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

Cazeneau improved in health and strength every day.  A week passed, during which period he devoted all his attention to himself, keeping quietly to his room, with the exception of an occasional walk in the sun, when the weather was warm, and letting Nature do all she could.  The wound had been severe, though not mortal, and hardly what could be called even dangerous.  The worst was already past on the journey to Louisbourg; and when once he had arrived there, he had but to wait for his strength to rally from the shock.

While thus waiting, he saw no one outside of the family of the commandant.  Mimi was not interfered with.  Claude received no communications from him for good or evil.  Pere Michel, who expected to be put through a course of questioning, remained unquestioned; nor did he assume the office of commandant, which now was his.

At the end of a week he found himself so much better that he began to think himself able to carry out the various purposes which lay in his mind.  First of all, he relieved the late commandant of his office, and took that dignity upon himself.

All this time Mimi had been under the same roof, a prey to the deepest anxiety.  The poignant grief which she had felt for the loss of her father had been alleviated for a time by the escape of Claude; but now, since his arrest, and the arrival of the dreaded Cazeneau, it seemed worse than ever; the old grief returned, and, in addition, there were new ones of equal force.  There was the terror about her own future, which looked dark indeed before her, from the purposes of Cazeneau; and then there was also the deep anxiety, which never left her, about the fate of Claude.  Of him she knew nothing, having heard not one word since his arrest.  She had not seen Pere Michel, and there was no one whom she could ask.  The lady of the commandant was kind enough; but to Mimi she seemed a mere creature of Cazeneau, and for this reason she never dreamed of taking her into her confidence, though that good lady made several unmistakable attempts to enter into her secret.

Such was her state of mind when she received a message that M. Le Comte de Cazeneau wished to pay his respects to her.

Mimi knew only too well what that meant, and would have avoided the interview under any plea whatever, if it had been possible.  But that could not be done; and so, with a heart that throbbed with painful emotions, she went to meet him.

After waiting a little time, Cazeneau made his appearance, and greeted her with very much warmth and earnestness.  He endeavored to infuse into his manner as much as possible of the cordiality of an old and tried friend, together with the tenderness which might be shown by a father or an elder brother.  He was careful not to exhibit the slightest trace of annoyance at anything that had happened since he last saw her, nor to show any suspicion that she could be in any way implicated with his enemy.

But Mimi did not meet him half way.  She was cold and repellent; or, rather, perhaps it may with more truth be said, she was frightened and embarrassed.

In spite of Cazeneau’s determination to touch on nothing unpleasant, he could not help noticing Mimi’s reserve, and remarking on it.

“You do not congratulate me,” said he.  “Perhaps you have not heard the reason why I left your party in the woods.  It was not because I grew tired of your company.  It was because I was attacked by an assassin, and narrowly escaped with my life.  It has only been by a miracle that I have come here; and, though I still have something of my strength, yet I am very far from being the man that I was when you saw me last.”

At these words Mimi took another look at Cazeneau, and surveyed him somewhat more closely.  She felt a slight shock at noticing now the change which had taken place in him.  He looked so haggard, and so old!

She murmured a few words, which Cazeneau accepted as expressions of good will, and thanked her accordingly.  The conversation did not last much longer.  Cazeneau himself found it rather too tedious where he had to do all the talking, and where the other was only a girl too sad or too sullen to answer.  One final remark was made, which seemed to Mimi to express the whole purpose of his visit.

“You need not fear, mademoiselle,” said he, “that this assassin will escape.  That is impossible, since he is under strict confinement, and in a few days must be tried for his crimes.”

What that meant Mimi knew only too well; and after Cazeneau left, these words rang in her heart.

After his call on Mimi, Cazeneau was waited on by the ex-commandant, who acquainted him with the result of certain inquiries which he had been making.  These inquiries had been made by means of a prisoner, who had been put in with Claude in order to win the young man’s confidence, and thus get at his secret; for Cazeneau had been of the opinion that there were accomplices or allies of Claude in France, of whom it would be well to know the names.  The ex-commandant was still more eager to know.  He had been very much struck by the claim of Claude to be a De Montresor, and by Cazeneau’s own confession that the present regime was unfavorable to him; and under these circumstances the worthy functionary, who always looked out for number one, was busy weighing the advantages of the party of Claude as against the party of Cazeneau.

On the evening of the day when he had called on Mimi, Cazeneau was waited on by Pere Michel.  He himself had sent for the priest, whom he had summoned somewhat abruptly.  The priest entered the apartment, and, with a bow, announced himself.  As Cazeneau looked up, he appeared for a moment struck with involuntary respect by the venerable appearance of this man, or there may have been something else at work in him; but, whatever the cause, he regarded the priest attentively for a few moments, without saying a word.

“Pere Michel,” said he, at length, “I have called you before me in private, to come to an understanding with you.  Had I followed my own impulses, I would have ordered your arrest, on my entrance into Louisbourg, as an accomplice of that young villain.  I thought it sufficient, however, to spare you for the present, and keep you under surveillance.  I am, on the whole, glad that I did not yield to my first impulse of anger, for I can now, in perfect calmness, go with you over your acts during the journey here, and ask you for an explanation.”

The priest bowed.

“Understand me, Pere Michel,” said Cazeneau; “I have now no hard feeling left.  I may say, I have almost no suspicion.  I wish to be assured of your innocence.  I will take anything that seems like a plausible excuse.  I respect your character, and would rather have you as my friend than ­than not.”

The priest again bowed, without appearing at all affected by these conciliatory words.

“After I was assassinated in the woods,” said Cazeneau, “I was saved from death by the skill and fidelity of my Indians.  It seems to me still, Pere Michel, as it seemed then, that something might have been done by you.  Had you been in league with my enemy, you could not have done worse.  You hastened forward with all speed, leaving me to my fate.  As a friend, you should have turned back to save a friend; as a priest, you should have turned back to give me Christian burial.  What answer have you to make to this?”

“Simply this,” said the priest, with perfect calmness:  “that when you left us you gave orders that we should go on, and that you would find your way to us.  I had no thought of turning back, or waiting.  I knew the Indians well, and knew that they can find their way through the woods as easily as you can through the streets of Paris.  I went forward, then, without any thought of waiting for you, thinking that of course you would join us, as you said.”

“When did Motier come up with you?” asked Cazeneau.

“On the following day,” answered the priest.

“Did he inform you what had taken place?”

“He did.”

“Why, then, did you not turn back to help me?”

“Because Motier informed me that you were dead.”

“Very good.  He believed so, I doubt not; but, at any rate, you might have turned back, if only to give Christian burial.”

“I intended to do that at some future time,” said Pere Michel; “but at that time I felt my chief duty to be to the living.  How could I have left the Countess Laborde?  Motier would not have been a proper guardian to convey her to Louisbourg, and to take her back with me was impossible.  I therefore decided to go on, as you said, and take her first to Louisbourg, and afterwards to return.”

“You showed no haste about it,” said Cazeneau.

“I had to wait here,” said the priest.

“May I ask what could have been the urgent business which kept you from the sacred duty of the burial of the dead?”

“A ship is expected every day, and I waited to get the letters of my superiors, with reference to further movements on my mission.”

“You say that Motier informed you about my death.  Did he tell you how it had happened?”

“He said that you and he had fought, and that you had been killed.”

“Why, then, did you not denounce him to the authorities on your arrival here?”

“On what charge?”

“On the charge of murder.”

“I did not know that when one gentleman is unfortunate enough to kill another, in fair fight, that it can be considered murder.  The duel is as lawful in America as in France.”

“This was not a duel!” cried Cazeneau.  “It was an act of assassination.  Motier is no better than a murderer.”

“I only knew his own account,” said the priest.

“Besides,” continued Cazeneau, “a duel can only take place between two equals; and this Motier is one of the canaille, one not worthy of my sword.”

“Yet, monsieur,” said the priest, “when you arrested him first, it was not as one of the canaille, but as the son of the outlawed Count de Montresor.”

“True,” said Cazeneau; “but I have reason to believe that he is merely some impostor.  He is now under a different accusation.  But one more point.  How did Motier manage to escape?”

“As to that, monsieur, I always supposed that his escape was easy enough, and that he could have effected it at once.  The farm-houses of the Acadians are not adapted to be very secure prisons.  There were no bolts and bars, and no adequate watch.”

“True; but the most significant part of his escape is, that he had external assistance.  Who were those Indians who led him on my trail?  How did he, a stranger, win them over?”

“You forget, monsieur, that this young man has lived all his life in America.  I know that he has been much in the woods in New England, and has had much intercourse with the Indians there.  It was, no doubt, very easy for him to enter into communication with Indians here.  They are all alike.”

“But how could he have found them?  He must have had them at the house, or else friends outside must have sent them.”

“He might have bribed the people of the house.”

“Impossible!”

“Monsieur does not mean to say that anything is impossible to one who has gold.  Men of this age do anything for gold.”

Cazeneau was silent.  To him this was so profoundly true that he had nothing to say.  He sat in silence for a little while, and then continued: ­

“I understand that at the time of the arrest of Motier, he was in the garden of the residence, with the Countess de Laborde, and that you were with them.  How is this?  Did this interview take place with your sanction or connivance?”

“I knew nothing about it.  It was by the merest accident, as far as I know.”

“You did not help them in this way?”

“I did not.”

“Monsieur L’Abbe,” said Cazeneau, “I am glad that you have answered my questions so fully and so frankly.  I confess that, in my first anger, I considered that in some way you had taken part against me.  To think so gave me great pain, as I have had too high an esteem for you to be willing to think of you as an enemy.  But your explanations are in every way satisfactory.  T hope, monsieur, that whatever letters you receive from France, they will not take you away from this part of the world.  I feel confident that you, with your influence over the Indians here, will be an invaluable ally to one in my position, in the endeavors which I shall make to further in these parts the interests of France and of the church.”