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What death ? When the Avenger spoke, his voice
was dry and hard as flint.

" Did you think," he said, " that so vile a treach-
ery, so detestable a cruelty, against a King so potent
and a nation so fearless, would go unpunished ?
Hell knows no viler traitor than your master,
Menendez de Aviles, of whom you are but the
spawn ! No ! I am only one of the humblest of the
subjects of my King, but I have charged myself with
avenging the deeds of this Menendez and yours
against my hapless countrymen. There is no name
base enough to brand your actions, no punishment
sharp enough to requite them. But though you
cannot suffer as you deserve, you shall suffer all that
an enemy can honorably inflict, that your example
may teach others to observe the peace and alliance
between our Kings which you have so perfidiously

Then he waved his hand, and the wretches were


marched out through the gate down to the river.
Some of them cried aloud that they would not go.
Others clasped the knees of the French arquebusiers,
sobbing out like women in their degradation that they
had helped to hang the Frenchmen of Fort Caroline,
that they had confessed and hoped for mercy.
These were rudely dragged to their feet and prodded
with pikes until they followed the others, trembling
in an agony of fear. When they had come to a
place near the river, the Indians pointed out to De
Gourgues the trees upon which the Frenchmen of
Fort Caroline had hung. De Bre"sac and I knew them
well. And upon these same trees without other
speech or ceremony, the Spaniards were hanged.

After it was over, De Gourgues caused tablets of
pine to be nailed over their heads where all men
might read. Upon these tablets were inscriptions
burned with a hot iron which read :




His vengeance was complete.

That night, when it was dark, De Bre"sac, Job
Goddard and another, buried De Ba^an deep in a
sand-dune. Indian messengers were sent to the

river of Tacatacourou to bring the Vengeance and



others vessels into the River of May. But at dawn
the following morning we saw them passing the
forts at the river's mouth and we knew that the
anxiety of Frangois Bourdelais had got the better of
him. When those on the vessels saw the standards
of France waving upon the battlements of the lower
forts, their cannon boomed forth a joyous salute
which was answered there and at San Mateo.
Before noon they anchored near the Fort and I was
carried aboard to Mademoiselle.

I could not suffer her to go ashore while traces of
the slaughter were in such ghastly evidence. For
there were sights to cloud and torment throughout
all recollection a mind innocent of the indecencies
of life. Already the vultures were wheeling high
over the forest and I prayed that the business which
still kept the Avenger would soon be concluded.
We were sick of the place, and Mademoiselle and I
had no desire to go upon the shore.

In the afternoon Maheera came aboard. Unable
to stay at the Tacatacourou River while these great
events were going forward, she had followed us and
lain in concealment since the attack. To Mademoi-
selle she brought a message from Olotoraca, who was
at the Indian encampment not dead, but very sorely
wounded from the thrust De Ba^an had given him
and who wished Mademoiselle to go to him.

I would have deterred her, for I knew not what


design he might cherish. Maheera understood me,
but she smiled as she had not smiled since I had seen

" The White Giant has no need to fear. Oloto-
raca knows all, and it is well. He has a great friend-
ship for the White Giant."

Mademoiselle started up.

" I must go, Sydney. There will be no harm,
and if he wishes me I cannot leave this land without
seeing him. Maheera would not give me bad

" The Moon-Princess will take no hurt."

I could not be satisfied to have her out of my
sight, but asked Cazenove to take some men and go
with her. They were gone a long time, and when
they returned Mademoiselle was smiling and tran-
quil. Olotoraca was very weak, but would recover.
He said that I, the White Giant, had parried the
blow which had wounded him and so had saved his
life. He wished to live fair in the memory of the
White Giant, he was glad that the Moon-Princess
was safe with me.

" It is not well," he had said at last, taking Ma-
heera's hand in his, " that a man should love at all
unless of the people of his own race."

Had I been able to go to him I would have
clasped him heartily by the hand. But they told me
I must lie quiet for fear of setting loose an artery,


and so I stayed on my pallet fanned by the cool
breezes of the sea and blessed by the sight of Diane,
who sat near at hand with beaming eyes, ministering
to me.

The capture of the Spanish Fort had in one way
been a great godsend to her. For in the quarters
of the women, De Brsac had found a box full of
linen and silks and a few things even that had been
brought to Florida by Mademoiselle herself. These
the Chevalier sent to her with a gracious word as her
share of the spoils. The silks were of no very re-
cent fashion to be sure, but all the gold and silver in
the world could not have contributed so much as
these to Mademoiselle's content. Nor were they of
any particular kind of shape, hanging about her
slender figure like lean biscuit-bags. But with ready
grace and wit she made shift to fasten and tuck
them, so that after all they were none so bad as
they might have been. She was so sweet and grace-
ful a sight to my eyes that I feared should I close
them I would lose not only the vision but the reality,
and find myself again upon the sand-spit, at Paris,
or in the forest, seeking her ever with new hopes
which were born only to be blasted again and again.

At last I slept ; and the morning sun was break-
ing across the narrow cabin as I wakened. When I
had eaten, I felt so strong and well that I would

have risen, but Diane pressed me quietly by the



shoulders and would not permit it. After awhile,
when all was ready, my pallet was carried up on the
after-castle, in the shadow of an awning, where I lay
with several others and watched the fellows upon
the shore. They were busy as bees and I felt a lazy
dolt to be lying there twiddling my thumbs.

Two or three times the unruly and riotous spirit,
engendered by shedding of blood, broke forth among
the Frenchmen ; but so complete was the control and
discipline which De Gourgues had put upon them
that little harm was done. Once they had broken
into a wine cask without his knowledge, and there
was like to be a repetition of the affair of Cabouche.
It is a strange thing that Cabouche himself, who had
often made good his boast of bully of the fore-castle,
should have been the one to put this small mutiny
down. For he stood in the doorway of the wine
room pointing his arquebuse toward his companions
and vowing he would shoot the one who advanced.
It was said, when it was done and they had retreated,
that he disappeared into the darkness and took a
good paunch-full himself, coming forth with a strong
smell of alcohol hanging about him.

In the afternoon there was a wonderful scene. De
Gourgues gathered all the Indians about him under
the battlements and, through Dariol, made them a
long speech. From time to time they uttered loud

cries which broke in upon his words. When he had
' 367


done, a prolonged yell came from the savages and
they swarmed over the ill-fated Fort, looking not un-
like a swarm of ants upon a hill of their own. They
rushed through the living quarters and the barracks
and out upon the roofs tearing and rending until it
seemed as though some movement of the earth or
elements were splitting the buildings to pieces. In
two hours the corps-de-garde was razed to the ground.
Meanwhile a great number had mounted the battle-
ments and with pikes, pieces of iron, and any rough
implements that came to hand, began prying the
stones from their places. With savage cries of ex-
ultation they tossed these out into the river or
threw them in the ditch or thicket. A dust arose
which hid them from our sight, but they worked on,
as though maddened, in the heat and glare until sun-
down, when not one stone was left upon another.
It was a whirlwind of ruin.

That night when I heard the preparations above
me for sailing on the morrow, it seemed impossible
that only a week and three days had passed since we
had come to anchor in the Tacatacourou since we
had made our league found Mademoiselle passed
the hardships of the march and attack, and come to the
successful ending of our expedition. De Gourgues
said little. When he had finished speaking to the In-
dians he had come aboard and set all the seamen to

work stowing the vessel and breaking out the spars



and sails for the voyage. That night Mademoiselle
and Maheera bade a tearful good-by, for they had
come to love each other with a fond affection ; and
to this day I cannot forget the services the Indian
maiden did for me and mine. On the morrow the
anchors were broken out, and with a favoring breeze
we moved slowly down the river toward the sea ;
while the Indians, shouting messages of good will to
us, ran along the banks until the freshening wind had
driven us from their sight.

When the ships passed the smaller forts I could
see that there too the work of destruction had been
complete ; for the stones and fascines were scattered
in all directions, and only a few overturned and bro-
ken gun rests showed where the bastions had been.
We sailed out over the bar at high tide and with a
last salute to our friendly hosts we set our prow
squarely abreast the broad surges, for France. In
a few days I could almost crawl about the decks
without an arm to steady me. In two weeks I went
about some simple duties ; and in the long summer
twilights, Mademoiselle and I would sit high up on
the slanting after-castle near the lanthorns, looking
back down the pink, swirling wake toward the land
where we had both suffered so much. Of De Ba^an
we spoke but once. I let fall a word of regret that
so gallant and splendid a fighter should have been of

so ill-favored a disposition. But Mademoiselle made
24 369


me no reply. With the thought how near she had
come to falling into his hands after the capture of
Fort Caroline, she shuddered, drew closer to me and
would hear of him no more. We had too many
present joys to conjure up the miseries that were
past. We had been born into a new world of our
own and we peopled it with fancies as blithe as our-
selves. Under the laughing stars we were creatures
of unreality, unconscious of all save the great love
which had conquered everything. De Gourgues sat
with us sometimes, but not for long ; for there is no
pain keener than that which comes from seeing a
forbidden joy through the eyes of another.

My tale is soon ended. We reached Rochelle
after a voyage of little event, and were greeted with
great honor. So soon as it could be accomplished,
and that was with such speed of habit and frock
making as was never known before or since, Diane
and I were married. The endurance and strength of
heart which bore her up in all her sufferings among
those wild western forests has, to this day of our age
and contentment, been my sturdiest prop in time of
stress. I need not tell at length how, through
Coligny, the prize money for the San Cristobal was
turned over at last to Captain Hooper; and how
upon a certain successful voyage from Plymouth I
came to be his second in command, nor how I owned

my own vessel before my mistress had Domenique



and little Diane well out of their swaddling clothes.
The Chevalier de Bresac has come back from his
voyage with Sir Walter Raleigh. M. de Teligny
is dead, leaving the Chevalier a great fortune, and he
is now out upon a venture of his own. Job Goddard,
hoary headed and staunch, but convincing and windy-
worded as ever, sits smoking at his window in the
Pelican with Martin Cockrem. And the two
rogues, gathering the growing youth of the docks
about them, with easy elaboration, tell wonderful
yarns of voyages to strange countries where people
walk upside down, and of a preference use their toes
for fingers, to which the urchins listen, their wide
mouths agape and their eyes agog with curiosity.
Job has set about planting a patch of tobacco at
Plymouth ; but his pursuit has fared ill, and so he
gets the leaf in bales from the ships that come laden
to Plymouth from the western main.

It is history how De Gourgues was spurned at
Paris by that weakling, Charles ; how our own good
Queen Bess of England offered him a command, and
how Charles thereupon relented, and would have
given him a position of authority. But De Gourgues
was never a stranger to adversity ; and through it
all, his great grief has ever been that Menendez de
Avils escaped the vengeance at San Mateo, of which
he had been the dearest object. This malefactor
died full of honor and riches, high in the favor of


Philip of Spain, who, had he lived, would have given
him command of the great Armada.

That Spanish fleet, so long threatened, has come and
gone. Through the good offices of Sir Francis Drake
and Lord Howard, for both of whom my father had
performed some service, I was given considerable re-
sponsibility and command upon Drake's own Revenge,
acquitting myself to the great Admiral's satisfaction.
So that I came into the royal service again as com-
mander of the White Bear, and gained for myself many
emoluments and honors. By great good fortune I
thus won my way into the notice of the Queen, and
so, through her generosity, was enabled in some sort
to restore my family to the prestige it had enjoyed be-
fore the imprudences and generosities of my grand-
father and father had depleted the value of the estates.
I lay no claim to credit for these achievements. Had
it not been for Diane, I should have made no attempt
to regain the position of my family before the Court.
Her soft influences, strong and womanly, have weaned
me away from the boisterous habits of my wild
young life, and have shown me the value of the
refinements which come of gentle living: With the
death of the Queen Mother, in France, there came, too,
a. change in the fortunes of Diane and the great
Henry the greatest, Henry of Navarre, with that
rare grace which has ever distinguished him, has given
back again the estate of La Notte, at Villeneuve, to



my wife. Thither, at certain seasons, we go ; form-
ing thus another link, not without a certain value,
between two great Christian monarchs.

Diane has built a summer-house on her estate, and
she has fashioned it after the lodge of Olotoraca.
where during those long months she waited for me.
It is not in a wild pine forest, where every night the
winds may sing their grand and lonely psalms. It is
on the borders of a quiet lake, where soft sweeping wil-
lows whisper with the rippling water, and tall poplars,
like sentinels, guard us against the legions of unrest,
When the sun has set, and the slender moon has
sailed out across the deep green vault above us, then
we sit, hand-in-hand, dreaming and at peace, I and



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Online LibraryGeorge GibbsIn search of Mademoiselle → online text (page 20 of 20)