“There were but very few here before us,” he answered, with undisguised pride. “Mostly wilderness outcasts, voyageurs, coureurs de bois; but my grandfather’s grant of land was from the King. Alphonse de Beaucaire, sir, was the trusted lieutenant of D’Iberville—a soldier, and a gentleman.”
I bowed in acknowledgment the family arrogance of the man interesting me deeply. So evident was this pride of ancestry that a sudden suspicion flared into my mind that this might be all the man had left—this memory of the past.
“The history of those early days is not altogether familiar to me,” I admitted regretfully. “But surely D’Iberville must have ruled in Louisiana more than one hundred years ago?”
The Judge smiled.
“Quite true. This grant of ours was practically his last official act. Alphonse de Beaucaire took possession in 1712, one hundred and twenty years ago, sir. I was myself born at Beaucaire, sixty-eight years ago.”
“I should have guessed you as ten years younger. And the estate still remains in its original grant?”
The smile of condescension deserted his eyes, and his thin lips pressed tightly together.
“I—I regret not; many of the later years have proven disastrous in the extreme,” he admitted, hesitatingly. “You will pardon me, sir, if I decline to discuss misfortune. Ah, Monsieur Kirby! I have been awaiting you. Have you met with this young man who came aboard at Fort Armstrong? I—I am unable to recall the name.”
I felt the firm, strong grip of the other’s hand, and looked straight into his dark eyes. They were like a mask. While, indeed, they seemed to smile in friendly greeting, they yet remained expressionless, and I was glad when the gripping fingers released mine. The face into which I looked was long, firm-jawed, slightly swarthy, a tightly-clipped black moustache shadowing the upper lip. It was a reckless face, yet appeared carved from marble.
“Exceedingly pleased to meet you,” he said carelessly. “Rather a dull lot on board—miners, and such cattle. Bound for St. Louis?”
“Shall see more of you then. Well, Judge, how do you feel? Carver and McAfee are waiting for us down below.”
The two disappeared together down the ladder, and I was again left alone in my occupancy of the upper deck.
HISTORY OF THE BEAUCAIRES