Agnes C. Laut.

Heralds of Empire Being the Story of One Ramsay Stanhope, Lieutenant to Pierre Radisson in the Northern Fur Trade online

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Being the Story of One Ramsay Stanhope
Lieutenant to Pierre Radisson in the Northern Fur Trade



Author of Lords of the North

Toronto, Canada
William Briggs
Entered according to Act of the
Parliament of Canada in the year 1902
at the Department of Agriculture
All rights reserved




- - Now I learned how the man must have felt when he set about
conquering the elements, subduing land and sea and savagery. And in
that lies the Homeric greatness of this vast fresh New World of ours.
Your Old World victor takes up the unfinished work left by generations
of men. Your New World hero begins at the pristine task. I pray you,
who are born to the nobility of the New World, forget not the glory of
your heritage; for the place which Got hath given you in the history of
the race is one which men must hold in envy when Roman patrician and
Norman conqueror and robber baron are as forgotten as the kingly lines
of old Egypt. - -





I. What are King-Killers?
II. I rescue and am rescued
III. Touching Witchcraft
IV. Rebecca and Jack Battle Conspire
V. M. Radisson Again


VI. The Roaring Forties
VII. M. de Radisson Acts
VIII. M. de Radisson Comes to his Own
IX. Visitors
X. The Cause of the Firing
XI. More of M. Radisson's Rivals
XII. M. Radisson begins the Game
XIII. The White Darkness
XIV. A Challenge
XV. The Battle not to the Strong
XVI. We seek the Inlanders
XVII. A Bootless Sacrifice
XVIII. Facing the End
XIX. Afterward
XX. Who the Pirates were
XXI. How the Pirates came
XXII. We leave the North Sea


XXIII. A Change of Partners
XXIV. Under the Aegis of the Court
XXV. Jack Battle again
XXVI. At Oxford
XXVII. Home from the Bay
XXVIII. Rebecca and I fall out
XXIX. The King's Pleasure


Radisson's Map



I see him yet - swarthy, straight as a lance, keen as steel, in his eyes
the restless fire that leaps to red when sword cuts sword. I see him
yet - beating about the high seas, a lone adventurer, tracking forest
wastes where no man else dare go, pitting his wit against the intrigue
of king and court and empire. Prince of pathfinders, prince of
pioneers, prince of gamesters, he played the game for love of the game,
caring never a rush for the gold which pawns other men's souls. How
much of good was in his ill, how much of ill in his good, let his life
declare! He played fast and loose with truth, I know, till all the
world played fast and loose with him. He juggled with empires as with
puppets, but he died not a groat the richer, which is better record
than greater men can boast.

Of enemies, Sieur Radisson had a-plenty, for which, methinks, he had
that lying tongue of his to thank. Old France and New France, Old
England and New England, would have paid a price for his head; but
Pierre Radisson's head held afar too much cunning for any hang-dog of
an assassin to try "fall-back, fall-edge" on him. In spite of all the
malice with which his enemies fouled him living and dead, Sieur
Radisson was never the common buccaneer which your cheap pamphleteers
have painted him; though, i' faith, buccaneers stood high enough in my
day, when Prince Rupert himself turned robber and pirate of the high
seas. Pierre Radisson held his title of nobility from the king; so did
all those young noblemen who went with him to the north, as may be seen
from M. Colbert's papers in the records _de la marine_. Nor was the
disembarking of furs at Isle Percée an attempt to steal M. de la
Chesnaye's cargo, as slanderers would have us believe, but a way of
escape from those vampires sucking the life-blood of New France - the
farmers of the revenue. Indeed, His Most Christian Majesty himself
commanded those robber rulers of Quebec to desist from meddling with
the northern adventurers. And if some gentleman who has never been
farther from city cobblestones than to ride afield with the hounds or
take waters at foreign baths, should protest that no maid was ever in
so desolate a case as Mistress Hortense, I answer there are to-day many
in the same region keeping themselves pure as pond-lilies in a brackish
pool, at the forts of their fathers and husbands in the fur-trading
country. [1]

And as memory looks back to those far days, there is another - a poor,
shambling, mean-spoken, mean-clad fellow, with the scars of convict
gyves on his wrists and the dumb love of a faithful spaniel in his
eyes. Compare these two as I may - Pierre Radisson, the explorer with
fame like a meteor that drops in the dark; Jack Battle, the
wharf-rat - for the life of me I cannot tell which memory grips the more.

One played the game, the other paid the pawn. Both were misunderstood.
One took no thought but of self; the other, no thought of self at all.
But where the great man won glory that was a target for envy, the poor
sailor lad garnered quiet happiness.

[1] In confirmation of which reference may be called to the daughter of
Governor Norton in Prince of Wales Fort, north of Nelson. Hearne
reports that the poor creature died from exposure about the time of her
father's death, which was many years after Mr. Stanhope had written the
last words of this record. - _Author_.




My father - peace to his soul! - had been of those who thronged London
streets with wine tubs to drink the restored king's health on bended
knee; but he, poor gentleman, departed this life before his monarch
could restore a wasted patrimony. For old Tibbie, the nurse, there was
nothing left but to pawn the family plate and take me, a spoiled lad in
his teens, out to Puritan kin of Boston Town.

On the night my father died he had spoken remorsefully of the past to
the lord bishop at his bedside.

"Tush, man, have a heart," cries his lordship. "Thou'lt see pasch and
yule yet forty year, Stanhope. Tush, man, 'tis thy liver, or a touch
of the gout. Take here a smack of port. Sleep sound, man, sleep

And my father slept so sound he never wakened more.

So I came to my Uncle Kirke, whose virtues were of the acid sort that
curdles the milk of human kindness.

With him, goodness meant gloom. If the sweet joy of living ever sang
to him in his youth, he shut his ears to the sound as to siren
temptings, and sternly set himself to the fierce delight of being

For misery he had reason enough. Having writ a book in which he called
King Charles "a man of blood and everlasting abomination" - whatever
that might mean - Eli Kirke got himself star-chambered. When, in the
language of those times, he was examined "before torture, in torture,
between torture, and after torture" - the torture of the rack and the
thumbkins and the boot - he added to his former testimony that the queen
was a "Babylonish woman, a Potiphar, a Jezebel, a - "

There his mouth was gagged, head and heels roped to the rack, and a
wrench given the pulleys at each end that nigh dismembered his poor,
torn body. And what words, think you, came quick on top of his first
sharp outcry?

"Wisdom is justified of her children! The wicked shall he pull down
and the humble shall he exalt!"

And when you come to think of it, Charles Stuart lost his head on the
block five years from that day.

When Eli Kirke left jail to take ship for Boston Town both ears had
been cropped. On his forehead the letters S L - seditious libeler - were
branded deep, though not so deep as the bitterness burned into his soul.

There comes before me a picture of my landing, showing as clearly as it
were threescore years ago that soft, summer night, the harbour waters
molten gold in a harvest moon, a waiting group of figures grim above
the quay. No firing of muskets and drinking of flagons and ringing of
bells to welcome us, for each ship brought out court minions to whip
Boston into line with the Restoration - as hungry a lot of rascals as
ever gathered to pick fresh bones.

Old Tibbie had pranked me out in brave finery: the close-cut,
black-velvet waistcoat that young royalists then wore; a scarlet
doublet, flaming enough to set the turkey yard afire; the silken hose
and big shoe-buckles late introduced from France by the king; and a
beaver hat with plumes a-nodding like my lady's fan. My curls, I mind,
tumbled forward thicker than those foppish French perukes.

"There is thy Uncle Kirke," whispers Nurse Tibbie. "Pay thy best
devoirs, Master Ramsay," and she pushes me to the fore of those
crowding up the docks.

A thin, pale man with a scarred face silently permitted me to salute
four limp fingers. His eyes swept me with chill disapproval. My hat
clapped on a deal faster than it had come off, for you must know we
unhatted in those days with a grand, slow bow.

"Thy Aunt Ruth," says Tibbie, nudging me; for had I stood from that day
to this, I was bound that cold man should speak first.

To my aunt the beaver came off in its grandest flourish. The pressure
of a dutiful kiss touched my forehead, and I minded the passion kisses
of a dead mother.

Those errant curls blew out in the wind.

"Ramsay Stanhope," begins my uncle sourly, "what do you with uncropped
hair and the foolish trappings of vanity?"

As I live, those were the first words he uttered to me.

"I perceive silken garters," says he, clearing his throat and lowering
his glance down my person. "Many a good man hath exchanged silk for
hemp, my fine gentleman!"

"An the hemp hold like silk, 'twere a fair exchange, sir," I returned;
though I knew very well he referred to those men who had died for the

"Ramsay," says he, pointing one lank fore-finger at me, "Ramsay, draw
your neck out of that collar; for the vanities of the wicked are a yoke
leading captive the foolish!"

Now, my collar was _point-de-vice_ of prime quality over black velvet.
My uncle's welcome was more than a vain lad could stomach; and what
youth of his first teens hath not a vanity hidden about him somewhere?

"Thou shalt not put the horse and the ass under the same yoke, sir,"
said I, drawing myself up far as ever high heels would lift.

He looked dazed for a minute. Then he told me that he spake concerning
my spiritual blindness, his compassions being moved to show me the
error of my way.

At that, old nurse must needs take fire.

"Lord save a lad from the likes o' sich compassions! Sure, sir, an the
good Lord makes pretty hair grow, 'twere casting pearls before swine to
shave his head like a cannon-ball" - this with a look at my uncle's
crown - "or to dress a proper little gentleman like a ragged

"Tibbie, hold your tongue!" I order.

"Silence were fitter for fools and children," says Eli Kirke loftily.

There comes a time when every life must choose whether to laugh or weep
over trivial pains, and when a cut may be broken on the foil of that
glancing mirth which the good Creator gave mankind to keep our race
from going mad. It came to me on the night of my arrival on the
wharves of Boston Town.

We lumbered up through the straggling village in one of those clumsy
coaches that had late become the terror of foot-passengers in London
crowds. My aunt pointed with a pride that was colonial to the fine
light which the towns-people had erected on Beacon Hill; and told me
pretty legends of Rattlesnake Hill that fired the desire to explore
those inland dangers. I noticed that the rubble-faced houses showed
lanterns in iron clamps above most of the doorways. My kinsman's house
stood on the verge of the wilds-rough stone below, timbered plaster
above, with a circle of bay windows midway, like an umbrella. High
windows were safer in case of attack from savages, Aunt Ruth explained;
and I mentally set to scaling rope ladders in and out of those windows.

We drew up before the front garden and entered by a turnstile with
flying arms. Many a ride have little Rebecca Stocking, of the
court-house, and Ben Gillam, the captain's son, and Jack Battle, the
sailor lad, had, perched on that turnstile, while I ran pushing and
jumping on, as the arms flew creaking round.

The home-coming was not auspicious. Yet I thought no resentment
against my uncle. I realized too well how the bloody revenge of the
royalists was turning the hearts of England to stone. One morning I
recall, when my poor father lay a-bed of the gout and there came a roar
through London streets as of a burst ocean dike. Before Tibbie could
say no, I had snatched up a cap and was off.

God spare me another such sight! In all my wild wanderings have I
never seen savages do worse.

Through the streets of London before the shoutings of a rabble rout was
whipped an old, white-haired man. In front of him rumbled a cart; in
the cart, the axeman, laving wet hands; at the axeman's feet, the head
of a regicide - all to intimidate that old, white-haired man, fearlessly
erect, singing a psalm. When they reached the shambles, know you what
they did? Go read the old court records and learn what that sentence
meant when a man's body was cast into fire before his living eyes! All
the while, watching from a window were the princes and their shameless

Ah, yes! God wot, I understood Eli Kirke's bitterness!

But the beginning was not auspicious, and my best intentions presaged
worse. For instance, one morning my uncle was sounding my
convictions - he was ever sounding other people's convictions - "touching
the divine right of kings." Thinking to give strength to contempt for
that doctrine, I applied to it one forcible word I had oft heard used
by gentlemen of the cloth. Had I shot a gun across the table, the
effect could not have been worse. The serving maid fell all of a heap
against the pantry door. Old Tibbie yelped out with laughter, and then
nigh choked. Aunt Ruth glanced from me to Eli Kirke with a timid look
in her eye; but Eli Kirke gazed stolidly into my soul as he would read
whether I scoffed or no.

Thereafter he nailed up a little box to receive fines for blasphemy.

"To be plucked as a brand from the burning," I hear him say, fetching a
mighty sigh. But sweet, calm Aunt Ruth, stitching at some spotless
kerchief, intercedes.

"Let us be thankful the lad hath come to us."

"Bound fast in cords of vanity," deplores Uncle Kirke.

"But all things are possible," Aunt Ruth softly interposes.

"All things are possible," concedes Eli Kirke grudgingly, "but thou
knowest, Ruth, all things are not probable!"

And I, knowing my uncle loved an argument as dearly as merry gentlemen
love a glass, slip away leg-bail for the docks, where sits Ben Gillam
among the spars spinning sailor yarns to Jack Battle, of the great
north sea, whither his father goes for the fur trade; or of M.
Radisson, the half-wild Frenchman, who married an English kinswoman of
Eli Kirke's and went where never man went and came back with so many
pelts that the Quebec governor wanted to build a fortress of beaver
fur; [1] or of the English squadron, rocking to the harbour tide, fresh
from winning the Dutch of Manhattan, and ready to subdue malcontents of
Boston Town. Then Jack Battle, the sailor lad from no one knows where,
living no one knows how, digs his bare toes into the sand and asks
under his breath if we have heard about king-killers.

"What are king-killers?" demands young Gillam.

I discreetly hold my tongue; for a gentleman who supped late with my
uncle one night has strangely disappeared, and the rats in the attic
have grown boldly loud.

"What are king-killers?" asks Gillam.

"Them as sent Charles I to his death," explains Jack. "They do say,"
he whispers fearfully, "one o' them is hid hereabouts now! The king's
commission hath ordered to have hounds and Indians run him down."

"Pah!" says Gillam, making little of what he had not known, "hounds are
only for run-aways," this with a sneering look at odd marks round
Jack's wrists.

"I am no slave!" vows Jack in crestfallen tones.

"Who said 'slave'?" laughs Gillam triumphantly. "My father saith he is
a runaway rat from the Barbadoes," adds Ben to me.

With the fear of a hunted animal under his shaggy brows, little Jack
tries to read how much is guess.

"I am no slave, Ben Gillam," he flings back at hazard; but his voice is
thin from fright.

"My father saith some planter hath lost ten pound on thee, little
slavie," continues Ben.

"Pah! Ten pound for such a scrub! He's not worth six! Look at the
marks on his arms, Ramsay" - catching the sailor roughly by the wrist.
"He can say what he likes. He knows chains."

Little Jack jerked free and ran along the sands as hard as his bare
feet could carry him. Then I turned to Ben, who had always bullied us
both. Dropping the solemn "thou's" which our elders still used, I let
him have plain "you's."

"You - you - mean coward! I've a mind to knock you into the sea!"

"Grow bigger first, little billycock," taunts Ben.

By the next day I was big enough.

Mistress Hortense Hillary was down on the beach with M. Picot's
blackamoor, who dogged her heels wherever she went; and presently comes
Rebecca Stocking to shovel sand too. Then Ben must show what a big
fellow he is by kicking over the little maid's cart-load.

"Stop that!" commands Jack Battle, springing of a sudden from the beach.

For an instant, Ben was taken aback.

Then the insolence that provokes its own punishment broke forth.

"Go play with your equals, jack-pudding! Jailbirds who ape their
betters are strangled up in Quebec," and he kicked down Rebecca's pile

Rebecca's doll-blue eyes spilled over with tears, but Mistress Hortense
was the high-mettled, high-stepping little dame. She fairly stamped
her wrath, and to Jack's amaze took him by the hand and marched off
with the hauteur of an empress.

Then Ben must call out something about M. Picot, the French doctor, not
being what he ought, and little Hortense having no mother.

"Ben," said I quietly, "come out on the pier." The pier ran to deep
water. At the far end I spoke.

"Not another word against Hortense and Jack! Promise me!"

His back was to the water, mine to the shore. He would have promised
readily enough, I think, if the other monkeys had not followed - Rebecca
with big tear-drops on both cheeks, Hortense quivering with wrath, Jack
flushed, half shy and half shamed to be championed by a girl.

"Come, Ben; 'fore I count three, promise - - "

But he lugged at me. I dodged. With a splash that doused us four, Ben
went headlong into the sea. The uplift of the waves caught him. He
threw back his arms with a cry. Then he sank like lead.

The sailor son of the famous captain could not swim. Rebecca's eyes
nigh jumped from her head with fright. Hortense grew white to the lips
and shouted for that lout of a blackamoor sound asleep on the sand.

Before I could get my doublet off to dive, Jack Battle was cleaving air
like a leaping fish, and the waters closed over his heels.

Bethink you, who are not withered into forgetfulness of your own merry
youth, whether our hearts stopped beating then!

But up comes that water-dog of a Jack gripping Ben by the scruff of the
neck; and when by our united strength we had hauled them both on the
pier, little Mistress Hortense was the one to roll Gillam on his
stomach and bid us "Quick! Stand him on his head and pour the water

From that day Hortense was Jack's slave, Jack was mine, and Ben was a
pampered hero because he never told and took the punishment like a man.
But there was never a word more slurring Hortense's unknown origin and
Jack's strange wrist marks.

[1] Young Stanhope's informant had evidently mixed tradition with fact.
Radisson was fined for going overland to Hudson Bay without the
governor's permission, the fine to build a fort at Three Rivers. Eli
Kirke's kinswoman was a daughter of Sir John Kirke, of the Hudson's Bay
Fur Company. - _Author_.



So the happy childhood days sped on, a swift stream past flowered
banks. Ben went off to sail the north sea in Captain Gillam's ship.
M. Picot, the French doctor, brought a governess from Paris for
Hortense, so that we saw little of our playmate, and Jack Battle
continued to live like a hunted rat at the docks.

My uncle and Rebecca's father, who were beginning to dabble in the fur
trade, had jointly hired a peripatetic dominie to give us youngsters
lessons in Bible history and the three R's. At noon hour I initiated
Rebecca into all the thrilling dangers of Indian warfare, and many a
time have we had wild escapes from imaginary savages by scaling a rope
ladder of my own making up to the high nursery window. By-and-bye,
when school was in and the dominie dozed, I would lower that timid
little whiffet of a Puritan maid out through the window to the
turnstile. Then I would ride her round till our heads whirled. If
Jack Battle came along, Rebecca would jump down primly and run in, for
Jack was unknown in the meeting-house, and the meeting-house was
Rebecca's measure of the whole world.

One day Jack lingered. He was carrying something tenderly in a red
cambric handkerchief.

"Where is Mistress Hortense?" he asked sheepishly.

"That silly French woman keeps her caged like a squirrel."

Little Jack began tittering and giggling.

"Why - that's what I have here," he explained, slipping a bundle of soft
fur in my hand.

"It's tame! It's for Hortense," said he.

"Why don't you take it to her, Jack?"

"Take it to her?" reiterated he in a daze. "As long as she gets it,
what does it matter who takes it?"

With that, he was off across the marshy commons, leaving the squirrel
in my hand.

Forgetting lessons, I ran to M. Picot's house. That governess answered
the knocker.

"From Jack Battle to Mistress Hortense!"

And I proffered the squirrel.

Though she smirked a world of thanks, she would not take it. Then
Hortense came dancing down the hall.

"Am I not grown tall?" she asked, mischievously shaking her curls.

"No," said I, looking down to her feet cased in those high slippers
French ladies then wore, "'tis your heels!"

And we all laughed. Catching sight of the squirrel, Hortense snatched
it up with caresses against her neck, and the French governess
sputtered out something of which I knew only the word "beau."

"Jack is no beau, mademoiselle," said I loftily. "Pah! He's a wharf

I had thought Hortense would die in fits.

"Mademoiselle means the squirrel, Ramsay," she said, choking, her
handkerchief to her lips. "Tell Jack thanks, with my love," she
called, floating back up the stairs.

And the governess set to laughing in the pleasant French way that
shakes all over and has no spite. Emboldened, I asked why Hortense
could not play with us any more. Hortense, she explained, was become
too big to prank on the commons.

"Faith, mademoiselle," said I ruefully, "an she mayn't play war on the
commons, what may she play?"

"Beau!" teases mademoiselle, perking her lips saucily; and she shut the
door in my face.

It seemed a silly answer enough, but it put a notion in a lad's head.
I would try it on Rebecca.

When I re-entered the window, the dominie still slept. Rebecca, the
demure monkey, bent over her lesson book as innocently as though there
were no turnstiles.

"Rebecca," I whispered, leaning across the bench, "you are big enough
to have a - what? Guess."

"Go away, Ramsay Stanhope!" snapped Rebecca, grown mighty good of a
sudden, with glance fast on her white stomacher.

"O-ho! Crosspatch," thought I; and from no other motive than
transgressing the forbidden, I reached across to distract the attentive
goodness of the prim little baggage; but - an iron grip lifted me bodily
from the bench.

It was Eli Kirke, wry-faced, tight-lipped. He had seen all! This was
the secret of Mistress Rebecca's new-found diligence. No syllable was
uttered, but it was the awfullest silence that ever a lad heard. I was
lifted rather than led upstairs and left a prisoner in locked room with

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Online LibraryAgnes C. LautHeralds of Empire Being the Story of One Ramsay Stanhope, Lieutenant to Pierre Radisson in the Northern Fur Trade → online text (page 1 of 17)