Epoch the First
Chapter V. The Fruits of the Law
 

Bucklaw having convinced the governor and his friends that down in the Spaniards' country there was treasure for the finding, was told that he might come again next morning. He asked if it might not be late afternoon instead, because he had cargo from the Indies for sale, and in the morning certain merchants were to visit his vessel. Truth to tell he was playing a deep game. He wanted to learn the governor's plans for the next afternoon and evening, and thought to do so by proposing this same change. He did not reckon foolishly. The governor gave him to understand that there would be feasting next day: first, because it was the birthday of the Duke of York; secondly, because it was the anniversary of the capture from the Dutch; and, last of all, because there were Indian chiefs to come from Albany to see New York and himself for the first time. The official celebration would begin in the afternoon and last till sundown, so that all the governor's time must be fully occupied. But Bucklaw said, with great candour, that unfortunately he had to sail for Boston within thirty-six hours, to keep engagements with divers assignees for whom he had special cargo. If his excellency, he said, would come out to his ship the next evening when the shows were done, he would be proud to have him see his racketing little craft; and it could then be judged if, with furbishing and armaments, she could by any means be used for the expedition. Nicholls consented, and asked the king's officers if they would accompany him. This they were exceedingly glad to do: so that the honest shipman's good nature and politeness were vastly increased, and he waved his hook in so funny and so boyish a way it set them all a-laughing.

So it was arranged forthwith that he should be at a quiet point on the shore at a certain hour to row the governor and his friends to the Nell Gwynn. And, this done, he was bade to go to the dining-room and refresh himself.

He obeyed with cheerfulness, and was taken in charge by Morris, who, having passed on Iberville and Gering to the drawing-room, was once more at his post, taciturn as ever. The governor and his friends had gone straight to the drawing-room, so that Morris and he were alone. Wine was set before the sailor and he took off a glass with gusto, his eye cocked humorously towards his host. "No worse fate for a sinner," quoth he; "none better for a saint."

Morris's temper was not amiable. He did not like the rascal. "Ay," said he, "but many's the sinner has wished yon wish, and footed it from the stocks to the gallows."

Bucklaw laughed up at him. It was not a pretty laugh, and his eyes were insolent and hard. But that, changed almost on the instant. "A good thrust, mighty Scot," he said. "Now what say you to a pasty, or a strip of beef cut where the juice runs, and maybe the half of a broiled fowl?"

Morris, imperturbably deliberate, left the room to seek the kitchen. Bucklaw got instantly to his feet. His eye took in every window and door, and ran along the ceiling and the wall. There was a sudden click in the wall before him. It was the door leading to the unused hallway, which had not been properly closed and had sprung open. He caught up a candle, ran over, entered the hallway, and gave a grunt of satisfaction. He hastily and softly drew the bolts of the outer door, so that any one might come in from the garden, then stepped back into the dining-room and closed the panel tight behind him, remarking with delight that it had no spring-lock, and could be opened from the hallway. He came back quickly to the table, put down the candle, took his seat, stroked his chin with his hook, and chuckled. When Morris came back, he was holding his wine with one hand while he hummed a snatch of song and drummed lightly on the table with the hook. Immediately after came a servant with a tray, and the Scotsman was soon astonished, not only at the buxomness of his appetite, but at the deftness with which he carved and handled things with what he called his "tiger." And so he went on talking and eating, and he sat so long that Jessica, as she passed into the corridor and up the stairs, wearied by the day, heard his voice uplifted in song. It so worked upon her that she put her hands to her ears, hurried to her room, and threw herself upon the bed in a distress she could set down to no real cause.

Before the governor and his guests parted for the night, Iberville, as he made his adieus to Gering, said in a low voice: "The same place and time to-morrow night, and on the same conditions?"

"I shall be happy," said Gering, and they bowed with great formality.

The governor had chanced to hear a word or two and, thinking it was some game of which they spoke, said: "Piquet or a game of wits, gentlemen?"

"Neither, your excellency," quoth Gering--"a game called fox and goose."

"Good," said Iberville, under his breath; "my Puritan is waking."

The governor was in ripe humour. "But it is a game of wits, then, after all. Upon my soul, you two should fence like a pair of veterans."

"Only for a pass or two," said Iberville dryly. "We cannot keep it up."

All this while a boat was rowing swiftly from the shore of the island towards a craft carrying Nell Gwynn beneath the curious, antique figurehead. There were two men in her, and they were talking gloatingly and low.

"See, bully, how I have the whole thing in my hands. Ha! Received by the governor and his friends! They are all mad for the doubloons, which are not for them, my Radisson, but for you and me, and for a greater than Colonel Richard Nicholls. Ho, ho! I know him--the man who shall lead the hunt and find the gold--the only man in all that cursed Boston whose heart I would not eat raw, so help me Judas! And his name--no. That is to come. I will make him great."

Again he chuckled. "Over in London they shall take him to their bosoms. Over in London his blessed majesty shall dub him knight--treasure-trove is a fine reason for the touch of a royal sword--and the king shall say: 'Rise, Sir William'--No, it is not time for the name; but it is not Richard Nicholls, it is not Hogarth Leveret." He laughed like a boy. "I have you, Hogarth Leveret, in my hand, and by God I will squeeze you until there is a drop of heart's blood at every pore of your skin!"

Now and again Radisson looked sideways at him, a sardonic smile at his lip. At last: "Bien," he said, "you are merry. So--I shall be merry too, for I have scores to wipe away, and they shall be wiped clean-- clean."

"You are with me, then," the pirate asked; "even as to the girl?"

"Even as to the girl," was the reply, with a brutal oath.

"That is good, dear lad. Blood of my soul, I have waited twelve years-- twelve years."

"You have not told me," rejoined the Frenchman; "speak now."

"There is not much to tell, but we are to be partners once and for all. See, my beauty. He was a kite-livered captain. There was gold on board. We mutinied and put him and four others--their livers were like his own-- in a boat with provisions plenty. Then we sailed for Boston. We never thought the crew of skulkers would reach land, but by God they drifted in again the very hour we found port. We were taken and condemned. First, I was put into the stocks, hands and feet, till I was fit for the pillory; from the pillory to the wooden horse." Here he laughed, and the laugh was soft and womanlike. "Then the whipping-post, when I was made pulp from my neck to my loins. After that I was to hang. I was the only one they cooked so; the rest were to hang raw. I did not hang; I broke prison and ran. For years I was a slave among the Spaniards. Years more--in all, twelve--and then I came back with the little chart for one thing, this to do for another. Who was it gave me that rogues' march from the stocks to the gallows's foot? It was Hogarth Leveret, who deals out law in Massachusetts in the king's name, by the grace of God. It was my whim to capture him and take him on a journey--such a journey as he would go but once. Blood of my soul, the dear lad was gone. But there was his child. See this: when I stood in the pillory a maid one day brought the child to the foot of the platform, lifted it up in her arms and said: 'Your father put that villain there.' That woman was sister to one of the dogs we'd set adrift. The child stared at me hard, and I looked at her, though my eyes were a little the worse for wear, so that she cried out in great fright--the sweet innocent! and then the wench took her away. When she saw my face to-night--to-day--it sent her wild, but she did not remember." He rubbed his chin in ecstasy and drummed his knee. "Ha! I cannot have the father--so I'll have the goodly child, and great will be the ransom. Great will be the ransom, my Frenchman!" And once more he tapped Radisson with the tiger.