“It’s an ongoing dig.”
Gamache looked into a hole by one of the rough stone walls. “Is this where Général Montcalm and his men were buried?”
“No, they were found over there.” Croix motioned into another part of the basement and went back to his work. Gamache took a few strides and peered in. He’d never been in that basement before, but had read about it since he was a schoolboy. The heroic Général riding up and down on his magnificent horse, inspiring the troops. Then the fusillade, and the Général was hit, but still he clung to his mount. When it was clear the battle was lost, when it was clear Bougainville was not going to arrive, the French forces had retreated into the old city. Montcalm had ridden there, supported on either side by foot soldiers. Taken to this very spot, to die in peace.
He’d hung on, remarkably, until the next day when he finally succumbed.
The nuns, afraid the English might desecrate the body, afraid of reprisals, had buried the Général where he’d died. Then, at some later date, the sisters had dug up his skull and a leg bone and put it into a crypt in the chapel, to be protected and prayed to privately.
These things had power in Québec.
Général Montcalm had only recently been reunited with the men he’d died with. His remains had been reburied in a mass soldiers’ grave a few years ago, a grave that contained the bodies of all the men who died in one terrible hour on the fields belonging to the farmer Abraham.
French and English, together for eternity. Long enough to make peace.
Gamache watched the Chief Archeologist bend over a piece of metal, brushing the dirt free. Was this grave robbing? Could they never let the dead be? Why dig up the Général and rebury him with great ceremony and a huge monument a couple hundred yards away? What purpose was served?
But Gamache knew the purpose. They all did.
So that no one would ever forget, the deaths and the sacrifice. Who had died and who had done it. The city might have been built on faith and fur, on skin and bones, but it was fueled by symbols. And memory.
Gamache turned and saw that Dr. Croix was staring in the same direction, to where the Général had been buried and dug up.
“Dulce et Decorum est,” the archeologist said.
“Pro patria mori,” Gamache finished.
“You know Horace?” Croix asked.
“I know the quote.”
“It is sweet and right to die for your country. Magnificent,” said Croix, gazing beyond Gamache.
“Don’t you, monsieur?” Croix turned suspicious eyes on the Chief Inspector.
“No. It’s an old and dangerous lie. It might be necessary, but it is never sweet and rarely right. It’s a tragedy.”
The two men glared at each other across the dirt floor.
“What do you want?” Croix demanded.
He was tall and slender, hard and sharp. A hatchet. And he was aimed at Gamache.
“Why would Augustin Renaud be interested in some books belonging to Charles Chiniquy?”
Not surprisingly Dr. Croix looked at Gamache as though he was mad.
“What’s that supposed to mean? I don’t even understand the question.”
“Not long before he was murdered Renaud found two books that excited him. Books that came from the Literary and Historical Society, but that had once belonged to Father Chiniquy. You know who I mean?”
“Of course I know. Who doesn’t?”
The entire world out there, thought Gamache. It was funny how obsessed people believed others equally obsessed, or even interested. And for archeologists and historians, gripped by the past, it was inconceivable others weren’t.
For them, the past was as alive as the present. And while forgetting the past might condemn people to repeat it, remembering it too vividly condemned them to never leave. Here was a man who remembered, vividly.
“What connection could Charles Chiniquy have had to Champlain?” Gamache asked.
“Think, please.” Gamache’s voice, while still pleasant, now held an edge. “Chiniquy possessed something that excited Augustin Renaud. We know Renaud had only one passion. Champlain. Therefore, in the late 1800s Charles Chiniquy must have found something, some books, about Champlain and when Renaud found them he felt they’d lead him to where Champlain is buried.”
“Are you kidding? Birds led him there. Little voices in his little head led him there, rice pudding led him there. He saw clues and certainties everywhere. The man was a lunatic.”