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Alice of Old Vincennes by Maurice Thompson

Part 7 out of 7

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demanding the final, the absolute human sympathy and gratitude. No
matter what deeds Long-Hair had committed that were evil beyond
forgiveness, he had done for her the all-atoning thing. He had
saved Beverley and sent him back to her.

With a start and a chill of dread, she thought: "What if it is
already too late!"

But her nature could not hesitate. To feel the demand of an
exigency was to act. She snatched a wrap from its peg on the wall
and ran as fast as she could to the fort. People who met her
flying along wondered, staring after her, what could be urging her
so that she saw nobody, checked herself for nothing, ran splashing
through the puddles in the street, gazing ahead of her, as if
pursuing some flying object from which she dared not turn her
eyes.

And there was, indeed, a call for her utmost power of flight, if
she would be of any assistance to Long-Hair, who even then stood
bound to a stake in the fort's area, while a platoon of riflemen,
those unerring shots from Kentucky and Virginia, were ready to
make a target of him at a range of but twenty yards.

Beverley, greatly handicapped by the fact that the fresh scalp of
a white man hung at Long-Hair's belt, had exhausted every possible
argument to avert or mitigate the sentence promptly spoken by the
court martial of which Colonel Clark was the ruling spirit. He had
succeeded barely to the extent of turning the mode of execution
from tomahawking to shooting. All the officers in the fort
approved killing the prisoner, and it was difficult for Colonel
Clark to prevent the men from making outrageous assaults upon him,
so exasperated were they at sight of the scalp.

Oncle Jazon proved to be one of the most refractory among those
who demanded tomahawking and scalping as the only treatment due
Long-Hair. The repulsive savage stood up before them stolid,
resolute, defiant, proudly flaunting the badge which testified to
his horrible efficiency as an emissary of Hamilton's. It had been
left in his belt by Clark's order, as the best justification of
his doom.

"L' me hack 'is damned head," Oncle Jazon pleaded. "I jes' hankers
to chop a hole inter it. An' besides I want 'is scelp to hang up
wi' mine an' that'n o' the Injun what scelped me. He kicked me in
the ribs, the stinkin' varmint"

Beverley pleaded eloquently and well, but even the genial Major
Helm laughed at his sentiment of gratitude to a savage who at best
but relented at the last moment, for Alice's sake, and concluded
not to sell him to Hamilton. It is due to the British commander to
record here that he most positively and with what appeared to be
high sincerity, denied the charge of having offered rewards for
the taking of human scalps. He declared that his purposes and
practices were humane, and that while he did use the Indians as
military allies, his orders to them were that they must forego
cruel modes of warfare and refrain from savage outrage upon
prisoners. Certainly the weight of contemporary testimony seems
overwhelmingly against him, but we enter his denial. Long-Hair
himself, however, taunted him with accusations of unfaithfulness
in carrying out some very inhuman contracts, and to add a terrible
sting, volunteered the statement that poor Barlow's scalp had
served his turn in the place of Beverley's.

With conditions so hideous to contend against, Beverley, of
course, had no possible means of succoring the condemned savage.

"Him a kickin' yer ribs clean inter ye, an' a makin' ye run the
ga'ntlet, an' here ye air a tryin' to save 'is life!" whined Oncle
Jazon, "W'y man, I thought ye hed some senterments! Dast 'is Injin
liver, I kin feel them kicks what he guv me till yit. Ventrebleu!
que diable voulez-vous?"

Clark simply pushed Beverley's pleadings aside as not worth a
moment's consideration. He easily felt the fine bit of gratitude
at the bottom of it all; but there was too much in the other side
of the balance; justice, the discipline and confidence of his
little army, and the claim of the women and children on the
frontier demanded firmness in dealing with a case like Long-
Hair's.

"No, no," he said to Beverley, "I would do anything in the world
for you, Fitz, except to swerve an inch from duty to my country
and the defenceless people down yonder in Kentucky, I can't do it.
There's no use to press the matter further. The die is cast. That
brute's got to be killed, and killed dead. Look at him--look at
that scalp! I'd have him killed if I dropped dead for it the next
instant."

Beverley shuddered. The argument was horribly convincing, and yet,
somehow, the desire to save Long-Hair overbore everything else in
his mind. He could not cease his efforts; it seemed to him as if
he were pleading for Alice herself. Captain Farnsworth, strange to
say, was the only man in the fort who leaned to Beverley's side;
but he was reticent, doubtless feeling that his position as a
British prisoner gave him no right to speak, especially when every
lip around him was muttering something about "infamous scalp-
buyers and Indian partisans," with whom he was prominently counted
by the speakers.

As Clark had said, the die was cast. Long-Hair, bound to a stake,
the scalp still dangling at his side, grimly faced his
executioners, who were eager to fire. He appeared to be proud of
the fact that he was going to be killed.

"One thing I can say of him," Helm remarked to Beverley; "he's the
grandest specimen of the animal--I might say the brute--man that
I ever saw, red, white or black. Just look at his body and limbs!
Those muscles are perfectly marvelous."

"He saved my life, and I must stand here and see him murdered,"
the young man replied with intense bitterness. It was all that he
could think, all that he could say. He felt inefficient and
dejected, almost desperate.

Clark himself, not willing to cast responsibility upon a
subordinate, made ready to give the fatal order. Turning to Long-
Hair first, he demanded of him as well as he could in the Indian
dialect of which he had a smattering, what he had to say at his
last moment.

The Indian straightened his already upright form, and, by a strong
bulging of his muscles, snapped the thongs that bound him.
Evidently he had not tried thus to free himself; it was rather a
spasmodic expression of savage dignity and pride. One arm and both
his legs still were partially confined by the bonds, but his right
hand he lifted, with a gesture of immense self-satisfaction, and
pointed at Hamilton.

"Indian brave; white man coward," he said, scowling scornfully.
"Long-Hair tell truth; white man lie, damn!"

Hamilton's countenance did not change its calm, cold expression.
Long-Hair gazed at him fixedly for a long moment, his eyes
flashing most concentrated hate and contempt. Then he tore the
scalp from his belt and flung it with great force straight toward
the captive Governor's face. It fell short, but the look that went
with it did not, and Hamilton recoiled.

At that moment Alice arrived. Her coming was just in time to
interrupt Clark, who had turned to the waiting platoon with the
order of death on his lips. She made no noise, save the fluttering
of her skirts, and her loud and rapid panting on account of her
long, hard run. She sprang before Long-Hair and faced the platoon.

"You cannot, you shall not kill this man!" she cried in a voice
loaded with excitement. "Put away those guns!"

Woman never looked more thrillingly beautiful to man than she did
just then to all those rough, stern backwoodsmen. During her
flight her hair had fallen down, and it glimmered like soft
sunlight around her face. Something compelling flashed out of her
eyes, an expression between a triumphant smile and a ray of
irresistible beseechment. It took Colonel Clark's breath when he
turned and saw her standing there, and heard her words.

"This man saved Lieutenant Beverley's life," she presently added,
getting better control of her voice, and sending into it a
thrilling timbre; "you shall not harm him--you must not do it!"

Beverley was astounded when he saw her, the thing was so
unexpected, so daring, and done with such high, imperious force;
still it was but a realization of what he had imagined she would
be upon occasion. He stood gazing at her, as did all the rest,
while she faced Clark and the platoon of riflemen. To hear his own
name pass her quivering lips, in that tone and in that connection,
seemed to him a consecration.

"Would you be more savage than your Indian prisoner?" she went on,
"less grateful than he for a life saved? I did him a small, a very
small, service once, and in memory of that he saved Lieutenant
Beverley's life, because--because--" she faltered for a single
breath, then added clearly and with magnetic sweetness--"because
Lieutenant Beverley loved me, and because I loved him. This Indian
Long-Hair showed a gratitude that could overcome his strongest
passion. You white men should be ashamed to fall below his
standard."

Her words went home. It was as if the beauty of her face, the
magnetism of her lissome and symmetrical form, the sweet fire of
her eyes and the passionate appeal of her voice gave what she said
a new and irresistible force of truth. When she spoke of
Beverley's love for her, and declared her love for him, there was
not a manly heart in all the garrison that did not suddenly beat
quicker and feel a strange, sweet waft of tenderness. A mother,
somewhere, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a sweetheart, called
through that voice of absolute womanhood.

"Beverley, what can I do?" muttered Clark, his bronze face as pale
as it could possibly become.

"Do!" thundered Beverley, "do! you cannot murder that man.
Hamilton is the man you should shoot! He offered large rewards, he
inflamed the passions and fed the love of rum and the cupidity of
poor wild men like the one standing yonder. Yet you take him
prisoner and treat him with distinguished consideration. Hamilton
offered a large sum for me taken alive, a smaller one for my
scalp. Long-Hair saved me. You let Hamilton stand yonder in
perfect safety while you shoot the Indian. Shame on you, Colonel
Clark! shame on you, if you do it."

Alice stood looking at the stalwart commander while Beverley was
pouring forth his torrent of scathing reference to Hamilton, and
she quickly saw that Clark was moved. The moment was ripe for the
finishing stroke. They say it is genius that avails itself of
opportunity. Beverley knew the fight was won when he saw what
followed. Alice suddenly left Long-Hair and ran to Colonel Clark,
who felt her warm, strong arms loop round him for a single point
of time never to be effaced from his memory; then he saw her
kneeling at his feet, her hands upstretched, her face a glorious
prayer, while she pleaded the Indian's cause and won it.

Doubtless, while we all rather feel that Clark was weak to be thus
swayed by a girl, we cannot quite blame him. Alice's flag was over
him; he had heard her history from Beverley's cunning lips; he
actually believed that Hamilton was the real culprit, and besides
he felt not a little nauseated with executing Indians. A good
excuse to have an end of it all did not go begging.

But Long-Hair was barely gone over the horizon from the fort, as
free and as villainous a savage as ever trod the earth, when a
discovery made by Oncle Jazon caused Clark to hate himself for
what he had done.

The old scout picked up the scalp, which Long-Hair had flung at
Hamilton, and examined it with odious curiosity. He had lingered
on the spot with no other purpose than to get possession of that
ghastly relic. Since losing his own scalp the subject of
crownlocks had grown upon his mind until its fascination was
irresistible. He studied the hair of every person he saw, as a
physiognomist studies faces. He held the gruesome thing up before
him, scrutinizing it with the expression of a connoisseur who has
discovered, on a grimy canvas, the signature of an old master.

"Sac' bleu!" he presently broke forth. "Well I'll be--Look'ee yer,
George Clark! Come yer an' look. Ye've been sold ag'in. Take a
squint, ef ye please!"

Colonel Clark, with his hands crossed behind him, his face
thoughtfully contracted, was walking slowly to and fro a little
way off. He turned about when Oncle Jazon spoke.

"What now, Jazon?"

"A mighty heap right now, that's what; come yer an' let me show
ye. Yer a fine sort o' eejit, now ain't ye!"

The two men walked toward each other and met. Oncle Jazon held up
the scalp with one hand, pointing at it with the index finger of
the other.

"This here scalp come off'n Rene de Ronville's head."

"And who is he?"

"Who's he? Ye may well ax thet. He wuz a Frenchman. He wuz a fine
young feller o' this town. He killed a Corp'ral o' Hamilton's an'
tuck ter the woods a month or two ago. Hamilton offered a lot o'
money for 'im or 'is scalp, an' Long-Hair went in fer gittin' it.
Now ye knows the whole racket. An' ye lets that Injun go. An' thet
same Injun he mighty nigh kicked my ribs inter my stomach!"

Oncle Jazon's feelings were visible and audible; but Clark could
not resent the contempt of the old man's looks and words. He felt
that he deserved far more than he was receiving. Nor was Oncle
Jazon wrong. Rene de Ronville never came back to little Adrienne
Bourcier, although, being kept entirely ignorant of her lover's
fate, she waited and dreamed and hoped throughout more than two
years, after which there is no further record of her life.

Clark, Beverley and Oncle Jazon consulted together and agreed
among themselves that they would hold profoundly secret the story
of the scalp. To have made it public would have exasperated the
creoles and set them violently against Clark, a thing heavy with
disaster for all his future plans. As it was, the release of Long-
Hair caused a great deal of dissatisfaction and mutinous talk.
Even Beverley now felt that the execution ordered by the commander
ought to have been sternly carried out.

A day or two later, however, the whole dark affair was closed
forever by a bit of confidence on the part of Oncle Jazon when
Beverley dropped into his hut one evening to have a smoke with
him.

The rain was over, the sky shone like one vast luminary, with a
nearly full moon and a thousand stars reinforcing it. Up from the
south poured one of those balmy, accidental wind floods, sometimes
due in February on the Wabash, full of tropical dream-hints, yet
edged with a winter chill that smacks of treachery. Oncle Jazon
was unusually talkative; he may have had a deep draught of liquor;
at all events Beverley had little room for a word.

"Well, bein' as it's twixt us, as is bosom frien's," the old
fellow presently said, "I'll jes' show ye somepin poorty."

He pricked the wick of a lamp and took down his bunch of scalps.

"I hev been a addin' one more to keep company o' mine an' the
tothers."

He separated the latest acquisition from the rest of the wisp and
added, with a heinous chuckle:

"This'n's Long-Hair's!"

And so it was. Beverley knocked the ashes from his pipe and rose
to go.

"Wen they kicks yer Oncle Jazon's ribs," the old man added,
"they'd jes' as well lay down an' give up, for he's goin' to
salervate 'em."

Then, after Beverley had passed out of the cabin, Oncle Jazon
chirruped after him:

"Mebbe ye'd better not tell leetle Alice. The pore leetle gal hev
hed worry 'nough."

CHAPTER XXII

CLARK ADVISES ALICE

A few days after the surrender of Hamilton, a large boat, the
Willing, arrived from Kaskaskia. It was well manned and heavily
armed. Clark fitted it out before beginning his march and expected
it to be of great assistance to him in the reduction of the fort,
but the high waters and the floating driftwood delayed its
progress, so that its disappointed crew saw Alice's flag floating
bright and high when their eyes first looked upon the dull little
town from far down the swollen river. There was much rejoicing,
however, when they came ashore and were enthusiastically greeted
by the garrison and populace. A courier whom they picked up on the
Ohio came with them. He bore dispatches from Governor Henry of
Virginia to Clark and a letter for Beverley from his father. With
them appeared also Simon Kenton, greatly to the delight of Oncle
Jazon, who had worried much about his friend since their latest
fredaine--as he called it--with the Indians. Meantime an
expedition under Captain Helm had been sent up the river with the
purpose of capturing a British flotilla from Detroit.

Gaspard Roussillon, immediately after Clark's victory, thought he
saw a good opening favorable to festivity at the river house, for
which he soon began to make some of his most ostentatious
preparations. Fate, however, as usual in his case, interfered.
Fate seemed to like pulling the big Frenchman's ear now and again,
as if to remind him of the fact--which he was apt to forget--that
he lacked somewhat of omnipotence.

"Ziff! Je vais donner un banquet a tout le moonde, moi!" he cried,
hustling and bustling hither and thither.

A scout from up the river announced the approach of Philip Dejean
with his flotilla richly laden, and what little interest may have
been gathering in the direction of M. Roussillon's festal
proposition vanished like the flame of a lamp in a puff of wind
when this news reached Colonel Clark and became known in the town.

Beverley and Alice sat together in the main room of the Roussillon
cabin--you could scarcely find them separated during those happy
days--and Alice was singing to the soft tinkle of a guitar, a
Creole ditty with a merry smack in its scarcely intelligible
nonsense. She knew nothing about music beyond what M. Roussillon,
a jack of all trades, had been able to teach her,--a few simple
chords to accompany her songs, picked up at hap-hazard. But her
voice, like her face and form, irradiated witchery. It was sweet,
firm, deep, with something haunting in it--the tone of a hermit
thrush, marvelously pure and clear, carried through a gay strain
like the mocking-bird's. Of course Beverley thought it divine; and
when a message came from Colonel Clark bidding him report for duty
at once, he felt an impulse toward mutiny of the rankest sort. He
did not dream that a military expedition could be on hand; but
upon reaching headquarters, the first thing he heard was:

"Report to Captain Helm. You are to go with him up the river and
intercept a British force. Move lively, Helm is waiting for you,
probably."

There was no time for explanations. Evidently Clark expected
neither questions nor delay. Beverley's love of adventure and his
patriotic desire to serve his country came to his aid vigorously
enough; still, with Alice's love-song ringing in his heart, there
was a cord pulling him back from duty to the sweetest of all
life's joys.

Helm was already at the landing, where a little fleet of boats was
being prepared. A thousand things had to be done in short order.
All hands were stimulated to highest exertion with the thought of
another fight. Swivels were mounted in boats, ammunition and
provisions stored abundantly, flags hoisted and oars dipped. Never
was an expedition of so great importance more swiftly organized
and set in motion, nor did one ever have a more prosperous voyage
or completer triumph. Philip Dejean, Justice of Detroit, with his
men, boats and rich cargo, was captured easily, with not a shot
fired, nor a drop of blood spilled in doing it.

If Alice could have known all this before it happened, she would
probably have saved herself from the mortification of a rebuke
administered very kindly, but not the less thoroughly, by Colonel
Clark.

The rumor came to her--a brilliant creole rumor, duly inflated--
that an overwhelming British force was descending the river, and
that Beverley with a few men, not sufficient to base the
expedition on a respectable forlorn hope, would be sent to meet
them. Her nature, as was its wont, flared into high indignation.
What right had Colonel Clark to send her lover away to be killed
just at the time when he was all the whole world to her? Nothing
could be more outrageous. She would not suffer it to be done; not
she!

Colonel Clark greeted her pleasantly, when she came somewhat
abruptly to him, where he was directing a squad of men at work
making some repairs in the picketing of the fort. He did not
observe her excitement until she began to speak, and then it was
noticeable only, and not very strongly, in her tone. She forgot to
speak English, and her French was Greek to him.

"I am glad to see you, Mademoiselle," he said, rather
inconsequently, lifting his hat and bowing with rough grace, while
he extended his right hand cordially. "You have something to say
to me? Come with me to my office."

She barely touched his fingers.

"Yes, I have something to say to you. I can tell it here," she
said, speaking English now with softest Creole accent. "I wanted--
I came to--" It was not so easy as she had imagined it would be to
utter what she had in mind. Clark's steadfast, inscrutable eyes,
kindly yet not altogether sympathetic, met her own and beat them
down. Her voice failed.

He offered her his arm and gravely said:

"We will go to my office. I see that you have some important
communication to make. There are too many ears here."

Of a sudden she felt like running home. Somehow the situation
broke upon her with a most embarrassing effect. She did not take
Clark's arm, and she began to tremble. He appeared unconscious of
this, and probably was, for his mind had a fine tangle of great
schemes in it just then; but he turned toward his office, and
bidding her follow him, walked away in that direction.

She was helpless. Not the slightest trace of her usual brilliant
self-assertion was at her command. Saving the squad of men sawing
and hacking, digging and hammering, the fort appeared as deserted
as her mind. She stood gazing after Clark. He did not look back,
but strode right on. If she would speak with him, she must follow.
It was a surprise to her, for heretofore she had always had her
own way, even if she found it necessary to use force. And where
was Beverley? Where was the garrison? Colonel Clark did not seem
to be at all concerned about the approach of the British--and yet
those repairs--perhaps he was making ready for a desperate
resistance! She did not move until he reached the door of his
office where he stopped and stepped aside, as if to let her pass
in first; he even lifted his hat, then looked a trifle surprised
when he saw that she was not near him, frowned slightly, changed
the frown to a smile and said, lifting his voice so that she felt
a certain imperative meaning in it:

"Did I walk too fast for you? I beg your pardon, Mademoiselle."

He stood waiting for her, as a father waits for a lagging, wilful
child.

"Come, please," he added, "if you have something to say to me; my
time just now is precious--I have a great deal to do."

She was not of a nature to retreat under fire, and yet the panic
in her breast came very near mastering her will. Clark saw a look
in her face which made him speak again:

"I assure you, Mademoiselle, that you need not feel embarrassed.
You can rely upon me to--"

She made a gesture that interrupted him; at the same time she
almost ran toward him, gathering in breath, as one does who is
about to force out a desperately resisting and riotous thought.
The strong, grave man looked at her with a full sense of her
fascination, and at the same time he felt a vague wish to get away
from her, as if she were about to cast unwelcome responsibility
upon him.

"Where is Lieutenant Beverley?" she demanded, now close to Clark,
face to face, and gazing straight into his eyes. "I want to see
him." Her tone suggested intensest excitement. She was trembling
visibly.

Clark's face changed its expression. He suddenly recalled to mind
Alice's rapturous public greeting of Beverley on the day of the
surrender. He was a cavalier, and it did not agree with his sense
of high propriety for girls to kiss their lovers out in the open
air before a gazing army. True enough, he himself had been
hoodwinked by Alice's beauty and boldness in the matter of Long-
Hair. He confessed this to himself mentally, which may have
strengthened his present disapproval of her personal inquiry about
Beverley. At all events he thought she ought not to be coming into
the stockade on such an errand.

"Lieutenant Beverley is absent acting under my orders he said,
with perfect respectfulness, yet in a tone suggesting military
finality. He meant to set an indefinite yet effective rebuke in
his words.

"Absent?" she echoed. "Gone? You sent him away to be killed! You
had no right--you--"

"Miss Roussillon," said Clark, becoming almost stern, "you had
better go home and stay there; young girls oughtn't to run around
hunting men in places like this."

His blunt severity of speech was accompanied by a slight frown and
a gesture of impatience.

Alice's face blazed red to the roots of her sunny hair; the color
ebbed, giving place to a pallor like death. She began to tremble,
and her lips quivered pitifully, but she braced herself and tried
to force back the choking sensation in her throat.

"You must not misconstrue my words," Clark quickly added; "I
simply mean that men will not rightly understand you. They will
form impressions very harmful to you. Even Lieutenant Beverley
might not see you in the right light."

"What--what do you mean?" she gasped, shrinking from him, a
burning spot reappearing under the dimpled skin of each cheek.

"Pray, Miss, do not get excited. There is nothing to make you
cry." He saw tears shining in her eyes. "Beverley is not in the
slightest danger. All will be well, and he'll come back in a few
days. The expedition will be but a pleasure trip. Now you go home.
Lieutenant Beverley is amply able to take care of himself. And let
me tell you, if you expect a good man to have great confidence in
you, stay home and let him hunt you up instead of you hunting him.
A man likes that better."

It would be impossible to describe Alice's feelings, as they just
then rose like a whirling storm in her heart. She was humiliated,
she was indignant, she was abashed; she wanted to break forth with
a tempest of denial, self-vindication, resentment; she wanted to
cry with her face hidden in her hands. What she did was to stand
helplessly gazing at Clark, with two or three bright tears on
either cheek, her hands clenched, her eyes flashing. She was going
to say some wild thing; but she did not; her voice lodged fast in
her throat. She moved her lips, unable to make a sound.

Two of Clark's officers relieved the situation by coming up to get
orders about some matter of town government, and Alice scarcely
knew how she made her way home. Every vein in her body was humming
like a bee when she entered the house and flung herself into a
chair.

She heard Madame Roussillon and Father Beret chatting in the
kitchen, whence came a fragrance of broiling buffalo steak
besprinkled with garlic. It was Father Beret's favorite dish,
wherefore his tongue ran freely--almost as freely as that of his
hostess, and when he heard Alice come in, he called gayly to her
through the kitchen door:

"Come here, ma fille, and lend us old folks your appetite; nous
avons une tranche a la Bordelaise!"

"I am not hungry," she managed to say, "you can eat it without
me."

The old man's quick ears caught the quaver of trouble in her
voice, much as she tried to hide it. A moment later he was
standing beside her with his hand on her head.

"What is the matter now, little one?" he tenderly demanded. "Tell
your old Father."

She began to cry, laying her face in her crossed arms, the tears
gushing, her whole frame aquiver, and heaving great sobs. She
seemed to shrink like a trodden flower. It touched Father Beret
deeply.

He suspected that Beverley's departure might be the cause of her
trouble; but when presently she told him what had taken place in
the fort, he shook his head gravely and frowned.

"Colonel Clark was right, my daughter," he said after a short
silence, "and it is time for you to ponder well upon the
significance of his words. You can't always be a wilful,
headstrong little girl, running everywhere and doing just as you
please. You have grown to be a woman in stature--you must be one
in fact. You know I told you at first to be careful how you acted
with--"

"Father, dear old Father!" she cried, springing from her seat and
throwing her arms around his neck. "Have I appeared forward and
unwomanly? Tell me, Father, tell me! I did not mean to do
anything--"

"Quietly, my child, don't give way to excitement." He gently put
her from him and crossed himself--a habit of his when suddenly
perplexed--then added:

"You have done no evil; but there are proprieties which a young
woman must not overstep. You are impulsive, too impulsive; and it
will not do to let a young man see that you--that you--"

"Father, I understand," she interrupted, and her face grew very
pale.

Madame Roussillon came to the door, flushed with stooping over the
fire, and announced that the steak was ready.

"Bring the wine, Alice," she added, "a bottle of Bordeaux."

She stood for a breath of two, her red hands on her hips, looking
first at Father Beret, then at Alice.

"Quarreling again about the romances?" she inquired. "She's been
at it again?--she's found 'em again?"

"Yes," said Father Beret, with a queer, dry smile, "more romance.
Yes, she's been at it again! Now fetch the Bordeaux, little one."

The following days were cycles of torture to Alice. She groveled
in the shadow of a great dread. It seemed to her that Beverley
could not love her, could not help looking upon her as a poor,
wild, foolish girl, unworthy of consideration. She magnified her
faults and crudities, she paraded before her inner vision her
fecent improprieties, as they had been disclosed to her, until she
saw herself a sort of monstrosity at which all mankind was gazing
with disgust. Life seemed dry and shriveled, a mere jaundiced
shadow, while her love for Beverley took on a new growth,
luxuriant, all-embracing, uncontrollable. The ferment of spirit
going on in her breast was the inevitable process of self-
recognition which follows the terrible unfolding of the passion-
flower, in a nature almost absolutely simple and unsophisticated.

Vincennes held its breath while waiting for news from Helm's
expedition. Every day had its nimble, yet wholly imaginary account
of what had happened, skipping from mouth to mouth, and from cabin
to cabin. The French folk ran hither and thither in the persistent
rain, industriously improving the dramatic interest of each
groundless report. Alice's disturbed imagination reveled in the
kaleidoscopic terrors conjured up by these swift changes of the
form and color of the stories "from the front," all of them more
or less tragic. To-day the party is reported as having been
surprised and massacred to a man--to-morrow there has been a great
fight, many killed, the result in doubt--next day the British are
defeated, and so on. The volatile spirit of the Creoles fairly
surpassed itself in ringing the changes on stirring rumors.

Alice scarcely left the house during the whole period of
excitement and suspense. Like a wounded bird, she withdrew herself
from the light and noisy chatter of her friends, seeking only
solitude and crepuscular nooks in which to suffer silently. Jean
brought her every picturesque bit of the ghastly gossip, thus
heaping coals on the fire of her torture. But she did not grow
pale and thin. Not a dimple fled from cheek or chin, not a ray of
saucy sweetness vanished from her eyes. Her riant health was
unalterable. Indeed, the only change in her was a sudden ripening
and mellowing of her beauty, by which its colors, its lines, its
subtle undercurrents of expression were spiritualized, as if by
some powerful clarifying process.

Tremendous is the effect of a soul surprised by passion and
brought hard up against an opposing force which dashes it back
upon itself with a flare and explosion of self-revealment. Nor
shall we ever be able to foretell just how small a circumstance,
just how slight an exigency, will suffice to bring on the great
change. The shifting of a smile to the gloom of a frown, the snap
of a string on the lute of our imagination, just at the point when
a rich melody is culminating; the waving of a hand, a vanishing
face--any eclipse of tender, joyous expectation--dashes a nameless
sense of despair into the soul. And a young girl's soul--who shall
uncover its sacred depths of sensitiveness, or analyze its
capacity for suffering under such a stroke?

On the fifth day of March, back came the victorious Helm, having
surrounded and captured seven boats, richly loaded with provisions
and goods, and Dejean's whole force. Then again the little Creole
town went wild with rejoicing. Alice heard the news and the noise;
but somehow there was no response in her heart. She dreaded to
meet Beverley; indeed, she did not expect him to come to her. Why
should he?

M. Roussillon, who had volunteered to accompany Helm, arrived in a
mood of unlimited proportions, so far as expressing self-
admiration and abounding delight was concerned. You would have
been sure that he had done the whole deed single-handed, and
brought the flotilla and captives to town on his back. But Oncle
Jazon for once held his tongue, being too disgusted for words at
not having been permitted to fire a single shot. What was the use
of going to fight and simply meeting and escorting down the river
a lot of non-combatants?

There is something inscrutably delightful about a girl's way of
thinking one thing and doing another. Perversity, thy name is
maidenhood; and maidenhood, thy name is delicious inconsequence!
When Alice heard that Beverley had come back, safe, victorious, to
be greeted as one of the heroes of an important adventure, she
immediately ran to her room frightened and full of vague, shadowy
dread, to hide from him, yet feeling sure that he would not come!
Moreover, she busied herself with the preposterous task of putting
on her most attractive gown--the buff brocade which she wore that
evening at the river house--how long ago it seemed!--when Beverley
thought her the queenliest beauty in the world. And she was
putting it on so as to look her prettiest while hiding from him!

It is a toss-up where happiness will make its nest. The palace,
the hut, the great lady's garden, the wild lass's bower,--skip
here, alight there,--the secret of it may never be told. And love
and beauty find lodgment, by the same inexplicable route, in the
same extremes of circumstances. The wind bloweth where it listeth,
finding many a matchless flower and many a ravishing fragrance in
the wildest nooks of the world.

No sooner did Beverley land at the little wharf than, rushing to
his quarters, he made a hasty exchange of water-soaked apparel for
something more comfortable, and then bolted in the direction of
Roussillon place.

Now Alice knew by the beating of her heart that he was coming. In
spite of all she could do, trying to hold on hard and fast to her
doubt and gloom, a tide of rich sweetness began to course through
her heart and break in splendid expectation from her eyes, as they
looked through the little unglazed window toward the fort. Nor had
she long to wait. He came up the narrow wet street, striding like
a tall actor in the height of a melodrama, his powerful figure
erect as an Indian's, and his face glowing with the joy of a
genuine, impatient lover, who is proud of himself because of the
image he bears in his heart.

When Alice flung wide the door (which was before Beverley could
cross the veranda), she had quite forgotten how she had gowned and
bedecked herself; and so, without a trace of self-consciousness,
she flashed upon him a full-blown flower--to his eyes the
loveliest that ever opened under heaven.

Gaspard Roussillon, still overflowing with the importance of his
part in the capture of Dejean, came puffing homeward just in time
to see a man at the door holding Alice a-tiptoe in his arms.

"Ziff!" he cried, as he pushed open the little front gate of the
yard, "en voila assez, vogue la galere!"

The two forms disappeared within the house, as if moved by his
roaring voice.

The letter to Beverley from his father was somewhat disturbing. It
bore the tidings of his mother's failing health. This made it
easier for the young Lieutenant to accept from Clark the
assignment to duty with a party detailed for the purpose of
escorting Hamilton, Farnsworth and several other British officers
to Williamsburg, Virginia. It also gave him a most powerful
assistance in persuading Alice to marry him at once, so as to go
with him on what proved to be a delightful wedding journey through
the great wilderness to the Old Dominion. Spring's verdure burst
abroad on the sunny hills as they slowly went their way; the
mating birds sang in every blooming brake and grove by which they
passed, and in their joyous hearts they heard the bubbling of
love's eternal fountain.

CHAPTER XXIII

AND SO IT ENDED

Our story must end here, because at this point its current flows
away forever from old Vincennes; and it was only of the post on
the Wabash that we set out to make a record. What befell Alice and
Beverley after they went to Virginia we could go on to tell; but
that would be another story. Suffice it to say, they lived happily
ever after, or at least somewhat beyond three score and ten, and
left behind them a good name and numerous descendants.

How Alice found out her family in Virginia, we are not informed;
but after a lapse of some years from the date of her marriage,
there appears in one of her letters a reference to an estate
inherited from her Tarleton ancestors, and her name appears in old
records signed in full, Alice Tarleton Beverley. A descendant of
hers still treasures the locket, with its broken miniature and
battered crest, which won Beverley's life from Long-Hair, the
savage. Beside it, as carefully guarded, is the Indian charm-stone
that stopped Hamilton's bullet over Alice's heart The rapiers have
somehow disappeared, and there is a tradition in the Tarleton
family that they were given by Alice to Gaspard Roussillon, who,
after Madame Roussillon's death in 1790, went to New Orleans,
where he stayed a year or two before embarking for France, whither
he took with him the beautiful pair of colechemardes and Jean the
hunchback.

Oncle Jazon lived in Vincennes many years after the war was over;
but he died at Natchez, Mississippi, when ninety-three years old.
He said, with almost his last breath, that he couldn't shoot very
well, even in his best days; but that he had, upon various
occasions, "jes' kind o' happened to hit a Injun in the lef' eye."
They used to tell a story, as late as General Harrison's stay in
Vincennes, about how Oncle Jazon buried his collection of scalps,
with great funeral solemnity, as his part of the celebration of
peace and independence about the year 1784.

Good old Father Beret died suddenly soon after Alice's marriage
and departure for Virginia. He was found lying face downward on
the floor of his cabin. Near him, on a smooth part of a puncheon,
were the mildewed fragments of a letter, which he had been
arranging, as if to read its contents. Doubtless it was the same
letter brought to him by Rene de Ronville, as recorded in an early
chapter of our story. The fragments were gathered up and buried
with him. His dust lies under the present Church of St. Xavier,--
the dust of as noble a man and as true a priest as ever sacrificed
himself for the good of humanity.

In after years Simon Kenton visited Beverley and Alice in their
Virginia home. To his dying day he was fond of describing their
happy and hospitable welcome and the luxuries to which they
introduced him. They lived in a stately white mansion on a hill
overlooking a vast tobacco plantation, where hundreds of negro
slaves worked and sang by day and frolicked by night. Their oldest
child was named Fitzhugh Gaspard. Kenton died in 1836.

There remains but one little fact worth recording before we close
the book. In the year 1800, on the fourth of July, a certain
leading French family of Vincennes held a patriotic reunion,
during which a little old flag was produced and its story told.
Some one happily proposed that it be sent to Mrs. Alice Tarleton
Beverley with a letter of explanation, and in profound recognition
of the glorious circumstances which made it the true flag of the
great Northwest,

And so it happened that Alice's little banner went to Virginia and
is still preserved in an old mansion not very far from Monticello;
but it seems likely that the Wabash Valley will soon again possess
the precious relic. The marriage engagement of Miss Alice Beverley
to a young Indiana officer, distinguished for his patriotism and
military ardor, has been announced at the old Beverley homestead
on the hill, and the high contracting parties have planned that
the wedding ceremony shall take place under the famous little
flag, on the anniversary of dark's capture of Post Vincennes. When
the bride shall be brought to her new home on the banks of the
Wabash, the flag will come with her; but Oncle Jazon will not be
on hand with his falsetto shout: "VIVE LA BANNIERE D'ALICE
ROUSSILLON! VIVE ZHORZZH VASINTON!"

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