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Alice of Old Vincennes by Maurice Thompson

Part 5 out of 7

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around his neck entered and saluted. He was a small, soft-haired,
blue-eyed man of reckless bearing, with marks of dissipation
sharply cut into his face. He saluted, smiling self-consciously.

"Well, Barlow," said Hamilton, "the kitten scratched you, did
she?"

"Yes, slightly, and I don't think I've been treated fairly in the
matter, sir."

"How so?"

"I stood the brunt and now Captain Farnsworth gets the prize." He
twisted his mouth in mock expression of maudlin disappointment.
"I'm always cheated out of the sweets. I never get anything for
gallant conduct on the field."

"Poor boy! It is a shame. But I say, Lieutenant, has Roussillon
really escaped, or is he hidden somewhere in town? Have you been
careful?"

"Oh, it's the Indians. They all swear by these Frenchmen. You
can't get any help from them against a fellow like Roussillon. In
fact they aid him; he's among them now."

"Moral again," Helm interposed; "keep on the good side of the
French!"

"That's sensible talk, sir," assented Barlow.

"Bah!" exclaimed Hamilton. "You might as well talk of keeping on
the good side of the American traitors--a bloody murrain seize the
whole race!"

"That's what I say," chimed in the Lieutenant, with a sly look at
Helm.

"They have been telling me a cock-and-bull story concerning the
affair at the Roussillon cabin," Hamilton said, changing his
manner. "What is this about a disguised and wonderful man who
rushed in and upset the whole of you. I want no romancing; give me
the facts."

Barlow's dissolute countenance became troubled.

"The facts," he said, speaking with serious deliberation, "are not
clear. It was like a clap of thunder, the way that man performed.
As you say, he did fling the whole squad all of a heap, and it was
done that quickly," he snapped his thumb and finger
demonstratively with a sharp report; "nobody could understand it."

Hamilton looked at his subaltern with a smile of unlimited
contempt and said:

"A pretty officer of His Majesty's army, you are, Lieutenant
Barlow! First a slip of a girl shows herself your superior with
the sword and wounds you, then a single man wipes up the floor of
a house with you and your guard, depriving you at the same time of
both vision and memory, so that you cannot even describe your
assailant!"

"He was dressed like a priest," muttered Barlow, evidently
frightened at his commander's scathing comment. "That was all
there was to see."

"A priest! Some of the men say the devil. I wonder--" Hamilton
hesitated and looked at the floor.

"This Father Beret, he is too old for such a thing, isn't he?"

"I have thought of him--it was like him--but he is, as you say,
very old to be so tremendously strong and active. Why, I tell you
that men went from his hands against the walls and floor as if
shot out of a mortar. It was the strangest and most astounding
thing I ever heard of."

A little later Barlow seized a favorable opportunity and withdrew.
The conversation was not to his liking.

Hamilton sent for Father Beret and had a long talk with him, but
the old man looked so childishly inoffensive in spirit and so
collapsed physically that it seemed worse than foolishness to
accuse him of the exploit over which the entire garrison was
wondering. Farnsworth sat by during the interview. He looked the
good priest curiously and critically over from head to foot,
remembering, but not mentioning, the most unclerical punch in the
side received from that energetic right arm now lying so flabbily
across the old man's lap.

When the talk ended and Father Beret humbly took his leave,
Hamilton turned to Farnsworth and said:

"What do you think of this affair? I have cross-questioned all
the men who took part in it, and every one of them says simply
priest or devil. I think old Beret is both; but plainly he
couldn't hurt a chicken, you can see that at a glance."

Farnsworth smiled, rubbing his side reminiscently; but he shook
his head.

"I'm sure it's puzzling, indeed."

Hamilton sat in thoughtful silence for a while, then abruptly
changed the subject.

"I think, Captain, that you had better send out Lieutenant Barlow
and some of the best woodsmen to kill some game. We need fresh
venison, and, by George! I'm not going to depend upon these French
traitors any longer. I have set my foot down; they've got to do
better or take the consequences." He paused for a breath, then
added: "That girl has done too much to escape severest punishment.
The garrison will be demoralized if this thing goes on without an
example of authority rigidly enforced. I am resolved that there
shall be a startling and effective public display of my power to
punish. She shot you; you seem to be glad of it, but it was a
grave offence. She has stabbed Barlow; that is another serious
crime; but worst of all she aided a spy and resisted arrest. She
must be punished."

Farnsworth knew Hamilton's nature, and he now saw that Alice was
in dreadful danger of death or something even worse. Whenever his
chief talked of discipline and the need of maintaining his
authority, there was little hope of softening his decisions.
Moreover, the provocation to apply extreme measures really seemed
sufficient, regarded from a military point of view, and Captain
Farnsworth was himself, under ordinary circumstances, a
disciplinarian of the strictest class. The fascination, however,
by which Alice held him overbore every other influence, and his
devotion to her loosened every other tie and obligation to a most
dangerous extent. No sooner had he left headquarters and given
Barlow his instructions touching the hunting expedition, than his
mind began to wander amid visions and schemes by no means
consistent with his military obligations. In order to reflect
undisturbed he went forth into the dreary, lane-like streets of
Vincennes and walked aimlessly here and there until he met Father
Beret.

Farnsworth saluted the old man, and was passing him by, when
seeing a sword in his hand, half hidden in the folds of his worn
and faded cassock, he turned and addressed him.

"Why are you armed this morning, Father?" he demanded very
pleasantly. "Who is to suffer now?"

"I am not on the war-path, my son," replied the priest. "It is but
a rapier that I am going to clean of rust spots that are gathering
on its blade."

"Is it yours, Father? Let me see it." He held out his hand.

"No, not mine."

Father Beret seemed not to notice Farnsworth's desire to handle
the weapon, and the young man, instead of repeating his words,
reached farther, nearly grasping the scabbard.

"I cannot let you take it, my son," said Father Beret "You have
its mate, that should satisfy you."

"No, Colonel Hamilton took it," Farnsworth quickly replied. "If I
could I would gladly return it to its owner. I am not a thief,
Father, and I am ashamed of--of--what I did when I was drunk."

The priest looked sharply into Farnsworth's eyes and read there
something that reassured him. His long experience had rendered him
adept at taking a man's value at a glance. He slightly lifted his
face and said: "Ah, but the poor little girl! why do you persecute
her? She really does not deserve it. She is a noble child. Give
her back to her home and her people. Do not soil and spoil her
sweet life."

It was the sing-song voice used by Father Beret in his sermons and
prayers; but something went with it indescribably touching.
Farnsworth felt a lump rise in his throat and his eyes were ready
to show tears. "Father," he said, with difficulty making his words
distinct, "I would not harm Miss Roussillon to save my own life,
and I would do anything--" he paused slightly, then added with
passionate force; "I would do anything, no matter what, to save
her from the terrible thing that now threatens her."

Father Beret's countenance changed curiously as he gazed at the
young man and said:

"If you really mean what you say, you can easily save her, my
son."

"Father, by all that is holy, I mean just what I say."

"Swear not at all, my son, but give me your hand."

The two men stood with a tight grip between them and exchanged a
long, steady, searching gaze.

A drizzling rain had begun to fall again, with a raw wind creeping
from the west.

"Come with me to my house, my son," Father Beret presently added;
and together they went, the priest covering Alice's sword from the
rain with the folds of his cassock.

CHAPTER XV

VIRTUE IN A LOCKET

Long-Hair stood not upon ceremony in conveying to Beverley the
information that he was to run the gauntlet, which, otherwise
stated, meant that the Indians would form themselves in two
parallel lines facing each other about six feet apart, and that
the prisoner would be expected to run down the length of the space
between, thus affording the warriors an opportunity, greatly
coveted and relished by their fiendish natures, to beat him
cruelly during his flight. This sort of thing was to the Indians,
indeed, an exquisite amusement, as fascinating to them as the
theater is to more enlightened people. No sooner was it agreed
upon that the entertainment should again be undertaken than all
the younger men began to scurry around getting everything ready
for it. Their faces glowed with a droll cruelty strange to see,
and they further expressed their lively expectations by playful
yet curiously solemn antics.

The preparations were simple and quickly made. Each man armed
himself with a stick three feet long and about three-quarters of
an inch in diameter. Rough weapons they were, cut from boughs of
scrub-oak, knotty and tough as horn. Long-Hair unbound Beverley
and stripped his clothes from his body down to the waist. Then the
lines formed, the Indians in each row standing about as far apart
as the width of the space in which the prisoner was to run. This
arrangement gave them free use of their sticks and plenty of room
for full swing of their lithe bodies.

In removing Beverley's clothes Long-Hair found Alice's locket
hanging over the young man's heart. He tore it rudely off and
grunted, glaring viciously, first at it, then at Beverley. He
seemed to be mightily wrought upon.

"White man damn thief," he growled deep in his throat; "stole from
little girl!"

He put the locket in his pouch and resumed his stupidly
indifferent expression.

When everything was ready for the delightful entertainment to
begin, Long-Hair waved his tomahawk three times over Beverley's
head, and pointing down between the waiting lines said:

"Ugh, run!"

But Beverley did not budge. He was standing erect, with his arms,
deeply creased where the thongs had sunk, folded across his
breast. A rush of thoughts and feelings had taken tumultuous
possession of him and he could not move or decide what to do. A
mad desire to escape arose in his heart the moment that he saw
Long-Hair take the locket. It was as if Alice had cried to him and
bidden him make a dash for liberty.

"Ugh, run!"

The order was accompanied with a push of such violence from Long-
Hair's left elbow that Beverley plunged and fell, for his limbs,
after their long and painful confinement in the raw-hide bonds,
were stiff and almost useless. Long-Hair in no gentle voice bade
him get up. The shock of falling seemed to awaken his dormant
forces; a sudden resolve leaped into his brain. He saw that the
Indians had put aside their bows and guns, most of which were
leaning against the boles of trees here and yonder. What if he
could knock Long-Hair down and run away? This might possibly be
easy, considering the Indian's broken arm. His heart jumped at the
possibility. But the shrewd savage was alert and saw the thought
come into his face.

"You try git 'way, kill dead!" he snarled, lifting his tomahawk
ready for a stroke. "Brains out, damn!"

Beverley glanced down the waiting and eager lines. Swiftly he
speculated, wondering what would be his chance for escape were he
to break through. But he did not take his own condition into
account.

"Ugh, run!"

Again the elbow of Long-Hair's hurt arm pushed him toward the
expectant rows of Indians, who flourished their clubs and uttered
impatient grunts.

This time he did not fall; but in trying to run he limped stiffly
at first, his legs but slowly and imperfectly regaining their
strength and suppleness from the action. Just before reaching the
lines, however, he stopped short. Long-Hair, who was close behind
him, took hold of his shoulder and led him back to the starting
place. The big Indian's arm must have given him pain when he thus
used it, but he did not wince. "Fool--kill dead!" he repeated two
or three times, holding his tomahawk on high with threatening
motions and frequent repetitions of his one echo from the
profanity of civilization. He was beginning to draw his mouth down
at the corners, and his eyes were narrowed to mere slits.

Beverley understood now that he could not longer put off the
trial. He must choose between certain death and the torture of the
gauntlet, as frontiersmen named this savage ordeal. An old man
might have preferred the stroke of the hatchet to such an
infliction as the clubs must afford, considering that, even after
all the agony, his captivity and suffering would be only a little
nearer its end. Youth, however, has faith in the turn of fortune's
wheel, and faith in itself, no matter how dark the prospect. Hope
blows her horn just over the horizon, and the strain bids the
young heart take courage and beat strong. Moreover, men were men,
who led the van in those days on the outmost lines of our march to
the summit of the world. Beverley was not more a hero than any
other young, brave, unconquerable patriot of the frontier army.
His situation simply tried him a trifle harder than was common.
But it must be remembered that he had Love with him, and where
Love is there can be no cowardice, no surrender.

Long-Hair once again pushed him and said

"Ugh, run!"

Beverley made a direct dash for the narrow lane between the braced
and watchful lines. Every warrior lifted his club; every copper
face gleamed stolidly, a mask behind which burned a strangely
atrocious spirit. The two savages standing at the end nearest
Beverley struck at him the instant he reached than, but they taken
quite by surprise when he checked himself between them and,
leaping this way and that, swung out two powerful blows, left and
right, stretching one of them flat and sending the other reeling
and staggering half a dozen paces backward with the blood
streaming from his nose.

This done, Beverley turned to run away, but his breath was already
short and his strength rapidly going.

Long-Hair, who was at his heels, leaped before him when he had
gone but a few steps and once more flourished the tomahawk. To
struggle was useless, save to insist upon being brained outright,
which just then had no part in Beverley's considerations. Long-
Hair kicked his victim heavily, uttering laconic curses meanwhile,
and led him back again to the starting-point.

A genuine sense of humor seems almost entirely lacking in the mind
of the American Indian. He smiles at things not in the least
amusing to us and when he laughs, which is very seldom, the cause
of his merriment usually lies in something repellantly cruel and
inhuman. When Beverley struck his two assailants, hurting them so
that one lay half stunned, while the other spun away from his fist
with a smashed nose, all the rest of the Indians grunted and
laughed raucously in high delight. They shook their clubs, danced,
pointed at their discomfited fellows and twisted their painted
faces into knotted wrinkles, their eyes twinkling with devilish
expression of glee quite indescribable.

"Ugh, damn, run!" said Long-Half, this time adding a hard kick to
the elbow-shove he gave Beverley.

The young man, who had borne all he could, now turned upon him
furiously and struck straight from the shoulder, setting the whole
weight of his body into the blow. Long-Hair stepped out of the way
and quick as a flash brought the flat side of his tomahawk with
great force against Beverley's head. This gave the amusement a
sudden and disappointing end, for the prisoner fell limp and
senseless to the ground. No more running the gauntlet for him that
day. Indeed it required protracted application of the best Indian
skill to revive him so that he could fairly be called a living
man. There had been no dangerous concussion, however, and on the
following morning camp was broken.

Beverley, sore, haggard, forlornly disheveled, had his arms bound
again and was made to march apace with his nimble enemies, who set
out swiftly eastward, their disappointment at having their sport
cut short, although bitter enough, not in the least indicated by
any facial expression or spiteful act.

Was it really a strange thing, or was it not, that Beverley's mind
now busied itself unceasingly with the thought that Long-Hair had
Alice's picture in his pouch? One might find room for discussion
of a cerebral problem like this; but our history cannot be delayed
with analyses and speculations; it must run its direct course
unhindered to the end. Suffice it to record that, while tramping
at Long-Hair's side and growing more and more desirous of seeing
the picture again, Beverley began trying to converse with his
taciturn captor. He had a considerable smattering of several
Indian dialects, which he turned upon Long-Hair to the best of
his ability, but apparently without effect. Nevertheless he
babbled at intervals, always upon the same subject and always
endeavoring to influence that huge, stolid, heartless savage in
the direction of letting him see again the child face of the
miniature.

A stone, one of our travel-scarred and mysterious western granite
bowlders brought from the far north by the ancient ice, would show
as much sympathy as did the face of Long-Hair. Once in a while he
gave Beverley a soulless glance and said "damn" with utter
indifference. Nothing, however, could quench or even in the
slightest sense allay the lover's desire. He talked of Alice and
the locket with constantly increasing volubility, saying over and
over phrases of endearment in a half-delirious way, not aware that
fever was fermenting his blood and heating his brain. Probably he
would have been very ill but for the tremendous physical exercise
forced upon him. The exertion kept him in a profuse perspiration
and his robust constitution cast off the malarial poison. Meantime
he used every word and phrase, every grunt and gesture of Indian
dialect that he could recall, in the iterated and reiterated
attempt to make Long-Hair understand what he wanted.

When night came on again the band camped under some trees beside a
swollen stream. There was no rain falling, but almost the entire
country lay under a flood of water. Fires of logs were soon
burning brightly on the comparatively dry bluff chosen by the
Indians. The weather was chill, but not cold. Long-Hair took
great pains, however, to dry Beverley's clothes and see that he
had warm wraps and plenty to eat. Hamilton's large reward would
not be forthcoming should the prisoner die, Beverley was good
property, well worth careful attention. To be sure his scalp, in
the worst event, would command a sufficient honorarium, but not
the greatest. Beverley thought of all this while the big Indian
was wrapping him snugly in skins and blankets for the night, and
there was no comfort in it, save that possibly if he were returned
to Hamilton he might see Alice again before he died.

A fitful wind cried dolefully in the leafless treetops, the stream
hard by gave forth a rushing sound, and far away some wolves
howled like lost souls. Worn out, sore from head to foot,
Beverley, deep buried in the blankets and skins, soon fell into a
profound sleep. The fires slowly crumbled and faded; no sentinel
was posted, for the Indians did not fear an attack, there being no
enemies that they knew of nearer than Kaskaskia. The camp
slumbered as one man.

At about the mid-hour of the night Long-Hair gently awoke his
prisoner by drawing a hand across his face, then whispered in his
ear:

"Damn, still!"

Beverley tried to rise, uttering a sleepy ejaculation under his
breath. "No talk," hissed Long-Hair. "Still!"

There was something in his voice that not only swept the last film
of sleep out of Beverley's brain, but made it perfectly clear to
him that a very important bit of craftiness was being performed;
just what its nature was, however, he could not surmise. One thing
was obvious, Long-Hair did not wish the other Indians to know of
the move he was making. Deftly he slipped the blankets from around
Beverley, and cut the thongs at his ankles.

"Still!" he whispered. "Come 'long."

Under such circumstances a competent mind acts with lightning
celerity. Beverley now understood that Long-Hair was stealing him
away from the other savages and that the big villain meant to
cheat them out of their part of the reward. Along with this
discovery came a fresh gleam of hope. It would be far easier to
escape from one Indian than from nearly a score. Ah, he would
follow Long-Hair, indeed he would! The needed courage came with
the thought, and so with immense labor he crept at the heels of
that crawling monster. It was a painful process, for his arms were
still fast bound at the wrists with the raw-hide strings; but
what was pain to him? He shivered with joy, thinking of what might
happen. The voice of the wind overhead and the noisy bubbling of
the stream near by were cheerful and cheering sounds to him now.
So much can a mere shadow of hope do for a human soul on the verge
of despair! Already he was planning or trying to plan some way by
which he could kill Long-Hair when they should reach a safe
distance from the sleeping camp.

But how could the thing be done? A man with his hands tied, though
they are in front of him, is in no excellent condition to cope
with a free and stalwart savage armed to the teeth. Still
Beverley's spirits rose with every rod of distance that was added
to their slow progress.

Their course was nearly parallel with that of the stream, but
slightly converging toward it, and after they had gone about a
furlong they reached the bank. Here Long-Hair stopped and, without
a word, cut the thongs from Beverley's wrists. This was
astounding; the young man could scarcely realize it, nor was he
ready to act.

"Swim water," Long-Hair said in a guttural murmur barely audible.
"Swim, damn!"

Again it was necessary for Beverley's mind to act swiftly and with
prudence. The camp was yet within hailing distance. A false move
now would bring the whole pack howling to the rescue. Something
told him to do as Long-Hair ordered, so with scarcely a
perceptible hesitation he scrambled down the bushy bank and
slipped into the water, followed by Long-Hair, who seized him by
one arm when he began to swim, and struck out with him into the
boiling and tumbling current.

Beverley had always thought himself a master swimmer, but Long-
Hair showed him his mistake. The giant Indian, with but one hand
free to use, fairly rushed through that deadly cold and turbulent
water, bearing his prisoner with him despite the wounded arm, as
easily as if towing him at the stern of a pirogue. True, his
course was down stream for a considerable distance, but even when
presently he struck out boldly for the other bank, breasting a
current in which few swimmers could have lived, much less made
headway, he still swung forward rapidly, splitting the waves and
scarcely giving Beverley freedom enough so that he could help in
the progress. It was a long, cold struggle, and when at last they
touched the sloping low bank on the other side, Long-Hair had
fairly to lift his chilled and exhausted prisoner to the top.

"Ugh, cold," he grunted, beginning to pound and rub Beverley's
arms, legs and body. "Make warm, damn heap!"

All this he did with his right hand, holding the tomahawk in his
left.

It was a strange, bewildering experience out of which the young
man could not see in any direction far enough to give him a hint
upon which to act. In a few minutes Long-Hair jerked him to his
feet and said:

"Go."

It was just light enough to see that the order had a tomahawk to
enforce it withal. Long-Hair indicated the direction and drove
Beverley onward as fast as he could.

"Try run 'way, kill, damn!" he kept repeating, while with his left
hand on the young man's shoulder he guided him from behind
dexterously through the wood for some distance. Then he stopped
and grunted, adding his favorite expletive, which he used with not
the least knowledge of its meaning. To him the syllable "damn" was
but a mouthful of forcible wind.

They had just emerged from a thicket into an open space, where the
ground was comparatively dry. Overhead the stars were shining in
great clusters of silver and gold against a dark, cavernous
looking sky, here and there overrun with careering black clouds.
Beverley shivered, not so much with cold as on account of the
stress of excitement which amounted to nervous rigor. Long-Hair
faced him and leaned toward him, until his breathing was audible
and his massive features were dimly outlined. A dragon of the
darkest age could not have been more repulsive.

"Ugh, friend, damn!"

Beverley started when these words were followed by a sentence in
an Indian dialect somewhat familiar to him, a dialect in which he
had tried to talk with Long-Hair during the day's march. The
sentence, literally translated, was:

"Long-Hair is friendly now."

A blow in the face could not have been so surprising. Beverley not
only started, but recoiled as if from a sudden and deadly
apparition. The step between supreme exhilaration and utter
collapse is now and then infinitesimal. There are times, moreover,
when an expression on the face of Hope makes her look like the
twin sister of Despair. The moment falling just after Long-Hair
spoke was a century condensed in a breath.

"Long-Hair is friendly now; will white man be friendly?"

Beverley heard, but the speech seemed to come out of vastness and
hollow distance; he could not realize it fairly. He felt as if in
a dream, far off somewhere in loneliness, with a big, shadowy form
looming before him. He heard the chill wind in the thickets round
about, and beyond Long-Hair rose a wall of giant trees.

"Ugh, not understand?" the savage presently demanded in his broken
English.

"Yes, yes," said Beverley, "I understand."

"Is the white man friendly now?" Long-Hair then repeated in his
own tongue, with a certain insistence of manner and voice.

"Yes, friendly."

Beverley said this absently in a tone of perfunctory dryness. His
throat was parched, his head seemed to waver. But he was beginning
to comprehend that Long-Hair, for some inscrutable reason of his
own, was desirous of making a friendship between them. The thought
was bewildering.

Long-Hair fumbled in his pouch and took out Alice's locket, which
he handed to Beverley. "White man love little girl?" he inquired
in a tone that bordered upon tenderness, again speaking in Indian.

Beverley clutched the disk as soon as he saw it gleam in the star-
light.

"White man going to have little girl for his squaw--eh?"

"Yes, yes," cried Beverley without hearing his own voice. He was
trying to open the locket but his hands were numb and trembling.
When at last he did open it he could not see the child face
within, for now even the star-light was shut off by a scudding
black cloud.

"Little girl saved Long-Hair's life. Long-Hair save white warrior
for little girl."

A dignity which was almost noble accompanied these simple
sentences. Long-Hair stood proudly erect, like a colossal dark
statue in the dimness.

The great truth dawned upon Beverley that here was a
characteristic act. He knew that an Indian rarely failed to repay
a kindness or an injury, stroke for stroke, when opportunity
offered. Long-Hair was a typical Indian. That is to say, a type of
inhumanity raised to the last power; but under his hideous
atrocity of nature lay the indestructible sense of gratitude so
fixed and perfect that it did its work almost automatically.

It must be said, and it may or may not be to the white man's
shame, that Beverley did not respond with absolute promptness and
sincerity to Long-Hair's generosity. He had suffered terribly at
the hands of this savage. His arms and legs were raw from the
biting of the thongs; his body ached from the effect of blows and
kicks laid upon him while bound and helpless. Perhaps he was not a
very emotional man. At all events there was no sudden recognition
of the favor he was receiving. And this pleased Long-Hair, for the
taste of the American Indian delights in immobility of countenance
and reserve of feeling under great strain.

"Wait here a little while," Long-Hair presently said, and without
lingering for reply, turned away and disappeared in the wood.
Beverley was free to run if he wished to, and the thought did
surge across his mind; but a restraining something, like a hand
laid upon him, would not let his limbs move. Down deep in his
heart a calm voice seemed to be repeating Long-Hair's Indian
sentence--"Wait here a little while."

A few minutes later Long-Hair returned bearing two guns,
Beverley's and his own, the latter, a superb weapon given him by
Hamilton. He afterward explained that he had brought these, with
their bullet-pouches and powder-horns, to a place of concealment
near by before he awoke Beverley. This meant that he had swum the
cold river three times since night-fall; once over with the guns
and accouterments; once back to camp, then over again with
Beverley! All this with a broken arm, and to repay Alice for her
kindness to him.

Beverley may have been slow, but at last his appreciation was,
perhaps, all the more profound. As best he could he expressed it
to Long-Hair, who showed no interest whatever in the statement.
Instead of responding in Indian, he said "damn" without emphasis.
It was rather as if he had yawned absently, being bored.

Delay could not be thought of. Long-Hair explained briefly that he
thought. Beverley must go to Kaskaskia. He had come across the
stream in the direction of Vincennes in order to set his warriors
at fault. The stream must be recrossed, he said, farther down, and
he would help Beverley a certain distance on his way, then leave
him to shift for himself. He had a meager amount of parched corn
and buffalo meat in his pouch, which would stay hunger until they
could kill some game. Now they must go.

The resilience of a youthful and powerful physique offers many a
problem to the biologist. Vital force seems to find some
mysterious reservoir of nourishment hidden away in the nerve-
centers. Beverley set out upon that seemingly impossible
undertaking with renewed energy. It could not have been the ounce
of parched corn and bit of jerked venison from which he drew so
much strength; but on the other hand, could it have been the
miniature of Alice, which he felt pressing over his heart once
more, that afforded a subtle stimulus to both mind and body? They
flung miles behind them before day-dawn, Long-Hair leading,
Beverley pressing close at his heels. Most of the way led over
flat prairies covered with water, and they therefore left no track
by which they could be followed.

Late in the forenoon Long-Hair killed a deer at the edge of a
wood. Here they made a fire and cooked a supply which would last
them for a day or two, and then on they went again. But we cannot
follow them step by step. When Long-Hair at last took leave of
Beverley, the occasion had no ceremony. It was an abrupt,
unemotional parting. The stalwart Indian simply said in his own
dialect, pointing westward:

"Go that way two days. You will find your friends."

Then, without another look or word, he turned about and stalked
eastward at a marvelously rapid gait. In his mind he had a good
tale to tell his warrior companions when he should find them
again: how Beverley escaped that night and how he followed him a
long, long chase, only to lose him at last under the very guns of
the fort at Kaskaskia. But before he reached his band an incident
of some importance changed his story to a considerable degree. It
chanced that he came upon Lieutenant Barlow, who, in pursuit of
game, had lost his bearings and, far from his companions, was
beating around quite bewildered in a watery solitude. Long-Hair
promptly murdered the poor fellow and scalped him with as little
compunction as he would have skinned a rabbit; for he had a clever
scheme in his head, a very audacious and outrageous scheme, by
which he purposed to recoup, to some extent, the damages sustained
by letting Beverley go.

Therefore, when he rejoined his somewhat disheartened and
demoralized band he showed them the scalp and gave them an
eloquent account of how he tore it from Beverley's head after a
long chase and a bloody hand to hand fight. They listened,
believed, and were satisfied.

CHAPTER XVI

FATHER BERET'S OLD BATTLE

The room in which Alice was now imprisoned formed part of the
upper story of a building erected by Hamilton in one of the four
angles of the stockade. It had no windows and but two oblong port-
holes made to accommodate a small swivel, which stood darkly
scowling near the middle of the floor. From one of these apertures
Alice could see the straggling roofs and fences of the dreary
little town, while from the other a long reach of watery prairie,
almost a lake, lay under view with the rolling, muddy Wabash
gleaming beyond. There seemed to be no activity of garrison or
townspeople. Few sounds broke the silence of which the cheerless
prison room seemed to be the center.

Alice felt all her courage and cheerfulness leaving her. She was
alone in the midst of enemies. No father or mother, no friend--a
young girl at the mercy of soldiers, who could not be expected to
regard her with any sympathy beyond that which is accompanied with
repulsive leers and hints. Day after day her loneliness and
helplessness became more agonizing. Farnsworth, it is true, did
all he could to relieve the strain of her situation; but Hamilton
had an eye upon what passed and soon interfered. He administered a
bitter reprimand, under which his subordinate writhed in
speechless anger and resentment.

"Finally, Captain Farnsworth," he said in conclusion, "you will
distinctly understand that this girl is my prisoner, not yours;
that I, not you, will direct how she is to be held and treated,
and that hereafter I will suffer no interference on your part. I
hope you fully understand me, sir, and will govern yourself
accordingly."

Smarting, or rather smothering, under the outrageous insult of
these remarks, Farnsworth at first determined to fling his
resignation at the Governor's feet and then do whatever desperate
thing seemed most to his mood. But a soldier's training is apt to
call a halt before the worst befalls in such a case. Moreover, in
the present temptation, Farnsworth had a special check and
hindrance. He had had a conference with Father Beret, in which the
good priest had played the part of wisdom in slippers, and of
gentleness more dove-like than the dove's. A very subtle
impression, illuminated with the "hope that withers hope," had
come of that interview; and now Farnsworth felt its restraint. He
therefore saluted Hamilton formally and walked away.

Father Beret's paternal love for Alice,--we cannot characterize it
more nicely than to call it paternal,--was his justification for
a certain mild sort of corruption insinuated by him into the heart
of Farnsworth. He was a crafty priest, but his craft was always
used for a good end. Unquestionably Jesuitic was his mode of
circumventing the young man's military scruples by offering him a
puff of fair weather with which to sail toward what appeared to be
the shore of delight. He saw at a glance that Farnsworth's love
for Alice was a consuming passion in a very ardent yet decidedly
weak heart. Here was the worldly lever with which Father Beret
hoped to raze Alice's prison and free her from the terrible doom
with which she was threatened.

The first interview was at Father Beret's cabin, to which, as will
be remembered, the priest and Farnsworth went after their meeting
in the street. It actually came to nothing, save an indirect
understanding but half suggested by Father Beret and never openly
sanctioned by Captain Farnsworth. The talk was insinuating on the
part of the former, while the latter slipped evasively from every
proposition, as if not able to consider it on account of a curious
obtuseness of perception. Still, when they separated they shook
hands and exchanged a searching look perfectly satisfactory to
both.

The memory of that interview with the priest was in Farnsworth's
mind when, boiling with rage, he left Hamilton's presence and went
forth into the chill February air. He passed out through the
postern and along the sodden and queachy aedge of the prairie,
involuntarily making his way to Father Beret's cabin. His
indignation was so great that he trembled from head to foot at
every step. The door of the place was open and Father Beret was
eating a frugal meal of scones and sour wine (of his own make, he
said), which he hospitably begged to share with his visitor. A
fire smouldered on the hearth, and a flat stone showed, by the
grease smoking over its hot surface, where the cakes had been
baked.

"Come in, my son," said the priest, "and try the fare of a poor
old man. It is plain, very plain, but good." He smacked his lips
sincerely and fingered another scone. "Take some, take some."

Farnsworth was not tempted. The acid bouquet of the wine filled
the room with a smack of vinegar, and the smoke from rank
scorching fat and wheat meal did not suggest an agreeable feast.

"Well, well, if you are not hungry, my son, sit down on the stool
there and tell me the news."

Farnsworth took the low seat without a word, letting his eyes
wander over the walls. Alice's rapier, the mate to that now worn
by Hamilton, hung in its curiously engraved scabbard near one
corner. The sight of it inflamed Farnsworth.

"It's an outrage," he broke forth. "Governor Hamilton sent a man
to Roussillon place with orders to bring him the scabbard of Miss
Roussillon's sword, and he now wears the beautiful weapon as if he
had come by it honestly. Damn him!"

"My dear, dear son, you must not soil your lips with such
language!" Father Beret let fall the half of a well bitten cake
and held up both hands.

"I beg your pardon, Father; I know I ought to be more careful in
your presence; but--but--the beastly, hellish scoundrel--"

"Bah! doucement, mon fils, doucement." The old man shook his head
and his finger while speaking. "Easy, my son, easy. You would be a
fine target for bullets were your words to reach Hamilton's ears.
You are not permitted to revile your commander."

"Yes, I know; but how can a man restrain himself under such
abominable conditions?"

Father Beret shrewdly guessed that Hamilton had been giving the
Captain fresh reason for bitter resentment. Moreover, he was sure
that the moving cause had been Alice. So, in order to draw out
what he wished to hear, he said very gently:

"How is the little prisoner getting along?"

Farnsworth ground his teeth and swore; but Father Beret appeared
not to hear; he bit deep into a scone, took a liberal sip of the
muddy red wine and added:

"Has she a comfortable place? Do you think Governor Hamilton would
let me visit her?"

"It is horrible!" Farnsworth blurted. "She's penned up as if she
were a dangerous beast, the poor girl. And that damned scoundrel--
"

"Son, son!"

"Oh, it's no use to try, I can't help it, Father. The whelp--"

"We can converse more safely and intelligently if we avoid
profanity, and undue emotion, my son. Now, if you will quit
swearing, I will, and if you will be calm, so will I."

Farnsworth felt the sly irony of this absurdly vicarious
proposition. Father Beret smiled with a kindly twinkle in his
deep-set eyes.

"Well, if you don't use profane language, Father, there's no
telling how much you think in expletives. What is your opinion of
a man who tumbles a poor, defenseless girl into prison and then
refuses to let her be decently cared for? How do you express
yourself about him?"

"My son, men often do things of which they ought to be ashamed. I
heard of a young officer once who maltreated a little girl that he
met at night in the street. What evil he would have done, had not
a passing kind-hearted man reminded him of his honor by a friendly
punch in the ribs, I dare not surmise."

"True, and your sarcasm goes home as hard as your fist did,
Father. I know that I've been a sad dog all my life. Miss
Roussillon saved you by shooting me, and I love her for it. Lay
on, Father, I deserve more than you can give me."

"Surely you do, my son, surely you do; but my love for you will
not let me give you pain. Ah, we priests have to carry all men's
loads. Our backs are broad, however, very broad, my son."

"And your fists devilish heavy, Father, devilish heavy."

The gentle smile again flickered over the priest's weather-beaten
face as he glanced sidewise at Farnsworth and said:

"Sometimes, sometimes, my son, a carnal weapon must break the way
for a spiritual one. But we priests rarely have much physical
strength; our dependence is upon--"

"To be sure; certainly," Farnsworth interrupted, rubbing his side,
"your dependence is upon the first thing that offers. I've had
many a blow; but yours was the solidest that ever jarred tny
mortal frame, Father Beret."

The twain began to laugh. There is nothing like a reminiscence to
stir up fresh mutual sympathy.

"If your intercostals were somewhat sore for a time, on account of
a contact with priestly knuckles, doubtless there soon set in a
corresponding uneasiness in the region of your conscience. Such
shocks are often vigorously alterative and tonic--eh, my son?"

"You jolted me sober, Father, and then I was ashamed of myself.
But where does all your tremendous strength lie? You don't look
strong."

While speaking Farnsworth leaned near Father Beret and grasped his
arm. The young man started, for his fingers, instead of closing
around a flabby, shrunken old man's limb, spread themselves upon a
huge, knotted mass of iron muscles. With a quick movement Father
Beret shook off Farnsworth's hand, and said:

"I am no Samson, my son. Non sum qualis eram." Then, as if
dismissing a light subject for a graver one, he sighed and added;
"I suppose there is nothing that can be done for little Alice."

He called the tall, strong girl "little Alice," and so she seemed
to him. He could not, without direct effort, think of her as a
magnificently maturing woman. She had always been his spoiled pet
child, perversely set against the Holy Church, but dear to him
nevertheless.

"I came to you to ask that very question, Father," said
Farnsworth.

"And what do I know? Surely, my son, you see how utterly helpless
an old priest is against all you British. And besides--"

"Father Beret," Farnsworth huskily interrupted, "is there a place
that you know of anywhere in which Miss Roussillon could be
hidden, if--"

"My dear son."

"But, Father, I mean it."

"Mean what? Pardon an old man's slow understanding. What are you
talking about, my son?"

Father Beret glanced furtively about, then quickly stepped through
the doorway, walked entirely around the house and came in again
before Farnsworth could respond. Once more seated on his stool he
added interrogatively:

"Did you think you heard something moving outside?"

"No."

"You were saying something when I went out. Pardon my
interruption."

Farnsworth gave the priest a searching and not wholly confiding
look.

"You did not interrupt me, Father Beret. I was not speaking. Why
are you so watchful? Are you afraid of eavesdroppers?"

"You were speaking recklessly. Your words were incendiary:
ardentia verba. My son, you were suggesting a dangerous thing.
Your life would scarcely satisfy the law were you convicted of
insinuating such treason. What if one of your prowling guards had
overheard you? Your neck and mine might feel the halter. Quod
avertat dominus." He crossed himself and in a solemn voice added
in English:

"May the Lord forbid! Ah, my son, we priests protect those we
love."

"And I, who am not fit to tie a priest's shoe, do likewise.
Father, I love Alice Roussillon."

"Love is a holy thing, my son. Amare divinum est et humanum."

"Father Beret, can you help me?"

"Spiritually speaking, my son?"

"I mean, can you hide Mademoiselle Roussillon in some safe place,
if I take her out of the prison yonder? That's just what I mean.
Can you do it?"

"Your question is a remarkable one. Have you thought upon it from
all directions, my son? Think of your position, your duty as an
officer."

A shrewd polemical expression beamed from Father Beret's eyes, and
a very expert physiogomist might have suspected duplicity from
certain lines about the old man's mouth.

"I simply know that I cannot stand by and see Alice--Mademoiselle
Roussillon, forced to suffer treatment too beastly for an Indian
thief. That's the only direction there is for me to look at it
from, and you can understand my feelings if you will; you know
that very well, Father Beret. When a man loves a girl, he loves
her; that's the whole thing.".

The quiet, inscrutable half-smile flickered once more on Father
Beret's face; but he sat silent some time with a sinewy forefinger
lying alongside his nose. When at last he spoke it was in a tone
of voice indicative of small interest in what he was saying. His
words rambled to their goal with the effect of happy accident.

"There are places in this neighborhood in which a human being
would be as hard to find as the flag that you and Governor
Hamilton have so diligently and unsuccessfully been in quest of
for the past month or two. Really, my son, this is a mysterious
little town."

Farnsworth's eyes widened and a flush rose in his swarthy cheeks.

"Damn the flag!" he exclaimed. "Let it lie hidden forever; what do
I care? I tell you, Father Beret, that Alice Roussillon is in
extreme danger. Governor Hamilton means to put some terrible
punishment on her. He has a devil's vindictiveness. He showed it
to me clearly awhile ago."

"You showed something of the same sort to me, once upon a time, my
son."

"Yes, I did, Father Beret, and I got a load of slugs in my
shoulder for it from that brave girl's pistol. She saved your
life. Now I ask you to help me save hers; or, if not her life,
what is infinitely more, her honor."

"Her honor!" cried Father Beret, leaping to his feet so suddenly
and with such energy that the cabin shook from base to roof. "What
do you say, Captain Farnsworth? What do you mean?"

The old man was transformed. His face was terrible to see, with
its narrow, burning eyes deep under the shaggy brows, its dark
veins writhing snakelike on the temples and forehead, the
projected mouth and chin, the hard lines of the jaws, the iron-
gray gleam from all the features--he looked like an aged tiger
stiffened for a spring.

Farnsworth was made of right soldierly stuff; but he felt a
distinct shiver flit along his back. His past life had not lacked
thrilling adventures and strangely varied experiences with
desperate men. Usually he met sudden emergencies rather calmly,
sometimes with phlegmatic indifference. This passionate outburst
on the priest's part, however, surprised him and awed him, while
it stirred his heart with a profound sympathy unlike anything he
had ever felt before.

Father Beret mastered himself in a moment, and passing his hand
over his face, as if to brush away the excitement, sat down again
on his stool. He appeared to collapse inwardly.

"You must excuse the weakness of an old man, my son," he said, in
a voice hoarse and shaking. "But tell me what is going to be done
with Alice. Your words--what you said--I did not understand."

He rubbed his forehead slowly, as one who has difficulty in trying
to collect his thoughts.

"I do not know what Governor Hamilton means to do, Father Beret.
It will be something devilish, however,--something that must not
happen," said Farnsworth.

Then he recounted all that Hamilton had done and said. He
described the dreary and comfortless room in which Alice was
confined, the miserable fare given her, and how she would be
exposed to the leers and low remarks of the soldiers. She had
already suffered these things, and now that she could no longer
have any protection, what was to become of her? He did not attempt
to overstate the case; but presented it with a blunt sincerity
which made a powerfully realistic impression.

Father Beret, like most men of strong feeling who have been
subjected to long years of trial, hardship, multitudinous dangers
and all sorts of temptation, and who have learned the lessons of
self-control, had an iron will, and also an abiding distrust of
weak men. He saw Farnsworth's sincerity; but he had no faith in
his constancy, although satisfied that while resentment of
Hamilton's imperiousness lasted, he would doubtless remain firm in
his purpose to aid Alice. Let that wear off, as in a short time it
would, and then what? The old man studied his companion with eyes
that slowly resumed their expression of smouldering and almost
timid geniality. His priestly experience with desperate men was
demanding of him a proper regard for that subtlety of procedure
which had so often compassed most difficult ends.

He listened in silence to Farnsworth's story. When it came to an
end he began to offer some but half relevant suggestions in the
form of indirect cross-questions, by means of which he gradually
drew out a minute description of Alice's prison, the best way to
reach it, the nature of its door-fastenings, where the key was
kept, and everything, indeed, likely to be helpful to one
contemplating a jail delivery. Farnsworth was inwardly delighted.
He felt Father Beret's cunning approach to the central object and
his crafty method of gathering details.

The shades of evening thickened in the stuffy cabin room while the
conversation went on. Father Beret presently lifted a puncheon in
one corner of the floor and got out a large bottle, which bore a
mildewed and faded French label, and with it a small iron cup.
There was just light enough left to show a brownish sparkle when,
after popping out the cork, he poured a draught in the fresh cup
and in his own.

"We may think more clearly, my son, if we taste this old liquor. I
have kept it a long while to offer upon a proper occasion. The
occasion is here."

A ravishing bouquet quickly imbued the air. It was itself an
intoxication.

"The Brothers of St. Martin distilled this liquor," Father Beret
added, handing the cup to Farnsworth, "not for common social
drinking, my son, but for times when a man needs extraordinary
stimulation. It is said to be surpassingly good, because St.
Martin blessed the vine."

The doughty Captain felt a sudden and imperious thirst seize his
throat. The liquor flooded his veins before his lips touched the
cup. He had been abstaining lately; now his besetting appetite
rushed upon him. At one gulp he took in the fiery yet smooth and
captivating draught. Nor did he notice that Father Beret, instead
of joining him in the potation, merely lifted his cup and set it
down again, smacking his lips gusto.

There followed a silence, during which the aromatic breath of the
bottle increased its dangerous fascination. Then Father Beret
again filled Farnsworth's cup and said:

"Ah, the blessed monks, little thought they that their matchless
brew would ever be sipped in a poor missionary's hut on the
Wabash! But, after all, my son, why not here as well as in sunny
France? Our object justifies any impropriety of time and place."

"You are right, Father. I drink to our object. Yes, I say, to our
object."

In fact, the drinking preceded his speech, and his tongue already
had a loop in it The liquor stole through him, a mist of
bewildering and enchanting influence. The third cup broke his
sentences into unintelligible fragments; the fourth made his
underjaw sag loosely, the fifth and sixth, taken in close
succession, tumbled him limp on the floor, where he slept
blissfully all night long, snugly covered with some of Father
Beret's bed clothes.

"Per casum obliquum, et per indirectum," muttered the priest, when
he had returned the bottle and cup to their hiding-place." The end
justifies the means. Sleep well, my son. Ah, little Alice, little
Alice, your old Father will try--will try!"

He fumbled along the wall in the dark until he found the rapier,
which he took down; then he went out and sat for some time
motionless beside the door, while the clouds thickened overhead.
It was late when he arose and glided away shadow-like toward the
fort, over which the night hung black, chill and drearily silent.
The moon was still some hours high, smothered by the clouds; a fog
slowly drifted from the river.

Meantime Hamilton and Helm had spent a part of the afternoon and
evening, as usual, at cards. Helm broke off the game and went to
his quarters rather early for him, leaving the Governor alone and
in a bad temper, because Farnsworth, when he had sent for him,
could not be found. Three times his orderly returned in as many
hours with the same report; the Captain had not been seen or heard
of. Naturally this sudden and complete disappearance, immediately
after the reprimand, suggested to Hamilton an unpleasant
possibility. What if Farnsworth had deserted him? Down deep in his
heart he was conscious that the young man had good cause for
almost any desperate action. To lose Captain Farnsworth, however,
would be just now a calamity. The Indians were drifting over
rapidly to the side of the Americans, and every day showed that
the French could not long be kept quiet.

Hamilton sat for some time after Helm's departure, thinking over
what he now feared was a foolish mistake. Presently he buckled on
Alice's rapier, which he had lately been wearing as his own, and
went out into the main area of the stockade. A sentinel was
tramping to and fro at the gate, where a hazy lantern shone. The
night was breathless and silent. Hamilton approached the soldier
on duty and asked him if he had seen Captain Farnsworth, and
receiving a negative reply, turned about puzzled and thoughtful to
walk back and forth in the chill, foggy air.

Presently a faint yellow light attracted his attention. It shone
through a porthole in an upper room of the block-house at the
farther angle of the stockade. In fact, Alice was reading by a
sputtering lamp a book Farnsworth had sent her, a volume of
Ronsard that he had picked up in Canada. Hamilton made his way in
that direction, at first merely curious to know who was burning
oil so late; but after a few paces he recognized where the light
came from, and instantly suspected that Captain Farnsworth was
there. Indeed he felt sure of it. Somehow he could not regard
Alice as other than a saucy hoyden, incapable of womanly virtue.
His experience with the worst element of Canadian French life and
his peculiar cast of mind and character colored his impression of
her. He measured her by the women with whom the coureurs de bois
and half-breed trappers consorted in Detroit and at the posts
eastward to Quebec.

Alice, unable to sleep, had sought forgetfulness of her bitter
captivity in the old poet's charming lyrics. She sat on the floor,
some blankets and furs drawn around her, the book on her lap, the
stupidly dull lamp hanging beside her on a part of the swivel. Her
hair lay loose over her neck and shoulders and shimmered around
her face with a cloud-like effect, giving to the features in their
repose a setting that intensified their sweetness and sadness. In
a very low but distinct voice was reading, with a slightly
quavering emotion:

"Mignonne, allons voir si la rose,
Que ce matin avoit desclose
Sa robe de pourpe au soleil."

When Hamilton, after stealthily mounting the rough stairway which
led to her door, peeped in through a space between the slabs and
felt a stroke of disappointment, seeing at a glance that
Farnsworth was not there. He gazed for some time, not without a
sense of villainy, while she continued her sweetly monotonous
reading. If his heart had been as hard as the iron swivel-balls
that lay beside Alice, he must still have felt a thrill of
something like tender sympathy. She now showed no trace of the
vivacious sauciness which had heretofore always marked her
features when she was in his presence. A dainty gentleness,
touched with melancholy, gave to her face an appealing look all
the more powerful on account of its unconscious simplicity of
expression.

The man felt an impulse pure and noble, which would have borne him
back down the ladder and away from the building, had not a
stronger one set boldly in the opposite direction. There was a
short struggle with the seared remnant of his better nature, and
then he tried to open the door; but it was locked.

Alice heard the slight noise and breaking off her reading turned
to look. Hamilton made another effort to enter before he
recollected that the wooden key, or notched lever, that controlled
the cumbrous wooden lock, hung on a peg beside the door. He felt
for it along the wall, and soon laid his hand on it. Then again he
peeped through to see Alice, who was now standing upright near the
swivel. She had thrown her hair back from her face and neck; the
lamp's flickering light seemed suddenly to have magnified her
stature and enhanced her beauty. Her book lay on the tumbled wraps
at her feet, and in either hand she grasped a swivel-shot.

Hamilton's combative disposition came to the aid of his baser
passion when he saw once more a defiant flash from his prisoner's
face. It was easy for him to be fascinated by opposition. Helm had
profited by this trait as much as others had suffered by it; but,
in the case of Alice, Hamilton's mingled resentment and admiration
were but a powerful irritant to the coarsest and most dangerous
side of his nature.

After some fumbling and delay he fitted the key with a steady hand
and moved the wooden bolt creaking and jolting from its slot. Then
flinging the clumsy door wide open, he stepped in.

Alice started when she recognized the midnight intruder, and a
second deeper look into his countenance made her brave heart
recoil, while with a sinking sensation her breath almost stopped.
It was but a momentary weakness, however, followed by vigorous
reaction.

"What are you here for, sir?" she demanded. "What do you want?"

"I am neither a burglar nor a murderer, Mademoiselle," he
responded, lifting his hat and bowing, with a smile not in the
least reassuring.

"You look like both. Stop where you are!"

"Not so loud, my dear Miss Roussillon; I am not deaf. And besides
the garrison needs to sleep."

"Stop, sir; not another step."

She poised herself, leaning slightly backward, and held the iron
ball in her right hand ready to throw it at him.

He halted, still smiling villainously.

"Mademoiselle, I assure you that your excitement is quite
unnecessary. I am not here to harm you."

"You cannot harm me, you cowardly wretch!"

"Humph! Pride goes before a fall, wench," he retorted, taking a
half-step backward. Then a thought arose in his mind which added a
new shade to the repellent darkness of his countenance.

"Miss Roussillon," he said in English and with a changed voice,
which seemed to grow harder, each word deliberately emphasized, "I
have come to break some bad news to you."

"You would scarcely bring me good news, sir, and I am not curious
to hear the bad."

He was silent for a little while, gazing at her with the sort of
admiration from which a true woman draws away appalled. He saw how
she loathed him, saw how impossible it was for him to get a line
nearer to her by any turn of force or fortune. Brave, high-
headed, strong as a young leopard, pure and sweet as a rose, she
stood before him fearless, even aggressive, showing him by every
line of her face and form that she felt her infinite superiority
and meant to maintain it. Her whole personal expression told him
he was defeated; therefore he quickly seized upon a suggestion
caught from a transaction with Long-Hair, who had returned a few
hours before from his pursuit of Beverley.

"It pains me, I assure you, Miss Roussillon, to tell you what will
probably grieve you deeply," he presently added; "but I have not
been unaware of your tender interest in Lieutenant Beverley, and
when I had bad news from him, I thought it my duty to inform you."

He paused, feeling with a devil's satisfaction the point of his
statement go home to the girl's heart.

The wind was beginning to blow outside, shaking open the dark
clouds and letting gleams of moonlight flicker on the thinning
fog. A ghostly ray came through a crack between the logs and lit
Alice's face with a pathetic wanness. She moved her lips as if
speaking, but Hamilton heard no sound.

"The Indian, Long-Hair, whom I sent upon Lieutenant Beverley's
trail, reported to me this afternoon that his pursuit had been
quite successful. He caught his game."

Alice's voice came to her now. She drew in a quivering breath of
relief.

"Then he is here--he is--you have him a prisoner again?"

"A part of him, Miss Roussillon. Enough to be quite sure that
there is one traitor who will trouble his king no more. Mr. Long-
Hair brought in the Lieutenant's scalp."

Alice received this horrible statement in silence; but her face
blanched and she stood as if frozen by the shock. The shifty moon-
glimmer and the yellow glow of the lamp showed Hamilton to what an
extent his devilish cruelty hurt her, and somehow it chilled him
as if by reflection; but he could not forego another thrust.

"He deserved hanging, and would have got it had he been brought to
me alive. So after all, you should be satisfied. He escaped my
vengeance and Long-Hair got his pay. You see I am the chief
sufferer."

These words, however, fell without effect upon the girl's ears, in
which was booming the awful, storm-like roar of her excitement.
She did not see her persecutor standing there; her vision,
unhindered by walls and distance, went straight away to a place in
the wilderness, where all mangled and disfigured Beverley lay
dead. A low cry broke from her lips; she dropped the heavy swivel-
balls; and then, like a bird, swiftly, with a rustling swoop, she
went past Hamilton and down the stair.

For perhaps a full minute the man stood there motionless,
stupefied, amazed; and when at length he recovered himself, it was
with difficulty that he followed her. Everything seemed to hinder
him. When he reached the open air, however, he quickly regained
his activity of both mind and body, and looked in all directions.
The clouds were breaking into parallel masses with streaks of sky
between. The moon hanging aslant against the blue peeped forth
just in time to show him a flying figure which, even while he
looked, reached the postern, opened it and slipped through.

With but a breath of hesitation between giving the alarm and
following Alice silently and alone, he chose the latter. He was a
swift runner and light footed. With a few bounds he reached the
little gate, which was still oscillating on its hinges, darted
through and away, straining every muscle in desperate pursuit,
gaining rapidly in the race, which bore eastward along the course
twice before chosen by Alice in leaving the stockade.

CHAPTER XVII.

A MARCH THROUGH COLD WATER

On the fifth day of February, 1779, Colonel George Rogers Clark
led an army across the Kaskaskia River and camped. This was the
first step in his march towards the Wabash. An army! Do not smile.
Fewer than two hundred men, it is true, answered the roll-call,
when Father Gibault lifted the Cross and blessed them; but every
name told off by the company sergeants belonged to a hero, and
every voice making response struck a full note in the chorus of
freedom's morning song.

It was an army, small indeed, but yet an army; even though so
rudely equipped that, could we now see it before us, we might
wonder of what use it could possibly be in a military way.

We should nevertheless hardly expect that a hundred and seventy of
our best men, even if furnished with the latest and most deadly
engines of destruction, could do what those pioneers cheerfully
undertook and gloriously accomplished in the savage wilderness
which was to be the great central area of the United States of
America.

We look back with a shiver of awe at the three hundred Spartans
for whom Simonides composed his matchless epitaph. They wrought
and died gloriously; that was Greek. The one hundred and seventy
men, who, led by the backwoodsman, Clark, made conquest of an
empire's area for freedom in the west, wrought and lived
gloriously; that was American. It is well to bear in mind this
distinction by which our civilization separates itself from that
of old times. Our heroism has always been of life--our heroes have
conquered and lived to see the effect of conquest. We have fought
all sorts of wars and have never yet felt defeat. Washington,
Jackson, Taylor, Grant, all lived to enjoy, after successful war,
a triumphant peace. "These Americans," said a witty Frenchman,
"are either enormously lucky, or possessed of miraculous vitality.
You rarely kill them in battle, and if you wound them their wounds
are never mortal. Their history is but a chain of impossibilities
easily accomplished. Their undertakings have been without
preparation, their successes in the nature of stupendous
accidents." Such a statement may appear critically sound from a
Gallic point of view; but it leaves out the dominant element of
American character, namely, heroic efficiency. From the first we
have had the courage to undertake, the practical common sense
which overcomes the lack of technical training, and the vital
force which never flags under the stress of adversity.

Clark knew, when he set out on his march to Vincennes, that he was
not indulging a visionary impulse. The enterprise was one that
called for all that manhood could endure, but not more. With the
genius of a born leader he measured his task by his means. He knew
his own courage and fortitude, and understood the best capacity of
his men. He had genius; that is, he possessed the secret of
extracting from himself and from his followers the last refinement
of devotion to purpose. There was a certainty, from first to last,
that effort would not flag at any point short of the top-most
possible strain.

The great star of America was no more than a nebulous splendor on
the horizon in 1779. It was a new world forming by the law of
youth. The men who bore the burdens of its exacting life were
mostly stalwart striplings who, before the down of adolescence
fairly sprouted on their chins, could swing the ax, drive a plow,
close with a bear or kill an Indian. Clark was not yet twenty-
seven when he made his famous campaign. A tall, brawny youth,
whose frontier experience had enriched a native character of the
best quality, he marched on foot at the head of his little column,
and was first to test every opposing danger. Was there a stream to
wade or swim? Clark enthusiastically shouted, "Come on!" and in he
plunged. Was there a lack of food? "I'm not hungry," he cried.
"Help yourselves, men!" Had some poor soldier lost his blanket?
"Mine is in my way," said Clark. "Take it, I'm glad to get rid of
it!" His men loved him, and would die rather than fall short of
his expectations.

The march before them lay over a magnificent plain, mostly
prairie, rich as the delta of the Nile, but extremely difficult to
traverse. The distance, as the route led, was about a hundred and
seventy miles. On account of an open and rainy winter all the
basins and flat lands were inundated, often presenting leagues of
water ranging in depth from a few inches to three of four feet.
Cold winds blew, sometimes with spits of snow and dashes of sleet,
while thin ice formed on the ponds and sluggish streams. By day
progress meant wading ankle-deep, knee-deep, breast-deep, with an
occasional spurt of swimming. By night the brave fellows had to
sleep, if sleep they could, on the cold ground in soaked clothing
under water-heavy blankets. They flung the leagues behind them,
however, cheerfully stimulating one another by joke and challenge,
defying all the bitterness of weather, all the bitings of hunger,
all the toil, danger and deprivation of a trackless and houseless
wilderness, looking only eastward, following their youthful and
intrepid commander to one of the most valuable victories gained by
American soldiers during the War of the Revolution.

Colonel Clark understood perfectly the strategic importance of
Vincennes as a post commanding the Wabash, and as a base of
communication with the many Indian tribes north of the Ohio and
east of the Mississippi. Francis Vigo (may his name never fade!)
had brought him a comprehensive and accurate report of Hamilton's
strength and the condition of the fort and garrison. This
information confirmed his belief that it would be possible not
only to capture Vincennes, but Detroit as well.

Just seven days after the march began, the little army encamped
for a night's rest at the edge of a wood; and here, just after
nightfall, when the fires were burning merrily and the smell of
broiling buffalo steaks burdened the damp air, a wizzened old man
suddenly appeared, how or from where nobody had observed He was
dirty and in every way disreputable in appearance, looking like an
animated mummy, bearing a long rifle on his shoulder, and walking
with the somewhat halting activity of a very old, yet vivacious
and energetic simian. Of course it was Oncle Jason, "Oncle Jazon
sui generis," as Father Beret had dubbed him.

"Well, here I am!" he cried, approaching the fire by which Colonel
Clark and some of his officers were cooking supper, "but ye can't
guess in a mile o' who I am to save yer livers and lights."

He danced a few stiff steps, which made the water gush out of his
tattered moccasins, then doffed his nondescript cap and nodded his
scalpless head in salutation to the commander.

Clark looked inquiringly at him, while the old fellow grimaced and
rubbed his shrunken chin.

"I smelt yer fat a fryin' somepin like a mile away, an' it set my
in'ards to grumblin' for a snack; so I jes thought I'd drap in on
ye an' chaw wittles wi' ye."

"Your looks are decidedly against you," remarked the Colonel with
a dry smile. He had recognized Oncle Jazon after a little sharp
scrutiny. "I suppose, however, that we can let you gnaw the bones
after we've got off the meat."

"Thank 'ee, thank 'ee, plenty good. A feller 'at's as hongry as I
am kin go through a bone like a feesh through water."

Clark laughed and said:

"I don't see any teeth that you have worth mentioning, but your
gums may be unusually sharp."

"Ya-a-s, 'bout as sharp as yer wit, Colonel Clark, an' sharper'n
yer eyes, a long shot. Ye don't know me, do ye? Take ernother
squint at me, an' see'f ye kin 'member a good lookin' man!"

"You have somewhat the appearance of an old scamp by the name of
Jazon that formerly loafed around with a worthless gun on his
shoulder, and used to run from every Indian he saw down yonder in
Kentucky." Clark held out his hand and added cordially:

"How are you, Jazon, my old friend, and where upon earth have you
come from?"

Oncle Jazon pounced upon the hand and gripped it in his own
knotted fingers, gazing delightedly up into Clark's bronzed and
laughing face.

"Where'd I come frum? I come frum ever'wheres. Fust time I ever
got lost in all my born days. Fve been a trompin' 'round in the
water seems like a week, crazy as a pizened rat, not a knowin'
north f'om south, ner my big toe f'om a turnip! Who's got some
tobacker?"

Oncle Jazon's story, when presently he told it, interested Clark
deeply. In the first place he was glad to hear that Simon Kenton
had once more escaped from the Indians; and the news from
Beverley, although bad enough, left room for hope. Frontiersmen
always regarded the chances better than even, so long as there was
life. Oncle Jazon, furthermore, had much to tell about the
situation at Vincennes, the true feeling of the French
inhabitants, the lukewarm friendship of the larger part of the
Indians for Hamilton, and, indeed, everything that Clark wished to
know regarding the possibilities of success in his arduous
undertaking. The old man's advent cheered the whole camp. He soon
found acquaintances and friends among the French volunteers from
Kaskaskia, with whom he exchanged creole gestures and chatter with
a vivacity apparently inexhaustible. He and Kenton had, with wise
judgement, separated on escaping from the Indian camp, Kenton
striking out for Kentucky, while Oncle Jazon went towards
Kaskaskia.

The information that Beverley would be shot as soon as he was
returned to Hamilton, caused Colonel Clark serious worry of mind.
Not only the fact that Beverley, who had been a charming friend
and a most gallant officer, was now in such imminent danger, but
the impression (given by Oncle Jazon's account) that he had broken
his parole, was deeply painful to the brave and scrupulously
honorable commander. Still, friendship rose above regret, and
Clark resolved to push his little column forward all the more
rapidly, hoping to arrive in time to prevent the impending
execution.

Next morning the march was resumed at the break of dawn; but a
swollen stream caused some hours of delay, during which Beverley
himself arrived from the rear, a haggard and weirdly unkempt
apparition. He had been for three days following hard on the
army's track, which he came to far westward. Oncle Jazon saw him
first in the distance, and his old but educated eyes made no
mistake.

"Yander's that youngster Beverley," he exclaimed. "Ef it ain't I'm
a squaw!"

Nor did he parley further on the subject; but set off at a rickety
trot to meet and assist the fagged and excited young man.

Clark had given Oncle Jazon his flask, which contained a few gills
of whisky. This was the first thing offered to Beverley; who
wisely took but a swallow. Oncle Jazon was so elated that he waved
his cap on high, and unconsciously falling into French, yelled in
a piercing voice:

"VIVE ZHORSH VASINTON! VIVE LA BANNIERE D'ALICE ROUSSILLON!"

Seeing Beverley reminded him of Alice and the flag. As for
Beverley, the sentiment braced him, and the beloved name brimmed
his heart with sweetness.

Clark went to meet them as they came in. He hugged the gaunt
Lieutenant with genuine fervor of joy, while Oncle Jazon ran
around them making a series of grotesque capers. The whole
command, hearing Oncle Jazon's patriotic words, set up a wild
shouting on the spur of a general impression that Beverley came as
a messenger bearing glorious news from Washington's army in the
east.

It was a great relief to Clark when he found out that his favorite
Lieutenant had not broken his parole; but had instead boldly
resurrendered himself, declaring the obligation no longer binding,
and notifying Hamilton of his intention to go away with the
purpose of returning and destroying him and his command. Clark
laughed heartily when this explanation brought out Beverley's
tender interest in Alice; but he sympathized cordially; for he
himself knew what love is.

Although Beverley was half starved and still suffering from the
kicks and blows given him by Long-Hair and his warriors, his
exhausting run on the trail of Clark aad his band had not worked
him serious harm. All of the officers and men did their utmost to
serve him. He was feasted without stint and furnished with
everything that the scant supply of clothing on the pack horses
could afford for his comfort. He promptly asked for an assignment
to duty in his company and took his place with such high
enthusiasm that his companions regarded him with admiring wonder.
None of them save Clark and Oncle Jazon suspected that love for a
fair-haired girl yonder in Vincennes was the secret of his amazing
zeal and intrepidity.

In one respect Clark's expedition was sadly lacking in its
equipment for the march. It had absolutely no means of
transporting adequate supplies. The pack-horses were not able to
carry more than a little extra ammunition, a few articles of
clothing, some simple cooking utensils and such tools as were
needed in improvising rafts and canoes. Consequently, although
buffalo and deer were sometimes plentiful, they furnished no
lasting supply of meat, because it could not be transported; and
as the army neared Vincennes wild animals became scarce, so that
the men began to suffer from hunger when within but a few days of
their journey's end.

Clark made almost superhuman efforts in urging forward his
chilled, water-soaked, foot-sore command; and when hunger added
its torture to the already disheartening conditions, his courage
and energy seemed to burn stronger and brighter. Beverley was
always at his side ready to undertake any task, accept any risk;
his ardor made his face glow, and he seemed to thrive upon
hardships. The two men were a source of inspiration--their
followers could not flag and hesitate while under the influence of
their example.

Toward the end of the long march a decided fall of temperature
added ice to the water through which our dauntless patriots waded
and swam for miles. The wind shifted northwesterly, taking on a
searching chill. Each gust, indeed, seemed to shoot wintry
splinters into the very marrow of the men's bones. The weaker ones
began to show the approach of utter exhaustion just at the time
when a final spurt of unflinching power was needed. True, they
struggled heroically; but nature was nearing the inexorable limit
of endurance. Without food, which there was no prospect of
getting, collapse was sure to come.

Standing nearly waist-deep in freezing water and looking out upon
the muddy, sea-like flood that stretched far away to the channel
of the Wabash and beyond, Clark turned to Beverley and said,
speaking low, so as not to be overheard by any other of his
officers or men:

"Is it possible, Lieutenant Beverley, that we are to fail, with
Vincennes almost in sight of us?"

"No, sir, it is not possible," was the firm reply. "Nothing must,
nothing can stop us. Look at that brave child! He sets the heroic
example."

Beverley pointed, as he spoke, at a boy but fourteen years old,
who was using his drum as a float to bear him up while he
courageously swam beside the men.

Clark's clouded face cleared once more. "You are right," he said,
"come on! we must win or die."

"Sergeant Dewit," he added, turning to an enormously tall and
athletic man near by, "take that little drummer and his drum on
your shoulder and lead the way. And, sergeant, make him pound that
drum like the devil beating tan-bark!"

The huge man caught the spirit of his commander's order. In a
twinkling he had the boy astride of his neck with the kettle-drum
resting on his head, and then the rattling music began. Clark
followed, pointing onward with his sword. The half frozen and
tottering soldiers sent up a shout that went back to where Captain
Bowman was bringing up the rear under orders to shoot every man
that straggled or shrank from duty.

Now came a time when not a mouthful of food was left. A whole day
they floundered on, starving, growing fainter at every step, the
temperature falling, the ice thickening. They camped on high land;
and next morning they heard Hamilton's distant sunrise gun boom
over the water.

"One half-ration for the men," said Clark, looking disconsolately
in the direction whence the sound had come. "Just five mouthfuls
apiece, even, and I'll have Hamilton and his fort within forty-
eight hours."

"We will have the provisions, Colonel, or I will die trying to get
them," Beverley responded "Depend upon me."

They had constructed some canoes in which to transport the weakest
of the men.

"I will take a dugout and some picked fellows. We will pull to the
wood yonder, and there we shall find some kind of game which has
been forced to shelter from the high water."

It was a cheerful view of a forlorn hope. Clark grasped the hand
extended by Beverley and they looked encouragement into each
other's eyes.

Oncle Jazon volunteered to go in the pirogue. He was ready for
anything, everything.

"I can't shoot wo'th a cent," he whined, as they took their places
in the cranky pirogue; "but I might jes' happen to kill a squir'l
or a elephant or somepin 'nother."

"Very well," shouted Clark in a loud, cheerful voice, when they
had paddled away to a considerable distance, "bring the meat to
the woods on the hill yonder," pointing to a distant island-like
ridge far beyond the creeping flood. "We'll be there ready to eat
it!"

He said this for the ears of his men. They heard and answered with
a straggling but determined chorus of approval. They crossed the
rolling current of the Wabash by a tedious process of ferrying,
and at last found themselves once more wading in back-water up to
their armpits, breaking ice an inch thick as they went. It was the
closing struggle to reach the high wooded lands. Many of them fell
exhausted; but their stronger comrades lifted them, holding their
heads above water, and dragged them on.

Clark, always leading, always inspiring, was first to set foot on
dry land. He shouted triumphantly, waved his sword, and then fell
to helping the men out of the freezing flood. This accomplished,
he ordered fires built; but there was not a soldier of them all
whose hands could clasp an ax-handle, so weak and numbed with cold
were they. He was not to be baffled, however. If fire could not be
had, exercise must serve its purpose. Hastily pouring some powder
into his hand he dampened it and blacked his face. "Victory, men,
victory!" he shouted, taking off his hat and beginning to leap and
dance. "Come on! We'll have a war dance and then a feast, as soon
as the meat arrives that I have sent for. Dance! you brave lads,
dance! Victory! victory!"

The strong men, understanding their Colonel's purpose, took hold
of the delicate ones; and the leaping, the capering, the tumult of
voices and the stamping of slushy moccasins with which they
assaulted that stately forest must have frightened every wild
thing thereabout into a deadly rigor, dark's irrepressible energy
and optimism worked a veritable charm upon his faithful but almost
dying companions in arms. Their trust in him made them feel sure
that food would soon be forthcoming. The thought afforded a
stimulus more potent than wine; it drove them into an ecstasy of
frantic motion and shouting which soon warmed them thoroughly.

It is said that fortune favors the brave. The larger meaning of
the sentence may be given thus: God guards those who deserve His
protection. History tells us that just when Clark halted his
command almost in sight of Vincennes--just when hunger was about
to prevent the victory so close to his grasp--a party of his
scouts brought in the haunch of a buffalo captured from some
Indians. The scouts were Lieutenant Beverley and Oncle Jazon. And
with the meat they brought Indian kettles in which to cook it.

With consummate forethought Clark arranged to prevent his men
doing themselves injury by bolting their food or eating it half-
cooked. Broth was first made and served hot; then small bits of
well broiled steak were doled out, until by degrees the fine
effect of nourishment set in, and all the command felt the fresh
courage of healthy reaction.

"I ain't no gin'ral, nor corp'ral, nor nothin'," remarked Oncle
Jazon to Colonel Clark, "but 'f I's you I'd h'ist up every dad
dinged ole flag in the rig'ment, w'en I got ready to show myself
to 'em, an' I'd make 'em think, over yander at the fort, 'at I had
'bout ninety thousan' men. Hit'd skeer that sandy faced Gov'nor
over there till he'd think his back-bone was a comin' out'n 'im by
the roots."

Clark laughed, but his face showed that the old man's suggestion
struck him forcibly and seriously.

"We'll see about that presently, Oncle Jazon. Wait till we reach
the hill yonder, from which the whole town can observe our
manoeuvres, then we'll try it, maybe."

Once more the men were lined up, the roll-call gone through with
satisfactorily, and the question put: "Are we ready for another
plunge through the mud and water?"

The answer came in the affirmative, with a unanimity not to be
mistaken. The weakest heart of them all beat to the time of the
charge step. Again Clark and Beverley clasped hands and took the
lead.

When they reached the next high ground they gazed in silence
across a slushy prairie plot to where, on a slight elevation, old
Vincennes and Fort Sackville lay in full view.

Beverley stood apart. A rush of sensations affected him so that he
shook like one whose strength is gone. His vision was blurred.
Fort and town swimming in a mist were silent and still. Save the
British flag twinkling above Hamilton's headquarters, nothing
indicated that the place was not deserted. And Alice? With the
sweet name's echo Beverley's heart bounded high, then sank
fluttering at the recollection that she was either yonder at the
mercy of Hamilton, or already the victim of an unspeakable
cruelty. Was it weakness for him to lift his clasped hands
heavenward and send up a voiceless prayer?

While he stood thus Oncle Jazon came softly to his side and
touched his arm. Beverley started.

"The nex' thing'll be to shoot the everlastin' gizzards outen 'em,
won't it?" the old man inquired. "I'm jes' a eetchin' to git a
grip onto that Gov'nor. Ef I don't scelp 'em I'm a squaw."

Beverley drew a deep breath and came promptly. back from his
dream. It was now Oncle Jazon's turn to assume a reflective,
reminiscent mood. He looked about him with an expression of vague
half tenderness on his shriveled features.

"I's jes' a thinkin' how time do run past a feller," he presently
remarked. "Twenty-seven years ago I camped right here wi' my wife--
ninth one, ef I 'member correct--jes' fresh married to 'r; sort
o' honey-moon. 'Twus warm an' sunshiny an' nice. She wus a poorty
squaw, mighty poorty, an' I wus as happy as a tomtit on a sugar-
trough. We b'iled sap yander on them nobs under the maples. It wus
glor'us. Had some several wives 'fore an' lots of 'm sence; but
she wus sweetes' of 'm all. Strange how a feller 'members sich
things an' feels sort o' lonesome like!"

The old man's mouth drooped at the corners and he hitched up his
buckskin trousers with a ludicrous suggestion of pathos in every
line of his attitude. Unconsciously he sidled closer to Beverley,
remotely feeling that he was giving the young man very effective
sympathy, well knowing that Alice was the sweet burden of his
thoughts. It was thus Oncle Jazon honestly tried to fortify his
friend against what probably lay in store for him.

But Beverley failed to catch the old man's crude comfort thus
flung at him. The analogy was not apparent. Oncle Jazon probably
felt that his kindness had been ineffectual, for he changed his
tone and added:

"But I s'pose a young feller like ye can't onderstan' w'at it is
to love a 'oman an' 'en hev 'er quit ye for 'nother feller, an'
him a buck Injin. Wall, wall, wall, that's the way it do go! Of
all the livin' things upon top o' this yere globe, the mos'
onsartin', crinkety-crankety an' slippery thing is a young 'oman
'at knows she's poorty an' 'at every other man in the known world
is blind stavin' crazy in love wi' 'er, same as you are. She'll
drop ye like a hot tater 'fore ye know it, an' 'en look at ye jes'
pine blank like she never knowed ye afore in her life. It's so,
Lieutenant, shore's ye'r born. I know, for I've tried the odd
number of 'em, an' they're all jes' the same."

By this time Beverley's ears were deaf to Oncle Jazon's querulous,
whining voice, and his thoughts once more followed his wistful
gaze across the watery plain to where the low roofs of the creole
town appeared dimly wavering in the twilight of eventide, which
was fast fading into night. The scene seemed unsubstantial; he
felt a strange lethargy possessing his soul; he could not realize
the situation. In trying to imagine Alice, she eluded him, so that
a sort of cloudy void fell across his vision with the effect of
baffling and benumbing it. He made vain efforts to recall her
voice, things that she had said to him, her face, her smiles; all
he could do was to evoke an elusive, tantalizing, ghostly
something which made him shiver inwardly with a haunting fear that
it meant the worst, whatever the worst might be. Where was she?
Could she be dead, and this the shadowy message of her fate?

Darkness fell, and a thin fog began to drift in wan streaks above
the water. Not a sound, save the suppressed stir of the camp,
broke the wide, dreary silence. Oncle Jazon babbled until
satisfied that Beverley was unappreciative, or at least
unresponsive.

"Got to hev some terbacker," he remarked, and shambled away in
search of it among his friends.

A little later Clark approached hastily and said:

"I have been looking for you. The march has begun. Bowman and
Charleville are moving; come, there's no time to lose."

CHAPTER XVIII

A DUEL BY MOONLIGHT

When Hamilton, after running some distance, saw that he was
gaining upon Alice and would soon overtake her, it added fresh
energy to his limbs. He had quickly realized the foolishness of
what he had done in visiting the room of his prisoner at so late
an hour in the night. What would his officers and men think? To
let Alice escape would be extremely embarrassing, and to be seen
chasing her would give good ground for ridicule on the part of his
entire command. Therefore his first thought, after passing through
the postern and realizing fully what sort of predicament
threatened him, was to recapture her and return her to the prison
room in the block-house without attracting attention. This now
promised to be an easier task than he had at first feared; for in
the moonlight, which on account of the dispersing clouds, was fast
growing stronger, he saw her seem to falter and weaken. Certainly
her flight was checked and took an eccentric turn, as if some
obstruction had barred her way. He rushed on, not seeing that, as
Alice swerved, a man intervened. Indeed he was within a few
strides of laying his hand on her when he saw her make the strange
movement. It was as if, springing suddenly aside, she had become
two persons instead of one. But instantly the figures coincided
again, and in becoming taller faced about and confronted him.

Hamilton stopped short in his tracks. The dark figure was about
five paces from him. It was not Alice, and a sword flashed dimly
but unmistakably in a ray of the moon. The motion visible was that
of an expert swordsman placing himself firmly on his legs, with
his weapon at guard.

Alice saw the man in her path just in time to avoid running
against him. Lightly as a flying bird, when it whisks itself in a
short semicircle past a tree or a bough, she sprang aside and
swung around to the rear of him, where she could continue her
course toward the town. But in passing she recognized him. It was
Father Beret, and how grim he looked! The discovery was made in
the twinkling of an eye, and its effect was instantaneous, not
only checking the force of her flight, but stopping her and
turning her about to gaze before she had gone five paces farther.

Hamilton's nerve held, startled as he was, when he realized that
an armed man stood before him. Naturally he fell into the error of
thinking that he had been running after this fellow all the way
from the little gate, where, he supposed, Alice had somehow given
him the slip. It was a mere flash of brain-light, so to call it,
struck out by the surprise of this curious discovery. He felt his
bellicose temper leap up furiously at being balked in a way so
unexpected and withal so inexplicable. Of course he did not stand
there reasoning it all out. The rush of impressions came, and at
the same time he acted with promptness. Changing the rapier, which
he held in his right hand, over into his left, he drew a small
pistol from the breast of his coat and fired. The report was sharp
and loud; but it caused no uneasiness or inquiry in the fort,
owing to the fact that Indians invariably emptied their guns when
coming into the town.

Hamilton's aim, although hasty, was not bad. The bullet from his
weapon cut through Father Beret's clothes between his left arm and
his body, slightly creasing the flesh on a rib. Beyond him it
struck heavily and audibly. Alice fell limp and motionless to the
soft wet ground, where cold puddles of water were splintered over
with ice. She lay pitifully crumpled, one arm outstretched in the
moonlight. Father Beret heard the bullet hit her, and turned in
time to see her stagger backward with a hand convulsively pressed
over her heart. Her face, slightly upturned as she reeled, gave
the moon a pallid target for its strengthening rays. Sweet,
beautiful, its rigid features flashed for a second and then half
turned away from the light and went down.

Father Beret uttered a short, thin cry and moved as if to go to
the fallen girl, but just then he saw Hamilton's sword pass over
again into his right hand, and knew that there was no time for
anything but death or fight. The good priest did not shirk what
might have made the readiest of soldiers nervous. Hamilton was
known to be a great swordsman and proud of the distinction. Father
Beret had seen him fence with Farnsworth in remarkable form,
touching him at will, and in ministering to the men in the fort he
had heard them talk of the Governor's incomparable skill.

A priest is, in perhaps all cases but the last out of a thousand,
a man of peace, not to be forced into a fight; but the exceptional
one out of the ten hundred it is well not to stir up if you are
looking for an easy victim. Hamilton was in the habit of
considering every antagonist immediately conquerable. His
domineering spirit could not, when opposed, reckon with any
possibility of disaster. As he sprang toward Father Beret there
was a mutual recognition and, we speak guardedly, something that
sounded exactly like an exchange of furious execrations. As for
Father Beret's words, they may have been a mere priestly formula
of objurgation.

The moon was accommodating. With a beautiful white splendor it
entered a space of cloudless sky, where it seemed to slip along
the dusky blue surface among the stars, far over in the west.

"It's you, is it?" Hamilton exclaimed between teeth that almost
crushed one another. "You prowling hypocrite of hell!"

Father Beret said something. It was not complimentary, and it
sounded sulphurous, if not profane. Remember, however, that a
priest can scarcely hope to be better than Peter, and Peter did

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