Annette, The Metis Spy
by Joseph Edmund Collins
I. LE CHEF FALLS
IN LOVE WITH THE
ANNETTE FORMS AN
CHAPTER III. THE
CHAPTER VI. A
CHAPTER VII. A
CAPTURE; AND THE
THE STARS ARE
KINDLY TO LE
CHAPTER IX. THE
STARS TAKE A NEW
ANNETTE, THE METIS SPY:
A HEROINE OF THE N.W. REBELLION.
CHAPTER I. LE CHEF FALLS IN LOVE WITH
THE HALF-BREED MAIDEN.
The sun was hanging low in the clear blue over the prairie, as two
riders hurried their ponies along a blind trail toward a distant range
of purple hills that lay like sleepy watchers along the banks of the
The beasts must have ridden far, for their flanks were white with
foam, and their riders were splashed with froth and mud,
“The day is nearly done, mon ami,” said one, stretching out his arm
and measuring the height of the sun from the horizon. “How red it is;
and mark these blood-stains upon its face! It gives warning to the
tyrants who oppress these fair plains; but they cannot read the signs.”
There was not a motion anywhere in all the heavens, and the only
sound that broke the stillness was the dull trample of the ponies'
hoofs upon the sod. On either side was the wide level prairie, covered
with thick, tall grass, through which blazed the purple, crimson and
garnet blooms, of vetch and wild pease. The tiger lily, too, rose here
and there like a sturdy queen of beauty with its great terra cotta
petals, specked with umber-brown. Here and there, also, upon the mellow
level, stood a clump of poplars or white oaks—prim like virgins
without suitors, with their robes drawn close about them; but when over
the unmeasured plain the wind blew, they bowed their heads gracefully,
as a company of eastern girls when the king commands.
As the two horsemen rode silently around one of these clumps, there
suddenly came through the hush the sound of a girl's voice singing. The
song was exquisitely worded and touching, and the singer's voice was
sweet and limpid as the notes of a bobolink. They marvelled much who
the singer might be, and proposed that both should leave the path and
join the unknown fair one. Dismounting, they fastened their horses in
the shelter of the poplars, and proceeded on foot toward the point
whence the singing came. A few minutes walk brought the two beyond a
small poplar grove, and there, upon a fallen tree-bole, in the
delicious cool of the afternoon, they saw the songstress sitting. She
was a maiden of about eighteen years, and her soft, silky, dark hair
was over her shoulders. In girlish fancy she had woven for herself a
crown of flowers out of marigolds and daisies, and put it upon her
She did not hear the footsteps of the men upon the soft prairie, and
they did not at once reveal themselves, but stood a little way back
listening to her. She had ceased her song, and was gazing beyond
intently. On the naked limb of a desolate, thunder-riven tree that
stood apart from its lush, green-boughed neighbours, sat a thrush in a
most melancholy attitude. Every few seconds he would utter a note of
song, sometimes low and sorrowful, then in a louder key, and more
plaintive, as if he were calling for some responsive voice from far
away over the prairie.
“Dear bird, you have lost your mate, and are crying for her,” the
girl said, stretching out her little brown hand compassionately toward
the crouching songster. “Your companions have gone to the South, and
you wait here, trusting that your mate will come back, and not journey
to summer lands without you. Is not that so, my poor bird? Ah, would
that I could go with you where there are always flowers, and ever can
be heard the ripple of little brooks. Here the leaves will soon fall,
ah, me! and the daisies wither; and, instead of the delight of summer,
we shall have only the cry of hungry wolves, and the bellowing of
bitter winds above the lonesome plains. But could I go to the South,
there is no one who would sing over my absence one lamenting note, as
you sing, my bird, for the mate with whom you had so many hours of
sweet love-making in these prairie thickets. Nobody loves me, woos me,
cares for me, or sings about me. I am not even as the wild rose here,
though it seems to be alone, and is forbidden to take its walk; for it
holds up its bright face and can see its lover; and he breathes back
upon the kind, willing, breeze-puffs, through all the summer,
sweet-scented love messages, tidings of a matrimony as delicious as
that of the angels.”
She stood up, and raised her arms above her head yearningly. The
autumn wind was cooing in her hair, and softly swaying its silken
“Farewell, my desolate one; may your poor little heart be gladder
soon. Could I but be a bird, and you would have me for a companion,
your lamenting should not be for long. We should journey, loitering and
love-making all the long sweet way, from here to the South, and have no
Turning around, she perceived two men standing close beside her. She
became very confused, and clutched for her robe to cover her face, but
she had strayed away among the flowers without it. Very deeply she
blushed that the strangers should have heard her; and she spake not.
“Bonjour, ma belle fille.” It was the tall commanding one who had
addressed her. He drew closer, and she, in a very low voice, her olive
face stained with a faint flush of crimson, answered,
“Be not abashed. We heard what you were saying to the bird, and I
think the sentiments were very pretty.”
This but confused the little prairie beauty all the more. But the
gallant stranger took no heed of her embarrassment.
“With part of your declaration I cannot agree. A maiden with such
charms as yours is not left long to sigh for a lover. Believe me, I
should like to be that bird, to whom you said you would, if you could,
offer love and companionship.”
The stranger made no disguise of his admiration for the beautiful
girl of the plains. He stepped up by her side, and was about to take
her hand after delivering himself of this gallant speech, but she
quickly drew it away. Then, turning to his companion,
“We must sup before leaving this settlement, and we shall accompany
this bonny maiden home. Go you and fetch the horses; Mademoiselle and
myself shall walk together.” The other did as he was directed, and the
stranger and the songstress took their way along a little grassy path.
The ravishing beauty of the girl was more than the amorously- disposed
stranger could resist, and suddenly stretching out his arms, he sought
to kiss her. But the soft-eyed fawn of the desert soon showed herself
in the guise of a petit bete sauvage. With an angry scream, she bounded
away from his grasp.
“How do you dare take this liberty with me, Monsieur,” she said, her
eyes kindled with anger and hurt pride. “You first meanly come and
intrude upon my privacy; next you must turn what knowledge you gain by
acting spy and eavesdropper, into a means of offering me insult. You
have heard me say that I had no lover to sigh for me. I spoke the
truth: I have no such lover. But you I will not accept as one.”
And turning with flushed cheek and gleaming eyes, she entered a cosy,
clean-kept cottage. But she soon reflected that she had been guilty of
an inhospitable act in not asking the strangers to enter. Suddenly
turning, she walked rapidly back, and overtook the crest-fallen wooer
and his companion, and said in a voice from which every trace of her
late anger had disappeared.
The man's countenance speedily lost its gloom, and, respectfully
touching his hat, he said:
“Oui, Mademoiselle, avec le plus grand plaisir.” Tripping lightly
ahead she announced the two strangers, and then returned, going to the
bars where the cows were lowing, waiting to be milked. The persistent
stranger had not, by any means, made up his mind to desist in his
“The colt shies,” he murmured, “when she first sees the halter.
Presently, she becomes tractable enough.” Then, while he sat waiting
for the evening meal, blithely through the hush of the exquisite
evening came the voice of the girl. She was singing from La Claire
“A la claire fontaine
Je m'allais promener,
J'ai trouve l'eau si belle
Que je me suis baigne”
Her song ended with her work, and as she passed the strangers with
her two flowing pails of yellow milk, Riel whispered softly, as he
touched her sweet little hand:
“Ah, ma petite amie!”
The same flash came in her eyes, the same proud blood appeared red
through the dusk of her cheek, but she restrained herself. He was a
guest under her father's roof, and she would suffer the offence to
pass. The persistent gallant was more crest-fallen by this last silent
rebuke than by the first with its angry words. The first, in his
vanity, he had deemed an outburst of petulance, instead of an
expression of personal dislike, especially as the girl had so suddenly
calmed herself, and extended hospitalities.
He gnashed his teeth that a half-breed girl, in an obscure village,
should resent his advances; he for whom, if his own understanding was
to be trusted, so many bright eyes were languishing. At the evening
meal he received courteous, kindly attention from Annette; but this was
all. He related with much eloquence all that he had seen in the big
world in the East, during his school days, and took good care that his
hosts should know how important a person he was in the colony of Red
River. To his mortification, he frequently observed in the midst of one
of his most self-glorifying speeches that the girl's eyes were
abstracted. He was certain that she was not interested in him, or in
“Can she have a lover?” he asked himself, a keen arrow of jealousy
entering at his heart, and vibrating through his veins. “No, this
cannot be. She said in her musings on the prairie, that she had nobody
who would sing a sad song if she were to go to the South. Stop! She may
love, and not find her passion requited. I shall stay here until the
morrow, and let the great cause wait. Through the evening I shall
reveal who I am, and then see what is in the wind.”
During the course of the evening the audacious stranger was somewhat
confounded to learn that the father of his fair hostess was none other
than Colonel Marton, an ex-officer of the Hudson Bay Company, a man of
wide influence among all the Metis people, and one of the most sturdy
champions of the half-breed cause. Indeed he was aware that Colonel
Marton was at this very time about preaching resistance to the people,
organising forces, and preparing to strike a blow at the authority of
the Government in the North-West.
“It is discourteous, perhaps, Mademoiselle, that I should not
disclose to you who I am, even though the safety of my present
undertaking demands that I should remain unknown.”
“If Monsieur has good reasons, or any reasons, for withholding his
name, I pray that he will not consider himself under any obligation to
“It would be absurd to keep such a secret, Ma petite Brighteye, from
the beautiful daughter of a man so prominent in our holy cause as
Colonel Marton. You this evening entertain, Mademoiselle, none other
than Louis Riel, the Metis chief.”
“Monsieur Riel,” exclaimed the girl in astonishment, and somewhat in
awe. “Why, we thought that Monsieur was far beyond the prairie,
providing ammunition for the troops.”
“I have been there Mademoiselle, and seen every trusty Metis armed,
and ready to follow when the leaders cry Allons!”
Paul, the girl's brother, believed that there had never lived a hero
so brave and so mighty as the man now under his father's roof. As for
poor Annette, she bethought of her outburst of temper and lack of
respect toward the chief; and she trembled to think that she might have
given offense to a man so illustrious, and one who was the head of the
sacred cause of her father and of her people.
“But why should he address a poor simple girl like me?” she mused;
and then as she reflected that the leader had a wife and children in
Montana, and if report spoke true, a half-breed bride in a prairie
village besides, a round red spot came into each cheek and burned there
like a little fire.
The chief watched the changing colour in the maiden's face, and saw
also in the great dark, velvety eyes, the reflection of her thoughts as
they came and went, plainly as you may see the shadows upon an autumn
day chase each other over the prairie meadows.
Paul went out for a little; the chief's companion had retired to his
couch; and Riel was left alone with the girl.
“Mademoiselle must not shrink from me; she is too beautiful to be
unkind. Ah ma petite Amie, those adorable lips of yours are made to
kiss and kiss, not to pout and cry a lover nay. Through this wide land
there is many a maid who would glory in the love, my beautiful girl,
that I offer you.” He advanced towards the maid, trembling with his
passion, and dropped upon his knee.
“You would not let me kiss your lovely lips; pray sweet lady of my
heart, let me take your sweet little hand.”
The girl was trembling like a bird when the eagle's wings hover over
its nest. “O, why does a great hero like Monsieur address such words to
me? I am only a simple girl, living here upon the plains; besides, if I
could give the brave leader my heart, it would be wrong to do so, for
he is already wedded.”
“Do not speak of the ceremonies which men have muttered, binding man
and woman, when the heart cries out. Do not deny me your love my
sweet girl,” and the villain once more seized the maiden's waist, and
sought to kiss her lips. But she screamed, and struggled from his
“Paul, Paul, mon frere, come to me.” Her cries speedily brought her
brother. But Monsieur Riel had taken his seat, and he lowered upon the
girl who sat like a frightened fawn upon her chair, her great eyes
glimmering with starting tears.
“What is wrong Annette?” the boy asked, leaning affectionately over
“She is not brave Paul. A shadow passed the window which was nothing
more than my own, and she believed it to be that of a hostile Indian.”
“What a silly girl you are, Annette,” her brother said, softly
smiting her cheek with his finger-tips.
The maiden did not make any explanation, but in a very wretched and
embarrassed way arose and said, “Good night.”
Nothing was said about the matter in the morning, and as the girl
passed on her way to milk the cows Riel murmured,
“Mademoiselle will not say anything of the cause of her out-cry last
“I will not Monsieur; if you will promise not to address any words
of love-making to me again.”
“I promise nothing, foolish maiden; but I have to ask that you will
not make of Louis Riel an enemy.”
When breakfast was ended he perceived Annette rush to the window,
and then hastily and with a dainty coyness withdraw her head from the
pane; and at the same moment he heard a sprightly tune whistle'd.
Looking down the meadow he saw a tall, well-formed young white man, a
gun on his back, and a dog at his heels, walking along the little path
toward the cottage,
“This is the lover,” he muttered; “curses upon him.” From that
moment he hated with all the bitterness of his nature the man now
striding carelessly up towards the cottage door.
“Bonjour, mademoiselle et messieurs” the newcomer said in cheery
tones, as he entered, making a low bow.
“Bonjour, Monsieur Stephens, was the reply. Louis Riel, intently
watching, saw the girl's colour come and go as she spoke to the
visitor. The young man stayed only for a few moments, and the chief
observed that everybody in the house treated him as if in some way he
had been the benefactor of all. When he arose to go, Paul, who knew of
every widgeon in the mere beyond the cottonwood grove, and where the
last flock of quail had been seen to alight, followed him out of the
door, and very secretly communicated his knowledge. Annette had seen a
large flock of turkeys upon the prairie a few moments walk south of the
poplar grove, and perhaps they had not yet gone away.
“When did you see them, ma chere demoiselle?” enquired Stephens. You
know turkeys do not settle down like immigrants on one spot, and wait
till we inhabitants of the plains come out and shoot them. Was it last
week, or only the day before yesterday?” There was a very merry twinkle
in his eye as he went on with this banter. Annette affected to pout,
but she answered.
“This morning, while the dew was shining upon the grass, and you, I
doubt not, were sleeping soundly, I was abroad on the plains for the
cows. It was then I saw them. I am glad, however, that you have pointed
out the difference between turkeys and immigrants. I did not know it
before.” He handed her a sun-flower which he had plucked on the way,
“There, for your valuable information, I give you that. Next time I
come, if you are able to tell me where I can find several flocks, I
shall bring you some coppers.” With a world of mischief in his eyes, he
disappeared, and Annette, in spite of herself, could not conceal from
everybody in the house a quick little sigh at his departure.
“It seems to me this Monsieur Stephens is a great favourite with you
folk?” said M. Riel, when the young man had left the cottage. “Now had
I come for sport, no pretty eyes would have seen any flocks to reserve
for me.” And he gave a somewhat sneering glance at poor Annette, who
was pretending to be engaged in examining the petals of the sun-flower,
although she was all the while thinking of the mischievous, manly,
sunny-hearted lad who had given it to her. M. Riel's words and the
sneer were lost, so far as she was concerned. Her ears were where her
heart was, out on the plain beyond the cottonwood, where she could see
the tall, straight, lithe figure of young Stephens, and his dog at his
“Oui, Monsieur,” returned Paul, “Monsieur Stephens is a very great
favourite with our family. We are under an obligation to him that it
will be difficult ever to repay.”
“Whence comes this benefactor,” queried M. Riel, with an ugly sneer,
“and how has he placed you under such an obligation?” Then, reflecting
that he was showing a bitterness respecting the young man which he
could neither explain nor justify, he said:
'“Mais, pardonnez-moi. Think me not rude for asking these questions.
When pretty eyes are employed to see, and pretty lips to tell of, game
for one sportsman in preference to another, the neglected one might be
excused for seeking to know in what way fortune has been kind with his
“Shall I tell the whole story, Annette” enquired Paul, or will you
“O, I know that you will not leave anything out that can show the
bravery of Mr. Stephens,” replied the girl.
“Well, last spring, Annette was spending some days with her aunt, a
few miles up Red River. It was the flood time, and as you remember, the
river was swollen to a point higher than it had ever reached within the
memory of any body in the settlement. Annette is venturesome, and since
a child has shown a keen delight in going upon boats, or paddling a
canoe; so, one day, during the visit which I have mentioned, she went
into a birch that swung in a little pond, formed behind her uncle's
premises by the over-flowing of the stream's channel. Untying the
canoe, she seized the blade and began to paddle about in the lazy
water. Presently she reached the eddies, which, since a child, she has
always called the 'rings of the water-witches,' wherever she learned
that term. Her cousin Violette was standing in the doorway as she saw
Annette move off, and she cried out to her to beware of the eddies; but
my sister, wayward and reckless as it is her habit to be in such
matters, merely replied with a laugh; and then as the canoe began to
turn round and round in the gurgling circles she cried out.
“I am in the rings of the water-witches. C'est bon! bon! C'est
magnifique! O I wish you were with me, Violette, ma chere. It is so
delightful to go round and round.” A little way beyond, not more than
twice the canoe's length, rushed by roaring, the full tide of the
“Beware, Annette, beware, for the love of heaven, of the river. If
you get a little further out, and these eddies must drag you out, you
will be in the mad current, and no arm can paddle the canoe to land out
of the flood. Then, dear, there is the fall below, and the fans of the
mill. Come back, won't you! But my sister heeded not the words. She
only laughed, and began dipping water from the eddies with the
paddle-blade, as if it were a spoon she had in her hand. 'I am dipping
water from the witches-rings,' she cried. 'How the drops sparkle! Every
one is a glittering jewel. I wish you were here with me, Violette!'
Suddenly and in an altered tone, she cried, 'Mon Dieu! My paddle is
gone.' The paddle had no sooner glided out into the rushing, turbulent
waters than the canoe followed it, and Annette saw herself drifting on
to her doom. Half a mile below was the fall, and at the side of the
fall, went ever and ever around with tremendous violence, the rending
fans of the water-mill. Annette knew full well that any drift boat, or
log, or raft, carried down the river at freshet-flow, was always swept
into the toils of the inexorable wheels. Yet, if she were reckless and
without heed a few minutes before, I am told that now she was calm.
Violette gave the alarm that Annette was adrift in the river without a
paddle, and in a few seconds every body living near had turned out, and
was running down the shore. Several brought paddies, but it took hard
running to keep up with the canoe, for the flood was racing at a speed
of eight miles an hour. When they did get up in line each one flung out
a paddle. But one fell too far out, and another not far enough. About
fifteen men were along the banks in violent excitement, and every one
of them saw nothing but doom for Annette. As the canoe neared a point
about two hundred yards above the falls, a young white-man—all the
rest were bois-brules—rushed out upon the bank, with a paddle in his
hand, and without a word sprang into the mad waters. With a few strokes
he was at the side of the canoe, and put the paddle into Annette's
hand. 'Here;' he said, 'Keep away from the mill; that is your only
danger; and steer sheer over the falls, getting as close as possible to
the left bank.' The height of the fall, as you are aware, was not more
than fifteen or eighteen feet, and there was plenty of water below,
with not very much danger from rocks. 'Go you on shore now and I will
meet my doom, or achieve my safety,' my sister said; but the young man
answered, 'Nay, I will go over the fall too: I can then be of some
service to you.' So he swam along by the canoe's side directing my
sister, and shaping the course of the prow on the very brink of the
fall. Then all shot over together. The canoe and Annette, and the young
man were buried far under the terrible mass of water, but they soon
came to the surface again, when the heroic stranger seized my sister,
and through the fury of the mad churning flood, landed her unhurt upon
the bank. That young man was Philip Edmund Stephens, whom you saw here
this morning. Is it any wonder, think you, Monsieur, that when Annette
sees wild turkeys upon the prairie, she keeps the knowledge of it to
herself till she gets the ear of her deliverer?
“A very brave act, indeed, on the part of this young man,” replied
the swarthy M. Riel. “He has excellent judgment, I perceive, or he
would not so readily have calculated that no harm could come to any one
who could swim well, by being carried over the Falls.”
Annette's eyes flashed a little at this cold blooded discounting of
the generous, uncalculating bravery of her young preserver; but she
made no reply.
“This Monsieur Stephens is, if I mistake not, Mademoiselle, a very
zealous servant of Government, and his chief duty now is to keep watch
over the assemblies held by the Half-breed people. I cannot suppose
that Colonel Marton is aware of the intimacy between a deadly enemy of
our cause and the members of his household.”
“Indeed, Monsieur, there is no intimacy more than what you have
seen,” the girl replied, the roses now out of her cheek. “Thrice, since
rescuing me, Mr. Stephens has been at our home, and I believe that,
henceforth, his duty will take him to a distant part of the territory.”
As she said these words her eyes fell, and her bosom heaved a little.
Riel was upon his feet. “If I find this young spy anywhere about
this settlement again, I shall see that he is cared for.” Then as Paul
and his companion went out, he drew himself to his full height and
“Annette, get your heart away from this young man; such love can
only bring you ruin. From me you shall hear again, and hear soon.
Farewell.” As the girl put out her hand, he drew her suddenly into his
arms, and before she could cry or struggle, kissed her upon the mouth.
Then he was gone.
CHAPTER II. ANNETTE FORMS AN HEROIC
All day long Annette was in sore trouble, for she felt that the
words of the rebel chief boded no good to herself or to her deliverer.
“Why should he think that I loved Captain Stephens?” the girl
murmured, as a soft tinge of crimson stole into her cheek. “I am sure
that I behaved in no way to him, that a girl should not act towards the
man who had risked his life to save hers.”
With the dusk came her father, his horse covered with foam; for he
had ridden fast and far.
“Why is my daughter's cheek so pale?” he asked as he came into the
sweet, tidy cottage, with its trailing morning glories, and bunches of
“I have been a little disturbed, papa. The Metis chief and one of
his friends stayed here last night. O, I do fear that we are now very
near an outbreak. Is it not so, my father? Will you not tell me?”
“It is even so, child. Already nearly a thousand men, including
Bois- Brule's and Indians have arms in their hands, and await the words
of their leaders.”
“But, papa, can good really come of this insurrection which you
propose? I mean, mon pere, can you and Monsieur Riel, with your
scattered followers, who have no money, no garrisons, no means of
holding out in a long struggle, hope to overcome the numerous trained
soldiers of the Government, with the money and the enthusiasm of a
nation at their back?”
“You talk, my daughter, as if some friend of Government had been
pouring his tale into your ear. Now, Annette, child, I love you very
dearly, and I am grateful to this young man who has saved your life;
but as the opinions which you have expressed could only have come from
him I must ask that further intercourse between you and him ceases till
this great issue has been fought out and settled.”
“Captain Stephens, mon pere, has never uttered a word to me about
these matters; and the opinions which I have, worthless though they be,
are my own. Ah, papa, you surely have not forgotten the last struggle.
Monsieur Riel, then, had some sort of right to set up his authority in
a province which for a time came not under the jurisdiction of the
Company or of the Dominion; the clergy were at his back; he had
possession of the strongest Fort in the North-West Territories, and
provisions enough to supply his forces for a year. Yet, at the very
beating of the soldiers' drums he fled like a felon, and was obliged to
beg a mouthful of food in his flight to exile. The circumstances now
are not nearly so auspicious. How, then, can you hope to succeed?”
“You are not familiar, child, with affairs in these territories; and
you neither know the extent of the discontent, nor the causes which
have led to it. The Half-Breed people and the Indian tribes have been
treated by government and their agents, worse than we would use our
dogs. Instead of sending honest and capable men to rule here, they
appoint adventurers whose only object is to make money during their
residence, at the expense of the people. You are not wholly ignorant of
the conduct of Lieutenant-Governor Tewtney. Since his arrival in the
territories he has never been known to give a patient hour to hearing
the grievances of the half-breed people; but he is forever abroad
grabbing up plots of choice land, and securing timber and mineral
leases; or furthering the schemes of knots of friends and advisers
gathered about him. I shall relate one instance which has just came to
light, and it will serve as an example of this man's career. Some time
ago a friend of his imported a large quantity of meat, but upon arrival
it was found to be unwholesome and foul. This man went to Governor
Tewtney and he said.
“'All my consignment of meat is spoilt. Isn't that a great loss?'
“'No loss at all my dear friend,' replied the Governor: 'give it to
the Indians and half-breeds.' Now you are aware that government had
undertaken to give relief to the Indians and to the Metis, with
employment that would bring them food. Well, this meat was given to
both, and for every pound of the foul meat the wretched Breed or Indian
was charged fifteen, cents. One of the chief's and also a Metis, went
to the Governor and complained that the meat was vile and unwholesome;
but they only received this in reply:
“'You are becoming very choice, you fellows. You will eat this meat,
or starve and be d—d.'
“Year after year, the half-breed who has toiled upon his holding,
has applied for a grant of this holding under the law, but has applied
in vain; and a friend of Mr. Tewtney coming in may drive him off his
farm, and profit by his toil and skill.
“All these things have been represented at Ottawa by the priests and
the people; and the only reply that has been obtained, in effect, is
“'What a troublesome, noisy set these savages and half-breeds are!
Cease pestering us. We will not, and cannot, do more for you than we
“When a new minister of these Territories was appointed, our priests
waited at his office and besought him for God's holy sake, to listen to
the people's wrongs; and to enquire into the doings of Governor
Tewtney; but it is a fact that he actually went asleep in his chair,
while the delegates were stating their case. Instead of making enquiry
into the grievances, he hastily packed his trunks and went away to
England to obtain a knighthood, which had been promised to him. While
he was running back and forth between his lodgings and Downing street,
the officials here were laying upon our backs the last weight that our
endurance could bear.”
While he was speaking there suddenly arose, outside, a jingling of
bells, and a clashing of cymbals; and looking through the window father
and daughter beheld a numerous band of painted Indians advancing,
brandishing tomahawks, and singing war songs.
“I hope these savages will not make a bungle of things,” the Colonel
said; “I wonder who has started them upon the war-path?” Then going to
the door he raised his voice.
“Where go my friends the Crees?”
The chief, a tall and magnificent savage, put his finger on his lips
“Me speak inside with the colonel. Chief Louis Riel has ordered our
braves to surround the Hickory Bush, when the moon rises. Captain
Stephens, police spy, and heap of other spies there. Take em all and
put em in wigwam a long way off. Mebbe shoot em. Tall Elk comes to see
if Great Colonel would like to come too.”
“Thank you, chief; I would rather not be at the capture of Captain
Stephens. You know he saved la Reina here, from being drowned in the
The “Queen” was the name by which Annette was known among all the
Indians and Metis that lived upon the plain. “But,” continued the
Colonel, “I hope that Tall Elk and his braves will do no harm to
Stephens. He is not with us, but he is a brave, good man, and love our
people. In acting against us he is only doing his duty.”
“Ugh! It is well,” grunted the chief. “Will look after Stephens
But this assurance did not satisfy Annette, who stood, during the
dialogue, with throbbing heart and pale cheek. The threats of the Rebel
Chief still lingered in her ear; and she knew that her deliverer's life
would not be safe in the hands of the terrible man. She said naught,
but a bold resolution passed like a flame through her brain. In a
little while the chief departed, and at the head of his painted
warriors struck out across the dark prairie in the direction of Hickory
Bush. The Bush was about twelve miles distant, and the rising of the
moon would be in two hours.
In a little while the girl said, “Papa, I am so disturbed to-night
that I cannot sit up with you as long as usual: good-night.” Then she
kissed her father who caressed her silken hair; and she left the room.
Now, Annette had as a companion or attendant, an orphan girl, named
Julie. She was not tall and graceful like Annette, but her olive face
was stained with delicate carnation, and her little mouth resembled a
rose just about to open. She was intelligent, active and affectionate;
and the great aim of her existence was to serve a mistress whom she
“Come to me, Julie,” Annette whispered as she passed the girl.
“Well, mademoiselle, what can Julie do?”
“Captain Stephens, as you are aware, ma petite Julie, is to be
captured to-night by those savages who have just left our house.
Monsieur Riel hates my deliverer, and I shudder to think that he should
fall into his hands. I mean to-night to warn him of his danger.
“Brava!” exclaimed the girl; “c'est bon! It is so like my brave
mistress. Ah, mademoiselle, I have seen Monsieur le Chef look upon you;
and there was great love in his eye. But it was not the good, the
holy kind. Ah! It was bad. He hates le Capitaine, because he saved
you from the chute.
“Ah, then my little Julie, you know? Yes, it is all as you say; and
this is why my heart flutters so for the fate of Monsieur Stephens. I
want my bay saddled and led quietly out to the poplar bush; and I shall
come there in a little.”
Julie kissed the forehead of her mistress, and then tripped away
daintily and softly as a fawn to do the bidding.
Before ten minutes had elapsed, an Indian boy, of lithe and graceful
figure, walked swiftly down the path toward the bush. As he reached the
little grove, another figure emerged from the shadow and said in a low
“Tres bien!” This was Julie, and the Indian boy was Annette,
disguised so perfectly that her father could not have guessed the truth
were he standing by. She wore a buff coat and deer skin leggings; and
about her waist was a belt in which were stuck a long knife and a pair
of pistols. She patted her pony, took the bridle in her little brown
hand, and vaulted lightly into her seat. “There now, Julie; return
quickly, and go to your room.”
“Au plaisir, portez-vous bien, ma maitresse.”
“I shall take care of myself. Adieu;” and she galloped down the
grassy knoll, and out upon the prairie.
Although the plain was a great, dusky blur, this observant maiden
knew the route as accurately as if the meridian sun were shining; and
her horse, guessing that his mistress was on an errand of life and
death, flew lightly over the level sod, as if he were a thing woven of
the winds. She was aware that her horse could outdistance an Indian
pony; and after half an hour's ride knew that the band must now be
fully a couple of miles in the rear. But she kept on till she judged
that fifteen minutes more must bring her to the encampment at Hickory
Bush. Then through the hush of the night came to her ear a far off,
indistinct sound, which resembled galloping thunder. She knew not what
it could mean, unless indeed it was the tumult of some distant
waterfall, borne hither now because, mayhap, a storm was brewing, and
the dense air was a better carrier of the sound. The moon was now
pushing its wide yellow edge above the plain, and she was enabled to
see objects for a considerable distance around. But nothing met her
view, save here and there a hummock or a clump of poplars. She rode on
marvelling what the sound might be, for the noise was constantly
becoming louder, and growing
“Nearer, clearer, deadlier than before”
when lo! out of the west come what seemed a dim shadow moving across
the plain. With hushed breath she watched the dark mass move along like
some destroying tempest and, as it seemed to her, with ten thousand
devils at its core. Chained to the ground with a terrible awe, she
stood fast for many minutes, till at last in the dim light she saw
eye-balls that blazed like fire, heads crested with rugged, uncouth
horns and shaggy manes; and then snouts thrust down, flaring nostrils,
and rearing tails.
“My God, a buffalo herd!” she exclaimed. Close at hand was a tall
boulder in the shelter of which she instantly secured her horse; then
running a few paces to where stood a tall, sturdy poplar, she clambered
into its branches.
Then the tremendous mass, headed by maddened bulls, with blazing
eyes and foaming nostrils, drove onward toward the south, like an
unchained hurricane. Some of the terrified beasts ran against the
trees, crushing horns and skull, and fell prone upon the plain to be
trampled to jelly by the hundreds of thousands in rear. The tree upon
which the girl had taken refuge received many a shock from a crazed
bull; and it seemed to Annette from her perch in the branches, as if
all the face of the plains was being hurled toward the south in the
wildest turmoil. Hell itself let loose could present no such spectacle
as this myriad mass of brute life sweeping over the lonely plain under
the elfin light of the new-risen moon. Clouds of steam, wreathing
themselves into spectral shapes rose from the dusky, writhing mass, and
the flaming of myriad eyeballs in the gloom presented a picture more
terrible than ever came into the imagination of the writer of the
The spectacle, as observed by the girl some twenty feet from the
ground, might be likened somewhat to a turbulent sea when a sturdy tide
sets against the storm, and the mad waves tumble hither and thither,
foiled and impelled, yet for all the confusion and obstruction moving
in one direction with a sweep and a force that no power could chain.
Circling among and around the strange dusk clouds of steam that went
up from the herd were scores of turkey buzzards, their obscene heads
bent downward, their sodden eyes gleaming with expectancy. Well they
knew that many a gorgeous feast awaited them wherever boulder, tree or
swamp lay in the path of the mighty herd. At last the face of the
prairie had ceased its surging; no lurid eye-ball light gleamed out of
the dusk; and the tempest of cattle had passed, and went rolling out
into the unbounded stretches of the dim, yellow plain.
When the ground was clear she descended from the tree, every limb
trembling, lest in the delay the Indians should have accomplished their
object. When she reached her horse, she found near by a heap of dead
and struggling buffalo, which in their headlong race had run over the
bluff front of the boulder. When she resumed her gallop she observed
that the great amplitude of rich grasses was like unto a ploughed
field. The herbage had been literally crushed into mire, and this the
innumerable hoofs had churned up with the soft rich soil. The
leguminous odors of the trodden clover and the rank masses of wild
pease, together with the dank earthy smell of the broken sod, rose
offensively in the girl's face. Her course now lay along an upland
covered with straggling copses of white oak and poplar. In the dim
valley beyond, lying drunken under the moonlight, was Hickory Bush.
Upon the solid crest of the little hill the hoofs rang out sharply; but
the girl's quick ear detected noises besides those which came from the
trample of her horse. Still she swept on, with a long swing, resembling
the flight of a swallow. A small grove lay in front, and as she swerved
around this a horseman sprang suddenly before her.
CHAPTER III. THE LITTLE MAIDEN'S
She pulled her rein, but her eye flashed and she grasped the butt of
“Who dares call upon me to stop? Have I not the right of way on
“I call you to stop,” replied the horseman, riding up close to the
girl, and pushing back his hat. “I do. Look and see if you know
me?” Full well she knew who the interceptor was. The first sound of his
voice had gone with a shiver to her heart. “Ah, you know the Metis
“But I wish to pass on, monsieur. Even you, le grand Chef, have no
right to stop me without cause; and I now ask you again to let me
“I will not because I have reason.”
“What is it, monsieur?”
“You are a spy. You are an enemy to the cause.”
“Even to you, monsieur, I say it is a lie. I will pass;” and she
struck her heels into her horse's flank. The animal bounded forward,
but the rebel chief seized the bridle, as he cried:
“You are an enemy to the cause; and you go now to the enemy. I know
you, mademoiselle Annette.” And a terrible light blazed in his eyes, as
he looked the disguised maiden in the face.
“Ay, monsieur! you are quick at penetrating disguises. I am
Mademoiselle Annette; and I go to the enemy. Nor can monsieur hinder
me.” As she spoke these words she suddenly drew a pistol, and cocking
it placed the cold, glittering barrel within a foot of the leader's
“Unhand my bridle or by our Holy Lady I fire.” The coward hand
quivered, the fingers relaxed, and the bridle was free.
“Now I advise monsieur to meddle with me no more this night. I will
not suffer any bar to my project; I have sworn it.” So saying her horse
sprang forward, and she disappeared down the slope, leaving the baulked
chief sitting upon his horse still as a stone. Away, away out over the
soft grassy plain she sped, swiftly and as lightly as a bird might fly.
Three minutes brought her in sight of Hickory Bush, a grove of trees
straggling up from the flat in the moonlight, and resembling a
congregation of witches with draggled hair, suffering torture. Beyond
the trees shone a cluster of white camps; and the girl's heart gave a
great bound as she saw by the order prevailing there, that the inmates
had been so far unmolested. She sprang into the midst of the camps and
“Awaken! Arise! Quick! The Crees are bound hither to make you
captives. Allons! Allons!”
A tall supple figure sprang from one of the tents. How readily she
recognised his manly step, his proud head, his bright eye, his musical
“Who are you? Why this attack?”
“I am you friend. Away, if you value your liberty, and mount your
horse. I await to lead you from the danger.” With motion quick and
noiseless as the movements of night birds, the inmates of the tents
armed themselves, strapped their knapsacks, and got into the saddle. No
one questioned the graceful Indian boy further. There was something so
appealing in his voice, so impatient in his gestures as he waited for
their departure, that suspicion could not lurk in any mind.
“Hark!” cried the unknown. “They come. Hear you not the dull trample
of their hoofs?”
“By the saints in heaven, yes, and I see them too,” said one of the
party, looking from his saddle through a night-glass.
“Away, away,” cried the Indian boy. “Follow me;” and as the savages
behind surrounded the empty tents with their hellish cries, he led the
rescued ones at full speed down the valley, around the northern edge of
Hickory Ridge, and out toward the Chequered Hills. After half an hour's
ride, he drew bridle and the company gathered about him. Captain
Stephens was the first to speak.
“Brave lad, we owe our liberty to you; yet wherefore, I am sure, I
But the boy only raised his hand, as if imposing silence upon that
“You are by no means safe from the Indians yet. They will scour the
plains, and on this untrodden prairie you cannot conceal your trail. My
advice is that you make no delay, but push on to Fort Pitt, which is
only about twelve miles distant.”
“Of all points this is the one that I should most desire to be at,”
responded Stephens; “but I do not know that I can find Pitt.”
One of the number had been at the Fort a few years before; but he
could not make it again from this unknown part of the prairie.
“Follow me, then,” answered the unknown. “I shall take you through
the hills by a short route to the river. Then you need but to follow
the bank to find the fort;” and as he spoke he once more dashed his
heels into his horse's flanks and set off towards the center of the
group of hills, that resembled in the distance a row of Dutchwomen in
Several times as the party followed their deliverer, Stephens would
“Where have I heard that voice? The tone is familiar to me, but I
cannot give the slightest guess as to the boys' identity.”
“Do you think he is an Indian?” enquired one.
“His voice is certainly finer and sweeter than any Indian's that I
have ever heard. And his French is perfect.
“True, captain, and notice the delicate little hands that he has,
and the proud, dainty poise of his head. He is evidently in disguise;
and what is equally plain, he does not relish our attempts at
penetrating his identity.” Upon the crest of a round hill, the guide
stayed his horse and pointed eastward.
“A few minutes ride will take you to the river; half an hour then to
the north and you are at Pitt. Before I leave, just a word. Tall Elk
put on paint to-day, and before the set of to-morrow's sun, there is
not a Cree in all the region who will not be on the war-path. To-morrow
the chief goes to Big Bear, to press him to dig up the hatchet; so
Messieurs, look to your guns in the Fort, as you will have more than
three hundred enemies under the stockades before the rising of the next
moon. Au revoir.”
Before any of the group could utter a word of thanks, the mysterious
boy was off again to the north-west with the speed of the wind.
“That voice!” exclaimed Stephen striking his forehead. “I know it
surely; whose can it be?” and bewildered past hope of
enlightenment, he turned his horse down the slope, and dashed towards
the Saskatchewan. His followers and himself were admitted readily
enough by Inspector Dicken, a son of the great novelist, and destined
afterwards to be one of the heroes of the war.
When Annette rode away from Louis Riel to give warning to her lover,
the rebel chief ground his teeth and swore terrible oaths.
“It is as well” he muttered; “I have now justifiable grounds for
depriving her of liberty.” Putting a whistle to his mouth he blew a
long blast, which was immediately answered from a clump of cottonwood,
about a quarter of a mile distant. Then came the tramp of hoofs, and a
minute later a horseman drew bridle by his chief.
“The spy has escaped me, Jean, and he was none other than I
supposed, ma belle Demoiselle. She did not deny that she was on a
mission hostile to our interests, and when I remonstrated, she held a
pistol in my face and swore by the Virgin that she would fire. This is
reason enough, Jean, for her apprehension. Let us away.”
The chief led along the skirt of the upland, till he entered the
mouth of a wide, darksome valley. Upon either side straggled a growth
of mixed larch and cedar; in the centre was a dismal bog, through which
slowly rolled a black, foul stream. As they passed along the shoulder
of solid ground, troops of birds rose out of the wide sea of bog, and
the noise of their wings made a low, mournful whirring as they passed
in dark troops upwards into the ever-deepening dusk.
Then out of the gloom came a Ding Dong, like the low, solemn beat of
a bell. Jean crossed himself and exclaimed,
“Mon Dieu! What is that Monsieur?”
“What, afraid Jean? That is no toll for a lost soul, but the crying
of the dismal bell bird.”
“I never heard it before Mon Chef.”
“And may never hear it again. It lives only in the most doleful and
solitary swamps, and I doubt if there is another place in all the wide
territories save here, where you may hear its voice.”
It had now grown so dark that the horses could only tread their way
by instinct, and at every noise or cry that came from the swamp, Jeans'
blood shivered in his veins. He had no idea where his master was
leading him, and had refrained from 'asking all along, though the query
hung constantly upon his tongue. Then a pair of noiseless wings brushed
his cheek, paused, and hovered about his head; while two red eyes
glared at him.
“In the name of God what is it?” he screamed, smiting the creature
with the handle of his whip. “Where are you leading me Mon Chef?”
“Peace Jean, I did not believe that you were such an arrant coward.
You shall soon see where I go. It is seldom that man is seen or heard
in this region, and the strange creatures marvel. That was one of the
large night-hawks which so terrified your weak senses. Do you see
From a point which appeared to be the head of the valley, came a
piercing white light, and its reflection fell upon the wide, black,
shining stream that ran through the valley, like the links of a golden
“Yonder, Jean, is the abode of Mother Jubal—thither am I bound.”
“What, to Madame Jubal, the Snake Charmer, the witch, the woman that
comes to her enemies when they sleep at nights, and thickens their
blood with cold? I thought, Monsieur, that she lived in hell, and only
appeared on earth when she came to do harm to mankind.”
“You will find her of the earth, Jean; but she has ever been willing
to do my behests.”
By the reflection of the light could be seen a hut standing in a
cup-shaped niche at the head of the valley. It was ringed around with
draggled larch and cedars; and a belt of dark hills encircled it. No
moonlight penetrated here, save toward the dawn, when pale beams fell
slantwise across the ghostly swamp.
As the horses, drew near there was heard to come from the hut a low,
suppressed yelp, half like the bark of a dog, yet resembling the cry of
a wolf. The door was open, and by a low table, upon which burned the
clear, unflickering light which the two had seen so far down the
valley, sat the old woman. Upon hearing the approach of footsteps, she
blew out this light, and through the hideous gloom the Too whit, Too
whoo of an owl came from the cabin. Then several pairs of eyes began to
gleam at the intruders out of the dusk, and all the while several
throats went on repeating in ghostly tones Too whit, Too whoo.
The chief pulled up his horse, while his companion shivered from
head to foot. Then raising his voice, he cried:
“Jubal, relight your lamp; I have come far to see you. You know me,
Jubal. Monsieur le chef?”
“Pardonnez moi,” croaked the hag, as she struck the light. Then came
in quavering tones:
What a brushing of soft wings and gleaming of eyes! The hut was
literally filled with living creatures.
“These are my children,” the old woman said, with a horrible quaking
laugh, as she pointed to the perches. Rows of pert ravens stood upon
tip-toe along the bars looking with bright eyes upon the strangers;
while here and there an owl opened his crooked beak and said Too whit,
Too whoo. A strange creature, with wolfish head and limbs, crouched by
the hearth; but after three or four furtive glances at the intruders,
he skulked back into a dark corner of the cabin. From this retreat he
continued to glare with shy, treacherous eyes.
The old woman was short, and stooped; but her eyes were wonderfully
bright. Nay, when she looked from the dark corner, phosphorescent jets
seemed to break from them.
“Come, mother, toss the cup and tell me what Fortune has in store
for me this time,” said the chief, who had seated himself upon a low,
creaking stool in the corner.
“I will,” she replied; “why should I not when I am honoured so much
as to receive a visit from le grand chef de Metis.” And hobbling away,
she took from a nook a large cup without a handle, black on the outside
and white within. Tea was brewed which the Rebel chief drank, leaving
naught but the dregs. Then Jubal muttered some words, which her
visitors could not understand, and threw up the cup. She had no sooner
done this than the crows began to chatter and caw, and the owls to cry;
and each time that the cup ascended, they all raised themselves upon
their feet and elevated their wings. When the cup came into her hand
from the ceiling the third time, she looked toward the perches and
“Peace children.” Then turning to the dark, oily chief, she said,
“Listen, O Monsieur, while I read. Here are bands of men hurrying
across the prairie into the gorges, and concealing themselves in the
wood. There is the flash of sabres, and the smoke of cannon. Everywhere
a bloody war is raging; and Indians are tearing away men, and women,
and children from their homes to captivity.
“Ah! what is this I see here? A girl. Monsieur woos her, but she is
turned away. The maiden flies; Monsieur follows, and he overtakes the
maiden. Then he bears her away with guards around her, through a deep
valley, till he reaches a hut. Now he hands her over to an ugly hag—
and the name of that hag is Jubal. Is it not so, Monsieur?” and the
crone, turning from the cup, looked with a hideous grin in the face of
the Rebel chief.
“Oui, Jubal. You have guessed aright. To-morrow or the next day,
Jean will bring hither a young woman. She is to be strictly guarded in
that room where you kept—....
“Jubal remembers; Monsieur need not mention names.”
“C'est bon! Well, Jubal, you need not exercise any severity towards
the maiden, save that of a rigid confinement to her room. Me you shall
hear from again.”
“Is the maiden a pretty bird?” the crone asked with a chuckle.
“That matters not, Jubal,” the chief replied, somewhat haughtily.
“She is a dangerous young person, and has been playing the traitor to
our cause. The only means of proceeding against the girl, is to take
her liberty away. I am in hopes of persuading her to a right frame of
mind, and with this end in view, I shall be obliged to pay some visits
here during her captivity.”
“I understand,” quavered the hag; and the gleam in her eyes, as she
laid her hand upon the chiefs shoulder, was most diabolical to see. “My
poor simple son is down to the village with the pony for some
provisions for my little cabin. Ma belle I shall be able to use
handsomely, when she comes.” Fetching then a black bottle, around which
were many tangles of cob-web, she set it before; her visitors. The
chief took a long draught. Jean swallowed enough to enable him to stand
boldly up and stare at the owls, and the bright-eyed ravens.
“Let us away, Jean,” cried the chief now in high spirits as the old
Jamaica began to race through his veins; and flinging himself into his
saddle, he rode of at a fleet pace.
Jean opened not his mouth till he found himself once more upon the
plain, in the light of the honest moon. The Rebel chief now checking
his pony's gait said:
“I suppose you have control enough over your fears now to listen to
“You will be able to-morrow night to find the den that we have
“Without difficulty, Mon Chef.”
“Well; to-morrow you ride away to Tall Elk, and give him this
message from me.
“Colonel Marton is abroad, and his daughter, Annette, the enemy of
the Indian and the Half-breed, is at home. She must be secured this
evening before the moon rises. Bring up twenty braves; approach the
house carefully, and fetch the maiden where directed. You will see that
the braves make no noise, for this girl is as wary as the wild goose,
and that little minx, Julie, her maid, is almost as wide-awake.”
And as Jean rode away, the villain muttered to himself, “We shall
see my proud bird how long you will gainsay Louis Riel after I get you
under Jubal's bolt and lock. Go with you from Canada as my wife, and
fly the honours with which this revolution will crown my brows? No, by
the Mater purissima. You have been too scornful my pretty maiden; you
have not concealed your preference for this English dog; you have held
your rebellious pistol in my face. Ah, no, ma petite Annette; but I
shall amuse myself, sometimes, after the brunt of the day's labour, by
riding up the dismal valley, and stroking your broken wings. When I
have served my mood, played to the full with the caged bird, Jubal can
let it go to attract some new mate. Holy virgin, but my triumph will be
very sweet! Yea, Annette, to have you in one's own power is a sweet
thing; nothing can be sweeter except the vengeance which shall feast
itself at the same source as my passion.”
He raised his arm in the direction of White Oaks, where lay the
girl's cottage, and cried like a triumphant fiend.
“Bonsoir. Adieu, ma belle Annette. Sweet dreams about your lover
to-night. To-morrow I shall bathe my face in the coils of your silken
hair.” And he was away.
When Jean rode away from his master he fell into a train of musing.
“Methinks,” he said aloud after a long pause, “that we had better kill
two birds with one stone to-morrow. If the master take the mistress, I
do not see why the man should not have the maid.” And as the fellow
reached this conclusion his little weasel eyes brightened as if each
were the point of a glow worm; and he smote the flank of his horse with
his heavy heel. “You one day turned up your sweet, haughty nose, Julie,
when I told you how beautiful you were, and that I would like to kiss
the dew off your red lips. Well, Julie, my plan for the morrow is to
denounce you to Tall Elk as a spy; and after I have got possession of
you, my pretty one, with a brave at one side of your pony, and myself
at the other, we shall march to the cottonwood where the door of ma
mere stands always open to her son, and that which belongs to him.” So,
chuckling over the fair prospects of the morrow, the fellow urged his
pony to the full of its speed, down to the little village of St.
Just as the sun went down like a shield of burning brass over the
gray line of the prairie on the morrow, a cringing, stealthy-looking
man might be seen riding a sorrel pony towards the verge of Alka Swamp,
near which were camped the painted warriors of Tall Elk. As he drew
near the squaws began to clap their hands, and the lean, ugly dogs gave
several short yelps. Tall Elk came to the door of his wigwam, wherein
sat several pretty young Cree wives sewing beads and dainty work upon
his war jacket; and going to the horseman he said:
“The messenger from the great chief is welcome. What is his command
for Tall Elk?”
When the savage had heard the orders of the rebel chief, and the
additional instructions of Jean, he grunted: “Ugh; sorry to do this.
The two girls were always kind to the Indians; and our braves will not
like to do this against La Reine. But we must obey the orders of le
“It is well. Let your braves be ready to start when the gopher comes
out of his burrow.” Fastening his horse to a cottonwood tree, this
miscreant emissary began to whistle a tune, and walked about among the
lodges, seeking to attract the attention of some pretty Indian maiden,
of which there were many in the tents. The braves were abroad a little
way, some looking for elk and others for muskrat, so that the impudent
Metis might go about seeking to break hearts without any risk of
getting a broken head.
When night had fallen over the prairie, and the bull-frog and the
cricket filled the lower air with a confusing din of small sounds,
thirty dusky warriors, mounted upon their ponies, with Tall Elk and
Jean at their head, crossed over the ridge and struck out for White
Oaks. An hour's ride brought them to an elevation from which they saw a
light twinkling through the grove. Jean's small eyes were gleaming with
foul expectation—he was thinking of his lovely booty, safe under the
lock and key of his hideous little Metis mother.
“Let us spread our force now, chief,” he whispered to Tall Elk. And
we leave them drawing their circle of horses, stealthily and swiftly,
around the silent cottage.
CHAPTER IV. ANNETTE'S LOVER IN
When Annette parted from Captain Stephens and his companions, she
returned homeward through a region of the prairie over which lay no
trail. She approached her cottage with noiseless tread; but the quick
eyes of Julie saw her coming, and she stole forth like a kitten.
“Welcome mademoiselle;—is he safe?”
“Oui Julie. He is now—they are now—in Fort Pitt.”
“Bon, Bon! To-morrow all the warriors upon the plain and all the
Breeds arise; and your father leads them. Oh, such throngs as came
around our house since you went away mademoiselle, beating drums,
dancing in the ring, and singing chansons de guerre. And, O
mademoiselle, there was among the Crees one chief, so tall, and so
noble-looking; and he will some day come back again to, to—see me.”
She squirmed very gently, and poised upon one dainty foot, till her
pretty hip curved outward; and she pecked at her little forefinger with
her rosy mouth as she made this pretty speech: “I think I like the
chief so much mademoiselle; I know he is brave, and I do not think that
he is altogether un sauvage.”
“Oh! has my little Julie lost her heart? I hope your chief has left
a little for me.”
“I like mon chef, a good deal, but I love mademoiselle better than
anybody in the world;” and the sweet, round, dimpled little maiden put
her smooth arms closely and tenderly about the neck of her mistress.
“But how came about this sudden captivation of heart?” They were now
in Annette's sweet tasty bed chamber, fresh and cool with the night
air, and delicately fragrant with the breath of prairie flowers.
“You will not wonder when I tell you mademoiselle. You know I went
away, shortly after the arrival of the warriors, to the little gray
fountain. I sat here listening to the gurgle of the water, for my heart
was sad, and filled with troublesome forebodings about you, and your
deliverer 'Ah, I said, before ma maitresse fell into the freshet river,
she wanted no stranger's love but mine. Now he who delivered her from
death below the Chute, has crept into her heart; and she may think no
more of her fond, and faithful Julie.”
“What an absurd, sweet, little creature it is,” murmured Annette.
“There I sat, dabbling my fingers in the babbling water when I saw a
straight, tall, handsome man approaching me. He walked direct to the
fountain and lifting his cap said:
“'Pardonnez, ma chere Julie.' His large eyes were very bright, but
the light shining in them was a great tenderness.
“I did not know what to reply, but I rose to go, saying.
“'Monsieur le chef will excuse me. It is late; and I must return.'
“He folded his arms across his breast, and turned so that the
moonlight shone full upon his face.
“'Does not the sweet Julie remember?'
“I looked at him in astonishment, but could not see any familiar
likeness in his face.”
“'Does little Julie remember many years ago? Wild men stole her away
from her home, and a Cree chief rode to the village of the robbers, and
smote them in their tents. Then he took upon his saddle a little girl
with skin like the peach, and lips like the rose in bud. He carried her
to his home upon the banks of the Saskatchewan, and she lived two years
in his tent. During the summer days she played among the flowers, or
hooked gold-fish in the river. She had a companion who was ever at her
side, the chief's son, whom the people called Little Poplar. He loved
the maiden, and when they took her away to her home upon the far
prairie, he mourned by day and by night, and vowed that he would leave
no house or wigwam unsearched till he saw his maid again. To-night as
he came to this cottage he saw the face that he has sought in vain for
so many years. He now stands before the maiden of his heart. Sweet, ma
Julie, do you forget your little boy lover of the sunny Saskatchewan?'
“Ah, my mistress, what could I say when it all came back so plain,
and told in his rich, deep, musical voice? I do not know whether it was
wrong or no; but without speaking any word to my beautiful chief I went
up to him and laid my head against his breast. And he kissed me, and
kissed me again, and stroked my hair; and whispered in my ear that when
the war was over he would come and wed me, and fetch me wherever my
heart desired. But I said that I would not live apart from you; that I
had consecrated my life to the service of my sweet mistress.
“'I have seen her,' he replied. 'Her face is beautiful and good;'
and then, mademoiselle, the silly chief said a great big untruth, but I
know he only did so because he loves me so much. He declared, ma belle
mademoiselle, that I was just as pretty as my mistress.”
“Your beauty is only equalled by your naivete;” Annette exclaimed,
fondly brushing back a stray lock from the forehead of the little maid.
“I have no doubt that your chief is good, brave, and handsome; but
he should be all these in a high degree before he is worthy to get such
a girl as yourself, ma Julie. Now, away to your bed, and sleep of your
lover. I go, too, for I am tired.”
With the morrow's sun all the neutral tribes were astir and mixing
their paint; and long before Annette or her little maid had risen,
Colonel Marton had saddled his horse, and ridden towards the
rendez-vous at Burnt Hills.
The bright, windless day passed over the prairie, and whenever
Annette spoke of the bravery of Captain Stephens, Julie would tell some
praises of the chief with the graceful loins and the great luminous
“Your lover has said that he would come to see you, Julie, but, ah
me, in these troublesome times Captain Stephens can no more return to
our cottage. Do you know, my little friend, that I cannot bear being
cooped up here during all this strife and tumult, when brave men and
defenceless women are at the mercy of savages and ill-advised men of
our own class. There have been evil and oppressive doings by government
and its agents, but I do not think that Monsieur Riel and my father
have taken the prudent course to remove the wrongs. It will not be fair
or honorable war; for when the savage and cruel instincts of the red
men are once aroused, they will treat the innocent like the guilty, and
neither woman nor child will be safe from their horrible vengeance.
Therefore, Annette, I have made up my mind to go forth tomorrow in my
“I shall not betray my people or bur friends, but I shall pass from
one force to the other, and whenever I can warn the loyal troops, or
apprise their people of danger, I shall do it. You Julie I shall leave
in the care of my aunt at the Portage; for it is not safe for you, it
would not be safe for you and me together, to remain in this deserted
cottage alone during these looting and lawless times.”
The two maidens were now alone, save for the presence of a Cree
drudge; for Paul had mounted a pony and followed his father, with
pistols in his holster-pipes, and a large bowie knife stuck into his
So as evening drew on Annette had packed, in little, portable
parcels all the valuables about the house; and when she sat down to
supper with Julie at her side, she said that everything was now ready,
and that they needed but to get into the saddle in the morning. Little
did these two girls know, as they sat quietly eating their supper, that
there was at this very moment a band of painted enemies hurrying across
the dim prairie toward their cottage! Everything was perfectly still in
the house, and the tick-tack of the clock smote the silence. The heart
of each girl was far away, and the eyes of both were on the white,
Annette was the first to raise her eyes, and a short cry of terror
burst from her lips. For there in the entrance of the little
dining-room stood the tall, straight figure of an Indian chief. The cry
brought Julie to her senses, and she too looked up: but she gave no
cry; the blood came surging into her sweet head till her cheeks, and
her smooth throat, and her little shell-like ears, became the color of
a blown carnation.
“Little Poplar,” she exclaimed. “Mademoiselle,” turning toward her
mistress, “it is about him that I have told you;” and the dainty maiden
crept softly as a kitten over to the side of the handsome chief. He
smiled, stooped, and touched her forehead with his lips. Then he rose
to the height of his splendid stature again, and took off his cap.
“There is danger to mademoiselle and to ma Julie. Just now a band of
painted Crees with Tall Elk and Jean, Le Grand Chef's man, at their
head are coming to make you prisoners. Follow me instantly.”
In a few moments the two girls were gliding swiftly from the house
toward the corral where their horses stood tethered, the chief bearing
the little packages of valuables in his arms. There was no time to be
lost, and as the trio rode away from the corral, the neighing of the
enemies' ponies close at hand burst in a wild shower upon their ears.
“Follow me,” whispered the chief, and as he rode around the shoulder
of the gloomy hill, the cries of the disappointed Indians were borne
upon the night. When they reached the level prairie the chief reined in
his horse, and the three paced along side by side.
“How can we thank the brave chief enough for his care and help,”
Annette said in the heartiest tones of her sweet voice.
“I was passing through the village of Tall Elk at the set of sun,
and heard the great chief's man, Jean, say, 'It will be a good catch
to-night for master and man, won't it? I take Julie; Le Grand Chef gets
the other.' I then enquired of Tall Elk, and he told me of their plans.
The house was to be surrounded before moonrise; mademoiselle was to be
seized and taken away to the hut of the hag Jubal, and Julie was to be
borne to the cabin of Jean's mother.” As he spoke these words a
terrible light gleamed in his eyes, and he muttered,
“Had this man. Jean, succeeded I should have hunted him down and
taken out his heart.”
When they were far beyond the enemy's reach, Annette said,
“Will the chef ride to yonder cottonwood and wait there until his
Julie and myself have put on apparel more suited to our present
inclinations?” Tall Poplar rode away; but when he joined the maidens
again a great look of dismay came into his eyes.
“Where are—” but before he ended the words, the truth flashed
across him, and he burst out in a tone of mirth and approval: “Brava,
brava: there is not a man in all the plains that can name these two
Annette remained during the balance of the night with her aunt; but
she arose before the dew was dry, and with the other lad at her side,
for Julie would not remain behind her mistress, was off at a brisk
canter towards Fort Pitt. The news which she had heard lent speed to
Annette. From far and near the Crees had come to enroll themselves
under the banner of the blood-thirsty chief, Big Bear; and the
murderous hordes were at that very moment, she knew, menacing the
poorly garrisoned fort with rifle, hatchet and fire.
All over the territory, I may say, the Indians had now begun to sing
and dance, and to brandish their tomahawks. Their way of living during
late years has been altogether too slow, too dead-and-alive, too unlike
the ways of their ancestors, when once at least in each year, every
warrior returned to his lodge with scalp locks dangling at his belt.
Les Gros Ventres for the time, forgot their corporosity, and began
to dance and howl, and declare that they would fight till all their
blood was spilt with M. Riel, or his adjutant M. Marton.
The Blackfeet began to hold pow-wows, and tell their squaws that
there would soon be good feasts. For many a day they had been casting
covetous eyes upon the fat cattle of their white neighbours. Along too,
came the feeble remnant of the once agile Salteaux, inquiring if it was
to be war; and if so, would there be big feasts?
“Oh, big feasts, big feasts,” was the reply. “Plenty fat cattle in
the corrals; and heaps of, mange in the store.” So the Salteaux were
happy, and, somewhat in their old fashion, went vaulting homewards.
Tidings of fight, and feast, and turmoil reached the Crees, and they
sallied out from the tents, while the large-eyed squaws sat silent,
marvelling what was to come of it all.
High into the air the Nez Perce thrust his nostril; for he had got
scent of the battle from afar. And last, but not least, came the
remnant of that tribe whose chief had shot Custer in the Black Hills.
The Sioux only required to be shown where the enemy lay; but in his
enthusiasm he did not lose sight of the fat cattle grazing upon the
But we return for a time to Captain Stephens and his party. When
their deliverer, the Indian boy, departed, they rode along the bank of
the Saskatchewan, according to the lad's instructions, and in half an
hour were in sight of Pitt. Inspector Dicken was glad enough to receive
this addition to his little assistance; and informed Captain Stephens
that he had resolved to fight it out against the forces menacing him.
“What is the number of the enemy?” enquired Stephens.
“About a hundred armed braves I should judge,” Inspector Dicken
replied. “Big Bear accompanied by a dozen wives came under the stockade
this morning, and invited me to have a talk. With the coolest
effrontery he informed me that if I would leave the fort, surrender my
arms, and accompany him, with my men, into his wigwams, that he would
give me a guarantee against all harm. If I refused these terms, he said
he would first let his young men amuse themselves by a couple of days'
firing at our forces; and that afterwards he would burn the Fort and
put the inmates to death.
“I expostulated with the greasy, swaggering ruffian, but he only
swore, and reiterated his threats. Then I told him to be gone for an
insolent savage, and that if I found him prowling about the Fort again,
I should send my men to take charge of him. Thereat his squaws began to
jeer, and cut capers; and squatting upon the sod in a row they made
mouths, and poked their fingers at me. Then they arose yelling and
waving their arms, and followed the savage. It appears that after the
chief left me, he went to the people of our town and proposed the same
terms; for an hour later, to my horror, I saw the chief factor of the
Hudson Bay Company, his wife and daughters, and several others
following the Indian to his wigwams. Had these people put themselves
under our protection, and the men aided us in defence, we might have
laughed defiance at the five score of the enemy who threaten.”
“But,” returned Stephens, “I fear that you do not count at its full
the force preparing itself to attack. From all I can gather a hundred
or so of Plain Crees will come here to-day under Tall Elk; while the
total strength of the Stonies, who will rise at Big Bear's call, cannot
be less than five hundred.”
Inspector Dicken looked grave; but he was a brave man and busied
himself in making preparations. The total number of his force,
including mounted police and civilians was 24; and each man had a
Winchester and about twenty rounds of ammunition.
“Two of my scouts are abroad,” he said, “reconnoitering; they should
be here by this time.” While he was yet speaking a storm of yelling
came from the wigwams of Big Bear, and three or four score of braves
were seen pouring from their tents, like bees bundling out of a hive.
Each one had a gun in his hand, and a hatchet in his belt. The cause of
this sudden commotion was soon apparent: about half a mile distant, two
police scouts were riding leisurely along the plain towards the Fort,
and evidently not suspecting the danger which menaced them. They
advanced to a point about two hundred yards from the stockades; then a
yell went up from a body of prostrate savages, and immediately half a
hundred rifles were discharged. One of the men fell from his horse,
dead, upon the prairie; but the other rode through the storm of lead to
the Fort, and entered struck by half a dozen bullets.
“The devils have begun!” muttered the Inspector, and he quivered
from head to foot, but not with fear.
The first taste of blood set the savages in a high state of
exultation. They gathered yelling and dancing, and flashing their
weapons in the sun around the door of the chief. Big Bear pulled off
his feathered cap and threw it several times in the air. Then turning
to his wives he told them to make ready for a White Dog feast; and he
bade his braves go and fetch the animals.
So a large fire was built upon the prairie, a short distance from
the chief's lodge, and the huge festival pot was suspended from a crane
over the roaring flames. First, about fifteen gallons of water were put
in; then Big Bear's wives, some of whom were old and wrinkled, others
being lithe as fawns, plump and bright-eyed, busied themselves
Some digged deep into the marsh for “bog-bane,” others searched
among the knotted roots for the little nut-like tuber that clings to
the root of the flag, while a few brought to the pot wild parsnips, and
the dried stalks of the prairie parsley. A coy little maiden whom many
a hunter wooed, but failed to win, had in her sweet little brown hands
a tangle of wintergreen vines, and maiden-hair.
Then came striding along the young hunters with the dogs. Each dog
selected for the feast was white as the driven snow. If a black hair,
or a blue hair, or a brown hair was discovered anywhere upon his body
he was taken away; but if he were sans reproche he was put into
the pot just as he was, with head, and hide, and paws, and tail, his
throat simply having been cut.
Six dogs were thrown in, and the roots and stalks of the prairie
plants, together with salt, and bunches of the wild pepper-plant, and
of swamp mustard, were added for seasoning. Through the reserves round
about for many miles swarthy heralds proclaimed that the great Chief
Big Bear was giving a White Dog feast to his braves before summoning
them to the war-path. The feast was, in Indian experience, a
magnificent one, and before the young men departed they swore to Big
Bear that they returned only for their war-paint and arms, and that
before the set of the next sun they would be back at his side.
True to their word the Indians came, hideous in their yellow paint.
If you stood to leeward of them upon the plain a mile away you could
clearly get the raw, earthy smell of the ochre from their hands and
faces. Some had black bars streaked across their cheeks, and hideous
crimson circles about their eyes. Some, likewise, had stars in
pipe-clay painted upon the forehead, and others were diabolical in the
figures of horrid beasts, painted with savage skill upon their naked
The beleaguered could notice all these preparations with their
glasses; and the men spoke to each other in low tones. Savages seemed
to be gathering from all points of the compass, and massing upon the
plateau round about the camps of the Cree Chief. But several bands were
stationed around the Fort, in such a manner as to cut off retreat from
the stockades should escape be attempted.
Close to the fort was the shining, yellow Saskatchewan; and for
miles, with a glass, you could see the bright coils of its leisurely
waters, as that proud river pierced its way through the great stretch
of plain till it became lost in the haze of the distance.
“If you were only upon the river in yonder flat boat,” said Captain
Stephens, “you might drop quietly down to Battleford. The reinforcement
would come quite opportunely to Morrison.”
“I do not care to leave here without giving the rebels a little of
our lead,” the Inspector replied. “But even though I desired to do so,
now, the thing as you see is impossible.”
Night fell, and when it came there was not a star in the sky. A
heavy mass of indigo-coloured cloud had risen before the set of sun, in
the south east, and crept slowly over the whole heavens, widening its
dark arms as it came. So when night fell there was not a point of light
to be seen anywhere in the heavens.
“It would seem,” murmured one, “as if God were going to aid the
savages with His darkness.”
Shortly after dark the wind began to wail like a tortured spirit
along the plain; and in the lull between the blasts the cry of strange
night-birds could be heard coining from each little thicket of white
oak or cottonwood.
Louder and louder grew the screaming of the tempest, and it shrieked
through the ribs of the stockade, like a Titan blowing through the
teeth of a giant comb.
Inspector Dicken, with Captain Stephens at his side, was standing at
the edge of the stockade. Not a sound came from the plateau, and not a
glimmer of light appeared in the darkness. Then the great, wide, black
night suddenly opened its jaws and launched forth an avalanche of
blinding, white light. The two men bounded in their places; then came a
roll of mighty thunder, as if it were moving on tremendous wheels and
destroying all the heavens.
No enemy yet!
But the besieged had hardly breathed their breath of relief, before
there arose upon the dark air, a din of sound so diabolical that you
might believe the gates of hell had suddenly been thrown open. From
every point around the fort went up a chorus of murderous yells, and
then came the irregular flash and crack from rifles.
The Inspector ran hastily back among his men:
“Don't waste your ammunition,” he said, “in the dark. Part of their
plan is to burn the fort. Wait till they fire the torches, and then
blaze at them in their own light.”
Every man clenched his rifle, and the eyes of the brave band
glimmered in the dark.
Crack! crack! crack! went the rifles of the savages, and now and
again a sound, half like a snarl, and half like a sigh, went trailing
over the fort. It was from the Indians' bullets.
“Keep close, my men,” shouted the Inspector; “down upon your faces.”
Drawn off their guard by the silence of the besieged, the enemy
became more reckless, and lighting flambeaux of birch-bark, they began
to wave them above their heads. The spluttering glare showed scores of
savages, busy loading and discharging their rifles.
“Now, my men; ready! There, have at them.” Crack, crack, crack, went
the rifles, and in the blaze of the torches several of the enemy were
seen writhing about the plain in their agony. Together with the
exultant whoop, came cries of pain and rage; and perceiving the mistake
that they had made, in exposing themselves to the guns of the garrison,
the savages threw down their torches and fled for cover.
The conduct of some of the savages who received slight wounds was
exceedingly ludicrous. One who had been shot, in running away,
began to yell in the most pitiable way; and he ran about the plain in
the glare of the light kicking up his heels and grabbing at the wounded
Thereafter the enemy's firing was more desultory, but it was kept up
for several hours, during which not a rifle flash came from the Fort.
Then there arose the sharp yelp of a wolf through the night, and
instantly the firing ceased. Not a sound could be heard anywhere, save
the uneasy crying, and the occasional howls of the wind.
“The attack is to commence in right earnest now,” Stephens whispered
to Mr. Dicken; but in what shape the hovering assault was to come would
be hard to guess.
They were not to be kept long in suspense, however. The pandemonium
cry again went suddenly through the night and the storm; and an assault
of axes was heard against the stockades.
“That is their game is it?” muttered the Inspector. “Now then, my
lads, get your muzzles ready;” for the Indians had lighted a couple of
torches for the benefit of those engaged chopping.
“Fire carefully, picking them off singly. Off you go!” Away went the
rifles, and three more savages sprawled in the light of the torches.
But others came into their places and chopped, and hacked, and smote
like fiends, yelling, jumping, and frequently brandishing their axes
above their heads; their eyes all the while gleaming with the very
light of hell!
“Pick away at them boys,” cried the inspector; “they must not be
allowed to get through.” But the men needed no urging; each one loaded
nimbly, fired with deliberation, and hit his man. This part of the
contest continued for fully ten minutes, but sturdy as were the posts,
it was plain that they must soon give way. Sometimes, it is true, the
savages would draw rearward from their work, terrified at the heap of
dead and wounded now accumulating about them; but it was only to
return, as the waves that fall from the beach on the sea-shore come
back to strike, with added fury. Meanwhile a number of lights had begun
to appear upon the plateau, and the Inspector, turning to Captain
Stephens said in a low grave voice:
“It cannot last much longer. See, they are coming with torch and
faggot.” Scores of Indians were revealed in the blaze, hastening down
the hill; and troops of squaws were perceived dragging loads of brush
wood. Then one of the posts gave way and another was seen to totter. In
the gloom of the Fort, the paling of many a brave man's cheek was
“They will be here instantly, my lads,” said Inspector Dicken in the
same calm, firm voice. “But we will sell our lives like men. Hurrah!”
CHAPTER V. DIVERS ADVENTURES FOR OUR
We left Annette and her little companion speeding along the banks of
the Saskatchewan bound for Pitt. They dare not come near the stockades,
for the Indians had invested the high ground overlooking the Fort, and
would be sure to make embarrassing enquiries of the two strange Indian
“My plan is this Julie,” Annette said. “We shall camp in the valley
beyond Turtle Hill, and when it grows dark, we can come in and see the
state of affairs about the garrison.”
“Oui Mademoiselle; and Tall Poplar is to be at the stockade facing
the river half an hour after sun-set. He said he would be there, in
case that we should in any way need his assistance.”
“Bon, ma Julie. It seems to me that your fine chef may be of some
use to us before these troubles end.”
Then the two dismounted, and tethering their horses set at work to
pitch their tent. Annette had brought a tent, strapped to her saddle,
from her aunt's; and the two sweet maidens opened out the folds, set up
the white cotton in a cleared plot, in the centre of a copse of white
oak, where it was securely screened from passing eyes. Julie took from
her pony's back a thick, large rug, which was to serve the two for a
coverlet; and going forth a short way the four little brown hands
busied themselves breaking soft branches from the trees.
“There,” Annette said, as she put down her armful in the tent; “that
will make a pillow as cosy as a sack of mallard's down. Now, Julie, we
shall eat, then sleep till the afternoon; for I suspect that there will
be little rest for us while the sun is below the prairie.”
Julie opened the hamper, and the winsome pair fell to, making a
hearty meal from home-made bread, cold quail, and butter with the very
perfume of the prairie flowers. A little way beyond a jet of cold,
clear water came gurgling out of the rocks; and tripping away Julie
fetched a cup. Then they fastened their hamper, put their pistols by
their side, laid themselves down together, and fell asleep to the music
of the little spring, and the bickering of gold finches in the leaves.
When Annette awoke, it was the mellow afternoon, and the sun shone
like a great yellow shield low in the west. Annette stepped quietly
out, her dainty little feet hardly crushing the flowers as she went, to
take a peep at the horses. They, too, had lain down; but upon seeing
the pair of large, bright, peering eyes, they arose, stretched
themselves, whisked their tails, and began again feasting on the crisp,
When the sun's upper rim lay like a little semi-circle of fire over
the far edge of the prairie, the two adventurers girded on their belts,
and taking their revolvers, started away like a pair of prying fawns
toward the Fort. Twilight does not tarry long upon the plains; and when
the maidens reached the confines of the Fort, the stockades and the
enclosed buildings were a mere dusky blur. Moving cautiously along the
side facing the river, they perceived a straight, tall figure, awaiting
them; and the handsome chief stepped up.
“I had been anxious, and was afraid for the safety of ma Julie and
“Will they attack the Fort to-night?” Annette eagerly asked.
“This will be a bad night for the Fort. The braves have had a White
Dog feast; and the Indians have assembled from far and near to fight
for Big Bear. They attack in half an hour.”
“Can they hold out inside?”
“Twenty-four men against five hundred!” the chief replied. “First
they will cut a breach in the stockade; then they will go in and burn
down the Fort. Big Bear has asked the Inspector to surrender, but he
“What is to be done, good chief? I have in there a white friend who
saved my life; and I would like also to help the Inspector and his
The chief mused.
“My braves follow, and will be here before the first blow is struck.
Perhaps I shall be able, at the last moment, to meet the wishes of
Mademoiselle.” Julie took two or three dainty steps, and nestled her
head in the breast of her lover. Again he stroked her hair, kissed her
bright face, and murmured sweet words in her little ear. Then he said,
“I must go among the lodges, for if I am not present to join in the
counsels of the leaders, I may be suspected. Wait, Mademoiselle, in the
shelter of the bank till I come to you.” There was then a little sound
like the explosion of a bubble, and Annette saw the chief raise his
head from Julie's face.
“You little rogue,” she said, “how your love affairs profit by this
war.” Then she tripped off to the point designated by the chief, and
lay down in the shadow with Julie at her side. It was while they lay
nestling here that the storm of yells described in another chapter
burst out. Annette shuddered and grasped the hand of her companion.
Then came the onslaught of musketry, the glare of flambeaux, and the
response from the besieged. Through the wailing of the storm came, too,
the thud, thud, thud of the choppers at the stockade, and the
straggling shots of the brave twenty-four in the Fort.
“The stockade cannot stand long,” Annette whispered; “I wonder what
delays your chief?” But while the words were yet quivering upon her
lips, a figure moved swiftly towards them and whispered,
“Come.” And when they joined him: “I only wish to have Mademoiselle
satisfied of the escape of her deliverer and of his friends.”
In a minute they were at the edge of the stockade; and, at a signal
from the chief, a little postern opened, and they were admitted.
“Follow me,” he said, as he advanced, waving a small white cloth,
and the two, close at his heels, found themselves at the door of the
Fort. “Friends are here,” he whispered, through his tubed hand, to a
policeman who had been watching the advancing trio from his sentry
post; “let us enter.”
The policeman retreated, and in a moment reappeared with the
Inspector and Captain Stephens at his side.
“Who are you?” asked the Inspector in a low voice.
“Friends.” Then Annette said, in a distinct voice:
“Monsieur Stephens may remember me?”
“The Indian boy who warned me of my danger!” he exclaimed, turning
to the Inspector. “You may admit them.” In a moment Tall Elk was
“I am a Cree chief, and twenty of my braves are friendly. When the
Indians break through the stockade I shall guard this door, and you can
pass out. Go directly to the river, and at the pier you will find a
boat waiting. Then the river is clear before you to Battleford.” Saying
these words the chief was gone, the two Indian boys following him.
At this moment a chorus of yelling, more infernal than any which had
been heard before, arose, and, brandishing their weapons, the horde of
infuriated savages began to pour through a large gap in the stockade.
“Follow me, my men,” whispered the Inspector, and with Stephens at
his side he descended into the yard where the smoke from burning
torches was so dense that the whole party passed through the group of
friendly braves without attracting the attention of the hostile
savages. They very speedily gained the river and found a large York
boat, of shallow draught, which they pushed out into the slow sweep of
tide. The chief was nowhere to be seen; but the two mysterious and
beautiful Indian boys hovered along the gloomy brink of the river,
frequently turning apprehensive eyes towards the Fort. As the boat
moved downward so did they, flitting along like a pair of guardian
angels. Immediately beside them they perceived a fierce-looking Indian,
glaring through the dark upon the water.
He had evidently just perceived the boat, for, uttering a loud
alarm- yell, he turned and was making off toward the Fort to give the
“Stop,” shouted Annette, in clear, thrilling Cree.
The savage stood a moment, and glared at this handsome lad of his
“If you move a step I shoot you. Drop to the ground.”
The Indian stood irresolute, but the girl made a sudden bound
forward and held the glittering barrel of her revolver in his face.
“You are a Cree?” he inquired, in a voice quivering with an odd
mixture of fear and rage.
“Why don't you let me alarm the braves? The police are escaping.”
“The Cree boy will not give his reasons; but his brother must obey.”
The Indian stood looking upon Annette as if endeavouring to scan her
features; and as if to help him in his object, a flash of flame from a
burning building in the Fort shone for a moment upon the boy, and
showed the cowardly warrior a pair of large, soft eyes, fringed with
long lashes; a sweet oval face, and a delicate little hand. The sudden
observation seemed to fill him with contempt and courage, and turning
he bounded away with another wild yell.
Annette did not lower her arm, but she shut one of her eyes and
fired, once, twice at the running savage. Up went the wretch's arms and
he fell upon the plain.
“Let us away Julie, the shots may bring some stragglers,” and the
two girls bounded along for nearly half a mile, when they were again in
line with the barge.
“Boat ahoy,” shouted Annette. “When you near the first island keep
away to your right. There is a bar with sharp rocks in your way.” A low
“Merci mon petit ami” came to the shore; and Annette whispered:
“It is Monsieur Stephens who gives me thanks.” Then straightening
herself up, “It is time we got our horses; come.” They hastened away to
the little grove, folded the tent, saddled the horses, and in a few
moments were galloping again towards the river. As they neared the bank
they heard a tempest of yelling up the plain toward the Fort: and after
listening for a moment, Annette said,
“The savages have discovered the flight, and they are now in
pursuit. Can you speak much Cree, Julie?”
“Well, then you are to be my brother and a dummy; for I must meet
“Mademoiselle must not put herself in danger. The Indians may know
that you fired at the brave; perhaps he has given the alarm.”
“Fear not, Julie. That poor savage has told no tales. But Monsieur
Stephens must be saved, and if this band is not checked, both he and
his friends are doomed. Half a mile below there are a hundred canoes
upon the bank, and thither those screaming fiends are bound. Now,
follow me, unless you care to ride back again to the hollow. I will
impose no duty upon you except to remain dumb.”
Then she struck her heels into her horse and rode full for the
yelling band. As she drew near she raised her hand and shouted in
perfect and musical Cree.
“Let the braves stand and hear their brother.”
Big Bear who was leading, surrounded by two or three of his wives,
stopped, and shouted to his braves to be still.
“What has our little brother to say?”
“Myself and my dumb brother have just escaped a great army of
soldiers at Souris Creek.”
The chief's eyes became blank with fright.
“Where were the white braves going?”
“Marching for Fort Pitt; and they will be here in fifteen minutes,
for they are mounted on swift horses. If you go down to fight yonder
boat, you will be attacked in rear.”
“The boy speaks well,” muttered the chief to his prettiest wife who
was standing by his side; and that dainty Cree was feasting her eyes
upon the beautiful face of the Indian lad. It might not have been so
well for Annette had the chief seen the way in which his young wife
stared at the little Indian scout.
“My braves will turn back,” shouted Big Bear, “and when we get to
the lodges we will hold a council. The little Cree brave and his dumb
brother will come to o tents.”
“Nay, brave chief,” replied Annette, “my mother is on the way
hither, and I must return and see that she is safe from harm.” And
despite the beseeching eyes of the chief's prettiest wife, the daring
spy turned her horse and rode away followed by her dumb brother.
“Now Julie, we must see how it fares with the boat,” and the two
horses went at a long, swinging gallop down the banks of Saskatchewan.
With the boat all was right, and in her clear, bird-like voice, Annette
informed the fugitives that Big Bear and his braves had returned to
“What turned then back?” enquired the same low, musical voice.
Annette hesitated, for she was not a girl that boasted of her
achievements. There are enough of maids white and brown, of lesser
character, to do that sort of thing.
“I told a story; I said that a great body of soldiers were close at
“Brava, brava,” and the girl heard many words of warm commendation
spoken in the boat. Then letting her luminous eyes linger for a moment
with a tender longing upon the barge, she raised her voice, saying,
“Bon voyage Messieurs,” and was off through the dark like a swallow.
Meanwhile tidings of atrocities committed by Indians upon
unoffending settlers, began to set the blood shivering in the veins of
persons throughout the continent; and one horrible circumstance,
bearing upon the story, I shall relate. At the distant settlement of
Frog Lake, at the commencement of the tumult, when night came down,
Indians, smeared in hideous, raw, earthy-smelling paint, would creep
about among the dwellings, and peer, with eyes gleaming with hate,
through the window-panes at the innocent and unsuspecting inmates. At
last one chief, with a diabolical face, said,
“Brothers, we must be avenged upon every white man and woman here.
We will shoot them like dogs.” The answer to this harangue was the
clanking of barbaric instruments of music, the brandishing of
tomahawks, and the gleam of hunting-knives. Secretly the Indians went
among the Bois-Brules squatting about, and revealed their plans; but
some of these people shrank with fear from the proposal. Others,
“We shall join you.” So the plan was arranged, and it was not very
long before it was carried out. And now runners were everywhere on the
plains, telling that Marton had a mighty army made up of most of the
brave Indians of the prairies, and comprising all the dead shots among
the half-breeds; that he had encountered heavy forces of police and
armed civilians, and overthrown them without losing a single man.
“Now is our time to strike,” said the Indian with the fiendish face,
and the wolf-like eyes.
Therefore, the 2nd day of April was fixed for the holding of a
conference between the Indians and the white settlers. The malignant
chief had settled the plan.
“When the white faces come to our lodge, they will expect no harm.
Ugh! Then the red man will have his vengeance.” So every Indian was
instructed to have his rifle at hand in the lodge. The white folk
wondered why the Indians had arranged for a conference.
“We can do nothing to help their case,” they said. “It will only
waste time to go.” Many of them, therefore, remained at home, occupying
themselves with their various duties, while the rest, merely for the
sake of agreeableness, and of showing the Indians that they were
interested in their affairs, proceeded to the place appointed for the
“We hope to smoke our pipes before our white brothers go away from
us,” was what the treacherous chief, with wolfish eyes, had said, in
order to put the settlers off their guard.
The morning of the fateful day opened gloomily, as if it could not
look cheerily down upon the bloody events planned in this distant
wilderness. Low, indigo clouds pressed down upon the hills, but there
was not a stir in all the air. No living thing was seen stirring, save
troops of blue-jays which went scolding from tree to tree before the
settlers as they proceeded to the conference. Here and there, also, was
a half-famished, yellow, or black and yellow dog, with small head and
long scraggy hair, skulking about the fields and among the wigwams of
the Indians in search for food.
The lodge where the parley was to be held stood in a hollow. Behind
was a tall hill, crowned with timber; round about it grew poplar, white
oak, and firs; while in front rolled by a swift dark stream.
Unsuspecting harm, two priests of the settlement, Oblat Fathers, named
Fafard and Marchand, were the first at the spot.
“What a gloomy day,” Pere Fafard said, “and this lodge set here in
this desolate spot seems to make it more gloomy still. What, I wonder,
is the nature of the business?” Then they knocked, and the chief was
heard to say,
“Entrez.” Opening the door, the two good priests walked in, and
turned to look for seats. Ah! What was the sight presented! Eyes like
those of wild beasts, aflame with hate and ferocity, gleamed from the
gloom of the back portion of the room. The priests were amazed. They
knew not what all this meant. Then a wild shriek was given, and the
“Enemies to the red man, you have come to your doom.” Then raising
his rifle, he fired at Father Marchand. The levelling of his rifle was
the general signal. A dozen other muzzles were pointed, and in briefer
space than it takes to relate the two priests lay weltering in their
blood, pierced each by half a dozen bullets.
“Clear away these corpses,” shouted the chief, and “be ready for the
next.” There was soon another knock, and the same wolfish voice replied
“Entrez.” This time a tall, manly young fellow, named Charles Gowan,
opened the door and entered, Always on the alert for Indian treachery,
he had his suspicion now, before entering suspected strongly, that all
was not right. He had only reached the settlement that morning, and had
he returned sooner he would have counselled the settlers to pay no heed
to the invitation. He was assured that several had already gone up to
the pow-wow, so being brave and unselfish, he said,
“If there is any danger afoot, and my friends are at the meeting
lodge, that is the place for me, not here.” He had no sooner entered
than his worst convictions were realized. With one quick glance he saw
the bloodpools, the wolfish eyes, the rows of ready rifles.
“Hell hounds!” he cried, “what bloody work have you on hand? What
means this?” pointing to the floor.
“It means,” replied the chief, “that some of your paleface brethren
have been losing their heart's blood there. It also means that the same
fate awaits you.” Resolved to sell his life as dearly as lay in his
power, he sprang forward with a Colt's revolver, and discharged it
twice. One Indian fell, and another set up a cry like the bellowing of
a bull. But poor Gowan did not fire a third shot. A tall savage
approached him from behind, and striking him upon the head with his
rifle-stock felled him to the earth. Then the savages fired five or six
shots into him as he lay upon the floor. The body was dragged away, and
the blood-thirsty fiends sat waiting for the approach of another
victim. Half an hour passed, and no other rap came upon the door. An
hour went, and still no sound of foot-fall. All this while the savages
sat mute as stones, each holding his rifle in readiness.
“Ugh!” grunted the chief, “no more coming. We go down and shoot em
at em houses.” Then the fiend divided his warriors into four companies,
each one of which was assigned a couple of murders. One party proceeded
toward the house of Mr. Gowanlock. Creeping stealthily, they reached
within forty yards of the dwelling without being perceived. Then Mrs.
Gowanlock, a young woman, recently married, walked out of her abode,
and gathering some kindling wood in her apron, returned again. When the
Indians saw her, they threw themselves upon their faces, and so escaped
observation. No one happened to be looking out of the window after Mrs.
Gowanlock came back; but about half a minute afterwards several shadows
flitted by the window, and immediately six or seven painted Indians,
with rifles cocked, and uttering diabolical yells, burst into the
house. The chief was with this party; and aiming his rifle, shot poor
Gowanlock dead. Another aimed at a man named Gilchrist, but Mrs.
Gowanlock heroically seized the savage's arms from behind, and
prevented him for a moment or two. But the vile murderer shook her off,
and falling back a pace or two, fired at her, killing her instantly.
The York boat, with its brave little band, reached Battleford in
safety, and the two handsome Indian boys pitched their tents aloof upon
the prairie, about, a mile distant from the Fort, selecting a little
cup shaped hollow, rimmed around with scrubby white oak. The horses fed
in the centre, and at the edge of the bushes gleamed the white sides of
That evening, as the two entered the town, they perceived a tall
Indian standing by the gate.
“It is Little Poplar,” whispered Julie; and seeing the two maidens
about the same time, the chief stepped forward.
“Cruel work,” he said, “reported from Frog Lake. Captain Stephens
and two others were sent an hour ago with fast horses to enquire if the
story is true. But he had not long passed this gate when I noticed
Jean, the great chief's man, and a dozen of the Stoney Crees ride after
him. I am sure that they are plotting him harm.”
“What route did they take?” asked Annette, while her eyes grew large
“They went upon the muskeg trail. It leads directly to Frog Lake.”
“Thank you again, chief; I go immediately.” Julie likewise turned
“Nay, you must not encounter this peril with me; already you have
ventured more than I should have permitted;” but a look of sorrowful
reproach came into the little maiden's eye.
“Is Julie of no use, that her mistress will not consent for her to
come? Did the faithful follower not say in the beginning that wherever
her mistress went, there she would go? that the dangers of the mistress
should be borne also by the maid?”
“Well, since you wish to come, dear girl, I will not gainsay you.
But what thinks your chief about his darling courting all these
“Little Poplar,” the Indian replied, “is proud to see his sweetheart
brave; and if she were not so brave, he could not love her half so
much.” And stooping, the noble chief kissed and kissed the maiden's
forehead; and then, once, and very tenderly, her two red lips.
The pair now swiftly returned to the hollow, once again folded the
tent, closed their hamper, saddled the horses, and struck out swiftly
for the trail. They had practised eyes, and were soon convinced that
both parties had gone by this route. Their horses were fairly fresh and
they pushed on at high speed.
Their course lay over a long stretch of sodden marshes, brown with
the russet of Indian pipes and the bronze of their leafage. Here and
there a dry ridge lifted itself lazily out of the spongy flat, and
afforded solid, buoyant footing. But a dull gray began to fall upon the
plains. It was fog and they knew that less than half an hour of clear
skies, and the sight of landscape, remained to them. So they sped on,
now sinking deep in a mass of sodden liverwort, glistening in the most
exquisite of green, again treading down a tangle of luscious,
pale-yellow “bake-apples.” The huge, noiseless mass soon reached the
swampy plain; and it rolled as if upon wheels of floss, shutting out
the sun and smothering the bluffs. The gloom was now so great that they
could not see more than twenty paces on any hand, and every object in
view seemed many times greater than its natural size, and distorted in
shape. Miles and miles they went through swamp and tangle, till they
heard the far-off, sullen roar of water. The land now also began to
dip, and fifteen minutes' ride brought them to a low-lying region of
swamp, sentinelled with dismal larches. Close at hand they heard the
moaning of a slow stream; beyond was the muffled thunder of some
tremendous waterfall. They were soon convinced that they were on the
confines of the Styx River, a dreary, forbidding stream of ink-black
water which wallowed through a larch swamp for many miles till it
reached the face of a bold cliff down which its flood went booming with
the sound of thunder. At every step now the horses sank almost to the
knee; but as the trail was yet visible they pushed on, keeping close to
the banks of the stream.
Beyond was a bluff of poplar and white oak, and as the riders passed
round it, the gleam of a camp-fire about a quarter of a mile distant
shone through the trees.
“Hist; here they are. We shall go behind this clump and pitch our
tent; then we can see how affairs stand.”
The horses were corralled, the tent pitched, a fire lighted; and
Julie was busy breaking branches for pillows. Annette prepared the
“What is your next step, my ingenious hero mistress?”
“To steal up near the camp-fire and see to which party it belongs;
or whether the worst has happened.” Her fingers trembled a little as
she ate; but her heart was as brave as a lion's.
“Take your pistol, Julie, and let us go.” The night was pitchy dark,
although the fog had rolled away; for the moon had not yet risen, and
no light came from the few feeble stars that were out. Over swamp and
tangle, across bare marsh, and through dense wood they went, lightly as
a pair of fawns, till the warm, ruddy glare of the strange camp-fire
shone on their faces.
“Lie you here,” whispered Annette, “while I go forward.” She was not
absent many minutes, but when she returned her cheeks were pale and her
voice quivered a little. “As I expected. Captain Stephens and his two
companions are prisoners. He is lying upon the ground without any cover
over him, and his hands are bound behind his back. I see only one
other, and he is wounded;—the other must have been killed.”
“But there is no use in waiting here to-night. The band is divided
into watches; and one division has lain down to sleep. From some words
that I heard one of the braves say I judge that they will carry the
prisoners to Beaver Mountain, where there is a Cree stronghold. Here
they will be held to abide the will of le chef. The march will last at
least three days. But as they advance they will grow less cautious;
then we may be able to accomplish something. Come, let us get back to
Stretching themselves upon the fresh, fragrant boughs, they drew the
rug over their two sweet, tired bodies, and fell into a restoring
CHAPTER VI. A DARING RESCUE.
When they awoke the sun was up, the mists had rolled out of the
hollow, and every bush and blade of grass glittered as if set in
diamonds. Hard by the tent ran a little brook, leaping, rushing,
eddying, gurgling, sparkling down the incline, to join the larger
stream whose slow moaning had sounded so terrible in the fog and dark.
“It is full of fish,” gleefully exclaimed Julie; and casting a fly
(for they had not come without tackle), she soon landed a trout about a
pound weight. It was a blending of pink and silver on the belly, and
was mottled with dots of brown. “One apiece,” she cried, as another
beauty curled and leaped upon the grass, by one of Annette's deftly
booted little feet.
The kit supplied two or three flat pans that could be stowed
conveniently; and into one of these the fish were put.
“Now, Julie, while you prepare the breakfast, I shall go and take a
look at how things stand in the next camp.”
She crept noiselessly through bush and brake, and perceived the band
just making ready for a start. Captain Stephens was put upon a horse in
the centre of the cavalcade, and his companion, pale and blood-stained, rode next behind.
Annette and Julie cautiously followed, drawing close to the party
when it rode through the bush, but keeping far in the rear when the
course lay over the plain. Towards the set of sun, they observed a
horseman about a mile behind them, riding at high speed. They waited
till the man drew near, and perceived that he was a Cree Indian.
“Message from Little Poplar,” the brave said, as he reined in his
splashed and foam-flecked pony, “The Great Chief rages against
mademoiselle, and has braves searching for her through every part of
the territory.” Producing a paper, he handed it to Annette. Upon it
were written in bold letters the following:
Any one bringing to my presence a young person, disguised as a Cree
spy, and riding a large gray mare, will receive a reward of $500. This
spy and traitor is usually accompanied by another person of smaller
stature, and also disguised as a Cree boy. Rides a black gelding. These
traitors have heard our secret counsels as friends, and have gone and
disclosed our plans to the enemy. They gave warning of our approach to
a band of government officers; they procured the escape of the
oppressors from Fort Pitt; and they turned away Big Bear and his braves
from pursuit of the fugitives, by lies. Our first duty is to capture
them. No injury is to be done to the chief offender, who is to be
immediately brought to my presence.
LOUIS DAVID RIEL.
“Tell your brave chief, mon ami,” Annette said, “that we shall take
care to avoid the followers of le grand chef, and of unfriendly
The Indian turned his pony, and was about retracing his steps, when
Julie rode up to him, and in her exquisitely timid little way, said in
a soft voice,
“Faites mes amities a monsieur, votre chef.” The Indian replied,
“Oui, oui,” and urged his pony to the height of its speed. When Julie
joined her mistress there was a little rose in each cheek, and a gleam
in her faintly humid eye.
“Sending a message to her chief?” Annette said, looking at the
bright, brown beauty. “She need not have blushed at giving her message
to the brave; he thought that she was an Indian lad.”
“Oh, I forgot,” Julie murmured; and she pressed her deftly booted
feet against the flanks of her pony.
The savage was, evidently, not enamoured of the lonesome journey
back to his chief, for rumour had peopled every square mile of all the
plains with warriors, and with hidden assassins. And spread across that
arc of the sky where the sun had just gone down, were troops of clouds,
of crimson, and bronze and pink; and in their curious shapes the
solitary rider saw mighty horses, bestrode by giant riders, all
congregated to join in the war. He knew that these were the spirits of
chiefs who had ruled the plains long before the stranger with the pale
face came; they always assembled when great battles were to be fought;
and when their brothers began to lose heart in the fray, they would
descend from the clouds and give to each warrior the heart of the lion,
and the arm of the jaguar.
His heart swelled with a wild war-fever as these thoughts passed
through his brain. Then the darkness began to creep over the plains; it
came softly and as remorselessly as the prairie panther; and a fear
grew upon the savage. The horsemen in the sky had come nearer to the
earth; some of them had trooped across through the dusk, till they
stood directly above his head; and he fancied that several of the
figures had lowered themselves down till they almost touched him. In
the deepening dusk he could not observe what they were doing. They at
last actually reached the earth;—and three giants stood before his
“Mon Dieu,” shrieked the terrified creature, and his hand lost
control over the reins. His pony did not heed the spectres, but walked
straight on. Nay, he passed so close to one of the dread things that
the Indian's arm brushed the goblin. Its touch was hard. The man
shrieked, and in a terror that stopped the beating of his heart fell to
the ground. When he arose, he found that the spectre was not from the
sky; but only a tall prairie poplar.
Pray, readers, do not laugh at the unreasonable terror of this
untutored savage. I have seen some of yourselves just as unreasonable.
While the Indian was suffering the sunset clouds to fill him, now
with enthusiasm, and again with dread, Annette and Julie were keeping
their ponies at their fleetest pace to regain sight of the party.
“Do you know, Julie, I feel a presentiment that an opportunity for
the rescue will come to-night. The captors will not dream of pursuit so
far from the frequented grounds and known trails, and they will be off
their guard. See! yonder they camp;” and while she was yet speaking, a
pyramid of scarlet flame, scattering showers of sparks, shot up from a
recess in the bluff lying directly before them.
“Rein in, Julie, we must find a bluff a safe distance off for our
horses. Should they get scent or sight of the ponies in yonder camp,
and whinny, all would be lost.”
So swerving to the left, and taking a course at right angles to
their late one, they rode slowly and silently till a bluff rose from
the prairie, a short distance in front, like a hill.
“We shall tether our horses here, Julie; but I believe our stay will
not be a long one.” And the pair dismounted, tied their tired beasts,
and swiftly raised the white sides of their tent.
“Ee-e-e-e!” it was Julie who gave the shriek. The thicket was
swarming with soft, noiseless wings, and a bird with burning eyes had
brushed the face of the maiden with its pinion. “What is it, ma
maitresse? It has two bright eyes, and it touched my face. Ee-e-e. O!
There it is again.”
“What is the matter, Julie? Do you want to bring Jean and his
Indians here, with this pretty screaming of yours?”
“But it brushed me in the face twice, mademoiselle.”
“These are only night hawks, Julie; they gather sometimes like this
in our own poplar-grove.”
“O-o that's what it was? Pardonnez-moi. What a simpleton I am, my
mistress. Do you think they heard me?” and her sweet voice was now so
low, that the locust, dozing among the spray of the golden-rod, could
scarcely have heard her tones. The thicket was literally swarming with
these noiseless birds; and wondering they flew round and round the
figures of the intruders, but most of all did they marvel at the great
mound of white that had been raised amongst them. Some of them, in
alarm, rose high above the bluff, wheeling and darting hither and
thither, and the girls could hear their c-h-u-n-g as if some hand, high
up in the air, had smote the bass chord of a violoncello. But when the
flame from the camp fire arose, terror seized every feathered thing in
the bluff, and they all flew, in wild haste, away from the bewildering
Annette was now away wandering through the grove, gathering dry and
fallen limbs for the fire; and as Julie bustled about through the long
prairie grass, preparing the meal, she was startled with a little cry.
“Mon Dieu, what is it?” Julie hastened away to her mistress, her
bright eyes widened and gleaming with alarm.
“What has happened my mistress?”
“Oh! is that all it is? Why Julie, I am just as silly as you are. I
stooped to pick up what I thought a little bramble, but when I laid my
hand upon it, it moved; and then went under the ground. It was a
gopher. I am now rebuked for chiding the fears of my little maid.”
“But anybody would scream at touching a live thing like that on the
ground. It was foolish, though, to be frightened at a bird.”
Generous, sweet little Julie!
They now busied themselves with their supper, brewing some tea in a
shallow pan; and when they had spread their store of provisions they
sat down by the side of the fire, and ate their meal of home-made bread
and cold meat. It would have gladdened the heart of the most withered
monk to see those two healthy, plump little maidens in the flickering
fire light, their garments loosened, their eyes glowing, their cheeks
and lips in hue like the cherry, eating slice after slice of bread and
meat, and draining cup after cup of the fragrant tea.
“Now Julie,” Annette said rising, after the precious maiden had
eaten enough to make some miserable philosopher ill for a week of
dyspepsia, “I shall creep out and make a reconnaissance.” And buckling
on her belt, with its large bright-bladed knife, and her ready
revolver, she went away softly and cunning as a cat. The very
field-mouse could have known nothing of her coming till her sweet foot
was upon its head: and when she came in sight of the hostile camp fire
with the dull scarlet glow that the mass of dying embers threw out, she
stooped so low that a spectator near by would have imagined that the
dark thing moving across the level was a prairie dog.
At last she was at the very edge of the bluff, and was peering
between the branches at the party, about the flight of an arrow within.
Captain Stephens was there, full in the light, his arms and legs fast
bound, and tied to a sturdy white oak tree. Near a poplar, a few paces
distant, lay his comrade, likewise bound and fastened to a tree. Most
of the Indians were asleep; the remainder lolled about, showing no
evidence of keeping vigil. Jean she could not perceive; and she
believed, and was no doubt right, that he was sleeping.
“It is well,” the maiden ejaculated in a little whisper; and she
returned swiftly and noiselessly as a shadow to her own camp fire.
“Most of them sleep; and presently there will not be an open eye
among the braves. Ah, Julie, if you but saw how they have him
bound—both of the captives, I mean.” And her eyes flashed, while her
hand made a little blind, convulsive motion toward her pistol. “We have
no time now to waste; help me to pack.” In the space of a few minutes
everything was ready for a start, and the horses led away to another
bluff which loomed up about five hundred yards distant. Julie could not
divine the reason for this precaution, but Annette whispered,
“Child, the light of our fire might, at the first moment of flight
lead to recapture, should any of my plans fail; and it would take us a
half an hour to extinguish the embers by fetching water in our little
Yes, Julie saw a little of what her mistress was aiming at; and
reposed perfect trust in Annette's ability to do everything with skill
and success. The beasts were tethered, and dark as was that prairie
night, these two girls with skill as unerring as the instinct of a pair
of night-hawks could come back and find them. Then they struck out
through the long grass, and made for the bluff where lay the Stonies
and their prisoners.
“Now, if we can find their ponies!” Annette said.
“Wherefore look for their ponies, mademoiselle?”
“You soon shall see. Ah, here they are; stay you there, Julie, I
will come to you again presently.” But Julie followed her mistress. A
little shudder passed through her heart as she saw the dull glitter of
something in her mistress' hand.
“I don't like to do this cruel thing; but then I spill only brute
blood; and I do so to save the shedding of human blood.” Julie now
surmised what her mistress was about; and drew her own knife. Annette
had already passed from one of the ponies, after pausing for a few
seconds stooped by its hinder legs, to another; and with the knife
still gleaming in her hand, performed upon the second beast what she
had done to the first.
“You just cut the tendons of the hinder legs, I suppose,
mademoiselle?” Julie enquired in a whisper.
“What, are you at work too, Julie?”
“Oui mademoiselle; I have cut yonder one, and yon;” and she darted
away to continue the work of mutilation. In a few minutes the uncanny
task was ended, and with a shudder at their hearts the girls wiped
their knives and led away from the flock of lamed and bleeding beasts
the horses of Captain Stephens and his brother captive. These they
tethered beside their own, and again returned. They then proceeded with
noiseless tread towards the hostile camp.
The fire had burnt lower, but the glow was still strong enough to
reveal the condition of the camp. After Annette had counted every
Indian, and convinced herself that one and all were soundly sleeping,
and that Jean in his tent was the deepest slumberer of all, she
“Remain you here, Julie. Should I be discovered fly instantly and
take horse. Don't tarry for me. Peace, ma petite amie; I go.”
And softly as sleep she went away, and in among the trees till she
stood within a pace of where her deliverer lay. He had been on the
border land that divides the world from the realm of dreams; but
through the wavering senses of his eye and ear, he was sensible of the
faintest stir among the leaves, of a shadow moving near him. Instantly
his eyes were wide open; and the dull glow of the embers revealed
standing above him with his finger on his lips, the figure of the
beautiful Indian boy who had saved his life before. The next moment,
the boy is leaning over him; in another moment his bonds are severed,
and he is free.
“Go,” whispered the boy, pointing toward the bluff; “no noise.”
These words were as low and as fine as the little whisper that you hear
among the leaves of the alder when a faint wind comes out of the west
on a summer's evening and moves them. And while he yet remained
bewildered by the suddenness of the boy's appearance, his own
deliverance, and the order that had been given to him, he perceived the
lad stooping over his companion in captivity, and severing the thongs
that bound him. Stephens now moved hastily away a short distance, and
then turned. The captive was upon his feet, and his deliverer was
beside him; but at the same moment he saw a tall savage bound to his
feet, with hatchet uplifted, and make towards the two. At the same time
he uttered the fierce alarum-yell of the Stoney tribe.
“Fly!” shouted the Indian boy to the white. “Away!” and then he
turned to face the approaching foe. The savage came on, and when, as it
seemed to Stephens, his hatchet was about to cleave the boy's skull,
there was a pistol report, and the Indian fell with a convulsive toss
of his arms. This was accomplished in the space of a couple of
heart-beats; but the time was long enough to bring Jean and the entire
party to their feet.
“Fly!” repeated the Indian boy, and he bounded swiftly out of the
bluff, joining Stephens, his companion and Julie, who all four now led
off across the dark prairie towards the horses.
“Ought we not get our horses,” Stephens enquired in a low hurried
tone, for the noise of the pursuit from the camp was close, and
tumultuous as a broken bedlam.
“You will get your horses, Monsieur,” Annette replied, and Captain
Stephens implicitly relied upon the word of the beautiful youth. The
grass upon the prairie was thick and high, and in some places lay in
heavy tangles, making slow the progress of the refugees; but they were
able to keep their distance ahead of the Indians, who with flaring
flambeaux were following their trail like bloodhounds. Out of the
darkness came a series of sharp whinnies, and the next moment they
found themselves among the horses. The beasts were ready for mounting,
and without delay or bungle, the party were instantly in the saddles
and cantering briskly across the prairie. As they rode along cries of
baffled rage came to their ears; and they knew that the Indians had
discovered the plight of their ponies.
But when they had ridden beyond the sound of the enemies' voices,
they slacked their pace, and Captain Stephens said,
“Brave lad, is it your intention to ride all night?”
“No, Monsieur; I purpose resting at the first suitable place, till
moon-rise. It is not safe for our horses' legs travelling among the
gopher-burrows in the dark. At any rate Monsieur le Capitaine and his
companion must be hungry.”
“During my captivity I have eaten nothing save a piece of an elk's
heart raw; and I do not believe that Phillips has taken anything.”
The truth is that Phillips had been severely wounded; and besides
several shot wounds in his side, his left arm was at this moment in a
sling, having been nigh severed from his body with a hatchet blow.
“No, I have not eaten; and I think it was as well while the fever of
my wounds was upon me.”
“But,” continued Captain Stephens, “I am most anxious to rest that I
may hear how came you, my brave lad, and your heroic companion, to get
knowledge of our capture; how it is that fate seems to have singled you
out to be my constant guardian-angel and deliverer. I trust that you
will not refuse the explanations as you did on a former occasion. A man
who has been thrice rescued from probable death, has good excuse for
seeking to know all about the person who has delivered him.”
“I would much rather that Monsieur did not press me upon the point,”
the boy replied in a low voice.
“But I will, my heroic lad. I believe that we met somewhere before
under different circumstances; for several times I have noticed a
familiar accent in your voice.”
“It is only a delusion, Monsieur,” she replied in the same low tone.
“But, here is a bluff wherein we shall be likely to find some place to
rest for a little;” and turning her horse, she led the way along a
grassy lane which seemed, in the night, as regular as if it had been
fashioned with human hands. As she halted and while her hand lay upon
her horse's neck, she said:
“I have a tent which I regret I cannot offer to share with you; but
we can prepare a comfortable supper upon the grass; and you can rest
cosily in the warmth of the fire.” With these words she dismounted.
In a few minutes the white of the tent loomed through the dusk; and
presently a fire was roaring and scattering about a spray of scarlet
Annette had some moments with Julie in the tent, while Stephens was
busy making a comfortable resting-place for his wounded companion.
“Julie, I cannot longer keep this secret; when we have eaten, I
shall tell him. But oh! I think it will nearly kill me to do it. I am
so ashamed; our dress, you know, Julie.” And by the dull glimmer of the
camp-fire Julie could see that her mistress' face was like a
“I would not mind telling mon chef, ma maitresse; Monsieur Stephens
will prize you all the more for your bravery. And then it is so
becoming;” and this sweetest of maids looked admiringly at the
exquisite curves and grace of outline in her mistress. And she came to
her softly as a mouse, taking the still blushing face into her brown
hands, and looking lovingly into the luminous eyes.
“Ah Julie, your chief, or our own Metis, might admire us in this
costume, but the ladies of Captain Stephens' acquaintance would shrink
from doing that in which we see naught amiss. He may think it
indelicate and—.” Once more the blood came stinging with a thousand
sharp points in her temples; but Julie interposed:
“Nay, mademoiselle; if you have done anything unlike what white
ladies do, it was for the sake of Captain Stephens; and if you did not
adopt disguise, you could not have saved him.”
“True, sweet Julie; you fill me with courage;” and then she set
about preparing the meal.
Captain Stephens was amazed at the deftness with which the young
scout prepared the repast; and he lay upon the grass, with his eyes
rivetted upon the nimble, noiseless, graceful lad. It puzzled him that
the mysterious youth should persistently keep his head averted, and he
was the more strongly decided to discover his identity. When the meal
was ended Annette whispered,
“Julie will come with us; I never could tell him in the light of the
fire.” Then turning towards Captain Stephens, with eyes looking timidly
down, “If monsieur will walk forth a little with me and mon frere, I
shall tell him something.”
Certainly, he would go, and was upon his feet beside the mysterious
boy, whose colour had now become most fitful, changing from pale olive
to the dye of the damask rose. They went beyond the bluff, and out upon
the prairie, Stephens marvelling much, though speaking no word, what
the handsome boy had to say to him.
“Monsieur,” she began in a soft, trembling voice, “has wondered who
I am, and thinks he has heard my voice before. He has heard it—at the
cottage of my father.”
Captain Stephens turned around and gazed with amazement at the lad.
“He has heard it elsewhere, too,” Annette went on—“he heard it on
the brimming river; he saved me from death below the chute.”
“Heavens, Annette Marton! Sweet, generous, noble girl, why had I not
guessed the truth,” and he stood rapt with gratitude and admiration
before her. Kindly dusk of the starless prairie that hid the blushes
and confusion of the girl!
Then in a low tone, as they walked aimlessly about upon the plain,
she told him the story of her adventures, all of which my reader
already knows. Then they returned; and when they neared the camp fire,
Annette with a shy little run disappeared into her tent, murmuring
“Au revoir, Monsieur.”
Her dreams were bewildering, yet delicious, that night; but there
ran through them all a feeling of shame that he should have detected
her in those unwomanly clothes. Indeed, the embarrassment went further
than this; and once she imagined, the dear maiden, that she was by the
edge of an amber-green pool fringed with rowan bushes and their
vermillion berries, and that as she was about to step into it for a
bath, there occurred what happened in the case of Artemis and her
maids, the one upon whom her heart was set taking the place of Actaon.
She gave a great scream and awoke, to find Julie sitting up and looking
with wide affrighted eyes through the dusk at her mistress.
“Oh, I had such a horrid dream, Julie,” and nestling her head upon
the bosom of her maid, she was soon asleep and wandering again in
spirit with her lover through the prairie flowers.
They were astir early in the morning, and Annette, as was the habit
of the Metis women, had about her shoulders a blanket of Indian red and
Prussian blue. [Footnote: It is customary for Metis women, even the
most coquettish and pretty of them, to wear blankets; and the hideous
“fashion” is the chief barbaric trait which they inherit from their
wild ancestry. Annette, of course, donned the robe under a mental
protest. E.C.] Captain Stephens had gone abroad upon the prairie in the
morning, and with his pistol shot a pair of chickens. These he handed
to Annette as he returned, saying,
“Here my little hero deliverer; and take this, too,” handing her a
tiger lily, moist with dew. “Now, in what way can I assist the Cree boy
who has twice saved my life?” and he looked wistfully into the eyes of
the brown maiden.
“If monsieur will just sit there upon the grass, petite and myself
will get the meal;” and straightway she began to pluck and prepare the
chickens which Stephens had given her. The sun burned through the
cobalt blue of the prairie sky, and there was not anywhere in the
great, blue dome an atom of cloud. The sun and the rays from the fire
combined made the heat unbearable, and Annette with no little confusion
laid by her blanket. Perceiving her discomfiture, Stephens arose and
wandered about the prairie, picking flowers; and only returned in
obedience to the call of Julie's little silver whistle.
Very soon, the party was in motion along the trail, Annette leading,
Captain Stephens riding in rear beside Phillips, who was again feverish
with his wounds.
They rode till the post meridian sun became too warm, and then
obtaining shelter in a bluff, they lunched and rested for several
hours. They then resumed their march and continued it till the set of
sun. During the day Stephens rode frequently by the side of Annette,
but she invariably made her horse mend its pace, and rode alone.
Despite his admiring glances, and his deep expressions of gratitude,
Stephens gradually began to resume his old playful manner of address.
He referred to her as “the little Cree boy,” and in speaking of her to
Julie or Phillips, always used the word “he.” Annette took no heed of
this; she led the party through mazes of woodland, across stretches
where there was no trail, or selected the camping-ground.
“The moon rises to-night about twelve, monsieur,” she said to
Stephens when supper had been ended, “and we had better resume our
march then. There is a Cree village not far from here, and the braves
are everywhere abroad. I do not think that travelling by day would be
safe; for all the Indians must have read the proclamation.”
About midnight a dusky yellow appeared in the south-east, and then
the luminous, greenish-yellow rim of the moon appeared and began to
flood the illimitable prairie with its wizard light.
“So this miscreant has been hunting you, Annette?” said Stephens,
for both had unconsciously dropped in rear. “I suppose, ma petite, if I
had the right to keep you from the fans of the water-mill, that I also
hold the right of endeavouring to preserve you from a man whose arms
would be worse than the rending wheel?” She said nothing, but there was
gratitude enough in her eye to reward one for the most daring risk that
man ever ran.
“You do not love this sooty persecutor, do you, ma chere?”—and
then, seeing that such a question filled her with pain and shame, he
said, “Hush now, petite; I shall not tease you any more.” The confusion
passed away, and her olive face brightened, as does the moon when the
cloud drifts off its disc.
“I am very glad. Oh, if you only knew how I shudder at the sound of
“There now, let us forget about him,” and reining his horse closer
to hers, he leaned tenderly towards the girl. She said nothing, for she
was very much confused. But the confusion was less embarrassment than a
bewildered feeling of delight. Save for the dull thud, thud of the
hoofs upon the sod, her companion might plainly have heard the riotous
beating of the maiden's heart.
“And now, about that flower which I gave you this morning. What did
you do with it?”
“Ah, Monsieur, where were your eyes? I have worn it in my hair all
day. It is there now.”
“Oh, I see. I am concerned with your head,—not with your heart. Is
that it, ma petite bright eye? You know our white girls wear the
flowers we give them under their throats—upon their bosom. This they
do as a sign that the donor occupies a place in their heart.”
He did not perceive in the dusky light that he was covering her with
confusion. Upon no point was this maiden so sensitive, as the
revelation that a habit or act of hers differed from that of the
civilized girl. Her dear heart was almost bursting with shame, and this
thought was running through her mind.
“What a savage I must seem in his eyes.” Her own outspoken words
seemed to burn through her body. “But how could I know where to wear my
rose? I have read in English books that gentle ladies wear them there.”
And these lines of Tennyson [Footnote: I must say here for the benefit
of the drivelling, cantankerous critic, with a squint in his eye, who
never looks for anything good in a piece of writing, but is always in
the search for a flaw, that I send passages from Tennyson floating
through Annette's brain with good justification. She had received a
very fair education at a convent in Red River. She could speak and
write both French and English with tolerable accuracy; and she could
with her tawny little fingers, produce a true sketch of a prairie
tree-clump, upon a sheet of cartridge paper, or a piece of birch rind.
I am constrained to make this explanation because the passage appeared
in another book of mine and evoked censure from one or two dismal
wiseacres.—E.C.] came running through her head:
“She went by dale, and she went by down,
With a single rose in her hair.”
These gave her some relief, for she thought, after all, that he
might be only jesting. When the blood had gone from her forehead, she
turned towards her lover, who had been looking at her since speaking,
with a tender expression in his mischievous eyes.
“Do white girls never wear roses in their hair? I thought they did.
Can it be wrong for me to wear mine in the same place?”
“Ah, my little barbarian, you do not understand me. If an ancient
bachelor, whose head shone like the moon there in the sky, were to give
to some blithe young belle a rose or a lily, she would, most likely,
twist it in her hair; but if some other person had presented the
flower, one whose eye was brighter, whose step was quicker, whose laugh
was cheerier, whose years were fewer; in short, ma chere Annette, if
some one for whom she cared just a little more than for any other man
that walked over the face of creation, had presented it to her, she
would not put it in her hair. No, my unsophisticated one, she would
feel about with her unerring fingers, for the spot nearest her heart,
and there she would fasten the gift. Now, ma Marie, suppose you had
possessed all this information when I gave you the flower, where would
you have pinned it?”
“Nobody has ever done so much for me as Monsieur. He leaped into the
flood, risking his life to save mine. I would be an ungrateful girl,
then, if I did not think more of him than of any other man; therefore,
I would have pinned your flower on the spot nearest my heart.”
Then, deftly, and before he could determine what her supple arms and
nimble brown fingers were about, she had disengaged the lily from her
hair, and pinned it upon her bosom.
“There now, Monsieur, is it in the right place?” and she looked at
him with a glance exhibiting the most curious commingling of naivete
“I cannot answer. I do not think that you understand me yet. If the
act of saving you from drowning were to determine the place you should
wear the rose, then the head, as you first chose, was the proper spot.
Do you know what the word Love means?”
“O, I could guess, perhaps, if I don't know. I have heard a good
deal about it, and Violette, who is fond of a young Frenchman, has
explained it so fully to me, that I think I know. Yes, Monsieur, I
“Well, you little rogue, it takes one a long time to find out
whether you do or not. In fact I am not quite satisfied on the point.
However, let me suppose that you do know what love is; the
all-consuming sort; the kind that sighs like the furnace. Well,
supposing that a flower is worn over the heart only to express love of
this sort, where would you, with full knowledge of this fact, have
pinned the blossom that I plucked for you this morning?”
“Since I do not understand the meaning of the word love with very
great clearness,—I think Monsieur has expressed the doubt that I do
understand it—I would not have known where to pin the flower. I would
not have worn it at all. I would, Monsieur, if home, have set it in a
goblet, and taking my stitching, would have gazed upon it all the day,
and prayed my guardian angel to give me some hint as to where I ought
to put it on.”
“You little savage, you have eluded me again. Do you remember me
telling you that some day, if you found out for me a couple of good
flocks of turkeys, I would bring you some coppers?”
“Well, if you discovered a hundred flocks now I would not give you
one.” And then he leaned towards her again as if his lips yearned for
hers. For her part, she took him exactly as she should have done. She
never pouted;—If she had done so, I fancy that there would have been
soon an end of the boyish, sunny raillery.
“Hallo! Petite, we are away, away in the rear. Set your horse going,
for we must keep up with our escort.” Away they went over the level
plain, through flowers of every name and dye, the fresh, exquisite
breeze bearing the scent of the myriad petals. After a sharp gallop
over about three miles of plain, they overtook the main body of the
escort, and all rode together through the glorious night, under the
calm, bountiful moon.
“When this journey is ended we shall rest for a few days at my
uncle's, my brave Cree,” Stephens said. “Running through the grounds is
a little brook swarming with fish. Will you come fishing with me there,
“Oui, avec grand plaisir, Monsieur.”
“Of course, you shall fish with a pin-hook. I am not going to see
you catch yourself with a barbed hook, like that which I shall use”
“Oh, Monsieur! Why will you always treat me as a baby!” and there
was the most delicate, yet an utterly indescribable, sort of reproach
in her voice and attitude, as she spoke these words.
“Then it is not a baby by any means,” and he looked with undisguised
admiration upon the maiden, with all the mystic grace and the perfect
development of her young womanhood. “It is a woman, a perfect little
woman, a fairer, a sweeter, my own mignonnette, than any girl ever seen
in these plains in all their history.”
“Oh, Monsieur is now gone to the other extreme. He is talking
dangerously; for he will make me vain.”
“Does the ceaseless wooing of the sweet wild rose by soft winds,
make that blossom vain? or is the moon spoilt because all the summer
night ten thousand streams running under it sing its praises? As easy,
Annette, to make vain the rose or the moon as to turn your head by
telling your perfections.”
“Monsieur covers me with confusion!” and the little sweet told the
truth. But it was a confusion very exquisite to her. It was like
entrancing music in her veins; and gave her a delightful delirium about
the temples. How fair all the glorious great round of the night, and
the broad earth lit by the moon, seemed to her now, with the music of
his words absorbing her body and soul. Everything was transfigured by a
holy beauty, for Love had sanctified it, and clothed it in his own
mystic and beautiful garments. It was with poor Marie, then, as it has
some time or other been with us all: when every bird that sang, every
leaf that whispered, had in its tone a cadence caught from the one
loved voice. I have seen the steeple strain, and rock, and heard the
bells peal out in all their clangorous melody, and I have fancied that
this delirious ecstacy of sound that bathed the earth and went up to
heaven was the voice of one sweet girl with dimples and sea-green eyes.
The mischievous young Stephens had grown more serious than Annette
had ever seen him before.
“But, my little girl, what is to become of you during this period of
tumult. It may continue long, and it is hard to say what the chances of
war may have in store for your father.”
“I know not; though my heart is with the cause of my father and of
his people, yet, I do not desire to see them triumph over your people.
A government under the hateful chief would be intolerable; and whenever
I can warn the white soldiers of danger, I shall do it.”
“What a hero you are Annette! How different from what I supposed on
that day when I saw you sitting in your canoe in the midst of the
She was glad that Monsieur held what she had done in such high
“Why dear girl, the story of your bravery will be told by the
writers of books throughout all Christendom. Ah, Annette, I shall be so
lonely when you go from me!”
Stephens was all the while growing more serious, and even becoming
pathetic, which is a sign of something very delicious, and not
uncommon, when you are travelling under a bewitching moon in company
with a more bewitching maiden.
But there was so much mischief in his nature that he would rebound
at any moment from a mood of pathos or seriousness to one of levity.
“Well, Annette,” and he leaned yearningly towards her, “when you leave
me to take the chances of this tumultuous time, the greatest light that
I have known will have gone out of my life.”
“When I am absent from Monsieur, perhaps he never thinks of me.”
“What a little ingrate it is! Yesterday morning, while you were
getting breakfast, I was upon the prairie, doing—what think you?”
How was Annette to know?
“Well, I was making verses about ma petite. I was describing her
eyes, and her ears, and all her beautiful face.”
“Oh, Monsieur!” and again came the blood to her face till her cheeks
rivalled the crimson dye of the vetch at their ponies' feat. Then in a
“What did Monsieur say about my ears? They are like those of all the
Metis girls; and I do not think that they are as pretty as Julie's.”
Then he replied with the lines,
“Shells of rosy pink and silver are most like her dainty ears;
Shells wherein the fisher maiden the sad Nereid's singing hears.”
“Oh, indeed Monsieur, my ears are not at all beautiful like that;
indeed they're not.” Then slightly changing her tone, “Perhaps le
capitaine made these about some white maiden whose ears are,
“What an ungrateful little creature it is!”
“No, but Monsieur cannot make me believe that my ears resemble
shells, coloured in pink and silver. In his heart he is comparing my
brown skin with the snow-white complexions of some of his Caucasian
girls, and thinking how horrid mine is.”
“Why, you irreconcilable little wretch, it is your complexion that
most of all I adore. It is not 'brown;' who told you that it was? The
colour of your skin I described in these lines, though you do not
deserve that I should repeat them to you:”
“In the sunny, southern orchard fronting on some tawny beach,
Exquisite with silky softness hangs the downy silver peach; But as
dainty as the beauty of the bloom whereof I speak—Rain, nor sun, nor
frost can change it—is the bloom on Annette's cheek.”
“Oh, monsieur! I do not know what to say, if you really made these
verses about me. If you did, they are not true; I am sure they are
not;” and her confusion was a most exquisite sight to see.
“But I have not described your eyes yet; here are the two lines that
I made about them:
“Annette's eyes are starlight mingled with the deepest dusk of
Eyes with lustre rich and glorious like some sweet, warm,
“Oh, no, no, monsieur, they are not true; I don't want you to say
any more of them to me,” and she put her hand over her face; for the
dear little one's embarrassment was very great.
“That is all I wrote about you; but I may write some more. You say,
petite, that they are not true. I confess that they are not—true
enough. Why, sweet, brave, and most lovely of girls, they fall far
short of showing your merits in the full. I have so far tried to
explain only what is beautiful in your face; but, darling, you have a
nobleness of soul that no language of mine could describe.
“I believe, my heroic love, that you have regarded yourself as a
mere plaything in my eyes. Why, ma chere, all of my heart you have
irrevocably. One of your dear hands is more precious to me, than any
other girl whom mine eyes have ever seen. Do you remember the
definition of love that I tried to give you? Well, I gave it from my
own experience. With such a love, my prairie flower, do I adore you. It
is fit now that we are so soon to part, that I should tell you this:
and you will know that every blow I strike, every noble deed I do,
shall be for the approbation of the dear heart from whom fate severs
me. And though the hours of absence will be dreary there will lie
beyond the darkest of them one hope which shall blaze like a star
through the night, and this is, that I shall soon be able to call my
Annette my own sweet bride. Now, my beloved, if that wished-for time
had come, and I were to say, 'Will you be mine, Annette,' what would
your answer be?”
“I did not think it was necessary for Monsieur to ask me that
question,” she answered shyly, her beautiful eyes cast down; “I thought
“My own little hunted pet!” He checked his horse, and seized the
bridle of Annette's pony, till the two animals stood close together.
Then he kissed the girl upon her dew-wet lips, murmuring low,
Later on, they were in sight of the spot where they must part, and
Phillips and Julie were awaiting them there. The light of the moon was
wan now upon the prairie, for the dawn was spreading in silver across
the eastern sky.
“My beloved must run no more risk, even for me,” he said, leaning
tenderly towards her.
She would be prudent, but she would always for his sake warn his
friends of danger when she had knowledge of the same.
Again he breathed a low “Good-bye, my love,” his eyes wistful,
mournful and tender; and with Phillips at his side, then rode down a
small gorge at the bottom of which were tangles of cedar and larch.
And as they rode suspecting naught of danger, several Indians hidden
in the draggled bush arose and stealthily followed them.
CHAPTER VII. A FIGHT; A CAPTURE; AND
THE GUARDIAN SWAN.
ANNETTE with a tear in the corner of each eye, and Julie at her
side, rode on till the two came within sight of the shining waters of
the indolent Saskatchewan. As they rode leisurely along its banks,
Annette, now sighing and now Julie, they heard the trample of hoofs,
and turning saw approaching an Indian chief, well mounted.
“Ah, your chef, ma petite,” Annette said, looking at Julie.
But Julie was well aware who the fast riding stranger was; and she
was covered with the most becoming of blushes when her lover drew rein
“No time; Indians in pursuit of you. I said I would come ahead of
braves to keep watch upon your movements. Ride to the south, and unless
you find good bluffs to the east, don't rest till you reach Souris.”
And he was about to go; but Julie, who had quietly managed to so work
her left heel as to make her horse perform a right pass till its side
touched that of the chief's pony, turned towards him, her face having
the expression of a large note of interrogation, which if put in words
would say, Are you going away without giving your Julie a kiss? while
her lips would remind you of the half-opened rose that awaits the
The chief may have interpreted the mute and delicious appeal, but he
was too full of alarm to accept the invitation, even though he could
have conquered his sense of delicacy enough to do it before Annette.
“There now, I must be away, he said; and you must be off too.” Julie
put down her head till her chin touched her bosom; but she turned her
dusky eyes up towards her lover with irresistible effect, as she said,
“Won't you before you go? Ma maitresse will not mind.” It is not in
the nature of man, even before the cannon's mouth, to resist such an
appeal as there was upon the half-pouting, half-yearning lips of that
Metis girl. He stooped suddenly, kissed her once, twice, thrice, and
then was away.
Annette and Julie at the same moment turned their horses, and rode
at a swift pace along the Saskatchewan; but they had barely started
when a shower of fierce yells came to them, and turning in their
saddles they saw a band of painted savages not more than five hundred
paces distant, mounted on fleet ponies, and making for them at high
speed. As for Julie's chief there was nothing to be seen of him.
“Where can the chief have gone, ma maitresse? Will the braves not
know that he has played them false? Oh it was so selfish not to think
of him;” and she turned again in her saddle, and once more scanned the
plains for sight of her lover.
“Julie need not fear for the chief. He is very likely in that
cottonwood bluff near where we parted.”
“He could hide safely there, think you mademoiselle?” and she gave
her reins a joyous fling. Then in an altered tone, “But he must think
me indifferent, that I did not ask him how he was to conceal from the
braves knowledge of what he had done.”
“There is not much fear that he will think petite indifferent,”
Annette replied in a playful tone. “A sweet girl that asks a lover to
kiss her is not indifferent.”
“Oh, there now, mademoiselle; please don't! Oh, it was such a
dreadful thing for me to do. Perhaps he will not like me for it;” and
this wretched darling was the colour of a new-blown poppy.
“Why, Julie, they are closing upon us,” Annette exclaimed, as she
turned to look at the pursuers. “Their ponies are fresh, and our horses
cannot keep up a long run, I fear. Spur on, Julie,” and the girls put
their horses at the top of their speed.
“There, we are holding our distance now Julie; and I think gaining a
little,” she added after a few moments. “See, some of their ponies are
falling out of the chase,” and a glance revealed four savages now
several hundred yards in advance of the main body which were evidently
unwilling to join further in the pursuit.
“These four Julie, must in the end overtake us. Note their lithe,
large ponies, and what a buoyant spring they have.”
“How soon, mademoiselle, will they catch us? and what will we do
“You must not ask two questions at once, Julie. I mean, you must not
get frightened. As to the first question,”—the sentences were now and
again broken by the swift galloping—“they will catch us probably in
half an hour.”
“Oh, goodness,” Julie said.
“As to the second, we must fight them.”
“Mon Dieu, they will kill us mademoiselle.”
“Perhaps; but they will have to try hard. See yon valley with the
tangles of bush?”
“I know that valley. Was there once with mon pere. Unless they keep
directly upon our trait, I shall lead them into a pretty mess.”
Altering her course, suddenly, for a bluff intervened and hid the
movements of the girls from the savages, Annette followed by Julie made
rapidly for the bottom of the valley, crossing through a belt of
straggling cedar and larches, and then held her way along the skirt of
the opposite ridge.
Faint, far-off yells told the girls that they had been again
discovered, but they had the consolation of knowing that their pursuers
must have lost almost a quarter of a mile. But the best part of the
matter was that, as Annette had expected and planned, the Indians
descended into the valley at a point much higher than that chosen by
the pursued. They knew not of the stretch of quaking, treacherous bog,
with its population of designing beaver; indeed, they would be certain
to be lured by the bright, glittering green of the liverwort that clad
the level where the ground was most unsubstantial.
Although I am not certain as to the prevalence of this weed in the
swampy places of the North-West, I can affirm that I have scarcely ever
seen a very dangerous quagmire that has not been covered with this
exquisite little plant; and if I could credit the stories of the
nursery, I would be able to believe that those malignant fairies who
live about dangerous springs and shaking swamps, cover the ground with
these dainty sprays of green to lure men to their destruction. Perhaps
the fairies were as interested in the fortunes of Annette and Julie as,
at my heart, I am; and that they decked this swamp in its cover of
glistering green to hide the death beneath.
Well, whether the fairies did this thing or not, the savages were
taking such a course that, in order to regain the trail of the
fugitives, they must cross some portion of the treacherous bog.
Annette's eye was upon their movements now.
“Pull rein, Julie;” and both brought their horses to a standstill.
“Well, ma maitresse, what now?” and the pet's hands trembled, and
the roses were out of her cheek.
“See; they near the swamp, and will be able, after a struggle, to
get through it. Now, Julie, I wish to ride down when they get fairly in
the toils; but I would prefer that you should go in the direction we
were pursuing. If everything is right, I shall soon overtake you.”
“Oh, I go with ma chere maitresse, to do whatever she does.”
“Brava, Julie; I do not think we have much to fear. Ha, they are in
the toils. In fifteen minutes they will be out. Let us away.” While she
guided her horse with her bridle hand, Julie perceived her unbutton her
holster pipe, and seize and cock a Colt's revolver.
“I have one, too,” muttered Julie; “so I guess I'll do the same
thing.” Not a bit of cowardice did the sweet exhibit now.
They were now within a hundred paces of that portion of the swamp
wherein the braves were tangled. And if ever savages, or anything else,
were in a mess, these painted warriors now were. They had reached the
centre of the bog, and were floundering in it up to their horses'
bellies. Their excitement was so intense that they had eyes for no
other place than the spot where their horses floundered and writhed;
and did not notice the approach of the fugitives. Nay, the two had
reached the very edge of the quagmire before the Indians noticed the
Cree boys. The yell that then went up from their throats was most
Annette's arm was extended, and her revolver was pointed at the
nearest savage; seeing which, Julie drew hers, and covered the next
brave. But before she had the lid over her left eye, Annette had fired,
and fired to effect, for the brave had gone over upon his back, and
sprawled and splashed among the liverwort and the bog.
Julie next fired, and when she saw, as the result of her shot, the
arm of the savage hang useless at his side, she cried—
“Bon, bon!” and cocked her pistol again.
“We must wing them, Julie,” Annette said, who had her arm extended
once again. “I don't like to kill the wretches.” Then came a voice
crying from the swamp, in dismal Cree—
“Don't fire any more; we won't follow the little scouts. We swear it
by the Sun, and by the God of Thunder;” and laying his hand upon his
hatchet, the terrified wretch faced the Sun and swore the oath: then
turning towards the clouds wherein the Thunder God resides, he repeated
his avowal with the same forms and solemnity of gesture. Still Annette
kept her arm extended.
“The braves talk with forked tongues, and we do not believe them,”
she replied, in the Cree language.
“But we have sworn it,” the miserable savage replied, in a doleful
“False men, swearing by false gods!” Annette replied. “No; we will
not trust them. But let the braves listen. We do not want to kill them,
and have decided to wing them instead.”
“Oh, oh!” groaned the poor red-skins.
“There is no time to lose; the braves must not hide behind their
ponies in that way, or we shall be obliged to fire at their bodies and
kill them. They must come out so that we can shoot them in the legs.”
The reader who has reached this point will likely say, “Well, Mr.
Author, you are a bright individual. Why did not the Indians fire?” The
truth is, they had no firearms, being supplied only with hatchets and
spears; and they were not aware that the scouts had pistols.
“But we have nothing more to fear from them, mademoiselle,” Julie
said, “wherefore need we fire at them?”
“Nor do I intend to do so, Julie; I am only bent now on so
frightening them that they will no more attempt pursuit. Moreover, I am
anxious that they shall convey tidings of our bloodthirstiness among
all the tribes; for when such rumour obtains circulation, we shall be
harassed less by pursuit.”
“C'est bien, ma maitresse; c'est bien.”
“No more delay,” shouted Annette. “Let the two braves stand up,” But
each one lay close under the lee of a struggling horse, holding the
animal fast by the head, in order to keep him sure in the swamp.
“Put you up your pistol, Julie; leave this work to me.” And once
more presenting her little round, ferocious arm, she fired, hitting one
of the shielding horses upon the fore shoulder. Maddened with pain, the
brute flung himself out of his predicament, and left the Indian
exposed, upon which Annette immediately fired. The savage uttered a
terrible cry, flung up his arms, and fell without a move among the
“Did you kill him, after all, mademoiselle?”
“No, Julie; the wretch is only shamming. I fired yards away from
him. Now let the other brave stand up, or the same fate awaits him,”
the girl cried; and, presenting a picture of abject terror, the
unfortunate redskin, who believed the third one shot at to be dead,
drew himself out of his covert, and, putting his leg upon the horse,
exposed himself to the pistol. Once more the bloodthirsty little scout
fired, and with an agonized yell, the Indian sprawled in the
marsh-mire. His leg he seized just above the knee, as if the bullet had
entered at that point.
“Is he hit?” whispered Julie.
“No, silly petite; he is also making believe. How well the two
rascals act their part. See the one playing dead. Well, we shall wait
long enough to see his imposture exposed. He is sinking fast in the
quagmire. His head is almost under now.” She had scarce ceased, when
the redskin gave a convulsive start, resembling a dying spasm, and got
once more safely above the hungry swamp.
“He will continue to have the spasms right along,” Julie whispered,
“while we stay here.”
“Yes; but for the sake of the two wounded ones—I believe mine is
badly hurt—we shall ride away. But we must keep watch to-night, Julie.
I believe these two men will follow; and if they find us sleeping, they
will brain us.” Then, turning to the tangle of struggling horses and
Indians, she said in a stern voice—
“Some of you may only pretend that you have been wounded, and
purpose following us. But we shall keep strict watch, and woe unto any
one of you that we catch in pistol range again. We now leave you.” With
these words the two sanguinary girls turned their horses, and briskly
“What idiots they must have been to follow without fire-arms,” Julie
“Had we been armed only with hatchets, how different the case would
have been, enfant naif. You, child, may have considered this shedding
of blood unnecessary, and therefore cruel.”
Oh, no; Julie did not think it so. La maitresse knew better than she
“But there was only the choice between taking the method adopted,
and openly meeting the four Indians on terra firma, when
probably all the savages would have been killed; or, in the hurried
shooting, we might have missed the mark, and been cloven or speared.”
“Where shall my mistress camp to-night?”
“I know an extensive bluff, and we could penetrate it far enough to
be tolerably safe from the braves.”
When the upper rim of the sun burned like a semi-circlet of yellow,
quivering flame, above the far flat prairie, the girls turned their
horses towards a stretch of sombre wood that stood like a vast and
solemn congregation of cloaked men upon the level.
It was not considered prudent that night to kindle a fire; for one
wandering spark might prove a signal to the foe. So they ate their
meal, and Julie rolled herself up in her blanket, while Annette seated
herself outside of the tent to keep vigil during the first watch.
“My mistress must not let me sleep too long; she ought not to sit up
at all. What did I come for—if—not—to—to—.” Here the tired, drowsy
pet stopped, for she was asleep.
Annette sat upon her blanket, and heard no sound save the breaking
of the grass and the grinding of the horses' teeth, as the hungry
beasts fed. Her heart was not in the wood; it was away with her lover,
and once more her blood tingled, and a delicious sensation made her
heart warm as the words which he spoke when they rode together passed
through her brain.
“Oh, what nice verses he made about my eyes and ears, and my skin.
Ah, if he were only playing with me.” An arrow now quivered for a
moment in her heart. “But no; he has the two ways—he can be playful,
and say all manner of teazing things; but, oh, he can be sincere. He
never could have spoken in such a tone, with such a light in his eyes,
with such an expression in his face, if all had not come from the
bottom of his heart. And he will take me away, away out to the far
east, where white men dwell, and put into some great mansion, and make
me its mistress. Oh, it will be all so sweet. But the dearest part of
all is that he will love me, and me alone. How proud I shall be that no
other girl can say, that his heart is hers.
“Ah, Annette, just for your sweet sake, I trust that the future over
which your heart now gloats will fit itself to such a dream. I think,
somehow, that it will; for he seems true, and, darling, you are worthy.
But you know it does not always happen in the way that you have
fashioned it in your dear head. Some other girl does sometimes
come with sly, soft feet and steal away hearts from trusting and
adoring wives, and they have no remorse either in doing the cruel deed.
Indeed, believe me, I have known them in their heart to glory that they
had done this thing. You will, therefore, have to take your chance.”
While Annette was in the midst of her reverie, her round dimpled
cheek resting on her hands, one of the horses tossed his head and
whinnied. “Julie, awake,” she cried, quickly touching the sleeping
girl; and then seizing her pistol took position behind a tree,
whispering Julie to join her there. And as that frightened maiden
hurried out from her warm nest, a voice came through the poplars
“Fear not, Little Poplar comes.”
“It is his voice, Mademoiselle,” and immediately the sleep
flew out of Julie's eyes, and left them luminous as the stars shining
beyond the tree-tops.
“The chief is welcome,” Annette replied; and Julie was upon her feet
making a little voyage now in this direction, and now in that, in the
endeavour to find him. All the while she kept saying, “This way! this
way!” but in a tone so low that he could not have heard her at a
distance of ten lengths of this small maiden. At last his tall,
straight figure, resembling in very truth a little poplar, was seen
moving towards the tent; and with a shy run Julie was at his side.
“I followed the four braves who were bent on your capture, and saw
the affair in the swamp. When you rode away, one whom I supposed dead,
arose and joined with another whose leg I had thought was broken in
getting out the horses. One brave was really dead, and he has by this
time sunk in the bog. A fourth had a broken arm, and he went away with
the other two. They will not pursue again, so you may sleep in peace
till the rise of sun. I shall put my blanket here. Should one approach,
the ears of Little Poplar are as keen while the spirit of sleep hovers
over him as while he is awake.”
Julie's dreams were very happy that night.
On the morrow Little Poplar informed them that his heart was not now
as much with the white people as it had been some little time ago. He
was aware that the braves were for the most part unreasonable, and that
they were easily led into wrong as well as to right doing.
“They have, I admit, committed some excesses; but it never can be
forgotten that strangers have taken possession of their hunting
grounds, and that, if they have no substitute to offer, the red
children of the plains must die. My tongue could not tell,
mademoiselle, nor your brain conceive, the sufferings that I have seen
among our people in the long bitter winters, with only the snow for
wrappers, and pieces of dried skins for food. Will the white man die of
hunger while food is within his reach? No, he will beg it first, and
then he will take by violence; but I have seen the young maiden and the
withered crone gasp their last breath away upon the snow, while ranches
teeming with cattle lay not an hour's march away.
“If an Indian, with a wife, and a lodge full of children dying on a
bitter winter's day of hunger, turn a calf from some nigh herd of white
man's cattle, alarming tidings fly to the east, and white men and women
learn, in their sumptuous houses, that the Indians do naught but
plunder. But they would have no need, I repeat, to lay hands upon the
ranchers' cattle if the white man had not come and stripped them of
their boundless heritage, and put them upon reservations where a
buffalo may never come. [Footnote: The words in the mouth of this chief
are not exaggerations, and it is God's own truth that during late
winters dozen after dozen of Indians, men and women and children,
perished in the snow after they had devoured the skins that covered
them. Yet these poor people are said to be under “the paternal care of
Government.” Alas, our public men are only concerned in playing their
wretched political game, and they sit intriguing, while the helpless
creatures committed to their care perish like dogs, of hunger, in their
“And some of the soldiers who have come here from the east are more
bent on earning reputation than on making peace. Some of their leaders
do not want the cheap glory of 'killing a lot of Indians;' and I have
with my own ears heard one of the Ontario magistrates, Col. Denison,
declare that he did next come here to kill, but to prevent killing. If
military affairs were now to be given into the hands of some men like
him it would prove better for all concerned.
“But there is another officer, Major Beaver, who has made amazing
marches; his men, in fact, have travelled like March hares. But give me
a bluff, and fifty braves, and not one of all his rash and rushing
followers will get back again to Ontario to boast of their deeds of
“Some of our men have been guilty of excesses, but Government gave
them its solemn pledge that if they returned to their reserves no harm
should come to them. All of my braves have gone back, because I gave
them the assurance that some of the officers gave to me. Yet, if I
mistake not, Major Beaver is at this moment planning an attack upon us.
His young men want to kill a few Indians, provided the thing can be
done without any risk; and then they will be described as great heroes
in the newspapers. They would fare very badly if they had to return
without having 'a brush,' as the more war-like of them have put it, in
the hearing of some of my friends.”
“Yes, mon chef,” Annette replied, “but you say that Colonel Denison
and others advocate a healing of the present sores, and pacific
measures. Then there are others who have always sympathized with the
Indian, like Mr. Mair. Mon pere tells me that he has been for some time
engaged on a beautiful poem, intended to show the injustice that has
been heaped upon the children of the plains. With good counsels like
these, surely no outrage will be done unto your people.”
“And now, where do the two brave scouts purpose going?” the chief
enquired, as they came in sight of a small settlement nestling around
the edge of a coil in the Saskatchewan.
Annette was going to see her aunt, and Julie was coming with her.
They would remain there for a day or two to rest, and then they would
go wherever their services were needed most.
“Oh! not to mademoiselle's aunt's. Le grand chef and his followers
have twice been there looking for the scouts, and he has spies among
the neutral braves who would speedily bring him the news of your
“Then, what would the chief advise? Our hampers are exhausted now,
and we must replenish them.”
The chief would go after the gopher had sought his burrow, and fetch
all that the maidens needed. Beyond a wooded knoll, plain to the view,
was a lake, and in the wood skirting the water would be a suitable
camping ground. The chief advised the maidens to ride thither, as they
must now be tired and hungry; he would fetch them the provisions and
other things needed when the stars came out. Annette then scribbled a
note to her aunt, and mentioned those little things that she needed.
She would some day show her gratitude to sa tante for her kindness, and
“made” her love and duties as girls of her race do with such grace. And
the chief was away.
“Is Julie very tired?”
“Pas beaucoup, mademoiselle. If you want not to pitch tent now, I
should be well able to ride for a couple of hours yet.”
“I want to hear what tidings there may be of Captain Stephens,
Julie,” and her voice trembled a little. “I do not think that the
braves who go in and out of the village can all be hostile. Those who
are up to mischief have their paint on.”
Turning their horses towards the village, they perceived two braves
riding towards them.
“I think I know one of these, Julie. Is not the taller one he who
brought us the proclamation of le grand chef?”
“Oh, yes; the very one. How quick ma maitresse is in remembering
persons.” The Indian rode rapidly towards the two little scouts, and as
he drew near he raised his hand.
“It is not safe down here,” he said, in Cree, “for the scouts. A
runner from the Stonies saw you both, and Little Poplar with you, this
morning, and swiftly carried the news. It is likely that le grand chef
knows of it before this. Little Poplar, who is now disguised as a
medicine man, is yonder in the valley, and he charged me to come and
warn the two scouts, his friends, to follow out the instructions that
he gave them without any delay. He has got some tidings, too, about
Stephens, le capitaine. Not good tidings, I think; a brave saw several
of le chef's men steal after him down the Valley of the Snakes.”
A short cry escaped from Annette's lips, and the blood shrunk
chilled to her heart.
“Are there any tidings of a capture?”
“No; perhaps le capitaine escaped. Upon clear ground the white men's
horses could easily outdistance the braves, who, it is said, were not
Unsatisfactory as this intelligence was, it left room to hope. But
the beauty of the silvery lake, with its fringe of berried bushes; the
scolding of the kingfisher as he gadded from one riven tree to another;
the goblin laughter [Footnote: I borrow this most expressive phrase
from my friend, Prof. Roberts, as vividly descriptive of the cry of the
loon. John Burroughs applies the epithet “whinny,” which is good; but
it misses the sense of supernatural terror with which, to me, the cry
of this bird in the moonlight is always associated.] of the stately
loon, as he held his way across the wide stretch of shining, richly
tinted water, might all as well have never been; for Annette saw them
not. Julie was busy trying to cheer her.
“Be not down at heart, sweet my mistress. These territories are now
invested by numerous soldiers from the East, and tidings of this
capture, if such there has been, would speedily reach them. Throw away
your care, and rest to-night. With the sun we shall rise to-morrow,
ourselves restored, our horses fresh, and ascertain the facts.
Inspector Dicken will know; and him we can reach in a two hours' ride.”
“Sweet girl, in the hour of pain you always can give me consolation.
Indians have also skulked after us; and it may be that the braves were
only watching whither Captain Stephens went.”
“My view precisely, mademoiselle; but we shall talk no more about it
now. Sit beside me here upon the bank, and look at the peace and the
beauty of all this scene.” Under the shadow of the bank, with its
matted growth of trees, the water was a pure myrtle green; midway in
the expanse it was purple, and beyond, in the last faint light of the
sun, it was an exquisite violet. The sand at their feet alternated in
veins of umber brown, and ashes of roses; while the vermillion of the
rowan berries made a vivid and gorgeous contrast to the glaucous green
of the leafage.
Little ripples came upon the bright, pink sand that fringed the
“What causes the ripple now, Julie, when no breath of wind is in the
heavens, and neither oar nor paddle is on the lake?”
“Stay; I thought that I heard it a moment ago! Yes, I hear it again.
Hear you not the note of some waterfowl?”
Yes, Annette did hear it; but she could not say from what kind of
bird the singing came.
“Well, my sweet mistress, the ripples which you now see swinging in
upon the sand come from the same bird whose song you hear. The bird
itself is the swan, made sacred to love.”
“Oh, I remember something of the legend, Julie. Repeat it to me,
s'il vous plait.”
“Well; there was once a beautiful maiden of the plains, whom many of
the bravest and most noble of the chiefs adored; but she disdained
their wooing, for she loved with a passion that absorbed her soul and
body a young man with hair like the corn leaves when, after rain, the
sunlight is shot through the stalks. He stayed some days in the lodge
of the chief, her father; and while his heart was yet full of love for
the peach-skinned, star-eyed maiden, he was obliged to go away with his
white brethren, who had come from over seas to trace the source and
flow of some of our mighty rivers. The parting of the lovers was like
the breaking of heart-strings. The maiden pined, and through all the
summer sat among the flowers sighing for her darling with the
amber-tinted hair. Her sleep refreshed her not, for through the night
she dreamt of naught but the parting, and of the sorrow in his sky-blue
eyes. In the day, her eyes were ever looking wistfully along the trail
by which he had come, or gazing, with a woe past skill to describe, out
along the stretch by which he had gone from her sight. Late in the
autumn, when the petals of the rose and the daisy began to fall, and
summer birds prepared for the flight to the south, the Great Spirit
came softly down from a cumulus cloud and stood beside the maiden, as
she sat upon the fading prairie. He told her of a glorious land out in
the heavens, where spring endured for ever, and true lovers were joined
to have no more parting; and when she looked yearningly towards the
region at which he pointed, he asked her if she would go thither with
him. With joy unutterable she consented, and giving her hand into his,
the two rose in the air and disappeared through a piled mass of rosy
cloud. When she reached paradise, knowledge was given to her of the
loves of maidens upon the earth, and reflecting how bitter her lot had
been, she besought the God of Thunder, and the Ruler of the Spheres, to
permit her to pass a portion of each year upon the earth, in order to
watch over and console love-sick virgins who were separated from their
betrothed. To her request the god consented, giving to the maiden the
figure of a swan. Since that time she visits the earth a short time
after midsummer day; and you can hear her singing upon our great inland
waters during the night, at any place between the lonesome stretches of
the far north to the great southern lakes, from the middle of summer
till the first golden gleam comes in the maple leaf. Then she arises,
and the hunter marvels at the beautiful bird with the white pinions
which flies up into the heavens, and passes beyond the highest clouds.”
“Harken now, mademoiselle; it sings again.” And lo! from over the
hushed face of the water came the notes of the guardian maiden.
“The song is not plaintive and sorrow-laden, as I have been told the
swan's song is, Julie.”
“No; the singing of the swan soothes and consoles. Hark again to
“Oh, it is divine, Julie, and creeps into my heart, filling me with
comfort and exquisite peace.”
“I doubt not, mademoiselle, that the maiden came to this lake to
cheer your sorrowful spirit, and to give you surety that neither you
nor your lover stand in danger.”
“Ah, Julie; it is so sweet to think this. And this it is which the
song tells me through the delightful quiet of my heart.”
“Yes, my sweet mistress; and I had forgotten the most delicious
tidings in the legend. The maiden's singing is always a guarantee that
no harm can come to either of the lovers.” And while Annette was
feasting her spirit upon this new joy, the song of the swan, which for
a minute or two had been hushed, suddenly was resumed close by; and
looking, the two maidens saw a bird, beautiful, and endowed with grace
of motion past description, move by, sending divers shining rings of
water before it. Then a sudden darkness fell and hid the bird; but the
song came at frequent intervals to the girls from the midst of the
lake, and whenever a shadow passed over Annette's spirit, the singing
was resumed. [Footnote: There is a legend among some of the Indian
tribes of the North-West territories that the swan is a metamorphosed
love-sick maiden, whose function and prerogative is to watch over all
young virgins who have given away their hearts. It is a fact that the
Indian hunters long refrained from killing the white swan in deference
to a belief in this legend.—E.C.]
There was now a stir among the brambles near the girl's tent, and to
Annette's “Qui vive?” came the response—
“It is Little Poplar.”
“Oh, I am so glad that he is come,” Julie said, and the eyes of this
minx grew instantly larger, and ten times more bright.
Some of my fair readers may now desire to know “exactly” what this
Indian chief, who is so conspicuous in the story “looked like.” Well,
he was just such a man as always finds an easy access to a woman's
heart. It is true that he was “a savage,” but if merit there be in
“blood,”—and for my own part I would not have a dog unless I was sure
about his pedigree,—he was descended of a long and illustrious line of
chiefs, whose ancestors, mayhap, were foremost in that splendid
civilization, that has left us an art mighty and full of wonders,
centuries before the destroying sails of Cortez were spread upon the
He was tall, and straight, and lithe; and he had a certain
indefinable grace of gesture and address which fits itself only to one
who, by descent and breeding, has been “to the manner born.” His hair
was dark, and almost silky fine; and the poise of his head would be a
theme for the pen or the pencil of Rossetti. His eye was dark as night,
but it revealed an immense range of expression; a capacity for great
tenderness, and passion without bound. His nose approximated the
aquiline type; his firm mouth was a bow of Cupid, and his skin was a
light nut-brown. His dress was like that of a cow-boy, and was devoid
of barbaric gauds. I suppose that is enough to say about him.
[Footnote: I may say that when afterwards, through the fortunes of war,
this same chief was brought as a prisoner before a certain paunchy
officer, the attempt of the latter to show his dignity was a clumsy
failure. The proud and splendid chief, with arms folded across his
breast, and head slightly bowed, looked singularly out of place
arraigned before the stumpy judge.—E. C.]
“And now,” said the chief, putting down the hamper, “We shall see
what your aunt has sent.” Nimble fingers soon opened it, and found,
besides le cafe and le the, as they were labelled, several petits
pains—“Rolls!” cried Julie, smacking her hungry lips—a bunch of
saucisses; of le fromage about a pound, and of la patisserie enough for
a meal for the hungry girls.
“There now, Julie, we have coffee, and tea, and rolls, and sausage;
a pound of cheese, fully, and pie enough for one delicious meal.” Her
sweet mouth was “watering,” and when she came to un gigot de mouton,
she cried, “What a sweet aunt she is! But when can we eat this whole
leg of mutton?”
Oh, Julie was very hungry, and so was her chief; and Annette herself
was like a bear. After all, very little would be left for the prairie
“Does the chief think that Captain Stephens was in danger of capture
by those Indians?” Annette ventured to ask. This is the question that
had been upon her lips since the arrival of the chief, but she could
not summon courage enough to ask it sooner.
“When last seen, mademoiselle, le capitaine and his wounded friend
were moving slowly through the swampy bottom of the ravine; and many
braves, with arms in their hands, were in close pursuit. But le
capitaine may have gone upon the high ground and escaped; he easily
could have done so.”
There was not much consolation in this for Annette's foreboding
heart; but as she lay down in her blanket, with Julie at her side,
there came once more, through the stillness, from the bosom of the
lake, the soothing song of the swan.
“Do you hear it again, Julie?”
Yes, Julie heard it: It was, without any doubt, singing to quiet the
groundless apprehensions of sa maitresse. Then both the maidens slept.
And whenever through the night Annette awoke, and began to think of her
lover's peril and probable captivity, the soft, scented night wind bore
to her ears a note or two of reassuring music from the throat of the
Before the sun had cleared the horizon on the morrow the breakfast
was ended, the tent rolled; and the saddles were upon the horses. Then
the trio set out at a brisk trot; the chief to join his people upon
their reserve, the girls to find Inspector Dicken at Battleford.
I do not like “breaking threads,” but it is necessary that, for the
present, I should allow my two Metis maidens to journey without my
company, while I go back to where I left Captain Stephens in the gulch.
The route of the two horsemen lay through alternating swamp and
grassland, and as the path was not much traversed, bush tangles here
and there almost blocked the way. They had no misgiving as they rode,
and expected to be soon with Inspector Dicken. The lower end of the
gulch was not so cheerful as that portion where they had entered. The
trees grew thicker; swamps composed the greater portion of the ground,
and the long groping shores of the trees might be traced far through
the black bog, till they found anchoring place at the skirt of the
upland. At last they reached a point where the swamp extended across
the entire valley; and further progress by the level was impossible.
“I fear, Phillips, that we shall be obliged to try the edge of the
upland; but how our horses can make their way through the dense bush I
am unable to see. Nevertheless, we must try it.” As they turned their
horses' heads, a din of yells burst upon their ears from the bushes
round about; and immediately a score of savages with tomahawks uplift,
headed by a Metis with snaky eyes, surrounded them.
“Surrender, messieurs; resistance is useless.”
Stephens looked about him, and at one glance mastered the situation.
Phillips was too ill of his wounds to be able to use his right arm,
even though a dash down the trail by which they had come were
practicable. For himself, he had a pair of Colt's revolvers; but before
he could fire twice the savages would be enabled to brain him with
“I surrender,” he said, nodding to the hateful boisbrule; and the
detestable eyes of the man gleamed as he said—
“Bind the prisoners.”
CHAPTER VIII. THE STARS ARE KINDLY TO
Ah! can it be that the swan sings, and soothes through the night the
maiden with its song, when the lover is in the toils that jealousy and
hate have set!
The party of braves, with the Metis at its head, turned and marched
swiftly back over the path taken by Stephens, till they reached a point
from which the bank was easily accessible. In a bluff upon the level
the savages had tethered their ponies, which were speedily mounted.
Then the party set out for “le corps de garde,” as the Metis put it, of
“le grand chef.”
“Had le chef then a guard-house?” Stephens asked.
“Monsieur, the spy, and enemy of the half-breeds, will learn these
things soon enough.” He had scarcely ended, however, before he seemed
to regret the tone that he had adopted, and hastened to mend the
matter. “I have instructions to be guarded about making known the
affairs of le grand chef, monsieur, or I should be pleased to answer
your question. I hope that the thongs are not hurting you.”
“I wonder what this rattlesnake would be at now?” Stephens asked
himself, and then turning to the bois-brule—
“I do not much mind the binding, but you would do me a favour by
relaxing those of my companion. He has been severely wounded, and
inflammation has set in. If you were to remove his bonds altogether you
would run no risk.”
“I shall do as you suggest, monsieur,” and in a minute Phillips was
“Now, if monsieur le capitaine will fall a little in rear with me, I
should like some private conversation.” Stephens was fast bound, but
play enough was left to one hand to guide his horse.
“Of course,” began the half-breed, you know something of those two
Cree boys who go riding about the prairies and fighting with the
“Yes; to one of these I twice owe my deliverance.”
“Ah, yes; to mademoiselle Annette. Now, monsieur, we know—I know—
who the two are. The other is the demoiselle Julie, maid to demoiselle
“Well, what if you do happen to know these facts?”
“I will tell monsieur. I love Julie very much, and if le capitaine
will procure me an interview with the maiden, at some place where I
shall name, I may be useful to him in the hour of peril.”
“I think,” replied Stephens, “that I am now talking with the
confidential friend, secretary and adviser of M. Riel. You are the Jean
of whom I have heard mention?”
“Oui, monsieur. I am Jean.”
“I fear, Jean, that I will be unable to procure this interview.”
“Oh, do not say so. A note written by you to the maiden is all that
I should need, setting forth the time and the place. A neutral brave
could be procured to fetch it to the house of mademoiselle's aunt.”
“Now, Jean, wherefore do you seek this interview with the girl?”
Stephens asked, with a slight curl of contempt upon his lip.
“I want to tell her that I love her; and to arrange to have further
meetings with la petite.”
“Why, Jean, I had been under the impression that once before you
told this girl that you loved her, and that she turned up her pretty
nose in disdain. But whether this be true or not, there is another fact
which forms an insuperable barrier to your object. Julie loves
another.” The eyes of the half-breed snapped and flamed with jealous
“Some worthless vagabond, I suppose?” he said, fairly spitting the
words out of him.
“O, no,” Stephens replied, with exasperating composure; “but a brave
and illustrious Indian chief. A nobler looking man I have never laid my
eyes upon. You could walk under his legs.”
“O, do you think so?” the little Metis replied, with a very ugly
glance. “Now, monsieur, you have refused my offer, and listen to what
you gain by doing so. By some means or other these two traitorous jades
will be captured. Then le grand chef takes yours away up the dismal
valley to Jubal's hut. I take your fine Indian chief's down to ma
mere's ready cottage. As for you, if the maiden retain her reputed
preferences she will be able, when the spring arrives, to come out upon
the prairie and plant daisies, or any other blossom to her liking,
Stephens had been prepared for malignity, but of such devilish
brutality as this he had not deemed any man living capable. He was so
overwhelmed with horror and disgust that he simply waved his bridle
hand, imposing peace. Thereat Jean pushed forward and gave some
instructions to a savage, who immediately put the bonds again upon
Phillips, tying the thongs so tight that the wounded man groaned with
pain. Then the cavalcade resumed a brisk trot, slacking not until the
prisoners found themselves before the stronghold of the rebel chief.
It is necessary to pause a moment here and point out that M. Riel
had actually formed a provisional government, and succeeded by his
passionate eloquence in deluding the Metis and Indians into the belief
that he was exercising a lawful authority, inasmuch as the territories
had not, within the interpretation of the law, passed from the Hudson
Bay Company under the jurisdiction of Canada. Subject to this doctrine
he laid down the right to establish tribunals of law, to try, and
punish offenders against his authority, and do all other things that
made for the stability and peace of the new regime.
A prominent white settler named Toltbon, had raised a company of
volunteers and gone against the forces of the Metis leader; but his men
were captured like a flock of sheep, and he himself locked up in the
strongest room in the guard house.
Now at the very time that Jean and his prisoners drew up before the
rebel stronghold, the chief himself was striding up and down his room
with dishevelled hair and gleaming eye.
“If Jean cannot bring me either the girl or Stephens within the
coming forty-eight hours, I shall go abroad myself, and scour the
plains. What if after all they should come together, marry, and escape
me. Curses, eternal curses upon them. Maledictions eternal upon my own
worthless followers. By the Holy Mary, if Jean cannot catch one or
other I shall put him to death for treason.” While these hot words were
upon his lips the door opened and Jean entered.
“I bring mon chef good news.”
“Ah, what is it? Any tidings of Stephens?”
“He is at this very moment in the fort. I caught him in Larch Swamp
on his return after being set free by Mademoiselle. He was most
insulting to myself, and used very abusive language respecting you. I
think, Monsieur, you have cause sufficient against him.”
“Bon! bon! He shall not escape me this time,” and rising, he began
to stride up and down the floor, his eyes flaming with joy and
“Now, Jean, give me your attention. At once go and put Toltbon in
irons. I shall attend presently and declare that he is to be shot
to-morrow. Suppliants will come beseeching me to spare his life; but at
first I shall refuse to do so, and say that I am determined to carry
out my sentence. At the last I shall yield. So far, so good. I do not
know, now, whether you understand my methods.”
“I think I do, mon chef,” and there was a knowing twinkle in the eye
of the ugly scoundrel.
“Well, this Stephens has an unbridled tongue, and is pretty certain
to use it. If he does not, a little judicious goading will set him on.
If possible, it would be well for one of the guards to provoke him to
commit an assault. Could you rely upon any one of your men for such a
bit of business?”
“Oui, Monsieur; I have such a man.”
“Bon! let him be so provoked, and after his violence has been
thoroughly trumpeted through the fort, make a declaration of the same
formally to me. I will then direct you to try him by court martial. You
are aware of how I desire him to be disposed of. When the news gets
abroad that he is to be shot, some will be incredulous, and others will
come to sue for his life. I shall reply to them: 'This is a matter of
discipline. The man has deserved death, or the court? martial would not
have sentenced him. I spared Toltbon's life, and already I have as
fruits of my leniency increased turbulence and disrespect. My
government must be respected, and the only way to teach its enemies
this fact, is to make an example of one of the greatest offenders.'
Lose no time in completing the work. We know not, else, what chance may
rob our hands of the fellow. You understand? I am least of all mixed up
in the matter, being more concerned with weightier affairs.”
“Oui, Monsieur,” and making an obeisance the murderous tool
departed. Exactly as planned, it all fell out. Captain Toltbon was put
in irons, and Riel declared that for the sake of peace and order he
must be shot. Many people came and implored him to spare the condemned
man's life; but he was inexorable. “At the eleventh hour,” however, as
the newspapers put it, yielding to solicitation, Riel said:
“He is spared.”
Jean presented himself before his leader.
“Monsieur, I think it will not be necessary to employ stratagem in
working our man to violence. He has been showering reproaches upon the
guards, and loading your name with ignominious reproach. The guards
knew my feelings; so during the night they put chains upon him. As the
foremost one advanced with the manacles, the prisoner raised his arm,
and dealt him a blow on the head, which felled him to the ground.”
“Bon! bon!” Riel cried, while he rubbed his hands. “Without applying
the little goad, he fulfils our will.”
“Well, not in the strictest sense, mon chef. Luc had certain private
instructions from me, and he carried them out in a very skilful
“N'importe, Jean, n'importe how the thing came about; we have the
cause against him, and that suffices. What do you now propose to do,
for you are aware, Jean—” there was now a tone of diabolical raillery
in his words—“that this matter is one in which I cannot concern
myself, you being the best judge of what is due rebellious military
“Merci, mon chef! I shall endeavour to merit your further regard. My
intention is to proceed forthwith to try him. Already, I have summoned
the witnesses of his guilt; and he and you shall know our decision
before another hour has passed.” Then the faithful Monsieur Jean was
“No, ma chere Annette. You shall never deck your nuptial chamber
with daisies for Edmund Stephens. You will find occupation for your
sweet little fingers in putting fresh roses upon the mound that covers
him. For a feu-de-joie and the peal of marriage bells, I will
give you, ma petite chere, the sullen toll that calls him to his open
coffin, and the rattle of musketry that stills the tongue which uttered
to you the last love pledge.”
For an hour did he pace up and down the floor gloating over his
revenge. Meanwhile, I shall leave him and follow the “adjutant-general,” as Jean was known under the new regime. He proceeded to the
private room of the military quarters, and entering found his
subordinates assembled there.
“Messieurs,” he said, “We know what our business is. We must lose no
time in despatching it. But before commencing, let me say a few words.
Monsieur Riel is so overweighted with other affairs that the matter of
dealing with the man Stephens rests entirely in our hands. I have just
left him, after endeavouring in vain to induce him to be present at the
trial: but he could not spare the time to come. By skilfully sounding
him, however, I discovered that his sentiments regarding the prisoner
are exactly the same as those entertained by myself. What these are I
need hardly say. It is now a struggle between the authority of the
Provisional Government and a horde of rebellious persons of which the
defendant is the most dangerous. The eyes of our followers are upon us;
and if we permit the authority of Government to be defied, its officers
reviled, and insult heaped upon us, depend upon it we shall speedily
lose the hold we have gained after so many bitter struggles; and become
a prey to the conspiracy which our enemies are so actively engaged in
promoting. The very fact that this man Stephens leagued himself with
our enemies, is an offence worthy of death; but I shall ask these
persons who are here as witnesses to show you that since his capture he
has merited death ten times over at our hands. With your permission,
gentlemen, I will proceed:
“Edmund Stephens, of Prince Albert, stands charged before this
court- martial with treasonable revolt against the peace and welfare of
the colony; with having leagued himself with an armed party, whose
object was the overthrow of authority as vested in our Provisional
Government. He is likewise charged with having attempted criminal
violence upon lawfully delegated guards appointed over him, during his
incarceration; and likewise with inciting his fellow-prisoners to
insubordination and tumult contrary to the order and well-being of this
That person came forward:
“Relate all you know in the conduct of the prisoner Stephens that
may be regarded as treasonable and criminal.”
“I have seen him in armed revolt against the authority of Monsieur
“Will you please state what have been his demeanour and conduct as a
“He has been insulting and disorderly in the last degree.”
“Will you specify a few particular examples?”
“I have frequently heard him describe the Provisional Government and
its supporters as a band of mongrel rough-scruffs; a greasy, insolent
nest of traitors; and a lot of looting, riotous, unwashed savages. He
has used language of this sort ever since his imprisonment. Likewise, I
have heard him say that he would have the pleasure of assisting in
hanging Monsieur Riel to a prairie poplar; and in putting tar and
feathers upon his followers.”
“Has he been guilty of any acts of violence?”
“He has been guilty of acts of violence. When he became unbearably
insubordinate I found it my duty to put irons upon him. As I approached
him with the handcuffs he smote me twice in the face, and I yet carry
the mark that he gave me. [Here the precious witness pointed to his
right eye, which was a dusky purple.] This black eye I received from
one of his blows.”
“That will do, Luc.”
Another witness with the movements of a snake, and eyes as black as
sloes, was called. He gave evidence which tallied exactly with that
sworn to by Lestang. This, of course, was not an extraordinary
coincidence, for he had been present while the first miscreant was
giving his evidence. Yet poor Stephens, whose life was the issue of all
the swearing, was not permitted to be present, but was kept in a
distant room, chained there like a wild beast.
“The Court,” said the Adjutant-General, “has heard the accusation
against this man; and its duty is now to consider whether the safety
and the peace of the district demand that the extreme penalty should be
visited upon this enemy of both. The question is, whether he is worthy
of death, or not. You will retire, gentlemen,—” there were four of
them, exclusive of witnesses, and the clerk—“and find your verdict.”
They were absent about two minutes. The foreman then advancing,
“Monsieur l'Adjutant, WE FIND THE PRISONER EDMUND STEPHENS, GUILTY.”
Then drawing upon his head a black cap, the adjutant said:
“After due and deliberate trial by this Court, it has been found
that the prisoner Edmund Stephens, is 'Guilty.' I do, therefore,
declare the sentence of this court-martial to be, that the prisoner be
taken forth this day, at one o'clock, and shot. And may God in His
infinite bounty have mercy upon his soul.”
CHAPTER IX. THE STARS TAKE A NEW
Monsieur Riel had been all this while pacing up and down his room. A
tap came upon his door.
“Entrez. Ah, it is you, mon adjudant!”
“Oui, mon president.”
“C'est accompli. The court-martial has found the prisoner guilty;
and he is condemned to be shot at one o'clock this day.”
“Monsieur is expeditious! Monsieur is zealous. C'est bon; c'est bon;
merci, Monsieur.” And the miscreant walked about delirious with his
gratification. Then he came over to where his adjutant stood, and shook
his hand; then he thrust his fingers through his hair, and half
bellowed, his voice resembling that of some foul beast.
“La patrie has reason to be proud of her zealous son,” and he again
shook the hand of his infamous lieutenant. Then with a very low bow
Jean left the room, saying, as he departed.
“I shall endeavour to merit to the fullest the kindly eulogy which
Monsieur le President bestows upon me.” The news of Stephens' sentence
spread like fire. Some believed that the penalty would not be carried
out, but others thought it would.
“If this prisoner is pardoned, people will treat the sentences of
the provisional authorities as jokes. Riel must be aware of this;
therefore Stephens is likely to suffer the full penalty.” Several
persons called upon the tyrant and besought him to extend mercy to the
condemned man; but he merely shrugged his shoulders!
“This prisoner has been in chronic rebellion. He has set bad example
among the prisoners, assaulted his keeper, and loaded the Government
with opprobrium. I may say to you, Messieurs, however, that I have
really nothing to do with the man's case. In this time of tumult, when
the operation of all laws is suspended, the court-martial is the only
tribunal to which serious offenders can be referred. This young man
Stephens has had fair trial, as fair as a British court-martial would
have given him, and he has been sentenced to death. I assume that he
would not have received such a sentence if he had not deserved it.
Therefore I shall not interfere. There is no use, Messieurs, in
pressing me upon the matter. At heart, I shall grieve as much as you to
see the young man cut off; but his death I believe necessary now as an
example to the hundreds who are desirous of overthrowing the authority
which we have established in this district.” The petitioners left the
monster with sorrowful faces.
“My God!” one of them exclaimed, “it is frightful to murder this
young man, whose only offence is resistance to insult from his debased
half-breed keeper. Is there nothing to be done?”
No, there was nothing to be done. The greasy, vindictive tyrant was
lord and master of the situation. When Riel was alone, he began once
more to walk his room, and thus mused aloud:
“I shall go down to his cell. Perhaps he may tell me where she is to
“Yes,” he was sure that he would succeed: “I shall get his secret by
promising pardon; then I will spit upon his face and say, 'Die, dog;
I'll not spare you.'“ So forth he sallied, and made his way to the cell
where the young man sat in chains.
“Well, malignant tyrant, what do you here? Whatever your business
is, let it be dispatched quickly; for your presence stifles me. What
dishonourable proposal have you now to make?”
“Monsieur Stephens, it seems to be a pleasure to you to revile me.
Yet have I sought to serve you;—yea, I would have been, would now be,
“Peace; let me hear what it is that you now propose?”
“You are aware that it is ordered by court-martial, of which I was
not a member, that you are to be shot at one o'clock this day? It is
now just forty-five minutes of one. I can spare your life, and I will
do it, upon one condition.”
“Pray let me hear what dishonour it is that you propose? I ask the
question out of a curiosity to learn, if possible, a little more of
“And I reply to you that I shall take no notice of your revilings,
but make my proposal. I simply ask you to state to me where this maiden
Annette has betaken herself?”
“Where you will never find her. That's my answer, villain and
tyrant; and now begone.”
“Perhaps you imagine that the sentence will not be carried out. I
ask you to choose between life and liberty, and an almost immediate
“I care not for your revenge, or your mercy. Once more I say, get
you gone.” Then the ruffian turned round, rushed at the chained
prisoner, and dealt him a terrific kick in the side, after which he
spat upon his face.
“She shall be mine!” he hissed, “when your corpse lies mouldering in
a dishonoured, traitor's grave.” The young man was chained to a heavy
table, but with a sudden wrench, he freed himself, raised both arms,
and was about bringing down his manacled hands upon the tyrant
miscreant—and that blow would have ended the rebellion at Prince
Albert,—when Luc burst into the room, seized the prisoner, and threw
him. While his brute knee was on Stephens' breast, and his greasy hand
held the victim's throat, Riel made his escape, and turned back to his
As for poor Stephens, when the tyrant and the brutal guard had left
the cell, he began to pace up and down, sorely disturbed. He had
somehow cherished the hope that the miscreant would be induced to
commute the sentence to lengthy imprisonment. But the diabolical
vengeance which he had seen in the tyrant's eye undermined all hope.
Some friends were admitted to his cell, and they informed him that they
had pleaded for him, but in vain.
And now we go back to Annette and Julie. Their horses soon took them
to the post, wherein Inspector Dicken had taken up his abode for the
nonce. They soon learnt that Captain Stephens and his friend had been
captured, and that both had been hurried off to the stronghold of the
“Have any steps been taken for his rescue, monsieur?” Annette asked.
“None, I regret, have so far been practicable. I am detained on duty
here with twenty men; and expect an attack hourly. I would surrender
the fort and hasten to the rescue of my friend, but that the lives of
more than a hundred women and children here depend upon my remaining.”
“And where, monsieur, are the nearest troops? Holy Mother of God!”
she exclaimed, “surely they will not permit le chef to put him to death
without making an effort to save him.”
“Anything possible will be done, my brave lad. The nearest troops
are those of Colonel Denison. Here I will write you a note to the
Colonel. He is an officer whom I much admire. He is quick at
conceiving, and prompt and firmhanded in achievement. His force is
mounted and a few of his troopers thundering into the rebels' nest
would scatter them like rats.”
“Speed, speed, monsieur,” she cried, as she perceived the Inspector
pause to consider the terms in which he should address the Colonel.
“Let it be simply an introduction; and a mere statement that I have
rendered service to you and to your forces.”
“So be it,” he replied; and then rapidly pencilled the note, which
he put into her hand. A quick “Merci, merci,” and the two were gone,
and speedily upon their horses' backs. They had not ridden far before
they espied a mounted party, evidently reconnoitering. Instead of
pursuing its course, the party, upon perceiving the two Indian boys,
turned their horses and rode towards the pair.
“Oh, Julie, I hope that they will not detain us. They judge, I
suppose, that we are enemies.”
“But you can tell them that we are not, mademoiselle.”
“Ah, Julie, the world is not as truthful and as free from guile as
you. They might not believe us. But I can at any rate show them the
“Who goes there?” shouted the officer of the approaching party.
“Friends, who want to see Colonel Denison immediately.
“Consider yourselves in my charge now,” the officer said, fitting
very high and straight upon his horse.
“But will monsieur l'officier take us straightway to Colonel
“In good time we shall see that officer,” the starchy commander
“But, monsieur, I pray you to make haste. It is a matter of the
gravest importance that I should see him as speedily as possible. We
were riding at a mad pace before you joined us, as witness our horses'
flanks. This note I bear from Inspector Dicken to Colonel Denison.”
The officer took it, opened it slowly, and cast his eye over the
“I do not know whether this has been written by Dicken or not,” he
said, “as I have never seen his writing.” Then folding the note he put
it into his pocket.
“But that is my note, monsieur, my passport to Colonel Denison's
attention. Wherefore do you keep it?”
The officious military gentleman did not feel called upon to explain
why he had retained it. Now, all the while the party was at a halt, and
the agony that poor Annette was suffering may be imagined.
“Monsieur, I repeat,” the girl said in a tone of agony, “it is of
the utmost importance that I should reach Colonel Denison without
delay. The life of one of your most valuable allies may depend upon
“Would you favour me with the name of this valuable ally?”
“Captain Stephens: he who has been made prisoner by the personal
followers of the rebel chief.”
“I have not heard anything about this capture,” said Lieutenant
Unworthy; “and it seems to me, if the thing occurred word must have
reached us.” This conceited block-head had not yet made a start.
“I implore you once again, monsieur, either to accompany us to the
presence of the Colonel or to let us go alone. I do not see that you
have any right to detain us. If harm comes to Captain Stephens you will
remember that his blood must be upon your head. You are either stupid
beyond words to describe, or bent upon showing your authority. Will you
come, or let me go, to the Colonel?”
“I want neither lectures nor impertinent speeches,” replied the
numb- skull, putting on an air of severe dignity; nevertheless it was
plain that Annette had frightened him.
“Forward, march—tro-o-o-t!” and the troop set out for Camp Denison.
Whenever the word “W a-a-a-lk” came, the heart of the girl sank; but
despite the anxiety and annoyance, the camps of Colonel Denison at last
were in sight.
“Well, Unworthy,” the Colonel said, “who are these boys you have
brought in?” The Colonel was intently reading the faces of the little
scouts, with his penetrating dark-grey eyes, as he asked the question.
“The largest of the two has a story about the capture of Captain
Stephens, and declares a profuse interest in the affairs of that
officer. I have taken the story with a pinch of salt; as I regard the
two a pair of spies.”
“May I speak, Colonel Denison?” the girl said, touching the brim of
her broad hat respectfully.
“Most certainly, my lad. I shall be glad to hear anything that you
have to say.” Then turning to Unworthy,—“He looks no more like a spy
than you do, man. Are you any judge of faces?”
“Well, monsieur,” the girl began, her voice quivering, “l'officier,”
pointing to Unworthy, “says he believes that I am a spy. He has no
ground for such a belief, but he has proof which must have
taught him otherwise. Inspector Dicken gave me a note of introduction
to you. This note l'officier has in his pocket, having rudely taken it
away from me.”
“Please, Mr. Unworthy, hand me this note.” And as the officer did
so, Colonel Denison, knitting his brows, said, “Pray, sir, why was this
not handed to me at once?”
“Because I believe it is a forgery.”
“Allow me, if you please, sir, to settle that point for myself.”
Then hastily reading the note, he said, “Yes, my spirited lad, I have
already heard of your brave and noble deeds, and of yours, too,”
turning to Julie. “I am extremely sorry that any officer of the militia
force should so lack discrimination as to have acted towards you as Mr.
Unworthy has done.”
Then the sweet girl, with a bounding heart, told him that she had
come to him for a force of twenty men; that if he gave these, she could
take them in a line as the bird flies to the stronghold of the rebel
“Your suggestion is good,” Colonel Denison replied; “and I will give
you thirty men. Browninge,” he shouted, calling to a clerical looking
officer who was standing among a group of brother officers, “get thirty
men in the saddle at once, and follow these scouts.”
Browninge saluted, and went speedily to make preparations.
“Will you not dismount and take refreshments,” the Colonel asked in
a kindly tone, advancing a step nearer the two boys.
Annette could not eat anything. She felt excited till the troop got
in motion. But Julie would not mind if she ate something. She was
hungry now because she had not taken much breakfast; and the sweet
gourmand was soon at work upon the choicest food in the Colonel's
“If my experience of character during the years that I have spent
upon the bench be of any value,” the Colonel remarked in a low tone to
some of his officers, “I could give you some interesting information
about that scout,” looking towards Annette, “and this other one as
well,” meaning Julie. “These boys, trust my word, are no more Crees
than I am. Note the fineness of their features, and the well-bred air
and the grace of the one on horseback.” The remarks of the Colonel were
brought to an end by the appearance of Browninge, who saluted, and
announced that he was ready to go.
Julie jumped up, like a kitten, from her feasting, vaulting into the
saddle; and while her mouth was yet half full of meat, thanked the
Colonel for his hospitality. Annette simply said;
“Colonel Denison, my words fail me now to thank you. But I wish you
knew my heart.” He simply waved his hand, and wished the party bon
voyage. Then striking spurs into her horse, Annette led away across
the level prairie towards the stronghold of the hateful Metis chief.
“I shall now give you my opinion, gentleman,” Colonel Denison said,
as the horses disappeared over a knoll; “these two lads were not what
they seemed. They were girls.”
“Well, we shall some day know. What is more, I am satisfied that the
larger one has more than an ordinary interest in Stephens. She has
twice already saved his life; and I should not be surprised if she were
now to lay him once more under the obligation. Ha, truant,” he said,
turning to one of his staff who had come from a nigh tree-clump, where
he had been writing, “you should have been here to see the beautiful
Metis maiden. She was in disguise, but her beauty was not less divine
than that of your own Iena. Fancy the feelings of Stephens, when his
own fortunes are bright, to have that beautiful girl straying about
this wilderness. I can imagine him asking, in that passage which you
gave me yesterday from your poem—
'My little flower amongst a weedy world,
Where art thou now? In deepest forest shade?
Or onward where the Sumach stands arrayed
In autumn splendour, its alluring form
Fruited, yet odious with the hidden worm?
Or, farther, by some still sequestered lake,
Loon-haunted, where the sinewy panthers slake
Their noon-day thirst, and never voice is heard
Joyous of singing waters, breeze or bird,
Save their wild waitings.'“
[Footnote: This passage is from the pages of the recently-published
Canadian drama, “Tecumseh.”—E. C. ]
Further conference was cut short by the hasty approach of a coureur
du bois. The colonel approached as the man dismounted.
“Captain Stephens has been tried by le chef's court martial, and is
condemned to be shot. Le chef has only a few braves and bois-brules
about him; and I could fetch you to the nest in an hour and a half by
When the coureur learnt that the force had been dispatched he rode
away again. And we shall likewise bid good-bye to the poet and the
colonel, and join Browninge.
“Now, then, my good lad,” the lieutenant said, “we have turned out a
large force at your bidding to-day. Are you certain (a) that
Captain Stephens is at Chapeau Rouge; (b), that Riel is there; (
c), that there is such a stronghold at all?”
“It is well. Now, my men, keep in shelter of yonder bluff; for under
cover of it only can we approach the den unperceived. We are now within
three miles of the place.” The men received the intelligence with
enthusiasm, and put their horses at best speed.
When only fifteen minutes more remained to poor Stephens, the
clergyman signed to the others to leave the room; and then, with his
hands folded before him, asked the condemned man if he had any message
to leave, or any peace to make with God.
No; he was not afraid to meet his God. He had wronged no man, and
kept within the bounds of the laws set for his kind. But he had a
message to leave—it was enclosed in a letter which he put into the
hand of the minister.
“It is for Annette Marton. Oh, my God. We have been only two days
betrothed. It is very hard to die.”
“This doom was ordained for you, and you must try to meet it like a
“Oh, it is not death I fear. That is nothing. But, ah, to leave my
love.” After he had passed his hands across his temples, as if to clear
his understanding, he said, in a voice grown low and calm—
“There is also upon the table a note to my sister, Aster. That is
all I have to say.”
“Will you not pray with me awhile?”
“No; my heart is right; the rest matters not.”
There was now a rude bustling at the door; the rusty key was plied,
and with a harsh scream the bolt flew back. Then the evil-looking Luc
entered, followed by three others, all of whom seemed partially
“Your hour has come, young man,” Lestang said, in a brutal voice.
“Let us be jogging.”
Stephens then bade good-bye to the visitors who had re-entered; to
the clergyman, and to one or two prisoners detained for minor offences.
His face was deathly pale, but his eye was steadfast and his step firm.
Beyond the entrance to the building, about an arrow's flight, was
drawn up a firing party; and midway between these and one of the
bastions of the fort was an open coffin. Thither Luc and his guard led
the condemned man.
“Stop a moment till I bind you,” Luc said, taking a hempen cord from
about his waist. Then he fastened Stephens' hands behind his back, and
with the most devilish cruelty tied the cord far tighter than might be
needed for the most refractory culprit. Indeed, his arms were almost
dislocated at the shoulders, and when the brutal jailer saw the corners
of his mouth twitch under the torture, he said, with a bestial sneer—
“It'll not hurt long. Should be patient.”
These words had barely escaped the fellow's lips when a terrified
cry went up from a score of throats gathered about; and immediately a
scene of the wildest confusion prevailed.
“Les soldats! Les soldats!” shouted one and all: and immediately the
little Cree scout was seen upon the earthworks, the eyes of her horse
gleaming, spray drifting from his open jaws. Close following Annette
came Lieutenant Browninge waving his sword above his head, and
“Down with the rebels!” at the same time slashing the scurrying
enemy in such a fashion with his sword as would gladden one's heart.
As for Annette, her quick eye at once showed her how the situation
stood: her lover, his hands bound, a black cap over his eyes, a coffin
beside him. Luc, the jailer, and chief of the executioners, remained at
his post as long as possible; and at the first outburst of the din had
called upon his party to fire. But these mahogany- complexioned
executioners scurried like rats at the first cry. Most of them carried
their arms with them, but Luc perceived a musket lying in a corner of
the drill square. This he seized and levelled at Stephens, pulling the
trigger, after careful aim. The rusty weapon missed fire, and the
intrepid half-breed began hastily to chip the flint with the back of
his sheath-knife; but while he was engaged in this laudable
preparation, Annette came over the earthworks like a bird, smote him
with the handle of her whip upon the crown, and sent him sprawling in
the dust. With another bound she was at her lover's side; and slipping
from her horse, she pulled off the hideous cap, cut his thongs,—and
then the hero-darling waited to be taken to his heart.
The change in his fortunes was so sudden, and so amazing,—passing
at one bound from the grave's edge back to freedom and love, that he
was for some seconds unable to realize it, and his eyes and brain swam
with a sense of happiness that reached delirium. But gradually it all
began to grow clear: the scurrying figures of his captors and jailers;
the shouting of mounted soldiers; the wistful eyes of his beloved
looking at him.
“Ah, Annette; you again; my guardian angel!”
It took but a few minutes to restore order. It was ascertained that
Riel and Jean had made their escape while Browninge's horse was yet
half a mile away from the post; but they made their exit in secrecy.
“If we give the alarm,” Kiel muttered, as he prepared to get into
the saddle, “there will be an instant stampede, and the execution will
“I agree with the decision of mon chef. Let Luc remain; he has
courage enough to have the thing done with the soldiers at the very
stockades.” And the two rode away helter-skelter, till a dozen miles
lay between them and their treason nest.
“The rebel chief is gone; he skurried away half an hour ago,” was
the tidings that one of the men brought to Browninge. That officer was
not surprised; and ordered that the prisoners, which numbered about a
dozen in all, be put in carts, and escorted by a guard of cavalry back
to Camp Denison.
They were all tired, and it was resolved that the horses be
permitted to rest for a couple of hours before returning.
“I can find the way back to your colonel's camp, monsieur Browninge,
as easily by night as in the daylight.” Riel and his greasy followers
lived like so many swine in a sty; but several brace of quail and
chicken, and quarters of elk were found, which the two Cree boys at
once began to prepare. A few loaves of bread were found, and a
tolerable side of bacon, from all of which, with the pure, cold water
that gurgled out of the side of a nigh ridge, a sumptuous meal was
Stephens objected to the Cree boys doing the drudgery, but Annette
besought ham so sweetly with her eyes to let “the little scouts” do it,
that he desisted. His glance, as he followed every movement of the
maiden, had as much of mute adoration, reverent and tender, as ever has
been seen in the eyes of a man. How little he had known the worth of
this girl, when he toyed with her hair and put a straw into her dimples
at her father's house! I suppose he regarded her as thoughtful men
regard most girls before they become enslaved either to their
fascination or their gifts. I do not care to write an ungallant speech,
but I do say that I have so far in life looked upon men much as I do
upon women; and I assume every man to be a fool till he has proven
himself otherwise to me.
The sun was setting when the order to saddle was given; and with the
two scouts leading, the party set out along nearly the same route by
which they had come in the morning. A darkness that, without a flight
of imagination, might be called “dense,” pressed upon the prairie, and
only a few small and feeble points of star-light were to be seen. But
on a sudden a mellow, green-tinted light burst out of the northern sky
with a brightness that showed the startled expression upon every face.
The horses pricked up their ears, and looked for a moment at the
radiant, quivering, northern sky.
I have not bothered my readers with much description so far, and I
trust that they will forgive me if I pause for a moment to do so now.
After this great, aerial conflagration had continued for the space of
five minutes, the light went out from the whole sky as suddenly and as
entirely as though it were a lamp which some one had extinguished.
After a few seconds of darkness, here and there a long rib of yellow
light appeared; then these disappeared, and once more the party was in
the pitchy dusk. Suddenly, however, fully half the heavens burst into
In the south the light was soft, and seemed unconnected with that of
the east and north. The whole would remain for a few seconds quiescent,
save for some slight, erratic pulsations, but all would at once madly
undulate and quiver from end to end. It seemed at such times like a
mighty cloth woven of the finest and softest floss, being violently
shaken at both ends by invisible hands. But the most curious part of
the phenomena was the noise, like the cracking of innumerable whips,
which accompanied the pulsations in the auroral flame. [Footnote:
Captain Huysbe mentions having heard this peculiar noise during auroral
displays in the North-West; and Mr. Charles Mair and other authorities
add their testimony to the same fact.—E. C.] The corruscations were
produced in the valleys, among the bluffs, and far out over the face of
the prairie. To lend terror to the stupendous and awful beauty of the
scene, a ball of fire came out of the southern sky, passed slowly
across the belt of agitated flame, and disappeared over the crest of a
Above, the heavy masses of auroral cloud now began to assume the
shape of a mighty umbrella, the enormous ribs of weird light forming in
an apex above the heads of the party, and radiating towards all points
of the compass. Sometimes these ribs would all shake, and then blend;
but they would speedily rearray themselves in perfect and majestic
symmetry. It was a most weirdly-beautiful sight, riding along the still
and boundless prairie, when the merry dancing ceased for a moment, to
see this stupendous dome of fluffy, ghost-like light suspended over
their heads. For an hour they continued looking upon it; upon the
yellow of the level prairie, and the yellow and gloom of the knolls and
hollows. Then there was a universal flash so sudden as to be terrible;
then a darkness equally as sudden. Not the faintest glow was there
anywhere in all the wide heavens. It seemed as if God had blown out the
Stephens rode beside his love; and when the light went out of the
sky, if Lieutenant Browninge had been concerned with the doings of the
leaders, he would have been amazed to see the rescued captain lean over
and deliberately kiss the Cree scout upon the lips. When the white
sides of the tents of Capt. Denison appeared in view, Annette halted,
and said that she and her brother must now ride in another direction.
“My brave boy, if by that term I rightly address you,” Browninge
said, “I wish that you would accept the hospitalities of our camp;” but
the scout refused, and after a few moments in conversation with Captain
Stephens, rode away.
Meanwhile affairs had fallen out much as Little Poplar predicted.
Captain Beaver, after thorough consideration of the matter, decided
that it would never do to allow his men to return to Ontario without
having a “brush with the Indians.” He therefore opened correspondence
with Major Tonweight, pointing out the expediency of making an attack
upon Little Poplar. “He is upon his reserve, it is true,” Beaver wrote,
“but he has gathered his men together for the purpose of marching on
Hatchet Creek, and there effecting a junction with the rebel Metis. If
you permit me to run down and give them a good trouncing, it will make
an end of the contemplated league.”
“Our policy,” replied Tonweight, “is not to antagonize but to
conciliate; to treat all as friends till they prove themselves to be
“But you will pay dear for your generous theory if this man, Little
Poplar, succeeds in joining the rebels. And I assure you that the
savage is now making ready to march.”.
“The matter is in your own hands, then,” Tonweight replied. “If all
be as you say, you must consult your own judgment, and shoulder the
“Hurrah!” Beaver shouted. “Hurrah! Now then, boys, you'll have a
brush. Get ready for a march. You know I am only supposing a case
against these Indians,” he said turning to a brother officer.
“Good God! is this outrage to occur!” Col. Denison exclaimed, when a
Coureur-des-bois brought him the tidings.
And so, the sanguinary Beaver made ready to start.
“How much provisions do we need, Sir?” the purveyor asked.
“You do not need any. Let each man eat a hearty meal, and put some
bread into his pocket. It is only going to be a short job. I'll kill a
hundred or so,” he said aside to a subordinate officer, “and then come
straight back.” Then he put himself at the head of his column, and
swooped towards his prey.
So when Little Poplar, on the morning after the rescue of Captain
Stephens, met the two maidens, there was great sorrow in his face.
“I have to fight your friends,” he said, “but there is nothing else
left me for choice. Beaver and his men are at this moment marching
towards my reserve, though all my braves went back to peaceful
occupation upon the assurance from English officers that no harm would
come to them; but, as I have already stated, Beaver and his young men
want to kill a lot of Indians, and return home great heroes. But they
will make a grievous mistake. I shall lead them into a defile of swamp
and bush tangle, where every one of the number will be at my mercy. I
believe that this foolhardy man regards my followers as a band of dogs,
whom he can kill as they run. But my men know not what fear is.” Then
kissing Julie, and bowing sorrowfully to Annette, this chief went away.
That very day, when midway upon his march, Captain Beaver was joined
by two Cree scouts, one of whom besought him for a moment's interview.
He had no time to waste; but if the scout had anything very
important to communicate he would listen.
“Then, Monsieur,” Annette began, “my advice is that you call a halt
of your troops. Little Poplar is in strong position upon his reserve;
the swamps approaching his ground are quagmires; the bush is a tangle
through which the rabbit may scarcely pass. The chief's men are
numerous, and war is their occupation. They will destroy Monsieur's
“Indeed, I am at a loss to know why I should be an object of such
solicitude to an Indian scout, whose sympathy and interest must be with
those savages, against whom I now march.” And without further parley he
dismissed the lad.
That afternoon mirrors flashed signals from bluff to bluff; our men
were surrounded by the enemy; and at the set of sun their lives lay at
the-mercy of the men whom they had come to trounce. Julie was at the
side of her lover, and tears were in her eyes.
“I beseech my chief for the sake of his love for me to desist, and
allow these rash soldiers to depart.” Her chief stood with arms folded
upon his breast. There was sorrow on his face; but there was scorn
there, too, as he turned affectionally to the sweet pleader.
“These men came down to massacre my people, that they might
henceforth be clad with glory. They have not destroyed any of my men;
but their dead strew the plain. They are at my mercy; so utterly, too,
that if I desire it, not a man of all the host shall return to give
tidings to his friends. You ask me to stay my hand. Ah! It is hard. But
you ask it; you, my little lover-playmate of the sunny Saskatchewan. I
consent!” Then he strode down among his men, and ordered them to cease.
Naught-but the ascendancy which the splendid chief had gained over his
followers, through his wisdom and his prowess, could have prevailed
upon them to stay their hand, now that the men who had broken solemn
faith were at their mercy. But they unstrung their bows, shouldered
their muskets, and permitted the invaders to depart. Then Julie knelt
at her lover's feet, and kissed his hand with reverent gratitude; and
he laid his hand upon her head, and bade her arise.
Before I leave this feature of my narrative I may state that Captain
Beaver subsequently sought to justify this wanton breach of faith with
the Indians, upon the ground of military policy; affirming that the
“punishment” which he inflicted upon the chief prevented the latter
joining forces with the rebel Metis. As to the punishment there was
very little inflicted upon the Indians;—it was emphatically conferred
in another direction. As to the statement that the attack prevented
Poplar from joining the rebel forces at Hatchet Creek, the same is
absurdly untrue. Little Poplar did actually set out, after the attack,
to join the bois-brules, and he deliberately—I was going to say
contemptuously—exposed himself to the flank attack by Beaver's men, of
which movement, we are told, he had been so much in dread. In due time,
as the chief was pursuing his march, tidings came to him that the Metis
had been overwhelmed. Then he surrendered; —and thereafter for many a
dreary month there was no happiness for Julie. I may as well anticipate
events, and say that this dear girl brought it emphatically to the
knowledge of the authorities that her beloved chief early in the war
had served the white people in the hour of peril; and that the offence
for which he stood committed now had been forced upon him by the bad
faith of a Canadian militia officer. At last he was released; and
holding his hand, apparelled in proper attire, she walked out by his
side to a little cottage wherein a priest stood waiting to wed the two.
Her happiness was very great, as may be guessed when I state that in
each of her beautiful eyes a tear glimmered like you see a drop of rain
glitter upon the thorn bush, when the storm has ended, and the sun
shines. Her lover took her many miles up the Saskatchewan, where she
said she would remain till Annette got “settled.” A friend has lately
been at her cottage, and he tells me that she has a “cherub of a baby,”
absurdly like herself in all save its skin, which is rather of a
mahogany cast. The chief and his petite wife are very happy; and many a
time under the blossoms of their own orchard, or when the wind howls
like a belated wolf, they discuss the alternation of sorrow and joy
which fell to their lot when the two maidens went disguised as scouts
over the unbounded prairie. My great wish is that all the pretty and
noble-harted girls of my acquaintance may be as happy as my sweet
As for Annette, when the battle of Saw-Knife Creek ended, she was
waiting for Julie to join her. Her hand was upon her horse's neck, and
she was leaning against the animal thinking of her lover.
“Ah, at last!” The terrible words and the voice were but too plain.
Turning she saw the rebel chief, triumph, passion, and revenge in his
eyes. By his side were several Metis with muskets presented, ready to
fire at the girl if she uttered a cry, or made resistance. Then they
bound her arms, and set her upon her horse, which one of the chief's
followers led by the bridle. They rode as fast as the ponies could
travel across the prairie; and Annette's heart sank, and all hope
seemed to die out of her life, as she realized, that the miscreants
were hurrying towards the valley of Dismal Swamp where abode Jubal, the
As the party hurried along the skirt of the ridge flanking the swamp
and the inky stream, lo! there came to her ears the notes of a bird's
song. It was the guardian swan; and joy and hope crept into the
“Hear you yonder singing, my pretty bird?” the hideous chief asked,
with a foul sneer. “Its song is always intended to console and
reconcile maidens to their lovers.”
But she turned her head away with loathing, and answered him not.
Then came a sudden trampling; swords gleamed; eyes flashed in the dusk;
and before the helpless girl could gather her routed senses, the
beastly chief was sent sprawling from his horse with a sabre-blow; his
followers were routed; and she was free.
“My own beloved,” were the words whispered in her ear, and warm lips
were pressed upon her mouth. “We no more part, my darling—never, never
They rode along through the night, he telling of his love, and
fashioning the future; she listening with bright eyes, and a happiness
too great for words.
“You have asked me, darling, why I love you so? How it comes
that of all the girls whom I have known, I should give my heart to you
entire and for ever? Well, darling, I shall say naught of your heroism,
which would alone make you illustrious and beloved in our historic
annals for all time to come; but I shall regard you as a maiden who has
never seen the brunt of battle, or done a deed of warlike valour. You
have still enough of sterling worth to win my heart ten thousand times.
You are beautiful, dear, and you are good as you are beautiful. You are
true, because in you there is naught of affectation or of desire to
act a part; and there is on your lips no speech that is not the true
expression of your thought. This I conceive to be the highest tribute-gift that man can offer a woman.”
After all the turmoil and the besetting dangers this was very sweet
to her;—and it was sweet to him.
In a little the rebellion ended, and Stephens came to the house of
Annette's aunt, and wedded his beloved there. Then he took her to wild,
sweet places in the Territories; and after the lapse of a few weeks,
went with her to the east, where both pleaded for the life of Colonel
Marton. All men worshipped her when she came to our cities; and when
she had obtained the boon for which she had come amongst us, she went
away to the west again. She is happy now as woman can be, and my latest
information is that Julie has prevailed upon her chief to change his
place of abode and come with her to live, for the remainder of their
days, close to the abode of her beloved mistress.
Annette is now the most popular woman in the North-West Territories.
Her beauty seems to have attained a fuller development since we knew
her as a maiden. Her mole is a deeper brown, I really believe, and her
dimple deeper. But best of all her happiness is as well assured as her
The preceding story lays no claim to value or accuracy in its
descriptions of the North-West Territories. I have never seen that
portion of our country; and to endeavour to describe faithfully a
region of which I have only a hearsay knowledge would be foolish.
I have, therefore, arranged the geography of the Territories to suit
my own conveniences. I speak of places that no one, will be able to
find upon maps of the present or of the future. Wherever I want a
valley or a swamp, I put the same; and I have taken the same liberty
with respect to hills or waterfalls, The birds, and in some instances
the plants and flowers of the prairies, I have also made to order.
I present some fiction in my story, and a large array of fact. I do
not feel bound, however, to state which is the fact, and which the
I have not aimed at dramatic excellence in this book. Change of
scene, incident and colour are the points which I had in view. There is
not any sham sentiment in the book.
I have introduced a few passages, with little change from a small
volume, entitled “The Story of Louis Riel.” These passages in no way
effect the current of my story; but as I thought that they had some
merit, I had no compunction in diverting them to present uses. The most
notable authors have done this sort of thing; and chief amongst them I
may mention Thackeray.
I beg likewise to say a word with respect to the book known as “The
Story of Louis Riel.” That volume has been quoted as history; but it is
largely fiction. There is no historic truth in the story therein
written by me that Louis Riel conceived a passion for a beautiful girl
named Marie; and that he put Thomas Scott to death, because the maiden
gave her heart to that young white man. I have seen the story printed
again and again as truth; but there is in it not one word of truth.
This much I am glad to be able to say in justice to the memory of the
miserable man, who has suffered a just penalty for his transgressions.
I never intended that the work in question should be taken as history;
and I should have made that point clear in an introduction, bearing my
name, but that I was unwilling to take responsibility for the literary
slovenliness, which was unavoidable through my haste in writing, and
through Mr. D. A. Rose's hurry in publishing, the work. It occupied me
only seventeen days; and I did not see my proofs.
Once more: one of the leading characters in that book, Mr. Charles
Mair, is most unjustly treated. Him I held as one of the prime agents
in the rebellion of 1869; but nothing could be further from the fact.
His pen and his voice had always advocated justice and generosity
towards the Indians and the Metis. As to his sentiments respecting the
Indians, I need but refer to the drama of his “Tecumseh,” which
Canadians have received with such enthusiasm.
NANCY, THE LIGHT-KEEPER'S DAUGHTER.
BY EDMUND COLLINS.
“Yes, that is a picture of Grace Darling, but I can tell you a story
of great bravery, too, which the world has never heard, about the
daughter of a light-keeper who lived on the shore of one of our
Canadian lakes.” These words were spoken to me by an old Canadian
fisherman in whose house I was spending a few nights while out for my
“The girl's name was Nancy and her father was keeper of a small
wooden light-house which stood chained to a ledge lying close to the
harbour's mouth. The girl and her father lived alone upon the rock, but
when the water was smooth they went every day to the mainland in their
little boat. One day in the late autumn the keeper was obliged to make
a journey to a distant town, and as he could not reach home again till
some hours after dark, he left the lighting of the light to Nancy. The
girl and a number of others went among the hills in the afternoon to
pick bake-apples, and they remained till the sun was only “a hand high"
in the west. Then the party turned their steps toward the coast.
“There will be a heavy gale to-night,” the girl said, looking at the
sky; for a mass of dark cloud resembling a ragged mountain had appeared
up the coast and begun to roll rapidly toward the harbour. It is only
those who live near the lakes, that know how suddenly sometimes a
terrible hurricane will come out of a sky which was the most peaceful
of azure only a few moments before. The tempest first moved along the
level shore, casting an awful shadow upon the landscape for miles
before it; then it smote the sea in its full fury.
To describe the tumult of sound as the gale drove onward would be
impossible. A sad cry would swell out like the voice of a mother
wailing for her child; then, pitched in a low, loud key, would come a
noise like the howling of a soul condemned; while above the confusing
din could be heard shrill whistles and cross pipings as if a host of
mad spirits were signalling one another through the storm.
Nancy hurried to the shore where lay her little boat, and several
fishermen were gathered about the dock.
“Girl,” said one, a hardy sailor who had been on the lakes in the
roughest weather, “no boat would live now to reach the reef. Better
wait till your father returns.”
“But if some ship, unable to clear the land with this ingale, should
be obliged to run for the harbour, she could never enter without the
“I was on the look-out a few moments ago, and there was nothing in
sight. But, even if there was, it would be madness to launch a boat
now. Look at these seas!”
The whole face of the gulf between the reef and the shore was a
wilderness of raging water. The fisherman had hardly ceased speaking,
when another of the coast people was seen hurrying down from the look-out.
“There is a ship about eight miles to the sou'west, with canvas
close hauled; but I don't think that she will be able to weather the
“If she cannot, then she must run for the harbour, and there will be
no light,” Nancy exclaimed; and the colour faded out of her brown
cheek. Then borrowing a telescope from one of the fishermen, she set
out for the top of the look-out. While she held the glass in her
trembling hands she saw the ship wear and turn her head toward the
harbour. Gathering her plaid shawl hastily about her shoulders, she ran
down the steep and returned to the dock.
“The ship is running for the harbour, and there must be a
light. Here, help me to launch my boat.”
“Is the girl mad!” two or three voices exclaimed at once.
“Girl,” said the old man who had spoken before, “no small boat that
ever swam can reach yonder ledge now. Why do you want to throw away
your life? It cannot save the ship.”
“The boat is light,” Nancy replied, “and the canvas covering will
keep it from filling, if I can only manage always to meet the sea head
on. If I had a pair of after oars as well as my own there would not be
much difficulty.” As she spoke these words, she looked at the group, as
if calling for a volunteer: but nobody took her hint. They all cowered
in the face of the gale, and some of them began to move away from the
“Then I must go alone,” the girl said, as she threw off her shawl,
and hastily tied up her mane of soft, black hair. “You will surely help
me to launch the boat.” But no hand would help her. They saw the
impetuous girl going to doom, and they would not be a party to her
madness. Getting three or four round pieces of driftwood, which were
slippery with water-slime, she laid them along the dock; two other
billets she placed under the boat's keel. Then gathering her strength
for one pull, she sent the boat into the churning surf. One of the
fishermen advanced to detain her, but she waved him back with a gesture
so determined and imperious that he hesitated. He then held
consultation with his friends. Two or three now hurried down to the
water's edge, but the boat had shot out beyond their reach, and was
already rising like some great sea-bird over the mad waves. The girl
had seized her oars and was rowing at a brisk rate toward the ledge.
Sometimes a huge, green, glittering wave would arise and roll towards
the shell, and the fishermen would close their eyes; but in response to
the rower's quick wrist, the little skiff would turn and climb over the
roaring crest of the terrible billow. Sometimes the boat was nowhere to
be seen, and one of the spectators would say to another,
“It is all over!”
Presently, however, the cockle would rise out of the trough and
appear upon the summit of a breaking sea, looking like a large,
crouching, sea-gull. On, steadily, the mite of a craft held its way,
sometimes heading directly for the reef, again swerving to the right to
mount a rampant billow. Smaller, and smaller grew the little figure,
till it became a mere white speck away in the driving mist. The
fishermen still remained huddled together in the dock; and as one, with
the telescope in his hand, announced that the girl was now within a
cable's length of the reef, a great look of shame came into their
faces, that not one had shown courage enough to go with her. As for
Nancy, in the midst of the ravening turmoil, she was cool of head and
steady of arm, pulling with a sturdy stroke, and constantly turning her
face to note the waves to be met with the full front of the skiff.
Sometimes the cross wash from a sea would smite the boat upon the
quarter, and for a moment expose it to destruction; but in response to
the girl's quick judgment and steady wrist, the bold little prow would
be instantly brought again in the face of the tempest. In one
continuous storm the spray drove over her, and the skiff was more than
half full of water. It was growing dark, and she could barely
distinguish the opposite shore. But the danger of the passage was at
last over, and her tiny craft was in the shelter of the gloomy reef.
There was a windlass bolted to the rock, with which she drew the
skiff beyond the reach of the waves. Nimbly then she climbed the reef
till she reached the door of the tower. A few seconds later all the
fishermen saw the warm, yellow glare of the light streaming over the
Nancy was happy now, and her large eyes strained through the lantern
of the tower to catch sight of the ship. She had not long to wait.
Between the reef and the long stretch of eastern shore, a red light
pulsed upon a wave, moving towards the harbour.
“Good!” the girl cried out, “she is midway in the channel and safe.”
Then she descended to the basement, where she brewed a cup of tea, and
sat down to a supper of cold sea-fowl, and juicy, white bread of her
The sleeping rooms were upon the middle story, but the girl began to
grow uneasy at the increasing violence of the hurricane, and would not
go to bed. Taking a book, she went to the lantern and sat upon a box to
read. The whistling of the wind around the glass and the dome of zinc,
the booming of the sea against the rock, and the brawling of the waters
around her produced such a tumultuous din that persons speaking in the
tower would be unable to hear each other.
Then dawned a new terror; and she looked upon the floor with wide-opened eyes and blanched lips. Twice since its establishment, during
winter gales, had the tower been swept off the rock. It is true the
present structure was substantially built, and was firmly secured to
long iron “stringers” bolted to the solid rock; yet the sea was already
surging against the base of the tower, and at every blow the edifice
quivered till the machinery of steel and brass rang like a number of
little bells. Upon the grated, iron pathway running around the lantern
inside, she took her stand, and, thence, looked out. The light streamed
far beyond the ledge and revealed the full fury of the sea. The
agitated waters would recede from the reef upon the windward side like
a jumper who runs backward, that he may be able to leap with greater
force; then gathered up to the stature of a hill and crowned with
roaring foam, it would return with soft tread, but terrible might,
scaling the rock, and flinging its white arms around the waist of the
tower. Throughout the tumult, flocks of sea-birds, driven from the
surface, and bewildered in the dense darkness of the storm, would fly
for the light and smite the lantern; and then they would fall backward
into the surf, as if struck with a thunderbolt. Other creatures flew
with more care; and Nancy shuddered as she saw the gleaming eyes of
huge fish hawks outside, and beheld their dusky wings waving at the
Many an hour of terror passed with no employment for the trembling
watcher, save when the lamps grew dim and she moved from her standing
place to snuff the wick and turn more flame. Stepping nervously down to
the basement she found that it lacked only a quarter of four o'clock.
In half an hour it would be dawn, and she was cheered by the thought as
But how could a frail, wooden tower withstand these terrible shocks!
As she trod the spiral stairs, the whole edifice trembled and creaked.
Once, under a tremendous surge, she felt it reel. She hurried again to
the iron pathway and looked out. Billow after billow came sweeping up
the ledge, and did not pause till it smote the very lantern with its
“Oh! merciful God deliver me!” the girl cried, as she espied far out
a wave far more terrible and gigantic than any other which her
frightened eyes had seen. Before it reached the reef, she believed that
its storming crest was on a level with the lantern. Then it seemed as
if the whole ocean, aroused to strike one overwhelming blow, fell in
thunder upon the tower. Nancy was conscious of being hurled rapidly
through space; then followed a crashing sound, an overturning and a
confusion that no pen could describe. The tower was in the sea.
She could never explain how it came about, but when she recovered
from the shock she was floating close by one of the tower floors. The
dawn had broken in glaring gray, and she was enabled to perceive her
situation. The lower part of the tower was uppermost, and the lantern
with its weight of machinery was beneath. Yes, God had heard her
supplication; and, comparatively safe from the billows, she clung to a
piece of timber, projecting above the floor. She was certain that the
storm was abating; yet the wreck was drifting rapidly toward the
inexorable rocks. Wave after wave passed over the uppermost part of the
tower, and sometimes the water smote her so that her head reeled, and
her senses became dimmed for some moments. A coil of rope hung from a
spike in the wall, and fastening an end of it around her slim waist,
she bound herself to a stout piece of timber.
A young man, passenger in the ship which the girl had saved, heard
of the heroism of the light-keeper's daughter. As soon as light came,
through promise of a liberal reward, he induced one of the sailors to
come with him in the launch. Near the shore they met the floating
tower, and saw lying upon the top, and bound there with a rope, the
girl who had risked her life to save the vessel. They believed that she
was dead, so pale was her beautiful face; and the coils of her soft
hair were trailing in the surging water. But she was not dead, and,
placed in the warm cabin of the delivered ship, soon opened her great,
Now, that my story may seem like a novel, I may add that the brave
young fellow who rescued Nancy was often seen afterwards about the
girl's home. Indeed I doubt if the two were ever parted.