“Father!” cried the Chevalier.
“Jehan, quick! My clothes; quick!” the marquis cried. “My clothes, my clothes! Help me! I must dress!”
With trembling hands Jehan did as his master bade him. The Chevalier, appalled, glanced first at his father, then at Brother Jacques and Sister Benie. He leaned against the wall, dazed; understood nothing of this scene.
“My shoes! Yes, yes! My sword!” rambled the dying man, in the last frenzy. “Paul said I should die in bed, alone. No, no! . . . Now, stand me on my feet . . . that is it! . . . Paul, it is you? Help me! Take me to her! Margot, Margot? . . . There is my heart, Jehan, the heart of the marquis. . . . Take me to her? And I thought I dreamed! Take me to her! . . . Margot?” He was on his knees beside her, kissing her hands and shuddering, shuddering.
“Margot is dead, Monsieur,” said the aged valet. The tears rolled down his leathery cheeks.
“Margot!” murmured the Chevalier. He had never heard this name before. What did it mean? “Father?” He came swiftly toward the marquis.
“Dead!” The marquis staggered to his feet without assistance. He swung dizzily toward the candles on the mantel. He struck them. “Away with the lights, fools.” The candles rolled and sputtered en the floor. “Away with them, I say!” Toward the table he lurched, avoiding the Chevalier’s arms. From the table he dashed the candles. “Away with the lights! The Marquis de Perigny shall die as he lived . . . in the dark!”
He fell upon the bed, his face hidden in the pillows. When the Chevalier reached his side he was dead.
For two weeks Brother Jacques lay silent on his cot; lay with an apathy which alarmed the good brothers of the Order. He spoke to no one, and no sound swerved his dull gaze from the whitewashed ceiling of his little room in the college. Only one man could solve the mystery of this apathy, the secret of this insensibility, and his lips were sealed as securely as the door of a donjon-keep: Jehan. Not even the Chevalier could gather a single ray of light from the grim old valet. He was silence itself.
Two weeks, and then Brother Jacques rose, put on his gown and his rosary and his shovel-shaped hat. The settlers, soldiers, trappers and seigneurs saw him walk alone, day after day, along the narrow winding streets, his chin in his collar, his shoulders stooped, his hands clasped behind his back. It was only when some child asked him for a blessing that he raised his eyes and smiled. Sometimes the snow beat down upon him with blinding force and the north winds cut like the lash of the Flagellants. He heeded not; winter set no chill upon his flesh. One morning he resolved to go forth upon his expiation. He made up his pack quietly. Drawn by an irresistible, occult force, he wandered into the room of the chateau where the tragedy had occurred. . . . The letter! He felt in the pocket of his gown. He drew a stool to the window which gave upon the balcony overlooking the lower town and the river, and sat down.