Read CHAPTER XIX - THE CAPTIVE AND THE CAPTORS of The Lily and the Cross A Tale of Acadia , free online book, by James De Mille, on ReadCentral.com.

Further conversation was now prevented by the approach of a company of soldiers, headed by the commandant.  Mimi stood as if rooted to the spot, and then suddenly caught Claude by the arm, as though by her weak strength she could save him from the fate which was impending over him; but the priest interposed, and gently drew her away.

The soldiers halted at the entrance to the garden, and the commandant came forward.  His face was clouded and somewhat stern, and every particle of his old friendliness seemed to have departed.

“I regret, monsieur,” said he, “the unpleasant necessity which forces me to arrest you; but, had I known anything about your crime, you would have been put under arrest before you had enjoyed my hospitality.”

“O, monsieur!” interrupted Mimi.

The commandant turned, and said, severely, “I trust that the Countess de Laborde will see the impropriety of her presence here.  Monsieur L’Abbe, will you give the countess your arm into the house?”

Pere Michel, at this, led Mimi away.  One parting look she threw upon Claude, full of utter despair, and then, leaning upon the arm of the priest, walked slowly in.

Claude said not a word in reply to the address of the commandant.  He knew too well that under present circumstances words would be utterly useless.  If Cazeneau was indeed alive, and now in Louisbourg, then there could be no hope for himself.  If the former charges which led to his arrest should be insufficient to condemn him, his attack upon Cazeneau would afford sufficient cause to his enemy to glut his vengeance.

The soldiers took him in charge, and he was marched away across the parade to the prison.  This was a stone building, one story in height, with small grated windows, and stout oaken door studded with iron nails.  Inside there were two rooms, one on each side of the entrance.  These rooms were low, and the floor, which was laid on the earth, was composed of boards, which were decayed and moulded with damp.  The ceiling was low, and the light but scanty.  A stout table and stool formed the only furniture, while a bundle of mouldy straw in one corner was evidently intended to be his bed.  Into this place Claude entered; the door was fastened, and he was left alone.

On finding himself alone in this place, he sat upon the stool, and for some time his thoughts were scarcely of a coherent kind.  It was not easy for him to understand or realize his position, such a short interval had elapsed since he was enjoying the sweets of an interview with Mimi.  The transition had been sudden and terrible.  It had cast him down from the highest happiness to the lowest misery.  A few moments ago, and all was bright hope; now all was black despair.  Indeed, his present situation had an additional gloom from the very happiness which he had recently enjoyed, and in direct proportion to it.  Had it not been for that last interview, he would not have known what he had lost.

Hope for himself there was none.  Even under ordinary circumstances, there could hardly have been any chance of his escape; but now, after Cazeneau had so nearly lost his life, there could be nothing in store for him but sure and speedy death.  He saw that he would most undoubtedly be tried, condemned, and executed here in Louisbourg, and that there was not the slightest hope that he would be sent to France for his trial.

Not long after Claude had been thrust into his prison, a party entered the citadel, bearing with them a litter, upon which reclined the form of a feeble and suffering man.  It was Cazeneau.  The wound which Claude had given him had not been fatal, after all; and he had recovered sufficiently to endure a long journey in this way; yet it had been a severe one, and had made great ravages in him.  He appeared many years older.  Formerly, he had not looked over forty; now he looked at least as old as Pere Michel.  His face was wan; his complexion a grayish pallor; his frame was emaciated and weak.  As he was brought into the citadel, the commandant came out from his residence to meet him, accompanied by some servants, and by these the suffering man was borne into the house.

“All is ready, my dear count,” said the commandant.  “You will feel much better after you have some rest of the proper kind.”

“But have you arrested him?” asked Cazeneau, earnestly.

“I have; he is safe now in prison.”

“Very good.  And now, Monsieur Le Commandant, if you will have the kindness to send me to my room ­”

“Monsieur Le Commandant, you reign here now,” said the other.  “My authority is over since you have come, and you have only to give your orders.”

“At any rate, mon ami, you must remain in power till I get some rest and sleep,” said Cazeneau.

Rest, food, and, above all, a good night’s sleep, had a very favorable effect upon Cazeneau, and on the following morning, when the commandant waited on him, he congratulated him on the improvement in his appearance.  Cazeneau acknowledged that he felt better, and made very pointed inquiries about Mimi, which led to the recital of the circumstances of Claude’s arrest in Mimi’s presence.  Whatever impression this may have made upon the hearer, he did not show it, but preserved an unchanged demeanor.

A conversation of a general nature now followed, turning chiefly upon affairs in France.

“You had a long voyage,” remarked the commandant.

“Yes; and an unpleasant one.  We left in March, but it seems longer than that; for it was in February that I left Versailles, only a little while after the death of his eminence.”

“I fancy there will be a great change now in the policy of the government.”

“O, of course.  The peace policy is over.  War with England must be.  The king professes now to do like his predecessor, and govern without a minister; but we all know what that means.  To do without a minister is one thing for Louis Quatorze, but another thing altogether for Louis Quinze.  The Duchesse de Chateauroux will be minister ­for the present.  Then we have D’Aguesseau, D’Argenson, and Maurepas.  O, there’ll be war at once.  I dare say it has already been declared.  At any rate, it’s best to act on that principle.”

“Well, as to that, monsieur, we generally do act on that principle out here.  But Fleury was a wonderful old man.”

“Yes; but he died too soon.”

“Too soon!  What, at the age of ninety?”

“O, well, I meant too soon for me.  Had he died ten years ago, or had he lived two years longer, I should not have come out here.”

“I did not know that it was a matter of regret to monsieur.”

“Regret?” said Cazeneau, in a querulous tone ­“regret?  Monsieur, one does not leave a place like Versailles for a place like Louisbourg without regrets.”

“True,” said the other, who saw that it was a sore subject.

“With Fleury I had influence; but with the present company at Versailles, it is ­well, different; and I am better here.  Out of sight, out of mind.  It was one of Fleury’s last acts ­this appointment.  I solicited it, for certain reasons; chiefly because I saw that he could not last long.  Well, they’ll have enough to think of without calling me to mind; for, if I’m not mistaken, the Queen of Hungary will find occupation enough for them.”

After some further conversation of this kind, Cazeneau returned to the subject of Mimi, asking particularly about her life in Louisbourg, and whether Claude had seen her often.  The information which he received on this point seemed to give him satisfaction.

“Does this young man claim to be a Montresor?” asked the commandant, “or is he merely interesting himself in the affairs of that family by way of au intrigue?”

“It is an intrigue,” said Cazeneau.  “He does not call himself Montresor openly, but I have reason to know that he is intending to pass himself off as the son and heir of the Count Eugene, who was outlawed nearly twenty years ago.  Perhaps you have heard of that.”

“O, yes; I remember all about that.  His wife was a Huguenot, and both of them got off.  His estates were confiscated.  It was private enmity, I believe.  Some one got a rich haul.  Ha, ha, ha!”

At this Cazeneau’s face turned as black as a thundercloud.  The commandant saw that his remark had been an unfortunate one, and hastened to change the conversation.

“So this young fellow has a plan of that sort, you think.  Of course he’s put up by others ­some wirepullers behind the scenes.  Well, he’s safe enough now, and he has that hanging over him which will put an end to this scheme, whoever may have started it.”

At this Cazeneau recovered his former calmness, and smiled somewhat grimly.

“I can guess pretty well,” said Cazeneau, “how this plot may have originated.  You must know that when the Count de Montresor and his countess fled, they took with them a servant who had been their steward.  This man’s name was Motier.  Now, both the count and countess died shortly after their arrival in America.  The countess died first, somewhere in Canada, and then the count seemed to lose his reason; for he went off into the wilderness, and has never been heard of since.  He must have perished at once.  His steward, Motier, was then left.  This man was a Huguenot and an incorrigible rascal.  He found Canada too hot to hold him with his infidel Huguenot faith, and so he went among the English.  I dare say that this Motier, ever since, has been concocting a plan by which he might make his fortune out of the Montresor estates.  This Claude Motier is his son, and has, no doubt, been brought up by old Motier to believe that he is the son of the count; or else the young villain is his partner.  You see his game now ­don’t you?  He hired a schooner to take him here.  He would have began his work here by getting some of you on his side, and gaining some influence, or money, perhaps, to begin with.  Very well; what then?  Why, then off he goes to France, where he probably intended to take advantage of the change in the ministry to push his claims, in the hope of making something out of them.  And there is no doubt that, with his impudence, the young villain might have done something.  And that reminds me to ask you whether you found anything at his lodgings.”

“No, nothing.”

“He should be searched.  He must have some papers.”

“He shall be searched to-night.”

“I should have done that before.  I left word to have that done before sending him from Grand Pre; but, as the fellow got off, why, of course that was no use.  And I only hope he hasn’t thought of destroying the papers.  But if he has any, he won’t want to destroy them ­till the last moment.  Perhaps he won’t even think of it.”

“Do you suppose that this Motier has lived among the English all his life?”

“I believe so.”

“Impossible!”

“Why so?”

“His manner, his accent, and his look are all as French as they can possibly be.”

“How he has done it I am unable to conjecture.  This Motier, pere, must have been a man of superior culture, to have brought up such a very gentlemanly young fellow as this.”

“Well, there is a difficulty about that.  My opinion of the New Englanders is such that I do not think they would allow a man to live among them who looked so like a Frenchman.”

“Bah! his looks are nothing; and they don’t know what his French accent may be.”

“Do you think, after all, that his own story is true about living in New England?  May he not be some adventurer, who has drifted away from France of late years, and has come in contact with Motier?  Or, better yet, may he not have been prepared for his part, and sent out by some parties in France, who are familiar with the whole Montresor business, and are playing a deep game?”

Cazeneau, at this, sat for a time in deep thought.

“Your suggestion,” said he, at length, “is certainly a good one, and worth consideration.  Yet I don’t see how it can be so.  No ­for this reason:  the captain of the schooner was certainly a New Englander, and e spoke in my hearing, on several occasions, as though this Motier was, like himself, a native of New England, and as one, too, whom he had known for years.  Once he spoke as though he had known him from boyhood.  I know enough English to understand that.  Besides, this fellow’s English is as perfect as his French.  No, it cannot be possible that he has been sent out by any parties in France.  He must have lived in New England nearly all his life, even if he was not born there; and I cannot agree with you.”

“O, I only made the suggestion.  It was merely a passing thought.”

“Be assured this steward Motier has brought him up with an eye to using him for the very purpose on which he is now going.”

“Do you suppose that Motier is alive?”

“Of course.”

“He may be dead.”

“And what then?”

“In that case this young fellow is not an agent of anybody, but is acting for himself.”

“Even if that were so, I do not see what difference it would make.  He has been educated for the part which he is now playing.”

“Do you think,” asked the commandant, after a pause, “that the Count de Montresor had a son?”

“Certainly not.”

“He may have had, and this young fellow may be the one.”

“That’s what he says,” said Cazeneau; “but he can never prove it; and, besides, it was impossible, for the count would never have left him as he did.”