Chapter XIV. Jean Bevoir Has His Say
 

Had somebody suddenly arisen from the dead before him, Dave would have been no more astonished than he was when he beheld the Frenchman, who, in the past, had caused him and his relatives so much trouble.

"Jean Bevoir!" he gasped. "But no, it cannot be, for Bevoir was killed at the fall of Montreal!"

The three Frenchmen did not notice the youth until the very edge of the creek was reached. Then Jean Bevoir uttered an exclamation in French.

"Settlers, after all," he said, to his companions.

"Where?" asked both, and came forward, one on each side of him.

By this time Dave was confronting the trio boldly, and now Jean Bevoir looked at him more closely.

"Parbleu!" he muttered. "'Tis that Dave Morris, or mayhap I am dreaming!"

"Jean Bevoir!" faltered the youth. "I--I thought you were dead."

"Dead? And how came you to think that?"

"They told us you were shot down at Montreal."

"Ha! I see. And you were glad of it, not so? But I have disappointed you." The Frenchman paused and then chuckled to himself. "You cannot flee from Jean Bevoir so easily."

"What do you want here?"

"Want, do you ask? What would any honest man want? Yes, I was shot, and left for dead. But my good friends nursed me to health, malgre moll And now I am come to claim what is my own."

By this time James Morris had noted the appearance of the newcomers, and leaving his work over the ruins, he walked forward to see who they were.

"Can it be possible that this is Jean Bevoir!" he ejaculated.

"Yes, father," answered Dave. "The report that he was killed was false."

"But the soldiers were so sure--"

"They made a mistake. It is Jean Bevoir beyond any doubt."

"So you are here," declared the Frenchman, glaring darkly at the trader. "I was told that the Englishmen had come no further westward than Fort Duquesne."

"You mean Fort Pitt," answered James Morris pointedly. "Fort Duquesne is a thing of the past." "Some day the fort shall come back to its own," put in one of Bevoir's companions, whose name was Jacques Valette. "You English have but a slim foothold."

"That is a matter of opinion, Valette," answered James Morris. He knew Jacques Valette to be a hunter of the rougher sort, given to much fighting and dissipating. "The war is at an end, and for the present my country is master of the situation."

"The English do not own this land," put in Jean Bevoir. "It has always belonged to the French and the Indians, and it belongs to them still. No army has been sent out here to take possession, and how can the English claim that which they have not even seen or marked out?"

"I won't discuss the old quarrel with you, Bevoir," said James Morris briefly. "We are here to stay, and that is the end of the matter, so far as I am concerned. You can do as you please, but I warn you not to interfere with me. If you do, you will get your fingers burnt."

"The place is burnt down," said the third Frenchman, whose name was Hector Bergerac. He too was a hunter, but of a better sort than Bevoir or Valette. "Shall you build again?"

"Not here," answered James Morris. "I have located a new post on the Ohio."

"The Ohio!" came from the three Frenchmen simultaneously, and the others looked at Jean Bevoir.

"Where upon the Ohio have you placed the new post?" demanded the French trader.

His manner was so insolent that James Morris grew nettled.

"Had you asked me civilly, I would have answered you, Bevoir," he returned. "But now you can find out for yourself."

"We were going to erect a post upon the Ohio," put in Bergerac. "Our pack-train is but a day behind us."

"It will be a loss of time and money for you Frenchmen to do that," came quickly from James Morris. "I tell you that the English are in control, and they mean to keep control. In the end you will lose all you possess."

"We are not for war, but for peace," said Hector Bergerac. "I, for one, will obey the English law, if I find out that that is what must be done."

"Pouf!" came from Jean Bevoir. "Show not the heart of a chicken, Bergerac. Remember, we French have still most of the Indians as friends."

"Do you mean to say that you will incite the red men to fight us?" demanded James Morris.

"Ha! that makes you shiver, does it?" cried Jean Bevoir wickedly. "We shall not have to say much, The red men can take their own part. They know well that the French are their true friends, and the English their real enemies."

"You scoundrel!" cried James Morris hotly. "Dare to provoke the red men to fight, and I will see to it that you shall not escape as you did at Montreal. Perhaps you do not know that I have knowledge of your evil doings at Montreal--how you and others tried to loot the stores and private dwellings, and how both the French and the English soldiers turned on you and your dastardly companions and shot you down. How you escaped from justice I do not know, but perhaps, even yet, the authorities will listen to a charge against you."

At this plain outburst Jean Bevoir grew first pale and then crimson. His hand sought the pistol at his side, but the stern look in the English trader's face caused him to drop his hold on the weapon.

"I will not listen to such talk from you!" he exclaimed, grating his teeth savagely. "The story is not true, and you know it. I was wounded while aiding some French people who were sick. I never stole a thing in my life! It is for the English to make up such tales, just to get the French into trouble."

"You wouldn't have to take my word for it," retorted James Morris grimly. "The evidence would rest with those who caught you in the act at Montreal."

"Will you tell us where your post on the Ohio is located?" asked Jacques Valette.

"You heard my answer to Bevoir," returned James Morris. "If you wish to locate, why not do so here? This was a spot Monsieur Bevoir always admired," he added, with some slight show of sarcasm.

"On this burnt-over spot!" ejaculated Jean Bevoir. "No, thank you! I shall go where I expected to go--to the Ohio."

"Rather late in the year to put up a post now," suggested Dave, who could not help saying something.

At this speech Jean Bevoir smiled knowingly.

"Trust me that I know what I am doing," he said. "Come," he added, to his companions, in French. "We can gain nothing by remaining here longer."

He turned his steed around, and rode off, and Valette and Bergerac did the same. Soon the brushwood and forest hid them from view.

"Well, I never!" burst out Dave. "Who would have thought it?"

"It seems we are not clear of that rascal after all," said James Morris bitterly. "Not only is he alive, but he is coming out to his old hunting ground to bother us."

"Do you think he will set up a post near us, father?"

"He did that when I located here. He seems to take savage delight in crowding on my heels."

"That Valette is about as bad a rascal as Bevoir."

"That is true."

"Do you know much of the third fellow?"

"Not a great deal, but I always fancied he was a Frenchman of the better sort. He used to be attached to the fort at Presqu' Isle. I once bought some furs from him, and he was much pleased over what I gave him for them. He said it was much more than Bevoir offered."

"He seems hand-in-glove with Bevoir now."

"Perhaps, or else it may be that he was simply hired by Bevoir to come out and help establish a new post."

"What can they do with winter so close at hand?"

"Nothing much, son. They will have to work hard to provide themselves a shelter."

"Bevoir didn't appear to be much worried."

"He may possibly have something in mind of which I know nothing," answered James Morris thoughtfully. "It is too bad! I wish he would go away and leave me alone. He might just as well establish himself a hundred miles from here, as to be on top of me."

It was now too dark to continue the search around the ruins, and taking the few things they had found with them, they returned to the new post.

"We had better not say anything about Bevoir and his crowd," said James Morris as they journeyed along. "Let the men and the Indians find it out for themselves."

"All right, father; just as you say," answered Dave. "But when they find it out, what then?"

"Then let the men say what they please. We will try to avoid a quarrel."

"Jean Bevoir hates White Buffalo worse than poison."

"I do not doubt it, for White Buffalo accused him several times of cheating the hunters of his tribe out of a reasonable exchange for their furs. Bevoir got the Indians drunk and then literally robbed them."

"He dealt principally in rum, didn't he?"

"Yes; he never gave the Indians anything else if he could help it. All told, I think he was the most rascally trader I ever met in these parts," concluded James Morris.