THE bell on the top of the Cohue Royale clattered like the tongue of a scolding fishwife. For it was the opening day of the Assise d’Héritage, and the governor with his suite ; the lieutenantbailly with his dozen jurats, like so many parochial apostles; the avocats with their knowledge of l’ancien coûtume de Normandie and the devious inroads made upon it by the customs of Jersey; the seigneurs and the dames des fiefs, —all were invited to assemble at the opening of this court, from which there was no appeal save to themselves, or by their own consent to the King’s Privy Council.
This particular session of the Cour d’Héritage was to proceed with unusual spirit and importance; for after the King’s proclamation was read, the Royal Court and the states were to present the formal welcome of the island to Admiral Prince Philip d’Avranche, Duc de Bercy ; likewise to offer a bounty to every Jerseyman enlisting under him.
The island was en fête. There had not been such a year of sensations since the battle of Jersey. The breaking out of the present war with France had been exciting, but the subsequent duties of guarding the coast, imposed upon every able-bodied citizen, proved so monotonous that the trial and interrupted hanging of Mattingley, the discovery of Olivier Delagarde’s crime and his escape, and the return of Philip d’Avranche had thrilled the impressionable islanders into chattering demonstration.
This 4th of October was to be still more notable, for a figure quite as remarkable in the history of Jersey as Philip d’Avranche, and as distinguished elsewhere, was returning to the island upon business of importance.
He was not a native ; he was not English. A dissipated stripling of the French court, he had come to Jersey with the filibuster Rullecour. He was returning now upon no business of invasion, but in pursuit of that justice for some one else which every Jerseyman is intent to secure for himself. He had come before in the night, to spoil and to conquer; he came now in the open morning, to maintain that the things which were God’s be not given to Cæsar. It was Comte Détricand de Tournay.
A short time before, Détricand had chanced to find in the prison of a captured town in Brittany a clergyman of England bearing the name of Lorenzo Dow, who, after four years of confinement, was dying as apathetically as he had always lived. He had been taken captive at the breaking out of the war, had been thrown into prispn, and lost sight of by the British government, as also by the ravenous French administration. When Détricand discovered him on his bed of straw in a miserable dungeon, he was lying calmly asleep, with his fingers between the leaves of a book of meditations. He was forthwith taken to Détricand’s own quarters, and there he died peacefully within a few days; remarking almost with his last breath that it was taking advantage of time to read the New Testament in translation.
Détricand had known Lorenzo Dow in Jersey, and in their brief conversations before the sick man died he discussed many things which troubled and confounded him. He learned of the marriage of Guida and Philip, and there passed into his hands the little black leather-covered journal which was a record of the life of Lorenzo Dow in Jersey and elsewhere. In this book were the details of the fateful marriage. Détricand had buried Lorenzo Dow, and then in a lull of warfare had set out in search of Philip d’Avranche. Before he did so, however, he had had a secret meeting, under truce, with General Grandjon - Larisse, of the Republican army, to whom he told the story of Guida and Philip. From that moment Grandjon-Larisse and Détricand had an office of honor to perform, but the former must first proceed to Paris on business pertaining to the army; and thus it happened that Détricand alone, after four years of famous service in a hopeless war, returned to Jersey to find Philip d’Avranche.
During every hour that passed between his secretly leaving GrandjonLarisse at Angers and his reaching Roque Platte, where he had landed, an invader, so many years before, his indignant strength of purpose grew. Immediately he set foot on Jersey, with an officer attached to his person and two soldiers of his legion he proceeded to the Church of St. Michael’s, where the marriage of Philip and Guida had been performed. There, to his consternation, he learned that the register of births, marriages, and deaths had long since disappeared.
So far as he knew, the only record left was the little black journal got from the Reverend Lorenzo Dow. This was now in his own pocket.
Returning to the town, and skirting it to avoid observation, Détricand came up the Rue des Sablons, intending to seek Elie Mattingley and the Chevalier du Champsavoys at the house in the Rue d’Egypte ; but as he passed, seeing the house of Jean Touzel, he dismounted, knocked, and, not waiting to be admitted, entered.
Maîtresse Aimable did not keep her seat, as she had done on Philip’s entrance, a few days before. She rose slowly, a smile lighting her face that but now was clouded, and made essay to curtsy. Maîtresse Aimable knew well whom she should honor herself in honoring, and the red cross and red heart of the Vendée on the chieftain’s coat wiped out in her mind any doubtful memory of the idle, hard-drinking Savary dit Détricand, and established this new Détricand in her favor.
From Aimable’s mouthpiece, Jean, he learned all : what had chanced to Mattingley and Carterette, to Ranulph and his father, everything concerning Guida and her child, and of to-day’s proceedings at the Cour d’Héritage. The tale had scarce been told when the bell of the court-house began to ring.
Long before chicane-chicane clanged out over the Vier Marchi the body of the court was filled. The lieutenantgovernor, the lieutenant - bailly, the jurats, the military, arrived and took their places ; the officers of the navy arrived, — all save one, and he was to be the chief figure of this function. With each arrival the people cheered and the trumpets blared. The crowds in the Vier Marchi turned to the booths for refreshment, or to the printing-machine set up by La Pyramide, and bought halfpenny chap-sheets telling of recent defeats of the French, — though mostly they told in ebullient words of the sea fight which had made Philip d’ Avranche an admiral, and of his elevation to a sovereign dukedom.
Since the battle of Jersey the Vier Marchi had not been so full or so tumultuous, yet the scene lacked some old elements of picturesqueness. Long familiar things were absent. Men had been accustomed to find a lounging-plaee near Carterette’s booth, women near her father’s great oak chest; and the distorted figure of Dormy Jamais, winding in and out of the crowd with a fool’s wisdom on his lips, was missed in the general movement. It was as though La Pyramide itself had been suddenly spirited away during the night by some pitying genius of sculpture, and Norman feet were as yet restless on the spot where it had stood.
Inside the court there was more restlessness still. The Comtesse Chantavoine was in her place of honor beside the attorney-general, but Admiral the Duc de Mercy had not yet arrived, it was now many minutes beyond the hour fixed. The lieutenant-bailly whispered to the governor, the governor to his aide, and the aide sought naval officers present ; but these could give no explanation of the delay. Prince Philip and his flag-lieutenant came not.
The greffier was indignant, the greffier was imperious, the greffier was disgusted; the greffier wrote down what would appear to be sentences of imprisonment and fines, direful penalties against the princely delinquent. The greffier looked round him fiercely. In one of these fierce scoutings he encountered the still, impassive face of the Comtesse Chantavoine, her eyes fixed calmly upon him ; and, reduced to his natural stature again, he dropped back suddenly in his huge chair, — a small swallow in a vast summer.
The Comtesse Chantavoine was the one person outwardly unmoved. What she thought who could tell? Hundreds of eyes scanned her face, and she seemed unconscious of them, indifferent to them. What would not the lieutenant-bailly have given for her calmness! What would not the greffier iiave given for her importance 1 She drew every eye by virtue of something which was more than the name of Duchesse de MercyThe face of the Comtesse Chantavoine had an unconscious and indefinable dignity, a living command and composure,— the heritage, perhaps, of a race who had ever been more fighters than courtiers, used to danger, more desiring good sleep after good warfare done than luxurious peace. She did not move her head, but her look seemed to be everywhere and yet nowhere ; hers was the educated eye. She saw, as it were, the bailly at one end of the room, and the door by which Prince Philip should enter at the other. She saw the greffier, which disconcerted him; yet she did not see him, and she was not disconcerted.
The silence, the tension, grew painful. A whole half hour had the court waited beyond the appointed time. At last, however, cheers arose outside, and all knew that the prince had come. Presently the doors were thrown open, two halberdiers stepped inside, and an officer of the court announced Admiral his Serene Highness Prince Philip d’Avranche, Due de Percy.
“ Oui-gia, think of that! " said a voice from somewhere in the hall.
Prince Philip heard it, and he frowned, for he recognized the voice as that of Dorniy Jamais. Where it came from he knew not. nor could any one else see ; for Dormy Jamais was snugly bestowed above a middle doorway in what was half balcony, half cornice.
All present rose to their feet as Philip advanced, save the governor, the lieutenant-bailly, and the jurats. When he had taken his seat beside the Comtesse Chantavoine, there came the formal opening of the Cour d’Héritage.
The comtesse’s eyes fixed themselves upon Philip. There was that in his manner which puzzled and evaded her clear, searching intuition. Some strange circumstance must have delayed him ; for she saw that his flag-lieutenant was disturbed, and this, she felt sure, was not due to unpunctuality alone. She was hardly conscious that the lieutenantbailly had been addressing Philip, until he had stopped and Philip had risen.
He had scarcely begun speaking when the doors were thrown open again, and a woman came quickly forward. It was Guida. The instant she entered Philip saw her and stopped speaking. Every one turned. In the silence, Guida, looking neither to right nor to left, advanced almost to where the greffier sat, and dropping on her knee and looking up to the lieutenant-bailly and the jurats, stretched out her hands and cried that cry which is more to a Jersey man than Allah to a Mohammedan : —
“Haro, haro! à l’aide, mon prince, on me fait tort! ”
If one rose from the dead suddenly to command them to an awed obedience, Jerseymen could not be more at the mercy of the apparition than at the call of one who cried in their midst, “Haro, haro ! ” — that ancient relic of the custom of Normandy and Rollo the Dane.
Whoso needed justice, whoso was trespassed upon in mind, body, or estate, sought Rollo wherever he might be, — in the highway, or at his prayers, or on the field of battle, or among the great of the land,—and falling upon a knee cried to him, “Haro, haro! à l’aide, mon prince, on me fait tort! ”
To this hour, whoso in Jersey is trespassed on in estate maketh his cry unto Rollo, and the Royal Court — whose right to respond to this cry was confirmed by King John, and afterward by King Charles — must listen, and every one must heed. That cry of Haro will make the workman drop his tools, the woman her knitting, the militiaman his musket, the fisherman his net, the schoolmaster his birch, and the écrivain his babble, to await the judgment of the Royal Court.
Every jurat fixed his eyes upon Guida as though she had come to claim his life. The lieutenant-bailly’s lips opened twice as though to speak, but at first no words came. The governor sat with hands clenched upon his chair-arm. The breath of the crowd came in gasps oE excitement. The Comtesse Chantavoine looked at Philip, looked at Guida, and knew that here was the opening of the scroll she had not been able to unfold. Now she should understand that something which had made the old Duc de Bercy with his last breath say, “ Don’t be afraid ! ”
Philip stood moveless, his eyes steady, his face bitter, determined. Yet there was in his look, fixed upon Guida, some strange mingling of pity and tenderness. It was as though two spirits were fighting in his face for mastery. The Comtesse Chantavoine touched him upon the arm, but he took no notice. Drawing back in her seat, she thenceforth looked at him and at Guida as one might watch the balances of justice in weighing life and death. She could not read this story, but one look at the faces of the crowd round her made her aware that here was a tale of the past which they all knew in little or in much.
“ Haro, haro! à l’aide, mon prince, on me fait tort! ” What did she mean, this woman with the exquisite face, alive with power and feeling, and indignation and appeal ? To what prince did she cry, — for what aid ? Who trespassed upon her?
The lieutenant-bailly now stood up, a frown upon his face. He knew what scandal had said concerning Guida and Philip. He had never liked Guida, for in the first days of his importance as lieutenant-bailly, because of a rudeness upon his part, meant as a compliment, she had thrown his hat — the lieutenant-bailly’s hat! — into the Fauxbie by the Vier Prison. He thought her intrusive thus to stay the proceedings of the Royal Court, with distinguished visitors present, by an appeal for he knew not what. But the law of Haro takes precedence of all else.
“ What is the trespass, and who is the trespasser ? ” asked the badly sternly, and forthwith took his seat.
Guida rose to her feet now.
“ Philip d’Avranche has trespassed,” she said.
“ What Philip d’Avranche, mademoiselle ?” asked the bailly, in a rough, ungenerous tone.
She flashed upon him a look of contempt, and answered. " Admiral Philip d’Avranche, known as his Serene Highness the Due de Bercy, has trespassed on me.”
She did not look at Philip ; her eyes were fixed upon the bailly and the jurats.
The bailly whispered to one or two jurats.
“ Wherein is the trespass ? ” he asked sharply. " Tell your story.”
After an instant’s painful pause Guida told her tale.
“ Last night, at Plernont,” she said, in a voice trembling a little at first, but growing stronger as she went on, " I left my child, my Guilbert, in his bed, with Dormy Jamais to watch beside him, while I went to my boat which lies a half mile from my hut. I left Dormy Jamais with the child because I was afraid — because I have been afraid these three days past — that Philip d’Avrauche would steal him from me. I was gone but half an hour; it was dark when I returned. I found the door open. I found Dormy Jamais lying upon the floor unconscious, and my child’s bed empty. He was gone, my child, my Guilbert ! He was stolen from me by Philip d’Avranche, Duc de Bercy.”
“ What proof have you that it was the Duc de Bercy ? ”
“ I have told your honor that Dormy Jamais was there. He struck Dormy Jamais to the ground, and rode off with my child.”
The bailly sniffed. " Dormy Jamais is a simpleton, an idiot.”
“ Let Prince Philip d’Avranche speak,” she answered quickly. " Half an hour ago I met him as I was on my way to his Castle of Mont Orgueil. He did not deny it then; he dare not deny it now.”
She turned and looked Philip in the eyes. He did not answer a word. He had not moved since she entered the court-room, He had kept his eyes fixed on her save for one or two swift glances toward the jurats. The crisis of his life bad come. He was ready to meet it now ; anything would be better than all he had gone through during the past ten days. In a moment’s mad impulse he had stolen the child, in the wild belief that through it he could reach Guida, could bring her to him. For now this woman who despised him, hated him, he desired more than all else in the world. Ambition has its own means of punishing. For its own gifts of place or fortune it puts some impossible hunger in the soul of its victim, which leads him at last to his own destruction. With all the world conquered there is still some mystic island of which it whispers, and to gain this its devotee risks all — and loses all.
The bailly saw by Philip’s look that Guida had spoken the truth. But he whispered to the jurats eagerly, and presently said with brusque decision, “ Our law of Haro may only apply to trespass upon property. Its intent is merely civil.”
Having said this, he opened and shut his mouth with gusto, and sat back as though expecting Guida to retire.
“ Your law of Haro, Monsieur le Bailly!” Guida answered, with a flash of her eyes and her voice ringing out fearlessly. " Your law of Haro ! The law of Haro comes from the custom of Normandy, which is the law of Jersey. You make its intent this, you make it that, but nothing can alter it and what lias been done in its name for generations. Is it so, then, that if Philip d’Avranche trespasses upon my land or my hearth, I may cry Haro, haro! and you will take heed ; but when it is blood of my blood, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, that he has wickedly seized, when it is the head which I have pillowed on my breast for three years, — a child who has known no father, a child who has been his mother’s only companion in her shame, the shame of an outcast, — then is it so that your law of Haro may not apply ? No, no, messieurs ; it is the justice of Haro that I ask, not your lax usage of it. From this Prince Philip I appeal to the spirit of that prince of Normandy who made this law, — I appeal to the law of Jersey which comes from the law of Rollo, There are precedents enough, as you know well, messieurs. I demand of you my child, — I demand ! ”
The bailly and the jurats were in a hopeless quandary. They glanced furtively at Philip. They were half afraid that she was right, and yet were timorous of deciding against the prince-admiral.
She saw their hesitation. “I ask you to fulfill the law. I have cried Haro, haro ! and what I have cried men will hear outside this court, outside this Isle of Jersey ; for I cry it against a sovereign duke of Europe.”
The bailly and the jurats were overwhelmed by the situation. Guida’s brain was a thousand times clearer than theirs. Danger, peril to her child, had aroused in her every force of intelligence ; she had the daring, the desperation, of the lioness fighting for her own.
Philip himself solved the problem. Turning to the bench of jurats, he said quietly, “ She is quite right: the law of Haro is with her ; it must apply.”
The court was in a greater maze than ever. Was he then about to restore to Guida her child ?
After an instant’s pause Philip continued : " But in this case there was no trespass — for the child —is my own.”
Every eye in the Cohue Royale fixed itself upon him, then upon Guida, then upon her who was known as the Duchesse de Bercy. The face of the Comtesse Chantavoine was like marble, white and cold. As the words fell from Philip’s lips a sigh broke from her own, and there came to Philip’s mind that distant day in the council-chamber at Bercy, when for one moment he was upon his trial ; but he did not turn and look at her now. It was all pitiable, horrible, but this open avowal, insult as it was to the Comtesse Chantavoine, could be no worse than the rumors which would surely have reached her one day. So let the game fare on. He had thrown down the glove now, and he could not see the end ; he was playing for one thing only, — for the woman he had lost, for his own child. If everything went by the board, why, it must go by the board. It all flashed through his brain : To-morrow he must send in his resignation to the Admiralty, — so much at once. Then France —the dukedom of Bercy — whatever happened, there was work for him to do at Bercy. He was a sovereign duke of Europe, as Guida had said. He would fight for the duchy for his son’s sake. Standing there, he could feel again the warm cheek of the child upon his own as last night he felt it, riding across the island from Plemont to Mont Orgueil. That very morning he had hurried down to a cottage at the foot of the cliff at Grouville Pay, and seen the boy lying still asleep in a little bed, well cared for by a woman of the village. He knew that to-morrow the scandal of the thing would belong to the world. He had tossed his fame as an admiral into the gutter, but Bercy was left. All the native force, the stubborn vigor, the obdurate spirit of the soil of Jersey of which he was, its arrogant self-will, drove him straight into this last issue.
But he stopped short in his thoughts, for there now at the court-room door stood Détricand, Comte de Tournay !
Philip drew his hand quickly across his eyes, — it seemed so wild, so fantastic, that of all men Détricand should be there. His gaze was so fixed, that every one turned to see, — every one save Guida.
She was not aware of this new figure in the scene. In her heart there was tumult. Her hour had come at last,— the hour in which she must declare that she was the wife of this man. She had no proofs, and no doubt he would deny it now, for he knew how she loathed him. But she would tell her tale.
She was about to address the bailly, but, as though a pang of pity shot through her heart, she turned instead and looked at the Comtesse Chantavoine. She could find it in her soul to pause in compassion for this poor lady, more wronged than herself. Their eyes met. One instant’s flash of intelligence between the souls of two women, and Guida knew that the look of the Comtesse Chantavoine had said, ” Speak for your child.”
Thereupon she spoke.
“ Messieurs, Prince Philip d’ Avranche is my husband,” she said to the jurats.
Every one in the court-room stirred with excitement. A weak-nerved woman in the crowd, with a child at her breast, began to cry, and the little one joined its feeble wail to hers.
“ Four years ago,” Guida continued, “ I was married to Philip d’Avranche by the Reverend Lorenzo Dow in the Church of St. Michael’s ” —
The bailly interrupted with a grunt. “ H’m ! Lorenzo Dow is well out of the way. Have done.”
“ May I not then be heard in my own defense ? ” Guida went on, with indignation. “ Four years I have suffered silently slander and shame. Now I speak for myself at last — and you will not hear me. I come to this court of justice, and my word is doubted ere I can prove the truth ! Is it for judges to assail one so ? Four years ago I was married secretly in the chapel of St. Michael’s, — secretly, because Philip d’Avranche urged it, pleaded for it. An open marriage, he said, would injure his promotion. We were wedded, and he left me. War broke out. I remained silent, according to my promise to him. Then came the time when, in the states of Bercy, he denied that he had a wife. From the hour I knew he had done so I denied him. My child was born in shame and sorrow. I myself was an outcast from among you all. But my conscience was clear before Heaven. I took myself and my child out from among you to Plemont. I waited, believing that God’s justice is surer than man’s. At last Philip d’Avranche — my husband — returned here. He invaded my home, and begged me to come to him as his wife with my child, —he who had so evilly wronged me, and wronged another more than me. I refused. Then he stole my child from me. You ask for proofs of my marriage. Messieurs, I have no proofs. I know not where Lorenzo Dow may be found. The register of St. Michael’s Church, as you all know, was stolen. Mr. Shoreham, who witnessed the marriage, was drowned. But you must believe me. There is one witness left, if he will but tell the truth, —even the man who married me, the man who for one day called me his wife. I ask him now to tell the truth! ”
Her clear eyes pierced Philip through and through.
What was going on in Philip’s mind neither she nor any in that court might ever know; for in the pause the Comtesse Chantavoine rose up, and passing steadily by Plrilip came to Guida. Looking her in the eyes with an incredible sorrow, she took her hand, and turned toward Philip with infinite scorn.
A strange, thrilling silence fell upon all the court. The jurats shifted in their seats with excitement. The bailly, in a hoarse, dry voice, said, “ We must have proof. There must be record as well as witness.”
From the body of the hall there came a voice, “ The witness and record are here ! ” and Détricand stepped forward, in his uniform of the army of the Vendée.
A hushed murmur ran round the room. The jurats whispered to one another.
“ Who are you, monsieur ? ” said the bailly.
“ I am Détricand, Prince of Vaufontaine,” he replied, — “for whom the Comtesse Chantavoine will vouch,” he added in a pained voice, and bowed low to her and to Guida.
He did not wait for the bailly to answer, but told of the death of Lorenzo Dow, and, taking from his pocket the little black journal, opened it and read aloud the record written there by the dead clergyman. Having read it, he passed the book to the greffier, who handed it up to the bailly. A moment’s pause ensued. To the most ignorant and casual of the onlookers the strain of it was great; to those chiefly concerned it was supreme. The lieutenant-bailly and the jurats whispered together, and now at last a spirit of justice was roused in them. But the law’s technicalities were still to rule.
The bailly closed the book, and handed it back to the greffier with the words, “ This is not proof, though it is evidence.”
Guida felt her heart sink within her. The Comtesse Chantavoine, who still held her hand, pressed it, though she herself was cold as ice with sickness of spirit.
At that instant, and from Heaven knows where, — as a bird comes from a bush, — a little gray man came quickly among them all, carrying spread open before him a book almost as big as himself. Handing it up to the bailly, he said, “ Here is the proof, Monsieur le Bailly, — here is the whole proof.”
The bailly leaned over and drew up the book. The jurats crowded near, and a dozen heads gathered about the open volume.
At last the bailly looked up, and addressed the court solemnly.
“ It is the lost register of St. Michael’s. It contains a record of the marriage of Guida Landresse de Landresse and Lieutenant Philip d’Avranche, both of the Isle of Jersey.”
“ Exactly so. exactly so,” said the little gray figure, the Chevalier Orvillier du Champsavoys de Beaumanoir. Tears ran down his cheeks as he turned toward Guida, but he was smiling too.
Guida’s eyes were upon the bailly. “And the child?” she cried, with a broken voice, — “ the child ? ”
“ The child goes with his mother,” answered the bailly firmly.
The day that saw Guida’s restitution in the Cohue Royale brought but further trouble to Ranulph Delagarde. Intending to join Détricand at the headquarters of the army of the Vendée, he landed at St. Malo, and was about to go on to Quiberon, where Sombreuil was making his last stand against the soldiers of Hoche, when he was seized by a pressgang and carried aboard a French frigate commissioned to ravage the coasts of British North America. He had stubbornly resisted the press, but had been knocked on the head, and there was an end of it. In vain he protested that he was an Englishman. They laughed at him. His French was perfect, his accent was Norman, his was a Norman face, — that was evidence enough. If he was not a citizen of France, he should be, and he must be. Ranulph decided that it was needless to throw away his life, and ignominious to be hung from the yard-arm. It was better to make a show of submission, and so long as lie had not to fight British ships he could afford to wait. Time enough then for him to take action. So he was carried away on the Victoire, which sailed the seas looking for ships to fight.
His heart was heavy enough, in truth, — an exile from his own land, banished from all early hopes, ambitions, and affections. As the son of a traitor he had no longer heart to call himself a Jerseyman. His childhood had been embittered, his manhood poisoned. He had borne four years of an incredible torture, face to face with his father’s presence and his father’s hidden crime. He had hoped to lose himself in the great struggle between the Royalists and the Red Government, and to find a decent exit on the battlefield, or to deaden the agonies of his life by reviving his old energies. But even that had been denied him, and here he was, forced into serving a country he had been brought up to loathe.
Yet there was one comfort in it all: his father had been saved the shame of an ignominious death at the hands of the law, and he himself now was free and alone. Just over thirty, he was not too old to begin the world again. In the land whither Mattingley and Carterette had gone perhaps there was a field for work, and one might forget there as easily as in fighting with the peasants of the Vendée. In any case, it was his duty to bear up against evil fortune, to endure his present state, and, when the chance came, to escape from this bondage. So when he was pressed he thought of his four years’ service with the artillery at, Elizabeth Castle, and asked to be made a gunner. The impulsive and choleric Richambeau, captain of the Victoire, who loved strong men, — and strong jokes, —believing Ranulph’s story, though professing to disbelieve it, thought it a noble jest to set an Englishman fighting English ships. Thereupon he made a gunner of Ranulph, and kept an eye upon him.
The Victoire sailed the seas, battlehungry, and presently appeased her appetite among Dutch and Danish privateers. Such excellent work did Ranulph against the Dutchmen, whom he vaguely knew to be enemies of England, that Richambeau, delighted, gave him a gun for himself, and after they had fought the Danes made him a master gunner.
Of the largest gun on the Victoire Ranulph grew inordinately fond. He had a genius for mechanism, and he begged from an English-speaking Dutch prisoner a seaman’s vade-mecum and a book of defensive war at sea, and diligently studied the art of naval warfare. Meanwhile, the great gun, a 32-pounder, won its way deeper into his affections, till at last he called it “ma couzaine.”
The days and weeks passed, and then, after some actions against non-British privateers, wherein the Victoire was allvictorious and ma couzaine did her duty well, they neared the coast of America. One morning came the cry of “ Land ! Land ! ” and once again Ranulph saw British soil, — the tall cliffs of the peninsula of Gaspé. Gaspé, —that name had been familiar to him since his childhood. How many hundreds of Jerseymen had gone to and from Gaspé! It was like the other end of the world, to which all Jerseymen, if they would be called travelers, must go ; it was the ultima thule to which Mattingley and Carterette had gone !
The Victoire and her flotilla came nearer and nearer to the coast. There was no British ship in sight, no sign of fleet or defense ; only the tall cliffs and infinite acreage of land beyond the mouth of the great St. Lawrence Gulf. Presently he could see a bay and a great rock in the distance; and as they bore in now directly for the bay, the great rock seemed to stretch out like a vast wall into the gulf. As he stood watching and leaning on ma couzaine, a sailor near him said that the hay was Percé, and the rock was Percé Rock.
Percé Rock ! Since he was a child Ranulph had heard of Percé Rock. And Percé Bay, — that was the exact point for which Elie Mattingley and Carterette had sailed with Sebastian Alixandre. How strange it was ! Not long ago he had bidden Carterette good-by forever, had put her aside with his old life, yet fate had now brought him to the very spot whither she had gone. After all, was it then so that man’s fate is never in his own hands ; that as it shall please Heaven he must be tossed like a ball into the garden made with his own hands, or across the seas into the vast far country ?
The Rock of Percé was a wall, and the wall was an island that had once been a long promontory like a battlement, jutting out hundreds of yards into the gulf. At one point it was pierced by an archway. Its sides were almost sheer ; its top was flat and level. Upon the sides there was no verdure; upon the top centuries had made a green field. The wild geese as they flew northward, myriad flocks of gulls, gannets. cormorants, and all manner of fowl of the sea, had budded upon the summit, until it was now rich with grass and shrubs. The nations of the air sent their legions here to bivouac. The discord of a hundred languages might be heard far out to sea, far in upon the land. Millions of the feathered races swarmed there ; at times the air above was darkened by clouds of them. No fog-bell on a rock-bound coast might warn mariners more ominously than these battalions of adventurers on the Percé Rock.
No human being had ever mounted to this eyrie or scaled the bulwarks of this feathered Eden. Three hundred feet below ship-builders might toil and fishermen hover, but the lofty home of the marauders of the air had not yet suffered the invasion of man. As the legend ran, this mighty palisade had once been a bridge of rock stretched across the gulf, builded by the gods of the land, who smote with granite arms and drove back ruined the appalling gods of the sea.
Generations of fishermen had looked upon the yellowish-red limestone of the Percé Rock with valorous eyes, but it would seem that not even the tiny clinging hoof of a chamois or wild goat might find a foothold upon the straight sides of it. Three hundred feet was a long way to climb, hand over hand; so for centuries the Percé Rock in the wide St. Lawrence Gulf remained solitary and unconquered.
On most men who had seen it Percé Rock made its own impression of mystery ; upon Ranulph that impression was deeper than on most. He was roused out of the spell it cast upon him only by seeing suddenly the British flag upon a building by the shore of the bay they were now entering. His heart gave a great bound. He involuntarily looked up at the French tricolor flying overhead. It was curious that there should be such a difference in two pieces of bunting. (Or was it silk? No, it was bunting.) Just a little different arrangement in color, and yet the flag on the building by the shore roused his pulses to a heat. Yes, there was the English flag defiantly flying ; and what was more, there were two old 12-pounders being trained on the French squadron. For the first time in years a laugh of rolling good humor burst from his lips.
“ Oh my good! Oh mai grand doux! ” he said in the Jersey patois. “ Only one man in the world would do that, — only Elie Mattingley ! ”
It was undoubtedly ridiculous, these two 12-pounders training on a whole fleet. Presently came more defiance, for there was run up beneath the British flag an oblong piece of white linen with two diagonal red stripes. That was the flag of Jersey. Now beyond any doubt Elie Mattingley was in Percé Bay.
As though to prove Ranulph right, Mattingley issued from a wooden fishing-shed with Sebastian Alixandre and three others armed with muskets, and passed to the little fort on which flew the British and Jersey flags. As Ranulph looked on, at once amazed and amused, he heard a guffaw behind him. Turning round, he suddenly straightened himself and stood at attention. Richambeau, the captain, had confronted him.
“ That’s a big splutter in a little pot. gunner,” said he. He put his telescope to his eye. “ The Lord protect us.” he cried, “ they 're going to fight my squadron ! ” He laughed again till the tears came. “Son of Peter, but it is droll, that, — a farce an diable ! They have humor, these fisherfolk, eh, gunner ? ”
“ Mattingley will fight, just the same.” answered Ranulph coolly.
“ Oh, oh, you know these people, my gunner ? ” asked Richambeau.
“ All my life,” replied Ranulph, " and, by your leave. I will tell you how.”
Not waiting for permission, after the manner of his country, he told Richambeau again of his Jersey birth and bringing-up and of his being pressed.
Very good.” remarked Richambeau. " You Jersey folk were once Frenchmen, and now that you ’re French again you shall do something for the flag. You see that 12-pounder yonder behind the wall ? Very well, dismount it. Then we 'll send in a flag of truce, and parley with this Mattingley ; for his jests are worth our attention and politeness. There’s a fellow at the gun — no, he has gone. Take good aim, and dismount the right-hand gun at one shot. Ready now. — you have a good range.”
The whole matter went through Ranulph’s mind as the captain spoke. If he refused to fire, he would be strung up to the yard-arm. If he fired and missed, perhaps other gunners would fire; and once started they might raze the fishing-post. If he dismounted the gun, the matter would probably remain only a jest, for as such Richambeau regarded it as yet.
There was no time to weigh the matter further ; Richambeau was frowning. So Ranulph smiled, as though the business was pleasing to him, and prepared to fire. He ordered the tackle and breechings cast away, had off the apron, pricked a cartridge, primed, bruised the priming, and covered the vent. Then he took his range, steadily, quietly. There was a brisk wind blowing from the south. — he must allow for that ; but the wind was stopped somewhat in its course by the Percé Rock, — he must allow for that. He got what he thought was the right elevation ; the distance was considerable, but he believed that he could do the business. He had a cool head, and his eye was quick and accurate.
All was ready. Suddenly a girl appeared running round the corner of the building.
It was Carterette ! She was making for the right-hand gun, Sebastian Alixandre was going toward the other. Ranulph started; the hand that held the match trembled.
“ Fire, you fool, or you 'll kill the girl! ” cried Richambeau.
Ranulph laid a hand on himself, as it were. Every nerve in his body tingled, his legs trembled, but his eye was steady. He took the sight once more coolly, then blew on the match. Now the girl was within thirty feet of the gun.
He quickly blew on the match again, and fired.
When the smoke cleared away he saw that the gun was dismounted, and not ten feet from it stood Carterette looking dazedly at it.
He heard a laugh behind him : there was Richambeau walking away, telescope under arm. Presently Ranulph saw a boat lowered from the Victoire, even as the 12-pounder on shore replied impudently to the shot he had fired. The officers were laughing with Richambeau. and jerking their heads and fingers toward Ranulph.
“A good shot ! ” he heard Richambeau say.
“ Was it, then.” said Ranulph to himself, — " was it, indeed? Bà sû. it was the last shot I will ever fire against aught English, here or elsewhere.”
Looking over the side, he saw a boat drawing away with the flag of truce in the hands of a sous - lieutenant. His mind was made up: he would escape tonight. His place was there beside his fellow countrymen. He turned to ma couzaine. It would be something of a wrench for him to leave her: for she had been a good friend to him at a bad time in his life. He motioned away the men of the gun. He would load ma couzaine for the last time.
As he sponged the gun he made his plans. Swish-swash the sponge-staff ran in and out. — he would try to steal away at dog-watch. He struck the sponge smartly on ma couzaine’s muzzle, cleansing it, — he would have to slide into the water like a rat, and swim very softly to the shore. He took a fresh cartridge, and thrust it into the throat of ma couzaine as far as he could reach ; and as he laid the seam downwards he said to himself that he could swim under water, if discovered as he left the Victoire. He lovingly placed the wad to the cartridge, and with three strokes of the hammer drove wad and cartridge home with the precision of a drill. It was a long swim to shore, but he thought if he got a fair start he could do it. As he unstopped the touch-hole and tried with the priming-wire whether the cartridge was home, he pictured to himself being challenged, perhaps by Carterette. and his reply. Then he imagined how she would say. " Oh my good !" in true Jersey fashion, and then —well, he had not yet thought beyond that point.
By the time he had rammed home wad and shot, however, he had come upon a fresh thought, and it stunned him. Richambeau would send a squad of men to search for him, and if he was not found they would probably raze the post. As he put the apron carefully on ma couzaine, he determined that he could not take refuge with the Mattingleys. Neither would it do to make for the woods of the interior, for still Richambeau might revenge himself on the fishing-post. This was not entirely to be wondered at. for ma couzaine would never behave so well with any one else. She had been used to plaving ugly pranks when it was blowing fresh. She had once torn her tackle out of the ring-bolt in the deck, and had killed more than one sailor in her mad debauch of freedom. Under his hand she had always behaved well, and it seemed to him that whenever he blew on the match her muzzle gaped in a grin of delight. Decidedly, he must not go to the Mattingleys. No harm should come to them that he could prevent. What was to be done ?
Leaning his arms on the gun, he turned his head and looked helplessly away from the land. All at once his look seemed to lose itself in a long aisle of ever widening, ever brightening arches, till a vast wilderness of splendor swallowed it. It was a hole in the wall, — the archway piercing the great rock.
He raised his eyes to the rock. Its myriad inhabitants shrieked and clattered and circled overhead. The shot from ma couzaine had roused them, and they had risen like a cloud, and were scolding like a million fishwives over this insult to their peace.
As Ranulph looked, a new idea came to him. If only he could get to the top of that massive wall, not a hundred fleets could dislodge him. One musket could defeat the forlorn hope of any army. He would be the first man who ever gave battle to a fleet. Besides, if he took refuge on the rock, there could he no grudge against Percé village or the Mattingleys, and Richambeau would not attack them.
He had worked it out. It was now a question between himself and Richambeau. There on the shore was the young sous-lieutenant with his flag of truce, talking to Mattingley; they were all shaking hands. He must carry on the campaign independent of the Mattingleys. The one thing to do was to try to climb the rock. He eyed it closely. The blazing sunshine showed it up in a hard light, and he studied every square yard of it with a telescope. At one point the wall was not quite perpendicular, and there were narrow ledges, lumps of stone, natural steps, and little pinnacles, which the fingers could grip and where a man might rest. The weather had been scorching hot, too, the rocks were as dry as a bone, and there would be no danger of slipping.
He would try it to-night. If he got to the top, he would need twine for hauling up rope,—the Mattingleys should provide that in good time. He would also need stone and flint, a knife, a hammer, and a quilt, all to be hauled up after he reached the top. For food he would take what was left of to-day’s rations, of which he had eaten very little. About a half pound of biscuit, near half a pint of peas, a half pint of oatmeal, and two ounces of cheese were left. He could live on that for at least three days. He also had a horn of good arrack. When that was gone — well, he was taking chances ; if he died of thirst, it was no worse than the yard-arm. The most important thing was a few hundred feet of strong twine. Of that there was plenty in the storeroom, amongst the cordage, and he would get as much as he needed at once.
But if he got up, how would the Mattingleys know who it was perched there on Percé Rock ? He knew of no signal which they would understand. Well, if he got away safely from the Victoire, he would visit the Mattingleys first, and then go straight on to Percé Rock. Though it would be moonlight, his steep way of ascent was on the south side, out of view of the fleet.
The rest of the day he did his duty as faithfully as though he were to be at his post the next morning. He gave the usual instructions to the gunsmith and armorer ; he inspected the small arms ; he chose a man, as was the custom, for gun-room watch; and he ate his supper phlegmatically in due course.
It was the last quarter of the moon, and the neap tide was running low when he let himself softly down into the water. He had the blanket tied on his head ; the food, stone and flint, and other things were inside the blanket, and the twine was in his pocket. He was not seen, and he dropped away quietly astern. He got clear of the Victoire while the moon was partially obscured. Another ship lay in his path, and he must be careful in passing her. He was so near her that he could see the watch, could smell the hot tar and pitch from the lately caulked seams ; he could even hear the laughter of the young foremastmen as they turned in.
At last he was clear of the fleet. Now it was a question when his desertion would be discovered. All he asked was two hours. By that time the deed would be done, if he could climb Percé Rock at all.
He touched bottom. He was on Percé sands. The blanket on his head was scarcely wetted. He wrung the water out of his clothes, and ran softly up the shore. Suddenly he was met by a cry of " Qui va la ? ” and he stopped short at the point of Elio Mattingley ’s bayonet.
“ Hush ! ” was Ranulph’s reply, and he gave his name. Mattingley nearly dropped his musket in surprise. He soon knew the tale of Ranulph’s misfortunes, but he had not yet been told of his present plans when there came a quick footstep on the sands, and Carterette was at her father’s side. Unlike Mattingley, she did drop her musket at sight of Ranulph, and impulsively throwing her arms round his neck, she kissed him on the cheek, — so had this meeting in a new land disarmed her old timidity.
“ V’là! ” she exclaimed, “ that’s for the Jersey sailor who’s come in here through a fleet of Frenchmen ! ”
She thought he had stolen into the harbor under the very nose of Richambeau and his squadron. But presently she was trembling with excitement at the story of how Ranulph had been pressed at St. Malo, and all that came after until this very day when he had dismounted the gun not ten feet from where she stood.
“ Go along with Carterette.” said Mattingley. “ Alixandre is at the house ; he ’ll help you away into the woods.”
That was not Ranulph’s plan, but he did not mean it for Mattingley’s ears ; so he hurried away with Carterette, telling her his design as they went.
“ Ranulph Delagarde,” she said vehemently, “you can’t climb Percé Rock. No one has ever done it, and you must not try. Oh, I know you are a great man, but you must not try this. You will be safe where we shall hide you. You shall not climb the rock, — ah no, bà sû ! ”
He pointed toward the post. “ They would n’t leave a stick standing there, if you hid me. No, I’m going to the top of Percé Rock.”
“ Mon doux terrible ! ” she cried, in sheer bewilderment; and then his intention inspired her with a purpose. At last her time had come ; she felt it.
“ Pardingue,” she went on, clutching his arm, “ if you go to the top of Percé Rock, so will I ! ”
In spite of his anxiety he almost laughed.
“ But see, — but see,” he said, and his voice dropped ; “you couldn’t stay up there with me all alone, garçon Carterette ; and besides, Richambeau would be firing on you too ! ”
She was very angry now, but she made no reply, and he continued quickly: “ I 'll go straight to the rock. When they miss me there 'll be a pot boiling, you may believe, garçon Carterette. If I get up,” he added, “ I ’ll let a string down for a rope you must get for me. Once on top they can’t hurt me. Eh ben, à bi’tôt, garcon Carterette ! ”
“ Oh my good ! Oh my good ' ” said the girl, with a quick change of mood. “ To think you have come like this, and perhaps ” — But she dashed the tears from her eyes, and bade him go on.
The tide was well out, the moon shining brightly. Ranulph reached the point where, if the rock was to be scaled at all, the ascent must be made. For a distance there was shelving where foothold might be had by a fearless man with a steady head and sure balance. After that came about a hundred feet where he would have to draw himself up by juttings and crevices hand over hand, where was no natural pathway. Woe be to him if head grew dizzy, foot slipped, or strength gave out; his body would be broken to pieces on the hard sand below. That second stage once passed, the ascent thence to the top would be easier; for though nearly as steep, it had more ledges, and offered fair vantage to a man with a foot like a mountain goat. Ranulph had been aloft all weathers in his time, and his toes were as strong as another man’s foot, and surer.
He started. These toes of his caught in crevices, held on to ledges, glued themselves on to smooth surfaces ; the knees clung like a rough-rider’s to a saddle; the big hands, when once they got a purchase, fastened like air-cups.
Slowly, slowly up, foot by foot, yard by yard, until one third of the distance was climbed.
The suspense and strain were immeasurable. To Ranulph it was like bringing a brig alone through a gale with a windward tide, while she yaws and quivers over twice the length of her bilge ; like watching a lower-deck gun straining under a heavy sea, with the lanyards and port tackle flying, and no knowing when the great machine would fly from her carriage and make fearful havoc. But he struggled on and on, and at last reached a sort of flying pinnacle of rock, like a hook for the shields of the gods.
Here he ventured to look below, expecting to see Carterette: but there was only the white sand, and no sound save the long wash of the gulf. He drew the horn of arrack from his pocket and drank. He had two hundred feet more to climb ; and the next hundred, — that would test him, that would be the ordeal.
There was no time to lose. While he hung here a musket-shot could pick him off from below, and there was no telling how soon his desertion might be discovered, though he hoped it would not be till morning. He started again. This was travail indeed. His rough fingers, his toes, hard as horn almost, began to bleed. Once or twice he swung quite clear of the wall, hanging by his fingers to catch a surer foothold to right or left, and just getting it sometimes by an inch or less. The strain and tension were terrible. His head appeared to swell and fill with blood : on the top it hurt him so that it seemed ready to burst. His neck was aching horribly with constant looking up ; the skin of his knees was gone : his ankles were bruised. But he must keep on till he got to the top, or until he fell.
He was fighting on now in a kind of dream, quite apart from all usual feelings of this world. The earth itself appeared far away, and he was toiling among vastnesses, himself a giant with colossal frame and huge sprawling limbs. It was like the gruesome visions of the night, when the body is an elusive, stupendous mass that falls into space after a confused struggle with immensities. It was all mechanical, vague, almost numb, this effort to overcome a mountain. Yet it was precise and hugely expert, too ; for though there was a strange mist on the brain, the body felt its way with a singular certainty, as might some molluscan dweller of the sea, sensitive like a plant, with intuition like an animal. Yet at times it seemed that this vast body overcoming the mountain must let go its hold and slide away into the darkness of the depths.
Now there was a strange convulsive shiver in every nerve — God have mercy, the time was come ! . . . No, not yet. At the very instant when it seemed the panting flesh and blood would be shaken off by the granite force repelling it, the fingers, like long antennæ, touched horns of rock jutting out from ledges on the third escarpment of the wall. Here was the last point of the worst stage of the journey. Slowly, heavily, the body drew up to the shelf of limestone and crouched in an inert bundle. There it lay for a time.
While the long minutes went by a voice kept calling up from below, —calling, calling, at first eagerly, then anxiously, then with terror. By and by the bundle of life stirred, took shape, raised itself, and was changed into a man again, a thinking, conscious being, who now understood the meaning of this sound coming up from the earth below, — or was it the sea? A human voice had at last pierced the awful exhaustion of the deadly labor, the peril and strife, which had numbed the brain, while the body, in its instinct for existence, still clung to the rocky ledges. It had called the man back to earth: he was no longer a great animal, and the rock a monster with skin and scales of stone.
“ Ranulph ! Maître Ranulph ! Ah, Ranulph! ”
Now he knew, and he answered down, “All right! All right, garçon Carterette ! ”
“ Are you at the top ? ”
“No, but the rest is easy.”
“ Hurry, hurry, Ranulph ! If they should come before you reach the top! ”
“ I 'll soon be there.”
Are you hurt, Ranulph ? ”
No, but my fingers are in rags. I am going now. — à bi’tôt, garçon Carterette ! ”
“ Ranulph! ”
“ ’Sh, ’sh ! do not speak. I am starting.”
There was silence for what seemed hours to the girl below. Foot by foot the man climbed on, no less cautious because the ascent was easier, for he was weaker. But he was on the monster’s neck now, and soon he should set his heel on it ; he was not to be shaken off.
At last the victorious moment came. Over a jutting ledge he drew himself up by sheer strength and the rubber-like grip of his lacerated fingers, body, legs, knees, and now he lay flat and breathless upon the ground.
How soft and cool it was! This was long sweet grass touching his face, making a couch like down for the battered, wearied body. Surely this travail had been more than mortal. And what was this vast fluttering over his head, this million-voiced discord round him, like the buffetings and cries of spirits who welcome another to their torment ? He raised his head and laughed in triumph. These were the cormorants, gulls, and gannets on the Percé Rock.
Ranulph Delagarde had done what man had never done before him : he had done it in the night, with only the moon to lighten the monstrous labor of his incredible adventure; he had accomplished it without help of any mortal sort.
Legions of birds circled over him with wild cries, so shrill and scolding that at first he did not hear Carterette’s voice calling up to him. At last, however, remembering, he leaned over the cliff and saw her standing in the moonlight far below.
Her voice came up to him indistinctly because of the clatter of the birds, — “ Maitre Ranulph ! Ranulph ! ” She could not see him, for this part of the rock was in shadow.
“ Ah bah, all right! ” he said, and taking hold of one end of the twine he had brought, he let the roll fall. It dropped almost at Carterette’s feet. She tied to the end of it the rope she had brought from the post. He drew it up quickly. She had found no rope long enough, so she had tied three together ; Ranulph must splice them perfectly. Once more he let down the twine, and she fastened it to his blanket. It was a heavy strain on the twine, but the blanket and the food inclosed were got up safely. He lowered again, and this time he hauled up tobacco, tea, matches, needles, cotton, a knife, and a horn of rum. Now she called for him to splice the ropes. There was no time to do that, but he tied them firmly together, and let the great coil down. This time he drew up a musket and some ammunition and another blanket. Again it was letdown, and there were drawn up a crowbar, a handspike, and some tin dishes, which rattled derisively against the side of the great rock. Again the rope went down, and two bundles of sticks and fagots were attached, also a small roll of coarse cotton and a bearskin.
“ Ranulph ! Ranulph ! ” came Carterette’s clear voice again from far below.
“ Garçon Carterette,” he replied.
“You must help Sebastian Alixandre up,” she said.
“ Sebastian Alixandre ! ” Ranulph replied, dumfounded. “ Is he there ? Why does he want to come? ”
“ That is no matter,” she said. “ He is coming. He has the rope round his waist. Full away ! ”
It was better, Ranulph thought to himself, that he should be on Perce Rock alone, but the terrible strain had bewildered him, and he could make no protest now.
Don’t start yet ! ” he called down. " I ’ll pull when all ’s ready! ”
He fell back from the edge to a place in the grass where, tying the rope round his body, he could seat himself and brace his feet against a ledge of rock. Then he pulled on the rope —and it was round Carterette’s waist!
Carterette had told her falsehood without shame, for she was of those to whom the end is more than the means. She began climbing, and Ranulph pulled steadily. Twice he felt the rope suddenly jerk when she lost her footing, but it came in evenly still, and he used a nose of rock as a sort of winch. He knew when the climber was more than one third of the way up by the greater weight upon the rope, by the more frequent slippings. Yet this was no such monstrous struggle as had been Ranulph’s climbing; this was the scaling of a conquered wall by the following of the victorious.
The climber was nearly two thirds of the way up when a cannon-shot boomed out over the water, frightening again the vast covey of birds, which shrieked and honked till the air was a maelstrom of cries. Then came another cannon-shot.
Ranulph’s desertion was discovered.
Upon the other side of the rock boats were putting out toward the shore. Ranulph knew each movement as well as if he were watching them. The fight was begun between a single Jersey shipwright and a fleet of French warships.
His strength, however, could not last much longer. Every muscle of his body had been strained and tortured, and even this easier task tried him beyond endurance. His legs stiffened against the ledge of rock, the tension on his arms made them numb ; he wondered how near Alixandre was to the top. Suddenly there was a pause, then a heavy jerk. Love of God ! the rope was shooting through his fingers, his legs were giving way ! He gathered himself together, and then, with teeth, hands, and body rigid with enormous effort, he pulled and pulled. Now he could not see. A mist swam before his eyes. Everything grew black, but he pulled on and on.
He never knew just when the climber reached the top. But when the mist cleared away from his eyes Carterette was bending over him, putting rum to his lips, as he sat where he had stiffened with his last great effort.
“ Carterette ! Garçon Carterette ! ” he murmured, amazed. And then, as the truth burst upon him, he shook his head in a troubled sort of way.
“ What a cat I was ! ” said Carterette. “ What a wild-cat I was to make you haul me up! It was bad for me with the rope round me ; it must have been awful for you, my poor èsmanus, my poor scarecrow Ranulph.”
Scarecrow indeed he looked. His clothes were nearly gone, his hair was tossed and matted, his eyes were bloodshot, his big hands were like pieces of raw meat, his feet were covered with blood.
“ My poor scarecrow ! ” she repeated, and she tenderly wiped the blood from his face where his hands had touched it. Now bugle-calls and cries of command came up to them, and in the first light of morning they could see French officers and sailors, Mattingley, Alixandre, and others hurrying to and fro.
When day came clear and bright, it was known that Carterette as well as Ranulph had vanished. Mattingley shook his head stoically, but Richarnbeau on the Vietoire was as keen to hunt down one Jersey Englishman as he had ever been to attack an English fleet, — more so, perhaps.
Meanwhile the birds kept up a wild turmoil and shrieking. Never before had any one heard them so clamorous. More than once Mattingley had looked at Percé Rock curiously ; but whenever the thought of it as a refuge came to him, he put it away. No, it was impossible.
Yet what was that ? Mattingley’s heart thumped under his coat. There were two persons on the lofty island wall, — a man and a woman. He caught the arm of a French officer near him. “ Look, look ! ” he exclaimed.
The officer raised his glass. " It ’s the gunner! ” he cried, and handed the glass to the old man.
“ It’s Carterette ! ” said Mattingley in a hoarse voice. “ But it’s not possible,— it ’s not possible,”he added helplessly. " Nobody was ever there. My God, look at it, —look at it!
It was a picture indeed. A man and a woman were outlined against the clear air, putting up a tent as calmly as though on a lawn, thousands of birds wheeling over their heads, with querulous cries.
A few moments later Elie Mattingley was being rowed swiftly to the Victoire, where Richambeau himself was swearing viciously as he looked through his telescope. He also had recognized the gunner.
He was prepared to wipe out the flshing-post if Mattingley did not produce Ranulph. Well, here was Ranulph duly produced, and insultingly setting up a tent on this sheer rock, “ with some snippet of the devil,” said Richambeau, and defying a whole French fleet. He would set his gunners to work. If he only had as good a marksman as Ranulph himself, the deserter should drop at the first shot, — “ Death and the devil take his impudent face! ”
He was just about to give the order when Mattingley was brought to him. The old man’s story amazed him beyond measure.
“ It is no man, then ! ” said Richambeau, when Mattingley had done. “ He must be a damned fly to do it! And the girl, — sacré moi! he drew her up after him. I ’ll have him down out of that, though, or throw up my flag,” he added, and turning fiercely gave his orders.
For hours the French ships bombarded the lonely rock from the north. The white tent was carried away, but the cannon-balls flew over or merely battered the solid rock, the shells were thrown beyond, and no harm was done. But now and again the figure of Ranulph appeared, and a half dozen times he took aim with his musket at the French soldiers on the shore. Twice his shots took effect: one man was wounded, and one killed. Then whole companies of marines returned a musketry fire at him, to no purpose. At his ease he hid himself in the long grass at the edge of the cliff, and picked off two more men.
Here was a ridiculous thing : one man and a slip of a girl fighting and defying a whole squadron. The smoke of battle covered miles of the great gulf. Even the sea birds shrieked in ridicule.
This went on for three days at intervals. With a fine chagrin, Richambeau and his fleet saw a bright camp-fire lighted on the rock, and knew that Ranulph and the girl were cooking their meals in peace. A flagstaff, too, was set up, and a red cloth waved defiantly in the breeze. At last, Richambeau, who had watched the whole business from the deck of the Victoire, burst out laughing at the absurd humor of the situation, and sent for Elie Mattingley.
I’ve had enough,” said he. “ How long can he last up there ? ”
“ He ’ll have birds’ eggs in plenty, and there’s wild berries too, besides ground rats and all of them. And if I know my girl, there’s rations gone aloft,” replied Mattingley, with a grim smile. “ Ch’est très ship - shape up there ! ”
“ Come, I’ve had enough,” said Richambeau, and he gave orders to stop firing.
When the roar of cannon had ceased he said to Mattingley again. “ There never was a wilder jest, and I 'll not spoil the joke. He has us on his toasting-fork. I shall give him the honor of a flag of truce, and he must come down.” His lower lip shook with laughter.
And so it was that a French fleet sent a flag of truce to the foot of Percé Rock, and a French officer, calling up, gave the word of honor of his captain that Ranulph should suffer nothing at the hands of a court-martial, and that he should be treated as a prisoner of war.
As a prisoner of war ! thought Ranulph. Then he was to be treated like an English belligerent, and not like a French deserter. He accepted Richambeau’s offer, and, with Carterette, made ready to descend. It svas easier going down than coining up.
There was no court-martial. After Ranulph,at Richanibeau’s command, had told the tale of the ascent, the Frenchman said, " No one but an Englishman could be fool enough to try such a thing, and none but a fool could have had the luck to succeed. You have proved, gunner, that you are no Frenchman.”
“ Then I am no deserter, monsieur ? asked Ranulph.
“ You are a fool, gunner ; but even a fool can get a woman to follow him, and so this flyaway followed you — and " —
Carterette flew at Richambeau as though to scratch his eyes out, but Ranulph held her back.
“ And you are condemned, gunner,” continued Richambeau dryly, “ to marry the said maid before sundown, or be carried out to sea a prisoner of war.”
So saying, he laughed and bade them begone to the wedding.
Ranulph left Richambeau?s ship bewildered and perturbed. For hours he paced the shore, and at last his thoughts began to clear. The new life he had led during the last few months bad brought many revelations, lie had come to realize that there are several kinds of happiness, but that all may be divided into two classes,—the happiness of doing good to ourselves, and that of doing good to others. It all opened out clearly to him. as he thought of Carterette in the light of Richambeau’s coarse jest.
For years he had known in a sort of way that Carterette preferred him to any other man. He knew now that she had remained single because of him. For him her impatience had been patience ; her fiery heart had spilt itself in tenderness for his misfortunes. She who hail lightly tossed lovers aside, her coquetry appeased, had to himself shown sincerity without coquetry, loyalty without selfishness. He knew well that she had been his champion in dark days ; that he had received far more from her than lie had ever given, even of friendship. In his own absorbing love for Guida Landresse, during long years, he had been unconsciously blind to a devotion which had lived on without hope, without repining, with untiring cheerfulness.
In those three days spent on the top of the Percé Rock how blithe garcon Carterette had been ! Danger had seemed nothing to her. She had the temper of a man in her real enjoyment of the desperate chances of life. He had never seen her so buoyant ; her animal spirits had never leaped so high. And yet withal, despite the boldness which had sent her to the top of Percé Rock with him, there had been in all her demeanor a modesty at once frank and free from self-consciousness. She could think for herself, she was sure of herself, and she would go to the ends of the earth for him. Surely he had not earned such friendship, such affection.
He recalled how, the night before, as they sat by their little camp-fire, perched there between heaven and earth, the fleet beneath on one hand and the fishing-post on the other, the tall masts flickering in the moonlight, the flagstaff lifted above the fort like a white finger, — he recalled how, after a long silence, she had risen to her feet, had come over and touched him on the shoulder, and looking down at him had said, “ I feel as if I was beginning my life all over again ; don’t you, Maître Ranulph ? ”
Her black eyes bad been fixed on his, and the fire in them was as bright and full of health and truth as the fire at his feet. He had answered her, ‘I think I feel that, too, garçon Carterette.”
Then she replied, “ It is n’t hard to forget here, — not so very hard, is it”
She did not mean Guida, nor what he had felt for Guida, but rather the misery of the past. He had nodded his head in reply, but had not spoken ; and she, with a quick “ A bi’tôt,”had taken her blanket and gone to that part of Percé Rock which was set apart for her own. Then he had sat by the fire thinking through the long hours of the night; and by the time the sun rose and the sailors were stirring in the sloops below he realized that a new life had been born in him. That day Richambeau had sent his flag of truce, and the end of their stay on Percé Rock had come.
Now he would marry Carterette. Yet he was not disloyal, even in memory. What had belonged to Guida belonged to her forever, — belonged to a past life with which henceforth he should have naught to do. What had sprung up in his heart for Carterette belonged to this new life. It had the dignity of affection, and it had the power of unselfishness. In this new land there was work to do, — what might he not accomplish here ? He realized that within one life a man may still live several lives, each after its kind, and yet not be dishonest or disloyal. A fate stronger than himself had brought him here, and here he would stay with fate. It had brought him to Carterette, and who could tell what good and contentment might not yet come to him, and how much to her !
That evening he went to Carterette and asked her to be his wife. She turned pale, and, looking up into his eyes with a kind of fear, she said brokenly, “ It ’s not because you feel you must ? It’s not because you know I love you, Ranulph, is it? It is not for that alone ? ”
“ It is because I want you, garçon Carterette,” he answered tenderly, — “ because life will be nothing without you.”
“ I am so happy, par madé, — I am so happy! ” she said, and she lnd her face on his breast.