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   Chapter 17 WHAT THE SHIP HENRI IV BRINGS TO QUEBEC

The Grey Cloak By Harold MacGrath Characters: 17166

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


The ship Henri IV dropped anchor before Quebec on the seventh day of August. This being the Company's vessel, hundreds of Canadians flocked to the wharves. And again flags decked the chateau and town, and cannon roared. The Henri IV was part merchantman and part man-of-war. Her ports bristled with cannon, her marines wore formidable cutlasses, and the law on board was military in the strictest sense. Stores and ammunition filled her hull; carpenters' tools, tea-chests, bags of plaster, uniforms, cannon, small arms, beads and trinkets of no value save to the Indian, silk and wool and a beautiful window for the cathedral. And in return she was to carry away mink, otter and beaver skins.

Breton had been left behind by the Chevalier, who had joined a scouting party up the river. Love and anxiety had made the lad thin. Any night might bring disastrous news from Three Rivers, the burning of the settlement and the massacre. Such speculation counteracted his usually good appetite. So Breton mooned about the wharves day by day, always looking up the river instead of down.

To-day he lingered to witness the debarkation. Besides, the Henri IV was a great ship, bringing with her a vague perfume from France. Listlessly he watched the seamen empty the hold of its treasures; carelessly he observed the meeting of sweethearts and lovers, wives and husbands. Two women in masks meant nothing to him… Holy Virgin! it was not possible! Was his brain fooling him? He grew faint. Did he really see these two old men climbing down the ship's ladder to the boats? He choked; tears blinded him. He dashed aside the tears and looked once more. Oh! there could be no doubt; his eyes had not deceived him. There was only one face like that in the world; only one face like that, with its wrinkles, its haughty chin, its domineering nose. He had seen that lean, erect figure, crowned with silver-white hair, too many times to mistake it. It was the marquis, the grim and terrible marquis, the ogre of his dreams. The lad had always hated the marquis, taking his master's side; but at the sight of that familiar face, he felt his heart swell with joy and love and veneration. For intuition told him why Monsieur le Marquis was in Quebec. It was to seek Monsieur le Chevalier. And together they would all go back to France, beautiful France. He burst into hysterical tears, regardless of the wonder which he created. And there was the kindly Jehan, who had dandled him on his knee, long years ago before trouble had cast its blighting shadow over the House of Périgny. Blessed day!

Very slowly and with infinite pains the marquis climbed from the boat to the wharf. It was evident to Breton that the long voyage at sea had sapped his vitality and undermined his vigor. He was still erect, but, ah! how lean and frail! But his eye was still the eye of the proud eagle, and it swept the crowd, searching for a familiar face. Breton dared not make himself known because of that eye. An officer who had formerly resided in Rochelle recognized the marquis instantly, and he pressed forward.

"Monsieur le Marquis in Quebec?" he cried.

"You are of the fort?" replied the marquis. His voice was thin and high, like that of old men whose blood is turning to water.

"Yes, Monsieur," answered the officer.

"Will you lead me to his Excellency the governor? I have letters to present from her Majesty the queen."

"Follow me, Monsieur;" and the officer conducted the marquis through the crowd, politely but firmly brushing aside those who blocked his path. He found the governor quickly. "Your Excellency, the Marquis de Périgny wishes to present to you letters from her august Majesty."

"Monsieur le Marquis here?" exclaimed the governor. He embraced the old nobleman, whom he held in genuine regard.

"So your Excellency remembers me?" said the marquis, pleased.

"One does not forget a man such as you are, Monsieur. And I see you here in Quebec? What twist of fortune brings you to my household?"

"I have come in search of a prodigal son, Monsieur," smiling. "Know you one who calls himself the Chevalier du Cévennes?"

"The Chevalier du Cévennes?" The governor was nonplussed. The marquis here in search of the Chevalier?

"I see that he is here," said the marquis, with a note of satisfaction.

"No, Monsieur; not here, but has been."

"He can be found?"

"Within sixty hours."

"That is well. I am very fortunate."

"You will be my guest during your stay?" suggested the governor.

"Her Majesty asks that good favor of you."

"A great honor, Monsieur, truly;" and the governor was elated at the thought of having so distinguished a guest at his table.

The marquis turned to the patient Jehan. "Jehan, you will see to the portmanteaus."

"Yes, Monsieur."

A priest elbowed his way toward them. On seeing him, the marquis raised and lowered his bushy white brows. It was the handsome Jesuit whose face had stolen into many a dream of late. Brother Jacques was greatly astonished. The marquis greeted him, but without marked cordiality. At a sign from the governor the quartet moved up the path toward the cliffs, which the marquis measured with the eye of one who understood thoroughly the art and value of military strategy.

"Superb!" he murmured. "With a few men and plenty of ammunition, I could hold even England at bay."

"I am proud of it," acknowledged the governor; but there was a twinge of envy when it occurred to him that a handful of savages had worried him more than once. And here was a man who would defy the whole world.

Jehan felt a pressure on his arm. Turning, he beheld the shining face of Breton. He caught the lad in his arms and kissed him on the cheek.

"I expected to find you, lad. Ah, but you have done wrong. You should have told us. You should not have run away with Monsieur le Comte…"

"Monsieur le Comte?" bewildered.

"Yes; you should not have run away with him as you did."

"Had I told you, you would have prevented my coming," Breton confessed.

"You would have saved Monsieur le Marquis and myself a great deal of trouble."

"But Monsieur le Chevalier was in trouble, too. I could not leave him."

"Which speaks well for your heart, lad, but not for your reason. Where is Monsieur le Comte?"

"At Three Rivers; a day and a night's ride from here, with good paddlers."

"Good. We shall start out in the morning."

"To bring him back to France?"

"Nothing less, lad. The count has been greatly wronged by Monsieur le Marquis, and it is to be set to rights forthwith. Can you read?"

"Yes."

"Here is a letter which Monsieur le Curé wrote at Périgny. It was from old Martin's daughter."

"God bless you, Monsieur," cried the happy Breton. He would have shouted for joy had not the quiet dignity of the old lackey put a damper on his enthusiasm.

"Monsieur le Comte was well when last you saw him?"

"Yes; physically."

"He is troubled?"

"Who would not be?" burst forth Breton, indignantly. "But why do you call Monsieur le Chevalier the count?"

"Is not that his title?" quietly.

"But …"

"Would Monsieur le Marquis take all this trouble if Monsieur le Chevalier was anything but Monsieur le Comte?"

"I shall offer a dozen candles!" cried Breton, joyously.

Meantime the governor conducted the marquis around the fortress and the chateau; and together they stood upon the highest balcony and looked down upon the river, which was dotted with canoes and small boats.

"Magnificent!" repeated the marquis time and again.

"And not even in the Cévennes, Monsieur, will you see such sunsets," said De Lauson.

"This should not be managed by speculators," unconsciously pricking the governor's quick, "nor by the priest's cold hand. It should be wholly the king's. It would be France's salvation. What are they doing there in Paris?"

"Spending money on lace for the Swiss and giving masks at the Palais Royal."

"Richelieu died too soon; here would have been his fame." The marquis never underestimated an enemy. "If your Excellency will excuse me now, I will sleep. I am an old man, and sleep calls to me often. I will join you at supper."

"The ladies will be delighted. There is but little here of the life of the court. When we are not guarding against Indians, we are celebrating religious fêtes."

"Till supper, then, your Excellency."

And the governor departed to read the messages from the queen. She had placed all Quebec at the disposal of the marquis in the search for his son. The governor was greatly mystified. That the marq

uis should still call the Chevalier by his former title of count added to this mystery. Since when did fathers set out for sons of the left hand? He soon gave up the riddle, confident that the marquis himself would solve it for him.

The marquis rose before sundown and with the assistance of his aged valet made his toilet. He was dressed in black satin, with white lace ruffles, and across his breast he flung the ribbon of the Chevalier of the Order, in honor of the governor's attentions. Presently, from his window he saw the figure of a woman-young and slender; doubtless some relative of the governor's. Patiently he waited for her to turn. When she did so, a subdued exclamation fell from his lips. He had seen that face before, once or twice on board the Henri IV. It was the woman in the grey mask. He stared hard and long. Where else had he seen this face? He was growing old, and sometimes his memory failed him. Without being conscious of the act, he readjusted his wristbands and the ruffles at his throat. A handsome young woman at the table would be a recompense for the dullness of the hour. But he waited in vain at supper for the appearance of the exquisite face. Like the true courtier he was, he made no inquiries.

When they were at last alone, the governor said: "I am truly glad you have come to make the Chevalier return to France. He will never be at peace here."

"Why?" asked the marquis, weakening his burgundy with water.

"The … That is …" But the governor foundered.

"Why?" repeated the marquis. "Has he made a fool of himself here as in France?"

"No, Monsieur," warmly. "He has proved himself to be a gentleman and a brave soldier."

"He drinks?"

"Only as a gentleman might; neither does he gamble."

"Ah!"

The governor drew figures on the dusty bottle at the side of his plate.

"If he does none of these things," said the marquis, "why can not he live in peace here?"

"His … unfortunate history has followed him here."

"What?" The marquis's glass crashed upon the table and the wine crept among the plates, soaking the marquis's sleeves and crimsoning his elegant wristbands.

"What did you say?"

"Why," began the governor, startled and confused, "the history of his birth is known." He looked at the walls, at the wine running about, at the floor, at everything save the flashing eyes opposite.

"So the fool has told it here?" harshly. "Bah! let him rot here, then; fool!"

"But he has said nothing; no one knew till …"

"Oh! then it was not Monsieur le Comte who spoke?"

"Monsieur le Comte?"

"That is the title which my son bears."

"Good God, Monsieur, then what is all this about?"

"It will take some time to tell it, Monsieur," said the marquis, shaking his sleeves and throwing salt upon the table. "First, I wish to know the name of the man who started the story."

"Monsieur de Leviston, of Montreal, prompted by I know not whom."

"De Leviston. I shall remember that name."

"There was a duel fought."

"A duel? Who were the participants?"

"The Vicomte d'Halluys against the Comte d'Hérouville, and Monsieur de Saumaise against De Leviston. D'Hérouville and De Leviston are both in hospital."

"D'Hérouville? What had he to do with the affair?"

"He laughed," said the governor; "he laughed when De Leviston accused your son of not knowing who his mother was."

"Thank you, Monsieur. I see that you are in great puzzle. Let me solve the puzzle for you. I have always been a man of quick and violent temper, and sometimes this temper has been that of the fool. The wisest of us make mistakes. I have made a grievous one. In a moment of anger …" He ceased, taking up the stem of the broken glass and twirling it. "In a moment of anger, then, I did Monsieur le Comte a most grievous wrong, a wrong for which I can never fully atone. We have never been on friendly terms since his refusal to wed a young woman of my choice, Mademoiselle de Montbazon. I had never seen this daughter, nor had my son. Paris life, Monsieur, as doubtless you know, is ruinous to youth. Monsieur le Comte was much in wine; he gambled recklessly. It was my desire to change his course, but I went at it either too late or bunglingly. In February he was exiled from court in disgrace. I have never ascertained the character of this disgrace. One night in March we had an exchange of opinions. My faith, your Excellency, but that boy has a terrible tongue. There was not a place in my armor that he did not pierce. I shall not repeat to you the subject of our conversation. Suffice it to say that he roused the devil and the fool in me, and I told him that he had no right to his name. I am here to correct that wrong as much as lies within my power. He did not give me an opportunity at home. It is not sentiment; it is my sense of justice that brings me here. And I truly admire the lad's spirit. To plunge into the wilderness without calculation; ah, well, it is only the fool who stops to weigh the hazards of fortune. The boy is my son, lawfully; and I want him to know it. I am growing old, and this voyage has written a shorter term for me."

"Monsieur," said De Lauson, "what you tell me makes me truly happy. But I am afraid that you have destroyed the Chevalier's trust in humanity. If you ask me to judge you, I shall be severe. You have committed a terrible sin, unnatural and brutal, unheard of till now by me."

"I bow to all that," said the marquis. "It was brutal, cruel; it was all you say. But the fact remains that it is done and that a part of it must be undone."

"Your sense of justice does credit to a great noble like yourself. Worldly reparation you may make, but you have wounded his heart and soul beyond all earthly reparation."

"The worldly reparation quite satisfies me," replied the marquis, fumbling with his lips. "As I observed, sentiment is out of the question. Monsieur le Comte would not let me love him if I would," lightly. "I wish to undo as much as possible the evil I have done. If he refuses to return to France, that is his affair, not mine. I shall be the last to urge him. This Monsieur de Saumaise is a poet, I understand."

"Who writes equally well with his sword."

"I should like to meet him. How long before De Leviston and D'Hérouville will be out of hospital?"

"D'Hérouville, any day; De Leviston has a bad fever, having taken cold."

The marquis had not acquired the habit of smoking, so the governor lit his pipe and smoked alone.

"Your Excellency, who is this handsome young priest who goes by the name of Brother Jacques; of what family?"

"That I do not know; no one knows; not even Father Chaumonot, who is his sponsor. The good Father picked him up somewhere in Italy and placed him in a convent."

"Monsieur le Comte, then, is at Three Rivers?"

"Yes; and to-morrow we shall set out for him; though he may return at any hour."

"I thank your Excellency. The Henri IV sails by next week, so I understand. I daresay that we both shall be on it. At any rate, I shall wait."

The door opened and Jehan, expressing as much excitement as his weather-beaten face made possible, stood before them.

"Well?" said the marquis.

"Monsieur le Comte is returned from Three Rivers, and is about to dine in the citadel."

"Tell a trooper that the presence of Monsieur le Chevalier is requested here at once. Do not let the Chevalier see you," and the governor rose and laid down his pipe. "I will leave the room at your service, Monsieur."

"It is very kind of you." If the marquis was excited, or nervous, there was nothing on his face to indicate it.

Jehan and the governor made their exits through opposite doors; and Monsieur le Marquis sat alone. Several minutes passed. Once or twice the marquis turned his attention to his wine-soaked sleeve. Steps were heard in the corridor, but these died away in the distance. From time to time the old man's hand wandered to his throat, as if something was bothering him there. Time marked off a quarter of an hour. Then the door opened, and a man entered; a man bronzed of countenance, tall, and deep of chest. He wore the trapper's blouse and fringed leggings. From where he stood he could not see who sat at the table.

"Come toward the light, Monsieur," said the marquis, "where I may see you to better advantage." The marquis rose and stood with the fingers of his right band pressing lightly on the table.

At the sound of that voice, the Chevalier's heart leaped. He strode forward quickly, and, leaning across the table, stared into his father's eyes.

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