THE TRAIL OF THE SWORD, Complete
By Gilbert Parker
EPOCH THE FIRST I. AN ENVOY EXTRAORDINARY II. THE THREAT OF A RENEGADE III. THE FACE AT THE WINDOW IV. THE UPLIFTING OF THE SWORDS V. THE FRUITS OF THE LAW VI. THE KIDNAPPING
EPOCH THE SECOND VII. FRIENDS IN COUNCIL VIII. AS SEEN THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY IX. TO THE PORCH OF THE WORLD X. QUI VIVE! XI. WITH THE STRANGE PEOPLE XII. OUT OF THE NET
EPOCH THE THIRD XIII. "AS WATER UNTO WINE" XIV. IN WHICH THE HUNTERS ARE OUT XV. IN THE MATTER OF BUCKLAW XVI. IN THE TREASURE HOUSE XVII. THE GIFT OF A CAPTIVE XVIII. MAIDEN NO MORE
EPOCH THE FOURTH XIX. WHICH TELLS OF A BROTHER'S BLOOD CRYING FROM THE GROUND XX. A TRAP IS SET XXI. AN UNTOWARD MESSENGER XXII. FROM TIGER'S CLAW TO LION'S MOUTH XXIII. AT THE GATES OF MISFORTUNE XXIV. IN WHICH THE SWORD IS SHEATHED
WHEREIN IS SET FORTH THE HISTORY OF JESSICA LEVERET, AS ALSO THAT OF PIERRE LE MOYNE OF IBERVILLE, GEORGE GERING, AND OTHER BOLD SPIRITS; TOGETHER WITH CERTAIN MATTERS OF WAR, AND THE DEEDS OF ONE EDWARD BUCKLAW, MUTINEER AND PIRATE
My Dear Father:
Once, many years ago, in a kind of despair, you were impelled to say that I would "never be anything but a rascally lawyer." This, it may be, sat upon your conscience, for later you turned me gravely towards Paley and the Thirty-nine Articles; and yet I know that in your deepest soldier's heart, you really pictured me, how unavailingly, in scarlet and pipe-clay, and with sabre, like yourself in youth and manhood. In all I disappointed you, for I never had a brief or a parish, and it was another son of yours who carried on your military hopes. But as some faint apology—I almost dare hope some recompense for what must have seemed wilfulness, I send you now this story of a British soldier and his "dear maid," which has for its background the old city of Quebec, whose high ramparts you walked first sixty years ago; and for setting, the beginning of those valiant fightings, which, as I have heard you say, "through God's providence and James Wolfe, gave England her best possession."
You will, I feel sure, quarrel with the fashion of my campaigns, and be troubled by my anachronisms; but I beg you to remember that long ago you gave my young mind much distress when you told that wonderful story, how you, one man, "surrounded" a dozen enemies, and drove them prisoners to headquarters. "Surrounded" may have been mere lack of precision, but it serves my turn now, as you see. You once were—and I am precise here—a gallant swordsman: there are legends yet of your doings with a crack Dublin bully. Well, in the last chapter of this tale you shall find a duel which will perhaps recall those early days of this century, when your blood was hot and your hand ready. You would be distrustful of the details of this scene, did I not tell you that, though the voice is Jacob's the hand is another's. Swordsmen are not so many now in the army or out of it, that, among them, Mr. Walter Herrim Pollock's name will have escaped you: so, if you quarrel, let it be with Esau; though, having good reason to be grateful to him, that would cause me sorrow.
My dear father, you are nearing the time-post of ninety years, with great health and cheerfulness; it is my hope you may top the arch of your good and honourable life with a century key-stone.
Believe me, sir,
Your affectionate son,
15th September, 1894, 7 Park Place, St. James's S.W.
THE TRAIL OF THE SWORD
This book, like Mrs. Falchion, was published in two volumes in January. That was in 1894. It appeared first serially in the Illustrated London News, for which paper, in effect, it was written, and it also appeared in a series of newspapers in the United States during the year 1893. This was a time when the historical novel was having its vogue. Mr. Stanley Weyman, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and a good many others were following the fashion, and many of the plays at the time were also historical— so-called. I did not write The Trail of the Sword because it was in keeping with the spirit of the moment. Fashion has never in the least influenced my writing or my literary purposes. Whatever may be thought of my books, they represent nothing except my own bent of mind, my own wilful expression of myself, and the setting forth of that which seized my imagination.
I wrote The Trail of the Sword because the early history of the struggles between the French and English and the North American Continent interested me deeply and fascinated my imagination. Also, I had a most intense desire to write of the Frenchman of the early days of the old regime; and I have no idea why it was so, because I have no French blood in my veins nor any trace of French influence in my family. There is, however, the Celtic strain, the Irish blood, immediate of the tang, as it were, and no doubt a sympathy between the Celtic and the Gallic strain is very near, and has a tendency to become very dear. It has always been a difficulty for me to do anything except show the more favourable side of French character and life.
I am afraid that both in The Trail of the Sword, which was the forerunner of The Seats of the Mighty, the well sunk, in a sense, out of which the latter was drawn, I gave my Frenchman the advantage over his English rival. In The Trail of the Sword, the gallant French adventurer's chivalrous but somewhat merciless soul, makes a better picture than does his more phlegmatic but brave and honourable antagonist, George Gering. Also in The Seats of the Mighty, Doltaire, the half-villain, overshadows the good English hero from first to last; and yet, despite the unconscious partiality for the individual in both books, English character and the English as a race, as a whole, are dominant in the narrative.
There is a long letter, as a dedication to this book, addressed to my father; there is a note also, which explains the spirit in which the book was written, and I have no desire to enlarge this introduction in the presence of these prefaces to the first edition. But I may say that this book was gravely important to me, because it was to test all my capacity for writing a novel with an historical background, and, as it were, in the custom of a bygone time. It was not really the first attempt at handling a theme belonging to past generations, because I had written for Good Words, about the year 1890, a short novel which I called The Chief Factor, a tale of the Hudson's Bay Company. It was the first novel or tale of mine which secured copyright under the new American copyright act of 1892.
There was a circumstance connected with this publication which is interesting. When I arrived in New York, I had only three days in which to have the book printed in order to secure the copyright before Good Words published the novel as its Christmas annual in its entirety. I tried Messrs. Harper & Brothers, and several other publishers by turn, but none of them could undertake to print the book in the time. At last some kind friend told me to go to the Trow Directory Binding Company, which I did. They said they could not print the story in the time. I begged them to reconsider. I told them how much was at stake for me. I said that I would stay in the office and read the proofs as they came from the press, and would not move until it was finished. Refusal had been written on the lips and the face of the manager at the beginning, but at last I prevailed. He brought the foreman down there and then. Each of us, elated by the conditions of the struggle, determined to pull the thing off. We printed that book of sixty-five thousand words or so, in forty-eight hours, and it arrived in Washington three hours before the time was up. I saved the copyright, and I need hardly say that my gratitude to the Trow Directory Binding Company was as great as their delight in having done a really brilliant piece of work.
The day after the copyright was completed, I happened to mention the incident to Mr. Archibald Clavering Gunter, author of Mr. Barnes of New York, who had a publishing house for his own books. He immediately made me an offer for The Chief Factor. I hesitated, because I had been dealing with great firms like Harpers, and, to my youthful mind, it seemed rather beneath my dignity to have the imprint of so new a firm as the Home Publishing Company on the title-page of my book. I asked the advice of Mr. Walter H. Page, then editor of The Forum, now one of the proprietors of The World's Work and Country Life, and he instantly said: "What difference does it make who publishes your book? It is the public you want."
I did not hesitate any longer. The Chief Factor went to Mr. Archibald Clavering Gunter and the Home Publishing Company, and they made a very large sale of it. I never cared for the book however; it seemed stilted and amateurish, though some of its descriptions and some of its dialogues were, I think, as good as I can do; so, eventually, in the middle nineties, I asked Mr. Gunter to sell me back the rights in the book and give me control of it. This he did. I thereupon withdrew it from publication at once, and am not including it in this subscription edition. I think it better dead. But the writing of it taught me better how to write The Trail of the Sword; though, if I had to do this book again, I could construct it better.
I think it fresh and very vigorous, and I think it does not lack distinction, while a real air of romance—of refined romance—pervades it. But I know that Mr. W. E. Henley was right when, after most generously helping me to revise it, with a true literary touch wonderfully intimate and affectionate, he said to me: "It is just not quite big, but the next one will get home."
He was right. The Trail of the Sword is "just not quite," though I think it has charm; but it remained for The Seats of the Mighty to get home, as "W. E. H.", the most exacting, yet the most generous, of critics, said.
This book played a most important part in a development of my literary work, and the warm reception by the public—for in England it has been through its tenth edition, and in America through proportionate thousands—was partly made possible by the very beautiful illustrations which accompanied its publication in The Illustrated London News. The artist was A. L. Forestier, and never before or since has my work received such distinguished pictorial exposition, save, perhaps, in The Weavers, when Andre Castaigne did such triumphant work. It is a joy still to look at the illustrations of The Trail of the Sword, for, absolutely faithful to the time, they add a note of verisimilitude to the tale.
The actors in this little drama played their parts on the big stage of a new continent two hundred years ago. Despots sat upon the thrones of France and England, and their representatives on the Hudson and the St. Lawrence were despots too, with greater opportunity and to better ends. In Canada, Frontenac quarreled with his Intendant and his Council, set a stern hand upon the Church when she crossed with his purposes, cajoled, treated with, and fought the Indians by turn, and cherished a running quarrel with the English Governor of New York. They were striving for the friendship of the Iroquois on the one hand, and for the trade of the Great West on the other. The French, under such men as La Salle, had pushed their trading posts westward to the great lakes and beyond the Missouri, and north to the shores of Hudson's Bay. They traded and fought and revelled, hot with the spirit of adventure, the best of pioneers and the worst of colonists. Tardily, upon their trail, came the English and the Dutch, slow to acquire but strong to hold; not so rash in adventure, nor so adroit in intrigue, as fond of fighting, but with less of the gift of the woods, and much more the faculty for government. There was little interchange of friendliness and trade between the rival colonists; and Frenchmen were as rare on Manhattan Island as Englishmen on the heights of Quebec—except as prisoners.
THE TRAIL OF THE SWORD
EPOCH THE FIRST I. AN ENVOY EXTRAORDINARY II. THE THREAT OF A RENEGADE III. THE FACE AT THE WINDOW IV. THE UPLIFTING OF THE SWORDS V. THE FRUITS OF THE LAW VI. THE KIDNAPPING
AN ENVOY EXTRAORDINARY
One summer afternoon a tall, good-looking stripling stopped in the midst of the town of New York, and asked his way to the governor's house. He attracted not a little attention, and he created as much astonishment when he came into the presence of the governor. He had been announced as an envoy from Quebec. "Some new insolence of the County Frontenac!" cried old Richard Nicholls, bringing his fist down on the table. For a few minutes he talked with his chamberfellow; then, "Show the gentleman in," he added. In the room without, the envoy from Quebec had stood flicking the dust from his leggings with a scarf. He was not more than eighteen, his face had scarcely an inkling of moustache, but he had an easy upright carriage, with an air of self-possession, the keenest of grey eyes, a strong pair of shoulders, a look of daring about his rather large mouth, which lent him a manliness well warranting his present service. He had been left alone, and the first thing he had done was to turn on his heel and examine the place swiftly. This he seemed to do mechanically, not as one forecasting danger, not as a spy. In the curve of his lips, in an occasional droop of his eyelids, there was a suggestion of humour: less often a quality of the young than of the old. For even in the late seventeenth century, youth took itself seriously at times.
Presently, as he stood looking at the sunshine through the open door, a young girl came into the lane of light, waved her hand, with a little laugh, to some one in the distance, and stepped inside. At first she did not see him. Her glances were still cast back the way she had come. The young man could not follow her glance, nor was he anything curious. Young as he was, he could enjoy a fine picture. There was a pretty demureness in the girl's manner, a warm piquancy in the turn of the neck, and a delicacy in her gestures, which to him, fresh from hard hours in the woods, was part of some delightful Arcady—though Arcady was more in his veins than of his knowledge. For the young seigneur of New France spent far more hours with his gun than with his Latin, and knew his bush- ranging vassal better than his tutor; and this one was too complete a type of his order to reverse its record. He did not look to his scanty lace, or set himself seemingly; he did but stop flicking the scarf held loose in his fingers, his foot still on the bench. A smile played at his lips, and his eyes had a gleam of raillery. He heard the girl say in a soft, quaint voice, just as she turned towards him, "Foolish boy!" By this he knew that the pretty picture had for its inspiration one of his own sex.
She faced him, and gave a little cry of surprise. Then their eyes met. Immediately he made the most elaborate bow of all his life, and she swept a graceful courtesy. Her face was slightly flushed that this stranger should have seen, but he carried such an open, cordial look that she paused, instead of hurrying into the governor's room, as she had seemed inclined to do.
In the act the string of her hat, slung over her arm, came loose, and the hat fell to the floor. Instantly he picked it up and returned it. Neither had spoken a word. It seemed another act of the light pantomime at the door. As if they had both thought on the instant how droll it was, they laughed, and she said to him naively: "You have come to visit the governor? You are a Frenchman, are you not?"
To this in slow and careful English, "Yes," he replied; "I have come from Canada to see his excellency. Will you speak French?"
"If you please, no," she answered, smiling; "your English is better than my French. But I must go." And she turned towards the door of the governor's room.
"Do not go yet," he said. "Tell me, are you the governor's daughter?"
She paused, her hand at the door. "Oh no," she answered; then, in a sprightly way—"are you a governor's son?"
"I wish I were," he said, "for then there'd be a new intendant, and we'd put Nick Perrot in the council."
"What is an intendant?" she asked, "and who is Nick Perrot?"
"Bien! an intendant is a man whom King Louis appoints to worry the governor and the gentlemen of Canada, and to interrupt the trade. Nicolas Perrot is a fine fellow, and a great coureur du bois, and helps to get the governor out of troubles to-day, the intendant to-morrow. He is a splendid fighter. Perrot is my friend."
He said this, not with an air of boasting, but with a youthful and enthusiastic pride, which was relieved, by the twinkle in his eyes and his frank manner.
"Who brought you here?" she asked demurely. "Are they inside with the governor?"
He saw the raillery; though, indeed, it was natural to suppose that he had no business with the governor, but had merely come with some one. The question was not flattering. His hand went up to his chin a little awkwardly. She noted how large yet how well-shaped it was, or, rather, she remembered afterwards. Then it dropped upon the hilt of the rapier he wore, and he answered with good self-possession, though a little hot spot showed on his cheek: "The governor must have other guests who are no men of mine; for he keeps an envoy from Count Frontenac long in his anteroom."
The girl became very youthful indeed, and a merry light danced in her eyes and warmed her cheek. She came a step nearer. "It is not so? You do not come from Count Frontenac—all alone, do you?"
"I'll tell you after I have told the governor," he answered, pleased and amused.
"Oh, I shall hear when the governor hears," she answered, with a soft quaintness, and then vanished into the governor's chamber. She had scarce entered when the door opened again, and the servant, a Scotsman, came out to say that his excellency would receive him. He went briskly forward, but presently paused. A sudden sense of shyness possessed him. It was not the first time he had been ushered into vice-regal presence, but his was an odd position. He was in a strange land, charged with an embassy which accident had thrust upon him. Then, too, the presence of the girl had withdrawn him for an instant from the imminence of his duty. His youth came out of him, and in the pause one could fairly see him turn into man.
He had not the dark complexion of so many of his race, but was rather Saxon in face, with rich curling brown hair. Even in that brave time one might safely have bespoken for him a large career. And even while the Scotsman in the doorway eyed him with distant deprecation, as he eyed all Frenchmen, good and bad, ugly or handsome, he put off his hesitation and entered the governor's chamber. Colonel Nicholls came forward to greet him, and then suddenly stopped, astonished. Then he wheeled upon the girl. "Jessica, you madcap!" he said in a low voice.
She was leaning against a tall chair, both hands grasping the back of it, her chin just level with the top. She had told the governor that Count Frontenac had sent him a lame old man, and that, enemy or none, he ought not to be kept waiting, with arm in sling and bandaged head. Seated at the table near her was a grave member of the governor's council, William Drayton by name. He lifted a reproving finger at her now, but with a smile on his kindly face, and "Fie, fie, young lady!" he said, in a whisper.
Presently the governor mastered his surprise, and seeing that the young man was of birth and quality, extended his hand cordially enough, and said: "I am glad to greet you, sir;" and motioned him to a seat. "But, pray, sit down," he added, "and let us hear the message Count Frontenac has sent. Meanwhile we would be favoured with your name and rank."
The young man thrust a hand into his doublet and drew forth a packet of papers. As he handed it over, he said in English—for till then the governor had spoken French, having once served with the army of France, and lived at the French Court: "Your excellency, my name is Pierre le Moyne of Iberville, son of Charles le Moyne, a seigneur of Canada, of whom you may have heard." (The governor nodded.) "I was not sent by Count Frontenac to you. My father was his envoy: to debate with you our trade in the far West and our dealings with the Iroquois."
"Exactly," said old William Drayton, tapping the table with his forefinger; "and a very sound move, upon my soul."
"Ay, ay," said the governor, "I know of your father well enough. A good fighter and an honest gentleman, as they say. But proceed, Monsieur le Moyne of Iberville."
"I am called Iberville," said the young man simply. Then: "My father and myself started from Quebec with good Nick Perrot, the coureur du bois—"
"I know him too," the governor interjected—"a scoundrel worth his weight in gold to your Count Frontenac."
"For whose head Count Frontenac has offered gold in his time," answered Iberville, with a smile.
"A very pretty wit," said old William Drayton, nodding softly towards the girl, who was casting bright, quizzical glances at the youth over the back of the chair.
Iberville went on: "Six days ago we were set upon by a score of your Indians, and might easily have left our scalps with them; but, as it chanced, my father was wounded, I came off scot-free, and we had the joy of ridding your excellency of half a dozen rogues."
The governor lifted his eyebrows and said nothing. The face of the girl over against the back of the chair had become grave.
"It was in question whether Perrot or I should bear Count Frontenac's message. Perrot knew the way, I did not; Perrot also knew the Indians."
"But Perrot," said the governor blufily, "would have been the letter- carrier; you are a kind of ambassador. Upon my soul, yes, a sort of ambassador!" he added, enjoying the idea; for, look at it how you would, Iberville was but a boy.
"That was my father's thought and my own," answered Iberville coolly. "There was my father to care for till his wound was healed and he could travel back to Quebec, so we thought it better Perrot should stay with him. A Le Moyne was to present himself, and a Le Moyne has done so."
The governor was impressed more deeply than he showed. It was a time of peace, but the young man's journey among Indian braves and English outlaws, to whom a French scalp was a thing of price, was hard and hazardous. His reply was cordial, then his fingers came to the seal of the packet; but the girl's hand touched his arm.
"I know his name," she said in the governor's ear, "but he does not know mine."
The governor patted her hand, and then rejoined: "Now, now, I forgot the lady; but I cannot always remember that you are full fifteen years old."
Standing up, with all due gravity and courtesy, "Monsieur Iberville," he said, "let me present you to Mistress Jessica Leveret, the daughter of my good and honoured and absent friend, the Honourable Hogarth Leveret."
So the governor and his councillor stood shoulder to shoulder at one window, debating Count Frontenac's message; and shoulder to shoulder at another stood Iberville and Jessica Leveret. And what was between these at that moment—though none could have guessed it—signified as much to the colonies of France and England, at strife in the New World, as the deliberations of their elders.
THE THREAT OF A RENEGADE
Iberville was used to the society of women. Even as a young lad, his father's notable place in the colony, and the freedom and gaiety of life in Quebec and Montreal, had drawn upon him a notice which was as much a promise of the future as an accent of the present. And yet, through all of it, he was ever better inspired by the grasp of a common soldier, who had served with Carignan-Salieres, or by the greeting and gossip of such woodsmen as Du Lhut, Mantet, La Durantaye, and, most of all, his staunch friend Perrot, chief of the coureurs du bois. Truth is, in his veins was the strain of war and adventure first and before all. Under his tutor, the good Pere Dollier de Casson, he had never endured his classics, save for the sake of Hector and Achilles and their kind; and his knowledge of English, which his father had pressed him to learn,—for he himself had felt the lack of it in dealings with Dutch and English traders,—only grew in proportion as he was given Shakespeare and Raleigh to explore.
Soon the girl laughed up at him. "I have been a great traveller," she said, "and I have ears. I have been as far west as Albany and south to Virginia, with my father, who, perhaps you do not know, is in England now. And they told me everywhere that Frenchmen are bold, dark men, with great black eyes and very fine laces and wigs, and a trick of bowing and making foolish compliments; and they are not to be trusted, and they will not fight except in the woods, where there are trees to climb. But I see that it is not all true, for you are not dark, your eyes are not big or black, your laces are not much to see, you do not make compliments—"
"I shall begin now," he interrupted.
"—you must be trusted a little, or Count Frontenac would not send you, and—and—tell me, would you fight if you had a chance?"
No one of her sex had ever talked so to Iberville. Her demure raillery, her fresh, frank impertinence, through which there ran a pretty air of breeding, her innocent disregard of formality, all joined to impress him, to interest him. He was not so much surprised at the elegance and cleverness of her speech, for in Quebec girls of her age were skilled in languages and arts, thanks to the great bishop, Laval, and to Marie of the Incarnation. In response to her a smile flickered upon his lips. He had a quick fierce temper, but it had never been severely tried; and so well used was he to looking cheerfully upon things, so keen had been his zest in living, that, where himself was concerned, his vanity was not easily touched. So, looking with genial dryness, "You will hardly believe it, of course," he said, "but wings I have not yet grown, and the walking is bad 'twixt here and the Chateau St. Louis."
"Iroquois traps," she suggested, with a smile. "With a trick or two of English footpads," was his reply.
Meanwhile his eye had loitered between the two men in council at the farther window and the garden, into which he and the girl were looking. Presently he gave a little start and a low whistle, and his eyelids slightly drooped, giving him a handsome sulkiness. "Is it so?" he said between his teeth: "Radisson—Radisson, as I live!"
He had seen a man cross a corner of the yard. This man was short, dark- bearded, with black, lanky hair, brass earrings, and buckskin leggings, all the typical equipment of the French coureur du bois. Iberville had only got one glance at his face, but the sinister profile could never be forgotten. At once the man passed out of view. The girl had not seen him, she had been watching her companion. Presently she said, her fingers just brushing his sleeve, for he stood eyeing the point where the man had disappeared: "Wonderful! You look now as if you would fight. Oh, fierce, fierce as the governor when he catches a French spy!"
He turned to her and, with a touch of irony, "Pardon!" he retorted. "Now I shall look as blithe as the governor when a traitor deserts to him."
Of purpose he spoke loud enough to be heard by the governor and his friend. The governor turned sharply on him. He had caught the ring in the voice, that rash enthusiasm of eager youth, and, taking a step towards Iberville, Count Frontenac's letter still poised in his hand: "Were your words meant for my hearing, monsieur?" he said. "Were you speaking of me or of your governor?"
"I was thinking of one Radisson a traitor, and I was speaking of yourself, your excellency."
The governor had asked his question in French, in French the reply was given. Both the girl and Councillor Drayton followed with difficulty. Jessica looked a message to her comrade in ignorance. The old man touched the governor's arm. "Let it be in English if monsieur is willing. He speaks it well."
The governor was at work to hide his anger: he wished good greeting to Count Frontenac's envoy, and it seemed not fitting to be touched by the charges of a boy. "I must tell you frankly, Monsieur Iberville," he said, "that I do not choose to find a sort of challenge in your words; and I doubt that your father, had he been here, would have spoke quite so roundly. But I am for peace and happy temper when I can. I may not help it if your people, tired of the governance of Louis of France, come into the good ruling of King Charles. As for this man Radisson: what is it you would have?"
Iberville was now well settled back upon his native courage. He swallowed the rebuke with grace, and replied with frankness: "Radisson is an outlaw. Once he attempted Count Frontenac's life. He sold a band of our traders to the Iroquois. He led your Hollanders stealthily to cut off the Indians of the west, who were coming with their year's furs to our merchants. There is peace between your colony and ours—is it fair to harbour such a wretch in your court-yard? It was said up in Quebec, your excellency, that such men have eaten at your table."
During this speech the governor seemed choleric, but a change passed over him, and he fell to admiring the lad's boldness. "Upon my soul, monsieur," he said, "you are council, judge, and jury all in one; but I think I need not weigh the thing with you, for his excellency, from whom you come, has set forth this same charge,"—he tapped the paper,—"and we will not spoil good-fellowship by threshing it now." He laughed a little ironically. "And I promise you," he added, "that your Radisson shall neither drink wine nor eat bread with you at my table. And now, come, let us talk awhile together; for, lest any accident befall the packet you shall bear, I wish you to carry in your memory, with great distinctness, the terms of my writing to your governor. I would that it were not to be written, for I hate the quill, and I've seen the time I would rather point my sword red than my quill black."
By this the shadows were falling. In the west the sun was slipping down behind the hills, leaving the strong day with a rosy and radiant glamour, that faded away in eloquent tones to the grey, tinsel softness of the zenith. Out in the yard a sumach bush was aflame. Rich tiger-lilies thrust in at the sill, and lazy flies and king bees boomed in and out of the window. Something out of the sunset, out of the glorious freshness and primal majesty of the new land, diffused through the room where those four people stood, and made them silent. Presently the governor drew his chair to the table, and motioned Councillor Drayton and Iberville to be seated.
The girl touched his arm. "And where am I to sit?" she asked demurely. Colonel Nicholls pursed his lips and seemed to frown severely on her. "To sit? Why, in your room, mistress. Tut, tut, you are too bold. If I did not know your father was coming soon to bear you off, new orders should be issued. Yes, yes, e'en as I say," he added, as he saw the laughter in her eyes.
She knew that she could wind the big-mannered soldier about her finger. She had mastered his household; she was the idol of the settlement, her flexible intelligence, the flush of the first delicate bounty of womanhood had made him her slave. In a matter of vexing weight he would not have let her stay, but such deliberatings as he would have with Iberville could well bear her scrutiny. He reached out to pinch her cheek, but she deftly tipped her head and caught his outstretched fingers. "But where am I to sit?" she persisted. "Anywhere, then, but at the council-table," was his response, as he wagged a finger at her and sat down. Going over she perched herself on a high stool in the window behind Iberville. He could not see her, and, if he thought at all about it, he must have supposed that she could not see him. Yet she could; for against the window-frame was a mirror, and it reflected his face and the doings at the board. She did not listen to the rumble of voices. She fell to studying Iberville. Once or twice she laughed softly to herself.
As she turned to the window a man passed by and looked in at her. His look was singular, and she started. Something about his face was familiar. She found her mind feeling among far memories, for even the past of the young stretches out interminably. She shuddered, and a troubled look came into her eyes. Yet she could not remember. She leaned slightly forward, as if she were peering into that by-gone world which, maybe, is wider than the future for all of us—the past. Her eyes grew deep and melancholy. The sunset seemed to brighten around her all at once, and enmesh her in a golden web, burnishing her hair, and it fell across her brow with a peculiar radiance, leaving the temples in shadow, softening and yet lighting the carmine of her cheeks and lips, giving a feeling of life to her dress, which itself was like dusty gold. Her hands were caught and clasped at her knees. There was something spiritual and exalted in the picture. It had, too, a touch of tragedy, for something out of her nebulous past had been reflected in faint shadows in her eyes, and this again, by strange, delicate processes, was expressed in every line of her form, in all the aspect of her face. It was as if some knowledge were being filtered to her through myriad atmospheres of premonition; as though the gods in pity foreshadowed a great trouble, that the first rudeness of misery might be spared.
She did not note that Iberville had risen, and had come round the table to look over Councillor Drayton's shoulder at a map spread out. After standing a moment watching, the councillor's finger his pilot, he started back to his seat. As he did so he caught sight of her still in that poise of wonderment and sadness. He stopped short, then glanced at Colonel Nicholls and the councillor. Both were bent over the map, talking in eager tones. He came softly round the table, and was about to speak over her shoulder, when she drew herself up with a little shiver and seemed to come back from afar. Her hands went up to her eyes. Then she heard him. She turned quickly, with the pageant of her dreams still wavering in her face; smiled at him distantly, looked towards the window again in a troubled way, then stepped softly and swiftly to the door, and passed out. Iberville watched the door close and turned to the window. Again he saw, and this time nearer to the window, Radisson, and with him the man who had so suddenly mastered Jessica.
He turned to Colonel Nicholls. "Your excellency," he said, "will you not let me tell Count Frontenac that you forbid Radisson your purlieus? For, believe me, sir, there is no greater rogue unhanged, as you shall find some day to the hurt of your colony, if you shelter him."
The governor rose and paced the room thoughtfully. "He is proclaimed by Frontenac?" he asked.
"A price is on his head. As a Frenchman I should shoot him like a wolf where'er I saw him; and so I would now were I not Count Frontenac's ambassador and in your excellency's presence."
"You speak manfully, monsieur," said the governor, not ill-pleased; "but how might you shoot him now? Is he without there?" At this he came to where Iberville stood, and looked out. "Who is the fellow with him?" he asked.
"A cut-throat scoundrel, I'll swear, though his face is so smug," said Iberville. "What think you sir?" turning to the councillor, who was peering between their shoulders.
"As artless yet as strange a face as I have ever seen," answered the merchant. "What's his business here, and why comes he with the other rogue? He would speak with your excellency, I doubt not," he added.
Colonel Nicholls turned to Iberville. "You shall have your way," he said. "Yon renegade was useful when we did not know what sudden game was playing from Chateau St. Louis; for, as you can guess, he has friends as faithless as himself. But to please your governor, I will proclaim him."
He took his stick and tapped the floor. Waiting a moment, he tapped again. There was no sign. He opened the door; but his Scots body-guard was not in sight. "That's unusual," he said. Then, looking round: "Where is our other councillor? Gone?" he laughed. "Faith, I did not see her go. And now we can swear that where the dear witch is will Morris, my Scotsman, be found. Well, well! They have their way with us whether we will or no. But, here, I'll have your Radisson in at once."
He was in act to call when Morris entered. With a little hasty rebuke he gave his order to the man. "And look you, my good Morris," he added, "tell Sherlock and Weir to stand ready. I may need the show of firearms."
Turning to Iberville, he said: "I trust you will rest with us some days, monsieur. We shall have sports and junketings anon. We are not yet so grim as our friends in Massachusetts."
"I think I might venture two days with you, sir, if for nothing else, to see Radisson proclaimed. Count Frontenac would gladly cut months from his calendar to know you ceased to harbour one who can prove no friend," was the reply.
The governor smiled. "You have a rare taste for challenge, monsieur. To be frank, I will say your gift is more that of the soldier than the envoy. But upon my soul, if you will permit me, I think no less of you for that."
Then the door opened, and Morris brought in Radisson. The keen, sinister eyes of the woodsman travelled from face to face, and then rested savagely on Iberville. He scented trouble, and traced it to its source. Iberville drew back to the window and, resting his arm on the high stool where Jessica had sat, waited the event. Presently the governor came over to him.
"You can understand," he said quietly, "that this man has been used by my people, and that things may be said which—"
Iberville waved his hand respectfully. "I understand, your excellency," he said. "I will go." He went to the door.
The woodsman as he passed broke out: "There is the old saying of the woods, 'It is mad for the young wolf to trail the old bear.'"
"That is so," rejoined Iberville, with excellent coolness, "if the wolf holds not the spring of the trap."
In the outer room were two soldiers and the Scot. He nodded, passed into the yard, and there he paced up and down. Once he saw Jessica's face at a window, he was astonished to see how changed. It wore a grave, an apprehensive look. He fell to wondering, but, even as he wondered, his habit of observation made him take in every feature of the governor's house and garden, so that he could have reproduced all as it was mirrored in his eye. Presently he found himself again associating Radisson's comrade with the vague terror in Jessica's face. At last he saw the fellow come forth between two soldiers, and the woodsman turned his head from side to side, showing his teeth like a wild beast at sight of Iberville. His black brows twitched over his vicious eyes. "There are many ways to hell, Monsieur Iberville," he said. "I will show you one. Some day when you think you tread on a wisp of straw, it will be a snake with the deadly tooth. You have made an outlaw—take care! When the outlaw tires of the game, he winds it up quick. And some one pays for the candles and the cards."
Iberville walked up to him. "Radisson," he said in a voice well controlled, "you have always been an outlaw. In our native country you were a traitor; in this, you are the traitor still. I am not sorry for you, for you deserve not mercy. Prove me wrong. Go back to Quebec; offer to pay with your neck, then—"
"I will have my hour," said the woodsman, and started on.
"It's a pity," said Iberville to himself—"as fine a woodsman as Perrot, too!"
THE FACE AT THE WINDOW
At the governor's table that night certain ladies and gentlemen assembled to do the envoy honour. There came, too, a young gentleman, son of a distinguished New Englander, his name George Gering, who was now in New York for the first time. The truth is, his visit was to Jessica, his old playmate, the mistress of his boyhood. Her father was in England, her mother had been dead many years, and Colonel Nicholls and his sister being kinsfolk, a whole twelvemonth ago she had been left with them. Her father had thought at first to house her with his old friend Edward Gering, but he loved the Cavalier-like tone of Colonel Nicholls's household better than the less inspiriting air which Madam Puritan Gering suffused about her home. Himself in early youth had felt the austerity of a Cavalier father turned a Puritan on a sudden, and he wished no such experience for his daughter. For all her abundancy of life and feeling, he knew how plastic and impressionable she was, and he dreaded to see that exaltation of her fresh spirit touched with gloom. She was his only child, she had been little out of his sight, her education had gone on under his own care, and, in so far as was possible in a new land, he had surrounded her with gracious influences. He looked forward to any definite separation (as marriage) with apprehension. Perhaps one of the reasons why he chose Colonel Nicholls's house for her home, was a fear lest George Gering should so impress her that she might somehow change ere his return. And in those times brides of sixteen were common as now they are rare.
She sat on the governor's left. All the brightness, the soft piquancy, which Iberville knew, had returned; and he wondered—fortunate to know that wonder so young—at her varying moods. She talked little, and most with the governor; but her presence seemed pervasive, the aura in her veins flowed from her eye and made an atmosphere that lighted even the scarred and rather sulky faces of two officers of His Majesty near. They had served with Nicholls in Spain, but not having eaten King Louis's bread, eyed all Frenchmen askance, and were not needlessly courteous to Iberville, whose achievements they could scarce appreciate, having done no Indian fighting.
Iberville sat at the governor's end, Gering at the other. It was noticed by Iberville that Gering's eyes were much on Jessica, and in the spirit of rivalry, the legitimate growth of race and habit, he began to speak to her with the air of easy but deliberate playfulness which marked their first meeting.
Presently she spoke across the table to him, after Colonel Nicholls had pledged him heartily over wine. The tone was a half whisper as of awe, in reality a pretty mockery. "Tell me," she said, "what is the bravest and greatest thing you ever did?"
"Jessica, Jessica!" said the governor in reproof. An old Dutch burgher laughed into his hand, and His Majesty's officers cocked their ears, for the whisper was more arresting than any loud talk. Iberville coloured, but the flush passed quickly and left him unembarrassed. He was not hurt, not even piqued, for he felt well used to her dainty raillery. But he saw that Gering's eyes were on him, and the lull that fell as by a common instinct—for all could not have heard the question—gave him a thrill of timidity. But, smiling, he said drily across the table, his voice quiet and clear: "My bravest and greatest thing was to answer an English lady's wit in English."
A murmur of applause ran round, and Jessica laughed and clapped her hands. For the first time in his life Gering had a pang of jealousy and envy. Only that afternoon he had spent a happy hour with Jessica in the governor's garden, and he had then made an advance upon the simple relations of their life in Boston. She had met him without self- consciousness, persisting in her old ways, and showing only when she left him, and then for a breath, that she saw his new attitude. Now the eyes of the two men met, and Gering's dark face flushed and his brow lowered. Perhaps no one saw but Iberville, but he, seeing, felt a sudden desire to play upon the other's weakness. He was too good a sportsman to show temper in a game; he had suddenly come to the knowledge that love, too, is a game, and needs playing. By this time the dinner was drawing to its close and now a singular thing happened. As Jessica, with demure amusement, listened to the talk that followed Iberville's sally, she chanced to lift her eyes to a window. She started, changed colour, and gave a little cry. The governor's hand covered hers at once as he followed her look. It was a summer's night and the curtained windows were partly open. Iberville noted that Jessica's face wore the self-same shadow as in the afternoon when she had seen the stranger with Radisson.
"What was it, my dear?" said the governor.
She did not answer, but pressed his hand nervously. "A spy, I believe," said Iberville, in a low voice. "Yes, yes," said Jessica in a half whisper; "a man looked in at the window; a face that I have seen—but I can't remember when."
The governor went to the window and drew the curtains. There was nothing to see. He ordered Morris, who stood behind his chair, to have the ground searched and to bring in any straggler. Already both the officers were on their way to the door, and at this point it opened and let in a soldier. He said that as he and his comrade were returning from their duty with Radisson they saw a man lurking in the grounds and seized him. He had made no resistance, and was now under guard in the ante-room. The governor apologised to his guests, but the dinner could not be ended formally now, so the ladies rose and retired. Jessica, making a mighty effort to recover herself, succeeded so well that ere she went she was able to reproach herself for her alarm; the more so because the governor's sister showed her such consideration as would be given a frightened child—and she had begun to feel something more.
The ladies gone, the governor drew his guests about him and ordered in the prisoner. Morris spoke up, saying that the man had begged an interview with the governor that afternoon, but, being told that his excellency was engaged, had said another hour would do. This man was the prisoner. He came in under guard, but he bore himself quietly enough and made a low bow to the governor. He was not an ill-favoured fellow. His eye was steely cold, but his face was hearty and round, and remarkably free from viciousness. He had a cheerful air and an alert freedom of manner, which suggested good-fellowship and honest enterprise.
Where his left hand had been was an iron hook, but not obtrusively in view, nor did it give any marked grimness to his appearance. Indeed, the effect was almost comical when he lifted it and scratched his head and then rubbed his chin with it; it made him look part bumpkin and part sailor. He bore the scrutiny of the company very well, and presently bowed again to the governor as one who waited the expression of that officer's goodwill and pleasure.
"Now, fellow," said the colonel, "think yourself lucky my soldiers here did not shoot you without shrift. You chance upon good-natured times. When a spying stranger comes dangling about these windows, my men are given to adorning the nearest tree with him. Out with the truth now. Who and what are you, and why are you here?"
The fellow bowed. "I am the captain of a little trading schooner, the Nell Gwynn, which anchors in the roadstead till I have laid some private business before your excellency and can get on to the Spanish Indies."
"Business—private business! Then what in the name of all that's infernal," quoth Nicholls, "brought your sneaking face to yon window to fright my lady-guests?" The memory of Jessica's alarm came hotly to his mind. "By Heaven," he said, "I have a will to see you lifted, for means to better manners."
The man stood very quiet, now and again, however, raising the hook to stroke his chin. He showed no fear, but Iberville, with his habit of observation, caught in his eyes, shining superficially with a sailor's open honesty, a strange ulterior look. "My business," so he answered Nicholls, "is for your excellency's ears." He bowed again.
"Have done with scraping. Now, I tell you what, my gentle spy, if your business hath not concern, I'll stretch you by your fingers there to our public gallows, and my fellows shall fill you with small shot as full as a pod of peas."
The governor rose and went into another room, followed by this strange visitor and the two soldiers. There he told the guard to wait at the door, which entered into the ante-room. Then he unlocked a drawer and took out of it a pair of pistols. These he laid on the table (for he knew the times), noting the while that the seaman watched him with a pensive, deprecating grin.
"Well, sir," he said sharply (for he was something nettled), "out with your business, and your name in preface."
"My name is Edward Bucklaw, and I have come to your excellency because I know there is no braver and more enterprising gentleman in the world." He paused. "So much for preamble; now for the discourse."
"By your excellency's leave. I am a poor man. I have only my little craft and a handful of seamen picked up at odd prices. But there's gold and silver enough I know of, owned by no man, to make cargo and ballast for the Nell Gwynn, or another twice her size."
"Gold and silver," said the governor, cocking his ear and eyeing his visitor up and down. Colonel Nicholls had an acquisitive instinct; he was interested. "Well, well, gold and silver," he continued, "to fill the Nell Gwynn and another! And what concern is that of mine? Let your words come plain off your tongue; I have no time for foolery."
"'Tis no foolery on my tongue, sir, as you may please to see."
He drew a paper from his pocket and shook it out as he came a little nearer, speaking all the while. His voice had gone low, running to a soft kind of chuckle, and his eyes were snapping with fire, which Iberville alone had seen was false. "I have come to make your excellency's fortune, if you will stand by with a good, stout ship and a handful of men to see me through."
The governor shrugged his shoulders. "Babble," he said, "all babble and bubble. But go on."
"Babble, your honour! Every word of it is worth a pint of guineas; and this is the pith of it. Far down West Indies way, some twenty-five, maybe, or thirty years ago, there was a plate ship wrecked upon a reef. I got it from a Spaniard, who had been sworn upon oath to keep it secret by priests who knew. The priests were killed and after a time the Spaniard died also, but not until he had given me the ways whereby I should get at what makes a man's heart rap in his weasand."
"Let me see your chart," said the governor.
A half-hour later he rose, went to the door, and sent a soldier for the two king's officers. As he did so, Bucklaw eyed the room doors, windows, fireplaces, with a grim, stealthy smile trailing across his face. Then suddenly the good creature was his old good self again—the comfortable shrewdness, the buoyant devil-may-care, the hook stroking the chin pensively. And the king's officers came in, and soon all four were busy with the map.
THE UPLIFTING OF THE SWORDS
Iberville and Gering sat on with the tobacco and the wine. The older men had joined the ladies, the governor having politely asked them to do so when they chose. The other occupant of the room was Morris, who still stood stolidly behind his master's chair.
For a time he heard the talk of the two young men as in a kind of dream. Their words were not loud, their manner was amicable enough, if the sharing of a bottle were anything to the point. But they were sitting almost the full length of the table from him, and to quarrel courteously and with an air hath ever been a quality in men of gentle blood.
If Morris's eyesight had been better, he would have seen that Gering handled his wine nervously, and had put down his long Dutch pipe. He would also have seen that Iberville was smoking with deliberation, and drinking with a kind of mannered coolness. Gering's face was flushed, his fine nostrils were swelling viciously, his teeth showed white against his red lips, and his eyes glinted. There was a kind of devilry at Iberville's large and sensuous mouth, but his eyes were steady and provoking, and while Gering's words went forth pantingly, Iberville's were slow and concise, and chosen with the certainty of a lapidary.
It is hard to tell which had started the quarrel, but an edge was on their talk from the beginning. Gering had been moved by a boyish jealousy; Iberville, who saw the injustice of his foolish temper, had played his new-found enemy with a malicious adroitness. The aboriginal passions were strong in him. He had come of a people which had to do with essentials in the matter of emotions. To love, to hate, to fight, to explore, to hunt, to be loyal, to avenge, to bow to Mother Church, to honour the king, to beget children, to taste outlawry under a more refined name, and to die without whining: that was its range of duty, and a very sufficient range it was.
The talk had been running on Bucklaw. It had then shifted to Radisson. Gering had crowded home with flagrant emphasis the fact that, while Radisson was a traitor and a scoundrel,—which Iberville himself had admitted with an ironical frankness,—he was also a Frenchman. It was at this point that Iberville remembered, also with something of irony, the words that Jessica had used that afternoon when she came out of the sunshine into the ante-room of the governor's chamber. She had waved her hand into the distance and had said: "Foolish boy!" He knew very well that that part of the game was turned against him, but with a kind of cheerful recklessness, as was ever his way with odds against him, and he guessed that the odds were with Gering in the matter of Jessica,—he bent across the table and repeated them with an exasperating turn to his imperfect accent. "Foolish boy!" he said, and awaited, not for long, the event.
"A fool's lie," retorted Gering, in a low, angry voice, and spilled his wine.
At that Iberville's heart thumped in his throat with anger, and the roof of his mouth became dry; never in his life had he been called a liar. The first time that insult strikes a youth of spirit he goes a little mad.
But he was very quiet—an ominous sort of quietness, even in a boy. He got to his feet and leaned over the table, speaking in words that dropped on the silence like metal: "Monsieur, there is but one answer."
At this point Morris, roused from his elaborate musings, caught, not very clearly, at the meaning of it all. But he had not time to see more, for just then he was called by the governor, and passed into the room where Mammon, for the moment, perched like a leering, little dwarf upon the shoulders of adventurous gentlemen grown avaricious on a sudden.
"Monsieur, there is but one way. Well?" repeated Iberville.
"I am ready," replied Gering, also getting to his feet. The Frenchman was at once alive to certain difficulties. He knew that an envoy should not fight, and that he could ask no one to stand his second; also that it would not be possible to arrange a formal duel between opposites so young as Gering and himself. He sketched this briefly, and the Bostonian nodded moody assent. "Come, then," said Iberville, "let us find a place. My sword is at my hand. Yours?"
"Mine is not far off," answered Gering sullenly. Iberville forbore to point a moral, but walked to the mantel, above which hung two swords of finest steel, with richly-chased handles. He had noted them as soon as he had entered the room. "By the governor's leave," he said, and took them down. "Since we are to ruffle him let him furnish the spurs—eh? Shall we use these, and so be even as to weapons? But see," he added, with a burst of frankness, "I am in a—a trouble." It was not easy on the instant to find the English word. He explained the duties of his mission. It was singular to ask his enemy that he should see his papers handed to Count Frontenac if he were killed, but it was characteristic of him.
"I will see the papers delivered," said Gering, with equal frankness.
"That is, if by some miraculous chance I should be killed," added Iberville. "But I have other ends in view."
"I have only one end in view," retorted Gering. "But wait," he said, as they neared the door leading into the main hall; "we may be seen. There is another way into the grounds through a little hall here." He turned and opened a door almost as small as a panel. "I was shown this secret door the other day, and since ours is a secret mission let us use it."
"Very well. But a minute more," said Iberville. He went and unhooked a fine brass lantern, of old Dutch workmanship, swung from the ceiling by a chain. "We shall need a light," he remarked.
They passed into the musty little hallway, and Gering with some difficulty drew back the bolts. The door creaked open and they stepped out into the garden,
Iberville leading the way. He had not conned his surroundings that afternoon for nothing, and when they had reached a quiet place among some firs he hung the lantern to the branch of a tree, opening the little ornamental door so that the light streamed out. There was not much of it, but it would serve, and without a word, like two old warriors, they took off their coats.
Meanwhile Morris had returned to the dining-room to find Jessica standing agaze there. She had just come in; for, chancing to be in her bed- chamber, which was just over the secret hallway, she had heard Gering shoot the bolts. Now, the chamber was in a corner, so that the window faced another way, but the incident seemed strange to her, and she stood for a moment listening. Then hearing the door shut, she ran down the stairs, knocked at the dining-room door and, getting no answer, entered, meeting Morris as he came from the governor's room.
"Morris, Morris," she said, "where are they all?"
"The governor is in his room, mistress."
"Who are with him?" He told her.
"Where are the others?" she urged. "Mr. Gering and Monsieur Iberville —where are they?"
The man's eyes had flashed to the place where the swords were used to hang. "Lord God!" he said under his breath.
Her eyes had followed his. She ran forward to the wall and threw up her hands against it. "Oh Morris," she said distractedly, "they have taken the swords!" Then she went past him swiftly through the panel and the outer door. She glanced around quickly, running, as she did so, with a kind of blind instinct towards the clump of firs. Presently she saw a little stream of light in the trees. Always a creature of abundant energy and sprightliness, she swept through the night, from the comedy behind to the tragedy in front; the grey starlight falling about her white dress and making her hair seem like a cloud behind her as she ran. Suddenly she came in on the two sworders with a scared, transfigured face.
Iberville had his man at an advantage, and was making the most of it when she came in at an angle behind the other, and the sight of her stayed his arm. It was but for a breath, but it served. Gering had not seen, and his sword ran up Iberville's arm, making a little trench in the flesh.
She ran in on them from the gloom, saying in a sharp, aching voice: "Stop, stop! Oh, what madness!" The points dropped and they stepped back. She stood between them, looking from one to the other. At that moment Morris burst in also. "In God's name," he said, "is this your honouring of the king's governor! Ye that have eat and drunk at his table the night! Have ye nae sense o' your manhood, young gentlemen, that for a mad gossip ower the wine ye wend into the dark to cut each other's throats? Think—think shame, baith o' ye, being as ye are of them that should know better."
Gering moodily put on his coat and held his peace. Iberville tossed his sword aside, and presently wrung the blood from his white sleeve. The girl saw him, and knew that he was wounded. She snatched a scarf from her waist and ran towards him. "You are wounded," she said. "Oh, take this!"
"I am so much sorry, indeed," he answered coolly, winding the scarf about his arm. "Mistress Leveret came too soon."
His face wore a peculiar smile, but his eyes burned with anger; his voice was not excited. Immediately, however, as he looked at Jessica, his mood seemed to change.
"Morris," he said, "I am sorry. Mademoiselle," he added, "pardon! I regret whatever gives you pain." Gering came near to her, and Iberville could see that a flush stole over Jessica's face as he took her hand and said: "I am sorry—that you should have known."
"Good!" said Iberville, under his breath. "Good! he is worth fighting again."
A moment afterwards Morris explained to them that if the matter could be hushed he would not impart it to the governor—at least, not until Iberville had gone. Then they all started back towards the house. It did not seem incongruous to Iberville and Gering to walk side by side; theirs was a superior kind of hate. They paused outside the door, on Morris's hint, that he might see if the coast was clear, and return the swords to their place on the wall.
Jessica turned in the doorway. "I shall never forgive you," she said, and was swallowed by the darkness. "Which does she mean?" asked Iberville, with a touch of irony. The other was silent.
In a moment Morris came back to tell them that they might come, for the dining-room was empty still.
THE FRUITS OF THE LAW
Bucklaw having convinced the governor and his friends that down in the Spaniards' country there was treasure for the finding, was told that he might come again next morning. He asked if it might not be late afternoon instead, because he had cargo from the Indies for sale, and in the morning certain merchants were to visit his vessel. Truth to tell he was playing a deep game. He wanted to learn the governor's plans for the next afternoon and evening, and thought to do so by proposing this same change. He did not reckon foolishly. The governor gave him to understand that there would be feasting next day: first, because it was the birthday of the Duke of York; secondly, because it was the anniversary of the capture from the Dutch; and, last of all, because there were Indian chiefs to come from Albany to see New York and himself for the first time. The official celebration would begin in the afternoon and last till sundown, so that all the governor's time must be fully occupied. But Bucklaw said, with great candour, that unfortunately he had to sail for Boston within thirty-six hours, to keep engagements with divers assignees for whom he had special cargo. If his excellency, he said, would come out to his ship the next evening when the shows were done, he would be proud to have him see his racketing little craft; and it could then be judged if, with furbishing and armaments, she could by any means be used for the expedition. Nicholls consented, and asked the king's officers if they would accompany him. This they were exceedingly glad to do: so that the honest shipman's good nature and politeness were vastly increased, and he waved his hook in so funny and so boyish a way it set them all a-laughing.
So it was arranged forthwith that he should be at a quiet point on the shore at a certain hour to row the governor and his friends to the Nell Gwynn. And, this done, he was bade to go to the dining-room and refresh himself.
He obeyed with cheerfulness, and was taken in charge by Morris, who, having passed on Iberville and Gering to the drawing-room, was once more at his post, taciturn as ever. The governor and his friends had gone straight to the drawing-room, so that Morris and he were alone. Wine was set before the sailor and he took off a glass with gusto, his eye cocked humorously towards his host. "No worse fate for a sinner," quoth he; "none better for a saint."
Morris's temper was not amiable. He did not like the rascal. "Ay," said he, "but many's the sinner has wished yon wish, and footed it from the stocks to the gallows."
Bucklaw laughed up at him. It was not a pretty laugh, and his eyes were insolent and hard. But that, changed almost on the instant. "A good thrust, mighty Scot," he said. "Now what say you to a pasty, or a strip of beef cut where the juice runs, and maybe the half of a broiled fowl?"
Morris, imperturbably deliberate, left the room to seek the kitchen. Bucklaw got instantly to his feet. His eye took in every window and door, and ran along the ceiling and the wall. There was a sudden click in the wall before him. It was the door leading to the unused hallway, which had not been properly closed and had sprung open. He caught up a candle, ran over, entered the hallway, and gave a grunt of satisfaction. He hastily and softly drew the bolts of the outer door, so that any one might come in from the garden, then stepped back into the dining-room and closed the panel tight behind him, remarking with delight that it had no spring-lock, and could be opened from the hallway. He came back quickly to the table, put down the candle, took his seat, stroked his chin with his hook, and chuckled. When Morris came back, he was holding his wine with one hand while he hummed a snatch of song and drummed lightly on the table with the hook. Immediately after came a servant with a tray, and the Scotsman was soon astonished, not only at the buxomness of his appetite, but at the deftness with which he carved and handled things with what he called his "tiger." And so he went on talking and eating, and he sat so long that Jessica, as she passed into the corridor and up the stairs, wearied by the day, heard his voice uplifted in song. It so worked upon her that she put her hands to her ears, hurried to her room, and threw herself upon the bed in a distress she could set down to no real cause.
Before the governor and his guests parted for the night, Iberville, as he made his adieus to Gering, said in a low voice: "The same place and time to-morrow night, and on the same conditions?"
"I shall be happy," said Gering, and they bowed with great formality.
The governor had chanced to hear a word or two and, thinking it was some game of which they spoke, said: "Piquet or a game of wits, gentlemen?"
"Neither, your excellency," quoth Gering—"a game called fox and goose."
"Good," said Iberville, under his breath; "my Puritan is waking."
The governor was in ripe humour. "But it is a game of wits, then, after all. Upon my soul, you two should fence like a pair of veterans."
"Only for a pass or two," said Iberville dryly. "We cannot keep it up."
All this while a boat was rowing swiftly from the shore of the island towards a craft carrying Nell Gwynn beneath the curious, antique figurehead. There were two men in her, and they were talking gloatingly and low.
"See, bully, how I have the whole thing in my hands. Ha! Received by the governor and his friends! They are all mad for the doubloons, which are not for them, my Radisson, but for you and me, and for a greater than Colonel Richard Nicholls. Ho, ho! I know him—the man who shall lead the hunt and find the gold—the only man in all that cursed Boston whose heart I would not eat raw, so help me Judas! And his name—no. That is to come. I will make him great."
Again he chuckled. "Over in London they shall take him to their bosoms. Over in London his blessed majesty shall dub him knight—treasure-trove is a fine reason for the touch of a royal sword—and the king shall say: 'Rise, Sir William'—No, it is not time for the name; but it is not Richard Nicholls, it is not Hogarth Leveret." He laughed like a boy. "I have you, Hogarth Leveret, in my hand, and by God I will squeeze you until there is a drop of heart's blood at every pore of your skin!"
Now and again Radisson looked sideways at him, a sardonic smile at his lip. At last: "Bien," he said, "you are merry. So—I shall be merry too, for I have scores to wipe away, and they shall be wiped clean— clean."
"You are with me, then," the pirate asked; "even as to the girl?"
"Even as to the girl," was the reply, with a brutal oath.
"That is good, dear lad. Blood of my soul, I have waited twelve years— twelve years."
"You have not told me," rejoined the Frenchman; "speak now."
"There is not much to tell, but we are to be partners once and for all. See, my beauty. He was a kite-livered captain. There was gold on board. We mutinied and put him and four others—their livers were like his own— in a boat with provisions plenty. Then we sailed for Boston. We never thought the crew of skulkers would reach land, but by God they drifted in again the very hour we found port. We were taken and condemned. First, I was put into the stocks, hands and feet, till I was fit for the pillory; from the pillory to the wooden horse." Here he laughed, and the laugh was soft and womanlike. "Then the whipping-post, when I was made pulp from my neck to my loins. After that I was to hang. I was the only one they cooked so; the rest were to hang raw. I did not hang; I broke prison and ran. For years I was a slave among the Spaniards. Years more—in all, twelve—and then I came back with the little chart for one thing, this to do for another. Who was it gave me that rogues' march from the stocks to the gallows's foot? It was Hogarth Leveret, who deals out law in Massachusetts in the king's name, by the grace of God. It was my whim to capture him and take him on a journey—such a journey as he would go but once. Blood of my soul, the dear lad was gone. But there was his child. See this: when I stood in the pillory a maid one day brought the child to the foot of the platform, lifted it up in her arms and said: 'Your father put that villain there.' That woman was sister to one of the dogs we'd set adrift. The child stared at me hard, and I looked at her, though my eyes were a little the worse for wear, so that she cried out in great fright—the sweet innocent! and then the wench took her away. When she saw my face to-night—to-day—it sent her wild, but she did not remember." He rubbed his chin in ecstasy and drummed his knee. "Ha! I cannot have the father—so I'll have the goodly child, and great will be the ransom. Great will be the ransom, my Frenchman!" And once more he tapped Radisson with the tiger.
The rejoicing had reached its apogee, and was on the wane. The Puritan had stretched his austereness to the point of levity; the Dutchman had comfortably sweated his obedience and content; the Cavalier had paced it with a pretty air of patronage and an eye for matron and maid; the Indian, come from his far hunting-grounds, bivouacked in the governor's presence as the pipe of peace went round.
About twilight the governor and his party had gone home. Deep in ceremonial as he had been, his mind had run upon Bucklaw and the Spaniards' country. So, when the dusk was growing into night, the hour came for his visit to the Nell Gwynn. With his two soldier friends and Councillor Drayton, he started by a roundabout for the point where he looked to find Bucklaw. Bucklaw was not there: he had other fish to fry, and the ship's lights were gone. She had changed her anchorage since afternoon.
"It's a bold scheme," Bucklaw was saying to his fellow-ruffian in the governor's garden, "and it may fail, yet 'twill go hard, but we'll save our skins. No pluck, no pence. Once again, here's the trick of it. I'll go in by the side door I unlocked last night, hide in the hallway, then enter the house quietly or boldly, as the case may be. Plan one: a message from his excellency to Miss Leveret, that he wishes her to join him on the Nell Gwynn. Once outside it's all right. She cannot escape us. We have our cloaks and we have the Spanish drug. Plan two: make her ours in the house. Out by this hall door-through the grounds—to the beach—the boat in waiting—and so, up anchor and away! Both risky, as you see, but the bolder the game the sweeter the spoil. You're sure her chamber is above the hallway, and that there's a staircase to it from the main hall?"
"I am very well sure. I know the house up-stairs and down."
Bucklaw looked to his arms. He was about starting on his quest when they heard footsteps, and two figures appeared. It was Iberville and Gering. They paused a moment not far from where the rogues were hid.
"I think you will agree," said Iberville, "that we must fight."
"I have no other mind."
"You will also be glad if we are not come upon, as last night; though, confess, the lady gave you a lease of life?"
"If she comes to-night, I hope it will be when I have done with you," answered Gering.
Iberville laughed a little, and the laugh had fire in it—hatred, and the joy of battle. "Shall it be here or yonder in the pines, where we were in train last night?"
"So." Then Iberville hummed ironically a song:
"Oh, bury me where I have fought and fallen, Your scarf across my shoulder, lady mine."
They passed on. "The game is in our hands," said Bucklaw. "I understand this thing. That's a pair of gallant young sprigs, but the choice is your Frenchman, Radisson."
"I'll pink his breast-bone full of holes if the other doesn't— curse him."
A sweet laugh trickled from Bucklaw's lips like oil. "That's neither here nor there. I'd like to have him down Acapulco way, dear lad. . . And now, here's my plan all changed. I'll have my young lady out to stop the duel, and, God's love, she'll come alone. Once here she's ours, and they may cut each other's throats as they will, sweetheart."
He crossed the yard, tried the door,—unlocked, as he had left it,— pushed it open, and went in, groping his way to the door of the dining- room. He listened, and there was no sound. Then he heard some one go in. He listened again. Whoever it was had sat down. Very carefully he felt for the spring and opened the door. Jessica was seated at the table with paper and an ink-horn before her. She was writing. Presently she stopped—the pen was bad. She got up and went away to her room. Instantly Bucklaw laid his plan. He entered as she disappeared, went to the table and looked at the paper on which she had been writing. It bore but the words, "Dear Friend." He caught up the quill and wrote hurriedly beneath them, this:
"If you'd see two gentlemen fighting, go now where you stopped them last night. The wrong one may be killed unless."
With a quick flash of malice he signed, in half a dozen lightning-like strokes, with a sketch of his hook. Then he turned, hurried into the little hall, and so outside, and posted himself beside a lilac bush, drawing down a bunch of the flowers to drink in their perfume. Jessica, returning, went straight to the table. Before she sat down she looked up to the mantel, but the swords were there. She sighed, and a tear glistened on her eyelashes. She brushed it away with her dainty fingertips and, as she sat down, saw the paper. She turned pale, caught it up, read it with a little cry, and let it drop with a shudder of fear and dismay. She looked round the room. Everything was as she had left it. She was dazed. She stared at the paper again, then ran and opened the panel through which Bucklaw had passed, and found the outer door ajar. With a soft, gasping moan she passed into the garden, went swiftly by the lilac bush and on towards the trees. Bucklaw let her do so; it was his design that she should be some way from the house. But, hidden by the bushes, he was running almost parallel with her. On the other side of her was Radisson, also running. She presently heard them and swerved, poor child, into the gin of the fowler! But as the cloak was thrown over her head she gave a cry.
The firs, where Iberville and Gering had just plucked out their swords, were not far, and both men heard. Gering, who best knew the voice, said hurriedly: "It is Jessica!"
Without a word Iberville leaped to the open, and came into it ahead of Gering. They saw the kidnappers and ran. Iberville was the first to find what Bucklaw was carrying. "Mother of God," he called, "they're taking her off!"
"Help! help!" cried Gering, and they pushed on. The two ruffians were running hard, but it had been an unequal race at the best, and Jessica lay unconscious in Bucklaw's arms, a dead weight. Presently they plunged into the bushes and disappeared. Iberville and Gering passed through the bushes also, but could neither see nor hear the quarry. Gering was wild with excitement and lost his presence of mind. Meanwhile Iberville went beating for a clue. He guessed that he was dealing with good woodsmen, and that the kidnappers knew some secret way out of the garden. It was so. The Dutch governor had begun to build an old-fashioned wall with a narrow gateway, so fitted as to seem part of it. Through this the two had vanished.
Iberville was almost in despair. "Go back," he suddenly said to Gering, "and rouse the house and the town. I will get on the trail again if I can."
Gering started away. In this strange excitement their own foolish quarrel was forgotten, and the stranger took on himself to command; he was, at least, not inexperienced in adventure and the wiles of desperate men. All at once he came upon the wall. He ran along it, and presently his fingers felt the passage. An instant and he was outside and making for the shore, in the sure knowledge that the ruffians would take to the water. He thought of Bucklaw, and by some impossible instinct divined the presence of his hand. Suddenly he saw something flash on the ground. He stooped and picked it up. It was a shoe with a silver buckle. He thrilled to the finger-tips as he thrust it in his bosom and pushed on. He was on the trail now. In a few moments he came to the waterside. He looked to where he had seen the Nell Gwynn in the morning, and there was never a light in view. Then a twig snapped, and Bucklaw, the girl in his arms, came bundling out of the trees upon the bank. He had sent Radisson on ahead to warn his boat's crew.
He saw Iberville as soon as Iberville saw him. He knew that the town would be roused by this time and the governor on fire for revenge. But there was nothing for it but fight. He did not fear the result. Time was life to him, and he swung the girl half behind him with his hook-hand as Iberville came on, and, whipping out his hanger, caught the Frenchman's thrust. Instantly he saw that his opposite was a swordsman, so he let the girl slip to the ground, and suddenly closing with Iberville, lunged desperately and expertly at him, straight for a mortal part. But the Frenchman was too agile and adroit for him: he took the thrust in the flesh of his ribs and riposted like lightning. The pirate staggered back, but pulled himself together instantly, lunged, and took his man in the flesh of his upper sword arm. Iberville was bleeding from the wound in his side and slightly stiff from the slash of the night before, but every fibre of his hurt body was on the defensive. Bucklaw knew it, and seemed to debate if the game were worth the candle. The town was afoot, and he had earned a halter for his pains. He was by no means certain that he could kill this champion and carry off the girl. Moreover, he did not want Iberville's life, for such devils have their likes and dislikes, and he had fancied the chivalrous youngster from the first. But he doubted only for an instant. What was such a lad's life compared with his revenge? It was madness, as he knew, for a shot would guide the pursuit: none the less, did he draw a pistol from his belt and fire. The bullet grazed the lad's temple, carrying away a bit of his hair. Iberville staggered forwards, so weak was he from loss of blood, and, with a deep instinct of protection and preservation, fell at Jessica's feet. There was a sound of footsteps and crackling of brush. Bucklaw stooped to pick up his prey, but a man burst on him from the trees. He saw that the game was up and he half raised his knife, but that was only the mad rage of the instant. His revenge did not comprise so unheard-of a crime. He thought he had killed Iberville: that was enough. He sprang away towards the spot where his comrades awaited him. Escape was his sole ambition now. The new-comer ran forwards, and saw the boy and girl lying as they were dead. A swift glance at Iberville, and he slung his musket shoulderwards and fired at the retreating figure. It was a chance shot, for the light was bad and Bucklaw was already indistinct.
Now the man dropped on his knee and felt Iberville's heart. "Alive!" he said. "Alive, thank the mother of God! Mon brave! It is ever the same —the great father, the great son."
As he withdrew his hand it brushed against the slipper. He took it out, glanced at it, and turned to the cloaked figure. He undid the cloak and saw Jessica's pale face. He shook his head. "Always the same," he said, "always the same: for a king, for a friend, for a woman! That is the Le Moyne."
But he was busy as he spoke. With the native chivalry of the woodsman, he cared first for the girl. Between her lips he thrust his drinking- horn and held her head against his shoulder.
"My little ma'm'selle-ma'm'selle!" he said. "Wake up. It is nothing— you are safe. Ah, the sweet lady! Come, let me see the colour of your eyes. Wake up—it is nothing."
Presently the girl did open her eyes. He put the drinking-horn again to her lips. She shuddered and took a sip, and then, invigorated, suddenly drew away from him. "There, there," he said; "it is all right. Now for my poor Iberville." He took Iberville's head to his knee and thrust the drinking-horn between his teeth, as he had done with Jessica, calling him in much the same fashion. Iberville came to with a start. For a moment he stared blindly at his rescuer, then a glad intelligence flashed into his eyes.
"Perrot! dear Nick Perrot!" he cried. "Oh, good—good," he added softly. Then with sudden anxiety:
"Where is she? Where is she?"
"I am safe, monsieur," Jessica said gently; "but you—you are wounded." She came over and dropped on her knees beside him.
"A little," he said; "only a little. You cared for her first?" he asked of Perrot.
Perrot chuckled. "These Le Moynes!" he said: under his breath. Then aloud: "The lady first, monsieur."
"So," answered Iberville. "And Bucklaw—the devil, Bucklaw?"
"If you mean the rogue who gave you these," said Perrot, touching the wounds, which he had already begun to bind, "I think he got away—the light was bad."
Jessica would have torn her frock for a bandage, but Perrot said in his broken English: "No, pardon. Not so. The cloak la-bas."
She ran and brought it to him. As she did so Perrot glanced down at her feet, and then, with a touch of humour, said: "Pardon, but you have lost your slipper, ma'm'selle?"
He foresaw the little comedy, which he could enjoy even in such painful circumstances.
"It must have dropped off," said Jessica, blushing. "But it does not matter."
Iberville blushed too, but a smile also flitted across his lips. "If you will but put your hand into my waistcoat here," he said to her, "you will find it." Timidly she did as she was bid, drew forth the slipper, and put it on.
"You see," said Iberville, still faint from loss of blood, "a Frenchman can fight and hunt too—hunt the slipper."
Suddenly a look of pain crossed her face.
"Mr. Gering, you—you did not kill him?" she asked. "Oh no, mademoiselle," said Iberville; "you stopped the game again."
Presently he told her what had happened, and how Gering was rousing the town. Then he insisted upon getting on his feet, that they might make their way to the governor's house. Stanchly he struggled on, his weight upon Perrot, till presently he leaned a hand also on Jessica's shoulder- she had insisted. On the way, Perrot told how it was he chanced to be there. A band of coureurs du bois, bound for Quebec, had come upon old Le Moyne and himself in the woods. Le Moyne had gone on with these men, while Perrot pushed on to New York, arriving at the very moment of the kidnapping. He heard the cry and made towards it. He had met Gering, and the rest they knew.
Certain things did not happen. The governor of New York did not at once engage in an expedition to the Spaniards' country. A brave pursuit was made, but Bucklaw went uncaptured. Iberville and Gering did not make a third attempt to fight; Perrot prevented that. Iberville left, however, with a knowledge of three things: that he was the first Frenchman from Quebec who had been, or was likely to be, popular in New York; that Jessica Leveret had shown a tender gratitude towards him—naive, candid— which set him dreaming gaily of the future; that Gering and he, in spite of outward courtesy, were still enemies; for Gering could not forget that, in the rescue of Jessica, Iberville had done the work while he merely played the crier.
"We shall meet again, monsieur," said Iberville at last; "at least, I hope so."
"I shall be glad," answered Gering mechanically. "But 'tis like I shall come to you before you come to me," added Iberville, with meaning. Jessica was standing not far away, and Gering did not instantly reply. In the pause, Iberville said: "Au revoir! A la bonne heure!" and walked away. Presently he turned with a little ironical laugh and waved his hand at Gering; and laugh and gesture rankled in Gering for many a day.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Love, too, is a game, and needs playing To die without whining
THE TRAIL OF THE SWORD
By Gilbert Parker
EPOCH THE SECOND
VII. FRIENDS IN COUNCIL VIII. AS SEEN THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY IX. TO THE PORCH OF THE WORLD X. QUI VIVE! XI. WITH THE STRANGE PEOPLE XII. OUT OF THE NET
FRIENDS IN COUNCIL
Montreal and Quebec, dear to the fortunes of such men as Iberville, were as cheerful in the still iron winter as any city under any more cordial sky then or now: men loved, hated, made and broke bargains, lied to women, kept a foolish honour with each other, and did deeds of valour for a song, as ever they did from the beginning of the world. Through the stern soul of Nature ran the temperament of men who had hearts of summer; and if, on a certain notable day in Iberville's life, one could have looked through the window of a low stone house in Notre Dame Street, Montreal, one could have seen a priest joyously playing a violin; though even in Europe, Maggini and Stradivarius were but little known, and the instrument itself was often called an invention of the devil.
The room was not ornamented, save by a crucifix, a pleasant pencil- drawing of Bishop Laval, a gun, a pair of snow-shoes, a sword, and a little shrine in one corner, wherein were relics of a saint. Of necessaries even there were few. They were unremarkable, save in the case of two tall silver candlesticks, which, with their candles at an angle from the musician, gave his face strange lights and shadows.
The priest was powerfully made; so powerful indeed, so tall was he, that when, in one of the changes of the music, a kind of exaltation filled him, and he came to his feet, his head almost touched the ceiling. His shoulders were broad and strong, and though his limbs were hid by his cassock, his arms showed almost huge, and the violin lay tucked under his chin like a mere toy. In the eye was a penetrating but abstracted look, and the countenance had the gravity of a priest lighted by a cheerful soul within. It had been said of Dollier de Casson that once, attacked by two renegade Frenchmen, he had broken the leg of one and the back of the other, and had then picked them up and carried them for miles to shelter and nursing. And it was also declared by the romantic that the man with the broken back recovered, while he with the shattered leg, recovering also, found that his foot, pointing backwards, "made a fool of his nose."
The Abbe de Casson's life had one affection, which had taken the place of others, now almost lost in the distance of youth, absence, and indifference. For France lay far from Montreal, and the priest-musician was infinitely farther off: the miles which the Church measures between the priest and his lay boyhood are not easily reckoned. But such as Dollier de Casson must have a field for affection to enrich. You cannot drive the sap of the tree in upon itself. It must come out or the tree must die-burst with the very misery of its richness.
This night he was crowding into the music four years of events: of memory, hope, pride, patience, and affection. He was waiting for some one whom he had not seen for these four years. Time passed. More and more did the broad sonorous notes fill the room. At length they ceased, and with a sigh he pressed the violin once, twice, thrice to his lips.
"My good Stradivarius," he said, "my pearless one!" Once again he kissed it, and then, drawing his hand across his eyes, he slowly wrapped the violin in a velvet cloth, put it away in an iron box, and locked it up. But presently he changed his mind, took it out again, and put it on the table, shaking his head musingly.
"He will wish to see it, maybe to hear it," he said half aloud.
Then he turned and went into another room. Here there was a prie-dieu in a corner, and above it a crucifix. He knelt and was soon absorbed.