THE STORY: In Halifax during Hie War of 1812,
Captam Flood, a mysterious Irishman who commands a trading vessel m the harbor, disputes with a prominent resident, Julius Hartshorne, and is challenged by the latter to a duel to take place next morning.
That night Flood attends the masked ball of the Governor, Sir John Sherbrooke, without an invitation. He meets Ilarlshorne’s fiancée, Gail Filiis, a Yankee girl who has been detained m Halifax by the Governor. Flood and Gail f ind each other quite interesting, but Flood is forced to make a hurried exit when the Governor accosts him.
On Ins ship that night, Flood rescues a man f rom the harbor water, and the man turns out to be Vane Filiis, a brother of Gail.
At the duel next morning, neither man is hurt. Gail, happening to rule past the scene, tells both Flood and hcr fiancée thaï they are acting disgracefully.
Flood is brought before the Governor and inf aimed that he is suspected of giving aid to the Yankees. Flood refuses to disclose his business in Halifax, but says he is a British subject.
Flood is riding by liimsc/f one afternoon when he sees Gail in conversation with a mysterious stranger. The followers of the stranger attack him, but he. beats them off. Gail leaves the stranger and rides up to him and says: “I seem to meet you everywhere.”
AYE,” FLOOD REPLIED, "and your bodyguard encountered me also. It’s sorry I am I had to deal with this fellow so roughly.” He indicated the still unconscious man at his feet.
“My bodyguard?” she exclaimed. "I think you’re mistaken, Captain Flood.”
He eyed her shrewdly. "Indade?”
"I require no,flunkies on my comings and goings.”
“Then perhaps they were the guardians of the tryst ye were having with the gentleman on yon lake below?”
She laughed gaily. “Am I to lx: accused of holding tryst with everyone who stops to ask me the way? Surely, Captain Flood, a girl may direct a wanderer to his destination.”
The fellow on the ground let out a groan, stirred restlessly, sat up. His wandering gaze lighting on Flood, he staggered suddenly to his feet. The Irishman caught him by the shoulder, swung him about.
"Do ye know this young lady?” he demanded curtly.
The man shook his head. "Never seed her afore,” he muttered.
"Listen, then, me bully. The next time ye see me ve’d better pass by on the other side. And ye can tell y’r friends the same. Off with ye!”
The fellow lurched over the crest and out of sight.
“So,” the girl said coolly, "you don't trust me?”
“In me way of life, Miss Fillis, I've learned to trust none.” “I could weep for one so disillusioned.” She laughed sceptically.
"It would break me heart to bring tears to eyes so lovely,” he answered with a look that matched her tone.
Her face sobered. A little frown came between her brows. “Then you show your consideration for me strangely.” "Indade?”
"I told you yesterday I could not see you again. Yet you follow me here today.”
“Perhaps we seek the same end in these woods.”
Her glance narrowed. "I’ve not asked your help; only respect for my wishes.”
"What would ye say if I told ye I did not accept y’r good-bys?”
"I’d say that a gentleman would respect them.”
“Then I rejoice in being no gentleman. For when ye say there can be nothing further between us, I
"I did say it,” she cried sharply. "And I meant it!”
“Ye speak passionately now,” he said with a twisted smile. "Was it to escajx: me ye plighted y’r troth to Mister Hartshorne?”
'Ehe slow flush mounted her cheeks, her eyes began to smolder.
"I don’t care to discuss my intimate affairs with you, Captain Flood.”
He shrugged. "Then ye intend to leave me bewildered— asking meself how under heaven ye could match y’r loveliness to yon clod?”
Perhaps it was more than his words that caused the sudden anger to flare, perhaps something in her own heart sent the hot words to her lips.
"How dare you, sir? I’ll listen to you no longer.” She swung her mare away, sent her plunging down the treacherous wood road.
Staring after her, his expression slowly softened. He began to S]X>ak in a strange tongue. It was Irish; it bore the rhythm of poetry and this meaning:
"Fir Galeoin came to the dark castle and asked for the girl, Deirdre.
She was lovelier than the dawn; she was lovelier than the Dead Children:
But he said: 'Where I go for you there is pain; where Brian goes there is death;
You shall choose between pain and death.’ ”
AS GAIL entered the house of her uncle on Argvle Street ^ she caught a swift glimpse on her way upstairs of men still seated, though it was now well on into the afternoon, in an atmosphere of smoke and wine in the dining room at the rear. The picture, with its overtones of masculine babble, did nothing to soften the grim look on her young face.
Aunt Tabitha met her at the head of the stairs, from
which vantage she had been listening with unconcealed delight.
"My dear !" she exclaimed. "Where have you been? Your uncle sent for you an hour ago. The gentlemen wanted to offer their felicitations.”
"They do not seem to miss my presence,” the girl replied disdainfully.
"It’s been such a success,” the man-o’-war babbled on. "Listen to the creatures. Dear Vane made such a witty speech—and Julius's reply was finely sensible. I'm sure you’ll be happy. He may not be your own age, but he has substance and position—both so important in marriage.” Gail did not smile. As a particularly loud gust of laughter came up the stairs she said almost contemptuously:
“Must they celebrate my betrothal in that drunken fashion?”
"La la, my dear, it’s their way. They enjoy it. Keep them happy and they’re your slaves. Dress yourself in your brocade, child, and we’ll go down before they leave.”
The girl hesitated. A look—old, wise, indulgent, pitying -—came into her young ex es, as though she were aunt, and the eager man-o’-war niece. Her hand went out impulsively to the older woman’s sleeve.
"Please don't think me ungrateful, Aunt Tabitha, if I refuse. I couldn't face them this afternoon: not if my life depended on it." And, hurrying along the hall, she disappeared into her room, whose d(x>r she closed.
Inside, she began to pace the floor tensely, like a caged creature, beating the air with her riding crop as though at the strands of a net that was encircling her. It was thus her brother found her an hour later. His flushed face was eager. “Did you see Whittaker?”
"Yes," she answered curtly.
He gave her a quick glance.
"What’s the matter, sister mine?” And then with sudden concern: “Something has gone wrong?”
She stared out of the window, over the roof-tops that sloped toxvard the harbor and its sea of masts.
"I don't know,” she replied, and then before he could put another anxious question: “That Captain Flood ran foul of Whittaker's men who were on watch while 1 was talking to Whittaker. I think Flood saw us together.”
“Was Flood spying on you?”
“I don't know. I tried to lay his suspicions. I doubt if I succeeded.”
"I hope Whittaker’s men made it hot for him.”
“On the contrary,” she replied, with a grim smile, "he made it hot for them.”
“He did?” Vane exclaimed in frank astonishment. "Egad, he must be all they say he is to get the best of those hardbitten sea dogs.”
And then she said something that really did astound him. "I’ve been wondering if Captain Flood isn't the xrery person we’ve been searching for, Vane.”
"Great heavens, sister,” he cried, “we daren’t trust a man like that !”
“He said something this morning that set me thinking.” She was staring sombrely through the window again. “It xvas to the effect that we were seeking the same ends. I felt at the time he was trying to make overtures.”
“You didn't commit yourself in any way?” he cried, thoroughly agitated.
She shook her head.
"Concede me some wit, dear. But since then I've been thinking. He’s an adx'enturer. He didn't sail into Halifax with an empty ship for no purpose-—and he has little reason to lox*e the authorities after all the indignities he’s been subjected to. Perhaps he was on the Bay road in the very hope of encountering Whittaker.”
Vane paced back and forth the length of the bedroom, frowning.
"I can’t fathom the man. It’s true I owe him my lifebut I don’t trust that confounded smile«of his. There’s something behind it, I'll be bound.”
She caught at his arm, faced him gravely.
“We’ve got to trust him, dear. Whittaker has been xvaiting in the Bay three days. He says he daren't take chances with the scouting cruisers much longer. Things go badly at home. Our soldiers are in dire need of ammunition, our people of food. Perhaps father and mother have not enough to eat. We must trust him.”
He shook his head, but in the end, as always, she persuaded him. She had a plan. She outlined it. A daring plan that brought the frank admiration to his eyes.
"What a head you have, Gail!” he exclaimed finally, with a low laugh. "How you think of these stratagems I don’t know.”
When he had gone she continued to stare through the window, and as she stared her expression slowly softened. They whispered that this Irishman was a freelxx>ter. a buccaneer. They were both adventurers; outlaws at life. And this bond that was forging between them warmed her - until another burst of laughter from below, heard only faintly, reminded her of the price she was paying and sent a bleak shadow across her young face.
WHEN THE young American came down the companion ladder of the Shark’s after-cabin, Flood greeted him with a grin.
"Are ye swimming again today, Fillis?”
"No,” the other replied with his pleasant boyish smile, “but I've come to return a favor you did me when I last was here.”
“That's friendly of ye.”
“One good turn deserves another.”
“And seldom gets it.”
The young American seated himself at the table, leaned engagingly across it.
"You’ve an idle ship and an idle crew, Captain Flood. I know where you can put both to work —to your profit.” "Arrah !” cried the Irishman, his dark eyes brightening, “ ’tis music y’r words make.”
“You'll understand that this is in the greatest confidence?” "Y'r words go in me ears and drop to a deep xvell !”
Vane glanced warily up at the hatch, leaned farther across the table, lowered his voice. He had heard from a friend that afternoon that there was a Cuban, Don Alfredo Rodriguez, who wished to do business in 1 lalifax. Unfortunately, the Cuban had run foul of Admiral Griffiths some years ago at Jamaica and daren’t show his face in port. I lis ship was lying off the coast, waiting for a cargo that someone must take out to him. But shipping was hard to engage these days, what with all the bustle of the war . . .
"Say no more!” cried Fkxxl. " ’Tis a job after me own heart. 1 need the money, the Spaniard needs the goods a happy conjunction of desires. Tell me where I’m after collecting me cargo and I 'm off.”
A look of considerable relief crossed the younger man’s face.
"That x\ ill have to be arranged. I ex|X‘c:t it will be sent out to you tonight in barges. And, of course, Don Alfredo will have to be notified of your coming.”
Flood seemed delighted.
"Ye give me the mystery of dark adventure to breathe already, Fillis.”
“Your crew can be trusted to hold their tongues?” "They’ll come out be the roots if they don't. It's me gratitude is due ye, me friend, for this kindness. Would ye take a glass of sherry?”
The young American shook his head. He must get back xxith this good news to his friend at once and see that arrangements were put on the march. When he had gone Fkxxl leaned back in his chair and laughed silently.
“The wild ways of the world,” he exclaimed. “Oh, the xvild, brave ways of the world!”
CAPE SAMBRO lay far behind in the darkness when the mate, Cripps, came aft, dragging something by the scruff of the neck.
"Stowaway!" he grunted, flinging it at the feet of Flood and Peg-Jake Hawkins. "Found im under a ‘paulin in the fo’castle head.”
“Mercy, cap’n, mercy!” cried the wretch—a gaunt, longxvhiskered and bleary-eyed wharf rat.
“I’ll mercy ye wi' a ro[x:-end," barked Peg-Jake, moving threateningly toward the bulwarks.
"Is it love of the sea brought ye aboard my ship, sailor?” he asked the snivelling fellow with an ironic smile.
‘Tm fleein’ the press-gang, y’r lordship—as true as me name’s Pete Duffenv. Spare me an’ I'll work me hands to the bone.”
“I'll warrant ye will, me bully,” cried Peg-Jake.
“Take him forward,” Flood said to the mate. “We'll be rid of him in a day or two anyway.”
A x'oice called from the forepeak: “Twenty faddom, sir.” “There she lies; two p’ints off,” said Peg-Jake, peering through the murk.
The island loomed darkly on the port bow. As the Shark swept into the lee, two tall, slanting masts appeared dimly against the break of shore beyond.
The answer came in a foreign voice: “Ahoy, Shark!” Flood smiled grimly. Young Fillis, and those behind him had not failed to get a message across the peninsula.
The two ships came together and the grappling irons xvent out. A tall, lean figure with the clear-cut features of a raven came over the rail.
“Alfredo Rodriguez.” The Spaniard bowed with a cool grace. His dark eyes under their craggy brows and narrow high forehead appraised Flood from head to foot. He smiled. ‘‘Muchos graziös! I greet you wit’ pleasure, señor—and what you breeng. You are ready for make ze exchange immediately?”
“Aye,” Fkxxl answered. “Come below and we’ll discuss the matter over a glass of sherry.”
Below', the Don was cautiously amiable, though very definitely on his guard. He could not say how great a debt he owed the Señor Flood. It relieved him of the axvkw'ard necessity of having to risk the uncertainties of the Admiral Griffiths’s temjxx! He made one stipulation: “We shall keep ze men each to hees own ship, señor. To preserve ze peace, no?”
All night the two crews worked under the faint light of the sxx inging lanthorns and in a strange silence. For as the bales of goods passed from rail to rail the crew of the Cuban ship replied to none of the sallies of the Shark's hard-bitten cockney lot. At dawn they parted, since Don Rodriguez was taking no chances of scouting cruisers. But he was back again at nightfall and the work went on.
The soft and earthy languors of a summer afternoon hung over Halifax Harbor as the Shark sailed in again. Standing on the poop beside Peg-Jake, Flood gazed at the city and his
shoulders moved from time to time in soundless chuckles, as though at some secret and ironic jest. This seemed to irritate Peg-Jake. Finally, scratching at his bushy whiskers impatiently he growled:
“Yer may know yer business, but I ’ates this skatin’ on thin ice.”
Flood turned on him with a grin.
“Y’re a pessimist, old gloomy, and pessimists always think the ice is thin."
A cutter whose rowers rested on their oars swayed in the gentle swell in the offing as the Shark came to anchor nort h ol George’s Island. She came alongside. An officer and two soldiers clambered over the rail.
‘Captain Flood?” the lieutenant asked, stepping up to the Irishman.
“You’re under arrest, sir.”
For an instant while Peg-Jake let out a startled,
’Sblood an’ daggers, it's on us!" Mood’s eyes narrowed
on the officer. Then his lips twisted oddly, as though that same jest that had recently disturbed him had returned in fainter overtones.
“And for what reason, might I be asking?” he demanded quizzically.
“I was not informed,” the lieutenant replied curtly. “My orders are to conduct you at once to his excellency the Lieutenant-Governor.”
Peg-Jake hissed something fiercely'into Flood’s ear. The Irishman shook his head and, turning to the officer, bowed derisively.
“Y’r servant," he said.
SIR JOHN SHERBROOKE was not alone in the highccilinged executive office. Admiral Griffiths, two staff officers, and the tall, dour figure of Julius Hartshorne stood grouped behind the table at which he sat. The flush of his cver-quick anger darkened his fierce old face as Flood was led in.
“So, egad,” he cried balefully, “you had the confounded effrontery to return to this city!”
“I recognize no effrontery, y’r excellency—nor any reason for this arrest,” Flood replied; adding with a sly grin: “Though I’m after being constrained to believe ye don't like me.”
“Zounds, sir, do you try to brazen it out?”
“Brazen what out, y’r excellency?” There was a look of the blandest innocence on the Irishman’s face.
“Confound you, you've been dealing with the enemy! Supplying him with goods, as we suspected. You're a traitor; a contemptible rascal, if I ever saw one.”
“Is it deserving of all y’r hard words I am if I turn a penny in business with a gentleman from Cuba? If we’re at war with the Dons, I have not heard of it.”
A laugh broke dryly from the group behind Sir John, who cried :
“A fig for that tale. You sold goods to the American brig, Alcazar, out of Boston, according to information.”
If the tall Irishman was astonished at this accusation, if in his secret thoughts it cleared up any ignorances, he failed to show it.
“I'm thinking y’r excellency’s been misinformed. I sold goods to a Spaniard, Don Alfredo Rodriguez of Cuba.”
“You sold goods to Whittaker Cabot, the most notorious privateersman out of Boston.”
“Then I don’t know a Don from a Yankee,” Flood said stubbornly.
“If this man was a Spaniard, why didn’t he come openly into port?” demanded the admiral bluntly.
“Me understanding was he’d run foul of ye in the South and didn’t care to repeat the encounter,” Flood replied.
“Never heard of him, egad !”
Sir John swung on the orderly at the door. “Bring in the sailor, Peter Duffeny!” he growled.
A sardonic smile crossed Flood’s face as the erstwhile stowaway came sidling in and tugged at his forelock. Duffeny looked the complete wharf-rat now. I lis wet clothes clung to his skinny frame, his hair hung in streaks over his forehead. He must have slipped overboard as the Shark swung in past St. George’s Island and swum ashore.
“Now, my man,” snapped Sir John, “out with your story!”
Duffenv’s Adam’s apple rose and fell jerkily in his scrawny neck.
“Yuss, yer Lordship, thankee. It wuz in this manner: I stowed away aboard the ship an’ sailed wi’ her. She met up wi’ the American off'n Shut-In Island an’ discharged cargo.”
The old soldier swung on Flood.
“Well, sir? You’ve heard his evidence. What have you to say?”
The tall Irishman remained strangely unperturbed. There seemed even to glimmer in his dark eyes a faint amusement.
“I'm just after wondering, y’r excellency, at whose orders yon rat stowed away aboard me ship.”
“It boots nothing. If you—”
“Permit me to answer his question, your excellency,” Hartshorne interposed with a chill smile. He faced Flood, and there was malice in his eyes.
“It was at my orders, as a loyal citizen. From the beginning. Flood, I’ve known you were a double-dealer. When word came that you were sailing I suspected you were off to sell your cargo in the easiest market, and placed Duffeny aboard your ship. The news he brings is my justification.”
“He wouldn’t be lying at y’r orders, too, Mister Hartshome?”
“Have a care, sir!” growled Sir John. “Every word you say digs the pit deeper into which you have fallen. At considerable risk to his life, Duffeny stole these papers from the cabin of the enemy ship. They prove that he has spoken the truth. Read for yourself.”
Flood glanced at the sheafs pages torn from a ship's log. Suddenly a chuckle lifted his broad shoulders.
“Be the saints," he exclaimed, “I seem to have been taken in entirely !”
A derisive laugh from the group behind the Governor greeted that statement. And then Sir John's hand swept out contemptuously.
“Take him away—to Melville Island. Anywhere out of my sight !”
The smile did not leave Flood’s dark face as he was led away. If he knew fear in those moments, he gave no sign. Perhaps it was that imperturbability that caused Julius Hartshorne, as the door closed behind him, to lean sharply over the Governor and say:
“I hope your excellency will make an example of him at once. The dastard deserves to die. A summary execution would unquestionably prove a deterrent to any other traitors in our midst.”
“Aye,” exclaimed the admiral. “I agree.”
“I know my duty,” growled the old warrior. “He’ll be shot at dawn.”
“Let me have him, Sherbrooke, and I’ll dangle him from a yard-arm,” cried Admiral Griffiths. “He deserves hanging.” Sir John was in no mood for interference. “This is my business,” he growled. “I bid you good afternoon, gentlemen.”
rT'HE GREAT Pontack Inn buzzed with the story. The military, glowing with brandy and patriotic fervor, enlarged after the manner of their kind on the value of strong measures. “Sir John has need to tighten his regulations, egad!” But there were those who had their mental reservations, who knew that this mysterious Irishman awaiting execution at Melville Island was not the first to trade with American ships in the innumerable harbors and coves along the southwest shore of the province. Well enough for these loud-voiced, swaggering officers to talk of treachery: war was their business. But other men had other business; and the New Englanders were paying prices like to tempt any man.
Old Winkworth Dight, seated by the window overlooking the street, hissed in Beresford DeBlois’s ear: “They say this is Julius’s doing. Tis madness.”
“There he comes now,” grunted the other merchant. “Ask him why he jeopardizes our profits for such a bootless revenge.”
Hartshome’s tall, cool figure moved toward them through the crowd. He accepted on the way, with a chill affability, the felicitations of the military, was obviously enjoying his triumph.
“Julius, what’s this I heard?” growled old Dight. “They say you laid information against that fellow, Flood.”
“It was my privilege and my pleasure,” Hartshorne replied with a smile.
“It was folly. Supposing he implicates young Fillis, and he in turn confesses where he got a cargo?”
“He won’t implicate Fillis.”
“What assurance have you of it?”
“The man’s a romantic fool. He’ll go to his death with sealed lips because, forsooth, lie has fallen in love with my fiancée.” A low, callous laugh broke from the tall Haligonian’s thin lips. He was mightily amused by the turn that fate had taken.
“And if he did implicate Fillis, who’d believe him after the train I laid to trap him? If I might proffer advice, gentlemen, it would be that you forbear to let your obviously uneasy consciences show in your faces. Which would be dangerous.”
“Not as dangerous as drawing Sir John’s attention to certain undertakings by the three of us,” grunted Beresford DeBlois, with a tug at his side whiskers. “Let sleeping dogs lie, is my motto.”
“Aye,” agreed old Dight.
I Iartshorne eyed them with cold contempt.
“Faugh!” he said. “You cringe like frightened women at the first cry of wolf. Where are your wits? Will the authorities dare to suspect me or my associates after this exhibition of my loyalty? I do you a prime turn and you are too blind to see it.”
He swung on his heel and stalked off. There remained one other rabbit-heart to strengthen. Young Fillis had sent him an urgent message not long since, and the sooner the boy was put to rights the better. These weak fools! Hadn’t he —and the girl—been brain and brawn behind them all these months, that they must distrust his judgment at the first flutter of panic? What this country needed was more men of vision and spirit; men who could see opportunity and seize it.
Hartshorne found Vane Fillis pacing agitatedly in the drawing-room of the house on Argyle Street. He exclaimed as he entered:
“I thought you’d never come. What kept you?” Hartshorne laid his beaver coolly on the spinet lid.
“You act like a man beside himself. What ails you?” he demanded curtly.
“This affair of Flood’s. You said—”
“I lave a care. This room may have ears.”
“No one’s about. Aunt Tabitha and Gail arc out.”
“Pour me a glass of sherry then.”
Fillis crossed the room, returned with glass and decanter.
Continued on page 41
Continued from page 24
“You declared that no harm would come to Flood. And now ’tis said he's committed to Melville Island and like to be executed in the morning. I’d never have got him into the affair if I'd thought he’d come to grief. IIow was he betrayed?”
Hartshorne’s shoulders moved impatiently. The sooner this young man received the full truth the better.
“I saw to it that they discovered him,” he said brusquely.
“You!” The young American stared at him aghast. “My stars, Julius, you’ve brought him to his death.”
“He stood in my way,” the other man said coldly.
“But you promised—”
“I promised nothing. Forget this affair. We have other—”
"Forget it?” Contempt blazed suddenly in the younger man’s eyes, "fou unspeakable swine ! You used me to trick him : to lure him to his death. You knew he’d saved my life. But you shan’t. I'll go to the Governor!”
HARTSHORNE caught him roughly by the arm.
“Pull yourself together, you young fool. Do you want to hang?”
“i’ll not see him die. I’ll lay the whole matter bare first.”
“To what end? Do you want to implicate Gail? Where are your wits? What will happen to her when Sir John learns that she has been the moving spirit behind all our trading with Boston?”
“There’s no proof touching her but your word.”
“And that of the people of the St. Margaret’s Bay settlement. They’ve seen her riding down there every time the Alcazar came off-shore.”
“But they know nothing.”
“Their evidence would damn her if she were implicated.”
“But only you could implicate her.” “Well?”
“Julius! You couldn’t—”
Hartshorne shook him.
“Lookee, young fool !” he hissed. “I spare no one who stands in my way. Understand that now and definitely.”
“So,” a voice exclaimed behind them, “you’d betray even me, Julius.”
They swung startled.
“Gail!” the boy cried agonizingly.
She came slowly forward from the doorway. She wore her riding habit and the tang of summer was in her cheeks.
“You love me—and you’d betray me!’ She laughed’in Hartshorne’s face.
He displayed no chagrin, and his smile was brazenly confident.
“One had to grasp at any straw to restrain this mad youth. It was the only threat likely to dissuade him from betraying our schemes to Sir John Sherbrooke.”
“Then you would not really have betraved me?”
“My dear child, would I betray my future wife?”
“Supposing Vane takes you at your word and goes to Sir John, confessing that only he is involved?”
“In that case it would be very awkward for your uncle. He is a Government servant; he would be dismissed in disgrace.”
She bit her lips. It was true. She said, with the bite of irony in her voice:
“You think of everything, don’t you, Julius?”
“If I didn’t it would go badly for all of us,” Hartshorne replied with his wintry smile.
But young Fillis cried agitatedly: “We can’t let him die! You must—” He swung on Hartshorne angrily, but the latter, picking up his beaver, said to the girl:
“I must go. I dine with the admiral at seven. Good-by, mv dear. I’ll have the pleasure of seeing you at Malachi Salter s \ might." I lis exit was marked by somewhat more than its wonted hurry.
When the door closed behind him, Gail said softly:
“So he betrayed him.”
“The swine!” the boy said bitterly. “Would to heaven we’d never got implicated with him.”
“We could have done nothing without i him, dear.” She was staring into a distance in which her spirit tried to find recompense for this present horror. “We had to have someone or fail our people.”
“Is there nothing we can do?” exclaimed the boy anxiously.
She turned on him swiftly, like a mother: ; laid a soothing hand on his arm.
“Poor darling!” she exclaimed.
“But. Gail, I've sent a man to his death who saved my life.”
“Come up to my room. Give me time to think. He’s not dead yet, dear.” She linked a hand through his arm.
On the way upstairs he said: “I wonder if he meant that that he’d betray you.”
She laughed ironically. “Of course. I le'd j stop at nothing I’ve tried to persuade my-1 self that there was an austere strength of character behind his cold scheming, but all the time I’ve known I was only deluding myself.”
They had entered the bedroom. He j swung on her sharply, caught her arm.
“Gail! You can’t marry him now. I! refuse to permit you to wreck your happiness with that scoundrel.”
“Darling”—she shook her head gravely —“have you been so blind as not to see that
my only reason for marrying him was because I had to? He came here the other day and practically held me up - like a highwayman. He threatened then to betray us both j if I refused. I yielded for the sake of our people. Is their need any less today?”
He stared at her aghast, protest torturing his young face.
“No, no!” he cried. “You can’t! I won’t—”
“Please, darling.” She laid a finger over his lips. “You must leave that to me. In the meantime we must wrack our brains on behalf of that poor man at Melville Island. ’
MEANWHILE, Flood had been marched j across the peninsula and around the head of the Northwest Arm to the shore opposite the tiny island that jutted out into j the green water. As the boat carried them across the narrow interval he surveyed the ! environs awaiting him with an interest that ¡ lacked perturbation. On the knob of hill : commanding the islet from the Arm stood the red house of the prison commandant. Below this and to the left, the guardhouse and the large wooden prison covered most of the remaining flat.
He was taken to the guardhouse, where the brisk little commandant awaited him. Captain Pugh Gore was one of those fussy little officers who never rise above their majority, but eat with relish the cake of their small authority. His mustaches were waxed. He was in a full-dress uniform that fitted his taut little body so snugly that even the pompous puffing of his chubby cheeks ‘ seemed to put the buttons in jeopardy.
He gave Flood a contemptuous glance. | “Hah! Tried to sell us out to the Yanks, eh? Have you got a berth for him, Sergeant Bottomry?”
“Always room for ’is dirty breed, Capting,” replied the burly N.C.O.
“Hah! Stow the dog away ! Somewhere handy so he’ll be within reach when we want ! him. Firing squad at seven.”
And then, for the first time, concern broke through Flood’s imperturbability.
“Have I heard ye correctly, captain? Is that firing squad in me own honor?”
“Hah!” puffed the little commandant.1 “Whose else’s? Did you expect us to lay a banquet for you?” His laugh was echoed by j the burly sergeant.
“I demand to be taken before the Gover-1 nor again,” Flood said curtly.
“Hah! Too late for that now. Stow him away, sergeant.”
“But I insist. I’ve got—”
“Take him away, sergeant. The fellow’s insolent.”
It looked for a moment as if the tall Irishman would tear himself free of the soldiers who held him and leap at the little commandant. And then suddenly he shrugged. Yet there was a grim look on his face as he j was led through the high stockade to the prison-house. He had not expected affairs to move so swiftly, and wanted in the meantime merely an opportunity to see the inside of this prison. But this was a different kettle of fish. Unless he could persuade that cocky little buffoon in his popinjay uniform to take him before Sir John again he was in a tighter hole than ever in his life. It struck him to wonder in those few moments if perhaps he hadn’t played, as Peg-Jake had suggested, his hand too daringly.
THE BIG STONE house on Hollis Street where the Hon. Malachi Salter and his wife entertained, glowed with life. Already the Belchers, the Gerrishes, the Mitchells, the Stairs, the Sauls, the Bulkeleys and the Fairbanks had gathered in the large drawingroom. There was the inevitable sprinkling of naval and army uniforms. Later Sir John and the admiral would be arriving with their staffs. In the meantime animated groups chattered about the room, servants passed rack-punch to the men and claret-cup to the women. Young girls, flanked by their mammas, watched eagerly each group of newly arrived officers against fond hopes.
On the divan by the back window, Captain Pugh Gore returned to Gail Fillis the birthday book in which he had just signed his name.
“Hah, my dear! The sentiments I have written are engraved on my heart.”
She smiled. The fussy little prison commandant invariably aroused a certain ironic amusement in her. She was aware that he would have liked to arouse deeper sentiments and had, in fact, made discreet enquiries as to the extent of her dowry.
“Faith, captain,” she cried, “I can’t imagine you a gaoler. Surely, I have been misled.”
The waxed mustaches bristled complacently.
“Hah ! I am not fierce enough, eh? Egad, you have not seen me on my occasions ! I’m not a man to be trifled with then.”
“Perhaps you’ll invite me some time to your terrible stronghold so that I may see you on your occasions.”
He blew out his cheeks. “Um-hah ! Very much against orders, my dear, very much.” “Dear me. I shouldn’t dream of asking you to disobey orders. But what is it like— or can’t you satisfy even that idle curiosity? I’ve often ridden past and wondered what went on inside Melville Island.”
“Hah-hah!” The captain laughed. Egad, she was a jolly piece, this Yankee girl. That red hair—spirit. And such a waist. Have to : get his mount out and meet her on one of those rides. “Hah, my dear; not very much to tell about it. Snug little place. Usual sort of prison buildings.”
But there proved a great deal to tell about ! it, though at the end Captain Pugh Gore j would have been surprised to realize how ¡ much he had told or how often she had j beckoned the servant bearing the tray of I rack-punch.
Finally, through the crowd she saw a fresh j group entering—Sir John Sherbrooke, the admiral, and his staff—and Julius Hartshorne. She had no desire to encounter Julius now. Rising with a quick laugh, she said :
“Aunt Tabitha will be wondering what has happened to me, captain. A thousand thanks for the kind sentiments you wrote in my birthday book.”
He caught at her hand as he rose unsteadily. Ardor burned in his round, faded blue eyes.
“Egad, my dear, a pleasure. Let me know some day you're riding around the Cove”— but she was gone, fluttering away like a golden butterfly.
Gail found her brother in the rear hallway.
Maclean's Magazine, February 15, 1935
He caught at her arm eagerly. “What luck?” She nodded her head. “Can we get a waynow?”
“Yes; the coast is clear !”
They moved furtively along a narrow passage to a door that led out into the darkness. They hurried along the alley to the barn at the back, disappeared within.
TN THE GUARDHOUSE Sergeant BotI tomry and the gaoler, Buggins, sat confidentially over their rum toddy and took their ease. Buggins was a tall, lank creature with glittering, almost febrile eyes, and a sinister grin kept his tobacco-stained mouth in a constant state of grimace.
“Thankee,” he said, as the sergeant pushed the demijohn across the table again. “Where’s 'is perishin’ little nibs temight?” “Gorn ter myke merry in town. Bust me, if they don’t ’ave a soft time o’ it, the orficers. Should ’a seen ’im settin’ orf. Dressed up right fashionable, ’e v'as. Ye could smell ’is fancy perfume a mile away— the little spätrer !” The sergeant spat contemptuously.
“But ’e’ll be on deck for the firin’ party tomorrer, chipper as a squirrel,” grinned Buggins. “Bawlin’ at us like we was perishin’ niggers.”
“They’re wastin’ no time on this larst arrival,” said the sergeant after a gulp at his pannikin.
“The sooner the better. I’d ’ardly turned the perisher loose inside when I found ’im in a corner wi’ them Yankee privateers we ’ad brought in larst month. Ha’nt a doubt ’e was tryin’ to persuade ’em to pull a break.” He let out a low, brutal laugh. “But they aren’t ne’er been a break out o’ ’ere since 1 been gaoler.”
There was a thud of footsteps outside. In a trice the demijohn and mugs were hidden.
“ ’Oo is it?” demanded the sergeant warily.
A sentry stepped in. “Naval orficer to see yer, sergeant.” He stood aside to allow the officer, whose greatcoat was turned up at the collar hiding the lower part of his face, to enter the guardhouse.
“Who’s in charge here?”
“Hi am, sir. Sergeant Bottomry, at yer service.” The sergeant swayed gently at attention.
“I have an order from Captain Pugh Gore for the release of the prisoner, Flood. I’m conveying him to one of the ships.”
There was a faint clicking sound as Buggins swallowed his disappointment and his Adam’s apple. The sergeant stared uneasily, trying to call back his rumscattered wits.
“Beggin’ yer parding, sir, ’e’s for the firing squad in the—”
“You can read, can’t you?” snapped the officer, dangling the order under his eyes.
The sergeant blinked at the paper. The words blurred somewhat, but there could be no mistaking the genuineness of that signature and its sententious flourishings. And the message was crisp and to the point:
Deliver the prisoner, Flood, to the bearer without delay.
“Werry good, sir,” said the sergeant. Nor was he to know that Captain Pugh Gore, in placing his name beneath a somewhat flamboyant sentiment, had signed not the same page -which had been neatly cut off part way down—but the blank page beyond; or that the message herewith had been written in the cabin of the ship, Shark, as she drifted down the harbor on the ebbing tide.
“I’ll fetch ’im fer yer. Come along, Buggins. You know ’is whereabouts.”
He went out with the gaoler. The midshipman, who had been waiting outside, now entered. His collar also was turned up; this despite an evening that held no rigors. He smiled at the officer and then, his eye lighting on the order which the sergeant had left on the table, crossed over and pocketed it. The minutes dragged by.
Presently the officer said anxiously: “They’re a long time about it. Do you suppose they suspect anything? That evilfaced ruffian gave me a sharp look.”
The midshipman laid a hand on his arm. “Courage!” he whispered.
A CLATTER of feet outside. They drew apart and the sergeant entered with his prisoner. The officer stepped forward.
“You’re Captain Tom Flood?”
“Y’r servant.” There was no expression whatsoever in Flood’s eyes, which merely moved from the officer to the midshipman and back again coldly.
“I have orders to convey you to the admiral. Bring him down to the boat, sergeant.”
Officer and midshipman passed out through the door. But not before a gleam of shrewd cunning had shot into the beady eyes of the gaoler, Buggins. Buggins followed the party out, snatching the lanthom from the table on his way. Catching up with them he held it high so that it shone on the backs of the two officers.
“Gor !” he breathed silently.
A boat with four oarsmen, all in naval uniform, waited on the beach. As the officer said to Flood, “Step aboard, my man,” Buggins came around the bulk of Sergeant Bottomry. Ilis lean, clawlike hand went out for the cocked hat on the midshipman’s head.
It failed to reach its destination, was caught in a vise by the tall prisoner. The sergeant let out a bellow.
“ ’Ere! Wot’s the meaning o’—”
Buggins was pointing his free hand at the midshipman.
“ ’E aint a snotty ! ’E’s a perishin’ gi—” And then Flood gave a sharp jerk on his wrist that drew the gaoler sharply into the line of his driving left fist. It was a savageblow. Buggins collapsed like a log, lay limp on the wet stones.
“ ’Ell’s fury!” bellowed the sergeant and, snatching out his pistol, jammed it against the Irishman’s chest. “Yer can't attack one o’ ’Is Majesty’s soldiers an’—”
“1 had a debt to settle with that swine,” he said. “On behalf of myself and those poor wretches over there.” He gestured toward the gaunt prison-house behind them. “I’ve paid it.”
“Put up your pistol, sergeant,” snapped the naval officer. “I'll attend to the ruffian now. Step aboard, Flood.”
A moment later the boat was moving out into the darkness. Sergeant Bottomry staring after it the while he scratched his head. A doubt was beginning to trouble him. What was it Buggins had started to say? Something about the young middy, something to the effect that the young middy wasn’t a middy? And then that fellow had struck him. It was peculiar.
He glanced down at the limp figure at his feet. "Yer’ll he needin’ no lullerby ternight, me beauty,” he grunted. And then, heaving the gaoler over his shoulder, he started up the beach. But it was best he took steps to waken Buggins. “Yer goin’ 1er tell me wot was on yer mind, me bonny Buggins,” he muttered, staggering toward the guardhouse.
In the stern-sheets of the flying cutter, Vane Fillis said: “ ’Gad, that was a close shave.”
Flood’s grim glance had been resting on the girl in front of him.
“I’m wondering to what further betrayal ye’re taking me? Is y’r friend and colleague, Mister I Iartshornc, after being anxious for further revenge?”
They stared at him. “Great heavens,” exclaimed young Killis, “you know about—” “Am I entirely witless?”
The young American leaned forward urgently:
"Please be assured, Flood,” he cried, “that my sister and I had no part in your betrayal. This is our protest against it— that we came to save you from its consequences.”
THE GRIMNESS passed slowly from Flood's face.
“So,” he said softly, "it’s like that.” Then with a disarming smile that took in both brother and sister: “Permit me to thank ye —and ask pardon for the ungracious delay. And now perhaps ye’ll tell me,” he added with a chuckle, “how ye worked this magic.” Fillis laughed.
“It was Gail’s idea entirely.” He pro-
ceeded to dilate on the theme, and in the 1 end: “When we had dressed ourselves in the barn in these purloined uniforms, we rowed j out to your ship. Your crew were being held prisoner by a naval guard. Luckily, we took these gentry unawares, and their uniforms to ; garb your men.” He jerked a thumb toward the straining rowers forward. “The Shark is cruising off the mouth of the Arm awaiting you, ready for sea.”
Flood grinned wryly.
“I’m after realizing now how the pair of ye have been able to outwit Sir John Sherbrooke for so long.”
Brother and sister eyed him uneasily. And then the girl said to the rowers, pointing toward the dark eastern shore of the Arm: “In here.”
Flood stiffened, suspicion hardening his face.
“For why?” he asked sharply.
“My sister and I will land. We have horses waiting for us,” Fillis replied.
"Oh!” And then, after a moment: “I’m thinking ye take a great risk returning to Halifax. That gaoler I had to knock down recognized y’r sister for a girl.”
“But he didn’t recognize her for my sister, or me for her brother,” Fillis replied with a laugh. “We have only to return to the Salters’, replace these uniforms in the dressing rooms, and no one will know."
“But yon order from the commandant’ll give ye away.”
“Gail has it in her pocket.”
“Arrah, ye’re a clever pair. I doubt not ye’re after intending further devilry against Sir John.”
Fillis shrugged; and then with his ingenuous smile:
“Can we count on you for further help? Couldn’t you come in off Shut-in Island after all this trouble has cleared away and get in touch with us? We could use you." Flood let out a low, amused laugh.
“I’ll make a point of getting in touch with ye. In fact I give ye me solemn promise.”
The boat grounded on the rocky beach. Brother and sister stepped out, the former hurrying up the bank from where had come the gentle thud of pawing hoofs. Flood stood beside the girl, who all this time had said nothing. He smiled down at her in his j ironic way.
“1 las it struck ye odd, Miss Gail, how fate keeps crossing our paths?”
She glanced up at him sharply.
“Mayhap,” he went on, in a softer, almost ¡ caressing voice, “they’re intended to be j intertwined. Mayhap ye’ll have to stop j lighting so bravely against the dictates of fate.”
F'iflis called softly, imperatively, from up : Ihe hank. The girl turned, held out her hand.
“Good-by, Captain Flood,” she said in a taut, thin voice.
I le laughed softly.
“Always good-by. But I’m warning ye ■ can’t ye hear it in the very wind, whispering to the trees, to all the heavens above us that ye can’t escajx? fate?”
lie stooped to kiss the hand he held. But. suddenly it was snatched away; suddenly j she was gone into the darkness. He stood j listening until the clatter of hoofs died through the trees, the same gently ironic1 smile on his lips. And then, stepping into the Ixxtt, he said :
“On y’r way, me bully boys. Peg-Jake Ilawkins’ll be. fretting for us.”
As the cutter sped down the dark Arm, Flood sat in the sternsheets, smiling. Once he chuckled, and once the poetic Irish murmured from his lips:
“ ‘Though the world be wide to your feet, and you find at last The lost Land of the Young. Who will be there waiting?
Whose hand will reach out like the Pillar of Cairbre when the sea is done?’ ”
And then the brooding darkness was shattered by a crash of sound.
“Bust me, what’s that?” panted the nearest sailor, resting on his oars.
A gun from the citadel!
To be Continued