Read CHAPTER XXIV - ZAC AND MARGOT of The Lily and the Cross A Tale of Acadia , free online book, by James De Mille, on ReadCentral.com.

Seizing Margot in his arms at the first alarm, Zac had fled to the woods.  Being stronger than Claude, he was fortunate in having a less unwieldy burden; for Margot did not lie like a heavyweight in his arms, but was able to dispose herself in a way which rendered her more easy to be carried.  On reaching the woods, Zac did not at once plunge in among the trees, but continued along the trail for some distance, asking Margot to tell him the moment she saw one of the pursuing party.  As Margot’s face was turned back, she was in a position to watch.  It was Zac’s intention to find some better place for flight than the stony and swampy ground at the outer edge of the forest; and as he hurried along, he watched narrowly for a good opportunity to leave the path.  At length he reached a place where the ground descended on the other side of the hill, and here he came to some pine trees.  There was but little underbrush, the surface of the ground was comparatively smooth, and good progress could be made here without much difficulty.  Here, then, Zac turned in.  As he hurried onward, he found the pine forest continuing along the whole slope, and but few obstacles in his way.  Occasionally a fallen tree lay before him, and this he could easily avoid.  Hurrying on, then, under these favorable circumstances, Zac was soon lost in the vast forest, and out of sight as well as out of hearing of all his purposes.  Here he might have rested; but still he kept on.  He was not one to do things by halves, and chose rather to make assurance doubly sure; and although even Margot begged him to put her down, yet he would not.

“Wal,” said he, at last, “‘tain’t often I have you; an’ now I got you, I ain’t goin’ to let you go for a good bit yet.  Besides, you can’t ever tell when you’re safe.  Nothin’ like makin’ things sure, I say.”

With these words Zac kept on his way, though at a slower pace.  It was not necessary for him to fly so rapidly, nor was he quite so fresh as when he started.  Margot also noticed this, and began to insist so vehemently on getting down, that he was compelled to grant her request.  He still held her hand, however, and thus the two went on for some distance farther.

At last they reached a point where there was an abrupt and almost precipitous descent.  From this crest of the precipice the eye could wander over a boundless prospect of green forest, terminated in the distance by wooded hills.

“Wal,” said Zac, “I think we may as well rest ourselves here.”

“Dat is ver nice,” said Margot.

Zac now arranged a seat for her by gathering some moss at the foot of a tree.  She seated herself here, and Zac placed himself by her side.  He then opened a bag which he carried slung about his shoulders, and brought forth some biscuit and ham, which proved a most grateful repast to his companion.

“Do you tink dey chase us here?” asked Margot.

“Wal, we’re safer here, ef they do,” said Zac.  “We can’t be taken by surprise in the rear, for they can’t climb up very easy without our seein’ ’em; an’ as for a front attack, why, I’ll keep my eye open:  an’ I’d like to see the Injin or the Moosoo that can come unawars on me.  I don’t mind two or three of ’em, any way,” continued Zac, “for I’ve got a couple of bulldogs.”

“Boul-dogs?” said Margot, inquiringly.

“Yes, these here,” said Zac, opening his frock, and displaying a belt around his waist, which held a brace of pistols.  “But I don’t expect I’ll have to use ’em, except when I heave in sight of the skewner, an’ want to hail ’em.”

“But we are loss,” said Margot, “in dis great woos.  How sall we ever get any whar out of him?”

“O, that’s easy enough,” said Zac.  “I know all about the woods, and can find my way anywhars.  My idée is, to go back towards the trail, strike into it, an’ move along slowly an’ cautiously, till we git nigh the place whar I left the skewner.”

Zac waited in this place till towards evening, and then started once more.  He began to retrace his steps in a direction which he judged would ultimately strike the trail, along which he had resolved to go.  He had weighed the chances, and concluded that this would be his best course.  He would have the night to do it in; and if he should come unawares upon any of his enemies, he thought it would be easy to dash into the woods, and escape under the cover of the darkness.  Vigilance only was necessary, together with coolness and nerve, and all these qualities he believed himself to have.

The knowledge of the woods which Zac claimed stood him in good stead on the present occasion; he was able to guide his course in a very satisfactory manner; and about sundown, or a little after, he struck the trail.  Here he waited for a short time, watching and listening; and then, having heard nothing whatever that indicated danger, he went boldly forward, with Margot close behind.  As they advanced, it grew gradually darker, and at length the night came down.  Overhead the moon shone, disclosing a strip of sky where the trees opened above the path.  For hours they walked along.  No enemy appeared; and at length Zac concluded that they had all dispersed through the woods, at the point where they had first come upon them, and had not followed the path any farther.  What had become of Claude he could not imagine, but could only hope for the best.

They rested for about an hour at midnight.  Then Zac carried Margot for another hour.  After this, Margot insisted on walking.  At length, after having thus passed the whole night, the path came to a creek.  Here Zac paused.

“Now, little gal,” said he, “you may go to sleep till mornin’, for I think we’ve got pooty nigh onto the end of our tramp.”

With these words Zac led the way a little distance from the path, and here Margot flung herself upon a grassy knoll, and fell sound asleep, while Zac, at a little distance off, held watch and guard over her.

Several hours passed, and Zac watched patiently.  He had not the heart to rouse her, unless compelled by absolute necessity.  In this case, however, no necessity arose, and he left her to wake herself.  When at length Margot awoke, the sun was high in the heavens, and Zac only smiled pleasantly when she reproached him for not waking her before.

“O, no harm; no ‘casion has riz, an’ so you were better havin’ your nap.  You’ll be all the abler to do what you may hev yet before you.  An’ now, little un, if you’re agreed, we’ll hev a bite o’ breakfast.”

A short breakfast, composed of hard biscuit and ham, washed down with cool water from a neighboring brook, served to fortify both for the duties that lay before them; and after this Zac proposed an immediate start.

He led the way along the bank of the creek, and Margot followed.  They walked here for about two miles, until at length they came in sight of a small harbor, into which the creek ran.  In the distance was the sea; nearer was a headland.

“This here’s the place, the i-dentical place,” said Zac, in joyous tones.  “I knowed it; I was sure of it.  Come along, little un.  We ain’t got much further to go ­only to that thar headland; and then, ef I ain’t mistook, we’ll find the end to our tramp.”

With these cheering words he led the way along the shore, until at last they reached the headland.  It was rocky and bare of trees.  Up this Zac ran, followed by Margot, and soon reached the top.

“All right!” he cried.  “See thar!” and he pointed out to the sea.

Margot had Already seen it:  it was the schooner, lying there at anchor.

“Eet ees de sheep,” said Margot, joyously; “but how sall we geet to her?”

“O, they’re on the lookout,” said Zac.  “I’ll give signals.”

The schooner was not more than a quarter of a mile off.  Zac and Margot were on the bare headland, and could easily be seen.  On board the schooner figures were moving up and down.  Zac looked for a few moments, as if to see whether it was all right, and then gave a peculiar cry, something like the cawing of a crow, which he repeated three times.  The sound was evidently heard, for at once there was a movement on board.  Zac waved his hat.  Then the movement stopped, and a boat shot out from the schooner, with a man in it, who rowed towards the headland.  He soon came near enough to be recognized.  It was Terry.  Zac and Margot hurried to the shore to meet it, and in a short time both were on board the Parson.

Great was the joy that was evinced by Terry at the return of his captain.  He had a host of questions to ask about his adventures, and reproached Zac over and over for not allowing him to go also.  Jericho showed equal feeling, but in a more emphatic form, since it was evinced in the shape of a substantial meal, which was most welcome to Zac, and to Margot also.  As for Biler, he said not a word, but stood with his melancholy face turned towards his master, and his jaws moving as though engaged in devouring something.

“Sure, an’ it’s glad I am,” said Terry, “for it’s not comfortable I’ve been ­so it ain’t.  I don’t like bein’ shut up here, at all, at all.  So we’ll just up sail, captain dear, an’ be off out of this.”

“O, no,” said Zac; “we’ve got to wait for the others.”

“Wait ­is it?” said Terry.

“Yes.”

“Sure, thin, an’ there’s a sail out beyant.  Ye can’t see it now, but ye’ll see it soon, for it’s been batín’ up to the land all the mornin’.”

“A sail!” exclaimed Zac.

“Yis; an’ it’s a Frinchman ­so it is; an’ big enough for a dozen of the likes of us.”

Further inquiry elicited the startling information that early in the morning Terry had seen, far away in the horizon, a large ship, which had passed backward and forward while beating up towards the land against a head wind, and was just now concealed behind a promontory on the south.  At this Zac felt that his situation was a serious one, and he had to decide what to do.  To hoist sail and venture forth to sea would be to discover himself, and lay himself open to certain capture; while to remain where he was gave him the chance of being overlooked.  So he decided to remain, and trust to luck.  Once, indeed, he thought of going ashore once more, but this thought was at once dismissed.  On shore he would be lost.  The woods were full of his enemies, and he could hardly hope to reach any English settlement.  To himself alone the chance was but slight, while for Margot it was impossible.  To leave her now was not to be thought of, and besides, the schooner was the only hope for Claude, who might still be in the neighborhood.  The consequence was, that Zac decided to do nothing but remain here and meet his fate, whatever that might be.

Scarcely had he come to this decision, when a sight met his eyes out beyond the southern promontory, where his gaze had been turned.  There, moving majestically along the sea, he saw a large frigate.  It was not more than a mile away.  For about a quarter of an hour the ship sailed along, and Zac was just beginning to hope that he had not been seen, when suddenly she came to, and a boat was lowered.

“She sees us!” said Terry.

Zac made no reply.

Yes; there was no doubt of it.  They had been seen.  Those on board the ship had been keeping a sharp lookout, and had detected the outline of the schooner sharply defined against the light limestone rock of the headland near which she lay.  To escape was not to be thought of.  The boat was coming towards them, filled with armed men.  Zac stood quite overwhelmed with dejection; and thus he stood as the Parson was boarded and seized by the lieutenant of his French majesty’s Vengeur, who took possession of her in the name of his king.

No sooner had Zac found himself in the power of the enemy, than a remarkable change took place in the respective positions of himself and Margot with regard to one another.  Thus far he had been her protector; but now she became his.  The first words that she spoke to the lieutenant served to conciliate his favor, and secure very respectful treatment for Zac, and seemed to convey such important intelligence that he concluded at once to transfer Margot to the Vengeur, where she could tell her story to the captain.

“Adieu,” said she.  “We sall soon see again.  Do not fear.  I make zem let you go.”

“Wal, little un, I’ll try an’ hope.  But, mind, unless I get you, I don’t much mind what becomes o’ me.”

Margot, on being taken on board the Vengeur, was at once examined by the captain ­the Vicomte de Brissac, who found her statement most important.  She contented herself with telling everything that was essential, and did not think it at all necessary for her to state that Zac had already been in the hands of French captors, and had effected an escape.  She announced herself as the maid of the Countess Laborde, who had accompanied her father in the ship Arethuse.  She narrated the shipwreck, and the rescue by Zac and the young Count de Montresor, the encounter with the Aigle, and the subsequent arrest of Claude.  She mentioned the death of Laborde, and the journey to Louisbourg by land, with the escape and pursuit of Claude, the fight with Cazeneau, and his subsequent arrival.  She then described their escape, their pursuit and separation, down to the time of speaking.  She affirmed that Zac had come here from Minas Basin to save his friend, and was awaiting his arrival when the Vengeur appeared.

The captain listened with the most anxious attention to every word; questioned her most minutely about the reasons why Cazeneau had arrested Claude, and also about his designs on Louisbourg.  Margot answered everything most frankly, and was able to tell him the truth, inasmuch as she had enjoyed very much of the confidence of Mimi, and had learned from her about Cazeneau’s plans.  Captain de Brissac showed no emotion of any kind, whether of sympathy or indignation; but Margot formed a very favorable estimate of his character from his face, and could not help believing that she had won him over as an ally.  She could see that her story had produced a most profound impression.

Captain de Brissac was anxious to know what had been the fate of the other fugitives, especially of Claude and Mimi; but of this Margot could, of course, give no information.  When she had last seen them they were flying to the woods, and she could only hope that they had been sufficiently fortunate to get under cover before the arrival of the enemy.

Captain de Brissac then sent a crew aboard the Parson, and ordered them to follow the Vengeur to Louisbourg.  Upon this new crew Terry looked with careful scrutiny.

“Whisper, captain dear,” said he, as he drew up to the meditative Zac.  “Here’s another lot o’ Frinchmen.  Is it afther thrying agin that ye are, to give ’em the slip?”

Zac drew a long breath, and looked with a melancholy face at the Vengeur, which was shaking out her sails, and heading east for Louisbourg.  On the stern he could see a female figure.  He could not recognize the face, but he felt sure that it was Margot.

“Wal,” said he, “I guess we’d better wait a while fust, and see how things turn out.  The little un’s oncommon spry, an’ may give us a lift somehow.”