Jandrax 51

He was no longer cheerful. His sister Marie had been more than patient with him but he knew that she could not wait to be married and rid of him. His father steered clear of him and his brothers avoided him.

He sat alone in the evenings staring into the fire – alone but for the constant pain – and wondered what he had done to deserve such a burden. Once he had not thought thus; once he had not complained or railed against his fate. But, then, once he had been whole.

***

Pierre did not remark when Jean ordered the hundred soft iron bullets, the primers, and the powder. After all, who would have more use for such than a gunsmith. He did seem to think it strange when Jean bought a small quantity of scrap copper, but shrugged it off with a layman’s ignorance of the workings of a gun.

The copper was expensive, but necessary. Since the colonists had not found lead on Harmony, they cast their bullets from iron. These were all 10mm, for Andrax had designed the muzzleloaders to fire the same ammunition as the offworld rifles. Jean put twenty of these in a special mold and added molten copper to bring them up to 17mm. He filled a horn with powder, pocketed the deadly primers carefully shielded against shock in trihom-wool batting and pocketed the bullets.

Raoul brought the gig around just as Jean had requested. Jean was sure that his youngest brother found him a little insane; probably the boy was right. Three laborious, painful trips were necessary to carry down the provisions he wanted. Then Jean climbed aboard alone, rowed out from shore in the twilight, and set the sail.

Chapter 11

Anton Dumezil, the elder, paused on the catwalk that surrounded the palisade. Leaning against the truncated tree boles, he stared out across the fields. The melt had come. The fields between the palisade and the lake were sheets of snowmelt, broken here and there by the coming green. The intricate webwork of canals which would prolong the greening far into low winter was hidden beneath the sheet of natural water. A few prams moved about, poled by anxious farmers, all old men and boys.

Eventually the question would come – was he fit to lead the colony now that he was no longer a hunter? He would hunt this year, as he always did, but it had been some years since he had carried his own weight. Rightfully, he should turn his rifle over to a younger, stronger man.

It was wrong that the young men should have such power, even though the meat harvest was of paramount importance. LeviStuer had been preaching that for years, only ceasing when that Dubois boy went to work for him last year. Anton had not listened and now he wished he had.

His father, old Marcel, would have listened. He was crazy, but he listened.

Now his eldest son conspired against him, though he would stand no chance in a political contest. Young Anton had hurt himself badly by allowing Dubois to be gored the elder Anton had no doubt that it had been intentional and had proved himself indecisive in letting Dubois live when a clean knife thrust into the already gaping wound would have opened the femoral artery, yet have gone unnoticed. Further, he had had the gall and stupidity to marry that Chambard girl while Dubois lay bedfast.

Still, young Anton might have pulled it off, for Dubois was discredited as a man by his crippling injury. But then the boy had let Dubois take back that horn, a visible taunt and slur on his manhood. What a fool! What a coward! How could such a one have sprung from his loins? more tomorrow

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