Epoch the Fourth
Chapter XXII. From Tiger's Claw to Lion's Mouth
 

Every nation has its traitors, and there was an English renegade soldier at Quebec. At Iberville's suggestion he was made one of the guards of the prison. It was he that, pretending to let Gering win his confidence, at last aided him to escape through the narrow corner-door of his cell.

Gering got free of the citadel--miraculously, as he thought; and, striking off from the road, began to make his way by a roundabout to the St. Charles River, where at some lonely spot he might find a boat. No alarm had been given, and as time passed his chances seemed growing, when suddenly there sprang from the grass round him armed men, who closed in, and at the points of swords and rapiers seized him. Scarcely a word was spoken by his captors, and he did not know who they were, until, after a long detour, he was brought inside a manor-house, and there, in the light of flaring candles, faced Perrot and Iberville. It was Perrot who had seized him.

"Monsieur," said Perrot, saluting, "be sure this is a closer prison than that on the heights." This said, he wheeled and left the room.

The two gentlemen were left alone. Gering folded his arms and stood defiant.

"Monsieur," said Iberville, in a low voice, "we are fortunate to meet so at last."

"I do not understand you," was the reply.

"Then let me speak of that which was unfortunate. Once you called me a fool and a liar. We fought and were interrupted. We met again, with the same ending, and I was wounded by the man Bucklaw. Before the wound was healed I had to leave for Quebec. Years passed, you know well how. We met in the Spaniards' country, where you killed my servant; and again at Fort Rupert, you remember. At the fort you surrendered before we had a chance to fight. Again, we were on the hunt for treasure. You got it; and almost in your own harbour I found you, and fought you and a greater ship with you, and ran you down. As your ship sank you sprang from it to my own ship--a splendid leap. Then you were my guest, and we could not fight; all--all unfortunate."

He paused. Gering was cool; he saw Iberville's purpose, and he was ready to respond to it.

"And then?" asked Gering. "Your charge is long--is it finished?"

A hard light came into Iberville's eyes.

"And then, monsieur, you did me the honour to come to my own country. We did not meet in the fighting, and you killed my brother." Iberville crossed himself. "Then"--his voice was hard and bitter--"you were captured; no longer a prisoner of war, but one who had broken his parole. You were thrown into prison, were tried and condemned to death. There remained two things: that you should be left to hang, or an escape--that we should meet here and now."

"You chose the better way, monsieur."

"I treat you with consideration, I hope, monsieur." Gering waved his hand in acknowledgment, and said: "What weapons do you choose?"

Iberville quietly laid on the table a number of swords. "If I should survive this duel, monsieur," questioned Gering, "shall I be free?"

"Monsieur, escape will be unnecessary."

"Before we engage, let me say that I regret your brother's death."

"Monsieur, I hope to deepen that regret," answered Iberville quietly. Then they took up their swords.