The sun was lifting above the tree-tops when the count’s valet called me that morning at the Chateau Le Ray. Robins were calling under my windows, and the groves rang with tournaments of happy song. Of that dinner-party only the count was at breakfast with me. We ate hurriedly, and when we had risen the horses were at the door. As to my own, a tall chestnut thoroughbred that Mr. Parish had brought over from England, I never saw him in finer fettle. I started Seth by Caraway Pike for Ogdensburg with the count’s message.
Mine host laid hold of my elbow and gave it a good shake as I left him, with D’ri, taking a trail that led north by west in the deep woods. They had stuffed our saddle-bags with a plenty for man and horse.
I could not be done thinking of the young ladies. It put my heart in a flutter when I looked back at the castle from the wood’s edge and saw one of them waving her handkerchief in a window. I lifted my hat, and put my spurs to the flank with such a pang in me I dared not look again. Save for that one thing, I never felt better. The trail was smooth, and we galloped along in silence for a mile or so. Then it narrowed to a stony path, where one had enough to do with slow going to take care of his head, there were so many boughs in the way.
“Jerushy Jane!” exclaimed D’ri, as he slowed down. “Thet air’s a gran’ place. Never hed my karkiss in no sech bed as they gin me las’ night—softer ‘n wind, an’ hed springs on like them new wagins ye see over ’n Vermont. Jerushy! Dreamed I was flyin’.”
I had been thinking of what to do if we met the enemy and were hard pressed. We discussed it freely, and made up our minds that if there came any great peril of capture we would separate, each to take his own way out of the difficulty.
We halted by a small brook at midday, feeding the horses and ourselves out of the saddle-bags.
“Ain’t jest eggzac’ly used t’ this kind uv a sickle,” said D’ri, as he felt the edge of his sabre, “but I ’ll be dummed ef it don’t seem es ef I ’d orter be ruther dang’rous with thet air ’n my hand.”
He knew a little about rough fighting with a sabre. He had seen my father and me go at each other hammer and tongs there in our door-yard every day of good weather. Stormy days he had always stood by in the kitchen, roaring with laughter, as the good steel rang and the house trembled. He had been slow to come to it, but had had his try with us, and had learned to take an attack without flinching. I went at him hard for a final lesson that day in the woods—a great folly, I was soon to know. We got warm and made more noise than I had any thought of. My horse took alarm and pulled away, running into a thicket. I turned to catch him.
“Judas Priest!” said D’ri.
There, within ten feet of us, I saw what made me, ever after, a more prudent man. It was an English officer leaning on his sword, a tall and handsome fellow of some forty years, in shiny top-hoots and scarlet blouse and gauntlets of brown kid.