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

Cazeneau had heard the guns, and had learned that the long-expected frigate had arrived, together with a schooner that looked like a prize.  To him the matter afforded much gratification, since it offered a quick and easy way of getting rid of Florian, and of making the way easier towards the accomplishment of his own purposes.  He did not know that Florian had hurried aboard, nor, had he known, would he have cared.  For his own part he remained where he was, awaiting the visit which the captain of the Vengeur would make, to report his arrival.  After more than two hours of waiting, it began to strike him that the said captain was somewhat dilatory, and he began to meditate a reprimand for such a neglect of his dignity.

All this time had been spent by Florian on board, where he had much to say to De Brisset, and much to ask of him and also of Margot.

At length a boat came ashore.  In the boat were Florian, De Brisset, and Margot.  On landing, these three went up to the citadel; and on their way De Brisset was stopped by several of the officers, who were old acquaintances, and were anxious to learn the latest news.  Florian also had much to tell them which he had just learned.  While they were talking, Margot hurried to the Residency, where she found Mimi, to whom she gave information of a startling kind; so startling, indeed, was it, that it acted like a powerful remedy, and roused Mimi from a deep stupor of inconsolable grief up to life, and hope, and joy, and strength.

The information which De Brisset gave the officers was of the same startling kind, and Florian was able to corroborate it by a despatch which he had received.  The despatch was to the effect that he ­the Count de Florian ­was hereby reinstated in his office as commandant of Louisbourg, and conveyed to him the flattering intelligence that his former administration was favorably regarded by the government, who would reward him with some higher command.  With this despatch there came also to Florian, as commandant, a warrant to arrest Cazeneau, the late commandant, on certain charges of fraud, peculation, and malversation in office, under the late ministry.  De Brisset also had orders to bring Cazeneau back to France in the Vengeur.  These documents were shown to the officers, who were very earnest in their congratulations to Florian.

There were also despatches to the Count de Montresor, the contents of which were known to De Brisset, who also knew that he was now laboring in the colonies as the missionary priest Pere Michel.  Florian at once took these to the prison where he was confined, acquainted him with the change that had taken place, and set both him and Claude free with his own hands.  Then he presented the despatches.

Pere Michel, as we may still call him, tore open the despatch with a trembling hand, and there read that, at last, after so many years, the wrong done him had been remedied, as far as possible; that all his dignities were restored, together with his estates.  These last had passed to other hands, but the strong arm of the government was even now being put forth to reclaim them, so that they might be rendered back to the deeply injured man to whom they rightly belonged.

“There, my boy,” said Pere Michel, as he showed it to his son, “all is right at last; and now you can wear your name and dignity in the face of the world, and not be ashamed.”

“O, my father!” said Claude, in a voice which was broken with emotion, “Heaven knows I never was ashamed.  I believed your innocence, and wept over your wrongs.  I am glad now, not for myself, but for you.”

“Where is the Countess de Montresor?” said Pere Michel.  “She should not be kept in restraint any longer.”

Cazeneau all this time sat in his apartment, awaiting the arrival of the captain of the Vengeur and the despatches.  The captain at length appeared; but with him were others, the sight of whom awakened strange sensations in his breast.  For there was Florian, and with him was Pere Michel; Claude was there also, and beyond he saw some soldiers.  The sight was to him most appalling, and something in the face and bearing of De Brisset and Florian was more appalling still.

Monsieur Comte de Cazeneau,” said Florian, “I have the honor to present you with this commission, by which you will see that I am reappointcd commandant of Louisbourg.  I also have the honor to state that I hold a warrant for your arrest, on certain charges specified therein, and for sending you back to France for trial in the Vengeur, on her return voyage.”

Cazeneau listened to this with a pallid face.

“Impossible!” he faltered.

“It’s quite true,” said De Brisset; “I also have orders to the same effect, which I have already shown to Monsieur Commandant Florian.  There is no possibility of any mistake, or of any resistance.  You will therefore do well to submit.”

Cazeneau had remained seated in the attitude which he had taken up, when he expected to receive the respectful greeting of his subordinate.  The news was so sudden, and so appalling, that he remained motionless.  He sat staring, like one suddenly petrified.  He turned his eyes from one to another, but in all those faces he saw nothing to reassure him.  All were hostile except Pere Michel, who alone looked at him without hate.  The priest showed the same mild serenity which had always distinguished him.  He seemed like one who had overcome the world, who had conquered worldly ambition and worldly passion, and had passed beyond the reach of revenge.

Cazeneau saw this.  He rose from his seat, and fell at the feet of Pere Michel.

“Pardon,” he faltered; “Comte de Montresor, do not pursue a fallen man with your vengeance.”

At this unexpected exhibition, all present looked with scorn.  They had known Cazeneau to be cruel and unscrupulous; they had not suspected that he was cowardly as well.  Pere Michel also preserved an unchanged demeanor.

“You are mistaken, Cazeneau,” he said.  “I feel no desire for vengeance.  I seek none.  Moreover, I have no influence or authority.  You must direct your prayers elsewhere.”

Upon this the wretched man turned to Florian.

“Come, come,” said Florian, impatiently.  “This will never do.  Rise, monsieur.  Remember that you are a Frenchman.  Bear up like a man.  For my part, I can do nothing for you, and have to obey orders.”

Cazeneau’s break down was utter, and effectually destroyed all sympathy.  His present weakness was compared with his late vindictiveness, and he who had just refused mercy to others could hardly gain pity on himself.  He only succeeded in utterly disgracing himself, without inspiring a particle of commiseration.  Still Florian was not cruel, and contented himself with keeping his prisoner in a room in the Residency, satisfied that there was no possibility of escape.  Some of the officers, however, were loud in their condemnation of Florian’s mildness, and asserted that the dungeon and the chains, which had been inflicted by him on the Montresors, should be his doom also.  But Florian thought otherwise, and held him thus a prisoner until the Vengeur returned.  Then Cazeneau was sent back to be tried and convicted.  His life was spared; but he was cast down to hopeless degradation and want, in which state his existence ultimately terminated.

Before the scene with Cazeneau was over, Claude had gone away and found his wife.  Already Mimi’s strength had begun to return, and her new-born hope, and the rush of her great happiness, coming, as it did, after so much misery and despair, served to restore her rapidly.

“I should have died if this had lasted one day more,” said she.

“But now it is all over, Mimi, dearest,” said Claude, “and you must live for me.  This moment repays me for all my sufferings.”

“And for mine,” sighed Mimi.

Margot saw that her mistress had for the present an attendant who was more serviceable than herself, and now all her thoughts turned to that faithful friend whom she had been compelled for the time to leave, but whom she had not for one moment forgotten.  She waited patiently till she could get a chance to speak to Claude, and then told him what he did not know yet ­that Zac was still a prisoner.  At that intelligence, his own happiness did not allow him to delay to serve his friend.  He at once hurried forth to see De Brisset.  To him he explained Zac’s position in such forcible language, that De Brisset at once issued an order for the release of himself and his schooner, without any conditions, and the recall of his seamen.  To make the act more complete, the order was committed to Margot, who was sent in the ship’s boat to the schooner.

On the arrival of this boat, Zac seemed quite indifferent to the safety of the schooner, and only aware of the presence of Margot.  He held her hand, and stood looking at her with moistened eyes, until after the seamen of the Vengeur had gone.  Terry looked away; Jericho vanished below, with vague plans about a great supper.  Biler gazed upon Louisbourg with a pensive eye and a half-eaten turnip.

“I knowed you’d be back, little un,” said Zac; “I felt it; an’, now you’ve come, don’t go away agin.”

“O, but I haf to go to ze comtesse,” said Margot; “zat ees ­to-day ­”

“Go back to the countess!  Why, you ain’t goin’ to give me up ­air you?” said Zac, dolefully.

“O, no, not eef you don’t want me to,” said Margot.  “But to-day I moos go to ze comtesse, an’ afterward you sall ask her, eef you want me.”

At this, which was spoken in a timid, hesitating way, Zac took her in his arms, and gave her a tremendous smack, which Terry tried hard not to hear.

“Wal,” said he, “thar’s Pere Michel, that’s a Moosoo an’ a Roman Catholic; but he’ll do.”

“O, but you moos not talk of Pere Michel till you see ze comtesse,” said Margot; “an’ now I sall tank you to take me back to her, or send me back by one of de men.”

Zac did not send her back, but took her back to the shore himself.  Then the fortifications of Louisbourg ­the dread and bugbear of all New England ­closed him in; but Zac noticed nothing of these.  It was only Margot whom he saw; and he took her to the citadel, to the Residency.  On his arrival, Claude came forth to greet him, with beaming eyes and open arms.  Pere Michel greeted him, also, with affectionate cordiality.  For the simple Yankee had won the priest’s heart, as well on account of his own virtues as for his son’s sake.  He also took enough interest in him to note his dealings with Margot, and to suggest to him, in a sly way, that, under the circumstances, although Zac was a bigoted Protestant, a Roman Catholic priest could do just as well as a Protestant parson.  Whereupon Zac went off with a broad grin, that lasted for weeks.

The postponement of Florian’s departure caused some disappointment to that worthy gentleman, which, however, was alleviated by the thought that he had been able to benefit his injured friend, and bring a villain to punishment; and also by the thought that his departure to France would not be long delayed.  To those friends he devoted himself, and sought by every means in his power to make their recollections of Louisbourg more pleasant than they had thus far been.  Claude, and his bride, and his father were honored guests at the Residency, where they were urged to remain as long as they could content themselves, and until they could decide about their future movements.

For now, though the name of Montresor had been redeemed, and justice had at last been done, it was not easy for them to decide about their future movements.  Pere Michel, after some thought, had at length made up his mind, and had given Claude the benefit of his opinion and his advice.

“I have made up my mind,” said he.  “I will never go back to France.  What can I do in France?  As a French noble, I should be powerless; as a priest, useless.  France is corrupt to the heart’s core.  The government is corrupt.  The whole head is sick, the whole heart faint.  Ministry succeeds to ministry, not by means of ability, not from patriotism or a public spirit, but simply through corrupt favoritism.  There are no statesmen in France.  They are all courtiers.  In that court every man is ready to sell himself for money.  There is no sense of honor.  At the head of all is the worst of all, the king himself, who sets an example of sin and iniquity, which is followed by all the nation.  The peasantry are slaves, trodden in the dust, without hope and without spirit.  The nobles are obsequious time-servers and place-hunters.  The old sentiment of chivalry is dead.  I will never go to such a country.  Here, in this land, where I have lived the best part of my life, I intend to remain, to labor among these simple Acadians, and these children of the forest, and to die among them.

“As for you, my son, France is no place for you.  The proper place for you, if you wish to lead a virtuous and honorable life, is among the people who look upon you as one of themselves, with whom you have been brought up.  Your religion, my son, is different from mine; but we worship the same God, believe in the same Bible, put our trust in the same Saviour, and hope for the same heaven.  What can France give you that can be equal to what you have in New England?  She can give you simply honors, but with these the deadly poison of her own corruption, and a future full of awful peril.  But in New England you have a virgin country.  There all men are free.  There you have no nobility.  There are no down-trodden peasants, but free farmers.  Every man has his own rights, and knows how to maintain them.  You have been brought up to be the free citizen of a free country.  Enough.  Why wish to be a noble in a nation of slaves?  Take your name of Montresor, if you wish.  It is yours now, and free from stain.  Remember, also, if you wish, the glory of your ancestors, and let that memory inspire you to noble actions.  But remain in New England, and cast in your lot with the citizens of your own free, adopted land.”

Such were the words of the priest, and Claude’s training had been such that they chimed in altogether with his own tastes.  He did not feel himself entirely capable of playing the part of a noble in such a country as that France which his father described; of associating with such a society, or of courting the favor of such a king.  Besides, his religion was the religion of his mother:  and her fate was a sufficient warning.  And so it was that Claude resolved to give up all thoughts of France, and return to the humble New England farm.  If from the wreck of the Montresor fortunes anything should be restored, he felt that he could employ it better in his own home than in the home of his fathers; while the estate of Laborde, which Mimi would inherit, would double his own means, and give him new resources.

This, then, was his final decision; and, though it caused much surprise to Florian, he did not attempt to oppose it.  Mimi raised no objection.  She had no ties in France; and wherever her husband might be was welcome to her.  And so Zac was informed that Claude would hire his schooner once more, to convey himself and his wife back to Boston, together with his father, who, at their urgent solicitation, consented to pay them a visit.

But Zac had purposes of his own, which had to be accomplished before setting forth on his return.  He wished to secure the services of Pere Michel, which services were readily offered; and Zac and Margot were made one in the very chapel which had witnessed the marriage of Claude and Mimi.