The Seats of the Mighty, volume 5

Cover of book The Seats of the Mighty, volume 5
Categories: Nonfiction

IN THE CATHEDRALI awoke with the dawn, and, dressing, looked out of the window,seeing the brindled light spread over the battered roofs and ruinsof the Lower Town. A bell was calling to prayers in the


JesuitCollege not far away, and bugle-calls told of the stirringgarrison. Soldiers and stragglers passed down the street near by,and a few starved peasants crept about the cathedral with downcasteyes, eager for crumbs that a well-fed soldier might cast aside.Yet I knew that in the Intendant's Palace and among the officersof the army there was abundance, with revelry and dissipation.Presently I drew to the trap-door of my loft, and, raising itgently, came down the ladder to the little hallway, and softlyopened the door of the room where Labrouk's body lay. Candleswere burning at his head and his feet, and two peasants sat dozingin chairs near by. I could see Labrouk's face plainly in theflickering light: a rough, wholesome face it was, refined by death,yet unshaven and unkempt, too. Here was work for Voban's shears andrazor. Presently there was a footstep behind me, and, turning, Isaw in the half-light the widowed wife."Madame," said I in a whisper, "I too weep with you. I pray foras true an end for myself.""He was of the true faith, thank the good God," she saidsincerely. She passed into the room, and the two watchers, aftertaking refreshment, left the house. Suddenly she hastened to thedoor, called one back, and, pointing to the body, whisperedsomething. The peasant nodded and turned away. She came back intothe room, stood looking at the face of the dead man for a moment,and bent over and kissed the crucifix clasped in the cold hands.Then she stepped about the room, moving a chair and sweeping up aspeck of dust in a mechanical way. Presently, as if she againremembered me, she asked me to enter the room. Then she bolted theouter door of the house. I stood looking at the body of her husband,and said, "Were it not well to have Voban the barber?""I have sent for him and for Gabord," she replied. "Gabord wasJean's good friend. He is with General Montcalm. The Governor puthim in prison because of the marriage of Mademoiselle Duvarney, butMonsieur Doltaire set him free, and now he serves General Montcalm."I have work in the cathedral," continued the poor woman, "and Ishall go to it this morning as I have always gone. There is alittle unused closet in a gallery where you may hide, and still seeall that happens. It is your last look at the lady, and I will giveit to you, as you gave me to know of my Jean.""My last look?" I asked eagerly."She goes into the nunnery to-morrow, they say," was the reply."Her marriage is to be set aside by the bishop to-day--in thecathedral. This is her last night to live as such as I--but no,she will be happier so.""Madame," said I, "I am a heretic, but I listened when yourhusband said, 'Mon grand homme de Calvaire, bon soir!' Was thecross less a cross because a heretic put it to his lips? Is amarriage less a marriage because a heretic is the husband? Madame,you loved your Jean; if he were living now, what would you do tokeep him. Think, madame, is not love more than all?"She turned to the dead body. "Mon petit Jean!" shemurmured, but made no reply to me, and for many minutes the roomwas silent. At last she turned, and said, "You must come at once,for soon the priests will be at the church. A little later I willbring you some breakfast, and you must not stir from there till Icome to fetch you--no.""I wish to see Voban," said I.She thought a moment. "I will try to fetch him to you by-and-bye,"she said. She did not speak further, but finished the sentence bypointing to the body.Presently, hearing footsteps, she drew me into another littleroom. "It is the grandfather," she said. "He has forgotten youalready, and he must not see you again."We saw the old man hobble into the room we had left, carrying inone arm Jean's coat and hat. H

The Seats of the Mighty, volume 5
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