The Circle of Affection and Other Pieces in Prose and Verse

by Duncan Campbell Scott


 

THE LARK


 

THE SLOPES OF LES EBOULEMENTS were bathed in the clear and level sunshine. The shadows from the higher hills were growing gradually across that terrace upon which the farm buildings stood, and would soon cover the distance between them and the river. Miles away hung the south shore, like the vision of some land of the blessed, with the fortunate towns shining with a pleasant lustre in the clefts of the hills. These hills, that seem to flow against the horizon, so gradual and so delicate is their outline, were veiled with a light haze that tempered their colour and left them shadowy and transparent, as if a wind could blow them off the sky. From the world behind them a few light clouds had lifted themselves and were taking on that touch of rose which comes with the approaching sunset. The great river, too, had borrowed this colour, and was mingling it with the streaks of current drawn between the broken masses of grey and drab; and now and then the crest of a wave had a hint of rose in its snow. The woods upon the Isle Aux Coudres were gold, pure gold, and the bars which project to the south of the island shone with a warm wet lustre creeping into pink. Just within the door of one of the farm houses on the terrace sat an old woman holding a baby across her knees. On the door step looking over the river to that shadowy distance a young girl rested; her face was turned away, and she held one of her baby’s pink hands in her own. The grandmother was chanting a sort of sleep song to the child,—“Do—oh: de-do-oh: de-do-oh: de-dish.” It rose and fell monotonously, and at every “dish” she gave little Armand a slight stroke on the back. “I believe,” said Olivine, pouting slightly, as if some disagreeable thought had crossed her mind, “I believe I will go to the pilgrimage to Ste. Anne de Beaupré tomorrow.”

    “Will you have time now, silly girl? You should have started to get ready two days ago, and besides, no one is going from here.”

    “But perhaps Aunt Marie is going, or some one from there.”

    “But who can tell that? Some one would have to go to find out.”

    “I will go myself, if you will only look after Armand.”

    “You had better go, my dear, if you want to. It may do you good, who knows. The good Ste. Anne has let many a cripple walk, and she may help you to get over your trouble. God knows.”

    “If they are going,” said Olivine, rising, “I will have to come back and get ready, but I will stay there all night if they are not going.”

    She kissed Armand and went slowly through the garden and down the path into the fields. Whatever the good Ste. Anne had to do for her she had no bodily defect to cure. Straights as a young maple, she walked with careless freedom, her graceful head carried lightly. She went through the flax, where the blossoms were all closed for the night. In a field nearer the river her father and brother were cutting a patch of timothy they had let stand for seed.

    “There’s that girl,” said Vincent, as he bound a little bunch of the heads together. His father straightened himself, with his sickle in his hand, and looked after her. “Vincent,” he said, mildly, “I told you never to speak of her that way. She has to suffer as well as we.”

    “But she is the cause of it all,” said the young fellow between his teeth.

    Olivine, far away from the sound of the words, went on unconsciously. She was thinking to herself, Will I go to the shrine, or will I stay at home? All the people from the parish will be there, and everyone will stare at me. There will be strangers from Ste. Irénée and Baie St. Paul, and they will hear my story; all the old women will point at me and say, “There, that’s the girl, her name’s Olivine Berger.” She coloured as she thought of it all, but she had her heart set upon going. After all, she thought, it will always be so. I had better get used to it, and if I can’t bear it I’ll go away to the States. No one there will know anything about me.

    Her Aunt Marie was at home. “No,” she said, “none of us are going. You see we are too busy, and there is to be another after-harvest. You see Delamere has come back, and we do nothing but talk now; I can’t get Philbert and Jacques out of the house; talk–talk–all the time. It’s well the hay is in or it might rot.”

    Olivine shuddered when she heard that her cousin Delamere, who had been away for a year, was at home; she always hated her sharp tongue, and now she had something to talk about in earnest. “You see,” said Olivine, “I wanted to go, and Mother thought it might do me good; but if none of you are going I will stay all night and go home early in the morning.”

    Delamere did not say a word to her. “Just wait, my beauty,” she was saying to herself, “I’ll give it to you. I have a store for you. I won’t mince matters trust me.” The old folks went to bed early, and soon after Jacques, who had as his mother said, been talking all day, left the girls alone. It was bright moonlight. Olivine sat on the kitchen step, and Delamere was leaning against the wall of the house.

    “So,” said Delamere, “what’s this fuss you have been getting us all into?” Olivine commenced to tremble. “You always set yourself up to be better than anyone else, now you have proved yourself to be just as common as dirt. Pretty goings-on there must have been at Quebec!”

    “If Aunt Marie were here you would not dare to speak to me like that, and Jacques wouldn’t let you, or Edmond, or even Vincent, who hates me.”

    “Bah! Do you think I’m afraid of them? I know what they’ve all been doing. Trying to make out you’re a little saint. But I know what you are well enough.”

    “You don’t,” said Olivine. “You know nothing about me. No one does who doesn’t love me.”

    “Love you!” Delamere laughed coarsely. “I’m not troubled that way; and now you’re going on the pilgrimage. As if that was going to do you any good. I should think you’d be ashamed.”

    “I have a right to go if I want to, and I’m not ashamed.”

    “You have no shame left. If I were you I wouldn’t have any pleasure in life.”

    “I have pleasure—I always hated you—I have a hundred things, and I have Armand.”

    “You are a minx—the idea! Throwing your disgrace in the face of an honest girl! You ought to be whipped out of the parish.”

    “What right have you to talk to me so,” said Olivine hotly, getting up and walking about in the garden. “I won’t sleep under the same roof with you, and I will go to Ste. Anne’s if I want to.”

    She opened the gate and went up the lane. Delamere laughed loudly, and shut the door with a bang.

    Vincent had not answered his father, and the men went on with their work in silence. It was very pleasant where they were working. A salt cool breeze came from the river, bearing the light sound of the tide, which was throwing a wave upon the shoals. Now and then a crow flew high above them, on its way to feed in the shallow water around the fisheries. The old man grasped the timothy and cut off the heads a few inches down, and Vincent bound them into miniature sheaves.

    “I wonder,” said the young fellow after a while, “whether The Lark will be in tomorrow. Captain Roleau says he thinks so, and if she does we will have to be awake. She will bring up more than wood this time.”

    “I will leave those matters to you young fellows,” said the old man, “I have had my day, and I tell you those were the times. We used to smuggle in those days. Now you might as well live on the Island. There’s nothing going on. Now you just run in a wood boat once in a while, with a gallon of whiskey on board, and you think you are regular bravos.”

    “There is a pedlar,” said Vincent, interrupting his father. “There are no end of pedlars this year.”

    The old man did not even look up from his work. It was nearly finished, and he wanted to get through. But Vincent watched the pedlar, who was being welcomed by the dogs at the house.

    When they got through their work and went up to supper the stranger was sitting quietly in one corner of the kitchen. He was a modest fellow, for one so well formed and handsome; there was a sad cast in his face when he was not speaking, which was heightened by the green patch he wore over his right eye. He had a dark beard clipped close, and a moustache. They had great talk at supper, and they found the pedlar had a tongue. Many times during the course of the meal were the proceedings of the moment suspended to hear him. He was a great talker, and twice he sent them into roars of laughter. After supper was over and everything was put by, Madam Berger asked him to open his pack, but he begged off. “In the morning,” he said, “I have been selling all day; now I want to rest.” So they all sat about, and the pedlar talked. He was a merry fellow; first he would tell a story, and then old Berger would tell a story, and then he would tell another, and his last was always better than any of the first. He made them laugh by mimicking and Englishman who was just learning to speak French, and who went to market to buy a goose. It was so funny that young Vincent grabbed his brother Edmond round the neck, and they both rolled over on the floor. Then the pedlar went into his box, “Here’s some good stuff,” he said, and brought out a flask. They all had a little brandy, even to Madam Berger. Then the pedlar produced a concertina and commenced to play, and young Vincent, with the brandy in his heels, danced like mad. “Wait,” said the pedlar, “till I wet my throat, and we’ll have a song.”

    “Don’t drink that stuff,” cried Vincent, recklessly, “hold on, and I’ll give you something better. It came straight from—“

    But Edmond had clapped his hand over his mouth. The pedlar sang a song. “I wish Olivine were here,” said the old man. “Who’s Olivine?” asked the pedlar. No one spoke for a moment. “Never you mind,” said Vincent, crossly. Madam Berger went to make a shake-down for the pedlar. Vincent was so excited he had to go out and shout and dance about on the platform. “I was just like that when I was young,” said old Berger. Before long everyone went to bed.

    When Olivine left Delamere she was angry, but she soon forgot that. The night was lovely. She had to cross the ravines on her way home,—deep gorges full of moonlight, with a brook rushing through each. A wind was blowing from the river, and when a clear space came in the trees she could hear the sound of the ebb tide lapsing on the shore. Once in a while a heron passed over, croaking slowly. She was thinking to herself, I will go to Ste. Anne’s, and I will take Armand if I can get him ready, and we’ll have a whole day alone. Who can tell what will happen! She felt a bitterness remaining from Delamere’s rebuke. I wish I could be married, and then everything would be all right, but—Well, who can tell? I will go to the good Ste. Anne anyway. A heavy dew had fallen, and she got her dress drenched going through the flax. When she got home everyone was asleep. As she went noiselessly to her room she heard Vincent laugh. She looked into his room. He was fast asleep. His face was in the clear moonlight. She knew she would have to be up very early if she wanted to be in time for the boat, and she hardly slept at all. When she heard the clock strike four she rose and lit her candle. She dressed partly and went downstairs to get her best gown. She opened the door of the front room and went in; she did not notice that there was anyone asleep on the lounge. She set the candle on the top of the dresser, where it was about even with her face, and stretching her bare arms she gave a little yawn. Her entrance had disturbed the pedlar, for he made a sound and changed his position. Olivine surprised, looked around. Just at that moment he opened his eyes. They stared at one another, and then Olivine gave a little cry. The pedlar started up and called her by name,—

    “Go away,” she said, leaning against the dresser and hiding her face, “Don’t come near me.”

    “Olivine, I won’t hurt you. I didn’t know you were here. I didn’t know this was your home. Where were you last night?”

    “I was at Aunt Marie’s,” said the young girl, blushing because she was only half dressed.

    “Come outside, I want to talk to you. They will hear us here.”

    “Omer, I can’t. I will catch cold.”

    “Throw something over your shoulders and come out.”

    Olivine took a shawl from one of the drawers. They went out into the morning. There was a mist piled in the channel between the island and the shore; salmon coloured clouds, with here and there a flake of pure gold and feathers of crimson, burned in the west. The morning-star shone like a dagger on the hill; everything was drenched with dew. They went to the garden where the swing was built; Olivine leaned against one of the posts.

    “If you want to speak to me you must hurry,” she said, trying to speak composedly, “because I am going on the pilgrimage, and I will be late.”

    “Look here, Olivine, aren’t you going to forgive me,” he commenced. “I couldn’t help it, that’s the honest truth, besides, it will be all right in the end. So you are going on the pilgrimage,” he said, trying to appear at his ease. “Well, I’ll tell you what brings me here. You may help me, but you will have to swear you won’t tell. I am here as a pedlar, and you mustn’t let on you know me. I want you to promise to help me.”

    “I will if I can,” said Olivine.

    “You see the government suspects that some whiskey smuggling is going on down here, and I am trying to find out something about it. If you can give me any clue or help me to catch the fellows that are in it I will marry you. I’ll swear to it. Don’t answer me now. Think it over while you are away at Ste. Anne de Beaupré.”

    Olivine had heard her mother call her, and she hurried away. As she left him he said, “Olivine, remember, I’ll make a vow.”

    In a quarter of an hour she had started with Armand for the boat. She was lucky enough to get a ride with an old man who was very fat, and who was going to the pilgrimage to “pray it off,” as he said himself. He took up the front seat in the buck-board, and Armand and Olivine had the back one. There were over a hundred carriages and calèches at the wharf; the people were crowding on to the boat, and she slipped on without anyone seeing her. She got with some people from Baie St. Paul, who did not know her, and they sat together in the saloon. After they had started, and she did not see anyone that she knew, she commenced to feel at home, and began to show Armand to her new friends. But before long a rude fellow from Les Eboulements saw her, and shouted out, “Say, what’s his name?” She pretended not to hear, but he pushed towards her, and said again, “What’s his name?” She turned deadly pale, and said “His name’s Armand.” “But his other name?” he insisted, with a laugh. One of his friends pulled him back into the crowd, but after that Olivine could not bear to stay with her new friends, and went to the stern of the boat. Here she was almost alone, and when the people commenced to sing hymns on the deck everyone went away and she had time to think. She could not bear to think of Omer’s offer; it was too great a temptation for her. If she was only married she might go away to Quebec and no one would know her, or anything about her, and no one could say anything disagreeable to her. She did not know what would happen to her brothers if she told they smuggled, but she tried not to think of that. Her baby was on her arm, and she wanted him to be an honest man, and not be ashamed of his mother, and could not think of giving up her chance. The incident of the fellow who had insulted her seemed to drive her on, but she did not decide, she could not. What was she to do? Just as she was thinking such thoughts, the boat gave a heave and a lurch and then stopped altogether. Everyone was thrown down, and there was great confusion. Those who had presence of mind enough commenced to pray. The boat had struck a rock, and swung slowly about, giving a dangerous lurch every little while. Olivine thought it was all over with her. She held on to the rail and prayed as hard as she could. All the time she thought, Well, it’s a good thing, I’ll be drowned. I won’t have to decide now at all. The Captain gave the word that there was no danger, and in about an hour he succeeded in getting the boat off, but the accident had delayed them, and they only had a few hours at the shrine. The people crowded into the Church, so that Olivine had to work to get near the door, and then she was always being pushed back. But she got in at last, and although she could not get near the altar she said as many prayers as she could, and when she was tired being pushed about she went out and sat down in a shady place. Just as she was thinking it was time to eat her dinner she was joined by an old woman who carried a bundle, done up in a red handkerchief.

    “Well, my dear,” said the old lady, “I am just going to sit right here by you in the shade. I am going to have something to eat, too,” she continued, as she saw Olivine open her basket. “They wanted me to go over to the Hotel, but not a bit of it. They give you such trash to eat there,” at the same time producing three cold sausages and a lump of bread. Olivine shared her lunch of cold chicken with the old lady, and took one of her sausages. She gave Armand a chicken bone to suck, but he got tired of that and began to cry for his dinner. So she commenced to nurse him, and threw a handkerchief over his head to keep the flies off.

    “Mon Dieu, that’s a fine boy,” said the old lady. “What’s his name?”

    “His name is Armand.”

    “But his other name I mean?”

    Olivine had been thinking how fine it would be to be called Madam, and when the old lady asked her this question she determined to give Armand his name. So she answered, blushing violently. “His name is Arman Corisse.”

    “Corrise!” said the old lady, very much surprised. “I have a grandson called Omer Corisse. He’s a bold boy. All the girls in Quebec are in love with him.” Olivine gave such a start that she disturbed Armand, who commenced to whimper. “Is he very handsome?” she asked.

    “Isn’t he, though! Is your husband handsome?”

    “Yes,” said Olivine faintly.

    “Well, this Omer is a brave lad, and as straight as a pine. He has a pretty beard and a moustache. You will know him if you see him. I’ll tell you how. He has a mole on his cheek just under his right eye, but he’s a beauty, though.”

    Olivine could hardly keep from fainting.

    “He’s going to be married to a girl in Three Rivers. She is rich—rich, and can play the piano,” continued the old lady.

    Olivine could hardly keep the tears back, and she was glad when the boat whistled, and she could get away from the sound of the old woman’s voice. She made up her mind on the way home to tell Omer everything. She had his promise, and no girl in Three Rivers or anywhere else should have him. There was a great bustle when they arrived at Les Eboulements wharf, and Olivine saw Edmond, who had come down to meet her, with the “Quatre Roux”. She felt sorry he had come, and tried not to think of what she had resolved to do. She kept saying to herself, I must—I must, and that sustained her. After she put Armand to bed she slipped away and went down to the bushes, where she had promised to meet Omer.

    She had not returned when the family commenced prayers, but not long after she appeared with a white face at the door. She was trembling with excitement, and when she saw them all kneeling down and her father, with his face turned toward the door, with the candle light full upon it, she was overcome with terror of what she had done, and fell down with a cry of fear and anguish. They all rushed toward her but Vincent, who shoved his hands into pockets stood by the table. “This is what comes of going to pilgrimages,” he said, contemptuously. Very soon Olivine revived, but she could not tell them what was the matter, and commenced to laugh instead. “Oh! it’s the sun on the water,” said the old man, knowingly, holding her hand and shaking it gently. “It’s a bad thing. I’ve often felt it go to my head.” By and by Olivine got quieted, and went to bed, but she could not sleep. She was haunted by all kinds of dreadful ideas as to what would happen. When before daylight the cocks commenced to crow, she could not stand her thoughts any longer, and she went down to her mother’s room, just as she used to when she was a little girl, and was frightened by something, she did not know what. Only now she knew what she was frightened at. She woke her mother and made her dress. “Is Armand sick?” she asked. “No, no,” said Olivine, “I have something to tell you. Not in here” as her mother tried to sit down in the dark room. “Come outside where no one can hear.”

    It was not yet dawn. All the stars were in the sky, and the moon was low down in the West just above a storm cloud, which was forcing its way out of Baie St. Paul, dropping lightning from its black edges. In the West the morning-star stood above the dark hill, and a dome of spreading silver was brightening the river.

    “Oh Mama, how can I ever tell you!” cried Olivine, as she sank down on her knees half sobbing before her mother, and clutched her fingers in her dress. “I’ve told everything—everything, about The Lark—when she is to be in, and everything—but I couldn’t help it—everyone hated me so, and he promised to marry me if I told, and now I don’t believe he will, because the old woman at Ste. Anne told me he had a girl in Three Rivers, and he would only laugh when I asked him.” Little by little Madam Berger got the whole story, but it took her a long time to make Olivine consent to have her father and brothers told. “I am afraid of Vincent,” she said, “I don’t know what he will do.”

    But Vincent seemed to take it more quietly than anyone else, only when Edmond, who was a little frightened, said, “Well, we’ll have to get out now.” He stamped on the floor and swore a great oath. No one did any work that day. Vincent was possessed of one thought: how to be revenged on Corisse. The others were timidly thinking of all the trouble there would be if The Lark came in that night. The men sat in the kitchen and smoked, but after dinner Vincent was beside himself with rage, and glared at his father and Edmond. He cried out, stamping the floor, “You are two cowards, do you hear? Two cowards.” Old Berger glanced at Edmond with a peculiar shame-fast look on his face, but neither of them men answered him a single word. A moment after Vincent went off to the barn, and his father and brother talked of what he intended to do. Olivine was not to be seen, only Armand’s voice pierced the quiet every little while with a whimpering wail. By and bye Vincent came back. “They’ll search down there,” said old Berger. “No they won’t,” said Vincent. “Well then you talk like a mad man,” said Edmond. “Who will prevent them?” “I will,” said Vincent. He took his rifle off the hooks on the wall and commenced to clear and load it. Old Berger sat in the door, watching the river with his glass. After a while he said, “Here, Edmond, use your young eyes.” He said nothing about The Lark, but his voice trembled, and they knew he had seen her. “Well— —yes, it is,” said Edmond. “Take a look, Vincent.” Vincent gazed through the glass and put it by without a word, and went back to his gun. The old man was afraid to make a suggestion, but he said, timidly, “Don’t you think you could warn her to stand off, and go up near the head of the island.” “Why?” said Vincent sharply. “Because they wouldn’t board her. You see she has a load of wood, but it’s more than wood she has.” “They won’t take her. You listen to me. Didn’t Olivine promise to tell that fellow where we hid the stuff in the barn? Well, he’ll come up here, and when he does he’ll hear from me,” said Vincent, working the ram rod in the gun. “You’ll get us into a worse trouble,” said old Berger. “Well, what sort of trouble did he get us into, eh? Say that?”

    The old man did not answer him, because his heart was divided. He filled his pipe and sat smoking in the door, watching The Lark tacking up the channel. She had a good wind, and the tide with her. When it was near sun-down she was opposite the house, and they could hear her sails snap like pistol shots, and see the rosy gleam on their grey curves as she leaned away from the sun. Olivine came to the table and tried to eat some supper, and she helped her mother a little afterwards. When the moon commenced to throw shadows Vincent came to her and said, quietly, “Olivine, I want you to keep your promise to him. I want you to bring him up to the barn.” She commenced to tremble. “No, Vincent, no.” He caught her by the wrist. “There, that’s enough—you must. Do you hear? And mind, I want you to go as if nothing had happened here; you needn’t say a word to him if you like, so long as you don’t tell him you told the story.”

    He took her by the arm and walked with her as far as the head of the ravine. He waited a moment and watched her go down into its depths, then he went back to the house and got his gun. “I am coming,” said Edmond, jumping up from the door step with a white face. “You can come or stay, just as you like.” “Go, Edmond, go,” said old Berger. He watched the two boys go down to the barn, which was built lower on the hill in front of the house.

    “Where are they going?” said Madam Berger. “Vincent has his gun.”

    “Yes,” said her husband, “he is going to shoot, that’s all.”

    The old man had a ring of satisfaction in his voice. He said to himself, He’s a brave boy, that Vincent, but he would not tell his wife what they were going to shoot. He walked in the moonlight up and down the path in the garden, a thing he was not used to do. He loved to sit tilted in his chair under the cage where a white-crowned sparrow was fast asleep, pressed against the bars, as close to freedom as he could get; but he was too excited to sit there tonight.

    Vincent and Edmond had climbed upon the mow in the barn, where the hay was as high as the eves. There was a broken board in the gable, and Vincent could see the road winding through the field to the head of the ravine. Edmond lay down in the hay. The darkness was pierced with tiny spears of moonlight, that came through the knots and crevices in the barn. He could hear no sound except the rapping of his own heart, and the rustle of mice in the new hay. At last he was overcome with the silence, and crawled up next to Vincent and looked through a knot hole. Everything outside was very clear. He thought suddenly, if Vincent had left the gun in the hay he would cover it or push it over so that he could not find it. He felt about with his hands, and struck the stock. Vincent had a firm hold of the barrel.

    “What do you want?” he said.

    Edmond could not answer him for a minute.

    “I want to know what you’re going to do,” he whispered.

    “I didn’t come here to answer questions. You wait and see.”

    A moment later Edmond felt him draw the gun up. He put his eye to the knot hole. There was some one moving from the head of the ravine. He could distinguish Olivine’s light dress. He was desperately making up in his mind to throw himself on Vincent, and overpower him, it there was anyone with her. But, as she came out clear of the trees he saw that she was alone.

    Vincent jumped up from his cramped position with an oath, and rolled off the hay to the floor. He staggered out in the moonlight hardly able to stand, and trembling all over with excitement. He had just lost his chance of killing a man. Olivine could not tell him anything until he let her arm go. He had frightened and hurt her so, and he only heard one or two more broken words from her when he ran off down the road followed by Edmond. He knew from what Olivine had told him, and from the fact that Corisse had not kept his appointment with her, that he would probably make an attempt to seize The Lark.

    Olivine sat on the bench between her father and mother, and told them that Omer had not met her as he had promised. “He must have been warned,” said the old man, who was superstitious, “for there was Vincent, waiting for him with the gun.”

    “Oh, he is a villain!” said Madam Berger. “And to think of him dancing here, and having a joke with Vincent; and who would be bothered warning him.”

    “The old devil himself,” said Berger, stroking Olivine’s hand. “Oh, I know a thing or two. I haven’t lived in the world for nothing, and you’re better off without him, my dear, for he would only bring you trouble.”

    Olivine laid her head on his shoulder, and tried not to think of anything at all.

    Vincent and Edmond chose the shortest way to the wharf; when they arrived they found everything quiet. The Lark was moored on the west side, and Captain Flaubert sat on the edge smoking, and exchanging a word with his cousin Vital Robbe, who was slackening the ropes as The Lark sank with the tide. Overhead a tissue of cloud, touched with a warm pinkish iridescence, was breaking round the moon. The light at the Isle aux Coudres was steady, and far away the one on the Pier at Baie St. Paul twinkled like an orange star under the towering blackness of the mountain. The boys were out of breath when they came up, and Edmond’s face was white enough to let Captain Flaubert know that something was the matter. “We are not too late?” said Vincent. “Too late for what?” asked Flaubert. “You are caught fast asleep,” said Vincent, getting excited again, and commencing to swear. Edmond told the Captain that he might expect a revenue office and his men at any minute. Young Vital caught the words as he clambered out of the cabin. Flaubert jumped up. “Caught, you say? Wait.” “The tide has two hours to run yet,” said young Vital, letting out more slack. Flaubert ran to the wharf, followed by Vincent. He saw how the tide was swirling out of the Bay, piled in a ridge at the corner of the wharf, and tearing off into foam. The wind was blowing up the river against the tide, and the channel was broken into waves.

    “You can’t get out there,” said Vincent.

    “Can’t I? I would rather try than be caught.”

    “It’s sure death; you’ll see, the moment she strikes that current over she goes.”

    Vital came up and looked at the water. “You never intend—“ he said, with a gesture.

    “You fellows are tame,” said the Captain. “Would you rather be caught?”

    They went back to The Lark.

    “Well, who knows whether this fellow is coming or not?”

    “Here’s someone, anyway,” said Edmond. The Captain was on board in an instant. Edmond jumped on to the wood with which the deck was piled.

    “Don’t try that,” called Vincent, “Let’s fight it out.”

    “You keep them off,” shouted the Captain, throwing him a revolver. Edmond was pushing against the wharf with a pole. Vital was slackening the cable. The Lark commenced to move slowly towards the end of the wharf. The stranger approaching with two companions noticed the hurrying figures, and came up with a run.

    “Here, you fellows,” he cried, “hold on.” Vincent jostled him.

    “Don’t you interfere,” cried Corisse.

    The Lark commenced to feel the suck of the current, and was rapidly nearing the end of the wharf. Corisse made a clutch at the rope that Vincent had thrown off the post. He was too late. It fell into the water. The boat was rapidly forging out. She had commenced to feel the full force of the current. A moment more and she would be caught by the swirl of the tide around the end of the wharf. The men had tried to prevent Vincent from throwing off the other hawser, but while he was struggling with them the Captain cut it with a hatchet. The Lark paused for a moment; then her rudder came over with a crash, and her bow commenced to swing out. Corisse, beside himself with rage, fired down at the Captain, and jumped for the boat. Just at the instant he struck the wood she gave a terrible lurch, and lost half her deck load. Corisee had landed on a rolling log, and losing his balance when she gave the plunge he went over with the wood. Vincent saw him go, and heard the Captain shouting, “I can’t do anything, he hit me in the arm.” Then The Lark righted herself and drifted by the wharf swift as an arrow. Vincent saw Edmond working to straighten the deck load. They were drifting rapidly, tossing terribly in the sea. There was some wood churning about near the wharf, but Vincent or the men with him could get no glimpse of Corisse. There was a rush of men from the shore houses, who heard the firing. Vincent showed them where he had gone down, and the man who kept the light threw a life-preserver into the water. There was no cry.

    “It’s not Edmond,” said one of the new comers. “No, no, he’s safe on The Lark.”

    “Well, who was it, anyway?” asked another.

    “He was a man from the Revenue,” said one of the fellows whom Corisse had brought with him.

    “Well,” said the other, “he never came up once. The wood must have struck him.”

    The group commenced to break up.

    When Vincent arrived at the house again he found Olivine seated between her father and mother. They were still trying to comfort her, but she feared that something dreadful had happened, from the look on Vincent’s face, and the tears commenced to run down her cheeks. When he began to tell his story she went over to the table, and hid her face, and wept by herself.

    Madam Berger did not say a word. She only put her hands over her face and swayed to and fro. When Vincent had finished old Berger commenced to whimper a little. “There, there,” he said, “it’s all over. Nothing will be the same any more.”

    “Why not?” cried Vincent. “Isn’t it better so?” He took the glass and went to the door. He could see nothing but the light on the river, veiled, changing and sparkling, as the clouds parted around the moon. He went back into the room. Olivine was still by the table. He crossed over and kissed her almost fiercely on the hair. He trembled suddenly, and moisture gathered in his eyes. He went back with his glass to the door. Far down below the Isle aux Coudres he saw something blowing in the moonlight; wraith-like it drifted across the interval of sparkle and slipped into the shadow.

    “There goes The Lark,” he said.