Part 3 out of 4
"To hesitate is to die," it whispered. "Courage may save you."
Then a skeleton hand came out of the winding-sheet, pointing down
at the square of bristling bayonets. The figure put its mouth to
"Jump!" it whispered, and the bare bones of the dead fingers
Some seconds of a brief silence followed. I could hear them slowly
dripping out of eternity in the tick of a watch near me. I felt
the stare of many eyes invisible to me. A broad beam of bright
light shot through the gloom, resting full upon my face. I started
back upon the strong hands behind me. Then I felt my muscles
tighten as I began to measure the fall and to wonder if I could
clear the bayonets. I had no doubt I was to die shortly, and it
mattered not to me how, bound as I was, so that it came soon. For
a breath of silence my soul went up to the feet of God for help and
hope. Then I bent my knees and leaped, I saw much as my body went
rushing through the air--an empty grave its heap of earth beside
it, an island of light, walled with candles, in a sea of gloom,
faces showing dimly in the edge of the darkness, "Thank God! I
shall clear the bayonets," I thought, and struck heavily upon a
soft mat, covered over with green turf, a little beyond that
bristling bed. I staggered backward, falling upon it. To my
surprise, it bent beneath me. They were no bayonets, but only
shells of painted paper. I got to my feet none the worse for
jumping, and as dumfounded as ever a man could be. I stood on a
lot of broken turf with which a wide floor had been overlaid.
Boards and timbers were cut away, and the grave dug beneath them.
I saw one face among others in the gloom beyond the candle
rows--that of his Lordship. He was coming up a little flight of
stairs to where I stood. He moved the candles, making a small
passage, and came up to me.
"You're a brave man," said he, in that low, careless tone of his.
"And you a coward," was my answer, for the sight of him had made me
burn with anger.
"Don't commit yourself on a point like that," said he, quickly,
"for, you know, we are not well acquainted. I like your pluck, and
I offer you what is given to few here--an explanation."
He paused, lighting a cigarette. I stood looking at him. The cold
politeness of manner with which he had taken my taunt, his perfect
self-mastery, filled me with wonder. He was no callow youth, that
man, whoever he might be. He was boring at the floor with the end
of a limber cane as he continued to address me.
"Now, look here," he went on, with a little gesture of his left
hand, between the fingers of which a cigarette was burning. "You
are now in the temple of a patriotic society acting with no letters
patent, but in the good cause of his Most Excellent Majesty King
George III, to whom be health and happiness."
As he spoke the name he raised his hat, and a cheer came from all
sides of us.
"It is gathered this night," he continued, "to avenge the death of
Lord Ronley, a friend of his Majesty, and of many here present, and
an honored member of this order. For his death you, and you alone,
are responsible, and, we suspect, under circumstances of no credit
to your sword. Many of our people have been cut off from their
comrades and slain by cowardly stealth, have been led into ambush
and cruelly cut to pieces by an overwhelming number, have been shut
in prison and done to death by starvation or by stabs of a knife
there in your country. Not content with the weapons of a soldier,
you have even resorted to the barbarity of the poison-wasp. Pardon
me, but you Yankees do not seem to have any mercy or fairness for a
foe. We shall give you better treatment. You shall not be killed
like a rat in a trap. You shall have a chance for your life. Had
you halted, had you been a coward, you would not have been worthy
to fight in this arena. You would not have come where you are
standing, and possibly even now your grave would have been filled.
If you survive the ordeal that is to come, I hope it will prove an
example to you of the honor that is due to bravery, of the fairness
due a foe."
Many voices spoke the word "Amen" as he stopped, turning to beckon
into the gloom about us. I was now quite over my confusion. I
began to look about me and get my bearings. I could hear a stir in
the crowd beyond the lights, and a murmur of voices. Reflecting
lanterns from many pillars near by shot their rays upon me. I
stood on a platform, some thirty feet square, in the middle of a
large room. Its floor was on a level with the faces of the many
who stood pressing to the row of lights, Here, I took it, I was to
fight for my life, I was looking at the yawning grave in the corner
of this arena, when four men ascended with swords and pistols. One
of them removed the shackles, letting my hands free. I thanked him
as he tossed them aside. I was thinking of D'ri, and, shading my
eyes, looked off in the gloom to see if I could discover him. I
called his name, but heard no answer. His Lordship came over to
me, bringing a new sword. He held the glittering blade before me,
its hilt in his right hand, its point resting on the fingers of his
left. "It's good," said he, quietly; "try it."
It was a beautiful weapon, its guard and pommel and quillons
sparkling with wrought-silver, its grip of yellow leather laced
with blue silk. The glow and the feel of it filled me with a joy I
had not known since my father gave me the sword of my childhood.
It drove the despair out of me, and I was a new man. I tried the
blade, its point upon my toe. It was good metal, and the grip
"Well, how do you find it?" said he, impatiently.
"I am satisfied," was my reply.
He helped me take off my blouse and waistcoat, and then I rolled my
sleeves to the elbow. The hum of voices had grown louder. I could
hear men offering to bet and others bantering for odds.
"We'll know soon," said a voice near me, "whether he could have
killed Ronley in a fair fight."
I turned to look at those few in the arena. There were half a
dozen of them now, surrounding my adversary, a man taller than the
rest, with a heavy neck and brawny arms and shoulders. He had come
out of the crowd unobserved by me. He also was stripped to the
shirt, and had rolled up his sleeves, and was trying the steel. He
had a red, bristling mustache and overhanging brows and a vulgar
face--not that of a man who settles his quarrel with the sword. I
judged a club or a dagger would have been better suited to his
genius. But, among fighters, it is easy to be fooled by a face.
In a moment the others had gone save his Lordship and that portly
bald-headed man I had heard him rebuke as "Sir Charles." My
adversary met me at the centre of the arena, where we shook hands.
I could see, or thought I could, that he was entering upon a
business new to him, for there was in his manner an indication of
"Gentlemen, are you ready?" said his Lordship.
But there are reasons why the story of what came after should be
none of my telling. I leave it to other and better eyes that were
not looking between flashes of steel, as mine were. And then one
has never a fair view of his own fights.
 The intrepid Fitzgibbon, the most daring leader on the Canadian
frontier those days, told me long afterward that he knew the
building--a tall frame structure on the high shore of a tributary
of the St. Lawrence. It was built on a side of the bluff and used
originally as a depot for corn, oats, rye, and potatoes, that came
down the river in bateaux. The slide was a slanting box through
which the sacks of grain were conveyed to sloops and schooners
below. It did not pay and was soon abandoned, whereupon it was
rented by the secret order referred to above. The slide bottom was
coated with lard and used for the hazing of candidates. A prize
fight on the platform was generally a feature of the entertainment.
A man was severely injured in a leap on the bayonets, after which
that feature of the initiation was said to have been abandoned.
This is the story of Corporal Darius Olin, touching his adventure
in the Temple of the Avengers, at some unknown place in Upper
Canada, on the night of August 12, 1813, and particularly the
ordeals of the sword, the slide, and the bayonet to which Captain
Ramon Bell was subjected that night, as told to Adjutant Asarius
Church, at Sackett's Harbor, New York:--
"Soon es I see whut wus up, I gin a powerful lift on thet air
shackle-chain. I felt 'er give 'n' bust. A couple o' men clim'
int' the seat front uv us, 'n' the hosses started hell bent. I sot
up with my hands 'hind uv me 'n the wagin. I kep' 'em there tight
'n' stiff, es ef the iron wus holdin' uv 'em. Could n't git no
chance t' say nuthin' t' Ray. Hustled us upstairs, 'n' when we
come in t' thet air big room they tuk him one way an' me 'nother.
"Didn't hev no idee where I wus. Felt 'em run a chain through my
arms, careful, efter they sot me down. I sot still fer mebbe five
minutes. Seemed so ev'rybody'd gone out o' the place. Could n't
hear nuthin' nowhere. I le' down the chain jest es ca-areful es I
could, 'n' tuk off the blindfold. 'Twas all dark; could n't see my
hand afore me. Crep' 'long the floor. See 't was covered with
sawdust. Tuk off m' boots, 'n' got up on m' feet, 'n' walked
careful. Did n' dast holler t' Ray. Cal'lated when the squabble
come I 'd be ready t' dew business. All t' once I felt a slant 'n
the floor. 'T was kind o' slip'ry, 'n' I begun t' slide. Feet
went out from under me 'n' sot me down quick. Tried t' ketch holt
o' suthin'. Could n't hang on; kep' goin' faster. Fust I knew I
'd slid int' some kind uv a box. Let me down quicker 'n scat over
thet air grease a little ways. I out with my tew hands 'n' bore
ag'in' the sides o' th' box powerful 'n' stopped myself. Then I up
with these here feet o' mine. See the top o' the box wa'n't much
more 'n a foot above me. Tried t' crawl up ag'in. Couldn't mek
it. Dum thing slanted luk Tup's Hill. Hung on awhile, cipherin'
es hard es I knew how. Hearn suthin' go kerslap. Seem so the hull
place trembled. Raised up my head, 'n' peeked over my stumick down
the box. A bar o' light stuck in away down. Let myself go careful
till I c'u'd see my nose in it. Then I got over on my shoulder 'n'
braced on the sides o' the box, back 'g'in' one side 'n' knees
'g'in' t'other. See 't was a knot-hole where the light come in,
'bout es big es a man's wrist. Peeked through, 'n' see a lot o'
lights 'n' folks, 'n' hearn 'em talkin'. Ray he stud on a platform
facin' a big, powerful-lookin' cuss. Hed their coats 'n' vests
off, 'n' sleeves rolled up, 'n' swords ready. See there wus goin'
t' be a fight. Hed t' snicker--wa'n' no way I c'u'd help it, fer,
Judas Priest! I knew dum well they wa'n't a single one of them air
Britishers c'u'd stan' 'fore 'im. Thet air mis'able spindlin'
devil I tol' ye 'bout--feller et hed the women--he stud back o'
Ray. Hed his hand up luk thet. 'Fight!' he says, 'n' they got t'
work, 'n' the crowd begun t' jam up 'n' holler. The big feller he
come et Ray es ef he wus goin' t' cut him in tew. Ray he tuk it
easy 'n' rassled the sword of the big chap round 'n' round es ef it
wus tied t' hisn. Fust I knew he med a quick lunge 'n' pricked 'im
'n the arm. Big chap wus a leetle shy then. Did n't come up t'
the scratch es smart 'n' sassy es he'd orter. Ray he went efter
'im hammer 'n' tongs. Thet air long slim waist o' hisn swayed 'n'
bent luk a stalk o' barley. He did luk joemightyful han'some--wish
't ye c'u'd 'a' seen 'im thet air night. Hair wus jest es shiny es
gold 'n the light o' them candles. He 'd feint, an' t' other 'd
dodge. Judas Priest! seemed so he put the p'int o' the sword all
over thet air big cuss. C'u'd 'a' killed 'im a dozen times, but I
see he did n't want t' dew it. Kep' prickin' 'im ev'ry lunge 'n'
druv 'im off the boards--tumbled 'im head over heels int' the
crowd. Them air devils threw up their hats 'n' stomped 'n'
hollered powerful, es ef 't were mighty fun t' see a man cut t'
pieces. Wall, they tuk up another man, quicker 'n the fust, but he
wa'n' nowhere near s' big 'n' cordy. Wa'n't only one crack o' the
swords in thet air fight. Could n't hardly say Jack Robinson 'fore
the cuss hed fell. Ray hurt him bad, I guess, for they hed t' pick
'im up 'n' carry 'im off luk a baby. Guess the boy see 't he hed a
good many to lick, 'n' hed n't better waste no power a-foolin'.
All t' once thet air low-lived, spindlin', mis'able devil he come
t' the edge o' the platform 'n' helt up his hand. Soon 's they
stopped yellin' he says; 'Gentlemen,' he says, 'sorry t' tell ye
thet the man fer the next bout hes got away. We left him securely
fastened up 'n the fust chamber. Have hed the building searched,
but ain't able t' find him. He must hev gone down the slide. I am
sorry to say we hev no more Yankees. If this man fights any more
it will hev t' be a Britisher thet goes ag'in' 'im. Is there a
"Ray he runs up 'n' says suthin' right 'n his ear. Could n't hear
whut 'twus. Did n' set well. T' other feller he flew mad, 'n'
Ray he fetched 'im a cuff, luk thet, with the back uv his hand. Ye
see, he did n' know he hed been a-fightin' Yankees, 'n' he did n'
like the idee. 'Gentlemen,' says he, 'I 'll fight anybody, but ef
this chap ain't a coward, he 'll fight me himself.' T'other feller
he off with his coat 'n' vest es quick es a flash 'n' picked up a
sword. 'Fight, then, ye cub!' says he; an' they flew at each other
hell bent fer 'lection. He wa'n' no fool with a sword, nuther, I
can tell ye, thet air spindlin' cuss. I see Ray hed his han's
full. But he wus jest es cool es a green cowcumber, eggzac'ly.
Kep' a-cuffin' t' other sword, 'n' let 'im hit 'n' lunge 'n' feint
es much es he pleased. See he wus jest a-gettin' his measure, 'n'
I knew suthin' wus goin' t' happen purty quick. Fust I knew he
ketched Ray by the shirtsleeve with the p'int uv 'is sword 'n'
ripped it t' the collar. Scairt me so I bit my tongue watchin' uv
'em. They got locked, 'n' both swords came up t' the hilts
t'gether with a swish 'n' a bang luk thet. The blades clung, 'n'
they backed off. Then Ray he begun t' feint 'n' lunge 'n' hustle
'im. Quicker 'n scat he gin 'im an awful prick 'n the shoulder. I
c'u'd see the blood come, but they kep' a-goin' back 'n' forth 'n'
up 'n' down desperit. The red streak on thet air feller's shirt
kep' a-growin'. Purty quick one side uv 'im wus red an' t' other
white. See he wus gettin' weaker 'n' weaker. Ray c'u'd 'a'
split 'im t' the navel ef he'd only hed a min' tew. All t' once he
med a jab at Ray, 'n' threw up 'is han's, 'n' went back a step er
tew, luk a boss with th' blin' staggers, 'n' tumbled head over
heels in thet air open grave. There wus hell t' pay fer a minute.
Lot on 'em clim' over the row o' lights, yellin' luk wildcats, 'n'
hauled thet air mis'able cuss out o' the grave, 'n' stud 'im up,
'n' gin 'im a drink o' liquor. In half a minute he up with his
han'kerchief 'n' waved it over 'is head t' mek 'em keep still.
Soon 's they wus quiet he up 'n' he says: 'Gentlemen,' says he,
'this 'ere chap hes stood the test o' the sword. Are ye
satisfied?' 'We are,' says they--ev'ry British son uv a gun they
wus there up 'n' hollered, 'Then,' says he, 'giv' 'im th' slide.'
"Ray he put down 'is sword 'n' picked up 'is coat 'n' vest. Then
they grabbed th' lights, 'n' thet 's th' last I see on' em there.
Purty quick 'twus all dark. Hearn 'em comin' upstairs 'n goin'
'cross th' floor over my head. 'Gun t' think o' myself a leetle
bit then. Knowed I was in thet air slide, an' hed t' le' go purty
quick. Hed n't no idee where it went tew, but I cal'lated I wus
middlin' sure t' know 'fore long. Knowed when I le' go I wus goin'
t' dew some tall slippin' over thet air greased bottom. See a
light come down th' box 'n a minute. Hearn somebody speakin' there
et the upper end.
"'This 'ere's th' las' test o' yer courage,' says a man, says he;
'few comes here alive 'n' sound es you be. Ye wus a doomed man.
Ye 'd hev been shot at daylight, but we gin ye a chance fer yer
life. So fur ye 've proved yerself wuthy. Ef ye hold yer courage,
ye may yit live. Ef ye flinch, ye 'll land in heaven. Ef yer life
is spared, remember how we honor courage.'
"Then they gin 'im a shove, 'n' I hearn 'im a-comin'. I flopped
over 'n' le' go. Shot away luk a streak o' lightnin'. Dum thing
grew steeper 'n' steeper. Jes' hel' up my ban's 'n' let 'er go
lickitty split. Jerushy Jane Pepper! jes' luk comin' down a
greased pole. Come near tekin' my breath away--did sart'n. Went
out o' thet air thing luk a bullet eggzac'ly. Shot int' the air
feet foremust. Purty fair slidin' up in the air 'most anywheres,
ye know. Alwus come down by the nighest way. 'T was darker 'n
pitch; could n't see a thing, nut a thing. Hearn Ray come out o'
the box 'bove me. Then I come down k'slap in th' water 'n' sunk.
Thought I 'd never stop goin' down. 'Fore I come up I hearn Ray
rip int' th' water nigh me. I come up 'n' shook my head, 'n'
waited. Judas Priest! thought he wus drownded, sart'n. Seemed so
I 'd bust out 'n' cry there 'n th' water waitin' fer thet air boy.
Soon es I hearn a flop I hed my han's on 'im.
"'Who be you?' says he.
"'D'ri,' says I.
"'Tired out,' says he; 'can't swim a stroke. Guess I 'll hev t' go
t' th' bottom.'"
D'ri's narrative was the talk of the garrison. Those who heard the
telling, as I did not, were fond of quoting its odd phrases, and of
describing how D'ri would thrust and parry with his jack-knife in
the story of the bouts.
The mystery of that plunge into darkness and invisible water was a
trial to my nerves the like of which I had never suffered. After
they had pulled his Lordship out of the grave, and I knew there
would be no more fighting, I began to feel the strain he had put
upon me. He was not so strong as D'ri, but I had never stood
before a quicker man. His blade was as full of life and cunning as
a cat's paw, and he tired me. When I went under water I felt sure
it was all over, for I was sick and faint. I had been thinking of
D'ri in that quick descent. I wondered if he was the man who had
got away and gone down the slide. I was not the less amazed,
however, to feel his strong hand upon me as I came up. I knew
nothing for a time. D'ri has told me often how he bore me up in
rapid water until he came into an eddy where he could touch bottom.
There, presently, I got back my senses and stood leaning on his
broad shoulder awhile. A wind was blowing, and we could hear a
boat jumping in the ripples near by. We could see nothing, it was
so dark, but D'ri left me, feeling his way slowly, and soon found
the boat. He whistled to me, and I made my way to him. There were
oars in the bottom of the boat. D'ri helped me in, where I lay
back with a mighty sense of relief. Then he hauled in a rope and
anchor, and shoved off. The boat, overrunning the flow in a
moment, shot away rapidly. I could feel it take headway as we
clove the murmuring waters. D'ri set the oars and helped it on. I
lay awhile thinking of all the blood and horror in that black
night--like a dream of evil that leads through dim regions of
silence into the shadow of death. I thought of the hinted peril of
the slide that was to be the punishment of poor courage.
D'ri had a plausible theory of the slide. He said that if we had
clung to the sides of it to break our speed we 'd have gone down
like a plummet and shattered our bones on a rocky shore. Coming
fast, our bodies leaped far into the air and fell to deep water.
How long I lay there thinking, as I rested, I have no satisfactory
notion. Louise and Louison came into my thoughts, and a plan of
rescue. A rush of cavalry and reeking swords, a dash for the
boats, with a flying horse under each fair lady, were in that
moving vision. But where should we find them? for I knew not the
name of that country out of which we had come by ways of darkness
and peril. The old query came to me, If I had to choose between
them, which should I take? There was as much of the old doubt in
me as ever. For a verity, I loved them both, and would die for
either. I opened my eyes at last, and, rising, my hands upon the
gunwales, could dimly see the great shoulders of D'ri swaying back
and forth as he rowed. The coming dawn had shot an arrow into the
great, black sphere of night, cracking it from circumference to
core, and floods of light shortly came pouring in, sweeping down
bridges of darkness, gates of gloom, and massy walls of shadow. We
were in the middle of a broad river--the St. Lawrence, we knew,
albeit the shores were unfamiliar to either of us. The sunlight
stuck in the ripples, and the breeze fanned them into flowing fire.
The morning lighted the green hills of my native land with a mighty
splendor. A new life and a great joy came to me as I filled my
lungs with the sweet air. D'ri pulled into a cove, and neither
could speak for a little. He turned, looking out upon the river,
and brushed a tear off his brown cheek.
"No use talking" said he, in a low tone, as the bow hit the shore,
"ain' no country luk this 'un, don' care where ye go."
As the oars lay still, we could hear in the far timber a call of
fife and drum. Listening, we heard the faint familiar strains of
"Yankee Doodle." We came ashore in silence, and I hugged the
nearest tree, and was not able to say the "Thank God!" that fell
from my lips only half spoken.
We got our bearings, a pair of boots for D'ri, and a hearty meal in
the cabin of a settler. The good man was unfamiliar with the upper
shore, and we got no help in our mystery. Starting west, in the
woods, on our way to the Harbor, we stopped here and there to
listen, but heard only wood-thrush and partridge--the fife and drum
of nature. That other music had gone out of hearing. We had no
compass, but D'ri knew the forest as a crow knows the air. He knew
the language of the trees and the brooks. The feel of the bark and
what he called "the lean of the timber" told him which way was
south. River and stream had a way of telling him whence they had
come and where they were going, but he had no understanding of a
map. I remember, after we had come to the Harbor at dusk and told
our story, the general asked him to indicate our landing-place and
our journey home on a big map at headquarters. D'ri studied the
map a brief while. There was a look of embarrassment on his sober
"Seems so we come ashore 'bout here," said he, dropping the middle
finger of his right hand in the vicinity of Quebec. "Then we
travelled aw-a-a-ay hellwards over 'n this 'ere direction." With
that illuminating remark he had slid his finger over some two
hundred leagues of country from Quebec to Michigan.
They met us with honest joy and no little surprise that evening as
we came into camp. Ten of our comrades had returned, but as for
ourselves, they thought us in for a long stay. We said little of
what we had gone through, outside the small office at headquarters,
but somehow it began to travel, passing quickly from mouth to
mouth, until it got to the newspapers and began to stir the tongue
of each raw recruit. General Brown was there that evening, and had
for me, as always, the warm heart of a father. He heard our report
with a kindly sympathy.
Next morning I rode away to see the Comte de Chaumont at
Leraysville. I had my life, and a great reason to be thankful, but
there were lives dearer than my own to me, and they were yet in
peril. Those dear faces haunted me and filled my sleep with
trouble. I rode fast, reaching the chateau at luncheon time. The
count was reading in a rustic chair at the big gate. He came
running to me, his face red with excitement.
"M'sieur le Capitaine!" he cried, my hand in both of his, "I
thought you were dead."
"And so I have been--dead as a cat drowned in a well, that turns up
again as lively as ever. Any news of the baroness and the young
"A letter," said he. "Come, get off your horse. I shall read to
you the letter."
"Tell me--how were they taken?"
I was leading my horse, and we were walking through the deep grove.
"Eh bien, I am not able to tell," said he, shaking his head
soberly. "You remember that morning--well, I have twenty men there
for two days. They are armed, they surround the Hermitage, they
keep a good watch. The wasp he is very troublesome, but they see
no soldier. They stay, they burn the smudge. By and by I think
there is nothing to fear, and I bring them home, but I leave three
men. The baroness and the two girls and their servants they stay
awhile to pack the trunk. They are coming to the chateau. It is
in the evening; the coach is at the door; the servants have
started. Suddenly--the British! I do not know how many. They
come out of the woods like a lightning, and bang! bang! bang! they
have killed my men. They take the baroness and the Misses de
Lambert, and they drive away with them. The servants they hear the
shots, they return, they come, and they tell us. We follow. We
find the coach; it is in the road, by the north trail. Dieu! they
are all gone! We travel to the river, but--" here he lifted his
shoulders and shook his head dolefully--"we could do nothing."
"The general may let me go after them with a force of cavalry," I
said. "I want you to come with me and talk to him."
"No, no, my capitaine!" said he; "it would not be wise. We must
wait. We do not know where they are. I have friends in Canada;
they are doing their best, and when we hear from them--eh bien, we
shall know what is necessary."
I told him how I had met them that night in Canada, and what came
"They are a cruel people, the English," said he. "I am afraid to
find them will be a matter of great difficulty."
"But the letter--"
"Ah, the letter," he interrupted, feeling in his pocket. "The
letter is not much. It is from Tiptoes--from Louison. It was
mailed this side of the river at Morristown. You shall see; they
do not know where they are."
He handed me the letter. I read it with an eagerness I could not
conceal. It went as follows:--
"MY DEAR COUNT: If this letter reaches you, it will, I hope,
relieve your anxiety. We are alive and well, but where? I am sure
I have no better idea than if I were a baby just born. We came
here with our eyes covered after a long ride from the river, which
we crossed in the night. I think it must have taken us three days
to come here. We are shut up in a big house with high walls and
trees and gardens around it--a beautiful place. We have fine beds
and everything to eat, only we miss the bouillabaisse, and the
jokes of M. Pidgeon, and the fine old claret. A fat Englishwoman
who waddles around like a big goose and who calls me Mumm (as if I
were a wine-maker!) waits upon us. We do not know the name of our
host. He is a tall man who says little and has hair on his neck
and on the back of his hands. Dieu! he is a lord who talks as if
he were too lazy to breathe. It is 'Your Lordship this' and 'Your
Lordship that.' But I must speak well of him, because he is going
to read this letter: it is on that condition I am permitted to
write. Therefore I say he is a great and good man, a beautiful
man. The baroness and Louise send love to all. Madame says do not
worry; we shall come out all right: but I say _worry_! and, good
man, do not cease to worry until we are safe home. Tell the cure
he has something to do now. I have worn out my rosary, and am
losing faith. Tell him to try his.
"She is an odd girl," said the count, as I gave back the letter,
"so full of fun, so happy, so bright, so quick--always on her
tiptoes. Come, you are tired; you have ridden far in the dust. I
shall make you glad to be here."
A groom took my horse, and the count led me down a wooded slope to
the lakeside. Octagonal water-houses, painted white, lay floating
at anchor near us. He rowed me to one of them for a bath. Inside
was a rug and a table and soap and linen. A broad panel on a side
of the floor came up as I pulled a cord, showing water clear and
luminous to the sandy lake-bottom. The glow of the noonday filled
the lake to its shores, and in a moment I clove the sunlit
depths--a rare delight after my long, hot ride.
At luncheon we talked of the war, and he made much complaint of the
Northern army, as did everybody those days.
"My boy," said he, "you should join Perry on the second lake. It
is your only chance to fight, to win glory."
He told me then of the impending battle and of Perry's great need
of men. I had read of the sea-fighting and longed for a part in
it. To climb on hostile decks and fight hand to hand was a thing
to my fancy. Ah, well! I was young then. At the count's table
that day I determined to go, if I could get leave.
Therese and a young Parisienne, her friend, were at luncheon with
us. They bade us adieu and went away for a gallop as we took
cigars. We had no sooner left the dining room than I called for my
horse. Due at the Harbor that evening, I could give myself no
longer to the fine hospitality of the count. In a few moments I
was bounding over the road, now cool in deep forest shadows. A
little way on I overtook Therese and the Parisienne. The former
called to me as I passed. I drew rein, coming back and stopping
beside her. The other went on at a walk.
"M'sieur le Capitaine, have you any news of them--of Louise and
Louison?" she inquired. "You and my father were so busy talking I
could not ask you before."
"I know this only: they are in captivity somewhere, I cannot tell
"You look worried, M'sieur le Capitaine; you have not the happy
face, the merry look, any longer. In June you were a boy, in
August--voila! it is a man! Perhaps you are preparing for the
She assumed a solemn look, glancing up at me as if in mockery of my
sober face. She was a slim, fine brunette, who, as I knew, had
long been a confidante of Louison.
"Alas! ma'm'selle, I am worried. I have no longer any peace."
"Do you miss them?" she inquired, a knowing look in her handsome
eyes. "Do not think me impertinent."
"More than I miss my mother," I said.
"I have a letter," said she, smiling. "I do not know--I thought I
should show it to you, but--but not to-day."
"Is it from them?"
"It is from Louison--from Tiptoes."
"And--and it speaks of me?"
"Ah, m'sieur," said she, arching her brows, "it has indeed much to
say of you."
"And--and may I not see it?" I asked eagerly. "Ma'm'selle, I tell
you I--I must see it."
"Why?" She stirred the mane of her horse with a red riding-whip.
"Why not?" I inquired, my heart beating fast.
"If I knew--if I were justified--you know I am her friend. I know
all her secrets."
"Will you not be my friend also?" I interrupted.
"A friend of Louison, he is mine," said she.
"Ah, ma'm'selle, then I confess to you--it is because I love her."
"I knew it; I am no fool," was her answer. "But I had to hear it
from you. It is a remarkable thing to do, but they are in such
peril. I think you ought to know."
She took the letter from her bosom, passing it to my hand. A faint
odor of violets came with it. It read:--
"MY DEAR THERESE: I wish I could see you, if only for an hour. I
have so much to say. I have written your father of our prison
home. I am going to write you of my troubles. You know what we
were talking about the last time I saw you--myself and that
handsome fellow. Mon Dieu! I shall not name him. It is not
necessary. Well, you were right, my dear. I was a fool; I laughed
at your warning; I did not know the meaning of that delicious pain.
But oh, my dear friend, it has become a terrible thing since I know
I may never see him again. My heart is breaking with it. Mere de
Dieu! I can no longer laugh or jest or pretend to be happy. What
shall I say? That I had rather die than live without him? No;
that is not enough. I had rather be an old maid and live only with
the thought of _him_ than marry another, if he were a king. I
remember those words of yours, 'I know he loves you.' Oh, my dear
Therese, what a comfort they are to me now! I repeat them often.
If _I_ could only say, 'I know'! Alas! I can but say, 'I do not
know,' nay, even, 'I do not believe.' If I had not been a fool I
should have made him tell me, for I had him over his ears in love
with me one day, or I am no judge of a man. But, you know, they
are so fickle! And then the Yankee girls are pretty and so clever.
Well, they shall not have him if I can help it. When I return
there shall be war, if necessary, between France and America.
And, Therese, you know I have weapons, and you have done me the
honor to say I know how to use them. I have told Louise, and--what
do you think?--the poor thing cried an hour--for pity of me! As
ever, she makes my trouble her own. I have been selfish always,
but I know the cure. It is love--toujours l'amour. Now I think
only of him, and he recalls you and your sweet words. God make you
a true prophet! With love to you and the marquis, I kiss each
line, praying for happiness for you and for him. Believe me as
"P.S. I feel better now I have told you. I wonder what his
Lordship will say. Poor thing! he will read this; he will think me
a fool. Eh bien, I have no better thought of him. He can put me
under lock and key, but he shall not imprison my secrets; and, if
they bore him, he should not read my letters. L."
I read it thrice, and held it for a moment to my lips. Every word
stung me with the sweet pain that afflicted its author. I could
feel my cheeks burning.
"Ma'm'selle, pardon me; it is not I she refers to. She does not
"Surely," said Therese, flirting her whip and lifting her
shoulders. "M'sieur Le Capitaine is never a stupid man. You--you
should say something very nice now."
"If it is I--thank God! Her misery is my delight, her liberation
my one purpose."
"And my congratulations," said she, giving me her hand. "She has
wit and beauty, a true heart, a great fortune, and--good luck in
having your love."
I raised my hat, blushing to the roots of my hair.
"It is a pretty compliment," I said. "And--and I have no gift of
speech to thank you. I am not a match for you except in my love of
kindness and--and of Louison. You have made me happier than I have
"If I have made you alert, ingenious, determined, I am content,"
was her answer. "I know you have courage."
"And will to use it."
"Good luck and adieu!" said she, with a fine flourish of her whip;
those people had always a pretty politeness of manner.
"Adieu," I said, lifting my hat as I rode off, with a prick of the
spur, for the road was long and I had lost quite half an hour.
My elation gave way to sober thought presently. I began to think
of Louise--that quiet, frank, noble, beautiful, great-hearted girl,
who might be suffering what trouble I knew not, and all silently,
there in her prison home. A sadness grew in me, and then suddenly
I saw the shadow of great trouble. I loved them both; I knew not
which I loved the better. Yet this interview had almost committed
me to Louison.
Orders came shortly from the War Department providing a detail to
go and help man the guns of Perry at Put-in Bay. I had the honor
of leading them on the journey and turning them over to the young
Captain. I could not bear to be lying idle at the garrison. A
thought of those in captivity was with me night and day, but I
could do nothing for them. I had had a friendly talk with General
Brown. He invited and received my confidence touching the tender
solicitude I was unable to cover. I laid before him the plan of an
expedition. He smiled, puffing a cigar thoughtfully.
"Reckless folly, Bell," said he, after a moment. "You are young
and lucky. If you were flung in the broad water there with a
millstone tied to your neck, I should not be surprised to see you
turn up again. My young friend, to start off with no destination
but Canada is too much even for you. We have no men to waste.
Wait; a rusting sabre is better than a hole in the heart. There
will be good work for you in a few days, I hope."
And there was--the job of which I have spoken, that came to me
through his kind offices. We set sail in a schooner one bright
morning,--D'ri and I and thirty others,--bound for Two-Mile Creek.
Horses were waiting for us there. We mounted them, and made the
long journey overland--a ride through wood and swale on a road worn
by the wagons of the emigrant, who, even then, was pushing westward
to the fertile valleys of Ohio. It was hard travelling, but that
was the heyday of my youth, and the bird music, and the many voices
of a waning summer in field and forest, were somehow in harmony
with the great song of my heart. In the middle of the afternoon of
September 6, we came to the Bay, and pulled up at headquarters, a
two-story frame building on a high shore. There were wooded
islands in the offing, and between them we could see the
fleet--nine vessels, big and little.
I turned over the men, who were taken to the ships immediately and
put under drill. Surgeon Usher of the _Lawrence_ and a young
midshipman rowed me to Gibraltar Island, well out in the harbor,
where the surgeon presented me to Perry--a tall, shapely man, with
dark hair and eyes, and ears hidden by heavy tufts of beard. He
stood on a rocky point high above the water, a glass to his eye,
looking seaward. His youth surprised me: he was then twenty-eight.
I had read much of him and was looking for an older man. He
received me kindly: he had a fine dignity and gentle manners.
Somewhere he had read of that scrape of mine--the last one there
among the Avengers. He gave my hand a squeeze and my sword a
compliment I have not yet forgotten, assuring me of his pleasure
that I was to be with him awhile. The greeting over, we rowed away
to the _Lawrence_. She was chopping lazily at anchor in a light
breeze, her sails loose. Her crew cheered their commander as we
came under the frowning guns.
"They 're tired of waiting," said he; "they 're looking for
business when I come aboard."
He showed me over the clean decks: it was all as clean as a Puritan
"Captain," said he, "tie yourself to that big bow gun. It's the
modern sling of David, only its pebble is big as a rock. Learn how
to handle it, and you may take a fling at the British some day."
He put D'ri in my squad, as I requested, leaving me with the
gunners. I went to work at once, and knew shortly how to handle
the big machine. D'ri and I convinced the captain with no
difficulty that we were fit for a fight so soon as it might come.
It came sooner than we expected. The cry of "Sail ho!" woke me
early one morning. It was the 10th of September. The enemy was
coming. Sails were sticking out of the misty dawn a few miles
away. In a moment our decks were black and noisy with the hundred
and two that manned the vessel. It was every hand to rope and
windlass then. Sails went up with a snap all around us, and the
creak of blocks sounded far and near. In twelve minutes we were
under way, leading the van to battle. The sun came up, lighting
the great towers of canvas. Every vessel was now feeling for the
wind, some with oars and sweeps to aid them. A light breeze came
out of the southwest. Perry stood near me, his hat in his hand.
He was looking back at the Niagara.
"Run to the leeward of the islands," said he to the sailing-master.
"Then you 'll have to fight to the leeward," said the latter.
"Don't care, so long as we fight," said Perry. "Windward or
leeward, we want to fight."
Then came the signal to change our course. The wind shifting to
the southeast, we were all able to clear the islands and keep the
weather-gage. A cloud came over the sun; far away the mist
thickened. The enemy wallowed to the topsails, and went out of
sight. We had lost the wind. Our sails went limp; flag and
pennant hung lifeless. A light rain drizzled down, breaking the
smooth plane of water into crowding rings and bubbles. Perry stood
out in the drizzle as we lay waiting. All eyes were turning to the
sky and to Perry. He had a look of worry and disgust. He was out
for a quarrel, though the surgeon said he was in more need of
physic, having the fever of malaria as well as that of war. He
stood there, tall and handsome, in a loose jacket of blue nankeen,
with no sign of weakness in him, his eyes flashing as he looked up
at the sky.
D'ri and I stood in the squad at the bow gun. D'ri was wearing an
old straw hat; his flannel shirt was open at the collar.
"Ship stan's luk an ol' cow chawin' 'er cud," said he, looking off
at the weather. "They's a win' comin' over there. It 'll give 'er
a slap 'n th' side purty soon, mebbe. Then she 'll switch 'er tail
'n' go on 'bout 'er business."
In a moment we heard a roaring cheer back amidships. Perry had
come up the companionway with his blue battle-flag. He held it
before him at arm's-length. I could see a part of its legend, in
white letters, "Don't give up the ship."
"My brave lads," he shouted, "shall we hoist it?"
Our "Ay, ay, sir!" could have been heard a mile away, and the flag
rose, above tossing hats and howling voices, to the mainroyal
The wind came; we could hear the sails snap and stiffen as it
overhauled the fleet behind us. In a jiffy it bunted our own hull
and canvas, and again we began to plough the water. It grew into a
smart breeze, and scattered the fleet of clouds that hovered over
us. The rain passed; sunlight sparkled on the rippling plane of
water. We could now see the enemy; he had hove to, and was waiting
for us in a line. A crowd was gathering on the high shores we had
left to see the battle. We were well in advance, crowding our
canvas in a good breeze. I could hear only the roaring furrows of
water on each side of the prow. Every man of us held his tongue,
mentally trimming ship, as they say, for whatever might come.
Three men scuffed by, sanding the decks. D'ri was leaning placidly
over the big gun. He looked off at the white line, squinted
knowingly, and spat over the bulwarks. Then he straightened up,
tilting his hat to his right ear.
"They 're p'intin' their guns," said a swabber.
"Fust they know they'll git spit on," said D'ri, calmly.
Well, for two hours it was all creeping and talking under the
breath, and here and there an oath as some nervous chap tightened
the ropes of his resolution. Then suddenly, as we swung about, a
murmur went up and down the deck. We could see with our naked eyes
the men who were to give us battle. Perry shouted sternly to some
gunners who thought it high time to fire. Then word came: there
would be no firing until we got close. Little gusts of music came
chasing over the water faint-footed to our decks--a band playing
"Rule Britannia." I was looking at a brig in the line of the enemy
when a bolt of fire leaped out of her and thick belches of smoke
rushed to her topsails. Then something hit the sea near by a great
hissing slap, and we turned quickly to see chunks of the shattered
lake surface fly up in nets of spray and fall roaring on our deck.
We were all drenched there at the bow gun. I remember some of
those water-drops had the sting of hard-flung pebbles, but we only
bent our heads, waiting eagerly for the word to fire.
"We was th' ones 'at got spit on," said a gunner, looking at D'ri.
"Wish they'd let us holler back," said the latter, placidly. "Sick
o' holdin' in."
We kept fanning down upon the enemy, now little more than a mile
away, signalling the fleet to follow.
"My God! see there!" a gunner shouted.
The British line had turned into a reeling, whirling ridge of smoke
lifting over spurts of flame at the bottom. We knew what was
coming. Untried in the perils of shot and shell, some of my
gunners stooped to cover under the bulwarks.
"Pull 'em out o' there," I called, turning to D'ri, who stood
The storm of iron hit us. A heavy ball crashed into the after
bulwarks, tearing them away and slamming over gun and carriage,
that slid a space, grinding the gunners under it. One end of a
bowline whipped over us; a jib dropped; a brace fell crawling over
my shoulders like a big snake; the foremast went into splinters a
few feet above the deck, its top falling over, its canvas sagging
in great folds. It was all the work of a second. That hasty
flight of iron, coming out of the air, thick as a flock of pigeons,
had gone through hull and rigging in a wink of the eye. And a fine
mess it had made.
Men lay scattered along the deck, bleeding, yelling, struggling.
There were two lying near us with blood spurting out of their
necks. One rose upon a knee, choking horribly, shaken with the
last throes of his flooded heart, and reeled over. The _Scorpion_
of our fleet had got her guns in action; the little _Ariel_ was
also firing. D'ri leaned over, shouting in my ear.
"Don't like th' way they 're whalin' uv us," he said, his cheeks
red with anger.
"Nor I," was my answer.
"Don't like t' stan' here an' dew nuthin' but git licked," he went
on. "'T ain' no way nat'ral."
Perry came hurrying forward.
"Fire!" he commanded, with a quick gesture, and we began to warm up
our big twenty-pounder there in the bow. But the deadly scuds of
iron kept flying over and upon our deck, bursting into awful
showers of bolt and chain and spike and hammerheads. We saw
shortly that our brig was badly out of gear. She began to drift to
leeward, and being unable to aim at the enemy, we could make no use
of the bow gun. Every brace and bowline cut away, her canvas torn
to rags, her hull shot through, and half her men dead or wounded,
she was, indeed, a sorry sight. The _Niagara_ went by on the safe
side of us, heedless of our plight. Perry stood near, cursing as
he looked off at her. Two of my gunners had been hurt by bursting
canister. D'ri and I picked them up, and made for the cockpit.
D'ri's man kept howling and kicking. As we hurried over the bloody
deck, there came a mighty crash beside us and a burst of old iron
that tumbled me to my knees.
A cloud of smoke covered us. I felt the man I bore struggle and
then go limp in my arms; I felt my knees getting warm and wet. The
smoke rose; the tall, herculean back of D'ri was just ahead of me.
His sleeve had been ripped away from shoulder to elbow, and a spray
of blood from his upper arm was flying back upon me. His hat crown
had been torn off, and there was a big rent in his trousers, but he
kept going, I saw my man had been killed in my arms by a piece of
chain, buried to its last link in his breast. I was so confused by
the shock of it all that I had not the sense to lay him down, but
followed D'ri to the cockpit. He stumbled on the stairs, falling
heavily with his burden. Then I dropped my poor gunner and helped
them carry D'ri to a table, where they bade me lie down beside him.
"It is no time for jesting," said I, with some dignity.
"My dear fellow," the surgeon answered, "your wound is no jest.
You are not fit for duty."
I looked down at the big hole in my trousers and the cut in my
thigh, of which I had known nothing until then. I had no sooner
seen it and the blood than I saw that I also was in some need of
repair, and lay down with a quick sense of faintness. My wound was
no pretty thing to see, but was of little consequence, a missile
having torn the surface only. I was able to help Surgeon Usher as
he caught the severed veins and bathed the bloody strands of muscle
in D'ri's arm, while another dressed my thigh. That room was full
of the wounded, some lying on the floor, some standing, some
stretched upon cots and tables. Every moment they were crowding
down the companionway with others. The cannonading was now so
close and heavy that it gave me an ache in the ears, but above its
quaking thunder I could hear the shrill cries of men sinking to
hasty death in the grip of pain. The brig was in sore distress,
her timbers creaking, snapping, quivering, like one being beaten to
death, his bones cracking, his muscles pulping under heavy blows.
We were above water-line there in the cockpit; we could feel her
flinch and stagger. On her side there came suddenly a crushing
blow, as if some great hammer, swung far in the sky, had come down
upon her. I could hear the split and break of heavy timbers; I
could see splinters flying over me in a rush of smoke, and the legs
of a man go bumping on the beams above. Then came another crash of
timbers on the port side. I leaped off the table and ran, limping,
to the deck, I do not know why; I was driven by some quick and
irresistible impulse. I was near out of my head, anyway, with the
rage of battle in me and no chance to fight. Well, suddenly, I
found myself stumbling, with drawn sabre, over heaps of the hurt
and dead there on our reeking deck. It was a horrible place:
everything tipped over, man and gun and mast and bulwark. The air
was full of smoke, but near me I could see a topsail of the enemy.
Balls were now plunging in the water alongside, the spray drenching
our deck. Some poor man lying low among the dead caught me by the
boot-leg with an appealing gesture. I took hold of his collar,
dragging him to the cockpit. The surgeon had just finished with
D'ri. His arm was now in sling and bandages. He was lying on his
back, the good arm over his face. There was a lull in the
cannonading. I went quickly to his side.
"How are you feeling?" I asked, giving his hand a good grip.
"Nuthin' t' brag uv," he answered. "Never see nobody git hell rose
with 'em s' quick es we did--never."
Just then we heard the voice of Perry. He stood on the stairs
calling into the cockpit.
"Can any wounded man below there pull a rope?" he shouted.
D'ri was on his feet in a jiffy, and we were both clambering to the
deck as another scud of junk went over us. Perry was trying, with
block and tackle, to mount a carronade. A handful of men were
helping him, D'ri rushed to the ropes, I following, and we both
pulled with a will. A sailor who had been hit in the legs hobbled
up, asking for room on the rope. I told him he could be of no use,
but he spat an oath, and pointing at my leg, which was now
bleeding, swore he was sounder than I, and put up his fists to
prove it. I have seen no better show of pluck in all my fighting,
nor any that ever gave me a greater pride of my own people and my
country. War is a great evil, I begin to think, but there is
nothing finer than the sight of a man who, forgetting himself,
rushes into the shadow of death for the sake of something that is
better. At every heave on the rope our blood came out of us, until
a ball shattered a pulley, and the gun fell. Perry had then a
fierce look, but his words were cool, his manner dauntless. He
peered through lifting clouds of smoke at our line. He stood near
me, and his head was bare. He crossed the littered deck, his
battle-flag and broad pennant that an orderly had brought him
trailing from his shoulder. He halted by a boat swung at the
davits on the port side--the only one that had not gone to
splinters. There he called a crew about him, and all got quickly
aboard the boat--seven besides the younger brother of Captain Perry
--and lowered it. Word flew that he was leaving to take command of
the sister brig, the _Niagara_, which lay off a quarter of a mile
or so from where we stood. We all wished to go, but he would have
only sound men; there were not a dozen on the ship who had all
their blood in them. As they pulled away, Perry standing in the
stern, D'ri lifted a bloody, tattered flag, and leaning from the
bulwarks, shook it over them, cheering loudly.
"Give 'em hell!" he shouted. "We 'll tek care o' the ol' brig."
[Illustration: "D'ri, shaking a bloody, tattered flag, shouted, 'We
'll tek care o' the ol' brig.'"]
We were all crying, we poor devils that were left behind. One, a
mere boy, stood near me swinging his hat above his head, cheering.
Hat and hand fell to the deck as I turned to him. He was reeling,
when D'ri caught him quickly with his good arm and bore him to the
The little boat was barely a length off when heavy shot fell
splashing in her wake. Soon they were dropping all around her.
One crossed her bow, ripping a long furrow in the sea. A chip flew
off her stern; a lift of splinters from an oar scattered behind
her. Plunging missiles marked her course with a plait of foam, but
she rode on bravely. We saw her groping under the smoke clouds; we
saw her nearing the other brig, and were all on tiptoe. The air
cleared a little, and we could see them ship oars and go up the
side. Then we set our blood dripping with cheers again, we who
were wounded there on the deck of the _Lawrence_. Lieutenant
Yarnell ordered her one flag down. As it sank fluttering, we
groaned. Our dismay went quickly from man to man. Presently we
could hear the cries of the wounded there below. A man came
staggering out of the cockpit, and fell to his hands and knees,
creeping toward us and protesting fiercely, the blood dripping from
his mouth between curses.
"Another shot would sink her," Yarnell shouted.
"Let 'er sink, d--n 'er," said D'ri. "Wish t' God I c'u'd put my
foot through 'er bottom. When the flag goes down I wan't' go tew."
The British turned their guns; we were no longer in the smoky paths
of thundering canister. The _Niagara_ was now under fire. We
could see the dogs of war rushing at her in leashes of flame and
smoke. Our little gun-boats, urged by oar and sweep, were
hastening to the battle front. We could see their men, waist-high
above bulwarks, firing as they came. The _Detroit_ and the _Queen
Charlotte_, two heavy brigs of the British line, had run afoul of
each other. The _Niagara_, signalling for close action, bore down
upon them. Crossing the bow of one ship and the stern of the
other, she raked them with broadsides. We saw braces fly and masts
fall in the volley. The _Niagara_ sheered off, pouring shoals of
metal on a British schooner, stripping her bare. Our little boats
had come up, and were boring into the brigs. In a brief time--it
was then near three o'clock--a white flag, at the end of a
boarding-pike, fluttered over a British deck. D'ri, who had been
sitting awhile, was now up and cheering as he waved his crownless
hat. He had lent his flag, and, in the flurry, some one dropped it
overboard. D'ri saw it fall, and before we could stop him he had
leaped into the sea. I hastened to his help, tossing a rope's end
as he came up, swimming with one arm, the flag in his teeth. I
towed him to the landing-stair and helped him over. Leaning on my
shoulder, he shook out the tattered flag, its white laced with his
"Ready t' jump in hell fer thet ol' rag any day," said he, as we
all cheered him.
Each grabbed a tatter of the good flag, pressing hard upon D'ri,
and put it to his lips and kissed it proudly. Then we marched up
and down, D'ri waving it above us--a bloody squad as ever walked,
shouting loudly. D'ri had begun to weaken with loss of blood, so I
coaxed him to go below with me.
The battle was over; a Yankee band was playing near by.
"Perry is coming! Perry is coming!" we heard them shouting above.
A feeble cry that had in it pride and joy and inextinguishable
devotion passed many a fevered lip in the cockpit.
There were those near who had won a better peace, and they lay as a
man that listens to what were now the merest vanity.
Perry came, when the sun was low, with a number of British
officers, and received their surrender on his own bloody deck. I
remember, as they stood by the ruined bulwarks and looked down upon
tokens of wreck and slaughter, a dog began howling dismally in the
It was a lucky and a stubborn sea-fight. More blood to the number
I never saw than fell on the _Lawrence_, eighty-three of our
hundred and two men having been killed or laid up for repair. One
has to search a bit for record of a more wicked fire. But we
deserve not all the glory some histories have bestowed, for we had
a larger fleet and better, if fewer, guns. It was, however, a
thing to be proud of, that victory of the young captain. Our men,
of whom many were raw recruits,--farmers and woodsmen,--stood to
their work with splendid valor, and, for us in the North, it came
near being decisive. D'ri and I were so put out of business that
no part of the glory was ours, albeit we were praised in orders for
valor under fire. But for both I say we had never less pride of
ourselves in any affair we had had to do with. Well, as I have
said before, we were ever at our best with a sabre, and big guns
were out of our line.
We went into hospital awhile, D'ri having caught cold and gone out
of his head with fever. We had need of a spell on our backs, for
what with all our steeplechasing over yawning graves--that is the
way I always think of it--we were somewhat out of breath. No news
had reached me of the count or the young ladies, and I took some
worry to bed with me, but was up in a week and ready for more
trouble, I had to sit with D'ri awhile before he could mount a
September was nearing its last day when we got off a brig at the
Harbor. We were no sooner at the dock than some one began to tell
us of a new plan for the invasion of Canada. I knew Brown had had
no part in it, for he said in my hearing once that it was too big a
chunk to bite off.
There were letters from the count and Therese, his daughter. They
had news for me, and would I not ride over as soon as I had
returned? My mother--dearest and best of mothers--had written me,
and her tenderness cut me like a sword for the way I had neglected
her. Well, it is ever so with a young man whose heart has found a
new queen. I took the missive with wet eyes to our good
farmer-general of the North. He read it, and spoke with feeling of
his own mother gone to her long rest.
"Bell," said he, "you are worn out. After mess in the morning
mount your horses, you and the corporal, and go and visit them.
Report here for duty on October 16."
Then, as ever after a kindness, he renewed his quid of tobacco,
turning quickly to the littered desk at headquarters.
We mounted our own horses a fine, frosty morning. The white earth
glimmered in the first touch of sunlight. All the fairy lanterns
of the frost king, hanging in the stubble and the dead grass,
glowed a brief time, flickered faintly, and went out. Then the
brown sward lay bare, save in the shadows of rock or hill or forest
that were still white. A great glory had fallen over the
far-reaching woods. Looking down a long valley, we could see
towers of evergreen, terraces of red and brown, golden
steeple-tops, gilded domes minareted with lavender and purple and
draped with scarlet banners. It seemed as if the trees were
shriving after all the green riot of summer, and making ready for
sackcloth and ashes. Some stood trembling, and as if drenched in
their own blood. Now and then a head was bare and bent, and naked
arms were lifted high, as if to implore mercy.
"Fine air," said I, breathing deep as we rode on slowly.
"'T is sart'n," said D'ri. "Mother used t' say 'at the frost wus
only the breath o' angels, an' when it melted it gin us a leetle o'
the air o' heaven."
Of earth or heaven, it quickened us all with a new life. The
horses fretted for their heads, and went off at a gallop, needing
no cluck or spur. We pulled up at the chateau well before the
luncheon hour. D'ri took the horses, and I was shown to the
library, where the count came shortly, to give me hearty welcome.
"And what of the captives?" I inquired, our greeting over.
"Alas! it is terrible; they have not returned," said he, "and I am
in great trouble, for I have not written to France of their peril.
Dieu! I hoped they would be soon released. They are well and now
we have good news. Eh bien, we hope to see them soon. But of that
Therese shall tell you. And you have had a terrible time on Lake
He had read of the battle, but wanted my view of it. I told the
story of the _Lawrence_ and Perry; of what D'ri and I had hoped to
do, and of what had been done to us. My account of D'ri--his droll
comment, his valor, his misfortune--touched and tickled the count.
He laughed, he clapped his hands, he shed tears of enthusiasm; then
he rang a bell,
"The M'sieur D'ri--bring him here," said he to a servant.
D'ri came soon with a worried look, his trousers caught on his
boot-tops, an old felt hat in his hand. Somehow he and his hat
were as king and coronal in their mutual fitness; if he lost one,
he swapped for another of about the same shade and shape. His
brows were lifted, his eyes wide with watchful timidity. The
count had opened a leather case and taken out of it a shiny disk of
silver. He stepped to D'ri, and fastened it upon his waistcoat.
"'Pour la valeur eprouvee--de l'Empereur,'" said he, reading the
inscription as he clapped him on the shoulder. "It was given to a
soldier for bravery at Austerlitz by the great Napoleon," said he.
"And, God rest him! the soldier he died of his wounds. And to me
he have left the medal in trust for some man, the most brave,
intrepid, honorable. M'sieur D'ri, I have the pleasure to put it
where it belong."
D'ri shifted his weight, looking down at the medal and blushing
like a boy.
"Much obleeged," he said presently. "Dunno but mebbe I better put
it 'n my wallet. 'Fraid I 'll lose it off o' there."
He threw at me a glance of inquiry.
"No," said I, "do not bury your honors in a wallet."
He bowed stiffly, and, as he looked down at the medal, went away,
Therese came in presently, her face full of vivacity and color.
"M'sieur le Capitaine," said she, "we are going for a little ride,
the marquis and I. Will you come with us? You shall have the best
horse in the stable."
"And you my best thanks for the honor," I said.
Our horses came up presently, and we all made off at a quick
gallop. The forest avenues were now aglow and filled with hazy
sunlight as with a flood, through which yellow leaves were slowly
sinking. Our horses went to their fetlocks in a golden drift. The
marquis rode on at a rapid pace, but soon Therese pulled rein, I
keeping abreast of her.
In a moment our horses were walking quietly.
"You have news for me, ma'm'selle?" I remarked.
"Indeed, I have much news," said she, as always, in French. "I was
afraid you were not coming in time, m'sieur."
She took a dainty letter from her bosom, passing it to me.
My old passion flashed up as I took the perfumed sheets. I felt my
heart quicken, my face burn with it. I was to have good news at
last of those I loved better than my life, those I had not
forgotten a moment in all the peril of war.
I saw the handwriting of Louison and then a vision of her--the
large eyes, the supple, splendid figure, the queenly bearing. It
"MY DEAR THERESE: At last they promise to return us to you on the
12th of October. You are to send two men for us--not more--to the
head of Eagle Island, off Ste. Roche, in the St. Lawrence, with
canoes, at ten o'clock in the evening of that day. They will find
a lantern hanging on a tree at the place we are to meet them. We
may be delayed a little, but they are to wait for us there. And,
as you love me, see that one is my brave captain--I do not care
about the other who comes. First of all I wish to see my emperor,
my love, the tall, handsome, and gallant youngster who has won me.
What a finish for this odd romance if he only comes! And then I do
wish to see you, the count, and the others. I read your note with
such a pleasure! You are sure that he loves me? And that he does
not know that I love him? I do not wish him to know, to suspect,
until he has asked me to be his queen--until he has a right to
know. Once he has my secret. Love is robbed of his best treasure.
Mon Dieu! I wish to tell him myself, sometime, if he ever has the
courage to take command of me. I warn you, Therese, if I think he
knows--when I see him--I shall be cruel to him; I shall make him
hate me. So you see I will not be cheated of my wooing, and I know
you would not endanger my life's happiness. I have written a
little song--for him. Well, some day I shall sing it to him, and
will he not be glad to know I could do it? Here are the first
lines to give you the idea:--
My emperor! my emperor!
Thy face is fair to see;
Thy house is old, thy heart is gold,
Oh, take command of me!
O emperor! my emperor!
Thy sceptre is of God;
Through all my days I'll sing thy praise,
And tremble at thy nod.
But, dear Therese, you ought to hear the music; I have quite
surprised myself. Indeed, love is a grand thing; it has made me
nobler and stronger. They really say I am not selfish any more.
But I am weary of waiting here, and so eager to get home. You are
in love, and you have been through this counting of the hours. We
are very comfortable here, and they let us go and come as we like
inside the high walls. I have told you there is a big, big grove
"We saw nothing of 'his Lordship' for weeks until three days ago,
when they brought him here wounded. That is the reason we could
not send you a letter before now. You know he has to see them all
and arrange for their delivery. Well, he sent for Louise that day
he came. She went to him badly frightened, poor thing! as, indeed,
we all were. He lay in bed helpless, and wept when he saw her.
She came back crying, and would not tell what he had said. I do
think he loves her very dearly, and somehow we are all beginning to
think better of him. Surely no one could be more courteous and
gallant. Louise went to help nurse him yesterday, dear, sweet
little mother! Then he told her the good news of our coming
release, where your men would meet us, and all as I have written.
He is up in his chair to-day, the maid tells me. I joked Louise
about him this morning, and she began to cry at once, and said her
heart was not hers to give. The sly thing! I wonder whom she
loves; but she would say no more, and has had a long face all day.
She is so stubborn! I have sworn I will never tell her another of
my secrets. You are to answer quickly, sending your note by
courier to the Indian dockman at Elizabethport, addressed Robin
Adair, Box 40, St. Hiliere, Canada. And the love of all to all.
"P.S. Can you tell me, is the captain of noble birth? I have
never had any doubt of it, he is so splendid."
It filled me with a great happiness and a bitter pang. I was never
in such a conflict of emotion.
"Well," said Therese, "do you see my trouble? Having shown you the
first letter, I had also to show you the second. I fear I have
done wrong. My soul--"
"Be blessed for the good tidings," I interrupted.
"Thanks. I was going to say it accuses me. Louison is a proud
girl; she must never know. She can never know unless--"
"You tell her," said I, quickly. "And of course you will."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"That every secret that must not be told is the same as published
"If--if it tells a pretty story with some love in it," I said, with
a quick sense of caution. "Ah, ma'm'selle, do I not know what has
made your lips so red?"
"What may it be?"
"The attrition of many secrets--burning secrets," I said, laughing.
"Mordieu! what charming impudence!" said she, her large eyes
glowing thoughtfully, with some look of surprise. "You do not know
me, m'sieur. I have kept many secrets and know the trick."
"Ah, then I shall ask of you a great favor," said I--"that you keep
my secret also, that you do not tell her of my love."
She wheeled her horse with a merry peal of laughter, hiding her
face, now red as her glove.
"It is too late," said she, "I have written her."
We rode on, laughing. In spite of the serious character of her
words, I fell a-quaking from crown to stirrup. I was now engaged
to Louison, or as good as that, and, being a man of honor, I must
think no more of her sister.
"I wrote her of your confession," said she, "for I knew it would
make her so happy; but, you know, I did not tell of--of the
"Well, it will make it all the easier for me," I said.
"Ma'm'selle, I assure you--I am not sorry."
"And, my friend, you are lucky: she is so magnificent."
"Her face will be a study when I tell her."
"The splendor of it!" said she.
"And the surprise," I added, laughing.
"Ah, m'sieur, she will play her part well. She is clever. That
moment when the true love comes and claims her it is the sweetest
in a woman's life."
A thought came flying through my brain with the sting of an arrow.
"She must not be deceived. I have not any noble blood in me. I am
only the son of a soldier-farmer, and have my fortune to make,"
said I, quickly.
"That is only a little folly," she answered, laughing. "Whether
you be rich or poor, prince or peasant, she cares not a snap of her
finger. Ciel! is she not a republican, has she not money enough?"
"Nevertheless, I beg you to say, in your letter, that I have
nothing but my sword and my honor."
As we rode along I noted in my book the place and time we were to
meet the captives. The marquis joined us at the Hermitage, where a
stable-boy watered our horses. Three servants were still there,
the others being now in the count's service.
If any place give me a day's happiness it is dear to me, and the
where I find love is forever sacred. I like to stand where I stood
thinking of it, and there I see that those dear moments are as much
a part of me as of history. So while Therese and the marquis got
off their horses for a little parley with the gardener, I cantered
up the north trail to where I sat awhile that delightful summer day
with Louise. The grotto had now a lattice roofing of bare
branches. Leaves, as red as her blush, as golden as my memories,
came rattling through it, falling with a faint rustle. The big
woods were as a gloomy and deserted mansion, with the lonely cry of
the wind above and a ghostly rustle within where had been love and
song and laughter and all delight.
D'ri and I left the chateau that afternoon, putting up in the red
tavern at Morristown about dusk.
My companion rode away proudly, the medal dangling at his waistcoat
"Jerushy Jane!" said he, presently, as he pulled rein. "Ain't
a-goin' t' hev thet floppin' there so--meks me feel luk a bird.
Don't seem nohow nat'ral. Wha' d' ye s'pose he gin me thet air
He was putting it away carefully in his wallet.
"As a token of respect for your bravery," said I.
His laughter roared in the still woods, making my horse lift and
snort a little. It was never an easy job to break any horse to
"It's _reedic'lous_," said he, thoughtfully, in a moment.
"'Cause fer the reason why they don't no man deserve nuthin' fer
doin' what he 'd orter," he answered, with a serious and determined
"You did well," said I, "and deserve anything you can get."
"Done my damdest!" said he. "But I did n't do nuthin' but git
licked. Got shot an' tore an' slammed all over thet air deck, an'
could n't do no harm t' nobody. Jes luk a boss tied 'n the stall,
an' a lot o' men whalin' 'im, an' a lot more tryin' t' scare 'im t'
"Wha' d' ye s'pose thet air thing's made uv?" he inquired after a
"Silver," said I.
"Undoubtedly," was my answer.
"Judas Priest!" said he, taking out his wallet again, to look at
the trophy. "Thet air mus' be wuth suthin'."
"More than a year's salary," said I.
He looked up at me with a sharp whistle of surprise.
"Ain' no great hand fer sech flummydiddles," said he, as he put the
"It's a badge of honor," said I. "It shows you 're a brave man."
"Got 'nough on 'em," said D'ri. "This 'ere rip 'n the forehead's
'bout all the badge I need."
"It's from the emperor--the great Napoleon," I said. "It's a mark
of his pleasure."
"Wall, by Judas Priest!" said D'ri, "I would n't jump over a stump
over a stun wall t' please no emp'ror, an' I would n't cut off my
leetle finger fer a hull bushel basket o' them air. I hain't
a-fightin' fer no honor."
"What then?" said I.
His face turned very sober. He pursed his lips, and spat across
the ditch; then he gave his mouth a wipe, and glanced thoughtfully
at the sky.
"Fer liberty," said he, with decision. "Same thing my father died
Not to this day have I forgotten it, the answer of old D'ri, or the
look of him as he spoke. I was only a reckless youth fighting for
the love of peril and adventure, and with too little thought of the
high purposes of my country. The causes of the war were familiar
to me; that proclamation of Mr. Madison had been discussed freely
in our home, and I had felt some share in the indignation of D'ri
and my father. This feeling had not been allayed by the bloody
scenes in which I had had a part. Now I began to feel the great
passion of the people, and was put to shame for a moment.
"Liberty--that is a grand thing to fight for," said I, after a
"Swap my blood any time fer thet air," said D'ri. "I can fight
sassy, but not fer no king but God A'mighty. Don't pay t' git all
tore up less it's fer suthin' purty middlin' vallyble. My life
ain't wuth much, but, ye see, I hain't nuthin' else."
We rode awhile in sober thought, hearing only a sough of the wind
above and the rustling hoof-beat of our horses in the rich harvest
of the autumn woods. We were walking slowly over a stretch of bare
moss when, at a sharp turn, we came suddenly in sight of a huge
bear that sat facing us. I drew my pistol as we pulled rein,
firing quickly. The bear ran away into the brush as I fired
"He 's hit," said D'ri, leaping off and bidding me hold the bit.
Then, with a long stride, he ran after the fleeing bear. I had
been waiting near half an hour when D'ri came back slowly, with a
"'Tain' no use," said he. "Can't never git thet bear. He's got a
flesh-wound high up in his hin' quarters, an' he's travellin' fast."
He took a fresh chew of tobacco and mounted his horse.
"Terrible pity!" he exclaimed, shaking his head with some trace of
lingering sorrow. "Ray," said he, soberly, after a little silence,
"when ye see a bear lookin' your way, ef ye want 'im, alwus shute
at the end thet's _toward_ ye."
There was no better bear-hunter in the north woods than D'ri, and
to lose a bear was, for him, no light affliction.
"Can't never break a bear's neck by shutin' 'im in the hin'
quarters," he remarked.
I made no answer.
"Might jest es well spit 'n 'is face," he added presently; "jest
This apt and forceful advice calmed a lingering sense of duty, and
he rode on awhile in silence. The woods were glooming in the
early dusk when he spoke again. Something revived his contempt of
my education. He had been trailing after me, and suddenly I felt
"Tell ye this, Ray," said he, in a kindly tone. "Ef ye wan' t' git
a bear, got t' mux 'im up a leetle for'ard--right up 'n the
neighborhood uv 'is fo'c's'le. Don't dew no good t' shute 'is
hams. Might es well try t' choke 'im t' death by pinchin' 'is
We were out in the open. Roofs and smoking chimneys were
silhouetted on the sky, and, halfway up a hill, we could see the
candle-lights of the red tavern. There, in the bar, before blazing
logs in a great fireplace, for the evening had come chilly, a table
was laid for us, and we sat down with hearty happiness to tankards
of old ale and a smoking haunch. I have never drunk or eaten with
a better relish. There were half a dozen or so sitting about the
bar, and all ears were for news of the army and all hands for our
help. If we asked for more potatoes or ale, half of them rose to
proclaim it. Between pipes of Virginia tobacco, and old sledge,
and songs of love and daring, we had a memorable night. When we
went to our room, near twelve o'clock, I told D'ri of our dear
friends, who, all day, had been much in my thought.
"Wus the letter writ by her?" he inquired.
"Not a doubt of it."
"Then it's all right," said he. "A likely pair o' gals them
"But I think they made me miss the bear," I answered.
"Ray," said D'ri, soberly, "when yer shutin' a bear, ef ye want
'im, don't never think o' nuthin' but the bear." Then, after a
moment's pause, he added: "Won't never hev no luck killin' a bear
ef ye don' quit dwellin' so on them air gals."
I thanked him, with a smile, and asked if he knew Eagle Island.
"Be'n all over it half a dozen times," said he. "'T ain' no more
'n twenty rod from the Yankee shore, thet air island ain't. We
c'u'd paddle there in a day from our cove."
And that was the way we planned to go,--by canoe from our
landing,--and wait for the hour at Paleyville, a Yankee village
opposite the island. We would hire a team there, and convey the
party by wagon to Leraysville.
We were off at daybreak, and going over the hills at a lively
gallop. Crossing to Caraway Pike, in the Cedar Meadows, an hour
later, we stampeded a lot of moose. One of them, a great bull, ran
ahead of us, roaring with fright, his antlers rattling upon bush
and bough, his black bell hanging to the fern-tops.
"Don' never wan't' hev no argyment with one o' them air chaps 'less
ye know purty nigh how 't's comin' out," said D'ri. "Alwus want a
gun es well es a purty middlin' ca-a-areful aim on your side. Then
ye 're apt t' need a tree, tew, 'fore ye git through with it."
After a moment's pause he added: "Got t' be a joemightyful stout
tree, er he 'll shake ye out uv it luk a ripe apple."
"They always have the negative side of the question," I said.
"Don't believe they 'd ever chase a man if he 'd let 'em alone."
"Yis, siree, they would," was D'ri's answer. "I 've hed 'em come
right efter me 'fore ever I c'u'd lift a gun. Ye see, they're jest
es cur'us 'bout a man es a man is 'bout them. Ef they can't smell
'im, they 're terrible cur'us. Jes' wan' t' see what 's inside uv
'im an' what kind uv a smellin' critter he is. Dunno es they wan'
t' dew 'im any pertic'lar harm. Jes' wan' t' mux 'im over a
leetle; but they dew it _awful careless_, an' he ain't never fit t'
be seen no more."
He snickered faintly as he spoke.
"An' they don't nobody see much uv 'im efter thet, nuther," he
added, with a smile.
"I 'member once a big bull tried t' find out the kind o' works I
hed in me. 'T wa'n' no moose--jest a common ord'nary
"Hurt you?" I queried.
"No; 't hurt 'im." said he, soberly. "Sp'ilt 'im, es ye might say.
Could n't never bear the sight uv a man efter thet. Seem so he did
n't think he wus fit t' be seen. Nobody c'u'd ever git 'n a mild
o' th' poor cuss. Hed t' be shot."
"Hed a stout club 'n my hand," said he. "Got holt uv 'is tail, an'
begun a-whalin' uv 'im. Run 'im down a steep hill, an' passin' a
tree, I tuk one side an' he t' other. We parted there fer the las'
He looked off at the sky a moment.
Then came his inevitable addendum, which was: "I hed a dam sight
more tail 'an he did, thet 's sartin."
About ten o'clock we came in sight of our old home. Then we
hurried our horses, and came up to the door with a rush. A
stranger met us there.
"Are you Captain Bell?" said he, as I got off my horse.
"I am one of your father's tenants," he went on. "Ride over the
ridge yonder about half a mile, and you will see his house." I
looked at D'ri and he at me. He had grown pale suddenly, and I
felt my own surprise turning into alarm.
"Are they well?" I queried.
"Very well, and looking for you," said he, smiling.
We were up in our saddles, dashing out of the yard in a jiffy.
Beyond the ridge a wide mile of smooth country sloped to the river
margin. Just off the road a great house lay long and low in fair
acres. Its gables were red-roofed, its walls of graystone half
hidden by lofty hedges of cedar. We stopped our horses, looking
off to the distant woods on each side of us.
"Can't be," said D'ri, soberly, his eyes squinting in the sunlight.
"Wonder where they live," I remarked.
"All looks mighty cur'us," said he. "'Tain' no way nat'ral."
"Let's go in there and ask," I suggested.
We turned in at the big gate and rode silently over a driveway of
smooth gravel to the door. In a moment I heard my father's hearty
hello, and then my mother came out in a better gown than ever I had
seen her wear. I was out of the saddle and she in my arms before a
word was spoken. My father, hardy old Yankee, scolded the stamping
horse, while I knew well he was only upbraiding his own weakness.
"Come, Ray; come, Darius," said my mother, as she wiped her eyes;
"I will show you the new house."
A man took the horses, and we all followed her into the splendid
hall, while I was filled with wonder and a mighty longing for the
It was a fine house--that in which I spent many happy years back in
my young manhood. Not, indeed, so elegant and so large as this
where I am now writing, but comfortable. To me, then, it had an
atmosphere of romance and some look of grandeur. Well, in those
days I had neither a sated eye, nor gout, nor judgment of good
wine. It was I who gave it the name of Fairacres that day when,
coming out of the war, we felt its peace and comfort for the first
time, and, dumfounded with surprise, heard my mother tell the story
"My grandfather," said she, "was the Chevalier Ramon Ducet de
Trouville, a brave and gallant man who, for no good reason,
disinherited my father. The property went to my uncle, the only
other child of the chevalier, and he, as I have told you, wrote
many kind letters to me, and sent each year a small gift of money.
Well, he died before the war,--it was in March,--and, having no
children, left half his fortune to me. You, Ramon, will remember
that long before you went away to the war a stranger came to see me
one day--a stout man, with white hair and dark eyes. Do you not
remember? Well, I did not tell you then, because I was unable to
believe, that he came to bring the good news. But he came again
after you left us, and brought me money--a draft on account. For
us it was a very large sum, indeed. You know we have always been
so poor, and we knew that when the war was over there would be more
and a-plenty coming. So, what were we to do? 'We will build a
home,' said I; 'we will enjoy life as much as possible. We will
surprise Ramon. When he returns from the war he shall see it, and
be very happy.' The architect came with the builders, and, voila!
the house is ready, and you are here, and after so long it is
better than a fortune to see you. I thought you would never come."
She covered her face a moment, while my father rose abruptly and
left the room. I kissed the dear hands that long since had given
to heavy toil their beauty and shapeliness.
But enough of this, for, after all, it is neither here nor there.
Quick and unexpected fortune came to many a pioneer, as it came to
my mother, by inheritance, as one may see if he look only at the
records of one court of claims--that of the British.
"Before long you may wish to marry," said my mother, as she looked
up at me proudly, "and you will not be ashamed to bring your wife
I vowed, then and there, I should make my own fortune,--I had
Yankee enough in me for that,--but, as will be seen, the wealth of
heart and purse my mother had, helped in the shaping of my destiny.
In spite of my feeling, I know it began quickly to hasten the
life-currents that bore me on. And I say, in tender remembrance of
those very dear to me, I had never a more delightful time than when
I sat by the new fireside with all my clan,--its number as yet
undiminished,--or went roistering in wood or field with the younger
The day came when D'ri and I were to meet the ladies. We started
early that morning of the 12th. Long before daylight we were
moving rapidly down-river in our canoes.
I remember seeing a light flash up and die away in the moonlit mist
of the river soon after starting.
"The boogy light!" D'ri whispered. "There 't goes ag'in!"
I had heard the river folk tell often of this weird thing--one of
the odd phenomena of the St. Lawrence.
"Comes alwus where folks hev been drownded," said D'ri. "Thet
air's what I've hearn tell."
It was, indeed, the accepted theory of the fishermen, albeit many
saw in the boogy light a warning to mark the place of forgotten
murder, and bore away.
The sun came up in a clear sky, and soon, far and wide, its light
was tossing in the rippletops. We could see them glowing miles
away. We were both armed with sabre and pistols, for that river
was the very highway of adventure in those days of the war.
"Don' jes' like this kind uv a hoss," said D'ri. "Got t' keep
whalin' 'im all the while, an' he 's apt t' slobber 'n rough goin'."
He looked thoughtfully at the sun a breath, and then trimmed his
remark with these words; "Ain't eggzac'Iy sure-footed, nuther."
"Don't require much feed, though," I suggested.
"No; ye hev t' dew all the eatin', but ye can alwus eat 'nough fer
It was a fine day, and a ride to remember. We had a warm sun, a
clear sky, and now and then we could feel the soft feet of the
south wind romping over us in the river way. Here and there a
swallow came coasting to the ripples, sprinkling the holy water of
delight upon us, or a crow's shadow ploughed silently across our
bows. It thrilled me to go cantering beside the noisy Rapides du
Plats or the wild-footed Galloup, two troops of water hurrying to
the mighty battles of the sea. We mounted reeling knolls, and
coasted over whirling dips, and rushed to boiling levels, and
jumped foamy ridges, and went galloping in the rush and tumble of
"Let 'er rip!" I could hear D'ri shouting, once in a while, as he
flashed up ahead of me. "Let 'er rip! Consarn 'er pictur'!"
He gave a great yell of triumph as we slowed in a long stretch of
still, broad water. "Judas Priest!" said he, as I came alongside,
"thet air's rougher 'n the bog trail."
We came to Paleyville with time only for a bite of luncheon before
dark. We could see no sign of life on the island or the "Canuck
shore" as we turned our bows to the south channel. That evening
the innkeeper sat with us under a creeking sign, our chairs tilted
to the tavernside.
D'ri was making a moose-horn of birch-bark as he smoked
thoughtfully. When he had finished, he raised it to his lips and
moved the flaring end in a wide circle as he blew a blast that rang
miles away in the far forest.
"Ef we heppen t' git separated in any way, shape, er manner 'cept
one," said he, as he slung it over his shoulder with a string,
"ye'll know purty nigh where I be when ye hear thet air thing."
"You said, 'in any way, shape, er manner 'cept one.'" I quoted.
"What do you mean by that?"
My friend expectorated, looking off into the night soberly a moment.
"Guess I didn't mean nuthin'," said he, presently. "When I set out
t' say suthin', don't never know where I 'm goin' t' land. Good
deal luk settin' sail without a compass. Thet 's one reason I
don't never say much 'fore women."
Our good host hurried the lagging hours with many a tale of the
river and that island we were soon to visit, once the refuge of
Tadusac, the old river pirate, so he told us, with a cave now
haunted by some ghost. We started for the shore near ten o'clock,
the innkeeper leading us with a lantern, its light flickering in a
west wind. The sky was cloudy, the night dark. Our host lent us
the lantern, kindly offering to build a bonfire on the beach at
eleven, to light us home.
"Careful, boys," said the innkeeper, as we got aboard. "Aim
straight fer th' head o' th' island, Can't ye see it--right over
yer heads there? 'Member, they 's awful rough water below."
We pushed off, D'ri leading. I could see nothing of the island,
but D'ri had better eyes, and kept calling me as he went ahead.
After a few strokes of the paddle I could see on the dark sky the
darker mass of tree-tops.
"Better light up," I suggested. We were now close in.
"Hush!" he hissed. Then, as I came up to him, he went on,
whispering: "'T ain't bes' t' mek no noise here. Don' know none
tew much 'bout this here business. Don' cal'late we 're goin' t'
hev any trouble, but if we dew--Hark!"
We had both heard a stir in the bushes, and stuck our paddles in
the sand, listening. After a little silence I heard D'ri get up
and step stealthily into the water and buckle on his sword. Then I
could hear him sinking the canoe and shoving her anchor deep into
the sand. He did it with no noise that, fifty feet away, could
have been distinguished from that of the ever-murmuring waters. In
a moment he came and held my canoe, while I also took up my trusty
blade, stepping out of the canoe into the shallow water. Then he
shoved her off a little, and sank her beside the other. I knew not
his purpose, and made no question of it, following him as he strode
the shore with measured paces, the lantern upon his arm. Then
presently he stuck his paddle into the bushes, and mine beside it.
We were near the head of the island, walking on a reedy strip of
soft earth at the river margin. After a few paces we halted to
listen, but heard only the voice of the water and the murmur of
pines. Then we pushed through a thicket of small fir trees to
where we groped along in utter darkness among the big tree trunks
on a muffle-footing. After a moment or so we got a spray of light.
We halted, peering at the glow that now sprinkled out through many
a pinhole aperture in a fairy lattice of pine needles.
My heart was beating loudly, for there was the promised lantern.
Was I not soon to see the brighter light of those dear faces? It
was all the kind of thing I enjoyed then,--the atmosphere of peril
and romance,--wild youth that I was. It is a pity, God knows, I
had so little consideration for old D'ri; but he loved me,
and--well, he himself had some pleasure in excitement.
We halted for only a moment, pushing boldly through a thicket of
young pines into the light. A lantern hung on the bough of a tall
tree, and beneath it was a wide opening well carpeted with moss and
needles. We peered off into the gloom, but saw nothing.
D'ri blew out a thoughtful breath, looking up into the air coolly,
as he filled his pipe.
"Consarned if ever I wanted t' have a smoke s' bad 'n all my born
days," he remarked.
Then he moved his holster, turned his scabbard, and sat down
quietly, puffing his pipe with some look of weariness and
reflection. We were sitting there less than five minutes when we
heard a footfall near by; then suddenly two men strode up to us in
the dim light. I recognized at once the easy step, the long, lithe
figure, of his Lordship in the dress of a citizen, saving sword and
"Ah, good evening, gentlemen," said he, quietly. "How are you?"
"Better than--than when we saw you last," I answered.
D'ri had not moved; he looked up at me with a sympathetic smile.
"I presume," said his Lordship, in that familiar, lazy tone, as he
lighted a cigar, "there was--ah--good room for improvement, was
"Abundant," said I, thoughtfully. "You were not in the best of
health yourself that evening."
"True," said he; "I--I was in bad fettle and worse luck."
"How are the ladies?"
"Quite well," said he, blowing a long puff.
"Ready to deliver them?" I inquired.
"Presently," said he. "There are--some formalities."
"Which are--?" I added quickly.
"A trifle of expenses and a condition," said he, lazily.
"How much, and what?" I inquired, as D'ri turned his ear.
"One thousand pounds," said his Lordship, quickly. "Not a penny
more than this matter has cost me and his Majesty."
"What else?" said I.
"This man," he answered calmly, with a little gesture aimed at D'ri.
My friend rose, struck his palm with the pipe-bowl, and put up his
"Ef ye're goin' t' tek me," said he, "better begin right off, er ye
won't hev time 'fore breakfust."
Then he clapped the moose-horn to his lips and blew a mighty blast.
It made the two men jump and set the near thicket reeling. The
weird barytone went off moaning in the far wastes of timber. Its
rush of echoes had begun. I put my hand to my sabre, for there in
the edge of the gloom I saw a thing that stirred me to the marrow.
The low firs were moving toward us, root and branch, their twigs
falling. Gods of war! it made my hair stand for a jiffy to see the
very brush take feet and legs. On sea or land I never saw a thing
that gave me so odd a feeling. We stood for a breath or two, then
started back, our sabres flashing; for, as the twigs fell, we saw
they had been decorating a squad of the British. They came on. I
struck at the lantern, but too late, for his Lordship had swung it
away. He stumbled, going to his knees; the lantern hit the earth
and went out. I had seen the squad break, running each way, to
surround us. D'ri grabbed my hand as the dark fell, and we went
plunging through the little pines, hitting a man heavily, who fell
grunting. We had begun to hear the rattle of boats, a shouting,
and quick steps on the shore. We crouched a moment. D'ri blew the
moose-horn, pulling me aside with him quickly after the blast.
Lights were now flashing near. I could see little hope for us, and
D'ri, I thought, had gone crazy. He ran at the oncomers, yelling,
"Hey, Rube!" at the top of his lungs. I lay low in the brush a
moment. They rushed by me, D'ri in the fore with fending sabre. A
tawny hound was running in the lead, his nose down, baying loudly.
Then I saw the truth, and made after them with all the speed of my
legs. They hustled over the ridge, their lights flashing under.
For a jiffy I could see only, here and there, a leaping glow in the
tree-tops. I rushed on, passing one who had tumbled headlong. The
lights below me scattered quickly and stopped. I heard a great
yelling, a roar of muskets, and a clash of swords. A hush fell on
them as I came near, Then I heard a voice that thrilled me.