The Ambitions of Jean Latour
A romance of Old Quebec where Life was an Adventure and Love a matter for swords
SEE, mon père, more gold in one season than you have saved in twenty years!”
Merrily Jean emptied the stained pouch of its coins till they lay in a yellow pool upon the scrubbed table-top.
“Oh! More than enough to fill the cedar box,” Nanette gloated, as she ran her fingers through the shining pile.
“You have done well, my son, this year,” Marie Latour nodded in satisfaction. “The saints must be with you in your adventures.”
“The saints—and the Indians,” Jean said, glancing at his father.
André Latour drew upon his pipe and, through a cloud of smoke, nodded approvingly.
“A good season,” he said deliberately'.
“Excellent, mon père, with tir beaver crawling to us to be killed and the English eager with their gold to buy all that we had. An excellent season, veritably.” “And now the box,” urged Nanette.
Since she had been a chit of a girl, the yearly stowing away of Jean’s gold had been the one bit of mystery in her life. She remembered, ah! so well, when Jean first had gone away to hunt in the woods. He had been in the service of the seigneur before that, good old Monsieur de Marny, who had taught him how to balance long columns of figures, to keep accounts, and to barter for the stores of the manor house and its family. Besides, Jean had found time foi the seigneur’s children on their excursions upon the river and in the woods. He had taught Mademoiselle de Marny to handle a paddle like an Indian girl, and kept Claude, her impish twin, out of reckless adventure. In return the seigneur had treated him almost as a son, albeit in Jean there had been bred a hot intolerance of his humble lot, and his love for the land and its sweetness in the circling seasons, was the love of possession, not the love of service.
But then Hortense de Marny, too full by far of hoydenish fun to suit her ambitious mother, had been sent to France. She needs must have a strict social discipline under a fashionable aunt in Paris.
It was after this that Jean had seemed to change, to grow restless and ill at ease, but when he had hinted at his plan to join the coureurs des bois his father had raised objections. Old André had set out the disadvantages, the anger of the seigneur, the punishment, fines, prison, even the galleys, if the adventurer happened to be caught in the breaking of the law. But in the end, he had capitulated.
“You are a man,” he had said soberly, “and must choose your own way.”
'T'HAT had been five years ago. Each year since thèn, A Jean had come cautiously to visit his home, and each year old André had pried loose the stones that hid the cedar box beneath the hearth. At first there had been only a few loose coins in the box, and a whip—a broken whip with a silver handle. But each year the earnings had grown and now the box was well-nigh full of gold.
Jean and his father were on their knees now, lifting one familiar stone after another, until the cavity was disclosed and the box was raised.
“It will not take them all,” said Nanette, gleefully, “unless you take out the old whip.”
“No,” said André stoutly, “the whip remains.” And so, although the box refused the gold, the broken whip stayed.
They made a feast day of it and sat around Jean to hear the news, his own adventures and the adventures of the sons of some of their neighbors. Jean did not tell them all, of the recklessness and debauchery of some of them, of the wilful waste of their outlaw gold upon the fripperies of the frontier towns. They would hear enough to rouse their anxieties as it was. The pictures he painted for them were full of romantic adventure.
“And tell me, Jean,” asked Nanette eagerly. “Have you seen aught of Tête Jaune yet?”
“Tête Jaune?” Jean packed his pipe deliberately. “Who is he?”
“Oh, Jean, you must remember him! Last year I begged of you to keep watch for him. Perhaps you have seen him and did not know it was he. He is so wonderful, Jean, I would give much for more news of him.” Nanette’s face fell in disappointment.
“Tut, child,” said her father. “You are looking for gossip now. More mad tales are told about the fellow than ever, my son, and if even a part of them is true we have indeed much to thank him for. He has, so they say, discovered much of importance about the English and the Iroquois and informs the governor. But we should not talk of what he does. Strange, though, that you hear nothing of him in the woods.”
“We are not much concerned with the governor,” smiled Jean knowingly, “except to avoid his officers. But what care we for Tête Jaune. Tell me about Nanette? Has she a sweetheart yet?”
Nanette blushed rosily, and in the banter Tête Jaune was forgotten.
Jean slipped out of the house and down toward the river. Sitting on the shore and tossing pebbles into the water idly he told himself he was no longer content with the dream that had followed him on his adventures, the fair-haired wraith, sweet, spirited, saucy, if you would; a woman with whom he could quarrel occasionally for the ecstasy of reconciliation. Somehow, his picturewoman was not like any of the girls who had grown up in the neighborhood about. Some of them were sweet, most of them were faithful and loyal, but the woman who had travelled in fancy in his canoe and shared his campfires was not of the fields. He smiled at his own musing, shook off the mood and returned to the house. He must go, he told them, to see the capital. He had seen it only once, and now, on a whim, he must see it again. No one tried to prevent his departure, for they stood a little in awe of him, with his imperious ways and his mad schemes.
JEAN, still in his buckskins and fringed leggings, leaning against the corner of a stone house on Place d’Armes, was unconscious of the stares he provoked.
Even in a town where men of force and health and energy were common coin, the bronzed Jean was startlingly interesting. But unaware of that, Jean amused himself with the parade of society. He looked the gentlemen over whimsically, detail by detail, admiring this, rejecting that. This he would have when the time came, this color, that cut; so would he wear his hat, or carry his gloves. Even his unaccustomed eyes disapproved of a tall youth who came into the square in a full, wine-colored skirted coat, with enormous cuffs, embroidered and turned back over his ruffles. His lace was a little longer, his cravat a little higher than those of any of the others; his strut a little haughtier. A crowd of boys in boisterous play ran into his way, and Jean heard his petulant protest.
“Back, back! impudent dogs,” he was saying. “Have a care that you do not touch me.”
They broke into, snorts and chuckles behind his back as his high red heels tapped off over the cobbles.
“Who is he, the pretty fop?” asked Jean of a bystander.
“The Marquis de Montelat, the idle fool,” returned the man. “Come out to claim the seigneury of his father, so it is said.” He stared after him. “And to marry Mademoiselle de Marny,” he concluded.
Jean stared at the man.
“Is Mademoiselle de Marny in Quebec?” he asked.
“Since last September,” said the stranger.
“And that cursed little popinjay . ?”
The man nodded, poked Jean in the ribs and passed on.
Jean’s chin set in a rigid line. That coxcomb ! Hortense de Marny! That lovely, spirited, golden girl . . .
He jerked himself out of his trance and turned about to the open door of the inn. Hortense and Montelat. The manor house at Montelat standing open to the winds, its mill crumbling, its fields a tangle of weeds. He saw those walls whole again, the fields golden with wheat, herds of red and white cattle browsing in the green meadows down by the St. Lawrence. He saw Hortense moving about from room to room, prompting her maidservants, commending a woman at the loom, peering from the wide doorway up the road, waiting for . . . him. Luminous, enchanting pictures. Jean dropped into a seat, staring at his clenched hands. He wanted them both—Hortense, and the seigneury de Montelat.
The innkeeper had to speak to him three times before he heard him.
“Jean Latour, as I live,” he was saying.
“At your service,” said Jean, wrenching himself back.
"In love?” grinned the man. “You had no ears for me.”
“With whom, mon vieux? I have not talked with a woman for a year. But tell me, Jacques, what of this painted Marquis de Montelat who comes to Quebec?”
“What would you know? He came out, as all the city says, in the footsteps of Mademoiselle de Marny, newly come from Paris. The affair of his father’s seigneury is an excuse. And Mademoiselle despised him.”
“Then he will return to France, and good riddance.”
“Mayhap. I am not so sure. Mademoiselle has changed.”
“Yesterday she was seen with him at the Chateau. She danced with him. All Quebec is amused.”
“And what say your gossips? Will he settle upon his father’s seigneury?”
The man looked curiously at Jean.
“He has a quarrel with the governor about it. His Excellency has little love for the marquis and has told him that the grant is void, so long has the land been abandoned. The marquis threatens to take it to the King.”
He wiped the table-top and took up Jean’s empty glass.
“You are curious,” he said. “Why do you ask of Montelat?”
“I know the place well,” said Jean evasively, and the man flicked his napkin.
“And would you like it for your own?”
“What man would not,” retorted Jean briefly.
“It would be a good jest,” chuckled the innkeeper.
“Why a jest?”
“Because it might have been yours by right, Jean Latour, if your mother had taken it when it was offered to her. Have you never heard? No? It was a good joke at the time. Your mother came out among the King’s Girls, when the old Marquis de Montelat had a whim to settle here. He had a whim, too, to have your mother. She was a pretty girl, and of such learning. I remember her. He would have had her, too, but that your father wanted her as well, and he had something to say to the bishop which won his way.”
He shrugged his shoulders.
“We never had the truth of it,” he said regretfully, “but they do say that once upon a time your father had the better of the old marquis—whipped him, the gossips said, somewhere in France. But what that had to do with what he said to the bishop, no one knows. But there—perhaps you know all that.”
He hurried off at the impatient clatter of a glass across the room.
YYT’HIPPED the old marquis! And the whip? Ciel!
’ ’ His father, then, had had his hour! In the name of St. Joseph, who would have suspected it of him! So his mother was different. Even the marquis had known that. Jean tingled on the verge of knowledge. Hopes, suspicions, ambitions fought within his mind. He went out curiously pleased with himself. If his father, so long ago, had been able to take for himself a King’s Girl desired of an aristocrat, why might he not hope ... ?
He wandered along the bluff, while the river glowed in patches of rose and blue and primrose under the sunset sky; he wandered on till dusk, a strange pattern to his thoughts, coming back little by little nearer to his goal.
When he found himself close by the seigneur’s Quebec house he scaled the stone wall and dropped lightly into the garden without a plan, but with an instinctive hope of seeing her, of whom all Quebec was talking.
A light glowed in a window just ahead. It was once her favorite sitting room. Perhaps she might be there. And to his '• light she was. Jean crept eagerly to the edge of the winder.,
She was in a tall-backed chair, her head held proudly, her face scornful. Her unpowdered hair shone as though it had been sprinkled with gold dust. How changed she was. How hard it was to realize that the lovely, scornful woman in her rich frock was the pretty hoyden he had known. Jean felt for the moment abashed. How trivial his ambitions seemed in the face of this haughty beauty. And then, to his relief, he realized that her scorn was not for him, but for the man who sat facing her, his back to the window, his wide red coat skirt spreading over the little chair on which he sat. The marquis himself, no less, and Jean’s heart leaped when he realized the scorn was all for him. Within the window stood a low table, with a candle burning in a brass stick, and a bowl of flowers. LTnconsciously Jean saw it all, but his ears were deaf to what the marquis said until his eyes had had their fill of Hortense.
She filled him with a curious exaltation, and while he watched her from the dusk he yearned for her with all the strength of his manhood. What mattered difference of rank and station? Coureur des bois as he was, he had never seen a woman who satisfied his imagination so. Somehow he could feel no doubts but the simplicity of the affair. Love such as his must kindle a twin fire in the heart even of such a one as Hortense. Of a surety she had been waiting for him, even as he had waited for her. And then he began to listen to the marquis.
"... you have made me the laughing-stock of New France. You have thought to drive me back to Paris. But now, mademoiselle, perhaps you will have the goodness to give me a more gracious answer.”
Hortense answered through stiffened lips.
“I do not believe you, monsieur,” she said.
The marquis unfolded a slip of paper and with a mocking deference held it toward her. She made a movement to take it from him.
“Ah, no. Mademoiselle, allow me.”
He spread it out before her eyes, while she tried to fight back an expression of her fear.
“How can you prove, monsieur, that my brother forged . . . ”
“Perhaps the easiest way would be ask Monsieur Tessier, whose name ...”
“No,” said Hortense sharply.
“A wise decision,” said the marquis suavely. “When it has served its purpose, mademoiselle, you shall have it, and the honor of your brother and your father’s peace of mind shall be safe ... in your keeping.”
“You would be a fool, monsieur, to take a wife on such terms.”
“I do not think so. I would risk much more to win you, Hortense.” Then his voice dropped. “You are not wise, mademoiselle, to scorn the love of a Montelat. I offer you what no man in New France can offer. Power, position, friends at court.”
“These are not enough to win me fairly, monsieur.”
“Then I shall win you— unfairly.” He flicked the paper, and Hortense rose in a swift hirdlike motion to seize it. The marquis laughed and moved the paper out of her reach. Close to the window it came, while with the other arm he swept her close to him. She flushed at having come so perilously near him, and he bent his head above her stormy face.
AT THE window frame Jean flamed inwardly. But coolly enough he reached for the lighted candle, and when the marquis set his lips against the white skin of the girl’s throat, Jean, with a steady hand, set the candle flame against the paper in the outstretched hand.
To his dying day the marquis could not remember which startled him most, the stinging pain of Hortense’s small hand against his face, or the hot flame around his fingertips. He looked up, sucking his burned thumb, to see the scorn on the face of Hortense all changed to relief and laughter, and turned again to see a devilishly handsome stranger stepping through the open window with a candlestick still in his hand.
Half mad, the marquis snarled and lurched at the intruder with his naked rapier in his hand. Jean, alert as he was, was no match for the fury of the outwitted aristocrat, and even while Hortense screamed, the marquis drew the thin blade, dripping, from its place in Jean’s side.
“Housebreaker!” shouted the marquis, while Jean staggered, his hand over the slit in his jacket. “Call a guard! There is a thief in the house.”
“A thief to catch a thief,” gasped Jean, knocking the rapier from his fingers with the candlestick, and springing at him with his hands cupped for his throat.
With her hands clenched against her mouth Hortense fell back against the panelled wall while the men swayed against a table, sending its glass and silver spinning. Across the room they staggered, clinched in each other’s grip. Chairs crashed, a pedestal tottered, and tossed its marble bust across the floor. Even while she heard the patter of feet in the hallway Hortense saw with horror the trail of Jean’s blood. With the knock on the door she saw his hands relax, saw the marquis pull himself free and bring his fist down in a smashing blow on the all but unconscious face.
They stripped the buckskin jacket from Jean to staunch the blood before they carried him away, and Hortense— without a backward glance—followed the limp figure through the door. The panting marquis, his lips drawn in a thin, pale line, ground his heel upon the crumpled coat. And even as he did so, some devilish instinct for intrigue warned him of the rustling sound beneath his foot. He picked the jacket up with a new interest, extracted a flat package from an inner pocket, and whistling softly with pleasure spread out the paper to the light. It had been slit by the rapier and was lightly stained.
“A map, most carefully and most excellently drawn,” he said, and pursed his lips. At a glance he took in the country from Quebec to the fresh-water seas in the west, with routes north into Indian lands and south by the rivers emptying into the lakes. He folded it with meticulous care. For the present he would have nothing to say.
HORTENSE waited in the drawingroom of her father, restless and ill at ease. She pressed a handkerchief to her flaming cheeks, and crossed the room to look at herself in a mirror. She hoped her face would not show the agitation within. But she was reassured—color glowed softly in her face, but the consuming fire that was in her blood did not reflect itself. What a day it had been! Long hours she had sat by his bedside, straining to catch the faint breath, soothing him when he twisted in pain. Once she had been terribly afraid.
At last he had wakened from his unconsciousness and looked at her uncomprehendingly. But how quickly he had rallied! What audacious things he had said to her ! She had given him food, raised his pillows, talked diffidently of the old and happy days. But before an hour had passed he was ardent, swift of words that made her blush and tremble. In selfdefense she had drawn away from him and tried to be aloof and cool. But he, dear rogue, had fallen back upon his pillow with closed eyes. What might she do but run back to him, crying to him impetuously? He opened his eyes and grinned . . . yes, actually grinned at her, with his old impudent delight She had not been teased so since she left New France. How like the old Jean !
Yet beside the boy she rediscovered there in that hour, there was the other, the new man, before whom she trembled with unaccountable emotion. Never in all the parry and thrust of flirtation had she known an agitation such as this. But now he was asleep, his wound fresh dressed, and Hortense was terribly troubled. He was only Jean Latour. She fought the passion that he roused in her. She could not, she dared not, think of the ends to which such folly might lead her. Pacing alone up and down the drawing-room, Hortense sought as a trapped animal for escape from this impossible love. It would be as great a folly to marry this habitant for love as to marry the marquis for ambition. The thought of the marquis added to her trouble. Trapped, she looked to him and found it in her heart to pity him. He had done it all for love. She could think now of the misery she had brought him. If his love for her was half so warm as that Jean had kindled in her heart, how she must needs pity him ! And she had scorned and taunted him instead. Why had she not loved and married during those bright years in France? Why? Hortense shut her eyes and swayed a little, dazzled with the light of knowledge. Why? Because Jean had stood guardian over her heart all those unconscious years.
Yet, it was too absurd, too fantastic to consider. Hunted, she turned to the despised marquis. There was a prompt escape from the impossibility of Jean. In pride of place as Marquise de Montelat she could return immediately to Paris, and leave Jean behind her forever in Quebec.
Torn between the conflict of her thoughts, afraid of the scorn and trials of a life with Jean, Hortense leaped at the door of escape.
“I shall cure myself of my folly,” she said, “in Paris.”
A/fADEMOISELLE, quick! I can do nothing with the sick man. He has risen and is searching madly for I don’t know what.” Suzanne panted, hurrying in anxiously. “He will open his wound again.”
“Is he mad?” asked Hortense, vexed, and rose to follow Suzanne up the stairs to Jean’s room.
She had mounted no more than a few steps, when the doors opened and she saw in the archway her father and the marquis, both grave of face. Blood rushed to her face and swept out again, leaving her white as milk. The marquis saw the change of color and put his own interpretation upon it. Gallantly he crossed to the stairs, lifted a reluctant hand, and kissed her fingers.
“Mademoiselle, I hope you will not run away,” he begged. “I have come to enquire for youi patient. Lucky fellow, I could almost wish that he had been the aggressor and I the victim.”
“Jean is better,” she said quietly. “He is sufficiently recovered to talk.”
“I am indeed glad to hear that he is recovering sufficiently to stand trial for his treason. Mayhap he will be fully recovered in time for the gallows.”
“Gallows? What do you say, monsieur?” It was her father’s voice, but from the stairhead Suzanne was calling.
“He is still searching, mademoiselle. Come, I pray you.”
“Truly—and it is for this he searches.” The voice of the marquis was ironical.
Slowly Hortense retraced her steps to the floor beside the marquis and looked at the map he deliberately unfolded.
“Mademoiselle and monsieur,” he said dramatically. “He is an English spy.” “No, no!” protested Hortense. “That is not his !”
“Quiet, Hortense!” said her father, taking the paper in his hands. “We know not what he is now. And what brought him lurking about our windows, within the garden walls?”
“It is untrue—a plot to hurt him,” said Hortense hotly.
“Nonsense, child!” Her father was annoyed, the marquis righteously indignant in his unspoken protest. “We must set a guard upon him.”
“Your pardon, monsieur, if I take upon myself the conduct of the affair. I stand in need of prestige with the little governor.” The marquis took the map from the seigneur’s hands and stowed it away carefully.
Hortense melted from her icy silence and stared at him again. Jean a spy!
“You are wrong, Monsieur le marquis, and Jean will prove it.”
“Mademoiselle is concerned for the fellow?”
She stared at the gloating face of the aristocrat, cruel in its satisfaction. There was no love of country there, no pride in disclosing an enemy of New France. Only spite against a rival. She considered with horror that so short a while ago she had thought to marry him, to forgive him everything— just because he loved her. He could not love, this ferret-like beast.
"L-TORTENSE fled from him up the stairs to the open door of Jean’s room. There he stood, perplexed, haunted, white of face, in his ripped jacket.
“Jean,” she said to him steadily. “They say you are a spy.”
“And they are coming to take you to the governor.”
“Tell me it is not true!’
She searched his inscrutable face in dread. Nothing else mattered now. If only he would say he was innocent of a crime for which the penalty was a just death. He marvelled at her emotion, and presently laid gentle hands upon her shoulders.
“But I am a spy.”
She pressed a hand over his lips and cried out in protest.
“Have you taught me so swiftly to love you only to break my heart? Have you no pity? Have you no honor? You might have spared me the love of a traitor . . .”
Her eyes were so full of tears she did not see the change on the man’s face. He seized her with such fierceness that he lifted her from her feet.
“I should hate you,” she gasped. “An English . . . ” But he stopped the words on her lips. And then he spoke softly into her hair and Hortense abandoned herself to the moment. No need to play a part. In an hour he would be in a cell, and from the cell he would go to his death.
He released her when he heard the tramp of guards upon the stair, and she fled away, without cloak or waiting maid, down the stair and out upon the street, straight to the doors of the Chateau. And because she was the favorite of the old governor they took her without question to the door of the little room where he worked alone.
CHE steadied herself at the door jamb ^ as the governor looked up, startled at her appearance.
“Hortense! my child!” he said, rising in haste to meet her. “You are in trouble.”
“I am unhappy, monsieur, and I have come to you for help, just as I used to come when I was a little girl. You remember that?” she asked feverishly.
He nodded, astounded at her agitation, and she clasped her hands about his arm.
“Sometimes it was a broken toy, sometimes a quarrel, but you were able to help, always, dear Monsieur le Gouverneur.”
“And now, child, what is it? A broken heart?”
“And more!” He put his fingers under her chin and raised her head. “How can I tell you?” she whispered, flushing in shame. But presently she did tell him, her face averted, while his wise old eyes glowed before the miracle of her love.
“And you are asking me to show mercy to a traitor, Hortense?”
“I know not what I ask,” she said.
“Would you still love this man, a proven traitor, if I send him to an ignoble death?”
“Alas, yes. My love knows no boundaries, no king.” In the silence she crouched at his feet. “Is there no peace . . . anywhere?”
“Not even with the pretty marquis?”
She flung out a hand in disgust.
“And he would rid himself of this fellow and curry favor with me. Well, well! But there! Dry your tears, Hortense, and get you behind the curtains, for here, if I mistake not, comes your little marquis.”
The marquis strutted in, with evident self-satisfaction, at the head of a little group.
“I have the honor, monsieur,” he said, “to conduct to your Excellency a fellow seized at the home of Monsieur de Marny. He is an English spy. Upon him I discovered this.” He spread the map out upon the governor’s desk, while the old administrator stared at the tall figure of Jean, his bloodless face bent, and his shoulders stooped in weakness. Then he glanced over the map as the marquis swaggered up and down the room. He paused close to the governor.
“There is a price upon the head of spies,” he said, “but I have no need of the King’s gold. All that I ask is the return of my father’s . . .”
“Truly, a useful officer of His Majesty,” said the old man ironically. “A clever fellow.” And with a sign he dismissed the guards and, as they turned their backs, loomed magnificently over the dapper marquis.
“Unloose him!” he commanded, pointing to Jean.
The window-hanging stirred a little. The marquis stared at him, motionless, not cred ting his ears.
“Unloose him !” thundered the old man. “I said, monsieur, that this man is a spy.” But under the glaring eyes Montelat did as he was bid.
Jean rubbed his wrists and straightened himself with visible pain.
“Heard you, in Quebec, Monsieur le Marquis, of a certain youth called by the people Tête Jaune?”
“Certainly, monsieur. A clever spy, in your Excellency’s service,” Montelat answered stiffly.
“Indeed. A reckless fellow, loyal and trustworthy. Y u may not know that in the veins of Tête Jaune there runs blood rich in the traditions of service to the throne.” Jean lifted his head and stared curiously at the governor. “It was not by chance that Tête Jaune was entrusted with the King’s business in the English and Iroquois lands. There are those in high places, aye, not far from the throne itself, who follow the affairs of Tête Jaune with interest.”
“Certainly, your Excellency,” said the marquis impatiently, “the fellow is valuable, if rumor is in the right.”
“Rumor is not half right,” said the governor brusquely. “I alone could tell you the tale of Tête Jaune’s services. I shall do you the honor to disclose an affair of state,” he went on, glaring at the marquis. “Behold, clever fellow, how great a spy you have caught—Tête Jaune.”
“Tête Jaune!” The marquis turned on his red heels to stare at the dishevelled Jean. “How could I know, monsieur,” he protested. “The man did not defend himself. And the map?”
TN THE icy silence that followed, the marquis bowed in confusion and was allowed to leave the room without a word from the old eagle.
“And now,” he said, turning sternly to Jean, ‘how came you to dally in the garden of Monsieur de Marny with your news?”
“I have no excuse to offer, Excellency,” he said quietly, “but that I was in love.” The governor slammed the table-top. “Perdition! Of what use is Tête Jaune to me when he is in love. You will tell me next that you would settle down like any other Canadian.”
“Your Excellency has remarkable perception,” said Jean audaciously.
“Confusion upon you!” The governor looked at him from under bushy brows. “And have you made a choice of land also?”
“No, Excellency, but there is excellent soil at Montelat.”
Jean’s heart was beating like a triphammer. Suppose under his grim humor the governor had a thought to help him. He had no hope of reward except immunity in the fur trade. He searched the old man’s face anxiously.
“Tête Jaune,” he said, “I have a mind to make a seigneur of you. You should already have the gold wherewith to prosper the land. But I must know the woman who would share with you your fortunes and your labors, the mother of future masters of the land. If you are to continue in my service as a vassal of the king, I must reserve the power to choose your bride.”
In spite of the pain in his side Jean stiffened and straightened to his height. “Your Excellency, that is impossible.” “As a vassal you must swear to serve and obey the king or his deputy in all things.”
“Not, monsieur, in the affairs of the heart.”
“In all things.”
“Then, pardon, monsieur, but I would prefer to remain what I am.”
“I must, your Excellency.”
“Land, offices, honors, perchance?” “Forgive me, monsieur . . .” “Everything?”
“So the bishop was right.”
“I do not understand, monsieur?”
“No need. I but spoke to myself. And now, Tête Jaune, I will show you the bride you have refused along with the favor of the governor.”
T3UT Hortense did not wait for the old -L' man to pull aside the curtain. She emerged, her eyes sparkling with delight, and kissed him on his leathery cheek as she passed on her way to Jean.
“But see, what have you done to my patient!” she cried. “You have kept him standing when he is scarce able to be upon his feet. Fi done! Are good spies so easily come by that you must needs illtreat Tête Jaune?”
Jean gladly put his arm around her slender shoulders for support, for his strength was all but gone, and she drew him toward the window seat while the governor chuckled over his own jest.
“Your map, Excellency,” prompted Hortense. “You have not taken time to look at it.”
His sharp old eyes twinkled as he obediently turned his back upon them and bent his head solemnly over the map of the Iroquois country.