It was a lucky and a stubborn sea-fight. More blood to the number I never saw than fell on the Lawrence, eighty-three of our hundred and two men having been killed or laid up for repair. One has to search a bit for record of a more wicked fire. But we deserve not all the glory some histories have bestowed, for we had a larger fleet and better, if fewer, guns. It was, however, a thing to be proud of, that victory of the young captain. Our men, of whom many were raw recruits,—farmers and woodsmen,—stood to their work with splendid valor, and, for us in the North, it came near being decisive. D’ri and I were so put out of business that no part of the glory was ours, albeit we were praised in orders for valor under fire. But for both I say we had never less pride of ourselves in any affair we had had to do with. Well, as I have said before, we were ever at our best with a sabre, and big guns were out of our line.
We went into hospital awhile, D’ri having caught cold and gone out of his head with fever. We had need of a spell on our backs, for what with all our steeplechasing over yawning graves—that is the way I always think of it—we were somewhat out of breath. No news had reached me of the count or the young ladies, and I took some worry to bed with me, but was up in a week and ready for more trouble, I had to sit with D’ri awhile before he could mount a horse.
September was nearing its last day when we got off a brig at the Harbor. We were no sooner at the dock than some one began to tell us of a new plan for the invasion of Canada. I knew Brown had had no part in it, for he said in my hearing once that it was too big a chunk to bite off.
There were letters from the count and Therese, his daughter. They had news for me, and would I not ride over as soon as I had returned? My mother—dearest and best of mothers—had written me, and her tenderness cut me like a sword for the way I had neglected her. Well, it is ever so with a young man whose heart has found a new queen. I took the missive with wet eyes to our good farmer-general of the North. He read it, and spoke with feeling of his own mother gone to her long rest.
“Bell,” said he, “you are worn out. After mess in the morning mount your horses, you and the corporal, and go and visit them. Report here for duty on October 16.”
Then, as ever after a kindness, he renewed his quid of tobacco, turning quickly to the littered desk at headquarters.
We mounted our own horses a fine, frosty morning. The white earth glimmered in the first touch of sunlight. All the fairy lanterns of the frost king, hanging in the stubble and the dead grass, glowed a brief time, flickered faintly, and went out. Then the brown sward lay bare, save in the shadows of rock or hill or forest that were still white. A great glory had fallen over the far-reaching woods.