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The Sun of Quebec: A Story of a Great Crisis

The Sun of Quebec: A Story of a Great Crisis

Author:Joseph A. Altsheler


Mynheer Jacobus Huysman walked to the window and looked out at the neat red brick houses, the grass, now turning yellow, and the leaves, more brown than green. He was troubled, in truth his heart lay very heavy within...
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  Mynheer Jacobus Huysman walked to the window and looked out at the neatred brick houses, the grass, now turning yellow, and the leaves, morebrown than green. He was troubled, in truth his heart lay very heavywithin him. He was thinking over the terrible news that had come soswiftly, as evil report has a way of doing. But he had cause forsatisfaction, too, and recalling it, he turned to gaze once more uponthe two lads who, escaping so many perils, had arrived at the shelter ofhis home.

  Robert and Tayoga were thin and worn, their clothing was soiled andtorn, but youth was youth and they were forgetting dangers past in asplendid dinner that the fat Caterina was serving for them while MynheerJacobus, her master, stood by and saw the good deed well done.

  The dining room, large and furnished solidly, was wonderful in itsneatness and comfort. The heavy mahogany of table, sideboard and chairswas polished and gleaming. No trace of dirt was allowed to lingeranywhere. When the door to the adjoining kitchen opened, as Caterinapassed through, pleasant odors floated in, inciting the two to freshefforts at the trencher. It was all as it had been when they were youngboys living there, attending the school of Alexander McLean andtraveling by painful steps along the road to knowledge. In its snugness,its security and the luxury it offered it was a wonderful contrast tothe dark forest, where death lurked in every bush. Robert drew a longsigh of content and poured himself another cup of coffee.

  "And you escaped from the French after the great battle?" said MynheerJacobus, asking the same question over and over again.

  "Yes, sir," replied Robert, "and it was not a difficult thing to do atall. The victory of the French was so remarkable, and I think sounexpected, that they were paying little attention to me. I just walkedout of their camp, and the only man I met was the Chevalier de St. Luc,who did not seem at all interested in stopping me--a curious fact, but afact all the same."

  "A great leader and a fine man iss the Chevalier de St. Luc," said Mr.Huysman.

  "He's both, as I've had many chances to learn, and I intend to know moreabout him some day."

  "It may be that you will know even more than you think."

  Robert looked sharply at the burgher, and he was about to ask questions,but he reflected that Mynheer Jacobus, if he were able to answer, wouldbe evasive like all the others and so he checked the words at his lips.

  "I suppose that time will disclose everything," he contented himselfwith saying. "Meanwhile, I want to tell you, sir, that Tayoga and Iappreciate to the full your hospitality. It is noble, it always wasnoble, as we've had ample occasion to discover."

  The full red face of Mynheer Jacobus bloomed into a smile. The cornersof his mouth turned up, and his eyes twinkled.

  "I must have had a premonition that you two were coming," he said, "andso I stocked the larder. I remembered of old your appetites, a hungerthat could be satisfied only with great effort, and then could come backagain an hour later, as fresh and keen as ever. You are strong andhealthy boys, for which you should be grateful."

  "We are," said Robert, with great emphasis.

  "And you do not know whether Montcalm iss advancing with his army?"

  "We don't, sir, but is Albany alarmed?"

  "It iss! It iss alarmed very greatly. It wass not dreamed by any of usthat our army could be defeated, that magnificent army which I saw goaway to what I thought was certain victory. Ah, how could it havehappened? How could it have happened, Robert?"

  "We simply threw away our chances, sir. I saw it all. We underrated theFrench. If we had brought up our big guns it would have been easy. Therewas no lack of courage on the part of our men. I don't believe thatpeople of British blood ever showed greater bravery, and that meansbravery equal to anybody's."

  Mynheer Jacobus Huysman sighed heavily.

  "What a waste! What a waste!" he said. "Now the army hass retreated andthe whole border iss uncovered. The tomahawk and scalping knife are atwork. Tales of slaughter come in efery day, and it iss said thatMontcalm iss advancing on Albany itself."

  "I don't believe, sir, that he will come," said Robert. "The Frenchnumbers are much fewer than is generally supposed, and I can't think hewill dare to attack Albany."

  "It does not seem reasonable, but there iss great alarm. Many people areleaving on the packets for New York. Who would have thought it? Whocould have thought it! But I mean to stay, and if Montcalm comes I willhelp fight in the defense."

  "I knew you wouldn't leave, sir. But despite our defeat we've a powerfularmy yet, and England and the Colonies will not sit down and just weep."

  "What you say iss so, Robert, my boy. I am not of English blood, butwhen things look worst iss the time when England shows best, and thepeople here are of the same breed. I do not despair. What did you sayhad become of Willet?"

  "Shortly before we reached Albany he turned aside to see Sir WilliamJohnson. We had, too, with us, a young Englishman named Grosvenor, afine fellow, but he went at once to the English camp here to report forduty. He was in the battle at Ticonderoga and he also will testify thatour army, although beaten, could have brought up its artillery and havefought again in a day or two. It would have gained the victory, too."

  "I suppose so! I suppose so! But it did not fight again, and what mighthave been did not happen. It means a longer war in this country and alonger war all over the world. It spreads! It iss a great war, extendingto most of the civilized lands, the greatest war of modern times andmany think it will be the last war, but I know not. The character ofmankind does not change. What do you two boys mean to do?"

  "We have not decided yet," replied Robert, speaking for both. "We'll goback to the war, of course, which means that we'll travel once moretoward the north, but we'll have to rest a few days."

  "And this house iss for you to rest in--a few days or many days, as youplease, though I hope it will be many. Caterina shall cook for you four,five meals a day, if you wish, and much at every meal. I do not forgethow when you were little you raided the fruit trees, and the berrybushes and the vines. Well, the fruit will soon be ripe again und I willturn my back the other way. I will make that fat Caterina do the same,and you and Tayoga can imagine that you are little boys once more."

  "I know you mean that, Mynheer Jacobus, and we thank you from the bottomof our hearts," said Robert, as the moisture came into his eyes.

  "Here comes Master Alexander McLean," said Mr. Huysman, who had turnedback to the window. "He must have heard of your arrival and he wishes tosee if your perils in the woods have made you forget your ancienthistory."

  In a minute or two Master McLean, tall, thin, reddish of hair, andsevere of gaze entered, his frosty blue eyes lighting up as he shookhands with the boys, though his manner remained austere.

  "I heard that you had arrived after the great defeat at Ticonderoga," hesaid, "and you are fortunate to have escaped with your lives. I rejoiceat it, but those who go into the woods in such times must expect greatperils. It is of course well for all our young men to offer their livesnow for their country, but I thought I saw in you at least, RobertLennox, the germ of a great scholar, and it would be a pity for you tolose your life in some forest skirmish."

  "I thank you for the compliment," said Robert, "but as I was tellingMynheer Jacobus I mean to go back into the woods."

  "I doubt it not. The young of this generation are wise in their ownconceit. It was hard enough to control Tayoga and you several years ago,and I cannot expect to do it now. Doubtless all the knowledge that Ihave been at such pains to instill into you will be lost in theexcitement of trail and camp."

  "I hope not, sir, though it's true that we've had some very stirringtimes. When one is in imminent danger of his life he cannot think muchof his Latin, his Greek and his ancient history."

  The severe features of Master Alexander McLean wrinkled into a frown.

  "I do not know about that," he said. "Alexander the Great slept with hisHomer under his pillow, and doubtless he also carried the book with himon his Asiatic campaigns, refreshing and strengthening his mind fromtime to time with dips into its inspiring pages. There is no crisis inwhich it is pardonable for you to forget your learning, though I fear memuch that you have done so. What was the date, Robert, of the fall ofConstantinople?"

  "Mahomet the Second entered it, sir, in the year 1453 A. D."

  "Very good. I begin to have more confidence in you. And why is Homerconsidered a much greater poet than Virgil?"

  "More masculine, more powerful, sir, and far more original. In fact theRomans in their literature, as in nearly all other arts, were merelyimitators of the Greeks."

  The face of Master McLean relaxed into a smile.

  "Excellent! Excellent!" he exclaimed. "You have done better than youclaimed for yourself, but modesty is an attribute that becomes theyoung, and now I tell you again, Robert, that I am most glad you andTayoga have come safely out of the forest. I wish to inform you alsothat Master Benjamin Hardy and his chief clerk, Jonathan Pillsbury, havearrived from New York on the fast packet, _River Queen_, and even nowthey are depositing their baggage at the George Inn, where they areexpecting to stay."

  Master Jacobus who had been silent while the schoolmaster talked, awokesuddenly to life.

  "At the George Inn!" he exclaimed. "It iss a good inn, good enough foranybody, but when friends of mine come to Albany they stay with me or Itake offense. Bide here, my friends, and I will go for them. Alexander,sit with the lads and partake of refreshment while I am gone."

  He hastened from the room and Master McLean, upon being urged, joinedRobert and Tayoga at the table, where he showed that he too was a goodman at the board, thinness being no bar to appetite and capacity. As heate he asked the boys many questions, and they, knowing well his kindlyheart under his crusty manner, answered them all readily and freely.Elderly and bookish though he was, his heart throbbed at the tale of thegreat perils through which they had gone, and his face darkened whenRobert told anew the story of Ticonderoga.

  "It is our greatest defeat so far," he said, "and I hope our misfortunescame to a climax there. We must have repayment for it. We must aim atthe heart of the French power, and that is Quebec. Instead of fightingon the defense, Britain and her colonies must strike down Canada."

  "So it seems to me too, sir," said Robert. "We're permitting the Marquisde Montcalm to make the fighting, to choose the fields of battle, and aslong as we do that we have to dance to his music. But, sir, that's onlymy opinion. I would not presume to give it in the presence of mysuperiors."

  "You've had much experience despite your youth and you're entitled toyour thoughts. But I hear heavy steps. 'Tis odds that it's Jacobus withhis friends."

  The door was opened and Mr. Huysman with many words of welcome usheredin his guests, who being simple and strong men brought their own baggagefrom the inn. Robert rose at once and faced Benjamin Hardy in whose eyesshone an undoubted gladness. The merchant did not look a day older thanwhen Robert had last seen him in New York, and he was as robust andhearty as ever. Jonathan Pillsbury, tall, thin and dressed withmeticulous care, also permitted himself a smile.

  "Robert, my lad!" exclaimed Benjamin Hardy, dropping his baggage andholding out two sinewy hands. "'Tis a delight to find you and Tayogahere. I knew not what had become of you two, and I feared the worst, thetimes being so perilous. Upon my word, we've quite a reunion!"

  Robert returned his powerful and friendly grasp. He was more than gladto see him for several reasons; for his own sake, because he liked himexceedingly, and because he was sure Master Benjamin held in his keepingthose secrets of his own life which he was yet to learn.

  "Sir," he said, "'tis not my house, though I've lived in it, and I knowthat Mr. Huysman has already given you a most thorough welcome, so I addthat it's a delight to me to see you again. 'Twas a pleasant and mostmemorable visit that Tayoga and I had at your home in New York."

  "And eventful enough, too. You came very near going to the Guineas on aslave trip. That was the kind of hospitality I offered you."

  "No fault of yours, sir. I shall never forget the welcome you gave us inNew York. It warms my heart now to think of it."

  "I see you've not lost your gift of speech. Words continue to well fromyour lips, and they're good words, too. But I talk overmuch myself. Hereis Jonathan waiting to speak to you. I told him I was coming to Albany.'Upon what affair?' he asked. ''Tis secret,' I replied. 'Meaning you donot want to tell me of its nature,' he said. 'Yes,' I replied. Then hesaid, 'Whatever its gist, you'll need my presence and advice. I'm goingwith you.' And here he is. Doubtless he is right."

  Jonathan Pillsbury clasped Robert's hand as warmly as he ever claspedanybody's and permitted himself a second smile, which was his limit, andonly extraordinary occasions could elicit two.

  "Our conversation has been repeated with accuracy," he said. "I do notyet know why I have come to Albany, but I feel sure it is well that Ihave come."

  Mr. Huysman hustled about, his great red face glowing while fat Caterinabrought in more to eat. He insisted that the new guests sit at the tableand eat tremendously. It was a time when hospitality meant repeatedofferings of food, which in America was the most abundant of all things,and Mr. Hardy and Mr. Pillsbury easily allowed themselves to bepersuaded.

  "And now, Robert, you must tell me something more about Dave," said themerchant as they rose from the table.

  Young Lennox promptly narrated their adventures among the peaks andabout the lakes while the older men listened with breathless attention.Nor did the story of the great hunter suffer in Robert's telling. He hadan immense admiration for Willet and he spoke of his deeds with suchvivid words and with so much imagery and embroidery that they seemed tobe enacted again there in that quiet room before the men who listened.

  "Ah, that is Dave! True as steel. As honest and brave as they ever make'em," said Master Benjamin Hardy, when he had finished. "A man! a realman if ever one walked this earth!"

  "And don't forget Tayoga here," said Robert. "The greatest trailer everborn. He saved us more than once by his ability to read the faintestsign the earth might yield."

  "When Dagaeoga begins to talk he never knows how to stop," said Tayoga;"I but did the things all the warriors of my nation are taught to do. Iwould be unworthy to call myself a member of the clan of the Bear, ofthe nation Onondaga, of the great League of the Hodenosaunee, if I couldnot follow a trail. Peace, Dagaeoga!"

  Robert joined in the laugh, and then the men began to talk about theprospects of an attack upon Albany by the French and Indians, though allof them inclined to Robert's view that Montcalm would not try it.

  "As you were a prisoner among them you ought to know something abouttheir force, Robert," said Mr. Hardy.

  "I had opportunities to observe," replied the lad, "and from what I saw,and from what I have since heard concerning our numbers I judge that wewere at least four to one, perhaps more. But we threw away all ouradvantage when we came with bare breasts against their wooden wall andsharpened boughs."

  "It is a painful thing to talk about and to think about, but Britainnever gives up. She marches over her mistakes and failures to triumph,and we are bone of her bone. And you saw St. Luc!"

  "Often, sir. In the battle and in the preparations for it he was theright arm of the Marquis de Montcalm. He is a master of forest war."

  "He is all that, Robert, my lad. A strange, a most brilliant man, he isone of our most formidable enemies."

  "But a gallant one, sir. He did nothing to prevent my escape. I feelthat at Ticonderoga as well as elsewhere I am greatly in his debt."

  "Undoubtedly he favors you. It does not surprise me."

  Intense curiosity leaped up in Robert's heart once more. What was he toSt. Luc! What was St. Luc to him! All these elderly men seemed to hold asecret that was hidden from him, and yet it concerned him most. His lipstwitched and he was about to ask a question, but he reflected that, asalways before, it would not be answered, it would be evaded, and herestrained his eager spirit. He knew that all the men liked him, thatthey had his good at heart, and that when the time came to speak theywould speak. The words that had risen to his lips were unspoken.

  Robert felt that his elders wanted to talk, that something they wouldrather not tell to the lads was in their minds, and meanwhile thebrilliant sunshine and free air outside were calling to him and theOnondaga.

  "I think," he said, addressing them all collectively, "that Tayoga and Ishould go to see Lieutenant Grosvenor. He was our comrade in theforest, and he has been somewhat overcome by his great hardships."

  "The idea would not be bad," said Master Benjamin Hardy. "Youth toyouth, and, while you are gone, we old fellows will talk of days longago as old fellows are wont to do."

  And so they did want him and Tayoga to go! He had divined their wishesaright. He was quite sure, too, that when he and the Onondaga were awaythe past would be very little in their minds. These active men in thevery prime of their powers were concerned most about the present and thefuture. Well, whatever it was he was sure they would discuss it withwisdom and foresight.

  "Come, Tayoga," he said. "Outdoors is calling to us."

  "And be sure that you return in time for supper," said Master Jacobus."This house is to be your home as long as you are in Albany. I should beoffended mortally if you went elsewhere."

  "No danger of that," said Robert. "Tayoga and I know a good home when wefind it. And we know friends, too, when we see them."

  It was a bit of sentiment, but he felt it very deeply and he saw thatall of the men looked pleased. As he and Tayoga went out he noticed thatthey drew their chairs about the dining-room table that Caterina hadcleared, and before the door closed upon the two lads they were alreadytalking in low and earnest tones.

  "They have affairs of importance which are not for us," he said, when heand the Onondaga were outside.

  "It is so," said Tayoga. "The white people have their chiefs and sachemslike the nations of the Hodenosaunee, and their ranks are filled by age.The young warriors are for the trail, the hunt, and the war path, andnot for the council. It is right that it should be thus. I do not wishto be a chief or a sachem before my time. I am glad, Dagaeoga, to enjoyyouth, and let our elders do the hard thinking for us."

  "So am I," said Robert joyfully as he filled his lungs with draughtafter draught of the fresh air. "No seat at the council for me! Not fortwenty years yet! Give me freedom and action! Let others do the planningand take the responsibility!"

  He felt a great elation. His sanguine temperament had made a completerebound from the depression following Ticonderoga. Although he did notknow it the result was partly physical--good food and abundant rest, buthe did not seek to analyze the cause, the condition was sufficient. Thecolor in his cheeks deepened and his eyes glowed.

  "Dagaeoga is feeling very, very good," said Tayoga.

  "I am," replied Robert with emphasis. "I never felt better. I'mforgetting Ticonderoga; instead, I'm beholding our army at Quebec, andI'm seeing our flag wave over all Canada."

  "Dagaeoga sees what he wants to see."

  "It's not a bad plan. Then the lions die in your path."

  "It is so. Dagaeoga speaks a great truth. We will now see how Red Coatfeels."

  A portion of the army that had retreated from Ticonderoga was camped onthe flats near the town, and Robert and Tayoga walked swiftly toward thetents. It was a much more silent force, British and American, than thatwhich had gone forth not so very long ago to what seemed certainvictory. Officers and men were angry. They felt that they had beenbeaten when there was no reason why they should have been defeated.Obeying orders, they had retreated in sullen silence, when they had feltsure they could have gone on, fought a new battle, and have crushedMontcalm. Now they waited impatiently for another call to advance onCanada, and win back their lost laurels. Both lads felt the tension.

  "They are like the wounded bear," said Tayoga. "They feel very sore, andthey wish for revenge."

  They learned that Grosvenor was in his tent and soon found him therelying upon his blankets. Some of the ruddy color was gone from hischeeks, and he looked worn and thin. But he sat up, and welcomed Robertand Tayoga joyously.

  "It's foolish of me to break down like this," he said, "but after we gotback to civilization something seemed to cave in. I hope you chaps won'toverlook the fact that I'm not as much used to the forest as you are,and bear in mind that I did my best."

  "Red Coat's best was very good," said Tayoga in his grave, precisemanner. "Few who have been in the forest as little as he could have doneas much and have borne as much."

  "Do you really think so, Tayoga? You're not merely flattering me?"

  "Our wisest sachem would tell you so, Red Coat."

  "Thanks, my friend. You make me feel better. I was lucky enough to gothrough the great battle with little hurt. It was a most ghastlyslaughter, and I still dream of it. I stood up all right until we gotback to Albany, and then I collapsed. But to-morrow I'll be on my feetagain. Your friends, Colden, Wilton and Carson are all here. They showedgreat courage and they have some slight wounds, but not enough totrouble 'em."

  Robert found the Philadelphians a little later, and they all went backto Grosvenor's tent, where they were joined in a half hour by theVirginians, Walter Stuart and James Cabell, who had been with them inBraddock's defeat and whom Robert had known at Williamsburg. It was atight squeeze for them all in the tent, but there was another and joyousreunion. Youth responded to youth and hope was high.

  "Stuart and I did not arrive in time for Ticonderoga," said Cabell, "butwe mean to be in the next great battle."

  "So we do!" exclaimed Cabell. "The Old Dominion had a taste of defeat atFort Duquesne and you've had the like here. Now we'll all wait and seehow victory agrees with us."

  "Some of us have been in at both defeats," said Grosvenor rather sadly.

  But the presence of so many friends and the cheerful talk made him feelso much better that he averred his ability to go anywhere and doanything at once.

  "You've leave of absence if you wish it?" asked Cabell.

  "For several days more," replied Grosvenor.

  "Then let's all go into the town. I haven't had a good look at Albanyyet. I want to see if it's as fine a place as Williamsburg."

  "It's larger," said Robert.

  "But size is not everything. That's where you northern people make yourmistake."

  "But you'll admit that Philadelphia's a fine city, won't you?" saidColden, "and you know it's the largest in the colonies."

  "But it's comparatively near to Virginia," said Cabell briskly, "and ourinfluence works wonders."

  "We've our own conceit in Philadelphia," said Wilton, "but conceit andVirginia are just the same words, though they may have a differentsound."

  "Come on to the George Inn," said Grosvenor, "and you can argue it outthere. Old England likes to see this healthy rivalry among her children.She doesn't mind your being bumptious."

  "We're bumptious, because we're like our parent," said Cabell. "It's amatter of inheritance."

  "Let the George Inn settle it. Come on, lads."

  Grosvenor was feeling better and better. He was adaptable and this was asprightly group, full of kindred spirits. The Virginians were as Englishas he was, and the others nearly as much so. He had acquitted himselfwell in the New World, in fields with which he was unfamiliar, and theselads were friends. Danger and hardships faded quite away into aforgotten past. He was strong and well once more.

  "You shall all be my guests at the George Inn!" he exclaimed. "We shallhave refreshment and talk, plenty of both."

  "As we Virginians are the oldest people in the colonies, it's the rightof Stuart and myself to be the hosts," said Cabell.

  "Aye, so 'tis," said Stuart.

  "As we're from Philadelphia, the greatest and finest city in thecountry, it's the right of Wilton, Carson and myself," said Colden.

  But Grosvenor was firm. He had given the invitation first, he said, andnobody could take the privilege from him. So the others yieldedgracefully, and in high good humor the eight, saying much and humminglittle songs, walked across the fields from the camp and into the town.Robert noticed the bustling life of Albany with approval. The forestmade its appeal to him, and the city made another and different butquite as strong appeal. The old Fort Orange of the Dutch was crowdednow, not only with troops but with all the forms of industry thatfollow in the train of an army. The thrifty Dutch, despite theirapprehension over the coming of the French, were busy buying, selling,and between battles much money was made.

  The George Inn, a low building but long and substantial was down by theriver. The great doors stood wide open and much life flowed in and out,showing that it too profited by war. The eight found seats at a table ona sanded floor, and contented themselves with lemonade, which they drankslowly, while they talked and looked.

  It was a motley and strange throng; American, English, Dutch, German,Indian, Swedish. A half dozen languages were heard in the great room,forerunner of the many elements that were to enter in the composition ofthe American nation. And the crowd was already cosmopolitan. Differenceof race attracted no attention. Men took no notice of Tayoga because hewas an Indian, unless to admire his tall, straight figure and proudcarriage. Albany had known the Iroquois a century and a half.

  Robert's spirits, like Grovenor's, mounted. Here he was with manyfriends of his own age and kindred mind. Everything took on the color ofrose. All of them were talking, but his own gift of speech was thefinest. He clothed narrative with metaphor and illustration until itbecame so vivid that the others were glad to fall silent and listen tohim, though Robert himself was unconscious of the fact. They made himrelate once more his story of the battle as he saw it from inside theFrench lines at Ticonderoga, and, just as he came to the end of thetale, he caught a glimpse of a tall man entering the tavern.

  "Tell us what you saw from the other side," he said to Grosvenor, andthey compelled the reluctant Englishman to talk. Then Robert turned hiseyes toward the tall man who was now sitting at a small table in thecorner and drinking from a long glass. Something familiar in his walkhad caught his attention as he came in, and, under cover of Grosvenor'stalk, he wished to observe him again without being noticed even by hisown comrades.

  The stranger was sitting with the side of his face to Robert, and hisfeatures were not well disclosed. His dress was that of a seafaring man,rough but rather good in texture, and a belt held a long dirk in ascabbard which was usual at that time. The hand that raised the longglass to his lips was large, red and powerful. Robert felt that hisfirst belief was correct. He had seen him before somewhere, though hecould not yet recall where, but when he turned his head presently heknew. They had met under such circumstances that neither was ever likelyto forget time or place.

  He was amazed that the stranger had come so boldly into Albany, butsecond thought told him that there was no proof against him, it wasmerely Robert's word against his. Among people absorbed in a great warhis own story would seem wildly improbable and the stranger's would haveall the savor of truth. But he knew that he could not be mistaken. Hesaw now the spare face, clean shaven, and the hard eyes, set closetogether, that he remembered so well.

  Robert did not know what to do. He listened for a little while toGrosvenor's narrative but his attention wandered back to the seafaringman. Then he decided.

  "Will you fellows talk on and excuse me for a few minutes?" he said.

  "What is it, Lennox?" asked Colden.

  "I see an acquaintance on the other side of the room. I wish to speak tohim."

  "That being the case, we'll let you go, but we'll miss you. Hurry back."

  "I'll stay only a few minutes. It's an old friend and I must have alittle talk with him."

  He walked with light steps across the room which was crowded, hummingwith many voices, the air heavy with smoke. The man was still at thesmall table, and, opposite him, was an empty chair in which Robert satdeliberately, putting his elbows on the table, and staring into the hardblue eyes.

  "I'm Peter Smith," he said. "You remember me?"

  There was a flicker of surprise in the Captain's face, but nothing more.

  "Oh, yes, Peter," he said. "I know you, but I was not looking for youjust at this moment."

  "But I'm here."

  "Perhaps you're coming back to your duty, is that it? Well, I'm glad.I've another ship now, and though you're a runaway seaman I can affordto let bygones be bygones."

  "I hope your vessel has changed her trade. I don't think I'd care tosail again on a slaver."

  "Always a particular sort of chap you were, Peter. It's asking a lot forme to change the business of my ship to suit you."

  "But not too much."

  The conversation was carried on in an ordinary tone. Neither raised hisvoice a particle. Nobody took any notice. His own comrades, engrossed inlively talk, seemed to have forgotten Robert for the moment, and he feltthat he was master of the situation. Certainly the slaver would be moreuncomfortable than he.

  "I was wondering," he said, "how long you mean to stay in Albany."

  "It's a pleasant town," said the man, "as I have cause to know sinceI've been here before. I may remain quite a while. Still, I shall decidewholly according to my taste."

  "But there is a certain element of danger."

  "Oh, the war! I don't think the French even if they come to Albany willhave a chance to take me."

  "I didn't have the war in mind. There are other risks of which I thinkthat I, Peter Smith, who sailed with you once before ought to warn you."

  "It's good of you, Peter, to think so much of my safety, but I don'tbelieve I've any cause for fear. I've always been able to take care ofmyself."

  The last words were said with a little snap, and Robert knew they weremeant as a defiance, but he appeared not to notice.

  "Ah, well you've shown that you know how to look out for number one," hesaid. "I'm only Peter Smith, a humble seaman, but I've the same faculty.I bid you good-day."

  "Good-day, Peter. I hope there's no ill feeling between us, and thateach will have whatever he deserves!"

  Cool! wonderfully cool, Robert thought, but he replied merely: "I trustso, too, and in that case it is easy to surmise what one of us wouldget."

  He sauntered back to his comrades, and, lest he attract their attention,he did not look toward the slaver again for a minute or two. When heglanced in that direction he saw the man walking toward the door, not inany hurried manner, but as if he had all the time in the world, and needfear nobody. Cool! wonderfully cool, Robert thought a second time.

  The slaver went out, and Robert thought he caught a glimpse of a manmeeting him, a second man in whose figure also there was somethingfamiliar. They were gone in an instant, and he was tempted to spring upand follow them, because the figure of which he had seen but a little atthe door reminded him nevertheless of Achille Garay, the spy.