"You needn't expect any trouble from the authorities," said de Galisonniere, when they sat once more in the great room at the inn. "Dueling is of course frowned upon theoretically, but it's a common practice, and since no life has been lost, not even any wound inflicted, you'll hear nothing of it from the government. And de Mezy, I imagine, will say as little about it as possible. He rather fancies himself as a swordsman, and he will not want everybody in Quebec to know that he was defeated and disarmed by a boy. Still, it will spread."
He and Glandelet took a courteous leave, and Robert thanked them for their services. He liked them both, especially de Galisonniere, and he was sorry that fate should put them on opposing sides in the war that all of them felt was surely coming.
"The French count gave you the hand of friendship, but not the spirit of it," said Tayoga, who had not spoken at all while they were at the dueling ground. "He was grateful to you for sparing his life, but his gratitude will go like the wind, and then he will hate you. And he will have the powerful friends, of whom the captain spoke, to plot against you and us."
"That's so, Tayoga," said the hunter, gravely, "I'm sorry the Governor General wasn't here when we arrived. It was an unlucky chance, because it would have been better for us to have given him our letters and have departed at once."
Robert, in his heart, knew that it was true, and that dangers would soon cluster about them, but he was willing to linger. The spell of Quebec had grown stronger, and he had made an entrance into its world in most gallant fashion, sword in hand, like a young knight, and that would appeal to the warlike French.
They deemed it wise to stay in the inn for a while, but two or three hours later Willet went out, returning soon, and showing some excitement.
"An old friend has come," he said.
"A friend!" said Robert. "I know of no friend to expect."
"I used the word 'friend' in exactly the opposite sense. It's an enemy. I'm quite sure nobody in the world hates us more."
"None other. It's the sanguinary Ojibway, his very self. I saw him stalking along the streets of Quebec in the most hideous paint that man ever mixed, a walking monument of savage pride, and I've no doubt in my mind either why he came here."
"To get some sort of revenge upon us."
"That's it. He'll go before the Governor General, and charge that we attacked him in the gorge and slew good, innocent men of his."
"Tandakora is cunning," said Tayoga. "The Great Bear is right. He will lie many times against us, and it is likely that the Frenchmen, de Courcelles and Jumonville, will come also and tell that they met us in the woods, although they said smooth words to us when we left them."
"And we don't know what kind of a net they'll try to weave around us," said Willet. "I say again I wish we'd delivered our letters and were out of Quebec."
But Robert could not agree with the hunter and Tayoga. He was still glad of the lucky chance that had taken away the Governor General. There was also a certain keen delight in speculating what their enemies would do next. Conscious of right and strength he believed they could foil all attempts upon them, and while the question was still fresh in his mind Father Philibert Drouillard came in. Wrapped closely in his black robe he looked taller, leaner, and more ascetic than ever, and his gaze was even stronger and more penetrating. Now it rested upon Robert.
"I had a fair opinion of you," he said. "Coming with you in the Frontenac down the river I judged you, despite your weapons and the fact that you belong to another race than mine, a gentle youth and full of the virtues. Now I find that you have been fighting and fighting with intent to kill."
"Hold hard, Father," said Willet in a good-humored tone. "Only half of that is true. Your information is not full. He has been fighting, but not with intent to kill. He held the life of Count Jean de Mezy on the point of his sword, but gave it back to him, such as it was."
The deep eyes of the priest smoldered. Perhaps there was a distant and fiery youth of his own that the morning's deed recalled, but his menacing gaze relaxed.
"If you gave him back his life when you could have taken it, you have done well," he said. "As the hunter intimates, it is a life of little value, perhaps none at all, but you did not on that account have any right to take it. And I say more, that if the misadventure had to happen to any Frenchman here in Quebec I am glad it happened to one of the wicked tribe of Bigot."
"Your man Bigot, powerful though he may be, seems to have plenty of enemies," said the hunter.
"He has many, but not enough, I fear," said the priest gloomily. "He and his horde are a terrible weight upon the shoulders of New France. But I should not talk of these things to you who are our enemies, and who may soon be fighting us."
He quit the subject abruptly, and talked in a desultory manner on irrelevant matters. But Robert saw that Quebec itself and the struggle between the powerful Bigot ring and the honnetes gens was a much greater weight on his mind than the approaching war with the English colonies.
After a stay of a half hour he departed, saying that he was going to visit a parish farther down the river, and might not see them again, but he wished them well. He also bade them once more to beware of Tandakora.
"A good man and a strong one," said Willet, when, he left. "I seem to feel a kindred spirit in him, but I don't think his prevision about not seeing us again is right, though his advice to look out for Tandakora is certainly worth following."
They saw the Ojibway warrior twice that afternoon. Either he concealed the effects of the wound in his shoulder or it had healed rapidly, since he was apparently as vigorous as ever and gave them murderous glances. Tayoga shrugged his shoulders.
"Tandakora has followed us far," he said, "but this is not the ground that suits him. The forest is better than a city for the laying of an ambush."
"Still, we'll watch him," said Willet.
The evening witnessed the arrival at the Inn of the Eagle of two new guests to whom Monsieur Berryer paid much deference, Colonel de Courcelles and Captain de Jumonville, who had been on an expedition in behalf of His Majesty, King Louis, into the forests of the south and west, and who, to the great surprise of the innkeeper, seemed to be well acquainted with the three.
Robert, Tayoga and Willet were having their dinner, or supper as it would have been called in the Province of New York, when the two Frenchmen dressed in their neat, close-fitting uniforms and with all the marks of travel removed, came into the large room. They rose at once and exchanged greetings. Robert, although he did not trust them, felt that they had no cause of quarrel with the two, and it was no part of his character to be brusque or seek trouble.
De Courcelles gave them a swift, comprehensive glance, and then said, as if they were chance visitors to Quebec:
"You've arrived ahead of us, I see, and as I learn, you find the Marquis Duquesne away. Perhaps, if your letters are urgent, you would care to present them to the Intendant, Monsieur Bigot, a man of great perception and judgment."
Robert turned his examining look with interest. Was he also one of Bigot's men, or did he incline to the cause of the honnetes gens? Or, even if he were not one of Bigot's followers, did he prefer that Robert's mission should fail through a delivery of his letters to the wrong man? Bigot certainly was not one with whom the English could deal easily, since so far as Robert could learn he was wrapped in the folds of a huge conceit.
"We might do that," the youth replied, "but I don't think it's quite proper. I make no secret of the fact that I bear letters for the Governor General of Canada, and it would not be pleasing to the Governor of the Province of New York for me to deliver them to someone else."
"It was merely a suggestion. Let us dismiss it."
He did not speak again of the immediate affairs that concerned them so vitally, but talked of Paris, where he had spent a gay youth. He saw the response in the glowing eyes of Robert, and exerted himself to please. Moreover his heart was in his subject. Quebec was a brilliant city for the New World, but Paris was the center of the whole world, the flower of all the centuries, the city of light, of greatness and of genius. The throne of the Bourbons was the most powerful in modern times, and they were a consecrated family.
Robert followed him eagerly. Both he and de Courcelles saw the Bourbons as they appeared to be before the fall, and not as the world has seen them since, in the light of revelation. The picture of Paris and its splendors, painted by one who loved it, flung over him a powerful spell, and only the warning words Willet had spoken recalled to him that the Bourbon throne might not really be made for all time.
De Courcelles and Jumonville, who had no permanent quarters in Quebec, would remain two days at the inn, and, on the whole, Robert was glad. He felt that the three could protect themselves from possible wiles and stratagems of the two Frenchmen, and that they meant to attempt them he believed he had proof later, as de Courcelles suggested they might call in the course of the evening upon the Intendant, Bigot, who was then at his palace. They need not say anything about their mission, but good company could be found there, and they might be sure of a welcome from the Intendant. Again Robert declined, and de Courcelles did not press the matter. He and Jumonville withdrew presently, saying they had a report to make to the commandant of the garrison, and the three went to bed soon afterward.
Tayoga, who slept lightly, awoke after midnight and went to a window. The Onondaga, most of the three, distrusted Quebec. It was never Quebec to him. It was Stadacona of the Ganeagaono, the great warrior nation of the Hodenosaunee who stood beside the Onondagas, their lost Stadacona, but their Stadacona still. In his heart too burned the story of Frontenac and how he had ravaged the country of the Hodenosaunee with fire and sword. He was here in the very shrine and fortress of the ancient enemies of the great Iroquois. He had taken the education of the white man, he had read in his books and he knew much of the story of the human race, but nothing had ever disturbed his faith that a coming chief of the clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the mighty League of the Hodenosaunee was, by right, and in fact, a prince among men.
But while Tayoga learned what civilization, as the European races called it, had to offer, it did not make him value any the less the arts and lore of his own forest. Rather, they increased in size and importance by comparison. He had seen how the talk of de Courcelles had lighted a fire in the soul of Lennox, he had seen how even Willett, the wary, had been stirred, but he, Tayoga, had been left cold. He had read the purpose behind it all, and never for an instant did he let himself put any faith in de Courcelles or Jumonville.
The air of the room was heavy and fetid to Tayoga. His free spirit detected poison in the atmosphere of Quebec, and, for the moment, he longed to be in the great, pure wilderness, pure at least to one of his race. He opened the window more widely and inhaled the breeze which was coming from the north, out of vast clean forests, that no white man save the trapper had ever entered.
He looked upward, at first toward the blue sky and its clustering stars, and then, turning his eyes to the open space near the inn, caught sight of two shadowy figures. The Onondaga was alert upon the instant, because he knew those figures, thin though they seemed in the dusk. One was Tandakora, the Ojibway, and the other was Auguste de Courcelles, Colonel in the French army, a pair most unlike, yet talking together earnestly now.
Tayoga was not at all surprised. He had pierced the mind of de Courcelles and he had expected him to seek Tandakora. He watched them a full five minutes, until the Ojibway slipped away in the darkness, and de Courcelles turned back toward the inn, walking slowly, and apparently very thoughtful.
Tayoga thought once of going outside to follow Tandakora, but he decided that no good object would be served by it and remained at the window, where the wind out of the cold north could continue to blow upon him. He knew that the Indian and de Courcelles had entered into some conspiracy, but he believed they could guard against it, and in good time it would disclose itself.
There might be many hidden trails in a city like Quebec, but he meant to discover the one that Tandakora followed. He remained an hour at the window, and then without awaking his comrades to tell what he had seen went back to his bed. Nor did he say anything about it when they awoke in the morning. He preferred to keep Tandakora as his especial charge. A coming chief of the clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great League of the Hodenosaunee, would know how to deal with a savage Ojibway out of the western forests.
At breakfast, Robert wondered what they would do during the coming day, as it was not advisable to go much about Quebec owing to the notoriety the duel had brought to them. Monsieur Berryer, suave, deferential and full of gossip, informed them that the fame of young Mr. Lennox as a master of the sword had spread through the city in a few hours. Brave and skillful young Frenchmen were anxious to meet him and prove that where Count Jean de Mezy had failed they might succeed.
"The young gentleman will not lack opportunities for honor and glory in Quebec," said Monsieur Berryer, rubbing his fat, white hands.
"In view of our errand here you must let all these opportunities go, Robert," said Willet. "If we show ourselves too much some of these hot young French knights will force a fight upon you, not because they hate you, but from sporting motives. But it would be just as bad for you to lose your life in a friendly duel as in one full of hate."
Robert chafed, nevertheless. The Inn of the Eagle was a good inn, but he did not wish to spend an entire day within its walls. Young Captain Louis de Galisonniere solved the problem, arriving just after breakfast with a note addressed to Mr. Robert Lennox, which proved to be an invitation for all three of them from Monsieur Francois Bigot, Intendant of Canada, to attend a dinner given by him that evening at his palace. The letter was full of polite phrases. The Intendant had heard of young Mr. Lennox's surpassing skill with the sword, and of his success with Count Jean de Mezy, who wielded a good blade himself. But neither the Intendant nor those associated with him bore any ill will. It was well known that Mr. Lennox was accredited with letters to the Marquis Duquesne, but in the absence of the Governor General it would be the pleasure of the Intendant to show courtesy to the messenger of the Governor of the Province of New York and his comrades.
It was a full and abounding letter, swarming with polite phrases, and it appealed to Robert. Bigot might be corrupt, but he belonged to the great world, and Robert felt that since he had come to Quebec he ought to see the Intendant, his palace and what was done within its walls. It was true that they had evaded suggestions to meet him, but a formal invitation was different. He passed the letter to Willet, who read it and handed it to Tayoga.
"We'll have to go, Robert," said the hunter. "It's evident that Bigot wants us, and if we don't accept he may make trouble for us. Yes, it's wiser to go."
Robert's eyes shone and Willet noticed it.
"You'd have been disappointed if I had counseled a negative," he said.
"I would," said Robert frankly. "I'm looking forward to the dinner with the Intendant. Will you be there, Captain de Galisonniere?"
"Yes, and I'm glad you've accepted. Mr. Willet was right when he said it was wisdom to go. The Intendant is the most powerful man in Canada. 'Tis said that the Governor General, the Marquis Duquesne, will return to France before long, and hence he lets a part of his authority slip into the hands of Monsieur Bigot. You understand the dual nature of our government in Canada. The Governor General is the immediate personal representative of the King, but the Intendant is supreme over the courts, finance, commerce and all the civil affairs of the country. So a mighty power is lodged in his hands and it's also true here, as well as elsewhere, that he who holds the purse holds more than the sword."
"Will Colonel de Courcelles and Captain de Jumonville be there?" continued Robert.
"Undoubtedly. They belong to the military arm, of course, but they are both favorites of Bigot, and they neglect no opportunity to strengthen their position with him. Be careful what you say before them."
Robert thanked him for his caution, although it was not needed, as he had already resolved to be very wary in the presence of de Courcelles and Jumonville, and the Onondaga also made a mental note of it, knowing that de Courcelles was willing to plot in the dusk with a savage Ojibway.
De Galisonniere did not stay long, and after his departure Robert and his friends reconsidered their determination, deciding that it was best to brave Quebec and whatever it should have to offer in the full light of day. The hunter's apprehensions that a quarrel might be forced upon them were not justified, as Canadian and French politeness held true, and they were received only with curiosity and interest.
They gazed again at the great stone buildings and also took a brief view of the Intendant's palace, where they expected to dine in the evening. It was a palace in extent, but not in beauty, a great rambling building of both timber and masonry, with a green lawn and flower gardens near by. It was said that Bigot and his predecessors had spent huge sums on the interior decoration, but that Robert expected soon to see for himself.
Returning to the Inn of the Eagle late in the afternoon, they began to array themselves for Bigot's dinner, not wishing the Bostonnais to appear at a disadvantage before the noblesse of Quebec. Monsieur Berryer sent them a barber, Gaston, who not only shaved the two white faces, but who powdered and arranged their queues, and also manicured their nails and gave their coats and waistcoats a rakish set, which he assured them was quite the latest mode in Paris. Robert took all his advice. He was very particular about his attire, knowing that however much the jealous might criticize fine dress it always had its effect.
The hunter watched Robert as he and Gaston arranged the new Paris styles with a look that was almost paternal. The fine youth had exceeded Willet's best hopes. Tall, straight, frank and open, he had the sound mind in the sound body which is the sum of excellence, and the hunter was glad to see him particular. It was a part of his heritage, and became him.
They were not to leave the Inn of the Eagle until after dusk, and Willet suggested that they should not start until late, as they could walk to the palace in a few minutes. But Robert said boldly that they would not walk. It was fitting for the messengers of the Governor of New York to ride and he would have Monsieur Berryer to call a caleche. Willet assented with a laugh.
"You're right, Robert," he said, "but I ride so little in carriages that I didn't think of it."
The night was rather dark, but when the three in the caleche approached the palace they saw many men holding torches, and many people back of them watching. The entertainments of Francois Bigot were famous in Quebec for lavish splendor, and the uninvited usually came in numbers to see the guests go in.
"Be on your guard tonight, Robert," whispered Willet. "This is a society to which you're not used, although I'll not deny that you could soon learn it. But the French think we English, whether English English or American English, are inferior in wit and quickness to themselves, and there may be some attempts at baiting the bear before we leave."
Robert felt his breath coming a little more quickly, and in the dusk, Willet did not see the glow that appeared in his eyes. They might try to "bait the bear" but he would be ready. The new powers that he had found in himself not only accepted the challenge, but craved it. He was conscious that he was not deficient in wit and quickness himself, and if any follower of Francois Bigot, or if the great Bigot himself tried to make sport of him he might find instead that the ruffler was furnishing sport for the Bostonnais. So it was with a beating heart but no apprehension that he alighted from the caleche with his friends, and went into the palace to meet the Intendant.
The interior of the great building was a singular mixture of barbaric and civilized splendor, the American forests and the factories of France alike being drawn upon for its furnishings. The finest of silken tapestries and the rarest of furs often hung close together. Beyond the anterooms was a large hall in which the chosen guests danced while the people might look on from galleries that surrounded it. These people, who were not so good as the guests, could dance as much as they pleased in a second hall set aside exclusively for their use. In another and more secluded but large room all kinds of games of chance to which Bigot and his followers were devoted were in progress. In the huge dining-room the table was set for forty persons, the usual number, until the war came, when it was reduced to twenty, and Bigot gave a dinner there nearly every evening, unless he was absent from Quebec.
Robert felt as soon as he entered the palace that he had come into a strange, new, exotic atmosphere, likely to prove intoxicating to the young, and he remembered the hunter's words of warning. Yet his spirit responded at once to the splendor and the call of a gayer and more gorgeous society than any he had ever known. Wealth and great houses existed even then in New York and upon occasion their owners made full use of both, but there was a restraint about the Americans, the English and the Dutch. Their display was often heavy and always decorous, and in Quebec he felt for the first time the heedless gayety of the French, when the Bourbon monarchy had passed its full bloom, and already was in its brilliant decay. Truly, they could have carved over the doorway, "Leave all fear and sorrow behind, ye who enter here."
There were lights everywhere, flaming from tall silver candlesticks, and uniforms, mostly in white and silver, or white with black or violet facings, were thick in the rooms. Ladies, too, were present, in silk or satin billowing in many a fold, their powdered hair rolled high in the style made fashionable by Madame Jeanne Poisson de Pompadour. From an inner room came the music of a band softly playing French songs or airs from the Florentine opera. The air was charged with odors of perfume.
It was intoxicating, and yet it was pleasant. No, "pleasant" was not the word, it was alluring, it played upon the senses, it threw a glow over the rooms and the people, and the youth saw everything through a tawny mist that heightened and deepened the colors. He was glad that he had come. Nor was "glad" the word either. Seeing what he now saw and knowing what he now knew, he would have blamed himself bitterly had he stayed away.
"Welcome, Mr. Lennox, my brave and generous opponent of the morning," said a voice, and, looking through the tawny mist, he saw the man whom he had fought and spared, Count Jean de Mezy, in a wonderful coat, waistcoat and knee breeches of white satin, heavily embroidered, white silk stockings, and low white shoes with great silver buckles, and a small gold-hilted sword hanging at his thigh. The cheeks, a trifle too fat, were mottled again, but his manner like his costume was silken. One would have thought that he and not Robert was the victor in that trial of skill by the St. Louis gate.
"Welcome, Mr. Lennox," he said again in a tone that showed no malice. "The Intendant's ball will be all the more brilliant for the presence of yourself and your friends. What a splendid figure the young Onondaga chief makes!"
Tayoga bowed to the compliment, which was rather broad but true, and de Mezy ran on:
"We are accustomed here to the presence of Indian chiefs. We French have known how to win the trust and friendship of the warriors and we ask them to our parlors and our tables as you English do not do, although I will confess that the Iroquois hitherto have come into Canada as enemies and not as friends."
"Quebec was once the Stadacona of the Ganeagaono, known to you as the Mohawks," said Tayoga in his deep musical voice, "and there is no record that they ever gave or sold it to Onontio."
De Mezy was embarrassed for a moment, but he recovered himself quickly and laughed.
"You have us there!" he cried, "but it was long, long ago, when Cartier came to Quebec. Times change and ownerships change with them. We can't roll back the past."
Tayoga said no more, content to remind the French at intervals that a brother nation of the Hodenosaunee still asserted its title to Quebec.
"You are not the only member of the great red race present," said de Mezy to Tayoga. "We have a chief from the far west, a splendid type of the forest man. What size! What strength! What a mien! By my faith, he would make a stir in Paris!"
"Tandakora, the Ojibway!" said Robert.
"Yes, but how did you know?"
"We have met him--more than once. We have had dealings with him, and we may have more. He seems to be interested in what we're doing, and hence we're never surprised when we see him."
De Mezy looked puzzled, but at that moment de Courcelles and de Jumonville, wearing uniforms of white and silver, came forward to add their greeting to those of the count. They were all courtesy and the words dropped from their lips like honey, but Robert felt that their souls were not like the soul of de Galisonniere, and that they could not be counted among the honnetes gens. But the three Frenchmen were ready now to present the three travelers to Monsieur Francois Bigot, Intendant of Canada, great and nearly all powerful, and Robert judged too that they had made no complaint against his friends and himself.
Bigot was standing near the entrance to the private dancing room, and about him was a numerous company, including ladies, among them the wife of Pean, to whom the gossip of the time gave great influence with him, and a certain Madame Marin and her sister, Madame de Rigaud, and others. As the three approached under the conduct of the three Frenchmen the group opened out, and they were presented in order, Robert first.
The youth was still under the influence of the lights, the gorgeous rooms and the brilliant company, but he gazed with clear eyes and the most eager interest at Bigot, whose reputation had spread far, even in the British colonies. He saw a man of middle years, portly, his red face sprinkled with many pimples, probably from high living, not handsome and perhaps at first repellent, but with an expression of vigor and ease, and an open, frank manner that, at length, attracted. His dress was much like de Mezy's, but finer perhaps.
Such was the singular man who had so much to do with the wrecking of New France, a strange compound of energy and the love of luxury, lavish with hospitality, an untiring worker, a gambler, a profligate, a thief of public funds, he was also kindly, gracious and devoted to his friends. A strange bundle of contradictions and disjointed morals, he represented in the New World the glittering decadence that marked the French monarchy at home. Now he was smiling as de Mezy introduced Robert with smooth words.
"Mr. Robert Lennox of Albany and New York," he said, "the brilliant young swordsman of whom I spoke to you, the one who disarmed me this morning, but who was too generous to take my life."
Bigot's smiling gaze rested upon Robert, who was conscious, however, that there was much penetration behind the smile. The Intendant would seek to read his mind, and perhaps to learn the nature of the letters he brought, before they were delivered to their rightful owner, the Marquis Duquesne. Quebec was the home of intrigue, and the Intendant's palace was the heart of it, but if Robert's pulse beat fast it was with anticipation and not with fear.
"It was fortune more than skill," he said. "The Count de Mezy credits me with too much knowledge of the sword."
"No," said Bigot, laughing, "Jean wouldn't do that. He'd credit you with all you have, and no more. Jean, like the rest of us, doesn't relish a defeat, do you, Jean?"
De Mezy reddened, but he forced a laugh.
"I suppose that nobody does!" he replied, "but when I suffer one I try to make the best of it."
"That's an honest confession, Jean," said Bigot, "and you'll feel better for making it."
He seemed now to Robert bluff, genial, all good nature, and the youth stood on one side, while Willet and Tayoga were presented in their turn. Bigot looked very keenly at the Onondaga, and the answering gaze was fierce and challenging. Robert saw that Tayoga was not moved by the splendor, the music and the perfumed air, and that he did not forget for an instant that this gay Quebec of the French was the Stadacona of the Mohawks, a great brother nation of the Hodenosaunee.
Bigot's countenance fell a little as he met the intensely hostile gaze, but in a moment he recovered himself and began to pay compliments to Willet and the Iroquois. Robert felt the charm of his manner and saw why he was so strong with a great body of the French in New France. Then his eyes wandered to the others who stood near like courtiers around a king, and he noticed that foremost among them was a man of mean appearance and presuming manner, none other, he soon learned, than the notorious Joseph Cadet, confederate of Bigot, in time to become Commissary General of New France, the son of a Quebec butcher, who had begun life as a pilot boy, and who was now one of the most powerful men in those regions of the New World that paid allegiance to the House of Bourbon. Near him stood Pean, the Town Mayor of Quebec, a soldier of energy, but deep in corrupt bargains with Cadet, and just beyond Pean was his partner, Penisseault, and near them were their wives, of whom scandal spoke many a true word, and beyond them were the Commissary of Marine, Varin, a Frenchman, small and insignificant of appearance, the Intendant's secretary, Deschenaux, the son of a shoemaker at Quebec, Cadet's trusted clerk, Corpron and Maurin, a humpback.
A strange and varied company, one of the strangest ever gathered in any outlying capital of a diseased and dying monarchy. Robert, although he knew that it was corrupt and made a mockery of many things that he had been taught to reverence, did not yet understand how deadly was the poison that flowed in the veins of this society. At present, he saw only the glow and the glitter. All these people were connected closely. The Canadians intermarrying extensively were a great family, and the Frenchmen were bound together by the powerful tie, a common interest.
"Don't believe all you see, Robert," whispered Willet. "You're seeing the surface, and it's hollow, hollow! I tell you!"
"But we have nothing like it at home," said Robert. "We're lucky to come."
De Mezy had left them, but de Courcelles was near, and he saw that they were not neglected. Robert was introduced to officers and powerful civilians and the youngest and handsomest of the ladies, whose freedom of language surprised him, but whose wit, which played about everything, pleased a mind peculiarly sensitive to the charm of light and brilliant talk.
He had never before been in such an assembly, one that contained so much of rank and experience in the great world. Surrounded by all that he loved best, the people, the lights, the colors, and the anticipation of what was to come, the Intendant shone. One forgot his pimply face and portly figure in the geniality that was not assumed, and the ease of his manners. He spoke to Robert more than once, asked him many questions about Albany and New York, and referred incidentally, too, to the Iroquois, but it was all light, as if he were asking them because of interest in his guest, or merely to make conversation.
The hues of everything gradually grew brighter and more brilliant to Robert. The music from the next room steeped his senses, and he began to feel the intoxication of which Willet had warned him. Many of the guests were of the noblest families of France, young officers who had come to Quebec, where it was reported promotion was rapid and sure, or where younger sons, with the aid of such powerful men as Bigot and Cadet, could make fortunes out of the customs or in the furnishing of supplies to the government. Robert found himself talking much, his gift of speech responding readily to the call. He answered their jests with a jest, their quips with a quip, and when they were serious so was he. He felt that while there may have been an undercurrent of hostility when he entered the palace it had all disappeared now, and he was a favorite, or at least they took a friendly interest in him, because he was a new type and they did not think him brusque and rude, as the French believed all Bostonnais to be.
And through this picturesque throng stalked the two Indians, Tayoga and Tandakora. The Ojibway wore a feather headdress, and a scarlet blanket of richest texture was draped around his body, its hem meeting his finely tanned deerskin leggings, while his feet were encased in beaded moccasins. Nevertheless he looked, in those surroundings, which belonged so thoroughly to an exotic civilization, more gigantic and savage than ever. Robert was well aware that Bigot had brought him there for a political purpose, to placate and win the western tribes, and to impress him with the power and dignity of France. But whatever he may have felt, the Ojibway, towering half a head above the tallest white man, save Willet, was grim and lowering. His left arm lay in a fold of his blanket, and, as he held it stiffly, Robert knew that his wound was yet far from healed. He and Tayoga were careful to keep away from each other, the Onondaga because he was a guest and was aware of the white man's amenities, and the Ojibway because he knew it was not the time and place for his purpose.
They went in to dinner presently and the table of Francois Bigot was splendid as became the powerful Intendant of New France, who had plenty of money, who was lavish with it and who, when it was spent, knew where to obtain more with ease and in abundance. Forty guests sat down, and the linen, the silver and the china were worthy of the King's palace at Versailles. A lady was on Robert's right and Colonel de Courcelles was on his left. Willet and Tayoga were farther down on his own side of the table, and he could not see them, unless he leaned forward, which he was too well mannered to do. Bigot sat at the foot of the table and at its head was Madame Pean, a native of Canada, born Mademoiselle Desmeloizes, young, handsome and uncommonly vivacious, dressed gorgeously in the latest Parisian style, and, as Robert put it to himself, coruscating with talk and smiles.
The dinner progressed amid a great loosening of tongues and much wit. The perfume from the flowers on the table and the continuous playing of the band made the air heavier and more intoxicating. It seemed to Robert that if these people had any cares they had dismissed them all for the time. Their capacity for pleasure, for snatching at the incense of the fleeting moment, amazed him. War might be coming, but tonight there was no thought of it.
Bigot toasted the two Bostonnais and the young Iroquois chief who were his guests in a flowery speech and Robert responded. When he rose to his feet he felt a moment of dizziness, because he was so young, and because he felt so many eyes upon him. But the gift of speech came to his aid--he was not the golden-mouthed for nothing. The heavy sweet odor of the roses was in his nostrils, inspiring him to liquid words, and everything glittered before him.
He had the most friendly feeling for all in the room except Tandakora, and a new thought coming into his mind he spoke it aloud. He was, perhaps, in advance of his time, but he told them that New France and the British colonies could dwell in peace, side by side. Why should they quarrel? America was vast. British and French were almost lost in its forests. France and England together could be stowed away in the region about the Great Lakes and the shades of the wilderness would encompass them both. The French and British were great races, it was useless to compare them and undertake to say which was the greater, because each was great in its own way, and each excelled in its own particulars, but the two combined were the sum of manly virtues and strength. What the British lacked the French supplied, and what the French lacked the British supplied. Together they could rule the world and spread enlightenment.
He sat down and the applause was great and hearty, because he had spoken with fervor and well. His head was singing, and he was confused a little, after an effort that had induced emotion. Moreover, the band had begun to play again some swaying, lilting dance tune, and his pulses beat to its measure. But he did lean forward, in spite of his manners, and caught Willet's approving look, for which he was very glad. He received the compliments of the lady on his right and of de Courcelles, then the band ceased presently and he became conscious that Tayoga was speaking. He had not heard Bigot call upon him, but that he had called was evident.
Tayoga stood up, tall, calm and dignified. He too had the oratorical power which was afterward displayed so signally by the Seneca who was first called by his own people Otetiani and was later known as Sagoyewatha, but who was known to the white men as Red Jacket.
"I speak to you not as a Frenchman nor as an Englishman," said Tayoga, "but as a warrior of the clan of the Bear of the nation Onondaga, of the great League of the Hodenosaunee. Most of this land belonged to our fathers before ever Englishmen or Frenchmen crossed the great water and put foot upon these shores. Where you sit now was Stadacona, the village of our brother race, the Mohawks. Frenchmen or Englishmen may make war upon one another, or they may make peace with one another, but the Hodenosaunee cannot be forgotten. There are many beautiful rivers and lakes and forests to the south and west, but they do not belong to either Onontio or Corlear. The laws of the fifty sachems who sit in council in the vale of Onondaga run there, and those who leave them out, be they French or English, reckon ill. There was a time when Frontenac came raiding their villages, burning and slaying, but we did not know the use of firearms then. Now we do know their use and have them, and in battle we can meet the white man on equal terms, be he English or French. I have been to the white man's school and I have learned that there are other great continents beyond the sea. I do not know what may happen in them, nor does it matter, but in this vast continent which you call America the wars and treaties of the English and the French are alike unavailing, unless they consider the wishes of the Hodenosaunee."
He spoke in a manner inexpressibly haughty, and when he had finished he swept the table from end to end with his challenging glance, then he sat down amid a deep silence. But they were French. They understood that he had tossed a glove among them, their quick minds saw that the challenge was intended not alone for them, but for the English as well, unless the rights of the Hodenosaunee were respected, and such a speech at such a time appealed to their gallant instincts. After a moment or two of silence the applause burst forth in a storm.
"'Twas a fair warning," said de Courcelles in Robert's ear, "and 'twas meant for us both."
It was on Robert's tongue to reply that the English were included for the sake of courtesy, as they were the friends of the Hodenosaunee and always kept faith with them, but second thought stopped the words on his lips. Then the band began again, playing a warm song of the south from the Florentine opera, and the talk increased. It seemed to Robert that everybody spoke at once, and his senses were again steeped in the music and the perfumed air, and the sound of so many voices. Presently he realized that some one across the table was speaking to him.
"The Onondaga said bold words in behalf of his league, but can he prove them true?" the voice was saying.
There was something provocative in his tone, and Robert looked closely at the speaker. He saw a tall man of at least forty-five, thin but obviously very powerful and agile. Robert noticed that his wrists were thick like his own and that his fingers were long and flexible. His face was freckled, his nose large and curved, giving to his face an uncommonly fierce appearance, and his eyes were black and set close together. It was a strong countenance and, when Robert looked at him, the black brows were drawn together in a frown. His words undoubtedly had a challenge in them, and the youth replied:
"When Tayoga speaks he speaks from his head as well as his heart, and I who am his sworn brother, although we are of different races, know that he doesn't boast when he refers to the power of the Hodenosaunee."
"And may it not be possible, sir, that you have been deceived by your friendship?"
Robert looked at him in surprise. The man's manner was pointed as if he were making an issue, and so he did not answer just then, but de Courcelles by his side leaned forward a little and said:
"Perhaps, Mr. Lennox, you have not yet been introduced formally to the chevalier, Chevalier Pierre Boucher, who has been only a year from Paris, but who is already a comrade good and true."
"No, I don't think I've been deceived," replied Robert, keeping his temper, and bowing to the introduction. "The Hodenosaunee, better known to you as the Iroquois, are a very powerful league, as many of the villages of Canada can tell."
The man's face darkened.
"Is it wise," he asked, "to remind us of the ferocious deeds the Iroquois have done upon us,"
But de Courcelles intervened.
"Peace! Peace, chevalier!" he said in a good-humored tone. "Mr. Lennox meant no innuendo. He merely stated a fact to prove a contention."
The chevalier subsided into silence, but Robert saw a significant look pass between them, and instantly he became keen and watchful. What did it mean? Willet's warning words came back to him. The more he studied Boucher the less he liked him. With his thin face, and great hooked nose, and long, bony fingers like talons, he reminded him of some great bird of prey. He noticed also that while the others were drinking wine, although he himself did not, the chevalier was the only one within his view who also abstained.
The dinner was long. One or two of the ladies sang to the music, another danced, and then de Galisonniere, in a full, round tenor voice, sang "The Bridge of Avignon."
"Hier sur le pont d'Avignon J'ai oui chanter la belle Lon, la, J'ai oui chanter la belle, Elle chantait d'un ton si doux Comme une demoiselle Lon, la, Comme une demoiselle."
It was singularly appealing, and for a moment tears came to the eyes of all those who were born in France. They saw open fields, stone fences, and the heavy grapes hanging in the vineyards, instead of the huge rivers, the vast lakes and the mighty wilderness that curved almost to their feet. But it was only for a moment. This was Quebec, the seat of the French power in America, and they were in the Intendant's palace, the very core and heart of it. The laughter that had been hushed for a thoughtful instant or two came back in full tide, and once more the Chevalier Pierre Boucher spoke to Robert.
"The songs of our France are beautiful," he said. "None other have in them so much of poetry and haunting lament."
The youth detected as before the challenging under note in a remark that otherwise would have seemed irrelevant, and an angry contradiction leaped swiftly to his lips, but with the recollection of Willet's warning look he restrained himself again.
"France has many beautiful things," he replied quietly.
"Well spoken, Mr. Lennox! A compliment to us from one of another race is worth having," said de Courcelles. But Robert thought he saw that significant look pass for a second time between de Courcelles and Boucher. The long dinner drew to its close and the invited guests passed into the private ballroom, where the band began to play dance music. In the other ballroom, the one intended for the general public, the people were dancing already, and another band was playing.
Now Bigot was in his element, swelling with importance and good humor, easy, graceful, jesting with men and women, wishing the world well, knowing that he could milk from the royal treasury the money he was spending tonight, and troubled by no twinges of conscience. Cadet hovered near his powerful partner and Pean, Maurin, Penisseault and Corpron were not far away. Robert looked with interest at the ballroom which was decorated gorgeously. The balcony was filled already with spectators who would watch the lords and ladies dance. There was no restraint. No Father Drouillard was present to give rebuke and all the honnetes gens were absent, unless a few young officers like de Galisonniere, who sympathized with them, be excepted.
They began to dance to light, tripping music, and to Robert all the women seemed beautiful and graceful now, and all the men gay and gallant. He could dance the latest dances himself, and meant to do so soon, but for the present he would wait, standing by the wall and looking on. Willet came to him, and evidently intended to whisper something, but de Courcelles, by the youth's side, intervened laughingly.
"No secrets, Mr. Willet," he said. "No grave and serious matters can be discussed at the Intendant's ball. It is one of our rules that when we work we work and when we play we play. It is a useful lesson which you Bostonnais should learn."
Then Jumonville came and began to talk to the hunter in such direct fashion that he was compelled to respond, and presently he was drawn away, leaving Robert with de Courcelles.
"You at least dance, do you not?" asked de Courcelles.
"Yes," replied Robert, "I learned it at Albany."
"Shall I get you a partner?"
"In a little while, if you will be so good, Colonel de Courcelles, but just now I'd rather see the others dancing. A most brilliant assemblage. I never beheld its like before."
"Brilliant for Quebec," said a voice at his elbow, "but you should go to Paris, the very heart and center of the world, to see great pleasure and great splendor in the happiest combination."
It was the grim and freckle-faced Boucher, and again Robert detected that challenging under note in his voice. In spite of himself his blood grew hot.
"I don't know much about Paris," he said. "I've never been there, although I hope to go some day, but Quebec affords both pleasure and splendor in high degree tonight."
"You don't mean to say that Quebec, much as we French have labored to build it up here in the New World, can compare with Paris?"
Robert stared at him in astonishment. Both manner and tone were now certainly aggressive, and as far as he could see aggressive about nothing. Why should anyone raise an issue between Quebec and Paris, and above all at such a time, there at Bigot's ball? He refused to be drawn into a controversy, and shrugging his shoulders a little, he turned away without an answer. He heard Boucher's voice raised again, but de Courcelles laughingly waved him down.
"Come! come, my Pierre," he said. "You're too ready to suspect that someone is casting aspersions upon that beloved Paris of ours. Perhaps you and I shall have the pleasure of showing the great city to Mr. Lennox some day."
He hooked his hand in Robert's arm and drew him away.
"Don't mind Boucher," he said. "He has a certain brusqueness of manner at times, although he is a good soul. He can't bear for anyone to suggest that another city, even one of our own, could possibly rival Paris in any particular. It's his pet devotion, and we won't disturb him in it. There's your friend, Tayoga, standing by the wall with his arms folded across his chest. What a splendid savage!"
"He's not a savage. Tayoga was educated in our schools and he has both the white man's learning and the red man's. He has the virtues, too, of both races, and few, very few of their vices."
"You're an enthusiast about your friend."
"And so would you be if you knew him as well as I do. That little speech he made showed his courage and the greatness of his soul."
"Spoken at such a time, its appeal was strong. I don't want to boast of my race, Mr. Lennox, but the French always respond to a gallant act."
"I know it, and I know, too, that if we English, and Americans or Bostonnais, as you call us, do go to war with you we could not possibly have a more enterprising or dangerous foe."
Colonel de Courcelles bowed to the compliment, and then with a nod indicated Tandakora, also standing against the wall, huge, sullen and looking like a splash of red flame, wrapped in his long scarlet blanket.
"He, at least, is a savage," he said.
"That I readily admit," said Robert.
"And as you know by the charges that he made against you to me, he wishes you and your comrades no good."
"I know by those charges and by events that have occurred since. Tandakora is a savage through and through, and as such my comrades and I must guard against him."
"But the Ojibway is a devoted friend of ours," said a harsh voice over his shoulders.
He turned and saw the lowering face of Boucher, and once more he was amazed. De Courcelles did not give the youth time to answer. Again he laughingly waved Boucher away.
"Pierre, my friend," he said, "you seem to be seeking points of issue tonight. Now, I refuse to let you and Mr. Lennox quarrel over the manners, habits and personal characteristics of Tandakora. Come, Mr. Lennox, I'm about to present you to a lady with whom you are going to dance."
Robert went away with him and he saw that Boucher, who was left behind, was frowning, but he danced with the lady and others, and as the excitement of the moment mounted again to his head he forgot all about Boucher. He saw too that de Galisonniere had abandoned his restraint, and had plunged into the gayety with all the enthusiasm and delight of one to whom pleasure was natural. After a while de Courcelles hooked his arm again in Robert's and said: "Come, I'll show you something."
He led the way down a narrow passage, and then into a large apartment, well lighted, though not so brilliantly as the ballroom. A clicking sound had preceded their entrance, and Robert was aware that he was in the famous gambling room of Monsieur Bigot. Nearly twenty men, including the Intendant himself, Cadet and Pean, were there, gambling eagerly with cards or dice.
And standing by one of the tables, a frown on his freckled face, Robert also saw the man, Boucher.