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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lane That Had No Turning - Chapter 4. Madelinette Makes A Discovery
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The Lane That Had No Turning - Chapter 4. Madelinette Makes A Discovery Post by :Wukka Category :Long Stories Author :Gilbert Parker Date :May 2012 Read :763

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The Lane That Had No Turning - Chapter 4. Madelinette Makes A Discovery


The national fete of the summer was over. The day had been successful, more successful indeed than any within the memory of the inhabitants; for the English and French soldiers joined in the festivities without any intrusion of racial spirit, but in the very essence and soul of good-fellowship. The General had called at the Manor, and paid his respects to the Seigneur, who received him abstractedly if not coolly, but Madelinette had captured his imagination and his sympathies. He was fond of music for an Englishman, and with a ravishing charm she sang for him a bergerette of the eighteenth century and then a ballad of Shakespeare's set to her own music. She was so anxious that the great holiday should pass off without one untoward incident, that she would have resorted to any fair device to attain the desired end. The General could help her by his influence and instructions, and if the soldiers--regulars and militia--joined in the celebrations harmoniously, and with goodwill, a long step would be made towards undoing the harm that Louis had done, and maybe influencing him towards a saner, wiser view of things. He had changed much since the fateful day when he had forced George Fournel to fight him; had grown more silent, and had turned grey. His eyes had become by turns watchful and suspicious, gloomy and abstracted; and his speech knew the same variations; now bitter and cynical, now sad and distant, and all the time his eyes seemed to grow darker and his face paler. But however moody and variable and irascible he might be with others, however unappeasable, with Madelinette he struggled to be gentle, and his petulance gave way under the intangible persuasiveness of her words and will, which had the effect of command. Under this influence he had prepared the words which he was to deliver at the Fete. They were full of veneration for past traditions, but were not at variance with a proper loyalty to the flag under which they lived, and if the English soldiery met the speech with genial appreciation the day might end in a blessing--and surely blessings were overdue in Madelinette's life in Pontiac.

It had been as she worked for and desired, thanks to herself and the English General's sympathetic help. Perhaps his love of music made him better understand what she wanted, made him even forgiving of the Seigneur's strained manner; but certain it is that the day, begun with uneasiness on the part of the people of Pontiac, who felt themselves under surveillance, ended in great good-feeling and harmless revelry; and it was also certain that the Seigneur's speech gained him an applause that surprised him and momentarily appeased his vanity. The General gave him a guard of honour of the French Militia in keeping with his position as Seigneur; and this, with Madelinette's presence at his elbow, restrained him in his speech when he would have broken from the limits of propriety in the intoxication of his eager eloquence. But he spoke with moderation, standing under the British Flag on the platform, and at the last he said:

"A flag not our own floats over us now; guarantees us against the malice of the world and assures us in our laws and religion; but there is another flag which in our tearful memories is as dear to us now as it was at Carillon and Levis. It is the flag of memory--of language and of race, the emblem of our past upon our hearthstones; and the great country that rules us does not deny us reverence to it. Seeing it, we see the history of our race from Charlemagne to this day, and we have a pride in that history which England does not rebuke, a pride which is just and right. It is fitting that we should have a day of commemoration. Far off in France burns the light our fathers saw and were glad. And we in Pontiac have a link that binds us to the old home. We have ever given her proud remembrance--we now give her art and song."

With these words, and turning to his wife, he ended, and cries of "Madame Madelinette! Madame Madelinette!" were heard everywhere. Even the English soldiers cheered, and Madelinette sang a la Claire Fontaine, three verses in French and one in English, and the whole valley rang with the refrain sung at the topmost pitch by five thousand voices:

"I'ya longtemps que je t'aime, Jamais je ne t'oublierai."

The day of pleasure done and dusk settled on Pontiac and on the encampment of soldiers in the valley, a light still burned in the library at the Manor House long after midnight. Madelinette had gone to bed, but, excited by the events of the day, she could not sleep, and she went down to the library to read. But her mind wandered still, and she sat mechanically looking before her at a picture of the father of the late Seigneur, which was let into the moulding of the oak wall. As she looked abstractedly and yet with the intensity of the preoccupied mind, her eye became aware of a little piece of wood let into the moulding of the frame. The light of the hanging lamp was full on it.

This irregularity began to perplex her eye. Presently it intruded on her reverie. Still busy with her thoughts, she knelt upon the table beneath the picture and pressed the irregular piece of wood. A spring gave, the picture came slowly away from the frame, and disclosed a small cupboard behind. In this cupboard were a few books, an old silver-handled pistol, and a packet. Madelinette's reverie was broken now. She was face to face with discovery and mystery. Her heart stood still with fear. After an instant of suspense, she took out the packet and held it to the light. She gave a smothered cry.

It was the will of the late Seigneur.

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