. Inside the Seigneur
Duvarney's house I should now feel unhappy bound to certain calls
of honour concerning his daughter and himself. I stood long
thinking Gabord watching me.
Finally "Gabord" said I "I give you my word of honour that I
will not put Mademoiselle or Monsieur Duvarney in peril."
"You will not try to escape?"
"Not to use them for escape. To elude my guards to fight my way
"But that mends not. Who's to know the lady did not help you?"
"You. You are to be my jailer again there?"
He nodded and fell to pulling his mustache. "'Tis not enough"
he said decisively.
"Come then" said I "I will strike a bargain with you. If you
will grant me one thing I will give my word of honour not to escape
from the seigneur's house."
"You tell me I am not to go to the seigneur's for three days yet.
Arrange that mademoiselle may come to me to-morrow at dusk--at six
o'clock when all the world dines--and I will give my word. No more
do I ask you--only that."
"Done" said he. "It shall be so."
"You will fetch her yourself?" I asked.
"On the stroke of six. Guard changes then."
Here our talk ended. He went and I plunged deep into my great plan;
for all at once as we had talked came a thing to me which I shall
make clear ere long. I set my wits to work. Once since my coming to
the chateau I had been visited by the English chaplain who had been
a prisoner at the citadel the year before. He was now on parole and
had freedom to come and go in the town. The Governor had said he
might visit me on a certain day every week at a fixed hour and
the next day at five o'clock was the time appointed for his second
visit. Gabord had promised to bring Alixe to me at six.
The following morning I met Mr. Stevens on the ramparts. I told
him it was my purpose to escape the next night if possible. If
not I must go to the Seigneur Duvarney's where I should be on
parole--to Gabord. I bade him fulfill my wishes to the letter for
on his boldness and my own and the courage of his men I depended
for escape. He declared himself ready to risk all and die in the
attempt if need be for he was sick of idleness. He could he
said mature his plans that day if he had more money. I gave him
secretly a small bag of gold and then I made explicit note of
what I required of him: that he should tie up in a loose but safe
bundle a sheet a woman's skirt some river grasses and reeds
some phosphorus a pistol and a knife and some saltpetre and
other chemicals. That evening about nine o'clock which was the
hour the guard changed he was to tie this bundle to a string
which I let down from my window and I would draw it up. Then the
night following the others must steal away to that place near
Sillery--the west side of the town was always ill guarded--and wait
there with a boat. He should see me at a certain point on the
ramparts and well armed we also would make our way to Sillery
and from the spot called the Anse du Foulon drift down the river
in the dead of night.
He promised to do all as I wished.
The rest of the day I spent in my room fashioning strange toys
out of willow rods. I had got these rods from my guards to make
whistles for their children and they had carried away many of
them. But now with pieces of a silk handkerchief tied to the
whistle and filled with air I made a toy which when squeezed
sent out a weird lament. Once when my guard came in I pressed one
of these things in my pocket and it gave forth a sort of smothered
cry like a sick child. At this he started and looked round the
room in trepidation; for of all peoples these Canadian Frenchmen
are the most superstitious and may be worked on without limit.
The cry had seemed to come from a distance. I looked around also
and appeared serious and he asked me if I had heard the thing
"Once or twice" said I.
"Then you are a dead man" said he; "'tis a warning that!"
"Maybe it is not I but one of you" I answered. Then with a
sort of hush "Is't like the cry of La Jongleuse?" I added. (La
Jongleuse is their fabled witch or spirit of disaster.)
He nodded his head crossed himself mumbled a prayer and turned
to go but came back. "I'll fetch a crucifix" he said. "You are
a heathen and you bring her here. She is the devil's dam."
He left with a scared face and I laughed to myself quietly for
I saw success ahead of me. True to his word he brought a crucifix
and put it up--not where he wished but at my request opposite
the door upon the wall. He crossed himself before it and was
It looked singular to see this big rough soldier who was in
most things a swaggerer so childlike in all that touched his
religion. With this you could fetch him to his knees; with it
I would cow him that I might myself escape.
At half past five the chaplain came having been delayed by the
guard to have his order indorsed by Captain Lancy of the Governor's
household. To him I told my plans so far as I thought he should
know them and then I explained what I wished him to do. He was
grave and thoughtful for some minutes but at last consented. He
was a pious man and of as honest a heart as I have known albeit
narrow and confined which sprang perhaps from his provincial
practice and his theological cutting and trimming. We were in the
midst of a serious talk wherein I urged him upon matters which
shall presently be set forth when there came a noise outside. I
begged him to retire to the alcove where my bed was and draw the
curtain for a few moments nor come forth until I called. He did
so yet I thought it hurt his sense of dignity to be shifted to a
As he disappeared the door opened and Gabord and Alixe entered.
"One half hour" said Gabord and went out again.
Presently Alixe told me her story.
"I have not been idle Robert but I could not act for my father
and mother suspect my love for you. I have come but little to the
chateau without them and I was closely watched. I knew not how the
thing would end but I kept up my workings with the Governor which
is easier now Monsieur Doltaire is gone and I got you the freedom
to walk upon the ramparts. Well once before my father suspected me
I said that if his Excellency disliked your being in the Chateau
you could be as well guarded in my father's house with sentinels
always there until you could in better health be taken to the
common jail again. What was my surprise when yesterday came word to
my father that he should make ready to receive you as a prisoner;
being sure that he his Excellency's cousin the father of the man
you had injured and the most loyal of Frenchmen would guard you
diligently; he now needed all extra room in the Chateau for the
entertainment of gentlemen and officers lately come from France.
"When my father got the news he was thrown into dismay. He knew
not what to do. On what ground could he refuse the Governor? Yet
when he thought of me he felt it his duty to do so. Again on what
ground could he refuse this boon to you to whom we all owe the
blessing of his life? On my brother's account? But my brother has
written to my father justifying you and magnanimously praising you
as a man while hating you as an English soldier. On my account?
But he could not give this reason to the Governor. As for me I
was silent I waited--and I wait; I know not what will be the end.
Meanwhile preparations go on to receive you."
I could see that Alixe's mood was more tranquil since Doltaire
was gone. A certain restlessness had vanished. Her manner had much
dignity and every movement a peculiar grace and elegance. She was
dressed in a soft cloth of a gray tone touched off with red and
slashed with gold and a cloak of gray trimmed with fur with
bright silver buckles hung loosely on her thrown off at one
shoulder. There was a sweet disorder in the hair which indeed
was prettiest when freest.
When she had finished speaking she looked at me as I thought
with a little anxiety.
"Alixe" I said "we have come to the cross-roads and the way
we choose now is for all time."
She looked up startled yet governing herself and her hand
sought mine and nestled there. "I feel that too" she replied.
"What is it Robert?"
"I can not in honour escape from your father's house. I can not
steal his daughter and his safety too--"
"You must escape" she interrupted firmly.
"From here from the citadel from anywhere but your house; and
so I will not go to it."
"You will not go to it?" she repeated slowly and strangely. "How
may you not? You are a prisoner. If they make my father your
jailer--" She laughed.
"I owe that jailer and that jailer's daughter--"
"You owe them your safety and your freedom. Oh Robert I know
I know what you mean. But what care I what the world may think
by-and-bye or to-morrow or to-day? My conscience is clear."
"Your father--" I persisted.
She nodded. "Yes yes you speak truth alas! And yet you must
be freed. And"--here she got to her feet and with flashing eyes
spoke out--"and you shall be set free. Let come what will I owe
my first duty to you though all the world chatter; and I will
not stir from that. As soon as I can make it possible you
"You shall have the right to set me free" said I "if I must go
to your father's house. And if I do not go there but out to my
own good country you shall still have the right before all the
world to follow or to wait till I come to fetch you."
"I do not understand you Robert" said she. "I do not--" Here
she broke off looking looking at me and trembling a little.
Then I stooped and whispered softly in her ear. She gave a little
cry and drew back from me; yet instantly her hand came out and
caught my arm.
"Robert Robert! I can not I dare not!" she cried softly. "No
no it may not be" she added in a whisper of fear.
I went to the alcove drew back the curtain and asked Mr.
Wainfleet to step forth.
"Sir" said I picking up my Prayer Book and putting it in his
hands "I beg you to marry this lady and myself."
He paused dazed. "Marry you--here--now?" he asked shakingly.
"Before ten minutes go round this lady must be my wife" said I.
"Mademoiselle Duvarney you--" he began.
"Be pleased dear sir to open the book at 'Wilt thou have'" said
I. "The lady is a Catholic; she has not the consent of her people;
but when she is my wife made so by you whose consent need we ask?
Can you not tie us fast enough a man and woman of sense sufficient
but you must pause here? Is the knot you tie safe against picking
I had touched his vanity and his ecclesiasticism. "Married by me"
he replied "once chaplain to the Bishop of London you have a
knot that no sword can cut. I am in full orders. My parish is in