“But I heard the explosion.”
“Artillery practice down the Gulf.”
“Listen to me, M. Carson!” exploded Dubois. “Did I not say that I would drive you here myself because I was anxious about a friend of mine and his young bride who were in the clutches of that scoundrel, Simon Leroux, who killed my brother? And did I not say that they were in the Chateau Duchaine?”
“Well, there may be a chateau, somewhere,” Carson replied. “In fact, there probably is. This man, d’Epernay, who is said to be dead now, wanted to sell me the biggest gold mine in the world for fifty thousand dollars, and from what I know of Leroux I am ready to believe that he would try to hog it if it really exists. So, as I wanted to see how our lumber development at St. Boniface was getting along, I thought I’d come up here and investigate.”
“But how about Leroux?” I cried, more amused now than vexed.
“That,” answered Tom, “is precisely why I want to get hold of you again, Mr. Hewlett.”
“But here is Mlle. Duchaine!” shouted the old priest in despair.
Tom Carson raised his fat old body about five inches and made Jacqueline what he took to be a bow.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance, miss,” he replied. “Ah, well, it doesn’t matter. I guess that man, d’Epernay, was lying to me. He wanted to get a cash advance, and I got a little suspicious of him just about then. However, I am ready to look at your gold mine if you want me to.”
“You’ll have to do some blasting then,” I said, nettled. “It’s just about two hundred feet below the ground.”
“Never mind,” said Tom. “Lumber is better than gold. Next time I’m here I shall be glad to have another look around. And now, Hewlett, if you want a job at five thousand a year to start—to start, mind you, you play fair and tell me where Leroux is hiding himself.”
I was too mortified to answer him. But I felt Jacqueline slip her hand into mine, and suddenly the memory of the past made Tom’s raillery an insignificant affair.
“Mind you,” he pursued, “he’ll turn up soon. He’s got to turn up, because the lumber company’s all organized now and in fine running order. What do you say, Hewlett?”
“Nothing,” I answered.
“All right,” he said, turning away with a shrug of his shoulders. “Unpractical as ever, ain’t you? Think it over, my son. Glad to have met you, Mr. Priest, and as I’m always busy I guess Dubois and I will start for home this afternoon.”
Jacqueline looked at me, and I shook my head. I didn’t want Tom to witness it. But a word from Pere Antoine changed the hostile tenor of my thoughts to warm and human ones.
“Messieurs,” he said, “doubtless you know what day this is?”
Tom started. “Why, good Lord, it—it’s Christmas Day, isn’t it?” he asked, a little sheepishly.
“It’s a bigger day for us,” I said to Tom.