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D'ri came soon with horses, one the black thoroughbred of Louise which had brought her on this errand. We gave them free rein, heading for the chateau. Not far up the woods-pike we met M. de Lambert and the old count. The former was angry, albeit he held himself in hand as became a gentleman, save that he was a bit too cool with me.
"My girl, you have upset us terribly," said the learned doctor. "I should like to be honored with your confidence."
"And I with your kindness, dear father," said she, as her tears began falling. "I am much in need of it."
"She has saved my life, m'sieur," I said.
"Then go to your work," said he, coolly, "and make the most of it."
"Ah, sir, I had rather--"
"Good-by," said Louise, giving me her hand.
"Au revoir," I said quickly, and wheeled my horse and rode away.
The boats were ready. The army was waiting for the order, now expected any moment, to move. General Brown had not been at his quarters for a day.
"Judas Priest!" said D'ri, when we were alone together, "thet air gal 'd go through fire an' water fer you."
"You 're mistaken," I said.
"No, I hain't nuther," said he. "Ef I be, I 'm a reg'lar out-an'-out fool, hand over fist."
He whittled a moment thoughtfully.
"Ain' no use talkin'," he added, "I can tell a hoss from a jack-rabbit any day."
"Her father does not like me," I suggested.
"Don't hev to," said D'ri, calmly.
He cut a deep slash in the stick he held, then added: "Don't make no odds ner no diff'rence one way er t' other. I did n't like th' measles, but I hed t' hev 'em."
"He'll never permit a marriage with me," I said.
"'T ain't nec'sary," he declared soberly. "In this 'ere country don' tek only tew t' mek a bargain. One o' the blessin's o' liberty."
He squinted up at the sky, delivering his confidence in slowly measured phrases, to wit; "Wouldn't give ten cents fer no man 'at 'll give up a gal 'less he 'd orter--not fer nuthin' ner nobody."
I was called out of bed at cockcrow in the morning. The baroness and a footman were at the door.
"Ah, my captain, there is trouble," she whispered. "M. de Lambert has taken his daughters. They are going back to Paris, bag and baggage. Left in the evening."
"By what road?"
"The turnpike militaire."
"Thanks, and good morning," I said. "I shall overhaul them."
I called D'ri, and bade him feed the horses quickly. I went to see General Brown, but he and Wilkinson were on the latter's gig, half a mile out in the harbor. I scribbled a note to the farmer-general, and, leaving it, ran to the stables. Our horses were soon ready, and D'ri and I were off a bit after daylight, urging up hill and down at a swift gallop, and making the forest ring with hoof-beats. Far beyond the chateau we slackened pace and went along leisurely. Soon we passed the town where they had put up overnight, and could see the tracks of horse and coach-wheel. D'ri got off and examined them presently.
"Purty fresh," he remarked. "Can't be more 'n five mild er so further on."
We rode awhile in silence.
"How ye goin' t' tackle 'em?" he inquired presently.
"Going to stop them somehow," said I, "and get a little information."
"An' mebbe a gal?" he suggested.
"Maybe a gal."
"Don' care s' long as ye dew th' talkin'. I can rassle er fight, but my talk in a rumpus ain' fit fer no woman t' hear, thet 's sart'in."
We overtook the coach at a village, near ten o'clock.
D'ri rushed on ahead of them, wheeling with drawn sabre. The driver pulled rein, stopping quickly. M. de Lambert was on the seat beside him. I came alongside.
"Robbers!" said M. de Lambert, "What do you mean?"
The young ladies and Brovel were looking out of the door, Louise pale and troubled.
"No harm to any, m'sieur," I answered. "Put up your pistol."
I opened the coach door. M. de Lambert, hissing with anger, leaped to the road. I knew he would shoot me, and was making ready to close with him, when I heard a rustle of silk, and saw Louise between us, her tall form erect, her eyes forceful and commanding. She stepped quickly to her father.
"Let me have it!" said she, taking the pistol from his hand. She flung it above the heads of some village folk who had gathered near us.
"Why do you stop us?" she whispered, turning to me.
"So you may choose between him and me," I answered.
"Then I leave all for you," said she, coming quickly to my side.
[Illustration: "Then I leave all for you."]
The villagers began to cheer, and old D'ri flung his hat in the air, shouting, "Hurrah fer love an' freedom!"
"An' the United States of Ameriky," some one added.
"She is my daughter," said M. de Lambert, with anger, as he came up to me. "I may command her, and I shall seek the aid of the law as soon as I find a magistrate."
"But see that you find him before we find a minister," I said.
"The dominie! Here he is," said some one near us.
"Marry them," said another. "It is Captain Bell of the army, a brave and honorable man."
Does not true love, wherever seen, spread its own quality and prosper by the sympathy it commands? Louise turned to the good man, taking his hand.
"Come," said she, "there is no time to lose."
The minister came to our help. He could not resist her appeal, so sweetly spoken. There, under an elm by the wayside, with some score of witnesses, including Louison and the young Comte de Brovel, who came out of the coach and stood near, he made us man and wife. We were never so happy as when we stood there hand in hand, that sunny morning, and heard the prayer for God's blessing, and felt a mighty uplift in our hearts. As to my sweetheart, there was never such a glow in her cheeks, such a light in her large eyes, such a grace in her figure.
"Dear sister," said Louison, kissing her, "I wish I were as happy."
"And you shall be as soon as you get to Paris," said the young count.
"Oh, dear, I can hardly wait!" said the merry-hearted girl, looking proudly at her new lover.
"I admire your pluck, my young man," said M. de Lambert, as we shook hands. "You Americans are a great people. I surrender; I am not going to be foolish. Turn your horses," said he, motioning to the driver. "We shall go back at once."
I helped Louise into the coach with her sister and the Comte de Brovel. D'ri and I rode on behind them, the village folk cheering and waving their hats,
"Ye done it skilful," said D'ri, smiling. "Whut'd I tell ye?"
I made no answer, being too full of happiness at the moment.
"Tell ye one thing, Ray," he went on soberly: "ef a boy an' a gal loves one 'nother, an' he has any grit in 'im, can't nuthin' keep 'em apart long."
He straightened the mane of his horse, and then added:--
"Ner they can't nuthin' conquer 'em."
Soon after two o'clock we turned in at the chateau.
We were a merry company at luncheon, the doctor drinking our health and happiness with sublime resignation. But I had to hurry back--that was the worst of it all. Louise walked with me to the big gate, where were D'ri and the horses. We stopped a moment on the way.
"Again?" she whispered, her sweet face on my shoulder. "Yes, and as often as you like. No more now--there is D'ri. Remember, sweetheart, I shall look and pray for you day and night."
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