Pierre des Lacs
A Tale of Old Port Royal
PIERRE of the Lakes stopped at the hill-crest and slung his bundle of furs to the ground. Lithe and young he was, flashing black of eyes—eyes that seemed to peer through and beyond; not over tall, and
slender, with a lissome wiriness. He doffed his fur cap, and the summer breeze ruffled his curly black hair. There was an air to his carriage—a debonaireness; so different from the Belliveaus and the Comeaus and the Landrys. No son of the soil, this, but a youth of blood, a wanderer, a voyageur.
Below, in the valley, to the westward where the L’Equille met the basin, lay the town of Port Royal, a mixture of white houses and green trees. Over the jutting stockades of the Fort floated the Lilies of France. On the marshes of the L’Equille, the tireless settlers worked at their dykes against the autumn tides. Across on the Granville shore, fires showed where the stately forests bore retreat before the growers of grain. And over the Mont du Nord hung the sun, not very far from setting. Many times had Pierre from this same hill allowed his eyes to feast with joy on this valley cf New France. Many times had he pressed, as he would now, with eager heart into the town to talk and laugh with men; but always the town had palled and he had gone back to his lakes. He was Pierre, the wanderer— a searcher after undiscoverable things.
He slung the pack of furs on his shoulder, and started down the hill. As he walked he sang, sang an old song learned in the far-off, pleasant valleys of France. It echoed full-throated through the avenue of beech trees down which he strode with light and springy tread. He came at length to the town. Men greeted him with great cheer: as a brother that has been lost and is found.
“It is Pierre!” they cried. “Good-day, Pierre!” He passed the little church and, following the path behind it, arrived at the cabin of Father Trouvé. The good father, himself, came to the door in answer to his shout.
“Ah, my son—my son!” he cried, his eyes alight with pleasure.
A little man, Father Trouvé, with a bent back and piercing eyes; gentle as a lamb and fierce as a tiger, a spiritual pioneer in this new land, who feared nothing on earth or in hell but only the wrath of his God.
“Well, Father, here is Pierre! This tongue of his has led him back. A man must talk with
“Come in, Pierre, you have come at a good time. The governor arrived yesterday. Tomorrow we expect a ship from France.”
“That’s good news, Father," remarked Pierre, as the two men entered the cabin arm in arm. “New settlers, I suppose. Parbleu, I wish they’d send out some men of a stouter kidney than these settlers. Ugh! They cling always to their miserable land! I want to meet men who have no little plot of land tied to their souls. I want to meet men who own the world.”
The old priest smiled as he poured a mug of wine for his guest.
“There are no men on this ship,” he said, his mouth twisted whimsically.
“No men?” cried Pierre.
“ Have you not heard, my son, that the king has sent out wives for us all? It is
they. They arrive to-morrow. Tomorrow afternoon each man draws lots for a wife. The day after I marry them all.”
“Sacré Nom—” Pierre cut the oath short as the old priest turned on him with quick warning in his eye.
“Will you be drawing for a wife, Pierre?” he asked.
“r>OUF!” exclaimed the young man in disgust. “What T does Pierre want with a woman? What use would a woman be to him? What woman would follow him to Ross-
He shrugged his shoulders. That he, Pierre of the Lakes, a man untrammelled, a man who had wandered the Mont du Sud from Sable to Chebucto, who knew every lake in the diadem of Acadie, should take a wife was an idea too ridiculous to entertain. He laughed a short quick laugh of scorn. “Let these soft-livered settlers take the women. Like to like,” he derided.
“My son,” advised the old priest quietly, “it is a good thing for a man to take a wife. Your father took one. He was a better man for it.”
The young man only shrugged his shoulders again and fell silent.
They talked of other things; gossip, news, ideas. Pierre told of new discoveries in the Mont du Sud, of adventures, of the Indians, of the fish he had caught and the animals he had trapped, of his plans for the future. While they talked, the old priest cooked supper. When it was ready they sat down to it, the conversation ceasing only for the short grace before meat. They had much to say, these two. They had many memories to draw on of life in New and Old France. For Father Trouvé had been a friend of Pierre’s father and had known Pierre since he was a baby.
After supper Pierre went for a stroll down the street and came to the store of Henri Theriault. A grand store was that of Henri, the only one in the town, and one where you could buy everything. Gossip as well as goods, was bartered here for every night the male population gathered round the tables and counter to speak of things that had happened, and to drink the wine of France.
Pierre was greeted by the crowd with enthusiasm and drawn into the circle round the big table where a game of chess was in progress.
“How goes it, Pierre!" cried Henri, big, fat, cheery-faced Henri, from behind the counter. A man with a heart as big as his girth, this Henri, but shrewd—ah, very shrewd. “Come in for a wife, eh?"
“No, Henri. I come only as a spectator of this debauch of marriage,” replied the young man,
with a quiet smile. There was an astonished silence.
“Debauch of marriage! Ha! Ha! Pierre speaks like a cynic!” exclaimed Jules Legros, ensign in the regiment, a heavy fellow, swarthy, with thick eager lips and beady
“Do you draw for a wife?” Pierre demanded of him with startling abruptness.
“Name of God,” exclaimed the latter, shrugging his shoulders, his eyes shifting uneasily under the direct stare of the young man, “what is one to do in this inhospitable climate? The nights are cold in winter.”
A roar of laughter greeted this ribaldry, and there was a jabbering of loose talk. Pierre’s lips twisted scornfully.
“Cognac!” he called to Henri, who had come from behind the counter and was standing by his
A wave of anticipation ran through the crowd. When Pierre des Lacs called for cognac in the store of Henri Theriault those assembled there expected that that evening would be one to remember. And they were seldom disappointed. Pierre made history for Port Royal —■ made it with cognac, redistilling the subtle liquor into deeds for men to talk of in the long winter evenings. Henri brought the cognac—and the dice.
Pierre flung the fiery liquid down his throat, bringing the empty mug down on the table wth a bang and a look at Henri that signified that Pierre was still thirsty. Then he called in a loud voice, a sardonic smile on his lips, and a wild light in his eyes: “Who pi ays with Pierre?”
The crowd gathered round the table from the other parts of the store. This was something not to lose. Eager excitement pulsed through the low hum of conversation. “Who plays with Pierre?”
He swept the circle of men with his eye. There was silence now. Not a man spoke. The luck of Pierre was of the devil. To play with him was for no ordinary man.
Pierre laughed. “No wonder the king sends women out to you,” he cried scornfully. “The king knows that his loyal subjects of Acadie have need of women since they lack back-bone. Perhaps one of these women will play with Pierre.”
The crowd laughed. That Pierre! He would have his jibe at the settlers. Eh, well, he was young. Time would tame him.
AN OFFICER from the regiment, a newcomer, tall,dark, with a thin sallow face, stepped forward. “I will play with you,” he offered quietly.
The crowd murmured their applause, and Pierre’s eyes glistened his eager gratitude. He made a sweeping bow. “You do me honor, sir,” he said. “And may I have the further honor of your name?”
“Jacques Duval, lieutenant de regiment,” replied the other quietly.
“Pierre des Lacs, coureur-de-bois,” said Pierre, in comic imitation of the other’s dignity.
The crowd laughed. Pierre was in good form to-night. The play would be interesting.
Jules Legros gave up his seat at the table to the lieutenant, who took it with quiet thanks. Pierre sat opposite him and leaned forward on his elbows. "I have at^ the house of Father Trouvé, Monsieur le Lieutenant,” he said, “twelve otter pelts and six of the silver fox. 'What are they worth, Henri?” He turned abruptly to the fat. shop-keeper at his elbow. “Prime skins they are, Henri -fit for a duchesse of France.”
Henri considered and named a price. (
“Good,” cried Pierre, turning to the lieutenant. Will you play for that? Ten louis d’or, Monsieur le Lleutenant? Whatdoyousay?”
The lieutenant nodded his head and flung a full purse on the table. “Three throws,” cried Pierre, “and Henri shakes the
Henri took up the dice box, shook it with much ceremony and cast. Eager eyes strained forward for the result.
The lieutenant won.
“Oho!” cried Jules Legros, his beady eyes twinkling. “Pierre's luck is broken!”
“Oho!” Pierre gave him the full focus of his glance. “My next winter's pelts against five louis d’or I win,
Jules eyes shifted uneasily and he laughed lamely. “I am no gambler,” he muttered.
“You have a loud mouth, Jules, for a man who will not gamble.”
The crowd laughed and Jules spluttered a curse into his big beard. Henri threw again with the same solemn deliberation.
The excitement grew. The onlookers strained forward with eagerness and the silence was tense under the strain of the moment.
“There are seventeen louis in my purse,
M’sieu des Lacs,” said the lieutenant.
“I will lay you the extra louis against your next winter’s pelts that I win the next throw.”
“Sacred Name!” cried Pierre, his black eyes flashing admiration. “Here is a man for you! Here is the man for Pierre des Lacs! I take you, Monsieur le Lieutenant. You are a true soldier of France. Throw', Henri!”
Henri threw again. The onlookers crowded forward eagerly.
“Pierre wins!” cried Henri. A cheer rose. That devil, Pierre, had won again! What luck the man had! Not of ordinary men!
Pierre took the lieutenant’s purse from the table and extracting its contents returned it to its owner. The two men rose to their feet.
“I thank you, Monsieur le Lieutenant, for a gentleman’s game and the gold of France,” said Pierre gravely. Then he turned, his manner suddenly changed, his face reckless and his eyes wild, to the crowd.
“Who runs with Pierre?” he cried. “Eh—my friends, w’ho runs with Pierre to the mile post and back?”
But none w'ould run with this coureur-de-bois. He was like a hare when he ran. Pierre’s eye swept the crowd and rested scornfully on Jules Legros.
\\ ho will w'restle with Pierre—eh, my Jules?” l’he great Jules shrugged his shoulders. This young fool would never learn. Was not he, Jules, the strongest man in the settlement? Had he any peer at wrestling? Had he not thrown this stripling time w'ithcut number? Oh, yes. he w’ould wrestle with this Pierre. He would take the conceit from him.
“Come, then, my Jules!” challenged Pierre. ‘Til lay you three of the lieutenant’s golden louis that I throw you this night.”
“Keep your money, son!” said old Jean Belliveau. the Nestor of the town, in his cackling falsetto. “Jules has taken enough of your gold over this wrestling.”
The crowd murmured in sympathy with this remark.
“I will throw Jules to-night, my old one!” waived Pierre, with reckless assurance. “Do you agree to the wager, my bull of a man?” he demanded of Jules Legros. The big man shrugged his shoulders.
“Good!” cried Pierre. “Come on! Clear the floor. Henri!”
The tables and chairs were cleared from the centre of the store by eager hands and the two men faced one another.
PIERRE wasted no time over preliminaries, but went at his opponent like a wild cat—w-ent for Jules Legros’ throat, jumping clear of the ground and fastening himself around the other’s body. The older men shook their heads gravely. This mad Pierre would never learn!
Legros was a huge man and enormously muscled, a veritable Titan. He tore the lighter man from him with his huge hands, laughing oddly in his throat as he did so, and proceeded to lock with him. But Pierre was thistledown. Always he w'ent further than he was put, tw'isting, writhing, squirming, slipping like an eel. Up and down the store they surged. Time and again it seemed that. Pierre was pinioned. Time and again, while the crowd cheered, he broke loose. Jules could not hold him put. He would get him down on his hands and knees and try a neck-breaking lock. Pierre would somersault out of the grip and land on his feet with a supple spring.
“Come, come, Jules!” he taunted after they had wrestled twenty minutes w'ithout result. “You’re getting old. The last time wre w-restled you floored me twice in this time. Am I beating you, my old one?”
Jules came at him w'ith a rush that would have borne an ox down. But Pierre side-stepped neatly, caught him by the ankle and twisted him on to his back, then jumped upon him with cat-like quickness. The crowd roared with delight. “Bravo, Pierre!” they cried.
But Jules was not thrown. He twisted and squirmed and, with a powerful lunge of his heavy' body, overturned his opponent and fixed a nec-k-lock on him. It was the deadly double-lock. No man could break that lock of Jules’. It was unshakeable. Slowly, every muscle strained in resistance, Pierre went over, while the crowd murmured regretfully.
“Jules wins!” cried Henri, who was referee.
The opponents rose to their feet.
Pierre leaped nimbly to face his antagonist again.
“Come on, Jules, my old one! On guard!” he insisted.
“What!” cried Jules, “have I
not then thrown you?” “Aha! My Jujes, so you have! But I have not thrown you. My wager was that I would throw you tonight. I will! You’ve grown weaker, my old one. Too much cognac—too little work. On guard!”
“Bravo, Pierre!” “On guard, Jules!” “He will throw you!” criedthe onlookers, wild with excitement.
Jules was unwilling but he could not back down. Nor could he understand this Pierre. Always he would come back at a man. Always, until he was so exhausted they would have to seize him, while old Henri poured cognac down his throat. The man didn’t know' when he was beaten. He was mad, this Pierre, crazy. Perhaps he, Jules, should break him for good and all —stop his foolery. He could do it. Had he not broken an Indian with his neckhold—broken him till his bones cracked, and then flung him, a limp, dying thing, into the river? He would settle the sneering young braggart wdth his devil’s luck. It would be an accident, of course, but he would be done with this stinging tongue and this high and mighty manner. They grappled again. Around and around the floor they circled, seeking an opening. Pierre w'as more wary now. His wild excitement had gone and he was a man of the woods, cool and calm, with searching eyes. And all the time he talked to Jules, talked deliberately, with the contemptuous smile on his lips, of how he would lay him out like a dead elephant—and the crowd how led with delight at his jibes, for Jules was anything but popular in Port Royal.
Then Jules’long arm shot out and caught the smaller man behind the neck. With one hand he swung him off his feet and with the other reached under Pierre’s armpit for the deadly neck-hold. But Pierre on the momentum of the swing turned a complete somersault and leaped clear into the crowd. Again the two men circled, facing one another with savage eyes. Jules w'as losing his wind and patience. This bout had lasted too long to suit him. He must catch this slippery fool and end it. He lunged in through Pierre’s guard. Pierre side-stepped, and slipped behind his opponent, who, carried on by his wild rush, barged into old Jean Belliveau, and in his rage flung the old fellow' to the floor. That was his fatal mistake. It gave Pierre his opportunity. Pierre seized him from behind—seized him with lightning swiftness, lifted him clear of the floor and swinging him through the air flung him to the floor.
Jules fell against the counter with a terrific thud and rolled over on his back, limply, like a sack of potatoes.
pIERRE turned to the breathless crowd. “Is it a * fair throw?” he demanded.
“He is thrown!” cried Henri Theriault. “Name of God, w'hat a throw', my Pierre!”
“Bravo, Pierre! Bravo, Pierre!” shouted the erow'd. Pierre laughed. “Jules forgot,” he said, standing within the awe-struck circle w'ho looked with him upon the fallen man, “Jules thought he w'as wrestling with Father Belliveau. He forgot Pierre des Lacs!”
The others laughed.
“Good, Pierre—he is a devil, that Jules!” cackled old Belliveau. “You have broken the devil! Ha! Ha!”
Somebody gave the fallen man a drink. It was the officer, Jacques Duval, and after a moment he pulled himself to his feet, a dazed, broken, bull of a man and stared around at the laughing faces. Then he saw Pierre, smiling over his mug of cognac, his eyes mocking, sardonic. His face became livid and his small eyes pin points of hatred.
“Sacred Name!” he bellowed, “I’ll break you, Pierre des Lacs! I’ll break you!”
He turned and staggered towards the door.
“Jules Legros!” It was Pierre who spoke; his voice like a knife, cold and chilling.
Jules turned. Pierre stepped towards him. It was an odd sight—the huge, bull-like Goliath and the lithe, slender David.
“You have forgotten our wager. Three golden louis,” reminded Pierre.
Jules made a queer noise in his throat and reaching into his pouch drew out a purse from which he extracted three
Pierre took the money. “And another thing remember, my big bull,” he added coldly, “you will never break Pierre des Lacs. You have thrown him for the last time. Your day is over. You have lost touch with the things that matter. Your heart is gone. Never could you break Pierre des Lacs. He is unbreakable by such a breed as yours. Can the bull break the eagle?”
Jules turned with a curse and left the store.
Pierre faced the crowd again. “My friends,” he cried, “who drinks with Pierre des Lacs? Henri, bring
out the oldest cognac!
Pierre pays—Pierre pays w'ith the gold of a
gallant lieutenant and a broken bull!”
“Ah, Pierre, my son,” cried old Jean Belliveau as they gathered around the counter, “’tis a pity for the lasses you do not draw to-morrow! There would be one happy woman on that ship.”
“Aye!” cried the others.
“Yes, by the saints, one woman would get aman!” said Henri, as he drew the subtle cognac from a dusty little keg.
Pierre laughed a short, quick. laugh. “I am a free man now—why should I become a slave?” he asked with an expressive gesture.
For a moment there was no reply to this.
These men of Port Royal with the exception of the few who had their wives with them knew the long winter nights and the ache of empty cabins.
To them to-morrow brought not slavery but deliverance, brought high hopes, happiness, the fulness of life. Beyond this to-morrow lay satisfaction, the realization of those hopes with which they had carved from a new world wilderness a heritage that would carry on the empire of France.
Old Jean Belliveau said quietly : “Sometimes, my son, you talk very foolish talk.”
Pierre laughed gaily. “I may be foolish, my old one, but I am free!” he rejoiced. He picked up his mug. “Come, my friends, here is the old cognac of Old France!
Drink with me! Drink to the fair daughters of Old France who come tomorrow. May they bring us all our hearts’ desires!”
“Aye! Our hearts’ desires!” they cried eagerly, and drank.
"THE TOWN was astir early next morning.
The settlers began to come in by seven o’clock.
From across the river they came in boats, from up the valley on foot, the more prosperous in ox-wagons. The main street was gay with greeting, jibe and laughter. All the flags in the town were flying. It was like a gala-day—
was a gala-day indeed for the lonely settlers of New France!
Shortly after mid-day a gun boomed from the fort. • It was the signal. From every house, from the street, from Henri’s store, the crowds poured eagerly towards the shore, down to the quay. She was passing the island—a tall frigate, her sails well-filled by the west wind, and hurried by the flooding tide.
It was an hour before she erst anchor off from the quay. By this time every soul in the colony had collected on the shore and there was much shouting and waving of hands— signals that, were answered from the ship by fluttering kerchiefs. Then the guns from the fort boomed out furiously and the church bell pealed like a thing gone mad. Good Father Trouvé! How he rang that bell that day and the next—rang it till the metal grew hot and the rafters creaked!
Then the governor—Villebon—marched down from the fort at the head of the regiment, gay in their red uniforms against the green of the hillside.
A boat containing the captain, and his officers, put off from the ship. At the end of the quay, in a group of men, stood Pierre des Lacs. Of a sudden he turned to Henri Theriault who stood talking with old Jean Belliveau.
“Pierre des Lacs goes to inspect the new' wives!” he announced with a laugh, and before the crowd knew what was happening he had slipped his moccasins, cap and
jerkin into Henri’s arms and plunged into the water.
“It is Pierre des Lacs!” the crowd cried, “Oh, that mad young man! He goes to inspect the new brides!”
In the meantime, the boat had drawn into the quay and the settlers pressed forward eagerly to hear news of the Old World.
Pierre sw'am out to the ship with long, easy strokes. Those aboard saw him coming and crow'ded to the rail. He went alongside, swimming with slight effort, like some graceful W'ater-king and smiled up at the fair faces, his teeth gleaming against his dark features. The women watched him curiously. In each mind was a question. For which of them W'as this young Adonis to be mate?
A sailor threw him a rope and hr ’lambered over the side. For a moment he stood within the circle of women smiling, then shook the water from his clothes like a dog.
He laughed gaily. “Demoiselles of Old France,” he opened with a low, ironical bow, “on behalf of the bachelors of New France, I welcome you!”'
Some of the girls tittered and giggled. Others simply smiled. Pierre ran his eye around the circle in bold surveillance. There would be about thirty girls in the group—tall and short, slim and stout, beautiful ai d less beautiful. His glance was arrested by one who flood with a companion outside the circle just beyond the shiß’s mast. She was tall—about his own height—tall and slender, with hazel eyes and hair like waving corn, with an air that marked her at once from the others. No ordinary young woman, this.
Pierre lost his smile. It died slowly and u nmistakably. Sacred Name, what a woman!
He went straight over to her and stood in front of her, his eyes bold yet grave. “Mademoiselle,” he asked in a low voice, “have you also come to New France to wed with that riff-raff?’ He flung his arm scornfully towards the crowd on the shore. » She faced him unflinchingly, the red mantling her cheeks. “I have come to help build the New France,” she said.
He stared at her for a moment, his bold, black eyes drinking in her beauty until it well-nigh made him gasp. He shook his head, almost sadly, certainly with regret. This princess to be drawn for by the likes of Comeaus and Belliveaus!
“Mademoiselle,” he deplored gravely, “I am sorry. I am infinitely sorry.”
He turned to the others who stood with curious eyes watching this strange interview. “Au revoir, Demoiselles!” he laughed lightly, “I dance to-morrow at your weddings!”
Turning he leaped n i mbly over the ship’s rail into the water and set off shoreward. The young women crowded to the rail, chattering excitedly and with much laughter over the beautiful merman, as they called him.
The young woman with the hazel eyes, she, too, watched him—and in those eyes was a new fear. She turned to her companion. “Oh, Celeste,” she murmured, “I am sorry, too— infinitely sorry!”
AL M O S T immediately the ship was brought in to the quay and made fast by eager hands. Governor Villebon stood at the quay’s edge and spoke to the fair passengers who had become strangely timid under the closer stare of hungry "Mesdemoiselles,” he said, in his high, stilled tones, “on behalf of the inhabitants of this colony I welcome you to our midst. We appreciate the fact of your coming. We know the hardships you have braved and must brave. It is no easy thing to I carve out a new empire in a wilderness. But the courage you have shown in coming thus far is evidence that you will be fit ! companions for these pioneers who wait to greet you. It is evidence that from you will come those who will make France glorious in this new world.”
Continued on page 52
Continued from page 25
I With the gallantry of a gentleman of ! Old France he reached out his hand to the nearest girl and helped her over the ship’s side to the quay.
Old Henri’s wife, Natalie Theriault, took the girls in her charge. She was to be their warden until the morrow. She led them volubly up the hill, past the guard of honor, to the governor's house where they were to stay for th* night. The guard fell in behind them, then the settlers, and so the long procession wended its way up the hill, through the town to the destination. As they passed the church F’ather Trouvé was standing on the steps. He raised his hands in blessing.
At five o’clock a gun from the fort boomed out again. There was little need for the signal for already everyone had gathered in the square within the stockade where the drawing was to take place. The governor came out from the guard-room, followed by Father Trouvé and Notary Le Blanc. He took his place at the table that had been set near the flag-pole, and on the top of which Notary Le Blanc placed a tin box full of paper billets. A hush fell over the assembly.
“Gentlemen,” announced the Governor,
; solemnly, “you will now draw lots accord1 ing to the arrangement. Each man will file up and take a paper from this box. He will then hand it folded to Notary Le Blanc who will open it and acquaint him with the result. As there are only thirty young women some of you will draw blank. It is the luck of lottery. Afterwards the young women will be brought out and introduced to their prospective husbands, and to-morrow at eleven, Father Trouvé will marry the lucky ones in the church.”
Then one by one the men filed up. There were over a hundred. The first was Réné Theriault, Henri’s nephew, who had a small farm up the river. He I drew a blank. A sigh of sympathy went through the crowd as the pale-faced" young 1 man slipped away .with an uneasy laugh into their midst. There was a cheer as the next man, Louis Goudry, drew one, Celeste Doucette. A fine young man, Louis, with a well kept farm.
Jules Legros drew a woman, Marie de Guys.
Pierre turned to old Jean Belliveau. “May she be the ugliest,” he said. “It is more than he deserves.”
At length the drawing was finished, and Father Trouvé led the young women out. They were introduced one by one. Last of all came the girl with the hazel eyes and I her little companion. The latter was ! Celeste Doucette—she was Marie de Guys!
A gasp of dismay went through the crowd as she was introduced to Jules Legros.
THAT moment burned itself into Pierre’s soul. He had waited for it, all afternoon, waited with tortured spirit. There had been moments when he had 1 been tempted to test his luck in the lottery; but he realised the hopeless odds against such a procedure. Then as ¡ these young women had come out one by one, he had stood all tense and apprehensive against the fate of this beautiful girl. And Jules Legros, the bull of a man with a bull’s soul and appetites, had won her! Sacred Name, the look of loathing and fear on her face when the governor had laid her hand in that of her luck’s mischievous chance! Cruel chance!
“Name of God, that .Jules Legros!” exclaimed old Henri.
Pierre slipped away from the crowd and went straight to Father Trouvé ’s cabin, where the good priest found him, an hour later, pacing the floor in great agitation.
“Ah, Pierre,” he exclaimed, “what a day! What fine young women! My heart is full!” Pierre stared at him, his brow black from the storm within. “Name of God!” he cried “that pig of a pig, Jules Legros!
What a sacrilege, Father! You cannot marry them! She hates him! I saw it!
I saw the hate in her eyes! Small wonder! Ugh! I will kill him! By God, I will!”
“My son, my son!” exclaimed the old priest in amazement, “what words are these?”
Pierre was in deadly earnest. “Father, you cannot marry them!” he protested. "It would be a sin—a sin against a beautiful woman!”
“But, my son, the governor has ordained it. The chances were equal and fair. Jules Legros had his rights and the young woman knew her chances.”
Pierre uttered an exclamation of impatience. “Must this woman suffer then because she was brave enough to take a chance? Is the governor’s decree unalterable? Is there no God greater than this governor?”
“Pierre—Pierre!” exclaimed the old priest in sorrowful reproach.
The young man cursed a terrible curse, and flung himself from the house, leaving the man of God shaking his head bewilderedly. Pierre strode out into the garden. There he stamped about among the young apple trees swearing wild oaths that Jules Legros would never marry this princess of France. But he returned and ate his supper—sulkily—saying nothing to Father Trouvé, who, knowing his ways, held his peace.
Later in the evening he went down to the store of Henri Theriault.
An hilarious crowd were making merrj' there. Laughter, loud voices, smoke and the smell of wine and tobacco filled the air. Pierre pushed his way through the jostling roysterers to the counter where stood Jules Legros and two officers from the frigate, drinking. He banged his fist on the counter, setting all the mugs dancing. He laughed, his eyes wild, and winked at Henri.
Silence fell. Pierre was on the revel again. The crowd drew near.
“My friends,” he told them, “this is a night of great things! Who will wager with Pierre des Lacs?”
His words were greeted with laughter and cheers that died as he swept the room with cold, steely eyes. He turned to Jules Legros who stood towering above him, a sneer on his coarse face, his beady eyes darting venom.
“Monsieur Legros,” he said with a mocking bow, “last night you left us in anger. You shouted wild words—that you would break Pierre des Lacs. Do you still think you can break him?”
Jules’ sneer widened and his eyes became more venomous.
“Speak up, roaring bull!” cried Pierre with a short laugh. “You may have a chance to-night.”
“Don’t taunt me, Pierre des Lacs—or' I’ll break you as I broke the Indian,” growled Jules, but his eyes were shifting uneasily.
“Good! How I love those words, my Jules!” retorted Pierre, his eyes flashing triumphantly. “You shall have your chance to gamble with Pierre! You shall have your chance to break him! Will you wager with me on a throw? Will you wager? I lay you, Jules, that I will put you on your back before you put me—do you take me?”
“Yes—vermin—I take you!” bellowed
“Good, my' roaring bull. Now the wager! To-day in the lottery you won the fairest flower of France. Against her I put my life.”
HE DREW his sheath knife from his belt and plunged it into the pine counter. “If you throw me, I slit my throat with that knife. If I throw you. I take the lady. Is the wager fair, Henri?” Pierre turned to the old storekeeper, whose eyes were like saucers. The crowd gasped. Men grew pale. This was madness! Pierre’s life against a woman on such a chance! Madness!
“Sacred Name, Pierre, you are crazy!” cried Henri. “It is suicide!”
“Aye,” cried the onlookers, “it is suicide!”
Pierre laughed and turned to Jules. “Well, my roaring bull, what do you say?” he demanded.
Into the eyes of Jules Legros had crept a cunning; into his crooked brain an idea. There were other ways to break a man besides with one’s hands. This Pierre des Lacs with his mighty manner and his biting tongue had fallen in love with his lottery woman. Was not this mad wager a token of it? Yes, he wanted her. He wanted her badly. He could go on wanting her! Aye, he could go on eating out his heart for her while he, Jules Legros, possessed her! She would be at his hearth, in his arms. Oho, this was better torture than a quick death! The one for a moment, the other for all time. Truly, Fate had given him a weapon with which to sear the soul of this young braggart. He would—
“Well, what about it?” Pierre was impatient.
Jules grinned, and the crowd waited breathless for his words. “No, my _young lover. I will not risk this flower of France against your worthless carcase.” He spat on the floor.
Pierre turned pale. His eyes narrowed —fierce eyes to face—steel gimlets boring into the soul. “So—you refuse, eh, Monsieur Legros?” His voice trembled with anger, “You, an officer of the king, are afraid? ....Coward!”
He stepped forward without another word, slapped the big man across the cheek—and laughed. That laugh was a whip. The eyes of Jules Legros became bloodshot and his face purple.
“Sacred Name—on guard, Pierre!” cried old Henri, as the crowd gasped and became silent again.
Jules had grasped Pierre’s knife from =the counter and raised his arm to strike. But the latter had no need of the warning. He was prepared. The blow fell—and the knife found resting place, not in Pierre’s breast but in the pine counter again, splitting the thick plank from end to end.
Pierre, with the quickness of a lynx, had slipped from under the descending arm. Deftly, he jumped behind the big man. With incredible swiftness he snatched a rude wooden chair and swung it over his head. It descended as Jules was turning —descended on his crown with a dull thud. He crumpled to the floor with a
The onlookers pressed forward, some to lift the fallen man, others, to gather round Pierre.
“ ’Tis a thousand pities, my Pierre, this flower of yours must wed the broken bud,” said old Jean Belliveau, shaking his head. “What a life for her!”
Pierre laughed bitterly and made his way out into the night. He went down by the shore—below the fort. The tide had gone out leaving desolate mud-flats; and the night wind bore the smell of soft, e'ammy mud. He walked to the quay and seating himself on a barrel gave himself over to bitter thought.
He had lost. Legros, the Sodden? had won. Pierre, des Lacs, the invincible, who had gambled with nature and men, had lost the wager of wagers! To-morrow, Jules Legros, his coarse face leering in triumph, would lead the Flower of France to the altar. He would drag her to his house beyond the church, to a life that was worse than death. He would crush out all the beauty of her body and soul. He. the toad, with the flower of women!.... The toad and the flower! The boy groaned at thought of it. Then he heard singing. In Henri’s store the revelling had commenced anew. The lucky ones •drank and sang to the great to-morrows. ‘They, the settlers, with hearts of gladness for to-morrow—he, Pierre des Lacs, in the night with bittemess! What a mockery!
He must leave this place! He must go back to his lakes. Perhaps he could find : solace there. Perhaps he could forget. He would travel far—perhaps to Quebec. He would find new scenes—new adventures. He would never come back to Port Royal. Never!
He walked up the path from the quay to the main street and along past Henri’s store. He saw, with hurried glance, the revellers inside, flushed with wine, eager with anticipation. He came to the Fort : gates -a sentry paced silently before them. He hurried on.
It was midnight.
‘"T'HE GOVERNOR’S house was still
1 and dark—a large house in the trees. He paused to look at it. Within its walls, .so thrillingly near, so tragically far, was the lovely being he wanted most. There was his heart’s desire, sleeping, no doubt, 'unconscious for the moment of the misery of to-morrow.
He went on with a curse that was more •nf a sob.
He came back again. He could not
help it. Sortie irresistible inward compulsion turned his steps. At the corner he took a quick glance up and down the street— then vaulted lightly over the stockade. Swiftly he sped through the trees and shrubbery, but stooped suddenly at the garden’s edge. A sentry was passing the corner of the house. He crouched behind a bush and waited. The sentry passed to the front. Pierre slipped quickly from his hiding-place, ran to the | back of the house and hid himself behind the stone well.
He waited. Again the sentry passed. Then his quick eye caught a flutter in one of the windows. The window was open. 1 He watched it breathlessly, every nerve strained. He heard the low murmur of voices. Could it be? Yes, he would find out!
A maple tree at the corner of the house spread its branches against the roof. He waited again for the sentry to pass, ran to the tree and swung himself into the branches. He climbed, with beating heart, along the branch that hugged the side of the house. Like a cat he climbed, silent and stealthy. He came to the level of the window and looked. Against i the darkness he saw two faces, dim and indistinct. He could not recognize them. But he caught again the murmur of their whispering voices. He climbed further along the limb. It was perilous work now. The branch sagged dangerously under his weight. He worked his way slowly to the corner of the house, pausing only when the sentry passed again, unsuspectingly, below him.
He could just reach the rain-gutter with his hand. He tested it against his weight. It was firm. He waited till the sentry passed, then grasping it with both hands swung himself against the side of the house. His feet found security on a jutting beam that ran along the wall on a level with the bottom of the windows.
He made his way along it to the nearest window which was the one in which he had seen the faces.
His arrival was greeted by a muffled scream. Quickly, he slipped through the window into the room. There stood two women, white against the darkness, their hands clutched to their breasts, their eyes staring in fear.
“Pardon, Mesdemoiselles,” he whispered, “do not be frightened. I have only come to rob this garden of its most precious flower. If you make a noise I shall have to gag you. If you help me I will be your eternal debtor. I seek Marie de Guys. Can you tell me which room she is in?”
“It is the merman!” one of them whispered.
“I am Marie de Guys!”
“Marie, Marie!” 'he exclaimed .joyously. “Fate has led me to your very window.”
“But you must go at once!”
“Mademoiselle,” he said, seriously, “I can only go if you will come. I am Pierre des Lacs. We have met already on the ship. Your little friend just now said: ‘It is the merman!’ She was right. I swam out to you to-day. I climbed up to you tonight. Why? To save you, dear lady, from the venom of the cruel god, Chance.”
“You must go, sir, really you must go!”
“Listen to me, Mademoiselle. To-day, you were drawn in the marriage lottery by a fellow, Jules Legros. I know him well. He is a knave—a low-born, skulking cow'ard. He will make your life a misery, a hell. I have come to save you from him.”
“But M’sieu, you can do nothing.^ It is the governor’s decree that we abide by the drawing of the lots. He gave us every opportunity befoie the drawing to go back to France if we wished. We took the chance and we must abide by it.”
“That is why I am here, Mademoiselle, ’ said Pierre des Lacs. “Tell me, you have seen this Jules Legros; do you favor him as a husband?”
The girl shivered and did not answer.
The other, Celeste, spoke up. “Oh, sir, it is so sad, so tragic! My beautiful Marie and that beast of a man. Why was he ever allowed to draw?”
Pierre hoped again. “So you do not approve of the turns of chance. I knew that when I saw you first set eyes on him. That was another reason why I came. I can offer you something better. Come with me. I will show you a paradise in the southern hills. We can go now to Father Trouvé. He is my friend. He will marry us.”
“But they will find out. They will i punish you! That Jules Legros, he will kill you. Oh, no, 1 cannot go! I must abide the consequences of my folly in coming here!”
"They will never punish me, nor will Jules Legros ever kill me," he said quietly. "They will never find me. We will hide in our paradise. No man knows of that paradise hut Pierre des Lacs.”
Still she hesitated.
"Oh. Made,” implored the other, “it would he better. Anything would be better than that horrid man. And have I you not said to-night a dozen times that you wished it had been the merman who—” “Hush. Celeste!”
THE WORDS of Celeste were as a fire in Pierre’s heart. “Mademoiselle,” he said very earnestly, “there is another thing I have not spoken of. I say it now.
I love you. I have loved you since the first moment I saw you. I will always love you. Whatever hardship there may be for you, outlawed with me in the hills, there will be, for whatever compensation it is worth, the love of Pierre des Lacs.” She hesitated but a moment longer, then held out her hand. “I will go with you,” she said simply.
He drew the hand quickly to his lips. In the next instant he was at the window. He had got her, but how would he return with Marie? To go back the way he had come was impossible and it was a twenty foot drop to the ground. He was puzzling over the matter when Celeste came forward and tapped him on the arm.
“The bed-sheets,” she said. “They will make a rope.”
“Good!” he approved.
They stripped the sheets from the unturned bed and quickly tore them into wide strips which they knotted together. The rope thus fashioned, Pierre made fast to the leg of the bed which the three of them moved noiselessly to the window.
“I will go first,” said Pierre. “When I wave my arm you come.” i He waited until the sentry had passed again, and was about to descend w'hen Celeste laid her hand, on his arm. “Te!l ¡ me, sir,” she asked, “what kind of man I is this Louis Goudry? Will he be kind?” “You could not have done better, Mademoiselle. Louis will he kind, and he has a good farm.”
The girl sighed with relief.
Pierre slipped quickly through the window and lowered himself to the ground. He glanced to light and left and waved his arm to Marie, who stood waiting at the wdndow'. Aided by Celeste, she let herself out and clasped the rope. It was a more difficult matter for her as she w'as greatly hampered by her clothes, but she got free and began to slide hesitatingly down the rope.
! She was almost within teach of the hand Pierre sti etched up to her w'hen he heard the crunch of approaching feet. He j turned and stood face-to-face with the i sentry who had just rounded the corner of the house. There was a%j startled exclamation from Celeste, watching from the window. Marie, too, now just clear ! of the ground, saw him. She dropped. The men stood face to face for a startled moment, then Pierre was at the other’s I throat. They went down on the grass i together, Pierre on top, his hands tight on I the sentry’s windpipe so that he could not j cry out. He turned to the frightened girl who stood watching them, her eyes wide with terror. “The rope,” he ordered hoarsely. “Tell Celeste to loosen it and i throw it out. We must secure this j fellow.”
: CHE brought the rope and aided him to I O tie and gag the hapless sentry. “Come,” he said, and taking her by the arm led her I swiftly through the shrubbery to the stockade. He helped her over into the i churchyard through which they hurried, keeping behind the church for fear of being seen by any of the homing revellers.
They came at last to the back door of Father Trouvé’s cabin, on which Pierre pounded w'ith his fist. It was unbolted, after an interval during which the two young people stood silent on the doorstone, by the good Father, himself. The priest drew back in astonishment, bur Pierre pushed the girl past him into the i cabin and following shut the door behind. “Pierre, Pierre!” exclaimed Father Trouvé, “what is this madness? What is this you are doing?”
Pierre lit a candle and turned to the old i priest staring at the embarrassed young I I woman.
‘Father,” he said, “this is Marie de Guys. She was drawn in the lottery to-day by Jules Legros. She does not wish to marry him. Who would? She wishes to marry me. You will marry us.”
“But, my son, this is against the governor’s orders—”
“The governor’s orders do not affect this case,” Pierre cut in quietly. “Will you marry us?”
“But, Pierre, there will be trouble.” The old priest was wringing his bends.
“Either you will marry us or we go off together without being married. Even that would be better for Marie than marriage with that swine, Jules Legros.”
“But, my son, you will be outlawed. They will go after you. It will go hard with you.”
“Let them come after me. I do not fear them.”
“That is all right for you—but this young woman? How will it be with her? She is riot used to our wilderness. She is a woman—and young?”
“Oh, Pierre,” cried the girl, wringing her hands, “perhaps I had better not!”
He turned on her abruptly, his eyes darkening. "Are you afraid of the woods —and the hardships?” he demanded coldly. .
She drew herself up as though he had struck her. Her cheeks were flaming. “No,” she said proudly, “I am only afraid for you. For me it would be better to die, however I died, than to marry Jules Legros. But you—they will hunt you—they will—”
"Enough!” Pierre turned to the old priest, his eyes glowing triumphantly. “You have heard her. Father. She is a true daughter of France. Will you marry us?”
The old man flung up his hands. “There is nothing else to do,” he said with a sigh of resignation. “Youth is mad!”
He bound them man and wife, there in the cabin kitchen, by the light of a flickering candle. Afterwards, he packed a bag of provisions, filled it from his own larder; hams, dried moose meat, bread, salt, sugar. He brought out also a small sack of grain. As he laid it on the table he turned to the girl.
“My daughter,” he said, his wrinkled old eyes alight with a sly smile, “this Pierre des Lacs has been a wanderer. It is not good for a man to rove too much. See that he finds a place for a home. And see—this bag of seed—make him plant them near that home. It will be good for both of you if he does these things. He will
come back to you in your home and to reap his harvest. And now, you had better be off. They will be missing you
Pierre took up the two sacks and slung them across his shoulders. He and the girl moved towards the door. At the door he stopped and turned to the old
"Father,” he said, “you have spoken good words. I may not be able to return to Port Royal, but you can come to me. You remember the high hill at Rossignol where the lake lies at your feet in the west? You and I are the only ones that know it. You will find my cabin the>-e, where we stood that day under the maples. Come
“I will come—before the winter,” promised the old priest.
The two young people fell on their knees and begged him to bless them, which he did willingly, with tears in his old eyes and a catch in his voice.
THEY left on their long journey.
Pierre, in spite of his heavy load, walking erect, his step light with gladness. At his side Marie traveled in silence, close to him, brushing against him where the way was narrow, sending a thrill to his soul.
At the top of the hill they stopped. Something held their feet, some thought from afar, and they turned to view the passing of Port Royal. Under the stars they could see the gleaming basin, flooding with the night tide, and the lights in Henri’s store where the revellers still sang and drank against the morrow, that was not so far away.
Suddenly, a flash lit the night, and in the next instant the stillness was broken by the harsh roar of a cannon from the Fort.
“It is the alarm!” Pierre told her, his heart jumping to meet the adventure that lay beyond this moment. “They have discovered your escape!”
She shivered, ever so slightly, and looked up at him, tremulously, yet with eyes that glowed like fiery worlds in the darkness.
He dropped his load of provisions and encircled her with his arms.
“It is a long trail we follow, Marie,” he said softly, “but it will be a joyous one—for we go together.”
She smiled and held up her lips.
And in a little they melted into the shadow of the mountains. Side by side, they went, with a glory in their souls.