Arthur Conan Doyle
Part 6 out of 8
"So!" said he. "You are Huguenots, then!"
"Hush! Do not wrangle before a man who is dying!" cried De Catinat in a
voice as fierce as his own.
"Before a man who is dead," said Amos Green solemnly.
As he spoke the old man's face had relaxed, his thousand wrinkles had
been smoothed suddenly out, as though an invisible hand had passed over
them, and his head fell back against the mast. Adele remained
motionless with her arms still clasped round his neck and her cheek
pressed against his shoulder. She had fainted.
De Catinat raised his wife and bore her down to the cabin of one of the
ladies who had already shown them some kindness. Deaths were no new
thing aboard the ship, for they had lost ten soldiers upon the outward
passage, so that amid the joy and bustle of the disembarking there were
few who had a thought to spare upon the dead pilgrim, and the less so
when it was whispered abroad that he had been a Huguenot. A brief order
was given that he should be buried in the river that very night, and
then, save for a sailmaker who fastened the canvas round him, mankind
had done its last for Theophile Catinat. With the survivors, however,
it was different, and when the troops were all disembarked, they were
mustered in a little group upon the deck, and an officer of the
governor's suite decided upon what should be done with them. He was a
portly, good-humoured, ruddy-cheeked man, but De Catinat saw with
apprehension that the friar walked by his side as he advanced along the
deck, and exchanged a few whispered remarks with him. There was a
bitter smile upon the monk's dark face which boded little good for the
"It shall be seen to, good father, it shall be seen to," said the
officer impatiently, in answer to one of these whispered injunctions.
"I am as zealous a servant of Holy Church as you are."
"I trust that you are, Monsieur de Bonneville. With so devout a
governor as Monsieur de Denonville, it might be an ill thing even in
this world for the officers of his household to be lax."
The soldier glanced angrily at his companion, for he saw the threat
which lurked under the words.
"I would have you remember, father," said he, "that if faith is a
virtue, charity is no less so." Then, speaking in English: "Which is
"Ephraim Savage of Boston."
"And Master Amos Green?"
"Amos Green of New York."
"And Master Tomlinson?"
"John Tomlinson of Salem."
"And master mariners Hiram Jefferson, Joseph Cooper, Seek-grace Spalding,
and Paul Cushing, all of Massachusetts Bay?"
"We are all here."
"It is the governor's order that all whom I have named shall be conveyed
at once to the trading brig _Hope_, which is yonder ship with the white
paint line. She sails within the hour for the English provinces."
A buzz of joy broke from the castaway mariners at the prospect of being
so speedily restored to their homes, and they hurried away to gather
together the few possessions which they had saved from the wreck.
The officer put his list in his pocket and stepped across to where De
Catinat leaned moodily against the bulwarks.
"Surely you remember me," he said. "I could not forget your face, even
though you have exchanged a blue coat for a black one."
De Catinat grasped the hand which was held out to him.
"I remember you well, De Bonneville, and the journey that we made
together to Fort Frontenac, but it was not for me to claim your
friendship, now that things have gone amiss with me."
"Tut, man; once my friend always my friend."
"I feared, too, that my acquaintance would do you little good with
yonder dark-cowled friar who is glowering behind you."
"Well, well, you know how it is with us here. Frontenac could keep them
in their place, but De la Barre was as clay in their hands, and this new
one promises to follow in his steps. What with the Sulpitians at
Montreal and the Jesuits here, we poor devils are between the upper and
the nether stones. But I am grieved from my heart to give such a
welcome as this to an old comrade, and still more to his wife."
"What is to be done, then?"
"You are to be confined to the ship until she sails, which will be in a
week at the furthest."
"You are to be carried home in her and handed over to the Governor of
Rochelle to be sent back to Paris. Those are Monsieur de Denonville's
orders, and if they be not carried out to the letter, then we shall have
the whole hornet's nest about our ears."
De Catinat groaned as he listened. After all their strivings and trials
and efforts, to return to Paris, the scorn of his enemies, and an object
of pity to his friends, was too deep a humiliation. He flushed with
shame at the very thought. To be led back like the home-sick peasant
who has deserted from his regiment! Better one spring into the broad
blue river beneath him, were it not for little pale-faced Adele who had
none but him to look to. It was so tame! So ignominious! And yet in
this floating prison, with a woman whose fate was linked with his own,
what hope was there of escape?
De Bonneville had left him, with a few blunt words of sympathy, but the
friar still paced the deck with a furtive glance at him from time to
time, and two soldiers who were stationed upon the poop passed and
repassed within a few yards of him. They had orders evidently to mark
his movements. Heart-sick he leaned over the side watching the Indians
in their paint and feathers shooting backwards and forwards in their
canoes, and staring across at the town where the gaunt gable ends of
houses and charred walls marked the effect of the terrible fire which a
few years before had completely destroyed the lower part.
As he stood gazing, his attention was drawn away by the swish of oars,
and a large boat full of men passed immediately underneath where he
It held the New Englanders, who were being conveyed to the ship which
was to take them home. There were the four seamen huddled together, and
there in the sheets were Captain Ephraim Savage and Amos Green,
conversing together and pointing to the shipping. The grizzled face of
the old Puritan and the bold features of the woodsman were turned more
than once in his direction, but no word of farewell and no kindly wave
of the hand came back to the lonely exile. They were so full of their
own future and their own happiness, that they had not a thought to spare
upon his misery. He could have borne anything from his enemies, but
this sudden neglect from his friends came too heavily after his other
troubles. He stooped his face to his arms and burst in an instant into
a passion of sobs. Before he raised his eyes again the brig had hoisted
her anchor, and was tacking under full canvas out of the Quebec basin.
THE VOICE AT THE PORT-HOLE.
That night old Theophile Catinat was buried from the ship's side, his
sole mourners the two who bore his own blood in their veins. The next
day De Catinat spent upon deck, amid the bustle and confusion of the
unlading, endeavouring to cheer Adele by light chatter which came from a
heavy heart. He pointed out to her the places which he had known so
well, the citadel where he had been quartered, the college of the
Jesuits, the cathedral of Bishop Laval, the magazine of the old company,
dismantled by the great fire, and the house of Aubert de la Chesnaye,
the only private one which had remained standing in the lower part.
From where they lay they could see not only the places of interest, but
something also of that motley population which made the town so
different to all others save only its younger sister, Montreal. Passing
and repassing along the steep path with the picket fence which connected
the two quarters, they saw the whole panorama of Canadian life moving
before their eyes, the soldiers with their slouched hats, their plumes,
and their bandoleers, habitants from the river _cotes_ in their rude
peasant dresses, little changed from their forefathers of Brittany or
Normandy, and young rufflers from France or from the seigneuries, who
cocked their hats and swaggered in what they thought to be the true
Versailles fashion. There, too, might be seen little knots of the men
of the woods, _coureurs-de-bois_ or _voyageurs_, with leathern hunting
tunics, fringed leggings, and fur cap with eagle feather, who came back
once a year to the cities, leaving their Indian wives and children in
some up-country wigwam. Redskins, too, were there, leather-faced
Algonquin fishers and hunters, wild Micmacs from the east, and savage
Abenakis from the south, while everywhere were the dark habits of the
Franciscans, and the black cassocks and broad hats of the Recollets, and
Jesuits, the moving spirits of the whole.
Such were the folk who crowded the streets of the capital of this
strange offshoot of France which had been planted along the line of the
great river, a thousand leagues from the parent country. And it was a
singular settlement, the most singular perhaps that has ever been made.
For a long twelve hundred miles it extended, from Tadousac in the east,
away to the trading stations upon the borders of the great lakes,
limiting itself for the most part to narrow cultivated strips upon the
margins of the river, banked in behind by wild forests and unexplored
mountains, which forever tempted the peasant from his hoe and his plough
to the freer life of the paddle and the musket. Thin scattered
clearings, alternating with little palisaded clumps of log-hewn houses,
marked the line where civilisation was forcing itself in upon the huge
continent, and barely holding its own against the rigour of a northern
climate and the ferocity of merciless enemies. The whole white
population of this mighty district, including soldiers, priests, and
woodmen, with all women and children, was very far short of twenty
thousand souls, and yet so great was their energy, and such the
advantage of the central government under which they lived, that they
had left their trace upon the whole continent. When the prosperous
English settlers were content to live upon their acres, and when no axe
had rung upon the further side of the Alleghanies, the French had pushed
their daring pioneers, some in the black robe of the missionary, and
some in the fringed tunic of the hunter, to the uttermost ends of the
continent. They had mapped out the lakes and had bartered with the
fierce Sioux on the great plains where the wooden wigwam gave place to
the hide tee-pee. Marquette had followed the Illinois down to the
Mississippi, and had traced the course of the great river until, first
of all white men, he looked upon the turbid flood of the rushing
Missouri. La Salle had ventured even further, and had passed the Ohio,
and had made his way to the Mexican Gulf, raising the French arms where
the city of New Orleans was afterwards to stand. Others had pushed on
to the Rocky Mountains, and to the huge wilderness of the north-west,
preaching, bartering, cheating, baptising, swayed by many motives and
holding only in common a courage which never faltered and a fertility of
resource which took them in safety past every danger. Frenchmen were to
the north of the British settlements, Frenchmen were to the west of
them, and Frenchmen were to the south of them, and if all the continent
is not now French, the fault assuredly did not rest with that iron race
of early Canadians.
All this De Catinat explained to Adele during the autumn day, trying to
draw her thoughts away from the troubles of the past, and from the long
dreary voyage which lay before her. She, fresh from the staid life of
the Parisian street and from the tame scenery of the Seine, gazed with
amazement at the river, the woods and the mountains, and clutched her
husband's arm in horror when a canoeful of wild skin-clad Algonquins,
their faces striped with white and red paint, came flying past with
the foam dashing from their paddles. Again the river turned from blue
to pink, again the old citadel was bathed in the evening glow, and again
the two exiles descended to their cabins with cheering words for each
other and heavy thoughts in their own hearts.
De Catinat's bunk was next to a port-hole, and it was his custom to keep
this open, as the caboose was close to him in which the cooking was done
for the crew, and the air was hot and heavy. That night he found it
impossible to sleep, and he lay tossing under his blanket, thinking over
every possible means by which they might be able to get away from this
cursed ship. But even if they got away, where could they go to then?
All Canada was sealed to them. The woods to the south were full of
ferocious Indians. The English settlements would, it was true, grant
them freedom to use their own religion, but what would his wife and he
do, without a friend, strangers among folk who spoke another tongue?
Had Amos Green remained true to them, then, indeed, all would have been
well. But he had deserted them. Of course there was no reason why he
should not. He was no blood relation of theirs. He had already
benefited them many times. His own people and the life that he loved
were waiting for him at home. Why should he linger here for the sake of
folk whom he had known but a few months? It was not to be expected, and
yet De Catinat could not realise it, could not understand it.
But what was that? Above the gentle lapping of the river he had
suddenly heard a sharp clear "Hist!" Perhaps it was some passing
boatman or Indian. Then it came again, that eager, urgent summons.
He sat up and stared about him. It certainly must have come from the
open port-hole. He looked out, but only to see the broad basin, with
the loom of the shipping, and the distant twinkle from the lights on
Point Levi. As his head dropped back upon the pillow something fell
upon his chest with a little tap, and rolling off, rattled along the
boards. He sprang up, caught a lantern from a hook, and flashed it upon
the floor. There was the missile which had struck him--a little golden
brooch. As he lifted it up and looked closer at it, a thrill passed
through him. It had been his own, and he had given it to Amos Green
upon the second day that he had met him, when they were starting
together for Versailles.
This was a signal then, and Amos Green had not deserted them after all.
He dressed himself, all in a tremble with excitement, and went upon
deck. It was pitch dark, and he could see no one, but the sound of
regular footfalls somewhere in the fore part of the ship showed that the
sentinels were still there. The guardsman walked over to the side and
peered down into the darkness. He could see the loom of a boat.
"Who is there?" he whispered.
"Is that you, De Catinat?
"We have come for you."
"God bless you, Amos."
"Is your wife there?"
"No, but I can rouse her."
"Good! But first catch this cord. Now pull up the ladder!"
De Catinat gripped the line which was thrown to him, and on drawing it
up found that it was attached to a rope ladder furnished at the top with
two steel hooks to catch on to the bulwarks. He placed them in
position, and then made his way very softly to the cabin amidships in
the ladies' quarters which had been allotted to his wife. She was the
only woman aboard the ship now, so that he was able to tap at her door
in safety, and to explain in a few words the need for haste and for
secrecy. In ten minutes Adele had dressed, and with her valuables in a
little bundle, had slipped out from her cabin. Together they made their
way upon deck once more, and crept aft under the shadow of the bulwarks.
They were almost there when De Catinat stopped suddenly and ground out
an oath through his clenched teeth. Between them and the rope ladder
there was standing in a dim patch of murky light the grim figure of a
Franciscan friar. He was peering through the darkness, his heavy cowl
shadowing his face, and he advanced slowly as if he had caught a glimpse
of them. A lantern hung from the mizzen shrouds above him.
He unfastened it and held it up to cast its light upon them.
But De Catinat was not a man with whom it was safe to trifle. His life
had been one of quick resolve and prompt action. Was this vindictive
friar at the last moment to stand between him and freedom? It was a
dangerous position to take. The guardsman pulled Adele into the shadow
of the mast, and then, as the monk advanced, he sprang out upon him and
seized him by the gown. As he did so the other's cowl was pushed back,
and instead of the harsh features of the ecclesiastic, De Catinat saw
with amazement in the glimmer of the lantern the shrewd gray eyes and
strong tern face of Ephraim Savage. At the same instant mother figure
appeared over the side, and the warm-hearted Frenchman threw himself
into the arms of Amos Green.
"It's all right," said the young hunter, disengaging himself with some
embarrassment from the other's embrace.
"We've got him in the boat with a buckskin glove jammed into his
"The man whose cloak Captain Ephraim there has put round him. He came
on us when you were away rousing your lady, but we got him to be quiet
between us. Is the lady there?"
"Here she is."
"As quick as you can, then, for some one may come along."
Adele was helped over the side, and seated in the stern of a birch-bark
canoe. The three men unhooked the ladder, and swung themselves down by
a rope, while two Indians, who held the paddles, pushed silently off
from the ship's side, and shot swiftly up the stream. A minute later a
dim loom behind them, and the glimmer of two yellow lights, was all that
they could see of the _St. Christophe_.
"Take a paddle, Amos, and I'll take one," said Captain Savage, stripping
off his monk's gown. "I felt safer in this on the deck of yon ship, but
it don't help in a boat. I believe we might have fastened the hatches
and taken her, brass guns and all, had we been so minded."
"And been hanged as pirates at the yard-arm next morning," said Amos.
"I think we have done better to take the honey and leave the tree.
I hope, madame, that all is well with you."
"Nay, I can hardly understand what has happened, or where we are."
"Nor can I, Amos."
"Did you not expect us to come back for you, then?"
"I did not know what to expect."
"Well, now, but surely you could not think that we would leave you
without a word."
"I confess that I was cut to the heart by it."
"I feared that you were when I looked at you with the tail of my eye,
and saw you staring so blackly over the bulwarks at us. But if we had
been seen talking or planning they would have been upon our trail at
once. As it was they had not a thought of suspicion, save only this
fellow whom we have in the bottom of the boat here."
"And what did you do?"
"We left the brig last night, got ashore on the Beaupre side, arranged
for this canoe, and lay dark all day. Then to-night we got alongside
and I roused you easily, for I knew where you slept. The friar nearly
spoiled all when you were below, but we gagged him and passed him over
the side. Ephraim popped on his gown so that he might go forward to
help you without danger, for we were scared at the delay."
"Ah! it is glorious to be free once more. What do I not owe you, Amos?"
"Well, you looked after me when I was in your country, and I am going to
look after you now."
"And where are we going?"
"Ah! there you have me. It is this way or none, for we can't get down
to the sea. We must make our way over land as best we can, and we must
leave a good stretch between Quebec citadel and us before the day
breaks, for from what I hear they would rather have a Huguenot prisoner
than an Iroquois sagamore. By the eternal, I cannot see why they should
make such a fuss over how a man chooses to save his own soul, though
here is old Ephraim just as fierce upon the other side, so all the folly
is not one way."
"What are you saying about me?" asked the seaman, pricking up his ears
at the mention of his own name.
"Only that you are a good stiff old Protestant."
"Yes, thank God. My motto is freedom to conscience, d'ye see, except
just for Quakers, and Papists, and--and I wouldn't stand Anne
Hutchinsons and women testifying, and suchlike foolishness."
Amos Green laughed. "The Almighty seems to pass it over, so why should
you take it to heart?" said he.
"Ah, you're young and callow yet. You'll live to know better. Why, I
shall hear you saying a good word soon even for such unclean spawn as
this," prodding the prostrate friar with the handle of his paddle.
"I daresay he's a good man, accordin' to his lights."
"And I daresay a shark is a good fish accordin' to its lights. No, lad,
you won't mix up light and dark for me in that sort of fashion. You may
talk until you unship your jaw, d'ye see, but you will never talk a foul
wind into a fair one. Pass over the pouch and the tinder-box, and maybe
our friend here will take a turn at my paddle."
All night they toiled up the great river, straining every nerve to place
themselves beyond the reach of pursuit. By keeping well into the
southern bank, and so avoiding the force of the current, they sped
swiftly along, for both Amos and De Catinat were practised hands with
the paddle, and the two Indians worked as though they were wire and
whipcord instead of flesh and blood. An utter silence reigned over all
the broad stream, broken only by the lap-lap of the water against their
curving bow, the whirring of the night hawk above them, and the sharp
high barking of foxes away in the woods. When at last morning broke,
and the black shaded imperceptibly into gray, they were far out of sight
of the citadel and of all trace of man's handiwork. Virgin woods in
their wonderful many-coloured autumn dress flowed right down to the
river edge on either side, and in the centre was a little island with a
rim of yellow sand and an out-flame of scarlet tupelo and sumach in one
bright tangle of colour in the centre.
"I've passed here before," said De Catinat. "I remember marking that
great maple with the blaze on its trunk, when last I went with the
governor to Montreal. That was in Frontenac's day, when the king was
first and the bishop second."
The Redskins, who had sat like terra-cotta figures, without a trace of
expression upon their set hard faces, pricked up their ears at the sound
of that name.
"My brother has spoken of the great Onontio," said one of them, glancing
round. "We have listened to the whistling of evil birds who tell us
that he will never come back to his children across the seas."
"He is with the great white father," answered De Catinat. "I have
myself seen him in his council, and he will assuredly come across the
great water if his people have need of him."
The Indian shook his shaven head.
"The rutting month is past, my brother," said he, speaking in broken
French, "but ere the month of the bird-laying has come there will be no
white man upon this river save only behind stone walls."
"What, then? We have heard little! Have the Iroquois broken out so
"My brother, they said they would eat up the Hurons, and where are the
Hurons now? They turned their faces upon the Eries, and where are the
Eries now? They went westward against the Illinois, and who can find an
Illinois village? They raised the hatchet against the Andastes, and
their name is blotted from the earth. And now they have danced a dance
and sung a song which will bring little good to my white brothers."
"Where are they, then?"
The Indian waved his hand along the whole southern and western horizon.
"Where are they not? The woods are rustling with them. They are like a
fire among dry grass, so swift and so terrible!"
"On my life," said De Catinat, "if these devils are indeed unchained,
they will need old Frontenac back if they are not to be swept into the
"Ay," said Amos, "I saw him once, when I was brought before him with the
others for trading on what he called French ground. His mouth set like
a skunk trap and he looked at us as if he would have liked our scalps
for his leggings. But I could see that he was a chief and a brave man."
"He was an enemy of the Church, and the right hand of the foul fiend in
this country," said a voice from the bottom of the canoe.
It was the friar who had succeeded in getting rid of the buckskin glove
and belt with which the two Americans had gagged him. He was lying
huddled up now glaring savagely at the party with his fiery dark eyes.
"His jaw-tackle has come adrift," said the seaman. "Let me brace it up
"Nay, why should we take him farther?" asked Amos. "He is but weight
for us to carry, and I cannot see that we profit by his company. Let us
put him out."
"Ay, sink or swim," cried old Ephraim with enthusiasm.
"Nay, upon the bank."
"And have him maybe in front of us warning the black jackets."
"On that island, then."
"Very good. He can hail the first of his folk who pass."
They shot over to the island and landed the friar, who said nothing, but
cursed them with his eye. They left with him a small supply of biscuit
and of flour to last him until he should be picked up. Then, having
passed a bend in the river, they ran their canoe ashore in a little cove
where the whortleberry and cranberry bushes grew right down to the
water's edge, and the sward was bright with the white euphorbia, the
blue gentian, and the purple balm. There they laid out their small
stock of provisions, and ate a hearty breakfast while discussing what
their plans should be for the future.
THE INLAND WATERS.
They were not badly provided for their journey. The captain of the
Gloucester brig in which the Americans had started from Quebec knew
Ephraim Savage well, as who did not upon the New England coast? He had
accepted his bill therefore at three months' date, at as high a rate of
interest as he could screw out of him, and he had let him have in return
three excellent guns, a good supply of ammunition, and enough money to
provide for all his wants. In this way he had hired the canoe and the
Indians, and had fitted her with meat and biscuit to last them for ten
days at the least.
"It's like the breath of life to me to feel the heft of a gun and to
smell the trees round me," said Amos. "Why, it cannot be more than a
hundred leagues from here to Albany or Schenectady, right through the
"Ay, lad, but how is the gal to walk a hundred leagues through a forest?
No, no, let us keep water under our keel, and lean on the Lord."
"Then there is only one way for it. We must make the Richelieu River,
and keep right along to Lake Champlain and Lake St. Sacrament. There we
should be close by the headwaters of the Hudson."
"It is a dangerous road," said De Catinat, who understood the
conversation of his companions, even when he was unable to join in it.
"We should need to skirt the country of the Mohawks."
"It's the only way, I guess. It's that or nothing."
"And I have a friend upon the Richelieu River who, I am sure, would help
us on our way," said De Catinat with a smile. "Adele, you have heard me
talk of Charles de la Noue, seigneur de Sainte Marie?"
"He whom you used to call the Canadian duke, Amory?"
"Precisely. His seigneury lies on the Richelieu, a little south of Fort
St. Louis, and I am sure that he would speed us upon our way."
"Good!" cried Amos. "If we have a friend there we shall do well.
That clenches it then, and we shall hold fast by the river. Let's get
to our paddles then, for that friar will make mischief for us if he
And so for a long week the little party toiled up the great waterway,
keeping ever to the southern bank, where there were fewer clearings.
On both sides of the stream the woods were thick, but every here and
there they would curve away, and a narrow strip of cultivated land would
skirt the bank, with the yellow stubble to mark where the wheat had
grown. Adele looked with interest at the wooden houses with their
jutting stories and quaint gable-ends, at the solid, stone-built
manor-houses of the seigneurs, and at the mills in every hamlet, which
served the double purpose of grinding flour and of a loop-holed place of
retreat in case of attack. Horrible experience had taught the Canadians
what the English settlers had yet to learn, that in a land of savages it
is a folly to place isolated farmhouses in the centre of their own
fields. The clearings then radiated out from the villages, and every
cottage was built with an eye to the military necessities of the whole,
so that the defence might make a stand at all points, and might finally
centre upon the stone manor-house and the mill. Now at every bluff and
hill near the villages might be seen the gleam of the muskets of the
watchers, for it was known that the scalping parties of the Five Nations
were out, and none could tell where the blow would fall, save that it
must come where they were least prepared to meet it.
Indeed, at every step in this country, whether the traveller were on the
St. Lawrence, or west upon the lakes, or down upon the banks of the
Mississippi, or south in the country of the Cherokees and of the Creeks,
he would still find the inhabitants in the same state of dreadful
expectancy, and from the same cause. The Iroquois, as they were named
by the French, or the Five Nations as they called themselves, hung like
a cloud over the whole great continent. Their confederation was a
natural one, for they were of the same stock and spoke the same
language, and all attempts to separate them had been in vain. Mohawks,
Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas, and Senecas were each proud of their own
totems and their own chiefs, but in war they were Iroquois, and the
enemy of one was the enemy of all. Their numbers were small, for they
were never able to put two thousand warriors in the field, and their
country was limited, for their villages were scattered over the tract
which lies between Lake Champlain and Lake Ontario. But they were
united, they were cunning, they were desperately brave, and they were
fiercely aggressive and energetic. Holding a central position, they
struck out upon each side in turn, never content with simply defeating
an adversary, but absolutely annihilating and destroying him, while
holding all the others in check by their diplomacy. War was their
business, and cruelty their amusement. One by one they had turned their
arms against the various nations, until, for a space of over a thousand
square miles, none existed save by sufferance. They had swept away
Hurons and Huron missions in one fearful massacre. They had destroyed
the tribes of the north-west, until even the distant Sacs and Foxes
trembled at their name. They had scoured the whole country to westward
until their scalping parties had come into touch with their kinsmen the
Sioux, who were lords of the great plains, even as they were of the
great forests. The New England Indians in the east, and the Shawnees
and Delawares farther south, paid tribute to them, and the terror of
their arms had extended over the borders of Maryland and Virginia.
Never, perhaps, in the world's history has so small a body of men
dominated so large a district and for so long a time.
For half a century these tribes had nursed a grudge wards the French
since Champlain and some of his followers had taken part with their
enemies against them. During all these years they had brooded in their
forest villages, flashing out now and again in some border outrage, but
waiting for the most part until their chance should come. And now it
seemed to them that it had come. They had destroyed all the tribes who
might have allied themselves with the white men. They had isolated
them. They had supplied themselves with good guns and plenty of
ammunition from the Dutch and English of New York. The long thin line
of French settlements lay naked before them. They were gathered in the
woods, like hounds in leash, waiting for the orders of their chiefs,
which should precipitate them with torch and with tomahawk upon the belt
Such was the situation as the little party of refugees paddled along the
bank of the river, seeking the only path which could lead them to peace
and to freedom. Yet it was, as they well knew, a dangerous road to
follow. All down the Richelieu River were the outposts and blockhouses
of the French, for when the feudal system was grafted upon Canada the
various seigneurs or native _noblesse_ were assigned their estates in
the positions which would be of most benefit to the settlement. Each
seigneur with his tenants under him, trained as they were in the use of
arms, formed a military force exactly as they had done in the middle
ages, the farmer holding his fief upon condition that he mustered when
called upon to do so. Hence the old officers of the regiment of
Carignan, and the more hardy of the settlers, had been placed along the
line of the Richelieu, which runs at right angles to the St. Lawrence
towards the Mohawk country. The blockhouses themselves might hold their
own, but to the little party who had to travel down from one to the
other the situation was full of deadly peril. It was true that the
Iroquois were not at war with the English, but they would discriminate
little when on the warpath, and the Americans, even had they wished to
do so, could not separate their fate from that of their two French
As they ascended the St. Lawrence they met many canoes coming down.
Sometimes it was an officer or an official on his way to the capital
from Three Rivers or Montreal, sometimes it was a load of skins, with
Indians or _coureurs-de-bois_ conveying them down to be shipped to
Europe, and sometimes it was a small canoe which bore a sunburned
grizzly-haired man, with rusty weather-stained black cassock, who
zigzagged from bank to bank, stopping at every Indian hut upon his way.
If aught were amiss with the Church in Canada the fault lay not with men
like these village priests, who toiled and worked and spent their very
lives in bearing comfort and hope, and a little touch of refinement too,
through all those wilds. More than once these wayfarers wished to have
speech with the fugitives, but they pushed onwards, disregarding their
signs and hails. From below nothing overtook them, for they paddled
from early morning until late at night, drawing up the canoe when they
halted, and building a fire of dry wood, for already the nip of the
coming winter was in the air.
It was not only the people and their dwellings which were stretched out
before the wondering eyes of the French girl as she sat day after day in
the stern of the canoe. Her husband and Amos Green taught her also to
take notice of the sights of the woodlands, and as they skirted the
bank, they pointed out a thousand things which her own senses would
never have discerned. Sometimes it was the furry face of a raccoon
peeping out from some tree-cleft, or an otter swimming under the
overhanging brushwood with the gleam of a white fish in its mouth.
Or, perhaps, it was the wild cat crouching along a branch with its
wicked yellow eyes fixed upon the squirrels which played at the farther
end, or else with a scuttle and rush the Canadian porcupine would thrust
its way among the yellow blossoms of the resin weed and the tangle of
the whortleberry bushes. She learned, too, to recognise the pert sharp
cry of the tiny chick-a-dee, the call of the blue-bird, and the flash of
its wings amid the foliage, the sweet chirpy note of the black and white
bobolink, and the long-drawn mewing of the cat-bird. On the breast of
the broad blue river, with Nature's sweet concert ever sounding from the
bank, and with every colour that artist could devise spread out before
her eyes on the foliage of the dying woods, the smile came back to her
lips, and her cheeks took a glow of health which France had never been
able to give. De Catinat saw the change in her, but her presence
weighed him down with fear, for he knew that while Nature had made these
woods a heaven, man had changed it into a hell, and that a nameless
horror lurked behind all the beauty of the fading leaves and of the
woodland flowers. Often as he lay at night beside the smouldering fire
upon his couch of spruce, and looked at the little figure muffled in the
blanket and slumbering peacefully by his side, he felt that he had no
right to expose her to such peril, and that in the morning they should
turn the canoe eastward again and take what fate might bring them at
Quebec. But ever with the daybreak there came the thought of the
humiliation, the dreary homeward voyage, the separation which would
await them in galley and dungeon, to turn him from his purpose.
On the seventh day they rested at a point but a few miles from the mouth
of the Richelieu River, where a large blockhouse, Fort Richelieu, had
been built by M. de Saurel. Once past this they had no great distance
to go to reach the seigneury of De Catinat's friend of the _noblesse_
who would help them upon their way. They had spent the night upon a
little island in midstream, and at early dawn they were about to thrust
the canoe out again from the sand-lined cove in which she lay, when
Ephraim Savage growled in his throat and pointed Out across the water.
A large canoe was coming up the river, flying along as quick as a dozen
arms could drive it. In the stern sat a dark figure which bent forward
with every swing of the paddles, as though consumed by eagerness to push
onwards. Even at that distance there was no mistaking it. It was the
fanatical monk whom they had left behind them.
Concealed among the brushwood, they watched their pursuers fly past and
vanish round a curve in the stream. Then they looked at one another in
"We'd have done better either to put him overboard or to take him as
ballast," said Ephraim. "He's hull down in front of us now, and drawing
"Well, we can't take the back track anyhow," remarked Amos.
"And yet how can we go on?" said De Catinat despondently. "This
vindictive devil will give word at the fort and at every other point
along the river. He has been back to Quebec. It is one of the
governor's own canoes, and goes three paces to our two."
"Let me cipher it out." Amos Green sat on a fallen maple with his head
sunk upon his hands. "Well," said he presently, "if it's no good going
on, and no good going back, there's only one way, and that is to go to
one side. That's so, Ephraim, is it not?"
"Ay, ay, lad, if you can't run you must tack, but it seems shoal water
on either bow."
"We can't go to the north, so it follows that we must go to the south."
"Leave the canoe?"
"It's our only chance. We can cut through the woods and come out near
this friendly house on the Richelieu. The friar will lose our trail
then, and we'll have no more trouble with him, if he stays on the St.
"There's nothing else for it," said Captain Ephraim ruefully. "It's not
my way to go by land if I can get by water, and I have not been a fathom
deep in a wood since King Philip came down on the province, so you must
lay the course and keep her straight, Amos."
"It is not far, and it will not take us long. Let us get over to the
southern bank and we shall make a start. If madame tires, De Catinat,
we shall take turns to carry her."
"Ah, monsieur, you cannot think what a good walker I am. In this
splendid air one might go on forever."
"We will cross then."
In a very few minutes they were at the other side and had landed at the
edge of the forest. There the guns and ammunition were allotted to each
man, and his share of the provisions and of the scanty baggage. Then
having paid the Indians, and having instructed them to say nothing of
their movements, they turned their backs upon the river and plunged into
the silent woods.
THE HAIRLESS MAN.
All day they pushed on through the woodlands, walking in single file,
Amos Green first, then the seaman, then the lady, and De Catinat
bringing up the rear. The young woodsman advanced cautiously, seeing
and hearing much that was lost to his companions, stopping continually
and examining the signs of leaf and moss and twig. Their route lay for
the most part through open glades amid a huge pine forest, with a green
sward beneath their feet, made beautiful by the white euphorbia, the
golden rod, and the purple aster. Sometimes, however, the great trunks
closed in upon them, and they had to grope their way in a dim twilight,
or push a path through the tangled brushwood of green sassafras or
scarlet sumach. And then again the woods would shred suddenly away in
front of them, and they would skirt marshes, overgrown with wild rice
and dotted with little dark clumps of alder bushes, or make their way
past silent woodland lakes, all streaked and barred with the tree
shadows which threw their crimsons and clarets and bronzes upon the
fringe of the deep blue sheet of water. There were streams, too, some
clear and rippling where the trout flashed and the king-fisher gleamed,
others dark and poisonous from the tamarack swamps, where the wanderers
had to wade over their knees and carry Adele in their arms. So all day
they journeyed 'mid the great forests, with never a hint or token of
But if man were absent, there was at least no want of life. It buzzed
and chirped and chattered all round them from marsh and stream and
brushwood. Sometimes it was the dun coat of a deer which glanced
between the distant trunks, sometimes the badger which scuttled for its
hole at their approach. Once the long in-toed track of a bear lay
marked in the soft earth before them, and once Amos picked a great horn
from amid the bushes which some moose had shed the month before.
Little red squirrels danced and clattered above their heads, and every
oak was a choir with a hundred tiny voices piping from the shadow of its
foliage. As they passed the lakes the heavy gray stork flapped up in
front of them, and they saw the wild duck whirring off in a long V
against the blue sky, or heard the quavering cry of the loon from amid
That night they slept in the woods, Amos Green lighting a dry wood fire
in a thick copse where at a dozen paces it was invisible. A few drops
of rain had fallen, so with the quick skill of the practised woodsman he
made two little sheds of elm and basswood bark, one to shelter the two
refugees, and the other for Ephraim and himself. He had shot a wild
goose, and this, with the remains of their biscuit, served them both for
supper and for breakfast. Next day at noon they passed a little
clearing, in the centre of which were the charred embers of a fire.
Amos spent half an hour in reading all that sticks and ground could tell
him. Then, as they resumed their way, he explained to his companions
that the fire had been lit three weeks before, that a white man and two
Indians had camped there, that they had been journeying from west to
east, and that one of the Indians had been a squaw. No other traces of
their fellow-mortals did they come across, until late in the afternoon
Amos halted suddenly in the heart of a thick grove, and raised his hand
to his ear.
"Listen!" he cried.
"I hear nothing," said Ephraim.
"Nor I," added De Catinat.
"Ah, but I do!" cried Adele gleefully. "It is a bell--and at the very
time of day when the bells all sound in Paris!"
"You are right, madame. It is what they call the Angelus bell."
"Ah, yes, I hear it now!" cried De Catinat. "It was drowned by the
chirping of the birds. But whence comes a bell in the heart of a
"We are near the settlements on the Richelieu. It must be the bell of
the chapel at the fort."
"Fort St. Louis! Ah, then, we are no great way from my friend's
"Then we may sleep there to-night, if you think that he is indeed to be
"Yes. He is a strange man, with ways of his own, but I would trust him
with my life."
"Very good. We shall keep to the south of the fort and make for his
house. But something is putting up the birds over yonder. Ah, I hear
the sound of steps! Crouch down here among the sumach, until we see who
it is who walks so boldly through the woods."
They stooped all four among the brushwood, peeping out between the tree
trunks at a little glade towards which Amos was looking. For a long
time the sound which the quick ears of the woodsman had detected was
inaudible to the others, but at last they too heard the sharp snapping
of twigs as some one forced his passage through the undergrowth.
A moment later a man pushed his way into the open, whose appearance was
so strange and so ill-suited to the spot, that even Amos gazed upon him
He was a very small man, so dark and weather-stained that he might have
passed for an Indian were it not that he walked and was clad as no
Indian had ever been. He wore a broad-brimmed hat, frayed at the edges,
and so discoloured that it was hard to say what its original tint had
been. His dress was of skins, rudely cut and dangling loosely from his
body, and he wore the high boots of a dragoon, as tattered and stained
as the rest of his raiment. On his back he bore a huge bundle of canvas
with two long sticks projecting from it, and under each arm he carried
what appeared to be a large square painting.
"He's no Injun," whispered Amos, "and he's no Woodsman either.
Blessed if I ever saw the match of him!"
"He's neither _voyageur_, nor soldier, nor _coureur-de-bois_," said De
"'Pears to me to have a jurymast rigged upon his back, and fore and main
staysails set under each of his arms," said Captain Ephraim.
"Well, he seems to have no consorts, so we may hail him without fear."
They rose from their ambush, and as they did so the stranger caught
sight of them. Instead of showing the uneasiness which any man might be
expected to feel at suddenly finding himself in the presence of
strangers in such a country, he promptly altered his course and came
towards them. As he crossed the glade, however, the sounds of the
distant bell fell upon his ears, and he instantly whipped off his hat
and sunk his head in prayer. A cry of horror rose, not only from Adele
but from everyone of the party, at the sight which met their eyes.
The top of the man's head was gone. Not a vestige of hair or of white
skin remained, but in place of it was a dreadful crinkled discoloured
surface with a sharp red line running across his brow and round over his
"By the eternal!" cried Amos, "the man has lost his scalp!"
"My God!" said De Catinat. "Look at his hands!"
He had raised them in prayer. Two or three little stumps projecting
upwards showed where the fingers had been.
"I've seen some queer figure-heads in my life, but never one like that,"
said Captain Ephraim.
It was indeed a most extraordinary face which confronted them as they
advanced. It was that of a man who might have been of any age and of
any nation, for the features were so distorted that nothing could be
learned from them. One eyelid was drooping with a puckering and
flatness which showed that the ball was gone. The other, however, shot
as bright and merry and kindly a glance as ever came from a chosen
favourite of fortune. His face was flecked over with peculiar brown
spots which had a most hideous appearance, and his nose had been burst
and shattered by some terrific blow. And yet, in spite of this dreadful
appearance, there was something so noble in the carriage of the man, in
the pose of his head and in the expression which still hung, like the
scent from a crushed flower, round his distorted features, that even the
blunt Puritan seaman was awed by it.
"Good-evening, my children," said the stranger, picking up his pictures
again and advancing towards them. "I presume that you are from the
fort, though I may be permitted to observe that the woods are not very
safe for ladies at present."
"We are going to the manor-house of Charles de la Noue at Sainte Marie,"
said De Catinat, "and we hope soon to be in a place of safety. But I
grieve, sir, to see how terribly you have been mishandled."
"Ah, you have observed my little injuries, then! They know no better,
poor souls. They are but mischievous children--merry-hearted but
mischievous. Tut, tut, it is laughable indeed that a man's vile body
should ever clog his spirit, and yet here am I full of the will to push
forward, and yet I must even seat myself on this log and rest myself,
for the rogues have blown the calves of my legs off."
"My God! Blown them off! The devils!"
"Ah, but they are not to be blamed. No, no, it would be uncharitable to
blame them. They are ignorant poor folk, and the prince of darkness is
behind them to urge them on. They sank little charges of powder into my
legs and then they exploded them, which makes me a slower walker than
ever, though I was never very brisk. 'The Snail' was what I was called
at school in Tours, yes, and afterwards at the seminary I was always
"Who are you then, sir, and who is it who has used you so shamefully?"
asked De Catinat.
"Oh, I am a very humble person. I am Ignatius Morat, of the Society of
Jesus, and as to the people who have used me a little roughly, why, if
you are sent upon the Iroquois mission, of course you know what to
expect. I have nothing at all to complain of. Why, they have used me
very much better than they did Father Jogues, Father Breboeuf, and a
good many others whom I could mention. There were times, it is true,
when I was quite hopeful of martyrdom, especially when they thought my
tonsure was too small, which was their merry way of putting it. But I
suppose I was not worthy of it; indeed I know that I was not, so it only
ended in just a little roughness."
"Where are you going then?" asked Amos, who had listened in amazement to
the man's words.
"I am going to Quebec. You see I am such a useless person that, until I
have seen the bishop, I can really do no good at all."
"You mean that you will resign your mission into the bishop's hands?"
said De Catinat.
"Oh, no. That would be quite the sort of thing which I should do if I
were left to myself, for it is incredible how cowardly I am. You would
not think it possible that a priest of God could be so frightened as I
am sometimes. The mere sight of a fire makes me shrink all into myself
ever since I went through the ordeal of the lighted pine splinters,
which have left all these ugly stains upon my face. But then, of
course, there is the Order to be thought of, and members of the Order do
not leave their posts for trifling causes. But it is against the rules
of Holy Church that a maimed man should perform the rites, and so, until
I have seen the bishop and had his dispensation, I shall be even more
useless than ever."
"And what will you do then?"
"Oh, then, of course, I will go back to my flock."
"To the Iroquois!"
"That is where I am stationed."
"Amos," said De Catinat, "I have spent my life among brave men, but I
think that this is the bravest man that I have ever met!"
"On my word," said Amos, "I have seen some good men, too, but never one
that I thought was better than this. You are weary, father. Have some
of our cold goose, and there is still a drop of cognac in my flask."
"Tut, tut, my son, if I take anything but the very simplest living it
makes me so lazy that I become a snail indeed."
"But you have no gun and no food. How do you live?"
"Oh, the good God has placed plenty of food in these forests for a
traveller who dare not eat very much. I have had wild plums, and wild
grapes, and nuts and cranberries, and a nice little dish of
_tripe-de-mere_ from the rocks."
The woodsman made a wry face at the mention of this delicacy.
"I had as soon eat a pot of glue," said he. "But what is this which you
carry on your back?"
"It is my church. Ah, I have everything here, tent, altar, surplice,
everything. I cannot venture to celebrate service myself without the
dispensation, but surely this venerable man is himself in orders and
will solemnise the most blessed function."
Amos, with a sly twinkle of the eyes, translated the proposal to
Ephraim, who stood with his huge red hands clenched, mumbling about the
saltless pottage of papacy. De Catinat replied briefly, however, that
they were all of the laity, and that if they were to reach their
destination before nightfall, it was necessary that they should push on.
"You are right, my son," said the little Jesuit. "These poor people
have already left their villages, and in a few days the woods will be
full of them, though I do not think that any have crossed the Richelieu
yet. There is one thing, however, which I would have you do for me."
"And what is that?"
"It is but to remember that I have left with Father Lamberville at
Onondaga the dictionary which I have made of the Iroquois and French
languages. There also is my account of the copper mines of the Great
Lakes which I visited two years ago, and also an orrery which I have
made to show the northern heavens with the stars of each month as they
are seen from this meridian. If aught were to go amiss with Father
Lamberville or with me, and we do not live very long on the Iroquois
mission, it would be well that some one else should profit from my
"I will tell my friend to-night. But what are these great pictures,
father, and why do you bear them through the wood?" He turned them over
as he spoke, and the whole party gathered round them, staring in
They were very rough daubs, crudely coloured and gaudy. In the first, a
red man was reposing serenely upon what appeared to be a range of
mountains, with a musical instrument in his hand, a crown upon his head,
and a smile upon his face. In the second, a similar man was screaming
at the pitch of his lungs, while half-a-dozen black creatures were
battering him with poles and prodding him with lances.
"It is a damned soul and a saved soul," said Father Ignatius Morat,
looking at his pictures with some satisfaction. "These are clouds upon
which the blessed spirit reclines, basking in all the joys of paradise.
It is well done this picture, but it has had no good effect, because
there are no beaver in it, and they have not painted in a tobacco-pipe.
You see they have little reason, these poor folk, and so we have to
teach them as best we can through their eyes and their foolish senses.
This other is better. It has converted several squaws and more than one
Indian. I shall not bring back the saved soul when I come in the
spring, but I shall bring five damned souls, which will be one for each
nation. We must fight Satan with such weapons as we can get, you see.
And now, my children, if you must go, let me first call down a blessing
And then occurred a strange thing, for the beauty of this man's soul
shone through all the wretched clouds of sect, and, as he raised his
hand to bless them, down went those Protestant knees to earth, and even
old Ephraim found himself with a softened heart and a bent head
listening to the half-understood words of this crippled, half-blinded,
"Farewell, then," said he, when they had risen. "May the sunshine of
Saint Eulalie be upon you, and may Saint Anne of Beaupre shield you at
the moment of your danger."
And so they left him, a grotesque and yet heroic figure, staggering
along through the woods with his tent, his pictures, and his mutilation.
If the Church of Rome should ever be wrecked it may come from her
weakness in high places, where all Churches are at their weakest, or it
may be because with what is very narrow she tries to explain that which
is very broad, but assuredly it will never be through the fault of her
rank and file, for never upon earth have men and women spent
themselves more lavishly and more splendidly than in her service.
THE LORD OF SAINTE MARIE.
Leaving Fort St. Louis, whence the bells had sounded, upon their right,
they pushed onwards as swiftly as they could, for the sun was so low in
the heavens that the bushes in the clearings threw shadows like trees.
Then suddenly, as they peered in front of them between the trunks, the
green of the sward turned to the blue of the water, and they saw a broad
river running swiftly before them. In France it would have seemed a
mighty stream, but, coming fresh from the vastness of the St. Lawrence,
their eyes were used to great sheets of water. But Amos and De Catinat
had both been upon the bosom of the Richelieu before, and their hearts
bounded as they looked upon it, for they knew that this was the straight
path which led them, the one to home, and the other to peace and
freedom. A few days' journeying down there, a few more along the lovely
island-studded lakes of Champlain and Saint Sacrament, under the shadow
of the tree-clad Adirondacks, and they would be at the headquarters of
the Hudson, and their toils and their dangers be but a thing of gossip
for the winter evenings.
Across the river was the terrible Iroquois country, and at two points
they could see the smoke of fires curling up into the evening air.
They had the Jesuit's word for it that none of the war-parties had
crossed yet, so they followed the track which led down the eastern bank.
As they pushed onwards, however, a stern military challenge suddenly
brought them to a stand, and they saw the gleam of two musket barrels
which covered them from a thicket overlooking the path.
"We are friends," cried De Catinat.
"Whence come you, then?" asked an invisible sentinel.
"And whither are you going?"
"To visit Monsieur Charles de la Noue, seigneur of Sainte Marie."
"Very good. It is quite safe, Du Lhut. They have a lady with them,
too. I greet you, madame, in the name of my father."
Two men had emerged from the bushes, one of whom might have passed as a
full-blooded Indian, had it not been for these courteous words which he
uttered in excellent French. He was a tall slight young man, very dark,
with piercing black eyes, and a grim square relentless mouth which could
only have come with Indian descent. His coarse flowing hair was
gathered up into a scalp-lock, and the eagle feather which he wore in it
was his only headgear. A rude suit of fringed hide with caribou-skin
mocassins might have been the fellow to the one which Amos Green was
wearing, but the gleam of a gold chain from his belt, the sparkle of a
costly ring upon his finger, and the delicate richly-inlaid musket which
he carried, all gave a touch of grace to his equipment. A broad band of
yellow ochre across his forehead and a tomahawk at his belt added to the
strange inconsistency of his appearance.
The other was undoubtedly a pure Frenchman, elderly, dark and wiry, with
a bristling black beard and a fierce eager face. He, too, was clad in
hunter's dress, but he wore a gaudy striped sash round his waist, into
which a brace of long pistols had been thrust. His buckskin tunic had
been ornamented over the front with dyed porcupine quills and Indian
bead-work, while his leggings were scarlet with a fringe of raccoon
tails hanging down from them. Leaning upon his long brown gun he stood
watching the party, while his companion advanced towards them.
"You will excuse our precautions," said he. "We never know what device
these rascals may adopt to entrap us. I fear, madame, that you have had
a long and very tiring journey."
Poor Adele, who had been famed for neatness even among housekeepers of
the Rue St. Martin, hardly dared to look down at her own stained and
tattered dress. Fatigue and danger she had endured with a smiling face,
but her patience almost gave way at the thought of facing strangers in
"My mother will be very glad to welcome you, and to see to every want,"
said he quickly, as though he had read her thoughts. "But you, sir, I
have surely seen you before."
"And I you," cried the guardsman. "My name is Amory de Catinat, once of
the regiment of Picardy. Surely you are Achille de la Noue de Sainte
Marie, whom I remember when you came with your father to the government
_levees_ at Quebec."
"Yes, it is I," the young man answered, holding out his hand and smiling
in a somewhat constrained fashion. "I do not wonder that you should
hesitate, for when you saw me last I was in a very different dress to
De Catinat did indeed remember him as one of the band of the young
_noblesse_ who used to come up to the capital once a year, where they
inquired about the latest modes, chatted over the year-old gossip of
Versailles, and for a few weeks at least lived a life which was in
keeping with the traditions of their order. Very different was he now,
with scalp-lock and war-paint, under the shadow of the great oaks, his
musket in his hand and his tomahawk at his belt.
"We have one life for the forest and one for the cities," said he,
"though indeed my good father will not have it so, and carries
Versailles with him wherever he goes. You know him of old, monsieur,
and I need not explain my words. But it is time for our relief, and so
we may guide you home."
Two men in the rude dress of Canadian _censitaires_ or farmers, but
carrying their muskets in a fashion which told De Catinat's trained
senses that they were disciplined soldiers, had suddenly appeared upon
the scene. Young De la Noue gave them a few curt injunctions, and then
accompanied the refugees along the path.
"You may not know my friend here," said he, pointing to the other
sentinel, "but I am quite sure that his name is not unfamiliar to you.
This is Greysolon du Lhut."
Both Amos and De Catinat looked with the deepest curiosity and interest
at the famous leader of _coureurs-de-bois_, a man whose whole life had
been spent in pushing westward, ever westward, saying little, writing
nothing, but always the first wherever there was danger to meet or
difficulty to overcome. It was not religion and it was not hope of gain
which led him away into those western wildernesses, but pure love of
nature and of adventure, with so little ambition that he had never cared
to describe his own travels, and none knew where he had been or where he
had stopped. For years he would vanish from the settlements away into
the vast plains of the Dacotah, or into the huge wilderness of the
north-west, and then at last some day would walk back into Sault La
Marie, or any other outpost of civilisation, a little leaner, a little
browner, and as taciturn as ever. Indians from the furthest corners of
the continent knew him as they knew their own sachem. He could raise
tribes and bring a thousand painted cannibals to the help of the French
who spoke a tongue which none knew, and came from the shores of rivers
which no one else had visited. The most daring French explorers, when,
after a thousand dangers, they had reached some country which they
believed to be new, were as likely as not to find Du Lhut sitting by his
camp fire there, some new squaw by his side, and his pipe between his
teeth. Or again, when in doubt and danger, with no friends within a
thousand miles, the traveller might suddenly meet this silent man, with
one or two tattered wanderers of his own kidney, who would help him from
his peril, and then vanish as unexpectedly as he came. Such was the man
who now walked by their sides along the bank of the Richelieu, and both
Amos and De Catinat knew that his presence there had a sinister meaning,
and that the place which Greysolon du Lhut had chosen was the place
where the danger threatened.
"What do you think of those fires over yonder, Du Lhut?" asked young De
The adventurer was stuffing his pipe with rank Indian tobacco, which he
pared from a plug with a scalping knife. He glanced over at the two
little plumes of smoke which stood straight up against the red evening
"I don't like them," said he.
"They are Iroquois then?"
"Well, at least it proves that they are on the other side of the river."
"It proves that they are on this side."
Du Lhut lit his pipe from a tinder paper. "The Iroquois are on this
side," said he. "They crossed to the south of us."
"And you never told us. How do you know that they crossed, and why
did you not tell us?"
"I did not know until I saw the fires over yonder."
"And how did they tell you?"
"Tut, an Indian papoose could have told," said Du Lhut impatiently.
"Iroquois on the trail do nothing without an object. They have an
object then in showing that smoke. If their war-parties were over
yonder there would be no object. Therefore their braves must have
crossed the river. And they could not get over to the north without
being seen from the fort. They have got over on the south then."
Amos nodded with intense appreciation. "That's it!" said he, "that's
Injun ways. I'll lay that he is right."
"Then they may be in the woods round us. We may be in danger," cried De
Du Lhut nodded and sucked at his pipe.
De Catinat cast a glance round him at the grand tree trunks, the fading
foliage, the smooth sward underneath with the long evening shadows
barred across it. How difficult it was to realise that behind all this
beauty there lurked a danger so deadly and horrible that a man alone
might well shrink from it, far less one who had the woman whom he loved
walking within hand's touch of him. It was with a long heart-felt sigh
of relief that he saw a wall of stockade in the midst of a large
clearing in front of him, with the stone manor house rising above it.
In a line from the stockade were a dozen cottages with cedar-shingled
roofs turned up in the Norman fashion, in which dwelt the habitants
under the protection of the seigneur's chateau--a strange little graft
of the feudal system in the heart of an American forest. Above the main
gate as they approached was a huge shield of wood with a coat of arms
painted upon it, a silver ground with a chevron ermine between three
coronets gules. At either corner a small brass cannon peeped through an
embrasure. As they passed the gate the guard inside closed it and
placed the huge wooden bars into position. A little crowd of men,
women, and children were gathered round the door of the chateau, and a
man appeared to be seated on a high-backed chair upon the threshold.
"You know my father," said the young man with a shrug of his shoulders.
"He will have it that he has never left his Norman castle, and that he
is still the Seigneur de la Noue, the greatest man within a day's ride
of Rouen, and of the richest blood of Normandy. He is now taking his
dues and his yearly oaths from his tenants, and he would not think it
becoming, if the governor himself were to visit him, to pause in the
middle of so august a ceremony. But if it would interest you, you may
step this way and wait until he has finished. You, madame, I will take
at once to my mother, if you will be so kind as to follow me."
The sight was, to the Americans at least, a novel one. A triple row of
men, women, and children were standing round in a semicircle, the men
rough and sunburned, the women homely and clean, with white caps upon
their heads, the children open-mouthed and round-eyed, awed into an
unusual quiet by the reverent bearing of their elders. In the centre,
on his high-backed carved chair, there sat an elderly man very stiff and
erect, with an exceedingly solemn face. He was a fine figure of a man,
tall and broad, with large strong features, clean-shaven and
deeply-lined, a huge beak of a nose, and strong shaggy eyebrows which
arched right up to the great wig, which he wore full and long as it had
been worn in France in his youth. On his wig was placed a white hat
cocked jauntily at one side with a red feather streaming round it, and
he wore a coat of cinnamon-coloured cloth with silver at the neck and
pockets, which was still very handsome, though it bore signs of having
been frayed and mended more than once. This, with black velvet
knee-breeches and high well-polished boots, made a costume such as De
Catinat had never before seen in the wilds of Canada.
As they watched, a rude husbandman walked forwards from the crowd, and
kneeling down upon a square of carpet placed his hands between those of
"Monsieur de Sainte Marie, Monsieur de Sainte Marie, Monsieur de Sainte
Marie," said he three times, "I bring you the faith and homage which I
am bound to bring you on account of my fief Herbert, which I hold as a
man of faith of your seigneury."
"Be true, my son. Be valiant and true!" said the old nobleman solemnly,
and then with a sudden change of tone: "What in the name of the devil
has your daughter got there?"
A girl had advanced from the crowd with a large strip of bark in front
of her on which was heaped a pile of dead fish.
"It is your eleventh fish which I am bound by my oath to render to you,"
said the _censitaire_. "There are seventy-three in the heap, and I have
caught eight hundred in the month."
"_Peste!_" cried the nobleman. "Do you think, Andre Dubois, that I will
disorder my health by eating three-and-seventy fish in this fashion?
Do you think that I and my body-servants and my personal retainers and
the other members of my household have nothing to do but to eat your
fish? In future, you will pay your tribute not more than five at a
time. Where is the major-domo? Theuriet, remove the fish to our
central store-house, and be careful that the smell does not penetrate to
the blue tapestry chamber or to my lady's suite."
A man in very shabby black livery, all stained and faded, advanced with
a large tin platter and carried off the pile of white fish. Then, as
each of the tenants stepped forward to pay their old-world homage, they
all left some share of their industry for their lord's maintenance.
With some it was a bundle of wheat, with some a barrel of potatoes,
while others had brought skins of deer or of beaver. All these were
carried off by the major-domo, until each had paid his tribute, and the
singular ceremony was brought to a conclusion. As the seigneur rose,
his son, who had returned, took De Catinat by the sleeve and led him
through the throng.
"Father," said he, "this is Monsieur de Catinat, whom you may remember
some years ago at Quebec."
The seigneur bowed with much condescension, and shook the guardsman by
"You are extremely welcome to my estates, both you and your
"They are my friends, monsieur. This is Monsieur Amos Green and Captain
Ephraim Savage. My wife is travelling with me, but your courteous son
has kindly taken her to your lady."
"I am honoured--honoured indeed!" cried the old man, with a bow and a
flourish. "I remember you very well, sir, for it is not so common to
meet men of quality in this country. I remember your father also, for
he served with me at Rocroy, though he was in the Foot, and I in the Red
Dragoons of Grissot. Your arms are a martlet in fess upon a field
azure, and now that I think of it, the second daughter of your
great-grand-father married the son of one of the La Noues of Andelys,
which is one of our cadet branches. Kinsman, you are welcome!"
He threw his arms suddenly round De Catinat and slapped him three times
on the back.
The young guardsman was only too delighted to find himself admitted to
such an intimacy.
"I will not intrude long upon your hospitality," said he. "We are
journeying down to Lake Champlain, and we hope in a day or two to be
ready to go on."
"A suite of rooms shall be laid at your disposal as long as you do me
the honour to remain here. _Peste!_ It is not every day that I can open
my gates to a man with good blood in his veins! Ah, sir, that is what I
feel most in my exile, for who is there with whom I can talk as equal to
equal? There is the governor, the intendant, perhaps, one or two
priests, three or four officers, but how many of the _noblesse_?
Scarcely one. They buy their titles over here as they buy their pelts,
and it is better to have a canoe-load of beaver skins than a pedigree
from Roland. But I forget my duties. You are weary and hungry, you and
your friends. Come up with me to the tapestried _salon_, and we shall
see if my stewards can find anything for your refreshment. You play
piquet, if I remember right? Ah, my skill is leaving me, and I should
be glad to try a hand with you."
The manor-house was high and strong, built of gray stone in a framework
of wood. The large iron-clamped door through which they entered was
pierced for musketry fire, and led into a succession of cellars and
store-houses in which the beets, carrots, potatoes, cabbages, cured
meat, dried eels, and other winter supplies were placed. A winding
stone staircase led them through a huge kitchen, flagged and lofty, from
which branched the rooms of the servants or retainers as the old
nobleman preferred to call them. Above this again was the principal
suite, centering in the dining-hall with its huge fireplace and rude
home-made furniture. Rich rugs formed of bear or deer-skin were
littered thickly over the brown-stained floor, and antlered heads
bristled out from among the rows of muskets which were arranged along
the wall. A broad rough-hewn maple table ran down the centre of this
apartment, and on this there was soon set a venison pie, a side of
calvered salmon, and a huge cranberry tart, to which the hungry
travellers did full justice. The seigneur explained that he had already
supped, but having allowed himself to be persuaded into joining them, he
ended by eating more than Ephraim Savage, drinking more than Du Lhut,
and finally by singing a very amorous little French _chanson_ with a
tra-le-ra chorus, the words of which, fortunately for the peace of the
company, were entirely unintelligible to the Bostonian.
"Madame is taking her refection in my lady's boudoir," he remarked, when
the dishes had been removed. "You may bring up a bottle of Frontiniac
from bin thirteen, Theuriet. Oh, you will see, gentlemen, that even in
the wilds we have a little, a very little, which is perhaps not
altogether bad. And so you come from Versailles, De Catinat? It was
built since my day, but how I remember the old life of the court at St.
Germain, before Louis turned serious! Ah, what innocent happy days they
were when Madame de Nevailles had to bar the windows of the maids of
honour to keep out the king, and we all turned out eight deep on to the
grass plot for our morning duel! By Saint Denis, I have not quite
forgotten the trick of the wrist yet, and, old as I am, I should be none
the worse for a little breather." He strutted in his stately fashion
over to where a rapier and dagger hung upon the wall, and began to make
passes at the door, darting in and out, warding off imaginary blows with
his poniard, and stamping his feet with little cries of "Punto! reverso!
stoccata! dritta! mandritta!" and all the jargon of the fencing schools.
Finally he rejoined them, breathing heavily and with his wig awry.
"That was our old exercise," said he. "Doubtless you young bloods have
improved upon it, and yet it was good enough for the Spaniards at Rocroy
and at one or two other places which I could mention. But they still
see life at the court, I understand. There are still love passages and
blood lettings. How has Lauzun prospered in his wooing of Mademoiselle
de Montpensier? Was it proved that Madame de Clermont had bought a
phial from Le Vie, the poison woman, two days before the soup disagreed
so violently with monsieur? What did the Due de Biron do when his
nephew ran away with the duchess? Is it true that he raised his
allowance to fifty thousand livres for having done it?" Such were the
two-year-old questions which had not been answered yet upon the banks of
the Richelieu River. Long into the hours of the night, when his
comrades were already snoring under their blankets, De Catinat, blinking
and yawning, was still engaged in trying to satisfy the curiosity of the
old courtier, and to bring him up to date in all the most minute gossip
THE SLAYING OF BROWN MOOSE.
Two days were spent by the travellers at the seigneury of Sainte Marie,
and they would very willingly have spent longer, for the quarters were
comfortable and the welcome warm, but already the reds of autumn were
turning to brown, and they knew how suddenly the ice and snow come in
those northern lands, and how impossible it would be to finish their
journey if winter were once fairly upon them. The old nobleman had sent
his scouts by land and by water, but there were no signs of the Iroquois
upon the eastern banks, so that it was clear that De Lhut had been
mistaken. Over on the other side, however, the high gray plumes of
smoke still streamed up above the trees as a sign that their enemies
were not very far off. All day from the manor-house windows and from
the stockade they could see those danger signals which reminded them
that a horrible death lurked ever at their elbow.
The refugees were rested now and refreshed, and of one mind about
"If the snow comes, it will be a thousand times more dangerous," said
Amos, "for we shall leave a track then that a papoose could follow."
"And why should we fear?" urged old Ephraim.
"Truly this is a desert of salt, even though it lead to the vale of
Hinnom, but we shall be borne up against these sons of Jeroboam.
Steer a straight course, lad, and jam your helm, for the pilot will see
"And I am not frightened, Amory, and I am quite rested now," said Adele.
"We shall be so much more happy when we are in the English Provinces,
for even now, how do we know that that dreadful monk may not come with
orders to drag us back to Quebec and Paris?"
It was indeed very possible that the vindictive Franciscan, when
satisfied that they had not ascended to Montreal, or remained at Three
Rivers, might seek them on the banks of the Richelieu. When De Catinat
thought of how he passed them in his great canoe that morning, his eager
face protruded, and his dark body swinging in time to the paddles, he
felt that the danger which his wife suggested was not only possible but
imminent. The seigneur was his friend, but the seigneur could not
disobey the governor's orders. A great hand, stretching all the way
from Versailles, seemed to hang over them, even here in the heart of the
virgin forest, ready to snatch them up and carry them back into
degradation and misery. Better all the perils of the woods than that!
But the seigneur and his son, who knew nothing of their pressing reasons
for haste, were strenuous in urging De Catinat the other way, and in
this they were supported by the silent Du Lhut, whose few muttered words
were always more weighty than the longest speech, for he never spoke
save about that of which he was a master.
"You have seen my little place," said the old nobleman, with a wave of
his beruffled ring-covered hand. "It is not what I should wish it, but
such as it is, it is most heartily yours for the winter, if you and your
comrades would honour me by remaining. As to madame, I doubt not that
my own dame and she will find plenty to amuse and occupy them, which
reminds me, De Catinat, that you have not yet been presented. Theuriet,
go to your mistress and inform her that I request her to be so good as
to come to us in the hall of the dais."
De Catinat was too seasoned to be easily startled, but he was somewhat
taken aback when the lady, to whom the old nobleman always referred in
terms of exaggerated respect, proved to be as like a full-blooded Indian
squaw as the hall of the dais was to a French barn. She was dressed, it
was true, in a bodice of scarlet taffeta with a black skirt,
silver-buckled shoes, and a scented pomander ball dangling by a silver
chain from her girdle, but her face was of the colour of the bark of the
Scotch fir, while her strong nose and harsh mouth, with the two plaits
of coarse black hair which dangled down her back, left no possible doubt
as to her origin.
"Allow me to present you, Monsieur de Catinat," said the Seigneur de
Sainte Marie solemnly, "to my wife, Onega de la Noue de Sainte Marie,
chatelaine by right of marriage to this seigneury, and also to the
Chateau d'Andelys in Normandy, and to the estate of Varennes in
Provence, while retaining in her own right the hereditary chieftainship
on the distaff side of the nation of the Onondagas. My angel, I have
been endeavouring to persuade our friends to remain with us at Sainte
Marie instead of journeying on to Lake Champlain."
"At least leave your White Lily at Sainte Marie," said the dusky
princess, speaking in excellent French, and clasping with her ruddy
fingers the ivory hand of Adele. "We will hold her safe for you until
the ice softens, and the leaves and the partridge berries come once
more. I know my people, monsieur, and I tell you that the woods are
full of murder, and that it is not for nothing that the leaves are the
colour of blood, for death lurks behind every tree."
De Catinat was more moved by the impressive manner of his hostess than
by any of the other warnings which he had received. Surely she, if
anyone, must be able to read the signs of the times.
"I know not what to do!" he cried in despair. "I must go on, and yet
how can I expose her to these perils? I would fain stay the winter, but
you must take my word for it, sir, that it is not possible."
"Du Lhut, you know how things should be ordered," said the seigneur.
"What should you advise my friend to do, since he is so set upon getting
to the English Provinces before the winter comes?"
The dark silent pioneer stroked his beard with his hand as he pondered
over the question.
"There is but one way," said he at last, "though even in it there is
danger. The woods are safer than the river, for the reeds are full of
_cached_ canoes. Five leagues from here is the blockhouse of Poitou,
and fifteen miles beyond, that of Auvergne. We will go to-morrow to
Poitou through the woods and see if all be safe. I will go with you,
and I give you my word that if the Iroquois are there, Greysolon du Lhut
will know it. The lady we shall leave here, and if we find that all is
safe we shall come back for her. Then in the same fashion we shall
advance to Auvergne, and there you must wait until you hear where their
war-parties are. It is in my mind that it will not be very long before
"What! You would part us!" cried Adele aghast.
"It is best, my sister," said Onega, passing her arm caressingly round
her. "You cannot know the danger, but we know it, and we will not let
our White Lily run into it. You will stay here to gladden us, while the
great chief Du Lhut, and the French soldier, your husband, and the old
warrior who seems so wary, and the other chief with limbs like the wild
deer, go forward through the woods and see that all is well before you
And so it was at last agreed, and Adele, still protesting, was consigned
to the care of the lady of Sainte Marie, while De Catinat swore that
without a pause he would return from Poitou to fetch her. The old
nobleman and his son would fain have joined them in their adventure, but
they had their own charge to watch and the lives of many in their
keeping, while a small party were safer in the woods than a larger one
would be. The seigneur provided them with a letter for De Lannes, the
governor of the Poitou blockhouse, and so in the early dawn the four of
them crept like shadows from the stockade-gate, amid the muttered good
wishes of the guard within, and were lost in an instant in the blackness
of the vast forest.
From La Noue to Poitou was but twelve miles down the river, but by the
woodland route where creeks were to be crossed, reed-girt lakes to be
avoided, and paths to be picked among swamps where the wild rice grew
higher than their heads, and the alder bushes lay in dense clumps before
them, the distance was more than doubled. They walked in single file,
Du Lhut leading, with the swift silent tread of some wild creature, his
body bent forward, his gun ready in the bend of his arm, and his keen
dark eyes shooting little glances to right and left, observing
everything from the tiniest mark upon the ground or tree trunk to the
motion of every beast and bird of the brushwood. De Catinat walked
behind, then Ephraim Savage, and then Amos, all with their weapons ready
and with every sense upon the alert. By midday they were more than
half-way, and halted in a thicket for a scanty meal of bread and cheese,
for De Lhut would not permit them to light a fire.
"They have not come as far as this," he whispered, "and yet I am sure
that they have crossed the river. Ah, Governor de la Barre did not know
what he did when he stirred these men up, and this good dragoon whom the
king has sent us now knows even less."
"I have seen them in peace," remarked Amos. "I have traded to Onondaga
and to the country of the Senecas. I know them as fine hunters and
"They are fine hunters, but the game that they hunt best are their
fellow-men. I have myself led their scalping parties, and I have fought
against them, and I tell you that when a general comes out from France
who hardly knows enough to get the sun behind him in a fight, he will
find that there is little credit to be gained from them. They talk of
burning their villages! It would be as wise to kick over the wasps'
nest, and think that you have done with the wasps. You are from New
"My comrade is from New England; I am from New York."
"Ah, yes. I could see from your step and your eye that the woods were
as a home to you. The New England man goes on the waters and he slays
the cod with more pleasure than the caribou. Perhaps that is why his
face is so sad. I have been on the great water, and I remember that my
face was sad also. There is little wind, and so I think that we may
light our pipes without danger. With a good breeze I have known a
burning pipe fetch up a scalping party from two miles' distance, but the
trees stop scent, and the Iroquois noses are less keen than the Sioux
and the Dacotah. God help you, monsieur, if you should ever have an
Indian war. It is bad for us, but it would be a thousand times worse
"Because we have fought the Indians from the first, and we have them
always in our mind when we build. You see how along this river every
house and every hamlet supports its neighbour? But you, by Saint Anne
of Beaupre, it made my scalp tingle when I came on your frontiers and
saw the lonely farm-houses and little clearings out in the woods with no
help for twenty leagues around. An Indian war is a purgatory for
Canada, but it would be a hell for the English Provinces!"
"We are good friends with the Indians," said Amos. "We do not wish to
"Your people have a way of conquering although they say that they do not
wish to do it," remarked Du Lhut. "Now, with us, we bang our drums, and
wave our flags, and make a stir, but no very big thing has come of it
yet. We have never had but two great men in Canada. One was Monsieur
de la Salle, who was shot last year by his own men down the great river,
and the other, old Frontenac, will have to come back again if New France
is not to be turned into a desert by the Five Nations. It would
surprise me little if by this time two years the white and gold flag
flew only over the rock of Quebec. But I see that you look at me
impatiently, Monsieur de Catinat, and I know that you count the hours
until we are back at Sainte Marie again. Forward, then, and may the
second part of our journey be as peaceful as the first."
For an hour or more they picked their way through the woods, following
in the steps of the old French pioneer. It was a lovely day with hardly
a cloud in the heavens, and the sun streaming down through the thick
foliage covered the shaded sward with a delicate network of gold.
Sometimes where the woods opened they came out into the pure sunlight,
but only to pass into thick glades beyond, where a single ray, here and
there, was all that could break its way through the vast leafy covering.
It would have been beautiful, these sudden transitions from light to
shade, but with the feeling of impending danger, and of a horror ever
lurking in these shadows, the mind was tinged with awe rather than
admiration. Silently, lightly, the four men picked their steps among
the great tree trunks.
Suddenly Du Lhut dropped upon his knees and stooped his ear to the
ground. He rose, shook his head, and walked on with a grave face,
casting quick little glances into the shadows in every direction.
"Did you hear something?" whispered Amos.
Du Lhut put his finger to his lips, and then in an instant was down
again upon his face with his ear fixed to the ground. He sprang up with
the look of a man who has heard what he expected to hear.
"Walk on," said he quietly, "and behave exactly as you have done all
"What is it, then?"
"In front of us?"
"No, behind us."
"What are they doing?"
"They are following us."
"How many of them?"
"Two, I think."
The friends glanced back involuntarily over their shoulders into the
dense blackness of the forest. At one point a single broad shaft of
light slid down between two pines and cast a golden blotch upon their
track. Save for this one vivid spot all was sombre and silent.
"Do not look round," whispered Du Lhut sharply. "Walk on as before."
"Are they enemies?"
"They are Iroquois."
"And pursuing us?"
"No, we are now pursuing them."
"Shall we turn, then?"
"No, they would vanish like shadows,"
"How far off are they?"
"About two hundred paces, I think."
"They cannot see us, then?"
"I think not, but I cannot be sure. They are following our trail, I
"What shall we do, then?"
"Let us make a circle and get behind them."
Turning sharp to the left he led them in a long curve through the woods,
hurrying swiftly and yet silently under the darkest shadows of the
trees. Then he turned again, and presently halted.
"This is our own track," said he.
"Ay, and two Redskins have passed over it," cried Amos, bending down,
and pointing to marks which were entirely invisible to Ephraim Savage or
"A full-grown warrior and a lad on his first warpath," said Du Lhut.
"They were moving fast, you see, for you can hardly see the heel marks
of their moccasins. They walked one behind the other. Now let us
follow them as they followed us, and see if we have better luck."
He sped swiftly along the trail with his musket cocked in his hand, the
others following hard upon his heels, but there was no sound, and no
sign of life from the shadowy woods in front of them. Suddenly Du Lhut
stopped and grounded his weapon.
"They are still behind us," he said.
"Still behind us?"
"Yes. This is the point where we branched off. They have hesitated a
moment, as you can see by their footmarks, and then they have followed
"If we go round again and quicken our pace we may overtake them."
"No, they are on their guard now. They must know that it could only be
on their account that we went back on our tracks. Lie here behind the
fallen log and we shall see if we can catch a glimpse of them."
A great rotten trunk, all green with mould and blotched with pink and
purple fungi, lay to one side of where they stood. Behind this the
Frenchman crouched, and his three companions followed his example,
peering through the brushwood screen in front of them. Still the one
broad sheet of sunshine poured down between the two pines, but all else
was as dim and as silent as a vast cathedral with pillars of wood and
roof of leaf. Not a branch that creaked, nor a twig that snapped, nor
any sound at all save the sharp barking of a fox somewhere in the heart
of the forest. A thrill of excitement ran through the nerves of De
Catinat. It was like one of those games of hide-and-seek which the
court used to play, when Louis was in a sportive mood, among the oaks
and yew hedges of Versailles. But the forfeit there was a carved fan,
or a box of bonbons, and here it was death.
Ten minutes passed and there was no sign of any living thing behind
"They are over in yonder thicket," whispered Du Lhut, nodding his head
towards a dense clump of brushwood, two hundred paces away.
"Have you seen them?"
"How do you know, then?"
"I saw a squirrel come from his hole in the great white beech-tree
yonder. He scuttled back again as if something had scared him.
From his hole he can see down into that brushwood."
"Do you think that they know that we are here?"
"They cannot see us. But they are suspicious. They fear a trap."
"Shall we rush for the brushwood?"
"They would pick two of us off, and be gone like shadows through the
woods. No, we had best go on our way."
"But they will follow us."
"I hardly think that they will. We are four and they are only two, and
they know now that we are on our guard and that we can pick up a trail
as quickly as they can themselves. Get behind these trunks where they
cannot see us. So! Now stoop until you are past the belt of alder
bushes. We must push on fast now, for where there are two Iroquois
there are likely to be two hundred not very far off."
"Thank God that I did not bring Adele!" cried De Catinat.
"Yes, monsieur, it is well for a man to make a comrade of his wife, but
not on the borders of the Iroquois country, nor of any other Indian
"You do not take your own wife with you when you travel, then?" asked
"Yes, but I do not let her travel from village to village. She remains
in the wigwam."
"Then you leave her behind?"
"On the contrary, she is always there to welcome me. By Saint Anne, I
should be heavy-hearted if I came to any village between this and the
Bluffs of the Illinois, and did not find my wife waiting to greet me."
"Then she must travel before you."
Du Lhut laughed heartily, without, however, emitting a sound.
"A fresh village, a fresh wife," said he. "But I never have more than
one in each, for it is a shame for a Frenchman to set an evil example
when the good fathers are spending their lives so freely in preaching
virtue to them. Ah, here is the Ajidaumo Creek, where the Indians set
the sturgeon nets. It is still seven miles to Poitou."
"We shall be there before nightfall, then?"
"I think that we had best wait for nightfall before we make our way in.
Since the Iroquois scouts are out as far as this, it is likely that they
lie thick round Poitou, and we may find the last step the worst unless
we have a care, the more so if these two get in front of us to warn the
others." He paused a moment with slanting head and sidelong ear.
"By Saint Anne," he muttered, "we have not shaken them off. They are
still upon our trail!"
"You hear them?"
"Yes, they are no great way from us. They will find that they have
followed us once too often this time. Now, I will show you a little bit
of woodcraft which may be new to you. Slip off your moccasins,
De Catinat pulled off his shoes as directed, and Du Lhut did the same.
"Put them on as if they were gloves," said the pioneer, and an instant
later Ephraim Savage and Amos had their comrades' shoes upon their
"You can sling your muskets over your back. So! Now down on all fours,
bending yourselves double, with your hands pressing hard upon the earth.
That is excellent. Two men can leave the trail of four! Now come with
He flitted from tree to tree on a line which was parallel to, but a few
yards distant from, that of their comrades. Then suddenly he crouched
behind a bush and pulled De Catinat down beside him.
"They must pass us in a few minutes," he whispered. "Do not fire if you
can help it." Something gleamed in Du Lhut's hand, and his comrade,
glancing down, saw that he had drawn a keen little tomahawk from his
belt. Again the mad wild thrill ran through the soldier's blood, as he
peered through the tangled branches and waited for whatever might come
out of the dim silent aisles of tree-boles.
And suddenly he saw something move. It flitted like a shadow from one
trunk to the other so swiftly that De Catinat could not have told
whether it were beast or human. And then again he saw it, and yet
again, sometimes one shadow, sometimes two shadows, silent, furtive,
like the _loup-garou_ with which his nurse had scared him in his
childhood. Then for a few moments all was still once more, and then in
an instant there crept out from among the bushes the most
terrible-looking creature that ever walked the earth, an Iroquois chief
upon the war-trail.
He was a tall powerful man, and his bristle of scalp-locks and eagle
feathers made him look a giant in the dim light, for a good eight feet
lay between his beaded moccasin and the topmost plume of his headgear.
One side of his face was painted in soot, ochre, and vermilion to
resemble a dog, and the other half as a fowl, so that the front view was
indescribably grotesque and strange. A belt of wampum was braced round
his loin-cloth, and a dozen scalp-locks fluttered out as he moved from
the fringe of his leggings. His head was sunk forward, his eyes gleamed
with a sinister light, and his nostrils dilated and contracted like
those of an excited animal. His gun was thrown forward, and he crept
along with bended knees, peering, listening, pausing, hurrying on, a
breathing image of caution. Two paces behind him walked a lad of
fourteen, clad and armed in the same fashion, but without the painted
face and without the horrid dried trophies upon the leggings. It was
his first campaign, and already his eyes shone and his nostrils twitched
with the same lust for murder which burned within his elder. So they
advanced, silent, terrible, creeping out of the shadows of the wood, as
their race had come out of the shadows of history, with bodies of iron
and tiger souls.
They were just abreast of the bush when something caught the eye of the
younger warrior, some displaced twig or fluttering leaf, and he paused
with suspicion in every feature. Another instant and he had warned his
companion, but Du Lhut sprang out and buried his little hatchet in the
skull of the older warrior. De Catinat heard a dull crash, as when an
axe splinters its way into a rotten tree, and the man fell like a log,
laughing horribly, and kicking and striking with his powerful limbs.
The younger warrior sprang like a deer over his fallen comrade and
dashed on into the wood, but an instant later there was a gunshot among
the trees in front, followed by a faint wailing cry.
"That is his death-whoop," said Du Lhut composedly. "It was a pity to
fire, and yet it was better than letting him go."
As he spoke the two others came back, Ephraim ramming a fresh charge
into his musket.
"Who was laughing?" asked Amos.
"It was he," said Du Lhut, nodding towards the dying warrior, who lay
with his head in a horrible puddle, and his grotesque features contorted
into a fixed smile. "It's a custom they have when they get their
death-blow. I've known a Seneca chief laugh for six hours on end at the
torture-stake. Ah, he's gone!"
As he spoke the Indian gave a last spasm with his hands and feet, and
lay rigid, grinning up at the slit of blue sky above him.
"He's a great chief," said Du Lhut. "He is Brown Moose of the Mohawks,
and the other is his second son. We have drawn first blood, but I do
not think that it will be the last, for the Iroquois do not allow their
war-chiefs to die unavenged. He was a mighty fighter, as you may see by
looking at his neck."
He wore a peculiar necklace which seemed to De Catinat to consist of
blackened bean pods set upon a string. As he stooped over it he saw to
his horror that they were not bean pods, but withered human fingers.
"They are all right fore-fingers," said Du Lhut, "so everyone represents
a life. There are forty-two in all. Eighteen are of men whom he has
slain in battle, and the other twenty-four have been taken and
"How do you know that?"
"Because only eighteen have their nails on. If the prisoner of an
Iroquois be alive, he begins always by biting his nails off. You see
that they are missing from four-and-twenty."
De Catinat shuddered. What demons were these amongst whom an evil fate
had drifted him? And was it possible that his Adele should fall into
the hands of such fiends? No, no, surely the good God, for whose sake
they had suffered so much, would not permit such an infamy! And yet as
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