Read CHAPTER VI - A FRENCH FRIGATE of The Lily and the Cross A Tale of Acadia , free online book, by James De Mille, on ReadCentral.com.

Mimi read both papers through rapidly and breathlessly, and having finished them, she read them over once more.  As she finished the second reading, Claude presented to her in silence a small package.  She took it in the same silence.  On opening it, she saw inside a miniature portrait of a lady ­the same one which Claude had mentioned.  She was young and exquisitely beautiful, with rich dark hair, that flowed luxuriantly around her head; soft hazel eyes, that rested with inexpressible sweetness upon the spectator; and a gentle, winning smile.  This face produced an unwonted impression upon Mimi.  Long and eagerly did she gaze upon it, and when, at length, she handed it back to Claude, her eyes were moist with tears.

Claude replaced the portrait in its wrapper, and then restored it, with the letters, to his pocket.  For some time they sat in silence, and then Claude said, ­

“You see there is no great duty laid on me.  Judging by the tone of that letter, I should be doing my duty to my father if I did not go to France ­and if I did not seek after anything.”

“Ah! but how could you possibly live, and leave all this unexplained?”

“I could do it very easily,” said Claude.

“You don’t know yourself.”

“O, yes, I could; I could live very easily and very happily ­if I only had your assistance.”

At these words, which were spoken in a low, earnest voice, full of hidden meaning, Mimi darted a rapid glance at Claude, and caught his eyes fixed on her.  Her own eyes fell before the fervid eagerness of the young man’s gaze, a flush overspread her face, and she said not a word.  Nor did Claude say anything more just then; but it was rather as though he felt afraid of having gone too far, for he instantly changed the subject.

“I’m afraid,” said he, “that I shall not be able to find out very much.  You cannot give me any enlightenment, and there is nothing very precise in these papers.  The chief thing that I learned from them was the fact that Jean Motier was not my father, but my guardian.  Then a few other things are stated which can easily be mentioned.  First, that my father was the Count Eugene de Montresor; then that he was driven to exile by some false charge which he did not seem able to meet; then, that his estates were confiscated; then, that his wife, my mother, was a Huguenot, and also in danger.  I see, also, that my father considered his enemies altogether too powerful for any hope to remain that he could resist them, and that finally, after my mother’s death, he grew weary of the world, and went away somewhere to die.

“Now, the fact that he lived two years in Quebec made me have some thoughts at first of going there; but afterwards I recollected how long it had been since he was there, and it seemed quite improbable that I should find any one now who could tell me anything about him; while, if I went to France, I thought it might be comparatively easy to learn the cause of his exile and punishment.  And so, as I couldn’t find any vessels going direct from Boston, I concluded to go to Louisbourg and take ship there.  I thought also that I might find out something at Louisbourg; though what I expected I can hardly say.

“You spoke as though you supposed that this Cazeneau had something to do with my father’s trouble.  Do you think that his present journey has anything to do with it?  That is, do you think he is coming out on the same errand as your father?”

“I really do not know what to say about that.  I should think not.  I know that he has some office in Louisbourg, and I do not see what motive he can have to search after the Montresors.  I believe that papa hopes to find your papa, so as to make some atonement, or something of that sort; but I do not believe that Cazeneau is capable of making atonement for anything.  I do not believe that Cazeneau has a single good quality.  Cazeneau is my father’s evil genius.”

Mimi spoke these words with much vehemence, not caring, in her excitement, whether she was overheard or not; but scarce had she uttered them than she saw emerging from the forecastle the head of Cazeneau himself.  She stopped short, and looked at him in amazement and consternation.  He bowed blandly, and coming upon deck, walked past her to the stern.  After he had passed, Mimi looked at Claude with a face full of vexation.

“Who could have supposed,” said she, “that he was so near?  He must have heard every word!”

“Undoubtedly he did,” said Claude, “and he had a chance of verifying the old adage that ‘listeners never hear good of themselves.’”

“O, I wish you would be on your guard!” said Mimi, in real distress.  “It makes me feel very anxious.”

She threw at Claude a glance so full of tender interest and pathetic appeal, that Claude’s playful mood gave way to one of a more sentimental character; and it is quite impossible to tell what he would have done or said had not Cazeneau again made his appearance, on his way back to the forecastle.

He smiled a cold smile as he passed them.

“Charming weather for a tete-a-tete, mademoiselle,” said he. “Parbleu!  Monsieur Motier, I don’t wonder you don’t make your vessel go faster.  I quite envy you; but at present I must see about my fellows below here.”

With these words he turned away, and descended into the forecastle.  Mimi also turned away, and Claude accompanied her to the stern.

“How old do you suppose he is?” asked Claude, very gravely.

“How old?  What a funny question!  Why, he must be nearly fifty by this time.”

“Fifty!” exclaimed Claude, in surprise.

“Yes.”

“Why, I thought he was about thirty, or thirty-five.”

“Well, he certainly doesn’t look over forty; but he is a wonderfully well-kept man.  Even on the raft, the ruling passion remained strong in the very presence of death, and he managed to keep up his youthful appearance; but I know that he is almost, if not quite, as old as papa.”

“Is it possible?” cried Claude, in amazement.

Mimi turned, and with her face close to Claude’s, regarded him with an anxious look, and spoke in a low, hurried voice: ­

“O, be on your guard ­beware of him.  Even now he is engaged in some plot against you.  I know it by his face.  That’s what takes him down there to confer with the seamen.  He is not to be trusted.  He is all false ­in face, in figure, in mind, and in heart.  He knows nothing about honor, or justice, or mercy.  He has been the deadly enemy of the Montresors, and if he finds out who you are, he will be your deadly enemy.  O, don’t smile that way!  Don’t despise this enemy!  Be careful ­be on your guard, I entreat you ­for my sake!”

These last words were spoken in a hurried whisper, and the next moment Mimi turned and hastened down into the cabin to her father, while Claude remained there, thinking over these words.  Yet of them all it was not the warning contained in them that was present in his memory, but rather the sweet meaning convoyed in those last three words, and in the tone in which they were uttered ­the words for my sake!

Out of his meditations on this theme he was at length aroused by an exclamation from Zac.  Looking up, he saw that worthy close beside him, intently watching something far away on the horizon, through a glass.

“I’ll be darned if it ain’t a French frigate!”

This was the exclamation that roused Claude.  He at once returned to himself, and turning to Zac, he asked him what he meant.  Zac said nothing, but, handing him the spy-glass, pointed away to the west, where a sail was visible on the horizon.  That sail was an object of curious interest to others on board; to the lieutenant and seamen of the wrecked vessel, who were staring at her from the bows; and to Cazeneau, who was with them, staring with equal interest.  Claude took the glass, and raising it to his eye, examined the strange sail long and carefully, but without being able to distinguish anything in particular about her.

“What makes you think that she is a French frigate?” he asked, as he handed the glass back to Zac.  “I cannot make out that she is French any more than English.”

“O, I can tell easy enough,” said Zac, “by the cut of her jib.  Then, too, I judge by her course.  That there craft is comin’ down out of the Bay of Fundy, which the Moosoos in their lingo call Fonde de la Baie.  She’s been up at some of the French settlements.  Now, she may be goin’ to France ­or mayhap she’s goin’ to Louisbourg ­an’ if so be as she’s goin’ to Louisbourg, why, I shouldn’t wonder if it mightn’t be a good idée for our French friends here to go aboard of her and finish their voyage in a vessel of their own.  One reason why I’d rather have it so is, that I don’t altogether like the manoeuvrin’s of that French count over thar.  He’s too sly; an’ he’s up to somethin’, an’ I don’t fancy havin’ to keep up a eternal watch agin him.  If I was well red of him I could breathe freer; but at the same time I don’t altogether relish the idée of puttin’ myself into the clutches of that thar frigate.  It’s easy enough for me to keep out of her way; but if I was once to get under her guns, thar’d be an end of the Parson.  This here count ain’t to be trusted, no how; an’ if he once got into communication with that there frigate, he’d be my master.  An’ so I’m in a reg’lar quan-dary, an’ no mistake.  Darned if I know what in the blamenation to do about it.”

Zac stopped short, and looked with an air of mild inquiry at Claude.  Claude, on his part, was rather startled by Zac’s estimate of the character of Cazeneau, for it chimed in so perfectly with Mimi’s opinion that it affected him in spite of himself.  But it was only for a moment, and then his own self-confidence gained the mastery.