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Title: Marguerite De Roberval - A Romance of the Days of Jacques Cartier
Author: Marquis, T. G.
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.

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MARGUERITE DE ROBERVAL

_A ROMANCE OF THE DAYS OF JACQUES CARTIER_

By

T. G. MARQUIS


TORONTO
THE COPP CLARK COMPANY LIMITED
1899



MARGUERITE DE ROBERVAL



CHAPTER I


"These narrow, cramped streets torture me! I must get out of this place
or I shall go mad. The country, with its rolling fields and great
stretches of calm sky helps a little, but nothing except the ocean will
satisfy my spirit. Five years have gone now, and I am still penned up in
this miserable hole, with no power to go abroad, save for a cruise up
the Channel, or a run south along the coast. If matters do not change, I
think I shall quietly weigh anchor on La Hermine and slip across the
Atlantic without leave of King or blessing of priest. I tell you,
Claude, it would be rare sport to go that way, without a good-bye word
to friend or lover. Gold is there in plenty, and diamonds are there, and
a road to the Indies; and if we should bring back riches and new
discoveries the King would forgive our boldness."

The speaker was a middle-aged man, with jet-black hair and beard, and
piercing black eyes. He was as straight as a mid-forest pine, and tanned
and wrinkled with years of exposure to sun and wind, but was a
handsome, commanding fellow withal. His name was Jacques Cartier. He was
the most famous seaman in France, and had already made two trips across
the stormy Atlantic in boats in which nineteenth-century sailors would
fear to cross the Channel.

His companion was Claude de Pontbriand, a young man of gentle birth, who
had been with him on his second voyage. He was as dark as Cartier, with
a lion-like neck and shoulders, a resolute mouth and chin, and a kindly
eye, whose expression had a touch of melancholy. Among his companions he
was known as their Bayard; and the purity of his life, the generosity of
his disposition, and his dauntless courage made the title a fitting one.

The two men were walking along one of the winding thoroughfares of the
French seaport of St Malo, on a glorious moonlight evening in the autumn
of 1539. The hour, though still early, was an unusual one in those days
for anybody to be abroad simply for pleasure; and the little town was
quiet and deserted save for an occasional pedestrian whom business, of
one kind or another, had compelled to leave his home.

There was a short silence after Cartier's remarks, before De Pontbriand
replied:

"I thought you had had enough of the New World."

"Enough!" exclaimed Cartier. "That New World is mine. I first took
possession of it. My cross still stands guarding my interests at Gaspé,
and my memory is still dear to the red men from Stadacona to Hochelaga."

"I am not so certain of the friendship of the Indians," interrupted his
companion. "If we had not carried off old Donnacona and his
fellow-chiefs it might have been so, but now that they are dead you will
have some difficulty in inventing a story that will regain you the
confidence of their tribesmen. Ah! Cartier, I warned you then; and now I
only regret that I did not oppose your action with my very sword. Poor
devils! It was pitiful to see them droop and droop like caged birds, and
finally die one by one. Poor old Donnacona! I expect we shall find his
spirit back on the heights of Stadacona if we ever cross the ocean
again."

"That was a mistake," replied Cartier, "but one never knows just what
will be the results of an action. I did it for the best. I thought the
Indians would enjoy a visit to Europe as much as did the two lads I
brought over on my first voyage. They were too old, however, and seem to
have been rooted to the soil. I am afraid we shall have to invent a way
of explaining their absence should we return to Hochelaga. Would it not
be well to marry them to noble ladies, and give them dukedoms in France
to govern?"

"A good idea, with the one drawback that it is false; and there are
enough false men already in France without an honest seaman swelling
their numbers. But my impression of the savages is, that you will have a
hard time to make them believe your story. They are a deep people, and,
as we found them, a generous people; and once deceived, you will find
that they will never again have perfect confidence in their betrayers."

"Perhaps so; I daresay you are right. But why borrow trouble that is
years and leagues away from us? We are here in old France, and likely to
stay here."

"I am not so sure of that."

"What!"

"I am not so sure of that. I had a long _tête-à-tête_ with Jean François
de la Roque to-day, and he is wavering. He has much influence in
Picardy, and King Francis is greatly indebted to him. He declares that
if he wants a ship, or indeed a fleet, he can have it. He professes to
be anxious to win souls in the new land of darkness, as he calls it; but
do not lay too much stress on the darkness when you meet him. The gold
and the diamonds and the furs will touch his heart much quicker than
anything else. He is a shrewd fellow, and if you can get him
enthusiastic over your New World you will soon be at your beloved
Stadacona, and have a chance to stay there too. His idea is to plant a
colony there, develop the resources of the country, and, I have no
doubt, save the souls of the inhabitants at his leisure. I wish we could
get together some of our old friends. A few of the men who pulled safely
through the scurvy would be a great help on another such expedition."

"Where is Charles de la Pommeraye?" interrupted Cartier.

"De la Pommeraye! Have you not heard the last news of him?"

"No; what fresh scrape has he been getting into? There is no braver
fellow alive; and if he does get into a few more quarrels than the rest
of us, it is merely because of his excessive gallantry. A petticoat will
always bring him to his knees. Why man, at Hochelaga he doffed his
plumed hat to every fair savage who attracted his eye. If I get a chance
to go again I will find him, though I have to search every hole and
corner in France."

"I am much afraid you will have some trouble in finding him. The last
report I had of him was, that he was seen lying in the streets of Paris
with several daggers gracing his breast. He was my friend, as you know,
and, despite his foolhardiness and follies, the only man in whom I could
ever have perfect confidence. I had always expected he would meet just
such an end; but I have shed more tears for him than I ever thought to
shed for any man."

"Charles de la Pommeraye dead!" exclaimed Cartier. "I cannot believe
it!"

"Neither can I!" interrupted a sturdy voice that made both men leap back
and lay their hands on their weapons. "Neither can I! And if any one
doubts my word, here's my sword to prove it!"

"La Pommeraye!" cried Claude. "Where in Heaven's name did you spring
from?" and the two men seized the hands of the young giant who, in the
attire of a fashionable gallant of the day, with gay-coloured doublet
and hose, richly plumed hat, and surtout trimmed with gold lace, stood
laughing before them.

"Paris, where I was seen lying dead in the streets. How long is it,
Claude, since you have had such a poor opinion of me? I have been put to
strange straits in my day, but I have never yet slept in the streets. Be
thankful I did not leave the two of you to be carried out of this
square in the morning. I came here spoiling for a fight, and had my
sword all ready to begin carving you when Cartier's voice struck me like
a whiff of bracing, salt-sea air. But what great enterprise have you on
hand? Your serious looks bespeak some weighty scheme. Whatever it is, my
sword is at your service."

"I doubt if it would be wise to take such a fire-eating duellist into
our confidence," said Claude, regarding his friend with a smile.

"Now, Claude, that is hardly fair. You know I am no duellist. I merely
fight when I am compelled to, and never without just provocation. For
instance, I had a delightful passage-at-arms last night, but it was no
fault of mine. I was coming across the Sillon when a pretty girl came
towards me with a leisurely step that seemed to say: "I have just been
watching for you." She had a face like a flower, in the moonlight, and I
could not resist snatching a kiss. That was all: but it acted like a
match in a powder magazine. She started back with a cry. Evidently she
had not been waiting for me; and before I could apologise, or take back
the kiss, her lover swooped down upon me with drawn sword."

"I trust," exclaimed Claude, "he let a little of the impudence out of
your gallant hide."

"Not a drop. I know the danger of kissing pretty girls in the public
thoroughfare, and never do it without having my hand on my sword-hilt.
He sprang forward, and I sprang back. The girl was between us, and in
his haste to spit me, he pushed her roughly aside. The slight pause
gave me time to draw my sword. He came at me, blind with fury, but I
was on my guard. A pass or two showed me that I could disarm the fellow
in five minutes. The fair one stood by, mutely wringing her hands, and
as I wished to stand well in her opinion, I resolved to show her what I
could do. I have been learning some cuts and thrusts and guards in
Paris, and now was my chance to put them in practice. I bewildered the
fellow, and when I thought her highness must have seen that I was the
better man, and the more worthy, I let out with a rapidity rarely seen
in musty old St Malo, and my opponent's sword went clanging against the
wall.

"The man was no coward. No sooner was his sword out of his hand than he
tore open his shirt, crying: 'Stab, villain, insulter of women!' But if
I had attempted to take him at his word, and punch a hole or two in him,
I could not have done so, for even while he spoke his beloved sprang
between us, and hissing the epithet 'Coward!' in my face, flashed a
dagger towards my breast. So quick was the stroke that I am afraid only
a miracle could have prevented a woman from at last making a permanent
impression on the heart of Charles de la Pommeraye, but I was once more
to be saved from the base designs of the sex. My antagonist seized her
hand from behind with a vice-like grip; and there we all stood--a most
interesting group of enemies. He was the first to speak.

"'Put up your toy,' he said sternly to the girl, who, except for that
one word 'Coward!' had never uttered a sound since the beginning of the
struggle. 'Put up your toy; my life is in his hand. He has won it with
the sword.'

"'Charles de la Pommeraye,' I answered, 'never strikes a weaponless man.
Take up your sword, my friend, and let us give this fair Amazon a little
more worthy entertainment.'

"But he would not even look at the weapon that had failed him.

"'Here it is,' said I, lifting it from the ground. 'But I am very much
afraid we shall both have to sheathe our swords for to-night. Yours has
lost a good foot. That wall has excellent granite in it. But meet me
here to-morrow with a fresh weapon, and we can finish our little
difference by the light of yonder moon.'

"'I am no duellist,' he cried, 'but I accept your offer. Your name is
known to me, Charles de la Pommeraye, and I know you as a man of honour,
despite your unknightly conduct towards a defenceless woman. See, she
has fainted! Help me with her to my house, and to-morrow at this same
hour I will meet you at this spot without seconds or witnesses. Lift her
gently,' he added, as he raised the girl's shoulders. 'Put your arm
about her on the left, and we can carry her between us.'

"But she was perfectly limp. We were really dragging her through the
street, when I said: 'This will never do. Lead the way. I will follow
you.' As I spoke, I raised her from the ground, and although he resisted
my action, he soon saw that there was no help for it, and strode before
me in silence. The moon shone full in the girl's face as she lay in my
arms, pale and lifeless, and I saw the error I had committed. She was
unmistakably of high-born lineage, and I would have given worlds to undo
my rash action; though what she was doing at that place and at that hour
is beyond me to conjecture. But we were at the door of my antagonist's
house in a few moments, and he bade me hand over my burden. As he took
her in his arms he exclaimed: 'To-morrow night, remember. The Sillon:
and come without witnesses.'"

"Quite a romance," said Cartier; "but you are never long in a place
without picking up something of the sort. How long have you been in St
Malo?"

"Since yesterday afternoon. I had gone out for a moonlight stroll, and
was crossing the Sillon, dreaming of that glorious voyage we had
together up the Hochelaga."

"Well, Charles," said Claude, "have a care! If you keep up this sort of
thing you are never likely to have another such voyage. But, by the way,
did not your adversary act in rather a strange way for a lover? He
allowed you to carry the fair one, did you say?"

"Yes, and walked ahead, as if he had been her father."

"I am inclined to think you have been mistaken. No lover would have
behaved in that manner. He is probably her father or elder brother."

"Neither, neither, Claude? He was too young to be her father, unless the
moonlight greatly deceived me, and he resembled her as much as I do one
of the gargoyles on Notre Dame de Paris. But I am glad you have thrown
out the hint. I will diligently enquire of him if he is her lover, and
if he is not, I will be satisfied with disarming and humiliating him a
little for his boldness. If he is, however, I am much afraid I shall
have to despatch him to Heaven, as an obstacle in the way of my winning
the lady of the dagger. I have felt the charms of many a fair woman
before, but none ever had power to move me as did that helpless girl
last night as I carried her to her home. She is an angel, Claude, with
the face of a Madonna!"

"Well done, Charles!" exclaimed Claude, laughing. "I am glad to hear
that you are caught at last. Hear him, Jacques; how delightful it is to
hear him confess that he has felt his heart burn before now. But this is
the one, only, and lasting affection. Ah! Charles, you are still a sad
dog! In this same town six years ago I heard you swear that you would
live and die true to the beautiful daughter of the Sieur des Ormeaux; in
just one week you were on your knees to Cosette, the daughter of the
drunken captain of a fishing smack; and in two months after that I saw
you myself, in the shadow of Mont Royal, wildly gesticulating your
undying devotion to the daughter of old Adario, that greasy potentate
whose warriors were filled with awe at the imposing way in which you
bellowed a 'Te Deum.'"

"Silence, Claude, or, by Heaven, I shall forget that we are sworn
friends in love, in war, and in peace, and challenge you to fight as
soon as I have finished with the fool whom I must now hasten to meet. Do
not follow me, I beg of you; I would not have him think I had friends
standing by to witness our struggle. Good-bye; and if I am not back in
half an hour you will find an account of all my worldly possessions in
an iron box, about six inches square, in my room at the old inn."

Without another word he strode away from them, and a few paces brought
him to the end of the street, where the buildings ceased at the
beginning of the neck of land known as "The Sillon," which connects St
Malo with the mainland. At that time this strip of land was not nearly
so wide as it has since become, and was merely a narrow causeway,
protected from the encroachment of the tides by a stone wall on the side
towards the sea. The two men followed him no further than the end of the
street, and stood in the shadow of the last house, waiting to learn the
result of the encounter.

"There goes the bravest fellow in France," said Claude, as they watched
him disappear. "I only wish there were more like him. He was born to
fight; and he has done so much of it that he has at last come to look
upon a duel as a necessary part of his day's amusement. And the best
thing about him is that he has killed fewer men than any other duellist
in France. He has the heart of a child, and the arm of a giant. But
hark! Stand close. His opponent comes this way. He is past. Listen! By
Heaven, but they have lost no time. They are at it already. I only wish
he had not insisted on our staying concealed. I would rather see him at
sword play than watch an army in action. But what is that? A woman's
scream, as I live!"



CHAPTER II


In order to explain the scream, it will be necessary to go back to the
morning of the day on which this conversation took place. St Malo was
looking its dingiest. A heavy rain had fallen during the night, and a
mist clung to the muddy streets and grey walls till nearly noon. The
little town, with its narrow thoroughfares and towering houses, was as
gloomy as a city of the dead; foul odours rose on all sides, and would
have been unbearable but for the cool breeze which swept in from the
Channel, driving the mists and fog before it.

In one of the highest and most substantial houses two young women sat at
the casement of an upper window. The house was a gloomy one, without
adornment of any kind except an arched porch, over which was chiselled
some motto, or emblem, that had become undecipherable from age. The room
where the two girls sat was plain in its appointments, and badly
lighted, though its sombreness was relieved by numerous feminine trifles
scattered about, betraying the character and tastes of its occupants.

The elder of the two was Marguerite de Roberval, niece of the nobleman
from Picardy to whom reference has already been made. She was about
twenty-four, dark, and very beautiful, with masses of black hair
crowning a well-set head, finely-cut features, and a figure which, even
as she sat on the low window-seat, showed tall and willowy. Her beauty
would have been flawless but for one defect--her chin was a shade too
prominent, giving her face an expression of determination, which, while
destroying its symmetry, told of a strong will, and a firmness amounting
almost to obstinacy. She had the lithe grace of a panther, and though
her repose was perfect, a close observer might have noticed a nervous
tension in her attitude and bearing that told of a hidden force and
energy resolutely controlled.

At her feet, on a wide-spreading rug, sat her friend and companion,
Marie de Vignan--in many ways her exact opposite. Not so dark as
Marguerite, nor quite so tall, with a face inclined to be more round
than oval, bright, well-opened eyes, and a merry, laughing mouth, her
plump figure and vivacious expression bespoke a happy, contented nature,
on whom the world and life sat lightly. She had come from Picardy with
Marguerite, and was, indeed, the ward of De Roberval. Her father had
been killed by a bursting petronel a few years before, and had left his
only child to the charge of his friend and comrade-in-arms.

"Heigh-ho!" said Marie, with a half-suppressed yawn, "will this fog
never lift? Who would have thought, after the glorious moon of last
night that we should have such a day as this on the morrow?"

"Patience, _chérie_," replied her friend, looking up from the
embroidery on which she was engaged. "We have had many such mornings
since we came here, but they only make the day seem brighter when the
sun does shine out. See, there is the blue sky beyond the housetops! The
full sun will doubtless be out ere noon. I often think a wise Providence
must send all this mist and rain. If some such means were not taken to
cleanse these streets, we should soon not be able to breathe the air of
St Malo. I cannot understand what has taken possession of my uncle to
leave our broad acres in Picardy for these wretched streets and bare,
gloomy walls."

"It is delightful, Marguerite, to hear you complaining. I have been
wondering how much longer we were to be kept cooped up here like
moulting falcons. I am not much given to grumbling, but I do long for a
breath of fresh air, and room to stretch my limbs without falling into a
mud-hole, or being nearly knocked over by a clumsy sailor or fisher-lad.
When we left Picardy I thought we were going to Fontainebleau; I never
dreamed we were about to exchange the sunny slopes of the Somme for
this!"

"No doubt," said Marguerite, with a little sigh, "my uncle has good
reasons for remaining here so long. You know his cherished schemes about
the New World."

"Yes, and I shall never forgive M. de Pontbriand for suggesting to him
that he should leave France. Now that we at last have peace, I was
beginning to hope that my warrior guardian would find time to take us to
Court, and let us see a little more of life and the gay world there. I
was tired of staying at home, I must confess, but since my experience of
these dreary stone walls I ask for nothing better than our fine broad
halls in Picardy. However, as you say, there is no use complaining. But
have you forgotten--you promised to tell me the whole story of your last
night's adventure. I have been patient, and asked no questions; but I am
dying of curiosity to hear how it all happened."

"There is very little to tell," answered Marguerite, with some
reluctance. "We were coming home in the moonlight, as you know, my uncle
and I, and as we crossed the Sillon my uncle stopped to say a word to a
sailor who gave him good-night as we passed. I did not notice that he
was not at my side, and so was a few paces in front of him, and in full
light of the moon, while he was in shadow. Suddenly a swaggering ruffian
of a fellow came towards me with an insolent jest, and before I could
realise what he was about to do, I felt his lips touch my cheek. I cried
out, and my uncle instantly rushed upon him with drawn sword. That is
the whole story."

"But what was the result? Your uncle did not kill the villain, did he?
And what could have happened to cause you--you, whose courage has never
been known to flinch at the sight of blood--to be borne home in a swoon?
I assure you, Bastienne and I had trouble enough with you last night.
You have not told me everything, Marguerite. I am sure of that."

Mdlle. de Roberval's dark cheek flushed a little.

"It is a painful story," she said, with some hesitation. "I never
thought to stand by and see a De Roberval disarmed. Yet, such was this
scoundrel's skill, that after a few passes he succeeded in wrenching my
uncle's sword from his hand, and we were at his mercy."

"And what then?" cried the younger girl, breathlessly, as Marguerite
came to a pause again. "I would I had been in your place to see such
sword-play. I thought your uncle was invincible."

"So did I, until last night. I have often seen him in sword contests
before, and none were ever able to withstand him; but he was as a child
in the hands of this man."

"Why was I not there to behold this prodigy? But for your friend De
Pontbriand and that eagle-eyed seaman who comes to visit your uncle, I
have not seen a _man_ since I left Picardy."

"I trust you may never chance to see this cowardly scoundrel. But if you
compel me to finish my story--when my uncle's sword flew clanging
against the parapet, I could stand by in silence no longer. I had looked
to see the fellow punished as he deserved, and now a De Roberval stood
unarmed before him. Everything swam before my eyes, I thought only of
saving my uncle's life, and, drawing the little dagger I always carry, I
would have plunged it into the villain's breast, had not my uncle caught
my hand. I remember no more till I found myself at home here."

"Bravo, _m'amie_!" cried the enthusiastic Marie, clapping her hands. "I
knew your courage would not fail you. But what a terrible experience for
you to have to go through! Thank Heaven it ended no worse. But tell me,
what did this gallant, who proved himself so mighty a swordsman, look
like? Describe him for me."

"I cannot, you foolish child! Do you suppose I noticed his features? He
was tall and powerful; but beyond that I saw nothing, except his
laughing eyes as they met mine when my dagger touched his breast."

"It is not every day one meets a man who can laugh with a dagger at his
breast," exclaimed Marie, half-jestingly, half-serious. "I must indeed
see him. I shall know no peace until I do."

"Then your desire is granted," said Marguerite, "for, if I am not
mistaken, there is the man himself across the street at this moment.
Yes, I am sure it is he; see, he throws a kiss to that fisher-maiden
opposite. That will show you the true character of your hero."

Despite Marguerite's sarcasm, the man whom the two girls now beheld was
a noble specimen of humanity. Full six feet four in height, with broad,
athletic shoulders, straight, clean limbs, and a face as bright as a
schoolboy's, though his age could not have been under thirty, he was a
man who could not fail to attract attention wherever he might be seen.

He was clad in the height of the fashion, and his gay apparel, with its
lace trimmings and jewelled ornaments, bespoke him no commonplace
adventurer. But the most striking feature in his appearance was his
hair, which fell in sunny locks upon his shoulders from under his velvet
hat with its spreading plume. In truth he looked more like a Norse
Viking of old than a cavalier of the sixteenth century.

"What a noble fellow!" was Marie's involuntary exclamation, as she
gazed upon him.

"Noble!" said Marguerite, scornfully. "You surely forget what you are
saying. Would you call his conduct of last night noble?"

"Oh, as to his conduct and character that is another matter. But what a
magnificent carriage he has; and what shoulders! I should like to meet
such a man as that. See, he has turned his eyes this way. Whoever he is,
I should certainly fall in love with him if I knew him. It seems to me
he is like what Charlemagne must have been; or--yes--like Charles de la
Pommeraye!"

Marguerite started at the name.

"What do you know of La Pommeraye?" she exclaimed.

"Have you forgotten, or were you not present the other day when M. de
Pontbriand was lamenting the death of his friend in Paris? You have
surely heard him speak of him. I wept when I heard of his untimely end,
for I have ever had fond recollections of Charles de la Pommeraye."

"You, Marie? What can you mean? You never mentioned his name to me. Now
that I hear it again, I remember that that was the name my assailant had
the audacity to give my uncle last night. It had vanished from my memory
when I swooned. But what do you know of De la Pommeraye? Where did you
ever meet him?"

"That man's name La Pommeraye?" cried Marie, disregarding these
enquiries, and gazing eagerly after the retreating figure of the
fair-haired unknown. "Can there be two of the same name? Could it be
possible that he was not dead, or that Claude's friend was another! Yes,
that is he; I am sure of it now! How was I so stupid as not to recognise
him? I remember him," she explained, "some sixteen years ago, when I was
a very little girl. He was a great lad, not more than fifteen, who took
me in his arms, and tossed me high above his head. He had just come from
Pavia, where, in the disastrous battle, he had twice saved my father's
life. Since then I have never seen him; but I have heard of him
occasionally as flitting about by sea and land, seeking adventure; a
restless soul, who never seems happy unless he is in danger of being
killed."

"I am sorry to hear that you know him," said Marguerite, a little
coldly, "for I fear he is in danger of being killed in earnest this
time. As I came to myself in my uncle's arms at the door last night, I
heard him say, 'To-morrow night, remember! The Sillon: and come without
witnesses.' The words can have only one meaning. They must be about to
meet again to-night; and in a calmer mood, and with a better weapon, my
uncle cannot fail to administer to him the chastisement his insolence
deserves."

"Pray Heaven the Sieur de Roberval may not meet his death instead,"
exclaimed Marie fervently. "If this man and Claude de Pontbriand's
friend be one and the same, there is no more famous duellist in France.
He has never been defeated; and he has the advantage of youth and
strength on his side. Your uncle will require the aid of an angel from
Heaven if he is to avenge himself on La Pommeraye."

Marguerite had risen, and was pacing the room with an agitated air.

"I have been greatly troubled about it," she said. "I did not know what
you tell me now, of course; and I hope and pray that you may be wrong.
But my uncle is not so young as he once was, and he will be quite alone,
and at the mercy of this villain. I have been trying to think out some
plan by which it might be prevented, but I do not know what we can do."

"There would be no use speaking to your uncle, of course; anything we
could say would only make him the more determined. But I will tell you
what we can do; we can go ourselves, and see fair play."

"Go ourselves, you crazy girl! What are you thinking of?"

"I mean that if we were present, in hiding of course, and unknown to any
one, we could intervene in time to prevent bloodshed, and if your uncle
should chance to be getting the worst of it, we should certainly be able
to save his life. La Pommeraye could hardly kill him in our presence. We
should, besides, have the rare opportunity of seeing a contest between
the two best swordsmen in France," and the impetuous girl's eyes
sparkled with some of the warlike fire of her warrior ancestors. "Would
it not be a glorious chance, Marguerite? But how we should manage to
conceal ourselves in an open space like the Sillon, I do not know."

"Oh, as to that," said Marguerite, "that would be easily managed. Within
ten yards of the spot where they fought last night there is a step
leading down to the water's edge, and closed on either side. It is
called the 'Lovers' Descent'--Claude showed it to me one day--and there
we could stand without fear of detection. But I must consider your mad
scheme. Could we possibly manage to prevent a catastrophe? And even if
we succeeded in doing so, would it not be only a postponement of the
issue? They are determined to meet, and we should only make them so much
the more determined--to say nothing of my uncle's wrath when he
discovers our presence. But then, if what you say of La Pommeraye be
true--and my uncle is alone, and no one knows of the meeting--yes,
Bastienne, I am here. What is it?"

She interrupted herself at the entrance of a short, thick-set woman,
considerably past middle-age--evidently a privileged old servant. There
was no mistaking her origin. She was a peasant of Picardy, faithful,
honest, good-natured, and strong as an ox. She had been in the service
of De Roberval's family all her life; and once, by her courage and
devotion, had actually saved his castle when it was besieged by the
Spaniards. They had forced their way to the very gates, and had built a
huge fire against the door of the tower, whence the defenders had fled
in terror, when Bastienne seized a keg of powder, and dropped it fairly
into the midst of the fire, round which the soldiers stood waiting till
the great oaken doors should be burned away. The castle shook to its
foundations, and the courtyard was strewn with the dead and the dying.
The advance was checked; De Roberval's men rallied, rushed from the
castle, and won a glorious victory against overwhelming numbers.
Bastienne herself was badly shaken by the explosion, and terrified half
to death at her own daring. To the end of her days she fancied herself
haunted by the spirits of the unhappy Spaniards whom she had sent to
such a fearful end.

She stood in the doorway, panting from the exertion of coming up the
stairs in unusual haste.

"Ma'amselle," she exclaimed, in what she meant to be a muffled tone, as
she came towards the girls with a mysterious air of having some thing of
importance to communicate, "I fear there is trouble in store. As I
passed the Sieur de Roberval's room just now I saw him making fierce
passes with the sword that hangs above the boar's head. If he is not
possessed of the Devil"--and she crossed herself hurriedly--"he must be
getting ready for a duel, and at his age, too! Heaven have mercy on us
all if anything should happen to him! What is to be done?"

"If he is practising with that famous blade," said Marguerite, turning
to Marie with a confident smile, "your friend will have need of all his
skill to disarm him. It is a magnificent Toledo, and has never known
defeat. But as you say," and her face clouded again, "we must do what we
can to prevent a fatal ending to the duel. Bastienne, be ready to
accompany me at nine o'clock to-night. And say nothing to any one of
what you have seen. Your master has probably good reasons for whatever
he may do, and he would be very indignant if he thought that any one had
been observing his actions."

The old woman, rebuked, left the room, murmuring to herself as she
went, and the two girls proceeded to lay their plans.

A little before the appointed hour that evening, having taken old
Bastienne into their confidence, they secretly left the house, and made
their way to the place of rendezvous, which, as has been said, was but a
short distance away. All three were soon established in the cramped and
narrow little stairway which Marguerite had described, and waited with
no small trepidation the arrival of the contestants.

It was difficult to keep Bastienne quiet. A bright moon was shining in a
clear sky, and a gentle breeze crept in from the Channel, cold and
piercing. The younger women scarcely felt it; but Bastienne's old bones
ached, according to her, as they had never ached before. However, by
dint of threats and entreaties, they succeeded in silencing her; and
none too soon, for a brisk step was heard approaching, and the next
moment a gay voice soliloquised close beside them:

"By the light of the moon I should say I had arrived a little early.
Time for reflection, however. It is always well to give a thought to
one's chances in the next world just before a fight."

As he spoke he took his stand within a few feet of where the girls were
concealed, and began his reflections on the world at whose portals he
was standing, by trolling a gay drinking song. When it was finished he
recklessly dashed into a Spanish ditty, commemorating the defeat of King
Francis at Pavia. In this he was interrupted by an angry voice at his
elbow:

"A pleasing pastime for a son of France--to sing the glory of her
foes!"

"So ho!" replied La Pommeraye cheerfully, "Monsieur's anger has not yet
cooled. I had never a thought of the words--it was the air that carried
me away, and, perhaps, the fine description the song gives of King
Francis' stand on that fatal day. No one joys in and yet regrets that
fight more than I do. I won my spurs in it, and I am here to defend them
to-night. But how does the fair one on whose account we meet? 'Tis a
pity she should not be here to witness her lover's doughty deeds a
second time."

"Villain!" came the indignant answer, "before you utter any further
insults, know that you speak of Mdlle. de Roberval, my niece, whose name
your vile lips are not worthy so much as to pronounce. Draw, and defend
your life!"

"I trust the Sieur de Roberval will pardon my error," said La Pommeraye,
drawing back with a bow, while his whole air changed to one of
respectful deference. "Had I known the circumstances, I should not have
been so ready to offer you the second contest. In the light of the moon
I mistook your years. Your skill with the sword is, I am aware, justly
renowned, but my youth and strength give me the advantage. Accept my
humble apologies, Sieur, and let us end this quarrel without blows. I
will leave St Malo at once, and you shall not be reminded by my presence
of this most unfortunate affair."

The nobleman's voice was fairly choked with rage.

"Draw, coward!" he hissed. "It is not enough that you must insult, in
the person of an unprotected girl, the oldest name in France, but you
dare to taunt with age and unskilfulness a man whose sword is
dishonoured by being crossed with yours. Were my age thrice what it is,
my arm would still have strength to defend the honour of my house. Stand
on your guard!" As he spoke, he made a fierce and sudden lunge, which
would have taken a less wary opponent by surprise, and ended the duel on
the spot.

It was met and parried, and a cool, steady counter-thrust severed the
cord of the cloak about De Roberval's shoulders.

"You fight at a disadvantage with that cloak about you, Sieur. I have
removed it," said La Pommeraye, with no scorn in his voice, but with a
calm self-possession which told De Roberval that he was indeed in the
hands of an opponent for whom he was no match.



CHAPTER III


Had the two combatants not been so deeply absorbed in their own affairs
at this juncture, they could not have failed to discover the presence of
the three women; for at the sight of her master at the mercy of his
opponent, as she supposed, Bastienne forgot her caution, and could not
suppress a scream. Further demonstrations on her part, however, were
instantly nipped in the bud--if one can use the expression with
reference to Bastienne's good Picard mouth--by a prompt and determined
application of her mistress's hand. Marguerite's quick eye had seen that
her uncle was still uninjured; and at all hazards the secret of their
hiding-place must not be revealed. She held Bastienne firmly till she
felt the old servant's lips tighten under her hand, in sign of
submission to the inevitable; and then, with a whispered warning, and
without releasing her grip on the woman's arm, she turned her whole
attention once more to the scene before them. Marie, in the meantime,
had never taken her eyes from La Pommeraye, and was following his every
movement with breathless interest.

The two men stood foot to foot, eye to eye, watching each other as only
trained swordsmen can watch. Back and forth they swayed in the clear
light of the moon, their swords clashing and singing as they parried or
thrust. De Roberval's face, wrinkled and hard at any time, had now an
expression of diabolical hate. He was as pale as the walls of the houses
in the moonlight, and his eyes glowed with a murderous fire. He seemed
reckless of his life, and savagely thrust at his opponent every time any
part of his body was left unguarded.

It was otherwise with La Pommeraye. Confident of victory, he smiled
calmly at the other's rage, occasionally darting in a straight thrust at
some part of his antagonist's body, that told Roberval how entirely he
was in the good-natured giant's power. The moonlight, that made the old
man's face cold and stony, seemed to illuminate with warmth the handsome
features of the younger.

Roberval noted the smile as the moonlight shone full upon La Pommeraye,
and his fury increased. Fiercely he flew at him, and thrust with the
dexterity which had made him the most distinguished swordsman among the
nobles of France. La Pommeraye had to move with lightning swiftness to
avoid a wound; and once, indeed, he felt a stinging sensation near his
heart, and knew by the warmth at his side that blood was flowing.

It would not do to trifle longer. As if a whirlwind had entered his arm,
his weapon flashed hither and thither with such rapidity that Roberval
forgot his hate, and thought only of keeping off the attack. But it was
useless. Once, twice, thrice, he was touched, touched so lightly that no
blood was drawn, and just as he was about to lower his sword to his
generous opponent, who was evidently playing with him, he caught a look
in La Pommeraye's eye that told him he was once more about to attempt
disarming him.

Such a disgrace and humiliation must be averted. He braced himself for
the struggle. He determined if possible to bind his antagonist's blade.
But to no avail. The trick was an old one, and ordinarily an easy one to
outwit; but the arm that now practised it was a giant's. De Roberval
vainly tried to hold his sword. His wrist seemed suddenly to burn and
crack, and a circle of light flashed before his eyes. It was his sword,
torn from his grasp, and hurled over the wall into the water. A
quivering silver arc marked the spot where it had gone down. La
Pommeraye stood with the same imperturbable air as before. He was
smiling as only a victor can, but there was neither scorn nor pity in
the smile.

"It shall never be told me that I was beaten," said Roberval
impetuously, as he snatched a jewel-hilted dagger from his girdle.

"Hold your hand," said La Pommeraye, sternly, as he saw the frenzied man
direct the weapon towards his own breast. "Put up that toy, and be a
man. You have been fairly beaten, as has every one who has crossed
swords with me. It is no disgrace; but no one shall know what has passed
here to-night unless from your own lips."

But his words came too late. The dagger, flashing downwards, struck the
breast of the infatuated man, who fell apparently lifeless.

A wild scream rang out from behind the wall. It was Bastienne, no
longer to be restrained. But neither Marguerite nor Marie heeded her
now, for both had rushed to the side of the prostrate swordsman.

He had fallen forward on his face, and Marguerite flung herself upon his
body. La Pommeraye had seen men die before; he had killed a few in his
day, both on the field of battle and in single combat; but never before
had he had the same stirring of conscience that he now experienced at
the spectacle of this beautiful girl overcome by the sorrow he had
brought upon her. But his weakness was only for a moment.

"Mademoiselle," he said, approaching, "perhaps we may still be able to
do something for your uncle. His wound may not be fatal."

He bent over to assist her to rise, but she was on her feet unaided, and
drew back from him with the one scornful word she had flung at him the
night before, "Coward!"

La Pommeraye stooped over the lifeless figure at his feet. As he turned
it reverently over he noticed that there was no mark of a death-struggle
on the limbs or face. Death seemed to have taken sudden hold. But no! he
felt the heart, it still beat! The dagger had never pierced the breast!
His eye suddenly caught the jewel-hilted weapon lying on the ground.

"Mademoiselle," he exclaimed, seizing it joyfully, "your uncle has only
fainted. Here is his dagger untarnished with his blood."

He held it out to where she had been standing a moment before, but she
had disappeared, and in her place stood De Pontbriand.

"I am glad to hear you say that," remarked the latter. "It would have
been a severe blow to his niece had he fallen by your sword."

A groan told that De Roberval was recovering. If La Pommeraye was a good
swordsman, he was an equally cheerful liar. He realised fully how deeply
Roberval was stung by the disgrace of his defeat.

"There was little danger of his falling before my sword," he said; "his
cloak, which had been cast on the ground, became entangled with his
feet, and he fell; and rather than give an opponent the satisfaction of
saying he had spared his life, he drew his dagger, as I should have done
under similar circumstances, and would have ended his own existence, but
the hand of Providence has in some strange manner intervened."

He was still kneeling beside the fallen man, and somewhat to his
surprise he felt his hand clutched and pressed, showing that his
explanation had been understood and accepted.

De Roberval was soon completely restored to consciousness. He attempted
to rise, but when he put his right hand on the ground he fell back with
a groan. La Pommeraye saw in an instant what was wrong. The strength of
his effort to disarm De Roberval had broken one of his wrist bones.

"Sieur," he said, "you must have fallen heavily, your wrist is broken."

Such was the case, and it was a fortunate mishap for the House of
Roberval. It was this that saved his life. He had drawn his dagger,
raised it for the blow, but in the process of bringing it down he had
twisted the broken wrist so severely that the sudden pain had caused him
to lose consciousness, and the dagger, barely touching his breast, fell
beneath him in the dust.

"Monsieur, let me help you to your feet," said La Pommeraye, and, as he
spoke, placed his strong arm under the reclining nobleman, and raised
him as if he had been a babe.

De Roberval was as one in a dream. He seemed hardly to realise what had
happened until he saw Cartier and Pontbriand standing by.

"What brings you here?" he almost shouted.

"We heard a woman's scream," replied Cartier, "and fearing that some
unfortunate fair one had met with a mishap, we rushed to the rescue."

"A woman's scream! What woman?" and De Roberval looked hastily round;
but the three women had discreetly disappeared.

Before he could say aught further he was interrupted by La Pommeraye,
who gallantly came up, and, holding out an unsheathed sword, said: "Let
me, Monsieur, present you with your weapon, which you lost when you so
unfortunately slipped on your cloak."

It was a lie, and De Roberval's look showed that he was aware of it.
Possibly he was dimly conscious of having already committed himself by
his silence to his generous opponent's explanation, or his wounded
vanity may have been too strong to allow him to confess his humiliation
before the other two men; at all events he replied, with an attempt at
dignity: "I thank you, Monsieur, but you must sheathe it for me, as my
right hand is helpless."

Without a word La Pommeraye raised the sheath, and drove the blade home.

"You are generous," said De Roberval, "and I hope you may learn to be
as honourable as you are generous. I am wounded, and will soon recover;
but the kiss that burns on my niece's cheek is a wound from which she
will never recover."

At the words a sword flashed from its scabbard, and De Pontbriand stood
fierce and defiant before his friend.

"So!" he shouted, "it was Marguerite de Roberval you dared to kiss--you,
whose lips are polluted with the kisses of a thousand light-o'-loves!
Draw, and defend yourself!"

"Draw, Claude! Never!" and he drew his cloak more closely about him, so
as not to let it be seen that he was unarmed. "Never, Claude. Friend in
love, friend in war, friend in death, even if that friend give the blow.
Strike if you will; I have done dishonourably, and no hand is so worthy
to punish dishonour as the hand of Claude de Pontbriand."

"Enough of this," interrupted De Roberval. "Put up your sword, De
Pontbriand. He has apologised, and I accept his explanation. The whole
affair arose from a mistake. It would be well, however," he added,
turning to Charles, "if this would teach you a lesson on the unmanliness
of assaulting every unprotected woman you may happen to meet. But
where," and he checked himself suddenly, and threw a piercing glance
round him, "is the woman whose scream you heard? Has there been any one
else here?"

"We were some little distance away, Sieur," said De Pontbriand, "when we
heard the scream, and when we came out into the open there certainly
seemed to be a number of figures here, three of whom disappeared on our
approach into the shadow of yonder wall; and when I turned to look for
them, there was no one to be seen."

The fact was that Marie's quick eye had caught sight of the two men as
they emerged into the moonlight and came towards them, and, like a
flash, she had drawn the other two women into the shadow of the wall.
The instant they recognised the voices, knowing that all was safe, and
in terror of being discovered, the two girls seized each an arm of old
Bastienne, and taking advantage of the momentary surprise caused by
Claude's discovery of the identity of Charles' opponent, had made their
way back to the nearest street, with a speed to which the old
serving-woman's legs were totally unaccustomed, and never rested till
they had landed her, breathless and panting, at the door of their own
house.

Charles, in the meantime, discreetly held his peace. He might have
imagined that he had dreamt the whole scene had not De Pontbriand been
able to vouch for the scream. At all events there was now no trace of
the three women to be seen, and after a thorough examination of every
possible spot where so much as a mouse might have been concealed, they
gave up the search. De Roberval looked a little perturbed.

"You must have been mistaken," he said to Claude. "There certainly
cannot have been anyone here. At all events," he went on, "the affair
must now be considered at an end. De Pontbriand, you must get into no
quarrels. We shall have need of all our good men if we embark upon this
Canadian expedition, which I have now in mind."

"Good, good!" cried Cartier, tossing his cap in the air like a
schoolboy. "Up with your sword, Claude, and let us get our old friend to
join us; we shall have need of him. And, La Pommeraye, beware of
bringing down on you the wrath of your friends. It is easy to fight
enemies, but he who makes an enemy of his friend loses something he can
never regain. To-morrow, then, let us meet and talk over our plans."

In a few minutes the group had separated. Cartier and De Pontbriand
escorted Roberval to his home, while La Pommeraye turned his footsteps
away from the city, and towards the broad, moonlit fields. He was
restless and disturbed. The image of Marguerite de Roberval haunted his
brain, and he could not get rid of an uneasy impression that Claude's
eagerness to defend her honour had something more behind it than mere
chivalrous gallantry. Then, too, how came she so suddenly upon the scene
of the conflict? and whither had she disappeared? He walked all night,
not caring whither, absorbed in pondering over the mysterious
circumstances which surrounded the beautiful girl who had made so strong
an impression on his imagination; and the first faint streak of dawn
found him back at the spot where the fight had taken place. Looking idly
over the wall his eye caught the gleam of De Roberval's sword full
fifteen feet below the surface of the clear water. No one was about. In
a moment he was stripped. He took one quick plunge, and the next
instant the sword was in his hand. When he returned to the city, he
waited till it was full day, and then with eager steps proceeded to the
house whither he had borne the unconscious form of Marguerite two nights
before. Hammering on the door, he waited, uncertain what to say or do,
and timid as a schoolboy for the first time in his life. The old, crusty
servant who opened the door, curtly informed him that his master was
still in bed.

"Tell him," he said, "that Charles de la Pommeraye wishes to see him in
his own room if possible."

In a moment the servant returned, and, guiding him through a long and
dark hall, brought him to a chamber hung with trophies of the fight. On
a couch in the centre, overhung with heavy curtains, lay De Roberval,
haggard and worn, having evidently passed a sleepless night.

"Go, Jean," he said, waving his hand to his servant.

When the door was closed La Pommeraye advanced, and bowing, said:
"Monsieur must pardon my visit, but I have fished up his sword, and
thought it best to bring it to him at once. Ah, I see mine on the floor!
It has not often had such treatment; but it was used in a dishonourable
quarrel and deserves dishonour."

As he spoke he took it up lovingly and placed it in its sheath.

The tears were in the eyes of De Roberval as he took his loved blade in
his left hand, but his voice was hard and cold.

"I thank you, Monsieur," he frigidly replied. "You add one more to the
obligations under which you have already placed me."

La Pommeraye saw what an effort it had cost the nobleman to make even
this slight admission. It was like swallowing the bitterest hemlock to
acknowledge his debt to the man who had vanquished him, and whose
generosity had shielded him from disgrace. The young adventurer was
shrewd enough to see that if he would win favour with the uncle of
Marguerite he must wound his vanity and pride no further. He felt that
it would be wise to withdraw, and, after expressing in a few words his
regret for the thoughtlessness which had been the cause of the
unfortunate affair, he was about to leave the room, when De Roberval
called him back.

"Stay," he said, "I have fought many battles, but last night I fought
with the most honourable, if the most thoughtless, man in France. This
afternoon at four o'clock Cartier and De Pontbriand meet with me to
consider the expedition to Canada. Join us in our councils; we cannot
but be benefited by the experience and courage of so distinguished a
soldier, and one so well acquainted with the New World."

La Pommeraye bowed his acknowledgment, and found himself once more in
the streets where life was just beginning to stir. He was soon at the
inn to which for years he had resorted when in St Malo, and after a
breakfast that would have satisfied Goliath himself, he went to his room
to snatch forty winks to brace and refresh him for further adventures.



CHAPTER IV


A few minutes before the hour designated by Roberval, La Pommeraye
appeared in front of the house, which had now become a kind of magnet
for his feet. As a general thing his careless nature made him
unpunctual, and he had not infrequently kept opponents waiting for him
when he had a duel on hand. To-night, however, he hoped for a glimpse of
Marguerite, and this made him prompt to keep his appointment. He scanned
the windows as he passed along the opposite side of the street, but no
one appeared to meet his eager gaze. With a heart palpitating like a
schoolboy's, on whom some fair girl has smiled or frowned, he slowly
retraced his steps to the heavy oaken door. His knock was answered by
the same old servant who had admitted him in the morning, and he was
shown into a large but very plainly furnished room, where De Roberval
sat before a table covered with papers and charts. The walls of the room
were hung with pictures of the hunt, of the battle-field, and of
religious subjects--the brutality of war strangely ranged side by side
with the gentle Madonna and the gentler Christ. In one corner stood a
statue of Bacchus, in another was a skull and cross-bones. Trophies of
the hunt were scattered here and there; and a pair of crossed swords
surmounted an ivory crucifix which hung above a well-worn _prie-dieu_.

"Vanity and ambition," said La Pommeraye to himself as he glanced round
the room.

The words well summed up De Roberval's character. He would have no man
in the nation greater than himself. When the famous meeting took place
at "The Field of the Cloth of Gold," between Ardres and Guines in
Picardy, all the nobles made an effort to rival the splendour of their
kings, Henry VIII. and Francis I., and they came to the meeting, as
Martin du Bellay has said, "bearing thither their mills, their forests,
and their meadows on their backs." Among them all Jean François de la
Roque, Sieur de Roberval, was the most resplendent. Small in stature, he
was handicapped in the use of the sword; but by patient practice he had
made up for this deficiency, and had won for himself the name of the
most skilled swordsman in France. This reputation he had maintained
against all comers till he met the man now closeted with him. He envied
the King his poetic talent, and would fain have outdone him in the art
of poesy. But even with Clement Marot's help he had been utterly unable
to woo the fickle muse. He had so stored his mind, however, that his
sovereign, the brilliant Marguerite de Nevarre, and the master intellect
of that age, Rabelais, all delighted in his society; and on account of
his ability in so many directions, and his evident ambition, Francis had
humorously christened him "The Little King of Vimeu." One thing rankled
in his ambitious heart: king he could not be. Let him be as strong, as
intellectual, as popular as he might, Francis could always look down on
him from the throne.

Cartier, although a blunt seaman, had read the man's nature truly, and
in endeavouring to win him to his cause, had pointed out the opportunity
the New World would give him of reigning an absolute monarch over not a
province, but a continent of unlimited extent and wealth. Roberval, like
a fool gudgeon, caught at the bait, and had in his own mind fully
decided to try the venture. But to impress them with his importance he
had called De Pontbriand and La Pommeraye to this meeting to argue the
matter with them, and to convince them of the sacrifice he was about to
make for his country, and of his reluctance to leave old France.

Despite the vanity and ambition of the man, the enthusiasm, courage, and
will that De Roberval put into anything that he undertook were admirable
qualities, and as La Pommeraye stood looking into his steel-grey eyes,
and admiring his smooth high forehead and finely-chiselled mouth, he
felt that he was in the presence of a born leader of men.

Roberval acknowledged his greeting with a sternness of manner for which
Charles was hardly prepared.

"Monsieur is welcome to my house," he said frigidly. "But why need he
have taken so long to decide upon entering? I saw you," he added, fixing
his keen glance on the young man, "pass twice on the other side of the
street."

The words were simple enough, but the tone told La Pommeraye that there
was a world of meaning in them. If he could be ready with the sword he
could be equally ready with the tongue.

"Sieur de Roberval," he said, meeting the nobleman's eyes with a frank,
straightforward gaze, "I am not dull-witted. I see that you have read
the meaning of my action, and even though it call down your anger on my
head, I will confess myself to you. Your niece was the cause of my
walking past and rudely staring at your windows. I love her, and unless
some more favoured suitor has already won her heart, I have vowed to
prove myself worthy of her hand, if God wills it."

"Silence!" almost shouted De Roberval. "If God wills it a thousand
times, it shall never be. I will oppose it. But why waste words?" he
added in a quieter tone. "My niece would spurn you as she would one of
Cartier's savages."

"At first, I have no doubt," returned Charles with great suavity. "But,
as you say, we waste words. We are met to consult on a great
undertaking, and I have told you my intentions that there may be no
double-dealing between us. You know me, and you know what I have
resolved to do, and if you should not wish to have me join you in this
enterprise you can exclude me now. There is plenty of work, or will be
soon, for my sword in France, without my taking it to a land where it
will only rust in the scabbard."

Before De Roberval could make any reply, a heavy knock resounded through
the house, and Cartier's voice was heard enquiring of Jean: "Is your
master within?"

"Ay, that he is, Monsieur, but I doubt if he will receive you. Either
the Emperor or our beloved King Francis is with him."

"What makes you think that, honest Jean?" said De Pontbriand's voice.

"Why," replied the old servant, "he spoke back to my master! I heard him
with my own ears, and I thought that even the King himself would not do
that."

"Well, Jean, he has promised to meet with us to-night; so, King or no
King, show us to his room."

Not waiting for an answer they pushed towards the door of Roberval's
room, which stood slightly ajar. Before they could knock De Roberval
threw it open, exclaiming as he did so: "Welcome to our conference."

"Behold the King!" he continued, laughingly pointing to La Pommeraye.
"Jean is a strange fellow. I am afraid I should have left him in
Picardy; his tongue wags too much. But he is not far wrong this time.
The man who could defeat De Roberval is indeed a monarch among men."

There was a steel-like ring in his voice as he spoke; Cartier and De
Pontbriand looked at each other, and both wondered what fate he had in
store for La Pommeraye.

"But," he continued, "we have much work before us to-night, let us
settle down to it at once. I hope, Cartier, you have brought your charts
with you, and you, De Pontbriand, your notes."

"We have," said the two men in chorus; "and," added Cartier, "what we
have omitted La Pommeraye, who, in search of adventures, wandered about
for several months in the primeval forests, will be able to supply."

The four heads were soon assiduously studying a rude map which Cartier
had spread on the table. Intently they scanned it: Charles and Claude
with the fond remembrance of men who had visited those distant, almost
unknown, lands; Cartier with the delight of a man who had before him the
continent he had claimed for his King; and Roberval with the eagerness
of one who is about to venture on a mighty undertaking that may ruin his
fortunes, or make him the most renowned man in his country.

The nobleman's sharp eyes noted the mighty rivers and broad gulfs,
feeling that already they were his own. The vastness of the great
unknown world took hold on him. The forests of Picardy were like stubble
beside these unbroken stretches of wooded country; and the mightiest
river of France was but as a purling brook when compared with the
gigantic sweep of the river of Hochelaga, which stretched inland for
unknown leagues.

Cartier had been watching his countenance, and saw that he was
completely won to the enterprise; but Roberval feigned a lack of
enthusiasm. He turned from the map, and with assumed indifference said:
"I like not the look of the country. Woods and water, water and woods,
are all you have marked on it. I prefer a land of fertile fields and
civilised society."

"But, noble Sieur, you mistake. It is not all woods and water. This
mighty Baie des Chaleurs teems with fish. We filled our boats as we
passed along; and did all Europe take to a fish diet that one bay could
supply them. And the woods, Sieur! They swarm with animals. Mink, otter,
beaver, fox, are as plentiful there as sheep and goats are with us, and
as easily captured. There would be no trouble to get their skins, or
time lost in hunting them either. The Indians would bring in pelts by
hundreds, and all we should need to give them in return would be a few
glass beads, metal rings, leaden images, or some gaudy apparel."

"Enough, enough!" said De Roberval impatiently. "You talk as if you were
in the establishment of a St Malo merchant instead of in the house of a
nobleman of Picardy."

Claude saw that Cartier had over-shot the mark, and so came to the
rescue.

"The Sieur de Roberval," he said, "must pardon good Master Cartier. He
has so long been bringing home the wealth of other lands that he is
inclined to think of the value of a country by the amount of wealth it
can put into the treasury of France."

"A very laudable way of thinking, and one of which good King Francis
would be the first to approve," replied the nobleman in a gentler tone.

"Yes," said Claude, "but not the only thing to consider. This commerce
gives us the greatest opportunity any people has ever had. The whole New
World is steeped in the most degrading paganism. The Indians have no
notion of God, or the Blessed Virgin, or of Christ. And, Sieur, while
the treasure from the streams and the forest may bring us reward on
earth, the countless souls we may lead to heaven will win us crowns in
eternity."

Claude was not a hypocrite. He had begun to speak of the spiritual side
of the enterprise with the special purpose of buttressing Cartier's
argument; but he was a devout Catholic, and his lips only echoed what
was in his heart.

"Pontbriand," replied Roberval, "you plead like a holy father. We shall
have to shave your head and give you a black robe. But there is
something in what you say; though to propagate Christianity effectively
in such a land would require enormous wealth."

"True, most noble Sieur," said Cartier hastily, "and if the forest and
the stream do not yield sufficient we must dig it out of the earth."

"What mean you? Have you further information about the mineral wealth of
the New World? The last you gave me was of little value. Your precious
metal has proved to be less valuable than lead, and your diamonds but
quartz. See," he said, rising, "how this acid affects your gold."

He took from a shelf a piece of metal which Cartier had sent to him.

"La Pommeraye," he said, "you will have to be a right hand for me, and
uncork this vial."

A drop of the liquid was allowed to fall upon the metal, which at once
became discoloured.

"No, no!" exclaimed Roberval. "You will have to try some other bait. I
will not go to Canada hoping for gold."

"I do not wish to contradict you, Sieur, but test this lump;" and
Cartier, as he spoke, handed him a nugget the size of an egg.

Nervously Roberval seized it. It stood the test.

"Where!" he exclaimed in an excited voice, "did you get this?"

"From Donnacona, of whom you have heard, and whom indeed you have seen
for yourself."

"And where did Donnacona get it?"

"Far west of his home at Stadacona, and of Hochelaga, too."

"I must see him at once," said Roberval.

"That will be difficult, Sieur," replied Cartier. "He is in Heaven."

"Dead, is he? Well, what good will that nugget do us?" said Roberval, in
disgust and disappointment. "We might search for centuries before we
could find its mate."

"True, Sieur, but where one was found there are likely to be others.
Besides, I have here something that may help us in our search."

As he spoke he unrolled a precious chart, scratched on birch bark with
some rude weapon, such as a flint arrow-head.

"I got this from Donnacona five years ago, and I have kept it from the
world till this moment, fearing that calamity might befall it."

He spread it on the table, and on one corner rested the tempting nugget.

It was a marvellous map; the map of an unknown world of wonders.

"I can swear to the truth of this part at least," said Cartier. "This is
Hochelaga, and here are marked the difficult rapids above it. These five
inland seas are without doubt in existence. Many Indians have told me of
them; and see, Sieur, this one is incomplete. Donnacona told me that no
Indian had ever reached its end; and yet there are tales among the
Indians of richly-robed men of another race and colour who live beyond
these vast western waters. I do not like to conjecture in so great an
undertaking, but does it not seem probable that we have at last before
us the road to the East, and to the Kingdom of the Grand Khan?"

"Enough, enough, Cartier!" said Roberval, laughing. "You are too
enthusiastic. What next will you have to offer? Already we have had
furs, fish, timber, gold, silver, precious stones, and Indian souls. You
must think I need great temptation to be lured into this enterprise. But
what have we here, to the north of this ocean?"

"I am glad you have noticed that," replied Cartier. "Those rude marks
are the mines. They are of great antiquity; and Donnacona, who had no
idea of the value of the precious metals, spoke of the men of old who
dug for metal such as we wore on our fingers, and about our necks. He
had a fine scorn for such baubles; and, as if to impress us with their
worthlessness, stood on the heights of Stadacona, and pointed with pride
to the wigwams of his tribe clustering at the foot of the cliff: 'But,'
he said, 'the men who wrought the metal are no more. Mighty oaks grow
from the earth in which they toiled.'"

Roberval seemed scarcely to heed this long harangue. He gazed intently
at the map, and did not raise his eyes till the voice of La Pommeraye,
who had hitherto been silent, broke upon his ear.

"What Cartier has told you, Sieur, is true. I too have heard the same
tales from very different sources. But, to my mind, Cartier and De
Pontbriand, in advocating their expedition, have left out the most
important consideration. Spain is already in the New World. Cortez has
brought shiploads of gold from Mexico; Ponce de Leon, Garay, Vasquez de
Ayllon, and Hernando de Soto have all brought home tales of treasure and
wonder; and if France does not make haste she will find herself one of
the least among European Powers. Besides, let us build up a nation in
the New World, and we may have some more fighting. The rumours of war
that flit up and down in France are mere woman's talk. My blade is
rusting in the scabbard, and now that the Emperor and King Francis are
complimenting each other like two schoolgirls, it is long likely to
remain so. But in the New World there will be a glorious opportunity for
a struggle with Spain. The Spaniard already claims the whole of America,
and will fight for every inch of it. A strong man could found a mighty
empire on the banks of the Hochelaga, and have all the fighting his
heart could desire. I should like to be lieutenant to such a man."

"And you shall be," said De Roberval, firmly. "Gentlemen, I have
decided. To-morrow I depart to hold an interview with King Francis. Meet
me here in three weeks, and I will report my success. He owes me a heavy
debt, and will, I have no doubt, fit out and man a fleet for us, and
give me full power over Canada."

The three men rose. Cartier and De Pontbriand made their adieus and left
the room; but before La Pommeraye could follow them, the touch of
Roberval's hand on his shoulder arrested him. The door closed on the
other two, and Roberval, without resuming his seat, remarked, in a not
unkindly tone:

"You are a brave youth! I admire your courage, and shall be glad to have
you join me in this expedition. But one thing I must have distinctly
understood: This romantic attachment you fancy you have conceived for my
niece--I must hear no more of it. You have seen her but once, and under
circumstances which make it unlikely that you will ever meet her again.
Your time will be fully occupied in preparations for our departure; as
for her, I shall see that she leaves St Malo at once. Go, now, and prove
yourself indeed a man of honour by attempting to see no more of her. I
warn you, you will rue the day you cross my will."

The young soldier merely bowed in silence and left the room. As he
stepped into the long hall he noticed two figures standing close to each
other in the dim light at the farther end. They seemed to be engaged in
close conversation. He recognised Claude, and his heart sank within him,
for he thought the second figure was Marguerite. De Roberval was
following close behind him, and, with a generous impulse to shield his
friend, Charles placed his giant proportions immediately in front of the
little nobleman. But when they reached the street door he was rejoiced
to find Marie standing there, apparently bidding good-bye to Claude.

"Where is Marguerite?" said De Roberval sternly.

"In her room, Sieur."

"I thought I saw her here a moment ago."

"You must have mistaken me for her, Sieur," replied Marie,
unhesitatingly, "as I but this moment left her."

"Strange," thought La Pommeraye, as the two young men left the house
together, "that we should both have made the same mistake; but
doubtless we were both thinking of her. But that fair damsel in the hall
is not the style of beauty by which I should have thought Claude would
be attracted. However, so much the better for me. The coast is now
clear, I hope."

"Claude," he said, after they had walked a little distance in silence,
"I saw you as I came out into the hall. You seemed to be holding a very
absorbing conversation with that fair lady--a friend of Mdlle de
Roberval's, I conclude. May I be permitted to ask her name?"

Claude did not answer for a few moments, and La Pommeraye noticed that
his face wore an expression of anxiety and doubt. At length he said:

"That is Mdlle de Vignan--the Sieur de Roberval's ward. She lives with
him, and is the constant companion of his niece."

"Marie de Vignan?" exclaimed Charles. "The daughter of Aubrey de Vignan
who was killed in action five years ago?"

"The same."

"I would I had known it was she! Yet how could I recognise her?--I have
not seen her since I held her in my arms, a mischievous little elf of
five years old, when I used to be a constant visitor at her father's
house. It was a second home to me--indeed, more of a home than I have
ever known elsewhere, before or since. And that is my little friend and
playmate! I congratulate you, Claude. If she has inherited anything of
her father's nature and her mother's sweetness she will be indeed a
jewel."

To his surprise Claude made no reply; and the two friends walked on in
silence. La Pommeraye asked no more questions, and his friend was
evidently not desirous of volunteering any further information. They
shortly overtook Cartier, who was waiting for them, and the incident was
forgotten for the present in the discussion of their plans for the
proposed voyage.



CHAPTER V


Three weary weeks dragged themselves along. Cartier was all impatience
for definite information about the King's attitude towards the Canadian
expedition, while Charles and Claude were both eager, for reasons of
their own, for the return of De Roberval's niece and his ward, whom he
had taken to Fontainebleau with him. The three weeks lengthened into a
fourth, the fourth into a fifth, and the adventurers were beginning to
despair, when the faithful Jean appeared at the inn where Charles and
his friend were lodged, bearing a note from his master.

De Roberval had returned, and success had crowned his efforts. The King
had given him full power to make preparations--but they must come to him
at once to receive instructions, and hear from his own lips the
generosity of their noble monarch.

Eagerly the two young men hurried to tell Cartier the good news; and the
three proceeded to Roberval's house, where they found him in high
spirits. He had received more than he had asked. Anne de Montmorency had
been with the King, and a friendship which had been begun at "The Field
of the Cloth of Gold" had made him an ardent supporter of the little
nobleman from Picardy.

The King was won to the glorious cause of extending French territory,
and of winning souls. He bade Roberval return to St Malo, hurry on his
preparations, collect his crews, and await his official commission,
which would follow him as soon as the necessary legal proceedings could
be gone through. In the meantime a letter signed by the King's own hand
gave him all the power he needed.

"You are about to settle a new world for France," he had said to
Roberval; "our right of colonisation is firmly established there, and
the sword and the cross will make us strong. To keep you bold in arms,
and firm in the faith, I present you with this sword which the saintly
Bayard laid upon my shoulders with the words: 'He who has been crowned,
consecrated, and anointed with oil sent down from Heaven, he who is the
eldest son of the Church, is knight over all other knights'--and with
this golden cross, which encases a fragment of the true cross--these
dints on it are from Spanish blows; thrice did it save my life on the
field of Pavia of unhappy memories--with this talisman you may hope to
succeed in the great land of Norembega."

The three enthusiastic listeners congratulated him on his success, but
without heeding them he went on: "That is not all. Hear the substance of
this letter, signed with his royal hand. A fleet is to be fitted out at
once; the governors of all the provinces are to aid in securing arms;
and I"--the little nobleman seemed to grow several inches as he uttered
the words--"I am created Lord of Norembega, Viceroy and
Lieutenant-General in Canada, Hochelaga, Saguenay, Newfoundland, Belle
Isle, Carpunt, Labrador, the Great Bay, and Baccalaos."

As he rolled off this imposing list of titles La Pommeraye's sense of
humour got the better of him. The rugged, uninviting land which he knew
so well rose vividly before him; and the high-sounding terms which were
heaped upon it in no way lessened its ruggedness. He turned to Roberval,
and with a merry twinkle in his blue eye exclaimed: "King Francis is
truly generous, most noble Sieur de Nor--you must pardon a soldier's
tongue and memory; I shall have to shorten your titles--Sieur of the
Universe; but there are difficulties in the way. I have sounded the
fishermen and sailors of St Malo, and none seem willing to cross the
stormy Atlantic as settlers. If we could lure them across for fish, or
furs, or gold, it would be well; but all dread the fierce cold and the
scurvy to which so many of their companions have already succumbed."

"It matters not," said Roberval; "I have full power to raise men, and
the sturdy beggars--and, if all other resources fail, the denizens of
our prisons--shall be forced on board my vessels."

"Sieur, that will be a dangerous experiment," interrupted Cartier. "I
had three criminals with me on my last voyage, and they poisoned the
minds of nearly every other man on the ship."

"You forget," said Roberval, "that I am commander in this expedition. An
iron hand falls upon the man who disobeys my slightest wish. Criminals
are but men; and they will find that no ordinary turnkey watches over
them. But why borrow troubles? Let us to work and build our ships, get
the stores on board, and man them, and the other difficulties can then
be faced. We have three ships now, Master Cartier. Set your carpenters
to work on two others at once, and build them with particular reference
to the Atlantic passage and the dangers from the ice. You had better
consult with Jehan Alfonse. You are both skilled seamen, and what one
overlooks the other will be sure to provide for."

He then proceeded to intrust to Claude the task of superintending the
purchase of supplies. Enough provision would be needed for three hundred
men for a year at least; and it would be necessary to see that
everything could be hurried into St Malo at a moment's notice.

"And you, M. de la Pommeraye," he added, turning to Charles, "as you
seem to have already taken it upon yourself to seek men for this
expedition, have my authority to go into every vessel in the harbour, or
in any harbour in France, and offer the men double their present wage;
and if that will not induce them, go to the prisons and select such men
as you think fit. You know a man when you see him; and this letter with
the King's seal will open the prison gates before you. For myself, I
must away to Picardy to set my estate in order. I shall return with all
possible speed; meantime spare no efforts to hasten our preparations."

So the three men were dismissed, and as Claude and Charles were about to
leave the house they looked stealthily round the hall. But no flutter of
skirts nor any trace of woman's occupation rewarded them. Roberval
noticed their glances, and as he bade them farewell he said, somewhat
roughly: "St Malo is a dangerous place for women. I have left my niece
at Court. If our great undertaking is to succeed, nothing must be
allowed to distract our attention from our plans. No other cares must be
allowed to interfere with our sole object in view--to increase the glory
and renown of our beloved country."

The three men passed into the narrow streets, each absorbed in his own
reflections. Cartier saw in imagination his name on the pages of
history, next to that of Columbus. Claude had but one immediate end in
view--to plan how he might extend his expeditions for supplies as far as
Fontainebleau, while as for Charles, since the only way to reach
Marguerite appeared to be by winning the good opinion of her uncle, he
resolved, as a first step in that direction, to devote his whole
energies to the task he had in hand.

Winter swiftly passed, spring lengthened to summer; summer was on the
wane, and still the New World seemed no nearer. The ships were
completed, and the empty hulls rode in the harbour of St Malo awaiting
supplies and arms. But the money promised by the King was not
forthcoming; and Cartier reluctantly prepared to spend another winter in
old France. The prisons of St Malo were crowded to overflowing with
criminals for the voyage; for only a few hardy adventurers had been
secured by La Pommeraye. In August Roberval paid a flying visit to his
fleet, inspected the vessels and men, and expressed himself strongly on
the slowness of the King in keeping his promise. It would be useless to
start for America during the autumn months; so he made up his mind to
pay a second visit to Fontainebleau, see what could be done in view of
the following spring, and take his niece and ward back to Picardy with
him for the winter.

While he was in St Malo his steps were dogged, unknown to him, by a
swarthy young mariner who had been engaged for the voyage. He had a
French name, but a Spanish face; and Cartier, meeting him one day in the
street, exclaimed: "Pamphilo de Narvaez, or his ghost!"

"I have been twice mistaken for that Spaniard, whose name I never heard
till I came to this place," said the young man. "My name is Narcisse
Belleau. Narvaez' bones lie at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico--at
least so M. de la Pommeraye told me when he engaged me for this voyage."

"A most remarkable resemblance!" returned Cartier. "I would as soon have
the Devil on board _La Grande Hermine_ as De Narvaez. Be sure, young
man, you join one of the other vessels. Belleau is your name, you say? A
good name, but a Narvaez face!"

As he turned away the young Spaniard, for such he was, chuckled to
himself: "A good name, indeed! And you and your fellows will rue the day
you ever looked upon this face."

He was in very truth Pamphilo de Narvaez, a son of the famous sailor of
that name, and had been sent as a spy from the Spanish Court to discover
if the rumours of a mighty expedition being fitted out to occupy the New
World--Spain's peculiar property--were true. Seeing that Roberval was
the soul of the undertaking, he determined to bide his time, strike him
down, and save Spain a bloody war in America. He learned that Roberval
meant to visit Fontainebleau, and from there to set out with his niece
for Picardy. A meeting on the road, with a few dare-devils to aid him,
would end the expedition and win him honours and prosperity on his
return to Spain.

So he planned; and when he had succeeded he would go to America and
finish the work of exploration begun by his illustrious father.

In the meantime Claude and Charles, committing their stores and
prisoners to the charge of Cartier, left St Malo, neither telling the
other whither he was bound. By different roads, and almost
simultaneously, they turned their horses' heads towards Paris; both
hoping to meet Roberval and his party as they passed through that city
on their way to their northern home. They reached their destination
without encountering each other, took lodgings in adjoining streets,
and, each unconscious of the other's presence, set out to make enquiries
as to when the nobleman might be expected. Had they had long to wait
they must have met; but one November day, very shortly after their
arrival, a gay crowd of riders came galloping through the streets of the
city. Their fluttering pennants, their nodding plumes, their gorgeous
doublets and richly-ornamented cloaks, their finely damascened arms,
studded with jewels, and their horses, as richly caparisoned as
themselves, all told that they had come from the fashionable world of
the Court at Fontainebleau.

Such was indeed the case; they had come to escort De Roberval and his
household thus far on their northward way. The two young men learned
where Roberval was to pass the night, and also that he intended to
depart early the following morning, and each returned to his rooms,
determined to be up with the lark in order to obtain at least a glimpse
of the fair lady who had drawn him to Paris.

But Roberval was up before them; and armed from head to heel, and with a
bodyguard of a few sturdy Picards, had already left the city. Claude was
the first to reach the nobleman's headquarters, and, on learning of
Roberval's departure only a few moments before, set spurs to his horse,
hoping to overtake him before he could get clear of the walls. On
arriving at the gate, however, he learned that the party had already
passed through. There were three roads which would lead them to the
ancient and renowned castle which frowned down upon the fruitful plains
between the Bresle and the Somme. The nobleman had selected the longest
route, but the safest in those troublous times. Claude paused for a few
moments to consider this information. He, too, was fully armed, and wore
a breastplate of steel beneath his riding cloak. His splendid figure,
and the magnificent manner in which he sat his horse, caused some remark
among the guards at the gate, of whom he made his enquiries. His
resolution was soon taken. He decided to follow by the western and
rougher road, which merged into the other at a distance of some miles.
He would thus gain a point in advance of Roberval, after a few hours'
hard riding, then he would at least have the satisfaction of forming
one of the escort as far as the castle.

He set out accordingly; and scarcely was he out of sight when a second
rider came up to the gates. When he found that he was too late even for
a sight of his goddess, Charles had impulsively started in pursuit,
though what he hoped to gain even if he did succeed in overtaking her,
guarded as she was, he had no definite idea. The sentinel whom he
questioned told him the direction Roberval had taken, and added the
further information that a single horseman had but just ridden in hot
haste after him, by a different route. A suspicion instantly flashed
through Charles' mind, and the description of Claude furnished by the
man left no doubt as to the rider's identity. Without stopping to
consider the wisdom of his course--thinking only of Marguerite, whom he
could not hope to see once she was behind those battlemented
walls--Charles turned his horse, and galloped off by the third of the
three roads mentioned. It was a shorter cut than either of the other
two, but one which few travellers ever took, as every mile had witnessed
some deed of violence from the bands of robbers who haunted it.

Roberval and his party made their way leisurely along the dusty road
they had chosen, while the two young men rode with fevered haste along
their less frequented paths. Towards noon the three were rapidly
converging towards the same point, at which they would arrive almost
simultaneously.

Claude, who was mounted on a swift charger, which had more than once
carried him to victory in a tournament, was the first to reach this
point. Scanning the ground he noted that no cavalcade had as yet passed
that way. As he sat his horse and waited, the measured galloping of
hoofs coming towards Paris fell upon his ears. He did not wish to meet
strangers, so withdrew into a thick grove at one side of the road.
Scarcely was he concealed when half a dozen hard riders, well horsed and
armed at every point, drew rein at the very spot where he had first
checked his steed. They surveyed the road hurriedly, and at a word from
their leader plunged into a thicket at the opposite side.

"There is trouble in store for some one," said Claude to himself. "If I
am not much mistaken, the leader of that gang of cut-throats is none
other than Narcisse Belleau, whom, despite his good French and vehement
protestations, I believe to be a Spanish spy. And now to my dagger and
sword; I may need them. I would La Pommeraye were only here to lend his
eye and arm to the coming struggle."

Scarcely had he finished examining his weapons when a cloud of dust
slowly advancing in the distance told him that a party of considerable
size was on its way towards the ambuscade. He anxiously awaited their
approach, and soon recognised Roberval's Picard escort, and the
fluttering skirts of the women. If the men in ambush were waiting for
them they were doomed, unless he could warn them. To pass from his
hiding meant almost instant death, but it must be risked; so he began
slowly to make his way towards the road, and was soon at the very edge
of the grove. When De Roberval was within a hundred yards he put spurs
to his horse, which, seeming to scent danger, made a dash forward past
the lurking-place of the assassins. The Spaniard and his comrades were
so taken by surprise that for a moment they did not realise his
intentions; but De Narvaez, with an oath, exclaimed: "It is De
Pontbriand; shoot the dog down!" Their petronels rang out, but the
clumsy weapons shot wide of the mark, and in a trice Claude was with his
friends, who, alarmed by the firing, and the wild rush of the
approaching rider, had come to a sudden standstill. Before they had time
to question De Pontbriand the Spaniards were upon them, and with fierce
shouts and drawn swords dashed into the group which now formed a
protecting body about Marguerite, Marie, and Bastienne. There was a
sudden checking of careering steeds, a clashing of weapons, a heavy
falling of wounded men, and three of De Roberval's party and one of the
foe lay in the dust. As De Narvaez shot past he placed his petronel
against his breast and fired point blank at De Roberval, but
quick-witted Bastienne, who saw his intention, struck her master's horse
on the nose, and the animal, careering wildly, received the contents of
the charge in the heart. The Spaniards rapidly returned to the attack.
There were now but five of them opposed to the three Picards who
remained with Claude and Roberval, and they expected an easy victory.
Two of the Picards fell before their attack, and De Roberval himself was
struck down by a fierce sabre blow which dinted his helmet. Claude found
himself hard pressed by two of the ruffians at once. It must end in a
moment.

But the shots which had been fired attracted a traveller who was always
eager for a fray. Just at the critical moment La Pommeraye's horse
turned the bend in the road. His accustomed eye took in the state of
affairs at once. His sword leaped from its sheath, and with an energy
which he seldom needed to exert he braced himself for the struggle. He
was upon Claude's assailants in an instant; one quick thrust and a burly
Spaniard fell forward on his face. The weapon seemed scarcely to have
touched the man, so quickly was it withdrawn; and with the same motion
that drew it forth La Pommeraye sent it crashing through the helmet of
the other ruffian. De Narvaez and his two companions saw that they were
foiled, and, striking fiercely at Claude, who fell beneath their united
blows, they turned to flee. But they had lost a second too much. That
last blow was their ruin. Charles was upon them like a whirlwind. His
sword flashed like a destroying sunbeam, and two others fell lifeless on
the road, while their steeds galloped wildly away. De Narvaez turned to
face his foe; and his dark face blanched beneath the fierce eye of the
French giant. It was but a moment. Charles crossed swords with him;
once, twice--and as if he had been saying "One, two three, die!" he
plunged his blade through and through the body of the spy.

"Hot work, but glorious!" he exclaimed, as the Spaniard fell heavily in
the dust. "Five in as many minutes. But I must look to my friends."

Bastienne was sitting with her master's head in her lap. Marie had taken
off Claude's helmet and revealed a ghastly wound on the temple.
Marguerite stood beside her horse, shading her eyes with her hand, her
face tense and strained as she watched the issue of the combat. It was
not till the victor, flushed but triumphant, his gay riding-suit covered
with blood and dust, advanced, and doffing his hat almost to the ground
bowed low before her, that she recognised La Pommeraye.

"Mademoiselle is uninjured, I trust?" said Charles.

The blood had mounted to her cheek as she saw in their preserver her
rude assailant of nearly a year before, but she kept the quiet dignity
of her manner. Drawing off one glove she held out her hand, saying as
she did so:

"Monsieur, under God we owe you all our lives. But for your timely
appearance, what would have become of three defenceless women when my
uncle fell?"

The delicate fingers lay for a moment in La Pommeraye's mighty grasp, as
he raised them reverently to his lips, hardly believing in his own good
fortune. They were instantly withdrawn, however, and Marguerite hastened
to her uncle's side.

De Roberval was only stunned, and might safely be left to Bastienne's
skill. It was otherwise with Claude. The wound was a severe one, as
Charles instantly recognised.

"Pardon me," he said to Marie, who, less self-controlled than
Marguerite, had given way, once the crisis had passed, and was weeping
hysterically, "pardon me, Mademoiselle, but I must lift him out of the
heat and dust."

With tender hands he raised his comrade, and carried him into the
shade. He was a skilled surgeon--taught by frequent experience--and with
help from the women soon had the wound bandaged. In the meantime
Roberval had recovered from his swoon, and was rubbing his eyes with
amazement at the strange turn events had taken.

"How came you here?" exclaimed he to La Pommeraye.

"My evil genius prompted me to come to the aid of an ungrateful
nobleman," replied Charles, laughingly. "But it was just as well for you
that I did. However, it was a grand fight; and could I only have one
like it every day in France, you would not get me to go to Canada. But I
will not equivocate, Sieur," he added in a lower voice, drawing Roberval
a little aside, "I came here, as no doubt did De Pontbriand, who was, I
believe, in Paris yesterday, to accompany you on your way to Picardy.
Why, you know best, but we cannot speak of it now."

De Roberval scowled, and then exclaimed with enthusiasm:

"You are a noble fellow! There were five against us when I fell, and now
your bloody sword tells a heroic tale. But here, Etienne," and he turned
to his only surviving retainer, who had stood all this time staring
stupidly at La Pommeraye as if he had been a god suddenly descended from
the sky, "look to the wounded, and you, Bastienne, help him. Are all my
brave fellows dead? See what can be done, and then ride like the wind to
the inn, five leagues ahead of us, and fetch men to bury the dead and
bear the wounded home. But what is this? De Pontbriand wounded?"

Claude was still unconscious. He was borne to the inn on a rude litter
of boughs, and there La Pommeraye watched and tended him till he was out
of danger. But he was still too weak to be moved, and with the wretched
accommodation and attendance which the inn afforded, his recovery bade
fair to be slow. Seeing this, De Roberval had him removed to his castle,
which was but a few leagues distant, and there Charles, who was not
included in the invitation, was reluctantly obliged to leave his friend
and return to St Malo alone. He would have been much more reluctant had
not the tears which Marie had shed, as he imagined, over Claude's body,
convinced him still more firmly that she was the object of his
affection.

And so it happened that Claude spent a large part of the winter in
Picardy, watched over and waited upon, as his strength slowly returned,
by the fair hands of Marguerite de Roberval and her vivacious friend and
companion, Marie de Vignan.



CHAPTER VI


Winter went swiftly, and towards the spring Claude's strength came
slowly back to him. The physician who waited on him, however, ordered
perfect rest during the summer months; and so, when news came that
Cartier had his five ships all ready for sea, stored with provisions and
fully manned, he had reluctantly to consent to remain behind in France.
But he was not to remain alone. De Roberval could not go to make a
permanent colonisation in America without abundant firearms, artillery,
and munitions of war. But the gay life of the Court had exhausted the
royal treasury, and for the moment it seemed as if all his preparations
had been in vain. King Francis, however, was as eager to colonise the
New World as was Roberval himself, and he despatched a messenger to St
Malo, commanding Cartier to start with what preparations he had made,
and promising to send Roberval shortly after with three ships fully
equipped with powder to store a magazine, balls to last for years, and
guns sufficient and strong enough to ably protect the destined colony.

De Roberval was not in St Malo when the news arrived, but La Pommeraye
was, and the chance to bear the message to Picardy himself was too good
to be lost.

On reaching the castle he found, to his great disappointment, that
Marguerite had been for some time in Paris, while Claude had long before
returned to his own home in Rouen. De Roberval was still there, however,
completing his final preparations for departure. He went into a white
rage at the news of the enforced delay; but there was no help for it. So
he sent Charles back to tell Cartier to start at once, and to expect him
in the autumn. In the meantime he was to plant seed, build his forts,
and make ready platforms for heavy pieces and a well-protected powder
magazine.

It so happened that Marie was still at the castle. Marguerite had gone
to an aunt in Paris, and her friend was to join her with De Roberval as
soon as the latter had finally wound up his affairs and arranged for the
management of his estate.

During the few days which Charles spent in Picardy he was thrown a good
deal with Mdlle. de Vignan, and with an almost boyish impulse he took
her into his confidence, and told her his seemingly hopeless love for
Marguerite. In his enthusiasm he scarcely noticed how little
encouragement she gave him, or else he interpreted her silence as a
favourable sign. But when he was gone, the large-hearted and
impressionable girl stood looking after him till he and his horse were a
mere speck in the distance, and then she went to her own room, shut
herself up, and wept bitterly.

One week later Cartier was on his way to Hochelaga, and Charles, sunk in
reverie, stood by his side on the deck of _La Grande Hermine_, and,
with eyes fixed on the shores they were leaving, heard not a word that
Cartier uttered. The New World had lost its charms for him. His soul
would know no content till he was once more back in France, or at least
till he was once more within reach of Marguerite de Roberval.

Through May and June the vessels swept across the ocean, and without
mishap entered the Gulf of St Lawrence, and sailed up the broad river of
Hochelaga. The explorers landed at Cap Rouge, and began to clear the
forest, sow turnip seed, and build forts. When the work was well under
way, leaving Vicomte de Beaupré in charge at Cap Rouge, Cartier and La
Pommeraye went on a voyage of exploration into the interior of the
country, hoping on their return to find De Roberval at the fort.

All this time De Roberval was busy rushing up and down France; but the
King was slow in opening the nation's purse, and winter came without any
preparations having been made to follow Cartier. Roberval chafed under
the disappointment, but was powerless to do anything.

During the summer he had formed the sudden and surprising resolution of
taking his niece and ward to Canada with him. The announcement of this
plan occasioned a good deal of astonishment, but Roberval would listen
to no remonstrances. Special accommodation would have to be arranged for
them on board his ship, and they must learn to put up with hardships,
and to accustom themselves to the life of colonists. It might be years
before his return to France, and he had fully decided not to leave them
behind. Whatever his purpose may really have been, he had evidently
made up his mind, and was not to be turned aside from his determination.
The girls themselves asked nothing better. Full of the spirit of youth
and adventure, they looked forward with delight to the prospect of a
share in an expedition on which the eyes and hopes of half France were
centred, and eagerly they set about making their preparations for
departure.

In the meantime, however, one day in the early part of November, De
Roberval was surprised by a request from Claude de Pontbriand--now fully
restored to health--for permission to pay his addresses to Marguerite.
His rejection of the proposal was so prompt, and couched in such
emphatic terms, that Claude was utterly taken aback. He was poor, and
had hesitated long to declare his love, supposing that his poverty would
naturally be an objection to him in Roberval's eyes; but in respect of
birth and position he was fully Marguerite's equal, and now that she was
about to accompany her uncle to Canada, where, in a new sphere of life,
all would be placed upon a more equal footing, he had gained courage to
offer himself as her suitor. But De Roberval not only refused to listen
to him, but dismissed him in such haughty terms that the young man's
pride rebelled, and he demanded an explanation. High words ensued, and a
quarrel was only averted by Claude's diplomacy and presence of mind in
recollecting that in the event of a duel his case would indeed be
hopeless. But he was at a loss for an explanation of the rude reception
with which his proposal had been met.

Marguerite, however, had a key to the enigma. She had heard from her
old nurse how, years before, her uncle had been madly infatuated with
Claude's mother, and how that noble lady had refused his hand, and had
married instead the poor but handsome young Captain Maurice de
Pontbriand. The bitter grudge which Roberval owed the name had seemingly
come to life again at the idea of uniting one of his family with the son
of his successful rival. His temper, too, was irritated by the
protracted delay in getting his expedition under way, and by the many
harassments with which he was forced to contend. The discovery that
Claude had already won his niece's affections added fuel to the fire of
his wrath, and he forbade all further interviews or communications
between the lovers.

Marguerite had so long implicitly yielded to the strong will of her
uncle--whom she revered as a father, having known no other--that she
never thought of attempting disobedience. She wrote to Claude, who would
have persuaded her to meet him by stealth, begging him to wait, even if
she had to go to America without him. For, since this quarrel with De
Roberval, it would be impossible for Claude to take passage in the same
ship, but he could easily follow her. In the New World all the
conditions of life would be changed, and, once there, they might hope to
win her uncle's consent to their union.

Claude, though ill-content with this arrangement, saw nothing for it but
to bide his time. He made no further effort to see Marguerite for the
present, but kept a careful watch over De Roberval's movements, that he
might know to a certainty when he intended to sail.

Winter came, and still the King did nothing. De Roberval was in Paris
with his household, and Claude had taken up his quarters in the same
city. At length tidings came which made De Roberval's heart bound with
hope once more. The King had at last roused himself; nay, he had already
purchased three ships--three noble vessels--and they even now lay in the
harbour of La Rochelle, ready for Roberval to equip and man. This was
late in February. All through March the nobleman superintended the
storing of the powder, the loading of the guns, and the procuring of the
crews. This last was no easy matter. But few of the hardy French sailors
would venture on the voyage, and in despair Roberval was compelled to
get together his crews and colonists almost entirely from the prisons.

Early in April everything was completed; and one bright morning the
three vessels stole out through the surrounding islands, caught the last
glimpse of the lantern tower, and sailed away for America. Marguerite
and Marie, with the faithful Bastienne, stood on the deck of De
Roberval's ship, gazing back at the shores of La Belle France. A cloud
seemed to hang over their departure, and it had none of the joyous
excitement they had anticipated. Marguerite was torn asunder between her
love for Claude and her ideas of duty to her uncle. A message from De
Pontbriand had assured her that he intended to join the expedition, and
she supposed him to have managed to embark on one of the other ships;
but her heart was heavy within her at the thought of her uncle's
vengeance when he should find it out. She could not even be certain that
he had embarked at all, and she was leaving France, perhaps for ever,
without a farewell word from his lips.

Marie had her own inward perplexities. In the New World for which they
were bound they would be certain to encounter La Pommeraye, and the
secret she had so faithfully kept for him weighed heavily on her mind.
She had several times been on the point of telling Marguerite, but for
some reason or other she shrank from uttering his name. Her feelings
towards him had undergone a change, which had the effect of making her
shun all mention of the man whose praises had once been perpetually on
her lips. She foresaw that nothing but unhappiness for herself could
result from meeting him again, and yet she could not restrain a throb of
the heart when his stalwart form and handsome features rose before her.

The two girls stood in silence, their eyes fixed on the fast-receding
shore. Old Bastienne, beside them, was dissolved in tears. She would not
have deserted her young mistress; but at her age to leave her native
land and face the perils of a new and unknown country was a sore trial.

As the beloved shores faded into a blue haze on the horizon, a familiar
step was heard on the deck approaching the mournful little group.
Marguerite turned, with a sudden thrill at her heart, and beheld De
Pontbriand.

Astonishment left her no words with which to greet him. Marie recovered
herself first.

"M. de Pontbriand!" she exclaimed, "how did you get here?"

"Easily enough," replied Claude. "I simply came on board last night,
and kept out of sight till this moment. Now that I am here, and we are
so far from land, the Sieur de Roberval can hardly refuse me
accommodation. I suppose he will scarcely go the length of throwing me
overboard."

"You do not know my uncle, Claude," said Marguerite, anxiously. "I
tremble for your first meeting with him. He is not used to being
thwarted. Pray Heaven you and he may not quarrel any further. He is a
dangerous man, if once his will is opposed."

Almost as she spoke De Roberval appeared on deck and at once came
towards them. Then followed a stormy scene. Claude begged for an
interview in De Roberval's private cabin. Alone with the indignant
nobleman, he tried to calm his wrath, but explanations and persuasions
were alike in vain. At last, anxious on Marguerite's account, and
fearing lest her uncle might suspect her of complicity in a plot to
secure his presence on board, and wreak his vengeance on her as well,
Claude resolved on a compromise.

"Hear me, Sieur," he said firmly, in a voice which commanded attention.
"I love your niece, as you know, and I would follow her though you took
her to the end of the world. But for her sake, and to prove to you that
she is innocent of all connivance at my being here, I will avoid her
society for the rest of the voyage. It will be enough to see her at a
distance, and to know that she is safe. You need fear no further
intrusion from me, at all events until the New World is reached. I give
you my word."

De Roberval's rage had so completely mastered him that speech seemed to
have almost deserted him. His words came thickly.

"Go, sir," he said at last, pointing to the door, "and take heed how you
break your promise. If you dare to address my niece as a lover again on
this voyage, you die. And when we reach the New World I will take
excellent care that you are sent about your business. Remember what I
say. If I hear that you have disobeyed me I will, despite your noble
blood, hang you to the yard-arm, as the first example of the fate which
will surely overtake the man who dares to thwart a De Roberval."

With great difficulty Claude restrained himself under this insulting
language, which nothing but his anxiety for Marguerite could have
induced him to bear. He knew that De Roberval was quite capable of
executing his threats; and he was sufficiently cool to reflect that if
he provoked him farther Marguerite's position would be infinitely worse,
while there was no hope that anything could be accomplished by force. He
therefore compelled himself to bow in silence, and took his departure.

As he left the cabin, he noticed a sleek, shiftless-looking individual,
with spy stamped on every line of his face, standing by the open
gangway. He had a sickly-green complexion, and, as if to match its hue,
he was clad in a shabby green jerkin, rough green cap, green doublet,
and hose of the same colour. It was Michel Gaillon, the first criminal
to die on Canadian soil. He had so far escaped the hand of the law, but
was, even as he stood there, being hunted high and low for a brutal
murder. He carried no rapier. Had he possessed such a weapon he would
probably have feared to draw it lest he might injure himself; but as a
poisoner he was without a peer in France. A crime had been brought home
to him; he saw that it would cost him his neck; and he had contrived to
stow himself away on board _L'Heureux_, and was now on his way to
explain his presence to De Roberval, trusting to luck and his sharp wits
to win his way into the good graces of that nobleman.

He had heard every word which had passed, and he saw at once that he
would have a field for his diabolical machinations. Could Claude have
seen the leer with which the ghastly apparition followed him as he
passed, he would have shuddered with a sense of approaching danger. He
did not look back, however, and the Man in Green, having requested an
audience with De Roberval, was admitted to the cabin.

De Roberval's hand went to his sword as he beheld the extraordinary
figure and sinister countenance of his visitor.

"Who are you, and what brings you here?" said he sternly. "You are not
one of my crew."

"May it please you, most noble Sieur," said the man, bowing low, "I have
come to offer my services as physician to your expedition. I am well
versed in drugs, and with the knife no man in France is more skilful. I
have restored life to the Duc d'Orleans, when the Court physician gave
him up; and----"

"Enough!" said De Roberval, who had not removed his keen gaze from the
man's face for an instant. "Enough! I have heard of you. You are
Gaillon, the poisoner!"

The man leaped back trembling as he heard his own name.

"I knew you the instant my eyes fell upon you," pursued De Roberval.
"You have come on board to escape the fate which awaits you in France.
If I did my duty I should order you to be thrown overboard this moment."

The wretch stood cowering.

"Most noble Sieur," he faltered, "I have fled from France to lead a new
life in a new world."

"Silence, liar!" thundered De Roberval. "You have fled from France to
escape death for the murder of Paul d'Auban. You see I know your
character. But it has occurred to me," he went on, with a grim smile,
"that I shall need an executioner in my colony before many months, and
you would probably answer my purpose. Go!" he added, his brow
contracting with sudden anger, "leave my sight, and look that you do not
attempt any of your schemes while you are on board this vessel. As long
as you do as I command you, you need fear nothing; but disobey me, and I
will wind a devil's cravat round your neck, and be doing God a service
by sending you from His blessed earth."

The astonished criminal slunk from the room. As he ascended the gangway
he reflected to himself that in leaving his pursuers in La Rochelle he
seemed to have leaped from the frying-pan into the fire. But he saw his
way clearly before him. He would in the meantime obey Roberval's
lightest whim; and when an opportunity presented itself he would so
ingratiate himself into the good opinion of the nobleman as to be made
his confidant. He had unlimited confidence in his own powers, and an
ambition which knew no bounds. Fate seemed to favour him. Already he had
overheard an interview which had put him in possession of some of
Roberval's most intimate affairs. He would bide his time, and wait for a
chance to make use of his knowledge.

Some days passed without event. Claude kept carefully to the letter of
his promise, and avoided as much as possible the society of the two
girls. He shared the quarters of an old school-friend, Paul d'Auxhillon,
and rarely went on deck when it was at all probable that the women would
be there.

They had been steering westward over moderately calm seas for nearly a
week, when, on a glorious moonlight night, the breeze stiffened, and the
little vessel began to pitch on the rising waves. The cabin was close at
all times, but at night Claude nearly always spent most of his time on
deck. On this particular night he had no desire for sleep, and midnight
found him still pacing to and fro, watching the glitter of the moonlight
on the dancing waters.

Just about twelve o'clock Marguerite, oppressed by the close air between
decks, and rendered dizzy by the slight pitching of the vessel, stole
softly from her cabin, without disturbing Marie, and sought the open
air. She had not been long on deck before she became aware of the
presence of a man who was not one of the common sailors. For a moment
she thought the motionless figure with its back towards her was her
uncle; but a second glance told her it was De Pontbriand. She moved
noiselessly towards him, as he stood gazing out on the broad moonlit
expanse, his thoughts occupied with the bitter fate that held him so
near his love, and yet so far apart from her, and, gently touching his
shoulder, she breathed his name.

He turned: their lips met, and so great was the revulsion of feeling
that for a few moments neither could speak. But they were standing where
they might have been observed either by the helmsman or the man on the
lookout, and Claude presently drew her to the shadow of the forecastle.
Here they were sheltered from view, and could give themselves up to the
rapture of being together once more. Neither noticed a dark figure
crouched on the deck behind a spar not three feet away from them. It was
Gaillon. He had seen Marguerite pass up the gangway, and knowing that
Claude was on deck had followed, panther-like, to watch her movements.
His quick intelligence at once divined that if a meeting between the
lovers had been planned, they would probably seek the shadow afforded by
the forecastle; and in the few moments when their attention was wholly
absorbed in each other he had noiselessly crawled across the deck, and
concealed himself where he could overhear their every word.

Very little was said, but not a syllable escaped him. Marguerite, for
the first time, allowed Claude to say hard things about her uncle. But
even yet she tried to find excuses for him.

"O Claude," she said, "he is mad! I have watched him day by day, and
would not believe it. But his violent ambition, and the thwarting to
which it has been subjected, have unhinged his mind. I am hoping that
the active life he must necessarily lead in Canada will restore his
reason. But mad he is now, and for my sake bear with him and humour him.
He has been cruel to us, unkind to me, brutal to you, but he is not the
uncle I once knew and loved. Surely his old nature will return when we
are settled in our new home, and he will consent to our marriage."

Claude could not help thinking that there was small ground for
encouragement, but he would not damp her sweet hopefulness. They talked
a little longer in a more cheerful strain, each trying to raise the
spirits of the other.

"Dear," said Claude, at last, "for your sake I will be patient and wait.
But you must not stay here. The watch may discover us; and your good
name would become a by-word in our new colony. Say good-night to me and
go."

The two held each other in a long embrace, which made up for weeks of
separation.

"If ever you should want me," said Claude, "you will find me here--every
night--at this hour. But do not come again unless you need me. There are
men on board who would delight in making trouble for us with your uncle.
The snake-like eyes of that fellow Gaillon haunt me like a nightmare."

They separated. Marguerite returned to her cabin; and Claude, with a
lighter heart, resumed his pacing of the deck, all unconscious that the
eyes he had just described were watching him with a fiendish glitter
which boded ill for his future.

At last he went below, and Gaillon crept out of the dark corner where
he had lain crouched, afraid to stir for fear of attracting Claude's
attention. As he emerged from his hiding-place, a hand was laid on his
shoulder, and he found himself face to face with a young sailor from
Picardy, Blaise Perron by name, an honest, kindly young fellow, who had
noticed the black looks and skulking ways of the green-suited scoundrel,
and had determined to keep an eye upon him.

"What are you doing here?" cried he, as he saw Gaillon crawl from behind
the spar.

Gaillon replied with an oath, and an admonition to mind his own affairs,
and let honest men alone.

"Honest men do not skulk in corners and watch other people's doings,"
replied the young fellow, who, however, had only just come on deck, and
was ignorant of the scene between Claude and Marguerite. "Let me catch
you plotting any villainy against the Sieur de Pontbriand, and I will
throw you overboard first, and report afterwards."

Gaillon, seeing that his schemes were likely to be thwarted unless he
exercised some caution, condescended to explain that he had fallen
asleep in his corner, had only just awakened, and was on his way below
to his berth. But as he descended the gangway he cast an evil look
behind him on the young sailor at his post, and vowed that in his own
time and way he would revenge himself upon him.



CHAPTER VII


Another week passed, and with the change of the moon, as the old sailors
on board had prophesied, came also a change in the weather. The wind
rose steadily, and before long the staunch craft was creaking and
groaning as she climbed the ocean billows or slid swiftly down their
steep sides. By the evening of the 24th the wind had increased to a
gale. All the upper sails had been hauled down, and the lower ones
doubly reefed; but still an occasional wave fell with a mighty crash on
the deck, swirled along the sides, and gurgled through the lee scuppers.

At midnight Claude, true to his promise, went on deck. He had, of
course, no expectation of seeing Marguerite, but he had not failed to
keep his word, and be at the appointed spot each night.

The storm was raging when he reached the deck. There was no rain, but
the sky was covered with flying clouds, through which the waning moon
burst fitfully, only to be immediately swallowed up again. The hungry
waves rolled high above the little vessel, and seemed as if they would
overwhelm her; but she gallantly ploughed along, feeling her way like a
thing of life across the trackless waste of waters.

A sailor passed Claude with a cheery "Good-night, Monsieur. A stormy
night!"

As Claude returned his salute he recognised the young Picard, Blaise
Perron, whom he knew well, and who had often performed slight services
for him during his stay at De Roberval's castle. So great was the
loneliness in which his life was plunged just now that he was grateful
for the sound of a friendly voice, and returned the greeting with much
heartiness, adding a kindly word or two as he passed.

He made his way with difficulty across the slippery deck. The cordage
sang a wild song about him, the spray leaped stinging against his face,
and the vessel groaned in every plank and spar.

In the shelter of the forecastle there was comparative quiet and safety.
A figure wrapped in a cloak was standing in the deepest shadow, and
moved towards him as he came up. He could hardly believe his senses. It
was Marguerite!

"My love!" he exclaimed, folding her tenderly in his arms, and drawing
her farther back into the shelter. "That you should be here, and in such
a storm!"

As he spoke, a wave struck the vessel amidships, sent the spray in a
shower over them, and fell with a great thud at their feet.

"That was a narrow escape," Claude went on. "Had we been a foot nearer
the stern we should have been dashed against the bulwarks, and the whole
ship would have known of our meeting here. But what has brought you out,
my darling? Is anything wrong? I shudder when I think of the risks you
must have run in getting here in this wind."

"The storm is glorious, Claude, and a little salt water will not hurt
me. I could not stay below. You will think me foolish, but I had a dream
about you--such a dreadful dream that I felt as if I must come to see
that you were safe. I thought I saw you in the toils of a monstrous
serpent. It had wound itself about you, and seemed to be crushing you in
its folds. I tried to tear it off, but it seized you the closer; and as
I stood back and gazed at it in horror it seemed to take the form and
features of that wretched creature in green who follows my uncle about
all day like a whipped cur."

"Sweetheart," said her lover, "it was a blessed dream, since it brought
you to me. It gives me new life to see you. But I do not wonder that the
sight of that fellow should give you nightmare. The first time I saw him
I could not help christening him the sea-serpent. His baleful eye seems
to be always upon me. If I should meet him to-night I should be tempted
to send him back to the ocean depths from whence he looks as if he had
but lately come."

"Dear, do not joke about him. I am not superstitious, but I fear that
man, and would have you be on your guard against him. It was to warn you
about him that I risked coming to you to-night."

She was much agitated, and Claude soothed and comforted her, wrapping
her cloak about her to shield her from the storm, and reassuring her
with promises and tender words.

While this scene was taking place on deck, a very different one was
going on below, in Roberval's cabin. Gaillon, who must have been so
constituted that he could do without sleep, had seen Marguerite leave
her cabin and ascend the gangway. He knew that Claude had gone on deck,
and there was no doubt that the lovers were together. Now was his
chance. He stole to De Roberval's cabin, opened the door by some means
best known to himself, and, entering, touched the sleeping nobleman on
the shoulder.

Roberval was on his feet in an instant, and a dagger flashed at
Gaillon's throat. The man was prepared, however, and backed quickly
towards the door, where the light from the passage shone full upon his
face. Roberval uttered an oath when he saw who it was.

"Dog of an assassin!" exclaimed he, "what brings you here?"

"If your most noble highness will let me speak," said Gaillon, cringing
obsequiously, "I have important tidings which will not keep till
morning. Your niece is not in her room."

"Villain!" roared De Roberval, "be careful what you say, or, by Heaven,
I will run you through!"

"Your niece, most noble Sieur, has left her cabin, and is now on deck
with her lover. They are in the habit of meeting thus at night. I would
have warned you before, but dreaded to call down your anger on my own
head. Even now I would have kept silence, but the honour of your house
hangs in the balance."

Roberval appeared scarcely to hear the latter part of this speech. He
had turned his back on Gaillon, and was rapidly donning some clothes.
In two minutes he was fully dressed, and, turning hastily round,
exclaimed: "Who is the lookout to-night?"

"Blaise Perron, the Picard, Sieur. He has seen them together beyond a
doubt, and is now keeping watch for them against intruders."

This was a lie, but Gaillon did not stick at trifles.

"Get rid of him for me," said Roberval shortly. "I care not how."

Gaillon chuckled to himself as he followed his master up the gangway.
His schemes were turning out successful beyond his wildest hopes.

"Let us steal along to windward, Sieur," he whispered. "They are on the
lee side of the forecastle, and doubtless we shall come upon them in one
another's arms."

The noise of the wind and waves drowned their footsteps, and they were
able to approach unnoticed till they were within a few feet of the
lovers. Claude had just succeeded in persuading Marguerite to go below
and try to sleep. He had taken her in his arms at parting, and she clung
to him with an earnestness born of her forebodings. It was thus that
Roberval surprised them.

The first intimation they had of his presence was an oath which sounded
suddenly out of the darkness. Claude leaped back and drew his rapier. De
Roberval stood before him with drawn sword. Unable to stand by and
witness a combat between her uncle and her lover, Marguerite threw
herself between them.

"Consider, I beg of you, Monsieur," said Claude, hurriedly; "your
niece's honour is at stake. If we attract the attention of the watch
the fair name of a De Roberval will be for ever sullied."

Roberval lowered his weapon.

"You say truly," he remarked grimly, "though the suggestion comes a
trifle late, methinks. I should dishonour my sword to draw it on a liar
and a coward. Handcuffs and the hold will be a more fitting fate for
such as you."

At these words even Claude's endurance gave way, and disregarding
Marguerite's entreaties, he threw himself upon De Roberval. The scuffle
attracted the watch, and several of the sailors came running up. In the
darkness and confusion it was impossible to distinguish anything
clearly, but Claude was soon overpowered, and De Roberval's voice made
itself heard above the roar of the elements, calling for manacles.
Gaillon appeared with them as if by magic; and before the crew had time
to realise anything but the fact that their commander had been
assaulted, Claude's wrists were chained together, and he was powerless.
As Gaillon finished adjusting the handcuffs, the young Picard before
mentioned, who was the only other person to grasp the situation, threw
himself upon the spy, and clutched his throat. Almost as his fingers
closed they relaxed their grip again, and he fell headlong on the deck.
A few moments he writhed in agony, and when he was raised it was found
that he was quite dead, though no mark of violence could be found upon
him.

"It is a judgment of Heaven," said Gaillon, devoutly crossing himself.

"A judgment of Hell, rather, from whence you came," muttered De
Roberval. "But you have done your work well. Heave the carrion
overboard," added he, giving the young sailor's body a contemptuous
kick. "And now to the hold with that villain. And you," turning, to his
niece, "to your cabin with you. I shall have more to say to you
to-morrow."

The whole scene had passed so quickly that before the bewildered girl
had time to realise what had happened, she saw her lover being marched
below in chains. She would have rushed after him, but her uncle's strong
hand restrained her, and she was forced to watch him disappear without
being able even to bid him farewell.


After this the days and weeks passed by, and Claude remained in his
prison, with no companions save the rats which swarmed about him. His
feet were fortunately free, or he might have been devoured. Already his
body held the marks of their sharp and hungry teeth, where they had
attacked him while he slept. He grew thin and pale from the close
confinement and the wretched food which was brought to him three times a
day by the hands of the villain Gaillon. His heart was bitter within
him, and he had almost abandoned hope. But for the knowledge that the
voyage must come to an end, and that some change must then take place in
his circumstances, he would have given way to despair.

He was missed from the deck by those of the rough colonists who knew him
by sight; but a rumour had gone about among the crew that he had
insulted De Roberval's niece, and no one ventured to express pity for
his fate. The few men of gentle blood on board knew, or suspected, the
true version of the story, but regard for Marguerite's good name
compelled them to keep silence.

While Claude was pining in his prison Marguerite's heart was growing
hard within her. She could no longer bring herself to respect her uncle.
She shed no tears, nor would she listen to words of sympathy from her
friend Marie, or the old _bonne_; but her face grew pale and set, and a
resolute expression formed itself about her mouth.

The sailors revered her as a saint; and when she appeared on deck the
roughest man took off his cap as she passed, and hushed the profanity on
his lips. Suspicions of the true state of the case were abroad, but no
one dared to show sympathy with the prisoner. The men stood in great awe
of De Roberval, and still more of the terrible Gaillon, who was daily
advancing in favour with his master, whose devoted attendant he had now
become.

Matters were still in this state, and De Roberval showed no signs of
relenting, when, early in the month of June, the rugged shores of
Newfoundland loomed up before the grateful eyes of the crew. It was not
their destination, but at least it was land; and although there were
still dangers to be passed, in those days it was the broad stretch of
the ocean which tried the seamen's nerves. They hailed with joy the
first glimpse of the New World after the terrible tedium of the voyage.

The three vessels soon swept through the narrow entrance, and the
sailors were delighted to see before them seventeen fishing-boats riding
safely in the harbour. De Roberval cast anchor, intending to stock his
vessels with fish, and procure fresh water. But he had scarcely
finished his preparations when a report ran through the ships that three
other vessels were entering the harbour. He knew that the Spaniards had
eyed with jealousy the expedition when it was being fitted out, and
believed that the attack of Pamphilo de Narvaez upon him and his party
had been intended to put an end to the venture. Thinking, therefore,
that it might be an enemy who was approaching, he was about to order his
men to their guns, when the leading vessel unfurled the broad white flag
strewn with the _fleur-de-lis_ of France. His men, at the welcome sight,
sent up a wild shout of joy which sounded through the harbour, and was
re-echoed from the fleet of fishermen. Whose could the ships be? Had
King Francis repented of his generosity, and sent a fleet to recall him?
That could hardly be. One vessel would have been sufficient for that
purpose. While he debated in his mind the probable destination of the
fleet, the leading vessel swung round, her sails dropped, and as the
anchor rattled down into the dark waters De Roberval recognised _La
Grande Hermine_. Cartier deserting his post? What could be the meaning
of this?

While the attention of every one on board the vessel was thus diverted,
and not a soul was left below to observe her actions, Marguerite
resolved to put into execution a plan she had long ago formed. She had
discovered a loose board in the flooring of her cabin, and with the aid
of Bastienne and Marie she now succeeded in removing it. Their united
efforts disclosed a hole large enough for her to pass through. A huge
rat rushed out as the plank was removed, causing the other two women to
shriek aloud. Marguerite shuddered as she looked into the black depths
below, and thought of the horrors Claude must have endured all these
weeks. Unhesitatingly she lowered herself down on the rough barrels,
boxes, and bags, and began feeling her way in the darkness, calling
softly on her lover's name. For some time there was no response, but as
she reached a cleared space, the light from an opening in the deck above
revealed Claude pacing restlessly to and fro in his narrow prison, his
ears strained to catch the meaning of the sounds from above. She was by
his side in an instant.

"Marguerite!"

He uttered but the one word, and stood gazing at her, but without
touching her. Coming suddenly upon him out of the darkness he took her
for a vision. But her arms were about his neck, and the warm pressure of
her cheek against his convinced him of the reality of her presence. He
could not take her in his manacled arms; but she kissed the fettered
wrists, and wept to see the terrible difference the six weeks had
wrought in his once stalwart form. The strong young soldier himself, to
whom the sudden shock of joy had come so unexpectedly after his long and
dreary solitude, could not keep back the tears. Their words were few and
broken. Marguerite told him how she had found a way to reach him, and
how the other two women were keeping guard above till her return; and he
showed her the narrow space where he had walked up and down in the
twilight all these weary days, and the hard pallet where he had slept.
Her tears flowed afresh at the sight. But the increasing noise on the
deck above, the sounds of heavy feet and of men shouting, recalled them
to the present.

"Where are we, dearest?" said Claude. "We cannot have reached
Charlesbourg Royal?"

"No, would to Heaven that we had! It is Newfoundland, and my uncle has
anchored to procure fresh water. O Claude, I shudder to think what will
become of us. My uncle is surely mad. His temper has become so
ungovernable that scarce a man on board dares to address him. I have
thought sometimes that that wretch Gaillon, who is constantly in
attendance upon him, must be keeping him under the influence of some
drug or charm which is surely sapping his intelligence. I tremble when
he approaches, for I know not what fresh insult he may heap upon me."

Claude ground his teeth.

"If I were but free, and had the use of my hands for five minutes!" he
muttered. "Why did I submit to him for so long? But hark! there is
surely something of unusual importance going on overhead."

By this time a boat had put off from _La Grande Hermine_, and Cartier
was seen to enter it. Roberval stood on the poop, watching his approach
in silence. Just at this moment some one touched his arm. It was
Gaillon.

"Pardon, Sieur," he murmured in the nobleman's ear, "but some one has
obtained access to the prisoner in the hold. I fear lest he may be
planning an escape."

Roberval swore a fearful oath.

"Here, Bruneau, Gachet!" he exclaimed to two of the roughest and most
villainous-looking of the crew, "down into the hold with you, and fetch
me hither the prisoner and whoever it is who is with him. They will look
well from yonder yard-arm."

He followed the men down the gangway, and stood waiting between decks
while they descended into Claude's prison. Before the lovers could
separate, one of the ruffians had rudely seized Marguerite by the
shoulder. Claude raised his manacled arms and dealt him a blow which
sent him staggering, but was himself instantly overpowered and pinioned
by the other man, Gachet. Bruneau, recovering himself, and stinging from
the blow he had received, turned upon Marguerite, and grasping her arm
roughly, shouted: "Up with you to the deck, you hussy!"

Roberval heard the words, and it dawned upon him for the first time that
it was his niece who was below. He sprang forward in time to see her,
white as death, shake the man off, and ascend the ladder alone. Beside
himself with rage as he was, he could not forget that she was a woman,
and a De Roberval. Giving orders that Claude should be kept in his
prison, with frigid politeness he took her hand and conducted her to her
cabin, where Marie and the old nurse, half frantic with fear at the
sounds which reached them, were still watching beside the open space in
the floor.

"So, Madame," said Roberval between his set teeth, and with a steely
glitter in his eyes, "so this is the ingenious means by which you
contrived to visit your paramour. We shall find a way to make both of
you dearly repent your stolen interviews."

He was gone before either of the women could utter a word, and they
heard his stern and imperious voice addressing the man who had so rudely
assaulted his niece.

"You, Pierre Bruneau, villain and cut-throat dog, shall learn what it is
to insult a De Roberval. To the yard-arm with him!" exclaimed he to the
men who had gathered about the gangway. "Cartier shall see what sort of
discipline we keep."

No one dared to disobey. Bruneau was hurried on deck, the noose was cast
about his neck, and as Cartier drew near the vessel his astonished eyes
were greeted by the sight of the struggling form of the burly villain as
he swung aloft.

As Cartier came on board his first words were:

"The Sieur De Roberval gives me a ghastly welcome."

"Such a welcome," returned De Roberval, "as awaits all who disobey my
orders or insult my name. Why have you left Charlesbourg Royal?"

"Before I answer that question, Monsieur, I must know whether your last
remark has reference to my having left my post without your orders?"

"What you will," said De Roberval, haughtily.

"Then, Sieur, I reserve the right to refuse an answer. I am my own
master on the high seas; and Jacques Cartier will brook insult from no
man."

His hand sought his sword as he spoke, and De Roberval's weapon flashed
from its sheath.

A quarrel was imminent; but Roberval's rage seemed to subside as
suddenly as it had arisen.

"Put up your sword," he said sternly. "We are the leaders, and the
death of one or both of us would mean ruin to the enterprise."

"So far as I am concerned, Sieur, it is ended already. I serve under no
man, least of all under one who uses such terms as you have just applied
to me. I am not hasty to quarrel, but, being in, I will come out
honourably, or die."

"Admirably said," replied De Roberval, "and Canada needs just such a man
as yourself. I was hasty in my speech; but I had no thought that you had
disobeyed orders. I merely supposed you to have left Canada because my
long delay had forced you to conclude that I had given up the
enterprise. You were too quick to misinterpret me. But why have you left
Charlesbourg?" enquired he, as Cartier somewhat reluctantly sheathed his
sword.

"Because, Sieur, we could do no more there. The natives were unfriendly,
and our ammunition was well-nigh exhausted. Our men were openly
mutinous; and I could do naught with the cut-throats from the prisons,
half of whom deserted, and have been adopted by wandering bands of
Indians."

Whatever De Roberval may have felt on hearing this news, he gave no
sign.

"Be not disheartened," he said. "I have arms in plenty, and ammunition
enough to conquer all the savages on the continent. Return to your
vessels, and get ready to sail back with us on the morrow. All will yet
be well."

But Cartier had formed a quick resolve. He would not go back. He saw the
wretched crew of criminals who lined the deck about him, and he knew
that Roberval's enterprise must end in failure. He determined to gain
time.

"Be it so, Sieur," he replied. "To-morrow we will be ready for the
return voyage. But where is our old friend, De Pontbriand? Have you not
brought him with you?"

"He is on board," replied De Roberval, in an unmoved voice, "but he has
been ill, and in a high fever. Perfect quiet is ordered for him. I
should be disobeying the physician's orders did I allow you to see him."

Something in the metallic ring of his voice gave Cartier a cold shiver
of dread, a menace of impending evil. It would have been useless to
enquire further, however, and he returned to his ship to consult with La
Pommeraye, his second in command, and with his other officers.



CHAPTER VIII


La Pommeraye had been left in charge of _La Grande Hermine_ while
Cartier paid his visit to Roberval's ship. He anxiously awaited the news
which Cartier brought, and his first enquiries naturally were for his
friend, De Pontbriand.

"Ill, and in danger?" he exclaimed, when Cartier had repeated to him De
Roberval's words. "I must go to him at once."

"Have I not just told you," said Cartier, "that no one can see him? De
Roberval refused me that privilege, and think you that he will grant you
permission? It is at the command of the leech, and doubtless there is
need for his care. But we are ordered to return to Canada," added he,
sharply.

"Never!" exclaimed Charles with energy. "The last year has taught us a
lesson. No success can attend the efforts of France to plant a colony on
the rugged shores of the Hochelaga."

"I fear me," said Cartier, "that there will be trouble if we refuse to
go back. De Roberval would not hesitate to attempt force; and our men
are so disheartened and weary after the hardships they have endured,
that they will resist to the death any effort to compel them to return."

"Would it not be possible to return for a short time, and leave
Charlesbourg before winter sets in? Another winter I will not spend in
Canada--especially not with the scoundrels we have brought with us. And,
if I mistake not, we shall have henceforth to contend with the Indians,
who will now be aided by our wretched deserters."

"Were we once more on shore," returned Cartier, "it would be very hard
to get away again. Roberval is a determined man, and he has full two
hundred armed men on his ships. We should be outnumbered, and easily
overpowered. If the colonists he has brought were of a better class than
our own, there might be some hope of ultimate success; but the wretched
crew who line his decks are of the lowest type. See, one of them swings
from yonder yard even now! I fear the gallows we erected as a warning to
our fellows will bear goodly and abundant fruit as soon as he becomes
established in Canada. No, Charles, we must give him the slip under
cover of darkness, and make away for France. I would not desert him if
there were any chance of success; but with his following of lawless
outcasts, even if he should succeed in forming a colony, it would be but
a plague spot on the earth."

"But," interrupted La Pommeraye, "have you forgotten that De Pontbriand
is lying ill on board that vessel? I cannot be so base as to desert my
friend."

"I have thought of that also. But what good can you do by remaining?
There is a physician on board, and priests, I believe. If he were to die
you could do nothing by your presence; but he is young and strong, and
will doubtless recover. I have a plan in my mind, besides, to save our
friends and the honour of France. King Francis trusts me. He ventured
on this enterprise to fill the depleted treasury of France, and to
spread the blessed kingdom of Christ. I will convince him that the
efforts to establish a colony on the Hochelaga will only be a drain on
his resources, and that he might as well try to keep a Malouin from
going to sea as attempt to lead the red man into the kingdom of Heaven.
Père Grand and Père Boisseau will bear me out in what I say; and I will
then ask for a ship to go to the New World and compel Roberval and his
colonists to return, if they have not in the meantime ended the
existence of the colony by cutting each others' throats. There will be
no other way of getting Claude back again; and, once in France, we can
put all our energies into more profitable voyages to the Indies; or you
may find an outlet for your ardour in using your sword against England
and Spain. Francis will not long be able to keep out of war."

"But to desert one's friend, and that friend ill and helpless! I cannot
do it," said La Pommeraye.

"It is no desertion. You can do no good by going on board _L'Heureux_,
and you may do much harm. In the present mood of De Roberval I fear the
only way to prevent unnecessary bloodshed is to depart before he knows
of our intention. Once safely in France, it will not be long before we
are back in Canada to put an end to this foolish scheme of colonisation.
To get permission to return, and a vessel to return in, I shall need
your assistance."

"You are right, I suppose; but it goes hard with me to turn my back on
Claude. And how shall I ever break the news of his illness to Mdlle. de
Vignan?"

"Mdlle. de Vignan? I thought it was the black-eyed niece of that mad
tyrant yonder."

"So did I, at first; but had you seen as much as I have, you would think
otherwise. But that reminds me--I thought I saw women on board De
Roberval's vessel when we hove to."

"Your eyes deceived you not. There was a sprinkling of them on the
deck--miserable creatures, fitting mates for the hang-dogs who are to be
the backbone of New France. There are some of them on all the vessels;
they, too, have been recruited from the prisons. What a breed of sinners
will spring up at Charlesbourg Royal if we allow this colony to take
root!"

"Remember, then, I go on the understanding that we return as soon as we
can get the King to recall the expedition. I shall not know a happy
moment till I grasp Claude's hand once more."

If the truth must be owned, the prospect of seeing Marguerite so soon,
and without the vigilant supervision of her uncle, considerably
influenced La Pommeraye in consenting to the departure. Still he was
loyal to his friend; and could any means have been devised of rescuing
Claude from the fate that awaited him in the new colony, he would not
have gone without making the attempt. But if their plan was to succeed,
it must be put into effect immediately. A day's delay might be fatal.

Cartier sent for the captains of the other ships to come on board _La
Grande Hermine_. On their arrival he pointed to the body which still
swung from the yards of De Roberval's vessel, and told them what they
might expect if they were to return.

They had had enough of Canada, and eagerly concurred in Cartier's plan
of flight. They returned to their vessels, to make preparations to start
at once on a signal from their leader.

Night dropped down upon the harbour; and in the calm June evening the
sailors, jubilant at reaching a haven after the dangers of the broad
Atlantic, began to sing some of the chansons of their Old World home.
The fishermen in the boats caught up the song, and a glad chorus swelled
out upon the still waters; but on Cartier's vessels there was silence.
The crews had learned that Roberval had commanded their return, and they
also knew that Cartier had no intention of obeying. Indeed, had he
attempted to do so, so disgusted had they become with the dreary and
toilsome life at Charlesbourg Royal, that they would undoubtedly have
mutinied. Their determined faces peered through the gathering darkness.
None went to rest that night. They knew that if a breeze sprang up
Cartier meant to take advantage of it, and steal out of the harbour.

One singer after another grew weary, and towards midnight only a few
intermittent notes broke the stillness. Soon all was silent as the
grave, save for the occasional cry of some animal prowling in search of
food upon the shore.

About one in the morning a gentle breeze swept across the water from the
land. A silent signal passed between Cartier's vessels, and instantly
dark forms moved hither and thither about their decks. No sound was
heard, but preparations were being made to sail immediately. It was
impossible to raise the anchors without alarming De Roberval; so the
cables were quietly slipped, the sails were as quietly hoisted, and the
three vessels swung round simultaneously, swept within a hundred yards
of De Roberval's ship, and bore away for the harbour mouth. The lookout
saw them, but, half asleep and deeming them part of the fishing fleet,
said not a word.

In the meantime Marguerite, worn out with all she had undergone during
the day, had fallen into an uneasy sleep, broken by troubled dreams.
After the scene with her uncle, which had ended in the hanging of the
ill-fated Bruneau, she had sent for her confessor, the good Père Lebeau,
the only priest on board _L'Heureux_. This good man, by using his
influence with De Roberval, had gained admission to Claude's prison, and
had repeatedly visited him, administering comfort and consolation, and
encouraging him to wait with hope and patience for the end of the
voyage. It so happened that he had left the ship in one of the boats
which had put off to procure fresh water; and so was not present during
the stormy scene in the hold, or the interview between Cartier and
Roberval which followed. On his return, however, he received from the
lips of Marguerite a full account of all that had taken place. He
remained with her some time, consoling and reassuring her, and left her
somewhat comforted by his promises to see De Roberval, and endeavour
once more to convince him of the mistaken course he was pursuing.

After dark, Marguerite, with Mdlle. De Vignan and old Bastienne, stole
on deck for a breath of fresh air, and to gaze with wistful eyes on
Cartier's ships. The body of Bruneau still swung from the yards, a
ghastly vision in the dim twilight. They shuddered as they saw it.

"But courage, Marguerite," whispered Marie. "Cartier is close at hand,
and he and La Pommeraye will surely be able to influence your uncle. I
feel certain that to-morrow will bring us better things."

"I hope so," said Marguerite sadly. "It is indeed time. If Charles de la
Pommeraye learns the fate of his friend, he will not rest until he has
freed Claude, I am certain. But my uncle will brook no opposition; and I
fear there will be more blood shed before anything can be accomplished."

She sighed as she spoke; and after a little the three women returned to
their narrow, cramped quarters below, where Marie, clasping her friend
in her arms, tried to comfort her with hopes of what the morrow held in
store. Just as they fell asleep, cheered a little in their loneliness by
this gleam of hope, _La Grande Hermine_ stole silently past in the
darkness outside, and bore away for France.


When De Roberval came on deck the next morning he swept his eye about
the harbour, but looked in vain for Cartier's ships.

"Send the lookouts of last night to me at once," shouted he to his
sailing-master, Jehan Alfonse. "What watch did you take?" sternly
enquired he of a young Malouin who stood trembling before him.

"From eight to twelve, Sieur."

"And saw you the vessels leaving the harbour?"

"No, Sieur; no vessel passed us while I was at my post."

"And I, Sieur," said a tanned old sailor who had explored every part of
the then known world, "went on at four this morning, but not a mouse
stirred after that time; and indeed they could not have escaped without
my knowledge, for it has been broad day since that hour."

"I fear, Sieur," timidly said a young Picard from Roberval's estate, who
had stood silent in the background, "that I am to blame for not alarming
the ship, if blame there be on any one. I had scarce gone on my watch
when the three vessels swept by us. So noiselessly did they go that I
deemed them some sleepy fishermen on their way to the banks."

"_Sacré Dieu!_" shouted Roberval; "you have ruined us all! Did I give
you the fate you deserve, I would hang you as high as I did Bruneau
yesterday! Take him below," exclaimed he to the men who stood by, "and
keep him in irons for the rest of the voyage."

"Be not too hard upon the young man, Sieur," interposed Jehan Alfonse,
stepping forward; "he is a faithful sailor, and a true; and we have too
few reliable men on board to turn those against us on whom we can
depend."

"Silence!" roared De Roberval, now in a towering passion. "Have I asked
for your advice? I know on what I can depend--my own will and yonder
rope. Have a care lest you find your own head in it."

"Sieur," rejoined the sailing-master, with firmness, "you may insult
me--you may hang me if you will--but I must speak. I warn you that if
you pursue your present course the expedition will be ruined before we
reach Charlesbourg Royal, if it is not already ruined. Your hasty words
to Jacques Cartier yesterday have lost us the best seaman in the world,
for he has doubtless set sail for France."

"You will find, at least," exclaimed De Roberval, who was by this time
in a white heat, "that I am commander in my own ship. Leave the vessel
at once. Board the _François_, and take with you this villain whose
carelessness has ruined our fortunes. And stay. I will be generous. You
are possessed by a mad idea that by going north you will find a way to
China and the Indies. Go, then, and when you have finished your fool's
errand return to Charlesbourg Royal, and prepare to obey my commands."

Jehan Alfonse's heart leaped with delight. He cared not for insults now;
he was free, in command of a ship, and could follow out the cherished
scheme of his life! He would find what Columbus had failed to
discover--the long-sought north-west passage. This great polar current
which swept down from the north must come from somewhere. He would
follow the coast of Labrador. This mighty continent could not go on for
ever; there must be a way round it, and his name would be handed down as
its discoverer. He was not long in leaving _L'Heureux_, and before the
day closed was out of sight on his northward journey.

De Roberval had a sinister motive in sending him away. He had spent a
sleepless night. The evening before Père Lebeau had had a long interview
with him, and had pleaded the cause of Marguerite and her lover,
assuring De Roberval of their innocence, and begging him to persist no
longer in his cruel imprisonment of Claude. But De Roberval's insensate
rage was only increased. He refused to listen to arguments, and ordered
the priest from his presence. The good father, seeing that his efforts
were only making the situation worse, was obliged to desist from his
entreaties, and left the cabin with a heavy heart. During the whole
night De Roberval lay awake, brooding over some means of avenging his
insulted authority; and by morning he had decided that De Pontbriand
should be made an example to the crew. The form of Bruneau kept swinging
back and forth before his disordered mental vision, and as he gazed upon
it he resolved that De Pontbriand's should take its place. At first, as
the diabolical thought took shape, he recoiled from it. Hang a gentleman
of France! But a madness seized him, and crushing down his better
impulses he decided to put his resolve into execution, and teach all on
board that the same fate awaited every man--be he noble or peasant--who
disobeyed his will.

But he feared Jehan Alfonse. He knew the staunch and courageous
sailing-master would oppose his action; and he determined to get rid of
him. He smiled a grim smile as he saw his vessel fleetly winging her way
out to the Atlantic. He dreaded Cartier, too; and had made up his mind
to delay the execution until he had sent him on his way towards
Charlesbourg Royal. Now, however, he could proceed with his scheme; both
the obstacles had been removed, and nothing need prevent his carrying
out his plan at once. But he feared lest Paul d'Auxhillon, and the one
or two friends of Claude who had accompanied him, might oppose his
design; and, accordingly, he consulted with Gaillon before putting it
into execution.

That villain was delighted with the turn things were taking.

"You are acting wisely, noble Sieur," he said. "I have long felt that De
Pontbriand there in the hold was the gravest menace to the success of
our colony. Already I have discovered several plots for his release, and
I have long known that only his death could bring us safety. But do not
proceed with his execution till the morrow. To-night I will sound the
faithful, and have them ready to strike down any one offering the least
resistance. Would it not be well to have all on board witness this
meting-out of justice?"

"All," exclaimed De Roberval. "Every soul, including his paramour. Leave
me now, and have everything in readiness by the morning."

When the first grey of dawn was beginning to chase away the mists of the
night the bell on _L'Heureux_ began to toll out across the water. Its
warning notes sent a thrill of expectancy through the ship. The majority
of those on board knew the meaning of that solemn knell; and the rest,
when, after the accustomed eight strokes which marked the end of the
watch, the bell continued its measured clanging, were filled with a
vague alarm of they knew not what. The fishermen in the harbour were
roused by the sound, and the crews of the boats lined their rigging,
prepared, after the ghastly spectacle which had greeted them on the
arrival of _L'Heureux_, to behold some new example of De Roberval's
discipline.

Soon every soul on board the vessel stood on the deck, with the
exception of the three women, and De Roberval, noting their absence,
went below himself, and roughly ordered them to dress and come above at
once.

When all were assembled, De Roberval addressed them. His face was pale
and set, and his eye glittered with a cold and cruel resolve.

"You have come," said he, "to see a crime receive its just punishment,
and though shame has come upon my own kindred, my hand shall not relax.
Bring the prisoner on deck."

As Gaillon and two of the crew departed to fetch Claude, Père Lebeau,
who had witnessed with horror the development of events, hastened to
Roberval's side, and with his hand on his arm besought him to consider.

"Your niece is guiltless, Monsieur," he cried. "Will you bring dishonour
on your name, and murder an innocent man without a trial?"

De Roberval shook him angrily off, and bade him interfere no further, or
he should share Claude's fate.

"I care not for myself," said the intrepid priest. "I cannot stand by
and witness a murder in cold blood. Is there no brave man in all this
throng who will help me to resist this tyrant?"

Paul d'Auxhillon, and the one or two other gentlemen on board, who now
for the first time realised what was about to happen, sprang forward
with drawn swords, and were joined by a couple of Roberval's Picard
retainers. For a moment it looked as if Claude's fate might be averted.

But Gaillon had done his work well. At a signal from De Roberval, the
men who were drawn up on both sides of the deck rushed forward; the
half-dozen volunteers were quickly overpowered, and after a short
struggle were pinioned and rendered helpless.

Just at this moment Gaillon appeared with the prisoner. The sight of his
pale face and unkempt hair, his worn, almost emaciated limbs, and
bruised and swollen wrists, awakened a murmur of sympathy even among the
lawless wretches who composed the crew.

Marguerite, who had stood like one in a dream while these events were
taking place, realised for the first time, at the sight of her lover,
what Roberval's intentions were. Her proud spirit, which had so nobly
sustained her throughout the voyage, gave way at last, and she threw
herself at her uncle's feet, beseeching him to have mercy.

Roberval vouchsafed her no answer, but, raising her with an iron grip,
he bore her half-swooning to where Marie and Bastienne were cowering
together at the side of the vessel.

"Do your duty," said he to Gaillon; "and if any man raises a word of
protest he shall swing from the other end of the yard."

Gaillon needed no second bidding. The noose was swiftly thrown over
Claude's neck; the rope was drawn tight, and the priest, on whom no man
had ventured to lay a hand, stood holding the crucifix before his eyes,
and murmuring the last offices of the Church. Just as the young man was
about to be swung aloft, he turned with unflinching calmness to De
Roberval, and with firm, unwavering tones said:

"The son of Louise d'Artignan curses you with his dying breath! May you
perish miserably by your own murderous hand!"

De Roberval's whole expression changed on the instant from cold
impassiveness to wild fury. He made one step forward as if he himself
would have ended Claude's life with a blow, then paused--and held up his
hand.

"Stay, Gaillon," he thundered. "Take the dog down! Send him back to his
kennel! Your mother's cursed eyes have saved you!" he hissed at Claude.
"I shall find another way to make you suffer."

He turned on his heel, and those nearest him heard him mutter "Louise
d'Artignan!" under his breath. As the words left his lips he fell
headlong on the deck, foaming at the mouth.

Gaillon sent his prisoner below, drew a phial from his pocket, and
forced a few drops between the nobleman's tightly clenched teeth. Then
he carried him to his berth, and remained by his side, watching and
tending him alone; while on deck every man drew his breath more freely,
and whispered words of astonishment passed from lip to lip.



CHAPTER IX


All that day and the following night _L'Heureux_ and her consorts lay at
anchor. Towards afternoon Roberval recovered sufficiently to issue
commands, which Gaillon transmitted to the crew. So subdued were the men
by the strange scenes they had witnessed, and so much in awe did they
stand of Roberval and the terrible Gaillon, that there was none of the
disorder which might naturally have been expected. Jehan Alfonse's place
had been filled by an experienced and resolute seaman named Jacques
Herbert, in whom Roberval had perfect confidence. Under his direction
the men returned to their occupations; the prisoners of the morning were
released; and soon no trace was visible of the extraordinary events
which had taken place. Claude remained in the hold, and Marguerite was
too ill to leave her cabin.

The next morning, when Roberval came on deck, a strong southerly wind
was sweeping across the harbour. Herbert was at once ordered to get the
vessel ready for sea. Crew and sailing-master were alike eager to leave
the place which had been the scene of so many horrors, and willing hands
soon had the sails unfurled, the anchor on the cat-head and the helm
hard down, as the vessel swung round and sped away for the broad
Atlantic.

"To the north," said De Roberval, as Herbert came to him to learn which
direction he should take. "It is the shorter course, if the more
dangerous. We will follow in the tracks of Jehan Alfonse. And I may want
to touch at the barren lands of Labrador. Gold is ever found in regions
of barrenness, and gold is needed for our colony."

Herbert was a rugged sailor, who thought more of a bit of salt beef and
a bottle of brandy than of ingots of gold. Gold, to him, was only good
for the spending; and what use it would be in the New World, where there
was nothing to buy that could not be had for a few glass beads and a
leaden trinket or two, was more than his intellect could conceive. He
shrugged his shoulders at the nobleman's whim, as he deemed it, but
answered a cheerful "Ay, ay, Monsieur." And as the vessels stood out
past the headland, and on towards the white stretch of rolling waters,
his trumpet voice rang out: "Starboard your helm! 'Tend to the sheets!"

In a moment the gallant craft was sweeping on her northward way, with
her sails swelling before the following breeze, riding over the summits
of the chasing waves. All night she sailed, and all through the
following day, and still the rugged shores of Newfoundland stood on
their left. On the third day a small, misty cloud appeared on the
horizon ahead. At first, the seamen thought it was another ship, but
one, more keen-sighted than the others, declared it was an island.

"An island?" said a hardy fisherman who had made many voyages to the New
World for fish since Columbus discovered it, "then it must be the 'Isle
of Demons.' I have been on the lookout for it. The air has for some
hours been hot and stifling."

"Nonsense, Laurent! It is your imagination."

"Steer away from it," insisted the sailor. "Let us hug the main shore. I
know the spot; no vessel ever sails near it. Several did in early times,
but the demons pounced upon them, shattered their crafts on the rocks,
and carried off the crews to their haunts."

Others had heard of it too, and a thrill of superstitious awe spread
among the crew. As the distant land drew nearer, lips ever polluted with
profanity, hearts black with crime, called on the saints to save and
protect them; and even the sceptical Herbert, as he gazed on the dark
rock crowned with curling mists, fancied with the rest that he could see
weird, awful shapes hovering about the shore. The horror of the place
seized him. He rushed to the helm, pressed it hard down, and endeavoured
to give the dreaded island as wide a berth as possible.

At this moment Roberval appeared on the scene to enquire into the cause
of the disturbance.

"What means this?" exclaimed he to Herbert.

"The Isle of Demons," muttered the now thoroughly alarmed sailor. "Can
you not hear their fierce voices clamouring after us?"

"The Isle of Demons! What care I for all the demons in hell? Back to
your course at once; we have lost too much time already."

"But, Monsieur," said the old fisherman who had first spoken, "they have
been known to utterly destroy vessels and men e'er this. Guillaume de
Noué dared to defy them, and attempted to sail close to the island, but
e'er his ship could reach an anchorage, she sank without a warning,
bearing the entire crew down with her, excepting Guillaume, who was
borne aloft by the demons, and carried to their inland abodes."

"And who," replied De Roberval, sarcastically, "can vouch for the tale,
seeing all the crew perished, and the brave captain was transported to
the lower world? You will have to invent some better story, good
Laurent."

"Pardon, Monsieur, but I can answer for its truth. I was with Guillaume,
sailing the _Belle Marie_. We were following hard after him when his
vessel went down like lead, and I saw with mine own eyes good Master
Guillaume borne aloft by the devils. There was no mistaking him; his red
hose and scarlet hat were the only ones on board his ship. I would have
attempted to rescue him, but my crew, who also witnessed the sight, fell
upon me, seized the helm, and rested nor day nor night till we were
safely in the harbour of St Malo, and not a man of them could ever again
be persuaded to enter a craft bound for the New World."

"Pish!" said Roberval, scornfully. "Port your helm, Herbert, and steer
for that island. I am master on this expedition, and if there be any
demons on the land they must pay homage to me. But methinks we shall
find neither the red hose of your friend, nor the abode of any demons,
but a few redskins who have been blown ashore here from Newfoundland,
and dare not return."

"But, Sieur----" began the trembling Herbert.

"But not me," said De Roberval. "Port your helm, or I run you through!"
and he threateningly drew his rapier. In an instant the course of the
vessel was changed, and, to the consternation of the sailors, bore down
upon the haunted island. The black waters grew blacker as they drew
near, and each moment they expected to find their ship sinking beneath
them. The lead was thrown, but no anchorage could be found; and it was
not till they were within a couple of hundred yards of the shore that
the welcome sound of the rattling chain and dropping anchor was heard.

The land was indeed uninviting. Barren, sterile, brown as an autumn
field; grey cliffs rose on all sides, the tops of which could not be
discerned, for a heavy fog hung upon them and revealed only the dark
base. Gulls and terns flew screaming overhead, and swooped about the
strange vessel which had dared invade the sacred precincts of their
island. The great waves, rolling in on the iron-bound shore, kept up a
continuous artillery, as the mighty boulders ground along the stony
beach. Dull, hollow groans issued from the many caves which time had
worn in the cliffs; and the hissing of the waters, the booming of the
rocks, the perpetual bellow of the waves on the shore, and the wild
shrieks of the birds, all made it seem to the terrified seamen that they
had indeed reached the abode of the Prince of Evil.

But two men were in no way affected by the scene or the uproar--Michel
Gaillon and De Roberval. The latter had formed a sudden determination.
His niece and her companions must be punished. Kill them with his own
hand he could not, and to put them out of the way, without making a
public example of them, would be revenge without purpose; for the man,
despite his mad barbarity, was convinced that he was working for great
and noble ends. Now a glorious opportunity was given him to teach a
salutary lesson. He would land the women on this desolate spot, giving
them provisions for a year, and before that time he could return for
them and bring them to his colony. This would surely establish his
authority, and be a warning to all wrong-doers for the future.

He turned to Gaillon, who stood near him, smiling at the terrors of the
crew.

"Get the boat ready, and order the women to prepare to land. I am going
to give them a holiday on the island."

This was a project after Gaillon's own heart. He rubbed his hands with
fiendish delight, and set about giving the necessary orders. A boat was
soon lowered, and filled with provisions, clothing, and ammunition in
plenty. Gaillon and two or three of the desperadoes whom he had
completely under his control, pulled ashore and landed their cargo.
Roberval himself superintended the selection from the ship's stores, and
thrice did he order the boat to return, each time with as large a load
as it could carry.

All this time the rest of the crew stood gaping with astonishment,
unable to imagine what Roberval's intentions might be, but ready, at the
slightest addition to their superstitious fears, to fly into open
mutiny.

At last the boat returned from her third trip. Roberval, in the
meantime, had ordered the women to get ready to go on shore, and they
now came on deck, bewildered with surprise, and uncertain what fate
might be in store for them. Roberval commanded them to enter the boat,
which was now alongside. A murmur of dismay and sympathy went round the
vessel, as the full horror of his project dawned upon the crew; but no
man dared to interfere, save Père Lebeau. Undaunted by his rebuff of a
few days before, the priest stepped up to De Roberval, and fixing his
eyes full upon him, he exclaimed:

"Sieur, beware what you do! What are your intentions towards these
helpless women who have no other protector but yourself? You cannot be
so lost to all sense of honour and chivalry as to abandon them to perish
on this desolate shore! How can you expect the blessing of God upon this
enterprise if you wilfully do this great wrong? Take care lest the
Church should refuse to pardon you, and should cast from her fold the
man who could be guilty of so monstrous a crime."

For a moment Roberval's gaze shifted under the scathing indignation of
the priest, then, drawing him hastily aside, he muttered in an
undertone:

"Spare your wrath, good Father; I but mean to teach them a lesson. I
will return for them in good time--I swear it. It is but a necessary
discipline that I would give them, so that they may learn to obey me for
the future."

"They will die of terror!" said the priest. "You have heard the legends
of the demons who haunt the island; and how do you know to what perils
you are subjecting them from the savages, if not indeed from evil
spirits?"

"There are no signs of habitation in the island," said De Roberval,
impatiently. "My men have explored it thoroughly. No Indians have ever
been there, and a good fright will do them no harm. Demons," he went on,
raising his voice so that all could hear, "what care I for demons? Our
blessed Lord cast seven of them forth out of Mary Magdalene, and
methinks that this strumpet and her companions have each seventy times
seven still in their disobedient bodies. But ashore they shall go. Plead
not for them; your prayers will be in vain."

The priest would have spoken further, but Marguerite, who now understood
her uncle's design, came forward with the courage and dignity which
seldom failed her, and, with head erect and unwavering voice, said
calmly:

"Distress yourself no longer on our account, good Father. I welcome with
joy any fate which will deliver me from the tender mercies of a tyrant.
This, then," and she turned her clear gaze upon her uncle, "is the
father's care you show an orphan child? This is the protection you
extend to that other fatherless and motherless girl so lately left in
your charge? Can it be that a De Roberval has sunk to so ignoble a
breach of honour and faith? I pray God," she went on more softly, "that
He may drive out the evil spirit which has possessed you, and restore
your noble and generous nature. You are no longer the uncle I once
loved."

She ceased speaking, and quietly allowed herself to be lowered into the
boat. Marie, weeping bitterly, followed her, and finally old Bastienne,
filling the air with sobs and lamentations, was deposited beside her
mistress. The men took up their oars, and waited the signal for
departure.

Roberval was gloomily pacing the deck. His niece's words had gone home,
and he was on the point of relenting. But he had already allowed his
weakness to turn him once from his purpose, and to fail again, in sight
of his assembled crew, was too great a humiliation to be thought of. He
hardened his heart, and said sternly to Gaillon:

"See them safely landed; take care that they want for nothing, and
return quickly. We must be out of this before darkness falls. The wind
is rising, and I should not care to be caught on this shore should a
storm come up."

The boat made a hurried final trip, and the three women were put off on
the desolate beach. The oarsmen needed not Gaillon's words: "Back now,
with might and main," to hasten them on their return journey. They
pulled for dear life; and through the overhanging mist they seemed to
see the shapes of the demons dancing weirdly down to seize their prey.
Once back in the vessel the anchor was hurriedly raised, and all hands
eagerly assisted in the work of getting under way once more.

But while this was taking place Roberval's heart had devised a yet more
cruel vengeance.

"Bring the prisoner on deck," he exclaimed, "and let him see the results
of his disobedience."

When Claude stood beside him on the high poop, he ordered him to look at
the island, where the three women stood together on the beach. The long
confinement in the semi-darkness of the hold had affected Claude's
eyesight, and for a moment, as he gazed across the lines of the gleaming
waves, he could see nothing. But just as the returning boat reached the
ship's side, and the men hastily came on board, he caught sight of the
group upon the shore.

"O just God!" he cried, "can this be permitted?"

"Thus," replied De Roberval, "a just God has made me the instrument to
chastise vice. Behold, young man, the work of your hands!"

"Were my hands free," said De Pontbriand, fiercely, "I would become an
instrument of God to rid the world of the basest liar and tyrant who
ever served his master, the Devil."

"I will be generous," said De Roberval. "Free the dog's hands, and let
him wave a last adieu to his paramour."

The rusty lock turned, the manacles fell upon the deck, and Claude stood
free. But free on an ocean prison, with enemies on all sides! He gave
one glance round, met the cruel eyes of Gaillon close behind him, and
like a flash plunged headlong into the ocean.

"Shoot the villain down!" shouted De Roberval.

One of the men seized an arquebuse, and levelled it at the struggling
form in the water. He pulled the trigger, but no sooner did the powder
splutter in the pan than the gun burst in his hands, and a piece of the
metal, entering his brain, laid him dead on the deck.

"The demons, the demons!" exclaimed the panic-stricken crew. "The
demons claim the swimmer for their own!"

"Let him go!" said De Roberval. "He is too weak to reach the shore. He
has saved me the trouble of ending his life, as I should sooner or later
have had to do. Now for Charlesbourg Royal. No man will venture to
resist my will in future."

The anchor was already raised, and in a few moments _L'Heureux_ began to
forge ahead, and to widen the space between her and the accursed island.

As Claude had stood on the poop he was plainly visible to the watchers
on the shore. They saw him leap into the sea, and heard the report of
the arquebuse. Their hearts stood still with fear: but they strained
their eyes eagerly across the dazzling surface of the water. Could he
have escaped? Yes, there on the summit of a wave, in the wake of the
rapidly retreating vessel, they saw him struggling. He was swimming. He
was making for the shore. God help him! Holy Mother help him! Blessed
Jesu, guide him and give him strength!

Old Bastienne's sobs had given place to fervent ejaculations of prayer;
and as she prayed she held before her the cross which King Francis had
bestowed upon De Roberval--the precious relic said to have been
fashioned from a fragment of the true cross of our Lord.

Bastienne was a pious soul, and, moreover, a quick-witted one. She had
heard the legends of the island, which had passed among the sailors, and
when she grasped the fact that they were to be put ashore, she made
some excuse to return below, crept into De Roberval's cabin, and stole
the precious relic from its case, concealing it carefully in her bodice.
No evil spirit could come near the place where this blessed piece of
wood might be; with this in their possession they were safe from all the
powers of darkness. She now held the cross aloft, believing that it
would give the swimmer power to reach the shore.

Weakened by his long imprisonment, his arms almost useless through lack
of employment, his strength sapped for want of proper nourishment, De
Pontbriand was manfully struggling with the salt, green waves. His head
was sinking lower and lower, a deadly numbness was seizing his limbs,
and his heart was almost failing him when his half-closed eyes caught
the gleam of the golden cross, as the setting sun fell upon it, held
high in the air by Bastienne. He made no further effort to swim. A good
hundred yards intervened between him and the shore. He must husband his
strength. The waves, he knew, would carry him ashore; and with just
enough motion in his limbs to keep him afloat, he allowed himself to be
borne along. But the northern water was chilling him to the marrow; and
although he could plainly see the women on the beach, and could hear
their prayers and cries of encouragement, he felt himself sinking, and
De Roberval's prophecy seemed about to be realised. When within forty
feet of the shore his chilled limbs relaxed, his eyes closed, and he
disappeared beneath the surface of the water.

But Bastienne had all her wits about her. In her young days she had
plunged into the Somme as joyously as the bravest Picard lads, and old
as she was her limbs were still strong and sturdy. Without a moment's
hesitation, when she saw Claude's strength leave him, she plunged into
the water, struck out boldly in his direction, and, just as he sank from
sight, her strong arm grasped him. With all her remaining strength she
dragged him after her to the shore, and Marguerite and Marie rushed into
the water to their waists to help her with her burden.

Far off in the retreating ship the watchers believed that he had been
given a prey to the demons. Passing a headland they came upon a
full-grown seal, which slid from the rocks into the sea, presenting to
them its half-human face. Believing it to be a demon, they crossed
themselves in terror, and as Claude disappeared from their sight they
were convinced that it had gone in search of him, and dragged him down
into the infernal world.

Meanwhile, Marguerite sat on the shore, with Claude's pale face in her
hands, kissing his lips and eyes, and praying the Holy Virgin to restore
him, and not to take her last hope from her.



CHAPTER X


For a time it seemed as if Claude were indeed dead. The women chafed his
cold hands, and did all that Bastienne's skill could suggest; but their
efforts seemed unavailing, and they had almost abandoned hope, when
Marie, searching among the stores, found a case of brandy, and hastened
to moisten his lips with the liquor. Soon, to their great joy, the blood
began to come back to his cheek, and they could feel his heart beat. At
last he opened his eyes like one in a dream, and met those of Marguerite
bending over him. The nightmare he had just passed through came back to
him--the fearful struggle to reach the shore, the sound of the water in
his ears, like the ringing of innumerable bells, the feeling of despair
that had come over him as he felt himself sinking. Full consciousness
returned to him at the sound of Marguerite's voice exclaiming:

"He lives! O Mary be praised, we are saved!"

Saved indeed, but for what? An island prison in an unfrequented ocean,
where years might pass before a ship hove in sight. Night was fast
drawing in, and they were shelterless, in a dreary, unknown waste,
exposed to they knew not what dangers. They were three helpless women,
two of them tenderly nurtured and wholly unused to want or privation;
and De Pontbriand was in no condition to be of any assistance. Their
position seemed indeed desperate, and Claude cursed the bitter fate
which had made him the cause of bringing such misfortune on his beloved.

But old Bastienne came once more to the rescue. Her stolid, peasant
endurance and ready Picard wit stood the whole party in good stead. She
found a flint and steel--for De Roberval had provided for all
necessities--and with the aid of the two girls she collected brushwood
and dry branches enough to make a huge fire, the smoke of which, rising
high into the air, was visible on the horizon from the departing ship.
The sailors fell on their knees in terror at the sight, believing it
another proof that the demons were consuming their victims with
unquenchable flames.

Bastienne soon had Claude's wet clothes dried, and his strength revived
by hot stimulants. Provisions they had in plenty--of the rude fare which
was provided on ship-board in those days--and the old woman prepared a
hasty meal, of which she forced the two girls to partake. But by this
time the darkness had gathered round them, and it was impossible to do
anything further that night.

Fortunately, the time of year was a favourable one. The weather was
warm, even for June; and the storm which Roberval had predicted seemed
to have passed over, for the present at all events. The balmy air and
clear sky of a Canadian summer night made the prospect of spending it in
the open air a much less terrible one than it would otherwise have
been. They kept their fire up all night, as a protection, but they met
with no alarms, and were unmolested, save by the insects which swarmed
in the air around them, attracted by the light. Claude, worn out by
fatigue, slept the deep sleep of exhaustion, and Marguerite spent most
of the night watching by his side, while the other two women attended to
the fire.

The short June night soon gave place to the ghostly, grey twilight
before the dawn; and at last the welcome streaks of colour in the east
proclaimed to the weary watchers that daylight was again at hand. Their
first night in their island home was over.

The morning broke fair and cloudless, and the little colony of four set
about surveying their situation, and exploring their new domain. They
found it a wilderness indeed--barren, rocky, almost devoid of
vegetation, save for the coarse bracken and juniper bushes which grew in
patches, and for an occasional clump of birches, stunted pines, or firs.
No sign that any human foot save their own had ever visited it could be
discovered: and the only animals they met with were hares in abundance,
and foxes, both red and black, which scampered away in terror at their
approach, and surveyed them from a distance with bright, timid eyes.
Sea-birds in great numbers hovered about the cliffs on the shore, and
what most aroused their astonishment and interest, were the solemn,
ungainly auks, which had their abodes along the beach. These uncouth and
helpless-looking birds, disturbed in their occupation of fishing among
the rocky shallows, waddled off in alarm at the approach of the
intruders, who were irresistibly moved to laughter at their clumsy
movements. No doubt these strange creatures had in part given rise to
many a weird tale of the demon inhabitants of the island.

De Pontbriand, whose strength was wonderfully recruited by the long rest
and Bastienne's skilful treatment, set about preparing some kind of
shelter for the women before another night should descend upon them. His
soldiering experiences, and still more his adventures in the wilds of
Canada, came to his aid, and he was not long in constructing a sort of
rude wigwam, such as he had seen the Indians build wherever they pitched
their camps. Fragrant pine boughs made a luxurious couch, and the
exhausted girls were glad to throw themselves down and sleep, while
Claude kept watch by the fire outside. On the next day, and the two
following ones, he employed himself in thatching the primitive dwelling
with birch bark and whatever materials he could find which would shed
the rain from its sloping sides. For himself, he found a sheltered
hollow among the rocks, where neither wind nor rain could affect him
greatly, and their stores he disposed among the many similar rocky
caverns with which the island abounded.

His preparations were finished none too soon. The clouds which had been
hovering about for several days, finally gathered together one
afternoon, and rolled in heavy, thunderous masses up out of the southern
sky. The air grew dark and sultry, lightning flashed from the depths of
the purple cloud-bank; soon the thunder crashed overhead, and the waves
lashed themselves in fury against the shore. The storm was upon them in
all its might. It was not of long duration, but was followed by a good
deal of rain during the night, and the next morning there was a furious
gale blowing. The waves rose to such a height that the spray from their
crests was dashed over the frail shelter Claude had erected; and he saw
that something more permanent and durable must be contrived. Summer
would pass, and winter might swoop down upon them out of the desolate
north before there was any chance of their being rescued. A dwelling
which would be a protection from cold and snow and the biting blasts of
a Canadian winter, must be erected. But how? And with what materials?
Tools he had in plenty, but how to construct a dwelling out of the
stunted and wind-twisted trees, which were all the timber the island
afforded, was a conundrum he saw no prospect of solving.

As it happened, however, fortune favoured him. The very next day, as he
wandered along a high, rocky part of the shore, he saw in the shallow
water at his feet what seemed to be the hull of a vessel. Making his way
down the cliff, he found to his delight that such was indeed the case.
No doubt these were the remains of that same ill-fated craft which
Laurent, the fisherman, had seen disappear beneath the waves. The
timbers had been of good oak, and the waves, breaking them asunder as
they rolled in from the mighty expanse outside, had washed many of them
high and dry on the shore. There was abundance for a hut, and with
these, and the help of what trees he could avail himself of, he had
hopes of being able to build a more substantial habitation before the
cold weather set in.

In the meantime, his strength came rapidly back to him, and in the long,
bright summer days and glorious nights, life still seemed to hold
possibilities of joy and hope for the little party. They were supplied
with the necessaries of life--though they were careful to husband their
stores as much as possible; and Claude was able to vary their plain fare
by the addition of excellent fish, and an occasional bird--for they were
well supplied with fire-arms and ammunition. The hardy, open-air life
seemed to agree with the two girls; and all four vied with each other in
keeping up a resolute and cheerful courage, avoiding all reference to
the terrors the future might hold in store.

In the cove where the sunken brig lay, Claude had made a rude raft, and
with the assistance of Marie, whose strong young arms and bright,
courageous spirit were invaluable to him, he soon had enough planks and
timber transported to the place where they had landed. To get them
ashore, and carried to the spot he had selected as being the most
sheltered and suitable for his purpose, was no easy matter; but with
time, and the united efforts of the whole party, every obstacle was
gradually overcome. The building, although a small one, was slow in
attaining completion, and for weeks the sound of Claude's hammer and saw
disturbed the primeval quiet of the little northern island. The women
lent their help in every possible way; and watched with admiration the
skilful manner in which Claude provided against every emergency which
might befall the little dwelling; none gave a sign of the secret and
cherished hope of all their hearts, that they might never need to
complete it, or to occupy it when completed.

Thus July and August passed; and towards the end of the latter month the
"castle," as Marie had gaily designated it, was at last finished. They
transferred themselves and their belongings to its shelter, and, as it
happened, only just in time. The weather, as usual about that time of
year, suddenly changed, and a fierce gale swept across the island. For
three days the rain fell in torrents, and the mad waves rolled higher
and higher up the beach, till the spot where their summer shelter had
stood was completely covered. The nights, too, became cold and dreary;
and the dismal shrieking of the wind through the trees, and the hoarse
bellowing of the sea among the crags and caves, had a terrifying effect
that made it hard for even the brave spirits of these high-born
Frenchwomen to preserve their calm and hopeful bearing.

With the shortening days and autumn winds a sadness crept over the
little colony, and would not be shaken off. Its influence was, perhaps,
most felt by Marie, though her bright vivaciousness never failed her
when the others were present. The lovers could not be wholly unhappy
while they had each other. Their future was full of uncertainty, and the
present of difficulties and dangers, but at least they were together,
and separation had been the bitterest of their trials. With Marie it was
necessarily otherwise. She could not but feel herself alone, in a sense
which was unknown to the other two; and it became her habit, in the
mellow September days, to wander by herself along the shore, often
sitting for hours, her hands clasped on her knees, gazing in vain at the
distant, empty horizon. She had one companion--a young fox which Claude
had caught and tamed for her. The little animal had grown devotedly
attached to her, and as it grew older it became her constant attendant
in all her rambles. Marguerite could not fail to notice the long
absences of her friend, and often went in search of her, and brought her
back to join Claude and herself in whatever they might be doing; but
Marie was always gay and cheerful with her, and no suspicion of the
melancholy that was gradually creeping over her was awakened in
Marguerite's heart.

It was upon old Bastienne that the change in the climate began to tell
most plainly. The faithful old woman had borne uncomplainingly the
hardships which her young mistresses could endure without a murmur; but
her old bones had suffered from the exposure to the night dews and damp
sea air; with the chill winds of the Autumn she was attacked with
rheumatism, and lost the activity and energy which had been of such good
service to them all. She suffered much; her moans often kept the two
girls awake at night; and even Claude, who had built himself a tiny
lean-to on the sheltered side of the "castle," could hear her
complainings.

With the first frost of October the leaves took on their short-lived
autumn gorgeousness, only to wither and fall, leaving the little island
destitute of even its scanty appearance of vegetation. Winter, with its
desolating breath, was settling down upon them; and when the first early
snows came floating through the air, they realised that long dreary
months of suffering lay before them.

But one of them, at least, was to be spared the terrible ordeal.

On a calm, mild day, when the soft, blue haze of October filled the air
with its deceptive beauty, Marie had gone to one of her favourite haunts
along the cliffs--a lofty point of rock, which they had laughingly
christened her "look-out." As she sat there, gazing down at the misty,
sleeping sea below, her eye caught the gleam of a cluster of
late-blooming wild flowers, the last of the season, on a point of the
rock beneath her. A fancy seized her to get it for Marguerite. She
reached over, and had it almost in her hand, when a slight movement
behind her caused her to start a little, lose her balance, and fall
headlong over the beetling cliff. She fell upon the stones below, and
lay motionless, while the little fox, whose rustling approach among the
dry leaves had caused her hurried movement, stood on the edge above,
peering down with astonished curiosity at the silent figure of his merry
playmate. The auks and puffins, scared from their rocky perches, plunged
into the ocean, and rose at a little distance to look for the reason of
the disturbance. Seeing no further cause for alarm they gained courage
and gradually returned, and their quaint, ungainly forms stood in
wondering groups about the motionless girl, who lay with one arm
stretched in the cold water of the bay.

In the meantime her friends were awaiting Marie's return for the mid-day
meal. But she came not; and they finally went in search of her, calling
her name along the shore, but receiving no answer save the wild cry of
the gull as it circled above them, and the weird laugh of the great
diver calling to his answering mate. They knew her favourite point of
rock, and on reaching it found the little fox still standing on the
edge, and looking down. As they approached, it bounded suddenly off, and
disappeared among the bushes.

His heart sinking with a vague dread of fresh misfortune, Claude went to
the edge of the cliff, and looked over. He saw at once what had
happened. The stones at the top were loose and freshly disturbed, and
the low shrubs which fringed the rock were crushed and broken. Hastily
drawing Marguerite back, and bidding her return at once to the hut and
warn Bastienne to get restoratives and blankets in readiness, he hurried
round to the base of the cliff. The tide was rapidly rising, and the
distance was considerable. With all his haste he was only just in time.
As he rounded the projecting spur that formed one side of the bay, the
water, which had at first covered only one of Marie's arms, reached her
hair, and in a few minutes more must have risen over her face. De
Pontbriand drew the bruised and senseless form higher up the rocks, and
eagerly felt her heart. There was a faint, slow beating that told him a
feeble life still fluttered there. Raising her in his arms he bore her
with all possible speed to the hut, where every means that their
resources and skill could suggest to restore her to consciousness was
tried, and, as it seemed, in vain. At last, as the short October
afternoon faded out in a purple haze, and the sad, grey evening closed
about them, Marie opened her eyes. She was quite conscious, and seemed
to suffer no pain. But the end was evidently close at hand. She spoke
but little, and lay very quietly, with Marguerite's hand in hers. Just
before it grew too dark for them to see her, she beckoned to Claude to
approach, and as he stood beside her couch, she laid Marguerite's hand
in his, smiled peacefully as she felt the strong grasp close above it,
and, closing her eyes, with head turned a little aside, she passed away
so tranquilly that they could not have told when her last breath was
drawn.

When they realised that she was indeed dead, their grief had no words.
Old Bastienne, at the foot of the couch, recited the prayers for the
dead in a voice choked with sobs, and with the tears streaming down her
wrinkled cheeks; but Marguerite knelt in silence, dry-eyed, beside the
body of her friend, gazing into the quiet, calm face. At last Claude
raised her, and, tenderly wrapping a cloak round her, led her from the
hut, and down to the beach. They stood in silence, trembling in each
other's arms, their hearts too full for speech or tears, while the chill
October wind whistled in from the sea, and the gulls and curlews flew
screaming about their heads.



CHAPTER XI


That same night, about the hour that Marie breathed her last, Charles de
la Pommeraye was riding furiously along the road leading eastward to
Paris, where the King was holding a temporary court. He rode all night,
and just as the first faint streaks of morning revealed in the distance
the grey outline of the towers of Notre Dame, his horse thundered into
the sleeping city.

He had had a weary voyage home; what winds there were had been adverse;
for nearly a month Cartier's vessels had lain becalmed in mid-ocean; and
it was not till the end of August that St Malo, with its towering walls
and rugged battlements, was reached.

The three vessels had been joyously welcomed by the Malouins. The
merchants who had made large advances to the daring adventurers, in the
hope of being recouped from the treasures of the New World, felt a
momentary pang at their losses: but private disappointment was forgotten
in the public rejoicing at the safe return of their daring and
world-famous fellow-townsman, Jacques Cartier.

La Pommeraye found but little pleasure in these festivities. He was
possessed by the one idea of seeing Marguerite as soon as possible.
Absence had in no way dimmed her image in his mind; fickle and
impressionable as he usually was, the best and noblest part of his
nature had been awakened by his love for the beautiful girl whom he had
met under such unusual circumstances, and of whom he had as yet seen so
little. Now that fortune seemed to be favouring him, he cursed every
obstacle that kept him an instant longer from her side. At the earliest
opportunity he made his escape from the enthusiastic and admiring
Malouins; and having disposed of a quantity of rich furs which he had
purchased at Tadousac before leaving the St Lawrence, he bought a horse,
and set out for Picardy--as the most likely place to hear news of Mdlle.
de Roberval, even if he did not find her at the castle.

In order to get away as soon as possible he was obliged to give Cartier
the slip. The latter was anxious to proceed at once to court, to report
the failure of his attempt to found a colony, and to request permission
to return and bring back De Roberval. It would be out of the question,
however, to start before the spring, as the season was now so far
advanced; and La Pommeraye decided to let Cartier go to court without
him, as the winter would give them plenty of time to consider their
plans.

He incidentally learned that Roberval had sailed from La Rochelle
instead of St Malo, as he had supposed; but the idea that he might have
taken his niece with him naturally never entered his head, and no one in
St Malo was able to give him any information.

Accordingly, one morning early in September, he mounted his horse and
set out on his long ride to the banks of the Somme. It was a long
journey; but love let him rest nor day nor night till he had arrived at
the end. Nor did he accomplish it without adventure. One morning, about
a day's ride from his destination, he met two gay cavaliers, with finely
caparisoned horses, speeding on their way to Paris. They saw the
dust-stained horse, and dustier rider, and, thinking it would be fine
sport to whet their blades on his clumsy sword, bore down upon him.

But they had miscalculated their man; and as the first gallant checked
his horse within a few feet of La Pommeraye, his heart grew weak within
him as he saw the determined eye and smiling lips of the man he had
expected to see turn and flee before him.

"Have at thee, my dainty cock-robin!" said La Pommeraye. "Methinks the
smoke from yonder hostel bespeaks a ready breakfast, and I shall do
greater justice to the meal after a little exercise. Have at thee!"

The young nobleman grew pale to the lips, but manfully faced the trial
he had himself invited. Their horses danced about each other for a few
moments, sparks flew from their flashing blades, but the contest was an
unequal one. The youth tried hard to reach the breast of his opponent,
but his every thrust was met by a determined guard; and when La
Pommeraye thought the breathing-time before breakfast had been of
sufficient length, he made a few quick passes that the young man's eye
could not follow, struck up his antagonist's sword, made a lightning
thrust at a broad silver ornament that adorned the gay rider's breast,
pushed him from his horse, and laughed a merry laugh as the lad sat up
in the dusty road, wondering at his escape. His companion, who had stood
by enjoying the contest, heartily joined in the laugh.

"Nobly done!" he exclaimed in admiration, "you handle your sword as if
you had been wont to play before King Francis. Henri, thou art not an
apt pupil; thou should'st have used thy horse more, and trusted less to
thy arms. If Monsieur is not tired with the contest, would he be pleased
to measure swords with me? He will find me no mere lad."

"With all the pleasure in life," said Charles, smiling, "But I fear me
the bacon at yonder inn will be burnt to a crisp unless I hurry on my
way; so draw at once; I have not time to bandy words."

"Have a care, Jules," cried Henri; "he is the Devil."

La Pommeraye caught the name.

"Have I the honour to cross swords with Jules Marchand?" said he. "Your
fame is not unknown to me; and were it not for the fact that I am in
haste to be at my journey's end, I would fain prolong the fight; as it
is, it must be short and sharp."

Like a flash his weapon shot out; like a flash the other met it. But
though the swordsman was La Pommeraye's equal in skill, he lacked brawn;
and, they had scarce played for a minute's space when Jules Marchand's
sword was wrenched from his hand, and he was left sitting, black with
wrath, upon his charger, which whinnied as if in recognition of his
master's mishap.

"Pardon, gentlemen," said Charles, smiling, "I must not dally longer by
the way. Were you not going in the opposite direction, I would invite
you to breakfast with me. But beware, hereafter, how you attack lone
travellers; were it not that France, now that Spain is once more in arms
against her, needs every man who is able to bear a sword, I should have
left one of you, at least, by the roadside."

So saying, he waved the two gallants a laughing adieu, and rode away.

"The Devil, or La Pommeraye," said Jules.

"Neither! Too merry for the Devil," answered Henri, "and La Pommeraye,
we heard, was killed in Paris."

"Nay," replied Jules, "that report was false. But it is true that he is
no longer in France. Guillaume Leblanc saw him on board one of Cartier's
ships, making for the New World. I was glad of the tidings, I have to
confess. His skill and strength made me dread meeting him; and his
departure left me the first swordsman in France; for despite De
Roberval's reputation, he was of an old school, and easy to defeat. But
now it seems I am but a poor second. But let us to Paris, and find out
who this dashing cavalier may be."

La Pommeraye continued his journey, and loitered but little on the way
till Picardy was reached. A few of Roberval's retainers were about his
castle; and from them he learned that the nobleman had not only gone to
the New World himself, but had taken his niece with him.

The news fell on him like a thunderbolt. Thousands of miles of stormy
sea lay between him and the face that haunted his dreams. As he thought
how near he had been to her in the harbour of St John, his heart bounded
madly within him, and his eyeballs beat upon his brain.

But he was not long in planning a course of action. He would hasten to
court, and find means of returning to the New World at once. Destruction
only could await the colonists, and he shuddered as he thought of the
tenderly-nurtured girls exposed to the fierce storms and bitter cold of
a Canadian winter.

So his good horse was saddled once more, and the measured beat of its
hoofs became swifter and yet swifter as Paris was neared.

Once in the city, he lost no time in presenting a request for an
audience with the King, and the announcement of his name, and the nature
of his errand, readily gained him admission to Francis' presence.

He found that Cartier had been before him by a few days, and had urged
the necessity of recalling Roberval, and the hopelessness of any
attempts to colonise the New World. The King had been greatly
disappointed by the downfall of all the hopes and brilliant prophecies
with which the expedition had started. He had rewarded Cartier's bravery
and enterprise with the promise of a patent of nobility, but seemed
reluctant to encourage the idea of withdrawing the second detachment of
colonists. He was inclined to suspect that jealousy of De Roberval, and
disappointment at his own failure, had something to do with Cartier's
anxiety to break up a scheme on which his heart had been set a year
before. La Pommeraye saw his hopes receding into the distance; his heart
sank within him.

"But what thinks the Duke of Guise?" said the King, suddenly, turning to
that veteran nobleman, who was now his chief adviser, occupying the
place that Anne de Montmorenci had so long filled.

The Duke had been standing silently by during the interview, regarding
La Pommeraye with a meditative air.

"Methinks, sire," he answered, "that there is much wisdom in what the
young man urges. Already we have cast too much good treasure away in
these vain enterprises; and now that Spain needs our utmost attention,
we can spare neither men nor money for schemes of foreign colonisation."

"You hear, M. La Pommeraye," said Francis, "what the Duke says; but we
had hoped to fill our coffers with the riches of Canada."

"May it please your Majesty," said Charles, "there are no riches there,
save a few furs and fish. These might serve to give a St Malo or
Rochelle merchant enough wealth to retire on, and provide for his
daughters, but would not go very far towards fitting out a battalion. I
had had great hopes of the enterprise, but the experiences of last
winter have taught me that nothing is to be gained by our struggles to
colonise the barren North. The noble fellows who are wasting their lives
in that sterile land, with only murderers and robbers as companions,
would be far better in France, protecting her shores from foreign
invasion."

"There is truth in what you say," answered the King, after a moment's
pause. "We are much in need of De Roberval. The Picards worship the
'Little King of Vimeu,' and if he does not return, we fear we shall get
but scant funds and few troops from the sturdy men of his province. But
what is it that you would have?"

"A ship, Sire," promptly replied La Pommeraye, "manned and provisioned
for a voyage to Canada, and permission to Cartier to return in it, and
recall Roberval to France."

"_Parbleu!_" said the King, "a modest request! Well, we will consider
the matter, and see what course it will be best to take."

"But, Sire," said Charles, his distress and anxiety getting the better
of his diplomacy, "the winter draws near, and unless we start at once we
shall not be able to reach Charlesbourg Royal till spring."

As he finished speaking, the Duke of Guise, who had been conversing
aside with some one near him during the last few sentences, turned to
the King.

"May it please you, Sire," said he, "this mad nephew of mine is desirous
of a favour at your hands. It seems he owes his life to this gallant
gentleman, and he prays me to entreat you to grant him whatever he
requests."

As he spoke, Charles recognised in the gay young cavalier, who now came
forward, his discomfited antagonist of the adventure on the road to
Picardy.

"We have met before," said he, bowing to La Pommeraye. "Sire, this is
none other than the redoubtable swordsman whose deeds have been buzzed
through the court for a week--to the lasting chagrin of Jules Marchand.
Uncle, if you love me, you owe him a debt of gratitude. That I am not at
this moment in heaven, praying for your soul, is due solely to his
generosity."

"Nay," interrupted La Pommeraye, "my generosity saved you not; it was
the silver star you wore on your breast. I had intended to run you
through; but that sparkling bauble caught my eye, and I could not resist
the novel experience of tilting at you with my rapier."

A hearty laugh, in which the King joined, rang out from those who stood
near, for all knew of the adventure which the mirth-loving Henri of
Guise had related with due embellishment.

"We have not had so good a joke since we came to Paris," said Francis,
"as that encounter has furnished us. Your doughty deeds deserve a
reward. The ship is yours, and Cartier has our permission to go; but we
shall not compel him to leave France unless he wishes. And as for
manning the vessel, you will have to find some other means, for every
son is needed to protect France from our Spanish foes."

So it came about, that at the end of September La Pommeraye found
himself once more crossing the Sillon, with power to purchase a ship
and start at once to bid Roberval return to France. His first proceeding
was to seek out Cartier, and inform him of his successful mission.

He found, however, that the experienced and wary seaman was not to be
persuaded into undertaking the voyage before the spring. He displayed
small warmth over the concessions of the King; and declared that, owing
to the unforeseen delays which had retarded them on the voyage home, it
was now so late that it would be madness to attempt to cross the ocean
before the winter set in.

"In any case," he said, "De Roberval cannot do otherwise than we have
done. This winter will prove to them that their efforts are in vain;
they will be forced to return in the spring."

"But," said La Pommeraye, "think of the noble women with them! The
winter will kill them!"

"I did not know they were with Roberval," said Cartier. "I supposed he
would have had the good sense to leave them behind."

"I have been in Picardy and in Paris," returned Charles, "and I have
learned beyond a doubt that they went with him. We must reach them at
once, or the scurvy, cold, or Indians will surely destroy them."

"We shall have to trust to Providence till spring, at all events,"
replied Cartier. "We could not reach the Gulf of St Lawrence before the
ice makes. It would be October before we should get under way, and you
remember the Hochelaga was bridged just one month later last year. No
vessel need hope to make the arduous journey across the Atlantic in less
than six weeks."

La Pommeraye, in his impulsiveness, had not thought of this; and as the
truth of the sailor's words flashed upon him, he felt that his friends
were doomed.

He accepted the inevitable with what stoicism he could, and unable to
stay in St Malo, he returned to Paris to fill up his time as best he
might until spring arrived. But the gay life about the court had no
fascination for him. Dice and the wine-cup failed to attract him, and
women marvelled at the handsome young Hercules who displayed such
indifference to all their charms. Excitement of a manlier sort he must
have; and although there were no battles of any great importance to be
fought, the frontier engagements gave abundant opportunity for such
swords as his. His old renown soon returned to him; and tales of his
wondrous daring found their way to Fontainebleau, to be marvellously
enlarged on by his staunch friend and admirer, Henri of Guise.

But he never swerved from his purpose, and as soon as the March sun
began to warm the soil, he turned his horse's head towards St Malo.

On his arrival there, he found to his surprise that Cartier was no more
enthusiastic over the expedition than he had been in the autumn. That
insatiable wanderer seemed at last to have had enough of adventures by
sea and land. He had received his patent of nobility from the King, and
since the sufferings and discouragements of his last voyage, the
prospect of comfort and honours in France seemed to hold more
inducements for him than the idea of once more facing the dangers of the
deep. His limbs were not so sturdy as of old, his eye had lost something
of its keenness, and the hardships and anxieties of the last winter had
left their mark upon him. He had money enough to support him to the end
of his days, and he had purchased the seignorial mansion of
Limoilou--that ancient stone house which is still pointed out with pride
by the Malouins as the residence of their great sailor. When Charles
arrived, he was just about to instal himself and his family in his new
abode.

He was willing to sell him his good ship, _L'Emerillon_, and to do all
in his power to further the success of his efforts, but he was so
evidently reluctant to tear himself away once more from the peaceful
home, whose comfort he was only beginning to appreciate, that Charles
resolved not to keep him to the letter of his promise, but to undertake
the voyage alone. A capable sailing-master, Gaspard Girouard, was found,
_L'Emerillon_ was soon fitted out; and as she was ostensibly merely
going to Canada to bring back a load of furs, more hardy seamen than
were necessary flocked to join her on her voyage.

The April breezes wafted them across the Atlantic without mishap. They
intended to take the southern passage, but a savage spring gale blew
them far out of their course, and they steered away for the Straits of
Belle Isle. The sailors saw, as they skirted the Newfoundland coast, a
distant rocky island on the horizon. As Charles gazed upon it he
noticed smoke curling upwards.

"What strange places," he said, turning to Girouard, "these naked
savages select to abide in! I have wandered much in the wilds of Canada,
but never came on a place that seemed too desolate for them."

"No savages make those fires," said an old sailor who was standing by.
"Yonder is the smoke of hell. That is the Isle of Demons."

La Pommeraye laughed at the absurd superstition, and kept his eye fixed
on the distant point of land with the column of smoke, which seemed to
grow larger with each moment. But darkness soon fell upon the ocean, and
the dim outline of the island at last faded from his view.

Had he but known! That smoke was a signal from the weary watchers on the
island, who, on one of the unhappiest and saddest days of their desolate
lives, saw in that distant sail hopes of release from their cruel
prison. Eagerly they heaped up a huge fire to attract the passing craft,
little thinking that it was in search of them that she was speeding on
her white-winged way.

In a few days _L'Emerillon_ had passed from the Bay of St Lawrence into
the river of Hochelaga. A favouring wind bore her on past the deep,
black mouth of the Saguenay, and soon the Isle of Bacchus was spread
before the sailors' weary eyes, green, beautiful, and fresh, with the
high Falls of Montmorenci leaping wildly down on the opposite shore. On
to Charlesbourg Royal they sailed; and a horrible dread seized La
Pommeraye as he approached the place. A dead silence reigned on the
steep banks of the broad river. A substantial structure now stood where
Cartier had had his rude fort, and its two towers loomed up before the
eyes of the Frenchmen. Other buildings could be seen here and there, but
no living soul appeared in sight; and in the anchorage, where he had
looked for the ships of the colonists, not even a canoe could be seen.
Could they have grown tired of the life here, and started further up the
stream--to Hochelaga, perhaps? But no time was to be lost. When the
silent shore was within a stone's throw the anchor was run out, and the
vessel rested from her long journey. A boat was lowered, and La
Pommeraye went on shore and explored the castle-like structure that
crowned the heights, the empty halls and chambers, the gaping shelves
and bins in the storehouses, the deep and vacant cellars, the great
ovens, and the two silent watermills, all told him of the hopes which
had filled the heart of De Roberval. Everything had been carefully
removed from the place, and there were evident traces of Indians; but as
there were no marks of a struggle, and no dead to be seen, Charles
concluded that they had merely visited the place to pick up whatever the
whites had chanced to leave behind.

A rude plot of ground, with several new-made graves, told him that King
Death had visited the young colony, and the high gallows in the square
hinted that the stern-willed nobleman had helped the cold and scurvy to
lessen the population.

Charles would not return without making sure that his friends had left
the New World, and so, after a fruitless search for natives, who seemed
to have betaken themselves to better hunting-grounds, he boarded his
ship, weighed anchor, and rested not till he was within the shadow of
Mont Royal. Here he met a chieftain, Agona by name, whom he had formerly
known, and who had taken the place of old Donnacona. From him he learned
of De Roberval's sufferings and failure. He could learn nothing definite
about Claude or Marguerite, but as there had been other noblemen in the
colony, he did not so much wonder at that. But there was no doubt that
they had all departed. His journey had been in vain; and with a heavy
heart he set about retracing once more all those weary miles which lay
between him and the woman he loved.



CHAPTER XII


Having left his niece and her companions on the Isle of Demons, Roberval
had steered his course for the Hochelaga, and about the middle of June
the rocky heights of Stadacona loomed up before him. His tyrannical
severity on the voyage had made all his men stand in awe of him, and his
lightest word of reproof would make the most dogged villain on his
vessel tremble for his neck. All were indeed glad when the anchors were
dropped off Cap Rouge, and none more so than Roberval himself.

The narrow limits of his vessel's deck had preyed upon his ambitious
spirit; and the horrors of the voyage, caused by his own self-will and
stubbornness, stood before him like a nightmare. Scarcely had the Isle
of Demons sunk from sight on the horizon, when his conscience began to
prick him; and he would have returned for the women whom he had set on
shore, but he feared lest his followers should think that there was in
him the milk of human kindness.

Most of all he dreaded Gaillon. He knew that he had placed himself to a
certain extent at the man's mercy, and that fact alone was enough to
awaken in him a deadly hatred of the cringing scoundrel, who dogged his
footsteps like a shadow. He resolved to get rid of him at the earliest
possible moment; and yet he dreaded to take any steps towards removing
him. He remembered the sudden and mysterious death of the young Picard
sailor; he remembered also Gaillon's offer to rid him silently and
surely of all his enemies. The man was a poisoner, a demon who worked in
the dark, without soul, without honour. On board ship Roberval felt more
or less assured of safety; but as his destination drew nigh he made up
his mind that, once on land, Gaillon must be put out of the way, or he
would not be free one moment from the terror of assassination.

Gaillon himself was quick to divine all that passed in Roberval's mind.
His vigilant eye took notice of the slightest signs which revealed the
nobleman's attitude towards him; but no change in his own manner and
bearing could have been observed, except that he was, if possible, more
servile and obsequious than ever.

Matters were in this state when the vessels passed up the Hochelaga, and
the towering heights of Stadacona loomed up, majestic and strong, before
them. De Roberval's quick eye noted at once what a magnificent place
this would be for headquarters for his colony; but as he skirted the
high cliffs, a shower of flint-headed arrows fell on his deck, and
warned him that the red men welcomed him as an enemy. To terrify them,
he sent a broadside from his guns against the huge natural fortress,
which re-echoed with the unwonted sound, and the frightened Indians
fled far inland to escape the unusual thunder.

At Charlesbourg Royal the French landed without opposition. Busy hands
soon made habitable the rude dwellings which Cartier had left; from the
first streaks of dawn till the sun sank behind the hills of the St
Lawrence, the shouts of men, the singing of saws, and the clanging of
hammers resounded over the broad river. A somewhat pretentious village
rose on the heights; and in the centre of it, in place of the flimsy
structure designed by Cartier as a gallows, stood a strong, black
erection, ominously awaiting a victim.

It had not to wait long. The more devoted and cringing Gaillon became,
the more did Roberval's uneasiness and distrust of him increase. Anxiety
and remorse had actually disturbed the balance of the nobleman's mind.
He realised that he was not himself, but felt convinced that he could
never regain his self-control, or know a moment's peace of mind, till he
had got rid of the vile wretch whom he had in a manner taken into his
confidence, and who haunted his sleeping and waking hours. Chance placed
an opportunity in his way.

Although the colonists had brought plenty of powder and ball with them,
they were ill provided with food for a protracted season. They had
expected that Cartier would have an abundant crop growing round his
establishment, but they found that he had not even broken the soil that
year. They found, too, that the Indians held aloof, and would do naught
to help them. The few stragglers whom they could attract by "firewater,"
had no stores of food, as they were too inert to till the soil, and
depended merely on game and fish; feasting while it was abundant, and
starving when it was scarce.

Roberval was a man of shrewd foresight. He carefully gauged his
supplies, and saw just how much could be allowed each man to carry him
through the long autumn and winter months; then he sent forth an order
that any man taking more than his allowance would meet with severe
punishment. Shortly after the order had been issued, it was discovered
that some one had entered the stores by night, and taken a quantity of
provisions. A watch was secretly set, and a few nights afterwards the
thief was caught, and proved to be no other than Gaillon.

Seeing the direction Roberval's thoughts were taking, and that his
schemes for advancement were hopeless, the man had resolved to desert
the colony; and to that end had begun to secrete a supply of food
sufficient to support him till he could join one of the wandering bands
of Indians further up the country. He was brought before Roberval, who
immediately ordered him to the gallows. The wretch fell on his knees,
but Roberval was deaf to entreaties and curses alike.

"To the gallows with him!" he repeated. "We are well rid of such a
villain."

Gaillon's character was well known, and no one pitied his fate. Scarcely
a man in the colony did not breathe more freely when he knew that it
was beyond his power to work any further mischief; but they shuddered
as they looked upon his dangling form, and wondered who next among them
would meet a similar fate.

In the meantime, De Roberval had not forgotten his promise to return for
his niece. But he had greatly miscalculated the distance and the time it
would take a ship to go and return. In the present condition of the
colony it would be utterly out of the question for him to be absent in
person for so long a period. He had no difficulty, however, in finding
one or two of the young noblemen who were willing to undertake the
expedition; but an obstacle presented itself on which he had not
counted. Not a man among the sailors could be found who was willing to
return to the dreaded spot. Threats, commands, persuasions were alike in
vain; no power on earth could have induced the crews to venture near the
place where they had seen with their own eyes the flames of hell, and
the demons hastening to claim their victims.

Roberval dared not attempt force. Able-bodied seamen were too few and
too precious to risk the loss of even one. He was obliged to give up the
attempt, and to resign himself to all the horrors of remorse. Whatever
he may have felt he kept it to himself, and no man dared open his lips
on the subject.

Winter set in, and proved a terrible one for the inhabitants of
Charlesbourg Royal. They suffered keenly from the cold; and their
miseries were greatly increased by the scarcity of food. Few dared go
beyond the walls to seek supplies, as the prowling savages were ever
ready to cut them off. They lived, too, in constant dread of De
Roberval's iron rule; and for the slightest offences they were brought
to the whipping-post, cast into the guardhouse, chained hand and foot,
or led shivering to the gallows. Scurvy, too, broke out, and no Indian
could be found to direct them to the tree whose virtues had once saved
the remnants of Cartier's crew. They fell like the brown leaves before
the frosts of autumn; and the feeble arms of their suffering and
half-starved comrades made the walls resound with the dull thud of the
pick, as they almost daily cut into the hard, frozen ground, to make
ready graves. Those of gentler blood had nearly all succumbed, and no
priest was left to give the last rites to the dead. When spring came,
almost half the colony had disappeared, and those who survived were
naught but living skeletons.

When the ice had left the river, and the snows the land, Roberval
determined to make an effort to explore the great inland seas which had
been depicted on Cartier's map, and if possible to find the spot where
the nugget of gold had been discovered. But he had no idea of the
distances in this vast continent; and after a month's struggling up
turbulent rivers, and over rugged stretches where the foot of white man
had never before trod, he returned disheartened to his settlement. Here
he found that the men he had left in charge had been taking advantage of
his absence to hold high revels, and the wildest confusion reigned in
the fort. Disgusted and hopeless, he resolved to break up his colony and
return to France, his ambition thwarted, his hopes rudely shattered,
and his dreams of glory and renown in the New World faded into nothing
but bitter memories and unvailing regrets.

As he sailed down the Gulf of St Lawrence with the handful of men who
were left to him, he resolved to make one more effort to return to the
Isle of Demons, and learn, at any rate, what he could of the fate of the
three women--though he had no thought of the possibility that they might
have survived. But when the crew learned whither they were bound, they
rose in a body and mutinied. A few of those on board stood by Roberval
in his resolve, but they were overborne, some of them struck down; and
De Roberval, seeing his own life in danger, ordered Jehan Alfonse, who
had returned to his allegiance, a sadder and a wiser man--like his
commander--to steer away for France.

And thus, while Charles skirted the north of Newfoundland, De Roberval
was leaving the mouth of the Hochelaga; and, sailing westward past the
island of Cape Breton, kept on his steady way across the ocean.

On his arrival at La Rochelle, he let the mutineers go unmolested,
fearing lest the story of his niece might be noised abroad. When he
returned to court he reported that both girls had died in the New World.
Rumours of the truth went up and down the land; but the court and the
Church were silent, for the King stood in need of De Roberval. The high
esteem in which he was held led all who learned the tale to believe
that if he had been cruel, his cruelty must have been but the just
punishment of guilt; and for the sake of the ancient and honourable name
of his house, no one dared ask him any questions.

De Roberval threw himself and all his energies into the new war which
was in progress, and in the clash of arms and the excitement of battle
tried to drown the nightmare conscience that gave him no rest by night
or day.


In the meantime La Pommeraye had arrived at Charlesbourg Royal with the
results already narrated. His buoyant nature sank in despair when he
became convinced that he and the nobleman had passed each other on the
broad Atlantic. He had come three thousand miles over dangerous seas to
look upon Marguerite, and now he must re-travel the same weary distance
alone. He bade adieu to Agona, who would have had the fair giant stay
with him, and accompany him and his tribe far past the "leaping waters,"
as they called the rapids at Lachine, for he had planned a great hunting
expedition to the inland seas. La Pommeraye would fain have gone with
him, but even though he thought Marguerite safe in France, he could not
bring himself to stay away from where she was an hour longer than he
could help.

So he sailed down the Hochelaga; and as he wished to bring some return
for his voyage back to France with him, he turned his vessel's head
towards the Saguenay, intending to get a supply of furs from the Indians
of that deep, dark river. The rocky heights, based with rolling
stretches of barren sand, soon rose before him. Far up, he saw the
granite bluffs rising step above step, and he had a strong desire to
follow where they might lead; but Marguerite drew him away. Fortunately
a cluster of wigwams studded the shores about Tadousac, and La
Pommeraye, who had spent a month in that region, with these very tribes,
had little trouble in loading his vessel, at small cost, with a valuable
cargo of furs. From these Indians, too, he heard tales of Roberval's
colony; and as they related in their grave, stoical way the sufferings
the French had endured, and the number of men who had fallen beneath the
iron hand of De Roberval, his heart was moved with pity for his
fellow-countrymen. Of Claude and Marguerite he could learn nothing.
According to the Indians' accounts no women at all answering to Charles'
descriptions had been with De Roberval; and several Montagnais warriors,
who had known Claude when he crossed with Cartier in 1535, and who well
remembered the reserved, dark-eyed young Frenchman, declared that he,
too, had not been at the colony.

This news greatly troubled Charles, and as soon as his vessel was well
loaded, clapping on all sail, he once more sped on his way across the
great northern ocean, which had now lost all its terrors for him.

It was September before his ship reached St Malo, and, after leaving her
in the hands of the merchants who had put money into the enterprise, he
hurried to Cartier, who was in Paris on business, and laid before him
all he had seen and heard.

Cartier had more than a suspicion of the reasons which had induced
Charles first to come back to France, and then to be in such mad haste
to return to Canada. He was a shrewd observer, and had drawn his own
conclusions, but discreetly kept them to himself. He now stood looking
at his stalwart, handsome young friend and fellow-voyager with a great
pity at his heart, and wondered how he could break to him the news of
the rumours he had heard.

"La Pommeraye," he said at last, "my arm is not as strong as it once
was, or I should be more than tempted to strike a blow at a man whom we
once called friend."

"Whom do you mean?" cried Charles, a vague anxiety roused within him at
the sight of Cartier's face.

"I mean De Roberval."

"Why, what has he done? Is there bad news? Tell me at once, I beg of
you! What have you heard?"

"I do not know what he has done. I have seen no one since his return who
was with him at Charlesbourg Royal; but it is rumoured in Paris that
neither Mdlle. de Roberval nor Claude de Pontbriand ever reached
Canada."

For the first time, as he heard those two names coupled together, a
dawning suspicion of the truth rose in La Pommeraye's mind, only to be
swallowed up in the undefined and horrible fear suggested by Cartier's
final words. He rose, with a face like death, and laid his hand on
Cartier's arm.

"Tell me at once what you mean!" he said.

"I know nothing accurately. The only thing certain is, that they did not
return with him. I have heard wild tales, with I know not how much truth
in them, that he put his niece and her companion ashore at Cape Breton
or Newfoundland, and that De Pontbriand, who could not prevent his
dastardly act, threw himself into the sea, and tried to swim to the
shore, but sank ere he reached it."

Charles swore a great and fearful oath. Then he walked over to the
window, and stood with his back to Cartier, looking out into the street.
When he turned round, his face was twenty years older.

"Where is he?" was all he said.

"Act not rashly," said Cartier gently. "It may be mere rumour. I have
tried to verify the tale, but each time I have heard it, it has been
from some one who was never out of France, and it has been told with so
many variations that I have begun to hope that, after all, it has but a
very small foundation in fact."

"I have known that all was not right," replied Charles, "ever since I
left the Indians at Tadousac. Tell me at once where De Roberval is! I
leave no stone unturned till I have found out the truth. Would to God I
had killed him that night on the Sillon!"

"The last I heard of him was that he was in Picardy," returned Cartier.
"But if there is any truth in the story, you are not likely to hear it
from his lips. He landed in Rochelle. Some of his crew are likely to be
found in that town; and, at all events, you will be able to trace some
of them, and learn the facts before you do anything further."

The advice was undoubtedly wise; nothing could be gained by confronting
Roberval with vague accusations. Without a moment's loss of time La
Pommeraye hastened to La Rochelle; but he could find no trace of any one
who had been with Roberval. The sailors had all gone to sea again; and
those of the colonists who were not already in prison once more were on
their way to the seat of war. To the front also had gone the one or two
gentlemen who were known to have returned from the ill-fated expedition.
Strange as it may seem, Charles could obtain absolutely no more definite
information than the vague reports which he had already heard.

He learned that Roberval had taken a number of his men back to Picardy
with him, and was there doing yeoman service for King Francis. La
Pommeraye had done enough travelling in the past few weeks to exhaust a
man of ordinary strength; but he seemed incapable of fatigue. Once more
his horse was saddled, and once more he set off on the familiar road to
Picardy. The long journey was at last accomplished, and he arrived at
the castle as the bleak November winds were sweeping across the land
from the English Channel. Roberval was with a small army five miles
away; but La Pommeraye recognised in one of the servants, Etienne Brulé
by name, the man who had escaped uninjured from the famous encounter
with Pamphilo de Narvaez, and who had ever afterwards regarded La
Pommeraye as a being of a supernatural order. This man had been with De
Roberval on his voyage, and from him, after an hour's cross-questioning,
La Pommeraye at last elicited the truth. The remembrance of the horrors
through which he had passed, and his terror of De Roberval's wrath if it
were discovered that he had related the story of the desertion of
Marguerite, seemed to have muddled the poor fellow's wits, and his tale
was wild and incoherent. But he stuck manfully to his assertion that he
had seen Claude reach the shore.

"The others laughed me to scorn," he said, "and some went so far as to
say that they saw the demons drag him down, but I know better. My
eyesight is stronger than theirs, and I saw him rescued and dragged
ashore by the women. But Monsieur will not speak to the Sieur de
Roberval of these things? He foams at the mouth if his niece's name is
so much as mentioned; and he would kill me if he found that I had told
you about her."

Charles heeded not the man's words. Before his eyes he saw a great
pillar of smoke rising up and spreading far over the ocean; he saw his
pilot seize the helm and steer away from the dreaded spot. As the vision
rose before him he cried aloud in the bitterness of his heart, "O God!
Thou art too cruel, too cruel!"



CHAPTER XIII


It was a sad duty that Bastienne and Marguerite had to perform when they
made Marie's poor broken body ready for burial. And while they toiled
with loving hands within the hut, Claude worked as best he could to
prepare a rude coffin from some of the planks which had remained after
the building of their dwelling. Each blow of his hammer went to the
hearts of the women, from whom this sad calamity seemed to have taken
the last ray of hope.

By the evening of the day which followed her death all was ready, and
Claude, with an aching heart, dug a grave in the level, grassy sod, just
back of the cliff from which she had fallen. All completed, he returned
to the hut, and the three watched silently by their dead till morning
broke upon them. Shivering in body and mind, they made ready to carry
her remains to their island grave, while the wild sea-birds, which flew
screaming in the face of the coming storm, seemed, to their saddened
hearts, to wail of human impotence.

Bastienne and Marguerite took the head of the coffin between them, while
Claude carried the foot, and the mournful little procession left the
hut, and climbed the hill on which the grave had been dug. Slowly their
burden was lowered into the shallow earth; and, holding the crucifix
above it, they offered up prayers for the rest of the soul which had
been so suddenly snatched from among them. It was hard to cast the first
spadeful of earth upon the coffin. As each pebble struck the lid, it
seemed to them as if Marie must feel the blows. But the bitter duty was
at last at an end, the last stone was placed on the rude monument which
marked Marie's resting-place, and sadly they turned to leave the spot.

The storm had been steadily increasing, and now the mad waves lashed and
rolled like mighty, moving mountains upon the shore. The far-thrown
spray fell in torrents about their hut. They were chilled to the bone,
and sat shivering all day about the great log fire which burned in their
huge, out-of-door fireplace. At last the fury of the gale drove them
indoors, and all three sat huddled in their blankets, unable to keep
warm.

This was but the prelude to winter. But before that dread season settled
down in all its northern fierceness, they were to know a few days of
happy respite. Next morning the storm had abated, and a bright sun
gleamed across the long, smooth rollers that still swept in upon the
shore. There was a strange feeling of summer in the air, and Claude, who
remembered his experiences at Quebec, when with Cartier on his second
voyage, knew that the "Indian Summer," the time set apart by the red men
to make their final preparations for winter, was upon them. For a week
the warm sun shone through the mellow haze, and for a week, from
morning till night, all three toiled to lay an abundant store of
firewood about their hut. It was well that they had this work to occupy
their time, for the heap of stones, marking the spot where their dead
companion lay, weighed upon their spirits. By the end of the week their
little hut was almost hidden from view by the great piles of wood they
had gathered, and the ringing blows of Claude's axe ceased.

He had not been wrong; it was but a short respite. Scarcely had they
finished their preparations when a raw, penetrating wind, that seemed to
separate the flesh from the bone, blew down from the north. The birds
had now all gone, except the hardier northern ones. Their songs had
ceased; naught was heard but the sound of the restless waves, which kept
up an eternal moaning, the soughing of the pines, and the wild shrieks
of the sea-birds, whose cries seemed to grow drearier with the approach
of winter--modulated, as it were, to the weird north wind.

The three were now forced to remain inside their hut, but the great fire
which burned at the door gave them no warmth. There was but one course
to follow; a fire must be made within the hut. Claude had long dreaded
this inevitable thing, and had put off the evil day while he could. He
had been in the huts of the Montagnais, at Tadousac, during the depth of
winter, and had seen those shivering savages, half blind with the smoke,
crouching about a fire in the centre of their hut, while the smoke,
after circling their abode, found its way out through an opening cut in
the roof. But as winter drew nearer, he could only imitate the red men;
and, with great reluctance, he began to build a fireplace inside their
dwelling. The task completed, with saw and axe he cut an aperture above
it, and, piling a heap of branches on the stones, set fire to them. The
lurid flames for a moment brightened the interior; but soon, half
blinded, the women rushed choking into the open air, while the smoke
curled upwards, and the warm fire glowed within. There was nothing else
to do; they must become accustomed to the discomfort; and, driven in by
the cold, they crowded about the blaze. Claude could not but feel how
soon such a life must make them even as the red men. Their eyes grew
weak and bloodshot; poor old Bastienne became almost blind, and soon
could only grope her way about the hut.

Winter in Canada is now a delightful season for those who have the means
to resist its fiercer aspects, and can battle with and conquer it. The
keen, bracing air, that makes the blood tingle in the veins, and the
roses come to the cheek, calls out the latent energy of the Canadian;
but even now, for the poor, winter is a source of dread; the savage
still sees its approach with terror, and the sick, shut off from the
clear air of heaven, pray for its flight. In those early times it was a
season to be dreaded by all alike, even along the banks of the broad
Hochelaga; but none can conceive, save those who have experienced them,
the awful horrors of a winter spent far north on a lonely island in the
Atlantic. The cold ceased not, day or night; the wind kept up a
continual moaning; the mighty sea swept in with long green rollers,
smashed the ice that made about the shores, and heaped it in great,
glittering grinding piles upon the beach. The hungry animals prowled
about the hut, and fought over the bones which were cast out to them.
The hares had changed their coats, and now bounded snow-white across the
snow-covered ground. They were dainty eating, and Claude's arquebuse
cracked through the woods on the short winter days, as he kept the
larder stocked with food--a welcome change after the salt beef which had
been set ashore with the women.

Bastienne and Marguerite found some relief from the terrible loneliness
which brooded over the island by working, when the light permitted, over
their wardrobe and Claude's. They had abundance of clothing for
themselves, but Claude had nothing but the garb in which he had swum
ashore. The two women contrived, by taking to pieces some of the
stoutest of their own outdoor garments, to patch him up a homely suit.
Rough, indeed, it was, and Claude felt like the King's jester when he
put it on; but no gay gallants of France were there to see him, and he
was even able to smile at the sorry figure he cut.

If ever man prayed for winter to end, it was he. He saw that it was
killing the two women, and the sharp pains in his own breast warned him
that the bitter, piercing winds had done their work, and that unless
relief came soon, he must succumb.

Old Bastienne was the greatest sufferer. Age was beginning to tell upon
her; and she, who had been as strong as a horse, now became weak as a
child. She went stumbling about her daily tasks. To save "her children,"
as she called the other two, she exposed herself to the cold and storm;
and although Claude begged her not to do work beyond her strength, she
would, when he was absent, take his axe and break the logs for the fire,
or wade through great drifts of snow to the spring which bubbled, sweet,
and fresh, and living, in this land of gloom and death.

The fire in the hut was never allowed to burn out; and towards spring
the three were hardly recognisable, so black had they become with the
smoke and the fierce blaze of the fire, about which they sat during the
long, cold evenings, and often through entire days, when five minutes in
the open air would have frozen any exposed parts of their bodies.

But the dull monotony of this ice, and snow, and frost could not last
for ever. In early March a faint feeling of spring was perceptible in
the air; the sea sounded less dread; the birds' cries lost some of their
harshness; and before the end of the month they were aroused by a cheery
"Pip, pip, pop!" oft and vigorously repeated from the top of their hut.
They knew the cry. It was the first robin. Spring was come at last. They
went to the door, almost expecting to see the bare ground, and to hear
the rustling leaves. But a full foot of snow buried the whole island
beneath it; and a winter chill was still in the air, despite the robin's
whistle and the warm sun.

The robin was an old friend. He had been the last bird to leave in the
autumn, and, when he saw them, he saucily flew to his accustomed
feeding-place, expecting his morning meal. Nor was he disappointed. Day
by day they delighted his heart with finely-crushed crumbs of the hard
biscuit De Roberval had put on shore with them. Though he came early,
spring seemed still far away. No other birds returned for several weeks,
not even the mate of this red-breasted fore-runner of summer. Possibly
she had been lost on the stormy trip from the mainland; or possibly he
had merely been sent ahead as a sentinel to spy out the land, and see if
it were fit for its summer residents.

April crept slowly by, and towards the end a few plaintive-voiced
sparrows added their songs to the vigorous, self-confident notes of the
robin. Soon the whole island one morning burst into song, and spring was
indeed with them. The snow had vanished, save in the hollows and in the
shaded spots, and the grass here and there began to take on the fresh,
living green which rejoiced their hearts.

But spring was to bring small joy to them. Faithful old Bastienne grew
weaker day by day. Claude and Marguerite were filled with pity as they
saw her sitting, helpless and dejected, on the rude seat near the
outdoor fireplace. She could scarcely walk, and the hollow, choking
cough, which sounded like a death-knell in their ears, told them she had
not long to live. They dreaded seeing her pine and die before their
eyes, while they were powerless to help her.

But the gods were kinder to them all than they had anticipated. Coming
back one day early in May from a long ramble through the woods, where
they had gathered a profusion of wild flowers, Claude and Marguerite
found the old servant stretched lifeless on the slope before the door of
the hut. She had fallen forward on her face from her accustomed seat
near the fire, and was quite dead. There were no marks of suffering upon
her features; her end had seemingly been as peaceful as it was sudden,
and her spirit had, doubtless, wandered back to the sunny slopes of the
Somme, and the broad fields and blooming orchards of her beloved
Picardy.

They laid her body to rest beside Marie's, and the faithful old peasant
and the daughter of a noble slept side by side--equal in death.

The task completed, the two who were left wandered hand in hand in
silence about their lonely island, while on every side the birds fluted
joyously, and all Nature rejoiced in the beauty of the spring--unheeding
the presence of death.

As Claude gazed longingly over the wide, green waters, far off he
noticed a tiny speck, which, at first, seemed like the top of an
iceberg. Nearer it came, till it grew definite, and he saw, clearly
outlined against the sky, a vessel under full sail, steering towards the
straits of Belle Isle. It was the first ship they had seen, and they
rushed to their fire, and heaped it high with loads of dry boughs until
the flames shot into the air, and the smoke curled upwards in a mighty
column, and then spread over the ocean. They hoped to see the vessel
change her course and bear down upon their island. But their hopes were
in vain. She kept steadily on her way, and before night fell she had
vanished from their sight on the horizon.

On the high poop of the ship La Pommeraye paced with rapid, nervous
step. Land was in sight at last; he would soon be in the St Lawrence,
and with Marguerite. So he thought; while they prayed that the unknown
vessel might come a little nearer so that they might hail it.

As the ship passed away, Claude, in his despair, called on God to curse
the tyrant who had brought this suffering upon them; and, while he
prayed far away in Charlesbourg Royal, Roberval, on the eve of
departure, had six of his men stripped to the waist, lined up in the
square, and flogged till the blood streamed down their backs. The next
morning his ships were bearing away for the Old World, his hopes broken,
and his heart within him more savage than ever.



CHAPTER XIV


After the awful disappointment Claude and Marguerite experienced when
they saw the vessel of their hopes sink out of sight, they could only
turn to each other for silent comfort. Unconscious of whither they went,
their feet led them to the top of the high cliff from which Marie had
fallen. Trembling on the dizzy verge, each seemed to read what was in
the other's mind. A leap, sudden darkness, and all would end. The next
world--what of that? Could there be another world as cruel as this?

"Come away!" they exclaimed together, clutching each other's hands.
"Come away! Not yet!" And in these words each knew that the other
realised that death--the death which for a moment they had courted--was
all they could hope for. The ship which had passed was but a chance
vessel; the fishermen never came so far north. Their provisions were
beginning to run low; and the rigorous climate which had killed poor old
Bastienne must in time sap their young strength. Claude was feeling its
influence the more keenly. His wounds had left him less robust than of
old, and the harsh treatment he had received at De Roberval's hands had
helped to shatter his iron constitution. His cheek, once ruddy with
health, had grown thin and pale; his limbs were shrunken, and his hands,
once so strong and sinewy, had become cold and nerveless. When
Marguerite rested hers in them, she could not but feel that for him
death was not very far off; but she dared not speak. She saw he did not
realise it, and his eye was ever filled with pity for her suffering.

With her it was otherwise. Her will bore her nobly up. Instead of losing
strength, she grew more robust. Her step became as light and wiry as
that of the fleet-footed fox which stole silently about the island. Her
arms, which had never exerted themselves beyond bending a bow in sport,
could now wield the axe as skilfully as Claude's. She had lost none of
her beauty, but in her rough garb, browned by the sun and wind and sea,
she seemed, in Claude's eyes, queenlier than ever. On this night, as she
leaned upon Claude's arm, each felt that the strength to endure must
come from her, though neither allowed the thought to form itself into
words.

When they reached their hut, the terrible loneliness, the blank left by
the death of their devoted old companion, so weighed upon them that they
once more sought the beach, where the long waves rolled in and broke at
their feet, keeping time, in their melancholy rush and retreat, with the
ever-recurring wave of sorrow in their young hearts.

"Marguerite," Claude said, pressing her tenderly to him, "this is more
than I can bear. You do not blame me, but I know that I am to blame. I
knew your uncle, and I should never have allowed myself to bring you to
this."

"Hush, dear, you are mad to speak so! Neither of us is to blame. No one
could have foretold the lengths to which my uncle's stubborn will would
carry him. But, my own, even at this time, each of us can say that we
have known happiness. I would have had it otherwise; but had I to live
my life over again, I could not have acted but as I did."

"Dear, I know it. But I cannot forget that Bastienne and Marie owe their
deaths to me."

"You are gloomy to-night, love! Neither died with a complaining word on
her lips. It was not you, nor my uncle, who cut them off, but fate.
Dearest, the night wind cuts you keenly," she added, as Claude gave way
to a sudden fit of coughing. "Let us return to the house."

"I dread the loneliness," said Claude. "Ah, Marguerite, I am weak
to-night, unmanly to-night! I felt at every step I took to the beach
that the spirits of those two murdered women were walking beside me, and
yet I welcomed them not. I trembled."

"You are indeed weak, my love. But be strong. We have yet a hard fight
to fight. We must not give in till we see France."

"See France! I shall never see it! It is hard, when life promised so
fair, to have to lay it down away from the camp and the court. I had
hoped yet to win myself a name; not for my own sake, but that you, my
queen, might be the proudest woman in France."

"I am the proudest woman in the world," she said. "This year of trial
has proved my love a king. I have watched you toil and suffer for us in
uncomplaining silence, and the hopeful words which were ever on your
lips told how nobly you were fighting. O Claude, I need you! I need you
now more than ever! We each must help the other!" She clung trembling to
her lover's arm.

Claude braced himself.

"I must not let my gloomy spirit make my love's as heavy as its own. It
has passed, sweetheart I feel strong again; and to-morrow I shall be
ready to fight the battle anew."

As they walked back in the darkness Claude stumbled, and would have
fallen, but that Marguerite's arm held him up.

"How strong you are become, my darling!" he said tenderly. "Had I a
sword on shore I would teach you to wield it; and truly, I think, when
we get home again another Joan of Arc would be ready to lead the hosts
of France."

"'Tis good to see the old spirit return. We shall indeed get home; and
it will be sufficient for me to know that my hero is the first in the
field, with my glove borne honourably into the thick of the fight."

But though she spoke thus cheerfully her heart was heavy within her; and
when, in the night, she woke to hear Claude coughing as he had done on
the beach, she knew that the end must be near. In the morning, a greater
sorrow awaited her. She found him weak, worn, and feverish, having spent
a sleepless night. When he attempted to build the fire, which had gone
out during the night, as he was placing a heavy log upon the dry
branches, he fell forward on his face, and would have been burnt by the
fire he had just kindled but that Marguerite, springing to his side,
bore him bodily to the hut. As she laid him down, she saw that her arm
was dyed with blood.

Could the end have come already? He was bleeding at the mouth, and she
knew that his lungs were affected. She had little experience or
knowledge about sickness of any kind, and at first she thought he was
dead. But she bravely did what she could to restore him, and was soon
rewarded by seeing the languid eyes open with a half-dreamy stare. The
minutes seemed like hours before he showed any further signs of
regaining consciousness, and it was to her as the voice of God when his
lips parted, and he murmured her name. His hand pressed hers tenderly,
lovingly, despairingly. He had had a glimpse of death, and, as he awoke
from his swoon, his first thought was of the horrors she would endure
till she should follow him. His strength slowly returned, and by noon he
was able to sit propped up in the door of the hut, through which the
warm sunshine streamed brightly.

"How cold it has become," he said suddenly, with a shiver.

"Let me wrap this blanket about you, dearest. You are weak still, but a
little rest will make you strong."

"Your words would drive away any chill breath," he said tenderly, as she
arranged the covering about him. "But surely it is strange, with that
warm sun streaming down, that the gentle wind should so soon have cooled
the air. A moment ago it was as warm as the summer breezes of France.
But what means that shouting?"

"I can hear naught," said Marguerite, her heart sinking within her as
she became convinced that Claude's attack had left him delirious.

But suddenly she, too, held up her warm hand in the wind. It had indeed
grown colder, although the restless ocean seemed to wear a calmer smile
than it had done in the early morning. Her ear, too, caught an unwonted
sound; it was the screaming of innumerable sea-birds; and as they drew
nearer, the loud flapping of their wings resounded through the island.
What could their strange appearance mean? While she thus questioned, a
sudden coughing told her that the keen blast which had swept across them
had left Claude weakened. She went to him, drew him within doors, and
wrapped him warmly in the thickest coverings they had; then she sat
anxiously by his side. The wind grew colder, and the screaming of birds
louder. Both feared some dire calamity--they knew not what. At last a
dull rumbling was heard, and then a roaring, a bellowing, a grinding, a
crashing, and the sudden falling of a mighty burden, as if a mountain
peak had toppled over on their island, which shook and vibrated as with
an earthquake.

The two held each other's hands and waited.

"Could it be a ship?" exclaimed Marguerite, suddenly.

"God help the ship that struck with such a fearful crash! But listen!"

The grinding, crashing sound continued to re-echo through the island,
while the warm sun gleamed brightly down on the two terrified
inhabitants of the hut; the cowering animals slunk trembling to their
holes; and the timorous birds plunged into the sea, or circled far out
over the peaceful waters.

Marguerite, seeing that sudden destruction had not come to them, nerved
herself, and went out to discover the cause of the unearthly din. As she
turned her eyes to the northern side of the island, she was almost
blinded by the resplendent glare. A huge iceberg, stretching far out to
sea, lay hard against the high cliffs, whose base was a hundred fathoms
beneath. A myriad birds circled above it, and flew over the island,
wondering at the green stretches and the spreading trees, and the
strange being who stood alone amidst it all.

The berg was like a series of mountain peaks, which scintillated in the
sunshine. Its green base, eaten and worn by the seas, sparkled like
emerald, and its innumerable caves and grottos, giving a variety of
light and shade, made it seem a veritable fairy realm. The base, worn
with many hollows, kept up a continuous roaring as the sea swept about
it, and the crashing fragments, which fell ever and anon with loud
resounding splash, added to the din. On the cliff lay piled a huge mass
which had fallen thundering down when the berg struck the shore.

"All is well, Claude," cried Marguerite. "It is but a berg which has
come to visit us in our loneliness. And what a troop of companions it
has brought us! The air is thick with feathered friends! Make haste and
get strong, dear," she added, as she re-entered the hut, "and to-morrow
you will be able to come out and look upon it. A fairer sight I never
beheld. Odin and Thor could not have had a grander palace."

"Sweet, that is like you to turn our terror into a jest," said Claude
smiling tenderly at her. "But hark!" and as he spoke a low, savage growl
reached their ears.

"Give me the arquebuse, quick!" cried Claude, and stretched out his hand
for the weapon.

But Marguerite had already seized it. She had learned to take aim and
fire as well as any man, and she stood with the gun firmly held in her
strong young arms, and pointed towards the door. For one breathless
moment--which seemed a year--they waited. The growl sounded nearer, and
a swift shuffling of clumsy feet told them that some ponderous animal
was approaching. The next instant the object of their dread appeared.

It was an animal such as they had never seen before, or heard of. A
she-bear, full six feet in length--gaunt and fierce. It had doubtless
been prowling about in its Greenland home in search of food, when it
found itself, and the cub which followed it, adrift on this vast berg.
The birds, the only other occupants of its habitation, were able to
elude it, and so it spent hungry weeks on its slow, southern journey.
Scarcely had the berg come in sight of the island when the starving
brute, followed by its cub, sprang into the ocean and swam for the
shore. As it prowled about in search of seals or fish, it had caught
sight of Marguerite. It scented food, and with a fierce growl came
shuffling with the speed of a galloping horse towards her.

As she now looked upon it her heart never flinched. She waited calmly
till it should be within sure range.

It was a beautiful creature, with a mantle of silvery white, tinged with
yellow. As it drew nearer, its long, strong neck, its flattened,
elongated head, and small ears and mouth gave it a cruel appearance,
while its tongue, lolling out, seemed to be lapping in anticipation the
blood of its victims. When it was but twenty yards away Marguerite's
arquebuse was raised, and with unflinching nerve she fired at the
advancing brute. The bullet struck it, and with a growl it seized its
breast with its teeth, as if trying to pull out the thing that had
smitten it. The next instant it was at the very door, and its huge form
shut out the light, as it was about to pounce upon its prey. But Claude
had seized a second arquebuse, and, when the bear was within two yards,
fired point-blank into its hairy breast. The bullet entered its heart,
and it fell dead at their feet. The cub, which had followed close at its
heels, with a pitiful cry threw itself upon its mother's body, and
seeing the warm blood flowing in a great stream, began lapping it up
with greedy tongue.

"Bravely done, my queen!" said Claude, as the bear fell dead in the
hut. "I would La Pommeraye could have seen your nerve! What a buzz this
adventure would cause in Paris!"

"O Claude, it is horrible! See that unhappy little creature drink its
mother's life! Dear God, why is life created only to be destroyed?"

As she uttered the prayer, which has gone up a myriad times from a
myriad hearts, she turned with a pitying hand to the motherless cub, but
at her touch the terrified little creature rushed with ungainly shuffle
away, and skulked among the rocks on the beach.

The dead bear was lying almost at the feet of Claude, a ghastly
spectacle, and Marguerite felt that she must get it outside the hut. She
seized its huge hairy paws, with their black, curved claws, and
attempted to drag it to the door. But, gaunt and starved as it was, it
was too heavy for her strength, and resisted all her efforts. Claude was
in no condition to assist her, and she was compelled all day to move
about, caring for him, with the shadow of death in her presence.

Night came, and still the bear lay stretched, cold and stiff, in the
doorway. Again she struggled with it, but again her efforts were futile,
and there was nothing for it but to let it remain there all night. But
in its ghastly presence she could not sleep; and she lay awake listening
to the crashing and roaring of the berg, as the waves rose about it, and
hearing beside her the quiet breathing of Claude. Worn out by illness
and the excitement of the day, he was sleeping like a tired child.
Several times, as she looked out on the darkness, she saw a white form
moving stealthily back and forth. She knew it was the little cub, and
her heart was moved with pity for its loneliness. She heard its step
draw nearer and nearer to where she lay, and at last she saw it standing
in the door. She moved not a muscle for fear of alarming it, or
disturbing Claude; but when she heard it with an almost human wail throw
itself against its mother, she could have risen and fondled it. All
night it lay there, wondering, no doubt, why that once warm breast was
now as cold as the icy home it had left.

When morning broke, Marguerite made a movement to rise, and the cub, in
terror, sprang up, lumbered down to the beach, and plunged into the
water.

"Poor beast!" she said, "we must try to win its confidence. It will
dispel something of our own loneliness."

She left the hut to stir up the embers of the fire, and pondered how she
might lure the little bear to her. But it would not come near her, and
at her approach dived into the ocean, or skulked behind rocks.

The gentle sleep of the night had worked wonders for Claude. In the
morning, when the crackle of the fire told him that Marguerite was up
before him, he rose, and to his surprise found his limbs strong and his
brain clear. He looked upon the dead bear, and all that had passed came
back to him. He stepped over its gaunt form, and stood before
Marguerite.

"Oh, you wicked boy!" she exclaimed, when she saw him. "To get up
without my permission! You will kill yourself."

"My darling, I am strong again! I never felt better in my life."

"You must obey me, dear," she said firmly. "You are indeed weak, and if
you overtax your strength--think what will become of me! To please me,
go back and rest till I have prepared your breakfast, and then, if you
still feel strong, we will think about letting you stay up."

As she spoke, she laid her hand lovingly in his, and led him back as a
mother would her child. He would not disobey; and when he was once more
wrapped in his blankets, she kissed him on the lips and eyes, laughingly
bade him be good, and went about her work with a lighter heart, feeling
that he was indeed stronger, and hoping that the warm summer weather
would restore him to perfect health.

By noon he was almost his old self, and even Marguerite's persuasion
could not keep him within doors. His strength had not fully returned,
but he was able, by resting frequently, and leaning on her arm, to go to
the central part of the island, and get a good view of the wonderful
berg.

As they looked upon it, the grinding ceased. A warm south wind had come
up, and the great mass, catching its breath, slid from the shore, and
almost imperceptibly began to move away. They watched it with a feeling
akin to sorrow, as the blue water widened between it and their island.
It had been something to break the monotony of their existence; and even
its loud roaring was a relief from the dreary sameness of their days.
For hours they sat there, watching it make its slow way northward; nor
did they take their eyes from it till it was but a dim, misty fog-bank
on the blue horizon.

They had not been alone. Beneath them, on the shore, squatted the cub,
watching its northern home drift slowly away; once it made as if it
would have plunged into the waves and followed it, but, seeming to
change its mind, paused at the water's edge.

When Claude and Marguerite went back to their hut, they put forth their
united strength, and succeeded in dragging the ponderous form of the
bear out into the open air. Claude had watched the Indians skin wild
beasts with no better implements than their rude flint knives, and had
learned the process by which they cured the skins. On the following day
he set to work to remove the strong white hide. It took him the whole
day, but at night he and Marguerite had the satisfaction of seeing it
spread to dry on the roof of their hut. All through that night they
heard the piteous cries of the young bear, as it prowled helplessly
about. Their own suffering made them sympathetic, and next day both made
every effort to coax it to them.

At last the bear-skin was spread, broad, and white, and soft, on their
floor. To their delight they found that their new comrade would steal in
at night and rest upon the soft rug, creeping away in the early morning,
just as the first robin announced that day was beginning to break.

Gradually it grew accustomed to them, and ere a month had passed it
would take food from their hands, although it would not allow them to
touch it. But before the summer had passed, and the September leaves
began to turn, it would crouch at Marguerite's feet, and rest its snout
in her lap as she petted and fondled it.

All through the summer Claude grew stronger and stronger. The gods were
good to him, for a time was coming when all his man's strength would be
needed.



CHAPTER XV


When Roberval returned to his castle, and the great iron gates flew back
to admit him, he was amazed to see, standing in the courtyard, the
stalwart form of La Pommeraye. He knew that the young man had gone to
Canada, and he had hoped that the New World, which had swallowed up so
many valiant Frenchmen, would have found him a grave. For a moment he
could find no words to address his enemy--for as such he now saw from
his defiant mien that La Pommeraye had come. But the old domineering
self-confidence returned at once.

"Why loiters a son of France in the paths of peace when the foe, who
presses down upon us, calls for every sword in the kingdom?" he
exclaimed.

"My sword has never been found in the scabbard when the King had need of
it," replied Charles, and he added, threateningly, "nor will it ever be
allowed to rust when the weak call for help, or if they are beyond help,
for revenge."

Roberval blanched. He saw that La Pommeraye had in some way become aware
of his infamous treatment of his niece and De Pontbriand. He knew, too,
that the young lion was roused, and that a false step on his part would
cost him his life. He suddenly changed his tactics.

"Pardon an old soldier, M. de la Pommeraye," he said, "but I have just
come from a hot field where a few such swords as yours would have turned
the tide of battle in our favour. I forgot for the moment that you must
have but lately arrived from the New World, whither King Francis told me
he had sent you to recall me." With an assumed innocence he added: "I am
weary from the fight, and the long ride through the mud; but when I have
had a night's rest I have much to say to you, and shall expect you in my
apartment in the morning. Perhaps you may be persuaded to accompany me
back to camp."

"Never! I serve no tyrant!" said Charles bluntly. "My sword has other
tasks before it."

"You are bold, M. de la Pommeraye, to stand single-handed in my court
and use such language to me. Have you brought any attendants with you?"

"No. I came alone. I had no desire that others should know the cause of
my journey to Picardy."

"It is well," said De Roberval, and to himself he muttered: "And no one
shall see you go hence. M. de la Pommeraye," he said aloud, "does not
wisely to believe all the old wives' tales he has heard. But these
things are not for the ears of the world. To-morrow we shall meet, and,
after our conference, I have no doubt we shall journey hence together.
Etienne will see to your wants. The north tower, Etienne; it is
Monsieur's old room."

As he spoke, he leaped from his horse and entered the castle. When he
was alone in his room he fell on a couch and groaned in spirit. His sin
was finding him out. His fair young niece rose before him, and he seemed
to hear her voice as she had bade him farewell. The vision would not
down. At length he rose, and, draining a wine-cup, strode up and down
the room, muttering defiance at his enemies. "I was but God's servant
punishing vice," he said to himself, "and this fool who dares beard me
in my stronghold shall feel the weight of my hand. He shall die, and the
torture his existence inflicts on me shall end. We shall go hence
together, indeed, but he shall be carried forth. I would not even let
his body remain within my castle walls."

Kill La Pommeraye himself he knew he could not, but the old honour of
the man had become so sapped that he felt little compunction when he
resolved to have him murdered under his own roof. He knew that his own
life was not safe a moment while La Pommeraye lived; and he knew,
moreover, that should the truth of the story get abroad, his hopes of
advancement and honour would be at an end. There was no help for it; he
had gone too far to retreat. Charles must not be allowed to leave the
castle alive.

In Etienne, De Roberval thought he had a faithful ally. Twice had the
lad helped him to remove foes whom his rank would not allow him to
meet, and yet whom he could not send to the gallows. But he had reckoned
without his host this time. Etienne was a faithful henchman of the House
of Roberval, and he had aided his master when he thought the honour of
the family was at stake; but ever since the dim mists of the Isle of
Demons had faded from his sight, he had, with difficulty, kept his
strong, young hands from seizing his master by the throat, and choking
his life out. If he honoured the name he served, he worshipped the
memory of Marguerite; and now that La Pommeraye had come, as he
gathered, to avenge her, he was ready to fall at his feet, to follow him
to the ends of the earth, to the very Isle of Demons, if necessary.

Roberval guessed naught of all this. The heavy peasant face, the dull
eyes, well concealed the workings of the man's soul when the nobleman
called him into his presence, and hinted that he would need his sword
the next day. Etienne guessed his purpose at once, and, when the plan
was revealed, would fain have run his master through the heart, but his
face and eye had an ox-like lack of intelligence.

"Are you ready to risk your life in this enterprise?" said the nobleman.
"It is for the honour of the House of Roberval."

"I am at your service, Sieur," said Etienne, quietly.

"You have seen the man to-day, and you know his strength?"

Etienne bowed.

"You must bring three daring fellows with you. Three of the soldiers
who accompanied me here to-day will do. You can instruct them. Guide
them through the armory, and by yonder passage to this room. The curtain
will conceal you. Make no noise; he is a wary foe. When I draw my sword
upon him, strike him down ere he can turn. Give him no chance; he is not
a man to be trifled with."

Again Etienne signified a stolid assent.

"Away now, and let not your fellows know my signal. A false step will
cost them their lives at La Pommeraye's hand. And let not a word escape
you, or I will string all four of you to the nearest tree. So, away! and
see that you are punctual. Let the good work be well done."

The stoical Picard withdrew from his master's presence, but muttered to
himself as he went down the long hall which led to the square: "It will
go hard, but I will see that the good work is, indeed, well done."

Charles de la Pommeraye was pretty well worn out by the amount of
travelling he had done, and he was glad when Etienne left him, and he
could throw himself on his couch to sleep. But the air seemed
oppressive. He felt that there was treachery in it, and, rising, he
bolted and barred the door of his room, and placed his trusty sword
within reach of his hand. Still he could not rest, and tossed about,
seeing both the hard face of De Roberval before him, and the rugged
outlines of the barren, northern island with the beckoning smoke curling
upward.

Midnight came; and when everything was at rest save the clink, clank of
the sentry's footfall as he walked back and forth on the wall, La
Pommeraye raised himself on his elbow, and listened. A rat seemed to be
gnawing at the wall. "Hard food, these stones," he said to himself.
"Methinks," he added, as the sound grew louder, "the rat hath strong
teeth."

The next instant the moonlight, which streamed in at the high window,
showed him a part of the solid wall moving back, and, in the opening, a
man, tall, square-shouldered, with a bull-neck, stood silent. Charles'
hand found his sword, and, leaping from his bed, he sprang at the
intruder.


When Etienne left his master, instead of going to the part of the castle
where the troopers were quartered, he went without the wall altogether,
and walked up and down in silent meditation. He was planning a course of
action, and his slow wit was tardy in mapping it out. La Pommeraye must
be warned, and must leave the castle; but how to manage this without
calling down on himself the wrath of De Roberval was no easy problem for
Etienne to solve. But he soon determined on one part of his plan. He
would warn La Pommeraye himself. He would then have the rest of the
night to plan his own escape; and perhaps La Pommeraye might be able to
help him out of his difficulty.

He knew a dozen ways of entering and leaving the castle without being
seen, and stealing in by one of them, he waited till midnight, when De
Roberval, who was ever likely to be prowling about, would be almost
sure to be at rest. Many of the rooms had secret passages leading to
them from outside, and La Pommeraye's was one of these. Etienne could
traverse their windings as easily as he could the halls of the interior,
and he resolved to seek an entrance to La Pommeraye's room, and tell him
the whole story.

He found the bolt of the door after some groping about, but it had long
remained unused, and required many vigorous pulls to make it move. At
last it shot back, and, as he pressed his sturdy shoulders against the
wall, the secret door swung open.

When La Pommeraye leaped forward with drawn sword, Etienne showed no
sign of fear.

"It is I, Monsieur," he said, with unmoved slowness.

La Pommeraye lowered his weapon, and exclaimed:

"What brings you here at this hour? I thought you were one of De
Roberval's hired assassins."

"So I am, Monsieur," replied the Picard, with grim humour. "I am to head
a band of them to take your life."

La Pommeraye laughed.

"And where are your fellows, since you are here to put an end to my
career?" he asked.

"Monsieur asks too many questions. I have not exactly come here to
assassinate you, but to tell you the time, the place, and the manner in
which it is to be done. As to my fellows--my master left the carrying
out of the plot to me; and I thought it best to tell you first, before
preparing them for the----"

"Slaughter! I see, good Etienne!" and La Pommeraye burst into a hearty
laugh at the way De Roberval's servant had outwitted him.

"Monsieur has an interview with the Sieur de Roberval to-morrow
morning?" questioned the man.

"Yes, most worthy Etienne."

"In the east tower, in my master's room. I am to admit you to that room;
and, having done it, I am to lead three other murderers, like myself,"
said Etienne, with a grin at his own wit, "by a secret passage similar
to the one by which I entered your room just now. We are to await a
signal from my master--the raising of his sword--and then we are to fall
upon you and make sure of our work. He warned me that if we made a botch
of it you would probably send us all to Heaven, and if we let aught be
known about it, we should all be hanged; and so, methinks, I had better
go be hanged."

Charles could not restrain his amusement at the doleful sincerity with
which the last words were uttered. On other lips the closing remark
would have sounded like dry humour; but Etienne's voice showed that he
expected no better fate.

"So, your master pays me the compliment of hiring no less than four men
to kill me," said Charles. "And what do you propose to do, now that you
have warned me?"

"I know not, Monsieur. It took me an hour walking up and down outside
the gate to get thus far. Another hour's thinking may help me to find
some way of escape from the Sieur de Roberval's wrath."

"I fear, good Etienne, he will never forgive you if his plot
miscarries. He is not a man to break his promises. Perhaps we may see an
easier way out of it than by means of a rope. Who commands the guard
to-night?"

"Pierre Dablon."

"Would he let you pass without doubting your word?"

"Ay, that he would! Pierre has too often felt the strength of my arm to
doubt my word."

"The way is plain, then! Go to the stables, saddle your master's best
and fleetest horse, and put as many leagues between you and this castle
as you can before the time comes to lead your fellows to my death. Tell
Pierre you are sent out by De Roberval with a message that brooks no
delay, and, seeing you so mounted, he will question you no further. Take
this ring, and keep your horse warm till you reach St Malo. Enquire out
Master Jacques Cartier; every Malouin can direct you to him. Show him
the ring, and he will provide for you till I come. And say not a word of
your master's attempt on my life. Let none but Master Cartier's ears
hear the story of Mdlle. de Roberval and M. de Pontbriand. The world
does not understand. They may still be alive, and we will bring them
back; and all France shall hear their story from their own lips."

Etienne could only fall on his knees and kiss Charles' hand in
speechless gratitude.

"But, Monsieur," he exclaimed, "will you not come with me? My master
will certainly kill you; and the castle is full of cut-throats who will
obey him for hire."

"Nay, nay, good Etienne. Away to St Malo. I have a meeting with your
master to-morrow. I will find my own way to his room; and in the course
of a week expect me at St Malo."

Etienne left him, and in half an hour's time was galloping along the
muddy roads, on which great puddles gleamed like silver shields. As he
rode on, he pondered what manner of man it was whom he had just left,
and how, knowing that his life was in danger, he could loiter in the
very stronghold of his enemy.

On the morrow, at the appointed hour, Charles presented himself in De
Roberval's room. The nobleman met him with his usual frigid politeness.
He was somewhat alarmed at seeing him enter unannounced by Etienne.

"How found you your way hither?" he enquired.

"Etienne Brulé, the faithful fellow who has waited on me since I entered
your castle, directed me, Sieur," replied Charles.

"He is indeed a faithful fellow," said De Roberval, with a tinge of
irony in his hard voice. "But now tell me more plainly the reason of
this visit."

"The Sieur de Roberval knows only too well."

"Impossible, since you have not yet told me. Your vague hints of last
night conveyed but little meaning. If you have ought to say, speak out
boldly and bluntly, as a soldier should ever speak."

"Yes, and act," said Charles curtly.

"What do you mean?" cried De Roberval.

"If your answer does not satisfy me when I have spoken plainly, you will
soon learn my meaning," said Charles.

"Dare you threaten me?" and De Roberval laid his hand on his sword.

Charles imitated his action.

"Keep that plaything where it is. I have here at my side the sword I
wore on the Sillon. Your weapon might shrink from its touch."

"Curse you!" hissed De Roberval; but remembering how girt about with
foes was Charles, he checked himself, and with an evil smile said: "I
forgot for a moment that you are my guest, with a petition to offer. Out
with it! There is nothing I should not be willing to grant you."

"It is of Mdlle. de Roberval I have come to speak," said Charles, with a
sternness which made the nobleman tremble lest his plans should
miscarry. "Since I returned to France, two months ago, strange tales of
your brutal treatment of your niece have reached my ears. I have come to
you to find out the truth of these tales. If they are true, I will cut
you off as a cursed thing among men. If you can prove them false, I
swear I will defend your honour against every man who insults it by
repeating them."

"I need no champion," said De Roberval testily. "I have done no wrong.
Your friend, whom I trusted, whom I took into my house, whom I saw
nursed back to life in this very room, proved a faithless ingrate, and
betrayed the trust I had placed in him."

"Liar!" came from between Charles' set teeth.

But De Roberval, unheeding the interruption, went on:

"To save my niece's honour I took her with me to the New World, and bade
her lover venture not on board my vessel. But scarcely were we a day at
sea when he stood by her side, having found his way on board among a
gang of criminals. He disgraced the name of De Roberval before the whole
world. I put him in chains for his disobedience; and still he seduced my
niece to his side. Could I, as a just ruler, spare my own? I put her on
an island in the northern seas, with the two jades who had abetted her
crime; and her wretched paramour leaped into the ocean, and doubtless
perished ere he reached the shore."

Charles stood pale and trembling with the effort to restrain himself, as
he listened to this recital, and De Roberval exulted in the thought that
in another moment he would see the man whom he now no longer dreaded
lying dead at his feet. At last La Pommeraye found his tongue.

"Take back that lie!" he thundered, "or, by the holy cross, I will pluck
the tongue that uttered it from your false throat! Claude a deceiver!
Marguerite a----" but he could get no further. He was about to draw his
sword, when he saw De Roberval's weapon flash upwards. The action
recalled him to his senses. He remembered that this was to be the signal
for the assassins. He reached out a sudden hand, seized De Roberval by
the throat, and dashed him headlong against the wall. The shock stunned
him for a moment, and his sword fell ringing on the floor. Charles
picked it up, snapped it across his knee, and flung the pieces at the
nobleman.

"A wretched weapon," said he, "fit for a coward."

De Roberval raised himself, and sat glaring at the wrathful giant.

"You are surprised," said La Pommeraye, "that I have not killed you. It
is not mercy; I but respect the hospitality of your roof. I will let you
live for a time, tortured by your coward's conscience, and then I will
strike you down. Assassin, your plot was discovered. You thought to have
murdered me in your own house--you, who were once noble enough to strike
at your own breast when you thought yourself defeated. Your peasants
have more nobility. Etienne, whom you entrusted with the carrying out of
your plan, told me the whole story, and I have sent him safely on his
way on your best horse. Follow not his steps, or the Duke of Guise will
make you feel his iron hand. You have still a few months to live. I
passed the Isle of Demons, and saw your niece's watchfire beckoning me
ashore. I return thither at once. If they are still alive I will come
back and crave the King to mete out to you the punishment you deserve;
if they have perished I will hack you limb from limb. Attempt not to
follow me, or to send your dogs after me, or your days will suddenly be
shortened."

Leaving the nobleman still half-stunned by the stinging blow he had
received, and speechless at the threats he had listened to, especially
at the mention of the Duke of Guise, Charles strode from the castle,
mounted his horse, which awaited him at the gate, and rode away with a
fury which put all chance of pursuit out of the question.

As he rode on with white face and set teeth, no one seeing him would
have thought that the fierce eye and stern expression could have
belonged to the dashing dare-devil, the prince of cavaliers and
duellists, of a year before.



CHAPTER XVI


Autumn came once more to the lonely dwellers on the Isle of Demons.

The dreary time was settling down threateningly; and as they faced the
inevitable months, their hearts sank within them.

The bleak, late September winds again compelled them to spend most of
their time within their hut. Daily through the summer they had watched
for a passing sail, but with the return of autumn they gave up hope, and
made ready as best they could to pass another winter on their island
prison. Their supply of food, although they had husbanded it with the
utmost care, was almost exhausted, and they had now scarcely anything
save fish and fowl.

Yet their wretched surroundings, their hopeless future, only drew them
closer together. They had each other, and that meant everything. They
could scarcely have been said to be actually unhappy, but for one
ever-gnawing anxiety--the state of Claude's health. All summer he had
remained strong and hopeful, but with the first cold weather his cough
returned, and he himself realised that he could never live through the
winter, whose icy breath they could even now feel from the north. He
was to give up the fight sooner than either of them expected; but before
the struggle ended still another sorrow--or joy, they scarce knew
which--was to be added to their lives.

Early in October Marguerite's child was born. Almost she had prayed that
it might not live; almost she had hoped that she might die with it, and
end the awful suffering which was all they could look forward to. But
when she came slowly back to strength again, and held the tiny, helpless
creature in her arms, and knew that it drew its life from her veins, the
desire to live returned to her; she had now a double incentive to
courage and hope.

For a time Claude forgot the future, his own sufferings, everything
except his son. All the tenderness in his nature showed itself now. His
hands, which in France had known no service but war, were now as apt as
any woman's. Night and day he waited on Marguerite and her child, and
with great joy saw them both grow strong. Meanwhile, a kind Providence
seemed to be mindful of him, for his strength never failed him; and
Marguerite, as each morning she met his bright smile and cheery words,
began to hope that the miracle for which she had prayed had been worked,
and that Claude would yet be spared to her.

The cold of September had been followed by an unusually late and mild
autumn, and in the mellow, hazy days Marguerite would walk up and down
the cliff with her child in her arms, followed by the cub, which they
had humorously christened François, and which had now grown quite
domesticated, and would shuffle after his mistress wherever she went,
like a faithful dog. In these peaceful days Marguerite found herself
crooning to her baby the old Normandy lullabies, which she had not heard
since her own infancy, but which came back instinctively to her lips.

But her happiness was to be of short duration. The blow she had dreaded
fell upon her when she least expected it. Claude's strength had been but
false fire. With the return of the cold weather heaviness seized his
limbs, a dull weight oppressed his lungs, and his cough grew rapidly
worse. At last, one night, there came a hæmorrhage which would not be
checked, and in the morning Marguerite found herself alone with her
dead.

How she lived through that night and the days which followed it she
never knew. Nature was merciful to her, and blotted out all memory of
details from her brain. The constant necessity of caring for her child
was all that saved her reason, and kept her from taking her life.

With her own hands she dug a third grave beside the two others on the
cliff, and after incredible labour and exertion, she laid Claude's body
to rest, and heaped the earth above it. When she had finished her task,
which she had performed with wild and feverish energy, she threw herself
upon the mound, and gave way to utter despair. How long she lay there
she did not know; but she was recalled to herself by the crying of her
child from the hut. Not for herself, but for the sake of the little life
which depended upon her, she must continue to live and be strong. She
pressed her baby to her breast, and with amazing fortitude and heroism,
set herself to face the task before her.

Then followed many weeks of agony. Through the long nights the wind
howled about her hut, and she imagined she heard the voices of the
demons of the island clamouring for her soul. With fiendish fury they
yelled and shrieked round her frail little shelter, and often she
fancied she could hear them trying to force an entrance. In the morning,
with her child wrapped close and warm at her breast, she would go out
and pace the cliff in all weathers, finding in the worst tumult of the
elements a relief from the terrors of the night. Madness seemed settling
down upon her, but the thought of her child bore her through it all, and
the iron will of the De Robervals stood her in good stead.

Her vitality was marvellous. Something of the nature of her warrior
ancestors seemed to have entered into her veins, and she was able to
endure hardships such as had caused many a hardy soldier to succumb. The
winter, which closed in upon her, bade fair to be no less severe than
the preceding one, and now she had no one to help her in her daily
tasks. With her own hands she had to break the bare branches, carry in
fire-logs, and even cut down trees.

Her efforts to obtain fish were unsuccessful, although the ice, which
occasionally formed about the shore, was soon broken up by the wind, and
the birds, which still hovered about their island haunts, seemed to have
no difficulty in procuring their food. Fortunately, the powder and
shot, which they had carefully husbanded, still held out, and she had a
sufficient supply to carry her through the winter. She was loth to
destroy the only living creatures left upon the island. The hares, which
leaped across her path, she had learned to love, and the warmly-clad
northern birds had become very dear companions to her in her loneliness.
But the terrible necessity that stared her in the face knew naught of
mercy, and the winter stillness often re-echoed to the sound of her
arquebuse. So expert had she become that she rarely wasted a charge of
powder.

December passed, and January was nearly over, when the crowning sorrow
which Fate had in store for this heroic woman fell upon her. She woke
one morning to find her child cold and lifeless at her side. She seized
him in her arms, pressed the little icy form close to her warm breast,
but felt no answering warmth. Madly she kissed his lips and eyes and
cheeks; she would not believe that he was dead. When at length she
became convinced of the truth, she rushed wildly from the hut.

There had been a heavy snowfall during the night. She was in her bare
feet, but she heeded not the cold. She rushed to the cliff, her child in
her arms, her hair streaming about her shoulders. The end had at last
come; there was nothing further to live for. Fate had conquered. She
could but throw herself into the sea, and, with her baby in her arms,
confront the good God who had seen fit to pursue her with such
suffering. But as she stood upon the cliff, the rolling waves beating
against the rocky hollows in the grey dawn seemed to her the hoarse
voices of the demons. Once more she heard them calling for her soul, and
for the soul of her child. She turned, and retraced her steps to her
empty hut.

Laying the baby's body on the bed, she sat down beside it on the floor,
her hands clasped about her knees. Silent she sat there, beside the fire
she had heaped up to try to revive the child, till night fell, and the
stars shone out bright and clear in the frosty sky. Silent she sat till
they faded again before the grey light of dawn, and the morning of a new
day broke. The wind had risen during the night, and the waves had been
bellowing up the beach; but she heard neither wind nor waves. Dry-eyed
she sat beside her long-dead fire, and felt not cold nor fear. Her
faculties were deadened, her brain numbed, and it was not till her
faithful companion, François the bear, tired of waiting to be taken
notice of, pressed his nose against her clasped hands, and breathed his
warm breath into her face, that she awoke from her trance.

She rose mechanically, turned to her brush heap, selected some dry
sticks for her fire, and was about to place them on the embers when she
noticed that it had long been dead. Her hands were like ice; she was
chilled to the very bone; but the physical pain she now began to feel
saved her. It called forth her energies; quickly she went to work to
renew the fire, and the exertion drew her out of herself. As the flames
blazed up and crackled through the dry branches, the life began to come
back to her frozen limbs, and she roused herself to face her situation.

Her baby must be buried, and she must perform the task. She fashioned a
rough coffin out of some planks, and tenderly laid the tiny body in it.
As she fastened down the lid it seemed to her that every nail went
through her own heart, but she did not weep. Her eyes had long since
ceased to know the comfort of tears. Wearily she climbed the hillside
with her little burden, wondering within herself how much longer it
would be before she could lay her worn-out limbs beside those three rude
graves, and be done with suffering for ever.

The baby must not lie alone; she would open Claude's grave, and lay him
beside his father. The frozen ground was almost impenetrable, and it was
long before she succeeded in digging a hole deep enough to admit the
coffin. But patiently she toiled; slowly, with weak hands, hacking the
soil, and scraping the lumps out of the grave. At last she had made a
shallow opening which would hold the box, and when it was placed within
she knelt beside it, holding the crucifix which had saved Claude from
the waves, and prayed that their souls might rest in peace. A sudden
impulse seized her. All that she had treasured, all that she had lived
for, was in that grave. The crucifix was the last precious thing left to
her, and she laid it upon the coffin of her child. Then, without
trusting herself to kneel there longer, she rose hurriedly, cast back
the frozen soil into the double grave, and piled large stones in a heap
over the top, to prevent any animal scratching away the earth. Then she
went back to her hut, and resumed the weary round of her hopeless,
solitary life.

To a modern mind it may seem strange that reason did not utterly desert
her; but the age in which she lived may help to account for the strength
which sustained her. Though of noble blood, and tenderly nurtured, she
had been accustomed to view scenes of death and hardship with a calm
eye. Young as she was, she had beheld death in many forms; and the
sieges which her uncle's castle had several times resisted had taught
her something of a man's strength and endurance, which, coupled with a
woman's tenacious vitality, made her doubly strong. Then, too, she had
not been unfamiliar with loneliness. In her youthful days, before Marie
de Vignan had come to live with her, she had often been left alone for
weeks, with no one to relieve the monotony of her existence save old
Bastienne and the other servants; and during these periods she had
rarely spoken to any human being, save to issue some command. And now,
though she was absolutely alone, the struggle for existence, and the
presence of the young bear, her sole living companion, saved her reason.
Sometimes, however, the unwonted sound of her own voice made her start
and wonder if she who had spoken could really be one with the desolate
creature who trod this snow-clad island, hopelessly scanning the horizon
for some sign that there was a world other than the narrow one within
whose limits she was hemmed.

Night she dreaded. She kept her fire going through the long hours of
darkness, but often the glowing embers and tongues of flame would take
weird shapes before her eyes. Across the island the wind swept and
moaned, and every sound seemed to her the voice of some of the fabled
evil spirits of the north. Often she would wake from sleep feeling
ghostly presences near her--at her very side. At such times she would
creep close to her strange companion, François, and nestle against his
shaggy coat. The warmth of his body, and the thick, soft rug which they
had made from the skin of the old she-bear, were all that saved her from
perishing of the bitter cold of that terrible winter.

It was with unutterable relief that she saw the spring sun return, and
felt the warm south wind breathe upon the island hollows. Daily she had
watched with hopeless eyes for the sail that never came; but now, as the
green shoots began to glisten here and there on the brown sod, she once
more built her watchfire high on the cliff, and kept it blazing night
and day.

Winter seemed suddenly to have given place to summer. All through April
the warm sun streamed down upon the island, and for hours she sat
looking out over the blue stretch of scarcely moving water. But fickle
spring had a change in store. A chill, icy breath swept down from the
north; the pines and birches moaned and sighed once more; and the great
green waves crashed foaming on the beach. Her heart sank within her;
but ever southward she gazed. An inward voice seemed still to assure her
that help was on its way to her, and that her sufferings were nearly at
an end.

At last, on the second day of the storm, her eye caught sight, on the
broken horizon, of a sail. Steadily she watched it till there could no
longer be any doubt of its reality; and then she heaped a huge pile of
brushwood upon her fire. They had seen it! Nearer and nearer the vessel
was drawing. At last she was to be rescued!



CHAPTER XVII


When Charles arrived at St Malo he found that his messenger, Etienne
Brulé, had reached the town in safety, and that De Roberval's horse was
being well looked after in Cartier's stables. No pursuit was attempted,
and it became evident that Etienne's master would make no effort to
bring him back.

In fact, De Roberval, who knew that La Pommeraye was the soul of honour,
and that no one would believe him capable of a falsehood, felt that his
own wisest course would be silence. He knew that at the least move on
his part La Pommeraye would be able to turn all tongues against him; and
if the young man had, as he had hinted, any influence with the Duke of
Guise, he would undoubtedly call down upon him the heavy hand of the
great minister, who had already no love for the ambitious little
nobleman.

Charles, too, was kept silent by what he had learned. His old sunny
smile had left him, and when he spoke, his once full, mellow voice had a
hard, metallic ring. Cartier scarce recognised him, and his questions
received but scant answers, which kept him from enquiring further.

"De Pontbriand may still live," said Charles. "Mdlle. de Roberval may
still live, and I must restore them to France, or make sure that they
are dead. If I find them not, God help De Roberval!"

"God help him in any case!" said Cartier to himself. "Your spirit will
never rest till it has spilt the little tyrant's blood. But when," he
added, "do you expect to start for the New World?"

"At once."

"Nay, that's impossible. You would have some difficulty in getting
sailors to venture out on the Atlantic at this season."

"If I cannot get men to accompany me," said Charles, "Etienne and I will
go alone;" and as he spoke, Etienne, who was standing by in Cartier's
orchard, where the conversation took place, nodded assent, and muttered
a determined "Ay, that we will!" He, too, was thinking of his fair young
mistress, who had always seemed to him like one of the blessed saints;
and when he pictured her pining for her home through the dreary autumn
and torturing winter in Canada, he would gladly have risked the voyage
single-handed.

It was no easy matter to get a vessel. Roberval had returned, and
Charles had no longer his former excuse. It was rumoured at court that
the lovers had been punished for flaunting immorality; and to tell why
he wanted the ship would be to drag the names of Claude and Marguerite
through the mire. This he would not do. He would not even let himself
think of what De Roberval had told him. It was not--it could not be
true! It was true that he had awakened from his dream; he knew that he
could never win Marguerite. What he had learned from Etienne and from
her uncle had banished that wild hope; and all the little circumstances
in their lives, which had before passed unnoticed, now rose before him
to show him how blind and foolish he had been. But he loved her none the
less--rather the more. And when he thought of what she and her lover
must have endured on that desolate island, in the great northern ocean,
his brain beat and his heart throbbed till he thought he must surely go
mad. To save himself, he felt he must start on his journey as soon as
possible.

But there were difficulties in the way. Cartier had disposed of his
ships, and taken up his permanent residence at Limoilou. To purchase a
new vessel would cost money; and Charles, ever prodigal, had but small
means that he could call his own. On Cartier he depended for help; but
that shrewd seaman knew how the enterprise must end, and instead of
putting his hand into his money-bag, he did his utmost to dissuade La
Pommeraye from his purpose.

Finding, however, that his friend had determined on the journey, he at
length got several St Malo merchants to join with him in fitting out a
small craft of fifty tons, ostensibly for the fur trade. The vessel was
an old one, but had several times weathered the Atlantic, and a number
of her old crew expressed themselves willing to join La Pommeraye if he
would offer them a sufficient wage. He had hard work, however, in
getting together six trusty fellows, who, with Etienne and himself,
would undertake the winter journey. But by the beginning of December all
was ready, and the little vessel, amid shaking of heads and prophecies
of misfortune from the knowing ones, steered away for the Channel, and
out towards the Atlantic, where even then a storm was raging.

But they were to meet with disappointment at the very beginning of their
voyage. The masts creaked and groaned; the planks quivered; the oakum
became loose in the seams; and on the second day out it was found that
the vessel had sprung a leak. Pump as they would, they could not lessen
the water in the hold; and though La Pommeraye would fain have held on
his way, discretion compelled him to turn his vessel's head about, and
run for the port he had just left.

When he reached harbour, the deck of the ship was almost to the water's
edge. There was nothing to do but to run her ashore. When the water was
pumped out of her, it was found that she was in a badly strained
condition, and that several planks in her hull were completely
worm-eaten. She had to be drawn up high and dry, and carpenters set to
work to give her a thorough overhauling. By the time she was again ready
for sea, the January snows had begun to whiten the fields about St Malo.
Nothing daunted, La Pommeraye determined to venture again, and Etienne
stood by him; but when they came to look for their crew, they found that
the fellows had all fled St Malo, and could not be found. No other men
were willing to take their places; and through the winter, La Pommeraye,
like one distraught, went up and down the streets seeking seamen. But
none would join his expedition. The inhabitants of the town came to look
upon him as mad, and wondered what evil influence there could be in the
New World dragging him to it. Even the merchants regretted the money put
into the venture; but Cartier would not let them withdraw.

It was not until spring that the _Marie_, for so the little craft was
called, was ready for sea, fully manned once more. Just when the March
showers were beginning to rejuvenate the earth she drew away from the
town; and Cartier, who stood on the wall watching her go forth, wondered
what the end would be. It could only be tragic. No company could live
through two dreary winters on a lonely island without losing some of
their number, and he doubted not that all were dead. He half regretted,
as he watched his friend's sail drop down beneath the horizon, that he
had not gone with him. But the three disappointments the New World had
already given him made him dread its shores, and he shuddered as he
thought of the gruesome tidings which must await La Pommeraye on that
lonely northern isle. He shuddered, too, as he thought of De Roberval.
Fate is sometimes slow-footed, but he felt certain that it must at last
rush with unerring speed to the destruction of the man who had wrecked
so many lives.

La Pommeraye kept on every stitch of canvas his little ship would carry,
and after four weeks' sailing, before a favouring breeze, the southern
coast of Newfoundland was reached. So far, they had had no trying
weather, and their hearts beat high with hope that their journey would
end without mishap. They ran into the harbour of St John, replenished
their almost empty water-casks, and then started on their final trip
towards the Isle of Demons.

But April is a treacherous month. It had been up to this time
summer-like, with a hot sun and gentle southern breezes. Now the wind
shifted to the north; the clouds crept across the sky leaden and low; a
heavy snowfall descended upon them; and it seemed that winter was
returning. Charles was only the more anxious to reach the island, and
crowded on canvas. But the bending masts and crashing seas finally made
him reef his sails, and his little ship for several days beat her
difficult way northward. La Pommeraye himself spent most of his time in
the crosstrees, keeping an anxious lookout for his destination. It
seemed to him that he would never reach it; and the storm, which had
increased instead of diminishing as the days went on, threatened to
swamp his vessel. The sailing-master besought him to turn about and run
for the harbour of St John. He saw that he would be compelled to do so;
but before giving the command, he once more went aloft and scanned the
broken, misty horizon. His keen eye soon discerned a dark spot, which
appeared and disappeared as the _Marie_ rose and fell on the waves.
Nearer it drew, and to his unutterable joy he saw a pillar of smoke rise
from it, and, growing in volume, spread in a mighty cloud over the
waters.

"It is they! They live!" shouted La Pommeraye, and sliding down a
backstay, seized his sailing-master's arm, and pointed to the hopeful
signal.

The sailors saw it, too. They knew the island, and crossed themselves
fearfully as they gazed upon what they believed to be the smoke of the
pit. To all except Etienne and La Pommeraye it seemed as if they were
rushing recklessly upon destruction. As if to buttress their fears, the
stormy north-east wind blew with redoubled fury, and wave after wave
swept over the ship, threatening to crush in their decks. The island was
now within a mile of them, and the pillar of smoke still rose, beckoning
them onward. But La Pommeraye's hopes were to be dashed to the ground. A
wave mightier than its fellows broke against the high bows, and catching
the _Marie_ amidships, sent tons of water on her decks. Before she could
recover and throw it off, a succession of similar waves rolled in upon
her, and all seemed lost.

"Our only hope," cried the sailing-master, "is to 'bout ship, and run
before the wind. No vessel could anchor in this storm, even if we did
reach yon island; and unless the gale lessens, we must sooner or later
be swamped."

There was nothing else for it, and La Pommeraye unwillingly consented.
The little craft was with difficulty brought about. Every scrap of
canvas was lowered, and she went scudding along under bare poles, with
the huge seas climbing high about her lofty poop, seeking to drown her.

When Marguerite saw the vessel which had been bearing down upon her
begin to recede, her heart failed her altogether. They had seen her
signal, and yet they were deserting her. For months she had watched in
vain; at last her hope seemed about to be realised; and when she saw it
vanish she was left more desolate than ever. Gladly at that moment would
she have welcomed death; and indeed it could not long delay now. Her
ammunition was exhausted; she was living principally on the eggs of the
shore birds and the fish which she was once more able to procure
occasionally. But such precarious means could not last long; it was only
a question of time.

She sat on the cliff, unheeding the storm which beat about her head and
scattered the embers of her fire. The anguish of her position forced
itself upon her. To be left on the island meant a slow and torturing
death; and yet, had she been rescued, she must have left behind her all
that she had loved. She prayed that she might die at once.

But Heaven had ordered otherwise. Life and hope were to return to her;
her imprisonment was nearly over.


La Pommeraye's vessel drove before the gale until the high cliffs of St
John's harbour loomed up before her. They were a welcome sight, for the
little craft had been so strained by the struggle against the storm,
that she had sprung a leak, and it was with difficulty that the sailors
kept the water in the hold from gaining on them. But within the harbour
the waters were comparatively calm; and when the anchor was cast, a
careful examination showed that the leak was immediately above the
water-line, and could be easily remedied. All through the night the wind
howled through the rigging; and all through the night La Pommeraye,
unable to rest, paced the deck like a caged tiger. On the following
morning the storm still raged, and it was not till the next day that
they were able to make for the open sea. The wind had now shifted to the
south, and a gentle breeze was rippling the surface of the giant rollers
over which they plunged on their northward way.

Four days had elapsed since Marguerite had seen the vessel disappear;
and four terrible days she had spent, roaming like one demented over her
island prison. All day she heard the voices of the demons calling from
every cliff and cave, and at night they beat upon the walls of her
cabin, and seemed to keep up a fierce, demoniacal laughter over the
graves on the hillside. Had it not been for François, she would have
rushed into the great green waves which rolled up on the shore, bent on
her own destruction; but the presence of the faithful creature, who
followed her about from cliff to cliff, as she looked east and west,
north and south, over the waste of waters; who sat by with pathetic
wonder as she lay stretched at length upon her loved ones' graves; who
guarded her through the darkness while the demons were howling above her
abode--saved her from herself. She longed for death; she would have
shrunk from the thought of leaving the island where Claude lay, but the
principle of life which would not die demanded that she should save
herself if it were possible. And while she prayed for death to come, she
strained her eyes in the hope of seeing some approaching sail.

At last the storm abated. The waves still climbed the island reaches,
but the warm breeze told her that the time of danger was past. A hope
which would not be crushed out whispered to her that the vessel she had
seen had been on its way to the island, and as the storm went down, the
same wild hope suggested to her that it would come back. Till darkness
fell she gazed, and when day broke she stood on the "lookout," scanning
the far horizon. At last she was rewarded. A dim, white speck stood out
against the clear sky. Swiftly it approached. Gradually the white sails
showed distinct, then the black hull appeared, and there, before her,
lay a vessel of her own land--a vessel from La Belle France. She moved
not, nor spoke, and by her side sat François on his haunches, as
motionless as herself. A cannon boomed from the ship, and its echoes
awoke a myriad birds, which flew screaming across the waves, or plunged
into the ocean. It was a strange sound to Marguerite--a voice from her
old home, calling her back to life.

With joy La Pommeraye had sighted once more the rocky point of land upon
the horizon. But a keen pang of disappointment seized him when he looked
in vain for the signal which had told him there was yet life on the
island. Could they have perished in the storm? Could his approach, when
they were on the verge of the grave, have served only to tantalise them,
and make the end the harder? Such thoughts beat in his brain, as he
vainly watched for any sign of life.

At last Etienne touched his arm.

"Look, Monsieur, they live! There stand two figures on yonder cliff."

As he spoke, all eyes turned towards the projecting spur, and as the
keen-visioned sailors caught sight of Marguerite and her uncouth
companion, they fell on their knees and crossed themselves in holy awe.
La Pommeraye quickly had the sails run down and the anchor dropped; and
before Marguerite could leave her station, the gun boomed forth its
welcome.

Down to the beach she went to meet the approaching boat, and even La
Pommeraye was awed when he saw her figure coming towards him.

Her clothes had been patched and mended till it was impossible to mend
them any longer, and they now hung in tatters about her. Her hair, once
so black and glossy, was streaked with white, and her face wore the look
of one who has known all that life has to give of joy and of sorrow, and
who has walked in the presence of death as with a friend. By her side
shambled the young bear, a shaggy, ferocious-looking monster, enough of
itself to strike terror to the hearts of the amazed sailors. The men in
the boat lost their courage, and their nerveless hands refused to grasp
the oars. But the stern, commanding voice of La Pommeraye restored
their presence of mind. The boat's keel grated on the rocks, and La
Pommeraye leaped ashore and fell on his knees before the pale ghost of
the woman he had loved so faithfully, and followed through half the
world.

"Mademoiselle!" he said, but he could get no further. His heart had
risen in his throat, and was choking him. She, too, stood like one
stunned, her knees trembling, her brain swimming. She would have fallen,
but that she took his extended hand to support herself.

The bear had been growling uneasily at her side, and when he saw La
Pommeraye's hand touch his mistress, he gave a savage growl, and was
about to spring upon the intruder. Marguerite bade him down, and the
obedient creature crouched at her feet.

"Mademoiselle has a strange guardian," said La Pommeraye, who had risen
at the animal's approach.

"He has kept me alive, Monsieur. But for him I should have gone mad, or
cast myself into the sea."

"Where are your companions?"

La Pommeraye shuddered as he asked the question, but he could keep it
back no longer.

"It is well with them," she answered calmly; "they sleep behind yonder
hill."

"Dead?" exclaimed La Pommeraye, beneath his breath.

"All dead," was her quiet reply.

"And yet you live! How long have you endured the loneliness of this
dreary spot?"

"Claude died before the snows fell, and since then François and I have
lived I know not how. I have tried to die, but Heaven has been too
kind."

La Pommeraye turned away his head, and the sobs he could no longer
restrain shook him from head to foot. He struggled for self-control. At
last he turned to her, and took her hand to lead her to the boat.

"Your old servant, Etienne Brulé, is with me," he said. "He waits in the
boat for you. He will look after you while I collect whatever may be in
your hut."

But she drew back a little from him.

"Monsieur, I cannot----" and for the first time her voice faltered. "I
cannot leave my dead!"

Even at that moment Charles was conscious of a fierce throb at his
heart, as he realised that the woman he loved had irrevocably, for life
and for death, given her life to his friend.

As she spoke she turned, and led him past the hut, and up the hill to
the little group of graves. The hour of utter separation had come, and
she could say nothing. La Pommeraye felt that a word from him would be
sacrilege. Silent she stood there, torn between the fearful pang of
parting, and the realisation that she must go. At last her will
conquered, and she turned to La Pommeraye, saying simply: "I am ready,
Monsieur."

Of the fourth who slept in that lonely hillside cemetery she said not a
word. The young life had come into being, and had passed away again,
there, in this desert spot, amidst the trackless wastes of ocean,
unknown to any save the two whose souls it had for ever linked
indissolubly. Why should the world be told? The island would keep her
secret; and no one in France should ever learn that her child and
Claude's lay at rest in his father's grave.

She kneeled and kissed the stones which marked the spot; and then,
without one backward look, she followed La Pommeraye to the hut.

There was little to take with her--the bearskin rug which had been her
salvation through the bitter winter, and one or two precious personal
trifles which were all that were left of her dead. La Pommeraye's heart
was bursting within him as he saw how she had lived, and guessed what
she must have endured. In silence they went down to the shore.

"Poor François!" Marguerite said, throwing her arms about the neck of
the faithful beast. "Poor François!" and there was a world of meaning in
her tone.

Soon they were ready to leave the island; and the wondering sailors, who
knew nothing of her story--for Etienne had kept a sacred
silence--shuddered as she stepped into the boat.

When the bear saw his mistress deserting him he leaped into the water,
and tried to swim after her. Becoming wearied with the effort, however,
he was obliged to give it up and swim back to the shore, where he paced
up and down the beach with his rolling, awkward gait, his eyes fixed on
the retreating boat.

As the ship sailed away, the sailors could see his white form standing
in melancholy solitude on the highest point of the cliff. When the
vessel was but a speck in the distance, he turned his eyes shoreward,
and saw a seal basking in the sun. Stealthily he crept down the cliff
and along the shore, his huge claws sank into the neck of the
unsuspecting beast, and with savage delight he tore it in pieces.



CHAPTER XVIII


As the vessel sailed away from the Isle of Demons, La Pommeraye had but
one thought--to get back to France at once and confront De Roberval. But
before he had sailed many miles he remembered that he had a duty to
perform to the merchants of St Malo who had fitted out his little ship.
The course was changed, the vessel's bow turned westward, and after a
few days' sail he cast anchor in the black waters at the mouth of the
great gorge of the Saguenay. He was welcomed by the Indians, whose huts
clustered about the high cliffs and along the sandy stretches of that
rugged spot. Runners were sent out to the surrounding Indian villages,
and in a few days his vessel was almost sunk to the decks with a rich
cargo of furs.

All this time Marguerite kept out of sight, only coming on deck in the
evenings when it was dark, and she could be alone. She shunned
companionship, and scarcely spoke, even to La Pommeraye. A deep and
settled melancholy brooded over her soul. When her little island sank
from sight on the horizon, it seemed to her that all she loved on earth
was lost to her for ever. Night and day she saw before her eyes that
lonely grave on the hillside where her heart lay buried; and at times
the longing to return to it grew too strong for her, and she was tempted
to beg La Pommeraye to take her back. But the kindly French faces about
her, the French voices which sounded like music in her ears, the
generous, thoughtful consideration of Claude's old comrade, restored her
to her right mind. Quiet, good food, comparative comfort, and sleep
wrought a marvellous change in her, and by the time they were on their
way towards France, she was able to talk a little, and to give Charles
an outline of her story.

Six weeks after this the merchants of St Malo saw a deeply-laden craft
sweeping into the harbour under a cloud of canvas. She was no fisherman;
and many who had money invested in sea ventures flocked to the walls.
Among the rest stood the keen-sighted Cartier, who never heard of the
approach of a vessel from foreign shores but he thought of La Pommeraye.
Scarcely had he caught sight of the ship when he exclaimed:

"It is the _Marie_, and loaded to the decks!" And to himself he added:
"Back so soon? His work must be finished; and now, God have mercy on De
Roberval!"

When the ship cast anchor, Cartier was one of the first to reach her,
and, hurrying on board, he warmly embraced his friend. Then he placed
him at arm's length, and, with his hand upon his shoulder, eagerly
scanned his countenance, as if to learn from it what tidings he had
brought. La Pommeraye did not speak, but his face told Cartier that all
was not well.

"You have been at the Isle of Demons?" he asked at last.

"I have."

"And found there?--De Pontbriand--is he still alive?"

Charles controlled himself with an effort to answer:

"Think you, if Claude de Pontbriand were on board, he would stay below
while Jacques Cartier boarded his vessel?"

"He is dead?"

"Dead!"

"And Mdlle. de Roberval?"

"She alone, of all the party, is left alive. She lived on in that bleak
spot in the midst of the Atlantic, while her nurse and her companion
perished, and at last, with her own hands, she buried Claude. One other
death must follow to complete the tragedy."

Cartier wrung his friend's hand in silence. He was no longer young; but
something of the fierce rage which burned in La Pommeraye's breast burst
into flame in his own, as he looked at the worn and saddened face of the
once buoyant young adventurer. "God help De Roberval!" he once more
thought, "and God speed the arm that strikes the blow!"

"But come below," said Charles, after a few moments' oppressive silence,
"and see Mdlle. de Roberval for yourself. I wish no one but you to know
for the present that she has returned to France. I will leave you with
her, and attend to these Malouins, who have, no doubt, come to see what
return I can give them for the sous they invested in the _Marie_."

Cartier could not restrain a start of dismay when he was ushered into
the little cabin, where Marguerite sat awaiting him. He had last seen
her, little more than four years before, a beautiful girl, in the full,
radiant charm of budding womanhood. She stood before him now, worn and
aged, with white hair and the face of a woman of fifty instead of a girl
of twenty-six. But her figure was as upright as ever, and her carriage
as queenly; her dark eyes had lost none of their fire--though their
depths held the secret of her life's tragedy--and her voice, when she
spoke, had gained in fulness and richness what it had lost in girlish
brightness and gaiety.

Cartier controlled himself, and allowed no sign of pity or sympathy to
appear in his face or voice.

"Mademoiselle," he said simply, "I welcome you back to France. If you
will deign to accept my hospitality, my house and all that I have are at
your service for as long as you will make use of them."

Marguerite thanked him with her old, quiet dignity. She never lost her
self-control through all the trying scenes of her return to the land she
had left under such different auspices--so little dreaming what her
home-coming would be. When Charles had succeeded in getting rid of the
merchants who crowded his decks, he conducted her on shore. Cartier,
moved with fatherly compassion towards the young girl whose sufferings
seemed more like legend than reality, insisted that she should stay with
him and his family till a meeting with De Roberval could be arranged.

A messenger was despatched to Picardy, but returned with the information
that De Roberval had long been absent from his castle. He was busy in
the wars; but as Paris would doubtless be his head-quarters, Charles and
Marguerite determined to seek him there.

All this time no word of love had crossed La Pommeraye's lips. He
yearned with unutterable longing to claim as his own the right to
cherish and protect Marguerite for the rest of her life, but daily he
realised how deep was the gulf which separated them. Her heart, he knew,
could only be won across Claude's grave, and each time that he tried to
speak, the vision of the desolate cemetery on the island rose before
him, and the words froze on his lips. Marguerite could not help seeing
his devotion; but she so carefully avoided giving him any sign of
encouragement that the weeks at the manor-house of Limoilou, and the
subsequent journey to Paris, were both passed without La Pommeraye's
being able to get any nearer to her. Ungrateful she could not be. She
felt for the fair giant a tender, sisterly affection, and learned to
understand how Claude and Marie had both had for him such an unbounded
admiration.

At Paris Charles established her in a secluded quarter--for although she
had friends in the city, both deemed it wise that for the present,
absolutely no one should know of her return. All deemed her dead; and
for a time she must still be dead to the world. La Pommeraye was careful
to avoid his old haunts and friends, but in no way relaxed his quest of
information about De Roberval's movements. He learned that the nobleman
was not then in the city, but that within a week he would return.

With this news he hastened to Marguerite. She was deeply moved on
learning that she was so soon to be confronted with her uncle. How
should she meet him? What would he have to say to her, whom he doubtless
believed long dead?

Her life had become a strange chaos. She hardly knew why she had allowed
herself to be brought to Paris. It would be impossible ever to resume
the old relations with her uncle; but to live much longer dependent upon
strangers was out of the question. Some arrangements for her future must
be made without delay, but in any case De Roberval must be informed of
her presence. Feeling of any kind seemed almost dead within her, but
remembering the circumstances of their parting, she could not look
forward to meeting her uncle again without a tremor of anticipation.

She noted the fire in La Pommeraye's eye, as he walked up and down her
apartment, after giving her the information; and a day or two afterwards
when he came to consult her about some business matters, she asked him
what his plans were.

"I shall seek out Sieur de Roberval," said Charles, "as soon as he
arrives, and arrange a meeting between you in whatever way you may
direct me. And then----"

He checked himself abruptly; but Marguerite saw the flash of his eye,
and the resolute expression his mouth assumed as he kept back the words
which had been on his lips. She laid her hand gently on his arm.

"M. de la Pommeraye," she said, "you have proved yourself a true and
devoted friend to me. I know that I can never hope to repay your
unselfish sacrifices; nor can I ever express even a small part of my
gratitude for all that you have so nobly done. Nay, listen to me----" as
Charles was about to interrupt her. "I feel more deeply than I can tell
you; you must let me speak this once. I am not ungrateful, believe me."
Her voice trembled a little, though she controlled it instantly. "But I
am about to ask one more kindness at your hands. There has been enough
blood shed--too much. Unhappy woman that I am, how shall I render an
account of all the deaths of which I have been the cause?" She turned
away for a moment; and the rare sobs shook her slight figure. Charles
was awed into silence before a sorrow too deep for any words. At last
she turned to him, and with an imploring gesture said: "I beg of you to
spare my uncle's life."

La Pommeraye began his habitual stride up and down the room. His brow
was dark, and he gnawed his underlip savagely. That she should plead for
the life of the man who had brought all this upon her was to him
inexplicable. Was he then to be baulked of his revenge?

Marguerite stood awaiting his answer.

"Monsieur," she said at last, "will you add one more to my sorrows?"

The unutterable sadness of the tone went to La Pommeraye's heart.
Impulsively he knelt before her.

"Mademoiselle," he said, "if an angel from heaven had appeared to me and
asked me to have mercy on that villain, I should have perilled my own
soul rather than let him go unpunished. But now----"

His voice failed him. He took her hand and gazed into her face. All his
soul was in his eyes; and in that yearning look Marguerite read his
secret. He was about to speak, but she stopped him.

"Rise," she said gently, "you are too noble to kneel to me. You are my
best friend--the only friend I have in the world. Remember, I am
entirely alone. I trust you, Monsieur; I place myself absolutely in your
hands. Will you grant my request?"

She had chosen her words well. Charles saw that she had understood him,
and had wished to prevent his speaking of his love. The gentle reminder
of her helpless dependence on him called forth all his manhood and
chivalry, and silenced the passionate avowal he had been about to make.
He pressed her hand, and raised it to his lips.

"Your wish is my law, Mademoiselle," he said, and, controlling himself
with an effort, he bade her adieu and hastened from the house.

Out in the streets of the city he walked, he cared not whither.
Passers-by turned to look at him; but he heeded no one. He strode on,
absorbed in his own inward struggle, till he drew near the Church of the
Innocents, in the heart of the city. A party of nobles were approaching,
and as they passed him, a burst of laughter from among them attracted
his attention. He raised his eyes; saw De Roberval, and his sword leaped
from its scabbard. Half-a-dozen other weapons instantly flashed in the
sunlight; but La Pommeraye, recollecting that he had no quarrel with any
save one of their number, sheathed his blade, and unheeding the shouts
of welcome from some of the party who recognised him, beckoned De
Roberval aside from the group.

"My presence here alarms you," he said, for the nobleman's sudden pallor
had not escaped his notice. "And with good reason. I have but just
returned from the Isle of Demons."

"Indeed; and what concern of mine is that?" returned De Roberval, with
an assumption of carelessness, though he could not altogether steady his
voice.

Charles looked him straight in the face.

"Coward and murderer!" he said between his teeth.

"They are dead then?" said De Roberval, still striving to speak calmly.

"Dead!"

De Roberval had taken a quick resolve. Mastering himself with a great
effort, he said hurriedly: "We cannot speak of it now. Meet me to-night
at this spot, and the darkest tale you have to tell I will listen to. If
you desire my life, I am weary of it, and would gladly lay it down."

The man had aged greatly since Charles last saw him. His shoulders were
bent; his hair was almost white; and his face was thin and worn.
Something in his voice made Charles believe that he was sincere, and for
a moment a feeling almost akin to pity stirred in his heart.

"It is well," said he. "To-night, at eight o'clock, I will be here," and
without so much as a word to the nobleman's companions, he strode away.
He returned to Marguerite, and told her of the encounter with her uncle,
and the meeting which had been arranged for the evening. The news
evidently agitated her greatly.

"Have you told him of my presence here?" she asked. "Does he expect me
to meet him?"

"He knows naught of your return," answered La Pommeraye. "I had no
opportunity to tell him. He thinks you perished on the island."

"But you will tell him to-night?"

"I have been thinking of a plan," said Charles. "Would it not be well
for you to wait within the Church of the Innocents, where I am to meet
him, while I warn him of your return, and prepare him to meet you?"

Marguerite grasped at the idea. She dreaded, above all things, another
quarrel between La Pommeraye and her uncle; and her presence would be a
safeguard against bloodshed. As she prepared to accompany Charles, her
thoughts went back to that other evening--nearly five years before--when
she had been present at an encounter between these same two men. The
object she now had in view was the same--to save her uncle's life; but
the circumstances--how different! Could the veil have been lifted from
the future on that first meeting, would she not have been tempted to
leave him to the mercy of his enemy's sword? And now she was
accompanying that enemy--who had proved himself her friend when she had
no other in all the world--to keep him from avenging her wrongs upon the
man who should have been her natural protector. Her brain swam as these
thoughts crowded upon her; and she was glad to take refuge in the
dimly-lighted church, and to quiet her distracted spirit in silent
prayer before the altar.

La Pommeraye, outside, paced up and down, awaiting De Roberval's
arrival. His hand was on his sword-hilt, and his watchful eye kept a
sharp look-out on all sides; for in spite of the nobleman's parting
words to him in the afternoon, he had already had but too good reason to
suspect him of treachery.

And in fact, De Roberval had resolved within himself to add yet one more
brutal deed to the long list which had ruined his life, and changed him
from a gentleman and a man of honour to a bully, a coward, and an
assassin. La Pommeraye had returned to France. He had but to open his
lips, and De Roberval's life was at his mercy. Nor could the nobleman
recover from the stinging indignity and humiliation which Charles had
put upon him at their last meeting. From first to last, he had owed him
a bitter grudge--all the more bitter, because, in a moment of cowardice,
he had taken advantage of the noble fellow's generosity to shield
himself from defeat and dishonour. No, there was no alternative; La
Pommeraye must die; and with that death all evidence of his crimes would
be removed. He had no fear from the men who had accompanied Charles to
America; he had made inquiries, and learned that they were none but
fishermen and sailors; and any version of the story they might have
brought back would be too garbled and exaggerated to be believed.

But he feared La Pommeraye's sword, and under his doublet he put on a
shirt of mail. Seeking the quarters of a reckless cut-throat, who would
have assassinated his own father for a few sous, he gave him a purse of
gold, and letting him know the nature of the work before him, bade him
strike sure and sharp, as soon as La Pommeraye was engaged in
conversation; and instead of a purse, he would fill his cap with gold.

At the appointed hour he went to the rendezvous, where La Pommeraye was
impatiently awaiting him.

The nobleman's demeanour had entirely changed since he left Charles in
the afternoon. He now assumed the dignity of a man who has been unjustly
suspected, and is prepared to avenge an insult.

"So, Monsieur," he said, as Charles approached him, "you are still
determined to harrow up the past, and to compel me to acknowledge once
more the dishonour which has befallen my name."

"I am here," said Charles, his hot blood all aflame in an instant at the
implied slur on Marguerite, "to call you to account for the death of
Claude de Pontbriand, and for the foul wrong you did your innocent
niece."

As he spoke he rested his hand on his sword. De Roberval saw the action,
thought he meant to draw it, and his own weapon flashed from its sheath.
At this moment Marguerite appeared at the door of the church. She saw
her uncle draw his sword, and thinking they were about to fight, rushed
down the steps just as De Roberval made a pass at La Pommeraye, who,
adroitly stepping aside, escaped being wounded, and drawing his own
sword, stood on the defensive. As he did so, he heard a step behind him.
A sudden instinct warned him; leaping back, he barely escaped a
treacherous thrust from behind. At the same instant, De Roberval caught
sight of his niece's pale face in the uncertain light; and, striking
wildly at La Pommeraye, fell forward at the latter's feet.

Charles heeded him not. His blood was roused, and turning on the
would-be assassin, who was about to flee in terror, he ran him through
the heart.

Then seeing that De Roberval made no attempt to rise, he stooped and
turned him on his side, and saw that his hand clung in a death-grip to
his sword-hilt, while the point of the weapon had pierced his brain. It
was Bayard's sword; the sword the king had given him in the hour of his
ambition. In his terror at the sudden apparition of what he believed to
be his niece's spirit, his foot had slipped, and the stroke he had
intended for La Pommeraye had ended his own life.



CHAPTER XIX


Next day all Paris knew the details of De Roberval's death. He had been
set upon by an assassin, had struck his would-be murderer down, and
slipping in the blood of his victim, had fallen on his own sword, thus
ending the brightest career in France. So ran the report; and there was
no one to contradict it.

La Pommeraye, when he had ascertained that Roberval was indeed dead, had
had but one thought--to get Marguerite away from the spot before the
crowd which, attracted by the scuffle, had already begun to gather,
should become aware of her presence. He hastily drew her back into the
church; hurried her by a side exit into another street; and so conveyed
her, half-fainting, to her home. When she was able to listen she learned
the truth from his own lips. Her mind went back over the terrible scene
through which she had passed; she saw her uncle lying side by side in
death with a paid cut-throat; and suddenly there flashed across her
brain the words which Claude had uttered as he stood on the deck of
_L'Heureux_, the noose about his neck: "May you perish miserably by your
own murderous hand."

Paris went into mourning. The court, the Church, the city, all laid
aside their usual occupations to do honour to the remains of him who had
upheld in two worlds the glory of France, who had been a devout son of
the Church, and who had ever kept the name of his monarch as a talisman
against his foes. His body, after lying in state for three days, was
buried with all the pomp and ceremonial due to his rank and fame; and
the real truth concerning his death remained a secret in the hearts of
the two he had so cruelly wronged.

Marguerite's return to France could not be for ever kept unknown; and,
indeed, since her uncle's death, there was no further need for
concealment. Her story--or as much of it as she chose to make
public--soon began to spread abroad. Many and garbled were the versions
of it which were circulated at the court and in the city. But to most of
those who looked upon that noble and beautiful face, with its traces of
bitter suffering, suspicion of evil was impossible. The friends who had
known and loved her before her departure would gladly have welcomed her
back; but she shunned all society. Never again could she mingle in the
world of Paris. She accepted the invitation of an old and dearly-loved
companion, and went to stay at a villa on the banks of the Seine.

Here, after a time, La Pommeraye ventured to visit her. As the weeks
went by, the beautiful air of her native land, the constant
companionship of friends, the return of health and strength, had begun
to restore to her something of her lost youth; though the old vivacity
was for ever gone. She welcomed La Pommeraye with more cheerfulness and
freedom than he had dared to expect; and gradually he began to think
that distance from the scene of her sorrows, and the removal of her
uncle--the cause of all her suffering--were making her feel the past
less keenly. In spite of his conviction that she would never love him,
he almost began to hope. The old yearning pain which had never died
stirred at his heart more uncontrollably than ever. He struggled
manfully to show no signs of it, fearing lest he should lose even the
joy of seeing her, but daily he threw himself in Marguerite's way, and
daily he could not but feel that he was growing more necessary to her.

And, indeed, to the lonely and saddened woman, his companionship was an
unspeakable comfort. The steadfast, broad-shouldered, handsome giant had
saved her from untold horrors, he had proved his devotion to her at a
cost which might well have appalled the bravest. She knew that whatever
might happen to her, his strong arm was ready to shield her from evil
for the rest of her life. Alone in the world as she was, she clung to
him as her best and truest friend; she loved him indeed, with all the
strength that was left her, though not in the way for which he longed.
Her woman's eye saw through the restraint he put upon himself; she knew
that his heart was unalterably hers, and that, sooner or later, some day
he would speak. She dreaded the inevitable parting, and sought to defer
it by every means in her power.

It came sooner than she expected. A period of comparative peace had
given La Pommeraye's sword an unwonted rest, but hostilities were once
more commenced, and he could not remain idle. His post was on the field,
but he was unable to go till he had learned from Marguerite's own lips
whether life still held a chance of happiness for him.

He was in Paris when the news came. After a few hurried preparations he
left the city and hastened to her side. His heart beat wildly as he
paced with her in the moonlight up and down the terrace overlooking the
river. It was early spring--just a year since her rescue from the
island. Thronging memories surged in her heart, and kept her from
noticing the silence of her companion, till at last he spoke.

"Marguerite," he said, for he now called her by her name, at her own
request, "I have to leave Paris to-morrow. There is hot work awaiting my
sword in the south, and I must delay no longer."

She turned to him in sudden alarm; the news was quite unexpected.

"My friend--my brother," she said impulsively, "do not leave me! Not
yet, not yet!"

The moment had come. The love pent up in La Pommeraye's heart would be
restrained no longer, and burst from him in a torrent of passionate
words. She could not stop him now; it was too late. She stood pale and
silent as he poured forth all the love and longing of those weary years.
Her heart was moved with a great compassion for him; but when,
encouraged by her silence, he touched her hand, she drew it suddenly
from him. Before her rose the dead face of him who had been as truly her
husband as if a priest had blessed their marriage; she felt once more
the touch of her child's lips at her breast; she saw again that double
grave on the lonely hillside so many thousand miles away. She had loved
once, and her heart was dead and buried in that far-off grave. Life held
no second love for her, henceforth there was nothing left her but the
memory of that which once had been. But her friend, her only support and
comfort, must she lose him too? Heaven was cruel indeed to her. She
covered her face with her hands.

"God help me!" she said shudderingly. "It cannot be."

He thought she was relenting. In an instant he had taken her hands in
his, while he pleaded passionately for time, for hope; no promise, only
permission to spend his life in her service, only a word to carry with
him on his journey. But she had regained her self-control, and spoke now
with a quiet, sad decision that was as a death-knell to his heart.

"My friend," she said, "I would have saved you this if I could. I have
tried to spare you, and"--her voice trembled--"to spare myself. Hush,"
as he was about to interrupt, "it is because I do love you--though not
in the way you wish--that I would have spared us both this parting. You
are all I have left in the world--if I lose you, I am indeed alone."

She stopped a moment. There were no tears in the wide, dark eyes as she
looked straight before her, over the gleaming river, but her face was
white as death in the moonlight, and the lines about her mouth told of
the hidden depths of feeling beneath that quiet exterior. Charles had
sprung to his feet, an impetuous outburst on his lips, but she silenced
him with uplifted hand.

"Come," she said, "let us continue our walk, and I will tell you what I
have thought I should tell to no living being on earth."

And there, with tearless eyes and in a voice that never faltered, she
told him the whole story of those three years on the island, omitting
nothing, giving the outlines clearly and briefly, but with a vividness
which burned the details on Charles' throbbing brain as if they had been
branded with a hot iron.

"And now," she said, as she finished and turned to him, lifting her calm
eyes to his pale and hopeless face, "now you will see why it is
impossible that I should give you what you ask. My life was Claude's; I
gave myself utterly to him. He suffered with me, he died for me; I have
nothing left but his memory, but to that I shall be true till I die. My
friend, do you understand _now_?"

He was on his knees before her. She gave him her hands unresistingly,
and he laid his hot forehead against them for an instant. Then he looked
up at her, and she saw that indeed he understood.

Her face, as she met his look, was full of an infinite tenderness and
pity. Laying her hand gently on his head, she stooped and kissed him
once upon the brow. The whole manner of the action was so austere, so
full of the sadness and remoteness of one whom a vast, impassable gulf
separates for ever from all human and familiar intercourse, that it told
Charles more plainly than any words could have done, the hopelessness of
his love. He bowed his head in silence a moment, then pressing his lips
passionately to her hand, he rose and left her.


She never saw him again. When she realised that he was indeed gone, that
the last link which bound her to her past was broken, she began to feel
bitterly the utter loneliness of her lot. Alone in the world, without
kith or kin; alone, without the possibility of ever unburdening her
heart to any human being, the old madness which had stared her in the
face on the Isle of Demons seemed about to return.

But she was to have a noble salvation. Her uncle's estates were now
hers. The wars had left them poor, untilled, in a wretched condition.
The peasants were starving, the ramparts of the castle were tumbling
down, and robber bands were plundering what remained to her. A life of
action was what she needed: her resolve was soon taken, and in less than
a month she was on her way northward, taking with her a companion of her
own rank who had consented to share her solitude.

The journey was a weary one. Repeatedly she would have turned back, but
her determined will urged her on. She was the last De Roberval; the
noble name was a sacred trust to her, and she would keep it noble to the
end. When she reached her castle, the peasants who remembered her, and
had thought her dead, flocked about her, weeping and laughing, kissing
her horse and her garments, until, touched to the heart, she broke down
and mingled her tears with theirs.

And now her true life began. At first it was hard. The old memories came
crowding back upon her. Her uncle's face seemed to stare at her from the
deserted halls; and when she entered the room where she and Marie had
nursed and tended Claude through his illness, such an agony of
remembrance rushed over her that it seemed as if at last her mind must
be unhinged. She sought refuge in occupation; late and early she worked
as no De Roberval had ever worked before, and her retainers called down
blessings on her head. But when the toil of the day was over, and she
sought her lonely pillow, she heard all night the booming of the waves
on the rock-bound shore, and saw the faces of her dead staring at her
out of the darkness.

Thus the days of her desolate widowhood dragged themselves by. Her youth
was gone, and the grey hairs which had startled Cartier had now many
companions. But they seemed only to add beauty and character to her
sweet, sad face. She gave herself up to unselfish devotion to others and
her duty; and as if the storms of her life had buffeted themselves into
exhaustion in her youth, the rest of her days seemed destined to pass in
peace and tranquillity--if not in happiness.

She heard at intervals from La Pommeraye. Means of communication were
difficult and uncertain in those days, but he contrived to send her
occasional messages, and to assure her of his undying devotion and
readiness to serve her in any way she might need. Often her heart ached
within her when tales were brought of a famous soldier who was ever in
the brunt of the battle, who courted death, but whom death seemed to
shun.

At last she learned of a desperate fight, in which the forces of France
had almost come to wreck. A gallant hero had led his division to
victory. During a short respite he had removed his helmet, and was
watching the life-and-death struggle in the valley below him. Suddenly
he saw the French line waver. Bidding his men follow him, and with his
lion-like hair streaming in the wind, he galloped into the thick of the
fray. Right and left he struck; left and right the enemy fell before
him. The battle was won for France; but on a heap of corpses he was
found with a bullet in his brain: "Dead on the field of honour"; dead in
the prime of his strength; with an unblemished record, and a name dear
to every soldier in the kingdom.

THE END

PRINTED AT THE EDINBURGH PRESS, 9 AND 11 YOUNG STREET.





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