THE KING'S FOOL
Louis ARTHUR CUNNINGHAM
A wise man who plays the fool meets a terrifying situation and a woman demonstrates that courage is not confined to one sex.
The story: Compelled to flee from Ireland by Sir Peter de Launay, whom he wounds, Sir Michael Mohan, with a henchman, Barney O’Pray, arrives in Paris. Beautiful and wealthy Diane de Mervule le reciprocates his love, and they are eloping when the King’s soldiers intercept them and Diane is sent home, while Michael and Barney are exiled to New France in company with the King’s Jester. During a storm all appear lost except Michael and the Jester, and when the latter dies, leaving his fool’s coat in a small boat, Michael dons it. Gaining the shore of New France, he is mistaken for the fool and resolves to continue the deception.
Barney O’Pray reappears alive and well, though he pretends to be deaf and dumb: and Diane de Merville comes to New France on a visit. Gaston Crevier, a crony of the. dishonest Intendant, François Bigot, makes love to her in vain. Michael reveals his identity to Diane and her relative, Comte Lucien de Mornay, and they warn him of his probable fate should his real identity be discovered.
THE long winter set in. The fortress of Quebec and the little town clustering at its base were beleaguered by great snows, by the trapped river—a great plain of dazzling white. The nights were clear and cold, the days lighted by glorious sunshine which often, toward midday, made water drip from the eaves and thawed the snow sufficiently for the town urchins to pelt snowballs at each other. The coureurs des bois and travellers from Montreal, Three Rivers and other places along the river came on snowshoes or in gay little sleighs, their bells cheerfully ajangle. Rich furs of beaver, raccoon, muskrat and seal covered the splendid laces and silks of the gentry; the habitants sported bright scarves and gnomish toques of blue, red and green. Barney O’Pray, with whom Michael held frequent converse, said that the “good people” found the winter severe but, with the toboggans and sleds they had made, were having a merry holiday and were seriously considering the founding of a colony of their own in New France.
There, with Paulette, with frequent visits from Lucien and Michael, she passed the time pleasantly enough, for with the severity of the winter the comforts of the fireside increased.
Great stores of birch and rock maple had been cut and piled in the fall, and the fires in the great stone hearths never died. The farmers living on Diane’s estate were glad of her presence, for these were meagre times with them, the frugality of their humble tables caused directly by the opulence of the Intendants, whose levies upon their produce left them very little for themselves.
Tidings from France came seldom now, and always months late, brought by messengers who had journeyed hundreds of miles on snowshoes through the country wastes of Acadia. Those in Quebec were isolated from the rest of the world, but they knew well how to pass this season and the evenings were pleasantly filled with song and story; and since there was no danger of an enemy’s attack until the river should again be free of its ice, there was nothing much to worry about. Great quantities of rich furs were brought down from the North on dog-sleds and stored in the city until the time came for their export. When the weather was clement, men worked in the shipyard which the Intendant Hocquart had established on the River St. Charles, with a drydock on the opposite shore. But mast of the time was spent in merrymaking and feasting, in singing the gay chansons brought from France, in dancing to the strains of the fiddle and telling quaint stories of native vintage.
The winter sped by, and with the premature thaws of February men began to speak cheerfully of the glories of spring, when the snow and ice would swiftly melt and the ice in the river crack and begin to move seaward with crashing, tumbling sounds. And Michael spoke with Diane of the day when they should make their escape—she from the unobtrusive yet strict surveillance put upon her by the Intendant, from the unpleasantly persistent attentions of Gaston Crevier, Michael from the fool’s garb and clown’s mask which were becoming odious to him, though in his character of jester he had endeared himself to the townsfolk and to the dwellers in Chateau St. Louis.
With Comte Lucien de Mornay, Michael had had much to do. Lucien had not come to Quebec for the sake of his health, nor yet for curiosity. He was one of a very few in France who had the destiny of their country at heart; who saw that in this colony of New France was a great source of strength, a mine from which future
generations would draw riches, their value increasing with the years, an invaluable asset to his beloved land.
“Diane knows my purpose in coming here, Sir Michael,” said Lucien one night as the three sat, after dinner, in the great hall of the Charlesbourg manor, watching the arabesques among the glowing embers, the flames that roared and darted up the wide chimney, while outside was a howling wind and snow that blew in blinding clouds. “I do not see why you, too, should not share the knowledge, for, as I am ready to help you, the accepted lover of Diane and the friend of Louvigny de Dronsart, you may be able to assist me. I am one alone here, and the task I have set myself to perform is not an easy one.”
“It occurred to me,” confessed Michael, “that you were not here only for the sake of amusement. I shall be glad to assist you, and if anyone should require a sound knock on the head, Barney O’Pray—he they call Le Rouge—is my man and yours.”
“I have already heard,” smiled Lucien, “from those who interrupted your elopement with Diane that the two of you could withstand an army. But this does not call for force; rather diplomacy. Very simply, it is to take back with me to France evidence, sound and indisputable, that these men, Bigot, Cadet and Crevier, are not fit to hold positions of such responsibility; that they are somewhat less than thieves and robbers; and that, if the financial administration of the colony of New France be left much longer in their hands, we are bound to lose this great domain and see in after years some other nation have it for a strength and support.”
“Everyone here knows what is going on,” said Michael. “They cheat the people right and left. Hardly a sou is forthcoming for the defense of Quebec, and it seems to me that their sole object is to get what they can for themselves and devil take the hindmost; which in this case is their own country. New France rides directly for ruin, and only the swift coming of a strong government can save her. The English I have no cause to love, but you must realize the truth as I do: they are
thorough and determined. They want this country and ’tis the height of folly to laugh and jest and quaff wine while they are sitting outside the gates. They are not to be treated thus, and strong as your city here is, they will take it. Sure they subdued Ireland, which no other nation could have done. So good luck to your mission,
Comte de Mornay, and if it is in Michael Mohan’s power to assist you, say only the word.”
“I thank you,” said Lucien ‘‘Frankly, I find that I am faced by walls of stone. As you say, everyone knows the chicanery that goes on here. Have the people not christened Bigot and his scoundrelly associates La friponne, ‘the Swindle’? And they steal in the name of their King, who, alas,, is ruled by a woman and has no mind of his own. I shall not go back to France until I have proof that even he and his mistress cannot put aside with a laugh. But it must be more than word of mouth; it must be evidence real and tangible.”
‘‘Such as my lord Bigot’s personal accounts,” suggested Michael. ‘‘The book in which he writes down what goes into his own pocket; that is what you want. And it may be that we shall find a means of procuring it and putting the scamp where
he belongs. They say he has amassed a great fortune out of the monies which properly belong to France. I do not doubt it.”
“That is what I must lay hands on,” said Lucien eagerly; “his accounts. If I can take that book to France and lay it before the honest men about the King, then we can force him to recall these thieves even if they be the chosen favorites—as Bigot surely is—of La Pompadour. Soon the ice will go now and vessels will come from France. Soon it will be time for me to return, and I must not go—I will not—my mission
unfulfilled. The destiny of the colony, perhaps of France itself, depends on the exposing of this evil swindle. Keep your eyes open, Sir Michael, and if you can aid me, I assure you it will be for your benefit.”
The hour was late. It was time for Michael to take his leave, and this he did, cordially of Lucien, whose
honesty and high purpose he much admired; tenderly of Diane, for whom his love had grown as had hers for him.
“Not long now,” she whispered as he held her hand at parting. “Soon you and I shall go away from here. They talk of forcing me to wed Gaston Crevier, as if they could force one to love a toad when one loves a prince.”
“A sorry prince,” said Michael, indicating the fool’s garb. “Yet poor Pepin’s disguise has served me well, and his punishment which I have borne has proved a blessing, since it enables me to be near you.” His painted lips touched the softness of her hair in which the firelight made its magic.
“Have care of Monsieur le Diable,” wrarned Diane laughing. “He has haunted the Charlesbourg Road of late, and I trust you will not fall in with him, for there would doubtless then be one
highwayman less in the world for folk to trouble about.” “I think he would have naught to do with me,” said Michael. “But I should like to set eyes on him. ’Tis a very romantic figure he is in wine-red cloak and hood. But his pickings are lean this winter, I swear, what with the Intendant and those others. Good night, Diane.” With a gentle pressure of her hand he was gone, his long cloak fluttering behind him. Now he rode in a little
red sleigh drawn by his mule, François, with many chiming bells. They went at a brisk trot toward the city. On such a bitter, stormy night, thought Michael, no highwayman would be abroad, and he felt some slight disappointment because of that. Monsieur le Diable wras the chief topic of conversation in the city—a mysterious, challenging, even terrifying figure, who haunted the Beauport and Charlesbourg roads and took tribute of such travellers as he encountered. The habitants had endowed him with supernatural qualities, such as the ability to appear from nowhere and likewise to vanish at will into nothingness. But Michael saw in the fanciful red cloak and monkish hood, the color of which the habitants associated with le diable, only the caprice of some youth driven by ill luck or evil times to get money by the easiest route. And he scanned the road before him, hoping for a glimpse of the crimson hood. But there wa3 nothing.
Y\ TITH the days of April came the warmth of strong *’ sunlight. The snow melted rapidly, and in the steep lanes of the city were torrents of water rushing and gurgling from the heights into the river, where the ice had begun to move. There were new calls of birds in the woods now, and the trees were turning green. Saucy robins hopped on the terraces of the city and the sky was softly blue, free of the sapphire chill of winter. The plowmen shouted to their horses in the fields and long furrows stretched across the brownish land. Work had been resumed on the fortifications of the city, for who could tell but that, with the going of the ice, an English fleet might appear before the rock? But the first vessel to arrive—welcome sight—was a French corvette, and all the tidings she brought was that the King had his hands full at home and the colony could hope for little assistance from him.
This news pleased the Intendant and his companions as much as it annoyed and discouraged the Governor and the few serious officers who clearly saw that the city was not prepared to stand a severe siege, and cursed their fate that they served a King too stupid or too indifferent to realize that he was letting slip from his fingers a rich prize that might never be regained.
The corvette likewise brought letters for the colonists, and the Comte de Mornay received one that sent him promptly to find Michael, whom he at length located sitting on a hank idly casting pebbles at Lc Rouge, who sweated mightily at the digging of a drain.
“Good news for you, Mohan,” said Lucien, when he and the jester strolled off together. “Louvigny is coming soon to Quebec. He has had much sorrow. The old Marquis de Dronsart is dead, and Guy, who was my dear friend, was killed in Spain. Louvigny is now the marquis and high in the favor of the Court; so much so that he comes with letters patent and full authority to investigate and report on conditions here. It behooves us now to lay hands on such papers as the Intendant, will forthwith destroy when he learns of Louvigny's coming. We must be prepared to lend good assistance to our friend. For you it will mean freedom to wed her you love, since Crevier will go down with the others. Oh, it means much, if this rotten business be ended. It is hideous to see these men play football with the destiny of such a land as this, such a glorious land. May matters be remedied before it is too late! It is to Beaumanoir, the Intendants favorite retreat, that we must go in search of his private accounts. Will you accompany me there by night? It is a rash thing and may well mean death, swift and sudden. But it must be done.”
“Gladly will I go with you,” said Michael. “When you say the word, De Mornay, I shall be ready. And all good luck attend you. I fever to be away from the city, to step out of the dead man’s motley and be again myself. But first I should like to upset this nest of scorpions. Bigot has insinuated to Diane that it were well for her to look with favor upon Crevier. There is a velvet paw hiding sharp claws and L would put nothing
past them. To gain their ends they would murder and destroy, for they are deterred not by laws or private morals, which they seem to lack entirely. Let us at them, my friend. Too long have I made them laugh. I would fain see them show dismay.”
HPHAT night, early now in the month of May, Michael had rendezvous with that most eloquent of mutes, Barney O’Pray. This was at the windmill of Hocquart, and it was late when Michael, detained to amuse some visitors who had come on the corvette from France, arrived there. He whistled softly into the gloom of the clump of alders, but no answer came. Puzzled, he waited, peering about him, for the night was very dark and in the air was a quiet, vast and awesome.
Suddenly there stood beside him a figure in a long cloak, a pointed hood with slits for eyes covering the face, and Michael knew in an instant that he had come face to face, or better, mask to mask, with the highwayman, Monsieur le Diable. Only that evening had news come to Quebec that the outlaw had been pursued by the Governor’s men and, it was thought, wounded on this very Charlesbourg road.
They gazed at each other in silence for a moment; then it occurred to Michael that the highwayman had done away with Barney or at least caused him some injury, for Barney never failed to be at the rendezvous. Without preamble Michael leaped at the other and such was the force of his onslaught and the ruggedness of his body that Monsieur le Diable went head over heels, hood and high top-boots, into the alders; and at the same time there came from the throat of Monsieur le Diable such a yell as never issued from any lips but an Irishman’s, and from no Irishman other than the O’Pray.
Michael climbed off the masquerader’s prostrate body and rubbed his head, which had bumped Barney’s.
“Och, och!” gasped Barney. “Sure ’tis a cannon ball that hit me, your honor, and all the breath is out of my body and I’m knocked spachless.”
“The devil you are !” said Michael. "Why didn’t you speak?"
"Sure, it’s deaf and dumb I am this six months past. Anyway, your honor did not give me time. 'Tis a fine highwayman I am entirely!”
“You don’t mean to tell me that you are the highwayman?”
“Faith, no, your honor. He’s the last person in the world I’d want to be at the moment. Sure, he’s six feet under ground and as dead as the Kilkenny tomcat which the hunter shot nine times.”
“Dead. Tell me now, and never mind tomcats and the like. What happened?”
“Well, your honor, ’twas like this. After I had finished work diggin’ those trenches— in which I hope a hundred blaggards will break their necks—I did not go to my lodgings, not feelin’ hungry on account of the excellent fowl your honor brought last night—”
“Barney O’Pray, for the love of Saints Patrick and Columkill get to your muttons and never mind the fowl.”
“As I was sayin’ when your honor interrupted me, I did not go to my lodgings but came directly here to the windmill to await your honor’s arrival. Ah, ’twas a grand sunset, and I set here quiet an’ peaceful smokin’ the pipe your honor just broke w-hen ye pounced on me, and thinkin’ how queer it was entirely that Sir Michael Mohan an’ Barney O’Pray should be here among all these Frenchies, an’ the Frenchies never for a moment suspectin’ what distinguished visitors they had in their midst . .
Michael groaned, but knew it was hopeless to try to hasten him. So long had his loquacity been pent up that such an opportunity as this would have to be made the most of. The hood sat askew on Barney’s head and the red cloak draped about him like a toga, but in his animated recital of the minutest details the O’Pray cared not for incidental things like hoods and cloaks.
“Then suddenly, just as it came dusk, your honor, and the last bit of red faded from the sky, I hear cornin’ from the old mill yonder such a moanin’ and keenin' as never was heard since Paddy Doyle’s wake. Worse even it was than that; as if all the banshees in Ireland were holdin’ assembly and each seekin’ to outscream the other. As ye may well judge, your honor, brave man as I am like all the O’Prays, me spine began to creep and me hair to stand up straight as the bristles on a dog’s back.
“ ‘B’t'rra, unrra!' says I, 'it bodes no good for his honor and meself at all.’ I listened for a while, thinkin’ it might be the banshee of the O’Prays; then it struck me ’twas the banshee of the O’Gorman’s, an’ divil a bit av me could figure out what it did here so far from Waterford—”
“And what was it, man?”
“’Twas the highwayman, your honor,” whispered Barney. “The Governor’s men unearthed him this afternoon and pursued him for miles, an’ he got a ball square in the back as neat as if a bull's-eye was painted
there an’ the greatest marksman in Ireland, whose name modesty prevents me givin’ just now, had aimed at him. Well an’ good! His divilship had only a short while to live. He was a young sprout I had never set eyes on; said he came from Montreal, and none would miss him, for he was of no good to God or man. But neither did he want the sodgers to get his corpse and string it up in chains. He begged me to bury him and burn his hooded cloak and the rest, so that if ever he were found they would not know who he was. It was but a civil request to be sure, and when he had breathed his last I found a bit of an old spade in the windmill, tore up some boards, buried him as nate as Marty Walsh the sexton could have done, put the boards back, and thought to give your honor a bit of entertainment but received only a broken pipe and nearly a broken neck for me pains.”
“I thought the highwayman had done you hurt,” said Michael. "That was why—”
“Sure, I might have known it, your honor,” grinned Barney. "I’ll take care that none do me harm, for never would I want a man to get hit like that. Now what shall I do with these pink folderols, your honor?”
Michael considered. In the work he and Lucien de Mornay had to do, the highwayman’s disguise might come in handy.
“Suppose we hide them in the mill,” he said at length. "And if ever you see Monsieur le Diable again, Barney O’Pray, know that 'tis neither ghost nor highwayman but Michael Mohan who goes thus arrayed.”
The gaudy garments were hidden under a loose floor board in the mill, and master and man fell to discussing their future and their prospects of escape. Michael confided in Barney what Lucien had told him, and received a fresh declaration of the O’Pray’s allegiance, even if it came to a combat single-handed with all the officials and soldiers of New France. It was an enterprise much to Barney’s liking, and he volunteered forthwith to search Beaumanoir from cellar to ceiling and crack the skull of every man who opposed him.
Michael rejected this offer, but promised, if the O’Pray’s strength and cunning should be of use, as it surely would, to enlist his henchman’s aid in the business of getting access to the Intendant’s papers. It had to be done promptly, for the vessel bearing Louvigny de Dronsart would arrive at Quebec within the next few weeks. In his coming, both Michael and Barney visioned their release. No sterner penance could Barney have undergone than to keep his mouth shut all the livelong day. When he was with Michael he scarcely took time to draw breath, and thus he was still talking very often when it came time for Michael to return to the chateau.
A hue and cry had been raised after Monsieur le Diable, who, it turned out, had robbed a farmhouse and grievously wounded the master thereof, a habitant named Dionne, that very afternoon before the troopers saw him and gave chase. A reward had been posted by the Governor for such as should bring to Quebec, dead or alive, this dangerous outlaw. And Michael smiled, thinking of the garments hidden beneath the rotten flooring in the windmill of Hocquart; they that were the sole relics of Monsieur le Diable.
"Y^ESSELS came in numbers now, bringing food and V supplies which were promptly put away in the Intendant’s store-rooms and, though intended by the king for distribution among the people, were sold by the rascally Intendant at a good price, the money thus received going into his own private treasury. It was just such practices that Lucien de Mornay fought against, though never once by word or glance, by protest open or indirect, did he let it be known that he was in Quebec for aught but his own recreation. He was well liked, popular with all classes, though studiously he avoided the debaucheries and excesses to which Bigot and his friends abandoned themselves.
A saturnalia was being held at Beaumanoir the night Lucien selected for his descent upon the Intendant’s secret records.
"They will be too stupid with wine by now,” he told Michael, "to give us much trouble. Two days already the festivities have lasted. Night and day the shutters are closed there and the shades are drawn, and what goes on behind them no man may know; nor would any good man care to know. We shall put an end to that, mon ami, this very night. Conceal your jester’s motley which soon you will cast away for ever. Get a dark cloak.”
"Still better,” said Michael. "If you will meet me after nightfall at the windmill of Hocquart I shall be wearing the outlaw’s disguise, that of Monsieur le Diable.”
"The devil you say!”
"Precisely,” smiled Michael, and told Lucien of Barney O’Pray’s experience and how the highwayman’s properties had fallen into his hands. “It were best,” continued he, “to let them think Monsieur le Diable is at the bottom of this business, should they catch a glimpse of us.”
An excellent idea, Lucien agreed, and qne which he would be glad to see put into practice. If Bigot suspected that he had undertaken the task of exposing and putting a finish to the friponne, he knew quite well he would not leave Quebec alive, for Lucien hoped to find evidence sufficient to hang the Intendant several times over.
The night was as dark as that on which Michael had assaulted Barney O’Pray when mistaking him for the highwayman, but it was ideally adapted for their purpose. Some two hours after nightfall Lucien arrived at the mill, himself enveloped in a black cloak such as the monks wear. Michael, in the scarlet trappings of the knight of the road, an awe-inspiring figure, awaited him and mounted the horse which he led.
“I seem fated,” said Michael, laughing, “to walk in dead men’s shoes. First, I wear the motley of poor Jacques Blorion, and now the gaudy cloak and hood of this unfortunate robber, and in both disguises I stand under the penalty of the law, though now indeed my crimes grow worse and the punishment attached to them. ’Tis the gallows that waits for me now.”
“It is ill jesting,” called Lucien gaily. “For if you are taken, mon ami, ’tis the gallows they will promptly serve you with. So I trust the charm that has taken you through so many perils will not forsake you now.”
“Faith, and no man more than myself shares your trust,” said Michael, trotting his horse slowly along by the side of De Mornay’s.
“We must lie in wait,” said Lucien, “until the Intendant’s banquet is being held underneath the table. Judging from the way they imbibe their wine, it should not take very long, especially since they have been at it for days. Bigot’s private apartment, I have found out, is on the ground floor to the west of the chateau, and it should not be difficult for us to force our way in there. Any noise we make will be drowned by the revelry.”
Beaumanoir, as they approached it, seemed a house of darkness, but when, leaving their mounts conveniently in the deeper darkness cast by some great fir trees that stood near the gate, they came closer to the windows, they saw slits and pinpoints of light breaking through the drawn draperies and tightly closed shutters. There was no one on guard, for who in New France would dare to interfere with whatever François Bigot chose to do? They heard shouts and drunken laughter, the pounding of fists and silver tankards on the board as some bon mot or ribald song was applauded. Peering through the shutters they saw, even as Lucien had foretold, that while some ten of the revellers still sat at table, at least half that number found the floor much more to their liking and slept soddenly while above them the drinking bout was continued. Gaston Crevier, Sieur d’ Anvers, his thin, crafty face inflamed with wine, sat next the Intendant and spoke tipsily with him. The table was in disarray. Spilled wineglasses made ruddy puddles on the white cloth; crockery was smashed and scattered about on the floor, on the vacant chairs.
“Truly,” muttered Lucien, “it would be difficult to find a more dissipated and helpless assembly. To think that France should have her destiny given into the hands of such as these! Bah! They are only drunken pigs. Come, Sir Michael Mohan, let us be about our business and get this precious book of accounts which must always be under the same roof as its owner; so fearful is he of losing it.”
To the window of the room that Bigot used as a study and counting room for his own ill-gotten monies, separate and distinct from his offices in the Chateau St. Louis, the conspirators went, finding that side of the house in utter darkness. It was to be supposed that where the masters were so far gone in wine, so would the men be also. The small poignard which Lucien carried he used for the work of prying open the shutter. The stout wood and iron fastenings resisted strongly, until Michael’s great strength was added, when, with a rending, splintering sound, the shutter swung open. Lucien, his fist covered by the folds of his cloak, smashed the glass, unfastened the window catch, and the two climbed into the room; stood silent, listening .
The noise of the revel was louder in their ears, for just beyond the door was the great hall of Beaumanoir, the scene of so many of the Intendant’s orgies. But it was most unlikely he would leave his guests to go into his study, or have any occasion to do so.
The darkness was a stumbling block, and the marauders were wary of making a light lest some guest who had staggered forth for the revivifying air should see it and raise the alarm. However, Michael pulled the shutter to and drew the heavy curtains across it. Then Lucien struck a light and applied the flame to one of the candles in their massive bronze holders that had the form of lions rampant. With this illumination they turned to the desk set in the alcove of the fireplace and went systematically about opening the drawers, of which there were four. The desk was a strong one, of heavy oak, and the locks were strongly made, offering much resistance to Lucien’s poignard. The first, when
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e King’s Fool
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at last it was opened, yielded nothing beyond a number of letters bound with blue ribbon, doubtless billets doux, most prized of the many the philandering Intendant received. These Lucien dropped back into their place with impatient scorn.
“The first place in his desk would naturally be given to such rubbish,” he whispered. “We shall have to spend the night here unless I can work faster.”
The second drawer yielded even less, but in the third they found what they sought—a black-covered book of small dimensions in which, inscribed in Bigot’s handwriting, were the sums of money he had bled from the people in the course of his régime. There they were, names and dates—the record of a fortune stolen from the monarch he professed to serve.
“So far,” said Lucien triumphantly, “have the gods smiled on us. Listen ! Methinks the drunken fools have all passed into slumber!”
There was a silence, ominous, intense, after the brawling hubbub of the banquet. Yet the revellers could not have gone; could not all have succumbed.
“Quick!” whispered Michael. “Let us get out of here. I feel they have heard something.” He snuffed the candle and they made for the window, De Mornay first, then Michael. Their cloaks hampered them, and Michael was barely clear of the sill when the door of the room crashed open and light flooded in, with shouts and curses and the voice of Bigot blaspheming above the rest.
A shot. The ball whizzed past Michael’s ear, humming like a great bee. He saw Lucien stop in full career, throw up his arms as he fell, heard the voice of Crevier, jubilant: “I winged him, messieurs!"
“I am finished, Mohan,” gasped De Mornay. “The book—for the love of heaven, take it and go! Avenge me, mon ami adieu . ”
Michael took the book from Lucien’s hand, from the hand of him who a few brief moments ago was quick and full of life, of a noble purpose which he would sacrifice anything to fulfill. Michael turned as if to face the slow pursuit that tumbled from the window; then he ran to where the horses were tethered, mounted and rode away.
“I will avenge you, De Mornay,” he muttered. "I am glad it is with him I have to settle.”
Through the darkness he galloped, hoofbeats ringing clear on the highway. He did not fear pursuit. The mount Lucien had given him was speedy and the pursuers were in no condition to give chase. Michael was going to Diane now. It would be hard to tell her of Lucien— so swiftly, so miserably put out of life. Michael’s body tensed with rage that a good man should have fallen at the hand of one who was no better than a beast of the lowest order. So many tales had Michael heard, from Crevier’s otvn foul lips and from the lips of others as foul, of the man’s treatment of the poor, the weak, of women . .
Michael smiled, a smile of no mirth, as he spurred his horse along the Charlesbourg road. He had the book, the wretched confession that had cost Lucien his life. Simple folk believed that in this book was recorded François Bigot’s compact, with the devil. At any rate, thought Michael, it contained enough to help wipe out the debt of vengeance he owed the Intendant and his coterie. He would place it in the hands of Louvigny, and in short order the infamies of Bigot would be known throughout France.
At the windmill of Hocquart, Michael doffed the costume of Monsieur le Diable and hid it beneath the boards. He had turned the horses loose and now he walked across the fields to Charlesbourg
manor. He must talk with Diane. His heart was bursting with the warm affection he had held for Lucien, and it must be he and no other who should break the news to her; tell her why and how her cousin had died. Lucien had been as a brother to her, kind, protecting, understanding her caprices, her love for the mad Irishman which her guardians frowned upon and were at such pains to terminate, even though her own happiness should end with the loss of her lover. How many evenings had they sat, Diane, Lucien and Michael, beside the great hearth in the hall at Charlesbourg and shared their youthful dreams and ideals! But Lucien’s dream, his highest aim—to rid the colony of its destroyers—would be realized.
The manor was in darkness, but Michael possessed a key to a small door in the rear; a key which Diane had gaily told him was the key to her heart, and she had stamped her foot when he demurred about taking it.
“But you must!” she insisted. “You do not know when they will discover the truth about you and then you must come to me. At once, mind you, my Irishman. I will not let them touch you.”
He had laughed at her and teased her, but he was thankful now. that he had the key. Servants, even the best of them have a weakness for talking, and surely the arrival of the King’s fool in the dead of night would be a matter of much speculation and would surely reach the ears of the Intendant.
He felt his way through the dark halls, up the stairway to her room, and knocked softly. He opened the door and called:
There was no answer. Shyly, as one who enters the holy of holies, with gladness and fear, he walked over to the high, canopied bed and touched the pillow. She was not there. Puzzled, undecided, he knew not which way to turn. What had become of her? He lighted a candle and looked about him, seeming to feel her presence, soft and warm as summer sunlight, in all the little, frivolous things that were scattered about the room. He bethought him of the book that had cost so dearly, and, casting about for a hidingplace, he lifted the cushioned seat of an old armchair and put the book down among the springs. Then he left the house and hastened back to Quebec, fearful that his long absence this night might be noticed. For a while at least he wanted freedom.
A MASTER stroke indeed,” muttered
*• Michael, sitting up in bed and staring into the darkness of his room at the glimmering patch of grey that was the window. The bellman had just passed, and was climbing the hill now to startle the sleeping nuns in the Hôtel Dieu with his announcement, which was in effect that the Comte Lucien de Mornay was dead from a ball fired from the pistol of that notorious criminal and outlaw, Monsieur le Diable: that this deed had been done at Beaumanoir where De Mornay had gone to seek the Intendant; that, finally, the reward already offered for the apprehension of the highwayman was increased to one hundred pieces of gold, and that the good citizens of Quebec should be constantly on the qui vive and at once raise the alarm should the murderer’s wine-red cloak and diabolic hood be sighted.
Cleverly the Intendant had put the guilt on a man who could not defend himself, and not one among the dissipated crowd who had seen the shooting but who would swear that Lucien had died at the hand of Monsieu, le Diable. They would find, too, ready credence of this story among the habitants, whose secret admiration for the highwayman had turned to
anger when he attacked and robbed Luc Dionne, the farmer of Charlesbourg, a few days ago, and who would now rage like beasts, their Norman temper aroused, against him for having done to death a fine and generous young nobleman like the Comte de Mornay.
It was even so. The very next morning Quebec was agog with the news, and a great throng collected in the Place d’Armes where the notice of reward had been posted. Many had armed themselves with swords, poignards, clubs, muskets. A hue and cry was raised, and couriers went through the outlying villages of St. Charles and Montmorency to arouse the habitants and put them on the track of this cowardly murderer. Their stolid natures, once awakened, would not diminish in stubbornness until the murderer of De Mornay was brought to justice.
Maître Gabbon, a great advocate of the people’s rights and a staunch upholder of the law, had left his tailor’s bench for a horse trough, on which, legs astraddle over the bubbling water, he stood precariously and held forth in a shrill voice:
“Let us take this homicide, mes amis. Let him hang from the gibbet at the Butted Nepveu, or even in the marketplace, that all men may see how we here in Quebec deal with these murderers. Arouse yourselves, excellent citizens. Let not the slaying of this good young gentleman go unavenged. The murderer may even now be in our midst. Who can tell? For without his devil’s disguise who shall be able to know him, even though the brand of Cain be upon his dark brow? Rest not, burghers of Quebec, until the halter is tight about the neck of the criminal and his tongue sticks out of his distorted mouth, and his face turns black, while the crows, magpies and ravens, perch upon his shoulders and peck out his eyes as he swings in air . . . ”
This stimulating oration, marked by much waving of the tailor’s skinny arms, came to an untimely end when Maître Gabbon’s foot slipped and he fell with a mighty splash into the horse trough, provoking not so much laughter as ordinarily such an event would have caused. The people were incensed, transformed from the quiet sheep they normally were to bloodthirsty tigers seeking to rend and destroy. Their rage boded ill for Monsieur le Diable should he chance to fall into their hands.
Michael, watching this scene of furious animation, smiled grimly. Just once more, he thought, would Monsieur le Diable ride the Charlesbourg highway and the ancient roads about Quebec; and, strangely enough, he would ride to avenge the very man he was supposed to have slain. In Monsieur le Diable would Gaston Crevier find his Nemesis and that very soon, for Michael burned to repay the foxy scamp in kind. In no cowardly fashion would he seek revenge He would cross swords with Crevier, give him a chance for life, though Michael’s skill with the rapier was such that Crevier’s chances would be slim indeed.
Charleroi Fortin came and stood by the jester’s side, just as they were fishing Maître Gabbon, looking like a bedraggled scarecrow, so thin and spindly was he, from the trough. Michael had no great liking for Charleroi, whose ways were smooth and subtle and who had a trick of watching him and speculating upon his movements. Once, even, Charleroi had remarked the jester’s friendship for De Mornay and teased him for his adoration of Diane de Merville. It was of Diane that Charleroi wished now to speak.
“Dost know, fool, that she whose shrine you worship at is now worshipping at another shrine?” he asked insolently.
Michael turned swiftly upon him, and Charleroi’s keen eyes did not miss the
unconscious dart of the jester’s hand to a place where no sword hung save a wooden one with which he amused the crowd.
“You are strangely ready with the rapier,” taunted Charleroi. “Can it be that fools carry swords in France?”
“Oh. there and here,” said Michael, restraining himself and indicating the light rapier that the youth carried.
“Your wit does not forsake you,” shrugged Charleroi, nettled at his inability to anger the jester. “But that is well. You may need it to explain some things which my lord the Intendant would doubtless question you upon— such as your late return to his palace last night. A bad night to be abroad, last night was, Sir Fool.”
“Aye, 'twas dark,” admitted Michael. “And many ditches I tumbled into. But I have ready answer for my lord should he question me.”
“No doubt,” sneered Charleroi, whose suspicions of Michael the Intendant treated as absurd, “you had gone to Charlesbourg to pay your respects to the lovely Diane de Merville. Of a certainty, fool, you have a way with these women. They cannot see your fine face, so it must be your pretty wit they admire. Were you well received at Charlesbourg, then?” “The lady was not at home,” said Michael, seeing that Charleroi sought to trap him. “You did as good as tell me that yourself in saying she worshipped at another shrine, did you not? What mean you by that, if not that she is otherwise than at Charlesbourg?”
“Very simply,” said Charleroi with malice, “that she lodges with the Ursulines and is under their surveillance, which, I assure you, is thorough. This, because she is so foolish as to laugh at the Sieur d’Anvers’ proposal of marriage.” “Ah, but the lady has a fine sense of humor !”
“Do you care to wager, fool? I will lay you five pieces of gold to your one that they are wed within three weeks at the most.”
“Are you then so sure of it?”
“The Intendant says so himself, and, in faith, ’tis easy to make even a mettlesome filly like her stand at the altar and do as one bids her. My lord is adept at such tricks.”
“Readily can I believe that,” assented Michael. “Yet I will not take your wager, nor do you act fairly in seeking to lay your money on what you know is a sure thing.”
“I offer because I think it seems otherwise to you,” said Charleroi. “But you will not let us know what goes on behind that painted face of the fool.”
“My true self is as well hidden as that of Monsieur le Diable,” said Michael coolly. “And you waste good time with me; mine and your own.”
He turned away and climbed the hill to the fort, pondering on what Charleroi had told him. So the Intendant was hastening the business a little. All the more reason, thought Michael, for a prompt settlement with Crevier; and he determined that this very night they should cross swords. Diane, were they to subject her to the worst torture, the lowest humiliation, would never consent to marry Gaston Crevier; but Michael knew well that many another maiden had been led most unwilling to the altar and the words of response put into her mouth.
"DIGOT and his satellites, after the fatal episode at Beaumanoir, had returned post-haste to Quebec and now held council in the Chateau St. Louis that had once been the brewery of the Intendant Jean Talon and was now transformed into a palace where roguery and injustice held sway. But now the rogues were in a sorry plight, Bigot most of all, for the book that held evidence enough to put a summary end to his evil career was no longer in his possession.
Like a madman he strode up and down the council chamber, his sang froid, his
insolence, quite gone from him, a craven look in his eyes. Every nowand then he turned to the two who were there with him, Cadet and Gaston Crevier, no whit less frightened than he; for if he went, they went too.
“Do something, you mummies!” Bigot snarled at them. “Do you not realize it is the Bastille for me, for us all, if that accursed book reaches my enemies in France?” He pounded the table, bit his lip in perplexity. “Enemies, mon dieu, I have many of them waiting, watching for just such an exposé as this would prove. Who is this accursed outlaw? Who is he? Can he not be found and flayed until he disgorges my property? Mon dieu! We are quite disarmed! We stand naked to the winds that blow, and there is not a thing, not a word, that can be said in our favor. It is the end unless we can take this man and destroy him. Even then, unless my accounts are restored or put beyond the reach of all men, we shall walk still in the shadow of the gallows. Think you there are still others conspiring against us?”
There was a knock at the massive oaken door of the council chamber. A messenger, just come from the river shore, was admitted. He handed Bigot a packet of letters and announced that the sloop of war Mirondel had just arrived from France. Impatiently, when the man was dismissed, the Intendant tore open the heavily sealed letters, and from the perusal of the first he raised a face in which consternation overclouded his former anger.
“Fresh trouble,” he announced, his voice trembling with the futility, the utter helplessness that almost drove him frantic. “Tomorrow a man-o’-war, La Reine Blanche, arrives from France, bearing a committee of investigation, so designated herein”—he tapped the letter with long-nailed index finger—“headed by the Marquis Louvigny de Dronsart, one of a house that has long been actively hostile to La Pompadour and to us. With him come the Baron St. Cloud, the Due d’Aiguillon, and several others who are not named, and they have full power to enquire into our administration and make such recommendations to His Majesty as they see fit. I understand now the presence of De Mornay in Quebec. A spy! A sneak set to watch us! And the book—they have it! It will be turned over to these others on their arrival and then—then, my useless friends, we go to France as prisoners, weighted with chains, who might otherwise have returned there in triumph, with plenty of gold to ensure an easy future.” He blasphemed hideously, cursing himself and his companions for their inability to suggest any line of action, his ill luck; most of all, his enemies, even the dead.
At table that night was a silence ominous and profound. The jester respected it, for the Intendant’s scowling face forbade any display of the wit that usually delighted him. During the course of the meal, Crevier announced that he would to to Beaumanoir late that night, and gladness was in Michael Mohan’s heart. Some few hours after nightfall, Michael arrived at the windmill of Hocquart, pried up the loose floor boards lightly covered with old and moldy sacks, and donned the hooded cloak of Monsieur le Diable, planning to waylay Crevier when he was returning from Beaumanoir and have it out with him.
The book which he had hidden beneath the chair cushion in Diane’s room filled him with uneasiness. Suppose, during Diane’s absence, they should search the house—she had been De Mornay’s cousin—and find it, so carelessly hidden All Lucien’s work, his life sacrificed, would go for naught, and Diane herself, though utterly innocent, would be dragged into the business.
Michael had plenty of time, and the night, favorably for him, was as black as the preceding one had been. He left the windmill and struck across the plowed
land as before, to reach the manor of the De Mervilles at Charlesbourg.
Again he made use of the key Diane had entrusted him with and went to her room. No need now to knock, he thought with a feeling of loneliness. He opened the door softly lest he awaken the sleeping servants; he went in, struck a light and proceeded to lift the cushion
A scream rang through the house, a cry for help. Michael dropped the cushion back in place, turned to the bed. ‘‘Diane! Do not fear. It is I, Michael.” She sat bolt upright in the tumbled bed, her hair in pretty disarray. She stared at him, wide-eyed, incredulous.
‘‘Michael! Then—then you are not
Lucien’s murderer. I see. It was a trick. But go, for the love of God, go before they take you. They are here, watching .”
There was a rush of footsteps, heavy on the stairs, and the doorway suddenly filled with men in the uniform of the guard. Muskets, bayonets fixed and ; gleaming in the candlelight, were levelled i at Michael’s breast and one called sternly to him to surrender. Behind him was the window, a drop of some thirty feet to the paved courtyard. He turned, prepared to chance it, but they were upon him, forcing him down with the sheer weight of numbers. He heard Diane call to him, even as long ago, that night in Paris, he had called to her:
“Michael! Do not harm him.”
They held him pinioned to the floor, and one ripped the wine-red cloak and its hood away. In amazement, silent, incredulous, they stared down at him; at the grotesquely painted and fixedly grinning face of him they knew only as Pepin Clopinard, the King’s fool. Stout cords were brought, and they bound him, and without further ado, with silent, respectful attention to the injunctions of Diane de Merville, they seated him on a horse and pushed toward Quebec. It had been a clever trap; for Bigot, knowing Lucien’s intimacy with Diane, his cousin, had argued that his comrade must be known to her as well, and he was making every possible move to apprehend this man who held his destiny and even his life in the palm of a hand. Thus came the King’s fool back to Quebec. And now, in truth, Michael Mahon had need of all his quick wit, for never before had he been in so tight a corner. String him up by the neck they surely would, for no man likes to be fooled, and he had twice outwitted the Intendant.
“And with God’s good grace,” he said fiercely, “I will do it again.”
But the cords were strong with which they had bound his wrists, and the soldiers rode closely beside him. Along the highway they clattered through the velvet dark, humid with the bursting of spring; and into the city, to Chateau St. Louis. Lights burned in the Intendant’s palace; there would be no rest for François Bigot while the black-covered book was unaccounted for, while the consequences of his dishonesty, his robbing of the poor for his own enrichment, overshadowed him. The noise of the horses in the courtyard brought him to his window, and presently the five men he had sent to stand watch at Charlesbourg entered the palace, their prisoner in their midst.
THE captain of the guard was one Leon Catudal, a lynx-eyed rogue who made it his business to know all that could be known about what went on in New France. He had, too, a taste for dramatics, and so had replaced the red cloak with its pointed hood, the better to mark the effect of the disclosure upon the Intendant.
“You have taken the rogue. You have him.” Bigot was beside himself with joy. They had the culprit; he would get back his book. The dark clouds that had hung over him were in part dispelled. He stepped close to Monsieur le Diable and bade them remove the gnomish disguise. Catudal obeyed with alacrity.
“Eh! Dieu du ciel! Le fou . . !” Bigot stared into the mask beneath the mask. “You!” he said. “You, Clopinard ! But it is impossible! Yet no, no; you are a rogue, fit tool for a spy. I never liked you, never trusted you, though I did not heed those who would have warned me. Too much cunning and a wit far too caustic. What now! Do you know that the gallows waits for you? Aye, twice over; for you have violated the King’s mandate in adopting this hooded cloak, and the people cry for a murderer’s blood.”
“The people are fooled, Monsieur Bigot,” said Michael, unflinching before the Intendunt’s triumphant rage. “You know, as do many others, that it was not Monsieur le Diable who slew Lucien de Mornay but your own henchman.”
“Enough!” The Intendant’s hand slapped the painted mouth of the jester, which grew more crimson still with the blood that wet it.
“There is something, for gentlemen, that follows such a pretty gesture,” said Michael softly.
“For gentlemen !” Bigot laughed. “You are but a clown, a fool.”
“My lord.” The crafty Catudal motioned to the Intendant, and they walked away together. Rapid exclamations of surprise came from the startled Bigot.
“No!” he said. “It isoutof the question. No man could fool the nobility, the entire populace of New France in such fashion. But you say she called him Michael and pleaded with you ...”
He came back briskly, and stood, feet apart, in front of Michael, fixing him with fishlike eye, a terrible scowl furrowing his brow. His tone was more level, but even more menacing.
“Tell me,” he said, “since whatever you say now cannot harm you one way or another, are you the Irishman, Sir Michael Mohan, who was sent here under the Court’s displeasure for having tried to wed Diane de Merville? Are you he? Answer, or . . . !”
Michael feigned astonishment; though it was near the end of all deception.
“How can that be?” he said. “Why, this many months you have treated me as a fool; and now you would make, of all things, an Irishman out of me. Anyone but a fool would know the two are incompatible.”
“You stand confessed. Indeed, from your intimacy with her I might have guessed it. I have killed two birds, it would seem, with one stone. In faith, you are a man of many masks and great versatility. ’Tis but in reason that now should come the death mask. But first, I would have you restore what you took from my desk at Beaumanoir. Come, tell me where you have put it. Tell me at once; for tell me you will before you swing.”
“I will tell you nothing,” said Michael, “except that the day is very near when you and your precious friends will dance on air. As for me, I am a good dancer, but you have little grace, my friend.”
“Remove him,” ordered the Intendant. “There are ways of making talk such men as this. Tomorrow—”
“Aye, tomorrow,” called Michael over the heads of his guard, “comes the reckoning, for is it not then that the Marquis de Dronsart arrives from France?”
“Too late for you,” returned the Intendant, but, just the same, Michael’s shaft had gone home. Bigot knew it was the Marquis de Dronsart who had interceded for this Irishman, and the new marquis likewise was a warm friend of Sir Michael Mohan and a distant kinsman of the dead De Mornay.
“Not yet, by any means,” mused the Intendant, “are we out of danger. But with this man away, with Diane in safe custody, all should be well. Diane Crevier . ” The Intendant clasped
and unclasped his soft fingers. A crafty smile lighted his face. “Quick!” he called to the omnipresent Charleroi, “Get you
to Beaumanoir and tell the Sieur d’ Anvers to come here as quickly as horse can bring him.”
Bigot was a schemer born, and the turn of affairs was such, he quickly perceived, as he could readily put to his good use; could use to settle in nice diplomatic fashion an affair that had held forth far more difficulty than he had cared to admit. Now Diane, the independent, could be brought to her senses, and that with only an apparent concession. He gave orders then that she was to be kept in the seclusion of her room at Charlesbourg manor and allowed to have interview with no one.
Gaston Crevier came, a wolfish smile on his face, for Charleroi had told him of all that had befallen in his absence.
‘‘Good, my lord,” he cried gleefully, rubbing his bony hands as was his habit when pleased. “We have him now and things have indeed fallen out well for us.”
“More especially for you,” said the Intendant. “It has been most fortunate for you, Gaston. You know, of course, that this man who for six long months has fooled us, in a double sense, is not Pepin Clopinard at all but the Irishman, Sir Michael Mohan?”
“I know it, and rejoice in it, my lord; for now we shall have the opportunity of doing what first we planned, of letting Diane be present to gaze upon his execution.”
“Very pleasant,” agreed the Intendant. “A very pretty idea for settling with this upstart and at the same time for humbling that spitfire. But first we shall use him as a lever to lift a very small and dainty but hitherto immovable body. The hour is very late, but I fancy there will be no closing of soft blue eyes at Charlesbourg manor this night. Come, we go to Diane.”
As they rode along, Bigot outlined his scheme; a simple, even an obvious one, but so certainly effective that Crevier marvelled and could not contain his admiration, so unbounded, for this great Intendant who combined the cunning of a Richelieu with the philosophy of a Machiavelli.
“See how quickly the pretty bird will rise from cover now, Gaston,” laughed the Intendant. “We needs must travel fast along the way we are going. Already it is known in the town that the highwayman has been taken, though I bade those fools hold their tongues about his real identity. However, be he prince or jester, they will clamor for his blood even as the Jewish rabble thirsted for the blood of the Nazarene. And,” he finished pensively, “meseems the analogy holds very good. I play the part of Pilate, inasmuch as I shall feign ignorance of who and what he is, and give him to the people for what they would have him. But ’tis passing strange that she who loved him should have played Iscariot, for it was she, albeit unwillingly, as you may well imagine, who betrayed him into our hands.”
AS THE Intendant had foreseen, Yk. Diane could find no rest that night. She sat for hours in tears and recriminations, in alternate fits of rage and depression, and her Complex emotional nature, the Gallic and the Celtic, was racked and torn by the bitter knowledge that her cry had brought Michael to destruction. And she was helpless—until Louvigny should come. But she knew Bigot well enough to realize that Louvigny’s coming would be too late. She had been the cause of Michael’s capture; she had foolishly cried out his name in the hearing of the soldiers. What must he think of her, foolish girl? Ah, she knew what he thought of her! He loved her.
She herself came to open the door for the late visitors, and her surprise was exceeded by her anger when she saw who it was. To Crevier she would not address herself at all, but upon the Intendant’s devoted head she heaped a torrent of
threats and reproaches, telling him that ' Michael had been Lucien’s friend, that to : think he could have had a hand in the ; murder was preposterous, that summary and cruel vengeance would fall upon him if he did not postpone action until the arrival of Louvigny de Dronsart.
“If you harm him,” she said fiercely, “you will pay for it a thousand times over, for I will move heaven and earth to destroy you.”
“Gently, gently.” Bigot raised his hand in a gesture much like that with which one admonishes a child. “Diane, you are lovely when you rage. Your eyes have blue fire in them then, and it glints on the gold of your hair. Have you not remarked that, Gaston? Ah, I see you have. And who, more than you, should admire it?”
“’Tis an ill time for compliments,” said Diane coldly. “And they come unwelcomed from the lips that utter them. I want to know what you are going to do with him—with Michael?”
“Why, nothing,” said Bigot casually, elevating his black brows quizzically.
“Nothing!” Her eyes widened, her breath came faster. “You mean you will let him go, give him to me? No, no! You are not like that. You are but playing with me.”
“I am quite serious,” insisted the Intendant mockingly. “Your lover’s life I put in your hands, those small white hands that it would be a privilege to be strangled with. I give you his life to do with it what you will; to destroy it, to preserve it—on one condition.”
Diane stiffened, though she had been j prepared for this, knowing well that j Bigot would do nothing so generous as to pardon Michael.
“And that, monsieur?” she asked. “Merely that you consent to marry this good man who stands so silently, so abashed by your beauty and bewitching temper, at my side. Is it not a pleasant way of saving your beloved?”
For a moment Diane was nonplussed, gazing with angry, clouded eyes, first at Crevier’s smiling visage, then at the ironical countenance of the Intendant.
“He would not purchase life at such a price,” she said stormily. "No, he would rather die than that I should go to a man who could abet such a bargain.”
“But you?” put in the Intendant shrewdly. “Would you rather see him die when you know that it is in your power to save him at no great sacrifice?”
“You call it no great sacrifice,” she retorted bitterly, “to have to marry a man you despise, one who wants only the paltry gold that goes with you and cares not a whit for you?”
“But I do care,” protested Crevier, looking more than ever like a famished wolf and thinking how much he would like to punish her, to see her cringe beneath his hand. “I love you, Diane.”
“It is a mockery,” she said. “Go from me. I will have none of it.”
The Intendant’s suavity deserted him. He turned angrily to her, and there was no trace of irony in his voice now.
“You do as I say or your lover will hang. Heed that, you saucy piece! You profess to love him; then prove your love. We shall leave you now to think it over at your leisure. Should you change your mind, as you will be well advised to do, you may send word to me by one of those I have appointed to watch over you. Mind you do not delay too long, for this man has aroused the rage of the people by his misdeeds and it will be most difficult for me to save him.”
So saying, Bigot left the room and Crevier followed him. If the Intendant’s extensive knowledge of women did not prove him false at this juncture, he felt sure that Diane would go to any lengths to save her lover. And she could not know the depths of the Intendant’s cunning and treachery nor realize that his promises all were lies.
T( be concluded