The information was received with apparent indifference, without question or comment, until Laval, half vexed, and wholly sorrowful for the sad state of the prisoner, said,—
“I am sorry for you, Sir. I can say that, now I’m going off. I’ve been as much a prisoner as you have, I believe. And I wish you were going to be set free to-night, as I am. I am going home! But I leave you in good care,—better than mine. I never have gone ahead of my instructions in taking care of you. I never took advantage of your case, to be cruel or neglectful. If anything has ever passed that made you think hard of me, I hope you will forgive it, for I can say I have done the best I could or dared.”
Thus called upon to speak, the prisoner said merely, “I believe you.”
Whereat the jailer spoke again, and with a lighter heart.
“I am glad you’re in luck this time,—for you are. You don’t know who is coming to take the charge,—come, I mean, for they are all in, and settled. That’s Montier, the little girl’s father. He is a drummer, and a little of everything else. It’s his horn that you hear sometimes. And you know Elizabeth, who was always so kind about the flowers. His wife, too, she’s a pretty woman, and kind as kind can be.”
“What have they come here for?” asked the prisoner, amazed.
“I’ll tell you,” said Laval, more generous than he had designed to be; but he knew how he should wish, when the sea rolled between him and Foray, that he had spoken every comfortable word in his knowledge to this man; he knew it by his recent experiences of remorse in reference to his buried wife, and was wise enough to profit by the knowledge;—“I’ll tell you. It’s on your account. They were afraid somebody that didn’t know how long you have been here, and how much you have suffered, would get the place; so they all came together and asked for it. They had a pretty little house up nigh the barracks, but they gave it up to come here. You’ll see Montier to-night. For when I go back to your room with you, then I’m going off to—to”——he hesitated, for foremost among his instructions was this, that he should remain silent about his purpose of returning home; he was not to go as a messenger for the prisoner across the ocean to their native land——“to my business,” he said. “If you’ll be kind to him, you will make something by it. I thought I would tell you,—so, when you saw a strange face in your room, you would know what it meant without asking.”
“I thank you,” said the prisoner; and to the jailer it now seemed as if the figure of the man beside him grew in height and strength,—as if he trod the ground less feebly and listlessly while he spoke these words. A divine consolation must have strengthened him even then, or he could never have added with such emphasis, “Wherever you go, take this my assurance with you,—you have not been cruel or careless. You have done as well as you could. I thank you for it.”