The Path of True Love
A Port Royal gallant's joust with chance has a decidedly droll ending
THAT ridiculous youth, Gilbert du Pre—though I assure you, messieurs, one would not so have characterized him in his hearing at that time, he being but nineteen with a hand that fell readily to his sword-hilt—stood beneath the high balcony of Sieur Edouard St. Clare’s house in Port Royal, singing of Lady Fair, That he was no singer anyone could have told who listened to him that June night in the year of our Lord 1697, and yet two things saved his song; the flamboyant accompaniment which he played upon his lute, and a certain ironic tenderness in his voice.
None seemed to listen. The Rue St. Antoine was deserted— even the balcony above was deserted. Two songs already had mewled their way up to the glimmering stars before he began this, the third, which was of his own composition, and designed to suit the exigencies of the moment.
‘O Lady Fair, though roses red May glisten in your cheek,
What can I care—’
What could he care? Messieurs, from the very heavens a deluge of water seemed to descend.
“Name of a pumpkin!” ejaculated our troubadour, leaping out into the road to drip there like a duck.
A silvery laugh came mocking out of the sky. He glanced up. On the balcony, now stood a slim, white figure, a large pitcher in her hand.
“Dear mademoiselle—” he made a most ironic bow—“I do not ask your tears—it is your smile I seek.”
“Go away, foolish boy!”
The fluty voice was uneven with laughter. “I thought it was a cat mewling under my window. Away with your hideous noises!”
“But, mademoiselle, it may be my voice is better suited to conversation than the serenade.”
“Perhaps, then, if I whispered my message! Wait! I will come up.”
“Gilbert! You shall not!”
If he heard that indignant protest he paid scant heed. Dropping his lute he took a short quick run and leaped. His slim body shot into the air. In a trice he had clambered over the balcony rail, was standing before her.
“Denise—” there was a breathless ardour in that word—“I would climb to any height where you made heaven. I would—”
A sudden smack across his cheek silenced him. The least dazed, he saw her white figure disappear into the house, the window bang behind her.
“Name of a pumpkin!” he ejaculated, crestfallen. “There is a thorn in that rose!”
For a further moment he stared reproachfully at the closed window, and then swung down from that place which might have been heaven to the certain earth below. Picking up his lute again, he shook the remaining drops of water from it, slung the ribbon over his shoulder, and strolled away, humming softly the reconsidered ending of his unfinished song:
‘What can I care for flowers on which I may not even peek?’
Reaching the end of the street he turned to the right —in the direction of the hostel of Henri Theriault, where at least there could be found means of salving the pricks of thorns.
YEOILA, now, messieurs, this lute-playing songster, * entering that place of revelry where nightly the gallants of Port R.oyal gather to make merry in a new world! Of the slim figure one has spoken. He is of middle height, and wdth that proud grace that goes with youth. His ingenuously young face is eager and flippant, with
something whimsical about the wide, humorous mouth, and snapping black eyes. You do not expect so much sophistication of the irony that beads his smile. You do not expect the unassailable self assurance—amounting almost to effrontery—in one so young.
Into the hostel he steps with a swagger, crashes his fingers across the strings of his lute, and announces loudly: “Bon soir, messieurs! I am arrived!”
The gentlemen gathered in a group about the counter, and those scattered at the tables turned and with one accord; burst into a derisive but good-natured laugh. This droll Gilbert! He cannot even enter the hostel of Henri Theriault without as much pomp and circumstance as if he were the Dauphin!
He is used to laughter. Striding magnificently to the counter he joins the laughing gallants and flings a golden coin upon the boards.
“Wine, Henri,” he cries, “for a throat that is parched from singing of love! Or have you drink for such a throat?”
“What of milk?” suggested young Rene D’Ancoup, the coureur, in his gentle drawl.
“Hark to Grandpere Rene!” cried the troubadour, unabashed by the roars of approval D’Ancoup's remark had called forth. “Milk for cautious old men? Cognac for the love-parched throat! Fill the glasses, Henri!”
“Some day, my little one,” exclaimed the huge corsair, Pierre de Morpain, his eyes twinkling indulgently, “you will step on the devil’s tail and he will kick you—whouf!” He made pantomime to express the total annihilation of M. Gilbert du Pre.
“But, my good Pierre,” remarked a gentleman, who
had but a moment before entered the hostel, “one may be slapped—whouf!—without annoying His Satanic Majesty. One may receive so well merited a rebuke by merely climbing to a lady’s balcony!”
It was the Baron Arnaud Lavergne.
He stood on the outskirts of the group, his dark handsome head thrown back, his teeth gleaming derisively beneath the short-clipped black moustache.
“Eh?” cried Comte Louis de Merlaine eagerly, sensing an entertaining story, “What is this, Arnaud?”
“Perhaps, M’sieu le Baron,” M’sieu Gilbert suggested coolly, “it would be safer for you to drink my cognac than divulge my secrets.”
A derisive howl went up from the gallants. It w-ould be safer for M. le Baron, w’ho stood a half-head taller and whose well - muscled body dwarfed the slim figure of his vis-a-vis. It was to laugh!
“But surely any antics that Master Gilbert du Pre insists upon performing in the Rue St. Antoine where any may see are public matters,” exclaimed the Baron with a shrug.
“It is not always wise to make public all that one sees—even in the Rue St. Antoine.”
“Ha! Ha!” roared the great Pierre. “There is a mystery here we must be told of! Come, Arnaud, lay this young cock’s pride before we drink his cognac!” “Aye!” agreed the others laughingly.
“It is the general desire, then?”
“I have warned you, M’sieu le Baron!” spoke the troubadour, with a shrug.
The Baron Arnaud Lavergne threw back his head again and chuckled.
“Voila, then messieurs,” he cried; “it is the tale of a bold lad who w-ould serenade Sí AS his lady! One strolled to-
night not long since along the Rue St. Antoine when the sound of strange music fell upon one’s ear.’ ‘Was \ it an ass braying at the
' moon?’ one asked. One
drawls nearer. It is a troubadour wdth a lute beneath a well-known balcony. Is music then a key to unlock hearts? Take warning that it is not, messieurs. For presently what does one see? A slim figure creeping stealthily through a wdndow to that balcony. In her hand a pitcher. She empties it suddenly upon the minstrel below—drenching him fairly! Does he take then this hint that his music and his presence are undesirable? Have we ever known him to take a hint? Like a monkey he leaps to the balcony, clambers up—to receive wdiat you all must agree was his desert, a sound smack upon the face, ere the lady retired. Such is my tale, messieurs! And now let us drink the minstrel’s cognac!"
Again laughter echoed through the hostel, the corsair’s rolling above it like jovial thunder. It came, however, to an abrupt end as M’sieu Gilbert stepped coolly forward and brought his glove across the Baron's face.
“Diable!” muttered the coureur, Andre Livarot, “Has the boy gone mad?”
“Perhaps,” drawled that boy, “you are be.tter at taking a hint than I, M’sieu le Baron!” Flinging his lute upon the counter he ripped out his sword. “En garde, m’sieu!”
For the moment—while the gallants murmured uneasily—it looked as if the Baron Arnaud Lavergne wmuld accept the challenge. His features had hardened,
his hand fallen to his sword. But suddenly a smile broke from beneath the clipped moustaches. “I will not fight,” he exclaimed good-humoredly. “Sainted Lady, I have my pride!”
“C-craven!” stuttered M’sieu Gilbert furiously.
The baron shrugged. “When you have grown to manhood I will—”
“I am no boy!” M’sieu Gilbert whipped his sword through the air, stepped angrily towards the other. And then perhaps it was the low rumbling laugh of Pierre de Morpain, perhaps a swift intuition risen from his pride that halted him. “As you will, M’sieu Ie Baren.” The old irony was in his voice which nevertheless carried a glacial undertone. “When I am grown to manhood you will fight with me. I make haste to grow. In the meantime might you not put a limit upon the number of years that I must add to mine before reaching that great eminence of manhood upon which you stand so derisively?”
The titter that followed this query broke into a roar as the baron retorted with a suave shrug: “Shall we say ten years—-at your present rate of growth?”
“As you will! But, name of a pumpkin, be prepared, for I shall make a laughing stock of you without fail! In the meantime—•” M’sieu Gilbert bowed quizzically— “permit me the pleasure of offering you cognac!”
“Sainted Lady,” laughed the great Pierre, “I like the kidney of this impudent young minstrel! Beware, M’sieu le Baron, lest he discomfit you before those ten years have gone!”
CANFIN, then, messieurs, though Port Royal chuckled with delight over this story of a singer who was slapped, it made scant difference in that youth’s swagger. He went his way with the same nonchalance, the same air of supreme confidence.
But think not he bore discomfiture without heart-burning; that his pride failed to suffer. Scant comfort to him in the knowledge that as that piquant and wayward beauty, Denise St. Clare, had treated him, so had she treated others—including even the Baron Arnaud Lavergne. He must find vindication. Voila, then, messieurs, this resolve of M’sieu Gilbert, made in that week before the governor’s Fetel He would tame the proud spirit! In some manner he must turn laughter from himself to others—and always there lurked in the back of his mind his ultimate adversary, the Baron Arnaud Lavergne. Name of a pumpkin, that one must trail in the dust!
In the days of the Chevalier de Brouillan, messieurs,
Port Royal was gay. King Louis seemed yet to feel that we were a New France worth the winning. There was money in the colony. There were bold young men and fair young women, high adventure, high hopes, and all the great to-do of empire.
And every year there was the Chevalier’s Garden Fete.
Such a spectacle! The scarlet of uniforms, and the more subtle colors of silks and brocades veritably dimmed tree and flower. A gay July sun overhead. The bird? singing. The ships on the broad harbor alive with bunting. The Mont du Nord a line of shimmering purple.
Manly raillery, and the peal of lovely laughter. The flash of jewelled sword-hilt; the flush of radiant cheek. Helas, we grow old and those days are no more!
With the wane of afternoon, the group of gallants grew steadily around the Mademoiselle Denise St.
Clare—to the heartburnings of other fair ones. And which of those buds in the rose trellis before which she stood could match the beauty of her eighteen summers? Her
tongue, swift as a rapier, leaped out to pierce through the unwary remark. Her laughter was a riposte that drew blood to gallant cheek;. What a confidence, messieurs, radiant beauty lends the tongue of woman!
Until then, M’sieu Gilbert had been notably absent from the charmed circle. For that afternoon he was displaying a fine catholicity of taste, wandering from maid to maid, and murmuring with his airy impudence all manner of flattery. Little Edme Fortier, to whom the fates had not been generous with beauty, and who later entered a nunnery, had never listened to such words, and long after he left her the flush lingered in her plump cheeks. That aquiline old dowager, Madame Ernestine Bourgeois, shook her stick at him and cried out: “Silence, you bare-faced impudent! Fie, on you, telling such lies to an old woman of seventy-eight summers! My cheeks have not had roses these thirty years! Off to some silly girl with your saucy tongue!” Yet when he left her I swear there was the faintest pink in her wrinkled face.
Finally, he had made the rounds. Some twenty feet away stood the group of gallants about the Mademoiselle Denise. With a superb indifference he raised his lorgnette to his eye and stared at them as though at some unusual phenomena. They caught sight of him, turned, and the laughter died slowly on Mademoiselle’s lips. Having thus accomplished his purpose he dropped the lorgnette, took snuff exquisitely, and, with all the aplomb in the world, strolled towards them.
“Ah,” he murmured, “the bees gather honey from the fairest flower! . . . Or do they merely buzz around it?”
A chuckle rumbled up out of the huge bulk of Pierre de Morpain, and the Baron Arnaud Lavergne smiled cynically. Among some of the others, however, there
was annoyance at M’sieu Gilbert’s remarks; nor did the Mademoiselle Denise appear wholly pleased.
“I see,” she remarked icily, “that you have had your clothes dried, M’sieu.”
The gallants laughed. Mademoiselle would deal effectively with this impudent!
“I see,” retorted the impudent amiably, “that you continue to keep the gentlemen of Port Royal dangling in agony, mademoiselle.”
The flush of annoyance rose hotly to her cheeks; there was a restless movement of irritation among the younger of her attendants. “Back to your school of manners and learn how to converse properly with a lady!” she bade him.
“Ah, mademoiselle, if you would only undertake that teaching as I have so often urged! Methinks that I might learn. Methinks also,” he proceeded after the barest pause, “that I might teach! Presumptuous, is it not, messieurs? And yet if the lesson I would teach were learned it would save each of you a torment of uncertainty ; for I would teach mademoiselle her duty towards you!”
He swept the group of gallants with a quizzical eye.
“I shall attend to my own duty!” retorted the girl.
“In the meantime you keep us all, including even this humble adorer upon the rack! Surely you know, ere this, that each and all of us seek but one guerdon. Yet we achieve nothing. Even the great Pierre de Morpain, even the proud Louis de Merlaine, even that gentleman of fortune, M’sieu le Baron Lavergne, have failed to win the laurel. Do you owe us then no duty in that we honor you? Do you owe us no duty of decision? Why should you not—” he paused to take snuff again, while the gallants stared with uneasy consternation, and the lovely face of Mademoiselle Denise St. Clare darkened ominously—“set some trial for us, the winner to gain the guerdon, which we all seek?”
The Mademoiselle Denise stamped her foot, but before she could speak, her father, the portly Sieur de L’Equille, who had joined the group unnoticed, exclaimed with a chuckle: “Diable, you young cockerel, I like your proposal! It smacks of a solution to a state of affairs of which I grow daily more weary. Messieurs, is there no romance in you that you look askance at Gilbert’s suggestion? And you, Denise, do you not accept this opportunity of testing the fibre of these gentlemen?”
The girl tossed her head angrily. With alacrity the gallants drew themselves up. “We are ready, M’sieu St. Clare, for any hazard,” declared the Baron Arnaud Lavergne.
The Sieur de L’Equille turned upon his daughter. “Do you_name it then, Denise!”
With contemptuous, halflidded eyes she swept the group about her; her glance resting in the end on the Baron Arnaud Lavergne. Did she resent in the least the web that fate was drawing about her? Her eyes gleamed suddenly with malice.
“May I name any hazard, father?”
“Of a certainty, that is your privilege, my child.” “Very well then. My sister Anne is held prisoner in the house of M. Hathaway in Boston, where the English took her when they captured the frigate on which she was returning from France. The gentleman who rescues her, and brings her home, will be my choice.”
The gallants gaped. What impossible hazard was this? France at war with England and the harbor of Boston guarded by a dozen ships of war! Pierre de Morpain flung up his great hands; he could not pass that cordonTn
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his privateering sloop. The gentlemen of the Circle of Blood shrugged despairingly; they were coureurs-des-bois, and the sea not theirs to sail. The other gallants likewise were landsmen. Eh, it was an impossible hazard, as that spirited girl had well known when she named it!
Gilbert du Pre doubled himself up, and laughed until the tears ran down his cheeks at the discomfiture of his rivals. “Name of a pumpkin, here is a pretty picture of dejection!” he cried. “Diable, messieurs, have you not a smile left with which to cover your chagrin?”
It seemed they had not, and the Sieur de L’Equille sighed regretfully; “It is a perilous hazard, messieurs, but I would to God that one of you might bring my daughter home to me.”
The Baron Arnaud Lavergne bowed gravely. “I shall do my best, m’sieu, to fulfil your wish. I accept mademoiselle’s hazard willingly and with gratitude.”
Did those disdainful eyes gleam the least tenderly as they clung for an instant to the Baron’s splendid figure? I was not watching closely,messieurs, for that young swaggerer, M’sieu Gilbert, was at the moment declaring that he, too, proposed to accept the hazard, and my laugh was as derisive as the others.
A/f’SIEU GILBERT did not grace the occasion with his presence. He cooked different fish! While others danced, he made ready for sea a sailingboat he owned, a crazy little craft in which he used to amuse himself coursing the harbor, and out into the Baie Française—though it was ill-suited to the latter waters. Yes, messieurs, that mad boy intended sailing to Boston after the Mademoiselle Denise’s younger sister! It was long past midnight before he finished his work and leaving the little craft secured to the steps by the King’s Quay made his way to his home. There he stealthily procured food and accoutrement. On his way back to the quay, he passed several hilarious parties homeward bound from the Governor’s Ball. Nor did he fling greeting at them in his usual fashion, but, hat drawn well down j over one eye, slunk past in the shadows. A half hour later the ebbing tide was carrying him seaward.
Messieurs, from the entrance of the
Harbour—out through which he sailed just as dawn was reddening the east—one can just see the opposite shores of the Baie Française ten leagues distant if it is a fine day. It was our bold sailor’s intention to cross the Baie at this point and proceed thence along the coast to New England. In this way he would maintain touch with land in case a storm blew up. He headed that pitiful craft towards its destination. The off shore wind filled his sail. Perhaps it was another hour before he secured the tiller, and opening the canvas bag at his feet laid out food and wine upon the seat beside him. He was on the point of conveying a slice of cold beef to his mouth when a sudden laugh that startled him swung him about. At the entrance of the tiny cabin, a few feet distant, appeared the face of the Baron Arnaud Lavergne, upon which a most amused smile was playing!
“I note with some satisfaction,” remarked the apparition, “that you have had the shrewdness to bring plenty of provisions, my good Gilbert. It is well; for I have a hunger of considerable dimension.”
“Name of a pumpkin!” ejaculated the dumbfounded master of the ship; “how came you here?”
“By the sheerest luck, Gilbert,” replied the other, seating himself amiably and reaching for a slice of beef. “I was on my way home from the Governor’s Ball last night when I saw a suspicious looking character traveling into the town. I turned and followed him. There was that in his behavior, and the bag he bore, which intrigued me mightily. When he reached the quay all became clear. He was off in search of the Mademoiselle Anne. ‘Diable, I said to myself, T will accompany this fellow and lend him aid.' Fortunately this was possible without argument, since our master mariner left his ship to get another rock for ballast. 1 slipped aboard from behind the pile of timber where I had been lurking -and Itere I am, my brave buccaneer!”
M’sieu Gilbert found the Baron’s laugh most disconcerting and sat for some moments staring at him perplexedly. Here indeed was a complication he had not planned upon !
“M'sieu leBaron,’’ he exclaimed at last,
■“there are two things I might do. I might heave you overboard—and I might about ship and return to Port Royal. On mature thought I shall do the latter.” With which words he swung his helm about, and headed the craft back.
“There will be laughter in Port Royal when I tell of this.” The baron’s eyes gleamed shrewdly.
“Listen, my good fellow,” continued the baron ingratiatingly; “it is true we both seek the Mademoiselle Denise’s hand; it is true that in this matter I have reaped where I have not sown. But, after all, there is the Mademoiselle Anne to consider—and the sorrow of her good father. Let us forget our rivalry for the time being and work together for the greater good. Two heads are better than one. Furthermore, I speak the English tongue —a fact that will go far to ensure success when we reach New England. When we return, the Mademoiselle Denise shall choose between us—surely that is fair.”
M’sieu Gilbert stared hard at the speaker. For all the lofty appeal of the arguments to which he had just listened he had no illusions as to their disinterestedness.
He swung the helm about again with an uneasy laugh. “Very well, M’sieu le Baron, we go together.”
“Excellent fellow!” cried the other cordially. “Let us broach this bottle of wine and drink to success. May the best man win!”
And yet, as they drank, M’sieu Gilbert could not altogether rid himself of the suspicion that M. le Baron had tricked him again.
U'ORTUNE favored the brave, mesL sieurs. Late that afternoon they reached the other shore of the Baie, near the mouth of the Riviere St. Jean and' headed westward. Three days later, as the day was drawing to a close, they came within sight of the mouth of Boston Harbor. That night under cover of ■darkness, they slipped past the cordon of guardian frigates, and entered a small heavily wooded cove in the South Bay.
It had been agreed between them that the baron, because of his knowledge of English, should proceed at once into the city and reconnoitre. He would return as expeditiously as possible, and they would go together to attempt the rescue. But, as he sat at the boat’s stern in the darkness, it seemed to M’sieu Gilbert that he had been persuaded into playing a very secondary part in this adventure. Name of a pumpkin, he had allowed himself to be cajoled by that smoothtongued Lavergne! After all, what did a knowledge of the English tongue signify ■anyway? He knew that the Mademoiselle Anne was billetted in the house of one, M. Hathaway, in the Rue Tremont. What then? Supposing his wily rival were to effect the rescue without him! Such knowledge without a doubt would reach the Mademoiselle Denise’s ear—and then how would he, Gilbert du Pre, fare? Diable, he had been a soft-head to remain on the boat!
Voila, now, messieurs, an hour after the Baron Arnaud Lavergne had gone into Boston that night our M’sieu Gilbert hies hot-foot after him! Of Boston he knew only what he had learned the night before leaving Port Royal from an old sailor out of Pierre de Morpain’s privateer, who ha 1 once been held prisoner there. But did Champlain know more of Acadie when he first sailed westward out of Rouen?
Without adventure he came to the Rue Tremont which at this hour—it lacked something of midnight—was all but deserted. Hurrying along it he came at last to the narrow alley which led off from it a quarter of a mile short of the church. Along it a score of yards and, voila! he has clambered over the high stone wall into the garden beyond— which is the garden of M. Hathaway’s house.
Lights gleamed in two of the upper
windows. As he stood there waiting palpitantly in the shadow of a tree, whose branches overhung the roof, one of them went out. How near that prize lay! Diable, yes! And yet, staring at that dark mansion, a sudden wave of impotence swept through him. Now that ne was there what could he do? He could not enter the place and wander from room to room seeking the Mademoiselle Anne! He could not bawl out in the darkness the reason of his coming there! While he stood irresolute, the point of light in the other window flashed out. A moment later the shutters were softly opened, and a face appeared. Name of a pumpkin, the face of a girl! He all but called out, before he realized that there might be other girls in that house than the one he sought. What to do then? He cast about desperately and his eye fell on the trunk of the tree beside him. If he could climb it, and get along the branch which overhung the unshuttered window! At least he would be nearer his goal and a closer glimpse of that face might reveal some familiar feature!
So cautiously he climbed that he made no sound above the rustling of tne wind in the leaves, and it took nim at least twenty minutes to work himself along the overhanging limb, which dropping slowly under ms weight, brought mm almost opposite the window. Wnat was his dismay then to discover, just as he reached the position from which he could glimpse that face, the nearest shutter being drawn to. He flung all caution to the wind with a hoarse whispered -.“Mademoiselle!”
A breathless moment while he could have bitten off his tongue for risking so greatly. Then the girl’s startled: “Mon Dieu\”
“Mademoiselle Anne,” he announced, in a hurried whisper, “I have come to snatch you from these English. My boat waits in the South Bay. Make haste, I pray you!”
“But who are you?” she demanded, the sharp note of suspicion in her voice.
“Gilbert du Pre, of Port Royal.”
“Gilbert! Is it possible?” She stepped nearer, peered into his face. “But you are grown into a man! I would not know you!”
He laughed under his breath. “I will have you tell that to the Baron ; but come, mademoiselle, there is not a moment to lose!”
“But, Gilbert, I must dress!” She drew back from the window in sudden confusion.
Clinging there to a limb of tree and sill of window a smile of great satisfaction wreathed the impudent face of that M’sieu Gilbert.
A breathless voice whispering in his ears: “I am ready , Gilbert!” cut short these pleasing reflections. In another moment her arms clasped tightly about his neck he was swinging her to the tree limb, then they were below and hurrying through the garden. Over the wall! Along the narrow lane towardstheRue Tremont! Suddenly, within a few paces of the latter, Gilbert drew back and pressed the girl close against the wall. Immediately a group of men passed by in the Rue beyond. He drew a startled breath, stared wide-eyed. Sainted Lady, messieurs, three soldiers were bearing off captive the Baron Arnaud Lavergne! This fact and its significance the young man conveyed to the girl in a hurried whisper, and bade her remain where she was until he returned. He dashed out of the alley.
The Baron was being marched between two of the soldiers, who held him tightly by the arms, and behind came the third with fixed bayonet. At this fellow M’sieu Gilbert made and crashed him to earth with a blow upon the head from the butt of his pistol. The groan of the falling man brought his comrades about with a start; at the nearest of whom the young man sprang. At the same moment the baron, realizing the situation, wrenched
himself free of his captors; drew his rapier. Once again M’sieu Gilbert’s pistol rose and fell, and the second luckless soldier, so hampered by his musket that he could not defend himself, went down like a ninepin. The third, thoroughly unmanned at the loss of his two comrades and the presence of two foes, decided wisely on flight. With a wild shout for help he dashed down the Rue.
“Diablel” gasped the astounded baron, gazing incredulously at his rescuer. "How came you here?”
“By the grace of God and the use of my wits, M’sieu le Baron,” replied M’sieu Gilbert with an ironic bow. “But come! That fellow is raising a hue and cry and the Mademoiselle Anne waits us yonder.”
“The Mademoiselle Anne! Tchut, this is no time for jest!”
Perhaps M. le Baron spoke thus to hide his chagrin. In any case he soon learned the truth. But by this time the Rue Tremont was in a commotion, voices rising everywhere, and lights appearing in erstwhile darkened windows.
“Messieurs,” cried the girl, “if your ship is in the South Bay I know a quick way there. It is a walk I take every afternoon.”
“Show us that way!” urged M’sieu Gilbert; “for we have no time to dally.”
They dashed back along the narrow lane at whose end was a low stile which led over into an open meadow. Less than half a mile distant loomed the clump of trees about the narrow cove where their boat lay. By this time the city was in an uproar behind them, but they escaped, thanks to the girl’s guidance, without their direction being discovered. A few minutes later,, the sailing-boat was nosing out of the cove to catch the puff of breeze that sent her flying off into the night.
T WOULD have a different tale to tell -*• but for that storm, messieurs. For three days the voyageurs traversed a blue untroubled sea. The time, except for a certain shortness of rations, passed pleasantly enough. M’sieu Gilbert enlightened the hours with music. Yes, messieurs, the ridiculous fellow had taken his lute with him on that journey. Absurd songs he sang which brought the ready laughter from the Mademoiselle Anne’s throat. But I have not yet spoken intimately of that one! A word then.
The petite, messieurs, are so often gifted with wit. Mademoiselle Anne had wit, and a most ready appreciation for that droll fellow’s absurdities.
The storm, messieurs! It came, one might say, out of a clear sky. Early that morning they had reached the mouth of the Riviere St. Jean, and M’sieu Gilbert had turned the boat’s bow southward in the direction of Acadie. They had in fact come within sight of the great gap in the Mont du Nord when suddenly, out of a cloud that had been ascending in the north-east, the wind swooped down with a savage roar. The little craft well-nigh capsized, and from that moment onward was in constant peril. The wind heightened. The waves rose within an hour to mountain peaks. Her one sail tightly reefed, the little craft shot down incredible slopes and swept up heights whose summits seemed in the very heavens. But they were being driven westward, and it soon became plain that they could not make Port Royal harbor. M’sieu Gilbert therefore laid a course for the gap between the Isle Longue and the Mainland which leads into the Baie St. Marie, and after some hours of adventure such as none of that trio wished to encounter again, made safe anchorage.
In the morning, which dawned bright and fine, the master of ship discovered that their water keg, which had apparently been flung to the bottom of the cabin during the storm and the bung knocked out, was empty. It would be necessary to fill it again before they proceeded, since, though the distance to the mouth of Port Royal harbor is but
twenty miles, one can take no chances in the Baie Française, The boat was therefore, run close into shore where, on the mainland, a brook could be seen burbling into the Baie St. Marie, and M’sieu Gilbert waded ashore with the keg under his arm. Judge his consternation, messieurs, when on returning from that brook, he saw his boat, its sail bellying under the light breeze, making off through the gap into the Baie Française!
Mademoiselle Anne, who had descended to the cabin to arrange her hair, had no inkling of the Baron Arnaud Lavergne’s intention until she mounted to the deck again. Seeing then that they were putting out from shore, she exclaimed with surprise: “But has Gilbert returned, M’sieu le Baroni”
Lavergne smiled grimly. “No, mademoiselle, we sail to Port Royal without him.”
“Without him!” exclaimed the bewildered girl, “But I do not understand!”
It was then that the baron informed her of the reasons surrounding her rescue— which she learned now for the first time.
“It is imperative, mademoiselle,” he assured her finally, “that I alone bear you back to Port Royal, since I have determined that nothing can stand between myself and Mademoiselle Denise. You need have no fear concerning our young friend’s safety. It is a short journey overland to Port Royal from where he is.”
Anger—contempt—flared suddenly in the Mademoiselle Anne’s grey eyes. “For shame, m’sieul” she burst out. “It was Gilbert who rescued me in the first place —and you also! Had it not been for him you would be in prison in Boston now! How can you be so unfair?”
“In love and war, mademoiselle, all things are fair,” retorted the baron suavely. “The conditions your charming sister laid down in no way debarred such a subterfuge as I have used. It is the man who brings you home who wins the prize. I will be that man—that very happy man, mademoiselle.”
AND M’sieu Gilbert? There was, dx nothing left him to do but make his way ignominiously on foot in the direction of Port Royal. His way, as you well know, messieurs, lay first along the tenuous peninsula four leagues, and thence a league across the low neck of land which separates the head of the Baie St. Marie from Port Royal harbor. He had travelled perhaps two-thirds of this distance, his brow furrowed by the tracking of innumerable grave thoughts, when suddenly he halted in his tracks, flung back his head and let out a great laugh.
“Name of a pumpkin!” he cried with glee, with which cryptic oath he plunged forward at a faster pace than he had been making up to that time.
It was shortly after noon when he reached the Indian encampment near the harbor’s mouth. M. le Baron has not yet sailed his argosy in from the Baie Française. Our M’sieu Gilbert sends, therefore, by Indian courier a letter to the Sieur de L’Equille, couched in the following characteristic terms:
‘Before nightfall M. Gilbert du Pre will arrive at the King’s Quay with the Mademoiselle Anne St. Clare.
Borrowing a canoe from the friendly Chief Onandijwik, he then paddled out into the harbor. He had little more than an hour to wait ere the sailing-boat came clipping in from the Baie. At her helm the Baron Arnaud Lavergne turned upon his still contemptuous companion to remark: “Our troubles are now ended, Mad>mciseUe!”
She merely shrugged. It was not until some minutes had passed that her eyes fell and rested incredulously upon an object ahead. Her laughter pealed out. “M’sieu congratulated himself too readily!” she
cried. “See!” She pointed at the canoe that was now not more than a quarter of a mile away and directly in their path.
“Diable'.” growled the baron, his face darkening with annoyance.
He brought the boat closer into the wind, hoping thus to slip past the craft ahead. But, prepared for such a manoeuvre, M’sieu Gilbert, changed his course and held his point of vantage. Realizing finally that he could not pass the canoe, the baron hurriedly secured his helm, and loosing one of the oars which were lashed to the deck, took his stand on the side of theboat to which thecanoe must approach The two craft came together. When they were within a few yards of one another M’sieu Gilbert ceased paddling. Suddenly and swiftly the Baron’s oar descended, would have crashed through the frail bow, if M’sieu Gilbert had not with a swift stroke swept clear. The oar splashed into the water close beside him, flinging the spray up into his eyes. He leaned out, grabbed the blade before the Baron could pull it in. At the same instant the girl, who had loosed the tiller, gave it a sharp tug. The boat swung about so quickly that the baron, who was making a frantic effort to drag the oar out of Gilbert’s grasp, lost his balance; over he plunged into the water.
In an instant the young man was master of his own ship again, and bringing it about he bore down again upon the baron who was swimming towards the floating canoe. Around and around that gentleman he circled, shouting ironic words of encouragement, until M. le Baron had clambered aboard the other craft.
“Voila, M’sieu le Baron,” he cried finally, “he laughs best who laughs last! But I have a forgiving disposition! I cannot bear grudge against you. Here! Catch this rope! Make fast and I will tow you to Port Royal.
Messieui s, at sunset that evening the entire population of Port Royal was waiting on the quay and excitement bubbled like wine. For upwards of half an hour a tiny sail had been seen making its way up from the Isle of Goats, and finally when it was but a quarter of a mile away, and its occupants could be clearly seen, a great cheer rose from the waiting crowd. It swept in to the quay steps. Eager hands reached out to make it fast. What a scene that was, messieurs'. Old men in tears. Young men raising a mad din of bravos.
But M’sieu Gilbert was not to be denied his dramatic moment. Clasping the rescued girl by the hand he stepped ashore and mounted the steps. As he came face to face with the Sieur de L’Equille, whose usually jovial face was quivering with emotion, and at whose side stood the
Mademoiselle Denise, he bowed flamboyantly.
“I have the honor, M’sieu, to fulfil my written promise! Herewith, your daughter.” He swung upon Denise St. Clare, in whose lovely features strangely mingled feelings warred. “Mademoiselle, I have accomplished the hazard you set.”
Another wild cheer rose from the already hoarse-throated gallants. “Bravo, Gilbert! He wins the prize!”
But the troubled eyes of the Mademoiselle Denise had fallen upon the draggled figure of the Baron Arnaud Lavergne, who was at that moment ascending the quay steps. “M’sieu,” she turned impulsively upon Gilbert, in allow hurried voice demanded: “You share this honor then with the Baron Lavergne? You rescued my sister together?”
Truth hovered for a moment on that young man’s lips—hovered—and died. He laughed—so lightly—as though victory mattered nothing. “You wish it then, Denise, that he should share the honor?” The answer was writ so plain in her pleading eyes, in her cheeks, to which the color flooded.
“Messieurs'.” Our Gilbert swung upon the crowd with splendid reproach. “Where are your cheers for the Baron Lavergne, who has shared equally with me in this adventure? Without his aid we would not be here. A bravo, then! A dozen bravos!”
Messieurs, if you could have seen the face of the Baron Arnaud Lavergne as that cheer went up! If you could have witnessed the sudden indignation of the Mademoiselle Anne St. Clare!
When silence fell again the young man turned to the Sieur de L’Equille, and there was once more that ironic gleam in his eyes. “M’sieu,” he declared, “this raises a delicate question. There are two winners of this prize—and the prize is such that it cannot be shared. Have I your permission to retire and leave the baron what is more his right than mine?” The crowd gaped. While gratitude gleamed, star-like, in the misty eyes of Denise St. Clare, her father, bewildered, exclaimed: “You amaze me, Gilbert” M’sieu Gilbert flung back his head, and laughed most merrily. “Voila, messieurs,” he cried, “it is a matter so droll, this! I go to win one prize and I win another! Behold, the Mademoiselle Anne St. Clare, how she blushes! Is she not a prize—with your permission, M’sieu St. Clare—splendid enough for any man?” There was a moment of startled silence on the quay, and then, led by that giant, Pierre de Morpain, there arose such a tremendous laugh, Messieurs, as still echoes in my memory. Eh, that Gilbert!