Read CHAPTER XI - A FRIEND IN NEED of The Lily and the Cross A Tale of Acadia , free online book, by James De Mille, on ReadCentral.com.

For more than a week Claude had been kept in confinement, and had seen nothing of any of his former acquaintances.  The confinement was not so close as it might have been, and escape was not absolutely impossible, for the window which lighted the chamber was merely a wooden sash, with four panes of glass, which Claude could have removed, had he been so disposed; but this he was not inclined to do, and for two reasons.  One reason was, because, if he did get out, he had no idea where to go.  Annapolis Royal was the nearest settlement belonging to the English; but he did not know in which direction it lay.  He knew, however, that between Grand Pre and that place the country was settled by the French, among whom he could not go without being captured by his pursuers, while if he took to the woods he would be sure to fall into the hands of the Indians, who were the zealous allies of the French.  Such a prospect was of itself sufficient to deter him from the attempt to escape.  But there was also another reason.  He could not bear the thought of leaving Mimi forever, and never seeing her again.  If he should succeed in escaping to Annapolis Royal, it would be an eternal separation between her and himself.  Grand Pre seemed pleasant to him since she was here; and he thought it better to be a prisoner here than a free man elsewhere.  He, therefore, deliberately preferred to run any risk that might be before him, with the faint hope of seeing Mimi again, rather than to attempt flight.

What had happened since he had come here he did not know very clearly.  From conversation which he had overheard he had gathered that Labordo was dead; but, when he asked any of them about it, they refused to tell him anything at all.  Claude was, therefore, left to make the most that he could out of this vague information.  But the intelligence caused him to feel much anxiety about Mimi.  He remembered well all that she had ever told him, and could not help wondering what she would do under present circumstances.  Would she be willing to remain in the neighborhood of Cazeneau?  But how could she help it?  Would not Cazeneau take advantage of her present loneliness to urge forward any plans that he might have about her?

Already the suspicion had come to Claude that Cazeneau had certain plans about Mimi.  What he thought was this:  that Laborde was rich, that Mimi was his heiress, and that Cazeneau was a man of profligate life and ruined fortunes, who was anxious to repair his fortunes by marrying this heiress.  To such a man the disparity in their years would make no difference, nor would he particularly care whether Mimi loved him or not, so long as he could make her his wife, and gain control over her property.  What had given him this idea about Cazeneau’s position and plans it is difficult to say; but it was probably his own jealous fears about Mimi, and his deep detestation of his enemy.

And now he began to chafe against the narrow confines of his chamber with greater impatience.  He longed to have some one with whom he could talk.  He wondered whether Cazeneau would remain here much longer, and, if he went away, whether he would take Mimi or leave her.  He wondered, also, whether he would be taken to Louisbourg.  He felt as if he would rather go there, if Mimi was to go, even at the risk of his life, than remain behind after she had left.  But all his thoughts and wonders resulted in nothing whatever, for it was impossible to create any knowledge out of his own conjectures.

He was in the midst of such thoughts as these when his ears were attracted by the sound of a familiar voice.  He listened attentively.  It was the voice of Pere Michel.  No sooner had Claude satisfied himself that it was indeed the priest, than he felt sure that he had come here to visit him; and a little longer waiting showed that this was the case.  There were advancing footsteps.  Madame Comeau opened the door, and Pere Michel entered the chamber.  The door was then shut, and the two were alone.

So overcome was Claude by joy that he flung himself into the priest’s arms and embraced him.  The good priest seemed to reciprocate his emotion, for there were tears in his eyes, and the first words that he spoke were in tremulous tones.

“My son,” the priest commenced, in gentle, paternal tones, and in a voice that was tremulous with emotion, “you must calm yourself.”  Then, suddenly speaking in English, he said, “It is nécessaire dat we sall spik Ingeles, for ze peuple of ze house may suspeck ­”

Upon this Claude poured forth a torrent of questions in English, asking about Laborde, Cazeneau, Zac, and Mimi.  It will not be necessary to report the words of the priest in his broken English, but rather to set them down according to the sense of them.  So the priest said, ­

“You speak too fast, my son.  One thing at a time.  The poor Laborde is dead and buried.  The Count Cazeneau is about to go to Louisbourg.  Mimi is going with him.”

“Mimi going with him!” cried Claude, in deep agitation.

“Be calm, my son.  Do not speak so loud.  I have told the people of this house that your life is in danger, and that I have come as a priest, to hear your last confession.  I do not wish them to suspect my real errand.  We may talk as we wish, only do not allow yourself to be agitated.”

“But tell me,” said Claude, in a calmer voice, “how is it possible that Mimi can trust herself with Cazeneau?”

Ma foi,” said the priest, “it is possible, for she cannot help it.  But do not fear.  I am going to accompany them, and, as far as my feeble power can do anything, I will watch over her, and see that she suffers no injustice.  I hope that Heaven will assist her innocence and my protection; so do not allow yourself to be uneasy about her; but hope for the best, and trust in Heaven.”

At this Claude was silent for a few moments.  At length he said, ­

“O, Pere Michel, must I stay here when she goes?  Can you tell me what they are going to do with me?”

“It is about yourself that I am going to speak, and it was for this that I came,” said the priest.

“Can I go with the others to Louisbourg?” asked Claude, eagerly; for he thought only of being near Mimi.

“Heaven forbid!” said the priest.  “It is in a for different way that you are to go.  Listen to me.  The Count de Cazeneau is going to set out to-morrow, with a party of Indians as escort.  Mimi is to be taken with him.  I am going, too.  It is his intention to leave you here for a time, till his escort can return.  They will then take you to Louisbourg.  If he can find any Indians on the way whom he can make use of, he will send them here for you.  But meantime you are to be kept imprisoned here.

“Now, I am acquainted with the Indians better than most men.  I lived in Acadie formerly, long enough to be well known to the whole tribe.  I am also well known to the Acadians.  Among the Indians and the Acadians there are many who would willingly lay down their lives for me.  I could have delivered you before this, but I saw that you were not in any immediate danger; so I preferred postponing it until the Count de Cazeneau had left.  I do not wish him to suspect that I have any interest in you; and when he hears of your escape, I do not wish him to think that I had anything to do with it.  But I have already made all the plans that are necessary, and the men are in this neighborhood with whom I have arranged for your escape.”

“What is the plan?” asked Claude, eagerly.

“I will tell you,” said the priest.  “There are six Indians, all of them devoted to me.  They will guide you to a place of safety, and will be perfectly faithful to you as long as they are with you.  They are ready to go anywhere with you, to do anything for you, even to the extent of laying down their lives for you.  It is for my sake that they are willing to show this devotion.  I have presented you to them as my representative, and they look upon you as they would look upon me.  But, first of all, you are to get out of this.  Can you open that window?”

“It was fastened tight when I first came,” said Claude; “but I have loosened it, so that I can take it out very quickly.”

“Very good.  Now, one of these Indians will be here to-morrow night.  We shall leave to-morrow morning; and I do not want you to be rescued till after our departure.  At midnight, to-morrow, then, the Indian will be here.  He will give a sound like a frog, immediately outside, under the window.  You must then open the window.  If you see him, or hear him, you must then get out, and he will take you to the woods.  After that he and the rest of the Indians will take you through the woods to Port Royal, which they call Annapolis Royal.  Here you will be safe from Cazeneau until such time as may suit you to go back to Boston.  Annapolis Royal is about twenty-four leagues from this place, and you can easily go there in two days.”

Claude listened to all this without a word; and, after the priest had ended, he remained silent for some time, with his eyes fixed on the floor.

“The Indians will be armed,” said the priest, “and will have a rifle and a sword for you.  So you need have no trouble about anything.”

“My dear Pere Michel,” said Claude, at last, “you lay me under very great obligations; but will you not add to them by allowing me to select my own route?”

“Your own route?” asked the priest.  “What do you mean?  You don’t know the country, especially the woods, while these Indians will be at home there.”

“What I mean is this,” said Claude:  “will you not allow me the use of this Indian escort in another direction than the one you mention?”

“Another direction?  Why, where else can you possibly go?  Annapolis is the nearest place for safety.”

“I should very much prefer,” said Claude “to go to Canso.”

“To Canso!” said the priest, in great surprise; “to Canso!  Why, you would come on our track!”

“That is the very reason why I wish to go there.  Once in Canso, I should be as safe as in Annapolis.”

The priest shook his head.

“From what I hear, Canso cannot be a safe place for you very long.  England and France are on the eve of war, and Cazeneau expects to get back Acadie ­a thing that is very easy for him to do.  But why do you wish to venture so near to Louisburg?  Cazeneau will be there now; and it will be a very different place from what it would have been had you not saved Cazeneau from the wreck, and made him your enemy.”

“My dear Pere Michel,” said Claude, “I will be candid with you.  The reason why I wish to go in that direction is for the sake of being near to Mimi, and on account of the hope I have that I may rescue her.”

“Mimi!  Rescue her!” exclaimed the priest, astonished, not at the young man’s feelings towards Mimi, for those he had already discovered, but rather at the boldness of his plan, ­“rescue her!  Why how can you possibly hope for that, when she will be under the vigilant eye of Cazeneau?”

“I will hope it, at any rate,” said Claude.  “Besides, Cazeneau will not be vigilant, as he will not suspect that he is followed.  His Indians will suspect nothing.  I may be able, by means of my Indians, to entice her away, especially if you prepare her mind for my enterprise.”

The priest was struck by this, and did not have any argument against it; yet the project was evidently distasteful to him.

“It’s madness,” said he.  “My poor boy, it may cost you your life.”

“Very well,” said Claude; “let it go.  I’d rather not live, if I can’t have Mimi.”

The priest looked at him sadly and solemnly.

“My poor boy,” said he, “has it gone so far as that with you?”

“As far as that ­yes,” said Claude, “and farther.  Recollect I saved her life.  It seems to me as if Heaven threw her in my way; and I’ll not give her up without striking a blow.  Think of that scoundrel Cazeneau.  Think of the danger she is in while under his power.  There is no hope for her if he once gets her in Louisbourg; the only hope for her is before she reaches that place; and the only one who can save her is myself.  Are my Indians faithful for an enterprise of that kind?”

“I have already told you,” said the priest, “that they would all lay down their lives for you.  They will go wherever you lead.  And now, my dear son,” continued the priest, “I did not think that you would dream of an enterprise like this.  But, since you have made the proposal, and since you are so earnest about it, why, I make no opposition.  I say, come, in Heaven’s name.  Follow after us; and, if you can come up with us, and effect a communication with Mimi, do so.  Your Indians must be careful; and you will find that they can be trusted in a matter of this kind.  If I see that you are coming up with us, and find any visitors from you, I will prepare Mimi for it.  But suppose you succeed in rescuing her,” added the priest; “have you thought what you would do next?”

“No,” said Claude; “nor do I intend to think about that.  It will depend upon where I am.  If I am near Canso, I shall go there, and trust to finding some fisherman; if not, I shall trust to my Indians to take us back through the woods to Annapolis.  But there’s one thing that you might do.”

“What?”

“Zac ­is he on board the schooner, or ashore?”

“The skipper?” said the priest.  “No.  I have not seen him.  I think he must be aboard the schooner.  It is my intention to communicate with him before I leave this place.”

“Do so,” said Claude, eagerly; “and see if you can’t get him free, as you have managed for me; and if you can persuade him, or beg him for me, to sail around to Canso, and meet me there, all will be well.  That is the very thing we want.  If he will only promise to go there, I will push on to Canso myself, at all hazards.”

The priest now prepared to go.  A few more words were exchanged, after which Claude and Pere Michel embraced.  The priest kissed him on both cheeks.

“Adieu, my dear son,” said he.  “I hope we may meet again.”

“Adieu, dear Pere Michel,” said Claude.  “I shall never forget your kindness.”

With this farewell the two separated; the priest went out, and the door was fastened again upon Claude.

For the remainder of that night, Claude did not sleep much.  His mind was filled with the new prospect that the priest’s message had opened before him.  The thought of being free once more, and at the head of a band of devoted followers, on the track of Mimi, filled him with excitement.  That he would be able to overtake the party of Cazeneau, he did not doubt; that he would be able to rescue Mimi, he felt confident.  The revulsion from gloom and despondency to hope and joy was complete, and the buoyant nature of Claude made the transition an easy one.  It was with difficulty that he could prevent himself from bursting forth into songs.  But this would have been too dangerous, since it would have attracted the attention of the people of the house, and led them to suspect that the priest had spoken other words to him than those of absolution; or they might report this sudden change to Cazeneau, and thereby excite his suspicions.

The next day came.  Claude knew that on this day Cazeneau and his party had left, for he overheard the people of the house speaking about it.  According to their statements, the party had left at about four in the morning.  This filled Claude with a fever of impatience, for he saw that this first day’s march would put them a long way ahead, and make it difficult for him to catch up with them.  But there was only one day, and he tried to comfort himself with the thought that he could travel faster than the others, and also that the priest and Mimi would both manage to retard their progress, so as to allow him to catch up.

The day passed thus, and evening came at last.  Hour after hour went by.  All the family retired, and the house was still.  Claude then slowly, and carefully, and noiselessly removed the window from its place.  Then he waited.  The hours still passed on.  At last he know that it must be about midnight.

Suddenly he heard, immediately outside, a low, guttural sound ­the well-known sound of a frog.  It was the signal mentioned by the priest.  The time had come.

He put his head cautiously outside.  Crouched there against the wall of the house, close underneath, he saw a dusky figure.  A low, whispered warning came up.  Claude responded in a similar manner.  Then, softly and noiselessly, he climbed out of the window.  His feet touched the ground.  No one had heard him.  He was saved.