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´╗┐Title: The Pomp of the Lavilettes, Complete
Author: Parker, Gilbert, 1860-1932
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Pomp of the Lavilettes, Complete" ***

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THE POMP OF THE LAVILETTES

By Gilbert Parker



INTRODUCTION

I believe that 'The Pomp of the Lavilettes' has elements which justify
consideration. Its original appearance was, however, not made under
wholly favourable conditions. It is the only book of mine which I ever
sold outright. This was in 1896. Mr. Lamson, of Messrs. Lamson & Wolffe,
energetic and enterprising young publishers of Boston, came to see me at
Atlantic City (I was on a visit to the United States at the time), and
made a gallant offer for the English, American and colonial book and
serial rights. I felt that some day I could get the book back under my
control if I so desired, while the chances of the book making an
immediate phenomenal sale were not great. There is something in the
nature of a story which determines its popularity. I knew that 'The Seats
of the Mighty' and 'The Right of Way' would have a great sale, and after
they were written I said as much to my publishers. There was the element
of general appeal in the narratives and the characters. Without
detracting from the character-drawing, the characters, or the story in
'The Pomp of the Lavilettes', I was convinced that the book would not
make the universal appeal. Yet I should have written the story, even if
it had been destined only to have a hundred readers. It had to be
written. I wanted to write what was in me, and that invasion of a little
secluded French-Canadian society by a ne'er-do-well of the over-sea
aristocracy had a psychological interest, which I could not resist. I
thought it ought to be worked out and recorded, and particularly as the
time chosen--1837--marked a large collision between the British and the
French interests in French Canada, or rather of French political
interests and the narrow administrative prejudices and nepotism of the
British executive in Quebec.

It is a satisfaction to include this book in a definitive edition of my
works, for I think that, so far as it goes, it is truthfully
characteristic of French life in Canada, that its pictures are faithful,
and that the character-drawing represents a closer observation than any
of the previous works, slight as the volume is. It holds the same
relation to 'The Right of Way' that 'The Trail of the Sword' holds to
'The Seats of the Mighty', that 'A Ladder of Swords' holds to 'The Battle
of the Strong', that 'Donovan Pasha' holds to 'The Weavers'.
Instinctively, and, as I believe, naturally, I gave to each ambitious,
and--so far as conception goes--to each important novel of mine, an avant
coureur. 'The Trail of the Sword, A Ladder of Swords, Donovan Pasha and
The Pomp of the Lavilettes', are all very short novels, not exceeding in
any case sixty thousand words, while the novels dealing in a larger way
with the same material--the same people and environment, with the same
mise-en-scene, were each of them at least one hundred and forty thousand
words in length, or over two and a half times as long. I do not say that
this is a system which I devised; but it was, from the first, the method
I pursued instinctively; on the basis that dealing with a smaller
subject--with what one might call a genre picture first, I should get
well into my field, and acquire greater familiarity with my material than
I should have if I attempted the larger work at once.

This is not to say that the smaller work was immature. On the contrary, I
believe that at least these shorter works are quite mature in their
treatment and in their workmanship and design. Naturally, however, they
made less demand on all one's resources, they were narrower in scope and
less complicated, than the longer works, like 'The Seats of the Mighty',
which made heavier call upon the capacities of one's art. The only
occasion on which I have not preceded a very long novel of life in a new
field, by a very short one, is in the writing of 'The Judgment House'.
For this book, however, it might be said, that all the last twenty years
was a preparation, since the scenes were scenes in which I had lived and
moved, and in a sense played a part; while the ten South African chapters
of the book placed in the time of the Natal campaign needed no pioneer
narrative to increase familiarity with the material, the circumstances
and the country itself. I knew it all from study on the spot.

From The 'Pomp of the Lavilettes', with which might be associated 'The
Lane That Had no Turning', to 'The Right of Way', was a natural
progression; it was the emergence of a big subject which must be treated
in a large bold way, if it was to succeed. It succeeded to a degree which
could not fail to gratify any one who would rather have a wide audience
than a contracted one, who believes that to be popular is not necessarily
to be contemptible--as the ancient Pistol put it, "base, common and
popular."



THE POMP OF THE LAVILETTES



CHAPTER I

You could not call the place a village, nor yet could it be called a
town. Viewed from the bluff, on the English side of the river, it was a
long stretch of small farmhouses--some painted red, with green shutters,
some painted white, with red shutters--set upon long strips of land,
green, yellow, and brown, as it chanced to be pasture land, fields of
grain, or "plough-land."

These long strips of property, fenced off one from the other, so narrow
and so precise, looked like pieces of ribbon laid upon a wide quilt of
level country. Far back from this level land lay the dark, limestone
hills, which had rambled down from Labrador, and, crossing the River St.
Lawrence, stretched away into the English province. The farmhouses and
the long strips of land were in such regular procession, it might almost
have seemed to the eye of the whimsical spectator that the houses and the
ribbon were of a piece, and had been set down there, sentinel after
sentinel, like so many toy soldiers, along the banks of the great river.
There was one important break in the long line of precise settlement, and
that was where the Parish Church, about the middle of the line, had
gathered round it a score or so of buildings. But this only added to the
strength of the line rather than broke its uniformity. Wide stretches of
meadow-land reached back from the Parish Church until they were lost in
the darker verdure of the hills.

On either side of the Parish Church, with its tall, stone tower, were two
stout-built houses, set among trees and shrubbery. They were low set,
broad and square, with heavy-studded, old-fashioned doors. The roofs were
steep and high, with dormer windows and a sort of shelf at the gables.

They were both on the highest ground in the whole settlement, a little
higher than the site of the Parish Church. The one was the residence of
the old seigneur, Monsieur Duhamel; the other was the Manor Casimbault,
empty now of all the Casimbaults. For a year it had lain idle, until the
only heir of the old family, which was held in high esteem as far back as
the time of Louis Quinze, returned from his dissipations in Quebec to
settle in the old place or sell it to the highest bidder.

Behind the Manor Casimbault and the Seigneury, thus flanking the church
at reverential distance, another large house completed the acute
triangle, forming the apex of the solid wedge of settlement drawn about
the church. This was the great farmhouse of the Lavilettes, one of the
most noticeable families in the parish.

Of the little buildings bunched beside the church, not the least
important was the post-office, kept by Papin Baby, who was also keeper of
the bridge which was almost at the door of the office. This bridge
crossed a stream that ran into the large river, forming a harbour. It
opened in the middle, permitting boats and vessels to go through. Baby
worked it by a lever. A hundred yards or so above the bridge was the
parish mill, and between were the Hotel France, the little house of
Doctor Montmagny, the Regimental Surgeon (as he was called), the cooper
shop, the blacksmith, the tinsmith and the grocery shops. Just beyond the
mill, upon the banks of the river, was the most notorious, if not the
most celebrated, house in the settlement. Shangois, the travelling
notary, lived in it--when he was not travelling. When he was, he left it
unlocked, all save one room; and people came and went through the house
as they pleased, eyeing with curiosity the dusty, tattered books upon the
shelves, the empty bottles in the corner, the patchwork of cheap prints,
notices of sales, summonses, accounts, certificates of baptism,
memoranda, receipted bills--though they were few--tacked or stuck to the
wall.

No grown-up person of the village meddled with anything, no matter how
curious; for this consistent, if unspoken, trust displayed by Shangois
appealed to their better instincts. Besides, they, like the children, had
a wholesome fear of the disreputable, shrunken, dishevelled little
notary, with the bead-like eyes, yellow stockings, hooked nose and
palsied left hand. Also the knapsack and black bag he carried under his
arms contained more secrets than most people wished to tempt or challenge
forth. Few cared to anger the little man, whose father and grandfather
had been notaries here before him.

Like others in the settlement, Shangois was the last of his race. He
could put his finger upon the secret history and private lives of nearly
every person in a dozen parishes, but most of all in Bonaventure--for
such this long parish was called. He knew to a hair's breadth the social
value of every human being in the parish. He was too cunning and acute to
be a gossip, but by direct and indirect ways he made every person feel
that the Cure and the Lord might forgive their pasts, but he could never
forget them, nor wished to do so. For Monsieur Duhamel, the old seigneur,
for the drunken Philippe Casimbault, for the Cure, and for the
Lavilettes, who owned the great farmhouse at the apex of that wedge of
village life, he had a profound respect. The parish generally did not
share his respect for the Lavilettes.

Once upon a time, beyond the memories of any in the parish, the
Lavilettes of Bonaventure were a great people. Disaster came, debt and
difficulty followed, fire consumed the old house in which their dignity
had been cherished, and at last they had no longer their seigneurial
position, but that of ordinary farmers who work and toil in the field
like any of the fifty-acre farmers on the banks of the St. Lawrence
River.

Monsieur Louis Lavilette, the present head of the house, had not married
well. At the time when the feeling against the English was the strongest,
and when his own fortunes were precarious, he had married a girl somewhat
older than himself, who was half English and half French, her father
having been a Hudson's Bay Company factor on the north coast of the
river. In proportion as their fortunes and their popularity declined, and
their once notable position as an old family became scarce a memory even,
the pride of the Lavilettes increased.

Madame Lavilette made strong efforts to secure her place; but she was not
of an old French family, and this was an easy and convenient weapon
against her. Besides, she had no taste, and her manners were much
inferior to those of her husband. What impression he managed to make by
virtue of a good deal of natural dignity, she soon unmade by her lack of
tact. She had no innate breeding, though she was not vulgar. She lacked
sense a little and sensitiveness much.

The Casimbaults and the wife of the old seigneur made no friends of the
Lavilettes, but the old seigneur kept up a formal habit of calling twice
a year at the Lavilettes' big farmhouse, which, in spite of all
misfortune, grew bigger as the years went on. Probably, in spite of
everything, Monsieur Lavilette and his family would have succeeded better
socially had it not been for one or two unpopular lawsuits brought by the
Lavilettes against two neighbours, small farmers, one of whom was clearly
in the wrong, and the other as clearly in the right.

When, after years had gone by, and the children of the Lavilettes had
grown up, young Monsieur Casimbault came from Quebec to sell his property
(it seemed to the people of Bonaventure like selling his birthright), he
was greatly surprised to find Monsieur Lavilette ready with ten thousand
dollars, to purchase the Manor Casimbault. Before the parish had time to
take breath Monsieur Casimbault had handed over the deed, pocketed the
money, and leaving the ancient heritage of his family in the hands of the
Lavilettes, (who forthwith prepared to enter upon it, house and land),
had hurried away to Quebec again without any pangs of sentiment.

It was a little before this time that impertinent peasants in the parish
began to sing:

       "O when you hear my little silver drum,
         And when I blow my little gold trompette-a,
        You must drop your work and come,
        You must leave your pride at home,
         And duck your heads before the Lavilette-a!"

Gatineau the miller, and Baby the keeper of the bridge, gave their own
reasons for the renewed progress of the Lavilettes. They met in
conference at the mill on the eve of the marriage of Sophie Lavilette to
Magon Farcinelle, farrier, farmer and member of the provincial
legislature, whose house lay behind the piece of maple wood, a mile or so
to the right of the Lavilettes' farmhouse. Farcinelle's engagement to
Sophie had come as a surprise to all, for, so far as people knew, there
had been no courting. Madame Lavilette had encouraged, had even tempted,
the spontaneous and jovial Farcinelle. Though he had never made a speech
in the House of Assembly, and it was hard to tell why he was elected,
save because everybody liked him, his official position and his
popularity held an important place in Madame Lavilette's long-developed
plans, which at last were to place her in a position equal to that of the
old seigneur, and launch her upon society at the capital.

They had gone more than once to the capital, where their family had been
well-known fifty years before, but few doors had been opened to them.
They were farmers--only farmers--and Madame Lavilette made no remarkable
impression. Her dress was florid and not in excellent taste, and her
accent was rather crude. Sophie had gone to school at the convent in the
city, but she had no ambition. She had inherited the stolid simplicity of
her English grandfather. When her schooling was finished she let her
school friends drop, and came back to Bonaventure, rather stately, given
to reading, and little inclined to bother her head about anybody.

Christine, the younger sister, had gone to Quebec also, but after a week
of rebellion, bad temper and sharp speaking, had come home again without
ceremony, and refused to return. Despite certain likenesses to her
mother, she had a deep, if unintelligible, admiration for her father, and
she never tired looking at the picture of her great-grandfather in the
dress of a chevalier of St. Louis--almost the only thing that had been
saved from the old Manor House, destroyed so long before her time.
Perhaps it was the importance she attached to her ancestry which made her
impatient with their present position, and with people in the parish who
would not altogether recognise their claims. It was that which made her
give a little jerky bow to the miller and the postmaster when she passed
the mill.

"Come, dusty-belly," said Baby, "what's all this pom-pom of the
Lavilettes?"

The miller pursed out his lips, contracted his brows, and arranged his
loose waistcoat carefully on his fat stomach.

"Money," said he, oracularly, as though he had solved the great question
of the universe.

"La! la! But other folks have money; and they step about Bonaventure no
more louder than a cat."

"Blood," added Gatineau, corrugating his brows still more.

"Bosh!"

"Both together--money and blood," rejoined the miller. Overcome by his
exertions, he wheezed so tremendously that great billows of excitement
raised his waistcoat, and a perspiration broke out upon his mealy face,
making a paste which the sun, through the open doorway, immediately began
to bake into a crust.

"Pah, the airs they have always had, those Lavilettes!" said Baby. "They
will not do this because it is not polite, they will not do that because
they are too proud. They say that once there was a baron in their family.
Who can tell how long ago! Perhaps when John the Baptist was alive. What
is that? Nothing. There is no baron now. All at once somebody die a year
ago, and leave them ten thousand dollars; and then--mais, there is the
grand difference! They have save and save twenty years to pay their debts
and to buy a seigneury, like that baron who live in the time of John the
Baptist. Now it is to stand on a ladder to speak to them. And when all's
done, they marry Ma'm'selle Sophie to a farrier, to that Magon
Farcinelle--bah!"

"Magon was at the Laval College in Quebec; he has ten thousand dollars;
he is the best judge of horses in the province, and he's a Member of
Parliament to boot," said the miller, puffing. "He is a great man
almost."

"He's no better judge of horses than M'sieu' Nic Lavilette--eh, that's a
bully bad scamp, my Gatineau!" responded Baby. "He's the best in the
family. He is a grand sport; yes. It's he that fetched Ma'm'selle Sophie
to the hitching-post. Voila, he can wind them all round his finger!"

Baby looked round to see if any one was near; then he drew the miller's
head down by pulling at his collar, and whispered in his ear:

"He's hot foot for the Rebellion; that's one good thing," he said. "If he
wipes out the English--"

"Hold your tongue," nervously interrupted Gatineau, for just then two or
three loiterers of the parish came shambling around the corner of the
mill.

Baby stopped short, and as they greeted the newcomers their attention was
drawn to the stage-coach from St. Croix coming over the little hill near
by.

"Here's M'sieu' Nic now--and who's with him?" said Baby, stepping about
nervously in his excitement. "I knew there was something up. M'sieu'
Nic's been writing long letters from Montreal."

Baby's look suggested that he knew more than his position as postmaster
entitled him to know; but the furtive droop at the corner of his eyes
showed also that his secretiveness was equal to his cowardice.

On the seat, beside the driver of the coach, was Nicolas Lavilette,
black-haired, brown-eyed, athletic, reckless-looking, with a cast in his
left eye, which gave him a look of drollery, in keeping with his buoyant,
daring nature. Beside him was a figure much more noticeable and unusual.

Lean, dark-featured, with keen-glancing eyes, and a body with a faculty
for finding corners of ease; waving hair, streaked with grey, black
moustache, and a hectic flush on the cheeks, lending to the world-wise
face a wistful look-that, with near six feet of height, was the picture
of his friend.

"Who is it?" asked the miller, with bulging eyes. "An English nobleman,"
answered Baby. "How do you know?" asked Gatineau.

"How do I know you are a fat, cheating miller?" replied the postmaster,
with cunning care and a touch of malice. Malice was the only power Baby
knew.



CHAPTER II

In the matter of power, Baby, the inquisitive postmaster and keeper of
the bridge, was unlike the new arrival in Bonaventure. The abilities of
the Honourable Tom Ferrol lay in a splendid plausibility, a spontaneous
blarney. He could no more help being spendthrift of his affections and
his morals than of his money, and many a time he had wished that his
money was as inexhaustible as his emotions.

In point of morals, any of the Lavilettes presented a finer average than
their new guest, who had come to give their feasting distinction, and
what more time was to show. Indeed, the Hon. Mr. Ferrol had no morals to
speak of, and very little honour. He was the penniless son of an Irish
peer, who was himself well-nigh penniless; and he and his sister, whose
path of life at home was not easy after her marriageable years had
passed, drew from the consols the small sum of money their mother had
left them, and sailed away for New York.

Six months of life there, with varying fortune in which a well-to-do girl
in society gave him a promise of marriage, and then Ferrol found himself
jilted for a baronet, who owned a line of steamships and could give the
ambitious lady a title. In his sick heart he had spoken profanely of the
future Lady of Title, had bade her good-bye with a smile and an agreeable
piece of wit, and had gone home to his flat and sobbed like a schoolboy;
for, as much as he could love anybody, he loved this girl. He and the
faithful sister vanished from New York and appeared in Quebec, where they
were made welcome in Government House, at the citadel, and among all who
cared to know the weight of an inherited title. For a time, the fact that
he had little or no money did not temper their hospitality with
niggardliness or caution. But their cheery and witty guest began to take
more wine than was good for him or comfortable for others; his bills at
the clubs remained unpaid, his landlord harried him, his tailors pursued
him; and then he borrowed cheerfully and well.

However, there came an end to this, and to the acceptance of his I O U's.
Following the instincts of his Irish ancestors, he then leagued with a
professional smuggler, and began to deal in contraband liquors and
cigars. But before this occurred, he had sent his sister to a little
secluded town, where she should be well out of earshot of his doings or
possible troubles. He would have shielded her from harm at the cost of
his life. His loyalty to her was only limited by the irresponsibility of
his nature and a certain incapacity to see the difference between radical
right and radical wrong. His honour was a matter of tradition, such as it
was, and in all else he had the inherent invalidity of some of his
distant forebears. For a time all went well, then discovery came, and
only the kind intriguing of as good friends as any man deserved prevented
his arrest and punishment. But it all got whispered about; and while some
ladies saw a touch of romance in his doing professionally and wholesale
what they themselves did in an amateurish way with laces, gloves and so
on, men viewed the matter more seriously, and advised Ferrol to leave
Quebec.

Since that time he had lived by his wits--and pleasing, dangerous wits
they were--at Montreal and elsewhere. But fatal ill-luck pursued him.
Presently a cold settled on his lungs. In the dead of winter, after
sending what money he had to his sister, he had lived a week or more in a
room, with no fire and little food. As time went on, the cold got no
better. After sundry vicissitudes and twists of fortune, he met Nicolas
Lavilette at a horse race, and a friendship was struck up. He frankly and
gladly accepted an invitation to attend the wedding of Sophie Lavilette,
and to make a visit at the farm, and at the Manor Casimbault afterwards.
Nicolas spoke lightly of the Manor Casimbault, yet he had pride in it
also; for, scamp as he was, and indifferent to anything like personal
dignity or self-respect, he admired his father and had a natural, if
good-natured, arrogance akin to Christine's self-will.

It meant to Ferrol freedom from poverty, misery and financial subterfuge
for a moment; and he could be quiet--for, as he said, "This confounded
cold takes the iron out of my blood."

Like all people stricken with this disease, he never called it anything
but a cold. All those illusions which accompany the malady were his. He
would always be better "to-morrow." He told the two or three friends who
came from their beds in the early morning to see him safely off from
Montreal to Bonaventure that he would be all right as soon as he got out
into the country; that he sat up too late in the town; and that he had
just got a new prescription which had cured a dozen people "with colds
and hemorrhages." His was only a cold--just a cold; that was all. He was
a bit weak sometimes, and what he needed was something to pull up his
strength. The country would do this-plenty of fresh air, riding, walking,
and that sort of thing.

He had left Montreal behind in gay spirits, and he continued gay for
several hours, holding himself' erect in the seat, noting the landscape,
telling stories; but he stumbled with weakness as they got out of the
coach for luncheon. He drank three full portions of whiskey at table, and
ate nothing. The silent landlady who waited on them at last brought a
huge bowl of milk, and set it before him without a word. A flush passed
swiftly across his face and faded away, as, with quick sensitiveness, he
glanced at Nicolas and another passenger, a fat priest. They took no
notice, and, reassured, he said, with a laugh, that the landlady knew
exactly what he wanted. Lifting the dish, he drained it at a gasp, though
the milk almost choked him, and, to the apprehension of his hostess, set
the bowl spinning on the table like a top. Another illusion of the
disease was his: that he succeeded perfectly in deceiving everybody round
him with his pathetic make-believe; and, unlike most deceivers, he
deceived himself as well. The two actions, inconsistent as they were,
were reconciled in him, as in all the race of consumptives, by some
strange chemistry of the mind and spirit. He was on the broad,
undiverging highway to death; yet, with every final token about him that
he was in the enemy's country, surrounded, trapped, soon to be passed
unceremoniously inside the citadel at the end of the avenue, he kept
signalling back to old friends that all was well, and he told himself
that to-morrow the king should have his own again--"To-morrow, and
to-morrow, and to-morrow!"

He was not very thin in body; his face was full, and at times his eyes
were singularly and fascinatingly bright. He had colour--that hectic
flush which, on his cheek, was almost beautiful. One would have turned
twice to see. The quantities of spirits that he drank (he ate little)
would have killed a half-dozen healthy men. To him it was food, taken up,
absorbed by the fever of his disease, giving him a real, not a fictitious
strength; and so it would continue to do till some artery burst and
choked him, or else, by some miracle of air and climate, the hole in his
lung healed up again; which he, in his elation, believed would be
"to-morrow." Perhaps the air, the food, and life of Bonaventure were the
one medicine he needed!

But, in the moment Nicolas said to him that Bonaventure was just over the
hill, that they would be able to see it now, he had a sudden feeling of
depression. He felt that he would give anything to turn back. A
perspiration broke out on his forehead and his cheek. His eyes had a
wavering, anxious look. Some of that old sanity of the once healthy man
was making a last effort for supremacy, breaking in upon illusive hopes
and irresponsible deceptions.

It was only for a moment. Presently, from the top of the hill, they
looked down upon the long line of little homes lying along the banks of
the river like peaceful watchmen in a pleasant land, with corn and wine
and oil at hand. The tall cross on the spire of the Parish Church was
itself a message of hope. He did not define it so; but the impression
vaguely, perhaps superstitiously, possessed him. It was this vague
influence, perhaps (for he was not a Catholic), which made him
involuntarily lift his hat, as did Nicolas, when they passed a calvary;
which induced him likewise to make the sacred gesture when they met a
priest, with an acolyte and swinging censer, hurrying silently on to the
home of some dying parishioner. The sensations were different from
anything he had known. He had been used to the Catholic religion in
Ireland; he had seen it in France, Spain, Italy and elsewhere; but here
was something essentially primitive, archaically touching and convincing.

His spirits came back with a rush; he had a splendid feeling of
exaltation. He was not religious, never could be, but he felt religious;
he was ill, but he felt that he was on the open highway to health; he was
dishonest, but he felt an honest man; he was the son of a peer, but he
felt himself brother to the fat miller by the roadway, to Baby, the
postmaster and keeper of the bridge, to the Regimental Surgeon, who stood
in his doorway, pulling at his moustache and blowing clouds of tobacco
smoke into the air.

Shangois, the notary, met his eye as they dashed on. A new sensation--not
a change in the elation he felt, but an instant's interruption--came to
him. He asked who Shangois was, and Nicolas told him.

"A notary, eh?" he remarked gaily. "Well, why does he disguise himself?
He looks like a ragpicker, and has the eye of Solomon and the devil in
one. He ought to be in some Star Chamber--Palmerston could make use of
him."

"Oh, he's kept busy enough with secrets here!" was Nicolas's laughing
reply.

"It's only a difference of size in the secrets anyhow," was Ferrol's
response in the same vein; and in a few moments they had passed the
Seigneury, and were drawn up before the great farmhouse.

Its appearance was rather comfortable and commodious than impressive, but
it had the air of home and undepreciating use. There was one beautiful
clump of hollyhocks and sunflowers in the front garden; a corner of the
main building was covered with morning-glories; a fence to the left was
overgrown with grape-vines, making it look like a hedge; a huge pear tree
occupied a spot opposite to the pretty copse of sunflowers and
hollyhocks; and the rest of the garden was green, save just round a
little "summer-house," in the corner, with its back to the road, near
which Sophie had set a palisade of the golden-rod flower. Just beside the
front door was a bush of purple lilac; and over the door, in copper, was
the coat-of-arms of the Lavilettes, placed there, at Madame's insistence,
in spite of the dying wish of Lavilette's father, a feeble, babbling old
gentleman in knee-breeches, stock, and swallow-tailed coat, who, broken
down by misfortune, age and loneliness, had gathered himself together for
one last effort for becomingness against his daughter-in-law's false
tastes--and had died the day after. He was spared the indignity of the
coat-of-arms on the tombstone only by the fierce opposition of Louis
Lavilette, who upon this point had his first quarrel with his wife.

Ferrol saw no particular details in his first view of the house. The
picture was satisfying to a tired man--comfort, quiet, the bread of
idleness to eat, and welcome, admiring faces round him. Monsieur
Lavilette stood in the doorway, and behind him, at a carefully disposed
distance, was Madame, rather more emphatically dressed than necessary. As
he shook hands genially with Madame he saw Sophie and Christine in the
doorway of the parlour. His spirits took another leap. His inexhaustible
emotions were out upon cheerful parade at once.

The Lavilettes immediately became pensioners of his affections. The first
hour of his coming he himself did not know which sister his ample heart
was spending itself on most--Sophie, with her English face, and slow,
docile, well-bred manner, or Christine, dark, petite, impertinent,
gay-hearted, wilful, unsparing of her tongue for others--or for herself.
Though Christine's lips and cheeks glowed, and her eyes had wonderful
warm lights, incredulity was constantly signalled from both eyes and
lips. She was a fine, daring little animal, with as great a talent for
untruth as truth, though, to this point in her life, truth had been more
with her. Her temptations had been few.



CHAPTER III

Mr. Ferrol seemed honestly to like the old farmhouse, with its low
ceilings, thick walls, big beams and wide chimneys, and he showed himself
perfectly at home. He begged to be allowed to sit for an hour in the
kitchen, beside the great fireplace. He enjoyed this part of his first
appearance greatly. It was like nothing he had tasted since he used, as a
boy, to visit the huntsman's home on his father's estate, and gossip and
smoke in that Galway chimney-corner. It was only when he had to face the
too impressive adoration of Madame Lavilette that his comfort got a
twist.

He made easy headway into the affections of his hostess; for, besides all
other predilections, she had an adoring awe of the nobility. It rather
surprised her that Ferrol seemed almost unaware of his title. He was
quite without self-consciousness, although there was that little touch of
irresponsibility in him which betrayed a readiness to sell his dignity
for a small compensation. With a certain genial capacity for universal
blarney, he was at first as impressive with Sophie as he was attentive to
Christine. It was quite natural that presently Madame Lavilette should
see possibilities beyond all her past imaginations. It would surely
advance her ambitions to have him here for Sophie's wedding; but even as
she thought that, she had twinges of disappointment, because she had
promised Farcinelle to have the wedding as simple and bourgeois as
possible.

Farcinelle did not share the social ambitions of the Lavilettes. He liked
his political popularity, and he was only concerned for that. He had that
touch of shrewdness to save him from fatuity where the Lavilettes were
concerned. He was determined to associate with the ceremony all the
primitive customs of the country. He had come of a race of simple
farmers, and he was consistent enough to attempt to live up to the
traditions of his people. He was entirely too good-natured to take
exception to Ferrol's easy-going admiration of Sophie.

Ferrol spoke excellent French, and soon found points of pleasant contact
with Monsieur Lavilette, who, despite the fact that he had coarsened as
the years went on, had still upon him the touch of family tradition,
which may become either offensive pride or defensive self-respect. With
the Cure, Ferrol was not quite so successful. The ascetic, prudent
priest, with that instinctive, long-sighted accuracy which belongs to the
narrow-minded, scented difficulty. He disliked the English exceedingly;
and all Irishmen were English men to him. He resisted Ferrol's blarney.
His thin lips tightened, his narrow forehead seemed to grow narrower, and
his very cassock appeared to contract austerely on his figure as he
talked to the refugee of misfortune.

When the most pardonable of gossips, the Regimental Surgeon, asked him on
his way home what he thought of Ferrol, he shrugged his shoulders,
tightened his lips again, and said:

"A polite, designing heretic."

The Regimental Surgeon, though a Frenchman, had once belonged to a
British battery of artillery stationed at Quebec, and there he had
acquired an admiration for the English, which betrayed itself in his
curious attempts to imitate Anglo-Saxon bluffness and blunt spontaneity.
When the Cure had gone, he flung back his shoulders, with a laugh, as he
had seen the major-general do at the officers' mess at the citadel, and
said in English:

"Heretics are damn' funny. I will go and call. I have also some Irish
whiskey. He will like that; and pipes--pipes, plenty of them!"

The pipe he was smoking at the moment had been given to him by the
major-general, and he polished the silver ferrule, with its honourable
inscription, every morning of his life.

On the morning of the second day after Ferrol came, he was carried off to
the Manor Casimbault to see the painful alterations which were being made
there under the direction of Madame Lavilette. Sophie, who had a good
deal of natural taste, had in the old days fought against her mother's
incongruous ideas, and once, when the rehabilitation of the Manor
Casimbault came up, she had made a protest; but it was unavailing, and it
was her last effort. The Manor Casimbault was destined to be an example
of ancient dignity and modern bad taste. Alterations were going on as
Madame Lavilette, Ferrol and Christine entered.

For some time Ferrol watched the proceedings with a casual eye, but
presently he begged his hostess that she would leave the tall, old oak
clock where it was in the big hall, and that the new, platter-faced
office clock, intended for its substitute, be hung up in the kitchen. He
eyed the well-scraped over-mantel askance and saw, with scarcely
concealed astonishment, a fine, old, carved wooden seat carried out of
doors to make room for an American rocking-chair. He turned his head away
almost in anger when he saw that the beautiful brown wainscoting was
being painted an ultra-marine blue. His partly disguised astonishment and
dissent were not lost upon the crude but clever Christine. A new sense
was opened up in her, and she felt somehow that the ultra-marine blue was
not right, that the over-mantel had been spoiled, that the new walnut
table was too noticeable, and that the American rocking-chair looked very
common. Also she felt that the plush, with which her mother and the
dressmaker at St. Croix had decorated her bodice, was not the thing.
Presently this made her angry.

"Won't you sit down?" she asked a little maliciously, pointing to the
rocking-chair in the salon.

"I prefer standing--with you," he answered, eyeing the chair with a sly
twinkle.

"No, that isn't it," she rejoined sharply. "You don't like the chair."
Then suddenly breaking into English--"Ah! I know, I know. You can't fool
me. I see de leetla look in your eye; and you not like the paint, and
you'd pitch that painter, Alcide, out into the snow if it is your house."

"I wouldn't, really," he answered--he coughed a little--"Alcide is doing
his work very well. Couldn't you give me a coat of blue paint, too?"

The piquant, intelligent, fiery peasant face interested him. It had
warmth, natural life and passion.

She flushed and stamped her foot, while he laughed heartily; and she was
about to say something dangerous, when the laugh suddenly stopped and he
began coughing. The paroxysm increased until he strained and caught at
his breast with his hand. It seemed as if his chest and throat must
burst.

She instantly changed. The flush of anger passed from her face, and
something else came into it. She caught his hand.

"Oh! what can I do, what can I do to help you?" she asked pitifully. "I
did not know you were so ill. Tell me, what can I do?"

He made a gentle, protesting motion of his free arm--he could not speak
yet--while she held and clasped his other hand.

"It's the worst I ever had," he said, after a moment "the very worst!"

He sat down, and again he had a fit of coughing, and the sweat started
out violently upon his forehead and cheek. When his head at last lay back
against the chair, the paroxysm over, a little spot of blood showed and
spread upon his white lips. With a pained, shuddering little gasp she
caught her handkerchief from her bosom, and, running one hand round his
shoulder, quickly and gently caught away the spot of blood, and crumpled
the handkerchief in her hand to hide it from him.

"Oh! poor fellow, poor fellow!" she said. "Oh! poor fellow!"

Her eyes filled with tears, and she looked at him with that look which is
not the love of a woman for a man, or of a lover for a lover, but that
latent spirit of care and motherhood which is in every woman who is more
woman than man. For there are women who are more men than women.

For himself, a new fact struck home in him. For the first time since his
illness he felt that he was doomed. That little spot of blood in the
crumpled handkerchief which had flashed past his eye was the fatal
message he had sought to elude for months past. A hopeless and ironical
misery shot through him. But he had humour too, and, with the taste of
the warm red drop in his mouth still, his tongue touched his lips
swiftly, and one hand grasping the arm of the chair, and the fingers of
the other dropping on the back of her hand lightly, he said in a quaint,
ironical tone:

"'Dead for a ducat!'"

When he saw the look of horror in her face, his eyes lifted almost gaily
to hers, as he continued:

"A little brandy, if you can get it, mademoiselle."

"Yes, yes. I'll get some for you--some whiskey!" she said, with
frightened, terribly eager eyes.

"Alcide always has some. Don't stir. Sit just where you are." She ran out
of the room swiftly--a light-footed, warm-spirited, dramatic little
thing, set off so garishly in the bodice with the plush trimming; but she
had a big heart, and the man knew it. It was the big-heartedness which
was the touch of the man in her that made her companionable to him.

He said to himself when she left him:

"What cursed luck!" And after a pause, he added: "Good-hearted little
body, how sorry she looked!" Then he settled back in his chair, his eyes
fixed upon her as she entered the room, eager, pale and solicitous. A
half-hour later they two were on their way to the farmhouse, the work of
despoiling going on in the Manor behind them. Ferrol walked with an easy,
half-languid step, even a gay sort of courage in his bearing. The liquor
he had drunk brought the colour to his lips. They were now hot and red,
and his eyes had a singular feverish brilliancy, in keeping with the
hectic flush on his cheek. He had dismissed the subject of his illness
almost immediately, and Christine's adaptable nature had instantly
responded to his mood.

He asked her questions about the country-side, of their neighbours, of
the way they lived, all in an easy, unintrusive way, winning her
confidence and provoking her candour.

Two or three times, however, her face suddenly flushed with the memory of
the scene in the Manor, and her first real awakening to her social
insufficiency; for she of all the family had been least careful to see
herself as others might see her. She was vain; she was somewhat of a
barbarian; she loved nobody and nobody's opinion as she loved herself and
her own opinion. Though, if any people really cared for her, and she for
them, they were the Regimental Surgeon and Shangois the notary.

Once, as they walked on, she turned and looked back at the Manor House,
but only for an instant. He caught the glance, and said:

"You'll like to live there, won't you?"

"I don't know," she answered almost sharply. "But if the Casimbaults
liked it, I don't see why we shouldn't."

There was a challenge in her voice, defiance in the little toss of her
head. He liked her spirit in spite of the vanity. Her vanity did not
concern him greatly; for, after all, what was he doing here? Merely
filling in dark days, living a sober-coloured game out. He had one
solitary hundred dollars--no more; and half of that he had borrowed, and
half of it he got from selling his shooting-traps and his hunting-watch.
He might worry along on that till the end of the game; but he had no
money to send his sister in that secluded village two hundred miles away.
She had never known how really poor he was; and she had lived in her
simple way without want and without any unusual anxiety, save for his
health. More than once he had practically starved himself to send money
to her. Perhaps also he would have starved others for the same purpose.

"I'll warrant the Casimbaults never enjoyed the Manor as much as I've
done that big kitchen in your house," he said, "and I can't see why you
want to leave it. Don't you feel sorry you are going to leave the old
place? Hadn't you got your own little spots there, and made friends with
them? I feel as if I should like to sit down by the side of your big,
warm chimney-corner, till the wind came along that blows out the candle."

"What do you mean by 'blowing out the candle'?" she asked.

"Well," he answered, "it means, shut up shop, drop the curtain, or
anything you like. It means X Y Z and the grand finale!"

"Oh!" she said, with a little start, as the thing dawned upon her. "Don't
speak like that; you're not going to die."

"Give me your handkerchief," he answered. "Give it to me, and I'll tell
you--how soon."

She jammed her hand down in her pocket. "No, I won't," she answered. "I
won't!"

She never did, and he liked her none the less for that. Somehow, up to
this time, he had always thought that he would get well, and to-morrow he
would probably think so again; but just for the moment he felt the real
truth.

Presently she said (they spoke in French):

"Why is it you like our old kitchen so much? It isn't nearly as nice as
the parlour."

"Well, it's a place to live in, anyhow; and I fancy you all feel more at
home there than anywhere else."

"I feel just as much at home in the parlour as there," she retorted.

"Oh, no, I think not. The room one lives in the most is the room for any
one's money."

She looked at him in a puzzled way. Too many sensations were being born
in her all at once; but she did recognise that he was not trying to
subtract anything from the pomp of the Lavilettes.

He belonged to a world that she did not know--and yet he was so perfectly
at home with her, so idly easygoing.

"Did you ever live in a castle?" she asked eagerly. "Yes," he said, with
a dry little laugh. Then, after a moment, with the half-abstracted manner
of a man who is recalling a long-forgotten scene, he added: "I lived in
the North Tower, looking out on Farcalladen Moor. When I wasn't riding to
the hounds myself I could see them crossing to or from the meet. The
River Stavely ran between; and just under the window of the North Tower
is the prettiest copse you ever saw. That was from one side of the tower.
From the other side you looked into the court-yard. As a boy, I liked the
court-yard just as well as the moor; for the pigeons, the sparrows, the
horses and the dogs were all there. As a man, I liked the moor better.
Well, I had jolly good times in Castle Stavely--once upon a time." "Yet,
you like our kitchen!" she again urged, in a maze of wonderment.

"I like everything here," he answered; "everything--everything, you
understand!" he said, looking meaningly into her eyes.

"Then you'll like the wedding--Sophie's wedding," she answered, in a
little confusion.

A half-hour later, he said much the same sort of thing to Sophie, with
the same look in his eyes, and only the general purpose, in either case,
of being on easy terms with them.



CHAPTER IV

The day of the wedding there was a gay procession through the parish of
the friends and constituents of Magon Farcinelle. When they came to his
home he joined them, and marched at the head of the procession as had
done many a forefather of his, with ribbons on his hat and others at his
button-hole. After stopping for exchange of courtesies at several houses
in the parish, the procession came to the homestead of the Lavilettes,
and the crowd were now enough excited to forget the pride which had
repelled and offended them for many years.

Monsieur Lavilette made a polite speech, sending round cider and "white
wine" (as native whiskey was called) when he had finished. Later, Nicolas
furnished some good brandy, and Farcinelle sent more. A good number of
people had come out of curiosity to see what manner of man the Englishman
was, well prepared to resent his overbearing snobbishness--they were
inclined to believe every Englishman snobbish. But Ferrol was so entirely
affable, and he drank so freely with everyone that came to say "A votre
sante, M'sieu' le Baron," and kept such a steady head in spite of all
those quantities of white wine, brandy and cider, that they were almost
ready to carry him on their shoulders; though, with their racial
prejudice, they would probably have repented of that indiscretion on the
morrow.

Presently, dancing began in a paddock just across the road from the
house; and when Madame Lavilette saw that Mr. Ferrol gave such
undisguised countenance to the primitive rejoicings, she encouraged the
revellers and enlarged her hospitality, sending down hampers of eatables.
She preened with pleasure when she saw Ferrol walking up and down in very
confidential conversation with Christine. If she had been really
observant she would have seen that Ferrol's tendency was towards an
appearance of confidential friendliness with almost everybody. Great
ideas had entered Madame's head, but they were vaguely defining
themselves in Christine's mind also. Where might not this friendship with
Ferrol lead her?

Something occurred in the midst of the dancing which gave a new turn to
affairs. In one of the pauses a song came monotonously lilting down the
street; yet it was not a song, it was only a sort of humming or chanting.
Immediately there was a clapping of hands, a flutter of female voices,
and delighted exclamations of children.

"Oh, it's a dancing bear, it's a dancing bear!" they cried.

"Is it Pito?" asked one.

"Is it Adrienne?" cried another.

"But no; I'll bet it's Victor!" exclaimed a third. As the man and the
bear came nearer, they saw it was neither of these. The man's voice was
not unpleasant; it had a rolling, crooning sort of sound, a little weird,
as though he had lived where men see few of their kind and have much to
do with animals.

He was bearded, but young; his hair grew low on his forehead, and,
although it was summer time, a fur cap was set far back, like a fez, upon
his black curly hair. His forehead was corrugated, like that of a man of
sixty who had lived a hard life; his eyes were small, black and piercing.
He wore a thick, short coat, a red sash about his waist, a blue flannel
shirt, and a loose red scarf, like a handkerchief, at his throat. His
feet were bare, and his trousers were rolled half way up to his knee. In
one hand he carried a short pole with a steel pike in it, in the other a
rope fastened to a ring in the bear's nose.

The bear, a huge brown animal, upright on his hind legs, was dancing
sideways along the road, keeping time to the lazy notes of his leader's
voice.

In front of the Hotel France they halted, and the bear danced round and
round in a ring, his eyes rolling savagely, his head shaking from side to
side in a bad-tempered way.

Suddenly some one cried out: "It's Vanne Castine! It's Vanne!"

People crowded nearer: there was a flurry of exclamations, and then
Christine took a few steps forward where she could see the man's face,
and as swiftly drew back into the crowd, pale and distraite.

The man watched her until she drew away behind a group, which was
composed of Ferrol, her brother and her sister Sophie. He dropped no note
of his song, and the bear kept jigging on. Children and elders threw
coppers, which he picked up, with a little nod of his head, a malicious
sort of smile on his lips. He kept a vigilant eye on the bear, however,
and his pole was pointed constantly towards it. After about five minutes
of this entertainment he moved along up the road. He spoke no word to
anybody though there were some cries of greeting, but passed on, still
singing the monotonous song, followed by a crowd of children. Presently
he turned a corner, and was lost to sight. For a moment longer the
lullaby floated across the garden and the green fields, then the cornet
and the concertina began again, and Ferrol turned towards Christine.

He had seen her paleness and her look of consternation, had observed the
sulky, penetrating look of the bear-leader's eye, and he knew that he was
stumbling upon a story. Her eye met his, then swiftly turned away. When
her look came to his face again it was filled with defiant laughter, and
a hot brilliancy showed where the paleness had been.

"Will you dance with me?" Ferrol asked.

"Dance with you here?" she responded incredulously.

"Yes, just here," he said, with a dry little laugh, as he ran his arm
round her waist and drew her out upon the green.

"And who is Vanne Castine?" he asked as they swung away in time with the
music.

The rest stopped dancing when they saw these two appear in the
ring-through curiosity or through courtesy.

She did not answer immediately. They danced a little longer, then he
said:

"An old friend, eh?"

After a moment, with a masked defiance still, and a hard laugh, she
answered in English, though his question had been in French:

"De frien' of an ol frien'."

"You seem to be strangers now," he suggested. She did not answer at all,
but suddenly stopped dancing, saying: "I'm tired."

The dance went on without them. Sophie and Farcinelle presently withdrew
also. In five minutes the crowd had scattered, and the Lavilettes and Mr.
Ferrol returned to the house.

Meanwhile, as they passed up the street, the droning, vibrating voice of
the bear-leader came floating along the air and through the voices of the
crowd like the thread of motive in the movement of an opera.



CHAPTER V

That night, while gaiety and feasting went on at the Lavilettes', there
was another sort of feasting under way at the house of Shangois, the
notary.

On one side of a tiny fire in the chimney, over which hung a little black
kettle, sat Shangois and Vanne Castine. Castine was blowing clouds of
smoke from his pipe, and Shangois was pouring some tea leaves into a
little tin pot, humming to himself snatches of an old song as he did so:

       "What shall we do when the King comes home?
         What shall we do when he rides along
        With his slaves of Greece and his serfs of Rome?
         What shall we sing for a song--
                  When the King comes home?

       "What shall we do when the King comes home?
         What shall we do when he speaks so fair?
        Shall we give him the house with the silver dome
         And the maid with the crimson hair
                  When the King comes home?"

A long, heavy sigh filled the room, but it was not the breath of Vanne
Castine. The sound came from the corner where the huge brown bear huddled
in savage ease. When it stirred, as if in response to Shangois's song,
the chains rattled. He was fastened by two chains to a staple driven into
the foundation timbers of the house. Castine's bear might easily be
allowed too much liberty!

Once he had killed a man in the open street of the City of Quebec, and
once also he had nearly killed Castine. They had had a fight and
struggle, out of which the man came with a lacerated chest; but since
that time he had become the master of the bear. It feared him; yet, as he
travelled with it, he scarcely ever took his eyes off it, and he never
trusted it. That was why, although Michael was always near him, sleeping
or waking, he kept him chained at night.

As Shangois sang, Castine's brow knotted and twitched and his hand
clinched on his pipe with a sudden ferocity.

"Name of a black cat, what do you sing that song for, notary?" he broke
out peevishly. "Nose of a little god, are you making fun of me?"

Shangois handed him some tea. "There's no one to laugh--why should I make
fun of you?" he asked, jeeringly, in English, for his English was almost
as good as his French, save in the turn of certain idioms. "Come, my
little punchinello, tell me, now, why have you come back?"

Castine laughed bitterly.

"Ha, ha, why do I come back? I'll tell you." He sucked at his pipe.
"Bon'venture is a good place to come to-yes. I have been to Quebec, to
St. John, to Fort Garry, to Detroit, up in Maine and down to New York. I
have ride a horse in a circus, I have drive a horse and sleigh in a
shanty, I have play in a brass band, I have drink whiskey every night for
a month--enough whiskey. I have drink water every night for a year--it is
not enough. I have learn how to speak English; I have lose all my money
when I go to play a game of cards. I go back to de circus; de circus
smash; I have no pay. I take dat damn bear Michael as my share--yes. I
walk trough de State of New York, all trough de State of Maine to Quebec,
all de leetla village, all de big city--yes. I learn dat damn funny song
to sing to Michael. Ha, why do I come to Bon'venture? What is there to
Bon'venture? Ha! you ask that? I know and you know, M'sieu' Shangois.
There is nosing like Bon'venture in all de worl'.

"What is it you would have? Do you want nice warm house in winter, plenty
pork, molass', patat, leetla drop whiskey 'hind de door in de morning?
Ha! you come to Bon'venture. Where else you fin' it? You want people say:
'How you do, Vanne Castine--how you are? Adieu, Vanne Castine; to see you
again ver' happy, Vanne Castine.' Ha, that is what you get in
Bon'venture. Who say 'God bless you' in New York! They say 'Damn
you!'--yes, I know.

"Where have you a church so warm, so ver' nice, and everybody say him
mass and God-have-mercy? Where you fin' it like that leetla place on de
hill in Bon'venture? Yes. There is anoser place in Bon'venture, ver' nice
place--yes, ha! On de side of de hill. You have small-pox, scarlet fev',
difthere; you get smash your head, you get break your leg, you fall down,
you go to die. Ha, who is there in all de worl' like M'sieu' Vallier, the
Cure? Who will say to you like him: 'Vanne Castine, you have break all de
commandments: you have swear, you have steal, you have kill, you have
drink. Ver' well, now, you will be sorry for dat, and say your prayer.
Perhaps, after hunder fifty tousen' years of purgator', you will be
forgive and go to Heaven. But first, when you die, we will put you way
down in de leetla warm house in de ground, on de side of de hill, in de
Parish of Bon'venture, because it is de only place for a gipsy like Vanne
Castine.'

"You ask me-ah! I see you look at me, M'sieu' le Notaire, you look at me
like a leetla dev'. You t'ink I come for somet'ing else"--his black eyes
flashed under his brow, he shook his head, and his hands clinched--"You
ask me why I come back? I come back because there is one thing I care for
mos' in all de worl'. You t'ink I am happy to go about with a damn brown
bear and dance trough de village? Moi?--no, no, no! What a Jack I look
when I sing--ah, that fool's song all down de street! I come back for one
thing only, M'sieu' Shangois.

"You know that night--ah, four, five years ago? You remember, M'sieu'
Shangois? Ah! she was so beautiful, so sweet; her hair it fall down about
her face, her eyes all black, her cheeks like the snow, her lips, her
lips!--You rememb' her father curse me, tell me to go. Why? Because I
have kill a man! Eh bien, what if I kill a man! He would have kill me: I
do it to save myself. I say I am not guilty; but her father say I am a
sc'undrel, and turn me out de house.

"De girl, Christine, she love me. Yes, she love Vanne Castine. She say to
me, 'I will go with you. Go anywhere, and I will go!'

"It is night and it is all dark. I wait at de place, an' she come. We
start to walk to Montreal. Ah! dat night, it is like fire in my heart.
Well, a great storm come down, and we have to come back. We come to your
house here, light a fire, and sit just in de spot where I am, one hour,
two hour, three hour. Saprie, how I love her! She is in me like fire,
like de wind and de sea. Well, I am happy like no other man. I sit here
and look at her, and t'ink of to-morrow-for ever. She look at me; oh, de
love of God, she look at me! So I kneel down on de floor here beside her
and say, 'Who shall take you from me, Christine, my leetla Christine?'

"She look at me and say: 'Who shall take you from me, my big Vanne?'

"All at once the door open, and--"

"And a little black notary take her from you," said Shangois, dryly, and
with a touch of malice also. "You, yes, you lawyer dev', you take her
from me! You say to her it is wicked. You tell her how her father will
weep and her mother's heart will break. You tell her how she will be
ashame', and a curse will fall on her. Then she begin to cry, for she is
afraid. Ah, where is de wrong? I love her; I would go to marry her--but
no, what is that to you! She turn on me and say, 'I will go back to my
father.' And she go back. After that I try to see her; but she will not
see me. Then I go away, and I am gone five years; yes."

Shangois came over, and with his thin beautiful hand (for despite the
ill-kept finger nails, it was the one fine feature of his body-long,
shapely, artistic) tapped Castine's knee.

"I did right to save Christine. She hates you now. If she had gone with
you that night, do you suppose she would have been happy as your wife?
No, she is not for Vanne Castine."

Suddenly Shangois's manner changed; he laid his hand upon the other's
shoulder.

"My poor, wicked, good-for-nothing Vanne Castine, Christine Lavilette was
not made for you. You are a poor vaurien, always a poor vaurien. I knew
your father and your two grandfathers. They were all vauriens; all as
handsome as you can think, and all died, not in their beds. Your
grandfather killed a man, your father drank and killed a man. Your
grandfather drove his wife to her grave, your father broke your mother's
heart. Why should you break the heart of any girl in the world? Leave her
alone. Is it love to a woman when you break all the commandments, and
shame her and bring her down to where you are--a bad vaurien? When a man
loves a woman with the true love, he will try to do good for her sake. Go
back to that crazy New York--it is the place for you. Ma'm'selle
Christine is not for you."

"Who is she for, m'sieu' le dev'?"

"Perhaps for the English Irishman," answered Shangois, in a low
suggestive tone, as he dropped a little brandy in his tea with light
fingers.

"Ah, sacre! we shall see. There is vaurien in her too," was the
half-triumphant reply.

"There is more woman," retorted Shangois; "much more."

"We'll see about that, m'sieu'!" exclaimed Castine, as he turned towards
the bear, which was clawing at his chain.

An hour later, a scene quite as important occurred at Lavilette's great
farmhouse.



CHAPTER VI

It was about ten o'clock. Lights were burning in every window. At a table
in the dining-room sat Monsieur and Madame Lavilette, the father of Magon
Farcinelle, and Shangois, the notary. The marriage contract was before
them. They had reached a point of difficulty. Farcinelle was stipulating
for five acres of river-land as another item in Sophie's dot.

The corners tightened around Madame's mouth. Lavilette scratched his
head, so that the hair stood up like flying tassels of corn. The land in
question lay next a portion of Farcinelle's own farm, with a river
frontage. On it was a little house and shed, and no better garden-stuff
grew in the parish than on this same five acres.

"But I do not own the land," said Lavilette. "You've got a mortgage on
it," answered Farcinelle. "Foreclose it."

"Suppose I did foreclose; you couldn't put the land in the marriage
contract until it was mine."

The notary shrugged his shoulder ironically, and dropped his chin in his
hand as he furtively eyed the two men. Farcinelle was ready for the
emergency. He turned to Shangois.

"I've got everything ready for the foreclosure," said he. "Couldn't it be
done to-night, Shangois?"

"Hardly to-night. You might foreclose, but the property couldn't be
Monsieur Lavilette's until it is duly sold under the mortgage."

"Here, I'll tell you what can be done," said Farcinelle. "You can put the
mortgage in the contract as her dot, and, name of a little man! I'll
foreclose it, I can tell you. Come, now, Lavilette, is it a bargain?"
Shangois sat back in his chair, the fingers of both hands drumming on the
table before him, his head twisted a little to one side. His little
reflective eyes sparkled with malicious interest, and his little voice
said, as though he were speaking to himself:

"Excuse, but the land belongs to the young Vanne Castine--eh?"

"That's it," exclaimed Farcinelle.

"Well, why not give the poor vaurien a chance to take up the mortgage?"

"Why, he hasn't paid the interest in five years!" said Lavilette.

"But--ah--you have had the use of the land, I think, monsieur. That
should meet the interest." Lavilette scowled a little; Farcinelle grunted
and laughed.

"How can I give him a chance to pay the mortgage?" said Lavilette. "He
never had a penny. Besides, he hasn't been seen for five years."

A faint smile passed over Shangois's face. "Yesterday," he said, "he had
not been seen for five years, but to-day he is in Bonaventure."

"The devil!" said Lavilette, dropping a fist on the table, and staring at
the notary; for he was not present in the afternoon when Castine passed
by.

"What difference does that make?" snarled Farcinelle. "I'll bet he's got
nothing more than what he went away with, and that wasn't a sou markee!"

A provoking smile flickered at the corners of Shangois's mouth, and he
said, with a dry inflection, as he dipped and redipped his quill pen in
the inkhorn:

"He has a bear, my friends, which dances very well." Farcinelle guffawed.
"St. Mary!" said he, slapping his leg, "we'll have the bear at the
wedding, and I'll have that farm of Vanne Castine's. What does he want of
a farm? He's got a bear. Come, is it a bargain? Am I to have the
mortgage? If you don't stick it in, I'll not let my boy marry your girl,
Lavilette. There, now, that's my last word."

"'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, nor his wife, nor his maid,
nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is his,"' said the notary,
abstractedly, drawing the picture of a fat Jew on the paper before him.

The irony was lost upon his hearers. Madame Lavilette had been thinking,
however, and she saw further than her husband.

"It amounts to the same thing," she said. "You see it doesn't go away
from Sophie; so let him have it, Louis."

"All right," responded monsieur at last, "Sophie gets the acres and the
house in her dot."

"You won't give young Vanne Castine a chance?" asked the notary. "The
mortgage is for four hundred dollars and the place is worth seven
hundred!"

No one replied. "Very well, my Israelites," added Shangois, bending over
the contract.

An hour later, Nicolas Lavilette was in the big storeroom of the
farmhouse, which was reached by a covered passage from the hall between
the kitchen and the dining-room. In his off-hand way he was getting out
some flour, dried fruit and preserves for the cook, who stood near as he
loaded up her arms. He laughingly thrust a string of green peppers under
her chin, and added a couple of sprigs of summer-savoury, then suddenly
turned round, with a start, for a peculiar low whistle came to him
through the half-open window. It was followed by heavy stertorous
breathing.

He turned back again to the cook, gaily took her by the shoulders, and
pushed her to the door. Closing it behind her, he shot the bolt and ran
back to the window. As he did so, a hand appeared on the windowsill, and
a face followed the hand.

"Ha! Nicolas Lavilette, is that you? So, you know my leetla whistle
again!"

Nicolas's brow darkened. In old days he and this same Vanne Castine had
been in many a scrape together, and Vanne, the elder, had always borne
the responsibility of their adventures. Nicolas had had enough of those
old days; other ambitions and habits governed him now. He was not exactly
the man to go back on a friend, but Castine no longer had any particular
claims to friendship. The last time he had heard Vanne's whistle was a
night five years before, when they both joined a gang of river-drivers,
and made a raid on some sham American speculators and surveyors and
labourers, who were exploiting an oil-well on the property of the old
seigneur. The two had come out of the melee with bruised heads, and Vanne
with a bullet in his calf. But soon afterwards came Christine's elopement
with Vanne, of which no one knew save her father, Nicolas, Shangois and
Vanne himself. That ended their compact, and, after a bitter quarrel,
they had parted and had never met nor seen each other till this very
afternoon.

"Yes, I know your whistle all right," answered Nicolas, with a twist of
the shoulder.

"Aren't you going to shake hands?" asked Castine, with a sort of sneer on
his face.

Nicolas thrust his hands down in his pockets. "I'm not so glad to see you
as all that," he answered, with a contemptuous laugh.

The black eyes of the bear-leader were alive with anger.

"You're a damn' fool, Nic Lavilette. You think because I lead a bear--eh?
Pshaw! you shall see. I am nothing, eh? I am to walk on! Nic Lavilette,
once he steal the Cure's pig and--"

"See you there, Castine, I've had enough of that," was the half-angry,
half-amused interruption. "What are you after here?"

"What was I after five years ago?" was the meaning reply.

Lavilette's face suddenly flushed with fury. He gripped the window with
both hands, and made as if he would leap out; but beside Castine's face
there appeared another, with glaring eyes, red tongue, white vicious
teeth, and two huge claws which dropped on the ledge of the window in
much the same way as did Lavilette's.

There was a moment's silence as the man and the beast looked at each
other, and then Castine began laughing in a low, sneering sort of way.

"I'll shoot the beast, and I'll break your neck if ever I see you on this
farm again," said Lavilette, with wild anger.

"Break my neck--that's all right; but shoot this leetla Michael! When you
do that you will not have to wait for a British bullet to kill you. I
will do it with a knife--just where you can hear it sing under your ear!"

"British bullet!" said Lavilette, excitedly; "what about a British
bullet--eh--what?"

"Only that the Rebellion's coming quick now," answered Castine, his
manner changing, and a look of cunning crossing his face. "You've given
your name to the great Papineau, and I am here, as you see."

"You--you--what have you got to do with the Revolution? with Papineau?"

"Pah! do you think a Lavilette is the only patriot! Papineau is my
friend, and--"

"Your friend--"

"My friend. I am carrying his message all through the parishes.
Bon'venture is the last--almost. The great General Papineau sends you a
word, Nic Lavilette--here."

He drew from his pocket a letter and handed it over. Lavilette tore it
open. It was a captain's commission for M. Nicolas Lavilette, with a call
for money and a company of men and horses.

"Maybe there's a leetla noose hanging from the tail of that, but then--it
is the glory--eh? Captain Lavilette--eh?" There was covert malice in
Castine's voice. "If the English whip us, they won't shoot us like grand
seigneurs, they will hang us like dogs."

Lavilette scarcely noticed the sneer. He was seeing visions of a
captain's sword and epaulettes, and planning to get men, money and horses
together--for this matter had been brooding for nearly a year, and he had
been the active leader in Bonaventure.

"We've been near a hundred years, we Frenchmen, eating dirt in the
country we owned from the start; and I'd rather die fighting to get back
the old citadel than live with the English heel on my nose," said
Lavilette, with a play-acting attempt at oratory.

"Yes, an' dey call us Johnny Pea-soups," said Castine, with a furtive
grin. "An' perhaps that British Colborne will hang us to our barn
doors--eh?"

There was silence for a moment, in which Lavilette read the letter over
again with gloating eyes. Presently Castine started and looked round.

"What's that?" he said in a whisper. "I heard nothing."

"I heard the feet of a man--yes."

They both stood moveless, listening. There was no sound; but, at the same
time, the Hon. Mr. Ferrol had the secret of the Rebellion in his hands.

A moment later Castine and his bear were out in the road. Lavilette
leaned out of the window and mused. Castine's words of a few moments
before came to him:

"That British Colborne will hang us to our barn doors--eh?"

He shuddered, and struck a light.



CHAPTER VII

Mr. Ferrol slept in the large guest-chamber of the house. Above it was
Christine's bedroom. Thick as were the timbers and boards of the floor,
Christine could hear one sound, painfully monotonous and frequent, coming
from his room the whole night--the hacking, rending cough which she had
heard so often since he came. The fear of Vanne Castine, the memories of
the wild, half animal-like love she had had for him in the old days, the
excitement of the new events which had come into her life; these kept her
awake, and she tossed and turned in feverish unrest. All that had
happened since Ferrol had arrived, every word that he had spoken, every
motion that he had made, every look of his face, she recalled vividly.
All that he was, which was different from the people she had known, she
magnified, so that to her he had a distant, overwhelming sort of
grandeur. She beat the bedclothes in her restlessness. Suddenly she sat
up straight in bed.

"Oh, if I hadn't been a Lavilette! If I'd only been born and brought up
with the sort of people he comes from, I'd not have been ashamed of
myself or him of me."

The plush bodice she had worn that day danced before her eyes. She knew
how horribly ugly it was. Her fingers ran over the patchwork quilt on her
bed; and although she could not see it, she loathed it, because she knew
it was a painful mess of colours. With a little touch of dramatic
extravagance, she leaned over and down, and drew her fingers
contemptuously along the rag-carpet on the floor. Then she cried a little
hysterically:

"He never saw anything like that before. How he must laugh as he sits
there in that room!"

As if in reply, the hacking cough came faintly through the time-worn
floor.

"That cough's going to kill him, to kill him," she said.

Then, with a little start and with a sort of cry, which she stopped by
putting both hands over her mouth, she said to herself, brokenly:

"Why shouldn't he--why shouldn't he love me! I could take care of him; I
could nurse him; I could wait on him; I could be better to him than any
one else in the world. And it wouldn't make any difference to him at all
in the end. He's going to die before long--I know it. Well, what does it
matter what becomes of me afterwards? I should have had him; I should
have loved him; he should have been mine for a little while anyway. I'd
be good to him; oh, I'd be good to him! Who else is there? He'll get
worse and worse; and what will any of the fine ladies do for him then,
I'd like to know. Why aren't they here? Why isn't he with them? He's
poor--Nic says so--and they're rich. Why don't they help him? I would.
I'd give him my last penny and the last drop of blood in my heart. What
do they know about love?"

Her little teeth clinched, she shook her brown hair back in a sort of
fury.

"What do they know about love? What would they do for it? I'd have my
fingers chopped off one by one for it. I'd break every one of the ten
commandments for it. I'd lose my soul for it.

"I've got twenty times as much heart as any one of them, I don't care who
they are. I'd lie for him; I'd steal for him; I'd kill for him. I'd watch
everything that he says, and I'd say it as he says it. I'd be angry when
he was angry, miserable when he was miserable, happy when he was happy.
Vanne Castine--what was he! What was it that made me care for him then?
And now--now he travels with a bear, and they toss coppers to him; a
beggar, a tramp--a dirty, lazy tramp! He hates me, I know--or else he
loves me, and that's worse. And I'm afraid of him; I know I'm afraid of
him. Oh, how will it all end? I know there's going to be trouble. I could
see it in Vanne's face. But I don't care, I don't care, if Mr. Ferrol--"

The cough came droning through the floor.

"If he'd only--ah! I'd do anything for him, anything; anybody would. I
saw Sophie look at him as she never looked at Magon. If she did--if she
dared to care for him--"

All at once she shivered as if with shame and fright, drew the bedclothes
about her head, and burst into a fit of weeping. When it passed, she lay
still and nerveless between the coarse sheets, and sank into a deep sleep
just as the dawn crept through the cracks of the blind.



CHAPTER VIII

The weeks went by. Sophie had become the wife of the member for the
country, and had instantly settled down to a quiet life. This was
disconcerting to Madame Lavilette, who had hoped that out of Farcinelle's
official position she might reap some praise and pence of ambition.
Meanwhile, Ferrol became more and more a cherished and important figure
in the Manor Casimbault, where the Lavilettes had made their home soon
after the wedding. The old farmhouse had also secretly become a
rendezvous for the mysterious Nicolas Lavilette and his rebel comrades.
This was known to Mr. Ferrol. One evening he stopped Nic as he was
leaving the house, and said:

"See, Nic, my boy, what's up? I know a thing or so--what's the use of
playing peek-a-boo?"

"What do you know, Ferrol?"

"What's between you and Vanne Castine, for instance. Come, now, own up
and tell me all about it. I'm British; but I'm Nic Lavilette's friend
anyhow."

He insinuated into his tone that little touch of brogue which he used
when particularly persuasive. Nic put out his hand with a burst of
good-natured frankness.

"Meet me in the store-room of the old farmhouse at nine o'clock, and I'll
tell you. Here's a key." Handing over the key, he grasped Ferrol's hand
with an effusive confidence, and hurried out. Nic Lavilette was now an
important person in his own sight and in the sight of others in
Bonaventure. In him the pomp of his family took an individual form.

Earlier than the appointed time, Ferrol turned the key and stepped inside
the big despoiled hallway of the old farmhouse. His footsteps sounded
hollow in the empty rooms. Already dust had gathered, and an air of
desertion and decay filled the place in spite of the solid timbers and
sound floors and window-sills. He took out his watch; it was ten minutes
to nine. Passing through the little hallway to the store-room, he opened
the door. It was dark inside. Striking a match, he saw a candle on the
window-sill, and, going to it, he lighted it with a flint and steel lying
near. The window was shut tight. From curiosity only he tried to open the
shutter, but it was immovable. Looking round, he saw another candle on
the window-sill opposite. He lighted it also, and mechanically tried to
force the shutters of the window, but they were tight also.

Going to the door, which opened into the farmyard, he found it securely
fastened. Although he turned the lock, the door would not open.

Presently his attention was drawn by the glitter of something upon one of
the crosspieces of timber halfway up the wall. Going over, he examined
it, and found it to be a broken bayonet--left there by a careless rebel.
Placing the steel again upon the ledge, he began walking up and down
thoughtfully.

Presently he was seized with a fit of coughing. The paroxysm lasted a
minute or more, and he placed his arm upon the window-sill, leaning his
head upon it. Presently, as the paroxysm lessened, he thought he heard
the click of a lock. He raised his head, but his eyes were misty, and,
seeing nothing, he leaned his head on his arm again.

Suddenly he felt something near him. He swung round swiftly, and saw
Vanne Castine's bear not fifteen-feet away from him! It raised itself on
its hind legs, its red eyes rolling, and started towards him. He picked
up the candle from the window-sill, threw it in the animal's face, and
dashed towards the door.

It was locked. He swung round. The huge beast, with a loud snarl, was
coming down upon him.

Here he was, shut within four solid walls, with a wild beast hungry for
his life. All his instincts were alive. He had little hope of saving
himself, but he was determined to do what lay in his power.

His first impulse was to blow out the other candle. That would leave him
in the dark, and it struck him that his advantage would be greater if
there were no light. He came straight towards the bear, then suddenly
made a swift movement to the left, trusting to his greater quickness of
movement. The beast was nearly as quick as he, and as he dashed along the
wall towards the candle, he could hear its breath just behind him.

As he passed the window, he caught the candle in his hands, and was about
to throw it on the floor or in the bear's face, when he remembered that,
in the dark, the bear's sense of smell would be as effective as eyesight,
while he himself would be no better off.

He ran suddenly to the centre of the room, the candle still in his hand,
and turned to meet his foe. It came savagely at him. He dodged, ran past
it, turned, doubled on it, and dodged again. A half-dozen times this was
repeated, the candle still flaring. It could not last long. The bear was
enraged. Its movements became swifter, its vicious teeth and lips were
covered with froth, which dripped to the floor, and sometimes spattered
Ferrol's clothes as he ran past. No matador ever played with the horns of
a mad bull as Ferrol played his deadly game with Michael, the dancing
bear. His breath was becoming shorter and shorter; he had a stifling
sensation, a terrible tightness across his chest. He did not cough,
however, but once or twice he tasted warm drops of his heart's blood in
his mouth. Once he drew the back of his hand across his lips
mechanically, and a red stain showed upon it.

In his boyhood and early manhood he had been a good sportsman; had been
quick of eye, swift of foot, and fearless. But what could fearlessness
avail him in this strait? With the best of rifles he would have felt
himself at a disadvantage. He was certain his time had come; and with
that conviction upon him, the terror of the thing and the horrible
physical shrinking almost passed away from him. The disease, eating away
his life, had diminished that revolt against death which is in the
healthy flesh of every man. He was levying upon the vital forces
remaining in him, which, distributed naturally, might cover a year or so,
to give him here and now a few moments of unnatural strength for the
completion of a hopeless struggle.

It was also as if two brains in him were working: one busy with all the
chances and details of his wild contest, the other with the events of his
life.

Pictures flashed before him. Some having to do with the earliest days of
his childhood; some with fighting on the Danube, before he left the army,
impoverished and ashamed; some with idle hours in the North Tower in
Stavely Castle; and one with the day he and his sister left the old
castle, never to return, and looked back upon it from the top of
Farcalladen Moor, waving a "God bless you" to it. The thought of his
sister filled him with a desire, a pitiful desire to live.

Just then another picture flashed before his eyes. It was he himself,
riding the mad stallion, Bolingbroke, the first year he followed the
hounds: how the brute tried to smash his leg against a stone wall; how it
reared until it almost toppled over and backwards; how it jibbed at a
gate, and nearly dashed its own brains out against a tree; and how, after
an hour's hard fighting, he made it take the stiffest fence and
water-course in the county.

This thought gave him courage now. He suddenly remembered the broken
bayonet upon the ledge against the wall. If he could reach it there might
be a chance--chance to strike one blow for life. As his eye glanced
towards the wall he saw the steel flash in the light of the candle.

The bear was between him and it. He made a feint towards the left, then
as quickly to the right. But doing so, he slipped and fell. The candle
dropped to the floor and went out. With a lightning-like instinct of
self-preservation he swung over upon his face just as the bear, in its
wild rush, passed over his head. He remembered afterwards the odour of
the hot, rank body, and the sprawling huge feet and claws. Scrambling to
his feet swiftly, he ran to the wall. Fortune was with him. His hand
almost instantly clutched the broken bayonet. He whipped out his
handkerchief, tore the scarf from his neck, and wound them around his
hand, that the broken bayonet should not tear the flesh as he fought for
his life; then, seizing it, he stood waiting for the bear to come on. His
body was bent forwards, his eyes straining into the dark, his hot face
dripping, dripping sweat, his breath coming hard and laboured from his
throat.

For a minute there was absolute silence, save for the breathing of the
man and the savage panting of the beast. Presently he felt exactly where
the bear was, and listened intently. He knew that it was now but a
question of minutes, perhaps seconds. Suddenly it occurred to him that if
he could but climb upon the ledge where the bayonet had been, there might
be safety. Yet again, in getting up, the bear might seize him, and there
would be an end to all immediately. It was worth trying, however.

Two things happened at that moment to prevent the trial: the sound of
knocking on a door somewhere, and the roaring rush of the bear upon him.
He sprang to one side, striking at the beast as he did so. The bayonet
went in and out again. There came voices from the outside; evidently
somebody was trying to get in.

The bear roared again and came on. It was all a blind man's game. But his
scent, like the animal's, was keen. He had taken off his coat, and he now
swung it out before him in a half-circle, and as it struck the bear it
covered his own position. He swung aside once more and drove his arm into
the dark. The bayonet struck the nose of the beast.

Now there was a knocking and a hammering at the window, and the wrenching
of the shutters. He gathered himself together for the next assault.
Suddenly he felt that every particle of strength had gone out of him. He
pulled himself up with a last effort. His legs would not support him; he
shivered and swayed. God, would they never get that window open!

His senses were abnormally acute. Another sound attracted him: the
opening of the door, and a voice--Vanne Castine's--calling to the bear.

His heart seemed to give a leap, then slowly to roll over with a thud,
and he fell to the floor as the bear lunged forwards upon him.

A minute afterwards Vanne Castine was goading the savage beast through
the door and out to the hallway into the yard as Nic swung through the
open window into the room.

Castine's lantern stood in the middle of the floor, and between it and
the window lay Ferrol, the broken bayonet still clutched in his right
hand. Lavilette dropped on his knees beside him and felt his heart. It
was beating, but the shirt and the waistcoat were dripping with blood
where the bear had set its claws and teeth in the shoulder of its victim.

An hour later Nic Lavilette stood outside the door of Ferrol's bedroom in
the Manor Casimbault, talking to the Regimental Surgeon, as Christine,
pale and wildeyed, came running towards them.



CHAPTER IX

"Is he dead? is he dead?" she asked distractedly. "I've just come from
the village. Why didn't you send for me? Tell me, is he dead? Oh, tell me
at once!"

She caught the Regimental Surgeon's arm. He looked down at her, over his
glasses, benignly, for she had always been a favourite of his, and
answered:

"Alive, alive, my dear. Bad rip in the shoulder--worn
out--weak--shattered--but good for a while yet--yes, yes--certainement!"

With a wayward impulse, she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him
on the cheek. The embrace disarranged his glasses and flushed his face
like a schoolgirl's, but his eyes were full of embarrassed delight.

"There, there," he said, "we'll take care of him--!" Then suddenly he
paused, for the real significance of her action dawned upon him.

"Dear me," he said in disturbed meditation; "dear me!"

She suddenly opened the bedroom door and went in, followed by Nic. The
Regimental Surgeon dropped his mouth and cheeks in his hand reflectively,
his eyes showing quaintly and quizzically above the glasses and his
fingers.

"Well, well! Well, well!" he said, as if he had encountered a difficulty.
"It--it will never be possible. He would not marry her," he added, and
then, turning, went abstractedly down the stairs.

Ferrol was in a deep sleep when Christine and her brother entered the
chamber. Her face turned still more pale when she saw him, flushed, and
became pale again. There were leaden hollows round his eyes, and his hair
was matted with perspiration. Yet he was handsome--and helpless. Her eyes
filled with tears. She turned her head away from her brother and went
softly to the window, but not before she had touched the pale hand that
lay nerveless upon the coverlet.

"It's not feverish," she said to Nic, as if in necessary explanation of
the act.

She stood at the window for a moment, looking out, then said:

"Come here, Nic, and tell me all about it."

He told her all he knew: how he had come to the old house by appointment
with Ferrol; had tried to get into the store-room; had found the doors
bolted; had heard the noise of a wild animal inside; had run out, tried a
window, at last wrenched it open and found Ferrol in a dead faint. He
went to the table and brought back the broken bayonet.

"That's all he had to fight with," he said. "Fire of a little hell, but
he had grit--after all!"

"That's all he had to fight with!" she repeated, as she untwisted the
handkerchief from the hilt end. "Why did you say he had true grit--'after
all'? What do you mean by that 'after all'?"

"Well, you don't expect much from a man with only one lung--eh?"

"Courage isn't in the lungs," she answered. Then she added: "Go and fetch
me a bottle of brandy--I'm going to bathe his hands and feet in brandy
and hot water as soon as he's awake."

"Better let mother do that, hadn't you?" he asked rather hesitatingly, as
he moved towards the door.

Her eyes snapped fire. "Nic--mon Dieu, hear the nice Nic!" she said. "The
dear Nic, who went in swimming with--"

She said no more, for he had no desire to listen to an account of his
misdeeds, which were not a few,--and Christine had a galling tongue.

When the door was shut she went to the bed, sat down on a chair beside
it, and looked at Ferrol earnestly and sadly.

"My dear! my dear, dear, dear!" she said in a whisper, "you look so
handsome and so kind as you lie there--like no man I ever saw in my life.
Who'd have fought as you fought--and nearly dead! Who'd have had brains
enough to know just what to do! My darling, that never said 'my darling'
to me, nor heard me call you so. Suppose you haven't a dollar, not a
cent, in the world, and suppose you'll never earn a dollar or a cent in
the world, what difference does that make to me? I could earn it; and I'd
give more for a touch of your finger than a thousand dollars; and more
for a month with you than for a lifetime with the richest man in the
world. You never looked cross at me, or at any one, and you never say an
unkind thing, and you never find fault when you suffer so. You never hurt
any one, I know. You never hurt Vanne Castine--"

Her fingers twitched in her lap, and then clasped very tight, as she went
on:

"You never hurt him, and yet he's tried to kill you in the most awful
way. Perhaps you'll die now--perhaps you'll die to-night--but no, no, you
shall not!" she cried in sudden fright and eagerness, as she got up and
leaned over him. "You shall not die; you shall live--for a while--oh!
yes, for a while yet," she added, with a pitiful yearning in her voice;
"just for a little while--till you love me, and tell me so! Oh, how could
that devil try to kill you!"

She suddenly drew herself up.

"I'll kill him and his bear too--now, now, while you lie there sleeping.
And when you wake I'll tell you what I've done, and you'll--you'll love
me then, and tell me so, perhaps. Yes, yes, I'll--"

She said no more, for her brother entered with the brandy.

"Put it there," she said, pointing to the table. "You watch him till I
come. I'll be back in an hour; and then, when he wakes, we'll bathe him
in the hot water and brandy."

"Who told you about hot water and brandy?" he asked her, curiously.

She did not answer him, but passed through the door and down the hall
till she came to Nic's bedroom; she went in, took a pair of pistols from
the wall, examined them, found they were fully loaded, and hurried from
the room.

About a half-hour later she appeared before the house which once had
belonged to Vanne Castine. The mortgage had been foreclosed, and the
place had passed into the hands of Sophie and Magon Farcinelle; but
Castine had taken up his abode in the house a few days before, and defied
anyone to put him out.

A light was burning in the kitchen of the house. There were no curtains
to the window, but an old coat had been hung up to serve the purpose, and
light shone between a sleeve of it and the window-sill. Putting her face
close to the window, the girl could see the bear in the corner, clawing
at its chain and tossing its head from side to side, still panting and
angry from the fight.

Now and again, also, it licked the bayonet-wound between its shoulders,
and rubbed its lacerated nose on its paw. Castine was mixing some tar and
oil in a pan by the fire, to apply to the still bleeding wounds of his
Michael. He had an ugly grin on his face.

He was dressed just as in the first day he appeared in the village, even
to the fur cap; and presently, as he turned round, he began to sing the
monotonous measure to which the bear had danced. It had at once a
soothing effect upon the beast.

After he had gone from the store-room, leaving Ferrol dead, as he
thought, it was this song alone which had saved himself from peril; for
the beast was wild from pain, fury and the taste of blood. As soon as
they had cleared the farmyard, he had begun this song, and the bear,
cowed at first by the thrusts of its master's pike, quieted to the
well-known ditty.

He approached the bear now, and, stooping, put some of the tar and oil
upon its nose. It sniffed and rubbed off the salve, but he put more on;
then he rubbed it into the wound of the breast. Once the animal made a
fierce snap at his shoulder, but he deftly avoided it, gave it a thrust
with a sharp-pointed stick, and began the song again. Presently he rose
and came towards the fire.

As he did so he heard the door open. Turning round quickly, he saw
Christine standing just inside. She had a shawl thrown round her, and one
hand was thrust in the pocket of her dress. She looked from him to the
bear, then back again to him.

He did not realise why she had come. For a moment, in his excited state,
he almost thought she had come because she loved him. He had seen her
twice since his return; but each time she would say nothing to him
further than that she wished not to meet or to speak to him at all. He
had pleaded with her, had grown angry, and she had left him. Who could
tell--perhaps she had come to him now as she had come to him in the old
days. He dropped the pan of tar and oil. "Chris!" he said, and started
forward to her.

At that moment the bear, as if it knew the girl's mission, sprang
forward, with a growl. Its huge mouth was open, and all its fierce lust
for killing showed again in its wild lunges. Castine turned, with an
oath, and thrust the steel-set pike into its leg. It cowered at the voice
and the punishment for an instant, but came on again.

Castine saw the girl raise a pistol and fire at the beast. He was so
dumfounded that at first he did not move. Then he saw her raise another
pistol. The wounded bear lunged heavily on its chain--once--twice--in a
devilish rage, and as Christine prepared to fire, snapped the staple
loose and sprang forward.

At the same moment Castine threw himself in front of the girl, and caught
the onward rush. Calling the beast by its name, he grappled with it. They
were man and servant no longer, but two animals fighting for their lives.
Castine drew out his knife, as the bear, raised on its hind legs, crushed
him in its immense arms, and still calling, half crazily, "Michael!
Michael! down, Michael!" he plunged the knife twice in the beast's side.

The bear's teeth fastened in his shoulder; the horrible pressure of its
arms was turning his face black; he felt death coming, when another
pistol shot rang out close to his own head, and his breath suddenly came
back. He staggered to the wall, and then came to the floor in a heap as
the bear lurched downwards and fell over on its side, dead.

Christine had come to kill the beast and, perhaps, the man. The man had
saved her life, and now she had saved his; and together they had killed
the bear which had maltreated Tom Ferrol.

Castine's eyes were fixed on the dead beast. Everything was gone from him
now--even the way to his meagre livelihood; and the cause of it all, as
he in his blind, unnatural way thought, was this girl before him--this
girl and her people. Her back was towards the door. Anger and passion
were both at work in him at once.

"Chris," he said, "Chris, let's call it even-eh? Let's make it up. Chris,
ma cherie, don't you remember when we used to meet, and was fond of each
other? Let's make it up and leave here--now--to-night-eh?

"I'm not so poor, after all. I'll be paid by Papineau, the leader of the
Rebellion--" He made a couple of unsteady steps towards her, for he was
weak yet. "What's the good--you're bound to come to me in the end! You've
got the same kind of feelings in you; you've--"

She had stood still at first, dazed by his words; but she grew angry
quickly, and was about to speak as she felt, when he went on:

"Stay here now with me. Don't go back. Don't you remember Shangois's
house? Don't you remember that night--that night when--ah! Chris, stay
here--"

Her face was flaming. "I'd rather stay in a room full of wild beasts like
that"--she pointed to the bear, "than be with you one minute--you
murderer!" she said, with choking anger.

He started towards her, saying:

"By the blood of Joseph! but you'll stay just the same; and--"

He got no further, for she threw the pistol in his face with all her
might. It struck between his eyes with a thud, and he staggered back,
blind, bleeding and faint, as she threw open the door and sped away in
the darkness.

Reaching the Manor safely, she ran up to her room, arranged her hair,
washed her hands, and came again to Ferrol's bedroom. Knocking softly she
was admitted by Nic. There was an unnatural brightness in her eyes.
"Where've you been?" he asked, for he noticed this. "What've you been
doing?"

"I've killed the bear that tried to kill him," she answered.

She spoke louder than she meant. Her voice awakened Ferrol.

"Eh, what?" he said, "killed the bear, mademoiselle,--my dear friend," he
added, "killed the bear!" He coughed a little, and a twinge of pain
crossed over his face.

She nodded, and her face was alight with pleasure. She lifted up his head
and gave him a little drink of brandy. His fingers closed on hers that
held the glass. His touch thrilled her.

"That's good, that's easier," he remarked.

"We're going to bathe you in brandy and hot water, now--Nic and I," she
said.

"Bathe me! Bathe me!" he said, in amused consternation.

"Hands and feet," Nic explained.

A few minutes later as she lifted up his head, her face was very near
him; her breath was in his face. Her eyes half closed, her fingers
trembled. He suddenly drew her to him and kissed her. She looked round
swiftly, but her brother had not noticed.

     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     Illusive hopes and irresponsible deceptions
     She lacked sense a little and sensitiveness much
     To be popular is not necessarily to be contemptible
     Who say 'God bless you' in New York! They say 'Damn you!'



POMP OF THE LAVILETTES

By Gilbert Parker

Volume 2.



CHAPTER X

Ferrols's recovery from his injuries was swifter than might have been
expected. As soon as he was able to move about Christine was his constant
attendant. She had made herself his nurse, and no one had seriously
interfered, though the Cure had not at all vaguely offered a protest to
Madame Lavilette. But Madame Lavilette was now in the humour to defy or
evade the Cure, whichever seemed the more convenient or more necessary.
To be linked by marriage with the nobility would indeed be the
justification of all her long-baffled hopes. Meanwhile, the parish
gossiped, though little of that gossip was heard at the Manor Casimbault.
By and by the Cure ceased to visit the Manor, but the Regimental Surgeon
came often, and sometimes stayed late. He, perhaps, could have given
Madame Lavilette the best advice and warning; but, in truth, he enjoyed
what he considered a piquant position. Once, drawing at his pipe, as
little like an Englishman as possible, he tried to say with an English
accent, "Amusing and awkward situation!" but he said, "Damn funny and
chic!" instead. He had no idea that any particular harm would be
done--either by love or marriage; and neither seemed certain.

One day as Ferrol, entirely convalescent, was sitting in an arbour of the
Manor garden, half asleep, he was awakened by voices near him.

He did not recognise one of the voices; the other was Nic Lavilette's.

The strange voice was saying: "I have collected five thousand
dollars--all that can be got in the two counties. It is at the Seigneury.
Here is an order on the Seigneur Duhamel. Go there in two days and get
the money. You will carry it to headquarters. These are General
Papineau's orders. You will understand that your men--"

Ferrol heard no more, for the two rebels passed on, their voices becoming
indistinct. He sat for a few moments moveless, for an idea had occurred
to him even as Papineau's agent spoke.

If that money were only his!

Five thousand dollars--how that would ease the situation! The money
belonged to whom? To a lot of rebels: to be used for making war against
the British Government. After the money left the hands of the men who
gave it--Lavilette and the rest--it wasn't theirs. It belonged to a
cause. Well, he was the enemy of that cause. All was fair in love and
war!

There were two ways of doing it. He could waylay Nicolas as he came from
the house of the old seigneur, could call to him to throw up his hands in
good highwayman fashion, and, well disguised, could get away with the
money without being discovered. Or again, he could follow Nic from the
Seigneury to the Manor, discover where he kept the money, and devise a
plan to steal it.

For some time he had given up smoking; but now, as a sort of celebration
of his plan, he opened his cigar case, and finding two cigars left, took
one out and lighted it.

"By Jove," he said to himself, "thieving is a nice come-down, I must say!
But a man has to live, and I'm sick of charity--sick of it. I've had
enough."

He puffed his cigar briskly, and enjoyed the forbidden and deadly luxury
to the full.

Presently he got up, took his stick, came down-stairs, and passed out
into the garden. The shoulder which had been lacerated by the bear
drooped forward some what, and seemed smaller than the other. Although he
held himself as erect as possible, you still could have laid your hand in
the hollow of his left breast, and it would have done no more than give
it a natural fulness. Perhaps it was a sort of vanity, perhaps a kind of
courage, which made him resolutely straighten himself, in spite of the
deadly weight dragging his shoulder down. He might be melancholy in
secret, but in public he was gay and hopeful, and talked of everything
except himself. On that interesting topic he would permit no discussion.
Yet there often came jugs and jars from friendly people, who never spoke
to him of his disease--they were polite and sensitive, these humble
folk--but sent him their home-made medicines, with assurances scrawled on
paper that "it would cure Mr. Ferrol's cold, oh, absolutely."

Before the Lavilettes he smiled, and received the gifts in a debonair
way, sometimes making whimsical remarks. At the same time the jugs and
jars of cordial (whose contents varied from whiskey, molasses and
boneset, to rum, licorice, gentian and sarsaparilla roots) he carried to
his room; and he religiously tried them all by turn. Each seemed to do
him good for a few days, then to fail of effect; and he straightway tried
another, with renewed hope on every occasion, and subsequent
disappointment. He also secretly consulted the Regimental Surgeon, who
was too kindhearted to tell him the truth; and he tried his hand at
various remedies of his own, which did no more than to loosen the cough
which was breaking down his strength.

As now, he often walked down the street swinging his cane, not as though
he needed it for walking, but merely for occupation and companionship. He
did not delude the villagers by these sorrowful deceptions, but they made
believe he did. There were a few people who did not like him; but they
were of that cantankerous minority who put thorns in the bed of the
elect.

To-day, occupied with his thoughts, he walked down the main road, then
presently diverged on a side road which led past Magon Farcinelle's house
to an old disused mill, owned by Magon's father. He paused when he came
opposite Magon's house, and glanced up at the open door. He was tired,
and the coolness of the place looked inviting. He passed through the
gate, and went lightly up the path. He could see straight through the
house into the harvest-fields at the back. Presently a figure crossed the
lane of light, and made a cheerful living foreground to the blue sky
beyond the farther door. The light and ardour of the scene gave him a
thrill of pleasure, and hurried his footsteps. The air was palpitating
with sleepy comfort round him, and he felt a new vitality pass into him:
his imagination was feeding his enfeebled body; his active brain was
giving him a fresh counterfeit of health. The hectic flush on his pale
face deepened. He came to the wooden steps of the piazza, or stoop, and
then paused a moment, as if for breath; but, suddenly conscious of what
he was doing, he ran briskly up the steps, knocked with his cane upon the
door jamb, and, without waiting, stepped inside.

Between him and the outer door, against the ardent blue background, stood
Sophie Farcinelle--the English faced Sophie--a little heavy, a little
slow, but with the large, long profile which is the type of English
beauty--docile, healthy, cow-like. Her face, within her sunbonnet, caught
the reflected light, and the pink calico of her dress threw a glow over
her cheeks and forehead, and gave a good gleam to her eyes. She had in
her hands a dish of strawberries. It was a charming picture in the eyes
of a man to whom the feelings of robustness and health were mostly a
reminiscence. Yet, while the first impression was on him, he contrasted
Sophie with the impetuous, fiery-hearted Christine, with her dramatic
Gallic face and blood, to the latter's advantage, in spite of the more
harmonious setting of this picture.

Sophie was in place in this old farmhouse, with its dormer windows, with
the weaver's loom in the large kitchen, the meat-block by the fireplace,
and the big bread-tray by the stove, where the yeast was as industrious
as the reapers beyond in the fields. She was in keeping with the chromo
of the Madonna and the Child upon the wall, with the sprig of holy palm
at the shrine in the corner, with the old King Louis blunderbuss above
the chimney.

Sophie tried to take off her sunbonnet with one hand, but the knot
tightened, and it tipped back on her head, giving her a piquant air. She
flushed.

"Oh, m'sieu'!" she said in English, "it's kind of you to call. I am quite
glad--yes."

Then she turned round to put the strawberries upon a table, but he was
beside her in an instant and took the dish out of her hands. Placing it
on the table, he took a couple of strawberries in his fingers.

"May I?" he asked in French.

She nodded as she whipped off the sunbonnet, and replied in her own
language:

"Certainly, as many as you want."

He bit into one, but got no further with it. Her back was turned to him,
and he threw the berry out of the window. She felt rather than saw what
he had done. She saw that he was fagged. She instantly thought of a
cordial she had in the house, the gift of a nun from the Ursuline Convent
in Quebec; a precious little bottle which she had kept for the
anniversary of her wedding day. If she had been told in the morning that
she would open that bottle now, and for a stranger, she probably would
have resented the idea with scorn.

His disguised weariness still exciting her sympathy, she offered him a
chair.

"You will sit down, m'sieu'?" she asked. "It is very warm."

She did not say: "You look very tired." She instinctively felt that it
would suggest the delicate state of his health.

The chair was inviting enough, with its chintz cover and wicker seat, but
he would never admit fatigue. He threw his leg half jauntily over the end
of the table and said:

"No--no, thanks; I'd rather not sit."

His forehead was dripping with perspiration. He took out his handkerchief
and dried it. His eyes were a little heavy, but his complexion was a
delicate and unnatural pink and white-like a piece of fine porcelain. It
was a face without care, without vice, without fear, and without morals.
For the absence of vice with the absence of morals are not incongruous in
a human face. Sophie went into another room for a moment, and brought
back a quaint cut-glass bottle of cordial.

"It is very good," she said, as she took the cork out; "better than peach
brandy or things like that."

He watched her pour it out into a wine-glass, and as soon as he saw the
colour and the flow of it he was certain of its quality.

"That looks like good stuff," he said, as she handed him a glass brimming
over; "but you must have one with me. I can't drink alone, you know."

"Oh, m'sieu', if you please, no," she answered half timidly, flattered by
the glance of his eye--a look of flattery which was part of his
stock-in-trade. It had got him into trouble all his life.

"Ah, madame, but I plead yes!" he answered, with a little encouraging nod
towards her. "Come, let me pour it for you."

He took the odd little bottle and poured her glass as full as his own.

"If Magon were only here--he'd like some, I know," she said, vaguely
struggling with a sense of impropriety, though why, she did not know;
for, on the surface, this was only dutiful hospitality to a distinguished
guest. The impropriety probably lay in the sensations roused by this
visit and this visitor. "I intended--"

"Oh, we must try to get along without monsieur," he said, with a little
cough; "he's a busy gentleman." The rather rude and flippant sentiment
seemed hardly in keeping with the fatal token of his disease.

"Of course, he's far away out there in the field, mowing," she said, as
if in apology for something or other. "Yes, he's ever so far away," was
his reply, as he turned half lazily to the open doorway.

Neither spoke for a moment. The eyes of both were on the distant
harvest-fields. Vaguely, not decisively, the hazy, indolent air of summer
was broken by the lazy droning of the locusts and grasshoppers. A driver
was calling to his oxen down the dusty road, the warning bark of a dog
came across the fields from the gap in the fence which he was tending,
and the blades of the scythes made three-quarter circles of light as the
mowers travelled down the wheat-fields.

When their eyes met again, the glasses of cordial were at their lips. He
held her look by the intentional warmth and meaning of his own, drinking
very slowly to the last drop; and then, like a bon viveur, drew a breath
of air through his open mouth, and nodded his satisfaction.

"By Jove, but it is good stuff!" he said. "Here's to the nun that made
it," he added, making a motion to drink from the empty glass.

Sophie had not drunk all her cordial. At least one third of it was still
in the glass. She turned her head away, a little dismayed by his toast.

"Come, that's not fair," he said. "That elixir shouldn't be wasted.
Voila, every drop of it now!" he added, with an insinuating smile and
gesture.

"Oh, m'sieu'!" she said in protest, but drank it off. He still held the
empty glass in his hand, twisting it round musingly.

"A little more, m'sieu'?" she asked, "just a little?" Perhaps she was
surprised that he did not hesitate. He instantly held out his glass.

"It was made by a saint; the result should be health and piety--I need
both," he added, with a little note of irony in his voice.

"So, once again, my giver of good gifts--to you!" He raised his glass
again, toasting her, but paused. "No, this won't do; you must join me,"
he added.

"Oh, no, m'sieu', no! It is not possible. I feel it now in my head and in
all of me. Oh, I feel so warm all, through, and my heart it beats so very
fast! Oh, no, m'sieu', no more!"

Her cheeks were glowing, and her eyes had become softer and more
brilliant under the influence of the potent liqueur.

"Well, well, I'll let you off this time; but next time--next time,
remember."

He raised the glass once more, and let the cordial drain down lazily.

He had said, "next time"--she noticed that. He seemed very fond of this
strong liqueur. She placed the bottle on the table, her own glass beside
it.

"For a minute, a little minute," she said suddenly, and went quickly into
the other room.

He coolly picked up the bottle of liqueur, poured his glass full once
more, and began drinking it off in little sips. Presently he stood up,
and throwing back his shoulder, with a little ostentation of health, he
went over to the chintz-covered chair, and sat down in it. His mood was
contented and brisk. He held up the glass of liqueur against the
sunlight.

"Better than any Benedictine I ever tasted," he said. "A dozen bottles of
that would cure this beastly cold of mine. By Jove! it would. It's as
good as the Gardivani I got that blessed day when we chaps of the
Ninetieth breakfasted with the King of Savoy." He laughed to himself at
the reminiscence. "What a day that was, what a stunning day that was!"

He was still smiling, his white teeth showing humorously, when Sophie
again entered the room. He had forgotten her, forgotten all about her. As
she came in he made a quick, courteous movement to rise--too quick; for a
sharp pain shot through his breast, and he grew pale about the lips. But
he made essay to stand up lightly, nevertheless.

She saw his paleness, came quickly to him, and put out her hand to gently
force him back into his seat, but as instantly decided not to notice his
indisposition, and turned towards the table instead. Taking the bottle of
cordial, she brought it over, and not looking at him, said:

"Just one more little glass, m'sieu'?" She had in her other hand a plate
of seed-cakes. "But yes, you must sit down and eat a cake," she added
adroitly. "They are very nice, and I made them myself. We are very fond
of them; and once, when the bishop stayed at our house, he liked them
too."

Before he sat down he drank off the whole of the cordial in the glass.

She took a chair near him, and breaking a seed-cake began eating it. His
tongue was loosened now, and he told her what he was smiling at when she
came into the room. She was amused, and there was a little awe to her
interest also. To think--she was sitting here, talking easily to a man
who had eaten at kings' tables--with the king! Yet she was at ease
too--since she had drunk the cordial. It had acted on her like some
philtre. He begged that she would go on with her work; and she got the
dish of strawberries, and began stemming them while he talked.

It was much easier talking or listening to him while she was so occupied.
She had never enjoyed anything so much in her life. She was not clever,
like Christine, but she had admiration of ability, and was obedient to
the charm of temperament. Whenever Ferrol had met her he had lavished
little attentions on her, had said things to her that carried weight far
beyond their intention. She had been pleased at the time, but they had
had no permanent effect.

Now everything he said had a different influence: she felt for the first
time that it was not easy to look into his eyes, and as if she never
could again without betraying--she knew not what.

So they sat there, he talking, she listening and questioning now and
then. She had placed the bottle of liqueur and the seed-cakes at his
elbow on the windowsill; and as if mechanically, he poured out a
glassful, and after a little time, still another, and at last, apparently
unconsciously, poured her out one also, and handed it to her. She shook
her head; he still held the glass poised; her eyes met his; she made a
feeble sort of protest, then took the glass and drank off the liqueur in
little sips.

"Gad, that puts fat on the bones, and gives the gay heart!" he said.
"Doesn't it, though?"

She laughed quietly. Her nature was warm, and she had the animal-like
fondness for physical ease and content.

"It's as if there wasn't another stroke of work to do in the world," she
answered, and sat contentedly back in her chair, the strawberries in her
lap. Her fingers, stained with red, lay beside the bowl. All the strings
of conscious duty were loose, and some of them were flying. The
bumble-bee that flew in at the door and boomed about the room contributed
to the day-dream.

She never quite knew how it happened that a moment later he was bending
over the back of her chair, with her face upturned to his, and his
lips--With that touch thrilling her, she sprang to her feet, and turned
away from him towards the table. Her face was glowing like a peony, and a
troubled light came into her eyes. He came over to her, after a moment,
and spoke over her shoulders as he just touched her waist with his
fingers.

"A la bonne heure--Sophie!"

"Oh, it isn't--it isn't right," she said, her body slightly inclining
from him.

"One minute out of a whole life--What does it matter! Ce ne fait rien!
Good-bye-Sophie."

Now she inclined towards him. He was about to put his arms round her,
when he heard the distant sound of a horse's hoofs. He let her go, and
turned towards the front door. Through it he saw Christine driving up the
road. She would pass the house.

"Good-bye-Sophie," he said again over her shoulder, softly; and, picking
up his hat and stick, he left the house.

Her eyes followed him dreamily as he went up the road. She sat down in a
chair, the trance of the passionate moment still on her, and began to
brood. She vaguely heard the rattle of a buggy--Christine's--as it passed
the house, and her thoughts drifted into a new-discovered hemisphere
where life was all a somnolent sort of joy and bodily love.

She was roused at last by a song which came floating across the fields.
The air she knew, and the voice she knew. The chanson was, "Le Voleur de
grand Chemin!" The voice was her husband's.

She knew the words, too; and even before she could hear them, they were
fitting into the air:

       "Qui va la! There's some one in the orchard,
         There's a robber in the apple-trees;
        Qui va la! He is creeping through the doorway.
         Ah, allez-vous-en! Va-t'-en!"

She hurriedly put away the cordial and the seed-cakes. She picked up the
bottle. It was empty. Ferrol had drunk near half a pint of the liqueur!
She must get another bottle of it somehow. It would never do for Magon to
know that the precious anniversary cordial was all gone--in this way.

She hurried towards the other room. The voice of the farrier-farmer was
more distinct now. She could hear clearly the words of the song. She
looked out. The square-shouldered, blue-shirted Magon was skirting the
turnip field, making a short cut home. His straw hat was pushed back on
his head, his scythe was over his shoulder. He had cut the last swathe in
the field--now for Sophie. He was not handsome, and she had known that
always; but he seemed rough and coarse to-day. She did not notice how
well he fitted in with everything about him; and he was so healthy that
even three glasses of that cordial would have sent him reeling to bed.

As she passed into the dining-room, the words of the song followed her:

       "Qui va la! If you please, I own the mansion,
         And this is my grandfather's gun!
        Qui va la! Now you're a dead man, robber
         Ah, allez-vous-en! Va-t'-en!"



CHAPTER XI

"I saw you coming," Ferrol said, as Christine stopped the buggy.

"You have been to see Magon and Sophie?" she asked.

"Yes, for a minute," he answered. "Where are you going?"

"Just for a drive," she replied. "Come, won't you?" He got in, and she
drove on.

"Where were you going?" she asked.

"Why, to the old mill," was his reply. "I wanted a little walk, then a
rest."

Ten minutes later they were looking from a window of the mill, out upon
the great wheel which had done all the work the past generations had
given it to do, and was now dropping into decay as it had long dropped
into disuse. Moss had gathered on the great paddles; many of them were
broken, and the debris had been carried away by the freshets of spring
and the floods of autumn.

They were silent for a time. Presently she looked up at him.

"You're much better to-day," she said; "better than you've been
since--since that night!"

"Oh, I'm all right," he answered; "right as can be." He suddenly turned
on her, put his hand upon her arm, and said:

"Come, now, tell me what there was between you and Vanne Castine--once
upon a time.

"He was in love with me five years ago," she said.

"And five years ago you were in love with him, eh?" "How dare you say
that to me!" she answered. "I never was. I always hated him."

She told her lie with unscrupulous directness. He did not believe her;
but what did that matter! It was no reason why he should put her at a
disadvantage, and, strangely enough, he did not feel any contempt for her
because she told the lie, nor because she had once cared for Castine.
Probably in those days she had never known anybody who was very much
superior to Castine. She was in love with himself now; that was enough,
or nearly enough, and there was no particular reason why he should demand
more from her than she demanded from him. She was lying to him now
because--well, because she loved him. Like the majority of men, when
women who love them have lied to them so, they have seen in it a
compliment as strong as the act was weak. It was more to him now that
this girl should love him than that she should be upright, or moral, or
truthful. Such is the egotism and vanity of such men.

"Well, he owes me several years of life. I put in a bad hour that night."

He knew that "several years of life" was a misstatement; but, then, they
were both sinners.

Her eyes flashed, she stamped her foot, and her fingers clinched.

"I wish I'd killed him when I killed his bear!" she said.

Then excitedly she described the scene exactly as it occurred. He admired
the dramatic force of it. He thrilled at the direct simplicity of the
tale. He saw Vanne Castine in the forearms of the huge beast, with his
eyes bulging from his head, his face becoming black, and he saw blind
justice in that death grip; Christine's pistol at the bear's head, and
the shoulder in the teeth of the beast, and then!

"By the Lord Harry," he said, as she stood panting, with her hands fixed
in the last little dramatic gesture, "what a little spitfire and brick
you are!"

All at once he caught her away from the open window and drew her to him.
Whether what he said that moment, and what he did then, would have been
said and done if it were not for the liqueur he had drunk at Sophie's
house would be hard to tell; but the sum of it was that she was his and
he was hers. She was to be his until the end of all, no matter what the
end might be. She looked up at him, her face glowing, her bosom
beating--beating, every pulse in her tingling.

"You mean that you love me, and that--that you want-to marry me?" she
said; and then, with a fervent impulse, she threw her arms round his neck
and kissed him again and again.

The directness of her question dumfounded him for the moment; but what
she suggested (though it might be selfish in him to agree to it) would be
the best thing that could happen to him. So he lied to her, and said:

"Yes, that's what I meant. But, then, to tell you the sober truth, I'm as
poor as a church mouse."

He paused. She looked up at him with a sudden fear in her face.

"You're not married?" she asked, "you're not married?" then, breaking off
suddenly: "I don't care if you are, I don't! I love you--love you! Nobody
would look after you as I would. I don't; no, I don't care."

She drew up closer and closer to him.

"No, I don't mean that I was married," he said. "I meant--what you
know--that my life isn't worth, perhaps, a ten-days' purchase."

Her face became pale again.

"You can have my life," she said; "have it just as long as you live, and
I'll make you live a year--yes, I'll make you live ten years. Love can do
anything; it can do everything. We'll be married to-morrow."

"That's rather difficult," he answered. "You see, you're a Catholic, and
I'm a Protestant, and they wouldn't marry us here, I'm afraid; at least
not at once, perhaps not at all. You see, I--I've only one lung."

He had never spoken so frankly of his illness before. "Well, we can go
over the border into the English province--into Upper Canada," she
answered. "Don't you see? It's only a few miles' drive to a village. I
can go over one day, get the licence; then, a couple of days after, we
can go over together and be married. And then, then--"

He smiled. "Well, then it won't make much difference, will it? We'll have
to fit in one way or another, eh?"

"We could be married afterwards by the Cure, if everybody made a fuss.
The bishop would give us a dispensation. It's a great sin to marry a
heretic, but--"

"But love--eh, ma cigale!" Then he took her eagerly, tenderly into his
arms; and probably he had then the best moment in his life.

Sophie Farcinelle saw them driving back together. She was sitting at
early supper with Magon, when, raising her head at the sound of wheels,
she saw Christine laughing and Ferrol leaning affectionately towards her.
Ferrol had forgotten herself and the incident of the afternoon. It meant
nothing to him. With her, however, it was vital: it marked a change in
her life. Her face flushed, her hands trembled, and she arose hurriedly
and went to get something from the kitchen, that Magon might not see her
face.



CHAPTER XII

Twenty men had suddenly disappeared from Bonaventure on the day that
Ferrol visited Sophie Farcinelle, and it was only the next morning that
the cause of their disappearance was generally known.

There had been many rumours abroad that a detachment of men from the
parish were to join Papineau. The Rebellion was to be publicly declared
on a certain date near at hand, but nothing definite was known; and
because the Cure condemned any revolt against British rule, in spite of
the evils the province suffered from bad government, every recruit who
joined Nic Lavilette's standard was sworn to secrecy. Louis Lavilette and
his wife knew nothing of their son's complicity in the rumoured
revolt--one's own people are generally the last to learn of one's
misdeeds. Madame would have been sorely frightened and chagrined if she
had known the truth, for she was partly English. Besides, if the
Rebellion did not succeed, disgrace must come, and then good-bye to the
progress of the Lavilettes, and goodbye, maybe, to her son!

In spite of disappointments and rebuffs in many quarters, she still kept
faith with her ambitions, and, fortunately for herself, she did not see
the abject failure of many of her schemes. Some of the gentry from the
neighbouring parishes had called, chiefly, she was aware, because of Mr.
Ferrol. She was building the superstructure of her social ambitions on
that foundation for the present. She told Louis sometimes, with tears of
joy in her eyes, that a special Providence had sent Mr. Ferrol to them,
and she did not know how to be grateful enough. He suggested a gift to
the church in token of gratitude, but her thanksgiving did not take that
form.

Nic was entirely French at heart, and ignored his mother's nationality.
He resented the English blood in his veins, and atoned for it by
increased loyalty to his French origin. This was probably not so much a
principle as a fancy. He had a kind of importance also in the parish, and
in his own eyes, because he made as much in three months by buying and
selling horses as most people did in a year. The respect of Bonaventure
for his ability was considerable; and though it had no marked admiration
for his character, it appreciated his drolleries, and was attracted by
his high spirits. He had always been erratic, so that when he disappeared
for days at a time no one thought anything of it, and when he came home
to the Manor at unearthly hours it created no peculiar notice.

He had chosen very good men for his recruits; for, though they talked
much among themselves, they drew a cordon of silence round their little
society of revolution. They vanished in the night, and Nic with them; but
he returned the next afternoon when the fire of excitement was at its
height. As he rode through the streets, people stopped him and poured out
questions; but he only shrugged his shoulders, and gave no information,
and neither denied nor affirmed anything.

Acting under orders, he had marched his company to make conjunction with
other companies at a point in the mountains twenty miles away, but had
himself returned to get the five thousand dollars gathered by Papineau's
agent. Now that the Rebellion was known, Nicolas intended to try and win
his father and his father's money and horses over to the cause.

Because Ferrol was an Englishman he made no confidant of him, and because
he was a dying man he saw in him no menace to the cause. Besides, was not
Ferrol practically dependent upon their hospitality? If he had guessed
that his friend knew accurately of his movements since the night he had
seen Vanne Castine hand him his commission from Papineau, he would have
felt less secure: for, after all, love--or prejudice--of country is a
principle in the minds of most men deeper than any other. When all other
morals go, this latent tendency to stand by the blood of his clan is the
last moral in man that bears the test without treason. If he had known
that Ferrol had written to the Commandant at Quebec, telling him of the
imminence of the Rebellion, and the secret recruiting and drilling going
on in the parishes, his popular comrade might have paid a high price for
his disclosure.

That morning at sunrise, Christine, saying she was going upon a visit to
the next parish, started away upon her mission to the English province.
Ferrol had urged her to let him go, but she had refused. He had not yet
fully recovered from his adventure with the bear, she said. Then he said
they might go together; but she insisted that she must make the way
clear, and have everything ready. They might go and find the minister
away, and then--voila, what a chance for cancan! So she went alone.

From his window he watched her depart; and as she drove away in the fresh
morning he fell to thinking what it might seem like if he had to look
forward to ten, twenty, or forty years with just such a woman as his
wife. Now she was at her best (he did not deceive himself), but in ten
years or less the effects of her early life would show in many ways. She
had once loved Vanne Castine! and now vanity and cowardice, or
unscrupulousness, made her lie about it. He would have her at her best--a
young, vigorous radiant nature--for his short life, and then, good-bye,
my lover, good-bye! Selfish? Of course. But she would rather--she had
said it--have him for the time he had to live than not at all. Position?
What was his position? Cast off by his family, forgotten by his old
friends, in debt, penniless--let position be hanged! Self-preservation
was the first law. What was the difference between this girl and himself?
Morals? She was better than himself, anyhow. She had genuine passions,
and her sins would be in behalf of those genuine passions. He had kicked
over the moral traces many a time from absolute selfishness. She had
clean blood in her veins, she was good-looking, she had a quick wit, she
was an excellent horse-woman--what then? If she wasn't so "well bred,"
that was a matter of training and opportunity which had never quite been
hers. What was he himself? A loafer, "a deuced unfortunate loafer," but
still a loafer. He had no trade and no profession. Confound it! how much
better off, and how much better in reality, were these people who had
trades and occupations. In the vigour and lithe activity of that girl's
body was the force of generations of honest workers. He argued and
thought--as every intelligent man in his position would have done--until
he had come into the old life again, and into the presence of the old
advantages and temptations!

Christine pulled up for a moment on a little hill, and waved her whip. He
shook his handkerchief from the window. That was their prearranged
signal. He shook it until she had driven away beyond the hill and was
lost to sight, and still stood there at the window looking out.

Presently Madame Lavilette appeared in the garden below, and he was sure,
from the way she glanced up at the window, and from her position in the
shrubbery, that she had seen the signal. Madame did not look displeased.
On the contrary, though an alliance with Christine now seemed unlikely,
because of the state of Ferrol's health and his religion and nationality,
it pleased her to think that it might have been.

When she had passed into the house, Ferrol sat down on the broad
window-sill, and looked out the way Christine had gone. He was thinking
of the humiliation of his position, and how it would be more humiliating
when he married Christine, should the Lavilettes turn against them--which
was quite possible. And from outside: the whole parish--a few
excepted--sympathised with the Rebellion, and once the current of hatred
of the English set in, he would be swept down by it. There were only
three English people in the place. Then, if it became known that he had
given information to the authorities, his life would be less uncertain
than it was just now. Yet, confound the dirty lot of little rebels, it
served them right! He couldn't sit by and see a revolt against British
rule without raising a hand. Warn Nic? To what good? The result would be
just the same. But if harm came to this intended brother-in-law-well, why
borrow trouble? He was not the Lord in Heaven, that he could have
everything as he wanted it! It was a toss-up, and he would see the sport
out. "Have to cough your way through, my boy!" he said, as he swayed back
and forth, the hard cough hacking in his throat.

As he had said yesterday, there was only one thing to do: he must have
that five thousand dollars which was to be handed over by the old
seigneur. This time he did not attempt to find excuses; he called the
thing by its proper name.

"Well, it's stealing, or it's highway robbery, no matter how one looks at
it," he said to himself. "I wonder what's the matter with me. I must have
got started wrong somehow. Money to spend, playing at soldiering, made to
believe I'd have a pot of money and an estate, and then told one fine day
that a son and heir, with health in form and feature, was come, and Esau
must go. No profession, except soldiering, debt staring me in the face,
and a nasty mess of it all round. I wonder why it is that I didn't pull
myself together, be honest to a hair, and fight my way through? I suppose
I hadn't it in me. I wasn't the right metal at the start. There's always
been a black sheep in our family, a gentleman or a lady, born without
morals, and I happen to be the gentleman this generation. I always knew
what was right, and liked it, and I always did what was wrong, and liked
it--nearly always. But I suppose I was fated. I was bound to get into a
hole, and I'm in it now, with one lung, and a wife in prospect to
support. I suppose if I were to write down all the decent things I've
thought in my life, and put them beside the indecent things I've done,
nobody would believe the same man was responsible for them. I'm one of
the men who ought to be put above temptation; be well bridled, well fed,
and the mere cost of comfortable living provided, and then I'd do big
things. But that isn't the way of the world; and so I feel that a morning
like this, and the love of a girl like that" (he nodded towards the
horizon into which Christine had gone) "ought to make a man sing a Te
Deum. And yet this evening, or to-morrow evening, or the next, I'll steal
five thousand dollars, if it can be done, and risk my neck in doing
it--to say nothing of family honour, and what not."

He got up from the window, went to his trunk, opened it, and, taking out
a pistol, examined it carefully, cocking and uncorking it, and after
loading it, and again trying the trigger, put it back again. There came a
tap at the door, and to his call a servant entered with a glass of milk
and whiskey, with which he always began the day.

The taste of the liquid brought back the afternoon of the day before, and
he suddenly stopped drinking, threw back his head, and laughed softly.

"By Jingo, but that liqueur was stunning--and so was-Sophie . . . Sophie!
That sounds compromisingly familiar this morning, and very improper also!
But Sophie is a very nice person, and I ought to be well ashamed of
myself. I needed the bit and curb both yesterday. It'll never do at all.
If I'm going to marry Christine, we must have no family complications.
'Must have'!" he exclaimed. "But what if Sophie already?--good Lord!"

It was a strange sport altogether, in which some people were bound to get
a bad fall, himself probably among the rest. He intended to rob the
brother, he had set the government going against the brother's
revolutionary cause, he was going to marry one sister, and the other--the
less thought and said about that matter the better.

The afternoon brought Nic, who seemed perplexed and excited, but was most
friendly. It seemed to Ferrol as if Nic wished to disclose something; but
he gave him no opportunity. What he knew he knew, and he could make use
of; but he wanted no further confidences. Ever since the night of the
fight with the bear there had been nothing said on matters concerning the
Rebellion. If Nicolas disclosed any secret now, it must surely be about
the money, and that must not be if he could prevent it. But he watched
his friend, nevertheless.

Night came, and Christine did not return; eight o'clock, nine o'clock.
Lavilette and his wife were a little anxious; but Ferrol and Nicolas made
excuses for her, and, in the wild talk and gossip about the Rebellion,
attention was easily shifted from her. Besides, Christine was well used
to taking care of herself.

Lavilette flatly refused to give Nic a penny for "the cause," and stormed
at his connection with it; but at last became pacified, and agreed it was
best that Madame Lavilette should know nothing about Nic's complicity
just yet. At half past nine o'clock Nic left the house and took the road
towards the Seigneury.



CHAPTER XIII

About half-way between the Seigneury and the main street of the village
there was a huge tree, whose limbs stretched across the road and made a
sort of archway. In the daytime, during the summer, foot travellers,
carts and carriages, with their drivers, loitered in its shade as they
passed, grateful for the rest it gave; but at night, even when it was
moonlight, the wide branches threw a dark and heavy shadow, and the
passage beneath them was gloomy travel. Many a foot traveller hesitated
to pass into that umbrageous circle, and skirted the fence beyond the
branches on the further side of the road instead.

When Nicolas Lavilette, returning from the Seigneury with the precious
bag of gold for Papineau, came hurriedly along the road towards the
village, he half halted, with sudden premonition of danger, a dozen feet
or so from the great tree. But like most young people, who are inclined
to trust nothing but their own strong arms and what their eyes can see,
he withstood the temptation to skirt the fence; and with a little
half-scornful laugh at himself, yet a little timidity also (or he would
not have laughed at all), he hurried under the branches. He had not gone
three steps when the light of a dark lantern flashed suddenly in his
face, and a pistol touched his forehead. All he could see was a figure
clothed entirely in black, even to hands and face, with only holes for
eyes, nose and mouth.

He stood perfectly still; the shock was so sudden. There was something
determined and deadly in the pose of the figure before him, in the touch
of the weapon, in the clearness of the light. His eyes dropped, and fixed
involuntarily upon the lantern.

He had a revolver with him; but it was useless to attempt to defend
himself with it. Not a word had been spoken. Presently, with the fingers
that held the lantern, his assailant made a motion of Hands up! There was
no reason why he should risk his life without a chance of winning, so he
put up his hands. At another motion he drew out the bag of gold with his
left hand, and, obeying the direction of another gesture, dropped it on
the ground. There was a pause, then another gesture, which he pretended
not to understand.

"Your pistol!" said the voice in a whisper through the mask.

He felt the cold steel at his forehead press a little closer; he also
felt how steady it was. He was no fool. He had been in trouble before in
his lifetime; he drew out the pistol, and passed it, handle first, to
three fingers stretched out from the dark lantern.

The figure moved to where the money and the pistol were, and said, in a
whisper still:

"Go!"

He had one moment of wild eagerness to try his luck in a sudden assault,
but that passed as suddenly as it came; and with the pistol still
covering him, he moved out into the open road, with a helpless anger on
him.

A crescent moon was struggling through floes of fleecy clouds, the stars
were shining, and so the road was not entirely dark. He went about thirty
steps, then turned and looked back. The figure was still standing there,
with the pistol and the light. He walked on another twenty or thirty
steps, and once again looked back. The light and the pistol were still
there. Again he walked on. But now he heard the rumble of buggy wheels
behind. Once more he looked back: the figure and the light had gone. The
buggy wheels sounded nearer. With a sudden feeling of courage, he turned
round and ran back swiftly. The light suddenly flashed again.

"It's no use," he said to himself, and turned and walked slowly along the
road.

The sound of the buggy wheels came still nearer. Presently it was
obscured by passing under the huge branches of the tree. Then the horse,
buggy and driver appeared at the other side, and in a few moments had
overtaken him. He looked up sharply, scrutinisingly. Suddenly he burst
out:

"Holy mother, Chris, is that you! Where've you been? Are you all right?"

She had whipped up her horse at first sight of him, thinking he might be
some drunken rough.

"Mais, mon dieu, Nic, is that you? I thought at first you were a
highwayman!"

"No, you've passed the highwayman! Come, let me get in."

Five minutes afterwards she knew exactly what had happened to him.

"Who could it be?" she asked.

"I thought at first it was that beast Vanne Castine!" he answered; "he's
the only one that knew about the money, besides the agent and the old
seigneur. He brought word from Papineau. But it was too tall for him, and
he wouldn't have been so quiet about it. Just like a ghost. It makes my
flesh creep now!"

It did not seem such a terrible thing to her at the moment, for she had
in her pocket the licence to marry the Honourable Tom Ferrol upon the
morrow, and she thought, with joy, of seeing him just as soon as she set
foot in the doorway of the Manor Casimbault.

It was something of a shock to her that she did not see him for quite a
half hour after she arrived home, and that was half past ten o'clock. But
women forget neglect quickly in the delight of a lover's presence; so her
disappointment passed. Yet she could not help speaking of it.

"Why weren't you at the door to meet me when I came back to-night with
that-that in my pocket?" she asked him, his arm round her.

"I've got a kicking lung, you know," he said, with a half ironical, half
self-pitying smile.

"Oh, forgive me, forgive me, Tom, my love!" she said as she buried her
face on his breast.



CHAPTER XIV

Before he left for the front next morning to join his company and march
to Papineau's headquarters, Nic came to Ferrol, told him, with rage and
disappointment, the story of the highway robbery, and also that he hoped
Ferrol would not worry about the Rebellion, and would remain at the Manor
Casimbault in any case.

"Anyhow," said he, "my mother's half English; so you're not alone. We're
going to make a big fight for it. We've stood it as long as we can. But
we're friends in this, aren't we, Ferrol?"

There was a pause, in which Ferrol sipped his whiskey and milk, and
continued dressing. He set the glass down, and looked towards the open
window, through which came the smell of the ripe orchard and the
fragrance of the pines. He turned to. Lavilette at last and said, as he
fastened his collar:

"Yes, you and I are friends, Nic; but I'm a Britisher, and my people have
been Britishers since Edward the Third's time; and for this same Quebec
two of my great-grand-uncles fought and lost their lives. If I were sound
of wind and limb I'd fight, like them, to keep what they helped to get.
You're in for a rare good beating, and, see, my friend--while I wouldn't
do you any harm personally, I'd crawl on my knees from here to the
citadel at Quebec to get a pot-shot at your rag-tag-and-bobtail
'patriots.' You can count me a first-class enemy to your 'cause,' though
I'm not a first-class fighting man. And now, Nic, give me a lift with my
coat. This shoulder jibs a bit since the bear-baiting."

Lavilette was naturally prejudiced in Ferrol's favour; and this
deliberate and straightforward patriotism more pleased than offended him.
His own patriotism was not a deep or lasting thing: vanity and a restless
spirit were its fountains of inspiration. He knew that Ferrol was
penniless--or he was so yesterday--and this quiet defiance of events in
the very camp of the enemy could not but appeal to his ebullient, Gallic
chivalry. Ferrol did not say these things because he had five thousand
dollars behind him, for he would have said them if he were starving and
dying--perhaps out of an inherent stubbornness, perhaps because this
hereditary virtue in him would have been as hard to resist as his sins.

"That's all right, Ferrol," answered Lavilette. "I hope you'll stay here
at the Manor, no matter what comes. You're welcome. Will you?"

"Yes, I'll stay, and glad to. I can't very well do anything else. I'm
bankrupt. Haven't got a penny--of my own," he added, with daring irony.
"Besides, it's comfortable here, and I feel like one of the family; and,
anyhow, Life is short and Time is a pacer!" His wearing cough emphasised
the statement.

"It won't be easy for you in Bonaventure," said Nicolas, walking
restlessly up and down. "They're nearly all for the cause, all except the
Cure. But he can't do much now, and he'll keep out of the mess. By the
time he has a chance to preach against it, next Sunday, every man that
wants to 'll be at the front, and fighting. But you'll be all right, I
think. They like you here."

"I've a couple of good friends to see me through," was the quiet reply.

"Who are they?"

Ferrol went to his trunk, took out a pair of pistols, and balanced them
lightly in his hands. "Good to confuse twenty men," he said. "A brace of
'em are bound to drop, and they don't know which one."

He raised a pistol lazily, and looked out along its barrel through the
open, sunshiny window. Something in the pose of the body, in the curve of
the arm, struck Nicolas strangely. He moved almost in front of Ferrol.
There came back to him mechanically the remembrance of a piece of silver
on the butt of one of the highwayman's pistols!

The same piece of silver was on the butt of Ferrol's pistol. It startled
him; but he almost laughed to him self at the absurdity of the
suggestion. Ferrol was the last man in the world to play a game like
that, and with him.

Still he could not resist a temptation. He stepped in front of the
pistol, almost touching it with his forehead, looking at Ferrol as he had
looked at the highwayman last night.

"Look out, it's loaded!" said Ferrol, lowering the weapon coolly, and not
showing by sign or muscle that he understood Lavilette's meaning. "I
should think you'd had enough of pistols for one twenty-four hours."

"Do you know, Ferrol, you looked just then so like the robber last night
that, for one moment, I half thought!--And the pistol, too, looks just
the same--that silver piece on the butt!"

"Oh, yes, this piece for the name of the owner!" said Ferrol, in a
laughing brogue, and he coughed a little. "Well, maybe some one did use
this pistol last night. It wouldn't be hard to open my trunk. Let's see;
whom shall we suspect?"

Lavilette was entirely reassured, if indeed he needed reassurance. Ferrol
coughed still more, and was obliged to sit down on the side of the bed
and rest himself against the foot-board.

"There's a new jug of medicine or cordial come this morning from
Shangois, the notary," said Lavilette. "I just happened to think of it.
What he does counts. He knows a lot."

Ferrol's eyes showed interest at once.

"I'll try it. I'll try it. The stuff Gatineau the miller sent doesn't do
any good now."

"Shangois is here--he's downstairs--if you want to see him."

Ferrol nodded. He was tired of talking.

"I'm going," said Lavilette, holding out his hand. "I'll join my company
to-day, and the scrimmage 'll begin as soon as we reach Papineau. We've
got four hundred men."

Ferrol tried to say something, but he was struggling with the cough in
his throat. He held out his hand, and Nicolas took it. At last he was
able to say:

"Good luck to you, Nic, and to the devil with the Rebellion! You're in
for a bad drubbing."

Nicolas had a sudden feeling of anger. This superior air of Ferrol's was
assumed by most Englishmen in the country, and it galled him.

"We'll not ask quarter of Englishmen; no-sacre!" he said in a rage.

"Well, Nic, I'm not so sure of that. Better do that than break your
pretty neck on a taut rope," was the lazy reply.

With an oath, Lavilette went out, banging the door after him. Ferrol
shrugged his shoulder with a stoic ennui, and put away the pistols in the
trunk. He was thinking how reckless he had been to take them out; and yet
he was amused, too, at the risk he had run. A strange indifference
possessed him this morning--indifference to everything. He was suffering
reaction from the previous day's excitement. He had got the five thousand
dollars, and now all interest in it seemed to have departed.

Suddenly he said to himself, as he ran a brush around his coat-collar:

"'Pon my soul, I forgot; this is my wedding day!--the great day in a
man's life, the immense event, after which comes steady happiness or the
devil to pay."

He stepped to the window and looked out. It was only six o'clock as yet.
He could see the harvesters going to their labours in the fields of wheat
and oats, the carters already bringing in little loads of hay. He could
hear their marche-'t'-en! to the horses. Over by a little house on the
river bank stood an old woman sharpening a sickle. He could see the flash
of the steel as the stone and metal gently clashed.

Presently a song came up to him, through the garden below, from the
house. The notes seemed to keep time to the hand of the sickle-sharpener.
He had heard it before, but only in snatches. Now it seemed to pierce his
senses and to flood his nerves with feeling.

The air was sensuous, insinuating, ardent. The words were full of summer
and of that dramatic indolence of passion which saved the incident at
Magon Farcinelle's from being as vulgar as it was treacherous. The voice
was Christine's, on her wedding day.

       "Oh, hark how the wind goes, the wind goes
        (And dark goes the stream by the mill!)
        Oh, see where the storm blows, the storm blows
        (There's a rider comes over the hill!)

       "He went with the sunshine one morning
        (Oh, loud was the bugle and drum!)
        My soldier, he gave me no warning
        (Oh, would that my lover might come!)

       "My kisses, my kisses are waiting
        (Oh, the rider comes over the hill!)
        In summer the birds should be mating
        (Oh, the harvest goes down to the mill!)

       "Oh, the rider, the rider he stayeth
        (Oh, joy that my lover hath come!)
        We will journey together he sayeth
        (No more with the bugle and drum!)"

He caught sight of Christine for a moment as she passed through the
garden towards the stable. Her gown was of white stuff, with little spots
of red in it, and a narrow red ribbon was shot through the collar. Her
hat was a pretty white straw, with red artificial flowers upon it. She
wore at her throat a medallion brooch: one of the two heirlooms of the
Lavilette family. It had belonged to the great-grandmother of Monsieur
Louis Lavilette, and was the one security that this ambitious family did
not spring up, like a mushroom, in one night. It had always touched
Christine's imagination as a child. Some native instinct in, her made her
prize it beyond everything else. She used to make up wonderful stories
about it, and tell them to Sophie, who merely wondered, and was not sure
but that Christine was wicked; for were not these little romances little
lies? Sophie's imagination was limited. As the years went on Christine
finally got possession of the medallion, and held it against all
opposition. Somehow, with it on this morning, she felt diminish the
social distance between herself and Ferrol.

Ferrol himself thought nothing of social distance. Men, as a rule, get
rather above that sort of thing. The woman: that was all that was in his
mind. She was good to look at: warm, lovable, fascinating in her little
daring wickednesses; a fiery little animal, full of splendid impulses,
gifted with a perilous temperament: and she loved him. He had a kind of
exultation at the very fierceness of her love for him, of what she had
done to prove her love: her fury at Vanne Castine, the slaughter of the
bear, and the intention to kill Vanne himself; and he knew that she would
do more than that, if a great test came. Men feel surer of women than
women feel of men.

He sat down on the broad window-ledge, still sipping his whiskey and
milk, as he looked at her. She was very good to see. Presently she had to
cross a little plot of grass. The dew was still on it. She gathered up
her skirts and tip-toed quickly across it. The action was attractive
enough, for she had a lithe smoothness of motion. Suddenly he uttered an
exclamation of surprise.

"White stockings--humph!" he said.

Somehow those white stockings suggested the ironical comment of the world
upon his proposed mesalliance; then he laughed good-humouredly.

"Taste is all a matter of habit, anyhow," said he to himself. "My own
sister wouldn't have had any better taste if she hadn't been taught. And
what am I?

"What am I? I drink more whiskey in a day than any three men in the
country. I don't do a stroke of work; I've got debts all over the world;
I've mulcted all my friends; I've made fools of two or three women in my
time; I've broken every commandment except--well, I guess I've broken
every one, if it comes to that, in spirit, anyhow. I'm a thief, a
fire-eating highwayman, begad, and here I am, with a perforated lung,
going to marry a young girl like that, without one penny in the world
except what I stole! What beasts men are! The worst woman may be worse
than the worst man, but all men are worse than most women. But she wants
to marry me. She knows exactly what I am in health and prospects; so why
shouldn't I?"

He drew himself up, thinking honestly. He believed that he would live if
he married Christine; that his "cold" would get better; that the hole in
his lung would heal. It was only a matter of climate; he was sure of it.
Christine had a few hundred dollars--she had told him so. Suppose he took
three hundred dollars of the five thousand dollars: that would leave four
thousand seven hundred dollars for his sister. He could go away south
with Christine, and could live on five or six hundred dollars a year;
then he'd be fit for something. He could go to work. He could join the
Militia, if necessary. Anyhow, he could get something to do when he got
well.

He drank some more whiskey and milk. "Self-preservation, that's the
thing; that's the first law," he said. "And more: if the only girl I ever
loved, ever really loved--loved from the crown of her head to the sole of
her feet--were here to-day, and Christine stood beside her, little
plebeian with a big heart, by Heaven, I'd choose Christine. I can trust
her, though she is a little liar. She loves, and she'll stick; and she's
true where she loves. Yes; if all the women in the world stood beside
Christine this morning, I'd look them all over, from duchess to danseuse,
and I'd say, 'Christine Lavilette, I'm a scoundrel. I haven't a penny in
the world. I'm a thief; a thief who believes in you. You know what love
is; you know what fidelity is. No matter what I did, you would stand by
me to the end. To the last day of my life, I'll give you my heart and my
hand; and as you are faithful to me, so I will be faithful to you, so
help me God!'

"I don't believe I ever could have run straight in life. I couldn't have
been more than four years old when I stole the peaches from my mother's
dressing-table; and I lied just as coolly then as I could now. I made
love to a girl when I was ten years old." He laughed to himself at the
remembrance. "Her father had a foundry. She used to wear a red dress, I
remember, and her hair was brown. She sang like a little lark. I was half
mad about her; and yet I knew that I didn't really love her. Still, I
told her that I did. I suppose it was the cursed falseness of my whole
nature. I know that whenever I have said most, and felt most, something
in me kept saying all the time: 'You're lying, you're lying, you're
lying!' Was I born a liar?

"I wonder if the first words I ever spoke were a lie? I wonder, when I
kissed my mother first, and knew that I was kissing her, if the same
little devil that sits up in my head now, said then: 'You're lying,
you're lying, you're lying.' It has said so enough times since. I loved
to be with my mother; yet I never felt, even when she died--and God knows
I felt bad enough then!

"I never felt that my love was all real. It had some infernal note of
falseness somewhere, some miserable, hollow place where the sound of my
own voice, when I tried to speak the truth, mocked me! I wonder if the
smiles I gave, before I was able to speak at all, were only blarney? I
wonder, were they only from the wish to stand well with everybody, if I
could? It must have been that; and how much I meant, and how much I did
not mean, God alone knows!

"What a sympathy I have always had for criminals! I have always wanted,
or, anyhow, one side of me has always wanted, to do right, and the other
side has always done wrong. I have sympathised with the just, but I have
always felt that I'd like to help the criminal to escape his punishment.
If I had been more real with that girl in New York, I wonder whether she
wouldn't have stuck to me? When I was with her I could always convince
her; but, I remember, she told me once that, when I was away from her,
she somehow felt that I didn't really love her. That's always been the
way. When I was with people, they liked me; when I was away from them, I
couldn't depend upon them. No; upon my soul, of all the friends I've ever
had, there's not one that I know of that I could go to now--except my
sister, poor girl!--and feel sure that no matter what I did, they'd stick
to me to the end. I suppose the fault is mine. If I'd been worth the
standing by, I'd have been the better stood by. But this girl, this
little French provincial, with a heart of fire and gold, with a touch of
sin in her, and a thumping artery of truth, she would walk with me to the
gallows, and give her life to save my life--yes, a hundred times. Well,
then, I'll start over again; for I've found the real thing. I'll be true
to her just as long as she's true to me. I'll never lie to her; and I'll
do something else--something else. I'll tell her--"

He reached out, picked a wild rose from the vine upon the wall, and
fastened it in his button-hole, with a defiant sort of smile, as there
came a tap to his door. "Come in," he said.

The door opened, and in stepped Shangois, the notary. He carried a jug
under his arm, which, with a nod, he set down at the foot of the bed.

"M'sieu'," said he, "it is a thing that cured the bishop; and once, when
a prince of France was at Quebec, and had a bad cold, it cured him. The
whiskey in it I made myself--very good white wine." Ferrol looked at the
little man curiously. He had only spoken with him once or twice, but he
had heard the numberless legends about him, and the Cure had told him
many of his sayings, a little weird and sometimes maliciously true to the
facts of life.

Ferrol thanked the little man, and motioned to a chair. There was,
however, a huge chest against the wall near the window, and Shangois sat
down on this, with his legs hunched up to his chin, looking at Ferrol
with steady, inquisitive eyes. Ferrol laughed outright. A grotesque
thought occurred to him. This little black notary was exactly like the
weird imp which, he had always imagined, sat high up in his brain,
dropping down little ironies and devilries--his personified conscience;
or, perhaps, the truth left out of him at birth and given this form, to
be with him, yet not of him.

Shangois did not stir, nor show by even the wink of an eyelid that he
recognised the laughter, or thought that he was being laughed at.

Presently Ferrol sat down and looked at Shangois without speaking, as
Shangois looked at him. He smiled more than once, however, as the thought
recurred to him.

"Well?" he said at last.

"What if she finds out about the five thousand dollars--eh, m'sieu'?"

Ferrol was completely dumfounded. The brief question covered so much
ground--showed a knowledge of the whole case. Like Conscience itself, the
little black notary had gone straight to the point, struck home. He was
keen enough, however, had sufficient self-command, not to betray himself,
but remained unmoved outwardly, and spoke calmly.

"Is that your business--to go round the parish asking conundrums?" he
said coolly. "I can't guess the answer to that one, can you?"

Shangois hated cowards, and liked clever people--people who could answer
him after his own fashion. Nearly everybody was afraid of his tongue and
of him. He knew too much; which was a crime.

"I can find out," he replied, showing his teeth a little.

"Then you're not quite sure yourself, little devilkin?"

"The girl is a riddle. I am not the great reader of riddles."

"I didn't call you that. You're only a common little imp."

Shangois showed his teeth in a malicious smile.

"Why did you set me the riddle, then?" Ferrol continued, his eyes fixed
with apparent carelessness on the other's face.

"I thought she might have told you the answer."

"I never asked her the puzzle. Have you?"

By instinct, and from the notary's reputation, Ferrol knew that he was in
the presence of an honest man at least, and he waited most anxiously for
an answer, for his fate might hang on it.

"M'sieu', I have not seen her since yesterday morning."

"Well, what would you do if you found out about the five thousand
dollars?"

"I would see what happened to it; and afterwards I would see that a girl
of Bonaventure did not marry a Protestant, and a thief."

Ferrol rose from his chair, coughing a little. Walking over to Shangois,
he caught him by both ears and shook the shaggy head back and forth.

"You little scrap of hell," he said in a rage, "if you ever come within
fifty feet of me again I'll send you where you came from!"

Though Shangois's eyes bulged from his head, he answered:

"I was only ten feet away from you last night under the elm!"

Suddenly Ferrol's hand slipped down to Shangois's throat. Ferrol's
fingers tightened, pressed inwards.

"Now, see, I know what you mean. Some one has robbed Nicolas Lavilette of
five thousand dollars. You dare to charge me with it, curse you. Let me
see if there's any more lies on your tongue!"

With the violence of the pressure Shangois's tongue was forced out of his
mouth.

Suddenly a paroxysm of coughing seized Ferrol, and he let go and
staggered back against the window ledge. Shangois was transformed--an
animal. No human being had ever seen him as he was at this moment. The
fingers of his one hand opened and shut convulsively, his arms worked up
and down, his face twitched, his teeth showed like a beast's as he glared
at Ferrol. He looked as though he were about to spring upon the now
helpless man. But up from the garden below there came the sound of a
voice--Christine's--singing.

His face quieted, and his body came to its natural pose again, though his
eyes retained an active malice. He turned to go.

"Remember what I tell you," said Ferrol: "if you publish that lie, you'll
not live to hear it go about. I mean what I say." Blood showed upon his
lips, and a tiny little stream flowed down the corner of his mouth.
Whenever he felt that warm fluid on his tongue he was certain of his
doom, and the horror of slowly dying oppressed him, angered him. It begot
in him a desire to end it all. He had a hatred of suicide; but there were
other ways. "I'll have your life, or you'll have mine. I'm not to be
played with," he added.

The sentences were broken by coughing, and his handkerchief was wet and
red.

"It is no concern of the world," answered Shangois, stretching up his
throat, for he still felt the pressure of Ferrol's fingers--"only of the
girl and her brother. The girl--I saved her once before from your friend
Vanne Castine, and I will save her from you--but, yes! It is nothing to
the world, to Bonaventure, that you are a robber; it is everything to
her. You are all robbers--you English--cochons!"

He opened the door and went out. Ferrol was about to follow him, but he
had a sudden fit of weakness, and he caught up a pillow, and, throwing it
on the chest where Shangois had sat, stretched himself upon it. He lay
still for quite a long time, and presently fell into a doze. In those
days no event made a lasting impression on him. When it was over it
ended, so far as concerned any disturbing remembrances of it. He was
awakened (he could not have slept for more than fifteen minutes) by a
tapping at his door, and his name spoken softly. He went to the door and
opened it. It was Christine. He thought she seemed pale, also that she
seemed nervous; but her eyes were full of light and fire, and there was
no mistaking the look in her face: it was all for him. He set down her
agitation to the adventure they were about to make together. He stepped
back, as if inviting her to enter, but she shook her head.

"No, not this morning. I will meet you at the old mill in half an hour.
The parish is all mad about the Rebellion, and no one will notice or talk
of anything else. I have the best pair of horses in the stable; and we
can drive it in two hours, easy."

She took a paper from her pocket.

"This is--the--license," she added, and she blushed. Then, with a sudden
impulse, she stepped inside the room, threw her arms about his neck and
kissed him, and he clasped her to his breast.

"My darling Tom!" she said, and then hastened away, with tears in her
eyes.

He saw the tears. "I wonder what they were for?" he said musingly, as he
opened up the official blue paper. "For joy?" He laughed a little
uneasily as he said it. His eyes ran through the document.

"The Honourable Tom Ferrol, of Stavely Castle, County Galway, Ireland,
bachelor, and Christine Marie Lavilette, of the Township of Bonaventure,
in the Province of Lower Canada, spinster, Are hereby granted," etc.,
etc., etc., "according to the laws of the Province of Upper Canada,"
etc., etc., etc.

He put it in his pocket.

"For better or for worse, then," he said, and descended the stairs.

Presently, as he went through the village, he noticed signs of hostility
to himself. Cries of Vive la Canada! Vive la France! a bas l'Anglais!
came to him out of the murmuring and excitement. But the Regimental
Surgeon took off his cap to him, very conspicuously advancing to meet
him, and they exchanged a few words.

"By the way, monsieur," the Regimental Surgeon added, as he took his
leave, "I knew of this some days ago, and, being a justice of the peace,
it was my duty to inform the authorities--yes of course! One must do
one's duty in any case," he said, in imitation of English bluffness, and
took his leave.

Ten minutes later Christine and Ferrol were on their way to the English
province to be married.

That afternoon at three o'clock, as they left the little English-speaking
village man and wife, they heard something which startled them both. It
was a bear-trainer, singing to his bear the same weird song, without
words, which Vanne Castine sang to Michael. Over in another street they
could see the bear on his hind feet, dancing, but they could not see the
man.

Christine glanced at Ferrol anxiously, for she was nervous and excited,
though her face had also a look of exultant happiness.

"No, it's not Castine!" he said, as if in reply to her look.

In a vague way, however, she felt it to be ominous.



CHAPTER XV

The village had no thought or care for anything except the Rebellion and
news of it; and for several days Ferrol and Christine lived their new
life unobserved by the people of the village, even by the household of
Manor Casimbault.

It almost seemed that Ferrol's prophecy regarding himself was coming
true, for his cheek took on a heightened colour, his step a greater
elasticity, and he flung his shoulders out with a little of the old
military swagger: cheerful, forgetful of all the world, and buoyant in
what he thought to be his new-found health and permanent happiness.

Vague reports came to the village concerning the Rebellion. There were
not a dozen people in the village who espoused the British cause; and
these few were silent. For the moment the Lavilettes were popular.
Nicolas had made for them a sort of grand coup. He had for the moment
redeemed the snobbishness of two generations.

After his secret marriage, Ferrol was not seen in the village for some
days, and his presence and nationality were almost forgotten by the
people: they only thought of what was actively before their eyes. On the
fifth day after his marriage, which was Saturday, he walked down to the
village, attracted by shouting and unusual excitement. When he saw the
cause of the demonstration he had a sudden flush of anger. A flag-staff
had been erected in the centre of the village, and upon it had been run
up the French tricolour. He stood and looked at the shouting crowd a
moment, then swung round and went to the office of the Regimental
Surgeon, who met him at the door. When he came out again he carried a
little bundle under his left arm. He made straight for the crowd, which
was scattered in groups, and pushed or threaded his way to the
flag-staff. He was at least a head taller than any man there, and though
he was not so upright as he had been, the lines of his figure were still
those of a commanding personality. A sort of platform had been erected
around the flag-staff and on it a drunken little habitant was talking
treason. Without a word, Ferrol stepped upon the platform, and, loosening
the rope, dropped the tricolour half-way down the staff before his action
was quite comprehended by the crowd. Presently a hoarse shout proclaimed
the anger and consternation of the habitants.

"Leave that flag alone," shouted a dozen voices. "Leave it where it is!"
others repeated with oaths.

He dropped it the full length of the staff, whipped it off the string,
and put his foot upon it. Then he unrolled the bundle which he had
carried under his arm. It was the British flag. He slipped it upon the
string, and was about to haul it up, when the drunken orator on the
platform caught him by the arm with fiery courage.

"Here, you leave that alone: that's not our flag, and if you string it
up, we'll string you up, bagosh!" he roared.

Ferrol's heavy walking-stick was in his right hand. "Let go my
arm-quick!" he said quietly.

He was no coward, and these people were, and he knew it. The habitant
drew back.

"Get off the platform," he said with quiet menace.

He turned quickly to the crowd, for some had sprung towards the platform
to pull him off. Raising his voice, he said:

"Stand back, and hear what I've got to say. You're a hundred to one. You
can probably kill me; but before you do that I shall kill three or four
of you. I've had to do with rioters before. You little handful of people
here--little more than half a million--imagine that you can defeat
thirty-five millions, with an army of half a million, a hundred
battle-ships, ten thousand cannon and a million rifles. Come now, don't
be fools. The Governor alone up there in Montreal has enough men to drive
you all into the hills of Maine in a week. You think you've got the start
of Colborne? Why, he has known every movement of Papineau and your rebels
for the last two months. You can bluster and riot to-day, but look out
for to-morrow. I am the only Englishman here among you. Kill me; but
watch what your end will be! For every hair of my head there will be one
less habitant in this province. You haul down the British flag, and
string up your tricolour in this British village while there is one
Britisher to say, 'Put up that flag again!'--You fools!"

He suddenly gave the rope a pull, and the flag ran up half-way; but as he
did so a stone was thrown. It flew past his head, grazing his temple. A
sharp point lacerated the flesh, and the blood flowed down his cheek. He
ran the flag up to its full height, swiftly knotted the cord and put his
back against the pole. Grasping his stick he prepared himself for an
attack.

"Mind what I say," he cried; "the first man that comes will get what
for!"

There was a commotion in the crowd; consternation and dismay behind
Ferrol, and excitement and anger in front of him. Three men were pushing
their way through to him. Two of them were armed. They reached the
platform and mounted it. It was the Regimental Surgeon and two British
soldiers. The Regimental Surgeon held a paper in his hand.

"I have here," he said to the crowd, "a proclamation by Sir John
Colborne. The rebels have been defeated at three points, and half of the
men from Bonaventure who joined Papineau have been killed. The
ringleader, Nicolas Lavilette, when found, will be put on trial for his
life. Now, disperse to your homes, or every man of you will be arrested
and tried by court-martial."

The crowd melted away like snow, and they hurried not the less because
the stone which some one had thrown at Ferrol had struck a lad in the
head, and brought him senseless and bleeding to the ground.

Ferrol picked up the tricolour and handed it to the Regimental Surgeon.

"I could have done it alone, I believe," he said; "and, upon my soul, I'm
sorry for the poor devils. Suppose we were Englishmen in France, eh?"



CHAPTER XVI

The fight was over. The childish struggle against misrule had come to a
childish end. The little toy loyalists had been broken all to pieces. A
few thousand Frenchmen, with a vague patriotism, had shied some harmless
stones at the British flag-staff on the citadel: that was all. Obeying
the instincts of blood, religion, race, and language, they had made a
haphazard, sidelong charge upon their ancient conquerors, had spluttered
and kicked a little, and had then turned tail upon disaster and defeat.
An incoherent little army had been shattered into fugitive factors, and
every one of these hurried and scurried for a hole of safety into which
he could hide. Some were mounted, but most were on foot.

Officers fared little better than men. It was "Save who can": they were
all on a dead level of misfortune. Hundreds reached no cover, but were
overtaken and driven back to British headquarters. In their terror,
twenty brave rebels of two hours ago were to be captured by a single
British officer of infantry speaking bad French.

Two of these hopeless fugitives were still fortunate enough to get a
start of the hounds of retaliation and revenge. They were both mounted,
and had far to go to reach their destination. Home was the one word in
the mind of each; and they both came from Bonaventure.

The one was a tall, athletic young man, who had borne a captain's
commission in Papineau's patriot army. He rode a sorel horse--a great,
wiry raw-bone, with a lunge like a moose, and legs that struck the ground
with the precision of a piston-rod. As soon as his nose was turned
towards Bonaventure he smelt the wind of home in his nostrils; his
hatchet head jerked till he got the bit straight between his teeth; then,
gripping it as a fretful dog clamps the bone which his master pretends to
wrest from him, he leaned down to his work, and the mud, the new-fallen
snow and the slush flew like dirty sparks, and covered man and horse.

Above, an uncertain, watery moon flew in and out among the shifting
clouds; and now and then a shot came through the mist and the half dusk,
telling of some poor fugitive fighting, overtaken, or killed.

The horse neither turned head nor slackened gait. He was like a living
machine, obeying neither call nor spur, but travelling with an unchanging
speed along the level road, and up and down hill, mile after mile.

In the rider's heart were a hundred things; among them fear, that
miserable depression which comes with the first defeats of life, the
falling of the mercury from passionate activity to that frozen numbness
which betrays the exhausted nerve and despairing mind. The horse could
not go fast enough; the panic of flight was on him. He was conscious of
it, despised himself for it; but he could not help it. Yet, if he were
overtaken, he would fight; yes, fight to the end, whatever it might be.
Nicolas Lavilette had begun to unwind the coil of fortune and ambition
which his mother had long been engaged in winding.

A mile or two behind was another horse and another rider. The animal was
clean of limb, straight and shapely of body, with a leg like a lady's,
and heart and wind to travel till she dropped. This mare the little black
notary, Shangois, had cheerfully stolen from beside the tent of the
English general. The bridle-rein hung upon the wrist of the notary's
palsied left hand, and in his right hand he carried the long sabre of an
artillery officer, which he had picked up on the battlefield. He rode
like a monkey clinging to the back of a hound, his shoulder hunched, his
body bent forward even with the mare's neck, his knees gripping the
saddle with a frightened tenacity, his small, black eyes peering into the
darkness before him, and his ears alert to the sound of pursuers.

Twenty men of the British artillery were also off on a chase that pleased
them well. The hunt was up. It was not only the joy of killing, but the
joy of gain, that spurred them on; for they would have that little black
thief who stole the general's brown mare, or they would know the reason
why.

As the night wore on, Lavilette could hear hoof-beats behind him; those
of the mare growing clearer and clearer, and those of the artillerymen
remaining about the same, monotonously steady. He looked back, and saw
the mare lightly leaning to her work, and a little man hanging to her
back. He did not know who it was; and if he had known he would have
wondered. Shangois had ridden to camp to fetch him back to Bonaventure
for two purposes: to secure the five thousand dollars from Ferrol, and to
save Nic's sister from marrying a highwayman. These reasons he would have
given to Nic Lavilette, but other ulterior and malicious ideas were in
his mind. He had no fear, no real fear. His body shrank, but that was
because he had been little used to rough riding and to peril. But he
loved this game too, though there was a troop of foes behind him; and as
long as they rode behind him he would ride on.

He foresaw a moment when he would stop, slide to the ground, and with his
sabre kill one man--or more. Yes, he would kill one man. He had a
devilish feeling of delight in thinking how he would do it, and how red
the sabre would look when he had done it. He wished he had a hundred
hands and a hundred sabres in those hands. More than once he had been in
danger of his life, and yet he had had no fear.

He had in him the power of hatred; and he hated Ferrol as he had never
hated anything in his life. He hated him as much as, in a furtive sort of
way, he loved the rebellious, primitive and violent Christine.

As he rode on a hundred fancies passed through his brain, and they all
had to do with killing or torturing. As a boy dreams of magnificent deeds
of prowess, so he dreamed of deeds of violence and cruelty. In his life
he had been secret, not vicious; he had enjoyed the power which comes
from holding the secrets of others, and that had given him pleasure
enough. But now, as if the true passion, the vital principle, asserted
itself at the very last, so with the shadow of death behind him, his real
nature was dominant. He was entirely sane, entirely natural, only
malicious.

The night wore on, and lifted higher into the sky, and the grey dawn
crept slowly up: first a glimmer, then a neutral glow, then a sort of
darkness again, and presently the candid beginning of day.

As they neared the Parish of Bonaventure, Lavilette looked back again,
and saw the little black notary a few hundred yards behind. He recognised
him this time, waved a hand, and then called to his own fagged horse.
Shangois's mare was not fagged; her heart and body were like steel.

Not a quarter of a mile behind them both were three of the twenty
artillerymen. Lavilette came to the bridge shouting for Baby, the keeper.
Baby recognised him, and ran to the lever even as the sorel galloped up.
For the first time in the ride, Nic stuck spurs harshly into the sorel's
side. With a grunt of pain the horse sprang madly on. A half-dozen leaps
more and they were across, even as the bridge began to turn; for Baby had
not recognised the little black notary, and supposed him to be one of
Nic's pursuers; the others he saw further back in the road. It was only
when Shangois was a third of the way across, that he knew the mare's
rider. There was no time to turn the bridge back, and there was no time
for Shangois to stop the headlong pace of the mare. She gave a wild
whinny of fright, and jumped cornerwise, clear out across the chasm,
towards the moving bridge. Her front feet struck the timbers, and then,
without a cry, mare and rider dropped headlong down to the river beneath,
swollen by the autumn rains.

Baby looked down and saw the mare's head thrust above the water, once,
twice; then there was a flash of a sabre--and nothing more.

Shangois, with his dreams of malice and fighting, and the secrets of a
half-dozen parishes strapped to his back, had dropped out of Bonaventure,
as a stone crumbles from a bank into a stream, and many waters pass over
it, and no one inquires whither it has gone, and no one mourns for it.



CHAPTER XVII

ON Sunday morning Ferrol lay resting on a sofa in a little room off the
saloon. He had suffered somewhat from the bruise on his head, and while
the Lavilettes, including Christine, were at mass, he remained behind,
alone in the house, save for two servants in the kitchen. From where he
lay he could look down into the village. He was thinking of the tangle
into which things had got. Feeling was bitter against him, and against
the Lavilettes also, now that the patriots were defeated. It had gone
about that he had warned the Governor. The habitants, in their blind way,
blamed him for the consequences of their own misdoing. They blamed
Nicolas Lavilette. They blamed the Lavilettes for their friend ship with
Ferrol. They talked and blustered, yet they did not interfere with the
two soldiers who kept guard at the home of the Regimental Surgeon. It was
expected that the Cure would speak of the Rebellion from the altar this
morning. It was also rumoured that he would have something to say about
the Lavilettes; and Christine had insisted upon going. He laughed to
think of her fury when he suggested that the Cure would probably have
something unpleasant to say about himself. She would go and see to that
herself, she said. He was amused, and yet he was not in high spirits, for
he had coughed a great deal since the incident of the day before, and his
strength was much weakened.

Presently he heard a footstep in the room, and turned over so that he
might see. It was Sophie Farcinelle.

Before he had time to speak or to sit up, she had dropped a hand on his
shoulder. Her face was aflame.

"You have been badly hurt, and I'm very sorry," she said. "Why haven't
you been to see me? I looked for you. I looked every day, and you didn't
come, and--and I thought you had forgotten. Have you? Have you, Mr.
Ferrol?"

He had raised himself on his elbow, and his face was near hers. It was
not in him to resist the appealing of a pretty woman, and he had scarcely
grasped the fact that he was a married man, his clandestine meetings with
his wife having had, to this point, rather an air of adventure and
irresponsibility. It is hard to say what he might have done or left
undone; but, as Sophie's face was within an inch of his own, the door of
the room suddenly opened, and Christine appeared. The indignation that
had sent her back from mass to Ferrol was turned into another indignation
now.

Sophie, frightened, turned round and met her infuriated look. She did not
move, however.

"Leave this room at once. What do you want here?" Christine said, between
gasps of anger.

"The room is as much mine as yours," answered Sophie, sullenly.

"The man isn't," retorted Christine, with a vicious snap of her teeth.

"Come, come," said Ferrol, in a soothing tone, rising from the sofa and
advancing.

"What's he to you?" said Sophie, scornfully.

"My husband: that's all!" answered Christine. "And now, if you please,
will you go to yours? You'll find him at mass. He'll have plenty of
praying to do if he prays for you both--voila!"

"Your husband!" said Sophie, in a husky voice, dumfounded and miserable.
"Is that so?" she added to Ferrol. "Is she-your wife?"

"That's the case," he answered, "and, of course," he added in a
mollifying tone, "being my sister as well as Christine's, there's no
reason why you shouldn't be alone with me in the room a few moments. Is
there now?" he added to Christine.

The acting was clever enough, but not quite convincing, and Christine was
too excited to respond to his blarney.

"He can't be your real husband," said Sophie, hardly above a whisper.
"The Cure didn't marry you, did he?" She looked at Ferrol doubtfully.

"Well, no," he said; "we were married over in Upper Canada."

"By a Protestant?" asked Sophie.

Christine interrrupted. "What's that to you? I hope I'll never see your
face again while I live. I want to be alone with my husband, and your
husband wants to be alone with his wife: won't you oblige us and
him--Hein?"

Sophie gave Ferrol a look which haunted him while he lived. One idle
afternoon he had sowed the seeds of a little storm in the heart of a
woman, and a whirlwind was driving through her life to parch and make
desolate the green fields of her youth and womanhood. He had loitered and
dallied without motive; but the idle and unmeaning sinner is the most
dangerous to others and to himself, and he realised it at that moment, so
far as it was in him to realise anything of the kind.

Sophie's figure as it left the room had that drooping, beaten look which
only comes to the stricken and the incurably humiliated.

"What have you said to her?" asked Christine of Ferrol, "what have you
done to her?"

"I didn't do a thing, upon my soul. I didn't say a thing. She'd only just
come in."

"What did she say to you?"

"As near as I can remember, she said: 'You have been hurt, and I'm very
sorry. Why haven't you been to see me? I looked for you; but you didn't
come, and I thought you had forgotten me.'"

"What did she mean by that? How dared she!"

"See here, Christine," he said, laying his hand on her quivering
shoulder, "I didn't say much to her. I was over there one afternoon, the
afternoon I asked you to marry me. I drank a lot of liqueur; she looked
very pretty, and before she had a chance to say yes or no about it I
kissed her. Now that's a fact. I've never spent five minutes with her
alone since; I haven't even seen her since, until this morning. Now
that's the honest truth. I know it was scampish; but I never pretended to
be good. It is nothing for you to make a fuss about, because, whatever I
am--and it isn't much one way or another--I am all yours, straight as a
die, Christine. I suppose, if we lived together fifty years, I'd probably
kiss fifty women--once a year isn't a high average; but those kisses
wouldn't mean anything; and you, you, my girl"--he bent his head down to
her "why, you mean everything to me, and I wouldn't give one kiss of
yours for a hundred thousand of any other woman's in the world! What
you've done for me, and what you'd do for me--"

There was a strange pathos in his voice, an uncommon thing, because his
usual eloquence was, as a rule, more pleasing than touching. A quick
change of feeling passed over her, and her eyes filled with tears. He ran
his arm round her shoulder.

"Ah, come, come!" he said, with a touch of insinuating brogue, and kissed
her. "Come, it's all right. I didn't mean anything, and she didn't mean
anything; and let's start fresh again."

She looked up at him with quick intelligence. "That's just what we'll
have to do," she said. "The Cure this morning at mass scolded the people
about the Rebellion, and said that Nic and you had brought all this
trouble upon Bonaventure; and everybody looked at our pew and snickered.
Oh, how I hate them all! Then I jumped up--"

"Well?" asked Ferrol, "and what then?"

"I told them that my brother wasn't a coward, and that you were my
husband."

"And then--then what happened?"

"Oh, then there was a great fuss in the church, and the Cure said ugly
things, and I left and came home quick. And now--"

"Well, and now?" Ferrol interrupted.

"Well, now we'll have to do something."

"You mean, to go away?" he asked, with a little shrug of his shoulder.
She nodded her head.

He was depressed: he had had a hemorrhage that morning, and the road
seemed to close in on him on all sides.

"How are we to live?" he asked, with a pitiful sort of smile.

She looked up at him steadily for a moment, without speaking. He did not
understand the look in her eyes, until she said:

"You have that five thousand dollars!"

He drew back a step from her, and met her unwavering look a little
fearfully. She knew that--she--! "When did you find it out?" he asked.

"The morning we were married," she replied.

"And you--you, Christine, you married me, a thief!" She nodded again.

"What difference could it make?" she asked. "I wouldn't have been happy
if I hadn't married you. And I loved you!"

"Look here, Christine," he said, "that five thousand dollars is not for
you or for me. You will be safe enough if anything should happen to me;
your people would look after you, and you have some money in your own
right. But I've a sister, and she's lame. She never had to do a stroke of
work in her life, and she can't do it now. I have shared with her
anything I have had since times went wrong with us and our family. I
needed money badly enough, but I didn't care very much whether I got it
for myself or not--only for her. I wanted that five thousand dollars for
her, and to her it shall go; not one penny to you, or to me, or to any
other human being. The Rebellion is over: that money wouldn't have
altered things one way or another. It's mine, and if anything happens to
me--"

He suddenly stooped down and caught her hands, looking her in the eyes
steadily.

"Christine," he said, "I want you never to ask me to spend a penny of
that money; and I want you to promise me, by the name of the Virgin Mary,
that you'll see my sister gets it, and that you'll never let her or any
one else know where it came from. Come, Christine, will you do it for me?
I know it's very little indeed I give you, and you're giving me
everything; but some people are born to be debtors in this world, and
some to be creditors, and some give all and get little, because--"

She interrupted him.

"Because they love as I love you," she said, throwing her arms round his
neck. "Show me where the money is, and I'll do all you say, if--"

"Yes, if anything happens to me," he said, and dropped his hand
caressingly upon her head. He loved her in that moment.

She raised her eyes to his. He stooped and kissed her. She was still in
his arms as the door opened and Monsieur and Madame Lavilette entered,
pale and angry.



CHAPTER XVIII

That night the British soldiers camped in the village. All over the
country the rebels had been scattered and beaten, and Bonaventure had
been humbled and injured. After the blind injustice of the fearful and
the beaten, Nicolas Lavilette and his family were blamed for the miseries
which had come upon the place. They had emerged from their isolation to
tempt popular favour, had contrived many designs and ambitions, and in
the midst of their largest hopes were humiliated, and were followed by
resentment. The position was intolerable. In happy circumstances,
Christine's marriage with Ferrol might have been a completion of their
glory, but in reality it was the last blow to their progress.

In the dusk, Ferrol and Christine sat in his room: she, defiant,
indignant, courageous; he hiding his real feelings, and knowing that all
she now planned and arranged would come to naught. Three times that day
he had had violent paroxysms of coughing; and at last had thrown himself
on his bed, exhausted, helplessly wishing that something would end it
all. Illusion had passed for ever. He no longer had a cold, but a mortal
trouble that was killing him inch by inch. He remembered how a brother
officer of his, dying of an incurable disease, and abhorring suicide, had
gone into a cafe and slapped an unoffending bully and duellist in the
face, inviting a combat. The end was sure, easy and honourable. For
himself--he looked at Christine. Not all her abounding vitality, her
warm, healthy body, or her overwhelming love, could give him one extra
day of life, not one day. What a fool he had been to think that she could
do so! And she must sit and watch him--she, with her primitive fierceness
of love, must watch him sinking, fading helplessly out of life, sight and
being.

A bottle of whiskey was beside him. During the two hours just gone he had
drunk a whole pint of it. He poured out another half-glass, filled it up
with milk, and drank it off slowly. At that moment a knock came to the
door. Christine opened it, and admitted one of the fugitives of Nicolas's
company of rebels. He saw Ferrol, and came straight to him.

"A letter for M'sieu' the Honourable," said he "from M'sieu' le Capitaine
Lavilette."

Ferrol opened the paper. It contained only a few lines. Nicolas was
hiding in the store-room of the vacant farmhouse, and Ferrol must assist
him to escape to the State of New York.

He had stolen into the village from the north, and, afraid to trust any
one except this faithful member of his company, had taken refuge in a
place where, if the worst came to the worst, he could defend himself, for
a time at least. Twenty rifles of the rebels had been stored in the
farmhouse, and they were all loaded! Ferrol, of course, could go where he
liked, being a Britisher, and nobody would notice him. Would he not try
to get him away?

While Christine questioned the fugitive, Ferrol thought the matter over.
One thing he knew: the solution of the great problem had come; and the
means to the solution ran through his head like lightning. He rose to his
feet, drank off a few mouthfuls of undiluted whiskey, filled a flask and
put it in his pocket. Then he found his pistols, and put on his
greatcoat, muffler and cap, before he spoke a word.

Christine stood watching him intently.

"What are you going to do, Tom?" she said quietly. "I am going to save
your brother, if I can," was his reply, as he handed her Nic's letter.



CHAPTER XIX

Half an hour later, as Ferrol was passing from Louis Lavilette's stables
into the road leading to the Seigneury he met Sophie Farcinelle, face to
face. In a vague sort of way he was conscious that a look of despair and
misery had suddenly wasted the bloom upon her cheek, and given to the
large, cow-like eyes an expression of child-like hopelessness. An apathy
had settled upon his nerves. He saw things as in a dream. His brain
worked swiftly, but everything that passed before his eyes was, as it
were, in a kaleidoscope, vivid and glowing, but yet intangible. His brain
told him that here before him was a woman into whose life he had brought
its first ordeal and humiliation. But his heart only felt a reflective
sort of pity: it was not a personal or immediate realisation, that is,
not at first.

He was scarcely conscious that he stood and looked at her for quite two
minutes, without motion or speech on the part of either; but the dumb,
desolate look in her eyes--a look of appeal, astonishment, horror and
shame combined, presently clarified his senses, and he slowly grew to
look at her as at his punishment, the punishment of his life.
Before--always before--Sophie had been vague and indistinct: seen to-day,
forgotten tomorrow; and previous to meeting her scores had affected his
senses, affected them not at all deeply.

She was like a date in history to a boy who remembers that it meant
something, but what, is not quite sure. But the meaning and definiteness
were his own. Out of the irresponsibility of his nature, out of the moral
ineptitude to which he had been born, moral knowledge came to him at
last. Love had not done it; neither the love of Christine, as strong as
death, nor the love of his sister, the deepest thing he ever knew--but
the look of a woman wronged. He had inflicted on her the deepest wrong
that may be done a woman. A woman can forgive passion and ruin, and
worse, if the man loves her, and she can forgive herself, remembering
that to her who loved much, much was forgiven. But out of wilful
idleness, the mere flattery of the senses, a vampire feeding upon the
spirits and souls of others, for nothing save emotion for emotion's
sake--that was shameless, it was the last humiliation of a woman. As it
were, to lose joy, and glow, and fervour of young, sincere and healthy
life, to whip up the dying vitality and morbid brain of a consumptive!

All in a flash he saw it, realised it, and hated himself for it. He knew
that as long as he lived, an hour or ten years, he never could redeem
himself; never could forgive himself, and never buy back the life that he
had injured. Many a time in his life he had kissed and ridden away, and
had been unannoyed by conscience. But in proportion as conscience had
neglected him before, it ground him now between the stones, and he saw
himself as he was. Come of a gentleman's family, he knew he was no
gentleman. Having learned the forms and courtesies of life, having
infused his whole career with a spirit of gay bonhomie, he knew that in
truth he was a swaggerer; that bad taste, infamous bad taste, had marked
almost everything that he had done in his life. He had passed as one of
the nobility, but he knew that all true men, all he had ever met, must
have read him through and through. He had understood this before to a
certain point, had read himself to a certain mark of gauge, but he had
never been honestly and truly a man until this moment. His soul was naked
before his eyes. It had been naked before, but he had laughed. Born
without real remorse, he felt it at last. The true thing started within
him. God, the avenger, the revealer and the healer, had held up this
woman as a glass to him that he might see himself.

He saw her as she had been, a docile, soft-eyed girl, untouched by
anything that defames or shames, and all in a moment the man that had
never been in him until now, from the time he laughed first into his
mother's eyes as a babe, spoke out as simply as a child would have
spoken, and told the truth. There were no ameliorating phrases to soften
it to her ears; there was no tact, there was no blarney, there was no
suave suggestion now, no cheap gaiety, no cynicism of the social
vampire--only the direct statement of a self-reproachful, dying man.

"I didn't fully know what I was doing," he said to her. "If I had
understood then as I do now, I would never have come near you. It was the
worst wickedness I ever did."

The new note in his voice, the new fashion of his words, the new look of
his eyes, startled her, confused her. She could scarcely believe he was
the same man. The dumb desolation lifted a little, and a look of under
standing seemed to pierce her tragic apathy. As if a current of thought
had been suddenly sent through her, she drew herself up with a little
shiver, and looked at him as if she were about to speak; but instead of
doing so, a strange, unhappy smile passed across her lips.

He saw that all the goodness of her nature was trying to arouse itself
and assure him of forgiveness. It did not deceive him in the least.

"I won't be so mean now as to say I was weak," he added. "I was not weak;
I was bad. I always felt I was born a liar and a thief. I've lied to
myself all my life; and I've lied to other people because I never was a
true man."

"A thief!" she said at last, scarcely above a whisper, and looking at him
with a flash of horror in her eyes. "A thief!"

It was no use; he could not allow her to think he meant a thief in the
vulgar, common sense, though that was what he was: just a common
criminal.

"I have stolen the kind thoughts and love of people to whom I gave
nothing in return," he said steadily. "There is nothing good in me. I
used to think I was good-natured; but I was not, or I wouldn't have
brought misery to a girl like you."

His truth broke down the barriers of her anger and despair. Something
welled up in her heart: it may have been love, it may have been inherent
womanliness.

"Why did you marry Christine?" she asked.

All at once he saw that she never could quite understand. Her stand-point
would still, in the end, be the stand-point of a woman. He saw that she
would have forgiven him, even had he not loved her, if he had not married
Christine. For the first time he knew something, the real something, of a
woman's heart. He had never known it before, because he had been so false
himself. He might have been evil and had a conscience too; then he would
have been wise. But he had been evil, and had had no conscience or moral
mentor from the beginning; so he had never known anything real in his
life. He thought he had known Christine, but now he saw her in a new
light, through the eyes of her sister from whose heart he had gathered a
harvest of passion and affection, and had burnt the stubble and seared
the soil forever. Sophie could never justify herself in the eyes of her
husband, or in her own eyes, because this man did not love her. Even as
he stood before her there, declaring himself to her as wilfully wicked in
all that he had said and done, she still longed passionately for the
thing that was denied her: not her lost truth back, but the love that
would have compensated for her suffering, and in some poor sense have
justified her in years to come. She did not put it into words, but the
thought was bluntly in her mind. She looked at him, and her eyes filled
with tears, which dropped down her cheek to the ground.

He was about to answer her question, when, all at once, her honest eyes
looked into his mournfully, and she said with an incredible pathos and
simplicity:

"I don't know how I am going to live on with Magon. I suppose I'll have
to keep pretending till I die!"

The bell in the church was ringing for vespers. It sounded peaceful and
quiet, as though no war, or rebellion, or misery and shame, were anywhere
within the radius of its travel.

Just where they stood there was a tall calvary. Behind it was some
shrubbery. Ferrol was going to answer her, when he saw, coming along the
road, the Cure in his robes, bearing the host. In front of him trotted an
acolyte, swinging the censer.

Ferrol quickly drew Sophie aside behind the bushes, where they should not
be seen; for he was no longer reckless. He wished to be careful for the
woman's sake.

The Curb did not turn his head to the right or left, but came along
chanting something slowly. The smell of the incense floated past them.
When the priest and the lad reached the calvary they turned towards it,
bowed, crossed themselves, and the lad rang a little silver bell. Then
the two passed on, the lad still ringing. When they were out of sight the
sound of the bell came softly, softly up the road, while the bell in the
church tower still called to prayer.

The words the priest chanted seemed to ring through the air after he had
gone.

       "God have mercy upon the passing soul!
        God have mercy upon the passing soul!
        Hear the prayer of the sinner, O Lord;
        Listen to the voice of those that mourn;
        Have mercy upon the sinner, O Lord!"

When Ferrol turned to Sophie again, both her hands were clasping the
calvary, and she had dropped her head upon them.

"I must go," he said. She did not move.

Again he spoke to her; but she did not lift her head. Presently, however,
as he stood watching her, she moved away from the calvary, and, with her
back still turned to him, stepped out into the road and hurried on
towards her home, never once turning her head.

He stood looking after her for a moment, then turned and, sitting on a
log behind the shrubbery, he tore a few pieces of paper out of a
note-book and began writing. He wrote swiftly for about twenty minutes or
more, then, arising, he moved on towards the village, where crowds had
gathered--excited, fearful, tumultuous; for the British soldiers had just
entered the place.

Ferrol seemed almost oblivious of the threatening crowd, which once or
twice jostled him more than was accidental. He came into the post-office,
got an envelope, put his letter inside it, stamped it, addressed it to
Christine, and dropped it into the letter-box.



CHAPTER XX

An hour later he stood among a few companies of British soldiers in front
of the massive stone store-house of the Lavilettes' abandoned farmhouse,
with its thick shuttered windows and its solid oak doors. It was too late
to attempt the fugitive's escape, save by strategy. Over half an hour Nic
had kept them at bay. He had made loopholes in the shutters and the door,
and from these he fired upon his assailants. Already he had wounded five
and killed two.

Men had been sent for timber to batter down the door and windows.
Meanwhile, the troops stood at a respectful distance, out of the range of
Nic's firing, awaiting developments.

Ferrol consulted with the officers, advising a truce and parley, offering
himself as mediator to induce Nic to surrender. To this the officers
assented, but warned him that his life might pay the price of his
temerity. He laughed at this. He had been talking, with his head and
throat well muffled, and the collar of his greatcoat drawn about his
ears. Once or twice he coughed, a hacking, wrenching cough, which struck
the ears of more than one of the officers painfully; for they had known
him in his best and gayest days at Quebec.

It was arranged that he should advance, holding out a flag of truce.
Before he went he drew aside one of the younger lieutenants, in whose
home at Quebec his sister had always been a welcome visitor, and told him
briefly the story of his marriage, of his wife and of Nicolas. He sent
Christine a message, that she should not forget to carry his last token
to his sister! Then turning, he muffled up his face against the crisp,
harsh air (there was design in this also), and, waving a white
handkerchief, advanced to the door of the store-room.

The soldiers waited anxiously, fearing that Nic would fire, in spite of
all; but presently a spot of white appeared at one of the loopholes; then
the door was slowly opened. Ferrol entered, and it was closed again.

Nicolas Lavilette grasped his hand.

"I knew you wouldn't go back on me," said he. "I knew you were my friend.
What the devil do they want out there?"

"I am more than your friend: I'm your brother," answered Ferrol,
meaningly. Then, quickly taking off his greatcoat, cap, muffler and
boots: "Quick, on with these!" he said. "There's no time to lose!"

"What's all this?" asked Nic.

"Never mind; do exactly as I say, and there's a chance for you."

Nic put on the overcoat. Ferrol placed the cap on his head, and muffled
him up exactly as he himself had been, then made him put on his own
top-boots.

"Now, see," he said, "everything depends upon how you do this thing. You
are about my height. Pass yourself off for me. Walk loose and long as I
do, and cough like me as you go."

There was no difficulty in showing him what the cough was like: he
involuntarily offered an illustration as he spoke.

"As soon as I shut the door and you start forward, I'll fire on them.
That'll divert their attention from you. They'll take you for me, and
think I've failed in persuading you to give yourself up. Go straight
on-don't hurry--coughing all the time; and if you can make the dark, just
beyond the soldiers, by the garden bench, you'll find two men. They'll
help you. Make for the big tree on the Seigneury road--you know: where
you were robbed. There you'll find the fastest horse from your father's
stables. Then ride, my boy, ride for your life to the State of New York!"

"And you--you?" asked Nicolas. Ferrol laughed.

"You needn't worry about me, Nic. I'll get out of this all right; as
right as rain! Are you ready? Steady now, steady. Let me hear you cough."
Nic coughed.

"No, that isn't it. Listen and watch." Ferrol coughed. "Here," he said,
taking something from his pocket, "open your mouth." He threw some pepper
down the other's throat. "Now try it."

Nic coughed almost convulsively.

"Yes, that's it, that's it! Just keep that up. Come along now. Quick-not
a moment to lose! Steady! You're all right, my boy; you've got nerve, and
that's the thing. Good-bye, Nic, good luck to you!"

They grasped hands: the door opened swiftly, and Nic stepped outside. In
an instant Ferrol was at the loophole. Raising a rifle, he fired, then
again and again. Through the loophole he could see a half-dozen men lift
a log to advance on the door as Nic passed a couple of officers, coughing
hard, and making spasmodic motions with his hand, as though exhausted and
unable to speak.

He fired again, and a soldier fell. The lust of fighting was on him now.
It was not a question of country or of race, but only a man crowding the
power of old instincts into the last moments of his life. The vigour and
valour of a reconquered youth seemed to inspire him; he felt as he did
when a mere boy fighting on the Danube. His blood rioted in his veins;
his eyes flashed. He lifted the flask of whiskey and gulped down great
mouthfuls of it, and fired again and again, laughing madly.

"Let them come on, let them come on," he cried. "By God, I'll settle
them!" The frenzy of war possessed him. He heard the timber crash against
the door--once, twice, thrice, and then give away. He swung round and saw
men's faces glowing in the light of the fire, and then another face shot
in before the others--that of Vanne Castine.

With a cry of fury he ran forward into the doorway. Castine saw him at
the same moment. With a similar instinct each sprang for the other's
throat, Castine with a knife in his hand.

A cry of astonishment went up from the officers and the men without. They
had expected to see Nic; but Nic was on his way to the horse beneath the
great elm tree, and from the elm tree to the State of New York--and
safety.

The men and the officers fell back as Castine and Ferrol clinched in a
death struggle. Ferrol knew that his end had come. He had expected it,
hoped for it. But, before the end, he wanted to kill this man, if he
could. He caught Castine's head in his hands, and, with a last effort,
twisted it back with a sudden jerk.

All at once, with the effort, blood spurted from his mouth into the
other's face. He shivered, tottered and fell back, as Castine struck
blindly into space. For a moment Ferrol swayed back and forth, stretched
out his hands convulsively and gasped, trying to speak, the blood welling
from his lips. His eyes were wild, anxious and yearning, his face deadly
pale and covered with a cold sweat. Presently he collapsed, like a
loosened bundle, upon the steps.

Castine, blinded with blood, turned round, and the light of the fire upon
his open mouth made him appear to grin painfully--an involuntary grimace
of terror.

At that instant a rifle shot rang out from the shrubbery, and Castine
sprang from the ground and fell at Ferrol's feet. Then, with a contortive
shudder, he rolled over and over the steps, and lay face downward upon
the ground-dead.

A girl ran forward from the trees, with a cry, pushing her way through to
Ferrol's body. Lifting up his head, she called to him in an agony of
entreaty. But he made no answer.

"That's the woman who fired the shot!" said a subaltern officer
excitedly. "I saw her!"

"Shut up, you fool--it was his wife!" exclaimed the young captain to whom
Ferrol had given his last message for Christine.

     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     After which comes steady happiness or the devil to pay (wedding)
     All men are worse than most women
     I always did what was wrong, and liked it--nearly always
     Men feel surer of women than women feel of men

     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS FOR THE ENTIRE "POMP OF THE LAVILETTES":

     After which comes steady happiness or the devil to pay (wedding)
     All men are worse than most women
     I always did what was wrong, and liked it--nearly always
     Illusive hopes and irresponsible deceptions
     Men feel surer of women than women feel of men
     She lacked sense a little and sensitiveness much
     To be popular is not necessarily to be contemptible
     Who say 'God bless you', in New York! they say 'Damn you!'





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