FICTION

A New LOYALTIES

BENGE ATLEE February 1 1935
FICTION

A New LOYALTIES

BENGE ATLEE February 1 1935

A New LOYALTIES

FICTION

BENGE ATLEE

THE WIDE HARBOR with its numberless masts, the citadel city, Halifax, and the low far hills seemed to drowse under the afternoon sun that summer afternoon of 1813. As though there were no war with the French, the Americans; as though time had cast a mantle of false peace over that craggy edge of land and sea that was Nova Scotia. And then, suddenly, a rider on a high chestnut horse turned the almost deserted corner. The very look of him—his dark, virile face and straight shoulders, the smile that played about his bold, vivid features, softening ironically the sword-scar that marred the left cheek, a rapier gleam of something more profound than recklessness in his glance that was compounded of daring and of laughter— seemed to waken this hillside street of the drowsy city; seemed to bear it up on the breathless wdngs of romance.

And this is the way of destiny: that time will train its purposes to such a man ; that even a sleeping city will waken long enough to thrust into his hand the precious gage of opportunity. Three burly, drink-emboldened sailors, coming up the street from the waterfront dives below, had paused to gaze with contempt on a dandy afoot w'ho was taking snuff in front of the Great Pontack Inn. One of these, fouling with his spittle the immaculate gentleman’s top-boots, growled in contempt:

‘‘Garn, ye painted lallypop!”

The dandy, with that insolent courage that is so often the hallmark of his kind, struck the fellow across the face with his crop.

And then came trouble.

The man on the horse slipped from his mount. He was tall; his lithe figure moved with a pantherish freedom. Crack ! His fist caught the bearded jaw of the ruffian who now had the dandy by the throat, sent him reeling back. Crack ! The second sailor, lurching in with an oath, got it fair between the eyes and dropped like an ox. That was the end of it. The two rascals gathered up their limp comrade and staggered down the hill after the solace of more rum. The dandy raised his eyeglass. He spoke with a drawl : ‘‘Thankee, my dear fella. Cheyne Scaiffe, at your service.”

“Tom Flood, at yours.” Amusement gleamed in the dark eyes.

“Flood?” The dandy’s interest was unmistakable. “Egad, so you’re this Flood, eh? I’ve heard of you. We’ve all heard of you. You brighten our sad gossip with incredible rumor.”

“Which is to me credit, I hope.” There was an unmistakable brogue in the vibrant voice, and laughter seemed to rumble beneath it.

“My word, no!” drawled the other downrightly. “We understand you’re a desperate fella. We mistrust you—but do me the honor of taking a glass of sherry inside.”

Flood indicated the chestnut, standing docilely by the curb. “Me thanks to ye, but I’m after returning yon beauty to his owner, a Mr. Julius Hartshome.”

“What’s that?” Scaiffe stared at him incredulously. “You riding Julius’s nag. Gad’s teeth !”

“It’s a good horse.” Amusement glimmered again in the dark eyes.

“Aye ! Make him fast to the hitching post there. If Julius isn’t inside, he will be within the hour. Save you the traffic to Water Street.”

"V/TR. JULIUS HARTSHORNE was not in the large ^ upstairs common room of the inn. But there were others—merchants, gentlemen, officers of the army and navy—and to these Flood was introduced with the characteristically brief announcement: “The fella just saved my plagued life.” It caused no abatement in the chill suspicion with which the tall Irishman was greeted, only a deepening in his own ironic smile. They did seem to mistrust him.

The dandy was no man to shuffle off an obligation, nor to accept a snub. Presently he had Flood at the dicing table w'ith two of the officers and a young gentleman of the town. And presently the dice began to roll in an extraordinary manner for Captain Flood. Perhaps it was the queer snap he gave to his fingers as he shot the little cubes to the baize which caused them to land so fortuitously—and a crowd to slowly gather about the table. It was certainly this queer snap which caused one of these to whisper in a neighbor’s ear:

“He learned that trick South—the negroes. Methinks he did come from the Caribbees. You've heard the rumor?”

There had been rumors. Since the day a month since

when Captain Flood sailed into Halifax in a sleek and sinister craft that still lay anchored above George’s Island, these dark whispers had passed. Where did the man come from? What was his business? His papers bore the impress of St. John’s, Newfoundland—but what malign seas had he sailed before that?

His luck with the dicesavoring of black magic—continued. Had these not belonged to the house one might have suspected they were loaded. And presently, as the pile of Spanish dollars, eagles and Johannes grew in front of him, the other players—excepting Scaiffeseemed to draw away from the snap of his incredible fingers. He saw this, and derision gleamed in his dark, bold eyes. Finally, as the game languished in the doldrums of doubt, he ran his hands under the mountain of coins, lifted them, let them clatter to the table again.

“I’ll lay the lot against a majority of heads or tails.”

“You mean?” snapped the artillery officer, Briggs, who had lost heaviest.

“It’s for ye to say, major, do there be more heads or tails; and meself to take the contrary.”

They eyed him warily, still doubting, until Cheyne Scaiffe drawled: “A most sporting offer. My purse is low but I’ll take half.”

“And I the rest,” growled the artilleryman. “I call tails.”

But the tails lacked.

“Zounds !” growled the major, reaching for his w-allet with scant grace. “You have the luck of a pirate.”

A tense and sudden silence swept players and lookers-on. The accusation cut so close to the bone of rumor. They watched the Irishman with avid eyes, until he said with a chuckle: “It’s me own experience, major, that pirates

have no luck.”

And then an arid voice said : “Aye, in the end they hang —as they deserve.”

EVERY HEAD turned. The tall, wide-shouldered man standing at the edge of the circle had the thin lips and lean, hungry look of a Cassius. He would be in the late thirties, and there was something cold in his demeanor, as though his soul dwelt in wintry places.

“Ah, Hartshorne,” Cheyne Scaiffe drawled.

Flood rose in his place. “Have I the honor of addressing Mr. Julius Hartshorne?” he asked.

“You have,” the reply came icily. . „

“Then it’s in y’r debt I am for an afternoon of pleasure, sir,” exclaimed the Irishman, smiling. “I’m after asking leave to thank ye for the loan of y’r horse—which stands outside.”

“And which you stole without a by-your-leave !” The taunt came bitingly from the Haligonian’s thin lips; his eyes gleamed with pinpoints of malice.

In the uneasy silence which followed, Flood chuckled. “So ye prefer to quarrel with me, Mr. Hartshorne? Perhaps I was a thief of time this afternoon, but I only borrowed y’r horse. It was up on Argyle Street by St. Paul’s Church, where I saw y’r groom preparing to mount and

follow a fairy. Me sense of decency took offense that such an ill-visaged divil should ride out with such a lovely lady. So I flung him a sovereign and took hi* nlare. I had no thought of coming between a gentleman and his pleasure.”

A gasp of incredulous amazement passed through the onlookers. Here was effrontery that beggared belief. Here was a man who could not only steal a man’s horse but his rendezvous, and confess it with smiling impudence.

Hartshorne took a step forward, pale with rage. He swung his glove across the smiling face, said curtly: “I trust my meaning is clear, sir !”

The smile remained, became more grim. “I did not come to Halifax to quarrel with ye, but if ye—”

“Then why did you come to Halifax?”

“For reasons of me own.”

“Honorable, I suppose?” Hartshorne said it with a .sneer.

“That also is me own affair.”

“Do I get satisfaction—or are you afraid to meet an honest man?”

“At y’r service.”

“Pistols!” growled the tall Haligonian, and turned on his heel.

CHEYNE SCAIFFE drew Flood aside anxiously.

“My dear fella, this is serious. He’s deadly with a pistol. Demand a change of weapon—he can’t reluse.”

A sardonic grin spread across the Irishman’s face, lighting its recklessness.

“Me dear Scaiffe, fate works in a mysterious way to make its ends meet and one weapon is as good as another. Will ye be me second?”

“Assuredly.”

Major Briggs strode across from the group around Hartshorne. “The affair cannot be arranged until after the Governor’s ball tonight, to which we are bidden and must go. We shall fix a meeting at the hollow below Croke’s Farm at Studley at two o’clock. You’ll be there?”

“Aye.”

Scaiffe drew the Irishman toward the staircase, exclaiming: “I still contend

you’re unwise fighting a dangerous man like Hartshorne with his own weapon.”

“Permit y’r soul to rest easy, me dear Scaiffe,” Flood exclaimed with a laugh.

“I’m not afraid of y’r Nova Scotian hobgoblins.”

“Where shall I pick you up tonight?

You’re not coming to the Governor’s ball, by any chance?”

“Does Sir John Sherbrooke extend his hospitality to pirates?”

Scaiffe looked up at him sharply. “Then you’ve heard the rumors current about you?”

“I keep me ear to the ground. Come aboard me ship some time and I’ll show ye the plank I make me victims

walk.”

There was a twinkle in the Irishman’s dark eyes, but it failed to cause the dandy’s laugh to ring less hollowly. For his breast was tortured by the faintest of doubts. For all he knew, rumor might be true. He did know that this mysterious Irishman behaved himself in odd fashion.

He said as they parted: “I’ll meet you here at one

o’clock.”

And if he had seen the tall Irishman move chuckling down the hill he would have been even more mystified. For as he chuckled, Captain Flood talked to himself. He kept saying: “I hold out me basket and the apples drop into it—the way the golden fruit dropped in Eochaid’s lap.”

THE DAUGHTERS of Halifax danced a gavotte with officers who had been with Nelson at Trafalgar and would lead Wellington’s squares at Waterloo, while their mammas looked on with a delight unshared by the young gentlemen of the town. For already the jeunesses dorées of this city by the sea were being matched with the navy and army, to be transported to an England where they could forget the dowries that had been earned in the mud and squalor of Water Street.

But in a window, behind potted palms and just this side of the doorway that gave on a dining room w'here stout burgesses stood ranked before the bowls of rack-punch, one of these stood alone. There was a dynamic and imperious force of personality in her taut young figure, in the strong curve of mouth and chin, the reddish glint of hair. The mask hid her eyes, but these were fixed on the dancers.

“They fawn like chambermaids, forsooth,” she breathed, a fine disdain curling her lovely young lips.

And then an amused voice said suddenly beside her: “Would ye be jealous of the poor creatures?”

She turned sharply, the blood mounting her cheeks. But words that trembled on her lips remained unspoken, for the tall masked figure took her by the arm and said: “We

dance.” Before she had recovered from her astonishment, they were out among the swirling figures.

She kept trying to pierce his disguise as they moved to the melody of fiddle and viola, as though a vague memory of his voice were tugging at her breast. But the smile on his lips remained enigmatic.

“Ye commune with secret thoughts, me lass,” he said presently.

“Why not”—and then with acid on her lips—“my good man?”

“Ye want small talk then?”

“Have you ought else?”

“Ye’ve a sharp tongue.”

“And you an impertinent one.”

The music ceased when they were opposite the doorway. He said boldly: “It sounds less impertinent in a garden.”

But before she could answer, and as they moved along the crowded hall, a tall, commanding, man-o’-war of a woman bore down.

“Gail, my dear,” she said in a loud whisper in the girl’s ear, “Julius is waiting in the drawingroom. He has searched everywhere for you.”

She passed on. The girl stood for a moment

biting her lip. Opposite, couples were moving into the garden. A breath of languorous scented air swept in from the August night. She turned sharply to her escort.

“You mentioned the garden, sir.”

“Aye.” He laughed. “Such was me inspiration ”

' I TIE Y MOVED down a gravelled path to the bottom where honeysuckle clung about the wall, and they had a space of privacy by reason of the fragrant shrubbery behind them. Perhaps it was the expression of satisfaction which clung to his lips that caused her to say:

“I trust you do not think I came here because you asked me, sir. I make no practice of entering gardens with gentlemen I do not know.”

“Ye have a short memory !” he chuckled.

11er glance narrowed on him sharply. Suddenly, her hand went out, tearing the mask from his face.

“You—the Irishman!” she breathed with an enhanced excitement.

But he had a way like that, too. When the clear loveliness, the young imperious strength of her oval face hung there against the darkness, as Danae to the stars, he added mockingly:

“You—the Yankee!”

They laughed in the quick warm intimacy that ensued. “But you told me at Point Pleasant this afternoon you were not bidden tonight,” she said.

“Aye; ’tis the skeleton in me closet.”

“You’re here without invitation?” she demanded incredulously.

“Me heart commanded.”

“Am I a guileless child to believe that?” she exclaimed, laughing. “Just why are you masquerading?”

“Ye doubt me pretensions?”

“Of course.”

"It’s sharp ye are. But I’ll lay me dark purpose bare.” He leaned toward her in exaggerated confidence. “I’ve come to kidnap Sir John Sherbrooke and sell him to the Yankees.”

Her face went suddenly bleak. “Please !” she said sharply. “That jest is out of taste.”

“Perhaps it’s y’r sense of humor is out of gear,” he said with a sly grin.

“Would yours be so acute if you’d been held prisoner here for over a year?” she demanded passionately. And then at the ironic raise of his brows: “Oh, they allow me the freedom of their homes—of Government House. But I hate them for tolerating me; for not treating me as an enemy.”

“Are ye their enemy?” he asked her shrewdly.

“I’m an American.” She drew her body up with a taut pride, and that imperiousness that was so much a part of her personality glowed through its young loveliness. “It was my misfortune—and my brother’s—to be caught here by the war on a visit to my uncle.” And then suddenly she swung on him: “But who are you?”

He did not answer for a moment, stared across the harbor below to where in the darkness a low, lean ship tugged at her anchor. Neither saw the shadowy figure beyond the bushes at their back—a figure that had listened—that now slipped back toward the house. He turned finally, with an odd smile that set the scar of his left cheek quivering again. “Must ye know me last secret?”

“Are you afraid to tell me?”

He chuckled, leaned toward her, ironically tender.

“I’m Shaun o’ Teeracht, and in Ireland once they called

me the Fool of Love. But I saved the king’s son from the wrath of the wild bears of Connacht, and for that the old man gave me the right to search the world for beauty. When I found it, he said, I was to plant friendliness where it would grow best—like this.” And, bending closer, before she realized what he was doing, he pressed his smiling lips to hers.

She drew back angrily, doubly outraged by his effrontery and the way he had taken her in. “You—you fool !” she cried.

“Aye!” he said. “That’s me—Shaun o’ Teeracht, the Fool of Love. And the old king told me to beware the Yankee girls of the West. They’ve no sense of humor whatever, he said—”

The quick crunch of steps on the gravelled path behind cut him short. A short, thick-set, irascible old man in a

general’s uniform pushed forward, followed by an aide and the tall, arid figure of Julius Hartshome. It was the latter who said :

"That’s the man, your excellency.”

SIR JOHN SHERBROOKE had been called by Wellington “the most passionate man I ever knew.” He was passionate enough now, and his wattles were a port-wine red.

“Zounds, sir,” he demanded, addressing Flood, “how dare you enter my grounds without a command?”

The dark Irishman smiled. “Perhaps it was the desire of a mouse to see a king, y'r excellency. Or perhaps it was just me ingrained shamelessness.” He chuckled.

“You’re drunk, sir!” barked the Governor.

“Then ’tis the smell of the flowers and the sight of beauty has made me so—for divil a drop of y’r rack-punch I’ve had this night.”

“The fellow’s insupportable,” exclaimed the aide indignantly. “Shall I put him under arrest, sir?”

“No; show him the gate.”

The aide stepi^ed forward. But before he could lay a hand

on Flood’s sleeve the latter chuckled: “I’ll go as I came—on the wings of the night.” And suddenly, as theystared wide-mouthed, he swung and leaped the high hedge. As his feet thudded on the road beyond, Sir John snapped angrily:

“Gad’s death, Hartshome, the rabble gets uncommon bold ! Coming unbidden to my routs. My thanks to you for pointing the knave out.”

“I am always your excellency's servant,” the other said in his frigid way, and then turned to the girl.

But she had gone; vanished into the darkness.

The knave, the selfstyled Fool of Love, sauntered northward, still chuckling. It was but ten o’clock and the way to the King’s Wharf was littered with the nightly rout of Water Street. The war with the Americans had brought to the port a mushroom prosperity and sailors from every shore. Swarthy Spaniards from the South Americas sang their wild cantinas and brandished long dark knives. Italians, Scandinavians, Britishers—untamed, hardbitten men who feared no sea or shipswayed drunkenly along the dimlit street, ready to fight at the drop of a hat.

Picking his way through these with the easy assurance of one quite at home in such an element, he roused a sleeping boatman at the wharf and was rowed out to his ship. As he clambered over the rail he was met by a squat tub of a man with a peg-leg, whose bush of black whiskers made a villainous halo around a rotund, wart-strewn face. It was Flood’s skipper, Captain PegJake Hawkins, and he said:

“Is it yerself, Master Tom?” “Aye! Collect the crew. I want a word with ’em.”

The one-legged man strode forward and bawled obscenely down the forecastle hatch. A moment later, as rascally a looking lot of sailors as ever shipped to sea came pounding up and formed two unexpectedly precise ranks on the deck. Flood eyed them with sardonic affection.

“Listen to me, me bullies, and heed what I say. I’m returning to yon city tonight and I may not come back. In that case Peg-Jake takes charge and ye’re to give him y’r last ounce of obedience. The old discipline must hold while ye remain in this port, and there’s to be no drunken carousings where y’r tongues’ll wag. Have ye heard me?”

“Aye, aye, sir.” And then one of them said: “If it’s trouble yer ’eaded into, tyke us wit yer, sir. Me ’ands are itchin’ to get at a yeller-bellied Bluenose.” The others echoed him feelingly.

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Flood grinned. “Ye’d be no help to me tonight, ye wild hellions,” he told them. “Away wi’ ye.”

As they dispersed regretfully forward, he turned to Peg-Jake and took him by the arm.

“I’m fighting a duel tonight over yonder, and they say me opponent’s a dead shot. Ye know y’r job. Stick to it until ye finish it; and keep the papers hidden from every man’s sight no matter who he is.”

Hawkins’s moonshaped face was clouded with concern.

“ ’Sblood an’ daggers, Master Tom, wot can I do wit’out yer? I can fight a ship against anything this side o’ hell, but this job’s not meant fer me. It needs yer shrewd ’ead. Ye’ve got to crack this ’errin-choker or we’ll never pull cargo.”

“Sometimes”—Flood eyed him derisively —“ye talk like a child, Peg-Jake. Ye know exactly what’s to be done. Ye’ve got eyes and ears, and why the seven black sinners would I have made ye skipper if you hadn’t intelligence—hello, what’s that?”

A BURST of musketry and shouting had come from the men-of-war, anchored a quarter of a mile up, opposite the dockyard. They moved toward the rail. The racket continued, pierced by the shrill of bosuns’ whistles.

“Sounds like some prisoner’s escaped,” grunted Peg-Jake, peering through the gloom.

“Or a nervous watch frightened by their own shadows.”

A confusion of sounds continued to come from His Majesty’s ships; and the creak of oars bent hard against rowlocks.

“Aye, they’re narvous,” agreed Peg-Jake, spitting overboard contemptuously; and then, pointing suddenly into the murk: “Lookee, sir!”

A white object bobbed against the dark waters not thirty feet away—the head of a swimmer in haste.

“Ahoy, there?” Flood sang out softly. The swimmer turned, shook the water from his eyes, and then breasted in alongside. “Can I come aboard?” he panted, not without urgency.

“Throw him a rope, Peg-Jake.”

They pulled him up. As he stood dripping from his scant clothing—he wore only a shirt and knee breeches—an apologetic smile broke his strained young face.

“Thanks!” he gasped. “I was rowing— Dartmouth. Boatload of drunken sailors rammed me. Then they began firing from the ships.”

“Better come to my cabin,” Flood said. “Ye’ll be in need of a glass of rum.”

“Egad, yes!” the other agreed eagerly. Below, he drained with relish the glass Flood filled for him. He was young, of middle height, with straw-colored hair, and he carried himself with a diffidence that tugged at one’s affections. “I needed that,” he said with a nervous laugh.

Flood watched him shrewdly. There was something reminiscent in the young face, the intonation of the voice.

“You’re Captain Flood, aren’t you?” the other asked, with his attractive, ingratiating smile.

“Aye—and you have a Boston accent.” “You have sharp ears, sir.”

“And your name’ll be Fillis.”

The stranger started, and something that might have been fear caused the smile to freeze slightly about his mouth. “Yes; Vane Fillis, nephew of the Provincial Secretary.” “I recognized a likeness.”

“What? To my uncle?” exclaimed the other, with what could have been nothing other than chagrin.

A chuckle heaved Flood’s shoulders. “Not exactly. But ye have a sister.” “What?” Surprise widened the swimmer’s eyes. “You know Gail?”

“The blessed saints have granted me that privilege.”

There had come the clump of a wooden leg along the deck above. Peg-Jake stuck his head through the hatch. “Naval cutter cornin’ alongside, Master Tom.”

FLOOD TURNED to the other man. “I take it,” he said with a gleam in his eye, “ye’ll not be after wishing to receive His Majesty’s navy, Mr. Fillis?”

The younger man’s smile was taut, but it spoke of courage. “As I take it, you’re a friend,” he said.

“Stay here then and keep mum,” Flood said, and went aloft.

The cutter was alongside, her officer at the rail. “You command this ship, sir?”

“Aye, lieutenant.”

“I’m searching for a man who was seen hanging from the port ol the admiral’s cabin on the Furious. There was an important conference going on inside and we suspect him of being a spy. We sank his boat under him, but he got away. Did he board you?” Flood swung on Peg-Jake: “Ye’ve seen no spy about, have ye?”

There was an odd shuttering of the onelegged man’s black little eyes. “Divil a spy ’ave I seed the livelong night, sir,” he replied.

Flood turned to the officer with a shrug. “Deuced odd!” the latter exclaimed, stroking his chin. “He was last seen swimming in this direction.” He added suspiciously: “I’ve a mind to search your ship, sir. She has an uncommon bad reputation in this port.”

“She’s an uncommon ship, lieutenant. Come aboard and look her over. Ye may find dragons down below.”

The officer glanced off into the murk. Perhaps he felt he was wasting time here, and that his quarry in the meantime might be making good his escape shoreward. In any case, he subsided into the cutter, gave an order, and the boat moved off.

“ ’Sblood an’ daggers, Master Tom,” exclaimed Peg-Jake, almost impatiently, “I’m bust if I understand what ye mean

by—”

“Ain’t I always after telling ye, old man of the sea, that every fish on y’r hook may be a whale?”

Leaving him to think on that, Flood strode aft and went below. It was half-past eleven by the chronometer. He said to the young American, whose eyes still held a wary gleam of apprehension :

“Ye’ll not be run down by drunken sailors again tonight, Fillis, me boy. It’s meself’ll see ye ashore presently.”

The other watched him closely as he crossed to the cupboard and placed in it certain papers he had abstracted from a breast pocket. Fillis seemed to be asking himself how far he could trust this big, enigmatic Irishman who had befriended him. In the end he said:

“It’s mighty amiable of you, captain.” They were rowed ashore half an hour or more later by two of the ship’s crew. By this time the shouting and the tumult had died, and there were no signs of scouting cutters. When they were parting at the head of one of the small southern wharves, Flood said to the young American shrewdly:

“If it’s advice you’d be taking, I’d tell ye to give yon ships of war a wide berth.” “Thanks !” the other said with his diffident smile. “I will!”

A SCORE of men had gathered in the hollow below the farm at Studley, when the coach Cheyne Scaiffe had hired drew up. The artilleryman, Major Briggs, met them with a curt : “You’re late !”

“You seem deuced impatient to sniff blood, my dear fella,” Scaiffe drawled.

“Gentlemen manage their engagements punctually,” growled the artilleryman.

“Briggs,” snapped the little dandy, "if you don’t keep a civil tongue in your head there’ll be a second duel.”

Flood chuckled. The little bantam had a stout heart under his waistcoat. They moved toward the group under the swaying birches, and the scant greetings of a chill politeness passed. Distances were measured, pistols primed, and a coin tossed. Hartshorne called heads and won.

“Thirty paces, gentlemen.”

A silence, broken only by the soft thud of feet measuring the dew-bright grass, fell on the assembly. Scaiffe said in Flood’s ear regretfully: “Pity you lost the toss. Hartshome looks as if he meant business.”

It was true. The tall, lean Haligonian wore a grim and callous air of purpose. Flood smiled. “The fairies’ll desert him. Can ye imagine ’em aiding him when there’s an Irishman about?”

The seconds left the field. The two men faced one another across the narrow interval of starlit clearing A moan of languorous wind came out of the birches above the shadowy group of silent onlookers, from whose midst a handkerchief suddenly fluttered to earth.

Hartshome raised his pistol slowly and with a tantalizing deliberateness, relishing the moment. It brought a laugh from the Irishman.

“Is it stag fever ye have?” he called out

derisively.

“Egad, he’s a cool one !” someone breathed under the trees.

Hartshome’s pistol had come up level. A deathly silence fell on the little hollow. But suddenly, as his finger tautened on the trigger, a startling sound crashed the silence. It was only the hour-gun at the citadel, bit its unexpectedness spoiled the tall Haligonian’s shot, which followed instantly, though the bullet passed so close to Flood’s cheek he could feel its hot, sinister breath.

A laugh broke from his throat. Raising his own weapon straight above his head so that there could be no possible doubt of his intention, he fired blankly at the stars.

Cheyne Scaiffe came hurrying up. “Are you hit, Flood?”

“Divil a scratch! Did I say something about the fairies?”

The artilleryman strode down on them angrily, followed by the others.

“Zounds, sir,” he confronted the Irishman, "you had a right to satisfaction. You leave my principal in a humiliating situation.”

“Where I intend to leave him,” Flood answered with a chuckle.

Anger darkened Hartshome’s arid features. “I could expect no courtesy from your quarter,” he said coldly.

Flood faced him grimly. “I neither chose this quarrel nor fired yon gun at the citadel. But if I choose to let ye cumber the earth a little longer, it’s me own business. And if I may say so, Mister Hartshome, ye make all the gestures of a poor loser.”

For some seconds the dull thud of hoofs had been gaining from the direction of the city. Now they broke close; a horse and rider suddenly appeared around the birches. It was a girl rider—hurried, imperious. She pressed her mount in between Flood and Hartshome.

“How dare you?” she demanded, her voice trembling with indignation. “How dare you brawl over me, force this disgusting notoriety on me! You call yourselves gentlemen?” She took the entire company in with a glance of scorn. “Gentlemen? Faugh !”

She swung her crop. It landed first at Hartshome’s neck and then came welting across the tall Irishman's face. A moment later—and as suddenly as she had come— she was gone, her mare’s flying feet thudding into the distance.

As they stared after her, dumb-stricken, something glimmered in Flood’s dark eyes

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that was frank delight. His laughter broke their silence.

"Thus,” he declared, the rich brogue running derisively through his voice, “endeth the night of folly!”

UVEN Julius Ilartshorne’s friends agreed -Lt that he was a man without humor. But apart altogether from the ignominious conclusion of a certain duel and the amusement it had afforded the coffee-house gossips, there were happenings these days to try one far more appreciative than himself of the innate irony of life. For one thing there had been mysterious nightly breaks into his own warehouses and those of his commercial associates. True enough, no goods had been lost, but in such troublous times no merchant cared to have his business books opened to prying eyes; and this night prowler appeared interested in bookkeeping.

And then there was a more intimate matter. Since the evening when an indignant young woman had struck him in contempt, he had been received coldly on his visits to the Fillis’s house. Imagine his anger, then, on the afternoon he rode through Point Pleasant, to spy her seated on the shore below and laughing with great relish at the sallies of the fellow, Flood, whom she apjieared to have freely condoned. Taking care that they did not see him, he turned his chestnut about and rode grimly back to the city. He went straight to the Great Pontack and, gathering a group of the merchants whom he found there into an inner room, talked to them downrightly. These in turn, went with him to Sir John Sherbrooke, the Lieutenant-Governor, upon whom they urged certain measures.

As a result, Flood found, on his return to his ship, that she had been thoroughly searched by a party led by Sir John’s naval aide, and a written command awaiting him to appear before the Governor’s Council the following morning. His skipper, Peg-Jake Hawkins, tapped the cabin floor with an agitated wooden stump.

“ ’Sblood an’ daggers, Master Tom,” he declared, “I only got the papers ’id by the skin o’ me teeth afore they were scuttlin’ through her like rats. Another minit an’ the ruddy jig was up. Strikes me”—he scratched his bushy whiskers anxiously—“we oughter declare our ’and an’ get away wi’ it. I smells trouble.”

Flood slapped him across the shoulders with a laugh.

“By the saints, old cautious, we haven’t got within a mile of trouble yet. When we do I’ll give ye a chance to scramble y’r eggs in y’r own style. And if it’s this inaction is making an old woman out of ye, I’ll give ye a bellyful of its opposite when the time comes.”

But Peg-Jake didn’t like it. There was such a thing, he declared, as underplaying a good hand. When you had the extra aces up your sleeve, he insisted, you should use them before the game went wrong.

DI T THERE was an imperturbable smile -L* on Flood’s face when he was ushered into the Council Room the following morning. An impressive gathering confronted him. To the left of the long table at whose other end Sir John sat glowering at him, were the high command of navy and army ; to the right the city’s most prominent men of business, with Julius Hartshome at the Governor's elbow.

“The top of the morning to ye, gentlemen,” he greeted them, and his brogue was even more exaggerated than usual. “Ye do me a great honor inviting me to y’r presence.”

The blood mounted Sir John’s irascible old face. “Sir, you’re insolent.”

“Indade, y’r excellency, such was not me intention. I thought ye’d perhaps bid me here to help ye lay the rascals who’re selling y’r goods and information to the Yanks— and was thanking ye.”

Here was effrontery. There could have been few men at that table who did not

suspect that this Irishman, himself, was in port for no other reason than to take succor to the Americans —and he had the face to jest about it.

“Gad’s death !” barked Sir John. “You’re either a knave or a fool !’’

And then the fellow had the impudence to say, chuckling quietly: “A fool, y’r excellency.”

“Silence!” roared Sir John. “Another word out of you and I’ll clap you into irons.” He sh(K)k himself like a terrier trying to rid itself of fleas. He leaned irritably across the table. “I’ve had complaints that business premises have been entered in the city. They coincide with your arrival in port. What is more, I’m given to understand you spend your days riding about the environs of the city spying on our military roads. Someone was found hanging to the admiral’s porthole the other night and was last seen in the vicinity of your ship. You came here with an empty hull. You appear to have no proper business in the port. I demand that you state your intentions here and now.” “For what good, y’r excellency?” Flood exclaimed with an imperturbable shrug. "If I declare me intentions are honorable, will ye believe me? If I say they’re dishonorable, what else would I be doing but giving satisfaction to Mister Hartshome—whom I doubt not is responsible for hieing me here. I’m after holding me peace.”

“Zounds, sir, I’ll make you talk.” The Governor banged his fist on the table angrily.

“Me humble duties, sir, I doubt ye can. I have me rights as a British citizen; I intend to stand on them. Ye have no more right to pry into me private affairs than ye have to do the same to the gentlemen on y’r left.” He flung a hand toward the merchant members of the council.

Before the well-nigh apoplectic Governor could get his breath, Hartshome demanded coldly: “How do we know you’re a British citizen?”

“It’s written plain on me ship’s papers if ye’re above taking me word.”

“That’s true,” agreed the admiral. “Connors told me as much after yesterday afternoon’s search.”

rT'HE BAFFLED Governor turned a baleL ful eye on the Irishman. “You may have your rights,” he growled, “and you can stand on them while they’re sound. But heaven help you if you’re caught red-handed in any of these mysterious burglaries.”

“If ye catch me at ’em, y’r excellency,” Flood answered with a twinkle in his eye, “I’ll take the consequences.”

“And I warn you also, my man,” the Governor added, “that you’re under suspicion of dealing with the Americans. There have been leakages of goods and information to Boston that—”

“Do they also coincide with me arrival in y’r city?”

“They don’t! But how do we know how long you’ve been hanging off our coast before you got clearing papers from Newfoundland?”

Flood smiled blandly. “Indade, y’r excellency, I seem to be a thoroughly bad character. But might I ask have ye taken care, before pointing the finger of suspicion at me, to bunghole all y’r other leaky barrels?” “What do you mean, sir?”

“I leave it to y’r excellency’s wit. In me 1 short stay here I’ve seen things have made me think.”

“You refer to the American citizens at large in the city?” demanded Admiral Griffiths, in his bluff, sailorly way.

“Ye’ll excuse me, admiral, if after being hounded by suspicion meself, I refuse to lift me tongue against others.”

The admiral swung on Sir John: “I’ve

urged you several times to intern them, Sherbrooke. Too many of ’em running loose in our social life. Those Livingstones—civil enough people, but they’re enemy nationals. And that young fellow, Fillis.”

Julius Hartshome rose slowly to his feet.

“Are we to subject decent and innocent people to indignity on this man's word, gentlemen? With all respect, I consider that Admiral Griffiths’s sentiments do him an injustice. I do not know the Livingstones well, but I can speak for the Fillises. Their uncle is Provincial Secretary. It’s unthinkable that they should have betrayed his hospitality. What’s more, I intend that the announcement of my betrothal to Miss Gail shall take place shortly. Would I consider such a step if there was anything—”

Derisive laughter from Captain Flood cut him short.

“Silence!” bellowed Sir John.

“Me humble apologies, y’r excellency,” exclaimed the Irishman, the chuckles still shaking his broad shoulders, “but yon bold lover’s announcement completely got the better of me sense of humor.”

“Zounds, sir, I’ve had enough of your impertinence!” cried Sir John furiously. “Leave us at once. And I warn you if you ever fall into the toils I’ll remember this occasion.”

Flood bowed ironically. “I thank y’r excellency,” he said, and quitted the Council Room.

Immediately the door closed behind him a medley of voices broke. But Sir John’s irascible hand brought silence. “I’ll listen to no more this morning ! I ’ve been plagued enough!” And then, glaring fiercely at the merchants on his left, and banging his fist on the table to emphasize his words: “But I’d remind you that we still have to deal with those leakages to Boston. Whole shiploads of goods cannot slip away without the connivance of your business associates. I warn you that if it continues I shall take over personally the commercial business of this port. That’s all, gentlemen.”

RETURNING from one of his mysterious tours of the southwestern peninsula that had taken him all the way to Sambro, Flood put his jaded mount toward Point Pleasant. It was a somewhat distrait Gail Fillis he encountered there three-quarters of an hour later. When finally even his most extravagant sallies failed to bring the usual response and he accused her of the humors, she gave him a wry, sideways smile but said nothing. For she found it suddenly difficult to tell him that Julius Hartshome had gone that morning directly from the Governor’s Council to ask her uncle for her hand. She could tell no one why fate had forced on her the necessity of accepting this cold and passionless suitor. But when they reached Clearwater at the top of the Governor’s garden, she reined in, held out her hand and said with an air of finality:

“Good-by, Captain Flood.”

He gazed at her for an instant searchingly, caught by the note in her voice.

“Ye’re not after going on a journey?” “No.”

“There was eternity in your way of speaking.”

“Yes; I’ll not be riding with you again.” He watched her, puzzled.

“Is me company so unbearable?”

“No. But I can’t see you again.” She look him straightly, frankly in the eye. “Why?”

The hand that she had held out touched him impulsively on the sleeve.

‘ Don’t question me—please!” And then with a sudden and intimate warmth: “I’ve loved these afternoons. You filled them with laughter for me. I’ll not forget.”

And then she was gone—flying toward the comer of shrubbery, around which she disappeared. He stared after her oddly, his face unusually grave. Something like pity gleamed in his eyes. He rubbed his hand along that scar on his left cheek, as if to remember pain.

In the next two days he roamed the outskirts farther than usual, as though after some quarry that eluded him. Setting off on the third morning, he ran into Cheyne

Scaifïe on George Street. The dandy was I even more meticulously arrayed than usual. ! He was, he declared, on his way to the ¡ Exchange Coffee House, where some of the bloods were gathering before going on to luncheon at the Provincial Secretary’s.

“You know, of course, my dear fella, that Mr. Fillis is to announce the betrothal of his niece to your friend, Julius Hartshome, at this affair?” And then with a laugh: “Shall I convey your felicitations to Julius?”

A sudden look of understanding seemed . to come into the Irishman’s dark eyes.

“By all means,” he said grimly. “And remind him ’twas me poor aim makes him a bridegroom instead of a corpse.”

“Egad, Flood, I’ve regretted your misfire ever since I received this invitation. The girl’s too good for him. Can’t see how she came to accept him; on my soul, I can’t!” Flood pressed on up through the city and headed westward to the Arm-head. Patting his horse’s neck at the crest of the high hill beyond, he muttered: “ Tis our last journey, Sir Steed. Either ye lead me to me quest this morning or I go to seek other pastures.”

HE TURNED a bend. And suddenly, far ahead, his quick eye caught the cloud of dust by the side of the small lake. He dug his heels into his mount’s flank, pressed after the distant rider. For an hour the chase led deviously southwestward, and then his quarry turned to the left into an old wood road. Finally, from the crest of a low hill he | saw Gail Fillis dismount on the shores of the ; lake below and greet a man. The latter he could not see clearly, as the branch of a lowhanging pine hid his face, but it was not : Hartshome. It couldn’t have been the Haligonian anyway, since at that moment he was the guest of honor at a gratulatorv luncheon.

He urged his mount farther to the left to get a clearer view of the encounter below. Suddenly he found his way barred by four men armed with clubs who had sprung out of the underbrush. Before he could swing clear, the foremost caught the horse's bridle and swung savagely with his bludgeon. The blow would have brained him had he not saved himself by somersaulting backward over the animal’s rump. Picking himself up out of the clump of ferns into which he had fallen, he faced them with a smile.

“So it’s trouble ye want, me hearties? Come and taste it then.”

Three of them came at him, the other re¡ maining with the horse. But before they j reached him he stopped, caught up a chunk of rock, and put his weight behind it. It ¡ fetched the ruffian in the middle fair in the chest and laid him down gasping. As Flood j dodged, a club caught him a sickening blow j across the left shoulder. But before the third fellow could strike, he was in under his guard with a fist that drove like a piston. As the fellow sagged he snatched the club from his hand. The man he had struck with the rock was staggering up again, stood beside his remaining companion.

Flood laughed at them suddenly, as they hesitated.

“Ye wanted trouble, eh?” Then he went at them. For a moment they stood to spar at blows that fell like fury about their heads and shoulders, and then broke away; fled over the crest and down the slope, the man who had been holding the horse, at their heels.

Flood caught the frightened animal as it was on the point of bolting and soothed it with a gentle pat. Then, the bridle through his arm, he approached the assailant who still lay limp amid the ferns. He was going through the fellow’s pockets when a clatter of hoofs drew him upright. Rider and horse came over the crest. The girl reined in, stared at him, at the limp man over whom he was bending. There was an odd glimmer in her blue eyes, a tautness, an awareness.

“I seem to encounter you everywhere,” she said.

To be Continued