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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesReckoning - Chapter 3. The Coq D'or
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Reckoning - Chapter 3. The Coq D'or Post by :CalGolden Category :Long Stories Author :Robert W. Chambers Date :May 2012 Read :2974

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Reckoning - Chapter 3. The Coq D'or

CHAPTER III. THE COQ D'OR

The days that followed were brilliant links in a fierce sequence of gaiety; and this though the weather was so hot that the very candles in their sconces drooped, dripping their melted wax on egrette and lace, scarlet coat and scarf. A sort of midsummer madness attacked the city; we danced in the hot moonlit nights, we drove at noontide, with the sun flaring in a sky of sapphire, we boated on the Bronx, we galloped out to the lines, escorted by a troop of horse, to see the Continental outposts beyond Tarrytown--so bold they had become, and no "skinners," either, but scouts of Heath, blue dragons if our glasses lied not, well horsed, newly saddled, holsters of bearskin, musket on thigh, and the July sun a-flashing on crested helmet and crossed sling-buckles. And how my heart drummed and the red blood leaped in me to beat in neck and temple, at sight of my own comrades! And how I envied them, free to ride erect and proud in the light of day, harnessed for battle, flying no false colors for concealment--all fair and clean and aboveboard! And I a spy!

We were gay, I say, and the town had gone mid-summer mad of its own fancy--a fevered, convulsive reaction from a strain too long endured; and while the outlook for the King was no whit better here, and much worse in the South, yet, as it was not yet desperate, the garrison, the commander, and the Governor made a virtue of necessity, and, rousing from the pent inertia of the dreadful winter and shaking off the lethargy of spring, paced their cage with a restlessness that quickened to a mania for some relief in the mad distraction of folly and frivolity.

And first, Sir Peter gave a ball at our house in honor of Elsin Grey, and we danced in the state drawing-room, and in the hallway, and in the south drawing-room, and Sir Henry walked a minuet with the Hon. Elsin Grey, and I had her to wine and later in a Westchester reel. Too much punch was drunk, iced, which is a deadly thing, and worse still when the foundation is laid in oranged tea! Too many officers, too many women, and all so hot, so suffocating, that the red ran from lip and cheek, streaking the face-powder, and the bare enameled shoulders of the women were frosted with perspiration like dew on wet roses.

That was the first frolic given in her honor, followed by that wild dance at the Governor's, where the thickets of clustered candles drooped like lilies afire, and great islands of ice melted in the punch-bowls ere they had been emptied a third. And yet the summer madness continued; by day we drove in couples, in Italian chaises, or made cherry-parties to Long Island, or sailed the bay to the Narrows, or played rustic and fished in the bay; at night we danced, danced, danced, and I saw little of Elsin Grey save through a blaze of candle-light to move a minuet with her, to press her hand in a reel, or to conduct her to some garden pavilion where servants waited with ices amid a thirsty, breathless, jostling throng.

The heat abated nothing; so terrible was it in the city that spite of the shade afforded by elm, lime, and honey-locust, men and horses were stricken on the streets, and the Tea Water ran low, and the Collect, where it flows out into a stream, dried up, and Mr. Rutger's swamps stank. Also, as was noted by men like me, who, country-bred, concern themselves with trifles, the wild birds which haunted the trees in street and lane sang no more, and I saw at times Lord Baltimore's orioles and hedge-birds, beaks open, eyes partly closed, panting from the sun, so fierce it beat upon us in New York that summertide.

As for the main Sir Peter had meant to fight with his Flatbush birds, we tried a shake-bag, stags, which, though fairly matched and handled by past masters, billed and pecked and panted without a blow from wing or spur, till we understood that the heat had stunned them, and so gave up to wait for cooler sport.

We waited, but not in idleness; the cage-fever drove us afield, and the De Lanceys had us to the house for bowls and cricket, which the ladies joined, spoiling it somewhat for my taste; and we played golf at Mr. Lispenard's, which presently lost all charm for me, as Elsin Grey remained at the pavilion and touched no club, neither wood nor iron, save to beat the devil's tattoo upon the grass and smile into the bold eyes of Captain O'Neil.

At Rivington's we found tennis, too, and good rackets, and I played one whole morning with Elsin Grey, nor wearied of her delight that she beat me easily; though why I permitted it and why her victory gave me pleasure is more than I can comprehend, I always desiring to appear well in trials of skill at which it is a shame for gentlemen not to excel, and not ungallant to do one's best with ladies to oppose.

Every Tuesday, at Bayard's Hill near the pump, a bull was baited; but that bloody sport, and the matching of dogs, was never to my taste, although respectable gentlemen of fashion attended.

However, there was racing at many places--at Newmarket on Salisbury plain, and at Jamaica; also Mr. Lispenard had a fine course at Greenwich village, near the country house of Admiral Warren, and Mr. De Lancey another between First and Second streets, near the Bowery Lane; but mostly we drove to Mr. Rutger's to see the running horses; and I was ashamed not to bet when Elsin Grey provoked me with her bantering challenge to a wager, laying bets under my nose; but I could not risk money and remember how every penny saved meant to some prisoner aboard the _Jersey more than a drop of water to a soul in torment.

And how it hurt me--I who love to please, and who adore in others that high disregard of expense that I dared now never disregard! And to appear poor-spirited in her eyes, too! and to see the others stare at times, and to be aware of quiet glances exchanged, and of meaning eyes!

It was late in July that the cooling change came--a delicious breath from the Narrows blowing steady as a trade; and the change having been predicted a week since by Venus, a negro wench of Lady Coleville's, Sir Peter had wisely taken precaution to send word to Horrock in Flatbush; and now the main was to be fought at the cockpit in Great George Street, at the Frenchman's "Coq d'Or," a tavern maintained most jealously by the garrison's officers, and most exclusive though scarce decent in a moral sense, it being notorious for certain affairs in which even the formality of Gretna Green was dispensed with.

Many a daintily cloaked figure stole, masked, to the rendezvous in the garden under the cherry-trees, and many a duel was fought in the pleasant meadows to the south which we called Vauxhall; and there I have seen silent men waiting at dawn, playing with the coffee they scarce could swallow, while their seconds paced the path beyond the stile, whistling reflectively, switching the wild roses, with a watchful eye for the coming party.

But now, concerning that cocking-main at the Coq d'Or, and how it came about. The day was to be a merry one, Lady Coleville and Elsin Grey sleeping until afternoon from the dissipation of the dance at the Assembly, which lasted until the breakfast hour; Sir Peter, Captains Harkness and O'Neil, and I to see the main in the morning, lunch at the tavern, and return to rest until time to dress for the great ball and supper given by the officers of the artillery at Fort George.

The day, the 28th of July, broke cloudless and sweetly cool. Dressing, I saw the jack flying straight in the sea-wind and a schooner in the North River heeled over and scudding south, with a white necklace of foam trailing from her sprit back along half her water-line.

Sir Peter, in riding-boots and coat, came in high spirits to drink a morning cup with me, saying his birds had arrived and Horrock had gone forward with them, and that we must bolt breakfast and mount, for the Fifty-fourth's officers were early risers, and we should not detain them. And so he chattered on, joyously, pacing my chamber while Dennis buckled my spurs.

At breakfast we bolted what was set before us, with many a glance through the windows where, in the garden drive, our horses stood saddled in the shade of an elm, a black at each bit, and the whole stable-force out, all a-grinning to wish the master luck of his Flatbush birds and the main to boot.

"Carus," said Sir Peter, fork poised, glass in hand, "it's a thousand on the main, a hundred on each battle, and I must win. You know that!"

I knew it only too well and said so, speaking cheerfully yet seriously of his affairs, which had become so complicated since the closer blockade of the city. But he was ever gaily impatient of details and of pounds and pence. Accounts he utterly refused to audit, leaving it to me to pay his debts, patch up gaps left by depreciated securities, and find a fortune to maintain him and his wife in the style which, God knows, befitted him, but which he could no longer properly afford. And when it came to providing money to fling from race-track to cockpit, and from coffee-house to card-room, I told him plainly he had none, which made him laugh and swear and vow I was treating him most shabbily. And it was no use; he would have his pin-money, and I must sell or pledge or borrow, at an interest most villainous, from the thrifty folk in Duke Street.

So now, when I offered to discuss the danger of extravagance, he swore he would not have a day's pleasure ruined by a sermon, and presently we rose and went into the garden to mount, and I saw Sir Peter distributing silver among the servants, so that all could share the pleasure and lay wagers among their kind for the honor of the Flatbush birds and the master who bred them.

"Come, Carus," he sang out from his saddle, and I followed him at a gallop out into Broadway and up the street, keeping under the shade of the trees to save our horses, though the air was cool and we had not far to go.

Presently he drew bridle, and we walked our horses past Partition Street, past Barckley, and the common, where I glanced askance at the ominous row of the three dread buildings, the Bridewell, the Almshouse, the Prison, with the Provost's gallows standing always ready between; and it brought sullen thoughts to me which four years of patience could not crush; nor had all these years of inaction dulled the fierce spark that flashed to fire within me when I looked up at the barred windows and at the sentinels, and thought of mine own people rotting there, and of Mr. Cunningham, the Provost, whom hell should one day be the worse for.

"Is aught amiss, Carus?" asked Sir Peter, catching my eye.

"Yes, the cruelty practised yonder!" I blurted out. Never before had I said as much to any man.

"You mean the debtors--or those above in the chain-room?" he asked, surprised.

"I was not speaking of the Bridewell, but of the Prison," I said.

"What cruelty, Carus? You mean the rigor Cunningham uses?"

"Rigor!" I said, laughing, and my laugh was unpleasant.

He looked at me narrowly. We rode past Warren Street and the Upper Barracks in silence, saluting an officer here and there with preoccupied punctiliousness. Already I was repenting of my hardiness in mixing openly with politics or war--matters I had ever avoided or let pass with gay indifference.

"Carus," he said, patting his horse's mane, "you will lay a bet for the honor of the family this time--will you not?"

"I have no money," I replied, surprised; for never before had he offered to suggest an interference into my own affairs--never by word or look.

"No money!" he repeated, laughing. "Gad, you rake, what do you do with it all?" And as I continued silent, he said more gravely, "May I speak plainly to a kinsman and dear friend?"

"Always," I said uneasily.

"Then, without offense, Carus, I think that, were I you, I should bet a little--now and again--fling the guineas for a change--now and then--if I were you, Carus."

"If you were I you would not," I said, reddening to the temples.

"I think I should, nevertheless," he persisted, smiling. "Carus, you know that if you need money to bet with----"

"I'll tell you what I need, Sir Peter," said I, looking him in the eye. "I need your faith in me that I am not by choice a niggard."

"God forbid!" he cried.

"Yet I pass among many for that," I said hotly. "I know it, I suffer. Yet I can not burn a penny; it belongs to others, that's all."

"A debt!" he murmured.

"Call it as you will. The money you overpay me for my poor services is not even my own to enjoy."

Sir Peter dropped his bridle and slapped his gloved hands together with a noise that made his horse jump. "I knew it," he cried, "I knew it, and so I told Elsin when she came to me, troubled, because in you this one flaw appeared; yet though she questioned me, in the same breath she vowed the marble perfect, and asked me if you had parents or kin dependent. She is a rare maid, my pretty kinswoman--" He hesitated, glancing cornerwise at me.

"Do you know Walter Butler well?" I asked carelessly.

"No, only a little. Why, Carus?"

"Is he married?"

"I never heard it. He is scarcely known to me save through Sir John Johnson, and that his zeal led him to what some call a private reprisal."

"Yes, he burned our house, or his Indians did, making pretense that they did not know who lived there, but thought the whole Bush a rebel hotbed. It is true the house was new, built while Sir John lay brooding there in Canada over his broken parole. Perhaps Walter Butler did not know the house was ours."

"You are very generous, Carus," said Sir Peter gravely.

"No, not very. You see, my father and my mother were in France, and I here, and Butler's raiders only murdered one old man--a servant, all alone there, a man too old and deaf to understand their questions. I know who slew that ancient body-servant to my father, who often held me on his knees. No, Sir Peter, I am not generous, as you say. But there are matters which must await the precedence of great events ere their turn comes in the mills which grind so slow, so sure, and so exceeding fine."

Sir Peter looked at me in silence, and in silence we rode on until we came to the tavern called the Coq d'Or.

They were there, the early risers of the Fifty-fourth--a jolly, noisy crowd, all scarlet and gold; and they set up a cheer, which was half welcome, half defiance, when we rode into the tavern yard and dismounted, bowing right and left; and the landlord came to receive us, and servants followed with champagne-cup, iced; and there was old Horrock, too, hat in hand, to attend Sir Peter, with a shake of his wise old head and a smile on his furrowed face--Horrock, the prince of handlers, with his chicken-men, and his scales, and his Flatbush birds a-crowing defiance to the duck-wings, spangles, pyles, and Lord knows what, that his Majesty's Fifty-fourth Regiment of Foot had backed to win with every penny and farthing they could scrape to lay against us.

I heard old Horrock whisper to Sir Peter, who was reading over the match-list, "They're the best we can do, sir; combs low-cut, wings rounded, hackle and saddle trimmed to a T, and the vanes perfect." He laughed: "What more can I do, sir? They had aniseed in their bread on the third day, and on the weighing-day sheep-heart, and not two teacups of water in the seven. They came from the walks in prime condition, and tartar and jalap did the rest. They sparred free in the boots and took to the warm ale and sweet-wort, and the rooms were dark except at feeding. What more can I do, sir, except heel them to a hair's-breadth?"

"You have no peer, Horrock, and you know it," said Sir Peter, kindly, and the old man's furrowed face shone as he trotted off to the covert-room.

Meanwhile I had been hailed by a dozen friends of a dozen different regiments, good fellows all: Major Jamison of the Partisans; Ensign Halvar, young Caryl of the Fortieth Foot; Helsing of the Artillery, and apparently every available commissioned officer of the Fifty-fourth, including Colonel Eyre, a gentleman with a scientific taste for the pit that gained him the title of "The Game 'Un" from saucy subalterns, needless to say without his knowledge.

"A good bird, well handled, freely backed--what more can a gentleman ask?" said Major Neville, waddling beside Sir Peter as we filed into the tavern. "My wife calls it a shameful sport, but the cockpit is a fashionable passion, damme! and a man out o' fashion is worse than an addled cluck-egg! Eh, Renault? Good gad, sir! Do not cocks fight unurged, and are not their battles with nature's spurs more cruel than when matched by man and heeled with steel or even silver, which mercifully ends the combat in short order? And so I tell my wife, Sir Peter, but she calls me brute," he panted plaintively.

"Pooh!" said Sir Peter, laughing, "I can always find a reason for any transgression in the list from theft to murder, and justify each crime by logic--if I put my mind to do so. But my mind is not partial to logic. I fight game-fowl and like it, be the fashion and the ethics what they may."

He was unjust to himself as usual; to him there was no difference between the death of a pheasant afield and the taking off of a good bird in the pit.

Seated around the pit, there was some delay in showing, and Dr. Carmody of the brigade staff gave me, unsolicited, his mature opinions upon game-fowl:

"Show me a bird of bold carriage, comb bright red and upright, eye full and bright, beak strong and in good socket, breast full, body broad at shoulder and tapering to tail, thigh short, round, and hard as a nail, leg stout, flat-footed, and spur low--a bird with bright, hard feathers, strong in a quill, warm and firm to the hand--and I care not what breed he be, spangle or black-red, I'll lay my last farthing with you, Mr. Renault, if it shall please you."

"And what am I to back?" said I, laughing--"a full plume, a long, soft hackle, a squirrel-tail, a long-thighed, in-kneed, weak-beaked, coarse-headed henning-fowl selected by you?"

The little doctor roared with laughter; the buzz and hum of conversation increased around us--bits of banter, jests tossed from friend to friend.

"Who dubs your birds for you. Sir Peter?" cried Helsing--"the Bridewell barber?"

"Ten guineas to eight with you on the first battle," retorted Sir Peter, courteously; and, "Done with you, sir!" said Helsing, noting the bet, while Sir Peter booked his memorandum and turned to meet a perfect shower of offers, all of which he accepted smilingly. And I--oh, I was sick to sit there without a penny laid to show my loyalty to Sir Peter. But it must be so, and I bit my lip and strove to smile and parry with a jest the well-meant offers which now and then came flying my way. But O'Neil and Harkness backed the Flatbush birds right loyally, cautioned by Sir Peter, who begged that they wait; but they would not--and one was Irish--so nothing would do but a bold front and an officer snapped with, "Done, sir!"

The judges and the referee had been chosen, the color-writers selected, and Sir Peter had won the draw, choosing, of course, to weigh first, the main being governed by rules devised by the garrison regiments, partly Virginian, partly New York custom. Matches had been made in camera, the first within the half-ounce, and allowing a stag four ounces; round heels were to be used; all cutters, twists, and slashers barred; the metal was steel, not silver.

And now the pitters had taken station, Horrock and a wall-eyed Bat-man of the Train, and the birds had billed three times and had been fairly delivered on the score--a black brass-back of ours against a black-red of the Fifty-fourth. Scarcely a second did they eye one another when crack! slap! they were at it, wing and gaffle. Suddenly the black-red closed and held, struck like lightning five or six times, and it was all over with Sir Peter's Flatbush brass-back, done for in a single heat.

"Fast work," observed Sir Peter calmly, taking snuff, with a pleasant nod to the enemy.

Then odds on the main flew like lightning, all taken by Sir Peter and O'Neil and a few others of ours, and I biting my lip and fixing my eyes on the roof. Had I not dreaded to hurt Sir Peter I should never, never have come.

We again showed a brass-back and let him run in the pit before cutting a feather, whereupon Sir Peter rashly laid ten to five and few takers, too, for the Fifty-fourth showed a pyle of five-pounds-three--a shuffler which few fancied. But Lord! the shuffler drummed our brass-back to the tune of Sir Daniel O'Day, and though two ounces light, took just eight minutes to crow for victory.

Again we showed, this time a duck-wing, and the Fifty-fourth a blue hackle, heavily backed, who proved a wheeler, but it took twenty minutes for him to lay the duck-wing upon the carpet; and we stood three to the bad, but game, though the odds on the main were heavily against us. Our fourth, a blinker, blundered to victory; our fifth hung himself twice to the canvas and finally to the heels of a bewildered spangle; our sixth, a stag, and a wheeling lunatic at that, gave to the Fifty-fourth a bad quarter of an hour, and then, when at the last moment our victory seemed certain, was sent flying to eternity in one last feathered whirlwind, leaving us four to split and four to go, with hopeless odds against us, and Sir Peter calmly booking side-bets on anything that anybody offered.

When the call came we all rose, leaving the pit by the side-entrance, which gave on the cherry garden, where tables were spread for luncheon and pipes fetched for all who cared not to scorch their lips with Spanish cigars.

Sir Peter, hard hit, moved about in great good humor, a seed-cake in one hand, a mug of beer in t'other; and who could suppose he stood to lose the thousand guineas he had such need of--and more besides!--so much more that it turned me cold to think of Duke Street, and how on earth I was to find funds for the bare living, luxuries aside.

As for O'Neil, the crazy, warm-hearted Irishman went about blustering for odds--pure, generous bravado!--and the Fifty-fourth, to their credit, let him go unharmed, and Harkness, too. As for me, I was very quiet, holding my peace and my opinions to myself, which was proper, as I had laid not one penny on a feather that day.

Sir Peter, seeing me sitting alone under a cherry-tree, came strolling over, followed by Horrock.

"Well, Carus," he said, smiling blandly, "more dealing with Duke Street, eh? Pooh! There's balm in Gilead and a few shillings left still in the Dock-Ward!" He laughed, but I said nothing. "Speak out, man!" he said gaily; "what do you read by the pricking of your thumbs?"

"Ask Horrock," I said bluntly. He turned to the grim-visaged retainer, laying his hand familiarly on the old man's shoulder.

"Horrock begs me to ride for an even break," he said; "don't you, O paragon among pitters?"

"Yes, sir, I do. Ask Mr. Renault what Sir William Johnson's Huron Reds did to the Patroon's Tartars in every main fought 'twixt Johnstown and Albany in '72 and '73."

I looked up, astounded. "Have you four Hurons to show?" I asked Sir Peter, incredulously.

"I have," he said.

A desperate hope glimmered in my mind--nay, not merely a hope but a fair certainty that ruin could be held at arm's length for a while. So possessed was I by absolute faith in Sir William Johnson's strain, called Hurons, that I listened approvingly to Sir Peter's plans for a dashing recoup. After all, it was now or never; the gamblers' fever seized me, too, in a vise-like grip. Why should I not win a thousand guineas for my prisoners, risking but a few hundred on such a hazard!

"You will be there, of course," he said. And after a long silence, I answered:

"No, I shall walk in the garden until you finish. The main should be ended at five."

"As you choose, Carus," he answered pleasantly, glancing at his watch. Then turning, he cried: "Time, gentlemen--and four to ten we split the main!"

"Done with you, Sir Peter!" came the answering shout as from a single throat; and Sir Peter, smiling to himself, booked briefly and sauntered toward the tavern door, old Horrock trotting faithfully at heel.

I had risen and was nervously pacing the grass under the cherry-trees, miserable, full of bitterness, depressed, already bitterly regretting the chance lost, arguing that it was a certainty and no hazard. Yet, deep in my heart, I knew no gentleman can bet on certainty, and where there is no certainty there is risk. That risk I had not taken; the prisoners were to gain or suffer nothing. Thinking of these matters I started to stroll through the cherry grove, and as I stepped from the shade out upon the sunny lawn the shadow of an advancing figure warned me, and I looked up to behold a young officer, in a black and green uniform, crossing my path, his head turned in my direction, his dark, luminous gaze fastened curiously upon me.

Dazzled somewhat by the sun in my eyes, I peered at him as he passed, noting the strange cut of his regimentals, the silver buttons stamped with a motto in relief, the curious sword-knot of twisted buck-thong heavily embroidered in silver and scarlet wampum. Wampum? And what was that devil's device flashing on button and shoulder-knot?

"Butler's Rangers!"

Slowly I turned to stare; he halted, looking back at me, a slim, graceful figure in forest-green, his own black hair gathered in a club, his dark amber eyes fixed on mine with that veiled yet detached glare I had not forgotten.

"Captain Butler," I said mechanically.

Hats in hand, heels together, we bowed low in the sunshine--so low that our hands on our hilts alone retained the blades in their scabbards, while our hats swept the short grass on the lawn; then, leisurely erect, once more we stood face to face, a yard of sod betwixt us, the sunshine etching our blue shadows motionless.

"Mr. Renault," he said, in that colorless voice he used at times, "I had thought to know you, but you are six years older. Time's alchemy"--he hesitated, then with a perfect bow--"refines even the noblest metal. I trust your health and fortune are all that you could desire. Is madam, your mother, well, and your honorable father?"

"I thank you, Captain Butler."

He looked at me a moment, then with a melancholy smile and a gesture wholly graceful: "It is poor reparation to say that I regret the error of my Cayugas which committed your house to the flames."

"The fortune of war, Captain Butler. I trust your home at Butlersbury still survives intact."

A dull color crept into his pallid cheeks.

"The house at Butlersbury stands," he said, "as do Johnson Hall, Guy Park, and old Fort Johnson. We hope erelong to open them again to our friends, Mr. Renault."

"I have understood so," I said politely. "When do you march from Thendara?"

Again the dark color came into his face. "Sir Frederick Haldimand is a babbler!" he said, between tightening lips. "Never a secret, never a plan, but he must bawl it aloud to all who care to listen, or sound it as he gads about from camp to city--aye, and chatters it to the forest trees for lack of audience, I suppose. All New York is humming with it, is it not, Mr. Renault?"

"And if it is, what harm?" I said pleasantly. "Who ever heard of Thendara, save as a legend of a lost town somewhere in the wilderness? Who in New York knows where Thendara lies?"

He looked at me with unwinking eyes--the empty stare of a bird of prey.

"_You know, for one," he said; and his eyes suddenly became piercing.

I smiled at him without comprehension, and he took the very vagueness of my smile for acquiescence.

Like the luminous shadow of summer lightning the flame flickered in his eyes, and went out, leaving them darkly drowned in melancholy. He stepped nearer.

"Let us sit under the trees for a moment--if I am not detaining you, Mr. Renault," he said in a low, pleasant voice. I bowed. We turned, walking shoulder to shoulder toward the shade of the cherry-trees, now in full foliage and heavily fruited. With perfect courtesy he halted, inclining his head, a gesture for me to pass before him. We seated ourselves at a rustic table beneath the trees; and I remember the ripe cherries which had dropped upon it from the clusters overhead, and how, as we talked, I picked them up, tasting them one by one.

"I am here," he began abruptly, "of my own idea. No one, not even Sir Henry, is aware that I am in New York. I came from Halifax by the _Gannet_, schooner, landing at Coenties Slip among the fishing-smack in time for breakfast; then to Sir Peter Coleville's, learning he was here--cock-fighting!" A trace of a sneer edged his finely cut nostrils.

"If you desire concealment, is it wise to wear that uniform?" I asked.

"I am known on the fighting-line, not in this peaceful garrison of New York," he said haughtily. "We of the landed gentry of Tryon County make as little of New York as New York makes of us!" A deeper sneer twitched his upper lip. "Had I my way, this port should be burned from river to river, fort, shipping, dock--all, even to the farms outlying on the hills--and the enervated garrison marched out to take the field!" He made a violent gesture toward the north. "I should fling every man and gun pell-mell on that rebels' rat-nest called West Point, and uproot and tear it from the mountain flank! I should sweep the Hudson with fire; I should hurl these rotting regiments into Albany and leave it a smoking ember, and I should tread the embers into the red-wet earth! That is the way to make war! But this--" He stared south across the meadows where in the distance the sunlit city lay, windows a-glitter, spires swimming in the blue, and on the bay white sails glimmering off shores of living green.

"Mr. Renault," he said, "I am here to submit this plan to Sir Henry Clinton. Lord Cornwallis advocated the abandonment of New York last May. I am here to urge it. If Sir Henry will approve, then the war ends before the snow flies; if he will not, I still shall act my part, and lay the north in ashes so that not one ear of corn may be garnered for the rebel army, not one grain of wheat be milled, not a truss of hay remain betwixt Johnstown and Saratoga! Nothing in the north but blackened desolation and the silence of annihilation. That is how I make war."

"That is your reputation," I said calmly.

His smile was ghastly--a laugh without sound, that touched neither eyes nor mouth.

At that moment I heard cries and laughter and a great babel of voices from the tavern. He rose instantly, I also; the stable-lads were bringing up the horses; the tavern door was flung wide, and out of it poured the cockers, a turbulent river of scarlet and gold, the noisy voices and laughter increasing to tumult as the officers mounted with jingle of spur and scabbard, draining the stirrup-cup and hastening to their duties.

"By gad, sir!" cried Jamison, turning in his saddle as he passed me, "those Hurons did the trick for Sir Peter. He's split the main, so help me! and stands to win a fortune."

And Dr. Carmody, galloping past, waved his hand with a hopeless laugh. "We're cleaned out! cleaned out!" he cried; "that main has beggared the brigade staff. Damme, he's beggared the entire garrison!"

Others rode by, gaily uproarious in defeat, clean, gallant sportsmen all, saluting misfortune as cheerily and as recklessly as they might have greeted victory.

"Have at thee, buck!" shouted young Caryl, waving his hand as he passed me. "We'll try it again, you villain, if there's life left in our fasting mess!"

And Helsing, passing at a canter, grinned and beat his gold-laced breast in mock despair, shouting back to me: "I'm for Duke Street and Mendoza! Dine well, Carus, you who can afford to sup on chicken!"

Then came Sir Peter, cool, debonair, surrounded by a crowd afoot, Horrock at heel, his old eyes dim with joy, his grim mouth set; and after him two lads leading our horses, and O'Neil and Harkness mounted, curbing the triumph that glittered in their eyes.

"Yonder comes Sir Peter," I said to Walter Butler. "Shall I have the honor of making you known to one another?"

"He has forgotten me, I think," said Butler slowly, as Sir Peter raised his hat in triumphant greeting to me and then included Butler in a graver salute.

"You have heard the news, Carus?" he asked gaily.

"I give you joy," I said. Then, with colorless ceremony, I made them known to one another, and with greater ceremony they exchanged salutes and compliments--a pair matched in flawless breeding and the usages of perfect courtesy.

"I bear a letter," said Walter Butler, "and have this morning done myself the honor of waiting upon Lady Coleville and the 'Hon. Elsin Grey.'"

And as Sir Peter acknowledged the courtesy, I looked suddenly at Walter Butler, remembering what Elsin Grey had told me.

"The letter is from General Sir Frederick Haldimand," he said pleasantly, "and I fear it bears you news not too agreeable. The Hon. Miss Grey is summoned home, Sir Peter--pending a new campaign."

"Home!" exclaimed Sir Peter, surprised. "Why, I thought--I had hoped we were to have her with us until winter. Gad! It is as you say, not too agreeable news, Captain Butler. Why, she has been the life of the town, sir; she has waked us and set us all a-dancing like yokels at a May-pole or a ring-around-a-rosy! Split me! Captain Butler, but Lady Coleville will be sorry to learn this news--and I, too, sir, and every man in New York town."

He looked at me in genuine distress. My face was perfectly expressionless.

"This should hit you hard, Carus," he said meaningly. Then, without seeing, I felt Walter Butler's head slowly turning, and was aware of his eyes on me.

"Come, gentlemen," said Sir Peter, "the horses are here. Is not that fine chestnut your mount, Captain Butler? You will ride with us, will you not? Where is your baggage? At Flocks? I shall send for it--no, sir, I take no excuse. While you are in New York you shall be my guest, Captain Butler."

And so, Sir Peter naming Butler to O'Neil and Harkness, and salutes being decently exchanged, we mounted and cantered off along Great George Street, Horrock on his hunter bringing up the rear.

And at every stride of my horse a new misgiving, a deeper distrust of this man Butler stirred in my troubled heart.

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