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- The Trail of the Sword, Volume 3. - 2/8 -


soldierliness, his courtier spirit, and his treatment of the English prisoners, soon placed him on a footing near as friendly as that of years before. The governor praised his growing reputation, and at last asked him to dine, saying that Mistress Leveret would no doubt be glad to meet her rescuer again.

"Still, I doubt not," said the governor, "there will be embarrassment, for the lady can scarce forget that you had her lover prisoner. But these things are to be endured. Besides, you and Mr. Gering seem as easily enemies as other men are friends."

Iberville was amazed. So, Jessica and Gering were affianced. And the buckle she had sent him he wore now in the folds of his lace! How could he know what comes from a woman's wavering sympathies, what from her inborn coquetry, and what from love itself? He was merely a man with much to learn.

He accepted dinner and said: "As for Monsieur Gering, your excellency, we are as easily enemies as he and Radisson are comrades-in-arms."

"Which is harshly put, monsieur. When a man is breaking prison he chooses any tool. You put a slight upon an honest gentleman."

"I fear that neither Mr. Gering nor myself is too generous with each other, your excellency," answered Iberville lightly.

This frankness was pleasing, and soon the governor took Iberville into the drawing-room, where Jessica was. She was standing by the great fireplace, and she did not move at first, but looked at Iberville in some thing of her old simple way. Then she offered him her hand with a quiet smile.

"I fear you are not glad to see me," he said, with a smile. "You cannot have had good reports of me--no?"

"Yes, I am glad," she answered gently. "You know, monsieur, mine is a constant debt. You do not come to me, I take it, as the conqueror of Englishmen."

"I come to you," he answered, "as Pierre le Moyne of Iberville, who had once the honour to do you slight service. I have never tried to forget that, because by it I hoped I might be remembered--an accident of price to me."

She bowed and at first did not speak; then Morris came to say that some one awaited the governor, and the two were left alone.

"I have not forgotten," she began softly, breaking a silence.

"You will think me bold, but I believe you will never forget," was his meaning reply.

"Yes, you are bold," she replied, with the demure smile which had charmed him long ago. Suddenly she looked up at him anxiously, and, "Why did you go to Hudson's Bay?" she asked.

"I would have gone ten times as far for the same cause," he answered, and he looked boldly, earnestly, into her eyes.

She turned her head away. "You have all your old recklessness," she answered. Then her eyes softened, and, "All your old courage," she added.

"I have all my old motive."

"What is-your motive?"

Does a woman ever know how much such speeches cost? Did Jessica quite know when she asked the question, what her own motive was; how much it had of delicate malice--unless there was behind it a simple sincerity? She was inviting sorrow. A man like Iberville was not to be counted lightly; for every word he sowed, he would reap a harvest of some kind.

He came close to her, and looked as though he would read her through and through. "Can you ask that question?" he said most seriously. "If you ask it because from your soul you wish to know, good! But if you ask it as a woman who would read a man's heart, and then--"

"Oh, hush!--hush!" she whispered. Her face became pale, and her eyes had a painful brightness. "You must not answer. I had no right to ask. Oh, monsieur!" she added, "I would have you always for my friend if I could, though you are the enemy of my country and of the man--I am to marry."

"I am for my king," he replied; "and I am enemy of him who stands between you and me. For see: from the hour that I met you I knew that some day, even as now, I should tell you that--I love you--indeed, Jessica, with all my heart."

"Oh, have pity!" she pleaded. "I cannot listen--I cannot."

"You shall listen, for you have remembered me and have understood. Voila!" he added, hastily catching her silver buckle from his bosom. "This that you sent me, look where I have kept it--on my heart!"

She drew back from him, her face in her hands. Then suddenly she put them out as though to prevent him coming near her, and said:

"Oh, no--no! You will spare me; I am an affianced wife." An appealing smile shone through her tears. "Oh, will you not go?" she begged. "Or, will you not stay and forget what you have said? We are little more than strangers; I scarcely know you; I--"

"We are no strangers," he broke in. "How can that be, when for years I have thought of you--you of me? But I am content to wait, for my love shall win you yet. You--"

She came to him and put her hands upon his arm. "You remember," she said, with a touch of her old gaiety, and with an inimitable grace, "what good friends we were that first day we met? Let us be the same now--for this time at least. Will you not grant me this for to-day?"

"And to-morrow?" he asked, inwardly determining to stay in the port of New York and to carry her off as his wife; but, unlike Bucklaw, with her consent.

At that moment the governor returned, and Iberville's question was never answered. Nor did he dine at Government House, for word came secretly that English ships were coming from Boston to capture him. He had, therefore, no other resource but to sail out and push on for Quebec. He would not peril the lives of his men merely to follow his will with Jessica.

What might have occurred had he stayed is not easy to say--fortunes turn on strange trifles. The girl, under the influence of his masterful spirit and the rare charm of his manner, might have--as many another has --broken her troth. As it was, she wrote Iberville a letter and sent it by a courier, who never delivered it. By the same fatality, of the letters which he wrote her only one was received. This told her that when he returned from a certain cruise he would visit her again, for he was such an enemy to her country that he was keen to win what did it most honour. Gering had pressed for a marriage before he sailed for the Spaniards' country, but she had said no, and when he urged it she had shown a sudden coldness. Therefore, bidding her good-bye, he had sailed away with Phips, accompanied, much against his will, by Radisson. Bucklaw was not with them. He had set sail from England in a trading schooner, and was to join Phips at Port de la Planta. Gering did not know that Bucklaw had share in the expedition, nor did Bucklaw guess the like of Gering.

Within two weeks of the time that Phips in his Bridgwater Merchant, manned by a full crew, twenty fighting men, and twelve guns, with Gering in command of the Swallow, a smaller ship, got away to the south, Iberville also sailed in the same direction. He had found awaiting him, on his return to Quebec, a priest bearing messages and a chart from another priest who had died in the Spaniards' country.

CHAPTER XIV

IN WHICH THE HUNTERS ARE OUT

Iberville had a good ship. The Maid of Provence carried a handful of guns and a small but carefully chosen crew, together with Sainte-Helene, Perrot, and the lad Maurice Joval, who had conceived for Iberville friendship nigh to adoration. Those were days when the young were encouraged to adventure, and Iberville had no compunction in giving the boy this further taste of daring.

Iberville, thorough sailor as he was, had chosen for his captain one who had sailed the Spanish Main. He had commanded on merchant-ships which had been suddenly turned into men-of-war, and was suited to the present enterprise: taciturn, harsh of voice, singularly impatient, but a perfect seaman and as brave as could be. He had come to Quebec late the previous autumn with the remnants of a ship which, rotten when she left the port of Havre, had sprung a leak in mid-ocean, had met a storm, lost her mainmast, and by the time she reached the St. Lawrence had scarce a stick standing. She was still at Quebec, tied up in the bay of St. Charles, from which she would probably go out no more. Her captain--Jean Berigord --had chafed on the bit in the little Hotel Colbert, making himself more feared than liked, till one day he was taken to Iberville by Perrot.

A bargain was soon struck. The nature of the expedition was not known in Quebec, for the sailors were not engaged till the eve of starting, and Perrot's men were ready at his bidding without why or wherefore. Indeed, when the Maid of Provence left the island of Orleans, her nose seawards, one fine July morning, the only persons in Quebec that knew her destination were the priest who had brought Iberville the chart of the river, with its accurate location of the sunken galleon, Iberville's brothers, and Count Frontenac himself--returned again as governor.

"See, Monsieur Iberville," said the governor, as, with a fine show of compliment, in full martial dress, with his officers in gold lace, perukes, powder, swords, and ribbons, he bade Iberville good-bye--"See, my dear captain, that you find the treasure, or make these greedy English pay dear for it. They have a long start, but that is nothing, with a ship under you that can show its heels to any craft. I care not so much about the treasure, but I pray you humble those dull Puritans, who turn buccaneers in the name of the Lord."

Iberville made a gallant reply, and, with Sainte-Helene, received a hearty farewell from the old soldier, who, now over seventy years of age, was as full of spirit as when he distinguished himself at Arras fifty years before. In Iberville he saw his own youth renewed, and foretold the high part he would yet play in the fortunes of New France. Iberville had got to the door and was bowing himself out when, with a quick gesture, Frontenac stopped him, stepped quickly forward, and clasping his shoulders kissed him on each cheek, and said in a deep, kind voice: "I


The Trail of the Sword, Volume 3. - 2/8

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