Council Of Fire – Snippet 35
“We are no longer in contact with the mother country, Bigot. We will be receiving no further supplies from France. We are on our own, which means that the considerable wealth of goods you have stolen from the people of New France will have to be made available for our continued survival.”
The smirk vanished. Bigot lowered his hands to his sides, though he continued to clutch the handkerchief.
“I object to being characterized as a thief,” he said. “We will see what the governor has to say about this.”
“He will say nothing about it,” Montcalm said. “Except after the fact. D’Egremont, take hold of the Intendant, if you please. We’re going to go for a little walk.”
The young lieutenant crossed the room and took hold of Bigot by the arm; the intendant sought to shake him off, but the young man’s grasp was firm.
“Unhand me,” he said, looking from D’Egremont to Montcalm. “This is an outrage! I will–”
Montcalm folded his arms in front of him. “Yes, Monsieur Intendant? What will you do? Particularly when the details of your activities become public knowledge. I don’t think there will be anyone who will leap to your defense.”
“Is not here,” Montcalm interrupted. He gestured toward the door. D’Egremont pulled Bigot along.
Against his will and with considerable protest–which his guards seemed to studiously ignore–Montcalm and his companions took Bigot through the crowded streets of QuÃ©bec to the Upper Town. Montcalm’s presence had been largely met by indifference, but Bigot, apparently unused to walking through the streets of QuÃ©bec, seemed to be roundly disliked. When the intendant demanded to know where they were going, Montcalm ignored him.
D’Egremont never let go of Bigot’s arm; if anything, he held it more tightly. As they went up into the Upper Town, Bigot appeared to give up struggling, though he did mutter about reporting this to Governor Vaudreuil and writing an angry letter to the king.
Montcalm said nothing, leading the group to the parapets at the Sailors’ Battery, which overlooked the swift-flowing river below.
“I assume you have some explanation for this unseemly behavior, Montcalm.”
“I am not accustomed to having a base commoner address me by my name only, Bigot. You should show some respect, given your circumstances.”
“And what exactly are my circumstances, Monsieur?”
“RÃ©garde,” Montcalm said, gesturing at the parapet. “With the smallest gesture, I could command the young lieutenant beside you to hurl you over the edge into the river. It would rid me of your onerous presence once and for all.”
“You would not dare.”
“Do not trifle with me regarding what I might or might not dare, Bigot. For as long as I have been on this post in New France, I have witnessed your venality and your base behavior. I wonder if even Governor Vaudreuil would shed a tear for your loss.”
“He would . . . miss my counsel.”
“I very much doubt it.”
Bigot looked from face to face. LÃ©vis looked mildly surprised at the turn of events; D’Egremont was eager to please his superior officer. Montcalm, for his part, was adamant and stern.
“If it was your intent to kill me,” Bigot said at last, sniffing, “you would surely have done so by now. There is something you want, Monsieur.” He shrugged his arm loose from the grasp of the young lieutenant. “Tell me what it is, and I shall see if I can oblige.”
Montcalm waited long enough to answer that Bigot took his lavender-scented handkerchief and dabbed at his nose. The intendant was clearly uncomfortable with the silence.
“All of the goods that you have stolen–”
“Ah, now you choose politeness? Non, Monsieur Intendant. Stolen. All that you have stolen from His Highness’ supplies must be stored somewhere. You will apprise me of that information.”
“Or–or what? You will toss me off the parapets into the river?”
“Perhaps,” Montcalm said. “You’re right. I would have to conduct a most tiresome search if you do not tell me what I want. So instead of doing so, I might permit one of our Indian friends to test your bravery. I am sure that the spectacle will be most amusing.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” Bigot repeated, dabbing again at his ozÃ¨ne, but this time he seemed far less sure of Montcalm’s intentions. The marquis did not answer.
“What guarantee,” Bigot said at last, “for my safety, if I tell you what you want to know?”
“Not even your word as a gentleman?”
“I do no owe you any such assurance, Bigot, and you are presumptuous for even suggesting such a thing. But we are in uncharted territory here: and there may be a time when even someone such as you are useful. So you have my word–as a gentleman–that your person is safe if you tell me what I want to know.”
“I have nothing to fear from His Majesty,” Vaudreuil said. “Bigot may tell him what he likes. I daresay after your actions, Monsieur, he will have more to say about you than about me.” Vaudreuil poured wine into two glasses and offered one to Montcalm with a little bow.
“Bigot will not be saying anything to anyone,” Montcalm said. “Or, more specifically, there is no one to hear him. We may never speak with the home country again, if what I have heard is true.”
“How would you know?”
“You read the reports of Fort Carillon, and our visit upriver, and what seems to be happening in the New England colonies. We are facing an unknown threat, Governor, and we are on our own. Except . . .”
“For the English.”
Vaudreuil frowned, as if the wine he had just drank had gone sour. “What about the English?”
“They are on their own as well, and face the same enemy. We have more in common with them than we have with these . . . forces, and our chances of survival are greater if we make common cause.”
“Survival?” Vaudreuil made the same face. “When did this become a discussion of survival? And let me remind you, Monsieur, that we are at war with the English and have been so for some time.”
“Ask Father RÃ©cher if he thinks this is a struggle for survival, Monsieur Governor. He saw what I saw–and when combined with the knowledge, the sure knowledge that we are cut off from our homeland–perhaps forever–suggests that we are not at war with the English any longer.
“I don’t know what we are fighting, Governor. But only a fool goes to battle with an enemy at his rear.”
“This is based on an entire cavalcade of assumptions, suspicions and fears, Monsieur. To go against the Crown–to end the war–based on that, seems irresponsible.” He set his glass down at the edge of a table and looked at it for a moment, as if it might not obey his wishes and remain there. “You truly have no idea if we are cut off from the mother country.”
“I am not certain, no. I am not certain about anything–except that this in unknown ground. The situation has changed forever.”
“Enough so that you’re willing to threaten Bigot’s life.”
“He has powerful friends at Court. That is consequential, unless, as you suggest, that is no longer of consequence. Past that, you can send him to a knacker for all that I care.”
“A tempting suggestion.”
Vaudreuil picked up his wineglass and raised it, catching the candlelight and breaking it into a thousand colored fragments.
“Remind me not to anger you,” the governor said at last.
Any further, Montcalm thought. He raised his glass and drank appreciatively. I will keep that in mind.