SEEKER OF FORTUNE
ON THAT early June afternoon of 1708 the wind that blew from the south up the broad harbor bore languor and the rest-
less longings of romance to Port Royal’s youth.
But to one, also, who, having arrived that morning from France, could hardly as yet be called a youth of Port Royal. A son of romance, nevertheless, in whose blood stirred high courage and desire; whose sensitive face, as he sat beneath the tall maple gazing down on town and harbor, was flushed with the wine of bold dreams and passionate with the quest for adventure.
His face was no
The afternoon had drawn to its close. On the marshes below, cattle were homing slowly. With a sigh, as though he tore himself regretfully from splendid visions, the young man rose, shot up almost grotesquely on two long thin legs. Suddenly, as though at some folly of his own, he chuckled, threw back his head and his wide shoulders, and set off along a path that led through high trees.
Where—a quarter of a mile further along—the path dipped, he came to an abrupt stop. By a stile, not fifty feet below, stood a man and a girl. The man, dark - featured, hawknosed, gesticulated vehemently, towering over his companion, who looked absurdly frail and ethereal beside him, like a white, slender flower set against a rock. Suddenly, as she was roughly seized by the shoulders, she let out a sharp protest that cut the forest silence peremptorily. The watcher started down the hill with a deliberateness that masked his speed, longer that of a poet.
Pardon, Mademoiselle,” his plume swept the leafy path and rested finally over his heart; “Giles D’Entrement at your service!”
For the moment the two stared at him blankly, neither having been aware of his presence until he spoke, and then, as the hand fell from her shoulder, the girl’s fluty laugh fluttered out.
I thank you, M’sieu. If you could escort me from this place I would be deeply grateful.”
But, certainly! And M’sieu’s loss—” he shrugged with the coolest effrontery—“will be my gain.”
The discomfitted one’s hand fell to his sword-hilt; he growled darkly: “Have a care! I take insolence from no pup!”
“If it is satisfaction you desire, M’sieu, pray set your mind at rest,” drawled D’Entrement ironically. “I am unarmed at present, but by your leave I shall be wearing my rapier when next we meet. In the meantime permit me to accede to Mademoiselle’s request. I bid you good afternoon!”
With an even deeper obeisance he offered his hand to the girl, helped her across the stile and followed her, leaving the other man glowering savagely after them.
“M’sieu,” she informed him, as they proceeded through trees that seemed to whisper some jocose secret above them, “you have made a dangerous enemy on my account. That was the Comte des Coutrieres, and he has an evil reputation in this place. I regret infinitely.”
What can a gallant do when one so fairy-like, so fragile, looks up into his face with the wide eyes of concern, but laugh carelessly and with a shrug?
“He is then as great a rogue as he looks?”
“He is, M’sieu! Since his arrival in Port Royal two years ago, he has done nothing but make trouble in the town. Now he commands a privateering ship and they tell hideous tales of his doings.”
“I do not fear a man with eyes set as close as his. And if I did, the hazard of snatching you from his undesired attentions would still be happily taken.”
The hazel eyes glimmered up at him. “M’sieu has a pretty skill at flattery!”
“The result of practise, Mademoiselle,” he retorted gravely, “I lie awake at night making up such speeches. Alas, I forget so many of the best of them!”
Her laugh fluted again. A lane into which they had come led along the edge of the marsh and soon joined the banlieu road. A moment later she stopped in front of a gateway, behind which, amid a riot of low trees, loomed a squat, ivy-covered house.
“It is my home,” she informed him. “I thank you again for deliverance from that man, M’sieu.”
“And I the gods for your acquaintance, Mademoiselle. But is it possible—” he leaned towards her most ingratiatingly, smiling down at her with a whimsical effrontery—“that I might call upon your good father and mother? I am a stranger in Port Royal and without friends from whom I might crave the introduction.”
“I have neither father nor mother,” she informed him gravely, “but live with my uncle, M’sieu Leblanc, the notary. I have no doubt he will receive you gladly when I tell him of this afternoon.”
“And Mademoiselle Leblanc? She will receive me?” “I do not know, M’sieu. I could not speak for her. But—” her eyes were dancing—“from Edme Poutrincourt you would receive a most hearty welcome.”
“I shall come soon then, Mademoiselle Edme! Perhaps to-morrow. Till then, adieu!”
For the third time that afternoon his plume swept the ground. A moment later his tall figure was hurrying toward the hostel of Henri Theriault, where he had taken lodging.
ENTERING, some hours later, that rendezvous of Port Royal, where nightly the gallants gathered to make revel, he sauntered to the counter where in a group stood the corsair, Pierre de Morpain, Comte Louis de Merlaine, the Capitaine Francois du Vivier, Edouard des Brieux and others. Laying a golden coin upon the board, he exclaimed in his ingenuous way: “Messieurs, I am a stranger in your midst and know not your ways. Is it permitted that I invite you to drink with me to my good fortune in the New France to which I have come this day from the Old?”
For a moment the group stared at him in silence. And then something whimsical in those long thin legs, the great wide shoulders, the droll eyes, sent a smile about the circle. Throwing back his great head Pierre de Morpain let that the rafters
out a laugh that set the rafters trembling. “Sainted Lady,” he cried jovially, “it must be permitted one of your manners to make any request!”
“I thank you,” murmured the intruder gravely, and turning on old Henri, demanded wine for the gentlemen of Port Royal. “Messieurs,” he announced solemnly to the others, “I have come to this New France to seek fortune. Yon piece of gold—•” he placed his finger on the coin on the tabe—“is my last. I fling it into the coffers of M’sieu Theriault as a hostage against fortune.” '
“Diable!” laughed Edouard des Brieux, “I wish you the luck that has not yet come to most of us, but
assure you that to gain fortune in this new world is not so easy as you might think. Is it not so, my friends?”
The answering murmur of agreement was heartfelt, if not unanimous. It would seem that fortune smiled no more graciously in new than old worlds. But what has youth to do with pessimism? Giles D’Entrement laughed confidently.
“Here is our wine, Messieurs! Let us drink—and leave the rest in the hands of the gods!”
“Bravely spoken!”^cried de Morpain, taking up his glass. “To your fortune, M’sieu!”
“To the fortune oí
Returning his empty glass to the counter the young man exclaimed pleasantly: “I thank you, Messieurs, for your courtesy. My name is Giles D’Entrement — ever 'at your service.” He bowed in the splendid manner of one conferring honor. Such a manner! De Morpain’s jovial eyes twinkled and he nudged des Brieux.
And then a laugh, a derisive, a contemptuous laugh, broke into that pleasant moment. The Comte des Coutrieres, his hawk-like face made even less pleasing than usual by
a twisted leer, stood on the outskirts of the little group of men. With him was a villainous looking creature who wore a patch over one eye.
“Ah!” drawled D’Entrement lightly, “we meet again, M. le Comte! As you perceive, I wear my sword tonight. Have you been indulging again, since our encounter this afternoon, in your pastime of annoying the demoiselles of Port Royal?”
A spasm of anger swept across the other’s face; his hand fell to his sword-hilt. “Mordieu!” he snarled, “I’ll stand no more of your insults! En Gardel” His rapier swished from its scabbard.
“Nothing you have said since I made your acquaintance this afternoon gives me more pleasure than the words you have just spoken,” replied the young man coolly.
He was drawing his sword when de Morpain and Comte Louis de Merlaine stepped to his side and caught him by the arm. “Sainted Lady, Monsieur D’Entrement,” exclaimed the corsair gravely, “you take rash chances! I have no love for the Comte des Coutrieres—but he is a swordsman of first rank. Have you then such a skill with the rapier?”
D’Entrement laughed carelessly. “I have some little skill, I thank you, Monsieur de Morpain—and furthermore I have no fear of the Comte des Coutrieres. But, Messieurs—” he turned to the crowd at large—“ar^ there not other ways of settling these matters between gentlemen than with rapiers? Eh?”
With a shrug he drew his pistol from its holster and laid it on the counter. To des Coutrieres he said: “I take
It you would not worry greatly about weapons so long as you rid the world of an impudent fellow. Do I err?”
The other growled.
“Very well, then, I propose a new manner of duelling. I invite you to make history with me this night in Port Koyal. Here rests my pistol—loaded. Our good host has dice yonder on the shelf. We shall abandon the rapier. We shall throw the dice three times. The loser presses my pistol to his head and pulls the trigger. Do you agree?’ A gasp of amazement rose from the crowd.
“Bah!” spluttered des Coutrieres, his beady eyes wavering under the other’s jocose smile. “You are a fool!” “One has a right to one’s opinions in such matters, M’sieu. The question is, do you accept my challenge?” “Diable, no! ... I am not—”
“Perhaps you are wise—you might lose the toss.” Swinging contemptuously on his heel D’ Entrement exclaimed to the astonished corsair: “Since the Comte des Coutrieres has no stomach for this hazard, let us resume the pleasant conversation he has interrupted.”
The laughter of Pierre de Morpain thundered out; his huge fist well-nigh cracked the counter. “Name of God, Monsieur D’Entrement,” he cried, “you are a fellow of piquant jest! My hand!” He thrust out the great fist. As the crowd pressed close with shouts of acclamation, des Coutrieres flung himself from the place cursing darkly, and accompanied by his one-eyed minion.
“But Sainted Lady, Monsieur D’Entrement,” exclaimed Comte Louis de Merlaine, his dark eyes gleaming with delight, “supposing he had accepted your proposal. Supposing you lost the toss!”
“Ah, M’sieu,” replied the young man with his intriguing drawl; “I knew the Comte des Coutrieres for a coward. He is not one to face death with the chances equal.” “Henri!” cried Edouard des Brieux to the red-faced host, “bring cognac! I vow we must drink again to M. D’Entrement!”
“But, M’sieu,” cautioned the corsair, laying a great hand on the young man’s shoulders in a most friendly manner, “you must not forget that you have made a vicious enemy to-night.”
D’Entrement shrugged lightly. “It is life! One makes
enemies—one makes friends. But if in making one enemy to-night I have made friends of the gallant gentlemen here gathered, I rest content.”
“A shrewd speech, M’sieu,” murmured the grave Notary Leblanc, who had joined the circle of men. “I perceive an element of wisdom in your imprudence. And what I have witnessed here to-night lends further credence to a tale I was told this afternoon.”
“M’sieu,” murmured the young man with the faintest of smiles, “I hope one day to give you further proof of my wisdom.”
The others laughed. This bold, long-legged youth was a fellow of infinite merriment! Because of his coming, life would move swifter in the colony!
TN THE deck cabin of the privateering brig, L’Aige, the Comte des Coutrieres and his one-eyed mate, Jean Babin, sat over the table with their heads together. His face flushed with anger and cognac the Comte spoke in a low harsh voice, while the other, his lips smacking in agreement, banged encouragement on the table with a clenched fist. Many a hapless English prisoner had ■walked the plank into the green Atlantic after just such a conference as this.
“To-night, then, my good Jean,” the Comte declared finally with a thick laugh, “I’ll make an end to all this nonsense! Inform the crew that we sail after midnight— and let none of the drunken louts ashore to-day.”
'•“Aye, Captain!” Babin showed his dirty stumps of teeth in a grin. “And a pleasant voyage ’twill be for you!” When he had gone to the deck without, des Courtrieres drained his glass and sat for a moment wrapped in moody silence. Then his eyes narrowed and anger again hardened his heavy mouth. “God’s death, if I could but lay hands on that long-legged puppy before I sail!” He closed his two fists slowly, in a most sinister and suggestive manner.
At that particular moment the subject of his malediction lay sleeping in his bed at the hostel of Henri Theriault. It was true the sun was already high in the heavens but there had been much merry-making the night before in the store below. Dawn was breaking greyly over the
Mont du Nord ere the song of the last reveller died away beyond the fort and the young man ascended tb his room.
Somewhat before noon, he did waken, and lifting himself to his elbow stared out through his window over the harbor. The fumes of wine were still in his head—with which now began to mix thoughts of a sombre nature, as is customary after such a night’s adventuring. Well, here he was in this New World, had already become part of it, had touched hands with its adventures! His last sou gone to bind new friendships! Eh, well, one dug for gold in any land! He would dig here. In the meantime old Henri must take his word as a gentleman in payment of lodging —and he must take his food without wine.
Suddenly there swam before his eyes a piquant picture. Fairies peopled his world—and then one face. That tilted laughing face! That tiny fragile figure! He allowed himself to become a poet again. “Sainted Lady,” he cried, springing out of bed, “it is the same world! Always and ever there is romance!”
Proceeding forthwith to dress he took an infinity of pains in the task, fastening about his neck a silken neckerchief of amazing coloring which he extracted from the little wooden chest under the bed. Descending to the coffee room he partook of breakfast, after which he sauntered into the store. The corsair, Pierre de Morpain, was conversing with M. Theriault at the counter. The big man greeted him cordially. “You keep to your bed in the morning like a prince of the blood, M. D’Entrement!” he rallied him. “I have waited here for you this last hour.” “It would appear,” murmured the young man with a grin, “that I have not your ability in dealing with old wine and new friendship. Even now I am uncertain of the fit of my hat.”
“You need the air of the sea, M’sieu. Eh, Henri?” “They say the sea winds are good for thick heads,” replied the old host, shaking his; “but for me a breeze of the land, Messieurs—a breeze of the land.”
“M’sieu,” exclaimed de Morpain, slipping his arm through D’Entrement’s and leading him outside to a table under the willow tree, “I have sought you out this morning with a purpose. I am a privateer. In my business I need men of stout courage and quick wit—of
which there are few, I vow! Will you join my ship and serve under me? The hazards are great—but so are the rewards.”
“Name of a name, M’sieu!” replied the young man with a laugh, “your offer is surely the manifestation of a shrewd Providence. I am penniless and you offer me employment! I am an adventurer and you offer me adventure!”
“You will sail with me then?”
“Of a certainty! And the sooner the better!”
“Good! We weigh anchor at dawn. Be aboard to-night by midnight at the latest. My ship is drawn up at the quay.”
“I will not fail, Monsieur de Morpain—and a thousand thanks!”
AT TEN-THIRTY o’clock that night Giles
D’Entrement tore himself away from the revelling at old Henri’s and set off up the road. In a little now he must go aboard the good ship Ninette, but before that there was a small offering he must place upon the altar of sentiment. Well enough the sea for the sailor; for the poet there must be something more. Had he not that very afternoon walked this way, lingering about a certain stile—in vain? Perhaps the departure for Clements that afternoon of the notary Leblanc had kept a certain one at home? In any case he must go now under the stars and stand for a moment before a gateway, to gaze at an old ivy-covered house. A light in a window—might not that become a beacon in memory? For a poet—yes!
But house and gateway alike lay shrouded in darkness. Not a glimmer against those sombre shadows. The lady slept. Eh, well! He raised fingers to his lips, tipped them toward the place of dreams. And then back to the town! To Henri’s again for one last measure before embarking!
Mayhap it was the soft spring wind, the languorous whisperings of unaroused passion, that turned his feet off the road before he reached the fort. He crossed a field of low grass. He came to the edge of a high bank overlooking the Riviere L’Equille.
Below, a small estuary lapped the marsh grass at flood tide, reflecting myriad stars. Beyond, the valley of the L’Equille wound as though into the dark, mysterious heart of the Mont du Sud.
He drew a poignant breath. The world was beautiful. The night was beautiful. And yet this aching longing! This void that pained! Eh, well, he had found beauty and a space of yearning in this spot; he would go now without further delay to the store of Henri Theriault. One could not stand forever mooning beneath pale stars.
He turned to go, but a muttering of voices at the head of the estuary below shackled his feet. Three men appeared on the opposite bank heading toward a small boat drawn up there in the grass. Two of them bore a larger wicker basket a strangely large wicker basket—and with a furtive manner. With a sudden start the watcher recognized two of them and dropped at once into the grass.
What business brought the Comte des Coutrieres and one-eyed henchman, Jean Babin, to this place and in this fashion? The question burned through his mind while he watched the three men deposit their burden on the boat, drag the latter down into the water and push off. The acutest apprehension, an imperative intuition of something treacherous, seized hold of him.
Suddenly he was slithering down the bank to the marsh below. Then he was dashing, crouched low, across the low-lying spit of land that stretched to the mouth of the L’Equille, towards which the boat was now headed.. There he waited until the craft swept out into the harbor towards a ship which rode at anchor a little distance out. Then, tearing off his shoes, hat, sword, he left them on the bank and waded silently into the water.
It took him twenty minutes to reach the ship. Cautiously, he drew in towards it, allowing the gentle current to bear him to its side. He caught hold of the anchor chain. With the greatest stealth he pulled himself up to the nearest porthole. He was about to throw his arm up over the rail when the sound of voices immediately above sent his heart into his mouth, and a shiver through his long lean body.
A voice coarse with laughter: “Name of God, Jacques, the captain has made a rare haul this time!”
The uneasy reply: “Hike it not. He will land us on the gallows yet.”
“Diable, old one, you grow yellow-livered with age!”
“I have no heart for this sort of business. Give me the English to harry and I am content—but this is poor work for an honest sailor. Are you coming below?’
“Aye—and perhaps a dram of rum will warm your courage.”
Silence again. Reaching for the rail D’Entrement drew himself up, ganeed cautiously about. The deck was deserted but in the after deckhouse a light gleamed. He climbed stealthily over the rail. Crouching low under its shadow he began to creep aft toward that lighted window,
reached it without incident, peered in. An involuntary exclamation of dismay escaped him. The Comte des Coutrieres, a dark leer creasing his evil face, sat at the table with a glass of cognac in his hand. Opposite, her arms bound to her side, her proud little face hot with scorn and defiance, stood Edme Poutrincourt!
With a growl he dashed at the cabin door. He did not reach it. Something like molten iron seemed to pass agonizingly through his head. And then he lost all count of things ...
He moved with a groan. Flis head ached horribly. Opening his eyes, he found himself in a dark foulsome
place under the ship’s bows, bound hand and foot. Slowly, painfully, he became aware of sound-—the swish of moving waters—the creak of timber. He sat up with a start. The ship was at sea! Name of a name, here was a pretty pickle! He had hunted and been trapped; lay now at the mercies of the Comte des Coutrieres upon a ship that knew no justice save its master’s!
He groaned—at which a door swung open, revealing the grinning features of Jean Babin.
“Shake yourself, curious one! The captain desires your presence on deck.”
“Will you carry me then? My feet are bound.”
“Bah!” growled the sailor, “you waste your humor on me. Keep it until you meet the devil himself—as is the captain’s intention.”
Nevertheless he untied the rope which bound the prisoner’s ankles. “Now—” he accompanied the order with a kick—“up with you!”
D’Entrement followed him up the companion and aft along the deck to where the Comte des Coutrieres stood, surrounded by a group of sailors. It was broad daylight now; the ship had entered the Bay Française, and astern towered the sheer opening of Port Royal harbor.
Des Coutrieres’ hawk-like visage twisted into a smile. “So, my young bucko, you come prying into my affairs!” He laughed sinisterly.
“If Monsieur Le Comte will indulge in abductions he has no cause to complain that honest men pry,” retorted D’Entrement, coolly enough—but to tell the truth he felt anything but as unconcerned as he looked. His head thumped like an engine. His knees were so weak they barely held him up.
“God’s death!” cried the other, his face darkening, “I’ll stand none of your impudence here! This is not the store of Henri Theriault!”
“Unfortunately—otherwise you would address me more politely.”
“Diable, you shall learn! Jean, the plank!”
But a shrewd smile lighted the crafty eyes of Jean Babin. “If I might suggest, Captain,” he began ingratiatingly, “there are better ways of teaching this fellow manners. Hand the dog over to me. He would make a
good sailor if I trained him, and we are short of hands. Le Jean Babin teach him manners with a rope-endr I wai rant that’s a better punishment than a promenade in t the Bay Française. Eh, my bullies?” He swung on tb group of sailors who, whatever was in their -hearts, grinne a sickly corroboration.
Scowling darkly the Comte hesitated. Dead men to) no tales and he—•
“And then, Captain,” added the other with a chuckl “it will do the dog good to see how the Comte des Cou trieres woos the lady of his choice. Plenty of time for tl plank when we get toward the end of our voyage.”
Des Coutrieres beady eyes glistened. “Diabl you are a shrewd fellow, Jean!” he cried, slappin his thigh. “You shall have your way! Makeasailc out of him! And spare the rope-end at your peri I want the fellow trained.”
“Aye, Captain, I’ll train him!” Snatching length of rope from a nearby pin Babin turned o the hapless prisoner. “Now,” he roared, “get you bucket and scrub the decks! I vow this ship will l cleaner this voyage than it has ever been! Off wit you!”
He swung the rope across D’Entrement’s fací swung it again and, as the boy staggered along tl deck, belabored him viciously; while the Comte d( Coutrieres watched with grim satisfaction.
IS arms ached from the unaccustomed labo All morning he had scoured at the hard board to the accompaniment of well-aimed kicks ever time Babin passed along the deck. Cursing und his breath at one moment, groaning the next, I kept at it, knowing full well it would go worse wit him if he stopped. He dare not stop. There WÍ more than himself to think of now. For himsel perhaps, the plank would be the best release, bí the girl—he must not leave her defenceless wit these fiends!
The day wore interminably on. Towards noo the wind stiffened, dark clouds scurried up out the north west. By mid-afternoon the Bay wj covered with white-topped waves and a gale blov ing. He scrubbed on, working in a daze, swayin like a drunken man with the ship’s movement: Late in the afternoon one of the sailors, an ol fellow whose voice he recognized as belonging to on of those who had talked at the rail as he clung t the anchor chain the night before, brought hii some bread and a mug of wine. He had all but fir ished these when Babin came on deck and with a angry bellow kicked the mug out of his hand an
sent him spinning along the deck with a blow in the fací
“Name of God,” the sailor bellowed, “you waste to much time eating and drinking! Get to your work!”
But the food and drink had put new life into him and h went back to his work greatly heartened. By this time real storm had blown up. The waves were breaking ove him, drenching him to the skin, and once he was all be carried overboard by a huge wave. It began to grow dusl The storm continued to heighten.
Presently des Coutrieres and Babin came on dec together.
“We’re being blown towards the Acadie shore, Cap tain,” the one-eyed man declared, shaking his heac “And God help us if we get too near those rocks!”
“Perhaps we had better put into the Bay St. Marie fc the night,” suggested the Comte, who was plainly ill a ease.
“Aye, Captain, I don’t like the look of it, and the ol ship is not as seaworthy as she was.”
“About helm, then, and we’ll run around Isle Longu before the wind.”
By nightfall the ship lay anchored under the lee of Isl Longue, and an end came to D’Entrement's labors. “G below, fellow,” Babin barked at him, following the ordt with a savage kick. “You’ve learned all I can teach yo in one day.”
Aching in every limb the unhappy young man stap gered forward and down into the fo’castle, where the res of the crew were gathered eating their supper. The ol fellow who had given him the bread and wine that afte? noon made way for him at the table. Seating himse he devoured hungrily his share of the hot stew. After tl: table had been cleared the sailors began to play at die As he seated himself on the floor in the far corner of tl cabin and eyed them, one by one, he came to the regretfi conclusion that they were as fine a bunch of rogues r he had ever encountered. There was but one exceptioi the old chap who had twice befriended him, and who sí now a little distance away smoking a short clay pip Presently he began to sidle along the wall. Reaching tli other’s side he engaged him in conversation.
After a little he said in a cautious whisper: “You seer an honest fellow to be mixed up with such a crew as this. The old man shook his head sadly. “Aye, M’sieu, littl did I think when I joined them what I would have to g through. But, alas, what could I do? My farm failed an my children needed bread. And now I may never st
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“Courage, my old one! You are not as badly off as I am,” D’Entrement laughed ruefully.
“But, M’sieu, it is rumored among the crew that the captain is bound for France and will not return to Acadie again. They say he has made a great fortune at this business and goes now with the girl to live in peace and plenty. For these others it does not matter, but my wife and children are in Port Royal.”
“Diablel” murmured the astonished D’Entrement. “So the wind sits in that corner!” He grasped the old man by the arm. “Listen, my good fellow! I came aboard this ship to rescue Mademoiselle Poutrincourt from your villainous captain. I admit there is little chance of doing that now, but if there is, can I depend on you? If you will help me and we succeed I promise that you will return forthwith to your wife and family.”
“But, M’sieu, it is more than my life is worth! That Babin would hang me to the mast—the hell-fiend!”
“Surely, you will not accept your fate without a struggle!”
“I dare not risk a worse one. While there is life there is hope.”
“What is your name?”
“Tell me then, Jacques, will you do nothing to aid me? Will you not even tell me where Mademoiselle is kept prisoner?” “Aye—I will tell you that.” The old man took a stealthy glance at the other sailors, who were still engrossed in their dicing. “In the cabin below the deckhouse,” he confided in a stealthy whisper. “How does one get there?”
“Through the captain’s cabin.”
“Is there no other way?”
“No, M’sieu. The door at the end of the passage through the hold is locked.” “Where is that passage?”
“Without, M’sieu. One goes past the cabin where the crew sleep.”
“Listen, my good Jacques,” D’Entrement whispered eagerly, “I am going to stretch out here and go to sleep. Do you go presently and when the others have retired bring me a stout chisel.”
“But, M’sieu, it will be my death if I am seen!” exclaimed the other fearfully.
“You would sooner go to France and never see your wife and children again, Fardel?”
Torn between fear and desire the old man faltered.
“Name of God! is a man’s first duty not towards those he loves?” urged D’Entrement.
Shaking his head with misgiving the old man surrendered, moved away. D’Entrement crept back to his corner and stretching himself out on the floor went off, apparently, into a sound sleep. An hour later the crew gave up their game and rose from the table, and one of them, seeing the sleeping man, exclaimed with a laugh: “The poor devil may well take his rest. I would not be in his place for all the ships that sail out of Havre.”
They blew out the lanthorn and departedD’Entrement stretched his tired body with a quivering groan. He ached in every limb and stiffness was beginning to grip his muscles. He could feel his eyelids grow heavier and heavier, kept himself awake only with an effort. In the end he must have dozed off, for at the touch of a stealthy hand he started up out of the midst of an experience too terrifying to be other than a dream.
He became quiveringly awake.
“In God’s name take care, M’sieu!”
He waited, until the old man crept away. He waited a full quarter of an hour longer. Then off on his hands and knees into the passage without. He thanked God for the lusty snoring of the sailors, in which noise a slight misstep would pass unnoticed. Ten paces beyond the open door oftheir cabin he reached a barrier, thought at first it might be the door of which old Fardel had told him, but found a latch, with groping fingers, which unfastened readily. He pulled. A rasping creak, bringing his heart to his mouth, screeched above the sound of snoring, which ceased immediately. There were stirrings and mutterings in the cabin where the crew slept. He sank to his knees again, pressed himself tightly into the angle of the wall. Silence for a moment.Then the first raucous snore— then another. He drew a deep breath
of relief. With the greatest caution, now, he pulled again on the door-—slowly—as though it were a fragile strand holding him to eternity. The rusty hinges complained in an undertone, but the lusty rhythm of the sleepers down the passage continued uninterrupted. At last he was able to slip past, and with equal care drew the door to after him. '
Everything was now pitch-black and he could not see his hand before him. On he went on hands and knees. The silence was complete, his own breathing a great sound. The sweat poured from him. He was trembling in very limb. He seemed to be creeping with inevitable certainty toward the edge of an abyss, over which at the next move he would plunge. The distance was interminable.
“Name of God,” he whispered hoarsely under his breath, “this ship is a league long!”
And then his head bumped into something solid. It was the door; and running his hand up over it he found neither handle or latch. These must be on the other side, through that thick tough oak!
TN THE deck-house above, the^Comte
des Coutrieres and the one-eyed’1 Jean Babin sat drinking and playing cards. It was now long past midnight and »both men showed the effects of cognac. Nevertheless, Babin was not so drunk as his master, whose glass he had kept well filled. Even more obvious was it that he had been blest with the good-will of the cards, for a large pile of louis d’or lay on the table at his elbow.
Des Coutrieres flung down his hand with a curse. “God’s death!” he cried thickly. “You have won all my gold. I will play no more!”
“But, Captain,” laughed the other ingratiatingly, “there are ten thousand gold livres in your strong chest—and you still have the girl. Diable, if you care to stake her I will put up my full share of the plunder. It is three thousand, and—”
His face black with thunder, des Coutrieres pushed back his chair and sprang to his feet. “As God’s my life, Jean Babin,” he bellowed, “I’ll slit your dirty throat! The girl belongs to me-—me—I tell you!”
“Of course she does, Captain!” exclaimed Babin hurriedly, cringing under the other’s murderous gaze. “I was only making a game.”
“Make no such games with me! She’s mine, I say! The beautiful little devil is mine! . . . God’s death, I’ll go to her now! I’ve had enough of your damned insolence—and her haughty ways!”
Snatching one of the lanthorns he lurched unsteadily towards the companionway that led below. Babin watched him, his one eye narrowed craftily.
“The drunken fool!” muttered the sailor as des Coutrieres disappeared below. “I’ll have through with his bullying before we reach France! Clk!” He ran a dirty forefinger suggestively across his throat. “And then to the fishes with the Comte des Coutrieres! And the spoils to Jean Babin! Hah!”
That thought appearing to satisfy him thoroughly he crossed to his bunk and tumbled into it.
Staggering drunkenly along the narrow passageway the Comte came to a door, heavily padlocked. He had trouble inserting the key, fumbled and cursed for some minutes over it. When finally he stepped into the small cabin he found the girl fully dressed-— she had not dared remove her clothes—facing him in the opposite corner. There was anger in her eyes —and there was terror. She stood upright, head back, the slender body taut as a rapier.
Holding the lanthorn high so that its rays fell full upon her face, he leered at her. “Well, my pretty—” his voice was thick with wine and desire-—-“I have come to you at last. To-night Jules des Couttrieres reaps the reward of patience and boldness.”
“M’sieu! I ask you as a gentleman of France to leave this cabin!”
“Oho! You call me a gentleman tonight!” he laughed hoarsely. “Only the day before yesterday another name was on your lips! You have learned civility. Good! It but remains to teach you obedience.”
Hanging the lanthorn to a hook in the
beamed ceiling he lurched towards her. In his hawk-like face the cognac had set free all the malevolence of a dark nature. The bestiality of the man stood naked. Her hands clutched to her breast, the girl pressed back against the wall. She tried to pray—for an escape—but the petition froze on her lips. The Comte’s bulk seemed to fill the narrow cabin.
Suddenly, with a brutal laugh, he caught her by the shoulders. She fought -—like a fury—bit, scratched, kicked—but his arms circled her body, drew her closer. “Oh! . . . Oh!” she moaned as her strength gave way and his evil face drew nearer and nearer.
“Ah, my pretty,” he muttered huskily. “What the Comte des Coutrieres wants he takes!”
Her strength broken, her spirit wracked with horror, she shuddered, closed her eyes. Suddenly, she heard the breath of some swift movement. A thud! The loathsome grip loosened miraculously. She opened her eyes, stared wildly, incredulously. Des Coutrieres lay crumpled at her feet. Beyond, his face stillwhite with anger, the blade of a chisel clenched in his hand, Giles D’Entrement!
A smile quickened about his eyes; he stepped toward her. “It seems that I have come again at the proper moment.”
She shivered—and then as though for the first time she realized the anomaly of his presence there, cried out bewilderedly: “But, M’sieu—how came you here . . . I do not understand!”
“Hush!” he cautioned, for she had raised her voice. “We must not rouse that fellow, Babin. Nor is there time now to make explanations. Come! We’ll lock the Comte in here and then deal with his villainous accomplice.”
She followed him dazedly into the passageway. Was he real—or an illusion —locking the door there? Then his whisper: “You must remain here while I go above.”
Again she shivered. “But can I not help you? I do not like this dark hole.” She could not shake off the horror that had all but engulfed her.
He shook his head, pressed her hand reassuringly, and set off stealthily toward the steps down which a shaft of light came from the cabin above. Up these he went slowly and with the greatest caution until his eyes were level with the floor. With a swift glance he took in the drunken disarray of the place and the shadowy figure of Babin asleep in the distant bunk. With even greater care he began to ascend the remaining steps. He had reached the third from the top, when inadvertently his foot touched a small block of wood that went clattering below. He tried to dodge back out of sight, but was not quick enough, found himself caught by that one sleepy eye of Jean Babin, who had half risen in his bunk.
“Is it you, Captain?”
Suddenly the one eye opened like a saucer. An oath ripped from the sailor’s throat. In a single bound he cleared his bunk and landed, knife in hand, upon the floor. Realizing that to retreat further down the steps would place him at a great disadvantage, besides giving the other a chance to rouse the crew, D’Entrement sprang upward, landed at the top as Babin crossed the middle of the floor. As the oneeyed man leaped at him, his knife raised aloft, he dodged forward cat-like under the gleaming weapon before it descended. Dashing toward the door he shot the bolt, to prevent the other giving the alarm to the rest of the crew. He need not have worried. The one-eyed mate was of a very different kidney from his master, and had never in his adventurous life run from an adversary.
They faced each other across the table. D’Entrement tightened his grip on his chisel. With a laugh—evil, triumphant— Babin took a running leap, landed a-top the table, sending the empty flagons clattering to the floor. Once more he sprang. D’Entrement flung himself forward, swinging the butt-end of the chisel above his head. But he had not counted on the other’s cat-like agility or lightning swiftness of thrust, and staggered back against the door, his shoulder opened to the bone.
“Diable!” cried Babin, with a laugh of triumph, “the next time I shall find your heart, fellow! I was a fool not to let the Captain send you along the plank.”
Realizing full well that he could not risk many other thrusts like the one he had just received, D’Entrement shot forward.
The shrewd Babin gave ground. He kne' that he had wounded his man and detei mined to play with him until he weakenec Twice D’Entrement sprang, and twice hi chisel-butt fanned the air. Placing th table between them Babin circled slow! around it, while the other cursed him for coward. And then the sailor’s eye fell o: the Comte’s pistol hanging in its holster b the other bunk. He began to back slow! toward it, dragging the table after hin He had all but reached his objective be fore D’Entrement realized his intent. A his hand shot out, the wounded ma: reached for a chair lifted it high and flun it with all his strength. It caught th sailor fairly in the chest. He staggerei for a moment under the impact; let out ; bellow of pain and rage and sprang a D’Entrement, who had brushed the tab! aside. Once more they clashed, and for ; moment blow followed blow with in credible speed.
In the end D’Entrement received : paralyzing blow on the wrist from th handle of the other’s knife. His chise fell to the floor, rolled away out of reach Again Babin leaped for the pistol snatched the holster from its peg. Realiz ing that he dare not take the time tc retrieve his weapon D’Entrement tool two swift steps forward and leaped higl into the air just as the one-eyed mar drew the pistol from the holster. Too late the latter raised his weapon. In mid-aii D’Entrement’s long legs shot out in Í mighty kick, caught the sailor in the chesi and drove him like a nine pin back ovei the bunk. They crashed down together The pistol clattered to the floor. Dazec and half-senseless Babin tried to rise, bul there was a grip on his throat he could not break. Slowly his face grew purple. The strength oozed out of his body. He went limp.
Flinging the slack body over his shoulder D’Entrement reeled across the cabin and down the steps at whose foot the terrified girl stood waiting.
“The fates are with us again,” he muttered with a hoarse, breathless laugh. “Take the key—unlock the door . . We send the servant to join his master.”
They groped along the passage. He flung the still unconscious Babin into the cabin and locked it again. Then he proceeded forward to the door through which he had gained entrance to that part of the ship and fastened it securely. He joined the girl again with a low excited laugh. “There remains now the watch to deal with—and the crew!”
“Oh, M’sieu, I wish you did not have to face this further peril for my sake!”
“Sainted Lady, Mademoiselle, I face it for my own sake also! But we must hasten!”
They hurried up the steps. Taking the lanthorn from its hook in the ceiling he placed it on the floor and wrapped a blanket around it. Crossing to the door he opened it stealthily. The storm was passing, stars breaking through the thinning ranks of hurrying clouds. The deck was deserted. Turning to the girl he whispered: “I’ll be back presently,” and opening the door wider, slipped out. Closing it behind him he stood for a moment staring about. Suddenly he caught his breath, pressed back against the deck house. A shadowy figure leaned against the ship’s rail not twenty feet distant, staring out across the water. He began to creep toward it, slowly, cautiously. But as he did so he became aware of a disconcerting feeling of impotence. His strength seemed to be oozing out of his sinews, his knees knocked weakly together. An uneasy intuition that he might fail with victory in sight possessed him; he had heard stories of men failing within an ace of achievement. Name of God, he must not fail now! If he did his end was certain. Step by step he crept nearer the motionless watchman. He dared not even breathe.
Suddenly, when he was within a few feet of him, the other turned—let out a squawk. D’Entrement caught him by the throat in a grip of iron before he could defend himself, began to drag him back toward the cabin. He was astonished at the ease of his victory, for after the first struggle the sailor put up no resistance whatever. Was fate still withholding the hideous disappointment? Surely this victory had been too easy!
“Is it you, M’sieu?” the girl asked in an anxious whisper, as he drew the pinioned sailor in through the cabin door.
Continued on page 68
Continued from page 66 “Yes—the candle, Mademoiselle? I have my man!”
The light flared up.
With an exclamation of astonishment he loosened his grip on the terrified sailor’s throat. It was Jacques Fardel he had gone to all that trouble catching!
“Diable, my good fellow,” he cried, with a laugh of relief, “what luck put you on watch to-night?”
“No luck, M’sieu, but that devil, Babin,” replied the old sailor, rubbing his throat dazedly. “It was not my turn, either. He kicked me out of my sleep— kicked me up to the deck, the dog! But where is he? And the Captain?”
“Where they cannot kick, my old one! Secured and locked below! But tell me, are the rest of the crew in the fo’castle?” “Yes, M’sieu.”
“Good! I go now to keep them there! Stay with Mademoiselle!”
He dashed out to the deck again and forward to the fo’castle. A few moments later he returned and announced, chuckling: “I have battened down the hatch on them! To-morrow I’ll choose enough of
a crew at the point of a pistol to sail us to Port Royal. Eh, what a night-—what a night!”
Late the next afternoon two privateersmen lay side by side on the now calm waters of the Bay Française. From the deck of one, the great Pierre de Morpain stared in amazement at the young man and woman who were stepping over the rail from the other ship.
“Sainted Lady,” he exclaimed, an incredulous smile breaking across his broad features, “is this the fashion in which you join my crew, M. D’Entrement?”
“I fear, M’sieu,” drawled the other humorously, “that I am not joining you. I merely make a visit as one privateer to another. This is my ship alongside.”
“Diable! That ia the Comte des Couttrieres’ ship!”
“It was. It is no longer. He and his mate, Jean Babin, are due for a hanging when we return to Port Royal. In which case I become captain of L’Aigle—and Mademoiselle Edme, here, will be my mate. My mate, M’sieu, in a sense other than nautical.”