by Constance Fenimore Woolson
THE OLD AGENCY.
Not many years ago the shore bordering the head of Lake Michigan,
the northern curve of that silver sea, was a wilderness unexplored. It
is a wilderness still, showing even now on the school-maps nothing save
an empty waste of colored paper, generally a pale, cold yellow suitable
to the climate, all the way from Point St. Ignace to the iron ports on
the Little Bay de Noquet, or Badderknock in lake phraseology, a hundred
miles of nothing, according to the map-makers, who, knowing nothing of
the region, set it down accordingly, withholding even those long-legged
letters, 'Chip-pe-was,' 'Ric-ca-rees,' that stretch accommodatingly
across so much townless territory farther west. This northern curve is
and always has been off the route to anywhere; and mortals, even
Indians, prefer as a general rule, when once started, to go somewhere.
The earliest Jesuit explorers and the captains of yesterday's schooners
had this in common, that they could not, being human, resist a
cross-cut; and thus, whether bark canoes of two centuries ago or the
high, narrow propellers of to-day, one and all, coming and going, they
veer to the southeast or west, and sail gayly out of sight, leaving
this northern curve of ours unvisited and alone. A wilderness still,
but not unexplored; for that railroad of the future which is to make of
British America a garden of roses, and turn the wild trappers of the
Hudson's Bay Company into gently smiling congressmen, has it not sent
its missionaries thither, to the astonishment and joy of the beasts
that dwelt therein? According to tradition, these men surveyed the
territory, and then crossed over (those of them at least whom the
beasts had spared) to the lower peninsula, where, the pleasing variety
of swamps being added to the labyrinth of pines and sand-hills, they
soon lost themselves, and to this day have never found what they lost.
As the gleam of a camp-fire is occasionally seen, and now and then a
distant shout heard by the hunter passing along the outskirts, it is
supposed, that they are in there somewhere surveying still.
Not long ago, however, no white man's foot had penetrated within our
curve. Across the great river and over the deadly plains, down to the
burning clime of Mexico and up to the arctic darkness, journeyed our
countrymen, gold to gather and strange countries to see; but this
little pocket of land and water passed they by without a glance,
inasmuch as no iron mountains rose among its pines, no copper lay
hidden in its sand ridges, no harbors dented its shores. Thus it
remained an unknown region, and enjoyed life accordingly. But the white
man's foot, well booted, was on the way, and one fine afternoon came
tramping through. 'I wish I was a tree,' said this white man, one
Jarvis Waring by name. 'See that young pine, how lustily it grows,
feeling its life to the very tip of each green needle! How it thrills
in the sun's rays, how strongly, how completely it carries out the
intention of its existence! It never, has a headache, it—Bah! what a
miserable, half-way thing is man, who should be a demigod, and is—a
creature for the very trees to pity!' And then he built his camp-fire,
called in his dogs, and slept the sleep of youth and health, none the
less deep because of that Spirit of Discontent that had driven him
forth, into the wilderness; probably the Spirit of Discontent knew what
it was about. Thus for days, for weeks, our white man wandered through
the forest and wandered at random, for, being an exception, he
preferred to go nowhere; he had his compass, but never used it, and, a
practised hunter, eat what came in his way and planned not for the
morrow. 'Now am I living the life of a good, hearty, comfortable bear,'
he said to himself with satisfaction.
'No, you are not, Waring,' replied the Spirit of Discontent, 'for
you know you have your compass in your pocket and can direct yourself
back to the camps on Lake Superior or to the Sault for supplies, which
is more than the most accomplished bear can do.'
'O come, what do you know about bears?' answered Waring; 'very
likely they too have their depots of supplies,—in caves perhaps—'
'No caves here.'
'In hollow trees, then.'
'You are thinking of the stories about bears and wild honey,' said
the pertinacious Spirit.
'Shut up, I am going to sleep,' replied the man, rolling himself in
his blanket; and then the Spirit, having accomplished his object,
smiled blandly and withdrew.
Wandering thus, all reckoning lost both of time and place, our white
man came out one evening unexpectedly upon a shore; before him was
water stretching away grayly in the fog-veiled moonlight; and so
successful had been his determined entangling of himself in the webs of
the wilderness, that he really knew not whether it was Superior, Huron
or Michigan that confronted him, for all three bordered on the eastern
end of the upper peninsula. Not that he wished to know; precisely the
contrary. Glorifying himself in his ignorance, he built a fire on the
sands, and leaning back against the miniature cliffs that guard the
even beaches of the inland seas, he sat looking out over the water,
smoking a comfortable pipe of peace, and listening meanwhile to the
regular wash of the waves. Some people are born with rhythm in their
souls, and some not; to Jarvis Waring everything seemed to keep time,
from the songs of the birds to the chance words of a friend; and during
all this pilgrimage through the wilderness, when not actively engaged
in quarrelling with the Spirit, he was repeating bits of verses and
humming fragments of songs that kept time with his footsteps, or rather
they were repeating and humming themselves along through his brain,
while he sat apart and listened. At this moment the fragment that came
and went apropos of nothing was Shakespeare's sonnet,
'When to the sessions of sweet silent thought,
I summon up remembrance of things past.'
Now the small waves came in but slowly, and the sonnet in keeping
time with their regular wash, dragged its syllables so dolorously that
at last the man woke to the realisation that something was annoying
'When to—the ses—sions of—sweet si—lent thought,'
chanted the sonnet and waves together.
'O double it, double it, can't you?' said the man impatiently, 'this
“When to the ses—sions of sweet si—lent thought, te-tum,
But no; the waves and the lines persisted in their own idea, and the
listener finally became conscious of a third element against him,
another sound which kept time with the obstinate two and encouraged
them in obstinacy,—the dip of light oars somewhere out in the gray
'When to—the ses—sions of—sweet si—lent thought,
I sum—mon up—remem—brance of—things past,'
chanted the sonnet and the waves and the oars together, and went
duly on, sighing the lack of many things they sought away down to that
'dear friend' who in some unexplained way made all their 'sorrows end.'
Even then, while peering through the fog and wondering where and what
was this spirit boat that one could hear but not see, Waring found time
to make his usual objections. 'This summoning up remembrance of things
past, sighing the lack, weeping afresh, and so forth, is all very
well,' he remarked to himself, 'we all do it. But that friend who
sweeps in at the death with his opportune dose of comfort is a poetical
myth whom I, for one, have never yet met.'
'That is because you do not deserve such a friend,' answered the
Spirit, briskly reappearing on the scene. 'A man who flies in the
wilderness to escape—'
'Spirit, are you acquainted with a Biblical personage named David?'
interrupted Waring, executing a flank movement.
The spirit acknowledged the acquaintance, but cautiously, as not
knowing what was coming next.
'Did he or did he not have anything to say about flying to
wildernesses and mountain-tops? Did he or did he not express wishes to
sail thither in person?'
'David had a voluminous way of making remarks,' replied the Spirit,
'and I do not pretend to stand up for them all. But one thing is
certain; whatever he may have wished, in a musical way, regarding
wildernesses and mountain-tops, when it came to the fact he did not go.
And why? Because he—'
'Had no wings,' said Waring, closing the discussion with a mighty
yawn. 'I say, Spirit, take yourself off. Something is coming ashore,
and were it old Nick in person I should be glad to see him and shake
his clawed hand.'
As he spoke out of the fog and into the glare of the fire shot a
phantom skiff, beaching itself straight and swift at his feet, and so
suddenly that he had to withdraw them like a flash to avoid the crunch
of the sharp bows across the sand. 'Always let the other man speak
first,' he thought; 'this boomerang of a boat has a shape in it, I
The shape rose, and, leaning on its oar, gazed at the camp and its
owner in silence. It seemed to be an old man, thin and bent, with bare
arms, and a yellow handkerchief bound around its head, drawn down
almost to the eyebrows, which, singularly bushy and prominent, shaded
the deep-set eyes, and hid their expression.
'But supposing he won't, don't stifle yourself,' continued Waring;
then aloud, 'Well, old gentleman, where do you come from?'
'And where are you going?'
'Couldn't you take me with you? I have been trying all my life to go
nowhere, but never could learn the way: do what I would, I always found
myself going in the opposite direction, namely, somewhere.'
To this the shape replied nothing, but gazed on.
'Do the nobodies reside in Nowhere, I wonder,' pursued the smoker;
'because if they do, I am afraid I shall meet all my friends and
relatives. What a pity the somebodies could not reside there! But
perhaps they do; cynics would say so.'
But at this stage the shape waved its oar impatiently and demanded,
'Who are you?'
'Well I do not exactly know. Once I supposed I was Jarvis Waring,
but the wilderness has routed that prejudice. We can be anybody we
please; it is only a question of force or will; and my latest character
has been William Shakespeare. I have been trying to find out whether I
wrote my own plays. Stay to supper and take the other side; it is long
since I have had an argument with flesh and blood. And you are
But the shape frowned until it seemed all eyebrow. 'Young man,' it
said, 'how came you here? By water?'
'No; by land.'
'No; through the woods.'
'Nobody ever comes through the woods.'
'Agreed; but I am somebody.'
'Do you mean that you have come across from Lake Superior on foot?'
'I landed on the shore of Lake Superior a month or two ago, and
struck inland the same day; where I am now I neither know nor want to
'Very well,' said the shape,—'very well.' But it scowled more
gently. 'You have no boat?'
'Do you start on to-morrow?'
'Probably; by that time the waves and “the sessions of sweet silent
thought” will have driven me distracted between them.'
'I will stay to supper, I think,' said the shape, unbending still
farther, and stepping out of the skiff.
'Deeds before words then,' replied Waring, starting back towards a
tree where his game-bag and knapsack were standing. When he returned
the skiff had disappeared; but the shape was warming its moccassined
feet in a very human sort of way. They cooked and eat with the
appetites of the wilderness, and grew sociable after a fashion. The
shape's name was Fog, Amos Fog, or old Fog, a fisherman and a hunter
among the islands farther to the south; he had come inshore to see what
that fire meant, no person having camped there in fifteen long years.
'You have been here all that time, then?'
'Off and on, off and on; I live a wandering life,' replied old Fog;
and then, with the large curiosity that solitude begets, he turned the
conversation back towards the other and his story.
The other, not unwilling to tell his adventures, began readily; and
the old man listened, smoking meanwhile a second pipe produced from the
compact stores in the knapsack. In the web of encounters and escapes,
he placed his little questions now and then; no, Waring had no plan for
exploring the region, no intention of settling there, was merely idling
away a summer in the wilderness and would then go back to civilization
never to return, at least, not that way; might go west across the
plains, but that would be farther south. They talked on, one much, the
other little; after a time, Waring, whose heart had been warmed by his
flask, began to extol his ways and means.
'Live? I live like a prince,' he said. 'See these tin cases; they
contain concentrated stores of various kinds. I carry a little tea, you
see, and even a few lumps of white sugar as a special treat now and
then on a wet night.
'Did you buy that sugar at the Sault?' said the old man, eagerly.
'O no; I brought it up from below. For literature I have this small
edition of Shakespeare's sonnets, the cream of the whole world's
poetry; and when I am tired of looking at the trees and the sky, I look
at this, Titian's lovely daughter with her upheld salver of fruit. Is
she not beautiful as a dream?'
'I don't know much about dreams,' replied old Fog, scanning the
small picture with curious eyes 'but isn't she a trifle heavy in build?
They dress like that nowadays, I suppose,—flowered gowns and gold
chains around the waist?'
'Why, man, that picture was painted more than three centuries ago.'
'Was it now? Women don't alter much, do they?' said old Fog, simply.
'Then they don't dress like that nowadays?'
'I don't know how they dress, and don't care,' said the younger man,
repacking his treasures.
Old Fog concluded to camp with his new friend that night and be off
at dawn. 'You see it is late,' he said, 'and your fire's all made and
everything comfortable. I've a long row before me to-morrow: I'm on my
way to the Beavers.'
'Ah! very intelligent animals, I am told. Friends of yours?'
'Why, they're islands, boy; Big and Little Beaver! What do you know,
if you don't know the Beavers?'
'Man,' replied Waring. 'I flatter myself I know the human animal
well; he is a miserable beast.'
'Is he?' said old Fog, wonderingly; 'who'd have thought it!' Then,
giving up the problem as something beyond his reach,—'Don't trouble
yourself if you hear me stirring in the night,' he said; 'I am often
mighty restless.' And rolling himself in his blanket, he soon became,
at least as regards the camp-fire and sociability, a nonentity.
'Simple-minded old fellow,' thought Waring, lighting a fresh pipe;
'has lived around here all his life apparently. Think of that,—to have
lived around here all one's life! I, to be sure, am here now; but then,
have I not been—' And here followed a revery of remembrances, that
glittering network of gayety and folly which only young hearts can
weave, the network around whose border is written in a thousand hues,
'Rejoice, young man, in thy youth, for it cometh not again.'
'Alas, what sighs from our boding hearts
The infinite skies have borne away!'
sings a poet of our time; and the same thought lies in many hearts
unexpressed, and sighed itself away in this heart of our Jarvis Waring
that still foggy evening on the beach.
The middle of the night, the long watch before dawn; ten chances to
one against his awakening! A shape is moving towards the bags hanging
on the distant tree. How the sand crunches,—but he sleeps on. It
reaches the bags, this shape, and hastily, rifles them; then it steals
back and crosses the sand again, its moccasined feet making no sound.
But, as it happened, that one chance (which so few of us ever see!)
appeared on the scene at this moment and guided these feet directly
towards a large, thin, old shell masked with newly blown sand; it broke
with a crack; Waring woke and gave chase. The old man was unarmed, he
had noticed that; and then such a simple-minded, harmless old fellow!
But simple-minded, harmless old fellows do not run like mad if one
happens to wake; so the younger pursued. He was strong, he was fleet;
but the shape was fleeter, and the space between them grew wider.
Suddenly the shape turned and darted into the water, running out until
only its head was visible above the surface, a dark spot in the foggy
moonlight. Waring pursued, and saw meanwhile another dark spot beyond,
an empty skiff which came rapidly inshore-ward, until it met the head,
which forthwith took to itself a body, clambered in, lifted the oars,
and was gone in an instant.
'Well,' said Waring, still pursuing down the gradual slope of the
beach, 'will a phantom bark come at my call, I wonder? At any rate I
will go out as far as he did and see.' But no; the perfidious beach at
this instant shelved off suddenly and left him afloat in deep water.
Fortunately he was a skilled swimmer, and soon regained the shore wet
and angry. His dogs were whimpering at a distance, both securely
fastened to trees, and the light of the fire had died down: evidently
the old Fog was not, after all, so simple as some other people!
'I might as well see what the old rogue has taken,' thought Waring;
'all the tobacco and whiskey, I'll be bound.' But nothing had been
touched save the lump-sugar, the little book, and the picture of
Titian's daughter! Upon this what do you suppose Waring did? He built a
When it was done, and it took some days and was nothing but a
dug-out after all (the Spirit said that), he sailed out into the
unknown; which being interpreted means that he paddled southward. From
the conformation of the shore, he judged that he was in a deep curve,
protected in a measure from the force of wind and wave. 'I'll find that
ancient mariner,' he said to himself, 'if I have to circumnavigate the
entire lake. My book of sonnets, indeed, and my Titian picture! Would
nothing else content him? This voyage I undertake from a pure inborn
sense of justice—'
'Now, Waring, you know it is nothing of the kind,' said the Spirit
who had sailed also. 'You know you are tired of the woods and dread
going back that way, and you know you may hit a steamer off the
islands; besides, you are curious about this old man who steals
Shakespeare and sugar, leaving tobacco and whiskey untouched.'
'Spirit,' replied the man at the paddle, 'you fairly corrupt me with
your mendacity. Be off and unlimber yourself in the fog; I see it
He did see it indeed; in it rolled upon him in columns, a soft
silvery cloud enveloping everything, the sunshine, the shore, and the
water, so that he paddled at random, and knew not whither he went, or
rather saw not, since knowing was long since out of the question. 'This
is pleasant,' he said to himself when the morning had turned to
afternoon and the afternoon to night, 'and it is certainly new. A
stratus of tepid cloud a thousand miles long and a thousand miles deep,
and a man in a dug-out paddling through! Sisyphus was nothing to this.'
But he made himself comfortable in a philosophic way, and went to the
only place left to him,—to sleep.
At dawn the sunshine colored the fog golden, but that was all; it
was still fog, and lay upon the dark water thicker and softer than
ever. Waring eat some dried meat, and considered the possibilities; he
had reckoned without the fog, and now his lookout was uncomfortably
misty. The provisions would not last more than a week; and though he
might catch fish, how could he cook them? He had counted on a shore
somewhere; any land, however desolate, would give him a fire; but this
fog was muffling, and unless he stumbled ashore by chance he might go
on paddling in a circle forever. 'Bien,' he said, summing up, 'my part
at any rate is to go on; I, at least can do my duty.'
'Especially as there is nothing else to do,' observed the Spirit.
Having once decided, the man kept at his work with finical
precision. At a given moment he eat a lunch, and very tasteless it was
too, and then to work again; the little craft went steadily on before
the stroke of the strong arms, its wake unseen, its course unguided.
Suddenly at sunset the fog folded its gray draperies, spread its wings,
and floated off to the southwest, where that night it rested at Death's
Door and sent two schooners to the bottom; but it left behind it a
released dug-out, floating before a log fortress which had appeared by
magic, rising out of the water with not an inch of ground to spare, if
indeed there was any ground; for might it not be a species of
fresh-water boat, anchored there for clearer weather?
'Ten more strokes and I should have run into it,' thought Waring as
he floated noiselessly up to this watery residence; holding on by a
jutting beam, he reconnoitred the premises. The building was of logs,
square, and standing on spiles, its north side, under which he lay,
showed a row of little windows all curtained in white, and from one of
them peeped the top of a rose-bush; there was but one storey, and the
roof was flat. Nothing came to any of these windows, nothing stirred,
and the man in the dug-out, being curious as well as hungry, decided to
explore, and touching the wall at intervals pushed his craft
noiselessly around the eastern corner; but here was a blank wall of
logs and nothing more. The south side was the same, with the exception
of two loopholes, and the dug-out glided its quietest past these. But
the west shone out radiant, a rude little balcony overhanging the
water, and in it a girl in a mahogany chair, nibbling something and
'My sugar and my sonnets, as I am alive!' ejaculated Waring to
The girl took a fresh bite with her little white teeth, and went on
reading in the sunset light.
'Cool,' thought Waring.
And cool she looked truly to a man who had paddled two days in a hot
sticky fog, as, clad in white, she sat still and placid on her airy
perch. Her hair, of the very light fleecy gold seldom seen after
babyhood, hung over her shoulders unconfined by comb or ribbon, felling
around her like a veil and glittering in the horizontal sunbeams; her
face, throat and hands were white as the petals of a white camellia,
her features infantile, her cast-down eyes invisible under the
full-orbed lids. Waring gazed at her cynically, his boat motionless; it
accorded with his theories that the only woman he had seen for months
should be calmly eating and reading stolen sweets. The girl turned a
page, glanced up, saw him, and sprang forward smiling; as she stood at
the balcony, her beautiful hair fell below her knees.
'Jacob,' she cried gladly, 'is that you at last?'
'No,' replied Waring, 'it is not Jacob; rather Esau. Jacob was too
tricky for me. The damsel, Rachel, I presume!'
'My name is Silver,' said the girl, 'and I see you are not Jacob at
all. Who are you, then?'
'A hungry, tired man who would like to come aboard and rest awhile.'
'Aboard? This is not a boat.'
'A castle,—Castle Nowhere.'
'You reside here?'
'Of course; where else should I reside? Is it not a beautiful
place?' said the girl, looking around with a little air of pride.
'I could tell better if I was up there.'
'Do you not see the ladder?'
'Ah, yes,—Jacob had a ladder, I remember; he comes up this way, I
'He does not; but I wish he would.'
'Undoubtedly. But you are not Leah all this time?'
'I am Silver, as I told you before; I know not—what you mean with
'But, mademoiselle, your Bible—'
'What is Bible?'
'You have never read the Bible?'
'It is a book, then. I like books,' replied Silver, waving her hand
comprehensively; 'I have read five, and now I have a new one.'
'Do you like it, your new one?' asked Waring, glancing towards his
'I do not understand it all; perhaps you can explain to me?'
'I think I can,' answered the young man, smiling in spite of
himself; 'that is, if you wish to learn.'
'Is it hard?'
'That depends upon the scholar; now, some minds—' Here a hideous
face looked out through one of the little windows, and then vanished.
'Ah,' said Waring, pausing, 'one of the family?'
'That is Lorez, my dear old nurse.'
The face now came out on to the balcony and showed itself as part of
an old negress, bent and wrinkled with age.
'He came in a boat, Lorez,' said Silver, 'and yet you see he is not
Jacob. But he says he is tired and hungry, so we will have supper, now,
without waiting for father.'
The old woman smiled and nodded, stroking the girl's glittering hair
meanwhile with her black hand.
'As soon as the sun has gone it will be very damp,' said Silver,
turning to her guest; 'you will come within. But you have not told
'Jarvis,' replied Waring promptly.
'Come, then, Jarvis.' And she led the way through a low door into a
long narrow room with a row of little square windows on each side all
covered with little square white curtains. The walls and ceiling were
planked and the workmanship of the whole rude and clumsy; but a gay
carpet covered the floor, a chandelier adorned with lustres, hung from
a hook in the ceiling, large gilded vases and a mirror in a tarnished
gilt frame adorned a shelf over the hearth, mahogany chairs stood in
ranks against the wall under the little windows and a long narrow table
ran down the centre of the apartment from end to end. It all seemed
strangely familiar; of what did it remind him? His eyes fell upon the
table-legs; they were riveted to the floor. Then it came to him at
once,—the long narrow cabin of a lake steamer.
'I wonder if it is not anchored after all,' he thought.
'Just a few shavings and one little stick, Lorez,' said Silver;
'enough to give us light and drive away the damp.'
Up flared the blaze and spread abroad the dear home feeling. (O
hearth-fire, good genius of home, with thee a log-cabin is cheery and
bright, without thee the palace a dreary waste!)
'And now, while Lorez is preparing supper, you will come and see my
pets,' said Silver, in her soft tone of unconscious command.
'By all means,' replied Waring. 'Anything in the way of mermaidens?'
'Mermaidens dwell in the water, they cannot live in houses as we
can; did you not know that? I have seen them on moonlight nights, and
so has Lorez; but Aunt Shadow never saw them.'
'Another member of the family,—Aunt Shadow?'
'Yes,' replied Silver; 'but she is not here now. She went away one
night when I was asleep. I do not know why it is,' she added sadly,
'but if people go away from here in the night they never come back.
Will it be so with you, Jarvis?'
'No; for I will take you with me,' replied the young man lightly.
'Very well; and father will go too, and Lorez,' said Silver.
To this addition, Waring, like many another man in similar
circumstances, made no reply. But Silver did not notice the omission.
She had opened a door, and behold, they stood together in a bower of
greenery and blossom, flowers growing everywhere,—on the floor, up the
walls, across the ceiling, in pots, in boxes, in baskets, on shelves,
in cups, in shells, climbing, crowding each other, swinging, hanging,
winding around everything,—a riot of beauty with perfumes for a
language. Two white gulls stood in the open window and gravely surveyed
'They stay with me almost all the time,' said the water-maiden;
'every morning they fly out to sea for a while, but they always come
Then she flitted to and fro, kissed the opening blossoms and talked
to them, tying back the more riotous vines and gravely admonishing
'They are so happy here,' she said; 'it was dull for them on shore.
I would not live on the shore! Would you?'
'Certainly not,' replied Waring, with an air of having spent his
entire life upon a raft. 'But you did not find all these blossoms on
the shores about here, did you?'
'Father found them,—he finds everything; in his boat almost every
night is something for me. I hope he will come soon; he will be so glad
to see you.'
'Will he? I wish I was sure of that,' thought Waring. Then aloud,
'Has he any men with him?' he asked carelessly.
'O no; we live here all alone now,—father, Lorez, and I.'
'But you were expecting a Jacob?'
'I have been expecting Jacob for more than two years. Every night I
watch for him, but he comes not. Perhaps he and Aunt Shadow will come
together,—do you think they will?' said Silver, looking up into his
eyes with a wistful expression.
'Certainly,' replied Waring.
'Now am I glad, so glad! For father and Lorez will never say so. I
think I shall like you, Jarvis.' And, leaning on a box of mignonette,
she considered him gravely with her little hands folded.
Waring, man of the world,—Waring, who had been, under
fire,—Waring, the impassive,—Waring,—the unflinching,—turned from
Supper was eaten at one end of the long table; the dishes,
tablecloth, and napkins were marked with an anchor, the food simple but
'Fish, of course, and some common supplies I can understand,' said
the visitor; 'but how do you obtain flour like this, or sugar?'
'Father brings them,' said Silver, 'and keeps them locked in his
storeroom. Brown sugar we have always, but white not always, and I like
it so much! Don't you?'
'No; I care nothing for it,' said Waring, remembering the few lumps
and the little white teeth.
The old negress waited, and peered at the visitor out of her small
bright eyes; every time Silver spoke to her, she broke into a radiance
of smiles and nods, but said nothing.
'She lost her voice some years ago,' explained the little mistress
when the black had gone out for more coffee; 'and now she seems to have
forgotten how to form words, although she understands us.'
Lorez returned, and, after refilling Waring's cup, placed something
shyly beside his plate, and withdrew into the shadow. 'What is it?'
said the young man, examining the carefully folded parcel.
'Why, Lorez, have you given him that!' exclaimed Silver as he drew
out a scarlet ribbon, old and frayed, but brilliant still. 'We think it
must have belonged to her young master,' she continued in a low tone.
'It is her most precious treasure, and long ago she used to talk about
him, and about her old home in the South.'
The old woman came forward after a while, smiling and nodding like
an animated mummy, and taking the red ribbon threw it around the young
man's neck, knotting it under the chin. Then she nodded with treble
radiance and made signs; of satisfaction.
'Yes, it is becoming,' said Silver, considering the effect
thoughtfully, her small head with its veil of hair bent to one side,
like a flower swayed by the wind.
The flesh-pots of Egypt returned to Jarvis Waring's mind: he
remembered certain articles of apparel left behind in civilization, and
murmured against the wilderness. Under the pretence of examining the
vases, he took an early opportunity of, looking into the round mirror.
'I am hideous,' he said to himself, uneasily.
'Decidedly so,' echoed the Spirit in a cheerful voice. But he was
not; only a strong dark young man of twenty-eight, browned by exposure,
clad in a gray flannel shirt and the rough attire of a hunter.
The fire on the hearth sparkled gayly. Silver had brought one of her
little white gowns, half finished, and sat sewing in its light, while
the old negress came and went about her household tasks.
'So you can sew?' said the visitor.
'Of course I can. Aunt Shadow taught me,' answered the water-maiden,
threading her needle deftly. 'There is no need to do it, for I have so
many dresses; but I like to sew, don't you?'
'I cannot say that I do. Have you so many dresses then?'
'Yes; would you like to see them? Wait.'
Down went the little gown trailing along the floor, and away she
flew, coming back with her arms full,—silks, muslins, laces, and even
jewelry. 'Are they not beautiful?' she asked, ranging her splendor over
'They are indeed,' said Waring, examining the garments with curious
eyes. 'Where did you get them?'
'Father brought them. O, there he is now, there he is now! I hear
the oars. Come, Lorez.'
She ran out; the old woman hastened, carrying a brand from the
hearth; and after a moment Waring followed them. 'I may as well face
the old rogue at once,' he thought.
The moon had not risen and the night was dark; under the balcony
floated a black object, and Lorez, leaning over, held out her flaming
torch. The face of the old rogue came out into the light under its
yellow handkerchief, but so brightened and softened by loving gladness
that the gazer above hardly knew it. 'Are you there, darling, safe and
well?' said the old man, looking up fondly as he fastened his skiff.
'Yes, father; here I am and so glad to see you,' replied the
water-maiden, waiting at the top of the ladder. 'We have a visitor,
father dear; are you not glad, so glad to see him?'
The two men came face to face, and the elder started back. 'What are
you doing here?' he said sternly.
'Looking for my property.'
'Take it, and begone!'
'I will, to-morrow.'
All this apart, and with the rapidity of lightning.
'His name is Jarvis, father, and we must keep him with us,' said
'Yes, dear, as long as he wishes to stay; but no doubt he has home
and friends waiting for him.'
They went within, Silver leading the way. Old Fog's eyes gleamed and
his hands were clinched. The younger man watched him warily.
'I have been showing Jarvis all my dresses, father, and he thinks
'They certainly are remarkable,' observed Waring, coolly.
Old Fog's hands dropped, he glanced nervously towards the visitor.
'What have you brought for me to-night, father dear?'
'Nothing, child; that is, nothing of any consequence. But it is
growing late; run off to your nest'
'O no, papa, you have had no supper, nor—'
'I am not hungry. Go, child, go; do not grieve me,' said the old man
in a low tone.
'Grieve you? Dear papa, never!' said the girl, her voice softening
to tenderness in a moment. 'I will run straight to my room.—Come,
The door closed. 'Now for us two,' thought Waring.
But the cloud had passed from old Fog's face, and he drew up his
chair confidentially. 'You see how it is,' he began in an apologetic
tone; 'that child is the darling of my life, and I could not resist
taking those things for her; she has so few books, and she likes those
little lumps of sugar.'
'And the Titian picture?' said Waring, watching him doubtfully.
'A father's foolish pride; I knew she was lovelier, but I wanted to
see the two side by side. She is lovelier, isn't she?'
'I do not think so.'
'Don't you?' said old Fog in a disappointed tone. 'Well, I suppose I
am foolish about her; we live here all alone, you see: my sister
brought her up.'
'The Aunt Shadow who has gone away?'
'Yes; she was my sister, and—and she went away last year,' said the
old man. 'Have a pipe?'
'I should think you would find it hard work to live here.'
'I do; but a poor man cannot choose. I hunt, fish, and get out a few
furs sometimes; I traffic with the Beaver people now and then. I bought
all this furniture in that way; you would not think it, but they have a
great many nice things down at Beaver.'
'It looks like steamboat furniture.'
'That is it; it is. A steamer went to pieces down there, and they
saved almost all her furniture and stores; they are very good sailors,
'Well I would not like to say that; you know we do have terrible
storms on these waters. And then there is the fog; this part of Lake
Michigan is foggy half the time, why, I never could guess: but twelve
hours out the twenty-four the gray mist lies on the water here and
outside, shifting slowly backwards and forwards from Little Traverse to
Death's Door, and up into this curve, like a waving curtain. Those
silks, now, came from the steamer; trunks, you know. But I have never
told Silver; she might ask where were the people to whom they belonged.
You do not like the idea? Neither do I. But how could we help the
drowning when we were not there, and these things were going for a song
down at Beaver. The child loves pretty things; what could a poor man
do? Have a glass of punch; I'll get it ready in no time.' He bustled
about, and then came back with the full glasses. 'You won't tell her? I
may have done wrong in the matter, but it would kill me to have the
child lose faith in me,' he said, humbly.
'Are you going to keep the girl shut up here forever?' said Waring,
half touched, half disgusted; the old fellow had looked abject as he
'That is it; no,' said Fog, eagerly. 'She has been but a child all
this time, you see, and my sister taught her well. We did the best we
could. But as soon as I have a little more, just a little more, I
intend to move to one of the towns down the lake, and have a small
house and everything comfortable. I have planned it all out, I shall
He rambled on, garrulously detailing all his fancies and projects
while the younger man sipped his punch (which was very good), listened
until he was tired, fell into a doze, woke and listened awhile longer,
and then, wearied out, proposed bed.
'Certainly. But, as I was saying—'
'I can hear the rest to-morrow,' said Waring, rising with scant
'I am sorry you go so soon; couldn't you stay a few days?' said the
old man, lighting a brand. 'I am going over to-morrow to the shore
where I met you. I have some traps there; you might enjoy a little
'I have had too much of that already. I must get my dogs, and then I
should like to hit a steamer or vessel going below.'
'Nothing easier; we'll go over after the dogs early in the morning,
and then I'll take you right down to the islands if the wind is fair.
Would you like to look around the castle,—I am going to draw up the
ladders. No? This way, then; here is your room.'
It was a little side-chamber with one window high up over the water;
there was an iron bolt on the door, and the walls of bare logs were
solid. Waring stood his gun in one corner, and laid his pistols by the
side of the bed,—for there was a bed, only a rude framework like a
low-down shelf, but covered with mattress and sheets none the
less,—and his weary body longed for those luxuries with a longing that
only the wilderness can give,—the wilderness with its beds of boughs,
and no undressing. The bolt and the logs shut him in safely; he was
young and strong, and there were his pistols. 'Unless they burn down
their old castle,' he said to himself, 'they cannot harm me.' And then
he fell to thinking of the lovely childlike girl, and his heart grew
soft. 'Poor old man,' he said, 'how he must have worked and stolen and
starved to keep her safe and warm in this far-away nest of his hidden
in the fogs! I won't betray the old fellow, and I'll go to-morrow. Do
you hear that, Jarvis Waring? I'll go to-morrow!'
And then the Spirit, who had been listening as usual, folded himself
up silently and flew away.
To go to sleep in a bed, and awake in an open boat drifting out to
sea, is startling. Waring was not without experiences, startling and so
forth, but this exceeded former sensations; when a bear had him, for
instance, he at least understood it, but this was not a bear, but a
boat. He examined the craft as well as he could in the darkness.
'Evidently boats in some shape or other are the genii of this region,'
he said; 'they come shooting ashore from nowhere, they sail in at a
signal without oars, canvas, or crew, and now they have taken to
kidnapping. It is foggy too, I'll warrant; they are in league with the
fogs.' He looked up, but could see nothing, not even a star.
'What does it all mean anyway? Where am I? Who am I? Am I anybody?
Or has the body gone and left me only as an any?' But no one answered.
Finding himself partly dressed, with the rest of his clothes at his
feet, he concluded that he was not yet a spirit; in one of his pockets
was a match, he struck it and came back to reality in a flash. The boat
was his own dug-out, and he himself and no other was in it: so far, so
good. Everything else, however, was fog and night. He found the paddle
and began work. 'We shall see who will conquer,' he thought, doggedly,
'Fate or I!' So he paddled on an hour for more.
Then the wind arose and drove the fog helter-skelter across to Green
Bay, where the gray ranks curled themselves down and lay hidden until
morning. 'I'll go with the wind,' thought Waring, 'it must take me
somewhere in time.' So he changed his course and paddled on. The wind
grew strong, then stronger. He could see a few stars now as the ragged
dark clouds scudded across the heavens, and he hoped for the late moon.
The wind grew wild, then wilder. It took all his skill to manage his
clumsy boat. He no longer asked himself where he was or who; he
knew,—a man in the grasp of death. The wind was a gale now, and the
waves were pressed down flat by its force as it flew along. Suddenly
the man at the paddle, almost despairing, espied a light, high up,
steady, strong. 'A lighthouse on one of the islands,' he said, and
steered for it with all his might. Good luck was with him; in half an
hour he felt the beach under him, and landed on the shore; but the
light he saw no longer. 'I must be close in under it,' he thought. In
the train of the gale came thunder and lightning. Waring sat under a
bush watching the powers of the air in conflict, he saw the fury of
their darts and heard the crash of their artillery, and mused upon the
wonders of creation, and the riddle of man's existence. Then a flash
came, different from the others in that it brought the human element
upon the scene; in its light he saw a vessel driving helplessly before
the gale. Down from his spirit-heights he came at once, and all the man
within him was stirred for those on board, who, whether or not they had
ever perplexed themselves over the riddle of their existence, no doubt
now shrank from the violent solution offered to them. But what could he
do? He knew nothing of the shore, and yet there must be a harbor
somewhere, for was there not the light? Another flash showed the vessel
still nearer, drifting broadside on; involuntarily he ran out on the
long sandy point where it seemed that soon she must strike. But sooner
came a crash, then a grinding sound; there was a reef outside then, and
she was on it, the rocks cutting her, and the waves pounding her down
on their merciless edges. 'Strange!' he thought. 'The harbor must be on
the other side I suppose, and yet it seems as though I came this way.'
Looking around, there was the light high up behind him, burning clearly
and strongly, while the vessel was breaking to pieces below. 'It is a
lure,' he said, indignantly, 'a false light.' In his wrath he spoke
aloud; suddenly a shape came out of the darkness, cast him down, and
tightened a grasp around his throat. 'I know you,' he muttered,
strangling. One hand was free, he drew out his pistol, and fired; the
shape fell back. It was old Fog. Wounded? Yes, badly.
Waring found his tinder-box, made a blaze of driftwood, and bound up
the bleeding arm and leg roughly. 'Wretch,' he said, 'you set that
Old Fog nodded.
'Can anything be done for the men on board? Answer or I'll end your
miserable life at once; I don't know why, indeed, I have tried to save
Old Fog shook his head. 'Nothing,' he murmured; 'I know every inch
of the reef and shore.'
Another flash revealed for an instant the doomed vessel, and Waring
raged at his own impotence as he strode to and fro, tears of anger and
pity in his eyes. The old man watched him anxiously. 'There are not
more than six of them,' he said; 'it was only a small schooner.'
'Silence!' shouted Waring; 'each man of the six now suffering and
drowning is worth a hundred of such as you!'
'That may be,' said Fog.
Half an hour afterwards he spoke again. 'They're about gone now, the
water is deadly cold up here. The wind will go down soon, and by
daylight the things will be coming ashore; you'll see to them, won't
'I'll see to nothing, murderer.'
'And if I die what are you?'
'Silver must die too then; there is but little in the house, she
will soon starve. It was for her that I came out to-night.'
'I will take her away; not for your sake, but for hers.'
'How can you find her?'
'As soon as it is daylight I will sail over.'
'Over? Over where? That is it, you do not know,' said the old man,
eagerly, raising himself on his unwounded arm. 'You might row and sail
about here for days, and I'll warrant you'd never find the castle; it's
hidden away more carefully than a nest in the reeds, trust me for that.
The way lies through a perfect tangle of channels and islands and
marshes, and the fog is sure for at least a good half of the time. The
sides of the castle towards the channel show no light at all; and even
when you're once through the outlying islets, the only approach is
masked by a movable bed of sedge which I contrived, and which turns you
skilfully back into the marsh by another way. No; you might float
around there for days but you'd never find the castle.'
'I found it once.'
'That was because you came from the north shore. I did not guard
that side, because no one has ever come that way; you remember how
quickly I saw your light and rowed over to find out what it was. But
you are miles away from there now.'
The moon could not pierce the heavy clouds, and the night continued
dark. At last the dawn come slowly up the east and showed an angry sea,
and an old man grayly pallid on the sands near the dying fire; of the
vessel nothing was to be seen.
'The things will be coming ashore, the things will be coming.
ashore,' muttered the old man, his anxious eyes turned towards the
water that lay on a level with his face; he could not raise himself
'Do you see things coming ashore?'
Waring looked searchingly at him. 'Tell me the truth,' he said, 'has
the girl no boat?'
'Will any one go to rescue her; does any one know of the castle?'
'Not a human being on this earth.'
'And that aunt,—that Jacob?'
'Didn't you guess it? They are both dead. I rowed them out by night
and buried them,—my poor old sister and the boy who had been our
serving-lad. The child knows nothing of death. I told her they had gone
'Is there no way for her to cross, to the islands or mainland?'
'No; there is a circle of deep water all around the castle,
'I see nothing for it, then, but to try to save your justly
forfeited life,' said Waring, kneeling down with an expression of
repugnance. He was something of a surgeon, and knew what he, was about.
His task over, he made up the fire, warmed some food, fed the old man,
and helped his waning strength with the contents of his flask. 'At
least you placed all my property in the dug-out before you set me
adrift,' he said; 'may I ask your motive?'
'I did not wish to harm you; only to get rid of you. You had
provisions, and your chances were as good as many you had had in the
'But I might have found my way back to your castle?'
'Once outside, you could never do that,' replied the old man,
'I could go back along-shore.'
'There are miles of piny-wood swamps where the streams come down;
no, you could not do it, unless you went away round to Lake Superior
again, and struck across the country as you did before. That would take
you a month or two, and the summer is almost over. You would not risk a
Northern snowstorm, I reckon. But say, do you see things coming
'The poor bodies will come, no doubt,' said Waring, sternly.
'Not yet; and they don't often come in here, anyway; they're more
likely to drift out to sea.'
'Miserable creature, this is not the first time, then?'
'Only four times,—only four times in fifteen long years, and then
only when she was close to starvation,' pleaded the old man. 'The
steamer was honestly wrecked,—the Anchor, of the Buffalo
line,—honestly, I do assure you; and what I gathered from her—she did
not go to pieces for days—lasted me a long time, besides furnishing
the castle. It was a godsend to me, that steamer. You must not judge
me, boy; I work, I slave, I go hungry and cold, to keep her happy and
warm. But times come when everything fails and starvation is at the
door. She never knows it, none of them ever knew it, for I keep the
keys and amuse them with little mysteries; but, as God is my judge, the
wolf has been at the door, and is there this moment unless I have luck.
Fish? There are none in shore where they can catch them. Why do I not
fish for them? I do; but my darling is not accustomed to coarse fare,
her delicate life must be delicately nourished. O, you do not know, you
do not know! I am growing old, and my hands and eyes are not what they
were. That very night when I came home and found you there, I had just
lost overboard my last supplies, stored so long, husbanded so
carefully! If I could walk, I would show you my cellar and storehouse
back in the woods.
'Many things that they have held were honestly earned, by my fish
and my game, and one thing and another. I get out timber and raft it
down to the islands sometimes, although the work is too hard for an old
man alone; and I trade my furs off regularly at the settlements on the
islands and even along the mainland,—a month's work for a little flour
or sugar. Ah, how I have labored! I have felt my muscles crack, I have
dropped like a log from sheer weariness. Talk of tortures; which of
them have I not felt, with the pains and faintness of exposure and
hunger racking me from head to foot? Have I stopped for snow and ice?
Have I stopped for anguish? Never; I have worked, worked, worked, with
the tears of pain rolling down my cheeks, with my body gnawed by
hunger. That night, in some way, the boxes slipped and fell overboard
as I was shifting them; just slipped out of my grasp as if on purpose,
they knowing all the time that they were my last. Home I came,
empty-handed, and found you there! I would have taken your supplies,
over on the north beach, that night, yes, without pity, had I not felt
sure of those last boxes; but I never rob needlessly. You look at me
with scorn? You are thinking of those dead men! But what are they to
Silver,—the rough common fellows,—and the wolf standing at the castle
door! Believe me, though, I try everything before I resort to this, and
only twice out of the four times have I caught anything with my
tree-hung light; once it was a vessel loaded with provisions, and once
it was a schooner with grain from Chicago, which washed overboard and
was worthless. O, the bitter day when I stood here in the biting wind
and watched it float by out to sea! But say, has anything come ashore?
She will be waking soon, and we have miles to go.'
But Waring did not answer; he turned away. The old man caught at his
feet. 'You are not going,' he cried in a shrill voice, '—you are not
going? Leave me to die,—that is well; the sun will come and burn me,
thirst will come and madden me, these wounds will torture me, and all
is no more than I deserve. But Silver? If I die, she dies. If you
forsake me, you forsake her. Listen; do you believe in your Christ, the
dear Christ? Then, in his name I swear to you that you cannot reach her
alone, that only I can guide you to her. O save me, for her sake! Must
she suffer and linger and die? O God, have pity and soften his heart!'
The voice died away in sobs, the weak slow sobs of an old man.
But Waring, stern in avenging justice, drew himself from the feeble
grasp, and walked down towards the boats. He did not intend fairly to
desert the miserable old creature. He hardly knew what he intended, but
his impulse was to put more space between them, between himself and
this wretch who gathered his evil living from dead men's bones. So he
stood gazing out to sea. A faint cry roused him, and, turning, he saw
that the old man had dragged himself half across the distance between
them, marking the way with his blood, for the bandages were loosened by
his movements. As Waring turned, he held up his hands, cried aloud, and
fell as if dead on the sands. 'I am a brute,' said Waring. Then he went
to work and brought back consciousness, rebound the wounds, lifted the
body in his strong arms and bore it down the beach. A sail-boat lay in
a cove, with a little skiff in tow. Waring arranged a couch in the
bottom, and placed the old man in an easy position on an impromptu
pillow made of his coat. Fog opened his eyes. 'Anything come ashore?'
he asked faintly, trying to turn his head towards the reef. Conquering
his repugnance, the young man walked out on the long point. There was
nothing there; but farther down the coast barrels were washing up and
back in the surf, and one box had stranded in shallow water. 'Am I,
too, a wrecker?' he asked himself, as with much toil and trouble he
secured the booty and examined it. Yes, the barrels contained
Old Fog, revived by the sight, lay propped at the stern, giving
directions. Waring found himself a child obeying the orders of a wiser
head. The load on board, the little skiff carrying its share behind,
the young man set sail and away they flew over the angry water; old Fog
watching the sky, the sail, and the rudder, guiding their course with a
word now and then, but silent otherwise.
'Shall we see the castle soon?' asked Waring, after several hours
'We may be there by night, if the wind doesn't shift.'
'Have we so far to go, then? Why, I came across in the half of a
'Add a day to the half and you have it. I let you down at dawn and
towed you out until noon; I then spied that sail beating up, and I knew
there would be a storm by night, and—and things were desperate with
me. So I cast you off and came over to set the light. It was a chance I
did not count on, that your dug-out should float this way; I calculated
that she would beach you safely on an island farther to the south.'
'And all this time, when you were letting me down—By the way, how
did you do it?'
'Lifted a plank in the floor.'
'When you were letting me down, and towing me out, and calculating
chances, what was I, may I ask?'
'O, just a body asleep, that was all; your punch was drugged, and
well done too! Of course I could not have you at the castle; that was
They flew on a while longer, and then veered short to the left.
'This boat sails well,' said Waring, 'and that is your skiff behind I
see. Did you whistle for it that night?'
'I let it out by a long cord while you went after the game bag, and
the shore-end I fastened to a little stake just under the edge of the
water on that long slope of beach. I snatched it up as I ran out, and
kept hauling in until I met it. You fell off that ledge, didn't you? I
calculated on that. You see I had found out all I wanted to know; the
only thing I feared was some plan for settling along that shore, or
exploring it for something. It is my weak side; if you had climbed up
one of those tall trees you might have caught sight of the
castle,—that is, if there was no fog.'
'Will the fog come up now?'
'Hardly; the storm has been too heavy. I suppose you know what day
it is?' continued the old man, peering up at his companion from under
his shaggy eyebrows.
'No; I have lost all reckonings of time and place.'
'You are worse than I am, then; I keep a reckoning, although I do
not show it. To-day is Sunday, but Silver does not know it; all days
are alike to her. Silver has never heard of the Bible,' he added,
'Yes, she has, for I told her.'
'You told her!' cried old Fog, wringing his hands.
'Be quiet, or you will disturb those bandages again. I only asked
her if she had read the book, and she said no; that was all. But
supposing it had not been all, what then? Would it harm her to know of
'It would harm her to lose faith in me.'
'Then why have you not told her yourself?'
'I left her to grow up as the flowers grow,' said old Fog, writhing
on his couch. 'Is she not pure and good? Ah, a thousand times more than
any church or school could make her!'
'And yet you have taught her to read?'
'I knew not what might happen. I could not expose her defenceless in
a hard world. Religion is fancy, but education is like an armor. I
cannot tell what may happen.'
'True. You may die, you know; you are an old man.'
The old man turned away his face.
They sailed on, eating once or twice; afternoon came, and then an
archipelago closed in around them; the sail was down, and the oars out.
Around and through, across and back, in and out they wound, now rowing,
now poling, and now and then the sail hoisted to scud across a space of
open water. Old Fog's face had grown gray again, and the lines had
deepened across his haggard cheek and set mouth; his strength was
failing. At last they came to a turn, broad and smooth like a canal.
'Now I will hoist the sail again,' said Waring.
But old Fog shook his head. 'That turn leads directly back into the
marsh,' he said, 'Take your oar and push against the sedge in front.'
The young man obeyed, and lo! it moved slowly aside and disclosed a
narrow passage westward; through this they poled their way along to
open water, then set the sail, rounded a point, and came suddenly upon
the castle. 'Well, I am glad we are here,' said Waring.
Fog had fallen back. 'Promise,' he whispered with gray
lips,—'promise that you will not betray me to the child.' And his
glazing eyes fixed themselves on Waring's face with the mute appeal of
a dying animal in the hands of its captor.
'I promise,' said Waring.
But the old man did not die; he wavered, lingered, then slowly
rallied,—very slowly. The weeks had grown into a month and two before
he could manage his boat again. In the mean time Waring hunted and
fished for the household, and even sailed over to the reef with Fog on
a bed in the bottom of the boat, coming back loaded with the spoil; not
once only, not twice did he go; and at last he knew the way, even
through, the fog, and came and went alone, bringing home the very
planks and beams of the ill-fated schooner. 'They will make a bright
fire in the evenings,' he said. The dogs lived on the north shore, went
hunting when their master came over and the rest of the time possessed
their souls in patience. And what possessed Waring, do you ask? His
name for it was 'necessity.' 'Of course I cannot leave them to starve,'
he said to himself.
Silver came and went about the castle, at first wilfully, then
submissively, then shyly. She had folded away all her finery in
wondering silence, for Waring's face had shown disapproval, and now she
wore always her simple white gown, 'Can you not put up your hair?' he
had asked one day; and from that moment the little head appeared
crowned with braids. She worked among her flowers and fed her gulls as
usual, but she no longer talked to them or told them stories. In the
evenings they all sat around the hearth, and sometimes the little
maiden sang; Waring had taught her new songs. She knew the sonnets now,
and chanted them around the castle to tunes of her own; Shakespeare
would not have known his stately measures, dancing along to her
The black face of Orange shone and simmered with glee; she nodded
perpetually, and crooned and laughed to herself over her tasks by the
hour together,—a low chuckling laugh of exceeding content.
And did Waring ever stop to think? I know not. If he did, he forgot
the thoughts when Silver came and sat by him in the evening with the
light of the hearth-fire shining over her. He scarcely saw her at other
times, except on her balcony, or at her flower window as he came and
went in his boat below; but in the evenings she sat beside him in her
low chair, and laid sometimes her rose leaf palm in his rough brown
hand, or her pretty head against his arm. Old Fog sat by always; but he
said little, and his face was shaded by his hand.
The early autumn gales swept over the hikes, leaving wreck and
disaster behind, but the crew of the castle stayed safely at home and
listened to the tempest cosily, while the flowers bloomed on, and the
gulls brought all their relations and colonized the balcony and window
sills, fed daily by the fair hand of Silver. And Waring went not.
Then the frosts came, and turned the forests into splendor; they
rowed over and brought out branches, and Silver decked the long room
with scarlet and gold. And Waring went not.
The dreary November rains began, the leaves fell, and the dark water
surged heavily; but a store of wood was piled on the flat roof, and the
fire on the hearth blazed high. And still Waring went not.
At last the first ice appeared, thin flakes forming around the log
foundations of the castle; then old Fog spoke. 'I am quite well now,
quite strong again; you must go to-day, or you will find yourself
frozen in here. As it is, you may hit a late vessel off the islands
that will carry you below. I will sail over with you, and bring back
'But you are not strong enough yet,' said Waring, bending over his
work, a shelf he was carving for Silver; 'I cannot go and leave you
'It is either go now, or stay all winter. You do not, I presume,
intend to make Silver your wife,—Silver, the daughter of Fog the
Waring's hands stopped; never before had the old man's voice taken
that tone, never before had he even alluded to the girl as anything
more than a child. On the contrary, he had been silent, he had been
humble, he had been openly grateful to the strong young man who had
taken his place on sea and shore, and kept the castle full and warm.
'What new thing is this?' thought Waring, and asked the same.
'Is it new?' said Fog. 'I thought it old, very old, I mean no
mystery, I speak plainly. You helped me in my great strait, and I thank
you; perhaps it will be counted unto you for good in the reckoning up
of your life. But I am strong again, and the ice is forming. You can
have no intention of making Silver your wife?'
Waring looked up, their eyes met. 'No,' he replied slowly, as though
the words were being dragged out of him by the magnetism of the old
man's gaze, 'I certainly have no such intention.'
Nothing more was said; soon Waring rose and went out. But Silver
spied him from her flower-room, and came down to the sail-boat where it
lay at the foot of the ladder. 'You are not going out this cold day,'
she said, standing by his side as he busied himself over the rigging.
She was wrapped in a fur mantle, with a fur cap on her head, and her
rough little shoes were fur-trimmed. Waring made no reply. 'But I shall
not allow it,' continued the maiden, gayly. 'Am I not queen of this
castle? You yourself have said it many a time. You cannot go, Jarvis; I
want you here.' And with her soft hands she blinded him playfully.
'Silver, Silver,' called old Fog's voice above, 'come within; I want
After that the two men were very crafty in their preparations.
The boat ready, Waring went the rounds for the last time. He brought
down wood for several days and stacked it, he looked again at all the
provisions and reckoned them over; then he rowed to the north shore,
visited his traps, called out the dogs from the little house he had
made for them, and bade them good by. 'I shall leave you for old Fog,'
he said; 'be good dogs, and bring in all you can for the castle.'
The dogs wagged their tails, and waited politely on the beach until
he was out of sight; but they did not seem to believe his story, and
went back to their house tranquilly without a howl. The day passed as
usual. Once the two men happened to meet in the passage-way. 'Silver
seems restless, we must wait till darkness,' said Fog in a low tone.
'Very well,' replied Waring.
At midnight they were off, rowing over the black water in the
sail-boat, hoping for a fair wind at dawn, as the boat was heavy. They
journeyed but slowly through the winding channel, leaving the
sedge-gate open; no danger now from intruders; the great giant, Winter,
had swallowed all lesser foes. It was cold, very cold, and they stopped
awhile at dawn on the edge of the marsh, the last shore, to make a fire
and heat some food before setting sail for the islands.
'Good God!' cried Waring.
A boat was coming after them, a little skiff they both knew, and in
it paddling, in her white dress, sat Silver, her fur mantle at her feet
where it had fallen unnoticed. They sprang to meet her knee-deep in the
icy water; but Waring was first, and lifted her slight form in his
'I have found you, Jarvis,' she murmured, laying her head down upon
his shoulder; then the eyes closed, and the hand she had tried to clasp
around his neck fell lifeless. Close to the fire, wrapped in furs,
Waring held her in his arms, while the old man bent over her, chafing
her hands and little icy feet, and calling her name in an agony.
'Let her but come back to life, and I will say not one word, more,'
he cried with tears. 'Who am I that I should torture her? You shall go
back with us, and I will trust it all to God,—all to God.'
'But what if I will not go back, what if I will not accept your
trust? said Waring, turning his head away from the face pillowed on his
'I do not trust you, I trust God; he will guard her.'
'I believe he will,' said the young man, half to himself. And then
they bore her home, not knowing whether her spirit was still with them,
or already gone to that better home awaiting it in the next country.
That night the thick ice came, and the last vessels fled southward.
But in the lonely little castle there was joy; for the girl was saved,
barely, with fever, with delirium, with long prostration, but saved!
When weeks had passed, and she was in her low chair again, propped
with cushions, pallid as a snow-drop, weak and languid, but still
there, she told her story, simply and without comprehension of its
'I could not rest that night,' she said, 'I know not why; so I
dressed softly and slipped past Orange asleep on her mattress by my
door, and found you both gone,—your father, and you, Jarvis. You never
go out at night, and it was very cold; and Jarvis had taken his bag and
knapsack, and all the little things I know so well. His gun was gone
from the wall, his clothes from his empty room, and that picture of the
girl holding up the fruit was not on his table. From that I knew that
something had happened; for it is dear to Jarvis, that picture of the
girl,' said Silver with a little quiver in her voice. With a quick
gesture Waring drew the picture from his pocket and threw it into the
fire; it blazed, and was gone in a moment. 'Then I went after you,'
said Silver with a little look of gratitude. 'I know the passage
through the south channels, and something told me you had gone that
way. It was very cold.'
That was all, no reasoning, no excuse, no embarrassment; the flight
of the little sea-bird straight to its mate.
Life flowed on again in the old channel, Fog quiet, Silver happy,
and Waring in a sort of dream. Winter was full upon them, and the
castle beleaguered with his white armies both below and above, on the
water and in the air. The two men went ashore on the ice now, and
trapped and hunted daily, the dogs following. Fagots were cut and rough
roads made through the forest. One would have supposed they were
planning for a lifelong residence, the young man and the old, as they
came and went together, now on the snow-crust, now plunging through
breast-deep into the light dry mass. One day Waring said, 'Let me see
your reckoning. Do you know that to-morrow will be Christmas?'
'Silver knows nothing of Christmas,' said Fog, roughly.
'Then she shall know,' replied Waring.
Away he went to the woods and brought back evergreen. In the night
he checked the cabin-like room, and with infinite pains constructed a
little Christmas-tree and hung it with everything he could collect or
'It is but a poor thing, after all,' he said, gloomily, as he stood
alone surveying his work. It was indeed a shabby little tree, only
redeemed from ugliness by a white cross poised on the green summit;
this cross glittered and shone in the firelight,—it was cut from solid
'Perhaps I can help, you,' said old Fog's voice behind. 'I did not
show you this, for fear it would anger you, but—but there must have
been a child on board after all.' He held a little box of toys,
carefully packed as if by a mother's hand,—common toys, for she was
only the captain's wife, and the schooner a small one; the little waif
had floated ashore by itself, and Fog had seen and hidden it.
Waring said nothing, and the two men began to tie on the toys in
silence. But after a while they warmed to their work and grew eager to
make it beautiful; the old red ribbon that Orange had given was
considered a precious treasure-trove, and, cut into fragments, it gayly
held the little wooden toys in place on the green boughs.
Fog, grown emulous, rifled the cupboards and found small cakes baked
by the practised hand of the old cook; these he hung exultingly on the
higher boughs. And now the little tree was full, and stood bravely in
its place at the far end of the long room, while the white cross looked
down on the toys of the drowned child and the ribbon of the slave, and
seemed to sanctify them for their new use.
Great was the surprise of Silver the next morning, and many the
questions she asked. Out in the world, they told her, it was so; trees
like that were decked for children.
'Am I a child?' said Silver, thoughtfully; 'what do you think,
'What do you think?' said Waring, turning the question.
'I hardly know; sometimes I think I am, and sometimes not; but it is
of no consequence what I am as long as I have you,—you and papa. Tell
me more about the little tree, Jarvis. What does it mean? What is that
white shining toy on the top? Is there a story about it?'
'Yes, there is a story; but—but it is not I who should tell it to
you,' replied the young man, after a moment's hesitation.
'Why not! Whom have I in all the world to tell me, save you?' said
fondly the sweet child-voice.
They did not take away the little Christmas-tree, but left it on its
pedestal at the far end of the long room through the winter; and as the
cross melted slowly, a new one took its place, and shone aloft in the
firelight. But its story was not told.
February came, and with it a February thaw; the ice stirred a
little, and the breeze coming over the floes was singularly mild. The
arctic winds and the airs from the Gulf Stream had met and mingled, and
the gray fog appeared again, waving to and fro. 'Spring has come,' said
Silver; 'there is the dear fog.' And she opened the window of the
flower room, and let out a little bird.
'It will find no resting-place for the sole of its foot, for the
snow is over the face of the whole earth,' said Waring. 'Our ark has
kept us cosily through bitter weather, has it not, little one?' (He had
adopted a way of calling her so.)
'Ark,' said Silver; 'what is that?'
'Well,' answered Waring, looking down into her blue eyes as they
stood together at the little window, 'it was a watery residence like
this, and if Japheth,—he was always my favorite of the three—had had
you there, my opinion is that he would never have come down at all, but
would have resided permanently on Ararat.'
Silver looked up into his face with a smile, not understanding what
he said, nor asking to understand; it was enough for her that he was
there. And as she gazed her violet eyes grew so deep, so soft, that the
man for once (give him credit, it was the first time) took her into his
arms. 'Silver,' he whispered, bending over her, 'do you love me?'
'Yes,' she answered in her simple, unconscious way, 'you know I do,
No color deepened in her fair face under his ardent gaze; and, after
a moment, he released her, almost roughly. The next day he told old Fog
that he was going.
'Somewhere, this time. I've had enough of Nowhere.'
'Why do you go?'
'Do you want the plain truth, old man? Here it is, then; I am
growing too fond of that girl,—a little more and I shall not be able
to leave her.'
'Then stay; she loves you.'
'A child's love.'
'She will develop—'
'Not into my wife if I know myself,' said Waring, curtly.
Old Fog sat silent a moment. 'Is she not lovely and good?' he said
in a low voice.
'She is; but she is your daughter as well.'
'She is not.'
'She is not! What then?'.
'I—I do not know; I found her, a baby, by the wayside.'
'A foundling! So much the better, that is even a step lower,' said
the younger man, laughing roughly. And the other crept away as though
he had been struck.
Waring set about his preparations. This time Silver did not suspect
his purpose. She had passed out of the quick, intuitive watchfulness of
childhood. During these days she had taken up the habit of sitting by
herself in the flower-room, ostensibly with her book or sewing; but
when they glanced in through the open door, her hands were lying idle
on her lap and her eyes fixed dreamily on some opening blossom. Hours
she sat thus, without stirring.
Waring's plan was a wild one; no boat could sail through the ice, no
foot could cross the wide rifts made by the thaw, and weeks of the
bitterest weather still lay between them and the spring. 'Along-shore,'
'And die of cold and hunger,' answered Fog.
'Old man, why are you not afraid of me?' said Waring, pausing in his
work with a lowering glance. 'Am I not stronger than you, and the
master, if I so choose, of your castle of logs?'
'But you will not so choose.'
'Do not trust me too far.'
'Do not trust you,—but God.'
'For a wrecker and murderer, you have, I must say, a remarkably
serene conscience,' sneered Waring.
Again the old man shrank, and crept silently away.
But when in the early dawn a dark figure stood on the ice adjusting
its knapsack, a second figure stole down the ladder. 'Will you go,
then,' it said, 'and leave the child?'
'She is no child,' answered the younger man, sternly; 'and you know
'To me she is.'
'I care not what she is to you; but she shall not be more to me.'
'More to you?'
'No more than any other pretty piece of wax-work,' replied Waring,
striding away into the gray mist.
Silver came to breakfast radiant, her small head covered from
forehead to throat with the winding braids of gold, her eyes bright,
her cheeks faintly tinged with the icy water of her bath. 'Where is
Jarvis?' she asked.
'Gone hunting,' replied old Fog.
'For all day?'
'Yes; and perhaps for all night. The weather is quite mild, you
'Yes, papa. But I hope it will soon be cold again; he cannot stay
out long then,' said the girl, gazing out over the ice with wistful
The danger was over for that day; but the next morning there it was
again, and with it the bitter cold.
'He must come home soon now,' said Silver, confidently, melting the
frost on one of the little windows so that she could see out and watch
for his coming. But be came not. As night fell the cold grew intense;
deadly, clear, and still, with the stars shining brilliantly in the
steel-blue of the sky. Silver wandered from window to window, wrapped
in her fur mantle; a hundred times, a thousand times she had scanned
the ice-fields and the snow, the lake and the shore. When the night
closed down, she crept close to the old man who sat by the fire in
silence, pretending to mend his nets, but furtively watching her every
movement. 'Papa,' she whispered, 'where is he, where is he?' And her
tears fell on his hands.
'Silver,' he said, bending over her tenderly, 'do I not love you? Am
I not enough for you? Think, dear, how long we have lived here and how
happy we have been. He was only a stranger. Come, let us forget him,
and go back to the old days.'
'What! Has he gone, then? Has Jarvis gone?'
Springing to her feet she confronted him with clinched hands and
dilated eyes. Of all the words she had heard but one; he had gone! The
poor old man tried to draw her down again into the shelter of his arms,
but she seemed turned to stone, her slender form was rigid. 'Where is
he? Where is Jarvis? What have you done with him,—you, you!'
The quick unconscious accusation struck to his heart. 'Child,' he
said in a broken voice, 'I tried to keep him. I would have given him my
place in your love, in your life, but he would not. He has gone, he
cares not for you; he is a hard, evil man.'
'He is not! But even if he were, I love him,' said the girl,
Then she threw up her arms towards heaven (alas! it was no heaven to
her, poor child) as if in appeal. 'Is there no one to help me?' she
'What can we do, dear?' said the old man, standing beside her and
smoothing her hair gently. 'He would not stay,—I could not keep him!'
'I could have kept him.'
'You would not ask him to stay, if he wished to go?'
'Yes, I would; he must stay, for my sake.'
'But if he had loved you, dear, he would not have gone.'
'Did he say he did not love me?' demanded Silver, with gleaming
Old Fog hesitated.
'Did he say he did not love me? Did Jarvis say that?' she repeated,
seizing his arm with grasp of fire.
'Yes; he said that.'
But the lie meant to rouse her pride, killed it; as if struck by a
visible hand, she swayed and fell to the floor.
The miserable old man watched her all the night. She was delirious,
and raved of Waring through the long hours. At daylight he left her
with Orange, who, not understanding these white men's riddles, and
sorely perplexed by Waring's desertion, yet cherished her darling with
dumb untiring devotion, and watched her every breath.
Following the solitary trail over the snow-covered ice and thence
along-shore towards the east journeyed old Fog all day in the teeth of
the wind, dragging a sledge loaded with furs, provisions, and dry wood;
the sharp blast cut him like a knife, and the dry snow-pellets stung as
they touched his face, and clung to his thin beard coated with ice. It
was the worst day of the winter, an evil, desolate, piercing day; no
human creature should dare such weather. Yet the old man journeyed
patiently on until nightfall, and would have gone farther had not
darkness concealed the track; his fear was that new snow might fall
deeply enough to hide it, and then there was no more hope of following.
But nothing could be done at night, so he made his camp, a lodge under
a drift with the snow for walls and roof, and a hot fire that barely
melted the edges of its icy hearth. As the blaze flared out into the
darkness, he heard a cry, and followed; it was faint, but apparently
not distant, and after some search he found the spot; there lay Jarvis
Waring, helpless and nearly frozen. 'I thought you farther on,' he
said, as he lifted the heavy, inert body.
'I fell and injured my knee yesterday; since then I have been
freezing slowly,' replied Waring in a muffled voice. 'I have been
crawling backwards and forwards all day to keep myself alive, but had
just given it up when I saw your light.'
All night the old hands worked over him, and they hated the body
they touched; almost fiercely they fed and nourished it, warmed its
blood, and brought back life. In the dawning Waring was himself again;
weak, helpless, but in his right mind. He said as much, and added, with
a touch of his old humor, 'There is a wrong mind you know, old
The other made no reply; his task done; he sat by the fire waiting.
He had gone after this fellow, driven by fate; he had saved him, driven
by fate. Now what had fate next in store? He warmed his wrinkled hands
mechanically and waited, while the thought came to him with bitterness
that his darling's life lay at the mercy of this man who had nothing
better to do, on coming back from the very jaws of death, than make
jests. But old Fog was mistaken; the man had something better to do,
and did it. Perhaps he noted the expression of the face before him;
perhaps he did not, but was thinking, young man fashion, only of
himself; at any rate this is what he said: 'I was a fool to go. Help me
back, old man; it is too strong for me,—I give it up.'
'Back,—back where?' said the other, apathetically.
Waring raised his head from his pillow of furs. 'Why do you ask when
you know already! Back to Silver, of course; have you lost your mind?'
His harshness came from within; in reality it was meant for himself;
the avowal had cost him something as it passed his lips in the form of
words; it had not seemed so when in the suffering, and the cold, and
the approach of death, he had seen his own soul face to face and
realized the truth.
So the two went back to the castle, the saved lying on the sledge,
the savior drawing it; the wind was behind them now, and blew them
along. And when the old man, weary and numb with cold, reached the
ladder at last, helped Waring, lame and irritable, up to the little
snow-covered balcony, and led the way to Silver's room,—when Silver,
hearing the step, raised herself in the arms of the old slave and
looked eagerly, not at him, no, but at the man behind,—did he shrink?
He did not; but led the reluctant, vanquished, defiant, half-angry,
half-shamed lover forward, and gave his darling into the arms that
seemed again almost unwilling, so strong was the old opposing
determination that lay bound by love's bonds.
Silver regained her life as if by magic; not so Waring, who lay
suffering and irritable on the lounge in the long room, while the girl
tended him with a joy that shone out in every word, every tone, every
motion. She saw not his little tyrannies, his exacting demands, his
surly tempers; or rather she saw and loved them as women do when men
lie ill and helpless in their hands. And old Fog sat apart, or came and
went unnoticed; hours of the cold days he wandered through the forests,
visiting the traps mechanically, and making tasks for himself to fill
up the time; hours of the cold evenings, he paced the snow-covered roof
alone. He could not bear to see them, but left the post to Orange,
whose black face shone with joy and satisfaction over Waring's return.
But after a time fate swung around (as she generally does if
impatient humanity would but give her a chance). Waring's health grew,
and so did his love. He had been like a strong man armed, keeping his
palace; but a stronger than he was come, and, the combat over, he went
as far the other way and adored the very sandals of the conqueror. The
gates were open, and all the floods were out.
And Silver? As he advanced, she withdrew. (It is always so in love,
up to a certain point; and beyond that point lies, alas! the broad
monotonous country of commonplace.)
This impetuous, ardent lover was not the Jarvis she had known, the
Jarvis who had been her master, and a despotic one at that. Frightened,
shy, bewildered, she fled away from all her dearest joys, and stayed by
herself in the flower-room with the bar across the door, only emerging
timidly at mealtimes and stealing into the long room like a little
wraith; a rosy wraith now, for at last she had learned to blush. Waring
was angry at this desertion, but only the more in love; for the violet
eyes veiled themselves under his gaze, and the unconscious child-mouth
began to try to control and conceal its changing expressions, and only
succeeded in betraying them more helplessly than ever. Poor little
Spring was near now; soft airs came over the ice daily, and stirred
the water beneath; then the old man spoke. He knew what was coming, he
saw it all, and a sword was piercing his heart; but bravely he played
his part. 'The ice will move out soon, in a month or less you can sail
safely,' he said, breaking the silence one night when they two sat by
the fire, Waring moody and restless, for Silver had openly repulsed
him, and fled away early in the evening. 'She is trifling with me,' he
thought, 'or else she does not know what love is. By heavens, I will
teach her though—' As far as this his mind had journeyed when Fog
spoke. 'In a month you can sail safely, and I suppose you will go for
good this time?'
Fog waited. Waring kicked a fallen log into place, lit his pipe then
let it go out, moved his chair forward, then pushed it back
impatiently, and finally spoke. 'Of course I shall take Silver; I
intend to make Silver.'
'At last. No wonder you are glad—'
'Glad,' said Fog,—'glad!' But the words were whispered, and the
young man went on unheeding.
'Of course it is a great thing for you to have the child off your
hands and placed in a home so high above your expectations. Love is a
strange power. I do not deny that I have fought against it, but—but
why should I conceal? I love Silver with all my soul, she seems to have
grown into my very being.'
It was frankly and strongly uttered; the good side of Jarvis Waring
came uppermost for the moment.
Old Fog leaned forward and grasped his hand. 'I know you do,' he
said. 'I know something of men, and I have watched you closely, Waring.
It is for this love that I forgive—I mean that I am glad and thankful
for it, very thankful.'
'And you have reason to be,' said the younger man, withdrawing into
his pride again. 'As my wife, Silver will have a home, a circle of
friends, which—But you could not understand; let it pass. And now,
tell me all you know of her.'
The tone was a command, and the speaker leaned back in his chair
with the air of an owner as he relighted his pipe.
But Fog did not shrink. 'Will you have the whole story?' he asked
'As well now as ever, I suppose, but be as brief as possible,' said
the young man in a lordly manner. Had he not just conferred an enormous
favor, an alliance which might be called the gift of a prince, on this
dull old backwoodsman?
'Forty years ago or thereabouts,' began Fog in a low voice, 'a crime
was committed in New York City. I shall not tell you what it was, there
is no need; enough that the whole East was stirred, and a heavy reward
was offered for the man who did the deed. I am that man.'
Waring pushed back his chair, a horror came over him, his hand
sought for his pistol; but the voice went on unmoved. 'Shall I excuse
the deed to you, boy? No, I will not. It was done and I did it, that is
enough, the damning fact that confronts and silences all talk of motive
or cause. This much only will I say; to the passion of the act
deliberate intention was not added, and there was no gain for the doer;
only loss, the black eternal loss of everything in heaven above, on the
earth beneath, or in the waters that are under the earth, for hell
itself seemed to spew me out. At least so I thought as I fled away, the
mark of Cain upon my brow; the horror was so strong upon me that I
could not kill myself, I feared to join the dead. I went to and fro on
the earth, and walked up and down in it; I fled to the uttermost parts
of the sea, and yet came back again, moved by a strange impulse to be
near the scene of my crime. After years had passed, and with them the
memory of the deed from the minds of others, though not from mine, I
crept to the old house where my one sister was living alone, and made
myself known to her. She left her home, a forlorn place, but still a
home, and followed me with a sort of dumb affection,—poor old woman.
She was my senior by fifteen years, and I had been her pride; and so
she went with me from the old instinct, which still remained, although
the pride was dead, crushed by slow horror. We kept together after
that, two poor hunted creatures instead of one; we were always fleeing,
always imagining that eyes knew us, that fingers pointed us out. I
called her Shadow, and together we took the name of Fog, a common
enough name, but to us meaning that we were nothing, creatures of the
mist, wandering to and fro by night, but in the morning gone. At last
one day the cloud over my mind seemed to lighten a little, and the
thought came to me that no punishment can endure forever, without
impugning the justice of our great Creator. A crime is committed,
perhaps in a moment; the ensuing suffering, the results, linger on
earth, it may be for some years; but the end of it surely comes sooner
or later, and it is as though it had never been. Then, for that crime,
shall a soul suffer forever,—not a thousand years, a thousand ages if
you like, but forever? Out upon the monstrous idea! Let a man do evil
every moment of his life, and let his life be the full threescore years
and ten; shall there not come a period in the endless cycles of
eternity when even his punishment shall end? What kind of a God is he
whom your theologians have held up to us,—a God who creates us at his
pleasure, without asking whether or not we wish to be created, who
endows us with certain wild passions and capacities for evil, turns us
loose into a world of suffering, and then, for our misdeeds there, our
whole lives being less than one instant's time in his sight, punishes
us forever! Never-ending tortures throughout the countless ages of
eternity for the little crimes of threescore years and ten! Heathendom
shows no god so monstrous as this. O great Creator, O Father of our
souls, of all the ills done on the face of thy earth, this lie against
thy justice and thy goodness, is it not the greatest? The thought came
to me, as I said, that no punishment could endure forever, that
somewhere is the future I, even I, should meet pardon and rest. That
day I found by the wayside a little child, scarcely more than a baby;
it had wandered out of the poorhouse, where its mother had died the
week before, a stranger passing through the village. No one knew
anything about her nor cared to know, for she was almost in rags, fair
and delicate once they told me, but wasted with illness and too far
gone to talk. Then a second thought came to me,—expiation. I would
take this forlorn little creature and bring her up as my own child,
tenderly, carefully,—a life for a life. My poor old sister took to it
wonderfully, it seemed to brighten her desolation into something that
was almost happiness; we wandered awhile longer, and then came westward
through the lakes, but it was several years before we were fairly
settled here. Shadow took care of the baby and made her little dresses;
then, when the time came to teach her to sew and read, she said more
help was needed, and went alone to the towns below to find a fit
servant, coming back in her silent way with old Orange; another stray
lost out of its place in the world, and suffering from want in the cold
Northern city. You must not think that Silver is totally ignorant;
Shadow had the education of her day, poor thing, for ours was a good
old family as old families go in this new country of ours, where three
generations of well-to-do people constitute aristocracy. But religion,
so called, I have not taught her. Is she any the worse for its want?
'I will teach her,' said Waring, passing over the question (which
was a puzzling one), for the new idea, the strange interest he felt in
the task before him, the fair pure mind where his hand, and his alone,
would be the first to write the story of good and evil.
'That I should become attached to the child was natural,' continued
old Fog; 'but God gave it to me to love her with so great a love that
my days have flown; for her to sail out over the stormy water, for her
to hunt through the icy woods, for her to dare a thousand deaths, to
labor, to save, to suffer,—these have been my pleasures through all
the years. When I came home, there she was to meet me, her sweet voice
calling me father, the only father she could ever know. When my poor
old sister died, I took her away in my boat by night and buried her in
deep water; and so I did with the boy we had here for a year or two,
saved from a wreck. My darling knows nothing of death; I could not tell
'And those wrecks,' said Waring; 'how do you make them balance with
your scheme of expiation?'
The old man sat silent a moment; then he brought his hand down
violently on the table by his side. 'I will not have them brought up in
that way, I tell you I will not! Have I not explained that I was
desperate?' he said in an excited voice. 'What are one or two miserable
crews to the delicate life of my beautiful child? And the men had their
chances, too, in spite of my lure. Does not every storm threaten them
with deathly force? Wait until you are tempted, before you judge me,
boy. But shall I tell you the whole? Listen, then. Those wrecks were
the greatest sacrifices, the most bitter tasks of my hard life, the
nearest approach I have yet made to the expiation. Do you suppose I
wished to drown the men? Do you suppose I did not know the greatness of
the crime? Ah, I knew it only too well, and yet I sailed out and did
the deed! It was for her,—to keep her from suffering; so I sacrificed
myself unflinchingly. I would murder a thousand men in cold blood, and
bear the thousand additional punishments without a murmur throughout a
thousand ages of eternity, to keep my darling safe and warm. Do you not
see that the whole was a self-immolation, the greatest, the most
complete I could make? I vowed to keep my darling tenderly. I have kept
my vow; see that you keep yours.'
The voice ceased, the story was told, and the teller gone. The
curtain over the past was never lifted again; but often, in after
years, Waring thought of this strange life and its stranger philosophy.
He could never judge them. Can we?
The next day the talk turned upon Silver. 'I know you love her,'
said the old man, 'but how much?'
'Does it need the asking?' answered Waring with a short laugh; 'am I
not giving up my name, my life, into her hands?'
'You could not give them into hands more pure.'
'I know it; I am content. And yet, I sacrifice something,' replied
the young man, thinking of his home, his family, his friends.
Old Fog looked at him. 'Do you hesitate?' he said, breaking the
'Of course I do not; why do you ask?' replied Waring, irritably.
'But some things may be pardoned, I think, in a case like mine.'
'I pardon them.'
'I can teach her, of course, and a year or so among cultivated
people will work wonders; I think I shall take her abroad, first. How
soon did you say we could go?'
'The ice is moving. There will be vessels through the straits in two
or three weeks,' replied Fog. His voice shook. Waring looked up; the
old man was weeping. 'Forgive me,' he said brokenly, 'but the little
girl is very dear to me.'
The younger man was touched. 'She shall be as dear to me as she has
been to you,' he said; 'do not fear. My love is proved by the very
struggle I have made against it. I venture to say no man ever fought
harder against himself than I have in this old castle of yours. I kept
that Titian picture as a countercharm. It resembles a woman who, at a
word, will give me herself and her fortune,—a woman high in the
cultivated circles of cities both here and abroad, beautiful,
accomplished, a queen in her little sphere. But all was useless. That
long night in the snow, when I crawled backwards and forwards to keep
myself from freezing, it came to me with power that the whole of earth
and all its gifts compared not with this love. Old man, she will be
happy with me.'
'I know it.'
'Did you foresee this end?' asked Waring after a while, watching, as
he spoke, the expression of the face before him. He could not rid
himself of the belief that the old man had laid his plans deftly.
'I could only hope for it: I saw that she loved you.'
'Well, well,' said the younger man magnanimously, 'it was natural,
after all. Your expiation has ended better than you hoped; for the
little orphan child you have reared has found a home and friends, and
you yourself need work no more. Choose your abode here or anywhere else
in the West, and I will see that you are comfortable.'
'I will stay on here.'
'As you please. Silver will not forget you; she will write often. I
think I will go first up the Rhine and then into Switzerland,'
continued Waring, going back to himself and his plans with the
matter-of-course egotism of youth and love. And old Fog listened.
What need to picture the love-scene that followed? The next morning
a strong hand knocked at the door of the flower-room, and the shy
little maiden within had her first lesson in love, or rather in its
expression, while all the blossoms listened and the birds looked on
approvingly. To do him justice, Waring was an humble suitor when alone
with her; she was so fair, so pure, so utterly ignorant of the world
and of life, that he felt himself unworthy, and bowed his head. But the
mood passed, and Silver liked him better when the old self-assertion
and quick tone of command came uppermost again. She knew not good from
evil, she could not analyze the feeling in her heart; but she loved
this stranger, this master, with the whole of her being. Jarvis Waring
knew good from evil (more of the latter knew he than of the former), he
comprehended and analyzed fully the feeling that possessed him; but,
man of the world as he was, he loved this little water-maiden, this
fair pagan, this strange isolated girl, with the whole force of his
nature. 'Silver,' he said to her, seriously enough, 'do you know how
much I love you? I am afraid to think what life would seem without
'Why think of it, then, since I am here?' replied Silver.
'Do you know, Jarvis, I think if I had not loved you so much, you
would not have loved me, and then—it would have been—that is, I
mean—it would have been different—' She paused; unused to reasoning
or to anything like argument, her own words seemed to bewilder her.
Waring laughed, but soon grew serious again. 'Silver,' he said,
taking her into his arms, 'are you sure that you can love me as I
crave?' (For he seemed at times tormented by the doubt as to whether
she was anything more than a beautiful child.) He held her closely and
would not let her go, compelling her to meet his ardent eyes. A change
came over the girl, a sudden red flashed up into her temples and down
into her white throat. She drew herself impetuously away from her
lover's arms and fled from the room. 'I am not sure but that she is a
water-sprite, after all,' grumbled Waring, as he followed her. But it
was a pleasure now to grumble and pretend to doubt, since from that
moment he was sure.
The next morning Fog seemed unusually cheerful.
'No wonder,' thought Waring. But the character of benefactor pleased
him, and he appeared in it constantly.
'We must have the old castle more comfortable; I will try to send up
some furniture from below,' he remarked, while pacing to and fro in the
'Isn't it comfortable now?' said Silver. 'I am sure I always thought
this room beautiful.'
'What, this clumsy imitation of a second-class Western steamer?
Child, it is hideous!'
'Is it?' said Silver, looking around in innocent surprise, while Fog
listened in silence. Hours of patient labor and risks not a few over
the stormy lake were associated with each one of the articles Waring so
Then it was, 'How you do look, old gentleman! I must really send you
up some new clothes.—Silver, how have you been able to endure such
shabby rags so long?'
'I do not know,—I never noticed; it was always just papa, you
know,' replied Silver, her blue eyes resting on the old man's clothes
with a new and perplexed attention.
But Fog bore himself cheerily. 'He is right, Silver,' he said, 'I am
shabby indeed. But when you go out into the world, you will soon forget
'Yes,' said Silver, tranquilly.
The days flew by and the ice moved out. This is the phrase that is
always used along the lakes. The ice 'moves out' of every harbor from
Ogdensburg to Duluth. You can see the great white floes drift away into
the horizon, and the question comes, Where do they go? Do they meet out
there the counter floes from the Canada side, and then do they all join
hands and sink at a given signal to the bottom? Certainly, there is
nothing melting in the mood of the raw spring winds and clouded skies.
'What are your plans?' asked old Fog, abruptly, one morning when the
gulls had flown out to sea, and the fog came stealing up from the
'For the marriage.'
'Aha!' thought Waring, with a smile of covert amusement, 'he is in a
hurry to secure the prize, is he? The sharp old fellow!' Aloud he said,
'I thought we would all three sail over to Mackinac; and there we could
be married, Silver and I, by the fort chaplain, and take the first
Buffalo steamer; you could return here at your leisure.'
'Would it not be a better plan to bring a clergyman here, and then
you two could sail without me? I am not as strong as I was; I feel that
I cannot bear—I mean that you had better go without me.'
'As you please; I thought it would be a change for you, that was
'It would only prolong—No, I think, if you are willing, we will
have the marriage here, and then you can sail immediately.'
'Very well; but I did not suppose you would be in such haste to part
with Silver,' said Waring, unable to resist showing his comprehension
of what he considered the manoeuvres of the old man. Then, waiving
further discussion,—'And where shall we find a clergyman?' he asked.
'There is one over on Beaver.'
'He must be a singular sort of a divine to be living there.'
'He is; a strayed spirit, as it were, but a genuine clergyman of the
Presbyterian church, none the less. I never knew exactly what he
represented there, but I think he came out originally a sort of
'To the Mormons,' said Waring, laughing; for he had heard old Fog
tell many a story of the Latter-Day Saints, who had on Beaver Island at
that time their most Eastern settlement.
'No; to the Indians.—sent out by some of those New England
societies, you know. When he reached the islands, he found the Indians
mostly gone, and those who remained were all Roman Catholics. But he
settled down, farmed a little, hunted a little, fished a little, and
held a service all by himself occasionally in an old log-house, just
often enough to draw his salary and to write up in his semiannual
reports. He isn't a bad sort of a man in his way.'
'And how does he get on with the Mormons?'
'Excellently. He lets them talk, and sells them fish, and shuts his
eyes to everything else.'
'What is his name?'
'Well, over here they call him the Preacher, principally because he
does not preach, I suppose. It is a way they have over on Beaver to
call people names; they call me Believer.'
'Yes, because I believe nothing; at least so, they think.'
A few days later, out they sailed over the freed water, around the
point, through the sedge-gate growing green again, across the
channelled marsh, and out towards the Beavers,—Fog and Waring, armed
as if for a foray.
'Why,' asked Waring.
'It's safer; the Mormons are a queer lot,' was the reply.
When they came in sight of the islands, the younger man scanned them
curiously. Some years later an expedition composed of exasperated crews
of lake schooners, exasperated fishermen, exasperated mainland
settlers, sailed westward through the straits bound for these islands,
armed to the teeth and determined upon vengence and slaughter. False
lights, stolen nets, and stolen wives were their grievances; and no aid
coming from the general government, then as now sorely perplexed over
the Mormon problem, they took justice into their own hands and sailed
bravely out, with the stars and stripes floating from the mast of their
flag-ship,—an old scow impressed for military service. But this was
later; and when Fog and Waring came scudding into the harbor, the wild
little village existed in all its pristine outlawry, a city of refuge
for the flotsam vagabondage of the lower lakes.
'Perhaps he will not come with us,' suggested Waring.
'I have thought of that, but it need not delay us long,' replied
Fog, 'we can kidnap him.'
'Yes? he is but a small chap,' said the old man, tranquilly.
They fastened their boat to the log-dock, and started ashore. The
houses of the settlement straggled irregularly along the beach and
inland towards the fields where fine crops were raised by the Saints,
who had made here, as is their custom everywhere, a garden in the
wilderness; the only defence was simple but strong,—an earthwork on
one of the white sand-hills back of the village, over whose rampart
peeped two small cannon, commanding the harbor. Once on shore, however,
a foe found only a living rampart of flesh and blood, as reckless a set
of villains as New World history can produce. But this rampart only
came together in times of danger; ordinary visitors, coming by twos and
threes, they welcomed or murdered as they saw fit, or according to the
probable contents of their pockets, each man for himself and his
family. Some of these patriarchal gentlemen glared from their windows
at Fog and Waring as they passed along; but the worn clothes not
promising much, simply invited them to dinner; they liked to hear the
news, when there was nothing else going on. Old Fog excused himself.
They had business, he said, with the Preacher; was he at home?
He was; had anything been sent to him from the East,—any clothes,
now, for the Indians?
Old Fog had heard something of a box at Mackinac, waiting for a
schooner to bring it over. He was glad it was on the way, it would be
of so much use to the Indians,—they wore so many clothes.
The patriarchs grinned, and allowed the two to pass on. Waring had
gazed within, meanwhile, and discovered the plural wives, more or less
good-looking, generally less; they did not seem unhappy, however, not
so much as many a single one he had met in more luxurious homes, and he
said to himself, 'Women of the lower class are much better and happier
when well curbed.' It did not occur to him that possibly the evil
tempers of men of the lower class are made more endurable by a system
of co-operation; one reed bends, breaks, and dies, but ten reeds
together can endure.
The Preacher was at home on the outskirts,—a little man, round and
rosy, with black eyes and a cheery voice. He was attired entirely in
blanket-cloth, baggy trousers and a long blouse, so that he looked not
unlike a Turkish Santa Claus, Oriental as to under, and arctic as to
upper rigging. 'Are you a clergyman?' said Waring, inspecting him with
'If you doubt it, look at this,' said the little man; and he brought
out a clerical suit of limp black cloth, and a ministerial hat much the
worse for wear. These articles he suspended from a nail, so that they
looked as if a very poor lean divine had hung himself there. Then he
sat down, and took his turn at staring. 'I do not bury the dead,' he
remarked after a moment, as if convinced that the two shabby hunters
before him could have no other errand.
Waring was about to explain, but old Fog stopped him with a glance.
'You are to come with us, sir,' he said courteously; 'you will be well
treated, well paid, and returned in a few days.'
'Come with you! Where?'
'Never mind where; will you come?'
'No,' said the little blanket-man, stoutly.
In an instant Fog had tripped him up, seized a sheet and blanket
from the bed, bound his hands and feet with one, and wrapped him in the
other. 'Now, then,' he said shouldering the load, 'open the door.'
'But the Mormons,' objected Waring.
'O, they like a joke, they will only laugh! But if, by any chance,
they show fight, fire at once,' replied the old man, leading the way.
Waring followed, his mind anything but easy; it seemed to him like
running the gantlet. He held his pistols ready, and glanced furtively
around as they skirted the town and turned down towards the beach. 'If
any noise is made,' Fog had remarked, 'I shall know what to do.'
Whereupon the captive swallowed down his wrath and a good deal of
woollen fuzz, and kept silence. He was no coward, this little Preacher.
He held his own manfully on the Beavers; but no one had ever carried
him off in a blanket before, So he silently considered the situation.
When near the boat they came upon more patriarchs. 'Put a bold face
on it,' murmured old Fog. 'Whom do you suppose we have here?' he began,
as they approached. 'Nothing less than your little Preacher; we want to
borrow him for a few days.'
The patriarchs stared.
'Don't you believe it?—Speak up, Preacher; are you being carried
'You had better speak,' said Fog, jocosely, at the same time giving
his captive a warning touch with his elbow.
The Preacher had revolved the situation rapidly, and perceived that
in any contest his round body would inevitably suffer from friend and
foe alike. He was not even sure but that he would be used as a missile,
a sort of ponderous pillow swung at one end. So he replied briskly,
'Yes, I am being carried as you see, dear brethren; I don't care about
The patriarchs laughed, and followed on to the boat, laughing still
more when Fog gayly tossed in his load of blanket, and they could hear
the little man growl as he came down. 'I say, though, when are you
going to bring him back, Believer?' said one.
'In a few days,' replied Fog, setting sail.
Away they flew; and, when out of harbor, the captive was released,
and Waring told him what was required.
'Why didn't you say so before?' said the little blanket-man;
'nothing I like better than a wedding, and a drop of punch afterwards.'
His task over, Fog relapsed into silence; but Waring, curious, asked
many a question about the island and its inhabitants. The Preacher
responded freely in all things, save when the talk glided too near
himself. The Mormons were not so bad, he thought; they had their
faults, of course, but you must take them on the right side.
'Have they a right side?' asked Waring.
'At least they haven't a rasping, mean, cold, starving, bony,
freezing, busy-bodying side,' was the reply, delivered energetically;
whereat Waring concluded the little man had had his own page of history
back somewhere among the decorous New England hills.
Before they came to the marsh they blindfolded their guest; and did
not remove the bandage until he was safely within the long room of the
castle. Silver met them, radiant in the firelight.
'Heaven grant you its blessing, maiden,' said the Preacher, becoming
Biblical at once. He meant it, however, for he sat gazing at her long
with moistened eyes, forgetful even of the good cheer on the table; a
gleam from his far-back youth came to him, a snow-drop that bloomed and
died in bleak New Hampshire long, long before.
The wedding was in the early morning. Old Fog had hurried it,
hurried everything; he seemed driven by a spirit of unrest, and
wandered from place to place, from room to room, his eyes fixed in a
vacant way upon the familiar objects. At the last moment he appeared
with a prayer-book, its lettering old, its cover tarnished. 'Have you
any objection to using the Episcopal service?' he asked in a low tone.
'I—I have heard the Episcopal service.'
'None in the world,' replied the affable little Preacher.
But he too grew sober and even earnest as Silver appeared, clad in
white, her dress and hair wreathed with the trailing arbutus, the first
flower of spring, plucked from under the vanishing snows. So beautiful
her face, so heavenly its expression, that Waring as he took her hand,
felt his eyes grow dim, and he vowed to himself to cherish her with
tenderest love forever.
'We are gathered together here in the sight of God,' began the
Preacher solemnly; old Fog, standing behind, shrank into the shadow,
and bowed his head upon his hands. But when the demand came, 'Who
giveth this woman to be married to this man?' he stepped forward, and
gave away his child without a tear, nay, with even a smile on his brave
'To love, cherish, and to obey,' repeated Silver in her clear sweet
And then Waring placed upon her finger the little ring he himself
had carved out of wood. 'It shall never be changed,' he said, 'but
coated over with heavy gold, just as it is.'
Old Orange, radiant with happiness, stood near, and served as a foil
for the bridal white.
It was over; but they were not to start until noon.
Fog put the Preacher almost forcibly into the boat and sailed away
with him, blindfolded and lamenting.
'The wedding feast,' he cried, 'and the punch! You are a fine host,
'Everything is here, packed in those baskets. I have even given you
two fine dogs. And there is your fee. I shall take you in sight of the
Beavers, and then put you into the skiff and leave you to row over
alone. The weather is fine, you can reach there to-morrow.'
Remonstrance died away before the bag of money; old Fog had given
his all for his darling's marriage-fee. 'I shall have no further use
for it,' he thought, mechanically.
So the little blanket-man paddled away in his skiff with his share
of the wedding-feast beside him; the two dogs went with him, and became
Old Fog returned in the sail-boat through the channels, and fastened
the sedge-gate open for the out-going craft. Silver, timid and happy,
stood on the balcony as he approached the castle.
'It is time to start,' said the impatient bridegroom. 'How long you
have been, Fog!'
The old man made no answer, but busied himself arranging the boat;
the voyage to Mackinac would last two or three days, and he had
provided every possible comfort for their little camps on shore.
'Come,' said Waring, from below.
Then the father went up to say good by. Silver flung her arms around
his neck and burst into tears. 'Father, father,' she sobbed, 'must I
leave you? O father, father!'
He soothed her gently; but something in the expression of his calm,
pallid face touched the deeper feelings of the wakening woman and she
clung to him desperately, realizing, perhaps, at this last moment, how
great was his love for her, how great his desolation. Waring had joined
them on the balcony. He bore with her awhile and tried to calm her
grief, but the girl turned from him and clung to the old man; it was as
though she saw at last how she had robbed him. 'I cannot leave him
thus,' she sobbed; 'O father, father!'
Then Waring struck at the root of the difficulty. (Forgive him; he
was hurt to the core.) 'But he is not your father,' he said, 'he has no
claim upon you. I am your husband now, Silver, and you must come with
me; do you not wish to come with me, darling?' he added, his voice
sinking into fondness.
'Not my father!' said the girl. Her arms fell, and she stood as if
'No, dear; he is right. I am not your father,' said old Fog, gently.
A spasm passed over his features, he kissed her hastily, and gave her
into her husband's arms. In another moment they were afloat, in two the
sail filled and the boat glided away. The old man stood on the castle
roof, smiling and waving his hand; below, Orange fluttered her red
handkerchief from the balcony, and blessed her darling with African
mummeries. The point was soon rounded, the boat gone.
That night, when the soft spring moonlight lay over the water, a
sail came gliding back to the castle, and a shape flew up the ladder;
it was the bride of the morning.
'O father, father, I could not leave you so, I made him bring me
back, if only for a few days! O father, father! for you are my father,
the only father I can ever know,—and so kind and good!'
In the gloom she knelt by his bedside, and her arms were around his
neck. Waring came in afterwards, silent and annoyed, yet not unkind. He
stirred the dying brands into a flame.
'What is this?' he said, starting, as the light fell across the
'It is nothing,' replied Fog, and his voice sounded far away; 'I am
an old man, children, and all is well.'
They watched him through the dawning, through the lovely day,
through the sunset. Waring repentant, Silver absorbed in his every
breath; she lavished upon him now all the wealth of love her
unconscious years had gathered. Orange seemed to agree with her master
that all was well. She came and went, but not sadly, and crooned to
herself some strange African tune that rose and fell more like a chant
of triumph than a dirge. She was doing her part, according to her
light, to ease the going of the soul out of this world.
Grayer grew the worn face, fainter the voice, colder the shrivelled
old hands in the girl's fond clasp.
'Jarvis, Jarvis, what is this?' she murmured, fearfully.
Waring came to her side and put his strong arm around her. 'My
little wife,' he said, 'this is Death. But do not fear.'
And then he told her the story of the Cross; and, as it came to her
a revelation, so, in the telling, it became to him, for the first time,
Old Fog told them to bury him out in deep water, as he had buried
the others; and then he lay placid, a great happiness shining in his
'It is well,' he said, 'and God is very good to me. Life would have
been hard without you, darling. Something seemed to give way when you
said good by; but now that I am called, it is sweet to know that you
are happy, and sweeter still to think that you came back to me at the
last. Be kind to her, Waring. I know you love her; but guard her
tenderly,—she is but frail. I die content, my child, quite content; do
not grieve for me.'
Then, as the light faded from his eyes, he folded his hands. 'Is it
expiated, O God? Is it expiated?' he murmured. There was no answer for
him on earth.
They buried him as he had directed, and then they sailed away,
taking the old black with them. The castle was left alone; the flowers
bloomed on through the summer, and the rooms held the old furniture
bravely through the long winter. But gradually the walls fell in and
the water entered. The fogs still steal across the lake, and wave their
gray draperies up into the northern curve; but the sedge-gate is gone,
and the castle is indeed Nowhere.
Before the war for the Union, in the times of the old army, there
had been peace throughout the country for thirteen years. Regiments
existed in their officers, but the ranks were thin,—the more so the
better, since the United States possessed few forts and seemed in
chronic embarrassment over her military children, owing to the flying
foot-ball of public opinion, now 'standing army pro,' now 'standing
army con,' with more or less allusion to the much-enduring Caesar and
his legions, the ever-present ghost of the political arena.
In those days the few forts were full and much state was kept up;
the officers were all graduates of West Point, and their wives
graduates of the first families. They prided themselves upon their
antecedents; and if there was any aristocracy in the country, it was in
the circles of army life.
Those were pleasant days,—pleasant for the old soldiers who were
resting after Mexico,—pleasant for young soldiers destined to die on
the plains of Gettysburg or the cloudy heights of Lookout Mountain.
There was an esprit de corps in the little band, a dignity of bearing,
and a ceremonious state, lost in the great struggle which came
afterward. That great struggle now lies ten years back; yet, to-day,
when the silver-haired veterans meet, they pass it over as a thing of
the present, and go back to the times of the 'old army.'
Up in the northern straits, between blue Lake Huron, with its clear
air, and gray Lake Michigan, with its silver fogs, lies the bold island
of Mackinac. Clustered along the beach, which runs around its half-moon
harbor, are the houses of the old French village, nestling at the foot
of the cliff rising behind, crowned with the little white fort, the
stars and stripes floating above it against the deep blue sky. Beyond,
on all sides, the forest stretches away, cliffs finishing it abruptly,
save one slope at the far end of the island, three miles distant, where
the British landed in 1812. That is the whole of Mackinac.
The island has a strange sufficiency of its own; it satisfies; all
who have lived there feel it. The island has a wild beauty of its own;
it fascinates; all who have lived there love it. Among its aromatic
cedars, along the aisles of its pine trees, in the gay company of its
maples, there is companionship. On its bald northern cliffs, bathed in
sunshine and swept by the pure breeze, there is exhilaration. Many
there are, bearing the burden and heat of the day, who look back to the
island with the tears that rise but do not fall, the sudden longing
despondency that comes occasionally to all, when the tired heart cries
out, 'O, to escape, to flee away, far, far away, and be at rest!'
In 1856 Fort Mackinac held a major, a captain, three lieutenants, a
chaplain, and a surgeon, besides those subordinate officers who wear
stripes on their sleeves, and whose rank and duties are mysteries to
the uninitiated. The force for this array of commanders was small, less
than a company; but what it lacked in quantity it made up in quality,
owing to the continual drilling it received.
The days were long at Fort Mackinac; happy thought! drill the men.
So when the major had finished, the captain began, and each lieutenant
was watching his chance. Much state was kept up also. Whenever the
major appeared, 'Commanding officer; guard, present arms,' was called
down the line of men on duty, and the guard hastened to obey, the major
acknowledging the salute with stiff precision. By day and by night
sentinels paced the walls. True, the walls were crumbling, and the
whole force was constantly engaged in propping them up, but none the
less did the sentinels pace with dignity. What was it to the captain
if, while he sternly inspected the muskets in the block-house, the
lieutenant, with a detail of men, was hard at work strengthening its
underpinning? None the less did he inspect. The sally-port, mended but
imposing; the flag-staff with its fair-weather and storm flags; the
frowning iron grating; the sidling white causeway, constantly falling
down and as constantly repaired, which led up to the main entrance; the
well-preserved old cannon,—all showed a strict military rule. When the
men were not drilling they were propping up the fort and when they were
not propping up the fort they were drilling. In the early days, the
days of the first American commanders, military roads had been made
through the forest,—roads even now smooth and solid, although trees of
a second growth meet overhead. But that was when the fort was young and
stood firmly on its legs. In 1856 there was no time for road-making,
for when military duty was over there was always more or less mending
to keep the whole fortification from sliding down hill into the lake.
On Sunday there was service in the little chapel, an upper room
overlooking the inside parade-ground. Here the kindly Episcopal
chaplain read the chapters about Balaam and Balak, and always made the
same impressive pause after 'Let me die the death of the righteous, and
let my last end be like his.' (Dear old man! he has gone. Would that
our last end might indeed be like his!) Not that the chaplain confined
his reading to the Book of Numbers; but as those chapters are appointed
for the August Sundays, and as it was in August that the summer
visitors came to Mackinac, the little chapel is in many minds
associated with the patient Balak, his seven altars, and his seven
There was state and discipline in the fort even on Sundays;
bugle-playing marshalled the congregation in, bugle-playing marshalled
them out. If the sermon was not finished, so much the worse for the
sermon, but it made no difference to the bugle; at a given moment it
sounded, and out marched all the soldiers, drowning the poor chaplain's
hurrying voice with their tramp down the stairs. The officers attended
service in full uniform, sitting erect and dignified in the front
seats. We used to smile at the grand air they had, from the stately
gray-haired major down to the youngest lieutenant fresh from the Point.
But brave hearts were beating under those fine uniforms; and when the
great struggle came, one and all died on the field in the front of the
battle. Over the grave of the commanding officer is inscribed,
'Major-General,' over the captain's is 'Brigadier,' and over each young
lieutenant is 'Colonel.' They gained their promotion in death.
I spent many months at Fort Mackinac with Archie; Archie was my
nephew, a young lieutenant. In the short, bright summer came the
visitors from below; all the world outside is 'below' in island
vernacular. In the long winter the little white fort looked out over
unbroken ice-fields, and watched for the moving black dot of the
dog-train bringing the mails from the main land. One January day I had
been out walking on the snow-crust, breathing the cold, still air, and,
returning within the walls to our quarters, I found my little parlor
already occupied. Jeannette was there, petite Jeanneton, the
fisherman's daughter. Strange beauty sometimes results from a mixed
descent, and this girl had French, English and Indian blood in her
veins, the three races mixing and intermixing among her ancestors,
according to the custom of the Northwestern border. A bold profile
delicately finished, heavy blue-black hair, light blue eyes looking out
unexpectedly from under black lashes and brows; a fair white skin,
neither the rose-white of the blonde nor the cream-white of the
Oriental brunette; a rounded form with small hands and feet, showed the
mixed beauties of three nationalities. Yes, there could be no doubt but
that Jeannette was singularly lovely, albeit ignorant utterly. Her
dress was as much of a melange as her ancestry: a short skirt of
military blue, Indian leggings and moccasins, a red jacket and little
red cap embroidered with beads. The thick braids of her hair hung down
her back, and on the lounge lay a large blanket-mantle lined with
fox-skins and ornamented with the plumage of birds. She had come to
teach me bead-work; I had already taken several lessons to while away
the time, but found myself an awkward scholar.
'Bonjou', madame,' she said, in her patois of broken English and
degenerate French. 'Pretty here.'
My little parlor had a square of carpet, a hearth-fire of great
logs, Turkey-red curtains, a lounge and arm-chair covered with chintz,
several prints on the cracked walls, and a number of books,—the whole
well used and worn, worth perhaps twenty dollars in any town below, but
ten times twenty in icy Mackinac. I began the bead-work, and Jeannette
was laughing at my mistakes, when the door opened, and our surgeon came
in, pausing to warm his hands before going up to his room in the attic.
A taciturn man was our surgeon, Rodney Prescott, not popular in the
merry garrison circle, but a favorite of mine; the Puritan, the
New-Englander, the Bostonian, were as plainly written upon his face as
the French and Indian were written upon Jeannette.
'Sit down, Doctor,' I said.
He took a seat and watched us carelessly, now and then smiling at
Jeannette's chatter as a giant might smile upon a pygmy. I could see
that the child was putting on all her little airs to attract his
attention; now the long lashes swept the cheeks, now they were raised
suddenly, disclosing the unexpected blue eyes: the little moccasined
feet must be warmed on the fender, the braids must be swept back with
an impatient movement of the hand and shoulder, and now and then there
was a coquettish arch of the red lips, less than a pout, what she
herself would have called 'une p'tite moue.' Our surgeon watched this
'Isn't she beautiful?' I said, when, at the expiration of the hour,
Jeannette disappeared, wrapped in her mantle.
'No; not to my eyes.'
'Why, what more can you require, Doctor? Look at her rich coloring,
'There is no mind in her face, Mrs. Corlyne.'
'But she is still a child.'
'She will always be a child; she will never mature,' answered our
surgeon, going up the steep stairs to his room above.
Jeannette came regularly, and one morning, tired of the bead-work, I
proposed teaching her to read. She consented, although not without an
incentive in the form of shillings; but, however gained, my scholar
gave to the long winter a new interest. She learned readily; but as
there was no foundation, I was obliged to commence with A, B, C.
'Why not teach her to cook?' suggested the major's fair young wife,
whose life was spent in hopeless labors with Indian servants, who,
sooner or later, ran away in the night with spoons and the family
'Why not teach her to sew?' said Madame Captain, wearily raising her
eyes from the pile of small garments before her.
'Why not have her up for one of our sociables?' hazarded our most
dashing lieutenant, twirling his moustache.
'Frederick!' exclaimed his wife, in a tone of horror: she was
aristocratic, but sharp in outlines.
'Why not bring her into the church? Those French half-breeds are
little better than heathen,' said the chaplain.
Thus the high authorities disapproved of my educational efforts. I
related their comments to Archie, and added, 'The surgeon is the only
one who has said nothing against it.'
'Prescott? O, he's too high and mighty to notice anybody, much less
a half-breed girl. I never saw such a stiff, silent fellow; he looks as
if he had swallowed all his straightlaced Puritan ancestors. I wish
'O, yes, without doubt; certainly, and amen! I know you like him,
Aunt Sarah,' said my handsome boy-soldier, laughing.
The lessons went on. We often saw the surgeon during study hours as
the stairway leading to his room opened out of the little parlor.
Sometimes he would stop awhile and listen as Jeannette slowly read,
'The good boy likes his red top'; 'The good girl can sew a seam', or
watched her awkward attempts to write her name, or add a one and a two.
It was slow work, but I persevered, if from no other motive than
obstinacy. Had they not all prophesied a failure? When wearied with the
dull routine, I gave an oral lesson in poetry. If the rhymes were of
the chiming, rhythmic kind, Jeannette learned rapidly, catching the
verses as one catches a tune, and repeating them with a spirit and
dramatic gesture all her own. Her favorite was Macaulay's 'Ivry.'
Beautiful she looked, as, standing in the centre of the room, she
rolled out the sonorous lines, her French accent giving a charming
foreign coloring to the well-known verses:—
'Now by the lips of those ye love, fair gentlemen of France,
Charge for the golden lilies,—upon them with the lance!
A thousand spears are striking deep, a thousand spears in rest,
A thousand knights are pressing close behind the snow-white
And in they burst, and on they rushed, while, like a guiding
Amidst the thickest carnage blazed the helmet of Navarre.'
And yet, after all my explanations, she only half understood it; the
'knights' were always 'nights' in her mind, and the 'thickest carnage'
was always the 'thickest carriage.'
One March day she came at the appointed hour, soon after our noon
dinner. The usual clear winter sky was clouded, and a wind blew the
snow from the trees where it had lain quietly month after month.
'Spring is coming,' said the old sergeant that morning, as he hoisted
the storm-flag; it's getting wildlike.'
Jeannette and I went through the lessons, but towards three o'clock
a north-wind came sweeping over the Straits and enveloped the island in
a whirling snow-storm, partly eddies of white splinters torn from the
ice-bound forest, and partly a new, fall of round snow pellets
careering along on the gale, quite unlike the soft, feathery flakes of
early winter. 'You cannot go home now, Jeannette,' I said, looking out
through the little west window; our cottage stood back on the hill, and
from this side window we could see the Straits, going down toward far
Waugoschance; the steep fort-hill outside the wall; the long meadow,
once an Indian burial-place, below; and beyond on the beach the row of
cabins inhabited by the French fishermen, one of them the home of my
pupil. The girl seldom went round the point into the village; its one
street and a half seemed distasteful to her. She climbed the stone-wall
on the ridge behind her cabin, took an Indian trail through the grass
in summer, or struck across on the snow-crust in winter, ran up the
steep side of the fort-hill like a wild chamois, and came into the
garrison enclosure with a careless nod to the admiring sentinel, as she
passed under the rear entrance. These French, half-breeds, like the
gypsies, were not without a pride of their own. They held themselves
aloof from the Irish of Shantytown, the floating sailor population of
the summer, and the common soldiers of the garrison. They intermarried
among themselves, and held their own revels in their beach-cabins
during the winter, with music from their old violins, dancing and,
songs, French ballads with a chorus after every two lines, quaint
chansons handed down from voyageur ancestors. Small respect had they
for the little Roman Catholic church beyond the old Agency garden; its
German priest they refused to honor; but, when stately old Father Piret
came over to the island from his hermitage in the Chenaux, they ran to
meet him, young and old, and paid him reverence with affectionate
respect. Father Piret was a Parisian, and a gentleman; nothing less
would suit these far-away sheep in the wilderness!
Jeannette Leblanc had all the pride of her class; the Irish
saloon-keeper with his shining tall hat, the loud-talking mate of the
lake schooner, the trim sentinel pacing the fort walls, were nothing to
her, and this somewhat incongruous hauteur gave her the air of a little
On this stormy afternoon the captain's wife was in my parlor
preparing to return to her own quarters with some coffee she had
borrowed. Hearing my remark she said, 'O, the snow won't hurt the
child, Mrs. Corlyne; she must be storm-proof, living down there on the
beach! Duncan can take her home.'
Duncan was the orderly, a factotum in the garrison.
'Non,' said Jeannette, tossing her head proudly, as the door closed
behind the lady, 'I wish not of Duncan; I go alone.'
It happened that Archie, my nephew, had gone over to the cottage of
the commanding officer to decorate the parlor for the military
sociable; I knew he would not return, and the evening stretched out
before me in all its long loneliness. 'Stay, Jeannette,' I said. 'We
will have tea together here, and when the wind goes down, old Antoine
shall go back with you.' Antoine was a French wood-cutter, whose cabin
clung half-way down the fort-hill like a swallow's nest.
Jeannette's eyes sparkled; I had never invited her before; in an
instant she had turned the day into a high festival. 'Braid hair?' she
asked, glancing toward the mirror, 'faut que je m' fasse belle.' And
the long hair came out of its close braids enveloping her in its glossy
dark waves, while she carefully smoothed out the bits of red ribbon
that served as fastenings. At this moment the door opened, and the
surgeon, the wind, and a puff of snow came in together. Jeannette
looked up, smiling and blushing; the falling hair gave a new softness
to her face, and her eyes were as shy as the eyes of a wild fawn.
Only the previous day I had noticed that Rodney Prescott listened
with marked attention to the captain's cousin, a Virginia lady, as she
advanced a theory that Jeannette had negro blood in her veins. 'Those
quadroon girls often have a certain kind of plebeian beauty like this
pet of yours, Mrs. Corlyne,' she said, with a slight sniff of her
high-bred, pointed nose. In vain I exclaimed, in vain I argued; the
garrison ladies were all against me, and, in their presence, not a man
dared come to my aid; and the surgeon even added, 'I wish I could be
sure of it.'
'Sure of the negro blood?' I said indignantly.
'But Jeannette does not look in the least like a quadroon.'
'Some of the quadroon girls are very handsome, Mrs. Corlyne,'
answered the surgeon, coldly.
'O yes!' said the high-bred Virginia lady. 'My brother has a number
of them about his place, but we do not teach them to read, I assure
you. It spoils them.'
As I looked at Jeannette's beautiful face, her delicate eagle
profile, her fair skin and light blue eyes, I recalled this
conversation with vivid indignation. The surgeon, at least, should be
convinced of his mistake. Jeannette had never looked more brilliant;
probably the man had never really scanned her features,—he was such a
cold, unseeing creature; but to-night he should have a fair
opportunity, so I invited him to join our storm-bound tea-party. He
'Ah, do, Monsieur Rodenai,' said Jeannette, springing forward. 'I
sing for you, I dance; but, no, you not like that. Bien, I tell your
fortune then.' The young girl loved company. A party of three, no
matter who the third, was to her infinitely better than two.
The surgeon stayed.
A merry evening we had before the hearth-fire. The wind howled
around the block-house and rattled the flag-staff, and the snow pellets
sounded on the window-panes, giving that sense of warm comfort within
that comes only with the storm. Our servant had been drafted into
service for the military sociable, and I was to prepare the evening
'Not tea,' said Jeannette, with a wry face; 'tea,—c'est medecine!'
She had arranged her hair in fanciful braids, and now followed me to
the kitchen, enjoying the novelty like a child. 'Cafe?' she said. 'O,
please, madame! I make it.'
The little shed kitchen was cold and dreary, each plank of its thin
walls rattling in the gale with a dismal creak; the wind blew the smoke
down the chimney, and finally it ended on our bringing everything into
the cosey parlor, and using the hearth fire, where Jeannette made
coffee and baked little cakes over the coals.
The meal over, Jeannette sang her songs, sitting on the rug before
the fire,—Le Beau Voyageur, Les Neiges de la Cloche, ballads in
Canadian patois sung to minor airs brought over from France two hundred
The surgeon sat in the shade of the chimney-piece, his face shaded
by his hand, and I could not discover whether he saw anything to admire
in my protegee, until, standing in the centre of the room, she gave as
'Ivry' in glorious style. Beautiful she looked as she rolled out the
'And if my standard-bearer fall, as fall full well he may,—
For never saw I promise yet of such a bloody fray,—
Press where ye see my white plume shine amidst the ranks of war,
And be your oriflamme to-day the helmet of Navarre.'
Rodney sat in the full light now, and I secretly triumphed in his
'Something else, Jeannette,' I said in the pride of my heart.
Instead of repeating anything I had taught her, she began in French:—
'“Marie, enfant, quitte l'ouvrage,
Voici l'etoille du berger.”
—“Ma mere, un enfant du village
Languit captif chez l'etranger;
Pris sur mer, loin de sa patrie,
Il c'est rendu,—mais le dernier.”
File, file, pauvre Marie,
Pour secourir le prisonnier;
File, file, pauvre Marie,
File, file, pour le prisonnier.
'“Pour lui je filerais moi-meme
Mon enfant,—mais—j'ai tant vieilli!”
—“Envoyez a celui que j'aime
Tout le gain par moi recueilli.
Rose a sa noce en vain me prie;—
Dieu! j'entends le menetrier!”
File, file, pauvre Marie,
Pour secourir le prisonnier;
File, file, pauvre Marie,
File, file, pour le prisonnier.
'“Plus pres du feu file, ma cherie;
La nuit vient de refroidir le temps"
—“Adrien, m'a-t-on dit, ma mere,
Gemit dans des cachots flottants.
On repousse la main fletrie
Qu'il etend vers an pain grossier.”
File, file, pauvre Marie,
Pour secourir le prisonnier;
File, file, pauvre Marie,
File, file pour le prisonnier.'
[Footnote: 'Le Prisonnier de Guerre,' Beranger.]
Jeannette repeated these lines with a pathos so real that I felt a
moisture rising in my eyes.
'Where did you learn that, child?' I asked.
'Father Piret, madame.'
'What is it?'
'It is Beranger,—'The Prisoner of War,' said Rodney Prescott. 'But
you omitted the last verse, mademoiselle; may I ask why?'
'More sad so,' answered Jeannette. 'Marie she die now.'
'You wish her to die?'
'Mais oui: she die for love; c'est beau!'
And there flashed a glance from the girl's eyes that thrilled
through me, I scarcely knew why. I looked towards Rodney, but he was
back in the shadow again.
The hours passed. 'I must go,' said Jeannette, drawing aside the
curtain. Clouds were still driving across the sky, but the snow had
ceased falling, and at intervals the moon shone out over the cold white
scene; the March wind continued on its wild career toward the south.
'I will send for Antoine,' I said, rising, as Jeannette took up her
'The old man is sick, to-day,' said Rodney. 'It would not be safe
for him to leave the fire, to-night. I will accompany mademoiselle.'
Pretty Jeannette shrugged her shoulders. 'Mais, monsieur,' she
answered, 'I go over the hill.'
'No, child; not tonight,' I said decidedly. 'The wind is violent,
and the cliff doubly slippery after this ice-storm. Go round through
'Of course we shall go through the village,' said our surgeon, in
his calm authoritative way. They started. But in another minute I saw
Jeannette fly by the west window, over the wall and across the snowy
road, like a spirit, disappearing down the steep bank, now slippery
with glare ice. Another minute, and Rodney Prescott followed in her
With bated breath I watched for the reappearance of the two figures
on the white plain, one hundred and fifty feet below; the cliff was
difficult at any time, and now in this ice! The moments seemed very
long, and, alarmed, I was on the point of arousing the garrison, when I
spied the two dark figures on the snowy plain below, now clear in the
moonlight, now lost in the shadow. I watched them for some distance;
then a cloud came, and I lost them entirely.
Rodney did not return, although I sat late before the dying fire.
Thinking over the evening, the idea came to me that perhaps, after all,
he did admire my protegee, and, being a romantic old woman, I did not
repel the fancy; it might go a certain distance without harm, and an
idyl is always charming, doubly so to people cast away on a desert
island. One falls into the habit of studying persons very closely in
the limited circle of garrison life.
But, the next morning, the major's wife gave me an account of the
sociable. 'It was very pleasant,' she said. 'Toward the last Dr.
Prescott came in, quite unexpectedly. I had no idea he could be so
agreeable. Augusta can tell you how charming he was!'
Augusta, a young lady cousin, of pale blond complexion, neutral
opinions, and irreproachable manners, smiled primly. My idyl was
The days passed. The winds, the snows, and the high-up fort remained
the same. Jeannette came and went, and the hour lengthened into two or
three; not that we read much, but we talked more. Our surgeon did not
again pass through the parlor; he had ordered a rickety stairway on the
outside wall to be repaired, and we could hear him going up and down
its icy steps as we sat by the hearth-fire. One day I said to him, 'My
protegee is improving wonderfully. If she could have a complete
education, she might take her place with the best in the land.'
'Do not deceive yourself, Mrs. Corlyne,' he answered. 'It is only
the shallow French quickness.'
'Why do you always judge the child so harshly, Doctor?'
'Do you take her part, Aunt Sarah?' (For sometimes he used the title
which Archie had made so familiar.)
'Of course I do, Rodney. A poor, unfriended girl living in this
remote place, against a United States surgeon with the best of Boston
'I wish you would tell me that every day, Aunt Sarah,' was the reply
I received. It set me musing, but I could make nothing of it. Troubled
without knowing why, I suggested to Archie that he should endeavor to
interest our surgeon in the fort gayety; there was something for every
night in the merry little circle,—games, suppers, tableaux, music,
theatricals, readings, and the like.
'Why, he's in the thick of it already, Aunt Sarah,' said my nephew.
'He's devoting himself to Miss Augusta; she sings “The Harp that
once—” to him every night.'
('The Harp that once through Tara's Halls', was Miss Augusta's
dress-parade song. The Major's quarters not being as large as the halls
aforesaid, the melody was somewhat overpowering.)
'O, does she?' I thought, not without a shade of vexation. But the
vague anxiety vanished.
The real spring came at last,—the rapid, vivid spring of Mackinac.
Almost in a day the ice moved out, the snows melted, and the northern
wild-flowers appeared in the sheltered glens. Lessons were at an end,
for my scholar was away in the green woods. Sometimes she brought me a
bunch of flowers, but I seldom saw her; my wild bird had flown back to
the forest. When the ground was dry and the pine droppings warmed by
the sun, I, too, ventured abroad. One day, wandering as far as the
Arched Rock, I found the surgeon there, and together we sat down to
rest under the trees, looking off over the blue water flecked with
white caps. The Arch is a natural bridge over a chasm one hundred and
fifty feet above the lake,—a fissure in the cliff which has fallen
away in a hollow, leaving the bridge by itself far out over the water.
This bridge springs upward in the shape of an arch; it is fifty feet
long, and its width is in some places two feet, in others only a few
inches,—a narrow, dizzy pathway hanging between sky and water.
'People have crossed it,' I said.
'Only fools,' answered oar surgeon, who despised foolhardiness. 'Has
a man nothing better to do with his life than risk it for the sake of a
silly feat like that! I would not so much as raise my eyes to see any
'O yes, you would, Monsieur Rodenai,' cried a voice behind us. We
both turned and caught a glimpse of Jeannette as she bounded through
the bushes and out to the very centre of the Arch, where she stood
balancing herself and laughing gayly. Her form was outlined against the
sky; the breeze, swayed her skirt; she seemed hovering over the chasm.
I watched her, mute with fear; a word might cause her to lose her
balance; but I could not turn my eyes away, I was fascinated with the
sight. I was not aware that Rodney had left me until he, too, appeared
on the Arch, slowly finding a foothold for himself and advancing toward
the centre. A fragment of the rock broke off under his foot and fell in
the abyss below.
'Go back, Monsieur Rodenai,' cried Jeannette, seeing his danger.
'Will you came back too, Jeannette?'
'Moi? C'est aut'chose,' answered the girl, gayly tossing her pretty
'Then I shall come out and carry you back, wilful child,' said the
A peal of laughter broke from Jeannette as he spoke and then she
began to dance on her point of rock, swinging herself from side to
side, marking the time with a song. I held my breath; her dance seemed
unearthly; it was as though she belonged to the Prince of the Powers of
At length the surgeon reached the centre and caught the mocking
creature in his arms: neither spoke, but I could see the flash of their
eyes as they stood for an instant motionless. Then they struggled on
the narrow foothold and swayed over so far that I buried my face in my
trembling hands, unable to look at the dreadful end. When I opened my
eyes again all was still; the Arch was tenantless, and no sound came
from below. Were they, then, so soon dead? Without a cry? I forced
myself to the brink to look down, over the precipice; but while I stood
there, fearing to look, I heard a sound behind me in the woods. It was
Jeannette singing a gay French song. I called to her to stop. 'How
could you!' I said severely, for I was still trembling with agitation.
'Ce n'est rien, madame. I cross l'Arche when I had five year. Mais,
Monsieur Rodenai le Grand, he raise his eye to look this time, I
think,' said Jeannette, laughing triumphantly.
'Where is he?'
'On the far side, gone on to Scott's Pic [Peak]. Feroce, O feroce,
comme un loupgarou! Ah! c'est joli, ca!' And over-flowing with the
wildest glee the girl danced along through the woods in front of me,
now pausing to look at something in her hand, now laughing, now
shouting like a wild creature, until I lost sight of her. I went back
to the fort alone.
For several days I saw nothing of Rodney. When at last we met, I
said, 'That was a wild freak of Jeannette's at the Arch.'
'Planned, to get a few shilling out of us.'
'O Doctor! I do not think she had any such motive,' I replied,
looking up deprecatingly into his cold scornful eyes.
'Are you not a little sentimental over that ignorant, half-wild
creature, Aunt Sarah?'
'Well,' I said to myself, 'perhaps I am!'
The summer came, sails whitened the blue straits again, steamers
stopped for an hour or two at the island docks, and the summer
travellers rushed ashore to buy 'Indian curiosities,' made by the nuns
in Montreal, or to climb breathlessly up the steep fort-hill to see the
pride and panoply of war. Proud was the little white fort in those
summer days; the sentinels held themselves stiffly erect, the officers
gave up lying on the parapet half asleep, the best flag was hoisted
daily, and there was much bugle-playing and ceremony connected with the
evening gun, fired from the ramparts at sunset; the hotels were full,
the boarding-house keepers were in their annual state of wonder over
the singular taste of these people from 'below,' who actually preferred
a miserable white-fish to the best of beef brought up on ice all the
way from Buffalo! There were picnics and walks, and much confusion of
historical dates respecting Father Marquette and the irrepressible,
omnipresent Pontiac. The officers did much escort duty; their buttons
gilded every scene. Our quiet surgeon was foremost in everything.
'I am surprised! I had no idea Dr. Prescott was so gay,' said the
'I should not think of calling him gay,' I answered.
'Why, my dear Mrs. Corlyne! He is going all the time. Just ask
Augusta thereupon remarked that society, to a certain extent, was
beneficial; that she considered Dr. Prescott much improved; really, he
was now very 'nice.'
I silently protested against the word. But then I was not a
One bright afternoon I went through the village, round the point
into the French quarter, in search of a laundress. The fishermen's
cottages faced the west; they were low and wide, not unlike scows
drifted ashore and moored on the beach for houses. The little windows
had gay curtains fluttering in the breeze, and the room within looked
clean and cheery; the rough walls were adorned with the spoils of the
fresh-water seas, shells, green stones, agates, spar, and curiously
shaped pebbles; occasionally there was a stuffed water-bird, or a
bright-colored print, and always a violin. Black-eyed children played
in the water which bordered their narrow beach-gardens; and slender
women, with shining black hair, stood in their doorways knitting. I
found my laundress, and then went on to Jeannette's home, the last
house in the row. From the mother, a Chippewa woman, I learned that
Jeannette was with her French father at the fishing-grounds off
'How long has she been away?' I asked.
'Weeks four,' replied the mother, whose knowledge of English was
confined to the price-list of white-fish and blueberries, the two
articles of her traffic with the boarding-house keepers.
'When will she return?'
She knitted on, sitting in the sunshine on her little doorstep,
looking out over the western water with tranquil content in her
beautiful, gentle eyes. As I walked up the beach I glanced back several
times to see if she had the curiosity to watch me; but no, she still
looked out over the western water. What was I to her? Less than
nothing. A white-fish was more.
A week or two later I strolled out to the Giant's Stairway and sat
down in the little rock chapel. There was a picnic at the Lovers' Leap,
and I had that side of the island to myself. I was leaning back, half
asleep, in the deep shadow, when the sound of voices roused me; a
birch-bark canoe was passing close in shore, and two were in
it,—Jeannette and our surgeon. I could not hear their words, but I
noticed Rodney's expression as he leaned forward. Jeannette was
paddling slowly; her cheeks were flushed, and her eyes brilliant.
Another moment and a point hid them from my view. I went home troubled.
'Did you enjoy the picnic, Miss Augusta?' I said with assumed
carelessness, that evening. 'Dr. Prescott was there, as usual, I
'He was not present, but the picnic was highly enjoyable,' replied
Miss Augusta, in her even voice and impartial manner.
'The Doctor has not been with us for some days,' said the major's
wife, archly; 'I suspect he does not like Mr. Piper.'
Mr. Piper was a portly widower, of sanguine complexion, a Chicago
produce-dealer, who was supposed to admire Miss Augusta, and was now
going through a course of 'The Harp that once.'
The last days of summer flew swiftly by; the surgeon held himself
aloof; we scarcely saw him in the garrison circles, and I no longer met
him in my rambles.
'Jealousy!' said the major's wife.
September came. The summer visitors fled away homeward; the
remaining 'Indian curiosities' were stored away for another season; the
hotels were closed, and the forests deserted; the bluebells swung
unmolested on their heights and the plump Indian-pipes grew in peace in
their dark corners. The little white fort, too, began to assume its
winter manners; the storm-flag was hoisted; there were evening fires
upon the broad hearth-stones; the chaplain, having finished everything
about Balak, his seven altars and seven rams, was ready for
chess-problems; books and papers were ordered; stores laid in, and
anxious inquiries made as to the 'habits' of the new mail carrier—for
the mail carrier was the hero of the winter, and if his 'habits' led
him to whiskey, there was danger that our precious letters might be
dropped all along the northern curve of Lake Huron.
Upon this quiet matter-of-course preparation, suddenly, like a
thunderbolt from a clear sky, came orders to leave. The whole garrison,
officers and men, were ordered to Florida.
In a moment all was desolation. It was like being ordered into the
Valley of the Shadow of Death. Dense everglades, swamp-fevers, malaria
in the air, poisonous underbrush, and venomous reptiles and insects,
and now and then a wily unseen foe picking off the men, one by one, as
they painfully cut out roads through the thickets,—these were the
features of military life in Florida at that period. Men who would have
marched boldly to the cannon's mouth, officers who would have headed a
forlorn hope, shrank from the deadly swamps.
Families must be broken up, also; no women, no children, could go to
Florida. There were tears and the sound of sobbing in the little white
fort, as the poor wives, all young mothers, hastily packed their few
possessions to go back to their fathers' houses, fortunate if they had
fathers to receive them. The husbands went about in silence, too sad
for words. Archie kept up the best courage; but he was young, and had
no one to leave save me.
The evening of the fatal day—for the orders had come in the early
dawn—I was alone in my little parlor, already bare and desolate with
packing-cases. The wind had been rising since morning, and now blew
furiously from the west. Suddenly the door burst open and the surgeon
entered. I was shocked at his appearance, as, pale, haggard, with
disordered hair and clothing, he sank into a chair, and looked at me in
'Rodney, what is it?' I said.
He did not answer, but still looked at me with that strange gaze.
Alarmed, I rose, and went toward him, laying my hand on his shoulder
with a motherly touch. I loved the quiet, gray-eyed youth next after
'What is it, my poor boy! Can I help you?'
'O Aunt Sarah, perhaps you can, for you know her.'
'Her?' I repeated, with sinking heart.
I sat down and folded my hands; trouble had come, but it was not
what I apprehended,—the old story of military life, love, and
desertion; the ever-present ballad of the 'gay young knight who loves
and rides away.' This was something different.
'I love her,—I love her madly, in spite of myself,' said Rodney,
pouring forth his words with feverish rapidity. 'I know it is an
infatuation, I know it is utterly unreasonable, and yet—I love her. I
have striven against it, I have fought with myself, I have written out
elaborate arguments wherein I have clearly demonstrated the folly of
such an affection, and I have compelled myself to read them over
slowly, word for word, when alone in my room, and yet—I love her!
Ignorant, I know she would shame me; shallow, I know she could not
satisfy me; as a wife she would inevitably drag me down to misery, and
yet—I love her! I had not been on the island a week before I saw her,
and marked her beauty. Months before you invited her to the fort I had
become infatuated with her angular loveliness; but, in some respects, a
race of the blood-royal could not be prouder than these French
fishermen. They will accept your money, they will cheat you, they will
tell you lies for an extra shilling; but make one step toward a simple
acquaintance, and the door will be shut in your face. They will bow
down before you as a customer, but they will not have you for a friend.
Thus I found it impossible to reach Jeannette. I do not say that I
tried, for all the time I was fighting myself; but I went far enough to
see the barriers. It seemed a fatality that you should take a fancy to
her, have her here, and ask me to admire her,—admire the face that
haunted me by day and by night, driving me mad with its beauty.
'I realized my danger, and called to my aid all the pride of my
race. I said to my heart, 'You shall not love this ignorant half-breed
to your ruin.' I reasoned with myself, and said, 'It is only because
you are isolated on this far-away island. Could you present this girl
to your mother? Could she be a companion for your sisters? I was
beginning to gain a firmer control over myself, in spite of her
presence, when you unfolded your plan of education. Fatality again.
Instantly a crowd of hopes surged up. The education you began, could I
not finish? She was but young; a few years of careful teaching might
work wonders. Could I not train this forest flower so that it could
take its place in the garden? But, when I actually saw this full-grown
woman unable to add the simplest sum or write her name correctly, I was
again ashamed of my infatuation. It is one thing to talk of ignorance,
it is another to come face to face with it. Thus I wavered, at one
moment ready to give up all for pride, at another to give up all for
'Then came the malicious suggestion of negro blood. Could it be
proved, I was free; that taint I could not pardon. [And here, even as
the surgeon spoke, I noticed this as the peculiarity of the New England
Abolitionist. Theoretically he believed in the equality of the enslaved
race, and stood ready to maintain the belief with his life, but
practically he held himself entirely aloof from them; the Southern
creed and practice were the exact reverse.] I made inquiries of Father
Piret, who knows the mixed genealogy of the little French colony as far
back as the first voyageurs of the fur trade, and found—as I, shall I
say hoped or feared?—that the insinuation was utterly false. Thus I
was thrown back into the old tumult.
'Then came that evening in this parlor when Jeannette made the
coffee and baked little cakes over the coals. Do you remember the
pathos with which she chanted File, file, pauvre Marie; File, file,
pour le prisonnier? Do you remember how she looked when she repeated
'Ivry'? Did that tender pity, that ringing inspiration come from a dull
mind and shallow heart? I was avenged of my enforced disdain, my love
gave itself up to delicious hope. She was capable of education, and
then—! I made a pretext of old Antoine's cough in order to gain an
opportunity of speaking to her alone; but she was like a thing
possessed, she broke from me and sprang over the icy cliff, her laugh
coming back on the wind as I followed her down the dangerous slope. On
she rushed, jumping from rock to rock, waving her hand in wild glee
when the moon shone out, singing and shouting with merry scorn at my
desperate efforts to reach her. It was a mad chase, but only on the
plain below could I come up with her. There, breathless and eager, I
unfolded to her my plan of education. I only went as far as this: I was
willing to send her to school, to give her opportunities of seeing the
world, to provide for her whole future. I left the story of my love to
come afterward. She laughed me to scorn. As well talk of education to
the bird of the wilderness! She rejected my offers, picked up snow to
throw in my face, covered me with her French sarcasms, danced around me
in circles, laughed, and mocked, until I was at a loss to know whether
she was human. Finally, as a shadow darkened the moon she fled away;
and when it passed she was gone, and I was alone on the snowy plain.
'Angry, fierce, filled with scorn for myself, I determined
resolutely to crush out my senseless infatuation. I threw myself into
such society as we had; I assumed an interest in that inane Miss
Augusta; I read and studied far into the night; I walked until sheer
fatigue gave me tranquillity; but all I gained was lost in that
encounter at the arch: you remember it? When I saw her on that narrow
bridge, my love burst its bonds again, and, senseless as ever, rushed
to save her,—to save her poised on her native rocks, where every inch
was familiar from childhood! To save her,—sure-footed and light as a
bird! I caught her. She struggled in my arms, angrily, as an imprisoned
animal might struggle, but—so beautiful! The impulse came to me to
spring with her into the gulf below, and so end the contest forever. I
might have done it,—I cannot tell,—but, suddenly, she wrenched
herself out of my arms and fled over the Arch, to the farther side. I
followed, trembling, blinded, with the violence of my emotion. At that
moment I was ready to give up my life, my soul, into her hands.
'In the woods beyond she paused, glanced over her shoulder toward
me, then turned eagerly. 'Voila,' she said, pointing. I looked down and
saw several silver pieces that had dropped from my pocket as I sprang
over the rocks, and, with an impatient gesture, I thrust them aside
with my foot.
'Non,' she cried, tuning toward me and stooping eagerly,—'so much!
O, so much! See! four shilling!' Her eyes glistened with longing as she
held the money in her hand and fingered each piece lovingly.
'The sudden revulsion of feeling produced by her words and gesture
filled me with fury. 'Keep it, and buy yourself a soul if you can!' I
cried; and turning away, I left her with her gains.
'Merci, monsieur,' she answered gayly, all unmindful of my scorn;
and off she ran, holding her treasure tightly clasped in both hands. I
could hear her singing far down the path.
'It is a bitter thing to feel a scorn for yourself! Did I love this
girl who stooped to gather a few shillings from under my feet? Was it,
then, impossible for me to conquer this ignoble passion? No; it could
not and it should not be! I plunged again into all the gayety; I left
myself not one free moment; if sleep came not, I forced it to come with
opiates; Jeannette had gone to the fishing grounds, the weeks passed, I
did not see her. I had made the hardest struggle of all, and was
beginning to recover my self-respect when, one day, I met her in the
woods with some children; she had returned to gather blueberries. I
looked at her. She was more gentle than usual, and smiled. Suddenly, as
an embankment which has withstood the storms of many winters gives away
at last in a calm summer night, I yielded. Myself knew the contest was
over and my other self rushed to her feet.
'Since then I have often seen her; I have made plan after plan to
meet her; I have—O degrading thought!—paid her to take me out in her
canoe, under the pretence of fishing. I no longer looked forward; I
lived only in the present, and thought only of when and where I could
see her. Thus it has been until this morning, when the orders came.
Now, I am brought face to face with reality; I must go; can I leave her
behind? For hours I have been wandering in the woods. Aunt Sarah,—it
is of no use,—I cannot live without her; I must marry her.'
'Marry Jeannette!' I exclaimed.
'An ignorant half-breed?'
'As you say, an ignorant half-breed.'
'You are mad, Rodney.'
'I know it.'
I will not repeat all I said; but, at last, silenced, if not
convinced, by the power of this great love, I started with him out into
the wild night to seek Jeannette. We went through the village and round
the village and round the point, where the wind met us, and the waves
broke at our feet with a roar. Passing the row of cabins, with their
twinkling lights, we reached the home of Jeannette and knocked at the
low door. The Indian mother opened it. I entered, without a word, and
took a seat near the hearth, where a drift-wood fire was burning.
Jeannette came forward with a surprised look. 'You little think what
good fortune is coming to you, child,' I thought, as I noted her coarse
dress and the poor furniture of the little room.
Rodney burst at once into his subject.
'Jeannette,' he said, going toward her, 'I have come to take you
away with me. You need not go to school; I have given up that idea,—I
accept you as you are. You shall have silk dresses and ribbons, like
the ladies of the Mission-House this summer. You shall see all great
cities, you shall hear beautiful music. You shall have everything you
want,—money, bright shillings, as many as you wish. See! Mrs. Corlyne
has come with me to show you that it is true. This morning we had
orders to leave Mackinac; in a few days we must go. But—listen,
Jeanette; I will marry you. You shall be my wife. Do not look so
startled. I mean it; it is really true.'
'Qu'est-ce-que-c'est?' said the girl, bewildered by the rapid, eager
'Dr. Prescott wishes to marry you, child,' I explained, somewhat
sadly, for never had the disparity between them seemed so great. The
presence of the Indian mother, the common room, were like silent
'Marry,' ejaculated Jeannette.
'Yes, love' said the surgeon, ardently. 'It is quite true; Father
Piret shall marry us. I will exchange into another regiment, or, if
necessary, I will resign. Do you understand what I am saying,
Jeannette? See! I give you my hand, in token that it is true.'
But, with a quick bound, the girl was across the room. 'What?' she
cried. 'You think I marry you? Have you not heard of Baptiste? Know,
then, that I love one finger of him more than all you, ten times,
'Baptiste?' repeated Rodney.
'Oui, mon cousin, Baptiste, the fisherman. We marry soon— tenez—la
fete de Saint Andre.'
Rodney looked bewildered a moment, then his face cleared; 'Oh! a
child engagement? That is one of your customs, I know. But never fear;
Father Piret will absolve you from all that. Baptiste shall have a fine
new boat; he will let you off for a handful of silver pieces. Do not
think of that, Jeannette, but come to me—'
'Je vous abhorre; Je vous deteste,' cried the girl with fury as he
approached. 'Baptiste not love me? He love me more than boat and silver
dollar,—more than all the world! And I love him; I die for him!
Rodney had grown white; he stood before her, motionless, with fixed
'Jeannette,' I said in French, 'perhaps you do not understand. Dr.
Prescott asks you to marry him; Father Piret shall marry you, and all
your friends shall come. Dr. Prescott will take you away from this hard
life; he will make you rich; he will support your father and mother in
comfort. My child, it is wonderful good fortune. He is an educated
gentleman, and loves you truly.'
'What is that to me?' replied Jeannette, proudly. 'Let him go, I
care not.' She paused a moment. Then, with flashing eyes, she cried,
'Let him go with his fine new boat and silver dollars! He does not
believe me? See, then, how I despise him!' And rushing forward, she
struck him on the cheek.
Rodney did not stir, but stood gazing at her while the red mark
glowed on his white face.
'You know not what love is,' said Jeannette, with indescribable
scorn. 'You! You! Ah, mon Baptiste, ou es-tu? But thou wilt kill
him,—kill him for his boats and silver dollars!'
'Child!' I said, startled by her fury.
'I am not a child. Je suis femme, moi!' replied Jeannette, folding
her arms with haughty grace. 'Allez!' she said, pointing toward the
door. We were dismissed. A queen could not have made a more royal
Throughout the scene the Indian mother had not stopped her knitting.
In four days we were afloat, and the little white fort was deserted.
It was a dark afternoon, and we sat clustered on the stern of the
steamer, watching the flag come slowly down from its staff in token of
the departure of the commanding officer. 'Isle of Beauty, fare thee
well,' sang the major's fair young wife with the sound of tears in her
'We shall return,' said the officers. But not one of them ever saw
the beautiful island again.
Rodney Prescott served a month or two in Florida, 'taciturn and
stiff as ever,' Archie wrote. Then he resigned suddenly, and went
abroad. He has never returned, and I have lost all trace of him, so
that I cannot say, from any knowledge of my own, how long the feeling
lived,—the feeling that swept me along in its train down to the
beach-cottage that wild night.
Each man who reads this can decide for himself.
Each woman has decided already.
Last year I met an islander on the cars going eastward. It was the
first time he had ever been 'below'; but he saw nothing to admire, that
dignified citizen of Mackinac!
'What has become of Jeannette Leblanc?' I asked.
'Jeannette? O, she married that Baptiste, a lazy, good-for-nothing
fellow? They live in the same little cabin around the point, and pick
up a living most anyhow for their tribe of young ones.'
'Are they happy?'
'Happy?' repeated my islander, with a slow stare. 'Well I suppose
they are, after their fashion; I don't know much about them. In my
opinion, they are a shiftless set, those French half-breeds round the
THE OLD AGENCY.
'The buildings of the United States Indian Agency on the island of
Mackinac were destroyed by fire December 31, at midnight.'—WESTERN
The old house is gone then! But it shall not depart into oblivion
unchronicled. One who has sat under its roof-tree, one who remembers
well its rambling rooms and wild garden, will take the pen to write
down a page of its story. It is only an episode, one of many; but the
others are fading away, or already buried in dead memories under the
sod. It was a quaint, picturesque old place, stretching back from the
white limestone road that bordered the little port, its overgrown
garden surrounded by an ancient stockade ten feet in height, with a
massive, slow-swinging gate in front, defended by loopholes. This
stockade bulged out in some places and leaned in at others; but the
veteran posts, each a tree sharpened to a point, did not break their
ranks, in spite of decrepitude; and the Indian warriors, could they
have returned from their happy hunting-grounds, would have found the
brave old fence of the Agency a sturdy barrier still. But the Indian
warriors could not return. The United States agent had long ago moved
to Lake Superior, and the deserted residence, having only a mythical
owner, left without repairs year after year, and under a cloud of
confusion as regarded taxes, titles, and boundaries, became a kind of
flotsam property, used by various persons, but belonging legally to no
one. Some tenant, tired of swinging the great gate back and forth, had
made a little sally port alongside, but otherwise the place remained
unaltered; a broad garden with a central avenue of cherry-trees, on
each side dilapidated arbors, overgrown paths, and heart-shaped beds,
where the first agents had tried to cultivate flowers, and behind the
limestone cliffs crowned with cedars. The house was large on the
ground, with wings and various additions built out as if at random; on
each side and behind were rough outside chimneys clamped to the wall;
in the roof over the central part dormer-windows showed a low second
storey; and here and there at intervals were outside doors, in some
cases opening out into space, since the high steps which once led up to
them had fallen down, and remained as they fell, heaps of stones on the
ground below. Within were suites of rooms, large and small, showing
traces of workmanship elaborate for such a remote locality; the
ceilings, patched with rough mortar, had been originally decorated with
moulding, the doors were ornamented with scroll-work, and the two large
apartments on each side of the entrance-hall possessed chimney-pieces
and central hooks for chandeliers. Beyond and behind stretched out the
wings; coming to what appeared to be the end of the house on west,
there unexpectedly began a new series of rooms turning to the north,
each with its outside door; looking for a corresponding labyrinth on
the eastern side, there was nothing but a blank wall. The blind
stairway went up in a kind of dark well, and once up it was a difficult
matter to get down without a plunge from top to bottom, since the
undefended opening was just where no one would expect to find it.
Sometimes an angle was so arbitrarily walled up that you felt sure
there must be a secret chamber there and furtively rapped on the wall
to catch the hollow echo within. Then again you opened a door,
expecting to step into the wilderness of a garden, and found yourself
in a set of little rooms running off on a tangent, one after the other,
and ending in a windowless closet and an open cistern. But the Agency
gloried in its irregularities, and defied criticism. The original idea
of its architect—if there was any—had vanished; but his work remained
a not unpleasing variety to summer visitors accustomed to city houses,
all built with a definite purpose, and one front door.
After some years of wandering in foreign lands, I returned to my own
country, and took up the burden of old associations whose sadness time
had mercifully softened. The summer was over; September had begun, but
there came to me a great wish to see Mackinac once more; to look again
upon the little white fort where I had lived with Archie, my soldier
nephew killed at Shiloh. The steamer took me safely across Lake Erie,
up the brimming Detroit River, through the enchanted region of the St.
Clair flats, and out into broad Lake Huron; there, off Thunder Bay, a
gale met us, and for hours we swayed between life and death.
The season for pleasure travelling was over; my fellow-passengers,
with one exception, were of that class of Americans who dressed in
cheap imitations of fine clothes, are forever travelling,
travelling,—taking the steamers not from preference, but because they
are less costly than an all-rail route. The thin, listless men, in
ill-fitting black clothes and shining tall hats, sat on the deck in
tilted chairs hour after hour silent and dreary; the thin listless
women, clad in raiment of many colors, remained on the fixed sofas in
the cabin hour after hour, silent and weary. At meals they ate
indiscriminately everything within range, but continued the same, a
weary, dreary, silent band. The one exception was an old man, tall and
majestic, with silvery hair and bright, dark eyes, dressed in the garb
of a Roman Catholic priest, albeit slightly tinged with frontier
innovations. He came on board at Detroit, and as soon as we were under
way he exchanged his hat for a cloth cap embroidered with Indian
bead-work; and when the cold air, precursor of the gale, struck us on
Huron, he wrapped himself in a large capote made of skins, with the fur
In times of danger formality drops from us. During those long hours,
when the next moment might have brough death, this old man and I were
together; and when at last the cold dawn came, and the disabled steamer
slowly ploughed through the angry water around the point, and showed us
Mackinac in the distance, we discovered that the island was a mutual
friend, and that we knew each other, at least by name; for the
silver-haired priest was Father Piret, the hermit of the Chenaux. In
the old days, when I was living at the little white fort, I had known
Father Piret by reputation, and he had heard of me from the French
half-breeds around the point. We landed. The summer hotels were closed,
and I was directed to the old Agency, where occasionally a boarder was
received by the family then in possession. The air was chilly, and a
fine rain was falling, the afterpiece of the equinoctial; the wet
storm-flag hung heavily down over the fort on the height, and the waves
came in sullenly. All was in sad accordance with my feelings as I
thought of the past and its dead, while the slow tears of age moistened
my eyes. But the next morning Mackinac awoke, robed in autumn splendor;
the sunshine poured down, the straits sparkled back, the forest glowed
in scarlet, the larches waved their wild, green hands, the fair-weather
flag floated over the little fort, and all was as joyous as though no
one had ever died; and indeed it is in glorious days like these that we
best realise immortality.
I wandered abroad through the gay forest to the Arch, the Lovers'
Leap, and old Fort Holmes, whose British walls had been battered down,
for pastime, so that only a caved-in British cellar remained to mark
the spot. Returning to the Agency, I learned that Father Piret had
called to see me.
'I am sorry that I missed him,' I said; 'he is a remarkable old
The circle at the dinner-table glanced up with one accord. The
little minister with the surprised eyes looked at me more surprised
than ever; his large wife groaned audibly. The Baptist colporteur
peppered his potatoes until they and the plate were black; the
Presbyterian doctor, who was the champion of the Protestant party on
the island, wished to know if I was acquainted with the latest devices
of the Scarlet Woman in relation to the county school-fund.
'But my friends,' I replied, 'Father Piret and I both belong to the
past. We discuss not religion, but Mackinac; not the school-fund, but
the old associations of the island, which is dear to both of us.'
The four looked at me with distrust; they saw nothing dear about the
island, unless it was the price of fresh meat; and as to old
associations, they held themselves above such nonsense. So, one and
all, they, took beef and enjoyed a season of well-regulated
conversation, leaving me to silence and my broiled white-fish; as it
was Friday, no doubt they thought the latter a rag of popery.
Very good rags.
But my hostess, a gentle little woman, stole away from these
bulwarks of Protestantism in the late afternoon, and sought me in my
room, or rather series of rooms, since there were five opening one out
of the other, the last three unfurnished, and all the doorless doorways
staring at me like so many fixed eyes, until, oppressed by their silent
watchfulness, I hung a shawl over the first opening and shut out the
whole gazing suite.
'You must not think, Mrs. Corlyne, that we islanders do not
appreciate Father Piret,' said the little woman, who belonged to one of
the old island families, descendants of a chief factor of the fur
trade. 'There has been some feeling lately against the Catholics—'
'Roman Catholics, my dear,' I said with Anglican particularity.
'But we all love and respect the dear old man as a father.'
'When I was living at the fort, fifteen years ago, I heard
occasionally of Father Piret,' I said, 'but he seemed to be almost a
mythic personage. What is his history?'
'No one knows. He came here fifty years ago, and after officiating
on the island a few years, he retired to a little Indian farm in the
Chenaux, where he has lived ever since. Occasionally he holds a service
for the half-breeds at Point St. Ignace, but the parish of Mackinac
proper has its regular priest, and Father Piret apparently does not
hold even the appointment of missionary. Why he remains here—a man
educated, refined, and even aristocratic—is a mystery. He seems to be
well provided with money; his little house in the Chenaux contains
foreign books and pictures, and he is very charitable to the poor
Indians. But he keeps himself aloof, and seems to desire no intercourse
with the world beyond his letters and papers, which come regularly,
some of them from France. He seldom leaves the Straits; he never speaks
of himself; always he appears as you saw him, carefully dressed and
stately. Each summer when he is seen on the street, there is more or
less curiosity about him among the summer visitors, for he is quite
unlike the rest of us Mackinac people. But no one can discover anything
more than I have told you, and those who have persisted so far as to
sail over to the Chenaux either lose their way among the channels, or
if they find the house, they never find him; the door is locked, and no
'Singular,' I said. 'He has nothing of the hermit about him. He has
what I should call a courtly manner.'
'That is it,' replied my hostess, taking up the word; 'some say he
came from the French court,—a nobleman exiled for political offences;
others think he is a priest under the ban; and there is still a third
story, to the effect that he is a French count, who, owing to a
disappointment in love, took orders and came to this far-away island,
so that he might seclude himself forever from the world.'
'But no one really knows?'
'Absolutely nothing. He is beloved by all the real old island
families, whether they are of his faith or not; and when he dies the
whole Strait, from Bois Blanc light to far Waugoschance, will mourn for
At sunset the Father came again to see me; the front door of my room
was open, and we seated ourselves on the piazza outside. The roof of
bark thatch had fallen away, leaving the bare beams overhead twined
with brier-roses; the floor and house side were frescoed with those
lichen colored spots which show that the gray planks have lacked paint
for many long years; the windows had wooden shutters fastened back with
irons shaped like the letter S, and on the central door was a brass
knocker, and a plate bearing the words, 'United States Agency.'
'When I first came to the island,' said Father Piret, 'this was the
residence par excellence. The old house was brave with green and white
paint then; it had candelabra on its high mantles, brass andirons on
its many hearthstones, curtains for all its little windows, and carpets
for all its uneven floors. Much cooking went on, and smoke curled up
from all these outside chimneys. Those were the days of the fur trade
and Mackinac was a central mart. Hither twice a year came the bateaux
from the Northwest, loaded with furs; and in those old, decaying
warehouses on the back street of the village were stored the goods sent
out from New York, with which the bateaux were loaded again, and after
a few days of revelry, during which the improvident voyagers squandered
all their hard-earned gains, the train returned westward into 'the
countries,' as they called the wilderness beyond the lakes, for another
six months of toil. The officers of the little fort on the height, the
chief factors of the fur company, and the United States Indian agent,
formed the feudal aristocracy of the island; but the agent had the most
imposing mansion, and often have I seen the old house shining with
lights across its whole broadside of windows, and gay with the sound of
a dozen French violins. The garden, now a wilderness, was the pride of
the island. Its prim arbors, its spring and spring-house, its
flowerbeds, where, with infinite pains, a few hardy plants were induced
to blossom; its cherry-tree avenue, whose early red fruit the short
summer could scarcely ripen; its annual attempts at vegetables, which
never came to maturity,—formed topics for conversation in court
circles. Potatoes then as now were left to the mainland Indians, who
came over with their canoes heaped with the fine, large thin-jacketed
fellows, bartering them all for a loaf or two of bread and a little
'The stockade which surrounds the place was at that day a not
unnecessary defence. At the time of the payments the island swarmed
with Indians, who came from Lake Superior and the Northwest, to receive
the government pittance. Camped on the beach as far as the eye could
reach, these wild warriors, dressed in all their savage finery, watched
the Agency with greedy eyes, as they waited for their turn. The great
gate was barred, and sentinels stood at the loopholes with loaded
muskets; one by one the chiefs were admitted, stalked up to the
office,—that wing on the right,—received the allotted sum, silently
selected something from the displayed goods, and as silently departed,
watched by quick eyes, until the great gate closed behind them. The
guns of the fort were placed so as to command the Agency during payment
time; and when, after several anxious, watchful days and nights, the
last brave had received his portion, and the last canoe started away
toward the north, leaving only the comparatively peaceful mainland
Indians behind, the island drew a long breath of relief.'
'Was there any real danger?' I asked.
'The Indians are ever treacherous.' replied the Father. Then he was
silent, and seemed lost in revery. The pure, ever-present breeze of
Mackinac played in his long silvery hair, and his bright eyes roved
along the wall of the old house; he had a broad forehead, noble
features, and commanding presence, and as he sat there, recluse as he
was,—aged, alone, without a history, with scarcely a name or a place
in the world,—he looked, in the power of his native-born dignity,
worthy of a royal coronet.
'I was thinking of old Jacques,' he said, after a long pause.
'He once lived in these rooms of yours, and died on that bench at
the end of the piazza, sitting in the sunshine, with his staff in his
'Who was he?' I asked. 'Tell me the story, Father.'
'There is not much to tell, madame; but in my mind he is so
associated with this old house, that I always think of him when I come
here, and fancy I see him on that bench.
'When the United States agent removed to the Apostle Islands, at the
western end of Lake Superior, this place remained for some time
uninhabited. But one winter morning smoke was seen coming out of that
great chimney on the side; and in the course of the day several curious
persons endeavored to open the main gate, at that time the only
entrance. But the gate was barred within, and as the high stockade was
slippery with ice, for some days the mystery remained unsolved. The
islanders, always slow, grow torpid in the winter like bears; they
watched the smoke in the daytime and the little twinkling light by
night; they talked of spirits both French and Indian as they went their
rounds, but they were too indolent to do more. At length the fort
commandant heard of the smoke, and saw the light from his quarters on
the height. As government property, he considered the Agency under his
charge, and he was preparing to send a detail of men to examine the
deserted mansion in its ice-bound garden, when its mysterious occupant
appeared in the village; it was an old man, silent, gentle, apparently
French. He carried a canvas bag, and bought a few supplies of the
coarsest description, as though he was very poor. Unconscious of
observation, he made his purchases and returned slowly homeward,
barring the great gate behind him. Who was he? No one knew. Whence and
when came he? No one could tell.
'The detail of soldiers from the fort battered at the gate, and when
the silent old man opened it they followed him through the garden,
where his feet had made a lonely trail over the deep snow, round to the
side door. They entered, and found some blankets on the floor, a fire
of old knots on the hearth, a long narrow box tied with a rope; his
poor little supplies stood in one corner,—bread, salted fish, and a
few potatoes,—and over the fire hung a rusty tea-kettle, its many
holes carefully plugged with bits of rag. It was a desolate scene; the
old man in the great rambling empty house in the heart of an arctic
winter. He said little, and the soldiers could not understand his
language; but they left him unmolested, and going back to the fort,
they told what they had seen. Then the major went in person to the
Agency, and gathered from the stranger's words that he had come to the
island over the ice in the track of the mail-carrier; that he was an
emigrant from France on his way to the Red River of the North, but his
strength failing, owing to the intense cold, he had stopped at the
island, and seeing the uninhabited house, he had crept into it, as he
had not enough money to pay for a lodging elsewhere. He seemed a quiet
inoffensive old man, and after all the islanders had had a good long
slow stare at him he was left in peace, with his little curling smoke
by day and his little twinkling light by night, although no one thought
of assisting him; there is a strange coldness of heart in these
'I was then living at the Chenaux; there was a German priest on the
island; I sent over two half-breeds every ten days for the mail, and
through them I heard of the stranger at the Agency. He was French, they
said, and it was rumored in the saloons along the frozen docks that he
had seen Paris. This warmed my heart; for, madame, I spent my youth in
Paris,—the dear, the beautiful city! So I came over to the island in
my dog-sledge; a little thing is an event in our long, long winter. I
reached the village in the afternoon twilight, and made my way alone to
the Agency; the old man no longer barred his gate, and swinging it open
with difficulty, I followed the trail through the snowy silent garden
round to the side of this wing,—the wing you occupy. I knocked; he
opened; I greeted him and entered. He had tried to furnish his little
room with the broken relics of the deserted dwelling; a mended chair, a
stool, a propped-up table, a shelf with two or three battered tin
dishes, and some straw in one corner comprised the whole equipment, but
the floor was clean, the old dishes polished, and the blankets neatly
spread over the straw which formed the bed. On the table the supplies
were ranged in order; there was a careful pile of knots on one side of
the hearth; and the fire was evidently husbanded to last as long as
possible. He gave me the mended chair, lighted a candle-end stuck in a
bottle, and then seating himself on the stool, he gazed at me in his
silent way until I felt like an uncourteous intruder. I spoke to him in
French, offered my services; in short, I did my best to break down the
barrier of his reserve; there was something pathetic in the little room
and its lonely occupant, and, besides, I knew from his accent that we
were both from the banks of the Seine.
'Well, I heard his story,—not then, but afterward; it came out
gradually during the eleven months of our acquaintance; for he became
my friend,—almost the only friend of fifty years. I am an isolated
man, madame. It must be so. God's will be done!'
The Father paused, and looked off over the darkening water; he did
not sigh, neither was his calm brow clouded, but there was in his face
what seemed to me a noble resignation, and I have ever since felt sure
that the secret of his exile held in it a self-sacrifice; for only
self-sacrifice can produce that divine expression.
Out in the straits shone the low-down green light of a schooner;
beyond glimmered the mast-head star of a steamer, with the line of
cabin lights below, and away on the point of Bois Blanc gleamed the
steady radiance of the lighthouse showing the way to Lake Huron; the
broad overgrown garden cut us off from the village, but above on the
height we could see the lighted windows of the fort, although still the
evening sky retained that clear hue that seems so much like daylight
when one looks aloft, although the earth lies in dark shadow below. The
Agency was growing indistinct even to our near eyes; its white chimneys
loomed up like ghosts, the shutters sighed in the breeze, and the
planks of the piazza creaked causelessly. The old house was full of the
spirits of memories, and at twilight they came abroad and bewailed
themselves. 'The place is haunted,' I said, as a distant door groaned
'Yes,' replied Father Piret, coming out of his abstraction, 'and
this wing is haunted by my old French friend. As time passed and the
spring came, he fitted up in his fashion the whole suite of five rooms.
He had his parlor, sleeping room, kitchen and store-room, the whole
furnished only with the articles I have already described, save that
the bed was of fresh green boughs instead of straw. Jacques occupied
all the rooms with ceremonious exactness; he sat in the parlor, and too
I must sit there when I came; in the second room he slept and made his
careful toilet, with his shabby old clothes; the third was his kitchen
and dining-room; and the fourth, that little closet on the right, was
his store-room. His one indulgence was coffee; coffee he must and would
have, though he slept on straw and went without meat. But he cooked to
perfection in his odd way, and I have often eaten a dainty meal in that
little kitchen, sitting at the propped-up table, using the battered tin
dishes, and the clumsy wooden spoons fashioned with a jackknife. After
we had become friends Jacques would accept occasional aid from me, and
it gave me a warm pleasure to think that I had added something to his
comfort, were it only a little sugar, butter, or a pint of milk. No one
disturbed the old man; no orders came from Washington respecting the
Agency property, and the major had not the heart to order him away.
There were more than houses enough for the scanty population of the
island, and only a magnate could furnish these large rambling rooms. So
the soldiers were sent down to pick the red cherries for the use of the
garrison, but otherwise Jacques had the whole place to himself, with
all its wings, outbuildings, arbors, and garden beds.
'But I have not told you all. The fifth apartment in the suite—the
square room with four windows and an outside door—was the old man's
sanctuary, here were his precious relics, and here he offered up his
devotions, half Christian, half pagan, with never-failing ardor. From
the long narrow box which the fort soldiers had noticed came an old
sabre, a worn and faded uniform of the French grenadiers, a little
dried sprig, its two withered leaves tied in their places with thread,
and a coarse woodcut of the great Napoleon; for Jacques was a soldier
of the Empire. The uniform hung on the wall, carefully arranged on pegs
as a man would wear it, and the sabre was brandished from the empty
sleeve as though a hand held it; the woodcut framed in green, renewed
from day to day, pine in the winter, maple in the summer, occupied the
opposite side, and under it was fastened the tiny withered sprig, while
on the floor below was a fragment of buffalo-skin which served the
soldier for a stool when he knelt in prayer. And did he pray to
Napoleon, you ask? I hardly know. He had a few of the Church's prayers
by heart, but his mind was full of the Emperor as he repeated them, and
his eyes were fixed upon the picture as though it was the face of a
saint. Discovering this, I labored hard to bring him to a clearer
understanding of the faith; but all in vain. He listened patiently,
even reverently, although I was much the younger; at intervals he
replied, “Oui, mon pere,” and the next day he said his prayers to the
dead Emperor as usual. And this was not the worst; in place of an amen,
there came a fierce imprecation against the whole English nation. After
some months I succeeded in persuading him to abandon this termination;
but I always suspected that it was but a verbal abandonment, and that,
mentally, the curse was as strong as ever.
'Jacques had been a soldier of the Empire, as it is called,—a
grenadier under Napoleon; he had loved his General and Emperor in life,
and adored him in death with the affectionate pertinacity of a faithful
dog. One hot day during the German campaign, Napoleon, engaged in
conference with some of his generals, was disturbed by the uneasy
movements of his horse; looking around for some one to brush away the
flies, he saw Jacques, who stood at a short distance watching his
Emperor with admiring eyes. Always quick to recognize the personal
affection he inspired, Napoleon signed to the grenadier to approach,
“Here, mon brave,” he said, smiling; “get a branch and keep the flies
from my horse a few moments.” The proud soldier obeyed; he heard the
conversation of the Emperor; he kept the flies from his horse. As he
talked, Napoleon idly plucked a little sprig from the branch as it came
near his hand, and played with it; and when, the conference over, with
a nod of thanks to Jacques, he rode away, the grenadier stopped, picked
up the sprig fresh from the Emperor's hand and placed it carefully in
his breast-pocket. The Emperor had noticed him; the Emperor had called
him 'mon brave'; the Emperor had smiled upon him. This was the glory of
Jacques's life. How many times have I listened to the story, told
always in the same words, with the same gestures in the same places! He
remembered every sentence of the conversation he had heard, and
repeated them with automatic fidelity, understanding nothing of their
meaning; even when I explained their probable connection with the
campaign, my words made no impression upon him, and I could see that
they conveyed no idea to his mind. He was made for a soldier; brave and
calm, he reasoned not, but simply obeyed, and to this blind obedience
there was added a heart full of affection which, when concentrated upon
the Emperor, amounted to idolatry. Napoleon possessed a singular
personal power over his soldiers; they all loved him, but Jacques
'It was an odd, affectionate animal,' said Father Piret, dropping
unconsciously into a French idiom to express his meaning. 'The little
sprig had been kept as a talisman, and no saintly relic was ever more
honored; the Emperor had touched it!
'Grenadier Jacques made one of the ill-fated Russian army, and,
although wounded and suffering, he still endured until the capture of
Paris. Then, when Napoleon retired to Elba, he fell sick from grief,
nor did he recover until the Emperor returned, when, with thousands of
other soldiers, our Jacques hastened to his standard, and the hundred
days began. Then came Waterloo. Then came St. Helena. But the grenadier
lived on in hope, year after year, until the Emperor died,— died in
exile, in the hands of the hated English. Broken-hearted, weary of the
sight of his native land, he packed his few possessions, and fled away
over the ocean, with a vague idea of joining a French settlement on the
Red River; I have always supposed it must be the Red River of the
South; there are French there. But the poor soldier was very ignorant;
some one directed him to these frozen regions, and he set out; all
places were alike to him now that the Emperor had gone from earth.
Wandering as far as Mackinac on his blind pilgrimage, Jacques found his
strength failing, and crept into this deserted house to die.
Recovering, he made for himself a habitation from a kind of instinct,
as a beaver might have done. He gathered together the wrecks of
furniture, he hung up his treasures, he had his habits for every hour
of the day; soldier-like, everything was done by rule. At a particular
hour it was his custom to sit on that bench in the sunshine, wrapped in
his blankets in the winter, in summer with his one old coat carefully
hung on that peg; I can see him before me now. On certain days he would
wash his few poor clothes, and hang them out on the bushes to dry; then
he would patiently mend them with his great brass thimble and coarse
thread. Poor old garments! they were covered with awkward patches.
'At noon he would prepare his one meal; for his breakfast and supper
were but a cup of coffee. Slowly and with the greatest care the
materials were prepared and the cooking watched. There was a savor of
the camp, a savor of the Paris cafe, and a savor of originality; and
often, wearied with the dishes prepared by my half-breeds, I have come
over to the island to dine with Jacques, for the old soldier was proud
of his skill, and liked an appreciative guest And I—But it is not my
story to tell.'
'O Father Piret, if you could but—'
'Thanks, madame. To others I say, “What would you? I have been here
since youth; you know my life.” But to you I say there was a past;
brief, full, crowded into a few years; but I cannot tell it; my lips
are sealed! Again thanks for your sympathy, madame. And now I will go
back to Jacques.
'We were comrades, he and I; he would not come over to the Chenaux;
he was unhappy if the routine of his day was disturbed, but I often
stayed a day with him at the Agency, for I too liked the silent house.
It has its relics, by the way. Have you noticed a carved door in the
back part of the main building? That was brought from the old chapel on
the mainland, built as early as 1700. The whole of this locality is
sacred ground in the history of our Church. It was first visited by our
missionaries in 1670, and over at Point St. Ignace the dust which was
once the mortal body of Father Marquette lies buried. The exact site of
the grave is lost; but we know that in 1677 his Indian converts brought
back his body, wrapped in birch-bark, from the eastern shore of Lake
Michigan, where he died, to his beloved mission of St. Ignace. There he
was buried in a vault under the little log-church. Some years later the
spot was abandoned, and the resident priests returned to Montreal. We
have another little Indian church there now, and the point is forever
consecrated by its unknown grave. At various times I told Jacques the
history of this strait,—its islands, and points; but he evinced little
interest. He listened with some attention to my account of the battle
which took place on Dousman's farm, not far from the British Landing;
but when he found that the English were victorious, he muttered a great
oath and refused to hear more. To him the English were fiends
incarnate. Had they not slowly murdered his Emperor on their barren
rock in the sea?
'Only once did I succeed in interesting the old soldier. Then, as
now, I received twice each year a package of foreign pamphlets and
papers; among them came, that summer, a German ballad, written by that
strange being, Henri Heine. I give it to you in a later English
To the land of France went two grenadiers,
From a Russian prison returning;
But they hung down their heads on the German frontiers,
The news from their fatherland learning.
For there they both heard the sorrowful tale,
That France was by fortune forsaken;
That her mighty army was scattered like hail,
And the Emperor, the Emperor taken,
Then there wept together the grenadiers,
The sorrowful story learning;
And one said, “O woe!” as the news he hears,
“How I feel my old wound burning!”
The other said, “The song is sung,
And I wish that we both were dying!
But at home I've a wife and a child,—they're young,
On me, and me only, relying.”
“O what is a wife or a child to me!
Deeper wants all my spirit have shaken;
Let them beg, let them beg, should they hungry be!
My Emperor, my Emperor taken!
“But I beg you, brother, if by chance
You soon shall see me dying
Then take my corpse with you back to France
Let it ever in France be lying.
“The cross of honor with crimson band
Shall rest on my heart as it bound me;
Give me my musket in my hand,
And buckle my sabre around me.
“And there I will lie and listen still
In my sentry coffin staying,
Till I feel the thundering cannon's thrill
And horses tramping and neighing.
“Then my Emperor will ride well over my grave
'Mid sabres' bright slashing and fighting
And I'll rise all weaponed out of my grave,
For the Emperor, the Emperor fighting!”
'This simple ballad want straight to the heart of old Jacques; tears
rolled down his cheeks as I read, and he would have it over and over
again. 'Ah! that comrade was happy,' said the old grenadier. 'He died
when the Emperor was only taken. I too would have gone to my grave
smiling, could I have thought that my Emperor would come riding over it
with all his army around him again! But he is dead,—my Emperor is
dead! Ah! that comrade was a happy man; he died! He did not have to
stand by, while the English—may they be forever cursed!—slowly,
slowly murdered him,—murdered the great Napoleon! No; that comrade
died. Perhaps he is with the Emperor now,—that comrade-grenadier.'
'To be with his Emperor was Jacques's idea of heaven.
'From that moment each time I visited the Agency I must repeat the
verses again and again; they became a sort of hymn. Jacques had not the
capacity to learn the ballad, although he so often listened to it, but
the seventh verse he managed to repeat after a fashion of his own,
setting it to a nondescript tune, and crooning it about the house as he
came and went on his little rounds. Gradually he altered the words, but
I could not make out the new phrases as he muttered them over to
himself, as if trying them.
'What is it you are saying, Jacques'? I asked.
'But he would not tell me. After a time I discovered that he had
added the altered verse to his prayers; for always when I was at the
Agency I went with him to the sanctuary, if for no other purpose than
to prevent the uttered imprecation that served as amen for the whole.
The verse, whatever it was, came in before this.
'So the summer passed. The vague intention of going on to the Red
River of the North had faded away, and Jacques lived along on the
island as though he had never lived anywhere else. He grew wonted to
the Agency, like some old family cat, until he seemed to belong to the
house, and all thought of disturbing him was forgotten. 'There is
Jacques out washing his cloths.' 'There is Jacques going to buy his
coffee,' 'There is Jacques sitting on the piazza,' said the islanders;
the old man served them instead of a clock.
'One dark autumn day I came over from the Chenaux to get the mail.
The water was rough, and my boat, tilted far over on one side, skimmed
the crests of the waves in the daring fashion peculiar to the Mackinac
craft: the mail-steamer had not come in, owing to the storm outside,
and I went on to the Agency to see Jacques. He seemed as usual, and we
had dinner over the little fire, for the day was chilly; the meal over,
my host put everything in order again in his methodical way, and then
retired to his sanctuary for prayers. I followed, and stood in the
doorway while he knelt. The room was dusky, and the uniform with its
outstretched sabre looked like a dead soldier leaning against the wall;
the face of Napoleon opposite seemed to gaze down on Jacques as he
knelt, as though listening. Jacques muttered his prayers, and I
responded Amen! then, after a silence, came the altered verse; then
with a quick glance toward me, another silence, which I felt sure
contained the unspoken curse. Gravely he led the way back to the
kitchen—for, owing to the cold, he allowed me to dispense with the
parlor,—and there we spent the afternoon together, talking and
watching for the mail-boat. 'Jacques,' I said, 'what is that verse you
have added to your prayers! Come, my friend, why should you keep it
'It is nothing, mon pere,—nothing.' he replied. But again I urged
him to tell me; more to pass away the time than from any real interest.
'Come,' I said, 'it may be your last chance. Who knows but that I may
be drowned on my way back to the Chenaux?'
'True,' replied the old soldier calmly. 'Well, then, here it is, mon
pere: my death-wish. Voila!'
'Something you wish to have done after death?'
'And who is to do it?'
'But, Jacques, the Emperor is dead.'
'He will have done it all the same, mon pere.'
'In vain I argued; Jacques was calmly obstinate. He had mixed up his
Emperor with the stories of the Saints; why should not Napoleon do what
they had done?
'What is the verse, any way?' I said at last.
'It is my death-wish, as I said before, mon pere.' And he repeated
the following. He said it in French, for I had given him a French
translation, as he knew nothing of German; but I will give you the
English, as he had altered it:—
'The Emperor's face with its green leaf-band
Shall rest on my heart that loved him so.
Give me the sprig in my dead hand,
My uniform and sabre around me.
'So prays Grenadier Jacques.
'The old soldier had sacrificed the smooth metre; but I understood
what he meant.
'The storm increased, and I spent the night at the Agency, lying on
the bed of boughs, covered with a blanket. The house shook in the gale,
the shutters rattled, and all the floors near and far creaked as though
feet were walking over them. I was wakeful and restless, but Jacques
slept quietly, and did not stir until daylight broke over the stormy
water, showing the ships scudding by under bare poles, and the distant
mail-boat laboring up toward the island through the heavy sea. My host
made his toilet, washing and shaving himself carefully, and putting on
his old clothes as though going on parade. Then came breakfast, with a
stew added in honor of my presence; and as by this time the steamer was
not far from Round Island, I started down toward the little
post-office, anxious to receive some expected letters. The steamer came
in slowly, the mail was distributed slowly, and I stopped to read my
letters before returning. I had a picture-paper for Jacques, and as I
looked out across the straits, I saw that the storm was over, and
decided to return to the Chenaux in the afternoon, leaving word with my
half-breeds to have the sail-boat in readiness at three o'clock. The
sun was throwing out a watery gleam as, after the lapse of an hour or
two, I walked up the limestone road and entered the great gate of the
Agency. As I came through the garden along the cherry-tree avenue I saw
Jacques sitting on that bench in the sun, for this was his hour for
sunshine; his staff was in his hand, and he was leaning back against
the side of the house with his eyes closed, as if in revery. 'Jacques,
here is a picture-paper for you,' I said, laying my hand on his
shoulder. He did not answer. He was dead.
'Alone, sitting in the sunshine, apparently without a struggle or a
pang, the soul of the old soldier had departed. Whither? We know not.
But—smile if you will, madame—I trust he is with his Emperor.'
I did not smile; my eyes were too full of tears.
'I buried him, as he wished,' continued Father Piret, 'in his old
uniform, with the picture of Napoleon laid on his breast, the sabre by
his side, and the withered sprig in his lifeless hand. He lies in our
little cemetery on the height, near the shadow of the great cross; the
low white board tablet at the head of the mound once bore the words
Grenadier Jacques, but the rains and the snows have washed away the
painted letters. It is as well.'
The priest paused, and we both looked toward the empty bench, as
though we saw a figure seated there, staff in hand. After a time my
little hostess came out on to the piazza, and we all talked together of
the island and its past. 'My boat is waiting,' said Father Piret at
length; 'the wind is fair, and I must return to the Chenaux to-night.
This near departure is my excuse for coming twice in one day to see
'Stay over, my dear sir,' I urged. 'I too shall leave in another
day. We may not meet again.'
'Not on earth; but in another world we may,' answered the priest
rising as he spoke.
'Father, your blessing,' said the little hostess in a low tone,
after a quick glance toward the many windows through which the bulwarks
of Protestantism might be gazing. But all was dark, both without and
within, and the Father gave his blessing to both of us, fervently, but
with an apostolic simplicity. Then he left us, and I watched his tall
form, crowned with silvery hair, as he passed down the cherry-tree
avenue. Later in the evening the moon came out, and I saw a Mackinac
boat skimming by the house, its white sails swelling full in the fresh
'That is Father Piret's boat,' said my hostess. 'The wind is fair;
he will reach the Chenaux before midnight.'
A day later, and I too sailed away. As the steamer bore me
southward, I looked back toward the island with a sigh. Half hidden in
its wild green garden I saw the old Agency; first I could distinguish
its whole rambling length; then I lost the roofless piazza, then the
dormer-windows, and finally I could only discern the white chimneys,
with their crumbling crooked tops. The sun sank into the Strait off
Wangoschance, the evening gun flashed from the little fort on the
height, the shadows grew dark and darker, the island turned into green
foliage, then a blue outline, and finally there was nothing but the
BY MARIAN DOUGLAS.
Home from the mill came Patience Dow;
She did not smile, she would not talk;
And now she was all tears, and now,
As fierce as is a captive hawk.
Unmindful of her faded gown,
She sat with folded hands all day,
Her long hair falling tangled down,
Her sad eyes gazing far away,
Where, past the fields, a silver line,
She saw the distant river shine.
But, when she thought herself alone,
One night, they heard her muttering low,
In such a chill, despairing tone,
It seemed the east wind's sullen moan:
“Ah me! the days, they move so slow
I care not if they're fair or foul;
They creep along—I know not how;
I only know he loved me once—
He does not love me now!”
One morning, vacant was her room;
And, in the clover wet with dew;
A narrow line of broken bloom
Showed some one had been passing through;
And, following the track it led
Across a field of summer grain,
Out where the thorny blackberries shed
Their blossoms in the narrow lane,
Down which the cattle went to drink
In summer, from the river's brink.
The river! Hope within them sank;
The fatal thought that drew her there
They knew, before, among the rank,
White-blossomed weeds upon the bank,
They found the shawl she used to wear,
And on it pinned a little note:
“Oh, blame me not!” it read, “for when
I once am free, my soul will float
To him! He cannot leave me then!
I know not if't is right or wrong—
I go from life—I care not how;
I only know he loved me once—
He does not love me now!”
In the farm graveyard, 'neath the black,
Funereal pine-trees on the hill,
The poor, worn form the stream gave back
They laid in slumber, cold and still.
Her secret slept with her; none knew
Whose fickle smile had left the pain
That cursed her life; to one thought true,
Her vision-haunted, wandering brain,
Secure from all, hid safe from blame,
In life and death had kept his name.
Yet, often, with a thrill of fear,
Her mother, as she lies awake
At night, will fancy she can hear
A voice, whose tone is like the drear,
Low sound the graveyard pine-trees make:
“I know not if't is right or wrong—
I go from life—I care not how;
I only know he loved me once—
He does not love me now!”