SANG LEROY’S dark handsome face twisted with disdain. For British sailors he had respect—Name of a name, they fought like demons and a man might well swell his chest at thought of beating them in fair fight—but these craven merchants! Bah, there was no courage in
them! They were fat creatures fit only to be fleeced by such as he, a freebooter of Port Royal.
The deck about him lay littered with broken swords, staves, muskets and the refuse of hand to hand battle. Blood splashed in dark pools on the white planks. The frigate’s sails flapped loosely in the wind. Sacré, it had been a fight! For five hours he had chased the frigate in his fleet sloop. For another two, while they wallowed grappled together in the swell of the North Atlantic, the hand to hand encounter had run its bloody course. And then, beaten to a finish, the merchantman gave in. A splendid prize to sail into the broad harbor of Port Royal!
And yonder girl who stood slightly in front of the group of merchants, her cheeks milky white but for the two spots of angry color! What a guerdon! What proud beauty! What scorn!
His mate stepped to his side and announced that he had the captured crew secured below.
“Splendid fellow!” Leroy exclaimed amiably. “You shall stay aboard with five of our men and sail her into Port Royal, Pierre. I will follow you in the sloop.”
The huge Acadian sailor gunted and lurched towards the rail.
Again the freebooter found his glance caught by those
haughty blue eyes. Again their untamed depths, their indignation that seemed almost hate, stirred a tremor of admiración in his breast. To tame such a creature! Sacred death, what a privilege! . . . But not for him!
Diable, women softened and bound a man, stole from his boldness, his resource!
He had escaped their snares thus far— would continue to do so.
Suddenly she stepped toward him out
of the frightened group of men, one of whom, a tall, well set-up youth who for the safety of his skin had played no part in the fight, tried vainly to draw her back. Planting herself fairly in front of him she demanded in French that however broken carried full well the burden of her indignation :
“What is the meaning of this outrage, Monsieur? We are peaceful merchantmen. How dare you—”
“Pardon, Mistress—■” Leroy swept the deck with his plumed hat—“if you can convey your disapproval any better in your own language, pray do so. I understand it, and as you see, speak it quite easily. My mother was of your race.”
“Y ou are a renegade, then?” Her scorn whipped like sleet. “But, no. It happened my father was French. For that reason I deem it my privilege to prey upon the merchants of New England—even as the privateers of Boston prey upon the merchants of New France.”
With an impatient gesture she demanded: “What do you intend to do with us?”
“Take you to Port Royal, Mistress.”
“I will not go to Port Royal!” She stamped her foot upon the deck.
“No?” The faintest glimmer of amusement set the
Forty British sailors could not hold from Sang Leroy the prize that proud beauty s haughty anger wrung from him in a few tense moments. And yet, when beauty would have bade him nay, neither beauty nor the whole of Boston town could stir him from his purpose. wrinkles dancing about his piercing dark eyes.
“I am returning on this ship to marry Captain Lionel Fairfax of Boston. I will not be taken to Port Royal!”
“Will you walk across the water, then, to marry this most fortunate gentleman?”
Her anger blazed; her slim body quivered with indignation.
“I insist that you take me to Boston!”
He turned on the group of gaping merchants, his eyes gleaming. “Gentlemen,” he cried, “if you had shown the spirit of this lady I would never have crossed your rail.”
Suddenly he threw back his head and laughed. Diable, the voice of fate had cried to him from her lovely lips! Had she not already cast a spell over him with her indignant beauty? It he took her to Port Royal might she not weave further magic about him to his undoing? The ship’s cargo? It was nothing! Next week—next month—• he would capture another such!
He swung abruptly on the group of sailors by the mainmast. “Go below,” he ordered curtly, “and set the imprisoned crew free! . . . Go!” he added with an oath as they gawped at him incredulously.
He turned to the girl who, slim and taut as a steel blade, eyed him with chill hauteur. He bowed gravely, almost ironically. “You have done what forty brave British sailors could not, Mistress,” he informed her. “You have beaten Sang Leroy. Sail on that destiny you have chosen! I wish you bon voyage!”
Stooping, he took her hand, pressed it to his lips. And then, shoulders drawn back, head erect, he strode to the rail, and stepped down the gangway to the deck of his own ship.
ON AN afternoon some four days later a select coterie of the young gentlemen of Boston were gathered in the Fox and Glove tavern of that city. Oddly enough, considering the fact that within a few hours they would be hieing to the masked ball at which the governor of Massachusetts was formally to announce the betrothal of his niece, the Mistress Betty Fairfax, they showed no great signs of elation. On the contrary they consumed their wine in an almost morose silence.
“I had hoped the voyage to England would rid her of the infatuation,” growled Harry Farnsworth, sprawling deeper into his chair, his long legs thrust out stiffly, his pleasant young face clouded with despair.
“What would you?” exclaimed the beau, George Witherspoon, snapping the lid of his snuff box scornfully. “Egad, if we could not show her the error of her ways could London do more?”
“Fairfax is a cad!” growled Wilberforce Bailey, banging his fist on the table. “He has taken in the governor and her father with his plausible ways. And Betty, too! Egad, if it were not for the rules of behavior which seal a gentleman’s lips I would go to the governor and tell him of that establishment on Cooper Street. And I would tell him of other unsavory matters!”
“Our hands are tied,” muttered Farnsworth. “We can but pray for some miracle.”
The tall stranger with the dark bronzed features who had been standing all this time at the counter sipping his brandy, put down his empty glass and strolled towards the table at which they sat.
“Pardon me,” he murmured with a bow, “I could not but help overhearing your conversation. I crave your indulgence for thus intruding myself, but a question burns on my lips. Is this Mistress Winslow of whom you speak one who arrived two days ago on the frigate from England?”
Perhaps it was an odd accent in his voice that caused the four young men to stare at him with such hauteur. Perhaps it was the mere fact of his intrusion. “And if she is what is that to you, sir—if I may ask?” demanded the beau, rising languidly and somewhat insolently to his feet.
“Perhaps I, too, have fallen under the spell of her beauty, gentlemen,” the stranger replied with a disarming suavity. “Would not that fact gain me at least the sympathy of this brotherhood of despair?”
A mirthless laugh issued from Harry Farnsworth’s lips. “Egad, sir, it would. It does! And though I would that she had stayed away it was the Mistress Betty Fairfax who returned on the frigate two days ago.”
“It would seem,” mused the stranger,
“that I gave way to an unhappy whim.”
“I beg your pardon!” exclaimed the beau.
“And I yours! My thoughts became vocal. Will you do me the honor, gentlemen, of joining me in a glass of wine? It is apparent we need cheering against the ball tonight.”
“But I assure you we are not going to it!” cried Robert Shaw, who for the past half hour had sat wrapped in a tragic silence.
“But, gentlemen, is that the course of valor? Surely, one does not surrender to the inevitable until the last sword has been broken! Who knows? Perhaps this Captain Fairfax will not figure so prominently as you imagine.”
They stared at him blankly.
“Damme, sir!” cried Wilberforce Bailey.
“Are you a believer in miracles?”
A sudden commotion at the tavern door —shouts and high laughter, and the tread of many feet, silenced the stranger’s reply.
A hilarious party of young men and officers poured into the place, carrying shoulder high one of their number.
“Wine, Hawkins! Wine for the bridal party!” bawled the red-faced officer at their head.
“Wine! . . Wine!” echoed the tipsy chorus.
He who had been borne aloft, a tall heavy man whose face, though strikingly handsome, showed unmistakable signs of dissipation, was lowered to his feet. At the sight of the group at the table he cried out with an only thinly veiled derision: “Ha, the beau! And
Farmsworth, Wilberfore, Shaw—”
He paused at the stranger, bowed stiffly, and bade them join his party in a toast. Obviously unwilling the four Bostonians rose from the table.
“And you, sir?” he turned to the stranger who had not moved. “Will you drink with Lionel Fairfax?”
“I have not yet that kind of a thirst,” replied the other coldly.
“By God!” cried Fairfax, his face darkening, “do you insult me?”
“I merely refuse your wine, sir. If you consider that an insult—”
Before he could say more one of the group behind Fairfax stepped forward excitedly and, pointing an accusing finger at the stranger, cried out: “Damme, I know that man! He is Sang Leroy, who held up our frigate and would have taken us to Port Royal but for Mistress
Betty! By Heaven, the French dog is spying here!” “Your memory is better than your courage, sir,” Leroy drawled contemptuously, recognizing the speaker as the young merchant who had played so craven a part in the fight four days before. “Yes, gentlemen,” he announced to the gaping crowd, “I am Sang Leroy and I have come to Boston to spoil a wedding!”
A wild shout rose. Pierre de Morpain was not more hated in Boston than Sang Leroy whose depredations had played havoc with the shipping of the port. The crowd, swords drawn, dashed towards him. But already he had measured with quick eye the distance to the open window at his back. He sprang towards it with a laugh, and leaped lightly through.
A SPRINT of a hundred feet across the deserted TA bowling green and he reached the high stone wall at its end over which he had begun to clamber before the crowd came pouring out of the tavern in full chase. Then along the narrow lane at top speed. Diable, this alone was worth the trip to Boston! He would lead these bloodk a chase as he had led so many of their ships of war!
He reached the end of the lane. Issuing from it he came to a full stop with a sharp exclamation of dismay, found
himself all but face to face with a party of officers who had come that way to head him off. At their shout of triumph he doubled back like a hare. He was now between two yelping packs, for the way he had come was barred by those who had followed him over the wall and were now hurrying towards him.
The limb of a tree overhanging the wall to his right a few yards away caught his eye. Dashing towards it he leaped into the air, caught hold of it and swung himself up. But so close was the nearest pursuer that a sword pricked his calf as he jumped to the garden beyond. Through this he hurried and over yet another wall. Here he found himself in the midst of a group of elderly gentlemen who were taking tea on the shady lawn. “Your pardon, gentlemen!” he exclaimed with a laugh, and was off towards the open door of the house beyond, leaving them gasping.
Into the house. A maid, bearing a large pot of tea,
past whom he dashed, let out a squeal of terror. He gained the street, taking the precaution to remove the key from the door and to lock it on the outside. Here there was no sign of his pursuers and with the utmost sangfroid he joined the promenaders and proceeded to walk in a direction that would bear him away from that neighborhood. It was quite evident that if he intended carrying out the purpose for which he had come to Boston he must find some place of hiding—at least until nightfall. He pressed on at a faster pace.
Suddenly, as he was crossing a street that ran at right angles, a shout rose behind him. Turning, he saw three of the party that had been at the tavern hurrying along it after him. Again he took to his heels. He was now in considerable peril, for at his pursuers’ shouts of “Stop him!” several of the pedestrians past whom he dashed tried to hold him up. More than once he had to use his fists and he had not gone far before he realized that he could not long escape capture in that crowded street. Suddenly he caught sight of a group of men outside a tavern ahead who were making to bar his way. There were a dozen of them, stout looking fellows all. He could not possibly get past them.
Determined to make the attempt, he was drawing his sword when he caught sight on the opposite side of the street of the entrance of a narrow lane. He dashed towards it. It was deserted. Along it he flew at full speed. Behind, the shouts of his pursuers increased in volume as their number was steadily augmented. Hue and cry! It seemed all Boston was after him!
He scrambled over the wall at the blind end of the lane into a churchyard—through it and into a garden— over yet another wall—into another garden. Name of a name, he could not keep this pace up much longer! Over yet another wall. Diable, he was in the lane behind the Fox and Glove tavern again! The cries of the pursuing pack drew nearer. He could not retrace his steps, and yet this was a most dangerous neighborhood. But was it? That tree, now, overhanging the tavern wall! With a chuckle he sprang towards it, caught hold of its lowest branch, drew himself up, climbed higher. Only just in time! The foremost of the pack clambered over the opposite wall, hesitated for a moment and started down the lane. The others followed. The hue and cry died away.
He drew an easier breath. Sacred death, here was an adventure well-nigh as thrilling as any he had had on a ship’s deck! When the sea palled he must come again to Boston for excitement!
An hour went by; dusk began to fall. Waiting until it was almost dark he let himself carefully down into the lane, and made his way cautiously back to the churchyard through which he had passed in his flight. Here was the place best suited to the plan he had in view. He crept around the church and seated himself in front of it under a tall tree whose shadows hid him from the eyes of any who might pass.
TIME slipped by—began to press. Only three persons had passed in the road without, none of whom had suited his purpose in the least. Perhaps he had chosen the wrong location. Perhaps he should seek another point of vantage. He must make up his mind soon or it would be too late.
An oddish figure was approaching. As it drew nearer a grin spread across his face. He rose stealthily to a crouching position. Diable, that cowled monk could be going nowhere else in Protestant Boston but to the governor’s ball! Waiting breathlessly until the masquerader drew opposite he dashed suddenly out of the shadow, flung himself upon his victim. The scuffle lasted but a moment. One hand across the helpless reveller’s mouth he dragged him towards the church and thence to the churchyard behind.
“Now, my good sir, I will trouble you to disrobe yourself from a garment I doubt you have the piety to wear,” he commanded, drawing his sword swiftly and presenting its point within an inch of the other’s neck. “Sharply, I beg of you!”
“This is an outrage! I shall—”
“I pray you do not raise your voice It makes me nervous and my hand might slip. Off with your motley!” The glittering point quivering against his throat the masquerader had no other course but to do as he was bid. Nor did the affront end there; when he stood divested of his cassock he was further ordered to remove his shirt. “It being necessary that I bind and gag you—a precaution which you as a man of the world will appreciate,” the freebooter amiably explained.
Spluttering and cursing, the unhappy masquerader proceeded to strip off his intimate garment and under the same inexorable command tore it into useful strips. Presently, securely bound and gagged, he was left propped against the back of the church and the monkish masquerrade, covering yet another figure, proceeded towards the residence of the Governor of Massachusetts, where already had gathered much of the pride and beauty of Boston,
STROLLING casually through the gay throng of masked dancers Sang Leroy sought a taut slender form, a small determined chin. More than once he paused to stare after passing beauty, but went on unsatisfied, to find himself presently in the library.
From the library he entered a corridor which brought him to a piazza at the back of the house. It was occupied—as he thought by a lover and his mistress—and loath to interrupt the confidence of young love he was drawing back from the door when an unexpected sound shackled his feet. A woman’s sob! He hesitated the barest instant. His business lay, he felt sure, in another part of the house—but a woman in distress!
"He stepped through the doorway, saw the single shadowy figure of a girl.
“Pardon me, Mistress,” he murmured in a voice not untouched with sympathy, “you seem in trouble. Can I be of assistance? Though not in reality a priest of God I would gladly hear your confession. Has not the poet said: ‘The secret sorrow told is comfort gained?’ Pray tell me what distresses you.”
The shadowy figure stiffened, the shoulders came erect. “I have no distress!’' a haughty voice assured him.
Shrugging, he murmured: “I seemed to hear a sob. When one hears a sob on such a night as this one cannot but surmise a hideous heartache. I crave pardon if my senses erred.”
“They did, sir!”
That indignant voice! Where had he heard it before? That slim taut figure! Sacred death, what lucky chance bad led him here!
“The Mistress Winslow has no secret sorrow, then?”
“None that her proud spirit would allow her to confess . . . And yet does it not seem strange that on this of all nights she should seem to sob under the glimmering stars? Does it not give one to wonder if the event which we gather to celebrate will prove so joyous for her as we had been led to expect?”
“You presume, sir!” Her eyes blazed through the mask.
“Such was not my intention. I hoped merely to offer sympathy, to offer—the suggestion of a way out.”
“What do you mean?” The question seemed wrung from her in spite of herself, as though his words contained a straw for 'frhich she had been clutching frantically there in the dark.
“Whatever you wish me to mean . . . I mentioned a way out—an escape—” “There is no escape.” The taut shoulders drooped suddenly—despondently.
“None? ... Or merely none that pride will let you take? . . . Poor Mistress!—” his voice was strangely tender, and touched with a wistfulness that would have amazed most of those who had known Sang Leroy—“because pride seems to bind you to sorrow you cannot see that pride and love should never go together. You have discovered too late tha„ you do not love this Captain Fairfax, that he is not wor—”
“Stop! . . .You shall not!”
“But I will! You could forbid me to take you to Port Royal; you cannot forbid me to warn you against a more perilous port.”
She stared at him wide-eyed. As he removed his mask a little gasp escaped her.
“Sang Leroy, at your service, Mistress—” he bowed gravely—-“I am here in Boston because though I tried to sail away and forget you I could not. I am here because your face haunted me, because your beauty was an invisible cable dragging me to your feet—because I love you—”
An oath broke harshly on his impassioned declaration, crashirg him from the stars. He swung about to find himself face to face with a masked gentleman whose sword was already drawn, who choked furiously: “So, you come thieving right
into Boston, you scoundrelly pirate! By Heaven, you’ll harry our shipping no longer! Have at you!”
“Lionel!” The girl flung herself between them. “No! No!” she implored.
Brushing her aside with a growl Fairfax faced the freebooter, whose blade had already whipped the air. They sprang together, steel swishing on steel above the wail of distant music, while the girl pressing close against the wall, stared in a fascinated silence. To and fro they swept across the narrow piazza. Suddenly the distant music ceased and there was no sound but the swish of their blades, their heavy breathing, and odd gusts of ironic laughter that seemed to come from another world. The freebooter’s rapier darted like an adder’s tongue, wearing tormentingly against the other’s guard. Fairfax had celebrated too intemperately that day against to-night’s announcement and his eyes were not at their keenest, his wrist did not respond as readily as was its wont.
Suddenly the sword flew out of his hand and over the piazza rail. A low laugh—and the freebooter’s point was quivering over his breast. For the merest moment the ironic tableau held and then the girl flung herself between them. “You must not!” she cried, dashing the Frenchman’s blade aside.
“You refuse a way of escape, then?”
Her eyes hardened, she was drawing herself up with a flaming hauteur when suddenly from the doorway behind them a voice cried out: “Damme, what’s this?” She turned. Two figures sprang out on the piazza.
“Sang Leroy! Seize him!” she cried, pointing at the place where the freebooter had stood.
But he was there no longer, had leaped over the rail to the garden below. Immediately there was uproar, wild shouts and scurryings through the Governor’s house. In a few minutes the garden was filled with rushing figures and gleaming swords. But Sang Leroy had vanished in the darkness.
THE uproar died away. Having ordered the 12th Regiment of Foot to scour Boston for the escaped freebooter, Governor Winslow bade his guests continue their revelry. Sang Leroy was forgotten. And yet not quite. Mistress Betty Winslow, dancing with partner after partner, and with an abstraction over which many a gallant rallied her, could not brush away the memory of the tall lithe figure, the dark daring face. An indignation boiled in her that would not be quieted. She hated Sang Leroy! She hated him for the ironic bow with which that afternoon on the frigate he had set her free. She hated him for having broken into her secret that night. She hated him for the way in which, since her first sight of him hacking his way with his little crew against the crowd on the frigate’s deck, he had disturbed her. There was something in his bold assurance that forced a passionate protest from her proud nature, something of which she was in the least afraid.
But that was not the only cause of her abstraction that night. For the last two days a hideous spectre had dogged her peace of mind. Eight months ago she had left Boston happy and confident beyond all measure: she had returned to discover after the first glance at Lionel Fairfax’s handsome dissipated face as he stood waiting her on the quay that she had been mistaken. For two days she had fought against the horror that her pride would not allow her to escape. Only to-night, for a moment there on the piazza, had she given way to despair.
Nearer and nearer the hands _ of the great clock moved towards midnight, at which hour the betrothal would be announced. She tried to buoy herself up, tried to laugh at the follies of Beau Witherspoon with whom she was dancing. Was this mood of despair only a vagary that would pass? Surely if she had once loved Lionel Fairfax so confidently she must love him still! Or had she ever loved him? She caught sight of him suddenly through the open door. He was making his way unsteadily along the hall toward the staircase. Drunk! And on this of all nights. At the last sight of him on the stairs and before the dance swept her past the door a sickening feeling of revulsion overcame her. If there were only some way of escape! At that thought the dark laughing face of Sang Leroy rose before her. She bit her lip, furious with vexation.
“Egad!” cried the beau. “Are you trying to tear a piece out of my arm? You grip me like a tigress.”
The half hour slipped by. The clock boomed out the hour of twelve. In an instant she found herself surrounded by a laughing crowd who showered her with raillery. And then her uncle was at her side, demanding in a voice that sounded far off and indistinct:
“Where is the lucky man?”
She would have reeled but for Harry Farnsworth’s arm. If only she might die!
“Fairfax! . . . Fairfax!” cried the gallants.
She stared incredulously. He was dashing down the stairs without the slightest sign of the intoxication he had shown so short a time before. She breathed a sigh of relief because of that miracle. At least he would not disgrace her. The crowd made way for him. He took his place at her side.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” announced her uncle in his jovial way, “I fear it is no news I bring you to-night, since I have heard so many whispers of it these last few days. But know ye all that Captain Lionel Fairfax and my niece, Mistress Betty Winslow, do hereby plight their troth. Is it not so, my children?”
He turned gaily on the couple. The girl put her hand through Fairfax’s arm and they bowed together.
“Then,” cried the Governor, as the cheers died down, “let the lovers lead us in to supper, for which I am sure we must all be ready. Forward, my good Fairfax! Let us see how you step out together!” Fairfax led the pale-cheeked girl towards the door and through it. And then he did an astonishing thing. He banged it to behind him and placed his back against it. “Now, ” he cried, ripping off his mask, “I offer you another chance of escape. Will you come with Sang Leroy and sail happy seas or remain here with one who can sleep on such a night as this.”
“You!” she gasped.
“They searched the garden badly,” he replied with a laugh, “I climbed a tree— then into a window above—found Fairfax sleeping in an empty bedroom fifteen minutes ago. But time presses—”
There was loud banging on the door behind them, laughing cries of protest. “Will you come?”
For a moment she stood staring bewilderedly into his smiling face, and then the indignation that had been simmering within her all evening boiled over. “I will not!” she blazed, drawing herself up with the old hauteur. “How dare you act in this high-handed manner!”
He could not hold the straining door much longer.
“Very well,” he replied grimly, “you force me to a higher-handed manner!” Grasping her in his arms he sprang towards the main doorway and out through it while she kicked and struggled like a tigress. Coaches were drawn up in a long line in the street without. Past a half dozen of these he hurried to where a sleepy hostler held a splendid saddled mount. Snatching the reins from the fellow’s hands before he could rub the sleep out of his eyes Leroy swung the still struggling girl to the pommel of the saddle and leaped up after her. From the doorw ay of the governor’s house a yelling mob swept out. He dug his heels into the horse’s flanks.
ONCE clear of the city he headed for Dorchester Point, off which the sloop would be waiting. By this time the cavalcade in pursuit was not more than two hundred yards behind and gaining steadily, for the doubly laden horse was tiring under the cruel pace. In Leroy’s arms the girl lay quite still now. Only once had she spoken and that was when they first heard the clatter of their pursuers on the cobbled road.
“They will catch you!” she cried, her eyes flecked with malice, “I hope they do!
. . . You will be shot!”
“There would be compensations!” he retorted with a laugh. “At least I could go to my death knowing I had tried to set you free from the folly of your pride.”
“Oh,” she cried furiously, “I hate you!” They reached the crest of a hill. A half mile ahead lay the end of the Point. He dug his heels into the heaving horse’s flanks, but the blown animal gave only the slightest response. Behind the clattering hoofs drew steadily nearer. Would he make it? On they sped. Only another quarter of a mile now, but the shouts of the pursuing pack sounded almost in his ears. Again—again he urged the poor brute on. Beyond the Point he could see the sloop riding close rigged a half mile out. Diable, it would be the cruelest irony of fate to fail now! He glanced back over his shoulder. The nearest horseman was not more than a dozen yards behind. Lifting the girl with him he rose in the saddle and gave a wild shout in the animal’s ear. It leaped forward. Another minute and they had reached the edge of the cliff. Dismounting hastily he swung the girl out of the saddle and carried her down the bank to the shore.
“Pierre! . . . Pierre!” he called at the top of his lungs.
The empty roar of waves, the shouts of the group of men dismounting above, mocked him. Then a faint hail caught his ear. A hundred yards out a small rowboat was bobbing in the swell. Sacred death, they could never get ashore in time! He must make a stand then against his pursuers who were by this time dashing down the bank! Cursing under his breath he plunged forward into the surf towards a rock that jutted out of the swirling waves. Reaching it waist high in the foaming surf he swung the girl to its top and clambered up after her. And then, with a peremptory shout to the boat that had already changed its direction, he turned sword in hand to face the ten Bostonians who were plunging through the surf towards him.
A swift thrust and he sent the foremost stumbling backwards pierced through the shoulder. The others pressed in. Again he lunged and the blood of yet another Bostonian stained the swirling waters. He suddenly became aware of a swift movement behind. Only just in time did he turn to snatch at the girl who was on the point of leaping from the rock. Dragging her back he seized her by the waist and faced his assailants again. The foremost was clambering up the slippery rock. The freebooter’s toe shot out. The New Englander went sprawling back into the arms of his comrades.
Suddenly a shout behind him: “We are here, M. le Capitaine!”
He turned. The boat was within a few feet of the rocks. Snatching the girl up he dashed towards it, leaped through the air and landed in the midst of his sweating crew. The oars creaked again. An ever widening interval of safety grew between them and the shore.
TN STELLEN silence the girl followed A him along the sloop’s deck to the companionway, but there held back, staring with feverish eyes at the dim receding shore. Fury burned within her. Never in her life had she been handled like this.
He bowed, indicating with a sweep of his hand the lighted cabin below.
“I will not go down there!” she cried, stamping her foot.
“You forget, Mademoiselle,” he said, “you are now on the ship of Sang Leroy. Let me assure you that when he speaks here he is obeyed. I do not ask you to go below merely to satisfy a whim, but because there is every sign that we are running into a storm.”
She glared at him—held her ground.
With a shrug he snatched her roughly into his arms, bore her below. All the way down the ladder she beac furiously on his face with her fists and when he placed her on her feet again, she drew her clawed hand savagely along his cheek, leaving a trail of blood. For the moment anger flared in his eyes. He showed every sign of giving her a display of that discipline with which he ruled his freebooting crew. And then with a curt laugh he turned away and divesting himself of his sword proceeded to draw on an oilskin coat.
“I leave you here to your meditations,” he said gruffly. “You will not be disturbed for I will be on deck all night. There is a bunk yonder where you may sleep.”
He left her.
When he returned in the morning from the sloop’s storm-swept decks she was
sitting quietly at the table upon which a sailor was laying breakfast. She gave him a chill stare and made no reply whatever to his amiable greeting. He seated himself opposite her. Never, he thought, had she looked more beautiful. The pallor of her face brought out strange and lovely shadows that set his pulses whirring.
The sailor disappeared up the ladder, leaving them to their meal. He sighed—• found himself staring suddenly into the barrel of a pistol.
“Now, Monsieur Sang Leroy,” she cried, her eyes glittering like steel, “you will take me back to Boston, or—” she added fiercely—“I will not hesitate to shoot you for the knave you are!”
Startled for the moment he could only stare at her blankly. Then a smile stole slowly across his face.
“And you will murder me in cold blood if I refuse?” he asked.
“I will!” she assured him grimly.
“But I must refuse. I could not allow you to commit the folly of returning to Boston.”
“Then I shall fire! I give you until I count ten to make up your mind.”
“But my mind is made up.”
She began to count. “One, two, three —four . . . five . . . six . . . seven . . . eight—I shall surely fire if you do
“Ten!” he cried with a laugh as she hesitated. “And now please put that foolish weapon down while I talk to you of certain matters.”
Her face worked spasmodically. The hand which held the pistol jerked as though in combat with a will it could not obey. It began slowly to descend.
“Now,” he exclaimed, grave once more, “let us discuss this matter sensibly. Five days ago at your request I set you free to go to Boston to marry this man, Fairfax. I did so under the impression that I was not only securing your happiness but sending you to one who, since he had gained your affections, must be worthy. But what did I find when a wayward hope dragged me to Boston after you? That you did not love this Fairfax! That he was unworthy! That because of a stubborn pride you were prepared to wreck your happiness rather than confess an error! Could I allow you to commit that folly-—I who love you? Having saved you from it can I allow you to return to it? But no, Mademoiselle!”
“Oh,” she cried, leaning towards him tense with fury, “I despise you!”
“But why? Have I pressed my love upon you unduly? I beg to assure you that as a gentleman of France my lips will be sealed on that matter from this moment onward—unless you, yourself, choose to open them. I am taking you to my mother in Port Royal. You will stay with her until such time as this matter has blown over in Boston. Unless I am mistaken, this fellow Fairfax will soon console himself elsewhere. You may then return, if you wish, without a protest from me. I beg to assure you that my only wishes in this affair are for your happiness.”
Rising, he left her, disappeared up the companionway into the storm above, leaving her staring after him blankly, incredulously.
npHE next morning she rose early and A went on deck. The sloop was gliding gently over the wide bosom of Port Royal harbor, between blue hills and under a sunlit sky. Far ahead the lilies of France floated above the battlements of the fort, and on the marshes and uplands corn waved like a green sea between the little white cabins of the habitants. She drew a sharp breath because of the beauty of the scene, a little cry of delight fluttered to her lips.
And then she saw Leroy on the deck below, staring towards the distant town. At the sight of him something seemed to snap suddenly within her, loosing a warm surging tide of feeling. In the glittering sunlight his tall figure took on an aura of romance and splendor. The blood of the Vikings was in his raven hair, his strong dark face. He had gone through peril to save her from her pride, had risked his life to keep her from folly, had borne her to this place of beauty.
Her face lit suddenly with a radiant and lovely smile. She started along the deck towards him . . .