A man barred my approach. He caught me in his strong arms and held me fast. I dash my fists against his face, but he would not let me go.
“Are you mad, monsieur?” he burst out as I continued to struggle. And then I recognized my captor as Captain Dubois.
“Jacqueline is on the Claire!” I cried, trying to make him understand. “They took her there. They——”
“It is all right,” answered Dubois, holding me with one hand, while with the other he wiped a blood drop from his lip where I had struck him. “It is all right. I have her.”
I stared wildly at him. “She is on the Claire!” I cried again.
“No, mon ami. She is aboard the Sainte-Vierge,” replied Dubois, chuckling, “and if you wish to accompany mademoiselle you must come with me at once, for we are getting up steam.”
I could not believe him. I thought that Leroux had tampered with the honest man. It was not until he had taken me, half forcibly, aboard, and opened the cabin door, that I saw her. She was seated upon her berth, and she rose and came toward me with a glad little cry.
“Jacqueline!” I cried, and clasped her in my arms for joy, and quite forgot.
A dancing shadow fell upon the wall behind the oil-lamp. The honest captain was rubbing his hands in the doorway and chuckling with delight.
“It is all right, it is all right; excuse me, monsieur,” he said, and closed the door on us. But I called him, and he returned, not very reluctantly.
“What has happened, captain?” I asked. “You are not going to leave me in suspense?”
“But what has happened to you, monsieur?” he asked, with great concern, as he saw the blood on my coat-collar, “You have met with an accident?”
Jacqueline cried out and ran for water, and made me sit down, and began bathing my head. I contrived to whisper something of what had occurred during the moments when Jacqueline flitted to and fro. Dubois swore roundly.
“It is my fault, monsieur,” he said. “I should have known. I should have accompanied you home. It would be a tough customer who would venture to meddle with Alfred Dubois! But I was anxious to get to the telegraph office to inform M. Danton of your coming. And I suspected something, too, for I knew that Leroux had something more in his mind than simply to convey some of his men to St. Boniface at such expense.
“So as soon as I had finished telegraphing I hurried home and bade adieu to Marie and the little Madeline and the two nephews, and then I came back to the boat—and that part I shall tell you later, for mademoiselle knows nothing of the plot against her, and has been greatly distressed for you. So it shall be understood that you fell down and hurt your head on the ice—eh?”
I agreed to this. “But what did she think?” I asked, as Jacqueline went back for some more water.