THE SEATS OF THE MIGHTY - VOLUME 5.
THE SEATS OF THE MIGHTY - VOLUME 5.
XXV In the cathedral
XXVI The secret of the tapestry
XXVII A side-wind of revenge
XXVIII "To cheat the Devil yet"
XXIX "Master Devil" Doltaire
XXX "Where all the lovers can hide"
Appendix--Excerpt from 'The Scot in New France'
IN THE CATHEDRAL
I awoke with the dawn and dressing looked out of the window
seeing the brindled light spread over the battered roofs and ruins
of the Lower Town. A bell was calling to prayers in the Jesuit
College not far away and bugle-calls told of the stirring
garrison. Soldiers and stragglers passed down the street near by
and a few starved peasants crept about the cathedral with downcast
eyes eager for crumbs that a well-fed soldier might cast aside.
Yet I knew that in the Intendant's Palace and among the officers
of the army there was abundance with revelry and dissipation.
Presently I drew to the trap-door of my loft and raising it
gently came down the ladder to the little hallway and softly
opened the door of the room where Labrouk's body lay. Candles
were burning at his head and his feet and two peasants sat dozing
in chairs near by. I could see Labrouk's face plainly in the
flickering light: a rough wholesome face it was refined by death
yet unshaven and unkempt too. Here was work for Voban's shears and
razor. Presently there was a footstep behind me and turning I
saw in the half-light the widowed wife.
"Madame" said I in a whisper "I too weep with you. I pray for
as true an end for myself."
"He was of the true faith thank the good God" she said
sincerely. She passed into the room and the two watchers after
taking refreshment left the house. Suddenly she hastened to the
door called one back and pointing to the body whispered
something. The peasant nodded and turned away. She came back into
the room stood looking at the face of the dead man for a moment
and bent over and kissed the crucifix clasped in the cold hands.
Then she stepped about the room moving a chair and sweeping up a
speck of dust in a mechanical way. Presently as if she again
remembered me she asked me to enter the room. Then she bolted the
outer door of the house. I stood looking at the body of her husband
and said "Were it not well to have Voban the barber?"
"I have sent for him and for Gabord" she replied. "Gabord was
Jean's good friend. He is with General Montcalm. The Governor put
him in prison because of the marriage of Mademoiselle Duvarney but
Monsieur Doltaire set him free and now he serves General Montcalm.
"I have work in the cathedral" continued the poor woman "and I
shall go to it this morning as I have always gone. There is a
little unused closet in a gallery where you may hide and still see
all that happens. It is your last look at the lady and I will give
it to you as you gave me to know of my Jean."
"My last look?" I asked eagerly.
"She goes into the nunnery to-morrow they say" was the reply.
"Her marriage is to be set aside by the bishop to-day--in the
cathedral. This is her last night to live as such as I--but no
she will be happier so."
"Madame" said I "I am a heretic but I listened when your
husband said 'Mon grand homme de Calvaire bon soir!' Was the
cross less a cross because a heretic put it to his lips? Is a
marriage less a marriage because a heretic is the husband? Madame
you loved your Jean; if he were living now what would you do to
keep him. Think madame is not love more than all?"
She turned to the dead body. "Mon petit Jean!" she
murmured but made no reply to me and for many minutes the room
was silent. At last she turned and said "You must come at once
for soon the priests will be at the church. A little later I will
bring you some breakfast and you must not stir from there till I
come to fetch you--no."
"I wish to see Voban" said I.
She thought a moment. "I will try to fetch him to you by-and-bye"
she said. She did not speak further but finished the sentence by
pointing to the body.
Presently hearing footsteps she drew me into another little
room. "It is the grandfather" she said. "He has forgotten you
already and he must not see you again."
We saw the old man hobble into the room we had left carrying in
one arm Jean's coat and hat. He stood still and nodded at the body
and mumbled to himself; then he went over and touched the hands and
forehead nodding wisely; after which he came to his armchair and
sitting down spread the coat over his knees put the cap on it
and gossiped with himself:
"In eild our idle fancies all return
The mind's eye cradled by the open grave."
A moment later the woman passed from the rear of the house to
the vestry door of the cathedral. After a minute seeing no one
near I followed came to the front door entered and passed up a
side aisle towards the choir. There was no one to be seen but soon
the woman came out of the vestry and beckoned to me nervously. I
followed her quick movements and was soon in a narrow stairway
coming after fifty steps or so to a sort of cloister from which
we went into a little cubiculum or cell with a wooden lattice
door which opened on a small gallery. Through the lattices the
nave amid choir could be viewed distinctly.
Without a word the woman turned and left me and I sat down on a
little stone bench and waited. I saw the acolytes come and go
and priests move back and forth before the altar; I smelt the
grateful incense as it rose when mass was said; I watched the people
gather in little clusters at the different shrines or seek the
confessional or kneel to receive the blessed sacrament. Many who
came were familiar--among them Mademoiselle Lucie Lotbiniere. Lucie
prayed long before a shrine of the Virgin and when she rose at last
her face bore signs of weeping. Also I noticed her suddenly start as
she moved down the aisle for a figure came forward from seclusion
and touched her arm. As he half turned I saw that it was Juste
Duvarney. The girl drew back from him raising her hand as if in
protest and it struck me that her grief and her repulse of him had
to do with putting Alixe away into a nunnery.
I sat hungry and thirsty for quite three hours and then the
church became empty and only an old verger kept a seat by the
door half asleep though the artillery of both armies was at work
and the air was laden with the smell of powder. (Until this time
our batteries had avoided firing on the churches.) At last I heard
footsteps near me in the dark stairway and I felt for my pistols
for the feet were not those of Labrouk's wife. I waited anxiously
and was overjoyed to see Voban enter my hiding-place bearing some
food. I greeted him warmly but he made little demonstration. He
was like one who occupied with some great matter passed through
the usual affairs of life with a distant eye. Immediately he
handed me a letter saying:
"M'sieu' I give my word to hand you this--in a day or a year
as I am able. I get your message to me this morning and then I
come to care for Jean Labrouk and so I find you here and I
give the letter. It come to me last night."
The letter was from Alixe. I opened it with haste and in the
dim light read:
MY BELOVED HUSBAND: Oh was there no power in earth or heaven to
bring me to your arms to-day?
To-morow they come to see my marriage annulled by the Church.
And every one will say it is annulled--every one but me. I in
God's name will say no though it break my heart to oppose
myself to them all.
Why did my brother come back? He has been hard--O Robert he
has been hard upon me and yet I was ever kind to him! My father
too he listens to the Church and though he likes not Monsieur
Doltaire he works for him in a hundred ways without seeing it.
I alas! see it too well and my brother is as wax in monsieur's
hands. Juste loves Lucie Lotbiniere--that should make him kind.
She sweet friend does not desert me but is kept from me. She
says she will not yield to Juste's suit until he yields to me.
If--oh if Madame Jamond had not gone to Montreal!
...As I was writing the foregoing sentence my father asked to
see me and we have had a talk--ah a most bitter talk!
"Alixe" said he "this is our last evening together and I
would have it peaceful."
"My father" said I "it is not my will that this evening be our
last; and for peace I long for it with all my heart."
He frowned and answered "You have brought me trouble and
sorrow. Mother of God! was it not possible for you to be as
your sister Georgette? I gave her less love yet she honours
"She honours you my father by a sweet good life and by marriage
into an honourable family and at your word she gives her hand to
Monsieur Auguste de la Darante. She marries to your pleasure
therefore she has peace and your love. I marry a man of my own
choosing a bitterly wronged gentleman and you treat me as some
wicked thing. Is that like a father who loves his child?"
"The wronged gentleman as you call him invaded that which is
the pride of every honest gentleman" he said.
"And what is that?" asked I quietly though I felt the blood
beating at my temples.
"My family honour the good name and virtue of my daughter."
I got to my feet and looked my father in the eyes with an anger
and a coldness that hurts me now when I think of it and I said "I
will not let you speak so to me. Friendless though I be you shall
not. You have the power to oppress me but you shall not slander me
to my face. Can not you leave insults to my enemies?"
"I will never leave you to the insults of this mock marriage"
answered he angrily also. "Two days hence I take command of five
thousand burghers and your brother Juste serves with General
Montcalm. There is to be last fighting soon between us and the
English. I do not doubt of the result but I may fall and your
brother also and should the English win I will not leave you to
him you call your husband. Therefore you shall be kept safe where
no alien hands may reach you. The Church will hold you close."
I calmed myself again while listening to him and I asked "Is
there no other way?"
He shook his head.
"Is there no Monsieur Doltaire?" said I. "He has a king's blood
in his veins!"
He looked sharply at me. "You are mocking" he replied. "No no
that is no way either. Monsieur Doltaire must never mate with
daughter of mine. I will take care of that; the Church is a perfect
if gentle jailer."
I could bear it no longer. I knelt to him. I begged him to have
pity on me. I pleaded with him; I recalled the days when as a
child I sat upon his knee and listened to the wonderful tales he
told; I begged him by the memory of all the years when he and I
were such true friends to be kind to me now to be merciful--even
though he thought I had done wrong--to be merciful. I asked him to
remember that I was a motherless girl and that if I had missed the
way to happiness he ought not to make my path bitter to the end. I
begged him to give me back his love and confidence and if I must
for evermore be parted from you to let me be with him not to put
me away into a convent.
Oh how my heart leaped when I saw his face soften! "Well
well" he said "if I live you shall be taken from the convent;
but for the present till this fighting is over it is the only
safe place. There too you shall be safe from Monsieur
It was poor comfort. "But should you be killed and the English
take Quebec?" said I.
"When I am dead" he answered "when I am dead then there is
"And if he speaks for Monsieur Doltaire?" asked I.
"There is the Church and God always" he answered.
"And my own husband the man who saved your life my father" I
urged gently; and when he would have spoken I threw myself into his
arms--the first time in such long long weeks!--and stopping his
lips with my fingers burst into tears on his breast. I think much
of his anger against me passed yet before he left he said he could
not now prevent the annulment of the marriage even if he would
for other powers were at work; which powers I supposed to be the
Governor for certain reasons of enmity to my father and me--alas!
how changed is he the vain old man!--and Monsieur Doltaire whose
ends I knew so well. So they will unwed us to-morrow Robert; but
be sure that I shall never be unwed in my own eyes and that I will
wait till I die hoping you will come and take me--oh Robert my
husband--take me home.
If I had one hundred men I would fight my way out of this city
and to you; but dear I have none not even Gabord who is not let
come near me. There is but Voban. Yet he will bear you this if it
be possible for he comes to-night to adorn my fashionable brother.
The poor Mathilde I have not seen of late. She has vanished. When
they began to keep me close and carried me off at last into the
country where we were captured by the English I could not see
her and my heart aches for her.
God bless you Robert and farewell. How we shall smile when
all this misery is done! Oh say we shall say we shall smile and
all this misery cease. Will you not take me home? Do you still
love thy wife thy
I bade Voban come to me at the little house behind the church
that night at ten o'clock and by then I should have arranged some
plan of action. I knew not whether to trust Gabord or no. I was
sorry now that I had not tried to bring Clark with me. He was
fearless and he knew the town well; but he lacked discretion
and that was vital.
Two hours of waiting then came a scene which is burned into my
brain. I looked down upon a mass of people soldiers couriers of
the woods beggars priests camp followers and anxious gentlefolk
come from seclusion or hiding or vigils of war to see a host of
powers torture a young girl who by suffering had been made a woman
long before her time. Out in the streets was the tramping of armed
men together with the call of bugles and the sharp rattle of drums.
Presently I heard the hoofs of many horses and soon afterwards
there entered the door and way was made for him up the nave
the Marquis de Vaudreuil and his suite with the Chevalier de la
Darante the Intendant and--to my indignation--Juste Duvarney.
They had no sooner taken their places than from a little side
door near the vestry there entered the Seigneur Duvarney and
Alixe who coming down slowly took places very near the chancel
steps. The Seigneur was pale and stern and carried himself with
great dignity. His glance never shifted from the choir where the
priests slowly entered and took their places the aged and feeble
bishop going falteringly to his throne. Alixe's face was pale and
sorrowful and yet it had a dignity and self-reliance that gave
it a kind of grandeur. A buzz passed through the building yet I
noted too with gladness that there were tears on many faces.
A figure stole in beside Alixe. It was Mademoiselle Lotbiniere who
immediately was followed by her mother. I leaned forward perfectly
hidden and listened to the singsong voices of the priests the
musical note of the responses heard the Kyrie Eleison the
clanging of the belfry bell as the host was raised by the trembling
bishop. The silence which followed the mournful voluntary played by
the organ was most painful to me.
At that moment a figure stepped from behind a pillar and gave
Alixe a deep scrutinizing look. It was Doltaire. He was graver
than I had ever seen him and was dressed scrupulously in black
with a little white lace showing at the wrists and neck. A
handsomer figure it would be hard to see; and I hated him for it
and wondered what new devilry was in his mind. He seemed to sweep
the church with a glance. Nothing could have escaped that swift
searching look. His eyes were even raised to where I was so that
I involuntarily drew back though I knew he could not see me.
I was arrested suddenly by a curious disdainful even sneering
smile which played upon his face as he looked at Vaudreuil and
Bigot. There was in it more scorn than malice more triumph than
active hatred. All at once I remembered what he had said to me
the day before: that he had commission from the King through La
Pompadour to take over the reins of government from the two
confederates and send them to France to answer the charges made
At last the bishop came forward and read from a paper as follows:
"Forasmuch as a well-beloved child of our Holy Church Mademoiselle
Alixe Duvarney of the parish of Beauport and of this cathedral
parish in this province of New France forgetting her manifest duty
and our sacred teaching did illegally and in sinful error make
feigned contract of marriage with one Robert Moray captain in a
Virginian regiment a heretic a spy and an enemy to our country;
and forasmuch as this was done in violence of all nice habit and
commendable obedience to Mother Church and our national uses we
do hereby declare and make void this alliance until such time as
the Holy Father at Rome shall finally approve our action and
proclaiming. And it is enjoined upon Mademoiselle Alixe Duvarney
on peril of her soul's salvation to obey us in this matter and
neither by word or deed or thought have commerce more with this
notorious and evil heretic and foe of our Church and of our country.
It is also the plain duty of the faithful children of our Holy
Church to regard this Captain Moray with a pious hatred and to
destroy him without pity; and any good cunning or enticement which
should lure him to the punishment he so much deserves shall be
approved. Furthermore Mademoiselle Alixe Duvarney shall until
such times as there shall be peace in this land and the molesting
English are driven back with slaughter--and for all time if the
heart of our sister incline to penitence and love of Christ--be
confined within the Convent of the Ursulines and cared for with
He left off reading and began to address himself to Alixe
directly; but she rose in her place and while surprise and awe
seized the congregation she said:
"Monseigneur I must needs at my father's bidding hear the
annulment of my marriage but I will not hear this public
exhortation. I am but a poor girl unlearned in the law and I must
needs submit to your power for I have no one here to speak for me.
But my soul and my conscience I carry to my Saviour and I have no
fear to answer Him. I am sorry that I have offended against my
people and my country and Holy Church but I repent not that I love
and hold to my husband. You must do with me as you will but in
this I shall never willingly yield."
She turned to her father and all the people breathed hard; for
it passed their understanding and seemed most scandalous that a
girl could thus defy the Church and answer the bishop in his own
cathedral. Her father rose and then I saw her sway with faintness.
I know not what might have occurred for the bishop stood with hand
upraised and a great indignation in his face about to speak when
out of the desultory firing from our batteries there came a shell
which burst even at the cathedral entrance tore away a portion of
the wall and killed and wounded a number of people.
Then followed a panic which the priests in vain tried to quell.
The people swarmed into the choir and through the vestry. I saw
Doltaire with Juste Duvarney spring swiftly to the side of Alixe
and with her father put her and Mademoiselle Lotbiniere into
the pulpit forming a ring round it and preventing the crowd
from trampling on them as suddenly gone mad they swarmed past.
The Governor the Intendant and the Chevalier de la Darante did
as much also for Madame Lotbiniere; and as soon as the crush had
in a little subsided a number of soldiers cleared the way and
I saw my wife led from the church. I longed to leap down there
among them and claim her but that thought was madness for I
should have been food for worms in a trice so I kept my place.
THE SECRET OF THE TAPESTRY
That evening at eight o'clock Jean Labrouk was buried. A
shell had burst not a dozen paces from his own door within the
consecrated ground of the cathedral and in a hole it had made he
was laid the only mourners his wife and his grandfather and two
soldiers of his company sent by General Bougainville to bury him.
I watched the ceremony from my loft which had one small dormer
window. It was dark but burning buildings in the Lower Town made
all light about the place. I could hear the grandfather mumbling
and talking to the body as it was lowered into the ground. While
yet the priest was hastily reading prayers a dusty horseman came
riding to the grave and dismounted.
"Jean" he said looking at the grave "Jean Labrouk a man dies
well that dies with his gaiters on aho! ... What have you said
for Jean Labrouk m'sieu'?" he added to the priest.
The priest stared at him as though he had presumed.
"Well?" said Gabord. "Well?"
The priest answered nothing but prepared to go whispering a