We glided with slow, easy monotony along the snow-covered trail, through the sparse forest that fringed the ice-bound waters of the Riviere d’Or. Seen through our tinted snow-glasses, the landscape was a vast field of palest blue, dotted with scattered clusters of spruce and pine trees.
The mystery of Jacqueline’s rescue by Captain Dubois had been a simple one. The young man with the mustache was a certain Philippe Lacroix, well known to Dubois, a member of a good family, but of dissolute habits—just such a one as Leroux found it convenient to attach to his political fortunes by timely financial aid.
Having acquired power over him, Leroux was in this way enabled to obtain political influence through his family connections.
There was no doubt that he had been in New York with Leroux, and that they had hatched the plot to kidnap Jacqueline after I had been struck down.
Fortunately for us, Lacroix, ignorant, as was Leroux himself, that the two ships had exchanged roles and duties, took Jacqueline aboard the Sainte-Vierge, where Captain Dubois, who was waiting in anticipation of just such a scheme, seized him and marched him at pistol point to the house on Paul Street, in which Lacroix was kept a prisoner by friends of Dubois until the Sainte-Vierge had sailed.
The gulf was fairly free from ice, and our journey to St. Boniface, where we arrived on the fifth morning after our departure from Quebec, had been an uneventful one. We had not seen the smoke of the Claire behind us at any period during the voyage, and Dubois had not spared his coal to show the other vessel his heels.
He left us at St. Boniface with a final caution against Leroux, and proceeded along the shore with his bags of mail; but first he had a satisfactory conversation with M. Danton concerning us.
I had given Dubois to understand that Jacqueline had been ill. I was apprehensive that he might question her and so discover her mental state; but the good man readily understood that an elopement causes much mental anguish in the case of the feminine party—at least this supposition was in line with the romantic requirements of the case, according to all the books that the captain had ever read; and he leaped at the hypothesis.
He not only forbore to question Jacqueline, but he explained the situation to Danton, a friendly but taciturn old man who kept the store and post-office at St. Boniface.
Danton, who of course knew Jacqueline, took the opportunity of assuring me that her father, though a recluse and a misanthrope who had not left his seigniory for forty years, was said to be a man of heart, and would undoubtedly forgive us. He was clearly under the impression that we were married, and, since Dubois had not enlightened him on this point, I did not do so.
In fact, his ignorance again aroused in me elusive hopes—for if a marriage had occurred would he not have known, of it? At any rate, I should know soon; and with this reflection I had to console myself.