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- The Trail of the Sword, Volume 2. - 3/9 -
"I learned," answered the abbe, "that Monsieur Gering was in Boston, and that he was to go to Fort Albany at Hudson's Bay, where, on our territory, the English have set forts."
Here Perrot spoke. "Do you know, monsieur, who are the poachers? No? Eh? No? Well, it is that Radisson."
Iberville turned sharply upon Perrot. "Are you sure of that?" he said. "Are you sure, Nick?"
"As sure as I've a head. And I will tell you more: Radisson was with Bucklaw at the kidnapping. I had the pleasure to kill a fellow of Bucklaw, and he told me that before he died. He also told how Bucklaw went with Radisson to the Spaniards' country treasure-hunting. Ah! there are many fools in the world. They did not get the treasure. They quarreled, and Radisson went to the far north, Bucklaw to the far south. The treasure is where it was. Eh bien, such is the way of asses."
Iberville was about to speak.
"But wait," said Perrot, with a slow, tantalising smile; "it is not wise to hurry. I have a mind to know; so while I am at New York I go to Boston. It makes a man's mind great to travel. I have been east to Boston; I have been west beyond the Ottawa and the Michilimackinac, out to the Mississippi. Yes. Well, what did I find in Boston? Peste! I found that they were all like men in purgatory--sober and grave. Truly. And so dull! Never a saint-day, never a feast, never a grand council when the wine, the rum, flow so free, and you shall eat till you choke. Nothing. Everything is stupid; they do not smile. And so the Indians make war! Well, I have found this. There is a great man from the Kennebec called William Phips. He has traded in the Indies. Once while he was there he heard of that treasure. Ha! ha! There have been so many fools on that trail. The governor of New York was a fool when Bucklaw played his game; he would have been a greater if he had gone with Bucklaw."
Here Iberville would have spoken, but Perrot waved his hand. "De grace, a minute only. Monsieur Gering, the brave English lieutenant, is at Hudson's Bay, and next summer he will go with the great William Phips-- Tonnerre, what a name--William Phips! Like a pot of herring! He will go with him after the same old treasure. Boston is a big place, but I hear these things."
Usually a man of few words, Perrot had bursts of eloquence, and this was one of them. But having made his speech, he settled back to his tobacco and into the orator's earned repose.
Iberville looked up from the fire and said: "Perrot, you saw her in New York. What speech was there between you?"
Perrot's eyes twinkled. "There was not much said.
"I put myself in her way. When she saw me her cheek came like a peach- blossom. 'A very good morning, ma'm'selle,' said I, in English. She smiled and said the same. 'And your master, where is he?' she asked with a fine smile. 'My friend Monsieur Iberville?' I said; 'ah! he will be in Quebec soon.' Then I told her of the abbe, and she took from a chain a little medallion and gave it me in memory of the time we saved. her. And before I could say Thank you, she had gone--Well, that is all --except this."
He drew from his breast a chain of silver, from which hung the gold medallion, and shook his head at it with good-humour. But presently a hard look came on his face, and he was changed from the cheerful woodsman into the chief of bushrangers. Iberville read the look, and presently said:
"Perrot, men have fought for less than gold from a woman's chain and a buckle from her shoe."
"I have fought from Trois Pistoles to Michilimackinac for the toss of a louis-d'or."
"As you say. Well, what think you--"
He paused, rose, walked up and down the room, caught his moustache between his teeth once or twice, and seemed buried in thought. Once or twice he was about to speak, but changed his mind. He was calculating many things: planning, counting chances, marshalling his resources. Presently he glanced round the room. His eyes fell on a map. That was it. It was a mere outline, but enough. Putting his finger on it, he sent it up, up, up, till it settled on the shores of Hudson's Bay. Again he ran the finger from the St. Lawrence up the coast and through Hudson's Straits, but shook his head in negation. Then he stood, looked at the map steadily, and presently, still absorbed, turned to the table. He saw the violin, picked it up, and handed it to De Casson:
"Something with a smack of war," he said. "And a woman for me," added Perrot.
The abbe shook his head musingly at Perrot, took the violin, and gathered it to his chin. At first he played as if in wait of something that eluded him. But all at once he floated into a powerful melody, as a stream creeps softly through a weir, and after many wanderings broadens suddenly into a great stream. He had found his theme. Its effect was striking. Through Iberville's mind there ran a hundred incidents of his life, one chasing upon the other without sequence--phantasmagoria out of the scene--house of memory:
The light upon the arms of De Tracy's soldiers when they marched up Mountain Street many years before--The frozen figure of a man standing upright in the plains--A procession of canoes winding down past Two Mountains, the wild chant of the Indians joining with the romantic songs of the voyageurs--A girl flashing upon the drawn swords of two lads--King Louis giving his hand to one of these lads to kiss--A lady of the Court for whom he might easily have torn his soul to rags, but for a fair-faced English girl, ever like a delicate medallion in his eye--A fight with the English in the Spaniards' country--His father blessing him as he went forth to France--A dark figure taking a hundred shapes, and yet always meaning the same as when he--Iberville--said over the governor's table in New York, "Foolish boy!"--A vast stretch of lonely forest, in the white coverlet of winter, through which sounded now and then the boom-boom of a bursting tree--A few score men upon a desolate northern track, silent, desperate, courageous; a forlorn hope on the edge of the Arctic circle, with the joy of conquest in their bones, and at their thighs the swords of men.
These are a few of the pictures, but the last of them had not to do with the past: a dream grown into a fact, shaped by the music, become at once an emotion and a purpose.
Iberville had now driven home the first tent-peg of a wonderful adventure. Under the spell of that music his body seemed to grow larger. He fingered his sword, and presently caught Perrot by the shoulder and said "We will do it, Perrot."
Perrot got to his feet. He understood. He nodded and seized Iberville's hand. "Bravo! There was nothing else to do," he replied.
De Casson lowered his violin. "What do you intend?" he asked gravely.
Iberville took his great hand and pressed it. "To do what you will commend, abbe: at Hudson's Bay to win back forts the English have taken, and get those they have built."
"You have another purpose," added De Casson softly.
"Abbe, that is between me and my conscience. I go for my king and country against our foes."
"Who will go with you? You will lead?"
"Not I to lead--that involves me." Iberville's face darkened. "I wish more freedom, but still to lead in fact."
"But who will lead? And who will go?"
"De Troyes, perhaps, to lead. To go, my brothers Sainte-Helene and Maricourt, Perrot and a stout company of his men; and then I fear not treble as many English."
The priest did not seem satisfied. Presently Iberville, with a winning smile, ran an arm over his shoulder and added: "We cannot go without you, Dollier."
The priest's face cleared, and a moment afterwards the three comrades shook hands together.
AS SEEN THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY
When King Louis and King James called for peace, they could not know that it was as little possible to their two colonies as between rival buccaneers. New France was full of bold spirits who loved conquest for conquest's sake. Besides, in this case there was a force at work, generally unknown, but as powerful as the convincing influence of an army. Behind the worst and the best acts of Charles II was a woman. Behind the glories and follies of Louis XIV was also a woman. Behind some of the most striking incidents in the history of New France, New England, and New York, was a woman.
We saw her when she was but a child--the centre of singular events. Years had passed. Not one of those events had gone for nothing; each was bearing fruit after its kind.
She is sitting alone in a room of a large unhandsome house, facing on Boston harbour. It is evening. The room itself is of dark wood, and evening has thrown it into gloom. Yet somehow the girl's face has a light of its own. She is turned fair towards the window, and is looking out to sea. A mist is rising from the water, and the shore is growing grey and heavy as the light in the west recedes and night creeps in from the ocean. She watches the waves and the mist till all is mist without; a scene which she had watched, how often she could not count. The night closes in entirely upon her, but she does not move. At last the door of the room opens and some one enters and closes it again. "My daughter!" says an anxious voice. "Are you here, Jessica?"
"I am here, father," is the reply. "Shall we have lights?"
"As you will."
Even as they speak a servant enters, and lighted candles are put upon the table. They are alone again. Both are pale. The girl stands very still, and so quiet is her face, one could never guess that she is passing, through the tragic moment of her life.
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