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misery: is it, then, misery? Need it be so? But lift
your finger, and all will be well. Do you wish to save
your country? Would that be compensation? Then I
will show you the way. We have three times as many
soldiers as the English, though of poorer stuff. We
could hold this place, could defeat them, if we were
united and had but two thousand men. We have fifteen


thousand. As it is now, Vaudreuil balks Montcalm,
and that will ruin us in the end unless you make it
otherwise. You would be a patriot? Then shut out
forever this English captain from your heart, and open
its doors to me. To-morrow I will take Vaudreuil's
place, put your father in Bigot's, your brother in
Ramesay's they are both perfect and capable; I will
strengthen the excellent Montcalm's hands in every
way, will inspire the people, and cause the English to
raise this siege. You and I will do this : the Church will
bless us, the state will thank us; your home and coun-
try will be safe and happy, your father and brother
honoured. This, and far, far greater things I will do for
your sake."

He paused. He had spoken with a deep power, such
as I knew he could use, and I did not wonder that she
paled a little, even trembled before it.

"Will you not do it for France?" she said.

"I will not do it for France," he answered. "I will
do it for you alone. Will you not be your country's
friend? It is no virtue in me to plead patriotism it
is a mere argument, a weapon that I use; but my heart
is behind it, and it is a means to that which you will
thank me for one day. I would not force you to any-
thing, but I would persuade your reason, question your
foolish loyalty to a girl's mistake. Can you think that
you are right? You have no friend that commends your
cause; the whole country has upbraided you, the Church
has cut you off from the man. All is against reunion
with him, and most of all your own honour. Come
with me, and be commended and blessed here, while
over in France homage shall be done you. For you I
will take from his Majesty the dukedom which he has
offered me more than once."

Suddenly with a passionate tone, he continued:


"Your own heart is speaking for me. Have I not seen
you tremble when I came near you?"

He rose and came forward a step or two. "You
thought it was fear of me. It was fear, but fear of
that in you which was pleading for me, while you had
sworn yourself away to him who knows not and can
never know how to love you, who has nothing kin with
you in mind or heart an alien of poor fortune and
poorer birth and prospects."

He fixed his eyes upon her, and went on, speaking
with forceful quietness: "Had there been cut away that
mistaken sense of duty to him, which I admire unspeak-
ably yes, though it is misplaced you and I would
have come to each other's arms long ago. Here in your
atmosphere I feel myself possessed, endowed. I come
close to you, and something new in me cries out simply,
'I love you, Alixe, I love you!' See, all the damnable
part of me is burned up by the fire of your eyes; I stand
upon the ashes, and swear that I cannot live without
you. Come come "

He stepped nearer still, and she rose like one who
moves under some fascination, and I almost cried out,
for hi that moment she was his, his I felt it; he pos-
sessed her like some spirit; and I understood it, for the
devilish golden beauty of his voice was like music, and
he had spoken with great skill.

"Come," he said, "and know where all along your
love has lain. That other way is only darkness the
convent, which will keep you buried, while you will
never have heart for the piteous seclusion, till your life
is broken all to pieces; till you have no hope, no de-
sire, no love; and at last, under a cowl, you look out
upon the world, and, with a dead heart, see it as in a
pale dream, and die at last: you, born to be a wife,


without a husband; endowed to be the perfect mother,
without a child; to be the admired of princes, a moving,
powerful figure to influence great men, with no salon
but the little bare cell where you pray. With me, all
that you should be you will be. You have had a bad,
dark dream; wake, and come into the sun with me.
Once I wished for you as the lover only; now, by every
hope I ever might have had, I want you for my wife."

He held out his arms to her and smiled, and spoke
one or two low words which I could not hear. I had
stood waiting death against the citadel wall, with the
chance of a reprieve hanging between uplifted muskets
and my breast; but that suspense was less than this, for
I saw him, not moving, but standing there waiting for
her, the warmth of his devilish eloquence about him,
and she moving towards him.

"My darling," I heard him say, "come, till death . . .
us do part, and let no man put asunder."

She paused, and, waking from the dream, drew her-
self together, as though something at her breast hurt
her, and she repeated his words like one dazed
" ' Let no man put asunder ' ! "

With a look that told of her great struggle, she
moved to a shrine of the Virgin hi the corner, and,
clasping her hands before her breast for a moment, said
something I could not hear, before she turned to Dol-
taire, who had now taken another step towards her.
By his look I knew that he felt his spell was broken;
that his auspicious moment had passed; that now, if
he won her, it must be by harsh means.

For she said: "Monsieur Doltaire, you have defeated
yourself. ' Let no man put asunder ' was my response to
my husband's 'Whom God hath joined/ when last I met
him face to face. Nothing can alter that while he lives,


nor yet when he dies, for I have had such a sorrowful
happiness in him that if I were sure he were dead I
would never leave this holy place never. But he lives,
and I will keep my vow. Holy Church has parted us,
but yet we are not parted. You say that to think of him
now is wrong, reflects upon me. I tell you, monsieur,
that if it were a wrong a thousand times greater I would
do it. To me there can be no shame hi following, till I
die, the man who took me honourably for his wife."

He made an impatient gesture and smiled ironically.

"Oh, I care not what you say or think," she went on.
"I know not of things canonical and legal; the way
that I was married to him is valid in his country and
for his people. Bad Catholic you call me, alas! But
I am a true wife, who, if she sinned, sinned not know-
ingly, and deserves not this tyranny and shame."

"You are possessed with a sad infatuation," he re-
plied persuasively. "You are not the first who has suf-
fered so. It will pass, and leave you sane leave you
to me. For you are mine; what you felt a moment ago
you will feel again, when this romantic martyrdom of
yours has wearied you."

"Monsieur Doltaire," she said, with a successful ef-
fort at calmness, though I could see her trembling too,
"it is you who are mistaken, and I will show you how.
But first: You have said often that I have unusual
intelligence. You have flattered me in that, I doubt
not, but still here is a chance to prove yourself sincere.
I shall pass by every wicked means that you took first
to ruin me, to divert me to a dishonest love (though I
know not what you meant at the time), and, failing, to
make me your wife. I shall not refer to this base means
to reach me in this sacred place, using the Bong's com-
mission for such a purpose."


"I would use it again, and do more, for the same
ends," he rejoined, -with shameless candour.

She waved her hand impatiently. "I pass all that by.
You shall listen to me as I have listened to you, remem-
bering that what I say is honest, if it has not your grace
and eloquence. You say that I will yet come to you,
that I care for you and have cared for you always, and
that that this other is a sad infatuation. Monsieur,
in part you are right."

He came another step forward, for he thought he saw
a foothold again; but she drew back to the chair, and
said, lifting her hand against him: "No, no, wait till I
have done. I say that you are right in part. I will not
deny that, against my will, you have always influenced
me; that, try as I would, your presence moved me, and
I could never put you out of my mind, out of my life.
At first I did not understand it, for I knew how bad you
were. I was sure you did evil because you loved it;
that, to gratify yourself, you would spare no one: a
man without pity "

"On the contrary," he interrupted, with a sour sort of
smile, "pity is almost a foible with me."

"Not real pity," she answered. "Monsieur, I have
lived long enough to know what pity moves you. It is
the moment's careless whim; a pensive pleasure, a dra-
matic tenderness. Wholesome pity would make you
hesitate to harm others. You have no principles "

"Pardon me, many," he urged politely, as he eyed
her with admiration.

"Ah no, monsieur; habits, not principles. Your life
has been one long irresponsibility. In the very maturity
of your powers, you use them to win to yourself, to your
empty heart, a girl who has tried to live according to the
teachings of her soul and conscience. Were there not


women elsewhere to whom it didn't matter your aban-
doned purposes? Why did you throw your shadow on
my path? You are not, never were, worthy of a good
woman's love."

He laughed with a sort of bitterness. "Your sinner
stands between two fires " he said. She looked at him
inquiringly, and he added: "the punishment he deserves
and the punishment he does not deserve. But it is in-
teresting to be thus picked out upon the stone, however
harsh the picture. You said I influenced you well?"

"Monsieur," she went on, "there were tunes when,
listening to you, I needed all my strength to resist. I
have felt myself weak and shaking when you came into
the room. There was something in you that appealed
to me, I know not what; but I do know that it was not
the best of me, that it was emotional, some strange
power of your personality ah yes, I can acknowledge
all now. You had great cleverness, gifts that startled
and delighted; but yet I felt always, and that feeling
grew and grew, that there was nothing in you wholly
honest; that by artifice you had frittered away what
once may have been good in you. Now, all goodness in
you was an accident of sense and caprice, not true mo-

"What has true morality to do with love of you?"
he said.

"You ask me hard questions," she replied. "This it
has to do with it : We go from morality to higher things,
not from higher things to morality. Pure love is a high
thing; yours was not high. To have put my life in your
hands ah no, no! And so I fought you. There was
no question of yourself and Robert Moray none. Hun
I knew to possess fewer gifts, but I knew him also to
be what you could never be. I never measured him


against you. What was his was all of me worth the hav-
ing, and was given always; there was no change. What
was yours was given only when in your presence, and
then with hatred of myself and you given to some bale-
ful fascination in you. For a time, the more I struggled
against it the more it grew, for there was nothing that
could influence a woman which you did not do. Mon-
sieur, if you had had Robert Moray's character and your
own gifts, I could monsieur, I could have worshipped

Doltaire was in a kind of dream. He was sitting now
in the high-backed chair, his mouth and chin in his
hand, his elbow resting on the chair-arm. His left hand
grasped the other arm, and he leaned forward with
brows bent and his eyes fixed on her intently. It was a
figure singularly absorbed, lost in study of some deep
theme. Once his sword clanged against the chair as it
slipped a little from its position, and he started almost
violently, though the dull booming of a cannon in no
wise seemed to break the quietness of the scene. He
was dressed, as in the morning, in plain black, but now
the Star of Louis shone on his breast. His face was pale,
but his eyes, with then* swift-shifting lights, lived upon
Alixe, devoured her.

She paused for an instant.

"Thou shalt not commit idolatry," he remarked in
a low, cynical tone, which the repressed feeling in his
face and the terrible new earnestness of his look belied.

She flushed a little, and continued: "Yet all the time
I was true to him, and what I felt concerning you he
knew I told him enough."

Suddenly there came into Doltaire's looks and man-
ner an astounding change. Both hands caught the chair-
arm, his lips parted with a sort of snarl, and his white


teeth showed maliciously. It seemed as if, all at once,
the courtier, the flaneur, the man of breeding, had gone,
and you had before you the peasant, in a moment's palsy
from the intensity of his fury.

"A thousand hells for him! " he burst out in the rough
patois of Poictiers, and got to his feet. "You told him
all, you confessed your fluttering fears and desires to
him, while you let me play upon those ardent strings of
feeling, that you might save him! You used me, Tinoir
Doltaire, son of a king, to further your amour with a
bourgeois Englishman! And he laughed in his sleeve,
and soothed away those dangerous influences of the
magician! By the God of heaven, Robert Moray and I
have work to do! And you you, with all the gifts of
the perfect courtesan "

"Oh, shame shame!" she said, breaking in.

" But I speak the truth. You berate me, but you used
incomparable gifts to hold me near you, and the same
gifts to let me have no more of you than would keep me.
I thought you the most honest, the most heavenly of
women, and now "

"Alas!" she interrupted, "what else could I have
done? To draw the line between your constant atten-
tion and my own necessity ! Ah, I was but a young girl ;
I had no friend to help me; he was condemned to die;
I loved him; I did not believe in you, not in ever so
little. If I had said: 'You must not speak to me again,'
you would have guessed my secret, and all my purposes
would have been defeated. So I had to go on; nor did I
think that it ever would cause you aught but a shock
to your vanity."

He laughed hatefully. "My faith, but it has shocked
my vanity," he answered. "And now take this for
thinking on: Up to this point I have pleaded with you,


used persuasion, courted you with a humility astonish-
ing to myself. Now I will have you in spite of all. I
will break you, and soothe your hurt afterwards. I will,
by the face of the Madonna, I will feed where this
Moray would pasture, I will gather this ripe fruit!"

With a devilish swiftness he caught her about the
waist, and kissed her again and again upon the mouth.

The blood was pounding in my veins, and I would
have rushed in then and there, have ended the long
strife, and have dug revenge for this outrage from his
heart, but that I saw Alixe did not move, nor make the
least resistance. This struck me with horror, till, all at
once, he let her go, and I saw her face. It was very
white and still, smooth and cold as marble. She seemed
five years older in the minute.

"Have you quite done, monsieur?" she said, with
infinite, quiet scorn. "Do you, the son of a king, find
joy in kissing lips that answer nothing, a cheek from
which the blood flows in affright and shame? Is it an
achievement to feed as cattle feed? Listen to me, Mon-
sieur Doltaire. No, do not try to speak till I have done,
if your morality of manners is not all dead. Through
this cowardly act of yours, the last vestige of your power
over me is gone. I sometimes think that with you, in
the past, I have remained true and virtuous at the ex-
pense of the best of me; but now all that is over, and
there is no temptation I feel beyond it: by this hour
here, this hour of sore peril, you have freed me. I was
tempted Heaven knows, a few minutes ago I was
tempted, for everything was with you; but God has
been with me, and you and I are now no nearer than the

"You doubt that I love you?" he asked in an altered


"I doubt that any man will so shame the woman, he
loves," she answered.

"What is insult to-day may be a pride to-morrow,"
was his quick reply. "I do not repent of it, I never
will, for you and I shall go to-night from here, and you
shall be my wife; and one day, when this man is dead,
when you have forgotten your bad dream, you will love
me as you cannot love him. I have that in me to make
you love me. To you I can be loyal, never drifting,
never wavering. I tell you, I will not let you go. First
my wife you shall be, and after that I will win your
love; in spite of all, mine now, though it is shifted for
the moment. Come, come, Alixe" he made as if to
take her hand "you and I will learn the splendid se-

She drew back to the shrine of the Virgin.

"Mother of God! Mother of God!" I heard her
whisper, and then she raised her hand against him.
"No, no, no," she said, with sharp anguish, "do not
try to force me to your wishes do not; for I, at least,
will never live to see it. I have suffered more than I
can bear. I will end this shame, I will "

I had heard enough. I stepped back quickly, closed
the panel, and went softly to the door and into the hall,
determined to bring her out against Doltaire, trusting
to Gabord not to oppose me.


I KNEW it was Doltaire's life or mine, and I shrank from
desecrating this holy place; but our bitter case would
warrant this, and more. As I came quickly through the
hall, and round the corner where stood Gabord, I saw
a soldier talking with the Mother Superior.

"He is not dead?" I heard her say.

"No, holy Mother," was the answer, "but sorely
wounded. He was testing the fire-organs for the rafts,
and one exploded too soon."

At that moment the Mother turned to me, and seemed
startled by my look. "What is it?" she whispered.

"He would carry her off," I replied.

" He shall never do so," was her quick answer. " Her
father, the good Seigneur, has been wounded, and she
must go to him."

"I will take her," said I at once, and I moved to
open the door. At that moment I caught Gabord's eye.
There I read what made me pause. If I declared my-
self now Gabord's life would pay for his friendship to
me even if I killed Doltaire; for the matter would be
open to all then just the same. I could not do that,
for the man had done me kindnesses dangerous to him-
self. Besides, he was a true soldier, and disgrace itself
would be to him as bad as the drum-head court-martial.
I made up my mind to another course even as the per-
turbed "aho" which followed our glance fell from his
puffing lips.



"But no, holy Mother," said I, and I whispered in her
ear. She opened the door and went in, leaving it ajar.
I could hear only a confused murmur of voices, through
which ran twice: "No, no, monsieur," in Alixe's soft,
clear voice. I could scarcely restrain myself, and I am
sure I should have gone in, in spite of all, had it not
been for Gabord, who withstood me.

He was right, and as I turned away I heard Alixe
cry: "My father, my poor father!"

Then came Doltaire's voice, cold and angry: "Good
Mother, this is a trick."

"Your Excellency should be a better judge of trick-
ery," she replied quietly. "Will not your Excellency
leave an unhappy lady to the Church's care?"

"If the Seigneur is hurt, I will take mademoiselle to
him," was his instant reply.

"It may not be, your Excellency," she said. "I will
furnish her with other escort."

"And I, as Governor of this province, as commander-
in-chief of the army, say that only with my escort shall
the lady reach her father."

At this Alixe spoke: "Dear Mere St. George, do not
fear for me; God will protect me "

"And I also, mademoiselle, with my life," interposed

"God will protect me," Alixe repeated; "I have no

"I will send two of our Sisters with mademoiselle
to nurse the poor Seigneur," said Mere St. George.

I am sure Doltaire saw the move. "A great kind-
ness, holy Mother," he said politely, "and I will see
they are well cared for. We will set forth at once. The
Seigneur shall be brought to the Intendance, and he and
his daughter shall have quarters there."


He stepped towards the door where we were. I fell
back into position as he came. "Gabord," said he,
"send your trusted fellow here to the General's camp,
and have him fetch to the Intendance the Seigneur
Duvarney, who has been wounded. Alive or dead, he
must be brought," he added in a lower voice.

Then he turned back into the room. As he did so
Gabord looked at me inquiringly.

"If you go, you put your neck into the gin," said he;
"some one in camp will know you."

"I will not leave my wife," I answered in a whisper.
Thus were all plans altered on the instant. Gabord went
to the outer door and called another soldier, to whom he
gave this commission.

A few moments afterwards, Alixe, Doltaire, and the
Sisters of Mercy were at the door ready to start. Dol-
taire turned and bowed with a well-assumed reverence
to the Mother Superior. "To-night's affairs here are
sacred to ourselves, Mere St. George," he said.

She bowed, but made no reply. Alixe turned and
kissed her hand. But as we stepped forth, the Mother
said suddenly, pointing to me: "Let the soldier come
back in an hour, and mademoiselle's luggage shall go to
her, your Excellency."

Doltaire nodded, glancing at me. "Surely he shall
attend you, Mere St. George," he said, and then stepped
on with Alixe, Gabord and the other soldier ahead, the
two Sisters behind, and myself beside these. Going
quietly through the disordered Upper Town, we came
down Palace Street to the Intendance. Here Dol-
taire had kept his quarters despite his now desperate
quarrel with Bigot. As we entered he inquired of the
servant where Bigot was, and was told he was gone to
the Chateau St. Louis. Doltaire shrugged a shoulder


and smiled he knew that Bigot had had news of his
deposition through the Governor. He gave orders for
rooms to be prepared for the Seigneur and for the
Sisters; mademoiselle meanwhile to be taken to hers,
which had, it appeared, been made ready. Then I
heard him ask in an undertone if the bishop had come,
and he was answered that Monseigneur was at Charles-
bourg, and could not be expected till the morning. I
was in a most dangerous position, for, though I had
escaped notice, any moment might betray me; Dol-
taire himself might see through my disguise.

We all accompanied Alixe to the door of her apart-
ments, and there Doltaire with courtesy took leave of
her, saying that he would return in a little tune to see
if she was comfortable, and to bring her any fresh news of
her father. The Sisters were given apartments next her
own, and they entered her room with her, at her request.

When the door closed, Doltaire turned to Gabord, and
said: "You shall come with me to bear letters to General
Montcalm, and you shall send one of these fellows also
for me to General Bougainville at Cap Rouge." Then
he spoke directly to me, and said: "You shall guard this
passage till morning. No one but myself may pass into
this room or out of it, save the Sisters of Mercy, on pain
of death."

I saluted, but spoke no word.

"You understand me?" he repeated.

"Altogether, monsieur," I answered hi a rough, peas-
ant-like voice.

He turned and walked in a leisurely way through the
passage, and disappeared, telling Gabord to join him in a
moment. As he left, Gabord said to me in a low voice :
"Get back to General Wolfe, or wife and life will both
be lost."


I caught his hand and pressed it, and a minute after-
wards I was alone before Alixe's door.

An hour later, knowing Alixe to be alone, I tapped on
her door and entered. As I did so she rose from a prie-
dieu where she had been kneeling. Two candles were
burning on the mantel, but the room was much in

"What is't you wish?" she asked, approaching.

I had off my hat; I looked her directly in the eyes
and put my fingers on my lips. She stared painfully for
a moment.

"Alixe," said I.

She gave a gasp, and stood transfixed, as though she
had seen a ghost, and then in an instant she was in my
arms, sobs shaking her. "Oh, Robert oh, my dear,
dear husband!" she cried again and again. I calmed

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Online LibraryGilbert ParkerThe works of Gilbert Parker (Volume 9) → online text (page 26 of 28)