Arthur Conan Doyle
Part 7 out of 8
evil a fate had come upon other women as tender as Adele--upon other men
as loving as he. What hamlet was there in Canada which had not such
stories in their record? A vague horror seized him as he stood there.
We know more of the future than we are willing to admit, away down in
those dim recesses of the soul where there is no reason, but only
instincts and impressions. Now some impending terror cast its cloud
over him. The trees around, with their great protruding limbs, were
like shadowy demons thrusting out their gaunt arms to seize him.
The sweat burst from his forehead, and he leaned heavily upon his
"By Saint Eulalie," said Du Lhut, "for an old soldier you turn very
pale, monsieur, at a little bloodshed."
"I am not well. I should be glad of a sup from your cognac bottle."
"Here it is, comrade, and welcome! Well, I may as well have this fine
scalp that we may have something to show for our walk." He held the
Indian's head between his knees, and in an instant, with a sweep of his
knife, had torn off the hideous dripping trophy.
"Let us go!" cried De Catinat, turning away in disgust.
"Yes, we shall go! But I shall also have this wampum belt marked with
the totem of the Bear. So! And the gun too. Look at the 'London'
printed upon the lock. Ah, Monsieur Green, Monsieur Green, it is not
hard to see where the enemies of France get their arms."
So at last they turned away, Du Lhut bearing his spoils, leaving the red
grinning figure stretched under the silent trees. As they passed on
they caught a glimpse of the lad lying doubled up among the bushes where
he had fallen. The pioneer walked very swiftly until he came to a
little stream which prattled down to the big river. Here he slipped off
his boots and leggings, and waded down it with his companions for half a
mile or so.
"They will follow our tracks when they find him," said he, "but this
will throw them off, for it is only on running water that an Iroquois
can find no trace. And now we shall lie in this clump until nightfall,
for we are little over a mile from Port Poitou, and it is dangerous to
go forward, for the ground becomes more open."
And so they remained concealed among the alders whilst the shadows
turned from short to long, and the white drifting clouds above them were
tinged with the pink of the setting sun. Du Lhut coiled himself into a
ball with his pipe between his teeth and dropped into a light sleep,
pricking up his ears and starting at the slightest sound from the woods
around them. The two Americans whispered together for a long time,
Ephraim telling some long story about the cruise of the brig _Industry_,
bound to Jamestown for sugar and molasses, but at last the soothing hum
of a gentle breeze through the branches lulled them off also, and they
slept. De Catinat alone remained awake, his nerves still in a tingle
from that strange sudden shadow which had fallen upon his soul. What
could it mean? Not surely that Adele was in danger? He had heard of
such warnings, but had he not left her in safety behind cannons and
stockades? By the next evening at latest he would see her again. As he
lay looking up through the tangle of copper leaves at the sky beyond,
his mind drifted like the clouds above him, and he was back once more in
the jutting window in the Rue St. Martin, sitting on the broad _bancal_,
with its Spanish leather covering, with the gilt wool-bale creaking
outside, and his arm round shrinking, timid Adele, she who had compared
herself to a little mouse in an old house, and who yet had courage to
stay by his side through all this wild journey. And then again he was
back at Versailles. Once more he saw the brown eyes of the king, the
fair bold face of De Montespan, the serene features of De Maintenon--
once more he rode on his midnight mission, was driven by the demon
coachman, and sprang with Amos upon the scaffold to rescue the most
beautiful woman in France. So clear it was and so vivid that it was
with a start that he came suddenly to himself, and found that the night
was creeping on in an American forest, and that Du Lhut had roused
himself and was ready for a start.
"Have you been awake?" asked the pioneer.
"Have you heard anything?"
"Nothing but the hooting of the owl."
"It seemed to me that in my sleep I heard a gunshot in the distance."
"In your sleep?"
"Yes, I hear as well asleep as awake and remember what I hear. But now
you must follow me close, and we shall be in the fort soon."
"You have wonderful ears, indeed," said De Catinat, as they picked their
way through the tangled wood. "How could you hear that these men were
following us to-day? I could make out no sound when they were within
hand-touch of us."
"I did not hear them at first."
"You saw them?"
"No, nor that either."
"Then how could you know that they were there?"
"I heard a frightened jay flutter among the trees after we were past it.
Then ten minutes later I heard the same thing. I knew then that there
was some one on our trail, and I listened."
"_Peste!_ you are a woodsman indeed!"
"I believe that these woods are swarming with Iroquois, although we have
had the good fortune to miss them. So great a chief as Brown Moose
would not start on the path with a small following nor for a small
object. They must mean mischief upon the Richelieu. You are not sorry
now that you did not bring madame?"
"I thank God for it!"
"The woods will not be safe, I fear, until the partridge berries are out
once more. You must stay at Sainte Marie until then, unless the
seigneur can spare men to guard you."
"I had rather stay there forever than expose my wife to such devils."
"Ay, devils they are, if ever devils walked upon earth. You winced,
monsieur, when I took Brown Moose's scalp, but when you have seen as
much of the Indians as I have done your heart will be as hardened as
mine. And now we are on the very borders of the clearing, and the
blockhouse lies yonder among the clump of maples. They do not keep very
good watch, for I have been expecting during these last ten minutes to
hear the _qui vive_. You did not come as near to Sainte Marie
unchallenged, and yet De Lannes is as old a soldier as La Noue. We can
scarce see now, but yonder, near the river, is where he exercises his
"He does so now," said Amos. "I see a dozen of them drawn up in a line
at their drill."
"No sentinels, and all the men at drill!" cried Du Lhut in contempt.
"It is as you say, however, for I can see them myself with their ranks
open, and each as stiff and straight as a pine stump. One would think
to see them stand so still that there was not an Indian nearer than
Orange. We shall go across to them, and by Saint Anne, I shall tell
their commander what I think of his arrangements."
Du Lhut advanced from the bushes as he spoke, and the four men crossed
the open ground in the direction of the line of men who waited silently
for them in the dim twilight. They were within fifty paces, and yet
none of them had raised hand or voice to challenge their approach.
There was something uncanny in the silence, and a change came over Du
Lhut's face as he peered in front of him. He craned his head round and
looked up the river.
"My God!" he screamed. "Look at the fort!" They had cleared the clump
of trees, and the outline of the blockhouse should have shown up in
front of them. There was no sign of it. It was gone!
THE MEN OF BLOOD.
So unexpected was the blow that even De Lhut, hardened from his
childhood to every shock and danger, stood shaken and dismayed.
Then, with an oath, he ran at the top of his speed towards the line of
figures, his companions following at his heels.
As they drew nearer they could see through the dusk that it was not
indeed a line. A silent and motionless officer stood out some twenty
paces in front of his silent and motionless men. Further, they could
see that he wore a very high and singular head-dress. They were still
rushing forward, breathless with apprehension, when to their horror this
head-dress began to lengthen and broaden, and a great bird flapped
heavily up and dropped down again on the nearest tree-trunk. Then they
knew that their worst fears were true, and that it was the garrison of
Poitou which stood before them.
They were lashed to low posts with willow withies, some twenty of them,
naked all, and twisted and screwed into every strange shape which an
agonised body could assume. In front where the buzzard had perched was
the gray-headed commandant, with two cinders thrust into his sockets and
his flesh hanging from him like a beggar's rags. Behind was the line of
men, each with his legs charred off to the knees, and his body so
haggled and scorched and burst that the willow bands alone seemed to
hold it together. For a moment the four comrades stared in silent
horror at the dreadful group. Then each acted as his nature bade him.
De Catinat staggered up against a tree-trunk and leaned his head upon
his arm, deadly sick. Du Lhut fell down upon his knees and said
something to heaven, with his two clenched hands shaking up at the
darkening sky. Ephraim Savage examined the priming of his gun with a
tightened lip and a gleaming eye, while Amos Green, without a word,
began to cast round in circles in search of a trail.
But Du Lhut was on his feet again in a moment, and running up and down
like a sleuth-hound, noting a hundred things which even Amos would have
overlooked. He circled round the bodies again and again. Then he ran a
little way towards the edge of the woods, and then came back to the
charred ruins of the blockhouse, from some of which a thin reek of smoke
was still rising.
"There is no sign of the women and children," said he.
"My God! There were women and children?"
"They are keeping the children to burn at their leisure in their
villages. The women they may torture or may adopt as the humour takes
them. But what does the old man want?"
"I want you to ask him, Amos," said the seaman, "why we are yawing and
tacking here when we should be cracking on all sail to stand after
Du Lhut smiled and shook his head. "Your friend is a brave man," said
he, "if he thinks that with four men we can follow a hundred and fifty."
"Tell him, Amos, that the Lord will bear us up," said the other
excitedly. "Say that He will be with us against the children of
Jeroboam, and we will cut them off utterly, and they shall be destroyed.
What is the French for 'slay and spare not'? I had as soon go about
with my jaw braced up, as with folk who cannot understand a plain
But Du Lhut waved aside the seaman's suggestions. "We must have a care
now," said he, "or we shall lose our own scalps, and be the cause of
those at Sainte Marie losing theirs as well."
"Sainte Marie!" cried De Catinat. "Is there then danger at Sainte
"Ay, they are in the wolf's mouth now. This business was done last
night. The place was stormed by a war-party of a hundred and fifty men.
This morning they left and went north upon foot. They have been
_cached_ among the woods all day between Poitou and Sainte Marie."
"Then we have come through them?"
"Yes, we have come through them. They would keep their camp to-day and
send out scouts. Brown Moose and his son were among them and struck our
"To-night they will attack Sainte Marie?"
"It is possible. And yet with so small a party I should scarce have
thought that they would have dared. Well, we can but hasten back as
quickly as we can, and give them warning of what is hanging over them."
And so they turned for their weary backward journey, though their minds
were too full to spare a thought upon the leagues which lay behind them
or those which were before. Old Ephraim, less accustomed to walking
than his younger comrades, was already limping and footsore, but, for
all his age, he was as tough as hickory, and full of endurance. Du Lhut
took the lead again and they turned their faces once more towards the
The moon was shining brightly in the sky, but it was little aid to the
travellers in the depths of the forest. Where it had been shadowy in
the daytime it was now so absolutely dark that De Catinat could not see
the tree-trunks against which he brushed. Here and there they came upon
an open glade bathed in the moonshine, or perhaps a thin shaft of silver
light broke through between the branches, and cast a great white patch
upon the ground, but Du Lhut preferred to avoid these more open spaces,
and to skirt the glades rather than to cross them. The breeze had
freshened a little, and the whole air was filled with the rustle and
sough of the leaves. Save for this dull never-ceasing sound all would
have been silent had not the owl hooted sometimes from among the
tree-tops, and the night-jar whirred above their heads.
Dark as it was, Du Lhut walked as swiftly as during the sunlight, and
never hesitated about the track. His comrades could see, however, that
he was taking them a different way to that which they had gone in the
morning, for twice they caught a sight of the glimmer of the broad river
upon their left, while before they had only seen the streams which
flowed into it. On the second occasion he pointed to where, on the
farther side, they could see dark shadows flitting over the water.
"Iroquois canoes," he whispered. "There are ten of them with eight men
in each. They are another party, and they are also going north."
"How do you know that they are another party?"
"Because we have crossed the trail of the first within the hour."
De Catinat was filled with amazement at this marvellous man who could
hear in his sleep and could detect a trail when the very tree-trunks
were invisible to ordinary eyes. Du Lhut halted a little to watch the
canoes, and then turned his back to the river, and plunged into the
woods once more. They had gone a mile or two when suddenly he came to a
dead stop, snuffing at the air like a hound on a scent.
"I smell burning wood," said he. "There is a fire within a mile of us
in that direction."
"I smell it too," said Amos. "Let us creep up that way and see their
"Be careful, then," whispered Du Lhut, "for your lives may hang from a
They advanced very slowly and cautiously until suddenly the red flare of
a leaping fire twinkled between the distant trunks. Still slipping
through the brushwood, they worked round until they had found a point
from which they could see without a risk of being seen.
A great blaze of dry logs crackled and spurtled in the centre of a small
clearing. The ruddy flames roared upwards, and the smoke spread out
above it until it looked like a strange tree with gray foliage and trunk
of fire. But no living being was in sight and the huge fire roared and
swayed in absolute solitude in the midst of the silent woodlands.
Nearer they crept and nearer, but there was no movement save the rush of
the flames, and no sound but the snapping of the sticks.
"Shall we go up to it?" whispered De Catinat. The wary old pioneer
shook his head. "It may be a trap," said he.
"Or an abandoned camp?"
"No, it has not been lit more than an hour."
"Besides, it is far too great for a camp fire," said Amos.
"What do you make of it?" asked Du Lhut.
"Yes, I daresay that you are right. This light is not a safe neighbour,
so we shall edge away from it and then make a straight line for Sainte
The flames were soon but a twinkling point behind them, and at last
vanished behind the trees. Du Lhut pushed on rapidly until they came to
the edge of a moonlit clearing. He was about to skirt this, as he had
done others, when suddenly he caught De Catinat by the shoulder and
pushed him down behind a clump of sumach, while Amos did the same with
A man was walking down the other side of the open space. He had just
emerged, and was crossing it diagonally, making in the direction of the
river. His body was bent double, but as he came out from the shadow of
the trees they could see that he was an Indian brave in full war-paint,
with leggings, loin-cloth, and musket. Close at his heels came a
second, and then a third and a fourth, on and on until it seemed as if
the wood were full of men, and that the line would never come to an end.
They flitted past like shadows in the moonlight, in absolute silence,
all crouching and running in the same swift stealthy fashion. Last of
all came a man in the fringed tunic of a hunter, with a cap and feather
upon his head. He passed across like the others, and they vanished into
the shadows as silently as they had appeared. It was five minutes
before Du Lhut thought it safe to rise from their shelter.
"By Saint Anne," he whispered, "did you count them?"
"Three hundred and ninety-six," said Amos.
"I made it four hundred and two."
"And you thought that there were only a hundred and fifty of them!"
cried De Catinat.
"Ah, you do not understand. This is a fresh band. The others who took
the blockhouse must be over there, for their trail lies between us and
"They could not be the same," said Amos, "for there was not a fresh
scalp among them."
Du Lhut gave the young hunter a glance of approval. "On my word," said
he, "I did not know that your woodsmen are as good as they seem to be.
You have eyes, monsieur, and it may please you some day to remember that
Greysolon du Lhut told you so."
Amos felt a flush of pride at these words from a man whose name was
honoured wherever trader or trapper smoked round a camp fire. He was
about to make some answer when a dreadful cry broke suddenly out of the
woods, a horrible screech, as from some one who was goaded to the very
last pitch of human misery. Again and again, as they stood with
blanched cheeks in the darkness, they heard that awful cry swelling up
from the night and ringing drearily through the forest.
"They are torturing the women," said Du Lhut.
"Their camp lies over there."
"Can we do nothing to aid them?" cried Amos.
"Ay, ay, lad," said the captain in English. "We can't pass distress
signals without going out of our course. Let us put about and run down
"In that camp," said Du Lhut slowly, "there are now nearly six hundred
warriors. We are four. What you say has no sense. Unless we warn them
at Sainte Marie, these devils will lay some trap for them. Their
parties are assembling by land and by water, and there may be a thousand
before daybreak. Our duty is to push on and give our warning."
"He speaks the truth," said Amos to Ephraim. "Nay, but you must not go
alone!" He seized the stout old seaman by the arm and held him by main
force to prevent him from breaking off through the woods.
"There is one thing which we can do to spoil their night's amusement,"
said Du Lhut. "The woods are as dry as powder, and there has been no
drop of rain for a long three months."
"And the wind blows straight for their camp, with the river on the other
side of it."
"We should fire the woods!"
"We cannot do better."
In an instant Du Lhut had scraped together a little bundle of dry twigs,
and had heaped them up against a withered beech tree which was as dry as
tinder. A stroke of flint and steel was enough to start a little
smoulder of flame, which lengthened and spread until it was leaping
along the white strips of hanging bark. A quarter of a mile farther on
Du Lhut did the same again, and once more beyond that, until at three
different points the forest was in a blaze. As they hurried onwards
they could hear the dull roaring of the flames behind them, and at last,
as they neared Sainte Marie, they could see, looking back, the long
rolling wave of fire travelling ever westward towards the Richelieu, and
flashing up into great spouts of flame as it licked up a clump of pines
as if it were a bundle of faggots. Du Lhut chuckled in his silent way
as he looked back at the long orange glare in the sky.
"They will need to swim for it, some of them," said he. "They have not
canoes to take them all off. Ah, if I had but two hundred of my
_coureurs-de-bois_ on the river at the farther side of them not one
would have got away."
"They had one who was dressed like a white man," remarked Amos.
"Ay, and the most deadly of the lot. His father was a Dutch trader, his
mother an Iroquois, and he goes by the name of the Flemish Bastard. Ah,
I know him well, and I tell you that if they want a king in hell, they
will find one all ready in his wigwam. By Saint Anne, I have a score to
settle with him, and I may pay it before this business is over.
Well, there are the lights of Sainte Marie shining down below there.
I can understand that sigh of relief, monsieur, for, on my word, after
what we found at Poitou, I was uneasy myself until I should see them."
THE TAPPING OF DEATH.
Day was just breaking as the four comrades entered the gate of the
stockade, but early as it was the _censitaires_ and their families were
all afoot staring at the prodigious fire which raged to the south of
them. De Catinat burst through the throng and rushed upstairs to Adele,
who had herself flown down to meet him, so that they met in each other's
arms half-way up the great stone staircase with a burst of those little
inarticulate cries which are the true unwritten language of love.
Together, with his arm round her, they ascended to the great hall where
old De la Noue with his son were peering out of the window at the
"Ah, monsieur," said the old nobleman, with his courtly bow, "I am
indeed rejoiced to see you safe under my roof again, not only for your
own sake, but for that of madame's eyes, which, if she will permit an
old man to say so, are much too pretty to spoil by straining them all
day in the hopes of seeing some one coming out of the forest. You have
done forty miles, Monsieur de Catinat, and are doubtless hungry and
weary. When you are yourself again I must claim my revenge in piquet,
for the cards lay against me the other night."
But Du Lhut had entered at De Catinat's heels with his tidings of
"You will have another game to play, Monsieur de Sainte-Marie," said he.
"There are six hundred Iroquois in the woods and they are preparing to
"Tut, tut, we cannot allow our arrangements to be altered by a handful
of savages," said the seigneur. "I must apologise to you, my dear De
Catinat, that you should be annoyed by such people while you are upon my
estate. As regards the piquet, I cannot but think that your play from
king and knave is more brilliant than safe. Now when I played piquet
last with De Lannes of Poitou--"
"De Lannes of Poitou is dead, and all his people," said Du Lhut.
"The blockhouse is a heap of smoking ashes."
The seigneur raised his eyebrows and took a pinch of snuff, tapping the
lid of his little round gold box.
"I always told him that his fort would be taken unless he cleared away
those maple trees which grew up to the very walls. They are all dead,
"And the fort burned?"
"Not a stick was left standing."
"Have you seen these rascals?"
"We saw the trail of a hundred and fifty. Then there were a hundred in
canoes, and a war-party of four hundred passed us under the Flemish
Bastard. Their camp is five miles down the river, and there cannot be
less than six hundred."
"You were fortunate in escaping them."
"But they were not so fortunate in escaping us. We killed Brown Moose
and his son, and we fired the woods so as to drive them out of their
"Excellent! Excellent!" said the seigneur, clapping gently with his
dainty hands. "You have done very well indeed, Du Lhut! You are, I
presume, very tired?"
"I am not often tired. I am quite ready to do the journey again."
"Then perhaps you would pick a few men and go back into the woods to
see what these villains are doing?"
"I shall be ready in five minutes."
"Perhaps you would like to go also, Achille?" His son's dark eyes and
Indian face lit up with a fierce joy.
"Yes, I shall go also," he answered.
"Very good, and we shall make all ready in your absence. Madame, you
will excuse these little annoyances which mar the pleasure of your
visit. Next time that you do me the honour to come here I trust that we
shall have cleared all these vermin from my estate. We have our
advantages. The Richelieu is a better fish pond, and these forests are
a finer deer preserve than any of which the king can boast. But on the
other hand we have, as you see, our little troubles. You will excuse me
now, as there are one or two things which demand my attention.
De Catinat, you are a tried soldier and I should be glad of your advice.
Onega, give me my lace handkerchief and my cane of clouded amber, and
take care of madame until her husband and I return."
It was bright daylight now, and the square enclosure within the stockade
was filled with an anxious crowd who had just learned the evil tidings.
Most of the _censitaires_ were old soldiers and trappers who had served
in many Indian wars, and whose swarthy faces and bold bearing told their
own story. They were sons of a race which with better fortune or with
worse has burned more powder than any other nation upon earth, and as
they stood in little groups discussing the situation and examining their
arms, a leader could have asked for no more hardy or more war-like
following. The women, however, pale and breathless, were hurrying in
from the outlying cottages, dragging their children with them, and
bearing over their shoulders the more precious of their household goods.
The confusion, the hurry, the cries of the children, the throwing down
of bundles and the rushing back for more, contrasted sharply with the
quiet and the beauty of the woods which encircled them, all bathed in
the bright morning sunlight. It was strange to look upon the fairy
loveliness of their many-tinted foliage, and to know that the spirit of
murder and cruelty was roaming unchained behind that lovely screen.
The scouting party under Du Lhut and Achille de la Noue had already
left, and at the order of the seigneur the two gates were now secured
with huge bars of oak fitted into iron staples on either side.
The children were placed in the lower store-room with a few women to
watch them, while the others were told off to attend to the fire
buckets, and to reload the muskets. The men had been paraded, fifty-two
of them in all, and they were divided into parties now for the defence
of each part of the stockade. On one side it had been built up to
within a few yards of the river, which not only relieved them from the
defence of that face, but enabled them to get fresh water by throwing a
bucket at the end of a rope from the stockade. The boats and canoes of
Sainte Marie were drawn up on the bank just under the wall, and were
precious now as offering a last means of escape should all else fail.
The next fort, St. Louis, was but a few leagues up the river, and De la
Noue had already sent a swift messenger to them with news of the danger.
At least it would be a point on which they might retreat should the
worst come to the worst. And that the worst might come to the worst was
very evident to so experienced a woodsman as Amos Green. He had left
Ephraim Savage snoring in a deep sleep upon the floor, and was now
walking round the defences with his pipe in his mouth, examining with a
critical eye every detail in connection with them. The stockade was
very strong, nine feet high and closely built of oak stakes which were
thick enough to turn a bullet. Half-way up it was loop-holed in long
narrow slits for the fire of the defenders. But on the other hand the
trees grew up to within a hundred yards of it, and formed a screen for
the attack, while the garrison was so scanty that it could not spare
more than twenty men at the utmost for each face. Amos knew how daring
and dashing were the Iroquois warriors, how cunning and fertile of
resource, and his face darkened as he thought of the young wife who had
come so far in their safe-keeping, and of the women and children whom he
had seen crowding into the fort.
"Would it not be better if you could send them up the river?" he
suggested to the seigneur.
"I should very gladly do so, monsieur, and perhaps if we are all alive
we may manage it to-night if the weather should be cloudy. But I cannot
spare the men to guard them, and I cannot send them without a guard when
we know that Iroquois canoes are on the river and their scouts are
swarming on the banks."
"You are right. It would be madness."
"I have stationed you on this eastern face with your friends and with
fifteen men. Monsieur de Catinat, will you command the party?"
"I will take the south face as it seems to be the point of danger.
Du Lhut can take the north, and five men should be enough to watch the
"Have we food and powder?"
"I have flour and smoked eels enough to see this matter through.
Poor fare, my dear sir, but I daresay you learned in Holland that a cup
of ditch water after a brush may have a better smack than the
blue-sealed Frontiniac which you helped me to finish the other night.
As to powder, we have all our trading stores to draw upon."
"We have not time to clear any of these trees?" asked the soldier.
"Impossible. They would make better shelter down than up."
"But at least I might clear that patch of brushwood round the birch
sapling which lies between the east face and the edge of the forest.
It is good cover for their skirmishers."
"Yes, that should be fired without delay."
"Nay, I think that I might do better," said Amos. "We might bait a trap
for them there. Where is this powder of which you spoke?"
"Theuriet, the major-domo, is giving out powder in the main
"Very good." Amos vanished upstairs, and returned with a large linen bag
in his hand. This he filled with powder, and then, slinging it over his
shoulder, he carried it out to the clump of bushes and placed it at the
base of the sapling, cutting a strip out of the bark immediately above
the spot. Then with a few leafy branches and fallen leaves he covered
the powder bag very carefully over so that it looked like a little
hillock of earth. Having arranged all to his satisfaction he returned,
clambering over the stockade, and dropping down upon the other side.
"I think that we are all ready for them now," said the seigneur.
"I would that the women and children were in a safe place, but we may
send them down the river to-night if all goes well. Has anyone heard
anything of Du Lhut?"
"Jean has the best ears of any of us, your excellency," said one man
from beside the brass corner cannon. "He thought that he heard shots a
few minutes ago."
"Then he has come into touch with them. Etienne, take ten men and go to
the withered oak to cover them if they are retreating, but do not go
another yard on any pretext. I am too short-handed already. Perhaps,
De Catinat, you wish to sleep?"
"No, I could not sleep."
"We can do no more down here. What do you say to a round or two of
piquet? A little turn of the cards will help us to pass the time."
They ascended to the upper hall, where Adele came and sat by her
husband, while the swarthy Onega crouched by the window looking keenly
out into the forest. De Catinat had little thought to spare upon the
cards, as his mind wandered to the danger which threatened them and to
the woman whose hand rested upon his own. The old nobleman, on the
other hand, was engrossed by the play, and cursed under his breath, or
chuckled and grinned as the luck swayed one way or the other. Suddenly
as they played there came two sharp raps from without.
"Some one is tapping," cried Adele.
"It is death that is tapping," said the Indian woman at the window.
"Ay, ay, it was the patter of two spent balls against the woodwork.
The wind is against our hearing the report. The cards are shuffled.
It is my cut and your deal. The capot, I think, was mine."
"Men are rushing from the woods," cried Onega.
"Tut! It grows serious!" said the nobleman. "We can finish the game
later. Remember that the deal lies with you. Let us see what it all
De Catinat had already rushed to the window. Du Lhut, young Achille de
la Noue, and eight of the covering party were running with their heads
bent towards the stockade, the door of which had been opened to admit
them. Here and there from behind the trees came little blue puffs of
smoke, and one of the fugitives who wore white calico breeches began
suddenly to hop instead of running and a red splotch showed upon the
white cloth. Two others threw their arms round him and the three rushed
in abreast while the gate swung into its place behind them. An instant
later the brass cannon at the corner gave a flash and a roar while the
whole outline of the wood was traced in a rolling cloud, and the shower
of bullets rapped up against the wooden wall like sleet on a window.
THE TAKING OF THE STOCKADE.
Having left Adele to the care of her Indian hostess, and warned her for
her life to keep from the windows, De Catinat seized his musket and
rushed downstairs. As he passed a bullet came piping through one of the
narrow embrasures and starred itself in a little blotch of lead upon the
opposite wall. The seigneur had already descended and was conversing
with Du Lhut beside the door.
"A thousand of them, you say?"
"Yes, we came on a fresh trail of a large war-party, three hundred at
the least. They are all Mohawks and Cayugas with a sprinkling of
Oneidas. We had a running fight for a few miles, and we have lost five
"All dead, I trust."
"I hope so, but we were hard pressed to keep from being cut off.
Jean Mance is shot through the leg."
"I saw that he was hit."
"We had best have all ready to retire to the house if they carry the
stockade. We can scarce hope to hold it when they are twenty to one."
"All is ready."
"And with our cannon we can keep their canoes from passing, so we might
send our women away to-night."
"I had intended to do so. Will you take charge of the north side?
You might come across to me with ten of your men now, and I shall go
back to you if they change their attack."
The firing came in one continuous rattle now from the edges of the wood,
and the air was full of bullets. The assailants were all trained shots,
men who lived by their guns, and to whom a shaking hand or a dim eye
meant poverty and hunger. Every slit and crack and loop-hole was
marked, and a cap held above the stockade was blown in an instant from
the gun barrel which supported it. On the other hand, the defenders
were also skilled in Indian fighting, and wise in every trick and lure
which could protect themselves or tempt their enemies to show. They
kept well to the sides of the loop-holes, watching through little
crevices of the wood, and firing swiftly when a chance offered. A red
leg sticking straight up into the air from behind a log showed where one
bullet at least had gone home, but there was little to aim at save a
puff and flash from among the leaves, or the shadowy figure of a warrior
seen for an instant as he darted from one tree-trunk to the other.
Seven of the Canadians had already been hit, but only three were
mortally wounded, and the other four still kept manfully to their
loop-holes, though one who had been struck through the jaw was spitting
his teeth with his bullets down into his gun-barrel. The women sat in a
line upon the ground, beneath the level of the loop-holes, each with a
saucerful of bullets and a canister of powder, passing up the loaded
guns to the fighting men at the points where a quick fire was most
At first the attack had been all upon the south face, but as fresh
bodies of the Iroquois came up their line spread and lengthened until
the whole east face was girt with fire, which gradually enveloped the
north also. The fort was ringed in by a great loop of smoke, save only
where the broad river flowed past them. Over near the further bank the
canoes were lurking, and one, manned by ten warriors, attempted to pass
up the stream, but a good shot from the brass gun dashed in her side and
sank her, while a second of grape left only four of the swimmers whose
high scalp-locks stood out above the water like the back-fins of some
strange fish. On the inland side, however, the seigneur had ordered the
cannon to be served no more, for the broad embrasures drew the enemy's
fire, and of the men who had been struck half were among those who
worked the guns.
The old nobleman strutted about with his white ruffles and his clouded
cane behind the line of parched smoke-grimed men, tapping his snuff-box,
shooting out his little jests, and looking very much less concerned than
he had done over his piquet.
"What do you think of it, Du Lhut?" he asked.
"I think very badly of it. We are losing men much too fast."
"Well, my friend, what can you expect? When a thousand muskets are all
turned upon a little place like this, some one must suffer for it.
Ah, my poor fellow, so you are done for too!"
The man nearest him had suddenly fallen with a crash, lying quite still
with his face in a platter of the sagamite which had been brought out by
the women. Du Lhut glanced at him and then looked round.
"He is in a line with no loop-hole, and it took him in the shoulder,"
said he. "Where did it come from then? Ah, by Saint Anne, look there!"
He pointed upwards to a little mist of smoke which hung round the summit
of a high oak.
"The rascal overlooks the stockade. But the trunk is hardly thick
enough to shield him at that height. This poor fellow will not need his
musket again, and I see that it is ready primed." De la Noue laid down
his cane, turned back his ruffles, picked up the dead man's gun, and
fired at the lurking warrior. Two leaves fluttered out from the tree
and a grinning vermilion face appeared for an instant with a yell of
derision. Quick as a flash Du Lhut brought his musket to his shoulder
and pulled the trigger. The man gave a tremendous spring and crashed
down through the thick foliage. Some seventy or eighty feet below him a
single stout branch shot out, and on to this he fell with the sound of a
great stone dropping into a bog, and hung there doubled over it,
swinging slowly from side to side like a red rag, his scalp-lock
streaming down between his feet. A shout of exultation rose from the
Canadians at the sight, which was drowned in the murderous yell of the
"His limbs twitch. He is not dead," cried De la Noue.
"Let him die there," said the old pioneer callously, ramming a fresh
charge into his gun. "Ah, there is the gray hat again. It comes ever
when I am unloaded."
"I saw a plumed hat among the brushwood."
"It is the Flemish Bastard. I had rather have his scalp than those of
his hundred best warriors."
"Is he so brave then?"
"Yes, he is brave enough. There is no denying it, for how else could he
be an Iroquois war-chief? But he is clever and cunning, and cruel--
Ah, my God, if all the stories told are true, his cruelty is past
believing. I should fear that my tongue would wither if I did but name
the things which this man has done. Ah, he is there again."
The gray hat with the plume had shown itself once more in a rift of the
smoke. De la Noue and Du Lhut both fired together, and the cap
fluttered up into the air. At the same instant the bushes parted, and a
tall warrior sprang out into full view of the defenders. His face was
that of an Indian, but a shade or two lighter, and a pointed black beard
hung down over his hunting tunic. He threw out his hands with a gesture
of disdain, stood for an instant looking steadfastly at the fort, and
then sprang back into cover amid a shower of bullets which chipped away
the twigs all round him.
"Yes, he is brave enough," Du Lhut repeated with an oath.
"Your _censitaires_ have had their hoes in their hands more often than
their muskets, I should judge from their shooting. But they seem to be
drawing closer upon the east face, and I think that they will make a
rush there before long."
The fire had indeed grown very much fiercer upon the side which was
defended by De Catinat, and it was plain that the main force of the
Iroquois were gathered at that point. From every log, and trunk, and
cleft, and bush came the red flash with the gray halo, and the bullets
sang in a continuous stream through the loop-holes. Amos had whittled a
little hole for himself about a foot above the ground, and lay upon his
face loading and firing in his own quiet methodical fashion. Beside him
stood Ephraim Savage, his mouth set grimly, his eyes flashing from under
his down-drawn brows, and his whole soul absorbed in the smiting of the
Amalekites. His hat was gone, his grizzled hair flying in the breeze,
great splotches of powder mottled his mahogany face, and a weal across
his right cheek showed where an Indian bullet had grazed him.
De Catinat was bearing himself like an experienced soldier, walking up
and down among his men with short words of praise or of precept, those
fire-words rough and blunt which bring a glow to the heart and a flush
to the cheek. Seven of his men were down, but as the attack grew
fiercer upon his side it slackened upon the others, and the seigneur
with his son and Du Lhut brought ten men to reinforce them. De la Noue
was holding out his snuff-box to De Catinat when a shrill scream from
behind them made them both look round. Onega, the Indian wife, was
wringing her hands over the body of her son. A glance showed that the
bullet had pierced his heart and that he was dead.
For an instant the old nobleman's thin face grew a shade paler, and the
hand which held out the little gold box shook like a branch in the wind.
Then he thrust it into his pocket again and mastered the spasm which had
convulsed his features.
"The De la Noues always die upon the field of honour," he remarked.
"I think that we should have some more men in the angle by the gun."
And now it became clear why it was that the Iroquois had chosen the
eastern face for their main attack. It was there that the clump of
cover lay midway between the edge of the forest and the stockade. A
storming party could creep as far as that and gather there for the final
rush. First one crouching warrior, and then a second, and then a third
darted across the little belt of open space, and threw themselves down
among the bushes. The fourth was hit, and lay with his back broken a
few paces out from the edge of the wood, but a stream of warriors
continued to venture the passage, until thirty-six had got across, and
the little patch of underwood was full of lurking savages. Amos Green's
time had come.
From where he lay he could see the white patch where he had cut the bark
from the birch sapling, and he knew that immediately underneath it lay
the powder bag. He sighted the mark, and then slowly lowered his barrel
until he had got to the base of the little trees as nearly as he could
guess it among the tangle of bushes. The first shot produced no result,
however, and the second was aimed a foot lower. The bullet penetrated
the bag, and there was an explosion which shook the manor-house and
swayed the whole line of stout stockades as though they were corn-stalks
in a breeze. Up to the highest summits of the trees went the huge
column of blue smoke, and after the first roar there was a deathly
silence which was broken by the patter and thud of falling bodies. Then
came a wild cheer from the defenders, and a furious answering whoop from
the Indians, while the fire from the woods burst out with greater fury
But the blow had been a heavy one. Of the thirty-six warriors, all
picked for their valour, only four regained the shelter of the woods,
and those so torn and shattered that they were spent men. Already the
Indians had lost heavily, and this fresh disaster made them reconsider
their plan of attack, for the Iroquois were as wary as they were brave,
and he was esteemed the best war-chief who was most chary of the lives
of his followers. Their fire gradually slackened, and at last, save for
a dropping shot here and there, it died away altogether.
"Is it possible that they are going to abandon the attack?" cried De
Catinat joyously. "Amos, I believe that you have saved us."
But the wily Du Lhut shook his head. "A wolf would as soon leave a
half-gnawed bone as an Iroquois such a prize as this."
"But they have lost heavily."
"Ay, but not so heavily as ourselves in proportion to our numbers.
They have fifty out of a thousand, and we twenty out of threescore. No,
no, they are holding a council, and we shall soon hear from them again.
But it may be some hours first, and if you will take my advice you will
have an hour's sleep, for you are not, as I can see by your eyes, as
used to doing without it as I am, and there may be little rest for any
of us this night."
De Catinat was indeed weary to the last pitch of human endurance. Amos
Green and the seaman had already wrapped themselves in their blankets
and sunk to sleep under the shelter of the stockade. The soldier rushed
upstairs to say a few words of comfort to the trembling Adele, and then
throwing himself down upon a couch he slept the dreamless sleep of an
exhausted man. When at last he was roused by a fresh sputter of
musketry fire from the woods the sun was already low in the heavens, and
the mellow light of evening tinged the bare walls of the room.
He sprang from his couch, seized his musket, and rushed downstairs.
The defenders were gathered at their loop-holes once more, while Du
Lhut, the seigneur, and Amos Green were whispering eagerly together.
He noticed as he passed that Onega still sat crooning by the body of her
son, without having changed her position since morning.
"What is it, then? Are they coming on?" he asked.
"They are up to some devilry," said Du Lhut, peering out at the corner
of the embrasure. "They are gathering thickly at the east fringe, and
yet the firing comes from the south. It is not the Indian way to attack
across the open, and yet if they think help is coming from the fort they
might venture it."
"The wood in front of us is alive with them," said Amos. "They are as
busy as beavers among the underwood."
"Perhaps they are going to attack from this side, and cover the attack
by a fire from the flank."
"That is what I think," cried the seigneur. "Bring the spare guns up
here and all the men except five for each side."
The words were hardly out of his mouth when a shrill yell burst from the
wood, and in an instant a cloud of warriors dashed out and charged
across the open, howling, springing, and waving their guns or tomahawks
in the air. With their painted faces, smeared and striped with every
vivid colour, their streaming scalp-locks, their waving arms, their open
mouths, and their writhings and contortions, no more fiendish crew ever
burst into a sleeper's nightmare. Some of those in front bore canoes
between them, and as they reached the stockade they planted them against
it and swarmed up them as if they had been scaling-ladders. Others
fired through the embrasures and loop-holes, the muzzles of their
muskets touching those of the defenders, while others again sprang
unaided on to the tops of the palisades and jumped fearlessly down upon
the inner side. The Canadians, however, made such a resistance as might
be expected from men who knew that no mercy awaited them. They fired
whilst they had time to load, and then, clubbing their muskets, they
smashed furiously at every red head which showed above the rails. The
din within the stockade was infernal, the shouts and cries of the
French, the whooping of the savages, and the terrified screaming of the
frightened women blending into one dreadful uproar, above which could be
heard the high shrill voice of the old seigneur imploring his
_censitaires_ to stand fast. With his rapier in his hand, his hat lost,
his wig awry, and his dignity all thrown to the winds, the old nobleman
showed them that day how a soldier of Rocroy could carry himself, and
with Du Lhut, Amos, De Catinat and Ephraim Savage, was ever in the
forefront of the defence. So desperately did they fight, the sword and
musket-butt outreaching the tomahawk, that though at one time fifty
Iroquois were over the palisades, they had slain or driven back nearly
all of them when a fresh wave burst suddenly over the south face which
had been stripped of its defenders. Du Lhut saw in an instant that the
enclosure was lost and that only one thing could save the house.
"Hold them for an instant," he screamed, and rushing at the brass gun he
struck his flint and steel and fired it straight into the thick of the
savages. Then as they recoiled for an instant he stuck a nail into the
touch-hole and drove it home with a blow from the butt of his gun.
Darting across the yard he spiked the gun at the other corner, and was
back at the door as the remnants of the garrison were hurled towards it
by the rush of the assailants. The Canadians darted in, and swung the
ponderous mass of wood into position, breaking the leg of the foremost
warrior who had striven to follow them. Then for an instant they had
time for breathing and for council.
THE COMING OF THE FRIAR.
But their case was a very evil one. Had the guns been lost so that they
might be turned upon the door, all further resistance would have been
vain, but Du Lhut's presence of mind had saved them from that danger.
The two guns upon the river face and the canoes were safe, for they were
commanded by the windows of the house. But their numbers were terribly
reduced, and those who were left were weary and wounded and spent.
Nineteen had gained the house, but one had been shot through the body
and lay groaning in the hall, while a second had his shoulder cleft by a
tomahawk and could no longer raise his musket. Du Lhut, De la Noue, and
De Catinat were uninjured, but Ephraim Savage had a bullet-hole in his
forearm, and Amos was bleeding from a cut upon the face. Of the others
hardly one was without injury, and yet they had no time to think of
their hurts for the danger still pressed and they were lost unless they
acted. A few shots from the barricaded windows sufficed to clear the
enclosure, for it was all exposed to their aim; but on the other hand
they had the shelter of the stockade now, and from the further side of
it they kept up a fierce fire upon the windows. Half-a-dozen of the
_censitaires_ returned the fusillade, while the leaders consulted as to
what had best be done.
"We have twenty-five women and fourteen children," said the seigneur.
"I am sure that you will agree with me, gentlemen, that our first duty
is towards them. Some of you, like myself, have lost sons or brothers
this day. Let us at least save our wives and sisters."
"No Iroquois canoes have passed up the river," said one of the
Canadians. "If the women start in the darkness they can get away to the
"By Saint Anne of Beaupre," exclaimed Du Lhut, "I think it would be well
if you could get your men out of this also, for I cannot see how it is
to be held until morning."
A murmur of assent broke from the other Canadians, but the old nobleman
shook his bewigged head with decision.
"Tut! Tut! What nonsense is this!" he cried. "Are we to abandon the
manor-house of Sainte Marie to the first gang of savages who choose to
make an attack upon it? No, no, gentlemen, there are still nearly a
score of us, and when the garrison learn that we are so pressed, which
will be by to-morrow morning at the latest, they will certainly send us
Du Lhut shook his head moodily.
"If you stand by the fort I will not desert you," said he, "and yet it
is a pity to sacrifice brave men for nothing."
"The canoes will hardly hold the women and children as it is," cried
Theuriet. "There are but two large and four small. There is not space
for a single man."
"Then that decides it," said De Catinat. "But who are to row the
"It is but a few leagues with the current in their favour, and there are
none of our women who do not know how to handle a paddle."
The Iroquois were very quiet now, and an occasional dropping shot from
the trees or the stockade was the only sign of their presence. Their
losses had been heavy, and they were either engaged in collecting their
dead, or in holding a council as to their next move. The twilight was
gathering in, and the sun had already sunk beneath the tree-tops.
Leaving a watchman at each window, the leaders went round to the back of
the house where the canoes were lying upon the bank. There were no
signs of the enemy upon the river to the north of them.
"We are in luck," said Amos. "The clouds are gathering and there will
be little light."
"It is luck indeed, since the moon is only three days past the full,"
answered Du Lhut. "I wonder that the Iroquois have not cut us off upon
the water, but it is likely that their canoes have gone south to bring
up another war-party. They may be back soon, and we had best not lose a
"In an hour it might be dark enough to start."
"I think that there is rain in those clouds, and that will make it
The women and children were assembled and their places in each boat were
assigned to them. The wives of the censitaires, rough hardy women whose
lives had been spent under the shadow of a constant danger, were for the
most part quiet and collected, though a few of the younger ones
whimpered a little. A woman is always braver when she has a child to
draw her thoughts from herself, and each married woman had one now
allotted to her as her own special charge until they should reach the
fort. To Onega, the Indian wife of the seigneur, who was as wary and as
experienced as a war sachem of her people, the command of the women was
"It is not very far, Adele," said De Catinat, as his wife clung to his
arm. "You remember how we heard the Angelus bells as we journeyed
through the woods. That was Fort St. Louis, and it is but a league or
"But I do not wish to leave you, Amory. We have been together in all
our troubles. Oh, Amory, why should we be divided now?"
"My dear love, you will tell them at the fort how things are with us,
and they will bring us help."
"Let the others do that, and I will stay. I will not be useless, Amory.
Onega has taught me to load a gun. I will not be afraid, indeed I will
not, if you will only let me stay."
"You must not ask it, Adele. It is impossible, child I could not let
"But I feel so sure that it would be best."
The coarser reason of man has not yet learned to value those subtle
instincts which guide a woman. De Catinat argued and exhorted until he
had silenced if he had not convinced her.
"It is for my sake, dear. You do not know what a load it will be from
my heart when I know that you are safe. And you need not be afraid for
me. We can easily hold the place until morning. Then the people from
the fort will come, for I hear that they have plenty of canoes, and we
shall all meet again."
Adele was silent, but her hands tightened upon his arm. Her husband was
still endeavouring to reassure her when a groan burst from the watcher
at the window which overlooked the stream.
"There is a canoe on the river to the north of us," he cried.
The besieged looked at each other in dismay. The Iroquois had then cut
off their retreat after all.
"How many warriors are in it?" asked the seigneur.
"I cannot see. The light is not very good, and it is in the shadow of
"Which way is it coming?"
"It is coming this way. Ah, it shoots out into the open now, and I can
see it. May the good Lord be praised! A dozen candles shall burn in
Quebec Cathedral if I live till next summer!"
"What is it then?" cried De la Noue impatiently.
"It is not an Iroquois canoe. There is but one man in it. He is a
"A Canadian!" cried Du Lhut, springing up to the window. "Who but a
madman would venture into such a hornet's nest alone! Ah, yes, I can
see him now. He keeps well out from the bank to avoid their fire. Now
he is in mid-stream and he turns towards us. By my faith, it is not the
first time that the good father has handled a paddle."
"It is a Jesuit!" said one, craning his neck. "They are ever where
there is most danger."
"No, I can see his capote," cried another. "It is a Franciscan friar!"
An instant later there was the sound of a canoe grounding upon the
pebbles, the door was unbarred, and a man strode in, attired in the long
brown gown of the Franciscans. He cast a rapid glance around, and then,
stepping up to De Catinat, laid his hand upon his shoulder.
"So, you have not escaped me!" said he. "We have caught the evil seed
before it has had time to root."
"What do you mean, father?" asked the seigneur. "You have made some
mistake. This is my good friend Amory de Catinat, of a noble French
"This is Amory de Catinat, the heretic and Huguenot," cried the monk.
"I have followed him up the St. Lawrence, and I have followed him up the
Richelieu, and I would have followed him to the world's end if I could
but bring him back with me."
"Tut, father, your zeal carries you too far," said the seigneur.
"Whither would you take my friend, then?"
"He shall go back to France with his wife. There is no place in Canada
Du Lhut burst out laughing. "By Saint Anne, father," said he, "if you
could take us all back to France at present we should be very much your
"And you will remember," said De la Noue sternly, "that you are under my
roof and that you are speaking of my guest."
But the friar was not to be abashed by the frown of the old nobleman.
"Look at this," said he, whipping a paper out of his bosom. "It is
signed by the governor, and calls upon you, under pain of the king's
displeasure, to return this man to Quebec. Ah, monsieur, when you left
me upon the island that morning you little thought that I would return
to Quebec for this, and then hunt you down so many hundreds of miles of
river. But I have you now, and I shall never leave you until I see you
on board the ship which will carry you and your wife back to France."
For all the bitter vindictiveness which gleamed in the monk's eyes, De
Catinat could not but admire the energy and tenacity of the man.
"It seems to me, father, that you would have shone more as a soldier
than as a follower of Christ," said he; "but, since you have followed us
here, and since there is no getting away, we may settle this question at
some later time."
But the two Americans were less inclined to take so peaceful a view.
Ephraim Savage's beard bristled with anger, and he whispered something
into Amos Green's ear.
"The captain and I could easily get rid of him," said the young
woodsman, drawing De Catinat aside. "If he _will_ cross our path he
must pay for it."
"No, no, not for the world, Amos! Let him alone. He does what he
thinks to be his duty, though his faith is stronger than his charity, I
think. But here comes the rain, and surely it is dark enough now for
A great brown cloud had overspread the heavens, and the night had fallen
so rapidly that they could hardly see the gleam of the river in front of
them. The savages in the woods and behind the captured stockade were
quiet, save for an occasional shot, but the yells and whoops from the
cottages of the _censitaires_ showed that they were being plundered by
their captors. Suddenly a dull red glow began to show above one of the
"They have set it on fire," cried Du Lhut. "The canoes must go at once,
for the river will soon be as light as day. In! In! There is not an
instant to lose!"
There was no time for leave-taking. One impassioned kiss and Adele was
torn away and thrust into the smallest canoe, which she shared with
Onega, two children, and an unmarried girl. The others rushed into
their places, and in a few moments they had pushed off, and had vanished
into the drift and the darkness. The great cloud had broken and the
rain pattered heavily upon the roof, and splashed upon their faces as
they strained their eyes after the vanishing boats.
"Thank God for this storm!" murmured Du Lhut. "It will prevent the
cottages from blazing up too quickly."
But he had forgotten that though the roofs might be wet the interior was
as dry as tinder. He had hardly spoken before a great yellow tongue of
flame licked out of one of the windows, and again and again, until
suddenly half of the roof fell in, and the cottage was blazing like a
pitch-bucket. The flames hissed and sputtered in the pouring rain, but,
fed from below, they grew still higher and fiercer, flashing redly upon
the great trees, and turning their trunks to burnished brass.
Their light made the enclosure and the manor-house as clear as day, and
exposed the whole long stretch of the river. A fearful yell from the
woods announced that the savages had seen the canoes, which were plainly
visible from the windows not more than a quarter of a mile away.
"They are rushing through the woods. They are making for the water's
edge," cried De Catinat.
"They have some canoes down there," said Du Lhut.
"But they must pass us!" cried the Seigneur of Sainte Marie. "Get down
to the cannon and see if you cannot stop them."
They had hardly reached the guns when two large canoes filled with
warriors shot out from among the reeds below the fort, and steering out
into mid-stream began to paddle furiously after the fugitives.
"Jean, you are our best shot," cried De la Noue. "Lay for her as she
passes the great pine tree. Lambert, do you take the other gun. The
lives of all whom you love may hang upon the shot!"
The two wrinkled old artillerymen glanced along their guns and waited
for the canoes to come abreast of them. The fire still blazed higher
and higher, and the broad river lay like a sheet of dull metal with two
dark lines, which marked the canoes, sweeping swiftly down the centre.
One was fifty yards in front of the other, but in each the Indians were
bending to their paddles and pulling frantically, while their comrades
from the wooded shores whooped them on to fresh exertions.
The fugitives had already disappeared round the bend of the river.
As the first canoe came abreast of the lower of the two guns, the
Canadian made the sign of the cross over the touch-hole and fired.
A cheer and then a groan went up from the eager watchers. The discharge
had struck the surface close to the mark, and dashed such a shower of
water over it that for an instant it looked as if it had been sunk.
The next moment, however, the splash subsided, and the canoe shot away
uninjured, save that one of the rowers had dropped his paddle while his
head fell forward upon the back of the man in front of him. The second
gunner sighted the same canoe as it came abreast of him, but at the very
instant when he stretched out his match to fire a bullet came humming
from the stockade and he fell forward dead without a groan.
"This is work that I know something of, lad," said old Ephraim,
springing suddenly forward. "But when I fire a gun I like to train it
myself. Give me a help with the handspike and get her straight for the
island. So! A little lower for an even keel! Now we have them!"
He clapped down his match and fired.
It was a beautiful shot. The whole charge took the canoe about six feet
behind the bow, and doubled her up like an eggshell. Before the smoke
had cleared she had foundered, and the second canoe had paused to pick
up some of the wounded men. The others, as much at home in the water as
in the woods, were already striking out for the shore.
"Quick! Quick!" cried the seigneur. "Load the gun! We may get the
second one yet!"
But it was not to be. Long before they could get it ready the Iroquois
had picked up their wounded warriors and were pulling madly up-stream
once more. As they shot away the fire died suddenly down in the burning
cottages and the rain and the darkness closed in upon them.
"My God!" cried De Catinat furiously, "they will be taken. Let us
abandon this place, take a boat, and follow them. Come! Come! Not an
instant is to be lost!"
"Monsieur, you go too far in your very natural anxiety," said the
seigneur coldly. "I am not inclined to leave my post so easily!"
"Ah, what is it? Only wood and stone, which can be built again. But to
think of the women in the hands of these devils! Oh, I am going mad!
Come! Come! For Christ's sake come!" His face was deadly pale, and he
raved with his clenched hands in the air.
"I do not think that they will be caught," said Du Lhut, laying his hand
soothingly upon his shoulder. "Do not fear. They had a long start and
the women here can paddle as well as the men. Again, the Iroquois canoe
was overloaded at the start, and has the wounded men aboard as well now.
Besides, these oak canoes of the Mohawks are not as swift as the
Algonquin birch barks which we use. In any case it is impossible to
follow, for we have no boat."
"There is one lying there."
"Ah, it will but hold a single man. It is that in which the friar
"Then I am going in that! My place is with Adele!" He flung open the
door, rushed out, and was about to push off the frail skiff, when some
one sprang past him, and with a blow from a hatchet stove in the side of
"It is my boat," said the friar, throwing down the axe and folding his
arms. "I can do what I like with it."
"You fiend! You have ruined us!"
"I have found you and you shall not escape me again."
The hot blood flushed to the soldier's head, and picking up the axe, he
took a quick step forward. The light from the open door shone upon the
grave, harsh face of the friar, but not a muscle twitched nor a feature
changed as he saw the axe whirl up in the hands of a furious man.
He only signed himself with the cross, and muttered a Latin prayer under
his breath. It was that composure which saved his life. De Catinat
hurled down the axe again with a bitter curse, and was turning away from
the shattered boat, when in an instant, without a warning, the great
door of the manor-house crashed inwards, and a flood of whooping savages
burst into the house.
THE DINING HALL OF SAINTE MARIE.
What had occurred is easily explained. The watchers in the windows at
the front found that it was more than flesh and blood could endure to
remain waiting at their posts while the fates of their wives and
children were being decided at the back. All was quiet at the stockade,
and the Indians appeared to be as absorbed as the Canadians in what was
passing upon the river. One by one, therefore, the men on guard had
crept away and had assembled at the back to cheer the seaman's shot and
to groan as the remaining canoe sped like a bloodhound down the river in
the wake of the fugitives. But the savages had one at their head who
was as full of wiles and resource as Du Lhut himself. The Flemish
Bastard had watched the house from behind the stockade as a dog watches
a rat-hole, and he had instantly discovered that the defenders had left
their post. With a score of other warriors he raised a great log from
the edge of the forest, and crossing the open space unchallenged, he and
his men rushed it against the door with such violence as to crack the
bar across and tear the wood from the hinges. The first intimation
which the survivors had of the attack was the crash of the door, and the
screams of two of the negligent watchmen who had been seized and scalped
in the hall. The whole basement floor was in the hands of the Indians,
and De Catinat and his enemy the friar were cut off from the foot of the
Fortunately, however, the manor-houses of Canada were built with the one
idea of defence against Indians, and even now there were hopes for the
defenders. A wooden ladder which could be drawn up in case of need hung
down from the upper windows to the ground upon the river-side.
De Catinat rushed round to this, followed by the friar. He felt about
for the ladder in the darkness. It was gone.
Then indeed his heart sank in despair. Where could he fly to? The boat
was destroyed. The stockades lay between him and the forest, and they
were in the hands of the Iroquois. Their yells were ringing in his
ears. They had not seen him yet, but in a few minutes they must come
upon him. Suddenly he heard a voice from somewhere in the darkness
"Give me your gun, lad," it said. "I see the loom of some of the
heathen down by the wall."
"It is I. It is I, Amos," cried De Catinat. "Down with the ladder or I
am a dead man."
"Have a care. It may be a ruse," said the voice of Du Lhut.
"No, no, I'll answer for it," cried Amos, and an instant later down came
the ladder. De Catinat and the friar rushed up it, and they hardly had
their feet upon the rungs when a swarm of warriors burst out from the
door and poured along the river bank. Two muskets flashed from above,
something plopped like a salmon in the water, and next instant the two
were among their comrades and the ladder had been drawn up once more.
But it was a very small band who now held the last point to which they
could retreat. Only nine of them remained, the seigneur, Du Lhut, the
two Americans, the friar, De Catinat, Theuriet the major-domo, and two
of the _censitaires_. Wounded, parched, and powder-blackened, they were
still filled with the mad courage of desperate men who knew that death
could come in no more terrible form than through surrender. The stone
staircase ran straight up from the kitchen to the main hall, and the
door, which had been barricaded across the lower part by two mattresses,
commanded the whole flight. Hoarse whisperings and the click of the
cocking of guns from below told that the Iroquois were mustering for a
"Put the lantern by the door," said Du Lhut, "so that it may throw the
light upon the stair. There is only room for three to fire, but you can
all load and pass the guns. Monsieur Green, will you kneel with me, and
you, Jean Duval? If one of us is hit let another take his place at
once. Now be ready, for they are coming!"
As he spoke there was a shrill whistle from below, and in an instant the
stair was filled with rushing red figures and waving weapons.
Bang! Bang! Bang! went the three guns, and then again and again
Bang! Bang! Bang! The smoke was so thick in the low-roofed room that
they could hardly see to pass the muskets to the eager hands which
grasped for them. But no Iroquois had reached the barricade, and there
was no patter of their feet now upon the stair. Nothing but an angry
snarling and an occasional groan from below. The marksmen were
uninjured, but they ceased to fire and waited for the smoke to clear.
And when it cleared they saw how deadly their aim had been at those
close quarters. Only nine shots had been fired, and seven Indians were
littered up and down on the straight stone stair. Five of them lay
motionless, but two tried to crawl slowly back to their friends.
Du Lhut and the _censitaire_ raised their muskets, and the two crippled
men lay still.
"By Saint Anne!" said the old pioneer, as he rammed home another bullet.
"If they have our scalps we have sold them at a great price. A hundred
squaws will be howling in their villages when they hear of this day's
"Ay, they will not forget their welcome at Sainte Marie," said the old
nobleman. "I must again express my deep regret, my dear De Catinat,
that you and your wife should have been put to such inconvenience when
you have been good enough to visit me. I trust that she and the others
are safe at the fort by this time."
"May God grant that they are! Oh, I shall never have an easy moment
until I see her once more."
"If they are safe we may expect help in the morning, if we can hold out
so long. Chambly, the commandant, is not a man to leave a comrade at a
The cards were still laid out at one end of the table, with the tricks
overlapping each other, as they had left them on the previous morning.
But there was something else there of more interest to them, for the
breakfast had not been cleared away, and they had been fighting all day
with hardly bite or sup. Even when face to face with death, Nature
still cries out for her dues, and the hungry men turned savagely upon
the loaf, the ham, and the cold wild duck. A little cluster of wine
bottles stood upon the buffet, and these had their necks knocked off,
and were emptied down parched throats. Three men still took their turn,
however, to hold the barricade, for they were not to be caught napping
again. The yells and screeches of the savages came up to them as though
all the wolves of the forest were cooped up in the basement, but the
stair was deserted save for the seven motionless figures.
"They will not try to rush us again," said Du Lhut with confidence.
"We have taught them too severe a lesson."
"They will set fire to the house."
"It will puzzle them to do that," said the major-domo. "It is solid
stone, walls and stair, save only for a few beams of wood, very
different from those other cottages."
"Hush!" cried Amos Green, and raised his hand. The yells had died away,
and they heard the heavy thud of a mallet beating upon wood.
"What can it be?"
"Some fresh devilry, no doubt."
"I regret to say, messieurs," observed the seigneur, with no abatement
of his courtly manner, "that it is my belief that they have learned a
lesson from our young friend here, and that they are knocking out the
heads of the powder-barrels in the store-room."
But Du Lhut shook his head at the suggestion. "It is not in a Redskin
to waste powder," said he. "It is a deal too precious for them to do
that. Ah, listen to that!"
The yellings and screechings had begun again, but there was a wilder,
madder ring in their shrillness, and they were mingled with snatches of
song and bursts of laughter.
"Ha! It is the brandy casks which they have opened," cried Du Lhut.
"They were bad before, but they will be fiends out of hell now."
As he spoke there came another burst of whoops, and high above them a
voice calling for mercy. With horror in their eyes the survivors
glanced from one to the other. A heavy smell of burning flesh rose from
below, and still that dreadful voice shrieking and pleading. Then
slowly it quavered away and was silent forever.
"Who was it?" whispered De Catinat, his blood running cold in his veins.
"It was Jean Corbeil, I think."
"May God rest his soul! His troubles are over. Would that we were as
peaceful as he! Ah, shoot him! Shoot!"
A man had suddenly sprung out at the foot of the stair and had swung his
arm as though throwing something. It was the Flemish Bastard.
Amos Green's musket flashed, but the savage had sprung back again as
rapidly as he appeared. Something splashed down amongst them and rolled
across the floor in the lamp-light.
"Down! Down! It is a bomb!" cried De Catinat
But it lay at Du Lhut's feet, and he had seen it clearly. He took a
cloth from the table and dropped it over it.
"It is not a bomb," said he quietly, "and it _was_ Jean Corbeil who
For four hours sounds of riot, of dancing and of revelling rose up from
the store-house, and the smell of the open brandy casks filled the whole
air. More than once the savages quarrelled and fought among themselves,
and it seemed as if they had forgotten their enemies above, but the
besieged soon found that if they attempted to presume upon this they
were as closely watched as ever. The major-domo, Theuriet, passing
between a loop-hole and a light, was killed instantly by a bullet from
the stockade, and both Amos and the old seigneur had narrow escapes
until they blocked all the windows save that which overlooked the river.
There was no danger from this one, and, as day was already breaking once
more, one or other of the party was forever straining their eyes down
the stream in search of the expected succour.
Slowly the light crept up the eastern sky, a little line of pearl, then
a band of pink, broadening, stretching, spreading, until it shot its
warm colour across the heavens, tinging the edges of the drifting
clouds. Over the woodlands lay a thin gray vapour, the tops of the high
oaks jutting out like dim islands from the sea of haze. Gradually as
the light increased the mist shredded off into little ragged wisps,
which thinned and drifted away, until at last, as the sun pushed its
glowing edge over the eastern forests, it gleamed upon the reds and
oranges and purples of the fading leaves, and upon the broad blue river
which curled away to the northward. De Catinat, as he stood at the
window looking out, was breathing in the healthy resinous scent of the
trees, mingled with the damp heavy odour of the wet earth, when suddenly
his eyes fell upon a dark spot upon the river to the north of them.
"There is a canoe coming down!" he cried. In an instant they had all
rushed to the opening, but Du Lhut sprang after them, and pulled them
angrily towards the door.
"Do you wish to die before your time?" he cried.
"Ay, ay!" said Captain Ephraim, who understood the gesture if not the
words. "We must leave a watch on deck. Amos, lad, lie here with me and
be ready if they show."
The two Americans and the old pioneer held the barricade, while the eyes
of all the others were turned upon the approaching boat. A groan broke
suddenly from the only surviving _censitaire_.
"It is an Iroquois canoe!" he cried.
"Alas, your excellency, it is so, and it is the same one which passed us
"Ah, then the women have escaped them."
"I trust so. But alas, seigneur, I fear that there are more in the
canoe now than when they passed us."
The little group of survivors waited in breathless anxiety while the
canoe sped swiftly up the river, with a line of foam on either side of
her, and a long forked swirl in the waters behind. They could see that
she appeared to be very crowded, but they remembered that the wounded of
the other boat were aboard her. On she shot and on, until as she came
abreast of the fort she swung round, and the rowers raised their paddles
and burst into a shrill yell of derision. The stern of the canoe was
turned towards them now, and they saw that two women were seated in it.
Even at that distance there was no mistaking the sweet pale face or the
dark queenly one beside it. The one was Onega and the other was Adele.
THE TWO SWIMMERS.
Charles de la Noue, Seigneur de Sainte Marie, was a hard and
self-contained man, but a groan and a bitter curse burst from him when
he saw his Indian wife in the hands of her kinsmen, from whom she could
hope for little mercy. Yet even now his old-fashioned courtesy to his
guest had made him turn to De Catinat with some words of sympathy, when
there was a clatter of wood, something darkened the light of the window,
and the young soldier was gone. Without a word he had lowered the
ladder and was clambering down it with frantic haste. Then as his feet
touched the ground he signalled to his comrades to draw it up again, and
dashing into the river he swam towards the canoe. Without arms and
without a plan he had but the one thought that his place was by the side
of his wife in this, the hour of her danger. Fate should bring him what
it brought her, and he swore to himself, as he clove a way with his
strong arms, that whether it were life or death they should still share
But there was another whose view of duty led him from safety into the
face of danger. All night the Franciscan had watched De Catinat as a
miser watches his treasure, filled with the thought that this heretic
was the one little seed which might spread and spread until it choked
the chosen vineyard of the Church. Now when he saw him rush so suddenly
down the ladder, every fear was banished from his mind save the
overpowering one that he was about to lose his precious charge.
He, too, clambered down at the very heels of his prisoner, and rushed
into the stream not ten paces behind him.
And so the watchers at the window saw the strangest of sights.
There, in mid-stream, lay the canoe, with a ring of dark warriors
clustering in the stern, and the two women crouching in the midst of
them. Swimming madly towards them was De Catinat, rising to the
shoulders with the strength of every stroke, and behind him again was
the tonsured head of the friar, with his brown capote and long trailing
gown floating upon the surface of the water behind him. But in his zeal
he had thought too little of his own powers. He was a good swimmer, but
he was weighted and hampered by his unwieldy clothes. Slower and slower
grew his stroke, lower and lower his head, until at last with a great
shriek of _In manus tuas, Domine!_ he threw up his hands, and vanished
in the swirl of the river. A minute later the watchers, hoarse with
screaming to him to return, saw De Catinat pulled aboard the Iroquois
canoe, which was instantly turned and continued its course up the river.
"My God!" cried Amos hoarsely. "They have taken him. He is lost."
"I have seen some strange things in these forty years, but never the
like of that!" said Du Lhut.
The seigneur took a little pinch of snuff from his gold box, and flicked
the wandering grains from his shirt-front with his dainty lace
"Monsieur de Catinat has acted like a gentleman of France," said he.
"If I could swim now as I did thirty years ago, I should be by his
Du Lhut glanced round him and shook his head. "We are only six now,"
said he. "I fear they are up to some devilry because they are so very
"They are leaving the house!" cried the _censitaire_, who was peeping
through one of the side windows. "What can it mean? Holy Virgin, is it
possible that we are saved? See how they throng through the trees.
They are making for the canoe. Now they are waving their arms and
"There is the gray hat of that mongrel devil amongst them," said the
captain. "I would try a shot upon him were it not a waste of powder and
"I have hit the mark at as long a range," said Amos, pushing his long
brown gun through a chink in the barricade which they had thrown across
the lower half of the window. "I would give my next year's trade to
bring him down."
"It is forty paces further than my musket would carry," remarked Du
Lhut, "but I have seen the English shoot a great way with those long
Amos took a steady aim, resting his gun upon the window sill, and fired.
A shout of delight burst from the little knot of survivors. The Flemish
Bastard had fallen. But he was on his feet again in an instant and
shook his hand defiantly at the window.
"Curse it!" cried Amos bitterly, in English. "I have hit him with a
spent ball. As well strike him with a pebble."
"Nay, curse not, Amos, lad, but try him again with another pinch of
powder if your gun will stand it."
The woodsman thrust in a full charge, and chose a well-rounded bullet
from his bag, but when he looked again both the Bastard and his warriors
had disappeared. On the river the single Iroquois canoe which held the
captives was speeding south as swiftly as twenty paddles could drive it,
but save this one dark streak upon the blue stream, not a sign was to be
seen of their enemies. They had vanished as if they had been an evil
dream. There was the bullet-spotted stockade, the litter of dead bodies
inside it, the burned and roofless cottages, but the silent woods lay
gleaming in the morning sunshine as quiet and peaceful as if no
hell-burst of fiends had ever broken out from them.
"By my faith, I believe that they have gone!" cried the seigneur.
"Take care that it is not a ruse," said Du Lhut. "Why should they fly
before six men when they have conquered sixty?"
But the _censitaire_ had looked out of the other window, and in an
instant he was down upon his knees with his hands in the air, and his
powder blackened face turned upwards, pattering out prayers and
thanksgivings. His five comrades rushed across the room and burst into
a shriek of joy. The upper reach of the river was covered with a
flotilla of canoes from which the sun struck quick flashes as it shone
upon the musket-barrels and trappings of the crews. Already they could
see the white coats of the regulars, the brown tunics of the
coureurs-de-bois_, and the gaudy colours of the Hurons and Algonquins.
On they swept, dotting the whole breadth of the river, and growing
larger every instant, while far away on the southern bend, the Iroquois
canoe was a mere moving dot which had shot away to the farther side and
lost itself presently under the shadow of the trees. Another minute and
the survivors were out upon the bank, waving their caps in the air,
while the prows of the first of their rescuers were already grating upon
the pebbles. In the stern of the very foremost canoe sat a wizened
little man with a large brown wig, and a gilt-headed rapier laid across
his knees. He sprang out as the keel touched bottom, splashing through
the shallow water with his high leather boots, and rushing up to the
seigneur, he flung himself into his arms.
"My dear Charles," he cried, "you have held your house like a hero.
What, only six of you! Tut, tut, this has been a bloody business!"
"I knew that you would not desert a comrade, Chambly. We have saved the
house, but our losses have been terrible. My son is dead. My wife is
in that Iroquois canoe in front of you."
The commandant of Fort St. Louis pressed his friend's hand in silent
"The others arrived all safe," he said at last. "Only that one was
taken, on account of the breaking of a paddle. Three were drowned and
two captured. There was a French lady in it, I understand, as well as
"Yes, and they have taken her husband as well."
"Ah, poor souls! Well, if you are strong enough to join us, you and
your friends, we shall follow after them without the loss of an instant.
Ten of my men will remain to guard the house, and you can have their
canoe. Jump in then, and forward, for life and death may hang upon our
The Iroquois had not treated De Catinat harshly when they dragged him
from the water into their canoe. So incomprehensible was it to them why
any man should voluntarily leave a place of safety in order to put
himself in their power that they could only set it down to madness, a
malady which inspires awe and respect among the Indians. They did not
even tie his wrists, for why should he attempt to escape when he had
come of his own free will? Two warriors passed their hands over him, to
be sure that he was unarmed, and he was then thrust down between the two
women, while the canoe darted in towards the bank to tell the others
that the St. Louis garrison was coming up the stream. Then it steered
out again, and made its way swiftly up the centre of the river.
Adele was deadly pale and her hand, as her husband laid his upon it, was
as cold as marble.
"My darling," he whispered, "tell me that all is well with you--that you
"Oh, Amory, why did you come? Why did you come, Amory? Oh, I think I
could have borne anything, but if they hurt you I could not bear that."
"How could I stay behind when I knew that you were in their hands?
I should have gone mad!"
"Ah, it was my one consolation to think that you were safe."
"No, no, we have gone through so much together that we cannot part now.
What is death, Adele? Why should we be afraid of it?"
"I am not afraid of it."
"And I am not afraid of it. Things will come about as God wills it, and
what He wills must in the end be the best. If we live, then we have
this memory in common. If we die, then we go hand-in-hand into
another life. Courage, my own, all will be well with us."
"Tell me, monsieur," said Onega, "is my lord still living?"
"Yes, he is alive and well."
"It is good. He is a great chief, and I have never been sorry, not even
now, that I have wedded with one who was not of my own people. But ah,
my son! Who shall give my son back to me? He was like the young
sapling, so straight and so strong! Who could run with him, or leap
with him, or swim with him? Ere that sun shines again we shall all be
dead, and my heart is glad, for I shall see my boy once more."
The Iroquois paddles had bent to their work until a good ten miles lay
between them and Sainte Marie. Then they ran the canoe into a little
creek upon their own side of the river, and sprang out of her, dragging
the prisoners after them. The canoe was carried on the shoulders of
eight men some distance into the wood, where they concealed it between
two fallen trees, heaping a litter of branches over it to screen it from
view. Then, after a short council, they started through the forest,
walking in single file, with their three prisoners in the middle.
There were fifteen warriors in all, eight in front and seven behind, all
armed with muskets and as swift-footed as deer, so that escape was out
of the question. They could but follow on, and wait in patience for
whatever might befall them.
All day they pursued their dreary march, picking their way through vast
morasses, skirting the borders of blue woodland lakes where the gray
stork flapped heavily up from the reeds at their approach, or plunging
into dark belts of woodland where it is always twilight, and where the
falling of the wild chestnuts and the chatter of the squirrels a hundred
feet above their heads were the only sounds which broke the silence.
Onega had the endurance of the Indians themselves, but Adele, in spite
of her former journeys, was footsore and weary before evening. It was a
relief to De Catinat, therefore, when the red glow of a great fire beat
suddenly through the tree-trunks, and they came upon an Indian camp in
which was assembled the greater part of the war-party which had been
driven from Sainte Marie. Here, too, were a number of the squaws who
had come from the Mohawk and Cayuga villages in order to be nearer to
the warriors. Wigwams had been erected all round in a circle, and
before each of them were the fires with kettles slung upon a tripod of
sticks in which the evening meal was being cooked. In the centre of all
was a very fierce fire which had been made of brushwood placed in a
circle, so as to leave a clear space of twelve feet in the middle.
A pole stood up in the centre of this clearing, and something all
mottled with red and black was tied up against it. De Catinat stepped
swiftly in front of Adele that she might not see the dreadful thing, but
he was too late. She shuddered, and drew a quick breath between her
pale lips, but no sound escaped her.
"They have begun already, then," said Onega composedly. "Well, it will
be our turn next, and we shall show them that we know how to die."
"They have not ill-used us yet," said De Catinat. "Perhaps they will
keep us for ransom or exchange."
The Indian woman shook her head. "Do not deceive yourself by any such
hope," said she. "When they are as gentle as they have been with you it
is ever a sign that you are reserved for the torture. Your wife will be
married to one of their chiefs, but you and I must die, for you are a
warrior, and I am too old for a squaw."
Married to an Iroquois! Those dreadful words shot a pang through both
their hearts which no thought of death could have done. De Catinat's
head dropped forward upon his chest, and he staggered and would have
fallen had Adele not caught him by the arm.
"Do not fear, dear Amory," she whispered. "Other things may happen but
not that, for I swear to you that I shall not survive you. No, it may
be sin or it may not, but if death will not come to me, I will go to
De Catinat looked down at the gentle face which had set now into the
hard lines of an immutable resolve. He knew that it would be as she had
said, and that, come what might, that last outrage would not befall
them. Could he ever have believed that the time would come when it
would send a thrill of joy through his heart to know that his wife would
As they entered the Iroquois village the squaws and warriors had rushed
towards them, and they passed through a double line of hideous faces
which jeered and jibed and howled at them as they passed. Their escort
led them through this rabble and conducted them to a hut which stood
apart. It was empty, save for some willow fishing-nets hanging at the
side, and a heap of pumpkins stored in the corner.
"The chiefs will come and will decide upon what is to be done with us,"
said Onega. "Here they are coming now, and you will soon see that I am
right, for I know the ways of my own people."
An instant later an old war-chief, accompanied by two younger braves and
by the bearded half-Dutch Iroquois who had led the attack upon the
manor-house, strolled over and stood in the doorway, looking in at the
prisoners, and shooting little guttural sentences at each other.
The totems of the Hawk, the Wolf, the Bear, and the Snake showed that
they each represented one of the great families of the Nation.
The Bastard was smoking a stone pipe, and yet it was he who talked the
most, arguing apparently with one of the younger savages, who seemed to
come round at last to his opinion. Finally the old chief said a few
short stern words, and the matter appeared to be settled.
"And you, you beldame," said the Bastard in French to the Iroquois
woman, "you will have a lesson this night which will teach you to side
against your own people."
"You half-bred mongrel," replied the fearless old woman, "you should
take that hat from your head when you speak to one in whose veins runs
the best blood of the Onondagas. You a warrior? You who, with a
thousand at your back, could not make your way into a little house with
a few poor husbandmen within it! It is no wonder that your father's
people have cast you out! Go back and work at the beads, or play at the
game of plum-stones, for some day in the woods you might meet with a
man, and so bring disgrace upon the nation which has taken you in!"
The evil face of the Bastard grew livid as he listened to the scornful
words which were hissed at him by the captive. He strode across to her,
and taking her hand he thrust her forefinger into the burning bowl of
his pipe. She made no effort to remove it, but sat with a perfectly set
face for a minute or more, looking out through the open door at the
evening sunlight and the little groups of chattering Indians. He had
watched her keenly in the hope of hearing a cry, or seeing some spasm of
agony upon her face, but at last, with a curse, he dashed down her hand
and strode from the hut. She thrust her charred finger into her bosom
"He is a good-for-nought!" she cried. "He does not even know how to
torture. Now, I could have got a cry out of him. I am sure of it.
But you--monsieur, you are very white!"
"It was the sight of such a hellish deed. Ah, if we were but set face
to face, I with my sword, he with what weapon he chose, by God, he
should pay for it with his heart's blood."
The Indian woman seemed surprised. "It is strange to me," she said,
"that you should think of what befalls me when you are yourselves under
the same shadow. But our fate will be as I said."
"You and I are to die at the stake. She is to be given to the dog who
has left us."
"Adele! Adele! What shall I do!" He tore his hair in his helplessness
"No, no, fear not, Amory, for my heart will not fail me. What is the
pang of death if it binds us together?"
"The younger chief pleaded for you, saying that the _Mitche Manitou_ had
stricken you with madness, as could be seen by your swimming to their
canoe, and that a blight would fall upon the nation if you were led to
the stake. But this Bastard said that love came often like madness
among the pale-faces, and that it was that alone which had driven you.
Then it was agreed that you should die and that she should go to his
wigwam, since he had led the war-party. As for me, their hearts were
bitter against me, and I also am to die by the pine splinters."
De Catinat breathed a prayer that he might meet his fate like a soldier
and a gentleman.
"When is it to be?" he asked.
"Now! At once! They have gone to make all ready! But you have time
yet, for I am to go first."
"Amory, Amory, could we not die together now?" cried Adele, throwing her
arms round her husband. "If it be sin, it is surely a sin which will be
forgiven us. Let us go, dear. Let us leave these dreadful people and
this cruel world and turn where we shall find peace."
The Indian woman's eyes flashed with satisfaction.
"You have spoken well, White Lily," said she. "Why should you wait
until it is their pleasure to pluck you. See, already the glare of
their fire beats upon the tree-trunks, and you can hear the howlings of
those who thirst for your blood. If you die by your own hands, they
will be robbed of their spectacle, and their chief will have lost his
bride. So you will be the victors in the end, and they the vanquished.
You have said rightly, White Lily. There lies the only path for you!"
"But how to take it?"
Onega glanced keenly at the two warriors who stood as sentinels at the
door of the hut. They had turned away, absorbed in the horrible
preparations which were going on. Then she rummaged deeply within the
folds of her loose gown and pulled out a small pistol with two brass
barrels and double triggers in the form of winged dragons. It was only
a toy to look at, all carved and scrolled and graven with the choicest
work of the Paris gunsmith. For its beauty the seigneur had bought it
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