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54-40 or Fight eBook

Emerson Hough
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 265 pages of information about 54-40 or Fight.

“Monsieur, adieu!” she added swiftly.

I bent and kissed her hand.  “Madam, au revoir!

“No, adieu! Go!”

CHAPTER XVII

A HUNTER OF BUTTERFLIES

     I love men, not because they are men, but because they are not
     women.—­Queen Christina.

There was at that time in Montreal a sort of news room and public exchange, which made a place of general meeting.  It was supplied with newspapers and the like, and kept up by subscriptions of the town merchants—­a spacious room made out of the old Methodist chapel on St. Joseph Street.  I knew this for a place of town gossip, and hoped I might hit upon something to aid me in my errand, which was no more than begun, it seemed.  Entering the place shortly before noon, I made pretense of reading, all the while with an eye and an ear out for anything that might happen.

As I stared in pretense at the page before me, I fumbled idly in a pocket, with unthinking hand, and brought out to place before me on the table, an object of which at first I was unconscious—­the little Indian blanket clasp.  As it lay before me I felt seized of a sudden hatred for it, and let fall on it a heavy hand.  As I did so, I heard a voice at my ear.

Mein Gott, man, do not!  You break it, surely.”

I started at this.  I had not heard any one approach.  I discovered now that the speaker had taken a seat near me at the table, and could not fail to see this object which lay before me.

“I beg pardon,” he said, in a broken speech which showed his foreign birth; “but it iss so beautiful; to break it iss wrong.”

Something in his appearance and speech fixed my attention.  He was a tall, bent man, perhaps sixty years of age, of gray hair and beard, with the glasses and the unmistakable air of the student.  His stooped shoulders, his weakened eye, his thin, blue-veined hand, the iron-gray hair standing like a ruff above his forehead, marked him not as one acquainted with a wild life, but better fitted for other days and scenes.

I pushed the trinket along the table towards him.

“’Tis of little value,” I said, “and is always in the way when I would find anything in my pocket.”

“But once some one hass made it; once it hass had value.  Tell me where you get it?”

“North of the Platte, in our western territories,” I said.  “I once traded in that country.”

“You are American?”

“Yes.”

“So,” he said thoughtfully.  “So.  A great country, a very great country.  Me, I also live in it.”

“Indeed?” I said.  “In what part?”

“It iss five years since I cross the Rockies.”

“You have crossed the Rockies?  I envy you.”

“You meesunderstand me.  I live west of them for five years.  I am now come east.”

“All the more, then, I envy you!  You have perhaps seen the Oregon country?  That has always been my dream.”

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