“I am Dane Norwood,” the young man was saying, “and I bring a message from William Davidson, the King’s purveyor. Here it is,” and he handed forth a letter he had taken from the inside pocket of his jacket.
“Are you in the King’s service?” the Major asked as he took the missive.
“I am,” was the reply. “I am a special courier, known as the ’King’s Arrow,’ and I always go where I am sent. That is why I am here.”
“Where are your manners, then?” the Major demanded with a twinkle in his eyes.
“Manners! What manners?”
“When you approach a superior officer, of course.”
“Oh, you mean the salute. I have heard of it, but never saw it given.”
“What! you never saluted any one; not even the King’s purveyor?”
“No. Where I live we are all equal when it comes to that. We never bother about such things. The only salute I know is the kind I handed out to those slashers a short time ago when they tried to take that message from me.”
“Where was that?” the Major questioned.
“Just over there along that road,” and Dane motioned to the right.
“Where are they now?”
“I think two are busy nursing their faces, while the third is hiding somewhere around the trading post. He was running that way the last time I saw him.”
“And you defeated the three of them single-handed?”
“Why, that was nothing. I would be a mighty poor courier if I couldn’t take care of myself, especially when slashers are around.”
A bright smile illumined the Major’s face as he held out his right hand.
“Young man, I am proud of you,” he said, “and I shall mention you to the General Officers in my next report. We need such men as you to-day.”
“I don’t care for any honour,” Dane replied. “I only want an answer to that letter, so I can get away early in the morning. Davidson is pretty anxious up river.”
“Why, sure enough,” the Major agreed. “I must not keep you longer than is necessary.”
Opening the envelope, which was marked with a big broad arrow, he drew forth the paper within, unfolded it, and glanced rapidly over the contents. As he did so, a serious expression overspread his face, and he remained a minute or two lost in deep thought.
All this Jean had heard and seen from the door where she was standing with the dishes in her hands. When, however, the Major began to read the letter, she stepped outside, and placed the cups, saucers, and plates upon the table. It was then that Dane first saw her, and his eyes opened wide with surprise and admiration. Presently Jean turned, and seeing the courier’s ardent gaze, her eyes dropped, and a deep flush of embarrassment suffused her face. This all happened in a few seconds, but in that brief space of time that quaint little archer, Cupid, had been busy, and two youthful hearts had been pierced by his subtle arrows.