The Outlaw of Port Royal
‘Name of a Cocteau as Cocteau would have said, this swaggering outlaw, le Loup, exacted a sharp quittance
AND there was music! Port Royal had gathered that spring night of 1704 at the Governor’s House to fete the Chevalier’s niece, Mademoiselle Marie de Menou, who had arrived but the week before on the frigate from France. An event, you will agree, since Acadie was a young colony in which for every demoiselle there were well-nigh two gallants. Hail then to this new arrival, M. de Brouillan’s niece! A long sojourn in Acadie to one of so gravely sweet a face so generously sculptured a figure, so gentle a demeanor! To your fiddles, garçons! Nous danserons!
The Captain du Vignon came late, a tall, aloof figure in scarlet tunic and white breeches, in sword and ruff. A figure to catch the eye—even of those who did not care for M. du Vignon, of whom there were not a few in the town. For there was a something in his dark glance—a coldness: there was a something in his conversation—a 3ecretiveness; there was a something in his mien—a studied contempt, which dried up the wells of affection. One admired the unswerving ambition, the shrewd and unusual faculty of acquisition, and yet does one expect a true gallant to acquire in the devious manner of a notary or by the sword? Not by the sword had M. du Vignon laid possession of several fine estates in Acadie.
He paused in the doorway of the great ballroom to pay respects to the Chevalier de Brouillan and passed in followed by that old warrior’s approving glance. At that moment, a3 though to mark his coming, the music ceased; another dance was finished. Gallants and ladies gathered into chattering groups. Monsieur le capitaine stood within the threshold glancing about with the expression of one asking himself superciliously: “Where in this rabble can one find fit entertainment?” Ah! His eye sharpened momentarily. The Mademoiselle de
Menou, surrounded by a group consisting of Philippe Duchesne and those three members of the Circle of Blood the coureurs-de-bois Rene D’Ancoup, Andre Livarot and Henri de Brissac, stood by a window fanning herself. He made his way toward her, followed by covert glances from fair eyes as approving as the governor’s had been. Before the domination of his tall figure the group of gallants about the girl seemed strangely to disintegrate. He bowed to her — whose splendid height and proportions of all the women in that room seemed best to match his own.
“Ah, mademoiselle, this next dance will be the one you promised me.”
A whimsical smile twisted the gentle mouth of Rene D’Ancoup, who murmured in de Brissac’s ear: “Lo, the conqueror! Exit the Circle of Blood!” The fiery Henri had but time to draw himself up puffily and declare: “Diable, I stay!” when the Mademoiselle Marie exclaimed: “I have been rash with promises, m'sieu. These gentlemen—”
“It is to save you from further rashness I have come, mademoiselle.”
“M'sieu is certain, then, I promised him this dance. I do not seem to remember—”
“Lean on my memory—and my arm, mademoiselle. See, the music begins! Let us dance!”
He led her off from under the very noses of the other gallants, of whom Duchesne, scowling darkly, growled: “A murrain on his interference!”
“Did I not say, Henri,” drawled D’Ancoup with a laugh, “that we lingered uselessly?”
“Bah!” de Brissac, red-faced, twirled fiercely his little upturned moustachios, “that insolent one will intrude one day upon the point of my rapier.”
“And mine!” Livarot scowled after the tall officier who at that moment swept past them in the dance.
“See they are sharp,” cautioned D’Ancoup, grinning. “And in the meantime let us sharpen outwits against another such encounter with some cognac.”
They strode from the room.
Monsieur le capitaine, one must confess, could ingratiate himself upon occasion, as several could vouch who had put too firm a trust in his friendlier appearances. To Mademoiselle Marie he unbent, began, one way and another, to draw the laughter from her throat, to set her eyes a-sparkling with the lightness of a wit that had stood him stead in other manners of encounters than this. Enfin, he informed her that while she really had not promised him to dance he had felt that only through such a stratagem as he had used would it have been possible for him to enjoy the felicity of her company that night.
“And such a stratagem was fair?”
“In certain circumstances, mademoiselle, all things are fair. Here is such!”
There was a note in his brittle laugh and—now that she came to look fairly into them—a gleam in his eye that sent wariness chilling through her. One will beware, she told herself, of gentlemen in scarlet and gold who might take more than their own conceit for granted.
“Tell me, jnademoiscllc,” he was saying in great good humor, “do you continue to be as enamoured of this New France as you were at your first sight last week?”
“Even more so, m'sieu."
"You will get over that. You will come'to dream as I do of the day when you may return to the Old.”
“You dislike Acadie? But why do you remain?”
“For a reason. To live in Old France as I would one must have perquisites. In Acadie one collects perquisites. When the collection is complete one lingers not another day in this barbarous land.”
“Tell me, m'sieu,” she asked after a moment’s silence and with the merest suspicion of malice, “to gain those perquisites does one use also the philosophy of which one spoke but a moment ago?”
He started—did the color darken his swarthy features the lpast?—retorted with his brittle laugh: “There are some secrets I preserve even from you, mademoiselle."
Mademoiselle Marie laughed also, but with the inflection of one who has pricked an enemy at sword-play.
The music ceased again, leaving them somewhat apart from the other dancers to one side of the room. The hum of chatter that had suddenly swelled into crescendo as suddenly ebbed. There are moments when without reason voices are suddenly stilled—as though men had an instinctive warning of some passing portent. It was so in that room. And then, sharply, a barked command in the hall without. Those who had remained there throughout the dance came backing in, their hands above their heads. Little squawks of dismay rose from soft throats. Muffled curses dripped from the mouths of gallants caught unawares. And then, voila, came six masked men with levelled pistols through the door!
M. du Vignon, at the first sign amiss, had dashed towards the portal at the rear which led out to the piazza. Two levelled pistols held him up, a curt order sent him back into the room. Nor was he unconscious, on rejoining the Mademoiselle Marie, of her swift contemptuous glance, was about to assure her that he had but gone to rouse the garrison, when the leader of the masked band, who overtopped his followers by a head and had the shoulders of Atlas, exclaimed in a most amiable voice :
“One regrets, messieurs and mesdames, the necessity of this interruption. But one must live. I promise, however, that accident shall befall none who has the wit to keep the hands well elevated. MerciY’ he murmured suavely, as his hint was perceptibly taken,
“your assistance makes easier a distasteful task and rids you of me the sooner.
Now, my little ones—” he cautioned his followers—“a ready bullet for the first pair of hands that falter.
Come, Jean, the hat!”
Followed by a short, stout, strutting rascal he advanced with the most charming deference to where the Chevalier de Brouillan stood with the Notary Leblanc and M. Bonaventure, and slipped the three fine signet rings from their upraised fingers. Into the hat they went. The Sieur de Fronsac yielded a diamond much prized. M. Desjardins an emerald pin. Into the hat they went as though they had been copper pennies.
And then through the crowd at large, through the fingers and pockets of the impotent and furious gallants of Port Royal!
“Diable!’’ growled the red-cheeked de Brissac, as his purse was rifled of twelve golden louis and delivered back empty with a chuckled Merci, m'sieu,
“you shall pay for this, le Loup!"
“You know me then, little one?” exclaimed the amiable outlaw, as though to a child. “And I will have now to deal with the famous Circle of Blood? But beware the Circle of Death which I command! Ha-ha!
That diamond clasp in your neckerchief pleases me also.
Far too ornamental a bauble for a coureur-de-bois to strut. Merci, encore!’’
And so it went. But never a lady in that room did he filch of jewel or adornment and, diable, there
was a pretty display of such agitated bosom and [trembling finger! A highwayman of delicacy and sentiment, this le Loup. Aye, a strange depredatory fellow concerning whose identity, whose origins, or the manner of gathering of whose ruffianly band none knew. Five years before, the Sieur de Poubomcoup had been held up on the way to Grand Pré and robbed of two hundred livres. That was the first touch of this light-fingered rascal. Since then many another had smarted under his caress. A slippery one. Since half his band had Indian grandsires no Indian in Acadie dared betray him though many a band of braves had been sent to fetch him in. Even a platoon of soldiers had been sent to flounder in the woods after him following the occasion when under cover of night he led his band aboard the newly-arrived frigate, Victoire, overpowered the watch and without waking the ship’s company got away with five thousand louis consigned to the King’s Treasurer.
Enfin, he came to where Monsieur le capitaine du Vignon and Mademoiselle Marie stood by the wall. From the gentleman’s ring finger he drew a thick gold band in which smouldered a ruby. M. du Vignon’s face was livid.
“Ah!” le Loup gazed sardonically upon the gaud. “A pretty token to remind me of Arnaud du Vignon— who doubtless came as honestly by it as I do.”
A snicker rose among the raised hands, from those who remembered well the night du Vignon had won the ring dicing with a drunken master of ship, who in turn had gained it on the Spanish Main. Rene D’Ancoup chuckled into the ear of his tall comrade Livarot: “I like the
kidney of this fellow—would join his band for a sou,” when a sharp cry of warning shot from the soft throat of the Mademoiselle Marie. M’sieu the Robber had turned his back upon du Vignon, and in so doing came in the line between the levelled pistols of his masked men and the officer of regiment—who had drawn rapier. The girl’s cry swung him about. As du Vignon thrust he
leapt incredibly to one side and swish! his rapier was at the ready.
"Voila, m'sieu," he cried with a ringing laugh, “this is a pleasure I had not hoped! Arnaud du Vignon is brave drawing sword when his adversary’s back is turned. Is he so brave face to face with equal steel? We shall see, eh? En garde!”
'T'HE crowd pressed back, clearing the polished floor.
Timid demoiselles, shuddering, turned their faces to the wall. For the rest there was the eager eye of men and women who would not miss a step of this encounter between so redoubtable a swordsman as M. du Vignon and so compliant an outlaw as this le Loup. Even the Chevalier de Brouillan who, the good God knew, had reason to resent this intrusion upon his desmesne and indignity upon his person, watched the spectacle with the interest of a vieux sabreur.
They were well matched, of the same straight towering height, of the same sinewy leanness. And yet, to the amazement of every straining onlooker who knew full well the skill of his adversary, M’sieu the Robber bore himself with the utmost negligence, as though this were but the most trivial encounter. A tune hummed on his lips! A most disdainful smile twisted his mouth! And yet his wrist, though it moved with the sinister swiftness of a snake’s head, was a thing of rock, unbendable, unyielding. In vain du Vignon essayed trick upon trick, thrust and riposte, with which he had created his reputation at the sword. Steady as a tree he stood there, in one spot, swaying easily this way or that, and always that wrist of rock striking, striking—a rock against which each more furious wave of his adversary’s onslaught broke harmlessly. Du Vignon was dodging and leaping now like a great cat, the sweat glistening on his dark features, his mouth set grimly.
Suddenly the outlaw laughed—then ouist! Across the scowling forehead opposite a red line seemed to carve itself, became beaded with drops of red. Whiff! a vertical line down the left cheek. Snuff! another down the right.
“Sainted Lady?” laughed the tall Livarot to the Circle about him as du Vignon slashed furiously and as though instead of rapier he wielded bludgeon, “the fellow is a wizard!” Lufft! a horizontal line across the chin.
"Voila, messieurs, the square!” cried the laughing outlaw. “Within its carved outlines are lips that lie and eyes treacherous. But enough of sculpturing!”
His wrist turned a full circle. M. du Vignon’s rapier left his hand, rose in a gentle parabola, clattered to the floor at the very feet of the victor.
“Bravo!” yelled the impetuous de Brissac, forgetful of a filched purse.
“Bravo!” echoed a score of admiring throats, while the eager eyes of many a demoiselle gleamed unashamed tribute.
"Merci!" The victor bowed suavely, ironically. In rising he took up the rapier of M. du Vignon,
surveyed it interestedly. Ah,
a jewelled hilt! Pretty for display, du Vignon, but adding no advantage to the wielder in the duel. Here, Jean!” He tossed it to his rotund lieutenant carelessly. “I will keep it for further remembrance of Arnaud du Vignon.”
And then, for the first time, he seemed to catch sight of Mademoiselle Marie. It was as though she were a blow striking him. He straightened abruptly, his tall figure became rigid, he drew finally a deep ecstatfc breath. “Ah-h-h!”
And then he laughedlightly-boldly. "Made m.oiselle, although lam in
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your debt already for a warning, I would go deeper. One has yearned for the sound of music, the touch of a lady’s hand, and the dance. Alas, it has not been healthy to indulge the yearning. But, tonight—may I not have the supreme felicity?”
A gasp went up. Diable, here was effrontery! Then a chuckle somewhere. Then a great salvo of laughter from robbed and robbers. Mademoiselle Marie’s face lit daringly, her lips were eager. “But yes, M’sieu the Robber,” and she curtsied as though to a prince of the blood royal.
“Music?” demanded M’sieu the Robber ‘‘To your fiddles, garconsl And you, my little ones—” he swung upon his grinning band—“give me less attention than these others for the brief space in which I shall sojourn in heaven.”
There was again music. There was again dancing! That one could trip a step for all his talk of neglected practice! What a pair! This le Loup had none of the studied hauteur of M. du Vignon, none of the sententious pride. He was gay. His tall fine figure swayed as though his heart laughed with the music to which it kept pace. And the girl, with her rare sympathy, seemed to have caught the spirit that moved him; seemed to realize the gallantry and abandon of the highhearted in this outlaw. All too soon the fiddles ceased, and that hot-head, de Brissac, swung upon the players furiously, cursing them for their niggardliness. But M’sieu the Robber held up his hand with a laugh.
“Enough, messieursl I refuse to wear out my welcome.” He turned to the girl again, upon whose generous lips a secretive smile hovered, “Adieu, mademoiselle—a thousand thanks! Come, mes petitsl”
Prestol the masked band faded from the room—all but their leader who, in following them, paused to bow deferentially to the Chevalier, to exclaim, not without sincerity: “You are to be envied one priceless possession, Excellency. Guard it carefully from-”
That civility had cost him dearly. Like a lynx du Vignon had swept forward from the spot where he had been standing mopping his bleeding face, and none realized his intent until it was all but accomplished. He sprang. Too late the outcry from a dozen pairs of lips. M’sieu the Robber’s feet were kicked out from under him, he crashed down on the polished floor.
“The doors! Bolt them!” someone shouted, and then half a dozen leaped after du Vignon upon the fallen man, pinioning him to the floor. In a trice he was bound securely and dragged to his feet before the Chevalier. His mask had been torn off in the scuffle and for the first time the gentlemen of Port Royal saw the features of the outlaw who had dogged their doors with impunity for so long. They had not expected one so young in such a role. In spite of the black pointed beard that covered his face he looked little older than the oldest of the Circle of Blood. His eyes, fixed at that moment upon M. du Vignon, were chill with contempt. But he could still laugh fearlessly.
“M. du Vignon indubitably is resourceful when his adversary’s back is turned.”
Nor was he the only one who could laugh in that now silent gathering. From the Mademoiselle’s Marie’s throat came the ironic echo of his own, and her eyes rested with contempt upon the grim, bloody face of M. du Vignon.
But how swiftly changes the surface of the sea of human emotion! A minute before not three men in that room would have lifted a hand to stay le Loup. He had cast a glamour over the crowd with his gallantry; had tugged hard upon the heartstrings of romance. But he was now
a prisoner. Men could remember they had been robbed that night, and many a night before. They could view him now without glamour, as he stood pinioned between M. Bonaventure and the Comte des Conlrieres.
There came suddenly, just as the Chevalier was on the point of speaking, a sharp tattoo on the bolted door, a sharp cry: “Captain!” and again “Captain!”
“Away, Jean!” cried M’sieu the Robber.
“But, captain, are you—”
“Diable, you have heard me! Back to the lodge with you! I will join you soon!” He turned with an ironic bow to the Cheyalier. “Pardon the interruption, Excellency, but my little ones do not understand why you and these gentlemen should have become so enamoured of my company.”
“Excellency,” broke in du Vignon curtly, “have I your permission to make up a guard from your guests and conduct this fellow to the dungeon?”
M. de Brouillan lifted his shoulders— seemed to regret that on him rested such a decision—replied:
“Pray do so, Monsieur le capitaine.”
But with the passing of M’sieu the Robber passed also the gaiety from that place of dance. In vain music and wine. Regret, wandering like a wraith through the house of the Chevalier, touched lovely face and tugged at gallant heart. The Mademoiselle de Menou was heard to reproach more than one of her partners of being party to an ungallant act.
Indeed, so considerable was her displeasure that although she had been in the town but a week she took opportunity the next morning of returning to Clements with the Sieur de Fronsac, whose dead wife had been her father’s cousin.
"DUT her departure was not the only ^ sensation to which Port Royal awoke the next morning. There had been ugly rumor in the colony that summer concerning leakage to Boston of our affairs in Acadie. Two fur ships, whose departure for France had been kept a great secret in order to circumvent the freebooters of Boston, fell, one after another, into the hands of a squadron of enemy privateers under circumstances that could not be explained by coincidence. And then Pierre Comeau, who had escaped but two weeks before from a New England prison, brought tidings that the Colonials there knew the exact disposition of the town’s defences; that not a ship leaves or enters the port without their knowledge; that an expedition may set out against Acadie before the summer is done. Voila, when the person of le Loup was searched in the dungeon by M. du Vignon and his orderly a purse of English sovereigns and a letter from the Governor of Massachusetts were found on him!
The fellow was straightway brought before the Chevalier at court martial. Confronted with the facts he stoutly denied his guilt. But in face of the overwhelming evidence M. de Brouillan could do no other than sentence him to be hanged at dawn. Those who had been inclined to criticize the stratagem wherewith M. du Vignon had brought about the capture were now pleased to change their tune and there was a general feeling throughout the town that they were being rid of a thoroughly bad and dangerous character.
TT cames then, that dawn of July 2nd, A 1704. In the first dim light the Ensign du Saillant led his party of sleepy soldiers ' across the fort square toward the dungeon. They had got within a score paces from it when the sentry on the Bastion du Roi, who had been roused from the lethargy of watching by the sound of their tramping feet, suddenly let out a wild shout. In a moment he
was like one demented, gesticulating crazily and pointing down the harbor. The Ensign, only too willing to put off his unpleasant task in the face of any diversion, joined the fellow on the ramparts. An exclamation of dismay escaped him as he, too, realized the significance of that incredible scene breaking through the mists of morning. The harbor, above the Isle of Goats, was alive with ships of war and transports, from which already troops were being landed on both shores. Port Royal was besieged!
Here was no time to bother about the hanging of an outlaw, however deserving. Du Saillant sent his men off to rouse the garrison, hurried himself to the Governor's House. Did ever a town wake quicker than Port Royal that morning! Presto! the ramparts were manned; the first volley booming from guns trained on the enemy ships. Messengers were scurrying into the banlieu to give warning and bring in the able-bodied men to bear arms. A mounted scout was dispatched to Clements to fetch back the Mademoiselle Marie. What a day! Guns banging from the bastions of the fort. Guns banging from the ships in the harbour. Grenades dropping into the town where all was confusion with the bustle and hurry of preparations for defence. In the afternoon the scout who had been sent to Clements returned empty-handed; he almost had been captured by the enemy advance guard which had already invested the Seigneury.
The prisoner’s reprieve was short. When M. du Vignon learned that the executii n had not taken place he cursed du Saillant roundly and went at once to the Chevalier, who agreed that the deferred event should take place without fail the following day.
Night came. The ceaseless booming of guns from the bastion above came to an end. The outlaw slept; he might as well do that as anything since there remained now no possibility of escape. In vain he had attempted to climb the corner of the cell to the air shaft above. Even had he been able to do so there was the iron grating set in masonry. He had thought to overpower the sentry that brought his food that evening, but the fellow came accompanied by an armed soldier. Better sleep then. But suddenly, in what seemed to him the dead of night yet was but little after sunset, he found himself on his feet in the middle of the cell rubbing his eyes and staring bewilderedly into the face of Monsieur le capitaine du Vignon!
“You have a strangely easy conscience, my good fellow,” remarked Monsieur le capitaine," to be able to sleep on a night like this.”
“Easier than your own, du Vignon, since you do not seem to be able to do the same,” retorted le Loup, shrugging.
“Tchut! I will sleep in good time. Perhaps I remain awake merely to save a likely devil from hanging.”
“And perhaps to torture such a one.”
“You wrong me. I come not to torture but with a proposition.”
“I do not care for the propositions of Arnaud du Vignon.”
“Not when such might save your neck?”
Although le Loup shrugged with a great show of indifference, his senses were strung to their tightest, and his glance clung to the other’s eyes.
“Listen, my good fellow, before you refuse it. It is necessary that I get a message to one who will be waiting at the willows across the Riviere L’Equille at midnight. Short handed as we are in the fort I cannot spare a single man from his post and the coureurs-de-bois are engaged in a sortie on the north shore. Here is a chance to redeem yourself, to prove that you are a true son of France. I will see that the Governor has a pardon for you on your return. Which shall it be— redemption or the rope?”
Conjectures scurried hither and thither through the outlaw’s brain. As sure as thereremained the scars of a bloody square
on the face of his vis-à-vis he knew that he could not pin any fond hopes on the prospects that were being held out to him. Arnaud du Vignon had no interest in his redemption. And, moreover, why was he, the accused spy, being trusted with so important a communication? Suddenly a solution seemed to present itself. Ignorant of the fact that she had gone to Clements, lie imagined he saw the hand of the Mademoiselle Marie in this. Perhaps she had interceded with her uncle, the Governor, that this chance be given him! He searched du Vignon’s face for a clue. It was blank. What treachery crawled in the brain behind it? Yet, though the other had probably arranged for him to meet death on this business, he must take the chance. Better that than the rope anyway.
“I will go,” he informed du Vignon.
“Excellent!” The other’s too obvious satisfaction gave him another uneasy pang. “I will take you from here to the glacis leading down to the river. The tide is full and you must swim across to the Clements side since there is no time to go around the head of the river. When you meet the messenger at the willows challenge him with the words: Qui sait\ If he is your man he will reply: Je seuil Give him this letter and go with him. He has his own orders. Have you understood?”
“Then come—but quietly, for the sentries are nervous tonight and will fire at the least provocation.”
So that was it! Those nervous sentries! He would get half-way down the glacis, then, presto! a volley of lead in the back. And then a fable in regret to tell the Mademoiselle Marie.
They were moving towards the door. Suddenly the clenched fist of the outlaw shot out, and M. du Vignon went down in a heap, overturning the lanthorn which was extinguished. In a trice he had stripped the unconscious man of sword, pistol and dungeon keys. Hurrying through the door he pulled it carefully shut after him and turned the lock. Then up the flight of stone steps, and out through another door, which, with the greatest stealth, he also locked. Slipping the key into his pocket with a chuckle he exclaimed softly to the darkness that lay under the star-strewn heaven: “We shall now investigate more fully the honorable intentions of Arnaud du Vignon!”
He crept to the top of the ramparts hugging the earth and wormed his way past the group of huddled soldiers on the bastion some thirty feet away, whose muffled conversation he could just hear. Then down the steep bank into the moat, along it on hands and knees a hundred yards, up the other bank. He was now at the top of the glacis leading down to the narrow strip of marsh, beyond which the L’Equille gleamed under the stars. Lights dotted the harbour where the enemy ships lay at anchor. Camp fires glowed dully above Clements. He crept down the slope. Reached the swampy marsh. Pushed his way through grass waist-high.
He was within a dozen paces of the river when without warning a blur of dark figures leapt at him. So this was du Vignon’s trick! Assassination! He struck out blindly at the nearest assailant, sending him hurtling backwards. Again he struck, snatched du Vignon’s sword from its scabbard and was lunging forward when the hoarse cry: “Name of a Peacock, it’s the captain! Back you fools!” brought him up sharply.
“Diable, is it you, Jean Cocteau?” he demanded incredulously.
“Aye, captain, we were just on our way to the dungeon to get you out. Thank God you managed it alone, for it was a job we had little liking for on a night like this. We have the big canoe here, and it’s my opinion we should be off at once and up the Dauphin River if we’re to be rid of the town without encounter.”
“Aye,” agreed the others, “let’s out of this!”
“A moment, my little ones. We have business to transact first. Take me across the L’Equille.”
“Name of a name, Henri Thibault, another word and I’ll slit your noisy throat!” growled le Loup, “Come!”
They slipped noiselessly across the strip of water, drew the canoe into the grass and le Loup led the way over the wide marsh towards the willlows at the foot of the Mont du Sud. They dropped presently into a shallow depression. Here le Loup halted, gave orders to strike a guarded light.
Jean Cocteau unfastened the lanthorn that hung to his fat waist While the band huddled close about him le Loup tore open M. du Vignon’s dispatch, proceeded to read it. A rasping laugh escaped him. A most interesting letter indeed! Addressed to the Colonial commandant, Colonel March, it assured that officer that all had been done as arranged; that the force holding the mill at the head of the L’Equille was a weak one, and that the approach to the town from that direction could be further weakened if Monsieur le colonel would arrange a divertissement on the north shore of the harbour just before dawn. There was a further enquiry which interested and astonished the outlaw not a little concerning Mademoiselle Marie de Menou who, the writer declared, was one of the household of the Sieur de Fronsac, and should be treated with the consideration due to the fiancee of one who had always been so much Monsieur le colonel's humble servant. The strange communication closed with the information that the bearer of it was a most dangerous character whose speedy dispatch would be most desirable from every standpoint.
Le Loup turned on his companions with a grim laugh. “We have a rendezvous, my little ones. Come!”
But it was no longer at those willows he would hold rendezvous! Turning about he led the way at the run back to the hidden canoe, which presently was on its way down the harbour towards the distant light of waning campfires.
THE sentry who stood close to the privet hedge in front of the house of the Sieur de Fronsac was weary, and leaned heavily upon his grounded musket. Perhaps he dreamed there of some cottage in the New England hills. Perhaps he merely nodded with blank mind. Suddenly the earth seemed to rise behind him. Before he knew where he was he was entangled in that dark moving mass. Something clung to his throat shutting off his wind. He was being borne silently away.
In a wood half a mile distant he at last found himself bound to a tree, face to face with a band of men. He was being asked questions by one of them who spoke his language execrably, but made his intent clear. How big a force are you? What heavy ordnance? Is the siege to be pushed at all costs? He answered grudgingly, warily, his eye constantly on the tall one who directed the questioning and held a cocked pistol across his folded arms. Had he heard of a young French lady who is of the household of the Sieur de Fronsac? Was she still there? In what room? Are there other sentries about the house? When is the guard changed? Enfin, he found himself alone, still fast to the tree—gagged—yet thankful that a knife had not been drawn across his gullet.
Then again at the privet hedge. A wriggling dark line, a gigantic snake, seemed to make its way through the hedge and across the lawn toward the house of the Sieur de Fronsac. Without a sound it reached the stone wall. There was a muttering as low as the wind, le Loup growling: “Diable, there is not a tree on this side of the house near that window? Who can climb a perpendicular wall?”
None it seemed.
Le Loup cursed silently. Here was a fine
to-do. Fifteen feet above the open window and the girl. She might as well have been on one of those stars that dotted the purple sky.
“Captain,” whispered the rotund Cocteau helpfully, “I once saw a human ladder. There were three men—on their shoulders two—on theirs again—”
"Saint Sepulchrel Up—to it!”
Then what might have been an ivy vine clung against that blank wall. And then le Loup was climbing.
In the room all was still. He drew himself in. No sound but bis own quick breathing. She rests peacefully in all this war, he thought, and moved toward the bed. His band groped out. Touched the warm flesh.
"M ademo isellel"
Thunder of Jupiter! A form leapt up. A harsh thick voice demanded answer. That sentry, then, had not been without wit and courage! For the instant le Loup had the feeling of one dropping suddenly from a great height; then, gathering himself together, sprang. There was a scuffle, a muffled bellow, the sharp thud of a pistol on an unguarded skull.
Rising from the prostrate form le Loup was so undone he doubted his knees would support him another instant. Cursing the sentry who had so misled him he leaned against the wall breathing heavily, until the strength came back into his limbs. Never in his life had he received so thorough a fright. But what to do? He dare not wander through the house from room to room risking such another encounter as he had just passed through. Nor was there time to go back and wring the truth from that deceiving throat.
Had the scuffle been heard in the rest of the house? He listened intently. Not a sound. Crossing cautiously to the far wall he felt along it until his hand encountered the latch and opened the door. He thrust his head out into the hall. Empty. Heart still thumping uneasily he tried to come to some decision as to what to do. Whatever it might be it would have to be completed with dispatch, for that unconscious officer might come to himself again at any moment.
A sudden sound without! He drew back from the door, held his breath, Across the hall a door creaked open. A figure, wavering and indistinct, appeared in it. It came on—towards him! Saint Sepulchre, he must—no, it was turning down the hall. He breathed a sigh of relief, which ended in a gasp. He had caught a clearer glimpse of that figure, from some unaccountable source of light; the merest glimpse as it passed out of sight. In a flash he shot noiselessly into the hall. His hand found a mouth, his arm swept about a suddenly tense figure. He dragged it back into the room, shut the door quickly, whispered with urgence into an ear close to his mouth: “Do not cry out, mademoiselle! It is I, le Loupl Do you understand! I, le Loup, have come to take you back to Port Royal. Le Loup, the outlaw, Mademoiselle!”
The struggling ceased. It was she then! He placed her on her feet, removed the gagging hand. “Come,” he whispered, drawing her toward the window, “my men are waiting below.”
TT was the first grey streak of dawn. 1 Rubbing his dry eyes the sentry at the head of the Riviere L’Equille stared intently through the thinning darkness. The roar of the mountain stream, plunging itself into the tidal waters below, seemed to deaden even his sight. Yet surely he had seen movement in the trees on the further bank. He drew his musket up, held it ready. Yes, there it was again!
“Halt! Who goes?”
Dark figures halted on the farther bank. “Friends!” a ringing voice replied. And then the tallest had picked someone up in his arms—diable, a woman!—was wading through the rushing water breasthigh.
Le Loup had taken the overland route from Clements because of an unhappy accident following the rescue of Made-
moiselle Marie. Hardly had they reached the ground below that bedroom window when a wild roar devastated the silence about them. The English officer had come to himself, was giving warning! Too late then to return to the shore, since they must skirt the English tents on the marsh. They had dashed into the forest at the foot of the Mont du Sud, come overland. At least they could give warning at the mill of the intended attack at dawn. Le Loup had hoped to reach the place while it was still night, in order to get a message into the town in time to have relief sent. It was too late for that now. The sky was growing brighter every minute, and he knew that the enemy force lay only a half mile below— had indeed all but stumbled into their rearguard a half an hour before.
He informed the girl, while the sentry went to wake the sleeping garrison, that she must make her way alone mto the town, three miles away and warn the governor. “And with speed, mademoiselle," he added “if reinforcements are to arrive before we are overrun!”
“But m'sieu—” she seamed entirely unwilling to go—“would it not be better if we all returned to Port Royal. If you are lost here the defence of the town is that much weakened.”
“On the other hand,” he assured her gravely, “we may teach these besiegers such a lesson here as will discourage them from going further. What is more, I doubt my services would be kindly received in Port Royal. Go, mademoiselle —at once, I pray you.”
She went regretfully.
Le Loup now turned Upon the sîeépÿeyed and thoroughly uneasy garrison who had come hurrying from the mill; a dozen soldiers, unofficered, whose eyes turned longingly towards the town.
‘‘Voila, mes braves,” he informed them, “you shall spill blood this day! You shall—”
A cry from the sentry who had returned to the bank of the stream. They come! Over the crest of a hill not a quarter of a mile away a line of redcoats was advancing.
“Into the mill!” cried le Loup,
“But, m'sieu,” protested one of the soldiers, “we are only a score of men to hold this place against so many. And Monsieur le Capitaine du Vignon gave us orders last night that we were to retreat to the town if attacked by a superior force.”
"But I am n&t M. le Capitaine du Vignon. Into the mill!”
“Aye!” bellowed the fat Cocteau, bringing the butt of his musket across the fellow’s rump, “Name of a peacock, I’ll scatter the brains of the first man who questions the captain’s orders.”
THEY talk yet of the Battle of the Mill wherever Acadians have gone. For three hours it raged, until the mountain torrent ran blood. Death spat from every loophole in the old mill. Time after time the besiegers, under the covering fire of a company in reserve on a hill on the other side of the river, made the ford and got within a hundred yards of its stout walls. The intervening ground was dotted with their dead and wounded. And death and wound took toll in the mill also. In an hour there were but thirteen defenders at the loop-holes. In another hour four more were hors de combat. Nine survivors—le Loup himself with a bloody scratch across his left cheek; the rotund Jean Cocteau, calling in vain in the name of a peacock for that relieving force from town; three of the outlaw band and four soldiers.
Yet another wave of red-coats came surging through the stream.
“Give them lead!” roared le Loup hoarsely, as they came clambering up the bank.
“Name of a peacock,” wailed Cocteau, flinging down an empty pouch, “I have no more ball. And we have emptied the pouches of all the dead and wounded.”
Le Loup turned from his loophole on the little band. A sorry crew they looked faces blackened with powder, sweat and clotted blood; disheartened, broken, firing their last rounds of ball. He fixed his eye again to the loophole. The nearest wave of redcoats was but a few yards from the mill, another was forming on the farther bank of the stream.
“Come,” he cried, swinging about, “we’ll give them the butt! After me, mes braves'.’'
“Aye,” Jean Cocteau’s face lightened eagerly, “we’ll give ’em the bludgeon! Come on you rats!”
They unbarred the door, swept out through it.
Surprised at the suddenness of their appearance the line of redcoats wavered. "La France'.” bellowed le Loup, and his rapier found sheath in the nearest breast. The ferocity of those rats! Nay, not rats, but tigers. Le Loup's sword was a shaft of lightning. The butt of Jean Cocteau’s musket swung like a battering ram. The line of red began to disintegrate —to move back. But what use! Reinforcements were already clambering up the bank to stiffen their ranks.
“Name of a peacock,” puffed Cocteau, with a lugubrious gesture of despair, “we cannot hold back a whole army!”
Suddenly, as le Loup was on the point of leading them into that last hopeless charge, a wild shout broke behind them. The battle cry of the Circle of Blood! Men were pouring out of the Port Royal trail, sweeping wildly down about them, crying: Le Roil Le Roil”
AT five o’clock that afternoon there was a most interesting gathering at the Governor’s House. At the table sat the Chevalier grave-faced; beside him the Notary Leblanc and M. Bonaventure. To one side M. du Vignon stood between two soldiers. Facing the table, le Loup. Behind him the officers and gentlemen of Port Royal.
“Excellency,” he was saying, “it is my beard that has deceived you. If it were off—and it will be before to-morrow— you and many here would recognize me. You will recall that five years ago one, Leon de Neuvillette, Baron de Becancourt, was deported from this town on a frigate bound for France, because, in addition to being a drunken wastrel, he had repudiated a debt of honor. I am Leon de Neuvillette. But I did not go to France, Excellency. When the ship was sailing out of La Heve I jumped overboard in the darkness and swam ashore. I came back to Port Royal to prove to the world that one to whom as a youth I had yielded trust and admiration was a treacherous hound. To prove that the gentleman who kept my glass full while he diced with me, had lied when he told you at my trial that I had repudiated a debt. I do not propose to excuse my conduct in the last five years. I had to live, Excellency, and it proved an interesting way. Here is the letter concerning which I have spoken to you. It confirms my charge—namely, that Arnaud du Vignon has twice falsely accused me, that he is a traitor who would sacrifice this town and his honor for the gold an enemy had promised to pay him on the fall of Port Royal. Aye, Excellency, the gold which he declared he found upon my person the other day he had himself received from the Governor of Massachusetts.”
That evening a beardless gallant approached the Governor’s House and was admitted with ceremony. There was much ceremony in Port Royal that night, since the scouts had brought in news that Monsieur le colonel March, having been misled concerning the strength of the town’s defences, was re-embarking his troops. Perhaps that little affair at the mill—
Enfin, this beardless gallant, M’sieu the Robber, was engaged privily with the Mademoiselle Marie. One has stated that he robbed not the womenfolk. Diable, he had stolen a lady’s heart in those unregenerate days!