Chapter 17 WHAT THE SHIP HENRI IV BRINGS TO QUEBEC
The ship Henri IV dropped anchor before Quebec on the seventh day of August.
This being the Company's vessel, hundreds of Canadians flocked to the wharves.
And again flags decked the château and town, and cannon roared. The Henri I_as part merchantman and part man-of-war. Her ports bristled with cannon, he_arines wore formidable cutlasses, and the law on board was military in th_trictest sense. Stores and ammunition filled her hull; carpenters' tools, tea-chests, bags of plaster, uniforms, cannon, small arms, beads and trinket_f no value save to the Indian, silk and wool and a beautiful window for th_athedral. And in return she was to carry away mink, otter and beaver skins.
Breton had been left behind by the Chevalier, who had joined a scouting part_p the river. Love and anxiety had made the lad thin. Any night might brin_isastrous news from Three Rivers, the burning of the settlement and th_assacre. Such speculation counteracted his usually good appetite. So Breto_ooned about the wharves day by day, always looking up the river instead o_own.
To-day he lingered to witness the debarkation. Besides, the Henri IV was _reat ship, bringing with her a vague perfume from France. Listlessly h_atched the seamen empty the hold of its treasures; carelessly he observed th_eeting of sweethearts and lovers, wives and husbands. Two women in mask_eant nothing to him… Holy Virgin! it was not possible! Was his brain foolin_im? He grew faint. Did he really see these two old men climbing down th_hip's ladder to the boats? He choked; tears blinded him. He dashed aside th_ears and looked once more. Oh! there could be no doubt; his eyes had no_eceived him. There was only one face like that in the world; only one fac_ike that, with its wrinkles, its haughty chin, its domineering nose. He ha_een that lean, erect figure, crowned with silver-white hair, too many time_o mistake it. It was the marquis, the grim and terrible marquis, the ogre o_is dreams. The lad had always hated the marquis, taking his master's side; but at the sight of that familiar face, he felt his heart swell with joy an_ove and veneration. For intuition told him why Monsieur le Marquis was i_uebec. It was to seek Monsieur le Chevalier. And together they would all g_ack to France, beautiful France. He burst into hysterical tears, regardles_f the wonder which he created. And there was the kindly Jehan, who ha_andled him on his knee, long years ago before trouble had cast its blightin_hadow over the House of Périgny. Blessed day!
Very slowly and with infinite pains the marquis climbed from the boat to th_harf. It was evident to Breton that the long voyage at sea had sapped hi_itality and undermined his vigor. He was still erect, but, ah! how lean an_rail! But his eye was still the eye of the proud eagle, and it swept th_rowd, searching for a familiar face. Breton dared not make himself know_ecause of that eye. An officer who had formerly resided in Rochell_ecognized the marquis instantly, and he pressed forward.
"Monsieur le Marquis in Quebec?" he cried.
"You are of the fort?" replied the marquis. His voice was thin and high, lik_hat of old men whose blood is turning to water.
"Yes, Monsieur," answered the officer.
"Will you lead me to his Excellency the governor? I have letters to presen_rom her Majesty the queen."
"Follow me, Monsieur;" and the officer conducted the marquis through th_rowd, politely but firmly brushing aside those who blocked his path. He foun_he governor quickly. "Your Excellency, the Marquis de Périgny wishes t_resent to you letters from her august Majesty."
"Monsieur le Marquis here?" exclaimed the governor. He embraced the ol_obleman, whom he held in genuine regard.
"So your Excellency remembers me?" said the marquis, pleased.
"One does not forget a man such as you are, Monsieur. And I see you here i_uebec? What twist of fortune brings you to my household?"
"I have come in search of a prodigal son, Monsieur," smiling. "Know you on_ho calls himself the Chevalier du Cévennes?"
"The Chevalier du Cévennes?" The governor was nonplussed. The marquis here i_earch of the Chevalier?
"I see that he is here," said the marquis, with a note of satisfaction.
"No, Monsieur; not here, but has been."
"He can be found?"
"Within sixty hours."
"That is well. I am very fortunate."
"You will be my guest during your stay?" suggested the governor.
"Her Majesty asks that good favor of you."
"A great honor, Monsieur, truly;" and the governor was elated at the though_f having so distinguished a guest at his table.
The marquis turned to the patient Jehan. "Jehan, you will see to th_ortmanteaus."
A priest elbowed his way toward them. On seeing him, the marquis raised an_owered his bushy white brows. It was the handsome Jesuit whose face ha_tolen into many a dream of late. Brother Jacques was greatly astonished. Th_arquis greeted him, but without marked cordiality. At a sign from th_overnor the quartet moved up the path toward the cliffs, which the marqui_easured with the eye of one who understood thoroughly the art and value o_ilitary strategy.
"Superb!" he murmured. "With a few men and plenty of ammunition, I could hol_ven England at bay."
"I am proud of it," acknowledged the governor; but there was a twinge of env_hen it occurred to him that a handful of savages had worried him more tha_nce. And here was a man who would defy the whole world.
Jehan felt a pressure on his arm. Turning, he beheld the shining face o_reton. He caught the lad in his arms and kissed him on the cheek.
"I expected to find you, lad. Ah, but you have done wrong. You should hav_old us. You should not have run away with Monsieur le Comte…"
"Monsieur le Comte?" bewildered.
"Yes; you should not have run away with him as you did."
"Had I told you, you would have prevented my coming," Breton confessed.
"You would have saved Monsieur le Marquis and myself a great deal of trouble."
"But Monsieur le Chevalier was in trouble, too. I could not leave him."
"Which speaks well for your heart, lad, but not for your reason. Where i_onsieur le Comte?"
"At Three Rivers; a day and a night's ride from here, with good paddlers."
"Good. We shall start out in the morning."
"To bring him back to France?"
"Nothing less, lad. The count has been greatly wronged by Monsieur le Marquis, and it is to be set to rights forthwith. Can you read?"
"Here is a letter which Monsieur le Curé wrote at Périgny. It was from ol_artin's daughter."
"God bless you, Monsieur," cried the happy Breton. He would have shouted fo_oy had not the quiet dignity of the old lackey put a damper on hi_nthusiasm.
"Monsieur le Comte was well when last you saw him?"
"He is troubled?"
"Who would not be?" burst forth Breton, indignantly. "But why do you cal_onsieur le Chevalier the count?"
"Is not that his title?" quietly.
"Would Monsieur le Marquis take all this trouble if Monsieur le Chevalier wa_nything but Monsieur le Comte?"
"I shall offer a dozen candles!" cried Breton, joyously.
Meantime the governor conducted the marquis around the fortress and th_hâteau; and together they stood upon the highest balcony and looked down upo_he river, which was dotted with canoes and small boats.
"Magnificent!" repeated the marquis time and again.
"And not even in the Cévennes, Monsieur, will you see such sunsets," said D_auson.
"This should not be managed by speculators," unconsciously pricking th_overnor's quick, "nor by the priest's cold hand. It should be wholly th_ing's. It would be France's salvation. What are they doing there in Paris?"
"Spending money on lace for the Swiss and giving masks at the Palais Royal."
"Richelieu died too soon; here would have been his fame." The marquis neve_nderestimated an enemy. "If your Excellency will excuse me now, I will sleep.
I am an old man, and sleep calls to me often. I will join you at supper."
"The ladies will be delighted. There is but little here of the life of th_ourt. When we are not guarding against Indians, we are celebrating religiou_êtes."
"Till supper, then, your Excellency."
And the governor departed to read the messages from the queen. She had place_ll Quebec at the disposal of the marquis in the search for his son. Th_overnor was greatly mystified. That the marquis should still call th_hevalier by his former title of count added to this mystery. Since when di_athers set out for sons of the left hand? He soon gave up the riddle, confident that the marquis himself would solve it for him.
The marquis rose before sundown and with the assistance of his aged valet mad_is toilet. He was dressed in black satin, with white lace ruffles, and acros_is breast he flung the ribbon of the Chevalier of the Order, in honor of th_overnor's attentions. Presently, from his window he saw the figure of _oman—young and slender; doubtless some relative of the governor's. Patientl_e waited for her to turn. When she did so, a subdued exclamation fell fro_is lips. He had seen that face before, once or twice on board the Henri IV.
It was the woman in the grey mask. He stared hard and long. Where else had h_een this face? He was growing old, and sometimes his memory failed him.
Without being conscious of the act, he readjusted his wristbands and th_uffles at his throat. A handsome young woman at the table would be _ecompense for the dullness of the hour. But he waited in vain at supper fo_he appearance of the exquisite face. Like the true courtier he was, he mad_o inquiries.
When they were at last alone, the governor said: "I am truly glad you hav_ome to make the Chevalier return to France. He will never be at peace here."
"Why?" asked the marquis, weakening his burgundy with water.
"The … That is …" But the governor foundered.
"Why?" repeated the marquis. "Has he made a fool of himself here as i_rance?"
"No, Monsieur," warmly. "He has proved himself to be a gentleman and a brav_oldier."
"Only as a gentleman might; neither does he gamble."
The governor drew figures on the dusty bottle at the side of his plate.
"If he does none of these things," said the marquis, "why can not he live i_eace here?"
"His … unfortunate history has followed him here."
"What?" The marquis's glass crashed upon the table and the wine crept amon_he plates, soaking the marquis's sleeves and crimsoning his elegan_ristbands.
"What did you say?"
"Why," began the governor, startled and confused, "the history of his birth i_nown." He looked at the walls, at the wine running about, at the floor, a_verything save the flashing eyes opposite.
"So the fool has told it here?" harshly. "Bah! let him rot here, then; fool!"
"But he has said nothing; no one knew till …"
"Oh! then it was not Monsieur le Comte who spoke?"
"Monsieur le Comte?"
"That is the title which my son bears."
"Good God, Monsieur, then what is all this about?"
"It will take some time to tell it, Monsieur," said the marquis, shaking hi_leeves and throwing salt upon the table. "First, I wish to know the name o_he man who started the story."
"Monsieur de Leviston, of Montreal, prompted by I know not whom."
"De Leviston. I shall remember that name."
"There was a duel fought."
"A duel? Who were the participants?"
"The Vicomte d'Halluys against the Comte d'Hérouville, and Monsieur d_aumaise against De Leviston. D'Hérouville and De Leviston are both i_ospital."
"D'Hérouville? What had he to do with the affair?"
"He laughed," said the governor; "he laughed when De Leviston accused your so_f not knowing who his mother was."
"Thank you, Monsieur. I see that you are in great puzzle. Let me solve th_uzzle for you. I have always been a man of quick and violent temper, an_ometimes this temper has been that of the fool. The wisest of us mak_istakes. I have made a grievous one. In a moment of anger …" He ceased, taking up the stem of the broken glass and twirling it. "In a moment of anger, then, I did Monsieur le Comte a most grievous wrong, a wrong for which I ca_ever fully atone. We have never been on friendly terms since his refusal t_ed a young woman of my choice, Mademoiselle de Montbazon. I had never see_his daughter, nor had my son. Paris life, Monsieur, as doubtless you know, i_uinous to youth. Monsieur le Comte was much in wine; he gambled recklessly.
It was my desire to change his course, but I went at it either too late o_unglingly. In February he was exiled from court in disgrace. I have neve_scertained the character of this disgrace. One night in March we had a_xchange of opinions. My faith, your Excellency, but that boy has a terribl_ongue. There was not a place in my armor that he did not pierce. I shall no_epeat to you the subject of our conversation. Suffice it to say that h_oused the devil and the fool in me, and I told him that he had no right t_is name. I am here to correct that wrong as much as lies within my power. H_id not give me an opportunity at home. It is not sentiment; it is my sense o_ustice that brings me here. And I truly admire the lad's spirit. To plung_nto the wilderness without calculation; ah, well, it is only the fool wh_tops to weigh the hazards of fortune. The boy is my son, lawfully; and I wan_im to know it. I am growing old, and this voyage has written a shorter ter_or me."
"Monsieur," said De Lauson, "what you tell me makes me truly happy. But I a_fraid that you have destroyed the Chevalier's trust in humanity. If you as_e to judge you, I shall be severe. You have committed a terrible sin, unnatural and brutal, unheard of till now by me."
"I bow to all that," said the marquis. "It was brutal, cruel; it was all yo_ay. But the fact remains that it is done and that a part of it must b_ndone."
"Your sense of justice does credit to a great noble like yourself. Worldl_eparation you may make, but you have wounded his heart and soul beyond al_arthly reparation."
"The worldly reparation quite satisfies me," replied the marquis, fumblin_ith his lips. "As I observed, sentiment is out of the question. Monsieur l_omte would not let me love him if I would," lightly. "I wish to undo as muc_s possible the evil I have done. If he refuses to return to France, that i_is affair, not mine. I shall be the last to urge him. This Monsieur d_aumaise is a poet, I understand."
"Who writes equally well with his sword."
"I should like to meet him. How long before De Leviston and D'Hérouville wil_e out of hospital?"
"D'Hérouville, any day; De Leviston has a bad fever, having taken cold."
The marquis had not acquired the habit of smoking, so the governor lit hi_ipe and smoked alone.
"Your Excellency, who is this handsome young priest who goes by the name o_rother Jacques; of what family?"
"That I do not know; no one knows; not even Father Chaumonot, who is hi_ponsor. The good Father picked him up somewhere in Italy and placed him in _onvent."
"Monsieur le Comte, then, is at Three Rivers?"
"Yes; and to-morrow we shall set out for him; though he may return at an_our."
"I thank your Excellency. The Henri IV sails by next week, so I understand. _aresay that we both shall be on it. At any rate, I shall wait."
The door opened and Jehan, expressing as much excitement as his weather-beate_ace made possible, stood before them.
"Well?" said the marquis.
"Monsieur le Comte is returned from Three Rivers, and is about to dine in th_itadel."
"Tell a trooper that the presence of Monsieur le Chevalier is requested her_t once. Do not let the Chevalier see you," and the governor rose and lai_own his pipe. "I will leave the room at your service, Monsieur."
"It is very kind of you." If the marquis was excited, or nervous, there wa_othing on his face to indicate it.
Jehan and the governor made their exits through opposite doors; and Monsieu_e Marquis sat alone. Several minutes passed. Once or twice the marquis turne_is attention to his wine-soaked sleeve. Steps were heard in the corridor, bu_hese died away in the distance. From time to time the old man's hand wandere_o his throat, as if something was bothering him there. Time marked off _uarter of an hour. Then the door opened, and a man entered; a man bronzed o_ountenance, tall, and deep of chest. He wore the trapper's blouse and fringe_eggings. From where he stood he could not see who sat at the table.
"Come toward the light, Monsieur," said the marquis, "where I may see you t_etter advantage." The marquis rose and stood with the fingers of his righ_and pressing lightly on the table.
At the sound of that voice, the Chevalier's heart leaped. He strode forwar_uickly, and, leaning across the table, stared into his father's eyes.