Part 2 out of 7
If you don't, I do, which comes to the same thing. What's more, I
won't be your partenaire at the dance unless you promise me on
your word of honor that you will dance two dances with Adrienne to
every one that you have with me. Do you promise?"
He dared not oppose her outwardly, although in his heart
resistance amounted to furious revolt and riot.
"I promise anything you ask me to," he said resignedly, almost
sullenly; "anything for you."
"Well, I ask nothing whatever on my own account," Alice quickly
replied; "but I do tell you firmly that you shall not maltreat
little Adrienne Bourcier and remain a friend of mine. She loves
you, Rene de Ronville, and you have told her that you love her. If
you are a man worthy of respect you will not desert her. Don't you
think I am right?"
Like a singed and crippled moth vainly trying to rise once again
to the alluring yet deadly flame, Rene de Ronville essayed to
break out of his embarrassment and resume equal footing with the
girl so suddenly become his commanding superior; but the effort
disclosed to him as well as to her that he had fallen to rise no
more. In his abject defeat he accepted the terms dictated by Alice
and was glad when she adroitly changed her manner and tone in
going on to discuss the approaching dance.
"Now let me make one request of you," he demanded after a while.
"It's a small favor; may I ask it?"
"Yes, but I don't grant it in advance."
"I want you to wear, for my sake, the buff gown which they say
was your grandmother's."
"No, I won't wear it."
"But why, Alice?"
"None of the other girls have anything like such a dress; it would
not be right for me to put it on and make them all feel that I had
taken the advantage of them, just because I could; that's why."
"But then none of them is beautiful and educated like you," he
said; "you'll outshine them anyway."
"Save your compliments for poor pretty little Adrienne," she
firmly responded, "I positively do not wish to hear them. I have
agreed to be your partenaire at this dance of Papa Roussillon's,
but it is understood between us that Adrienne is your sweet-heart.
I am not, and I'm not going to be, either. So for your sake and
Adrienne's, as well as out of consideration for the rest of the
girls who have no fine dresses, I am not going to wear the buff
brocade gown that belonged to Papa Roussillon's mother long ago. I
shall dress just as the rest do."
It is safe to say that Rene de Ronville went home with a
troublesome bee in his bonnet. He was not a bad-hearted fellow.
Many a right good young man, before him and since, has loved an
Adrienne and been dazzled by an Alice. A violet is sweet, but a
rose is the garden's queen. The poor youthful frontiersman ought
to have been stronger; but he was not, and what have we to say?
As for Alice, since having a confidential talk with Adrienne
Bourcier recently, she had come to realize what M. Roussillon
meant when he said; "But my little girl is better than most of
them, not a foolish mischief-maker, I hope." She saw through the
situation with a quick understanding of what Adrienne might suffer
should Rene prove permanently fickle. The thought of it aroused
all her natural honesty and serious nobleness of character, which
lay deep under the almost hoydenish levity usually observable in
her manner. Crude as her sense of life's larger significance was,
and meager as had been her experience in the things which count
for most in the sum of a young girl's existence under fair
circumstances, she grasped intuitively the gist of it all.
The dance did not come off; it had to be postponed indefinitely on
account of a grave change in the political relations of the little
post. A day or two before the time set for that function a rumor
ran through the town that something of importance was about to
happen. Father Gibault, at the head of a small party, had arrived
from Kaskaskia, far away on the Mississippi, with the news that
France and the American Colonies had made common cause against the
English in the great war of which the people of Vincennes neither
knew the cause nor cared a straw about the outcome.
It was Oncle Jazon who came to the Roussillon place to tell M.
Roussillon that he was wanted at the river house. Alice met him at
"Come in, Oncle Jazon," she cheerily said, "you are getting to be
a stranger at our house lately. Come in; what news do you bring?
Take off your cap and rest your hair, Oncle Jazon."
The scalpless old fighter chuckled raucously and bowed to the best
of his ability. He not only took off his queer cap, but looked
into it with a startled gaze, as if he expected something
infinitely dangerous to jump out and seize his nose.
"A thousand thanks, Ma'm'selle," he presently said, "will ye
please tell Mo'sieu' Roussillon that I would wish to see 'im?"
"Yes, Oncle Jazon; but first be seated, and let me offer you just
a drop of eau de vie; some that Papa Roussillon brought back with
him from Quebec. He says it's old and fine."
She poured him a full glass, then setting the bottle on a little
stand, went to find M. Roussillon. While she was absent Oncle
Jazon improved his opportunity to the fullest extent. At least
three additional glasses of the brandy went the way of the first.
He grinned atrociously and smacked his corrugated lips; but when
Gaspard Roussillon came in, the old man was sitting at some
distance from the bottle and glass gazing indifferently out across
the veranda. He told his story curtly. Father Gibault, he said,
had sent him to ask M. Roussillon to come to the river house, as
he had news of great importance to communicate.
"Ah, well, Oncle Jazon, we'll have a nip of brandy together before
we go," said the host.
"Why, yes, jes" one agin' the broilin' weather," assented Oncle
Jazon; "I don't mind jes' one."
"A very rich friend of mine in Quebec gave me this brandy, Oncle
Jazon," said M. Roussillon, pouring the liquor with a grand
flourish; "and I thought of you as soon as I got it. Now, says I
to myself, if any man knows good brandy when he tastes it, it's
Oncle Jazon, and I'll give him a good chance at this bottle just
the first of all my friends."
"It surely is delicious," said Oncle Jazon, "very delicious." He
spoke French with a curious accent, having spent long years with
English-speaking frontiersmen in the Carolinas and Kentucky, so
that their lingo had become his own.
As they walked side by side down the way to the river house they
looked like typical extremes of rough, sun-burned and weather-
tanned manhood; Oncle Jazon a wizened, diminutive scrap, wrinkled
and odd in every respect; Gaspard Roussillon towering six feet
two, wide shouldered, massive, lumbering, muscular, a giant with
long curling hair and a superb beard. They did not know that they
were going down to help dedicate the great Northwest to freedom.
Great movements in the affairs of men are like tides of the seas
which reach and affect the remotest and quietest nooks and inlets,
imparting a thrill and a swell of the general motion. Father
Gibault brought the wave of the American Revolution to Vincennes.
He was a simple missionary; but he was, besides, a man of great
worldly knowledge and personal force. Colonel George Rogers Clark
made Father Gibault's acquaintance at Kaskaskia, when the fort and
its garrison surrendered to his command, and, quickly discerning
the fine qualities of the priest's character, sent him to the post
on the Wabash to win over its people to the cause of freedom and
independence. Nor was the task assumed a hard one, as Father
Gibault probably well knew before he undertook it.
A few of the leading men of Vincennes, presided over by Gaspard
Roussillon, held a consultation at the river house, and it was
agreed that a mass meeting should be called bringing all of the
inhabitants together in the church for the purpose of considering
the course to be taken under the circumstances made known by
Father Gibault. Oncle Jazon constituted himself an executive
committee of one to stir up a noise for the occasion.
It was a great day for Vincennes. The volatile temperament of the
French frontiersmen bubbled over with enthusiasm at the first hint
of something new, and revolutionary in which they might be
expected to take part. Without knowing in the least what it was
that Father Gibault and Oncle Jazon wanted of them, they were all
in favor of it at a venture.
Rene de Ronville, being an active and intelligent young man, was
sent about through the town to let everybody know of the meeting.
In passing he stepped into the cabin of Father Beret, who was
sitting on the loose puncheon floor, with his back turned toward
the entrance and so absorbed in trying to put together a great
number of small paper fragments that he did not hear or look up.
"Are you not going to the meeting, Father?" Rene bluntly demanded.
In the hurry that was on him he did not remember to be formally
polite, as was his habit.
The old priest looked up with a startled face. At the same time he
swept the fragments of paper together and clutched them hard in
his right hand. "Yes, yes, my son--yes I am going, but the time
has not yet come for it, has it?" he stammered. "Is it late?"
He sprang to his feet and appeared confused, as if caught in doing
something very improper.
Rene wondered at this unusual behavior, but merely said:
"I beg pardon, Father Beret, I did not mean to disturb you," and
went his way.
Father Beret stood for some minutes as if dazed, then squeezed the
paper fragments into a tight ball, just as they were when he took
them from under the floor some time before Rene came in, and put
it in his pocket. A little later he was kneeling, as we have seen
him once before, in silent yet fervent prayer, his clasped hands
lifted toward the crucifix on the wall.
"Jesus, give me strength to hold on and do my work," he murmured
beseechingly, "and oh, free thy poor servant from bitter
Father Gibault had come prepared to use his eloquence upon the
excitable Creoles, and with considerable cunning he addressed a
motley audience at the church, telling them that an American force
had taken Kaskaskia and would henceforth hold it; that France had
joined hands with the Americans against the British, and that it
was the duty of all Frenchmen to help uphold the cause of freedom
"I come," said he, "directly from Colonel George Rogers Clark, a
noble and brave officer of the American army, who told me the news
that I have brought to you. He sent me here to say to you that if
you will give allegiance to his government you shall be protected
against all enemies and have the full freedom of citizens. I think
you should do this without a moment's hesitation, as I and my
people at Kaskaskia have already done. But perhaps you would like
to have a word from your distinguished fellow-citizen, Monsieur
Gaspard Roussillon. Speak to your friends, my son, they will be
glad to take counsel of your wisdom."
There was a stir and a craning of necks. M. Roussillon presently
appeared near the little chancel, his great form towering
majestically. He bowed and waved his hand with the air of one who
accepts distinction as a matter of course; then he took his big
silver watch and looked at it. He was the only man in Vincennes
who owned a watch, and so the incident was impressive. Father
Gibault looked pleased, and already a murmur of applause went
through the audience. M. Roussillon stroked the bulging crystal of
the time-piece with a circular motion of his thumb and bowed
again, clearing his throat resonantly, his face growing purplish
above his beard.
"Good friends," he said, "what France does all high-class
Frenchmen applaud." He paused for a shout of approbation, and was
not disappointed. "The other name for France is glory," he added,
"and all true Frenchmen love both names. I am a true Frenchman!"
and he struck his breast a resounding blow with the hand that
still held the watch. A huge horn button on his buckskin jerkin
came iu contact with the crystal, and there was a smash, followed
by a scattered tinkling of glass fragments.
All Vincennes stood breathless, contemplating the irreparable
accident. M. Roussillon had lost the effect of a great period in
his speech, but he was quick. Lifting the watch to his ear, he
listened a moment with superb dignity, then slowly elevating his
head and spreading his free hand over his heart he said:
"The faithful time-piece still tells off the seconds, and the
loyal heart of its owner still throbs with patriotism."
Oncle Jazon, who stood in front of the speaker, swung his
shapeless cap as high as he could and yelled like a savage. Then
the crowd went wild for a time.
"Vive la France! A bas l' Angleterre!" Everybody shouted at the
top of his voice.
"What France does we all do," continued M. Roussillon, when the
noise subsided. "France has clasped hands with George Washington
and his brave compatriots; so do we."
"Vive Zhorzh Vasinton!" shrieked Oncle Jazon in a piercing treble,
tiptoeing and shaking his cap recklessly under M. Roussillon's
The orator winced and jerked his head back, but nobody saw it,
save perhaps Father Gibault, who laughed heartily.
Great sayings come suddenly, unannounced and unexpected. They have
the mysterious force of prophetic accident combined with happy
economy of phrasing. The southern blood in M. Roussillon's veins
was effervescing upon his brain; his tongue had caught the fine
freedom and abandon of inspired oratory. He towered and glowed;
words fell melodiously from his lips; his gestures were
compelling, his visage magnetic. In conclusion he said:
"Frenchmen, America is the garden-spot of the world and will one
day rule it, as did Rome of old. Where freedom makes her home,
there is the centre of power!"
It was in a little log church on the verge of a hummock
overlooking a marshy wild meadow. Westward for two thousand miles
stretched the unbroken prairies, woods, mountains, deserts
reaching to the Pacific; southward for a thousand miles rolled the
green billows of the wilderness to the warm Gulf shore; northward
to the pole and eastward to the thin fringe of settlements beyond
the mountains, all was houseless solitude.
If the reader should go to Vincennes to-day and walk southward
along Second Street to its intersection with Church Street, the
spot then under foot would be probably very near where M.
Roussillon stood while uttering his great sentence. Mind you, the
present writer does not pretend to know the exact site of old
Saint Xavier church. If it could be fixed beyond doubt the spot
should have an imperishable monument of Indiana stone.
When M, Roussillon ceased speaking the audience again exhausted
its vocal resources; and then Father Gibault called upon each man
to come forward and solemnly pledge his loyalty to the American
cause. Not one of them hesitated.
Meantime a woman was doing her part in the transformation of Post
Vincennes from a French-English picket to a full-fledged American
fort and town. Madame Godere, finding out what was about to
happen, fell to work making a flag in imitation of that under
which George Washington was fighting. Alice chanced to be in the
Godere home at the time and joined enthusiastically in the sewing.
It was an exciting task. Their fingers trembled while they worked,
and the thread, heavily coated with beeswax, squeaked as they drew
it through the cloth.
"We shall not be in time," said Madame Godere; "I know we shall
not. Everything hinders me. My thread breaks or gets tangled and
my needle's so rusty I can hardly stick it through the cloth. O
Alice encouraged her with both words and work, and they had almost
finished when Rene came with a staff which he had brought from the
"Mon dieu, but we have had a great meeting!" he cried. He was
perspiring with excitement and fast walking; leaning on the staff
he mopped his face with a blue handkerchief.
"We heard much shouting and noise," said Madame Godere, "M.
Roussillon's voice rose loud above the rest. He roared like a
"Ah, he was speaking to us; he was very eloquent," Rene replied.
"But now they are waiting at the fort for the new flag. I have
come for it."
"It is ready," said Madame Godere.
With flying fingers Alice sewed it to the staff.
"Voici!" she cried, "vive la republique Americaine!" She lifted
the staff and let the flag droop over her from head to foot.
"Give it to me," said Rene, holding forth a hand for it, "and I'll
run to the fort with it."
"No," said Alice, her face suddenly lighting up with resolve. "No,
I am going to take it myself," and without a moment's delay off
Rene was so caught by surprise that he stood gazing after her
until she passed behind a house, where the way turned, the shining
flag rippling around her, and her moccasins twinkling as she ran.
At the blockhouse, awaiting the moment when the symbol of freedom
should rise like a star over old Vincennes the crowd had
picturesquely broken into scattered groups. Alice entered through
a rent in the stockade, as that happened to be a shorter route
than through the gate, and appeared suddenly almost in their
It was a happy surprise, a pretty and catching spectacular
apparition of a sort to be thoroughly appreciated by the lively
French fancy of the audience. The caught the girl's spirit, or it
caught them, and they made haste to be noisy.
"V'la! V'la! l'p'tite Alice et la bannlere de Zhorzh Vasinton!
(Look, look, little Alice and George Washington's flag!)" shouted
Oncle Jazon. He put his wiry little legs through a sort of pas de
zephyr and winked at himself with concentrated approval.
All the men danced around and yelled till they were hoarse.
By this time Rene had reached Alice's side; but she did not see
him; she ran into the blockhouse and climbed up a rude ladder-way;
then she appeared on the roof, still accompanied by Rene, and
planted the staff in a crack of the slabs, where it stood bravely
up, the colors floating free.
She looked down and saw M. Roussillon, Father Gibault and Father
Beret grouped in the centre of the area. They were waving their
hands aloft at her, while a bedlam of voices sent up applause
which went through her blood like strong wine. She smiled
radiantly, and a sweet flush glowed in her cheeks.
No one of all that wild crowd could ever forget the picture
sketched so boldly at that moment when, after planting the staff,
Alice stepped back a space and stood strong and beautiful against
the soft blue sky. She glanced down first, then looked up, her
arms folded across her bosom. It was a pose as unconsciously taken
as that of a bird, and the grace of it went straight to the hearts
of those below.
She turned about to descend, and for the first time saw that Rene
had followed her. His face was beaming.
"What a girl you are!" he exclaimed, in a tone of exultant
admiration. "Never was there another like you!"
Alice walked quickly past him without speaking; for down in the
space where some women were huddled aside from the crowd, looking
on, she had seen little Adrienne Bourcier. She made haste to
descend. Now that her impulsively chosen enterprise was completed
her boldness deserted her and she slipped out through a
dilapidated postern opposite the crowd. On her right was the
river, while southward before her lay a great flat plain, beyond
which rose some hillocks covered with forest. The sun blazed
between masses of slowly drifting clouds that trailed creeping
fantastic shadows across the marshy waste.
Alice walked along under cover of the slight landswell which then,
more plainly marked than it is now, formed the contour line of
hummock upon which the fort and village stood. A watery swale
grown full of tall aquatic weeds meandered parallel with the
bluff, so to call it, and there was a soft melancholy whispering
of wind among the long blades and stems. She passed the church and
Father Beret's hut and continued for some distance in the
direction of that pretty knoll upon which the cemetery is at
present so tastefully kept. She felt shy now, as if to run away
and hide would be a great relief. Indeed, so relaxed were her
nerves that a slight movement in the grass and cat-tail flags near
by startled her painfully, making her jump like a fawn.
"Little friend not be 'fraid," said a guttural voice in broken
French. "Little friend not make noise."
At a glance she recognized Long-Hair, the Indian, rising out of
the matted marsh growth. It was a hideous vision of embodied
cunning, soullessness and murderous cruelty.
"Not tell white man you see me?" he grunted interrogatively,
stepping close to her. He looked so wicked that she recoiled and
lifted her hands defensively.
She trembled from head to foot, and her voice failed her; but she
made a negative sign and smiled at him, turning as white as her
tanned face could become.
In his left hand he held his bow, while in his right he half
lifted a murderous looking tomahawk.
"What new flag mean?" he demanded, waving the bow's end toward the
fort and bending his head down close to hers. "Who yonder?"
"The great American Father has taken us under his protection," she
explained. "We are big-knives now." It almost choked her to speak.
"Ugh! heap damn fools," he said with a dark scowl. "Little friend
much damn fool."
He straightened up his tall form and stood leering at her for some
seconds, then added:
"Little friend get killed, scalped, maybe."
The indescribable nobility of animal largeness, symmetry and
strength showed in his form and attitude, but the expression of
his countenance was absolutely repulsive--cold, hard, beastly.
He did not speak again, but turned quickly, and stooping low,
disappeared like a great brownish red serpent in the high grass,
which scarcely stirred as he moved through it.
Somehow that day made itself strangely memorable to Alice. She had
been accustomed to stirring scenes and sudden changes of
conditions; but this was the first time that she had ever joined
actively in a public movement of importance. Then, too, Long-
Hair's picturesque and rudely dramatic reappearance affected her
imagination with an indescribable force. Moreover, the pathetic
situation in the love affair between Rene and Adrienne had taken
hold of her conscience with a disturbing grip. But the shadowy
sense of impending events, of which she could form no idea, was
behind it all. She had not heard of Brandywine, or Bunker Hill, or
Lexington, or Concord; but something like a waft of their
significance had blown through her mind. A great change was coming
into her idyllic life. She was indistinctly aware of it, as we
sometimes are of an approaching storm, while yet the sky is
sweetly blue and serene. When she reached home the house was full
of people to whom M. Roussillon, in the gayest of moods, was
dispensing wine and brandy.
"Vive Zhorzh Vasinton!" shouted Oncle Jazon as soon as he saw her.
And then they all talked at once, saying flattering things about
her. Madame Roussillon tried to scold as usual; but the lively
chattering of the guests drowned her voice.
"I suppose the American commander will send a garrison here," some
one said to Father Gibault, "and repair the fort."
"Probably," the priest replied, "in a very few weeks. Meantime we
will garrison it ourselves."
"And we will have M. Roussillon for commander," spoke up Rene de
Ronville, who was standing by.
"A good suggestion," assented Father Gibault; "let us organize at
Immediately the word was passed that there would be a meeting at
the fort that evening for the purpose of choosing a garrison and a
commander. Everybody went promptly at the hour set. M. Roussillon
was elected Captain by acclamation, with Rene de Ronville as his
Lieutenant. It was observed that Oncle Jazon had resumed his
dignity, and that he looked into his cap several times without
Meantime certain citizens, who had been in close relations with
Governor Abbott during his stay, quietly slipped out of town,
manned a batteau and went up the river, probably to Ouiatenon
first and then to Detroit. Doubtless they suspected that things
might soon grow too warm for their comfort.
It was thus that Vincennes and Fort Sackville first acknowledged
the American Government and hoisted the flag which, as long as it
floated over the blockhouse, was lightly and lovingly called by
everyone la banniere d'Alice Roussillon.
Father Gibault returned to Fort Kaskaskia and a little later
Captain Leonard Helm, a jovial man, but past the prime of life,
arrived at Vincennes with a commission from Col. Clark authorizing
him to supersede M. Roussillon as commander, and to act as Indian
agent for the American Government in the Department of the Wabash.
He was welcomed by the villagers, and at once made himself very
pleasing to them by adapting himself to their ways and entering
heartily into their social activities.
M. Roussillon was absent when Captain Helm and his party came.
Rene de Ronville, nominally in command of the fort, but actually
enjoying some excellent grouse shooting with a bell-mouthed old
fowling piece on a distant prairie, could not be present to
deliver up the post; and as there was no garrison just then
visible, Helm took possession, without any formalities.
"I think, Lieutenant, that you'd better look around through the
village and see if you can scare up this Captain what's-his-name,"
said the new commander to a stalwart young officer who had come
with him. "I can't think of these French names without getting my
brain in a twist. Do you happen to recollect the Captain's name,
"Yes, sir; Gaspard Roussillon it reads in Colonel Clark's order;
but I am told that he's away on a trading tour," said the young
"You may be told anything by these hair-tongued parlyvoos," Helm
remarked. "It won't hurt, anyway, to find out where he lives and
make a formal call, just for appearance sake, and to enquire about
his health. I wish you would try it, sir, and let me know the
The Lieutenant felt that this was a peremptory order and turned
about to obey promptly.
"And I say, Beverley, come back sober, if you possibly can," Helm
added in his most genial tone, thinking it a great piece of humor
to suggest sobriety to a man whose marked difference from men
generally, of that time, was his total abstinence from
Lieutenant Fitzhugh Beverley was a Virginian of Virginians. His
family had long been prominent in colonial affairs and boasted a
record of great achievements both in peace and in war. He was the
only son of his parents and heir to a fine estate consisting of
lands and slaves; but, like many another of the restless young
cavaliers of the Old Dominion, he had come in search of adventure
over into Kentucky, along the path blazed by Daniel Boone; and
when Clark organized his little army, the young man's patriotic
and chivalrous nature leaped at the opportunity to serve his
country under so gallant a commander.
Beverley was not a mere youth, although yet somewhat under thirty.
Educated abroad and naturally of a thoughtful and studious turn,
he had enriched his mind far beyond the usual limit among young
Americans of the very best class in that time; and so he appeared
older than he really was: an effect helped out by his large and
powerful form and grave dignity of bearing. Clark, who found him
useful in emergencies, cool, intrepid, daring to a fault and
possessed of excellent judgement, sent him with Helm, hoping that
he would offset with his orderly attention to details the somewhat
go-as-you-please disposition of that excellent officer.
Beverley set out in search of the French commander's house,
impressed with no particular respect for him or his office.
Somehow Americans of Anglo-Saxon blood were slow to recognize any
good qualities whatever in the Latin Creoles of the West and
South. It seemed to them that the Frenchman and the Spaniard were
much too apt to equalize themselves socially and matrimonially
with Indians and negroes. The very fact that for a century, while
Anglo-Americans had been in constant bloody warfare with savages,
Frenchmen had managed to keep on easy and highly profitable
trading terms with them, tended to confirm the worst implication.
"Eat frogs and save your scalp," was a bit of contemptuous
frontier humor indicative of what sober judgement held in reserve
on the subject.
Intent upon his formal mission, Lieutenant Beverley stalked boldly
into the inclosure at Roussillon place and was met on the gallery
by Madame Roussillon in one of her worst moods. She glared at him
with her hands on her hips, her mouth set irritably aslant upward,
her eyebrows gathered into a dark knot over her nose. It would be
hard to imagine a more forbidding countenance; and for
supplementary effect out popped hunchback Jean to stand behind
her, with his big head lying back in the hollow of his shoulders
and his long chin elevated, while he gawped intently up into
"Bon jour, Madame" said the Lieutenant, lifting his hat and
speaking with a pleasant accent. "Would it be agreeable to Captain
Roussillon for me to see him a moment?"
Despite Beverley's cleverness in using the French language, he had
a decided brusqueness of manner and a curt turn of voice not in
the least Gallic. True, the soft Virginian intonation marked every
word, and his obeisance was as low as if Madame Roussillon had
been a queen; but the light French grace was wholly lacking.
"What do you want of my husband?" Madame Roussillon demanded.
"Nothing unpleasant, I assure you, Madame," said Beverley.
"Well, he's not at home, Mo'sieu; he's up the river for a few
She relaxed her stare, untied her eyebrows, and even let fall her
hands from her shelf-like hips.
"Thank you, Madame," said Beverley, bowing again, "I am sorry not
to have seen him."
As he was turning to go a shimmer of brown hair streaked with gold
struck upon his vision from just within the door. He paused, as if
in response to a military command, while a pair of gray eyes met
his with a flash. The cabin room was ill lighted; but the
crepuscular dimness did not seem to hinder his sight. Beyond the
girl's figure, a pair of slender swords hung crossed aslant on the
wall opposite the low door.
Beverley had seen, in the old world galleries, pictures in which
the shadowy and somewhat uncertain background thus forced into
strongest projection the main figure, yet without clearly defining
it. The rough frame of the doorway gave just the rustic setting
suited to Alice's costume, the most striking part of which was a
grayish short gown ending just above her fringed buckskin
moccasins. Around her head she had bound a blue kerchief, a wide
corner of which lay over her crown like a loose cap. Her bright
hair hung free upon her shoulders in tumbled half curls. As a
picture, the figure and its entourage might have been artistically
effective; but as Beverley saw it in actual life the first
impression was rather embarrassing. Somehow he felt almost
irresistibly invited to laugh, though he had never been much given
to risibility. The blending, or rather the juxtaposition, of
extremes--a face, a form immediately witching, and a costume odd
to grotesquery--had made an assault upon his comprehension at
once so sudden and so direct that his dignity came near being
disastrously broken up. A splendidly beautiful child comically
clad would have made much the same half delightful, half
Beverley could not stare at the girl, and no sooner had he turned
his back upon her than the picture in his mind changed like a
scene in a kaleidoscope. He now saw a tall, finely developed
figure and a face delicately oval, with a low, wide forehead,
arched brows, a straight, slightly tip-tilted nose, a mouth sweet
and full. dimpled cheeks, and a strong chin set above a faultless
throat. His imagination, in casting off its first impression, was
inclined to exaggerate Alice's beauty and to dwell upon its
picturesqueness. He smiled as he walked back to the fort, and even
found himself whistling gayly a snatch from a rollicking fiddle-
tune that he had heard when a boy.
A FENCING BOUT
A few days after Helm's arrival, M. Roussillon returned to
Vincennes, and if he was sorely touched in his amour propre by
seeing his suddenly acquired military rank and title drop away, he
did not let it be known to his fellow citizens. He promptly called
upon the new commander and made acquaintance with Lieutenant
Fitzhugh Beverley, who just then was superintending the work of
cleaning up an old cannon in the fort and mending some breaks in
Helm formed a great liking for the big Frenchman, whose breezy
freedom of manner and expansive good humor struck him favorably
from the beginning. M. Roussillon's ability to speak English with
considerable ease helped the friendship along, no doubt; at all
events their first interview ended with a hearty show of good
fellowship, and as time passed they became almost inseparable
companions during M. Roussillon's periods of rest from his trading
excursions among the Indians. They played cards and brewed hot
drinks over which they told marvelous stories, the latest one
invariably surpassing all its predecessors.
Helm had an eye to business, and turned M. Roussillon's knowledge
of the Indians to valuable account, so that he soon had very
pleasant relations with most of the tribes within reach of his
agents. This gave a feeling of great security to the people of
Vincennes. They pursued their narrow agricultural activities with
excellent results and redoubled those social gayeties which, even
in hut and cabin under all the adverse conditions of extreme
frontier life, were dear to the volatile and genial French
Lieutenant Beverley found much to interest him in the quaint town;
but the piece de resistance was Oncle Jazon, who proved to be both
fascinating and unmanageable; a hard nut to crack, yet possessing
a kernel absolutely original in flavor. Beverley visited him one
evening in his hut--it might better be called den--a curiously
built thing, with walls of vertical poles set in a quadrangular
trench dug in the ground, and roofed with grass. Inside and out it
was plastered with clay, and the floor of dried mud was as smooth
and hard as concrete paving. In one end there was a wide fireplace
grimy with soot, in the other a mere peep-hole for a window: a
wooden bench, a bed of skins and two or three stools were barely
visible in the gloom. In the doorway Oncle Jazon sat whittling a
slender billet of hickory into a ramrod for his long flint-lock
"Maybe ye know Simon Kenton," said the old man, after he and
Beverley had conversed for a while, "seeing that you are from
"Yes, I do know him well; he's a warm personal friend of mine,"
said Beverley with quick interest, for it surprised him that Oncle
Jazon should know anything about Kenton. "Do you know him,
Oncle Jazon winked conceitedly and sighted along his rudimentary
ramrod to see if it was straight; then puckering his lips, as if
on the point of whistling, made an affirmative noise quite
impossible to spell.
"Well, I'm glad you are acquainted with Kenton," said Beverley.
"Where did you and he come together?"
Oncle Jazon chuckled reminiscently and scratched the skinless,
cicatrized spot where his scalp had once flourished.
"Oh, several places," he answered. "Ye see thet hair a hangin'
there on the wall?" He pointed at a dry wisp dangling under a peg
in a log barely visible by the bad light. "Well, thet's my scalp,
he! he! he!" He snickered as if the fact were a most enjoyable
joke. "Simon Kenton can tell ye about thet little affair! The
Indians thought I was dead, and they took my hair; but I wasn't
dead; I was just a givin' 'em a 'possum act. When they was gone I
got up from where I was a layin' and trotted off. My head was sore
and ventrebleu! but I was mad, he! he! he!"
All this time he spoke in French, and the English but poorly
paraphrases his odd turns of expression. His grimaces and grunts
cannot even be hinted.
It was a long story, as Beverley received it, told scrappily, but
with certain rude art. In the end Oncle Jazon said with unctuous
"Accidents will happen. I got my chance at that damned Indian who
skinned my head, and I jes took a bead on 'im with my old rifle. I
can't shoot much, never could, but I happened to hit 'im square in
the lef' eye, what I shot at, and it was a hundred yards. Down he
tumbles, and I runs to 'im and finds my same old scalp a hangin'
to his belt. Well, I lifted off his hair with my knife, and untied
mine from the belt, and then I had both scalps, he! he! he! You
ask Simon Kenton when ye see 'im. He was along at the same time,
and they made 'im run the ga'ntlet and pretty nigh beat the life
out o' 'im. Ventrebleu!"
Beverley now recollected hearing Kenton tell the same grim story
by a camp-fire in the hills of Kentucky. Somehow it had caught a
new spirit in the French rendering, which linked it with the old
tales of adventure that he had read in his boyhood, and it
suddenly endeared Oncle Jazon to him. The rough old scrap of a man
and the powerful youth chatted together until sundown, smoking
their pipes, each feeling for what was best in the other, half
aware that in the future they would be tested together in the fire
of wild adventure. Every man is more or less a prophet at certain
points in his life.
Twilight and moonlight were blending softly when Beverley, on his
way back to the fort, departing from a direct course, went along
the river's side southward to have a few moments of reflective
strolling within reach of the water's pleasant murmur and the
town's indefinite evening stir. Rich sweetness, the gift of early
autumn, was on the air blowing softly out of a lilac west and
singing in the willow fringe that hung here and there over the
On the farther side of the river's wide flow, swollen by recent
heavy rains, Beverley saw a pirogue, in one end of which a dark
figure swayed to the strokes of a paddle. The slender and shallow
little craft was bobbing on the choppy waves and taking a zig-zag
course among floating logs and masses of lighter driftwood, while
making slow but certain headway toward the hither bank.
Beverley took a bit of punk and a flint and steel from his pocket,
relit his pipe and stood watching the skilful boatman conduct his
somewhat dangerous voyage diagonally against the rolling current.
It was a shifting, hide-and-seek scene, its features appearing and
disappearing with the action of the waves and the doubtful light
reflected from fading clouds and sky. Now and again the man stood
up in his skittish pirogue, balancing himself with care, to use a
short pole in shoving driftwood out of his way; and more than once
he looked to Beverley as if he had plunged head-long into the
The spot, as nearly as it can be fixed, was about two hundred
yards below where the public road-bridge at present spans the
Wabash. The bluff was then far different from what it is now,
steeper and higher, with less silt and sand between it and the
water's edge. Indeed, swollen as the current was, a man could
stand on the top of the bank and easily leap into the deep water.
At a point near the middle of the river a great mass of drift-logs
and sand had long ago formed a barrier which split the stream so
that one current came heavily shoreward on the side next the town
and swashed with its muddy foam, making a swirl and eddy just
below where Beverley stood.
The pirogue rounded the upper angle of this obstruction, not
without difficulty to its crew of one, and swung into the rapid
shoreward rush, as was evidently planned for by the steersman, who
now paddled against the tide with all his might to keep from being
borne too far down stream for a safe landing place.
Beverley stood at ease idly and half dreamily looking on, when
suddenly something caused a catastrophe, which for a moment he did
not comprehend. In fact the man in the pirogue came to grief, as a
man in a pirogue is very apt to do, and fairly somersaulted
overboard into the water. Nothing serious would have threatened
(for the man could swim like an otter) had not a floating, half
submerged log thrust up some short, stiff stumps of boughs, upon
the points of which the man struck heavily and was not only hurt,
but had his clothes impaled securely by one of the ugly spears, so
that he hung in a helpless position, while the water's motion
alternately lifted and submerged him, his arms beating about
When Beverley heard a strangling cry for help, he pulled himself
promptly together, flung off his coat, as if by a single motion,
and leaped down the bank into the water. He was a swimmer whose
strokes counted for all that prodigious strength and excellent
training could afford; he rushed through the water with long
sweeps, making a semicircle, rounding against the current, so as
to swing down upon the drowning man.
Less than a half-hour later a rumor by some means spread
throughout the town that Father Beret and Lieutenant Beverley were
drowned in the Wabash. But when a crowd gathered to verify the
terrible news it turned out to be untrue. Gaspard Roussillon had
once more distinguished himself by an exhibition of heroic nerve
"Ventrebleu! Quel homme!" exclaimed Oncle Jazon, when told that M.
Roussillon had come up the bank of the Wabash with Lieutenant
Beverley under one arm and Father Beret under the other, both men
"Bring them to my house immediately," M. Roussillon ordered, as
soon as they were restored to consciousness; and he shook himself,
as a big wet animal sometimes does, covering everybody near him
with muddy water. Then he led the way with melodramatic strides.
In justice to historical accuracy there must be a trifling reform
of what appeared on the face of things to be grandly true. Gaspard
Roussillon actually dragged Father Beret and Lieutenant Beverley
one at a time out of the eddy water and up the steep river bank.
That was truly a great feat; but the hero never explained. When
men arrived he was standing between the collapsed forms, panting
and dripping. Doubtless he looked just as if he had dropped them
from under his arms, and why shouldn't he have the benefit of a
"I've saved them both," he roared; from which, of course, the
ready creole imagination inferred the extreme of possible heroic
"Bring them to my house immediately," and it was accordingly done.
The procession, headed by M. Roussillon, moved noisily, for the
French tongue must shake off what comes to it on the thrill of
every exciting moment. The only silent Frenchman is the dead one.
Father Beret was not only well-nigh drowned, but seriously hurt.
He lay for a week on a bed in M. Roussillon's house before he
could sit up. Alice hung over him night and day, scarcely sleeping
or eating until he was past all danger. As for Beverley, he shook
off all the effects of his struggle in a little while. Next day he
was out, as well and strong as ever, busy with the affairs of his
office. Nor was he less happy on account of what the little
adventure had cast into his experience. It is good to feel that
one has done an unselfish deed, and no young man's heart repels
the freshness of what comes to him when a beautiful girl first
enters his life.
Naturally enough Alice had some thoughts of Beverley while she was
so attentively caring for Father Beret. She had never before seen
a man like him, nor had she read of one. Compared with Rene de
Ronville, the best youth of her acquaintance, he was in every way
superior; this was too evident for analysis; but referred to the
romantic standard taken out of the novels she had read, he somehow
failed; and yet he loomed bravely in her vision, not exactly a
knight of the class she had most admired, still unquestionably a
hero of large proportions.
Beverley stepped in for a few minutes every day to see Father
Beret, involuntarily lengthening his visit by a sliding ratio as
he became better acquainted. He began to enjoy the priest's
conversation, with its sly worldly wisdom cropping up through
fervid religious sentiments and quaint humor. Alice must have
interested him more than he was fully aware of; for his eyes
followed her, as she came and went, with a curious criticism of
her half-savage costume and her springy, Dryad-like suppleness,
which reminded him of the shyest and gracefulest wild birds; and
yet a touch of refinement, the subtlest and best, showed in all
her ways. He studied her, as he would have studied a strange,
showy and originally fragrant flower, or a bird of oddly
attractive plumage. While she said little to him or to anyone else
in his presence, he became aware of the willfulness and joyous
lightness which played on her nature's changeable surface. He
wondered at her influence over Father Beret, whom she controlled
apparently without effort. But in due time he began to feel a
deeper character, a broader intelligence, behind her superficial
sauvagerie; and he found that she really had no mean smattering of
books in the lighter vein.
A little thing happened which further opened his eyes and
increased the interest that her beauty and elementary charm of
style aroused in him gradually, apace with their advancing
Father Beret had got well and returned to his hut and his round of
spiritual duties; but Beverley came to Roussillon place every day
all the same. For a wonder Madame Roussillon liked him, and at
most times held the scolding side of her tongue when he was
present. Jean, too, made friendly advances whenever opportunity
afforded. Of course Alice gave him just the frank cordiality of
hospitable welcome demanded by frontier conditions. She scarcely
knew whether she liked him or not; but he had a treasury of
information from which he was enriching her with liberal
carelessness day by day. The hungriest part of her mind was being
sumptuously banqueted at his expense. Mere intellectual greediness
drew her to him.
Naturally they soon threw off such troubling formalities as at
first rose between them, and began to disclose to each other their
true characteristics. Alice found in Beverley a large target for
the missiles of her clever and tantalizing perversity. He in turn
practiced a native dignity and an acquired superiority of manner
to excellent effect. It was a meeting of Greek with Greek in a new
Arcadia. To him here was Diana, strong, strange, simple, even
crude almost to naturalness, yet admirably pure in spirit and
imbued with highest womanly aspirations. To her Beverley
represented the great outside area of life. He came to her from
wonderland, beyond the wide circle of houseless woods and
prairies. He represented gorgeous cities, teeming parks of
fashion, boulevards, salons, halls of social splendor, the
theater, the world of woman's dreams.
Now, there is an antagonism, vague yet powerful, generated between
natures thus cast together from the opposite poles of experience
and education: an antagonism practically equivalent to the most
vigorous attraction. What one knows the other is but half aware
of; neither knowledge nor ignorance being mutual, there is a
scintillation of exchange, from opposing vantage grounds, followed
by harmless snaps of thunder. Culture and refinement take on airs--
it is the deepest artificial instinct of enlightenment to pose--
in the presence of naturalness; and there is a certain style of
ignorance which attitudinizes before the gate of knowledge. The
return to nature has always been the dream of the conventionalized
soul, while the simple Arcadian is forever longing for the
maddening honey of sophistication.
Innate jealousies strike together like flint and steel dashing off
sparks by which nearly everything that life can warm its core
withal is kindled and kept burning. What I envy in my friend I
store for my best use. I thrust and parry, not to kill, but to
learn my adversary's superior feints and guards. And this hint of
sword play leads back to what so greatly surprised and puzzled
Beverley one day when he chanced to be examining the pair of
colechemardes on the wall.
He took one down, and handling it with the indescribable facility
possible to none save a practical swordsman, remarked:
"There's a world of fascination in these things; I like nothing
better than a bout at fencing. Does your father practice the art?"
"I have no father, no mother," she quickly said; "but good Papa
Roussillon does like a little exercise with the colechemarde."
"Well, I'm glad to hear it, I shall ask to teach him a trick or
two," Beverley responded in the lightest mood. "When will he
return from the woods?"
"I can't tell you; he's very irregular in such matters," she said.
Then, with a smile half banter and half challenge, she added; "if
you are really dying for some exercise, you shall not have to wait
for him to come home, I assure you, Monsieur Beverley."
"Oh, it's Monsieur de Ronville, perhaps, that you will offer up as
a victim to my skill and address," he slyly returned; for he was
suspecting that a love affair in some stage of progress lay
between her and Rene.
She blushed violently, but quickly overcoming a combined rush of
surprise and anger, added with an emphasis as charming as it was
"I myself am, perhaps, swordsman enough to satisfy the impudence
and vanity of Monsieur Beverley, Lieutenant in the American army."
"Pardon me, Mademoiselle; forgive me, I beg of you," he exclaimed,
earnestly modulating his voice to sincerest beseechment; "I really
did not mean to be impudent, nor--"
Her vivacity cleared with a merry laugh.
"No apologies, I command you," she interposed. "We will have them
after I have taught you a fencing lesson."
From a shelf she drew down a pair of foils and presenting the
hilts, bade him take his choice.
"There isn't any difference between them that I know of," she
said, and then added archly; "but you will feel better at last,
when all is over and the sting of defeat tingles through you, if
you are conscious of having used every sensible precaution."
He looked straight into her eyes, trying to catch what was in her
mind, but there was a bewildering glamour playing across those
gray, opal-tinted wells of mystery, from which he could draw only
a mischievous smile-glint, direct, daring, irresistible.
"Well," he said, taking one of the foils, "what do you really
mean? Is it a challenge without room for honorable retreat?"
"The time for parley is past," she replied, "follow me to the
She led the way to a pleasant little court in the rear of the
cabin's yard, a space between two wings and a vine-covered
trellis, beyond which lay a well kept vineyard and vegetable
garden. Here she turned about and faced him, poising her foil with
a fine grace.
"Are you ready?" she inquired.
He tried again to force a way into the depths of her eyes with
his; but he might as well have attacked the sun; so he stood in a
confusion of not very well defined feelings, undecided,
hesitating, half expecting that there would be some laughable turn
to end the affair.
"Are you afraid, Monsieur Beverley?" she demanded after a short
waiting in silence.
He laughed now and whipped the air with his foil.
"You certainly are not in earnest?" he said interrogatively. "Do
you really mean that you want to fence with me?"
"If you think because I'm only a girl you can easily beat me, try
it," she tauntingly replied making a level thrust toward his
Quick as a flash he parried, and then a merry clinking and
twinkling of steel blades kept time to their swift movements.
Instantly, by the sure sense which is half sight, half feeling--
the sense that guides the expert fencer's hand and wrist--Beverley
knew that he had probably more than his match, and in ten seconds
his attack was met by a time thrust in opposition which touched
Alice sprang far back, lowered her point and laughed.
"Je vous salue, Monsieur Beverley!" she cried, with childlike show
of delight. "Did you feel the button?"
"Yes, I felt it," he said with frank acknowledgment in his voice,
"it was cleverly done. Now give me a chance to redeem myself."
He began more carefully and found that she, too, was on her best
mettle; but it was a short bout, as before. Alice seemed to give
him an easy opening and he accepted it with a thrust; then
something happened that he did not understand. The point of his
foil was somehow caught under his opponent's hilt-guard while her
blade seemed to twist around his; at the same time there was a
wring and a jerk, the like of which he had never before felt, and
he was disarmed, his wrist and fingers aching with the wrench they
Of course the thing was not new; he had been disarmed before; but
her trick of doing it was quite a mystery to him, altogether
different from any that he had ever seen.
"Vous me pardonnerez, Monsieur" she mockingly exclaimed, picking
up his weapon and offering the hilt to him. "Here is your sword!"
"Keep it," he said, folding his arms and trying to look
unconcerned, "you have captured it fairly. I am at your mercy; be
kind to me."
Madame Roussillon and Jean, the hunchback, hearing the racket of
the foils had come out to see and were standing agape.
"You ought to be ashamed, Alice," said the dame in scolding
approval of what she had done; "girls do not fence with
"This girl does," said Alice.
"And with extreme disaster to this gentleman," said Beverley,
laughing in a tone of discomfiture and resignation.
"Ah, Mo'sieu', there's nothing but disaster where she goes,"
complained Madame Roussillon, "she is a destroyer of everything.
Only yesterday she dropped my pink bowl and broke it, the only one
"And just to think," said Beverley, "what would have been the
condition of my heart had we been using rapiers instead of
leather-buttoned foils! She would have spitted it through the very
"Like enough," replied the dame indifferently. "She wouldn't
wince, either,--not she."
Alice ran into the house with the foils and Beverley followed.
"We must try it over again some day soon," he said; "I find that
you can show me a few points. Where did you learn to fence so
admirably? Is Monsieur Roussillon your master?"
"Indeed he isn't," she quickly replied, "he is but a bungling
swordsman. My master--but I am not at liberty to tell you who has
taught me the little I know."
"Well, whoever he is I should be glad to have lessons from him."
"But you'll never get them."
"A woman's ultimatum."
"As good as a man's!" she bridled prettily; "and sometimes better--
at the foils for example. Vous--comprenez, n'est ce pas?"
He laughed heartily.
"Yes, your point reaches me," he said, "but sperat et in saeva
victus gladiatur arena, as the old Latin poet wisely remarks." The
quotation was meant to tease her.
"Yes, Montaigne translated that or something in his book," she
commented with prompt erudition. "I understand it."
Beverley looked amazed.
"What do you know about Montaigne?" he demanded with a blunt
brevity amounting to something like gruffness.
"Sh', Monsieur, not too loud," she softly protested, looking
around to see that neither Madame Roussillon nor Jean had followed
them into the main room. "It is not permitted that I read that old
book; but they do not hide it from me, because they think I can't
make out its dreadful spelling."
She smiled so that her cheeks drew their dimples deep into the
delicately tinted pink-and-brown, where wind and sun and wholesome
exercise had set the seal of absolute health, and took from a
niche in the logs of the wall a stained and dog-eared volume. He
looked, and it was, indeed, the old saint and sinner, Montaigne.
Involuntarily he ran his eyes over the girl from head to foot,
comparing her show of knowledge with the outward badges of abject
rusticity, and even wildness, with which she was covered.
"Well," he said, "you are a mystery."
"You think it surprising that I can read a book! Frankly I can't
understand half of this one. I read it because--well just because
they want me to read about nothing but sickly old saints and woe-
begone penitents. I like something lively. What do I care for all
that uninteresting religious stuff?"
"Montaigne IS decidedly lively in spots," Beverley remarked. "I
shouldn't think a girl--I shouldn't think you'd particularly enjoy
"I don't care for the book at all," she said, flushing quickly,
"only I seem to learn about the world from it. Sometimes it seems
as if it lifted me up high above all this wild, lonely and
tiresome country, so that I can see far off where things are
different and beautiful. It is the same with the novels; and they
don't permit me to read them either; but all the same I do."
When Beverley, taking his leave, passed through the gate at
Roussillon place, he met Rene de Ronville going in. It was a
notable coincidence that each young man felt something troublesome
rise in his throat as he looked into the other's eyes.
A week of dreamy autumn weather came on, during which Beverley
managed to be with Alice a great deal, mostly sitting on the
Roussillon gallery, where the fading vine leaves made fairy
whispering, and where the tempered breeze blew deliciously cool
from over the distant multi-colored woods. The men of Vincennes
were gathering their Indian corn early to dry it on the cob for
grating into winter meal. Many women made wine from the native
grapes and from the sweeter and richer fruit of imported vines.
Madame Roussillon and Alice stained their hands a deep purple
during the pressing season, and Beverley found himself engaged in
helping them handle the juicy crop, while around the overflowing
earthen pots the wild bees, wasps and hornets hummed with an
incessant, jarring monotony.
Jean, the hunchback, gathered ample stores of hickory nuts,
walnuts, hazel-nuts and pin-oak acorns. Indeed, the whole
population of the village made a great spurt of industry just
before the falling of winter; and presently, when every
preparation had been completed for the dreaded cold season, M.
Roussillon carried out his long-cherished plan, and gave a great
party at the river house. After the most successful trading
experience of all his life he felt irrepressibly liberal.
"Let's have one more roaring good time," he said, "that's what
life is for."
THE MAYOR'S PARTY
Beverley was so surprised and confused in his mind by the ease
with which he had been mastered at swordplay by a mere girl, that
he felt as if just coming out of a dream. In fact the whole affair
seemed unreal, yet so vivid and impressive in all its main
features, that he could not emerge from it and look it calmly over
from without. His experience with women had not prepared him for a
ready understanding and acceptance of a girl like Alice. While he
was fully aware of her beauty, freshness, vivacity and grace, this
Amazonian strength of hers, this boldness of spirit, this curious
mixture of frontier crudeness and a certain adumbration--so to
call it--of patrician sensibilities and aspirations, affected him
both pleasantly and unpleasantly. He did not sympathize promptly
with her semi-barbaric costume; she seemed not gently feminine, as
compared with the girls of Virginia and Maryland. He resented her
muscular development and her independent disposition. She was far
from coarseness, however, and, indeed, a trace of subtle
refinement, although not conventional, imbued her whole character.
But why was he thinking so critically about her? Had his
selfishness received an incurable shock from the button of her
foil? A healthy young man of the right sort is apt to be jealous
of his physical prowess--touch him there and he will turn the
world over to right himself in, his own admiration and yours. But
to be beaten on his highest ground of virility by a dimple-faced
maiden just leaving her teens could not offer Beverley any open
way to recoupment of damages.
He tried to shake her out of his mind, as a bit of pretty and
troublesome rubbish, what time he pursued his not very exacting
military duties. But the more he shook the tighter she clung, and
the oftener he went to see her.
Helm was a good officer in many respects, and his patriotism was
of the best; but he liked jolly company, a glass of something
strong and a large share of ease. Detroit lay many miles
northeastward across the wilderness, and the English, he thought,
would scarcely come so far to attack his little post, especially
now that most of the Indians in the intervening country had
declared in favor of the Americans. Recently, too, the weather had
been favoring him by changing from wet to dry, so that the upper
Wabash and its tributaries were falling low and would soon be very
difficult to navigate with large batteaux.
Very little was done to repair the stockade and dilapidated
remnant of a blockhouse. There were no sufficient barracks, a mere
shed in one angle serving for quarters, and the old cannon could
not have been used to any effect in case of attack. As for the
garrison, it was a nominal quantity, made up mostly of men who
preferred hunting and fishing to the merest pretense of military
Gaspard Roussillon assumed to know everything about Indian affairs
and the condition of the English at Detroit. His optimistic
eloquence lulled Helm to a very pleasant sense of security.
Beverley was not so easy to satisfy; but his suggestions regarding
military discipline and a vigorous prosecution of repairs to the
blockhouse and stockade were treated with dilatory geniality by
his superior officer. The soft wonder of a perfect Indian summer
glorified land, river and sky. Why not dream and bask? Why not
drink exhilarating toddies?
Meantime the entertainment to be given by Gaspard Roussillon
occupied everybody's imagination to an unusual extent. Rene de
Ronville, remembering but not heeding the doubtful success of his
former attempt, went long beforehand to claim Alice as his
partenaire; but she flatly refused him, once more reminding him of
his obligations to little Adrienne Bourcier. He would not be
"You are bound to me," he said, "you promised before, you know,
and the party was but put off. I hold you to it; you are my
partenaire, and I am yours, you can't deny that."
"No you are not my partenaire," she firmly said; then added
lightly, "Feu mon partenaire, you are dead and buried as my
partner at that dance."
He glowered in silence for a few moments, then said:
"It is Lieutenant Beverley, I suppose."
She gave him a quick contemptuous look, but turned it instantly
into one of her tantalising smiles.
"Do you imagine that?" she demanded.
"Imagine it! I know it," he said with a hot flush. "Have I no
"Precious little," she replied with a merry laugh.
"You think so."
"Go to Father Beret, tell him everything, and then ask him what he
thinks," she said in a calm, even tone, her face growing serious.
There was an awkward silence.
She had touched Rene's vulnerable spot; he was nothing if not a
devout Catholic, and his conscience rooted itself in what good
Father Beret had taught him.
The church, no matter by what name it goes, Catholic or
Protestant, has a saving hold on the deepest inner being of its
adherents. No grip is so hard to shake off as that of early
religious convictions. The still, small voice coming down from the
times "When shepherds watched their flocks by night," in old
Judea, passes through the priest, the minister, the preacher; it
echoes in cathedral, church, open-air meeting; it gently and
mysteriously imparts to human life the distinctive quality which
is the exponent of Christian civilization. Upon the receptive
nature of children it makes an impress that forever afterward
exhales a fragrance and irradiates a glory for the saving of the
Father Beret was the humble, self-effacing, never-tiring agent of
good in his community. He preached in a tender sing-song voice the
sweet monotonies of his creed and the sublime truths of Christ's
code. He was indeed the spiritual father of his people. No wonder
Rene's scowling expression changed to one of abject self-concern
when the priest's name was suddenly connected with his mood. The
confessional loomed up before the eyes of his conscience, and his
knees smote together, spiritually if not physically.
"Now," said Alice, brusquely, but with sweet and gentle firmness,
"go to your fiancee, go to pretty and good Adrienne, and ask her
to be your partenaire. Refresh your conscience with a noble
draught of duty and make that dear little girl overflow with joy.
Go, Rene de Ronville."
In making over what she said into English, the translation turns
out to be but a sonorous paraphrase. Her French was of that mixed
creole sort, a blending of linguistic elegance and patois,
impossible to imitate. Like herself it was beautiful, crude,
fascinating, and something in it impressed itself as
unimpeachable, despite the broken and incongruous diction. Rene
felt his soul cowering, even slinking; but he fairly maintained a
good face, and went away without saying another word.
"Ciel, ciel, how beautiful she is!" he thought, as he walked along
the narrow street in the dreamy sunshine. "But she is not for me,
not for me."
He shook himself and tried to be cheerful. In fact he hummed a
Creole ditty, something about
"La belle Jeanette, qu' a brise mon coeur."
Days passed, and at last the time of the great event arrived. It
was a frosty night, clear, sparkling with stars, a keen breath
cutting down from the northwest. M. Roussillon, Madame Roussillon,
Alice and Lieutenant Beverley went together to the river house,
whither they had been preceded by almost the entire population of
Vincennes. Some fires had been built outside; the crowd proving
too great for the building's capacity, as there had to be ample
space for the dancers. Merry groups hovered around the flaming
logs, while within the house a fiddle sang its simple and
ravishing tunes. Everybody talked and laughed; it was a lively
racket of clashing voices and rhythmical feet.
You would have been surprised to find that Oncle Jazon was the
fiddler; but there he sat, perched on a high stool in one corner
of the large room, sawing away as if for dear life, his head
wagging, his elbow leaping back and forth, while his scalpless
crown shone like the side of a peeled onion and his puckered mouth
wagged grotesquely from side to side keeping time to his tuneful
When the Roussillon party arrived it attracted condensed
attention. Its importance, naturally of the greatest in the
assembled popular mind, was enhanced--as mathematicians would
say, to the nth power--by the gown of Alice. It was resplendent
indeed in the simple, unaccustomed eyes upon which it flashed with
a buff silken glory. Matrons stared at it; maidens gazed with
fascinated and jealous vision; men young and old let their eyes
take full liberty. It was as if a queen, arrayed in a robe of
state, had entered that dingy log edifice, an apparition of
dazzling and awe-inspiring beauty. Oncle Jazon caught sight of
her, and snapped his tune short off. The dancers swung together
and stopped in confusion. But she, fortified by a woman's
strongest bulwark, the sense of resplendency, appeared quite
unconscious of herself.
Little Adrienne, hanging in blissful delight upon Rene's strong
arm, felt the stir of excitement and wondered what was the matter,
being too short to see over the heads of those around her.
"What is it? what is it?" she cried, tiptoeing and tugging at her
companion's sleeve. "Tell me, Rene, tell me, I say."
Rene was gazing in dumb admiration into which there swept a
powerful anger, like a breath of flame. He recollected how Alice
had refused to wear that dress when he had asked her, and now she
had it on. Moreover, there she stood beside Lieutenant Beverley,
holding his arm, looking up into his face, smiling, speaking to
"I think you might tell me what has happened," said Adrienne,
pouting and still plucking at his arm. "I can't see a thing, and
you won't tell me."
"Oh, it's nothing," he presently answered, rather fretfully. Then
he stooped, lowered his voice and added; "it's Mademoiselle
Roussillon all dressed up like a bride or something. She's got on
a buff silk dress that Mo'sieu' Roussillon's mother had in
"How beautiful she must look!" cried the girl. "I wish I could see
Rene put a hand on each side of her slender waist and lifted her
high, so that her pretty head rose above the crowding people.
Alice chanced to turn her face that way just then and saw the
unconventional performance. Her eyes met those of Adrienne and she
gave a nod of smiling recognition. It was a rose beaming upon a
M. Roussillon naturally understood that all this stir and crowding
to see was but another demonstration of his personal popularity.
He bowed and waved a vast hand.
But the master of ceremonies called loudly for the dancers to take
their places. Oncle Jazon attacked his fiddle again with startling
energy. Those who were not to dance formed a compact double line
around the wall, the shorter ones in front, the taller in the
rear. And what a scene it was! but no person present regarded it
as in any way strange or especially picturesque, save as to the
gown of Alice, which was now floating and whirling in time to
Oncle Jazon's mad music. The people outside the house cheerfully
awaited their turn to go in while an equal number went forth to
chat and sing around the fires.
Beverley was in a young man's seventh heaven. The angels formed a
choir circling around his heart, and their song brimmed his
universe from horizon to horizon.
When he called at Roussillon place, and Alice appeared so
beautifully and becomingly robed, it was another memorable
surprise. She flashed a new and subtly stimulating light upon him.
The old gown, rich in subdued splendor of lace and brocade, was
ornamented at the throat with a heavy band of pearls, just above
which could be seen a trace of the gold chain that supported her
portrait locket. There, too, with a not unbecoming gleam of
barbaric colors, shone the string of porcupine beads to which the
Indian charmstone hidden in her bosom was attached. It all
harmonized with the time, the place, the atmosphere. Anywhere else
it would have been preposterous as a decorative presentment, but
here, in this little nook where the coureurs de bois, the half-
breeds, the traders and the missionaries had founded a centre of
assembly, it was the best possible expression in the life so
formed at hap-hazard, and so controlled by the coarsest and
narrowest influences. To Fitzhugh Beverley, of Beverley Hall, the
picture conveyed immediately a sweet and pervading influence.
Alice looked superbly tall, stately and self-possessed in her
transforming costume, a woman of full stature, her countenance
gravely demure yet reserving near the surface the playful dimples
and mischievous smiles so characteristic of her more usual manner.
A sudden mood of the varium et mutabile semper femina had led her
to wear the dress, and the mood still illuminated her.
Beverley stood before her frankly looking and admiring. The
underglow in her cheeks deepened and spread over her perfect
throat; her eyes met his a second, then shyly avoided him. He
hardly could have been sure which was master, her serenity or her
girlish delight in being attractively dressed; but there could be
no doubt as to her self-possession; for, saving the pretty blush
under his almost rude gaze of admiration, she bore herself as
firmly as any fine lady he remembered.
They walked together to the river house, she daintily holding up
her skirts, under the insistent verbal direction of Madame
Roussillon, and at the same time keeping a light, strangely
satisfying touch on his arm. When they entered the room there was
no way for Beverley to escape full consciousness of the excitement
they aroused; but M. Roussillon's assumption broke the force of
what would have otherwise been extremely embarrassing.
"It is encouraging, very encouraging," murmured the big man to
Beverley in the midst of the staring and scrambling and craning of
necks, "to have my people admire and love me so; it goes to the
middle of my heart." And again he bowed and waved his hand with an
all-including gesture, while he swept his eyes over the crowd.
Alice and Beverley were soon in the whirl of the dance, forgetful
of everything but an exhilaration stirred to its utmost by Oncle
A side remark here may be of interest to those readers who enjoy
the dream that on some fortunate day they will invade a lonely
nook, where amid dust and cobwebs, neglected because unrecognized,
reposes a masterpiece of Stradivari or some other great fiddle-
maker. Oncle Jazon knew nothing whatever about old violins. He was
a natural musician, that was all, and flung himself upon his
fiddle with the same passionate abandon that characterizes a
healthy boy's assault when a plum pudding is at his mercy. But his
fiddle was a Carlo Bergonzi; and now let the search be renewed,
for the precious instrument was certainly still in Vincennes as
late as 1819, and there is a vague tradition that Governor
Whitcomb played on it not long before he died. The mark by which
it may be identified is the single word "Jazon" cut in the back of
its neck by Oncle Jazon himself.
When their dance was ended Alice and Beverley followed the others
of their set out into the open air while a fresh stream of eager
dancers poured in. Beverley insisted upon wrapping Alice in her
mantle of unlined beaver skin against the searching winter breath.
They did not go to the fire, but walked back and forth, chatting
until their turn to dance should come again, pausing frequently to
exchange pleasantries with some of the people. Curiously enough
both of them had forgotten the fact that other young men would be
sure to ask Alice for a dance, and that more than one pretty
creole lass was rightfully expecting a giddy turn with the
stalwart and handsome Lieutenant Beverley.
Rene de Ronville before long broke rudely into their selfish dream
and led Alice into the house. This reminded Beverley of his social
duty, wherefore seeing little Adrienne Bourcier he made a rush and
secured her at a swoop from the midst of a scrambling circle of
mutually hindered young men.
"Allons, ma petite!" he cried, quite in the gay tone of the
occasion, and swung her lightly along with him.
It was like an eagle dancing with a linnet, or a giant with a
fairy, when the big Lieutenant led out la petite Adrienne, as
everybody called her. The honor of Beverley's attention sat
unappreciated on Adrienne's mind, for all her thoughts went with
her eyes toward Rene and Alice. Nor was Beverley so absorbed in
his partner's behalf that he ever for a moment willingly lost
sight of the floating buff gown, the shining brown hair and the
beautiful face, which formed, indeed, the center of attraction for
Father Beret was present, sharing heartily in the merriment of his
flock. Voices greeted him on all sides with intonations of tender
respect. The rudest man there was loyal to the kind-hearted
priest, and would as soon have thought of shooting him as of
giving him any but the most reverent attention. It is to be noted,
however, that their understanding of reverence included great
freedom and levity not especially ecclesiastical in its nature.
Father Beret understood the conditions around him and had the
genius to know what not to hear, what not to see; but he never
failed when a good word or a fatherly touch with his hand seemed
worth trying on a sheep that appeared to be straying dangerously
far from the fold. Upon an occasion like this dance at the river
house, he was no less the faithful priest because of his genial
sympathy with the happiness of the young people who looked to him
for spiritual guidance.
It was some time before Beverley could again secure Alice for a
dance, and he found it annoying him atrociously to see her smile
sweetly on some buckskin-clad lout who looked like an Indian and
danced like a Parisian. He did not greatly enjoy most of his
partners; they could not appeal to any side of his nature just
then. Not that he at all times stood too much on his aristocratic
traditions, or lacked the virile traits common to vigorous and
worldly-minded men; but the contrast between Alice and the other
girls present was somehow an absolute bar to a democratic freedom
of the sort demanded by the occasion. He met Father Beret and
passed a few pleasant words with him.
"They have honored your flag, my son, I am glad to see," the
priest said, pointing with a smile to where, in one corner, the
banner that bore Alice's name was effectively draped.
Beverley had not noticed it before, and when he presently got
possession of Alice he asked her to tell him the story of how she
planted it on the fort, although he had heard it to the last
detail from Father Beret just a moment ago. They stood together
under its folds while she naively sketched the scene for him, even
down to her picturesquely disagreeable interview with Long-Hair,
mention of whom led up to the story of the Indian's race with the
stolen dame jeanne of brandy under his arm on that memorable
night, and the subsequent services performed for him by Father
Beret and her, after she and Jean had found him in the mud beyond
The dancing went on at a furious pace while they stood there. Now
and again a youth came to claim her, but she said she was tired
and begged to rest awhile, smiling so graciously upon each one
that his rebuff thrilled him as if it had been the most flattering
gift of tender partiality, while at the same time he suspected
that it was all for Beverley.
Helm in his most jovial mood was circulating freely among those
who formed the periphery of the dancing-area; he even ventured a
few clumsy capers in a cotillion with Madame Godere for partner.
She danced well; but he, as someone remarked, stumbled all over
There was but one thing to mar the evening's pleasure: some of the
men drank too much and grew boisterous. A quarrel ended in a noisy
but harmless fight near one of the fires. M. Roussillon rushed to
the spot, seized the combatants, tousled them playfully, as if
they had been children, rubbed their heads together, laughed
stormily and so restored the equilibrium of temper.
It was late when fathers and mothers in the company began to
suggest adjournment. Oncle Jazon's elbow was tired and the
enthusiasm generated by his unrecognized Bergonzi became fitful,
while the relaxing crowd rapidly encroached upon the space set
apart for the dancers. In the open lamps suspended here and there
the oil was running low, and the rag wicks sputtered and winked
with their yellow flames.
"Well," said M. Roussillon, coming to where Alice and Beverley
stood insulated and isolated by their great delight in each
other's company, "it's time to go home."
Beverley looked at his watch; it was a quarter to three!
Alice also looked at the watch, and saw engraved and enameled on
its massive case the Beverley crest, but she did not know what it
meant. There was something of the sort in the back of her locket,
she remembered with satisfaction.
Just then there was a peculiar stir in the flagging crowd. Someone
had arrived, a coureur de bois from the north. Where was the
commandant? the coureur had something important for him.
Beverley heard a remark in a startled voice about the English
getting ready for a descent upon the Wabash valley. This broke the
charm which thralled him and sent through his nerves the bracing
shock that only a soldier can feel when a hint of coming battle
Alice saw the flash in his face.
"Where is Captain Helm? I must see him immediately. Excuse me," he
said, abruptly turning away and looking over the heads of the
people; "yonder he is, I must go to him."
The coureur de bois, Adolphe Dutremble by name, was just from the
head waters of the Wabash. He was speaking to Helm when Beverley
came up. M. Roussillon followed close upon the Lieutenant's heels,
as eager as he to know what the message amounted to; but Helm took
the coureur aside, motioning Beverley to join them. M. Roussillon
included himself in the conference.
After all it was but the gossip of savages that Dutremble
communicated; still the purport was startling in the extreme.
Governor Hamilton, so the story ran, had been organizing a large
force; he was probably now on his way to the portage of the Wabash
with a flotilla of batteaux, some companies of disciplined
soldiers, artillery and a strong body of Indians.
Helm listened attentively to Dutremble's lively sketch, then
cross-questioned him with laconic directness.
"Send Mr. Jazon to me," he said to M. Roussillon, as if speaking
to a servant.
The master Frenchman went promptly, recognizing Captain Helm's
right to command, and sympathizing With his unpleasant military
predicament if the news should prove true.
Oncle Jazon came in a minute, his fiddle and bow clamped under his
arm, to receive a verbal commission, which sent him with some
scouts of his own choosing forthwith to the Wabash portage, or far
enough to ascertain what the English commander was doing.
After the conference Beverley made haste to join Alice; but he
found that she had gone home.
"One hell of a fix we'll be in if Hamilton comes down here with a
good force," said Helm.
Beverley felt like retorting that a little forethought, zeal and
preparation might have lessened the prospective gloom. He had been
troubled all the time about Helm's utter lack of military
precaution. True, there was very little material out of which that
optimistic officer could have formed a body of resistance against
the army probably at Hamilton's command; but Beverley was young,
energetic, bellicose, and to him everything seemed possible; he
believed in vigilance, discipline, activity, dash; he had a great
faith in the efficacy of enthusiasm.
"We must organize these Frenchmen," he said; "they will make good
fighters if we can once get them to act as a body. There's no time
to be lost; but we have time enough in which to do a great deal
before Hamilton can arrive, if we go at it in earnest."
"Your theory is excellent, Lieutenant, but the practice of it
won't be worth a damn," Helm replied with perfect good nature.
"I'd like to see you organize these parly-voos. There ain't a
dozen of 'em that wouldn't accept the English with open arms. I
know 'em. They're good hearted, polite and all that; they'll
hurrah for the flag; that's easy enough; but put 'em to the test
and they'll join in with the strongest side, see if they don't. Of
course there are a few exceptions. There's Jazon, he's all right,
and I have faith in Bosseron, and Legrace, and young Ronville."
"Roussillon--" Beverley began.
"Is much of a blow-hard," Helm interrupted with a laugh. "Barks
loud, but his biting disposition is probably not vicious."
"He and Father Beret control the whole population at all events,"
"Yes, and such a population!"
While joining in Captain Helm's laugh at the expense of Vincennes,
Beverley took leave to indulge a mental reservation in favor of
Alice. He could not bear to class her with the crowd of noisy,
thoughtless, mercurial beings whom he heard still singing gay
snatches and calling to one another from distance to distance, as
they strolled homeward in groups and pairs. Nor could the
impending danger of an enforced surrender to the English and
Indians drive from his mind her beautiful image, while he lay for
the rest of the night between sleeping and waking on his primitive
bed, alternately hearing over again her every phrase and laugh,
and striving to formulate some definite plan for defending the
town and fort. His heart was full of her. She had surprised his
nature and filled it, as with a wonderful, haunting song. His
youth, his imagination, all that was fresh and spontaneously
gentle and natural in him, was flooded with the magnetic splendor
of her beauty. And yet, in his pride (and it was not a false
pride, but rather a noble regard for his birthright) he vaguely
realized how far she was from him, how impossible.
THE DILEMMA OF CAPTAIN HELM
Oncle Jazon, feeling like a fish returned to the water after a
long and torturing captivity in the open air, plunged into the
forest with anticipations of lively adventure and made his way
toward the Wea plains. It was his purpose to get a boat at the
village of Ouiatenon and pull thence up the Wabash until he could
find out what the English were doing. He chose for his companions
on this dangerous expedition two expert coureurs de bois,
Dutremble and Jacques Bailoup. Fifty miles up the river they fell
in with some friendly Indians, well known to them all, who were
returning from the portage.
The savages informed them that there were no signs of an English
advance in that quarter. Some of them had been as far as the St.
Joseph river and to within a short distance of Detroit without
seeing a white man or hearing of any suspicious movements on the
part of Hamilton. So back came Oncle Jazon with his pleasing
report, much disappointed that he had not been able to stir up
some sort of trouble.
It was Helm's turn to laugh.
"What did I tell you?" he cried, in a jolly mood, slapping
Beverley on the shoulder. "I knew mighty well that it was all a
big story with nothing in it. What on earth would the English be
thinking about to march an army away off down here only to capture
a rotten stockade and a lot of gabbling parly-voos?"
Beverley, while he did not feel quite as confident as his chief,
was not sorry that things looked a little brighter than he had
feared they would turn out to be. Secretly, and without
acknowledging it to himself, he was delighted with the life he was
living. The Arcadian atmosphere of Vincennes clothed him in its
mists and dreams. No matter what way the weather blew its breath,
cold or warm, cloudy or fair, rain or snow, the peace in his soul
changed not. His nature seemed to hold all of its sterner and
fiercer traits in abeyance while he domiciled himself absolutely
within his narrow and monotonous environment. Since the dance at
the river house a new content, like a soft and diffused sweetness,
had crept through his blood with a vague, tingling sense of joy.
He began to like walking about rather aimlessly in the town's
narrow streets, with the mud-daubed cabins on either hand. This
simple life under low, thatched roofs had a charm. When a door was
opened he could see a fire of logs on the ample hearth shooting
its yellow tongues up the sooty chimney-throat. Soft creole voices
murmured and sang, or jangled their petty domestic discords. Women
in scant petticoats, leggings and moccasins swept snow from the
squat verandas, or fed the pigs in little sties behind the cabins.
Everybody cried cheerily: "Bon jour, Monsieur, comment allez-
vous?" as he went by, always accompanying the verbal salute with a
graceful wave of the hand.
When he walked early in the morning a waft of broiling game and
browning corn scones was abroad. Pots and kettles occupied the
hearths with glowing coals heaped around and under. Shaggy dogs
whined at the doors until the mensal remnants were tossed out to
them in the front yard.
But it was always a glimpse of Alice that must count for
everything in Beverley's reckonings, albeit he would have
strenuously denied it. True he went to Roussillon place almost
every day, it being a fixed part of his well ordered habit, and
had a talk with her. Sometimes, when Dame Roussillon was very busy
and so quite off her guard, they read together in a novel, or in
certain parts of the odd volume of Montaigne. This was done more
for the sweetness of disobedience than to enjoy the already
Now and again they repeated their fencing bout; but never with the
result which followed the first. Beverley soon mastered Alice's
tricks and showed her that, after all, masculine muscle is not to
be discounted at its own game by even the most wonderful womanly
strength and suppleness. She struggled bravely to hold her vantage
ground once gained so easily, but the inevitable was not to be
avoided. At last, one howling winter day, he disarmed her by the
very trick that she had shown him. That ended the play and they
ran shivering into the house.
"Ah," she cried, "it isn't fair. You are so much bigger than I;
you have so much longer arms; so much more weight and power. It
all counts against me! You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" She
was rosy with the exhilarating exercise and the biting of the
frosty breeze. Her beauty gave forth a new ray.
Deep in her heart she was pleased to have him master her so
superbly; but as the days passed she never said so, never gave
over trying to make him feel the touch of her foil. She did not
know that her eyes were getting through his guard, that her
dimples were stabbing his heart to its middle.
"You have other advantages," he replied, "which far overbalance my
greater stature and stronger muscles." Then after a pause he
added: "After all a girl must be a girl."
Something in his face, something in her heart, startled her so
that she made a quick little move like that of a restless bird.
"You are beautiful and that makes my eyes and my hand uncertain,"
he went on. "Were I fencing with a man there would be no glamour."
He spoke in English, which he did not often do in conversation
with her. It was a sign that he was somewhat wrought upon. She
followed his rapid words with difficulty; but she caught from them
a new note of feeling. He saw a little pale flare shoot across her
face and thought she was angry.
"You should not use your dimples to distract my vision," he
quickly added, with a light laugh. "It would be no worse for me to
throw my hat in your face!"
His attempt at levity was obviously weak; she looked straight into
his eyes, with the steady gaze of a simple, earnest nature shocked
by a current quite strange to it. She did not understand him, and
she did. Her fine intuition gathered swiftly together a hundred
shreds of impression received from him during their recent growing
intimacy. He was a patrician, as she vaguely made him out, a man
of wealth, whose family was great. He belonged among people of
gentle birth and high attainments. She magnified him so that he
was diffused in her imagination, as difficult to comprehend as a
mist in the morning air--and as beautiful.
"You make fun of me," she said, very deliberately, letting her
eyes droop; then she looked up again suddenly and continued, with
a certain naive expression of disappointment gathering in her
face. "I have been too free with you. Father Beret told me not to
forget my dignity when in your company. He told me you might
misunderstand me. I don't care; I shall not fence with you again."
She laughed, but there was no joyous freedom in the sound.
"Why, Alice--my dear Miss Roussillon, you do me a wrong; I beg a
thousand pardons if I've hurt you," he cried, stepping nearer to
her, "and I can never forgive myself. You have somehow
misunderstood me, I know you have!"
On his part it was exaggerating a mere contact of mutual feelings
into a dangerous collision. He was as much self-deceived as was
she, and he made more noise about it.
"It is you who have misunderstood me," she replied, smiling
brightly now, but with just a faint, pitiful touch of regret, or
self-blame lingering in her voice. "Father Beret said you would. I
did not believe him; but--"
"And you shall not believe him," said Beverley. "I have not
misunderstood you. There has been nothing. You have treated me
kindly and with beautiful friendliness. You have not done or said
a thing that Father Beret or anybody else could criticise. And if
I have said or done the least thing to trouble you I repudiate it--
I did not mean it. Now you believe me, don't you, Miss
He seemed to be falling into the habit of speaking to her in
English. She understood it somewhat imperfectly, especially when
in an earnest moment he rushed his words together as if they had
been soldiers he was leading at the charge-step against an enemy.
His manner convinced her, even though his diction fell short.
"Then we'll talk about something else," she said, laughing
naturally now, and retreating to a chair by the hearthside. "I
want you to tell me all about yourself and your family, your home
She seated herself with an air of conscious aplomb and motioned
him to take a distant stool.
There was a great heap of dry logs in the fireplace, with pointed
flames shooting out of its crevices and leaping into the gloomy,
cave-like throat of the flue. Outside a wind passed heavily across
the roof and bellowed in the chimney-top.
Beverley drew the stool near Alice, who, with a charred stick,
used as a poker, was thrusting at the glowing crevices and sending
showers of sparks aloft.
"Why, there wouldn't be much to tell," he said, glad to feel
secure again. "Our home is a big old mansion named Beverley Hall
on a hill among trees, and half surrounded with slave cabins. It
overlooks the plantation in the valley where a little river goes
wandering on its way." He was speaking French and she followed him
easily now, her eyes beginning to fling out again their natural
sunny beams of interest. "I was born there twenty-six years ago
and haven't done much of anything since. You see before you,
Mademoiselle, a very undistinguished young man, who has signally
failed to accomplish the dream of his boyhood, which was to be a
great artist like Raphael or Angelo. Instead of being famous I am
but a poor Lieutenant in the forces of Virginia."
"You have a mother, father, brothers and sisters?" she
interrogated. She did not understand his allusion to the great
artists of whom she knew nothing. She had never before heard of
them. She leaned the poker against the chimney jamb and turned her
face toward him.
"Mother, father, and one sister," he said, "no brothers. We were a
happy little group. But my sister married and lives in Baltimore.
I am here. Father and mother are alone in the old house. Sometimes
I am terribly homesick." He was silent a moment, then added: "But
you are selfish, you make me do all the telling. Now I want you to
give me a little of your story, Mademoiselle, beginning as I did,
at the first."
"But I can't," she replied with childlike frankness, "for I don't
know where I was born, nor my parents' names, nor who I am. You
see how different it is with me. I am called Alice Roussillon, but
I suppose that my name is Alice Tarleton; it is not certain,
however. There is very little to help out the theory. Here is all
the proof there is. I don't know that it is worth anything."
She took off her locket and handed it to him.
He handled it rather indifferently, for he was just then studying
the fine lines of her face. But in a moment he was interested.
"Tarleton, Tarleton," he repeated. Then he turned the little disc