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Alice of Old Vincennes by Maurice Thompson

Part 6 out of 7

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actually make the Simon pure remark when hard pressed. At all
events Father Beret said something with vigorous emphasis, and met
Hamilton half way.

Both men, stimulated to the finger-tips by a draught of imperious
passion, fairly plunged to the inevitable conflict. Ah, if Alice
could have seen her beautiful weapons cross, if she could have
heard the fine, far-reaching clink, clink, clink, while sparks
leaped forth, dazzling even in the moonlight; if she could have
noted the admirable, nay, the amazing, play, as the men, regaining
coolness to some extent, gathered their forces and fell cautiously
to the deadly work, it would have been enough to change the cold
shimmer of her face to a flash of warm delight. For she would have
understood every feint, longe, parry, and seen at a glance how
Father Beret set the pace and led the race at the beginning. She
would have understood; for Father Beret had taught her all she
knew about the art of fencing.

Hamilton quickly felt, and with a sense of its strangeness, the
priest's masterly command of his weapon. The surprise called up
all his caution and cleverness. Before he could adjust himself to
such an unexpected condition he came near being spitted outright
by a pretty pass under his guard. The narrow escape, while it put
him on his best mettle, sent a wave of superstition through his
brain. He recalled what Barlow had jocularly said about the doings
of the devil-priest or priest-devil at Roussillon place on that
night when the patrol guard attempted to take Gaspard Roussillon.
Was this, indeed, Father Beret, that gentle old man, now before
him, or was it an avenging demon from the shades?

The thought flitted electrically across his mind, while he deftly
parried, feinted, longed, giving his dark antagonist all he could
do to meet the play. Priest or devil, he thought, he cared not
which, he would reach its vitals presently. Yet there lingered
with him a haunting half-fear, or tenuous awe, which may have
aided, rather than hindered his excellent swordsmanship.

Under foot it was slushy with mud, water and ice, the consistency
varying from a somewhat solid crust to puddles that half inundated
Hamilton's boots and quite overflowed Father Beret's moccasins. An
execrable field for the little matter in hand. They gradually
shifted position. Now it was the Governor, then the priest, who
had advantage as to the light. For some time Father Beret seemed
quite the shiftier and surer fighter, but (was it his age telling
on him?) he lost perceptibly in suppleness. Still Hamilton failed
to touch him. There was a baffling something in the old man's
escape now and again from what ought to have been an inevitable
stroke. Was it luck? It seemed to Hamilton more than that--a sort
of uncanny evasion. Or was it supreme mastery, the last and
subtlest reach of the fencer's craft?

Youth forced age slowly backward in the struggle, which at times
took on spurts so furious that the slender blades, becoming mere
glints of acicular steel, split the moonlight back and forth, up
and down, so that their meetings, following one another in a well-
nigh continuous stroke, sent a jarring noise through the air.
Father Beret lost inch by inch, until the fighting was almost over
the body of Alice; and now for the first time Hamilton became
aware of that motionless something with the white, luminous face
in profile against the ground; but he did not let even that
unsettle his fencing gaze, which followed the sunken and dusky
eyes of his adversary. A perspiration suddenly flooded his body,
however, and began to drip across his face. His arm was tiring. A
doubt crept like a chill into his heart. Then the priest appeared
to add a cubit to his stature and waver strangely in the soft
light. Behind him, low against the sky, a wide winged owl shot
noiselessly across just above the prairie.

The soul of a true priest is double: it is the soul of a saint and
the soul of a worldly man. What is most beautiful in this duality
is the supreme courage with which the saintly spirit attacks the
worldly and so often heroically masters it. In the beginning of
the fight Father Beret let a passion of the earthly body take him
by storm. It was well for Governor Henry Hamilton that the priest
was so wrought upon as to unsettle his nerves, otherwise there
would have been an evil heart impaled midway of Father Beret's
rapier. A little later the saintly spirit began to assert itself,
feebly indeed, but surely. Then it was that Father Beret seemed to
be losing agility for a while as he backstepped away from
Hamilton's increasing energy of assault. In his heart the priest
was saying: "I will not murder him. I must not do that. He
deserves death, but vengeance is not mine. I will disarm him."
Step by step he retreated, playing erratically to make an opening
for a trick he meant to use.

It was singularly loose play, a sort of wavering, shifty,
incomprehensible show of carelessness, that caused Hamilton to
entertain a doubt, which was really a fear, as to what was going
to happen; for, notwithstanding all this neglect of due precaution
on the priest's part, to touch him seemed impossible, miraculously
so, and every plan of attack dissolved into futility in the most
maddening way.

"Priest, devil or ghost!" raged Hamilton, with a froth gathering
around his mouth; "I'll kill you, or--"

He made a longe, when his adversary left an opening which appeared
absolutely beyond defence. It was a quick, dextrous, vicious
thrust. The blade leaped toward Father Beret's heart with a
twinkle like lightning.

At that moment, although warily alert and hopeful that his
opportunity was at hand, Father Beret came near losing his life;
for as he side-stepped and easily parried Hamilton's thrust, which
he had invited, thinking to entangle his blade and disarm him, he
caught his foot in Alice's skirt and stumbled, nearly falling
across her. It would have been easy for Hamilton to run him
through, had he instantly followed up the advantage. But the
moonlight on Alice's face struck his eyes, and by that indirect
ray of vision which is often strangely effective, he recognized
her lying there. It was a disconcerting thing for him, but he
rallied instantly and sprang aside, taking a new position just in
time to face Father Beret again. A chill crept up his back. The
horror which he could not shake off enraged him beyond measure.
Gathering fresh energy, he renewed the assault with desperate
steadiness the highest product of absolutely molten fury.

Father Beret felt the dangerous access of power in his
antagonist's arm, and knew that a crisis had arrived. He could not
be careless now. Here was a swordsman of the best school calling
upon him for all the skill and strength and cunning that he could
command. Again the saintly element was near being thrown aside by
the worldly in the old man's breast. Alice lying there seemed
mutely demanding that he avenge her. A riotous something in his
blood clamored for a quick and certain act in this drama by
moonlight--a tragic close by a stroke of terrible yet perfectly
fitting justice.

There was but the space of a breath for the conflict in the
priest's heart, yet during that little time he reasoned the case
and quoted scripture to himself.

"Domine, percutimus in gladio?" rang through his mind. "Lord,
shall we smite with the sword?"

Hamilton seemed to make answer to this with a dazzling display of
skill. The rapiers sang a strange song above the sleeping girl, a
lullaby with coruscations of death in every keen note.

Father Beret was thinking of Alice. His brain, playing double,
calculated with lightning swiftness the chances and movements of
that whirlwind rush of fight, while at the same time it swept
through a retrospect of all the years since Alice came into his
life. How he had watched her grow and bloom; how he had taught
her, trained her mind and soul and body to high things, loved her
with a fatherly passion unbounded, guarded her from the coarse and
lawless influences of her surroundings. Like the tolling of an
infinitely melancholy bell, all this went through his breast and
brain, and, blending with a furious current of whatever passions
were deadly dangerous in his nature, swept as a storm bearing its
awful force into his sword-arm.

The Englishman was a lion, the priest a gladiator. The stars aloft
in the vague, dark, yet splendid, amphitheater were the audience.
It was a question. Would the thumbs go down or up? Life and death
held the chances even; but it was at the will of Heaven, not of
the stars. "Hoc habet" must follow the stroke ordered from beyond
the astral clusters and the dusky blue.

Hamilton pressed, nay rushed, the fight with a weight and at a
pace which could not last. But Father Beret withstood him so
firmly that he made no farther headway; he even lost some ground a
moment later.

"You damned Jesuit hypocrite!" he snarled; "you lowest of a vile
brotherhood of liars!"

Then he rushed again, making a magnificent show of strength,
quickness and accuracy. The sparks hissed and crackled from the
rasping and ringing blades.

Father Beret was, in truth, a Jesuit, and as such a zealot; but he
was not a liar or a hypocrite. Being human, he resented an insult.
The saintly spirit in him was strong, yet not strong enough to
breast the indignation which now dashed against it. For a moment
it went down.

"Liar and scoundrel yourself!" he retorted, hoarsely forcing the
words out of his throat. "Spawn of a beastly breed!"

Hamilton saw and felt a change pass over the spirit of the old
priest's movements. Instantly the sword leaping against his own
seemed endowed with subtle cunning and malignant treachery. Before
this it had been difficult enough to meet the fine play and hold
fairly even; now he was startled and confused; but he rose to the
emergency with admirable will power and cleverness.

"Murderer of a poor orphan girl!" Father Beret added with a hot
concentrated accent; "death is too good for you."

Hamilton felt nearer his grave than ever before in all his wild
experience, for somehow doom, shadowy and formless, like the
atmosphere of an awful dream, enmisted those words; but he was no
weakling to quit at the height of desperate conflict. He was
strong, expert, and game to the middle of his heart.

"I'll add a traitor Jesuit to my list of dead," he panted forth,
rising yet again to the extremest tension of his power.

As he did this Father Beret settled himself as you have seen a
mighty horse do in the home stretch of a race. Both men knew that
the moment had arrived for the final act in their impromptu play.
It was short, a duel condensed and crowded into fifteen seconds of
time, and it was rapid beyond the power of words to describe. A
bystander, had there been one, could not have seen what was
finally done or how it was done. Father Beret's sword seemed to be
revolving--it was a halo in front of Hamilton for a mere point of
time. The old priest seemed to crouch and then make a quick motion
as if about to leap backward. A wrench and a snip, as of something
violently jerked from a fastening, were followed by a semicircular
flight of Hamilton's rapier over Father Beret's head to stick in
the ground ten feet behind him. The duel was over, and the whole
terrible struggle had occupied less than three minutes.

With his wrist strained and his fingers almost broken, Hamilton
stumbled forward and would have impaled himself had not Father
Beret turned the point of his weapon aside as he lowered it.

"Surrender, or die!"

That was a strange order for a priest to make, but there could be
no mistaking its authority or the power behind it. Hamilton
regained his footing and looked dazed, wheezing and puffing like a
porpoise, but he clearly understood what was demanded of him.

"If you call out I'll run you through," Father Beret added, seeing
him move his lips as if to shout for help.

The level rapier now reinforced the words. Hamilton let the breath
go noiselessly from his mouth and waved his hand in token of
enforced submission.

"Well, what do you want me to do?" he demanded after a short
pause. "You seem to have me at your mercy. What are your terms?"

Father Beret hesitated. It was a question difficult to answer.

"Give me your word as a British officer that you will never again
try to harm any person, not an open, armed enemy, in this town."

Hamilton's gorge rose perversely. He erected himself with lofty
reserve and folded his arms. The dignity of a Lieutenant Governor
leaped into him and took control. Father Beret correctly
interpreted what he saw.

"My people have borne much," he said, "and the killing of that
poor child there will be awfully avenged if I but say the word.
Besides, I can turn every Indian in this wilderness against you in
a single day. You are indeed at my mercy, and I will be merciful
if you will satisfy my demand."

He was trembling with emotion while he spoke and the desire to
kill the man before him was making a frightful struggle with his
priestly conscience; but conscience had the upper hand. Hamilton
stood gazing fixedly, pale as a ghost, his thoughts becoming more
and more clear and logical. He was in a bad situation. Every word
that Father Beret had spoken was true and went home with force.
There was no time for parley or subterfuge; the sword looked as
if, eager to find his heart, it could not be held back another
moment. But the wan, cold face of the girl had more power than the
rapier's hungry point. It made an abject coward of him.

"I am willing to give you my word," he presently said. "And let me
tell you," he went on more rapidly, "I did not shoot at her. She
was behind you,"

"Your word as a British officer?"

Hamilton again stiffened and hesitated, but only for the briefest
space, then said:

"Yes, my word as a British officer."

Father Beret waved his hand with impatience.

"Go, then, back to your place in the fort and disturb, my people
no more. The soul of this poor little girl will haunt you forever.
Go!"

Hamilton stood a little while gazing at the face of Alice with the
horrible wistfulness of remorse. What would he not have given to
rub his eyes and find it all a dream?

He turned away; a cloud scudded across the moon; here and yonder
in the dim town cocks crowed with a lonesome, desultory effect.

Father Beret plucked up the rapier that he had wrenched from
Hamilton's hand. It suggested something.

"Hold!" he called out, "give me the scabbard of this sword."
Hamilton, who was striding vigorously in the direction of the
fort, turned about as the priest hastened to him.

"Give me the scabbard of this rapier; I want it. Take it off."

The command was not gently voiced. A hoarse, half-whisper winged
every word with an imperious threat.

Hamilton obeyed. His hands were not firm; his fingers fumbled
nervously; but he hurried, and Father Beret soon had the rapier
sheathed and secured at his belt beside its mate.

A good and true priest is a burden-bearer. His motto is: Alter
alterius onera portate; bear ye one another's burdens. His soul is
enriched with the cast-off sorrows of those whom he relieves.
Father Beret scarcely felt the weight of Alice's body when he
lifted it from the ground, so heavy was the pressure of his grief.
All that her death meant, not only to him, but to every person who
knew her, came into his heart as the place of refuge consecrated
for the indwelling of pain. He lifted her and bore her as far
toward Roussillon place as he could; but his strength fell short
just in front of the little Bourcier cottage, and half dead he
staggered across the veranda to the door, where he sank exhausted.

After a breathing spell he knocked. The household, fast asleep,
did not hear; but he persisted until the door was opened to him
and his burden.

Captain Farnsworth unclosed his bloodshot eyes, at about eight
o'clock in the morning, quite confused as to his place and
surroundings. He looked about drowsily with a sheepish half-
knowledge of having been very drunk. A purring in his head and a
dull ache reminded him of an abused stomach. He yawned and
stretched himself, then sat up, running a hand through his tousled
hair. Father Beret was on his knees before the cross, still as a
statue, his clasped hands extended upward.

Farnsworth's face lighted with recognition, and he smiled rather
bitterly. He recalled everything and felt ashamed, humiliated,
self-debased. He had outraged even a priest's hospitality with his
brutish appetite, and he hated himself for it. Disgust nauseated
his soul apace with the physical sinking and squirming that grew
upon him.

"I'm a shabby, worthless dog!" he muttered, with petulant accent;
"why don't you kick me out, Father?"

The priest turned a collapsed and bloodless gray face upon him,
smiled in a tired, perfunctory way, crossed himself absently and
said:

"You have rested well, my son. Hard as the bed is, you have done
it a compliment in the way of sleeping. You young soldiers
understand how to get the most out of things."

"You are too generous, Father, and I can't appreciate it. I know
what I deserve, and you know it, too. Tell me what a brute and
fool I am; it will do me good. Punch me a solid jolt in the ribs,
like the one you gave me not long ago."

"Qui sine peccato est, primus lapidem mittat" said the priest.
"Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

He had gone to the hearth and was taking from the embers an
earthen saucer, or shallow bowl, in which some fragrant broth
simmered and steamed.

"A man who has slept as long as you have, my son, usually has a
somewhat delicate appetite. Now, here is a soup, not especially
satisfying to the taste of a gourmet like yourself, but possessing
the soothing quality that is good for one just aroused from an
unusual nap. I offer it, my son, propter stomachum tuum, et
frequentes tuas infirmitates (on account of thy stomach, and thine
often infirmities). This soup will go to the right spot."

While speaking he brought the hot bowl to Farnsworth and set it on
the bedcover before him, then fetched a big horn spoon.

The fragrance of pungent roots and herbs, blent with a savory waft
of buffalo meat, greeted the Captain's sense, and the anticipation
itself cheered his aching throat. It made him feel greedy and in a
hurry. The first spoonful, a trifle bitter, was not so pleasant at
the beginning, but a moment after he swallowed it a hot prickling
set in and seemed to dart through him from extremity to extremity.

Slowly, as he ate, the taste grew more agreeable, and all the
effects of his debauch disappeared. It was like magic; his blood
warmed and glowed, as if touched with mysterious fire.

"What is this in this soup, Father Beret, that makes it so
searching and refreshing?" he demanded, when the bowl was empty.

Father Beret shook his head and smiled drolly.

"That I cannot divulge, my son, owing to a promise I had to make
to the aged Indian who gave me the secret. It is the elixir of the
Miamis. Only their consecrated medicine men hold the recipe. The
stimulation is but temporary."

Just then someone knocked on the door. Father Beret opened it to
one of Hamilton's aides,

"Your pardon, Father, but hearing Captain Farnsworth's voice I
made bold to knock."

"What is it, Bobby?" Farnsworth called out.

"Nothing, only the Governor has been having you looked for in
every nook and corner of the fort and town. You'd better report at
once, or hell be having us drag the river for your body."

"All right, Lieutenant, go back and keep mum, that's a dear boy,
and I'll shuffle into Colonel Hamilton's august presence before
many minutes."

The aide laughed and went his way whistling a merry tune.

"Now I am sure to get what I deserve, with usury at forty per cent
in advance," said Farnsworth dryly, shrugging his shoulders with
undissembled dread of Hamilton's wrath. But the anticipation was
not realized. The Governor received Farnsworth stiffly enough, yet
in a way that suggested a suppressed desire to avoid explanations
on the Captain's part and a reprimand on his own. In fact,
Hamilton was hoping that something would turn up to shield him
from the effect of his terrible midnight adventure, which seemed
the darker the more he thought of it. He had a slow, numb
conscience, lying deep where it was hard to reach, and when a
qualm somehow entered it he endured in secret what most men would
have cast off or confessed. He was haunted, if not with remorse,
at least by a dread of something most disagreeable in connection
with what he had done. Alice's white face had impressed itself
indelibly on his memory, so that it met his inner vision at every
turn. He was afraid to converse with Farnsworth lest she should
come up for discussion; consequently their interview was curt and
formal.

It was soon discovered that Alice had escaped from the stockade,
and some show of search was made for her by Hamilton's order, but
Farnsworth looked to it that the order was not carried out. He
thought he saw at once that his chief knew where she was. The
mystery perplexed and pained the young man, and caused him to fear
all sorts of evil; but there was a chance that Alice had found a
safe retreat and he knew that nothing but ill could befall her if
she were discovered and brought back to the fort. Therefore his
search for her became his own secret and for his own heart's ease.
And doubtless he would have found her; for even handicapped and
distorted love like his is lynx-eyed and sure on the track of its
object; but a great event intervened and swept away his
opportunity.

Hamilton's uneasiness, which was that of a strong, misguided
nature trying to justify itself amid a confusion of unmanageable
doubts and misgivings, now vented itself in a resumption of the
repairs he had been making at certain points in the fort. These he
completed just in time for the coming of Clark.

CHAPTER XIX

THE ATTACK

It has already been mentioned that Indians, arriving singly or in
squads, to report at Hamilton's headquarters, were in the habit of
firing their guns before entering the town or the fort, not only
as a signal of their approach, but in order to rid their weapons
of their charges preliminary to cleaning them before setting out
upon another scalp-hunting expedition. A shot, therefore, or even
a volley, heard on the outskirts of the village, was not a
noticeable incident in the daily and nightly experience of the
garrison. Still, for some reason, Governor Hamilton started
violently when, just after nightfall, five or six rifles cracked
sharply a short distance from the stockade.

He and Helm with two other officers were in the midst of a game of
cards, while a kettle, swinging on a crane in the ample fire-
place, sang a shrill promise of hot apple-jack toddy.

"By Jove!" exclaimed Farnsworth, who, although not in the game,
was amusing himself with looking on; "you jump like a fine lady! I
almost fancied I heard a bullet hit you."

"You may all jump while you can," remarked Helm. "That's Clark,
and your time's short--He'll have this fort tumbling on your heads
before daylight of to-morrow morning comes."

As he spoke he arose from his seat at the card table and went to
look after the toddy, which, as an expert, he had under
supervision.

Hamilton frowned. The mention of Clark was disturbing. Ever since
the strange disappearance of Lieutenant Barlow he had nursed the
fear that possibly Clark's scouts had captured him and that the
American forces might be much nearer than Kaskaskia. Besides, his
nerves were unruly, as they had been ever since the encounter with
Father Beret; and his vision persisted in turning back upon the
accusing cold face of Alice, lying in the moonlight. One little
detail of that scene almost maddened him at times; it was a
sheeny, crinkled wisp of warm looking hair looped across the cheek
in which he had often seen a saucy dimple dance when Alice spoke
or smiled. He was bad enough, but not wholly bad, and the thought
of having darkened those merry eyes and stilled those sweet
dimples tore through him with a cold, rasping pang.

"Just as soon as this toddy is properly mixed and tempered," said
Helm, with a magnetic jocosity beaming from his genial face, "I'm
going to propose a toast to the banner of Alice Roussillon, which
a whole garrison of British braves has been unable to take!"

"If you do I'll blow a hole through you as big as the south door
of hell," said Hamilton, in a voice fairly shaken to a husky
quaver with rage. "You may do a great many insulting things; but
not that."

Helm was in a half stooping attitude with a ladle in one hand, a
cup in the other. He had met Hamilton's glowering look with a
peculiarly innocent smile, as if to say: "What in the world is the
matter now? I never felt in a better humor in all my life. Can't
you take a joke, I wonder?" He did not speak, however, for a
rattling volley of musket and rifle shots hit the top of the clay-
daubed chimney, sending down into the toddy a shower of soot and
dirt.

In a wink every man was on his feet and staring.

"Gentlemen," said Helm, with an impressive oath, "that is Clark's
soldiers, and they will take your fort; but they ought not to have
spoiled this apple toddy!" "Oh, the devil!" said Hamilton,
forcibly resuming a calm countenance, "it is only a squad of
drunken Indians coming in. We'll forego excitement; there's no
battle on hand, gentlemen."

"I'm glad you think so, Governor Hamilton," Helm responded, "but I
should imagine that I ought to know the crack of a Kentucky rifle.
I've heard one occasionally in my life. Besides, I got a whiff of
freedom just now."

"Captain Helm is right," observed Farnsworth. "That is an attack."

Another volley, this time nearer and more concentrated, convinced
Hamilton that he was, indeed, at the opening of a fight. Even
while he was giving some hurried orders to his officers, a man was
wounded at one of the port-holes. Then came a series of yells,
answered by a ripple of sympathetic French shouting that ran
throughout the town. The patrol guards came straggling in,
breathless with excitement. They swore to having seen a thousand
men marching across the water-covered meadows.

Hamilton was brave. The approach of danger stirred him like a
trumpet-strain. His fighting blood rose to full tide, and he gave
his orders with the steadiness and commanding force of a born
soldier. The officers hastened to their respective positions. On
all sides sounds indicative of rapid preparations for the fight
mingled into a confused strain of military energy. Men marched to
their places; cannon were wheeled into position, and soon enough
the firing began in good earnest.

Late in the afternoon a rumor of Clark's approach had gone abroad
through the village; but not a French lip breathed it to a friend
of the British. The creoles were loyal to the cause of freedom;
moreover, they cordially hated Hamilton, and their hearts beat
high at the prospect of a change in masters at the fort. Every
cabin had its hidden gun and supply of ammunition, despite the
order to disarm issued by Hamilton. There was a hustling to bring
these forth, which was accompanied with a guarded yet
irrepressible chattering, delightfully French and infinitely
volatile.

"Tiens! je vais frotter mon fusil. J'ai vu un singe!" said Jaques
Bourcier to his daughter, the pretty Adrienne, who was coming out
of the room in which Alice lay.

"I saw a monkey just now; I must rub up my gun!" He could not be
solemn; not he. The thought of an opportunity to get even with
Hamilton was like wine in his blood.

If you had seen those hardy and sinewy Frenchmen gliding in the
dusk of evening from cottage to cottage, passing the word that the
Americans had arrived, saying airy things and pinching one another
as they met and hurried on, you would have thought something very
amusing and wholly jocund was in preparation for the people of
Vincennes.

There was a current belief in the town that Gaspard Roussillon
never missed a good thing and always somehow got the lion's share.
He went out with the ebb to return on the flood. Nobody was
surprised, therefore, when he suddenly appeared in the midst of
his friends, armed to the teeth and emotionally warlike to suit
the occasion. Of course he took charge of everybody and
everything. You could have heard him whisper a bowshot away.

"Taisons!" he hissed, whenever he met an acquaintance. "We will
surprise the fort and scalp the whole garrison. Aux armes! les
Americains viennent d'arriver!"

At his own house he knocked and called in vain. He shook the door
violently; for he was thinking of the stores under the floor, of
the grimy bottles, of the fragrant Bordeaux--ah, his throat, how
it throbbed! But where was Madame Roussillon? Where was Alice?
"Jean! Jean!" he cried, forgetting all precaution, "come here, you
scamp, and let me in this minute!"

A profoundly impressive silence gave him to understand that his
home was deserted.

"Chiff! frightened and gone to stay with Madame Godere, I suppose--
and I so thirsty! Bah! hum, hum, apres le vin la bataille, ziff!"

He kicked in the door and groped his way to the liquors. While he
hastily swigged and smacked he heard the firing begin with a
crackling, desultory volley. He laughed jovially, there in the
dark, between draughts and deep sighs of enjoyment.

"Et moi aussi," he murmured, like the vast murmur of the sea, "I
want to be in that dance! Pardonnez, messieurs. Moi, je veux
danser, s'il vous plait."

And when he had filled himself he plunged out and rushed away,
wrought up to the extreme fighting pitch of temper. Diable! if he
could but come across that Lieutenant Barlow, how he would smash
him and mangle him! In magnifying his prowess with the lens of
imagination he swelled and puffed as he lumbered along.

The firing sounded as if it were between the fort and the river;
but presently when one of Hamilton's cannon spoke, M. Roussillon
saw the yellow spike of flame from its muzzle leap directly toward
the church, and he thought it best to make a wide detour to avoid
going between the firing lines. Once or twice he heard the whine
of a stray bullet high overhead. Before he had gone very far he
met a man hurrying toward the fort. It was Captain Francis
Maisonville, one of Hamilton's chief scouts, who had been out on a
reconnoissance and, cut off from his party by some of Clark's
forces, was trying to make his way to the main gate of the
stockade.

M. Roussillon knew Maisonville as a somewhat desperate character,
a leader of Indian forays and a trader in human scalps. Surely the
fellow was legitimate prey.

"Ziff! diable de gredin!" he snarled, and leaping upon him choked
him to the ground, "Je vais vous scalper immediatement!"

Clark's plan of approach showed masterly strategy. Lieutenant
Bailey, with fourteen regulars, made a show of attack on the east,
while Major Bowman led a company through the town, on a line near
where Main street in Vincennes is now located, to a point north of
the stockade. Charleville, a brave creole, who was at the head of
some daring fellows, by a brilliant dash got position under cover
of a natural terrace at the edge of the prairie, opposite the
fort's southwestern angle. Lieutenant Beverley, in whom the
commander placed highest confidence, was sent to look for a supply
of ammunition, and to gather up all the Frenchmen in the town who
wished to join in the attack. Oncle Jazon and ten other available
men went with him.

They all made a great noise when they felt that the place was
completely invested. Nor can we deny, much as we would like to,
the strong desire for vengeance which raised those shouting voices
and nerved those steady hearts to do or die in an undertaking
which certainly had a desperate look. Patriotism of the purest
strain those men had, and that alone would have borne them up; but
the recollection of smouldering cabin homes in Kentucky, of women
and children murdered and scalped, of men brave and true burned at
the stake, and of all the indescribable outrages of Indian warfare
incited and rewarded by the commander of the fort yonder, added to
patriotism the terrible urge of that dark passion which clamors
for blood to quench the fire of wrath. Not a few of those wet,
half-frozen, emaciated soldiers of freedom had experienced the
soul rending shock of returning from a day's hunting in the forest
to find home in ashes and loved ones brutally murdered and
scalped, or dragged away to unspeakable outrage under
circumstances too harrowing for description, the bare thought of
which turns our blood cold, even at this distance. Now the
opportunity had arrived for a stroke of retaliation. The thought
was tremendously stimulating.

Beverley, with the aid of Oncle Jazon, was able to lead his little
company as far as the church before the enemy saw him. Here a
volley from the nearest angle of the stockade had to be answered,
and pretty soon a cannon began to play upon the position.

"We kin do better some'rs else," was Oncle Jazon's laconic remark
flung back over his shoulder, as he moved briskly away from the
spot just swept by a six-pounder. "Come this yer way, Lieutenant.
I hyer some o' the fellers a talkin' loud jes' beyant Legrace's
place. They ain't no sort o' sense a tryin' to hit anything a
shootin' in the dark nohow."

When they reached the thick of the town there was a strange stir
in the dusky streets. Men were slipping from house to house,
arming themselves and joining their neighbors. Clark had sent an
order earlier in the evening forbidding any street demonstration
by the inhabitants; but he might as well have ordered the wind not
to blow or the river to stand still. Oncle Jazon knew every man
whose outlines he could see or whose voice he heard. He called
each one by name:

"Here, Roger, fall in!--Come Louis, Alphonse, Victor, Octave--
venez ici, here's the American army, come with me!" His rapid
French phrases leaped forth as if shot from a pistol, and his
shrill voice, familiar to every ear in Vincennes, drew the creole
militiamen to him, and soon Beverley's company had doubled its
numbers, while at the same time its enthusiasm and ability to make
a noise had increased in a far greater proportion. In accordance
with an order from Clark they now took position near the northeast
corner of the stockade and began firing, although in the darkness
there was but little opportunity for marksmanship.

Oncle Jazon had found citizens Legrace and Bosseron, and through
them Clark's men were supplied with ammunition, of which they
stood greatly in need, their powder having got wet during their
long, watery march. By nine o'clock the fort was completely
surrounded, and from every direction the riflemen and musketeers
were pouring in volley after volley. Beverley with his men took
the cover of a fence and some houses sixty yards from the
stockade. Here to their surprise they found themselves below the
line of Hamilton's cannon, which, being planted on the second
floor of the fort, could not be sufficiently depressed to bear
upon them. A well directed musket fire, however, fell from the
loopholes of the blockhouses, the bullets rattling merrily against
the cover behind which the attacking forces lay.

Beverley was thinking of Alice during every moment of all this
stir and tumult He feared that she might still be a prisoner in
the fort exposed to the very bullets that his men were discharging
at every crack and cranny of those loosely constructed buildings.
Should he ever see her again? Would she care for him? What would
be the end of all this terrible suspense? Those remote forebodings
of evils, formless, shadowy, ineffable, which have harried the
lover's heart since time began, crowded all pleasant anticipations
out of his mind.

Clark, in passing hurriedly from company to company around the
line, stopped for a little while when he found Beverley.

"Have you plenty of ammunition?" was his first inquiry.

"A mighty sight more'n we kin see to shoot with," spoke up Oncle
Jazon. "It's a right smart o' dad burn foolishness to be wastin'
it on nothin'; seems like to me 'at we'd better set the dasted
fort afire an' smoke the skunks out!"

"Speak when you are spoken to, my man," said the Colonel a trifle
hotly, and trying by a sharp scrutiny to make him out in the gloom
where he crouched.

"Ventrebleu! I'm not askin' YOU, Colonel Clark, nor no other man,
when I shill speak. I talks whenever I gits ready, an' I shoots
jes' the same way. So ye'd better go on 'bout yer business like a
white man! Close up yer own whopper jawed mouth, ef ye want
anything shet up!"

"Oho! is that you, Jazon? You're so little I didn't know you!
Certainly, talk your whole damned under jaw off, for all I care,"
Clark replied, assuming a jocose tone. Then turning again to
Beverley: "Keep up the firing and the noise; the fort will be ours
in the morning."

"What's the use of waiting till morning?" Beverley demanded with
impatience. "We can tear that stockade to pieces with our hands in
half an hour."

"I don't think so, Lieutenant. It is better to play for the sure
thing. Keep up the racket, and be ready for 'em if they rush out.
We must not fail to capture the hair-buyer General."

He passed on, with something cheerful to say whenever he found a
squad of his devoted men. He knew how to humor and manage those
independent and undisciplined yet heroically brave fellows. What
to see and hear, what to turn aside as a joke, what to insist upon
with inflexible mastery, he knew by the fine instantaneous sense
of genius. There were many men of Oncle Jazon's cast, true as
steel, but refractory as flint, who could not be dominated by any
person, no matter of what stamp or office. To them an order was an
insult; but a suggestion pleased and captured them. Strange as it
may seem, theirs was the conquering spirit of America--the spirit
which has survived every turn of progress and built up the great
body of our independence.

Beverley submitted to Clark's plan with what patience he could,
and all night long fired shot for shot with the best riflemen in
his squad. It was a fatiguing performance, with apparently little
result beyond forcing the garrison now and again to close the
embrasures. thus periodically silencing the cannon. Toward the
close of the night a relaxation showed itself in the shouting and
firing all round the line. Beverley's men, especially the creoles,
held out bravely in the matter of noise; but even they flagged at
length, their volatility simmering down to desultory bubbling and
half sleepy chattering and chaffing.

Beverley leaned upon a rude fence, and for a time neglected to
reload his hot rifle. Of course he was thinking of Alice,--he
really could not think in any other direction; but it gave him a
shock and a start when he presently heard her name mentioned by a
little Frenchman near him on the left.

"There'll never be another such a girl in Post Vincennes as Alice
Roussillon," the fellow said in the soft creole patois, "and to
think of her being shot like a dog!"

"And by a man who calls himself a Governor, too!" said another.
"Ah, as for myself, I'm in favor of burning him alive when we
capture him. That's me!"

"Et moi aussi," chimed in a third voice. "That poor girl must be
avenged. The man who shot her must die. Holy Virgin, but if
Gaspard Roussillon were only here!"

"But he is here; I saw him just after dark. He was in great
fighting temper, that terrible man. Ouf! but I should not like to
be Colonel Hamilton and fall in the way of that Gaspard
Roussillon!"

"Morbleu! I should say not. You may leave me out of a chance like
that! I shouldn't mind seeing Gaspard handle the Governor, though.
Ah, that would be too good! He'd pay him up for shooting
Mademoiselle Alice."

Beverley could scarcely hold himself erect by the fence; the
smoky, foggy landscape swam round him heavy and strange. He
uttered a groan, which brought Oncle Jazon to his side in a hurry.

"Qu' avez-vous? What's the matter?" the old man demanded with
quick sympathy. "Hev they hit ye? Lieutenant, air ye hurt much?"

Beverley did not hear the old man's words, did not feel his kindly
touch.

"Alice! Alice!" he murmured, "dead, dead!"

"Ya-as," drawled Oncle Jazon, "I hearn about it soon as I got
inter town. It's a sorry thing, a mighty sorry thing. But mebby I
won't do a little somepin' to that--"

Beverley straightened himself and lifted his gun, forgetting that
he had not reloaded it since firing last. He leveled it at the
fort and touched the trigger. Simultaneously with his movement an
embrasure opened and a cannon flashed, its roar flanked on either
side by a crackling of British muskets. Some bullets struck the
fence and flung splinters into Oncle Jazon's face. A cannon ball
knocked a ridge pole from the roof of a house hard by, and sent it
whirling through the air.

"Ventrebleu!--et apres? What the devil next? Better knock a
feller's eyes out!" the old man cried. "I ain't a doin' nothin' to
ye!"

He capered around rubbing his leathery face after the manner of a
scalded monkey. Beverley was struck in the breast by a flattened
and spent ball that glanced from a fence-picket. The shock caused
him to stagger and drop his gun; but he quickly picked it up and
turned to his companion.

"Are you hurt, Oncle Jazon?" he inquired. "Are you hurt?"

"Not a bit--jes' skeert mos' into a duck fit. Thought a cannon
ball had knocked my whole dang face down my throat! Nothin' but a
handful o' splinters in my poorty count'nance, makin' my head feel
like a porc'-pine. But I sort o' thought I heard somepin' give
you a diff."

"Something did hit me," said Beverley, laying a hand on his
breast, "but I don't think it was a bullet. They seem to be
getting our range at last. Tell the men to keep well under cover.
They must not expose themselves until we are ready to charge."

The shock had brought him back to his duty as a leader of his
little company, and with the funeral bell of all his life's
happiness tolling in his agonized heart he turned afresh to
directing the fire upon the block-house.

About this time a runner came from Clark with an order to cease
firing and let a returning party of British scouts under Captain
Lamothe re-enter the fort unharmed. A strange order it seemed to
both officers and men; but it was implicitly obeyed. Clark's
genius here made another fine strategic flash. He knew that unless
he let the scouts go back into the stockade they would escape by
running away, and might possibly organize an army of Indians with
which to succor Hamilton. But if they were permitted to go inside
they could be captured with the rest of the garrison; hence his
order.

A few minutes passed in dead silence; then Captain Lamothe and his
party marched close by where Beverley's squad was lying concealed.
It was a difficult task to restrain the creoles, for some of them
hated Lamothe. Oncle Jazon squirmed like a snake while they filed
past all unaware that an enemy lurked so near. When they reached
the fort, ladders were put down for them and they began to clamber
over the wall, crowding and pushing one another in wild haste.
Oncle Jazon could hold in no longer.

"Ya! ya! ya I" he yelled. "Look out! the ladder is a fallin' wi'
ye!"

Then all the lurking crowd shouted as one man, and, sure enough,
down came a ladder--men and all in a crashing heap.

"Silence! silence!" Beverley commanded; but he could not check the
wild jeering and laughing, while the bruised and frightened scouts
hastily erected their ladder again, fairly tumbling over one
another in their haste to ascend, and so cleared the wall, falling
into the stockade to join the garrison.

"Ventrebleu!" shrieked Oncle Jazon. "They've gone to bed; but
we'll wake 'em up at the crack o' day an' give 'em a breakfas' o'
hot lead!"

Now the fighting was resumed with redoubled spirit and noise, and
when morning came, affording sufficient light to bring out the
"bead sights" on the Kentucky rifles, the matchless marksmen in
Clark's band forced the British to close the embrasures and
entirely cease trying to use their cannon; but the fight with
small arms went merrily on until the middle of the forenoon.

Meantime Gaspard Roussillon had tied Francis Maisonville's hands
fast and hard with the strap of his bullet-pouch.

"Now, I'll scalp you," he said in a rumbling tone, terrible to
hear. And with his words out came his hunting knife from its
sheath.

"O have mercy, my dear Monsieur Roussillon!" cried the panting
captive; "have mercy!"

"Mercy! yes, like your Colonel's, that's what you'll get. You
stand by that forban, that scelerat, that bandit, and help him.
Oh, yes, you'll get mercy! Yes, the same mercy that he showed to
my poor little Alice! Your scalp, Monsieur, if you please! A small
matter; it won't hurt much!"

"But, for the sake of old friendship, Gaspard, for the sake--"

"Ziff! poor little Alice!"

"But I swear to you that I--"

"Tout de meme, Monsieur, je vais vous scalper maintenant."

In fact he had taken off a part of Maisonville's scalp, when a
party of soldiers, among whom was Maisonville's brother, a brave
fellow and loyal to the American cause, were attracted by his
cries and came to his rescue.

M. Roussillon struggled savagely, insisting upon completing his
cruel performance; but he was at last overpowered, partly by brute
force and partly by the pleading of Maisonville's brother, and
made to desist. The big man wept with rage when he saw the
bleeding prisoner protected. "Eh bien! I'll keep what I've got,"
he roared, "and I'll take the rest of it next time."

He shook the tuft of hair at Maisonville and glared like a mad
bull.

Two or three other members of Lamothe's band were captured about
the same time by some of the French militiamen; and Clark, when on
his round cheering and directing his forces, discovered that these
prisoners were being used as shields. Some young creoles, gay with
drink and the stimulating effect of fight, had bound the poor
fellows and were firing from behind them! Of course the commander
promptly put an end to this cruelty; but they considered it
exquisite fun while it lasted. It was in broad daylight, and they
knew that the English in the fort could see what they were doing.

"It's shameful to treat prisoners in this way," said Clark. "I
will not permit it. Shoot the next man that offers to do such a
thing!"

One of the creole youths, a handsome, swarthy Adonis in buckskin,
tossed his shapely head with a debonair smile and said:

"To be sure, mon Colonel! but what have they been doing to us? We
have amused them all winter; it's but fair that they should give
us a little fun now."

Clark shrugged his broad shoulders and passed on. He understood
perfectly what the people of Vincennes had suffered under
Hamilton's brutal administration.

At nine o'clock an order was passed to cease firing, and a flag of
truce was seen going from Clark's headquarters to the fort. It was
a peremptory demand for unconditional surrender. Hamilton refused,
and fighting was fiercely resumed from behind rude breastworks
meantime erected. Every loop-hole and opening of whatever sort was
the focus into which the unerring backwoods rifles sent their
deadly bullets. Men began to fall in the fort, and every moment
Hamilton expected an assault in force on all sides of the
stockade. This, if successful, would mean inevitable massacre.
Clark had warned him of the terrible consequences of holding out
until the worst should come. "For," said he in his note to the
Governor, "if I am obliged to storm, you may depend upon such
treatment as is justly due to a murderer."

Historians have wondered why Hamilton became so excited and acted
so strangely after receiving the note. The phrase, "justly due to
a murderer," is the key to the mystery. When he read it his heart
sank and a terrible fear seized him. "Justly due to a murderer!"
ah, that calm, white, beautiful girlish face, dead in the
moonlight, with the wisp of shining hair across it! "Such
treatment as is justly due to a murderer!" Cold drops of sweat
broke out on his forehead and a shiver went through his body.

During the truce Clark's weary yet still enthusiastic besiegers
enjoyed a good breakfast prepared for them by the loyal dames of
Vincennes. Little Adrienne Bourcier was one of the handmaidens of
the occasion. She brought to Beverley's squad a basket, almost as
large as herself, heaped high with roasted duck and warm wheaten
bread, while another girl bore two huge jugs of coffee, fragrant
and steaming hot. The men cheered them lustily and complimented
them without reserve, so that before their service was over their
faces were glowing with delight

And yet Adrienne's heart was uneasy, and full of longing to hear
something of Rene de Ronville. Surely some one of her friends must
know something about him. Ah, there was Oncle Jazon! Doubtless he
could tell her all that she wanted to know. She lingered, after
the food was distributed, and shyly inquired.

"Hain't seed the scamp," said Oncle Jazon, only he used the patois
most familiar to the girl's ear. "Killed an' scelped long ago, I
reckon."

His mouth was so full that he spoke mumblingly and with utmost
difficulty. Nor did he glance at Adrienne, whose face took on as
great pallor as her brown complexion could show.

Beverley ate but little of the food. He sat apart on a piece of
timber that projected from the rough breastwork and gave himself
over to infinite misery of spirit, which was trebled when he took
Alice's locket from his bosom, only to discover that the bullet
which struck him had almost entirely destroyed the face of the
miniature.

He gripped the dinted and twisted case and gazed at it with the
stare of a blind man. His heart almost ceased to beat and his
breath had the rustling sound we hear when a strong man dies of a
sudden wound. Somehow the defacement of the portrait was taken by
his soul as the final touch of fate, signifying that Alice was
forever and completely obliterated from his life. He felt a blur
pass over his mind. He tried in vain to recall the face and form
so dear to him; he tried to imagine her voice; but the whole
universe was a vast hollow silence. For a long while he was cold,
staring, rigid; then the inevitable collapse came, and he wept as
only a strong man can who is hurt to death, yet cannot die.

Adrienne approached him, thinking to speak to him about Rene; but
he did not notice her, and she went her way, leaving beside him a
liberal supply of food.

CHAPTER XX

ALICE'S FLAG

Governor Hamilton received the note sent him by Colonel Clark and
replied to it with curt dignity; but his heart was quaking. As a
soldier he was true to the military tradition, and nothing could
have induced him to surrender his command with dishonor.

"Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton," he wrote to Clark, "begs leave to
acquaint Colonel Clark that he and his garrison are not disposed
to be awed into any action unworthy of British subjects."

"Very brave words," said Helm, when Hamilton read the note to him,
"but you'll sing a milder tune before many minutes, or you and
your whole garrison will perish in a bloody heap. Listen to those
wild yells! Clark has enough men to eat you all up for breakfast.
You'd better be reasonable and prudent. It's not bravery to court
massacre."

Hamilton turned away without a word and sent the message; but Helm
saw that he was excited, and could be still further wrought up.

"You are playing into the hands of your bitterest enemies, the
frog-eaters," he went on. "These creoles, over whom you've held a
hot poker all winter, are crazy to be turned loose upon you; and
you know that they've got good cause to feel like giving you the
extreme penalty. They'll give it to you without a flinch if they
get the chance. You've done enough."

Hamilton whirled about and glared ferociously.

"Helm, what do you mean?" he demanded in a voice as hollow as it
was full of desperate passion.

The genial Captain laughed, as if he had heard a good joke.

"You won't catch any fish if you swear, and you look blasphemous,"
he said with the lightness of humor characteristic of him at all
times. "You'd better say a prayer or two. Just reflect a moment
upon the awful sins you have committed and--"

A crash of coalescing volleys from every direction broke off his
levity. Clark was sending his response to Hamilton's lofty note.
The guns of freedom rang out a prophecy of triumph, and the
hissing bullets clucked sharply as they entered the solid logs of
the walls or whisked through an aperture and bowled over a man.
The British musketeers returned the fire as best they could, with
a courage and a stubborn coolness which Helm openly admired,
although he could not hide his satisfaction whenever one of them
was disabled.

"Lamothe and his men are refusing to obey orders," said Farnsworth
a little later, hastily approaching Hamilton, his face flushed and
a gleam of hot anger in his eyes. "They're in a nasty mood; I can
do nothing with them; they have not fired a shot."

"Mutiny?" Hamilton demanded.

"Not just that. They say they do not wish to fire on their kinsmen
and friends. They are all French, you know, and they see their
cousins, brothers, uncles and old acquaintances out there in
Clark's rabble. I can do nothing with them."

"Shoot the scoundrels, then!"

"It will be a toss up which of us will come out on top if we try
that. Besides, if we begin a fight inside, the Americans will make
short work of us."

"Well, what in hell are we to do, then?"

"Oh, fight, that's all," said Farnsworth apathetically turning to
a small loop-hole and leveling a field glass through it. "We might
make a rush from the gates and stampede them," he presently added.
Then he uttered an exclamation of great surprise.

"There's Lieutenant Beverley out there," he exclaimed.

"You're mistaken, you're excited," Hamilton half sneeringly
remarked, yet not without a shade of uneasiness in his expression.
"You forget, sir."

"Look for yourself, it's easily settled," and Farnsworth proffered
the glass. "He's there, to a certainty, sir."

"I saw Beverley an hour ago," said Helm. "I knew all the time that
he'd be on hand."

It was a white lie. Captain Helm was as much surprised as his
captors at what he heard; but he could not resist the temptation
to be annoying.

Hamilton looked as Farnsworth directed, and sure enough, there was
the young Virginian Lieutenant, standing on a barricade, his hat
off, cheering his men with a superb show of zeal. Not a hair of
his head was missing, so far as the glass could be relied upon to
show.

Oncle Jazon's quick old eyes saw the gleam of the telescope tube
in the loop-hole.

"I never could shoot much," he muttered, and then a little bullet
sped with absolute accuracy from his disreputable looking rifle
and shattered the object-lens, just as Hamilton moved to withdraw
the glass, uttering an ejaculation of intense excitement.

"Such devils of marksmen!" said he, and his face was haggard.
"That infernal Indian lied."

"I could have told you all the time that the scalp Long-Hair
brought to you was not Beverley's," said Helm indifferently. "I
recognized Lieutenant Barlow's hair as soon as I saw it."

This was another piece of off-hand romance. Helm did not dream
that he was accidentally sketching a horrible truth.

"Barlow's!" exclaimed Farnsworth.

"Yes, Barlow's, no mistake--"

Two more men reeled from a port-hole, the blood spinning far out
of their wounds. Indeed, through every aperture in the walls the
bullets were now humming like mad hornets.

"Close that port-hole!" stormed Hamilton; then turning to
Farnsworth he added: "We cannot endure this long. Shut up every
place large enough for a bullet to get through. Go all around,
give strict orders to all. See that the men do not foolishly
expose themselves. Those ruffians out there have located every
crack."

His glimpse of Beverley and the sinister remark of Helm had
completely unmanned him before his men fell. Now it rushed upon
him that if he would escape the wrath of the maddened creoles and
the vengeance of Alice's lover, he must quickly throw himself upon
the mercy of Clark. It was his only hope. He chafed inwardly, but
bore himself with stern coolness. He presently sought Farnsworth,
pulled him aside and suggested that something must be done to
prevent an assault and a massacre. The sounds outside seemed to
forebode a gathering for a desperate rush, and in his heart he
felt all the terrors of awful anticipation.

"We are completely at their mercy, that is plain," he said,
shrugging his shoulders and gazing at the wounded men writhing in
their agony. "What do you suggest?"

Captain Farnsworth was a shrewd officer. He recollected that
Philip Dejean, justice of Detroit, was on his way down the Wabash
from that post, and probably near at hand, with a flotilla of men
and supplies. Why not ask for a few days of truce? It could do no
harm, and if agreed to, might be their salvation. Hamilton jumped
at the thought, and forthwith drew up a note which he sent out
with a white flag. Never before in all his military career had he
been so comforted by a sudden cessation of fighting. His soul
would grovel in spite of him. Alice's cold face now had Beverley's
beside it in his field of inner vision--a double assurance of
impending doom, it seemed to him.

There was short delay in the arrival of Colonel Clark's reply,
hastily scrawled on a bit of soiled paper. The request for a truce
was flatly refused; but the note closed thus:

"If Mr. Hamilton is Desirous of a Conferance with Col. Clark he
will meet him at the Church with Captn. Helms."

The spelling was not very good, and there was a redundancy of
capital letters; yet Hamilton understood it all; and it was very
difficult for him to conceal his haste to attend the proposed
conference. But he was afraid to go to the church--the thought
chilled him. He could not face Father Beret, who would probably be
there. And what if there should be evidences of the funeral?--what
if?--he shuddered and tried to break away from the vision in his
tortured brain.

He sent a proposition to Clark to meet him on the esplanade before
the main gate of the fort; but Clark declined, insisting upon the
church. And thither he at last consented to go. It was an immense
brace to his spirit to have Helm beside him during that walk,
which, although but eighty yards in extent, seemed to him a matter
of leagues. On the way he had to pass near the new position taken
up by Beverley and his men. It was a fine test of nerve, when the
Lieutenant's eyes met those of the Governor. Neither man permitted
the slightest change of countenance to betray his feelings. In
fact, Beverley's face was as rigid as marble; he could not have
changed it.

But with Oncle Jazon it was a different affair. He had no dignity
to preserve, no fine military bearing to sustain, no terrible tug
of conscience, no paralyzing grip of despair on his heart. When he
saw Hamilton going by, bearing himself so superbly, it affected
the French volatility in his nature to such an extent that his
tongue could not be controlled.

"Va t'en, bete, forban, meurtrier! Skin out f'om here! beast,
robber, murderer!" he cried, in his keen screech-owl voice. "I'll
git thet scelp o' your'n afore sundown, see 'f I don't! Ye onery
gal-killer an' ha'r buyer!"

The blood in Hamilton's veins caught no warmth from these remarks;
but he held his head high and passed stolidly on, as if he did not
hear a word. Helm turned the tail of an eye upon Oncle Jazon and
gave him a droll, quizzical wink of approval. In response the old
man with grotesque solemnity drew his buckhorn handled knife,
licked its blade and returned it to its sheath,--a bit of
pantomime well understood and keenly enjoyed by the onlooking
creoles.

"Putois! coquin!" they jeered, "goujat! poltron!"

Beverley heard the taunting racket, but did not realize it, which
was well enough, for he could not have restrained the bitter
effervescence. He stood like a statue, gazing fixedly at the now
receding figure, the lofty, cold-faced man in whom centered his
hate of hates. Clark had requested him to be present at the
conference in the church; but he declined, feeling that he could
not meet Hamilton and restrain himself. Now he regretted his
refusal, half wishing that--no, he could not assassinate an enemy
under a white flag. In his heart he prayed that there would be no
surrender, that Hamilton would reject every offer. To storm the
fort and revel in butchering its garrison seemed the only
desirable thing left for him in life.

Father Beret was, indeed, present at the church, as Hamilton had
dreaded; and the two duelists gave each other a rapier-like eye-
thrust. Neither spoke, however, and Clark immediately demanded a
settlement of the matter in hand. He was brusque and imperious to
a degree, apparently rather anxious to repel every peaceful
advance.

It was a laconic interview, crisp as autumn ice and bitter as
gallberries. Colonel Clark had no respect whatever for Hamilton,
to whom he had applied the imperishable adjective "hair-buyer
General." On the other hand Governor Hamilton, who felt keenly the
disgrace of having to equalize himself officially and discuss
terms of surrender with a rough backwoodsman, could not conceal
his contempt of Clark.

The five men of history, Hamilton, Helm, Hay, Clark and Bowman,
were not distinguished diplomats. They went at their work rather
after the hammer-and-tongs fashion. Clark bluntly demanded
unconditional surrender. Hamilton refused. They argued the matter.
Helm put in his oar, trying to soften the situation, as was his
custom on all occasions, and received from Clark a stinging
reprimand, with the reminder that he was nothing but a prisoner on
parole, and had no voice at all in settling the terms of
surrender.

"I release him, sir," said Hamilton. "He is no longer a prisoner.
I am quite willing to have Captain Helm join freely in our
conference."

"And I refuse to permit his acceptance of your favor," responded
Clark. "Captain Helm, you will return with Mr. Hamilton to the
fort and remain his captive until I free you by force. Meantime
hold your tongue."

Father Beret, suave looking and quiet, occupied himself at the
little altar, apparently altogether indifferent to what was being
said; but he lost not a word of the talk.

"Qui habet aures audiendi, audiat," he inwardly repeated, smiling
blandly. "Gaudete in illa die, et exultate!"

Hamilton rose to go; deep lines of worry creased his face; but
when the party had passed outside, he suddenly turned upon Clark
and said:

"Why do you demand impossible terms of me?"

"I will tell you, sir," was the stern answer, in a tone in which
there was no mercy or compromise. "I would rather have you refuse.
I desire nothing so much as an excuse to wreak full and bloody
vengeance on every man in that fort who has engaged in the
business of employing savages to scalp brave, patriotic men and
defenseless women and children. The cries of the widows and the
fatherless on our frontiers require the blood of the Indian
partisans at my hands. If you choose to risk the massacre of your
garrison to save those despicable red-handed partisans, have your
pleasure. What you have done you know better than I do. I have a
duty to perform. You may be able to soften its nature. I may take
it into my head to send for some of our bereaved women to witness
my terrible work and see that it is well done, if you insist upon
the worst."

Major Hay, who was Hamilton's Indian agent, now, with some
difficulty clearing his throat, spoke up.

"Pray, sir," said he, "who is it that you call Indian partisans?"
"Sir," replied Clark, seeing that his words had gone solidly home,
"I take Major Hay to be one of the principals."

This seemed to strike Hay with deadly force, dark's report says
that he was "pale and trembling, scarcely able to stand," and that
"Hamilton blushed, and, I observed, was much affected at his
behavior. "Doubtless, if the doughty American commander had known
more about the Governor's feelings just then, he would have added
that an awful fear, even greater than the Indian agent's, did more
than anything else to congest the veins in his face.

The parties separated without reaching an agreement; but the end
had come. The terror in Hamilton's soul was doubled by a wild
scene enacted under the walls of his fort; a scene which, having
no proper place in this story, strong as its historical interest
unquestionably is, must be but outlined. A party of Indians
returning from a scalping expedition in Kentucky and along the
Ohio, was captured on the outskirts of the town by some of Clark's
men, who proceeded to kill and scalp them within full view of the
beleaguered garrison, after which their mangled bodies were flung
into the river.

If the British commander needed further wine of dread to fill his
cup withal, it was furnished by ostentatious marshaling of the
American forces for a general assault. His spirit broke
completely, so that it looked like a godsend to him when Clark
finally offered terms of honorable surrender, the consummation of
which was to be postponed until the following morning. He accepted
promptly, appending to the articles of capitulation the following
reasons for his action: "The remoteness from succor; the state and
quantity of provisions, etc.; unanimity of officers and men in its
expediency; the honorable terms allowed; and, lastly, the
confidence in a generous enemy."

Confidence in a generous enemy! Abject fear of the vengeance just
wreaked upon his savage emissaries would have been the true
statement. Beverley read the paper when Clark sent for him; but he
could not join in the extravagant delight of his fellow officers
and their brave men. What did all this victory mean to him?
Hamilton to be treated as an honorable prisoner of war, permitted
to strut forth from the feat with his sword at his side, his head
up--the scalp-buyer, the murderer of Alice! What was patriotism
to the crushed heart of a lover? Even if his vision had been able
to pierce the future and realize the splendor of Anglo-Saxon
civilization which was to follow that little triumph at Vincennes,
what pleasure could it have afforded him? Alice, Alice, only
Alice; no other thought had influence, save the recurring surge of
desire for vengeance upon her murderer.

And yet that night Beverley slept, and so forgot his despair for
many hours, even dreamed a pleasant dream of home, where his
childhood was spent, of the stately old house on the breezy hill-
top overlooking a sunny plantation, with a little river lapsing
and shimmering through it. His mother's dear arms were around him,
her loving breath stirred his hair; and his stalwart, gray-headed
father sat on the veranda comfortably smoking his pipe, while away
in the wide fields the negroes sang at the plow and the hoe.
Sweeter and sweeter grew the scene, softer the air, tenderer the
blending sounds of the water-murmur, leaf-rustle, bird-song, and
slave-song, until hand in hand he wandered with Alice in greening
groves, where the air was trembling with the ecstacy of spring.

A young officer awoke him with an order from Clark to go on duty
at once with Captains Worthington and Williams, who, under Colonel
Clark himself, were to take possession of the fort. Mechanically
he obeyed. The sun was far up, shining between clouds of a leaden,
watery hue, by the time everything was ready for the important
ceremony. Beside the main gate of the stockade two companies of
patriots under Bowman and McCarty were drawn up as guards, while
the British garrison filed out and was taken in charge. This bit
of formality ended, Governor Hamilton, attended by some of his
officers, went back into the fort and the gate was closed.

Clark now gave orders that preparations be made for hauling down
the British flag and hoisting the young banner of liberty in its
place, when everything should be ready for a salute of thirteen
guns from the captured battery.

Helm's round face was beaming. Plainly it showed that his
happiness was supreme. He dared not say anything, however; for
Clark was now all sternness and formality; it would be dangerous
to take any liberties; but he could smile and roll his quid of
tobacco from cheek to cheek.

Hamilton and Farnsworth, the latter slightly wounded in the left
arm, which was bandaged, stood together somewhat apart from their
fellow officers, while preliminary steps for celebrating their
defeat and capture were in progress. They looked forlorn enough to
have excited deep sympathy under fairer conditions.

Outside the fort the creoles were beginning a noise of jubilation.
The rumor of what was going to be done had passed from mouth to
mouth, until every soul in the town knew and thrilled with
expectancy. Men, women and children came swarming to see the
sight, and to hear at close range the crash of the cannon. They
shouted, in a scattering way at first, then the tumult grew
swiftly to a solid rolling tide that seemed beyond all comparison
with the population of Vincennes. Hamilton heard it, and trembled
inwardly, afraid lest the mob should prove too strong for the
guard.

One leonine voice roared distinctly, high above the noise. It was
a sound familiar to all the creoles,--that bellowing shout of
Gaspard Roussillon's. He was roaming around the stockade, having
been turned back by the guard when he tried to pass through the
main gate.

"They shut me out!" he bellowed furiously. "I am Gaspard
Roussillon, and they shut me out, me! Ziff! me voici! je vais
entrer immediatement, moi!"

He attracted but little attention, however; the people and the
soldiery were all too excited by the special interest of the
occasion, and too busy with making a racket of their own, for any
individual, even the great Roussillon, to gain their eyes or ears.
He in turn scarcely heard the tumult they made, so self-centered
were his burning thoughts and feelings. A great occasion in
Vincennes and he, Gaspard Roussillon, not recognized as one of the
large factors in it! Ah, no, never! And he strode along the wall
of the stockade, turning the corners and heavily shambling over
the inequalities till he reached the postern. It was not fastened,
some one having passed through just before him.

"Ziff!" he ejaculated, stepping into the area and shaking himself
after the manner of a dusty mastiff. "C'est moi! Gaspard
Roussillon!" His massive under jaw was set like that of a vise,
yet it quivered with rage, a rage which was more fiery
condensation of self-approval than anger.

Outside the shouting, singing and huzzahs gathered strength and
volume, until the sound became a hoarse roar. Clark was uneasy; he
had overheard much of a threatening character during the siege.
The creoles were, he knew, justly exasperated, and even his own
men had been showing a spirit which might easily be fanned into a
dangerous flame of vengeance. He was very anxious to have the
formalities of taking possession of the fort over with, so that he
could the better control his forces. Sending for Beverley he
assigned him to the duty of hauling down the British flag and
running up that of Virginia. It was an honor of no doubtful sort,
which under different circumstances would have made the
Lieutenant's heart glow. As it was, he proceeded without any sense
of pride or pleasure, moving as a mere machine in performing an
act significant beyond any other done west of the mountains, in
the great struggle for American independence and the control of
American territory.

Hamilton stood a little way from the foot of the tall flag-pole,
his arms folded on his breast, his chin slightly drawn in, his
brows contracted, gazing steadily at Beverley while he was untying
the halyard, which had been wound around the pole's base about
three feet above the ground. The American troops in the fort were
disposed so as to form three sides of a hollow square, facing
inward. Oncle Jazon, serving as the ornamental extreme of one
line, was conspicuous for his outlandish garb and unmilitary
bearing. The silence inside the stockade offered a strong contrast
to the tremendous roar of voices outside. Clark made a signal, and
at the tap of a drum, Beverley shook the ropes loose and began to
lower the British colors. Slowly the bright emblem of earth's
mightiest nation crept down in token of the fact that a handful of
back-woodsmen had won an empire by a splendid stroke of pure
heroism. Beverley detached the flag, and saluting, handed it to
Colonel Clark. Hamilton's breast heaved and his iron jaws
tightened their pressure until the lines of his cheeks were deep
furrows of pain.

Father Beret, who had just been admitted, quietly took a place at
one side near the wall. There was a fine, warm, benignant smile on
his old face, yet his powerful shoulders drooped as if weighted
down with a heavy load. Hamilton was aware when he entered, and
instantly the scene of their conflict came into his memory with
awful vividness, and he saw Alice lying outstretched, stark and,
cold, the shining strand of hair fluttering across her pallid
cheek. Her ghost overshadowed him.

Just then there was a bird-like movement, a wing-like rustle, and
a light figure flitted swiftly across the area. All eyes were
turned upon it. Hamilton recoiled, as pale as death, half lifting
his hands, as if to ward off a deadly blow, and then a gay flag
was flung out over his head. He saw before him the girl he had
shot; but her beautiful face was not waxen now, nor was it cold or
lifeless. The rich red blood was strong under the browned, yet
delicate skin, the eyes were bright and brave, the cherry lips,
slightly apart, gave a glimpse of pearl white teeth, and the
dimples,--those roguish dimples,--twinkled sweetly.

Colonel Clark looked on in amazement, and in spite of himself, in
admiration. He did not understand; the sudden incident bewildered
him; but his virile nature was instantly and wholly charmed.
Something like a breath of violets shook the tenderest chords of
his heart.

Alice stood firmly, a statue of triumph, her right arm
outstretched, holding the flag high above Hamilton's head; and
close by her side the little hunchback Jean was posed in his most
characteristic attitude, gazing at the banner which he himself had
stolen and kept hidden for Alice's sake, and because he loved it.

There was a dead silence for some moments, during which Hamilton's
face showed that he was ready to collapse; then the keen voice of
Oncle Jazon broke forth:

"Vive Zhorzh Vasinton! Vim la banniere d'Alice Roussillon!"

He sprang to the middle of the area and flung his old cap high in
air, with a shrill war-whoop.

"H'ist it! h'ist it! hissez la banniere de Mademoiselle Alice
Roussillon! Voila, que c'est glorieuse, cette banniere la! H'ist
it! h'ist it!"

He was dancing with a rickety liveliness, his goatish legs and
shriveled body giving him the look of an emaciated satyr.

Clark had been told by some of his creole officers the story of
how Alice raised the flag when Helm took the fort, and how she
snatched it from Hamilton's hand, as it were, and would not give
it up when he demanded it. The whole situation pretty soon began
to explain itself, as he saw what Alice was doing. Then he heard
her say to Hamilton, while she slowly swayed the rippling flag
back and forth:

"I said, as you will remember, Monsieur le Gouverneur, that when
you next should see this flag, I should wave it over your head.
Well, look, I am waving it! Vive la republique! Vive George
Washington! What do you think of it, Monsieur le Gouverneur?"

The poor little hunchback Jean took off his cap and tossed it in
rhythmical emphasis, keeping time to her words.

And now from behind the hollow square came a mighty voice:

"C'est moi, Gaspard Roussillon; me voici, messieurs!"

There was a spirit in the air which caught from Alice a thrill of
romantic energy. The men in the ranks and the officers in front of
them felt a wave of irresistible sympathy sweep through their
hearts. Her picturesque beauty, her fine temper, the fitness of
the incident to the occasion, had an instantaneous power which
moved all men alike.

"Raise her flag! Run up the young lady's flag!" some one shouted,
and then every voice seemed to echo the words. Clark was a young
man of noble type, in whose veins throbbed the warm chivalrous
blood of the cavaliers. A waft of the suddenly prevailing
influence bore him also quite off his feet. He turned to Beverley
and said:

"Do it! It will have a great effect. It is a good idea; get the
young lady's flag and her permission to run it up."

Before he finished speaking, indeed at the first glance, he saw
that Beverley, like Hamilton, was white as a dead man; and at the
same time it came to his memory that his young friend had confided
to him during the awful march through the prairie wilderness, a
love-story about this very Alice Roussillon. In the worry and
stress of the subsequent struggle, he had forgotten the tender
basis upon which Beverley had rested his excuse for leaving
Vincennes. Now, it all reappeared in justification of what was
going on. It touched the romantic core of his southern nature.

"I say, Lieutenant Beverley," he repeated, "beg the young lady's
permission to use her flag upon this glorious occasion; or shall I
do it for you?"

There were no miracles in those brave days, and the strain of life
with its terrible realities braced all men and women to meet
sudden explosions of surprise, whether of good or bad effect, with
admirable equipoise; but Beverley's trial, it must be admitted,
was extraordinary; still he braced himself quickly and his whole
expression changed when Clark moved to go to Alice. For he
realized now that it was, indeed, Alice in flesh and blood,
standing there, the center of admiration, filling the air with her
fine magnetism and crowning a great triumph with her beauty. He
gave her a glad, flashing smile, as if he had just discovered her,
and walked straight to her, his hands extended. She was not
looking toward him; but she saw him and turned to face him. Hers
was the advantage; for she had known, for some hours, of his
presence in Vincennes, and had prepared herself to meet him
courageously and with maidenly reserve.

There is no safety, however, where Love lurks. Neither Beverley
nor Alice was as much agitated at Hamilton, yet they both forgot,
what he remembered, that a hundred grim frontier soldiers were
looking on. Hamilton had his personal and official dignity to
sustain, and he fairly did it, under what a pressure of
humiliating and surprising circumstances we can fully comprehend.
Not so with the two young people, standing as it were in a
suddenly bestowed and incomparable happiness, on the verge of a
new life, each to the other an unexpected, unhoped-for
resurrection from the dead. To them there was no universe save the
illimitable expanse of their love. In that moment of meeting, all
that they had suffered on account of love was transfused and
poured forth,--a glowing libation for love's sake,--a flood before
which all barriers broke.

Father Beret was looking on with a strange fire in his eyes, and
what he feared would happen, did happen. Alice let the flag fall
at Hamilton's feet, when Beverley came near her smiling that
great, glad smile, and with a joyous cry leaped into his
outstretched arms.

Jean snatched up the fallen banner and ran to Colonel Clark with
it. Two minutes later it was made fast and the halyard began to
squeak through the rude pulley at the top of the pole. Up, up,
climbed the gay little emblem of glory, while the cannon crashed
from the embrasures of the blockhouse hard by, and outside the
roar of voices redoubled. Thirteen guns boomed the salute, though
it should have been fourteen,--the additional one for the great
Northwestern Territory, that day annexed to the domain of the
young American Republic. The flag went up at old Vincennes never
to come down again, and when it reached its place at the top of
the staff, Beverley and Alice stood side by side looking at it,
while the sun broke through the clouds and flashed on its shining
folds, and love unabashed glorified the two strong young faces.

CHAPTER XXI

SOME TRANSACTIONS IN SCALPS

History would be a very orderly affair, could the dry-as-dust
historians have their way, and doubtless it would be thrillingly
romantic at every turn if the novelists were able to control its
current. Fortunately neither one nor the other has much influence,
and the result, in the long run, is that most novels are
shockingly tame, while the large body of history is loaded down
with picturesque incidents, which if used in fiction, would be
thought absurdly romantic and improbable.

Were our simple story of old Vincennes a mere fiction, we should
hesitate to bring in the explosion of a magazine at the fort with
a view to sudden confusion and, by that means, distracting
attention from our heroine while she betakes herself out of a
situation which, although delightful enough for a blessed minute,
has quickly become an embarrassment quite unendurable. But we
simply adhere to the established facts in history. Owing to some
carelessness there was, indeed, an explosion of twenty-six six-
pound cartridges, which made a mighty roar and struck the newly
installed garrison into a heap, so to say, scattering things
terribly and wounding six men, among them Captains Bowman and
Worthington.

After the thunderous crash came a momentary silence, which
embraced both the people within the fort and the wild crowd
outside. Then the rush and noise were indescribable. Even Clark
gave way to excitement, losing command of himself and, of course,
of his men. There was a stampede toward the main gate by one wing
of the troops in the hollow square. They literally ran over
Beverley and Alice, flinging them apart and jostling them hither
and yonder without mercy. Of course the turmoil quickly subsided.
Clark and Beverley got hold of themselves and sang out their
peremptory orders with excellent effect. It was like oil on raging
water; the men obeyed in a straggling way, getting back into ranks
as best they could.

"Ventrebleu!" squeaked Oncle Jazon, "ef I didn't think the ole
world had busted into a million pieces!"

He was jumping up and down not three feet from Beverley's toes,
waving his cap excitedly.

"But wasn't I skeert! Ya, ya, ya! Vive la banniere d'Alice
Roussillon! Vive Zhorzh Vasinton!"

Hearing Alice's name caused Beverley to look around. Where was
she? In the distance he saw Father Beret hurrying to the spot
where some of the men burnt and wounded by the explosion were
being stripped and cared for. Hamilton still stood like a statue.
He appeared to be the only cool person in the fort.

"Where is Alice?--Miss Roussillon--where did Miss Roussillon go?"
Beverley exclaimed, staring around like a lost man. "Where is
she?"

"D'know," said Oncle Jazon, resuming his habitual expression of
droll dignity, "she shot apast me jes' as thet thing busted loose,
an' she went like er hummin' bird, skitch!--jes' thet way--an' I
didn't see 'r no more. 'Cause I was skeert mighty nigh inter seven
fits; 'spect that 'splosion blowed her clean away! Ventrebleu!
never was so plum outen breath an' dead crazy weak o' bein'
afeard!"

"Lieutenant Beverley," roared Clark in his most commanding tone,
"go to the gate and settle things there. That mob outside is
trying to break in!"

The order was instantly obeyed, but Beverley had relapsed. Once
more his soul groped in darkness, while the whole of his life
seemed unreal, a wavering, misty, hollow dream. And yet his
military duty was all real enough. He knew just what to do when he
reached the gate.

"Back there at once!" he commanded, not loudly, but with intense
force, "back there!" This to the inward surging wedge of excited
outsiders. Then to the guard.

"Shoot the first man who crosses the line!"

"Ziff! me voici! moi! Gaspard Roussillon. Laissez-moi passer,
messieurs."

A great body hurled itself frantically past Beverley and the
guard, going out through the gateway against the wall of the
crowd, bearing everything before it and shouting:

"Back, fools! you'll all be killed--the powder is on fire! Ziff!
run!"

Wild as a March hare, he bristled with terror and foamed at the
mouth. He stampeded the entire mass. There was a wild howl; a rush
in the other direction followed, and soon enough the esplanade and
all the space back to the barricades and beyond were quite
deserted.

Alice was not aware that a serious accident had happened.
Naturally she thought the great, rattling, crashing noise of the
explosion a mere part of the spectacular show. When the rush
followed, separating her and Beverley, it was a great relief to
her in some way; for a sudden recognition of the boldness of her
action in the little scene just ended, came over her and
bewildered her. An impulse sent her running away from the spot
where, it seemed to her, she had invited public derision. The
terrible noises all around her were, she now fancied, but the
jeering and hooting of rude men who had seen her unmaidenly
forwardness.

With a burning face she flew to the postern and slipped out, once
more taking the course which had become so familiar to her feet.
She did not slacken her speed until she reached the Bourcier
cabin, where she had made her home since the night when Hamilton's
pistol ball struck her. The little domicile was quite empty of its
household, but Alice entered and flung herself into a chair, where
she sat quivering and breathless when Adrienne, also much excited,
came in, preceded by a stream of patois that sparkled
continuously.

"The fort is blown up!" she cried, gesticulating in every
direction at once, her petite figure comically dilated with the
importance of her statement. "A hundred men are killed, and the
powder is on fire!"

She pounced into Alice's arms, still talking as fast as her tongue
could vibrate, changing from subject to subject without rhyme or
reason, her prattle making its way by skips and shies until what
was really upper-most in her sweet little heart disclosed itself.

"And, O Alice! Rene has not come yet!"

She plunged her dusky face between Alice's cheek and shoulder;
Alice hugged her sympathetically and said:

"But Rene will come, I know he will, dear."

"Oh, but do you know it? is it true? who told you? when will he
come? where is he? tell me about him!"

Her head popped up from her friend's neck and she smiled
brilliantly through the tears that were still sparkling on her
long black lashes.

"I didn't mean that I had heard from him, and I don't know where
he is; but--but they always come back."

"You say that because your man--because Lieutenant Beverley has
returned. It is always so. You have everything to make you happy,
while I--I--"

Again her eyes spilled their shower, and she hid her face in her
hands which Alice tried in vain to remove.

"Don't cry, Adrienne. You didn't see me crying--"

"No, of course not; you didn't have a thing to cry about.
Lieutenant Beverley told you just where he was going and just
what--"

"But think, Adrienne, only think of the awful story they told--
that he was killed, that Governor Hamilton had paid Long-Hair for
killing him and bringing back his scalp--oh dear, just think! And
I thought it was true."

"Well, I'd be willing to think and believe anything in the world,
if Rene would come back," said Adrienne, her face, now uncovered,
showing pitiful lines of suffering. "O Alice, Alice, and he never,
never will come!"

Alice exhausted every device to cheer, encourage and comfort her.
Adrienne had been so good to her when she lay recovering from the
shock of Hamilton's pistol bullet, which, although it came near
killing her, made no serious wound--only a bruise, in fact. It was
one of those fortunate accidents, or providentially ordered
interferences, which once in a while save a life. The stone disc
worn by Alice chanced to lie exactly in the missile's way, and
while it was not broken, the ball, already somewhat checked by
passing through several folds of Father Beret's garments,
flattened itself upon it with a shock which somehow struck Alice
senseless.

Here again, history in the form of an ancient family document (a
letter written in 1821 by Alice herself), gives us the curious
brace of incidents, to wit, the breaking of the miniature on
Beverley's breast by a British musket-ball, and the stopping of
Hamilton's bullet over Alice's heart by the Indian charm-stone.

"Which shows the goodness of God," the letter goes on, "and also
seems to sustain the Indian legend concerning the stone, that
whoever might wear it could not be killed. Unquestionable (sic)
Mr. Hamilton's shot, which was aimed at poor, dear old Father
Beret, would have pierced my heart, but for that charm-stone. As
for my locket, it did not, as some have reported, save Fitzhugh's
life when the musket-ball was stopped. The ball was so spent that
the blow was only hard enough to spoil temporary (sic) the face of
the miniature, which was afterwards restored fairly well by an
artist in Paris. When it did actually save Fitzhugh's life was out
on the Illinois plain. The savage, Long-Hair, peace to his memory,
worked the miracle of restoring to me--" Here a fold in the paper
has destroyed a line of the writing.

The letter is a sacred family paper, and there is not
justification for going farther into its faded and, in some parts,
almost obliterated writing. But so much may pass into these pages
as a pleasant authentication of what otherwise might be altogether
too sweet a double nut for the critic's teeth to crack.

While Adrienne and Alice were still discussing the probability of
Rene de Ronville's return, M. Roussillon came to the door. He was
in search of Madame, his wife, whom he had not yet seen.

He gathered the two girls in his mighty arms, tousling them with
rough tenderness. Alice returned his affectionate embrace and told
him where to find Madame Roussillon, who was with Dame Godere,
probably at her house.

"Nobody killed," he said, in answer to Alice's inquiry about the
catastrophe at the fort. "Some of 'em hurt and burnt a little.
Great big scare about nearly nothing. Ziff! my children, you
should have seen me quiet things. I put out my hands, this way--
omme ca--pouf! It was all over. The people went home."

His gestures indicated that he had borne back an army with open
hands. Then he chucked Adrienne under the chin with his finger and
added in his softest voice:

"I saw somebody's lover the other day, over yonder in the Indian
village. He spoke to me about somebody--eh, ma petite, que
voulez-vous dire?"

"Oh, Papa Roussillon! we were just talking about Rene!" cried
Alice. "Have you seen him?"

"I saw you, you little minx, jumping into a man's arms right under
the eyes of a whole garrison! Bah! I could not believe it was my
little Alice!"

He let go a grand guffaw, which seemed to shake the cabin's walls.
Alice blushed cherry red. Adrienne, too bashful to inquire about
Rene, was trembling with anxiety. The truth was not in Gaspard
Roussillon, just then; or if it was it stayed in him, for he had
not seen Rene de Ronville. It was his generous desire to please
and to appear opulent of knowledge and sympathy that made him
speak. He knew what would please Adrienne, so why not give her at
least a delicious foretaste? Surely, when a thing was so cheap,
one need not be so parsimonious as to withhold a mere
anticipation. He was off before the girls could press him into
details, for indeed he had none.

"There now, what did I tell you?" cried Alice, when the big man
was gone. "I told you Rene would come. They always come back!"

Father Beret came in a little later. As soon as he saw Alice he
frowned and began to shake his head; but she only laughed, and
imitating his hypocritical scowl, yet fringing it with a twinkle
of merry lines and dimples, pointed a taper finger at him and
exclaimed:

"You bad, bad, man! why did you pretend to me that Lieutenant
Beverley was dead? What sinister ecclesiastical motive prompted
you to describe how Long-Hair scalped him? Ah, Father--"

The priest laid a broad hand over her saucy mouth. "Something or
other seems to have excited you mightily, ma fille, you are a
trifle impulsively inclined to-day."

"Yes, Father Beret; yes I know, and I am ashamed. My heart shrinks
when I think of what I did; but I was so glad, such a grand joy
came all over me when I saw him, so strong and brave and
beautiful, coming toward me, smiling that warm, glad smile and
holding out his arms--ah, when I saw all that--when I knew for
sure that he was not dead--I, why, Father--I just had to, I
couldn't help it!"

Father Beret laughed in spite of himself, but quickly managed to
resume his severe countenance.

"Ta! ta!" he exclaimed, "it was a bold thing for a little girl to
do."

"So it was, so it was. But it was also a bold thing for him to do--
to come back after he was dead and scalped and look so handsome
and grand! I'm ashamed and sorry, Father; but--but, I'm afraid I
might do it again if--well, I don't care if I did--so there, now!"

"But what in the world are you talking about?" interposed
Adrienne. Evidently they were discussing a most interesting matter
of which she knew nothing, and that did not suit her feminine
curiosity. "Tell me." She pulled Father Beret's sleeve. "Tell me,
I say!"

It is probable that Father Beret would have pretended to betray
Alice's source of mingled delight and embarrassment, had not the
rest of the Bourcier household returned in time to break up the
conversation. A little later Alice gave Adrienne a vividly
dramatic account of the whole scene.

"Ah, mon Dieu!" exclaimed the petite brunette, after she had heard
the exciting story. "That was just like you, Alice. You always do
superb things. You were born to do them. You shoot Captain
Farnsworth, you wound Lieutenant Barlow, you climb onto the fort
and set up your flag--you take it down again and run away with it--
you get shot and you do not die--you kiss your lover right before
a whole garrison! Bon Dieu! if I could but do all those things!
"She clasped her tiny hands before her and added rather
dejectedly: "But I couldn't, I couldn't. I couldn't kiss a man in
that way!"

Late in the evening news came to Roussillon place, where Gaspard
Roussillon was once more happy in the midst of his little family,
that the Indian Long-Hair had just been brought to the fort, and
would be shot on the following day. A scouting party captured him
as he approached the town, bearing at his belt the fresh scalp of
a white man. He would have been killed forthwith, but Clark, who
wished to avoid a repetition of the savage vengeance meted out to
the Indians on the previous day, had given strict orders that all
prisoners should be brought into the fort, where they were to have
a fair trial by court martial.

Both Helm and Beverley were at Roussillon place, the former
sipping wine and chatting with Gaspard, the latter, of course,
hovering around Alice, after the manner of a hungry bee around a
particularly sweet and deliciously refractory flower. It was
raining slowly, the fine drops coming straight down through the
cold, still February air; but the two young people found it
pleasant enough for them on the veranda, where they walked back
and forth, making fair exchange of the exciting experiences which
had befallen them during their long separation. Between the lines
of these mutual recitals sweet, fresh echoes of the old, old story
went from heart to heart, an amoebaean love-bout like that of
spring birds calling tenderly back and forth in the blooming
Maytime woods.

Both Captain Helm and M. Roussillon were delighted to hear of
Long-Hair's capture and certain fate, but neither of them regarded
the news as of sufficient importance to need much comment. They
did not think of telling Beverley and Alice. Jean, however, lying
awake in his little bed, overheard the conversation, which he
repeated to Alice next morning with great circumstantiality.

Having the quick insight bred of frontier experience, Alice
instantly caught the terrible significance of the dilemma in which
she and Beverley would be placed by Long-Hair's situation.
Moreover, something in her heart arose with irresistible power

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